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Recommended by Melinda at Kendale Lakes Branch

A Fire Truck Named Red
Written by Randall de Séve; illustrated by Bob Staake

Picture of a small vintage toy truck

Rowan wants a shiny new toy fire truck for his birthday, one with all the latest and greatest accessories, like flashing lights, a real water hose and a ladder that goes all the way up. However, to Rowan’s discontent, that’s not what he got. Instead, he was gifted with his grandfather Papa’s old, beat up and broken‑down fire engine, Red.

With Rowan fighting back tears, Papa tells him that they can fix Red up just like new. As they get to work, he tells Rowan all about the adventures he and Red had when he was a boy, like rescuing a cat from the top of a tree, providing water to thirsty elephants and putting out a fire at the library. As each story unfolds, Rowan slowly falls under Red’s spell until finally, the little toy truck is as good as new. Red is now ready for new adventures, and Rowan is ready to be a part of them.

Randall de Séve writes a sweet story that demonstrates how old, hand‑me‑down toys can still be as good as new. Using Papa’s childhood experiences, we follow along as Rowan discovers that this old toy can still spark imagination. Bob Staake’s illustrations are graphic depictions not only of Red’s long‑ago exploits, but also of the current action. Using different color schemes–full color for the present and muted shades of brown and tan for the past–brings both parts of the story into sharp contrast.

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Grandmas from Mars
Written by Michelle Robinson; illustrated by Fred Blunt

Illustration of a group of alien grandmothers desending from a spaceship and running away

On Earth, when the grandmas are in charge, the rules get followed and things get done. So the aliens on Mars, watching with delight as they plan an invasion, think that if they look like grandmas, their takeover of the world will be easy. They scoop up the grandmas and quickly take their places, but they are soon found out as they do not play the roles quite right. They allow too much fun and too much running amok–so the aliens must go. The grandchildren come up with a plan that sends the aliens running for the hills and brings their grandmas back to Earth. All is well for a little while, until unusual looking grandpas come to town…

Michelle Robinson writes a witty lesson on how important and unique grandmas are. Fred Blunt provides illustrations that lend an animated air to the story. It’s all color and action, full of emotional portrayals that leap right off the page.

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The Remember Balloons
Written by Jessie Oliveros; illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

Illustration of a senior in a rocking chair, a young boy and a dog all holding colorful balloons

Everyone in this book carries balloons; some people have more, some people have less. James has many more than his little brother, and their parents have more than him. James’s grandpa also has more balloons than James, because he’s been alive longer. Each shiny balloon is a story, a memory one carries with them. James likes to listen to his grandpa tell the stories his balloons hold; to him they are better than ponies and chocolate frosting. They both have a single silver balloon, a shared memory that is precious to them both. One day, Grandpa starts having problems with his balloons. Some get stuck in trees and some float away, but no matter how hard James tries to catch them he cannot get them back for his grandpa. The balloons start floating away faster and faster until finally, even the silver balloon with their shared memory disappears. Grandpa may be forgetting his memories, but James knows all the stories his grandfather told him.

Jessie Oliveros writes a touching story about memory loss in beloved grandparents or other older people that may be known to a child. Using balloons to represent memories, she shows how a person can go from sharing their memories to losing them–but reminds readers that if they remember the stories that were shared with them, those memories remain safe in their keeping. Dana Wulfekotte limits the use of color in her illustrations to distinguish the balloon memories from the action of the story. Yet every page is full of detail that loses nothing from the simple palette.

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Written by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Illustration of a man sitting on a blanket with a penguin and an elephant playing a card game

Amos McGee does the same thing every day. After rising early and donning a new uniform, Amos heads to the zoo, where even though he has lots to do, he always has time for his friends. He plays chess with the elephant, races the tortoise, sits with the shy penguin, lends his hanky to the rhinoceros and reads to the owl. Every day it’s the same, until Amos wakes up one morning with the sniffles. When he calls in sick his zoo friends miss him and their favorite activities. So much so, that they head out on the bus to find him! Amos’s good friends visit him at home and keep him company the rest of the day and into the night.

Philip C. Stead tells a charming tale of how old Amos McGee continues to keep working at the zoo and providing valuable companionship to his animal friends. Erin E. Stead provides extremely detailed sketches of Amos and his pals. They are simply colored but use texture to bring the characters to life.

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A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love
Written by Michelle Edwards; illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Illustration of young girl sitting on the floor knitting a hat

When Sophia was born, Mrs. Goldman from next door made her a hat to keep her keppie (head) warm, as it was a mitzvah (good deed). When Sophia grew older, Mrs. Goldman taught her how to knit so that they could work on their good deeds together. They made all kinds of hats for all types of people. But one day Sophia notices that Mrs. Goldman does not have a hat as she had given hers away. Sophia is inspired to do her own good deed, all by herself, so she finds the yarn that Mrs. Goldman had given her and sets out to knit a hat. But Sophia’s knitting skills are still brand‑new; when she is done, there are many holes in the cap from dropped stitches. At first heartbroken, Sophia then realizes she possesses another skill that she can use to fix the hat; she can make pompoms! She ends up making 20 pompoms to cover the holes in the hat and presents it to Mrs. Goldman, her very own rose garden of a cap that makes her cry tears of joy. Now when Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Fifi the dog together, everyone can bundle up and keep their keppies warm, and that is a mitzvah.

Michelle Edwards writes a heartwarming story about an elderly neighbor who shares her skills and knowledge with a younger friend. Mrs. Goldman happily teaches Sophia how to knit and make pompoms. She even goes so far as to demonstrate the completing of good deeds; here by sharing their hand‑knit hats with friends and neighbors. Sophia is given so much from her friend Mrs. Goldman that when she sees her going without, she uses the skills she was taught to give back to her. G. Brian Kara’s illustrations are soft yet full, implementing no dark lines; only soft color changes to define objects.

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