Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Award Winners

The One and Only Ivan by Kathy Applegate

syndetics-lcIt’s not easy being a gorilla.  Just ask Ivan, who lives at the Big Top Mall.  He once roamed the jungle.  Now he lives in a small cage where he drinks Pepsi, eats old apples, and watches reruns on TV.   The good things in his life are Bob the stray dog, Stella the performing elephant, and his art.  Most days Ivan likes to draw.  His drawings sell for $20 each in the gift shop.  But when he gets tired of drawing, he eats the crayons.

Ivan thinks he will live in the mall for the rest of his life.  Then one day Ruby arrives.  Ruby is an elephant, kidnapped from the wild and brought to the mall to do circus tricks.  The problem is she is just a baby and doesn’t know how to perform.  Suddenly, Ivan sees his life differently.  He has someone to protect and a purpose—finding a new home for Ruby and himself.  Will he be able to use his art to make it happen?

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in NorveltIn Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, Jack ends up getting grounded for an ENTIRE SUMMER through no fault of his own—he couldn’t have known that rifle was loaded, and his dad actually told him to cut down his mom’s corn plants. Instead of playing baseball with his best friend, he ends up helping his crazy elderly neighbor write obituaries as the oldest residents of their town die one after the other.  Oh, and he gets nosebleeds about every other page—especially when he sees dead bodies (yes, he sees more than one!).  This is a very, very funny and sometimes slightly ghoulish story about a kid who, like it or not, learns a little about life—and death.


Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in NorveltGetting grounded for an entire summer was not Jack’s idea of a good time, but that’s what happens when he fires his dad’s WWII rifle by accident and cuts down all of his mother’s corn. (His dad made him cut down the corn!) Then his mother volunteers him to help his elderly neighbor with a strange task: writing obituaries for the Norvelt newspaper. Along the way, he dresses up as the Grim Reaper to check on an elderly resident, drives underage, has a run in with the Hells Angels, has quite a few nosebleeds, and learns that history is “the reason you remind yourself of the stupid stuff you’ve done in the past is so you don’t do it again.” Not to mention, he helps solve the mystery of why all the original residents of Norvelt keep dying. It’s a funny story with plenty of excitement and interesting characters. This year, Dead End in Norvelt won the Newbery Award! But just to warn you, this book talks about bloody noses and dead bodies.

Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

WonderstruckIf you loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick’s latest novel Wonderstruck–told as two stories, one in words and one in pictures–will keep you reading until the very last page.  In 1977, twelve-year old Ben first loses his mother and soon after his hearing when he is struck by lightning. After discovering some clues in his mother’s belongings, he runs away to New York in search of his father.  Fifty years earlier, a deaf girl named Rose departs to find the movie star Lillian Mayhew, who we learn is her mother.  Each child’s personal quest leads them to an adventure at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  The two stories weave back and forth until they form a special connection in the conclusion.
A wonderful comparison can be made if you read an earlier classic, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg where two children run away to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  Then plan your own scavenger hunt uncovering similarities that Selznick has included in Wonderstruck.

Book reviewed by Marsha D., Youth Services Assistant

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond

Zora and MeZora Neale Hurston was a famous author who loved to tell stories from the time she was a child. Zora and Me is a  fictionalized story of Zora and her best friend Carrie growing up in Eatonville, Florida (a town with only African-Americans in it). Will the Gator Man get Zora and Carrie? Will Zora and Carrie be able to learn the differences between truth, lies, and storytelling? Read this book to find out!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant


Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over ManifestIf you like mysteries and old-fashioned stories, then this Newbery-award-winning book is for you. In Moon Over Manifest, Abilene Tucker’s father, Gideon,sends her to live with his friend Pastor Shady in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up. Abilene hopes to find out more about her father from the people who live there. Abilene finds an old box of treasures and some letters from World War I between two people named Ned and Jinx. With help from Miss Sadie, the town fortuneteller, Abilene discovers why these objects and letters are important. The story jumps between Abilene’s time in 1936 and Ned and Jinx’s time in 1917. Who is Jinx? Will Abilene solve the mystery of who the Rattler is? Read more to find out!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is about Miranda, a sixth grader in 1978, and her life and her friends.  As the story progresses, she starts finding mysterious notes from someone that knows about events that are going to happen to her in the future.  The notes also ask her to “write a letter” about what is going on.  Sometimes it gets confusing, but the time travel elements of the plot are really interesting—by the end of the book you will truly be amazed.  At first, I thought this would be a boring story about Miranda and her friends and how they hurt each other’s feelings then make up, etc. etc.; but if you can hold on till the time travel mystery really gets going about half way through, you won’t be disappointed.  I’m glad this book won the Newbery award because it is really great!



From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil. E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

syndetics-lcFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil. E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg is considered a classic by many and is also a Newbery award winner from the 1960’s.  I’d heard it was a story about two kids who run away from home in an unusual way.  I was intrigued.  So I picked it up and found out that the story is just as clever and cute as I’d hoped, and the characters are realistic and lovable.  Claudia Kincaid, a 12-year-old straight-A perfectionist, does not want to pull off that “old-fashioned kind of running away… in the heat of anger with a knapsack on [your] back,” so instead she arranges to run towards something.  So she recruits her brother, Jamie, mostly because he has money saved up, and they go to a large, comfortable, beautiful place- the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Between keeping their residency a secret and trying to solve the mystery of a controversial statue, the two have plenty to keep them busy.  This book kept me guessing ‘til the end!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Programming Librarian

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

syndetics-lcFor some reason, I wasn’t expecting The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall to be very exciting because it seemed like a plot similar to many other books.  Was I wrong!   This is a surprisingly entertaining book about four mischievous sisters spending several weeks of their summer vacation at a posh cabin.  It explores both the differences and the ties that bind them when faced with loss, danger, and the mean Mrs. Tifton.  However, Mrs. Tifton’s prim and proper son, Jeffrey, joins the girls and takes on all the challenges that his new friends dish out.  This story is filled with humor and drama while demonstrating the roles that each of the girls takes on as part of the Penderwick family.  It was really a very enjoyable story and can also be a great family read-aloud.