We’re excited to share St. Louis Public Library’s staff picks for the best kids’ books of 2013! In the list below you’ll find picture books, chapter books and graphic novels published in 2013 and why we think you should check them out.
Jinx by Sage Blackwood
A young boy named Jinx encounters magic and danger as he grows up in the deep, dark forest known as the Urwald and discovers that the world beyond–and within–the Urwald is more complex than he could imagine.
Why we love it: This fresh dark fantasy captured me with the strong characters, unique voices, and rich and varied magical worlds. (Chapter Book)
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Bored with city life and the proper behavior it requires, Mr. Tiger has a wild idea that leads him to discover his true nature.
Why we love it: Mr. Tiger sheds his proper, buttoned-up visage and takes a walk on the wild side. Peter Brown’s masterful illustrations help Mr. Tiger transform and will leave readers smiling. (Picture Book)
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? by Eve Bunting; illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
The reader is invited to help Duck and his animal friends find a missing item.
Why we love it: This delightfully simple rhyming book is a joyful read for preschoolers and babies. (Picture Book)
Odd Duck by Cecile Castellucci & Sara Varon
Despite the fact that she swims with a teacup balanced on her head and stays north when all of the ducks fly south for the winter, Theodora believes herself to be a normal duck and makes a friend in Chad, who may be as eccentric as she is.
Why we love it: This sweet story shows us that everybody is a bit of an odd duck, but with a little patience we can learn to accept and celebrate each other’s differences. (Juvenile Graphic Novel)
Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane; illustrated by Hoda Hadadi
In Mauritania, West Africa, an Arab girl who wants to wear a malafa, the veiled dress worn by her mother and older sister, learns that the garment represents beauty, mystery, tradition, belonging, and faith.
Why we love it: The illustrations are beautiful, and the positive images the girl has about the veil can spark interesting discussions. (Picture Book)
The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt; illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
When Duncan arrives at school one morning, he finds a stack of letters, one from each of his crayons, complaining about how he uses them.
Why we love it: Do you ever feel tired? Overworked? Neglected? Then maybe you can sympathize with Duncan’s crayons. Told from the point of view of some very irate crayons, this book is laugh-out-loud funny and worthy of many repeat readings. (Picture Book)
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K.G. Campbell
Rescuing a squirrel after an accident involving a vacuum cleaner, comic-reading cynic Flora Belle Buckman is astonished when the squirrel, Ulysses, demonstrates astonishing powers of strength and flight after being revived.
Why we love it: Who can resist a story about a super-powered poetry writing squirrel? I certainly can’t. Cynical Flora is a perfect foil to the adorably sweet Ulysses. (Chapter Book)
Rawr! by Todd H. Doodler
Rex is bigger than anyone else at school, and everybody is scared at him–but he reminds us that “rawr” means hello in dinosaur language.
Why we love it: This is a fun story about a dinosaur at school learning to reflect on how others see him. And it has puffy dinosaur on the cover! (Picture Book)
After Iris by Natasha Farrant
Twelve-year-old Bluebell Gadsby’s written and video diary chronicles life in a rowdy London family, and how Zoran, the new au pair, and Joss, the troublemaking boy next door, help to pull her out of her shell and cope with the loss of her twin three years before.
Why we love it: Heartfelt and funny, Blue Gadsby uses her video camera to allow the reader a view of her life. How her family falls apart and comes back together after the death of her twin sister Iris is a realistic and sympathetic view of a family dealing with grief. (Chapter Book)
If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano; illustrations by Erin E. Stead
Advises the reader about what to do, and not do, in order to successfully spot a whale, such as wrapping up in a not-too-cozy blanket, ignoring the roses, and especially, being patient.
Why we love it: This story reads like an extended poem, and Erin Stead’s illustrations are quietly stunning as always. (Picture Book)
Salt by Helen Frost
Twelve-year-olds Anikwa, of the Miami village of Kekionga, and James, of the trading post outside Fort Wayne, find their friendship threatened by the rising fear and tension brought by the War of 1812.
Why we love it: Helen Frost presents Anikwa and James’s story as a series of paired concrete poems that visually evoke the character’s perspectives. This unique formatting brings a fresh angle to a story of friendship in a time of war. (Chapter Book)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.
Why we love it: Imagine a mash-up of Willy Wonka with the Dewey Decimal System that has children’s book titles provide clues to advance a game. Sure to appeal to those who love puns and limericks. (Chapter Book)
Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
In a fantastical England where each small town has a monster, the people of Stoker-on-Avon have to help their own, a depressed creature named Rayburn, become the monster he was born to be.
Why we love it: Humor! Adventure! Monsters! Despite the fact that author/illustrator Rob Harrell resides in Austin, TX, fans of British humor along the lines of Douglas Adams and Dr. Who will enjoy this graphic novel. (Juvenile Graphic Novel)
Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
A celebration of the special love between a child and her favorite toy follows the whimsical experiences of a little girl who adopts a squash from the farmers’ market and who ignores her parents’ warnings until the squash starts to go bad as the colder season progresses.
Why we love it: What starts as an imaginary game with a squash baby doll, becomes a deeper lesson about plant cycles and nature. I love the quirky sweet relationship Sophie has with her “Beatrice”. (Picture Book)
Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore; illustrations by Nancy Carpenter
While following their mother through town, five little ducklings fall into a storm drain, causing alarm and action from the people on the street.
Why we love it: Gorgeous watercolor illustrations make this dramatic story a new classic! (Picture Book)
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
Lucha Libre champion Niño has no trouble fending off monstrous opponents, but when his little sisters awaken from their naps, he is in for a no-holds-barred wrestling match that will truly test his skills.
Why we love it: Bright retro-inspired illustrations show Niño squaring off against Latin American cultural icons like La Llorona and La Momia de Guanajuato. (Picture Book)
No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora
Amelia must continually remind her gorilla friend, Nilson, not to have fits, especially when they are running errands with her mother, but sometimes Amelia stomps and growls, too.
Why we love it: I never really gave much credit to banana ice cream telepathy, but after seeing Amelia work her calming magic on her temper tantrum throwing gorilla friend Nilson, I am no longer a doubter. (Picture Book)
Bluffton by Matt Phelan
Henry bonds with a young Buster Keaton over games of baseball while the latter summers locally with a troupe of vaudeville performers.
Why we love it: Matt Phelan’s illustrations and storytelling make vaudeville and silent film star, Buster Keaton, accessible to a new generation. (Juvenile Graphic Novel)
Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice by Daniel Pinkwater; illustrated by Adam Stower
Nick and Maxine accompany the eccentric lady to the eye doctor to help her four myopic mice who, after overindulging on cheesecake, go running into the streets, triggering a search that is aided by a helpful policemen and a rough-edged alley cat.
Why we love it: This sweetly silly story has short friendly chapters with plenty of illustrations, making it the perfect gateway for any child moving into chapter books. (Chapter Book)
A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk
In 1967 Tanzania, when President Nyerere urges his people to work together as one extended family, the people of Lawanima move to a new village which, to some, seems cursed, but where thirteen-year-old Shida, a healer, and her female cousins are allowed to attend school.
Why we love it: Despite the foreign setting, readers will empathize with plucky Shida as she struggles against gender norms in her village and synthesizes her new knowledge of western medicine with traditional healing techniques. (Chapter Book)
The Meanest Birthday Girl by Josh Schneider
Dana soon learns that receiving a big white elephant for her birthday is not as wonderful as she thought it would be.
Why we love it: Josh Schneider delivers another absurdly hilarious early chapter book. Readers will enjoy watching the cantankerous Dana learn compassion and responsibility while caring for her oversized pet. (Chapter Book)
Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett and Alex; pictures by Matthew Myers but mostly Alex
Alex, whose birthday it is, hijacks a story about Birthday Bunny on his special day and turns it into a battle between a supervillain and his enemies in the forest–who, in the original story, are simply planning a surprise party.
Why we love it: Battle Bunny will strike a chord with any reader who is sick of the schmaltzy mediocrity of the “Little Golden Book” style of picture book. (Picture Book)
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
In 1871 Wisconsin, thirteen-year-old Georgia sets out to find her sister Agatha, presumed dead when remains are found wearing the dress she was last seen in, and before the end of the year gains fame as a sharpshooter and foiler of counterfeiters.
Why we love it: This suspenseful mystery will appeal to fans of True Grit and old westerns. (Chapter Book)
Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner
Mr. Wuffles ignores all his cat toys but one, which turns out to be a spaceship piloted by small green aliens. When Mr. Wuffles plays rough with the little ship, the aliens must venture into the cat’s territory to make emergency repairs.
Why we love it: David Wiesner captivates one’s imagination while also capturing the behavior of everyone’s housecat in the precious Mr. Wuffles. An epic story plays out wordlessly between tiny aliens and a fierce feline. However, anyone who has met a cat will have no trouble reading Mr. Wuffles’ body language. (Picture Book)
That is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
A surprising lesson about the importance of listening to one’s inner gosling ensues when a very hungry fox issues a dinner invitation to a very plump goose.
Why we love it: Inspired by silent films, the tale of fox and goose excels in every way, from engaging drawings to surprise endings. Believe it or not, kids will appreciate the dark humor just as much as adults. (Picture Book)