children

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: What’s your opinion on this movie?

Q: What do you think about this movie for my kids?

A: Here’s what goes through my mind when I hear this question, which happens a few times a week:

  1. I really appreciate your effort to figure out what’s best for your children!  

  2. Image that made Isabel cry in Schoolhouse Rock.I need to know a little about your children. I might ask you; “How old are your kids?” “What movies have they enjoyed lately?” “Which of those movies seemed just right to you?”

  3. I need some parameters for what you usually find suitable & appropriate for your child.  “We prefer realistic movies, not fantasy.” “We’re looking for movies that don’t follow old-fashioned gender roles.” “No violence! We don’t believe in that.” “It’s okay if there’s fighting, but not too much.”

  4. What’s enjoyable and exciting for one child could be disturbing, offensive, or boring for another child – even in the same family. Give me an anecdote. “She burst into tears watching Unpack Your Adjectives in the Schoolhouse Rock animation.”Marzipan Pig - a movie that is not for everyone, but some people love it!

  5. What can I recall from previous conversations with other patrons about this movie? What age were those children?  “My 4-year-old son & I adored The Marzipan Pig.” “The Ring of Bright Water was such a sweet movie! But we were horrified when the otter died!”  

Based on your answers, I’ll give you my feedback on the movies you selected, or suggest a few for you. It’s a fun game for both of us. On the other hand, as Maimonides might say, “Choose a movie for a patron, and she’s entertained for a day; teach her how to choose a movie for herself, and she’s entertained for a lifetime.”

How To Train Your Dragon - a very popular movie with wide age-range appeal.When it comes to film, parents are motivated to find content that resonates with their values rather than contradicting them. People don’t do this as much with books. It’s as if a book is invited into our consciousness as a visitor who we can safely be open to, whereas moving-pictures are more like a group of invading guests, who could easily bowl us over, dominate, and take control.  

Moving visual images seem to bypass our intellectual process to some degree, and connect viscerally to our psyche. Adults know that these responses may stay with us for a lifetime.

How can you help your children weather the invading-guest’s philosophies and values, and hold on to their own values and principles?

  • Observe your child watching a film, to guide future choices. Maimonides thinking up good quotes that could be used 800 years later on Hanukkah in an overly long blog.

  • Pick appropriate films at each stage of development. See details below.

  • Maintain a dialogue with your child. Routine conversations about mundane films build a habit that you can rely on when something is upsetting.

  • Build their healthy self-esteem. Children with a strong sense of self are not as vulnerable to the manipulations that are often found in media. But that’s a topic for another day!

So the question is; How do we pick appropriate films?

I suggest you consider ALL of the following aspects. No single aspect is sufficient:

  1. Length in minutes. DVDs under 30 minutes are usually intended for under-5-year-olds, and DVDs over 1 ½ hours are usually for over-9-year-olds. If a DVD contains multiple shorts, count only one, but for television episodes, 25 minutes is standard for all ages, so you can’t use length alone to determine intended audience.  

  2. Visual imagery on the cover. Does it appeal to your child? The Lego Movie is not something we need to advertise.

  3. Synopsis. Look on the box, in the Oakland Public Library catalog for the DVD, or on a website such as Common Sense Media, or IMDb.

  4. Age suggestion from the film-maker.  See same sources as the synopsis.

  5. Rating. The Common Sense Media ratings of “Off, Pause, & On”  are much more useful than the MPAA ratings, because they relate to developmental benchmarks for each age.  

  6. Reviews. See databases mentioned above. Common Sense Media gives the perspective of their own reviewers as well as ordinary parents and children.

  7. Trailers. Available directly from IMDb or YouTube.

  8. Friends’ advice. They know you and your child, and you know them, so you can triangulate over time.

It takes time to gather this information. Remember you can place a hold on the DVD at Oakland Public Library – you can place up to 10 holds at a time, you can check out 10 DVDs at a time, you get to keep them for 3 weeks, and you can renew them for another 3 weeks. Free!

A library made of Lego.Nevertheless, that’s a lot of work just to watch some movies, right? Feel free to ask the librarian for suggestions. Remember; we librarians are most effective when it’s a two-way conversation. Your feedback on what books & movies you & your children enjoy (and don’t enjoy) helps us give better suggestions to everyone!Click this link to submit a question to the children's librarians

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

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.  

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!