Children's Book Week | Celebrating Stories and Reading

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Children's Book Week, November 4–10, with titles that salute the magic of stories and pleasures of reading. 

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Children's Book Week, November 4-10, with titles that salute the magic of stories and the pleasures of reading.

redstar ALEXANDER, Kwame. How To Read a Book. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062307811.
PreS-Gr 2–Award-winning poet Alexander compares reading a book to peeling the gentle skin of a clementine, digging in to its juiciness, enjoying it “piece by piece, part by part,” until you can “watch a novel world unfurl right before your eyes.” And who better to illustrate this delicious poem than Caldecott Honoree Sweet. The artwork is done in watercolor, gouache, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers, found objects including old book covers, and a paint can lid. Not a splash of color, a piece of paper, or a line is out of place. Starting with the initial collage that incorporates the building blocks of reading (the letters A to Z) and the lines from a poem by Nikki Giovanni that careful readers will have to pay attention to see, the tone is set. “So get/real cozy/between/the covers/And let your/fingers wonder/as they wander…” for there is much to relish in this poem and its exuberant images. “Squeeze/every morsel/of each plump line/until the last/drop of magic/drips from the infinite sky.” The book includes a note from both the poet and the artist. VERDICT A beautiful book not to be rushed through, but to be enjoyed morsel by tasty morsel.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

BAER, Julien. The Book in the Book in the Book. tr. from French by Elizabeth Law. illus. by Simon Bailly. 56p. Holiday House. Jan. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823442430.
PreS-Gr 1–Young Thomas becomes bored when his parents take an after-lunch nap on the beach during their family vacation. To pass the time, Thomas goes for a walk, enjoying the scenery and the people. After a few hours, the boy realizes that he has lost his way. He looks down and discovers a worn little book. This book tells the exact same story of Thomas, but in a new location—the Alps! As young Thomas discovers that he is lost in this new version, he looks down and finds yet another book with the same tale and another location—outer space! Upon reaching the end of the third story, all three books wrap up nicely with Thomas reuniting with his parents and heading home. The format of this picture book for the very young will have readers excited—it truly is a small paperback book within a larger paperback book, within an average-sized, hardcover picture book. Translated from French, the stories are very simple and their repetitive nature will allow children to focus on the unique and surprising changes in setting. What looks to be a variety of print-making techniques make up the jewel-toned, full page illustrations. These pictures are key in adding suspense and interest to the plot. VERDICT Adventure in concept and story line will engage and excite young readers.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

COLE, Rachael. Mousie, I Will Read to You. illus. by Melissa Crowton. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Nov. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524715366.
Toddler-PreS–Cole teams with debut illustrator Crowton to chronicle methods of encouraging a wee mouse to fall in love with reading. Speaking in free verse, Mama explains how she will read simple stories to her infant, sing lullabies to the toddler, practice talk enrichment, and share visits to the library as her child grows older. She vows to listen to her child read and will sneak a peek as Mousie reads to his stuffed animals by flashlight. She promises “…one day before you know it, on a blanket in the forest, you will read a story to your baby.” Crowton’s digital spreads are cozy in detail, with big-eared mice in preppy clothes, and have tranquil palettes to reflect each setting. The final page offers tips for raising readers by a developmental-behavioral pediatrician. VERDICT The calming cadences and loving domestic scenes will please listeners, and adults will be gently guided in methods of inspiring lifelong learning.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

CZAJAK, Paul. The Book Tree. illus. by Rashin Kheiriyeh. 32p. Barefoot. Sept. 2018. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781782854050.
PreS-Gr 3–When young Arlo’s book falls from a tree branch and bonks the mayor on the head, the dignitary gathers and destroys every book in town. The only one that survives blows away and is buried beneath the soil. The mayor believes that books are dangerous because they are like seeds that sprout ideas and questions. Now teachers have no books to read aloud, actors have no scripts to perform, cooks have no cookbooks, and library shelves are bare. Arlo misses “getting lost” in a book, and, shedding large tears, writes “the end” in the dirt. Those two words inspire more, and soon Arlo is writing stories whose words fall on a sprout growing from the buried page. The sprout grows into a tree with story-filled branches. The townspeople grow hungry for books again and become “book gardeners themselves,” resulting in a town filled with book trees. Even the mayor, recognizing how the town has changed, begins to read. Kheiriyeh’s boldly colored oil-and-collage illustrations convey the joy and power of reading. They are filled with humor, too, as in images of a man climbing stairs with a teapot on his head and another riding a bicycle while eating a large ice cream cone. The gardening metaphor is carried throughout the lengthy text. VERDICT This ode to books and reading is a surefire choice for storytime.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

STAR DENISE, Anika Aldamuy. Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. illus. by Paola Escobar. 40p. bibliog. filmog. further reading. HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062748683.
K-Gr 3–A picture book biography of one of the most significant and inspiring figures in library history. Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, initially arrived in Manhattan to attend her sister's wedding. Intrigued perhaps by the "hustle and bustle" of this "new island," she decided to stay, finding temporary work as a seamstress. Belpré truly found her calling when she took a position as a bilingual assistant (the text notes that was she was, in fact, trilingual) at a neighborhood library, and went on to transform library services through culturally diverse storytelling, published books, and targeted outreach. Denise sprinkles her lyrical verse with Spanish, and emphasizes Belpré's love of stories, plucking the title of the book from her desire "to be like Johnny Appleseed...plant my story seeds across the land." Escobar's warm illustrations enliven the subject and carry the motif by depicting Belpré in impeccably stylish outfits and accessories detailed with floral patterns. Because of the composition style, readers are given only brief depictions of significant moments in Belpré's personal and professional life, but Denise provides a detailed author's note, summarizing Belpré's lasting impact, and includes a great amount of back matter. VERDICT An appealing tribute and successful remedy to the lack of titles about the groundbreaking librarian. This book pairs nicely with Lucia Gonzalez's The Storyteller's Candle, and is a must-have for all libraries.–Jessica Agudelo, New York Public Library

Hillenbrand, Will. Mighty Reader and the Big Freeze. illus. by Will Hillenbrand. 32p. Holiday House. Jul. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823439928.
PreS-Gr 1–Hugo’s first day at his new school is going to be pretty exciting, according to his new book-loving friend Barkley—there’s a substitute teacher and an author visit. Soon though, it’s Hugo’s alter ego Mighty Reader who is in the middle of the excitement. When Barkley freezes after Mrs. Wulff asks him to read the visiting author’s new picture book aloud to the class, Mighty Reader zips into action “faster than the eye could see.” He gets Barkley’s favorite book to remind him he’s a reader, then gives him advice on reading the new title—“Look for words you know. Think about what is happening in the pictures…read the pictures.” Soon Barkley is reading like a pro; even the visiting author is impressed. But, “Who was that masked superhero? Mighty Reader, my hero!” Then what seems like a second chapter begins as the author takes questions and explains his writing process. On the bus ride home Barkley declares to Hugo a sentiment sure to resonate, “I don’t think you can have too many favorite books!” Hillenbrand’s comic book style with word balloons and panels along with spreads is very successful at conveying his concepts and moving the story along. There are quite a few books in the illustrations, and it’s fun to note that they are all actual titles by author/illustrator Hillenbrand. This story clearly has two parts—helping Barkley overcome his reading freeze and the author’s (clearly Hillenbrand himself) visit. Each are successful and could easily be read separately; the decision to combine them in one book was an interesting choice. VERDICT This new title by the prolific author/illustrator combines overcoming the fear of reading aloud and how authors get their ideas and develop their books. Purchase as needed.–Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH

JOHNSTON, Tony. The Magic of Letters. illus. by Wendell Minor. 32p. Holiday House. Apr. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823441594.
PreS-Gr 1–A jaunty rabbit in a top hat guides readers through the world of letters in this enthusiastic new picture book. Letters have great power, readers learn, with the ability to form mighty words. Words can be slippery like trout, or limber like an acrobat. Some letters even form brand-new words, like swinkle! Words can then be strung together to form stories, like, “Carrots love dirt.” Accompanied by Minor’s mix of loose, light, and lively graphite drawings and colorful collage, Johnston’s text adeptly conveys enchantment. While entertaining, the narrative occasionally becomes so whimsical that it begins to lack meaning (“Noodles are quiet but they think deep thoughts”) and distract readers from the overall message of the importance of letters and words. VERDICT A fanciful and enthusiastic romp through Letterville that could spark a love of reading and writing in some children. Best for one-on-one sharing.–Laura Lintz, Henrietta Public Library, Rochester, NY

LLOYD, Megan Wagner. Building Books. illus. by Brianne Farley. 32p. Knopf. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524773670.
PreS-Gr 2–Katie loves everything about building with blocks—the little click they make as they snap together, the way they wobble and sometimes crash, and the feeling she gets when she creates something new. Her brother Owen feels the same way about books—their smell, the sound of rustling pages, and the feeling he gets when he reads a new book. One day at school, the siblings get into an argument about which is better, building or reading. The school librarian offers each of them a stack of books—one for Katie to read and one for Owen to shelve. Left to their own devices, Katie begins building bridges and towers out of her books, and her brother begins to read. But when Katie’s castle topples, she becomes absorbed in an engineering book and then another about cities, and so on. In the meantime, Owen, daunted at the task of shelving so many books, begins to build. The pair uses most of the books on the shelves to not only read together but to create something fantastic, much to the librarian’s dismay. The fanciful illustrations are rendered in ink and gouache and finished digitally against a white background. The endpapers feature an intricate array of white and colored books and blocks of different shapes and sizes. VERDICT This is a fun read-aloud with a great message about the powers of reading and making. ­Recommended for all collections.–Barbara ­Auerbach, Cairo Public Library, NY

LLOYD-JONES, Sally. Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too!). illus. by Neal Layton. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Jul. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399558184.
K-Gr 3–How do you write a book? This hilarious title shares exactly how to create one with step-by-step instructions. Filled with practical advice, this story will have young readers laughing and learning about the process of creating their own book. The main character, a young author, describes the writing process from beginning to end, everything from how to come up with a good idea, how to write a beginning and ending, and even how to sell your book. When giving a story example of a father who has lost his children, the narrator shares two different ending options: “Suddenly he found them. They were hiding in the closest. He was very happy. The End./If you want people to cry, you write a sad ending: Unfortunately, he didn’t ever find them. He was very disappointed.” The mixed-media illustrations are a perfect match for this story line and will give readers additional details to examine. VERDICT A fun and practical how-to that will find success in both public and school library shelves.–Brooke Newberry, Winding Rivers Library System, West Salem, WI

MACY, Sue. The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come. illus. by Stacy Innerst. 48p. glossary. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Oct. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481472203.
Gr 1-4–Aaron Lansky could not forget what his grandmother told him as a child. At the age of 16, she immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe. In his twenties, Lansky decided to find out more about his grandmother’s stories, which set him on a journey to learn how to speak and read Yiddish and to also locate Yiddish books. The result is the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA. Lansky’s story is a fascinating one, filled with book rescues and meeting older people who not only treasure books but what they represent. His disappointments and rewards in pursuing this passion are well portrayed. The narrative is both informative and engaging and includes Yiddish words, many of which have been incorporated into English. All appear in a glossary. An afterword by Lansky himself brings the Center and his work up to date. Illustrations intentionally call to mind the bold line and semi-abstraction of Russian-born artist Marc Chagall. ­VERDICT A potentially valuable addition to both school and public libraries as well as Jewish schools. Echoing Carole Boston Weatherford’s Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, the book’s narrative shows that pursuing interests can lead to meaningful and long-lasting results.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

PAUL, Miranda. Little Libraries, Big Heroes. illus. by John Parra. 40p. HMH/Clarion. Sept. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544800274.
Gr 1-4–When he was young, Todd’s mom, a teacher, shared her love and enthusiasm for books with him and the children in their neighborhood. When she died, adult Todd got an idea. “He cut up an old door and hammered the pieces together to make a tiny one-room schoolhouse. He stacked books inside…and placed the little library on his lawn. Now he could share his mother’s love of reading with anyone who passed by.” A neighborhood rummage sale was the spark that got his neighbors to notice the little library, and it became the center of the community. Todd told his friend Rick Brooks, and they worked together to bring their idea to life. Eventually, they planted 30 little libraries across the Midwest. The media spread the word, and Little Free Libraries sprouted all over the U.S. and other countries, including Ireland, Pakistan, South Korea, and South Sudan. An author’s note provides more background information and celebrates the creators of these libraries. “Building materials have included an old TV set, a telephone booth, newspaper vending machines, a medicine cabinet, a mini-refrigerator, electronic waste, Lego bricks, and even a large block of ice!” VERDICT The childlike acrylic illustrations and engaging text make this title accessible to young readers, but the story will appeal to and inspire all ages to join the movement. An important book recognizing a true ­everyday hero.–­Barbara Auerbach, Cairo Public ­Library, NY

ROWE, Chelsea H. Ebenezer Has a Word for Everything. illus. by Frank Dormer. 32p. Peachtree. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781561458486.
PreS-Gr 2–Ebenezer loves words so much that he writes them in his journal. He adds to his collection every day and tries to sell them at a modified lemonade stand. When he meets Fitzgerald, an idea collector who asks him questions, they are able to entertain their classmates and families with the stories they create together. Because Ebenezer has a hobby that is uncommon, the story touches on the moments he feels lonely and disappointed, but the digital illustrations never show him giving up. He remains a collector of words whether he’s at a grocery store (linguine), at home at his sister’s birthday party (exhausting), or at the library (habitat). Back matter includes a page of definitions and pronunciations. VERDICT This is an appealing book about building vocabulary and constructing stories, as well as an awesome and satisfying friendship story. A great addition to picture book shelves.–Tanya ­Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, Alta.

STAHL, Jon. Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesdays. illus. by Tadgh Bently. 40p. Scholastic. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338125511.
PreS-Gr 2–Two monsters regale readers with their storytelling prowess. The big blue, furry critter’s first few attempts leave the audience wanting more: “So, there’s this kid…. And he gets eaten by a dragon. The End!” A small, yellow creature with long, expressive ears, offers some editorial advice. Speech bubbles relay the funny kibitzing and brainstorming that ensues. The blue monster insists on having a hungry dragon as his main character, despite his pal’s sage warnings (“Dragon stories usually don’t end well… be careful what you wish for.”). Bentley’s bright, cartoon illustrations humorously relay the story-within-the story about a knight who escapes being swallowed by a dragon by the quick thinking of a “brave damsel” who points out “Ye Olde Dragon Menu” clearly states Tuesday’s dietary offerings are “noodles (only).” Just when the monsters think their tale is finished, Dennis the hungry dragon makes a reappearance, and the comical pair finds themselves on the meal plan. VERDICT This laugh-out-loud, metafictional romp will have young readers and writers hankering to create their own sequel.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont.

redstar STEWART, Sarah. This Book of Mine. illus. by David Small. 32p. Farrar. Aug. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374305468.
PreS-Gr 3–In a lovely salute to the power of reading, brief text meets exquisitely drawn pen and ink illustrations, brushed with a wash of purple. Stewart and Small showcase individuals of various ages interacting with books and include visuals of the shoes-off, stockings-only comfort of those deeply lost in their books, a baby chewing a tasty cover, or a reader taking a deep sniff inside a well-loved work. Whether it’s reading aloud to an invisible crowd or finding pleasure while reading on a sandy beach, book lovers everywhere are encouraged to remember their own book friendship, a small “treasure for a lifetime” and a celebration of the devoted relationship between reader and book. ­VERDICT Bibliophiles unite. This is a glorious first-purchase for all libraries.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

WILLIS, Jeanne. Not Just a Book
. illus. by Tony Ross. 32p. Andersen. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541535695.
PreS-Gr 1–A young girl explores the many uses for a book. For example, it can be a hat, a tent for a cat, or a toy train tunnel, just to name a few applications. Willis’s easy-to-read text contains great humor that young children will find captivating. Ross uses a mix of simple sketches and free-form images as well as a soft blend of color, reminiscent of watercolors, to provide depth and context to the story. The child is consistently in canary yellow, which draws readers’ eyes to her actions. She, along with a silly orange and black cat, is the focal point on each page, providing an easy aid for children following the narrative. The illustrator cleverly incorporates the image of the book within the illustrations, offering an amusing bit of realism to the fanciful story. The language is straightforward and rhythmic, consisting of one short sentence per page. VERDICT This creative story is fun for children of all ages, but will especially find a place in libraries serving children in preschool and kindergarten.–Haley Amendt, Hinton Municipal Library, Alberta

YOLEN. Jane. How Do Dinoaurs Learn to Read? illus. by Mark Teague. 40p. Scholastic. 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781338233018.
PreS-Gr 2–Yolen and Teague are back with another installment in their dinosaur series, this time tackling learning to read. All of the expected elements are here, including short, rhyming, query-style text; a series of inappropriate behaviors, including frustration when attempts to read fail; the adults reinforcing appropriate things that the dinosaurs do: treating the books right, trying hard, and wanting to read "one more." This title goes further still, and provides reading tips for parents and some exercises for children in the back. Yolen's concise, humorous text scans well, and the story moves along at a rapid clip. She knows her audience and includes accurate behaviors while incorporating things sure to tickle little funny bones. Teague's dinosaurs are huge, appealing, and expressive, yet accurate in appearance. The full-color, full-bleed spreads pop and are viewed equally well close-up or from a distance. They include lots of movement and small clever touches, and, as always, the adults are all human, and smaller than the dino-children. VERDICT This is an incredibly popular series, and this title is a worthwhile addition. Librarians, teachers, and parents alike will find this book useful and in high demand.—Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT

ZELTSER, David. The Night Library. illus. by Raul Colón. 40p. Random. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524717988.
PreS-Gr 2–What better way to cure a lost love of books than with a magic ride through the library in the middle of the night? A young Latino boy goes to bed disappointed when he receives a book for his eighth birthday and soon falls into a ­restless sleep. Later that night, he is awakened by a giant lion who whisks him out of the Bronx and through Manhattan straight to the doors of the New York Public Library. The boy soon remembers where he’s seen this lion before; it is Fortitude, who guards the doors of the library with his fellow lion, Patience. During his tour of the deserted library, our narrator watches books as they move, dance, and twirl through the stacks. He even recognizes some of his ­favorite storybook characters as they and the stories come to life. As he witnesses the wonder of books and the library, the boy tells Fortitude that he has stopped reading because of the loss of his grandfather; reading was their favorite thing to do together. He soon learns that books, and his special memories of his grandfather, have been there all along—and they always will be. Colón’s gorgeous art paired with Zeltser’s text creates a dreamy, magical world in this book about books. ­VERDICT Sure to inspire people of all ages to pick up a book and ­experience the magic that unfolds.–­Elizabeth Blake, Brooklyn Public Library

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