Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last minute gift ideas for children up to 14-- Notable Children's Books of 2015

Are you looking for last minute ideas? Books are a great gift, when I was in the bookstore today, which was crowded with shoppers looking for the ideal book for their loved ones. As I was walking around, I listened to some of the conversations, and many people were not sure which books to buy for their kids. 

So, when I came home I did some research and found that each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children's books and put it up on the Internet.  I have listed the top books from each of their category below, with a link to where you can buy the book. These books should also be available in your local book store. For the full list go here 

These books have been chosen because of especially commendable quality, their venturesome creativity. There are books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children's interests in exemplary ways.

Younger Readers – Preschool-grade 2 (age 7), including easy-to-read books

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend.  By Dan Santat. Illus. by the author. Little Brown.
In four delightful chapters, Beekle, an imaginary friend, undergoes an emotional journey looking for his human. Vibrant illustrations add to the fun. (2015 Caldecott Medal Book)

The Baby Tree. By Sophie Blackall. Illus. by the author. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen.
Where do babies come from? This question is delicately handled in Blackall's gentle and charming book. After asking around with amusing results, a boy finally learns the true facts from his parents. With a page of tips for "the conversation.”

Beautiful Moon: A Child's Prayer By Tonya Bolden. Illus. by Eric Velasquez. Abrams.
A gorgeous full moon shines on a young boy praying for the homeless, the hungry, those at war and his family. The stunning illustrations set a reverent tone that reflects the thoughtful and universal text.

Blizzard. By John Rocco. Illus. by the author. Disney-Hyperion.
A young boy's experience in a blizzard and the adventure of going to the market are vividly portrayed through Norman Rockwell-like illustrations that give personality to the child and the weather.

A Boy and a Jaquar. By Alan Rabinowitz. Illus. by CáTia Chien. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Alan Rabinowitz's story of feeling broken as a child yet experiencing great empathy for animals kept in cages at the zoo.  He went on to become a zoologist and conservationist known around the world.

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure. By Doreen Cronin. Illus. by Kevin Cornell. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum.
Tail, a scaredy-squirrel, seeks refuge and help from the Chicken Squad, four problem-solving chicks. This illustrated chapter book brings each chicken's zany personality to life.

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream. By Kristy Dempsey. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. Penguin/Philomel.
An inspirational message told in lyrical language about the power of dreams and one young girl's desire to dance. Soft colorful images support the poignant text. 

Dory Fantasmagory. By Abby Hanlon. Illus. by the author. Penguin/Dial.
In this charming take on family life, irrepressible Dory drives her siblings crazy with her wild imagination until she finally gets them to join in on the fun. 

Draw! By Raúl Colón. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman.
Colón celebrates the power of imagination and creativity to heal a bedridden boy. The lush illustrations need no words as the boy goes on an artistic and exciting adventure.

Early Bird. By Toni Yuly. Illus. by the author. Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan.
Early bird rises before the sun to find breakfast. He's tired after so much activity, so he and a surprising friend--early worm--enjoy what he's found.

Middle Readers – Grades 3-5, ages 8-10

In this relatable tale, fifth grader Albie is not very good at a lot of things, but with a little help from a new babysitter, he finds out that being himself is the most important thing. 

Arcady's Goal. By Eugene Yelchin. Illus. by the author. Holt.
Arcady longs to play for the Red Army Soccer Club. Many obstacles interfere with attaining his goal because his family is considered enemies of the state.

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain. By Russell Freedman. Illus. Chinese poems Tr. by Evans Chan. Clarion.
More than half a million people from 80 countries arrived at Angel Island California between 1910 and 1940.  Freedman tells their stories in this well documented and handsomely illustrated book that illuminates a little known piece of history.

Before After. By Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Arégui. Illus. by the authors. Candlewick.
A clever wordless picture book that challenges the reader to figure out connections. Each reading reveals something new and different.  

Woodson’s lyrical memoir chronicles her life as an African-American girl growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Elegant and evocative stand-alone poems weave a story of her development from a struggling reader and dreamer into a confident young woman and writer. (2015 Newbery Honor Book & Sibert Honor Book)

The Boundless. By Kenneth Oppel. Simon & Schuster.
 Suspense and adventure race alongside Will through the Canadian wilderness on the Boundless, the largest and fastest train ever built. Middle-grade steampunk filled with intrigue. 

Follow the scientific method as a group of researchers notice something wrong with the little brown bat population and search for a way to save them.  Stunning photographs make the  discovery even more fascinating.

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cats. By Sy Montgomery. Photographs by Nic Bishop. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Montgomery and Bishop join the Cheetah Conservation Fund in the African wilderness, studying the cheetah's ecological, genetic, and behavioral patterns in order to chase down the fastest animal in the world.

Darethe Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud. By Tracey Fern. Illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. Farrar/Margaret Ferguson.
A thrilling, true story of a clipper ship race from New York to San Francisco navigated by Eleanor Prentiss, the first woman to make the journey.  

El Deafo. By Cece Bell. Color by David Lasky. Abrams/Amulet.
In this insightful and humorous graphic novel memoir, Bell portrays growing up with a giant hearing aid strapped to her chest.  Themes of navigating a new school, sleepovers, finding a true friend, and a first crush make this book universal in appeal. (2015 Newbery Honor Book)Older Readers

Older Readers – Grades 6-8, ages 11-14

The fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama is brought back to life in a detailed and moving account of this pivotal event in Civil Rights history.

During the Guatemalan Civil War, Carlos embarks on a solitary journey. A difficult coming-of-age story told through lyric, emotionally-charged poems.

Twelve-year-old narrator Josh uses the rhythms of a poetry jam to emulate the "moving & grooving/popping and rocking" of life on the basketball court. This novel in verse paints an authentic portrait of a closely-knit family on the brink of crisis. (2015 Newbery Medal Book)

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia. By Candace Fleming. Illus.  Schwartz & Wade/Random House.
Fleming brilliantly delineates the tragic fall of the Russian royal family, contrasting their opulent lives with primary source voices from the rebellion. (2015 Sibert Honor Book)

How I Discovered Poetry. By Marilyn Nelson. Illus. by Hadley Hooper. Penguin/Dial.
Marilyn Nelson powerfully captures glimpses of her life growing up in a military family in the 1950s. 

As two abandoned siblings try to find their way in Victorian England, they discover the value of storytelling as well as the dark side of greed.  A spine-tingling tale.

Nine Open Arms. By Benny Lindelauf. Illus. by Dasha Tolstikova, Tr. by John Nieuwenhuizen. Enchanted Lion.
Fing’s loving but fractious family moves into a new house outside of town and gradually discovers a “tragical tragedy” concerning the mysterious man living in the hedge. (2015 Batchelder Honor Book)

The bravery of African-American sailors who refused to work in unsafe conditions is recounted in this little known and dramatic World War II story.  Their heroism helped desegregate the Navy but not without great sacrifice for the 50 men.

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes. By Juan Felipe Herrera. Illus. by Raúl Colón. Penguin/Dial.
The lives of 20 Hispanic people are celebrated in poignant biographical sketches that succinctly present the essence of each hero’s life and legacy to future generations. (2015 Belpré Author Honor Book)

The summer of 1964 was known as "Freedom Summer," as civil rights workers, students, and organizers went to Mississippi to help register African-American voters.  Twelve-year-old Sunny of Greenwood, Mississippi is caught up in the frightening events between black and white Americans, choosing sides and standing up for themselves. Photographs and memorabilia enhance an understanding of the tumultuous period.

This One Summer. By Mariko Tamaki. Illus. by Jillian Tamaki. First Second.
Intricately detailed illustrations and text come together masterfully in this graphic novel. Pacing and strong imagery evoke myriad emotions and ground this poignant, realistic coming-of-age story. (2015 Caldecott Honor Book)

An emotional novel-in-verse about a young Indian dancer disabled in a freak car accident. With hard work, she adapts to dancing with a prosthesis All Ages

Finally books that will appeal to ALL AGES

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. By Jen Bryant. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. Eerdmans. With lovely storytelling and intricate illustrations, this picture book biography introduces readers to Peter Mark Roget, whose boyhood passion for list making and finding the right word for every situation, led him to create his “treasure house” of a book, the thesaurus. (2015 Sibert Medal Book & Caldecott Honor Book)

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life. By Lois Ehlert. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane. This is a fascinating look into the creative process.  Author/illustrator Lois Ehlert shares her story using numerous examples from her picture books as she encourages others to engage in a colorful life. 

Take Away the A: An Alphabeast of a Book! By Michaël Escoffier. Illus. by Kris DiGiacomo. Enchanted Lion.  
Ingenious and fun images introduce the letters of the alphabet by removing one letter at a time to make new words. This clever word-within-a-word alphabetical approach is useful and hilarious. The illustrations add whimsy to the wordplay and language building.

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