Staff Picks for Children

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

Here Comes Santa Cat

(2014)
Here Comes Santa Cat

In “Here Comes Santa Cat”, we meet a cat dressed up in a Santa suit that is having a conversation with an unseen narrator.  After viewing Cat’s “current year to date” pie chart showing a ratio of his naughty to nice behavior, we learn why he wants to be Santa—he wants a present.  Maybe if Cat does some nice things, Santa will give him a present after all.  Cat’s attempts at niceness go terribly awry over and over, until finally he does it right.  And Cat meets Santa after all.  The ink and colored pencil illustrations show Cat with a multitude of emotions, and the uncluttered set-up and white space makes the book easy to read.  Excellent to share one-on-one or with a group.  

Don’t miss the companion book, Here Comes the Easter Cat.

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Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

(2014)
Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

 

 

 

"What do the trees know?

To bend when all the wild winds blow.

Roots are deep and time is slow.

All we grasp we must let go.

What do the trees know?

Buds can weather ice and snow.

Dark gives way to sunlight’s glow.

Strength and stillness help us grow."

Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen, whose Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night became a 2011 Newbery Honor Book, once again combine masterful poetry, intricate linoleum block illustrations, and fascinating nature facts in a gorgeous picture book.  This time the focus is on winter: from snowflakes and sleeping snakes; dormant trees and clustering bees, to migrating geese and stalwart chickadees, moose, wolves, voles, and ravens, doing what they need to in order to survive the cold core of the season, until the early spring skunk cabbage pokes through the melting snow.  Sidman’s poems range from whimsical to wistful.  Observant readers/viewers will be on the lookout for a fox in the various nature scenes.

Fans of this offering may also enjoy Winter Eyes by Douglas Florian and Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner.  Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold is recommended for ages 5 and up.

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Shooting At the Stars

The Christmas Truce of 1914 (2014)
Shooting At the Stars

Shooting at the Stars is a fictionalized account of the Christmas truce that occurred in the trenches between British and German troops during World War I in 1914.  The story is told conveyed through a letter by a British soldier to his mother.  He tells of December 24th, when the British soldiers heard singing coming from the opposing trench 30 paces away.  Stille Nacht--Silent Night.  The next morning, they woke up to calls from the German soldiers.  Warily, soldiers from both sides began to step out into “No Man’s Land”.  They first buried their dead, then took pictures with each other, traded with each other and even played football with an old biscuit tin.  In the evening, they returned to their trenches, and the War resumed the next day.  Even though this book is fiction, it is based on letters and interviews with soldiers who were there that day.  According to the extensive author’s note, it was along many miles of trench lines that British, French, and German soldiers celebrated Christmas together.  A glossary and bibliography round out the book.  This book received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist, and it receives high praise from me as well. Share this book with elementary students as an example of the “real people”, not government or military leaders, who fought in World War I.  

For extensive information about the Christmas Truce of 1914, check out Truce: the Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy.

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Take Away The A

An Alphabeast of a Book (2014)
Take Away The A

 

This innovative and unique alphabet book takes a basic word like "beast", take away the "a" and "the BEAST is the BEST". "Without the B, the BRIDE goes for a RIDE."  Reading the book straight through would be fun for preschool and kindergarten, but for older students and their teachers, its a great excuse for wordplay!  Highly recommended.

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Maddi's Fridge

(2014)
Maddi's Fridge

 

In Maddi's Fridge, we are introduced to two young friends, Maddi and Sofia.  After playing near Maddi's apartment building, Sofia suggests a snack and starts running to Maddi's apartment, even when Maddi asks her to wait.  Sofia discovers that the refrigerator has only milk in it, which Maddi is saving for her little brother.  When Sofia prepares to leave, Maddi makes Sofia promise not to tell anyone.  Sofia looks at her own refrigerator which is full of food.  While she eats her dinner of fish and rice, she thinks of Maddi who has only bread to eat.  Sofia wants to tell her mom, but she remembers her promise.  Sofia gets the idea to bring food to Maddi, although her ideas of fish, then eggs turn out not to work so well. Finally she gets a little food to Maddi's apartment for the refrigerator, but Sofia realizes that it just isn't enough.  Sofia decides to break her promise and tells her mom.  They put together bags of groceries and take them to Maddi's.  Sofia is worried that Maddi will be mad, but they decide they are still friends.  This book is unique in telling the story of children who are hungry like Maddi.  The book is not didactic, there is a genuine story to the book as well as the lesson.  The book ends with a page called "Let's help friends who have empty refrigerators". More information is available at www.MaddisFridge.com.

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Melody of the Qeej

(2013)
Melody of the Qeej

 

Mai Kou Xiong wrote this book as part of the Reading Together Project which addresses the need for children's books about the experiences of Asian children in the United States.  Phengxue is playing with his friends and when they come inside they end up in Phengxue's brother Meng's room.  Tyrone and Timmy see a qeej (pronounced "keng") hanging on the wall and are curious about the musical instrument.  The boys take the qeej to Phengxue's grandfather who gives background on the instrument, such as what type of ceremonies it is played at.  He shows them how the qeej is put together with bamboo pipes, and plays a melody for the boys.  Phengxue is motivated to learn to play the qeej for himself, after his grandfather tells him to remember that even though he is in America and does what American kids do, he is still Hmong.  I have always been curious about the qeej, and this book explained it for me.  I hope that Xiong continues to write books about Hmong children for younger children to read.

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The Vanishing Coin

(2014)
The Vanishing Coin

This is the first book in a promising series about a fourth grade boy named Mike whose school year is not off to a good start.  Mike struggles to sit still and pay attention, and ends up in the principal's office at least once every week.  And this year, he has to spend every afternoon after school with new neighbor gifted Nora.  Mike's not looking forward to it, until he and Nora discover an antiques store called "The White Rabbit".  This store also is a little magical. When Mike is able to solve a riddle from the shopkeeper, he is taught his first magic trick.  Mike is hooked on magic.  He amazes his classmates with his new trick, and incites the wrath of his enemy Jackson when a trick takes away the bully's quarter.  The book has intermittent black and white illustrations which nicely complement the text.  The instructions for how to perform Mike's magic tricks are provided for budding magicians as well. 

 Don't miss the second book in the series, The Incredible Twisting Arm!

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Baby Bear Counts One

(2013)
Baby Bear Counts One

Another of my favorite seasonal picture books is this companion book to Baby Bear Sees Blue.  In an autumn landscape, a curious bear cub asks Mama Bear questions about the sounds of animals around them, and then counts the animals as they make their preparations for the winter. Once winter comes, Baby Bear discovers something new to count!  Multiple concepts and themes of counting, seasons, and animals make this a versatile book.  Wolff’s linoleum block and watercolor illustrations, with a great blend of realism and whimsy, are warm and inviting.

Storytime tested and approved, this book is great for ages 2-6.

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Sophie's Squash

(2013)
Sophie's Squash

Among my very favorite picture books are those with the theme of changing seasons.  This story by Wisconsin author Miller is at the top of the list.  At a fall farm market with her mother and father, Sophie picks out a yellow squash.  The squash is just the right size for Sophie to hold, and--it turns out—to love. “I’m glad we met,” says Sophie. “Good friends are hard to find.”  Come dinner time, Mom finds that Sophie has named the squash Bernice.  “I’ll call for a pizza,” says Mom.  Bernice becomes Sophie’s constant companion.  No pet, no toy, can compare. But squashes don’t last forever, and even Sophie notices changes in Bernice as winter approaches. Can she keep her forever friend forever?  This humorous and touching story with themes of seasons, changes, cycles, as well as love and friendship, will be enjoyed in many ways, with help from Wilsdorf’s delightfully detailed ink and watercolor illustrations.

  This 2014 Ezra Jack Keats honor book is recommended for ages 3-8.

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The Princess in Black (2014)

The Princess in Black

Being a princess isn’t just about wearing pretty clothes and sparkly jewels. It is also about protecting your kingdom, and Princess Magnolia takes both roles seriously. When readers first meet her, she is dressed in a frilly pink dress, glittery tiara and glass slippers sipping hot chocolate ever so elegantly with the Duchess Wigtower.  But Princess Magnolia has a secret. Her glitter stone ring is also a monster alarm and, when it rings, she transforms herself into the superhero/ninja Princess in Black! Accompanied by her faithful steed and using fabulous moves such as “Princess Pounce” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash,” the Princess in Black is more than a match for any monster daring to invade her kingdom.

In this adventure, she has to defeat a goat munching monster and make it back to the castle and into her pink dress before the snooping Duchess Wigtower discovers her secret. This early chapter book is a fun read for anyone who loves princess, superheroes or both! Readers will also meet a goat boy with dreams of becoming the Goat Avenger.  Stay tuned for more adventures!

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My Explosive Diary

(2014)
My Explosive Diary

 

My Explosive Diary is the first title in the new Eliza Boom series for new chapter book readers.  Eliza is an aspiring inventor just like her father, who documents all of her adventures, many alongside her faithful dog Einstein, in a diary she has named Edison.  Eliza longs to be included in mean girl Zoe's birthday party plans, so she offers Zoe a beautiful black and white ribbon as a peace offering. Zoe accepts the ribbon, but still leaves Eliza uninvited as well as another girl named Amy.  Eliza is horrified when she learns that the ribbon is actually a metallic ribbon that contains top-secret spy information and her father is searching for it everywhere!  Eliza has to get it back but how?  Her imagination for inventions might inspire other young inventors.  There are numerous black and white illustrations that enhance the story and lots of white space to encourage readers.  The second book in the series is released in November.

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