children's books

Daniel Handler and Brian Selznick are royalty when it comes to children's literature. Handler is the mastermind behind Lemony Snicket, and Selznick wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret​, which became a Martin Scorsese film. They talk with Steve Kraske about ideas, writing and imagination.

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll's classic character, turns 150 this year. The Kansas City Public Library is kicking off a two-month celebration of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland tonight with a lecture by Lewis Carroll scholar Mark Burstein.

We invite Burstein and a librarian to discuss the huge cultural influence of the book.


A book is often evaluated by the words it contains, but what value does a book with no words have? It turns out that wordless books can bolster creativity for both children and adults.


Dial Books

Summer vacation has officially started and for many parents, that means a lot of free time to fill for their kids.

How about a trip to the ancient Martial Empire or to a faraway desert island? These summer reading picks will take your young ones to some of the most remote edges of the earth.

Johnson County Librarians Dennis Ross and Kate McNair and retired librarian Debbie McLeod selected some titles to keep kids and teens reading all summer long.

Recommendations for ages 3-10

  • Smick! By Coreen Cronin, illustrated by Juana Medina. Ages 3 – 6.
  • Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton, Ages 4 - 8.
  • Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, Ages 5-10.
  • Billy’s Booger: a Memior (Sorta) by William Joyce and his younger self. Ages 5 – 10.
  • Princess In Black by Shannon Hale, Ages 6-9. 
C.J. Janovy

Kansas City author Christine Taylor-Butler is an advocate for more diversity in children’s and young adult literature. She has written more than 70 books, most of them for Scholastic, the massive publisher of books and educational materials for kids. Taylor-Butler spoke with me about her newest book,  The Lost Tribes, and how she quit her management job to be a full-time writer.

From Narnia to The Hunger Games, young adult literature has an age-old obsession with right versus wrong. But moral conundrums on teens' bookshelves are more complex than ever. What does the changing moral landscape say about growing up today? 


  • Melissa Lenos, associate professor of English, Donnelly College
  • Naphtali Faris, early literacy manager, The Kansas City Public Library

Best Books Of 2014 For Children And Teens

Dec 12, 2014

Books have the remarkable ability to enthrall, captivate and inspire. When kids are trapped indoors during the cold winter months books  can transport them into new and fascinating worlds.

On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske and three Johnson County librarians review their top picks in children's literature. 

The Best Children's Books of 2014:

From Kate McNair, young adult librarian at the Johnson County Library: 


What do you do when your sleep schedule is routinely disrupted by the demands of parenthood?

If you're Refe and Susan Tuma, you respond with the spark of creative genius that only delirium can inspire. You get some plastic dinosaurs, put them in the sink, put toothbrushes in their hands, smear toothpaste all over the place, and then?

You go to bed. 

Shane Evans

 “Going to Kansas City” is a series that shares the personal stories of how people came to Kansas City — and why they stayed.

Artist Shane Evans first came to Kansas City from New York City in 1993, when he got a job working for Hallmark Cards as an illustrator. He worked at Hallmark for seven years before deciding to leave the company to become an independent artist. Evans travels and works all around the world, but continues to keep Kansas City as his home base.

Writer Lois Lowry On 'The Giver'

Aug 25, 2014
courtesy: NEH

Acclaimed Newbery Award-winning children's author Lois Lowry's book for young people, The Giver, is now a film. 

"The Giver was the first book that I wrote that veered out of the realistic, and tiptoed a bit into fantasy. Some people call it science fiction. I don't like to think of it that way," Lowry tells our New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam.

Simon & Schuster, Daniel Miyares

Local children's author and illustrator Daniel Miyares visited the Central Standard studio to discuss his recent picture book, Pardon Me!

The book, aimed at 4-7 year-olds, tells the story of a bird on a perch who is visited by several of his supposed swamp friends until the frustrated critter is so crowded he can't take it any more. In the end, the bird is (spoiler alert!) finally left alone, only to be eaten by a crocodile who finishes his meal with a burp. "Pardon me," says the crocodile.  

William Joyce has captivated young audiences and their parents with his whimsical and imaginative characters in film, TV, and in books.  The creator of Rolie Polie Olie and The Guardians of Childhood has a new book and film, The Numberlys.  Joyce talks with Steve Kraske about what inspires the characters he creates.

Penguin Books

From haunted hotels, to the real life story of Nazi hunters in Argentina, these summer reading picks are sure to get your young ones' imaginations churning.

On Wednesday's Up to Date, Johnson County librarians Kate McNair and Dennis Ross, and retired librarian Debbie McLeod bring their recommendations to keep kids and teens occupied during the dog days of summer. 


Courtesy: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo.

Barbara Stuber has shown generations of schoolchildren and adults through the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She’s worked as a docent there for 25 years. Stuber’s new novel, Girl In Reverse, highlights the museum’s collection - including its Asian art.

The book’s set in the early 1950s, the Korean War is underway, and teenager, Lily Firestone, who’s adopted and Chinese, faces discrimination. But, at the museum, she finds a link to her culture and her past.

In recent years, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games  and Twilight series have been favorites among young readers. However, a survey of the most frequently checked out books at the Johnson County libraries also includes classics from decades past.

Creative Commons

Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series recently received the dubious distinction of topping the American Library Association's list of most-challenged books of 2013. With the author on his way to Kansas City, Central Standard took a look at what makes some of the most-challenged books so controversial.

  The cold weather is starting to set in, and your kids will need something to keep them occupied—or you may risk a case of cabin fever.

 In the second part of Wednesday's Up to Date, three librarians join us to offer their recommendations for the best children's, young adult and teen reads. 

The "Best of 2013"

 From Kate McNair, young adult librarian, Johnson County Library:

Courtesy / Shane Evans

Kansas City author and illustrator, Shane Evans, will be at two events this weekend showcasing his new children's book and film, Chocolate Me!.

Chocolate Me! is a collaboration with actor and model, Taye Diggs, known for his roles in the original Broadway production of Rent and the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Although Diggs often plays the hunk on the silver screen, as a kid he was teased for his looks.

A boy gets a book he thinks is cheesy-- a tale about a bunny and his birthday. His next move is to take a pen to the pages of the book and make the story a bit more interesting.

In the second part of Thursday's Up to Date, we take a look at a lighter side of life with children’s book authors Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett as we talk about their new book, Battle Bunny


Hot Summer Reads For Kids

May 28, 2013

When you read a children’s book, you can peek in on aliens, take a nature hike or learn about friendship from a couple of hippos. 

Beth Lipoff/KCUR

It’s a special blend of characters, engaging stories and occasionally, a bit of magic that goes into a great children’s book.

On Thursday's Up to Date,  Steve Kraske hosts a roundtable of children's book authors, including Brian Selznick, Richard Peck, Sarah Weeks and Avi to discuss their methods for putting together award-winning tomes with that extra spark of fun.

It’s hard enough to keep your kids away from the Xbox on a normal weekday… it must be even tougher when they’re home for winter vacation.  But technology might just help this time around: perhaps you can even convince your child to turn off the video game and pick up a Kindle...or a Nook… an iPad or even (yes!) paper…and dig deep into a great story.

If you're looking for a really good present for your son, daughter, or other kid in your life, consider the gift of reading.