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Up To Date

Best Books Of 2014 For Children And Teens


Books have the remarkable ability to enthrall, captivate and inspire. When kids are trapped indoors during the cold winter months books  can transport them into new and fascinating worlds.

On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske and three Johnson County librarians review their top picks in children's literature. 

The Best Children's Books of 2014:

From Kate McNair, young adult librarian at the Johnson County Library: 

  • Dorothy Must Die by D.M. Paige (Grades 8-12): Amy Gumm, the other girl from Kansas, has been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked to stop Dorothy who has found a way to come back to Oz, seizing a power that has gone to her head -- so now no one is safe!
  • Tomboy: a Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince (Grades 8-12): Eschewing female stereotypes throughout her early years and failing to gain acceptance on the boys' baseball team, Liz learns to embrace her own views on gender as she comes of age, in an anecdotal graphic novel memoir.
  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith (Grades 9-12): Finn Easton, sixteen and epileptic, struggles to feel like more than just a character in his father's cult-classic novels with the help of his best friend, Cade Hernandez, and first love, Julia, until Julia moves away.
  • Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker: A teenaged girl and her boyfriend must find her older brother after he wanders into their town's swamp and a mysterious girl appears in his place.
  • Amity by Micol Ostow: Two teens narrate the terrifying days and nights they spend living in a house of horrors.
KCUR's David Fulk reads a selection from "Amity".

  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: A collection of five spine-tingling short stories beautifully illustrated.

From Debbie McLeod, adjunct professor at Johnson County Community College and newly retired librarian:

KCUR's Sally Daily reads one of the poems from "Brown Girl Dreaming".

  •  Blizzard by John Rocco: After a massive blizzard, a boy becomes a hero when he manages to walk to the local store and bring supplies back to his neighborhood which has been snowed in for days. Based on the author's childhood experience. 
  • Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins: After surviving being carried off by a hawk, a young squirrel resolves to find his way home, as his best friends begin their search for him.
  • Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman: Discover how animals stay alive in the wintertime and learn about their secret lives happening under the snow. Paired with stunning linoleum print illustrations by Rick Allen, that celebrate nature's beauty and power.
KCUR Health Editor Dan Margolies reads "Big Brown Moose" from "Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold".

From Dennis Ross, youth services librarian at the Johnson County Library:

  • The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel: Aboard The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, on its maiden voyage across Canada, teenaged Will enlists the aid of a traveling circus to save the train from villains. 
  • The Luck Uglies​ by Paul Durham: Eleven-year-old Rye O'Chanter and her two friends delve into the secret lore of their village when mysterious creatures of legend reappear on the night of the Black Moon, leading them to the notorious secret society, the Luck Uglies.
Health reporter Alex Smith reads an excerpt from "The Luck Uglies".

  •   The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye: When Aref, a third-grader who lives in Muscat, Oman, refuses to pack his suitcase and prepare to move to Michigan, his mother asks for help from his grandfather, his Siddi, who takes Aref around the country, storing up memories he can carry with him to a new home. 
  • The Real Boy by Anne Ursu: A shy boy named Oscar who works as the hand to a powerful magic worker becomes the only person who can save his village from an evil monster. 
  • How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson: The author reflects on her childhood in the 1950s and her development as an artist and young woman through fifty poems that consider such influences as the Civil Rights Movement, the "Red Scare" era, and the feminist movement.
KCUR announcer Linda Sher reads a poem from "How I Discovered Poetry".

  • Rise of the Balloon Goons by Troy Cummings: Alexander has just moved into Stermont, but the elementary school is being torn down, his new classroom is located in the hospital morgue, a notebook he finds is full of information about monsters--and everywhere he turns there are spooky balloon men determined to attack him. 
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.