Best Children’s Books We’ve Recently Reviewed
Every day, Hidden Gems subscribers receive the opportunity to review hundreds of complimentary books spanning more than 15 genres – hopefully leaving an honest review on Amazon when they’re done. A regular feature on this blog is a periodic highlight of some true ‘Hidden Gems’ our subscribers discovered in various genres, and why you might want to check them out. Keep checking back for the latest lists, categorized by genre, and learn about some of the best books that we’ve sent out. Or, join our list of readers and help discover future gems yourself!
Children’s books help youngsters develop a love of reading that can help benefit them for the rest of their lives. Talk to anybody, and they’ll most likely be able to tell you their favorite childhood books (for me it was The Elephant and the Bad Baby, Tintin and Roald Dahl) and access to books has been proven to be one of the biggest indicators of a child’s chances of academic success. That’s why we’re thrilled to be able to share free copies of some of the best children’s books with our subscribers. Here are some of their favorites from the last few months.
Confucius: King Without A Throne by Jillian Lin
The wisdom of Confucius has remained pertinent for millennia, and in Confucius: King Without A Throne author Jillian Lin and illustrator Shi Meng broke down some of the more complex stories from the great philosopher’s teachings into tales that children 5 to 12 can appreciate and understand.
“This is a great story highlighting the history and culture of China, eminently suitable for teaching pride in Chinese heritage or just learning more about the most populous country on Earth,” writes reviewer Avid Reader. “The format is great and includes the short, illustrated story, additional factoids, a short multiple choice quiz and a map that pinpoints the geographic area where Confucius traveled and taught. I think it would be perfect for family story time.”
Tricia Schiro wrote: “The illustrations were beautiful and the narrative was easy enough for my two year old grandson to follow and be entertained without being dumbed down. I did not know the story of Confucius. The book is written so that children find this historical figure interesting and relatable. I also found the informative points after the story quite interesting.”
The Journal of Angela Ashby by Liana Gardner
Author Liana Gardner and illustrator Sam Shearon explore one of my favorite fictional themes – the idea of a writer’s words coming true – in this story aimed for readers 9 to 12. It’s the tale of a mysterious journal that gives 12-year-old Angela the power to change the world around her depending on what she writes about; but also proves the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for.”
Reviewer Gareth Worthington is already a fan of Liana Gardner, and writes: “Another awesome middle grade adventure from a woman who really knows her audience. Liana is as comfortable with Harry Potter-esque fantasy as she is with Goonies-style action. Once again a story that would easily transfer to the screen.”
Reviewer Mererid Evanna went deeper: “This is a funny and engaging middle-grade fantasy with the familiar theme of ‘wishes always go wrong’. And why do they? Unintended consequences. These happen all the time in real life, of course, but with magic they’re faster and with added guilt. Sometimes the magic-giver is mischievous or malevolent, sometimes just over-literal, but I was puzzled by Madame Vadoma, who seems sternly benevolent. That made me wonder if the ‘power’ wasn’t in the journal at all, that perhaps it was just ‘training wheels’. Maybe so!”
7th Grade Revolution by Liana Gardner
Liana Gardner shared a second book with subscribers this summer, in 7th Grade Revolution., which was also loved enough by our readers to make it onto this list of the best children’s book. A thrilling tale of students taking over their school, it features a hunt for a revolutionary-era treasure and important messages about teamwork and quick thinking.
Read with Me pointed out that the premise of the book was actually based on real events: “7th Grade Revolution was based on real events. The 7th graders at Exploris Middle School staged a bloodless revolution. The reason, they were upset with the teachers. The author took that real life event and ran with it. Which resulted in a book that mirrored National Treasure but on a kid’s level. I loved it.”
S. Mahaffrey wrote: “I loved the mystery and action in this novel. As you read about the mystery and the ones who solve the clues, I think you will be as intrigued as I was. It is a fun read. The kids are unique and smart. The twists and turns are well written by the author. Don’t miss it!”
Even 12-year-old Mommy’s Book Escape reviewed it, writing: “I give it a double thumbs up. I liked the storyline because I like intrigue. My favorite character is Dennis because he is cool. I recommend the book. ”
Runaway Rescue by Niki Danforth
The second book in the The Adventures of Misty & Moxie Wyoming series, Runaway Rescue is the tale of feisty cowgirl Moxie Wyoming Woodson who embarks on a thrilling adventure with her trusty pony Misty to save a family of feral cats. Aimed at readers 7 to 12, a coloring version of this book is also available.
“Runaway Rescue: The Adventures of Misty & Moxie Wyoming is a fun and sweet adventure story,” writes reviewer Shelby S. “This cute story is excellent for young readers. It moves along quickly and even introduces young readers to new vocabulary and the importance of being kind to animals. Highly recommended for any animal loving young readers out there!”
Andrea Thayer writes: “An entertaining mix of reality and fantasy for young readers. It also gives some good, factual information about feral cats and animal rescue in general. The main character is feisty and spunky, a good role model for young people.”
The Land without Color by Benjamin Ellefson
Author Benjamin Ellefson and illustrator Kevin Cannon won multiple awards and nominations at the 2015 Midwest Independent Publishing Association Award, plus a multitude of other recognitions, for this fun and fast-paced tale about a well-intentioned kid who gets flown to a world without color; and has to embark on a dangerous quest to restore it.
Kidlitfan was effusive in her praise for this tale, and she knows what she’s talking about having read and reviewed dozens of kids’ books: “How does one create a top-notch chapter book for young readers? To capture the heart and mind of a young reader, an author and illustrator must tap into the emotions of the story’s characters and splash them across the pages of the book in a bold manner. In The Land without Color by Benjamin Ellefson and Kevin Cannon, those emotions encompass the entire rainbow. From the excitement of bright yellow, to the serenity of powder blue, to the anger and frustration of hot red, to the destructive envy of green, this book transports the reader on an energetic journey in an unfamiliar land.”
eclectricCritiques praised the depth the book went into, and how it didn’t pull any punches despite being a ‘kids’ book: “I don’t know how to review Benjamin Ellefson because he writes like authors from yesteryear, when I was a kid, and not todays dribble that insults the intelligence of children. He gives them credit for the ability to think and doesn’t shy from challenging their vocabulary—a good thing to send your kid thumbing through Webster’s. Besides an entertaining book, Ellefson uses The Land Without Color to teach—like how to tie the knot in a fishing pole— something every Tomboy should know.”
The Great Sugar War by Benjamin Ellefson
Author Benjamin Ellefson and illustrator Kevin Cannon also shared a copy of The Great Sugar War, the second book in the Land Without Color series, with our subscribers and was one again awarded with great reviews, making this an easy addition onto a list of the best children’s books. As in the first book, real-life lessons blend with a fast-paced adventure as 12-year-old Otto has to embark on a quest to heal the rift between two warring factions.
“The Great Color War is a novel that unfolds in an innocuous school,” writes reviewer J. Delzer, “thinking that we’re in Kansas, when we, as readers, must decide if the real world is real or if we’re completely off the map and in a world much removed. Before we’re allowed to decide… …we’re forced to hold on for dear life as we follow him from a lowly assistant to a full fledged general in this war between shapes and colors. The outcome will surprise you, however, and leave you wanting more from this author who has created a world with clear boundaries, laws and characters who are both colorful (sometimes more than just literally) and even three dimensional (and surprisingly flat, but an in interesting way that, well, again, I can’t reveal without being too specific. Trust me, it’s for a good reason.)”
Sheila Deeth writes: “The Great Sugar War stands alone as a fun middle-grade modern fairytale, and connects pleasingly with the author’s earlier Land Without Color. Not a sequel. Not strictly a prequel. But a story in the same land involving a member of the same family, a pleasingly zany tale, and a nicely thought-provoking one. As the kingdoms of Color and Shapes take aim at each other in an everlasting war. Talking grasshoppers and lions might be reminiscent of Narnia, but this is a whole new world and a whole new story. Just don’t eat anything too sugary while you read.”
The Collapsing Kingdom by Benjamin Ellefson
Author Benjamin Ellefson and illustrator Kevin Cannon returned once again with the third installment of the Land Without Color series this summer, with The Collapsing Kingdom. It follows young Brandon as he treads in the footsteps of grandfather Alvin and attempts to save the Land of Color once again.
Reviewer Charles A. Ray wrote: “The Collapsing Kingdom by Benjamin Ellefson is book three in the Land Without Color series, and it continues to grand tradition of its predecessors. Really neat illustrations support a fascinating story that has subtle lessons on the importance of self-confidence and a good diet. Great reading for young and old alike. My kudos to the author for a great series.”
Amazon Customer praised how her son devoured the book: “My son loved the book! He had been waiting for it since last year. This book was one of his Christmas presents. When it came to opening this present, he stopped and started reading it. We had to tell him to finish opening his other presents!”
The World Keepers 1 by Ty The Hunter
One of the challenges parents have is getting young boys to read, as most western schooling systems treat boys like ‘defective girls’ and their reading lists aren’t as engaging for boys as it is for girls. With The World Keepers, author Ty The Hunter (I’m guessing that’s not his real name) tries to address that balance by writing a tale about a subject matter both boys and girls will be interested in; the world-wide phenomenon called Roblox (it’s like the ‘new Minecraft’ for parents whose kids have already hit puberty.)
Kindle Customer writes a review that said: “This book is the definition of most children’s dreams. Who wouldn’t love being apart of their favorite video game? That’s what happens to Jed. On a mission to find out what’s wrong with his big brother he is transported into one of the video games he frequently plays. The only problem is… Being in the video game is a lot harder than playing from the comfort of your home.”
Reviewer Amy highlighted how engaging this tale was for young readers: “My kid loves roblox and was very excited to read this book. She read it very quickly and asked for the next book.”
A.R. Slater cited the same thing: “My 9-year-old son read the book in two days and still talks about it.”
Rotto! Kylie and the Quokkas of Rottnest Island by Jonathan Macpherson
Author Jonathan Macpherson and illustrator Noh. A. take us down under in Rotto!, which sees sassy youngster Kylie hoping to meet a koala on a school field trip to Rottnest Island. Aimed at an 8+ audience, this beautifully-illustrated book features a plethora of Australian wildlife and a story line that focuses on how even a small change can make a big impact to an ecosystem.
Reviewer Carolyn Hastings wrote: “A little ripper of a page-turner! I loved every part of it – the quirky quokkas, the villains, the heroes, the humour, the suspense, the chase and the tantalising fantasy that maybe, just maybe quokkas really can talk! Jonathan has very cleverly woven together all sorts of facts and features that are unique to Rottnest Island, so not only does Rotto! have a rollicking plot, there’s an educational aspect to it as well. This book will most definitely appeal to Australians young and old, but it will win the hearts of others from around the globe too. A fabulous addition to any school or home library – guaranteed to have children hanging off every word and begging for more.”
C. Nesler wrote: “This was such a cute and engaging story. My daughter and I read it together over a few days and we were both sucked into the adventure of Kylie, Clancy, Razor Ray, and the quokka clan.”
Once Upon And Through The Mountain by Bryce Beattie
Author Bryce Beattie creates a stunningly believable fairytale world in this coming-of-age story aimed at readers 8+, which makes it a great way to finish off our list of the best kids books our readers have reviewed lately.
Reviewer Trina High writes: “It’s a wonderfully different yet similar book following along with the ‘buck the system and fight for a better way of living books’ – plus this book has pixies and fairyland!”
Reviewer Tricia Schiro praises the way this book explores themes that will be relevant to tweenage girls: “I thought this was a really good book for tweens. It was basically a story of following your heart and doing what you think is right even when it seems everyone is a against you. This small town in a fairyland has a rite of passage for girls to become women. Through the years though it has almost become more ceremonial than an actual test of will and faith. This story is about one girl who without knowing it is about to disrupt that system and challenge those new ways. I thought this was a well written narrative with a spunky and lovable female lead. I would definitely recommend this book to kids that are heading into that stage in life when people will be influencing them the most and they might need that reassurance that it’s okay to be different and follow your heart.”