Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: For Grades 4-6

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Cover image for The Night gardener : a scary storyA spooky, mysterious tree is at the center of this story. Molly and Kip encounter the Windsor family, who are in need of a housekeeper/cook and someone to take care of their yard. The longer Molly and Kip stay, the more they realize that the tree (which the house has been built around) has magical powers. They also meet a malevolent figure who only comes out at night to take care of the tree. I felt sympathy for Molly and Kip, who have to make their way in the world, because they are not sure they will ever see their parents again. I found this to be a satisfyingly creepy story. Check it out for yourself!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Cover image for Tuesdays at the castleCelie is an ordinary princess who lives in a castle with her royal family. Castle Glower, however, is anything but ordinary. It has a mind of its own, and it seems to have taken a shining to the royal family, especially Celie.  The Kingdom of Sleyne is happy and safe, until one day, the King and Queen, along with Bran, one of Celie’s brothers, disappear while on a trip.  Celie and her other two siblings struggle to solve the mystery of their missing family members. Where did they go? Are they truly gone?  Come along for an adventure through the many twists and turns inside Castle Glower. You won’t be disappointed!

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

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

Are you an echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, narrative by David Jacobson

Cover image for Are you an echo? : the lost poetry of Misuzu KanekoIn early 1900’s Japan, Misuzu Kaneko became a beloved children’s poet. Her life ended prematurely, her poetry was soon forgotten. After the Japanese tsunami in 2011, her poetry was rediscovered, and this beautiful book tells Misuzu Kaneko’s life story, which ends tragically and which the book describes sensitively.  The book includes many of her poems in both English and the original Japanese. The illustrations are stunning and depict both the poet’s life and her beautiful poems. The poems show Misuzu’s unique way of looking at the world, and this lovely picture book is an introduction to this little known Japanese poet. Because of the sensitive nature of the poet’s death, this book is best enjoyed by older readers (grade 5 and up).

Book reviewed by Amy S., Youth Outreach and Programming Assistant

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Cover image for Absolutely almostAlbie is not the smartest in his class or the best at sports or even the greatest artist. In fact, Albie is considered “almost.” When he gets his spelling test and doesn’t get an “A” on it, it’s “almost” an “A” to his Dad. The fact that his favorite book series is Captain Underpants and not the book, Johnny Tremaine, is an “almost” since his mom thinks he should be reading something harder. The same for all the other things he does. When his parents send Albie to a new school, he thinks that maybe he can finally be better than “almost,” but that’s before he meets the bullies in his class. However, then his parents hire a new babysitter for him after school named Calista.  Calista doesn’t think he is an “almost,” but rather that he is good and that he has talent. Sometimes, you just need to work really hard to make that talent shine. However, soon Calista is gone, the bullies are at school are starting to be meaner, and his parents just don’t understand him. Albie realizes that he needs to be the good kid Calista thinks he is, but can he do it?

Book reviewed by Laura B. Youth Technology Librarian

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Cover image for BookedThis novel-in-verse follows Nick, a boy who LOVES soccer and has a crush on April,  a girl at his school.  When a double-whammy comes up in his life in the form of his parents deciding to separate (with his mom moving away) and an emergency stay in the hospital, Nick struggles with staying calm and facing his fears.  Nick wants things to be like they were before, but that isn’t an option anymore.  If you enjoy lightning-fast reads that take place in a school setting, this one’s for you!

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

The Inquisitor’s Tale or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz

Cover image for The inquisitor's tale, or, The three magical children and their holy dogIt all begins with a dog.  A poor peasant couple leaves their baby daughter with only a dog for a babysitter.  When they return, they find the dog covered in blood.  Crazy with grief, they kill the dog only to find their daughter safe and sound in her crib.   Years later, their daughter Jeanne sees the ghost of this dog, and Saint Gwenforte, the one and only canine saint is born.  Seeing ghosts is not popular with the church so Jeanne has to go on the run so she won’t be burned at the stake.  On her journey she meets Jacob, a Jewish boy who can heal any wound, and William, a young monk with supernatural strength.  You will laugh your way through the children’s adventures as they defeat a deadly farting dragon (it turns out he’s just allergic to cheese), convince evil knights to cover themselves in poop, and generally avoid being martyred.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Comics Squad: Recess! edited by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm & Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Cover image for Comics Squad : recess!In each of these short comic stories, recess plays a part. This book features stories by some of the best graphic novel writers today: Gene Luen Yang, Dav Pilkey, Raina Telgemeier, and more! You’ll hear stories about familiar characters, like Babymouse, Betty from Lunch Lady, and George and Harold from Captain Underpants. You’ll also meet people like Daryl, who wants to join the Super-Secret Ninja Club but needs to prove his skills first, and Jiminy Sprinkles, a cupcake who faces off against the vitamin-fortified Green Gang.  Along the way you’ll find fun activities like a comic character mashup and instructions for drawing different characters.

Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

Apocalypse Bow Wow by James Proimos III

Cover image for Apocalypse bow wowBrownie and Apollo are dogs that love their home and the people that take care of them. The people know when to feed them, let them out of the house to do their business, and play with them. However, that changes one day when their people don’t come back and they start to get really hungry. In fact, it looks like there are no people around at all. Something has happened. Feeling really hungry and wanting to go outside, they decide to make the journey to see if they can find their people and food. On the way, they meet a police dog, a rat, and gasp, a cat along with others. They also find a grocery store with food, but still no people. Where have they gone? What will Brownie and Apollo do, especially since their group isn’t the only group of animals’ hungry and wanting food?

Book reviewed by Laura B. Youth Technology Librarian

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

Cover image for The charmed children of Rookskill CastleSomething is terribly wrong at the castle.  Is  it haunted by ghosts?  Is it a secret hideout for Nazi spies?  Or is it under the control of an evil witch?  Twelve-year-old Kat and her siblings have been sent to boarding school in the castle in order to avoid the bombing in London.  But when the students start disappearing, Kat is worried that the children may be in even more danger than if they had stayed in London.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head