Read to Your Children (About Race!)

It’s never too early to begin reading to your baby! This is why we love our board book collection. And why we offer storytimes for children as young as three months. It’s also never too early to start talking to them and reading to them about race and racism in America. Just as reading to children will help them succeed later in life, so will early exposure to stories that explore diversity, inclusion, prejudice, and our shared history. And there are urgent reasons to begin early. Racial preference and prejudice sink their teeth into us almost from birth. While researching a different topic, I stumbled upon some alarming statistics. Studies have found that infants as young as three-months have exhibited preference for faces of their own race, while children may begin to embrace and accept racism around three years in age. If this feels as dire to you as it does to me, there is good news too! We have part of the antidote to this insidious threat right here in the library. Each year, more and more books are published that talk about these issues in nuanced and accessible ways, while even more are coming out that feature people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds living their lives. I’d like to share a few of my favorites. 

Intersection-Allies-CoverIntersection Allies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, Carolyn Choi, and Ashley Seil Smith is a relatively new picture book that has quickly become a favorite to share with families and friends. From the carefully thought out ‘Letter to Grown-Ups’ at the beginning to the final pages’ rallying cry, this book is both masterfully poignant and thought-provoking. Written in rhyming text, the book celebrates young people of different races, religions, abilities, and experiences while also demonstrating how we can all cherish, value, and protect one another. In less expert hands, a book like this might feel clunky or over-stuffed, but the evident care and passion that went into its creation allow the message to shine without compromising the reading experience. 

81OxQJ1yf-LWhen I first saw Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham, the title made me nervous. The phrase “not my idea” felt too close to an excuse for me, so I was relieved when I read the book and discovered that it does not promote this message. This book begins with a young person watching a news story that involves violence then explores the privilege whiteness can afford and the ways that white people can leverage this privilege to fight for a more just future. The messaging is simple and direct, and Higginbotham deftly threads the needle by encouraging readers to critically examine the world around them while also encouraging self-care and forgiveness. She explains:

Racism is still happening. It keeps changing and keeps being the same. And yet…just being here, alive in this moment, you have a chance to care about this, to connect. But connecting means opening. And opening sometimes feels…like breaking.

I love that Higginbotham goes so far to acknowledge the fear and pain that can surface when confronting racism, while also portraying this mission as both urgent and redemptive. 

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Many other books confront and counter prejudice by telling stories that feature characters who are black, indigenous or people of color. Even when these stories focus on things that might be unique to a group of people, they also highlight our shared humanity and help expand the world that is accessible to young readers. Many of these stories focus on family. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson follows a young boy and his nana on a bus ride across town. It would be easy to pair this book with Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña’s My Papi Has a Motorcycle which also follows a young person on a ride across town. This time lovingly recounting a young girl’s late afternoon cruise on the back of her father’s motorcycle. 

Food, family, history and identity all come together in Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez Neal while A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui finds a father and son fishing in the early morning, while also connecting this ritual to the father’s own childhood in Vietnam. Nicola I. Campbell and Julie Flett’s beautiful A Day with Yayah is a gentle story of an Interior Salish family foraging in a meadow while an elder passes down knowledge to her grandchildren that fans of Blueberries for Sal are sure to love. And Minh Lê and Dan Santat’s Drawn Together spends a day with a boy and his grandfather who do not speak the same language as they discover a different way to communicate through a shared passion. 

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Other books discuss hair care and head-wear for different people around the US and the world. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, and My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera take different approaches while celebrating the love, attention, and community connection that can go into hair care. The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad and Hatem Aly and Mommy’s Khimar by Jamiliah Thompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn explore different but affirming experiences connected with the headcoverings worn by some Muslim women.

The Boy & the Bindi by Vivek Shraya and Rajni Perera beautifully tells the story of a young South Asian boy who loves his mother’s Bindi and wishes he could wear one as well. And Sharee Miller’s Don’t Touch My Hair follows a young girl who loves her hair but does not love all the people around her who touch it without even asking. This book feels like it should be required reading delivering powerful messages about personal boundaries, being othered, and finding one’s voice, while somehow still feeling playful, whimsical, and silly. 

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We can certainly all relate to the fear of a young boy on a pools high dive, like that experienced by Jabari in Gaia Cornwall’s Jabari Jumps. And the joy that art can bring to a community, like Mira discovers when she meets a muralist in F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, and Rafael López’s gorgeous story Maybe Something Beautiful

I love Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López’s The Day You Begin. This story of new students from different cultures beginning school together is incredibly accessible. On some level we can all understand the experience of being the new person, not quite fitting in, and absorbing negative attention because of our differences. But it is also a powerful story of inclusion, reminding us that our differences make us stronger and that a healthy society welcomes all kinds of people. Mustafa by Mary-Louise Gay also focuses on uncertainty and new friendships, telling the story of a young refugee exploring his new home and making a friend.

And finally, Breanna J. McDaniel and Shane W. Evans’ Hand Up! is wonderful. In an author’s note, McDaniel explains that she worried that her own niece, a black girl, would only connect negative emotions with the phrase ‘hands up.’ So, she created a beautiful, simple book that celebrates the many things we can do with our hands in the air, from playing peek-a-boo, to dancing, to protesting injustice. 

The publishing industry has come a long way, but all of us who work adjacent to children’s literature still have a tremendous amount of work to do. As the infographic below created by Sarah Park Dahlen and David Huyck demonstrates, we still desperately need more books that center young people from diverse backgrounds. Children and caregivers in our communities need more books that reflect their own heritage, culture, race, and experiences. This is why movements like We Need Diverse Books are so important and powerful. 

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Needless to say, the books I mentioned above are not a complete survey by any stretch of the imagination and I am surely missing incredible books exploring and celebrating many different backgrounds. If you have a favorite that is not featured above or is not in our library, please leave a comment and let us know! 

The Best Books of 2019

With the year rapidly drawing to a close, it is time to reflect on the past year. Here at the library, of course, that means talking about all the great books we have read. Our full list of recommendations (including fiction, non-fiction, young adult and children’s books) has already been released, but some of us can’t help but want to tell you more. Here are a few select reviews from our best of list written by our dedicated and always reading staff.

Alan:

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

From one of the best mystery writers of our time, the modern Agatha Christie, comes a suspense-filled epistolary tale of a nanny hired at a posh, remote estate in the Scottish Highlands. Idyllic until things take a turn for the darker. In a series of letters to an attorney, the facts of the case are revealed as our narrator unravels, and we wonder how reliable she is…

Chaz:

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

The solution to information overload is to be mindful with how and why you interact and engage with technology. Does it serve your essential and personal goals?  Can you achieve the same result without using the technology? Cal Newport explores a philosophy of digital minimalism that fits this time of life.

I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

How much time do you spend learning about money? 10 hours? 1 hour? None? Actively avoid thinking about it? The title may seem off-putting, as if it were some kind of get-rich-quick scheme, but on the contrary, Ramit teaches the long game of growing wealth over time. This requires taking an honest look at your finances and spending habits, and making a clear budget for money to have fun with (guilt free!). Where is the motivation in saving money for 40 years if you can’t enjoy some of it in the meantime?  Ramit provides a simple framework for understanding where you’re at with money, both mentally and financially. He shows how you should focus your resources to maximize debt reduction and wealth creation.  Through the book, you grow your self-understanding and are able to make a plan that will lead you confidently into the future.

Indistractable by Nir Eyal

There are many dozens of definitions for distraction, but Nir Eyal has got to have one of the most useful ones. He says that a distraction is anything that keeps you from fulfilling your word. This book is a manual for empowerment- teaching the importance of honoring your word and with this, growing respect for yourself. Did I say that I can peruse Instagram, or did I already commit to working in the garden Saturday morning? Nir provides a simple method for self-empowerment with many examples and situations to draw from.

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller

Is Dave Ramsey the best personal finance expert in the world? Probably not, so why is he the most successful? It’s because he has the clearest message: financial peace. Donald Miller explores the 7 elements that make up a story and how businesses can clarify their message and invite customers into the story. The business is the guide – the customer is the hero. What is the story?

Eileen:

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Arthur believes in romance and signs from the universe. When his heart skips a beat at the sight of Ben at the post office and then a magical flash mob proposal breaks out, he believes. Ben, however, does not believe in signs. The box of items he’s mailing back to his ex is clear evidence that the universe has nothing for him. But what if there’s more to the universe than both of them see?

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Fifteen year old Will knows the rules: no crying, no snitching, and it’s up to him to avenge his brother’s murder. With a gun shoved in his waistband, he takes the elevator from the seventh floor to fulfill his role. But the elevator door opens on the sixth floor, and in walks a dead man.

Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow

Aisulu’s dream of eagle hunting goes against the Kazakh tradition that restricts training to men. When her parents take her ill brother to a distant hospital, she’s left with a strange aunt and uncle- and an orphaned eagle to rescue.

Linda (click on the links to Linda’s review for each title):

The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Lisa:

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is one of those books that you cruise through in a couple reads because it is just that hard to put down. Imagine if Cinderella was set in rural Jazz Age Mexico, only instead of a benevolent fairy godmother, it is the deposed Mayan god of death who changes our young heroine’s life. Instead of being carried away in a beautiful enchanted pumpkin carriage, she is bound to the former lord of the underworld when a sliver of his bone embeds in her hand and her blood reanimates his corpse. Far from being a maiden needing to be rescued, our heroine, Casiopea Tun must not only save herself, but save the entire world from falling into a new age of darkness on Earth should she fail to defeat the schemes of the reigning god of death, Vucub-Kame. I hope you enjoy this amazing mix of Maya folklore, Mexican culture, drama, and historical fiction, as much as I did.

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman is an incredible work of historical research and non-fiction writing. Hartman is able to strike a satisfying balance between heavily-footnoted academic, and very personal and engaging narrative writing styles. The personal stories and photographs used illustrate in a very relatable way, what life was like for Black women in Philadelphia and New York City at the turn of the century. Each chapter is a revelation that challenges what we commonly believe about Victorian life, and the way that women were allowed to move about their worlds. Hartman uses expert research and storytelling skills to give voices to women who were only brief news stories, or even nameless photographs in the historical record. These histories are often overlooked but should never be undervalued in terms of what they can tell us about the history of women’s rights, the struggles Black women faced during the Great Migration, and the wide variety of ways that Black urban women were making lives for themselves during a very turbulent time. I found myself having to re-read pages to make sure I didn’t miss a single detail

Margo:

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

I loved this story. My 83-year-old mom loved this story! It made me laugh and it made me cry.

Quoting from a New York Times Book Review author Mary Beth Keane states “No one ever plans to become estranged.” This profound truth sets the stage for a thought-provoking novel delving into how one deals with injustice, pain, and deception especially when it happens in your own family.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope meet each other on the job in the NYPD. The young rookie cops work at a precinct in the Bronx. Francis meets and falls in love with Lena. Wanting to raise a family, the couple moves out of the city and into the suburbs. Several years later the Stanhope family move in next store, but there is a breach of some sort. Brian’s wife Anne is standoffish. The relationship that buds, however, is between Gleeson’s youngest daughter Kate and Stanhope’s only child Peter. Kate and Peter become best friends.

Set in the 1970’s when mental illness and addiction were subjects rarely discussed, Keane paints a portrait of two very different families with Irish Catholic roots whose lives become entwined. Layered with complex characters, a story of love, sorrow, tragedy, and ultimately, forgiveness unfolds.

Transcending time and generation, the story is timely and relevant. In an age where offenses are taken, and misunderstandings fueled by bitterness lead to many broken relationships, Ask Again, Ask offers hope.

Mindy:

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

In many ways, this is a familiar story about a woman struggling to balance her photography career and creative ambition as a single mother. However, the storytelling is completely original, as it unfolds in the form of a photography exhibit catalog curated by the woman’s daughter. The imagery is so vivid that you almost feel like you’re seeing the photographs instead of words on a page.

Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

Flight Portfolio is the fictionalized story of Varian Fry, a real historical figure who covertly rescued countless Jewish artists and their works from the Nazis. I’m not usually a big reader of historical fiction, but I’m a big fan of this author and her richly imagined characters and exquisite writing.

Susan:

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

I adored this book! It starts strong and remains strong to the very end. This is magical realism in a small southern town in the vein of Sarah Addison Allen but with a charm all its own. Sarah Dove is the seventh daughter of the Dove family, an old family in town whose daughters all have magic. Sarah’s magic is that books talk to her, telling her which person in town needs to read them. As the town librarian, she makes sure each book gets to the right person. Such a lovely idea! Sadly, her beloved small town of Dove Pond is failing. The population is dwindling, they have no jobs for the young people, and most of the downtown storefronts are vacant. People are worried. Luckily, the town lore is that whenever the Dove family has seven daughters something good happens for the town. As a seventh daughter, Sarah has always thought she would save the town, but she has no idea how to do that. Then Grace Wheeler, broke and with crushing family responsibilities, comes to town and Sarah realizes that it is her job to befriend Grace and help Grace save the town. This is a lovely novel of friendship, family, belonging and finding home.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury. That’s the premise for this totally original legal thriller by Irish author Steve Cavanagh. What’s the best way to get away with murder? Have someone else convicted of the crime. What’s the best way to have someone else convicted of the crime? Make sure you (the killer) are on the jury! I’m a big fan of this author, and this is his best legal thriller yet.

Theresa:

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

They say one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but an interesting title always attracts me. The title of Anissa Gray’s debut novel grabbed my attention and her writing held it. The book begins with the stunning arrest of Althea and Proctor, a well-respected couple in their community. As her sisters struggle with their disbelief at the arrest of their eldest sister, and with caring for their nieces, what happened and how is revealed through the separate stories of those involved. This is primarily a character driven novel, with a dash of mystery on the side.

 

Everett Public Library staff pick the best of 2018

It’s that time of year again. What time of year you ask? Well it is time for the ‘Best of the Year’ lists to begin, of course.

We here at the library are not immune and can’t resist the overwhelming desire to let you know what books we loved in the year 2018. If you didn’t catch this excellent list in our recent Newsletter, here is your chance to pursue it on A Reading Life. Simple click on the images below to see our staff picks for the best books for Children, Young Adults, and Adults in both fiction and non-fiction. Each click will lead you to our catalog where you can read reviews for each title.

Everett Public Library staff picks for Children:

Everett Public Library staff picks for Young Adults:

Everett Public Library staff picks for Adult Nonficiton:

Everett Public Library staff picks for Adult Fiction:

So there you have it, all that was best in 2018. Just a few good ideas for holiday shopping no?

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

Keira, the heroine of The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley, uses a magic pen to write a story for a contest and ends up winning a trip to France. She takes her best friend Bella and her mom. It ends up that the story she wrote is actually set in the castle they are staying in. The problem is: Keira didn’t know she used a magic pen to write her story or her family’s history of being word weavers.

Keira and Bella meet Chet at the castle and end up having adventures that weren’t on the girls’ itinerary as Keira keeps getting pulled into the story. When she wrote the story she had been angry at her mom and gave it an “unhappy ever after” ending. Now she has to discover a way to change the story to save her life, and that of her Mom and Bella.

I really like fantasy and fairy tale types of stories, so this was a fun book for me. It had just enough twists and turns to keep me wondering what was going to happen next!

Read To, Make that Read WITH, a Child

index (7)Everyone knows that reading together with children is the single most important way to help them get ready to read, but I often hear care-givers reading to children in very boring, monotone voices as if they just want to get through the book quickly and be done with it. I may be preaching to the choir, but I would like to encourage a more enjoyable way for one on one sharing of books with young children.

It’s called dialogic reading. In dialogic reading, the adult helps the child become the teller of the story. The adult becomes the listener, the questioner, and the audience for the child. This is way more interesting for the child (and the adult). No one can learn to play the piano just by listening to someone else play. Likewise, no one can learn to read just by listening to someone else read. Children learn most from books when they are actively involved in the reading process.

In dialogic reading, the book is a conversation starter. Ask open-ended questions such as “What’s this?” or “Tell me about this.” Follow answers with another question or an expansion of what the child has said. For example, “Yes, that’s a frog.  A big, green frog.”  You can also make connections to past experiences or future events: “When did you?”  “How do you feel when?” With dialogic reading, the book is a springboard to a conversation and greater learning. It’s not a race to get through the book. Maybe you’ll read just two pages. But, boy, the fun you’ll have!

indexThere’s a whole mess of interactive books which make dialogic reading really easy. They have the questions and interaction built right into the story and these books are a good way to start your dialogic reading adventure. The idea of interactive books has been around a long time. Think of Pat the Bunny. The child is already actively patting that bunny, so have her tell you what color the bunny might be and what the bunny is doing.

index (1)Jan Thomas has written some great books for children and Can You Make a Scary Face? is awesome! Lady bug invites the reader to play a game of let’s pretend: what kind of face would you make if a tickly green bug were sitting on your nose? Or if it were–eek!–inside your shirt? Could you make a scary face to frighten it away? Or, even better, stand up and do the chicken dance? Yes? Then better get to it!

Tap the Magic Treeindex (2) by Matheson is a wonderfully fun interactive picture book about the changing seasons. We had so much fun with this one in storytime because the children felt like they were doing magic. Tap the tree and a leaf grows! Tap again and there’s a blossom. Tap once more and there’s an apple. Again, and the autumn leaves fall. Give it a try tap.

 

Touch the Brightest Starindex (3) is Matheson’s latest offering and is a beautifully illustrated interactive book. Lots of touching, tapping, and swiping changes the scene from dusk – through the night – and then to the new dawn. The text is simple and quiet, the illustrations lovely. There is a glossary in the back that explains all the things the reader found in the night sky as well as the night animals that appear. This is a great cuddle and read before bed book.

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Herve Tullet has become a master of the interactive book. In Press Here, you press the dot on the cover and launch yourself into a journey where a book responds to your touch without any flaps, pop-ups or electronics. Follow the directions on each page, turn the page and see what happens next. This is a book that is simple in concept and beautifully executed in design. Readers will enjoy making the dots big by clapping their hands, moving the dots around the page by shaking the book, and turning off the lights by pushing the yellow dots hard. Tullet also wrote Mix it Up and Help! We Need a Title!  and Let’s Play!

A great way to start dialogic reading is to use a wordless picture book. There are so many in the library that it’s hard to single any out, but we can help you find them.

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Remember, dialogic reading is children and adults having a conversation about a book. Any book. It doesn’t have to be the ones on this list. Be relaxed about straying from the content of the book to interesting events in the child’s life. Children will enjoy dialogic reading more than traditional reading as long as you…

  • mix up prompts with straight reading
  • vary what you do from reading to reading
  • follow the child’s interest

Keep it light. Don’t push children with more prompts than they can handle happily. Keep it fun! Come on down to the children’s room and get some great picture books today.

Best of 2014: Children’s Books

We continue our Best of 2014 list today with books for the younger set. From picture books to graphic novels, take a look at our staff selected titles.

Picture Books and Easy Readers

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Breaking News: Bear Alert | David Biedrzycki
In this story (told in the form of a television broadcast with up to the minute updates along the bottom of each page), bears emerge from hibernation demanding to be fed.

This picture book is a comical on-the-scene news story of two bears creating chaos by simply going to town. -Andrea

Little Green Peas: a Big Book of Colors | Keith Baker
Little green peas make their way into collections of objects of many different colors, from blue boats, seas, and flags, to orange balloons, umbrellas, and fizzy drinks.

Lovely art — each page could hang on your wall. Expressive, cute, and (because a kid’s book needs to teach) teaches colors. Concept books aren’t usually this good. The total package. -Alan

The Midnight Library | Kazuno Kohara
The Little Librarian works at night with her three assistant owls. It all happens at this library: patrons who don’t want to leave at closing and noisy patrons who are shown to the quiet room.

The little librarian knows how to turn a little trouble into a lot of fun. -Leslie

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Mr. Tiger Goes Wild | Peter Brown
Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger. Mr. Tiger was bored with always being so proper. He wanted to loosen up. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to be…wild.

I loved how Mr. Tiger felt free to be himself. -Leslie

My New Friend is So Fun! | Mo Willems
Mo Willems’ popular Elephant & Piggie characters each make new friends.

As a parent of very young kids trying to navigate the friendship frontier, this book was a conversation-starter, one that teaches a lesson about possessiveness with Willems’ trademark style and humor boosting the story beautifully. -Alan

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not) | Peter Brown
Bobby thinks his teacher, Ms. Kirby, is horrible, but when he sees her outside of school and they spend a day in the park together, he discovers she might not be so bad after all.

I love everything by Peter “Children Make Terrible Pets” Brown. His books are funny, smart, and creepy (in the right way). This one gets across that teachers are people too. -Alan

Stella’s Starliner | Rosemary Wells
Stella and her Mama and Daddy have everything they need in their silver home called the Starliner until some mean weasels say mean things about the Starliner. Stella finds new friends in a new place and is once again proud of her silver home.

“Later all the boys and girls cheered when the bookmobile came. Stella and her mama read their books until they knew them by heart. Stella didn’t have a worry in the world.” -Leslie

Children’s Fiction and Graphic Novels

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The Boundless | Kenneth Oppel
Will and his father join 6000 other passengers on the first journey of Boundless, an extravagantly outfitted train pulling nearly 1000 cars.

Boundless is a fun, action packed adventure with lovable and despicable characters. The setting is original and the scenes are brilliantly drawn. I could almost feel myself jumping between cars with Will and Maren. -Elizabeth

Sisters | Raina Telgemeier
Fourteen year old Raina is on a summer road trip from California to Colorado with her mother, 9 year old sister, and 6 year old brother. Sibling rivalry, teasing, taunting, and sweltering heat conspire to make for a bumpy ride.

Sisters, as in Smile (2010), shows us a portrait of a real family, at times laughing and playful, struggling and arguing, slipping and falling, but all along caring for each other and making the best of what they have together. -Elizabeth

Children’s Nonfiction

101 Dog Tricks, Kids Edition : Fun and Easy Activities, Games, and Crafts | Kyra Sundance
In addition to step-by-step instructions for teaching tricks such as jumping through hoops and opening doors, this book has simple projects for children to do for and with their dog.

The illustrations are colorful and the instructions are broken down so that they are easy to follow. -Theresa

Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet | Chris Barton
In this ironic, vividly illustrated guide the most common gaming terminology is easy to understand and fun to explore.

The perfect gift for everyone on your list who loves picture books and video games. It’s a subtle way to introduce coding lingo into your child’s vocabulary. Start them young! -Carol

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Kitchen Science Lab for Kids : 52 Family-Friendly Experiments from Around the House | Liz Lee Heinecke
There’s a treasure-trove of science experiments hiding in your refrigerator, pantry, and junk drawer! This book invites you to explore science with simple projects and ingredients.

The illustrations make the instructions easy to follow, the science behind the project is explained, and they truly use (mostly) things commonly found in a household. -Theresa

Red madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat | Gail Jarrow
The early years of the 20th Century saw a mysterious deadly illness spreading in the American South. Pellagra first showed itself as a rash, then diarrhea, followed by dementia; death was the final result as there was no known cure.

This is a true-life mystery at its best with lots of false trails leading to dead ends but with the killer thwarted in the end through the determination of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, one of our country’s unsung heroes. -Theresa

Sniffer Dogs | Nancy Castaldo
A dog’s sense of smell is so keen, it’s the equivalent of a human being able to read an eye chart 5 miles away! A fascinating study of the multiple ways humans are taking advantage of dogs’ tremendous nose.

It’s so fascinating how dogs’ noses are being put to good use in so many ways. -Theresa

Super Human Encyclopedia: Discover the Amazing Things Your Body Can Do | Steve Parker
Great gift book for a budding scientist. Colorful illustrations of the human body reveal the truly amazing processes going on inside us. Open it to any page and find something interesting.

A color enlargement of a white blood cell devouring a group of tuberculosis bacteria grabbed me immediately when I opened this book. -Theresa

Discover a Children’s Book Author: Jennifer L. Holm

ideal-bookshelfWelcome to the first in a series of blog posts I’ve created to introduce you to various children’s book authors. There are a lot of great ones out there and it’s worth knowing about them. Who knows, you may find yourself reading some really great (children’s) literature.

I recently had a chance to meet some children’s book authors at the Children’s Literature Conference held at Western Washington University in Bellingham. It was a pleasure to meet Jennifer L. Holm that day. Here’s a little about her for your edification:

jenniholmJennifer was born in California and lived for a short time on Whidbey Island. She spent most of her growing up years in Audobon, Pennsylvania. Constantly reading as a child, her favorite author was Lloyd Alexander. She was a broadcast producer at an advertising agency in New York City before she took up writing and quickly received three Newbery Honor Awards for historical fiction novels. Holm currently lives in California with her husband and two young children where she loves to write in her slippers and pajamas while her children are at school.

index (10)Holm started writing with a series about Boston Jane. Sixteen-year-old Jane Peck has ventured to the unknown wilds of the Northwest to wed her childhood idol, William Baldt. But her impeccable training at Miss Hepplewhite’s Young Ladies Academy in Philadelphia is hardly preparation for the colorful characters and crude life that she finds in the Washington Territory. Having to rely upon her wits in the wild, Jane must determine for herself whether she is truly proper Miss Jane Peck of Philadelphia, faultless young lady and fiance, or Boston Jane, as the Chinook dub her, fearless and loyal woman of the frontier.

index (23)Our Only May Amelia is based upon Holm’s great-aunt Alice Amelia Holm’s diary. She was a Finnish-American girl born on the Nasel River in Washington state during the nineteenth century. Mae Amelia is the only girl in a family with seven brothers and has many great adventures. You certainly will enjoy this book set in Washington state. In fact, the city of Lacey, Washington recently used this novel as their “Everyone Reads” choice.

index (24)Holm recommended that you learn from her mistake and write a novel about your mother’s side of the family before you focus on your father’s side, as she did in Mae Amelia. Thus came the inspiration for Penny from Heaven. It’s 1953 and eleven year old Penny dreams of a summer of ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing is that simple for Penny. She can’t go swimming because her mother is afraid that she’ll catch polio at the pool. This is a shinning story about the everyday and the extraordinary, about a time in America’s history when being Italian meant you were the enemy. But mostly, it’s a story about family. This is a book my mother-in-law would enjoy! You may also.

index (25)Turtle in Paradise, another Newbery honor book, is inspired by stories of Holm’s great-grandmother who immigrated to Key West at the turn of the last century. It’s 1935 and Turtle heads off to Key West Florida to live with relatives that she’s never met. It’s hot and strange, with wild jungle peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what’s happening, Turtle finds herself coming out of her shell (!) and the world opens up in unexpected ways.

It would be easy to typecast Holm as a historical fiction writer since she has written this slew of great historic fiction novels. But WAIT! There’s more! She has broken any expectations that hold her to that single genre with her two graphic novel series.

Growing up with four brothers, Holm’s family devoured comic books. She, however, was bothered by the representation (of lack thereof) of girls and women in these stories and decided to do something about it. Babymouse was born, introducing a likeable character who is strong-willed, risk-taking, funny, and impulsive. Her brother, Matt Holm, is the illustrator of these pink-tinted comics that cause readers to read one after another.

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The Holm siblings also collaborate on Squish, a baseball-capped amoeba who leaves readers chuckling while also learning a few science related ideas. Holm creates mice and amoebas (as well as people) that captivate young readers in these graphic novel series.

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Stay tuned for her upcoming middle grade novel coming out later this year, The Fourteenth Goldfish, where she and Grandpa Melvin explore the wonders of science and raise big questions about family and friendship, life and death.

You can find most of Jennifer L. Holm’s books here at the Everett Public Library. Come on down and borrow a few!