There’s nothing better than time spent with family during the Holidays, and maybe a few extra hours to read! Just in time for Thanksgiving, we've picked out some titles we're especially thankful for…
Thanks from The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle
This classic picture book is perfect for the holidays. Following everybody’s favorite hungry caterpillar, this colorful picture book celebrates the word "thanks," and its impact in everyday life.
The Know-Nothings Talk Turkey By Michele Sobel Spirn
The funny foursome is back in this hysterical book about how to get the Thanksgiving turkey to join them at their table for the meal!
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving By Charles M. Schulz and Adapted By Daphne Pendergrass
Celebrate the holiday with Charlie Brown and the gang as Charlie scrambles to make a feast for Peppermint Patty and all of their friends. Will Charlie be able to rise to the challenge or will the gang be thankful that the meal is over?
Give Thank You a Try By James Patterson
James Patterson emphasizes the importance of giving thanks for small things, like ice cream, for larger things, like a parent's love.
Pete the Cat The First Thanksgiving By James Dean
Join Pete the Cat as he gets the starring role in his school play that shares the first story of Thanksgiving fun. While even the “coolest” cat would be nervous about being a star, Pete has fun with sharing the history of thanksgiving and your kids will have fun reading it too.
There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Turkey By Lucille Collandro
Everyone’s favorite quirky old lady is back: and she's swallowed a turkey!
Goblins, ghouls and ghosts, oh my! Halloween is rapidly approaching. To get into the festive spirit, check out RKR's list of super spooky books sure to entice even the most reluctant readers.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children—By Ransom Riggs (12+)
16-year-old Jacob is traveling to a remote island, fleeing his own personal tragedy. Once he arrives he stumbles upon the remains of an old orphanage that housed peculiar children—children that may still be alive. Now a major motion picture, this thriller is super spooky and will get you in the mood for Halloween.
The Graveyard Book—By Neal Gaiman (10+)
This Newbury Honor award winner follows Bod, a boy raised in a graveyard. Bod doesn’t have human parental figures, instead he was raised by ghost, werewolves and other species found in a cemetery. Follow Bod as he navigates both the world of the living and the world of the dead in this award winning middle grade book.
Cinder (The Lunar Chronical Series)—By Marissa Meyer (12+)
Cinder is a girl with a mysterious past. She is a gifted mechanic and cyborg who lives with her evil stepmother and stepsister when she suddenly finds her life entangled with the handsome prince, Kai. It is up to Cinder to uncover her haunted past quickly to save her future in this young adult take on a classic fairytale.
Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales—By Kiersten White (8+)
Once upon a time, fairytales got mixed up and mashed together to form one hilarious and spooky scarytale—look no further this story is perfect for getting your kiddo in the Halloween spirit.
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding—By Alexandra Bracken (8+)
Prosper Redding is just your average boy who happens to have a demon living inside of him. Now plagued with hosting a demon who wants to destroy the family fortune and a family who would rather save their fortune than one of their own flesh and blood—Prosper is in for one wild ride.
The Girl with All the Gifts—By M.R Carey (12+)
Join Melanie as she navigates her dystopian reality and adapts to the various trials and tribulations that she is constantly faced with in this science fiction thriller.
Hunting Prince Dracula—By Kerri Maniscalco (12+)
Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell are back for another adventure, this time in Romania. The dynamic duo is all set to attend forensics school, but their semester starts off with a few problems—mainly, dead bodies drained of blood. Could Dracula be stalking their halls or is the real killer someone they know? Follow Audrey and Thomas as they journey to find the real murderer or lose their lives searching.
Monsterland--By James Crowley (10+)
Charlie is surrounded by Halloween excitement but for him, it’s just a reminder that his cousin Billy is no longer around. After being bullied into giving away Halloween candy, Charlie heads off the woods where low and behold he believes he sees his cousin Billy. Soon enough Charlie finds himself entering Monsterland, a mysterious place filled with supernatural creatures. Will Charlie be reunited with Billy or is it just all a mirage—find out by picking up a copy of Monsterland.
There's Someone Inside Your House—By Stephanie Perkins (12+)
Makani Young thought she left her gruesome past behind in Hawaii when she moved in with her grandma in Nebraska. She enrolls in the local high school and then something strange starts to occur—one by one students are being murdered. As Makani starts to question her own past as the death toll strikes—the question still exists, who is killing all of these students?
A Tale Dark and Grimm—By Adam Gidwitz (10+)
Hansel and Gretel take a leave from their own story and enter eight other Grimm original tales—this is one spooky spoof of original fairytales you don’t want your kiddo to miss.
1) After the success of Stalking Jack the Ripper, writing Hunting Prince Dracula must have been no small feat. How did your writing process change from your first to second novel? What drew you specifically to Dracula?
I was mostly worried about the “second book curse” and how I’d “up the stakes” after SJTR’s incredible reception. Normally I’m a creature of habit, so I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was when my writing process changed drastically after Stalking Jack. Getting out of my own head was the hardest thing, and instead of writing in a linear fashion like I usually do, I found myself sitting down and writing scenes out of order. Which threw me into a mental tizzy for quite a while because I was breaking the form that had worked so well while writing Stalking Jack. The stress was oh so real.
I didn’t have any time for writer’s block, though, so to ensure I was reaching daily word-count goals, I wrote scenes that felt the most natural when I could. Once I got out of my own way and had fun with writing a story I wanted to read, the words flowed naturally. I think readers can always tell when something is forced, so letting loose and writing scenes that I was drawn to made for more engaged prose.
As for why I chose Dracula, he is one of those villains from literature who is dark and troubled, and yet still likable and sympathetic. I enjoyed going the route of discussing the historical figure Vlad the Impaler, and sort of marrying the two, fictional and real, into one copycat killer for our crime-solving duo to stop.
2) Both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula do such a great job exploring historical villains and the mysteries behind them. Are there similarities between these two villains even though one is a real-life unsolved mystery and the other is based in myth?
Definitely. They’re both infamous and have maintained a huge audience for over a hundred years, in Jack the Ripper’s case, and nearly six hundred years, for Vlad. Both committed crimes that were wildly vicious and terrifying in their era—and would be considered so today. And they both certainly transformed their stories into legends—bloody ones.
That said, Vlad the Impaler, the historical inspiration behind the fictional Count Dracula, is considered a folk hero in Romania, and I really wanted to explore that and break it down in the text. He used impalement and other medieval methods of killing to instill fear in his enemies—the people who were invading his beloved country and trying to destroy their culture and beliefs. That was one of the most interesting things I learned during the research process, and it is one of the major differences between these two historical figures. We have a clear understanding of why Vlad killed—there is still speculation and no solid truth as to why Jack the Ripper committed his crimes.
3) You described the gothic setting of Romania and the autopsies in such detail that it almost feels as if you attended the forensics academy yourself. What was your research process like the second time around?
Thank you! The research process followed the same general path as the first, though this time I could really delve into the process from a teacher’s perspective. Thanks to my dad and grandpa, I grew up in a household where having anatomical texts and medical journals around was normal, which has always been the foundation for my love of medicine and science. To really get into the mind-set of writing the professors from the Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science, I studied texts and syllabuses from teachers to create authentic courses for our burgeoning forensics students. I’m hoping to get to the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee for the next adventure, which has always been one of my dreams as a forensics enthusiast.
I have Eastern European roots, so the research that I did for Romania and its myths and customs was very important to me—I wanted to get right. Romania is a beautiful country, and I wanted to bring an authentic feel to the setting but also be respectful of the people who live there. When I did take historical liberties, I made sure to outline how and why in my author’s note. I surrounded myself with information on Bran Castle and Brasov and Bucharest, trying to find out exactly how those locations looked during that time period so I could describe it through Audrey Rose’s eyes.
My favorite thing about writing historical fiction is that there’s all of this wonderful history to investigate and delve into while still asking the all-important “what if” to make it relevant today. What if there was a Victorian girl scientist, one who was expected to be cosseted, but was inspired by other women’s movements to do her own thing? What if she chose a different path, an uncertain future, judged by many, but one which felt right in her bones? History cannot be rewritten, but we can certainly use it—and its mistakes—to craft better tomorrows.
4) Without giving too much away, Audrey Rose is still grappling with the true identity of Jack the Ripper and is immersed with grief. She struggles with her emotions and how people perceive her, particularly because she is a woman. What are you hoping the audience learns about grief and its perception?
One of the things Audrey Rose has to worry about is how she’ll be viewed by her male peers when they already have this preconceived notion that she’s going to be more fragile because of her sex. It’s something I’ve experienced in my life, and, unfortunately, I know a lot of other women who have, too. You almost have to be stronger in certain situations in order to command the same level of respect that’s just awarded to others. I imagine in the nineteenth century it would have been something that Audrey Rose thought about a lot.
Through experience I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s one of those tricky emotions that varies from person to person, and takes many different forms and even morphs over time. Sometimes it’s all-consuming, and other times it’s brushed off and stuffed someplace deep inside until it bursts through the cracks and you can’t help but face it head-on. I hope my readers—and anyone who’s currently having feelings of grief or has experienced it—knows that however they grieve or feel is okay. There is no right or wrong way—just whatever works for you. Take however long or short you need—giving yourself permission to feel authentically is also gifting yourself power.
5) You left the ending open for another adventure for Wadsworth and Cresswell and hinted that they would be heading to America. Can you give us any teasers of what’s to come for our favorite pair?
Oh…let’s see what I can reveal without giving too much away. The next adventure begins two days after Hunting Prince Dracula ends, and the duo is definitely headed to America. I’ve laid hints about some subject matter in both SJTR and HPD, so there are clues for readers if they can’t wait until the official title/blurb reveal around January, or sometime early in 2018. I will say this—there is an actual murderer from history who will be terrorizing the pair…
It’s dark, eerie, and filled with mischief and mayhem. Oh, and there’s a bit of magic. Whether or not it’s real is another question. Hopefully Wadsworth and Cresswell will both survive—the darkness is calling to them, and one might be compelled to answer that tug. One teaser from the text is: “To truly end a murderer I’d need to become one.”I’m really looking forward to sharing this next gothic adventure with readers in the fall of 2018.
Your Guts & Glory series tackles history in an action-packed, exciting fashion. Have you always been a history buff, or was this interest fostered in later years?
I’ve loved history for as long as I can remember. My Dad was a big history buff, and he collected all sorts of awesome artifacts ranging from old swords and muskets to Roman helmets—things you’d probably only see in action movies or museums. He’d always talk about what the different items were used for, and about the kinds of people who would have used them, and I found the entire thing fascinating. I was a huge history fan throughout all of school, majored in it in college, and now I’m so lucky and grateful to be able to do something I love professionally.
How did you come up with the idea for the Guts & Glory series? What made you want to write for kids?
I am of the opinion that anyone who loves history loves it because they had one person in their life who was able to make history a real, tangible thing. Whether it was a parent, teacher, or friend, or even a movie or video game, history fans usually have something in their past that changed history from the rote memorization of the birthdays of a bunch of old dead white guys, and turn it into a fun, visceral, and exciting adventure. History is literally the study of everything that has ever happened, and it’s filled with over-the-top heroics, unbelievable triumphs, and white-knuckle drama. So I’ve always had a hard time with how some authors or teachers could take incredible deeds and make them sound so unbelievably boring that you’d rather sit in line at the DMV than hear about the French Revolution. It’s like, sometimes historians get so bogged down with the names and dates and chronology that they forget why any of that stuff is worth remembering to begin with.
With the Guts & Glory series, I wanted to tell history the way I see it – as a thrilling ride laced with enough excitement, danger, and heroism to produce a million blockbuster films. History not only describes some of the most epic deeds ever accomplished by humans, but also shows all of the amazing and inspirational things that one person (or one group of people) can do when they don’t let anything stand in their way.
What’s the best part about writing for children? What’s the most challenging?
The kids themselves are the best part! I love doing school appearances, talking to students, and getting nice letters from readers and fans. It’s so rewarding to be able to teach kids about the things that I think are awesome and have them actually learn something in the process.
It can be challenging, though, because kids can smell a phony from a mile away, and you need to be on the top of your game. I think it can be easy to underestimate your audience and say, “oh, it’s just fifth graders” or whatever, but trying to dumb down your content or using that as an excuse to get sloppy with your research or writing is a huge mistake. You need your work to be accessible to the age group (and rated PG, which is seriously not easy to do when you’re talking about some of these historical figures), but if you bring anything less than your best, you’re not going to succeed. If you do bring your best, it can be the most rewarding thing in the world.
What were some of your favorite books growing up? Did they inspire you to write and/or get you excited about reading?
I’ve always loved reading cool history stuff. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is probably one of my favorite books of all time, because Edward Gibbon was an old-school historian who didn’t pull any punches. A lot of the primary source writers like Suetonius and Xenophon were the type who just straight-up told you “this guy was amazing, and this guy deserved to be overthrown.” As long as you can filter their critiques through the lens of the author’s personal belief system, it makes the content more engaging, insightful, and exciting. I feel like it can be easy to get bogged down by objectivism and give up entire chapters trying to explain the motivations of all parties involved in a conflict. But that gets really boring really fast. I always preferred the writers that could get right into the action, lay out where they stood on the subject, and then give the reader freedom to draw their own conclusions.
Do you have any more historical book suggestions for kids who love your series?
My main advice to students is to push yourself! Read some of the primary sources if you can find them… it’s a truly fantastic insight into the minds of historical figures. Sure, it’s good to know that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, but when you’re reading his autobiography and he’s talking about his favorite dish to eat at home with his wife, it makes him into a real human being, not an old painting or a crumbling white marble statue. Some of these people are actually really funny too, and their writing can be pretty entertaining. Sure, even as late in history as Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War some of the language can be tricky to get through. But here’s a secret: reading the writings of Thomas Jefferson is kind of tricky for most adults, too! Give it a shot, and see how you do. It’s never too early to aim high.
What are you working on now?
Well, I’d love to work on more Guts & Glory in the future, and I am also working on a new series due out next year called Epic Fails, where I talk about some of the great mess-ups from history – and how some pretty incredible people took really hopeless situations and ended up succeeding against all odds. Beyond that, who knows? I hope to keep writing about awesome stuff, visiting schools, and teaching kids that history isn’t nearly as boring as they might think it is.
The Associated Press announced the recipients of James Patterson and Scholastic’s 2017 classroom library grants. This year’s pledge drew a record 82,622 applicants. Classrooms all over the country will benefit from $500 donations from Patterson, who personally donated another $1.75 million in the third year of his School Library Campaign. The program was launched in 2015 in partnership with Scholastic Reading Club as part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a priority for children in the United States.
Please join us in congratulating the winners!
To view the full list of grant recipients, click here.
Summer is coming to a close, and with it, the start of back-to-school...lucky for us, though, reading is always in season! Reading for as little as half an hour a day can really make a difference in brushing up on skills and comprehension before heading back to the classroom. Here's a list of suggestions for both Middle Grade and YA novels that will keep even the most reluctant readers occupied!
2014 offered a bumper crop of great books, and with so many to choose from, we wanted to offer some suggestions of books you won't want to miss when shopping for holiday gifts.
In compiling this list, we have included books that will meet a range of interests and age levels, including picture books, fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. Above all, any one of these books is one that would be a pleasure to own, to share, to reread.
Always by Emma Dodd
Always is is a sweet and simple little book with a very important message about unconditional love. Beautiful silver foil embellishments throughout make this a special gift to be shared with the little one in your life. (baby/toddler)
Little Humans by Brandon Stanton
Reminiscent of its predecessor for adults, Humans of New York, but perfect for the younger set. These are great pictures of active and creative New York City kids, dressed in their best and inspiring other little humans to grow, play, and love BIG! (ages 4+)
The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak
This hilarious book begs to be read aloud! As Novak points out, the way a book works is that the reader must say whatever words are on the page. This is true even if the words make silly sounds, or even if they don't make any sense at all! You may have your doubts about a picture book with no pictures, but kids of all ages will be laughing out loud at this fun, clever, and unique book! (ages 4+)
The Mouse Mansion by Karina Schaapman
This book is amazing and absolutely enchanting! Readers of all ages will spend time poring over the pages, marveling at the tiniest details of the real-life dollhouse made of cardboard boxes and papier-mâché and containing over one hundred different rooms. This simply lovely and completely unique collection of short stories is sure to be enjoyed by everyone who opens it up! (ages 4+)
Rainbows Never End by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot
Did you know that rainbows never end? That's right! A rainbow is actually a full circle, but we can't see the whole thing because it is blocked by the horizon. So cool, right? In this super fun non-fiction fact book, you will learn all sorts of amazing things about weather and the environment, from why thunder booms to how frost flowers are formed in the Arctic Ocean. Kids of all ages (and adults, too) will surely learn something new! Also, be sure to check out the other books in the Did You Know series! (ages 5+)
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
Being the youngest kid in the family isn't easy; Dory's brother and sister think she's too much of a baby to play along with them, and getting any attention can be tough. But with an imagination that's larger than life, as well as a seemingly never-ending supply of energy, Dory certainly finds many ways to keep herself entertained. Plenty of illustrations and great fun make this a perfect pick for new chapter book readers. (ages 6+)
Quest by Aaron Becker
The amazing story began last year in Becker's first book, Journey, a high level wordless picture book celebrating the power of imagination. In this second book of a trilogy, follow the girl with the red crayon and her new friend, the boy with the purple crayon, as the magical adventure is taken to a whole new level. With a sophisticated plot and interpretive story line, this one will be best appreciated by ages 8+.
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Don't be fooled into thinking this is a children's book only! Adults and kids alike will delight in Oliver Jeffer's witty short stories dedicated to each letter of the alphabet. From Helen who lives in a Half House to my personal favorite, the Owl and Octopus in the Ocean, these clever stories had me Literally Laughing out Loud! A great choice for fans of Shel Silverstein! (ages 4-104)
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
This animal adventure tale is filled with friendship, courage, and imagination! The description of squirrel culture is fun and entertaining, and makes for a unique tale perfect for readers who are ready for for a little more depth of story! (ages 6+)
House of Robots by James Patterson
In this new highly-illustrated series from James Patterson, an extraordinary robot signs up for an ordinary fifth grade class. This light and funny story incorporates plenty of humor, both in the text and in the accompanying comic-style illustrations. (ages 8+)
Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan
Fans of the incredibly popular Percy Jackson series are guaranteed to devour this book from cover to cover. Learn about the Greek gods from the wise-cracking demigod himself, Percy Jackson. This gorgeously illustrated book is laugh out loud funny as well as informative, and is the perfect book for Greek mythology enthusiasts! (ages 8+)
Animalium by Jenny Broom
This beautiful book is a must for animal lovers of all ages! With an over sized format, magnificent natural history-style illustrations, and fascinating animal facts, you'll feel a sense of exploration and discovery on every page! A gorgeous gift! (ages 8+)
This is the World by Miroslav Sasek
This iconic compilation of Sasek's beloved travel stories from the last 50 years takes readers of all ages on a whirlwind trip to the world's greatest destinations. Includes fabulous illustrations and fun icons, with tidbits of information on each country. A wonderful gift that will be appreciated by the whole family for years to come. (ages 8+)
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
This NYT bestselling author is back with a quirky and fun new book! Eleven year old Ellie loves puzzles and all things logical, but science? She's not so sure. When her cousin (or is it her grandfather?) comes to visit, she starts to see things differently. A smart book with a unique twist. (ages 8+)
Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson
Evie has no memory of the past, and doesn't even know her own name when she arrives at Pennyroyal Academy, but enrollment has expanded beyond those with a royal pedigree. She is given a new name and a new identity, and begins her princess training, which turns out to be a lot different than you might expect. Packed with action and adventure, Pennyroyal Academy will turn your idea of what it mean to be a princess on end. (ages 9+)
The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill
A silent boy, a mischievous pot of magic, a strong independent girl, nine year old souls trapped in stones, and the uncertain fate of two kingdoms -- this epic tale is tightly packed into one awesome story of friendship, selflessness, and ultimately, of letting go. Fantastic! (ages 9+)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
In this beautifully written memoir of her childhood, Jacqueline Woodson chronicles the hardship, as well as the beauty, of growing up in New York and South Carolina during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. While written in verse, her story reads like prose and chronicles her realization that she wanted to become a writer, even though she struggled with reading as a child. A beautiful and inspirational story. (ages 10+)
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
The world of teenage life is fraught with loss, drama, community, and love. Meg Wolitzer has created a character and a world to examine these powerful issues with wit and warmth. You will become immersed immediately, and barely take your head up until the entire story has been absorbed and cherished. (ages 12+)
Egg & Spoon by Gregory Macguire
From the author of Wicked comes a breathtaking new novel that weaves elements of traditional Russian folklore with original storytelling. Elena Rudin's dismal village life is upended with the arrival of Ektarina, the daughter of a noble family. The adventure that unfolds contains elements of well known fairy tales and lesser known gems. Teens will love this! (ages 12+)
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This book is written in such a cool way, has some twists and turns, has relatable characters with some romance thrown in, and plenty of family drama. And just when you think you have it figured out you will find the rug being pulled out from under you. As everyone who has read it has said, go into this blind…don’t let anyone ruin it for you with spoilers. (ages 12+)
Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia are complete strangers; they live no where near one another, and never meet. The thing they have in common is a mysterious girl named Leila, who is driving 4,000 miles across the country in an attempt to leave the past behind her. Along her journey, Lelia meets and befriends each of these teens, and each at a pivotal time in their lives. When she drives back out of their towns as quickly as she drove in, each of their lives is forever changed because of her. But in the end, what Leila has been looking for all along is actually where she least expected it. Told in five parts, this great contemporary young adult fiction, perfect for fans of John Green or Rainbow Rowell. (ages 14+)
Thanks to Kaley Strane DeGoursey of R.J. Booksellers!
2013 offered a bumper crop of great books, and with so many to choose from, we wanted to offer some suggestions of books you won't want to miss when shopping for holiday gifts.
In compiling this list, we have included books that will meet a range of interests and age levels, including picture books, fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. Above all, any one of these books is one that would be a pleasure to own, to share, to reread. Books in the first category, Great Family Reads, were selected family sharing in mind, so they will appeal to a broad age range.
Tips for selecting books as gifts:
· Take the reader's interests into consideration. Does your kid like sports? Animals? Humor? Nonfiction?
· In selecting a book for a particular age or reading level, remember you are choosing something the child will own and grow with. It's okay to choose something just a bit above his or her reading level – just as you are more likely to choose clothes for your kids to grow into.
· When selecting books for multiple kids in a family, you may select books with the corresponding age levels in mind, but you can give all the books to the family as a whole and let the kids decide which book(s) they want to read.
· Still not sure what to get? You can always ask your local public librarian for suggestions, based on your kid's reading interests. Or how about a magazine subscription? Again, your librarian will be able to recommend good ones. And what kid doesn't like getting mail?
Great Family ReadsThe Animal BookBy Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin, $21.99, 208 pp.
In this treasure trove of information, Jenkins relates fascinating facts about 300 different animals, looking at them in sections that highlight various qualities, traits, and behaviors. The author/artist combines dramatic, eye-catching cut-paper collage images of each animal with clever and succinct writing.
Poems to Learn by HeartSelected by Caroline Kennedy ; illustrated by Jon J Muth
Disney/Hyperion, $19.99, 191pp.
There's not much emphasis these days on memorizing poetry but Kennedy argues in her introduction that it can help to build confidence and give kids a sense of accomplishment. Whether kids choose to memorize one of more of the poems included in this volume, or simply come to know them by heart through repeated family readings, there is a great variety of poems within – funny and sad, serious and nonsensical – arranged into nine broad thematic categories such as School, Sports, War, Family, and Nature, and illustrated with stunning watercolor paintings.
The Tortoise & the HareBy Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown, $18.00, 40pp
"Slow and steady wins the race." We all know this moral to Aesop's most famous fable, and here, Pinkney cleverly spins that line out, tortoise style, so that it's the only line of text in what is otherwise a wordless story. The tortoise, the hare, and all of the other animal spectators are shown as species native to the American southwest, and the precise detail in each watercolor illustration will make this elegant volume something kids want to pore over, in a slow and steady style.
LocomotiveBy Brian Floca
Richard Jackson / Atheneum, $17.99, 60pp.
With words and pictures, Floca recounts the 19th century journey of a mother and her two children, travelling from Omaha to Sacremento via steam locomotive shortly after the transcontinental railroad was completed. Each page offers a feast for the eye as we get an inside view of personnel, passengers, equipment, and accommodations, as well as the majestic passing landscape. There's so much here for children and adults to see that it will no doubt inspire many return trips.
Great Picture BooksBullyBy Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook/Macmillan, $16.99, 32pp.
After being rejected by a playmate, an angry little bull stomps around the barnyard calling all the other animals species-specific names ("Chicken!" "Pig!") until a goat turns the tables on him and calls him "Bully!" This label so hurts the little bull's feelings that it causes him to think, apologize and ask the other animals to play with him. Seeger's bold illustrations carry most of the story as they show the emotional impact of each animal's actions on the other barnyard animals.
JourneyBy Aaron Becker
Candlewick, $15.99, 40pp.
In a completely wordless story, a young girl with a red crayon draws a door in her bedroom wall that opens onto a fantastical world where she begins her adventure. Lushly detailed illustrations provide a lot for the eye to explore, and both boys and girls will want to follow her to see where just she goes and how she escapes danger each time, thanks to her magical red crayon.
Niño Wrestles the WorldBy Yuyi Morales
Roaring Brook/Macmillan, $16.99, 36pp
A young, masked, underwear-clad boy takes on one opponent after another as he imagines the toys strewn on his floor as full-size rivals in a lucha libre match. The only rivals he can't beat are his toddler twin sisters, Las Hermanitas. Illustrated in a comic style, this vibrant picture book integrates Spanish words and expressions into the English text and aptly captures the energy and noise of a small boy at play. Included at the front and back are amusing trading cards for Niño and each of his adversaries.
Take Me Out to the YakyuBy Aaron Meshon
Atheneum, $15.99, 40pp
A young boy describes what it's like to go to a baseball game in America with his Pop Pop and in Japan with his Ji Ji. Although the game is basically the same, the experiences are different – from the modes of transportation to get there to the snacks sold in stadiums to the souvenirs and the cheers. (In Japan, for example, the crowd yells "Do your best!"). Each double-page spread shows the boy at an American game on the left-hand side and at a Japanese game on the right-hand side.
Xander's Panda PartyBy Linda Sue Park; illustrated by Matt Phelan
Clarion, $16.99, 40pp
Since he is the only panda at the zoo, Xander has to expand his invitation list to include all bears. But when Koala points out that she is actually a marsupial, he must expand further to include all mammals. And then Rhinoceros shows up with his bird friend. The constantly expanding party parameters cleverly introduce the scientific concept of taxonomy, and it's all told with a tongue-twisting rhyming text that will delight young ears when it's read aloud.
Great Transitional BooksThe Big Wet BalloonBy Liniers
Toon Books/Candlewick, $12.95, 32 pp
Toon Books has launched a popular series of easy-to-read stories that use comic book conventions and can serve as a child's first introduction to graphic novels. In this latest offering, sisters Matilda and Clemmie find ways to have fun on a rainy Saturday, in a story that requires kids to read both text and pictures. At the end parents will find helpful tips on how to read comics with kids.
Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented BasketballBy John Coy; illustrated by Joe Morse
Carolrhoda, $16.95, 32 pages
In the winter of 1891, James Naismith was hired to teach physical education to a group of unruly male students who had energy to burn. Because they were confined to a gymnasium, he wanted to come up with a game the boys could play indoors with existing equipment, and with two peach baskets and a soccer ball, he came up with a game that proved so popular, the boys never wanted to stop playing it. Young sports enthusiasts will enjoy the pictures and the story, but the serious fans will be fascinated by the Naismith's original typewritten rules that decorate the opening pages of the book.
Ling & Ting Share a BirthdayBy Grace Lin
Little, Brown, $15.00, 43 pages
In the second volume in an easy reader series about identical twin sisters, Ling and Ting have different ways of preparing for the sixth birthday they share, but the one thing they have in common other than their birthday is that they both want it to be a happy occasion for their twin. Six short episodic chapters with just a few lines of text per page make this series accessible to kids who are just starting to read on their own.
That's a Possibility! A Book about What Might HappenBy Bruce Goldstone.
Henry Holt, $16.99, 32 pages
Some kids love math, and it's not easy to find good books to meet their interests and expand their knowledge. Thank heavens for Bruce Goldstone! In his latest math offering, he uses eye-catching color photographs and a text that invites the reader to look at the pictures and to make predictions about them, thereby introducing the concept of probability. Even kids who think they don't like math will find it hard to resist the challenges they'll find here.
The Year of Billy MillerBy Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow/HarperCollins, $16.99, 229pp.
At the beginning of second grade, Billy is worried he won't be smart enough to keep up. By the end of the school year, he has enough confidence to get up in front of an audience to read a poem he has written about his mother. In between, he has a number of child-like experiences at school and at home that shape him – trying to stay awake all night, working on his first diorama, getting caught making fun of a classmate, etc. The structure and design of this easy but satisfying chapter book make it perfect for newly independent readers who, like Billy, will gain confidence with each page turn.
Great PageturnersBluffton: My Summers with BusterBy Matt Phelan
Candlewick, $22.99, 223pp
In the days of vaudeville, the theaters were just too hot to draw an audience, so actors typically spent their summers in colonies like Bluffton, just outside of Muskegon, Michigan. This graphic novel spans three summers and is told from the point of view of a young boy who lives in Muskegon, who befriends a young actor his age named Buster Keaton. Although Buster is the star of his family's act, already known for his famous pratfalls and deadpan expression, he relishes the summer months when he can be like other kids and pursue his love of playing baseball. Today's readers won't need to know who Buster Keaton was to appreciate this story, but it may inspire them to look up some of his old silent movies so they can see his remarkable comic acts.
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated AdventuresBy Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K. G. Campbell
Candlewick, $17.99, 231pp
A cynical ten-year old girl, obsessed with comic books, finds an unlikely super hero is a squirrel who has been endowed with super powers after being accidently run over by a neighbor woman using a Ulysses 2000X vacuum cleaner. There's a laugh on every page of this original novel that's told in short chapters and lots of black-and-white illustrations.
I Even Funnier: A Middle-School StoryBy James Patterson and Chris Grabbenstein; illustrated by Laura Park
Little, Brown, $13.99, 368pp.
When your name is Jamie Grimm, your parents and only sibling were killed in a car accident that left you disabled and in a wheelchair, and you now share a home with your cousin who is also the school's biggest bully, nothing should be funny, right? Wrong! Jamie has an uncanny ability to find humor in his everyday life and use it in his comedy act as he works to become the world's greatest stand-up – okay, sit-down – comedian in the second volume of the popular series, illustrated with comic line drawings.
P.S. Be ElevenBy Rita Williams-Garcia
Amistad/HarperCollins, $16.99, 274pp.
After returning to Brooklyn after spending a summer in California with their mother (One Crazy Summer, Amistad, 2010), eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters settle into a new school year while adjusting to changes in their life: an uncle who has just returned from Vietnam and their father's new girlfriend. This warm, humorous story about three sisters caught up in their love for a new musical group, the Jackson 5, gives a good sense of the late 1960s while also capturing the universals of family life.
Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Really Know What Dinosaurs Looked Like?By Catherine Thimmesh
Houghton Mifflin, $17.99 64pp
Dinosaurs have long been a topic that fascinates many children, and Catherine Thimmesh capitalizes on this interest in beautifully illustrated book that shows how different kinds of scientists use existing evidence to figure out what dinosaurs actually looked like. In doing so she show where theories have changed over time and where contemporary scientists sometimes disagree. Each page-turn reveals a lifelike reconstruction by one of several paleoartists who use this scientific evidence to create sketches, paintings, and even digital graphics that offer a peek into the distant past
Great Advanced ReadsThe Golden DayBy Ursula Dubosarsky
Candlewick, $16.99, 160pp
Age 12 and older
Don't let the title and jacket fool you. This gripping story about eleven Australian school girls who go on an off-the-record field trip with their teacher, and then return without her, will keep readers on the edge of their seats, and will inspire discussion about what exactly happened, long after the book is finished.
If I Ever Get Out of HereBy Eric Gansworth
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $17.99, 368 pp
Lewis Blake is the only Tuscarora reservation kid tracked with the "braniacs" in junior high, and George, a new kid at the school, becomes his first, and only, white friend. In a narrative full of humor and rife with tender, honest, and unsettling truths, this novel explores adolescent identity, and what it means to find — and to be — a friend.
The LivingBy Matt de la Peña.
Delacorte, $17.99, 311pp
Age 12 and older
Shy has an enviable summer job, working on a luxury cruise ship, passing out towels by day and water by night. When a devastating earthquake wipes out California, and a tsunami destroys the cruise ship, he struggles to survive, trapped on a raft in shark-infested waters with a rich girl with whom he has nothing in common – or does he? Part thriller, part survival story, part disaster novel, this action-packed page-turner challenges stereotypes about race, class, and gender.
Still Star-CrossedBy Melinda Taub
Random House, $16.99, 352pp
Age 12 and older
Ever wonder what happened to the Montagues and the Capulets after the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet? This witty novel, written from the point of view of Juliet's cousin Rosaline, opens three weeks later, and offers mystery, romance, treachery, and murder, as well as a ferocious race against time.
Thanks to Kathleen T. Horning, Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, UW-Madison for compiling.