Notable New Picture Books at Your Library

ideal-bookshelfI have just started purchasing the picture books for the three branches of the Everett Public Library System. I know, I know! I’m paid to spend money on books. Jealous? Well, you should be!  It’s super fun.

Anyway, I thought I’d highlight some of the best picture books of 2014 thus far. But first, let me explain the book buying process for this library. It was fascinating to me. We order from a huge book service. They send an online ‘cart’ each month of suggested titles. The cart includes reviews from professional journals and a way to sort the list by popularity, title, and many other things. Some books you immediately know that you’ll want to order multiple copies while some you delete just as quickly. Then you add books that need to be replaced because of wear and tear. Also, you add requests from other librarians and patrons and any great books that have come to your attention through your professional readings. That’s it!

index (1)So now, on to the fun part: shiny new picture books. One of my favorites so far is The Highway Rat by Donaldson. This is a rhyming tale inspired by the Highwayman:

The Highway Rat was a baddie. The Highway Rat was a beast. He took what he wanted and ate what he took. His life was one long feast.  His teeth were sharp and yellow, his manners were rough and rude, And the Highway Rat went riding – riding – riding – Riding along the highway and stealing the traveler’s food.

He even stole his own horse’s hay. Well, he gets his comeuppance. This is a rascally natural for reading aloud.

index (11)index (12)Some of the most popular new titles will surely be the new Frozen books. I have had little girls asking for these books for months. They’ll be happy to sit and look at the illustrations for hours and that’s a good thing because you won’t want to read these aloud more than once.


Sophie’s Squash
index (2) by Pat Miller in which a little girl affectionately adopts a butternut squash, is a winner. After her parents buy that squash for dinner at the farmers market, Sophie commandeers it giving it a face with markers. It proves just the right size to hold, bounce on her knee and love.  With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.

index (3)E I E I O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm With a Little Help from a Hen by Judy Sierra is a fresh take on two old tales: Old MacDonald and the Little red Hen. Once upon a time, Old MacDonald didn’t have a farm. He just had a yard — a yard he didn’t want to mow. But under the direction of the wise Little Red Hen, Mac learns to look at the environment in a very different way. Whole new worlds start to bloom with the help of some mud, garbage, horse poop, and worms!

index (4)Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown is about a Victorian tiger who, well, goes wild. He’s tired of the proper life. There’s a nice twist in the plot and it’s not too preachy about being yourself, but still gets that message across. You’ll go wild for this tale of daring to be different and the illustrations are super cool with their muted greens and browns that pop with a wild orange every so often.

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I can highly recommend Some Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi because it’s a rhyming book about BUGS! We take a delightful tour through the insect world and learn that “Some bugs sting. Some bugs bite. Some bugs stink. And some bugs fight!”  For the true insect lovers, the last two page spread is entitled ‘What’s that bug?’ and identifies all the bugs seen earlier in the book. Some Bugs is some kind of terrific.

index (6)What Does the Fox Say? by Svein Nyhus is based on the wildly popular youtube video based on the song. This book will have you singing along in no time. Dog goes woof. Cat goes meow and on and on, but there’s one sound that no one knows. What does the fox say? Who knew that they say: Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding and wa pa pa pa pa pa pow? This book takes animal sounds to a whole new level.

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My Humongous Hamster by Lorna Freytag is so popular that I’ve been asked to order more. Fans of Dave Pilkey’s Dogzilla and Kat Kong will enjoy this one. This hamster gets really huge when he’s hungry but goes back to regular size when he misses his human.

Journeyindex (8) by Aaron Becker is a wordless book with awesome illustrations and a creatively imaginative story. Using a red marker, a young girl draws a door on her bedroom wall and through it enters another world where she experiences many adventures, including being captured by an evil emperor.

index (9)Tap the Magic Tree by Matheson is simply magical. I love interactive books such as this one. Each page has you doing something to make the tree change: from a brown bare wintry tree to one with leaves, then blossoms, then apples, and you guessed it, falling leaves and snow again. It’s a keeper.

index (10)The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems is on order but surely will be a favorite. The Pigeon really needs a bath! Except, the Pigeon’s not so sure about that. Besides, he took a bath last month. Maybe. It’s going to take some serious convincing to try and get the Pigeon to take the plunge.

index (16)I love Stella’s Starliner by Rosemary Wells. It’s a charming story about Stella who is super happy living with her mum and dad in a silver Starliner (“as silver as a comet in the sky”) until the sad day comes when some bullies tease her for living in a trailer. The family ends up ‘moving’ and her new neighbors think that she must be rich to live in a silver house. Charming!

index (17)Finally, there’s Is Everyone Ready For Fun? by Jan Thomas. Chicken has some unexpected and exuberant cow visitors who have exciting plans for jumping, dancing, and wiggling on his teeny-tiny couch, and Chicken is none too happy about it. That is until the fun concludes with a quiet, cozy and delicious nap for all!  

So, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Come on down to the library and check out all of the new picture books.

Discover A Children’s Book Author: Laura Vaccaro Seeger

ideal-bookshelfdownloadLaura Vaccaro Seeger is known as “the queen of the concept book,” and young children around the world are overwhelmingly glad that she creates beautiful books that bring new life to familiar subjects. She is famous for making books that appear simple and straight forward at first glance, but when you look closer they reveal deep, rich layers that enhance your enjoyment. Using signature die-cut art and wonderful painting, readers are invited to take a step back and ‘see’ a concept through fresh eyes. Seeger’s books encourage readers to re-examine the world they think they already understand.

index (5)Seeger’s first published work was the American Library Association notable children’s book Walter Was Worried. It’s a great launching pad for discussions about emotions. But wait! Upon closer examination you see that Seeger used the letters from different emotions about a pending storm to make up the facial features of these children. Do you see the w on his cheek, that his mouth is a “D” and his eyes are ‘o’ and ‘e’? Walter really was worried.

index (6)Black? White! Day? Night! is a very cool and colorful opposites book. Through a series of ingenious die-cut pages, the reader discovers things that are the opposite of what they seem. The format includes eighteen questions and answers which creates an element of surprise. Kids love surprises and they will surely love this book.

indexSara London of the New York Times wrote that the “playground of perception seems to be Seeger’s most natural arena,” calling her picture book, First the Egg “a feat of ingenuity.” Using simple text and illustrations, this book shows how animals and objects change (including tadpoles to frogs and seeds to flowers) in a book with cutouts so that certain colors from the previous picture help create the next picture. This book would be a good spring-board for discussions with small children.

index (1)Her book, The Hidden Alphabet, is an outstanding and artful alphabet book. It is a ‘lift-the-flap’ book which is a visual delight. This video gives you an idea of how the flaps lift and reveal the letter: where before there was an object such as an arrowhead (A), balloons (B), and a cloud (C). This book would be an excellent addition to your home book shelf as there’s more to see each time you open it and it really is quite lovely.

index (2)index (3)Her Dog and Bear books are different from her others in that they are narratives, that is, stories. Each of these books contains three stories about the close friends Dog, who is a dachshund, and Bear, who is, well, a bear. These are wonderful picture book stories for the pre-school set.

index (8)One Boy is a die-cut book exploring counting and words-within words. At the start, readers see a sad boy surrounded by empty lonely chairs. At his feet is a bag with paint brushes peeking out. The text reads “ONE boy” which-with a turn of the page and a look through a cleverly cut hole-turns into “all alONE.” Page after page, the book becomes populated with seals, apes, and monkeys, all examples of words-within-words. Finally, we come back to “ONE boy” who is “all dONE,” and we discover where all the characters came from.

index (7)What If? is like one of those movies where different choices cause different endings. What if a boy found a beach ball and kicked it into the ocean? What if two seals found it and began to play? What if a third seal appeared on the beach looking for a friend? Enjoy this visit to the beach and the chance to guess what happens when different choices are made.

index (31)This is a video of her picture book, Green. Challenged by her editor to create a book with this title, Seeger kicked around the idea and thought of the environment at first, but then settled on the color green and all its many permutations. I was expecting the typical shades of green but was pleasantly surprised to see the clever takes on wacky green, slow green, and no green at all. This book seems to be asking, “How many different ways can you look at the color green?”

index (4)In her most recent work, Bully, there is a bull who doesn’t know how to make friends. He’s been bullied by the other bulls and when asked to play by some other animals responds in the same way. He puffs himself up and calls them all names until one little goat stands up to him and calls him a bully. Then he realizes the way that he’s been acting. He returns to his regular size, no longer puffed up and mean, and apologizes to them. Luckily, they are still willing to play with him. With the book having few words, most of the bullying is conveyed by the artwork and the bull’s posture and size. While capturing the feeling of being bullied, this book also shows that if you are bullying others, you can self-correct and still be friends.

I can hardly wait to see what fabulous book Seeger will come up with next, but in the meantime, come on down to the Everett Public Library and check out her books!

Best of 2013: For the Kids

Today we explore all the great picture books, fiction, how-to and much more in our list of the best books for children in 2013. Cats work construction? Who knew?

Children’s Fiction:

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That is not a Good Idea!  |  Mo Willems
A surprising lesson about the importance of listening to one’s inner gosling ensues when a very hungry fox issues a dinner invitation to a very plump goose.

This is another genius picture book from one of my favorite authors. Told in the format of an old silent movie with villains and innocent damsels, this story builds suspense and ends with a surprise. Great for storytimes! – Andrea

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses  |  James Dean
Pete the cat is feeling glum, and a friend cheers him by giving him a pair of “magic” sunglasses that help him transform his world. A grouchy squirrel, an upside-down turtle, and a grumpy alligator want the glasses too.

Expressive paintings and lots of action make this a story that will help young children understand their own emotions. – Esta

Not Your Typical Dragon  |  Dan Bar-el
A young dragon tries to breathe out flames, but instead snorts out whipped cream, party streamers, and other hilarious things.  Other dragons are upset, but a knight who is also an oddball becomes his good friend.

Hilarious illustrations and a playful yet comforting story about being different. – Esta

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The Long, Long Line  |  Tomoko Ohmura
A very long line of 50 animals is waiting anxiously and asking “What’s this line for?” It’s a wild and wacky roller coaster ride that they all want to try, with hilarious results.

The bold graphics invite kids to count, identify the animals, and talk about the actions that they see. Great for developing a young child’s pre-math skills! – Esta

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat  |  Anna Dewdney
Gilroy Goat bullies others in school — teasing, kicking sand, snatching toys.  Little Llama dares to speak back. He shows the others how to “walk away and tell someone.”  Then the compassionate teacher leads Gilroy into learning how to be a friend.

This gentle story helps young children understand that bullying often derives from the bully’s own unhappiness. This is also a comforting story focused on caring about others’ feelings.– Esta

Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow  |  David Soman
A brave girl in red-spotted boots and ladybug costume explores the outdoors after a snowstorm.  She and her dog Bingo get stuck, build snow creatures, and explore the magic of deep snow.

This daring, spunky little girl always shows her spirit of adventure!  This is the latest in the delightful “Ladybug Girl” series of books. – Esta

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The Snatchabook  |  Helen Docherty
Young animals are reading or listening to stories at bedtime when a little creature called the “Snatchabook” sneaks in and steals the books…but why? He has no-one to read to him!  Brave rabbit figures out a delightful solution to the problem!

Lively rhyme and playful illustrations give this book great appeal.  It’s a sweet and reassuring story about the power and joy of reading. – Esta

Baby Bear Counts One |  Ashley Woolf
A young bear watches all the animals around him prepare for winter, and then sees his first snow.

This author/illustrator’s artwork is superb and dramatic, and young children will thrill as they find and count hidden details and end with snowflakes “too many to count.” – Esta

Construction Kitties  |  Judy Goodwin-Sturges
A lively crew of cats wearing their hard-hats work together with a dump truck, excavator, backhoe and other heavy trucks at a construction site.

Young children will enjoy the action as they see how these machines work.  The cats stop for their favorite lunch: sardines and milk. – Esta

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library  |  Chris Grabenstein
Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.

As an adult who thinks an awful lot like a 12-year-old, I found this book a hilarious adventure through one of my most favorite institutions: a public library. A “Ready Player One” for the middle-school crowd. – Carol

Children’s Non-Fiction:

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Think Again! : False Facts Attacked, Errors Exploded, Myths Busted  |  Clive Gifford
Organized into five broadly themed sections the human body, the animal world, science, history, and popular culture this book tackles commonly held and commonly repeated mistaken beliefs head-on. Each falsehood is debunked in straightforward and factual explanations grounded in real scientific research, incorporating discussions of why the myth persists.

Colorful illustrations and tons of fascinating information.  You can open to any page and learn something new. – Theresa

The Big Book of Crafts & Activities  |   James Mitchem, editor 
This book is packed with crafts, recipes, games and activities for children who want to get creative and try new things-from growing tasty fruit and vegetables to customizing your furniture.

This book is full of crafts and activities that are fun and don’t require specialized materials or equipment. – Theresa

Myths Busted! Just When You Thought You Knew What You Knew– |  Emily Krieger 
From the origins of fortune cookies to alligators living in the sewers of New York City, this book gives kids the tools to break and bust wild and wacky myths from around the world.

More than 100 ‘myths’ are debunked, first with a suggestion of how they came to be believed and then with the science that disproves them. – Theresa

Star Wars: Science Fair Book  |  Samantha Margles
Presents thirty step-by-step instructions for science projects and experiments based on elements from the “Star Wars” film series, including how to create crystals, make a hydrometer, and move objects with “the force.”

An engaging concept to encourage young scientists with all the tips needed to make a great science fair project. – Theresa

Girl Books

The last student in the bookmobile wasn’t finding a book that she wanted. She finally asked me for a ‘girl book.’  I knew what she wanted: a Disney or Barbie Princess book. Those books are very poorly written but the little girls love them because of all of the pretty pictures. So, what did I do? I put my hand down and, without looking, grabbed the first book I could touch.  It was about Space.  “Here’s a girl book!”  I exclaimed.

index (5)index (4)The little girl said, “That’s not a girl book! It’s not pink!” The teacher and I exchanged sad looks before I brought out the pink princess books. Yay! She found the one she wanted: The Perfect Princess Tea Party. She left a happy customer.

Then I saw this awesome GoldieBlox ad on the internet which shows three little girls absolutely bored, bored, bored with a pink toy commercial. They turn off the TV and create a fantastic Rube Goldberg set-up in their home. It was inspirational! One of the lines set to the Beastie Boys tune says, “Girls!  Don’t underestimate girls!” It got me thinking about all of the little princesses out there and how to get better books into their hands so they’re not bored, bored, bored. Here are some great picture books for your little princesses.

index (6)Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson is one of my favorites. Cinder Edna lives next door to Cinderella and they each end up with the prince of their dreams but Cinder Edna is so much happier because she has her priorities straight. While Ella gets the help of her Fairy Godmother and ultimately lands Prince Charming, Edna figures out a way to get to the ball herself and has a rollicking good time! Guess who lives happily ever after?

index (7)In Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer, Olivia embarks upon a quest for identity with lofty goals and being a princess is NOT one of them. Olivia is having an identity crisis. There are too many ruffly, sparkly princesses around these days, and Olivia has had quite enough. She needs to stand out. She wants to do more than just fit in. So what will she be? The answer is marvelous!

index (8)Princess Me by Karma Wilson is a rhyming story about a little girl who imagines being a princess, with her stuffed animals serving as royal subjects:

Make way! Make way!
Here comes the princess of the land. She’s sweet and kind.
She’s oh-so-grand. And just who is she, this lovely Princess Me? Come inside this book to see!

index (9)Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen is a winner, pure and simple. These princesses dig in the dirt, kick soccer balls, and splash in muddy puddles–all in their sparkly crowns. I love the rhyming text:

Not all princesses dress in pink. Some play in bright red socks that stink, blue team jerseys that don’t quite fit, accessorized with a baseball mitt, and a sparkly crown.

Don’t forget to wear your sparkly crown!

index (10)In The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke, Violetta is a little princess who wishes she could be as big and strong as her brothers. But what she lacks in size, she makes up for in determination. At night Violetta slips out into the woods and secretly teaches herself to become the cleverest, bravest, most nimble knight in the land. She’s ready to fight as a knight and wins the prize of living happily ever after.

index (11)Pirates & Princesses by Jill Kargman is the story of Ivy and Fletch who have been best friends since babyhood. They’re in for a surprise when they start kindergarten. The girls play with the girls and the boys play with the boys on the playground. Ivy likes the girls’ princess game and Fletch likes the pirate game but they miss each other. I won’t say much more other than the book is sweet, hysterically funny in its narration, and has a great message about being who you want to be regardless of gender stereotypes.

index (12)If you’d like to read an adult book on this whole pink princess idea, try Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. The author concludes that parents who think through their values early on and set reasonable limits, encourage dialogue and skepticism, and are canny about the consumer culture, can combat the 24/7 “media machine” aimed at girls and hold off the focus on beauty, materialism, and the color pink somewhat.

Well, I hope that this list gives you a start on finding interesting and well written books for your little princesses. They surely won’t be bored, bored, bored with these great picture books!

Release Your Inner Toddler

Now that my daughter is of an age where she reads books about gruesome murders, ghosts and hungry games, I seldom delve into children’s picture books. However, I recently ran across an interesting review, read the book, and was entranced. This made me recall that some picture books are at least as equally entertaining for adults as for children. So I sought out a few titles that would delight grown-ups, and here’s what I found.

Black Book
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria

Imagine that you can see a color that no one else can see. You try to describe the color, but it’s so different from all other colors that it can’t be described by referring to known colors.

Now imagine describing any color to someone who has never seen a color. Saying that it’s light or dark or bright would not be helpful. Which leads me to wonder, how do unsighted people perceive colors? The Black Book of Colors is an entirely black book with short, poetic descriptions of colors, both in braille and text, followed by raised pictures for the reader to feel.

“Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.”

The purpose of this book is to give sighted people an opportunity to explore what it’s like to be blind. As I felt the raised pictures (without looking at them), I had no idea what they depicted. It was actually a frustrating experience, which makes me think that the book is effective.

For those who might want to read the text in Braille, the Braille alphabet can be found at the end of the book.

Chloe and the Lion
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, pictures by Adam Rex

Here we find lovely pictures that illustrate a story where both the author and illustrator are also characters in the story, however with a more realistic appearance than that of the other characters. The action occurs on a stage set with scenery (as in a play), although the story is told as if it’s really happening rather than being acted out. All grinds to a halt when the illustrator thinks his idea for a beastie is way cooler than the author’s. A fight ensues ending with the author firing the illustrator and hiring a different artist. The new artist is somewhat less talented than the original, but he also thinks that he has cooler ideas than the author. Soon he too is fired and the author decides to both write and illustrate. One tiny problem: he can’t draw. Finally, he invites the original illustrator to come back (after an abject apology), and the story concludes with a mystery and a surprise ending.

Squirrels
Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Old Man Fookwire has few joys in life, but he loves to paint pictures of the birds in his yard. Every winter when the birds fly south he feels sad and lonely. One particular winter he comes up with a plan to keep the birds from leaving: build bird feeders to provide food for the birds in the cold foodless months. The problem, as most Northwesterners know: bird feeders are actually squirrel feeders. When the weather turns cold, the birds leave, and the old man is lonely once again. However the squirrels, who are hungry but not bad at heart, devise a plan to bring some joy into Fookwire’s life.

The following passage gives a feel for this book’s prose:

“The squirrels stayed up all night working out their strategy. They drank cherry cola and ate salt-and-vinegar chips to help them stay awake. Finally, they had it: the perfect plan! They put on their tiny helmets and prepared to launch themselves into the air, over the fence, between the lasers and onto the bird feeders.”

 A fun read with silly pictures conveying a silly story.

There are countless other enticing picture books as well. I encourage you to share some titles with the rest of us so that we may let loose our inner toddlers (which is already pretty close to the surface in some cases). And if you see Harold with his crayon, say, “Hi!”

Ron

Best of 2012: Found in the Children’s Section

Today’s list includes ninja pigs, Dinotruxs, groovy buttons and crazy concoctions. As you might have guessed, it is our choices for the best in children’s books for 2012.

Picture Books

Revenge of the Dinotrux by Chris Gall
Creatures that are part dinosaur and part truck escape the museum and cause havoc all over town. They create hilarious trouble for adults, and only children can tame them. Great word play and wild illustrations make this story a delight for read-aloud. –Esta

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor
Nancy wants a lead part in her ballet school show, but she ends up chosen to be a tree. She struggles with jealousy when her friend, Bree, gets to be a mermaid. Nancy comes up with a great way to add sparkle to her life, and the illustrations add to the playful and sweet feeling of this book. – Esta

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Three pigs take martial arts training and are ready to match a very tricky wolf. Bold, dramatic illustrations and story give kids many laughs…and an introduction to the discipline of martial arts. –Esta

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
Rocket the dog loves to read, and he collects words on paper slips that he hopes to piece together into a fantastic story. His friends surprise him, and suddenly he has a superb idea. A comforting, gentle story that praises reading and creativity. –Esta

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin
Pete the cat has a cool shirt with multi-colored big buttons, and it makes him so happy that he creates a song. The buttons pop off one by one, but Pete still finds joy and sings his way through it all. Vivid color illustrations in bold paint strokes capture the adventures of this little cat who has an endless sense of humor and fun. –Esta

Mossy by Jan Brett
Mossy the turtle has moss growing on her shell, and soon a whole colorful garden sprouts on her back. She is so special that a biologist takes her to live in a museum, but one little girl can sense how Mossy longs to get back home to Lilypad Pond. Lush, detailed illustrations capture the beauty of the landscape, and the story’s ending packs a sweet surprise. –Esta

Chapter Books

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
When Clara vanishes after the puppeteer Grisini and two orphaned assistants were at her birthday party, suspicion of kidnapping chases the trio away from London. The orphans are caught in a trap set by Grisini’s rival with a deadly inheritance to shed. Angie on GoodReads characterized this book as ‘When a Dickensian Hansel and Gretel meet up with Sara Crewe in a Pinocchio story by Stephen King…’ Yep, that covers it. –Andrea

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
7th-grader Georges adjusts to moving to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building. Jennifer Hubert from GoodReads says ‘Rebecca Stead’s books are like an onion–as the layers are peeled away and the characters reveal their secrets, the reader is left with a shiny nugget of essential truth.’ I couldn’t describe Stead’s writing any better. –Andrea

A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner
Time has gone wrong, and best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste, together with the young Hystorian Riq, must use the infinity ring to travel back to one of the Great Breaks–a mutiny on the Santa María–to correct history and defeat the SQ. History can be difficult the way we currently study it, but what if we could travel in time and change what everyone thinks they know? –Andrea

Nonfiction

Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Messy Mixtures by Jordan D. Brown.
Swimming raisins, glow-in-the-dark Jell-O, and fake blood are just some of the silly projects and experiments in this introductory chemistry book. Silly illustrations and comments make the scientific explanations of each entry more palatable. The experiments are intriguing to budding scientists and use ingredients commonly found in a kitchen. –Theresa

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean.
When Luciano Anastasini fell from the high wire, it seemed that his days as a circus performer were over. Luciano could imagine no other life, so he decided to put together a dog act, not with purebred dogs, but with mutts rescued from the shelter. It is a heartwarming tale of a man who wouldn’t give up on himself or the dogs whose behavior “problems” became assets to his act. The color photographs of Anastasini and his dogs will delight any dog lover or circus fan. –Theresa

National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas by Crispin Boyer.
Road trip ahead, or armchair traveling, this atlas won’t disappoint the young geographer. Each state is illustrated by a map showing major roads, towns, and geographic features with colorful pictures highlighting points of interest. Each state’s two-page spread includes a “Boredom Buster,” a suggestion of an activity one could do in the car while passing through. Odd traffic laws, miscellaneous facts, and quirky roadside attractions add special interest and humor for the trip. –Theresa

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.