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Staff Reviews: For Children

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring books and DVDs for children! (For reviews of books for all ages, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates. The book reviews on this website represent the personal opinions of the individuals who created them and do not represent any official views of the Marathon County Public Library.


Cover: 'The Witch's Boy'

"The Witch's Boy" by Kelly Barnhill

★★★★★ Ned’s father could only save one of his identical twin sons from drowning, but the people in the village agree that he saved the wrong boy. Ned is unsure of himself and stammers, yet when the Bandit King threatens to steal the magic his mother, Sister Witch, has spent her life protecting, he finds a courage he didn’t know he had.  Crossing the...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy, paranormal

Cover: 'Pluto'

"Pluto" by R. J. Palacio

★★★★★ This is another fantastic addition to the "Wonder" story, told from the viewpoint of Chris, the childhood best friend of August Pullman. Truly heartwarming, this short story adds another layer to the wonderful story surrounding a severely disfigured boy named August. Chris, the boy who grew up beside August, faced his own set of challenges being best...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Echo'

"Echo" by Pam Muñoz Ryan

★★★★★ This book is a masterpiece in its own genre—4 interconnected stories, each one masterfully told, and at alternating turns tearing at our heart and infusing us with hope. 40 years before the “war to end all wars” Otto purchases a book, stumbles into a forbidden forest and finds himself in the middle of a fairytale. He is entrusted with breaking the witch’...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, award-winning, newbery award winner

Cover: 'Blue on Blue'

"Blue on Blue" by Dianne White, Beth Krommes

★★★★★ This beautifully illustrated picture book portrays an ordinary stormy, rainy day in the country that looks wonderfully extraordinary. The scratchboard illustrations with added watercolor paint by 2009 Caldecott Medal winner, Beth Krommes, are the real stars here. With repetitive, spare, dreamy words and illustrations we see a day unfolding--wash being hung...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Hug Machine'

"Hug Machine" by Scott Campbell

★★★★★ "Whoa! Here I come! I am the Hug Machine!" starts this wonderful book about a little boy who hugs everything. He hugs people, animals, and even a fire hydrant and mailbox! He hugs hard things, soft things, square things and long things. But, can he hug a spiky porcupine or a humongous whale? The Hug Machine will do anything to give a hug. With simple and...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, read-alouds

Cover: 'Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress'

"Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress" by Christine Baldacchino, Isabelle Malenfant

★★★★★ Morris Micklewhite loves painting, dreaming of great adventures and wearing the tangerine dress in the dress-up center at school. He loves the way it crinkles and swishes when he walks and the color reminds him of tigers, the sun and his mother's hair. But the other boys and some of the girls tell him "boys don't wear dresses" and exclude him from their...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend'

"The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" by Dan Santat

★★★★★ On an island far away, imaginary friends are born. Beekle is one of them, waiting to be chosen by a child and transported to the real world. Rather than waiting, Beekle does the unimaginable and sets sail to the real world. He finds that the real world is strange and uncomfortable, until he meets his perfect friend. Then the world is colorful , fun, and not...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, award-winning, caldecott award winner, picture book

Cover: 'My Cousin's Keeper'

"My Cousin's Keeper" by Simon French

★★★★ At his dad’s birthday party nine-year old Kieran meets his cousin Bon whom he has never even heard of before. Bon appears to be very different from him and he doesn’t really like him.  Bon wears his blond hair in a long ponytail, wears old, tattered clothes and touches all of Kieran’s things without asking.   Two years later, Kieran sees Bon at...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Stella by Starlight'

"Stella by Starlight" by Sharon M. Draper

★★★★ It is midnight when 11 year-old Stella Mills and her eight year-old brother Jojo witness the burning of a cross by members of the Ku Klux Klan not far from their house. It’s 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina and news of the active Klan so close by means their parents need to alert all their African-American neighbors. Stella is practicing to be a good...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Big Bad Detective Agency'

"Big Bad Detective Agency" by Bruce Hale

★★★★ Things were going well in Fairylandia for a reformed Wolfgang, a.k.a. the “Big Bad Wolf”, until the Three Little Pigs’ houses were vandalized and he is accused.  Arrested and released, he reluctantly teams up with Ferkel, the fourth little pig, and as the new “Big Bad Detective Agency” they set off to find the perpetrator. Things get really funny when...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, humor

Cover: 'The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken'

"The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken" by Doreen Cronin

★★★★ The Chicken Squad is a group of four hilarious chicks who are out to solve crime. When a blue jay, the weird blue chicken, flies in saying his house has been kidnapped, the Chicken Squad embarks on a journey to figure out who took the birdhouse and why. Filled with funny characters and an entertaining plot, this book is a great beginning chapter book for...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, board book, humor

Cover: 'Absolutely Almost'

"Absolutely Almost" by Lisa Graff

★★★★ Ten-year-old Albie’s life is a tangled one and the short, episodic chapters in this tween book mimic this.  He is adjusting to a new public school and a new nanny, Calista (whom he’s certain he does not need). Private prep school did not work out and his dad is not happy about it. Albie’s life is full of “almosts”—he almost passes his spelling tests,...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Little Humans'

"Little Humans" by Brandon Stanton

★★★★ From the author and photographer of the well-known blog "Humans of New York" comes a great picture book that celebrates the uniqueness, abilities, and diversity of the littlest humans--children. Brandon Stanton's photographs capture children doing everyday things like walking down the street, riding a bicycle, playing in the street, and making music. This...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction, picture book

Cover: 'Beyond the Laughing Sky'

"Beyond the Laughing Sky" by Michelle Cuevas

★★★★ In this rather unusual tale a young couple, whose house is perched in a large pecan tree, discover a baby in a cracked egg from a bird’s nest on the sidewalk.  This human-looking baby has feathers for hair and no mouth or nose but in its place a beak. His adopted parents, sister, and the small community of Goosepimple adapt to life with him, but as he...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The War That Saved My Life'

"The War That Saved My Life" by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

★★★★★ 10-year-old Ada lives with her brother Jamie and mother in a filthy, rat infested one-room flat in London. She is often abused by her mother who does not allow her to go outside because her mother is ashamed of her clubfoot. When Jamie is being shipped off with other children to the country to avoid injury from bombings during the war, Ada escapes to join...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, award-winning, newbery award winner

Cover: 'Greenglass House'

"Greenglass House" by Kate Milford

★★★★ The old historic, creaky smugglers’ inn called Greenglass House sits high on a hill requiring guests to take a trolley type of car that gets pulled to the top. It is winter, close to the holidays, and usually free of guests so Milo, the adopted son of the innkeepers, is looking forward to a relaxing vacation. But unexpectedly the buzzer for the trolley car...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Snowman's Story'

"Snowman's Story" by Will Hillenbrand

★★★★ Your preschool child can tell the story to you with this wordless picture book featuring a sweet snowman, cute bunny and a wandering top hat.  Bunny finds a hat and crawls inside but when bear finds it and uses it to top the snowman that he is building, he is unaware that a bunny is inside. Apparently bunny likes stories too so after the snowman reads...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'A Snicker of Magic'

"A Snicker of Magic" by Natalie Lloyd

★★★★★ Natalie Lloyd's book is one of those rare, special books that grab you from the beginning and you don’t want to be released because the journey is quite simply, “splendiferous.” Our extremely likable narrator is Felicity Juniper Pickle, a 6th-grade girl as unique as her mother’s hometown, Midnight Gulch, where she, her mother, little sister Frannie Jo and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'City Cat'

"City Cat" by Kate Banks

★★★★★ This is an adorable picture book that features a family cat that secretly follows his family as they travel around Europe. It features landmarks in some of the greatest cities, such as London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Venice, and information at end of the book on each. As someone who's been to many of the cities featured, I thought the pictures were authentic...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'The Book With No Pictures'

"The Book With No Pictures" by B. J. Novak

★★★★ How can a book be a picture book if there are no pictures? B.J. Novak, best known for his writing and acting on "The Office," shows that a book can be fun without illustrations. But how? Well, the person reading the book has to say everything the words say...no matter what. Even if the words have no meaning or are down-right ridiculous, the reader still has...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction, read-alouds

Cover: 'Nightmares!'

"Nightmares!" by Jason Segel

★★★★ Twelve-year-old Charlie Laird has big problems. His mom died, his dad remarried, and now together with his younger brother Jack they must move into his new "stepmonster’s" (that’s what he calls her) odd-looking purple mansion with a tower. Positive that his new "stepmonster" is a witch, he barricades himself inside his new bedroom where he can’t sleep...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Boundless'

"The Boundless" by Kenneth Oppel

★★★★★ After three long years, teen-aged William Everett is dropped off at the train tracks in a town without a name to meet up with his father who is helping build the Canadian Pacific Railway.  The train they will be boarding is called "The Boundless" because of its size and magnificence.  After accidentally witnessing a murder and finding a train car...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, action adventure

Cover: 'Fly Away'

"Fly Away" by Patricia MacLachlan

★★★★★ Newbery award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan has done it again. She has written an easy-to-read story for children with sparse, well-chosen words and conversation that eloquently speaks volumes on what it means to be a family. Lucy is traveling with her mother, father, sister Gracie and her little brother Teddy in a beat-up Volkswagen bus to her Aunt...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms'

"Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms" by Katherine Rundell

★★★★★ Will (Wihelmina) loves her wonderful, wild life on the hot, dusty African farm where she is free to roam, climb trees and play with her best friend Simon and numerous animals all day long. Unfortunately her idyllic life comes to an abrupt halt after her father dies from malaria and her father’s friend and new guardian Captain Browne marries a heartless...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

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