The Kids Are All Right

Favorite Children’s Birthday Books

Happy New Year, Kid Lit friends!

I hope everyone had a restful holiday and a exuberant new year! I am writing this newsletter from the Catskill mountains, where it’s 9 degrees and snowing. In the past I’ve not been such a huge fan of freezing weather (I was raised in sunny southern California), but it is absolutely beautiful here! After taking my kids sledding and snow shoeing, I might finally be a cold weather convert.

Sponsored by Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms.​ ​Her own name is a homonym, and she​ ​even​ ​gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein). Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different.​

When a storm hits their town, Rain goes missing. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story from the New York Times bestselling author of The Baby-Sitter’s Club series, Ann M. Martin.

The day this newsletter publishes – January 7th – is my birthday! I usually love making a big deal out of other people’s birthdays but don’t usually make a huge deal of my birthday – honestly, I sometimes forget about it! – but since I’ve had kids they love having any excuse to celebrate. And because celebrations are fun even when everyone is tired from the holidays and it’s bitter cold, I thought I’d acknowledge my birthday for once and round up some of my favorite birthday books.

When’s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

I adore this birthday book! Filled with energy and celebration, this book does a perfect job at capturing the excitement and joy that comes with a birthday. The size is great as well; tall and narrow, it’s like a big greeting card.

when’s my birthday?
where’s my birthday?
how many days until my birthday?

i’d like a pony for my birthday
and a necklace for my birthday.
i’d like a chicken for my birthday.
i’d like a ball to bounce and bounce.

Alfie by Thyra Hedra

This picture book is absolutely adorable. Nia gets a turtle she names Alfie on her sixth birthday, and she excitedly introduces him to all of her pets and shows him her best dance moves. But Alfie is not so demonstrative, and by her seventh birthday Nia pretty much leaves Alfie alone. Meanwhile, Alfie is hard at work brainstorming the perfect birthday present for Nia…

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

I cry whenever I read this book! Here is one of the verses:
When you were too small
To tell me hello,

I knew you were someone
I wanted to know.
Paired with Emily’s signature illustrations, this book is an absolutely birthday book treasure.

Jenny’s Birthday Book by Esther Averil

I love all of the Jenny books by Esther Averil! While most of them are chapter books, this one is a sweet picture book that is perfect for cat loving kids and adults. In this one, shy Jenny is taken out for a birthday outing with her brothers Checkers and Edward. Along they way, they pick up various friends like Pickles the Fire Cat and the rambunctious cat twins.

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

A picture book about an immigrant family of three sisters experiencing birthday parties for the first time. Cultural differences and miscommunication lead to the mother requesting that the older sisters bring their youngest sister along to their friend’s birthday party. (It does not go well.) This story reminds me of when I was growing up and going to a new school where the tradition was that the birthday kid brought in doughnuts for the class. When my birthday rolled around, my mom made me bring Chinese soy sauce sesame crackers to share with the class even though I insisted donuts were the norm. Needless to say, my classmates were very puzzled by the strange birthday snack!

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Doberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee

I adore this picture book about the seven incredibly picky eaters. Peter wants only milk, Lucy won’t settle for anything but homemade lemonade, and Jack is stuck on applesauce. The surprise ending is sweet in so many ways.

Ling and Ting Share a Birthday by Grace Lin

I love all of the Ling and Ting early readers, but this one might be my favorite. Ling and Ting are twins getting ready for their sixth birthday. They bake a cake, they wrap presents, and they share their presents with each other. A lovely story of sisters, friendship, and birthday wishes coming true.

The Secret of the Red Shoes by Joan Donaldson, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

My sister-in-law gave this book to me at my baby shower, along with an adorable pair of tiny red shoes for the baby. The book is about a girl and her mother planning a one-hundredth birthday party for Great Grandmother, while keeping a big surprise for the party.

Life by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Life begins small, then grows.

It seems appropriate to read a book about life when you have a birthday, and I do love this one. The story captures the beauty of life in the animal kingdom, meditating on the beauty of the world around us.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers created this user’s guide to earth when his son was born, and it is a beautiful exhortation to treat this world and the people and life in it with kindness and love. A good reminder no matter how old you are.

New Releases!

There are a lot of great new releases this month. Here are the ones I’m particularly excited about that released on January 2nd and that will release on January 9th.

Picture Books

Be A King by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by James E. Ramsome

I read this book out loud to my kids, and they were really touched by the illustrations and the tangible ways they can emulate the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A lovely book not just about the iconic civil rights figure, but about the roles we all play in creating a world of justice and peace.

The United States v Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Barhan-Quallen, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

I’m a huge fan of R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations (he illustrated the incredibly powerful Caldecott Honor picture book Freedom on Congo Square), and this new book about Jackie Robinson’s court martial trial is another winner. Although the army outlawed segregation when Jackie served as a soldier during World War II, Jackie was ordered by a white bus driver to move to the back of a military bus. When he refused, the military police took him to trial. But Jackie would stand up for what was right, even when it was difficult to do.

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrations by Frank Morrison

I couldn’t play on the same playground as the white kids. 
I couldn’t go to their schools.  
I couldn’t drink from their water fountains.  
There were so many things I couldn’t do.

In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak.

Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Jim Haskins, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Muhammad Ali faced the obstacles in his life the way he faced his opponents in the ring, brashly and with all the force at his command. In his private life, he was also deeply spiritual, committed to standing up against social injustice, and steadfast in his beliefs.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington (HarperCollins, 1/9)

When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.

She wanted to be an astronaut.

Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”

Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.

Love by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Loren Long (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 1/9)

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing
near the foot of your bed,
and the sound of their voices is love.”

I cry every time I read this book. Listen to the author and illustrator discuss the book and their collaboration here.

Edie is Ever So Helpful! by Sophy Henn (Philomel Books, 1/9)

A really fun book sure to enchant young readers who love to be helpful. Edie is so “helpful”, but readers will see how Edie can be not so helpful when they take a closer look at the illustrations.


Early Readers/Chapter Books

Humphrey’s Pet Show Panic by Betty Birney, illustrated by Priscilla Burris

I love the Humphrey the hamster series, and this one is geared for the younger audience, formatted as an early reader. When A.J. brings Humphrey to the town pet show, he’s sure Humphrey will win a prize. But Humphrey isn’t convinced. There are all kinds of animals in the show–from dogs and cats to parrots and even something called a bearded dragon!

Magnificent Mya Tibbs: The Wall of Fame Game by Crystal Allen

Texan cowgirl Mya Tibbs is back, this time preparing for a new baby sister to arrive. Mya plans to spend time with her mother before their family gets bigger, but a competition with her classmate for the Wall of Fame Game keeps Mya so busy studying that she can’t find time for her mom at all.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Peaceful Leader by Sarah Albee, illustrated by Chin Ko

Another biography of Martin Luther King, Jr, just in time for Black History Month and perfect for kids just starting to read independently. Beginning readers will learn about the milestones in Martin Luther King Jr.’s life in this Level Two I Can Read biography, which combines a traditional, illustrated narrative with historical photographs at the back of book—complete with a timeline, illustrations, and interesting facts.

The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: Uncanny Express by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Jen Hill (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 1/9)

This book follows the Bland sisters following the The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina). I love author Kara LaReau’s humor and her unlikely “bland” heroines who always seem to make every experience new, amusing, and inviting.


Middle Grade Books

Survivor Diaries: Avalanche by Terry Lynn Johnson

Terry Lynn is a wonderful writer of wilderness adventure stories, and Survivor Diaries is a great book for kids venturing into chapter books. Fast paced, interesting, and packed with really survival tips, I can see lots of young readers loving this series. A great segue into Lauren Tarshis’s I Survived series.

A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson

This is the sequel to Midnight Without a Moon, Linda Williams Jackson’s debut novel. Set in Mississippi in the 1950’s, Rose Lee Carter lives with her sharecropper grandparents. In the first book she grapples with the murder of Emmett Till, a young man who is convicted and then killed for whistling at a white woman. In the sequel, Rose continues to struggle with staying in the south when opportunities arise for her to go north, while also feeling caught between the mounting racial tension and differing ways her friends want to address the injustice. This book is gorgeously written and the author is a much needed voice in children’s literature.

Hamstersaurus Rex Gets Crushed by Tom O’Donnell, illustrated by Tim Miller

I adore Tim Miller’s illustrations, and his portrayal of class pet Hammie Rex are so endearing. In this new addition to the series, Sam Gibbs and Hammie Rex find new adventures and creepy abnormal objects.


Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard

I started this book on New Year’s Eve and finished it after I returned home from a party that evening, making it the first official book I finished in 2018. I loved this story of Robinson and her grandfather (the only family she has) as they navigate his increasing memory loss. A beautiful story of family, love, and hope.

Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth

A fantastic biography about Elizabeth Jennings and her refusal to leave a segregated streetcar in the Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan set into motion a major court case in New York City. This illuminating and important piece of the history of the fight for equal rights, illustrated with photographs and archival material from the period.

March Forward, Girl by Melba Pattillo Beals

This is a powerful memoir about Beals’ early journey to champion for equal rights. Along the way, she became an acclaimed journalist, a best-selling author, and the recipient of this country’s highest recognition, the Congressional Gold Medal.


Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre (Penguin Random House, 1/9)

I was immediately drawn in by the cover on this one. Right before Wavie’s mom dies, she gives Wavie a list of instructions: Be brave, Wavie B! You got as much right to a good life as anybody, so find it! But little did Wavie’s mom know that events would conspire to bring Wavie back to Conley Hollow, the Appalachian hometown her mother tried to leave behind.

The Last Gargoyle by Paul Durham (Random House, 1/9)

A wonderful new addition to the genre of creepy kid’s literature! This story follows a stone gargoyle named Penhallow who protects his Boston building from the spirits who haunt the night. But even he is outmatched when Hetty, his newest ward, nearly falls victim to the Boneless King, the ruler of the underworld.

Around the web…

The Nerdy Book Club announced their best books of 2017 in eight categories, including long form nonfiction, fiction picture books, nonfiction picture books, fiction middle grade books, graphic novels, early readers and chapter books, poetry and novels in verse, and YA books.

Jacqueline Woodson is Named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, via The New York Times

The Best Children’s and YA Books in January 2018, via Brightly


I have enjoyed having some extra time to read over the holidays. I loved Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina, a delightful chapter book. Class Action by Steven B. Frank is a wonderful, fast paced read perfect for fans of Gordon Korman, Richard Peck, and Gary D. Schmidt. Dolphins: Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey is a young reader’s adaptation of Casey’s New York Times bestselling nonfiction book about dolphins.

I’d love to know what you are reading in this first month of 2018! Find me on Twitter at @KarinaYanGlaser, on Instagram at @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting, or email me at

See you next week!

Izzy and Ginger Pye, reporting for duty in 2018!

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