I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Another by Christian Robinson

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Image result for another christian robinson amazon

Image result for another christian robinson amazon

Summary:  It’s bedtime for a girl and her cat as this wordless picture book opens; the cat sees a portal open in her wall, and a nearly-identical cat walks through and grabs a red toy mouse from the floor.  The girl wakes up, and the two follow the new cat out through the hole. They find themselves in a new world where up is down and down is up.  Other portals lead to new places where dozens of other children are playing. Finally, the girl and cat meet up with their doubles (except for a few details that are blue instead of red).  The blue-collared cat tosses the red mouse to the red-collared cat, and he and the girl return to their bedroom. Everything seems to be just as it was at the beginning of the story…except that now there is a blue toy mouse on the floor.  56 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This is a real feast for the imagination…so much to look at it in the illustrations and a lot to speculate on in the crazy mixed-up world that Christian Robinson has beautifully created.

Cons:  I was pretty confused my first time through this book.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Found by Jeff Newman and Larry Day

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Image result for found jeff newman amazon

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Summary:  When a girl finds a new puppy in this wordless picture book, she is delighted.  There are signs all around (empty dog dish, photo, and a missing poster on her bulletin board) of Prudence, a beloved dog that she has lost.  But she begins to bond with the new dog, and the illustrations show them playing, wrestling, and taking a trip to the pet store for a new leash. On the way home, though, she sees a sign for a lost dog with a picture that is unmistakably her new friend.  After a night of soul-searching, she takes the dog back to his original owner, a boy who looks to be about her age. She starts home dejectedly, but her route takes her past the animal shelter. There in the window, a dog is looking out at her.  The last picture shows them gazing happily at each other through the window, her hand and his paw against the glass. 48 pages; ages 4-10.

Pros:  The story is simple, but powerful.  Kids will be able to identify the emotions from the girl’s expressions and body language, and can use clues from the illustrations to figure out what’s gone on in the past.  They will learn about love, loss, and moving forward again.

Cons:  2018 seems to be the year of heartbreaking dog stories.  Laura Seeger, Brian Lies, and Jeff Newman: are you trying to kill me?

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Imagine! By Raul Colon

Published by Simon and Schuster

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Summary:  A boy rides his skateboard over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Museum of Modern Art.  Inside he is captivated by three painting: Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians, Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Henri Matisse’s Icarus.  As he gazes at them, the figure from Icarus steps out of the painting and starts dancing with the boy.  The three musicians soon join them, playing their instruments, and finally the woman and lion from Rousseau’s painting follow the group as they head out of the museum.  They explore the city, riding the subway, taking a dip on the Cyclone roller coaster, eating hot dogs, and climbing the Statue of Liberty before heading back to MOMA.  The boy says goodbye as they all return to their paintings, then he gets his skateboard and heads for home. Along the way, he sees a big building and is inspired to paint pictures of his new friends on its side.  An author’s note tells how he developed his own love of art and hopes to inspire readers. 48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This wordless picture book is a follow-up to Colon’s 2014 Draw!, sharing with readers a love of art and creativity that started when he was a child.  The watercolor paintings give the illustrations a dreamy quality that is appropriate for a story of imagination.  Maybe a contender for Caldecott recognition.

Cons:  I wish the original paintings had been shown somewhere in the book.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Pip and Pup by Eugene Yelchin

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Image result for pip and pup amazon

Summary:  At the beginning of this wordless book, Pip, a fuzzy yellow chick, hatches out of her egg and goes exploring.  The first animal she sees is sleeping puppy Pup. She pecks on his nose, then gets scared when he wakes up and chases her.  She goes back to her eggshell; when it starts raining, she uses the bottom half as a boat and the top half as a hat. She paddles back to Pup, who is feeling unhappy in the rain.  When Pip puts half her eggshell on Pup’s head, a riotous game begins that ends when Pup accidentally crushes the eggshell. His way to make amends? Bringing out a tennis ball which seems like it will start a whole new game.  32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  A cute story of friendship by Newbery honoree Eugene Yelchin (Breaking Stalin’s Nose).  The personalities of both animals come through loud and clear even though there are no words.

Cons:  It’s a pretty simple and straightforward story, without as many interesting details as some wordless books have.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Aquarium by Cynthia Alonso

Published by Chronicle Books

Image result for aquarium cynthia alonso goodreads

Image result for aquarium cynthia alonso

Summary:  A little girl heads down to the end of her dock in this wordless story to watch the fish in the ocean and dream about swimming with them.  When an orange fish leaps out of the water, she scoops him into her water bottle and runs home with him. She creates a complex network of bowls, pitchers, and hoses for the fish to enjoy, but ultimately senses that he would rather be in the ocean.  Back into the water bottle he goes, and she races him down to the edge of the dock. She gives him a final kiss goodbye, then lets him go back home again. 40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  A beautiful wordless picture book by a new artist from Argentina.  The story is complex enough to be interesting, yet straightforward enough for even the youngest listeners to piece together from the illustrations.

Cons:  It wasn’t entirely clear to me how the fish got into the water bottle.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

 

Night Out by Daniel Miyares

Published by Schwartz and Wade

Image result for night out miyares amazon

Image result for night out daniel miyares

Summary:  A boy eats and sleeps alone in some kind of all-boy institution (a boarding school? An orphanage?).  One night he finds an invitation propped up against the bowl housing his pet turtle.  He sneaks out and rides his bike to the shore, where a large turtle ferries him across the water to a cave.  There’s a party going on, and the other animals welcome him with open arms (and wings).  After a night of tea and dancing, he returns to his room.  His turtle can be seen returning to his bowl just as the boy is climbing through the window. The last page shows the boy sharing the story with his new (human) friends. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This almost wordless book (38 words) is a celebration of the power of stories to connect with others.  The dedication says it all: “Dedicated to the dreamers. May you always feel invited.”  Daniel Miyares’ evocative illustrations perfectly capture the child’s loneliness and the power of his imagination to create a happy world for himself.

Cons:  Knowing that Daniel Miyares has created beautiful wordless picture books, I felt like the words in this one were unnecessary.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.