It’s time to take a trip back and look at the year that was in children’s lit miscellanea.

Most Unexpected Find Underneath a Book Jacket: The Calder Game by Blue Balliett. Most jackets cover boring old plain-looking books. The Calder Game jacket was really hiding something:




Biggest Material Trend: Matte finish with glossy elements (a la The Last Invisible Boy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone, and just about every book that has a title). It’s almost so ubiquitous that it isn’t a trend anymore, but the standard. It looks sharp too. Sure to continue in ’09.


Biggest Children’s Lit Controversy: Has the Newbery Lost Its Way? Anita Silvey’s article in School Library Journal opens a can of worms. Judging by some of the reaction (including this post by Nina Lindsay on Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog), it was a big can of worms.


Trend that Was Full Steam Ahead in 2008: Penguins (a la Sergio Make a Splash, Patrick the Somnambulist, A Penguin Story, etc.). Although these flightless birds are found only in the southern hemisphere, they were featured in what seemed like a full 25% of picture books released in ’08.


Possible Trend for 2009: Tiny characters (a la the upcoming Toby Alone (Candlewick), Clarence Cochran, A Human Boy (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), and Itty Bitty (Candlewick). Building off of Who Made This Cake?, will tiny characters become commonplace in ’09? A couple spring releases point to “yes”.


Chapter Book I Thought Was a Picture Book for an Embarrassingly Long Amount of Time (A.K.A. the See It to Believe It Award): Antsy Does Time. Look, just don’t give me a hard time about this one. If you didn’t know much about this title and saw the cover, wouldn’t you be in my oblivious boat?


Picture book that’s more for the chapter book crowd: Wabi Sabi (100 Scope Notes Review). A beautiful, detailed, deep book best digested by the upper elementary/middle school reader.


Best Old School Illustration Technique Making a Comeback: Limited color palates (a la Jellaby, Ghosts in the House, Sergio Makes a Splash, Not a Stick, South, etc.). Limiting the variety of color used in illustrations is impressive and all, but I’m waiting for the day when authors limit the number of words they use. Wait, they already do that, you say? They’ve even come out with wordless books? It’s a genre unto itself? (Nervous laugh) Moving on, it appears that using fewer colors actually stands out more than using thousands. A nice throwback.


Best Confirmation That a Character is Indeed Awesome: Lee Scoresby in Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman. I apologize to the non Dark Materials readers out there, but when Lee passed in that series, there wasn’t a dry eye in my house (full disclosure: I was the only one home). Getting to find out about Lee’s first encounter with Iorek Byrnison was possibly the most entertaining  read of the year for me.


Worst Trend for Kids Who Check Out Books in a School Library: Cards, games, and puzzles included. Great fun for the bookstore purchaser, not much fun for the school library patron (the added items don’t get circulated with the book) .


Best Shout Aloud: Big Plans by Bob Shea and Lane Smith (100 Scope Notes Review). Read aloud just doesn’t produce the decibels needed for this hilarious story.


Book Word of the Year: “Distinguished”. A sharp increase in use beginning around Fall, when book award discussions began. Not to be confused with “popularity”.


Best Use of the Internet for Book-Related Purposes: ALA book Awards webcast last January


Worst Interview That I Was Hoping Would be Good: Ann Curry’s over-caffeinated speed-dating-inspired interview with Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Selznik on the Today Show in January. Click here to watch.


Biggest Cover Art Trend: Photographs, not illustrations. Not only are new books coming out with non-illustrated covers, but old books are being reissued with the photo treatment.

Best Excitement Builder For a Picture Book: “The Pigeon Wants a…” contest for the new Mo Willems Pigeon book. Who didn’t have a guess for this? I think mine was “The Pigeon Wants String Cheese”. Chalk that up to wishful thinking (I love that stuff).


Best Book-Related Unnatural Placement of Nature: A tree inside the Canton Public Library in Canton, MI.

Librarian #1: You know what would look good in here?

Librarian #2: What?

Librarian #1: A tree.

Librarian #2: Indubitably.


My Weirdest Review: Baby Brains and Robomom by Simon James.


My Weirdest Review Runner-Up: Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw.


Best Film Adaptation of a Children’s Book: The City of Ember. While it had its brief moments of “what were they thinking?” (I’m looking squarely at you, giant mole), overall it was a pretty well realized vision of the outstanding story.


Childrens Lit Entertainment Industry Hype of the Year: The slow in coming “Where the Wild Things Are” film. Picture book adaptations are not easy to do and are rarely successful, but with Spike Jonze at the helm, I’m going to keep hope alive for this one.


Award for the Most Holds at the Public Library: Twilight series. Seriously, it’s like every other book.

Thanks for taking a look back. In the coming days you can expect Reader Poll results, Newbery and Caldecott predictions, and some book reviews that I want to sneak in before aught eight is done.

In other ’08 Year in Review news…


“Lists are antidemocratic, discriminatory, élitist, and sometimes the print is too small.”

-David Ives, playwright

Prove this quote wrong. Make your voice heard by voting for the year’s best books in the 2008 Scope Notes Reader Poll.

Click here to take part in the 2008 Scope Notes Reader Poll.