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.

Doll Bones

2013

Twelve-years-old Zach tells his lifelong friends Poppy and Alice that he is giving up playing fantasy games with their dolls and action figures, telling them that “you can’t play pretend forever”.   Poppy and Alice don’t know that Zach’s father has thrown his action figures out and told him that “it’s time you grew up”.   However, Poppy tells Zach and Alice that their game can’t be over because she has been haunted by the ghost of a girl who claims that the Great Queen, a bone-china doll locked in her mother’s cabinet, contains the ghost girl’s ashes and the ghost won’t rest until her ashes have been properly buried.  This creepy ghost tale takes them on an adventure that is ultimately about the power of friendship and the price of growing up.  This one will keep you glued to your seat.  Recommended for grades 5-8.

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Helen Keller's Best Friend Belle

(2013)
Helen Keller's Best Friend Belle

 

When Helen Keller was 19 months old, she became ill and became deaf and blind.  Her teacher Anne Sullivan taught her to communicate.  All throughout Helen's life, she loved dogs.  In The Story of My Life, Helen writes about Belle, her companion, and how she tried to teach Belle to spell.  This delightful picture book tells about Helen's life with Belle, including a vignette about Helen discovering five puppies.  One of two different author's notes tells about Helen's fascination with dogs, and the other tells about her life in general.  I recommend this book to young readers to introduce them to the miraculous life of Helen Keller.

 

 

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Curse of the Ancients

Infinity Ring series
Book cover for the Curse of the Ancients

Book four of the Infinity Ring  

In the beginning of the book we find Dak, Riq, and Sera have just travelled to the age of the Maya people, in the middle of a storm.  Like the other books in this series our three heroines are traveling back in time trying to correct the past to save the future world from Cataclysm.  This story looks at the creation and destruction of the Mayan culture, and their greatest legacy the Mayan Codex. As the three time travelers learn about the people around them, they realize that the SQ has distorted the history of the Ancient Mayan civilization. Something feels wrong, as if they are in the wrong year.  Can they save the Mayans and themselves before it is too late?   Will they be able to find the break and fix it in time?  

After Dak is hurt saving a little girl, it is up to Riq, Sera and their new friend Kira to continue with the mission.  Sera has a secret and she can not reveal what she found out when she went ahead in time and saw the future.  She saw the Cataclysm and she knows that she cannot do anything to prevent it while she is stranded with Dak and Riq in the past.  Now there is some urgency added to the series.  They must accomplish their time travels and fix the breaks in order to prevent the Cataclysm.  The constant theme running through the entire series is the thought “Fix the Past, Save the Future”. 

This is a good science fiction story with lots of action and mystery.  The series focuses on historical times and places and helps children understand the past.  These books are a step up from the Magic tree house books and similar to the Haddax’s Misssing series. 

I would recommend this book for grades 3-6 and ages 8 – 12. 

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This is the Rope

A Story from the Great Migration (2013)
This is the Rope

 

I learned from the author's note of this book that the time period between the early 1900s until the mid 1970s was considered "the Great Migration" where more than 6 million African Americans moved from the south to Northern cities such as New York City.  The book is dedicated to those who left the South to move to the North.

 

This book is about three generations and one rope, and is told from the point of view of the third generation, a granddaughter.  It begins with a young girl skipping rope in South Carolina.  The rope is later used to tie down belongings when the young girl, now an adult, moves to New York City.  The rope is eventually used by the second generation, the narrator's mother, to skip rope, until its time to move to college.  The narrator trades her grandmother in the end the old rope for a brand new rope to start jumping rope like her predecessors. 

 

The oil paintings are brightly colored and are highly attractive.  The text is simple enough to share this piece of history with children in lower elementary grades. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

 

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Only a Witch Can Fly

(2009)
Only a Witch Can Fly

No tricks, just treats!  There are many great books with Halloween stories and poems, and many are currently on display at the library.  One of my favorites is Alison McGhee’s Only a Witch Can Fly.  The author uses a beautiful old form of poetry with a mesmerizing rhythm, to relate the feelings of a young girl who longs to fly on a chilly but enchanted Halloween night, even if it means leaving the warmth of home, familiar things, and doubts and fears behind. The linoleum block prints by artist Taeeun Yoo provide a cozy look, a great match for the verse in this partly realistic, partly magical story with its timeless message of letting imagination soar and making dreams come true.  Alison McGhee was one of the children’s authors featured in 2013’s Fox Cities Book Festival, and this book won the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award from 2009.

   Another favorite of mine is Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown, a collection of illustrated poems by the imaginative author/artist.  It’s a cross of silly and scary, with creatures such as the “Oompachupa Loompacabra” who captures its prey with chocolate bars, “The Vumpire” who only works night games, and “Duncan the Shrunken Head”.  The poetry is clever, the illustrations whimsically creepy, just right for school aged kids who want a little something fun for the holiday.

 

Only a Witch can Fly is recommended for 4-8.    Hallowillloween is great for ages 8-12.

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Ah ha!

(2013)
Ah ha!

 

A frog peacefully resting on a rock exhales, “AAHH!” His rest is interrupted by a boy with a jar who captures him gleefully exclaiming, “Ah Ha!” An excited puppy paws the jar, and the frog flies out yelling, “AAHH!” Creating expressive dialogue by rearranging only two letters, this story cleverly conveys the emotions of a frog and the creatures he encounters as he hops out of the frying pan and into the fire time and time again.

With friendly illustrations, a hilarious, captivating story and a dialogue that just begs to be read aloud, this is not a picture book to miss!

 

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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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