Tag Archives: Best of lists

My favourite, curiosity inspiring non-fiction for kids – Best books of 2014

I want to highlight some of the books I purchased for our collection last year that have really enriched the resources we have for our curious kids.  I haven’t included straight informational texts in this list. Some of these may have been published before 2014.

Click on the book cover image to see the full bibliographic details in Goodreads.

Why We Live Where We Live looks back in history at the transition from nomadic hunting to farming and the rise of cities following the Industrial Revolution. It also looks ahead to anticipate future concerns: how will climate change and rising water affect people who live near the ocean? Can humans survive in space? This comprehensive, cross-curricular resource will equip readers with a solid background on human habitation and context about their place on the planet”. Publisher: Owl Kids

“It’s a big world out there, but what’s going on around the world can feel closer to us and more accessible than ever. Twenty-four hour news, the Internet and our increasing global perspective are more and more a part of our daily lives. Information about wars and conflicts on the other side of the world can be in our homes and on our tablet s and smartphones instantly. Whether or not your country is directly involved in a conflict or war, nearly every disagreement, every standoff, every war affects our lives in some way. With so many conflicts happening around the world, it makes you wonder – Why Do We Fight?” Publisher: Franklin Watts

“Why Do We Fight? is a book that allows kids to understand that while conflict may be inevitable, war isn’t. The reader is shown how small disagreements can escalate to become bigger and more serious ones, by exposing the common elements of conflict: such as prejudice, history, diplomacy, geography and economics. The reader is encouraged to compare world conflicts with the ones in their own lives, to better understand why we fight and what we can do to avoid it.” Goodreads

From the start, I wanted this book to explore global conflicts—the root causes of why they happen, why they become violent—without telling kids what to think about them.I wanted the book to show kids how to think about them, so they could form their own informed opinions, and I wanted this knowledge to be applicable to any conflict, anytime, anywhere.I wanted to make kids aware that, although conflicts are often presented in oversimplified terms of good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, or as being sparked by a single event or disagreement, they’re more complicated than that. I also wanted them to be unsatisfied with anything that presents conflicts in such simple terms so that they would want to dig deeper“. Author (Teacher Notes)

NB: My copy was published by Owl Kids but there was another edition published by Franklin Watts in Sept 2014. Franklin Watts – paperback edition due out June 2015.

This is the third title from Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm in their wonderful series about sunlight – I also recommend Living sunlight : how plants bring the earth to life and Ocean sunlight : how tiny plants feed the seas. See also this great resource @ the Classroom Bookshelf

“This exciting children’s book details the real-life stories of scientists throughout history who made discoveries that changed the way we think about the world. Read about Galileo and Marie Curie, who both – in very different circumstances – risked peril during their research, or about Alexander Fleming, who discovered the power of penicillin by accident. 

Packed with fascinating details of experiments and equipment, blunders and lucky escapes, Eureka! will appeal to children around the age of nine and over with an interest in history, science and adventure”. Publisher: Thames and Hudson

“Some things are so huge or so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them. But what if we took these big, hard-to-imagine objects and events and compared them to things we can see, feel and touch? Instantly, we’d see our world in a whole new way.” So begins this endlessly intriguing guide to better understanding all those really big ideas and numbers children come across on a regular basis. Author David J. Smith has found clever devices to scale down everything from time lines (the history of Earth compressed into one year), to quantities (all the wealth in the world divided into one hundred coins), to size differences (the planets shown as different types of balls). Accompanying each description is a kid-friendly drawing by illustrator Steve Adams that visually reinforces the concept”. Publisher: Kids Can Press

There are many titles coming out in this series and they are all excellent.

“This illustrated collection of traditional tales from cultures around the world stars heroes and giants, gods and goddesses, monsters and magic, and more.

The bite-sized retellings are accompanied by quick-fire story ashes, mini myths facts, and fun ‘quests’ to complete.

A perfectly enchanting introduction to mythology for lively minds.”

Publisher: Ivy Press

I read about this gorgeous book in this article in the Guardian.

There are 150 rhymes in this collection, from countries all over the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, South Africa and the Caribbean. This comprehensive collection contains all the best-loved nursery rhymes, but also some new discoveries, and vibrant rhymes from Native American, First Nation, Inuit and Maori cultures. Each double-page spread is illustrated by a different artist, who has donated his or her work to the Collection or Archive at Seven Stories, Britain’s National Centre for Children’s Books. With 76 featured artists, this is a star-studded roll call of international award-winners and world-class bestselling illustrators, as well as young emerging talent from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Ghana and South Africa.”  Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Charles Darwin first visited the Galápagos Islands almost 200 years ago, only to discover a land filled with plants and animals that could not be found anywhere else on earth. How did they come to inhabit the island? How long will they remain?

Thoroughly researched and filled with intricate and beautiful paintings, this extraordinary book by Award-winning author and artist Jason Chin is an epic saga of the life of an island—born of fire, rising to greatness, its decline, and finally the emergence of life on new islands“. Author website


 

“What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline which sums up important findings discussed throughout, while the glossary and index provide a quick point of reference for readers. Children and adults alike will learn a ton of spacey facts in this far-out book that’s sure to excite even the youngest of astrophiles.” Publisher website

“Volcanoes are a scary, catastrophic phenomenon that creates mass destruction as far as its deadly lava can reach, right? Not quite . . .

Elizabeth Rusch explores volcanoes in their entirety, explaining how they’re not all as bad as they’re made out to be. Using examples of real volcanoes from around the world, Rusch explains how some volcanoes create new land, mountains, and islands where none existed before, and how the ash helps farmers fertilize their fields. Simple, straight-forward prose provides readers with the basics, while a secondary layer of text delves deeper into the science of volcanoes. Susan Swan’s bright and explosive mixed-media illustrations perfectly complement the subject matter—they depict volcanoes in all their destructive and creative glory.

Complete with a glossary and list of further resources, Volcano Rising is a unique look at a fierce, yet valuable, scientific process”. Source: Publisher.

Before Jacques Cousteau became an internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas, he was a curious little boy. In this lovely biography poetic text and gorgeous paintings combine to create a portrait of Jacques Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.” Source: Author website.

Now this is what I call ‘High-interest non-fiction’! After reading this book I went and reweeded my dinosaur section very vigorously!

No human being has ever seen a triceratops or velociraptor or even the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. They left behind only their impressive bones. So how can scientists know what color dinosaurs were? Or if their flesh was scaly or feathered? Could that fierce T. rex have been born with spots?

In a first for young readers, Thimmesh introduces the incredible talents of the paleoartist, whose work reanimates gone-but-never-forgotten dinosaurs in giant full-color paintings that are as strikingly beautiful as they aim to be scientifically accurate, down to the smallest detail. Follow a paleoartist through the scientific process of ascertaining the appearance of various dinosaurs from millions of years ago to learn how science, art, and imagination combine to bring us face-to-face with the past.” author website

What Makes You You? is a mind-blowing introduction to the building blocks of life, DNA, what it is, how it works, and what we can do with it. Breaking down complex scientific concepts and processes into digestible bite-sized chunks; Gill Arbuthnott seamlessly explains everything from the basics of evolution to the incredible achievements of modern day genetic research in an accessible, insightful and brilliantly interesting way.

Packed with amazing 3D style illustrations and explanatory diagrams that jump off the page as well as amazing tales of scientific discoveries and what’s in store for the future, Gill truly brings science to life.  Publisher

This exciting non-fiction picture book introduces young readers to the wondrous (and invisible) world of microbes.

There are living things so tiny millions could fit on a dot. Although they are invisible, they are everywhere and they multiply very quickly. They are vital for life on earth, and do all sorts of things – from giving us a cold and making yoghurt to wearing down mountains and helping to make the air we breathe. With charming illustrations by Emily Sutton, this friendly, clever book succeeds in conveying the complex science of micro-organisms simply and clearly, and opens up an exciting new avenue for young non-fiction. Publisher

With humour and flair, Michael Hearst introduces the reader to a wealth of extraordinary life-forms. Which animal can be found at the top of Mount Everest, 10,000 feet under the sea, and in your backyard? Which animal poops cubes? Which animal can disguise itself as a giant crab? These fascinating facts and hundreds more await curious minds, amateur zoologists, and anyone who has ever laughed at a funny-looking animal“. Publisher

I think Ed Sheeran could sing the phone book and still sound amazing – in the same way, ANY BOOK Steve Jenkins writes and or illustrates is an essential purchase for a school library!

“With friendly facts, funny pictures, and animals galore,What’s New? The Zoo! is history to roar for!

For nearly five thousand years, human beings have kept, studied, and learned from animals. Now, award-winning author Kathleen Krull and acclaimed illustrator Marcellus Hall take readers on a vibrant global tour of zoos and zoo history, from the menageries of kings and queens in the ancient world, to the first public zoos in the Victorian age, to the modern facilities that work to save the lives of creatures great and small.

With smart science, appealing history, fascinating animals, and a whole lot of fun, only one thing could be better — a trip to the zoo itself! “Publisher

What did I say before about Steve Jenkins?

“In his latest eye-popping work of picture book nonfiction, the Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins explains how for most animals, eyes are the most important source of information about the world in a biological sense. The simplest eyes—clusters of light-sensitive cells—appeared more than one billion years ago, and provided a big survival advantage to the first creatures that had them. Since then, animals have evolved an amazing variety of eyes, along with often surprising ways to use them.” Publisher

and again…Animals upside down was a huge hit as a readloud for my Year One students inquiring into animals “It’s their world too”.

“What do spiders, bats, ducks, and sloths have in common?

Along with many other creatures, they turn upside down. A few of them, in fact, spend most of their lives this way. But animals don’t go bottoms-up just for fun.

In this unique pop-up book, pull tabs, lift-the-flaps, sliding doors, and other interactive elements reveal how, for many animals, an occasional flip or dip is a matter of survival”. Author website

If you want beautiful, thought provoking, creativity inspiring art books for your school library check out Prestel – they have some wonderful books!

“Painting is to dream,” said Hundertwasser. “When the dream is over, I don”t remember anything I dreamed about. The painting, however, remains. It is the harvest of my dream.” This statement is at the heart of this engaging introduction to the work of the eccentric artist, humanitarian, environmentalist, and architect who dedicated his life to the beautification of the world we live in. Dozens of activities in this book will captivate children of all ages and take them on a journey through a magical world of creativity and self-fulfillment. The projects here help young readers discover nature”s gifts, encourage exploration of what lies outside one”s doorstep, and emphasize the importance of ecological harmony as vital to living a happier life. Children and their parents will return again and again to this colorful and entertaining tribute to an artist whose legacy offers hope and inspiration for all of us.” Publisher

 

Literally a bird’s eye view….

“A perfect introduction for children 7+ to the most beautiful buildings in the world and the basic principles of architecture using a fun, lively and engaging way of learning”. Publisher

 

A highly readable book about architecture, lavishly illustrated with sixteen intricate cross sections.

From straw huts to skyscrapers, palaces to arts centres, The Story of Buildings takes us on a journey across continents and over centuries. Patrick Dillon selects sixteen of the most iconic buildings from around the world including the Parthenon, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City, the Bauhaus, Crystal Palace, the Sydney Opera House and the Pompidou Centre, and tells the remarkable human story behind each of them. Stephen Biesty’s detailed, intricate cross-sections allow us to see inside these incredible structures and appreciate the inspiration of their creators. Technical information and architectural terms are explained in labels and flaps and there is an extensive index and timeline at the end of the book“. Publisher

Filled with colorful architectural drawings and engaging texts, this history of architecture for children is a great way to introduce young readers to the subject.

Children will be utterly absorbed by this journey through the history of architecture, from the earliest mud huts to today’s soaring towers. Chronologically arranged, this large-format book gives each iconic building its own double-page spread featuring an exquisite watercolor illustration and clearly written descriptions, facts, and features. These vibrantly detailed pages are filled with people, animals, and other objects that help bring the buildings to life. A detailed appendix includes a timeline, a world map that points out where each building can be found, and an extensive glossary. Children will enjoy poring over this book — and will come away with a fundamental understanding of not only the most common architectural terms, but also of how the built world has evolved marvelously over time“. Publisher

Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all. The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students — a bunch of energetic young men–are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy or someone’s going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius. Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts“. Author website

A celebration of the world, from its immense mountains to its tiny insects – and everything in between. Features fifty-two highly illustrated maps, full of detail and curiosities“. Publisher

Over the course of history men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess-especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. How They Croaked relays all the gory details of how nineteen world figures gave up the ghost. For example:

  • It is believed that Henry VIII’s remains exploded within his coffin while lying in state.
  • Doctors “treated” George Washington by draining almost 80 ounces of blood before he finally kicked the bucket.
  • Right before Beethoven wrote his last notes, doctors drilled a hole in his stomach without any pain medication.

Readers will be interested well past the final curtain, and feel lucky to live in a world with painkillers, X-rays, soap, and 911“. Author website

 Another fabulous title from Thames and Hudson – the chapter on Scott and Amundsen is especially useful to our inquiry units. These books have a highly visual, scrapbook style layout. Highly recommended!

Describes the intrepid journeys and discoveries of famous trailblazers from Christopher Columbus to Ranulph Fiennes. Packed with tales of heroism and useful survival tips, as well as photographs and illustrations of their brave expeditions.

Think of the street you live on. Now think of how it may have looked in 10,000 BCE, or in Roman times, or in Victorian England at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Steve Noon’s A Street Through Time takes you on a time travelling journey that you won’t forget.

Beautiful double-page illustrations bring fourteen key periods in history to life. You will see magnificent buildings go up and come down, new churches built on the site of ancient temples, wooden bridges destroyed and then remade in stone, and statues demolished then unearthed many years later. You’ll find out how people lived long ago – the tools they used, what they wore, what they ate and what they did all day. In an added twist, you can search for the time traveller in each period and locate the objects that have managed to survive through the ages.

Revised and updated for a new generation, Steve Noon’s A Street Through Time is perfect for parents and children to look at together. The more you look, the more you’ll see.” Publisher

I hope you find something here that you would like to add to your collection! 

Favourite books of 2014 – Graphic novels

My favourite graphic novels read in 2014

Jane, the fox and me by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

janefox
Hauntingly beautiful, this book is incredibly moving. It covers bullying and cruelty and is recommended for ages 10+. After buying it for my junior end of our library, I eventually moved it into the Middle/Senior graphic novels where I thought it would be more appreciated.

“An emotionally truthful and visually stunning graphic novel about solace and redemption.”

Helene is not free to hide from the taunts of her former friends in the corridors at school. She can’t be invisible in the playground or in the stairways leading to art class. Insults are even scribbled on the walls of the toilet cubicles. Helene smells, Helene’s fat, Helene has no friends … now. When Helene’s heart hammers in her chest as Genevieve snickers at the back of the bus, inventing nasty things to say about her, Helene dives into the pages of her book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. And, in the solace she finds there, Helene’s own world becomes a little brighter. But how will the story end? Is there any hope for the wise, strange, plain Jane Eyre? How could Mr Rochester ever love her? On nature camp, arranged by the school as a treat, Helene finds herself in the tent of other outcasts. Again, her inner and outer worlds become entangled as she reads on – this time putting herself into Jane Eyre’s shoes. It would be impossible for Mr Rochester to marry a sausage in a swimsuit, even if he loved her. Wouldn’t it? But, while deeply lost in self-doubt, Helene’s world is unexpectedly shaken up by a fresh new friendship. Geraldine snorts with laughter at her jokes! They love being together! Helene begins to worry less about what the cruel girls think – and more about how happy she can be (and make others)… Perhaps Jane Eyre’s story will end well after all, too.Source: Publisher website

“Jane, The Fox and Me is an absolute treasure that blends the realities of children’s capacity to be cruel, the possibilities of transcending our own psychological traps, and literature’s power to nourish, comfort, and transform.” Brain Pickings

El Deafo by Cece Bell Really heartwarming and delightful to see just as many boys as girls request this after a book talk!

“Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.” Publisher.

PRAISE FOR EL DEAFO

“A standout autobiography. Someone readers will enjoy getting to know.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review “Worthy of a superhero.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“This empowering autobiographical story belongs right next to Raina Telgemeier’s Smile(2011) and Liz Prince’s Tomboy.” —Booklist

[Source: Publisher Abrams]

Treaties, trenches, mud and blood (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales book 4) by Nathan Hale If you haven’t discovered the Hazardous Tales series then I urge you to seek it out. The boys (and some girls) in our school from years 5-8 love all of them. I think these days kiwi kids may know a lot about American popular culture, but less about American history so these do bring events like the American Revolution and civil war to life. Each book in the series focuses on a specific historical incident or period. One of the things that I love about these books is that they are published as sturdy hardbacks – they stand up to the punishment that this collection gets from enthusiastic readers. The cover art is eyecatching too!

“World War I set the tone for the 20th century and introduced a new type of warfare: global, mechanical, and brutal. Nathan Hale has gathered some of the most fascinating true-life tales from the war and given them his inimitable Hazardous Tales twist. Easy to understand, informative, and lively, this series is the best way to be introduced to some of the most well-known battles (and little-known secrets) of the infamous war.” Publisher.

“Students bored to death by textbook descriptions of WWI battle maneuvers should be engaged by this entertaining, educational glimpse at world history.” —Booklist

“A mixture of textbook and slapstick, this essential read makes history come alive in a way that is relevant to modern-day life and kids.” —School Library Journal

[Source: Publisher – Abrams]

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.” Goodreads.

Raina Telgemeier’s earlier graphic novels (Smile and Drama) are very rarely on our Graphic Novel shelf – they’re just too popular, but after telling kids about Sisters there was renewed and increased interest in reading those earlier titles too.

Nursery rhyme comics edited by Chris Duffy “Here’s how this book works. ..We asked fifty cartoonists we really like to each transform a classic nursery rhyme into a comic. It turns out when you have a rhyme like ‘Jack & Jill’ (Jack and Jill went up the hill / to fetch a pail of water / Jack fell down and broke his crown / and Jill came tumbling after), there’s a reasonable narrative panel structure there. So turning nursery rhymes into comics makes sense logically — and it also makes the separate actions of the narrative easily understandable for young readers”. Publisher

Fairy tale comics edited by Chris Duffy “From favorites like “Puss in Boots” and “Goldilocks” to obscure gems like “The Boy Who Drew Cats,” Fairy Tale Comics has something to offer every reader. Seventeen fairy tales are wonderfully adapted and illustrated in comics format by seventeen different cartoonists, including Raina Telgemeier, Brett Helquist, Cherise Harper, and more.” Goodreads See publisher info here too with great examples of the pages and story behind the publication.

Comic Squads : Recess! Edited by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm. and Jarett J. Krosoczka With contributions by Dav Pilkey; Dan Santat; Raina Telgemeier; Dave Roman; Ursula Vernon; Eric Wight; Gene Yang. “Wowza! Calling all kidz! Do you like comics? Do you like laughing till milk comes out of your nose?! Look no further—do we have the book for you! All your favorite comic creators are right here in this handy-dandy hilarious book! This all-star tribute to classic Sunday comics includes eight sidesplitting, action-packed stories about every kid’s favorite subject—RECESS! With popular characters from Babymouse and Lunch Lady and brand-new soon-to-be favorite characters from superstars including Dav Pilkey! Raina Telgemeier! Gene Yang! and many more! Comics Squad also features Pizza Monsters! Secret ninja clubs! Aliens! Talking desserts! Dinozilla! Death-defying escapes! Bad guys! Good guys! Medium guys! Superheroes! Bullies! Mean girls! Epic battles! True love! Outlandish schemes! Evil plans! Fun! Jokes! Terrible puns! And other surprises that will tickle your funny bone! WARNING: THIS BOOK MAY CAUSE EXCESSIVE LAUGHTER AND POSSIBLE SILLINESS. No assembly required. (Pizzatron 2000 not included.)” Publisher website

Perfect for all the kids who can’t get enough of  Squish, Babymouse, Lunch Lady and Captain Underpants!

Battle bunny! by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett Ok this next one isn’t strictly a graphic novel but after much procrastination and consultation with students this is where we decided to shelve it (and I see from checking just now that Auckland Libraries have done the same thing).

This is one of those books where after a book talk EVERY kid wants to read it! The two copies we own have never been shelved…and we still have holds stretching into 2015. We need more copies 🙂

“Alex has been given a saccharine, sappy, silly-sweet picture book about Birthday Bunny that his grandma found at a garage sale. Alex isn’t interested – until he decides to make the book something he’d actually like to read. So he takes out his pencil, sharpens his creativity, and totally transforms the story! Birthday Bunny becomes Battle Bunny, and the rabbit’s innocent journey through the forest morphs into a super-secret mission to unleash an evil plan – a plan that only Alex can stop. Featuring layered, original artwork that emphasizes Alex’s additions, this dynamic exploration of creative storytelling is sure to engage and inspire.” Goodreads.

Great to use as a provocative writing prompt! See the battle bunny website for activities and ideas (including downloadable Birthday Bunny original for kids to hack).

graphics In addition to the popular favourites borrowed for recreational reading, we have successfully used non-fiction graphic novels to explain scientific concepts for differentiated learners within several units of inquiry. I can see that this is an area we need to strengthen to meet to help meet the needs of all learners across the curriculum.

I recently moved the display area for our graphics collection so that they are close to our issue/checkout desk. Students waiting to have their books issued just need to glance to the left and can see five face-out shelves of covers. This has been as effective as placing confectionary in the checkout aisle of a supermarket – this is very valuable real estate! There is so much work to do here – I need to replace tired and worn out copies, fill series, add new titles, label the shelves and series boxes and generally revamp.

Graphic novels are extremely popular in our Library and I wish I had a lottery-win-sized budget to apply to this area of my collection. Students love them and because of this it is well worth putting budget, time and love into this area.

Happy reading!

My favourite books of 2014 – Children’s fiction Part 2

To make it easier – I have bundled this post into my part 1 list – giving you the whole list in one place…hit this link to go there 🙂

My favourite books from 2014…continued.

Children’s fiction MG Middle Grade

365 days of Wonder:  Mr. Browne’s book of precepts by R.J. Palacio

If you loved Wonder then you need to continue the goodness with this little gem of a book.  I was  delighted that so many caring boys in our school community wanted to read this as much as our girls. Adding this to our collection led to new conversations and fueled a resurgence in demand for the original book and others about empathy and bullying.

“In the bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. Simply put, precepts are principles to live by, and Mr. Browne has compiled 365 of them—one for each day of the year—drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. Interspersed with the precepts are letters and emails from characters who appeared in Wonder. Readers hear from Summer, Jack, Charlotte, Julian, and Amos.” [Goodreads]

The girl who walked on air by Emma Carroll

I loved Emma Carroll’s earlier book Frost Hollow Hall which I had given 5 stars in 2013 (it is a wonderful historical ghost story and kids love it too!) I was just as delighted with this – the plot felt fresh and new. Give this to fans of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather trilogy.

“Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .” [Goodreads]

Greenglass house by Kate Milford

 

A fantasy mystery story that also touches on issues of family, identity and belonging.

 “A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer series.” [Goodreads]

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Action and adventure and trains and a very tight suspenseful plot. I’m going to have to work a little harder at promoting this one – I had only bought the eBook and kids haven’t discovered it as much as I would have liked. This deserves to be in both formats in our Library.

“The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?” [Goodreads]

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This is up there with Out of my mind and Wonder as another great book to show kids the true meaning of empathy.  You will feel the full gamut of emotions reading this book, but it is worth every crumpled tissue!

The eighth day by Dianne K. Salerni

I thought this was fantastic – in the tradition of Percy Jackson and Sarwat Chadda’s Ash Mistry series while at the same time feeling like a fresh and new story. I was hooked.

“In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.

When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he’s really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who’s been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.” [Goodreads]

I hope you have found something new there from a rather eclectic range of books spread over two posts.

See my previous post (Part 1) here

 

 

 

My favourite books of 2014 – Children’s fiction

It seems everyone has their own version of this list so I am going to join in too!

These are the books that were my 5 star reads in GoodReads or the most sought after in my school library. I was a little surprised at just how many titles were in my list, then I considered that most of the books I read or buy for my school library are gleaned from recommendations from wonderful  bloggers, authoritative reviewers, prestigious end of year lists and award winners from the previous year. How can they be anything but awesome?

 

Children’s fiction MG Middle Grade

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander 

Not just a book for kids that like basketball. This is moving and real and deals with feelings about family, fitting in, identity and grief.  This book was an absolute surprise to kids who thought they didn’t like to read and couldn’t read a novel in verse (almost rap)…they were fighting over this one! I thoroughly recommend the audio version of this – it is read by the author.

Ophelia and the marvelous boy by Karen Foxlee

A spellbinding retelling of the Snow Queen story in a contemporary, Northern European setting. A wonderful winter read.

“In which young Ophelia rescues a magical boy, battles the Snow Queen, and saves the world

Eleven-year-old Ophelia might not be brave, but she certainly is curious. Her family are still reeling from her mother’s death, and in a bid to cheer everyone up, her father has taken a job at a fantastically enormous and gothic museum in a city where it never stops snowing. Ophelia can’t wait to explore – and she quickly discovers an impossibility. In a forgotten room, down a very dark corridor, she finds a boy, who says he’s been imprisoned for three-hundred-and-three-years by an evil Snow Queen who has a clock that is ticking down towards the end of the world.

A sensible girl like Ophelia doesn’t quite believe him, of course, but there’s no denying he needs her help. There are many other, darker, impossibilities in this museum too. Ghosts, wolves, Misery Birds, magical swords – and even fabled Snow Queens – will all do their very best to stop Ophelia and hurt her family. She will have to garner all her courage, strength and cleverness if she is to rescue this most Marvellous Boy – and maybe even save the world in the process.” [Publisher website with link to downloadable first chapter]

Rules by Cynthia Lord

A great book for looking at how disability affects family members, refreshing to read about disability from a different perspective. A brilliant book to give kids who couldn’t get enough of Wonder and love reading about people in situations different than their own.

Out of my mind by Sharon Draper

You want kids to develop empathy? Then give them this book. Powerful and moving and another wonderful story to recommend to kids that loved Wonder.

Rain reign by Ann M. Martin

Story of an autistic girl with a fascination for homonyms unravels mystery about her missing and much-loved dog. This seems like a simple story but it will have kids thinking and questioning long after they have closed the book. Stunning!

Countdown : a novel by Deborah Wiles

Mid last Century historical fiction with a difference. The Cuban Missile Crisis is explained for kids and the story provides a lot of insight into living with the fear and hysteria of the period. My only regret is that I bought a copy in paperback with poor quality paper and it doesn’t do justice to the scrapbook like media presentation of songs, newspaper clippings, advertisements etc from the period that feature between chapters.

A boy called Hope by Lara Williamson

Family drama interspersed with humour when a boy thinks his estranged father will come back into his life. Get the tissues out.

The illuminated adventures of Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

A talking squirrel and written by Kate DiCamillo – what else do you need to know? It is awwww-some!

The child’s elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Part animal story part war story about a boy and his relationship with an elephant amidst the devastation of civil war when he and a girl from his village are kidnaped into a band of child soldiers. Great to pair with a Unit of Inquiry into Children in crisis. Covers what is a difficult subject for this aged reader in a sensitive and appropriate way.

Hook’s revenge by Heidi Schulz

A swashbuckling fantasy adventure with a feisty heroine. Hook’s daughter swears revenge on the crocodile that killed her father and discovers herself in the process. Not your mother’s Peter Pan story!

The Twistrose key by Tone Almhjell

A young girl enters an enchanted but threatened world “inhabited by animals that shared a special connection with children in the real world, either as beloved pets or tamed wild animals”. Suspense, adventure and magic.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter

Realistic/historical fiction set in Memphis 1959. “The paper route poses challenges, but it’s a run-in with the neighborhood junk-man, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble – and puts the boy’s life, as well as that of his family’s devoted housekeeper, in danger.” I borrowed the Public Library copy of this and only have the audiobook at school. Need both!

The true blue scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

A narrative tale in two voices – firstly from the boy trying to save the family business and the local environment from developers, and the second from two rascally raccoons who live in the area. Great overlapping of threads that come together very cleverly. This story depicts the south with an authenticity (at least in my mind) that had me believing I was in the bayou.

The Iron Trial (Book 1 in the Magisterium series) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Magic, good versus evil and a whole lot of twists and turns. Ignore the discussion and controversy over whether this is too much like Harry Potter, and just enjoy the brilliant story. I can’t wait to read what happens in book 2.

Escape from Wolfhaven Castle (The Impossible Quest Book 1) by Kate Forsyth

I’ll be honest, I was not expecting to like this quite so much it took me by surprise. It’s is the kind of book so many kids need – not too long, with punchy writing and a tight plot that will hook (well… I read it and finished it in the small hours). This would be a good ladder for kids into other fantasy/historical adventure stories e.g. the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielson.

365 days of Wonder:  Mr. Browne’s book of precepts by R.J. Palacio

If you loved Wonder then you need to continue the goodness with this little gem of a book.  I was  delighted that so many caring boys in our school community wanted to read this as much as our girls. Adding this to our collection led to new conversations and fueled a resurgence in demand for the original book and others about empathy and bullying.

“In the bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. Simply put, precepts are principles to live by, and Mr. Browne has compiled 365 of them—one for each day of the year—drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. Interspersed with the precepts are letters and emails from characters who appeared in Wonder. Readers hear from Summer, Jack, Charlotte, Julian, and Amos.” [Goodreads]

The girl who walked on air by Emma Carroll

I loved Emma Carroll’s earlier book Frost Hollow Hall which I had given 5 stars in 2013 (it is a wonderful historical ghost story and kids love it too!) I was just as delighted with this – the plot felt fresh and new. Give this to fans of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather trilogy.

“Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .” [Goodreads]

Greenglass house by Kate Milford

A fantasy mystery story that also touches on issues of family, identity and belonging.

 “A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer series.” [Goodreads]

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Action and adventure and trains and a very tight suspenseful plot. I’m going to have to work a little harder at promoting this one – I had only bought the eBook and kids haven’t discovered it as much as I would have liked. This deserves to be in both formats in our Library.

“The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?” [Goodreads]

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This is up there with Out of my mind and Wonder as another great book to show kids the true meaning of empathy.  You will feel the full gamut of emotions reading this book, but it is worth every crumpled tissue!

The eighth day by Dianne K. Salerni

I thought this was fantastic – in the tradition of Percy Jackson and Sarwat Chadda’s Ash Mistry series while at the same time feeling like a fresh story. I was hooked.

“In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.

When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he’s really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who’s been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.” [Goodreads]

Lastly, the book that knocked Diary of a wimpy kid and Tom Gates off their respective pedestals in our library as the most asked for, checked-out and highest number of held duplicate copies…. This was voted the funniest series and as a result, was the most requested series in our library for 2014….

Weirdo Series by Anh Do

Some of my ‘hardest nut to crack’ reluctant readers discovered that this is their ‘magic book’ (the kind of book that transform them into a reader and has then coming back asking for more!) 3 in series so far. An easier read than DOAWK.

I hope you have found something new there from a rather eclectic range of books spread over two posts.

Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to read every book  that probably deserves to be here. Sometimes I’m so eager to put a book into a student’s hands that I catalogue it and process it as fast as possible and then it is off on its circulation journey! 

See the other titles that received a five-star rating over at Goodreads.

Happy reading!