Best of 2016: Children’s Fiction & Picture Books

Today, we continue our staff picks of the best of 2016 with children’s fiction and picture books. For a full listing, check out the Library Newsletter.

Children’s Fiction

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Regan Barnhill
An epic fantasy about a young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, who must unlock the powerful magic buried deep inside her.

I made myself slow down while reading this book. It wasn’t just about finishing the story; it was a world with rich characters and imagery. I enjoyed how critical thinking, empathy, and legend were interwoven in this magical fantasy. -Andrea’s pick

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde by Shannon & Dean Hale
It’s a case of monstrous cuteness as the Princess in Black encounters her biggest challenge yet: a field overrun by adorable bunnies.

The Princess in Black series just right for children almost ready for chapter books. With bright and colorful illustrations, short chapters, and an appealing plot, the books will entertain readers and make them want more. -Andrea’s pick

Kingdom of Wrenly: Pegasus Quest by Jordan Quinn
As Lucas and Clara set out to investigate some mysterious happenings in Wrenly, they discover a horse with wings that is lost and in danger.

This is an adventurous beginning chapter book series, with the right balance of illustrations and excitement to keep a new reader going. -Andrea’s pick

Poison is Not Polite: a Wells & Wong Mystery by Robin Stevens
A tea party takes a poisonous turn, leaving Daisy and Hazel with a new mystery to solve in the second novel of the Wells & Wong Mystery series.

Book 2 in a series I’m obsessed with takes us back to 1930s England with boarding school besties Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong. Sort of a Sherlock Holmes for middle grade readers, it’ll capture your interest and heart. -Carol’s pick

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The Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry
Twelve-year-old AJ is dreading spending the summer with her uber-strict grandmother–that is, until she’s recruited to join Grandma Jo’s madcap band of thieves.

Entrapment meets The Golden Girls! What more do you need? -Carol’s pick

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Fifth grader Deja is in a new school, and it’s a good one for the first time. That’s the only thing going right in her life: she lives in a shelter; her dad is sick, and her mom, stressed. It’s 15 years after 9/11, and she is just learning about the tragedy.

I listened to the audiobook version which is read by the author. While the narration is a little shrill at times, I appreciated the intensity of feeling the author put into Deja’s voice. It is a believable tone for someone who has had a tough life. -Elizabeth’s pick

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
In the year 1242, a peasant girl and her recently resurrected dog become unlikely friends with a suddenly orphaned Jewish boy and a giant of a boy who is studying to be a monk, and he just happens to be black.

We don’t always see a lot of racial and cultural diversity in children’s historical fiction, and there are reasons for that. Historically, not all countries were as diverse as they are today. -Emily’s pick

The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure Series) by Stephan Pastis
Timmy and his imaginary (?) polar bear friend, Total, are amateur detectives with good intentions but not much common sense. So, Timmy’s mother insists he close down his detective agency, Total Failure.

This author also writes and illustrates the comic strip “Pearls Before Swine.” The humor in this book is dry, wry, and full of sly cultural satire.  -Emily’s pick

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Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Lily is a transgender girl whose differences make her a target. Dunkin is desperate to fit in and hide his bi-polar disorder.  After meeting one summer, they must figure out if their friendship can survive the cruel realities that surround them.

This is a beautiful, heartfelt and narratively compelling story. But it is also a marvelously empathetic work that does an incredible job placing the reader in the shoes of these two unique, resilient characters. -Jesse’s pick

Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Isaiah is a very smart mouse that gets separated from his family while escaping the “horrible place.”  He joins another mischief of mice that help him in a grand adventure to rescue his family.

It was a really fun book, and has a happy ending (of course!) Kids will enjoy Isaiah’s “can do” attitude, and his optimism and words of wisdom are inspiring. -Linda’s pick

Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg
It’s 1934 and times are tough, but opportunity and adventure await when young Terpsichore and her family move to Palmer Alaska. Terpsichore meets adversity with determination, gaining community support and new friendships along the way.

A delightful and witty story interjected with historical facts. Terpsichore’s youthful spirit is refreshing. She brings life and enthusiasm to her new surroundings. -Margo’s pick

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Catrina and her family have moved to the northern coast of California for the sake of her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. Cat is even less happy about the move when she’s told that her new town is inhabited by ghosts, but Maya sets her heart on meeting one.

I snagged an advance copy from our head of Youth Services, who was also eager to read this one. It is heartwarming, fun, endlessly optimistic– I bought my own copy so I can re-read it whenever I miss my family. -Carol’s pick

Children’s Picture Books

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The Hueys in What’s the Opposite? By Oliver Jeffers
Quirky egg-shaped creatures known as the Hueys explore the concept of opposites.

It’s hard to make a concept book interesting, but Oliver Jeffers is clearly up for the challenge. His adorable art and elliptical story arc add tremendously to the book’s teaching value. -Alan’s pick

A Hungry Lion, or, a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Members of a large group of animals, including a penguin, two rabbits, and a koala, disappear at an alarming rate but the hungry lion remains.

Takes the “once upon a time” story structure and twists it until the narrator becomes part of the story, and the lion. Really, almost too clever, but lots of fun for older toddlers and preschoolers as they “get” what’s going on… -Alan’s pick

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes & Laura Dronzek
Animals and children watch as the world transforms from the dark and dead of winter to a full and blooming spring.

Henkes and Drozek previously collaborated on Birds, a lovely paean to nature delivered in a style both exacting and emotionally satisfying. Henkes delivers a lovely message for older toddlers and preschoolers. -Alan’s pick

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There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith
Simple text follows a young boy and the many animals he meets on his adventure through the jungle.

Connecting kids with nature is critical for their spirit as well as education. This perfect little book runs somewhere between an adventure and an education, with expressive images of the boy meshing with different creatures until a satisfying end. -Alan’s pick

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
This is the very last “Elephant and Piggie” book to ever be written, and it is a wonderful one.

I used it at all of the elementary schools I visited to talk about summer reading.  Thank YOU for being a reader! -Leslie’s pick

Rules of the House by Mac Barnett
Ian always follows the rules and his sister, Jenny, never does. But when Jenny angers some monsters while breaking all the rules of their vacation house in the woods, Ian first runs away, then realizes there should be a rule about protecting your sister.

There’s a rule against pinching!  It’s a tad bit scary but that’s okay. -Leslie’s pick

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One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom
Gobbled by a snake, a crafty boy finds a find a way out of his predicament by encouraging the snake to eat an increasing number of animals.

This is another slightly scary book, and it’s well written. -Leslie’s pick

Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon
Cute animals are bullied by other animals and then solve the problem in an extremely unique and surprising way.

The title grabbed me, the story was creative and unexpected, and you learn the use of the word extremely, if you didn’t already know it. -Margaret’s pick

Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small
This is an encouraging fairytale about an unusual fairy, a crumbling castle, and who can finally rebuild the castle before it’s too late!

I’ve always loved fairytales, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a new and very different one like this story. Very creative and appealing; encourages confidence in one’s abilities as well. Fun illustrations besides!  -Margaret’s pick

Gingerbread Christmas by Jan Brett
It is the well-known story about the gingerbread man but done with Brett’s own creative and unexpected twist to the story, with a little search thrown in for extra fun.

Jan Brett’s books are all very special, with their amazingly detailed and colorful illustrations, as well as engaging stories. I’m very happy to see a new addition to her wonderful collection for children to love. -Margaret’s pick

PAWS to Read at the Everett Public Library

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Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp is a wonderful new picture book. Madeline Finn DOES NOT like to read. Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice cream truck. But Madeline Finn DOES want a gold star from her teacher. Stars are for good readers. Stars are for understanding words. And saying them out loud. Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn’t so bad. When Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn’t mind. Madeline Finn can pet her until she figures the word out. As it turns out, it’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it’s okay to go slow. And to keep trying. Just like the sticker says.

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Did you know that the Everett Public Library has just such a program?  It’s called PAWS to Read and happens at the Evergreen Branch on Mondays from 3 to 5 PM and at the Main Library on Tuesdays from 3:30 until 5:00 PM. This program runs through December 13th, 2016, but will start up again in January. We have wonderful dog and human volunteers who come to the library faithfully each week to help our children learn to read.

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The dogs act as an incentive for the children to read more and to read better. Dogs are viewed as a non-threatening entity to promote reading, writing, and increased interaction and social skills in the child. As a result, children experience higher reading levels and higher levels of word recognition as well as word comprehension.

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The dogs used in this program are especially calm and unobtrusive and settle in as part of the class. The children view the dogs as lovable and non-judgmental, which are the keys to success in this program. Children report that the dogs give them confidence because the dog does not make fun of them if they read slowly or mess up pronouncing a word. The dogs are great listeners and give the child a sense of comfort while reading. Children have been known to practice with their personal pets at home in preparation for the Paws to Read dogs.

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Come on down to the library just like Madeline Finn and meet our PAWS to Read dogs. They’re awesome!

Crazy Fall Publishing: Picture Book Edition

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I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve read about five hundred books this year! You may ask, “How is that possible?” Well, I purchase the picture books for the Everett Public Library and I read each and every one that comes into the library. Some I read quickly at my desk, but I check out about half of them and take them home to try on my two little guinea pigs, er, I mean, granddaughters. Quite a few have become instant favorites and are now part of our family life. Let me share the sweetest ones with you here.

The book pictured above is a real beauty complete with rhyming words, lovely art work, and awesome pull out pages called gate folds which actually frighten this librarian because they are fragile and will probably rip easily. “Leaves on trees are green and bright. Abracadabra! What a sight!” This is a celebration of the fall season similar to the very successful Abracadabra! It’s Spring! which was published, you guessed it, last spring.

There are a few new Halloween books which merit a reading. The Rules of the House isn’t really a Halloween book, but it sure is on the scary side as far as picture books go. It has already become part of our shared literary experience at home as we remind ourselves of the ‘rules of the house’: no pinching, no fibbing, and always rescue your sister. Birdie’s Happiest Halloween has a good ‘can’t decide my costume’ story and a great ending. Grimelda the Messy Witch is funny and leads to a good discussion about cleaning up your messes. A Teeny Tiny Halloween is just a fun read about a tiny woman who tries to get help when leaves bury her house.

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We love Mo Willems and were sad when the very last Elephant and Piggy book, The Thank You Book, was published this year. I read it to all of the schools I visited to talk up our Summer Reading Program. Everyone loved it! But, have no fear, now Willems is working on a new series called Elephant and Piggy Love Reading. We Are Growing and The Cookie Fiasco are hilarious! Just perfect for children learning to read. Nanette’s Baguette is a rhyming masterpiece: “It’s Nanette’s first trip to get the baguette! Is she set? You bet!”

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I refer to Please Say Please every single day when my little granddaughters want anything: “Please say please!” It is a very useful book. The Magic Word by Barnett is a hilarious take on what a magic word really is. Are Pirates Polite? by Demas shows that even pirates can say please and thank you. Read this if you want to stress good behavior and still have fun.

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Being polite is important, but it’s really important to Be Who You Are!  Author Todd Parr encourages kids to embrace themselves because they are special. Ada Twist, Scientist  is constantly wondering about and questioning the world around her. Who? What? Why? Where? When? Her sense of wonder is infectious. Thunder Boy, Jr. is by Sherman Alexie and is about a boy who wants a name of his own. The beautiful illustrations by Yuyi Morales celebrate this father-son relationship.

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Everyday Birds introduces kids to 20 types of North American birds through a gentle rhyme. At the back of the book there is information on each bird, should the reader be curious to learn more. Bright, bold, and colorful illustrations will draw a child’s eye. Hungry Bird is just as delightful and hilarious as the first two books in Tankard’s BIRD series. The animal characters experience negative emotions and they work through those feelings with care, heart and laughs. Hooray for Today is great for learning about nocturnal animals or for a bedtime story. Owl has a wagon filled with books, music, party things, and wants someone to play. Everyone he tries to wake up is too sleepy, until night is over and they are ready to get up, but now HE is the sleepy one.

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They All Saw a Cat is a good one. In simple, rhythmic prose and stylized pictures, a cat walks through the world, and all the other creatures see the cat differently. It illustrates perspective for children.  I Hear a Pickle: (and Smell, See, Touch and Taste It Too!) is Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora’s introduction to the five senses and is perfect for the youngest children, who will recognize themselves in charming vignettes that portray a wide range of activities. Before Morning is simply beautiful and definitely a Caldecott contender. Take time to ‘read’ the illustrations as they add so much to the overall story. A little girl wishes for a snow day – – a day slow and unhurried enough to spend at home together.

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I would like to encourage you to take these picture books home from the library and spend an unhurried day with your favorite child. Who knows? You may end up reading more books than me!

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.

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

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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.

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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!

Notable New Picture Books at Your Library

ideal-bookshelfI have just started purchasing the picture books for the three branches of the Everett Public Library System. I know, I know! I’m paid to spend money on books. Jealous? Well, you should be!  It’s super fun.

Anyway, I thought I’d highlight some of the best picture books of 2014 thus far. But first, let me explain the book buying process for this library. It was fascinating to me. We order from a huge book service. They send an online ‘cart’ each month of suggested titles. The cart includes reviews from professional journals and a way to sort the list by popularity, title, and many other things. Some books you immediately know that you’ll want to order multiple copies while some you delete just as quickly. Then you add books that need to be replaced because of wear and tear. Also, you add requests from other librarians and patrons and any great books that have come to your attention through your professional readings. That’s it!

index (1)So now, on to the fun part: shiny new picture books. One of my favorites so far is The Highway Rat by Donaldson. This is a rhyming tale inspired by the Highwayman:

The Highway Rat was a baddie. The Highway Rat was a beast. He took what he wanted and ate what he took. His life was one long feast.  His teeth were sharp and yellow, his manners were rough and rude, And the Highway Rat went riding – riding – riding – Riding along the highway and stealing the traveler’s food.

He even stole his own horse’s hay. Well, he gets his comeuppance. This is a rascally natural for reading aloud.

index (11)index (12)Some of the most popular new titles will surely be the new Frozen books. I have had little girls asking for these books for months. They’ll be happy to sit and look at the illustrations for hours and that’s a good thing because you won’t want to read these aloud more than once.


Sophie’s Squash
index (2) by Pat Miller in which a little girl affectionately adopts a butternut squash, is a winner. After her parents buy that squash for dinner at the farmers market, Sophie commandeers it giving it a face with markers. It proves just the right size to hold, bounce on her knee and love.  With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.

index (3)E I E I O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm With a Little Help from a Hen by Judy Sierra is a fresh take on two old tales: Old MacDonald and the Little red Hen. Once upon a time, Old MacDonald didn’t have a farm. He just had a yard — a yard he didn’t want to mow. But under the direction of the wise Little Red Hen, Mac learns to look at the environment in a very different way. Whole new worlds start to bloom with the help of some mud, garbage, horse poop, and worms!

index (4)Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown is about a Victorian tiger who, well, goes wild. He’s tired of the proper life. There’s a nice twist in the plot and it’s not too preachy about being yourself, but still gets that message across. You’ll go wild for this tale of daring to be different and the illustrations are super cool with their muted greens and browns that pop with a wild orange every so often.

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I can highly recommend Some Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi because it’s a rhyming book about BUGS! We take a delightful tour through the insect world and learn that “Some bugs sting. Some bugs bite. Some bugs stink. And some bugs fight!”  For the true insect lovers, the last two page spread is entitled ‘What’s that bug?’ and identifies all the bugs seen earlier in the book. Some Bugs is some kind of terrific.

index (6)What Does the Fox Say? by Svein Nyhus is based on the wildly popular youtube video based on the song. This book will have you singing along in no time. Dog goes woof. Cat goes meow and on and on, but there’s one sound that no one knows. What does the fox say? Who knew that they say: Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding and wa pa pa pa pa pa pow? This book takes animal sounds to a whole new level.

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My Humongous Hamster by Lorna Freytag is so popular that I’ve been asked to order more. Fans of Dave Pilkey’s Dogzilla and Kat Kong will enjoy this one. This hamster gets really huge when he’s hungry but goes back to regular size when he misses his human.

Journeyindex (8) by Aaron Becker is a wordless book with awesome illustrations and a creatively imaginative story. Using a red marker, a young girl draws a door on her bedroom wall and through it enters another world where she experiences many adventures, including being captured by an evil emperor.

index (9)Tap the Magic Tree by Matheson is simply magical. I love interactive books such as this one. Each page has you doing something to make the tree change: from a brown bare wintry tree to one with leaves, then blossoms, then apples, and you guessed it, falling leaves and snow again. It’s a keeper.

index (10)The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems is on order but surely will be a favorite. The Pigeon really needs a bath! Except, the Pigeon’s not so sure about that. Besides, he took a bath last month. Maybe. It’s going to take some serious convincing to try and get the Pigeon to take the plunge.

index (16)I love Stella’s Starliner by Rosemary Wells. It’s a charming story about Stella who is super happy living with her mum and dad in a silver Starliner (“as silver as a comet in the sky”) until the sad day comes when some bullies tease her for living in a trailer. The family ends up ‘moving’ and her new neighbors think that she must be rich to live in a silver house. Charming!

index (17)Finally, there’s Is Everyone Ready For Fun? by Jan Thomas. Chicken has some unexpected and exuberant cow visitors who have exciting plans for jumping, dancing, and wiggling on his teeny-tiny couch, and Chicken is none too happy about it. That is until the fun concludes with a quiet, cozy and delicious nap for all!  

So, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Come on down to the library and check out all of the new picture books.