Published: 2001
Theme: Valuing Grandparents
Best for: 6 – 9

“Next Wednesday is Grandparents Day.” Calliope dumped all her candy on the table. “And I don’t have any grandparents to bring.” I love this children’s book, because it addresses the precious relationship between grandchildren and grandparents. It reminds us to cherish our past…

Published: 2003
Theme: Celebrating Differences
Best for: ages 7 and up

“It’s very easy to accept and love those who are like us, but to love someone different is very hard, and you have helped us do that. You are a seagull, and you must follow your destiny as a seagull. You must fly.” What a beautiful piece of children’s literature this book is. Hopefully no one else in the gym noticed the tears in my eyes…

Published: 2013
Theme: Recovering from Loss
Best for: girls 11 and up

“She’s white as a snowball but she’s warm, not frozen. She’s squishy and soft and sweet as a marshmallow. But she’s delicate as an orchid graceful as a ballerina miraculous as an angel. I can’t believe my luck.” I found this book mesmerizing. I loved the very real descriptions of the effect of the kitten on the young girl, and how she continued to work on opening her dad’s heart, who is grieving…

Published: 2001
Theme: The Power of Story
Best for: 12 and up

“Queen Emmeline glided up to her husband and laid her hand on his arm as Sylvie disappeared in the direction of page 6. She found a comfy spot on the left-hand margin beside the seventh paragraph and rested her head on ‘grandiloquent,’ the largest adjective in sight.” Do you know a young teen who likes quirky books, with a touch of fantasy mixed with the metaphysical and psychological? If so…

Published: 1998
Theme: Loyalty and Courage
Best for: Boys 6 and up

“He had promised Joseph he’d protect him. But he didn’t. They were best friends. Best friends were supposed to stick together. Even if it meant being called names…Even if it ruined the sport you loved more than anything in the world. Even then.” This first chapter book delighted me from beginning to end. It places the dilemma of friendship front and center…

Published: 2012
Theme: Folk Tales, Forgiveness
Best for: 9 and up

“Thomas and I like the happy villages the best, the ones where music can be found in the very sounds of bees buzzing or the mooing of cattle. The ones where laughter trickles from under the cottage doors like water over smooth rocks.” If you and your children love folk tales, and particularly Celtic folklore, this children’s book is a terrific find, a real gem…

Published: 2008
Theme: Expressing Emotions
Best for: ages 10 and up

“The chair in my room
is like a pleasingly plump momma,
big and squishy,
with stuffing poking out.”

This book is not like any other. For one thing, it is a novel, written all in verse, that deals with a boy’s sadness over the loss of his dog…

Published: 2013
Theme: Reading, and Teamwork
Best for: good readers 10 and up

“Early access to the Electronic Learning Center will be tonight’s second prize,” said Dr. Zinchenko. “To win it, you must use the library’s resources to find dessert, which we have hidden somewhere in the building. ..So use your wits and use your library. Go find dessert!” Welcome to the library of the future, and a brand new children’s book that glorifies reading, research, and most of all, honest team work. This very odd children’s book is …

Published: 2002
Theme: Healing after Trauma
Best for: ages 9 and up

“We’ve got some amazing secret recipes,” Sairy said. “Beat-the-blues broccoli and anti-cranky crumpets and–” “Hey, with us here now,” Dallas said, “maybe you ought to make yourselves some getting-used-to-kids-again stew.” Picking up a Sharon Creech children’s book, I always wonder what difficult topic she’s taking on now. This one didn’t disappoint me–orphaned children who no longer believe…

Published: 1996
Theme: Letting Love In
Best for: ages 5 and 6

“So she began to name things. But she named only those things she knew she could never outlive. Her car, Betsy, had more get-up-and-go than anything around. Her chair, Fred, had never sagged a day in his life…” Finally, a book that made me reverse my somewhat arbitrary policy of not reviewing picture books! This little illustrated children’s book totally stole my heart…

Published: 2013
Theme: Give and Take
Best for: 5 and up, new readers

“Maggie said, “Let’s go for a ride, Bramble!” Bramble knew about rides. The rider sat in the saddle. The horse did all the hard work.” From the opening line of this little “first chapter book,” I loved it. I’ve been on the lookout for early reader children’s books since I began this website, hoping to help the younger struggling readers…

Published: 2012
Theme: Courage and Perseverance
Best for: 11 and older

“Food is considered a luxury in Carthyan orphanages. They operate on whatever money an orphan inherited upon the deaths of his parents, which inevitably is little more than the shirt on his back after debts were settled.” I cannot explain what it is about the writing style in these children’s books, but from beginning to end, it is impossible to put the book down.

Published: 2013
Theme: Heroism
Best for: ages 9 and up

“In what way was attacking a peaceful neighboring country heroic? He degraded Erick’s men for being thieves even as he planned to steal all of Carthya from me. My fingers itched to pick up my knife and start the fight.” I love heroic characters. I don’t have much tolerance for fighting. Somehow they always seem to go together. Yet in The Runaway King, the fighting seems to be somewhat tolerable, especially because the good guy always wins…

Published: 2009
Theme: Grieving and Healing
Best for: ages 9 and up

“The knuckleball wasn’t just a pitch. It was an attitude toward life; it was a way of being in the world. It was a philosophy. “You don’t aim a butterfly,” her father used to say. “You release it.” This is a book anyone could love. Boys who love baseball could surely appreciate it. Girls who want to try something out of the ordinary could love it. I certainly loved it…

Published: 2001
Theme: Perserverance
Best for: ages 9 and up

“Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo. But you must not tell your body. It must think one hill, one valley, one day at a time. In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to way.” In this lovely, art-inspired children’s book about a potter and his apprentice, the feeling of the way of the ancients comes through loud and strong. The image of the apprentice who serves the master potter for the love of the art is…

Published: 1992
Theme: Following Your Dream
Best for: Girls 9-12

“They had walked up a drive with a notice: QUEEN’S CHASE. HER MAJESTY’S BALLET JUNIOR SCHOOL, and stood gazing at the big cream-stuccoed and porticoed house with pavilions on either side…” The classic British author, Rumer Godden, probably had one very specific audience for this little children’s book: young girls who love the ballet. However, times have changed…why wouldn’t a boy who loves dance enjoy this equally well?

Published: 1996
Theme: Putting Others First
Best for: ages 6 to 10

‘Now she really did cry, with tears that seemed to burn. The crowds, the lights, the whole mela seemed to be laughing at her as had the nasty fat stall-keeper when he cheated her over the bangle.” Rumer Godden skillfully weaves in Bengali words, as well as vivid descriptions of Diwali, the festival of lights, giving the reader a full picture of ….

Published: 2012
Theme: Accepting Change
Best for: 8 and up

“It’s okay,” Snow says, lowering her head. “I don’t need to marry a prince. I don’t mind living with the dwarfs for the rest of my life.” “No…that is NOT the way your story goes….” What do you get when a 21st century girl and her sister become entangled with the eternal Snow White? A terrific children’s book, with laughs, serious lessons, and a great read for younger children…

Published: 1999
Theme: Finding One’s Path
Best for: 11 and over

“Gwydion caught Taran’s look of disappointment. “It is not the trappings that make the prince,” he said gently, “nor, indeed, the sword that makes the warrior…” Lloyd Alexander’s children’s book series on his invented land of Prydain undoubtedly has an enormous following. Fantasy books tend to create a real cult if they are good, and there is no question that this series is good…

Published: 2013
Theme: Kindness and Survival
Best for: children over 10

“The heart is like an apartment,” Madame Marie tells me. “Every day you must clean it and make it cheerful…If you make your apartment extra nice, God will come to visit you too.” Here is a breathtakingly beautiful children’s book about a breathtakingly horrendous episode in history: the Holocaust…

Published: 2005
Theme: Loyalty and Overcoming Anger
Best for: 10 and older

“Like a larger embrace, her comrades encircled her. Far more than the strands of the ring bound them all together. And it was this thought that made Rowan’s heart feel warm and full.” This particular book was interesting in that Rowan loses touch with her magical powers for most of the book, as she seeks vengeance. Without saying it directly, young readers are allowed to explore the price one pays for carrying hatred in their hearts…

Published: 2001
Theme: Women’s Strength
Best for: Girls, age 11 and up

“Her band might somehow help folk to help themselves, Rowan thought, rather than just giving them gold stolen from rich men’s packs, gold soon spent. But she could not say that, for she loved everything about Robin Hood.” The book has a wonderfully clever premise — that Robin Hood actually fathered a daughter by an aelfen woman… If you love tales of Robin Hood, this is a perfect complement, bringing in the feminine…

Published: 1995
Theme: Finding One’s Path
Best for: 9 and up

“When our Bear tribe forefathers came to Arkadia, they found a shocking state of affairs: a country governed by councils of women, all devoted to that figment of female imagination, the Lady of Wild Things.” It’s breathtaking when you find someone has put it all together in one book: action, humor, morals, good writing, and a pace that doesn’t let you put the book down till you are done.

Published: 1998
Theme: Kindness, Moderation
Best for: all ages

“I’ve left an important question unanswered. Once Tom walked out of the book, how and why did he come back? The answer to that question is: boredom. It’s not much of a life for a character in a book to be out of the book.” This is one unique, terrific, silly, and somewhat profound children’s book. In Feiffer’s hands, everything becomes just a little bit fantastical, out of the ordinary, and we get swept along believing every word of it…

Published: 2007
Theme: Caring for the Planet
Best for: 9 and up

“His mind was full of clouds in space, huge explosions, and the millions of years it took to make a star. These thoughts took him far, far across the Universe–“ What a wonderful discovery this children’s book is, in so many ways. As a work of fiction, it makes great reading, with plenty of humor and drama all the way through. However, add to that the scientific accuracy of the genius of Stephen Hawking and…

Published: 2013
Theme: Daily Life
Best for: 6 and up

“You can’t pick flowers in the park. They’re for everyone who lives here to enjoy.!” “I live here,” said Amelia Bedelia. “So does my mom. I picked these for her.” For children struggling with the English language, especially if they are second language learners, words can be confusing. And no one demonstrates this better than Amelia…

Published: 2013
Best for: 9 and older
Theme: Choices in Life; Selflessness
Five Stars

“What’s your name?” she asked the fox. “T.H. Reynolds.” “What does the T.H. stand for?” “Truthful and Handsome. My mama always said that a child grows into his name, and I guess she was right because just look at me.” I love everything about this fabulous, hot-off-the-press children’s book. The typeface is the easiest to read that I’ve seen in a long time, the illustrations are lovely…

Published: 1998
Best for: 12 and up
Theme: Magic and Nature

“Did Niko see this way all the time? Didn’t his eyes get tired? There was magic everywhere in Winding Circle, she’d found…in the south gate…, in the stones in the path…, in windows and doors…” I decided to review all these children’s books together because they are similar in many ways, and also, quite different than the first book in the series…

Published: 2011
Theme: The Madness of War, and Survival
Best for: over 11

“If they hate us, Karly, it is because we have also bombed their cities. What we are seeing now is a world gone mad, children, a world full of brutes, all intent on killing one another. And we should not forget that we are all responsible for making it happen.” This children’s book is an utterly fascinating and unique piece of historical fiction. In essence, this is a story of WWII from the point of view of a family of German refugees…

Published: 2002
Theme: History
Best for: girls 9 and older

“There was a soft chorus of ayes, and the three other Marys dropped to their knees and vowed as well to follow me through tumult and repose and never to marry until I have so done. Did any person have a luckier charm than these four steadfast friends?” This is one of many in a series called The Royal Diaries. What an absolutely fabulous way to learn history. Reading a diary is always fun, and even more so when it chronicles history…