Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Picks by Carol C.

The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff

Cover image for The matchstick castleFans of Pippi Longstocking are sure to enjoy the The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff. Brian is stuck spending the summer with his boring uncle’s family in Boring, Illinois while his dad is researching in Antarctica. Instead of spending his days playing soccer with his friends, he must work on a summer school computer program which his uncle is developing. However, once he and his cousin venture into the forest (which is forbidden by his uncle) and encounter the strange castle and its eccentric residents, summer takes a turn for the exciting! With wild boars, swarms of gigantic wasps, a boat resting precariously on the roof of the house, and some unusual new friends, can Brian and Nora help to save the house from destruction? Fans of realistic fiction and adventure are sure to enjoy this book recommended for 4th – 6th graders.

Book reviewed by Carol C., Elementary School Liaison

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! by Ben Clanton

Cover image for Narwhal : unicorn of the seaMany people think that Narwhal are imaginary creatures.  Actually, like Belugas, they are a part of the whale family.  Narwhal have a horn like a unicorn, but it is more like a tusk or a tooth.

In Ben Clanton’s first book in his Narwhal and Jelly series, Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea!, readers are introduced to Narwhal and his new friend, Jelly Fish.  Together with their other underwater friends, they form a pod (that’s what a group of Narwhal is called), have parties, create imaginative stories, and eat yummy waffles.  With a lot of fun illustrations and brief text, beginner chapter book readers will enjoy this new series while learning a little bit about Narwhal, fact and fiction.

Book reviewed by Carol C., Elementary School Liaison

Finders Keepers by Shelly Tougas

Cover image for Finders keepersTen year old Christa loves her family’s cabin in Wisconsin but because of hard times, her family is going to sell it, leaving her without her favorite summer place! Fortunately, she and her friend, Adam, have wonderful imaginations and learn some stories about Al Capone and his stash of cash which is possibly hidden right under their noses. This book is about her search for this fortune and her quest to save the family summer home.

Trying to solve this mystery proves to be more dangerous than they could have ever imagined and her friends and loved ones are at risk.

I recommend this book for 4th-5th grade fans of mystery and adventure that enjoy a touch of humor, friendship and family sprinkled in.

Book reviewed by Carol C., Elementary School Liaison

The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow by Mark S. Waxman

Cover image for The mcventures of me, Morgan McFactoid : hair today, gone tomorrowMorgan McCracken is a 13 year old genius who loves to invent, and his most recent discovery might mean a lot of money for his family. While working on a hair removal formula, a little bit of lightning turns his experiment into a miracle hair growth discovery which everyone wants to get their hands on for profit. By reading this humorous and heartwarming adventure, you’ll also learn a lot of amazing facts (or McFactoids as he calls them) that are interesting and fun.  For example, did you know that the muscle that lets the human eye blink is the fastest muscle in your body?  It allows you to blink five times a second! (I bet you’re trying it right now.)

Will he remember the formula?  Will he become a millionaire? Will the girl across the street talk to him again? Can science answer every question? Will he ever learn to enjoy shaving?

The answer to these and other questions awaits you in this recommended book for 4th-6th graders who like science, trivia, adventure and friendship stories.

Book reviewed by Carol C., Elementary School Liaison

Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Megan McCarthy

Cover image for Earmuffs for everyone! : how Chester Greenwood became known as the inventor of earmuffsDo you have creative ideas for a new invention? Maybe you have some thoughts on how to improve an existing invention?  Well that’s exactly what Chester Greenwood did in the book by Meghan McCarthy entitled Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs.

But the question surrounding this book is, did he really invent earmuffs? After researching the topic, the author learns that sometimes finding the true inventor of something is trickier than it seems.  There were various forms of ear coverings before Chester Greenwood came along, but when Chester was only 19 years old, he improved on other people’s ideas by adding a wire that goes across the top.  He received a patent for that addition and now on December 21st in Maine, they celebrate Chester Greenwood Day…and of course everyone wears earmuffs.

But did he really “invent” them?  Should he be given credit for these fun accessories?  You decide!  This book is told in a humorous yet informative manner with fun illustrations, giving budding inventors some inspiration and insight on patents.

Recommended for K-2nd grade.

Book reviewed by Carol C., Elementary School Liaison

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard  by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Cover image for Look up! : bird-watching in your own backyardSeveral years ago, the author thought it would be nice to keep a nature sketchbook.  She would sit outside drawing trees, rocks and flowers…and couldn’t help but notice lots of birds…some she knew, and others she did not recognize.  Had they been there all along and she just wasn’t paying attention?  YES!  She couldn’t stop watching and got hooked!

She suggests keeping a sketchbook with you, writing things down and drawing pictures.  And that’s what this book contains…tips to help you head out and start observing these beautiful, amazing creatures.  Colors, shapes, size, sounds, …observe it all!

Great illustrations, facts, cartoons and word bubbles…it’s a lot of fun!

Book reviewed by Carol C.., Elementary School Liaison

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

Cover image for Eye to eye : how animals see the worldSteve Jenkins has quite a few amazing nonfiction animal books and this one doesn’t disappoint!  In Eye to Eye, you can learn how different animals have various types of eyes depending on their environment.  For example, did you know that a halibut (fish) is born with an eye on each side of his head, but as he gets older, one eye migrates and eventually they end up on the same side of his head?  He has 2 eyes on one side of his head!  This ends up being very helpful since an adult halibut spends most of its life lying on the bottom of the ocean.  With both eyes on one side of his head he is able to see away from the ocean floor.  How cool is that?

20 animal eyes are featured with great pictures, animal facts and a glossary.

Book reviewed by Carol C., Elementary School Liaison

How to Build a Tornado in a Bottle by Lori Shores

Cover image for How to build a tornado in a bottleCalling all scientists!  Do you like to build things and learn how they work?  This series is for you!  The Hands-On Science Fun series includes titles about making slime, fizzy rockets, mystery smell balloons and….TORNADOs in a bottle!

In How to Build a Tornado in a Bottle by Lori Shores, 1st and 2nd graders are given clear directions on how to create their own tornado using little more than plastic bottles, tape and colored water.  You will also learn how a real tornado happens!  Great pictures and simple directions make this a fun book and an enjoyable series.

Book reviewed by Carol C.., Elementary School Liaison

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Cover image for Rain reignIn Ann M. Martin’s newest novel entitled Rain Reign, we meet 5th grader Rose Howard who is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. This beautiful novel is told through her voice.  Rose is obsessed with homonyms (which are words that sound alike but are spelled differently; like the title of this book Rain Reign).

No one seems to understand her…not her teachers, the kids at school, or even her own father!  They don’t get her obsession with homonyms, prime numbers, and following rules.  This makes school and home quite a struggle.

When her town is hit by a super storm, Rose’s world is turned upside down.  The power is out, schools are closed, her already stressed father loses his job, and the search for her missing dog, Rain, pushes her way out of her comfort zone.

From sadness to joy, this book takes you on a rewarding adventure filled with emotion and allows the reader to see things from the very different viewpoint of someone on the Autism spectrum.

I recommend this book for 4th-6th graders who enjoy a heartfelt read.

Book reviewed by Carol C.., Elementary School Liaison

The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

Cover image for The secret hum of a daisyIf you’re looking for a heartfelt read, Tracy Holczer’s first novel, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, is beautifully written and emotionally charged.  Grace’s mom always had them moving in search of a “home”.  After her tragic death, 12 year old Grace is sent to live with the grandmother that she never knew.  Blaming her grandma for making her mom move away while she was pregnant with Grace, she decides to make grandma’s life miserable.

Through a scavenger hunt she believes her mom left for her and the help of new friends, Grace makes some surprising discoveries.  While she learns about her family history, she wonders if she will find the “home” her mom was seeking.  Can she forgive her grandma?  How will she cope with the overwhelming sadness?  Will she resume writing which was always her passion?

This is a tough book to put down!

Book reviewed by Carol C., Elementary School Liaison