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Off the Shelf Archive

October: Happy Halloween!

The books featured this month focus on the spooky side of things. I can’t imagine that’s a surprise, since it is OCTOBER! This is the month when things go bump in the night. When our minds turn to the supernatural. So put on a sweater to keep out the chill, turn the lights down low, and curl up with the kids to share a ghoulishly good read. Happy Halloween!

–Ms. Amanda


Chapter Books 

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

By Claire Legrand

Ages 10 and up

If I close my eyes, I can still feel my skin crawl. Creepy crawlers and really scary adults (that maybe aren’t actually adults… or human!) and a spooky orphanage (complete with a caretaker) come together to create the wonderfully macabre tale. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a prefect book for those looking for a ghoulish good read.

Victoria is the kind of girl who likes things to be just so. When people begin to go missing, only to return prettier, smarter, and strange, Victoria begins to get suspicious. When Lawrence, her best friend, goes missing, Victoria sets out to find him. Stopping at the local orphanage, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, to ask questions, Victoria meets the gracious and lovely Mrs. Cavendish. She is quite sure that this wonderful woman has the children’s best interest in heart. That is until the children send her a message on a paper airplane. It reads “HELP US!” Does Mrs. Cavendish have Lawrence? Is Mrs. Cavendish responsible for all the strange occurrences in town? Is Mrs. Cavendish human?  Victoria, ever the smart girl, matches wits with the evil (and really, really creepy) Mrs. Cavendish as she rushes to save Lawrence before it is too late.  

Doll Bones

 By Holly Black

Ages 10 and up

There is a healthy demand for “scary books” in the children’s department of most libraries, and once the kids have read all of the Alvin Schwartz, R.L. Stine, and Mary Downing Hahn it can cause a librarian to wrack his or her brain for suggestions.

This spooky story by Holly Black (of Spiderwick Chronicles fame) will help meet that demand. Three friends, Zack, Poppy, have played an elaborately plotted ongoing game with dolls and action figures for years, but they worry that now that they have turned 12 they’ll be made fun of if their middle school peers find out. Then something very strange happens to Poppy. One of the dolls – a very old bone china toy they call “the Queen,” starts to haunt her dreams, claiming to be made out of the bones and ash of a girl who died long ago. A girl who wants to be put to rest.  Are ghosts real? Is Poppy lying to keep her friends in the game? When the three embark on a “quest” (to East Liverpool, Ohio, no less!) to try to find the Queen’s grave, the adventure really begins.  (Guest Reviewer: Lori Faust, Youth Services Manager and Librarian Extraordinaire (and no, I didn’t say that because she is my boss…) )

Picture Books

Bone Dog

By Eric Rohmann

Ages 4-8

This bittersweet story about a boy and his dog tugs at the heart strings (and leg bones). Gus and Ella have been friends for a long time. Ella warns Gus that she is old and cannot live forever. But, she promises to always be with him. After she is gone, Gus reluctantly goes on with his life. For Halloween, he dresses as skeleton, and, after a while, wanders into a cemetery. Well, next thing he knows he’s surrounded by skeletons that are none too happy to find a live boy amidst their Halloween frolicking. Here comes Ella, now a skeleton dog, to the rescue. Calling upon their other (live) dog friends, Gus and Ella dispatch with those skeletons right quick (remember: dogs love bones). I highly suggest this wonderful Halloween tale of friendship that lasts forever. 



The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans

Written by Mary Quattlebaum

Illustrated by Patricia Castelao

Ages 4-7

First of all, the author’s last name is Quattlebaum. That’s just awesome. But, you know, not necessarily a reason to read a book.  However, if you are looking for a very not scary ghost story, this is the story for you. Fred is a ghost who lives by himself in a rundown house at 28 Rue Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana. All is well until some live people, a father and his daughter, have the audacity to move in and turn his home into a restaurant. The nerve of some people.  It’s even more tragic when his attempt to scare the diners away is thought to be some sort of performance that the owners have staged. Of course, everyone makes up in the end (I already told you it was very not scary). The Hungry Ghost of Rue Orleans is a nice change of pace from the typical Halloween fare. I highly recommend getting yourself a beignet mix and whipping up some of your own Powdered Ghosts Puffs.


Frangoline and the Midnight Dream

Written by Clemency Pearce

Illustrated by Rebecca Elliott

Ages 3-7

Frangoline is the perfect angel… during the day. But come midnight, Frangoline dons her black cape and escapes out the window. Scared of nothing, she traipses through field and forest. The moon, her constant companion, warns her that she should be in bed, but she refuses. But, once she wakes the dead (scary only momentarily), she catches a ride on the moon to her own bed. Here, as the now friendly beasts and ghouls watch her drift off to sleep, she promises to be good…until tomorrow night! The rhyming text is fun to read aloud. But, for me, the real appeal comes from the illustrations. First drawn, and then scanned into a computer to have color, texture, and patterns added by manipulating photographs that she’s taken, Elliot adds atmosphere and character to the story. The black bird in a cage that Frangoline carries around is my favorite character (though never once mentioned in the text). Frangoline and the Midnight Dream is a spooky romp not to be missed.

Further Suggested Reading


The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams & illustrated by Megan Lloyd

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth



September: Back to School!

I hate to say it in front of the children, but school is starting. So, for this edition of Off the Shelf, we highlight some decidedly important skills when it comes to schooling.

 – Ms. Amanda


First, what student doesn’t know the importance of an encyclopedia?

The Encyclopedia of Me 

By Karen Rivers 

Ages 9 and up

This clever tween novel is told completely in encyclopedic form. Not just any encyclopedia, however: it is a reference book of Isadora, or “Tink,” Aaron-Martin’s life, and it is wonderful. From the very first entry (“Aa: Some kind of lava”), you can’t help but be drawn into her first person narrative. She is a smart, realistic almost-teen with a distinctive voice and a sense of mostly good-natured sarcasm.

Tink’s biracial family life revolves around her older autistic brother, Seb. To Tink, Seb is simply Seb, autism and all. She’s rather sick of discussing Seb’s syndrome, partially because to understand many events in Tink’s life, one has to know about Seb’s quirks. Despite this, Tink’s encyclopedia revolves around her life, and how it changes in the months leading up to her thirteenth birthday: the new blue-haired boy next door, her up-and-down relationship with her oldest friend, Freddie Blue, her new hobby, skateboarding, and her increasing frustration at being called the “Peacekeeper” in her family, which she feels is ridiculous. She grows as a person in a very believable way throughout the book, and you root for her while she does. An excellent, and surprisingly funny, read. (review by Ms. Audrey)

Puzzle solving and word play save the day in this mystery (and in the classroom)

Hold Fast

by Blue Balliett 

Ages 9 - 12 

When her father disappears on his way home from his job at the Chicago Public Library, Early Pearl and her mom and brother find themselves plunged into a world of danger and despair. Forced to live in a city shelter after their apartment is broken into and destroyed, Early is determined to find out what happened to her dad AND to find a home for her family. A satisfying blend of puzzle, poetry, and word play, this is a smart mystery with heart. I’d recommend it to readers in grades 4 through 6 who like mysteries and realistic fiction. (review by Ms. Lori)

We so often forget the importance of just thinking and having ideas

Perfectly Percy

story and pictures by Paul Schmid

Ages 4 - 7 

Percy is a porcupine whose absolutely favorite things are balloons. As I’m sure you can imagine, that can be a bit of a problem. Porcupines and balloons don’t mix very well. After spending some time thinking, Percy has an IDEA! He discovers the perfect solution to his prickly problem. This companion book to Hugs from Pearl (also not to be missed!) was a great idea in and of itself! 

When it comes to wisdom, I think Mr. Einstein may have said it best. “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the life-long attempt to acquire it.” – so sayeth Albert Einstein


written by Rodrigo Folgueira

illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Ages 3 - 7

The frogs don’t know what to make of it when they discover a pig sitting on a rock. And then when he begins to “ribbit,” well, all bets are off.  What could this pig possibly be doing?  What does he want from the frogs? Leave it to the wise old beetle to point out what everyone has missed. This simple tale of friendship and differences is great fun. 





April: Poetry Month

It’s April and that means it’s Poetry Month. Personally, I love poetry. It’s painting with words. It’s playing with words. It’s snapping a picture of a moment with words. It can devastate, it can make us laugh, and everything in between. For your reading pleasure, I present the following books of verse.


May B: A Novel

By Caroline Starr Rose

Age 8-12

Nary a word is out of place in this survival novel told in verse. May has been sent by her father to help out at another homestead until Christmas. But when the husband and wife go missing, May is left to fend for herself as winter sets in on the vast and empty prairie.

If you read reviews of May B, you’ll find such words as “lyrical” and “immediate” and “spare,” and they are all true. Though there is far more white space on the page than text, the free verse tells a dramatic and emotional story of courage. Rose also creates a true voice in May B, a young woman who behaves realistically (warts and all) in the face of such a terrifying circumstance. Don’t be fooled by this quick read. It leaves you with much to ponder. This is writing you can savor.

One kvetch: I appreciate that Rose wanted to recognize that individuals have struggled with learning disabilities throughout history. But, personally, I felt it was unceremoniously shoehorned into this story, i.e. May B spends perhaps too much time thinking about her reading problems rather than dealing with the fact that she’s stuck on the prairie by herself as winter sets in. Did I mention she is running out of food?

Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems

Poems by Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Josée Masse

Ages 6 and up

Allowing only for changes to punctuation and capitalization, Singer has created a style of poetry in which a poem can be read both from top to bottom and bottom to top. Each version of the poem tells a different side of the same story. Like her first reverso collection, Mirror Mirror, this collection focuses on the classic fairytales.

I am amazed by this collection of poetry. The amount of time it would take to find the correct wording baffles me. Follow Follow’s poetry not only wows with its cleverness, but also manages to beautifully interpret the classic tales.

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature

Poems by Nicola Davies

Illustrated by Mark Hearld

Ages 5 and up

Written by award-winning author and biologist Nicola Davies, this gorgeously illustrated poetry book captures the sights and sounds of nature’s seasons. Beautiful double page spreads of artwork - rendered in paper-cut collage - are a feast for the eyes and the poetry is “simply” fabulous for young ones.  (Guest Reviewer: Maria Panozzo, children’s librarian emeritus)

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!

Edited by J. Patrick Lewis     

Over 200 animals are featured in this poetry book.  From the big ones to the little ones to the quiet ones and the noisy ones, some are winged ones and some are water ones, and there are even some really strange ones!  Children will love to see their favorite animals photographed in this book alongside wonderfully written poems about them.  Featured poets include J. Patrick Lewis, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, Jack Prelutsky, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and many more!  A section in the back describes how to write the different types of animal poems in the book. (Guest Reviewer: Amanda Hoover)


It is award season in the land of children’s books. I’m pleasantly pleased with this year’s Newbery winner. I hadn’t read it until after it won the award (I’ll explain why in my review below). I’m a little less pleased with the Caldecott winner, though I can’t deny it is a great book. I just think something else should have won. But, then again, I wasn’t on the committee that selected it. In fact, I can’t say I’d want to be on one of the award committees (at least for the foreseeable future). It would be an honor, but the amount of books that they have to read (which, by the way, is hundreds) is daunting (especially when you have a baby).  Less well known, but just as wonderful, are the Sibert Award (to an informational book) and the Geisel Award (to a beginner reader). The Sibert Award went to Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, written by Steve Sheinkin (it’s checked out, so I haven’t gotten to read this one yet.).  Make sure to look up all the winners and honor books for all the awards at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia. –Miss Amanda


The Newbery Medal winner for outstanding contribution to children’s literature: 

The One and Only Ivan

Written by Katherine Applegate 

Ages 8-12 

I purposely didn’t read this book when it first came in here at the library. I don’t like “talking animal” books. It’s not my thing. And this book, which is about a gorilla and his elephant friend living at a roadside attraction, sounded awful to me. So, I pointedly ignored it. But, when it won the Newbery, I had to read it. And I’m so glad that I did. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful and wondrously hopeful.  It reminds us of the best and the worst qualities of humans. It reminds us of our responsibilities to the animals and world around us. It reminds us about the importance of the families we create, as well as the families that we are born with. At its center, The One and Only Ivan is a quiet story of the friendship Ivan, a gorilla, Stella, an elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. Ruby, a baby elephant, is brought to the roadside attraction in hopes of boosting business. Ruby awakens Ivan and Stella from their complacency. This is not a good home for anyone. Ivan must help Ruby before she’s stuck like he has been for the last 27 years. I don’t want to say anything else before you read it. But, once you do, feel free to stop by the children’s department at Main. I’d love to talk about it.

The Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: 

This is Not My Hat

Illustrated and written by Jon Klassen 

Ages 4-8 

If you read I Want my Hat Back and loved it (and I know many of you did – and if you didn’t, you should), you need to get your hand on a copy of this year’s Caldecott Medal winner! This is Not My Hat features a small fish who has just stolen the hat of a much bigger fish. Classic Klassen hijinks ensue. (I have just discovered that I love to type “hijinks” – but that is neither here nor there.) Klassen’s text and illustrations weave together perfectly to create this quirky and funny story. 

Geisel Award for most distinguished beginning reader book:


Up, Tall, and High!

Written and illustrated by Ethan Long

Ages 1-6

Lift-the-flap elements and bright cartoony illustrations help to bring this simple concept beginning reader to great heights. Three goofy birds are having some fun with the three concepts in the title. The text is simple enough for beginning readers to read by themselves. But everyone (young and old) will laugh along with these birds. Highly suggested for those who love the Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie Books. 

Other Picture Books : 




Caldecott Honor Book


Sleep Like a Tiger

Written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

Ages 4-8

Sleep Like a Tiger is a wonderful bedtime book, particularly for those who are reluctant to go to bed (is  there anyone who isn’t?). I hope I remain as calm as these parents when my child gets old enough to verbalize his refusal to go to bed (now he just cries). But it is the illustrations that take the well-worn story and make it fresh and new. They are like images of a dream.  Zagarenski’s mixed media illustrations are magical, ethereal, and romantically quirky. I’m very glad it won a Caldecott Honor. 

 A Home for Bird

by Philip Stead 

Ages 4-8 

 Like the Caldecott Winner, A Home for Bird weaves together words and illustrations to tell a story that each alone could not tell. Vernon is a toad that one day runs across Bird. Bird is quiet and thoughtful and lonely. Bird needs a home. Vernon is going to help him find it. What the reader knows and what Vernon does not realize is Bird is not a real bird. But, rather, he is a cuckoo that fell from his cuckoo clock on the back of a moving van. Vernon is an endearing fella who charms you from the beginning. Even Bird, still and silent, is loveable. It’s definitely worth it to take the journey with these two as the look for Bird’s home.

Chapter Book


Tangle of Knots

by Lisa Graff 

Ages 8-12 

Tangle of Knots is set in a world where most people have a Talent, a specialized and magical skill. The story follows several characters whose lives become entangle (See title. Get it?). You’ll also find, among other things, a luggage emporium, a special peanut butter recipe, and secrets galore. Fate, as usual, has a way of getting things all muddled up and then figuring itself out. And, you know Fate has a thing or two in store for these characters.  A quiet and gentle read for those who like a touch of magic and a lot of sweetness.

At the halfway point, I find that Tangle of Knots is the kind of book that I am reading simply because I want to find out what happens next. I feel no particular connection to the characters. The world is interesting, and I like the characters. Yet I set it aside a week ago, and I haven’t been interested enough to pick it back up again. I think I may just flip (…fast forward?… what do you call it on the Kindle?) to the end to see what happens.  Perhaps I’m not in the mood for this book. If you read it, let me know what you think. I’ll be in the children’s department at Main.

Happy New Year!

We’re starting off our year here at Off the Shelf with a guest reviewer, Miss Amanda H. Miss Amanda is a practicum student here at WTCPL. She’s getting her Masters in Library and Information Science at Kent State to be a children’s librarian. It looks like she’s read some great books. I’m particularly interested in Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot. I hope you all have a happy new year with plenty of good reads!  -Miss Amanda A.


Mousetronaut:  Based on a (Partially) True Story

By Astronaut Mark Kelly; Illustrated by C.F. Payne

Astronaut Mark Kelly uses his experience and imagination to tell the story of a heroic mouse named Meteor who helps to save the space mission!  After being the smallest of six mice selected for the mission aboard the space shuttle, Meteor shows his fearless curiosity about space travel as the other astronauts set him free from the cage to join them as they float and conduct experiments around the space shuttle.  An afterword in the book describes historical information and significant events about space travel along with Mark Kelly’s first flight with mice.  A wonderful book to show that humans aren’t the only ones exploring space!

It’s All About ME-OW

By Hudson Talbott

From ancient cat history to feline anatomy and all of that “cat-titude,” this book takes a look at all of those feline -tastic things that we love about cats!  Told from a cat’s perspective, we learn all of the wonders of being a cat and what they think about us humans.  Any cat owner can relate to the crazy antics of their cat, like waking them up for breakfast at the crack of dawn, giving in to those precious little eyes, and don’t forget all of the prized gifts they bring you in from the backyard!  In this book, cats definitely RULE!

Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story

By Salina Yoon

When you give love…It Grows!  That’s what Penguin discovers when he befriends a pinecone that he finds in the snow.  After grandpa suggests that the pinecone belongs in the forest where it can grow big and strong, Penguin sets off on a long journey to find Pinecone a new home.  On his return trip, Penguin learns that Pinecone has grown into a beautiful pine tree!  Soon many pine trees are growing in the forests, all adorned with a piece of their friend.  Penguin and Pinecone share a special friendship in this book, a cozy winter tale to share with a good friend.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot

By Anna Branford; Illustrated by Sarah Davis

Whenever you spot something small and special on the ground, you must try to remember what you were thinking about at the very moment you saw it, according to Violet Mackerel’s “Theory of Finding Small Things.”  Violet is a very determined and loveable girl who uses this theory to get what she wants…the blue china bird from the Saturday Market.  She comes up with not just a plan, but a brilliant plot to achieve this goal after she spots a small red button on the ground.  As she thinks outside the box and uses ideas from her theory, Violet takes on new adventures and ideas and learns some valuable lessons along the way.  The black and white pencil illustrations also help to tell the story.  A great book to introduce creative thinking!

The Most Dangerous

By Terri Fields; Illustrated by Laura Jaques

Some of the most dangerous creatures from around the world are showcased in this book.  From a box jellyfish  to cape buffalo and many other terrifying creatures have gathered to win the title and trophy of The World’s Most Dangerous.  They show off their dangerous skills from poisnious venom to deadly sharp teeth and even flesh-ripping claws as all of these creatures are performing for the judges, but who will the judges pick in the end?  Find out which creatures earns the coveted title and why it has been dubbed the world’s most dangerous.  There is also a special section in the back of the book that has learning activities for a animal adaptations, habitats, and predator and prey.

White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems, and Pratfalls of the President’s Children

By Joe Rhatigan

We all know that Malia and Sasha have lived in the White House for the past four years, but what other children have grown up on 1600 Pennsylania Ave.?  Find out what it’s like to be the child of an American President. From the perks to the problems to daily activities in and out of the spotlight, the White House has been the childhood home of many young children.  This book is filled with lots of historical photographs and facts and even information about what happened to the children after they moved out of the White House.  Get ready for the re-ignauguration this year by reading this book!

Holiday 2012

Looking for a last minute Christmas read? I certainly hope so. Looking for new Christmas stories to share is one of my most favorite Xmas traditions. [For those looking for non-Christmas recommendations, please scroll down.] What’s new this Christmas season?


Christmas Wombat

by Jackie French; illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Ages 4-8

The loveable wombat from Diary of a Wombat is back again, and this time he has stumbled upon Christmas. Literally. He stumbles upon first one and then another plate of his favorite food. Carrots! But these strange creatures with antlers keep trying to take them. Our friendly wombat inadvertently rides along with Santa as he follows these creatures to their carrots. My most favorite page: when the wombat stares down a rather confused reindeer.

The Christmas Quiet Book

by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Renata Liwska

Ages 4-8

I love this book. And it had a lot to overcome. First of all, once again, we have a Christmas version of a series of beloved picture books (i.e. The Quiet Book and The Loud Book). These don’t always work out well (for instance, I love Pete the Cat, but, personally, I think Pete the Cat Saves Christmas just doesn’t live up to the grooviness of the other Pete the Cat books). Often these Xmas spinoffs just make you feel like someone is just trying to make money. Secondly, I am very leery of “cute” things. I hate schmaltzy and cheesy books. And at first glance The Christmas Quiet Book looks like it could be really too cute. But, I’m happy to report, this book is neither money grubbing (…well, maybe it is, but it’s worth my money) nor cutesy. It’s a think-outside-the-box, snuggle-under-a-blanket-type of warm and cozy ode to the quiet moments of the busy Christmastime season. My most favorite quiet: “Lights on quiet” followed by “Blown fuse quiet.” (I laughed out loud!)

Santa from Cincinnati

by Judi Barrett; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Ages 4-8

Even those not from Ohio are going to love this book. It has that nostalgic old-timey feel that is just perfect for this time of year. It tells the life story of Santa Claus, starting with his birth and childhood in Cincinnati and continuing through college, marriage, and so on. Throughout the book, of course, are his love of toys and toy building. And, if you pay attention closely, you may glimpse Santa’s magic that permeates his life. My favorite Santa tidbit: The Claus’s got their son’s name from a bowl of alphabet soup. My favorite thing about this book: The photographs with captions.

A Christmas Tree for Pyn

by Olivier Dunrea

Ages 5-9

Lastly, I need to mention my favorite new Christmas book from last year. This is the gentle and heartwarming story of a daughter and her gruff father (who insists Pyn call him by his name, Oother). They live in a cabin in the woods (at an unspecified time which I assume to be in the past). Pyn cooks over the hearth. Oother bundles up in furs and takes his axe when he sets out to work for the day. Pyn wants a Christmas tree, but Oother doesn’t. (You realize, though it is not made explicit, that Pyn’s mother has passed away, and Oother still mourns. This is deftly handled and, I believe, most children wouldn’t even blink an eye at it. It is not central to the story, but it adds a depth to the characters and to the plot that is a mark of skilled storytelling.) This little family comes together because of Pyn’s spunky attitude and the simple, quiet power of the Christmas tree. This is the book to read with your children when all the Christmas consumerism gets to you. My favorite part: When Pyn goes to her trunk and pulls out all the items from nature that she has saved all year to use when she decorates her tree. 

For those not looking for Christmas reads (or those who just want some more suggestions), I’d like to mention two other books.

Dreams Around the World

by Takashi Owaki

Owaki is a photographer from Japan who traveled to 55 countries in 3 years. For this book, he has collected photographs of children around the world and their dreams for their futures. From the boy in Uganda who dreams of driving a matatu (mini-bus) to the girl from the Philippines who dreams of being a doctor to the boy from Argentina who dreams of owning a gelato shop (so he can be close to his favorite treat, of course!), this is a wonderful look at the children around the world, a look at both the things that make us the same and the things that make us different. Above all, it is a celebration of children. Share this with your young ones to give them a sense of the world and to incite conversation about their dreams. My favorite part: That Owaki does not go to any special lengths to make the children look like they come from a particular culture. (Due to the outdated and stereotypical photographs I saw in school, I spent a part of my childhood wondering why kids in Germany were always forced to wear lederhosen instead of normal pants… Couldn’t anyone send them some?)



Jonathan & Martha

by Petr Horáček

Ages 3-6

This is the simple story of two worms who, unbeknownst to the other, start eating from different sides of the same pear and end up in a tangle. This simply told story of friendship and sharing is accompanied by wonderful illustration and die-cuts. The pages are sturdy for the clumsy fingers of little ones. I must be in the mood for sweet stories, because this little ditty is charming and adorable (without becoming sentimental or cutesy).  My favorite part: The end. I didn’t expect it in a kid’s book. That’s all I’ll say.



Fall 2012


by Matthew J. Kirby

Ages 9 and up

To a fortress between a mountain and the frozen sea, Solveig is sent with her older sister, the beautiful Asa, and her younger brother, the future king Harald, to hide as their father, a Norse king, goes to war. When her father’s skald (storyteller/historian) and personal guard of berserkers arrive unexpectedly, things go from bad to worse. Aside from the cramped quarters, terrible winter weather, and dwindling food, someone among them is plotting against the king’s children and their caretakers.  Solveig must determine who she can trust as she struggles to survive the bitter winter before the traitor destroys her family. A 2012 Edgar Award Winner for Best Juvenile Mystery.

Things to love:

Solveig is the kind of character any self-respecting, dorky, female bookworm will love. If you’re a middle-child, well, she’s a homerun. Plagued by self-doubt, Solveig can, at times, get annoying with her hemming and hawing. However, she slowly comes to find her place in her family and in the world. It’s a much stronger position than she ever expected. Solveig’s relationship with the leader of warrior berserkers is also a heartwarming highlight. 

Say historical fiction, and I automatically think of WW2 or little orphans running around in knickers and selling newspapers (“Ten cents! Ten Cents! All the news fit to print, sir!”).  I know, as a librarian that’s a terrible thing to say, and I do like and read historical fiction of other time periods, but it is honestly the first thing that I think.  Icefall is a wonderful change from the historical fiction routine, and I can’t wait to give it to the next kid who comes in looking for historical fiction. I love the view of the Viking world that isn’t about war and fighting. Here we see those left behind during all that Viking warfare. With the addition of the mystery, this is one historical fiction that keeps you up at night wanting to see what happens next. 

The Lonely Book

by Kate Bernheimer; illustrated by Chris Sheban

Ages 5 -8

Here’s another book for the young book lovers out there. This is the gentle story of a book at a library. Beloved by many children when it is new, but, as it grows older, less and less children take it home. All but forgotten, the book is taken home by a young girl named Alice. Alice loves the book. She often checks the book out, but she forgets it one day. Through some unforeseen events, the book ends up in the library’s book sale. Just when it all seems lost and the lonely book will be alone forever, we are given the happy ending we hoped for. The beautiful soft illustrations rendered in watercolors and colored pencils add to the timeless, gentle quality of the book. 

Don’t Squish the Sasquatch

by Kent Redeker ; illustrated by Bob Staake

Ages 4-6

This is the perfect story for any child that likes their stories silly and the characters far from the norm. While the first two books in this edition of Off the Shelf were quiet, this book is LOUD. Sasquatch is taking the bus, and he really doesn’t want to be squished. But, as more and more creatures get on the bus, Sasquatch is running out of room. What happens when you squish a sasquatch? Read this book and find out! The zany illustrations filled with out-of-this-world creatures add to the ruckus and fun-filled quality of this book. Highly recommended!! 


Series: Gossie and Friends by Olivier Dunrea

Ages 2 - 6

If you don’t know Gossie and her friends, you have to meet them! These cute little books and these darling little gosling characters are well loved in my home (and, for the record, I don’t say “cute” or “darling” lightly). The stories are very simple, perfect for young children. Gossie, Gertie, Gideon, and the rest of their farmyard friends have an unassuming way of putting a smile on your face. These stories focus on the simple things in a child’s life, such as sleeping, eating, friendship, and, of course, listening to Mama. Gideon and Otto is a personal favorite. This is the simple story of a gosling and his stuffed friend, Otto the Octopus. (I wish I could find a stuffed Otto for myself!!)




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