Curious City Besties Awards ’17: Best KidLit for Ages 4-8

Posted in * Grades 00-02, * Grades 03-06, Zee Lastest and Greatest

What makes a picture book or early reader a child’s “bestie” or constant companion?

What 2017 picture books did you turn to again and again?

Curious City boldly declares their 2017 “Besties” — children’s books that have been our best friends this fine KidLit year!
(Look for the Besties Awards for ages 8-18 here!)
Image © Sydney Hanson from Escargot (FSG)


Best Bucket Boost by a Bovine

RAISIN, the Littlest Cow
By Miriam Busch & Larry Day
ISBN-13: 9780062427632
Published by Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

Raisin loves being the littlest cow in the herd. All the other cows dote on her, and life is grand.

But one day, Raisin’s mother has a new little cow . . . one who is even smaller than Raisin. And suddenly everything changes. Raisin has never liked change, and this one is the worst. Now no one pays attention to her, the new baby smells funny, and even the weather won’t cooperate.

But then, when absolutely everything is going wrong, Raisin discovers a change in herself—one that delights the entire herd. 
Even (and especially!) the new baby.


Raisin, the Littlest Cow: Story Hour Kit (PDF)



Best Pseudo Death Scene by a Possum

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective
By Jason Gallaher
Illustrated by Jess Pauwels
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN-13: 9781481462716
Age Range: 4 – 6 Years

Help Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, keep his woods safe in this hilarious who-who-dun-it. What happened to Perry the Possum? Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, is on the case! Did Debbie the Duck whack Perry with her wicked wings? Or did Freddie the Frog soak Perry in his sickening slime? And what if the culprit is closer to home than Whobert expects?


Whobert Whover Story Hour Kit (PDF)

Make your own Whobert Whover Hat (PDF)


Best Way to Become Wild About Bedtime

If I Were a Kangaroo:
A Bedtime Tale

By Mylisa Larsen
Illustrated by Anna Raff
Published by Penguin Young Readers Group
ISBN-13: 9780451469588
Age Range: 3 Months to 3 Years

It’s time for sleep, and this fun-to-read rhyming tale envisions the bedtime rituals of animals from whales to otters, squirrels to gorillas.

So curl up, imagine your favorite animal, and…zzzzzzzzzzz.


If I Were a Kangaroo: Story Hour Kit (PDF)



Best Godzilla Gulp and Blubber

By Rob Sanders
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13: 9781481457798
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

This just in! There’s a Rodzilla on the loose! Is he a monster…or just your typical toddler? Tune in for the full report in this riotous picture book from Rob Sanders and Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat.

Rodzilla is the mightiest toddler to ever roam the streets of the city. Marvel at the sight of his chubby monstrosity. Gaze at his toothless grin. Take a whiff of his…no, don’t do that. Only a mother could love such a creature.

Rodzilla is taking over the city (that is really his playpen) and causing all sorts of chaos for its inhabitants (um, his parents). Can he be stopped before he toddles one step too far? Told as an action-packed news report, kids will love following Rodzilla on his mighty tear through the city, and ultimately back to his parents’ arms. Because sometimes even monsters need a little help.



Rodzilla: Story Hour Kit (PDF)

Turn into Rodzilla with a Rodzilla Mask and a Rodzilla Bus Model to clutch. Make your own monster goo with the Rodzilla Slime Recipe.


Best Pair of Books to Welcome Immigrants and Refugees and to Embrace Cultural Difference

Ice in the Jungle
By Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar
Published by Child’s Play-International
ISBN-13: 9781846437304
Age Range: 3 – 7 Years

When Ice’s mother tells her that they’re going to move to an exciting new place, Ice isn’t so sure. She likes her home and her friends, and the fun they have together. The journey takes forever, and their new home is very strange. Everything is different – the weather, the food, the people and the language. Ice tries to make friends, but everyone seems too busy and preoccupied to care.

Will anything happen to help Ice feel more at home?

A charming debut picture book about the anxieties and hardships of moving, with a heart-warming, positive ending.
That’s NOT How You Do It!
By Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar
Published by Child’s Play-International
ISBN-13: 9781846439285
Age Range: 3 – 7 Years

Lucy knows how to do everything. She knows how to eat with a spoon and fork, play the xylophone, paint elephants – and lots more besides! All her friends ask her for help if they need to know the right way to do something. When Toshi arrives, Lucy thinks he can’t do anything properly at all. He eats differently, plays strange music, and he definitely can’t paint elephants. She can barely hide her frustration. And when she finally tries to teach Toshi the right way to do things, she learns a very important lesson herself. A simple, funny tale about understanding, respecting and enjoying our differences.



Best Display of Kindness (and Simultaneous Comeuppance of Those Boat Bullies)

Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue
By Calista Brill
Illustrated by Tad Carpenter
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN-13: 9780062366184
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

Bill is a tugboat. Mabel is a barge. Together they go up and down the choppy river.

The other ships are big and vain. They tease Bill and Mabel. But when a kitten falls in the water, it’s up to Bill and Mabel to save the day!


Tugboat Bill Story Hour Kit (PDF)


Best Use of Chrysalis as a Surprise Ending

My Busy Green Garden
By Terry Pierce
Illustrated by Carol Schwartz
Series: Tilbury House Nature Book Series
Published by Tilbury House Publishers
ISBN-13: 9780884484950
Age Range: 4 – 6 Years

This is my busy green garden.
There’s a surprise
In clever disguise,
That hangs in my busy green garden.
This is a ladybug dawdling so,
Near the surprise, in clever disguise,
That hangs in my busy green garden.
This is a honeybee buzzing below
The red spotted ladybug dawdling so,
Near the surprise, in clever disguise,
That hangs in my busy green garden.

So begins this lyrical tribute to the bugs, bees, and birds that make the garden such a busy place. With each turned page, more visitors appear, and all the while the “surprise”—a chrysalis—changes unnoticed until, on the last page, a butterfly emerges and flies away across the garden’s well-tended borders. Back-of-book notes about the natural histories of the garden’s denizens complete this lovely and lively portrait of backyard nature, which is also a gentle meditation on the rewards of paying attention. A chipmunk hides on every page to divert and engage young readers


My Busy Green Garden: STEM Story Hour Kit (PDF)


Best Piratical, Robotical Rock Opera by a One Girl Sencación

Starring Carmen!
By Anika Denise
Illustrated by Lorena Alvarez Gómez
Published by ABRAMS
ISBN-13: 9781419723216
Age Range: 5 – 7 Years

Meet Carmen! She LOVES the spotlight and applause. She’s an actress, a singer, a dancer—a one-girl sensación! She exhausts her parents with her nightly performances and completely overshadows Eduardo, her adoring little brother. But when Eduardo shows his big sister how much he loves her in a way even Carmen can’t ignore, will Carmen realize that the stage is big enough for two?

Exuberant illustrations by Lorena Alvarez Gómez offer the perfect complement to Anika Denise’s warm, Spanish-sprinkled text in this celebration of theater, family, and imagination.



DOWNLOAD Starring Carmen: Activities in English (PDF)
DOWNLOAD Starring Carmen: Activities in Spanish (PDF)
DOWNLOAD Starring Carmen Poster: Reading Rocks (11x 17 PDF)
DOWNLOAD Starring Carmen Poster: Reading Star (11x 17 PDF)


Best Handy Girl to Board a Seaworthy Sloop

Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates
By April Jones Prince
Illustrated by Steven Salerno

Once upon a seaworthy sloop lived three pirates: the big, pilfering Papa, the medium-sized, menacing Mama, and the small, bonny Baby, a pirate-in-training. They were excellent pirates, but not very good housekeepers, so their gruel wasn’t tasty, their stools weren’t sturdy, and their hammocks weren’t hung properly. Luckily for them, Goldenlocks happened along when they were out for a row in the harbor. April Jones Prince’s rollicking text and Steven Salerno’s swashbuckling paintings make Goldenlocks and the Three Pirates a first-rate adventure and a spirited take on Goldilocks.


DOWNLOAD Goldenlocks & the 3 Pirates: Tattoos (PDF)
DOWNLOAD Goldenlocks & the 3 Pirates: Join the Crew (PDF)
DOWNLOAD Goldenlocks & the 3 Pirates: Pirate Flag (PDF)


Best Performance by Bloodsucking Ducks

I Love You More Than the Smell of Swamp Gas
By Kevan Atteberry
Illustrated by Kevan Atteberry
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN-13: 9780062408716
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

Little monster wonders: Does Papa love the swamp more than he loves his little monster?

Papa and little monster are on a skink chase in a dark, stinky swamp.

Do you love me as much as the skink that you chase…or the smell of the swamp…or the beasts in this place?

From the author-illustrator of Bunnies!!! and Puddles!!!, as well as the illustrator of Tickle Monster, Kevan Atteberry, comes a monstrously tender and silly tale guaranteed to elicit lots of giggles and monster hugs. Perfect for Halloween and Father’s Day, as well as for fans of Dan Santat and Peter Brown.


DOWNLOAD I Love You More Than Swamp Gas: Spider Parade (PDF)


Best Use of a French Accent to Entice One to Eat More Salad

By Dashka Slater
Illustrated by Sydney Hanson
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-13: 9780374302818
Age Range: 4 – 6 Years

Bonjour! Escargot is a beautiful French snail who wants only two things:

1. To be your favorite animal.
2. To get to the delicious salad at the end of the book.

But when he gets to the salad, he discovers that there’s a carrot in it. And Escargot hates carrots. But when he finally tries one—with a little help from you!—he discovers that it’s not so bad after all.


Escargot Story Hour Kit (PDF)


Best Evidence That You are Already a Superhero(ine)!

By Stacy McAnulty
Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Published by Running Press Kids
ISBN-13: 9780762457823
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

An empowering picture book for all kids that demonstrates to children that they can be real-life superheroes and that all kids have what it takes to be brave.

Superheroes seek adventure, never give up, and stay calm when others are afraid. Superheroes are brave. But they aren’t the only ones.

Kids are brave every day. When they are told they are too little, but accomplish something big. When they check for monsters under the bed, just in case. When they face something uncertain, whether a thunderstorm or a hospital visit. When they stand up for what’s right, even when it means facing consequences.

Like superheroes, brave kids can save the world, just by being brave.

Thoughtful text from Stacy McAnulty paired with vibrant illustrations from Joanne Lew-Vriethoff encourage kids to be brave in all the ways they can: trying new things, speaking their mind, confronting bullies, and more. This book will inspire kids to follow their hearts and to have courage, no matter the situation.


Look for a series of activities for the classroom and events here.



Best Time to Say, “You Had Me at Hello”

Hello Goodbye Dog
By Maria Gianferrari
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
Published by Roaring Brook Press
ISBN-13: 9781626721777
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

For Zara’s dog, Moose, nothing is more important than being with his favorite girl. So when Zara has to go to school, WHOOSH, Moose escapes and rushes to her side.

Hello, Moose!

Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed at school and Moose has to go back home.

Goodbye, Moose.

But Moose can’t be held back for long. Through a series of escalating escapes, this loyal dog always finds her way back.


8.5 ” x 11 ” Folding Activity
Hello Goodbye Dog: Folding Activity: 8x11 B&W (PDF)
Hello Goodbye Dog: Folding Activity: 8×11 Color (PDF)

11 ” x 17 ” Folding Activity
Hello Goodbye Dog: Folding Activity: 11×17 B&W (PDF)
Hello Goodbye Dog: Folding Activity: 11x17 Color (PDF)


Hello Goodbye Dog: Reading Poster (PDF)


Best Mermaid Dream Leading to Environmental Stewardship

Ana and the Sea Star
By R. Lynne Roelfs
Illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Published by Tilbury House Publishers
ISBN-13: 9780884485223
Age Range: 4 – 6 Years

This beautiful picture book celebrates the power of imagination and an appreciation of the natural world.A young girl finds a starfish on the beach and wants to show it to her mother at home, but doesn’t want to take it from its home. With encouragement from her dad and a little imagination, Ana is able to let the sea star go and yet keep it with her at the same time. Back matter invites children into the lives and experiences of a jellyfish, stingray, loggerhead turtle and other sea creatures.


Best Reason to Flex Your Literary Muscle & Lift a Biography Off the Shelf

Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth
By Don Tate
Illustrated by Don Tate
Published by Charlesbridge
ISBN-13: 9781580896283
Age Range: 6 – 9 Years

Little Friedrich Müller was a puny weakling who longed to be athletic and strong like the ancient Roman gladiators. He exercised and exercised. But he to no avail.

As a young man, he found himself under the tutelage of a professional body builder. Friedrich worked and worked. He changed his name to Eugen Sandow and he got bigger and stronger. Everyone wanted to become “as strong as Sandow.”

Inspired by his own experiences body-building, Don Tate tells the story of how Eugen Sandow changed the way people think about strength and exercise and made it a part of everyday life.

Backmatter includes more information about Sandow, suggestions for exercise, an author’s note, and a bibliography.





Best Inspiration to Speak up, Sing Out, and March On (No Matter What Your Age)

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist
By Cynthia Levinson
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9781481400701
Age Range: 5 – 10 Years
Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.

Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.

So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il!

Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.



Best Spelling Bee to Show the Power of Kindness in the Most Unkind of Times

Step Right Up:
How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
By Donna Janell Bowman
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
Published by Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Age Range: 7 – 12 Years

William “Doc” Key had a special way with animals. Growing up enslaved in Tennessee, Doc was sent to plantations around the state to care for sick and wounded animals. When the Civil War ended and Doc was freed, he began to dream of breeding a winning racehorse. But those dreams were dashed when his colt was born weak and sickly. Although many people would have euthanized the colt, Doc nursed him back to health and named him Jim.

Noticing a level of curiosity and eagerness in the horse, Doc began teaching Beautiful Jim Key first to recognize letters, then to read, write, add, subtract, and more. Doc soon took his talented horse on the road, spreading a message of patience and kindness, over cruelty, to all animals.

With striking illustrations by Daniel Minter, Step Right Up is the inspiring story of one man and one horse who showed the world the power of kindness.



All produced by Lee & Low Books

Download Step Right Up: Educators Guide

Download Step Right Up: Kindness Pledge (B&W)

Download Step Right Up: Kindness Pledge (Color)



Best Wig Stability at a High Velocity

What This Story Needs Is a Vroom and a Zoom
Series: Pig in a Wig
By Emma J. Virjan
Illustrated by Emma J. Virjan
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

The fifth and final book in the popular PIG IN A WIG series! What this story needs is a pig in a wig, rushing to her car, dashing into place, ready to start the cross-country race!

Pig zooms off and takes the lead! But oh, no! There’s a rumble, a pop, and a hiss, and Pig gets stuck in the mud. Will she be able to get back on track and finish the race? From author-illustrator Emma J. Virján comes another funny read-aloud with catchy, rhythmic text and big, bold illustrations featuring everyone’s favorite pig in a wig!


Look for a series of activities for the classroom, events, and individual readers here.



Best Evidence That Reading is the Greatest Party Your Brain Can Throw

Joe and Sparky, Party Animals!
Series: Joe and Sparky Early Readers
By Jamie Michalak
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Published by Candlewick Press
ISBN-13: 9780763682064
Age Range: 5 – 9 Years

The endearingly mismatched duo has their hands full when a party for a friend goes comically awry.

One day Joe, an exuberant giraffe, hears a commotion coming from another part of the famous cageless zoo he calls home. Joined by his small, green, slightly more serious turtle friend, Sparky, Joe discovers the source of the hullabaloo: a group of children — or noisy short people, as Joe and Sparky call them — having a party. Inspired, Joe decides to throw a party for his pet worm, Wiggy. There’s just one problem: Sparky is not entirely sure if Wiggy even exists! What will happen when every animal in the zoo shows up to Wiggy’s party with presents and cake? Worm or no worm, this silly, satisfying tale is sure to leave new readers smiling.



Joe and Sparky: Activity Guide (PDF)
Created by Candlewick Press

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