Great Books for Kids 2016 – Recommended and reviewed by the Hudson Library Youth Services Staff
This collection of short stories for tween and middle grade readers highlights voices from a diverse and inclusive range of authors. All of the stories are unique and stand out, from a story about a Tawainese servant girl who is saved from pirates by knowing how to read, a memoir in verse about a boy who mysteriously discovers he knows how to read minds and tries to get the girl he has a crush on to see Star Wars with him (some facts may have been fabricated), to a story about a boy who joins a wheelchair basketball team and through it becomes closer to his father.
All of the stories are relatively short and different enough to keep the attention of a middle grade reader. This book would make a wonderful introduction to some truly stellar authors.
Finding Wonder: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins (Tween)
“It takes a strong person to see past old stories.” This is what Maria Sibylla Merian’s uncle tells her after she discovers, by careful observation, a caterpillar emerge from an egg. In Germany in 1660, it was not only unacceptable for a female to be studying science – in fact there was little science study at all. The natural world was explained away with superstition and old wives’ tales. Maria had the curiosity, intuition and strength of character to examine her world and determine that life did not come from mud. She, along with Mary Anning in England in 1809, and Maria Mitchell in Massachusetts in 1831, are among an exclusive club of women scientific pioneers. This book tells the stories of these three remarkable girls who challenged the norms of the day and had the courage to seek answers for their many questions.
Nothing warms the soul better in the winter than a blazing fire, good friends, and fluffy dog to snuggle with. In Patricia MacLachlan’s The Poet’s Dog, the reader is warmly welcomed into all of that and more. The most magical aspect of the story is that it is told through the dog’s perspective. This isn’t any normal dog. Teddy was rescued by a poet, who consistently read and discussed poetry with him. Through their readings and discussions, Teddy gained the ability to understand more words than the average dog, and talk to those who shared his love of poetry. One day, Teddy finds a couple of young children alone in the snow. He takes them back to his cabin where they stay warm by the fire during an extraordinarily bad snow storm. The group spends three days sharing stories while enjoying soup and cookies. It discusses the emotional topic of loss in a positive manner. The story is poignant yet happy, and makes the reader feel good by the end. Cuddle up with your fuzzy baby as you read this heartwarming tale.
A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats by Andrea Pinkney (j bio KEA)
Most people don’t know this about Ezra Jack Keats: His parents, Benjamin and Gussie, were Polish immigrants who fled Warsaw to escape discrimination against Jews. Jacob Ezra Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1916. His career as an artist began when he was 8 years old – he began painting store signs for a quarter a piece. As he grew older, he realized that painting was all he wanted to do, and he was lucky and talented enough to be able to do that, even through the Great Depression. After his first children’s book, The Snowy Day, was published and well-received, he knew that he had found his calling. This book, written in verse and using Keats’ illustrations enhanced by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson, is a beautiful tribute to a well-loved author.
War changes everyone and everything. The child narrator explains, “every day bad things started happening around us and soon there was nothing left but chaos.” This profound story is set in an unidentified place and time, but explores today’s refugee crisis and immigration debate. The family is forced to flee the only home they have ever known. They face great danger throughout their journey from climbing over border walls to hiding in the scary forest from guards. Our young narrator hopes for a brighter future with her family to “begin our story again.”
This lovely new book about gardening has the reader trying to guess what will grow out of different types of seeds, such as “roly, round” (peas), and “fluffy, white” (dandelions). The illustrations are full of eye-catching color and detail, while the text is simple and succinct. A perfect book for budding young gardeners to peruse, complete with planting instructions for the seeds included. Recommended for ages 3 to 5.
It can be exciting to see a magic show. The magician makes all sorts of things disappear and reappear in various places. One magician’s rabbit, Herb, did not like the job so much. Can you imagine getting stuffed into, and pulled out of, a hat all of the time? One day, Herb decided that he had had enough. He instinctively knew that he was not cut out for magic. Herb considered his options. What is a retired magician’s rabbit to do? He tried on various jobs, and eventually found a new role that was perfect for him. The story includes large, colorful, and humorous illustrations, as well as simple sentences for young ones to easily follow.