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Children's Books

Picture perfect

Five picture books

Wild Honey From the Moon by Kenneth Kraegel: How far would Mother Shrew go to make her son Hugo well? All the way to the moon and back if she has to. Since the only remedy for his ailment is wild honey from the moon, she’s determined to make the perilous journey. Carrying her red umbrella, she overcomes obstacles including a horned owl that wants to eat her, “night mares” that run like crazy, and a swarm of bees. “Silence,” she commands the bees. “I am a mother on a mission, and I will not be held back.” Gorgeous ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict a charming fantasy world for young readers. (Ages 4-8)

Bear Is Awake! An Alphabet Story by Hannah E. Harrison: Harrison tells an amusing story about a bear who wakes up from hibernation and embarks on a day of ordinary activities with a little girl. The book has no sentences, just words that begin with the letters of the alphabet: The N spread has “naughty,” a series of “no’s,” and “nice” accompanied by wonderful pictures of astonished shoppers watching as the bear grabs too many groceries and crams himself into the seat of a shopping cart. As the day ends, the girl leads the bear back to his cave for more winter sleep. (Ages 3-5)

Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl: Mabel lives at the Mermaid Hotel, a bed-and-breakfast that her dad manages. She has an oversized imagination, which goes into overdrive when a mysterious old woman moves into Room 32. The woman has trunks heavy enough to be loaded with gold. She is rude, calls Mabel “Darlink,” and orders her about. Naturally, Mabel decides to spy outside her door. Flamboyant watercolors illustrate what’s happening in the hotel and in Mabel’s imagination. Mabel is somewhat reminiscent of Eloise, but the story is sweeter, as is the budding friendship between Mabel and Madame Badobedah. (Ages 5-8)

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book by Mark Ludy: Ludy beautifully tells the Noah story using only richly detailed pictures: A domesticated dinosaur nibbles a tree; a polar bear licks Noah’s face like a dog; Noah lays his hand on his wife’s pregnant belly; she plays with her boys. The faces are an ethnic mishmash, suggesting that all peoples will descend from this family. This version of the story doesn’t ignore death. On one page a drowning man reaches his hand out of the water in a futile gesture for help. The book ends with hope: an altar, the rainbow, Noah and his wife embracing, and Noah looking up to heaven. (Ages 3-8)

Have You Seen My Blankie? by Lucy Rowland: Princess Alice has a cozy blankie she always took to bed until it goes missing. Her brother says he used it as a curtain until a giant took it. The giant says he used it as a hankie until a witch took it. Alice’s journey ends up at a dragon’s lair: “But then she saw her blankie with a dragon who looked cranky.” She has to figure out how to get her blan-kie back, and how to get the dragon his own comfort object. The rhyming text and mixed-media illustrations tell a story about empathy played out in a fairy-tale world. (Ages 2-5)

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Children's Books

Facing dangers

Middle grade and teen fiction

Brave Ollie Possum

Ethan Nicolle

Ollie Mackerelli is almost 10 and still afraid of the dark. This is a strain on his parents, who are already struggling to keep their Italian restaurant open in a small town. Ollie’s troubles worsen, however, when his therapist turns into a monster who wields her magical powers to transform him into a possum, with plans to eat him. But with help from some animal friends, he begins to face his worst fears, and a wise owl tells him, “All brave acts are done in the midst of fear.” A wild, imaginative tale with lively illustrations that readers will find humorous yet encouraging. (Ages 8-12)

The First Fowler

S.D. Smith

In the latest Green Ember series installment, war is far from over for a band of clever, sword-wielding rabbits fighting against Morbin’s wolves, raptors, and other evil servants. Jo Shanks eagerly joins a team of rabbits tasked with diverting the enemy so Prince “Smalls” can make it to safety. Even when wolves vastly outnumber them and a cunning raptor stalks them, Jo and his counterparts make up for their smallness with bravery, wit, and allegiance. The First Fowler, a sequel to The Last Archer, offers fast-moving, action-packed chapters, but includes many references to previous books. (Ages 8-12)

The Winter King

Christine Cohen

Cora and her family have lived in poverty—and under a perceived curse—ever since her father died in a freak ice fishing accident. Overwhelmed with bitterness and desperate to help her mother and siblings, Cora breaks rules and challenges preconceptions in order to cope and obtain food, money, and warmth during the harsh winter months. But she also begins to uncover forbidden secrets, and her quest for the truth takes her down dangerous paths, pushing her own limits and those of her loved ones. Author Christine Cohen fills her debut novel with courage, suspense, unexpected twists, and deep Biblical truths. (Ages 10-15)

Look Both Ways

Jason Reynolds

This book tells 10 separate narratives of urban teens reentering a neighborhood after their school day, each one highlighting unique obstacles and unexpected detours. Parents should know that one narrative features two boys who share a love for gaming, but who experience same-sex attraction initiated by a kiss on the cheek and ending with one of them bringing the other roses. With this book, Reynolds, an award-winning author whose book Ghost was a runner-up for WORLD’s 2017 Children’s Novel of the Year list, veers from his previously wholesome content. His characters find camaraderie, but not the gospel. (Ages 12-15)

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Children's Books

The test of time

Books from the past for middle grade and tween readers

The Year of Miss Agnes

Kirkpatrick Hill

Fred and her deaf sister Boko live in an Alaskan village shortly after World War II. Every year a new teacher comes to teach the children, but she never lasts long under the difficult conditions. Then one day Miss Agnes arrives—and she stays. The inspiring book recounts their school year with Miss Agnes, who understands the unique needs of Alaskan village life and uses kindness to positively affect the whole community. Hill interweaves into the story interesting descriptions of daily life in an Alaskan village, including how traditional skills and methods became incorporated into modern life. (2000; ages 8-12)

The Cricket in Times Square

George Selden

In this classic children’s book, Mario Bellini discovers a lost cricket while working in his parents’ newspaper stand. The cricket, Chester, quickly makes friends with the humans and other animals who occupy the Times Square subway station. But Chester is no ordinary cricket: He can play music through chirping. His skill brings fortune to the poor Bellini family and beauty to the lives of the New Yorkers who hear him. The country cricket also learns about the fickleness of fame and discovers what truly matters in life. A whimsical tale of friendship, beauty, and the universal appeal of music. (1960; ages 6-10)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

E.L. Konigsburg

The premise behind Konigsburg’s story is a child’s fantasy: Twelve-year-old Claudia and her 9-year-old brother Jamie run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cautious Claudia longs for something to make her life different and interesting, while Jamie likes complicated plans. As the book chronicles their childlike schemes, thoughts, and misadventures, it wields keen insight into human nature. It also explores the deeper relationship that develops between a brother and sister when they work as a team, as well as the way art can reach through time to capture our hearts. (1967; ages 10 & up)

The Little White Horse

Elizabeth Goudge

When orphan Maria Merryweather travels to the English countryside to live with a relative she has never met, she is expecting discomfort and drudgery. But her new home turns out to be an enchanted mini kingdom in which she is the heiress. All is not well in the kingdom, though, and Maria and her new friends must exercise courage and love to chase away the darkness and heal old wounds. A beautiful and wise book with all the elements that make a good children’s story—friendly animals, old stories, good food, and adventure. (1946; ages 12 & up)

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