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.

Bowling Alley Bandit

(2013)
Bowling Alley Bandit

 

Arnie the Doughnut was first introduced in 2003 by Laurie Keller as a picture book.  Now he's back in a chapter book for early readers, in what is to be a planned series.  Readers may remember that Mr. Bing decided not to eat Arnie for breakfast, but instead make him into a doughnut dog.  Arnie accompanies Mr. Bing everywhere, including to his bowling league, where he is competing in the 62nd Annual Lemon Lanes Bowling Championship.   Mr. Bing is doing a great job bowling, and his team is in first place, until Mr. Bing starts throwing gutter balls.  Arnie solves the mystery of the gutter balls and is off to save the day.  The book is filled with fun illustrations, dialogue bubbles, and regular text.  The next Arnie the Doughnut chapter book is due out February of 2014.  Until then, if you haven't read the original picture book, check that out too!

 

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Double Vision

(2012)
Bookcover for Double Vision

This story is about a boy named Linc, who becomes a spy because his look-alike was a missing agent from a top secret operation team named “Pandora”.  Lincoln Baker, a 12-year-old, is one of those kids who means well but is constantly in trouble.  On a field trip to a chicken farm, Linc feels bad for the chickens all cooped up so he decides to let them loose.  Now the school wants to expel him, the farmer wants to sue his family for damages, and his best friend puts his picture with bird poop on his head on YouTube.  This is how he is noticed by the Pandora team.

Agents Stark and Fullerton arrive at Linc’s home and persuade him to help them.  In return they will clean up the mess with the chicken farmer and his school.  They have this missing agent, Benjamin Green, who must meet someone in Paris to retrieve a package and they want Linc to take over for this agent.

Linc is trained and sent to Paris where the one assignment turns into a race around Paris, a search for a stolen evil Mona Lisa painting, dealing with a French family, dodging bad guys, and solving puzzles and ciphers.  Linc has no idea what is in store for him and how dangerous things can really become.

The story is filled with action and suspense, and realistic characters.  Henry is a perfect geek with his knack for inventing spy gadgets.  Francoise becomes involved with Linc in the hunt for the evil Mona Lisa painting.  Together they follow the clues and decipher the codes left by Francoise’s father concerning the painting.

Boys and girls will enjoy this book and love the action, the mystery, the code breaking and the edge-of-your-seat adventures.  The story is similar to the movies of Agent Cody Banks and the Spy Kids series. The ending leads you to believe that a sequel is in the makes because Agent Stark appears at Linc’s door several weeks later.

I would recommend this story for ages 9 – 12 and grades 5 – 7.

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Ling & Ting Share a Birthday

(2013)
Ling & Ting Share a Birthday

 

Ling & Ting now star in a second book, Ling and Ting Share a Birthday.  These six year old twins may be twins, but they are not exactly the same.  The reader is challenged to look for the differences between them at the very beginning.  Through six short stories the girls receive new shoes, go shopping, bake cakes, make wishes, open gifts, and read a story.  Ling and Ting are delightful characters and I was so happy to see that there was a sequel to Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same.  According to an artist's note, the gouache illustrations were "inspired by 1950s children's textbook illustrations". 

Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly gave Ling & Ting starred reviews, and I do too!

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Zombie Makers

True Stories of Nature's Undead (2013)
Zombie Makers

If you believe that zombies are only in scary stories or movies…think again.  If you are grossed out at the thought of creatures that take over the bodies and brains of other creatures, this review--let alone this book--is not for you.  Just walk away.

Are you still here?  Read on if you dare. Although the zombies in Johnson’s book are not of the “people” kind you might see in a movie, they are creepy enough for even the bravest reader—and they are real, as are the parasitic life forms that invade them.  Featured are various victims, such as a hapless housefly infected with a certain fungus which causes it to stare dazedly and walk with slow, jerky movements as if forced, while the fungus digests the fly from the inside out; or, the unwitting cricket who, paralyzed by the sting of a female jewel wasp, becomes both babysitter and dinner for her young. Each chapter focuses on a zombie trait as exhibited by a host creature, as well as the nature of each zombie maker, and the science behind the story. There are plenty of gruesome photos showing zombie makers—animal, vegetable and even viral--and their prey, accented with oozy, blotchy graphics.  Is there a zombie maker that can change a human brain?  Take a look: you may find that zombies are closer than you think!

Recommended for ages 10-14, perhaps the brave 9-year-old.  Not recommended for the squeamish.

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Fortunately, the Milk

(2013)
Fortunately, the Milk

 

  Milk is good for me. I know this and I try to drink it once in awhile, but I can’t say that I really enjoy it.   The only time I find milk indispensable is when I am eating breakfast cereal. Once, being out of milk, I tried water. In case you were wondering, water is not a good substitute for milk on cereal.

 If anything similar has ever happened to you, then you will understand the dilemma at the beginning of this story. Mom is gone for the weekend and the children find themselves threatened with a milk-less breakfast. Fortunately, dad understands the problem immediately and heads off to buy some more milk. After a long, long time he returns. He has the milk, and he also has…a story.

This delightful adventure is a fun, quick read with something for everyone. There are aliens, pirates and ponies (one with a sparkly mane!). There is a time traveling dinosaur, a volcano and, most important of all...MILK!

 

 

 

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The Big Wet Balloon

(2013)
The Big Wet Balloon

 

In this Level 2 Toon Into Reading book, it is Saturday, and Matilda is determined to show Clemmie, her baby sister, how to spend the day.  There's so much they could do!  But rain is in the forecast, and Clemmie isn't sure about getting wet.  They end up finding lots of fun things to do in the rain, like catching raindrops in their mouths, looking for worms, and just smelling the rain.  When a rainbow comes out, Matilda wants to give it a gift, and decides to give away Clemmie's beloved balloon.  Of course the story finds a way to have a happy ending.  This toon book is great for students who are just learning to read and who love comics.

Liniers is an Argentinean author who has been publishing a comic strip in Argentina for many years.  He has two daughters Matilda and Clementina, and a picture by Matilda is at the back of the book.   This book, created with ink, watercolor, and raindrops, is his first published in the United States.  I'm hoping many more books from Liniers are forthcoming in this country. 

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Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas

A Toon Book (2013)
Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas

 

This Level 2 easy to read comic book (toon book) by Philippe Coudray, an import from France, stars Benjamin Bear and quite often a little bunny.  Each page tells its own short story.  For example, in "Something out of nothing", the bunny announces that it's "impossible to make something out of nothing".  Benjamin Bear says that it's impossible to make one thing, but two things yes!  And he demonstrates by digging a hole.  Now he has a hole in the ground and a mound of dirt next to it.  Or the vignette where bunny suggests to Benjamin Bear that he can't catch a squirrel.  Benjamin chases a squirrel up a tree, then uproots the tree and brings it to the bunny.  These books will be popular with reluctant and avid readers alike and I look forward to reading more adventures about Benjamin Bear.  This volume received starred reviews from Horn Book, School Library Journal, and Booklist.

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Doll Bones

2013

Twelve-years-old Zach tells his lifelong friends Poppy and Alice that he is giving up playing fantasy games with their dolls and action figures, telling them that “you can’t play pretend forever”.   Poppy and Alice don’t know that Zach’s father has thrown his action figures out and told him that “it’s time you grew up”.   However, Poppy tells Zach and Alice that their game can’t be over because she has been haunted by the ghost of a girl who claims that the Great Queen, a bone-china doll locked in her mother’s cabinet, contains the ghost girl’s ashes and the ghost won’t rest until her ashes have been properly buried.  This creepy ghost tale takes them on an adventure that is ultimately about the power of friendship and the price of growing up.  This one will keep you glued to your seat.  Recommended for grades 5-8.

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Helen Keller's Best Friend Belle

(2013)
Helen Keller's Best Friend Belle

 

When Helen Keller was 19 months old, she became ill and became deaf and blind.  Her teacher Anne Sullivan taught her to communicate.  All throughout Helen's life, she loved dogs.  In The Story of My Life, Helen writes about Belle, her companion, and how she tried to teach Belle to spell.  This delightful picture book tells about Helen's life with Belle, including a vignette about Helen discovering five puppies.  One of two different author's notes tells about Helen's fascination with dogs, and the other tells about her life in general.  I recommend this book to young readers to introduce them to the miraculous life of Helen Keller.

 

 

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Curse of the Ancients

Infinity Ring series
Book cover for the Curse of the Ancients

Book four of the Infinity Ring  

In the beginning of the book we find Dak, Riq, and Sera have just travelled to the age of the Maya people, in the middle of a storm.  Like the other books in this series our three heroines are traveling back in time trying to correct the past to save the future world from Cataclysm.  This story looks at the creation and destruction of the Mayan culture, and their greatest legacy the Mayan Codex. As the three time travelers learn about the people around them, they realize that the SQ has distorted the history of the Ancient Mayan civilization. Something feels wrong, as if they are in the wrong year.  Can they save the Mayans and themselves before it is too late?   Will they be able to find the break and fix it in time?  

After Dak is hurt saving a little girl, it is up to Riq, Sera and their new friend Kira to continue with the mission.  Sera has a secret and she can not reveal what she found out when she went ahead in time and saw the future.  She saw the Cataclysm and she knows that she cannot do anything to prevent it while she is stranded with Dak and Riq in the past.  Now there is some urgency added to the series.  They must accomplish their time travels and fix the breaks in order to prevent the Cataclysm.  The constant theme running through the entire series is the thought “Fix the Past, Save the Future”. 

This is a good science fiction story with lots of action and mystery.  The series focuses on historical times and places and helps children understand the past.  These books are a step up from the Magic tree house books and similar to the Haddax’s Misssing series. 

I would recommend this book for grades 3-6 and ages 8 – 12. 

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This is the Rope

A Story from the Great Migration (2013)
This is the Rope

 

I learned from the author's note of this book that the time period between the early 1900s until the mid 1970s was considered "the Great Migration" where more than 6 million African Americans moved from the south to Northern cities such as New York City.  The book is dedicated to those who left the South to move to the North.

 

This book is about three generations and one rope, and is told from the point of view of the third generation, a granddaughter.  It begins with a young girl skipping rope in South Carolina.  The rope is later used to tie down belongings when the young girl, now an adult, moves to New York City.  The rope is eventually used by the second generation, the narrator's mother, to skip rope, until its time to move to college.  The narrator trades her grandmother in the end the old rope for a brand new rope to start jumping rope like her predecessors. 

 

The oil paintings are brightly colored and are highly attractive.  The text is simple enough to share this piece of history with children in lower elementary grades. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

 

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