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.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

(2014)
Flights, Chimes and Mysterious Times

 

This steam punk adventure takes place primarily in Londinium, a dangerous alternative London ruled over by the Lady and filled with all things mechanical. Periodically, the Lady longs for a son who is completely flesh and blood with no clockwork pieces. When this happens she sends someone to cross over into the other London to bring one back for her.

 Home from boarding school for the summer, Jack is bored. His mother and father never have time for him and, truthfully, he feels that no one wants him very much. When he meets the mysterious Mr. Havelock, he finds himself becoming insatiably curious about magic, about mysteries and about this strange man who seems, out of all the adults in his world, to truly want him for something.  

 The problem with other worlds is that in them the rules are different and getting home, assuming one wanted to, can become a difficult problem indeed.

 

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Never Say a Mean Word Again

A Tale From Medieval Spain (2014)
Never Say a Mean Word Again

 

This picture book is based on a medieval folktale about poet Samuel Ha-Nagid, a vizier in Granada, a city in Spain.  I learned from the extensive author's note that a vizier is the highest royal advisor to a ruler.  In this story, Jules imagines that Samuel is a young boy who mistakenly offends another boy Hamza, the tax-collector's son, by first running into him, and then by spilling lamb sauce onto him.  Hamza says many mean things to Samuel, but instead of punishing Hamza, Samuel's father the vizier tells Samuel that Samuel himself must take care of the problem by making sure that Hamza never says a mean word again.  Samuel is perplexed as to how he will do this.  He comes up with several unlikely scenarios, and then comes up with a plan: he'll take a lemon to Hamza's house and make Hamza eat the lemon, but instead they end up playing with the lemon as a ball.  Samuel comes up with more plans, but they keep going wrong: he and Hamza end up playing together each time.  In the end, Samuel realizes he has fulfilled his father's words: by making Hamza his friend, Hamza will never say a mean word again.  Similar to Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, the story works to share with early elementary age students about friendship.

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Dog Days

(2013)
Dog Days

 

The first entry in the Carver Chronicles series introduces the reader to Gavin, the new kid at Carver Elementary.  This is the same school where Nikki and Deja are students, in another of English's early chapter book series.  Gavin makes a new friend, Richard, but almost immediately gets into huge trouble when he and Richard break his older sister's Danielle's beloved snow globe.  When Gavin's Great-Aunt Myrtle moves in for a week and needs Gavin to walk her Pomeranian Carlotta every day, Gavin has the opportunity to earn money to pay Danielle back for the snow globe.  This new series has great potential for early readers looking for stories about kids with every day concerns.

Check out the first book from Karen English's original early chapter book series, Nikki & Deja!

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Benji Franklin, Kid Zillionaire

(2014)
Benji Franklin, Kid Ziollionaire

 

Benji Franklin is a smart kid.  He invents a computer app called "Excuse Yourself" that creates excuses for kids when they don't want to do something.  Not only does it create an excuse, it shows the odds of the excuse of working, a list of advice for the user, and a tracking option so a kid doesn't accidentally use the same excuse too often.  The next day Benji logs into the account he created for app sales--$344,052!  The app had been downloaded nearly 250,000 times overnight.  And the number of downloads just keeps going up and up and up.  Benji is becoming famous.  Famous enough, that when a group of scientists lose the dinosaurs they recently cloned, they call Benji for help with the excuse (why the dinosaurs escaped) and catching the dinosaurs.  Benji of course knows exactly how to catch the dinosaurs and in the process saves his mother's food pantry problems at the same time.  The book is silly, and absolutely everything in it is implausible, but that's why it works.  Recommended for those reluctant readers and anyone who wants a good laugh.

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Scribbles and Ink

Out of the Box (2014)
Scribbles and Ink

 

Scribbles and Ink are back with their huge imaginations.  Ink is shopping online, and what he ordered is coming "super speedy express delivery".  It's cheese, but Scribbles wants the box.  Ink says, "Sure. Why not? It's just a box."  Scribbles loves his box.  He comes up with idea after idea of how to play with the box.  Then Ink wants the box back.  Then we come to a page where the two are both shouting "Mine!" while tugging at the box.  And the box rips in two.  How does one solve this problem?  With more online shopping, of course!  All of the boxes in the book are real photographs of boxes, which is a neat juxtaposition with the illustrations of Scribbles and Ink. 

 Compare this book to Not a Box by Antoinette Portis.

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Mama Built a Little Nest

(2014)

It’s a science book!  It’s a rhyming story!  It’s a picture art book! It’s a bedtime story!  It’s more!  Nature author Jennifer Ward has teamed with collage artist Steve Jenkins to create this versatile book showcasing birds and their habitats--particularly, their nests.  Told in 4-line verse from the young birds’ perspective, the story describes a variety of birds both familiar and exotic, from hummingbirds to hornbills; and a variety of nests: woven, floating, hanging; made of twigs (eagle), feet (emperor penguin) mud (grebe) tree cavities (woodpecker) —even spit (a male swiftlet)! Here’s an example of a verse from a young falcon:  “Mama scraped a simple nest/upon a craggy ledge/she tucked me safe within her wings/until my time to fledge.”  Each featured bird is pictured on a two-page spread, with the verse on the left side, accompanied on the right side by more fascinating facts about the birds’ nesting behavior.  Library storytime-tested and approved, this would be appropriate for group or classroom use, it would also make a good one-on-one laptime story selection.

The book is recommended for kids ages 3-8. 

This review is dedicated to Anna and Kaci.

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The Luck Uglies (2014)

The Luck Uglies

 

Reckless, curious and more than a little clumsy, Riley O’Chanter has grown up dashing through the streets and over the rooftops of Village Drowning with her friends.  Life has never been particularly safe, but suddenly there is a mysterious howling in the night and a forbidden book that suggests another side to the history of the town she knows so well. What if the monstrous Bog Noblins aren’t really extinct? Why were the Luck Uglies, who used to fight them, really banished by the Earl Longchance? What is the meaning of the five rules her mother insists she abide by?

 Filled with adventure, mystery, danger and suspense, this fantasy is the first in a trilogy and will leave readers excited to learn more about Riley and her friends.

 

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The Lion and the Bird

(2014)
The Lion and the Bird

 

First published in French as Le lion et l'oiseau, Marianne Dubuc's picture book about a lion who rescues an injured bird is a story about true friendship.  It's autumn, and when a bird falls to the ground, Lion can't just leave Bird alone.  He bandages his new friend, but notices that the flock leaves without him.  The Lion immediately declares: "Don't worry! You won't be cold here."  Lion takes him home, as there is enough room for two in Lion's home.  Several wordless spreads follow, showing the two participating in various activities together.  I particularly enjoyed the image of the bird sleeping in Lion's slipper.  Lion recognizes that winter isn't all that cold with a friend.  But when spring returns, so does the flock of birds, which the no-longer-injured bird wishes to return to.  More images of Lion follow.  He is alone.  And then autumn comes.  Lion is hopeful when he sees the flock of birds overhead...The page following shows Lion looking forlorn, his face not able to betray the sadness he feels.  However, the book does have a happy ending.  This book made me feel happy.  It's not a large group storytime book, but a book that would be wonderful shared one-on-one with a child.

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Celia

(2014)
Celia

 

This picture book gem was first published in Belgium under the title Zélie in 2012.  The first several pages are strictly black and white, and show an elderly woman sitting on a stool with a line of people waiting to speak to her.  Celia listens to problems, worries, sorrows, anything people need to say every Sunday.  Telling Celia about their problems made them feel happier, and in exchange for Celia's service, they would give her a seed--the first sign of color in the book.  One Sunday we are introduced to a little boy named Julian who is patiently waiting in line, but when he discovers he has lost his seed, he sadly leaves the line.  On Monday, Celia takes all of the seeds from Sunday, puts them in a wheelbarrow, and journeys into the city.  The seeds are transformed into balloons, cupcake frosting, even apples.  Celia is providing the city with color.  When she finds Julian's lost seed, she is concerned, as she knows "this seed belongs to an unhappy child."  She meets Julian along the road, and Julian is happy to see his seed again.  They plant his seed and Julian waits to see it grow into a tiny colorful flower.  This book's little sprinkles of color made me feel happy and I liked the idea of turning worry into happiness.

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Game Over, Pete Watson

(2014)
Game Over, Pete Watson

 

Pete Watson is ready to purchase Brawl-a-Thon 3000 XL, the hottest new video game available, on the day it comes out, only to find that his mother has borrowed money from his savings.  To make up the difference, Pete holds an impromptu garage sale, and sells his dad's vintage game console, the CommandRoid 85 to the Bug Man.  From there on, things get crazy fast.  Pete's dad gets kidnapped and is trapped inside a video game inside the CommandRoid 85.  Turns out, Pete's dad is actually a spy for the CIA, and the console was his way of receiving secret codes.  A killion dollars is at stake (what's a killion dollars you ask?  its a number so large it could kill you), and if not paid a computer virus will be spread across the world.  Pete has to enter the CommandRoid 85 himself to save his dad and save the world from the computer virus.  The pictures, especially the 8-bit graphics, are fun additions to the book.  I'd recommend this book to kids who love video games, and who like Wimpy Kid or Big Nate.

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Another Day as Emily

Another Day as Emily
Another Day as Emily

 

Suzy is having a tough summer. First, her little brother becomes a hero. Then she and her best friend Alison audition for a play, but only Alison gets a part. In the meantime, Suzy has been working on a summer project about Emily Dickinson and begins to think that maybe Emily’s reclusive lifestyle has some things to recommend it.  Tucking her Phillies jersey away, Suzy (now known as Emily) switches to wearing only white dresses, insisting her friends write letters instead of calling and refuses to socialize. However, before long Suzy/Emily finds that living like Emily is a little bit lonely and quite a lot boring. Can she take everything she has learned from Emily and find her way back to being Suzy?

 

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