Growing Readers Review: Reviewers' Picks

Mom reading with her infant girl

It is possible that The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak will have you laughing out loud more than any other book you’ve read. And yes, it has no pictures. The warning is right at the beginning: “This is a book with no pictures.” It might seem funny to have someone read you a book with no pictures. It probably seems boring and serious. Except… Here is how the book works.

"Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. No matter what.” And then the fun begins! If you saw a picture of the author, you might recognize him as he was in the long running TV series, The Office.

On the complete other side of the young reader’s spectrum is brown girl dreaming, an eloquent memoir told in verse. This is the story of an African American girl growing up between the end of the Jim Crow era and the beginning of the civil rights movement who finds her strength in words and writing.

Graphic art meets shape and number concepts in two board books that will give toddlers hands-on, multisensory experiences.

Four books for different ages spanning topics from humor to history to early reading concepts. What do they all have in common? They are all reviewers’ picks. Books that some or all of the Growing Readers editorial committee found so compelling that we wanted to bring them to your attention. We hope you and your young reader will enjoy each of these selections.

By Susan C. Brenner, EdD.


Brown Girl Dreaming, written by Jacqueline Woodson, School-Age: Brown girl dreaming is a collection of poems that together tell the childhood story of author, Jacqueline Woodson, an African American child born in 1963 near the end of the Jim Crow era. Born just seven years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, the author lived in both the north and the south. Raised by both her parents and grandparents, she gives the reader a picture of growing up Black in 1960 – 1970 (“We walk straight past Woolworth’s because the one time my grandmother went inside they made her wait and wait”). Readers learn of Jacqueline’s and her family’s experiences with racism and her future dreams to be a writer. The author’s use of free verse is very readable and hard to put down. This is a “must read” for all middle schoolers.

Shapes, written by Xavier Deneux, Infant/Toddler: In these interactive books, the reader can guide young children’s fingers across colorful pictures to feel the texture of each number and shape. With the flip of each sturdy page, young children will gain early math concepts such as counting and shape recognition.

The Books With No Pictures, written by B.J. Novak, Illustrated by No One!, Preschool: Actor, author and stand-up comedian, B.J. Novak enters the world of children’s literature with The Book With No Pictures. As the title says, the book is filled with only words, in different fonts, colors, and sizes. Funny, creative, and clever, the book is guaranteed to get a laugh out of children of all ages.


City Signs, written by Zoran Milich, Infant & Toddler: The bright, colorful photographs of people, places and things will engage the youngest of children. The photographs document familiar things in a child’s everyday world, building vocabulary and word recognition.

City 123, written by Zoran Milich, Infant & Toddler: The photographs of familiar city objects paired with counting 1 to 10 will captivate young children as they strive to master the concept of counting.

The Pigeon Needs a Bath!, words and pictures by Mo Willems, Preschool: This hilarious (and filthy) pigeon spends part of the book trying to avoid the bath and the rest of the book figuring out how to stay in the bath! Mo Willems’ humor makes this a rollicking read for both parents and children.

Blizzard, written and illustrated by John Rocco, Preschool: What child doesn’t dream of a snow day? In this account of the blizzard of 1978, John Rocco shares his story of how he spent his days surviving being snowed in with his family and neighbors.

Rain Reign, written by Ann M. Martin, School Age: Rose finds homonyms a comfort in a confusing world, but when a storm comes to her town she must leave her comfortable routines to search for her dog, Rain (reign, rein.)

This is Just to Say, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, School Age: This is an unique collection of poems written by 6th graders about being apologetic. In return, the person to whom the writer apologized responds back to the writer . Each poem tells its own real-life story that children can connect with, to learn about apology and forgiveness, a life-long lesson.

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Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
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Mom reading with her infant girl