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.

No Fits, Nilson!

(2013)

Picture a giant teal gorilla with yellow shoes and six watches. That’s Nilson. Now, imagine a small girl with dark bobbed-hair wearing a red jumper and rainbow tights. That’s Amelia.

Nilson and Amelia are best friends. They do everything together from playing music to building towers. Nilson is normally cool until the slightest thing sets him off. If a block wiggles and knocks down his entire structure, Nilson goes from calm and collected to throwing a gorilla-sized tantrum in 0.2 seconds. Trust me - his growl is impressive!

Amelia soothes Nilson’s meltdowns with a combination of gentle reminders (“No fits, Nilson!”), subtle misdirections and promises of their next great adventure. Amelia even masters the “gorilla eye lock” to keep Nilson’s behavior in check. (In case you are interested, OHora offers the 3-step process for this move on his Tumblr page.)

The day arrives when Amelia’s mother takes Amelia and Nilson to run errands. First, Nilson doesn’t want to leave the house. At the post office, there is an EXTREMELY long line. Then, a stranger on the train eats a banana and doesn’t share. Will Nilson be able to refrain from throwing  a fit?

The bold lines and bright colors of the illustrations heighten Nilson’s emotional reactions throughout the book. Preschoolers will connect with Nilson’s experiences and feelings. For more titles by Zachariah OHora, be sure to check out Stop Snoring, Bernard! and The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses.

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America the Beautiful

Together We Stand (2013)
America the Beautiful

 

This beautiful book has ten different illustrators, one for each line of Katharine Lee Bates' famous song "America the Beautiful", including Mary GrandPre, Raul Colon, Bryan Collier, Jon J. Muth, and Yuyi Morales.  Each page also features a quote by a famous former or current President of the United States.  Each page tells a different story of our country through the eyes of that illustrator, with the quote enhancing each page.  At the back of the book is a listing of national landmarks and symbols, the full text of all four verses of America the Beautiful, information about democracy, and about Katharine Lee Bates.  While its not a book to share in a Storytime, its a great book to share in a classroom, studying each quote and scrutinizing each illustration, or to share one on one.

Highly recommended.

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Tito Puente, Mambo King /Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo

(2013)
Tito Puente, Mambo King /Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo

This bilingual English/Spanish book celebrates the life of the great Latin Jazz musician Ernest “Tito” Puente (1923-2000).  Readers learn about Tito in different stages of his life: as a baby (in New York City of Puerto Rican parents), banging out rhythms on pots and pans; as a kid drumming and dancing his way to talent show success (but still finding time to play baseball with the neighborhood kids); as a young man in the Navy serving his country while developing his gift of playing and writing music; and as a professional musician who wins fame, fortune, love and admiration by using his award-winning talents, realizing his dream of becoming the leader of his own orchestra, and inspiring others to dance, play, and enjoy music.  The story is punctuated by a catchy rumba rhythm/ritmo de rumba--¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tic! ¡Tom Tom!- which is also notated in the back of the book.  It lends to the jubilant feel of the story, as do the vibrant, fanciful illustrations.  Artist López uses bright acrylic paints in a wide variety of colors (mixed in recycled Mexican salsa jars!), on sanded boards, distressed for a warm, cozy, textured look.  His portrayal of Tito is of a happy kid in love with the rhythm of life, who grew up being able to keep his love alive, and share it with people the world over. The book also serves as a great introduction to many of the Latin instruments that helped create the unique sound of Puente’s orchestra, as well as the names of other musical legends of Hispanic heritage, including salsa singer Celia Cruz and guitarist Carlos Santana.

Incidentally, the author and artist have won the Puré Belpré Honor Book for Illustration, and the Américas Award for Children's Literature, both for an earlier collaboration, My name is Celia : the life of Celia Cruz = Me llamo Celia : la vida de Celia Cruz.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 to October 15, celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.  Celebrate with these and other books from the library’s Spanish Language Collection.  And to find Tito's music on CD at the library, click here.

Recommended for ages 4-8.

 

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Tap the Magic Tree

Tap the Magic Tree

 

This interactive picture book is nothing but fun from beginning to end.

Presented with a bare tree, the reader is invited to tap the page. A quick page turn reveals that one green leaf has appeared. The reader is invited to tap the tree some more. You can imagine what happens. Next, the reader is asked to rub the tree to make it warm. In the warmth of spring, the tree blossoms.

This picture book encourages children to notice the world around them by allowing them to become active participants in the magic of the changing seasons. In a subtle way, it can also be used to discuss the effect we can have on the world around us. I know I have already learned a very important lesson. Don’t be surprised if in the dead of winter, you see me standing outside the library hopefully tapping on trees.

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Crankee Doodle

2013
Crankee Doodle

 

Crankee Doodle is laugh out loud funny.  When Crankee announces that he is bored, his pony suggests going to town, which Crankee promptly dismisses with a long diatribe about why would he ever want to go to town.  The pony suggests shopping.  Crankee says no.  The pony suggests a feather for Crankee's hat, which Crankee thinks is folly.  When suggested that Crankee call the hat macaroni he goes into a rampage about how feathers don't look macaroni, and when learning that macaroni is just another word for fancy he further rambles on about how lasagna is fancier than macaroni.  After insulting the pony, Crankee decides to make it up to him by going to town after all. 

The author's note at the end is narrated by the pony and is hilarious.  For example, "Macaroni really did mean 'fancy', but I think the real reason they said it is because it rhymes with 'pony'. (That's me! I rhyme!)"  This picture book received starred reviews from both Horn Book Magazine and Kirkus Reviews.  If you like this book, try The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, also by Tom Angleberger.  For another fractured version of Yankee Doodle try Mary Ann Hoberman's version, called simply Yankee Doodle.

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Becoming Babe Ruth

2013
Becoming Babe Ruth

 

George Herman Ruth got into a lot of trouble as a child, and got himself sent to a reform school (St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys) at the young age of seven.  While George didn't like most things about St. Mary's, he did like baseball.  Here, George learns to play every position there is in baseball, and he practices and practices.  He gets seen by many scouts, including Jack Dunn, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, a minor-league team, and is offered a contract.  He earns his nickname "Babe" at this time.  He is so good that his contract gets sold to the Boston Red Sox, and then it gets sold to the New York Yankees for $125,000.  That was the most any team had ever paid for a baseball player.  So even though Babe Ruth had been sent to a reform school, he grew up to become one of the best baseball players in baseball history and his name has become known as a household name, even to those who aren't baseball fans. 

An author's note is included, as well as pitching statistics and hitting statistics.  The illustrations are charming--watercolor, gouache, and pencil.  Matt Tavares has done a fantastic job bringing Babe Ruth's story to life.

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Shadow on the Mountain

This work of historical fiction is based on a true story of a boy who spied for the Resistance during the 1940 Nazi occupation of Norway.  Espen is an average teenager whose life is caught up in a time in history that is anything but typical.  Before the occupation he spent his days at school, playing soccer or participating in Scouts.  After the Nazi occupation of Norway, Espen risked his life to deliver underground newspapers for the Resistance, and soon finds himself transporting secret documents and spying on Gestapo intelligence locations.  Espen struggles with his feelings toward his best friend a likeable guy who, faced with the same situation, decided to join the Nazis.  Espen is also surprised to learn that his younger sister has secrets of her own.  She too has put herself and their family in danger by secretly journaling and sneaking ration cards to hungry Norwegians.  This sometimes grim and occasionally funny novel, is a study of the complexity of human nature and the different decisions that people made during this terrible time in human history.  While this book will appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction, it will also appeal to those who enjoy outdoor adventure as Espen travels on both bicycle and skis into the snow covered mountains of Norway.  Find a comfortable seat, because you won’t move for hours.  Recommended for grade 6-9.

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Desmond and the Very Mean Word

A Story of Forgiveness (2013)
Desmond and the Very Mean Word

 

According to the author's note at the back of the book, this story is inspired by something that actually happened to the author (Archbishop Tutu) as a child in South Africa. 

Desmond received a new bike, the only child in his township to have a bike, and wanted to show it to Father Trevor.  On his way, he had to ride through a group of boys, one of whom used a mean word towards Desmond over and over again.  When Desmond arrived to see Father Trevor he was angry and said he could never forgive them, but instead would get them back.  The next time Desmond saw the boys, he used another mean word towards them, but the "word left a bitter taste in his mouth".  Father Trevor taught Desmond that when we hurt someone, it hurts ourselves as well. 

Desmond wasn't ready to forgive the boy right away, it took him some time.  According to the book, "As soon as the words [I forgive you] were out of his mouth, Desmond felt a little stronger and a little braver and stood up a little taller.

Father Trevor eventually become Archbishop Huddleston and was one of the most important members of the anti-apartheid movement.  Archbishop Tutu and his wife named their first son Trevor in his honor.

  

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Monstergarten

(2013)
Book cover

Let’s face it - starting school can be nerve racking. Patrick is a tiny, pink furball of a monster with striped horns and a love of cowboy boots. It’s the day before he starts Monstergarten, and a first grader tells Patrick that he must be scary for school. Like all skills, Patrick needs to practice. He has several humorous and failed attempts at scaring his friend Kevin, his cat Snowball (just a heads up, you do NOT want to meet Snowball in a dark alley) and his sister. Throughout the day, Patrick works on his scaring technique. At night, he begins to feel nervous. Will he like his teacher? Will he know where everything is? And, most importantly, will he be scary enough?

The author Daniel J. Mahoney and the illustrator Jef Kaminsky excel at developing the story through both text and illustrations. The images are bright, silly and reinforce Patrick’s anxieties as he prepares for school. Be sure to check out the inside cover for a yearbook photo spread of the the Monstergarten class. Some monsters are goofy. Others are frightening. Some are sobbing giant tears. Others are holding up umbrellas to keep dry from the tears.

Monstergarten is a great read for incoming monstergarteners or kindergartners with back to school jitters. The world of monster’s is different, yet similar enough to ours that young readers will connect with Patrick’s experiences. Whether it’s learning to scare or to say your ABC’s, Monstergarten helps young students understand the questions and feelings behind starting school.

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Divide and Conquer

(2012)
book cover for Divide and Conquer

Infinity Ring; Book 2

In this second book of time travelers, we find our Hystorians, Dak. Sera, and Riq traveling to 885 A.D. to fix the break in history.  They land in Paris during the 9th century where thousands of Viking warriors are trying to capture the city. Their old enemies the SQ are also there and they are helping the Vikings.  The time travelers need to find the Hystorian and fix the break before it’s too late.

Dak is captured by the Vikings and is forced to work with them to capture the city.  Sera and Riq must help protect and defend the city.  Now Sera and Riq must try to free Dak and help keep the Vikings from succeeding.  While accomplishing this they find out that the true enemy might not be who they thought.  They must find the break, solve the codes, ciphers and clues in order to correct it.

Another underlying theme in the story is the search to find Dak’s parents who were lost during the first time travel.  Dak sees his parents at a gathering of townspeople and they are able to give him a key before they disappear.  Will this have something to do with their next time travel? 

In addition to our main characters new characters are introduced: Bill the Hystorian; Rollo a Viking friend of Dak; Vigi Rollo’s large dog; Siegfried the leader of the Vikings; and Gorm the SQ time warden.  Our three heroes develop more and learn more about each other and stronger bonds are formed.  There is a hint of a little romance, but changes because of the passing of time.

The Infinity Ring series is just what kids need to get them excited about history or what could have been history.  Divide and Conquer is a perfect blend of historical settings and fast-paced action.  This is a great read for fans of Percy Jackson or A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is definitely a book that makes the slogan “Fix the Past. Save the Future” true!

I would recommend this book for middle-school aged students and up.  For grades 4 through 6.

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Third Grade Mix-Up

(2013)
Third Grade Mix-Up

 

This fresh new series tracks two third graders with the same name spelled two ways, Sidney and Sydney.  Sidney's a guy and Sydney is a girl, and they're not sure they can be friends.  But after discovering common interests, especially in the game Galaxy Conquest and in the Halloween holiday they become great friends.  Sidney and Sydney take turns narrating the chapters and their voices ring clearly.  Full color illustrations only add to the appeal of the book. Second and third graders will enjoy reading this book, and I look forward to reading the future books in the series!

 

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