Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: For Grades 4-6

I am Drums by Mike Grosso

Cover image for I am drumsDrums are Sam’s life. She hears music everywhere she goes, even when she is dreaming. She even makes her own drum kit out of her encyclopedias and her Calvin and Hobbes books so she can practice all the time. Sam wants to become a better drummer, and she has to figure out how she can pay for lessons. This story is funny, sad, and cool.

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks

Cover image for Save me a seatImagine starting fifth grade at a new school in a new country. It’s tough! Ravi, who has just moved from India, is stunned to learn that his classmates and teacher at Albert Einstein Elementary do not seem impressed by his previous stellar grades, popularity among his former classmates, and his athletic prowess at cricket. At first, he feels his only hope for climbing the social ladder involves befriending Dillon Samreen, an outgoing classmate. Joe, a fellow student who sits behind Ravi, is bullied frequently by Dillon and notices that he has his sights now set on Ravi. With viewpoints of Ravi and Joe alternating every chapter, you’ll root for each one as they both do their best to navigate life in the fifth grade.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and John Jory

Cover image for The terrible twoIf you like funny books and are up for a good prank or two, then have I got the book for you, The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and John Jory. In it, Miles Murphy assumes he will be the school prankster when he moves to Yawnee Valley, “the cow capital of the United States, this side of the Mississippi, excluding a couple of towns that cheat.” Unfortunately, his new school already has a resident prankster. An epic prank war ensues to prove just who can pull the best prank and trick their principle, teachers, and classmates. My favorite prank involves cows, but don’t worry you don’t have to like cows to enjoy the hilarity of it all.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

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

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