Staff Picks

Librarian Assistant
Halfway to Perfect: a Dyamonde Daniel Book
Grimes, Nikki
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2012.

This is the fourth book in the series which stars a third grader named Dyamonde.  She is funny, caring and smart and helps her friend see what is good about herself.  Together, they learn appearances aren’t a person’s whole story.  She also learns about healthy eating habits and body image. The story moves right along with realistic friends and situations. I really enjoyed the main character, Dyamonde with her levelheaded thinking and caring heart.  The urban school setting and conversations are right on the mark in this beginning chapter book series.

Youth Services Librarian
Nightmareland. (Scary Tales)
Preller, James.
Feiwel and Friends, 2014.

Kids are always asking for spooky books at Rockford Public Library, especially in October.  The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine is still perpetually popular, and I always recommend the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy by Alvin Schwartz.   But I just found something new at the library - an entertaining paperback series for elementary and middle school kids called Scary Tales.  This new series is from author James Preller, best known for the Jigsaw Jones mystery series for children.  Preller has jumped into the world of urban legends and ghosts with his Scary Tales series.  I read several titles in the series (there are five so far), and the books find a perfect balance for young readers - frightening but not gory.
The Scary Tales stories concern modern kids who may be experiencing a rough time, including divorcing parents, sibling rivalry, and/or conflict with friends.  In Home Sweet Horror, 8 year-old Liam has to move into a creepy old house with his sister and Dad.  Liam struggles with the relocation to the house and with the fact his mom passed away two years prior.  To make matters worse, Liam’s sister and her friend start playing the “Bloody Mary” game in the bathroom mirror – a game based on an urban legend for conjuring a ghost.  Strange things start happening to Liam in the new house – I won’t say anymore! 

I also read Nightmareland.  This book is about Aaron Wheeler, an almost 10-year-old boy who is left alone a lot.  His Dad left the family, and his mom works out of town.  Even Aaron’s teenage sister is too busy for him.  So Aaron focuses his attention on video games.  One day, Aaron finds a creepy new video game called Nightmareland at the store.  He buys it, and one night, he pops it in the game player.  Aaron is in for the fright of his life when he is sucked into the terrifying world of the video game.  His sister, and the teenage pizza delivery guy who brings Aaron’s pizza order, may be Aaron’s only hope to survive the Nightmareland game. 

I would recommend these books for kids in grades 3-6.  The series is great for reluctant readers, and for those who like chilling stories with a plot line.  The vivid, scratch-board illustrations by Lacopo Bruno that accompany the series are also spine-tingling.

Youth Services Librarian
I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011
Tarshis, Lauren
Scholastic, 2013.

After having kids ask for books in this series all summer long, I wondered why they had so much appeal.  When I finally found this one on the shelf, I decided I had to read it and I am glad that I did!

Ben, his younger brother Harry and his mom are all visiting his father’s family in a small Japanese village (Ben’s father died four months earlier).  Suddenly, Ben and Harry feel the room they are staying in shaking.  It’s an earthquake, but no ordinary one.  The shaking is very strong and lasts in some places for up to five minutes.  With the whole family safe, they hurry outside thinking the worst is over.  But the worst isn’t over; soon the family sees a giant wave coming. They jump in the car and try to race it to higher ground, but the car is swept away and Ben and his family are separated by all the water.  Find out how Ben survives in I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011.