Mr. Hankins’ Best of 2011 List: YA, MG, Picture Books, Poetry, Graphic Novels, and Non-Fiction

I’ve been sitting on this list all day. It’s hard to make a list. But I made one. And you know what? It’s MY list. . .so. . .I am bringing all of my +1s that I wanted to have on here. So each category now has eleven. And tomorrow there may be twelve. See? It’s not that hard. I am taking a Walt Whitman approach here. Do I contradict myself? Then I contradict myself. I contain multitudes (wink). Okay, Whitman may or may not have winked. It would have depended upon the venue and the audience, I’m sure. So. . .here are my +1s. . .

The end of the year means going back through the reading seasons of 2011. With some of the best titles read this year, I can picture in my mind what I was doing during that time, where I purchased that particular book, or where that book was read. In the case of Dude: Adventures with Dude and Betty, a picture book that makes this list, I remember passing this around the lobby with Franki Sibberson, Donalyn Miller, and Mary Lee Hahn (the owner of the book who just couldn’t wait to share). What a delight to share this title and this becomes a reading memory for 2011.

Perhaps the best part about getting Advanced Reader Copies of books is that at the end of the year you can finally talk about them within one’s reading community. It was with great excitement that I read Lauren Myracle’s Shine on the plane back from NCTE/ALAN 2010. I remember getting a very early ARC of Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King and how I spent a May evening in the backyard swing devouring each and every word. I remember how I read Americus, a graphic novel that appears here, online–in installments offered daily by the authors, when good friend, Teri Lesesne sent along an official copy.

When books go viral in spaces like Facebook (with The Centurions of 2011), or Twitter (with the newly-formed #nerdybookclub, or the various discussion forums, it’s easy to get excited for a book. And no book saw a mixture of excitement to read measured with a reflective pause after reading like Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls.

By the end of the year, I will have read through over 650 books across age groups and genres. This is an attempt to cull from all of those titles that were released in 2011. Any similarities to other posted lists indicates either coincidence or a very, very good book. Enjoy my list. It will not tip the award-selection committees’ decisions nor sway public opinion, but it will at least give you a glimpse of the reading journey I embarked upon during 2011 and the titles I picked up and loved along the way. 

Oh, and to be sure, it was very, very, very difficult to not add titles that will release in 2012.

Oh, my lovelies. . .it’s shaping up to be another super, super reading year. Stay tuned.

And now the list. . .(the titles appear in no particular order).

Young Adult Fiction 

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner

My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Stick by Andrew Smith

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

Everyone Sees the Ants by A. S. King

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Pearl by Jo Knowles

+1 Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littmann

 Middle Grade Fiction

 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor

Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

Horton Halfpott: (with subtitles) by Tom Angelberger

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

+1 Hidden by Helen Frost

 Picture Books

Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio Illustrated by Scott Campbell

Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty  by Lisa Pliscou Illustrated by Tom Dunne

Passing the Music Down by Sarah Sullivan Illustrated by Barry Root

The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic  Illustrated by Olivier Tallec

Brother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures by Katherine Paterson

Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson

Never Forgotten by Patricia McKissack Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

A Storm Called Katrina by Myron Uhlberg

+1 The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara



Roots and Blues by Arnold Adoff  Illustrated/Paintings by R. Gregory Christie

Things to Say to a Dead Man by Jane Yolen

The Bippolo Seed by Dr. Seuss

B by Sarah Kay

Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word Bob Raczka

It’s a Book by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

BookSpeak!: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas and Josee Bisaillon

+1 The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf

 Graphic Novels

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gutledge

Around the World by Matt Phelan

The Next Day by John Porcellino

Sidekicks by Dan Santat

Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

Empire State by Jason Shiga

Vordak Rules the School by Vordak the Incomprehensible

Cat Versus Human by Yasmine Surovec

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen

+1 Chimichanga by Eric Powell


Monkey Boy to Lunch Lady: The Sketchbooks of Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World Douglas Wood and Barry Moser

America Is Under Attack by Don Brown

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jayce Dugard

For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Anna Marie Mozart by Elizabeth Rusch

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Mark

+1 Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and It’s Legacy by Albert Marrin

10 thoughts on “Mr. Hankins’ Best of 2011 List: YA, MG, Picture Books, Poetry, Graphic Novels, and Non-Fiction

  1. Paul, I have always enjoyed every book that you have recommended, but I see that I have fallen way behind. There are so many books here I have yet to read. Do you know what you do to my book budget? Thank you for all of your great recommendations and the work you do to keep the Centurions going.

  2. Well I managed to read some but not all of these books. Apparently I start the new year behind. Thanks to you list and tweets I will probably never run out of something to read.

  3. I’m tickled to see that DUDE: FUN WITH DUDE AND BETTY made it to your list!! I remember the moment that book was placed in your hand! 🙂

  4. What a great list, Paul! Just a couple days ago I wanted to order some midgrade novels with my B&N gift card, and I got Bigger Than a Breadbox, Breadcrumbs, and Liesl & Po– now I’m sure I made some good choices!

  5. You display surprisingly excellent taste, hankins, but why is my book not included in EVERY category?

  6. This is an exciting list, Paul. What I love is that not only are some of my picks of the year on it, but also that there are some titles here that I haven’t heard of.

  7. I tried to stay away. I keep trying to master the cool and aloof thing. Meh, so what? A list. But, really, it means everything. And amazes me to be here. So thank you. From, Nick, Jaycee, the Scoot and me. <3

  8. Nice choices. I still REALLY need to read Stick and Shine. They are on my list of things to get too soon. And I want to read more graphic novels, so thanks for the list on those. Gotta check them out.

    Oh, and I wanted to let you know about an LGBT/Ally scholarship I have going on in case you know people that want to apply. Auctions to raise more money in January too:

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