Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Remarkable Books 2021


With 2022 just a few days away, we would like to share fifteen of our favorite books from 2021.  These are the books that we read, re-read, and recommended.  

Picture Books:
  • Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
  • Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor
  • Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin
  • The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld
  • Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Aaron Becker
  • It Fell from the Sky by Terry and Eric Fan
  • Off-Limits by Helen Yoon
  • Fox + Chick: The Sleepover by Sergio Ruzzier
  • Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest by Ole Konnecke
  • Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt
  • Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman
  • The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
  • Across the Rainbow Bridge: Stories of Norse Gods and Humans by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love
  • Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown by Steve Sheinkin
  • The Genius Under the Table : Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain written and illustrated by Eugen Yelchin

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cybils Awards 2017

The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Award Winners were announced today.  Head on over to the Cybils site to check out all the winners.  While you are there, be sure to look up the winners for the Junior High Nonfiction and Senior High Nonfiction categories.  I was lucky enough to be able to work on those committees and enthusiastically recommend the winners.  If you haven't read them, add them to your reading list.

Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Remarkable Books 2017

We're excited to recommend our favorite twenty books of 2017.  These are the books that we have read and re-read, thought about, talked about, and shared.   We hope you'll love them, too.

Picture Books:
  • The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • Walk with Me by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng
  • Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
  • The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
  • When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson
  • Egg by Kevin Henkes
  • A Greyhound, a Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
  • The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell
  • After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
  • Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

  • Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
  • Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang
  • Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

  • Dazzle: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton, illustrated by Victo Ngai
  • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
  • Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
  • Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinken
  • The Secret Project by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Jeanette Winter

  • I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith

And if you're looking for more end-of-the-year lists and award winners, the links below are a great place to start.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

'Tis the season . . . to pull out your favorite holiday books, and maybe add a few more to your pile. We wanted to spotlight some new books that were released this year.  Although very different in style and story, they all highlight a very important aspect of any holiday -- tradition.  Whether picking a perfect Christmas tree, eating special foods, giving gifts or singing songs, let your customs and quirks shine this holiday season, and don't forget to share a good book!

danyelle shares:

Red & Lulu
by Matt Tavares
published by Candlewick Press

Red and Lulu, a pair of cardinals that live “on the branches of a mighty evergreen”, are happy in what they consider a perfect home, until one day as winter is setting in, Red returns to find that the tree—with Lulu inside it—is being taken away.  Red chirps for Lulu to stay where she is and promises to find her.  His search takes Red to a “strange place” that readers will recognize from the light-infused, bird’s-eye view illustrations of the New York Public Library, the Empire State Building, and the streets of New York City.  It won’t surprise anyone when Red and Lulu are reunited, but readers will almost certainly learn something new from the added information at the end of the story about the birds’ new home—the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.  Make sure you take a peek under the dust jacket at the elegant, snowy cover.

review copy received from publisher

The 12 Days of Christmas
by Greg Pizzoli
published by Disney Hyperion Books

When a young elephant’s friend shows up with a partridge in a pear tree, his dad is a little wary and becomes more concerned still when the friend returns on the second day with a pair of turtle doves.  The gifts continue to come, following the lines of the traditional song (three French hens, four calling birds, five golden rings), but with Pizzoli’s comic twists added into the pictures (a swan arrives with an alligator float, the maids a-milking are mice carrying cartons and glasses of milk).  With each successive gift, Dad becomes more distressed, and the children and the gift-characters are too caught up in their own boisterous celebration to notice, until finally he breaks down in tears.  The cartoon eyes are simple, yet unmistakably expressive, whether Dad is glaring out the window, looking with apprehension at the gifts, or warming up to the affection of new friends. Eventually, Dad softens, and the final page with a stocking hung for each bird, mouse, pig, cat, frog, bunny, and elephant lets readers know that all the characters will be celebrating Christmas together.  Great for reading aloud and singing along.

tara shares:

Pick A Pine Tree
by Patricia Toht
illustrated by Jarvis
published by Candlewick Press

The metallic lettering and bow adorning the dust jacket wrap up a cheerfully illustrated nod to the distinct and magical experience of choosing the perfect pine tree to decorate for Christmas.

"Pick a pine tree
from the lot --

slim and tall
or short and squat."

Rhythmic text guides you through visiting the tree lot, finding just the right tree, bringing it home and decorating with friends and family.  Warm colors and descriptive verse highlight the smells, lights, trimmings and family that are required to transform a humble pine into the perfect Christmas tree.  I love illustrations with reappearing characters (the birds from the beginning make an appearance at the end of the book) and my children loved watching the happy pets join in the family festivities.

review copy received from publisher

A Christmas for Bear
by Bonny Becker
illustrated by Lady MacDonald Denton
published by Candlewick Press

Bear and Mouse -- unlikely friends that fit together so well.  In this holiday installment of the Bear and Mouse franchise, we see Bear hosting a holiday party for his friend and because he has never had a real Christmas he must rely on what he has read, and "Clearly, the most important thing was pickles."

Though not familiar with "Christmas pickles," it was easy to be drawn into the back and forth exchanges between curmudgeonly Bear and curious Mouse.  While Mouse sneaks away to search for presents, Bear repeatedly brings him back.

                          "Unnecessary hogwash!"  Bear scolded.  "We have pickles, remember."
                          "Oh," said Mouse.
                          And Mouse trudged behind Bear back to the living room.

Each time, Mouse dutifully returns to his friend's party to eat pickles "from France" and to listen to Bear read a "long and difficult poem" even though all he wants is a Christmas present.  The watercolor, ink and gouache illustrations delightfully capture the emotions and sweet relationship between the two while transforming a grumpy Bear and disappointed Mouse with a fitting holiday resolution.

review copy received from publisher

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Remarkable Books 2016

2016 is quickly coming to an end, and one of our favorite things to do is scour all of the end-of-the-year lists for any favorite books we may have missed.  Are there any hidden gems that have escaped your notice?

Before the year closes, be sure to check out these "Best of" Lists:

Publisher's Weekly's Best Children's and YA Books 2016

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2016
The New York Times Notable Children's Books of 2016

Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books of 2016
Kirkus Best Picture Books of 2016

Horn Book Fanfare

School Library Journal's Best Picture Books of 2016
School Library Journal's Best Chapter Books of 2016
School Library Journal's Best Nonfiction Books of 2016
School Library Journal's Best Middle Grade Books of 2016

NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children

National Book Awards

And, if that didn't quench your thirst for top books of the year, let us throw our vote it!  These are some of our favorite doggone good books from 2016.

Picture Books:
  • They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzal
  • A Well Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy, illustrated by Matthieu Maudet
  • Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin and Rob Dunlavey
  • Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes
  • The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh
Non-Fiction Picture Books:
  • A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
  • Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet
  • Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin
  • We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman
  • Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds

  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
  • Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka

Friday, December 18, 2015

Remarkable Books 2015

'Tis the season for many things . . . including end-of-the-year lists.  You'll want to check these lists twice to make sure you didn't miss any of the year's best.

Horn Book Fanfare

Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books

School Library Journal's Best of 2015

Publisher's Weekly's Best Children's Books

The New York Times Notable Children's Books
The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books

National Book Awards

And, finally, here are our favorites of 2015.  These are books that we read, loved, and shared again and again.   We whole-heartily recommend thesm.

Picture Books:


  • The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Audacity by Melanie Crowder
  • The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  • Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt



  • Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes collected by Elizabeth Hammill, illustrated by more than 70 artists

Friday, October 23, 2015

Spotlight on Nonfiction 2015

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown

Most teenagers won't remember ten years ago when Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans, after they read Don Brown's account in Drowned City, they won't likely forget it.  The account starts with an African breeze that grows to a category three storm over the Atlantic.  By the time Katrina hits just east of New Orleans, it has slipped to a category three storm, but still it breaks levees, floods the city with one million gallons of water per minutes, and leaves 80% of the city under water.

In this graphic novel readers see the dramatic story unfold across the pages.  Illustrations of people standing, slumping, leaning, and trying to escape the water are filled with desperation and humanity.  And it's the impact of the storm on those people that drives the story.  We see 20,000 people packed into the Superdome with no electricity, no sanitation, and insufficient food and water.  We see a man hold a baby above the floodwaters as he tries to escape.  We see a couple race up the stairs of their home just ahead of the water.  They use a knife to scrape a hole in the roof and get out just in time.  We see people stranded on rooftops surrounded by rising floodwaters.  And we see those that don't make it.

Brown brings readers right into the disaster, recounting the many failures: 360 city buses don't show up to evacuate residents; empty trains leave the city; police abandon their post; there is a lack of communication and coordination between government agencies; there is looting and shooting; more than 1400 people die.  He also describes the rescue efforts of individuals and agencies.  Despite stagnant water teeming with garbage, oil, poisonous snakes, and dead bodies, more than 40,000 people are rescued.

This accessible account leads readers into complex ideas and questions.  What could the government have done better?  Where does responsibility to protect people from natural disasters lie?  How far should society go to protect individuals who choose to stay in harm's way?  What role did race and poverty play in the government response to the disaster?

Brown incorporates quotations from survivors and includes meticulous annotations and bibliographic information.

This is a power book.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose

I've always admired the Danish Resistance during World War II, particularly the heroic transport of most of the Danish Jews to Sweden before they could be rounded up by the Nazis.  What I didn't realize until I read this book is that the Resistance had a slow start.  While fearful and overwhelmed adults in Denmark capitulated to German demands, a small group of young boys fought back.  14-year-old Knud Pedersen and his brother Jens, along with a few of their friends, were disgusted with Danish leaders, and admired the way Norway was fighting against the German.  In broad daylight, they fought by twisting traffic signs and spraying walls with blue paint.  Their activities escalated to sabotage, arson, and stealing weapons.  They called themselves the Churchill Club and their actions inspired others to resist and the Danish Resistance grew.

Engrossing from page one, Hoose's account is based on extensive interviews with Knud Pedersen.

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

When George Soper was hired to figure out the source of a typhoid outbreak that infected six members of the Warren household in 1906, his investigation led him to Mary Mallon, a cook who had infected at least 24 people.  Mary turned out to be the first documented healthy typhoid carrier in the United States.

In this highly readable biography, Susan Campbell Bartoletti looks at Mary's plight.  She was not just "a living culture tube" or "a chronic typhoid germ producer" as George Soper called her, but she was also an intelligent, fiery tempered, fiercely private, independent, Irish woman who didn't accept Soper's assertion that she was making people sick.

This book and Gail Jarrow's superb book, Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary, look at the same subject.  While Jarrow follows Soper's investigation of the medical mystery, Bartoletti's focus is on Mary.  Together these books make an excellent choice for student analysis of the different approaches authors take in texts with the same topic.