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They Put THAT Into a Book for Kids?! Unexpected Elements in Our 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

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2014 has come and gone. The holiday gift giving season has passed. Things are beginning to settle into place in 2015. Now is the time to sit back and assess what the best books of the previous year were. And lucky you, a team of committed, hardworking children's librarians have already culled through the mountains of content in 2014 and produced what I can only describe as the world's most beautiful book list you will ever have a chance to see. Yes, it's the 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list for 2014. Now in its 103rd year, the list does a beautiful job of presenting kids with an array of topics and treats of every subject.

Now if you're a children's librarian, you're aware that books for kids aren't the namby-pamby babyish fare you might expect. No sir, we are in a veritable golden age of great books for kids right now. So good, in fact, that little elements you might NOT expect can be found on some of the pages of the most seemingly innocuous books. Don't believe me? Here's a little something surprising from each of the categories we explored on our list:

Picture Books (for children ages 2-6)

Princess Sparkle-Heart Gets a Makeover by Josh Schneider

Princess S

Have you ever wished that there was a book out there that showed what would happen if you combined a sweet little tea party/princess title, all sugary and happy dappy with, oh I dunno, FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER? This is one of those books that seems like it's going in one direction and then makes a sharp right turn and swerves into entirely new territory. Basically, it's awesome, but you'd never know it from the title.

Stories for Younger Readers (for children ages 6-8)

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Brian Biggs

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor

Did you know that the taser was named after a children's book character? Yep, good old Tom Swift and his electric rifle proved to be the inspiration. Don't remember Tom Swift? Well back in the day it was one of the most popular book series being published. Chock full of space travel and adventure and inventions. Even folks today are inspired by the books, and that includes former National Ambassador of Children's Literature Jon Scieszka. In his new Frank Einstein series Jon combines good old-fashioned science fiction with wackiness. The name of the book's hero? Frank Einstein. And the name of his arch rival? The guy who rips off other ideas at the drop of a hat? Edison. Add in a chimp who likes to snack on ants from a private box and wear finely tailored suits and you've got yourself one heckuva kooky book. Funny too, for that matter.

Stories for Older Readers (for children ages 9-12)

The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne. Illustrated by Alexander Jansson

The Cabinet of Curiosities

If 2014 could be called anything maybe it would be The Year of the Icky, Creepy, GAH Books. Boy, oh boy, there were a lot of them published for kids. Some were good. Some were bad. And some were just bloody blooming awful. Fortunately for all parties concerned, The Cabinet of Curiosities was one of the best. It is, however, a creep-fest. I sure hope you like tales of carnivorous trees, kids being compelled to eat cakes that look like themselves, adaptations of some of Hans Christian Andersen's most out there tales, and mirrors that should NOT be in bedrooms because this book has it all. Good luck going to sleep after reading some of these tales to yourself tonight!

Graphic Books

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood by Nathan Hale

Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood by Nathan Hale

So say you wanted to write a graphic novel for kids about WWI. Yeah. Good luck with all that. Aside from being woefully complex (how much did YOU retain from your junior high history classes?) the Americans don't even come into it until the end. Fortunately, cartoonist Nathan Hale figured out the perfect solution. It goes something like this:

Step One: Turn each nation into a different animal. The English = bulldogs, The Australians = Kiwi, The Americans = Cute Fluffy Bunnies (wait . . . what?).

Step Two: Break the war up into different years. Show the escalation. Pinpoint distinct battles.

Step Three: Let 'er rip.

Don't think it could possibly work? Then check it out for yourself. And prepare to be amazed.

Folktales and Fairy Tales

The Fox and the Crow by Manasi Subramaniam. Illustrated by Culpeo S. Fox

The Fox and the Crow

Imagine an Aesop fable rewritten by Alfred Hitchcock. Need I say more?

Poetry

Food Trucks! by Mark Todd

Food Trucks

Honestly it was only a matter of time before they started making children's books about food trucks. Happily, this book just sort of revels in the wonders of international cuisine. Best of all? The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck gets a shout-out!

Nonfiction

At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins. Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen.

At Home In Her Tomb

A show of hands. How many of you could name the world's most perfectly preserved ancient corpse? No? Did you even know it was from China? That it dated back to the Han dynasty and that the body in question, Lady Dai, was so perfect when they found her that her joints were still loose and her skin still soft? This book doesn't just go into bloated corpse matters (though there's plenty of that on hand) but also the crazy treasures they found in her burial site. Seriously, this book is good reading for every age. Why should kids have all the fun?

That's just a sampling of some of the titles on our list. So go check 'em out! The library has plenty of copies of each and every one. There's no telling what other facts and details you'll locate when you dive in. Check out the full list online or  download the PDF.

Happy reading!

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