December 04, 2008

Best Kids Books

As the children's librarian and a children's book reviewer for Scripps Howard News Service, I see more than 1,000 new books each year. Most of them aren't worth reading; some of them are good and a relative small proportion of them are great. Because books make a great holiday gift for kids, I've put together a list of the best kids' books of 2008. This first installment looks at board books and picture books. Check back in a few days for a listing of novels, non-fiction and graphic novels.

Part 2: Books for beginning readers, novels for middle grade readers, and teen novels.
Part 3: Non-fiction, graphic novels, folktales and poetry, and some re-issued classics.

Happy Reading! Karen MacPherson, children's/teen librarian, Takoma Park Maryland Library


BOARD BOOKS (For babies and toddlers through age 2)

__ Baby Happy Baby Sad and No No Yes Yes (Candlewick Press, $6.99 each). Babies and toddlers, as well as their parents, will love the humorous way that author/illustrator Leslie Patricelli tackles teaching the concept of opposites in these books. The comic scenes help retain the book’s entertainment value through repeated readings.

__ Bow-Wow Hears Things (Harcourt, $4.95). Bow-Wow, the appealing start of the picture book Bow-Wow Bags a Bug, teaches little readers about sounds in this board book. Written and illustrated by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash, this book is the latest in a series of Bow-Wow board books that offer just the kind of comedy that tickles the fancy of little ones, while adults will enjoy the simple but expressive illustrations.

__ Peekaboo Morning (Putnam, $7.99). This is a gem of a board book. Written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, the book, first published in picture book form in 2002, riffs on the favorite baby and toddler game of peekaboo as it follows a child through a busy morning at home. Isadora’s color-saturated images burst with cheer, while her simple text allows young readers to play peekaboo along with the young protagonist.

__ You and Me Baby (Knopf, $6.99). Babies will love looking at the photographs of other smiling babies in this chunky board book. Featuring a lilting text by Lynn Reiser, the book’s main attractions are the photographs by Penny Gentieu, who shows a diverse group of babies and parents hugging, splashing, waving and laughing.


__ 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe (Harcourt, $16). Author/illustrator Anna Grossnickle Hines takes a well-loved nursery rhyme and updates it with sparkling new illustrations. An expert quilter, Hines combined fabrics with lots of color and patterns to create the illustrations, which feature a toddler acting out the rhymes. (Ages 2-4).

__ A Kitten Tale (Knopf, $15.99). Three kittens are afraid of snow, but one can’t wait to jump into the snowdrifts in this comical adventure story written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohmer.

__ Baby Face (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). In six lilting poems, author Cynthia Rylant takes readers through the major milestones of a baby’s first year. The illustrations by Diane Goode are filled with humor and love. (Ages 1-3).

__ Bats At the Library (Houghton Mifflin, $16). Anyone who loves books and libraries will love this book by author/artist Brian Lies. (Ages 4-7).

__ Carl’s Summer Vacation (FSG, $12.95). Carl, a Rottweiler who is – believe it or not -- every family’s dream babysitter, is back with his favorite toddler Madeleine in a new adventure written and illustrated by Alexandra Day. (Ages 3-6).

__ Chester’s Back! (KidsCan, $18.95). In this funny picture book, an egotistical cat named Chester attempts to take over the creation of his book from author/illustrator Melanie Watts. (Ages 3-6).

__ A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever (Harcourt, $16). Author/artist Marle Frazee comically spotlights the contrast between the kind of summer activities well-meaning adults plan for kids and the kinds of things kids really want to do. (Ages 4-7).

__ The Day Leo Said I Hate You (Little, Brown, $16.99). Author Robie Harris and illustrator Molly Bang spotlight how the successful way a mother deals with her preschool son’s first use of the four-letter word. (Ages 3-6).

__ Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Storie (Roaring Brook, $12.95). Award-winning author/artist Laura Vaccaro Seeger continues the adventures of her popular animal duo in the book featuring bold-colored art filled with humor.(Ages 3-6). Look also for One Bo” (Roaring Brook, $14.95), in which Seeger uses die-cut illustrations to create an entrancing counting book. (Ages 2-4).

__ Ghosts in the House (Roaring Brook, $12.95). Young readers will delight in this story of a girl who’s really a witch and who knows how to vanquish ghosts, and they’ll love author/artist Kazuno Kohara’s creative, unusual illustrations. (Ages 3-6).

__ Hello, Day! (Greenwillow, $16.99). Young readers get a first look at the sounds animals make in this cheery book written and illustrated by Anita Lobel. (Ages 2-4).

__ In a Blue Room (Harcourt, $16). Author Jim Averbeck joins forces with artist Tricia Tusa to offer a beautifully illustrated bedtime story about a girl whose creative mother gradually coaxes her to sleep. (Ages 3-6).

__ “Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken (HarperCollins, $17). Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo hilariously recounts the adventures of a chicken who fights pirates, runs away to the circus and escapes near death. The illustrations by Harry Bliss add to the humor. (Ages 4-7).

__ Madam President (Hyperion, $16.99). Author/illustrator Lane Smith shows oung girl ready and willing to take on the nation’s top job in this book filled with inventive illustrations. (Ages 5-8).

__ Monkey and Me (Simon & Schuster, $15.99). A little girl and her monkey see a variety of animals in this raucous picture book written and illustrated by Emily Gravett. (Ages 2-5).

__ Old Bear (Greenwillow, $17.99). Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes demonstrates his mastery of the picture book form once again in this tale of an old bear cavorting through the seasons. (Ages 3-6).

__Rain Play (Henry Holt, $16.95). In this book, author Cynthia Cotton uses a lyrical, rhyming text to illuminate the many pleasures of playing in the rain. The spectacular collage illustrations by Javaka Steptoe bring texture and perspective to Cotton’s story. (Ages 2-5).

_ The Retired Kid (Hyperion, $16.00). At the age of eight, Brian decides he’s tired of being a kid and decides to retire. But, as author/illustrator Jon Agee demonstrates in his uproariously funny new book, being retired isn’t necessary entertaining if you’re a kid. (Ages 5-8).

__ Scoot! (Greenwillow, $16.99). The pond is busy as green frogs leap/beetles creep/ finches perch/ herons lurch” Author/illustrator Cathryn Falwell shows what happens in the day of a life of a pond in this book filled with action verbs and radiant collage illustrations. (Ages 2-5).

__ Sheep Blast Off! (Houghton Mifflin, $15). Author Nancy Shaw and artist Margot Apple team up again in this latest winning entry in the series that began years ago with“Sheep In a Jeep. (Ages 2-5).

__ Smash! Crash! (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). Young vehicle fanatics will adore this book written by Jon Scieszka, the first National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, and illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon. The book is part of a new series called Trucktown that includes board books like Meet Jack Truck and Who’s That Truck? (both $5.99).

__ Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie (Scholastic, $16.95). Reprising the energetic young narrator from their Caldecott Medal-winning book, The Hello, Goodbye Window, author Norton Juster and illustrator Chris Raschka offer a hilarious riff on the mercurial moods of preschoolers. (Ages 4-7).

__ Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Harcourt, $16). Parents and little ones will love this perfect picture book, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. (Ages 1-3).

__ There Are Cats in this Book (Candlewick Press, $15.99). Readers will love the feline festivities in this lift-the-flap book written and illustrated by Viviane Schwartz. (Ages 3-6).

__ Too Many Toys (Blue Sky/Scholastic, $16.99). Author/artist David Shannon comically details the battle between Spencer and his mother over Spencer's mountain of playthings -- a scenario that will resonate immediately with young readers and their parents. (Ages 3-6).

__ Uh-Oh (Harcourt, $16). A toddler’s day is filled with exploration and fun, but it’s also full of mess and mischief as author/artist Rachel Isadora illustrates in this book. (Ages 1-3)

__ Wave (Chronicle Books, $15.99). In this spectacular picture book, author/artist Suzy Lee vividly captures a young girl’s reactions as she plays in the waves. Overall, Wave is one of those memorable picture books that can easily sustain repeated readings. (Ages 3-7).

Posted by at December 4, 2008 06:43 PM
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