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.

Blue Fire

Book II of The Healing Wars Series
Blue Fire book cover

This story follows where The Shifter ended.  In Blue Fire, our heroine, 15-year-old Nya, begins with the same goal that she had in The Shifter – to keep the people she loves safe.  Unfortunately, because of her unique ability to shift pain from one person to another, this is tougher than it sounds.  Tali, Nya’s sister, and the other takers are hiding in Geveg from the evil invading Duke of Baser.  He is hunting for Nya and the takers to use their skills in his pain experiments.  Now Nya must go undercover in order to help protect the ones she loves and also the people of her hometown, Geveg.  As in the first book, Nya must make difficult decisions that may hurt or even kill others.  She must face her own war raging inside her when forced to use her healing powers to injure and kill.

While selling goods at the markets, she tries to help a street urchin and gets captured by kidnappers sent by the Duke.  After escaping, Nya sets out to free her imprisoned friends and sister.  With the help of an underground group of fighters Nya is involved in a series of dangerous activities.

New characters include the street gang, Ceun and Quenji; the underground fighters and its’ leader, Onderaan; and Vyand, the tracker sent to capture Nya.  There are some interesting discoveries that Nya encounters in her relationships with the underground fighters.  Her old friends stand by her and their characters become even stronger than in the first book.

This is a very action-packed fantasy that will leave you thinking about such issues as what is right or wrong, whether to hurt someone or run from responsibility.  Nya’s character is very similar to the heroine of the Hunger Games, Katniss.  The two series are very similar in that the heroine becomes a symbol for freedom.  The story ends with more of a cliffhanger than the first, with more loose ends to tie up, but it leads right into book three, Darkfall.  This story is very satisfying on its own and can be read without reading the first book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a fantasy full of adventure, intrigue, and mind challenges.  It is a book about morals and values being challenged and teens facing difficult decisions and becoming stronger in character.

I would recommend this book for grades 5 through 9.

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When Thunder Comes

Poems for Civil Rights Leaders (2013)
When Thunder Comes


"I was a typist, nothing more. I loved my life, I hated war.

But it was war that stole from me my job, my life, serenity."

This poem, "The Captive", is about Mitsuye Endo, a woman who protested the removal of her civil rights during World War II when all Japanese-Americans were moved into relocation camps.   All of the poems in J. Patrick Lewis' book are about civil rights activists, and are illustrated by five different illustrators.  Most of the illustrations consist of muted tones, but a few are bright and colorful. People honored with poems include Josh Gibson, Emmett Till's mother, Harvey Milk, Nelson Mandela, and Jackie Robinson.   Author's notes at the end of the book fill in details about who each person is and how they made a difference. 

Publisher's Weekly and Booklist gave this book starred reviews, and I give it high praise as well.

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Take Me Out to the Yakyu

Take Me Out to the Yakyu


As a children's librarian, there are a couple different subjects that can be difficult to find for very  young children.  This book, Take Me Out to the Yakyu, takes care of two of those subjects, sports and other cultures.  The book teaches young children all about baseball, and teaches older children what kind of differences can be found between baseball and yakyu, as well as the multitude of similarities.  The left hand side of each page is a description of American baseball, and the right hand side is about Japanese yakyu.   Children who love baseball and children who are into Japanese culture will enjoy reading this book.  The illustrations had to grow on me, but I really like them now after reading the book more than once.  The book deservedly received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews.

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Never Too Young for Jane Austen!


 Part of the BabyLit® series, these adorable board books are fun for Austen fans of all ages.

Pride and Prejudice

Beginning with 1 English village, continuing with 5 sisters and ending with 10,000 lbs a year, this counting primer highlights some of the important numbers in Pride and Prejudice. Filled with allusions and tongue in cheek humor, this is a board book Austen lovers won’t mind reading to their little ones again and again.


Sense & Sensibility


Sense and Sensibility

 Touching upon the difference between Eleanor and Marianne at the heart of Sense and Sensibility, this book of opposites provides examples such as “Big (Norland Park)” vs. “Little (Barton College),” “Happy (Willoughby)” vs. “Sad (Colonel Brandon)” and “Noisy (Marianne playing the piano)” vs. “Quiet (the piano without Marianne).” You can expand your discussion of opposites and show your child the differences between your well worn copy of Sense and Sensibility and this adorable board book. Before long, you and your little one will be debating the relative merits of Edward, Willoughby and Colonel Brandon!



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I found this book on a table near the new book shelves at the library.  I picked it up in order to put it back on the shelf, but the cover caught my eye.  I peeked inside, and before I knew it, I was off on an adventure complete with danger, magic, aliens, robots, monsters, mutants, battles, humor, and a tiny bit of romance (but not too much).

Out of work and luck, widower Mike can't afford more than an empty cardboard box for his son Cam's birthday present.  Despite jeers from spoiled, creepy neighbor Marcus, Mike brings it home with an invitation to help Cam make something cool out of it.  But they soon discover that this is no ordinary cardboard.  And it doesn’t take long for Marcus to learn their secret.   What will Marcus do with his newfound knowledge?  What does Old Man Gideon know about the magical powers the cardboard possesses?  Will Mike and Cam be able to gain control of the situation they have unwittingly unleashed?

While the emphasis is on the action, the subplots of the relationships of Cam and his dad, their neighbors and each other give the story warmth, dimension and believability. TenNapel adeptly uses both intricate lines and high contrast in his inking (as well as just the right amount of color), to create many moods, from dramatic to comic, from realistic to fantastical.  The themes of using imagination and originality, and separating fantasy from reality, may spark a discussion among those who wish it.  But the fast moving, action-packed plot and illustrations make it ideal for someone looking for a fast but good read.  It may also inspire a cardboard craft project!

Readers who enjoy Cardboard will no doubt enjoy Tommysaurus Rex, the latest graphic novel by this author/artist.

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Jane Eyre & Wuthering Heights

A Counting Primer (2012) & A Weather Primer (2013)
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights


The Little Miss Bronte series, part of the BabyLit book series published by Gibbs Smith, are an elegant way to introduce the youngest child to the world of classical literature.  Jane Eyre is a counting primer, and counts drawings, trees, pearls, and books, with quotes interspersed, such as "this book I had again and again perused with delight".

Wuthering Heights is a weather primer, so for breezy, the quote is "the weather was sweet and warm" and for stormy we read, "the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury." 

Oliver's art is charming in its complicated simplicity.  These books are first purchases for fans of the originals who just can't wait to share their love of the classics with their child.

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Robot Dreams

Robot Dreams


In Robot Dreams, Dog wants a friend, so he orders a robot which comes in a box, which Dog then assembles.  The two visit the library, eat popcorn, check out travel books, and visit the beach where they frolic in the water.  Robot rusts through and is immobile.  Dog is sadly forced to leave Robot behind.  He find many new friends, but no one like Robot.  Robot experiences all the seasons and discovers himself being sold for scrap.  Dog purchases another boxed robot for a friend (which he stops from going into the water at the beach), and a raccoon discover Robot's head at the scrapyard which he re-purposes into a radio-friend.  This wordless graphic novel reads quickly and the reader can easily tell the emotions of the characters.

This book received starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.  It found its way onto Kirkus' Best Books list.  Graphic novels are fun for reluctant readers and proficient readers alike, and this book receives high praise from me.


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Hoop Genius

How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball (2013)
Hoop Genius


In 1891 James Naismith invented basketball.  But why would anyone invent a new sport?  Because the rowdy class of teenage boys they were teaching couldn't handle indoor football, indoor soccer, or indoor lacrosse.  Naismith wanted a game where tackling would not be allowed.  He started out with a soccer ball and two peach baskets and taught his students the game.  There were lots of fouls, and only one basket, and nobody wanted the game to end.  When the students went home they taught the game to their families and friends, and women started playing too. 

In 1936 basketball became an Olympic sport.  John Coy wrote an insightful author's note with additional information about James Naismith.  A bibliography is included.  The end papers are made of the original typed rules of basketball.  The book received a starred review from Horn Book Magazine and is highly recommended.

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The Shifter

The Shifter bookcover

Book 1 of the Healing Wars series

This story takes place in a world at war and where certain children have the ability to heal people by taking their pain and transferring it into a pynvium, a metal container used to store the pain. Nya and her sister, Tali, are orphans and they each have this gift of healing.  But Nya’s skill is different from Tali’s, in that it is flawed.  She cannot shift the pain into the pynvium, she can only shift it into another person.  Known as Takers, the girls can extract pain from the injured. Since Tali can push that pain into pynvium she becomes an apprentice for the Healer’s League, but Nya, who can only transfer pain to herself or others, must survive on her own.  She’s hunted by those eager to exploit her ability for their own purpose.  They are determined to make her a weapon, a killer, even a symbol for the war that’s brewing.  Thus Nya must learn to keep her skill a secret.

The story has one main plot but many conflicts that will affect the outcome for Nya and Tali.  All Nya wants is to protect her family and regain her people’s freedom, but the more she’s drawn into the plans of others, the more she realizes how important to everyone’s victory she really is. She realizes how much she’ll have to sacrifice just to survive. 

After a ferry accident cripples the city, Nya discovers that the league is kidnapping apprentices (including Tali) and overloading them with pain. When a young soldier discovers Nya’s secret and begs her to save his dying father she is forced to choose between protecting herself and acknowledging her ability to save others and perhaps her entire city.  Nya wrestles with guilt as she makes choices to save Tali and the others.  She is faced with the dilemma as to who will live or die because of her power.  Her closest friends and allies are Aylin, a former employee of the Duke, and Danello, the boy whose father she saves. 

Fantasy fans and those who just love a good story will enjoy this fast-paced novel and will eagerly await book two.

I would recommend this book for grades 5 through 10.

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Knit Your Bit

A World War I Story (2013)
Knit Your Bit


"Knit Your Bit" was a slogan of the American Red Cross during World War I when the Red Cross decided there would not be enough warm clothes for the soldiers over the cold winter in Europe.  Men, women, and children began knitting for soldiers.  There really was a "knit-in" at Central Park in New York City on July 30, 1918, which is the setting for this fabulous historical fiction. 

When Mikey's dad leaves to go overseas for the war Mikey wants to go too, because he's brave.  His dad points out that he needs to be brave to stay home too.  Mikey and his friends are dared to enter the knitting bee and they take the dare.  Mikey learns to make socks, sort of.  He finally makes one perfect sock, but can't make a perfect sock to match, and finds just the right thing to do with his one perfect sock. 

The illustrations remind me of Lois Lenski's work and there are five photographs on the end papers of knitting and sheep.  Hopkinson also includes a fascinating author's note.

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My Dad Thinks He’s Funny

My Dad Thinks He's Funny
Saturday is Dadurday
Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle
Giddy-Up Daddy!
Just Like My Papa
Baby Barbells the Dad’s Guide to Fitness and Fathering
Daddy Loves Me


Father’s Day may be over, but dads are still awesome. Check out these fun picture books about (and for) fathers.

My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein
Is your dad always making bad jokes and horrible puns? Does he make you sigh, or groan or roll your eyes?   If so, then this is the book for you! Just be careful….you might start thinking these jokes are funny too!

Saturday is Dadurday by Robin Pulver

Have you ever had a special day with dad? A wonderful time that just the two of you shared?  In this story, every Saturday Mimi and her father have amazing adventures. They make special silly pancakes, ride bikes and play checkers. But then Mimi’s father has to start working on Saturdays and suddenly Dadurday becomes BADurday! What will Mimi do to make it Dadurday again?

 Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka

In this book, a young girl learns to ride a bicycle under the watchful eye of her father. She learns about training wheels, about falling down and getting up and, finally, about the thrill of success.


Giddy-Up Daddy! By Troy Cummings

The dad in this book is really, “really good at playing horsey.” He is so good, in fact, that horse rustlers decide they want to steal him. It is up to two enterprising youngsters to track down their horsey, help him elude the thieves and still be home in time for sunset….also known as dinner.

 Just Like My Papa by Toni Buzzeo

This is the story of a little lion cub named Kito who wants to be just like his father when he grows up. When his papa roars, the savannah is silent, but when Kito roars, the hyena still chuckles. When papa waves his tail, the flies are swept away, but when Kito waves his tail the flies buzz closer and closer. Kito isn’t worried, though, because he knows that, “Someday [he] will be King, just like [his] papa.”

 Baby Barbells: the Dad’s Guide to Fitness and Fathering by Joshua Levitt

The perfect read for busy new dads, this book shows how babies are the perfect weights and playtime for baby can become workout time for daddy.


 Daddy Loves Me by Dawn Sirett

This board book shows pictures of dads and their little ones. Sweet enough to warm the heart, sturdy enough to survive little hands, this is a perfect book for baby’s and father’s to read together.





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