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 Luck Uglies (2014)

The Luck Uglies

 

Reckless, curious and more than a little clumsy, Riley O’Chanter has grown up dashing through the streets and over the rooftops of Village Drowning with her friends.  Life has never been particularly safe, but suddenly there is a mysterious howling in the night and a forbidden book that suggests another side to the history of the town she knows so well. What if the monstrous Bog Noblins aren’t really extinct? Why were the Luck Uglies, who used to fight them, really banished by the Earl Longchance? What is the meaning of the five rules her mother insists she abide by?

 Filled with adventure, mystery, danger and suspense, this fantasy is the first in a trilogy and will leave readers excited to learn more about Riley and her friends.

 

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The Lion and the Bird

(2014)
The Lion and the Bird

 

First published in French as Le lion et l'oiseau, Marianne Dubuc's picture book about a lion who rescues an injured bird is a story about true friendship.  It's autumn, and when a bird falls to the ground, Lion can't just leave Bird alone.  He bandages his new friend, but notices that the flock leaves without him.  The Lion immediately declares: "Don't worry! You won't be cold here."  Lion takes him home, as there is enough room for two in Lion's home.  Several wordless spreads follow, showing the two participating in various activities together.  I particularly enjoyed the image of the bird sleeping in Lion's slipper.  Lion recognizes that winter isn't all that cold with a friend.  But when spring returns, so does the flock of birds, which the no-longer-injured bird wishes to return to.  More images of Lion follow.  He is alone.  And then autumn comes.  Lion is hopeful when he sees the flock of birds overhead...The page following shows Lion looking forlorn, his face not able to betray the sadness he feels.  However, the book does have a happy ending.  This book made me feel happy.  It's not a large group storytime book, but a book that would be wonderful shared one-on-one with a child.

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Celia

(2014)
Celia

 

This picture book gem was first published in Belgium under the title Zélie in 2012.  The first several pages are strictly black and white, and show an elderly woman sitting on a stool with a line of people waiting to speak to her.  Celia listens to problems, worries, sorrows, anything people need to say every Sunday.  Telling Celia about their problems made them feel happier, and in exchange for Celia's service, they would give her a seed--the first sign of color in the book.  One Sunday we are introduced to a little boy named Julian who is patiently waiting in line, but when he discovers he has lost his seed, he sadly leaves the line.  On Monday, Celia takes all of the seeds from Sunday, puts them in a wheelbarrow, and journeys into the city.  The seeds are transformed into balloons, cupcake frosting, even apples.  Celia is providing the city with color.  When she finds Julian's lost seed, she is concerned, as she knows "this seed belongs to an unhappy child."  She meets Julian along the road, and Julian is happy to see his seed again.  They plant his seed and Julian waits to see it grow into a tiny colorful flower.  This book's little sprinkles of color made me feel happy and I liked the idea of turning worry into happiness.

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Game Over, Pete Watson

(2014)
Game Over, Pete Watson

 

Pete Watson is ready to purchase Brawl-a-Thon 3000 XL, the hottest new video game available, on the day it comes out, only to find that his mother has borrowed money from his savings.  To make up the difference, Pete holds an impromptu garage sale, and sells his dad's vintage game console, the CommandRoid 85 to the Bug Man.  From there on, things get crazy fast.  Pete's dad gets kidnapped and is trapped inside a video game inside the CommandRoid 85.  Turns out, Pete's dad is actually a spy for the CIA, and the console was his way of receiving secret codes.  A killion dollars is at stake (what's a killion dollars you ask?  its a number so large it could kill you), and if not paid a computer virus will be spread across the world.  Pete has to enter the CommandRoid 85 himself to save his dad and save the world from the computer virus.  The pictures, especially the 8-bit graphics, are fun additions to the book.  I'd recommend this book to kids who love video games, and who like Wimpy Kid or Big Nate.

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Another Day as Emily

Another Day as Emily
Another Day as Emily

 

Suzy is having a tough summer. First, her little brother becomes a hero. Then she and her best friend Alison audition for a play, but only Alison gets a part. In the meantime, Suzy has been working on a summer project about Emily Dickinson and begins to think that maybe Emily’s reclusive lifestyle has some things to recommend it.  Tucking her Phillies jersey away, Suzy (now known as Emily) switches to wearing only white dresses, insisting her friends write letters instead of calling and refuses to socialize. However, before long Suzy/Emily finds that living like Emily is a little bit lonely and quite a lot boring. Can she take everything she has learned from Emily and find her way back to being Suzy?

 

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Donkeys

(2014)
Donkeys

 

This charming picture book first published in Austria in 2002 and first translated into English in 2005 has been published in the US by NorthSouth Books.  Jenny and Jack are two donkeys who have been married for 25 years.  Jenny wants to help Jack remember their anniversary so she folds the corner of his ear down the night before.  Unfortunately, this blocks the ear, and he is deaf in the other ear, so he doesn't hear the rooster and sleeps throughout the day.  Jenny is livid, and decides that she is leaving the relationship.  The two donkeys have physical markings on their bodies from being together for so long--Jenny has a hollow on her neck, and Jack had a bump in the same place.  They fit together perfectly, but Jack and Jenny both believe they can find someone better.  They meet several different animals, from goats, to zebras, to flamingos, but none have the same fit.  Jack and Jenny end up together again on the advice of a camel.  This sweet love story is unique and for both young and old.

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Shoe Dog

(2014)
Shoe Dog

Prolific author Megan McDonald and versatile illustrator Katherine Tillotson team up again with this slightly sad, sometimes silly and altogether sweet story.

A shelter dog longs for a real home, with kisses, pats, and tummy rubs, "as warm as soup and cozy as pie."  And when a lady (whom Dog dubs “She Herself”) adopts him, Dog feels he finally has that home. There's room to run, and soft, warm places to sleep--and things to chew!   But who needs a bone or a toy when there are SHOES around?  "Shoe Dog!” She Herself cries, and suddenly there are no kisses or tummy rubs or cozy places for Dog.  He wants to be good, and when he is, life is great!  But when She Herself brings home new shoes, he can't seem to resist temptation!  “Bad Dog!”  Can he change his ways and be welcomed back to "The Land of Upstairs" with its Big Bed and Comfy Chair, kisses and tummy rubs?   Or is it back to the shelter, "The Land of Sad Puppies" for him?  It’s She Herself to the rescue with a special surprise!   McDonald's lilting, read-out-loud-able prose and Tillotson's crayon and charcoal drawings combine well to portray the many moods of Dog and his lady.  Especially nice are the illustrations of Dog himself, with tornadic, squiggly lines that match his eager, lively personality, and the unique choice of words reflecting Dog’s point of view.

This picture book is recommended for 4-8.

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Plants Feed Me (2014)

Plants Feed Me

 


This informational picture book is a wonderful way to introduce children to vegetables and fruits. Unless they are gardening themselves, children (and often grown-ups as well) find themselves several steps removed from the contents of their salads.  Where does all that green stuff come from? What part of the plant are we eating? Are potatoes roots or tubers? What about carrots, parsnips and beets? We have all heard about tomatoes being fruits, but what about pumpkins, peppers and eggplants? This book is for anyone who has ever wondered (or is wondering now) where exactly did that salad come from?

 

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Monkey and Elephant Go Gadding

(2014)
Monkey and Elephant Go Gadding

 

Monkey and Elephant are all washed up with no place to go!  They look way too nice to stay home.  Monkey suggests they go gadding.  What is gadding, you say?  Gadding, "is walking along, looking around, finding something fun, stopping awhile, then moving on."  They first meet Elephant's Uncle Phump and get a nice surprise from him, and next run into Monkey's cousin MeeMee.  Another Surprise!  MeeMee has a new family, with three baby monkeys. Monkey and Elephant have had a great day of fun surprises.  This is the third book in the Monkey and Elephant series.  Great series for students who are past Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books and are at the Frog and Toad level. 

Don't miss the original Monkey and Elephant,

or the second book, Monkey and Elephant Get Better.

 

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Chitchat

Celebrating the World's Languages (2013)
Chitchat

 

Right now, about 7,000 language are spoken on Planet Earth.  However linguists believe that at one time at least 140,000 languages have been spoken at some time.  The topic of language extinction is only one of the fascinating topics covered in this fun informational text for older elementary age students.  Did you know that some languages don't even have a word for blue?  Others, like Russian, have words that sound nothing alike for the different shades of blue.  The book also talks about how words come into existence:  Shakespeare came up with the phrase "the world is my oyster". Technological developments have forced new words to be invented.  Sometimes we'll borrow words from other languages, blend two words into one, or make acronyms.  The people who write dictionaries will wait several years before adding a new word to the dictionary, to make sure that the word isn't just a fad.  Another fun part of the book talks about invented languages, like Klingon.  Did you know there are more than 20 people in the world who speak Klingon fluently?!  If you like words and playing with language, this is the book for you! 

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Mary Walker Wears the Pants

The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero (2013)
Mary Walker Wears the Pants

 

Mary Walker received her medical degree in 1855 and was one of the very first women to be a doctor, but was only allowed to be a volunteer in the Civil War at first.  In 1863 she was finally commissioned as an assistant surgeon for the Union Army.  In 1864 she was captured by the Confederate Army and thought to be a spy, thus imprisoned in "Castle Thunder" for several months until exchanged for a Confederate surgeon.  In 1866, Mary received a letter from President Andrew Johnson honoring her with the Medal of Honor for meritorious services.  No woman had ever received such an honor.  An extensive author's note tells more about Mary and details her fashion ideas about women wearing trousers.  I was astonished to learn that in 1917 Congress ordered Mary and 910 other Medal of Honor recipients to return their Medals because they had not been in "actual combat with the enemy".  Mary however, would not return her medal.  In 1977, President Jimmy Carter restored the Medal to Dr. Mary Walker. 

For extensive information about Mary, read Dr. Mary Edwards Walker: Civil War Surgeon & Medal of Honor Recipient.

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