Valerie Koehler, owner of Houston’s beloved Blue Willow Bookshop, and her staff hand-pick the best reading selections for kids.
Sprout Helps Out
by Rosie Winstead (Dial Books, 2014)
Sprout wants to help her mother around the house. She likes to clean and take care of baby sister. She can’t help it if she is just a little too young to handle chores, which makes for funny illustrations of Sprout’s attempts. Children will recognize the daily happenings of this happy household.
by Lita Judge (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014)
Penguin is determined to fly. And with help from the other animals, it seems possible that he might. I like to think of this as a beginner science book. Will the penguin achieve his goals? Will he be happy in his own skin? The comic illustrations will delight both the reader and the child.
The Splendid Spotted Snake
by Betty Ann Schwartz (Workman Publishing, 2011)
Interactive books are just right for inquisitive fingers. The Splendid Spotted Snake adds a colorful row of ribbons on each page, begging to be touched. We learn colors, numbers, and how animals grow. It’s perfect for any age.
Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons
by Jon Muth (Scholastic Books, 2014)
April is poetry month. Jon Muth’s wise panda gives us wonderful examples of the beautiful poetry form of haiku to celebrate the seasons. Which one is the best? Emerging readers and writers will learn how to express themselves and the beauty of our natural world in just a few words.
by Elys Dolan (Noisy Crow Books, 2014)
Even though emerging readers are anxious for “chapter books,” there are plenty of clever picture books that speak to the early elementary age. They demand an inquisitive mind, patience, and a reader who can infer. The dastardly weasels are on a quest for world domination. Clues abound in the illustrations about the possible outcome of their quest.
by Jenny Offill (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014)
Another humorous story from Jenny Offill, whose previous titles are possibly even funnier for the adult reader. Our young protagonist wants a pet, but her mother resists. When the ever-helpful librarian tells her that sloths are the laziest animals in the world, this puts into motion an increasingly howlingly funny story about pet ownership and one determined little girl. Offill also writes for adults, so she doesn’t allow us to think that young readers are somehow not smart enough to be in on the joke.
by Tim Green (Harper Collins, 2014)
For sports fans and adventure story fans, Tim Green delivers another funny, fast-paced story that will appeal to both boys and girls. Reluctant readers love his books. This latest is the story of the new kid in town, Tommy, who wants to reinvent himself. He makes the baseball team, but there is trouble ahead.
by Brandon Mull (Aladdin Books, 2014)
This is another fun fantasy series for middle graders by an author who is at the top of his game with action packed suspense. Mull understands how to set up a new world, populate it, and make it exciting. Cole Randolph discovers a portal into another world and ends up in The Outskirts, a place where people from different worlds come and go.
Whatever After #5 Bad Hair Day
by Sarah Mylnowski (Scholastic Books, 2014)
Girls are loving this fractured fairy tales series. Each story features a well-known fairy tale turned sideways. Abby and her brother Jonah must save the day in this take on Rapunzel. These books are short enough to sway a reader who is scared of longer books, and they make great read-alouds for car trips because adults will also appreciate the humor.
Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
by Leslye Walton (Candlewick, 2014)
Every once in a while, a novel sings straight to your heart. You struggle to decide if it’s a teen novel or an adult novel. It moves you to tears. Ava Lavender will shock you, but you will want to protect her with your life. Ava is born with wings, and this oddity becomes her biggest blessing and her worst nightmare. The family’s story is one of hardship, love, the immigrant experience, and so much more. This is for your smartest teenager.
by Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow Books, 2014)
Ava lives on the interstellar merchant ship Perestrella. She has lived her life in space, unsullied by the tug of Earth, obedient (mostly) to the demands of her culture and preparing to be a good worker, wife, and child-bearer. She is sixteen, of age to be wed. Then a justifiable misunderstanding leads to a serious transgression, and Ava is sentenced to death. A deeply moving novel that begs to be discussed.
Vigilante Poets Of Selwyn Academy
by Kate Hattemer (Alfred A Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014)
A reality TV show comes to Ethan’s art academy, completely upsetting the daily routine and turning friends into strangers. This witty look at our modern culture and the culture of high school makes for a fast-paced novel for both guys and gals.