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Great Books for Year-Round Giving - Off the Shelf Special Edition

As you contemplate your holiday shopping, leave room on your list for some of our “staff picks”! In this special edition of “Off the Shelf,” each youth services staff member shares a few of her favorite titles that came out in the past year. As you will be able to tell from the descriptions below, we each have our own personal reading tastes, so there is something for everyone!

-Lori Faust, Youth Services Manager, November 2013


Ms. Amanda (Main Library) recommends

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

By Peter Brown

Ages 4 - 8

Mr. Tiger lives in a world where animals dress like, and behave like, proper Victorian ladies and gentlemen. Dressed in top hats and three piece suits, this is a world of sophistication. And Mr. Tiger is tired of it all. He is tired of being so proper, so prim, and so perfectly well behaved. So, Mr. Tiger decides to throw caution to the wind and… WALK ON ALL FOUR LEGS! GASP! Next thing you know, he’s ditching that three piece suit and heading into the wild. This is the perfect story for everyone who walks to a different beat. It’s also for all those who are tired of all those rules and just wants to let loose. Brown’s illustrations lend a pitch-perfect comic timing to Mr. Tiger and his world that just might be ready to get a little wild. 

Flora and the Flamingo

By Molly Idle

Age 4 - 8

Bravo! Magnifique! If I could give this book a standing ovation (without my co-workers thinking I’ve lost my mind), I would. Who knew you could so perfectly and wonderfully depict a dance in a book? Well, apparently Molly Idle knew, 'cause she did it. With the clever use of flaps, this wordless book shows us a beautiful, and quite funny, dance between a young girl and a flamingo.  The girl is, of course, cute as a button, clad in a pink bathing suit, bathing cap, and flippers. Though at first the flamingo doesn’t appreciate the young girl horning in on its dance, slowly the two fall into step. Think Fantasia on the page. This book is absolute fun. 

One Came Home

By Amy Timberlake

Ages 10 - 14

Georgie refuses to believe that her sister, Agatha, is dead. She does not believe that the unidentifiable body wearing her sister’s blue-green ball gown belongs to Agatha. So, after the funeral, Georgie sets out to follow the path her sister took when she ran off with the pigeoners who were following the giant migration of passenger pigeons. (That’s right. Around the time this novel is set, 1871, humongous flocks of pigeons, miles wide, migrated across this very country. So big they overtook entire towns, and people had to spend days cleaning up all the bird poop.) Reluctantly allowing one of her sister’s suitors, Billy, to travel along with her, she sets off into the wild. Along the way she learns a lot about the wilderness and a lot about herself. You know, of course she gets attacked by wild animals and inadvertently finds some bad guys and, in general, gets into all kinds of trouble. Georgie is one of the best female characters that I’ve read in quite a while. And this is one of the most honest portrayals of a young woman on the cusp of her adolescence I’ve read recently, especially in how she tries to internally deal with her attraction to Billy. A highly recommended read for fans of historical fiction, mysteries, and adventures.  

 Miss Brindi (Howland Branch Library) recommends

The Boy and the Airplane

By Mark Pett

All ages

This book is such a precious gem. I have a soft spot for wordless picture books, and The Boy and the Airplane illustrates so much emotion through simple watercolors. The reader overjoys in watching the boy play with his favorite toy, yet the sense of separation is just as powerful when he loses it. Younger kids might not quite understand the underlying moral, but older readers know some things are worth the wait. (While this picture book is great for preschoolers and kindergarteners, I think it’s perfect for all ages.) 


Tiger in My Soup

By Kashmira Sheth; illus. by Jeffrey Ebbeler

Ages 3 - 7

Yes. Yes, I'm quite sure THERE'S A TIGER IN MY SOUP! When his big sister is left in charge, this young boy just wants to share his book about tigers. But when he discovers she's too busy, his very inventive imagination turns the kitchen into a jungle, inviting the King himself right out of the boy's soup. War is declared. Each vivid illustration brings to life the ferocious tiger as readers watch the battle carry from page to page. The life-like images are incredible. 

Who’s on First?

By Abbott & Costello; illus. by John Martz

Ages 5 - 10

Third base!! This is the best children's book EVER. I think the only time I laughed harder was when I was actually watching Abbott and Costello perform this classic comedy sketch.  "Who's on first? What's on second? I Don't Know's on third" comes alive in this wonderful children's picture book, and I honestly don't know what took so long. And the illustrations are perfect. They're bold, big, and full of comical expressions. I'm 100% positive this children's book is for the parent. But, you know, we can share, too. Genius. Priceless. Must buy immediately. (K-4th, but shhhh it’s really for adults.)

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell

By Tanya Lee Stone; illus. by Marjorie Priceman

Ages 5 - 9

Back in the 1830s, girls weren’t allowed to become doctors. What?! In this short biography, colorful and humorous illustrations fill each page as Elizabeth Blackwell discovers her big dream of becoming a doctor is going to turn quite a few heads. Readers learn the inspiring story of America’s first female doctor and how her brave choices opened the doors for today’s little girls. 

Miss Jill (Brookfield and Liberty Branch Libraries) recommends


Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite

By Nick Bromley; illus. by Nicola O'Byrne

Ages 3 - 7

The tranquil story begins, “Once upon a time,” until a crocodile sneaks into the book. Who invited this reptile, anyway? Will he leave quietly or wreak havoc? Watch out for sharp teeth and read with care! 


Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight

By Marthe Jocelyn

Ages 8 - 12

Have fun creating with easy to find materials. The eye-catching photos along with easy-to follow instructions will bring out the creativity in young and old alike. Leave your artistic flair in the most unique places. 

The Center of Everything

By Linda Urban

Ages 9 - 12

In the midst of a parade, celebrations, and a donut craze, Ruby is grieving the loss of her dear grandmother. As Ruby prepares to read her winning parade speech, she has only one wish she wants to come true. Will it be granted or will she have to work to help her destiny unfold? 

Miss Trish (Main Library) recommends

Anton and the Battle

By Ole Konnecke

Ages 3 - 8

Anton is at it again, and this time is in a battle with his good friend Luke to see who is stronger. As a mom of two boys myself, I appreciated the unusual antics as each boy proves his strength. It is laugh-out-loud funny, especially with the sweet little twist of a cute puppy as an added character. I’m sure another battle is in the works! 

Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg

By Lori Mortensen; illus. by Michael Allen Austin

Ages 4 - 8

Giving a dog a bath in any form is funny, but add a cowboy named Clyde and his dirty “dawg” and you’ve got one hilarious adventure! You can get a country twang going as you read about the stunts Dawg pulls to avoid getting a bath, while Clyde soaks other animals in the process. Once again, this scenario is reminiscent of my life, and I could easily retitle the book, "Librarian Trish and Yucky Yoshi." 

Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom

By John Rocco

Ages 4 - 9

I’m in an all-male household (even our dog, Yoshi, is male), so I naturally gravitate to what I know. My boy theme continues with this story about a group of boys and their superpowers. Rocco’s superpowers come from his hair, which is long, wild, and unruly. With his superpower, and the powers of his crew, they can do anything! When the villain captures him and cuts his hair, all seems lost. (That kid really needed a haircut. In fact, they all did!) With revenge in mind, and now with limited powers, Rocco and his crew feel hopeless. That is, until their bravery is needed again! 

Mrs. Faust (Main Library) recommends

Cheetah Can't Lose

By Bob Shea

Ages 3 - 6

We all know the type - that friend who is so sure of themselves that it can get a bit annoying. Well, Cheetah just knows he's going to win the big race. After all, he IS the fastest animal in the whole wide world. His two small cat friends inform him that this year there are lots of races so everyone has a chance, but that just makes Cheetah think he can win them all. Little does Cheetah know that his friends have some tricks up their sleeve this year - prizes for each race that are bound to trip him up!  I love how Cheetah gets his comeuppance in a good-hearted way, while the small cats get their moment in the spotlight without making their friend feel bad. And kids will like being in on the joke!

The Year of Billy Miller

By Kevin Henkes

Ages 6 - 8

When Billy Miller tells his father he’s afraid he won’t be smart enough for second grade, his dad tells him that he'll be fine and declares it the “Year of Billy Miller.” This short, satisfying novel by the multi-talented Henkes follows Billy’s travails and triumphs over the course of the school-year as he deals with a know-it-all classmate and an annoying little sister.  I like that this funny but realistic story for the younger chapter-book reader features a boy protagonist. Many readers have been calling Billy Miller the boy's version of Ramona Quimby. And that's darn good company to be in! 

Bo at Ballard Creek

By Kirkpatrick Hill; illus. by LeUyen Pham

Ages 7 - 12

Newborn Bo was headed for an Alaskan orphanage when two big, tough gold miners decide to raise her instead with the help of the other miners and everyone in the nearby town. This delightfully unusual family has many adventures in this winning novel, which takes place in the time of the big Alaska gold rushes. Like a livelier Eskimo-village version of Little House in the Prairie, the descriptions of the lives of the miners and native Alaskans introduce the reader to a way of life that is often unfamiliar and fascinating, but is grounded in a warm sense of family.  

P.S., Be Eleven

By Rita Williams-Garcia

Ages 9 - 12

In this sequel to the award-winning title One Crazy Summer, eleven –year-old Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, return home to Brooklyn from their summer visiting their free-spirit mother in California. The girls are feistier than ever after spending time at the Black Panther People’s Center, but they aren’t the only ones who have changed. Pa has a new opinionated girlfriend, and Uncle Darnell, home from Vietnam, doesn’t joke and tell stories like he used to. Delphine struggles with these big changes, but also has normal sixth-grade worries: the babyish clothes her grandmother makes her wear to school, how to please her new teacher, and whether or not she and her sisters will be able to save enough money to buy tickets to see the exciting new singing group, the Jackson Five.  Her mother gives her advice via letter, reminding her to not grow up too fast, to “be eleven.”  I just loved Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern – they seem like real kids. Good kids who make mistakes. I also love that the adults are depicted as fallible, but not ridiculous. They’re still in charge and have the girls’ best interest at heart.  Funny, moving, and relatable (and even better than One Crazy Summer, in my opinion!).

 Miss Audrey (Main Library) recommends

Count the Monkeys

By Mac Barnett ; illus. by Kevin Cornell

Ages 3 - 7

This lively, interactive book invites kids to count the monkeys….but they’ve been scared off!  You spend the rest of the book trying to get to the monkeys, but increasingly large numbers of ridiculous creatures get in your way, like lumberjacks and bee swarms. The book invites children to roar at, hide from, high five, and otherwise interact with the creatures at each page turn. The ending is a bit of a surprise, and it adds to the fun. Share this book one-on-one or with a group, and then try to count the smiles! 

Phoebe and Digger

By Tricia Springstubb; illus. by Jeff Newman

Ages 3 - 7

“When Mama got a new baby, Phoebe got a new digger.” Thus begins one of the best picture books I’ve seen all year. Phoebe is an active, imaginative preschool-age girl with strong opinions about waiting, babies, and benches. She and Digger are delighted to go the park to play in the dirt, but a run-in with a bully “with mean teeth” almost ruins the day.  In the end, our heroine prevails, and everyone goes home happy. The writing is excellent, and the illustrations have wonderful colors, clear facial expressions, and good use of white space. This story has broad appeal for truck lovers and new siblings alike. 

Better Nate than Ever

By  Tim Federle 

Ages 9 - 13

Nate is an easily-overlooked younger sibling, with a little bit of chub, an underbite, and a big passion for Broadway. When he and his best friend, Libby, learn that auditions for a stage production of E.T. will be taking place in Manhattan, they hatch a daring plan for Nate to participate. Stepping well outside of his comfort zone, he sneaks out to the big city where he encounters urban bustle, the surreal world of child performers, and the secrets behind some old family drama. Nate does his best to keep his head, and throughout the book he is a very likeable, believable kid, whose big dreams sometimes clash with his own realistic expectations. You can't help but root for Nate!

Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead

By Rebecca L. Johnson 

Ages 9 - 13

 Zombie books are everywhere, but this one is seriously cool. It discusses how real creatures – worms, spores, etc. – take over their host creatures and turn them into zombies. The photographs are fantastic, if a bit disgusting, and useful infographics include the scientific name, nickname, victim, and home ranges of the zombie makers. The information is presented in an interesting way, which great details and turns of phrase. Hand this book off to any young scientist or bug enthusiast who likes their facts mixed with a bit of gross.

 Miss Amanda (Howland Branch Library) recommends


Wee Rhymes

By Jane Yolen; illus. by Jane Dyer

Ages 0 - 3

Not only are rhymes fun to say and read, but they are also an important part of early literacy skills.  In this sweetly illustrated book, original poems by prolific author Jane Yolen are interspersed with classic nursery rhymes.  

Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types

By Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss

Ages 3 - 7

“Rawr!”  That’s dinosaur for “I love this book!” Each prehistoric creature is illustrated with a repeated letter, such as Aa for Allosaurus.  The two page spreads show the creatures’ shapes and provide information about them while focusing on the letter.  With flaps to lift for more surprises, this is a fantastic book for dinosaur enthusiasts from preschool through elementary. 

World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of

By J. Patrick Lewis; illus. by Anna Raff

Ages 5 - 12

After reading this book I bet “ewe” will never forget that June 14 is Ohio Sheep Day! Don’t forget to appreciate your favorite dragon on January 16 – Dragon Appreciation Day.  Fun illustrations, featuring a cute group of rodents, accompany clever poems to educate the reader about wacky – and real – holidays. 

Mrs. Rising (Cortland Branch Library) recommends

Matilda and Hans

By Yokococo

Ages 3 - 5

Matilda is a good little cat that is always well-behaved. Hans, on the other hand, is a naughty little cat who always misbehaves! One night, Hans takes the zookeeper’s keys and lets all of the animals escape from their cages. The police have had enough and decide to offer a reward for any information regarding the culprit’s whereabouts. Matilda offers to help, and Hans is soon caught, but is it really Hans that’s causing all the trouble? In this story with a twist, your child will discover that there’s a little bit of good and naughty in all of us!  A delightful and reassuring read for your little one. 

That's Not a Good Idea

By Mo Willems

Ages 4 - 8

When a very hungry fox meets a very plump goose, a yummy dinner is on his mind. He invites the goose to go for a walk that ends with a visit to his kitchen. As Mama Goose accompanies Mr. Fox through the woods and into his lair, her babies are constantly shouting the warning, “That is not a good idea!” But who needs to heed the warning, Mama Goose or Mr. Fox? You won’t want to miss yet another hilarious offering by Mo Willems, author of the Elephant and Piggy series and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

Better to Wish

By Ann M. Martin

Ages 8 - 12

"Family Tree" is a new four book series created by Ann Martin, author of the popular Babysitter’s Club stories. In this first installment, we meet Abby Nichols, an eight-year-old girl growing up in America during the Great Depression. The story follows her until she reaches the age of eighteen. Along the way, Abby experiences her share of happiness and unhappiness, fulfillment and disappointment, kindness and cruelty, and life and death.  Despite having a father who is overbearing and bigoted and a mother who is dealing with depression, Abby rises above her circumstances and maintains her independent spirit, growing from a young girl into a strong and confident woman. Don’t miss this first step in a series that will touch your heart and leave you begging for more. 

Miss Kaymoura (Main Library) recommends

Monkey Ono

By J.C. Phillipps

Ages 2 - 5

All Monkey Ono (a stuffed animal) wants is to spend a day at the beach…but when the family leaves him behind, Monkey Ono tries to make the best of it.  He comes up with many plans, from riding on the family dog to falling into the toilet, all of which go amusingly awry. Finally, with a little creative thinking, Monkey Ono gets his Beach Day! With great cut paper collage illustrations. 

Perfectly Percy

By Paul Schmid

Ages 3 - 7

Percy loves balloons…but there’s a big problem.  Percy is a porcupine…and porcupines playing with balloons usually do not have a happy ending.  Percy is not going to be content unless he can think of a way that he can play with balloons.  Will Percy come up with a way to play with his favorite toy? Or will all his plans be a bust? 

Brief Thief

By Michael Escoffier; illus. by Kris Di Giacomo

Ages 4 - 7

Leon the Lizard had to go poo and ran out of toilet paper!  He spies a pair of underwear hanging in a tree that will do the clean-up trick.  But as soon as he uses them, his conscience, and an outraged rabbit, help Leon to see the errors in his ways! Underwear foolproof path to lots of laughs.