Staff Picks for Children

 Recommended books for kids. Comment on a review by clicking on its title. You can also write your thoughts about any book on our Facebook Wall.

You can still access reviews from pre-September 2012 for Adults and Children.

Two Parrots

(2014)
Two Parrots

 

Iranian author/illustrator Rashin Kheiriyeh's first book published in the United States is inspired by a story told by the medieval Persian poet Rumi.  A merchant in Persia traveled frequently and was given a beautiful parrot as a gift in India.  The merchant loved the parrot, and put him in a cage, where the parrot appeared to be sad.  The next time the merchant traveled to India, he asked each servant if he could bring them something special as a gift.   He asked the parrot as well, who asked only that the merchant find his parrot friend, and give him a message.  The parrot would love to see him, but cannot because he lives in a cage.  The merchant promises to deliver the message.  At the end of his trip, he finds a large group of parrots and repeats the message, but at the end, the friend falls down dead.  The merchant is shocked.  "How can I tell this sad news to my parrot?"  After returning home, he reluctantly tells his parrot what happened in India, and just like the other parrot, his beloved parrot falls down dead.  The merchant is crushed and takes his bird out of the cage, but then the parrot flies out of his hands and escapes.  He explains he does not want to spend his whole life in a cage, and his friend in India gave him the idea for how to escape.  The kind merchant understands, and welcomes the parrot back to visit anytime.  The parrot and his friend do come back to visit the merchant, who is overjoyed to see them.  I had never heard of Rumi before, but am tempted to look up his poetry.  I also look forward to more of Rashin Kheiriyeh's books being published in the US!

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Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

(2014)
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

 

Sam and Dave leave home with one mission - to dig a hole. However, this is not any ordinary hole. It is a hole that will lead to “something spectacular.” As Sam and Dave dig deeper and deeper, they come SOclose to many spectacular things, but decide, at the last second, to change their course of digging. Sam and Dave dig straight down. They dig to the left. Then, the team digs to the right. They even separate from one another to dig paths in opposite directions!

Eventually, their supplies begin to run out. Sam and Dave drink all of the chocolate milk, and they share the last animal cookie. As the day wears on, the duo decides to rest, which leads to them falling asleep. While the pair naps, their canine companion continues the digging mission. Sam, Dave and the dog begin to tumble through the sky and land back at home...or do they? To find out, read the book!

If you are looking for a good laugh, check out a video of the author Mac Barnett and the illustrator Jon Klassen forming their own hole digging team to celebrate the release of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole.

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Archie Takes Flight

(2014)
Archie Takes Flight

 

The first book in the new early chapter book series Space Taxi features 8 year old Archie, who is going to spend Take Your Kid to Work Day with his dad in his taxi during the night shift.  Archie is excited and ready to go but very quickly becomes confused as the taxi dashboard lights up with special buttons and screens.  The taxi starts morphing...into a taxi with wings.  As they pass the moon, Archie is stunned.  He never imagined that this was his dad's job.  He takes over as dad's co-pilot, quickly learning how to read the solar system map in order to get the taxi to the correct address by taking the right wormhole.  A few more adventures on different planets round out the story, setting us up for the September sequel.  Three scientific facts are at the end of the book.  A great series for grades 2-4.

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Little Boo

(2014)
Little Boo

A tiny pumpkin seed has one goal in its life: to be SCARY!  “Boo!” it cries, to leaf and snowflake, grub to grasshopper.  They are not in the least frightened, but the wind encourages the seed: “It’s not time for scaring…not yet.  Be patient.  You’ll soon be scary enough.”  As the seasons turn, the seed has some turning of its own to do: to spring sprout, to summer flower, to autumn pumpkin. Little Boo finds that, sometimes, we need to be patient and grow into our dreams in order for them to come true.  For Little Boo, that long-awaited time is Halloween!

This is a sweet variation on a theme explored in Margaret Wise Brown’s The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin; many children will relate to the impatient little seed, as they can to the “fat little, round little, yellow little pumpkin,” who can’t wait to grow up.  Many will enjoy it beyond the season of fall and Halloween.

Although the story is pleasant, my favorite feature of the book lies in Tim Zeltner’s luminous paint-on-plywood illustrations -- a wonderful mix of moody and cozy. 

Little Boo is recommended for ages 3-7.

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Earthquake Shock

(2014)
Earthquake Shock

 

The first entry in the new Disaster Strikes series features an earthquake in Los Angeles, California.  Joey Flores talks his mom into letting him stay at the skate park with his friends without her for the first time.  However, as Joey, Fiona, Kevin, and Dylan start to walk home, an earthquake hits and Joey and Fiona just barely miss being hit by a collapsing highway.  They frantically start looking for Dylan and Kevin, and first find Dylan trapped underneath a concrete slab.  Thanks to Joey's quick thinking, Dylan is freed from his predicament, and through sheer luck, the friends are reunited with Kevin, who has been looking for them all along.  Joey gets home to his apartment building and reunites with his mom and baby sister and anxiously waits for his dad to get home. They are unable to return to their apartment that night, and go to a recreation center which has been turned into a shelter.  Joey's father returns to his family, and they wait for the go-ahead to return home.  At the end of the book are facts about earthquakes and tips to stay safe.  A quick preview for the second book, Tornado Alley is included.

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The Titanic Locket

(2014)
The Titanic Locket

 

A new series for fans of the scary, spooky genre!  Only the first book of the Haunted Museum series is out so far, but The Titanic Locket did not disappoint.  Sisters Jessica and Samantha visit a Haunted Museum in Southampton England and touch a locket despite all the signage saying not to touch anything.  Shortly after, they board the Titanic 2, a replica of the Titanic which sank in 1912.  The girls almost immediately start hearing scratching noises at their walls, notice their room number changing back and forth, and the locket they saw at the museum has mysteriously appeared in their cabin, and keeps coming back, despite all their efforts to rid themselves of it.  A boy they saw in the museum has also captured their interests, and they both are playing for his attention.  They have encounters with supernatural historical figures, and the tension escalates until Jessica is almost drowned.  The girls' 1912 alter egos Alice and Matilda fight, with Jessica and Samantha struggling to stay in control.   Its a fast read for those who like their stories on the spooky side. 

 For a non-fiction adventure try the interactive survival adventure Can You Survive the Titanic?

 

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Miss Emily

(2014)

 

This work of fiction told using free verse uses people who existed in real life to tell the story.  Miss Emily is Emily Dickinson, and the narrator MacGregor Jenkins was the son of the parson across the street.  Mac's sister and two of Emily's nieces round out the characters.  While many know that Emily Dickinson was mostly a recluse in her adult life, she did enjoy the company of children.  Mutén tells of a possible occurrence in the lives of these five--a nighttime excursion to see the circus train come into town.  The children and Miss Emily steal away in the dark of night, but on the way back Mac hurts his ankle and his parents learn the truth about their activities.  Despite their misdeeds, Mac and his sister Sally are taken to the circus which they then try to re-enact in their neighborhood. 

For more information about Emily Dickinson, try reading Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World or

 

 Emily Dickinson.

 

 

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The Miniature World of Marvin and James

(2014)
The Miniature World of Marvin and James

 

This beautifully illustrated early chapter book stars Marvin (a beetle) and James (a boy).  James is going on vacation for a week, and Marvin is worried that James will forget about him or make new friends and no longer need him.  A funny scene in the book takes place when Marvin teams up with his cousin Elaine and they discover the fun of playing inside a pencil sharpener with the wood shavings, that is, until a pencil is inserted and they can't get out.  This incident is the major event in the book, and Marvin has to be clever to get himself and Elaine out of the situation.  James comes home, and it turns out, he still needs Marvin.  He even brought Marvin a souvenir.  Recommended for readers just starting on chapter books who still enjoy lots of illustrations, and for fans of Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo.

This series is based off of Broach's earlier novel for older readers, Masterpiece. 

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Colors Versus Shapes

(2014)

Who are the stars of this book?  Colors or Shapes?  With the help of three unusual judges (featured in Boldt’s 123 versus ABC), two teams vie for the honor.  Team Color takes the stage to begin a talent contest, but Shapes soon crash it, and the game is on.   Red, Blue and Yellow do some fancy mixing to create a variety of new colors--everything from purple to turquoise.  But the shapes, including Circle, Triangle, and Square, show that they can change as well, adding sides, creating octagons, nonagons, irregular polygons—and-on-and-on-agons!  The competition is so fierce, that it isn’t long before colors and shapes collide!   Who will win?

There is plenty of humor and action in this basic introduction of two important concepts. Colors versus Shapes is recommended for ages 4-8.

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Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (2014)

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up


Leroy Ninker dreams of being a cowboy. He has a lasso. He has a hat and boots. He knows about tracking and has even been practicing his “Yippie-i-oh.”  The one thing he does not have is a horse.  Fortunately for Leroy, a special horse named Maybelline has just become available. As Leroy is soon to learn, however, it is one thing to dream of being a cowboy, and another to own a horse. Especially if that horse “enjoys the heck out of a compliment,” eats lots of grub” and “gets lonesome quick.”

 Fans of Kate DiCamillo will be delighted to read another tale chock full of heart, hope and dreams coming true. Fans of the Mercy Watson series will be delighted to see some of their old favorites as well as make new friends. All in all, the first book in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive looks like a rip-roaring good time for everyone.

 

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The Sealed-Up House

(2014)
The Sealed-Up House

 

This unusual story in the Twicetold Tales series retells the tale of Sleeping Beauty in an extremely fractured format.  Brendan is new in town and is fascinated by the Sova House covered in ivy and surrounded by overgrown shrubs and weeds which would make it difficult to enter.  After an unsuccessful attempt to enter and being attacked by vines, he visits the school nurse, who tells him about the house's inhabitants who have not left for at least 10 years and also tells Brendan that he has a little magic in him.  After that, Brendan is determined that he will enter the house and meet the child named Talia living inside. When he finally breaks in with the help of a machete, Talia is in a zombie-like state, until Brendan starts reading stories to her.  Little by little she begins to wake up, until her father bursts into the room and orders Brendan to leave. Talia's mother reminds him, though, that a witch had placed a spell upon their home that they would sleep, stupefied, until love found Talia, and Brendan was that love.  The school nurse comes to the house--it turns out she was the witch who placed the spell on the house, and she moves back into the house on the third floor, against the wishes of the family.  Brendan and Talia grow up together and marry as adults.

 

Now, the 2nd part of the book was new to me.  I did not recognize it as being part of the Sleeping Beauty story. Brendan and Talia have three daughters: Roxanne, Dawn, and Aurora.  One day the witch, who they now refer to as the spirit, asks Aurora to have the cook serve Roxanne for lunch.   Aurora is justifiably horrified.  Instead the cook prepares a goose and tricks the spirit.  Next, the spirit asks to eat Dawn for dinner.  Aurora is again scared, for she does not realize the cook is substituting lamb for Dawn, and hiding Roxanne and Dawn away.  Next the spirit asks to consume Aurora and the cook gives the spirit a pork roast.  When the spirit finds that Roxanne, Dawn, and Aurora are still alive, she is furious, but the cook locks her into the pantry and she is never seen again.  I looked at a couple websites online, and I learned that in many versions of Sleeping Beauty there is a second half to the story that is remarkably similar to this half of the book.  What a fun book to read, and I'm looking forward to looking at more versions of the original Sleeping Beauty.

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