Great Books and more

Hey kids, get cooking!

There are two cookbooks seeing heavy rotation in my kitchen right now: Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry and Thug Kitchen.


Mmm-mmm! Please try the peach-pomegranate barbecue sauce in Afro-VeganBut what if the kids in your life want to cook? What can you do to help them? After you've finished whooping for joy, kicking your feet into the air, and pouring yourself a glass of relaxing wine, that is.

Why, you go to the library, of course, and check out one of these great cookbooks for kids!

The Garden Cook: grow, cook, and eat with kids, by Fiona Inglis. Inglis was a contestant on Australian Masterchef, and her recipes are perfect for kids who are 8-14 years old.

Garden to Table: a kid's guide to planting, growing, and preparing food, by Katherine Hengel. Another good one for slightly older kids.

Cool Lunches to Make and Take: easy recipes for kids to cook, by Lisa Wagner. This one will be great for the slightly younger set. We also have Cool African Cooking on order--why not place a hold today?

And now, my personal favorite and source of several of my staple recipes: the Easy Menu series.

I declare these to be the perfect books not just for junior chefs, but for busy adults on the go. The recipes are simple to follow, whip up fast, and most of the ingredients can be found in your standard pantry or at the corner store late at night (ask me how I know). There's Cooking the East African Way, Cooking the Vietnamese Way, and many many more!

Bon appetit!

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: I know what kind of book I want but I can't find it!

Kids looking for booksQ: I know exactly what kind of book my son/daughter likes but it is kind of hard to describe.  Can you help me find some good titles that we would like?

A:  Yes, we would love to help!  One of the best book requests I ever heard from a parent was for picture books "where there is a lot of things to look at."  It turned out her four year old son loved pouring over elaborate illustrations with lots of little details to explore.  And guess what?  There are lots of children's picture books that fit the bill!  The tricky part for this parent was to find those types of books on the shelf when there isn't a keyword for "detailed pictures" or "lots to see" in the library catalog.  So how do we find something her son will enjoy?

Looking for books with a certain feel, tone, or specific trait can sometimes be tough.  We can easily find books about "dogs," "soccer" or "princesses" with keyword searches but looking for titles with more abstract qualities like "quiet,"  "old fashioned" or "fun to look at" can be a lot harder since they aren't usually described in library catalogs that way.  Luckily, children's librarians read, hear about and see hundreds of picture books each year and are happy to help you find what you are envisioning!

In the case of the mom I mentioned above, it wasn't books like I Spy or Where's Waldo that interested this young reader.  Instead, it was simply books that had illustrations with lots to see.  A book with something new and special to find during each reading,  little treasures in each picture.

Here are just a few books that have "lots of things to look at" and I bet a lot of other curious kids would love them too!




This is all also true for books other than picture books and for readers of all ages.  Just last week, I had a 5th grader ask for "sad books" and another ask for "chapter books that will help me learn new words."  Neither of these descriptions are in the library catalog but there are tons of books are just what these readers were looking for!  It is the same for adult readers who know they love "gritty" books or "tragic" books or "nonfiction that reads like fiction."  Librarians love to help with these types of inquiries so don't be shy! 

If you want to dig in yourself and find the *perfect* picture book, check out A to Zoo: Subject Access Guide to Children's Picture Books.  This reference book is available for browsing at all OPL locations and has over 1000 pages of booklists for subjects ranging from common ideas like "earth" and "friendship" to more obscure and specific topics like "emotions-embarrassment" and "character traits - orderliness."  It is great fun, if picture books are your idea of fun!

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. 

Ask Us Your Question Button

What's Your Favorite Bunny Book?

Hippity-hop! It's springtime in Oakland, and I thought we could celebrate with a chat about bunnies, the official animal of spring. I don't know why the vernal equinox gets everyone thinking about rabbits. Scientific data exists that shows they do, in fact, exist at other times of the year.

Also, bunnies are really not sweet and gentle and cute as the books below would have you believe. They are kind of vicious. Have you read Watership Down? If you haven't, you really should. It's one of my childhood favorites. At one point, I considered myself fluent in the language the author invented for the book, so if you read it, maybe you can come by and we can have a conversation in Lapine. Anyway, the rabbits in that book killed each other pretty easily and often, so much so that if you do a Google image search for "Watership Down," the first subset that pops up is labeled "Violence" and filled with graphic stills from the 2002 animated feature film.

We could talk all day about murderous bunnies and whether being a proud eleven-year-old speaker of Lapine is even nerdier than speaking Klingon. But if we do that, I might start looking for internet forums for Lapine fanatics and forget all about showing you some nice cute picture books about bunnies. Without further ado, here are some of my favorites:

The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

This book is perfection itself. I have seen tough, streetwise small kids' minds BLOWN when the mother bunny becomes the wind and pursues her little runaway over the ocean. True story: Margaret Wise Brown, who was awesome, was miffed that her editor didn't like the original ending and suggested she add something. She wrote back, sassily, "Have a carrot." And that became the last line of the book. 

Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu

Look out for the goat in this book. Whenever he appears, you know there's about to be trouble! But don't worry--Bear will fix everything. This one's a real charmer with wonderful, simple artwork.

Father Fox's Pennyrhymes, by Clyde Watson and Wendy Watson

So technically, this is a book about foxes. But as foxes are often depicted being buddies with their prey, many of the delightful ink-and-watercolor illustrations in this book of poems include rabbits. I own a piece of furniture that's lacquered with pages from this book, and I've used it as reference art for a sizeable tattoo. It's sweet and comforting, great for a bedtime readaloud. By the way, if you were wondering, Clyde and Wendy Watson aren't married--they're sisters.

Did you find something you want to read yet? Maybe your tastes run to the political, in which case you might like Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, by Duncan Tonatiuh. Told in the manner of a folktale, this allegorical tale is a story of crossing the US-Mexico border.

And I'll end with a little PSA: if you're thinking about getting a pet bunny, please hop over to the House Rabbit Society first and do some reading. Rabbits are complicated little creatures, and they don't make good pets for everyone, especially families with small children. If you've done your research and you're sure a bun is the pet for you, you can adopt one from Oakland Animal Services.

Now, what are you waiting for? Get in your Hrududu* and come to the library for Hrair** books!


**lots of

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Antidotes to teen romances for my precocious pre-teen?

Q: My daughter is in 6th grade, and she’s an avid reader. She’s choosing teen stories that seem to actually be romances - vampires, warriors, rebels, detectives - they all seem to focus on the love interest in the end! I feel Twilight is one of the books the 6th-grader had it might be influencing her behavior toward the boys in her school - in a way that to me seems vulnerable. Do you have any good stories about strong female characters without the romance? Akata Witch - See below for details.

A: As your child continues to develop her individual identity, it would be nice to have a steady supply of role models in literature that show a variety. We can find plenty!

As to her current reading choices; while romance is a real option for older teens, if younger people believe they should emulate it before they actually feel it from within, it could get confusing for them.

You could talk to her to figure out what those romantic scenarios mean to her - at her age, she may be very interested in them, or she may be skimming those parts. Aim to keep the lines of communication open in both directions. She is still at the age where your opinion matters, and she may have questions for you if she can trust you to be open and nonjudgmental.

Sabriel - see details below!In any case, it is best to not interfere with your child’s reading choices. Those books are not going to damage her, and as much influence as they have, her family, her friends, and all the other books in the world have just as much or possibly more.

So...your idea is perfect; have a couple of books on hand every time she finishes another one of those racy novels. Here are some ideas - these are stories that stay in the social & emotional world of middle school kids ages 10 to 13, have strong, self-aware, individuated female characters who focus on their mission, their interests, and their own strengths, and don’t chuck it all for the hot guy in the end.

Fantasy & Magic 

Kat, Incorrigible (Burgis), Princess Curse (Haskell), Howls Moving Castle (Jones), Kiki's Delivery Service (Kadono), Tale of Two Castles (Levine), Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Lin), Princess Ben (Murdock), Sabriel (Nix), Akata Witch (Okorafor), Wee Free Men (Pratchett), Golden Compass (Pullman), Thickety (White);  

Kat, IncorrigiblePrincess CurseHowl's Moving Castle - also a great Miyazaki movie!Kiki's Delivery Service Tale of Two CastlesWhere the Mountain Meets the MoonPrincess Ben Sabriel (First in Abhorsen series) Akata WitchWee Free Men (first in series of 4 books)Golden Compass (first book in His Dark Materials)Thickety

Science Fiction

Search for Wond-La (Diterlizzi), City of Ember (DuPrau), Skyjumpers (Eddleman), Wrinkle In Time (L'engle), True Meaning Of Smekday (Rex), When You Reach Me (Stead);

Search for Wond-LaCity of EmberSky JumpersWrinkle in TimeTrue Meaning of SmekdayWhen You Reach Me

 Realistic Fiction

Breadwinner (Ellis), Mare's War (Davis), Lady Grace Mysteries (Finney, aka Cavendish), Harriet The Spy (Fitzhugh), Journey to the River Sea (Ibbotson), Thing About Luck (Kadohata), From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg), Wild Girls (Murphy), Wonderstruck (Selznick), Counting By 7s (Sloan), At The Sign Of The Star (Sturtevant) Revolution (Wiles);

Breadwinner (first in series)Mare's WarLady Grace Mysteries (Assassin & Betrayal, bks 1 & 2)Harriet the Spy - see other editions tooJourney to the River Sea The Thing about LuckFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerWild Girls WonderstruckCounting by 7sAt the Sign of the StarRevolution 

Each of these books is a favorite of mine for a different reason. (Okay, there are 2 on these lists I haven't read, but I have on good authority they are worth reading...) Your daughter won’t like every one of them, so please ask us how to narrow it down. If you click on the book cover, you can see if the book is in the library today, and place a hold if you like.


Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians will answer questions on  this blog the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. We'd love to hear your ideas and feedback in our comments (below).  We also would love to answer YOUR question! Click here:   

Click here to submit a question!

You Can Throw Your Pizza On MY Roof

You know, we all get a little mad sometimes. But throwing perfectly good pizza onto the roof of your house is NOT an okay way to show your anger! It makes me cry to think of the tragic--TRAGIC--scene in the TV series Breaking Bad when Walter White hurls a delicious-looking pizza onto the roof, instead of directly into his mouth where it belongs. 

I'm not the only one weeping. According to Buzzfeed, the people who live in the house where the show was filmed would really like you to stop throwing pizza onto their roof, please. They have backing from the show's creator, Vince Gilligan, who says "there is nothing original or funny or cool about throwing a pizza on this lady’s roof."

This belongs in me, please.

What IS original and funny and cool, though, is picture books about pizza. Here are my favorites!

Secret Pizza Party, by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

I once read this book out loud 2,486 consecutive times during a weekend trip with my friend and her kids. It still had me laughing to the point of tears by the end. I don't want it to be a secret anymore--this book is the BEST.

"Hi, Pizza Man!" by Virginia Walter and Ponder Goembel

There's a reason your local children's librarian probably has a copy of this squirreled away in her office: it's the best readaloud ever. Yes, EVER. And it's out of print. Fortunately, you can check it out at OPL (though you may have to wait a bit!).

Pete's a Pizza, by William Steig

William Steig was a New Yorker cartoonist who wrote several much-loved children's classics, including Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Pete's a Pizza is a quiet gem that acknowledges the universal truth of children: they would all LOVE to be made into a pizza.

Still hungry? There are lots of other picture books about pizza at your local OPL branch. And the next time you are tempted to fling a pizza onto your roof in anger, take two deep breaths, get back in your car, and bring the pizza over to my house instead. I'll make sure it never troubles you again.

PS Grownups, did you catch that you can find every season of Breaking Bad at your library? We know what you like!

Aw, Bologna

Someday when I'm rich, really disgustingly wealthy, I'm going to the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Bologna, Italy, and I will meet aaaaalll the wonderful illustrators and buy them a glass of vino. Seriously, I am obsessed with picture book illustration, and the book fair in Bologna attracts artists from every corner of the globe.*

This year, though, we're all in luck! Because you don't have to go any farther than your local Oakland Public Library branch to see almost all the 2015 winners of the Bologna Ragazza Awards. 2015 is the 50 year anniversary of the award, which means--fun fact--that it was created during the birth year of Alex Winter, aka Bill S. Preston of seminal American film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. CONNECTIONS.

This year's winners are:


Flashlight, by Lizi Boyd


Avant Après, by Anne-Margot Ramstein, illustrated by Matthias Aregui (we have the English translation)

NEW HORIZONS (A special recognition reserved to the publishing industry in the Arab countries, Latin America, Asia and Africa):
Abecedario, by Ruth Kaufman and Raquel Franco, illustrated by Diego Bianki

That last one is my personal favorite. I bought it for OPL at FIL Guadalajara, and loved it so much I got a copy for myself, too. These pictures!

The last Bologna Ragazza Award is the Opera Prima, which recognizes exceptional first books. We don't own this one, and I haven't seen it for sale in the US yet. 

Lá Fora, by Maria Ana Peixe Dias and Inês Teixeira do Rosário, illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho

Here's hoping some intrepid US publisher snaps it up, along with all the awards' Special Mentions. (Enchanted Lion, are you watching?)

*Globes don't have corners, FYI

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have books that explain about the birds & the bees?

Shocked dadQ: My eight-year-old son is asking me about how babies are made. I gave him a short-version answer, and now he has a lot more questions. I'm realizing that my older daughter (now 12) probably had a lot of questions she didn't ask out loud when I gave her the simple answers a few years ago. What books do you have for both of them?

It's Perfectly Normal - a book cover.

A: We have plenty of books on this topic for different ages. You will find it much easier to answer your children's questions with the help of some well-chosen books! Whether you read a book aloud to a younger child, give one to an older child to read herself, or simply read one yourself to get ideas of the best ways to respond to their questions, having some published information will help you teach your children about human development and reproduction.

Cover of a COMPLETELY inappropriate book for this blog post.You may not agree with every statement in all of these books – each family has their own set of values and perspectives. However, these books represent ideas that exist in the world, so responding to them either with agreement or disagreement will clarify for your children what you believe and what your expectations are for them, while at the same time sharing essential information they need to know.

Here are some books for kids to read on their own, or for you to read aloud to them:

    Sorry, this book (Asking about sex & growing up) is no longer available at the Oakland Library.              

As you can see, they range from those books that simply explain how babies are made to those that explain what changes a body goes through that enable people to have babies! Those questions come up more as a child grows.

Here are some books written for adults that give tips for talking about reproduction and sexuality, and about setting boundaries as they grow up:

Children of every age have questions, and it's never to early to present an age-appropriate answer to any question they have. (See the blog post from last month for books about how babies are made that are best for preschool-age kids.) If your kids see you as a neutral and reliable source of information, you will have the basis for continuing communication as they become teenagers.

We'd love to answer your question next! We assure confidentiality. Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month.   

Button to push to submit a question!

7 Reasons The 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards Are SO COOL

Did you see the ALA Youth Media Awards this year? They are SO COOL. Groundbreaking choices were made in every category of these annual awards for children's books. Here's why:

1) Diversity rules!

This year's Medal and Honor recipients are African-American, Latino, Asian, multiracial, deaf, queer, and differently abled. The Newbery and Caldecott Awards have been criticized in the past for being overwhelmingly white; perhaps the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement is causing a cultural shift in children's literature.


Amy Koester, the Show Me Librarian, has a great post on how this year's awards can help book selectors examine their own privilege.

2) A graphic novel won a NEWBERY HONOR for the first time.

A big surprise, because the Newbery is for best writing in a book for young readers; traditionally, illustrations are not to be considered. Since graphic novels are written in both words and pictures, it would seem this year's Newbery committee broke from tradition and considered visual text in honoring CeCe Bell's wonderful El Deafo.

3) A graphic novel won a Caldecott Honor, also for the first time.

This one seems more natural, since the Caldecott is for illustration. But no graphic novel has ever won or been honored before. Jillian and Mariko Tamaki's This One Summer is also the first book for older kids to nab a Caldecott Honor, which has caused some controversy.

4) A picture book won the Stonewall Award for the first time ever.

We love Gayle Pitman and Kristyna Litten's This Day in June here at OPL-- happy rhyming text and colorful pictures depict a gay pride parade, complete with Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It's the first time in the award's 44 year history that a picture book has taken the prize, confirming that there are wonderful books for the very youngest about queer life.

5) Dan Santat cried like a baby when he found out he won the Caldecott.

Which is pretty adorable. You can see lots of winners and honorees get the call here.

6) I got to watch them live.

Braggy brag brag. The ALA Youth Media Awards are basically the Oscars for children's literature. But ours start at 8am, not 8pm, and you have to get there by 7 if you want a seat. There's no formalwear, but I did see at least three people including myself wearing these sweet socks.

7) ...after a 6:30am talk by Cornel West.

ALA knocked it out of the park with this year's keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunrise Celebration. Seeing him speak was thrilling. But here I go bragging again.

Check out all the ALA Youth Media Award winners and honorees on Pinterest!

African American Literature Read In Hits Oakland Next Week!

Book Cover of My PeopleNext week, the Oakland Public Education Fund is sponsoring an African American Literature Read In in the schools and is looking for volunteers. If you can volunteer to read in a school next week, it is not too late to sign up.

Their site includes a great recommended reading list, which we contributed to, and includes many of our favorites. Check them out, anytime. 

Book Cover Heart & SoulIn support of the Read In, and in celebration of Black History month, all Oakland Public Library storytimes next week (February 2-7) will highlight African American authors, illustrators, and characters.  

We strive for diversity in our collections and storytimes every day of the year and are excited to support next week's activities. We look forward to seeing you. 

You can browse and place holds for some of our favorites books for next week right here


Tuesday is Multicultural Children's Book Day!

The push for diversity is one of my favorite things happening in children's books these days, and grassroots organizations like We Need Diverse Books are jumping to support the cause. Add to that list of organizations Multicultural Children's Book Day, which had its first day in celebration of diverse children's books in 2014.


This year, Multicultural Children's Book Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, January 27. Have a celebration yourself by visiting their blog for Author and Illustrator Spotlights, book suggestions, and profiles of their sponsors.

While you're at it, stop by Oakland Public Library's Pinterest board for book suggestions! We have recommendations on books about multiracial children, books about differently-abled children, and many more.