“How to Clean a Hippopotamus” by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

HippoWould you let a bird climb into your ear? Or let a crab crawl all over your skin? In How to Clean a Hippopotamus by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page you’ll discover which animals do just that as part of their daily lives. Giraffes and rhinos, for instance, regularly let birds eat insects off of their skins. The birds get fed and the bigger animals get clean. Sometimes animals will team up to hunt for prey or to fend off attackers. Even humans have special relationships with animals to help get jobs done. This is a fascinating book with great illustrations. And it’s perfect to use for a non-fiction book review for the youngest grades. Grades K-3, non-fiction.

–Marie Drucker, Children’s Librarian

“The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill” by Megan Frazer Blakemore

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill gives a well-thought-out slice of the Cold War in America in the 1950s. It takes place in 1953 in a small Vermont town. Hazel Kaplansky, the protagonist, is described by some as “relentless” and “a little spitfire,” but she’s lonely. An outcast at her school because her parents run the local cemetery and she plays there most afternoons, she’s also a bit of an outcast at home because her parents don’t seem to pay much attention to her. Oh, she’s also the smartest girl in her class and loves the library, which just adds to heSpyCatchersr differentness. When Randall Butler moves to town and outdoes her in class she fears the one thing that kept her happy in school – being brighter than everyone else – will disappear. Instead, though, she and Randall become best friends. Randall is lonely too. Over the course of the novel we find out why (no spoilers!). For most of the novel, Hazel is sure she has stumbled upon a communist spy ring. When McCarthyism rears its ugly head in the town, Hazel is doubly certain she is right. I like the way Blakemore has packed so much into this story: lonely children, mean girls, friendship, the way lies and rumors can hurt people, the Cold War, and even the changing roles of women (Hazel’s mom was going to go to graduate school, but she couldn’t have a career and a child and chose to be a mom). And none of it seems forced. I think it’s because Hazel is likeable and often funny. There’s no didacticism and that is always a plus. (For kids in 4th-6th grades.)

–Marie Drucker, Children’s Librarian

“The Night Gardener” by Jonathan Auxier

NightGardenerA spooky house, two orphans, and a family slowly losing their lives. Are the house and its inhabitants cursed? And why is there a tree growing right into the house? It’s up to Molly and Kip, newly arrived from Ireland and working as servants for the strange Windsor family, to find out what’s going on and to help rescue everyone from the mysterious and malevolent Night Gardener. This book is filled with adventure and secrets. And shows us why stories can help our lives, but lies do nothing but destroy people. It’s an engaging tale that will keep you interested throughout. (Grades 4-6.)

–Marie Drucker, Children’s Librarian

“Stubby the War Dog,” by Ann Bausum

StubbyRead about World War I from a different perspective: That of a dog who fought right alongside American soldiers. Stubby the War Dog by Ann Bausum takes readers on a unique journey. Stubby was a homeless terrier who befriended and adopted (as well as became adopted by) Bob Conroy. When Conroy became a member of the infantry and traveled to France to fight in the Great War, Stubby went right along with him. Some members of the unit considered Stubby a good-luck charm, others were just warmed by his presence. The devoted dog learned to salute, could warn his fellow soldiers of incoming artillery fire, and even captured an enemy with a strategic bite. After the war, Stubby became a popular symbol of bravery. Bausum’s book lets you experience the story of World War I from an unlikely source. (Non-fiction, for kids 10 years old and up.)

–Marie Drucker, Children’s Librarian

“What We Found in the Sofa and (How It Saved the World)” by Henry Clark

WhatWeFoundIt’s not every day you find a sofa that that moves through time and space and helps three kids save the world from a tyrant bent on making all the citizens of Earth his subjects. But the sofa in Henry Clark’s new book does that and more. River (our narrator), Fiona, and Freak (he dislikes his real name) are lured not only by the sofa but the extremely rare and valuable crayon they find amid its cushions. The discovery brings them to the attention of Alf, who is actually a denizen of another world and striving to save our world from an evil dictator. It’s fun to read a science fiction novel that takes place in our time and world, especially one that makes so much fun of our reliance on cell phones. River, Fiona, and Freak are bright and likable and, I hope, coming back for more adventures. (Science fiction, grades 5-7)

–Marie Drucker, Children’s Librarian

Tupelo Landing Books by Sheila Turnage

ThreeTimesAnother series — just two books so far — I heartily recommend Sheila Turnage’s Tupelo Landing series (grades 4-6). In Three Times Lucky, a murder comes to tiny Tupelo Landing, N.C., and prompts our protagonist Moses LoBeau (aka Mo) to set up the Desperado Detective Agency with her best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson III. The crime hits very close to home for our young detectives, but not so close that one of the main characters is the villain.

GhostsTupeloIn The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, the newest book, the murder took places years ago, so our town of quirky characters is somewhat safe, though each person is not without his or her secrets. You’ll love all of people in Tupelo Landing and the adventures Mo and Dale have in their tiny town.

–Marie Drucker, Children’s Librarian

“Jinx” and “Jinx’s Magic” by Sage Blackwood

Kids who like fantasy series will love reading these books by Sage Blackwood — and will certainly look forward to the next book in the series.jinx

In the first book, we meet Jinx — an orphan who is about to be left in the Urwald (a large primeval forest) to die but instead is rescued by the wizard Simon. He gradually becomes the Simon’s apprentice and learns that the power he draws on to work his magic is different than that Simon – and other wizards — use. In the course of the story, Jinx meets two young people (Reven, a would-be king, and Elfwyn, a would-be witch) who are making their way (separately at first) through the Urwald to rid themselves of curses. They end up at the house of an evil wizard who attempts to use them to capture Simon. Simon saves Jinx while Jinx in his way saves Simon.jinxmagic

Jinx’s Magic picks up where we left off – with the Jinx, Reven, Elfwyn, and Simon traveling again. The group separates midway and we follow Jinx on his quest to find out more about knowledge and power. Jinx is so very brave and determined. And he’s often a bit confused and overwhelmed too. I think that’s why I like him so much. By the end of Jinx’s Magic, all of the players are in place for what promises to be a climactic battle between fire and ice, life and death, in the next book.

2014 Award Winners in Children’s Books

The American Library Association has selected its annual award winners for the best of the best children’s books. Here’s a sample of some of the books they selected. Come to the library to check them out! The complete list of winners can be found here.

Newbery Award: Outstanding Contribution to Children’s LiteratureFloraUlysses

Winner: Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Honor Books: Doll Bones by Holly Black; The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes; One Came Home by Amy Timberlake; and Paperboy by Vince Vawter.

LocomotiveCaldecott Award: Most Distinguished American Picture Book for Children

Winner: Locomotive by Brian Floca
Honor Books: Journey by Aaron Becker; Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle; and Mr. Wuffles by David Eisner.

Geisel Award: Outstanding Book for Beginning ReadersWatermelon

Winner: The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
Honor Books: Ball by Mary Sullivan; A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems; and Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes.

 Sibert Award: Most Distinguished Informational Book for ChildrenParrots

Winner: Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
Honor Books: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate; Locomotive written and illustrated by Brian Floca; and The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

Reviewers Pick the Best Books of 2013

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since we last posted “Best of” lists, but 2014 is here. Book reviewers are making their lists and we’ve gathered a few. Compare your lists to theirs and come to the library to find what you’ve missed.

LifeAfterLifeMorethanJourneyOnaBeamjinx

Adult Book Lists

Children’s and YA Book Lists

 

 

“Fortunately, the Milk” by Neil Gaiman

TheMilkKids, be prepared. You will have to read Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk a few times — just for the sheer fun of it and to figure out all the time travel. Fortunately, the Milk tells the story of a dad who goes out for a carton of milk and returns “ages and ages” later with quite a story regarding his delay. I am now an immense fan of time-traveling stegosauri and hope to encounter one some day. Yes, the dad’s the story is ridiculous; that’s why it’s so much fun. Best yet, there are vampires, but no “handsome, misunderstood” ones. And that’s probably how it should be. (Grades 3-6 and adults who like to smile.)