Wednesday, April 19, 2017

16 Fabulous New Books for Readers Aged 3-13

My eldest granddaughter (aged 12 years) says I have the best job in the world because in her words, "people just send you great books to read and review." I pointed out that this isn't all I do, but it's one of the most enjoyable things I do get to do in any week. She volunteered to help me out, so she has reviewed the last book. Here are 16 recent arrivals for younger readers aged 3 to 13 years. As usual, I have arranged them in rough order of reading difficulty. And of course, I do NOT receive any financial benefit for my reviews from publishers or online book sellers.

1. 'Let's Go for a Drive!' by Mo Willems

This one of the latest of the 'Elephant & Piggie' books for beginning readers from Mo Willems the brilliant award-winning author of 'Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus'. Using speech bubbles and a repetition of words and phrases, this is a great early book for any young reader. The illustrations in simple cartoon form are simple, engaging and funny. Kids will love it!

2. 'I Broke My Trunk' by Mo Willems

Best friends Gerald and Piggie are at it again - adventure and fun! Piggie hasn't seen Gerald all day! Why? It seems Gerald has broken his trunk. How did he do it? Well, that's a long story. Piggie ends up telling a long, crazy story of her own? Once again, Mo Willems has created an hilarious tale.

3. 'Nanette's Baguette' by Mo Willems

Yes, another Mo Willems book?! It might seem like he's getting too much attention, but his work is stunning. This latest book, from the author with three Caldecott Honour medals, six Emmy Awards while writing for Sesame Street and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal on two occasions, is delightful!

Kids will love this hilarious new tongue-twister read-aloud about a little girl, Nanette, on a mission to buy a baguette. Nanette's has her first solo trip to the bakery. The question is, will the baguette make it home in one piece? The illustrations feature a handcrafted French village with the most expressive responses as she handles to tricky challenge. And the first 'Krack!' signals a problem. Children will want this read again and again. Just love Mo's work. 

4. 'Chook Doolan Saves the Day' by James Roy and illustrated by Lucinda Gifford

This author and illustrator team has now created seven very readable first books for newly independent readers aged 5-6 years.

Chook doesn't want to play this game, he thinks it's scary, especially when Ashton Findus and Marty Petrovic are on the team. Can Chook find the courage to join the game?

Will he survive as goalie when the two toughest players charge towards him? Children will enjoy be drawn along to the exciting conclusion.

5. 'Chook Doolan - The Tiny Guitar' by James Roy and illustrated by Lucinda Gifford

Like all of the books in the 'Chook Doolan' series from Walker Books, this one is well pitched for emergent readers. The language and sentence structure are simple, and the short chapters give young readers the satisfaction of reading 'chapter books'. Gifford's simple black and white illustrations and the large font also help to ensure reader success.

In this tale, 'Chook Doolan' (alias Simon, his birth name) receives a new present from his Dad the airline pilot. At first he assumes it is a guitar, but it's actually a ukulele. Reluctant at first he gives it a shot. Will he master it? Young readers will want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens.

6. 'The Jumble Sale' by Anna Branford and illustrated by Lisa Coutts

I've reviewed Anna Branford's books before and I always love her ability to engage young readers. This book is one of six books in the 'Lily the Elf' series.

All the elves are setting up stalls in their front gardens to sell the things they don't need any more. But Lily doesn't want to sell any of her things - they are all too precious. Will Lily be able to part with her special treasures?

A wonderful early book for a newly independent reader. There are far too few books of this type and Anna Branford has the rare ability to write simple stories that young readers find accessible and rich in language. This is an ideal first 'chapter' book.

7. 'The Sleepover' by Anna Branford and illustrated by Lisa Coutts

Lily the Elf is with us again in this lovely tale. Lily's cousin Fern has a sleepover; every child's delight. It feels like she will never arrive. Fern isn't too chirpy at first when her parents leave. Will a butterfly game, castle building or a midnight feast win her over? Perhaps? What might Granny have that will help? What is the secret weapon?

Delightful stuff for young readers ready to move from picture books to books with more words than pictures.

8. 'Smart About Sharks' by Owen Davey

This is one of the best non-fiction books for younger readers than I've seen for some time. Combining good scientific information, wonderful slightly stylistic illustrations in a muted palette and a quirky readable style, this book is a winner for readers aged 6-8 years. Even younger readers will make the effort to work through the book, and older readers will also be held by the wonderful way the book has been created and the way the knowledge of sharks is communicated.

There are so many interesting angles on the topic. Would you like to see a visual comparison of the size of a Megalodon (the first prehistoric shark), a Great White and a human? What are the scientific names for common sharks like Angel sharks, Dogfish sharks and Ground sharks? What are the varied fins on sharks? Like to know more about the eye sight of sharks? What does a meal look like for sharks? What about shark mythology? There is just SO MUCH in this beautiful picture book!

9. 'A World of Information' by James Brown & Richard Platt

This is one of the most visually stunning books that have come across my desk for quite a while. It looks and feels like some of those rare and expensive books that I first saw as a child in my school library that I would rush to each week to look though again and again for facts and figures for just about every topic I was interested in as a young boy.

This contemporary version offers a vast miscellany of knowledge with simple two colour images on every page. What child doesn't want to know how many bones there are in the human body or how clouds form? Every boy and girl wants to know about knots and Morse code.  What about the instruments and layout of an orchestra? Have they seen a periodic table, and what are elements anyway? Every page is beautiful, fact-filled and engaging. A book you can dip into on a wet day, or when other reading loses its interest. The celebrated author Richard Platt has done it again. The book covers over 30 fascinating topics and will be popular with children aged 8-12 who love knowledge and are curious about the world.

10. 'How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea' by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

This is a beautifully designed book. Gabi Swiatkowska's illustrations, inside cover detail and quirky image will capture children's attention from first sight. Once captured, Kate Hosford's story will keep them enthralled. Every day when the Queen wakes up, her three maids have to dress her, two style her hair, and the butler James makes her a cup of tea. But sometimes, tea drinkers are hard to please, and the Queen is no exception! The Queen and James set out in search of the perfect cup. At every stop on their hot-air balloon journey she encounters new friends who teach her more than just how to make different cups of tea. There is a secret to the perfect cuppa and she finally discovers what it is.

This is a wonderfully simple tale but it will engage a whole class, an individual reader, or your children as bedtime reading. A lovely book.

11. 'A First Book of Animals' by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horacek

Nicola Davies, the award-winning author of A First Book of Nature, presents a spellbinding treasury of poems about the animal world, illustrated in breathtaking detail by Petr Horacek. Polar bears playing on the ice, tigers hunting in the jungle, fireflies twinkling in the evening sky and nightingales singing in the heart of the woods - there are animals everywhere. From blue whales to bumblebee bats and everything in between, A First Book of Animals takes you all over the planet to visit all kinds of different creatures. This book is a glorious celebration of life in the wild in all its variety and splendour, and belongs on every child's bookshelf.

This is another stunning book that teachers while engaging younger readers with verse, facts and stunning images. Children will want to read this book again and again to find their favourite illustrations and animals as well as to learn new things. Double page spreads make the many animals jump from the page. A graceful flock of pink flamingos, a giant ant nest in a deep forest, a poisonous viper, and a sea of glowing jellyfish. The luminescence of the latter will make want to stroke the page.

This is no dreary book of facts but a work of art of extraordinary quality. One of my favourite books of the year!

12. 'Applesauce Weather' by Helen Frost and illustrated by Amy June Bates

When the first apple falls from the tree, Faith and Peter know that it’s applesauce weather, even though Peter is getting a little old for such things. It also means Uncle Arthur should be here to tell his stories, with a twinkle in his eye as he spins tales about how he came to have a missing finger. But this is the first year without Aunt Lucy, and when Uncle Arthur arrives, there’s no twinkle to be found and no stories waiting to be told. Faith is certain, though, that with a little love and patience, she and Peter might finally learn the truth about that missing finger. 

This poetic novel for readers aged 7-10 years is intriguing. There is a mystery to it that keeps the reader engaged and attentive. The connection of Aunt Lucy to the seasons that are marked by a special apple tree, that in turn is connected to the deep love she had for Uncle Arthur and their family, engages the reader and keeps you in state of tension and mystery. A love tale that speaks of the depth of love within families as well as hope. A delightful novel for younger readers.

13. 'Caleb's Cab' by Sally Chomet and illustrated by Sylvain Chomet

From the Oscar-nominated and Bafta-award-winning creators of animated films 'Belleville Rendez Vous'' and The Illusionist' comes a hilarious, dark-edged comedy caper full of twists and surprises.

This is an unusual book for readers aged 10-12 years. It is a somewhat dark tale of a world in which banks have become so powerful that parents offer their children as assets to secure loans. When Caleb's father disappears quite mysteriously he needs to take over the driving of the family cab so that the banks can't foreclose on them. He would end up working in ATM machines like lots of other children in his town. Life becomes a series of near escapes. And the cab turns out to be anything other than ordinary and it takes him into another reality. He discovers that his Dad is alive, but for how long? And how will he save him?

This a strange and quirky story that might sound very dark, but because it is so outrageous it is much more comedy than thriller. Many children will find the absurd tale rather funny and stimulating.

Sylvain and Sally Chomet manage to bring their cinematic art and storytelling to this their first children's book that ends with a cliffhanger and will have devoted readers waiting for the next installment.

14. 'Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story' by Caren Stelson

Sachiko is a challenging nonfiction true story about a small girl who survived the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.  It is also the story of the impact that this event had on many others. Sachiko Yasui was just 6 years old when the USA dropped their second atomic bomb. Amazingly, it hit just half a mile from where she was playing house with friends in an air raid shelter.

Her father was at work in the local shipyard, so her mother took her children to the air raid cave. There was an all-clear sounded, and her two older brothers left the shelter. Mrs. Yasui, Misa and Toshi went home, but Sachiko stayed in the shelter with friends to place 'house'. With no warning, the bomb was dropped and life was changed for Sachiko and her family.

The book has already been nominated for a number of awards and is poignant reminder of the horror of atomic weapons and war. This book brings together a powerful mix of narrative, original photographs, eye witness accounts, factual details concerning the aftermath in the city, the story of flight crew and mission and the impact on ordinary people. Some children might find the book just a little too challenging, so care will be needed in introducing them to the hard reality of what happened in Nagasaki on that fateful day in 1945. Nevertheless, this is an important book, and a story that we need to hear.

15. 'The Nutcracker' by E.T.A Hoffman and illustrated by Robert Ingpen

The tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816, has captured young and old readers alike. It has also inspired great artists and composers for two hundred years. It has lost none of its 'magic' and joy and is as fresh and as compelling a tale as ever, appealing to the sense of wonder within all of us. This edition of the book was released last year to mark the bicentenary of the story.

The illustrator Robert Ingpen is famous in his own right. While he is known primarily as an illustrator, he is also a fine writer with 13 works of fiction and over 20 non-fiction. For his "lasting contribution" as a children's illustrator he received the prestigious biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1986. This book is one of a series of 15 classic stories that he has illustrated for Walker Books over a number of years and as always, the fine line work and detail are the marks of an extraordinary artist who enriches any book. This old tale is brought to life by his wonderful work. These hard cover books are outstanding collector books that will remain on family shelves for many years as treasured possessions.

16. 'The Secret Horses of Briar Hill' by Megan Shepherd and illustrated by Levi Pinfold

This review was contributed by Rebecca Starling (my Year 7 granddaughter who eagerly read the book and wrote these comments).

"Sweet and sad." 'The secret horses of Briar Hill' is a story unlike any I have ever read. Emmaline is instantly lovable and it feels as if you have stepped inside her head. The beautiful illustrations add to the staggering emotional impact this book will leave you with. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to spend a day or two locked up in a room, unable to tear their eyes away from a book that will stay with you for years after you have finished reading it."

Above: The stunning cover used in Australian and the UK

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Drawing, Giftedness & Seeing the World Differently

Above: Creating a 'fairy' garden
I've written previously about the need to see giftedness as much more than simply intellectual skills and knowledge that can be established with a narrow range of intelligence tests. One person who has stretched our understanding in the area of giftedness is Howard Gardner in his work on Multiple Intelligences. While some gifted children demonstrate exceptional abilities across a wide range of capabilities (e.g. memory, language, mathematics, problem solving etc), others are gifted in narrower and more specific ways (e.g. visual arts, music, leadership, sport etc). In this post I want to focus on what drawing can show us about giftedness. If you are interested in more information on supporting gifted children you can read a previous post HERE which covers some common territory but has additional ideas for older children.
How Drawing Can Demonstrate Giftedness?

Evelyne's 'Horse in a T-Shirt'
A year or so ago, I observed some children using scribbles as part of an improvised drawing game. One made a squiggle and the others tried to turn it into an animal. The first child turned the first scribble into a monster. The squiggler responded, "you can't do a monster, the idea of the game is to draw a real animal, anyone can draw a monster".

He then drew another squiggle. The next child turned it into a horse which in her words was "a horse with a T-Shirt on" (see below). He replied, "but you can't have a horse with a T-shirt on, because they don't wear T-shirts". She replied "well this one does and that's the type of horse I drew with your squiggle".

Let me stress that all three children mentioned in the above example, are gifted in different ways, but two were demonstrating their giftedness in this activity. I should stress that while drawing can be a window on giftedness, it isn't the only way that different children, or even the same child on different occasions, can show their giftedness. But we can learn much from children's drawings that can be a pointer to giftedness?

Ten Things Drawing Can Teach us About Giftedness

Evelyne's drawing and some of the other drawings shared in this post can help us to identify giftedness. What might drawings help us to see?

1. They can show the ability to take a simple task and use it in a novel way, or for different purposes. Evie's drawing shows a preparedness to think outside the box.

2. They also help us to see if a child is able to see the unusual, think in novel ways, and observe possibilities that others don't. The camel drawing below shows this (note its shadow on the ground).

Sketch of 'A Camel & Its Reflection' (Lydia aged 3yrs)

3. It can also demonstrate the willingness of the child to experiment and take risks. These characteristics are evident in many gifted people, e.g. entrepreneurs need these qualities.

4. At the most fundamental level, they can demonstrate the ability to create something original. Not simply a drawing like all other drawings by children of the same age, but something different. For example, ask a 6 years-old to draw a house and you will usually see a hipped roof with chimney, two windows and a central single door.

Above: Child drawing of house (courtesy of 'Childhood Architecture')

5. Drawings can also demonstrate the ability to think abstractly, metaphorically and insightfully, as the child uses drawing to explore thoughts and ideas. Evie's drawing of the T-Shirt wearing horse shows this.

6. As well, drawings can show that a child can generate many solutions and possibilities for the simplest and banal tasks.

7. They can also demonstrate a preparedness to question assumed knowledge or ways of doing things.

Here a 6 yr old positions the pterodactyl above its prey

8. Drawings also offer a window into a more mature (and unusual sense of humour), and a different perspective and view of the world. Their orientation will be unlike that of the average person. The drawing above illustrates just such a different perspective.

9. Drawing can also show a depth of knowledge about a topic that is often required to create a special image. For example, awareness of the anatomical make-up of an animal, or the details of mechanical device can be seen in images that the child generates. As well use of shading to show multiple dimensions, clever use of light and shade and so on, show knowledge of image and design.

10. Finally, drawing can also show how the child's mind leads them to see different things and pay attention to the novel and unusual that is reflected in their drawings. The drawing below by a four year-old shows an image he drew after an outing to an aquarium. He created it as if it was viewed from the perspective of the fish. How did it see his granddad looking at it through the glass?

Jacob (4 years) draws Grandad from the unusual vantage point of the fish inside the aquarium looking out

Summing Up

Imagination & creativity starts early
All children are capable of demonstrating rich imagination and creativity, but some children demonstrate levels of creativity, insight, imagination and knowledge in drawing that suggests giftedness that is beyond the typical and normal. Drawing can help us to look for this and encourage it. I have many other posts that will help you to see some of the ways that you can encourage bright and gifted children. You can read another one of them HERE.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Making Shakespeare Exciting For Young Readers

This is a new version of a previous post about the value of Shakespeare for children of all ages, even primary school children  I had little chance as a child to be introduced to Shakespeare until forced to read it at High School. What a terrible way to meet some of the world's greatest literature.  English classes boring and seemingly unrelated to my life.  Shakespeare's plays seemed remote and of little interest. And yet later in life I began to appreciate and love Shakespeare's work.
I've written previously on this blog about the value of Shakespeare for children of all ages, even primary school children (

Is it possible to make Shakespeare accessible for children as young as seven or eight years? Yes, I think it is! A good place to start is either with an abridged version of the great plays or using some of the wonderful prose versions of his work. A well-known theatrical company in Sydney has even begun to present live Shakespeare to primary schools. Bell Shakespeare has set itself the task of introducing primary aged children to Shakespeare's plays, with a plan to teach Shakespeare's work to children as young as six.

Shakespeare Stories for Younger Readers
Twelve of Shakespeare's greatest tales come to life in this entertaining collection of short, lively stories specially adapted for young readers. Capturing the vital events and using some of the original wording, the stories serve as a perfect introduction to Shakespeare for preteens and as literate refreshers for older folks.

A wonderful collection of twelve stories that the well-known author Edith Nesbit transformed for her own children. Here we have twelve of Shakespeare's most famous plays - tales of kings, queens, ghosts, and witches. An excellent introduction to the original works suitable for children aged 10+. The collection includes Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cymbeline, The Taming of the Shrew, Pericles, and The Winter's Tale.

Sixty- Minute Shakespeare

I have no doubt that in classrooms where children learn to love words, language and narrative, that they will find Shakespeare exciting, challenging and enriching. There are many resources that will help you. Recently, I had a look at Cass Foster's abridged versions of Shakespeare's plays. The 'Sixty-Minute Shakespeare' series is an ideal alternative for those who lack the time to tackle the unabridged versions. Professor Foster has carefully condensed (without modernizing) the rich poetic language of each play so that it can be completed in about 60 minutes. The abridged versions offer the excitement of Shakespeare's tales, as well as the wonderful imagery in the prose and verse.

Each edition also comes with detailed footnotes on nearly every page explaining the more arcane words and phrases to help the reader better understand and appreciate each play. You will also find practical suggestions for staging, pacing, and thematic exploration very useful. Each script is approximately 70 pages.

'Shakespeare's Hamlet' staged on the page by Nicki Greenberg

This is a remarkable and ambitious work from Nicki Greenberg for high school children. This imaginative and epic 415-page graphic novel will excite many teenage readers. Hamlet has become an expressive black inkblot whose form changes shape according to his circumstances and mood. This is not a kid's picture book! Rather, it is one more attempt to present Shakespeare in new forms. Not just to make it more accessible (for some might find some other word-only attempts less challenging) but to tell it afresh.

There is no doubt that Greenberg’s Hamlet is unique. At 400+ pages it is hardly an easy 'read'. But might it not help the young uninitiated reader of Shakespeare to see new things? Only readers 13+ will be able to help us to answer this question.

The language of Shakespeare is given new emphasis as the play is performed on paper. This is a play 'staged' in a book as the title suggests.  It is a very interesting book but I can't help but feel that a retelling like Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories (see below) is not a better way in. It is hardly stuff for the poor reader, but more likely the gifted who wants to experience Shakespeare with new depth and relevance. It might just do this for some.

Joint winner of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Picture Book of the Year 2011

Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Prose Forms for Young Children

You don't need a theatre company to help you to introduce Shakespeare to young children. One of the easiest ways to get young children interested in Shakespeare's work is to read some of his plays in adapted prose form. While there are some pretty awful attempts to do this, the collections written by Leon Garfield are superb. His first collection 'Shakespeare Stories' was illustrated by Michael Foreman and published by Gollancz in 1984. It features 12 of Shakespeare's best-known works, including 'Twelfth Night', 'The Taming of the Shrew', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Macbeth'. Garfield is a brilliant writer of children's fiction and so if anyone was to tackle this project, he would surely be the most likely to succeed in presenting the plays with as much complete dialogue as possible but with adaptations that make the works more accessible without detracting from the language, plots and characterisation of each play. This is how Garfield begins 'A Midsummer Night's Dream':
Hermia, who was small, dark and perfect, loved Lysander; and Lysander loved Hermia. What could have been better than that? At the same time, Helena, who was tall, fair and tearful, loved Demetrius.
But Demetrius did not love Helena. Instead he, too, loved Hermia...who did not love him. What could have been worse than that? 
Garfield's adaptations are engaging and faithful to the plays and if read well to children as young as 7 or 8 will capture their attention. I have used them with children or varied ages and they love to hear Garfield's versions of Shakespeare's work and they want to pick them up and read them. My daughter has also found the Garfield collections wonderful to use with her children aged 6-10.  She has written about this on her own blog (HERE).

A shorter collection, 'Six Shakespeare Stories' was published by Heinemann in 1994 and 'Six More Shakespeare Stories' in 1996.

Other resources

There are a number of other helpful resources and sites for teachers who want to try Shakespeare with children aged 6-12 years.

'Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare' was written by Edith Nesbit in 1907 and is still available in more recent editions (HERE)

A good BBC resource that offers children a simple introduction to Shakespeare and his work (HERE)

The 'Shakespeare 4 Kidz' site is worth a look. Their tag is "Bringing the world of Shakespeare to the young people of the world" (HERE)

'Shakespeare is Elementary' is a great little site developed by an elementary school (Crighton Park) in Novia Scotia Canada. It has some great ideas for getting started (HERE)

You can buy some scripts adapted for young children but I haven't personally tested them (HERE)

The 'Shakespeare for Kids' site also has some helpful advice for teachers using Shakespeare with primary/elementary school children (HERE)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Newbery & Caldecott Children's Book Awards 2017

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. It is presented to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Newbery Medal Winner 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, written by Kelly Barnhill and published by Algonquin Young Readers (Newbery Medal Winner 2017)

Kelly Barnhill has already given us the wonderful story of 'The Witch’s Boy', and now she has delivered an incredible coming-of-age fairytale that is simply stunning.

Each year a baby is given as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. Will this sacrifice keep her terror at bay? Enter Xan, a kind and gentle witch who shares her home with a Swamp Monster named Glerk and a little dragon named Fyrian. It seems Xan rescues the abandoned children each year, and delivers them to happy families on the other side of the forest.

But one year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight. An ordinary child now has extraordinary magic. She decides she will raise Luna herself. As Luna grows, so does her magic, where will this end?

The Newbery committee chair said of the book: 'This compassionate, hopeful novel invites children everywhere to harness their power, and ask important questions about what keeps us apart and what brings us together'.

Newbery Honour Books 2017
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life, by Ashley Bryan, written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
(Newbery Honour Book, 2017) 
Ashley Bryan was inspired by an 1828 estate appraisement, and uses original slave auction and plantation estate documents to develop her story.  In doing so she honours the lives of eleven slaves with a book that blends poetry and collage. The author offers an insight into how slaves were given monetary value and treated badly. But he manages to hold in tension the fact that no-one can take away dreams. Using wonderful paintings and powerful poetry, he offers insight into what each person’s life might have been like on the plantation. This is a memorable picture book.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, written by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly and published by Dutton Children's Book (Newbery Honour Book, 2017) 

Adam Gidwitz did six years of research before creating this wonderful book beautifully illuminated by Hatem Aly. The story is set in 13th century France. It is the tale of three 'special' friends who are on the run. Their travels see them taken captured by knights, meeting a king, and saving the land from a 'farting' dragon. They try to escape prejudice and persecution and along the way, save precious and holy texts. The story is told in multiple voices, and is reminiscent of 'The Canterbury Tales'. The illustrations of Hatem Aly work beautifully in concert with a wonderful text.

'A profound and ambitious tour de force. Gidwitz is a masterful storyteller.' —Matt de la PeƱa, Newbery Medallist and New York Times bestselling author 
Wolf Hollow, written by Lauren Wolk and published by Dutton Children's Books (Newbery Honour Book, 2017)

This is the story of how young girl’s kindness, compassion, and honesty in overcoming bullying.

Set during WWII in rural Pennsylvania, Annabelle has lived a largely ordinary and quiet life, until one day a new student walks into her class. Betty Glengarry soon reveals herself as cruel and manipulative. Annabelle knows only kindness, but needs to find the courage to be a voice against the injustice she is experiencing.

This is a story about America at a crossroads and it takes a young girl’s compassion and strength to act in dark times.

The Caldecott Medal Winner 2017 

The Caldecott Medal was named in honour of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, illustrated and written by Javaka Steptoe and published by Little, Brown and Company (2017 Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner and  Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award).
“Somewhere in Brooklyn, between hearts that thump, double Dutch, and hopscotch and salty mouths that slurp sweet ice, a little boy dreams of being a famous artist.”

This wonderful picture book from Javaka Steptoe is a biography that centres on the childhood experiences of the great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Steptoe pays tribute to Basquiat’s style with unique and intricate collage-like plates. Steptoe's excellent text and artwork that is an echo of  Basquiat's own style, introduces young readers to the message that art can be very different, and yet beautiful.

Rhonda K. Gould the Caldecott Chair said of the work:

'Steptoe’s engaging art makes Basquiat approachable for children without his complexities.'

Caldecott Medal Honour Books

Leave Me Alone! illustrated and written by Vera Brosgol, and published by Roaring Brook Press (Caldecott Honour Book, 2017).

An epic tale about one grandmother, a giant sack of yarn, and her ultimate quest to finish her knitting.

Granny is keen to finish knitting her sweaters. Some time alone is what she needs. 'Leave me alone!' she shouts and leaves for a journey to the moon to find some peace (as you do!).

Much happens along the way. There are ravenous bears, disgusting goats, and aliens! Nothing will keep her from her goal; she will knit her sweaters for all of her many grandchildren. A wonderful folktale that will work with many children.

Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Little Bee Books (Caldecott Honour Book, 2017).

This stunning book had already been chosen as New York Times Best Illustrated Book for 2016. It is a poetic work of nonfiction about an unusual and largely unknown piece of African American history. In 19th century Louisiana Congo Square in New Orleans was a place that slaves were able to and set up an open market, where they would play music, dance and sing. This was a rare place of relative freedom where they could forget their cares. As the slaves worked in the hot sun of Louisiana they counted down the days till they could once again go to Congo Square.

'Mondays, there were hogs to slop, mules to train, and logs to chop. Slavery was no ways fair. Six more days to Congo Square.'

Du Iz Tak?, illustrated and written by Carson Ellis and published by Candlewick Press (Caldecott Honour Book, 2017).

A diverse community of anthropomorphic bugs is intrigued by an unfurling sprout. Carson Ellis deftly depicts the mysteries of life in an imaginary, natural world. Through intricate details and the witty humour of a made-up language, “Du Iz Tak?” is a treasure trove of visual and linguistic literacy.

This is follow-up book by Carson Ellis to her acclaimed book 'Home'. The reader is invited to imagine the possibilities with stunning illustrations and playful language. What might we find in the natural world, even our own back garden? The illustrations are detailed and beautiful, and will appeal to children and adults alike.

They All Saw a Cat, illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel and published by Chronicle Books LLC (Caldecott Honour Book, 2017).

A cat's walk through its everyday world is full of surprises. The cat encounters many creatures along the way. With minimal language that features repetition,  Wenzel uses his art and his words to show the essence of a cat might just be in the eye of the beholder.

It walks through its world, observing curiously. What do we see? Wenzel's work is full of surprises as he explores empathy and perspective.

'A stunning example of the art of weaving poetry and illustrations into an inextricable whole; gracefully pulling the reader into a world where an ordinary insight becomes something beautiful, delightful and profound.' Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator of the New York Times Bestsellers 'Duck! Rabbit!', 'Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site' and 'I Wish You More').

'Both simple and ingenious in concept, Wenzel’s book feels like a game changer.' The Huffington Post

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

240 Great Children's Books for All Ages

Coming up with a list of books for children is always risky.  How do you judge each book? Do we use our personal preference as adult readers? The popularity of the books with children? The book's longevity? I could list other criteria.
It is also difficult with a list like this to allocate an age level. Some of the books in one age category can be read by children of different ages depending on their ability and maturity. For example, a book like ‘Charlotte’s Web’ can be read to and enjoyed by children of any age. As well, many picture books can be enjoyed from 1 to 99 years!

The list that follows is not meant to be comprehensive.  Rather, I’ve tried to give a flavour of the varied authors, styles and topics.  You should use the list to find other books by the same authors.  For example, I could have listed all of Bill Peet’s books. The same could be said for many other authors on this list. The books chosen for the list all:

a) have been loved by children and adults;
b) have quality language, story and illustrations (in the case of picture books); and,
c) make you want to turn the page

I've offered links to these books most of which are still in print and pretty much all that can still be found, borrowed or bought. Happy reading!

Books for Preschoolers (to be read to and with children aged 0-4 years) 

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston

All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton
Battles in the Bath  by Peter Pavey
Bears in the Night  by Stan and Jan Berenstein
Belinda by Pamela Allen
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Do You Know What Grandad Did? By Brian Smith
Dog In, Cat Out by Gillian Rubenstein
Don’t Forget the Bacon by Pat Hutchins
Duckat by Gaelyn Gordon
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles
Edwina the Emu by Sheena Knowles
Flight illustrated by Armin Greder and written by Nadia Wheatley
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Grandpa and Thomas by Pamela Allen
Grandpa and Thomas and the Green Umbrella by Pamella Allen
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
Looking for Crabs by Bruce Whately
Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake 
Mother, Mother, I Want Another by Maria Polushkin Robbins
My Dad by Anthony Browne
One Hungry Spider by Jeannie Baker
One Dragon’s Dream by Peter Pavey
Peepo by Janet and Allen Ahlberg 
Something about a Bear by Jackie Morris
The Day the Crayons Quit' by Drew Daywalt
The Lion & Mouse by Jerry Pinkey
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister 
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise
The Singing Hat by Tohby Riddle
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Story of Chicken Licken by Jan Ormerod
The Trouble with Dad by Babette Cole
The Trouble with Mum by Babette Cole
The Waterhole by Graeme Base
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Time for Bed by Mem Fox
When I’m Feeling range of books by Trace Moroney
Willy's Stories by Anthony Browne

Books for Children Ages 4-7 (the following titles are suitable to be read to younger readers or can be read by beginning readers)

A.B. Paterson’s Mulga Bill’s Bicycle by Kilmeny & Deborah Niland
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Animalia by Graeme Base
Aranea: A Story About a Spider by Jenny Wagner
Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman 
Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall
Counting on Frank by Rod Clement
Cowardly Clyde by Bill Peet
Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Conner
Fantastic Mr Fox, by Roald Dahl
Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss
Granpa by John Burningham
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
Hubert’s Hair-raising Adventure by Bill Peet
I Was Only Nineteen by John Schumann and illustrated by Craig Smith
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
In My Back Yard by Nette Hilton & Anne Spudvilas
Irving the Magician by Tohby Riddle
John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner
Journey written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Lester and Clyde by James Reece
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Locomotive by Brian Floca
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
My Hiroshima by Junko Morimoto
My Two Blankets, illustrator Freya Blackwood, text by Irena Kobald
No Kiss for Mother by Tomi Ungerer
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
One Minute's Silence, illustrator Michael Camilleri, text David Metzenthen
Petunia by Roger Duvoisin
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year of Colors, by Joyce Sidman
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
Sunshine by Jan Ormerod
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo 
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
The Banana Bird and the Snake Men by Percy Trezise and Dick Roughsey
The Bears’ ABC Book by Robin & Jocelyn Wild 
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
The Christmas Eve Ghost, by Shirley Hughes
The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins
The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
The Fisherman and the Theefyspray by Jane Tanner
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allen Ahlberg
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda & David Armitage
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
The Rainbow Serpent by Dick Roughsey
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter 
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The Story of Shy the Platypus by Leslie Rees
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Tough Boris by Mem Fox
What Made Tiddalik Laugh by Joanna Troughton
Wheel on the Chimney by Margaret Wise Brown
Where’s Julius by John Burningham
Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker
Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Whistle Up the Chimney by Nan Hunt
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Books for Children Ages 8-10 (many of these books can be read to children aged 6-8 or can be read by most children aged 9-10 years)

A Dream of Stars by Brian Caswell
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
A Little Fear by Patricia Wrightson 
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Callie’s Castle by Ruth Park
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver
Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles. America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone 
Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl
Grandma Cadbury’s Trucking Tales by Dianne Bates
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling 
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
James and the Giant Peach: A Children’s Story by Roald Dahl
Jodie’s Journey by Colin Thiele
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mike by Brian Caswell
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Paw Thing by Paul Jennings
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
'Requiem for a Beast' by Matt Ottley 
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Rowan of Rin series by Emily Rodda
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner 
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
The 27th Annual African Hippopotamus Race by Morris Lurie
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byars
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Pinballs by Betsy Byars
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide
The Super-Roo of Mungalongaloo by Osmar White
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
The Village Dinosaur by Phyllis Arkle
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon written by Grace Lin
Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein

Books for children aged 10-13+

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay
Boss of the Pool, by Robin Klein
Boy by Roald Dahl
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, by Mark Haddon
Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda
Dragonkeeper Trilogy (Carole Wilkinson)
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by K.G. Campbell
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian 
Lord of the Rings, JR Tolkien
Merryl of the Stones by Brian Caswell
Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Old Kingdom series, by Garth Nix
Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Slave Girl: The Diary of Clotee, Virginia, USA 1859 by Patricia McKissack
Sounder, by William H. Armstrong
Strange Objects by Gary Crew
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
The Hobbit by JR Tolkein
The Fire in the Stone by Colin Thiele
The Ice is Coming by Patricia Wrightson
The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
The Stone Quartet by Alan Garner
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn 
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Wizard of Earthsea trilogy by Ursula Le Guin