Staff Picks for Children

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

Zero Tolerance

(2013)
Zero Tolerance

 

This thought-provoking novel about  seventh grade student Sierra Shepard would be an excellent choice for a class read-aloud or book club.  When honor student Sierra accidentally takes her mom's lunch to school instead of her own, she discovers a paring knife inside the lunchbag.  Knowing that the knife isn't allowed, she immediately turns it in, thinking that its the right thing to do, but is surprised to be immediately taken to the office and handed over to the principal.  The school has a zero-tolerance policy for weapons and drugs.  No exceptions. No excuses.  Sierra is surprised to find herself in trouble, after all, didn't she do the right thing by turning in the knife right away? Sierra's father, a high-powered attorney, takes charge and gets Sierra local and nationwide news coverage.   Sierra begins to spend each school day in in-school suspension while waiting for her case to be resolved, and she begins to forge a new friendship, all the while questioning what is wrong and right.  Will Sierra be able to return to class as usual?  Or will zero tolerance stand?  This book is recommended for students in 6th through 8th grade.

For more information about zero tolerance policies, go to http://www.apl.org/e/a-z and choose Opposing Viewpoints in Context.  If you are outside the library you will need to enter your library card number.  Enter "zero tolerance" as your search terms and you will find numerous articles on the topic.

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Jane, the Fox & Me

(2013)

 

Jokes about her weight and laughter behind her back as she passes groups of students in the halls replace Hélène’s friends. In her thoughts, Hélène replays each cruel remark from her peers until she believes each statement to be true. There is no one to share how she feels or what is being said. She is alone in a stark gray world.

To escape, Hélène begins to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. She finds a friend in Jane, and meeting Jane is only the beginning. After a chance encounter with a fox on a camping trip and forming a new friendship with a classmate named Géraldine, Hélène recognizes that she is more than what she lets herself accept. Through these meaningful connections, blues, greens and yellows dance across the page and brighten Hélène’s world of gray for good.

Jane, the Fox & Me is a touching and honest portrayal of how we view ourselves and how connections with others affect our self-perceptions for better or for worse. Recommended for 6th grade and up.

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Island of Silence

Book 2 of the Unwanteds
cover for Island of Silence


Alex Stowe, and his Artimé friends, Lani, Samheed and Megan are recovering from the battle with Quill and learning to adapt now that the barrier between the two areas is down.  But peace is not easily obtained.  The conflict centers on the differences between the twin brothers Alex and Aaron.  With the High Priest Justine overthrown Mr. Today is trying to work with the new High Priest Haluki to bring about peace. But Aaron is leading the Wanteds who are angry at having to do their own work to repel and fight again.  Alex is being trained by Mr. Today to become the leader of Artimé, but Alex is unsure of himself.  The task ahead of them is helping the Necessaries adapt to their new life in Artimé,

Things get more complicated when two strange orange eyed kids show up on the shore of Artimé.  Questions arise that Alex and his friends must find the answers: who are these children?  where do they come from? and why do they wear a choker of thorns around their necks that are preventing them from talking?  These children are clues to one of the islands to the West.  This island known as Warbler use to be Mr. Today’s home before he came to Quill.  He now wants to return for a vacation and he wants Alex to take over as leader.  These new twists add more story as each Stowe twin figures out their next move.  Who will prevail?  Can the two worlds ever live in harmony?  These are just a few of the questions that need answers.  After a devastating cliff-hanger where all that was won is seemingly lost, and the fate of several central characters is uncertain it is clear that there are many scores still to settle and secrets yet to be revealed.

This story was a very interesting fantasy with Hunger Games and Harry Potter similarities, but differently its own.  I would recommend it to ages 11-15 who enjoy magical adventures.

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I Scream Ice Cream

A Book of Wordles (2013)
I Scream Ice Cream

What’s a “wordle?”  According to creators Rosenthal and Bloch, wordles are “groups of words that sound exactly the same but mean different things,” such as “I scream,” and “ice cream”; “Heroes,” and “He rows.” This setup is followed by a baker’s dozen of wordles.  One of my favorites is a fellow shouting, while being chased by two deer with big antlers, “I scream!  Two bucks!” followed by an ice cream vendor selling “Ice cream, two bucks!”  Other favorites include characters from fairy tales, and a little plug for Rosenthal’s book Little Pea.  The charming, mixed-media pictures help describe the people and actions of each group of wordles, in a silly but witty cartoon modern style that goes wonderfully with the text.  Most wordle sets are divided by a turn of the page, which allows the reader to guess the second part of the two wordles after reading the first.  It inspired me to make up my own wordles too! “No word? Dull! Know Wordle!”

This book is recommended for kids ages 5-10, or anyone who loves wordplay!  Also recommended is Rosenthal’s 2013 book Exclamation Mark! and 2012 book Wumbers (with words cre8ed with numbers), both illustr8ed by Tom Lichtenheld!

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The Year of Billy Miller

(2013)
The Year of Billy Miller

 

Billy Miller is about to enter the 2nd grade and is a little worried due to a mishap over the summer which left him with a bump on the head.  Until his teacher tells him he is smart, that is.  This book is broken into four sections: teacher, father, sister, mother, each focusing on Billy's relationship with that person.  The story is filled with funny episodes reminiscent of Ramona Quimby, and while the book is over 200 pages, its not out of reach of all second graders.  This would be an excellent read-aloud for classrooms as well.  I recommend this book for 2nd grade and up, and as a read-aloud.

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That Is Not a Good Idea!

(2013)

 

Mo Willems takes a familiar tale and adds his signature style. In That is Not a Good Idea!, fox sees a goose and pursues the sweet, innocent creature for his next meal. Step by step, the fox lures the goose farther away from her home until the couple eventually ends up alone in the fox’s kitchen with a pot of boiling water. Building the tension, a gaggle of goslings pop into the action reminding the reader “That is not a good idea!” Will the fox succeed in his devious plot or will the goose be rescued from this evil villain? Remember that this is Mo Willems’ world, and everything is not always what it seems.

Willems adds a twist to the standard tale by setting it to the visuals of silent film. The characters actions are overdramatic and intentional. The dialogue becomes white text on a black background framed in elaborate curlicue lines. And, if you look close enough, you will find Willems’ Pigeon hidden among the illustrations! 

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Moon Bear (2010)

 

Gently explaining the habits of moon bears, this beautifully illustrated book begins with a “Sleepy moon bear, waking up from a long winter snooze.” It follows the bear as she hunts for food, marks her territory and eventually curls back up for another winter nap. This lyric tale is an excellent introduction to moon bears for the youngest of readers. The author’s note includes information about the rescue work being done in China and Vietnam and shows pictures of some very happy rescued moon bears.

 

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When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot (2013)
When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

 

This informational picture book tells the fabulous story of how "The Rite of Spring" ballet came to be.  Igor Stravinsky was a traditional composer and Vaslav Nijinsky was an extraordinary Russian ballet dancer, but when they met in 1911, they decided to collaborate on a new ballet.  The music of this ballet, "The Rite of Spring", was based upon the Russian folk songs Stravinsky's past, and the dances were inspired by Russian folk dances.  During the first performance, some in the audience began to boo.  Others began to support the dancers.  According to extensive notes from the author, shouts and fistfights in the aisles soon followed.  A riot broke out and police needed to assist.  All over a new piece of music!  The illustrations are bright and vibrant and reference many of the author/illustrator's favorite paintings from that time period.  To hear this piece of music yourself, click here.  This book received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly--quite a feat!  Highly recommended.

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Cheese Belongs to You

(2013)
Cheese Belongs to You

 

A cute little rat with a red bow announces at the very beginning of this book that rat law declares:cheese belongs to you.  Unless a big rat wants it.  Unless a bigger rat wants it.  And so on.  This cumulative tale gets sillier and sillier as rats get hairier and stronger and dirtier.  And finally, the cheese once again belongs to the rat with the pretty red bow, which is rat law, who is kind enough to share it with all of her rat friends.  This innovative book is good for preschool storytimes, as well as for sharing with early elementary age students. 

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The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

(2013)

 

Kate was a little girl growing up in northern California in the mid-1800’s. She loved to get her hands dirty and study science - even though girls weren’t supposed to do either at this time. When she graduated from college, Kate moved to San Diego and became a teacher. Surprised by the desert terrain, Kate carefully researched plants and trees that grow in arid climates. Eventually, she transformed the landscape of San Diego into a lush garden oasis.

In this non-fiction picture book, the illustrations fully support the text allowing viewers to see the contrast between the forests of northern California to the desert terrain of San Diego. Tiny details like muddy handprints, leaves with labels of their scientific names and images plant cells from a microscope give readers a sense of how Kate researched and observed the world. Recommended for elementary students in Grades 1 through 3.

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Flora and the Flamingo

(2013)

 

In this wordless picture book, an unlikely friendship is formed between a little girl and pale, pink flamingo. Flora sneaks up on an unsuspecting flamingo and begins to mimic its movements. After a misstep or two, the flamingo becomes a patient teacher and eventual partner in a synchronized dance with Flora. The interactive flaps immerse the reader into the story and reveal humorous interactions between Flora and the flamingo. With graceful lines and delicate hues of pinks and yellows, the reader’s imagination creates the music that Flora and the flamingo dance to (along with a couple of giggles from Flora and squawks from the flamingo) .

Recommended for Preschool through Grade 2.

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