What books should you pick up for the young readers this year?
MPR News host Stephanie Curtis discussed the best kids books from this year — and some favorites from years past — with Lisa Von Drasek, curator of the Children's Literature Research Collections at the University of Minnesota, and Holly Weinkauf, owner of Red Balloon Bookshop.
Board books and picture books
"Mother Bruce" by Ryan T. HigginsBruce the bear is a foodie. He loves to cook, and so one day he brings home a batch of goose eggs.
"When he gets home, his life is turned upside down because some of those eggs hatch. The goslings start following him around," Weinkauf said. The book follows Bruce's adventures with his new feathered friends. "It's a great read-aloud and a great laugh-out-loud."
"Book-O-Beards: A Wearable Book," written by Donald Lemke and illustrated by Bob Lentz
Local authors Lemke and Lentz have created a series of wearable books featuring beards, teeth and hats. When you hold them up, they act like a disguise. With the beard book, you can try on a pirate beard, a Santa beard and more.
"I Am the Wolf.... and Here I Come" by Benedicte Guettier
Von Drasek recommends this book for anyone with a new baby. It features a wolf who is ready to go — he just needs to get dressed first.
"Gossie" by Olivier Dunrea
This little gosling loves her bright red boots, but one day they go missing. Little readers can follow along and help Gossie find them.
"The Whisper" by Pamela Zagarenski
Caldecott-winning author Zagarenski tells the story of a little girl and a magical book.
"It's a great celebration of imagination, and the idea that we all bring something different to every book we read," Weinkauf said.
"The Secret Bay," written by Kimberly Ridley and illustrated by Rebekah Raye
Recommended by a caller as a perfect book for kids who love science, "The Secret Bay" is one in a series of books that feature a story in verse, paired with scientifically-accurate illustrations.
"Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle," written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin
This poetic picture book tells the story of all the different stages of water, from a lake to fog to rain.
"The Blue Whale" by Jenni Desmond
Another nonfiction picture book, "The Blue Whale" mixes science with stunning illustrations.
"Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France," written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated Iacopo Bruno
Weinkauf and Von Drasek both recommended this nonfiction book for young readers. It tells the story of Benjamin Franklin's trip to France, where he debunked a doctor who claimed he could hypnotize and heal people. The book explains the scientific method and how Franklin used it to expose the hoax.
"Toys Meet Snow," written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. ZelinskyThree toys — a stingray, a buffalo and a red rubber ball — decide to go out and investigate the snow.
"Beyond the Pond" by Joseph KueflerThis debut picture book from a Minnesota author follows a young boy as he explores his backyard pond.
"What I love about this book is that there's no limit to this young boy exploring outside, where his imagination takes him," Weinkauf said.
"Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear," written by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
There was a real Winnie behind Winnie-the-Pooh, and she was a bear who lived during World War I. The great-granddaughter of the real veterinarian who cared for Winnie wrote this touching true story.
"Beloved Dog" by Maira Kalman
What's the best part about having a dog? Kalman explores everything that a dog brings to your life: excitement, comfort and love.
"Last Stop on Market Street" by Matt De La Pena
Weinkauf described De La Pena's picture book as a lovely story about a boy and his grandmother exploring the city. Their routine includes serving dinner in a soup kitchen on Sundays.
"It's a lovely book that shows how even things we often don't think of as special ... can create bonds in a family," Weinkauf said.
Books for early readers and older
"Ballet Cat" by Bob Shea
Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony can't decide how to spend the day. Sparkles wants to craft, but Ballet Cat just wants to dance.
"It's the story of two friends who have different ideas about how things should go. It's full of lots of silliness and in the end, they end up sharing some pretty big secrets with each other," Weinkauf said.
"The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake," written by Robin Newman and illustrated by Deborah Zemke
"It's in 'Dragnet'-style," Von Drasek said of this silly mystery. "It's a fun read-aloud, as well as good for emerging readers."
"The Story of Diva and Flea," written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Fans of Willems' picture books will fall in love with his chapter book about a brave dog and streetwise cat in Paris. Von Drasek said the book is not only charming, it's a high-quality gift that feels like "a family heirloom."
"The 39-Story Treehouse" by Andy Griffiths
This series invites readers to explore the wacky adventures at an ever-expanding tree house. There's an active volcano, a chocolate waterfall and even pet baby dinosaurs.
The "Timmy Failure" series by Stephen Pastis
For kids who love "Diary of Wimpy Kid" or the "Captain Underpants" series, Pastis' stories will be a perfect fit.
"Circus Mirandus" by Cassie Beasley
Fans of magic and "Harry Potter" will find a lot to love in this book that calls to mind Roald Dahl's clever wit.
"It's got depth, it's got humor, it's got great adventure and the audio book is excellent," Von Drasek said.
"Echo" by Pam Munoz Ryan
The book follows a harmonica through the lives of different children, changing time and place in this tale of historical fiction with a magical twist.
"The Blackthorn Key" by Kevin Sands
"It has explosions, secret formulas, an apothecary, mystery and danger," Weinkauf said.
"The Fourteenth Goldfish" by Jennifer L. Holm
Grieving the loss of her goldfish, 11-year-old Ellie goes on a science adventure, exploring questions of life and death.
"Stickman Odyssey" by Christopher Ford
Stickman isn't just a doodle — he has adventures. This graphic novel series is great even for kids who say they don't love to read.
"Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor," written by Jon Sciezska and illustrated by Brian Biggs
Frank Einstein is a budding scientist, but his experiments have mixed results. Readers will remember Sciezska's trademark wit from "The Stinky Cheese Man."
"The Hired Girl" by Laura Amy Schlitz
This historical fiction novel, set in 1911, is written as the diary of a 14-year-old farm girl who longs for a different life filled with art. She travels to Baltimore where she gets work with a wealthy family.
"The Dangerous Book for Boys" by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
This is a guide to adventure. The book is filled with instructions for everything from finding true north to building a go-cart. And it's definitely not just for boys.