Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2002

August 2021 marks twenty years of writing Sonderbooks! To celebrate, I’m writing posts about favorites I read each year.

This is simple, because I make a Sonderbooks Stand-out post every year, but I’m looking at each year’s list and highlighting a few extra-special favorites. It’s making me want to do a lot of rereading!

2002 was my first full year of writing Sonderbooks. As with 2001, I was still posting in “issues” and trying to review an Old Favorite for every issue — so I reread some truly amazing books each year. Again, I’m not going to highlight those, but let me say that every single one of the books I list as a “Reread” in the Special Edition is wonderful.

Books I read the first time in 2002 and still remember with love:

Heir Apparent, by Vivian Vande Velde

This is a kid-trapped-in-a-computer-game story, so I shouldn’t have loved it, but I did. The computer game is a medieval fantasy tale, and the author pulls it off. I think this was the first book I read by Vivian Vande Velde, and got me started on some other wonderful books.

The King’s Swift Rider, by Mollie Hunter

This one’s a historical novel set in Scotland during the time of Robert the Bruce with a young protagonist riding for him.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares

Here’s a classic friendship novel, showing a group of girls each living their own summer, but always having their friends — and having the pants.

The Best of Times, by Greg Tang

I still think this is the best book ever for kids learning to multiply. Instead of just blindly memorizing the times tables, it helps kids understand how multiplication works and be able to figure out answers when they forget the rote memorization.

Cleopatra’s Heir, by Gillian Bradshaw

Another amazing historical novel from Gillian Bradshaw — immersing the reader in a time I didn’t know much about.

Quentins, by Maeve Binchy

I’d read some Maeve Binchy books before this one, but this was the first one I reviewed. I love her immersive fiction, making you feel like you know the characters. I read many more over the years.

Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters

The first Amelia Peabody mystery!

Angles of Reflection: A Memoir of Logic and a Mother’s Love, by Joan L. Richards

So good! This book is about a mathematician and a mother who is dealing with her child’s severe illness and trying to juggle her motherhood and her career.

In Code: A Mathematical Journey, by Sarah Flannery with David Flannery

Another wonderful book about a mathematician! This time, she’s a 17-year-old girl who figured out an improved algorithm in cryptography. A very fun story.

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M. I. T. Students Who Took Las Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich

I read lots of math books that year! This one is about how a team of students from M.I.T. figured out a method to win at blackjack. Though the casinos fought back.

A Mind at a Time: America’s Top Learning Expert Shows How Every Child Can Succeed, by Mel Levine

This was a fascinating look at how people learn. I like this line from my review: “Dr. Levine believes that every mind has strengths and weaknesses. When a child comes up against an obstacle to learning, he does not believe we should blame the child, but help the child get around the roadblock via his strengths.”

Hungry Hen, by Richard Waring, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church

This is still one of my favorite picture books. Someone gets eaten — and it’s not the hen!

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