The Library has added a bunch of exciting new materials for younger readers in the past few weeks. From popular movie tie-ins to engaging nonfiction topics, our kids' collection is always improving. We are especially excited to have added a few new titles that redefine what it means to "read a book". Adventerous young readers, come on in, and check out our...

 

Outside-the-Box Books

 

 

Journey and Quest by Aaron Becker

 

You might think that we, as library-type people, like to angrily wave our fingers at children who ask for books with lots of pictures and no words. As fun as that sounds, it can no longer be done thanks to a guy named Aaron Becker.

 

Becker's book Journey and its sequel, Quest, prove once and for all that pictures are worth thousands of words... or they're at least worth 333 words, which is the word count of Where the Wild Things Are. And that's not an arbitrary comparison; Becker's books inspire the same sort of wonder and sense of infinite possibility that made Maurice Sendak a superstar in the world of Children's literature.

 

Wait a minute, you may be thinking. How can you possibly compare the author of Where the Wild Things Are to a "writer" who didn't even write anything?! I know. I'm liable to lose my seat at the cool librarians' table for that sort of talk. Doubt me if you will, but all you have to do is flip through the first few pages of Journey to understand that these are much more than "picture books". The story is too rich, too full, to use the "picture book" label. In fact, I don't really know what to call it. Maybe "non-narrative narrative"?

 

Speaking of the story, it's about some bored children who travel to new worlds and solve adventure-ish problems by altering their surroundings and creating objects using magic crayons. I almost hesitate to add that part because now you're going to think, Oh, so it's a lame old picture book and a Harold and the Purple Crayon ripoff. Sigh.

 

For parents worried that a book without words is a waste of your kid's reading time, I can personally vouch for its educational value. I brought home several new books to my daughter for "kid approval" and it was obvious that Journey and Quest were the most engaging and mentally stimulating titles in the stack. No, these books won't help anyone learn to read, but the process of following a visual narrative and using one's imagination to fill in the blanks works out a whole different set of brain muscles that traditional kids' books don't flex.

 

And yes, I realize that there are not any actual muscles in the brain.

 

Battle Bunny by John Scieszka and Mac Barnett

 

Don't try this at home.

 

Take one mellow, classically-styled book about a "Birthday Bunny" and add one number two pencil, and what do you get? Battle Bunny, of course.

Scieszka and Barnett are pioneers of a new way of authoring children's books that can only be described as "creatively destructive editing". Or "destructively creative editing". Or "awesome scribbling". With a few (okay, with a lot of) well-placed pencil strokes, the charming tale of the Birthday Bunny disappears, and in its place emerges the tough-as-nails, weapon-wielding Battle Bunny.

 

Parents of younger readers are encouraged to explain to their children that the book was only made to look like somebody scribbled all over it, and that it is not a very terrific idea to draw on our library books.

 

 

 

 A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell

 

McDonnell's tale is similar to Battle Bunny in that it is presented as a "normal" children's book that has gotten "messed up". But instead of pencil scribbles, this one has various food stains. It differs from Battle Bunny in that the hero of A Perfectly Messed-Up Story actually acknowledges the messed-up pages.

 

And he doesn't like them one bit.

 

In short, it's a story about a guy who is really happy to be in a story, but then the story can never get started because all of the pages are getting ruined, and so there's no story... OR IS THERE? And it's every bit as weird and amusing as it sounds.

 

If you're the type who believes that every kids' book needs to have a "moral", don't worry. This is more than just a book with a bunch of fake stains on the pages. The nature of the narrative--offbeat as it may be--actually says some pretty deep things about making the most of a sticky situation, and taking ownership of your own attitude.

 

 Nick & Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder

 

Nick & Tesla is a juvenile novel (i.e., a book for kids who are ready to take on "chapter books", but aren't yet allowed to read young adult novels about zombies eating vampires or whatever.) It has everything a good novel needs: mystery, danger, friendship, and a bunch of awesome science experiments readers can do at home!

 

W-w-w-w-wha-waaait, WHAAAAT?!

 

That's right, Nick & Tesla isn't any ordinary novel. It seamlessly incorporates science projects as a way of storytelling, kind of the same way other novels might incorporate maps or letters. And we're not talking about lame "put this pile of rocks into a glass of water and measure something, something, yawn" science projects; we're talking about building rocket cars out of soda bottles and building giant laser beams to blow up the moon* and stuff like that, yo.

 

And if it makes a librarian say "yo", you know it has to be good--that's a scientific fact.

 

 

*Nick & Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab will not actually teach you how to blow up the moon with lasers.