End of Year Notable Reads

I’ve been extremely impressed with the last few books I’ve read. I mean.. a great book is hard to come by. Usually they are sprinkled here and there between a couple “okay books”, maybe one that bored you to tears, but you believed it “might get better”. And it never did. They come along only ever few months and maybe even years. So, I was surprise to find myself reading such beautiful, thought-provoking, clever youth fiction novels.

Inside Out & Back Again

By Thanhha Lai

Recommended Reading Age: 8 & Up

Published: Harper Collins, February 2011

What luck I had when checking this book out. I had seen it on the “New Bookshelf” a couple of times while re-shelving at the library and finally committed to checking it out. The afternoon I read it, it won  The National Book Award that evening! And deservingly so. Written entirely in verse, Inside Out & Back Again is a story of a girl, Ha, and her family’s escape from Saigon before it’s collapse to communism. They end up in Alabama, of all places, and have to cope with the racial oppression that befell them.

Based on the personal experience of the author, Thanhha Lai, this book will capture you early on and you’ll wish it didn’t only take an hour or two to read.

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, From an original idea by Siobhan Dowd

Recommended Reading Age: 12 & Up

Published: Candlewick, September 2011

I cried. Oh, how I cried reading this book. I don’t remember crying while reading a book since I read Black Beauty in fourth grade. Usually, I’m not drawn to darker novels. I try and keep it light. But I am so glad I read this book.

What I loved the most about this book is that it isn’t about being honest with other people. It deals with the complex nature of being honest with yourself; y`our own thoughts and desires. How we cope and how we over come and how we forgive and how we say goodbye. Inspired from a story by Siobhan Dowd who died of cancer before she was able to finish her story, Patrick Ness does a masterful job with it’s completion. And props to Jim Kay for his eerie, yet alluring illustration.


By Anne Ursa

Recommended Reading Age: 8 & Up

Published: Walden Pond Press, September 2011

This books was another luck of the draw. It was named the December book selection for NPR’s Backseat Book Club while it was checked out under my name, awaiting my read, atop a pile of books on my nightstand. I’m glad I didn’t write this post yesterday after I finished reading this book. Yesterday, I would have commented on the nice writing style, but how the beginning was a bit slow. That it was worth it after you get to “Part 2”.

Not today.

Since yesterday Anne Ursa’s story was able to linger a spell. You can scratch the above. Each waking hour since reading Breadcrumbs, I’ve found myself thinking of it more and more and liking it more and more. It’s a story of change and of friendship. Of how the world can be cold and cruel, but how the warmth of those that are close to hearts help us endure it all.

image source: my vintage avenue, inside out, a monster calls, breadcrumbs,


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  1. […] Inside Out and Back Again […]

  2. […] in verse until more recently when I read the National Book award winner and Newbery Honor medalist, Inside Out & Back Again. My co-worker, who also shares a fondness for novels in verse, has turned me on to titles ever […]

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