Reading Suggestions

Book Lists and More:

Dinosaur Picture Books

Picture Books About Nature

Picture Books About New Babies

Pirate Picture Books

Sports Picture Books

Books with an Intergenerational Theme

Train Picture Books

Truck Picture Books

Mystery Picture Books

Picture Books About Space

Picture Books About Cape Cod

Beach and Ocean Picture Books

Back to School Books

Middle Grade Books For Harry Potter Fans

Teen Books for Harry Potter Fans

Middle Grade Fiction Books Organized by the State they Take Place in

DVD recommendations by age group



The Little Bear Book(Candlewick Press, 2014)
By Anthony Browne
Picture book (for 3-7 year olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

The Little Bear Book follows a new picture book trend, in which the main character uses a pencil (or crayon, or chalk) to change his or her story. The magical pencil can add or take away any element the main character wishes. In this book, the bear uses a pencil to not just fix his problems, but to add humor to his walk through the forest.

The bear first approaches a gorilla. He uses his pencil then to give the gorilla a teddy bear (that resembles himself). He draws a trumpet to put in the crocodile’s large mouth. He draws a crown for the lion. And each animal he comes across gets their own illustration from the bear. Some of his drawings are kind, some are rather prank-like, and some seem to be for his safety. The last picture the bear draws is a bear-shaped hole through a brick wall, leading him to a new setting.

What I love about this new trend is how the power of creativity is emphasized. Pencils, crayons, or chalk have the ability to change worlds and stories. I also think the whole idea of a character adding to his or her own story, can show a thought process children might not have thought of before. How do authors and illustrators come up with their ideas? Kids can guess what the bear will draw next. You can ask questions like, “What do you think he will draw for the elephant?” and it can become an interactive reading/predicting game.
The illustrations are simple and bright. It’s hard not to be drawn into the story of the cute, white bear with the bright, red bow tie. The images also have these little black penmanship details that give the whole book a very drawn-by-hand kind of feel. This makes sense considering the topic of the book. Everything looks like it was drawn by an artist’s hand (or maybe a bear’s).
There are not a lot of words in this one (also a modern trend). There are some pages with no words at all. The pictures definitely speak for themselves. This can be a great book to inspire children to draw and create their own pictures or even books with no words. The book is a great book for fans of Journey by Aaron Becker and Chalk by Bill Thomson, which are other picture books with a magical drawing tool.


The Numberlys (Moonbot books, 2014)
By William Joyce and Christina Ellis
Picture book (for 3-7 year olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

The Numberly’s is a book about a world with no letters or words; instead, the whole world revolves around numbers. The beginning black and white, almost steam punk looking illustrations are filled to the brim with numbers on everything (machines, clocks, signs, etc.). Everything changes when five friends think about more…
The friends couldn’t figure out what more they needed, but they knew they needed something different. At first they take different, individual numbers and combine them into funky, modern art statues. Eventually, they use their factory-looking machines, along with electricity, to create letters. And with their last letter, the friends begin to see more. With letters, come color, jelly beans, pizza, and individual names (like Ralph and Pamela). There’s a colorful letter celebration in the city. And the five friends go to sleep satisfied that they achieved something different.

There is a lot going on in this book. It addresses the power and necessity of words. It teaches readers to always strive to be different, even when it’s hard. There’s also this strong, revolutionary feel to the whole thing –five friends changing the world, one letter at a time. While the strength of letters and words is a prominent theme, numbers never disappear. Numbers never go away; they are important too. I think this would be a perfect book to give to kids who say they are bored. The book is all about turning the boring into the exciting.

The illustrations are first in black and white. Color isn’t added until letters enter the picture, which is a great way to demonstrate change and opposites. Everything has an almost 3-D quality, and I think this will maintain interest for children who wouldn’t normally read books in black and white. The characters (five friends) all look a little animated and alien-like, which gives the book more of a humorous tone. There’s also an entire middle section, when the five friends are working on something different, when there are no words to the book; there are several important pages told in picture. Kids don’t necessarily need to know how to read to be able to understand this one on their own.
The Numberlys teaches useful lessons. The artwork is unique and interesting. The pages in the middle that contain no words can help children work on building early literacy skills. I recommend this book to families with children of different ages because I think there is something in this book for everyone to enjoy. I recommend it highly.


The Circus Ship
Candlewick Press, 2009)
by Chris Van Dusen
(Picture book for 4-8 year-olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

This book tells the story of a circus ship (a boat filled with circus animals) that is on its way to a show in Boston. Unfortunately, things get interrupted by a bad storm. The boat’s captain thinks the boat should wait out the storm, but the less compassionate circus boss demands for the ship to keep going.
The boat then crashes and all of the animals go overboard. The circus boss demands the captain to take him to safety and neglects the safety of the animals. The resourceful animals all make it though, by swimming to an island off the coast of Maine. The people who live on the island are all very surprised to wake up and find circus animals spread out over their town. There are a lot of mixed reactions to the animals.
However, all attitudes are positive after the tiger goes through with his best trick: jumping through a ring of fire (to save a little girl). But just as the town gets used to their new friends, the circus master returns to bring his animals back to work in the circus. However, no one really wants the animals to go back to the circus master. Can the animals disguise themselves enough so that the circus boss decides to move on?
My favorite thing about this book is the story. There is a fluid plot that will keep adults, as well their children interested. It is also based off of a true story mentioned in the Author’s Note in the back (though the true story doesn’t have such a happy ending and may not be suitable for all kids reading the story).
I also loved the rhyming scheme. The author manages not only to rhyme throughout the whole story, but to also throw in some big adjectives. Your children might be asking you for definitions of words like, “bedraggled,” and “bothersome.” Add this to the pages of fun interactions you can have looking for each of the animals in the town, and this book is truly a winner.
The illustrations (also done by Chris Van Dusen) are bright and a little cartoonish. It’s an easy book for kids to pick up and follow even if they can’t quite read yet because the animals and characters have such telling expressions that really move the story along.
All in all, this book tells a wonderfully unique story. There’s lots of rhyming. It’s good for building larger vocabularies. And the illustrations help move the story along in a way that is easy for beginning readers to understand. I recommend it to animal lovers, big and small.


Elecopter (Henry Holt and Company, LLC. 2013)
By Michael Slack
Picture Book (for 2-5 year-olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

Elecopter is an elephant/helicopter hybrid. It’s her job to watch out for the other animals living in the Savannah. She saves a lot of animals. She rescues birds from lightning. She saves lions from falling off cliffs. And best of all, she saves all kinds of creatures from fire. She airlifts a rhino, carries a cheetah, brings down a ladder for baboons, picks up a giraffe, and flies everyone to safety.
After all of the animals are safe, Elecopter then knows how to put out the fire. She vacuums up water through her trunk and then sprays it out on to the flames. And after all her hard work, Elecopter feasts on peanuts.
What makes this book so special is the illustration of Elecopter, herself. There’s something so silly, and so mesmerizing about a flying elephant with helicopter rotors. The book is sure to appeal children who lean toward the sillier stories. Yet, it also will appeal to all of the super hero fans out there. Elecopter is the best kind of super hero –always looking out for everyone, and saving everyone from danger. She’s more than an elephant/helicopter hybrid; she’s an elephant/helicopter/super hero/fire fighter hybrid. And what kid wouldn’t like that?
The illustrations are bright. All of the animals have a comical element to them, with exaggerated facial expressions. Even though Elecopter is rescuing animals from dark and scary situations, everything has this overwhelmingly uplifting feeling to it. It’s nice to see all the animals so grateful at the end. It’s good to know Elecopter is not taken for granted. The book is simple, with very few words. I can see it being popular with kids who like the same story over and over again. It’s easy to memorize and it works great for beginning readers.
Elecopter is a fun, silly, and easy to read book. It’ s not the best written picture book around, but it’s story is unique. I recommend it to animal lovers, super hero fans, and those young readers who tend to flock more to the silly and whimsical picture books.

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back (Candlewick Press, 2011)
By Jon Klassen
Picture Book (for 4-8 year-olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

The book begins with a bear saying, “My hat is gone. I want it back” The bear then goes around looking for his hat, asking other animals if they have seen it. None of the animals are able to tell the bear that they have seen his hat. One animal doesn’t even know what a hat is. One particular animal (a rabbit), is actually wearing the bear’s hat. He adamantly explains that he has not seen it though. And the bear moves on to ask the next animal.
Eventually the bear explains what his hat looks like, and in doing so comes to the realization that he actually has seen his hat recently. He goes back past all of the animals he’s asked his question to, until he gets back to the rabbit. The bears get his hat back. But, soon, a squirrel comes along and asks the bear if he’s seen a rabbit wearing a hat. The bear then adamantly explains that he hasn’t seen a rabbit wearing a hat, and he wouldn’t have eaten a rabbit.
The best thing about this book is the sense of humor. It starts off like the typical somewhat sugar-coated, all animals get along and don’t eat each other, kind of way. But, right when you get used to the pattern of the bear asking everyone for his hat, Klassen surprises you with a lying rabbit and a carnivourus bear.
The second best thing is the unique illustrations. Everything is really simple –just detailed cartoonish animals on an almost white background. The only time a page is not white, is when the bear realizes he has actually seen his hat, and everything is red.
This is a book for kids who have a great sense of humor. It’s not a book for kids who don’t already know that bears might eat rabbits. It would be a great book to introduce the idea of sarcasm. And it presents a great oppurtunity to talk about when a book character is trustworthy and when a book character is most certainly not trustworthy. I recommend this one to families who enjoy Mo Willems. Jon Klassen is definitiely an author/illustrator to keep your eye on.

mr wuffles

Mr. Wuffles! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
By David Wiesner
Picture book (for 4-8 year olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

Mr. Wuffles! is a picture book of very few words. David Wiesner is an artist who not only shows that books can be told in a different medium (almost entirely with illustrations), but he’s an artist that proves that sometimes the best stories are ones you can tell yourself.
Through the illustrations, the reader can gather that Mr. Wuffles, the cat, isn’t always that interested in the toys his owner keeps purchasing for him. There are dozens of cat toys littering the hallway, and Mr. Wuffles ignores them all, including the toy his owner unsuccessfully attempts to get his attention with in the beginning. There is one “toy” that eventually attracts his focus. It’s a mini silver space ship. At first Mr. Wuffles walks past the space ship too, but then he notices something different. There are actually little aliens moving around inside! The aliens seem happy with a successful landing (and they have speech bubbles that are filled with interesting looking symbols –showing an alien speech left for interpretation), but then Mr. Wuffle’s eyes show up in the window of the ship, and the aliens get jumbled up, turned upside down, and played with like a cat toy.
Unfortunately the ship did not seem to be setup for cat play, and parts are broken. The aliens leave their little ship, but just before Mr. Wuffles gets them, an insect comes into the picture to distract the cat. From then on, the book is about the aliens working together with the insects, all trying to escape the attentions of Mr. Wuffles and fix the broken ship. Mr. Wuffle’s owner doesn’t understand what the cat keeps looking at under the radiator, and why the cat isn’t interested in the toys. Clearly, Mr. Wuffles has more interesting distractions to keep busy with. It ends with the aliens escaping in their newly fixed ship, Mr. Wuffles sitting in front of the radiator looking for more aliens, and a somewhat more improved race of insects who have learned from the aliens.
Wiesner masterfully plays with the art of perception. What Mr. Wuffles can see is not what his owners can. And what the aliens see is not what we as the readers do. The actions unfurl in a graphic novel/comic book type layout within panels and boxes. Some of the most interesting and thought out images are all the scenes with the insects interacting with the aliens. There are clear language barriers, but there is also a lot of problem solving, creating, and drawing too.
Books with no words in them work as an important component to early literacy. Young children who can make up their own words to a story are building their narrative skills, which can help them when learning to read when the time comes. Not only does this book work as a tool to building narrative skills (one of the six early literacy skills), but it can also work as a tool to teach children about working together, as demonstrated by the aliens and insects.
The artwork in picture books cannot get much better than this either. David Wiesner has won 3 Caldecott Medals, and 3 other Caldecott Medal Honors (the newest Honor for Mr. Wuffles!), something few picture book writers and illustrators can boast of. Kids will love the bright colors and realistic 3-D images Wiesner is known for. There’s also just enough adult humor to the book to keep parents and grandparents just as interested in the story. I recommend this one to people all of the time, and it never stays on the shelf for very long.

the snatchabook

The Snatchabook (Sourcebooks, 2013)
By Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
Picture Book (for 3-6 year-olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

The Snatchabook begins with Eliza Brown, the rabbit, reading a book in bed (in her rabbit hole). But on page two, a Snatchabook comes to town. Readers get to see into all the forest animals’ homes and witness each creature reading a book before bed. There are a lot of mother and father animals reading to their children. But one night, when Eliza is reading, her book is quickly taken right out of her hands. Each of the forest homes experiences something similar. And soon the bookshelves of all the animals become quite empty.
Eliza decides to confront the book burglar by setting up a trap (aka: a pile of books) and not falling asleep. But things are almost too late with a rather sleepy Eliza, and she barely has a chance to respond when all the new books are taken. She runs to the window and yells for her books back. That’s when she comes face-to-face with the Snatchabook, who happens to be a very cute, guilty looking animal that explains it has no one to read to it.
Eliza makes sure that the Snatchabook returns all the books it snatched. The Snatchabook actually puts them all back neatly on the bookshelves. After the two new friends explain to all the animals what happened, a wonderful conclusion is resolved for all parties.
This book stresses not just the importance, but the necessity of reading and listening to stories. How is one to know what not to do if they do not have anyone to read to them and tell them what not to do? The book also transforms books into a kind of coveted treasure or at least a special treat before bedtime. And what’s better than a picture book that highlights the relevance of reading, particularly in a way that’s not so obvious?
The illustrations are bold and a little whimsical. The Snatchabook creature is reminiscent of a fairy. It’s kind of this flying squirrel, with a lion’s tail, pointed ears, and a fairy wings. Most of the story takes place at night. This allows all the rabbit holes, and tree holes to be lit up from the inside –giving all the settings for each bed time story a special glow. The Snatchabook has a great message, an interesting mystery, a feel-good plot, and well thought-out illustrations. It is one of my favorite new picture books of 2013.

the tortoise and the hare

The Tortoise & the Hare (Little, Brown and Company, 2013)
By Jerry Pinkney
Picture book (for 3-6 year olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

The Tortoise & the Hare is a classic children’s tale. Everyone knows the story. The hare and the tortoise set off on a race, where it’s painstakingly clear that the hare has the advantage. The hare is fast and can jump over obstacles, whereas the tortoise is slow and has to steadily make his way through each tiny problem that arises. The hare can jump over small ponds, whereas the tortoise has to slowly swim his way across the water. It’s not until the end of the race when the hare believes there is absolutely no way the tortoise could ever catch up to him that he takes a break.
In Pinkney’s book, the hare digs a hole into a garden, so he can snack on some vegetables while the tortoise slowly makes his way along. Unfortunately for the hare, he gets tired after his little snack and falls asleep, allowing for the tortoise to not only catch to him, but to win the overall race. The famous moral of this story is: Slow and steady wins the race.
What Pinkney accomplishes in his version of this classic story (that you don’t always see in other versions) is the true benefits of being “slow and steady.” He captures each extended moment of the tortoise’s race in such an interesting light. The tortoise makes friends on his journey. He helps carry frogs across the body of water. The hare terrified the frogs in his speediness. The hare quickly hops over a log, with his face turned toward the finish line. The tortoise meets all of the animals and insects that visit the log.
The tortoise had an adventure, whereas the hare just had a race (and a snack). The tortoise clearly has the more interesting story and this teaches something to kids who always feel the need to do everything as quickly as possible. The beautifully painted illustrations by a Caldecott medalist help to actually show movement. It’s like you can see the animals racing to the finish line. The details to the surroundings, the facial expressions of the racers, and the artist’s ability to paint action, truly make this a unique telling of such a classic story.
Also, this particular version of the story has almost no words in it. The author almost expects everyone to know the words. The images move enough by themselves, on the page, that words almost become unnecessary. Pinkney has done a wonderful job retelling a well-known children’s tale. I recommend this one to anyone who knows the story. And I definitely recommend it to children who are just beginning to read and beginning to learn how to handle books.

xanders panda party

Xander’s Panda Party (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
By Linda Sue Park and Illustrated by Matt Phelan
Picture Book (for 4-8 year-olds)

Reviewed by: Nori Morganstein, Youth Services Librarian/Assistant Director

Xander, the panda, wants to throw a party. He dreams up the idea of a panda party, with plenty of pandas in attendance. But, then he comes to realize that he is the only panda in the zoo. He decides then to extend his party invitations to all the bears at the zoo. When Xander invites Koala Bear, Koala Bear tells him that she is actually not a bear, but a marsupial. She wants to know if she can still come to the party.
Xander sits down, eats some bamboo, and thinks about what he can do. He decides to change his invitation to now include all mammals. But soon, there is another problem. Rhinoceros sends a letter to Xander explaining that he won’t come to the party without Bird. After some more thinking and bamboo eating, Xander changes his invitations again. This time, he invites all mammals and birds to his party.
However, Xander is soon met up with a crocodile who explains that birds and reptiles were once related and wants to know if he could come to the party. Xander at this point is too stressed to eat bamboo and he doesn’t know what to do. Fortunately for him, he meets a new friend, Amanda Salamander, who helps him create a new invitation, which welcomes all creatures (“Total zoo participation”). Just before the party, Xander gets a big surprise! And the whole zoo comes to celebrate –the humans too.
The book ends with a couple of pages of information about pandas and animals. The author does a good job explaining the differences between mammals, birds, and reptiles. This book works as a great learning resource for all the categories of animals. It can also work as a good example for birthday party invitation giving. It’s about inviting everyone and not exluding anyone for being different.
The illustrations are colorful and upbeat. I liked being able to see all of the letters that Xander writes. Kids will see wonderful examples of how party invitaitons can look. And Xander is just so lovable. He keeps changing his plans in order to accommodate more and more animals. The pictures are fun. The overal message is sincere. And the story will keep little ones interested until the very end. I can see this book becoming a story that needs to be read over and over again.