Friday, July 18, 2014

A Tale Dark and Grimm

by Adam Gidwitz

Ages: 10 – 13 years (approximately grades 4-8)

Many of us know that the fairy tales of our childhood are only figments of the true stories collected by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. How far off are our beloved versions of these tales in comparison to their true origins? You really want to know? Are you absolutely, positively, one hundred percent certain you want to know? Then, as the narrator repeatedly suggests, please escort the young children from the room and look no further than A Tale Dark and Grimm.

In this, Gidwitz’s debut novel, 2014 Caudill nominee, and the first of a three-part series, a well-known fairytale of Hansel and Gretel (the little boy and girl who get lost in the woods and encounter a wicked witch’s house made of candy) takes a gruesome turn for the worst- as if being abandoned by your parents and almost getting eaten by a witch with a taste for children isn’t bad enough. While the siblings attempt to survive after their narrow escape from the witch, Hansel turns into a frightful, hairy creature; the true back-story of their parents and why they abandoned their only children comes to light; and Gretel turns into an extraordinary heroine who saves the kingdom from certain doom. Throughout the book, a narrator chimes in from time to time, letting readers know when things are about to get ghastly and, well, grim. Although this book is chock-full of adventure and delight, a fairytale twist done so right, it is not for the faint of heart. Readers who enjoyed the adventure of The Heroes Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, the fairytale twist of Ella Enchanted, or the creepy suspense of Coraline and Doll Bones will clamor for A Tale Dark and Grimm, as well as its sequels, In a Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion.

Find A Tale Dark and Grimm in its many formats in our catalog.

Friday, July 11, 2014


by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Ages: 0-8 years (approximately grades preschool – 2)

One day, a young bull is told to “go away!” by a bigger bull, presumably an older sibling or otherwise more authoritative figure. Visibly rumpled by this experience, the young bull goes to the farm where he encounters other animals who ask if he wants to play. After telling each of the animals exactly what he thinks of them (“Chicken!” to the chicken and “Slow poke!” to the turtle), a bystanding goat decides to call this “bully” out on his actions, giving him a little taste of his own "Bully!" medicine. Realizing that what he has done to his farm friends is exactly what the older bull had done to him, the young bull regrets his actions, apologizes for hurting his friends, and is very lucky indeed that his friends take him up on his renewed offer to play.

A wonderful precursor to The Hundred Dresses or Jane, the Fox, and Me, Bully is a simplistic depiction of how being mean affects all those involved. The young bull’s animal friends slowly flee from the scene as the bully becomes physically bigger and bigger as his actions escalate, until he eventually can only fit a hoof on a page. After discovering that he’s a bully, the young bull physically deflates and spirals down to his normal size and regular ego, giving him room to finally apologize to his friends. The sketch-like illustrations on a very simple background bring the focus to the characters’ actions, and also make the overall message stand out in a not-too heavy-handed, bullying way.

Find Bully in our catalog.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Hundred Dresses

written by Eleanor Estes
illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

Ages: 8-12 years (approximately grades 2-6)

The Hundred Dresses is a short tale of a young, foreign girl, Wanda Petronski, who misses school for a few days. Usually, nobody notices Wanda. She sits in the back corner and rarely makes a peep. That is until one day, she tells a group of girls who are admiring a classmate’s new dress that she has one hundred dresses at home. With this simple comment, Wanda opens a door to relentless taunting before and after class. Every day, Wanda’s classmates “have fun” with her by asking if she really has one hundred dresses at home. Hysterics ensue when she answers that yes, she does, “all lined up,” although she only ever wears the same faded blue dress that doesn’t fit her quite right. A girl like Wanda, with her funny name and ill-fitting dress, who lives on the wrong side of town, couldn’t possibly have a hundred dresses!

Each of Wanda’s classmates plays a role in the taunting, whether it’s asking Wanda about her dresses, listening to the interrogation, or completely ignoring the situation. It isn’t until the winners of a drawing contest are announced that Wanda’s absence is noticed and appreciated: the winner of the drawing contest is Wanda, who has drawn one hundred different, beautiful dresses! In an astonishing turn of events, Wanda’s absence is explained in a letter to the class in Mr. Petronski’s broken English- their family has moved to the big city where their Polish heritage will not be mocked, but perhaps accepted and even respected. Seeing Wanda’s hundred dresses and hearing her letter sets off a chain of uncertain repercussions for the main antagonists in Wanda’s taunting, leaving the reader to wonder whether Wanda has forgiven her classmates, or will forever hold them in disdain.

This short, classic, 1945 Newbery Honor tale resonates with all involved in the childhood interactions spectrum: the bullied, the bystanders, the adults privy to the bullying, and the bullies themselves. The deeper meaning and moral message of this story is delivered between the lines, which make it a wonderful choice for older readers to practice their critical reading skills. In fact, the gentle and simple way this lesson is portrayed makes this book a wonderful choice as a read-aloud to younger readers, or an interesting enticement for reluctant readers, as well. Those who enjoyed the newer title Jane, the Fox, and Me, will no doubt enjoy this tale as well. All around, The Hundred Dresses is a timeless tale that has endured the test of time with its resonating truth, and is bound to continue to do so for generations.

Find The Hundred Dresses in our catalog.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Day the Crayons Quit

written by Drew Daywalt
illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Ages: 0-8 years (approximately grades preschool – 3)

You’d be hard pressed to find any young reader who doesn’t enjoy coloring. For many of us (adults included!) all that’s necessary for a fun afternoon is a blank sheet of paper and a box of crayons. Unfortunately, the crayons themselves aren’t as easily satisfied. One day when our protagonist, Duncan, arrives to school, he finds a stack of letters addressed to him. These letters contain the grievances of all the colors in his crayon box. They quit! Red is overworked, beige is underused, white is misused, and yellow and orange are in an all-out war over who should be used to color the sun. It’s absolute chaos in the pigmented world of the crayons, and it’s up to Duncan to use his creativity to set things right.

Although this is Daywalt’s first (very successful, as a 2015 Monarch Award nominee) attempt as an author, The Day the Crayons Quit is just one of the many fantastic titles Jeffers has illustrated. Each letter is composed on a different type of paper (lined, coloring pages, etc.) in each crayon’s specific handwriting. With each letter comes a depiction of the crayon in question and his objections, in a creative, funny, and in true Oliver Jeffer’s style, childlike illustration, not to mention Duncan’s creations to boot! A wonderful, colorful story that any reader who has used crayons or lodged a complaint will connect with, The Day the Crayons Quit is not only relatable, but a laugh-out-loud funny tale that will encourage readers to use their imaginations the next time they sit down with their own box of crayons.

Find The Day the Crayons Quit in our catalog.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Al Capone Does My Shirts

by Gennifer Choldenko

Ages: 10 years and up (approximately grades 4 and up)

Moose Flanagan is your average, every-day, big-for-his-age ten-year-old growing up in the mid-1930’s when his dad accepts a job as the new prison guard and electrician at the roughest place known to civilians and criminals alike: Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Moose takes his family’s move hard when he is forced to give up his old friends, his baseball team, and share an island home with the nastiest, most scheming criminals of the day, including none other than the infamous Al Capone (who hails from right here in Chicago, Illinois!). Worse yet is when Moose’s older sister, Natalie –who acts like a younger sister due to her severe autism- is rejected from the special school the Flanagans hoped to send her to in San Francisco, saddling Moose with the task of watching over Natalie while his parents work. Unable to make friends off the island, Moose befriends the other guards’ kids, including the warden’s daughter, Piper, who may take more after the crafty Al Capone than her stand up, law abiding warden of a father. Can Moose find the time away from his sister to return to playing his beloved game of baseball without hurting his friendships with the kids on Alcatraz island? Will Piper ever learn that her conniving ways are more trouble than they’re worth? Could Natalie end up getting into her special school with a little help from Al Capone himself? Find out in Al Capone Does My Shirts, as well as the two sequels that more than live up to their predecessor, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and Al Capone Does My Homework.


This 2005 Newbery Honor book tackles the themes of childhood, morality, mental health, and history in a way that is pleasing and palatable to its target audience. Included in this volume is an extensive and interesting author’s note where Choldenko outlines her in-depth research not only on the lives of those who lived on Alcatraz in the 1930’s, but also explaining the struggles of Natalie’s character and how she is based off Choldenko’s own autistic sister. While somehow keeping the historical and autistic realities in check throughout the story, Al Capone Does My Shirt also lightheartedly delves into the depths of childhood crushes, friendships, school life, and know-it-all adults. Moose’s character is not only big for his age, but mature, with a smattering of sarcasm and in-your-face humor despite the challenges he, his friends, and his sister get themselves into. Children ages ten and up will enjoy this book, especially if they enjoy historical fiction, friendship-based shenanigans and humor, or have a soft spot for those who are a little bit different.

Find Al Capone Does My Shirts, and the rest of the Al Capone on Alcatraz series, in the catalog.

Friday, June 13, 2014


by Don Freeman

Ages: 0-6 years (approximately ages preschool -1)

In this classic Don Freeman story, a little girl spots Corduroy the teddy bear while shopping with her mother and instantly falls in love. The girl’s mother, after pointing out Corduroy’s missing button, declines the girl’s request to buy the bear. After the department store (which is reminiscent of a 1950’s Marshall Field’s) closes for the night, Corduroy comes to life and decides to look for his lost button that he now dearly misses. A small mishap involving a mattress and a lamp later, the nighttime security guard finds Corduroy in the furniture section of the store, and promptly returns him to the toy department. Lucky for Corduroy, because the girl from the previous day finds and buys him as soon as the store opens. It is after the girl puts a new button on his overalls and introduces Corduroy to her bedroom that the bear discovers it was not his missing button or a bed he wanted after all, but a home and a friend.

With simple, sketch drawings colored in with a 1950’s color palette, the illustrations transport readers to a simpler time (whether that time is childhood or the past is up to you!) and a gentler mindset. This heartwarming title is great for readers who have a special fondness for their furry friends or who have a huge imagination and wonder whether their toys come to life after dark and love them back. This book connects flawlessly with the popular Toy Story movies, and can be used as a precursor to introducing young readers to the Disney stories, or as a way to gently lure them back into books. Whatever the reason for handing your reader Corduroy, the story is sure not to disappoint!

Find Corduroy as a picture book, a read-along kit, a downloadable video, or in Spanish and Japanese in our catalog.

Friday, June 6, 2014


by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ages: 9 years and up (approximately grades 4 and up)

It’s 1870 and slavery is over, but some things remain the same, at least at the River Road Plantation. Ten-year-old Sugar works hard planting and harvesting sugar cane. Even though she’s named after it, Sugar hates the stuff. She hates the sickly sweet taste. She hates how it makes her back hurt and how the cane leaves cut her arms, hands, and fingers. She hates how it made her best friend’s family leave the plantation for a better life. But most of all, she hates how sugar doesn’t make her feel free.

Sugar would rather be doing anything other than farming sugar cane. She loves hearing the tales of Br’er Rabbit, dreams about the world beyond River Road, and wants to go on an adventure. Sugar’s life continues to revolve around work until she befriends Billy, the plantation owner’s son. No one wants Sugar and Billy to remain friends so they keep their friendship a secret. The plantation experiences more changes when a group of Chinese workers are hired to help with the harvest. Open-minded Sugar greets them warmly and wants to know everything about them. The rest of the workers feel threatened by their arrival and keep their distance. By helping everyone see what they have in common, Sugar brings the two groups together and gives everyone hope for better days ahead.

This historical novel focuses on a difficult subject in a way that is easily accessible. Not many people realize that, although slavery was abolished, former masters and former slaves still worked together in roles that were relatively the same. It was an uneasy time in American history where people were uncertain of the future and many on both sides were hesitant to change. This is a moralistic story that is not heavy handed and filled with ethnically diverse characters portrayed in a realistic way. The author weaves in both Br’er Rabbit trickster tales and Chinese folk tales to entertain as well as provoke thought. Younger readers will root for this plucky heroine and relate to her humor and grace. Read alikes to this book are The Lions of Little Rock for another story about friendship against all odds set during the Civil Rights era and The Birchbark House, the poignant story of a courageous Ojibwe girl in 1847. This title is recommended for grades 4 and up.

 Find Sugar in our catalog.