Other alphabet booklists: “A” Books.

Okay, time for Round 2, the letter “B.” This was much harder to narrow down, there are a lot of “B” books that I love. So this list is almost twice the size of “A”, but I just couldn’t take out any of these.

Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer and Matthew Holm.

I dare anyone to keep these on library shelves. Go ahead and try it. They are addictive, adorable graphic novels about a plucky little mouse, her dreams of a glamorous life, and her big imagination. This is the first of 13, so far. And I have students in pretty much every grade clamoring for these. They are by far the most popular graphic novels in the library, and that’s saying a lot considering all of the superheroes, Amulet books, Japanese imports, and other graphic novels I have there.

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

This book is just so COOL. Bass Reeves is tough as nails, and from the second you see the cover you know this cat put fear into the hearts of outlaws in the Wild West. This is such a fabulous biography of not only the first African-American U.S. Marshal, but to this day the most successful of them all. More than 3,000 arrests in his 3 decades on the job, and only 14 men killed in the line of duty. He was a crack shot, a righteous man, a true figure of the Old West, and a former slave. Talk about rising above. This is a must read.

Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue by Molly Coxe. Photographs by Olivier Toppin.

This is the kind of strange and wonderful little book that I instantly become enamored of. It’s a thrilling adventure about a little mouse who lives in a wardrobe. When Benjamin’s mom goes missing, he gets Bumper the stuffed elephant to help find her and rescue her from the cat Sir Pouncelot. Big drama and excitement ensue, all told from the details and poses in the little scenes created by Coxe and photographed by Toppin. Since we’re dealing with photographs of toys, the animal characters only have 1 facial expression. But still, the handling of the sets, the toys, and the photographs makes this an epic tail with big emotion. It’s kind of a treasure.

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott. Illustrated by Josee Bisaillon.

Teaching elementary school kids about the Holocaust is an almost impossible task. It is so huge, so horrifying, so scary that most teachers I know struggle with it. This is a brilliant book, a sad book, but a book that conveys the enormity of the events without being absolutely terrifying. It’s the story of Benno the cat, who lived a very happy life among all the different kinds of people in his German neighborhood. He watches the kids going to school, the businesses running like normal, the Jewish and Christian families celebrating their own rituals. Then men in brown shirts come one night, break windows, and scare Benno. After that faces he knew from the neighborhood start disappearing, and life is never the same. A sensitive and straightforward introduction.

Best Best Friends by Margaret Chodos-Irvine.

This is a great preschool book by the author of Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, which I absolutely adore. This one is the story of 2 little girls who immediately become best friends, have an intense and tumultuous friendship, and then make up again. This is what I see happening on an almost daily basis with young children. They are obsessed with each other one minute, attached at the hip. Then hurt feelings happen in a flash and suddenly they never want to speak to each other again. Then, they make up and all is forgiven. Chodos-Irvine kind of nails the emotional roller coaster of friends at that age.

Big Bad Bunny by Franny Billingsley. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

This big bad bunny has HUGE claws. She is fearsome. She is a monster. She is…actually a mouse. Baby Boo-Boo HATES being the baby and getting no respect (the Rodney Dangerfield of the baby cartoon mouse set). So she does something naughty to show just how big she is. While Mama Mouse puts everyone else to bed, a monter lurks. Karas’s illustrations build up great small-kid suspense until revealing who the monster, the big bad bunny, really is. This is a great one.

The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow by Andy Griffiths. Illustrated by Terry Denton.

In my library, Andy Griffiths is fast replacing Jeff Kinney as the go-to author for outrageous, adults-will-hate-it humor. My students can’t get enough of his books, and they have some of the teachers in my building raising their eyebrows at me. But, kids love gross stuff. That’s why Griffiths books are so great. This collection of very short stories is a nice introduction to Griffiths for early readers, and any adult who wants to see what his kooky humor (combined with Denton’s perfect illustrations) is all about should start here. Or with its prequel, The Cat on the Mat Is Flat.

Big Smelly Bear written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup.

Bear is so dirty and stinky that flies are the only creatures who will go near him. But he’s really proud of his funk, until one day he gets a really bad itch that he just can’t scratch. He tries everything and fails. Then Big Fluffy Bear, a cute girl bear who keeps her distance from his stinkiness by peaking out from up a tree, offers to scratch his back for him if he takes a bath first. Eventually Big Smelly Bear agrees, and the two become pretty good friends. This book is hilarious, especially for reinforcing to those students who hate bathing (there’s one in every class) that you make more friends when you smell good than when you don’t.

Big Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme. Illustrated by Oliver Tallec.

Oh my goodness, how completely smitten I am with these two. I love everything about this quiet story of a big wolf who lives a quiet life alone under a tree until the day¬† little wolf appears. Little wolf just won’t go away, quietly joining Big Wolf in everything he does. But when Little Wolf disappears one day, Big Wolf realizes that he doesn’t really want to go back to his quiet life. Prolific French illustrator Olivier Tallec sets the absolute perfect mood for Brun-Comse’s quiet story of friendship sneaking up on you. And I also adore its sequel, Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall. Fabulous.

Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex.

I love Mac Barnett’s sense of humor (Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World). And I love Adam Rex’s illustrations. Combined, they’re pretty genius and very much out there. Billy Twitters won’t clean his room, won’t eat his vegetables, won’t do his homework. So to punish him, his parents by him a blue whale. And he is responsible for taking his whale EVERYWHERE. You can imagine where this is going, it’s pure kid comedy gold.

Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Charles Vess.

This is a love song to unconventional girls, a book for any mother-to-be who wants a girl with a little bit of fairy magic in her. This is not for princesses-and-tiara girls. It’s not even exactly for tomboys. This is for little warrior women who walk with animals. It was Neil Gaiman’s poem to Tori Amos when she was pregnant with her daughter (who is now Gaiman’s god-daughter). And it’s a little bit of a treasure.

Book Fiesta by Pat Mora. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez.

How can a librarian NOT like this book? Mora is a huge proponent of books and the celebration of literacy. So here she’s written a bilingual story of kids reading everywhere. At libraries, at school, at home. They join other kids to read, too. It’s like a parade of reading, with joyous colors in Lopez’s illustrations. Mora’s also included ideas for how to celebrate Children’s Day, Book Day, held annually on April 30.

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na.

That owl, with his one wide eye, had me at “hello.” This is the ultimate bedtime story, a dreamy, gorgeous, sleepy book showing us how lots of different animals drift off to sleep at night. The owl is always watching them through the night, moving around them, until it’s his turn to sleep in the morning. This is the kind of bedtime story that kids remember forever, like Goodnight Moon. It’s gorgeous and perfect in every way.

The Book That Jack Wrote by Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Dan Adel.

My favorite part of writing about this particular book is spelling the author’s last name. His is always a challenge for me. But I’ll keep spelling it if he keeps writing great books. This one has been around since I was in high school, and it’s a great riff on the classic cumulative story “This Is the House That Jack Built.” Many of the characters in this book are recognizable from other famous children’s books, and I personally love when books are self aware, self referential, and always winking at the reader.

The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee.

Frazee is one of my favorite illustrators working right now, and her newest picture book is just awesome. Probably more for exhausted new parents than for kids, it’s the story of a demanding little baby who is the boss of his house. Dressed in a suit-and-tie onesie with an expression to rival the toughest CEO, he terrorizes his parents with midnight meetings, drinks on demand, and nonstop tyranny. Perfect gift for expectant parents with a healthy sense of humor about their upcoming arrival.

The Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman. Illustrated by Ross MacDonald.

This is a brilliant biography of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, high school outcasts who went on to create the most famous superhero of all time. MacDonald’s illustrations are perfection for this book, mirroring the comic book styling of Shuster and Siegel’s creation. The historical significance of Superman is covered in a very approachable way for kids. Great for any kid who dreams of being an artist, feels like an outcast, or just wants to learn some history about their favorite superhero.

Bruno Munari’s Zoo by Bruno Munari.

I could look at this book all day. The Italian artist passed away 13 years ago, but this book was apparently released (in the States at least) in 2005. His art still holds up today. Not only was he an incredible artist, he also had quite a fun sense of humor (the zebra’s striped pajamas). Kids will love this book, which is so gorgeous it stands up on its own as just a beautiful coffee table book. Great addition to a picture book collection.