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.

Wait! Wait!

(2013)
Wait! Wait!

 

The illustrations in this small, square picture book are breathtaking.  The book was first published in Japan in 2002.  Sakai uses acrylic and oil pencils to draw a toddler chasing a variety of animal life (butterfly, lizard, worm, cat), and calling after each, "Wait! Wait!," but never catching his/her targets.  At the end a parent comes, sweeps the child up and takes the child on a new adventure, saying "Here we go!"  The toddler could be any child, and I think that's one of the things I like best about the book--the child looks and feels realistic.  This book earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal, and I recommend it for parents to share with their young children, as well as for beginning readers.

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Smile, Pout-Pout Fish

(2014)
Smile, Pout-Pout Fish

 

This simple board book stars a sad looking fish and a pink sea creature who tells him not to be worried, not to be sad, not to be scared and not to be mad. It turns out all the fish needed was a little smooch, and he becomes a smiley fish again.  This basic book is perfect for babies and toddlers, and teaches that smiles can be found with just a little encouragement. 

For older children,  try reading the original Pout Pout Fish

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The Day I Lost My Superpowers

(2014)
The Day I Lost My Superpowers

 

This charming picture book originally published in France in 2013 is about a little girl who believes she has "superpowers".  She can make things disappear (like cupcakes), make plants stop moving, and become invisible when something breaks in the house.  One day she falls while "flying" and her superpowers disappear.  Just like that. And her knee starts to hurt and she starts to cry.  Then she learns that her mom has superpowers too!  Magic kisses can make things all better again.  A very pleasant book about a child and love for a parent.

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Surprise

(2014)
Surprise

 

This picture book first published in the Netherlands is a gem.  I loved it from the very first spread--a drawing of a bird opposite of the word yearning.  Followed by hoping, expecting, marveling--each showing a beautiful bird in a stage of parenting.  Each spread consists of a word opposite a bird--and the pages with words become increasingly more complex in design.  When I got to the final page, letting go, I was so impressed with the beauty of the book.  Mies Van Hout is becoming one of my favorite author/illustrators. 

If you haven't read Happy yet, its another masterpiece to enjoy.

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Hank Finds an Egg

(2013)
Hank Finds an Egg

“Storywoods” blog creator Rebecca Dudley uses her expert photography and multi-media diorama art in this beautiful wordless picture book story featuring Hank, a sweet little animal of the woods. While on a walk, Hank finds an egg on the ground beneath a bird’s nest.   When he fails in his valiant attempts to return the egg to the nest before nightfall, Hank cares for the egg and keeps it warm until he can try again the next day.  This time, he has some help, and makes new friends as a result. Children will enjoy pouring over the delightfully detailed and dreamy pictures, and telling the fanciful story again and again.  Teachers and others looking for ideas on using the book in a lesson can find Peter Pauper Press’ Hank Finds an Egg page, which includes a link to a free downloadable Common Core Aligned Teaching Guide.

 Hank Finds an Egg is recommended for ages 3-8.

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The Real Boy (2013)

The Real Boy


Oscar works for the only true magician remaining in the Barrows. He spends his days in the forest gathering herbs and in the dark, quiet basement grinding and mixing them into potions.  He barely remembers the Children’s Home where Caleb found him, and he would like to keep it that way. Herbs and potions make sense to him, but he struggles with human relationships. Then one day Caleb leaves on a business trip and his apprentice vanishes into the woods. Suddenly, Oscar is left alone in a world that turns out to not be as well ordered as he had thought.

Filled with magic, adventure, danger, bravery and the kind of growing that only comes from believing the truths you didn’t want to be true, this is an unforgettable story.

 

 

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Fighting Fire!

Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them (2014)
Fighting Fire!

 

This book examines ten major fires from America's history, including Boston in 1760, to Chicago in 1871, to 9/11/01, and to the San Diego wildfire of 2007.  While the author points out that every fire resulted in more laws and regulations, fire still remains a threat.  Science and technology has also improved, but "according to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to nearly 1.3 million fires in 2010.  That's one every 24 seconds.  Those fires caused $11.6 billion in damage and killed 3,125 people, not including firefighters."  The author includes extensive source notes.  The book is powerful and is recommended for 5th grade and up.

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The Great Big Green

(2014)
The Great Big Green

 

The author of the chapter book series, Moxy Maxwell, has authored a picture book that describes a riddle.  What is the great big green?  It's described in numerous ways, electric-eel green, groomed green lawns, tornado-sky green, even green tennis balls that glow green.  I'll admit, I didn't guess the riddle until the very last clue.  The illustrations are truly why I enjoyed the book.  An artist's note at the back explains that Desimini scanned paintings, fabric, photos, and unusual objects.  The scans were then used to create collage.  One fascinating detail:  "for the large butterfly fish, I rendered his quickly moving fin from a blurry photo of my hand waving."  Recommended for kindergarten and up.

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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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