Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2009

I’ve been writing Sonderbooks for 20 years this month!

To celebrate, I’m revisiting old favorites from each year I wrote reviews.

Today, let’s look at some Sonderbooks Stand-outs from 2009.

In 2009, I was working full-time as a youth services manager at Herndon Fortnightly Library. I was still married but separated, and having some very prickly negotiations with my husband about child support and visitation and trying to come up with an agreement. But at last, the nonfiction books aren’t all about saving relationships or moving on from relationships, though there’s a little bit of that. Anyway, here are some wonderful books I first read in 2009:

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust and Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide, by Immaculée Ilibagiza

These amazing books tell about how the author survived the Rwandan genocide hiding in a bathroom with seven other women — and how she learned to rise above that experience to heal and forgive. Beautiful and inspiring.

The Trance of Scarcity: Stop Holding Your Breath and Start Living Your Life, by Victoria Castle

This is a book about telling yourself stories of abundance and joy. Note to self: I need to reread this book!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A delightful novel-in-letters set on the island of Guernsey shortly after World War II, when the island was occupied by the Nazis.

His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik

This book started me off on the Temeraire series about fighting the Napoleonic Wars with dragons instead of ships.

Still Life, by Joy Fielding

A gripping thriller! Our heroine’s in a coma, but she can hear every word around her and finds out exactly who plans to kill her….

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama

Here’s a feel-good story about a retired gentleman in India who opens a marriage bureau.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

A wonderful Newbery winner, mixing a mystery with historical with science fiction with adventure, following a kid in New York City.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

Another Newbery winner, this one from the previous year, about a boy raised by the denizens of a graveyard. The audiobook read by Neil Gaiman himself is especially wonderful.

Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate

This is a powerfully told immigrant story of a boy who moves from Sudan to Minnesota and tries to make sense of his new world.

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech

A Newbery-winning intergenerational road trip book that contains a story within a story.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor

Another amazing Newbery winner, the first I read from the Logan family saga, with the family struggling against racism and hatred and trying to keep their land.

Jeremy Draws a Monster, by Peter McCarty

When the monster Jeremy draws comes to life, he has to figure out how to deal with it.

Orangutan Tongs, by Jon Agee

Tongue twisters! I can never resist them.

Pigs Make Me Sneeze! by Mo Willems

Elephant and Piggie present the perfect way to get across this great truth: Correlation does not imply causation. It’s the way to this former statistics teacher’s heart.

The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney

This Caldecott-winning wordless picture book tells the story of the fable with gorgeous paintings, full of emotion.

Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund

Killer unicorns! Here’s a wonderful book about a girl who learns she’s from a legacy of unicorn hunters, and that unicorns are evil and dangerous. Definitely not sparkles and rainbows.

Graceling and Fire, by Kristin Cashore

These books are set in a unique fantasy world. The first book tells about Katsa, who has the grace of killing and has been used by her ruthless uncle the king. Fire lives in a different kingdom, where there are monsters — colorful animals and humans who are beautiful to look at but hunger for human flesh. Both young women must grapple with who they are and who they love and if they can seize their own destiny.

Blackbringer and Silksinger, by Laini Taylor

These books introduced me to Laini Taylor’s amazing world-building abilities. Her stories of magic always have details that surprise you. In these books, we have fairies — but fairies quite different from those you’ll read about anywhere else.

Once a Princess, by Sherwood Smith

A swashbuckling tale about a girl who lives in Los Angeles, but learns she was born a princess in a fantasy kingdom — and now they need her back. The first of a duology. Twice a Prince is equally good.

A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This was the author’s debut novel and was the very first winner of the Morris Award for a debut YA novel. I always love fairy tale retellings, and this one takes the Rumpelstiltskin story in an unexpected direction.

Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork

A teen with Asperger’s has to work in his father’s law firm for the summer and learn more about how the world works. A lovely novel that will win your heart.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt

Another powerful historical Newbery-Honor-winning novel from Gary Schmidt. Warning: This one’s sad! But it earns your sorrow and you won’t be sorry you’ve read it.

Note: This year’s Gary Schmidt novel, Just Like That, had elements from both the Gary Schmidt books I read in 2009. You don’t have to read them first, but I like the way it’s from the same fictional universe as those books.

Be sure to look at the Wonderful Rereads I mentioned on the 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs page!

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