Children’s fiction author puts down roots in Everett

Enjoy a post written by Emily Dagg, EPL’s head of Youth Services, about this weekend’s Ways to Read author event on Saturday February 6th where Carole Etsby Dagg will be talking about her latest book: Sweet Home Alaska.

Cowgirl CaroleLocal author Carole Estby Dagg is inspired to write about pioneers on the move. Perhaps it’s because she moved a lot as a child. Her father was a civil engineer, so her family moved wherever the next bridge or tunnel building project took them. In 12 years, Carole attended 11 different public schools.

Every time they moved, she and her two younger sisters were only allowed to bring two boxes of toys each. Luckily, there was no limit on the number of books. Carole’s most loyal friends followed her everywhere, including Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. And the first thing her family did after each move was to register for a library card.

A voracious reader and learner, she raced ahead in school, finishing high school at age 16. She then attended the University of Washington where she changed her major multiple times before deciding to study law. She was admitted to Law School at the age of 19; however, a summer job with the Seattle Public Library changed her plans. It only took her one year to complete the two-year library degree program at the University of British Columbia.

Instead of becoming a lawyer she married a lawyer and started a family in Seattle where she worked as a children’s librarian. In the recession of the early 1970’s, Carole’s young family was caught up in the wave of young professionals leaving Seattle in droves. She, her husband, and two young children moved several times: to Anacortes, then Anchorage, then Seattle again, then Edmonds, before settling down in Everett in 1977.

Carole - leaning smile-124Everett had almost everything on their wish list: good career prospects, big old houses, lovely views, great schools, beautiful parks, family-friendly neighborhoods, and a wonderful public library. Both children were tired of moving at that point and wanted Everett to become their official childhood home. They got their wish, and remained in the same house until college.

Meanwhile, public libraries were engaged in layoffs. So, Carole went back to college to become a Certified Public Accountant. Why? Because in the help wanted ads there were more listings for accountants that anything else. In the accounting field she continued blazing trails. After a few years of experience, she became the Snohomish County head of Financial Analysis and Reporting.

Always on a quest for knowledge, Carole continued taking college courses on diverse subjects. In 1979, Carole enrolled in a computer programming class with the goal of streamlining payroll for the County. At the kitchen table on evenings and weekends, she wrote code and successfully created a simple COBOL program. Her children were curious, so she explained the patterns of zeros and ones, and demonstrated how punch cards worked. An early adopter of telecommuting, she connected to work using a rotary-dial phone and a modem with a handset cradle.

When a children’s librarian position opened up at the Everett Public Library, she gladly traded in her punch cards for puppets and returned to her favorite career. However, she only lasted a few months in that position before she was promoted to be the library’s new assistant director. After she retired from librarianship, Carole began pursuing her third career: children’s author.

SweetHome_FINALHer first book, The Year We Were Famous (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) is an award-winning historical fiction novel based on Carole’s own pioneer ancestors. That book took 15 years to become published; the second book was “only” a five-year process. Sweet Home Alaska (Penguin Group USA, Feb. 2, 2016) is also inspired by a real-life event; her son’s move to Palmer, Alaska.

That’s all I’m going to disclose about my mother’s new book. I’ll let her tell the rest of the story this Saturday February 6th at 2pm in the Main Library Auditorium. She plans to talk more in-depth about her inspiration and describe how she researches specific time periods. Her talks include many visuals and photographs, gathered during the research phase.

There will also be cake and sparkling cider, plus Sweet Home Alaska souvenirs, to celebrate this very sweet book launch.

If You Want Your Children to be Intelligent

4e2f002ab3c2184c626737239cf21249Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. The creative imagination is the essential element of a true scientist, and fairy tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality.”  He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. If you want to give your children a world in which they will read, imagine, and understand, try some of these, my favorite fairy tales. I try to include one in each of my storytimes.

index (1)I love the wording of Paul Galdone’s translations and you’ll find four tales in The Nursery Classics. Paul Galdone created hundreds of books in his lifetime and many of his picture books quickly became accepted as the definitive version of traditional stories. Collected here are four of his most popular picture books: The Three Pigs, The Three Bears, The Little Red Hen, and Cat Goes Fiddle-i-fee.

index (2)Galdone also illustrated The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Three clever billy goats outwit a big ugly troll that lives under the bridge they must cross on their way up the mountain to a grassy meadow. The troll meets his match and you’ll have everyone at your house trip tramping all about and reenacting this classic tale. It’s a favorite at our house and in storytime.

 

index (3)Try Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberley and you’ll not regret it!  “Chicken Little was not the brightest chicken in the coop. He was very excitable and prone to foolishness. One day he was doing nothing, his usual pastime, when an acorn fell from the sky and hit him on the head. Bonk! EEP!” Chicken Little runs in a panic to his friends Henny Penny, Lucky Ducky, and Loosey Goosey, to tell them the sky is falling. Panic and adventure ensues.

indexAbiyoyo by Pete Seeger is a children’s classic which is now in a book and CD edition. This African folktale  has it all: a monster, a hero, and music. “Abiyoyo” is an ancient lullaby of the Xhosa people of South Africa. Listen to Pete tell (and sing) this story, then read it yourself, and then let your child tell the story to you. That way, you tell the story you want to tell and make it your own. The result is a whole mess of fun!

index (1)Here’s a contemporary folktale from a marvelous writer: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Just what is the gruffalo? “He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.” But do all those things make him the scariest creature in the deep dark wood? One brave little mouse with a big imagination doesn’t think so! You’ll cheer for this clever little mouse as he fends off all of the animals who want to eat him. I read this one during my ‘I’m Not Scared!’ storytime.

index (2)I must include the books of local (Kirkland, Washington) librarian/storyteller Margaret Read MacDonald. She retells folktales from all over the world. The Boy From the Dragon Palace is a Japanese fable about a poor flower seller who gets a gift. Read this to children to reinforce the idea that it’s always good to say thank you.

index (3)I love reading Conejito, MacDonald’s folktale from Panama. Conjejito runs into a few obstacles when he goes to visit his Tia Monica on the high mountain. They all say “Oh Conejito! I think I have found my lunch!” but he and his Auntie outfox them all. You’ll be humming: I have a sweet old Auntie, my Tia Moncia. And when she goes out dancing, they all say ‘Ooo la la!’

indexMabela the Clever is MacDonald’s retelling of an African story that will entertain you and your child. Mabela may be the smallest mouse in the village, but that doesn’t matter because her father has taught her to be clever. When the cat comes to invite everyone to join the secret cat society, the mice line up with Mabela in the lead. In the end, she leads them all to safety.

index (1)And, finally, please check out The Squeaky Door as retold by MacDonald. Grandma tucks little boy in tight. She turns out the light. And he’s not scared. No, not him! But when Grandma shuts the door, SQUUEEEEAK! Who helps little boy? This story is based on a Puerto Rican folk song ‘La Cama’ and is pure joy!

Check out these and many other fantastic folktales from your library so you and your children will be intelligent — just like Einstein.  Also, look for the folktale edition of Everett Public Library’s Book Bites which is broadcast on television between shows, on Everett TV Channel 21.  It It is also on the City of Everett You Tube Channel.

Imagine a Blogger’s Holiday

books for bloggers‘Tis the season for giving, and as you may have seen here on A Reading Life, we love the idea of giving friends and family books, books, and more books for the holidays. Leslie wrote about book-gifting traditions in her family, and we bombarded you with our staff members’ favorite books, music, and movies of 2015.

I’m here today to offer a different perspective. I’d like you to close your eyes (well, after you read this part first!) and imagine a holiday made especially for bloggers, specifically those here on A Reading Life. Do you hear each blogger’s distinctive voice? The types of books or music they usually enjoy? Okay, somehow you need to know to open your eyes now, even if you’re not reading this because I told you to close your eyes and you’re obviously an excellent listener. Are you back? Great! I’ve been thinking a lot about my fellow bloggers and have decided to share with you and with them the books I would give them if I had a pile of cash at the ready. The good news is that all of these books are available at the library, and I happen to know they all frequent it.

Heartwood
Heartwood, you post about books that may have skipped our radar the first go-round and new translations of epic reads. You have a firm grasp of worldwide literary fiction, but I have something more localized in mind. I offer you Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee by Shelley Fisher Fishkin. This book straddles the line between fiction and nonfiction–those good ole 800s. It takes the reader on a journey throughout the lower 48 and offers deep insight into the places that birthed America’s greatest words, from The Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton, Ohio to Angel Island in San Francisco. There’s even a chapter featuring the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library, where the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture resides. You will love this book about books featuring a library!

Jennifer
Girl, you read all the books I am too afraid to even pick up, let alone read! But I finally found something we can both agree on: Charles Bukowski on Cats edited by Abel Debritto. Sure, there’s a black cat on the cover, its back arched and ready to pounce. But what else could this book shelved in the poetry section have to offer? I’ll tell you: filthy, hilarious poems about cats and their undermining ways, and excerpts of prose that tell you just what is going on in those feline minds. At 3 am. In the alley below. Nonstop. There are also some very heavy words, but I know you’re good for it.

Leslie
If there’s one thing I learned early on in my career it’s this: never recommend a picture book to a children’s librarian. Either they’ve already read it and loved it, or they’ve already read it and hated it. This goes doubly true for you, the librarian who buys those picture books for the library! But I’m going out on a limb here to bring you How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown. The message is solid: you don’t need a man to get things done for you. But it’s delivered in a way that is compelling for storytelling purposes. The text is conversational, and the illustrations are humorous and action-packed. If you can’t use it for preschool storytime, you could totally read it with your granddaughters at home!

Linda
You write these amazing Did You Know? posts for the blog, and I always learn something new! But you also run the successful and fun Crochet & Knit Club at the Evergreen Branch, so this book speaks to those creative fiber urges I know you have. Knitless: 50 No-Knit, Stash-Busting Yarn Projects by Laura McFadden has a plethora of ideas for you to use up those remnants I know every crafty lady has. There’s a huge range of project difficulty, as well as different uses–wearables, home goods, gifts, and more. No matter what color or type of yarn you have leftover from a project, there’s something in here that will speak to you!

Lisa
Although you’ve been focused on blogging about music this year, I know you have an adventurous palate and love to cook. I confess I couldn’t pick just one book for you, so you are getting two! My Life on a Plate: Recipes from Around the World by Kelis marries a little bit of musical memoir with recipes and an obvious talent for cooking. I had no idea that Kelis became a chef via Le Cordon Bleu, but paging through this cookbook made it obvious that girl is talented no matter what she does. And if you want to get a little more focused in your culinary adventures, Fermented by Charlotte Pike is just what you need. It covers kimchi, yogurt, labneh, miso soup, and more. You can also learn to make drinks like mead, kombucha, and lassi, though I know you will still prefer Priscilla’s lassi the best!

Margo
Not only have you founded and successfully run the overwhelmingly awesome Southside Book Club, but you also have a love of food and cooking. Therefore I give to you the gift of Simply Scratch: 120 Wholesome Homemade Recipes Made Easy by Laurie McNamara. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Laurie’s blog, but the Simply Scratch book follows in the footsteps of the Simply Scratch blog. Laurie doesn’t take premade shortcuts, preferring instead whole food options I know you’ll appreciate. I think you’ll find a lot to love about Simply Scratch, and maybe even find a recipe to bring to the next Southside Book Club meeting in February.

Richard
Science is your thing, and it’s definitely an area where you know more than I do! However, I know you really liked 2014’s What If?, so I now give to you Randall Munroe’s newest tome of amazingness, Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words. Munroe is a genius, this we know. He proves it yet again with this book, where he uses only the “ten hundred most common words” to explain very complicated processes. Everything from toilets to car engines, microwaves to space exploration. Of course Mr. xkcd illustrates throughout, so we get simple words and basic pictures to help us along. This book is also ginormously tall, so it can be used for other things besides reading: flattening posters, shooing the dog off the couch, or knocking something off a tall shelf.

Ron
Like Lisa, this year you dedicated a lot of blogging to music. I’m really happy you both do this, as I am no good at explaining what music sounds like and why it would appeal to anyone other than me! You’re also into some out-there fiction, a lot of it touching on Science Fiction. Therefore you get Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. Down below I’m going to post a quote from the dust jacket and you’re going to see why I might think this would appeal to the guy who can dig into Science Fiction and loves seeing an absurd plot travel along at light speed.

From the disturbed imagination of New York Times bestselling author David Wong, and all-new darkly hilarious adventure. Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. Mysterious, smooth-talking power players who lurk behind the scenes. A young woman from the trailer park. And her very smelly cat. Together, they will decide the future of mankind.

In case that doesn’t hook you, on the back cover there’s also a life-size photograph of a cyborg hand (I assume–it has metal joints sticking through the skin) flipping you the bird. And did I mention the sidekick slash familiar c-a-t? You need this book in your life!

Just in case Santa is reading this, here are some books I wouldn’t mind finding under the tree:

carol wants

Nerdy Nummies: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino
I am a nerd! I am a geek! And I love to make and eat sugary treats! Rosanna is behind the incredibly popular web series Nerdy Nummies and all of her talents translate perfectly into this book. The book starts off with teaching you the basic building blocks for the recipes that follow. And OMG, the things I could make with this book! D20 cookies! Motherboard cake! Mana and health potions! Can we just call this the gift that keeps on giving? Because it totally will be.

Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I am awed and inspired by this woman, and this book goes deep into her life while still being entertaining. The Tumblr of the same name is simply incredible, but if I had this book on my shelf I could get my RBG fix even when the power is out and I’m forced to read by candlelight.

Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy by Vesa Lehtimäki
I love LEGOs. I love Star Wars. And I love a great mash-up! Vesa originally created this book as a birthday gift to his son. Using the snowy scenes inspired both by his native Finland and the planet Hoth, Vesa composed photographs that became a sort of retelling of the space saga I love. Not only are the photos incredibly detailed and fun to look at, but I could get some serious macro photography inspiration, too.

So there you have it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bucket of money to buy you bloggers these incredible books, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Happy holidays!

Best of 2015 Redux Pt. 3: YA and Children’s

YA and kids

If you’ve been following the blog this week you know we’ve been topping off our 2015 staff picks list with all the gems that didn’t make it into the printed booklet we’ve had out at both libraries.Today we have reached the end of our journey, but these are by no means our least favorite. In fact, depending on your literary persuasion, today’s chunk of awesomeness might be what you’ve been looking forward to all week. To save you tons of clicking (and save ourselves all that hyperlinking) we’ve compiled today’s goodies into one giant list.

YA!

The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett
Summary: Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams. She’s the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and with an old foe back to seek revenge, she’ll need all her strength to defeat him and save her friends.
Why Carol liked it: This wrapped up the trilogy I’ve been loving for the past few years. While I’m sad to leave Dusty & Eli behind, I am completely satisfied with this ending.

One by Sarah Crossan
Summary: Grace and Tippi are sisters of a very rare kind: they are conjoined twins. For their first 16 years of life they have been home schooled and kept away from curious and cruel gawkers. Now they must attend school, make friends, and face a huge life change.
Why Elizabeth liked it: A fascinating topic (I felt guilty for being one of the gawkers at times!) which was handled with great care. I read One every chance I could – I had to know what happened! Crossan gives information at the book’s end about her research on conjoined twins.

Infandous by Elana Arnold
Summary: Artistic Sephora lives with her beautiful but distracted mother in a run-down neighborhood of Venice Beach filled with ugly apartments and lacking in opportunities. Something very dark is gnawing at Sephora and she uses her art to express her pain.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Sephora is not the usual teen novel character nor is this a typical story. I especially liked the scenes in which she is composing her art. The addition of troubling ‘fairy tales’ interspersed with the chapters, increase the mystery.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brokenbrough
Summary: It is 1937 in Seattle. Henry loves forbidden Flora; Ethan is struggling with being in love with forbidden Love. Death wears the identity of a young cousin, and Love the local homeless shanty town mayor as they struggle over whether Flora will live or die.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Highly original and compelling, this book portrays love and death as characters that have fought over individuals’ fate for eternity. In the end you are left asking whether you are making the utmost of your precious life, an important question for all.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Summary: Spacy, dreamy Finn, a high school senior living in small town Bone Gap, is troubled by bullies, a difficult relationship with his brother, and the disappearance of a young woman. Meanwhile, Roza’s story of immigration and abduction is slowly revealed.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Original characters, a touch of magic realism, a love story, and a growing sense of foreboding about Roza all make for an exciting read. I also liked the spare but dynamic writing style and atmospheric imagery that worked perfectly with Finn’s story.

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Summary: Fifteen year old Aza Ray Boyle has been gasping for air as long as she can remember due to a very rare disease which has impaired her lungs badly. Things get suddenly worse and Aza tragically succumbs in an ambulance … or does she?
Why Elizabeth liked it: This is a highly original and somewhat bizarre book filled with ships in the sky, bird-like shape shifters, singing that can win wars, and birds that inhabit human lungs. I could never guess what was coming next!

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
Summary: Nadia and family are staying in Florence, Italy so her father can write a book, when Nadia begins to experience problems communicating: It’s as though the words won’t come to her. She also begins to steal objects and enters into a creative frenzy.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Beautifully written, with wonderful imagery of Florence, this is a quick read that you won’t want to put down. Nadia’s spare, poetic voice works well to describe the terror of losing her mind. Luckily, a glimmer of hope illuminates the ambiguous ending.

No Such Person by Caroline B. Cooney
Summary: Sisters Lander and Miranda have lived privileged and active lives. Relaxing summers at their rustic beloved cottage on the lake have been a high point, but when Lander meets Jason, her carefully constructed world implodes.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I’ve enjoyed other books by Cooney and No Such Person may be my favorite yet. It is suspenseful, surprising, and fast paced. The striking difference between the sisters and the history between them, adds to the tension.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Summary: Madeline has been housebound for all of her 18 years due to a life-threatening allergy to everything. Olly moves in next door with his dysfunctional family and immediately catches her eye. Her carefully constructed contentment begins to crumble.
Why Elizabeth liked it: A fast read that is interspersed with David Yoon’s charming illustrations which you will not want to put down. Madeline is used to being obedient and following her doctor mother’s rules, but when Olly is added to the mix she finds her wings.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Summary: Sixth grader Jack has grown up on a farm with two loving parents when Joseph enters his life as a foster brother. Joseph is 14, has been in trouble, and has a 3 month old daughter who he has never seen. He is also deeply scarred by past events.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I have been a fan of Gary D. Schmidt since I heard him speak very eloquently about writing, the state of the world for kids today, and how to reach out to them. This is a short, quick read but packs a powerful punch. You won’t forget it.

CHILDREN’S!

The Boy & the Book: a Wordless Story by David Michael Slater
Summary: In this cautionary tale a young boy carelessly mishandles a library book, while the other increasingly distressed books try to rescue their friend.
Why Alan liked it: A natural for library staff, this will also teach children (of any age) how to properly handle a book. And, truly, what’s cuter than a stressed-out book with glasses?

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss
Summary: A boy wants all of the pets in a pet store but he and his sister can choose only one. End notes discuss Dr. Seuss’s pets, his creative process, and the discovery of the manuscript and illustrations for What Pet Should I Get?
Why Alan liked it: It’s Dr. Seuss. Unfinished Seuss is still Seuss. And while it’s not one of his masterpieces, it’s still very pleasing. And a literary event we can proudly promote.

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
Summary: One day, Duncan is happily coloring with his crayons when a stack of postcards arrives in the mail from his former crayons, each of which has run away or been left behind, and all of which want to come home.
Why Alan liked it: The sequel to the wildly popular The Day the Crayons Quit, which involved anthropomorphized crayons writing letters of complaint is almost too cute; we now see those rascals issuing a series of (often hilariously ironic) postcards detailing their travels.

I Will Take a Nap! by Mo Willems
Summary: Gerald is tired and cranky and wants to take a nap, but Piggie is not helping.
Why Alan liked it: Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books are not only as enjoyable to parents as they are to kids, but teach great lessons in a toddler’s voice.

Marvels by Brian Selznick
Summary: In Selznick’s most recent masterpiece, we follow the tale of a shipwrecked boy who spawned a theatrical legacy. 100 years later, his distant offspring tries to piece together the story.
Why Alan liked it: Much like Selznick’s prior works The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, Marvels’ gorgeous black and white illustration mirrors the detail, insight, and precise prose of the factually-based story.

So there you have it. Another fab year in books and music, all wrapped up for you with one giant metaphorical bow. I don’t know about you, but my TBR is now taller than I am–and I couldn’t be happier.

Happy holidays from all of us at the Everett Public Library!

Make It a Book Christmas!

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One of our family traditions when I was growing up was to give and receive books for Christmas. Christmas Eve meant opening that one gift of a book and reading it in new pajamas. I still have my cherished copies of Charlotte’s Web, Island of the Blue Dolphins and Stuart Little that I received as gifts. Giving books is an easy way to show the children in your life how much you value reading and books. Yet, you’ll want to find the perfect book of excellent quality for each child.

What makes a good gift book? I would say that it is a book that a child will love and read over and over again. So, of course, it depends upon the child, but here is a list of wildly popular titles that are so well loved that they are hard to keep on the library shelves.

If you have an elementary school aged person on your gift list, consider giving one of the many wonderful chapter books that have stood the test of time. I can recommend Charlotte’s Web, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House on the Prairie, Stuart Little, and Anne of Green Gables. You can’t go wrong with these excellent classic chapter books.

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Newbery Award books like the ones I received as a child are a super idea but there are others I’d like to point out to you as wonderful gift ideas. If you have a very young child on your shopping list, consider a pop-up book. These delicate books cannot be checked out from the library, so it’s nice to own your very own copy.

indexThe Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-Up Book is a fabulous choice as a gift. This classic tale comes to life as the familiar caterpillar literally pops off the pages of the book–crawling along branches, munching through food, and in one of the most memorable climaxes ever, emerging vibrantly as a three-dimensional beautiful butterfly.

I checked out the book display at our local warehouse store and found some excellent titles at (of course) great prices. They have sets of Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter, and Nancy Drew books. You can also find the newest Dork Diary and Wimpy Kid books.

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index (11)Non-fiction books are another excellent idea. I’d say that THE most popular book in the children’s department is the Guinness World Records and it’s already out for 2016! How did they do that? The world’s best-selling annual is back and bursting with thousands of amazing new records, never-before-seen images and mind-boggling trivia. It’s a fabulous ‘look-at’ book which could fill many hours or reading pleasure.

index (12)How about Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan? This is an illustrated book that tells of all the daring deeds of Perseus, Orpheus and the rest of the Greek heroes. It is told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy and is enhanced with vibrant illustrations. This is a great introduction to Greek heroes that will appeal to every modern reader. Give a Greek history lesson as a gift!

indexHere’s another great idea: Give the hugely popular NEW illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling. This is the beloved first book of the Harry Potter series, now lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist Jim Kay making this deluxe format a perfect gift as much for the child being introduced to the series as for the dedicated fan. You could make this gift your new holiday tradition.

index (5)index (6)You could also give books that enrich the things you do together with your child. Minecraft books are super popular and there’s a boxed series at that store (again) which would appeal to many. Or, give Let’s Knit! which is a DK book with fabulous photos and knitting instruction for the young child.

And finally, it’s a wonderful idea to build your own holiday book collection to share each year. Of course, there’s The Night Before Christmas, and the Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, but please consider Santa Calls by William Joyce. This beautifully illustrated Christmas story is my favorite!  An exciting adventure to the North Pole to help out Santa turns into a poignant (but not saccharine) message about the importance of family. The pictures have a sort of 1940’s ‘Vision of the Future!’ feel, if that makes sense, and the final pages feature two letters that you can open and read to discover the secret behind why Santa called.

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Give the gift of books this holiday season and you’ll also be fostering a love of reading in that young person’s life. Happy Holidays!

Best of 2015: Nonfiction for Children and Adults

Today the Best of 2015 list continues with all things nonfiction for children and adults.

Children’s Nonfiction:

CNF1

Counting Lions by Katie Cotton

Larger-than-life black and white drawings are paired with poetic texts that reveal the ways in which endangered creatures- – including lions, elephants, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, penguins, Ethiopian wolves, macaws, turtles, and zebras- – live on Earth.

The drawn pictures are so realistic you believe they are photographs, and the words are mournful but with hope. This stunning book provides  information about 10 beautiful wild animals. -Andrea’s pick

The Lego Adventure Book. Vol. 3 Robots, Planes, Cities & More by Megan Rothrock

Unleash your imagination as you journey through the wide-ranging world of LEGO building. It is filled with bright visuals, step-by-step breakdowns of 40 models, and nearly 150 example models from the world’s best builders.

Whether you’re brand-new to LEGO or have been building for years, this book is sure to spark your imagination and motivate you to keep creating! -Leslie’s pick

Ultimate Weird but True! 3 by National Geographic Kids

A book with the latest discoveries, internet gems, urban legends, wacky myths, and tantalizing tidbits that are really true.

This is an amazing-looking book that’s so much fun kids can’t put it down. -Leslie’s pick

CNF2

Who Is Malala Yousafzai? by Dinah Brown

This book is part of the wildly popular biography series Who Is?, and now there are What Was? books also!

Kids like these books because they are good reads, and they are Accelerated Reader Books. -Leslie’s pick

Sally Ride: a Photobiography of America’s Pioneering Woman in Space by Tam E. O’Shaughnessy

A biography of the famous astronaut drawing on personal and family photographs from her childhood, school days, college, life in the astronaut corps, and afterward.

This is an excellent primer, filled with rarely seen photographs and personal family stories of one of my personal heroes. -Carol’s pick

Adult Nonfiction:

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The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

A collection of humorous essays on what it’s like to be unabashedly awkward in a world that regards introverts as hapless misfits, and Black as cool.

I feel like Issa and I are at times the same person. She had a much more interesting childhood and upbringing, but we’re both total nerds who have just learned to finally own it and flaunt it! -Carol’s pick

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

Young and bright civil servant Anna is gradually becoming sensitive to light and finally has to retreat to a room of complete darkness. The fact that she has so much to offer and such interest in life makes her situation all the more difficult to accept.

This book, and Anna’s anguish, jumped out and grabbed me the moment I started it. Her ability to make us feel what it is like to live in the dark, unable to experience life is exceptional, while her resourcefulness, strength and intelligence shine. -Elizabeth’s pick

The Perfection of the Paper Clip by James Ward

A history of office/school supplies!

I have a weakness for school supplies, and I have even been to the Pencil Museum in Keswick, England. The scent of the Pink Pearl eraser brings back fond memories for me as it does for the author of this fascinating look at stationary through the ages. -Julie’s pick

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

This is an impeccably researched and brilliantly written book about “two of the workingist boys” of turn of the century America.

It was fascinating to learn about the invention of motorized flight. -Leslie’s pick

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Fight Back with Joy: Celebrate More, Regret less. by Margaret Feinberg

Fighting back with Joy is not about having a good attitude or enough faith. Margaret candidly describes her battle with breast cancer and concludes that ”fighting with joy is without beginning or end” and “flows out of unsuspecting places.“

This was a refreshing read—, transparent, and encouraging. -Margo’s pick

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

It’s a heartfelt letter to Coates’ son, depicting what it’s like to be black in America. He outlines the history of slavery and how the country is still experiencing a major racial divide.

II now understand my white privilege better and realize some of the challenges of parenting black children in a society that can still be filled with hate. Toni Morrison raved about this book, calling it required reading. -Sarah’s pick

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Ronson explores how social media and the Internet have brought about something of a public shaming renaissance, and he explores the history of public shaming to show how it has changed with technology.

This book takes a more empathetic stance than you will find in the media channels it critiques. It’s a must read for Twitter users yet still approachable for non-tech users just interested in human behavior. -Zac’s pick

Best of 2015: Children’s Fiction & Graphic Novels

Tis the season for best of the year lists. These lists always come in handy for finding great gifts for yourself and others. The only problem? There sure are a lot of them. To help you avoid ‘best of year list fatigue’ let us humbly suggest you look no further than our Best of 2015 list.

Our list is put together by the dedicated staff of the Everett Public Library who know a thing or two about all the great books, movies and music that have come out in 2015. Not only do we select these materials for the library collection, but we are avid consumers ourselves. As you might suspect, our list is a tad long so we will be publishing our selections a day at a time for a week here on A Reading Life. If you want to see the complete list in all its glory, take a look at the December Newsletter to get the PDF.

So, without further ado, let’s get this list started. Today we will be taking a look at all the great fiction and graphic novels for children that came out in 2015.

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Waiting by Kevin Henkes

An owl, puppy, bear, bunny, and pig wait for marvelous things to happen.

Kevin Henkes has the soul of a poet and the precision of a scientist. His books are warm, lovely, and philosophical. The twist in this one, involving a nesting doll, is breathtaking…and the lesson is patience and gratitude in minutiae.  -Alan’s pick

How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham

In bold, adorable wood block prints, the author describes in toddler-friendly detail (very few words) how friendship works.

Gillingham analogizes growing a friend to how things grow in nature with ample talking points for the storyteller (“don’t let your friend get stuck in the weeds”). -Alan’s pick

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.

The illustrations of this simple tale are whimsical and beautiful. The animals are so very expressive. -Andrea’s pick

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Such a Little Mouse by Alice Schertle

Every season a little mouse pops out of his hole in the meadow and explores his world, gathering the food and supplies he will need when winter comes.

This charming story is told in rhymes and is a delight. -Leslie’s pick

Smick! by Doreen Cronin

Smick is a very minimally drawn dog in a children’s book. He retrieves a stick (done with a photo) and  meets Chick (made from a photo of a petal and drawn upon).

With very simple line drawings, Smick is portrayed as being very lively, cute, and good. He plays well with Chick, and he stole my heart. A charming book for ages 2 and up, Smick uses simple rhyming text to tell the story. -Margaret’s pick

Superworm byJulia Donaldson

Our super hero is a worm! “Superworm is super long! Superworm is super strong! Watch him wiggle! Watch him squirm! Hip Hip Hooray for Superworm!”

I love all of Julia Donaldson’s books (The Gruffalo is awesome), and this one doesn’t disappoint. -Leslie’s pick

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Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

At an English boarding school in the 1930s, crime-solving friends Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells struggle to find an exciting mystery to investigate. They hit pay-dirt when Hazel discovers the dead body of Miss Bell, the science teacher.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong speak to the large portion of my soul still in love with all the Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew stories. We have a bit of a delay getting the U.S. versions (book 4 is already out in the UK), but it’s going to be worth the wait! -Carol’s pick

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school.

This book is a companion to Palacio’s Wonder. These chapters were not included in the original book, because Wonder was Auggie Pullman’s story. This is a glimpse of the lives of three more people whose paths crossed with Auggie’s. -Andrea’s pick

A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby

Story of a young bounty hunter determined to send his entire outlaw family to jail. He travels the Old West on a horse that ain’t his, and won’t stop til every one’a his kin’s in the clink.

From the Old West slang and drawl to the adorable illustrations, this graphic novel aimed at a younger audience will have adults like you and me enthralled as well. -Carol’s pick

Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy & Lumberjanes Volume 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen

At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hardcore lady-types, things are not what they seem.

Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves.  Anagrams. The Lumberjanes are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer.

I picked up issue 1 of this comic book series at Everett Comics on a whim. Little did I know how quickly I would fall in love with this magical series. Get caught up on these hardcore lady-types before the movie comes out (yep, film optioned!). -Carol’s pick

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Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock: Journey to the Everspring by Kate Leth

When the water supply of Fraggle Rock mysteriously runs dry, the Fraggles will have to journey deep in the caves of Fraggle Rock to find the fabled Everspring where adventure awaits and no Fraggle has ever gone before! Dance your cares away!

I was raised on Fraggle Rock and have come to be completely obsessed with Kate Leth. This is a match made in heaven, perfect for the young and young-at-heart. -Carol’s pick

Punky Brewster Volume 1 by Joelle Sellner

Punky Brewster has been abandoned by her mother and lives on the streets of Chicago with her puppy sidekick, Brandon. Punky thinks she doesn’t need help, but after getting picked up by the police, she enters a foster home and searches for a new family.

When I was growing up, Punky Brewster was the one TV show my friends and I all watched religiously (well, as religious as a small child can). She was the friend we all wanted, and this comic brings me back to those days of wonder. -Carol’s pick

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid becomes infatuated with roller derby after attending a bout with her mom and best friend, Nicole. The girls sign up for a roller derby boot camp, and Astrid soon realizes she’s in over her head.

Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile will eat this up. -Sarah’s pick