Children's section: Books for kids, kids at heart


Children’s book authors tend to read in a wide variety of genres, so I asked my fellow authors to name the best children’s book they read in 2013. Their responses provide plenty to keep readers entertained through theses cold winter months.

“Counting by 7s’’

Iowa City author and illustrator Michelle Edwards (“Max Makes a Cake,” Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014), said, “I am not sure I can ever love another book the way I love “The One and Only Ivan,” (HarperCollins, 2012) by Katherine Applegate. It will be hard to nudge that one from its sacred place. Still this year, I truly adored Holly Goldberg Sloan’s ‘Counting by 7s’ (Dial, 2013). Who could resist Willow Chance, the star of ‘Counting by 7s’ who turns her loss and awkwardness into community? And then there’s Cynthia Kadohata’s, “The Thing About Luck,” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013) which won the National Book Award. Set in the Midwest, this deeply moving, beautifully written story rests in my heart, very near ‘The One and Only Ivan.’”

“Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass”

Fellow Gazette columnist and Iowa City author Wendy Henrichs (“When Anju Loved Being an Elephant,” Sleeping Bear Press, 2011) chose “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass” (Candlewick, 2013) by Meg Medina. Henrichs says, “Inspired to write from her own similar high school experiences, Medina spins a story with humor, warmth and heft. Readers will root for her 15-year-old protagonist, Piddy, a bright, funny girl who is bullied after moving to a new school.”

“Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book”

Iowa City author Katherine L. House, (“The White House for Kids: History of a Home, Office and National Symbol, with 21 Activities,” Chicago Review Press, 2014) said, “The book I chose isn’t really a children’s book, but it is a treasure for adult aficionados of children’s literature. ‘Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book’ (Golden Books, 2013) by Diane Muldrow reproduces artwork from numerous Little Golden Books. The author, who is the longtime editorial director at Golden Books, wrote captions for the artwork that offer advice for modern times. The book begins with an illustration from ‘Circus Time’ (1948) and the caption, ‘Is your life starting to feel like a circus?’ and ends with an illustration from ‘Boats’ (1951). The size and format are the same as the familiar Little Golden Books, down to the gold spine. The end papers are full-color reproductions of the end papers from Little Golden Books and are authentic down to the box that reads, ‘This Little Golden Book Belongs to,’ along with a space for the owner to write his or her name.”

“Fog Island”

Another fellow Gazette columnist and Mount Vernon author Jacqueline Briggs Martin (“Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table,” Readers to Eaters, 2013) chose Tomi Ungerer’s “Fog Island” (Phaidon Press, 2013) as her favorite this year. Martin says, “Finn and Cara live on an island with their parents. They go out exploring and end up on the dreaded Fog Island, where they meet a stranger who sings with them and gives them an odd-tasting but heartening soup. They get lost and are rescued, and at the end they’re not really sure whether they really met the stranger after all. I love that the brother and sister go out exploring together, but most of all I love the mystery of it, the open-endedness. Did they really meet the Fog Man? It’s a book that is a joy to read and stays with us when the reading is done.”

“Harry Potter”

Iowa City author and illustrator Claudia McGehee, (“My Wilderness,” Sasquatch Books, 2015), said, “a few years ago, I read aloud ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ to our daughter, who then inhaled the following six books on her own. I felt a bit unfulfilled, having never finished this classic series, so this fall I embarked on the rest. What a treat. I’m on book four now and every night I look forward to the next adventure. I enjoy the endearing characters, fantastic settings and plots, but as a naturalist, I am also captivated by Rowling’s attention to writing natural historical detail. Her owls may carry mail scrolls to the ends of the earth, but they are real, species-specific owls. It makes it all the more magical. I will savor the last three books.”


Iowa City author Sarah Prineas, (“Moonkind,” HarperCollins, 2013) chose “Jinx” (HarperColllins, 2013) by Sage Blackwood. Prineas says, “It’s a truly wonderful book full of magic, adventure, peril, magical forests, wizards up to no good, and a clever boy hero who will make you cheer while wanting to tear your hair out. I fell in love with this book, and then it broke my heart and stomped all over the pieces — but by the end my heart was whole again, and I was longing to read the sequel.”

“The Animal Book”

Cedar Rapids illustrator Jeni Reeves (“George Washington and the Story of the U.S. Constitution” by Candice Ransom, Millbrook Press, 2011) chose “The Animal Book” (Houghton Mifflin, 2013) by Steve Jenkins. Reeves says, “Each new page surprises the reader with a ‘who-knew’ biological fact; all concisely explained and masterfully illustrated in detailed, witty cutout artwork. For the aspiring naturalist and artist, Jenkins also describes his research and work process, including the all-important timeline. Children and adults alike should find this non-fiction book fascinating — an essential reference for bookshelves everywhere.” You can also see Jeni’s rain forest mural in the exhibition ‘Western Africa: Before the Boats’ at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids through March 31.

“Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures”

Iowa City author Tess Weaver (“Encore, Opera Cat,” Clarion, 2009) chose “Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures.” Weaver says it “begins with a squirrel sucked into a vacuum cleaner and a 10-year-old girl who reads and quotes from her favorite superhero comic, “Terrible Things Can Happen to You!” What ensues is a poetry-writing squirrel with the superhero ability to fly and a girl who tries valiantly to save him from those who wish him harm. This is a fun, madcap adventure with heartwarming moments of love and optimism.”

“Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets”

My own favorite book this year was “Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets” (Houghton Mifflin, 2013) by Evan Roskos. I was impressed by Roskos’ ability to take a serious subject (teen depression) and write about it with such heart and humor.

Any of these books should be available at local bookstores and libraries.Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of many books for children, including the Edgar award winning series, “The Buddy Files.” 

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