The Red Balloon Bookshops Recommended Reads for May 2013

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These suggestions come via The Red Balloon Bookshop‘s May Newsletter.

Just Like My Papa by Toni Buzzeo, illus. by Mike Wohnoutka
Published: Disney-Hyperion, April 2013 Pages: 32; Recommended Age: 


Toni Buzzeo, and local artist, Mike Wohnoutka, first worked together to create Stay Close to Mama, a story about the the safety Mama provides a curious little giraffe.  Their new collaboration, Just Like My Papa, highlights a young lion cub’s wish to be just like his father, King and Protector of his pride.  When Papa roars, little Kito growls.  Father and son sleep side by side at night and play together during the day.  Kito sneaks along on a hunt for wildebeest and while the pride fails to capture its prey, Kito successfully snaps up a buzzing fly.  Having proven himself, Papa invites Kito to “help me to be king.”  And Kito knows someday he will, indeed, be just like his proud papa.  Mike’s large and colorful illustrations perfectly capture both excitement and sweetness in this story.  — Susan (RBB Staff)
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illus. by Jon Klassen

Published: Little, Brown Books, April 2013; Pages: 40; Recommended Age: 2+

Little Laszlo and The Dark live in the same house together.  Mostly, The Dark stays in the basement.  To keep it from visiting him in his room, Laszlo visits it every morning,  peeking down the basement stairs to say “hi.”  But one night, The Dark does come to his room.  At this point, the reader’s flesh begins to crawl and there is definite tension. The Dark calls to Laszlo, encouraging the boy to come out of his room, down the hall, all the way into the basement.  The text and illustrations work together at this point to create a creepy atmosphere and the reader can almost hear sinister music that might accompany if this were a movie.  Not so wonderful for a small child afraid of the dark?  But just wait until The Dark reveals its light!  Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events) a Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back) have teamed together to create what is sure to become a children’s classic about The Dark.  — Susan (RBB staff)
Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, April 2013 Pages: 32; Recommended Age: 3+

What a great book for spring!  Miss Maple is a foster mother to all those little seeds that haven’t  yet found the right place to take root and grow.  She washes them, keeps them warm during the winter, even gives them pep talks about living up to their potential!  The gentle, golden-hued illustrations are just perfect–I especially love the spread showing the seeds floating down the stream in lantern-like boats.  Share this lovely story at bedtime with your own little ones!  — Barb (RBB staff)
My Neighbor is a Dog by Isabel Minhos Martins 

Published: Owlkids Books/Perseus, April 2013 Pages: 28; Recommended Age: 3+
This book is a lesson in tolerance, masquerading as a colorful, whimsical picture book!  The little girl enjoys all the new neighbors moving into her apartment building, but her parents do not.  They don’t realize that Mr. Dog is a great sax player, or that  Mr. Crocodile plays a wonderful Santa Claus at Christmas–they just see undesirables.  Their solution is to move out of the building, but the little girl vows to come back and to be a better neighbor than her parents have been!  Kids will love the eye-popping illustrations and the general silliness, while the bigger folks (hopefully) will take the message to heart.  Being different can be okay, even fun!  — Barb (RBB staff)

Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa, illus. by Junji Koyose 

Published: Front Street, Sept. 2008 Pages: 30; Recommended Age: 4-7
This birthday book is great for any child who loves trucks and construction. A group of tiny people literally build a birthday cake, using cranes, dump trucks, and helicopters. The illustrations are simple, but each page is busy with construction activities! Kids will enjoy pointing out the trucks that they recognize and making the sounds that are prompted in the book — BRRRRRR goes the helicopter, GRRRR goes the crane (with an electric mixer attached to combine the cake batter). A great one-on-one book to read on a birthday!  — Stephanie (RBB staff)
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough, illus. by Debby Atwell
Published: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, March 2013; Pages: 40; Recommended Age: 6-9

Here at Red Balloon, we know how important literature is in so many children’s lives — and so did Miss Annie Moore. She created the children’s library room at the New York Public Library. This was at a time when children were not allowed into libraries, or if they were, they could not touch the books. Besides, reading wasn’t that important for children–especially girls. But Miss Moore thought otherwise… She brought in authors like Dr. Seuss and Ludwig Bemelmans to entertain the children. Annie Moore is a woman pioneer that is not that well known — but she should be! This book would make a great addition to any women’s studies curriculum for first to fourth graders. — Stephanie (RBB Staff)


Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss

Published: Abrams Books for Young Readers, April 2013; Pages: 48; Recommended Age: 7-10
The Internment of Japanese Americans during WWII is now a fairly well-known historical event.  But harder to comprehend is its impact on individuals.  In Barbed Wire Baseball, we get a glimpse of that impact on Kenichi Zenimura, a young man who had loved baseball all his life, and who had even played in an exhibition game against the Yankees—with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  At the internment camp in Gila River, he built a baseball field, creating a community effort as people pitched in to pick rocks and weeds to clear the ground, build bleachers, sew uniforms, and everything else that makes up baseball.  Six thousand people attended the first game, as people shared in the hope and passion of Zenimura, who became known as “the Father of Japanese American Baseball.” — Joan (RBB staff)
House of Secrets by Chris Columbus, Ned Vizzini, & Greg Call

Published: Balzer + Bray, April 2013; Pages: 496; Recommended Age: 8+
A great page turner. The Walker family moves to an ancient house on the San Francisco Bay after a mysterious “incident” costs Mr. Walker his job. None of the three children are excited, until they learn that their house was built by a famous novelist of adventure novels. Things are looking up for the children, at least until their parents disappear, the Wind Witch shows up, and the House is transported a long, long way from home. If you like your books filled with magic, skeletons, adventure, giants, Barbarians, sea battles and WWI pilots, then this is the book for you. Be warned, the Witch is really creepy, and she’s often the least of the Walker’s trouble! — Matt (RBB staff)

Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

Published: Candlewick, April 2013; Pages: 208; Recommended Age: 9-12

It is summer vacation, and 11-year-old  Annie has the same three wishes she has always had: 1. Get tall; 2. Have an adventure; 3. Meet her father.  She knows none of them will come true because 1. She is short, just like Gran; 2. Nothing ever happens in her tiny town; 3. Her father’s dead–Gran told her and her younger brother, Rew, that he was killed by an angry man when they were too little to remember.  When there’s a breakout at the prison on the other side of the Zebra Forest, two of Annie’s wishes come true in ways she never could have imagined. This graceful telling of an intriguing family story is full of secrets and suspense as well as love and forgiveness.  It will keep you turning pages until the hopeful and satisfying end.  An incredible book from a debut author. — Holly (RBB staff)

Ball by Mary Sullivanr

Published: Houghton Mifflin, April 2013; Pages: 30; Recommended Age: 3-103
This is the cutest book ever.  If you love dogs, you can absolutely relate.  All the dog can think about is his ball.  All day, even in his dreams.  He waits not-so-patiently for his girl to come home from school.  He is justly rewarded.  This is a sweet book for all readers.  Even non-readers.  After all, there is only one word!  I’ll leave you to guess what that word is. — Julie (RBB staff)

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

Published: Disney-Hyperion, May 2013; Pages: 320; Recommended Age: 12+
The Rules for Disappearing is about a sixteen-year-old girl who is in the Witness Protection Program and she’s had to move six different times under different identities in the last six months.  She ends up in a small town in Louisiana under the name Meg Jones.  This book has a little bit of everything:  romance, suspense, mystery, and humor.  The thing I liked most about this book was the voice of Meg, because she was an unusually convincing and relatable character. — Florence (Guest teen reviewer)

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Sheperd

Published: Balzer + Bray, Jan. 2013; Pages: 432; Recommended Age: 13+
The Madman’s Daughter is a book about a girl who is growing up in late nineteenth century London all by herself, struggling to get by.  Her father was a scientist, but disappeared after police figured out the gruesome experiments he was performing on animals.  One day, the girl figures out her father is alive, on a deserted island, and she takes the chance to see him again and sails to the island with his handsome assistant.  On the island, she figures out that her father’s madness is real, and she’s trapped on this island with his mad creations.  Maybe even worse, she figures out that she has some of her father’s madness in her, too…  First of all, I loved this book sooo much!!!  I highly recommend it to any teenager who loves a good romance in a Gothic thriller like me, because I could barely put it down, it’s a very, very good book. — Inge (Guest teen reviewer)

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Published: Greenwillow Books, Aug 2012; Pages: 448; Recommended Age: 13+
If it weren’t for Amy O. telling me to read this, and my daughter carrying it with her everywhere she went, I may have missed this perfect book.  A story of a very reluctant hero.  A young princess unsure of herself and her place in her world, grows to a strong revolutionary, full of power and magic.  Exciting court intrigue and battles, with a heartrending love thrown in.  I can’t wait to read the next in the trilogy, Crown of Embers.  And, then due out this fall, Bitter Kingdom.   If you love Kristin Cashore or Tamora Pierce, you will love this story.  — Julie (RBB staff)

Pretty Girl 13 by Liz Coley

Published: Katherine Tegan Books, March 2013; Pages: 352; Recommended Age: 14+

Pretty Girl 13 is a book about the abduction and sexual exploitation of a young teen.  It turns out that she had multiple personalities while she was kidnapped, and they helped her survive.  The real her didn’t remember anything about when she was kidnapped, but her different personalities start talking and communicating with her about what happened and she solves her own mystery as well as a lot of other things about her life.  I really liked this book, and it kept me guessing.  I couldn’t put it down.  It’s a very powerful story that is both heart-wrenching and beautiful.  I recommend it to any teen. — Inge B. (Guest teen reviewer)

Panic by Sharon Draper

Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, March 2013; Pages: 272; Recommended Age: 14+

is a book about a girl who is abducted right before a big dance recital, and her friends in the dance class and her family are crazy with worry.  The chapters alternated between the main character and her friends, who had problems of their own.  In the end, they all find their voice and learn a lesson.  I liked this book because it was very realistic and I could picture this story happening in real life today.  It captured the teenage perspective very well, I thought, and I liked the plotline.  I recommend it to any teenager! — Inge (Guest teen reviewer)

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

Published: Picador, Feb. 2013; Pages: 256; Recommended Age: Adult
Terry Tempest Williams’s mother left her fifty-four journals, making her promise not to look at them until she was gone. What Williams found when when she opened them provoked this collection of musings on what “voice” might mean.  In what is perhaps her most personal book, Williams recounts relationships and events that have shaped her and ruminates on what different roles a voice can take, all the while trying to bring meaning to her mother’s journals. — Joan (RBB staff)
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About the author

Joy Peters

Joy Peters - co-creator and writer for

Besides Family Fun Twin Cities, I spend my 9 to 5 at a day job pursuing my weird passion for calendars and organizing things as a legal secretary. When I get home I spend my time with my four kids, 10, 6, 4 and 1. My amazing husband is both a full-time musician and full-time stay-at-home dad. Together we run a small radio empire — SiaNet Radio — playing, promoting and enjoying the wide variety of local music and art in the Twin Cities. I juggle all this while writing about exploring the Twin Cities with kids. I couldn’t be happier.

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