Best Books of 2014
Pre-K to Elementary School
Reviewed by Amanda Allen, Felicia Barman and Sherry Crawley.
Real Kid Reads
Alexander, Who’s Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever
by Judith Viorst; illustrated by Isidre Mones
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99)
Alexander is having yet another bad day as he must face consequences for trying to hide the fact that he ate an entire box of jelly doughnuts. As he tries to turn over a new leaf by only doing nice things, readers will laugh at the humorous situations Alexander must face in his effort to be the “best boy ever” for the rest of his life. My three boys were captivated by all of Alexander’s shenanigans, and they couldn’t wait to see if Alexander would succeed with his goal. (FB)
Tell me about this book.
Alexander made a bad choice, and he wants to be the best boy ever so that he never has to face consequences again for
the rest of his life.
What do you like about this book?
I like that Alexander is still trying to think of good places to hide a doughnut box at the end of the story.
What is your favorite part?
When Alexander was trying hard to be the best boy ever even when his brothers and friends made it hard for him was my favorite part.
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall (Penguin Young Readers Group, $17.99)
It’s the age-old question that often catches parents off guard: “Where do babies come from?” This poignant book will be a valuable addition to any household expecting a baby as a curious little boy asks this question upon learning he’s going to be a big brother. The author cleverly uses a seed, an egg, a hospital, and even a stork to help explain how babies arrive without getting too technical. The Q&A section at the end also serves as a great resource for more inquiring minds. (FB)
The Bambino and Me by Zachary Hyman; illustrated by Zachary Pullen (Tundra Books, $17.99)
This is a heartwarming story about a young baseball fan named George who has a chance meeting with his idol, Babe Ruth. The relatable storyline and vivid illustrations help convey the theme of never giving up as George must overcome his fear of striking out during baseball games and the challenge of fitting in with his peers. Readers are sure to root for George as he cherishes words of wisdom from his favorite baseball legend. (FB)
Ben and Zip by Joanne Linden; illustrated by Tom Goldsmith (Flashlight Press, $16.95)
Parents will gain a child’s perspective in this adventure featuring two short friends named Ben and Zip who become separated while strolling on a crowded boardwalk at the beach. As poor Ben frantically searches high and low for his friend, he can only see knees when he stands, all kinds of bellies when he stands on a bench, and way too much hair while standing on a tables. Ben’s resourcefulness to find his friend shows readers that you should never give up, no matter what size you are! (FB)
Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon (Sterling Children’s Books, $14.95)
This isn’t Old MacDonald’s farm! This book puts the reader in the mind of a farm where dinosaurs live. How would you go about washing a dinosaur? And just what might happen if you leave the gate unlocked? This clever book is imaginative and the illustrations are funny. Plus, there’s a big mountain of poo. (SC)
Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut EVER!
by Jeff Cohen; illustrated by Elanna Allen (Harper Collins Children’s Books, $17.99)
It can be a parent’s worst nightmare when their children decide to give themselves a haircut – or better yet, give their sibling a haircut! This whimsical story of two sisters, illustrated with playful pencil and watercolor images, teaches children that there are consequences when they take matters into their own hands. This is sure to be a good lesson for youngsters when it comes to asserting independence and making good choices. (FB)
Hermelin the Detective Mouse by Mini Grey (Random House, $10.99)
Will Bernando Bosher find his goldfish? Did someone steal Lady Chumley-Plumley’s diamond bracelet? A clever mouse-turned-detective named Hermelin saves the residents of his street from multiple calamities, but what will they think when they discover that a MOUSE is behind the sleuthing? This book teaches the power of observation, the importance of acceptance, and in the end, the fun of friendship. (SC)
How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99)
“To grandmother’s house we go!” is the setting for this endearing story of role reversal. A little girl creates a guide on how to entertain her grandmother after her parents drop her off at her grandmother’s house for an overnight stay. Readers will want to borrow some of her activity ideas, like having a costume parade, dressing up as twins, baking snickerdoodles, or having a dancing puppet show, to name a few. Grandmother is certain to miss her little guest when the visit comes to an end. (FB)
If Kids Ruled the World by Linda Bailey; illustrated by David Huyck (Kids Can Press, $16.95)
The sky’s the limit in this vividly illustrated “what-if” fantasy of kids ruling the world. Young readers can’t help but giggle at the thought of no bedtimes, having elephants as pets, living in castles, never having to take baths, and many more outlandish ideas. Get ready to add this story to the bedtime collection, as this is one dream that is sure to never get old! (FB)
Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Tundra Books, $17.99)
If your kid will only eat hot dogs and cookies, this book is definitely worth a try. Meet young Julia Child and her bestie Simca. They set out to cook an amazing meal intended to help busy grown-ups remember the joys of childhood. Everyone doesn’t behave well and things get out of hand, but Julia and Simca work together toward success. A delightful read for the elementary set and a reminder to adults to enjoy life. This sweet book is a delicious read. (SC)
Me First by Max Kornell (Nancy Paulsen Books, $16.99)
Witness sibling rivalry at its finest when Hal and Martha try to outdo each other in every possible way. Little do they know that it’s not always advantageous to be “first”, and they learn an important life lesson on being gracious and taking turns. This book is a must-read for families struggling with constant competition among children, and the sweet ending is sure to hit home. (FB)
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, $16.95)
Tenacity, creativity, and curiosity – all qualities we want to reinforce in our children. In this book, meet “a regular girl and her best friend in the whole wide world” – who happens to be an adorable and silly dog. Part inventor’s story, part lesson on trial-and-error, this book out is sure to be a favorite. (SC)
My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge, illustrated by Erwin Madrid (Minoan Moon Publishing, $10.99)
How do we help our children learn to express their emotions? Whether your family has experienced the loss of a loved one or pet, or if your child is struggling with transition, this beautifully illustrated book chronicles a little boy who loses a treasured bright yellow balloon. In the end, his feelings of sadness and confusion are replaced by gratitude for love. (SC)
Octopus’s Garden by Ringo Starr, illustrated by Ben Cort (Simon and Schuster, $18.99)
Forty-five years after the release of the Abbey Road album, the lyrics of the enchanting Octopus’s Garden have been transformed into a children’s book with colorful, energetic illustrations. Some stories really are timeless, and the undersea adventures in the Octopus’s Garden are perfect for using your imagination and creativity. You will find yourself singing out loud! (SC)
Real Kid Reads
The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House
by Eric Litwin; illustrated by Scott Magoon
(Little, Brown and Company, $18)
Georgia’s own Eric Litwin, known for authoring the first four Pete the Cat adventures, is now trying to crack some new characters. This playful and catchy bedtime story comes with a free song and lullaby to download, and I dare you to stop singing them. I asked my son why he likes this story so much – it’s now in regular rotation in our house. (SC)
Tell me about this book.
It’s about a family that are all different kinds of nuts. And the kid nuts won’t go to bed!
What do you like about this book?
It makes me feel giggly. And I like singing the song because sometimes I don’t want to go to bed, either.
Who is your favorite nut?
Big Mama Nut because she loves them even when they are being bad.
Ordinary People Change the World: I am Amelia Earhart and I am Abraham Lincoln
by Brad Meltze; illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Penguin, $12.99 each)
Admit it: it is hard to imagine a legend like Abraham Lincoln ever being a kid. This exciting new series about notable historical figures manages to reveal new stories and make larger-than-life people seem adorably real. How would young Abraham handle a bully? How exactly did little Amelia Earhart come to love flying (hint: her grandmother was NOT happy about it!)? Although some of the vocabulary is advanced, the lessons in these biographies for the elementary set are informative and approachable. (SC)
Phoebe G. Green: Lunch Will
Never Be the Same
Phoebe G. Green: Farm Fresh Fun
by Veera Hiranandani; illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy (Grosset & Dunlap, $9.35 each)
There’s never a dull moment with Phoebe, an adventurous third-grader who finds herself in all kinds of sticky situations involving developing new friendships while maintaining old ones as well as learning to always tell the truth. As a bonus, the comical drawings will add to the hilarity of these stories. (FB)
Wake Up, Rupert! by Mike Twohy (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99)
We’ve all been there – we dread waking up to the sound of the alarm clock before daylight, but for a rooster named Rupert, this is his daily routine. He’s responsible for waking up his entire farm each morning until he decides to trade places with his pal Sherman the Sheep. A major mishap occurs when Sherman takes over wake-up duties, and Rupert’s experience teaches readers that sometimes we need to embrace important roles and rise to the occasion. (FB)
The Trouble With Magic
Magic in the Park
by Ruth Chew (Random House, $15.99 each)
These enchanting stories of everyday magic were first published in the 1970s, long before anyone had ever heard of Hogwarts. Children struggling with making friends and fitting in find fantastic adventures in these charming classics. From trees that move around to different places to magicians in bottles, these stories are hard to put down until they are all done! (SC)