Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Why Poetry?

By Miss Audrey, Youth Services Dept. Librarian

I distinctly remember my mother reading poetry to me when I was quite young. Shel Silverstein, A.A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame), and rhyming picture books regularly made their way into our read-aloud sessions. We loved them, and still quote our favorite lines to each other whenever we get the chance. Despite this, by the time I got to college, I had formed a less-than-stellar relationship with poetry.

I think it had something to do with the way the subject was taught at my high school. The poetry we learned there was old, impressive, important, and full of themes, motifs, and whatnots. While I was impressed and fascinated by the beauty and imagery in the pieces, they always felt distant. They weren’t something I could cozy up to and read for the fun of it, but something meant to be studied and taken seriously. In my head, reading poetry was the kind of work that required time and brainpower.

I think our kids deserve better than that.

As an adult, I’ve had the great luck to discover that poetry is a living, vibrant, meaningful thing that absolutely can be enjoyed in sips as well as gulps. It can be happy, sad, funny, touching, and, yes, it can require deep thinking, but not necessarily hours of study, to understand.

These days, I’m a huge fan of National Poetry month. In my experience, poetry:

* Broadens our world view by showing us things from a different perspective
* Introduces new vocabulary, and the idea that playing with words can be fun
* Helps people (including kids) embrace and use their own personal voice in a way unique to them

In short, poetry is priceless.

With that in mind, we of the Children’s Department have included the names and brief reviews of some of our favorite works of poetry published for kids in 2017 – early 2018. We hope you are able to use these books to build up your children’s love of language to be so strong that it’ll take more than a dull poetry class to knock it back out.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures photographs by Joel Sartore, words by Kwame Alexander
For ages 4 – 8

The stunning, vivid, gorgeously detailed photographs are the real show-stoppers here, but the poems are also worth the price of admission. Each page features a different species of animal against a solid background (either black or white), punctuated by brightly colored haiku. Published by National Geographic Kids, the creators’ hope is that, in coming face-to-face with these animals, readers will be more apt to protect them and their habitats. They make a very compelling argument. Share today.

Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
For ages 8 – 12

Two students, a black boy and white girl, are assigned to work together on a writing assignment. Using this fictionalized framing, poets Irene Latham and Charles Waters (who give their characters their names) write poems that look at how similar situations are experienced differently by the two characters. Latham and Waters have created an accessible and unflinching look at issues of race and culture in our schools and communities. Some of the poems are difficult, but the collection ends on a decidedly hopeful note as the two children, who originally thought themselves so very different, discover that through listening and questions, a friendship is blossoming. Highly recommended for home and school, this book is sure to generate lots of important, and timely, discussion.
(Review by Mrs. Amanda)

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs by Carol Murray, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
For ages 6 – 10

Quick, snappy little verses about bugs fill this nicely informative collection. Each page is devoted to a different creepy-crawly, complete with cute-but-accurate portrayals in the illustrations. An informational blurb sits beneath all the poems, and every bug has a longer paragraph about it at the end of the book. Fun, factual, all-around enjoyable: should be a hit with anyone who’s interested in the subject (and might even convert those who aren’t too sure).

Earth Verse: Haiku From the Ground Up by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by William Grill
For ages 7 – 10

Earth science in haiku form might seem like an odd combination, but this book makes it work. Divided into sections devoted to minerals, rocks, fossils, and more, kids get a clever glimpse into certain elements that make up our planet. Crafty word play and impressionistic artwork in a blue-red color scheme add further interest, and informational paragraphs at the end of the book fill in some of the factual gaps. A good selection for those interested in science, as well as those who appreciate seeing how far poetry can stretch.

Family Poems for Every Day of the Week / Poemas Familiares Para Cada Dia de la Semana by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez
For ages 5 – 10

This vibrant, bilingual (English/Spanish) collection is a joyous celebration of family and daily life. Following a child through their week at home and school, readers are introduced to a large, active family enmeshed in a close-knit community. Young readers (and their adults) are sure to find plenty to relate to. The artwork is stunningly stylized, with lots of Latin inspiration. A must-read for any home on the block.

I’m Just No Good At Rhyming: And Other Nonsense For Mischievous Kids And Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith
For ages 7 – 10

These poems are funny. A great many other reviewers have compared Chris Harris’ work to Shel Silverstein’s, and while I agree that they have the same sort of feel, Harris’ style is unique to himself, and it’s wonderful. There are poems in here perfect for reading out loud, perfect for reading to one’s self, and perfect for giggling so hard one has to take a moment to breathe. Mr. Smith’s illustrations are equally fantastic and match the tenor of the poems beautifully. Hats off, gentlemen – you’ve made a delightful thing.

Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček
For ages 3 – 7

Split into several sections (“Big and Small,” “Colors and Shapes,” etc.), these poetic observations about the natural world will capture the attention of little zoologists everywhere. Combined with striking, textured illustrations in saturated colors, these poems will transport young readers under the sea, into the jungle treetops, and everywhere else that animals thrive. Just be prepared for a lot of questions when the kids’ curiosity gets fired up! An A+ selection.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Annual Youth Media Award Winners

By Miss Audrey, Youth Services Dept. Librarian

February 12, 2018, was a very exciting day for children’s and teen librarians (as well as other youth literature aficionados) up and down the countryside. Why, you ask? Because it was the day that the American Library Association announced its annual Youth Media Awards!

Essentially, it is the Oscars® of the youth literature world. People wait with bated breath to see which books will earn bright, shiny award stickers for their covers and be set on the path toward relative immortality.

So, who won? A selected list of award winners and reviews is below. For the complete list, see the ALA Youth Media Awards website.

The John Newbery Medal for “the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature” went to:

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Ages 8 – 12 years

Virgil: shy, lonely (even with his guinea pig Gulliver around), trying to figure himself out. Kaori: self-assured seer who knows herself and the mystic secrets (assisted by little sister, Gen). Valencia: smart, brave, scientific explorer (who is also deaf). Chet: neighborhood bully, wants to be just like his dad (knows nothing about snakes). These four narrators alternate chapters to tell what happened that fateful day when Virgil fell afoul of Chet and got stuck in a hopeless place. Will the girls realize he’s gone and find him in time? Full of authentic, diverse young voices and moments of humor, bravery, and fear, this is a book no one should miss.

The John Newbery Honor Books are:
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut written by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
Long Way Down  by Jason Reynolds
Piecing Me Together  by Renée Watson

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for “the most distinguished American picture book for children” was awarded to:

Wolf in the Snow written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Ages 2 – 6 years

A girl leaves school just as a snowstorm is starting. Blinded by the same storm, a small wolf pup gets separated from its pack. Lost, they each blunder into each other. Will either find their way home? This beautiful story is told through sketchy, pen-and-ink drawings with watercolors – the only words are the animals’ sounds. The artwork perfectly complements this tale of kindness, bravery, and doing the right thing, even when it’s scary and hard.

The Randolph Caldecott Honor Books are:
Big Cat, Little Cat  illustrated and written by Elisha Cooper
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut  illustrated by Gordon C. James, written by Derrick Barnes
A Different Pond  illustrated by Thi Bui, written by Bao Phi
Grand Canyon  illustrated and written by Jason Chin

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for “the most distinguished book for beginning readers” was earned by:

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder
Age: 4 – 8 years

Charlie and Mouse are a winsome pair of brothers, and this book (the first in a series) traces their imaginative daily adventures with simple yet funny word play and visual details. Each little chapter is its own semi-separate story, so it’s easy to put down and pick back up for your beginning-reader-on-the-go. A great choice for families looking for something with a similar flavor to the “Frog and Toad” series, except maybe a bit easier. Truly charming.

The Geisel Honor Books are:
I See A Cat  written and illustrated by Paul Meisel
King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats written by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers
My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories  written and illustrated by Salina Yoon
Noodleheads See the Future  written by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, illustrated by Tedd Arnold
Snail & Worm Again  written and illustrated by Tina Kügler

The Schneider Family Book Award is “for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.”

The Award winner for young children (ages 0 – 8) is:

Silent Days, Silent Dreams  written and illustrated by Allen Say
Ages 8 – up

This graphic-novel style fictional biography imagines the early life of James Castle, an artist who was born two months premature in 1899. Castle was deaf, mute, probably autistic, and he never learned how to communicate via speech or sign language. Instead, he taught himself how to make art in his own unique style, to visually show how he saw the world. Allen Say’s artwork closely mimics Castle’s oeuvre while relating this interpretation of his story. Thought-provoking and evocative – this one is certain to be a conversation starter.

The Award winner for middle grade (ages 9 – 13) is:

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess  written by Shari Green

And the Award winner for teens (ages 14 – 18) is: 

You’re Welcome, Universe  written and illustrated by Whitney Gardner

Other children’s literature awards given out by the American Library Association include:

Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award to affirm new talent.

Pura Belpré Awards honoring Latino writers and illustrators whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children.

Stonewall Book Award–Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

So, if you’re looking for good, up-to-date reading materials, please visit the ALA website for past and present winners.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Great Books for Year-Round Giving: 2017

By Miss Audrey, Youth Services Dept. Librarian

What’s easy to wrap and never goes out of style?


The perfect holiday (or birthday or just-because) gift. The only tricky part is figuring out which ones to buy. Fear not! The staff of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library Children's Dept. is here to help.

Below, you’ll see a list of our favorite books published in 2017. We’ve got great suggestions for every age, birth to 12 years, in a wide variety of formats: fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc. You’re sure to find something for every kid on your list.

Happy holidays!

Miss Audrey's Favorites:

Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions
Ages: 6 months – 3 years
Board Book
An adorable multiracial crew of babies introduces basic facial expressions in this super cute selection. The emotions covered are happy, sad, angry, surprised, and silly, and young readers are encouraged to both practice the expression themselves and also pick it out of a lineup. It has the perfect amount of interaction, and the mirror at the end is a bonus. An excellent choice for snuggles and giggles!

Charlie & Mouse series by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes
Ages: 4 – 8 years
Beginning Reader
Charlie and Mouse are a winsome pair of brothers, and these books (2 so far) trace their imaginative daily adventures with simple yet funny word play and visual details. Each book has just a few easy chapters. Each chapter is its own semi-separate story, so it’s easy to put down and pick back up for your beginning-reader-on-the-go. A great choice for families looking for something with a similar flavor to the “Frog and Toad” series, except maybe a bit easier. Truly charming.

Forever, or a Long, Long Time  by Caela Carter
Ages: 8 – 12 years
If you can’t remember something, how can you know for a fact that it’s happened? Flora and her brother, Julian, spent their early childhood bouncing around in the foster care system. They’ve been adopted for about a year, now, but they can’t quite trust that it’s permanent. They also can’t believe they were ever babies, or were born like other children. After all, other kids have proof – just another thing that makes the siblings different. With family changes looming on the horizon, they agree to revisit their childhood homes. Can learning about their past help them move on to face the future? Flora narrates this emotional story about what it takes to make a family. A moving, mind-opening read.

Real Friends  by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Ages: 8 – 12 years 
Graphic Novel
Friendship can be tough, as middle-child-of-five Shannon Hale relates in this semi-autobiographical graphic novel memoir. Readers follow Shannon through several years of elementary school as she drifts in and out of The Group – a handful of “popular” girls who rule the school. At the same time, Shannon deals with a hostile sibling, a burgeoning interest in writing, and a slight anxiety disorder, all while trying to figure out how to be true to her own best self. This captures every emotion of a young kid’s life, without losing its innate humor and heart. A must read for any school-going child.

York: The Shadow Cipher  by Laura Ruby
Ages: 8 – 12 years
In the early 1800s, the Morningstarr twins Theodore and Teresa turned New York into the finest city in the world with their fabulous inventions: machines that handle street cleaning, transportation, and more, all powered by the sun, and that never break down. Decades later, the twins disappeared, leaving a series of clues – a cipher – to a great treasure. Fast-forward to modern times: a sleazy developer is slowly acquiring all of the original Morningstarr buildings, including the building where Jaime and the twins, Tess and Theo, have lived all their lives. The only way to save their home is to solve the cipher – a task far more dangerous than it sounds. A perfect read for kids who love adventures, puzzles, and mystery.

Ms. Amanda A.'s Favorites:

The Antlered Ship  by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers
Ages: 4 – 7 years
Picture Book
A thoughtful fox, full of questions about the world around him, sets sail when an antlered ship shows up on the beach near his home. Crewed by deer, the ship is headed across the sea to an island with low trees and tall bushes. The fox joins the crew, along with some pigeons. Sailing is tough, but the crew pulls it together to navigate between rocks and to fend off a pirate ship. It is difficult to tell an adventure story in the short space one has in picture books written for the preschool and early elementary set, and Slater absolutely knocks it out of the ballpark with this one. And the pictures! The pictures are AMAZING. The Fan Brothers had better win some awards for this soft and realistically illustrated masterpiece. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore (or computer for online ordering) and get this book for everyone you know.

The Football Fanbook: Everything You Need to Become a Gridiron Know-It-All  by Gary Gramling
Ages: 8 years and up
If you have a football lover on your shopping list, all I can say is, you are welcome. I cannot think of a more perfect gift book for a fan. Filled with facts, lingo, and stats, The Football Fanbook will take your fanatic’s expertise to the next level. One section teaches readers to think like a coach. Another gives some tips on skills to master (both as a player and as a fan). Rounding it all out is some info on teams and select players. Perfect for browsing (a plus for those who are fans of football, but maybe not reading) this book is a homerun…wait, wrong sport…

Gods and Thunder: A Graphic Novel of Old Norse Myths  by Carl Bowen (Author),‎ Michael Dahl (Author),‎ Louise Simonson (Author),‎ Eduardo Garcia (Illustrator),‎ Tod Smith (Illustrator),‎ Rex Lokus (Illustrator)
Ages: 9 years and up
Nonfiction Graphic Novel
For all the mythology lovers out there, this graphic novel tells the stories of battle and intrigue based on the old Norse (think Vikings) myths. All the players are here, including Thor, Loki, Oden, and lots more. The authors manage to stay age appropriate while covering these old tales filled with treachery, prophecies, and swords (and don’t forget Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer!). For fans of the Marvel movies and Rick Riordan’s work (Percy Jackson and (specifically) Magnus Chase), this graphic novel (and its excellent artwork) keeps the old tales fresh and alive for new fans.

Miss Amanda M.'s Favorites:

Flora and the Chicks: A Counting Book  by Molly Idle 
Ages: 1 – 4 years
Board Book
Young dancer Flora returns with a new flock of feathered friends in this adorable board book. Your young one can count the chicks on each page – from one to ten – as they hatch. Full-page flaps lift to reveal additional chicks, adding another interactive element to the wordless text.  With softly sweet illustrations, readers are invited to tell the nearly wordless story in their own words.

Egg by Kevin Henkes 
Ages: 3 – 7 years
Picture Book
Using minimal text, this picture book illustrates a tale of unlikely friendship. Four eggs wait to hatch. After three of them do, revealing color coordinated chicks, the fourth one remains unopened. With the help of the three birds, the fourth egg hatches to an unexpected and, for the three little ones, scary surprise. Seeing the newly hatched creature looking miserable and alone, the three baby birds return to comfort the new little critter and to offer friendship.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Ages: 4 – 8 years
Picture Book
When an unexpected snowstorm comes upon them, both a little girl and a young wolf cub become lost. Though afraid, they work together to help one another find their searching families. This nearly wordless picture book beautifully illustrates the story of the unlikely assistance between the wolves and the girl, and provides a happy ending sure to warm the readers’ hearts.

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (A Narwhal and Jelly Book #1) by Ben Clanton 
Ages: 6 – 9 years
Graphic Novel
In this hilarious graphic novel about Narwhal and his new (possibly imaginary) pal, Jellyfish, the duo become friends and have adventures under the sea. They bond over their love of waffles, start their own “pod of awesomeness”, and discover the wonders of the “best book ever”. With short chapters, this is a great book for young readers to read in small bursts. The three stories and two brief informational shorts between are sure to delight readers with their humor and fun.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser 
Ages: 7 – 10 years
In this heartwarming holiday tale, the five Vanderbeeker children and their family live in an old brownstone in a Harlem neighborhood. Days before Christmas, the children are told that they must move at the end of the year – only eleven days away – as their antisocial and temperamental landlord decided not to renew their lease. The children decide to use their special talents to change the landlord’s mind, all while preparing for the holiday and dealing with the usual stresses of childhood.

Miss Taylor's Favorites:

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani 
Ages: 3 – 5 years
Picture Book 
One cat likes to sleep. Two cats like to play. What do three cats like to do? Stack, of course! As more and more cats appear, the stacking gets more complex and, occasionally, results in some relatively harmless tumbling! This unique counting book features various adorable cats and a fun, vintage color palette. Perfect for any cat-loving preschooler!

Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Adam Rex
Ages: 4 – 8 years
Picture Book
How did the famous game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” come to be? It all started long ago in three far away lands, each with a noble warrior looking for a worthy opponent: Rock, the strongest fighter in Kingdom of Backyard, Paper, the smartest contender in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, and Scissors, the quickest blade in the Kitchen Realm. When their paths collide, will each of these warriors finally meet their match? This fictional history of the classic game is full of sidesplitting humor and impressive vocabulary. It is sure to be a hit with elementary aged readers!

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
Ages: 4 – 8 years
Picture Book
Kelp the narwhal lives a reasonably happy life in the sea with his narwhal family. Narwhals have been referred to as the “unicorn of the sea,” but protagonist Kelp takes this a bit...well...literally! See, Kelp has always noticed that he’s a bit different from the other narwhals. He doesn’t swim quite as well and his horn is a bit on the short side. Kelp’s suspicions are confirmed one day when he is swept away and discovers a group of creatures that are just like him---unicorns! This discovery leads to confusion---is he a narwhal or a unicorn? The heartwarming answer to that question is accompanied by bright, gorgeous illustrations. 

Mrs. R's Favorites:

Good Day, Good Night By Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Loren Long
Ages: 4 – 8 years
Picture Book
A sweet tale by the author of Good Night Moon. A young bunny greets the beautiful day with joy, saying hello to all of his friends along the way. As night approaches, he bids each of his friends goodnight, until he finally reaches his own bed and snuggles in for a peaceful night’s sleep.

Survivors: Extraordinary Tales of the Wild and Beyond  By David Long & Kerry Hyndman
Ages: 9 – 12 years
Are you up for an adventure? This handsome, oversized volume is packed full of true survival stories that will both thrill and inspire young readers. Read how these survivors took great risks and overcame unbelievable challenges.

Miss Jill's Favorites:

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Dan Santat
Ages: 5 – 8 years
Picture Book
Every child has fears and tries to find ways to cope with those fears. In this heartwarming father-son story about facing fears and becoming brave, a boy keeps his fears at bay with his trusty dinosaur. Will he always need his dinosaur or will he realize there is nothing wrong with always having something that makes him feel brave?

Curious Jane: Science + Design + Engineering for Inquisitive Girls by Curious Jane
Ages: 6 – 11 years
Calling all curious and creative girls! If you are a girl who loves hands-on activities this book is packed full of cool projects and DIY fun. This is not your typical crafting book. The projects introduced in this book use many of the materials you have on hand. Your imagination is the limit! “Get out of your head and let your hands do the thinking!”

One Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails
Ages: 8 – 12 years
Ever since Steffy was little, she and her older sister, Nina, have lived with beloved Auntie Gina. Their life was secure and comforting, but everything changes when Steffy and Nina's dad comes home to live with them. In order to cope with this huge life changing event, Steffy cooks her way through the toughest year of her life. Will her recipes help bring her family back together? Read to find out and enjoy the collection of recipes.

Miss Nicole's Favorites:

A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Ages: 3 – 7 years
Picture Book
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a greyhound met a groundhog?  Let me tell you.  Fun ensues.  Beautifully illustrated, delightful, tongue-twisting fun.  This is one picture book that just begs to be read aloud.  The watercolor and pencil illustrations are lovely and enhance the rambunctious play between the two new friends.  As they race around and around, readers are sure to request the book again and again!

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
Ages: 8 years and up
Short Stories
Flying Lessons is a collection of short stories by a who’s who of award winning and bestselling middle grade authors.  Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Pena, Grace Lin, and Jaqueline Woodson are just a few of these stellar contributors.  Each story centers on a universal theme such as basketball, best friends, and first crushes and runs the gambit of emotions.  The characters have different backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities, and sexualities.  It feels as though there’s something for everyone in this collection, edited by Ellen Oh, the cofounder and president of We Need Diverse Books.  A relevant and well-written collection of stories for all kinds of readers. 

Nightlights by Lorena Alverez
Ages: 8 – 12 years
Graphic Novel
Sandy is a little girl who loves to draw whimsical creatures.  What no one knows is that she draws the magical creatures that appear to her each night through lights in her room.  When Morphie, the new girl in school, becomes a little too interested in her drawings things take a weird turn for Sandy.  Who exactly is Morphie and what does she want with Sandy and her drawings?  This short, creepy graphic novel is beautifully illustrated.  The bright colors and imaginative creatures are a marvel.  A sure-fire winner for anyone who likes eerie stories and stunning artwork.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Beyond "Elephant & Piggie": Beginning Readers

By Miss Audrey, Youth Services Dept. Librarian

For many people, writing things that are short and concise is one of the hardest tasks around. Cramming all of your thoughts, opinions, and details into a teeny tiny word count is difficult. Take, for example, writing reviews for this blog: how can I provide a tantalizing glimpse to tempt a reader without giving the whole book away or without exceeding my space limit? It can be daunting.

Now, imagine you are not only limited by word count, but you are also limited in terms of word difficulty. Imagine trying to get a full-length story with characters and plot into a short book, one paragraph (or even one sentence!) per page, using only very simple words that children learning how to read can manage. Imagine, basically, trying to write what we call a “Beginning Reader.”

It’s hard. Very hard. Which is why I’ve decided to give a few recently published series a shout-out today. Read on and marvel.

Andy and Sandy series by Tomie DePaola
Ages: 4 – 8

Don’t let the incredibly small word count and simple sentences fool you; these stories pack a lot of bang for the buck. Their plotlines will resonate with very beginning readers and help dispel the myth that learning to read must be boring. Andy and Sandy are friends who meet on a playground in the first book, and subsequent volumes include acting in a play, dressing up, snowmen, and more. Proof that sometimes wonderful things come in pared-down packages.

Ballet Cat series by Bob Shea
Ages: 4 – 8

One of the more eye-catching series on the market, some kids will be attracted to these books by the color scheme alone.  Bright pink, yellow, orange, and other cheerful colors accompany a perky, ballet-loving cat and her friends as they discuss secrets, trying new things, and the biggest question of all: who is Grandma’s favorite? Told entirely in dialogue word bubbles, these snappy, funny little stories zing along with gusto and will greatly appeal to most beginning readers.

Charlie & Mouse series by Laurel Snyder
Ages: 4 – 8

Charlie and Mouse are a winsome pair of brothers, and these books (two so far) trace their imaginative daily adventures with simple yet funny word play and visual details. Each book has just a few easy chapters. Each chapter is its own semi-separate story, so it’s easy to put down and pick back up for your beginning reader-on-the-go. A great choice for families looking for something with a similar flavor to the Frog and Toad series, except maybe a bit easier. Truly charming.

Duck, Duck, Porcupine series by Salina Yoon
Ages: 5 – 7 

Little Duck may not speak yet, but he has a better grasp on reality (and irony) than his sister, Big Duck, and their friend Porcupine. He plays the “straight man” to their antics, frequently inviting readers in on the joke by looking directly at them. And jokes there are a-plenty. Kids will be kept giggling as they eagerly flip the comic-book style pages to see what happens next. An excellent, funny choice for any beginning reader.

Otter series by Sam Garton
Ages: 4 – 8 

The titular character first starred in a few adorable picture books but has since made her debut in this equally delightful series for beginning readers. Each book follows Otter and her stuffed-animal friends in their daily play, watched over by the Otter Keeper (a.k.a., the parent analogue). Otter is something of an unreliable narrator, so kids will have to read the pictures as well as the words to truly understand the story. The result is often side-achingly funny and totally relatable to the average high-energy child. Also an excellent choice for reading aloud, this series should have a spot on every kid’s bookshelf.

Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series by various authors
Ages: 4 – 8 

Much to the regret of young readers everywhere, Mo Willems is no longer writing his acclaimed Elephant and Piggie beginning readers. He hasn’t completely abandoned his beloved characters, however. They feature in cameos in one of his newer writing projects: the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series. Each of these books is written and illustrated by a different big-name talent (Dan Santat, Bryan Collier, and others) and have introductions by Mo Willems' Gerald the Elephant and Piggie.  Even without the introductions, these stories are funny, bright, and highly appealing to the targeted age. They’re a  good choice for any kid who’s learning to read.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Road Trip!

By Miss Audrey, Youth Services Dept. Librarian

It’s summer! We all know what that means: long, lazy days filled with some pretty fantastic seasonal activities, such as reading, swimming, sports, camping, and…car trips? Uh-oh.

For many of us, summer is also a time to visit folks we haven’t seen in a while, and that can mean some extensive – and potentially boring – travelling. For others, though, a change of scenery can come as a welcome break. Regardless of which camp you fall into, these travel books should help you and your children while away some fun summer hours.

The Airport Book  by Lisa Brown
Ages 4 – 7
Picture book
Our narrator for this story is a young boy who is travelling via airplane with his parents and younger sister. He describes, in simple and amusing language, details such as waiting in line and other situations travelers might experience in an airport.  Close perusal of the illustrations shows other passengers, and readers can follow those story lines through the book, too. For example, one subplot involves the boy’s younger sister’s beloved stuffed monkey as it voyages with the luggage. Excellent for travel aficionados, first time flyers, and anyone who likes poring over illustrations. Sure fire win!

The Flying Hand of Marco B.  by Richard Leiter
Ages 4 - 7
Picture book
A family errand turns into an epic adventure for Marco when the wind rushing by the car’s window proves to be irresistibly tempting. He sticks his hand out the window, and his hand starts flying in the wind. His mom tells him to pull his hand in, but that doesn’t last for long, and, before you know it, Marco’s pulled right out of the car by the wind and goes flying all over the place – including outer space! Happily, he lands safely back in the car before anyone notices. An excellent story for any imaginative kid who knows how to spice up a potentially boring car ride.

Are We There Yet?  by Dan Santat  
Ages 4 – 8 
Picture book
The plot of this story centers on the dreaded car-ride question in the title. A boy is so bored on the trip to his grandma’s house that time must be slowing down…and then it starts going backward! Past the Wild West, Ancient Egypt, the Jurassic period, and more, pretty soon the boy is having so much fun that time speeds up to compensate. Who knows when they’ll show up next? Each illustration in this clever story is jam packed with amusing details, and, when time starts going backwards, the reader must flip the book upside down and flip the pages backwards, as if the book were going back in time, too. Endlessly clever, it might just be the trick to get a restless child through their next car trip.

Walk Two Moons  by Sharon Creech  
Ages 8 – 12
Salamanca “Sal” Tree Hiddle and her free-spirited grandparents are on an important road trip to see Sal’s mother, who recently left her family. As they make their way from Ohio to Idaho, Sal entertains her grandparents with the story of her school friend, Phoebe Winterbottom, whose mother mysteriously disappeared after being the target of vague messages and odd encounters with a mysterious stranger. As the story of Phoebe’s mother unfolds, Sal begins to reminisce about her own mother and the bond they shared before she left. Often humorous, yet at times melancholy, this coming-of-age story highlights the complex relationship between mothers and their children in a way that will certainly touch the hearts of readers.  (review by Miss Taylor)

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Ages 8 – 12  
Graphic novel
Oh no!  A long car trip to a family reunion and back, stuck in a van with both of your younger siblings – that sounds like a recipe for a tedious summer.  In this excellent graphic memoir companion to her award-winning book Smile, Raina Telgemier recalls a particularly trying adolescent memory: it’s the summer before she starts high school, her parents have been bickering, and she has to go to a family reunion full of people she hasn’t seen in ten years, dealing with her attitudinal little sister every mile of the way.  For anyone who has ever had a sibling (of any gender), each panel of this clever book is steeped in humorous authenticity.  Excellent reading for all ages, and required reading for middle-school road trips, we suggest you give this one a try!

The Slowest Book Ever  by April Pulley Sayre
Ages 8 – 12
This amusing paean to slow things encourages readers to take their time and think 'chewy thoughts.' It includes sections regarding slow nature, geology, outer space, arts, and more, and the writing mixes fascinating facts with deep, thoughtful questions. Great for browsing or starting conversations, hand this book to anyone who needs to do some car trip daydreaming, enjoys trivia, or likes to fit some reading between other activities.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Graphic Novels!

We of the library's Youth Services Department have a deep and abiding love of graphic novels. Many of them are funny, smart, and have fantastic artwork, without skimping on the great vocabulary and storylines that enrich a young person’s reading life. They catch the eyes of some of our most reluctant readers, and they offer extra support for kids who can’t read text novels at grade level yet, but who still want to read something that is age appropriate and looks cool.

The last few years have been great for excellent graphic novels. Below is a list of some interesting series openers that have come out recently. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact us at the library, and we’ll point you in the right direction!

The Only Living Boy by David Gallaher
Ages: 7 – 12
Every once in a blue moon, we’ll get an elementary school-aged kid who wants a book “like The Hunger Games.” This could be a good option for that kid. In this series, a 12-year-old runaway named Erik who can’t remember his past wakes up in a dystopian future inhabited entirely by aliens. He is captured almost immediately, escapes about as quickly, and the action keeps going from there. The species included are unique, and the world is drawn in stunning detail, with a dark-toned palette. A fantastic sci-fi action-adventure.

Cleopatra In Space by Mike Maihack
Ages: 8 – 12
When I first saw this, I was dubious, but I’m glad I read it! Cleo is an opinionated, independent-minded young future ruler of Egypt, just trying to have fun exploring with her best friend while avoiding her tutor. Next thing she knows, she’s transported into the distant future where she is expected to save the galaxy from the dread invader Xaius Octavian. To prepare her for her fate, she is enrolled at Yasiro Academy, with a  mix of human and alien students, to learn sharpshooting, algebra, and other useful life skills. Adventures ensue. Try it yourself!

Dream Jumper by Greg Grunberg & Lucas Turnbloom
Ages: 8 – 12
Ben’s been having some really strange nightmares recently, made even stranger because they’re not all his! Somehow, he’s developed the ability to enter and manipulate other kids’ dreams while he sleeps. There are monsters in there, though, and they have plans of their own. When kids from Ben’s school start getting stuck in sleep, unable to wake up, Ben knows he has to do something to save the day. This series starter has a good mix of humor and adventure, with just a pinch of creepy mystery, and it should find wide appeal.

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Ages: 8 – 12
Jack’s family has it kind of rough right now. His single mother has to work two jobs to keep food on the table, and, since it’s summer break, that means that it’s Jack’s job to watch out for his sister Maddy, who has ASD. Still, Jack doesn’t really regret trading his mom’s car for that box of seeds when Maddy (usually nonverbal) urges him to, because they grow into a garden that’s literally magical. Soon, the siblings and their friend Lilly are having a blast trying to figure out what all the different plants do. Then a dragon shows up, and Jack has to ask himself: is a magical life worth the danger? The word for this book is “vibrant” – colors, characters, the plot – it’s all brilliant. Great for any young reader.

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
Ages: 9 – 13
There’s only one way to get from the far side of the mountains to the sea, and that’s through a city that’s been conquered and renamed countless times. Natives call it The Nameless City.  Kaidu is the son of an occupying general, and has arrived in the city to complete his education. Kaidu isn’t satisfied staying behind the Palace walls, though – he wants to explore the city itself. Soon he has met and begrudging befriended Rat, a city girl who runs over rooftops as easily as others walk across the street.  When conspiracies start to roil in the city, will their friendship last?  A fascinating story with intricate artwork – hand to any adventure lover today!

Princeless: Save Yourself  by Jeremy Whitley 
Ages: 9 – 14
Princess Adrienne Ashe is clever, brave, strong, smart, and….locked in a tower, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon named Sparky. Fed up with being governed by other people’s low expectations (and unwilling to marry someone she’s never met, just because they’re good at dragon-slaying), Adrienne decides enough is enough. Thus begins one princess’s epic (and funny) quest to save herself and her sisters, one monster-ridden tower at a time. With the added bonus of a ruling family of color, this series is perfect for any kid who has ever heard a fairy tale. A must-have book.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poetry Month Reviews

By Miss Audrey, Youth Services Dept. Librarian

The real challenge of writing a blog post for National Poetry month comes from the sheer number of excellent books for kids that feature poetry that come out every year. Not only are rhyming picture books for younger kids constantly in vogue, but the “Novel In Verse” format is becoming more popular every year. Narrowing this list down to just a few examples published in the last year or so was tricky, but the following selections definitely include (some) of the crème de la crème of 2016/2017.

Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell
Ages 3 – 6
This adorable little book doubles as a guessing game! Each page presents a “guess who” style riddle in haiku form, with illustrated hints by the excellent Bob Shea. Kids will enjoy putting their animal knowledge to the test, while simultaneously being introduced to a popular form of poetry. Fun, easy, kid-friendly: a sure-fire win for classroom or family use.

Among a Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost
Ages  3 – 7
Illustrated entirely in gorgeous photographs, this picture book poem tells the story of how two specific fireflies (a female and a male) find each other, even when surrounded by other fireflies. They identify each other by their particular pattern of light flashes, and they follow that “clear silent song” until they finally meet. A page at the end of the book explains more about the fireflies’ method of communication and the importance of nature education and conservation. Nature science, lovely language, and detailed photographs add up to a dreamy choice for any firefly fan.

Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks by Skila Brown
Ages 6 – 9
Sharks are a perpetual favorite in the Children’s Department, and this selection does not disappoint! Each two-page spread features a different type of shark (14 in all) and contains a poem about the animal, a big illustration, and a fact presented in a smaller typeface. The sharks include some well-known varieties (great white, hammerhead, tiger), as well as a couple rarer types (goblin, frilled). The poems are amusing and clever and vary in form. An excellent choice for kids who prefer poetry and science with some bite!

Are You An Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by Misuzu Kaneko, Translated by Sally Ito, David Jacobson, and Michiko Tsuboi
Ages 7 – 10
Half biography, half poetry collection, this book is tender and beautiful. The first part discusses Misuzu Kaneko’s life: childhood, education, writing career, family, final illness, and suicide at age 26. While this sounds very heavy for the intended audience, it is handled with a light touch, and is ultimately child-friendly. The biography is punctuated by samples of her poetry, and more poems are included in the back. The verses are full of empathy and a childlike observations, and the illustrations are lovely. This is a more serious selection, and it is one of the most gorgeous children’s poetry collections available. Perfect to share in a quiet moment.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan
Ages 8 – 12
Eighteen fifth graders, the last graduates of Emerson Elementary before it’s razed, are assigned to keep a poetry journal for the year. Some kids take to it more enthusiastically than others, but they all write about their changing lives and families in this diverse and thought-provoking book. All the kids have things going on in their lives – ailing grandparent, absent father, military deployment, poverty, adjusting to a new country, etc – and it’s easy to connect to them emotionally. As the year progresses, the students show major growth as they learn how to make their voices heard. This is a solid choice for independent reading and classroom sharing.

Unbound: A Novel In Verse by Ann E. Burg
Ages 9 – 12
Grace and her family are slaves on a Southern plantation near the Great Dismal Swamp. When Grace – light-skinned and blue-eyed – is sent to serve up at the Big House, her elders warn her to keep out of trouble. It’s hard, though, when the Master and Missus are just plain mean, and Grace has to choke back her feelings about the injustice of it all. When the final straw breaks, Grace and her family have to make a run for it before they are sold: after all, even the Swamp must be better than the auction block and permanent separation. This page-turning historical novel in verse is strongly rooted in fact, and Grace’s narration is honest and emotionally packed. A powerful selection for any young American.

Booked  by Kwame Alexander
Ages 10 – 13
Nick hates words as much as he loves soccer, but his father is obsessed with the English language and insists that Nick read the dictionary he’s written about obscure vocabulary. Other than that, his life is going pretty well: star of the soccer team, great best friend, cool mom, his romantic interest seems to be mutual. But then he gets news that changes everything, and not for the better. Suddenly, his home life’s a mess, bullies are bringing him down, and even his soccer life is being affected. How can he reconcile everything? Much like the author’s award-winning book The Crossover, this novel in verse stars a likable, believable main character trying to figure out life, sports, and everything in-between. You can hand this book to practically anyone.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance  by Nikki Grimes
Ages  10 – 14
In this homage to the Harlem Renaissance, award-winning Nikki Grimes reprinted some works by the era’s most iconic poets. She then used those poems to create her own, unique “Golden Shovel” poems, a challenging form that incorporates lines from the Renaissance poems. The effect is stunning, showing that while a great a deal has changed, even more has stayed the same, but hope is never misplaced. Vivid illustrations by some of the best African-American children’s artists of the day are scattered throughout the book. Altogether, this book is a tour-de-force and should be checked out immediately.