Author Archive

Sharing the Creative Process

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015


People often ask me how could I give up working Bank Street College of Education in NYC to live in Minnesota.

The answer is the Kerlan Collection at University of Minnesota Libraries​, one of the largest  repositories of children’s book manuscripts, art and first editions. We hold the papers of all of the Ambassadors for Young Peoples Literature (if you are counting in your head that is Scieszka, Patterson, Myers, and DiCamillo).

Since everyone can’t visit the University of Minnesota, it is my goal to bring the collection out of the cavern and share it with librarians and teachers.


One of those efforts is the just-launched digital exhibit, Balloons Over Broadway, Melissa Sweet, and the Engineering of a Picture, which examines the author/illustrator research and creative process using the materials in the Kerlan Collection.

If you are going to ALA, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Melissa Sweet​ at the ALSC President’s program.

Charlemae Rollins President’s Program
More to the Core: From the Craft of Nonfiction to the Expertise in the Stacks

MCC-2001 (W)
Monday, 6/29 1:00 to 2:30

Awarding-winning author and illustrator Melissa Sweet and literacy advocate Judy Cheatham, VP of Literacy Services at Reading Is Fundamental, share the stage to present an informational and inspirational look at the creation of excellent nonfiction and the matchmaking of great books and kids who need them. Libraries’ role in innovative implementation of programs and services to support the Common Core Standards is a central skill and an important contribution to the communities we serve.  Even if CCS isn’t a part of your educational landscape, great nonfiction books – how they are created and ways to connect them to children and families is central to our craft and critical to our ability to collaborate with our communities. Let’s be inspired together!

Informational Books For
Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014


We’re coming down to the wire for seasonal gift giving. Continuing my series about books you can recommend, and give with confidence, we turn to kids who like books about real subjects.

For Kids Who Want to Know About Real People

9781596436039_3a02c-2  9780374380694_f9005

Viva Frida, Yuyi Morales, Tim O’Meara, (Roaring Brook Press), Ages 4 to 8, Grades P to 3

Morales’s stunning mixed media art captures Khalo’s life and spirit. The following video explores the creation of the illustrations.

The Pilot and the Little Prince, Peter Sís, (Macmillan/FSG), Ages 5 to 8, Grades K to 3

This sophisticated picture book biography explores the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Sis talks about his inspiration in the video below:

9780802853851_f1c5eThe Right Word, Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet, (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers), Ages 7 to 18

From the award-winning creators of A River of Words, the life of Peter Mark Roget the creator of Roget’s Thesaurus is expressed through language and collage. A masterpiece.



For Kids Who Like Trucks


Giant Vehicles, Ron Green, illus. by Stephen Biesty, (Candlewick/Templar), Ages 6 and up

Remember last year’s Caldecott winner Locomotive by Brian Floca? Here is a book for a little younger crowd displaying lift-the -flap cross sections of vehicles from jumbo jets, to trains to spectacular rockets to the everyday dump trucks.

For Kids Who Are Wild About Animals 


Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents, Lita Judge, (Roaring Brook), Ages 6 and up

Simple language shares facts about animal families with delicious watercolor and pencil naturalist illustrations (take a look at several here)

Chasing Cheetahs: The race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats, Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop, (HMH), Ages 9 and up

The Sibert Award winning author and illustrator for Kakapo Rescue explores a species on the edge of extinction.

9780763675080_4f9aaAnimalium, Jenny Broom, Katie Scott, (Candlewick/Big Picture Press), Ages 8 to 12

Number one on my wish list is this oversized lushly illustrated book that is modeled on a turn of the last century natural history museum. One can imagine a family sprawled out on the carpet for hours, poring over tiny details of the fact-filled pages.

Gifts for Middle Grade Kids
You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014


Continuing my series about books you can recommend, and give with confidence, below are some sure-fire titles published this year for middle-grade kids.

9780399252518_ab369 Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson, (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen)

For the smart kid who wants to get into the head of another, there is Woodson’s National Book Award winner, Brown Girl Dreaming, a book that sings and shouts and, with the help of the NBA judges, sends its song to an even wider universe.  Also consider her backlist, now available in paperback, including Feathers and After Tupac & D Foster.

9781419710209_c5d95El Deafo, Cece Bell, (Abrams)

This has been on the top of my lists since I read an advance copy half a year ago. It stands with the best in the repertoire of middle grade school stories. Don’t be fooled by reviewer shorthand that says this is a book about hearing loss and disability. It is about that, but even more, it is about growing and friendship, misunderstanding and secret thoughts. Bell has bravely shared her own story so that children will know they are not alone as they negotiate the mysterious trials of elementary school society.

9780312643003_8b649Rain Reign, Ann M. Martin,  (Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends; Brilliance Audio)

I am a sucker for a good story about a girl and her dog. If you have readers who want a very real story that can be a bit of a weeper, this it.

Good spoiler alert: Don’t worry, the dog doesn’t die.


9780061963810_a349aGuys Read: True Stories, John Scieska illus, by BrianFloca (Walden Pond Press)

I didn’t forget about the boys. This title should have been on the informational books list, but rules are meant to be broken especially by John Scieska. He asks our favorite informational book authors — Candace Fleming, Elizabeth Partridge, Jim Murphy, Steve Sheinkin, and Nathan Hale — to present high interest narrative non- fiction in short format.

Gifts for Young Adults
You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014


Continuing my series about books you can recommend, and give with confidence, below are some sure-fire titles published this year for young adults.

9781442426702_4e977  9780316102537_ca5e9

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han, (Simon & Schuster; Recorded Books); OverDrive Sample

A Blind Spot for Boys, Justina Chen, (Hachette/Little Brown); OverDrive Sample

For the kids who love John Green and want some romance with complications, don’t miss these.

9781935955955_bde02Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, Isabel Gabi Quintero, (Cinco Puntos Press; Listening Library); OverDrive Sample

When I lecture to classes in creative writing, the questions I receive often have to do with what will sell. What are publishers looking for? What are you looking for? The answer is “voice,” which is frustratingly difficult to define.

Debut author Isabel Quintero nails the voice of a late teen wondering, questioning and finding her place in a world unwilling to accommodate who she really is.

See for yourself in the following clip from the audio:

SLJ blog Teen Librarian Tool Box attested to that voice,  “It’s funny, sad, honest, raw, bold, and hopeful. It’s about the many things that can go on in one’s life, great and small.”

9780385741262_c913fWe Were Liars, E. Lockhart
(RH/Delacorte; Listening Library); OverDrive Sample

On nearly all the best books lists for the year, this is a winner for the kid who is sophisticated and can handle psychological drama.


, Scott Westerfield, (Simon and Schuster; S&S Audio); OverDrive Sample

You can’t go wrong with this for the fantasy reader, but it is also a good selection for the aspiring writer. In the video made for the audio edition, Scott gives writing advice.


9780375867828_2e07aThe Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia, Candace  Fleming, (RH/Schwartz & Wade; Listening Library); OverDrive Sample

For the teen that wants something REAL. The dramatic story of the Russian royal family.

Early April YA Titles

Friday, April 4th, 2014


Below are three YA titles to add to your pile of kids books to love in early April (see for my picks for younger kids here):

The Here and NowThe Here and Now, Ann Brashares, Delacorte Press

The new book by author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, is a very different kind of novel. Prenna might seem like an ordinary teenager but she is not. She is a member of a community of time travelers who have landed in the present from a devastating plague ridden future. Her movements, her contacts with others, and her very conversations are circumscribed by “the twelve rules” put in place to keep them safe and not disturb the time. Yet, how much can Prenna trust that the leaders have their members best interest in mind when she knows that any misstep could cause a person’s removal or death at the hands of those pledged to keep them safe? A page turner.

The Ring and the crownThe Ring and the Crown, Melissa de la Cruz, Disney-Hyperion 

Sweeping romance, alternative history with Franco/Anglo crown, where there was no American Revolution, and internecine royal conflict threaded with magic construct a compelling and riveting fantasy novel, plus a crazy great book trailer.  Do not miss.

Vigilante PoetsThe Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, Kate Hattemer, RH/Knopf Books for Young Readers

Brainy outsiders? “Look at me” theater geeks? Handsome popular guy? Cool English teacher? Villainous administrators? Outsized crushes? Just an ordinary Minneapolis arts high school until a reality show takes residence. It’s all down hill from here, unless the Vigilante Poets can save the day in this outstanding debut novel.

March Kids Book To Love

Friday, March 14th, 2014


Among the new offerings for young readers are some enchanting picture books as well as new reasons to fall in love with sloths and poetry.

Picture Books

Jasper & Joop

Jasper & Joop (Gossie & Friends series), by Olivier Dunrea; picture book, also a board book edition, (HMH)

When Gossie first appeared on the scene, I wept for joy. Dunrea has a way of paring down language to the essentials and cueing the reader with his now classic avian creatures on a stark white background.

Grown ups will recall Felix and Oscar, the original odd couple, as we get to know the tidy Jasper and not-so-tidy Joop. A delight.


Toot   Tickle
Toot and Tickle, by Leslie Patricelli, Candlewick

I adore Leslie Patricelli’s board books. Babies love to look at babies and hers are having a lovely time. Silly age appropriate fun.

The Scraps BookThe Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life, Lois Ehlert (S&S/Beach Lane Books)

Full disclosure: To me, Lois Ehlert is the unsung hero of picture books. Her careful collages and straightforward language, her sharp eye for design and subtle humor often gets lost among the piles of picture books produced every year. Her range is astounding from the marching, dancing graphic letters of her timeless read aloud classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to the pitch perfect poetic language of her informational book about metamorphosis Waiting for Wings, we are used to being astounded by her art. With this new book, count me astounded again.

The Scraps Book holds all the joy of an archival collection (like the one where I work, the Kerlan); being able to look at  manuscript pages and sketches to see how the artist is thinking and creating , but with the major advantage that you don’t have to get on a plane to experience it, it’s all in her book.

Reasons every library must have multiple copies of this book.

  1. The hard to fill reference question from the beginning-to-read and beginning-to-write 1st or 2nd grader, “I need an autobiography.“ For this reading level, they are few and far between. Give this book
  2. Ehlert lets us in on  her creative process. We witness the scraps and pieces of leaves, berries, and photocopies and watercolor paper arrange on the page to become birds and cats, a leafman and snowman, fish floating and a squirrel leaping. We see the growth of an artist and her process.
  3. Intertextual connections. We see how a book, a story, a picture is made and we can go to that book and have many an ah-ha moment.
  4. Anyone, adult or child would be inspired by this book to create their own art and tell their own story.

The Geisel Award, please.

Middle Grade

Princess Labelmaker

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue: An Origami Yoda Book, Tom Angleberger (Abrams; Recorded Books)

Obviously, you don’t need me to tell you about this series (in fact, this book just hit the USA Today best seller list), but I can’t pass it by. All the books offer a core truth about life in Middle Quarry Middle School as the Origami Yoda Gang fight the menace of standardized tests.



Swing, Sloth!   Sparky!

National Geographic Readers: Swing Sloth!, Susan B. Neuman, (National Geographic Children’s Books)

Sparky!, Jenny Offill, illus. by Chris Appelhans, (RH/Schwartz & Wade)

A Little Book of Sloth

Is it me or are we being buried under sloth books? A quick check gives us 42 children’s books featuring sloths over the last year (you may recall my favorite from last year, Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke, S&S/McElderry Books).

These two contenders arriving this week do not disappoint on the official sloth-o-meter. Cute, sweetly faced sleeping mammal? Check. Sly almost silly humor? Check. Child reader appeal? You have to ask? Did you know that there is an International Sloth Day? Start planning your programming now.


Firefly July

Firefly July and Other Very Short Poems by Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick)

Just in time for Poetry Month, these are the perfect pocket poems. What, you never heard of Poem in Your Pocket Day? This is the day when people throughout the United States select a poem, carry it with them. Poems from pockets are unfolded throughout the day during events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem. Save the date: Thursday, April 24.

From Kirkus: “Choosing from works spanning three centuries, Janeczko artfully arranges 36 elegant poems among the four seasons…Scintillating!”

I agree.

Bank Street Mock Newbery Awards

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014


On Tuesday, we reported on the voting for the Mock Printz awards by the kids at the Bank Street College of Education’s School for Children. We feared that the East Coast blizzard might affect the Mock Newbery program, but even snow and sleet couldn’t stop them.

Allie Bruce, Bank Street’s children’s librarian and Jennifer Brown, Director of the Center for Children’s Literature are excited that a fiction book — The Real Boy — and an information book — Wild Boy — tied as the winner. The honor book was Doll Bones.

Below, Allie and Jenny report the highlights of the discussions:

Winners – It’s a Tie!

The Real Boy   Wild Boy
The Real Boy
, Anne Ursu, Erin McGuire, (HarperCollins/Walden Pond)

“There was one point where I forgot to breathe for awhile.”

“I liked that it showed how uncomfortable he was with people, and how that tied in to the plot of the book.”

“It started slow but by the end I was not stopping.”

Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron, Mary Losure, Timothy Basil Ering, (Candlewick)

“It was really real. Lots of detail and it moved along quickly.”

“It tugged at my emotions.”

“I liked the illustrations.”

“You’re getting transported to all these places over 38 years.”

“It was really interesting all the things they were willing to do to get him to talk.”

“It grabbed your attention almost as if you were in his position.”

Honor Book:

9781416963981Doll Bones, Holly Black, Eliza Wheeler, (S&S/Margaret K. McElderry)

“I’ve never read anything like it. It was so creepy, like when the Queen’s eyelids were fluttering like she was waking up.”

“The characters were interesting. It was cool how they all played together. The author made it like when they played with the dolls and the action figures, it was like they were real.”

“A nice subtle build-up and then it gets more exciting.”

“It was really hard to put down. I was up for 3 hours after my bedtime.”

Bank Street’s Mock Printz

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014


Excitement is building over who will win the ALA Youth Media Awards, to be announced in a few days at Midwinter. Librarians aren’t the only ones who will be watching their Twitter feeds. So will the thousands of kids around the country who have voted in various Mocks.

The kids at my old stomping ground, the Center for Children’s Literature Bank Street College of Education recently voted in their Mock Printz program, ably led by  Jennifer Brown, Director (look for their Mock Newbery winners in the next few days, unless the East Coast snow storm delays it).

While the Honor Book the kids chose has been on many best books lists and was a National Book Award finalist, their winner did not get recognized on the major lists we tracked (see our downloadable spreadsheet 2013 Best BooksChildrens and YA), proving once again that kids and critics often differ.

Below, Jenny reports the winners and highlights of the discussions:

The Winner

TwerpTwerp by Mark Goldblatt (Random House BYR; Listening Library).

Highlights of the students’ book discussion:

“I had never read a book set in the 1960s. It was cool to see how someone who was my age back then was going through life.”

“I liked that it included phrases you’d expect a 12-year-old would say.”

“When he admits what he did, I liked how he wrote it. The whole book he was putting it off. He was having trouble admitting it because he felt really bad.”

“I liked how he would be talking about something and then get off-topic.”

“I liked that the characters were all really different from each other.”

“I liked that there was a real sense of hard reality.”

Honor Book

9780375849725_8d093-3Far Far Away by Tom McNeal, (RH/Knopf; Listening Library)

This title came in closest with the next highest number of votes. Students commented,

“It was a mixture of a lot of genres. The mystery made me want to keep reading.”

“I like that it was told from the point of view of a ghost. I’ve never read a book like that.”

“All the characters had different personalities.”

“You can’t staple it with a genre, it has aspects of different ones.”

“It was really creative and smart.”

“I couldn’t put it down.”
“The point of view of the ghost made it special and different.”

“It was a fantasy, but the characters seemed real.”

Can’t Let Go of LEGO

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013


I can’t let the Best of the Year go by without highlighting LEGO books (I’ve written before about how great the DK LEGO Readers are).

The classic LEGO brick was designed by Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen in the 1940s. Christiansen began to make wooden toys after losing his job, and  soon designed an interlocking brick that would mimic the stacking ability of regular blocks, but allow for more creative building possibilities. He named his product “LEGO” after the Danish phrase leg godt, or “play well.”

LEGO has stood the test of time as a building toy with open-ended possibilities. There is no “right” way to play with LEGOs.

To add to the already strong interest, a LEGO movie is coming in February 2014.

It features some pretty great voices, including those of Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson.

Ed Note: Yes, but how could they have not used LEGO master, Eddie Izzard:

There will be tie-ins, of course.

9781465416971_31504  9781465416957_9f730   LEGO Tie-ins

Download  the  LEGO tie-ins spreadsheet.

For the holiday season, do not miss these three standouts from the LEGO “verse,” beginning with:

9780805096927Cool Creations in 35 Pieces, Sean Kenney, (Macmillan/Henry Holt YR)

The most recent volume fromrenowned LEGO artist Kenney gives kids step-by-step instructions to make robots, nutty animals and vehicles from steam engines to a jumbo jet.

And, two spectacular volumes from No Starch Press:

9781593275211   9781593275082_abd0f

LEGO Space: Building the Future, Peter Reid and Tim Goddard, (No Starch Press)

Goddard and Reid have created a coffee table book of a science fiction world completely made of LEGOs. We explore the architecture, technology and life on other planets as we enter the realm of space pirates, battle cruisers, mining camps and more.

Beautiful LEGO, Mike Doyle, (No Starch Press)

You know how those artfully arranged glossy full color shots of food lavishly displayed has been labeled “food porn” ? If I may be so rude, this is LEGO porn. Stylistically arranged LEGO creations lovingly presented to the fandom. As The Horn Book says, “Elevating the preschool building toy to high art, this book’s gorgeous photographs of hundreds of LEGO sculptures … go well beyond anything you’d see at a LEGOLAND theme park.”

The Best Informational Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013


Continuing our seventh annual best “books to give to kids you don’t know” round-up (see the first installment, here), we’re focusing on books that appeal to kids who are more interested in real things; real animals and real people, real places and real history. These are the kids who love to quiz their friends with questions like:

Did you know that basketball was invented by a guy from the YMCA?

…that Ben Franklin’s experiment with a kite and a key in a thunderstorm determined that lightning and electricity were one and the same?

…that turtles have a mouth with a hard beak but no teeth? Here are my favorites grouped by interest.


Hoop Genius

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball, John Coy (Lerner/Carolrhoda, Ages 5 and up).

In this book, we discover how James Naismith took a group of energetic young men and created a safe, exciting indoor game. Did you know that the original basket in basket ball was one for peaches and that every timea basket was made, play had to stop while someone climbed a ladder to retrieve the ball?

Below, author John Coy at the Celebration of Minnesota Children’s Authors and Illustrators, held September 21 in Red Wing, Minnesota.

A REAL hoop

Nelson Mandela, Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela, Kadir Nelson, (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan Books, Ages 6 and up).

Mandela’s recent death has brought more attention to this great man’s life. We are grateful to have the artwork of award winning artist, Kadir Nelson in this stirring biography. Shining a light on a person who inspires us to improve ourselves, our family and community, this book is a perfect Kwanzaa gift.


Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty , Russell Freedman, (Holiday House, Ages 10 and up)

Russell Freedman is a national treasure. His meticulously researched and engagingly written narrative brings new life to one of the most written about American Revolutionary figures.

When Stravinsky

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot, written and illus. by Lauren Stringer, (Harcourt, Ages 7 and up).

Stringer expressive volume explores the sometimes fraught but always exciting collaboration of two of the most innovated artists of the previous century. In 1913, the avant-garde composer Igor Stravinsky composed The Rite of Spring (in French, Le Sacre du printemps) to be choreographed by the internationally renowned dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The collaboration was so shocking at the time that the debut performance ended with the audience rioting.

Be sure to also check out Stringer’s fascinating description of her research and creative process on her website.


The Flight of the Honey Bee

The Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber, illus. by Brian Lovelock, (Candlewick, Ages 6 and up).

Huber’s fact filled sentences and lyrical style are a perfect match for Lovelock’s sweeping watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil illustrations of bees dancing, working and in flight.


Bugs: A Stunning Pop-up Look at Insects, Spiders, and Other Creepy-Crawlies, George McGavin, Jim Kay, (Candlewick, Ages 5 and up).

Gorgeous, magnificent, exquisite, superb, and, yes, stunning … there aren’t enough adjectives to describe this pop-up books about bugs. Formatted to appear as a historic exhibit with a naturalist’s handwritten notes and period illustrations, it offers all the facts a young scientist could want and this wonderfully creepy pop-up of a scorpion ready to attack:

Bugs -- interior spread

More Kid-Favorite Topics 


Locomotive, Brian Floca, (S&SAtheneum, all ages).

Floca’s words echo the rhythm of a train wheels on the track as we journey west on the steam engine and his generous use of onomatopoeia creates a text that sings. Readers will revel in the historical accuracy of the detailed paintings and find themselves swept back in time by the extensive spreads.


Toilet: How It Works, David Macaulay, Sheila Keenan, illus. by David Macaulay, (My Readers Series, Macmillan/Roaring Brook/David Macaulay Studio, Ages  5 and up)

Longtime fans of Macaulay have always appreciated his attention to detail. Booktalking librarians take great delight in pointing out the toilets that appear in his previous works. This time, the toilet stars in its own easy reader and it is with glee that I recommend it to you now.

Defies Category

Go Chip Kidd

Go: A Kidd’s guide to Graphic Design, Chip Kidd, (Workman, Ages 10 and up — all the grown ups that you know)

Okay, even as I write this, I know I sound crazy. There are two books I want to give to all my family and friends who are over ten years old. This is one. Chip Kidd who changed the face of book cover design in a humorous, easy-going personal narrative explains what design is and how we are all capable of making intelligent design choices. Although Kidd is writing for kids, this volumes accessibility to anyone with an interest of how the world looks and how it got that way won’t be able to put it down.

The Best Preschool and Family Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Friday, December 6th, 2013


Welcome to the seventh annual best “books to give to kids you don’t know” round-up [links to the previous six years  are available here].

If you don’t recall how we play this game, let me give you a refresher.

Every year librarians and booksellers are challenged with requests such as:

“I need a book for my five-year-old niece who I only see once a year.”

“I always like to give books but now that the kids are voracious readers, I can’t keep up with what they have already read.”

“I want to give a book but this kid isn’t really a reader.”

We accept this challenge, nay we welcome the opportunity to show off our expertise and vast reading insight. Let the games begin.

Please join in. Tell us your favorite recommendations in the comments section below. Remember, titles should meet the criteria of being sure-fire for reluctant as well as voracious readers. To avoid books that are already owned by kids in the latter category, they should be published this year and be less well-known or sleepers (it kills us, but that requirement means we did not include Jerry Pinkney’s gorgeous new picture book, The Tortoise & the Hare).

This post contains titles for the youngest; see the next post for more picture books.

For Families with Toddlers or New Babies

Giggle!Giggle , Caroline Jayne Church (Scholastic)

This interactive board book is complete with a giggle button that is sure to cascade little ones and their grown ups into fits of delight.



Hush Little Polar BearHush Little Polar Bear, Jeff Mack, (Macmillan/Roaring Brook)

A board book reissue of the perfect bedtime story told in gentle rhythm and rhyme. “Hush little polar bear, sleep in the snow, dream of the places where sleeping bears go” will remind readers of the lullaby “Hush Little Baby.” It is irrisistably singable too.

For Twos, Threes, and Fours

Charley Harper's ABCsKnow any hipsters with preschoolers? Ammo Press has produced the lovely Charley Harper’s ABCs by Gloria Fowler with striking graphic mid-century modern images of birds, insects and mammals created by one of the fathers of modern design. (NOTE: Harper’s work was the inspiration for our EarlyWord bird. We wanted to ask him to design our bird, but he passed away a few months before EarlyWord began. In tribute, we named our bird Charley).

Below is a video of Charley Harper talking about his silk screen technique.

Animal OppositesAnimal Opposites, Petr Horacek, (Candlewick, ages 3 and up)
This pop-up concept book by award winning illustrator Horacek contrasts big/ little, slow/fast, heavy/light as well as more complicated opposites like smooth/prickly with lift-the-flap surprises and pop-up wonders.

Turn the pages, lift the flaps and see animals of all shapes and sizes bring to life the world of opposites. From slow snail to fast cheetah, heavy hippo to light butterfly, smooth frog to prickly porcupine, Petr Horacek’s pop-up animals encourage early literacy, language and communication. With its amusing illustrations and interactive pages – learning has never been so much fun!

See how it works here:

.Frog Trouble

Frog Trouble: . . . And Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs, Sandra Boynton, (Workman)

Taking advantage of the rule that rules are made to be broken, I’m including this title, even though Sandra Boynton hardly fits the “sleeper” criteria. There will never be enough awards for this rockstar of rhythm, rhyme and repetition. This  joyous, toe-tapping collection of original songs includes a CD sung by Mark Lanegan (yes, of Queens of the Stone Age) Josh Turner, Fountains of Wayne, Ryan Adams, Linda Eder, and quickly rising country star Kacey Musgraves — all accompanied by Nashville’s finest instrumentalists.

Here is Dwight Yoakam singing, I’ve Got a Dog:

Continues on next post

Best Preschool and Family Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well, Part 2

Friday, December 6th, 2013


(For Part One, link here)

Flora and the FlamingoFlora and the Flamingo, Molly Idle (Chronicle 9781452110066, ages 4 and up)

This wordless interactive lift-the-flap book evokes an unlikely friendship between a little girl in a bathing cap swimsuit and flippers who dances a tentative then joyous pas de deux with a pink flamingo.

See the format in action below (link here to the animated book trailer):

Night night little green monster

If there ever was a book that has been read to pieces by a generations of children, its Ed Emberly’s Go Away Big Green Monster! It is with great pleasure that I introduce the new superstar of the family, Night Night, Little Green Monster, (Little Brown). Half the scary and twice as much fun, these die-cut pages build the visage of a little green smiling face with one little curly hair. As the first star is sighted the little green monster slowly disappears with each page turn until holographic stars shine out from the pitch-black end papers.

[Ten more titles after the jump!]


A Lyrical Retelling of the Torah

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013


With a Mighty HandHanukkah is early this year (Nov. 27 to Dec. 5), so, as a sneak peek at my upcoming gift giving round up, I recommend With A Mighty Hand, by Amy Ehrlich and Daniel Nevins (Candlewick; Brilliance Audio), a lyrical retelling of the Torah that anyone of Jewish or Christian faith will want to share.

Nevins’ artwork supports and gives new dimension to Ehrlich’s masterful storytelling. It’s an exquisite volume.

Kids New Title Radar: Week of Oct. 21

Monday, October 21st, 2013

AllegiantAs you undoubtedly already know from the eager lines of kids waiting for it, tomorrow is  Allegiant Day, with the release of the final volume in Veronica Roth’s YA dystopian series (HarperCollins/Tegen; Dreamscape Audio). Amazon reports that it is selling 5:1 more copies than did Mockingjay (Hunger Games Book 4)  in the month prior to its release (an encouraging comparison for Summit, which is producing both as movie franchises).

Midnight release parties are being abetted by an online reading by Roth of a chapter on the Divergent Web Site, beginning just before midnight tonight. Entertainment Weekly is the first with a review, giving it just a B+, revealing that, “Barely six chapters in, Roth brutally offs a character who’s been around since the first book. The message: In this dystopian universe, nobody is safe” and that the novel has a “shocking ending.” The reviewer rightly adds “None of this will matter to Roth’s fans, who thrill to the heart-pounding immediacy of her writing and swoon over Tobias, the damaged dreamboat who co-narrates Allegiant with his true love, Tris.”

BattleBunny1Tomorrow is also Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka Day, with the release of Battle Bunny (S&S/Atheneum). The creators, joining forces for the first time, have  gone all meta-cognition on us, first producing one of the most insipid picture books in recent history (Birthday Bunny— a faux Golden Book illustrated by Mathew Myers), then transforming it via the magic marker of a fictional boy reader into the far less saccharine Battle Bunny.

This creates some cogintive dissonance for me as a librarian. I believe that defacing books is wrong, even though there is a long tradition of creating art from old books. Should I buy  a book for my library that celebrates such defacement?

Definitely. I need multiple copies AND will want to print out the original for programing.

[See our downloadable spreadsheet, Kids New Title Radar, Week of Oct 21, for other titles coming out this week]



Kids New Title Radar — Week of Oct. 14

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Among the many series titles that arrive next week, one offers an unusual opportunity. We rarely get to see how life ultimately works out for teen series characters. Next week, Phyllis Naylor lets fans in on what happens to Alice, from entering college through her 60’s. Appropriately, it’s titled, Now I’ll Tell You Everything,

The titles highlighted here are listed on our downloadable spreadesheet, Kids New Title Radar, Week of Oct. 14.

Picture Books

I Am a FrogI’m a Frog! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)

Number 20 in the series, another pitch-perfect title from Mo Willems. This time the two very different best friends, Elephant and Piggie, tackle the complicated topic of “let’s pretend.”



  When Blue Met Egg   9780803738782

Please Bring Balloons, Lindsay Ward, (Penguin/Dial)

The many who were charmed by Ward’s bluebird (When Blue Met Egg, 2012) will be equally enchanted by this dreamy fantasy featuring carousel bears. The author presents a preview of the book’s lovely art on her blog.

9781419709869Cinderella: A Fashionable Tale , Steven Guarnaccia, (Abrams BYR)

Hip parents with stylish progeny will enjoy this retelling and playing spot the designer,


Middle Grade

9781442476813The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit , (S&S BYR; S&S Audio)

Kirkus gives this one the right hook, “Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan meet Nancy Drew. In this first novel by Oscar-winning actress Spencer, Randi Rhodes thrives on solving the mysteries that unfold in her busy Brooklyn neighborhood.”

Sweet Feet: Samantha Gordon’s Winning Season, Samantha Gordon with Ari Bruening, (Walker Children’s; simultaneous paperback)

The biography of a ten-year- old girl who is a football phenom and internet sensation.

Young Adult

Now I'll Tell You Everything
Now I’ll Tell You Everything, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, (S&S/Atheneum)

Booklist says it best, “Naylor has given fans a gift: the chance to see how life unfolds for a beloved character. This 500-page farewell is the twenty-eighth title of a series that began in 1985, and it opens when Alice is 18 and headed off to the University of Maryland … we follow her from college to marriage and babies, all the way up until the eve of her sixtieth birthday. For the diehard Alice fan.”

More Y.A. Series

9780312594435  1423157516  9781442423695

Revealed, P. C. Cast, Kristin Cast, (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin; Macmillan Audio)
The House of Night series has been on The New York Times Children’s Series bestseller list for nearly 150 weeks and counting. It’s also reach #1 on German, and UK bestseller lists. This is the eleventh and next-to-last in the series.

The Darkest Minds Never Fade, Alexandra Bracken, (Hachette?Disney-Hyperion)

Second in action packed dystopian fantasy series, following The Darkest Minds (2012). Kids will be screaming for number 3.
UnSouled, Neal Shusterman, (S&S BYR)

Unwind the first of this trilogy was a tour de force of near future dystopic fantasy. Imagine a world where birth control is illegal, parents have the right to “unwind” oppositional or ordinary or just “spare “adolescents for their body parts. Anyone who has read number one will not want to miss this next one..