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Staff Reviews: For Children

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring books and DVDs for children! (For reviews of books for all ages, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates. The book reviews on this website represent the personal opinions of the individuals who created them and do not represent any official views of the Marathon County Public Library.


Cover: 'Dear Hank Williams'

"Dear Hank Williams" by Kimberly Willis Holt

★★★★★ It’s the first day of school in September 1948 and Tate Ellerbee from Rippling Creek, Louisiana already has a school assignment—to find a pen pal and practice writing letters to a real person. She picks a relatively unknown country singer who she admires on the Louisiana Hayride radio show—Hank Williams. Through her wonderful letters to him we discover a...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Sam and Dave Dig a Hole'

"Sam and Dave Dig a Hole" by Mac Barnett

★★★★★ Sam and Dave are determined to dig a hole until they find something spectacular. What unfolds in this story is a wonderful mix of what is happening in the story and what is happening in the illustrations. This book is a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book for a good reason. The book as a whole, the writing and the illustrations, play off of each other so well that...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, award-winning

Cover: 'Monsters Love Colors'

"Monsters Love Colors" by Mike Austin

★★★★★ Such a fun book to read with your kids if they are interested in learning about colors! The monsters in this book love colors and love to mix colors. Not only that but they love to scribble, mix, dance, and wiggle. Kids will have such a fun time learning about primary colors and how they mix to make other colors. My three-year-old wanted to read this book...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, easy reader, picture book

Cover: 'Tony Baroni Loves Macaroni'

"Tony Baroni Loves Macaroni" by Marilyn Sadler, Lucie Crovatto, Chris Robertson

★★★★★ Tony Baroni loves macaroni so much that he eats it for every meal! His Nonna, or Grandma, tries to persuade Tony to eat a variety of other pastas in order to have him eat something else until he finally decides to eat something different entirely. This is such a light hearted book with some very beautiful illustrations! My three-year-old loved this book,...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, easy reader

Cover: 'The Question of Miracles'

"The Question of Miracles" by Elana K. Arnold

★★★★ Still mourning the recent accidental death of Sarah, her best friend, Iris and her family move from sunny California to nearly always rainy Corvallis, Oregon for a “fresh start.”  She hates the rain, hates her new school, hates her new house, but mostly hates life without her best friend. During lunch a loud burrito-chewing, doglike boy from one of her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Wolfie the Bunny'

"Wolfie the Bunny" by Ame Dyckman, Zachariah O'Hora

★★★★★ Wolfie is a baby wolf, not a baby bunny, but Mama and Papa bunny don’t seem to care when they adopt him after finding him in a basket on their doorstep. Their daughter Dot tries to warn them, “he’s going to eat us all up.” Her parents are already smitten but Dot is cautious and maintains her distance. When Wolfie grows bigger and a big bear tries to grab...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, read-alouds

Cover: 'The Honest Truth'

"The Honest Truth" by Dan Gemeinhart

★★★★★ Sick of being sick, Mark runs away from home with his dog Beau, his camera, and a bag of supplies to fulfill a dream to climb to the top of Mt Rainer while he still can. His cancer’s back, but at least he won’t have to endure yet another treatment. The novel alternates between Mark’s minute-by-minute account of his adventurous journey and the intense...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans'

"A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans" by Laurence Yep

★★★★ Just two days after the funeral of her pet human, Fluffy (a.k.a. Amelia), a young girl named Winnie bursts into mournful Miss Drakes’s secret door in the basement proclaiming that she has been sent by her great-aunt Amelia so Miss Drake won't be lonely. Almost immediately, Miss Drake, who happens to be a dragon, theorizes that this seemingly obnoxious small...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights'

"The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights" by Steve Sheinkin

★★★★★ The Port Chicago 50 tells the true story of 50 black sailors who were tried for mutiny late in World War II. Port Chicago was a Navy base near San Francisco, CA, and, like other military bases in the U.S. at the time, was segregated. At Port Chicago, black sailors—who could not serve on naval vessels outside of the mess hall or laundry—loaded munitions into...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: nonfiction, history

Cover: 'The Witch's Boy'

"The Witch's Boy" by Kelly Barnhill

★★★★★ Ned’s father could only save one of his identical twin sons from drowning, but the people in the village agree that he saved the wrong boy. Ned is unsure of himself and stammers, yet when the Bandit King threatens to steal the magic his mother, Sister Witch, has spent her life protecting, he finds a courage he didn’t know he had.  Crossing the...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy, paranormal

Cover: 'Pluto'

"Pluto" by R. J. Palacio

★★★★★ This is another fantastic addition to the "Wonder" story, told from the viewpoint of Chris, the childhood best friend of August Pullman. Truly heartwarming, this short story adds another layer to the wonderful story surrounding a severely disfigured boy named August. Chris, the boy who grew up beside August, faced his own set of challenges being best...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Echo'

"Echo" by Pam Muñoz Ryan

★★★★★ This book is a masterpiece in its own genre—4 interconnected stories, each one masterfully told, and at alternating turns tearing at our heart and infusing us with hope. 40 years before the “war to end all wars” Otto purchases a book, stumbles into a forbidden forest and finds himself in the middle of a fairytale. He is entrusted with breaking the witch’...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, award-winning, newbery award winner

Cover: 'Blue on Blue'

"Blue on Blue" by Dianne White, Beth Krommes

★★★★★ This beautifully illustrated picture book portrays an ordinary stormy, rainy day in the country that looks wonderfully extraordinary. The scratchboard illustrations with added watercolor paint by 2009 Caldecott Medal winner, Beth Krommes, are the real stars here. With repetitive, spare, dreamy words and illustrations we see a day unfolding--wash being hung...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Hug Machine'

"Hug Machine" by Scott Campbell

★★★★★ "Whoa! Here I come! I am the Hug Machine!" starts this wonderful book about a little boy who hugs everything. He hugs people, animals, and even a fire hydrant and mailbox! He hugs hard things, soft things, square things and long things. But, can he hug a spiky porcupine or a humongous whale? The Hug Machine will do anything to give a hug. With simple and...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, read-alouds

Cover: 'Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress'

"Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress" by Christine Baldacchino, Isabelle Malenfant

★★★★★ Morris Micklewhite loves painting, dreaming of great adventures and wearing the tangerine dress in the dress-up center at school. He loves the way it crinkles and swishes when he walks and the color reminds him of tigers, the sun and his mother's hair. But the other boys and some of the girls tell him "boys don't wear dresses" and exclude him from their...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend'

"The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" by Dan Santat

★★★★★ On an island far away, imaginary friends are born. Beekle is one of them, waiting to be chosen by a child and transported to the real world. Rather than waiting, Beekle does the unimaginable and sets sail to the real world. He finds that the real world is strange and uncomfortable, until he meets his perfect friend. Then the world is colorful , fun, and not...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, award-winning, caldecott award winner, picture book

Cover: 'My Cousin's Keeper'

"My Cousin's Keeper" by Simon French

★★★★ At his dad’s birthday party nine-year old Kieran meets his cousin Bon whom he has never even heard of before. Bon appears to be very different from him and he doesn’t really like him.  Bon wears his blond hair in a long ponytail, wears old, tattered clothes and touches all of Kieran’s things without asking.   Two years later, Kieran sees Bon at...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Stella by Starlight'

"Stella by Starlight" by Sharon M. Draper

★★★★ It is midnight when 11 year-old Stella Mills and her eight year-old brother Jojo witness the burning of a cross by members of the Ku Klux Klan not far from their house. It’s 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina and news of the active Klan so close by means their parents need to alert all their African-American neighbors. Stella is practicing to be a good...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Big Bad Detective Agency'

"Big Bad Detective Agency" by Bruce Hale

★★★★ Things were going well in Fairylandia for a reformed Wolfgang, a.k.a. the “Big Bad Wolf”, until the Three Little Pigs’ houses were vandalized and he is accused.  Arrested and released, he reluctantly teams up with Ferkel, the fourth little pig, and as the new “Big Bad Detective Agency” they set off to find the perpetrator. Things get really funny when...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, humor

Cover: 'The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken'

"The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken" by Doreen Cronin

★★★★ The Chicken Squad is a group of four hilarious chicks who are out to solve crime. When a blue jay, the weird blue chicken, flies in saying his house has been kidnapped, the Chicken Squad embarks on a journey to figure out who took the birdhouse and why. Filled with funny characters and an entertaining plot, this book is a great beginning chapter book for...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, board book, humor

Cover: 'Absolutely Almost'

"Absolutely Almost" by Lisa Graff

★★★★ Ten-year-old Albie’s life is a tangled one and the short, episodic chapters in this tween book mimic this.  He is adjusting to a new public school and a new nanny, Calista (whom he’s certain he does not need). Private prep school did not work out and his dad is not happy about it. Albie’s life is full of “almosts”—he almost passes his spelling tests,...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Little Humans'

"Little Humans" by Brandon Stanton

★★★★ From the author and photographer of the well-known blog "Humans of New York" comes a great picture book that celebrates the uniqueness, abilities, and diversity of the littlest humans--children. Brandon Stanton's photographs capture children doing everyday things like walking down the street, riding a bicycle, playing in the street, and making music. This...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction, picture book

Cover: 'Beyond the Laughing Sky'

"Beyond the Laughing Sky" by Michelle Cuevas

★★★★ In this rather unusual tale a young couple, whose house is perched in a large pecan tree, discover a baby in a cracked egg from a bird’s nest on the sidewalk.  This human-looking baby has feathers for hair and no mouth or nose but in its place a beak. His adopted parents, sister, and the small community of Goosepimple adapt to life with him, but as he...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The War That Saved My Life'

"The War That Saved My Life" by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

★★★★★ 10-year-old Ada lives with her brother Jamie and mother in a filthy, rat infested one-room flat in London. She is often abused by her mother who does not allow her to go outside because her mother is ashamed of her clubfoot. When Jamie is being shipped off with other children to the country to avoid injury from bombings during the war, Ada escapes to join...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, award-winning, newbery award winner

Cover: 'Greenglass House'

"Greenglass House" by Kate Milford

★★★★ The old historic, creaky smugglers’ inn called Greenglass House sits high on a hill requiring guests to take a trolley type of car that gets pulled to the top. It is winter, close to the holidays, and usually free of guests so Milo, the adopted son of the innkeepers, is looking forward to a relaxing vacation. But unexpectedly the buzzer for the trolley car...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

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