Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Picks by Erin E.

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Cover image for Weekends with Max and his dadThis sweet beginner chapter book will make readers of all ages (including adults) have some real emotion. It is about a boy whose parents are divorced, and yet the word divorce is never even mentioned, because what it’s really about is the relationship between a boy and his dad—how they communicate, how they play together, and also how things are a little different now than they used to be. Each of the three chapters has a theme and a short story within the overall narrative arc. It’s amusing and lovable, without glossing over some of the issues, such as Max’s dislike for how his dad decorated his new room, but his hesitance to tell him because it would hurt his feelings. This is the first of three books in a new, engaging series!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Cover image for Sam the Man & the chicken planEveryone else in his family has a job. Sam wants to earn money too, so he turns to his neighbors to see if they need help doing chores. He lands himself not one, but two jobs! –walking cranky old Mr. Stockfish, as well as helping Mrs. Kerner care for her chickens. Luckily, Sam the Man has a knack for watching chickens, and sets out to get a chicken of his own– one that lays blue eggs, which he can then sell to his classmates to make even MORE money! What will Sam the Man do with all his earnings?

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

The Water Princess by Susan Verde

Cover image for The water princessThis story takes place over just one day in the life of Gie Gie (or Princess Gie Gie as she likes to be called) as she and her mother travel to and from a well to get water for drinking, cooking, and washing. Verde’s words and pictures by Peter Reynolds work together to bring the African setting to life. You can almost feel the hot sun and dry dust, as well as Gie Gie’s thirst. When she finally drinks, readers will feel refreshed. This story was inspired by the childhood experiences of a model named Burkina Faso, who has worked to build more wells in Goundi where she is from. Back matter asks children to imagine their lives without water and explains that some people have to struggle to find clean water every day. The Water Princess is a satisfying story as well as a cultural lesson.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Cover image for As brave as youEleven-year old Genie and his older brother Ernie are sent to live with their grandparents in rural Virginia for the summer while their parents go on a trip to work on their relationship. Coming from Brooklyn, and barely knowing their grandparents, this comes as a shock– there is no internet, no TV, and they have to do chores, including shoveling dog poop! What also comes as a shock is that Grandpop is blind. Genie has so many questions, about Grandpop and just about everything else. From, “Where do crickets go when it rains?” and “Why am I so stupid?” To, “How does [Grandpop] match his clothes?” and “Why would a blind man have a gun?” Genie keeps a notebook of these burning questions and also grills Grandpop at every opportunity…especially about the private room he calls his “nunya bidness” room and also why Grandpop never leaves the house. The dialogue and growing bond between Genie and Grandpop is hilarious and heartwarming. Readers learn about generations of family and community issues, as Genie and Ernie question what it means to be brave. This book is one of my favorites of the year because it just feels so real, and is also one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to in a while. Reader Guy Lockard has the perfect intonation and pace.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka

Cover image for Wet cement : a mix of concrete poemsIt takes great skill to say a lot without a lot of words and even more so to do that within the constraints of a specific format, like a haiku or other type of poem. Bob Raczka’s collection of 21 concrete poems presents fun, clever, and surprising poems that kids can relate to and be inspired by. Concrete poetry’s meaning is conveyed partly or wholly by visual means, using patterns of words or letters and other typographical devices. Down to the wordplay in the title, there is not a word wasted in this collection. If you enjoy this one, check out one of Bob Racka’s other poetry books—he has written several.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

Cover image for The sound of silenceYoshio makes his way through the bustling city of Tokyo on his way to school, listening to all the different sounds. He asks a koto player if she has a favorite sound, and she replies that it is “the sound of ma, of silence.” So Yoshio starts looking for silence. Who knew it would be so difficult to find? Warm, rich illustrations show a variety of perspectives that you don’t always see in picture books, such as Yoshio’s family around the dinner table pictured from above. The illustrations will invite you into this book, and then you will be captivated by the story. It is a beautiful representation of daily life in another country as well as a gentle reminder for all of us to take time to pause in life. The Afterword includes an explanation of the Japanese concept of ma, or the silence between sounds.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

My Pen by Christopher Myers

Cover image for My penIn My Pen by Christopher Myers, a boy celebrates the power of imagination by creating images with the simplest of supplies. For example, his pen rides dinosaurs…has x-ray vision…and tells everyone that he loves them. The phrases and images are thought-provoking, moving, and beautifully drawn. This book will inspire the artist and the humanitarian in all of us. It asks kids, “What can your pen do?”

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee

Cover image for Tell me a tattoo storyThis portrait of a loving family moved me to tears- happy tears. I love that it shows a father covered in tattoos, which you don’t often (if ever) see in picture books, but will often see in real life. The story follows the son’s questions about each tattoo, which highlight important moments in the dad’s life, including his favorite book as a child, and the day he met a pretty girl (the boy’s mother). It also depicts “the longest trip [he] ever took” which gives deeper and perhaps surprising background about the father’s past. This would make a great gift for all the tattooed dads out there, but I think other families will see themselves in this book as well.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Supertruck by Stephen Savage

Cover image for SupertruckBy day, he just collects the trash. But when the city is hit by a colossal snowstorm, this superhero on wheels will save the day. Toddler truck-fans will eat this up. The bold, clean graphics and simple story line make this an ideal choice for storytime. Though I would be sure to point out to children that collecting trash is actually a very important job!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison

Cover image for Bernice gets carried awayIn Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison, Bernice the cat is at a birthday party where all of her animal friends seem to be enjoying themselves, but she certainly is not. She is in a mood. And Bernice is quite committed to her horrible mood, that is until she gets carried away… literally…by a bunch of balloons. From way up in the sky she gets a little perspective on things. What I love about this book are the emotions on the animals’ faces and how the dark clouds lift along with Bernice’s mood. The effect of how bright the pictures get is amazing. The message is a reminder that children and adults alike can use from time to time.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator