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Viewing Blog: Children's Book Reviews and Then Some, Most Recent at Top
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As a lover of children's literature, mother and bookseller of 13 years, I want to put good books into kid's hands. I share my philosophy on what makes a book good as well as book reviews and lists of great books for every reading taste and ability with a focus on new readers. I also highlight some wonderful books that are not always on the shelf at bookstores, but might be at your library and can definitely be ordered. All books mentioned are available in paperback unless noted.
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1. Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama is the newest book by Hester Bass, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama is a superb addition to the genre of narrative non-fiction, and a welcome addition to books about the Civil Rights Movement. Beginning in January of 1962, Bass sets the scene, telling readers that

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2. Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, 336 pp, RL 4

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby winner of the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. And, while this award is well deserved,  Icefall is so much more than a mystery - it is a coming of age story and a story within a story as well, with memories coming together to create something greater than the mystery itself. In fact, Icefall reminds me of Shannon Hale's Newbery Honor winning Princess

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3. Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital by Tonya Bolden, 96 pp, RL: 4

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, is set during the days before the American Revolution and is narrated by a thirteen-year-old slave girl. It is one of my favorite historical fiction novels and why I was so excited to read Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation by multi-award winning author Tonya Bolden. For this book, Bolden, who was writing another book when

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4. Stanley the Farmer by Wiliam Bee

I don't know how I missed this new series from one of my new favorite author/illustrators, William Bee, but Stanley, the machine-loving, job-exploring hamster made his debut last year in these brilliant, bright, big format books from Peachtree Publishers. Stanley the Builder and Stanley's Garage were the first two books in the series and now Stanley the Farmer joins the series with

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5. The Baseball Player and the Walrus by Ben Loory, illustrated by Alex Latimer

The Walrus and the Baseball Player by Ben Loory and illustrated by Alex Latimer is such a perfect book! Perfectly paced, perfectly mirrored and perfectly kind of weird - in the best way possible that kids are sure to love. At its most basic, The Walrus and the Baseball Player is a story about the responsibilities that come with having a pet. But it's also about discovering what you love,

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6. Crossover by Kwame Alexander, 237 pp, RL: 4

I am embarrassed to admit that I had The Crossover by Kwame Alexander sitting on my bookshelf for almost a year before it won the Newbery Award this year. I read the blurb about basketball phenom Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan and couldn't get excited, even though I LOVE verse novels and am continually amazed by them. It's just that I have zero interest in sports and sports stories.

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7. Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai, 260 pp, RL: 4

I had the good fortune to listen to Thanhhà Lai talk about her new book, Listen, Slowly, before sitting down to write this review. In this interview, Lai talks about how she came to write her first, multiple-award-winning book, Inside Out and Back Again, the semi-autobiographical story of a young refugee's move from Vietnam to Alabama: I have very specific reasons for writing in prose

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8. When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

When Otis Courted Mama, written by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Jill McElmurry, is a new book about blended families, something that is rare the world of picture books, and even more rarely done well. That said, When Otis Courted Mama is done really well, so well that I almost hate to mention that it even is a story about blended families, preferring to refer to it solely as the great

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9. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mulally Hunt, 267 pp, RL: 4

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt will (and has in many advance reviews) be compared to RJ Palacio's Wonder for her portrayal of an outsider on the edges of mainstream education, an increasingly popular theme in middle grade literature. Palacio's main character Auggie, who struggles with a physical deformity, shares narrative duties with a few other characters, but his voice is

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10. Hero by Sarah Lean, 196 pp, RL 4

Hero is the newest book from  Sarah Lean. I reviewed A Hundred Horses last year and was impressed and moved by her story of a mysterious girl without a family, another girl mourning the absence of her father and a legend about wild horses. Hero didn't quite grab me right from the start, the way A Hundred Horses did, but once I was hooked I could not put the book down. Hero begins with

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11. Finding Spring by Carin Berger

Finding Spring is not the first book illustrated by the marvelous Carin Berger that I have reviewed, but it is the first one written and illustrated by her, and it is a delight. Berger is a multi-media collage artist who worked in a 3D shadowbox style for Jack Prelutsky's Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems. As she notes in her interview at 7 Impossible Things, for Finding

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12. Crazy for Science with Carmelo the Science Fellow by Carmelo Piazza and James Buckley, Jr., illustrated by Chad Geran, RL: 4

Crazy for Science with Carmelo the Science Fellow by Carmelo Piazza and James Buckley Jr with illustrations by Chad Geran (be sure to check out Chad's board book, Oh, Baby!) is by far the BEST science experiment book for kids I have seen in my two decades of children's book selling and parenting. Visually, Crazy for Science with Carmelo the Science Fellow is infinitely more engaging

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13. Masterminds by Gordon Korman, 336 pp, RL 4

Way back in 2011 I reviewed Swindle by Gordon Korman. As a bookseller and now a librarian, it is the perfect go-to book for boys who don't like to read. My quick pitch for Swindle, which is now a seven book series, is to tell kids and parents that it's basically a heist story, like the movie Ocean's Eleven but with kids. Korman is a skilled writer who can tell a fast-paced story with

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14. Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall

Before I write anything else, I need to say thank you to Michael Hall. Thank you for giving this amazing gift of a book to children and to adults: for those of us who need to  retool (or, even better, drop altogether) our expectations and especially for those of those of us who struggle under those expectations. Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall is his best yet, and that's saying a

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15. ALA Award Winners for 2015 - A Good Year for Graphic Novels and Non-Fiction Picture Books!

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (it's been on my shelf for an embarrassing amount of time: review to come!) Newbery Honor Books:  El Deafo by Cece Bell click here for my review Brown Girl Dreaming  by Jacqueline Woodson (also winner of the National Book Award. Review to come!

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16. Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff, pictures by Vincent x. Kirsch

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch is a fantastic new non-fiction picture book that is sure to appeal to kids. As always with the best narrative non-fiction, I am impressed by the author's ability to take an aspect of history or science and make it palatable and comprehensible for young

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17. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson & Brigette Barrager

Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist  reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up

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18. The Messy Monster Book by Rachel Ortas

The Messy Monster Book by Rachel Ortas had me with the title alone. Even better, I discovered that Ortas is the co-creator and Creative Director of OKIDO, a very cool art and science magazine for kids. Follow the link above and you can see a sample of the bi-monthly, which is packed with activities (experiments, songs, recipes and crafts using cutouts from the magazine and found items) and

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19. The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell, 224 pp, RL 4

  The Terrible Two is the first book in new series created by authors with serious pedigrees in kid's books and humor, Mac Barnett and Jory John and perfectly, illustrated by self-proclaimed "mediocre illustrator and humorist," Kevin Cornell. As a parent, bookseller, composer of personalized book lists and librarian, I get asked for funny books all the time. Unfortunately, writing (good)

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20. A Possum's Tail by Gabby Dawnay & Alex Barrow

A Possum's Tale by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow is a gem of a book that reveals something new with every reading. Both work for the very cool OKIDO, the Arts & Science Magazine for Kids, where Barrow is the Art Director and Dawnay is a contributor. Set in a 1950s London A Possum's Tale begins with Samuel Drew and his dog (a wooden toy dog on a string) out for a stroll. Samuel passes

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21. The Big Blue Thing on the Hill by Yuval Zommer

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill is by Yuval Zommer, who comes to the world of picture books after many years as a creative director at some of the world's top advertising agencies. His debut is wonderful, and the story reminds me of a bit of the picture books of the environmentally conscious, animal friendly Bill Peet. Zommer's illustrations are full of energy and a little bit kooky,

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22. Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke has written a picture book! Julia's House of Lost Creatures has all that makes his graphic novel trilogy, Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita and The Return of Zita, absolutely winning - strong girl character, cute (and sometimes creepy) creatures and a strong sense of family - and more. Hatke begins Julia's House of Lost Creatures with the sentence, "Julia's house came to

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23. The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, 203 pp, RL 4

**This book really got my wheels spinning and I found that I had a lot to say about it before even getting to the plot. Skip to the third paragraph if that is what you came for...** Despite my love of girl detectives and historical England, I have to admit that I felt a bit more skeptical than excited when The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone arrived at

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24. Blown Away by Rob Biddulph

I fell in love with Blown Away, the debut picture book by Rob Biddulph after only a few page turns. First of all, Biddulph, the award-winning art director for the Observer magazine, has written a rhyming picture book that I actually like! His text is haiku like at times, short bursts of well chosen words. It never feels forced, as so many rhyming stories do, and its simplicity suits the

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25. Animalium curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, 112 pp, RL: 2

Animalium, curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, is the newest, biggest book from the fantastic Big Picture Press and is the first in their "Welcome to the Museum" series of books. It has also made many "best of 2014" book lists. There are hundreds of books about animals out there for kids, but Animalium is set apart - and far above  -from the rest because of the museum concept employed

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