Since this was an election year, NPR's Backseat Book Club decided to hold an informal poll to identify the best-loved children's books of 2012. We know that "kid lit" is a big category, stretching from baby-proof board books all the way to young-adult titles with fetching werewolves on the covers. But we're interested in books that hit the sweet spot for backseat readers — kids between 9 and 14 years of age. So we reached out to booksellers and one librarian to find out which books bowled them over this year.
The participants in our poll swim in books all day long and know a great read when they see one. Plus, like literary spies, they hear the playground buzz about new titles long before those books hit the bestseller lists. It turns out 2012 was a very strong year for "middle-grade" fiction; our experts' lists bristle with diverse and imaginative choices (see their complete lists at the end of this story). But three titles emerged as the clear favorites in our nationwide survey.