Hello Thirsty Blog Readers!
It has been awhile since our last post, but here we are again with another fabulous list of the best books that we’ve read over the past few months! This post is brought to you by Luke (age 5) and Brynn (age 2.5). Think of this list as a Venn diagram: Luke’s top picks first, followed by books that both Brynn and Luke enjoyed, and then Brynn’s favorites at the end. We hope that you find something amazing to give to young readers that you love!
We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich: I (Luke) love this book, and my mom says that it’s one of her all-time favorite children’s books, too! It’s a wonderful story about a little boy, Phillip, who has an imaginary friend, Brock, whom he accidentally leaves at the fair one night. Brock meets a little girl with an imaginary friend of her own, and she takes him home with her until they finally find Phillip. In the end, the four become great friends. The best part of this book, however, are the illustrations. Phillip and the rest of the “real” characters are done in color–beautiful, soft, amazing color–while the “imaginary” characters are done in cartoonish black and white. The contrast is stunning. If you’re looking for quality picture books, this book is one for the shelf.
Yak and Gnu by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman: There are some children’s books that you read and think, “I could have written that!” And then there are others that you read and marvel that the author could have come up with such a clever text. Yak and Gnu is one of the latter. Simply put, it’s a book about friendship. But the text is so clever that it elevates the book above most others that we’ve read. The text rhymes, except when it doesn’t, and those few places are used to emphasize the growing realization that there are many other animals who pilot their own water crafts, just like kayak-paddling Yak and the canoe-loving Gnu. But in the end, the friends realize that “There’s nobody else quite like you!” I (Luke) love this book because of the song that Yak and Gnu sing throughout the book. Anything with music has me completely hooked. Mom loves this book because it tickles her inner English teacher with the use of non-rhyming lines to emphasize the message. The illustrations are also very well done. I am giving this book to several of my friends this year!
A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Mike Lowery: I (Luke) have read this book with my mom and by myself a dozen times since we borrowed it from the library this month. It’s about a little boy who can’t write very many words, but he can write enough letters and squiggles to start a story of his own, just like his big sister. Any story that deals with the imagination and creating something is a story that I’m interested in, but this book captured my interest in particular because the little boy doesn’t know how to start his story, and he gets stuck multiple times. It’s not easy for him, but his big sister encourages him by saying that he’s the boss of his own story. I like that idea. Maybe some day I’ll write my own books for others to review!
Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi: Dr. Seuss is a master of rhyme. The King of children’s books. A genius on so many levels. Teeny Tiny Toady reminds me of Dr. Seuss. High praise, I know, but the rhyme has a beautiful flow to it and Esbaum uses creative not-quite-words just as Dr. Seuss did. The story is about Teeny, the smallest girl-toad in a family of big strapping brothers. One day, Mama Toad gets picked up by a human boy and stuck in a bucket, and it’s Teeny and her brothers who have to save her. The brothers try their hardest, but they really aren’t very bright, and they never listen to Teeny’s ideas. In the end, after her brothers fall in themselves, it’s up to Teeny to save her Mama AND her brothers from the bucket. An awesome story about a spunky little she-toad who saves the day with her brains instead of her brawn. For little people like me, it’s a satisfying message. The illustrations are beautiful, too! Another high-quality picture book for the shelf.
Maggie and Wendel Imagine Everything by Cori Doerrfeld: This book is one that both Brynn and I (Luke) loved. The text is incredibly simple, just a few words on each page, but the adventures of these two siblings are incredibly complex. Maggie is the older sister, but she really enjoys playing with her younger brother Wendel. Together, they create imaginative play scenarios that keep them endlessly entertained. They don’t always get along, but they do manage to make up on their own (something that fascinated both Brynn and me). Clever, spare illustrations allow the reader a look into the play worlds that Maggie and Wendel create together. A great book for siblings!
The Acrobat by Alborozo: Both Brynn and I like this book. The text is simple enough for Brynn, but the story is engaging enough for me, and the surprise embedded in the climactic illustration toward the end is amazing and beautiful enough for anyone. The story is about a struggling acrobat who decides to leave the circus one day and ends up in a park. There, he tries trick after trick to entice the children to pay attention to him, but something else always draws them away. Until a colorful bird arrives and alights on the acrobat. Then another bird arrives. And another. And another. Soon, the acrobat is covered in birds of all colors. The kids are all watching now. Suddenly….pow! The acrobat leaps up, scattering the colorful birds in all directions (the illustration is stunning–Brynn and I both look at it for a long time)! A very neat book.
No, No, Kitten! by Shelley Moore Thomas, illustrated by Lori Nichols: Hi! Brynn writing now! My turn! This book is one of my favorites from this year. I liked this book for several reasons: One, it has a cat in it, and I love cats. Two, the cat doesn’t listen to her owner, just like I don’t listen to my mom (most of the time). And three, the cat asks for all kinds of things that she shouldn’t have (again, just like me!) (like a helmet and lasers) and then uses those things to blast off to space. As a reader, you don’t know what all of these items are going to be used for until the countdown to liftoff starts. I love surprise endings! Illustrations are done by Lori Nichols of Maple fame and are whimsical and expressive.
Harry and Walter by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Qin Leng: My mom is not quite sure why I love this book so much, but it’s true, I love it! The story is about an almost-five-year-old little boy, Harry, whose best friend is a 92 year old man, Walter, who lives next door. They ride lawnmowers together, play games together, build snowmen together, and drink hot chocolate and talk together as they watch the snow fall. It’s a beautiful friendship…until Harry’s family has to move. There is a surprise ending again, which I love, but really, I like this book because I love my grandparents and this book shows me that I can be best friends with them.
The Nuts: Sing and Dance in Your Polka Dot Pants by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Scott Magoon: “Polka dot pants, polka dot pants, sing and dance in your polka dot pants!” Sing it with me! Eric Litwin in an interactive picture book genius. I didn’t think he could do any better than the original Pete the Cat books, but this book is pure fun. One rainy day, Hazel Nut decides she wants to sing and dance in her polka dot pants, but no one will play with her. Not Dad, not Mom, not little brother. Who does Hazel eventually call to save the day? Grandma, of course! I love the song that is repeated throughout the book, and I love doing the polka dot pants dance that’s at the end of the book. So much fun! I’m definitely giving this book to a few of my friends this year!
Mom School by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Priscilla Burris: This book would make a great gift for any mom with small kids. It’s about a little girl who imagines that her mom went to school to learn how to be a great mom. At Mom School her mom learned to bait a hook, throw a ball softly, ride roller coasters, grow vegetables, and decorate cupcakes. And even though her mom has a job that she goes to every day, her favorite job is “being my mom.” I enjoy reading this book with my mom because she talks about the things that she knows how to do that she still has to teach me, like putting a worm on a hook and playing the violin. I love that these kinds of conversations can emerge from books!
–Luke, Brynn, and Mama
If you click on the picture of a book, it will take you to Amazon.com. If you purchase a book through Amazon, a part of the proceeds will come back to me. I, in turn, will use the proceeds to purchase books for children’s literacy efforts in my community. Thank you!