Carmela Iaria is the Executive Director of School and Library Marketing for Penguin Young Readers. She’s worked in children’s publishing for over 15 years and really loves kids’ books, so choosing 5 favorites was really hard.
Extraordinary Jane, by Hannah E. Harris
This was my very FIRST favorite picture book from Penguin Young Readers. I read it in my first month at Penguin, about one year ago, and was utterly delighted. The story is simple but charming, and the illustrations are darling. I immediately took it home to read to my two-year-old daughter. And she LOVED it for many reasons…
Jane is an ordinary dog in an extraordinary circus. She isn’t strong, graceful, or brave like her family. But what she learns is that being herself – kind and loyal – makes her just as special.
Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson
This review is courtesy of my colleague Venessa Carson, who chose it as a staff pick for our librarian newsletter last month – and sums up the beauty of the book so perfectly…
We should all ride the bus time and again with CJ and his Nana, simply to be reminded that there’s beauty all around us, most especially in the unexpected. “Crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded up stores.” CJ asks his grandma how come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”
This award-winning pair of picture book collaborators, Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson, take readers on a trip through a vibrant urban town in LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, reminding us to look on the bright side and to take in the charm and magic around us, no matter where we live in the world.
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Every so often, I see a chapter book that demands to be recommended to scores of young readers. This is one of them! Dory is a lovably energetic little sister with a BIG personality—and an imagination to match. The writing is fresh, funny, and true (the author is a teacher and obviously pulls from the hilarity of every day life). The illustrations are irresistible and compliment the text perfectly. Stay tuned for more books in the series coming later this year!
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’ Literature, Brown Girl Dreaming is one of the most stunning novels I have ever read. Beloved author Jacqueline Woodson shares the poignant, the gritty, and the sweet memories of her childhood—as well as revealing the first sparks that ignited her writing career—in these lyrical poems about growing up in the North and South. This book is for everyone: teachers, librarians, young readers, adult readers, audio book listeners, everyone. It will make you feel as you simultaneously admire the luminous language and radiant soul.
The Alex Crow, by Andrew Smith
My professor in college, Justin Cronin, taught me to love modular storytelling. To masterfully blend multiple storylines to tell one cohesive story with a powerful message is pure writing magic. Andrew Smith is a magician. The Alex Crow is the story of a fifteen year-old refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his village. Now living in Sunday, West Virginia his story is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic “melting” bomber and the diaries of a failed Arctic expedition from the late nineteen century. How will their lives converge?
As with Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith delivers a genre-bending literary piece of awesome that explores both the realities of our modern world and the absolutely absurd. It is surprising and smart and, perhaps most impressive of all, utterly original.
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