Books have the ability to open your child’s imagination to a world of new adventures, wonder, and knowledge. Children who read not only exercise their brain, they learn about the world around them, improve language and literacy skills, and so much more. While we know this “back to school” season is going to be different, that doesn’t mean you little ones shouldn’t be engaging in summer reading.
We spoke to five librarians at the Brooklyn Public Library to hear their favorite books and stories for children of all ages.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! To start, we’d love to hear a little bit more about you, and your favorite part about being a librarian?
Ellen Weaver, Eastern Parkway Branch: My favorite part about being a librarian is being a champion for literacy and the freedom of knowledge right here in my own community.
Jess Harwick, McKinley Park Branch: I love the variety of people that I work with and programs that I get to do. My days are never boring.
Maria McGrath, Macon Branch: having a patron ask for a book recommendation and being able to show them multiple books that could fulfill their quest for information, entertainment, or both.
Rebecca Rodd, Sunset Park Branch: There’s something really special about being able to play even the smallest role in the growth of a child. We have some kids who would come in for Story Time each week, and week by week you’d see them engage a little more and become more confident.
Yesha Naik, Central Library: Seeing the smile on a kid's face when you help them find what they need or want, whether that be a book, information, or a fun program! That is a deep satisfaction.
What are your recommendations for the following age groups?
Under 2 years old:
Ellen: Where is Baby' Belly Button? by Karen Katz
Babies from various ethnicities are featured in this fun peekaboo flap board book which also works as a perfect introduction to learning parts of the body.
Jess: Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
Babies love to see other babies! This book is inclusive and shows a variety of babies and families.
Maria: Hop by Phyllis Root!
2-4 years old:
Ellen: Press Here by Herve Tullet
The early literary pillar of play is highlighted in this interactive & artistic board book sure to bring smiles to toddlers and preschoolers.
Jess: Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin, illustrated by Brian Won
This is a great one for getting up and moving around! It’s silly and repetitive, which kids love, and it also gives them the chance to give in to their wiggles.
Maria: Lately I’ve really enjoyed Steve Antony’s Mr. Panda series (Please, Mr. Panda; I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda; Good Night, Mr. Panda), as well as Gemma Merino’s trilogy about animals that don’t quite do what’s expected of them (The Cow Who Climbed a Tree, The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg, and The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water).
4-6 years old:
Ellen: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
A young brown skinned boy and his grandmother take a trip on the public bus absorbing the many diverse and dynamic sights the city has to offer.
Jess: Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
It’s never too early to introduce STEAM topics to kids of all genders! The reason I love this one so much, though, is that it features a girl scientist, which is still underrepresented in picture books.
Maria: Early Reader series are mentioned below, but this is still a great time for picture books, and there are some great books by Jaqueline Woodson, Tomie dePaola, and Patricia Polacco, as well as, when you venture into fairy tales and folk tales, anything by Robert D. San Souci (my all-time favorite is The Talking Eggs).
6-8 years old:
Ellen: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
The topic of colorism is at the heart of this exquisitely illustrated picture book in which the dark skinned protagonist learns to appreciate her unique beauty.
Jess: A picture book - The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
This book is silly and fun and has the best illustrations. Jeffers is one of my favorite artists, and I can read this one over and over again! I’ve used it with class visits for classes up to second grade, and the kids get such a kick out of the whimsical and strange story.
Maria: This age range encompasses so much, but our summer reading list has some great recommendations, including Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (there are three other books in the series). Not on the list, but also loads of fun is the Zapato Power series, which follows the adventures of Freddie Ramos and his super-fast shoes.
8-10 years old:
Ellen: The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
Raised in a magical community where girls become witches and boys become shape-shifters, Aster, the man protagonist, fights against social norms and gender conformity to study witchery and find his true self.
Jess: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
This was such a hard one to pick! I could recommend for this age group all day. Aru Shah is perfect for readers who like fantasy and adventure.
Maria: The Magic Treehouse is an old standby, but I have to give Mary Pope Osborne credit for coming up with such a great vehicle to give kids a taste of history. There’s also a lot of great nonfiction for kids 8-10, especially in the sciences, such as Elise Gravel’s graphic books on Disgusting Critters including The Worm, The Cockroach, The Toad, The Rat, Head Lice, and more. Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliot (and the follow-up The Dragon Thief), off our Summer Reading List, does an equally good job bringing to life fantasy realms and Brooklyn streets and parks.
What great recommendations! We can’t leave off without asking a fun question! If you could be best friends with one character from a book, who would it be and why?
Rebecca: I’d love to be friends with Ruby from Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival. Right now the world is feeling a little scary and overwhelming and the anxiety in all of us is a little higher. For adults, this feeling may make more sense and may be easier to deal with, but for kids, it has to be a little more confusing. I’d love to be Ruby’s friend and to let her know she’s not alone.
Yesha: When I was a girl, it would have been Emily Starr from Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery, because she is loyal, and she is fierce, and she is a writer. And as an adult, I wouldn't mind having Emily Starr as my niece.