Growing Up in Santa Cruz

Bookshop Santa Cruz writes a monthly column of book recommendations for young readers in Growing Up in Santa Cruz--a publication for families in Santa Cruz County.

The Caldecott Honor Book Interrupting Chicken perfectly captures the lively imagination of a toddler while hearing stories at bedtime. Interrupting his father’s best efforts to read books, Little Red Chicken dramatically inserts himself into the stories until he himself is interrupted in a most unusual way. The back and forth between father and son will be a familiar and endearing scene for any father with young children.  -Casey

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Interrupting Chicken Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780763641689
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Candlewick Press (MA) - August 10th, 2010

“My name is Alvin Ho. I was born scared and am still scared.” In this series of hilarious chapter books, Asian-American second grader Alvin Ho is a boy who’s afraid of everything—including girls, school, camping, science projects, and birthday parties (“They are scary and unpredictable and way too many things could go wrong.”). His many fears dissipate when he’s at home, though, where he likes to be loud and take on a superhero persona. School Library Journal says, “Whether they are fearful or brave, kids will smile at Alvin's scrapes and empathize with his concerns.” These books are just right for beginning and reluctant readers.  --S.B.

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Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things Cover Image
By Lenore Look, Leuyen Pham (Illustrator)
$6.99
ISBN: 9780375849305
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Yearling Books - May 12th, 2009

Sheila Rae is not afraid of anything. She walks backwards with her eyes closed, steps on every crack, growls at stray dogs, and bares her teeth at stray cats. But when Sheila Rae becomes lost on the way home from school, it is her "scaredy cat" sister, Louise, who shows her a thing or two about bravery and sibling love. Kevin Henkes’ picture books are favorites at our house. His characters’ strength and sweetness really resonate with my kids, who also adore his detailed illustrations.  --S.B.

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Sheila Rae, the Brave Cover Image
By Kevin Henkes, Kevin Henkes (Illustrator)
$6.99
ISBN: 9780688147389
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Greenwillow Books - April 25th, 1996

Do you know a child with an imaginary friend (who most often “appears” when the child is nervous or scared)? This colorful picture book about a little girl and her friend Stella would be a welcome read. Bella moves into a new house where everything is different and nothing feels like home. But with her imaginary friend Stella by her side, she gradually becomes more comfortable in the new place—and even makes a new friend. A very charming read.  -S.B.

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Bella and Stella Come Home Cover Image
By Anika Denise, Christopher Denise (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780399242434
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Philomel Books - November 24th, 2010

Marcelo Sandoval, 17, is comfortable with his job caring for the ponies at Patterson, the expensive special education school he’s attended since first grade, comfortable with conversations with his mother’s friend, a down-to-earth woman rabbi, with whom he explores his obsession with religious writing and philosophy, comfortable living apart from (but close to) his family in what is essentially a luxury treehouse. Arturo, his father and a high-powered lawyer, wants Marcelo to move beyond his comfort zone into the “real world” by working a summer job in the mail room of his corporate law office. Marcelo, he promises, could then decide, himself, where to attend his senior year—a mainstream high school (which Arturo wants), or Patterson. Marcelo reluctantly agrees. Maneuvering his careful way around unfamiliar places, beginning an important relationship with his boss—a competent and beautiful young woman—questioning the ethics of his father’s most important client (and understanding that this will have financial and emotional fallout), Marcelo proves himself to be capable of enormous insight and growth. And essential goodness. It is a very great pleasure to have met Marcelo.  --Ga

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Marcelo in the Real World Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780545056908
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scholastic Paperbacks - February 1st, 2011

It is 1936, and in the invented kingdom of Montmaray—which consists of a crumbling castle on a tiny island in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of England—16-year-old princess is busy recording her daily existence (in a new journal, a birthday gift), collecting eggs, beating rugs, moving chamber pots under leaky bits of ceiling, interacting with her very eccentric, but quite lovable family, and visiting her subjects—there are six on the island—who are her friends. This fictional dynasty is set against the very real politics of pre-World War II Europe. Here is a novel about murder, deception, and first love—humorously told—with a winning heroine.  --Ga

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A Brief History of Montmaray Cover Image
$4.99
ISBN: 9780375851544
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers - March 8th, 2011

This book is strange and enticing and hard to unravel, perhaps the strangest Newbery Winner to date. (In one clever passage, paying homage to an earlier Newbery Winner, A Wrinkle in Time, Marcus, Miranda’s 6th grade classmate, says, “So if they had gotten home five minutes before they left, like those ladies promised they would, then they would have seen themselves get back. Before they left.”)

OK, so Miranda lives in Manhattan in the late 1970s (I think). She has a best friend named Sal who stops speaking to her after being punched, for no apparent reason, by the strange kid, Marcus. She has a lovely relationship with her mother (a paralegal hoping to win some money on the TV show The $20,000 Pyramid), and her mother’s quite-nice guy. Miranda negotiates the shifting friendships and alliances in 6th grade, re-reads A Wrinkle in Time, is concerned with the street person her mother dubs “laughing man,” and is definitely receiving a series of notes which may be from the future. The quirky humor, the authentic setting, and detailed characterizations ground this subtle, quiet, mystery that blooms into science, or science fiction, or simply, revelation. It’s hard to describe, but well worth reading. I’m not sure what grade reader it’s for, but I would start with 6th and go up from there.  --Ga

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When You Reach Me Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780375850868
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Yearling Books - December 28th, 2010

Inspired by the childhood of Edna Lewis (the cook and writer credited by many with starting the slow food movement), this picture book for 4- to 8-year-olds, celebrates the pleasures and poetry of growing, harvesting, cooking, and sharing food with family and friends. From the author’s note: “Edna Lewis was born in 1916 in Freetown, Virginia, a community founded by her grandfather and two other emancipated slaves. The people of Freetown were farmers, and they lived by the seasons, growing and harvesting their own cops, gathering nature’s wild bounty.”  --Ga

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Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story about Edna Lewis Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780618158362
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Clarion Books - January 19th, 2009

Diane Stanley, Caldecott writer and illustrator, is known for her amusing fairytale re-tellings (Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter) or her unique picture book biographies with their well-researched text and enticing detailed paintings (Cleopatra and Bard of Avon). Here in her new novel she is doing something completely different, important, and accessible. Saving Sky is an adventure/survival story for 4th–7th grade readers. Sky Brightman’s family is living an upscale, off-the-grid lifestyle on a large ranch in New Mexico. The time frame of this story is tomorrow, or maybe later today. The family hunkers down as the country is experiencing sporadic, but increasingly frequent, attacks. There are many Red Alert days. Food and fuel shortages are becoming commonplace. Sky’s is a loving family, their self-sufficient ranch, an oasis. This part of the novel is quite familiar, even comfortable, the way it is in books where someone else is going through hardships but you’re pretty sure it will be okay. It is less comfortable when Sky’s seventh grade classmate, Kareem, is arrested with his parents at Home Depot as Homeland Security starts ‘detaining’ anyone of Middle Eastern descent. Sky, brave and hopeful, stands up for what she knows is right, giving us a hero we can root for.  -Ga

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Saving Sky Cover Image
$6.99
ISBN: 9780061239076
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins - June 12th, 2012

Mo Willems, creator of that undeterred pigeon who wants to drive the bus, and Jon Muth, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor Zen Shorts, have combined talent and—wow—do we benefit. Never before in a picture book have the round of seasons, and the round of friendship, and the round of life been so seamlessly shown. Willems’ bittersweet text is gently humorous, Muth’s watercolors exquisite. This is a wonderful collaboration. Every word counts. Each painting opens and expands the text. What is most amazing is that children and adults will each read a “different” book, but both are perfect.  -Ga

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City Dog, Country Frog Cover Image
By Mo Willems, Jon J. Muth (Illustrator)
$17.99
ISBN: 9781423103004
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Disney-Hyperion - June 8th, 2010

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