Great Books and more

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about African Americans

There's lots of buzz right now (as there should be) about the numbers reported by the Cooperative Children's Book Center: of 3,200 children's books they received in 2013, just 93 featured African-American characters. Noted children's author Walter Dean Myers responded in a moving essay in the New York Times, in which he described his own childhood and coming to find himself in books. His son Christopher Myers, a noted children's author and illustrator himself, wrote a companion piece in which he lamented the fact that when African-American children appear in books, too often they "are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery." 

Today, we have a list for you of some excellent children's books featuring African-American characters, all of which you can find at the Oakland Public Library. As you read, why not tweet about the books you're enjoying with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks, especially on May 1, 2 and 3, and be a part of the We Need Diverse Books campaign? And if you have a kid birthday coming up (and who doesn't?), consider giving that lucky child one of the books on this list as part of the Birthday Party Pledge. (Purchased from your local independent bookstore, that is; library books are wonderful, but you have to give them back, which makes them generally lousy birthday gifts.)

For newly independent readers, there are several fresh, happy series featuring African-American children. Karen English, who's been producing the Nikki and Deja books for several years, has launched a series called the Carver Chronicles, which has a boy for a main character. In Dog Days, Gavin deals with a school bully and his aunt's yappy little dog. Ellray Jakes isn't new to the scene, but he's a welcome figure; Ellray Jakes and the Beanstalk is the most recent on our shelves, but watch for Ellray Jakes is Magic (or download the e-book right now). And from author Hilary McKay: Lulu's adventures rescuing animals have been entertaining readers for a couple years now, and the most recent is Lulu and the Dog from the Sea.

Oh, how I love these sweet books for sharing with little ones. Rain! by Linda Ashman is a happy romp on a rainy day--with a grumpy man. Lola Reads to Leo, by Anna McQuinn, is a lovely book about doing an important big sister job--watch for Leo Loves Baby Time to come soon. Author Daniel Beaty tells a story in poetry of a father and son separated, in the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me. I can't resist sparkling Lottie Paris, spunky brainchild of Angela Johnson, and it's not just because the "best place" referenced in Lottie Paris and the Best Place is.... oh, I can't spoil it for you.... okay, well, it's a place where I work. Finally, a shout-out to an Oakland author: Aya de Leon's Puffy: People Whose Hair Defies Gravity is a bouncy celebration of natural hair.

Biographies! Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood, by Carole Boston Weatherford, is a forthcoming nonfiction title about famous people in the Harlem Renaissance. If you like your history more recent, try When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop, by Laban Carrick Hill. A radiant, iconic dancer hits the stage and the page in Josephine: the dazzling life of Josephine Baker, by Patricia Hruby Powell. From Malcolm X's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, a picture book about her father's childhood: Malcolm Little, the boy who grew up to be Malcolm X. And finally, because I kind of can't believe this one is happening, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening, by Chris Raschka--search our catalog for it in about two weeks, because we've only just ordered it!

For older chapter book readers, I can't recommend highly enough the wonderful pair of books by Rita Williams-Garcia about three sisters growing up during the Black Power movement. The first, One Crazy Summer, is set here in Oakland; the sequel, P. S. Be Eleven, takes the sisters back to Brooklyn. Both will leave you delighted. A powerful story out of Hurricane Katrina, Jewell Parker Rhodes' Ninth Ward is an eerie read, best for middle grade readers. Finally, one I haven't read yet, but all the kids are talking about it: Kwame Alexander's The Crossover. Track it down!

That's just a few--click over to Pinterest for a complete list of kids' books featuring African-American characters

DIA: Great Kids' Books with Multiracial Characters

This week is the library holiday with the longest name: Día de los Niños / Día de los Libros; Children's Day / Book Day. It's come to be called just DÍA!--Diversity In Action. Want to come party at the library? Click here!

A lot of people are talking about diversity in children's books right now, which makes me very happy. Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and every family in our city deserves to find books on our shelves with characters who look like them, talk like them, have seen and felt what they've seen and felt. 

If you're still searching for your book, the library's giving you a little help this week. Each day, we'll be pinning a new list of recommended children's books with characters of various racial backgrounds; characters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; and characters who live with disabilities.

You'll be able to find all of these books here at OPL; or, if you're taking the Birthday Party Pledge and promising to "give multicultural books as gifts to the children in [your] life for one year," take these lists to your local independent bookseller.

Today: a list of children's books with characters who are multiracial! I'm listing just a few here; for the complete list, click over to our Pinterest page.

Got little ones? Try Whoa, Baby, whoa! by Grace Nichols. This little guy gets around! Or, if you'd rather spend your days at an A's game than crawling the kitchen floor, pick up Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon. Party girls can look for Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash / Marisol McDonald y la Fiesta Sin Igual, by Monica Brown. And for a story about the different kinds of families we have, check out Who's In My Family?: all about our families, by Robie Harris.

  

Did you know you can put books on hold before they hit our shelves? Get in line now for these next two. The first has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods. Violet may be the first biracial character in children's literature to lighten her hair, but I can't vouch for that. If you're feeling something a bit heavier, try Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick; Zane visits the family of his late father, who was African-American, in New Orleans, and ends up facing one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. There's some fear and sadness and death, but it's a gripping story, and appropriate for grades four and up.

A few already on our shelves: first, Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi, which I ended up plowing through in one afternoon (and it's 300 pages). It's funny, exciting, fast-paced, and while definitely not for kids who are young and/or sensitive, not as gory as you might expect. Rabi, a baseball stats geek from a mixed white and Indian family, has to help an undocumented friend whose family has been deported to Mexico, and oh, by the way, there's a zombie apocalypse. Fun, thoughtful, and checked out almost everywhere, so you know it's good. 

 

Doodlebug: a novel in doodles, by Karen Romano Young, for your Wimpy Kid fan who likes a more substantial story. Includes a strong depiction of a multiracial family. And if fun and fluffy's what you want, go for Amy Hodgepodge, a series by Kim Wayans (yes, that Kim Wayans) about a girl who is African-American, Japanese, white, and Korean. Her latest adventure is Digging Up Trouble, and if you like it, there are more!

 

Older readers may want to dig into Mexican Whiteboy, by Matt de la Peña, in which a San Diego teen spends a summer with his dad's Mexican family. So hot when it first came out, it took me weeks to get it. (Related: check out de la Peña's powerful essay "Sometimes the 'Tough Teen' is Quietly Writing Stories," but only if you have some Kleenex handy.) Finally, one that I really enjoyed: Kekla Magoon's Camo Girl. Ella is biracial and has a skin condition that makes the colors of her face uneven; she faces bullying and growing up and away from her best friend, who is autistic.

Want even more kids' books with multiracial characters? Click over to Pinterest for the complete list. Oh, happy Día!

You and Your Baby @ the Library Pt. 1

Being a brand new parent is a joyous but sometimes scary event.  After all, you have to pass a test to drive a car but no test is required to become a parent.  You want to do your best for your baby and that best is probably pretty sleep deprived right now.  But do not fear - the library is here to help you.

We offer baby storytimes every week.  These lapsit storytimes, called "Baby Bounces" are 15- minutes long and filled with gentle rhymes, songs and movement that will start your baby on the path to reading.  After each Baby Bounce, there is a play time with age-appropriate toys.  This is a great chance to get out of the house, stimulate your baby's brain, meet other babies and their caregivers, share information, and make new friends.  Check out our Baby Bounces at the following times and places: 

  •      Dimond Library.     3565 Fruitvale Ave.               Wed. @ 10:15 am
  •      Golden Gate Library.     5606 San Pablo Ave.     Tues. @ 11:15 ambaby playing on rug
  •      Lakeview Library.     550 El Embarcadero            Wed. @ 11:30 am    
  •      Main Library Children's Room.     125 14th St.     Tues. @ 10:15 am
  •      Montclair Library.     1687 Mountain Blvd.           Thurs. @ 11:30 am

People of Color Underrepresented in Children's Books

This post was originally going to be about "beauty" in children's books.  Inspired by Lupita Nyong'o's speech at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, I wanted to talk about picture books that tell children they are beautiful in real ways, like My People, Me Frida, Flora and the Flamingo or Jingle Dancer

But then I was invited to appear, Monday morning, on KQED's Forum program for a panel discussion on why people of color are underpresented in children's books.    According to statistics collected by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at UW Madison, a disproportinately small number of children's books each year are by, or about, people of color.  Why is this the case? And why hasn't it changed?  I started my studies in this profession exactly 20 years ago, and we were having this exact same conversation....and it wasn't new then either.  

I invite you to listen to the podcast of the Forum program.  It felt like the conversation had just gotten started there.  We started asking  how can we leverage the market to create a demand--in dollars--that publishing houses and big box bookstores will respond to.  One of my colleagues alerted me to The Birthday Party Pledge:  committing to give multicultural books to the children in her life for one year.  She started recently, headed to a 4-year-old birthday party, and stopped at a local independent bookstore in Oakland to select a book.  She could not find one book in stock that was age appropriate and featured any children of color.  Not one.  She settled on Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse; a beautiful book that highlights another symptom of the problem, as Pinkeny is only the second African-American ever to win a Caldecott Medal.  (Others have been awarded a Caldecott Honor, but still too few.  Listen to the Forum program for my thoughts on that.)

If we'd had a few more minutes on the program, I would have wanted to say: not every individual book has to do everything for everyone.  But the body of work that we create, produce, buy, and read for our children--the best of children's books--must be better at addressing all of its readership.  Kids read and respond to things they identify with, and things that are different, in books--helping them craft their identity by reflecting it, and expanding it.  Kids also start to build prejudices from what they see in the world, and in books, from a very early age. What kinds of experiences are we denying children of all kinds by not showing them experiences of all kinds in their literature?  

This is everyone's responsibility.  What can you do?  Think about it when you're choosing books for kids (your kids, your classroom, a present, donations to the Oakland Mayor's Toy Drive, whatever!) and ask for it.  That's a start. 

Which book do you want to share?

Moving On Up

Next time you’re in the children’s area of your library, keep an eye out for the Moving Up and Series Paperback books. These are special sections where you can find beginning chapter books for kids who have graduated out of early readers. Books here typically feature wide margins, short chapters, lots of illustrations, and vocabulary appropriate for 2nd – 4th graders. Super popular books in these sections include Captain Underpants, Mercy Watson, Bad Kitty, My Father’s Dragon, Geronimo Stilton, and the Magic Tree House series – some of which are excellent read-alouds for younger kids! We children’s librarians also recommend the following Moving Up books:

Anna Hibiscus book cover Dog Heaven book coverCatwings book coverChews Your Destiny book coverEncyclopedia Brown book coverThe Friendship book coverKnights' Tales book coverLittle Horse book coverLulu and the Duck in the Park book coverRickshaw Girl book coverThe Stories Julian Tells book coverZapato Power book cover

Anna Hibiscus series / Atinuke; illus. Lauren Tobia

Calvin Coconut series / Graham Salisbury; illus. Jacqueline Rogers

Catwings series / Ursula K. Le Guin; illus. S.D. Schindler

Chews Your Destiny / Rhode Montijo

Encyclopedia Brown series / Donald J. Sobol

The Friendship / Mildred D. Taylor; illus. Max Ginsburg

The Knights' Tales series / Gerald Morris; illus. Aaron Renier

Little Horse / Betsy Byars; illus. David McPhail

Lulu series / Hilary McKay; illus. Priscilla Lamont

Rickshaw girl / Mitali Perkins; illus. Jamie Hogan

The Stories Julian Tells / Ann Cameron; illus. Ann Strugnell

Zapato Power series / Jacqueline Jules; illus. Miguel Benítez

 

Black History Books for Kids

If you're seeking children's books that honor and celebrate African-American history, Oakland Public Library has what you need! The following staff recommendations are perfect to share with your kiddos year-round, and especially in observance of African-American History Month. We hope you enjoy our suggestions; let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorites!

Picture Books

Charlie Parker played be bop book coverWe March book coverHallelujah Flight book coverHenry's Freedom Box book covermy people book coverOther Side book coverRap a Tap Tap book cover

Charlie Parker played be bop /  Chris Raschka

The Hallelujah Flight / Phil Bildner; illus. by John Holyfield

Henry's Freedom Box / Ellen Levine; illus. by Kadir Nelson

My people / Langston Hughes; photos by Charles R. Smith Jr.

The Other Side / Jacqueline Woodson; illus. by Earl B. Lewis

Rap a Tap Tap / Leo and Diane Dillon

We March / Shane W. Evans

 

Fiction

Bud, not Buddy book coverJefferson's Sons book coverLions of Little Rock book coverOne Crazy Summer book cover

Bud, not Buddy / Christopher Paul Curtis

Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children / Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Lions of Little Rock / Kristin Levine

One Crazy Summer / Rita Williams-Garcia

 

Nonfiction

 Claudette Colvin book coverCourage Has No Color book coverDave the Potter book coverWilma Unlimited book coverHand in Hand book coverVision of Beauty book coverWe Are the Ship book coverWhen Marian Sang book cover Book One book cover

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice / Phillip Hoose

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America's First Black Paratroopers / Tanya Lee Stone

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave / Laban Carrick Hill; illus. by Bryan Collier

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men who Changed America / Andrea Davis Pinkney; illus. by Brian Pinkney

March: Book One / John Lewis; co-written by Andrew Aydin; art by Nate Powell

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker / Kathryn Lasky; illus. by Nneka Bennett

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball / Kadir Nelson

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson / Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Brian Selznick

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman / Kathleen Krull; illus. by David Diaz

I'm Going On a Trip! Starring CultureGrams and Transparent Language Online

I'm going to France next month, for the first time ever! I'm very excited. To prepare for my trip, I'm going to pay a visit to one of Oakland Public Library's friendliest databases, CultureGrams.

Want to come too? Grab your library card and let's go!

We'll start here: Articles and Databases. Now scroll down with me. Come on, I wanna see you scrrooooooolll. All the way down to Country Information, where you'll see the link for CultureGrams.

At this point, you'll need to enter your library card number and pin. (If you have trouble during this step, call any OPL location during open hours--we'll help!)

And here we are:

I'll choose World Edition, and search for France.

Hey, cool! I can learn a lot here. But first, let's get practical. I want to know how far my money will go in the land of sidewalk espressos and Mona Lisas. I'll click on Currency Converter, in the bottom right corner, and type in $100 because I am all about the benjamins:

73 euros! Woo!

Now, let me get spooky. In France, they speak French. I don't speak any French. This is the first time in my life I will visit a non-English-speaking country, and I'm a little nervous about it. I'm a little reassured when I click on the Language link and see that English is the most common second language in France:

But really, what I need to do at this point is return to the Articles and Databases page, find the link for Transparent Language Online under Language Learning, create my free account, and learn a little of the language of love for myself. I can even download their mobile app to my iPhone for overseas language support.

(I did mention all this is free for OPL cardholders, right? No? It is. YES WAY.)

Now, I'm a children's librarian, which means I'll be using my trip as a teaching opportunity for the kids at my branch. When they gather round my computer, I'll click over to the Kids Edition of CultureGrams.

Pretty glad I did that, otherwise I might have placed my hands in my lap during a meal while in France, enraging my dining companions and causing a Bush-in-Tokyo-scale international incident.

Inevitably, while I am showing the children at my library the delights of France, one of them will remember with a start that she has a country report due tomorrow, on Kazakhstan.

Did you know that Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world? Did you know that the nomads of Kazakhstan used to live in yurts that they made themselves out of wood and sheeps' wool? Did you know that Ms. Murglesnort, the child's teacher, requires her students to prepare and bring for the class an authentic dish from their chosen country?

At that moment, the child's mother appears, and says they have to leave RIGHT NOW if they're going to scale all that fish. They don't have internet access at home, so I'll download a PDF of the Kazakhstan page and print it out for them. I'll also email it to mom so she can pull it up later on her smartphone.

So, that's CultureGrams! Not a bad place to spend a few rainy hours planning your dream trip, doing your child's homework, or just exploring the world. Don't miss the fantastic photo gallery for a true slice-of-life glimpse of any country you choose. 

Bon voyage!

ALA Youth Media Awards Announced!

The new winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King and other awards were announced early Monday morning at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Philapdelphia.

The winner of the Newbery Award is Flora & Ulysses, a short, graphically illustrated chapter book by Kate DiCamillo, who is also the recently appointed National Ambassador of Young People's Literature. 

The Newbery Honor winners are Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, and Paperboy by Vince Vawter.

The winner of the Caldecott Medal is Locomotive by Brian Floca.  Caldecott Honors were awarded to Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker; Flora and the Flamingo, written and illustrated by Molly Idle; and Mr. Wuffles!, written and illustrated by David Wiesner.  Miriam Medow, children's librarian at Oakland's Lakeview Branch, served on this year's Caldecott Award Committee!

The Coretta Scott King author award went to Rita Williams-Garcia for P.S., Be Eleven, the sequel to her award winning One Crazy Summer, which was set in Oakland.  The Coretta Scott King illustrator award went to Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me, illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Oakland Public Library's Supervising Librarian for Teen Services, Lana Adlawan, served on this year's Coretta Scott King Award Jury!

The Pura Belpre Illustrator Award went to Yuyi Morales for Nino Wrestles the World; and the Belpre Author award went to Meg Medina for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass!, a book for teens.

We hope you explore all of the award winners, at your library!

Awards Excitement!

No, this isn't about who is custom-designing my dress for Oscar's night.  This is about the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and other Youth Media Awards, soon to be unveiled, on Monday January 27th!

You met Miriam Medow, OPL librarian and member of this year's Caldecott committee, a couple of weeks ago.  Miriam, and members of many award committees, are now in their final weeks of re-reading their confidential short-lists, nominated from among hundreds of children's books published this year.   Around the middle of next week, they will pack their bags with warm clothes, books and notes, and head to Philadelphia PA for the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting. They will meet in closed sessions with their committees for 2 full days, often long into the night, discussing, voting, and coming to a consensus on which books will receive the gold and silver medals for their award.   Then, very early on Monday morning, those awards will be announced to the world at a press conference, which you can watch live at 8am ET.  Yep: that's 5am here.    

I will be there in Philadelphia and sitting in the press conference that morning, and can't wait to see books are honored. Your librarians will jump into action that morning to order more copies of anything we lack, so don't hesitate to request the books! Among the awards announced that morning will be: 

The Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children of any age.  It's an award for writing, but it doesn't have to be for a novel for older children, even if it usually is.   Poetry, nonfiction, easy readers and picture books have all been honored by the Newbery Award. The award was established in 1922.  (By the way...has your family submitted an entry yet to the 90-Second Newbery film festival?  The deadline is Monday January 20th!)

The Caldecott Award for the most distinguished picture book for children of any age. It's an award for art, but the books honored have ranged from books for toddlers to books for independent readers. The award was established in 1937. 

The Coretta Scott King Awards honor authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that "demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. It was established in 1969.

The Pura Belpré Awards honor writers and illustrators whose work "best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."  It was established in 1996.

The Robert F. Sibert Award honors the author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book for children.  It was first awarded in 2001.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given to the author and illustrator of the most distiguished beginning reader book.  It was first awarded in 2006, and is named for Dr. Seuss!

And this only scratches the surface! Will you join us in celebrating great children's and young adult books on January 27th?  

In the photo: me, Nina Lindsay, to the left of the top hat; and OPL librarian Sharon McKellar to the right of the top hat, at last year's award celebration. 

Book Trailers for Kids

Have you ever seen a book trailer? They’re just like previews that we see at the movies, only they’re advertising upcoming books! Publishers have been putting more energy into creating exciting and enticing trailers for their books, in the hopes that watching these videos online will encourage people to go out and read the whole story.

If you or your kiddos are ever in need of new inspiration for what to read next, book trailers are an excellent way to go! Check out these trailers to see if any capture your family’s interest.

Chapter Books

Picture Books

Nonfiction and Graphic Novels

Want more? Check out this blog and this pinterest page; they both present awesome children’s book trailers as they’re published. Interested in making a book trailer of your own? Here are many fine examples of student-made book trailers. Enjoy!