Staff Picks for Children

When you're in the Library, be sure to browse the "Staff Picks" display for additional staff suggestions.

Gingerbread for Liberty

How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution (2015)
Gingerbread for Liberty

 

This unusual informational picture book tells the story of “the baker”—a German man who is never named until the author’s note at the end of the book. Christopher Ludwick was a German immigrant who lived in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. He had served as a soldier in Germany, but was too old to help General Washington in this way. However, he was an excellent baker well known for his gingerbread. He joined the Continental Army as its main baker. When King George hired Hessian soldiers to fight for the British side, the baker undertook a successful, secret night mission to meet those soldiers stationed at Staten Island, where he told them of his America. The author’s note tells more about the facts known about Ludwick’s life in Philadelphia as a baker. A recipe for gingerbread is available on the endpapers. Kirsch’s watercolor illustrations are fantastic, the figures appear appropriately flat like gingerbread, with white details that resemble icing.

To learn more about another hero of the American Revolution, read Molly Pitcher: the Woman Who Fought the War, or

Henry and the Cannons: an Extraordinary True Story of the American Revolution.

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Katie and the Fancy Substitute

(2015)
Katie and the Fancy Substitute

 

In this latest installment of the Katie Woo early reader series, Katie arrives at school to discover that Miss Winkle is out sick. Miss Bliss is the substitute, and with her jingly bracelets and sparkly shoes, the girls in the class declare her fancy. Katie desperately wants to impress Miss Bliss, but doesn’t get called on, drops the instruments, and falls down after slipping in paint. She starts to feel badly about herself, but Miss Bliss reassures her that she is just fine the way she is. Katie is a spunky character that many girls will relate to. At the back of the book are instructions for making a “tinkling tambourine”, and directions to the publishers website for more fun with Katie Woo.

Check out the first Katie Woo book, A Happy Day.

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Hope Springs

(2014)
Hope Springs

 

This picture book starts with three children from an orphanage in Kenya, Boniface, Charles, and Mueni, traveling to a spring for water during a drought. The spring gave water slowly and people waited in long lines to fill their containers. The orphans are refused water because they “live here, but…are not from here”. They return to the orphanage without the needed water. Boniface checks on the well that is being dug by the orphanage with hope that water will soon be found. When water is struck, the situation for the orphans changes dramatically. And it is Boniface who finds a way to show kindness to those people at the spring who were so unkind to him.

 

This book is based on real children living at the Rolling Hills Residence in Mbooni District, Kenya. The author includes extensive back-story about the Kyamutuo Spring—“a trickle of water that dripped out of the rocks, pooling in a small muddy depression. It was the only source of water for 800 people—for drinking, for cooking, for their livestock and for irrigating crops”. The children really were turned away from the spring, meaning the orphanage desperately needed another source of water. A well was built, water was found, and the children found a way to share the well water with the villagers who had turned them away.

 For another look at one of Eric Walter’s stories about Kenya, read My Name is Blessing.

To learn more about Kenya, read We Visit Kenya.

 

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Won Ton and Chopstick

A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku
Won Ton and Chopstick
Won Ton A Cat Tale

 

In this twist on the “new baby in the house” story, Won Ton the black cat is introduced to a golden puppy that does not belong in his house. The author’s note at the beginning of the book informs the reader that the story is told using senryu, which is a form of Japanese poetry similar to haiku. Both senryu and haiku have three lines which contain a total of seventeen syllables. They capture a snapshot in time. Haiku focuses on nature, and senryu focuses on human nature—in this book the nature of Won Ton and Chopstick.

Won Ton starts the book with his routine, which is disrupted by the arrival of the puppy. This senryu follows:

Puthimoutputhim
outputhimoutputhim—wait!
I said him, not me!

The puppy is named Chopstick, while Won Ton names him Pest. An altercation occurs, with the Puthimout senryu appearing again. Through numerous activities together, Won Ton grows to enjoy the company of Chopstick and renames him Friend. An excellent sequel to the first book about Won Ton, Won Ton: a Cat Tale Told in Haiku.

 

 

 

 

 

I have two favorite books of haiku: One Leaf Rides the Wind: Counting in a Japanese Garden by Celeste Mannis, 

 

 

 

 

 

and Hi Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 To learn more about writing haiku, check out Henry and Hala Build a Haiku.

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Hands & Hearts

(2014)
Hands & Hearts
Gallaudet Children's Dictionary of ASL
My Heart Glow

A mother and daughter spend a sunny day swimming, playing and frolicking at the beach, all the while using their hands to hold each other, dig in the sand, splash in the waves, put up a windbreak, and--most importantly--talk to each other, with American Sign Language.  Amy Bates’ breezy watercolor and pencil illustrations complement Napoli’s free verse.  Alongside them are panels, decorated in seaside motifs, featuring 15 ASL signs used in the story: run, roll, swim, sun, wall, water, and more.  Some of the sign illustrations are ambiguous; nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see sign language vocabulary introduced within the context of a story, as well as see a portrayal of people whose first language appears to be ASL, in an everyday setting.  This book is recommended for kids 3-8 years.

For kids interested in learning ASL signs in and of more quantity and clarity, there are some other wonderful, recently-published additions to the Sign Language section of the library’s World Languages collection. They include:  Signing Around Town from a great series of books by Kathryn Clay, recommended for kids Grades K-4; and the beautiful and comprehensive Gallaudet Children’s Dictionary of American Sign Language from Gallaudet University Press, with more than 1,000 signs depicted in easy-to-read illustrations, and a companion DVD which features live-action video of a variety people, young and old, demonstrating the signs and using them in a sentence context. It's recommended for kids Grades K-5.  These books give an introduction of ASL and its importance to both deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people.  They are great for deaf kids who want to expand their ASL vocabulary, or hearing kids who wish to learn the language.

Deaf History Month is March 13-April 15.  For a lovely introduction to the events at the heart and the start of Deaf Culture in America, read My Heart Glow: Alice Cogswell, Thomas Gallaudet and the Birth of American Sign Language, (2008) written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully.  It’s recommended for kids Grades 2-5.

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A Moose Boosh

A Few Choice Words About Food (2014)
A Moose Boosh

 

From Dictionary.Reference.com:
amuse-bouche—
noun
any small bite of food or appetizer-sized portion, often served before a meal
Word Origin
French 'that which amuses the mouth'

 

In “A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food”, Eric-Shabazz Larkin offers 41 food-themed, witty, and light-hearteds poems illustrated with spectacular artwork. Larkin took photographs of friends, family, and coworkers in New York and Virginia, then added layers of doodles with digitally supplied white paint. A couple of my favorite poems were “A Desk is Not a Dinner Table”—perhaps I should heed this advice more often, “Ashley Won’t Eat It If She Can’t Spell It”—an ode to the ingredients in basic foods like bread, “Stop Touching My Food”—a poem about Grampa who tells of the farmers, packers, shippers, processors, inspectors, truckers and more who touch food before you buy it at the store, and “Dancing Kitchen”—when cooking you can’t stand still, you have to dance. An author’s note at the end reveals that Larkin wrote the book “to inspire people to read poems at dinner time” and that he has “the peculiar habit of writing poems and bringing them to parties as gifts—that’s how this book was born”. A first-rate book of poetry to read for celebrating National Poetry Month in April.

 

 

To read traditional foodie poetry from authors such as Lewis Carroll, Douglas Florian, Mary Ann Hoberman, Christina Rossetti, and A. A. Milne, try Hot Potato: Mealtime Rhymes

 

  

 

 

Or for contemporary food poems read Yummy! Eating Through a Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-The-Pooh

(2015)
 Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-The-Pooh

 

This delightful information picture book tells the story of veterinarian Harry Colebourn, a Canadian soldier during World War I. When Harry saw a baby bear for sale in a train station for $20, he knew he had to save her, and named her Winnie, short for Winnipeg.  Winnie followed Harry everywhere as he cared for the horses that were preparing to go overseas. The illustrations do a beautiful job showing Winnie’s favorite game of hide-and-seek biscuits. When Harry had to go overseas he brought Winnie with him, and stayed in a military training camp. Harry realized that Winnie couldn’t be taken onto the battlefield so he brought her to the London Zoo. Winnie got along with the other bears. In fact, Winnie was so gentle, the zookeepers allowed children to ride on her back. After the war, Harry made the difficult decision to allow Winnie to continue living at the London Zoo. One fateful day, Winnie met a young boy named Christopher Robin. At night, Christopher informed his father, author A.A. Milne, that his bear’s name had changed to Winnie-the-Pooh. Bedtime stories turned into a famous children’s book.

 

An extensive author’s note gives more details about the lives of Harry Colebourn and Winnie. Photos of the real Winnie, Harry, and Christopher Robin line the endpapers of the book.

To read the book Winnie inspired, read The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh.

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Jokes and More About Horses

(2015)
Jokes and More About Horses

“Which part of the horse is most important?  The mane  part.” “How do horses like to wear their hair?  In ponytails.” These and many more silly jokes and riddles are featured in talk-bubble style with cartoon illustrations of horses of various sizes and colors, combined with funny photos of horses showing big teeth, wrinkled noses, rolling eyes, stuck-out tongues, and other expressions. Horse lovers will be better able to appreciate some of the humor, but there’s fun for everyone. The last pages of the book contain fun facts about horses, and a glossary of words that will help bring more meaning to some of the jokes.  This is one in the “Just Kidding” series, which includes jokes about dogs, fish, bees and more.  April is National Humor Month--no fooling!  If you like to celebrate with jokes and riddles, try these!

This book is recommended for kids K-4.

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I Am The Wolf And Here I Come!

(2015)
I Am The Wolf And Here I Come!

 

 

This small board book, first published in French in 1998, has finally been translated into English and published in the United States. Held vertically, each two page spread shows a gray wolf with big pointy teeth who introduces himself as "the big bad wolf". The wolf begins with no clothes, and each turn of the page adds a new article of clothing, starting with pink hearted underpants, t-shirt, socks, and so on until he adds a big black trenchcoat. On the last page he announces with an evil grin "I'm coming to get you!" The back of the book tells the reader to "snap the book shut to keep the wolf inside". It's too bad the book is only available as a tiny board book--this would be a great book to share in storytime. I loved it, and highly recommend it for use with kids as young as toddlers and as old as school-age.

For a classic story about getting dressed, read Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London,

 

 

 

 

 

or for a funny story about individuality in choosing clothing try Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems 

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My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay (2015)

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

 

This picture book tells of Zulay and her three sighted, best friends. Together they link arms, skip through the hallways and line up for school. Together they hang up their bags, take their chairs down and get ready for class. Together they draw shapes, practice math and learn how to type on Zulay’s Brailler. When it is time for Zulay to practice using her cane, she has to practice by herself with Ms. Turner. Zulay doesn’t like being singled out, and she doesn’t like having to use a cane when no one else does. One day, Zulay and her friends learn that they are going to have a Field Day. Everyone wants to compete in different events, and Zulay would like to run the race in her brand new, pink shoes. Together, Ms. Turner and Zulay begin practicing.

 Based upon the author’s encounter with a real, little girl, this brilliant and touching tale is the story of four best friends “who help each other” and “who help themselves.”  Children will enjoy the story, and adults may need a tissue or two.

 

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Sydney & Simon

Full STEAM Ahead! (2014)
Sydney & Simon

 

 

Sydney & Simon are twin mice starring in a new series written and illustrated by twin brothers. (Peter Reynolds is well known for books such as The Dot and Ish). This early chapter book introduces STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) concepts to readers by walking through Sydney and Simon's problems with their entry for the flower show--they can't get the window open in order to water the plants. The twins record their ideas, Sydney using a standard notebook and Simon using a tablet computer, conduct science experiments, and ultimately find a way to get water to the flowers in time for the show.  The book carefully explains in short, illustrated chapters how STEAM concepts solve the twins’ problems.  A glossary at the back of the book helps define any unfamiliar words. Recommended for new chapter book readers, younger for reading aloud.

To do your own experiments with water, check out Explore Water! by Anita Yasuda.

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