In these rather confused early springtime days, it can be hard to make a foolproof (and weatherproof!) plan. Well, we’ve got a solid one for you: Get lost in a great story! Here are five of our new favorites for bookworms of all ages and stages. Happy reading!
Written by B.C.R. Fegan and illustrated by Lenny Wen
Best for ages 3-8
It’s Kid Logic 101: if you put the word “don’t” in a title for young audiences, they’re definitely going to want to “do.” In the case of “Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32,” the adventuring tots wandering through an otherworldly abode — the Hotel of Hoo — make a pretty good case for ignoring the titular advice. (“Through door number 20 are cute little elves/They help in the library and sleep on the shelves.” Would you be able to resist seeing what’s happening behind the next doors?) My 6-year-old declared that “this was amazing, and so magical!” B.C.R. Fegan’s sweetly mischievous text and Lenny Wen’s vibrant illustrations welcome the youngest readers into a world of gentle suspense and silly surprises behind each door — yes, even that last one.
Storytelling from Beatrice Bowles, Kirk Waller, Joel ben Izzy, Bill Gordh, Octopretzel, Diane Ferlatte, Mark Binder, Rick Huddle, David Novak, Jonathan Murphy, Andy Offutt Irwin, Sheila Arnold Jones, Adam Booth, Erik Pearson, Mike Phirman, Kirsten Vangsness, Janet Varney, Busy Philipps, Mark Gagliardi and Hal Lublin
Best for ages 4-10
“Story Party” is a wonderful accumulation of spoken word tales for kids which operates on the (correct) assumption that you’re never too old for excellent storytelling. Each chapter is based on a different theme, from international fables to Tricky Tricksters with even a foray into singalongs. (We adored the Sweet Tooth segment; stories about desserts? Seconds, please!) This collection is perfect for road trips, quiet play and — my personal favorite — something for the younger set to listen to raptly while dinner is getting thrown together. With more than eight hours of stories told by the pros — and available exclusively on Audible — “Story Party” provides a marvelous change of pace from your kids’ usual media, and might just turn the page into the new Avid Reader chapter in their lives.
Written by Tracey Hecht and illustrated by Kate Liebman
Best for ages 5-12
If your kid is a creature of the night, then she’ll definitely need to know about the Nocturnal Brigade, a trio of unlikely friends — with exceptionally different personalities. The Brigade is comprised of Dawn the red fox, Tobin the pangolin and Bismark the sugar glider, and in this, the first of the series, it’s up to the crew to investigate the sudden disappearance of a multitude of animals. With plenty of twists, turns, and humorous dialogue — not to mention a focus on anti-bullying and empathy — this legit mystery is an absolute pleasure to read. Our resident 8-year-old gushed, “Dawn is my favorite character! She’s brave and unstoppable,” while her younger sister thrilled for the new early reader book in the canon, “The Moonlight Meeting,” for its entry point into the Brigade’s world. Another reason to love this book and series? Film director and author Hecht created a Read-Aloud Writing Program in schools around NYC during the book’s launch, which has since expanded to include 60 schools, libraries and bookstores across the country — including Palatine’s own Hunting Ridge Elementary School as part of their One Book One School Program, which will even feature an author visit at the end of the month.
Written by Ann M. Martin and Annie Parnell, and illustrated by Ben Hatke
Best for ages 8-11
Whether you have fond memories of the original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (and her enviable farm which cured childhood misbehavior) or are new to the books starring her niece Missy, the town of Little Spring Valley is exactly where you’ll want to sit and visit awhile. Annie Parnell, the great-granddaughter of original series creator Betty McDonald, has teamed up with Ann M. Martin (of The Babysitter’s Club fame) to bring the Upside-Down House and the magically helpful members of the farm to the modern era. My crew decided that Missy is the babysitter/neighborhood honorary big sister of their dreams— the one who has all of the answers and is always down for a royal picnic in a nearby field. This is the second in the Missy Piggle-Wiggle series, and is equally enjoyable to readers practicing their read-aloud skills as well as their parents pondering if there really is a cure to smarty-pantsiness.
Written by Anna Elliott and Charles Veley
Best for ages 12 and up
As if raising a new generation of Sherlock Holmes fans isn’t reward enough, the real prize of reading this series aloud is getting to sink into the thoroughly delightful world of Sherlock and his daughter Lucy. Written by a real life father/daughter team, Charles Veley and Anna Elliott seamlessly integrate narratives of the long-suffering Watson with that of Lucy James, a young American actress who stumbles upon the very surprising truth of her very brilliant parentage. Although “Remember, Remember” isn’t the first in the series (two prior books were penned by Veley alone), you won’t feel adrift in the slightest; we’ll leave that up to an amnesiac James, facedown in front of the British Museum, as she attempts to recall who’s following her — and why — and where has she heard the name Sherlock Holmes before? Fast-paced, immersive and recommended by the Library of Clean Reads, this Victorian romp is a fun one to share with your older kids. (Incidentally, back in childhood, that’s exactly how Veley inspired his daughter Elliott in the first place.)