Tuesday, January 29, 2013

NEWS: 2013 Youth Media Awards—Tracy Weighs In

... Cause what ya'll really want to know is what I think, right? Hey, humor me here.

So, the Newberys, Caldecotts, Printz Awards, and other key ALA book awards were announced yesterday, and I was rather proud of myself for having read so many of the honorees. Here's how things played out (with a little commentary from me :)).

John Newbery Medal

Medal Winner: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This book was unique and absorbing, bittersweet and altogether lovely. I approve 1oo%. Many of the past medal winners have skewed more toward tweens (10–14), but The One and Only Ivan is perfect for younger ages as well. Again, I approve.

Newbery Honor: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Not long after I started reading this book, I found myself thinking This is a book that will win awards. I also thought that it was a book that might have more appeal for adults than kids, one of those books that adults really, really want kids to love, but which turn out to be right only for that small, perfect audience. Who will love it with a passion. It's undeniably well written, but I couldn't bring myself to get excited about it although I enjoyed it and admired it in a impersonal kind of way. But if you (or your child) always wished Oliver Twist had a bit of dark fantasy mixed in, this may be just the book for you. (Okay, that sounds really intriguing. Maybe I should give this one another go...)

Newbery Honor: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
In my mind, this one was pretty much a shoe-in for a nod. I'm not a huge reader of juvenile nonfiction, but the storytelling here was compelling and informative. Thumbs up. Bomb was also the winner of the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award and of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

Newbery Honor: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
I was so excited—and the teeniest bit surprised—to see this one get an honor nod. While there is no magic in this book in the supernatural sense, it is magical nonetheless. Turnage's storytelling—the sense of place, character, voice, and tone—here is fantastic, and Mo is an unforgettable heroine if there ever was one.

**What's Missing: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I adored Wonder and firmly believe it should be required reading for every upper elementary or middle school student. And then their parents and older siblings need to read it too.

Randolph Caldecott Medal

Medal Winner: This Is Not My Hat, illustrated and written by Jon Klassen
Personally, I thought Klassen was cheated out of a Caldecott last year for I Want My Hat Back. He's a genius when it comes to providing subtle visual cues to punctuate the sly humor that makes both of his "hat" book shine.

Caldecott Honor: Creepy Carrots!, illustrated by Peter Brown and written by Arron Reynolds
This was one of my absolute favorite picture books of 2012, and I am pleasantly surprised to see it get a nod here. I loved the cinematic feel (one review I read likened it to a Hitchcock horror movie—for kids of course), and the palette of orange, black, and gray. A fascinating combo of kiddie horror and humor. Well done, Caldecott committee.

Caldecott Honor: Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett
So they're really making up for overlooking Klassen last year. Although the text/story of Extra Yarn didn't completely do it for me, I loved Klassen's artwork—which is what counts for the purpose of this award.

Caldecott Honor: Green, illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
This is the book I expected to win, though I am quite pleased with the final outcome. Seeger's work here is innovative, and the wonder of Green is made abundantly clear in this book trailer.

Caldecott Honor: One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small and written by Tony Buzzeo
I liked it, but didn't love it, which is why it didn't make the cut for our list of the Best Children's Picture Books of 2012. But, as with Extra Yarn, I quite liked the illustrations. So I'm totally "cool" with this one too.

Caldecott Honor: Sleep Like A Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagaresnski and written by Mary Logue
Once again, I liked the book and the illustrations but it didn't really make a strong impression on me one way or the other.

**What's Missing: Oh, No!, illustrated by Eric Rohmann and written by Candace Fleming and Nighttime Ninja by illustrated by Ed Young and written by Barbara DaCosta, both of which I expected to make the list. And—while I always saw it as a long shot—I really, really love Ashley Wolff's artwork in Baby Bear Sees Blue. I also think illustrator Doug Santat did some phenomenal work this year. But then, everybody can't win :)

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award
(Aka, the category that totally breaks my streak of having read the material...)

Medal Winner: Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Okay, not only does this one break my reading streak—I hadn't even heard of this book yet. But then I already admitted that I'm not much of a juvenile nonfiction reader...

King (Author) Honor: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
A gentle yet powerful picture book about bullying from the side of the (belatedly regretful) bully, and one of our picks for Best Children's Picture Books of 2012

King (Author) Honor: No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by  Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
 I've heard fabulous things about this one, and it is currently sitting at home waiting for me to find time to read it.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award

King (Illustrator) Medal: I, Too, Am America, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Langston Hughes
I read it and loved the art. Unfortunately, the Langston Hughes text didn't quite resonate for me (I know; awful, right?). As a result, the book wasn't very memorable for me. But I may have to take anthor look.

King (Illustrator) Honor: H.O.R.S.E., illustrated and written by Christopher Myers
I am not familiar with this title :( .

King (Illustrator) Honor: Ellen's Broom., illustrated by Daniel minter and written by Kelly Starling Lyons
Don't know this one either.

King (Illustrator) Honor: I Have a Dream., illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yay!!!! Enough said.

Michael L. Printz Award
As a side note, I must say: There was LOTS of debate yesterday and into today on librarian listservs and blogs about the recent winners of this category, some stating that the winners are often too literary to appeal to teen readers or that engaging stories are overlooked in favor of technical writing or literary experimentation. As this is an award for literary excellence, I would say the winners should be extremely well written. But in my view, literary merit depends upon that magical element of good storytelling as well as good technical writing. I'm not going to comment on how these specific qualities do or don't apply to the specific winners and honorees (past or present) because here's the thing: judging books—anything really—is SUBJECTIVE. Rant over.

Medal Winner: In Darkness by Nick Lake
I haven't read this one yet and have read mixed reviews, but can't wait to read for myself.

Printz Honor: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Just finished this last weekend and immediately it became my Printz sleeper favorite. It's compulsively readable plus incredibly well written (but not in a showy or gimmicky way). I couldn't be happier that Sáenz also nabbed the Pura Belpré (Author) Award and the Stonewall Book Award. I really have to read his highly praised book Last Night I Sang to the Monster ASAP.

Printz Honor: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
I know people who absolutely LOVED this book and others who found it so confusing they couldn't finish it. Based on early buzz, I thought for sure it was going to be selected as the medal winner. It's still sitting at home in my (rather tall and wobbly) to-be-read pile.

Printz Honor: Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Haven't read this one, and haven't heard too much buzz up till now. But you can never count out Terry Pratchett, and I will get to this one someday...

Printz Honor: The White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna
This one was a surprise to many; at least many of the commenters to my various listservs hadn't yet heard of it. But then, that's what I love about book awards: the chance to discover wonderful books that might've been otherwise overlooked.

**What's Missing: Lots of people are up in arms over the exclusion of John Green's A Fault in Their Stars, which I adored and agree to be incredibly well written. At the same time, I didn't think it was a perfect book and am not overly disappointed. Maybe I'm just too happy about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  And A Fault in Our Stars wasn't completely left out as it garnered the Odyssey Award for the audiobook.

Other ALA Award winners announced yesterday include:

by Rachel Hartman,  William C. Morris Award winner
I found this to be an excellent debut novel featuring a well-developed fantasy world and an intriguing take on dragons. I can't wait for the sequel.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
by emily m. danforth, William C. Morris Award finalist
I found this book quite engaging, but for me it begins to drag a bit in the middle. I actually had to set it aside for a while. That being said, even though I wasn't reading it for a while, the writing and characters stayed in the back of my mind. I completely understand why the book has been compared to The Catcher in the Rye, although Cameron is a gay girl in 1980s small-town America and the book actually takes place across several years (as opposed to a few days). That being said, I was surprised that it wasn't a Stonewall Honor Book

For a complete list of awards, winners, and honorees (if you're not sick of awards lists by now), you can read yesterday's ALA Press Release.

Monday, January 28, 2013

BEST OF 2012: Middle Grade/Tween Books

Sorry for the long wait between Best of 2012 posts. We've been frantically reading books that we somehow missed last year, books we felt needed to be considered for our Best of 2012 list. And our reading certainly paid off—otherwise, we would have missed out on the fabulous The One and Only Ivan, winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal. (But more on that tomorrow...)

So, without further ado, here are our favorite 2012 books for middle-grade readers and tweens:

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Ascendance Trilogy #1

In the country of Carthya, a devious nobleman engages four orphans in a brutal competition to be selected to impersonate the king's long-missing son in an effort to avoid a civil war. –NoveList

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
The four princes erroneously dubbed Prince Charming and rudely marginalized in their respective fairy tales form an unlikely team when a witch threatens the whole kingdom.  –Provided by publisher.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
At age twelve, Sophie learns that the remarkable abilities that have always caused her to stand out identify her as an elf, and after being brought to Eternalia to hone her skills, discovers that she has secrets buried in her memory for which some would kill.  –NoveList

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father's efforts to start a new business, his mother's extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.  –NoveList

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
With love and determination befitting the "world's greatest family," twelve-year-old Deza Malone, her older brother Jimmie, and their parents endure tough times in Gary, Indiana, and later Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression.  –NoveList
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pilcher
With his family still grieving over his sister's death in a terrorist bombing seven years earlier, twelve-year-old Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and keeping his new Muslim friend Sunya a secret from his father. –NoveList

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.  –NoveList

The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Bullied by two mean girls in her sixth-grade class, a lonely, plump girl gains self-confidence and makes new friends after a mysterious fox gently bites her.  –NoveList

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible in her family, where grumpy eighteen-year-old Sarah is working at the family restaurant, fourteen-year-old Holden is struggling with school bullies and his emerging homosexuality, and adorable, three-year-old Charlie is always the center of attention, and when tragedy strikes, the fragile bond holding the family together is stretched almost to the breaking point.  –NoveList
Read Tracy's Review

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
A foster child named Angel and eleven-year-old Stella, who are living with Stella's great-aunt Louise at the Linger Longer Cottage Colony on Cape Cod, secretly assume responsibility for the vacation rentals when Louise unexpectedly dies and the girls are afraid of being returned to the foster care system.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Washed ashore as a baby in tiny Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, Mo LoBeau, now eleven, and her best friend Dale turn detective when the amnesiac Colonel, owner of a cafe and co-parent of Mo with his cook, Miss Lana, seems implicated in a murder.

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds
Luc, a youth born with one ear and raised by a drunken father in fifteenth-century France, finds a better home with fisherman Pons, his sister Mattie, and their ward Beatrice, the daughter of a disgraced knight, and even after being kidnapped and sold into slavery in Africa, he remains remarkably fortunate.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.


Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Recounts the scientific discoveries that enabled atom splitting, the military intelligence operations that occurred in rival countries, and the work of brilliant scientists hidden at Los Alamos.

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Y. Levinson
Discusses the events of the 4,000 African American students who marched to jail to secure their freedom in May 1963

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

REVIEW: See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Tween/Teen (11 and up)

Summary: Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible in her family. Her dad is obsessed with the family restaurant and hardly ever comes home for dinner anymore; her mother is constantly escaping to her special room to meditate; and her perpetually critical sister Sara is miserable to be stuck at working at the family diner while her friends are all away at college. Fern has always had a special bond with her older brother Holden, but now that he's started high school he's busy coping with school bullies and his own emerging sexuality. And then there's adorable, irrepressible three-year-old Charlie, the constant center of attention within the family. The only person keeping Fern sane is her eternally calm and optimistic best friend Ran, who almost makes her believe that "all will be well." But then tragedy strikes and even Ran can't see how things will ever be okay again.

 First Line: "The very best day of my life, I threw up four times and had a fever of 103 degrees."

Tracy's Thoughts:
This is a book that will make you laugh, break your heart, and then somehow, against all odds, make you smile again. Knowles's characters are fully developed, with authentic emotions and flaws. Quiet, introspective Fern makes a wonderful narrator, and though the lens through which she sees each of her family members is necessarily skewed by her own perspective, readers are able sympathize with each of the characters. Fern's voice is distinct and engaging, often with shades of unintentional humor. This is especially true when she talks about her family:
Holden is always running off in a huff, and I am always the one searching for him and bringing him home. Holden's named after the main character in The Catcher in the Rye. I wasn't supposed to read it until I'm older, but I snuck my mom's paperback copy out of her room last year. The pages were all soft from her reading it so many times. The book is about this boy who's depressed because he thinks everyone he knows is a phony, so he runs away. I understand why my mom liked the book and all, but I personally think is was a big mistake to name your kid after a boy who tries to kill himself, even if he is thoughtful and brilliant. My favorite parts in the book are when the main characters talks about his little sister, Phoebe. Sometimes I think I'm a little like Phoebe to our Holden. Because in the book she's the one he goes back for. And that's sort of like me. Only I have to go looking for him first. (25–26)
The first third of the book introduces the quirk-filled family, from Fern's goodhearted, embarrassing father to demanding, loveable Charlie. But then everything—the simple coming-of-age story you thought you were reading—comes to a devastating halt as tragedy strikes. The emotions become even more palpable, and the characters more real.

Relationships shine in this book, particularly the bond between Holden and Fern—and later, when she steps up after the tragedy, Sara. Fern's friendship with Ran and Cassie—which also adds a minor love triangle to the mix—rings equally true and enjoyable. I don't want to spoil the "tragedy" that shifts the direction of the narrative, so there is not much more I can say about this gripping story. Characters must cope with guilt, grief, and other complex emotions, but the story never becomes maudlin or melodramatic. But there are hints of brightness amidst the darkness that comes. This is a simply but incredibly well-written story, full of humor, compassion, heartwrenching tragedy, and, eventually, healing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

BEST OF 2012: Children's Picture Books and Early Chapter Books

And BCPL's favorite 2012 books for young children are:

Picture Books (Fiction) 

And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Erin Stead
A boy plants a seed in a brown world. And waits. And waits. And then it's spring. A gentle lesson in patience and the cycle of nature. Pre-K–2nd Grade.

Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff
Leaving the den as the weather warms, Baby Bear explores to discover blue birds, red strawberries, orange butterflies, and more. What really makes this book shine are Ashley Wolff's vibrant illustrations, which manage to convey both gentleness and a sense of adventure. Pre-K–Kindergarten.

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Phillip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead
Bear has a story to tell, but as all his animal friends are busy preparing for winter, will there be anyone to listen? This is a gentle and heartwarming story about friendship and nature, superbly illustrated. Pre-K–1st Grade.

The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, illus. by Georg Hallensleben
Books and reading are the stars of this picture book, not a bear. The clever structure allows readers to peek in on the intimate process of  a mother and child reading together at bedtime, then offers glimpses into the book they are reading within the story. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein*
It all begins when Amelia smiles. Someone sees her smile and is inspired to do a good deed and so on, and so on. The effects of that one smile cross oceans and then somehow make their way back to Amelia. A lovely concept, and a great jumping off point for a discussion between kids and parents. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman, illus. by Dan Yaccarino*
Despite their differences, a boy and a robot become true and caring companions. This sweet-natured tale is enhanced by charming artwork and humor-inflected dialog. Pre-K–Kindergarten.

Charley's First Night by Amy Hest, illus. by Helen Oxenbury
This tender and warm story chronicles a little boy's first night with his new puppy. A timeless tale, lovingly illustrated and sure to have the kiddos clamoring for puppies of their own. Pre-K–2nd Grade.

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown*
The carrots growing in Crackenhopper Field are the yummiest around and Jasper Rabbit can't resist grabbing a snack every time he passes by. But then Jasper begins seeing creepy carrots stalking him wherever he goes—even watching him brush his teeth. This is a horror story for the kiddos, with an equal dose of humor. Brown's contrasting orange/gray illustrations are fabulous, creating a classic horror movie vibe, and the subtle lesson on greediness won't go amiss. Pre-K–1st Grade.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems
In this fifth book of the beloved Pigeon series, the duckling gets a cookie by asking politely. Meanwhile, Pigeon rants and raves about all the things he has wanted and been denied. This is a wonderfully fun read aloud, which also offers material for a discussion about politeness and making reasonable vs. unreasonable requests. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by E.B. Lewis*
Quiet yet intense, this story of bullying and remorse is told from the bully's point of view. When her teacher gives the class a lesson on kindness, Chloe realizes the opportunities for kindness she has missed, especially in relation to a classmate she has refused to play with and has made fun of in the past. Some of the depictions of schoolyard bullying are truly striking, and Chloe's regret when she looks back on her actions is almost palpable. Kindergarten–3rd Grade.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illus. by Job Klassen
After discovering of magical box of yarn that never runs out, Annabelle knits for everyone and everything in town—until an evil archduke decides he wants the box for himself Kindergarten–2nd Grade.
Read Lucinda's Review.

Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos by Susan Middleton Elya, illus. by Dan Santat*
Rhythmic rhyming text interspersed with Spanish words tell the story of a brave group of firefighters off to battle a blaze. Context clues make it easy to guess the meaning of most of the Spanish words, though a glossary is provided at the end of the book. Santat's bold pencil drawings are vibrant and appealing. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
When Goldilocks wonders into the home of three dinosaurs, will she be able to escape? Or will the dinosaurs have a tasty treat awaiting them when they return home? This clever fairy tale with a twist will amuse adults and children alike. Pre-K–3rd Grade.

Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack
While on a picnic, Bunny and Mouse see everything that happens to them from opposite points of view: Bunny sees only the good, while Mouse sees only the bad. The repetitive, rapid-fire call-and-response text makes it a great read aloud, but this also works well for independent readers. Pre-K–1st Grade.

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers*
This wordless picture book follows a boy's escape from bullies into a museum, into a series of paintings, and back out again—with reinforcements to take on his tormentors. It's a grand adventure, presented in graphic novel format. The art is rich with nuance and humor, providing a clear and detailed story despite the lack of words. Book three in the Boy, Bear series. Kindergarten–3rd Grade.

A Home for Bird by Phillip C. Stead
 Sweetness and gentle humor punctuate this tale of a frog who meets a bird who seems sad and doesn't talk, then becomes determined to help the bird finds his home and be happy. A lovely book about kindness and perseverance. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley, illus. by Dan Santat*
A daring preschooler invites readers to watch as he performs such daring stunts as eating broccoli, dressing himself, and going to bed without checking for monsters. As always, Santat's illustrations are rife with humor and bold as can be—just like Kel Gilligan. We dare you not to laugh! Pre-K–1st Grade.

King Arthur's Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel
On his sixth birthday, Henry Alfred Grummorson, sets off in search of adventure, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, King Arthur. This picture book has the feel of a classic, with its timeless illustrations, and provides ample discussion material on themes of bravery, aggression, and friendship. Pre-K–2nd Grade.

Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Kids Counting Money
by Emily Jenkins, illus. by G. Brian Karas

It may be winter, but Pauline is determined to set up a lemonade stand and her brother John-John is happy to help. This is a lovely and entertaining book about money, the entrepreneurial spirit,  and sibling relationships. As Pauline teaches her little brother to count change, she also provides a lesson to the reader. Pre-K–3rd Grade.

Magritte's Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson*
This unusual, surrealist-inspired picture book is sure to inspire imagination and creativity as readers explore a world with Magritte and his hat where ordinary objects become extraordinary. Kindergarten–4th Grade.

Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, illus. by Ed Young
Stealthily and oh-so-quietly, the ninja creeps through the house on a late-night mission. It's a deadly serious journey—until the lights go on and the secret mission is revealed. DaCostsa's spare, elegantly crafted text and Young's expressive collage artwork bring to life a young boy's fantasy. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Nothing Ever Happens at the South Pole by Stan and Jan Berenstain
When a little penguin receives a blank book in the mail he is eager to fill it up with exciting things, but while he is seeking adventure he misses the action right before his eyes. Pre-K–2nd Grade.

Oh, No! by Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric Rohmann*
A tiger stalks its prey hungrily through a bamboo forest, while accident-prone forest creatures have close escapes and take turns rescuing one another.  The woodblock artwork is wonderfully expressive, and lots of repetition and silly sounds make it natural read aloud material. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Oh No! Not Again!: (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) (Or at Least My History Grade) by Mac Barnett, illus. by Dan Santat*
Some kids are too smart for their own good...and maybe for everybody else's good too. The overly ambitious little girl from Oh No! is back; this time, she has a problem of historic proportions on her hands. She got a wrong answer on her history quiz! The only thing to do now is to build a time machine and travel back in time to make her wrong answer right! This is a hilarious adventure, from the construction of the time machine (among the parts: an original Nintendo game controller), to the search for the correct time period, to the unforeseen consequences of the journey. Kindergarten–3rd Grade.

Olivia and the Fairy Princess by Ian Falconer
In the seventh Olivia book, the funny, strong-willed piglet is having an identity crisis or sorts. Pre-K–2nd Grade.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, illus. by James Dean
In this third installment of the Pete the Cat series, Pete loves the buttons on his shirt so much that he makes up a song about them, and even as the buttons pop off, one by one, he still finds a reason to sing. Pre-K–1st Grade.

The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle*
Nothing interesting ever happens in the boring town of Dull-on-Sea—until a pirate family moves into town. Despite the suspicion of her parents and neighbors, Miranda can't wait to befriend her new neighbors. Told in buoyant, comic rhyming text with just the right amount of absurdity mixed in, this is a jolly fun tale. Pre-K–2nd Grade.
Stay Close to Mama by Toni Buzzeo, illus. by Mike Wohnoutka
A curious baby giraffe wanders away from his mother to explore the interesting sights and smells of the savanna. Includes a note on giraffes. Pre-K–Kindergarten.

Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds
Marisol is an artist. When her class learns that they will work together to create a mural, Marisol wants to be in charge of the sky. But there is no blue paint. What will she do? This is a gorgeously illustrated, whimsical book about problem solving, artistic expression, and the power of imagination. Pre-K–2nd Grade.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Yet another hat is stolen in Klassen's latest solo effort—and yet this time around, we see things from the point of view of the thief, who rationalizes his thievery and is confident in his escape. Clever readers will notice the hints that getting away with it may not be so easy after all. Sly and suspenseful, with plenty of ironic humor, the text and illustrations combine perfectly for another winner. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky
This is not your average ABC picture book. When Zebra gathers the animals together to create a picture book, Moose simply cannot wait for his turn. So he tries to insert himself a bit early in the roster only to be forcibly removed. But when it's finally time for "M," Zebra chooses someone else to represent the letter. That's when things get really crazy. Delightfully silly humor makes this one a sure-fire hit. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Picture Books (Nonfiction)

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel, illus. by Amanda Hall*
This charming child's biography of painter Henri Rousseau explores the late-life painter's many rejections before he was hailed as a great artist. Bright, gorgeous illustrations create a fanciful world, from Henri's jungles to the galleries where his work is eventually displayed. Pre-K–3rd Grade.

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger*
This concept book explores a variety of shades of the color green before delving into more abstract ideas. Simple rhyming text and clever die-cuts create texture. Pre-K–1st Grade.

Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey, illus. by Hadley Hooper
This fresh and lively picture book explores the unconventional life of Girl Scouts founder Juliet (Daisy) Gordon and the establishment of the organization in 1912. Mixed media art and a plenitude of Girl Scout creeds enhance the story and provide an authentic, crafty feel in keeping with the subject. Kindergarten–2nd Grade.

How Things Work in the House by Lisa Campbell Ernst*
From cats to popcorn to plumbing, Lisa Campbell Ernst explains simply and clearly how a variety of household objects "work." In addition, she provides interesting facts and even a few projects to undertake (with a responsible adult, when appropriate). The collage art is wonderfully balanced and fully illustrates the text. Kindergarten–3rd Grade.

I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illus. by Kadir Nelson
An abbreviated version of King's iconic speech provides the text for Nelson's fabulous paintings. Together, the unforgettable words and perfectly done illustrations inspire and captivate. As a bonus, the entirety of King's speech is printed in the back, and the book comes packaged with a CD recording of King himself delivering the speech. All ages.

Island by Jason Chin*
This visual tribute to the evolving terrain and animals of the Galapagos Islands perfectly simplifies a complex subject and presents it in a balanced and entertaining format. Pre-K–5th Grade.

Beginning Reader/Early Chapter Books

Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illus. by Tony Fucile*
This early reader/picture book hybrid—the second in the Bink and Gollie series—includes three short stories within a larger tale. This time Bink and Gollie are at the State Fair, and their friendship is as steadfast as ever. These two opposites know each other inside and out, and their loyalty is unquestioned. Fucile's illustrations are brimming with humor, and the vocabulary is rich yet approachable. Kindergarten–2nd Grade.

Penny and Her Doll by Kevin Henkes
This feel-good beginning reader tells the story of Penny and her search for the perfect name for her new doll. Penny's voice is authentic, and according to a School Library Journal reviewer, "[the] sight words and repetition are perfect for emerging readers." Kindergarten–1st Grade.

Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett, illus. by Ann James
Hannah frequently gets in trouble. Or, more specifically, it is her hands—whom she has named Sadie and Ratz—that cause all the trouble. Sadie and Ratz especially love tormenting Hannah's younger brother, Baby Boy. But then bad things start happening when Sadie and Ratz aren't around, but Hannah is still getting in trouble. This humor-laced early reader has a bit more edge than the usual beginning reader books, but despite her troublemaking—and occasionally violent ways—Hannah is a sympathetic character. Hartnett's themes of imagination and sibling rivalry receive realistic and original treatment. Kindergarten–3rd Grade.

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