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BMPL Children's Books, preschool to sixth grade
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picture books - beginning reader books - novels

librarians reviews

picture books

Two Little Monkeys by Mem Fox

This is a short playful book told in rhyme that just hits every note perfectly. These "two little monkeys playing near a tree, one named Cheeky, and one named Chee..." have some undesired company and must make a quick getaway. Who is it? Cheer them on as they make their clever and agile escape! (Ages 1 - 4)


Mossy by Jan Brett

This book tells a wonderful story and is a feast for the eyes. Mossy is a turtle who was happily living near the pond, often admiring the garden that has come to grow on her shell. Her life is just about to get even better when she sets eyes on another special turtle. They have a connection right away -- but before they can start to get to know each other Mossy is observed by a woman and a girl who take the beautiful and fascinating creature to live in their museum. They take great care of her and Mossy makes their little museum famous! But the girl notices that Mossy doesn't look like she is very happy. The woman and girl come up with a wonderful solution and all ends well. This book is for any child who enjoys a good story and it offers more and more to discover in the illustrations with each repeat reading. (Ages 3 - 7)


Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

What should you do if your kite gets stuck in a tree? Well throw your shoe to knock it down, of course. If your shoes get stuck too? Well maybe it's time to grab a ladder - and throw that up there as well! Everything from a chair to a fire truck gets stuck in this tree. This is a clever book with great illustrations that any child is sure to enjoy. (Ages 3 - 7)


Earth to Clunk by Pam Smallcomb

I love this silly picture book about a boy who is forced to have a penpal with an alien. After sending him all sorts of unpleasant packages (including his sister!) his alien penpal never gives up writing back and sending very interesting packages in return. The boy ends up liking his new alien friend and he visits earth (and returns his sister). This book is pure fun for a read aloud or a read alone for a young reader. (Ages 4 - 7)


Oh Daddy by Bob Shea

This is a fun bright and boldly illustrated book about a daddy who is doing what daddy's do best - acting silly. The daddy repeatedly asks the child if he is doing something the right way, when he is clearly doing it a very silly, very wrong way indeed. The child ends up showing the daddy how to act properly and ends up cooperating with his daily responsibilities along the way. A celebration of silly and clever daddies everywhere, and sure to elicit giggles from children. (Ages 2 - 4)


Budgie and Boo by David McPhail

This is a very sweet tale of two friends that feels as classic and endearing as Frog and Toad or even Ernie and Burt. This bear and rabbit live together and balance each other out perfectly. One of my favorites and always a hit at storytime. (Ages 3 1/2 - 7)


Thunder Boomer by Shutta Crum

I love this book about a family waiting out a storm in their house - making sure that the dog and the chicken are safe inside with them while they watch and listen to the "wumps" and "rumbles." It is just a wonderfully written satisfying story complete with humor - is that dad's underwear flying by outside? and mystery - why is the chicken acting so grumpy? A great choice for kids ages 3 - 6.

The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest

This is a sweet book that will warm the heart of any dog lover. Although it has a predictable ending, the poetic language that draws you into the world of a "wisp of a girl named Lia" and "a small dog with crooked ears" makes you savor how you reach it. The book is also just the perfect length to tell its story. A great story for kids ages 3 1/2 all the way up to age 6 or 7.


beginning chapter books

The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths (grades K - 3)

This book looks thicker than your typical beginning reader, but that is just because it is not your average beginning reader! It has tons of white space, large easy to read type, and lots of simple cartoons that make it look like a long book. It is truly a collection of nine very short, very silly (bordering on ridiculous, in a good way) stories that are accessible to beginning readers, including: "The Cat, The Mat, The Rat, and the Baseball Bat," "Pinky Ponky, The Shonky, Wonky, Bonky Donkey," "Bill and Phil and the Very Big Hill" and more. These silly stories are for kids that will likely graduate to Captain Underpants and then move onto Diary of a Wimpy Kid…and might be especially appealing for struggling readers. (Also look for: The Big Fat Cow that Went Kapow)


Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems (grades K - 1)

This award winning series by Mo Willems (Don't Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus, Knuffle Bunny) is written especially for kids who are just starting to learn how to read. Just in case you don't already know about these popular books, they are fantastic. Somehow they manage to be funny and engaging using only very few, very simple words. Elephant and Piggie are friends that your new reader will love and be able to explore all by themselves.



Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay (grades 2 - 4)

Lulu is a charming girl and huge animal lover. This is a satisfying school story that has more character development than most books targeting this age range. Lulu and her cousin are best friends and classmates who have a special relationship. Lulu's class is visiting the local park and notice that many ducks have nests with eggs waiting to hatch. However, all of the sudden a bunch of wild dogs come and wreak havoc on the scene! Lulu can't stand to see all of the nests and eggs destroyed. She spots an egg that is untouched and Lulu has to save it, of course. The only problem is that she promised her teacher that she wouldn't bring any more animals into their classroom. Luckily, Lulu has her best friend to help her keep that egg hidden and safe...unless it starts to hatch...


Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz (grades 4 - 6)

This is a good book for girls that like a light read, that's not too light. Calli's a part of the Gold family that is always going somewhere, achieving something, and keeping track of it all in their nightly "what did you achieve today" chats at the dinner table, and color coded calendar in the kitchen. Calli enjoys noticing the color of the sky and talking with her friends. She does not have many things on that calendar that are "her" color and her parents are always trying to change that...Calli has not yet found her "passion" but she must find one! She is a Gold after all. Calli ends up forming a special connection with a unique second grader at her school through a buddies program; and she ends up realizing that the newest forced activity - Improv - is definitely not her passion. This is a sweet look at a nice family and a young girl trying to find her place in it.


Adventure at Simba Hill by Susan Runholt (grades 5 - 7)

Adventure at Simba Hill is the third installment of the Kari + Lucas Mysteries, but it is my first introduction to this entertaining crime-solving-best-friends-duo. In this book, the two girls find themselves in Africa where Kari’s uncle is part of an archeologists’ team. Upon their arrival they are advised of the mysterious disappearance of some of the artifacts taken from a secret location near the dig site. Of course, Kari and Lucas are determined to solve the mystery. The African backdrop comes alive in the story and the reader soaks up this very different culture and geographical landscape right along with the main characters. The mystery moves along at a steady pace…the girls are smart, funny and not afraid to sneak around for answers…and the book is a solid read for any mystery fan.


The Danger Box by Blue Balliett (grades 4 - 7)

This newest offering by the bestselling author of Chasing Vermeer is a little slow to start but gets better and better as you go along; and by the end you won't want to put it down until you reach the satisfying conclusion. Zoomy has a very happy life with his grandparents who have raised him since birth and helped him to discover the wonder of lists and notebooks to help ease his "worry crumbs." They live in a tiny rural town and own and operate an antique shop. He has never even met his father until one day he arrives to drop off a mysterious box and disappears again. The only things inside are a blanket and a notebook. Zoomy's love of notebooks leads him to read it carefully and the more Zoomy learns about what's inside the notebook, the more exciting it becomes. Could this notebook be very valuable? Also, the police keeps asking questions about his father and a mysterious man shows up in town looking for the box. Will Zoomy have to turn the notebook over to the police before he figures out the mystery behind it? Zoomy and his new friend Lorroll are working quickly to figure it all out. Although the mystery doesn't really pull you in until the second half of the book, you will be enjoying getting to know Zoomy and his special town and grandparents along the way.


Justin Case: School, Drool and other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail (grades 3 - 4)

Justin was nicknamed Justin Case by his friends because he worries about EVERYTHING. Following Justin from his first to last day of third grade was a satisfying treat. This book is in diary form and should appeal to kids enjoying the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce. This year Justin has to face a teacher who is quite stingy with her "Superstars," a class that is without either of his two best friends, and a rope in gym class that he has to climb to the top in order to move on to fourth grade. Not to mention that the dog he begs for seems like it might be harm than good and his favorite stuffed animal is missing and he can't even tell anyone because he's supposed to be too old to care. I agree with notable author Avi's comments on the back cover that the book might be more aptly subtitled "the wit and wisdom of a third-grade worrywart." Give this to third graders that are strong readers who enjoy funny realistic fiction.


Finally by Wendy Mass (grades 5 - 7)

This light read was a joy throughout. Although this was the sequel to 11 Birthdays, it can be read alone (I never read 11 Birthdays…). In this book, Rory Swenson turns 12 - and she can finally do all of the things that her parents told her would be allowed when she finally reached that age. As Rory is rapidly making her way through the list: getting a cell phone, an AIM name, her ears peirced, to stay home alone (and much more) things are not always working out as she imagined. Recommend this book to girls who like a girly fun read and they won't be disappointed.


Science Fair by Dave Barry (grades 4 - 8)

This is a fantastic action adventure book with a heavy dose of humor, as well. Toby is an eighth grader at a middle school in Washington D.C. that takes its science fair very seriously. The $5,000 first prize is coveted by everyone, but this year no-one needs that money more than Toby. He made the mistake of selling one of his parents' prized Star Wars memorabilia items online (without their permission) and is now being chased by some lunatic who thinks he's Darth Vader and his "Wookie" who are demanding their $5,000 back...$5,000 that Toby already spent. Meanwhile, just as happens every year, rich kids secretly buy their science fair projects - so that they are guaranteed to win the fair. However, this year the person who sells them the plans is from a tiny country that wants to destroy the United States; and if everything goes according to plan - the United States will be destroyed all because of the middle school science fair. When Toby and his friends suspect the plan, Toby not only has to run from the Star Wars psycho and his "Wookie," but he has to stop the United States from imminent destruction. And, of course, he and his friends need a frog and a gigantic Alka-Seltzer if they're going to win the $5,000. This is a fun read for many, but especially for boys who aren't afraid of a long book - just so it's awesome.


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (grades 4 - 6)

Although this story is not for everyone, it is a special treat for those who let themselves be taken in. Minli lives in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain happily with her mother and father. While they are poor in food, clothing, and money they are rich with stories. However, Minli's mother always wishes they had more and seems unhappy, so Minli decides that she will ask the fabled Man in the Moon of her father's stories for the answers to making their family and village prosperous. When she sets off on her adventure, a talking goldfish sets her on the right path and she is on her way. Meanwhile her parents anxiously await her return. Throughout the fantastical journey Minli gathers more and more stories from the people she meets, and Minli finds that the legends passed down to each generation of listeners are actually true. Minli also befriends a dragon who cannot fly who joins her on her quest. Some readers may not like how the main story is "interrupted" with many of the collected stories that Minli hears on her journey; but readers who enjoy a magical tale should read it anyway because they will soon fall into the unique rhythm of the book and love the story it tells.


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (grades 4 - 7)

This year's Newbury Prize winner doesn't disappoint. Miranda lives in New York City with her mom in the same building as her best friend Sal. Miranda and Sal have been unseperable since they were babies, but one day Sal is randomly punched in the face on the way home from school -- and from that moment on he never wants to hang out, or even look Miranda in the eyes, again. This book tells the story of what happens in Miranda's life from that day until the day her mom appears on the game show the $20,000 Pyramid. Meanwhile, four mysterious letters have arrived for Miranda that seem to be able to predict the future; and she is directed to not only never tell anyone about them, but also to write a letter back so that someone's life can be saved. This book is that letter. Reading this book not only makes you think twice about the possibilities of time travel, but it is also just a good story about a 12-year-old girl's trials and tribulations with friends and the streets of New York City in 1951 that you will enjoy all the way up to its "aha!" conclusion.


Just Grace Walks the Dog by Charise Mericle Harper (grades 3 & 4)

Just Grace Walks the Dog is a pure pleasure to read. Grace is a funny, sweet girl at the center of this satisfying story. She is stuck with the name Just Grace in school to distinguish her from the other three Graces in her class…after a slight misunderstanding on the part of her teacher. Grace is too busy writing humorous comics in her notebook and figuring out how to convince her parents to let her and her best friend get a dog to let this get her down. Just Grace is on the order of Judy Moody, Clementine, Amber Brown, etc. but is now my favorite among this group.


The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell (grades 4 +)

This is a classic tale of good versus evil with pure adventure and kids saving the day. Christina has lived her life in complete isolation every since she was two and her mother died in an explosion at the labatory. Her father is still a scientist for Lenski Labs and Christina never really knew what he did there. However, when Christina finally wanders outside of her designated outside area, she quickly discovers an orphanage of neglected orphans, a secret underground tunnel, a special substance that melts when she sings only to quickly harden again, and a runaway orphan named Taft who becomes her first friend. Christina overhears her father talking to the head of Lenski Labs about his concern about how they are using this special substance called Zoom and wondering if they are putting children in danger and Christina realizes why her father has been protecting her all this time. Christina and Taft find tons of messages that were clearly from her mother sent in test tubes down a stream which peaks her curiousity about what goes on in that Lab on the mountain even more. And then they discover a special plane that seems to run on Zoom and human thoughts and when they get it to work, it becomes clear that they must use it to save all of the orphans and find out what happened to her mother. The orphans turn out to be in more danger than they even imagined, and soon Christina is also in danger when Leo Lenski discovers that she has "perfect pitch" and vows to capture her for his Zoom experiments. This is a fun read that would work great as a family read aloud (although the villians' plans for the orphans would be scary for some young children, but are pretty on par with the evil characters in Disney movies). The book would be a great choice also for strong younger readers that are adventure seekers; older kids might find it a little too predictable and tidy to enjoy.


Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmeg Hall by Emily Bearn (grades 3 +)

This charming collection of three separate stories are all about Tumtum and Nutmeg, husband and wife mouse living in luxurious Nutmouse Hall. Although Nutmouse Hall is legendary for its 30 + rooms, including a ballroom and grand dining hall, it is in the unused broom closet of quite a modest and neglected cottage. Tumtum and Nutmeg read in their library, relax with tea and cocoa, and enjoy deliciously prepared (by Nutmeg) breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, these civilized mice have decided to "adopt" the human children who live in the cottage since their widowed inventor father doesn't pay them much attention. They sneak out nightly to clean, make minor repairs, mend clothing, and more. Their risky ventures for the sake of the children (who think they have a "fairy" watching over them) seem to lead them into trouble again and again. The stories move along at a nice pace and the reader can't help but be tickled by Tumtum and Nutmeg's spirit and lifestyle. Do not be deterred by how long this book looks, as each of the three books within can be enjoyed without reading the others. This would make a great family read aloud for children as young as kindergarten but should be equally enjoyed by older kids who are able to read it independently. (There are also perfectly placed full page ink drawn illustrations peppered throughout the tales.)


Boys are Dogs by Leslie Margolis (grades 4 +)

Annabella has to go to school with boys for the first time ever in this fun read. She had always gone to an all girls school before, but now she and her mom have moved 30 miles away into a house (also a first) to live with her mom's boyfriend (Dweeble) and she has to start middle school there. Annabella had always figured boys weren't much different than girls, but at camp this summer when they were all acting crazy she wasn't so sure; and when they all start calling her spaz on the first day of school, and one boy starts kicking her chair for no reason (and won't stop!) she is positive that she just doesn't know how to deal with BOYS. Meanwhile, her mom had surprised her with a new puppy and as she's reading about how to train Pepper she realizes that maybe if she can apply a few of the techniques to boys it just might work…This is a happy, light book for girls everywhere.


The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (grades 5 +)

Calpurnia Tate is a lone girl in a family of brothers who aspires to be a scientist. The only problem is that she is from a small town in Texas in 1899 and girls are only expected to grow up to be good housewives. Lucky for Calpurnia, she has a grandfather who lives in a small house on her family property who became a full time naturalist after he made his family fortune. Although most folks around town (and in Calpurnia's family) think that he is quite a strange fellow who seems to like to be left alone to his weird library and labratory, he takes Calpurnia under his wing when he notices how serious she is about science. Together they explore the nature around them, make scientific observations, conduct experiments and even discover a new species of plant! Meanwhile, Calpurnia is forced to work on her knitting and her cooking more and more and starts to observe what a full grown woman is expected to be and is scared of what she sees. The book is very well written and is an interesting slice of the historical time period in which its set; however it is a bit slow going.


The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech (grades 4 +)

This is a short and sweet little book narrated by an angel who lives in a tower in Switzerland. Zola and her father move in - and Zola is one of the few "peoples" who can see the angel and an interesting friendship is born. This angel has been without a purpose for over 100 years and Zola comes along and gives him one - to protect homeless children that she knows are living by themselves in an abandoned building and need help. Meanwhile the neighbors next door are fast enemies with Zola and her father who have come to build an international school in their small village. However, through many acts of kindness and coming together happiness and harmony are finally found - with the help of our Angel, of course. The Angel does not speak properly, and since the entire book is in the Angel's voice, that is something that the reader has to get used to. However, it makes the Angel's observations about "peoples" endearing as it is almost as if a wise old five year old is making them: "You won't beleive this, but there are peoples who pay money to other peoples to wash their hairs and even to paint colors on their toes. Is really!" On the flip side, I didn't find the Angel's voice to be consistent as far as the words he remembers properly and forgets - but the story held my attention, and the Angel's sweetness won me over, so that in the end I didn't really care about that.


The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams (grades 5 +)

Dennis finds his life to be quite dull and rather depressing ever since his mom left two years ago. The only good thing about Dennis's life is that he is a great soccer player and has a great best friend. But when he finds a strange pull of fascination with, and appreciation of, fine women's fashion, he realizes it's the most thrilling thing that has happened to him in ages! A friendship with the prettiest girl in school (and aspiring fashion designer), Lisa, leads to Dennis becoming, well, the boy in the dress. This is a fun read told by a humorous narrator about how the simple act of a boy putting on a dress can turn everything on its head -- with everything: his family, his school and himself, turning out a little bit brighter as a result.


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webmaster Amy Kaplan
last updated 12.13.12