Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Some New Favorites

Just in time for the school's annual book fair, I am offering you a list of some books I have read recently that I am eager to share with others.

Picture Books

What If...? by Anthony Browne (grades preK-2)  is by one of my favorite author/illustrators.  Browne's illustrations are full of interesting details that require careful perusal to find all they contain.  In this book a young boy worries about what he will find when heads to an unfamiliar home and what may be his first ever party without his parents.  This is a great way to deal with this all to common worry in a humorous and reassuring manner.

Shoe Dog by Megan McDonald (grades K-3) has great illustrations that show all the energy of a puppy...in this case a puppy who loves to chew on shoes.

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin (grades K-3) and all the other titles by this goofy author are filled with humor that very much appeals to kids of a certain age.  The illustrations are as wacky as the stories.

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea (grades k-4) made me laugh out loud when I read it in the bookstore.  A kid rides a tortoise into a town in the Old West.  The town is desperate to end the crime spree of the Terrible Toad gang.  The kid admits that he can't shoot a gun, twirl a rope, or stay up past seven, but that doesn't stop him from using his knowledge of dinosaurs to trick those hardened, but not to bright, criminals.  It is much better than I can possibly describe.

Alexander, Who's Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever by Judith Viorst (grades K-3) brings back the same Alexander who had a terrible, no good, very bad day.  In this book he decides that maybe doing naughty but very tempting things like eating an entire box of donuts is ultimately not worth having to pay the consequences so he decides to be the best boy ever.  This is a lot harder on him (and those around him) than he imagined.

Emergent Readers--Grades 1-3

Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold is always a winner.  There are many books in this series about a boy and his pet fly and each one offers simple text, an interesting plot, and lots of humor.

Anna Hibiscus and The Number 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke offer a look at life in Africa through the eyes of a girl (Anna) and a boy (#1 Car Spotter) in stories that will appeal and relate well to any young reader. 

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo brings a new cowboy hero to the world.  Leroy is a genuinely nice guy but a little confused at times.  He is neighbors with the owners of Mercy Watson who is the star of her own series by the much loved Kate DiCamillo.

The Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems  I know I have suggested these in other posts, but they really are great stories filled with humor and empathy.  The speech bubble format makes them perfect for reading together.

Middle Grades--Grades 3-6

Gabriel Finney and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen is a marvelous fantasy adventure that has a young boy joining forces with an orphaned raven to save the boy's father (and the world) from evil ravens and the humans who have joined forces with them.  I especially like all of the riddles and puns that make good ravens laugh.

Unlikely Friendships for Kids by Jennifer S. Holland is a series of non-fiction that simplifies the series that Holland originally published for older students and adults.  Each of these small books contains several stories about surprising friendships between animals species.  The stories, all true, include photos of the animals together.  Kids love the stories and the information about these varied species.

Nuts to You! by Lynne Rae Perkins is an environmental tale told through the ideas of a squirrel.  The squirrels admit that they are easily distracted and love games but that does not stop them from banding together to escape chainsaws that are destroying their homes.  The humans do have a heart and peanut butter sandwiches.

Loot by Jude Watson is a rare book because it makes the reader appreciate and like some big time jewel thieves.  There is some humor and lots of excitement as a boy and his long-lost sister try to understand the clues left by their father and find a cursed jewel.

Middle School--Grades 5-8

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is a delightfully creepy tale of orphaned children in Victorian England, a house that is clearly possessed, and the family that lives in the house.  The children who come to the house must face the horror and save the family from the spell of the night gardener.

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine  gives a view of the integration of Little Rock High School that I had never seen before.  The story takes place the year after the first integration and the city has decided to close the high schools rather than continue integration.  The protagonist, a girl in junior high, is confused about all of this but mostly focusing on finding a friend who accepts her with her real and perceived problems.  That friend is a new girl who is soon accused of being passing as white.  It is not an easy story, but one that is well written and offers new insights.

The Paper Cowboy by Kristen Levine takes the reader back to the McCarthy Era as a young boy tries to deal with family problems while carrying the weight of worrying about who might be a Communist.  The boy is very real and wants to be a cowboy like his those he hears about on the radio, but he also is something of a bully.  The many problems all collide as he learns some realities of life.

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal begins as a sweet modern fairy tale about a kindly baker and the children who visit him.  Then things go horribly, terrifyingly, surprisingly wrong.  This is not for the faint of heart.

Graphic Works

Laika by Nick Abadzis (grades 4 and up) tells the true story of the first animal in space, the cosmonaut dog named Laika.  It deals with the politics of the time and reflects current feelings about animal rights.

El Deafo by Cece Bell (grades 4 and up) is Bell's story of becoming profoundly deaf at age four and learning to cope and make friends with a huge hearing aid box that is the only way she can hear.  The characters are all portrayed as rabbits with large ears, but the story is truly a memoir.  It is never easy to fit in with differences, but Cece finds that her ugly and embarrassing hear aids also give her some superpowers.

Gaijin:  An American Prisoner of War  by Matt Faulkner (grades 5 and up) is inspired by a story from the author's family.  A teen aged boy with an American mother and a Japanese father is living in San Francisco when Pearl Harbor is bombed.  His father is visiting ill relatives in Japan at the time and can not return home.  The boy is sent to an internment camp.  His mother chooses to go with him.  Not only does the story deal with the harsh reality of the camps but also how difficult it can be to fit in as a mixed-race child.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (grades 5 and up). Telgemeier ,who first got a huge following with another memoir (Smile) remembers a family trip and the ebb and flow of relationships with her sister.  She has a remarkable talent for capturing family dynamics.

A few titles for adults
The President's Club:  Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
The Bone Clocks  by David Mitchell
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wacker

As always, I am eager to hear what others are reading and enjoying.


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