Valerie Koehler, owner of Houston’s beloved Blue Willow Bookshop, and her staff hand-pick the best reading selections for kids.
How To Cheer Dad Up by Fred Koehler (Dail Books, April 2014, $16.99)
Our energetic young elephant notices that his dad is down so he goes to great lengths to “cheer him up.” The lively illustrations tell the real story. Dad is exhausted keeping up with his toddler antics.
Mom’s The Word by Timothy Knapman (Tiger Tales, 2014)
Perfect for Mother’s Day, this is a lovely poetic rhyming book about a mother’s love. A puppy tries to figure out all the things that make him happy. It’s summed up at the end with Mom. Toddlers will enjoy the cadence and the anticipation. Make it a first learning experience by asking the questions that arise on each page.
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014)
When a young boy finds out that his mother is expecting, he asks the age-old question about where babies come from. Sophie Blackall’s endearing illustrations highlight each answer. It’s perfect for the curious child without giving away too much.
President Taft Is Stuck In The Bath by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick Press, 2014)
Based on a possibly true story about the 27th president, this funny and slyly informative book tells the story of William Howard Taft getting stuck in his private bath in the White House. Chris Van Dusen paints the president in all of his glory (suds cleverly help here!) You can add this one to the growing shelf of presidential humor for the young reader.
Locomotive by Brian Floca (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
Brian Floca’s fascination with trains shines in his Caldecott Award-winning picture book. There’s history, engineering, mechanics, and more in this well-researched book. If you have a reader who wants to learn more about America’s train journey throughout the 19th century, this will keep him occupied for hours.
Boy And His Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, 2014)
Alan Rabinowitz was a childhood stutterer. But when he talked to animals, he was fluent. This picture book biography that covers both his scientific work as well as the delicate subject of a situation some children live with is well-written and a wonderful book to share with a budding scientist.
Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013)
Matt and Fen have always been enemies. Matt is Sheriff Thorsen’s youngest son in a town full of Thorsens; his grandfather is the mayor. As a descendent of the Mighty Thor, he’s a bit of a disappointment to his family, and never does as well as his brothers. Fen is a cast-off kid in a family of troublemakers—all descendants of Loki. Loki and Thor ended up on opposite sides of the war during the Twolight of the gods at Asgaard.
Now Ragnarok, the Final Battle, is coming and descendants of the gods will fight once more. Matt is surprised to be chosen as one of the champions. He must find a way to convince Fen to join him against the monsters, or risk plunging the world into the ice age that his grandfather seems to want. Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson.
Secret Hum Of A Daisy by Tracy Holzcar (Putnam Publishing, 2014)
We first meet Grace on the day of her mother’s funeral. Without any other family, she’s sent back to live with her grandmother, who threw her mother out of the house when she was 17 and pregnant. Grace is determined to leave Grandma’s and go back to the welcoming arms of Mrs. Greene and her daughter Lacey, but Grandma has other ideas. Simply beautiful writing makes this a wonderful story of love and loss and finding your place.
Abby Spencer Goes To Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj (Albert Whitman, 2014)
Thirteen-year-old Abby Spencer knows nothing about her father, and he knows nothing about her—he returned to India before her birth. After a severe allergic reaction to coconut, Abby’s mom succeeds in contacting her father who turns out to be Bollywood’s hottest film star. Over Thanksgiving vacation, Abby flies first-class to India to meet her father’s side of the family. Vivid descriptions of Mumbai and a glimpse into the red-carpet lifestyle make for a fun read for upper middle-grade girls. And it’s written by a Katy resident!
Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Books, 2014)
When Saba’s apartment catches fire, it’s considered to be a potential hate crime and her school rallies around her. Soon she and her family find themselves installed in a high-rent apartment at no cost and the community holds a fundraiser that produces a painting that may be an unknown work by a famous artist. Many stories converge into a beautifully plotted mystery for grades 8 and up. It’s full of great voices.
To All The Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
Whenever Lara Jean needs to banish a crush, she writes a love letter and keeps it hidden away. Suddenly, all the boys have received the letters and Lara Jean’s life is turned upside down. Combine this with her beloved older sister heading to Scotland for college and it’s not a great start to her junior year, to say the least. What follows is great realistic fiction—one of the truest voices I’ve read in a very long time!
Ring & The Crown by Melissa de la Cruz (Disney Press, 2014)
The newest series from shop favorite Melissa de la Cruz combines magic and political intrigue, as magic is the currency of power and Europe is still ruled by the royalty of the Franco-British Empire. Marie, daughter of the empress, and Aelwyn, daughter of the empress’ mage, have been friends since childhood, but were separated after an accident. Aelwyn has returned to the palace just as preparations begin for the “Bal du Drap d’Or,” the Ball of the Gold Cloth. There’s intrigue, romance and plenty of fabulous clothes—all hallmarks of Melissa’s novels. A very fun beginning to a new series.