Horn Book Fanfare 2005

Horn Book Fanfare

Best books of 2005

Chosen annually by our editors, Fanfare is The Horn Book Magazine’s selection of the best children’s and young adult books of the year.

Picture Books

Terrific written and illustrated by Jon Agee (di Capua/Hyperion)
Glass-half-empty Eugene is stranded on an island with a parrot: “‘Terrific . . . What good is a parrot?’ ‘You’d be surprised,’ said the parrot.’” Readers will be surprised, too, for Terrific is one terrific book. Agee uses tone, pacing, and deadpan humor to great effect; his masterful illustrations beg to be shared with a group. Review 11/05. (Primary)

A Crash Course for Molly written and illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated by Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard (R&S/Farrar)
Young novice Molly gets a helpful lesson in steering when she runs into — literally — a kind driving instructor while riding her bike. In this Swedish import, Eriksson’s expressive, loopy art and blithe, understated text perform a perfect balancing act, capturing both the trials and joys of acquiring a new skill. Review 5/05. (Primary)

Traction Man Is Here! written and illustrated by Mini Grey (Knopf)
The eponymous dishrag-defeating, cupcake-defending action figure faces his toughest challenge yet when forced to wear the “all-in-one knitted green romper suit and matching bonnet” Granny made. Lively prose and bright, detailed illustrations capture the creative potential of a cluttered house and the universal joys of imaginative play. Review 3/05. (Primary)

The Witch’s Walking Stick written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh (Lorraine/Houghton)
Margaret’s having trouble with her big brother and sister; a dog is having trouble with a witch; and the way they individually and in concert turn the tables is as deeply gratifying to readers as it is to the parties concerned. In this model of a well-plotted picture book, Meddaugh uses words, pictures, and page-turns expertly. Review 9/05. (Primary)

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book written by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Candlewick)
The author shares his profound grief over the death of his son, describing with searing, unsparing honesty its devastating effects and his attempts to cope, and widening the story to include other people’s sadness. Blake’s watercolors brilliantly interpret and extend Rosen’s simply phrased, yet never simplistic, text. A beautiful, solacing book. Review 5/05. (Intermediate)


The Revenge of the Witch (The Last Apprentice, Book One) written by Joseph Delaney, illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith (Greenwillow)
When so much recent neo-Gothic fiction seems to be written with tongue firmly in cheek (if not check), it is pure shivery pleasure to read a novel of the supernatural that is both admirably concise and genuinely frightening. Delaney’s storytelling is at once accessible to unseasoned readers and satisfying for confirmed genre fans. Review 11/05. (Intermediate, Middle School)

The Game of Silence written and illustrated by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins)
This sequel to The Birchbark House is infused with elegy, as if young Omakayas is storing up the details of her Ojibwe family’s way of life as they prepare for a government- ordered “removal” to the West. Like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Erdrich uses a simple but lyrical style to convey the particulars of a historical context. Review 7/05. (Intermediate)

The Minister’s Daughter by Julie Hearn (Seo/Atheneum)
In an English village in 1645, Christianity coexists with the old beliefs, piskies roam the hedgerows, and a sister’s jealousy smolders. Hearn creates an ambiance both earthy and richly magical, straddling supernatural and concrete realms of human interaction in a skillfully plotted tale of passion, politics, deceit, and revenge. Review 9/05. (High School)

An Innocent Soldier written by Josef Holub, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (Levine/Scholastic)
With an immediacy not often found in a historical novel, Holub relates sixteen-year-old Adam’s experiences as an unwilling participant in Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 Russian campaign. A memorable story of survival, friendship, and the realities of war unfolds through a clear-eyed and often surprisingly humorous first-person narrative. Review 1/06. (High School)

Martin Bridge, Ready for Takeoff! written by Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Joseph Kelly (Kids Can Press)
Three stand-alone stories introduce a likable third grader as he confronts real-life challenges. What to do, for example, when best friend Alex copies his best model-rocket-decorating idea? The author allows large issues to arise from everyday situations in this warm, thoughtful chapter book, which features frequent graphite-and-charcoal sketches on generously designed pages. Review 5/05. (Primary)

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (Eos/HarperCollins)
Taut, resonant prose and an unerring sense of place elevate these ten short stories to the first rank of speculative fiction. Each probes an aspect of mortality, carefully detailed and developed within divergent realities; the brief, indelible glimpses of other worlds that are all the more human for their strangeness make this collection truly exceptional. Review 5/05. (High School)

Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay (McElderry)
The Casson family — parents Bill and Eve and their four paint-color-named children, Cadmium, Indigo, Saffron, and Rose — previously reported on in Saffy’s Angel and Indigo’s Star, has lost none of its sparkle in this third book. This is exemplary comic writing — buoyant, perceptive, subversive, and trailing a whiff of melancholy. Review 7/05. (Intermediate, Middle School)

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow)
This ensemble novel of neighborhood friends dreaming their way through the summer captures readers with its expansive yet minutely observed evocation of the curious anticipation of growing up. In idiosyncratic, wistful prose, Perkins mines every moment of missed connection and near-change with a hypnotic hyperawareness reminiscent of adolescence itself. Review 9/05. (Middle School)

Full Service by Will Weaver (Farrar)
From what seems like an over-familiar premise — a farmboy spends his sixteenth summer working at a small-town gas station — Weaver develops a novel with a bumper crop of subtly delineated characters and quiet surprise. The 1965, small-town Minnesota setting is as much a character as is Paul himself; both are poised for change. Review 11/05. (Middle School, High School)

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (Farrar)
Killed in a hit-and-run accident, Lizzie finds herself on a ship bound for Elsewhere — Zevin’s inventive vision of the afterlife. In Elsewhere, “everyone . . . ages backward from the day they died” until, at seven days old, they return to Earth. The strikingly original premise is powerfully sustained in this unusual coming-of-age story. Review 9/05. (High School)


A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka (Candlewick)
The creators of A Poke in the I offer an introduction to twenty-nine poetic forms, from the simple couplet to the elaborate pantoum. With its clear explanations, spacious design, and bold illustrations, the volume is both useful and unconventionally handsome; its insistence on the primacy of the poems themselves sets it apart. Review 5/05. (Intermediate, Middle School)

Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange (Houghton)
Eleven poems celebrate the northern pond, cleverly mimicking the behavior or appearance of creatures from the spring peeper to the painted turtle. In an outstanding illustration debut, Prange evokes the pond and its many species in bold black woodcut line bathed in gleaming, subtly modulated watercolor. Review 5/05. (Primary, Intermediate)


Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Scholastic)
Scrupulously sourced, Bartoletti’s page-turning history seamlessly meshes personal accounts of Hitler Youth and resistance members with the larger story of young people’s role in World War II and the Holocaust. Candid and propaganda photographs from the period heighten the impact of this chilling, absorbing work. Review 5/05. (Middle School, High School)

Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives by Jeannette Farrell (Farrar)
The packaging — not to mention the subject — may not be glamorous, but the content is extraordinary, as Farrell reveals the essential role beneficial microbes play on Earth, as well as humanity’s intimate dependence upon them. A lively and readable work of hard-science nonfiction, full of fascinating information and perfectly pitched to its audience. Review 7/05. (Middle School, High School)

Prehistoric Actual Size written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Houghton)
In vibrant cut- and torn-paper collages, Jenkins depicts what eighteen prehistoric creatures (or parts of creatures) may have looked like. All are presented “actual size,” from the tiniest protozoan (1/25 of an inch) to the double-page life-size jaws of an eight-ton Giganotosaurus. An intriguing, child-friendly concept that encourages young paleontologists’ participation. Review 1/06. (Preschool, Primary)

If You Decide to Go to the Moon written by Faith McNulty, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (Scholastic)
Readers journey along with an intrepid young boy in this thrilling introduction to space travel. McNulty combines science and lyricism, describing how one feels in space (“amazingly light”) and how one feels in space (“very alone”), while Kellogg’s mixed-media illustrations include spectacular space- and moonscapes that emphasize the vastness of the universe. Review 9/05. (Primary)

John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking)
This revelatory biography of the complex musical icon documents Lennon’s life from his turbulent childhood to his tragic death. The gorgeous, luxurious book design, with well-chosen photographs (some never before published) on nearly every page, will draw teen readers in; Partridge’s compelling text will keep them riveted. Review 9/05. (High School)
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