I graduated from library school (yes, there is such a thing) in 2008. During my time in school, I was living in Washington, D.C. and working in government. I focused my degree on law librarianship and archives. I never, ever considered going into school librarianship. My mom, a retired teacher, tried to push me towards it but I fought back.
Fast forward 5 years and 2 kids later and here I am, a school librarian. While I work in a middle school, pedaling the latest YA novels to tweens and teens, I have a passion for children’s books. I’ve discovered that while there is a huge selection of children’s literature out there, so much of it is garbage. I know that when I am reading to my child, I want to enjoy the story as much as my children. Here are two books that both my children and I enjoy, along with some books for older readers. All are available at local bookstores and the New Orleans Public Library.
For the younger kids:
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
Pronounced, “ka-nuffle,” Knuffle Bunny is a story of a family living in Brooklyn, New York. Dad and daughter, Trixie take a walk to the Laundromat and the saga of the Knuffle Bunny ensues. I love this book because the story is easy for young children to understand and relate to. Losing a cherished toy is a part of childhood and the panic trying to find it (or replace it) is something every parent can identify with. The pictures are a combination of drawing and photography, which makes the pages graphically interesting. And, if your children like Knuffle Bunny, there are 2 follow-up books that follow Trixie and Knuffle Bunny on other adventures. A bonus for this book is that author, Mo Willems, is from New Orleans and a Trinity graduate.
Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by John Manders
Henry is a pirate bunny but he prefers to read rather than be a swashbuckling pirate like his dad, Captain Black Ear. But Henry’s books smarts will prove useful when the ship encounters a storm. This is a story for booklovers and pirate lovers a like. Although this book is aimed at children aged, 4-8, slightly younger children will enjoy the pirate story and parents will enjoy the wit and humor of Henry. The illustrations are very detailed, colorful and fun to look at while the story is being read. Bonus for this book is that there is a follow-up book called, Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates.
For the tweens:
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
This one is sort of a Groundhog’s Day story for the tween set. Amanda is about to turn 11. She is fighting with her best friend and she cannot wait to put her birthday behind her. That is, until she wakes up the next day to have it start all over again. Tweens will identify with plotlines of friendship, insecurity, and school dynamics. Plus there are two follow up books in this series and Wendy Mass has written a whole bunch of other books.
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows
Again, this is another story of friendship. Ivy and Bean are unlikely friends but bond over a prank. Soon this pair is quick friends. The author uses lots of humor and wit to write characters the reader can identify with. This easy-to-read story is a great introduction to chapter books. Again, there are numerous follow-up books to this series. If you are looking for books similar to Ivy & Bean, check out: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary and Clementine by Sara Pennypacker.
Young Adult books:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
This book takes place in 1986 and is the story of two high school loners. It’s an exploration of star-crossed lovers, teen angst, dealing with insecurities, and finding the strength to keep your head up. If you like Smiths references and remember making mix tapes, this book is for you. There is some cursing in this book but it is not gratuitous.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent takes place in a dystopian future where people are sorted into clans, with each clan having a certain role in society. When they turn sixteen, all teens are tested to figure out which clan they should be a part of. Beatrice’s test results surprise her. The rest of the story is about her struggle to accept her new identity, overcome stereotypes, and deal with the uncertainty of the future. If you liked the Hunger Games series, then this a book you should check out. This is the first of a trilogy and being made into a major motion picture.