Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Hilary McKay is one of my favorite authors (her series that includes Saffy’s Angel is terrific) and now she’s written a couple of stories for kids who are ready to read short chapter books. Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is her newest. Lulu is certain that the stray dog living on the beach just needs a friend . . and it could be her!
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
Billy Lynn is a 19-year-old soldier from Texas. After he and his squad are declared heroes as the result of a horrific firefight in Iraq, they are brought home for a whirlwind Victory Tour across the country, ending with a special halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys game. Billy’s youth, questions, and observations about the disconnect between his two worlds gives the reader a provocative look at how we perceive our warriors.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
There’s been a lot of talk in the book world about this teen title: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is the summary from the library catalog: “In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must do to survive while keeping secret all that she can.” It’s a complex, poignant, horrific, and deeply moving story, told from the perspectives of two incredible characters.
Code Name Verity
Hannah’s hands have names . . one is Sadie and one is Ratz. Most of the time, her hands are well-behaved, but sometimes they just can’t help being naughty. When 4-year-old Baby Boy is around, it seems like Sadie and Ratz have more trouble than usua, especially when they get close to ears. Sibling rivalry and general mischief-making are seen here, but it’s very interesting how Hannah realizes that Sadie and Ratz need some time out as she struggles to prove that Baby Boy is not always the little darling that he seems. In fact, by the end of the story, we suddenly have two new characters: Colin and Scraps. Hmmm.
Sadie and Ratz
I have to say that fantasy is not my favorite type of story. However, I felt an obligation to read Goblin Secrets, the latest National Book Award winner (youth category) and was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! Charming goblins, people with gears in their legs, and a really creepy underground railway kept my attention. This fast-moving story by a first-time novelist is worthy of the award!
“Into the world came ten tiny toes, a hundred times sweeter than one could suppose . . .” This book is just so darn cute! The rhythmic text touches on all the milestones of a baby’s life and the collage illustrations show a whole swarm of babies, toddlers, and other little ones in action. What a great gift this would be for a family with their own new Ten Tiny Toes.
Ten Tiny Toes
When Georges moves to a new apartment building, the last thing he expects is that he will become a spy. Not only a spy, but friends with 12-year-old, coffee-drinking Safer, and his sister Candy, home-schooled kids whose parents allowed them to name themselves. Of course, the story involves spying and lying but you’ll need to read Liar and Spy yourself for details. (And don’t miss the interrupting chicken.)
Liar and Spy
Cookbooks are one of my reading weaknesses; the best ones have lovely photos, recipes that are unique but not silly, and are written with an interesting voice.
The Back in the Day Cookbook has all that. It’s cheerful and fun to read . . . and now my “Bake This” list is even longer!
The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
I’m always drawn to picture books illustrated by James Ransome. In September, 1994 Mr. Ransome visited KPL and we found that he was not only a terrific artist but also a warm and engaging man. In the years since then, it’s been interesting to follow his career as a creator of children’s books. The Children’s Book Council has named him one of the 75 authors and illustrators everyone should know.
One of Mr. Ransome’s newest books is My Teacher, a loving look at a special elementary school teacher. This warmly-told story is a nice reminder that back-to-school is coming soon.
Are you ready to fall in love with a 5th grader?
August Pullman is starting school for the first time, as a middle-schooler, and he knows it’s going to be rough. He’ll be the new kid, the only one who isn’t familiar with the routine of school, the one who has no friends. He’ll also be the one kid whose face makes kids shriek. Auggie was born with severe facial disfigurement; twenty-seven surgeries have repaired some of the damage but his face still has what doctors call “anomalies.” Kids just call him scary.
So be prepared for awkward pauses, eyes shifting quickly away, hurtful words, unfairness, good intentions, awkward explanations, , . . . be prepared to love Auggie!
Look for Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, in the Children’s Room.
What caught my eye was the cover . . . it looks like summer. Mielo So’s watercolor painting of a beach scene promises lovely things inside. Here are the first and last couplets of the poem called “What the Waves Say”:
“Shimmer and run, catch the sun.
Ripple thin, catch the wind.
Roll green, rise and lean—
wake and roar and strike the shore.”
Kate Coombs’ poems are a mix of playfulness and mystery; Water Sings Blue is a lovely collection that is just right for reading aloud with kids.
Water Sings Blue
Even though the cover of House Held Up By Trees has a melancholy look, the soft and gentle words tell a story that feels like a magical secret . . . an abandoned house that is lifted off its sterile foundation by the trees growing up around it. Poet Ted Kooser and illustrator Jon Klassen have created a quiet and thoughtful picture book that deserves to be seen beyond the walls of the Children’s Room.
House Held Up By Trees
Jacqueline Kennedy was a woman who desperately wanted a private life. Clint Hill was the man who was charged with giving her as much of a private life as he was able.
As one of two Secret Service agents on the First Lady’s protective detail, he tells their amazing story in Mrs. Kennedy and Me. Although the stories in this memoir are fascinating, what is most compelling is Mr. Hill’s fierce dedication and loyalty to Mrs. Kennedy as she lived a life that was so very public.
Mrs. Kennedy and Me
“Swing the ball. Swing the ball.
Thump and smash and whack.
Bring the top floors tumbling down.
Bang! CLANG! CRACK”
The preschooler in all of us will love Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock’s Demolition, a book about big machines tearing down an old building. High-rech excavators, bulldozers, mobile crushers, and cranes with wrecking balls, all guided by a hard-hatted crew of men and women, work to obliterate a structure to make way for something new. So what’s all the work for? On the newly cleared, smoothed, and green site site workers erect a new playground:
“Join the fun. Join the fun.
Run and climb and play.
Give three cheers! The job is done.
Hip . . . hip . . . HOORAY!”
Leo and Diane Dillon have been illustrating children’s books together for most of their married life. They are icons in the world of children’s books. Patricia McKissack is also revered in the same world. Together, these talented folks have given us Never Forgotten, the story of Musafa, who was taken captive, sent across the sea, and sold into slavery.
Richly illustrated with oil paintings that look like woodcuts, this is lyrical story reminds readers that family is more important than anything and that our ancestors are with us always.
This book won a well-deserved Coretta Scott King Honor Award this year.