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.

Knit Your Bit

A World War I Story (2013)
Knit Your Bit

 

"Knit Your Bit" was a slogan of the American Red Cross during World War I when the Red Cross decided there would not be enough warm clothes for the soldiers over the cold winter in Europe.  Men, women, and children began knitting for soldiers.  There really was a "knit-in" at Central Park in New York City on July 30, 1918, which is the setting for this fabulous historical fiction. 

When Mikey's dad leaves to go overseas for the war Mikey wants to go too, because he's brave.  His dad points out that he needs to be brave to stay home too.  Mikey and his friends are dared to enter the knitting bee and they take the dare.  Mikey learns to make socks, sort of.  He finally makes one perfect sock, but can't make a perfect sock to match, and finds just the right thing to do with his one perfect sock. 

The illustrations remind me of Lois Lenski's work and there are five photographs on the end papers of knitting and sheep.  Hopkinson also includes a fascinating author's note.

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My Dad Thinks He’s Funny

2013
My Dad Thinks He's Funny
Saturday is Dadurday
Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle
Giddy-Up Daddy!
Just Like My Papa
Baby Barbells the Dad’s Guide to Fitness and Fathering
Daddy Loves Me

 

Father’s Day may be over, but dads are still awesome. Check out these fun picture books about (and for) fathers.

My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein
Is your dad always making bad jokes and horrible puns? Does he make you sigh, or groan or roll your eyes?   If so, then this is the book for you! Just be careful….you might start thinking these jokes are funny too!

Saturday is Dadurday by Robin Pulver

Have you ever had a special day with dad? A wonderful time that just the two of you shared?  In this story, every Saturday Mimi and her father have amazing adventures. They make special silly pancakes, ride bikes and play checkers. But then Mimi’s father has to start working on Saturdays and suddenly Dadurday becomes BADurday! What will Mimi do to make it Dadurday again?

 Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka

In this book, a young girl learns to ride a bicycle under the watchful eye of her father. She learns about training wheels, about falling down and getting up and, finally, about the thrill of success.

  

Giddy-Up Daddy! By Troy Cummings

The dad in this book is really, “really good at playing horsey.” He is so good, in fact, that horse rustlers decide they want to steal him. It is up to two enterprising youngsters to track down their horsey, help him elude the thieves and still be home in time for sunset….also known as dinner.

 Just Like My Papa by Toni Buzzeo

This is the story of a little lion cub named Kito who wants to be just like his father when he grows up. When his papa roars, the savannah is silent, but when Kito roars, the hyena still chuckles. When papa waves his tail, the flies are swept away, but when Kito waves his tail the flies buzz closer and closer. Kito isn’t worried, though, because he knows that, “Someday [he] will be King, just like [his] papa.”

 Baby Barbells: the Dad’s Guide to Fitness and Fathering by Joshua Levitt

The perfect read for busy new dads, this book shows how babies are the perfect weights and playtime for baby can become workout time for daddy.

 

 Daddy Loves Me by Dawn Sirett

This board book shows pictures of dads and their little ones. Sweet enough to warm the heart, sturdy enough to survive little hands, this is a perfect book for baby’s and father’s to read together.

 

 

 

 

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Dance Class

So, You Think You Can Hip-Hop? (2012)
So, You Think You Can Hip-Hop?

 

In the first installment of the French graphic novel series, Dance Class, best friends Julie, Lucie, and Alia take dance classes at a local studio.  They are preparing for their performance of Sleeping Beauty, and dealing with Carla, the girl who thinks that she should be the star of the show.  The girls all get a crush on K.T. the hip-hop instructor, and wonder how he'll factor into the ballet.  The girls are realistic characters and the witty dialogue and fast pacing will keep readers engaged with the story.  The fifth Dance Class graphic novel will be published July 2013. 

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Martha Speaks Canine Comics

Six Daring Doggy Adventures (2012)
Martha Speaks Canine Comics

 

Martha, the talking dog created by Susan Meddaugh, has now been turned into a comic book character!  In the first episode, Download Dog, Martha struggles to understand email until she falls asleep.  When she wakes up she starts tapping on keys and gets sucked into the laptop!  Martha travels throughout the desktop, the trash files, the photos, and into the email.  Can Martha make it back into the real world?  At the end of the book are instructions on how to create your own comic book, story squares for inspiration, and tracing images for drawing practice, as well as a listing of all the TV tie-in Martha Speaks publications.

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Five Little Monkeys and Five Little Penguins

(2013)
Five Little Monkeys and Five Little Penguins
boat on the waves

 

This Early Reader series (Guided Reading Level E) packs multiple elements into one seemingly simple book.  In Five Little Monkeys and Five Little Penguins we are first greeted by a photo of the illustrator, then pictures of the Five Little Monkeys verse, with pictures of a child demonstrating the actions to the verse in the lower corners of the pages.  Following is a page prompting parent and child to find rhyming words.  Then, everything changes to the Five Little Penguins.  It's the same, but different, a great way to encourage creativity in a child.  A page of notes at the end is available for parents so they can use the book to the fullest extent with their child. 

 

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Behind the Bookcase

(2012)
Behind the Bookcase cover

A very engaging and scary fantasy mystery that takes the heroine on a whirlwind trip into another world called Scotopia.  If you liked Coraline or Alice in Wonderland you will certainly enjoy this fantasy.

The story starts with the family, Sarah, 12; her brother, Billy; and her parents travelling to her late Grandma Winnie’s house to clean and fix it up in order to sell it.  Here Sarah discovers a house full of locked rooms, many dark and dangerous secrets, and an unfinished letter her grandmother wrote: Strange things are happening behind the bookcase. . . .    Behind the bookcase is a doorway into Scotopia, the land where shadows come from.  Sarah meets a talking cat named Balthazat; Jeb, a boy with half a face; a walking hand called Lefty; sentinels whose eyes and mouths are stitched shut and carry heads for lanterns: and a giant bat with a boy’s head named BB by Sarah.

Balthazat convinces Sarah to take him back to her world, and she does under the impression that he is saving her from some evil king of Scotopia.  Jeb claims that Baltazat is lying about everything.  With Jeb’s help Sarah works to undo the mess she has caused by letting this evil cat into her world.  She also finds a locked door in the basement that her grandmother claimed lead to Penumbra, where the souls of the dead are sleeping.  This door is a portal for the sleeping, which is the reason Baltazat wanted into Sarah’s world.

Will Sarah be able to stop the cat from getting into Penumbra to capture the sleeping souls?  Will she be able to return Billy’s missing half back to his face?  Will Sarah’s world soon be overtaken by darkness?  Will Sara get enough courage to save all of her friends in Scotopia, as well as the people in her world?

This is a must read book for children in grades 4 through 7 who enjoy fantasy and alternate worlds full of adventure and fantasy characters. 

I would recommend this book for ages 9 through 12.

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A Splash of Red

The Life and Art of Horace Pippin (2013)
A Splash of Red

 

This outstanding non-fiction picture book for older readers tells the story of African American artist Horace Pippin.  A quote from the book: "Pictures just come to my mind...and I tell my heart to go ahead," is touching when you think of a child who did not have real art supplies of his own until he won a contest.  During World War I Horace was wounded in the right shoulder, and was unable to draw the way he had loved to so much. 

But one day, Horace got an idea.  What if he used his left hand to guide his right arm?  It took three years and 100 layers of paint, but Horace finished his first adult painting.  No one bought his paintings until they came to the attention of N.C. Wyeth, and then they began to appear all over the United States. 

Horace's story is inspirational.  The quotations sprinkled throughout the story are placed just right and the illustrations, created by watercolor, gouache, and collage, are right for this portrait of Horace.  This book received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher's Weekly, and is highly recommended.

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Inside Outside

(2013)
Inside Outside

These opposites, and other concepts, are delightfully explored in this wordless picture book by artist Lizi Boyd.  The front cover depicts a boy, dog at his side, peering out the window of a cheery house, while birds and other creatures fly and frolic in the yard.   On the title page, the boy is at the open door, inviting the reader/viewer into his peaceful, happy world of dreams, plans, projects and play.  Inside, he contentedly makes preparations for spring planting, while out the windows, two snowmen are in view.  Each subsequent page shows a scene from a room inside the house, or outside in the yard, where the boy and his pets engage in a variety of activities as season follows season: exploring puddles, picnicking, gardening, raking leaves, and sledding outdoors; to drawing, reading, crafting, playing with puppets indoors, all while die-cut windows give a glimpse of life on the opposite side.  Observant viewers may notice how the boy’s indoor activities relate to his experiences outdoors, and vice versa.  There are many details for kids to pour over, inviting them to make up their own stories and predict events based on what they see; or identify seasons and shapes, play counting and seek-and-find games, with the objects on the pages.  Kids will return again and again, discovering new things with each sitting.

Recommended for ages 3-6.

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Cheesie Mack is Cool in a Duel

(2012)
Cheesie Mack is Cool in a Duel

 

Just in time for summer, Cheesie Mack and his best friend Georgie are back. If you haven’t read Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything, you should, but it doesn’t have to stop you from reading this book because Cheesie fills you in on all the important details right at the beginning.

Cheesie’s real name is Ronald and he is eleven years old. He lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts with one older sister. Her name is June, but Cheesie prefers to call her Goon.

In this book, Cheesie and Georgie are heading off to summer camp. This will be their best summer EVER because this year they will be the oldest of the Little Guy campers. That means that they get to build the campfires and choose the teams.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances discussed in Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything, Georgie registered late for camp. When they arrive they find that they have been put in with the Big Guys. Now, instead of being the biggest of the Little Guys, they are the littlest of the Big Guys. As if that isn’t bad enough, Goon’s boyfriend Kevin is in the cabin with them and he is determined to make Cheesie’s life as miserable as possible. Finally, fed up with Kevin’s tricks, Cheesie challenges him to a cool duel. Each day, Cheesie and Kevin try to outdo each other in coolness. Each night, the boys in their cabin vote on who is the coolest. After a week, the loser will have to bow to the winner in front of the whole camp. Doesn't that sound embarrasing? How can Cheesie possibly convince a whole cabin of Big Guy’s that he is cooler than Kevin?

Filled with adventure, mischief and even a scary story, this book is the perfect way to begin summer break.  Keep an eye out for a new Cheesie adventure, Cheesie Mack is Running Like Crazy, coming out soon as well. 

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Beauty and the Squat Bears

(2011)
Beauty and the Squat Bears

 

This unusual graphic novel was originally published in France in 2009, and includes elements from Snow White, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Three Bears, and the Three Pigs.  When the Snow White-esque character meets the seven bears, she asks to stay with them and do whatever they want, but not chores.  After all, she is a princess!  As princesses are supposed to marry princes, one of the bears gets the idea to find her a prince, and he goes off in search of a prince for the princess to marry.  He meets several, they have an altercation with a fairy godmother, and things go badly from there.  The reader will be surprised at the ending.  The bright colors are perfect for the graphic novel format, and new readers who already know the original stories well will appreciate this book.  If a reader does not know the original they will not understand.

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Dare

2012
Dare

 

The Weird series published by Free Spirit Publishing focuses on bullying from three perspectives: the bullied child, the bystander, and the child who bullies.  In Dare, Jayla is bullied by Sam, until a new girl named Luisa becomes Sam's target.  Sam starts to dare Jayla to bully Luisa too, and Jayla is too scared to say no.  She's glad that Sam isn't bullying her anymore, but now she feels terrible that she is bullying Luisa too.  Jayla needs to find the courage within herself to do the right thing and stand up to Sam by treating Luisa the way she wants to be treated. 

This series really demonstrates the feelings that a child has when being bullied and when trying to keep from being bullied, and the conflicting emotions that occur when watching someone else be bullied and not knowing how to react.  The other books in the series are Weird and Tough.

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