Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2011

This month, I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks!

Today I’m revisiting favorites that I first read in 2011, the year that was memorable because I had a stroke.

For Grown-Ups

Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, and Child of the Prophecy, by Juliet Marillier

This was a fantastic year for reading fantasy. Juliet Marillier’s amazing Sevenwaters series begins with a retelling of the fairy tale where the princess must be silent for seven years and knit shirts out of nettles to save her brothers who have been turned into swans. The further books show further generations and more dealings with the otherworldly. They are unfailingly wonderful. And they all have romance, but the details are never the same.

The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss

Another truly amazing fantasy series. This one is not finished even yet, and I hope Patrick Rothfuss will remedy that soon! But the beginning pulls you in from the first sentence. The idea is that a mysterious figure, the King-Killer, is telling his story over three days. We hear the story he tells on the first two days, but we the readers have been kept waiting for the culmination of the tale — but we’re already enchanted.

The Pericles Commission, by Gary Corby

A mystery series set in ancient Greece! Very fun.

Sex, Mom, & God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics — and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway, by Frank Schaeffer

It was beginning to dawn on me that the attitudes I grew up with regarding sex — the same ones Frank Schaeffer grew up with — might not be the healthiest. This book gave me lots of food for thought.

Faith and Will: Weathering the Storms of Our Spiritual Lives, by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron writes wonderful books musing about writing, and it turns out she also writes wonderful books musing about faith.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, by BrenĂ© Brown

The first Brené Brown book I read, and probably my favorite. Because I am a perfectionist who has always struggled with perfectionism. This book helps me relax and live wholeheartedly, even with my imperfections.

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell

This isn’t even close to being my favorite book about universalism. But it is the book that most of my Christian friends have heard of and the book that opened up the conversation. And I appreciate that so much.

For Teens

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

This book is like The Black Stallion combined with Misty of Chincoteague, but featuring killer water horses who like to eat people. Add in a girl competing in a race against men, including a guy she’s attracted to — and both of them desperately need the prize money.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

Another amazing trilogy by Laini Taylor. This time about angels and demons. Or what looks like angels and demons. And it starts out with a student in modern-day Prague who stays with a guardian who grants wishes and trades in human teeth.

Chime, by Franny Billingsley

A haunting novel with witchcraft and guilt and mystery. It begins with the narrator saying she deserves to be hanged. But does she?

The Trouble with Kings, by Sherwood Smith

I think Sherwood Smith’s books are so much fun. There’s the usual princess, plus romance, danger, magic, and political intrigue.

The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy

This is it! My review of this book tells me that 2011 was the year I began posting Sonderling Sunday. The Order of Odd-fish is a bizarre fantasy novel with things like riding on ostriches and prophecies of impending doom. I met the author at ALA Annual Conference, and when he announced that his book had been translated into German, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, I asked if there was any way I could get a copy — and he sent me one. Since then, I’ve used the English edition and the German edition as a sort of Very Silly Phrasebook, writing posts on Sundays showing phrases in children’s books (I’ve added more) and how they’re translated into German in the German edition. I get a big kick out of doing it, though I haven’t done as frequent posts lately. Looks like I’ve been doing it ten years! And I haven’t even finished going through The Order of Odd-fish, though I’m getting really close.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly

A powerful novel with resonances and strange connections between a modern girl in Paris and a girl living during the French Revolution.

For Children

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George

A fantasy tale where the castle itself has a personality and grows rooms on a whim. The young princess knows the castle best, so she’s important when her parents are gone and the country is in trouble.

Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt

Wow. Now Gary Schmidt tells the story of the troublemaker in town and completely wins this reader’s heart.

Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis

My first Stephanie Burgis book! This series has a Jane-Austen-with-magic vibe, with an incorrigible twelve-year-old girl as the viewpoint character.

Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run, by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger

I have to mention this one, because it may have saved my life! It’s the story of a kid whose parents named him Stonewall Trigger Hinkleman and who drag him to Civil War Reenactments over and over. He hates them and thinks they’re stupid. But a magic bugle sends him back to the actual Battle of Bull Run, and he gains an entirely new perspective. How did this save my life? I had gotten tickets from a friend to go to the 150th reenactment of the Battle of Bull Run on a Sunday in July. But I’d had a headache for weeks, and the temperature was forecast to be 104 degrees. And I read Stonewall Hinkleman’s words that reenactments are stupid, and I decided to stay at home and read the book in honor of the 150th anniversary. And the next day I had a stroke! I was very glad I didn’t have it the day before outdoors in a crowded field in the heat.

Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers

This silly, silly picture book still makes me giggle. A kid gets his kite stuck in a tree. He throws bigger and bigger things into the tree, trying to dislodge it. The items get more and more ridiculous, and it’s done in a deadpan, completely silly way.

I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen

This picture book is a classic in the Someone-Gets-Eaten genre that I love so much.

Chalk, by Bill Thomson

A wordless picture book that shows kids playing with chalk that makes whatever you draw come to life. That’s a lot of fun until a kid draws a t-rex.

A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka

Another charming picture book, this time about a dog whose ball gets popped. I got to hear Chris Raschka give his Caldecott Medal speech about this book, which made me appreciate it all the more.

You Can Count on Monsters, by Richard Evan Schwartz

This is one of my very favorite mathy books for kids, doing with monsters what I did with colors on my Prime Factorization Sweater.

Something I’m finding out by doing these posts revisiting past years — I really do read a lot of wonderful books every year!

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