Friday, January 27, 2012

Koalas, coral reefs, a trip around the world: new kids' books for the winter blahs

When it's cold and wintry outside, books can give kids a chance to escape the bad weather without leaving the house. Here's a group of fantasy, non-fiction, and picture books for young readers that will help warm up the imagination!

Coral Reefs, by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press) Nonfiction. In this follow-up to the award-winning Redwoods, a girl pulls a book about coral reefs off of a library shelf and, as she reads its ordinary yet informative text, experiences something quite marvelous. As in Redwoods, this book's words present interesting facts about a particular ecosystem -- while its illustrations tell a completely different story (here's a hint: in Redwoods, a bustling city corner changes into a forest right before the reader's eyes). If you like nature, science, or art, there's something in Coral Reefs just for you.

Killer Koalas from Outer Space: And Lots of Other Very Bad Stuff that Will Make Your Brain Explode! by Andy Griffiths; illustrated by Terry Denton (Feiwel & Friends) Graphic Novel. Sensitive readers who aren't fond of random violence or jokes about poop should just skip right to the next book in this list. The rest of you are going to enjoy Killer Koalas from Outer Space! It's a collection of short, ridiculously funny tales in comics form by the best-selling Australian author of The Day My Butt Went Psycho. Yes, there are killer koalas, but there are also killer giraffes -- as well as an abundance of gross-out moments and several fiendishly fractured fairy tales -- and it's all zany, wacky, icky fun.

If You Lived Here: Houses of the World, by Giles Laroche (Houghton Mifflin) Picture book. Are you fascinated by different types of houses? This book presents intricate, nearly-3D collage illustrations of dwellings from many regions of the world and throughout history -- from a Southern U.S. "dogtrot log house" to a Chilean palafitos (a house raised on stilts) to a Mongolian yurt and more! In addition to describing a wide variety of dwellings, this unusual book also briefly explains how different people live -- and why they live the way they do. For another book that compares life in different cultures (and has a similar style of pictures), check out Jeannie Baker's award-winning Mirror.

Secrets at Sea: A Novel, by Richard Peck; illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Dial Books) Fantasy. It's the late 1880s, and house-mouse Helena and her siblings have a dilemma: the human family whose home they occupy is making a voyage overseas -- meaning that crumbs will be in short supply for a while -- but mice are terrified of water. As head of her household since her parents' demise, Helena makes the bold call to stow away in the Cranstons' luggage, and many ship-board adventures follow. Clever, fun, and packed with memorable characters, this animal fantasy should be a winner with fans of other mousy tales like Lois Lowry's Bless This Mouse or Avi's Poppy.

Around the World, by Matt Phelan (Candlewick Press) Graphic Novel. This exciting true story in comic-book form traces the paths of three 19th century adventurers who, inspired by Jules Verne's fictional Around the World in Eighty Days, each travel around the world solo. Thomas Stevens, once a miner, rides a bicycle from California to Massachusetts and then (after crossing the ocean on a ship) all the way to Japan; fearless reporter Nellie Bly aims to circumnavigate the globe faster than her fictional counterpart; and retired sea captain Joshua Slocum attempts to become the first person ever to sail all the way around the world alone.

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