Cynsational Books of 2008

Congratulations to all of the authors and illustrators of our 2008 children’s-YA reading list, defined broadly!

And thank you to everyone who discussed and debated and cheered and championed this year’s books!

Just for fun, I’d like to share a few of my favorites.

Quick caveats: (a) I haven’t read every 2008 book published, though I did read 500+; (b) to varying degrees, I know or have met some (but not most) of the creators below–if I cut everyone I knew, potential picks would be significantly reduced in number;* (c) I will continue to read and feature 2008 titles in 2009 and beyond; (d) these are highlights, not predictions, not an all-inclusive list of my favorites.

Beyond that, I made an effort to sidestep bestsellers as well as previous ALA and NBA honorees, though one or two may have sneaked in.

Yes, I love Kathi Appelt‘s The Underneath (Atheneum)(author interview) and E. Lockhart‘s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks (Hyperion), as well as Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young (Little, Brown)(author-illustrator interview), among others! But such books already get a lot of attention, and I’m hopeful that you’ll find at least one read in the list below that’s new to you.

Here we go:

Picture Books

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin); see Bats at the Beach, also by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

That Book Woman by Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small (Atheneum)

Lincoln Shot: A President’s Life Remembered by Barry Denenberg, illustrated by Christopher Bing (Feiwel & Friends)

Our White House: Looking Out, Looking In by the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (Candlewick)

The Raucous Royals: Test Your Royal Wits: Crack Codes, Solve Mysteries, and Deduce which Royal Rumors are True. by Carlyn Beccia (Houghton Mifflin)(author-illustrator interview)

Middle Grade

The Floating Circus by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer (Bloomsbury)(author interview)

Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen (Tricycle)

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (Delacorte)(author interview)


the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt)(author interview); see Life As We Knew It, also by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt, 2006)

Do the Math #2: The Writing on the Wall by Wendy Lichtman (Greenwillow); see Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra, also by Wendy Lichtman (Greenwillow, 2007)

The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas (FSG)

Young Adult

I Know It’s Over
by C. K. Kelly Martin (Random House)(author interview)

Living Dead Girl
by Elizabeth Scott (Simon Pulse)

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
by Mary E. Pearson (Holt)(author interview)


Bliss by Lauren Myracle (Abrams)

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr (HarperCollins); see Wicked Lovely, also by Melissa Marr (HarperCollins, 2007)

Night Road by A. M. Jenkins (HarperCollins)(author interview)


The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins); see The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999) and The Game of Silence (HarperCollins, 2005), also by Louise Erdrich


Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Boyds Mills/Wordsong)

For Avid & Reluctant Readers

How To Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury)(author interview)

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen (Feiwel & Friends)(author interview)

Dead Girl Walking by Linda Joy Singleton (Flux)(author interview)

by Christopher Golden (MTV)(author interview)

New Voices

Varian Johnson (My Life as a Rhombus (Flux))(author interview)

Maggie Stiefvater
(Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception (Flux))(author interview)

Zu Vincent
(The Lucky Place (Front Street))(author interview)

*That said, I exempted my former VCFA advisees as well as my editor Deborah Noyes, author of The Ghosts of Kerfol (Candlewick) and Encyclopedia of the End (Houghton Mifllin)(interview) due to the nature of our particular relationships; however, I am–as ever–wowed by them and their books. Note: I’ll add advisees to the mix on their second or third books out.

Cynsational Notes

In 2008, my novel Tantalize was released on audio by Listening Library and in paperback by Candlewick and Walker U.K.

In addition, my short story, “Haunted Love,” was published in Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella). Contributors were: P. C. Cast, L. J. Smith, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kristin Cast, Rachel Caine (author interview), Tanith Lee, Nancy Holder, Richelle Mead, and Claudia Gray.