To live is to experience things. Much of those experiences are good, some are wonderful, and some experiences are not good. All of our life experiences make us into the person we are. It is our experiences that can help us gain a deeper understanding of not just ourselves but of others, the world around us, and of life.

Each of us, young and old, can enhance our experiences by reading. Books can provide new information, new thoughts, different ways of looking at life, and much more. Such is the case with the books reviewed today. You have the power to make that happen; make it your mission.

Books to Borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

"The Tenth Good Thing About Barney" by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, Atheneum, 25 pages

Read aloud: age 3 - 4 and older.

Read yourself: age 7 - 8.

There once was a little boy who had a cat named Barney, and he loved his cat very much. When Barney died, the little boy was very sad and cried a lot. On the evening of Barney's death, the boy's mother told him they would have a funeral for Barney the next day, and she told her son to think of ten good things about Barney so he could tell them at the funeral.

In the morning, the boy, his mom and dad, and the boy's friend from next door, Annie, all attended the funeral. They buried Barney in the ground by a tree in the yard. The boy then told everyone the good things about Barney, but he only think of nine. Later, while talking with his father, the boy discovered what the tenth good thing about Barney was, and he began to understand the cycle of life.

First published in 1971, this compassionate, sensitive story is timeless.

Librarian's Choice

Library: Jefferson County Public Library, 420 West Main St., Madison

Library Director: Brent Stokesberry

Children's Librarian: Kara Pettey

Choices this week: "Fast Food" by Saxton Freymann; "All the Places to Love" by Patricia MacLachlan; "Riding Freedom" by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Books to Buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

"Caminar" by Skila Brown, Candlewick, 2014, 199 pages, $15.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 10 and older.

Read yourself: age 10 - 11 and older.

Set in 1981 in the midst of the Guatemalan Civil War, young Carlos feels he must join the other men in his village to keep the residents and their homes safe. But his mother tells him otherwise; tells him to run deep into the mountains where they will later be reunited.

It is the government army pitted against the rebels, and the people in the village know little of what is happening and don't know whom they can trust. When Carlos is sent to pick mushrooms in the mountains for his mother, violence descends on the village - violence so severe that Carlos has no choice but to run from it, just as his mother had said. Making his way to the top of the mountain where his grandmother lives is no simple task; danger is everywhere. He joins a small band of guerillas, and they travel together to warn his grandmother's village of the impending trouble. Will they be in time? Will his mother be there? And what, if anything, can a boy his age do to help?

Masterfully written in free-verse poems and told entirely in the voice and viewpoint of Carlos, this work of fiction based in historical fact is rich on multiple levels.

"A Snicker of Magic" by Natalie Lloyd, Scholastic, 2014, 311 pages, $16.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 8 and older.

Read yourself: age 9 - 10 and older.

Felicity Pickle is tired of moving from one town to another, never staying long enough to make friends, never staying long enough to call a place her home.

One of the things Felicity like to do best is to collect words; she sees them and feels them everywhere. So when Felicity, her little sister, and her mother arrive in Midnight Gulch, Felicity feels magic around her and the first word she collects at that very moment is "believe." Felicity soon learns that there once was magic in Midnight Gulch - good, strong magic. It is also believed that a curse drove the magic away, but Felicity can still feel a bit of it. She is determined to make Midnight Gulch the home she has always longed for and, with the help of her friend, the Beedle, to find where that magic has been hiding and restore it to Midnight Gulch once more.

An outstanding debut novel by Natalie Lloyd, this selection is loaded with explorations of family, friendship, and what home really means.

Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached at