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.

Bookmarks Are People Too!

(2014)
Bookmarks Are People Too!

 

In this prequel series to the Hank Zipzer series, Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver tell us about Hank's adventures in the 2nd grade.  In "Bookmarks are People, Too" Hank's classroom is putting on a play about a library that comes to life at night.  Hank is concerned about trying out for a part.  What if he has trouble reading the script, since reading is so hard for him?  In the end, the teacher gives Hank the non-speaking role of a bookmark.  During rehearsals, Hank has a hard time just standing around, and ad-libs a few times, and those remarks are allowed to stay in the play.  During the actual performance, the boy who has been giving Hank a hard time at school forgets his lines, and Hank jumps in and saves the play.  When Hank is asked by his parents how he knew what to do, he realizes that he is smart: he had memorized all the lines by listening to them over and over in rehearsal.  The last page is a list of the things that make Hank feel great: friends, family, and himself.  This is a great book for 1st graders just starting chapter books up to 3rd grade students. 

A Short Tale About a Long Dog is also available.

 

Also, one interesting piece of information I looked up:  on the page with the Library of Congress CIP data were the words "Typeset in Dyslexie Font B.V.".  I had never heard of Dyslexie Font before I read this book, but I was pleased to learn that someone had created a font that was easier for a dyslexic student to read.

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Tools Rule!

2014

In a fenced in backyard, tools are scattered across the bright, green grass. Up hops a t-square yelling out to the rest of the tools, “Who’s ready to build?” The call to action inspires the tools to construct something. But, what will they create? A tool shed of course!

 

While the tools are hard at work, Meshon enlivens the pages with action-packed words and sounds like the ‘Zip! Zip! Zip!’ of the power drill. Readers will giggle non-stop with Meshon’s humorous puns. For example, the tool bench excitedly proclaims, “Raise the roof!” as the frame of the tool shed comes together.

 

Tools Rule will inspire future engineers and builders to tinker and to design. Recommended for preschoolers through second graders.

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The Strangers

The Books of Elsewhere
The cover for The Strangers

Book 4 in the Book of Elsewhere series

In this 4th installment, we find our heroine, Olive, and her friends on Halloween night.  She thought she had discovered everything she needed to know about her house and the secrets of Elsewhere.  But on Halloween night she discovers that strangers have come to Linden Street and some unusual and magical things begin to happen.  First her parents are found missing and Olive needs to cope with this new development.  Will she be able to trust the strangers?  Will she turn to a new and dangerous magic within the paintings of Elsewhere? 

Olive with the help of Rutherford, Morton, and the three talking cats, must solve the mystery and find her parents.  The strangers have come to Linden Street and are living in the abandoned Nivens house. They told Olive that they were her allies, but she doesn’t trust them.  They tell Olive that they have come to help her protect her home from the McMartins. But even with their help, Olive and the cats are in constant peril as they search for Olive's missing parents. Desperate to get them back, Olive strikes an unbalanced bargain with Annabelle McMartin and loses something incredibly valuable in the process—something that could mean doom for the house, and for Elsewhere itself.

Once the plot gets going, readers will enjoy putting the pieces together with the heroine. The stakes grow higher, the secrets more dangerous, and mystery and magic abound as Olive, the boys, and the cats uncover the true nature of the house on Linden Street.

I would recommend this book for boys and girls ages 9 – 12, or grades 4 through 6.

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Kenta and the Big Wave (2013)

Kenta and the Big Wave

 

When the sirens sounded, Kenta ran to high ground and found his family, but his beloved soccer ball bounced and rolled away. When the water died down, Kenta and his family began rebuilding their lives. They searched for objects the ocean had snatched away. They found some, but they did not find the soccer ball.

On the other side of the world, a young boy playing on the beach found a soccer ball with writing he needed help to understand. Once he understood it, he knew just what to do.  

Based on true stories of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, this is a gentle story of survival, recovery, endurance and the kindness of strangers.

 

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Ukulele Hayley

(2013)
Ukulele Hayley

 

In Ukulele Hayley, shy third grader Hayley is the shortest person in her class, and seems to be the only student without a talent suitable for school's talent show.  At a yard sale, Hayley bargains for a ukulele, and gets the school's new music teacher, Mr. Y to teach her a few chords.  Hayley practices incessantly, and ends up gaining self-confidence and providing a showstopping number at the talent show.  After this great success, Hayley starts a ukulele club which gains many members and performs well.  Throughout the book, there are rumblings are budget cuts, and having not enough funding for programs. When the school's music program is cut midway through the year by the school board Hayley stages a protest with news media showing up at the school district offices.  The ending is implausible, with the school board restoring the program in an unlikely manner, but the spirit Hayley and her fellow classmates show makes up for that flaw in the story.  Recommended for 2nd graders working on chapter books up to 4th grade.

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No Monkeys, No Chocolate

(2013)
No Monkeys, No Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

so much chocolate depends

upon

 

a white cocoa

bean

 

glazed with monkey

spit

 

among the red

ants.

 

This great picture book about what makes chocolate possible is recommended for grades 3 - 7.

(Thanks, William Carlos Williams!)

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Lost in Bermooda

(2014)
Lost in Bermooda

 

Bermooda is a tropical island home to 9 year old cow Chuck who one day discovers a hu'man boy, Dakota, washed up on shore.  Chuck is terrified!  The animals on the island were shipwrecked hundreds of years ago and have evolved to two legged talking creatures who are afraid that hu'mans will return to the island--they have all seen the book "The Art of Cookery".  When Chuck realizes that Dakota is just as scared as he is, he comes up with a costume for Dakota and introduces him as a sea cow, and its a stretch that everyone falls for it.  Chuck tried valiantly to get Dakota home, but every attempt just doesn't work out.  This illustrated first book in a planned series "Welcome to Bermooda" is recommended for grades 2-4.

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Extreme Opposites

(2013)
Extreme Opposites

 

This quirky opposite book is definitely for an older, more sophisticated child.  My favorite spreads included the dinosaurs who were too late for Noah's ark compared to the rooster crowing too early in the morning, and the too easy/too difficult spread showing an archer shooting a gigantic apple on a head vs a team of surgeons looking at a textbook while performing surgery.  Even the back of the book is the title and author's name written backwards.  Max Dalton lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he's illustrated another picture book called The Lonely Phone Booth which isn't available through OWLS, but that I'm looking forward to reading through Interlibrary Loan.  Recommended for students in 1st grade and up.

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Okay, Andy!

(2014)
Okay, Andy!

 

Andy is an alligator, and Preston is a coyote pup (according to the publisher).  The dynamic between Andy and Preston reminds me somewhat of Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems.  The book starts simply: " Hi, Andy."  "Hello, Preston."  "What are we doing?" "We are doing nothing."  "But it seems like we are doing something."  "But we are not."  The text is easy to read for new readers, and the situations that Andy and Preston get into are humorous.  Another Andy and Preston book is coming out in September!  Recommended for beginning readers.

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The Dark

2013

 

What happens when Lemony Snicket teams up with Jon Klassen to create The Dark? Pure awesomeness!

Laszlo, a small boy clad in pale blue pajamas, lives in an old, rickety house. But, he isn’t alone. The dark is with him, and it terrifies Laszlo. At night, Laszlo arms himself with a flashlight and a nightlight to ward off the dark. Each morning, Laszlo carefully creeps to the basement door and greets the dark in hopes that the dark will NEVER visit him. Then the dark does the unthinkable, it consumes Laszlo’s entire home and eerily beckons Laszlo to the basement. What will the dark share with Laszlo? Will Laszlo ever overcome his fear of the dark?

Klassen’s illustrations create a visual world for Snicket’s suspenseful text. Laszlo’s house looks as creaky as Snicket describes. When the dark engulfs Laszlo’s house, Klassen cuts through the darkness with Laszlo’s flashlight only leaving part of the space illuminated.

The CCBC awarded The Dark the 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award for the best text in a picture book. Lemony Snicket visited Madison to receive his award and gave a memorable acceptance speech as he sang about the importance of words while playing an accordion. Check out the video here.

The Dark is recommended for preschool through 2nd grade.

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The Void of Mist and Thunder

13th Reality
cover for The Void of Mist and Thunder

Book 4 of the 13th Reality Series

In the last book Tick and Jane disrupted the realities when Jane used her blade of shattered hope to try and destroy a reality but broke the other realities. They fixed one problem but made another one.  In this story we find Tick, Mr. Chu and Mistress Jane lost in the Nonex, a no-man’s land of no escape.  The three enemies try to set aside their difference and plan to work together to escape the Nonex.  When they finally get out, they find something mysterious has happened in the 13th Reality.  Their return has caused a rip in the seam of the realities and the fourth dimension in the form of a void of mist and thunder has invaded reality and is attempting to destroy all the known worlds.

Tick is able to rejoin his friends, The Realiants, but only for a brief time before he is captured by Mr. Chu.  Now Tick is told he will be sacrificed in order for Mr. Chu to have absolute power over the realities and the void. The Realiants gather their forces, but the battle is too huge, with Mr. Chu’s forces on one side, and the void and it’s monsters on the other.  Will Tick be able to save the Realiants and stop the destruction of the world?

In this story friends and enemies are forced to work together to keep the realities from being destroyed.  Atticus Higginbottom, Tick, has faced many threats and stopped them all.  But this last challenge is far more evil. They must save the world and stop the destruction the 4th Dimension is causing.  As a solution Mistress Jane and Tick must go into the center of the void to stop it. 

What happens in the conclusion of the story will leave readers satisfied.  It is not your usual happy ever after ending, but it is a good solution to the end of a series.  What becomes of Tick when he meets the void and uses the powers of the Karma is surprising.  This book was a great end to the series.  The story leads the read to the conclusion that it ended while letting it seem to continue with Tick at the helm.

I would recommend this book to readers in 4th through 6th grade who enjoy reading a good science fiction adventure story about space and time.

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