Nonfiction for primary-age readers

Secrets of the Garden

Food chains, Arctic migration, animal communication, and evolution: four new picture books for young readers take on some complex and fascinating topics. In Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard, narrator Alice tells readers how her family grows edible plants, raises chickens, and interacts with a […]

Race relations

Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement

Two works of nonfiction about the struggle over civil rights in the South and one historical-fiction graphic novel set at the turn of the previous century offer middle school readers context on race in this country. Rick Bowers’s 2010 book Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the […]

Mythology-themed books

The books recommended below were published within the last several years. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.   PICTURE BOOKS Suggested grade level listed with each entry. Young Zeus by G. Brian Karas (Scholastic) Simple, colloquial language renders myth into farce, with cartoonlike characters ranging from the appealing boy […]

Picture books for Presidents’ Day

George Washington's Birthday

In time for Presidents’ Day observations, these new books give elementary-age readers insight into three towering figures in American history. In George Washington’s Birthday: A Mostly True Tale, Margaret McNamara debunks the famous cherry tree fable plus others, intermingling them with real facts to imagine Washington’s seventh birthday. Boxed notes distinguish truth from fancy, and […]

On black history

We March

A picture book tribute to a seminal event in the civil rights story, a collection of poems about the Underground Railroad, and a nonfiction account of the civil rights era for older readers: three recent books pay homage to the struggles and triumphs of African Americans — just in time for honoring black history next […]

Snow daze

No Two Alike

The next best thing to tromping around outdoors on a crisp January afternoon is snuggling up inside. Here are five winter-themed picture books that are just the ticket for those sub-zero days. In Keith Baker’s No Two Alike, two little red birds explore a snowy landscape. Rhyming text coaxes readers to look carefully at the […]

More fantastic books for older readers

Drink, Slay, Love

One new sci-fi/fairy tale and three paranormal novels provide plenty of heart-pounding reading for middle school and high school fans. Sixteen-year-old vampire Pearl discovers she can withstand sunlight after an encounter with a unicorn in Sarah Beth Durst’s Drink, Slay, Love. Her family sends her up to the local high school to procure refreshments (i.e., […]

O Christmas Books!


I was the type of kid who lingered in stairwells trying to overhear adult conversation and who sneaked downstairs to catch my babysitter making out with her boyfriend. As a six-year-old, I blew Santa’s cover after noticing that “his” handwriting on gift labels was just like my dad’s. My mother was aghast to learn I’d told […]

Neighborhood news

reach out and read

Our downstairs neighbors, the super-cool nonprofit organization Reach Out and Read, are now providing some handy reading tips on the Pampers Village website. Their advice includes helpful information on how to “read” wordless books with children, why dads should read aloud with their kids, what rhyming books do for your toddler’s brain, and how military […]

Parents and picture books

I review three picture books about little superheroes for the New York Times this week. (I didn’t much like any of them.) Reviewing for a newspaper (or whatever it is we call them now) is really different from what we need to do at the Horn Book. You get more words, but you have to […]