Staff Selections Kids

Carol

The Rain Train
Elena De Roo, illus. by Brian Lovelock

Elena De Roo's train poem transports a child from the busy activities of the day through a rainy night and into sleep.  The reader of this bedtime adventure will share (and share in) the sights, sounds, and motion of travel.

 

 

Mary

Black Brother, Black Brother
Jewell Parker Rhodes

Crossed swords stand on the school insignia of Middlefield Prep, but they could also serve as the symbol for Donte Ellison’s experience since he arrived there.  Donte’s brother Trey looks more like their white father than their black mother, and as a star athlete, Trey seems to be fitting in fine.  Donte, however, is charged as a troublemaker with no evidence necessary.  His guilt seems to be as plain as the shade of his skin. 

As in her acclaimed middle grade novels Ninth Ward, Sugar and Ghost Boys, Parker Rhodes’ plot revolves around children struggling in lives marked by racism.  In this story, Donte’s mixed race family makes clear colorist prejudice as well, but the bond of brothers, the loving support of his parents, and lessons in fencing and in life from a former Olympic star in a more congenial neighborhood help Donte discover his own strength and true value, and persevere.

Tim

Shadow Scale
Rachel Hartman

The sequel to Seraphina has arrived!  The story picks up right where we left it, with the kingdom of Goredd preparing for war with the dragons of the north.  Seraphina has set out for the countryside to find the other half-human, half-dragons from her visions to unite them as part of Goredd's defense.  But building a coalition is not easy for a court musician with little experience in diplomacy or war, and Seraphina is forced to improvise and compromise along the way.  Author Rachel Hartman gives us a stunning conclusion to Seraphina's story, complete with eye-opening revelations about love, betrayal, religion, and allies likely and unlikely, climaxed by a battle scene I guarantee you'll remember long after you've finished the book.  Seraphina and Shadow Scale are a two-volume set of one of the best YA fantasies I've read in a long time.  Wow!
 

Victoria

Mr. Scruff
James Simon

Mr. Scruff joyously presents loving bonds between dogs and their humans plus characteristics of both, some pairs with perfectly matched traits, some not. The best picture books invite repeated readings, and Mr. Scruff does so splendidly. Spare, simple text, yes, but rereading offers the pleasure of fascinating, new discoveries and increased enjoyment –  respected author Simon James at his best!

Barb

Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Adib Khorram

Sophmore Darius Kellner is bullied at school, takes medication for clinical depression, and feels he is nothing but a big disappointment to  his father. He is sure he will have a terrible experience in Iran, where the family is going to stay with grandparents he has never met except by computer moniter. He is in for many surprises in the village where his mother grew up: a loving grandmother, a gruff granddad who is dying, and a new friend named Sohrab all add to the mix to make him feel he belongs for the first time ever. This book is both funny and moving as this teen boy makes many discoveries about himself and the world. He is a changed person when he returns to his high school and others take notice.

Zoey

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans
Don Brown

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans is a moving and startling portrayal of Hurricane Katrina in the days after it hit shore, destroying the city. This graphic novel is an incredibly honest telling of the storm’s destruction and the suffering that followed and may in fact be too grim or graphic for younger readers. However, it will certainly lead advanced readers to understand the grave, brutal experience of this contemporary American natural disaster. The careful and affecting drawings magnify the weight of this important book.

 

Sarah

Small in the City
Sydney Smith

From Sydney Smith, a story of shifting perspectives—both in the prose and the stunning illustrations.  This is a truly exceptional book that seems like a simple story, one that kid readers will respond to—it’s about what it’s like to be small in a big, busy world.  But as the snow falls and it becomes evident what’s really happening, adult readers will be drawn in, too, until they reach an ending that leaves all readers thinking and wondering and feeling just a taste of bittersweet.  I’m going to call it now: this book will be on everyone’s Caldecott awards list.  My favorite picture book of the year so far, and apparently the kids book world agrees—it has received five starred reviews.