Tag Archives: Children’s Books

The Best Children’s Books #2

Installment # 1 is here

Without delay, here are four five star choices and four four star choices:

The Emperor’s New Clothes, the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated for the modern retro child by Virginia Lee Burton.

You know the story, so I won’t give you a summary, and the whole point is the illustrations so you should just click through to see. (The graphic at the top of the post is from within the book, illustrating the overall reading level and quality).

So Few of Me by Peter Reynolds.

Alternate title: Calming the helicopter parent.

Leo’s list of things to do keeps growing, until one day he wishes, “If only there were two of me.” Just as the words are out of his mouth, poof! Another Leo appears! Two Leos become three, three become four, and four become more . . . but Leo can’t help but notice that he has even more to do than before. As he struggles to deal with his overcomplicated life, Leo realizes that there may be a simpler solution to his overscheduling woes. Peter H. Reynolds, the award-winning author-illustrator of THE DOT and ISH, returns with an important message for readers of all ages: stop and take a little time to dream.

I’m Here a second installment by Peter Reynolds

I’m here.
And you’re there.
And that’s okay.
maybe there will be a gentle wind that pulls us together.
And then I’ll be here and you’ll be here, too.

Pure, powerful and deceptively simple, bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds reminds us that children—and the friendships they make—can take flight in unexpected ways.

Other books (not reviewed her) by Peter Reynolds, including a box set:

The North Star

Happy Dreamer

The Dot

Going Places

Peter Reynolds Creatrilogy Box Set (Dot, Ish, Sky Color)

Ish (Creatrilogy), a third suggestion by Peter Reynolds

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin (Author) and Betsyh Lewin (Illustrator)

Keyboarding Kows:

New York Times bestselling duo Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s Caldecott Honor–winning book is now available as a Level 2 Ready-to-Read!

Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long he hears:

Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.

But Farmer Brown’s problems REALLY begin when his cows start leaving him notes! Come join the fun as a bunch of literate cows turn Farmer Brown’s farm upside-down!

I Stink! by Kate McMullan and Jim McMujllan

This is more illustration than words, but the image gives you an idea of the words.

For fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train comes a noisy addition to the hilarious read-aloud series from Kate and Jim McMullan, the popular creators of I’m Bad! and I’m Dirty!

“Know what I do at night while you’re asleep? Eat your trash, that’s what!”

With ten wide tires, one really big appetite, and an even bigger smell, this garbage truck’s got it all. His job? Eating your garbage and loving every stinky second of it! And you thought nighttime was just for sleeping.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing.

Introduce kids to the planets and solar system in this fractured fairy tale retelling of the classic The Three Little Pigs. Parents and children alike will adore this out-of-this-world story, which is set in outer space!

GREEP BOINK MEEP! The three little aliens are happily settling into their new homes when the Big Bad Robot flies in to crack and smack and whack their houses down! A chase across the solar system follows in this humorous and visually stunning book from Margaret McNamara (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?) and Mark Fearing (The Book that Eats People). The endpapers even include a labeled diagram of all the planets.

Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt.

(I would have given this a five star, but Amanda gave it a four.)

Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It’s way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he’s well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel’s emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute.

Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day … his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk.

But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting …

From John Peters at Booklist:

Gr. 1-3. In a tongue-in-cheek tale that may help to prod anxious readers out of their hidebound routines, a squirrel discovers the pleasures of leaping into the unknown. As the world’s a scary place, what with the killer bees, green Martians, tarantulas, germs, and sharks that might be lurking about, Scaredy Squirrel keeps to his tree, and to a precise, minute-by-minute daily schedule–until a supposed “killer bee” actually wanders by, causing Squirrel to dislodge his suitcase-size emergency kit. A wild lunge to rescue it turns into a long glide (portrayed in a gatefold), as Squirrel discovers to his astonishment that he is a flying squirrel. Eventually, Squirrel returns in triumph to his tree and from then on adds a daily glide to his accustomed rounds. Despite the simply drawn cartoons and brief text, this is more sophisticated in tone than Martin Waddell’s Tiny’s Big Adventure (2004), though the message is similar.

The Best Children’s Books #1

It is hard to find a good book for kids between the ages of 5 and 9. These are kids who can read, but at varying (and rapidly changing) levels, and who are too fancy for the little kid books (thick, big pictures, few words, boring).

Amanda and Huxley spend a lot of time figuring out what the good books are. They forage at two different libraries, they take home huge piles of possible good books, then narrow that down even more to identify just the best, and then, those are often re-acquired and re-read multiple times. We purchase some of these knowing that we can pass them on to the emerging younger cousins and that they will like them too because, as noted, these are the best books.

Recently, it dawned on me that others can benefit from Amanda and Huxley’s hard work. She uses a GoodReads account to keep track of and rate the books. Poaching her account allows me to pass some excellent recommendations on to you.

I’m going to do this over several posts, as it is a lot of work to put together the info and links, etc. I’ll give you her five star books as well as a few of the four stars, and I’ll ignore everything she gave fewer stars to.

I’m also providing the publisher’s descriptions and a picture of the insides so you’ll have a good idea of what the book is and what level it is at. Kids in this age group are in that strange zone where a book they can read and a book that they can enjoy having read to them are vastly different, but since they are in fact two different things, a book that can be read to them (like the first example I’m giving you, below) will later become a book they can read. And, in some cases, it can become a book they can have on their own bookshelves for a long time and go back to now and then.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

Example of text

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost. . . .
Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle – that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

This is a fantastic book, excellent story. Huxley’s teacher read it to the students in class, then we got it out of the library, Amanda read it to Huxley, then I got a copy of it and now it sits on the shelf in an honored location.

If you recognize the author’s name, it may be because she also wrote Because of Winn-Dixie.


Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann.

One small step for a mouse; one giant leap for aviation.

These are dark times . . . for a small mouse. A new invention—the mechanical mousetrap—has caused all the mice but one to flee to America, the land of the free. But with cats guarding the steamships, trans-Atlantic crossings are no longer safe. In the bleakest of places . . . the one remaining mouse has a brilliant idea. He must learn to fly!

Debut illustrator Torben Kuhlmann’s inventive tale and stunning illustrations will capture the imagination of readers—young and old—with the death-defying feats of this courageous young mouse.

Example of text. This book is mostly illustration.
This is more of a picture book than a chapter book, but the text is chapter-book like in the sense that the vocabulary is middle level, it uses lots of sentences, etc. So this qualifies as a read-to book for kids in this age range, except the ones that are a bit older.

Torben Kuhlmann is mainly an illustrator and has done quite a few other books that we’ve not seen up close but that look interesting, in both English and German, and Spanish.

These include: Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon and Moletown.

The next too books are categorized by Amanda as four star (the above were both five star) but they are quite good and Amanda is very picky, so they are worth a close look.

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock:

Example text and page. This book has several pages with only a few words, but also, a time line and list of sources at the end. Very richly illustrated.

Every inventor has to start somewhere, and one of the greatest innovators in our history was no exception. Ben Franklin developed his first invention while doing what he loved best: swimming! Ben’s Big Splash is the story of Franklin’s first invention, his journey through the scientific method, and the surprising successes that result when you’re willing to make mistakes. Barb Rosenstock’s rhythmic, whimsical style is the perfect complement to S. D. Schindler’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. Together they recreate history in an engaging and unique way. Both author and illustrator worked closely with Franklin experts, and the book includes Franklin quotes, an extensive author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.


Otis by Loren Long is one of several books by that suthor, many of which are about “Otis.” He also illustrated Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama.

New York Times bestselling author/artist Loren Long creates an unforgettable children’s classic.
Otis is a special tractor. He loves his farmer and he loves to work. And he loves the little calf in the next stall, whom he purrs to sleep with his soft motor. In fact, the two become great friends: they play in the fields, leap hay bales, and play ring-around-the-rosy by Mud Pond.

Otis example text.
But when Otis is replaced with the big yellow tractor, he is cast away behind the barn, unused, unnoticed . . . until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond. Then there is only one tractor—and it’s not big or yellow—who can come to the rescue. It is little old Otis who saves his friend. It is Otis who saves the day.

In a wonderful new palette, and in the tradition of classics like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Story of Ferdinand, Loren Long has crafted an unforgettable new story—and character—celebrating the power of friendship and perseverance.


OK, that’s all for now. June is Book Month on Greg Laden’s blog, so they’ll be more of this series and other great stuff about books coming up.

CLICK HERE TO SEE: The Best Children’s Books #2

Children Just Like Me: Book Review

Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World is a new edition of DK’s famous diversity for children book.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-40-46-amFrom the publisher:

Children Just Like Me is an amazing children’s book showing everyday life through the eyes and words of children around the world.

Offering a remarkable insight into the lives of children today all around the globe, Children Just Like Me is packed with photography of children, their friends and family, home, and school vividly illustrating different cultures, from rural farms to busy cities to river boats.

With distinctive DK design and text, using children’s own words, children will take a journey around the world to meet Children Just Like Me.

The image on the right gives you a good idea of the reading level.

This isn’t just a book about diversity. It is a uniform review of geographical variation, mostly in culture but in plenty of other aspects as well.

And most importantly for kids of a certain age, you can get a sticker book that goes along with it too!

Science Books For Early Readers

We went to the local library the other day to find books in the range appropriate for Huxley to read. It isn’t sufficient to say he’s in the first grade. Between preschool and second grade, there are (in English, anyway) probably about four or five levels of reading ability, and kids move through them fast. In addition to that, there are who the heck knows how many different scales, developed by various individuals and organizations, to reflect reading levels. It is so complicated that there is actually a company that you can pay to tell you what reading level a book is.

So we asked the librarian to help. I should mention that this is a good library and the librarian seemed generally competent. But she wasn’t able to help much. It turns out that reading level is not part of the Library of Congress system. Or so I surmise.

Personally, I think this confusion stems from the apparent fact I noted above. Kids, when they start reading, go from chimpanzee to NYT reader in a couple/few years. There are many levels of ability in there, and really, of course they are not levels but rather arbitrary stages imposed on a continuum. Or a set of continua. The problem of categorizing early reading books is so difficult because all the different systems that attempt this run aground at the early end of the scale, and thus, so many different appearing systems. This is why, when you put tile on a wall, you don’t start on the bottom. You start a few rows up, and work your way down and up from there. That way you will not be foiled by the lack of level at the base, and your only cost is having to cut every one of the bottom tiles. This may seem like a digression but some day you will thank me for that information.

Anyway, I recently got a good look at a sample of DK Publisher’s “Learn To Read” books, which are have six categories, pr-1, 1, 2, 3, 4, and “Adventures.” OK, that’s a bit clumsy, but the key point here is that the numbered levels, 1 through 4, are consistent and meaningful categories.

Let me give you some examples of the text by reading level, followed by links to a selection of the more science oriented books. There are many books at each level, dealing with LEGO themes, super heroes, and other things.

dk_book_volcanoesLevel 1: Beginning To Read
Example Text:

A butterfly flits from leaf to leaf.
On each little leaf she lays one or two eggs.
She squeezes the eggs out of her body.

(From Born to Be a Butterfly.)

Example books:
Bugs Hide and Seek
Tale of a Tadpole
Jungle Animals
Sea Otters

Level 2: Beginning to read alone

Example Text:

The air ambulance plane rescues injured people from places that are difficult to reach.
It can deliver people to the hospital much faster than an ordinary ambulance can

Example Books:
Eruption!: The Story of Volcanoes
Space Quest: Jump to Jupiter
Dinosaur Dinners
Spaceships and Rockets

dk_book_on_rainforestLevel 3: Reading alone

Example Text:

Emergency dispatchers often stay on the phone until help arrives. They talk to callers to keep them calm. Most importantly, they tell the caller what to do until the emergency services arrive.

Example Books:
Rain Forest Explorer
Hope for the Elephants
Rocket Science

Level 4: Proficient readers

Example Text:

Ride the little train that climbs high into the Alps in Switzerland, and you will be treated to some of the finest mountain scenery in the world. From a small alpine town, the red train makes a steep climb up the Jungfrau mountain and past a famous peak called the Eiger. Many climbers dies on the sheer north face of the Eiger before it was finally scaled in 1938.

Example Books:
Dinosaur Detectives
Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters
Secrets of the Mummies
Big Fantastic Earth

You can see changes in vocabulary, sentence structure, tone, topic, etc. Not visible in these samples are change in typeface (larger to smaller) and the overall structure of the books. The lower levels tend to have pictures and words. The higher levels add captions to the pictures, sidebars, etc.

DK books are always good, and they do a pretty good job with science. I won’t quibble with details on little kids books (such as the lack of attention to biogeography and central evolutionary paradigms). These are a far sight better than the science books I had access to when I was a kid!