Friday, March 31, 2017

Reader Recommendations: Children's Literature

I am so excited to share these recommendations with you today. I mentioned in my 2017 Reading Resolutions  that I'd like to read more children's literature this year, not for the sake of my job but for the simple love of it. Today's reader recommendations come from a childhood friend of mine who grew up to be a bookseller and expert in children's literature (ahem, dream job!).

Amanda is currently the Lead Children's Bookseller at our nearby Barnes & Noble, where she's privy to all of the insider knowledge when it comes to new releases in children's lit. She also recently completed an internship with Candlewick Press, a Boston-based publishing company that puts out really wonderful books each season. Amanda is an avid reader of a whole range of children's lit -- everything from board books to YA -- and she has some great recommendations to share today. Don't just take these into account for the littles in your life -- try picking up one for your own reading pleasure!

Without further ado, here are six children's books that you should add to your list:

Hair by Leslie Patricelli

I promise that you cannot read this book without smiling. With one-word sentences on each page, this simple story showcases a baby wearing only a diaper, and discusses the dilemma of a single hair growing atop the baby's head that needs to be cut. What makes this adorable story so special is the combination of text and illustration. The baby's facial expressions show a huge smile, fearful blushing cheeks, and a happy tear. There are bold, colorful backgrounds and sound-effects in the text. The fact that there is just one hair that grows and grows makes me chuckle every time I flip through the pages. It's by far the cutest board book I have ever seen. (Well, this and all of Leslie Patricelli's collection.)

While interning at Candlewick, our hottest new product was A Child of Books (or as I am used to hearing it referred as, ACOB). It made the cover of the Fall/Winter 2016 catalogue, it received 3 starred reviews (that's really good -- most books don't even get a single star), and a teacher's guide was created for it (you can find that here). You have to trust me; ACOB lives up to its hype. 

Oliver Jeffers, who wrote The Day the Crayons Quit, teams up with artist Sam Winston to created a masterpiece. Original text from classic stories such as Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland, and Frankenstein (to name a few) are used as the physical illustrations. The words are spaced out, bolded, shrunk, and arranged to make art. The plot involves a girl who sails across a sea of words to find a boy and take him on an adventure to discover reading and imagination. I have read this book more times than I would care to admit, and every time I notice something different in the illustrations. If you are an avid book reader, teacher, artist, or just want to pick up a new book, please read this one.

Journey, Quest, and Return by Aaron Becker (The Journey Trilogy)

Journey will forever be my favorite wordless picture book. Wordless, you might ask? Yes, there are zero words in this book and in the entire trilogy. Aaron Becker used to be an architect, and utilizes his constructing skills to create an intricate and imaginative fantasyland that tells a story without the need for text. 

Stuck in her room with her family members all-consumed with electronic devoices (relatable, right?), the main character takes a red marker, draws a door on her bedroom wall, and takes off on an adventure. The sequel, Quest, involves the girl meeting a boy with a purple marker (hello Harold and the Purple Crayon), and how they gather all the colors of the kingdom that have been lost over time. Return involves the girl's father entering the fantasyland and saving the colors that have been stolen by an evil character. Teamwork, adventure, and of course, imagination, are all pleasantly apparent in this stunning picture book.

The Princess in Black (series) by Shannon Hale

This book is perfect for the beginning reader who is in-between an "I Can Read" and a full text chapter book. This series has short chapters, larger printed words, and colorful illustrations. As a Barnes & Noble Children's Bookseller, I can say that this is one of the only early chapter books out there with colorful illustrations; all the rest are strictly black and white. This is also one of my most commonly recommended books for children 5-8 years old (although older or younger readers may enjoy it too!).

What makes this book special in my eyes is the empowerment of girls to be both a pretty princess in pink who drinks tea, and a badass princess in black who fights crime. She does not have to choose between her two identities; she is able to be both. Princess Magnolia is an inspirational female character any young girl can look up to. I'm a huge fan!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Embrace the amount of tears you will shed for this emotionally charged magnificent YA read. Told from the prospective of 13-year-old Connor living in England, this story centers on his relationship with his mother who is dying of cancer. During this tumultuous time, Connor is visited by a monster every night at 12:07. This monster tells Connor three stories, and then it is up to Connor to tell the fourth story as it is happening in real life. Siobhan Dowd who originally started writing this story died prematurely from cancer. Patrick Ness stepped in to finish the novel.

A Monster Calls plows through the exterior appearance of Connor and into his innermost thoughts and emotions. Connor is true to his feelings and I respect him as a main character during all of the tough times. The black and white illustrations throughout the novel really place the book over the edge. They allow the reader a glimpse into the fantasy realms of Connor's nightmares, but remain imprecise so that the reader still has room to picture the story in their own head.

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

As you can tell I love to read books that make me feel. If I express some sort of emotion such as laughter, crying (sobbing), amazement, or admiration, I know it's a good book. Phantom Limbs is one of those stories that made me feel empathy for each of the characters that I have nothing in common with, but could somehow relate to perfectly.

The narrator is Otis, a teenage boy whose best friend/swimming coach (Dara) is a one-armed girl who was once a swimming prodigy. Dara is a couple years older than Otis, and is the tough-as-nails person otis needs after his childhood girlfriend, Meg, suddenly moves away. Otis seems able to move on from his past until Meg returns to town three years later. There are changes in both Meg and Otis, and once secrets of the past are revealed, both characters have to decide what they truly want from one another and how much they are able to forgive.

Although my summary focuses on Otis and Meg, Dara is the character that stuck with me the most after finishing the book. She questions her career, her sanity, her sexuality, and is incredible brave in times of distress. The characters read as real, authentic people, and I applaud Paula Garner for her debut novel. 


Thank you, Amanda, for putting together this list for us! I can't wait to tackle this stack of books!

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