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.

One Came Home

2013

It's the summer of 1871 in the small town of Placid, Wisconsin when 13 year old Georgia Burkhardt, a rugged girl with a bullseye shot, sets out to find the truth behind her older sister, Agatha's disappearance.  Georgia knew that she had something to do with her sister's broken engagement to a wealthy older gentleman but Georgia didn't expect Agatha to run off like that.  After the town sheriff is sent to find Agatha and bring her home, he returns with an unrecognizable body wearing Agatha's dress.  Everyone in the family but Georgia, accepts that Agatha is dead.  Georgia sneaks off in the heat of the summer on a mule with one of her sister's former suitors, Billy McCabe to solve the mystery.  On the way, Georgia discovers that she herself has some romantic feelings toward Billy McCabe.  She also discovers evidence about the band of people her sister had run into before she disappeared and that shooting people is far more difficult than shooting pigeons.  Author Amy Timbelake weaves this story between two historical Wisconsin events of 1871, the largest recorded nesting of passenger pigeons that spring and the Great Fire that fall.  Readers of many different genres will enjoy this strange mix of Historical Fiction, Mystery, Adventure, Romance and Western.  Find a comfortable seat. Recommended for grade 5-8.

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The Misadventures of Salem Hyde

Spelling Trouble (2013)
The Misadventures of Salem Hyde

 

On the first pages of this graphic novel for younger readers, Salem Hyde turns her school crossing guard into a dinosaur.  Salem's parents don't have magical powers so they ask her Aunt Martha for advice:  Salem needs an animal companion.  Salem really wants a unicorn, so when Percival J. Whamsford III, M.A.C. (magical animal companion) shows up at the door she is not thrilled.  Whammy writes up a standard contract with the family to teach Salem how to use her witching abilities.  Fast forward to the school spelling bee--Salem thinks that Whammy has quit, she casts a spell to help her win the spelling bee which turns out disastrous until Whammy returns to save the day.  Number 2 in the Salem Hyde series will be debuting in May of 2014.  Recommended for 2nd grade and up.

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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

(2013)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

 

The town of Alexandriaville has been without a public library for 12 years. That was until Mr. Lemoncello, a world renowned game maker, designed a state of the art facility for the community. In celebration of the library’s grand opening, a committee selected a dozen of the town’s twelve year olds to spend the night in the new building. Little did this group know that their overnight in the library would turn into an adventurous game to escape the building. With the help of the Dewey Decimal system, endless twists and turns and numerous references to classic and contemporary children’s literature, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a book for readers who love books, libraries and a good game. Recommended for 4th grade through 7th grade.

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The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius (2013)

The Mad Potter : George E Ohr, Eccentric Genius

 

 

 This biography, a Sibert Honor recipient, introduces readers to a little known, but unforgettable artist.

George E. Ohr’s father was a blacksmith, but George, eccentric and free spirited, couldn’t agree with his father and didn’t want to work in the forge. Describing himself as a “rankey krankey solid individualist,” he eventually became a potter and began making both traditional items and colorful, twisty creations he called “mud babies.” Despite becoming famous locally for his personality, no one was interested in buying his artistic creations. He continued to make them claiming, “I am making pots for art sake,…when I’m gone my work will be prized, honored and cherished.”  Years after his death, his pots were discovered by an antiques dealer. Now interested viewers may visit the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi to see the work of someone who may have been as great an artist as he claimed to be all along.

 

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Dead City

(2012
cover for Dead City

 

Zombies in Manhattan! Who would guess? There are different levels of the “undead” (they do not like the word Zombie) living in the world amongst the living.  But the “undead” aren’t just normal zombies in this book.   They can speak, think, and have emotion depending on the level of the Zombie.   A new twist is making the undead emotional, feeling creatures - some of which are just trying to live peacefully among humans. But some zombies are trouble makers and that’s where the Omega Society comes into play.  It is now Molly and her team's job to gather clues, solve puzzles, and track down the evil undead.

Molly Bigelow, a seventh grader, learns about the existence of the “undead” from her classmates.  She is recruited into an organization called the Omega, a secret group that both protects and fights the “Undead” Of New York.  All of the members follow the rules of CLAP: keep Calm, Listen, Avoid physical confrontation and Punish. 

New York City has been under siege by zombies ever since 13 workers were killed while digging subway tunnels in 1896.  The zombies acquire their strength from a special rock found under Manhattan. Thus the Omegas need to keep track of these undead and protect the city.

During Molly’s training, she learns that her mother was an Omega.  She realizes that her mother had her take martial arts classes and memorize the periodic table in order to follow in her footsteps.  The Omegas use the Periodic Table of Elements to construct codes.  After extensive training Molly is ready to conquer any challenge thrown her way.  When the evil Marek shows up and puts the city in danger, Molly is ready to defend herself.

This is definitely a fast-paced, fun adventure story for middle school age students in 5th through 7th grade who love books about zombies.  The story moves along at a good pace and has plenty of plot twists to keep things interesting.  The ending leads towards a sequel.

I would recommend this book for students in 5th through 7th grade.

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Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year

(2013)
Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year

Charlie Bumpers is sure he’s doomed!  It’s bad enough he’s the middle kid between a smart-aleck brother and a (sometimes) pesky little sister. But he’s starting his 4th grade year with all-white back-to-school shoes, he and his best friend Tommy are in separate classes for the first time ever, and—worst of all—he’s stuck with Teacher of the Year Mrs. Burke, the strictest in the whole school!  She’s the same teacher that Charlie accidentally beaned with a shoe the year before—and she hasn’t forgotten!  In fact, she’s got her eye on him: “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers.”  In spite of his good intentions and efforts to behave: avoiding bully trouble, making friends with the new classmate, helping younger kids on the playground, fixing an art project, Charlie can’t seem to help getting into trouble.  Will he ever be able to get back on good footing (shoes on) with Mrs. Burke?  Or will he end up staying in at recess for the rest of his life?

Told in the first person, and very much from a kid point of view, the story reveals Charlie to be funny, thoughtful, and likeable, if not always sensible. Young readers will relate to his worries and predicaments, and root for him and his friends.  The book includes a preview for the next Charlie Bumpers adventure.  Author and Grammy Award-winning musician Harley has created a backstory about Charlie, as well as a cool music video featuring the book’s great ink and watercolor illustrations by Adam Gustavson.   You can find it at http://charliebumpers.com/music.html

 This book is recommended for ages 7-10.

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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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