My picture book of the year: The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, illustrations by Erin Stead. One evening in Paris in 1879, Mark Twain sits with his two daughters in a hotel room. The girls beg their father for a bedtime story. He begins telling them the story of Johnny, a poor boy who had some magical seeds, but the story is never completed. Now, the remarkable Philip Stead has finished the story, which is complimented by wife Erin Stead’s poignant artwork. Wrote the Buffalo News: “Philip Stead brilliantly captures Twain’s style, his homespun humor, his wordplay, his biting wit, his sympathy for the powerless, and his disdain for the mighty.”
Middle grade fiction: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. Red, an enormous red oak, is the wishtree for the neighborhood. Once a year residents deposit their wishes on Red. Red cares deeply for his people, especially a little Muslim girl and her family, who have received a hostile reception in the neighborhood. This timely tale of acceptance, diversity, and community is a heartwarming story of friendship and hope.