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.

Bluffton

My Summers With Buster (2013)
Bluffton

 

Vaudeville performers descend upon Bluffton, Michigan during the summer of 1908, right next to Henry's town of Muskegon.  Henry is fascinated by the people and the animals (elephant, zebra) that come.  But he is especially fascinated by a boy just his age--Buster Keaton.  We learn about Buster's role in the family's comedic act, and how their act is even accused of child abuse.  (Buster gets thrown around a lot).  What a fascinating look at the turn of the century vaudeville community.  An author's note explains how Buster Keaton was a real person, and tells a little about his adult life as well.  This graphic novel received starred reviews from Horn Book, Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher's Weekly.  This book is a treat that I recommend for grades 3 and up.

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The Kite that Bridged Two Nations (2013)

The Kite That Bridged Two Nations

 

It was 1847 and sixteen-year-old Homan Walsh was reputed to be the best kite flyer in Niagara Falls. That same year, Charles Ellet Jr. was hired to build a suspension bridge connecting the United States and Canada two and a half miles north of Niagara Falls. Charles and his engineers wondered how they could string the first wire across the tumultuous water. To solve this dilemma; Charles Ellet Jr. held a kite flying competition. The first boy to fly his kite from one side to the other would win a cash prize, and his kite string would be the guide for the first wire. This is the story of Homan Walsh, the kite he built and named Union and one cold, icy January where he ferried to Canada and tromped two miles north through the snow to see if his kite could make it the 800 ft back to the United States.

 

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Ballad

(2013)
Ballad

 

Ballad was originally published as Romance in France in 2013.  At the APL its cataloged as a graphic novel, but it doesn't follow the traditional graphic novel format.  Ballad is a small picture book, with one short phrase per page (the school, the road, home).  Each page presents one singular plotpoint.  The book begins simply enough with a child simply walking home from school, but soon turns into a fairy tale with strangers, barges, soldiers, and all sorts of plotpoints popping up.  Soon text and illustration are upside-down and jumbled, and text even disappears for awhile ("the ___"), leaving the reader to interpret the illustrations to know what is going on.  It's an exciting book that begs for the pages to be turned and the story to be told.  Nowhere in the book does it say how Blexbolex created the illustrations, however, according to Enchanted Lion (the US publisher of Ballad), Blexbolex is an accomplished silk-screen artist.  Recommended for 3rd grade students and up and for those with highly active imaginations!

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The Johnstown Flood

an Up2U Historical Fiction Adventure (2014)
The Johnstown Flood

 

This historical fiction chapter book for grades 2-4 features a young girl named Sarah Beth and her friend Vincent as they try to save what they can from their home from the flood that will soon come to Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  I was looking forward to this book, knowing that it was a "choose your own adventure" type story, however I was disappointed that there are only three possible endings in the story.  The reading is easy and the story is straightforward.  For more about the Johnstown Flood, try Johnstown flood : the day the dam burst.

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Moonday (2013)

Moonday

 

Have you ever driven home late at night when there is a full moon? Have you ever “whispered words like big and beautiful” when you see “[t]he moon hung full and low and touch[ing] the tips of the trees?” Have you ever woken up the morning after such a drive and discovered that the moon had followed you home and was now in your backyard? What if that moon stayed in your backyard and the sun never rose? What if your town sleep walked through the day and that evening the tide pooled in your backyard? Imagine how you might feel and what you might do. Maybe even draw a picture or write a story about it. Then read this book, and then take a nap and dream of the moon and of what you read and what you wrote. When you wake up, you might find you have another story to tell.

 

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Navigating Early

2013

This is a story about the intersecting lives of two boys living at a boarding school in Maine.  Jack’s father, a military man, enrolled thirteen-year-old Jack in boarding school after his mother died.  There, Jack meets Early Auden, a socially isolated numerical savant who has lost his entire family.  Jack is surprised to learn that one of the school’s legendary athletes who reportedly died in battle, was Early’s older brother.  Meanwhile, Early is fixated on the number “Pi” as he unravels a fantastic story about the infinite numbers that follow 3.14.  When all the other school boys go home to family during break, Jack joins Early on wilderness adventure that begins on a row boat.  As the journey unfolds, Jack discovers eerie parallels between their unfolding adventure and Early’s story of Pi, blurring lines between reality and imagination. This is a coming of age story about the endurance of the human spirit.  The interwoven plot, action, intrigue and humor keep this picturesque novel moving along to a satisfying conclusion. This is a 2013-2014 Read On Wisconsin book. Highly recommended for grades 5-8.

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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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