Blog: Kids Lit Picks

kids picks

The Day the Crayons Quit

written by Drew Daywalt
illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

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

You’d be hard pressed to find any young reader who doesn’t enjoy coloring. For many of us (adults included!) all that’s necessary for a fun afternoon is a blank sheet of paper and a box of crayons. Unfortunately, the crayons themselves aren’t as easily satisfied. One day when our protagonist, Duncan, arrives to school, he finds a stack of letters addressed to him. These letters contain the grievances of all the colors in his crayon box. They quit! Red is overworked, beige is underused, white is misused, and yellow and orange are in an all-out war over who should be used to color the sun. It’s absolute chaos in the pigmented world of the crayons, and it’s up to Duncan to use his creativity to set things right.

Although this is Daywalt’s first (very successful, as a 2015 Monarch Award nominee) attempt as an author, The Day the Crayons Quit is just one of the many fantastic titles Jeffers has illustrated. Each letter is composed on a different type of paper (lined, coloring pages, etc.) in each crayon’s specific handwriting. With each letter comes a depiction of the crayon in question and his objections, in a creative, funny, and in true Oliver Jeffer’s style, childlike illustration, not to mention Duncan’s creations to boot! A wonderful, colorful story that any reader who has used crayons or lodged a complaint will connect with, The Day the Crayons Quit is not only relatable, but a laugh-out-loud funny tale that will encourage readers to use their imaginations the next time they sit down with their own box of crayons.



Al Capone Does My Shirts

by Gennifer Choldenko

Ages: 10 years and up (approximately grades 4 and up)

Moose Flanagan is your average, every-day, big-for-his-age ten-year-old growing up in the mid-1930’s when his dad accepts a job as the new prison guard and electrician at the roughest place known to civilians and criminals alike: Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Moose takes his family’s move hard when he is forced to give up his old friends, his baseball team, and share an island home with the nastiest, most scheming criminals of the day, including none other than the infamous Al Capone (who hails from right here in Chicago, Illinois!). Worse yet is when Moose’s older sister, Natalie –who acts like a younger sister due to her severe autism- is rejected from the special school the Flanagans hoped to send her to in San Francisco, saddling Moose with the task of watching over Natalie while his parents work. Unable to make friends off the island, Moose befriends the other guards’ kids, including the warden’s daughter, Piper, who may take more after the crafty Al Capone than her stand up, law abiding warden of a father. Can Moose find the time away from his sister to return to playing his beloved game of baseball without hurting his friendships with the kids on Alcatraz island? Will Piper ever learn that her conniving ways are more trouble than they’re worth? Could Natalie end up getting into her special school with a little help from Al Capone himself? Find out in Al Capone Does My Shirts, as well as the two sequels that more than live up to their predecessor, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and Al Capone Does My Homework.


This 2005 Newbery Honor book tackles the themes of childhood, morality, mental health, and history in a way that is pleasing and palatable to its target audience. Included in this volume is an extensive and interesting author’s note where Choldenko outlines her in-depth research not only on the lives of those who lived on Alcatraz in the 1930’s, but also explaining the struggles of Natalie’s character and how she is based off Choldenko’s own autistic sister. While somehow keeping the historical and autistic realities in check throughout the story, Al Capone Does My Shirt also lightheartedly delves into the depths of childhood crushes, friendships, school life, and know-it-all adults. Moose’s character is not only big for his age, but mature, with a smattering of sarcasm and in-your-face humor despite the challenges he, his friends, and his sister get themselves into. Children ages ten and up will enjoy this book, especially if they enjoy historical fiction, friendship-based shenanigans and humor, or have a soft spot for those who are a little bit different.




by Don Freeman

Ages: 0-6 years (approximately ages preschool -1)

In this classic Don Freeman story, a little girl spots Corduroy the teddy bear while shopping with her mother and instantly falls in love. The girl’s mother, after pointing out Corduroy’s missing button, declines the girl’s request to buy the bear. After the department store (which is reminiscent of a 1950’s Marshall Field’s) closes for the night, Corduroy comes to life and decides to look for his lost button that he now dearly misses. A small mishap involving a mattress and a lamp later, the nighttime security guard finds Corduroy in the furniture section of the store, and promptly returns him to the toy department. Lucky for Corduroy, because the girl from the previous day finds and buys him as soon as the store opens. It is after the girl puts a new button on his overalls and introduces Corduroy to her bedroom that the bear discovers it was not his missing button or a bed he wanted after all, but a home and a friend.

With simple, sketch drawings colored in with a 1950’s color palette, the illustrations transport readers to a simpler time (whether that time is childhood or the past is up to you!) and a gentler mindset. This heartwarming title is great for readers who have a special fondness for their furry friends or who have a huge imagination and wonder whether their toys come to life after dark and love them back. This book connects flawlessly with the popular Toy Story movies, and can be used as a precursor to introducing young readers to the Disney stories, or as a way to gently lure them back into books. Whatever the reason for handing your reader Corduroy, the story is sure not to disappoint!




by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ages: 9 years and up (approximately grades 4 and up)

It’s 1870 and slavery is over, but some things remain the same, at least at the River Road Plantation. Ten-year-old Sugar works hard planting and harvesting sugar cane. Even though she’s named after it, Sugar hates the stuff. She hates the sickly sweet taste. She hates how it makes her back hurt and how the cane leaves cut her arms, hands, and fingers. She hates how it made her best friend’s family leave the plantation for a better life. But most of all, she hates how sugar doesn’t make her feel free.

Sugar would rather be doing anything other than farming sugar cane. She loves hearing the tales of Br’er Rabbit, dreams about the world beyond River Road, and wants to go on an adventure. Sugar’s life continues to revolve around work until she befriends Billy, the plantation owner’s son. No one wants Sugar and Billy to remain friends so they keep their friendship a secret. The plantation experiences more changes when a group of Chinese workers are hired to help with the harvest. Open-minded Sugar greets them warmly and wants to know everything about them. The rest of the workers feel threatened by their arrival and keep their distance. By helping everyone see what they have in common, Sugar brings the two groups together and gives everyone hope for better days ahead.