... and the Battle of the Nightmare King
William Joyce and Laura Geringer (2011)
Very cool, on so many levels. Not the least of which is the author is the guy who created Rolie Polie Olie. The illustrations are cool, the chapter titles are cool ("In Which a Twist of Fate Begets a Knot in the Plan"), the setting is cool, and the posters for the upcoming movie are cool.
Too much with the "cool"?
Good story, lots of familiar yet altered characters (Santa Claus, before he became a claymation TV star, was a thief and weapons expert?), orphans, magic, and of course the battle between good and evil. Characters grow and change, the mind is valued over muscle, and people/creatures look out for each other. Very imaginative, visual, and has a lot of good vocabulary words, which is why I think it's going to beat out The Hobbit for my end of year read aloud.
One more cool: the website for the books, especially where Mr. Joyce visits the moon.