Great Books and more

An Extremely Boring Book You Should Probably Never Read

These days I always seem to have a friend on the Caldecott committee, which gives the annual award for best illustration in a children's book, which means every time I go to a bookstore I'm texting pictures of book covers to that friend with a message: "you GOTTA see this one!!" 

It's unusual for a book with NO pictures to send me scrambling for my phone. But... have you SEEN this book?

Okay- wrong question. Have you READ this book? It's pretty much the funniest crowd-pleaser of a picture book I've read in years.

Okay okay- still the wrong question. Have you had this book read to you by its author, B.J. Novak*?

Once you've seen the creator in action, you'll need to try it for yourself. The next time you're at the library, ask for The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak. We might give it to you if we're not too busy giggling over it ourselves.

*former writer for The Office, and PS my future husband

6 kids' books from 2014 that hit uncomfortably close to home

1. My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems

Gerald (the elephant) sees Piggie playing with her new bat friend, and he is JEALOUS. Gerald, I know the sting you feel all too well: maybe Piggie will have so much fun with Bat, she won't need you anymore. I'm sure we'll outgrow these insecurities someday.

Read it to: the BFF who keeps breaking brunch plans.

2. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

You ever just KNOW you're on the brink of discovering something that will change your life? Sam and Dave keep digging aaaalmost to the giant diamonds, then deciding to change course, leaving readers shouting "NO! NO! It's RIGHT THERE!" 

Read it to: adults in your life whose purpose just plain eludes them.

3. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, by Bob Shea and Lane Smith

These master crooks can't STAND to hear someone else get credit for their low-down deeds, and they finally implicate themselves. Isn't that one of the theories on the Serial subreddit?

Read it to: the co-worker you KNOW is stealing your snacks from the break room fridge.

4. Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan

If telling your younger sibling terrible things--such as that leaving one red sock on a clothesline will attract a giant, bloodthirsty hell-rabbit with eyes of fire that will hunt him down no matter where he hides--is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Incidentally, my big sister once told me that pizza is made from dead bodies in graveyards, and it BARELY interrupted my pizza eating habits.

Read it to: any siblings who still won't talk to you.

5. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers

Burn any bridges this year? This book gets you.

Read it to: anyone with regrets.

6. Toot, by Leslie Patricelli

I'm definitely too old to find farting so funny. And yet here we are.

Read it to: yourself, over and over.

Travel Books for Kids

If you’re looking for a little adventure this season, check out the library’s selection of travel books for kids! They describe lands both near and far, highlighting aspects of each destination that young readers are especially interested in exploring. Take an armchair tour through California, Mexico, and beyond with some of these exciting informational books:

For younger readers

All Aboard! book coverCountry Explorers Ghana book coverIn New York book coverOff We Go to Mexico book coverOur California book coverThis Plane book coverWe're Riding on a Caravan book cover

All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet / by Chris Demarest; illus. by Bill Mayer

Country Explorers series / Lerner Publications

In New York / by Marc Brown

Off We Go to Mexico / by Laurie Krebs; illus. by Christopher Corr

Our California / by Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Rafael López

This Plane / by Paul Collicutt

We're Riding on a Caravan: An Adventure on the Silk Road / by Laurie Krebs; illus. by Helen Cann

For older readers

Enchantment of the World Pakistan book coverGo, Go America book coverHow Do you Burp in Space? book coverMy Yosemite book coverNational Geographic Kids World Atlas book coverNational Parks book coverNot-for-Parents Wonders of the World book coverTop to Bottom Down Under book cover

Enchantment of the World series / Children's Press

Go, Go America / by Dan Yaccarino

How Do You Burp in Space?: And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know / by Susan Goodman; illus. by Michael Slack

My Yosemite: A Guide for Young Adventurers / by Mike Graf; illus. by Annette Filice

National Geographic Kids World Atlas / National Geographic

National Parks: A Kid's Guide to America's Parks, Monuments and Landmarks / by Erin McHugh; art by Neal Aspinall, Doug Leen, and Brian Maebius

Not-for-Parents guidebook series / Lonely Planet

Top to Bottom Down Under / by Ted & Betsy Lewin

Oakland Mayor's Toy Drive Needs New Books!

The library is partnering with the Oakland Mayor's Toy Drive to ensure that a new book is included in every gift bag.   You can help by shopping at your participating local independent bookstore.   The following stores will be selling books for the Oakland Mayor's Toy Drive. Stop by, buy a book or more and leave it with the store for donation to the Toy Drive!

Laurel Book Store 1423 Broadway

Pegasus Books Oakland, 5560 College Ave

Marcus Bookstore, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Great Good Place for Books, 6120 LaSalle Ave

EM Wolfman Books, 410 13th st

Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College Ave

Walden Pond Books 3319 Grand Ave

While any new children's books are welcome, we are in particular need of diverse books for young children.  Some of our favorites are:


Global Baby Boys, by Maya Ajmera

Global Baby Girls, by Maya Ajmera 

I Am So Brave, by Stephen Krensky

I Know a Lot, by Stephen Krensky

Sparkling Princess ABC, by Lisa Perrett

Everything Goes: 123 Beep Beep Beep! A counting book, by Brian Biggs



Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales

Rain! By Linda Ashman

This Day in June, by Gayle Pitman

Take Me Out to the Yakyu, by Aaron Meshon

Puffy: people whose hair defies gravity, by Aya de Leon

Maria Had a Little Llama, by Angela Dominguez

If I Had a Raptor, by George O’Connor

Please, Baby, Please, by Spike Lee (available in paperback)

Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales



My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems 

Brownie and Pearl Get Dolled Up (easy reader edition- 978-1442495678), by Cynthia Rylant

Fire Truck to the Rescue! By Sonia Sander 

Ling and Ting Share a Birthday, by Grace Lin



Lowriders in Space, by Cathy Camper

Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny, by Rhode Montiijo

Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow, by Jacqueline Jules

Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door, by Hilary McKay

Ellray Jakes is Magic, by Sally Warner

Luz Makes a Splash, by Claudia Davila

Dog Days, by Karen English

Hands-On Science Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score!: Sports Science Projects series / by various authors

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

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

Best Illustrated Books of 2014--with a raffle!

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

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

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


Draw! written and illustrated by Raúl Colón

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

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


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

The Baby Tree, written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

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


Shackleton's Journey, written and illustrated by William Grill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: A long book with pictures!

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

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

Q: …but TRUE, not pretend!

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

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

Q (mom): Absolutely!

Q: All right, I guess that’s okay.

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

 Saint George and the Dragon  The deliverers of their country

Q: Great! We’ll take them.

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

Q: Perfect!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concept Books for Kids

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


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


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

More Concepts

Self Publishing? Format Counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sing a Little Song

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

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

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


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

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

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