Our literary picks for January.

AGES 3 TO 6

I USED TO BE AFRAID by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

A young girl used to have fears ranging from the simple (spiders) to the complex (being alone). But she manages to overcome each of them by finding the good in what she fears. Spiders make beautiful webs, the dark is full of stars and, when left alone by her friends, she uses the time to read under a tree. Seeger is a master of visual design and cutouts that lead from one page to the next, adding to the fun. The story ends with a twist when the little girl turns the tables on her prankster big brother.


AGES 7 TO 10

HAMSTER PRINCESS: HARRIET THE INVINCIBLE by Ursula Vernon

Princess Harriet Hamsterbone is cursed: When she turns 12 she will prick herself on a magic hamster wheel and fall into a deep sleep. Harriet decides to view this as good news - it means she will definitely remain alive and well until the age of 12, and is therefore invincible! She travels the realms, defeating monsters, having adventures and rescuing princes. But what will happen when she must confront her destiny and Ratshade, the wicked rat fairy that cursed her? This hilarious, heavily illustrated retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story will have you laughing out loud and cheering on a feisty hamster princess.

AGES 10 TO 14

CURIOSITY HOUSE: THE SHRUNKEN HEAD by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

The children of Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders have remarkable abilities. Thomas can contort his body to fit into any space, scrawny Sam is incredibly strong, Max astounds with her knife-throwing skills and Philippa can read people's minds … at least enough to see what they have in their pockets. When the museum's newest acquisition, a possibly cursed shrunken head, goes missing, the disappearance sets off a string of mysterious deaths. The children will have to use all their powers to find the villains and save Mr. Dumfrey, their home and their fellow human wonders. Along the way, clues to their own secret past will be revealed.


TEENS

LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray

This sweeping story set in 1920s New York City explores both the historical and the supernatural. Small-town girl Evie has made it big as the Sweetheart Seer, using her psychic powers to entertain on the radio. Meanwhile, con artist Sam hides his power and his true self as he searches for clues behind the disappearance of his mother. Musician Henry and his friend Ling also keep their powers a secret, exploring a mysterious dreamscape by night where anything they wish can become reality and the dead speak. When ordinary citizens begin to succumb to a terrifying sleeping sickness, sucked into dreams from which they never wake, and the subways begin to fill with vicious, hungry ghosts, these teens must put aside their own troubles to save the city. This much-anticipated sequel to 2012's The Diviners was worth the wait.

-Laura Nawojchik, Youth Services Librarian, Whetstone Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library

FAMILY APP

THE EVERYTHING MACHINE

This new app by Tinybop ($2.99 for iPad and iPhone) allows children to turn their devices into anything they can imagine and learn engineering and coding in the process. Using a simple visual programming language, users drag and drop components to create machines.

The app takes advantage of your device's features, including the speaker, microphone and light. Kids start out making a simple digital "light bulb"-powering machine, then move on to create videos, music and even a prank machine. Suggestions for further projects include a "cookie-thief catcher" that plays a stern message whenever the cookie jar is pilfered. Once users master the components, the possibilities are limitless and they can also send messages (or tricks) to friends who have the app. Recommended for ages 8 to 12.

- Laura Nawojchik