Written by Cece Meng
Illustrated by Jago
Age Level: 3 - 7
Grade Level: PS – 2
This picture book is as beautiful as the cover. The story inside shows kids how to deal with death, through kindness and friendship. When Old Turtle dies, one by one, his friends step forward to share their favorite memories. People and animals die, but friendships and good memories can last forever.
Ratscalibur (Chronicles of the Low Realm)
Written by Josh Lieb
Age Level: 8 – 12
Grade Level: 3 – 7
I read this story a few years ago. It was #22 out of the 111 chapter books/middle grade novels I’ve read and recorded in my Picture Book Journal. I still remember this book, even though it was 89 books ago.
Why? It’s a great story, and it’s unusual. A boy moves to the city, and an uncle gives him a rat (not my kind of gift), but the Rat is a ragician (rat magician. He bites the boy and turns him into a rat too. Our hero is sent to deliver a message to King Uther, the King of Avalon. The rat kingdom is in danger, and it needs a hero. Our hero sees a spork stuck in a hard biscuit. He pulls it out, and becomes a hero. Then the real adventure begins! Can our hero rescue the rat kingdom from the evil crows? Can he change back into a boy again? I can’t answer, but I can tell you there’s a happy ending.
I can also tell you this book was reviewed and loved by Jimmy Fallon (from TV), Daniel Pinkwater (one of my favorite authors), and Richard Peck (2001 Newberry winner). Wow! It’s like the triple crown of reviews!
After the Rain
Written by Rebecca Koehn
Illustrated by Simone Krüger
Age Level: 3 - 6
Grade Level: 1 – 2
Gorgeous illustrations + Rich language = A beautiful book. It may be sparse on words, but each one counts to make this one cute story!
It starts after the rain when Levi grabs his rain gear and runs straight into the water, ready for an adventure. He finds it tracking his boat through the run-off. But after a daring drain rescue, he runs into Polly who claims the river, then outlaws boats. How can this end? I’ll give you a clue – “Building together is much more fun.” (It’s the last line of this book.)
Written & Illustrated by Lindsay Ward
Age Level: 3 - 7
Grade Level: PS – 1
Oh my gosh! I loved this book! I remember reading it a year or two ago. Imagine, Iggy has taken over Otto’s territory, and he’s had enough. Otto waits for the perfect moment and takes Iggy’s bottle. The Brobarians come to blows, fighting through dirt and mud until powerful magic stops them. (You’ll have to read to find out what that magic was, but don’t worry! Both brothers will live to fight another day.)
The Story of Diva & Flea
Written by Mo Willems
Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Age Level: 6 - 8
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Say hello to Diva, the dog who’s afraid to leave her home in Paris. Then shout bon jour to Flea, the homeless alley cat who must flaneur/wander the streets. What happens when they meet – Diva and Flea become friends who explore Paris together, but have a place to return to when the fun is all done.
Where did Mo get this story idea – from a trip to Paris! Before he could start his own adventures, he found a guard dog, a cat explorer, and the seed to this story.
Surgery on Sunday
Written by Kat Harrison
Illustrated by Shane Crampton
Age Level: 4 - 8
Grade Level: K – 4
This is more than a cute book – it’s also useful. If you have a kiddo who’s facing surgery, this is the perfect book for them. Meet its hero, Sunday, nicknamed Sunny. She’ll take you from the night before surgery to a couple weeks later. It’s also a great way to show your child what surgery looks like, feels like, through Sunny’s eyes. Nothing is better, or worse, than your own imagination. This book can help your child see what surgery looks like. It’s also a great way to get them talking about fear, then shrinking it down to size. Best of all I hope it helps your child face their own fears and discover their own brand of bravery, just like Sunny who’s better after surgery. Back matter includes ‘Sunny’s unofficial rules for surgery’ and ‘Questions to ask yourself, or someone else, before surgery.’
The Rough Patch
Written & Illustrated by Brian Lies
Age Level: 4 - 8
Grade Level: PS – 3
Everything is better with a friend. Evan and Dog do everything together, including grow a prize-winning garden. But when Dog dies, Evan hits a rough patch. He cuts down his favorite plants and lets the weeds in. Soon the garden looks as bad as Evan feels.
Then a vine begins to grow. It takes over the garden and turns into a pumpkin. Could it make a difference? You’ll have to read to find out how. Everyone hits rough patches, but sometimes it takes the unexpected to lead you out of them.
Tea Party Rules
Written by Amy Dyckman
Illustrated by K.G. Campbell
Age Level: 3 - 5
Grade Level: PS – K
I read this book and loved it so much that I took it to a writing conference. We were studying pitches. Amy’s is on the back cover. It says – ‘What’s stopping this little bear . . . from gobbling these delicious cookies? Her tea party rules.
Amy’s pitch describes the book perfectly! Whenever I look for new children’s books, I start with the cover, and I love this one. Then I read the pitch on the back. It’s a promise to the reader, and this one delivered with a great story about the bear, the little girl, and those tea party rules. I loved it so much I took it to a kids’ lit conference.
Ivy & Bean: Make the Rules
Written by Annie Barrows
Illustrated by Rachel Clowes
Age Level: 6 - 10
Grade Level: 1 – 5
What would you do when your big sister goes off to camp, and you’re too little? You start your own – Camp Flaming Arrow! Imagine the fun Bean could have doing crafts, nature, dance, first aid, and women’s history at a ‘real’ kids’ camp. Then read and enjoy!
PS- It’s no wonder this is #9 in a series of 11 books.
Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen
Written by Candace Fleming
Illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Age Level: 8 - 12
Grade Level: 3 – 7
This is a Cinderella story of a German dog who becomes an American movie star. Etzel’s taken away from his mother and litter mates as a puppy. Play and kindness are trained out of him to make him into a police dog.
Then Larry Trimble appears on the scene. He’s looking for the right dog to appear in his movies, and he sees something in Etzel, but it took his secretary/co-writer Jane Murfin to unlock it. How? She taught him how to play again. Jane’s also the one who renamed him Strongheart.
That was the beginning of his film career. He made 6 movies, and people are still amazed by the emotion he showed on camera and in real life when he was falsely accused of attacking a girl. From the beginning to the end, this story is as full of heart as the real Strongheart. I loved every page of his story!
Whenever I read or write, I find a comfy chair with a great view. I get my favorite drink, stretch out, and let the words take me away.