Blog: Kids Lit Picks

kids picks

My New Friend Is So Fun!

by Mo Willems

Ages: 3 – 6 years (approximately grades preschool – 1st)

Gerald and Piggie are back again! Only this time, they are joined by Snake and his best friend, Brian Bat. More accurately, Gerald is joined by Snake and asks if he’s seen his best friend, Piggie, around. Snake replies that Piggie is with Brian Bat, who is Snake’s best friend. Gerald and Snake agree that Piggie and Brian are so nice, and they must be having a really fun time together! But… could they be having too much fun? The new duo race to find Piggie and Brian laughing together, playing BEST FRIEND games and drawing BEST FRIEND pictures. However, when Piggie and Brian show off their BEST FRIEND drawings, who does Brian draw but Snake, and Piggie draws none other than Gerald! Realizing they were worried for no reason at all, Snake and Gerald leave Brian and Piggie to their good time with new friends.

Carrying on the tradition of the Elephant and Piggie books, this title is fun and playful in its ultimate lesson of new friends not necessarily replacing old friends, especially best friends. Action is carried forward solely in conversational speech bubbles between the characters, giving young readers a workout in inferring subtext without cumbersome dialogue tags. And, in true Mo Willems form, illustrations are sparse and childlike, yet colorful and expressive. This is an excellent new addition to an already flourishing early reader series by Mo Willems. Readers who enjoyed Mo Willems’ picture books such as That is Not A Good Idea or the many adventures of Pigeon are sure to love Elephant and Piggie books.

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Pom and Pim

by Lena and Olof Landstrom

Ages: 0-6 years (approximately grades preschool – kindergarten)

Pom
and Pim, a child and indiscernible stuffed animal, experience a day of
ups and downs. While the warm sun shines (“What luck!”) on the beginning
of their walk, Pom trips over a rock (“Ouch! Bad Luck”), only to fall
directly upon a $20 note (“What luck!”) with which the duo buys a
scrumptious ice cream treat. This rise and fall of luck continues
throughout Pom and Pim’s adventure and, while perhaps predictable, the
ending captures the lighthearted point-of-view that perhaps your luck
isn’t what befalls you, but how you react to it.

Simplistic in its story, syntax, and illustrations, Pom and Pim
is perfect for both beginning readers and read-alouds. In fact, the
illustrations alone tell the story that the accompanying words simply
clarify, making for a wonderful opportunity to predict “What happens
next?” Children and adults alike are sure to be charmed by the
simplistic illustrations and descriptions of both Pom and Pim, as
neither are truly discernible in what they are (gender in Pom’s case,
type of stuffed animal in Pim’s); they can truly be every-child and
every-lovable-stuffed-thing. Easily imagining themselves in Pom and
Pim’s situation, this quick read is sure to have readers looking on the
bright side, and wanting to read it again! For those who find the
stuffed-friend companionship in Corduroy appealing, or those who enjoy the simplicity but vibrant nature of Eric Carle’s illustrations, Pom and Pim is for you.

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Better Nate Than Ever

by Tim Federle

Ages: 11 – 14 years (approximately grades 5 – 9)

If you have dreams of one day making it big as a singing, acting, Broadway superstar… you need to meet Nate Foster. Nate, introduced to musicals and coached in singing and dancing by his best friend, Libby, is certain he’s got what it takes to see his name in lights. If he can ever make it there, that is. Stuck in a small town in Pennsylvania, Nate can’t get anywhere in his Broadway career from so far away. When the two friends catch wind of an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, looking for a boy just Nate’s age to play the main character, Elliot, it is all they can do not to plan an elaborate scheme to get Nate to New York City. It’s a tough call on which feat is more difficult: plotting to get to and from New York in once piece without his absence being noticed, or out-singing-and-dancing the competition of other kids born and bred to be Broadway starlets. Will Nate make it through auditions and the big city unscathed? But, more importantly, will he need to make it back for rehearsals?

Tim Federle’s debut children’s novel is not one to skip. Nate himself is an endearing and hilariously funny leading man from the get-go. Using Broadway flops in sticky situations (“Moose Murders is all to tarnation!”), Nate navigates his way not only through New York City, but through sibling rivalry, bullying, religious parents, and questioning sexuality with a sharp wit and a lighthearted amusement that is suitable for a younger audience. For those who love musicals, the big city lights, or Raina Telgemeier’s Drama and Smile, Better Nate Than Ever deserves a standing ovation.

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I Want My Hat Back

by Jon Klassen

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

Bear has lost his hat. He wants it back. To achieve this, Bear goes from animal to animal, asking if any of them have seen his hat. “Not around here,” replies the frog. “What is a hat?” asks the armadillo. “I saw a hat once. It was blue,” chimes the snake. “Why are you asking me? I would not steal a hat! Don’t ask me any more questions!” snaps the rabbit. It isn’t until his questioning is nearly complete that Bear, wide-eyed, realizes that he has seen his hat! The next scene depicts bear with a very familiar red hat who, when asked if he’s seen Rabbit, replies, “Why are you asking me? I would not eat a rabbit! Don’t ask me any more questions.”

The very sparse nature of the illustrations goes swimmingly with the sparse text. Without quotation marks or other dialogue attributions, each animal’s words stands next to a very simple depiction of the conversation or actions that coincide. The simplicity of both the illustrations and text lend themselves to the somewhat complex nature of the plot, as Bear moves along on the road to discovering the whereabouts of his hat. Some animals throw readers slightly off the trail, giving comprehension skills a workout. The fate of the hat-stealing bunny is also left to the imagination, discovered only by an understanding of Bear’s denial versus Bunny’s. Although the grim retribution in this story might not be for the faint of heart, I Want My Hat Back is alternatively a comical depiction of what might happen to a thief or liar. If you enjoy Mo Willem’s plucky Pigeon or the muted illustrative works of Peter Brown (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Children Make Terrible Pets), you will love Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back.

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A Home For Mr. Emerson

by Barbara Kerley

Ages: 5 and up (approximately grades K and up)

Many people know Ralph Waldo Emerson was a writer, essayist and poet. He was also a loyal friend, active community member, and avid naturalist. This engaging picture book biography illustrates how a city boy embraced nature and created a loving home in the friendly, tight-knit community of Concord, Massachusetts.

After moving from city to city while growing up, Emerson dreamed of a place he could make his own. This place would have open, grassy fields and deep, still woods. After college, Emerson and his new bride moved to Concord, Massachusetts. They bought a farmhouse and planted fruit trees, pumpkins, and flowers. They stocked the library with books and Emerson’s writing. Emerson’s vision was slowly coming to life. Once Emerson befriended his neighbors and fellow villagers, the buzz of happy chatting and laughing filled the house and it truly became his dream home. Years went by and all was well until disaster struck and fire ravaged the house. Devastated by the loss, Emerson embarked on an overseas trip with his eldest daughter as a way to rejuvenate his spirit. After two weeks, Emerson returned home to see that the entire village had come together to rebuild the house, a place that meant so much to everyone in Concord.

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