The Children's Book Compass

Archive for April 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.  (2010).  Dial.  442 pages.  Grades 7 and up.  Fantasy Novel.

This complex fantasy grabs the reader’s attention on the very first page.  “Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the stone slabs of the transitway.” The transitway is a highway inside the prison, Incarceron.  But this prison, Incarceron, is unlike any known to the reader.  No one comes in or leaves this prison.  The prison has been sealed for centuries and some of the people inside have become savages.  The prison is ruled by an all-knowing eye that watches each prisoner and deals out punishments.  Seventeen year old Finn and his friends try to escape Incarceron.

The story of Finn alternates with that of Claudia’s who lives on the Outside.  Claudia is the daughter of the highest official in her world, the Warden of Incarecron.  She is resisting an arranged marriage that will elevate her to Queen.  Fisher skillfully entwines the two stories when Finn and Claudia both discover a crystal key that allows them to communicate between their worlds.  How Claudia helps Finn and his friends escape from Incarecron makes an entrancing fantasy. Readers will be glued to each of the 442 pages as the author keeps the tension and the excitement high.


Children who are becoming readers need to be exposed to a wide range of books and experiences.  First, they need to hear books read aloud by teachers and parents.  Then they need to have a variety of books to read themselves.  They especially need books that will match their interests and their reading capabilities.  The following books are great examples of the variety of books that will appeal to young readers and support them in becoming successful readers.

Three Little Bears Play All Day by David Martin.  Illus. by Akemi Gutierrez.  (2010).  Pages not numbered.  Candlewick Press.   Grades P-3.  Beginning Readers.

The four slim books in this slip-jacketed set are part of the “Brand New Readers” series – excellent choices for children just taking their first steps as independent readers.  The “Brand New Readers” series features four short books in each set.  Each booklet is no longer than eight pages.  The four books in each set are all about the same character(s) and their adventures.  Each book includes tips for parents and teachers to guide them on supporting their “brand new reader.”  This set is about three sibling bears but not the characters we know from Goldilocks’ adventure with the three bears.  The text is simple and the pictures provide clues to the reader in order to be successful.  One of the four titles is “Three Little Bears Eat.”  It reads: “Brother Bear and Sister Bear eat peas./ “Green food is yucky!” says Baby Bear./ Then they eat broccoli.  “Green food is yucky!” says Baby Bear./ Then they eat mint ice cream./ “Green food is yummy!” says Baby Bear.”  The other three titles in the set tell about more fun with the bear siblings.  Children who read these books are excited because they have read a book!  Go to the website: to read some of the books in the series online and to view the illustrations.

When Jack Goes Out by Pat Schories.  (2010).  Pages not numbered.  Boyd Mills Press.  Grades P-3.  Wordless Book.

This is the fifth book about Jack, an adorable puppy.  The wordless story features an evening encounter between Jack, who has been chained to his dog house, and visitors from outer space.  The same characters were featured in Jack and the Night Visitors. This time the space men unchain Jack to romp, play and swim him.  Then they decide to chain him to their space ship and take him away into space, but Jack figures out a way to escape.  Children love to tell the story carefully observing the animated illustrations.  This is a book to encourage early reading skills of observing details, understanding characterization and building a sense of story.

I Am Going! by Mo Willems. (2010).  57 pages.  Hyperion.  Grades P-3.  Beginning Reader.

Elephant and Piggie are back in another comedy that tickles the funny bone.  This story is just as much fun as the ten others about the two friends.  This time, Piggie announces, “I am going.”  Immediately Elephant assumes that “I am going,” means Piggie is leaving forever.  The silliness unfolds as the two keep miscommunicating until they finally achieve understanding with Piggie saying, “I am going to eat lunch.”  They end up sharing an elaborate picnic lunch.  Willems is a master of understatement in his text and expressive, spare line drawings that feature the two friends.  The careful use of different font sizes helps new readers give expression to their reading.  When I read this one to the second grade class, I asked them – “We have enjoyed so many stories about Elephant and Piggie, but I am wondering how they became friends?”  The children then created a whole back story of how Elephant and Piggie could have become friends.

Mouse and Mole Fine Feathered Friends by Wong Herbert Yee.  (2009)  Houghton Mifflin.  Grades P-3.  Beginning Reader.

Here is another humorous story about two friends, Mouse and Mole.  This new one is the fourth in the series.  This time Mouse and Mole combine their talents to create a bird book through their careful observations of the winged creatures.  However, whenever they get close to a bird they scare it a way.  They can’t make their sketches or observations for the books unless they can get close to their subjects.  Then Mouse comes up with an ingenious disguise that will allow them to get very close.  The book they create features Mouse’s poems and Mole’s sketches.  Yee shows the fun of doing careful observations, creating a book and working together.  The illustrations add humor and details to the story.  The author’s use of onomatopoeia enriches the text, “Critch-CRUNCH! Mole stepped on a dried leaf.”  Young readers will feel very accomplished in reading this book because it is a chapter book.  Guide the students in enjoying the other books in the series.

100 + Best Kids and Young Adult Books

compiled and read by Marilyn Carpenter Ph.D.

Eastern Washington University


Auch, Mary Jane & Herm        THE PLOT CHICKEN

Bennett, Kelly                          YOUR DADDY WAS JUST LIKE YOU

Bottner, Barbara                      MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS! (and I don’t)

Brown, Peter                            THE CURIOUS GARDEN

Bruschac, Joseph                     MY FATHER IS TALLER THAN A TREE

Bryan, Ashley                          ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

Craig, Lindsey                         DANCING FEET!

Crum, Shutta                            THUNDER-BOOMER!

dePaola, Tomie                        MY MOTHER IS SO SMART!

Henkes, Kevin                         MY GARDEN

Hills, Tad                                 HOW ROCKET LEARNED TO READ

Gal, Susan                               NIGHT LIGHTS


Khan, Rukhsana                      BIG RED LOLLIPOP

Lipson, Eden Ross              APPLESAUCE SEASON

Long, Loren                             OTIS

Lowry, Lois                             CROW CALL

Macken, Joann                        WAITING OUT THE STORM

Marlow, Layn                          HURRY UP AND SLOW DOWN

Mobin-Uddin, Asma           A PARTY IN RAMADAN

Mora, Pat                                 BOOK FIESTA!

Plourde, Lynn                          FIELD TRIP DAY

Polacco, Patricia                      IN OUR MOTHERS’ HOUSE

Rosenthal & Lichtenheld   DUCK! RABBIT!

Rylant, Cynthia                     SNOW

Sakai, Komako                        THE SNOW DAY

Scanlon, Liz                             ALL THE WORLD

Schories, Pat                            WHEN JACK GOES OUT

Seeger, Laura                           DOG AND BEAR: THREE TO GET READY

Somar, D. & Davis, J.              LADYBUG GIRL AND BUMBLEBEE BOY

Thomas, Jan                       RHYMING DUST BUNNIES


Watt, Melanie                          CHESTER’S MASTERPIECE

Williams, Laura                       THE CAN MAN

Van Hecke, Susan                   AN APPLE PIE FOR DINNER


Martin, David                          THREE LITTLE BEARS PLAY ALL DAY

Spires, Ashley                          BINKY THE SPACE CAT

Willems, Mo                            I AM GOING!



Aylesworth, Jim                       THE MITTEN

Pinkney, Jerry                          THE LION AND THE MOUSE


Bernier-Grand, Carmen           DIEGO: BIGGER THAN LIFE

Heard, Georgia                        FALLING DOWN THE PAGE

Hoberman & Winston         THE TREE THAT TIME BUILT

Hughes, Langston                  MY PEOPLE Illus. by Charles R. Smith Jr.

Lewis, J. Patrick                    THE UNDERWEAR SALESMAN

Mora, Pat                                 GRACIAS * THANKS

O’Neill, Mary                          HAILSTONES AND HALIBUT BONES

Ruddell, Deborah                    A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT  OF  SKUNK

Schertle, Alice                        BUTTON UP!

Shange, Ntozake                 CORETTA SCOTT


Yolen, Jane                              AN EGRET’S DAY


Jablonski, C. & Purvis, L.        RESISTANCE: BOOK 1

Yang, G. & Kim, D.                 THE ETERNAL SMILE


Beil, Michael                           THE RED BLAZER GIRLS

Cashore, Kristin                       FIRE

Collins, Suzanne                      CATCHING FIRE

Cushman, Karen                      ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN

Engle, Margarita                       TROPICAL SECRETS

Fisher, Catherine                    INCARCERON

Frost, Helen                             CROSSING STONES

Hannigan, Katherine             EMMALINE AND BUNNY

Khan, Rukhsana                      WANTING MOR

Kelly, Jacqueline                     THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE

Lin, Grace                                WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON

Mills, Claudia                          HOW OLIVER OLSON CHANGED THE WORLD

Naidoo, Beverley                     BURN MY HEART

Napoli, Donna Jo                     ALLIGATOR BAYOU

Parry, Rosanne                        HEART OF A SHEPHERD

Peet, M.  & Graham, E.            CLOUD TEA MONKEYS


Polacco, Patricia                      JANUARY’S SPARROW

Reeve, Philip                           FEVER CRUMB

Ryan, Pam Munoz                   THE DREAMER

Schlitz, Laura                           THE NIGHT FAIRY

Scott, Michael                          THE SORCESSES

Stork, Francisco                       MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD


Thor, Annika                             A FARAWAY ISLAND

Uehashi, Nahoko                     MORIBITO II

Wong, Janet                             ME AND ROLLY MALOO


Bang & Chisholm                 LIVING SUNLIGHT



Bishop, Nic                              BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS

Bogacki, Tomek.                    THE CHAMPION OF CHILDREN

Bryan, Ashley                          WORDS TO MY LIFE’S SONG

Burleigh, Robert                      ONE GIANT LEAP

Cassino, M. & Nelson, J.         THE STORY OF SNOW

Chaikin, Andrew                     MISSION CONTROL, THIS IS APOLLO

Chin, Jason                              REDWOODS

Corey, Shana                            MERMAID QUEEN

Demi                                              TUTANKHAMUN

Dennis, Major Brian                NUBS THE TRUE STORY OF A MUTT…

Floca, Brian                             MOONSHOT: THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO

Haddon, Mark                         FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON

Heiligman, Deborah                 CHARLES AND EMMA

Hooose, Phillip                         CLAUDETTE COLVIN

Jackson, Donna                         EXTREME SCIENTISTS

Kamkwamba & Mealer            THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND…

Konrad, Marla                         GRAND


Mann, Charles                       BEFORE COLUMBUS: THE AMERICAS OF 1491

Metselaar, M. & van der Rol, R.  ANNE FRANK …

Mortenson, Greg                      LISTEN TO THE WIND


Partridge, Elizabeth                  MARCHING FOR FREEDOM

Pinkney, Andrea          SIT-IN: HOW FOUR FRIENDS …

Ruelle, Karen                           THE GRAND MOSQUE OF PARIS

Smith, David                            IF AMERICA WERE A VILLAGE

Stamaty, Mark                    SHAKE, RATTLE & TURN THAT NOISE DOWN!

Talbott, Hudson                        RIVER OF DREAMS

Travares, Matt                          HENRY AARON’S DREAM

Turner, Pamela                          THE FROG SCIENTIST

Weitzman, David                     PHARAOH’S BOAT

Winter, Jeanette                         NASREEN’S SECRET SCHOOL

Winter, Jonah                          YOU NEVER HEARD OF SANDY KOUFAX?

Waiting Out the Storm by Joann Macken.  Illustrated by Susan Gaber.  Candlewick Press.  Pages not numbered.  Grades K-3.  Picture Book.

A young girl and her mother are outside picking daffodils.  But a storm is brewing and the child is anxious, asking.  “Mama?  Yes, buttercup? What’s that I hear?  It’s only the wind in the treetops, my dear.  Why does it whistle?  A storm’s on its way.  The wind calls the raindrops to come out and play.” The dialogue between the mother and child continues as they make their way home with the mother offering reassurances to the child’s fears and questions about the storm.  The text is easy to read with the larger font used to indicate the child’s speech and italics used for the mother’s.  The rhythm, rhymes and cadence of the words are melodies for the ear.  The large size illustrations capture the mood of the storm and the beauty of the natural world as the rain renews the earth.  The softly colored acrylic paintings are comforting even showing birds and animals sheltering from the storm curled up in cozy nests and burrows.  Just like the mother and her daughter when they reach home – “Cozy as bunnies!  Yes, snuggling together.”  Children will love comparing this book with Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco Stork.  (2010).  352 pages.  Scholastic Grades 8 and up.

Stork’s previous book, Marcelo in the Real World, a coming of age story of an autistic teen, was one of the best books of 2009.  Stork’s newest book will also be a hit with teens.  Seventeen-year- old, Pancho wants revenge for the death of his sister, Rosa, who he is convinced was murdered.  The police disagree.  They attribute Rosa’s death to natural causes.  Because Pancho’s father also died just before Rosa, Pancho is sent to an orphanage (his mother died when he was very young).  There he meets DQ a boy who is dying from cancer.  Pancho is given the job of caring for DQ which means he must accompany DQ to the hospital for treatments and to a facility for children recovering from the cancer treatments.  Pancho is willing to go with DQ because he believes he will be able to investigate Rosa’s death and find a way to kill her murderer.  However, DQ has other plans.  He wants to train himself and Pancho to become “Death Warriors.”  DQ believe that every person has been given a task by an angel on a written slip of paper before he is born – “and our job is to remember, to recollect it, and then go about doing what it says.”  DQ has written his wisdom in his “Death Warrior Manifesto” and he wants Pancho to go on a quest with him to discover their tasks.  Pancho believes his task is to get revenge for his sister’s death.  How each boy comes to terms with issues of life, death, love and their own destinies makes an absorbing read.  The complex plot and language demands a mature reader who will be richly rewarded for his efforts.  Some readers will enjoy the connections with Don Quixote.  Stork is a talented writer I look forward to his next book.

Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

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