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.

The Miniature World of Marvin and James

(2014)
The Miniature World of Marvin and James

 

This beautifully illustrated early chapter book stars Marvin (a beetle) and James (a boy).  James is going on vacation for a week, and Marvin is worried that James will forget about him or make new friends and no longer need him.  A funny scene in the book takes place when Marvin teams up with his cousin Elaine and they discover the fun of playing inside a pencil sharpener with the wood shavings, that is, until a pencil is inserted and they can't get out.  This incident is the major event in the book, and Marvin has to be clever to get himself and Elaine out of the situation.  James comes home, and it turns out, he still needs Marvin.  He even brought Marvin a souvenir.  Recommended for readers just starting on chapter books who still enjoy lots of illustrations, and for fans of Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo.

This series is based off of Broach's earlier novel for older readers, Masterpiece. 

View more by: 

Colors Versus Shapes

(2014)

Who are the stars of this book?  Colors or Shapes?  With the help of three unusual judges (featured in Boldt’s 123 versus ABC), two teams vie for the honor.  Team Color takes the stage to begin a talent contest, but Shapes soon crash it, and the game is on.   Red, Blue and Yellow do some fancy mixing to create a variety of new colors--everything from purple to turquoise.  But the shapes, including Circle, Triangle, and Square, show that they can change as well, adding sides, creating octagons, nonagons, irregular polygons—and-on-and-on-agons!  The competition is so fierce, that it isn’t long before colors and shapes collide!   Who will win?

There is plenty of humor and action in this basic introduction of two important concepts. Colors versus Shapes is recommended for ages 4-8.

View more by: 

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (2014)

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up


Leroy Ninker dreams of being a cowboy. He has a lasso. He has a hat and boots. He knows about tracking and has even been practicing his “Yippie-i-oh.”  The one thing he does not have is a horse.  Fortunately for Leroy, a special horse named Maybelline has just become available. As Leroy is soon to learn, however, it is one thing to dream of being a cowboy, and another to own a horse. Especially if that horse “enjoys the heck out of a compliment,” eats lots of grub” and “gets lonesome quick.”

 Fans of Kate DiCamillo will be delighted to read another tale chock full of heart, hope and dreams coming true. Fans of the Mercy Watson series will be delighted to see some of their old favorites as well as make new friends. All in all, the first book in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive looks like a rip-roaring good time for everyone.

 

View more by: 

The Sealed-Up House

(2014)
The Sealed-Up House

 

This unusual story in the Twicetold Tales series retells the tale of Sleeping Beauty in an extremely fractured format.  Brendan is new in town and is fascinated by the Sova House covered in ivy and surrounded by overgrown shrubs and weeds which would make it difficult to enter.  After an unsuccessful attempt to enter and being attacked by vines, he visits the school nurse, who tells him about the house's inhabitants who have not left for at least 10 years and also tells Brendan that he has a little magic in him.  After that, Brendan is determined that he will enter the house and meet the child named Talia living inside. When he finally breaks in with the help of a machete, Talia is in a zombie-like state, until Brendan starts reading stories to her.  Little by little she begins to wake up, until her father bursts into the room and orders Brendan to leave. Talia's mother reminds him, though, that a witch had placed a spell upon their home that they would sleep, stupefied, until love found Talia, and Brendan was that love.  The school nurse comes to the house--it turns out she was the witch who placed the spell on the house, and she moves back into the house on the third floor, against the wishes of the family.  Brendan and Talia grow up together and marry as adults.

 

Now, the 2nd part of the book was new to me.  I did not recognize it as being part of the Sleeping Beauty story. Brendan and Talia have three daughters: Roxanne, Dawn, and Aurora.  One day the witch, who they now refer to as the spirit, asks Aurora to have the cook serve Roxanne for lunch.   Aurora is justifiably horrified.  Instead the cook prepares a goose and tricks the spirit.  Next, the spirit asks to eat Dawn for dinner.  Aurora is again scared, for she does not realize the cook is substituting lamb for Dawn, and hiding Roxanne and Dawn away.  Next the spirit asks to consume Aurora and the cook gives the spirit a pork roast.  When the spirit finds that Roxanne, Dawn, and Aurora are still alive, she is furious, but the cook locks her into the pantry and she is never seen again.  I looked at a couple websites online, and I learned that in many versions of Sleeping Beauty there is a second half to the story that is remarkably similar to this half of the book.  What a fun book to read, and I'm looking forward to looking at more versions of the original Sleeping Beauty.

View more by: 

The Mystery of the Gold Coin

(2014)
The Mystery of the Gold Coin

 

The first book in a new early chapter book series, Greetings from Somewhere, introduces us to twins Ethan and Ella Briar.  Ethan and Ella are dismayed to learn that their journalist mother has taken a job that will require the entire family to travel around the world to different countries--they don't want to say good-bye to their friends or Grandpa Harry.  However, before they leave, Grandpa Harry give each twin a gift: Ethan receives a gold coin and Ella receives a journal.  When Ethan's coin disappears the day they are planning to leave, he and Ella retrace their steps from the previous day to find the coin.  Ella finds her journal comes in handy for taking notes on solving the mystery.  A very brief selection from book 2 is included at the end.  There are plentiful black and white illustrations which add very nicely to the story.  A promising new series for emerging readers who enjoy mysteries.

View more by: 

Cinderella Stays Late

(2014)
Cinderella Stays Late

 

This new chapter book series, featuring multiple characters from the large collection of fairy tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm, is perfect for students in 3rd through 6th grade who love fairy tales.  In Cinderella Stays Late, Cinda is starting her first year at Grimm Academy.  Her evil stepsisters (the Steps) are not going to make her new life easy.  Cinda easily makes friends with Red (Riding Hood), Snow (White), and Rapunzel.  Plus, she makes a favorable impression on Prince Awesome, who is planning a ball for the start of the school year.  The Steps aren't pleased.  Cinda really doesn't want to go to the ball because she doesn't like dancing, she'd much rather play masketball.  But she plays along with her friends when going to the library to "check out" their ball gowns and slippers and checks out a gown for herself.  On the night of the ball, Cinda has a plan to miss the ball: she will make a mess on the hearth (she is the hearthkeeper for her school assignment, after all).  But, someone has already made a huge disastrous mess!  She goes to confront the Steps and overhears them plot to bring back the E.V.I.L. Society, and their plan to get Prince Awesome to join.  She vows to stop the Steps by going to the ball after all, but the Steps have destroyed her dress and slippers.  And the library will only allow one dress to be checked out.  With a little unexpected help, Cinda makes it to the ball.  She decides to wear a masketball mask, and it turns out the glass slippers she found in the library make her into a fantastic dancer!  Can Cinda stop the evil plot?  This story was a fast read, and the authors also write the Goddess Girls series.  A fun, fractured fairy tale series.

View more by: 

The Chicken Squad

The First Misadventure (2014)
The Chicken Squad

 

This is the first book in the new early chapter book series about a watchdog J.J. Tully and four chicks: Dirt, Sugar, Sweetie, and Poppy.  When a terrified squirrel named Tail runs into the yard telling the chicks about the big scary thing that has landed, the chicks are on the case.  Sugar takes careful notes and Dirt draws a composite sketch, which they then deduce must be a UFO.  The book gets sillier and sillier, and the illustrations only add to the fun of the story.  A great start to a new series for kids starting chapter books.  Give this to fans of Mercy Watson.

View more by: 

Uni the Unicorn

2014
Uni the Unicorn

 

Believing is magical, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a champion of always trusting magic. In Uni the Unicorn, Rosenthal invites you to discover the beauty in believing, no matter how ridiculous an idea might seem.

Uni is a unicorn. On the surface, she looks and acts like your typical unicorn. She has a beautiful mane, sparkling eyes and golden hooves. She even brings wishes to life.

Yet, Uni is different from other unicorns in one way - she believes that little girls are REAL! The other unicorns often tease Uni, and her parents only smile and nod when Uni talks about the existence of little girls. But, she holds firm to her belief. Uni knows that if she ever meets a little girl, then she would find a best friend to have amazing adventures with - like sliding down rainbows! As this whimsical picture books comes to a close, you will be left smiling by a gentle twist in the plot.

With Uni the Unicorn, Rosenthal excels at what she does best - creating seemingly simple stories with a deep impact. Rosenthal invites you to hold your childlike wonder close because you never know who you may find believing in you one day.

Recommended for preschoolers and all believers in unicorns.

View more by: 

Mr. Ball Makes a To-Do List

(2014)
Mr. Ball Makes a To-Do List

 

This graphic novel entry in the Jump-Into-Chapters series stars Mr. Ball--a round yellow ball with arms and legs who enjoys making lists.  The book has arrows at the beginning and end of the chapters stating things like "the intro starts here" and at the end "the intro ends here".  Each day Mr. Ball makes a list, and has trouble completing his list, until he makes a list that cannot possibly fail!  He will eat breakfast, give out lots of hugs, and eat dinner.  Until, he meets a skunk, and no one wants to hug him anymore.  What will Mr. Ball do?  The large print and easy text are perfect for new readers, and the graphic novel format is a good medium for this book.  I look forward to more books about Mr. Ball.

View more by: 

Secrets of the Seasons

Orbiting the Sun in Our Backyard (2014)
Secrets of the Seasons

Have you noticed it?  Alice’s friend Zack has.  The summer sun is setting earlier and earlier every day.  Together, the friends notice other changes in light, temperature, weather, animals and other things in the world around them as one season turns into another.  Alice narrates her and Zack’s many observations, conversations, and wonderment.  In between, Alice’s comical chickens, Maisy and Daisy, are on hand with more explanations for the reader of the science behind the seasons: the movement of the earth on its axis, and its orbit around the sun, as well as facts about the seasons' effects on animal and plant life.  Kids can relate to the friends’ sensory experiences as summer falls into winter, which springs into summer; author Zoehfeld describes well the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of each season.  The information is broken up into bite-sized charts, diagrams and talk bubbles, making it easier for young readers to take in. This companion book to her Secrets of the Garden also features Patricia Lamont’s light-hearted, intricate pen and watercolor illustrations, which capture nicely Alice’s changing landscape.

Secret of the Seasons is recommended for ages 4-9.

View more by: 

The Tooth Fairy Wars

The Tooth Fairy Wars

 

 

Most children happily trade their baby teeth for money from the tooth fairy, but not Nathan. He wants to keep his baby teeth FOREVER. Unfortunately, the tooth fairy is equally determined to find them and she is very good at her job. He tries hiding them in places both usual and unusual, but to no avail. He leaves a polite letter asking to keep his teeth, and receives a polite form letter from the League of Enchanted Commerce informing him that he may appeal for an exception and can expect to have his case reviewed….sometime in the next 25,990 years!

 Will Nathan find a way to outwit the magical beings and hang on to his baby pearly whites?

 

 

View more by: 
Read on WI@ReadOnWI         Every Child Ready to Read         Growing WI Readers

Waking Brain Cells         Sciency Fiction:Jacqueline Houtman's Writing Blog
AddThis