About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Best Books of 2008

Here it is, just in time for any last minute holiday book shopping for the kids on your list. . . the Best Books of 2008 Blog Round-Up.  Thanks to all you wonderful bloggers for submitting reviews of your favorite children's books published in 2008.

Picture Books

Blue_stone_2 The Blue Stone by Jimmy Liao
In her review, 4th grade teacher Angela Bunyi includes an anchor chart, mini-lesson idea, and student writing inspired by Liao's work.

Visitor A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
Jen Robinson positively gushes about this sweet book, giving it what I would consider the highest possible praise by comparing Mouse and Bear with Anne and Marilla from Anne of Green Gables.

South South by Patrick McDonnell
Though it distressed him to have to choose just one favorite book this year, Jeremy played along and made his choice.

Middle Grade Books

Whitesandsredmenace White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages
Apparently this was not the year for middle grade books. But Sarah at Readers' Rants recommends this sequel to Green Glass Sea.

Young Adult Books

Loveme_3 Love Me Tender by Audrey Couloumbis
In her review, Sherry at Semicolon compares this book to the TV show Roseanne, which may or may not seem like high praise to you, but this book sure does sound funny.

Graceling_cover_jpeg Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I haven't read this book yet, but it moved to the top of my to-be-read pile after reading the first paragraph of Shelf Elf's gush-fest. I love it when a book makes me press it to my heart and think wistfully about its world for hours!

Hungergames The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Several people, myself included, mentioned this as their favorite book of 2008. Both Jen and Tyler from On Our Minds@Scholastic rave about it. Jen Robinson calls it one of the best books she's read, "not just for the year, but ever." Those are strong words for a book lover, but I couldn't agree more. Kelly Fineman expressed many of my own sentiments about this book in her review. I definitely felt like a different person after reading it; I felt as Kelly beautifully says, "as if there's been a palpable shift, and that the world has, in some real way, been altered."

Lamplighter Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish
Sarah at Readers' Rants recommends the sequel to Foundling for "those who like to savor a complex, layered, and fully realized setting."


64daringexperiments The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists
by Sean Connolly
Anastasia Suen says, "I wish I had this book when I was teaching 5th grade! What fun!"

Family The Family Book: Amazing Things to Do Together
And finally, here is Mir's family favorite from among her Kitchen Table Reviews.

Thank you all for your suggestions and reviews. Happy holidays to all, and I wish you all  the best in 2009, including a new crop of exciting books to inspire and delight you and the children in your lives!

Jeremy's Favorite Picture Book of 2008

Arghhh!  My favorite picture book of 2008?  I can only pick one?  This has to be the toughest post of the year.  I think I have to go with Patrick McDonnell's South.  It is such a sweet and simple tale and those expressive eyes get me every time. 

Little Brown says about it, "When a little bird awakens to find that all of his friends and family have gone south for the winter, it takes a surprising friendship with Mooch the cat to help him find his way. This is a wordless and profoundly moving story--by the creator of the beloved comic strip Mutts--that explores being lost and found, crossing boundaries, saying goodbye, and broadening horizons."

If you didn't catch my first review, you can check it out to read more on South.  I'm going to log off now before I become emotionally distressed and start apologizing to the other picture books.

Friday Kid Lit Round-Up

If you’re looking to increase your knowledge of famous folks like Lincoln, Sequoyah and Fitzgerald, you need to check out the National Portrait Gallery’s Face to Face blog.  On Thursdays the Gallery has a talk about “a selected portrait on view in the gallery,” with podcasts made available on the website.

Searching for ways to bring art into your classroom?  Why not take advantage of the sale going on at the Norman Rockwell Museum?  Buy a calendar at 25% off, separate and laminate the pages and you’ll have 12 illustrations to use in your lesons.

To keep up to date on what’s new in fairy tales, check out the Horn Book’s current list.  You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together written by the 2008 Children's Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Michael Emberley is bound to be a favorite.

Another great suggestion from the Horn Book is to check out Mother Reader’s list of book and gift pairings.  One of my favorites is to “Pair  Monsters on Machines or Building with Dad with toy construction vehicles.”

Over on Ink Splot 26 is an edition of Guess the Book, Holiday Style.  You use portion of the cover art to identify books.  I always have a blast trying to figure them out.  It would be a fun activity to try making your own classroom version featuring favorite books.

And with that folks, I’m off to find the shovel for tomorrow’s storm.

Picture Book Thursday: The Classics

Magi The Gift of the Magi
Written by O. Henry
Illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Candlewick Press
Age Range 8-13 years

Greater Greater Estimations
Written and Illustrated by Bruce Goldstone
Henry Holt
Age Range 7-12 years

Tale_of The Tale of Two Mice
Written and Illustrated by Ruth Brown
Candlewick Press
Age Range 4-8 years

Hi folks.  I thought you might be in the mood for a little Dickens or O. Henry.  With these new books on the shelves, you’re in luck!

Continue reading "Picture Book Thursday: The Classics" »

Video Wednesday: Kazu Kibuishi

Last June at ALA, Jessica and I got to interview Kazu Kibuishi and talk about his new graphic novel series, Amulet. In this video, he demonstrates his technique for drawing the Amulet characters. 

Kazu talks more about the Amulet series, and what it's like to be a graphic novelist in the rest of the video interview. If your students are fans of graphic novels, you will definitely want to check this out.

New Review Tuesday: Animal Heroes (a la Despereaux!)

Like Sonja, I'm just thrilled to see the attention surrounding the movie version of The Tale of Despereaux. When author Kate DiCamillo appeared on The Today Show last week, the kids peppered her with questions about character, plot, and theme. Very sophisticated readers!

You can check out my interview with DiCamillo in this month's issue of Instructor. And if your students are looking for more stories in the spirit of The Tale of Despereaux, here are some new animal heroes:

26986929 DiCamillo recommended Elise Broach's Masterpiece during our interview, and I'm so glad I took her up on her suggestion. Masterpiece is the story of a beetle named Marvin who draws an elaborate miniature picture for the eleven-year-old boy who shares his apartment, James. James gets all the credit for the drawing and soon the two get sucked into an artistic mystery reminiscent of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Chasing Vermeer. Fans of those stories, as well as middle-grade animal novels such as The Cricket in Times Square, will fall big-time for Marvin!

51s9c9c2lcl_ss500_ Kathi Appelt's The Underneath came out last spring, and if you haven't read it yet, get to it—so that when the Newbery honorees appear, you will have read at least one of the picks! Obviously, I can't be sure this incredible cat-and-dog story will make the list, but it was a National Book Award Finalist, and it's been getting major buzz in mock-Newbery circles. Like Despereaux, The Underneath has the feel of a literary classic, and is sure to appeal to serious readers in grades three through five.

The Underneath just might be my favorite middle grade novel of the year. What was the best book you read this year? Don't forget to e-mail Sonja, so that she can include your pick in this week's round-up!

Nonfiction Monday: Baking

Baking and holidays go together, so here's a fiction/nonfiction book pair about baking for grades 6-8.

Facts First

0811861902_normCakes for Kids: 35 Colorful Cakes with Easy-to-Follow Tips & Techniques
by Matthew Mead

Reading level: Gr. 6-8
Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books

The 35 "3-D" cake recipes in this book are divided into 3 categories: easy, moderate, and challenging (and they all look amazing!)

Pair With

9780689866203_lgBad Girls in Love
by Cynthia Voigt

Reading level: Gr. 6-8
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Aladdin

When Mikey falls in love, she falls hard, and even starts baking cookies for her not-so secret crush, Shawn. What can her best friend, Margalo, do?


Continue reading "Nonfiction Monday: Baking" »

Friday Kid Lit Round-Up

Toys David Shannon has a hilarious new book out, Too Many Toys, starring Spencer.  Mir and her daughter had a great conversation about it at Kitchen Table Reviews.

Mir: What was your favorite part?
Daughter: I liked that there was a picture of you in here.
Mir: Huh?
Daughter: There’s a picture of you, Mom! [Giggling, she turned to an illustration of Spencer’s mom hollering at him. The picture is approximately 80% gaping mouth.]

In this Scholastic video interview, Shannon actually describes how he drew Spencer's mom.

Continue reading "Friday Kid Lit Round-Up" »

Picture Book Thursday: Bears

Oldbear Old Bear
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Age Range 4-8 years


Bear_2 Bear Feels Scared
Written by Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
McElderry Books
Age Range 4-8 years

Bears Bear’s Picture
Written by Daniel Pinkwater
Illustrated by D.B. Johnson
Houghton Mifflin Company
Age Range 7-10 years

Ice Ice Bears
Written by Brenda Z. Guiberson
Illustrated by Ilya Spirin
Henry Holt
Age Range 4-8 years

Lions and tigers and…OK, so not so much the lions and tigers but do we have the bears covered!  Picture Book Thursday is here and with it a veritable library of bear books and teaching activities. Read on. . .

Continue reading "Picture Book Thursday: Bears" »

Video Wednesday: The Tale Of Despereaux

I am so excited for The Tale of Despereaux movie coming out on December 19! I loved the Newbery-winning book, and the movie looks adorable - Matthew Broderick's voice and those enormous ears! I'm completely sold.

The movie website includes a video trailer plus lots of fun games, activities and a downloadable Teaching Guide PDF for the book.

For more teaching resources for author Kate DiCamillo, take a look at this Scholastic Author Study. And for a taste of the book being read aloud, here is an audiobook excerpt.

New Review Tuesday: The Winter Holidays

Winter holidays can be a sticky issue in the classroom—I know many schools don't acknowledge them at all, in which case holiday books may not be appropriate. Other schools go for the inclusive approach, honoring Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and any other traditions that may be recognized by students and their families.

I wrote about snowy stories in the November/December issue of Instructor, so you may want to check those out if your school falls into the first camp. But if you plan on talking about winter holidays in the coming weeks, here are three picture books that may be helpful:

28173986 All I Want for Christmas, written and illustrated by Deborah Zemke, puts a playful spin on the classic holiday tune "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth." In Zemke's version, various animals list their Christmas wishes: the snake wants a body-warmer, the rooster is yearning for an alarm clock, and the frog wants his own lilypad. The story lends itself naturally to a writing exercise—why not ask students to write about what other animals want for the holidays?

28330251 The Hanukkah Mice, written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Michelle Shapiro, follows a sweet family of rodents that spend each night of the eight-day holiday exploring a dollhouse—a present to the young girl that  lives in the house where the mice make their home. Something new appears in the dollhouse each night, culminating in a miracle appropriately scaled to the size of our heroes.

51gezahf6kl_ss400_ Night of the Moon, by Hena Khan, illustrated by Julie Paschkis, explores the Muslim holidays of Ramadan and Eid through the eyes of seven-year-old Yasmeen. Yasmeen is a Pakistani-American, and her view of the festivities is both modern and timeless. Paschkis's beautiful illustrations add to the celebratory feel.

What holiday books do you use in the classroom? Or does your school skip the holiday celebrations?

Nonfiction Monday: Remember December 16th?

Do you remember what happened December 16, 1773? Here's a fiction/nonfiction book pair about the Boston Tea Party and Revolutionary War for grades 3-5.

Facts First

9780525478720lColonial Voices: Hear Them Speak
by Kay Winters (Author)
and Larry Day (Illustrator)

Reading level: Gr. 3-5
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Dutton

Follow an errand boy through colonial Boston as he spreads word of rebellion in this poetry collection.

Pair With

9780439369060_lg_2We Are Patriots, Hope's Revolutionary War Diary: Book Two, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania 1777
by Kristiana Gregory

Reading level: Gr. 3-5
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Scholastic

Hope Penny Potter's family is one one side and her best friend Polly's family is on the other side during the Revolutionary War.


Continue reading "Nonfiction Monday: Remember December 16th?" »

Friday Kid Lit Round-Up

Beedle Hey folks. 

With The Tales of Beedle the Bard now officially on shelves, I thought you might like to see one of the originals.  Ink Splot 26's Carly and Karen were at the unveiling of the book at New York Public Library where one of the original handwritten copies will be on display until January 4, 2009. Take a look at their video and photos of the event.

We have some catching up to do.  Before the big Thanksgiving festivities took place, our own blogger Jill White went a bit batty.  Well in her studies anyway.  Find out more about her bat unit, complete with some great books.

If you’re looking for more bat themed info, check out Bats in the Library author Brian Lies.  He has directions for bugmallows, a confection sure to be a hit with students.

As reported by Chicken Spaghetti, “It's that time of year again; everyone is compiling a Best of the Year List, including…”  I have you curious, don’t I?  Check out the New York Times Book Review and Publisher’s Weekly picks amongst others. If you have blogged about your favorite book of 2008, add it to the Kid Lit Kit Best Books of 2008 Blog Round-Up by emailing Sonja your post.

And with that folks, I’m going to find the makings of a good bugmallow, brew up a cup of tea and reread Bats at the Beach.  I’ll see you next week..

Picture Book Thursday: Dogs and Puppies

Little_puppy Little Puppy Lost
Written by Linda Jennings
Illustrated by Alison Edgson
Good Books
Age Range 4-8 years

Dog_who The Dog Who Belonged to No One
Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by Amy Bates
Age Range 4-8 years

Fred Fred Stays with Me!
Written by Nancy Coffelt
Illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Little, Brown
Age Range 4-8 years

Hey folks.  Picture Book Thursday is here and I’m offering you a break from all that Thanksgiving turkey.  So have a seat and let’s talk dogs.  We have a pup who has wandered from home, a pooch who doesn’t have a home and a hound with two homes.

Little Puppy Lost
This is a great book to start off by having your students make predictions after looking at the endpapers.  Little Puppy Lost will tug at the heart strings of puppy lovers as the pup finds himself separated from his family on a snowy day.  But with Mom to the rescue, he finds himself back home with his siblings.  My young students loved this gentle tale with just enough puppy angst to keep them enthralled.

The Dog Who Belonged to No One
Taking place earlier in the 20th century, “the dog who belonged to no one” wanders the streets of a small town simply wishing to belong.  The illustration of him watching the baseball game through the fence and another of him huddled into an alley couldn’t be more endearing.  But not to fear, Lia, the daughter of local bakers, is in search of a friend too.  Amy Bates’ light-infused illustrations are a great match for this book and her dog has me wanting to head to the local pound to rescue some four footed waif.

Fred Stays with Me!
“Sometimes I live with mom.  Sometimes I live with dad.  My dog, Fred, stays with me.”  This intro sets the tone for the book as this little girl with divorced parents has a constant companion in goofy hound Fred.  Children of divorce are sure to make a connection with  the idea of two homes and two routines.  This sweet story had me wishing all children could have a constant like Fred in their lives.

I would use any of these books to kick off a fund raiser for the local animal shelter.  Have your students hold a bake sale or collect dog food or old blankets before taking a trip to the dog pound.  If a trip isn’t feasible, see if the local animal shelter offers outreach programs.  You may be able to have a canine friend visit the classroom.

Video Wednesday: The Hunger Games

My holiday book recommendation for every young adult (and adult) reader is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I got the ARC last spring and it was the topic of conversation in the office for months as it made the rounds.  This poor little ARC is so beat up, it is is barely recognizable. Every reader I know over the age of 12 can expect a copy for Christmas - if I haven't already given it to you for your birthday!

In this video, Suzanne herself reads (in character!) the passage from the book where the games are just about to begin. It still gives me chills!

I had the chance to interview Suzanne Collins in August and begged her for details about the next book, but she wouldn't give away anything! It was great to meet her anyway, and she did talk about what inspired The Hunger Games and gave some background into its dystopian setting. The video interview is definitely worth a look. Even the video editor wants to read The Hunger Games now after having worked on this video!

For lots more holiday book buying ideas, check out Book Recs for Holiday Shopping from around the Litblogosphere at Chasing Ray. You will find book gift ideas for every reader on your list.

New Review Tuesday: Titanic Fever

Eleven years ago this month, people were lining up to watch Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio fall in doomed, weepy love in the movie Titanic. Now Kate and Leo are starring in a new movie together, and Titanic fever seems to have sparked once more—only in the world of children's books.


I'm really looking forward to Suzanne Weyn's Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic, which promises  a Kate-and-Leo worthy romance for teen readers, but that doesn't hit shelves until the spring.  

27139913 In the meantime, I'm feeding my Titanic-curiosity with Don Brown's All Stations! Distress!: April 15, 1912, The Day the Titanic Sank. A non-fiction picture book aimed at the upper-elementary crowd, All Stations! is a bittersweet portrait of the ill-fated ship and its passengers. Brown's beautiful watercolors accompany his honest and straightforward retelling of the events, which will no doubt fascinate your historians. Whether or not you cover the Titanic in your social studies curriculum, All Stations! would be a great addition to your classroom library, and a solid model for non-fiction writing.

Do you own any Titanic books for children? If so, what are they, and what do you enjoy about them?

Nonfiction Monday: Reindeer

Here's a fiction/nonfiction book pair about reindeer for K-2.

Facts First

Main_3Far North
by Jan Reynolds

Reading level: K-2
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Lee and Low Books

Kari and Sara live in the far north above the Arctic circle. They are Sami and live with the reindeer they herd year round.

Pair With

9780811818070_lg_4Olive, the Other Reindeer 
by J.otto Siebold and Vivian Walsh

Reading level: K-2
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books

Olive the dog mishears a Christmas song and thinks she must go help Santa.


Continue reading "Nonfiction Monday: Reindeer" »

Recent Posts


Quick Links:

Recommended Sites:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Kid Lit Kit are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.