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.

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot (2013)
When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

 

This informational picture book tells the fabulous story of how "The Rite of Spring" ballet came to be.  Igor Stravinsky was a traditional composer and Vaslav Nijinsky was an extraordinary Russian ballet dancer, but when they met in 1911, they decided to collaborate on a new ballet.  The music of this ballet, "The Rite of Spring", was based upon the Russian folk songs Stravinsky's past, and the dances were inspired by Russian folk dances.  During the first performance, some in the audience began to boo.  Others began to support the dancers.  According to extensive notes from the author, shouts and fistfights in the aisles soon followed.  A riot broke out and police needed to assist.  All over a new piece of music!  The illustrations are bright and vibrant and reference many of the author/illustrator's favorite paintings from that time period.  To hear this piece of music yourself, click here.  This book received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly--quite a feat!  Highly recommended.

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Cheese Belongs to You

(2013)
Cheese Belongs to You

 

A cute little rat with a red bow announces at the very beginning of this book that rat law declares:cheese belongs to you.  Unless a big rat wants it.  Unless a bigger rat wants it.  And so on.  This cumulative tale gets sillier and sillier as rats get hairier and stronger and dirtier.  And finally, the cheese once again belongs to the rat with the pretty red bow, which is rat law, who is kind enough to share it with all of her rat friends.  This innovative book is good for preschool storytimes, as well as for sharing with early elementary age students. 

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The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

(2013)

 

Kate was a little girl growing up in northern California in the mid-1800’s. She loved to get her hands dirty and study science - even though girls weren’t supposed to do either at this time. When she graduated from college, Kate moved to San Diego and became a teacher. Surprised by the desert terrain, Kate carefully researched plants and trees that grow in arid climates. Eventually, she transformed the landscape of San Diego into a lush garden oasis.

In this non-fiction picture book, the illustrations fully support the text allowing viewers to see the contrast between the forests of northern California to the desert terrain of San Diego. Tiny details like muddy handprints, leaves with labels of their scientific names and images plant cells from a microscope give readers a sense of how Kate researched and observed the world. Recommended for elementary students in Grades 1 through 3.

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Flora and the Flamingo

(2013)

 

In this wordless picture book, an unlikely friendship is formed between a little girl and pale, pink flamingo. Flora sneaks up on an unsuspecting flamingo and begins to mimic its movements. After a misstep or two, the flamingo becomes a patient teacher and eventual partner in a synchronized dance with Flora. The interactive flaps immerse the reader into the story and reveal humorous interactions between Flora and the flamingo. With graceful lines and delicate hues of pinks and yellows, the reader’s imagination creates the music that Flora and the flamingo dance to (along with a couple of giggles from Flora and squawks from the flamingo) .

Recommended for Preschool through Grade 2.

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A Little Book of Sloth

2013

Meet the most adorable sloths in Costa Rica's Sloth Sanctuary!  The photographs are stunning and the humorously presented information about sloths will keep the reader’s attention.  Meet the cutest baby sloths and some of their older companions.  Learn about all their goofy personalities and silly antics.  Also learn how the sanctuary helps rescued baby sloths by giving them their pick of stuffed animals to cuddle with.  If you like baby animals or think sloths are funny, don’t miss this one!  Recommended for children age 7-9.

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Dot.

(2013)
Dot

 

Dot is a young lady obsessed with electronic devices.  She taps, touches, tweets, tags, and so on.  And she talks and talks, using multiple devices.  Finally, Dot's mom sends her outside to "Reboot! Recharge! Restart!"  And Dot finds herself tapping, touching, tweeting, and tagging outside.  And she still could talk and talk and talk.  This is a fun story comparing electronic devices to outdoor play.  The illustrations were created using traditional media and Photoshop.  Recommended for early elementary age students. 

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The Man with the Violin

(2013)

 

Dylan is the type of boy who sees things that others often miss. One cold day, Dylan and his mom are rushing around town. Dylan notices the details. He sees an old radio, a man reading a newspaper upside down and a child standing on a bench in red boots. His mom pulls Dylan along to their next destination - the metro station. The station is loud, and everyone hurries to find their train.

Then, Dylan begins to hear something. Music fills the space with notes that make “the hairs on the back of Dylan’s neck tickle.” No one pays attention to the man with the violin, but Dylan is drawn to him. He begs his mom to listen to the man’s music, but there isn’t time to stop. All day, Dylan replays the music in his head. Will Dylan ever discover who the man with the violin is?

Broad sweeping lines and lyrical phrases capture the feeling of the music that Dylan hears. While the story is fictional, the author was inspired by a similar occurrence in 2007 when Joshua Bell played his violin in Washington D.C. metro station and included several notes at the end of the story about the event. Highly recommended for students Kindergarten through Grade 3.

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My Name is Blessing

(2013)
My Name is Blessing

 

Born with two fingers on his right hand and none on his left, his mother named him Muthini, which means suffering. He lives with his Grandmother and eight of his cousins. There are cruel taunts from the villagers and never enough food, but his Grandmother, his Nyanya, loves him very much. Still, nine is too many when food is scarce and Muthini is the youngest. So, one day, his Grandmother takes him to a school to see if there is a place for him there.

Based on the true story of a family in Kenya, this picture book tells a story of hope in troubled times and of how a life can be changed from one of suffering to one of blessing.

 

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Outlaw

(2011)
bookcover for Outlaw


Outlaw
is an action-packed story taking place in Africa.  The story involves kidnapping, mystery, adventure and a political conspiracy.  The two main characters are Jake – 15, and his sister, Kas – 13, children of the ambassador from Britain to the city of Burkina Faso, Africa. The children are looking forward to spending some time with their parents in a foreign country.  But everything changes when they are kidnapped by a wanted outlaw, Jakuuba Sor.  But who is this outlaw?  Is he really against the government or is he a modern day “Robin Hood”?  These are only a few of the subplots in this fast-paced thriller.

Yakuuba Sor is considered by some to be a terrorist and by others to be a hero of the common folks. Jake and Kas come to realize that things are not as they seem, and that the supposed good guys may not be on the right side after all.   

Technological touches include how to charge batteries without a battery charger; the Mosquito ringtone able to be heard only by young ears; a beetle with a GPS component; and most dangerous, the Predator, a highly effective bomb.

If you enjoy action, adventure, technology, and political intrigue you must read this book.  The constant action and twists will keep both boys and girls hooked.

I would recommend this book for boys and girls in grades 5th through 8th grade.

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But I Read It On the Internet

(2013)
But I Read It On the Internet

 

In this tale, Hunter is determined that only books can provide facts, while Carmen is certain that everything on the Internet must be true.  Mrs. Skorupski, the school librarian, provides the students with a "Website Evaluation Gizmo" that assists students in determining if the facts found on a website can be trusted.  Carmen and and Hunter both decide to research the same topic, but both have different ideas as to whether an idea is true.  Hunter, who has never been to a public library before and doesn't have Internet access at home, finds help from a public librarian in using search engines.  Carmen and Hunter both learn about their topic, and discover new facts from the Internet.  The only detraction from this book is that Mrs. Skorupski is depicted as a very stereotypical librarian, from her glasses, down to her shoes.  I enjoyed this book and can see myself using it with 3rd and 4th grade students.

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Santa Claus and the Three Bears

(2013)
Santa Claus and the Three Bears

 In this clever, Christmassy take on a beloved fairytale, Papa, Mama and Baby are polar bears; when they are out walking, waiting for their Christmas pudding to cool, a certain special visitor comes to call, hungry and tired after finishing most of his holiday rounds.  Santa Claus thinks the pudding has been left for him, and thereby hangs the rest of the tale!  Santa, the bears, and their cozy house and surroundings are charmingly detailed in soft watercolors by mother-daughter duo Jane and Brooke Dyer.

 

Santa Claus and the Three Bears is recommended for ages 3-8.

For another Christmas-themed book based on a classic tale, see the other pick on my list today!

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