Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Picks by Mary S.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Cover image for Echo : a novelThink of a piece of music.  In this song, there are three harmonies that come together to make the melody.  Each of these three children’s stories is one of those harmonies.

Friedrich lives in Nazi Germany.  All he wants is to be left alone to play music, but first he needs to rescue his father who has been arrested.  He must smuggle some money into the work camp to buy his father’s freedom.  On his way there, he is captured by Nazis.  Will he make it?

Mike and Frankie are brothers who live in an orphanage in Pennsylvannia during the Great Depression.  They think their luck has improved when they are adopted by a former concert pianist and taken to live in her mansion.  However, it turns out that Mrs. Sturbridge is only adopting them in order to get her inheritance.  When they try to run away, Mike falls as he is climbing out the bedroom window.   Will he make it?

Ivy’s parents manage a farm in South California.  The farm is owned by the Yamamotos, a Japanese family imprisoned in an internment camp.  Their neighbor Mr. Ward thinks the Yamamotos were spies.  He spray paints hateful words on the house and tears up the garden.  He even insists on being shown the contents of the Yamamoto’s house.  Instead of spy equipment, it turns out that the family is hiding musical instruments.  None of this matters, however, when Ivy’s family receives a telegram about her brother, a soldier in World War II.  Will her brother be okay?

All the children face challenges, but pulled by an invisible thread, their stories come together in an unexpected way.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

Cover image for The lunch witch. #1It’s hard to be a witch in modern times because no one believes in magic anymore.  So what is an out-of-work witch who makes terrible tasting brews to do?  You guessed it–become a lunch lady in the school cafeteria.

Perfect, right?  Except there’s one problem.  A student named Madison guesses she is a witch and insists that Grunhilda give her a spell.  Grunhilda plans on brewing an intelligence potion but the ancestors have other ideas. They secretly change the spell so it turns Madison into a frog.

A frog loose in the school–you can imagine the consequences!  Will Madison be dissected in science class?  Will she be trampled by students in the hallway?  And most importantly, will she stay a frog forever or will Grunhilda be able to turn her back into a girl?

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth by Ian Lendler

Cover image for The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue presents MacbethMaybe you’ve heard of Shakespeare from plays like Romeo and Juliet–sappy–or Othello:  boring!  But I promise you, this Shakespeare play is not like anything you’ve ever read before.  The animals are putting on the play MacBeth at the zoo.  There will be yummy snacks–peanuts, bananas, and even earthworms.  You’ll want to make sure you get a good seat–not behind the giraffe (too tall) or next to the skunk (too smelly).  Then sit back and enjoy the laughs, the blood, and the drama.   Will the lion eat the king like his rubber ducky tells him to?  Will the lioness go crazy from doing all that bloody laundry.  Read The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents:  Macbeth to find out.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Cover image for Bud, not BuddyThings have not been going well for ten-year-old Bud.  First, Todd, his foster brother, sticks a pencil up his nose while he’s sleeping.  Then when he defends himself, Todd beats him up and Bud is the one who is punished by being locked overnight in the shed.  There he sees a huge vampire bat, which he attacks with a rake.  Only it turns out the bat is really a hornet’s nest with about 6000 hornets heading straight for him.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Cover image for Greenglass HouseIt’s the middle of winter at Greenglass House, a smuggler’s inn on the side of a steep hill.  The only way up is a creaky old cable car or a long hike up the stairs.  The house used to belong to the famous smuggler Doc Holliday, who disappeared mysteriously some years ago.   Twelve-year old Milo thinks he will spend a relaxing vacation snowed in with just the owners (his parents), because who would want to stay at the hotel at this time of year?  Wrong!  Guests begin arriving out of nowhere, each one with their own secret agenda, turning Milo’s quiet holiday into chaos. Strange things begin to happen.  Milo finds a mysterious nautical map.  Who does it belong to and where does it lead?   Then items begin disappearing from the guests’ rooms.  Now it is up to Milo and his friend Meddy to follow the clues to find the thief and discover the secrets of the Greenglass House.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

Cover image for The mark of the dragonflySince her father died, Piper has been dreaming of a way to buy herself an easier life.  When she finds an injured girl in the middle of a meteor storm, she thinks she has found her answer.   The girl, Anna, carries the Mark of the Dragonfly, which means she is under the protection of the king.  Piper thinks she will return Anna to her family, collect her reward, and begin her new life.  Things get more complicated when a scary man forces his way into Piper’s house and tries to kidnap Anna.  Piper and Anna begin a dangerous journey to find Anna’s family, during which they are stolen by slavers, discover magic, and even make some unexpected friends.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee by Laurie Cinotto

Cover image for The Itty Bitty Kitty CommitteeWhat’s not to love?  This book is full of cute photographs, useful tips for kitten care, and even advice letters from older cat Charlene Butterbean to her young charges.  Author Laurie Cinotto and her husband are foster parents for young kittens.  Six years ago, they adopted a fostered kitten named Charlene Butterbean.  When Charlene was about a year old, they tried fostering their first kitten.  Six years later, they have cared for nearly 200 kittens.  If you want a laugh, be sure to check out the kitten doing a Michael Jackson impression on page 57 or extreme naughtiness beginning on page 50.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Our Eleanor by Candace Fleming

Cover image for Our Eleanor : a scrapbook look at Eleanor Roosevelt's remarkable lifeWhat do you know about Eleanor Roosevelt?  Did you know that she was friends with Amelia Earhart and flew with her from Washington D.C. to Baltimore?  Eleanor even considered getting her own pilot’s license.  However, her husband, Franklin, vetoed the idea saying, “I know how Eleanor drives a car.  Imagine her flying an airplane!” (Eleanor was a terrible driver and once had as many as 3 car accidents on one journey.)

Did you know that she traveled at least 40,000 miles her first year in the White House?  She wanted to meet people firsthand and see the effects of the Great Depression.

Most importantly, Eleanor was a friend to the people.  She took a trip 2 1/2 miles underground to check the conditions of coal miners.  She visited the Puerto Rican slums and then urged the president to create a housing project there. She read aloud to orphan children and inspected their asylum.

These are just a few of the facts you will learn if you read Our Eleanor by Candace Fleming.  I promise you will be amazed by what you learn about this groundbreaking first lady.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Jinx by Sage Blackwood

syndetics-lcEvery child in Urwald Forest knows you never ever wander off the path.  So imagine six-year-old Jinx’s terror when his stepfather abandons him there.  Will he be eaten by trolls?  Or torn apart by werewolves?  Or maybe a witch will cast a spell on him?  Luckily, he is found by a wizard named Simon who needs an assistant.  Life as a wizard’s apprentice isn’t glamorous.  There’s the cleaning and the fetching and the cats—all 27 of them, but Simon doesn’t seem dangerous, only very grumpy.  Simon even decides to teach Jinx a little magic.  The problem is even though Jinx knows four languages, can speak to trees, and reads people’s minds, he is absolutely hopeless at learning spells.  He can’t even move the tiniest pebble with his mind or learn a concealment spell.  It seems to Jinx that he must be completely lacking in magical ability.  So imagine Jinx’s surprise when Simon casts a spell on him, making him collapse on the floor while his magic floats through the air in a golden ball for Simon to capture in a bottle.  It turns out that Jinx did have magical ability– a special kind of forest magic that Simon has stolen for his own.  Now Jinx must find Simon’s sworn enemy to ask him for help.  Will Jinx be able to get his magic back or will he just make things worse?

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

syndetics-lcSophie’s childhood has always been unusual, which might be expected from someone who began her life life floating the ocean in a cello case.  She is adopted by Charles, a scholar who knows more about Shakespeare than about raising children.  When Sophie breaks the plates, they begin eating off books.  When Sophie has an idea, Charles encourages her to write it on the walls.  And when Sophie believes she can find her mother, Charles helps her look even though everyone else assures her that her mother died in a shipwreck.  Because as Charles says, “Never ignore a possible.”   Her search brings her to France, where she meets Matteo, a boy who lives on the rooftops of Paris.  Matteo introduces Sophie to climbing drainpipes, eating roast pigeon, and exploring the world from above.  It is up here that Sophie hears the cello music that may lead her home.

After reading about Sophie’s exploits, you will never think about life down on the ground in quite the same way. This book is for readers in fourth grade and up who love magical adventures, quirky characters, and happy endings.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head