Blog: Kids Lit Picks

kids picks

Warning: Do Not Open This Book!

written by Adam Lehrhaupt
illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Ages: 0-8 years
(approximately grades preschool - 1)

With the very binding of the book containing warning signs
and traffic cones, the narrator has to wonder why on earth you would open this
book when it explicitly says not to. Seriously, opening this book and turning
the pages will only lead to bad things in the form of monkeys and toucans and
alligators. But it figures, you just kept on reading and making things worse
and worse until, finally, you and the narrator set a trap, reign in the chaos,
and put everything back to the way it was. Now, isn’t that better? Oh, please,
whatever you do, do NOT read it again! And again! And again!
This is a simple yet hilarious, interactive story that is a
great read-aloud for one-on-one sessions or to a group, best for ages 0-8 years
(preschool through first grade). The winning aspect of this book is exactly
what makes it so fun and engaging: readers are kept guessing at every turn of
the page and literacy skills are built as readers decide what exactly might
happen when you go against the narrator’s urges to just not turn the page
anymore. With surprises around every corner and a clever triumph in the end,
it’s no wonder you will want to read it again, and again, and again!
Find it in our catalog.

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The Show Must Go On!

written by Kate Klise
illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Ages: 6-8 years (approximately grades 1-4)

Kate Klise (author of the 43Old Cemetery Road & Regardingthe Fountain series) has done it again with a delightful new series
targeted for a younger audience. The Show Must Go On! is the first of The
Three-Ring Rascals
, a fun-filled series for readers transitioning into chapter
books. 

Sir Sidney’s Traveling Circus is the world’s best,
but Sir Stanley, a “prince of a man,” needs a rest.  Who could replace
him? After all, “no one treats animals better than Sir Sidney does.”  Leo
the lion gets his mane brushed with only the finest Italian brushes, Elsa the
elephant eats only specially grown peanuts from a farm in Georgia, and only the
Famous Flying Banana Brothers can train on their custom made bunks beds.
 So when Barnabas Bramble, the certified lion tamer is temporally hired
for a week, things turn grim!  Bramble’s idea for running a circus has
everything to do with profit and short-cuts rather than the well-being of the
circus animals.  It soon becomes apparent that the lion tamer is a fraud
and the circus is spiraling out of control under his management.
 Fortunately, the circus folk stick together, Sir Sidney returns, and Mr.
Bramble gets a second chance.  Sir Sidney says to Barnabas Bramble, ”I
also know that underneath it all there was a good man.”  Whimsical
illustrations throughout by M. Sarah Klise, the author’s sister, enrich this
well-written, humorous chapter book. The show will go on. Watch for the Three-RingRascals: Book 2 – The Greatest Star On Earth in May of 2014. 
Find the book in our catalog.

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The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

written by Kathi Applet


Ages: 8 years+ (approximately grade 3 and up)
The raccoons of Sugar Man Swamp have always been the eyes
and ears of Bayou Toutourelle.  This
honorable duty has been passed down generation to generation.  Bingo and J'miah are heading up their very
first scouting mission and couldn’t be more excited.  They settle into Headquarters, an abandoned
DeSoto, and vigilantly keep watch (in between forays into the swamp for food as
raccoons are notoriously hungry all the time). 
Bingo and J’miah discover an incoming threat (a destructive family of feral
hogs!) and must launch the emergency plan: wake the Sugar Man from his decades-long
hibernation.  The Sugar Man is a mythical
figure who protects the swamp and has huge palmetto leaf arms, tree trunk legs,
a pet python and most importantly, a very short temper (especially when his
sleep is interrupted).  Although the
prospect of waking the Sugar Man from his oh-so-sweet slumber seems daunting,
Bingo and J’miah know it is the only way to save the swamp.  On their quest they cross paths with twelve
year old Chap, a boy whose family pie café has been a staple in Sugar Man Swamp
for years.  He’s on a mission to save the
business from a greedy land developer and his feisty, alligator-wrestling partner.  Bingo, J’miah and Chap must learn to face
their fears and stand up for what they believe in order to save their beloved
home.  
This National
Book Award finalist
is an adventure filled with humor, quirky characters
and fast-paced action.  It delivers an
entertaining message of courage, family and conservation that will appeal to
anyone who has ever felt like an underdog.  The folksy narrative is
charming, distinctive, and vividly paints the picture of the marshy Sugar Man
Swamp and its animal inhabitants.  Readers
will enjoy how the different characters and plotlines intersect throughout the
story and wrap up in the end.  This title is recommended for grades 3 and
up.   

Find it in our catalog!

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Tea Rex

written and illustrated by Molly
Idle

Ages: 3-7
years (grades preschool – 1)

Cordelia and her brother invite Mr. Rex over for tea time in
this clever wordplay of a title. What happens next is just about what anyone
would expect from a Tyrannosaurus Rex attending a tea party. A prim and proper
explanation of how to throw a tea party and what to expect of your guests
accompanies illustrated evidence of how it actually plays out when a T-Rex is
in attendance. Pouring tea, having an assortment of snacks, and ending the
party with a bit of music and dancing are all very standard expectations that
go horribly awry this time around. One can only wonder what might happen when
Cordelia and her brother receive their own invitation to a tea party hosted by
none other than Mr. Rex!
This title is a great fit for both sides of the spectrum:
the rough-and-tumble dinosaur lovers and the ladylike tea-party-goers alike
will be enthralled with this best-of-both-worlds tale. Best suited for ages 3-7
years (grades preschool – first), children will get more from this book in
one-on-one sessions where they are able to see that the illustrations do not
fit very well with the words on the page. This juxtaposition of words versus
illustrations in Tea Rex is a
wonderful way to keep readers engaged and building early literacy and critical
thinking skills. Who would have thought you could get all of that by simply attending
a tea party?
Find it in our catalog.

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The Diamond of Darkhold

written by Jeanne DuPrau

Ages: 9-14 years (approximately grades 4-9) 

The Diamond of
Darkhold
is the fourth and final installation of The Books of Ember
series. Beginning where the second book (The
People of Sparks
) left off, Lina and Doon once again notice a problem in
their post-apocalyptic city and work together to solve it. After having escaped
their failing city in the first book (The
City of Ember
), finding a village willing to take them in and easing the
tension between the native villagers and their city’s newcomers in the second
book (The People of Sparks), Lina and
Doon now set off back to their abandoned city to find enough food to get their
new village through the hard winter. When they arrive back at Ember, they find
far more than the stores of canned food left behind by their neighbors, but
together they overcome the obstacles holding them back and, in the end,
discover something far more valuable than the food they originally set out for.

A wonderful finale, Jeanne DuPrau finds a way to fit all of
the series’ books, even the prequel third book (The Prophet of Yonwood), into a complete saga with all the pieces
of Lina and Doon’s puzzle fitting together snugly in the end. The Books of
Ember
series is a part of the popular dystopian genre, similar to Young
Adult selections such as The Hunger Games and Divergent series,
without the intense violence and romance that is better suited for older
readers. Still a darker read for some, containing evidence of a
world-devastating war as well as the themes of segregation and selfishness (all of which are righted in the end), The
Diamond of Darkhold
-and the “Ember Saga” as a whole- is best suited for
readers ages 9 to 14 (grades 4-9). Although ominous in some places, The Diamond of Darkhold and The Books
of Ember
series end on a clever and hopeful note that will not
soon be forgotten by readers.
Find the entire series in book, audiobook, and e book
formats in our catalog:
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
The Prophet of Yonwood
The Diamond of Darkhold
The City of Ember
is also available as a graphic
novel, a audio disc, a playaway
device, and a major motion
picture in our catalog.

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Carnivores

written by
Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Dan Santat


Ages: 0-8 years (approximately grades preschool - 3)

What most animals have to say about lions, sharks, and
wolves probably wouldn’t surprise you. But how do these terrifying man-eaters
feel about their ill reception? As it so happens, these three creatures have
created a support group for carnivores like themselves because they feel hurt
and misunderstood by their fellow animals. In order to support each other, the
lion, great white shark, and timber wolf devise some cunning plans to help them
become less intimidating (vegetarianism) or to stay unnoticed as what they
really are (costumes), all of which blow up in their ferocious faces. It isn’t
until the great horned owl attends their carnivores’ support group meeting and
gives the three struggling carnivores some wise advice that they learn to
embrace their carnivorous nature and make the most of what nature has made
them.
Although there is a bit of implied gruesomeness (think a sneaky
wolf lurking behind a bunny, a hungry-looking shark swimming just below some floating
seagulls), this book pairs a novel concept with exaggerated, comic-book-like
illustrations to create a hilarious overall tone. Sending a wonderful message
of accepting yourself for who you are, Carnivores
will be enjoyed by children birth through 8 years old. It is a great story for
those who enjoy ThatIs NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems, as well as fable and fairy tale
connoisseurs (think TheGingerbread Man) and budding zoologists.
Find Carnivores in our catalog.

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Niagara Falls, or Does It?

written by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver


Ages: 7-12 years (approximately grades 1-5)

Henry Zipzer, known to his friends as Hank, is your average,
everyday fourth-grader. Well, sort of. Hank has a self-dubbed reptile freak for
a sister, two best friends who happen to live in the same apartment building as
him in New York City’s West side, and he dreads his first fourth-grade
assignment. In fact, Hank is dreading writing a five-paragraph essay so much
that he hatches a plan to do the assignment without writing a word- he’s always
found that getting thoughts from his brain to paper really difficult. Well,
he’s always found getting any subject from his brain to paper really difficult.
When his creative plan goes completely awry, Hank finds himself in detention
where he meets a teacher who might have the insight to change Hank’s entire
outlook on school, and even about himself.
The first of the Hank Zipzer series, Niagara Falls, Or Does It? splashes
readers into Hank’s life with a laugh, a hoot, and a holler. Inspired by Henry
Winkler’s own childhood days and his struggle with dyslexia, the Hank Zipzer
series will appeal to any child ages 7 - 12 years (roughly grades 2 - 5) who struggle with school for any
reason, or children who just want to laugh along with Hank and his friends on
their adventures. While Hank’s hijinxes don’t always involve keeping parents
and adults in-the-know, and while most of the adult characters fall a little
flat (save for Hank’s grandfather, Papa Pete, and his new favorite and
appropriately-named music teacher, Mr. Rock), the overall dynamic sends a sound
message: creativity is great as long as you don’t break the rules. 
I listened to the first half of this book on audiobook,
narrated by Henry Winkler himself, and read the second half in a hardcover
edition. Both versions capture the zany yet thoughtful nature of Winkler and
Lin’s story, and I highly recommend the book on audio either by itself or as a
reading supplement.
Find the book, audiobook, and ebook in our catalog,
or learn more about The World’s Greatest Underachiever at Hank Zipzer’s website.

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Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Ages: 0-8 years (approximately grades preschool - 2)

Mr. Tiger lives in a very proper society of well-to-do animals;
a society that Mr. Tiger finds, quite frankly, boring. No longer able to
tolerate his unhappiness in exchanging empty pleasantries and donning dapper
attire, Mr. Tiger takes the steps to follow his heart and express himself
beyond the restraints imposed within his town. It begins with Mr. Tiger taking
to all fours, proceeds with a bit of frolicking and roaring, and ends with
fleeing into the wilderness where he can be as wild as he wants without the
stares and judgment of his friends and neighbors. Despite his newfound freedom
and the candid self-expression that comes with it, Mr. Tiger becomes lonely and
misses his town and friends. Upon returning to his home, he finds that things
have changed in his absence; a change that most likely took place because he
went wild!
A 2013 Caldecott Medal nominee for his illustrations in CreepyCarrots, Peter Brown adds to his children’sbook repertoire with a fantastic story paired with amazing art in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. Mr. Tiger’s world
begins looking very drab, with a monochromatic theme- save, of course, for Mr.
Tiger, who is a vibrant orange. As the story progresses from mundane to manic,
the color scheme becomes more varied and vibrant. A quick read and overall
whimsical, amusing story, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is best for younger readers, ages
birth to 8 years. Readers who enjoy the humorous works of MoWillems or the lovely illustrations of EricCarle will enjoy this tale. 
Find Mr. Tiger Goes
Wild
in our catalog.

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