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.

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

(2012)
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

 

In art, the adjective "naive" refers to producing art in "a simple, childlike style which deliberately rejects sophisticated techniques".  This short picture book tells the story of Henri Rousseau, who was considered to be one of France's naive artists.  He was a toll collector and started painting after the age of 40.  Because he couldn't afford art lessons, he taught himself how to paint.  He repeatedly put his work in exhibitions where the experts wrote mean things about his work.  Gradually though, he did develop a following among younger painters and avant-garde artists.   The book includes an author's note and an illustrator's note.  The watercolor and acrylic illustrations are vibrant, and reminiscent of the jungle pictures that Rousseau was fond of painting.  This book received starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.  It is a fascinating brief peek into the life of an artist.

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Barry's Best Buddy

(2013)
Barry's Best Buddy

 

In this Toon Book by Renee French, Barry's best friend Polarhog (a polarhog?) comes by with a surprise for Barry.  After leaving Barry's gray house, they first stop by a hat shop ("NOT going to happen" says Barry), and continue down the path in fantastic hats, (one of which tragically disappears).  In the foreground we watch ants sweating away with lightbulbs, paint, cords, etc., and wonder, what in the world could be going on.  They arrive at their final destination:  Barry's newly painted and lit-up house!  The ants exclaims "happy birthday", and "we love to decorate". 

The drawings are done in pencil and were colored digitally.  While it has some challenging words (tragedy, beautiful, decorate, polarhog), its a great book for an early reader, an older reader, or for a reader sharing with a younger child.

 

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The Kindling

(2012)
bookcover for the Kindling

Book 1 of the Middle School Magic Series

The story takes place in a typical suburban town with three ordinary thirteen-year-old teenagers who one day discover that they have unusual powers kindling inside them.  Conner, his twin sister, Lexa, and their best friend Melaine discover some unusual things happening to them at school and at home.  A stranger in black is following them and their teachers are suddenly tracking them.  It’s not until they are given after-school detention that they learn they’ve been chosen as future magi, and until their “kindling” or training is complete, they’ll be the targets of a dark force.  Their lives as they have known it has suddenly changed forever and they are thrown into a battle between good and evil.

The three young magi encounter a variety of adventurous situations as they battle the forces of darkness.  One episode occurs when the teachers are trying to escort the students safely home.  The warriors of evil attack the car and almost successfully kidnap the youths.

Another time while the two families were visiting Disney World in Florida a violent encounter occurs with the Darkhands in the Small World ride. But before the attack is ended Conner and his sister Madi are found missing.  Madi is found but Connor is captured.  Thus the rest of the group is taken to a safe haven known as the Mockingbird Cottage.  Conner is taken into one of the tunnels by an agent of darkness and than he is rescued by a cherubim who gives him a choice.  Conner can return to his family or enter the realm of darkness to free those imprisoned by the darkness.  Connor decides to help and he enters the realm of Lady Nightwing in the land of darkness. He stops the darkhands from capturing the energy of a kindling boy, but at a terrible cost to himself.  Conner is tortured and then told that he has become a Darkhand.  In the meantime Lexa and Melanie are trying to locate Connor and they become trapped as well. 

These are just a few of the many battles that the magi and their guardians face in their fight against evil.  Will they prevail and will Connor become a hero? 

The book was well written and a very enjoyable fantasy.  There is much action, adventure, and suspense.  I think that readers will enjoy the magic and the action that they will encounter.  The plot is fast moving and the surprises keep coming, and I’m pretty sure from the way things end that there will be a sequel.

I would recommend this book to readers in grades 4th through 9th grade

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Freakling

2012

Which brother in this future dystopia is the” true son” or messiah of a society split between those who have psi (the telekinetic power to move objects with the mind) and those who have none?  Who will the true son save or liberate?  One brother, a 12-year-old named Taemon , discovers that his psi includes remote viewing and other gifts but he loses his psi abilities after he hears a voice giving him permission to kill his brother Yens.  Taemon is then banished from the psi colony and sent to live with those who have none.  There Taemon meets Challis, an aunt that he thought was dead.  She tells him many secrets and soon Taemon will return to fight his brother Yens for the title of “true son”.   This satisfying and fast paced story has a bit of a surprise ending.  Recommended for grades 5-8. 

 

Book #2 of the Psi Chronicles, Archon comes out in October of 2013.

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Flood

(2013)
Flood

 

This wordless picture book shows the impact of a storm on a home and family.  It begins with idyllic scenes, but soon we see the family watching the weather and reinforcing the windows of the home.  When the rain starts to fall the family packs up some belongings into their car and drives away from their home, which is now surrounded by the ferocious storm.  Some of the pictures in the book are frightening, such as the picture showing the living room engulfed by waves, or the trees uprooted.  When the family drives back their house is unhabitable, but it doesn't stop them from rebuilding and making the house fit to live in once again.  The book ends again with a scene of a happy family playing in the yard.  This book could be used successfully in explaining storms to children, and how the damage from storms is not necessarily going to be permanent.  The digitally created images are quite vivid.  Recommended for use with elementary age students.

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No Fits, Nilson!

(2013)

Picture a giant teal gorilla with yellow shoes and six watches. That’s Nilson. Now, imagine a small girl with dark bobbed-hair wearing a red jumper and rainbow tights. That’s Amelia.

Nilson and Amelia are best friends. They do everything together from playing music to building towers. Nilson is normally cool until the slightest thing sets him off. If a block wiggles and knocks down his entire structure, Nilson goes from calm and collected to throwing a gorilla-sized tantrum in 0.2 seconds. Trust me - his growl is impressive!

Amelia soothes Nilson’s meltdowns with a combination of gentle reminders (“No fits, Nilson!”), subtle misdirections and promises of their next great adventure. Amelia even masters the “gorilla eye lock” to keep Nilson’s behavior in check. (In case you are interested, OHora offers the 3-step process for this move on his Tumblr page.)

The day arrives when Amelia’s mother takes Amelia and Nilson to run errands. First, Nilson doesn’t want to leave the house. At the post office, there is an EXTREMELY long line. Then, a stranger on the train eats a banana and doesn’t share. Will Nilson be able to refrain from throwing  a fit?

The bold lines and bright colors of the illustrations heighten Nilson’s emotional reactions throughout the book. Preschoolers will connect with Nilson’s experiences and feelings. For more titles by Zachariah OHora, be sure to check out Stop Snoring, Bernard! and The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses.

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America the Beautiful

Together We Stand (2013)
America the Beautiful

 

This beautiful book has ten different illustrators, one for each line of Katharine Lee Bates' famous song "America the Beautiful", including Mary GrandPre, Raul Colon, Bryan Collier, Jon J. Muth, and Yuyi Morales.  Each page also features a quote by a famous former or current President of the United States.  Each page tells a different story of our country through the eyes of that illustrator, with the quote enhancing each page.  At the back of the book is a listing of national landmarks and symbols, the full text of all four verses of America the Beautiful, information about democracy, and about Katharine Lee Bates.  While its not a book to share in a Storytime, its a great book to share in a classroom, studying each quote and scrutinizing each illustration, or to share one on one.

Highly recommended.

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Tito Puente, Mambo King /Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo

(2013)
Tito Puente, Mambo King /Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo

This bilingual English/Spanish book celebrates the life of the great Latin Jazz musician Ernest “Tito” Puente (1923-2000).  Readers learn about Tito in different stages of his life: as a baby (in New York City of Puerto Rican parents), banging out rhythms on pots and pans; as a kid drumming and dancing his way to talent show success (but still finding time to play baseball with the neighborhood kids); as a young man in the Navy serving his country while developing his gift of playing and writing music; and as a professional musician who wins fame, fortune, love and admiration by using his award-winning talents, realizing his dream of becoming the leader of his own orchestra, and inspiring others to dance, play, and enjoy music.  The story is punctuated by a catchy rumba rhythm/ritmo de rumba--¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tic! ¡Tom Tom!- which is also notated in the back of the book.  It lends to the jubilant feel of the story, as do the vibrant, fanciful illustrations.  Artist López uses bright acrylic paints in a wide variety of colors (mixed in recycled Mexican salsa jars!), on sanded boards, distressed for a warm, cozy, textured look.  His portrayal of Tito is of a happy kid in love with the rhythm of life, who grew up being able to keep his love alive, and share it with people the world over. The book also serves as a great introduction to many of the Latin instruments that helped create the unique sound of Puente’s orchestra, as well as the names of other musical legends of Hispanic heritage, including salsa singer Celia Cruz and guitarist Carlos Santana.

Incidentally, the author and artist have won the Puré Belpré Honor Book for Illustration, and the Américas Award for Children's Literature, both for an earlier collaboration, My name is Celia : the life of Celia Cruz = Me llamo Celia : la vida de Celia Cruz.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 to October 15, celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.  Celebrate with these and other books from the library’s Spanish Language Collection.  And to find Tito's music on CD at the library, click here.

Recommended for ages 4-8.

 

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Tap the Magic Tree

Tap the Magic Tree

 

This interactive picture book is nothing but fun from beginning to end.

Presented with a bare tree, the reader is invited to tap the page. A quick page turn reveals that one green leaf has appeared. The reader is invited to tap the tree some more. You can imagine what happens. Next, the reader is asked to rub the tree to make it warm. In the warmth of spring, the tree blossoms.

This picture book encourages children to notice the world around them by allowing them to become active participants in the magic of the changing seasons. In a subtle way, it can also be used to discuss the effect we can have on the world around us. I know I have already learned a very important lesson. Don’t be surprised if in the dead of winter, you see me standing outside the library hopefully tapping on trees.

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Crankee Doodle

2013
Crankee Doodle

 

Crankee Doodle is laugh out loud funny.  When Crankee announces that he is bored, his pony suggests going to town, which Crankee promptly dismisses with a long diatribe about why would he ever want to go to town.  The pony suggests shopping.  Crankee says no.  The pony suggests a feather for Crankee's hat, which Crankee thinks is folly.  When suggested that Crankee call the hat macaroni he goes into a rampage about how feathers don't look macaroni, and when learning that macaroni is just another word for fancy he further rambles on about how lasagna is fancier than macaroni.  After insulting the pony, Crankee decides to make it up to him by going to town after all. 

The author's note at the end is narrated by the pony and is hilarious.  For example, "Macaroni really did mean 'fancy', but I think the real reason they said it is because it rhymes with 'pony'. (That's me! I rhyme!)"  This picture book received starred reviews from both Horn Book Magazine and Kirkus Reviews.  If you like this book, try The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, also by Tom Angleberger.  For another fractured version of Yankee Doodle try Mary Ann Hoberman's version, called simply Yankee Doodle.

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Becoming Babe Ruth

2013
Becoming Babe Ruth

 

George Herman Ruth got into a lot of trouble as a child, and got himself sent to a reform school (St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys) at the young age of seven.  While George didn't like most things about St. Mary's, he did like baseball.  Here, George learns to play every position there is in baseball, and he practices and practices.  He gets seen by many scouts, including Jack Dunn, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, a minor-league team, and is offered a contract.  He earns his nickname "Babe" at this time.  He is so good that his contract gets sold to the Boston Red Sox, and then it gets sold to the New York Yankees for $125,000.  That was the most any team had ever paid for a baseball player.  So even though Babe Ruth had been sent to a reform school, he grew up to become one of the best baseball players in baseball history and his name has become known as a household name, even to those who aren't baseball fans. 

An author's note is included, as well as pitching statistics and hitting statistics.  The illustrations are charming--watercolor, gouache, and pencil.  Matt Tavares has done a fantastic job bringing Babe Ruth's story to life.

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