Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Caution: This blog contains information that just may be too cute for your reading pleasure. If you are disturbed or irritated by anything cute, STOP IMMEDIATELY and avoid any potential future exposure.
Even though I don’t watch much television, one of my favorite shows is Too Cute! on the Animal Planet channel. This program showcases mostly puppies and kittens, (but also occasionally exotic pets), as they are born and develop for the first two to three months of life in various, usually for-profit husbandry households. Each show culminates in the members of the new generation being adopted by their “forever” families. Even though I have watched some episodes numerous times and know that they are slanted toward the “And they lived happily ever after” ending, I still can’t help myself. There’s something about the newborn, no mater what species (well maybe not snakes), that draws me in. Especially so if the producers contrive and manipulate the action to hyper boost the cloyingly sweet “cute quotient.”
But then, a little over one month ago I came upon a book that was “too cute” without the hype. I’m referring to A Little Book of Sloth, written and photographed by Lucy Cooke, a zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society. It documents the activities of the real-life sanctuary of Slothville, located in the wilds of Costa Rica, which is devoted to saving these sleepy-looking, engaging, and mellow creatures. The book features some of the “cutest” inhabitants of Slothville, from the orphan Buttercup to Mateo, Sunshine and Sammy, Ubu, as well as numerous other endearing two and three fingered sloths.
Thanks to a uniquely slow nervous system, sloths are known for their lethargic, unhurried movements. They epitomize a lazy, laid back, and ultra chilled lifestyle. But while sloths may look sluggish, they are also quite acrobatic and have the ability to turn their heads around up to 270 degrees, due to an extra neck vertebrae.
Although they appear to be huggable cuddle-bugs as depicted in this volume, sloths do not make good pets and definitely belong in the wild. In captivity, they require special care. For instance, at the Sanctuary, the sloths are given regular baths in a specifically formulated, green leaf tea solution to keep their skin in good physical condition. They also appreciate hibiscus flowers being part of their standard diet.
But don’t despair at your inability to have one of these creatures hang around your home. You can always visit slothsanctuary.com to help an orphaned sloth in need by making a donation, or go to slothville.com to join the Sloth Appreciation Society.
And don’t forget to check out this book. The pictures alone are adorable, precious and may very well lead to you having an absolutely slothful “too cute” day!
A Little Book of Sloth
If you have ever appreciated the incongruity of a little house amisdst high-rise city buildings you will enjoy Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater. When two siblings, Maxine and Nick, move into a new apartment, Maxine discovers a cute little house set in the backyard of the their tall apartment building. Meet Mrs. Noodlekugel, her piano playing cat Mr. Fuzzface, and four farsighted mice.
Mrs. Noodlekugel is a short chapter book that’s perfect for early elementary students who are ready to move on from early readers to chapter books. Loaded with Daniel Pinkwater whimsy, this is a book that adults will also enjoy.
What Can a Crane Pick Up? is a perfect read aloud for young children. Author Rebecca Kai Dotlich has written an easy to share book about a high-interest topic for young children. The rhymes in the book perfectly flow from one to the next and even have some unexpected surprises that will have your toddler or preschooler giggling. And then of course you will be giggling too! It's silly in some parts and at the same time kids will know just a little bit about cranes and their many uses after reading this book. I predict it will be one they'll want to read again and again as they study the engaging and colorful illustrations by Mike Lowery. This book is definitely a gem to add to your story rotation!
See the adorable book trailer here.
What Can a Crane Pick Up?
Just when Sunrise Elementary thought the library dragon was gone for good – disaster strikes again.
Return of the Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy continues the story of the library dragon.
Miss Lotta Scales, a dragon also known as Miss Lotty, the beloved librarian, is retiring. She devoted 557 years to her job as the Sunset Elementary School Librarian. On her final day Mike Krochip arrives but he brings disaster.
Mike Krochip brings cartons of MePods along with much high-tech enthusiasm. The disaster is that the books are doomed—Mike Krochip wants them all in storage, no need for books he is creating the children’s cybrary! What? Miss Lotty is mad—fire breathing smoking mad and the Library Dragon returns with a fiery vengeance!
The final battle: Mike Krochip vs. the Library Dragon – who will survive?
A very fun read for preschoolers and early elementary readers on a subject very close to my heart. No question about it, I’m rooting for Library Dragon – GO BOOKS! GO LIBRARY
Return of the Library Dragon
This book is the story of Sam Lewis and the events that unfold during the 33 Minutes until Morgan Sturtz kicks his butt at recess (and then around 60 more minutes of aftermath). The author speaks directly to his tween audience, and gets it right. The voice of middle school is heard loud and clear over food fights, fire alarms and friendships. It’s funny, fast paced, heart-warming and breaking all at once. It’s the perfect book to recommend to kids that are starting to outgrow the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. The lessons in 33 Minutes on friendship and staying true to one’s self will stick with the reader long after the worst day of Sam’s life and his middle school years have passed. I think it would be awesome to have a teacher like Ms. Z who can say: “This sucks….Wait. Be patient. You’re not going to be here forever. And in the meantime, even though you and this place don’t fit together so great all the time, be you.” Now, a sigh of relief from me that middle school has passed and that authors like Todd Hasak-Lowy are writing realistic books for tweens to read during the transition of middle school. Meet Todd at Bookbug in Kalamazoo on May 5 at 4 pm!
The Dark is a brand new picture book from two children's books luminaries: Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. Laszlo is a boy who is afraid of the dark until he actually gets to know it. The dark lives in the basement but comes to visit Laszlo upstairs in his room one night. Then Laszlo goes down to the basement. All of this sounds terribly foreboding but is refreshingly resolved.
The Dark could be helpful with those ever common afraid of the dark childhood fears. But the way that the dark and Laszlo are presented with language and illustration is well worth the read for any age.
It's no secret that I love Amy Krouse Rosenthal's books. At least it's no secret in the Children's Room. I just love her charming characters and the way she plays with words and typography. My favorites are the books she has done with Tom Lichtenheld. With Amy and Tom together, it's sure to be a great book. The newest is called Exclamation Mark! and it's a great story about the importance of celebrating our differences and being happy about what makes us special. I love that this book teaches such an important concept in a fun way and that in the end the differences between Exclamation Mark and his friends, make the entire group stronger! You can find more of Amy's books here. And more Tom Lichtenheld books here.
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
Every time I stumble across a book like Kathleen O'Dell's The Aviary, I'm amazed that more readers - of all ages - don't read middle grade. The Aviary is very Gothic in setting and tone and simultaneously bursting with colorful characters, a unique combination. There are secrets and magic, plus a good dose of realism and a lesson or two as well. It actually reminded me a bit of Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
The main character, Clara, is a delightful character: headstrong, adventurous, and incurably curious. I would have enjoyed The Aviary based solely on the premise and setting, but Clara made me love it. Her curiosity was engaging and infectious, ensuring that the reader was never plagued by a dull moment or stale passage, simply because Clara herself was always plotting her next move and going off on some adventure.
Since The Aviary is in many respects a mystery, there are many great elements I feel I can't really comment on in much depth. I can, however, say that every detail in The Aviary comes together quite elegantly and I was left completely satisfied by the ending. I spent much of the novel hypothesizing about how everything fit together... I liked that the mystery wasn't ridiculously easy to solve, but all the pieces of the puzzle were there, waiting to be put together by the reader and the intrepid Clara.
The Aviary is one of wonderful titles that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of readers. It is, plain and simple, a wonderfully written and imagined novel and didn't feel at all confined to one specific reading level. It could easily be a read for the whole family and will appeal to those who usually read young adult or adult titles.
There are 2 things I can say about Dan Gutman he must be big on baseball and he has found a great way to tell historical stories about baseball. He takes a very youthful and imaginative approach to telling Jackie Robinson’s story in Jackie & Me. What kid couldn’t relate to time travel, baseball cards and getting to meet a famous player like Jackie Robinson. Jackie & Me is one of Gutman’s baseball card adventures and it's a great way for a young person to take a look at what it must have been like for Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier back in 1947.
There are several other books in the Baseball Card Adventures like Shoeless Joe and Me, Ray and Me, Babe and Me, and Honus and Me.
Jackie & Me