This Year’s Books Worth a Look

Atlanta Parent believes that nurturing a love of books early on leads to a youngster becoming a lifelong reader. We’re always on the lookout for a storybook that touches or inspires us in a new way, or helps us understand a topic from a different perspective. Our reviewers of these new 2011 titles  – Felicia Barman, Kevin Powell, Ann Hardie and Julie Bookman – all love children’s books and have longtime experience in the genre.

 

[ Board Books ]

You Are My Cupcake
by Joyce Wan
(Cartwheel Books, $6.99)
If looking for more terms of endearment for your little one, this adorable board book is sure to make both of you smile. The author uses a collection of feel-good food choices, from “sweet pea” to “cutie pie,” to capture some of the phrases we use to show our affection for young loved ones.  – FB  

Crocodile
by Luana Rinaldo
(Robin Corey Books, $5.99)
Join Crocodile in the jungle as she searches for her mommy in this vibrant, playful short story. This is no ordinary board book – instead, it’s part of the “Clackers” series with solid foam-and-board construction and a finger hole in the handle. It’s just the thing to dangle from a toddler’s stroller for entertainment. And young tykes seem to love the joyful clacking noise these books make. – FB  

Playing
by Liesbet Slegers
(Clavis Books, $5.95)
Oh, to be young again. This board book highlights the simple things in a toddler’s daily life, such as playing with cars, balls, blocks and books – just to name a few. The basic text and sweet pictures help little ones understand how to interact with their favorite toys and enjoy new activities. This is also a great book for early readers as they learn to recognize familiar words about fun topics. – FB  

Pooh Loves
by Andrew Grey
(Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99)
Ages 3-5
Return to the classics with this nostalgic look at Winnie the Pooh and all of his favorite things, including honey, of course. Pooh’s cherished friends make an appearance, and the sketch-like illustrations depict the “old school” version of one of Disney’s most beloved characters. A keepsake to treasure.  – FB 

 

[ Preschool ]

The Big Baby Book
by Guido Van Genechten
(Clavis Books, $12.95)
This simple book is ideal for children with a baby brother or sister on the way. It compares and contrasts all different types of babies and how they adjust to their new surroundings. Children will learn that people and animals all start out small and have needs that must to be tended to. Most importantly, babies need a reliable older sibling to help welcome them into the world.  – FB       

King Jack & The Dragon
by Peter Bently
(Dial Books for Young Readers, $17.99)
Young King Jack and his loyal subjects are on the ultimate play date as they escape to an imaginary world where a homemade fort serves as an impressive castle, equipped with a drawbridge and all. They must prepare for battle against gigantic dragons and hairy beasts while taking breaks for snack time and an early bedtime for one of the gallant “knights.” This is an enchanting bedtime tale in which bravery saves the day. – FB 

My Daddy
by Guido Van Genechten
(Clavis Books, $12.95)
Fathers all around can relate to this heart-warming story about a little boy named John and his beloved Daddy. Told from John’s point of view, we get to take a peek at the special relationship between father and son as they do all of the fun things that boys can especially appreciate, like dangling from Daddy’s arm or flying high above his head. This is a must-read in honor of Father’s Day. – FB 

Say What?
by Angela DiTerlizzi
(Simon and Schuster, $15.99)
A book about animal sounds for the littlest readers. Preschoolers will enjoy decoding the rhyming words and taking “picture walks” through this superbly illustrated book. – KP 

If You Give a Dog a Donut
by Laura Numeroff
(HarperCollins, $16.99)
From the team that brought us If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and other such romps comes another winner. The lovable dog from If You Give a Pig a Party is the star here and he loves donuts. But if you give him a donut, he’ll need some apple juice, then want more, so he’ll need to pick apples – and the next thing you know, he’ll want to play pirate and make a kite. The one-thing-leads-to-another formula is golden and the artwork is energetic and fun. – JB  

Take Me Out to the Ball Game
by Mark Meyers
(Candy Cane Press, $10.99)
For all youngsters and their folks who love to sing the beloved baseball anthem. Kids can practice reading and harmonizing as they sing along with the book. The words are included in the text of the book, but are omitted from the audio recording. – KP 

Love My Shoes
by Eileen Spinelli
(Candy Cane Press, $7.99)
Author of many favorites, including Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch and The Way I Feel, Spinelli this time around celebrates that fashion-conscious kid’s favorite accessory…shoes! The girls in the story wear shoes fit for fairy princesses, cowgirls, a snowfall, a day at the beach, and walks in the park. – KP

Oops!
by Leo Timmers
(Clavis Books, $15.95)
Yikes, watch out, world – here I come! Even though his parents told him not to do it alone, a little piggy goes whooshing down the snow-covered hill on a sled. Penguins with crazy hats and alligators in matching ski sweaters are among the obstacles in his way, and the little piggy must figure out lickety-split how to keep himself from crashing. His folks are at the bottom of the hill, and their expressions say they’re not happy. This utterly delightful wild ride with bold and bright art was first published in 2008 in Dutch, and this is its first (and most welcome) English translation. – JB


[ Early Elementary & Up ]

Waiting for the Biblioburro
by Monica Brown
(Tricycle Press, $16.99)
Bookworms will appreciate this inspiring story, which tells about a hard-working young farm girl who yearns for the opportunity to read more books. Instead, she must settle for the only book she owns; she even knows it by heart. The girl’s prayers are finally answered when a traveling library arrives in the form of a man and his two burros laden with books. We learn that books are indeed treasures in all cultures, and the author further gets the point across by translating several Spanish words infused throughout the story.  – FB  

Just a Second: A Different Way to Look at Time
by Steve Jenkins
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $16.99)
Little-known facts abound in this compilation of things that occur in our daily lives and all around us in the matter of one second, one minute, one hour, and so on. Think of this book as a mini science lesson, and be prepared to learn something you didn’t already know – such as that a woodpecker taps a tree trunk with its beak 20 times in one second. This book makes for great trivia and learning for the entire family. – FB  

Lots of Dots
by Craig Frazier
(Chronicle Books, $15.99)
Kids will have fun using their imagination to realize that colorful dots make up the world around us. This lively, rhyming tale points out that dots come in all sizes and are found all over the place: on tiny ladybugs, as perfectly round ice cream scoops, as stars in the sky, or on the coats of spotted dogs. Youngsters will be challenged to pay special attention to their surroundings and continue to identify dots in their everyday lives.  – FB

The View at the Zoo
by Kathleen Long Bostrom
(Ideal’s Children’s Books $14.99)
We get a unique backstage pass to the zoo as we witness all of the animals prepping for opening day in this witty rhyming story. A mischievous monkey and a trusty zookeeper serve as our guides, making sure the animals are on their best behavior as they eagerly anticipate their visitors. Readers will definitely come away with a new appreciation for a day in the life of zoo animals. – FB 

Chirchir Is Singing
by Kelly Cunnane
(Schwartz and Wade Books, $17.99)
This sweet book takes place in far-away Kenya and explores a universal dilemma: Children want to help but children can get underfoot. After upturning everything from her mother’s water bucket to her father’s sack of potatoes, Chirchir, usually a joyful child, stops singing. Only after discovering a crying baby does the little girl find the soothing power in her song and a task in which she shines. Brilliant illustrations, along with some vocabulary in Swahili and Kalejin, give children an engaging glimpse into a simple yet rewarding life in Africa.  – AH

A Book of Sleep
by Il Sung Na
(Alfred A. Knopf, $6.99)
Parents may have trouble staying awake as they read this soothing bedtime story to their children. The story is told from a watchful owl’s perspective as he spends the night observing a variety of other creatures and how they sleep. As a bonus, the story has some informative moments. We learn that penguins sleep huddled together and pigeons sleep with one eye open. Who knew? Each page in this peaceful tale is a work of art.  – FB

Bumble-Ardy
by Maurice Sendak
(Michael Di Capua/HarperCollins, $17.95)
Bumble-Ardy had no party when he turned one./ (His immediate family frowned on fun). That’s the opening of Sendak’s first picture book – as both author and illustrator –
in 30 years. Some will recall that the mischievious pig Bumble-Ardy first hit the scene in an animated “Sesame Street” segment in the 1970’s. Bumble-Ardy doesn’t have a birthday party until age nine, so you can bet it will be quite a doozy. Countless friends spring to giddy life in another storybook bursting with Sendak’s uniquely expressive artistic genius. Destined to become another treasure from the author of Where the Wild Things Are. – JB

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
by Eric Carle
(Philomel Books $17.99)
The acclaimed author does not disappoint in his latest offering about a young boy who proudly creates a fine masterpiece painting of a blue horse. Readers are treated to a collection of gorgeous renderings of animals that seem to leap off of each page with vivid colors and movement. Even a rare polka-dotted donkey becomes a stroke of genius. This is a book of few words – the pictures tell the story. – FB  

Every Thing On It
by Shel Silverstein
(HarperCollins, $19.99)
What a treat that a brand-new book of poetry has arrived from the playful wordsmith Shel Silverstein (who died in 1999). Boys and girls will love these poems, and so will their elders. They are reminiscent of the master’s old favorites from classics such as A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends. – KP  

Zoozical
by Judy Sierra
(Alfred A. Knopf, $17.99)
A great companion picture book to Judy Sierra and Marc Brown’s wildly popular book, Wild About Books. To stave off the doldrums of winter, the same animals in Wild About Books who discover a love of reading decide to put on a musical for the entire zoo to enjoy. If you haven’t read “Wild,” there’s a new, interactive iPad app of the story that kids will have fun listening to and playing with over and over again. – KP  

His Shoes Were Far Too Tight
Selected by Daniel Pinkwater
(Chronicle Books, $16.99)
Pinkwater, author of several acclaimed children’s books and a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, where he reviews and recommends children’s books, selects his favorite Edward Lear poems for a new generation of kids. Although they were penned more than a hundred years ago, these non-sensical and downright silly poems can keep today’s kids puzzled and laughing.  – KP  

Over and Under the Snow
by Kate Messner
(Chronicle Books, $16.99)
Those who fondly recall Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon, the wondrous story that follows a boy and his father strolling on a beautiful moonlit night to see a great horned owl, should not miss this new story. Like Yolen’s classic, Messner’s book captures the simple moments when we marvel at the wonders of wilderness.  – KP  

11 Experiments That Failed
by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter
(Schwartz & Wade Books, $16.99)
A fun book to share with kids who love science and the step-by-step process of doing experiments. A young girl does wacky experiments, from seeing if a piece of bologna will fly like a Frisbee, to finding out what makes fungus grow. – KP  

The Man in the Moon
by William Joyce
(Simon and Schuster, $17.99)
The story of how MiM (the Man in the Moon) became the founding member of the guardians of childhood will draw children in, but the bold, gorgeous illustrations will keep them rapt. This beautiful book is one to be passed down from generation to generation. – AH  
 


Blowin’ in the Wind
by Bob Dylan, illustrations by Jon J. Muth
(Sterling, all ages, $17.95)
How many seas must the white dove sail / Before she sleeps in the sand? Picture books spun from a familiar song are often cheesy, but Dylan’s 1963 folk song makes for an exception with this rendering. Soft and dreamy watercolor illustrations depict small children romping and reflecting in beautiful natural settings – from rolling fields to rugged arctic vistas. Dylan’s timeless lyrics are graceful poetry, and the song’s themes of peace, hope and wonder prove evergreen. Parents who can carry a tune have a small advantage, because the book comes with a CD of Dylan’s original recording. – JB


[ Upper Elementary ]

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile
by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb (HarperCollins, $16.99)
Most parents of youngsters today are too young themselves to recall the highlight of the week or the month in small towns across America: the bookmobile chugging through to collect borrowed books and offer up new selections. Lovingly told amid nicely detailed illustrations that smack of nostalgia, this story celebrates the joys of books and reading, while honoring human traits such as purpose and determination. Based on the true story of a beloved librarian who brought reading material to folks in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. – JB

The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book
by Sam Ita (Sterling, $26.95)
It’s a super-sturdy interactive pop-up book, a dazzling comic book-ish graphic novel, and one of the most famous stories of all time: the tale of Odysseus, legendary Greek king of Ithaca who had plenty of adventures while on his decade-long journey to return home following the Trojan War. Highly recommended for the whole family to enjoy together, and for that youngster who thinks books aren’t as stimulating as electronics. One word pops to mind and it’s Wow-za! – JB

A Storm Called Katrina
by Myron Uhlberg (Peachtree Publishers, $17.95)
Late August of 2005 seems like just yesterday in this touching recounting of Hurricane Katrina from a 10-year-old boy’s perspective. Although we already know the circumstances around this real-life event, readers are filled with suspense and given a sense of hope as the boy survives the storm with his family and bravely faces the challenges in the aftermath. Thankfully, the boy’s most prized possession, his brass horn, is the uplifting sign that everything is going to be OK. – FB 

Giant Steps to Change the World
by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
(Simon & Schuster, $16.99)
This inspirational book celebrates heroes such as Jesse Owens, Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Neil Armstrong, among many others. Kids will have fun piecing together the names and words about the famous people with their pictures. – KP
  

Heart and Soul: The Story
of America and African Americans
by Kadir Nelson (Balzer & Bay/HarperCollins, $19.99)
A wealth of masterful and dramatic paintings on extra-large pages complement this highly readable history of African Americans in this country. It was a stroke of genius to reveal that 450-year history in the straightforward, conversational voice of “Everywoman,” a narrator whose forebears first came to America as slaves. Kadir Nelson is one of the strongest talents in children’s books on the planet today, and this achievement is nothing short of stunning. Includes a superb timeline. – JB


Guys Read: Thriller
Edited by Jon Scieszka
(Walden Pond Press, $9.99)
Best known for his Time Warp Trio series and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) serves up a stirring collection of ghost stories and thrillers for ages 9-12. Children’s literature superstars including M.T. Anderson, Walter Dean Myers, and Gennifer Choldenko contribute. If you like the tone and style, you might also want to check out the first book in the Guys Library series called Guys Read: Funny Business. – KP  

The Worst-Case Scenario Survive-O-Pedia Junior Edition
by David Borgenicht, Molly Smith, Brendan Walsh and Robin Epstein
(Chronicle Books, $16.99)
For the sake of argument, let’s assume your kids won’t get attacked by a mountain lion, engulfed in quicksand or stranded on a deserted island, but they’ll love imagining those situations. This colorful, funny, easy-to-read book offers facts and survival techniques on 70 topics – from bull running to the Bermuda Triangle. While some of the situations seem far-fetched, others, including how to survive a fall through thin ice, could come in handy some day. – AH  
 

Lexie
by Audrey Couloumbis
(Random House, $15.99)
This very readable book takes on a complex topic confronting many kids: divorce. Even if your own marriage is strong, your child no doubt has friends whose parents have split. In this story, 10-year-old Lexie not only is coming to terms with her parents’ divorce, her dad now has a girlfriend – with two children! Although things are difficult for Lexie, she discovers that there is still a way for her to chart a new course. – AH

 

[ For Older Kids ]

Hats off to Ridgeview Charter School in Sandy Springs and its media specialist Taylor Wickline, who helped Atlanta Parent coordinate reviews of 2011 chapter books for that age group. We included as many of the Ridgeview students’ reviews as we had space for, but you can find the full batch on www.atlantaparent.com. All the titles here are highly recommended for middle school readers, but also good bets for upper-elementary students – unless we note that the book is geared for ages 12 and up.

Amos Daragon: The Mask Wearer
by Bryan Perro
(Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $16.99)
This is the very interesting fantasy tale of a boy, Amos Daragon, whose mother and father moved to Omain 12 years ago when looking for a nice place to live. Instead, they planted themselves in a land with a horrible, greedy king. In this story, Amos eventually goes to the Bay of Caverns to look for mussels. While there, he comes across a mermaid who chooses Amos to be the new mask wearer. Readers follow Amos on his journey to fulfill the mermaid’s quest. This is an exceptional story that I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy and adventure. 
– Abby Gibson, 8th grade

The Door in the Forest
by Roderick Townley
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99)
Here’s a fantastic, magical, adventure-packed book that I could hardly stop reading. It’s filled with suspense and unexpected surprises.
In this tale, three young children manage to enter a mysterious island protected by magical powers. However, they soon find themselves with the responsibility of protecting the island from the evil Captain Sloper.
I highly recommend this book to kids from elementary school and up. 
– Anna Shutley, 7th grade

Lost in the River of Grass
by Ginny Rorby (Carolrhoda Lab Books, $17.95) Ages 12 and up
Sarah, 13, is new at Glades Academy, and her freshmen classmates don’t make her feel welcome.
One weekend, Sarah’s science class takes a weekend trip to the Everglades. While on the trip, Sarah meets a boy her age named Andy who lives at the camp, and they go off on a boat trip through the Everglades that turns into a disaster. The two have to cross a river of grass that’s full of alligators!
This book contains romance, adventure and humor. I never wanted this story to end, and I can say it is the best book I have read this year. 
– Areyci Avila-Moran, 8th grade

Sign Language
by Amy Ackley (Viking Juvenile, $16.99)
Dads don’t die, right? In Sign Language, Abby’s only worry when her dad goes in for kidney surgery is how she’s going to survive the next 72 hours while stuck with her Aunt Fran. And when she learns her dad has cancer, she’s still not worried, because again, dads don’t just disappear, not even ones now confined to a hospital bed in the living room.
This novel will make you root for Abby, and shed some tears, too. I connected to the main character like I never have before. Ackley’s story made me feel how devastated and alone I would be if I were to lose my dad. 
– Hill Belfi, 7th grade

The Freedom Stone
by Jeffrey Kluger (Philomel, $16.99)
In this powerful Civil War-era story about slavery and freedom, Lillie is 13 when her father is killed fighting for the Confederate army. This is an act that should have freed her family, but when a sack of Union gold is found on her father’s person, he is proclaimed a thief, and their Master not only keeps the gold for himself, but refuses to free Lillie and her family.
Historical fiction and magical fantasy mesh together in this story of one slave child trying to right a wrong. There are many books out there on slavery, but this story by far is the most original – in my opinion. A great read and never a dull moment. 
– Kacie Blair, 8th grade

What Happened to Goodbye?
by Sarah Dessen (Viking Juvenile, $19.99)
Ages 12 and up
Sarah Dessen writes books that you wish would go on forever. In Dessen’s latest, a girl named Mclean is always having to move when her dad changes jobs. She has moved to a new town yet again and is expecting it to be like always: meet new friends, start a new life, then not tell anyone as you pack up and leave for the next destination.
This great story is filled with love, friendship and hard times. Mclean is a fun and strong character I could relate to. I loved reading about her fun and crazy friends because they reminded me of my fun and crazy friends who are always there for me, no matter what.
 – Lainey Young, 8th grade

Dead End in Norvelt
by Jack Gantos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15.99)
Jack Gantos is a real favorite with both elementary and middle school readers, and here’s another funny book from him. This story is part fiction and part autobiographical. Set in Western Pennsylvania in the 1960s, the story is told in the voice of a boy named Jack Gantos, who is grounded for the summer.
Young Jack’s nose starts bleeding every time something creeps him out. He is only allowed to leave home to help old Mrs. Volker, the town historian and medical examiner, write obituaries (because she can barely use her hands anymore).
This book has plenty of surprises. It’s a good read, and I would recommend it to everyone – especially history lovers, because Jack’s a history buff. 
– Wesley Smith, 8th grade

Big Nate Out Loud
by Lincoln Pierce
(Andrews McMeel , $9.99)
  Some kids want the fast-paced and artistic excitement of graphic novels and this one’s excellent. It’s funny and full of adventure. The story follows a kid named Nate who is really naughty. He loves to mess around with his teachers and get sent to detention. He also likes to hang out with his friends, Teddy and Francis.
Most of the novel follows the kids’ adventures over summer vacation. Any middle schooler will love this book. It’s packed with humor. 
– Cerjio Vasques-Mejia, 7th grade

A World Without Heroes
by Brandon Mull (Aladdin, $19.99)
The great news is that this is the first book in a new series called Beyonders. The story is fantastic: full of adventure, action and magic – and just as exciting as it is unpredictable. I never knew what would happen on the next page. I recommend this book to all who love adventure, fantasy, intrigue and magic. However, be warned: you won’t be able to put it down. Secondly: I can’t wait for the next two books to come out. 
– Asher Flanagan, 8th grade

You’ll Like it Here (Everybody Does)
by Ruth White (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $16.99)
Newbery Honor winner Ruth White has done it again with this terrific story about expression and freedom of speech.
The Blues have managed to escape their polluted home planet of Chroma, only to land in a far worse place, Fashion City. In this weird parallel universe, the land is ruled by the so-called “Fathers,” people are arrested for being “grossly unique” or for daring to express themselves, or for criticizing the Fathers. Can the Blues escape this unusual planet? 
– Kennedi Jackson, 7th grade