Best Books of 2013

Pre-K to Elementary School

Bluebird by Bob Staake (Random House Children’s Books, ages 4-8, $17.99)
Like soothing classical music, this enchanting book has no words, but it won’t even occur to you to miss them. Created by New Yorker cover artist Bob Staake, the crisp angles of a city juxtaposed with a muted color palette allow the story to shine through. Gently and deftly handling issues of loneliness and friendship, of loss and hope, this wordless volume is thoughtful and tender. – Sherry Crawley

Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale; illustrations by Guy Francis (Harper, ages 4-8, $17.99)
Clark is really excited about school. Maybe even too excited. He plays a little too rough and talks a little too loudly until his teacher tells him: sometimes the rule is stay cool! Clark comes up with fun rhymes to help him remember, like, “Easy does it, that’s the way. Then my friends will let me play.” He makes new friends thanks to his rhymes, and that’s something to be excited about. – SC

Ding Dong! Gorilla! by Michelle Robinson; illustrations by Leonie Lord (Peachtree Publishers, ages 4-8, $15.95)
A little boy answers the door expecting a pizza delivery and finds a gorilla on his doorstep instead. But that’s not the bad news. An easy to follow repetitive structure tells the goofy tale of a mischief-maker creating mayhem while mom is otherwise occupied. The gorilla is depicted in funny situations, creating messes while trying on mom’s dresses and trying to bake a cake! Readers know all along who is really to blame, and enjoy being in on the joke. – Dalia Faupel

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No! by Ilona Lammertink; illustrations by Lucie Georger (Clavis Publishing, ages 5-7, $15.95)
“No” can be a hard word to say, especially when you’re scared your friends won’t like you anymore, or you don’t want to hurt your friends’ feelings. This book provides realistic scenarios and sends a profound message to children by pointing out that when you say “yes” to your friends, you’re really saying “no” to yourself. Parents can use this book as a tool when trying to teach their children how to be assertive and true to themselves. – Felicia Barman

Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, ages 4-8, $16.99)
A friendly-looking purple monster named Larry introduces a red button (it’s not 3D; it’s just part of the illustrations) but tells readers to not push it. He then changes his mind and whispers, “You should give the button one little push.” Who could say no? When the button gets pushed, some surprising things happen to Larry! Kids have fun pushing the button, shaking the book, and scratching Larry’s tummy. This is a winner for reading aloud to a group. – DF

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (Scholastic Press, ages 5 and older, $17.99)
Hilarious! In this picture book, an exclamation mark wonders where he fits in when he realizes he’s not like his other punctuation friends. He’s so sad, he thinks about running away. Suddenly, a curious question mark appears and changes his whole life. In response to tons of questions, he finds out what he does best: exclaiming words and phrases! Yippee! – DF

Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder (Abrams Books for Young Readers, ages 4-8, $16.95)
Little T is afraid to go to the zoo, but she can’t remember what scared her there. Her family plays a guessing game to help her recall, with wonderful illustrations, including Dad in a pink tutu. Little T learns to face her fears, then it’s her sister’s turn. – Amanda Allen

Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin (HarperCollins, ages 4-8, $15.99)
Four grey monsters love playing with colors, first making primary colors then making secondary colors. The bright colors splashed all over the pages will catch the eye of toddlers and older kids alike, especially at the book’s conclusion when the monsters make “SUPER tropical MEGA monster rainbow swirl with raspberry on TOP!” Kids will enjoy pointing out the colors the monsters make throughout the story, hooking them in to make a variety of colors of their own after reading. – Kevin Powell

My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page; illustrations by Steve Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, ages 4-8, $16,99)
This sweet book goes through the various rites of passage that different animals encounter during the first 24 hours of life. In first-person accounts, each newborn animal shares its own eye-opening experience of riding piggyback with its mother, taking its first steps, snuggling in its father’s feathers and more. A helpful glossary gives more insight into these amazing young creatures. – FB

My New Teacher and Me! by Al Yankovic; illustrations by Wes Hargis (Harper, ages 4-8, $17.99)
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the author of this book is who you think he is – the Weird Al Yankovic well known to those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s. His quirky and exaggerated sense of humor comes through in this whopper of a tall tale. Is Billy telling the truth? Well, ask his new teacher, Mr. Booth. With impeccable rhyme and silly illustrations, this book will be a hit with any kid with an adventurous spirit. – SC
 
Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus based on the creation of James Dean (Harper, ages 4-8, $9.99)
You might think you know this classic ditty, but everybody’s favorite blue cat brings a decidedly cool spin to this groovy book. With Pete at the wheel, the cats and dogs on the big yellow bus have a rockin’ ride to school. Pete’s creator is Atlanta-area artist James Dean. If you don’t have any Pete the Cat books in your collection, start now! – SC

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts (Abrams Books for Young Readers, ages 5 and older, $16.95)
Rosie Revere is a quiet child by day, an inventor/engineer by night. Urged on by her Aunt Rosie, who is based on the fictional Rosie the Riveter of World War II, Rosie Revere builds a heli-o-cheese-copter that she thinks is a failure, until her aunt shows her it’s not. The inspiring story is a rhyme and the artwork is colorful and detailed. – AA

Splat and the Cool School Trip by Rob Scotton (Harper Collins Children’s Books, ages 4-8, $17.99)
Students can’t help but get excited about an upcoming school field trip, and Splat the Cat is no exception. When the Cat School plans a trip to the zoo, he is bursting with anticipation to see the penguins. Unfortunately, poor Splat misses his opportunity when the field trip goes awry thanks to his mischievous friend Seymour. Now it’s up to Seymour to make it up to his friend Splat so that maybe he can have his “Penguin Day” after all. – FB

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, ages 4-8, $15.99)
Once you read this book, you will be convinced that all trees are magic. Your children will be tapping, wiggling, shaking and clapping to help the seasons change. With crisp illustrations and careful rhyme, this book will appeal to a wide age range of children and help them learn the magical ways a tree changes through the year. – SC 

Toys in Space by Mini Grey (Random House Children’s Books, ages 5-8, $16.99)
Do you feel like you spend half your life telling your kids to put away their toys? Have you felt the panic of a misplaced lovey? Yeah, we’ve all been there. This fun storybook will remind your kids of the importance of taking care of their things …and make them wonder what happens to their toys when they don’t – like maybe having an adventure on a spaceship. – SC

Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth; illustrations by Jeffrey Ebbeler (Peachtree Publishers, ages 4-8, $15.95)
Vibrant illustrations bring to life the story of a boy who is left in the care of his older sister one afternoon. He wants her to read to him from his book about tigers, but she’s busy reading her own book. During lunch, a growling tiger appears in the boy’s soup, and leaps from the bowl! A battle ensues, with the boy employing plenty of familiar kitchen items to defend himself. Finally, his sister agrees to read to him and the tiger suddenly disappears. Was it ever really there? Young readers will have their theories. – DF