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Recent school book fairs have given me some insight into what the younger readers in Missoula are interested in – new titles by popular authors, new books in a favorite series and a few recent movies seem to dominate their lists.

With holiday gift-giving season in mind, top picks for the younger age group include:

“The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak

Anyone who has read this book, or watched B.J. Novak read this book on YouTube, will understand the wide appeal of this funny read-aloud. You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except as in any book, everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words are ... “BLORK” or “BLUURF.” Even if the words are a song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like “BLAGGITY BLAGGITY” and “GLIBBITY GLOBBITY.” I am sure all the teachers and librarians had fun reading this to their classrooms.

“Giant Vehicles” by Rod Green, Illustrated by Stephen Biesty

The master of cross-section illustration, Stephen Biesty, takes readers on an exploration of the world’s most enormous vehicles – a double-decker Airbus, submarines, dump trucks and helicopters. Each double-page illustration has many lifting flaps to look into the vehicle to understand how it works. The book is sturdy enough to endure hours of investigation.

Two other titles worth mentioning for K-5 audiences are “Find Momo: A Photography Book” by Andrew Knapp and “The Pigeon Needs a Bath!” by Mo Willems.

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New releases in series and an older favorite dominated the fifth- to eighth-grade lists:

“Amulet No. 6: Escape From Lucien” by Kazu Kibuishi

Kazu Kibuishi is a Seattle graphic artist with two popular series, “The Explorer” and Amulet.” He is also the cover illustrator of the 15th anniversary paperback editions of the “Harry Potter” series. In “Amulet No. 6,” Emily, Navin and their friends continue to battle the Elf King in hopes of destroying him forever. The crew journeys to Lucien, a city that has been ravaged by the war. One of the Elf King’s followers, Max, does not want to see Emily and her friends leave the city alive.

“Wonder” by R. J. Palacio

This book was recently re-released to include the best-selling short story “The Julian Chapter.” This chapter was written in repose to fans who wanted to know more about Julian, a student who bullied August Pullman in the original pages of “Wonder.” August was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid – but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. The book begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and others. Readers of all ages will find much to learn and discuss about their perspectives of empathy, compassion and acceptance.

Books by Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan and James Dashner are also favorites for this age group.

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Two Missoula-specific titles continue to be hits:

“Goodnight, Missoula” by Laura Timblo and Linda Giammona-Eggers, and illustrated by Molly Clevenger

A children's book that captures the magic of the Missoula Valley – Mount Sentinel, Fort Missoula, Montana Snowbowl, Glacier Ice Rink and the Missoula County Fairgrounds, among others. This is a sure hit for grandparents, new babies and anyone who wants to celebrate Missoula.

“How Ice Cream Saved Missoula” by Michael Orford

A local choose-your-own-adventure tale has the reader determine the fate of Missoula! Only you and your Big Dipper Ice Cream stand between beautiful summer afternoon and perilous adventures.

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What better way to end than with a selection of new seasonal titles:

“Skippyjon Jones Snow What” by Judy Schachner

The bravest Chihuahua of them all, Skippyjon Jones is the hero of his own silly fairytale in a magical snowy forest. While his sisters listen to Snow White, Skippy bounces on his big-boy bed and heads off for the adventure awaiting him inside his closet. There, he is challenged to wake up Nieve Que, the frozen princess, by kissing her! Yuck! But our hero, Skippito agrees to don a prince's pantelones and save her – and his poochitos. There is much for fans of El Skippito to laugh about with this new adventure.

“The Animals' Santa” written and illustrated by Jan Bret

When Big Snowshoe tells Little Snow that the animals’ Santa is coming with presents for everyone, Little Snow wants to know who he is. The animals say they have never seen him. Maybe he’s a badger, a moose, a polar bear or a wolf, they tell him. But this little rabbit thinks they are just fooling him. On Christmas Eve, Big Snowshoe finds a way to see the animals’ Santa when a snowy owl in a red cap, swoops down with a pack full of presents. Never again will Little Snow doubt that there is an animals’ Santa.

“Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Book” by Diane Muldrow

All of us who grew up with Little Golden Books can appreciate this guide to the holidays. The Poky Little Puppy, the Gingerbread Man and other art from Eloise Wilkin, Richard Scarry, J.P. Miller and Garth Williams illustrate ways to make the holiday season one to enjoy and remember.

Season’s readings to you all!

Barbara Theroux manages Fact and Fiction bookstore in downtown Missoula and writes for the Booming section.

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