Valerie Koehler, owner of Houston’s beloved Blue Willow Bookshop, hand-picks the best reading selections for kids.
Picture Books (prek-k)
Tap The Magic Tree
by Christie Matheson
Celebrate the changing of seasons with this interactive book for the youngest of hands. Readers are encouraged to shake, tap, and flip this smartly illustrated book.
Our favorite Christmas book for 2013 is this funny “biography” of Santa. Meet Santa’s parents and siblings and learn why he loves the North Pole! It’s a great read aloud for families and storytime occasions.
Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes
by Marc Brown
Marc Brown has given us many finger play rhyme books over the years. This compilation of his best is a must for learning the most basic rhymes. Every mother needs to know Itsy Bitsy Spider, Warm Fingers and more.
Early Readers (grades 1-3)
by Seth Casteel
Dive in with these great pictures of dogs doing crazy things underwater. This kids’ edition of the adult bestseller just makes you smile. Make sure you read all the captions for the full effect.
by William Joyce
For those who wonder where the remote goes or how all the toilet paper gets unwound in the bathroom, William Joyce has the answer. Meet the Mischievians, those pesky critters who make mischief in your home. Full of gorgeous and goofy illustrations and very clever text, here’s another fabulous picture book for the whole family to enjoy!
Once Upon A Memory
by Nina Laden and Renata Liwksa
Told simply but with an abundance of subtlety, this is a picture book for a child who questions memory and origins. This is a lovely book to share with grandchildren to begin sharing your memories.
Children’s Fiction & Nonfiction (grades 4-6)
Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is the star of this book. She is unique, quirky, obsessive and brilliant. She is in middle school and just doesn’t fit in. She takes a test and is accused of cheating and has to undergo mandatory counseling (using this term very loosely). This introduces a cast of characters who end up bringing Willow Chance back from a family tragedy. Her parents are killed in a car wreck and she is left all alone at the age of twelve. We follow Willow and her new support system through her personal grieving process and see her come back to herself a bit different than she started—but she does make it back. Willow also changes everyone around her. This is the BEST book—we just adored all these characters right from the start.
by Susan Cooper
It is the 1600s, thousands of native Indian tribes populate the North American continent, and the earliest of British and European settlers are arriving on the coast of what becomes New England. It is the time of the Puritans, Miles Standish, Roger Williams, Yellow Feather and Squanto. Before he leaves for his manhood ritual, Little Hawk has had little interaction with white settlers. Three months later, he returns to find smallpox has wiped out all but a handful of his clan. Little Hawk joins another village where he meets young John Wakely and, in spite of an unfortunate and heinous incident, an unwavering friendship develops as the two boys witness the end of one world and the beginning of another. Through the eyes of Little Hawk, Susan Cooper weaves a richly detailed coming-of-age story of the friendship of two boys from two very different worlds.
Year of Billy Miller
by Kevin Henkes
Just before Billy Miller begins second grade, he tumbles over a guardrail in a national park and bumps his head. He starts the school year worried that the bump has changed him, but by the end of the school year, he’s learned many things about himself and his family. A great read-aloud or read-alone from the fabulous Kevin Henkes.
Teen Fiction and Nonfiction (ages 12 & up)
Picture Me Gone
by Meg Rosoff
Mila has always been able to read a room, to figure out people’s motivations, and to know what comes next. When she and her father journey from London to upstate New York to find a missing family friend, her ability both helps and hinders the search. A human drama, told without direct dialogue, this mystery is entirely engrossing for grades seven and up.
All The Truth That’s In Me
by Julie Gardner
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled, and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home. But when the town is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light. It’s riveting.
My Mother’s Secret
by J.L. Witterick
This is a lovely gem of a book given the darkness of the subject. A Polish farm wife and her grown daughter hide not one, but two, families and an AWOL German soldier during the height of the Holocaust. Told in different voices, the pacing is slim and spare. While it is an “adult” book, we think teens would find it fascinating as well.