Books of Wonder's Best Children's Books of 1994
The following is Books of Wonder's Best Children's Books of 1994 -- our staff's selection of the finest in illustrating and writing for children published last year. This list was published in the newest issue of Books of Wonder News. For more information or a copy of the Best of 1994 issue of Books of Wonder News (which includes information about signed copies of many of these books), please call us toll free at (800) 835-4315.
By the way, to my utter surprise, delight and (gulp!) embarrassment, my staff voted my picturebook - My Working Mom - as one of the best picturebooks of 1994. I credit it entirely to Tedd Arnold's wonderful illustrations and wanted to let you know that I did not vote for my own book! Now on to the list.
Books of Wonder.
Best Picturebooks of 1994
- What Am I? by N.N. Charles, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
- Here is an extraordinary "concept" book which brilliantly ushers your favorite youngsters into the wonderful world of words, shapes and colors. Simple riddles in rhyme invite the youngest readers and listeners to guess what is only partially revealed through cleverly cut out shapes in the pages, which, when turned, reveal colorful pictures of familiar mouth-watering fruits -- creating a hands-on, imagination-stretching game which provides youngsters with hour after hour of enthralling play. Best of all, because it draws so many different concepts together into one, simple, interactive, eye-catching format, it helps your favorite youngsters begin to understand how things that at first seem very different, can be similar and part of a larger whole. These brilliant die-cut pictures represent the most innovative use of cutout pages we have seen since Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar! Ages 2 - 5.
- My Working Mom by Peter Glassman, illustrated by Tedd Arnold.
- It's not always easy having a working mom. Especially when mom's job involves flying off to meetings on a broomstick, brewing up potions and mucking about with frogs and bats! Here's an enchanting tale that explores one young child's problems with the trials, tribulations and joys of having a working mother. This wry, bouncy picturebook is sure to cast a spell over young readers and listeners with its cleverly understated text and rambunctious pictures. Ages 3 - 7.
- Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.
- In this riotous tale, Isaacs introduces young readers and listeners to a larger-than-life folk hero who could whup Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and Mike Fink all at the same time -- even though she's a girl! Meet Angelica Longrider -- Tennessee's Swamp Angel -- high-spirited child of the rollicking, free-wheeling frontier. When the settlers are threatened by a fearsome bear named Thundering Tarnation, Swamp Angel volunteers to save them. Using her wits, spunk and strength, Swamp Angel battles Thundering Tarnation from the Great Smoky Mountains to the starry heights of the heavens themselves! Two-time Caldecott Honor artist Zelinsky's glowing oil paintings on wood veneer backgrounds capture the frontier spirit and fast-paced, outrageously funny zest of this riotous tall tale! Ages 3 - 7.
- Night Becomes Day by Richard McGuire.
- "Night becomes day and day becomes bright. Bright becomes sun and sun becomes shine..." As you and your favorite youngsters turn the pages of this simple tale, you will gasp in wonder at the unfolding sequence of transformations McGuire creates with both his words and his pictures as he takes you on a fun-filled trip from night through day to night again. Along the way, young readers and listeners will travel to vast oceans, high mountains, a peaceful town, a bustling city and many other fascinating places. This captivating voyage of transformations tumbles from page to page with a riveting, dreamlike logic all its own, introducing your favorite youngsters to the extraordinary power of creative associations and opening the doors into the magic kingdom of their imaginations! Ages 2 - 8.
- The Maestro Plays by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky.
- Martin's razzmatazz text soars with verbal pizzazz as it explodes with the glorious sounds created by a musical genius. Radunsky's boldly colorful, collage pictures capture all the maestro's dazzling virtuosity. The ear and eye-catching splendor of this book is akin to the work of the great Dr. Seuss and his friends -- it begs to be read aloud and chanted along with -- which is an important early step in the process of learning to read! Together, words and pictures combine into a joyful symphony for the eye as well as the ear. Ages 2 - 7.
- Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann.
- In this nearly wordless picturebook, a young gorilla steals the keys from the zookeeper and sets all his animal friends loose. Together, they follow the sleepy zookeeper home. The zookeeper is so unobservant, he doesn't notice they've joined him in his bedroom and it's up to his wife to set things right! Young readers and listeners will howl with laughter at the slapstick humor Rathmann brings to this gentle story, and they will squeal with delight as they find all the surprises hidden in her deceptively simple, eye-catchingly colorful pictures -- all of which make this book a magnificent game of hide-and-seek as well as an ideal bedtime tale to read and share. Ages 3 - 7.
- Pigsty by Mark Teague.
- Though Wendell's mom says his bedroom's a pigsty, when pigs actually move in, Wendell's a bit startled! But it isn't so bad at first -- they all have a blast playing Monopoly, flying paper airplanes and getting into pillow fights. But, when hoofprints appear on Wendell's comics and his baseball cards are nibbled, Wendell decides something has to change -- but Mom won't help! You and your favorite youngsters will revel in the inventive solution Wendell devises to his "pig problem." Teague's sly humor and outrageously surreal pictures of Wendell and his pigs make this a side-splitting tale for any child who has been told, "clean up your room!" Ages 3 - 7.
Best Illustrated Books of 1994
- John Henry by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
- The building of the railroads springs to vivid life in this stirring retelling of the American folktale about John Henry. From his birth -- attended by bears, panthers and deer; to his rapid growth and the development of his epic strength; to his legendary feats digging tunnels for the railroad, this lush, colorful book gives young readers and listeners a portrait of a hero they can admire and look up to -- and perhaps emulate. Everyone needs a hero and here two-time Caldecott Honor artist Pinkney and award-winning author Lester have given children of all ages a hero as strong and noble as the mightiest steam engine -- brought to vivid life with Pinkney's amazing, detailed watercolors! Ages 4 - 9.
- The Frog Princess, retold by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gennady Spirin.
- This rich Russian folktale tells how a young Prince marries a frog who is actually Vasilisa the Wise, trapped by a cruel enchantment. Through foolishness, the Prince loses his bride, but through an act of incredible bravery, wins her back and breaks the spell which holds her prisoner. This riveting tale, lavishly illustrated with Spirin's elegant, courtly paintings is sure to hold your favorite youngsters spellbound. Ages 4 - 9.
- Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave by Marianna Mayer, illustrated by K.Y. Kraft.
- When Vasilisa's cruel stepmother sends her to the dreaded witch Baba Yaga, Vasilisa fears for her life. Baba Yaga commands Vasilisa to perform impossible tasks but Vasilisa -- with the help of a magical doll left to her by her beloved mother -- succeeds, and in a wonderful, magical twist of events, goes on to marry the Tsar of all Russia. Craft's exquisite, minutely detailed pictures, which pulse with vibrant color, capture all the lurking evil of Baba Yaga's hut and all the courage in Vasilisa's heart. Never before have we seen such a lush rendering of any tale about Baba Yaga! Ages 4 and up.
- The Three Golden Keys by Peter Sis.
- In an enchanted tour filled with history, legend and wonder, Sis takes young readers and listeners on a visit to Prague, his boyhood home. Walking the streets he knew while growing up, Sis searches for the three keys that will unlock the door to the house in which he grew up. Aided in his quest by a mysterious black cat, he finds each of the golden keys in a different part of the city, each wrapped in a scroll which unrolls to reveal a magical story Sis loved as a boy. A captivating text filled with memory, history and tradition blend with Sis's bold, eye-catching, page-spanning spreads to evoke happy, bittersweet recollections of childhood. Interestingly, this was the last book edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Ages 4 and up.
Best Fiction of 1994
- Pink and Say written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco.
- Told in the voice of Polacco's great-grandfather, this Civil War story opens to introduce us to a young wounded white soldier named Say. Rescued from an abandoned battlefield by an equally young black soldier named Pink, Say's life is saved when he is brought to Pink's mother's farmhouse deep in enemy territory. There, both boys are restored to health and united in friendship when Pink teaches his illiterate friend how to read. Though the tragedy of war separates these young men, their friendship and sacrifice is immortalized in their family's remembrance of them. Polacco's stirring commemoration of the principles of life, liberty, friendship and the brotherhood of all people make this book a remarkable testament to the power of the printed word. Her numerous color pictures add depth and power to her vital message -- a message with the power to change the lives of all who read it. Ages 4 and up.
- Amber Brown is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger, illustrated by Tony Ross.
- Amber Brown is an extraordinary third grader -- one every child will enjoy getting to know because of her hilarious sense of humor and outrageous sense of fun. For as long as she can remember, Amber has been best friends with Justin Daniels. But disaster strikes when Justin's family must move to another town and Amber feels that Justin -- caught up in the excitement of moving -- is ignoring her and hurting her feelings. Soon, Amber and Justin begin to fight. Can their friendship survive? This gentle, touching tale is expertly written in Amber's voice with verve, grace and style by the author of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit! An unusually powerful, well-told tale for readers just above the "I Can Read" level. Ages 6 - 10.
- Time and the Clockmice Etcetera by Peter Dickinson, illustrated by Emma Chichester-Clark.
- This delightfully witty tale tells of the Hickorys, the Dickorys and the Docks -- the magical, telepathic mice who live in a marvelous, gigantic clock atop a town's highest tower. When the only man in the world who knows how to fix the clock discovers the mice's extraordinary secret, he accidentally puts them in grave danger. Can quick thinking and a clever plan save the mice from being killed as part of a scientific experiment? Dickinson has penned a riveting adventure filled with the same kind of timeless fantasy which has made The Cricket in Times Square and Charlotte's Web such enduring classics! Exuberantly illustrated with numerous pictures, many in color. Ages 7 and up.
- The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh.
- Meet the Mennyms, a family of living ragdolls who have spent the last 40 years literally playing at being human! None of their neighbors, employers or schoolmates suspect their secret and the Mennyms must guard it in order to survive. All is well until the overseas heir to their creator announces he's coming to visit! Can the Mennyms's keep their secret and continue to play their happy games of being human? Waugh's wry, witty fantasy is sure to keep young readers on the edge of their seats! On a par with The Borrowers. Ages 9 and up.
- Cezanne Pinto, A Memoir by Mary Stolz.
- In this riveting novel, young readers will meet Cezanne Pinto and travel with him as he comes of age while running away from slavery on a Virginia plantation to first freedom in Canada, only to return to the United States and become a cowboy in Texas. Cezanne narrates his own story -- a story of great triumph, tragedy and adventure -- with grace, dignity, humor and rage. Through Pinto's voice, Stolz captures the epic sweep of American history as well as the minute, heart-warming details of what it's like to grow up! Your favorite youngsters will experience with Cezanne the degradation of slavery, the sweet fruits of freedom, the joy of discovering the magic of reading, and the thrill of Pinto's days as a cowboy. Ages 9 - 14.
- Earthshine by Theresa Nelson.
- 12-year-old Slim struggles to accept the fact that her father is dying of AIDS and, in so doing, begins to come to grips with her rage, helplessness, grief and loss. At the urging of 11-year-old Isaiah -- whose mother has AIDS -- Slim at first resists, then reluctantly joins Isaiah's desperate search for a miracle that will save their parents' lives. And when a miracle finally comes, it is nothing like either Slim or Isaiah imagined. It does not save Slim's father's life, but it does have a profound, moving impact on all who witness it. Told in the form of Slim's journal, this heart-wrenching novel is filled with insight into the mysteries of life and death. Ages 10 - 14.
- The Ear, The Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer.
- Set 200 years in the future in Zimbabwe, this riveting science fiction novel is also a heart-stopping mystery story with some extraordinary mutants playing the detectives. Three children who have lived their entire lives sheltered behind security fences sneak out into a bustling world from which they have been protected. Their inexperience quickly marks them as the children of wealthy parents, resulting in their being kidnapped and taken to a former toxic waste dump. From this grim setting, the three children go on an odyssey of discovery through the varied tapestry of a society they never dreamed existed as they seek a way home to their grieving parents. One step behind and struggling to rescue the wayfaring children are the Ear, the Eye and the Arm -- a trio of detectives who have been hired to find the missing children before their parents' powerful enemies can seize them. Loosely based on Shona mythology, this exceptional novel expertly blends speculation on psychic powers with traditional African mysticism and pulses with vibrant life and rich, imaginative invention! Ages 12 and up.
Best Non-Fiction of 1994
- The Days Before Now, An Autobiographical Note by Margaret Wise Brown, adapted by Joan W. Blos, illustrated by Thomas B. Allen.
- With the subtle, rhythmic grace that marks all her best work, Margaret Wise Brown -- beloved author of such childhood favorites as Goodnight, Moon -- describes with vivid immediacy a host of delicate details of her childhood in New York City and on Long Island. Allen's delicately-hued, soft focus pastel drawings illuminate all this moving book's most touching moments giving you and your favorite youngsters a delicious taste of days gone by. Ages 3 - 7.
- It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley.
- Puberty is probably the most confusing, difficult transitions any person must live through. Here, in this remarkable book, Harris answers just about any conceivable question an adolescent navigating his or her way through puberty is likely to have. Emberley's colorful pictures clarify in detail all the information contained here with humor and accuracy. Your favorite youngsters are guided through all this by a bird and a bee -- one fascinated by the subject, the other reluctant -- giving everyone a guide with whom they can identify! Together, text and pictures make this a reassuring, captivating and -- best of all -- entertaining book about changing bodies, growing up, sexuality and sexual health. Ages 12 - 15.
- Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and what the neighbors thought!) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt.
- Krull introduces your favorite youngsters to 19 of the world's best-known, best-loved authors -- including such childhood favorites as Frances Hodgson Burnett, Mark Twain, Jack London, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Hans Christian Andersen. The quirks, foibles, genius and greatness of each author is highlighted in a concise biographical note. Hewitt's full-page, glowing, humorous portraits add grace and humanity to these giants in their field. Ages 5 - 10.
- I Spy A Lion, Animals in Art devised and selected by Lucy Micklethwait.
- In this colorful, clever hunt-and-find book, Micklethwait invites young readers and listeners to look at a selection of beautiful paintings from around the world in a whole new way. Every painting here has at least one animal in it -- some are easy to find; some are hard to find. Can you find them all? This hunt-and-find game makes looking at great art loads of fun and will spark a love of fine painting in everyone! Ages 3 - 9.
- Jazz: My Music, My People by Morgan Monceaux.
- All American music -- from the Broadway stage to the concert hall -- bears the unmistakable stamp of jazz's influence -- the music first developed by African Americans and later embraced by all American society for its rich melodic invention, rhythmic force and freewheeling improvisational style. In this magnificent tribute to the men and women who shaped jazz over the last 125 years, Monceaux gives young readers fascinating looks at the lives of such musical geniuses as Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne, John Coltrane and a host of others. His carefully researched text and his exuberant portraits make this a remarkable reading experience! Ages 7 - 12.
Best Reissues of 1994
- Sleepy ABC by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina.
- Here is an enchanting, rhythmic, rhyming bedtime alphabet book from the pen of the author of Goodnight, Moon, with pictures by the author and illustrator of Caps for Sale, now reissued as it was first published over 40 years ago with its muted-tone pictures in a patchwork quilt motif by Slobodkina. What a wonderful, gentle way to introduce young readers and listeners to the alphabet while lulling them sleep! Ages 3 - 6.
- Editha's Burglar by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Henry Sandham.
- This long-lost gem from the pen of the author of The Secret Garden tells of how Editha -- a seven-year-old girl in Victorian London -- convinces a burglar to take her small, childhood treasures instead of stealing her family's silver and other valuables. Now reissued in an attractive facsimile of the original edition, this immortal tale is vintage Burnett -- Editha redeems the wicked burglar with the power of her goodness -- a theme reminiscent of The Secret Garden. Ages 7 - 10.
- Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban.
- Frances, the beloved badger heroine of many classic picturebooks is back with this collection of wise and witty poems from her own pen. Included are her hilarious thoughts about different kinds of cooked eggs, the joys of string, an ode to a favorite cookie, and more! Lillian Hoban has created a whole new set of colorful pictures which capture all the joy of these lilting, read-aloud poems. Ages 3 - 7.
- The Rainbow Goblins written and illustrated by Ul de Rico.
- All the world is threatened with losing the beauty of the rainbow when seven crafty goblins plot to steal all its colors. Can quick-thinking on the part of a field of clever flowers stop the Goblins' nefarious plot in time? This long out-of-print treasure with its richly colored, sweeping, panoramic oil paintings is one of the finest original fairy tales penned in the last 30 years! And it is finally available again, with its colorful pictures gloriously reproduced to delight the eyes of you and your favorite youngsters! Ages 4 - 9.
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Updated May 11, 1995 by David K. Brown (email@example.com)