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British books deserve some spotlight for all that they have to offer
Local children's librarian shares some special stories that hail from Britain

 'Well Witched' by Frances Hardinge.
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Date published: 1/27/2009

T HE AMERICAN Library Associa- tion announced its prestigious children's book awards yesterday, including the Randolph Caldecott Medal for most distinguished picture book and the John Newbery Medal for most distinguished contribution to American children's literature.

The Caldecott went to Beth Krommes for "The House in the Night," by Susan Marie Swanson.

Neil Gaiman received the Newbery for "The Graveyard Book."

Look for all the details about those special books in next week's column.

Today's column takes a look at a few of the best books of the year that did not win either prize--not because they're not worthy, but because, being British, they're not eligible.

Hilary McKay's acclaimed series about the eccentric Casson family comes to a perfect end with "Forever Rose." Eleven-year-old Rose is used to the friendly chaos of her household.

As the book opens, her artist mother is ensconced in her painting shed with a case of bronchitis; her artist father, living in London, comes to help despite exasperation with the way the household is run; her older sister, who ran away from her own wedding, calls but refuses to say where she is; and her brother's friend bunks in the attic.

Readers of the previous four books will be delighted with the way McKay ties up all the loose ends in surprising but satisfying ways.

Terry Pratchett tackles big issues in a book that manages to be entertaining while offering middle school readers lots to think about. "Nation" begins when a tsunami wipes out all the inhabitants of a small island in a place very like the South Pacific.

The only survivor is Mau, who is paddling back from his initiation trip, expecting to find his family and friends welcoming him home. Instead he finds destruction, bodies, and a British sailing ship crash-landed in the trees. Daphne, the only survivor on the ship, steps onto the sand, armed with a rusty revolver, and the story begins.

In an action-packed tale, Pratchett touches on the meaning of religion and science, empire and colonialism, death, leadership, politics and royalty. It's a thumping good read that is sure to find a wide audience among fans of alternative history, fantasy and adventure stories.

So many fantasies are being published these days that it's refreshing to find one with a new twist.

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Caroline Parr is coordinator of children's services for Central Rappahannock Regional Library.