what-would-alice-doMany people turn to books for advice on how to live their lives or when they have certain questions they want answered. Do you have a favorite book that you refer back to, that you read when you need a pick-me-up, that you pull quotes from to inspire yourself? I certainly do and almost all of them are books from my childhood. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of my steady go-to’s.

What would Alice do? : Advice for the Modern Woman with a foreword by Lauren Laverne pulls quotes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and matches them up with a wide variety of categories that all relate. Instead of reading this book cover to cover, I found myself flipping through looking for quotes that caught my eye.

Crack open this book for advice from Alice on:

  • Being Inspirational
  • Having a Bad Day
  • Getting On at Work
  • Dealing with Difficult Characters
  • Taking Risks
  • Saying What You Mean
  • Minding Your Manners
  • Keeping Cool in a Crisis
  • Being a Feminist
  • Health and Safety
  • Enjoying Food and Drink
  • Being Brave
  • Appearances
  • Fun and Games
  • The Value of a Good Education
  • Growing Up

Even though this book is marketed as advice for the modern woman, the quotes present inside, I felt, are not uniquely meant for just women. The categories that Laverne chooses are full of helpful advice for everyone and the messages present everyone could benefit from. We could all use some new words of advice every now and then.

moon girl and devil dinosaurMarvel seems to be switching up plot lines every couple years, but the one that is all over my radar right now revolves around the inhumans. Do I have a basic understanding of what’s going on with the inhumans? Yes. Do I feel qualified to explain it to someone else? No, not really, but I can certainly muddle my way through and look up a good explanation. Since I’m not a fan of having to rely on something else to fill my knowledge holes, I decided to look up inhumans. I struck gold.

I discovered Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur, a juvenile Marvel graphic novel, about Lunella Lafayette, a preteen genius who also happens to be an inhuman. Lunella, aka Moon Girl, wants to change the world and is using her genius to create inventions that are helping her. Slight problem though. Ever since Lunella discovered that she has a latent inhuman gene, she’s been terrified of the terrigen mist cloud that is encroaching on New York City that will change her into something inhuman, something she isn’t even remotely prepared for. Lucky for Lunella because she has a plan. She has been chasing something called an omni-wave projector and she thinks she knows where it is.

Everything seems to be working out for Lunella until she finds the omni-wave projector and then a giant red-scaled beast, a devil dinosaur, is teleported from the pre-historic past to today! to a bustling New York City. With the devil dinosaur comes the Killer-Folk, prehistoric savages that want the Omni-wave projector too. Lunella finds herself battling monster hunters and the killer-folk at the same time as she is dealing with school and her parents. Getting into a good school and changing the world is proving to be more difficult than Lunella thought it would be!

If you think children’s literature isn’t worthy of discussion, pick up one of these books and prepare to eat your words. These books are not just beautiful, simple, cute stories for children: they have big ideas, big hearts, and important messages to teach readers of all ages. Whether you have a little one to share them with or not, I highly recommend all of them.

oliverOliver by Birgitta Sif: gorgeous, rich, layered illustrations in muted earth tones and fluid character lines that suggest life and movement – brava. So beautifully done, and each page has so much going on; you can follow the unwritten story of the mouse on each page, and careful readers will see that many characters turn up over and over (besides Oliver, of course). Olivia is there all along, living her life parallel to Oliver’s; you can see that they will become best friends. So precious and wonderful.

 

anna the bookbinderAnna the Bookbinder, by Andrea Cheng and Ted Rand: A fantastic picture book! Anna’s father is a bookbinder; she’s helped him in the shop her whole life, and she knows the process very well. When her father is called away from work, Anna steps in to complete an important order. It’s odd to see these historical books where children and parents are coworkers as well as family members, since it’s so unusual now. Despite this book’s happy ending, I found myself wondering if Anna would be able to go to school, to travel, to marry for love – or if her father’s need of help in the bookshop would keep her tied to home forever. Maybe I’m thinking about it too much. 

miss mooreMiss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough and Debby Atwell: Oh Anne Carroll Moore! How I wish I were you. This book – the story of how Miss Moore created the Children’s Library space as we know it today – will make you thankful for children’s libraries. Miss Moore blazes her own trail, she has agency and verve and it’s just so satisfying reading about her successes! Since this is a children’s book, it is biased towards the positive, which made me wonder what Anne’s life was really like, and whether she ever wanted to give up, and what she dreamed of doing but couldn’t finish, and who were the intractable powers-that-be that she overthrew to make her dreams a reality for children everywhere? (It also really, really made me want to time-travel to the opening of the NYPL. Where’s my tardis?)

Rabbityness by Jo Empson: because neon paint splatters. And because of the word ‘rabbityness.’ And because this is a book that doesn’t pretend bad things don’t happen, it’s one that acknowledges that good & bad and old & new change in relation to each other all the time; and one person (or rabbit) can have a big impact.
Rabbityness

When the Iowa weather is gray and bleak, it can be a relief to enter the colorful world of picture books! Here are a few books that have thrilled me lately from the “E” section:

  • beware of the frogBeware of the Frog by William Bee: vividly colored illustrations and a sinister frog make this twisted fairy tale unforgettable.
  • And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano: more lovely illustrations from Caldecott winner Erin E. Stead of A Sick Day For Amos McGee. Here, the story is about seeds planted at the beginning of a long gray spring and the anticipation that follows. A gradual increase in color and warmth marks the passage from winter to spring, and as in Amos, touches of humor are added in the illustrations that aren’t part of the  text.
  • oliviaOlivia and the Fairy Princesses: Ian Falconer’s beloved pig is NOT just going to be a pink frilly fairy princess like all the other girls (and some of the boys)! Olivia is at her feisty finest in this tale of individuality and being true to yourself. I adore the contrast of turquoise and pink on the cover, too!
  • Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters: Of the picture books I’ve written about, this is the only one in which the text was more memorable than the illustrations (although the pictures are great too). For example: “Cousin Clara’s cottage was consumed by a crocodile…[Lester] added crocodiles to his list of Suspicious Stuff Starting with C.” Thus, cousin Clara comes to live with Lester and his family, and as a “curiously speedy knitter,” Lester’s wardrobe is soon bursting with hideous handmade creations that he is forced to wear to school, leading to the inevitable humiliation and eventual sweater-murdering. Lester is a brainy, neurotic young man, and the way he squirms out of this pickle is satisfying.
  • this is not my hatThis Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen: Klassen’s second book exactly mirrors the plot of his first, but from the point of view of a thief, rather than a victim. Also, it’s fish instead of woodland critters. Just as beautiful, just as funny, just as appealing as I Want My Hat Back.

beetle book“Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth and one of every four will be a beetle.” If your reaction to this fact is an uncomfortable mix of fascination and horror, get your hands on The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins. In this fact-filled picture book (written for children, but hey, this twenty-something learned a lot reading it), there are big, beautiful illustrations of bugs: hissing cockroaches, June bugs, fireflies, dung beetles, ladybugs, and hundreds of other creepy crawlies – all of them beetles. The full-color bugs are set against ample white space and accompanied by thematically grouped facts. Small (or big!) all-black silhouettes on every page show the actual size of the beetles that have been magnified for illustrations. Staring down the five-inch mandibles of a six-spotted green tiger beetle gets a lot easier when its 3/4-inch-tall silhouette reminds you just how tiny the beast really is!

A few other great books for the budding naturalist or the latent scientist:

  • A Butterfly Is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston, an artistically illustrated look at the life cycle of a butterfly. Lots of facts and gorgeous images make this appropriate for all ages. (if you like this, look at her others: An Egg is Quiet, A Rock Is Lively, and A Seed is Sleepy)
  • Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder, a poem about the beauty and variety of nature illustrated with huge, zoomed-in photos of insects and plants.
  • You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim, a rumination on the interconnectivity of nature and humanity accompanied by lovely, lighthearted illustrations.

ivanThe 2013 Newbery award winner, Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, is everything you might expect it to be, plus a little extra. Ivan is a silverback gorilla, a natural-born protector and warrior of the animal kingdom; as the narrator, his stream-of-consciousness thoughts and memories make up the novel. After poachers pluck the infant Ivan away from his home in the jungle, his domain of 27 years is a run-down circus, and his only friends are the other few animals there. But with the arrival of Ruby, a baby elephant, Ivan suddenly has someone to protect, and he sets off on a course to change all their lives for the better.

Like other winners, Applegate tackles a delicate, powerful subject and makes it accessible to children. Also like others, the writing is elegant and spare, made accessible to a young audience but no less sophisticated for it. There’s humor and heartbreak, but they don’t exactly balance each other – if you can’t handle sad animal stories you will have to stay far, far away from Ivan. Despite a hopeful, happy, neatly-wound-up ending, the grim tone of this book and its experimental structure make it an unusual book for children, but one that I’d recommend to them as wholeheartedly as I would recommend it to an adult. It’s a story of friendship and adventure and creativity, and a great addition to the list of Newbery winners.

Who says summer road trips have to be boring? Load up the family and hit the open road: the trip will fly by when you bring an audiobook from DPL! Unlike your child’s Nintendo DS or iPod Touch, audiobooks don’t require charging and they will entertain more than one person at a time, including the driver.

These recorded books are winners for the entire family:

Harry Potter series, read for you by Jim Dale: The whole family is sure to love the expertly performed Harry Potter series. Jim Dale’s narration is absolutely perfect; even if you’ve already read the novels, you’ll find something new to love in the recordings. If your children are a bit younger, there are admirable recordings of the Magic Tree House series. For the kids who’ve already read (or aren’t interested in) HP, try Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson.

 

Bring a box of tissues along with the kids’ classic Bridge to Terabithia, warmly brought to life by narrator Tom Stechschulte. The poignant story of Jess and Leslie has been a favorite since Katherine Paterson penned it in the ’70s. For kids 10+.

Recordings of Suzanne Collins’ runaway hits The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay will be a hit with everyone: mature themes and violence probably make this too grown up for the littlest ones, but don’t let the YA label fool you – adults adore the series too. For kids 12+.

In Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus, 8th grader Maureen risks life and limb – ok, she risks embarrassing herself in front of the whole school – to stand up to the popular girls who bully her. A funny, relatable story about friendship and the perils of middle school. For kids 12+.

Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series makes for a charming listening experience – Judy’s misadventures show kids how to handle things when their grand plans don’t work out, and narrator Kate Forbes captures her spunky spirit. Just Grace, about another spirited grade schooler, is a fun choice for the kids who’ve already enjoyed Judy Moody. For kids 8+.

All kinds of great books for kids are available from DPL, from classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harriet the Spy to popular new hits like The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Warriors series. Princesses, Sports, Dragons, Animals – whatever your child is interested in, we have an audiobook for it!

*Age recommendations reflect the guidelines printed by the publisher, not DPL’s opinion. Always take your child’s unique level of maturity and experience into account when helping him or her choose books to read.