My Favorite Picture Books of 2017

Here is the promised list of my favorite picture books I reviewed in 2017. These are not necessarily the best, but are the picture books that I can’t stop thinking about. These are the ones when I see the cover online or on a display, I can’t help but smile. These are the ones that are on my gift list. I hope you’ll find some titles to add to yours!

favorite picture booksWhat to do with a box

Good Reads – What to Do With a Box

By Jane Yolen, illustrated by Chris Sheban

Have you ever searched for the perfect gifts for your little one for the holidays or for their birthday, and then, when all of the presents were opened and the wrapping paper scattered everywhere, all they really wanted to do was to play with the boxes? Especially, if they were really large boxes?  After sharing this story with your kids, you will be left with a warm and cozy feeling. It’s muted illustrations and imaginative text and will make you want to rush out, find a box and sail away to Paris together!


favorite picture booksNewspaper hats

Good Reads – Newspaper Hats

By Phil Cummings, illustrated by Owen Swan

Do you remember making newspaper hats? I certainly do! My dad and I had so much fun creating these. It was especially fun using the comics from the Sunday paper when we actually had lots of those! In Newspaper Hats Georgie is visiting Grandpa and wonders if Grandpa will remember him today. but sadly he doesn’t know him. That is until Georgie shows him a picture, with Georgie, his dad and Grandpa, all wearing newspaper hats. Then Georgie and Grandpa can’t stop making lots of hats for all of Grandpa’s friends! This poignant story is a special one to share with any of your little ones who are trying to understand why Grandma or Grandpa doesn’t remember them, but also offers hope that somehow your kiddo might be able to find that missing connection with their loved one.

favorite picture booksThe unexpected love story of alfred fiddleduckling

Good Reads – The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling

By Timothy Basil Ering

I was completely enthralled by this story. The illustrations are exquisite from the first endpaper to the last. Timothy Basil Ering’s words and paintings draw you into the story as you find yourself rooting for Alfred Fiddleduckling, Captain Alfred, his dog and his wife.  You are hoping they can all find each other in the end, and the magical conclusion on the final pages of the book convinces you this will happen. 

favorite picture bookstidy

Good Reads – Tidy

By Emily Gravett

Pete the Badger is a compulsive tidier. He can’t even handle one fallen leaf in his forest! Emily Gravett tells the story of Pete’s destruction of his home with her rhyming, humorous text  and vibrant illustrations. Pete’s insistence that everything be perfectly neat and clean in his forest soon leads to unwelcome consequences for both Pete and his friends. Happily, he realizes his extreme actions need to be rectified, so with the help of his friends he is able to save the forest and put everything back to how it was, just maybe a little bit tidier.

favorite picture booksdad and the dinosaur

Good Reads – Dad and the Dinosaur

By Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Dan Santat

Newberry Honor winner, Gennifer Choldenko has written a heartwarming story about a father’s love. The illustrations by Caldecott Award Winner, Dan Santat @dsantat, (The Adventures of Beekle) make this charming story come alive even more. Little Nick was afraid of everything, but nothing scared Big Nick. Little Nick tried his best to be brave, and nothing helped until he got  his dinosaur. But then, something awful happened. Little Nick lost his dinosaur. That is, it WAS awful, until Dad came home and saved the day, as dads do. Because “dads get it. They just do.”

favorite picture bookseverywhere wonder

Good Reads – Everywhere Wonder

by Matthew Swanson, illustrated by Robbi Behr

This imaginative picture book with vibrant illustrations invites the reader to tour the world with a young boy as he notices the world “with his eyes wide open.”This would be a great book to read to your little guys to open up a conversation about “smelling the roses” or to provide a wonderful beginning to a writing project for your older kids. I highly recommend it!


favorite picture booksjabari jumps

Good Reads – Jabari Jumps

by Gaia Corwall

When I was a child, I was terrified of jumping into a pool, even though my mother had sent me to countless swim lessons. To stand on the side of a pool, let alone a diving board as everyone was expecting me to jump, was completely overwhelming. Even though Jabari feels the same way, he announces to his dad “I’m jumping off the diving board today.” Of course, though, that’s a little easier said than done! Gaia Cornwall’s illustrations capture his fear, but also his determination and courage.  If you have a little one who may be wondering if they have the courage to jump in, this is a wonderful book that might provide just the encouragement they need to succeed.

favorite picture bookswe’re all wonders

Good Reads – We’re all Wonders

By R.J. Palacio

R.J. Palacio, the author or Wonder, has worked her magic again in this picture book which will help our little ones gain a better understanding of kindness and accepting differences. The main character is “an ordinary kid”, who just wants to be accepted by everyone around him, despite his different appearance. He helps us to understand how it feels to be excluded, stared at, pointed at or laughed at and how much it hurts his feelings. Ms. Palacio gently points out that we are all different and all special in our own way. This book will be a great pathway to conversations with all of your kids from toddler through elementary school to help them to understand, “We’re all wonders!” and to “look with kindness and you will always find wonder.”


favorite picture booksThat Neighbor kid

Good Reads – That Neighbor Kid

By Daniel Miyares

This is a heartwarming wordless picture book about a friendship that develops between a boy and a girl when she moves in next door. They are both a little lonely until they collaborate on building a treehouse together. The drawings are black and white in the beginning, but as their friendship blossoms and each of them contributes to building their playhouse, colorful leaves begin to appear. The illustrations show us the sweet expressions on the friends’ faces as they dream and relax together in their new hideaway. I love wordless picture books, because it gives so many opportunities for discussion as you share the story with your little ones. I hope this is a good one for your family!

favorite picture booksthe book of mistakes

Good Reads – The Book of Mistakes

By Corianna Luyken

If you or your little one has ever been obsessed with making a mistake, or if you’re just looking for a beautifully illustrated book full of positivity and optimism,  this is definitely a book to add to your collection. The charming narrative encourages us to explore, create and to understand that although we may stumble as we try new a experience, it’s okay, because we’re a work in progress.

favorite picture bookslife on mars

Good Reads – Life on Mars

By Jon Agee

The delightful illustrations in this picture book made me smile from the time I first viewed the cover and I didn’t stop until long after I finished the sweet story. The little astronaut is certain there is life on Mars and he travels there to prove his theory. He brings chocolate cupcakes, because when you visit someone’s home you always take a hostess gift, don’t you?! He’s so disappointed when he arrives. All he sees is barren terrain full of rocks – no life. When you read this book aloud to your little one, they will be squealing with delight as they point out who’s following the little explorer. And they’ll especially love the last page, as I did. This is definitely one you’re going to want to add to your library!

favorite picture booksAfter the fall: how humpty dumpty got back up again

Good Reads – After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back up Again

By Dan Santat

Dan Santat has again created an amazing picture book that will be timeless! I shared it with three second grade classes and they unanimously loved it – especially the surprise ending. The message is such a good one for ALL of us to remember. Even though we fall, we can make it “back up again” and succeed, even it takes every bit of courage we can gather from deep within our souls.


favorite picture booksprofessional crocodile

Good Reads – Professional Crocodile

By Giovanna Zoboli

This delightful wordless picture book is one you’ll thoroughly enjoy with your little ones. There are several panels on each page, which will lead to lots of conversation. You’ll both love finding the many, many details every time you experience the book. It’s so much fun to share wordless picture books and to let the kids create their own dialogue. The story is different every time! And you’ll love the surprise ending, too! This is definitely one to add to your collection. And don’t forget to check underneath the dust jacket. The cover is truly a special one you won’t want to miss!


What were your favorite books this year? What books are on your Christmas list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

My Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2017

For the past two years, during the month of December, I have shared book titles for you to add to your shopping list for the children in your lives.  This year, I have decided to take a different approach. This month, I plan to share lists of my favorite picture books and my favorite middle grade books published this year. It’s going to be  a difficult task, because I’ve loved so many! I do want to say, however, that there are many books from the past that would make wonderful gifts, as well. I’ve written about these titles in many additions of “Kids’ Books to Remember”. I hope you’ll check those out, as well!

Kids’ Books to Remember, Number 6

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 19

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 17

We’ll begin this week with my favorite middle grade books from 2017. I’ve written a short description about each book and linked the title to my blog post or Instagram post where you will find my complete review. I’m also including the subjects of each book, as well as a link to the Good Reads summary. Many of these books offer both “windows and mirrors” to the reader. The stories offer both a window to help us understand the characters’ experiences  and a mirror to many of us who might be dealing with some of the same issues. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your feelings and experiences, as well as to develop empathy for those around you.

 favorite middle grade booksThings that surprise you

Good Reads – Things that Surprise You

By Jennifer Maschari 

Emily is about to begin middle school and is feeling all of the usual angst that goes along with that. However, she’s also trying to adjust to her parents’ divorce, her older sister’s absence due to the fact that she’s in residential care for her eating disorder and her best friend’s decision to try new things with lots of new friends.

 Middle School adjustments, divorce, friendship, eating disorders

favorite middle gradehalfway Normal

Good Reads – Halfway Normal

By Barbara Dee 

Norah Levy desperately wants to be a normal middle schooler, but she’s just returning to seventh grade after missing two years for cancer treatments. Add to that, her parents have laid out a huge list of crazy rules (in her opinion) to keep her rested and germ free, some of her friends are acting like she might break and some are jealous of the special treatment she’s receiving.

Middle school adjustment, cancer, friendship, family

favorite middle grade booksshort

Good Reads – Short

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia is struggling with several obstacles as she begins summer vacation. To give Julia something to focus on, her mom registers her and her little brother to appear in the community production of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, much to her horror, Julia is cast as a Munchkin.

Friendship, dwarfism, mourning a pet, multigenerational

favorite middle grade booksme and Marvin Gardens

Good Reads – Me and Marvin Gardens

By Amy Sarig King

Obe is struggling with a lot of things in his life. The only good part of his life, is his friend, Annie, and a mysterious animal he discovered down by the creek. He’s not quite sure about Marvin, who might be part pig, is definitely not a dog and eats plastic, But he knows he’s something very special. 

Friendship, family


favorite middle grade bookswishtree

Good Reads – Wishtree

By Katherine Applegate

This story is full compassion and humor, and as a bonus, lots of facts about animals I didn’t know!  Most importantly, it’s about kindness to people and animals, even if they are different than we are. And it’s one of the best read alouds for the ENTIRE family that I have read this year.

Kindness, animals, diversity, family read aloud


great middle grade booksThe peculiar incident on shady street

Good Reads – The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

By Lindsay Currie

This is a story about ghosts, friendship, family and Chicago that I couldn’t stop reading! This is a great choice for kids who are coping with middle school friendships, acceptance of their not so normal family or quirky friends.

Bravery, friendships, middle school adjustments, moving, acceptance of differences

favorite middle grade booksthe vanderbeekers of 141st street

Good Reads – The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

By Karina Yan Glasser

This is a story about community, diversity, city living and love. It’s a perfect read aloud for the entire family. I highly recommend gathering all the kids, whatever age, cuddling up under a fuzzy blanket and reading this delightful story together. Especially recommended for Penderwick lovers!

Family Read, Families, Kindness, Communities, Diversity, City Living, 


favorite middle grade booksMacy Mcmillan and the rainbow goddess

Good Reads – Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

This free verse story is about Macy, who has been deaf since she had meningitis when she was four, and the many challenges she is facing as she finishes sixth grade.  I loved this poignant book as Macy faced her challenges, and with her elderly neighbor’s help, began to understand that “Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting – in need of a message you can send.”

Families, multigrenerational


The Unlikely story of a pig in the city

Good Reads – The Unlikely Story of a Pig in a City

By Jodi Kendall

This is a charming story about family, friendship, teamwork and of course, animals. Josie is one of five children in a loving, lively family living in a small townhouse in an Ohio city who often feels overlooked. When her brother brings home a piglet on Thanksgiving, the runt of the litter from a nearby farm, Josie falls in love and knows in her heart that she was meant to save Hamlet. This is another great family read aloud and a special one for Charlotte’s Web fans and Penderwick fans!

Families, city living, friendship, animals, family read aloud

middle grade booksVilonia beefe takes charge

Good Reads – Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

By Kristin L. Gray

This story will have you laughing out loud, but will also leave you in tears. It’s a wonderful book about kindness, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and family.  This is the first middle grade book I’ve read that addresses depression and describes the effects that it can have on the entire family.

Humor, kindness, thoughtfulness, family, mourning a grandparent, depression


middle grade booksKat greene comes clean

Good Reads – Kat Greene Comes Clean

By Melissa Roske

Kat is a sixth grader who is dealing with so much in her life, but she is also very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of caring and supportive people, both children and adults. She bravely deals with the repercussions of her mom’s cleaning OCD as she faces the changing friendships of sixth grade.

Bravery, compassion, friendship, flexibility, OCD


middle grade booksKarma Khullar’s Mustache

Good Reads – Karma Khullar’s Mustache

By Kristi Wientge

Karma, who is half Sikh, half Methodist has lost her dear dadima (grandma) who lived with and cared for her family, her dad has lost his job, her mom has gone from being home and always available for Karma, to working full time in a very demanding job. Add to all of that Karma’s best friend has decided to be friends with her new “mean girl” neighbor and the fact that Karma has suddenly sprouted a 17 hair mustache, means Karma couldn’t be more nervous about middle school.

Adjustment to middle school, diversity, mourning a grandparent, friendship, family

middle grade booksgreetings from witness protection

Good Reads – Greetings from Witness Protection

By Jake Burt

Nikki (Charlotte) has never known her mother, her dad’s in prison and her grammy has died so she’s in “the system”. But suddenly she is given an unexpected choice – remain at the children’s home for her next foster placement or become the daughter of a family entering witness protection. She proves herself to be a loyal friend, a great problem solver and a caring daughter as she grows more accustomed to her new life.
I would highly recommend this for grades 5 – 8. There is so much adventure, as well as so much heart in this story, that it will appeal to everyone. I couldn’t put it down!

Adventure, family, friendship, adjustment to middle school

There were so many more, but I’m trying not to completely overwhelm you! If you need more suggestions, please check out my Instagram account.  I’ll be back soon with my favorite picture books of 2017. Have a great week!

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate – An Unforgettable Book

I love trees. Not just in this season when the colors are spectacular, but during any time of year. Even in the winter when all I can see are the stark outlines against the bleak sky. I love the shapes, the hollows and the way they bend in the wind. And I especially love the thought that so many creatures call trees home.

Berentstain Bears Christmas Tree

When I do this, I can’t help but think of this page in Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree.  It’s fascinating to think that not only birds depend upon trees to hold their nests, but so many different animals do as well. Then of course, there are all of the reasons kids can tell us why we need to be grateful for trees; for the oxygen, for the shade in the summer and for the erosion that is prevented when their strong roots hold the earth in place. So, when I first heard that Katherine Applegate had written a new book called Wishtree, I thought it would be perfect for me. Until I read it recently, I had no idea how perfect it was

wishtree by katherine applegate – description

Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.


You see, all through my childhood,  I have always imagined that the trees, the bugs, the animals were having conversations. I was absolutely certain about this. I am delighted to tell you that Wishtree confirms my beliefs! Wishtree is written from the point of view of Red (short for Red Oak), a 216 year old tree who has steadfastly witnessed, cared for and worried about his neighborhood. Not only has he always had great concern for all of the animals who called his giant branches and deep hollows home, he has also cared for the people who surrounded him everyday. He can tell stories about the baby who was left in one of his hollows to be found, loved and raised by his maiden owner. He can tell how his present owner (who doesn’t have a lot of love for him) is that maiden’s great granddaughter. He can tell how neighbors have come and gone and how many of those neighbors have immigrated from foreign countries. He can describe how they have all supported and loved one another with very little strife through the years, at least until now. Until a Muslim family moved into the neighborhood and everything changed. And finally he can tell how many years ago that maiden had tied a wish to his branches asking for “someone to love with all my heart” and from the simple act, Red had become known as the “Wishtree”.

This story is full compassion and humor, and as a bonus, lots of facts about animals I didn’t know! For example, did you know that animals who are active at twilight are called crespuscular animals? I certainly didn’t! Most importantly, it’s about kindness to people and animals, even if they are different than we are. And it’s one of the best read alouds for the ENTIRE family that I have read this year. I hope you’ll share it with your kids and let me know how you all like it in the comments below.

Finally, be sure and visit The Wishtree website. Watch the amazing video and DEFINITELY leave a wish!

36 Chapter Book Gifts for Kids

Are you wondering what books to get for the kids on your list? I have 36 books from different genres that are sure to excite your children and will help you find the perfect chapter book gifts!

chapter book gifts: realistic fictionchapter book gifts

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Ally is dyslexic and has no faith in herself, but her teacher helps her to find her true potential.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. Trent is starting middle school and he’s heard the stories about it being such a rough time. However, after his experience in fifth grade he is hoping that it’s a big improvement and he can make a fresh start! Then after Trent stands up for a girl in the park, Fallon, who is being teased and bullied because of her severe scar, they slowly become friends, but it’s not easy. As you read this book, you’ll find your heart breaking a bit for both of the kids, but you’ll also find yourself feeling very proud of how they tackle their problems.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall; Lexile 800 – 940; AR 4.7 – 5.6. This is a fun chapter book series about four sisters, a very interesting boy and two rabbits. The books are heart warming stories, which are full of adventure.

Sports Illustrated for Kids Chapter Book series by various authors. Lexile 500 – 570; AR 3.0 – 3.7. These are short, easy to read chapter books, each focusing on a different sport

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald.  Lexile 490 – 590; AR 2.9 – 4.2. Judy is a third grader with lots of dilemmas, but she always seem to devise an intriguing solution to every problem. These are fun to read easy chapter books to entice early readers.

The Year of… series by Andrea Cheng (realistic fiction). Lexile 590 – 690; AR 3.9 – 4.3. This charming series is narrated by 11 year old Anna who exhibits thoughtfulness and understanding of others in each book.

The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. Lexile 800 – 890; AR 4.6 – 5.1.Realistic fiction; Each book in the series focuses on the book being read and discussed by the mothers and the sixth grade daughters in the group, such as Little Women or Pride and Prejudice. The stories explore the relationships between the mothers and daughters, the daughters relationships to one another and their growing up experiences.

chapter book giftsJeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. In a few short months, Jeremy will turn 13. Then a mysterious wooden box is delivered, but it is locked up tight with no key to be found. This story describes Jeremy’s search for the key to the box left to him by his late father, so that he can learn the true meaning of life before his 13th birthday.

Everyday Angel series by Victoria Schwab – realistic fiction, (ages 8 – 12). Lexile 690 – 730; AR 4.6 – 5.1 This sweet three book series focuses on an angel, Aria, who is earning her wings by helping girls who are struggling.

Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger.  Lexile 680 – 760; AR 4.6 – 4.9. Dwight, normally thought of as a loser in the sixth grade at McQuarrie Middle School, leads the class to solve their problems with a wise and all knowing finger puppet, Yoda.

Cupcake Diaries by Coco Simon. Lexile 600 – 780; AR 4.0 – 4.8. Katie feels a bit lost when she starts middle school, but she soon finds three new friends who join her to form a cupcake club that spreads joy and earns money.

The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz. This is an inspiring story for a read aloud or for your child to read on their own. After her Grandma’s death, Nina decides to do something ordinary and unnoticed every day of the 65 days of summer to see if she can really make a difference.

chapter book gifts: Humorchapter book gifts

Sideways Stories by Louis Sachar. Lexile 440 – 550 ; AR 3.3 – 3.8; Wayside School was supposed to have 30 classrooms all on one floor, but the builder made a mistake and put them one on top of each other, so the school is 30 stories high. And all sorts of strange and funny things happen in those rooms, especially on the 13th floor!

Clementine Series by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee. Lexile 670 – 720. AR 3.9 – 4.6. A very funny series about Clementine, who has ideas “constantly springing up in her brain” which very often lead to a trip to the principal’s office.

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. Lexile 530 – 850; AR 4.3 – 5.1. These are funny, action packed chapter books filled with lots of illustrations on each page, as well as a bonus comic section, which help to draw in a reluctant reader.

chapter book gifts: mysterieschapter book gifts

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.S. Spratt; This is such a new series that it doesn’t yet have a lexile or AR level, but I think it will be for grades 4 – 7. I’m including it because I think it’s going to be very popular and is the perfect choice for those voracious readers who enjoy a good mystery. It got starred reviews in Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly, which is always a good sign.

A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy. Lexile 410 – 550. AR 3.4 – 3.9. Third Graders, Dink and his pals Josh and Ruth work their way through the alphabet mystery series for young detectives.

Ivy and Bean by Anne Barrows. Lexile 490 – 550; AR 3.2 -3.9. The series follows the adventures of best friends, Ivy and Bean, as they solve one mystery after another.

Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly and Mark Meyers. Lexile 540 – 590. AR 3.7 – 4.0. These are fun, puzzling mysteries, with two nine year old detectives as the main characters. Every story is set at a different ballpark and includes historical details about the park.

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobel; Lexia 580 – 720; AR 3.9 – 5.2. Each book contains ten stories and always begins the same, with an explanation about who Encyclopedia is. Therefore, the books can be read in any order, which makes it very easy when checking them out from the library or buying the book. Encyclopedia is a fifth grade super detective who always solves the mystery by the end of the chapter. Readers can check their own solutions with Encyclopedia’s, which are found at the back of each book.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. This is a hilarious mystery, with endearing characters.

chapter book gifts: historical fiction chapter book gifts

I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis. Lexile 590 – 740; AR 3.9 – 6.4. Each book describes an 11 year old boy’s experiences in the midst of a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, Pearl Harbor and the Hindenberg.

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz describes the adventures and struggles of the first female rider for the Pony Express.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. This story describes Gloriana June Hemphill’s life in Hanging Moss, Missippi, during the summer of 1964. She is so excited to celebrate her birthday in just a few weeks at her community pool, but after it becomes law that the pool must be integrated, it is closed to all. This is a memorable novel about fighting discrimination, family, friendship and making choices.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. In a series of poems, the author shares her experiences of being an Aftrican American girl growing up in the 60s and 70s during the Civil Rights Movement.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This novel tells the story of Ada and Jamie as they struggle to find safety, love and a new family in the British countryside during World War II.

chapter book gifts: graphic novels chapter book gifts

Smile series by Raina Telemeier (realistic fiction, graphic novel) Stories about growing up told with humor and art.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney; Lexile 950 – 1020 (You need not be concerned about this high level, because this is a graphic novel and is enjoyed by all ages. A great choice for reluctant readers!); AR 5.2 – 5.8. This series, which is full of harmless fun, follows Greg Heffley as he records his daily middle school life.

Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce. Lexile 420 – 520; AR 2.4 – 3.5.Big Nate is a mischievous, fun middle school character who encounters a lot of stress because of his teachers, his parents and his annoying older sister.

chapter book gifts: fantasy chapter book gifts

Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne; Lexile 230 – 540; AR 2.8 – 4.0. This series describes Annie and Jack’s adventures as they fly through time in a magic treehouse.

Half Upon a Time series by James Riley. Jack, son of Jack and the Beanstalk is working to save his family’s reputation along with the help of May, who is actually from this world and is very confused to discover that she is in the middle of a fairy tale adventure.  

Story Thieves series by James Riley. Owen is bored with his life and is in the library when he sees his classmate, Bethany climb out of a storybook. It turns out she is half storybook character and is searching every book in the library looking for her fictional father. Owen is sworn to secrecy and joins her in her search.

Fablehaven Series by Brian Mull; Lexile 700 – 790; AR 4.8 – 5.6. Kendra and Seth are sent to spend the summer with their grandfather, who they barely know. He warns them to stay out of the woods surrounding his house, but of course, Kendra and Seth can’t help but venture into the forest. Their explorations lead them into many adventures after discovering the mythical and magical creatures that live there.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Lexile 630 – 790: AR 4.3 – 6.0. This is an extremely popular series with lots of action and adventure involving Greek Gods and monsters.

Heros of Olympus by Rick Riordan; Lexia 620 – 690; AR 5.2 – 6.1. This is the follow-up series to Percy Jackson which includes the same main characters and brings their adventures to a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesdays at the Castle series by Jessica Day George; Lexia 770 – 830; AR 5.2 – 5.8. This series describes growing up in magical Castle Glower that grows new rooms and secret passageways to help the princess and her siblings in their daily adventures.

chapter book giftsMrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien; Lexile 790; AR 5.1. Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four small children and a huge problem. She must move her family to their summer home immediately, or face almost certain death. This is the first of three books in the series. If your child enjoys these, you can suggest The Redwall series by Brian Jacques next.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. Roz, a robot, finds herself alone on a desert island with no way to get home. However, Roz is very intelligent and very adaptable, so she quickly learns how to cope with living in the wood by observing the unwelcoming animals. This novel is heart warming, full of action and is one you won’t want to miss!

Now your life just got a little easier! Surely some of these titles will  help you to check off the chapter book readers on your list! Do you have some titles I’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments, so that everyone’s December is a little easier!

P.S. The picture book gift list is coming soon!

a year ago: Children’s Chapter Books for Christmas Gifts
Children’s Picture Books for Christmas Gifts

New Picture Books for All Ages!

 Well, it’s Mother’s Day and I just received phone calls from both of my sons, so it’s been a good day! This book, This is Sadie, is all about a child and her imagination. I loved this book for many reasons, but probably most importantly because it reminded me of my own kids when they were growing up. Just like Sadie, they had lots of toys and art supplies, but some of the most fun they had, at least in my memory, were the times when they were lucky enough to have an appliance box to play with. It would morph into so many different things from a ship to a Millennium Falcon to a castle. In the winter there were always pillows and blankets, along with the dining room table to help them hatch a new idea for another adventure. I hope your Mother’s Day was as special as mine, and your days are full of happy memories with your little ones. 💕

My last post was about new picture books and chapter books for kids. There were so many picture books that I wanted to include in that post, but the list was getting a little lengthy, so I decided to write about some more new picture books this week. I’ve included ideas about using the books, which I hope are helpful. These are books that were published recently, and I didn’t want you to miss them!


new kids books

This is a heart warming story that would be a perfect graduation or baby gift. The narrator wishes the children many things from “I wish you more ups than downs,” to “I wish you more stories than stars.” And each wish is accompanied by a darling picture which perfectly illustrates the wish. In fact, I just put it into my Amazon cart so I’ll be prepared for those graduations!

Read aloud for all ages; great baby or graduation gift


ask me

The illustrations in this book by Suzy Lee captivated me when I first saw it on the book store shelf. The golds, oranges, and reds are so alive and so happy. Ask Me is a heartwarming story about a walk that a father and daughter take through the park and woods. We learn that this is just an ordinary walk on an ordinary day, but each of them are delighted to be with one another, to be outside and to be enjoying and observing everything around them. The little girl keeps up a running narrative telling her dad to ask her lots of questions about everything from ice cream cones to lightening bugs. This continues until Daddy tucks her in with a good night kiss.

Read aloud preK – grade 2, illustrations, families.


new kids books

The illustrations are all black and white except for a tiny bit of red on each page, which gives a sinister feel to the story from the very beginning of this “fractured fairy tale” about Little Red Riding Hood. This Little Red isn’t at all afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. She sees through his disguises and his trickery and decides to play along, which leads to an unhappy ending for the wolf. The story requires a lot of inferences throughout the book, which will lead to many discussions whether it be one on one or in a class setting. In fact, I am using this as an example of an updated fairy tale when I am a guest teacher in some second grade classes.

K – 6; fractured fairy tale example; inferences


new kids books

From the amazing end papers through the family photo album at the end of the book, the story and the illustrations in this year’s Caldecott Winner,tell the story of the little bear who inspired the Winnie the Pooh books, It was written as a true story for the author’s son about his great great grandfather and his bear who became Winnie in the A.A. Milne books. I think this is going to be my new “go-to” gift! This is one to keep!

Read aloud for all ages; baby gift


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Little Tree loves his life in the forest and especially loves his leaves. When autumn arrives, he refuses to let his leaves fall, although all of his friends surrounding him have shed theirs. In the spring, he notices his friends have grown a bit, but he’s just the same. This continues for many years until Little Tree is by far the smallest tree in the forest, which finally convinces him to let go of his leaves and to begin to grow. This sweet story encourages us to have the strength and the bravery to face change and to welcome the future. Loren Long, the author of the Otis books, has given us another very special book to add to our libraries.

Read aloud for all ages; growing up; bravery

new kids books

The newest book from Caldecott Medal winning author, Philip C. Stedman, which has earned four starred reviews, is a remarkable and simple picture book with a mixture of photographs and splatter art, as well as ink and watercolor drawings. It is the story of the author and his dog’s wanderings through their neighborhood as they notice everything around them from the frog in his pond, to the line at the soup kitchen, to a train roaring by. As the author sits and talks with his friend, Barbara, and his dog, Wednesday, chases squirrels, he realizes that thoughts lead to more thoughts and that ideas are truly all around. You just need to know where to look!

Read aloud for all ages; imagination; creativity

Octopuppy by Martin McKenna

hot new kids books

Edgar wanted a dog for his birthday, but somehow he ended up with an octopus named Jarvis. Edgar does his best to make Jarvis into a puppy, but Jarvis just doesn’t fit in. After disappointing Edgar many times, Jarvis leaves. This book teaches a great lesson that we need to appreciate our friends for their talents and not expect them to change into someone we want them to be.  Be sure and check out the amazing end papers!

PreK – grade 2; friendship

last stop on market street by matt de la pena


This book won almost more awards than you can count. In addition to the 2016 Newbery Medal, it also won a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book Award,  a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book Award,  a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book Award of 2015 and a Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015. It tells the story of a boy and his grandma’s bus ride through the city on a Sunday after church. Grandma’s appreciation of everyone and everything they encounter helps CJ to find the beauty in the world that he never thought about before.

Read aloud PreK – grade 5; appreciation of beauty; optimism

please mr. panda by steve antony

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I learned about this book through an Instagram post by By following Appy Reading, I have learned about many wonderful books, including this one. Mr. Panda has an entire box of donuts he wants to share with his friends. He asks each friend, and they always have an answer, but it’s never the right one until one friend knows the perfect way to ask for a treat! Your little one will be willing each animal to ask the “right way”. The story provides a great opportunity for a conversation about the polite way to ask for something, whether it’s at home or when they’re at the library or a restaurant!

Read aloud preK – grade 2; manners; sharing

this is Sadie by sara O’Leary

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The charming illustrations of this book pulled me in and then the story captivated me. As you can tell, I love this book! It describes all of the places and all of the things a child can do with imagination. It’s tells about the childhood that we dream about, and wish for all of our children. It’s definitely on my baby gift list!

Read Aloud; PreK – grade 2; imagination, illustrations, baby gift.

who done it?  by Olivier tallec

hot new kids picture book

I learned about this through an online friend, who writes amazing book reviews on her blog and on Instagram, This book provides lots of opportunities for conversation with your preschooler, which in turn gives them practice in conversing, and helps teach inferential and early reasoning skills. It’s going to be a favorite for both of you, because you’ll love hearing your child’s different answers every time you read, Who Done It?

Read aloud; PreK – grade 2; inference, questioning, early reasoning skills.

the dark by Lemony snicket

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I was first attracted to this book because of the author, Lemony Snicket. He was a favorite in my library for many years, because of his chapter book series, A Series of Unusual Events. I was curious about what his picture book might be about. As it turns out, it is just what the title suggests! It tells the story of Laszlo who is afraid of the dark (as I sometimes am during the dark winter days in northern Michigan!). It would be a great read aloud with your child who might be feeling the same way. It brings up lots of thoughts and ideas about the dark and why we need it. A wonderful bonus for this book, are the illustrations by Jon Klassen. You may recognize his style from another very popular book during the last year, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

Read aloud preK – grade 3. Fear of the dark.

raindrop rolls by april pulley sayre


I first learned about this book, through a review on A Storybook Year blog. This is an ambitious family project where they read aloud a new storybook every day and then share a review on their blog. I’m sure you’d find some new books, if you browse through the posts.

The cover photograph of Raindrops Roll gives you an idea of the delight you will feel as you turn the pages of this photo illustrated nonfiction book. Raindrops Roll tells the story of what happens to all of nature in a forest, both during a rain shower and after the rain stops. It includes a brief science section at the end of the book that explains what is happening to the water on each page.

When I was with a three year old this past week, who was fascinated with taking pictures of his aunt to be as she tried on her wedding gown, I had an idea about this book. This would be a great introduction to your children about photography and science, and perhaps they could make their own photographic science book!

Read aloud all ages; science of water cycle; nonfiction; photography

Are there some new picture books you’d like us to know about? Please let me know in the comments!

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Kindness Picture Books for Kids


When I was an LMC Director, I would have orientations for all of the classes at the beginning of the year. We would go over the behavior expectations for the library, as well as the “how-tos” of finding and checking out books. When it came to my expectations of the kids, I always emphasized the most important of those was kindness. The kindness principles included sharing with one another, being helpful to other kids and being respectful of each other’s feelings. The kids knew that I would tolerate many things in the library, but if I saw an unkind act, that was when there would be a consequence! I stressed that the most important thing they could do each day was to be kind to those around you. The kids who had been at Patterson since kindergarten or first grade (most of them) knew about my feelings, because they had heard and discussed many kindness picture books with me during their storytimes.

During those storytimes, I included a series of kindness picture books. I would often begin the series with Because Amelia Smiled, Lexile 760; AR 3.5. It’s a delightful story about the magic of a little girl’s smile and how that magic traveled the world. Another book with a similar theme is One Smile, AR 3.7. This is an enchanting story which describes how one little girl’s act of kindness can change lives. I would challenge the kids to try smiling at lots of people during the next week and then reporting back during the next storytime about the difference it made with others. Read aloud, kindness, circle story.

kindness books

Then a few years ago a friend told me about a local author and her new book, A Girl with a Cape, by Amy Logan. Amy was inspired to write this book after becoming very concerned about adults lack of kindness and courtesy toward others. She is a big believer that children model adult behavior, so this was very distressing to her. She was also concerned about the bullying that was occurring in schools and increasing every year. Out of this concern, came the idea for her book. A Girl with a Cape is now one of my favorite examples of kindness picture books. It explains how a child’s little acts of caring and kind words, and an adult’s response and praise for those acts can add up to make a real difference. It’s also an excellent example of cause and effect. Kindness, cause and effect, read aloud.       

kindness picture books


Kindness picture books

I have compiled a list of kindness picture books that are great read alouds for all ages for home or for the classroom. Therefore, this list is directed at both parents and teachers.  These books can prompt many discussions about kindness in the world, kindness at school and kindness at home and how it can begin with them, as well as discussions about bullying. I have included categories for each book in italics at the end of the summary to help you find the books that support your needs. Also, Lexile and AR levels, are listed, if available, but please remember these don’t apply to wordless picture books. Finally, I found all of these books in my public library and I hope you can do the same. However, I’ve included links for purchasing the books, if you would like to do that. 

kindness picture book

A Home for BirdLexile 360; AR 2.2, by Philip C. Stead. Vernon, the toad, finds a silent bird while foraging in the forest. The bird is sad and Vernon is determined to help him find his home. They travel great distances and visit many places before finding Bird’s home. Because Bird never speaks, there are lots of opportunities during the story to discuss what Bird is thinking and feeling. Feelings, read aloud, kindness. 

kindness picture books

How Kind by Mary Murphy, AR 1.1. A kind deed in the barnyard inspires a chain of kindness among the animals. pre-K, circle story, kindness. 

The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Lexile 540; AR 3.1. The story begins with the retelling of the fable of The Lion and the Mouse, which leads to the class making an acts of kindness quilt after realizing what they do every day can be an act of kindness.

kindness picture books

The Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDonnell, Lexile 610; AR 3.5. The giant monster teaches the three little monsters by example about gratitude.  Read aloud, bullying, kindness, gratitude.

kindness picture books

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Lexile 640; AR 3.4. This book is a beautiful illustration of the impact that kindness can make in the world when a little girl learns that “each kindness makes the world a little bit better.” Read aloud, kindness, bullying.

Kindness picture books

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham. This book is great for a read aloud and gives the kids the opportunity to create a conversation for each page. The story describes a little boy’s kindness and his parents support as he helps a bird with a broken wing. Read aloud, wordless picture book, kindness.

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley. This is a wordless picture book which will help an adult to initiate a conversation with a child about kindness. Wordless picture book, kindness.

Little Bird by Germano Zullo. This is another wordless picture book that is a very unusual story about generosity and kindness. It gives lots of opportunities for discussion due to the minimal amount of text and wonderful, expressive illustrations. Wordless picture book, kindness.

kindness picture books

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, Lexile 330; AR 3.2. In this story a little boy learns how to turn a “best enemy” into a best friend with his dad’s help. Read aloud, kindness, bullying.

Ben Rides On by Matt Davies, Lexile 730; AR 3.6. Ben’s act of kindness to a bully brings big rewards. This also includes a good bike safety message. Read aloud, bullying, kindness, bike safety.

Finally, a book I recently found while researching for this post, is Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen. This is a very simple, beautifully illustrated picture book with a soothing message to children that there are truly good people everywhere in their lives. Pre-K, kindness, read aloud, gratitude.

These are just a few of the wonderful kindness picture books. What are your favorites? What can I add to the list? Please let me know in the comments below.

On the blog: 14 Books to Help Your Child Be More Compassionate







Some New and Noteworthy Kids’ Chapter Books

Before I began to write this blog, I followed several people who blogged about adult books and their lives. My two favorites, by far, are Modern Mrs. Darcy and Emily P. Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky. This past Friday, I received an update from Chatting at the Sky, titled “Let’s Share What We Learned in January”. I’m sure I’ll be reading a similar post from Modern Mrs. Darcy in the next few days. I love this practice, because it encourages you to look back and appreciate your experiences. In September, I started keeping lists of what I learned each month. It’s amazing how many things one learns, large and small, each month. This got me to thinking about all the new books from 2015. In an average year over 5000 children’s books are published. That number is always amazing to me! So I decided to put a little bit of a twist on “What I Learned this Month” and change it to “New Chapter Books I have learned about in 2015”.

When I was a school librarian, I always kept up with the new books by reading many reviews from so many sources. I received weekly emails notifying me about what was coming. I was able to keep up to date with my favorite authors and my favorite genres which enabled me to keep the library collection current. Unfortunately, when I lost my school email address I lost touch with those organizations Luckily, now I am renewing my contacts with many sources, and as I do that I am discovering some new kids’ chapter books that I missed. So I decided to share these with you. I hope you might find some special books to share with your child or your class.

Chris Grabenstein chapter books

We’ll start with the chapter book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. This is a great adventure that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Mr. Lemoncello, the most creative and notorious game maker in the world, being very similar to Willy Wonka. The characters are led on a wild and crazy game while they are locked in the amazing, state of the art library. Happily, the author, Chris Grabenstein has published two more books, which are equally fascinating, The Island of Dr. Libris and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.

mr. lemoncello
Chris Grabenstein Chapter Books

Wendy Mass Chapter books

Wendy Mass has been one of my favorite authors for many years. Her books all contain a surprising twist with a little magic and wonder mixed in! They appeal to both boys and girls. My favorite of all is probably Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Jeremy and his best friend spend the summer before his 13th birthday searching for the key to a mysterious wooden box which is said to contain the meaning of life. 

I was delighted when I was looking at my local library “Battle of the Books” shelf and discoverd a new book by Miss Mass that I didn’t know about, Pi in the Sky. 

Pi in the Sky chapter book by Wendy Mass.
Pi in the Sky chapter book by Wendy Mass.

She has written so many other notable and extremely popular books as well, such as Every Soul a Star and her Willow Fall Series.

lisa graff chapter books

Lost in the Sun chapter book
Lost in the Sun Chapter Book

I was delighted to see that another favorite author had written a new book, Lost in the Sun. This book has appeared on all of the “Best of 2015 Chapter Book” lists, and I’m not surprised. She has written so many well loved books in the past. Her books can be mystical or they can tug at your heart strings, but they are always memorable.

pam munoz ryan chapter books

riding freedom
Riding Freedom Chapter Book

The first Pam Munoz Ryan book I read was a historical fiction book, Riding Freedom, which described the first female rider for the Pony Express. This book is especially memorable to me, because I partner read this book with my third grade niece, Julia, many years ago. I was taking a Children’s Literature class at the time and one of the assignments, was to partner read a book with a child. Julia was living in New Jersey, but thanks to email, we were easily able to share our thoughts about the book. In fact, if you have a child in your life who is not close by, I highly recommend this method! It is wonderful to have that shared experience and when you do visit with the child, you have so much to chat about.

Echo Chapter Book

Miss Ryan published a highly reviewed book in 2015, Echo. In fact, this is a Newberry Honor book. As a reminder, this is an award given to  the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” There is one winner, as well as three honor authors honored each year.

brian selznick chapter books

Brian Selznick’s previous popular books, The Invention of Hugo Cabretthe 2008 Caldecott Winner for the best American picture book of the year, and Wonderstruck were always difficult to check out in my library, although we had six copies of each title. The kids loved the amazing black and white illustrations on every other page and the intriguing stories. I was so happy to see that Mr. Selznick has published a new book, The Marvelswhere he creates two new stand alone stories, with the first being completely comprised of illustrations and the second an intriguing puzzle in prose. 

sheila turnage chapter books

Odds of getting even
Odds of Getting Even Chapter Book

Ghost of Tupelo Landing
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing chapter book

In 2013, Miss Turnage published an extremely popular book, Three Times Lucky, a Newberry Honor bookThis is a hilarious mystery, with endearing characters. Happily, two more books were added to the series this year, Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and Odds of Getting Even.                                  




rick riordan chapter books

Finally, I want to tell you about a new fantasy series, by Rick Riordan, author of the hugely popular Percy Jackson and Olympus Series books. It is Magnus Chase and the Gods of AsgardAfter his mother’s death, Magnus is tracked down by a mysterious uncle his mother has always warned him about as being dangerous, but his uncle tells him an impossible secret. He confides that Magnus is the son of a Norse God. The second book in the series will be published in October.

I’m afraid this post, has gotten a little lengthy, but there are just so many new books I want to share with you. I’ll do that in the coming months, I promise! Hopefully, some of these titles will be favorites for the children in your life!

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Children’s Chapter Books for Christmas Gifts


Part 2: children’s Chapter Books

Here is the promised second post about children’s chapter books that would make good holiday gifts (or at any other time of the year!). It took me a little longer than the four or five days that I promised in my post on Sunday, but I’m sure you all know about this time of year. The days just seem like they go by so quickly! On top of that, the weather here has been amazing for December. We’ve had fifty degree days all week. This means that Dennis and I had to get outside and enjoy it while we can. This included many walks to our local downtown area. It’s about a two mile walk each way and we always reward ourselves with a stop for tea or coffee, so it makes it extra fun! In fact it was such a good day on Thursday, rather than drive downtown to do some Christmas shopping we decided to walk down and stop for lunch. Every time we do this, we feel like this might be our last opportunity for several months, so we’re loving it while we can!

There are so many chapter books for me to suggest. My niece Sarah and I brainstormed a list and it’s way too long for one post! Some of the titles have been around for a long time, but are still available and are still great books. Others are newly published within the last few years. What I thought I would do, is list the title, the author, the genre, the level and a short summary. This is similar to the “Book Blasts” that I used to do with my classes at my school. After one of these, the books flew off the shelves! So here goes – hope you find one or more that might appeal to the children in your life!  Oh, by the way, these are in random order and there are links for each one which leads you to one of the many places where you might purchase these books.

The Witches by Roald Dahl.   Lexile 740; AR 4.7


This is a fantasy about a seven year old boy and his encounters with a REAL WITCH and how he tackles his problem with the help of his magical grandmother.

This is just one of Roald Dahl’s many amazing fantasies that will intrigue and entertain your child.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate Dicamillo.   Lexile 520; AR  4.3


This is a story with lots of comic book type illustrations and lots of humor. Flora is a girl who discovers Ulysses (a squirrel) and after a terrible accident with a vacuum cleaner, Ulysses is born anew as a squirrel with super powers. This was the 2014 Newberry winner (best chapter book of the year). If your child enjoys Flora, be sure and introduce Kate Dicamillo’s other books, especially The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

 Great Illustrated Classics AR 4.2 – 6.0

Historical Fiction

I first learned about this series when I was looking for books for my son many years ago. These are adapted versions of many of the classics. The books are so popular with children, because in addition to the great stories (big favorites are always 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Moby Dick, Treasure Island and The Secret Garden, among others) there is a full page illustration on almost every other page. This is especially good for those children who are resisting leaving behind the illustrations of their picture books and early chapter books.

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall.  Lexile 800 – 940; AR 4.7 – 5.6

Realistic Fiction

This series is a refreshing, cozy tale of four sisters, two rabbits and their friend named Jeffrey. The first book takes place during one summer on Jeffrey’s seaside estate and describes lots of adventures and lots of fun.

Love that Dog and Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech. AR 4.5 – 5.0

Realistic Fiction

These are short books, which are great for reluctant readers, because they are both written in poetry form. Therefore, there isn’t as much text on the page (which helps with those children who are resisting reading a chapter book), but the story will still draw the reader in. If your child enjoys these, Sharon Creech has written lots more books, many with a meaningful message.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien.  Lexile 790; AR 5.1


This book holds a special place in my heart, because my husband read this to my two sons many years ago and they loved it. This is a perfect book for the animal lovers in your family. It is a story of a widowed mouse and her family who are helped by the Rats of Nimh, highly intelligent extraordinary creatures, to solve their life threatening problem. This is the first of three books in the series. If your child enjoys these, you can suggest The Redwall series by Brian Jacques next.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Lexile 700; AR 4.1

Realistic Fiction

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Claudia and her brother Jamie decide to run away and Claudia insists that their destination be an elegant one. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City! The story describes their adventures as they hide from the guards and avoid detection for several days, as well as their investigation into the mystery statue the museum purchased at a bargain price. Is it really by Michelangelo and therefore worth millions?

If your child enjoys this, be sure and look for many other titles by E.L.Konigsburg.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass; Lexile 770; AR 4.5

Realistic Fiction

It’s a little difficult to choose the genre of this book or any of Wendy Mass’s other books. They are predominantly realistic fiction, but there is always a little bit of magic or fantasy in each one that will leave the reader wondering long after they’ve finished the book!

In this book Jeremy is going to turn 13 in a very short time. He and his friend, Lizzy live in New York City and are on their own for much of their days while their parents work. Jeremy would rather not venture more than a few blocks from his apartment, but Lizzy is already to go anywhere for an adventure. Jeremy’s life suddenly changes when a mysterious wooden box arrives. It is a gift from his late father and is said to contain the meaning of life, but there is a problem. The keys to the fascinating box are missing. This is the story of Jeremy and Lizzy’s adventures as they explore the city to find the keys and how they meet some intriguing people along the way.

Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan. Lexile 770; AR 5.6

Realistic Fiction

This is a relatively new book, and it was probably my favorite of the past year. Willow, a 12 year old genius, loses her parents in a car crash very early in the story. Hearing that, you would assume this is going to be a sad and grief filled book. There is grief, but there is so much joy as well, as Willow fights through her sadness and finds a loving home in a totally unexpected surrogate family.


Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull. Lexile 700 – 790; AR 4.8 – 5.6


Kendra and Seth are sent to spend the summer with their grandfather, who they barely know. He warns them to stay out of the woods surrounding his house, but of course, Kendra and Seth can’t help but venture into the forest. Their explorations lead them into many adventures after discovering the mythical and magical creatures that live there.


As I said in the beginning, there are far too many wonderful chapter books to be included in one post! Be assured, I will write more in the new year and add some titles to the list. Meanwhile, please have a wonderful time choosing some books for the children in your lives, either at the library or the bookstore. I look forward to your comments about these titles and your suggestions about more titles to add to the list!

Finally, I wish you a holiday season full of love and peace with your family and friends!





Children’s Picture Books for Christmas Gifts

holly and ribbon Children’s picture books for

Christmas gifts holly and ribbon

Holiday Gift Ideas

Last week sixteen members of our family gathered at my sister, Lisa, and brother-in-law, Scott’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving. We were fortunate to have such a large group, but we were certainly missing some who were unable to join us. However, we still had a fun time together! During the after dinner conversation, talk turned to my blog and there were lots of questions… When was I going to announce it on Facebook? When was I going to announce it to my friends? I was having a hard time answering, because I’ve been really nervous about announcing to the world that existed! But then finally a question that I could answer: Would I write a post about book gift ideas for kids of all ages? So here is my first list, which is a compilation of children’s picture books.

Board Books

Whenever I’m invited to a baby shower or I need a baby gift, I turn to concept board books. After all, it has been proven that babies need to hear thirty million words by age three to best develop their brains and what better way to accomplish this, than to read aloud to your child whenever you have the chance! The board books I choose have very simple content or have a concept on each page, such as counting, animals, the alphabet and opposites. Here are a few examples with links to Amazon. I’ll probably also add a few classics to the gift box such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?  Children love the language in this book and it can become a game as you read it aloud. And finally I might include On the Night You Were Born, which is a simple story that tells children how much they are loved.

Dr. Seuss ABC               First 100 Animals        animal touch and feel

  Dr. Seuss’s ABC          first 100 animals       Baby Touch and Feel Animals  

Brown Bear, Brown Bear                                                                       On the Night You were Born

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?                  On the Night You Were Born

Early Picture books

When it comes to early picture books, there are literally thousands of books to choose from. If you are interested in a newly published title, I suggest going on Amazon and reading about the best picture books of 2015. There are some wonderful ones, both humorous stories and those with a message. Probably my favorite of the year, is Waiting  by one of my favorite authors, Kevin Henkes. The story tells about toys that are each happily waiting for something amazing to happen.

children's picture book                                                                                                            children's picture book

     Waiting                                                                                                                   Lenny and Lucy

My other favorite is Lenny and Lucy by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, the author and illustrator of the 2011 Caldecott award winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. This is a special book about the uncertainty and scariness of moving to a new house and it’s also a great lesson in empathy.

Now I’d like to tell you about some “oldies, but goodies”. These are books which may have been published after you were reading picture books so you aren’t familiar with them (and the children receiving them won’t probably already own them), and because they are somewhat older, aren’t showing up on the “best of” lists and in the library displays.

Journey by Aaron Becker

This tells the story of a lonely girl and the magical world she creates with a red marker. It is a wordless picture book that was the Caldecott winner in 2014.

That is NOT a Good Idea!  By Mo Willems

I’m sure many of you know the Piggy and Elephant books by Mo Willems, but this is one you don’t want to miss. It is a very fun read aloud that keeps you guessing until the very end!

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

I decided to add this book to my list after a holiday dinner with my local nieces and nephew. Although, they are teenagers and beyond, they have many fond memories of picture books and we had a lively discussion recalling their favorites. While we were talking about the blog they told me that this was an extra special one because of the characters and the humor. It was a favorite of the Caldecott committee, as well, because it won the award in 1996.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers; Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

You really can’t miss with any of Oliver Jeffers books, but these two are especially touching stories about the importance of friendship between a penguin and a boy.

children’s Picture Books 

When I first opened my elementary school library 22 years ago, I needed to make a decision about how I would refer to the picture books. Many libraries call it the “Easy” section, but I disagreed with that for two reasons. First of all, many picture books are written on fourth grade level and higher. Secondly, and perhaps most important, I didn’t want the older kids to consider them just for K and 1. So the picture book section became the “Everybody Books”. I’m a firm believer that picture books are truly for all ages. I always keep two or three on my coffee table to share with my guests. When my nieces and nephews visit someone is always reading one (and they are just about all grown up now)!

Here are a few more of my favorites with concepts that might appeal to children beyond pre-school age.

children's picture books

How Rocket Learned to Read  by Tad Hills. This is a delightful book about friendship and the power of learning to read.

children's picture books

The Night I Followed the Dog by Nina Laden. After waking up early and seeing his dog hop out of a limousine, a little boy decides to follow his dog the next night. A great read aloud!

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein.  This is another great read aloud. Papa tried to read some favorite bedtime stories to Little Red Chicken, but before Papa can finish, little red chicken jumps into the story and interrupts. Will he ever get to sleep?

Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich. This book tells the story of what happens when a new dog joins the family. It’s a story of friendship that any dog lover can identify with.

Courage  by Bernard Waber. This book explores and celebrates all kinds of courage, big and small.

Ask Me by Bernard Waber. When I was checking to make sure Courage was still in print, I saw this book, which was just published in July. I couldn’t help but add it to the list. The illustrations are amazing – very soft and comforting. The story tells about a father and daughter, their walk through their neighborhood and all of their many questions about what they see and what they like. It would be a great conversation starter for you and your child.

Otis by Loren Long. There is a series of Otis books. Otis is a special tractor who loves his job and all of his friends on his farm, especially Little Calf. Happily, Otis also always manages to save his friends from disasters, as they have fun at the end of a long work day.  These will remind you of Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow where Mike and Katy both save the day.

Of course there are so many more children’s picture books I would recommend, but I’m going to move on to the early chapter books. These are books with a more limited vocabulary and written on second and third grade levels.

Early Chapter Book Series

Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant, AR 2.2 – 3.0, Lexile 340 – 500

Frog and Toad  by Arnold Lobel, AR 2.5 – 3.0, Lexile 300 – 400

Billie B Brown by Sally Rippin; AR 2.2 – 2.9; Lexile 400 – 500

Amelia Bedelia  by Peggy Parish, AR 2.0 – 3.0, Lexile 200 – 400

High Rise, Private Eyes by Cynthia Rylant, AR 2.3 – 2.6, Lexile 150 – 350

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows, AR 3.1 – 3.9, Lexile 440 – 520

Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly and Mark Meyers, AR 3.7 – 4.0, Lexile 480 – 600

Magic Treehouse Mysteries by Mary Pope Osborne, AR 3.0 – 3.9, Lexile 250 – 500

A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy, AR 3.0 – 3.9, Lexile 410 – 590

I’m going to stop here, because this post is getting to be so long! Please look for another post within the next four or five days about chapter books!

Do you have any questions about any of these children’s picture books, or you are looking for more ideas for a great book for your child? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you soon!

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