Blog: Kids Lit Picks

kids picks

Mo's Mustache

by Ben Clanton

Ages: 0 – 6 (approximately birth through 1st grade)

After a long wait, Mo finally receives his mustache in the mail (Huzzah!). After taking his new accessory for a spin around town, soaking in the admiration for his look, Mo starts to notice everyone else getting mustaches, too… And so, no longer feeling that his mustache is special, Mo switches from a “big, black, beautiful” mustache to a “long, lined, lovely scarf.” A few days later, much to Mo’s dismay, now everyone else dons both a mustache AND a scarf. Frustrated and unamused at these copycats, it takes Mo completely losing his temper to find out that nobody is copying him to hurt his feelings, but because they think he’s “tredirific,” “a visionary,” “a fashion guru.” Taken aback and flattered, Mo decides to apologize for his outburst in the only way a “gentleman of style” can: with an all-inclusive fashion show (complete with one-of-a-kind, multi-colored afro)!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s sometimes hard to remember that when you see the people around you donning the very thing you think makes you special and unique. Mo’s Mustache addresses this topic in a fun and fashionable way that will remind readers that being a trailblazer might mean having to share their awesome discoveries. With many font changes, interjections, and asides, this tale might seem better suited for an older audience, but the lovable stick-figure characters will easily lure in the younger crowd, giving them a chance to admire Mo’s panache. This book is a dream for those who enjoyed Mo Willems’ cartoony art in Leonardo the Terrible Monster, the message of individuality in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, or the silliness of Mustache Baby.

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A Tale Dark and Grimm

by Adam Gidwitz

Ages: 10 – 13 years (approximately grades 4-8)

Many of us know that the fairy tales of our childhood are only figments of the true stories collected by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. How far off are our beloved versions of these tales in comparison to their true origins? You really want to know? Are you absolutely, positively, one hundred percent certain you want to know? Then, as the narrator repeatedly suggests, please escort the young children from the room and look no further than A Tale Dark and Grimm.

In this, Gidwitz’s debut novel, 2014 Caudill nominee, and the first of a three-part series, a well-known fairytale of Hansel and Gretel (the little boy and girl who get lost in the woods and encounter a wicked witch’s house made of candy) takes a gruesome turn for the worst- as if being abandoned by your parents and almost getting eaten by a witch with a taste for children isn’t bad enough. While the siblings attempt to survive after their narrow escape from the witch, Hansel turns into a frightful, hairy creature; the true back-story of their parents and why they abandoned their only children comes to light; and Gretel turns into an extraordinary heroine who saves the kingdom from certain doom. Throughout the book, a narrator chimes in from time to time, letting readers know when things are about to get ghastly and, well, grim. Although this book is chock-full of adventure and delight, a fairytale twist done so right, it is not for the faint of heart. Readers who enjoyed the adventure of The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, the fairytale twist of Ella Enchanted, or the creepy suspense of Coraline and Doll Bones will clamor for A Tale Dark and Grimm, as well as its sequels, In a Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion.

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Bully

by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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

One day, a young bull is told to “go away!” by a bigger bull, presumably an older sibling or otherwise more authoritative figure. Visibly rumpled by this experience, the young bull goes to the farm where he encounters other animals who ask if he wants to play. After telling each of the animals exactly what he thinks of them (“Chicken!” to the chicken and “Slow poke!” to the turtle), a bystanding goat decides to call this “bully” out on his actions, giving him a little taste of his own "Bully!" medicine. Realizing that what he has done to his farm friends is exactly what the older bull had done to him, the young bull regrets his actions, apologizes for hurting his friends, and is very lucky indeed that his friends take him up on his renewed offer to play.

A wonderful precursor to The Hundred Dresses or Jane, the Fox, and Me, Bully is a simplistic depiction of how being mean affects all those involved. The young bull’s animal friends slowly flee from the scene as the bully becomes physically bigger and bigger as his actions escalate, until he eventually can only fit a hoof on a page. After discovering that he’s a bully, the young bull physically deflates and spirals down to his normal size and regular ego, giving him room to finally apologize to his friends. The sketch-like illustrations on a very simple background bring the focus to the characters’ actions, and also make the overall message stand out in a not-too heavy-handed, bullying way.

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The Hundred Dresses

written by Eleanor Estes
illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

Ages: 8-12 years (approximately grades 2-6)

The Hundred Dresses is a short tale of a young, foreign girl, Wanda Petronski, who misses school for a few days. Usually, nobody notices Wanda. She sits in the back corner and rarely makes a peep. That is until one day, she tells a group of girls who are admiring a classmate’s new dress that she has one hundred dresses at home. With this simple comment, Wanda opens a door to relentless taunting before and after class. Every day, Wanda’s classmates “have fun” with her by asking if she really has one hundred dresses at home. Hysterics ensue when she answers that yes, she does, “all lined up,” although she only ever wears the same faded blue dress that doesn’t fit her quite right. A girl like Wanda, with her funny name and ill-fitting dress, who lives on the wrong side of town, couldn’t possibly have a hundred dresses!

Each of Wanda’s classmates plays a role in the taunting, whether it’s asking Wanda about her dresses, listening to the interrogation, or completely ignoring the situation. It isn’t until the winners of a drawing contest are announced that Wanda’s absence is noticed and appreciated: the winner of the drawing contest is Wanda, who has drawn one hundred different, beautiful dresses! In an astonishing turn of events, Wanda’s absence is explained in a letter to the class in Mr. Petronski’s broken English- their family has moved to the big city where their Polish heritage will not be mocked, but perhaps accepted and even respected. Seeing Wanda’s hundred dresses and hearing her letter sets off a chain of uncertain repercussions for the main antagonists in Wanda’s taunting, leaving the reader to wonder whether Wanda has forgiven her classmates, or will forever hold them in disdain.

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