Category Archives: Book Recommendations

I have to make a confession. Halloween is my FAVORITE time of year. I love the carved pumpkins, costumes, ghostly decorations and, most of all, candy. Best of all are the spooky books we can read to our kids. Halloween books, at least the good ones, have to walk a very fine line. They have to be scary, but not too scary, with rich imagery that fuels the imagination.

Looking for a great Halloween picture book this Halloween? I’m here to help. Here are 5 picture books sure to put kids old and young in the Halloween mood.

THE DARK by Lemony Snicket

Poor little Laszlo is afraid of the dark. But the dark isn’t afraid of him. In fact, it’s calling him into the pitch black basement. This is one of the best scary picture books I’ve read in a long, long time. Not to be missed. I’m sure quite a few people will overcome their fear of the dark after reading about brave little Laszlo.

The Dark

ZOMBELINA by Kristyn Crow

It only seems fitting that in a world where zombies are all the rage, we have a picture book that peeks into the life of happy Zombelina. She wants to be a ballerina, but how will the crowd react during her first recital? Very cute, especially the way she can disconnect her legs to be extra limber.


ROOM ON THE BROOM by Alex Scheffler

A quirky story about a witch and her cat loading up her flying broomstick with more new friends than it can hold. Disaster looms on the horizon. Can she keep them all on the broom? Very cute. It’s also been made into an animated special.

Room on the Broom

THE MONSTER’S MONSTER by Patrick McDonnell

Three little monsters who think they are the baddest creatures around build the biggest monster ever! They can’t wait for him to act truly….well, monstrous. Things don’t turn out the way they’d hoped in this sweet, unexpected tale.

The Monsters Monster

For my money, books always make great gifts, especially when you find one that really speaks to the receiver. Of course, being a writer, I may be a bit biased. With Valentine’s Day just a couple of weeks away, I’ve been looking for a sweet little book to get my nieces. Thanks to Jennifer Laughran’s blog, I know exactly what to get this year. Now, I just need to figure out what to get my wife. Hmmm.

WE GO TOGETHER! (A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse) is a perfectly
charming collection of whimsical and wonderful love and friendship poems from
NYT bestselling author-illustrator, Calef Brown.

It’s the perfect
Valentine’s present to share with a friend or loved one of ANY age. It’s a cute
small size and under $10, so it makes a great gift. And while kids will
certainly delight at the fun words and bright illustrations, the poems are even
a little bit extra-charming for grownups.

Need a Valentine for
your daughter, son, bestie, westie, sister, brother, “Significant Other”, BF,
GF, BFF, or super secret crush? Look no further!

Seriously, buy several,
they’re small. 😉

To read the rest of this post, please visit Jennifer’s Blog.

First, I apologize for not blogging for what seems like five minutes past forever! 2012 was a very crazy year, and we’re all looking forward to 2013.

There were so many wonderful children’s books published this year that I could write a post 10 miles long listing the titles that will thrill children and their parents. That would be too easy (and time consuming!). So, I decided to settle on the ONE book that, for me, stood head and shoulders above the others. As the tiny gears in my head worked overtime trying to puzzle out which book thrilled me the most, I spied the cover of the winner on my shelf and it was like a bolt of lightning crackled into the room.

Without a doubt, my favorite book, both in story and wonderful artwork, is I NEED MY MONSTER, written by first time author Amanda Noll and illistrated by Howard McWilliam (Flashlight Press).

I need my monster

Little Ethan is disturbed to find that the monster under his bed, Gabe, has gone fishing for a week. How can Ethan possibly get to sleep without his own personal monster? A series of strange and hilarious beasties slink out from under his bed, but no one can measure up to Gabe.

Ethan isn’t scared of the monsters, or even Gabe, for that matter. He needs his monster so he can sleep peacefully, knowing Gabe is by his side (or actually under his bed). What a wonderful way to show kids there’s nothing to fear at bedtime. Howard McWilliam’s artwork is captivating and full of movement and monstrous hilarity. Amanda Noll has crafted the perfect bedtime book for all of us who fretted over the beast in our room when the lights were dimmed and covers were drawn.

I NEED MY MONSTER is a book both kids and adults will treasure and hand down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look for my monster, Harry. It’s bedtime and I need my monster!

I wanted to share this with you all, from my publisher Schwartz & Wade:

Our wonderful friend R.J. Palacio just wrote her first middle grade novel and it’s stellar. WONDER has received 4 starred reviews and is the book everyone is talking about. Here is the trailer. Go Raquel!


Congratulations go out to author/illustrator Chris Raschka for winning the 2012 Caldecott Medal for his wonderful book, A Ball for Daisy. That’s another huge feather in his cap, as well as his publisher’s (and mine), Schwartz & Wade, a division of Random House. I highly recommend A Ball for Daisy for anyone with children 3 and under. It has the same magic that sprinkled the pages of The Snowy Daywhen I was a child.

I’m so happy for Chris and honored to be part of the Schwartz & Wade family!

Click here to read more about the award and the book.

I just had to post this because one of the books is through my publisher, Schwartz & Wade (a division of Random House). The holidays are coming faster than you think, and any of these books would be a wonderful gift for a young reader. Thanks to Publisher’s Weekly for putting this list together.

Mouse & Lion
Rand Burkert, Nancy Eckholm Burkert (Scholastic/di Capua)
Retellings of the classic Aesop’s fable of good deeds rewarded are legion, but few are as elegantly and richly conceived as this mother-son collaboration. To say that the naturalistic and astonishingly detailed illustrations bring the African savannah to life hardly does them justice—paired with the story’s spare prose, each spread forms an intimate, perfectly framed vignette, charged with emotion.
Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five
Valorie Fisher (Random/Schwartz & Wade)
Everything? Believe it. Fisher introduces readers to a wealth of concepts—numbers, letters, colors, shapes, weather, and more—and does so using cleverly composed photographic tableaus made up of vintage toys, knickknacks, thrift-store finds, and other odds and ends. Thorough, fun, and as one-of-a-kind as the objects that fill its pages.

I Want My Hat Back
Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
With deadpan humor and a hint of wickedness, illustrator Klassen makes his debut as an author with the deceptively simple story of a bear who just wants to find his missing hat. Don’t let the pared-down art and narration fool you: a wealth of emotion and personality hides behind the deadened eyes of Klassen’s woodland creatures, from anxiety to rage, stupefaction to satisfaction.

Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer (Chronicle)
So often it’s the simplest ideas that are the best—and the funniest. In this alphabetically audacious romp, the letter E has an accident, and while it is recovering, the letter O takes its place (with comodic rosults). The pages are jam-packed with so many linguistic puns, acronyms, and jokes that readers may not realize how much they’re learning about language along the way. Throo choors!
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Kadir Nelson (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Nelson raises the bar with every new book, and this ambitious account of the African-American experience, from slavery to the present day, may be his best yet. Pairing luminous, electric paintings with a grandmotherly narrative voice, it’s as unflinching, personal, and dignified an account as one could imagine, as Nelson confidently handles the triumphs and tragedies of African-American history.

Sea of Dreams
Dennis Nolan (Roaring Brook/Porter)
Wordless stories have a magic all their own, and that’s especially true of Nolan’s maritime fantasy, in which a child’s sand castle is besieged by the tide, setting in motion a dramatic escape for the miniature family that lives within. Nolan’s lush spreads provide abundant ammunition for readers’ imaginations, giving them an enchanting world in which to lose themselves.

John Rocco (Disney-Hyperion)
Second perhaps only to snow days, blackouts are one of the best unplanned sources of life-disrupting fun, especially from a child’s point of view. Rocco’s joyfully illustrated story of an urban family drawn together by a power outage tingles with the magic of a night lit only by candles and stars, while reminding readers that the technologies that connect us can sometimes keep us apart, too.
Where’s Walrus?
Stephen Savage (Scholastic Press)
A triumph of design, Savage’s wordless game of cat-and-mouse (or rather walrus-and-zookeeper) demonstrates how much one can do with a few simple forms, some repetition, and an effortlessly charming tusked hero. The delight comes not from finding Walrus (that’s easy), but in seeing the ways in which his swoopy gray curves mimic the mannequins, firemen, and can-can dancers he tries to blend in with.
Grandpa Green
Lane Smith (Roaring Brook)
This may be Smith at his most earnest—a boy wanders through his great-grandfather’s topiary garden, the sculpted hedges reflecting the elder’s story, from a rural childhood to war and finding love. Grandpa Green isn’t dead, but he is in decline, and Lane’s young narrator serves as a poignant reminder that the things we create—stories, memories, art (in whatever form it might take)—endure long after we do.
Press Here
Hervé Tullet (Chronicle/Handprint)
If Lane Smith’s It’s a Book was last year’s rallying cry in defense of the printed book, 2011 belongs to Tullet’s elementally simple and playfully interactive offering, which invites readers to press, shake, and turn it—and see the results on the next page. Let the apps proliferate: books like this prove that there will always be a place for smart, well-executed, and proudly low-tech picture books.

I don’t know about you, but there is no better sound in the world than little kids laughing. That’s why we adults spend so much time tickling them. If you want to send your little ones into hysterics (and probably yourself as well), I have two great recommendations.

First off is Walter the Farting Dog. You can tell from the title alone that you’re in for a laugh fest. It’s actually a sweet story. A family adopts old Walter and he’s the perfect pet in every respect but one…he has a huge farting problem. No matter what they do or how they feed him, Walter cannot stop passing gas. It gets to the point where Walter has to go back to the pound and the kids are  distraught. Then, in the middle of the night, burglars break in and try to steal everything in the house. Poor Walter, who was trying to hold in  his farts to prove he’s a good dog, let’s loose with a whopper that sends the burglars fleeing. Walter and his farts save the day! You might want to use this as a lead in to get your kids to eat more broccoli. They can be heroes, too!





Next up is The Butt Book. I was lucky enough to catch an author reading and got to see up close and personal how much a room full of kids love this book. Did you know that everyone has a butt? You will after this. Kids will learn every name (all the clean ones, that is) you can call your butt, along with every size, shape and color. This literally had kids on the floor with laughter.

A word of advice about both books. It’s best not to read them just before your kids go to bed. Giggling is never conducive to sleep!

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