Staff Picks for Children

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Writer to Writer : From Think to Ink

(2015)
Writer to Writer : From Think to Ink

 

This book grew out of a blog that Gail Carson Levine began in 2009. From a rather amorphous beginning, the blog turned into a dialogue about the writing process, and that dialogue lead to this book. Written in response to actual questions, this extremely practical guide uses examples from classic and contemporary works to trace the writing process from initial spark through the development of character, conflict and plot. There is a chapter on the practical aspects of deadlines and publishing as well as a whole section on writing poetry and how to use it in a story. Each chapter is filled with writing prompts and most close with this excellent advice, "Have fun, and save what you write!" Conversational and encouraging in tone, reading this book feels like sitting down with Gail herself for a nice, little chat. Recommended for writers and readers both, this is a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of a phenomenal author.  

For more fun, check out Gail's earlier book about the writing process Writing Magic : Creating Stories that Fly.

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Pirate, Viking, & Scientist

(2014)
Pirate, Viking, & Scientist

 

This boisterous picture book does a wonderful job demonstrating the scientific method.  Instead of a glossary at the back of the book, a "Scientist's Word List" in found on the front endpapers.  Scientist is friends with both Viking and Pirate.  Pirate and Viking were not friends and could not get along with each other, even for Scientist's birthday party.  Scientist decides that he will find an answer using the scientific method.  He makes up a hypothesis, runs the experiment, and observes the results.  When the first results do not produce the desired outcome, he develops another hypothesis! And so on, until Scientist comes up with an experiment that supplies the conclusion he wants.  Chapman claims "the illustrations in this book were drawn with ink from Pirate's pet octopus and an old, ratty brush that Viking found at the bottom of the ocean.  For the digital coloring, Scientist created a supercomputer that is already hard at work on a new story."  I enjoyed this story and can see using it with students to explain the scientific method.  

For an information text about science methodology, check out If You Have a Magnet...And Other Science Predictions.

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Blizzard

(2014)
Blizzard

 

This picture book written and illustrated by John Rocco tells the true details of his experience with the New England Blizzard of 1978.  In his author's note, Rocco explains that it snowed for two days, and his street in Rhode Island had received over forty inches of snow.  Rocco starts with telling of watching the snow start on Monday (written in chalk on the chalkboard) and going home from school early.  Tuesday (written in letters created by a squirrel's footprints) the family discovers that they can't open their front door due to all the snow.  So, the children go out a window instead, but come inside to make camp by the woodstove.  On Wednesday (letters created by the frost on the small branches of a tree) the driveway gets shoveled, but by Thursday (created by bird tracks), the plow still hasn't arrived.  On Friday (letters made up of raisins that fell out of a box), the child decides to take action by taking his tennis rackets and turning them into makeshift snowshoes.  Pages fold out to detail his route to the store, showcasing multiple stops along the way.  On the way back he delivers groceries to all of his stops, and makes it home in time to tell about his journey.  The next day the snowplows come through and the kids go back to school, having survived the Blizzard of 1978.  Rocco's snowy artwork looks like snow, and the illustrations were produced with pencil, watercolor, and digital painting.  Kirkus and Booklist gave this book starred reviews, and I recommend it for Kindergarten and up.

Check out Rocco's Caldecott Honor winning book, Blackout.

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Shoua and the Northern Lights Dragon

(2012)
Shoua and the Northern Lights Dragon

 

Do you believe dreams have meanings?  In the Hmong culture dreams have a special meaning. Shoua is not allowed to go on a camping trip with her grandfather, father, and brothers because traditional Hmong women must do household chores of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of younger siblings.  However, during dinner Shoua’s mother convinced Shoua’s grandfather to allow Shoua to go on her first camping trip. Shoua’s mother had a dream about someone in the family catching a falling star in the forest. Shoua’s grandfather believed in magical dreams because he is a shaman who can connect with the spirit world. While camping Shoua discover her strength, courage, and internal sense of power to fight for what she believes in. She must save the dragon to gain respect and honor in the family. This book captures the richness and beauty of the Hmong culture and traditions through Shoua’s magical adventure. 

 

An Introduction to Hmong CultureTo learn more about the Hmong culture, read An Introdcution to Hmong Culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Digby O'Day In the Fast Lane

(2014)
Digby O'Day In the Fast Lane

 

This early chapter book is the first entry in the Digby O'Day series by the mother/daughter team of Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy, and is perfect for those students ready to graduate from Frog and Toad or Little Bear into something more complex.  Digby O'Day, a dog, loves his old car and often goes for drives with his friend Percy, another dog.  His neighbor Lou Ella, a human, buys a new and expensive car every year.  The majority of the book revolves around a race from Didsworth to Dodsworth and the efforts between Digby and Lou Ella to win.  Digby is a likable character, and the short selection "Introducing Digby O'Day" gets the reader acquainted with the dog.  Vulliamy's illustrations in pencil, ink, and digital collage are complementary to the text.  The book ends with Percy's Perfect Car Games such as "I Spy" or "The License Plate Game" and a Digby O'Day quiz.  This book received a starred review from School Library Journal.

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The Mystery of the Missing Lion

A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers (2014)
The Mystery of the Missing Lion

 

This book is third in the chapter book series starring the protagonist of McCall Smith's adult series, the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  In this installment, Precious is invited to visit her Aunty Bee who lives at the top of Botswana and works at a safari camp because something exciting is going to happen there.  It would be an expensive trip, and Precious' father is not sure he can afford a bus ticket, but he finds a way for Precious to travel with a cattle buyer he knows.  When the fan belt breaks Precious has an idea to help.  

It turns out that there will be a movie filmed at the safari camp, with a tame lion named Teddy.  Precious and her new friend Khumo even get to assist the filmmakers with getting the lion to act the way they want him to.  Unfortunately the next day, Teddy has disappeared, and the director is frantic to get him back.  Precious and Khumo borrow a canoe and go looking for the lion, and see that he has joined a pride of wild lions.  Precious is observant and able to tell the director exactly where she saw the lions.  Precious saves the director's life and has a role in determining Teddy's future.  

Illustrations in black, gray, and maroon add greatly to the story.  A glossary, reader's guide with discussion questions, and curriculum connections for teachers round out the end of the book.

Start out with the first book in the series, The Great Cake Mystery.

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Can You Say It, Too? Moo! Moo!

(2014)
Can You Say It, Too? Moo! Moo!

 

Perky, colorful pages feature wide-eyed, friendly farm animals, many of them in hiding in different places in and around in the barnyard (behind large, easy-to-lift flaps).  Who’s that in the barn?  Lift the flap and see! Little ones may notice a little bit of each animal- an ear, a tail, etc., - peeking out from behind their hiding places, providing a hint each time.   Once the animal is revealed, kids can help them make the animal’s sound!  Look for a special surprise in the barn stall!  This board book is one in the “Can You Say It, Too?” series by Braun; all have the similarly simple text, large flaps, and cheery look.

Toddler-tested and approved, this book is recommended for children 0-3 years.

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Outside (2014)

Outside

 

When inside is boring and his older brother is too absorbed in electronics to play, a young child ventures outdoors and discovers a world of fantasy and adventure. In this world snowmen come to life and snow laden trees become gentle giants.  Readers will want to keep an eye on a small, stuffed dragon that accompanies the boy on his indoor play, and see what this leads to in the magical world of “outside.”  

This picture book captures the beauty and bigness of both the world outside and the wonders of an unshackled imagination.

 

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Andy, Also!

(2014)
Andy Also!

 

The second book in the Jump Into Chapters series about Andy the Alligator and Preston the Coyote Pup is also funny like the first.  When Preston announces that he is Andy, also, the Alligator is indignant and gives multiple reasons why Preston cannot be an Andy.  Andy the Alligator insists that Preston change his name, and when Preston says no, Andy names him Dr. Turkeyfeet.  The chapter gets sillier when Dr. Turkeyfeet arrives on the scene.  Two more chapters featuring Andy and Preston's adventures follow.  Give this book to fans of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series.

Read the first book, Okay, Andy as well!

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Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day

(2014)
Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day

 

This second addition to the graphic novel series about a chicken with red spectacles named Warren introduces the reader to a newly hatched inquisitive chicken named Egg.  Warren teaches Egg everything he knows.  One morning, Egg gets up earlier than everyone else and is detemined to fly, and he makes it across the road where he talks to a cow and then gets lost in a field of corn.  It isn't until after lunch that Warren realized that Egg is missing!  Warren also crosses the road, looks everywhere for Egg, and doesn't know where to look next, until he hears Egg's voice.  Egg is busy asking a spider question after question, and Warren follows the voice to Egg.  They try to exit the cornfield to no avail, until Egg remembers some of the wisdom Warren had shared earlier--"Always follow the brightest star".  They follow the star all the way back to the farm, where the other chickens are having a "search party".  This silly graphic novel is perfect for new chapter book readers up to 3rd grade, younger for reading aloud.

Don't miss the first book, Extraordinary Warren, a Super Chicken.

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The Jacket

(2014)
The Jacket

 

This fabulous story is about Book, a blue rectangle with stick arms and legs, and a beautiful smile.  Unfortunately, Book had not yet been discovered by a child, and worried that it might never happen.  Then, he met the girl.  She loved the Book, but also loved her dog, Egg Cream.  He was a wonderful dog who did everything that dogs should do, but he was a definite threat to Book.  On an afternoon when Book and the girl were together peacefully, mud suddenly flew everywhere.  Book could no longer see, and he knew what a terrible mess he was.  He was no longer the perfect book.  All was not lost, though.  The girl made Book a jacket of his own and he is just like brand new.  The end of the book has instructions on how to make book jackets for your own books.  The illustrations are fantastic, Egg Cream appears to be drawn as scribbles, which fits his character perfectly.  This will be a great book to share with students about how to care for books. 

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