Great Books and more

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about Differently Abled People

Extra extra, bonus list! This afternoon, some great recent children's books about young people who live with disabilities. More on Pinterest!

A splash of red, by Jennifer Bryant.
King for a Day, by Rukhsana Khan
The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Lyon
A Boy and a Jaguar, by Alan Rabinowitz (this one's newly ordered and will be available for holds later in May)

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper.
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
Al Capone does my Homework, by Gennifer Choldenko (third in the trilogy!)

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein.

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about LGBTQ People

 Whoa people, have you checked us out on twitter lately? Like yesterday or today? Tons of pictures and personal testimony in support of #WeNeedDiverseBooks --keep it coming for the rest of the week, will you? Take a picture of yourself holding a sign with your reasons why we need diverse books, then email it to sharon@mckellar.org (she's our community relations librarian!). We'll tweet it and you'll be a part of history.

Today, our series of awesome diverse children's books continues with books featuring characters who are lesbian \ gay \ bisexual \ transgender \ queer. As with this week's other post, you'll find lots more titles of note on Pinterest!

You've seen And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson, right? True story of two penguin daddies who raise a penguin chick together at the Central Park Zoo. Lovely story, perfect for sharing with kids under five.

Welp, since the year it came out, it has landed pretty consistently every year on ALA's top ten most frequently challenged books. In 2012, that sweet, cozy story about two male penguins in love and raising a baby came in right under Fifty Shades of Grey in numbers of people who asked a library to take it off their shelves. Is that why there haven't been that many LGBTQ picture books published since that one came out? The 2014 ALA Rainbow List, which collects "quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content," didn't have a single picture book on it. The 2013 list has one. 2010 had the most, with a whopping six. 

This year, we can count on at least one: Jacob's New Dress, by Sara Hoffman. Jacob is a boy who would rather wear dresses than pants; his parents support him, and with his teacher's help, his classmates come to accept Jacob's choice of gender expression. A powerful little story, not dissimilar to Marcus Ewert's 2008 hit 10,000 Dresses. What we're still missing altogether is a picture book about a gender-nonconforming child who was born female. There are plenty of "girls can do anything!" type books, but I can't think of one in which an I-can-do-anything female-born character also has a non-traditional gender presentation. Can anyone else? (Ahem-- if there isn't one, that means one of you local authors needs to write it.) 

A really nice book for families learning to celebrate all kinds of differences. Pick up Mary Hoffman's The Great Big Book of Families--you could spend hours looking at the pictures alone.

Okay, chapter books! Here there are some great choices, and the newer crop has some for tween readers (9-12). First, if you haven't been reading Tim Federle's Nate books, you are going to have to change that right now. Nate is an eighth grade boy who loves musical theater, fears beatdowns from the town bullies, and has a fresh and funny eye for life. In Better Nate Than Ever, Nate sneaks off to New York City to audition for a Broadway musical; in Five, Six, Seven, Nate! his adventure continues. I know that summary tells you nothing! I don't want to spoil it!

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier, is about a theater geek girl who has a crush and... is in for some disappointment. But! the show does go on, and it's a cool and funny one at that. A winner for middle schoolers.

  

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, by Kristin Cronn-Mills, was a tied win for the 2014 Stonewall awards with Fat Angie, by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo. In Beautiful, Gabe is a high schooler transitioning away from being Elizabeth; he finds some acceptance in his community, and some dangerous resistance. In Fat Angie, Angie is grappling with the death of her sister and her attraction to the new girl in school. Both terrific reads.

Finally, two recommended by Janine Mogannam, one of OPL's teen librarians. If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan is the story of two Iranian girls determined to love each other despite the risk of execution. Adaptation is part of a sci-fi trilogy by Malinda Lo, a local author. Pick 'em up!

Don't forget to click through to Pinterest for more kids' LGBTQ titles!

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about Latinos

When I first started at OPL, I worked at the César Chávez Branch in the Fruitvale (non-Facebook link here) I could not have a bigger soft spot in my heart for this place. It's sunny, the floors are shiny, the colors inside the branch are radiant. The staff is friendly, and you can get the best veggie burrito in Oakland right across the street.

But for me? It was all about lunch breaks in the staff room with gorgeous old cartoons from Mexico. I dug way into the Spanish-language cartoon section, where there are books you won't find at any other library in Oakland. Also, since Chávez gets the best selection of Latin American DVDs, I brought home Cantínflas episodes, and Chavo del Ocho so I could see what my old coworker meant when he called me "La Chilindrina" Note: that character definitely grew up to be a librarian.

It's true, Chávez Branch has treasures best enjoyed by visiting--a Chicano collection, a gorgeous mural by Daniel Camacho, a seed library, and in the summertime, free lunch for kids--but you can get any of the wonderful Latino children's books on this list at any OPL branch (if your branch doesn't own it, place a hold). Happy reading, happy Día!

Yes! We are Latinos, by Alma Flor Ada. Stories told in short pieces by thirteen different voices about their individual Latino identities.

The best Lucha Libre picture book ever? I'd put money on Niño. Presenting Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales. (If you love this book and you love Yuyi Morales, you can meet her in June in San Francisco.)

Mi familia Calaca: my skeleton family, by Cynthia Weill. I kind of adore this little charmer. Its simple text is also perfect for children beginning to read on their own, and it's in English and Spanish, side by side. You can read about artist Jesús Canseco Zarate in the back.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, by Duncan Tonatiuh. It's clear that Tonatiuh is a boundary-pusher. This beautifully illustrated story spins a folktale: a young rabbit crosses the Mexican border into the US, with the help of a "coyote" (in both senses), to find his father, who went to look for work but has disappeared. Not a subject many would be comfortable tackling in a picture book, but Tonatiuh does it admirably.

Maria Had a Little llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita, by Angela Dominguez. "Mary had a little lamb" transported to a Peruvian village, and now the lamb is a llama. I approve of all things llama. Plus Angela Dominguez is local, and she used to share a studio with a friend of mine! Cool, huh? It's like I know her. (I collect children's illustrators as imaginary BFFs.)

Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, rey del Mambo, by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael López. Spicy-pretty picture book biography of the Mambo great.


Jimmy the Greatest! by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. This one's a bit of a sleeper; and yes, it really is great. Jimmy, a boxer in a small Latin American town, decides to stay and help his neighbors instead of pursuing boxing fame. Makes you think about what it really means to be "the greatest." 

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash, by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Miguel Benítez. I knew the Freddie Ramos books were a hit when I walked into a third-grade classroom and asked the kids what books they'd liked from the library, and they all yelled as one "ZAPPA TOE!" It took a few seconds, but I put it together. ZaPAHto Power is a fun, exciting series for elementary school chapter book readers.


The Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny, by Rhode Montijo. I can definitively say that Gabby Gomez is the FIRST Latina superhero who is made of gum. Well, not really made of it. There's an origin story. I really, really hope this is the first in a series, but there's no word either way on the author's website.... please, Sr. Montijo? (Looks like there are supposed to be three!)

Maximilian and the mystery of the guardian angel: a bilingual Lucha Libre thriller, by Xavier Garza. For that independently-reading kid who loves mysteries AND luchadores.

Luz makes a splash, by Claudia Dávila. Luz is a neighborhood do-gooder, and a leader in water conservation in her diverse community. A good tie-in to this here drought thing we're experiencing.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina. I'm not sure how many more times I'll have the pleasure of recommending a book for children (okay, teens) with a swear in the title, so I'm going to savor it. This is a powerful book about bullying that captures the dread of knowing someone's got you in their sights... for reasons unknown to you.

Saving Baby Doe, by Danette Vigilante. This one has yet to hit our shelves, but you can reserve it now. Two Brooklyn tweens find an abandoned baby, and try to do the right thing for her, but what is the right thing?

For lots more children's books with Latino characters, click over to Pinterest!

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!