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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. Cast Away on the Letter A : A Philemon Adventure by Fred, translated by Richard Kutner, RL: 3

Cast Away on the Letter A by Fred, the pseudonym of Frédéric Aristidès, creator of one of the most famous graphic novel series in France (did you know that the French have long been huge graphic novel fans?) was originally published in 1972. This is the first time it has been translated in English, thanks to the amazing François Mouly and the fantastic people at TOON Books who are

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2. Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel & Gretel, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattiotti is the newest release from TOON Graphics, a line of graphic novels for kids reading at 3rd grade level and above, launched by the superb François Mouly and the fantastic people at TOON Books. What Gaiman and Mattotti do with a very familiar fairy tale in their rendition is amazing, both for the spare starkness of

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3. Explorer: The Hidden Doors, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, 128 pp, RL: 3

The Explorer series, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, just keeps getting better. Mystery boxes then lost islands provided the themes of the graphic shorts in he first two books. Now, with hidden doors setting the theme for the third book in the series, imaginations soar even higher, if possible. As always, Kibuishi kicks off the book with a short of his own. "Asteria Crane" will remind you of his

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4. Benny and Penny in Lost and Found! by Geoffrey Hayes, RL: 1.5

Benny and Penny in LOST and FOUND! is the fifth book in this wonderful series of leveled reader graphic novels from Geoffrey Hayes and the amazing people at TOON Books. Hayes's soft, colored pencil illustrations and his big-eyed bickering siblings charmed me from the start. There is something richly old-fashioned and even, if I may say, Beatrix-Potter-esque about the flora and fauna Hayes

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5. Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh My! by Artie Bennett, illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis

Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh My! by Artie Bennett and illustrated by Pranas T. Naujokaitis is a fantastic way to get kids interested in science and biology and nonfiction in general. Both the subject matter and the illustrations in Belches, Burps, and Farts - Oh My! are funny and fun, with Bennett's rhyming couplets adding to this seriously silly look at something we all do everyday.

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6. Through the Woods: Stories by Emily Carroll, 208pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

Sadly, I am reviewing Through the Woods, stories by Emily Carroll a month too late. I bought this book back in July and Adam Gidwitz's  review in the New York Times in which he reminds us the children like to be scared, should have been another nudge to me. But, creepy ghost stories, especially the graphic novel kind, are good all year round, right? With my students clamoring for scary

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7. Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raúl the Third, RL: 3

Lowriders is Space is the first installment in what I hope will be a long graphic novel series written by Cathy Camper, author, artist and librarian and illustrated by Raúl the Third. Like no graphic novel I have seen before and arriving with a raft of celebrity blurbs from the likes of Jon Scieszcka, Megan McDonald and Amy Sedaris, Lowriders is Space is about three talented friends and

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8. Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgewick, 288 pp, RL: TEEN

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick is the winner of the 2014 Printz Award, the Newbery for Young Adult books. While preparing to write this review, I was taking a look at past winners and surprised by how many of them I have reviewed - and loved - here and also pondering the current trend of adults reading YA literature. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the review for a list of these

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9. Riff Raff the Mouse Pirate and Riff Raff Sails the High Seas by Susan Schade, illustrated by Anne Kennedy, RL:1.5

Riff Raff the Pirate Mouse and Riff Raff Sails the High Cheese are the first two books in a new early reader series by Susan Schade who, along with her husband Jon Buller, created one of my all-time favorite trilogies, The Fog Mound, which is a brilliant blend of traditional and graphic novel. For this new series, Anne Kennedy illustrates with a colorful, cartoonish charm. In Riff Raff

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10. YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler, 329 pp, RL: YA

I am reviewing Amy Poehler's book, YES PLEASE, because I have been a fan of comedy since I was a very young child (see my sloppily personal review of Caitlin Moran's novel How to Build a Girl) but I am also reviewing it because I think that all girls and young women need successful, smart, women they can look up to as role models, mentors and/or trailblazers on paths that they

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11. BEFORE AFTER by Ann-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui, 176 pp RL: ALL AGES

BEFORE AFTER by Matthias Aregui and Anne-Margot Ramstein is truly a unique book that is hard to classify. Smaller than a picture book in trim size, longer than a picture book in page count, an not exactly a graphic novel, BEFORE AFTER is best described as a meditation. The title says it all, but the choices the authors make in images of before and after they choose to present are anything but

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12. Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan, 48 pp, RL 1.5

There are a handful of early readers that have a special place in my heart - Frog & Toad , Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant (a multiple Newbery winner) and Mark Teague, Dav Pilkey's Dragon series, Elephant & Piggie,  of course, and James Marshall's fabulous George and Martha books. And, as of 2011, Tim Egan's Dodsworth books (my review here) have edged their way into this small space. A good

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13. The Complete Adventures of Johnny Mutton stories & pictures by James Proimos, 150 pp, RL 2

Publishing all three volumes of James Proimos's graphic novels in one volume titled The Complete Adventures of Johnny Mutton (with bonus material) is one of the best things I've seen all year. Proimos has a smart, absurdist sense of humor that fans of Captain Underpants series will gobble up with glee. And Proimos and his ovine hero first hit the shelves way back in 2001! Johnny's

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14. Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Mac Barnett Jon Klassen are the brilliant team that brought us Extra Yarn, winner of the Caldecott Honor Medal. With Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, Barnett and Klassen have created yet another book that readers (and little listeners) will instantly bond with. Seemingly simple, this book will satisfy adults and kids and is sure to get repeated readings wherever it lands, in part because of the wry

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15. Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton

I almost didn't review Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton. I reviewed Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Zachary Ohara in April of this year and the world play of "wrecks" and "rex" feels a little done. But . . . well . . . Clanton draws a mean monster, an adorable uni-rabbit and an endearing little robot. And then there are the building blocks. Clanton does amazing

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16. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford is a revelation! I had no idea that this structure that I always thought of as a slightly sketchy carnival ride had such an interesting inception and remarkable beginning. When, with only ten months to go before the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a contest is announced inviting Americans to outdo the star

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17. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, 479 pp, RL 5

Many of you probably know Gregory Maguire as the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I discovered it a year or so after it was published in 1995 in the bargain section of the bookstore where I worked and remember how thrilling it was to read back then. Long a fan of fairy tales, I was amazed to learn that a meal could be made of a behind the scenes, adult

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18. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, 272 pp, RL: YA

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer is just flat out brilliant, both for the subject matter and how the author chooses to tell the story.  And in this, Belzhar is ideally pitched to its audience, in tone and content. Even the cover image is perfect! Wolitzer is an award winning writer of books for adults, most recently The Interestings, as well as The Ten Year Nap, which I read and enjoyed immensely.

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19. The Worst Witch: To the Rescue by Jill Murphy, 172 pp, RL 3

Originally published in 1974, author Jill Murphy, who was fifteen when she began writing The Worst Witch. The Worst Witch series is beloved in the UK and has been made into a television film and a television series that spawned two spinoff shows. Long before there was Hogwarts, there was Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches where out hero, Mildred Hubble, is a stand out student - a stand out

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20. Ivan: The Remarkable Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine ApplegateG. Brian Karas is an invaluable addition to the shelves and ideal companion to Applegate's 2013 Newbery Gold Medal winner, The One and Only Ivan. Written in free verse, The One and Only Ivan is one of a handful of Newbery winners that can be read and understood by younger readers, which is especially nice. Now,

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21. Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 89 pp, RL: 2

I did not want to like The Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. I am tired of princesses and equally tired of princess backlash. I am weary from trying to excavate and explain the potential of a princess in a plot (see my review of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett) and I am wary of mash-ups that have the air of a Disney enterprise. However, I

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22. The Mystery of the Missing Lion by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by Iain McIntosh, 90 pp, RL 2

The Mystery of the Missing Lion is the third book in Alexander McCall Smith's, brilliant chapter book series featuring the childhood incarnation of his adult novel heroine and owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Precious Ramotswe. The books are marvelously illustrated by Iain McIntosh and are unique when it comes to chapter books for so many reasons - girl detective, set in

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23. Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif

In her debut picture book, Oliver, Birgitta Sif explored the experience of an introvert with sensitivity and creativity that resulted in a memorable and worthwhile book. With Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance Sif visits similar, well worn terrain with the same fresh perspective that makes for another memorable picture book. Frances Dean loves to dance, but only when she is all alone.

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24. I'm Brave! by Kate & Jim McMullan

I'm Brave is Kate & Jim McMullan's fifth book about things that go. When I was a book seller, these were my "go to" books for toddlers into all things that go. The McMullan's happen to be among the rare creators of picture books featuring garbage trucks. Considering the fervor with which many toddlers adore garbage trucks, I am always surprised by how few picture books about them are on

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25. Construction by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock are the creators of fantastic books about all the things that gigantic, hardworking vehicles specialize in. The illustrations provide all the details little listeners love and the texts are packed with onomatopoetic words that make these books fun to read and especially entertaining. Their newest book, CONSTRUCTION, begins, Dig the ground. Dig the ground.

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