RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

Night Job

Karen Hesse is renowned for Out of the Dust, a Newbery Medal winning dust bowl story written in verse, and other great reads. Hesse has some wonderful picture book collaborations, too, where words and pictures combine to make something really special. The new picture book, Night Job, with illustrations by G. Brian Karas, is a great example. The story seems pretty mundane: dad brings child to work as custodian at a large middle school. But what makes the book special is the representation of father and child in their everyday lives. Sure, they ride a motorcycle to and from work, but it's a mode of transportation, nothing flashy. There's something really poignant about shooting baskets in the big-kid-gym while dad works or falling asleep in an office until dad is done and it's time to go home.

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

Today is Harry Potter's birthday, and J.K. Rowling's, too. The series is remarkable in its appeal to a wide range of readers (and read-tos). For that reason, Kalamazoo Public Library has copies of the books in this most well-known series in a variety of formats and in a variety of locations. The audiobook (and eAudiobook) versions of the Harry Potter books, voiced by Jim Dale, are standouts. The larger format and more heavily illustrated, yet unabridged print editions that began to come out a few years ago are another great way to enjoy this modern classic. And, soon to be released 20th anniversary editions with cover art by Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick are something to look forward to in the very near future. It's always nice to have something to look forward to. Like a birthday. Happy birthday, Harry!

Animals that Work Together

I recently discovered a wonderful new children’s non-fiction series entitled, “Animal Teamwork.” Books on Elephants, Wolves, Gorillas, and Meerkats are now part of the collection. Each book details how the animals live and work together, and like many great non-fiction picture books, extra facts added to each page provide additional chances for young readers to learn more about these incredible creatures.

A Dog Named Doug

A Dog Named Doug by Karma Wilson and illustrated Matt Myers is a fun book for children and adults, especially for anyone who has a dog or knows a dog who loves to dig holes. This story features a daring dog named Doug who cannot stop digging. There is much repetition of the "D" sound throughout the book, "Once there was a dog named Doug. Doug liked to dig, but when Doug dug... " Doug meets a ground squirrel who challenges him to dig holes and longgggggg underground tunnels. Consequently Doug digs to the White House, a farmer's fields where Doug digs a hole SO big that a huge tractor falls into the hole! Doug digs to mountains and all the way to China! Doug digs directionally: North, South, East, and West! The simple, expressive, colorful illustrations are excellent and this is a helpful book for teaching alliteration and homonyms. The Kalamazoo Public Library has many books by Karma Wilson and many books illustrated by Matt Myers.

Ocean Meets Sky

Ocean Meets Sky is a delightful picture book with wonderful illustrations.  Little Finn, who lives by the sea, goes on a magical journey in search of the place his grandfather told him stories about. It is the place with the ocean meets the sky.  Along the way, he sees many incredible sights and visits intriguing places like the Library Islands.  Preschoolers will enjoy the pictures and words created by the Fan Brothers


The author of "Box Turtle"  is John Himmelman, an award -winning author and illustrator  of over 80 books! He also happens to be a naturalist who has traveled throughout both North and South America studying wildlife.

This book is beautifully illustrated with colorful depictions of a box turtle and her journey which begins in a New England forest in 1892. With the passage of time the little turtle's forest home is invaded by newly built houses and cars driving on a dirt road. One of these cars slightly damages her shell. Despite the injury, the turtle survives and becomes a pet for a young boy who before entering college releases the turtle back into the woods.

Box turtles live on land, not in ponds or water and should never be considered for pets.The Eastern box turtle can live anywhere from 40 to well over 100 years in age. Supposedly, the oldest living box turtle on record was believed to be about 145 years old!

This is a great book for kids with a valuable conservation message.

You're Safe With Me

As soon as I saw You're Safe With Me, by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry, I wanted to tell you all about it. In this brand new Grow neighborhood book, Mama Elephant comforts the young animals of the forest through a scary storm. She soothes their fears about the rain, lightning, thunder, and wind. The unique and beautiful illustrations will awe readers of all ages. The art alone will make you want to take this book home with you and the sweet, simple story makes for a calming read.

Friendly Greetings to All

A recent addition to KPL's Je Nature category is Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel, who previously authored They All Saw a Cat. In this outing, Brendan introduces us to black and white cats, then zebras, panda bears and colorful parrots, fish, tigers, lizards, etc. The list goes on and on.

The idea is that a world to see is a world to know and that knowledge usually begins with a friendly greeting of Hello Hello.

With rhythmic text, exuberant art and an important message relating to conservation and protecting our diverse planet, each of these encounters celebrates nature's differences and yet marvels at its wonderful similarities. It also makes a point to mention that many of the animals depicted in the colorful illustrations happen to be threatened or endangered.

A worthwhile addition to any picture book collection and especially recommended for kids 3 to 6 years of age.

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover

Did you know that NASA ran a competition for members of the public to pick a name for Curiosity? The winning name for the nine-foot self-propelled rolling laboratory was submitted by Clara Ma, a sixth grader from Kansas. I like how the book about Curiosity begins: "Wherever you are in the world right now, I'm a very long way away." This new large-format non-fiction book is narrated by Curiosity in the first person and tells the story of the rover's mission, design and development, launch and landing, and continuing exploration of the red planet. With excellent illustrations that tell the story along with an anthropomorphized rover that doesn't talk down to readers, this is a great choice for the science and technology minded. If you are curious about the technology that humans are developing and using to explore other worlds, I think you will really enjoy this one. 

Jubari Jumps

This picture book is such a delight, and it brings back so many memories of my youth.  Young Jabari is finished with his swimming lessons and is excited about becoming a "great jumper".  But as his turn to jump from the high diving board gets closer and closer, he begins to feel more and more...hesitant.  I love how Jabari's dad reassures him and helps him face his fear. SPLASH!  If only I had a book like this to read before I took my first jump from a high diving board.  Gaia Cornwall has done a nice job with this story and the illustrations.  Young swimmers will enjoy it.