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Results 1 - 25 of 40
1. Robot Reads

With the popularity of robotics programs in schools and community groups, interest in robots and robotics is high! If you’d like to add a technological flair to your displays or booklists, consider these fun titles with high appeal for a wide range of readers:

boy bot

(image taken from Penguin Random House)

Boy + Bot is a sweet and funny story that highlights friendship, kindness, and misunderstandings. When Bot’s power is accidentally switched off, he attempts to re-spark Bot with applesauce and books. When Boy falls asleep, Bot tries to rouse him with oil and by reading aloud from his instruction manual. Luckily, an inventor steps in to smooth things over.


(image taken from Penguin Random House)

Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth was one of my top favorite graphic novel reads in 2015; I am anxiously waiting for the sequel to arrive soon! Two friends befriend a friendly, entertaining, but somewhat odd boy who has literally crashed onto Earth. The characterizations of the three friends are realistic, charming, and heartwarming.



(image taken from Macmillan)

Little Robot is another fantastic robot-themed graphic novel from 2015; this nearly wordless story features an African-American girl (who lives in a trailer park) and her newly formed friendship with a robot that has crashed into her industrial town. The two pals explore and go on many adventures until the robot factory searches for its missing robot.  The little girl (who is not named) is strong, courageous, and inventive, adding much needed diversity and characterization in robot-themed books!



(image taken from National Geographic)

Finally, if you want a nonfiction read for young independent readers, Robots (National Geographic Kids) should definitely be in your collection. National Geographic Kids’s nonfiction readers are highly recommended (and highly popular) for their graphic design, clear writing, and high-appeal to both reluctant and ravenous readers alike.

Do you have any favorite robot-themed books? Discuss them in the comments!




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2. Celebrating Moms (and Grandmoms!)

There is no shortage of amazing picture books about mothers and grandmothers, but there is definitely always a need for more books that include mothers from different cultures and walks of life. If you’re planning a story time, display, or book list for Mother’s Day, include these books to reflect the diversity of your patron population:


(image taken from Donna Jo Napoli’s website)

With warmer days getting closer and closer, beach stories will soon be in high demand in no time. Hands and Hearts is not only a gorgeously illustrated story about a fun trip to the beach, but it also incorporates American Sign Language to tell this story of a mother and her young daughter  discussing their big outing.



Where do many families celebrate Mother’s Day? At grandmother’s house, of course! Full Full of Love  follows a large extended family as they enjoy a fabulous feast at grandmother’s house, which features lots of hugs and kisses in addition to the scrumptious dishes.

(image taken from Candlewick Press)


(image taken from HarperCollins Publishers)

Making cookies with mom is a treasured childhood memory for many, as is celebrated in Mama & Me.  Spanish words (the English equivalent is incorporated after the Spanish word is introduced)  are included in this warmly told and illustrated tale about a precious bond between a mother and her daughter.



(image taken from Scholastic)

A definite scarcity in picture book: mothers in wheelchairs or mothers that have physical disabilities. In Mama Zooms, we see a young boy who imagines that he has many adventures with his mother as they ride in her wheelchair.

What are your favorite picture books about mothers? Let us know in the comments!



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3. April Fools’ Day at the Library

Are you planning April Fool’s hijinks at your library? Even if you don’t plan to announce to your Facebook followers that books will now be shelved according to color, you can celebrate with reading or displaying books that involve trickery or unexpected endings:


(image taken from Scholastic)

I’m leaving off several titles in the name of brevity, but I couldn’t forget Eric Kimmel’s retelling of Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.  The clever spider (in some stories, he’s human) tricks the other animals in the forest with much glee and abandon, until he meets his match in shy little Bush Deer. When parents/community members ask for recommendations for a “guest reader” session in which they are participating, I inevitably recommend this title.



(image taken from Julia Sarcone-Roach’s website)

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich was one of my top favorite pictures books of 2015. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you ever needed to get the concept of “unreliable narrator” across, you should use this as a perfect example.



(image taken from Margaret Read MacDonald’s website)

Mabela the Clever is one of my favorite folktale adaptations by Margaret Read MacDonald. This folktale, adapted from the Limba culture in Sierra Leone, is a clever cautionary tale about the importance of keeping your wits about you and paying attention, as told through the perspective of a young mouse who must outsmart a cat soliciting members for its special and secret club.

snip snap

Snip! Snap! What’s That?

(image taken from Scholastic)

Would you be scared if an alligator broke into your house? YOU BET YOU WOULD! This tale of three children who get tired of being freaked out by the alligator has a delicious amount of suspense perfect for keeping toddlers on the edge of their story mats, but without causing them to run out the story time room.

What other books would you add to an April Fools’ display or story time (that isn’t specifically about the day)? Discuss in the comments!

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4. They Say It’s Your Birthday!

Are your thoughts turning to spring weather and activities? If you’re a youth services librarian, your brain is probably already churning ideas and plans for summer reading programs! We’re planning a “birthdays” program to include in our summer activities, so I’ve been searching high and low for great read aloud stories about birthdays. If you’re in need of stories for a birthday program (or a birthday party!), here are some great stories to share:


(image taken from Macmillan)

Anne Rockwell’s books are positive and bright looks at everyday activities in children’s lives; although the sizes of the books might be a bit small to share with large story time groups, most are ideal for medium-sized groups or one-on-one sharing.  At the Supermarket  follows a young boy and his mother as they gather groceries throughout the store for a very special occasion!


(image taken from Candlewick)

Shirley Parenteau’s bears have joined my top choices for bear story times (or for any other themes in which they fit!). Bears and a Birthday follow the pastel-colored bears as they prepare a birthday celebration for Big Brown Bear. Although the relationship to the bears is never specified, keep this in mind if you need matter-of-fact books about single fathers.



(image taken from Scholastic)

Eve Bunting’s Flower Garden is ideal for a Mother’s Day theme, a gardening theme, and a birthday theme (the girl and her father make a windowsill garden for her mother). This simple but vibrant story gives a much welcome diversity to a flower/garden theme; the family is African-American and live in a city (if you have plans for an urban gardening or small container gardening display, make sure you include this!).


(image taken from Caroline Uff)

Happy Birthday Lulu follows Lulu as she receives phone calls, presents, and many hugs on her big day. Striking illustrations and simple text makes this very appealing to the youngest listeners. Lulu is biracial (Caucasian mother, African-American father), which also adds much needed diversity to birthday stories.

What are your favorite stories about birthdays? Let us know in the comments!

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5. Best Books of 2015: Your Favorites!

By now, most publications have weighed in with their “Best Books of 2015” lists. While many find them to be great collection development tools, it can be disappointing when our favorite reads have been overlooked.  Let’s chat about our favorite reads for 2015 (2015 publication date only, please). If your favorites received tons of starred reviews and/or inclusion in many “Best of 2015” lists, please let us know! But if you have some favorites that you feel deserve wider recognition, this is your chance to let your fellow librarians know!

While these books are not the only books I would include in my favorites list, these are at the top of the list:


(image taken from Kate Hannigan’s website)

If you need an action-packed historical fiction novel with plenty of humor, gravitas, and a charming aunt-niece relationship, you should definitely read The Detective’s Assistant. Based on the real-life Kate Warne, the first female private investigator, this is a madcap read that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.


(image taken from Macmillan’s website)

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay  features Zulay, a bright and spirited African-American first grader. Zulay is working on mastering her white cane with the assistance of an aid; she very much wants to participate in field day races with her friends and fellow classmates. Based on an actual first-grader who is blind, this is an upbeat and realistic look that will inform and inspire readers.


(image taken from Hachette catalog)

Disney Lucasfilm Press launched a dizzying amount of Star Wars books for children this year, including a retelling of the original trilogy written by three fantastic children’s authors. If you think these are your standard junior movie novelizations, you need to investigate these books! Alexandra Bracken launched the trilogy with A New Hope, which looks at the events in the first movie from the points of view from Luke, Han, and Leia. Adam Gidwitz followed with The Empire Strikes Back, which address the reader directly on the Jedi training path and offers an honestly moving overview of Jedi philosophy. Finally, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame!) concludes with Return of the Jedi, in which hilarious annotations offer unique insights into the events.



(image taken from Mitali Perkins’s website for the book)

Tiger Boy  is an eye-opening look at the delicate balance between wildlife and humans in a remote Bengal village. When a tiger cub goes missing from its nature reserve, young Neel joins the search in order to protect her from a corrupt real estate developer. Not only does Perkins highlight the conflict between animals and humans, but she also portrays the precious commodities of education in Neel’s village (Neel is studying for a scholarship at a prestigious boarding school, and his entire village is counting on him to win it).

What were your favorite reads in 2015 (published in 2015)? Let us know in the comments!



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6. Going on a Field Trip: It’s National Go On a Field Trip Month!

I’m not sure who or what designated October as “National Go on a Field Trip Month”, but it makes sense. Preschool/kindergarten classes and Head Start classes in our area have been busy with field trips to pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and our libraries. If your local teachers are looking for great picture books to accompany their fun outings, make sure you have these books on hand!


(image taken from Albert Whitman & Company)

Going to the apple orchard? Felicia Sanzari Cherensky’s From Apple Trees to Cider, Please!  (2015) is the depiction of a perfect autumn outing: picking apples, pressing cider, and having fun at an apple cider festival (complete with an apple cider doughnut). This story in rhyme illustrates the basics of apple cider production in a cheerful and inviting manner.


(image taken from Simon & Schuster)

Angela Johnson’s Lottie Paris and the Best Place (2013) is a charming and sweet ode all the fun that can be had in a library outing: finding awesome books and even finding a new friend! This is the sequel (of sorts) to Lottie Paris Lives Here; I hope Angela Johnson has more adventures planned for Lottie Paris and Papa Pete.



(image taken from Scholastic)

Our copies of Pumpkin Circle (1999) are constantly checked out during the autumn; George Levenson’s simple and informative text and Shmuel Taler’s enlarged  and eye-catching photographs of a pumpkin seed going through the growth cycle is a superb nonfiction read aloud.


(image taken from MacMillan)

Although trips to the zoo are probably more popular in the spring than fall, Lenny Hort’s irresistible The Seals on the Bus (2000) is frequently used in my transportation/animal sounds story times. This very noisy (and smelly!) bus on its way to a zoo (or a party at a zoo; the final illustration can be interpreted in different ways) will have your audience roaring, hissing, and yelling “help, help, help” (in empathy with the poor people on the bus!) with much gusto. As you can guess, the story is set to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Do you have any favorite stories about pumpkins/pumpkin patches, apple orchards, library visits, or field trips in general? Let us know in the comments!

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7. September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month!

Now that 2015 summer reading programs are in the books, it’s time to turn our attention to National Library Card Sign-Up Month. My library is loving this year’s Snoopy campaign; we have a “Find the Snoopy” contest underway in order to promote the theme and library cards, as well as a display of our favorite library-themed reads. If you’re not quite ready to display the fall books yet, having a “books about libraries and reading” display should tide you over for a few weeks:


(image taken from Penguin Random House)

Sally Sutton’s books are must-reads for our construction/building story times, but Construction is my top favorite. If you’re familiar with the Sutton/Lovelock picture books, you know that they are filled with big, bright, and detailed illustrations with a rhyme scheme perfect for reading aloud. Construction is no different, but this time, the hard workers are building something very special–a new library!


(image taken from Penguin Random House)

Anna McQuinn’s Lola series is charming and authentic. Being a big sister comes with many responsibilities, including book-sharing time! Just because Lola is able to read to baby Leo doesn’t mean that she misses out on bedtime stories. Not only is Lola Reads to Leo an adorable story about reading, it’s a sweet and positive story about having a baby in the family.


(image taken from Simon & Schuster)

I hope Angela Johnson continues with her Lottie Paris series; Lottie Paris and the Best Place is the sequel (of sorts) to Lottie Paris Lives Here, which introduced Lottie Paris and her Papa Pete (possibly her grandfather). Lottie Paris and Papa Pete are off to Lottie Paris’s favorite place–the library! Lottie Paris finds awesome books and even makes a new friend. This would be a fine read aloud for preschool or kindergarten visits.



(image taken from Monica Brown)

Finally, Waiting for the Biblioburro is based on librarian Luis Soriano’s biblioburro work in Colombia. Focusing on a little book-loving girl named Ana, this is an uplifting look at a very different sort of library that features the hard conditions of Ana’s community in a sensitive manner.

Are you doing any special promotions/activities for Library Card Sign-Up Month? What are your favorite library/books/reading centered titles? Let us know in the comments!


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8. It’s Time to Think About…Back to School Books!

Most of us are still in the thick of summer reading programs. It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks, patrons will clamor for “first day of school” books. (Admittedly, this is usually an adult patron request more than a young patron’s request!)  Although we have many excellent “first day of school” books, every summer brings new favorites to add to our collection. Have you read these recent “first day of school” books?


(image taken from Richard Torrey’s website)

Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School is dinosaur-obsessed. Everything–and I mean, EVERYTHING–has to be tied to dinosaurs. Ally is disappointed that her not all of her fellow classmates share her devotion to these prehistoric creatures, but she learns that it’s fun to have friends with a variety of passions and personalities. Keep this on hand when young children start debating over whether something is a boy or girl color/toy/interest.


(image taken from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website)

Losing your bucket on the first day of preschool is not an ideal way to start your academic career. Luckily, Flo soon solves her dilemma with the help of her new friend, Bob. As you can see, Bob and Flo are penguins, which ratchets up the adorable factor.



(image taken from Penguin Random House)

The big yellow school bus is a source of fascination for many young children, even before they are old enough to ride the bus. (Donald Crews’s School Bus is a favorite in my toddler story time). While anything that moves on wheels is super cool, all the kids in The Bus is For Us agree that the school bus is the coolest of them all. This is marvelously inclusive; the bus is the best because everyone can ride!


(image taken from Bloomsbury Publishing website)

Many “first day of school” books focuses on the young student’s nervousness. Dad’s First Day, however, is all about dad’s uncertainty about the first day of school (exaggerated for comic effect, obviously). Oliver is pumped about starting school, but Dad needs a little convincing! Turning a common concern on its head is a fantastic way to still address the situation, but make it fun and funny.

What are your favorite “first day of school” books? Share in the comments below!





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9. Get Them Hooked: Chapter Book Series for New Readers

Do you remember what it was like to finally be able to read a book with chapters (or when your child/niece/best friend’s child did so)? It’s such a big deal. HUGE. However, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed at this stage. Mercy Watson and Cam Jansen remain popular with young readers, but here are some of my more recent addition to the easy chapter book crowd:

izzy barr

(image taken from Macmillan website)

Claudia Mills’s latest chapter book series, Franklin School Friends, is a winner; one of her best, in my opinion. Each title in the Franklin School Friends series features a child with a special talent, beginning with Kelsey Green (reading), then Annika Riz (math), and lately, Izzy Barr (running). The value of each ability is celebrated without being didactic or too obvious. Simon Ellis (spelling) and Cody Harmon (pets) will join the Friends later this year.


(image taken from Simon & Schuster website)

Galaxy Zack is sheer fun for young science fiction fans. Despite the fact that Zack lives on another planet, he experiences things that every young earthling will recognize (moving to a new place, making new friends, etc).


(image taken from Lin Oliver’s website)

If the Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver is popular, you will definitely want to get Here’s Hank for your collection. Here’s Hank follows Hank throughout the ups and downs of second grade. While Hank appeals to many readers, struggling or reluctant readers will definitely identify with Hank.


(image taken from Scholastic website)

Shelter Pet Squad is a very new series by Cynthia Lord (the second addition will be released this fall). Featuring a group of animal-loving friends who volunteer at the animal shelter, this delightful and realistic series has already gained many fans impatient for its continuing adventures. While the tone is upbeat, more serious touches of everyday life make the storyline authentic (Suzannah lives in an apartment that forbids animals and a beloved animal is tearfully surrendered when its young owner moves overseas).

What recent series have caught your (and your patrons’) attention? Let us know in the comments!

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10. Halfway Mark: Favorite Books (So Far) for 2015

The calendar doesn’t lie; it’s nearly June, which means that summer reading programs are fast approaching. The looming of June also brings ALA Annual, during which awards committees will meet (many in secret, of course) to discuss their readings and thoughts (so far) for 2015.

Although the awards committee meetings are closed to non-members, you can attend meetings for Children’s Notable Books, Children’s Notable Recordings, and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults committees. If you have time during your packed Annual schedule, I recommend attending at least one meeting. It gives you great insight into how committees choose and discuss titles. If you can’t attend meetings in person, look for the committees to publish their nominations lists sometime after Annual (YALSA’s committees for Best Fiction for Young Adults, Great Graphic Novels, Popular Paperbacks, and Quick Picks post their nominations lists here, and ALSC’s Notable Books committee usually publishes its first nominations lists here after Annual). They are great collection development tools, especially when it gets closer to Youth Media Awards time! (I check the sites every several months for updates and right before Midwinter). Check the Scheduler section on the conference site for more details on where/when the open committee meetings are held.

If you’re not a committee member and can freely discuss your favorites for the 2015 publication year, please discuss in the comments below! Here are several titles that I personally hope have a shot at making the committee lists and Youth Media Awards. (Did you know that you can nominate books for the Notable Children’s Books and even many awards committees? Check the individual pages for the committees for further detail.)


(image taken from author’s website)

I’m a fan of historical fiction, but even I can admit that it can be heavy and sobering reading at times. If you’re in need of fun, fast-paced historical fiction with a great deal of heart (and mystery!), The Detective’s Assistant (based on the life of the first American female detective) should be in your collection.


(image taken from publisher website)

I try not to attach too much hope on any particular book for the Newbery or Caldecott; at the end of the day, my main wish is that we have the titles in our collection on the day the Youth Media Awards are announced. Occasionally I can’t help it, and I get too invested in one book being the big winner.  If A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat is my #1 hopeful (at this point!) for the Caldecott, and I’m already way too invested in it winning, I’m afraid. This extraordinarily researched, written, and illustrated look at the evolution (social and technical) of food preparation through the creation of one dessert (blueberry fool) is one of a kind.



(image taken from author’s website)

I believe ALSC ran an online poll (last year?) in which it asked readers to vote for their favorite Youth Media Award. While many chose Newbery or Caldecott, quite a few (including me) chose “all of them!” I look forward to each and every announcement of the awards. While X: A Novel is probably more mature than the audience for the Newbery, I’m quite hopeful for its chances for the Coretta Scott King Medal and the Printz Medal. Co-written by Ilyasah Shabazz (Malcolm X’s third oldest daughter) and Kekla Magoon, this is a moving and eye-opening fictionalized look at the childhood and early adulthood of the civil rights leader.

What have been your favorite reads for 2015 (2015 books only, please)? Tell us about them in the comments!



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11. April is Math Awareness Month

We are celebrating Math Awareness Month at our libraries this week (combining it with National Library Week), so I have math-related read alouds on my mind. Even if you don’t have a special program planned for Math Awareness Month, you can easily mark it with a counting-themed story time or display.


(image taken from Holiday House website)

Poor Iguana has stubbed her toe. As anyone who has stubbed his/her toe can understand, the pain in her toe distracts her from making her fabulous cactus butter desserts. Culebra (snake)’s idea to attach a number of kitchen utensils to her tail is an unorthodox but rather successful solution. Spanish words for the animals and numbers are included (as is a glossary in the backmatter for Count on Culebra).



(image taken from Scholastic website)

I use Feast for 10 not only in my counting story time, but also in my Thanksgiving-themed story time (which is centered on stories about families and food).  It’s a very simple story about a family that helps Mom gather the groceries, unload the car, and prepare the feast. Family members, food, and meal-related items (such as pots) are counted.


Mabela the Clever is one of my favorite Margaret Read MacDonald stories; this folktale from Sierra Leone not only incorporates subtraction (!), but imparts the importance of being aware of your surroundings (especially if you are a mouse in the vicinity of a cult-like cat society!).



(image taken from Barefoot Books website)

We All Went on Safari is a staple in my counting story time. As readers and listeners follow a group of Tanzanian women and children through grasslands, Swahili names and numbers are introduced in a very organic manner. A glossary of Swahili words, a map, and information about Tanzania are included.

What are your favorite counting (or any math-related) books? Let us know in the comments!

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12. Sunny Books for Springtime Reads

I couldn’t stand it any longer. Even though we were facing significant snowfall the following day, I put up a springtime themed display on March 1 (several patrons and staff members who were aware of the forecast were amused, but I didn’t care). I had the last laugh, though, because several patrons added a spring book or two to the piles of books they carried to the checkout desk. (Nothing like a good snowstorm prediction to boost circulation statistics.)

Happily, the snow packs are starting to melt, and our springtime books are marching out the door with happy patrons. Here are some of my favorites:


(image taken from Macmillan website)

And Then it’s Spring is perfect for these not-quite-spring days. A young boy and friends are looking for signs of spring, but the grass and trees are rather dull-looking. This is the time to plant seeds, though, and plant them he does. And waits….until the longed-for green appears. Julie Fogliano’s text is poetic but down-to-earth, and Erin E. Stead’s illustrations are the perfect antidote to cold March days.


(image taken from HarperCollins website)

Finding Spring has been an enormous hit at our libraries, ever since we received it in the dark days of February. This little bear cub is in no mood for hibernating and is anxious to experience his first spring. However, he’s too early for spring, as snowflakes are definitely not an indication that spring has arrived.  Bear cubs need to hibernate during winter, so back he goes to Mama Bear, until spring finally finds him. Carin Berger’s text and illustrations are endearing and captivating; this is already on my Caldecott 2016 shortlist.


(image taken from Scholastic website)

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons is another sublime creation by Il Sung Na. Although animals endure the winter in different ways (some hibernate, some migrate, etc), little rabbit’s activities don’t change much throughout the winter. Rabbit’s brown coat reveal at the book’s conclusion shows that the shift in seasons brings a change even to him. This is a perfect choice for a “Rabbit Reads” story time that doesn’t include Easter Bunny books.

Do you have any must-read springtime favorites?


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13. Funny Read Alouds for the Elementary School Crowd

I’ve been invited to a local elementary school’s Family Reading Night. I missed last year’s event due to scheduling conflicts, so I’m super excited that I’m able to participate. One of the activities in the Family Reading Night program is rotating throughout classrooms in which guest readers read a variety of picture books.

The books I chose for this program have to meet certain criteria (my own criteria; the school allows you to choose your own material). If it’s a funny read aloud, it usually goes into my stack of books. I need to be able to read it several times in succession without getting bored with it. Although the audience in mind are elementary school students (and their families), I want them to entertain any younger or older siblings. Quite a tall order!

Throughout my experiences with this program, I’ve kept a list of tried and true sure-fire, attention-grabbing read aloud favorites:


(Image taken from Scholastic)

When it’s football season, I usually choose Aaron Reynolds’s Buffalo Wings. Football season is over, so Chicks and Salsa it is. If you had nothing to eat but chicken feed, you might also look for ways to spice it up. These intrepid barnyard animals make a delicious spread, although no one is quite sure how the ingredients are procured.



(image taken from Scholastic)

John and Ann Hassett’s take on The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a hilarious read aloud about a school-avoidant boy who has a taste for jelly doughnuts.  If you love to employ lots of voices in your read alouds, check this one out. It’s just as much fun to read as it is to hear.


(image taken from Scholastic)

When I discovered this book, I loved it so much that I immediately had to share it with my toddler story time. While it was such a failure with that particular group that I haven’t tried it again, I have read What! Cried Granny to enough preschool and elementary school classes that I know its humor comes across loud and clear for older students. Patrick and Granny are all set for his first sleepover….or, so they think! Seems that Granny’s house is lacking in several key items, but her impressive resourcefulness carries them through. Unfortunately, it’s at the expense of a restful night! If you need a not-so-sleepy bedtime story for a pajama story time, you need to include this book.

I’m also planning to read The Book With No Pictures for the first time; very excited about that one as well!

Do you have any favorite funny read aloud titles for elementary school classes? Let us know in the comments!




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14. Science Fair Season

Do you remember Science Fair time? Was it a fun time or a stressful time for you? When I was a student, we had the option of doing a science fair project or a social studies project. While I remember some parts were fun (my social studies fair project on Helen Keller was an educational highlight for me), finding ideas for science fair projects was always rather daunting. I didn’t really enjoy science experiments or activities until I learned more about the importance of STEM education and put together science experiment programs at my library.  Thankfully, there is an amazing amount of fabulous science experiment books that should help both students and adults discover the fun aspects of science:


(image from Wiley)

If I ever get to San Francisco, visiting The Exploratorium is tops on my “must do” list. Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with their awesome books and website.  The Exploratorium Science Snackbook features modified versions (“snacks”) of their exhibits. If you’ve ever opened up a science experiments book and groaned at the very specific materials needed for experiments, fear not. All experiments feature easily obtained materials. Best of all, scientific principles behind the experiments are carefully explained. Each lesson plan includes  advice, tips and time estimates.


(image from Wiley)

Anyone in need of easy science experiments definitely needs to be familiar with Janice VanCleave’s vast library of science experiments. Janice VanCleave’s Guide to the Best Science Fair Projects  not only includes detailed instructions for engaging experiments (everything from astronomy to zoology!), but offers points on the scientific method and the ins and outs of research. If you need experiments for very young students (kindergarten and such), check out her Play-and-Learn series.




(image from Skyhorse)

For fun and creative science experiments that anyone can do with easily obtained materials, Vicki Cobb’s books will provide a vast amount of inspiration and knowledge. We Dare You!  explores geometry, physics, and many other fields of science with fun (and sometimes funny!) science activities. “Insider Information” explains the scientific activity in each experiment.

Do you have any favorite authors or titles of science experiment books? Talk about it in the comments.

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15. 2014 Favorites

The majority of the 2014 “Best Books” lists are in (if you want a comprehensive coverage, look at Large Hearted Boy’s lists or Chicken Spaghetti’s children/YA lists). For my last post in 2014, I thought I would ask ALSC blog readers to mention their favorites, especially if you felt like they were overlooked among the lists from the major publications. Brown Girl Dreaming, The Family Romanov, etc were definitely among my favorite reads, but here are some that didn’t make many lists:

(Please forgive the lack of book covers–I had trouble uploading pictures today, for some reason!)


Annika Riz, Math Whiz by Claudia Mills

Claudia Mills’s Franklin School Friends series about a group of friends with passionate interests (Kelsey Green, Reading Queen was the inaugural entry) continues to charm. Annika is a math champion, but her friends don’t share her love of math. Annika’s school year is packed with preparations for the library’s sudoku contest and the school’s carnival. Will Annika’s math skills save the day when her class booth begins to lose money? Lessons are learned in an endearing and funny way without being preachy.


Bookmarks Are People, Too! by Henry Winkler

As a fan of Henry Winkler’s Hank Zipzer series, I was excited when a spinoff series featuring Hank at a younger age was introduced. Hank very much wants to be a part of the school play, but stage fright trips him up at the audition. An understanding teacher creates a part just for him, and the class bully learns an important lesson about teamwork and respecting other people’s feelings.


A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz

Alan Rabinowitz’s extreme stuttering was only nonapparent when he communicated with animals. The renowned jaguar conservationist and scientist’s picture book biography is a remarkable read about a man who speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves.


The Lion Who Stole My Arm by Nicola Davies

This book has now become one of my recommendations for reluctant readers. Although it’s fewer than 90 pages long, it’s a powerful story about a young boy who must make difficult life changes and decisions after a lion attack leaves him armless. This unique novel doesn’t paint the threatened status of lions in black-and-white terms; rather, it shows how African citizens and conservationists learn to work together in order to protect both farmland and lions.


Did you have any favorites that you feel were overlooked in 2014? Let us know in the comments!




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16. ABCs and 123s

There’s never a shortage of new alphabet and counting books. When I order new alphabet and counting books (or any concept book), I look for unique presentations of very common concepts. Alphabet and counting books range from the very simple to complex and creative story lines. My recent favorites include the following:


Baby Bear Counts One

(image from Simon & Schuster website)

Baby Bear Counts One (and its predecessor, Baby Bear Sees Blue) stars an endearing and realistically illustrated cub who counts his fellow creatures preparing for winter.  If a hibernation/migration story time or display is in your near future, make sure you include this one. Both Baby Bear books are rarely on our shelves for very long!


Backseat_chronicle books

(image from Chronicle Books website)

I’ve read enough “A is for” alphabet books that new ones really need to offer something different in order for us to add it to our collection. Backseat A-B-See offers so much to many groups of young readers: those learning the alphabet and those obsessed with all things car-oriented. Teaching the alphabet through the use of road signs is a genius idea; the bold and uncluttered illustrations makes this ideal for those too young to truly learn the alphabet (I recently bought this for my newborn niece!).

count_monkeys_author site

(image from Mac Barnett website)

Books that offer opportunities for audience interaction are always hugely popular. The wacky humor in Count the Monkeys makes this a great read aloud for children who already have the basics of counting down to a science. Counting these monkeys is indeed tricky, as they are easily scared by any number of things (including lumberjacks).

z is for moose_zelinsky site

(image from Paul O. Zelinsky website)

Z is for Moose is not your basic “A is for apple” picture book. This hilarious story about a moose with its nose out of joint when “M” in the letter pageant stands for “mouse” instead of “moose” teaches lessons of cooperation and sharing without being preachy in the slightest.


What are your favorite unique alphabet or counting books? Share in the comments!

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17. ‘Tis the Season for New Holiday Books

The end of summer means the beginning of searching for new holiday books to add to our collection. I usually order new Halloween and Thanksgiving books in September, and new Christmas and Hanukkah books in October (unless Hanukkah is unusually early, as it was last year). Any new general winter-themed books that are not about winter holidays are usually ordered in November or early December.


(image taken from Roseanne Greenfield Thong’s website)

We have such a strong collection of excellent holiday books that any new book that I add to the collection is either something by a very popular author (Jan Brett) or offers something unique to the collection…characters of color, such as ‘Twas Nochebuena by Roseanne Thong or Thanksgiving stories that go beyond describing a shared meal with family, such as The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing.


We have plenty of Hanukkah books that explain the various activities of that holiday in simple picture book format, so I am always keen to find Hanukkah books that go beyond “we light the candles and spin the dreidel” basics. One of my favorite Hanukkah related books remains Jeremy’s Dreidel by Ellie Gellman for its touching and positive portrayal of a young boy and his father, who is blind.  Books that focus upon the religious origins of Christmas and Hanukkah are also very popular in our community, so Lee Bennett Hopkins’s latest poetry collection, Manger, should enjoy lots of checkouts this season. National Geographic’s Celebrate Hanukkah (part of its Holidays Around the World) is a striking look at how the holiday is celebrated worldwide.

Do you have any new holiday favorites this year, or any titles that you are eagerly anticipating? What Halloween books have been popular with your patrons this year? Talk about it in the comments!




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18. Not-So-Cozy Bedtime Stories

Some of my favorite story time themes involve contrasting themes: Big and Little, Noisy and Quiet, and Awake and Asleep.  While I have several favorite titles perfect for snuggling just before bedtime, they’re not stories that I want to include for a 10:30 story time full of wide-awake toddlers. Luckily, there are any number of rollicking stories that are bedtime-oriented, but won’t invoke drowsiness:


(image from HarperCollins site)

Although “beebee bobbi bobbi” runs through my head all day long after using this in story time, I can’t resist using The Baby Beebee Bird in story times about baby animals or my awake/asleep story time.  This energetic story about a baby bird who prefers to (initially) sleep through the day and sing all night long (and making a very restless night for the other zoo animals, until they hatch a plan to teach the bird a lesson) will require creative and loud animal noises from the reader.



(image taken from John Butler site)

Although this take on “Over in the Meadow” certainly qualifies as a “cozy” bedtime story, the variety of animals and audience participation possibilities (counting, etc) make Bedtime in the Jungle  a fun read for story times at any time of the day. It’s also great for story times involving baby animals, jungle animals, or counting.


(image taken from Random House site)

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds inevitably checks out with a story time patron after I include it in a story time; hopefully, the clever bits in the illustrations that go unnoticed in a large group setting (the headline in the newspaper, for instance) will be observed in an one-on-one setting.  The increasingly racuous bunnies, who are clearly not ready for bedtime, are hilarious.



(image taken from Simon & Schuster site)

Stories in rhyme can be troublesome to read aloud; uneven rhyme schemes can make reading aloud awkward. You won’t have that problem with Piggies in Pajamas; this is a funny and bouncy tale of pajama-clad piggies who always manage to appear to be resting quietly each time Mama Pig checks out the commotion upstairs.


Do you have any favorite bedtime stories? Share in the comments!

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19. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Ahhh, the fall. A sweet, sweet time for those in charge of booklists, displays, and story times. Back to school and fall books are perennial favorite subjects until it’s time to rediscover the fall and early winter holiday collection. However, if you’re not quite ready to break out your fall books collection, Hispanic Heritage Month is an ideal time to highlight or expand your collection of books that celebrate the diversity of Hispanic cultures. What started as a week-long celebration in 1968 is now a month long (September 15-October 15) of Hispanic history, arts, and culture.



(image taken from author website)

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match captures the reality of many biracial children in an upbeat and endearing spitfire of a character. Marisol doesn’t see anything weird with mismatches: green polka dots and purple stripes, peanut butter and jelly burritos, or brown skin and red hair are pretty cool in her eyes. When Marisol tries to match, she finds that things are confusing and boring. Thanks to an intuitive teacher, she regains confidence in her unique viewpoint and look. This bilingual story is charmingly illustrated and told through a very realistic child narrator.


(image taken from HarperCollins website)

Arthur Dorros and Rudy Gutierrez’s Papa and Me is a loving, gentle, and authentic look at a father-son relationship. Papa is encouraging, wise, and just plain fun to be with. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the story. (See also Mama and Me by the same author.)

tooth fairy

(image taken from Random House website)

As a huge fan of cross-cultural children’s books, The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez is one of my favorite Latino-oriented picture books.  When Miguelito puts his tooth under his pillow and falls asleep, two magical creatures appear in his room to lay claim to his tooth. The Tooth Fairy asserts ownership because Miguelito is in the United States, but El Raton Perez, the tooth-collecting mouse who collects teeth in Latin America and Spain, defends ownership due to family tradition. Thankfully, they both work out a compromise.  This is a fun and unique way of presenting a rite of passage in many cultures.



(image taken from Random House website)

What can you do with a rebozo (a long scarf)? You can accessorize a dress, play hide and seek, keep a grandmother or baby brother warm, use it as a blindford while attempting to burst a pinata…so many things! Not only is this is celebration of a close-knit family, but it’s also a tribute to creativity.  (See also What Can You Do With a Paleta? by the same author.)

What are your favorite picture books featuring Latino characters and culture? Tell us in the comments!


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20. Fun in the Sun

Summer is nearly here! I say this every year, but the first part of this year has flown by. Library summer programs will start in the next several weeks, so I know many of us are putting the final touches on our activities and hoping for a fun, productive, and well-attended summer reading program. However, I hope that you get to enjoy some of the traditional aspects of summer: camping, visiting family and friends, going to the beach, and other fun activities.  If you need some inspiration, check out these great summer reads:



(image taken from Workman Publishing website)

Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids’ Guide, From the Backyard to the Backwoods by Lyn Brunelle is jam-packed with ideas for outdoor fun, whether you camp at a national park or in your own backyard.  Readers of all ages will want to attempt many activities detailed in this handy guide, including classic camping skills (tying knots), basic weather watching and astronomy, fun games, and songs to sing around the campfire.



(image taken from Scholastic website)

If I had to pick my favorite book by Cynthia Rylant, I would have to pick The Relatives Came.  The jubilant text and cheery illustrations evoke the warm and hectic atmosphere of a family reunion. It’s a short read aloud, but perfect for groups with a wide range of ages.



image taken from Dog Mountain, Home of Stephen Huneck Gallery)

I adore the Sally books, so including Sally Goes to the Beach by Stephen Huneck  is a given.  This lovely black Lab enjoys frolicking on the beach and meeting new four-legged friends.  All the sights, sounds, and smells of a beach vacation are observed through Sally’s point of view, which makes this a must read for dog fans.



The romance of camping is beautifully brought to life in Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George.  Poems about getting dressed in your sleeping bag, swapping secrets in a tent late at night, and, of course, toasting marshmallows around a campfire will make you want to grab your camping gear and head to the nearest campground.

Do you have any favorite summer-themed books or guidebooks? Let us know in the comments!




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21. Lots of Laughs: National Humor Month

We all know that April is National Poetry Month, so I’m sure many of us have special poetry displays, booklists, and programs. But did you know that April is also National Humor Month?

Books that tickle young readers’ and listeners’ funny bones are ideal for many reasons. Many parents (and fellow librarians) are often asked to be visiting readers at elementary schools.  When parents tell me that they are scheduled to read aloud at their children’s school, I usually recommend picture books that are surefire humor hits. Funny books are also fantastic for reluctant and/or readers who are new to chapter books. Everyone likes to laugh, even if they’re not so sure about reading.  If you tell a young reader that the book is hilarious, it’s a great hook to get him/her interested in the book.

Of course, humor is very subjective! What’s amusing to one person is deadly dull to another. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite funny picture books:


Chicks and Salsa

(image taken from Scholastic)

Wouldn’t you get tired of eating chicken feed day in and day out? The chickens at Nuthatcher Farm long for something with a kick and a crunch….like chips and salsa! Pretty soon, their taste for southwestern treats spreads to guacamole and nachos, until Mr. and Mrs. Nuthatcher get a little too interested in the spicy snacks. Lots of snarky humor and asides to get the attention of a wide range of ages. The “follow up”, Buffalo Wings, is just as hilarious. If you do football/Super Bowl programming, you need to include these books!



(image taken from Jan Thornhill’s website)

With its similarity to Chicken Little, this Indian folktale of animals frantically spreading the word that the world is breaking up is a funny and dramatic tale perfect for folktale comparisons and multicultural bibliographies. A hare is convinced that the world is about to end when he hears a startling crash; he manages to alarm the other hares, the deer, the boars, and the tigers, who join him in alerting the lion….who is not at all amused.



(image taken from Scholastic website)

Another fun and funny book to use for folktale comparisons is this takeoff on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The three Grubb sisters are skipping across the bridge on their way to school; underneath the bridge lies Ugly-Boy Bobby. Ugly-Boy Bobby is placated by the promise of enormous quantities of doughnuts from the biggest Grubb sister…but her demand sends him running off to school to be a model students for all his days. This is one of my top favorite read alouds for elementary school; witty and a delight to share.



(image taken from Scholastic website)

Kate Lum’s tall tale of a rather peculiar (yet extremely resourceful) granny is a rollicking read aloud. Patrick and Granny are pumped for his first-ever sleepover at her house…until he realizes that he has no bed. Or pillow. Or even a teddy bear. Never mind–Granny sews and hammers everything into place. But there’s a consequence to all this frantic activity! (I won’t spoil the ending–it’s too great.)


I could go on and on (I didn’t even cover chapter books), but I want to know about your favorite funny stories for young readers. Picture books, easy readers, chapter books, joke books–let’s dish!



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22. Buzzing Bees and Beautiful Butterflies

Although it is currently snowing in our neck of the woods (Virginia) while I write this post, spring is officially on notice.  Time to break out our favorite rabbit, gardening, and spring-themed stories!  One of my favorite springtime display/story time themes is ”birds and butterflies.” (Insert your corny but cute display name here: Books to Buzz About/Fly Away With Books!/etc).  Here are the ones to which I routinely return:


butterfly butterfly

(image from Candlewick Press website)

Petr Horacek’s tale of a young girl searching for a butterfly may be economical in text, but the illustrations have vibrancy and depth.  Names of colors are emphasized, making this a first-rate choice for a colors-themed story time or display. We’ve had to replace this several times because it is a very popular choice with our patrons and staff; the pop up butterfly at the end is definitely more than worth the price.



(image from author’s website)

Janet S. Wong’s look at a family’s very busy morning has a great rhythm and usage of sound, so you may need to practice this one before reading it aloud.  As a family prepares for the day’s activities, a young boy observes a buzzing bee, as well as other similar sounds (such as the buzz of his father’s razor).


flower garden

(image from Harcourt website)

Eve Bunting’s Flower Garden is a standard in several of my favorite story times and displays; not only can you use it for a butterfly/bees theme, but also use it for flowers/gardening themes.  Urban gardens are not a common theme in picture books about flowers/gardens, so this stunningly illustrated story of a father and daughter who surprise Mom with a windowsill garden is quite special.

waiting for wings

(image from Scholastic website)

It’s not often that I get to feature a nonfiction read aloud in my story times, so Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings is a standard in my butterfly story times and displays.  Through simple text and authentically illustrated (and labeled) depictions of butterflies’ life cycles, tips on creating a butterfly garden, and tips on how to identify butterflies,  young listeners and readers are treated to a cornucopia of butterfly facts and images.


(I always include The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I don’t need to tell you about that book!)

What are your favorite books about butterflies and bees? Tell us in the comments!




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23. Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day!

For some reason, I’m not fully into the Christmas season yet. I’m sure a lot had to do with the fact that Thanksgiving was so late this year. I’m just startled whenever circulation staff tells patrons that their materials are now due 12/26 (12/28 by the time you read this!). Three weeks!

My inability to grasp the inevitable is the reason why I decided to post about “Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day!” It may not be as well known as Talk Like a Pirate Day, but it does have its own official Facebook page, at least.  Even if you decide to not wear a costume for Time Traveler Day, you can mark the occasion by booktalking or displaying time-travel books and/or DVDs, such as the following:

devil's arithmetic

(source: Scholastic)

A Holocaust time-travel book might have turned into a cringeworthy and/or exploitative read if written by a less capable author than Jane Yolen.  When Hannah opens the door for the Prophet Elijah during her family’s Seder, as is customarily done during the feast, she is transported to Poland.  It is now 1942, and Hannah (now Chaya) is captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp.  Friendship, family, and the importance of memory are themes finely woven into this provacative children’s novel about the Holocaust.



(source: Scholastic)

Dan Gutman’s Baseball Card Adventure series is a fast-paced and fun ride through baseball history.  Joey meets baseball greats when he travels back in time, thanks to a valuable baseball card featuring Honus Wagner found while cleaning an elderly neighbor’s attic.  Additional titles feature Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and other elite players.



(source: Jabberwocky)

I read Home Sweet Rome before I realized that it was the second entry in Marissa Moss’s Mira’s Diary series (the series begins with Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris).  Luckily, Moss includes enough background material that reading the series in order isn’t imperative. Mira must rescue her time-traveling mother in Rome; to do so requires Mira to travel back to 16th century Rome, in which she meets Caravaggio and his controversial group of scientist and artist friends.  There’s lots of humor and hijinks in Mira’s adventures, but history (including the treatment of Jewish Romans during this time) is learned in adventures that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.



(Source: Macmillan website)

Lottie Stride’s The Time Travelers’ Handbook is a wacky and fascinating look at life throughout the ages.  Readers will “learn” how to compete at the ancient Olympics, how to build a Viking ship, and  how to fight a samurai, among other skills that would have been very useful in the past.  Give this to readers not quite ready for the Worst Case Scenario Survival books.

What are your favorite time-travel books? Tell us about them in the comments!

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24. November is Native American History Month

While recognizing fine books about Native Americans/American Indians should be a year-round deal,  celebrating Native American/American Indian Heritage Month in November is a great time to discuss these awesome biographies of Native Americans/American Indians:




Although more comprehensive biographies of Sitting Bull exits, this  picture book biography offering (unfortunately out of print) by one of the best authors about Native American cultures and history is a short yet strong look at the childhood of the great Hunkpapa chief who led the defeat of General Custer.  The storytelling quality of the text makes this an excellent read aloud for elementary school children.



(Holiday House)

If you need to diversify your Christmas books collection, you definitely need The Christmas Coat. Young Virginia is eagerly awaiting packages from Theast (The East), as are the other children in her Sioux community.  Being the daughter of the Episcopal priest means that she must let the others choose first; a hard lesson for any child, especially when a beautiful winter coat is included in the delivery.  This is a remarkable story about patience and the spirit of giving and selflessness.  The illustrations are endearing and loving.



(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

James Rumford’s picture book biography of the inventor of the Cherokee writing system is a must-have for collections of Native American biographies for children.  Despite the initial suspicions and distrust felt by some in his community about the establishment of a Cherokee alphabet, Sequoyah was determined to preserve the heritage of his people.  Not only is the story told in both English and Cherokee, but a table of the Cherokee alphabet and additional information about Sequoyah are included.




Maria Tallchief  tells her inspiring life story in this distinguished biography (published when she was 75) sure to entice dance fans and young students of Native history alike. When Tallchief was a child, the performance of Osage traditional dance was illegal, yet her grandmother ensured that she saw clandestine performances. As it ends at the beginning of her illustrious professional career, readers wanting to have a more detailed outlook on her life will need to consult additional sources of information.  However, Tallchief’s childhood and young adulthood is enchantingly brought to life through her words and Gary Kelley’s magnificent illustrations.


Do you have any biographies of Native Americans/American Indians to recommend? Let us know in the comments!


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25. Children’s Magazines Month

When I need inspiration for displays and blog posts, I often turn to Chase’s Calendar of Events and Brownie Locks. I’m guaranteed to find many listings, whether they are historical, cultural, or just offbeat.  Children’s Magazines Month has been listed in both resources for several years; although I can’t find any information online about the promotion that I can share with you, I thought it would be fun, regardless, to have a discussion about children’s magazines.

What’s the big deal about children’s magazines, and why should libraries invest in them? For one, they offer a great variety of stories and activities for young readers; issues may contain not only short stories but poetry, riddles, craft activities, and picture puzzles.  They are attractive to readers who may otherwise find reading intimidating.  They often encourage readers to submit writing, art work, letters to the editor, and questions, which can make writing an appealing activity.

Ask: Arts and Sciences for Kids is one of the many magazines published by Cricket Magazine Group; in addition to Ask and Cricket, they publish Cobblestone (American history), Faces (cultures around the world), and Babybug, which is written for very young children.  October’s issue includes articles about watermelons, Galapagos penguins and other unusual creatures, and snow monkeys.  Regular features such as a “Contest and Letters” section and “Whatson’s Book Corner” help to liven up each issue.


Each issue of Boys’ Quest is dedicated to a single topic, which is explored thoroughly through stories, factual articles, and puzzles.  Readers of the October issue will enjoy reading about pets through short stories (including a mystery), information on how to pick a name for your pet, instructions for making an automatic water dispenser for thirsty pets, dog jokes, and riddles.  No matter the topic, each issue will contain a science experiment, instructions on making items, and riddles.

Young animal lovers will gravitate to the venerable Ranger Rick (Ranger Rick Jr. is also available for young readers).  Published by the National Wildlife Federation, issues contain lots of fun and informative tidbits.  October issue readers will learn about red foxes, prickly animals, and the great horned owl.  Readers can also look forward to reader mail, crafts, and games in every issue.

Stone Soup is a classic in the field of children’s magazines; since 1973, it has showcased original writings and artwork by children ages 8-13.  In addition to short stories and illustrations, young writers may also submit poetry, letters to the magazine, and  book reviews.  Pictures of the authors and illustrators are included with their published work, which makes the creations much more personable.

I know I’ve left out many other high-quality children’s magazines.  Tell us about your favorite children’s magazines in the comments!








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