Our life experiences provide us with building blocks of knowledge, perspective, and accumulating wisdom that helps us navigate our world. Books play an important part in providing such experiences. Reading about fictional characters allows us to "experience" the relationships, trials, successes and situations the characters are faced with and how they handled each of them, all from the safety of home. So, too, do nonfiction books provide us with the same.

Usher in the New Year with the commitment to read aloud to the child/children in your life, every day, like clockwork. You might not be able to directly measure the value of that one simple, powerful act of kindness and generosity of time, but I guarantee you this - it's one of the best investments you'll ever make.

Books to Borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

"The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" by Jacqueline Kelly, Henry Holt, 338 pages

Read aloud: age 10 and older.

Read yourself: age 12 and older.

Calpurnia (Callie) Tate is eleven years old in the summer of 1899. Her small town in Texas is blazing with high temperatures that nearly suffocate every living thing. Callie escapes the heat by spending a lot of time at the river. Her grandfather, an avid naturalist and considered by Callie and others as ill-tempered, takes an interest in Callie's budding enthusiasm for the natural world.

As Callie and her grandfather work together exploring, collecting specimens, and conducting experiments, the two develop a close relationship. In the meantime, Callie is learning how to be the only girl among six brothers, and, much to her mother's dismay, is determined to forge her own path as a young female scientist at the turn of the century.

Through flawless writing and believable characters, relationships, hopes and dreams, "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" is certain to be a sure-fire hit with older girls.

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: "Little Miss Spider" by David Kirk; "All the Places to Love" by Patricia MacLachlan; "Riding Freedom" by Pam Munoz Ryan

Books to Buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

"Ant and Honey Bee: A Pair of Friends in Winter" by Megan McDonald, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, Candlewick, 2013, 60 pages, $14.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 3 - 4 and older.

Read yourself: age 6 - 7.

Ant and Honey Bee are best friends and do many things together, always having fun. Winter is almost here, though, and that means it's time for bugs to hibernate until the spring.

Ant isn't quite ready to be alone for the winter, so she tries her best to convince Honey Bee for one more visit. When Ant doesn't receive the answer she wants from Honey Bee, she decides to take matters into her own hands and braves the cold, en route to Honey Bee's hive.

At first Ant receives a chilly reception from Honey Bee, but Ant persists with her usual enthusiasm and before you know it, the two are having a grand time and a grand feast. Suddenly, the friends realize it is snowing, and Honey Bee comes up with a very, very good idea on what to do about that.

A charming book about friendship, this easy reader is perfect for reading aloud and for newly independent readers.

"The Year of Billy Miller" written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow, 2013, 229 pages, $16.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 7 - 8.

Read yourself: age 8 - 9.

Billy had gotten a bad bump on his head shortly before the beginning of second grade. He said he was fine, the doctors said he was fine, but Billy overheard his mom say to his dad that she worried that seven-year-old Billy might forget things or be confused at school. This gave Billy a lot to worry about. Would he be smart enough for second grade? In response to that question, his dad said of course he'd be smart enough - ". . . this is the Year of Billy Miller." Billy wasn't so sure he'd be right.

Filled with laughter, friendship, family relationships, and self-discovery, "The Year of Billy Miller" brims with warm, believable characters, situations, and a solid, positive outlook on the normal ups and downs of an elementary-age kid.

Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached at her website: www.greatestbooksforkids.com