We’re heading into book awards season so, not to be left out, we in the Children’s Room have put together our list of favorites. This week, we’re looking at books for younger readers and we’ll be looking at books for older readers and nonfiction over the next two weeks.
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Winter is coming and Bear wants to gather his friends to tell them a story. Unfortunately, they’re too busy getting ready for the long winter to listen. Husband and wife team, Philip and Erin Stead (2011 Caldecott winner for A Sick Day for Amos McGee) know how to create an endearing picture book and this is one I could read over and over again to my children, no matter their ages. (Kindergarten – Grade 2)
The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
With all the wonderful bears in recent picture books, it’s hard to avoid picking one as a favorite for the year. I love this picture book for its cover – a big round bear’s head centered on a bright blue background, gentle amber eyes gazing directly at me – and the semi-primitive, brushy paintings inside – lush and sensual, wild yet familiar. The beautiful artwork and simple words in this picture book merge seamlessly to celebrate the seasonal rhythms of nature and the nature of reading – you couldn’t ask more from a book about a bear.
Cecil the Pet Glacier by Matthea Harvey; illustrated by Giselle Potter
Ruby Small is normal. Or at least she would like to be normal but her parents are not-normal-at-all. While on vacation in Norway , Ruby convinces her parents to let her have a pet. But, rather than being followed home by a puppy or kitten as a normal girl would, she is followed home by a baby glacier. Cecil. Ruby has a lot to learn–about what Cecil eats (pebbles), how to keep him clean, how to keep him safe from the rain, and ultimately, of course, how much she loves him. Normal or not. The book has richly colored, full page illustrations–the people are both flat and emotional, a little stilted and perfectly realized. I think they are lovely. (Grades 1 – 3)
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen
In a sooty gray world, a girl finds a colorful box of yarn. She knits sweaters for her family and her friends and her dog, but she still has extra yarn. So she knits for the local animals, then the buildings and finally the trees and everything else until her world is covered in warm color. An evil archduke provides some plot conflict, but that’s not really the point of this book. Instead it tells a quiet tale of warmth and love, and magic that lies within. (Kindergarten – Grade 3)
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs retold and illustrated by Mo Willems
The amazing Mo Willems’ latest book retells the familiar fairy tale from a new and unexpected angel, complete with witty jokes that appeal to both kids and adults, and including a special appearance by Pigeon, my favorite Mo Willems character. I also had the great opportunity to see Mo read this book in person, and that is one book reading I’ll never forget! (Preschool – Grade 3)
A Gold Star for Zog by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are masters at the picture book form. With their newest venture, they again give us characters who are endearing, flawed, and bursting with hope. In this case, we meet a zealous dragon who, despite his best efforts, crash lands, wheezes, and lights himself afire; a princess who really wants to be a doctor; a knight harboring a similar secret desire. Together, can they find their way? As with Donaldson’s and Scheffler’s other work, the writing is rhymed, catching, and just about seamless. The illustrations are charming and colorful. And the whole story wraps up so satisfyingly, with everyone finding a way to follow their true dreams, that there is nothing to do but begin again. And again. And again. A gold star for Donaldson and Scheffler!
Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always written and illustrated by Tao Nyeu
Squid and Octopus are best friends and in these four short stories, they have fun together, support each other, quarrel and make up. The whimsical illustrations packed with little jokes (how do you eat soup underwater?) and the quirkiness of these lives under the ocean are sure to bring Squid and Octopus many young fans. (Preschool–Kindergarten)
This Is Not My Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
He stole it. And that little fish is pretty sure he’s getting away with it, too. This short picture book is a lot of fun for anyone who has ever been a little selfish and broken a rule, or even just pretended for a little while that they would. (Preschool – Grade 1)