Great Books and more

The Beauty of Board Books

Book coverAs a children's services librarian, I am always thrilled to see anything about children's books or children's literacy get major news coverage.  So I woke up fast when I caught the New York Times article just over a week ago on the front page, below the fold (for those of who still read the paper paper) about board books.  Board books!  The overlooked and unappreciated format for, as the NYTimes put it, "the teething set."    Yet, my heart sank as I read on. 

Board Books have a funny place in a librarian's heart.  They are harder to order than other books because they don't get listed and reviewed as regularly as standard trade books. They are harder to process (where, exactly, do you put the barcode and the stamp?  What if the book is curvy?)  They are hard to shelve (that's why you often find them in browsing baskets), and we have to replace them constantly.  But constant replacement is a sign of constant use, and that is good news.

Board Books are supposed to be for babies and toddlers.  They are supposed to be manhandled (and yes, even chewed), to get your young one practicing fine motor skills and the idea of turning pages.  They should have images and words that you can play with together, and that are stimulating and appealing to a very very young child.

Which is why I was dismayed to read in the Times article about board books reconstituting fine literary classics such as Moby Dick and Sense and Sensibility (as if those works would still be"fine" when reduced to 16 pages) or presenting fine art by contemporary artists (shrunk down to 3 inch squares).  I'm not going to dish too hard because I wish small independent publishers all the best.   But I do think it does a disservice to board books, and their readers, to suggest that this is the newest and best thing on the market.   Board books are for babies, and your baby might better appreciate some of the tried and true, and very frequently replaced, board book classics that you'll probably find in a basket, on the floor, on the cozy rug, at your library. 

Some of my favorites are here (click through to have a copy sent to your library for pickup).  What other favorites do you have? 

The article mentioned is "A Library of Classics, Edited for the Teething Set" by Julie Bosman, New York Times, October 26, 2013

Spooky Stories! Mwah-hah-hahhh

Most kids love a good scare, and Halloween is the perfect time to give it to them. Find these spooky stories at a library near you, and let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorites!

Slightly Spooky (for younger kids):

Humbug Witch book coverIn a Dark Dark Wood book coverSkeleton Hiccups book coverHubknuckles book coverGhosts in the house book coverLos Gatos Black on HalloweenDragon's Halloween book coverBig Pumpkin book coverLittle old lady who was not afraid of anything book cover

Humbug witch / Lorna Balian
In a dark, dark wood : an old tale with a new twist / David A. Carter
Skeleton hiccups / by Margery Cuyler ; illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Hubknuckles / Emily Herman ; pictures by Deborah Kogan Ray
Ghosts in the house! / Kazuno Kohara
Los gatos black on Halloween / Marisa Montes ; illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Dragon's Halloween : Dragon's fifth tale / Dav Pilkey
Big pumpkin / Erica Silverman ; illustrated by S.D. Schindler
The little old lady who was not afraid of anything / by Linda Williams ; illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Truly Frightening (for older readers):

 House With a clock in its Walls book coverCoraline book coverTailypo book coverWait Till Helen Comes book coverBunnicula book coverHeadless Horseman Rides Tonight book coverScary Stories to Tell in the Dark book coverBoy of a thousand Faces book coverGoosebumps book cover
The house with a clock in its walls / John Bellairs ; pictures by Edward Gorey
Coraline / Neil Gaiman ; with illustrations by Dave McKean
The tailypo : a ghost story / told by Joanna Galdone ; illustrated by Paul Galdone
Wait till Helen comes : a ghost story / Mary Downing Hahn
Bunnicula book series / by Deborah and James Howe
The Headless Horseman rides tonight : more poems to trouble your sleep / by Jack Prelutsky ; illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Scary stories to tell in the dark book series / collected from American folklore by Alvin Schwartz
The boy of a thousand faces / by Brian Selznick

Sign Language for Kids

For Babies

Adapted from American Sign Language (ASL, the primary form of communication in Deaf communities), baby sign allows children as young as 8-10 months to communicate when they are hungry, thirsty, sleepy, want more of something, are finished with an activity, and much more. Teaching babies to sign can be enjoyable, and presents a chance for adult-child bonding. Best of all, babies who are able to communicate their needs through sign may experience less frustration, which can reduce fussiness. That’s a benefit for everyone!

If you’re interested in exploring sign with your baby, come to the Dimond branch on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 10:00 am for a Baby Sign Language Introductory Workshop. To learn more, call Rebekah Eppley at (510) 482-7844 or click here.

In the meanwhile, visit your local library branch to find these helpful baby sign books:

Baby Sign Language Basics book coverBaby Signs book coverBaby Signs for Animals book coverI Want...book coverLet's Sign book coverMy First Signs book cover

Baby sign language basics: early communication for hearing babies and toddlers / Monta Z. Briant

Baby signs: a baby-sized guide to speaking with sign language / [Joy Allen] ; pictures by Joy Allen

Baby signs for animals / by Linda Acredolo & Susan Goodwyn ; photographs by Penny Gentieu

I want--: teaching your baby to sign / Lora Heller

Let's sign!: every baby's guide to communicating with grownups / written by Kelly Ault ; illustrated by Leo Landry

My first signs / illustrated by Annie Kubler

For Older Children

Preschool and elementary aged kids can study and learn ASL as they would any other language. Some young children are fascinated by the idea of communicating without words, while others think it’s just plain fun! Kids typically have an easier time than adults picking up any language; this is especially true with sign because it taps into the tendency for children to be physical learners. Check out ASLU for online American Sign Language resources, and take a peek at these books and DVDs from your local library for more information:

Handmade Alphabet book coverSigning Fun book coverAmerican Sign Language for Kids DVD coverSign Language for Kids book cover

American Sign Language for kids. Beginner level 1, volume 1 [videorecording]

The handmade alphabet / Laura Rankin

Sign language for kids: a fun & easy guide to American Sign Language / Lora Heller

Signing fun : American Sign Language vocabulary, phrases, games & activities / Penny Warner ; illustrations by Paula Gray

Children’s Author Spotlight: Nic Bishop

Vivid. Colorful. Captivating. Nic Bishop’s nature photography is all this and more! His exciting insect and animal books, effectively designed for young readers, feature eye-popping images that satisfy children’s curiosity about the natural world. These are, quite simply, some of today’s best science books published for kids, and they’re available at your local library!

Bishop has been creating kids’ books for over 25 years, and is an experienced photographer both in the studio and in the field. Check out the trailer for his book, Spiders, for a glimpse into his creative process:

 

Animals and Insects

Nic Bishop Snakes book coverNic Bishop Butterflies and Moths book coverNic Bishop Spiders book coverNic Bishop Marsupials book cover

 

For preschoolers

 Chameleon, Chameleon book coverRed-Eyed Tree Frog book cover

Chameleon, Chameleon / story by Joy Cowley

Red-eyed Tree Frog / story by Joy Cowley

 

Scientists in the Field series

Kakapo Rescue book coverMysterious Universe book coverQuest for the Tree Kangaroo book coverSaving the Ghost of the Mountain book coverSnake Scientist book coverTarantula Scientist book cover

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot / text by Sy Montgomery (2011 Sibert Medal winner)

Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes / text by Ellen Jackson

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea / text by Sy Montgomery

Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia / text by Sy Montgomery

Snake Scientist / text by Sy Montgomery

Tarantula Scientist / text by Sy Montgomery

Tra-La-Laaa! It's Banned Books Week

Captain UnderpantsIf you don't know the reference in the title of this blog post, then you haven't read the most frequently challenged book of 2012, Captain Underpants

It is Banned Books Week, and you will find many resources online, inside your library or at your bookstore to learn more about celebrating the freedom to read.  But I wanted to use the week as an excuse to think in general about kids making their own reading choices.

It can be intimidating to lead your child through a roadmap to reading, especially with the changes happening in our schools with the Common Core Standards.  But before children can succeed in reading, they need to love it, and be engaged by it.   And being allowed to read materials that they've chosen themselves directly impacts their engagement. 

Your children's services librarian takes pride in helping you and your child find books to suit a variety of interests and needs. Come in and let us help you find something to suit your child's tastes, to accompany their assigned reading for school, and family reading choices.  Captain Underpants is not for every kid, but it is for many.  It is funny, it is visual, it is a little subversive, and friends are talking about it.  All of these are legitimate reasons to read.  This may not be the book that directly helps your child to the next reading level, or that teaches them about something you are trying to help them with.  But it is very likely a book that will help them feel part of a reading community, and that will make them want to come back to the library again with you.  If you haven't yet: check it out

 

Cinderella Stories from Around the World

Here’s a bit of library fun for you: pick a fairy tale, any fairy tale. Go see how many variations of that traditional story are available at your local branch. For some, like Rumpelstiltskin or the Ugly Duckling, your options will be relatively few.

The Girl Who Spun Gold book coverUgly Duckling book cover

And then, there is Cinderella. Hundreds of versions of this classic tale exist, in multiple languages across many, many cultures. At some library branches, it’s possible to find 20 or more variations on the shelf! Try comparing and contrasting some of these editions with your kiddos, and let us know which are your very favorites:

Walt Disney's Cinderella book cover The Philippine Cinderella book coverRough-Face Girl book coverGlass Slipper, Gold Sandal book coverGolden Sandal book coverDomitila book coverCendrillon book coverYeh-Shen book coverJames Marshall's Cinderella book coverGift of the Crocodile book coverThe Way Meat Loves Salt book coverPersian Cinderella book coverKorean Cinderella book coverSmoky Mountain Rose book coverThe Orphan book coverCinderella by Craft book cover

Walt Disney's Cinderella / retold by Cynthia Rylant; pictures by Mary Blair

Abadeha: the Philippine Cinderella / adapted by Myrna J. de la Paz; illustrated by Youshang Tang

The rough-face girl / Rafe Martin; illustrated by David Shannon

Glass slipper, gold sandal: a worldwide Cinderella / Paul Fleischman; illustrated by Julie Paschkis

The golden sandal: a Middle Eastern Cinderella / by Rebecca Hickox; illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Domitila: a Cinderella tale from the Mexican tradition / adapted by Jewell Reinhart Coburn; illustrated by Connie McLennan

Cendrillon: a Caribbean Cinderella / Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Yeh-Shen: a Cinderella story from China / retold by Ai-Ling Louie; ill. by Ed Young

James Marshall's Cinderella / illustrated by James Marshall; retold by Barbara Karlin

The gift of the crocodile: a Cinderella story / by Judy Sierra; illustrated by Reynold Ruffins

The way meat loves salt: a Cinderella tale from the Jewish tradition / Nina Jaffe; illustrated by Louise August

The Persian Cinderella / Shirley Climo; art by Robert Florczak

The Korean Cinderella / by Shirley Climo; illustrated by Ruth Heller

Smoky Mountain Rose: an Appalachian Cinderella / by Alan Schroeder; pictures by Brad Sneed

The orphan: a Cinderella story from Greece / by Anthony L. Manna & Soula Mitakidou; illustrated by Giselle Potter

Cinderella / illustrated by K.Y. Craft

Crafty Kids

Have you ever stumbled upon the library’s collection of craft books for children? They’re in the 700s (near the art books), and chock full of great ideas for creative kiddos of all ages. Origami? Absolutely. Knitting? Indeed. Sewing? Mask-making? Scrapbooking? Ceramics? Yes, it’s all there! Check out some of these favorites, and let us know which craft books your kids adore:

Create with Maisy book coverKid Made Modern book coverKids Crochet book coverMartha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids book cover

1-2-3 Calligraphy! book coverOrganic Crafts book coverPaper Airplanes book coverSneaky Art book cover

Create with Maisy / Lucy Cousins

Kid Made Modern / Todd Oldham

Kids Crochet: Projects for Kids of All Ages / Kelli Ronci

Martha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids

1-2-3 Calligraphy!: Letters and Projects for Beginners and Beyond / Eleanor Winters

Organic Crafts: 75 Earth-friendly Art Activities / Kimberly Monaghan

Paper Airplanes: Models to Build and Fly / Emery J. Kelly

Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight / Marthe Jocelyn

Off the Page: Children’s Audiobooks

If you’re looking for something to captivate youngsters during an end-of-summer road trip, OPL has you covered! Each of our library locations carries a selection of children’s audiobooks to engage even the wiggliest of passengers. Ask library staff to help you find book/CD kits, too; these are books that include a CD so kiddos can read along with the audio.

Have you tried audiobooks with your kids? Let us know which ones they have especially enjoyed!

Classic Tales

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland book on CD coverCharlotte's Web book on CD coverHarriet the Spy book on CD coverJust So Stories book on CD coverPeter Pan book on CD coverPhantom Tollbooth book on CD coverRabbit Ears book on CD coverThree Tales of My Father's Dragon book on CD cover

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Lewis Carroll

Charlotte's Web / E.B. White

Harriet, the Spy / by Louise Fitzhugh

Just So Stories / Rudyard Kipling

Peter Pan / J.M. Barrie

The Phantom Tollbooth / by Norton Juster

Rabbit Ears (folk and fairy tales)

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon / Ruth Stiles Gannett

 

Contemporary Picks

Becoming Naomi Leon book on CD coverBud, Not Buddy book on CD coverDiary of a Wimpy Kid book coverHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince book on CD coverSerpent's Shadow book on CD coverMagic Tree House book on CD coverTale of Despereaux book on CD coverWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon book on CD cover

Becoming Naomi León / Pam Muñoz Ryan

Bud, Not Buddy / Christopher Paul Curtis

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series / Jeff Kinney

Harry Potter series / J.K. Rowling

Kane Chronicles series / Rick Riordan

Magic Tree House series / Mary Pope Osborne

The Tale of Despereaux / Kate DiCamillo

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon / Grace Lin

 

The Right Book, the Right Reader: Last, She Bowed

My first story of finding the book that made someone a reader is one of my favorites.

I work closely with classes at Markham Elementary, and last year one class began visiting me at Eastmont every two weeks. They were a small class, first and second grade special ed, with a warm and attentive teacher who worked hard to help each student find a book they wanted to check out. 

One girl, a child of six I'll call Josefina, had not yet learned to read, and was not interested in doing so. 

It's not hard to identify the reluctant readers in a class visit. They're the ones who, every time you show them a book, look at you something like this:


A reluctant reader throws shade on an EXCELLENT book suggestion 

Josefina's very kind teacher was showing her books that she might like, and Josefina was giving her reluctant reader face. The teacher explained to me that Josefina was still learning to read, and needed something with very simple words to practice on. The books she wanted, though, were the DC Super Pets readers her classmates had swarmed upon like ants on a lollipop. Josefina wanted cute, cartoony pictures; she *needed* something with short, simple words, lots of open white space, and minimal sentences per page.

Well, I just did what any children's librarian worth her salt would do: I pulled out the Mo Willems books. I am especially fond of Elephant and Piggie, and the best part is, they're as good for struggling older readers as they are for little guys; superb cartooning, expressive linework, funny like a good joke. Josefina, though, went wide-eyed over Cat the Cat

Josefina LOVED Cat the Cat. 

Josefina checked out Cat the Cat. Her teacher read it with her, and then she read it on her own. Josefina came back wanting MORE Cat the Cat. Josefina checked out and read every Cat the Cat book in existence. (There are four)* And then, Josefina came in with her teacher all a-flutter and asked for the Cat the Cat book where she does ballet.

I searched; we reviewed all four books; we determined that there IS no Cat the Cat book where she does ballet. On the cover of Let's Say Hi to Friends Who Fly, Cat is striking a pose and wearing pink; Josefina had remembered that picture and invented a Cat the Cat book about ballet. Josefina deflated like a little polo-shirted balloon when I explained to her that, sadly, the book she was looking for did not exist. And then, I added my standard follow-up to that sentence: "...but since you want to read it, and it doesn't exist, you should write that book yourself."

I've said that to a bunch of kids over the years, and most of them have responded with the same look of hope and intrigue I got from Josefina. But I was in no way prepared for the phone call I got four weeks later from Josefina's teacher: they'd been writing, illustrating and binding the book for the past month, it was finished, and Josefina was bringing me a copy TODAY.


Also, the teacher told me, Josefina was so nervous about presenting me with the book that she couldn't eat her breakfast that morning, and the teacher wanted to make sure I knew how important it was to her so I could react accordingly.

When they came in, I was prepared with a thousand watt smile, a Cat the Cat poster I'd picked up from a giveaway, and a circle of chairs in case Josefina wanted me to read her book to the class. She did. In fact, because her book is so wonderful, I'd like to read it to you. I can never look at it without picturing Josefina shaking, hopping from foot to foot, clutching her first published work to her tiny chest, and then breaking out in a grin as she handed me one of four copies in the world of TINA, THE CAT BALLERINA.

I present it to you below in its entirety (though with her name redacted), with thanks to Mr. Willems and recommendations that you read every single book he's ever made (available at your local public library!). And as you read, I want you to pay attention to the author's already remarkable sense of narrative structure-- her pacing is spot on, and I challenge any seasoned children's author to craft a more perfect last line than Josefina's: "Last, she bowed."

Cat the Cat was the right book for Josefina. It made her not only a reader; it made her an author. Here's to many more right books in Josefina's future, including a long bibliography of her own.

--Miss Amy

TINA, THE CAT BALLERINA, by Josefina

   

(aww)

First, Tina the Cat Ballerina went to ballet school.

Next, she was happy she went.

Then Tina was dancing in a ballet show.

 Last, she bowed.**

*Mo Willems, if you are reading this, please write more Cat the Cat books. Actually just write more of everything.

**Josefina, if you are reading this, please write more books and bring me copies.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, Lakeview Book Club Notes

          

Hello Everyone,

 What a great meeting about Telegraph Hill by Michael Chabon!

 There were 10 of us and our leader did a great job! She had done research on Michael Chabon and told us about his early life in Columbia, Maryland in an almost utopian middle class Black and White community. This background gave credence to his depicting a multiracial/multicultural world on Telegraph Avenue. One member told us that she knows Michael Chabon, because their children attended the same school. She said he is a really nice person. Other members have heard him speak at other venues and thought he seemed shy, almost childlike, but seemed really nice.

 Our discussion leader set the stage for us by finding a play list of 126 of the 128 musical mentions in the book. We sat down to the background music of sweet/funky jazz played on an Ipad. We were provided with a long list of Chabon’s awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Our leader’s assessment of reviews was that Telegraph Avenue was critically acclaimed, but regular readers either loved it or hated it.

 Her first question of our members, who have lived in Oakland for a long time, was whether the depiction of Telegraph Avenue in the past actually was correct for the time. The group discussed how the Bay Area has changed demographically over the last 30ish years. One member pointed out that Oakland used to have a 50% Black population and now Oakland is 25% Black, 25% White, 25% Asian and 25% Hispanic/Other. In other words the Black population has gone down in the recent years. There was "Black Flight" to Atlanta and Antioch due to the difficult conditions here. Overall the members of the group, who were in Oakland in the past, thought Chabon's depiction was accurate.

 Discussions next were of the structure of the book, the character development and themes. We figured the themes were Shared Community, Fatherhood and Racism.

 People liked the relationship between Gwen and Aviva. Gwen and Aviva had the most stable relationship of the characters in the novel. The character Gwen questioned her relationship to the community she lived in. She wondered if she should be with her own community. She did, however, feel she was not supported by members of her own community. The book club members disagreed as to whether the two women were the main characters of the novel. One member pointed out that women are the foundation of every society. This might mean that if they were not the main characters of the book, they were the foundation, the stability, of the book.

 Members thought the description of childbirth was really accurate. As various times during the discussion a member mentioned a page number and read a passage she thought to be outstanding. The childbirth passage was one of these. One member said that WAS her childbirth experience. Members thought that the character, Gwen, was justified in telling off the racist doctor.

 Another passage that members liked was where Gwen talked about enduring life's difficulties, and there is no way that you can prevent those negative perceptions from being passed on to the next generations. We thought her comment on marriage being based on deception and lies to be profound. People are all flawed, but look for a unit to belong to.

 One member commented that it was passages like these that kept her reading, although she found it difficult to stay engaged throughout the novel. This member liked the second half the book best. Another liked the beginning better.

 The character, Luther, is a tragic person in the novel. He never reached his dreams, yet never gave up on those dreams, unlike most people who become disillusioned and, therefore, adjust their life views to be resigned to what life has given them.

 Regarding the style, the group discussed chapter 58, which has no period. Most people didn't care. One compared it to James Joyce. That person said that Oakland was to Michael Chabon as Dublin was to James Joyce (or vice versa). Another member strongly disagreed to a comparison of Chabon to James Joyce. That member said that Chabon was no James Joyce. She could read James Joyce all day and love it and she could not make it through Telegraph Avenue. She thought the endless "guy" details about records and comics and other such minutia was an insurmountable barrier to continuing with the book. Others agreed. Several couldn't finish the book. They thought that Chabon was "full of himself" and his choice of words. They thought he was intellectual, i.e. left brained, and unable to catch the reader emotionally the way that James Baldwin did for us in Another Country.

 One member didn't like the characters, couldn't keep them straight and generally got bogged down in the details. Other comments on style had to do with stream of consciousness passages and another chapter of 30-40 pages without a period in it. A comment was made about there being a "little pomposity," and another member immediately said, "A LOT." Members of the group who had trouble staying engaged, who are in their 50's, 60's and 70's, felt life was too short to push through this book. One mentioned that she might have liked it better if she read it in her 30's.

 Several mentioned that the reader couldn't tell what race the characters were. Some thought that was a good thing and others thought it was a problem. We all wondered what Black people would think of this book, in fact, would Black people even read this book?

 One comment was that Chabon was trying to write the Great American Novel. Many thought he did not succeed. One thought that maybe with the passage of time, this book would be considered as the Great American Novel. Someone asked what is considered The Great American Novel. Two suggestions came out, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick.

 Several comments on the use of jargon which they thought very accurate, such as the use of the words Shameless and Scand'lous. One comment was the beauty of the dedication of the book to Chabon's wife, referring to phonograph records, "from the drop of the needle to the innermost groove."

 Regarding the symbolism and plot devices one member pointed out the clever choices of Chabon such as the owner of the Blimp, who was as big as a blimp, that the book begins with a death and a birth and ends that way...that the theme is about the cycle of life which is set is a record store...where records are round.

 We discussed the locations cited in the book and commented that there really is a record store on one of the locations.

 So the consensus seemed to be just as predicted, Michael Chabon is a brilliant writer, who uses words and plot and style in ways others have not quite done. His insights are true and places in this novel shine beautifully, yet around half of the group, though understanding why people really like Chabon, or even this novel, could not expend the energy to stick with it. The clever writing wasn't enough. Those people wanted to connect with the characters emotionally and just were never able to do so.

 So often we agree overall as to the merits and general enjoyment of a book we have chosen, yet for this title we were almost equally divided, but loved to hear what our friends thought. This is a wonderful group!

 Thank you all for sharing.

=====

 (Any misinterpretation of anything found in my notes or memory is all mine. Please accept my apology if I misheard, misunderstood and/or misquoted any of you.)

 Happy Reading,

 Mary Farrell, Branch Manager, Lakeview Branch