Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Picks by Erin E.

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton

Cover image for Dazzle ships : World War I and the art of confusionHow do you camouflage a huge cargo ship, traveling in the middle of the ocean? You can find out in Chris Barton’s new book, which explains how Britain used an unusual and colorful idea to help them win a war. Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion begins by setting the scene. It was 1917 amid World War I and people on the island of Britain were starving. They relied on ships to bring food and supplies, but Germany’s U-boats kept sneaking up and torpedoing the ships. Then Lieutenant-commander Norman Wilkinson presented a wild idea. Because ships could not be painted in a way that would make them invisible to submarines, he proposed the extreme opposite: paint them with colorful patterns. This would break up the form and confuse the submarine as to which direction the ship is heading and at what speed, making the ships more difficult targets. Amazingly, it worked! Britain went on to paint over 2,000 dazzle ships during World War I, with many different patterns. This book brings the dazzle ships to life in a way that even photographs can’t, since photos of the time were in black and white. You will enjoy the vibrant illustrations while learning a piece of fascinating history.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy

Cover image for The whiz mob and the grenadine kidThe Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy is a whimsical adventure full of tongue-in-cheek humor and a whole lot of twists and turns. When Charlie’s mother abandons him, he finds himself suddenly traveling the world with his diplomat father whom he hardly knows and never sees. They are currently in France and Charlie is bored. One day while sitting on a bench with his notebook, a boy comes up and steals the pen right out of Charlie’s hand. The boy is so sneaky that Charlie doesn’t even know it’s happening! Charlie is so intrigued that he begs the boy to teach him the ways of pickpocketing, and thus gets pulled into the fast-paced, high stakes world of the whiz mob: a group of kids who make their living stealing from the rich.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Absolutely Alfie and the Furry Purry Secret by Sally Warner

Cover image for Absolutely Alfie and the furry purry secretAbsolutely Alfie and the Furry Purry Secret by Sally Warner is the first book about Alfie, who is the younger sister to EllRay Jakes, which is another series for young chapter book readers. Alfie is a little nervous about starting 2nd grade, and not looking forward to her forced playdates with a neighbor girl, Hanni, who she has heard can be a bit bossy. The girls actually have fun together. Then Hanni’s family gets a bunch of kittens and they’re just giving them away! For free! Alfie can’t resist, even though there’s a family rule: no pets allowed. That’s because Alfie is allergic. But Alfie thinks the rule is wrong and she just knows she can handle taking care of a kitten on her own. She just has to keep it a secret. What could possibly go wrong?

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Cover image for Beyond the bright seaThe Newbery honor author of Wolf Hollow has come out with another stunningly poignant novel with a unique historical setting. In Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk, 12-year-old Crow was a baby when she washed up on an island off the New England coast. It was Osh who found her and he has cared for her ever since. But Crow does not look like everyone else on the tiny island, and has always wondered where she came from. In her search for answers, she triggers a dangerous chain of events that brings conflict to the island and to her home with Osh. This beautifully written book explores themes of identity and belonging and what it means to be a family.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson

Cover image for The youngest marcher : the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a young civil rights activistHere is a story of a real-life child hero—an African-American girl who went to jail to fight for Civil Rights when she was just 9 years old. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson describes how young Audrey was at the center of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama in the 1960’s. Her family knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Audrey would listen over the dinner table or at church to the adults talking about fighting for equal rights. Audrey was fired up and she wanted to help. The illustrations make this book appealing and accessible to young children to learn about history in a way that doesn’t feel too heavy or boring; it feels relatable. It makes Audrey seem like a girl you might know… and you can really appreciate how brave she was.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford

Cover image for Around the world in a bathtub : bathing all over the globeThe book Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford shows different ways that people bathe around the world. Some illustrations show modern tubs and showers, while others demonstrate historic traditions or ceremonies, such as people in India bathing in the Ganges River. In every example there is an adult trying to get a child into the bath and a child who doesn’t want to go. The adult is shown saying “yes, yes” and the child saying “no, no” in many different languages. This book provides a window for the very young to see how people do things differently in different parts of the world, but also a mirror into their own lives. We are all different, but we all bathe!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan

Cover image for A voyage in the clouds : the (mostly) true story of the first international flight by balloon in 1785This picture book for older readers is based on the day in 1785 when Dr. John Jeffries (an Englishman) and Jean-Pierre Blanchard (a Frenchman) set out to cross the English Channel in a hot air balloon. The two men did not always agree with each other, and the ride did not go entirely smoothly. In the middle of the flight, for example, the balloon began to fall! This book is hilarious and would make a fantastic classroom read aloud. I was laughing out loud before it even got to the part where they started urinating overboard to lighten their load!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Cover image for Weekends with Max and his dadThis sweet beginner chapter book will make readers of all ages (including adults) have some real emotion. It is about a boy whose parents are divorced, and yet the word divorce is never even mentioned, because what it’s really about is the relationship between a boy and his dad—how they communicate, how they play together, and also how things are a little different now than they used to be. Each of the three chapters has a theme and a short story within the overall narrative arc. It’s amusing and lovable, without glossing over some of the issues, such as Max’s dislike for how his dad decorated his new room, but his hesitance to tell him because it would hurt his feelings. This is the first of three books in a new, engaging series!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Cover image for Sam the Man & the chicken planEveryone else in his family has a job. Sam wants to earn money too, so he turns to his neighbors to see if they need help doing chores. He lands himself not one, but two jobs! –walking cranky old Mr. Stockfish, as well as helping Mrs. Kerner care for her chickens. Luckily, Sam the Man has a knack for watching chickens, and sets out to get a chicken of his own– one that lays blue eggs, which he can then sell to his classmates to make even MORE money! What will Sam the Man do with all his earnings?

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

The Water Princess by Susan Verde

Cover image for The water princessThis story takes place over just one day in the life of Gie Gie (or Princess Gie Gie as she likes to be called) as she and her mother travel to and from a well to get water for drinking, cooking, and washing. Verde’s words and pictures by Peter Reynolds work together to bring the African setting to life. You can almost feel the hot sun and dry dust, as well as Gie Gie’s thirst. When she finally drinks, readers will feel refreshed. This story was inspired by the childhood experiences of a model named Burkina Faso, who has worked to build more wells in Goundi where she is from. Back matter asks children to imagine their lives without water and explains that some people have to struggle to find clean water every day. The Water Princess is a satisfying story as well as a cultural lesson.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator