Star-Ledger Summer Round-up of favorite picture books, books for middle school, and young adult
(Many of these books are in the Guarini Library or the Weiss Center!)
**** Received more than one recommendation by a librarian
Picture books favorites:
Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three stories - Seeger, Laura Vaccaro
In this endearing picture book, a tail-wagging dachshund and a multicolored stuffed bear star in three tales about friendship.
Fabian Escapes - McCarty, Peter
Fabian and Hondo, the cat and dog introduced in the Caldecott Honor Book entitled Hondo and Fabian (2002), spend their days in species-appropriate pursuits. But in this book, as Hondo takes a nap, Fabian jumps out the window and finds adventure.
Grumpy Bird - Tankard, Jeremy
Bird wakes up feeling grumpy. Too grumpy to eat or play -- too grumpy even to fly. "Looks like I'm walking today," says Bird. He walks past Sheep, who offers to keep him company. He walks past Rabbit, who also could use a walk. Raccoon, Beaver, and Fox join in, too and it becomes an impromptu game of follow-the-leader.
The End - LaRochelle, David & Egielski, Richard
Turning the standard fairy-tale formula on its head, LaRochelle begins his story at the end. The endpapers depict a princess and a knight waving good-bye to a long line of intriguing characters who are marching away from the castle. The text begins, "And they all lived happily ever after. They lived happily ever after because…" and proceeds backward through a madcap chain of events.
The Tale of Pale Male: A True Story - Winter, Jeanette
A heartening story, this attractive picture book tells of a red-tailed hawk that makes a place for itself on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Vera Wang, Queen of Fashion; Amazing Chinese American (Biographies of Amazing Asian Americans) - Louie, Ai-Ling & Peng, Cathy
Biography of Vera Wang for young readers.
Wind Flyers - Johnson, Angela & Long, Loren
A child recounts his great-great uncle's lifelong passion for flying-which began at age five with a leap from the roof of a chicken coop and climaxed with wartime flights as one of the Tuskegee Airmen.
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, - Sherry, Kevin
A lighthearted, clever story presented in an oversize, colorful package. A bright blue giant squid cruises through the ocean, proudly noting that he is bigger than all the creatures he encounters. >From shrimp to shark, he repeats his refrain, I'm bigger than…, sounding remarkably similar to a three-year-old cheerfully cataloging his world. Briefly dismayed when swallowed by a voracious whale (who has also swallowed up everyone else whole including the shark), the squid rallies by noting, I'm the biggest thing in this whale!
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend – Watt, Melanie
In his latest adventure, Scaredy Squirrel sets out to make The Perfect Friend. And once he's spotted a perfectly safe candidate (with no teeth), Scaredy's ready. Armed with a name tag, mittens, a mirror and a lemon, he's prepared to make The Perfect First Impression.
Stick – Breen, Steve
Stick is a young frog with a very long tongue and a hunger for adventure. One day he zaps a dragonfly, his tongue sticks to the insect, and he's carried off along the Mississippi River and into New Orleans.
Home Now – Beake, Lesley
Sieta, a young African girl, is having a difficult time accepting her "home now" with her aunt in a busy town. She longs for the life she knew with her loving parents in a friendly village. During a school trip to the elephant park, she forms a special bond with a baby elephant—also an orphan.
Pictures From Our Vacation – Perkins, Lynne Rae
Mom, Dad, son, and daughter, who narrates, have high hopes about a trip to the old family farm. But the drive is long and boring, and when they arrive, Dad sees happy memories, while everyone else sees old furniture and dust. It's downhill from there.
Henry’s Freedom Box – Levine, Ellen
Inspired by an actual 1830s lithograph, this beautifully crafted picture book briefly relates the story of Henry "Box" Brown's daring escape from slavery. Torn from his mother as a child, and then forcibly separated from his wife and children as an adult, a heartsick and desperate Brown conspired with abolitionists and successfully traveled north to Philadelphia in a packing crate.
Not a Box – Portis, Antoinette
In bold, unornamented line drawings of a rabbit and a box, the author-illustrator offers a paean to the time-honored imaginative play of young children who can turn a cardboard box into whatever their creativity can conjure. (Published in Dec. 2006).
Lightship – Floca, Brian
Lightships--floating lighthouses--were retired in 1983, but they live on in Floca's handsome picture book, which uses simple words and repeated phrases to emphasize the vessels' purpose and uniqueness as well as their day-to-day operation.
The Tinderbox – Anderson, Hans Christian, Stephen Mitchell & Bagram Ibatoulline
Mitchell and Ibatoulline follow The Nightingale (2002) with another beautifully illustrated version of a Hans Christian Andersen story.
On the Wings of Heroes – Peck, Richard
This period piece is full of a delicious mixture of humor, warmth and local color as it describes America during WWII through the eyes of a Midwestern boy, Davy Bowman.
Reaching for Sun – Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn
Josie, a girl with cerebral palsy, lives on the shrinking farmland owned by her family for generations and now being sold to developers.
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree – Tarshis, Lauren *****
Supremely logical Emma-Jean has little in common with her seventh-grade classmates, and she observes their often-tumultuous social interactions with a detached, scientific curiosity. But when kindly Colleen seeks her advice in dealing with the school's resident mean girl, Emma-Jean is moved to apply her analytical mind--and a bit of desktop forgery--to aid her classmate.
The Game – Jones, Diana Wynne
What if just outside of Earth's known atmosphere there sat another layer that was actually a different dimension?
The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3) – Riordan, Rick
Percy Jackson is now 14, a bit older and wiser, yet still entangled with the Fates. His good friend, if oft-time rival, Annabeth (daughter of Athena) is missing, as is Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Joined by best buddy Grover-the-goat-boy and an argumentative array of accomplices, Percy sets off to fulfill, and hopefully foil, the foreboding prophecy of the Oracle.
The Princess and the Hound - Harrison, Mette Ivie
Animal magic, persecution and romance in a very different take on Beauty and the Beast.
Dragon Slippers - George, Jessica Day
A young girl, sacrificed to dragons becomes friends with them instead, which leads to their gift to her -- blue slippers instead of gold. Only these slippers are made of dragon skin, giving her control over all the dragons. Unfortunately, she doesn't know this until it's almost too late to save her country from invasion.
True Talents – Lubar, David
The boys are back. The boys from Hidden Talents with special talents ranging from telekinesis to fire-starting. And they're in more trouble than ever. Because this time the government is after them.
Dragon's Keep – Carey, Janet Lee
A medieval fantasy featuring a princess who has to hide the fact that she has a dragon talon instead of a ring finger. But she can't hide it from the dragons that still live in her island kingdom. (Gr. 7+)
The Invention Of Hugo Cabret: A Novel In Words And Pictures - Selznick, Brian *****
Extraordinary combination of text and pictures. Relates the story of a young orphan in hiding who cares for the clocks in the Paris train station in 1931. In hiding until his encounter with a toymaker brings him to the attention of the toymaker's daughter and out in the open. (Gr. 4-9)
The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization – Pinkwater, Daniel
In typical Pinkwater fashion, this is a look back at the 1940s as well as an action adventure involving a young boy who moves to Hollywood with his family, meets a shaman, acquires a very special carved turtle and winds up saving the world. (Gr. 5-8)
The Hound of Rowan. The Tapestry. Book One – Neff, Henry H.
After twelve-year-old Max sees his destiny in a tapestry, he winds up at Rowan Academy. There he is trained in "mystics and combat," to prepare him for the battle with an ancient enemy who is kidnapping children with powers like Max. (Gr. 3-7)
Peak – Smith, Roland
Peak goes from climbing the outside of skyscrapers in NYC to an attempt to be the youngest climber ever to reach the summit of Everest. With him are the mountain climbing father he hasn't seen for years and the grandson of the famous Sherpa guide who saved his father's life. (Gr. 7-10)
The Mysterious Benedict Society – Stewart, Trenton Lee *****
Two boys and two girls, three of which are orphans and one a runaway, are recruited by Mr. Benedict to infiltrate The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and save the world. (Gr. 5-9)
Darkness Creeping: Twenty Twisted Tales – Shusterman, Neal
A collection of delightfully creepy tales that run the gamut from nightmares, ghosts, deadly dentists and boat tours on the River Styx to a game where tag means death, literally. Lots of appeal, for middle school boys in particular. (Gr. 5-8)
Harlem Summer – Myers, Walter Dean
Sixteen-year-old musician Mark Purvis longs to break into the jazz scene of 1925 Harlem, but when he becomes embroiled in a bootlegging scheme with real-life jazzman Fats Waller, he has to find a way to pay off an angry mob boss for losing the liquor (Historical fic.). (Gr. 6 – 9)
Wicked Lovely – Marr, Melissa
Fans of Twilight are going to enjoy this treatment of the world of faerie and the teenage girl who is being considered for the role of Summer Queen. The fate of the world depends on her accepting it. (YA)
Tantalize – Smith, Cynthia Lettich
Quincie has a werewolf boyfriend and a restaurant with a new vampire motif. She also has a new chef for the restaurant whose red eyes and fangs are real and who is much too interested in Quincie. (YA)
Nobody's Princess – Friesner, Esther
This is the childhood of Helen of Sparta, but this Helen is like a Tamora Pierce Shero. She learns to fight, hunt, and ride horses while disguised as a boy and has one adventure after another in the Mediterranean world as she accompanies her engaged sister to Mykenae for her marriage to the Prince and heir to the throne. (YA)
Wildwood Dancing – Marillier, Juliet
This retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses features the five daughters of a wealthy merchant who live in a castle in Transylvania and have found the portal to the faerie realm. True love, vampires, a witch and a telepathic frog also have a role to play in their adventures. (Gr. 8+)
The Swan Maiden – Tomlinson, Heather
The Swan Maiden, inspired by French fairy tales and the magical countryside of Provence, features the third sister whose mother did everything she could, including hiding her daughter's swan skin, to try to keep her from her destiny. (YA)
The Alchemyst: The Immortal Nicholas Flamel - Scott, Michael
The well-worn theme of saving the world from the forces of evil gets a fresh look here as he incorporates ancient myth and legend and sets it firmly, pitch-perfect, in present-day California. At the emotional center of the tale are contemporary 15-year-old twins, Josh and Sophie, who, it turns out, are potentially powerful magicians. (YA)
Being – Brooks, Kevin
A lonely teen, Robert Smith finds himself involved in events totally out of his control. A foster kid with a stomachache, he arrives at the hospital alone for a routine endoscopy. Not fully anesthetized, he hears the doctors claim that his insides aren't human. Unidentified men with guns swarm in, Robert bolts, and finds himself on the front page of the newspaper accused of stabbing one of the doctors. (YA)
While I Live (The Ellie Chronicles) – Marsden, John
Fans of 16-year-old Ellie Linton, gutsy guerrilla fighter from Marsden's Tomorrow series, will be overjoyed that she's back in an exciting series of her own. One afternoon while hiking with her adopted, profoundly deaf brother, Gavin, and old pal Homer, they hear gunfire coming from her property. What they find when they arrive home forever changes their lives. (YA)