Great Books and more

Hands-On Science Books

During this season of colder weather and shorter days, you can find plenty of inspiration for activities to do with kids in the science section of the library. These are just a handful of our favorite books that help curious kids explore the world around them through scientific experimentation. Check them out!:

Crazy Concoctions book coverExploratopia book coverExploratorium Science Snackbook Series book coverHead to Toe Science book coverKitchen Science Experiments book coverNatural Disasters book coverScience Experiments you can Eat book coverScore! Sports Science Projects book coverSmash it! Crash it! Launch it! book coverWhose Fingerprints are These? book cover

Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist's Guide to Messy Mixtures / Jordan Brown; illus. by Anthony Owsley

Exploratopia / Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and staff of the Exploratorium; illus. by Jason Gorski

Exploratorium Science Snackbook SeriesPaul Doherty, Don Rathjen, and the Exploratorium Teacher Institute

Head to Toe Science: Over 40 Eye-popping, Spine-tingling, Heart-pounding Activities that Teach Kids about the Human Body / Jim Wiese

Kitchen Science Experiments: How does your Mold Garden Grow? / Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen; illus. by Edward Miller

Natural Disasters: Investigate Earth's most Destructive Forces: With 25 Projects / Kathleen Reilly; illus. by Tom Casteel

Science Experiments you can Eat / Vicki Cobb; illus. by David Cain

Score!: Sports Science Projects series / by various authors

Smash it! Crash it! Launch it!: 50 Mind-blowing, Eye-popping Science Experiments / Rain Newcomb & Bobby Mercer

Whose Fingerprints Are These?: Crime-solving Science Projects / Robert Gardner

Best Illustrated Books of 2014--with a raffle!

Wow, "Best Of" season has started already! Last week, the New York Times released its annual "Best Illustrated Books" list, ten illustrated books NYT staff felt outdid all the others this year. You can see the slideshow here.

We here at OPL like their choices, but are sad that some of our favorites didn't get picked. (I mean, have you seen Viva Frida?!) Below are the books that made the NYT's list--you can get the first six from OPL, and the last four you can get through Link+... also at OPL*. Either way, visit your local branch and ask for these--they're all treats.

We want to know--what's YOUR favorite illustrated book of the year? What would be on your "Best Illustrated" list for 2014? Leave a comment with your choice(s), and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Marla Frazee's The Farmer and the Clown--definitely on *my* list.

    

Draw! written and illustrated by Raúl Colón

Harlem Hellfighters, written by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gary Kelley

Time for Bed, Fred, written and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail

    

The Promise, written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

The Baby Tree, written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

The Pilot and the Little Prince: the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, written and illustrated by Peter Sis

   

Shackleton's Journey, written and illustrated by William Grill

Haiti, my Country: poems by Haitian schoolchildren, illustrated by Rogé

Here Is the Baby, written by Polly Kanevsky, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (this one's not in any libraries yet! look for it later this month--we've ordered it.)

Where's Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

*We've ordered the ones we missed--check back soon at your local branch.

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have true information about dragons?

In the following scenario, Q is a boy, age 4½, accompanied by his mother, known here as Q(mom), and A is the children’s librarian. (btw: When Q says, “Guys!” he’s looking straight at the librarian. This is a bit unusual, but only because it’s plural. “Hey, you!” is more common.)

Q: Guys! Do you have a book about a dragon? A fierce dragon! A real, live, true dragon! Dragonology

A: So, you don’t want one of those stories where the dragon turns out to be friendly, I see. You want to know about real, fierce dragons! Okay, I think we can find something. Tell me, would you prefer a short book with pictures, or a long book, without pictures?

Q: A long book with pictures!

A: In that case, the best one is: Dragonology by Drake. Here you are. It’s very thorough, and it doesn’t get bogged down with reality-based theories.

Q (mom): I think we’d also like a shorter one with pictures… Behold the Dragons!

Q: …but TRUE, not pretend!

A: Probably the best one for that purpose is: Behold, the dragons! by Gibbons. This includes dragons from cultures all over the world, and in two succinct pages, respectfully presents the reality-belief-fantasy framework.  

While you are looking at those two, I could also gather up some stories that are pretend, but have fierce dragons. Would you like that?

Q (mom): Absolutely!

Q: All right, I guess that’s okay.

A: These two books have the fiercest dragons. I warn you, they are ferocious! They should come with a parental guidance warning sticker!  Saint George & the Dragon by Hodges and The Deliverers of their country by Nesbit & Zwerger. 

 Saint George and the Dragon  The deliverers of their country

Q: Great! We’ll take them.

Q (mom): Wait, there’s a severed arm in here, and a bloody sword…and this dragon is definitely dead at the end!

Q: Perfect!

A: Before you go, there are a few more that I like very much, which you might consider taking with you as well:

cover; Max's Dragon cover; Polo & the Dragon cover; Trouble With Dragons cover; Again! cover; Have You seen My Dragon? cover; When a Dragon Moves In  How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head cover; Room on the Broom cover; A Gold Star for Zog cover; Seven Chinese Sisterscover; George & the Dragon cover; The Dragon Prince

Max’s Dragon – Banks, Polo and the Dragon – Faller, The Trouble with Dragons – Gliori, Again! – Gravett, Have You Seen My Dragon – Light, When a Dragon Moves In – Moore, How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head – Peet, Room on the Broom – Scheffler & Donaldson, A Gold Star for Zog - Scheffler & Donaldson, The Seven Chinese Sisters – Tucker, George and the Dragon – Wormell, Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale – Yep (folktale section)  cover; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

A: Choose a few to take home, if you like.  We have lots more, there are tons! You can do a search in our online catalog if you want more picture books about dragons, and if you ever want to read chapter books about dragons, there are SO many!

cover of My Father's Dragon - all 3 stories in one!You know one of my favorite books of all time is My Father’s Dragon by Gannett. If you ever change your mind and want a pretend story about a friendly dragon, that’s a chapter book with pictures, you gotta try it!

Q: Do you know, guys, I’m going to be a dragon for Halloween!

A: That’s great! See you again soon.  

Concept Books for Kids

Of all the picture books in the library, concept books are arguably some of the most useful. Alphabet books help young readers recognize letters and learn their ABCs, while counting books support early math skills. Toddlers and preschoolers may strengthen their understanding of many more concepts, such as color, size, shape, time, and opposites, through books at the library. Some branches have a special section for children's concept books; ask a staff member to help you find them!
Here are some of our favorites to get you started:

ABCs

Calavera Abecedario book coverChicka Chicka Boom Boom book coverD is for Dragon Dance book coverDr. Seuss's ABCs book coverEating the Alphabet book coverIf Rocks Could Sing book coverLMNO Peas book coverRacecar Alphabet book coverSuperhero ABC book coverZ is for Moose book coverZ was Zapped book cover

123s

Big Fat Hen book coverFish Eyes book coverFeast for 10 book coverMouse Count book coverRichard Scarry's Best Counting Book Ever book coverTen Black Dots book cover10 Minutes to Bedtime book coverTen Terrible Dinosaurs book cover

More Concepts

Self Publishing? Format Counts.

If you're one of the many children's book creators who've turned to self publishing to get their stories out, pay attention! A small change may improve your book's chances of getting picked up by libraries. 

Brooklyn based author Zetta Elliott self publishes children's books that are transitional chapter books--longer than easy readers, shorter than middle-grade novels. The Oakland Public Library calls them "Moving Up," and they have their own special place on our shelves.

Notice how they're all about the same size? That's on purpose-- major publishers tend to print them all this way. Transitional chapter books represent a reader's transition from easy readers--which are larger, slimmer, and shorter in text than moving ups, and include color illustrations on almost every spread--to middle grade novels, which vary in length as much as adult novels and have few to no illustrations. Moving Ups still have illustrations on almost every spread, but they're black and white now, and the pages have larger blocks of text than the few short sentences typical of easy readers.

Back to Zetta Elliott: Elliott recently sent a new edition of her transitional chapter book Max Loves Muñecas! to OPL, at a trim size and page count that matches what we typically see in our Moving Up collection. Here's how it looks side-by-side with the previous edition:

I have included my Terrible Twos promotional coffee mug for scale, and because I'm bragging that I have one.

Elliott reduced the size of Max Loves Muñecas! from 7x10" to 5x8", and suddenly we have a transitional chapter book that will fit right in on our Moving Up shelf. Note the difference:

   

Max's format now matches the length and reading level of its text, and the book doesn't look out of place on our shelf. It's easier for libraries to consider a self published book for our collections when its format matches what we get from traditional publishers.

Here's an exercise for you self publishers: take your book to your local library, and see if you can find the section it would belong in. Would your book look out of place among the titles already there? Read some of the books in your book's "section"--does the amount of text, difficulty of text, and complexity of story in your book match the ones we own? 

By the way, if you self publish children's books and the descriptors "easy reader," "transitional chapter book," and "middle grade" are new to you, you have some research to do. May I recommend starting at your local library?

Sing a Little Song

musical notesSinging is fun but research has found that it is more than just that; it is also good for your health, lowering stress and releasing endorphins that create a feeling of pleasure.  Singing with your children will make you happy regardless of your musical abilities.  And there is even more reason to sing with them, it puts them on the road to reading success.  How?  Singing helps children, even ones who are very young, hear the sounds that make up words. Researchers call this phonological awareness.  Being able to hear distinct sounds helps children recognize those sounds and syllables when they are learning how to read.

Oakland Public Library can help you find songs and make singing fun in several ways:

copy of book coverWe have a collection of songbooks, many of which include the tune and lyrics in the back.  You can find them in our nonfiction collections under the 782 call number.  One of my favorites is The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort.

 

copy of cd coverWe also have collections of music CDs that you can borrow.  They range from lullabies for babies to the Frozen soundtrack.  Come and check them out!

Finally, we have a new music service, Freegal that lets you download and stream music from popular artists.  For music especially created for kids, click on “genres” on the bar at the top of the page, and then select “Children’s Music.”

As always, all of these materials and services are free, so check them out and let your voices soar!

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Superhero books for my 4-year-old; bad idea or good idea?

Q: My child wants to read about superheroes, but those DC & Marvel comic books are too violent! Do you have anything for younger kids?  He’s only 4 years old. Kapow by O'Connor

A: Yes, we do! Here's a list of titles you can read aloud to your kids today – all of them about superheroes, most aimed at younger kids, ages 3 to 6.

The past decade has seen an explosion of picture books about superheroes. Many parents are concerned about violence in books and other media for children, and the basic idea of a superhero is that there's a bad guy to stop. If there's a bad guy, there's a strong likelihood that there's going to be fighting, maybe blood, and possibly death.

Wonder Woman by CosentinoClever authors & illustrators have managed to craft stories that include all the positive elements of superheroes (standing up for what's right, working together as a team, using your own special abilities, helping others, and wearing a cape) while de-emphasizing the terrible elements of the evil villains. In these books, the villains are not indestructible, the violence is off-screen, the battle doesn’t cause massive destruction, and the bad guy is stopped - not killed.

If you are hesitant to read these books aloud to your child, here are some further thoughts on reading violent books to children. First, there are books for every emotional, social, and intellectual stage of development. Can a case be made in favor of books that contain “violence” that is appropriate to each level? Consider these observations from the Children's Librarian's Desk: Courageous Captain America by Thomas

  1. Violence is clearly fascinating to many children (as well as teens and adults). The Mighty Thor by Thomas
  2. Families who shelter their children from violent literature do not seem to eradicate their interest in it nor their impulse to act it out.
  3. Reading superhero books does not seem to make a child more violent. (There is a little recent research on comic books and other literature with superheroes. However, anecdotally, my observations of library patrons indicate that readers become thinkers, and thinkers take a breath before they act violently.)
  4. Violence and aggression still exist in the real world, and many children are already trying to make sense of it. Even children who have been spared the direct experience of violence (or of witnessing it) meet other children who are experiencing it and they observe & interact with them with or without the presence and guidance of adults.
  5. Reading aloud together is an excellent way to start a dialogue about violence, consequences, and justice. The characters in literature can be good or bad examples, and while reading, you can discuss the best way to resolve conflict, recognize violence, avoid aggressors, and keep yourself safe.  

It's important to choose books that are right for your individual child -- luckily, most books for 4-year-olds are short enough so you can pre-read them and get ready to answer questions, discuss ideas, and give real-life examples. You can avoid those books that may be a trigger of specific fears -- until you both are ready to read them.Nino Wrestles the World by Morales

It makes sense to avoid gratuitous bloodshed, exploitative costumes, and stories about truly depraved, twisted evil-doers, and stick instead to superheroes who fight simple crimes and lay out the concepts of consequences and justice plainly.

Isn't there something wonderful about super-powers, heroism, and winning a righteous fight? Even young children appreciate the vivid images of that glorious moment, of overcoming adversity, of standing proudly together, of your cape flowing in the wind!

The Picture Books that seem to me to best capture the awesomeness of superheroes, while respecting the sensibilities of younger readers are these:

Astonishing Secrets of Awesome Man  Batman by Cosentino  Superman by Cosentino  Max by Graham  Lucha Libre by Garza  Art Dog by Hurd  Marveltown by McCall  SuperHero ABC by McLeod  Superhero School by Reynolds  Superhero by Tauss  The Amazing Spider-man, an Origin Story by Thomas  Avengers, an Origin Story by Thomas  Wolverine, an Origin Story by Thomas  

There are a few board books:

Superman Fights for Truth by Lemke.  Batman is Brave by Lemke

...and in our Comic Books section, we have a few superhero series that avoid gore and give positive messages:

Fashion Kitty series  Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye series  Squish Super Amoeba series  DC Super Friends series  Tiny Titans series

Enjoy this one last book!

Kung Pow Chicken series

We've All Been Wrong About Something

Did you see the news? Turns out Hello Kitty is not a cat.

I know. I'm shocked too.

According to this LA Times article, Sanrio, the company that produces Hello Kitty, emphatically reports that Hello Kitty is a human child, and points out that she has a cat of her own

Surprising. However, if you're a parent of a kid who's obsessed with the red-bowed paragon of cuteness, you probably don't give a Bad Badtz-Maru what she is--you just want to silence the demand for Hello Kitty products that echoes through your home day and night. And you'd like to do it without spending any money. Guess who's here to help? The Oakland Public Library, of course.

      

We have a variety of Hello Kitty books, comics, and movies on our shelves.

And if you're just plain tired of her furry little face? Allow me to suggest some other adorably illustrated titles that may please. Mew mew.

                    

Q&A Patrons ask; librarians answer: Starting School

Q: My daughter is starting school in a few days...what books about school do you have that we could read together?

A: We have so many!* No matter what age or grade, we've got something for you to read abocover of Richard Scarry's Great Big Schoolhouseut school, to set the stage so that your child's anticipation is more likely to stay positive. Some kids need to know exactly what will happen, some are looking forward to joining the world of their older siblings, and some have worries or anxieties. Thankfully, authors & publishers have recognized the recurring need, and we have plenty of books to fill it.*

Click here to see an extended list of First Day of School books for Children at OPL.

Reading a book or two about the school experience gives you an opportunity to talk about it together. With so many books at the Oakland Public Library to choose from, you may want to narrow it down to the right age-level for your child/children. That makes the search a little trickier, but here are some book lists for different age-ranges. You can click on the age you want, below, or talk to your local children's librarian to get favorites.

Preschool          

Cover of Llama Llama Misses Mama cover of Maisy goes to preschool cover of See You Later, Alligator  cover of My Preschool by Rockwell  cover of Making Friends by Fred Rogers

Llama Llama misses Mama by Dewdney  // Maisy goes to preschool by Cousins  // See you later, alligator! by Kvasnosky  // My preschool by Rockwell  //  Making friends by Fred Rogers

Kindergarten

cover of Vera's First Day of School  cover image of Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner  cover image of The Kissing Hand cover of Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready cover of My Kindergarten by Wells  cover of Bilingual English/Spanish Look Out Kindergarten  cover of How to be a Friend

Vera's first day of school (Rosenberry)  // Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner (Schwartz)  // The kissing hand (Penn)  // Miss Bindergarten gets ready for kindergarten (Slate)  // My kindergarten (Wells)  // Look out kindergarten, here I come! = Prepárate, kindergarten! Allá voy! (Carlson)   // How to be a friend : a guide to making friends and keeping them (Krasny & Brown)

Elementary school

cover of First Day Jitters  cover of It's Back to School We Go cover of Feelings  cover of Judy Moody (#1)   cover of Monster Frights    

First day jitters (Danneberg)  // It's back to school we go : first day stories from around the world (Jackson)  // Feelings (Aliki)  // Judy Moody (McDonald)  //  Monster School : first day frights (Keane)

Middle School

cover of A Smart Girl's Guide to Middle School cover of Too Old for This, Too Young for That cover of Middle School Survival Guide cover of Amelia's School Survival Guide cover of Dork Diaries (#1) cover of Middle School the Worst Years of my life  cover of Stuck in the Middle

A smart girl's guide to starting middle school : everything you need to know about juggling more homework, more teachers, and more friends! (Williams)  // Too old for this, too young for that! : your survival guide for the middle school years (Mosatche)  // The middle school survival guide (Erlbach)  // Amelia's school survival guide (Moss)  // Dork diaries series (Russell)  // Middle school, the worst years of my life (Patterson)  // Stuck in the middle of middle school : a novel in doodles (Young) 

 

Usually when parents or kids ask for books about school, it’s simply to celebrate or take a moment to focus on the occasion. Sometimes, however, it’s because they’ve got some anxieties about it. Like any life transition, starting school can bring up some pretty big issues for a person. Helping your child understand her thoughts and feelings -- and explore the thoughts and feelings of others -- helps her grow and understand. Reading books together gives you a way to start a conversation and find out how you can support your child.

Children each have their own point of view, and their own inner thoughts to sift through. The themes within back-to-school stories often include important life lessons about some or all of the following:

    • Being a friend
    • Getting along with new people cover of A Friend for Dragon
    • Accepting differences
    • Mending relationships with difficult people
    • Protecting yourself from dangerous people
    • Calming general anxiety
    • Conquering specific fears
    • Facing new situations
    • Accepting separation from loved ones
    • Celebrating accomplishments (your own & others')

           …and…

  • Being ready for and open to learning

Even if the book you read together doesn’t match your own thoughts and feelings, it could spark a discussion that helps clarify your observations, or helps your child relate to the other students she meets. As usual, I encourage everyone to make time to talk to and listen to your child.  cover of Going to School in India

* NOTE: We do have many books about starting school – but given the fact that Oakland is home to almost 16,000 children ages 3 to 5, and about 47,200 students are enrolled in the Oakland Unified School District, we may not have the book you want on the day you want it. You can place a hold on the title you want by clicking the “Request It” button and using your library barcode and pin number; or, let us help you place a hold! 

In the Comments below, please leave us the title of a back-to-school book you especially enjoyed, including the age of the student. We want to share what you like best! 

Great Graphic Novels for Kids

From superheroes to manga to comic strips and beyond, we have all sorts of excellent graphic novels and comic books for kids in the library. Ask library staff to help you find the 741.5s! Here, young readers will find interesting characters, awesome art, and fascinating stories full of humor, action, adventure, history, mystery, and emotion. Graphic novels are incredibly popular, especially among kids who like stories but aren't ready for long chapter books and students who are visual learners.
Here are some of our favorite / most popular graphic novels for kids. Let us know in the comments which of your favorites we may have missed!:
American Born Chinese book coverAmulet book coverAriol book coverThe Arrival book coverBabymouse book coverBig Nate book coverBone book coverGarfield book coverGreat American Dust Bowl book coverJedi Academy book cover Book One book coverMeanwhile book coverNaruto book coverOdd Duck book coverPoseidon book coverSidekicks book coverSmile book coverToon Books book coverZita the Spacegirl book cover
// American Born Chinese by Yang // Amulet series by Kibuishi // Ariol series by Guibert // The Arrival by Tan // Babymouse series by Holm // Big Nate series by Peirce // Bone series by Smith // Garfield series by Davis // The Great American Dust Bowl by Brown // Jedi Academy by Brown // March: Book One by Lewis // Meanwhile by Shiga // Naruto series by Kishimoto // Odd Duck by Castellucci & Varon // Olympians series by O'Connor // Sidekicks by Santat // Smile by Telgemeier // Toon Books series // Zita the Spacegirl trilogy by Hatke //