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Staff Picks: Books

The Creativity Project

44 great children’s authors, poets and illustrators create and submit prompts; each author then cultivates a response to another author’s prompt. This results in The Creativity Project, edited by Colby Sharp: 44 marvelous poems, short stories, drawings, cartoon stories and even an encyclopedia entry. My favorite, by the way, was the encyclopedia entry about the Genius moon moth, an "ideavore," which feeds off the creative energy of children. The moth’s description lists many ways to entice the Genius moon moth to your neighborhood and home.

The second half of the book includes prompts from the same creators for readers to use in building their own creations. The book is chock full of imagination!


Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow

Here's a recommendation for a new and very readable book in the Kalamazoo Public Library children's section. Read Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow. Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is a much lauded scholar for his vast contribution to the understanding of history and American culture. You may know him from the PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots. Gates wrote the book with Tonya Bolden, the award-winning author of many excellent books for young people. 

The development of racist laws in the Jim Crow era along with murderous violence and property taking perpetrated as instruments of white supremacy are highest on the list of the worst kind of human behavior. As grim as aspects of this history certainly are, this book is ultimately uplifting, with stories of perseverance in the face of oppression. The final illustration in the book is a lovely group picture of a class of preschoolers in Topeka, Kansas, captioned "Faces of the Future 1899". 

About Dark Sky Rising, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and National Book Award winning author Jacqueline Woodson writes, "Brilliant and more necessary now than ever before. This is a book that should be on every bedside table and in every classroom in America. It’s a history that belongs to all of us. In Gates’s and Bolden’s hands, it is a deeply comprehensive, beautifully illustrated, and moving narrative of survival.” 


Miles Morales: Spiderman

Confession: I have Peter Parker fatigue. He’s had seven movies in the past two decades, more if you count the Avengers, and the story’s always the same: spider bite, ditch the glasses, fight a goblin. To be honest, I’m over it.

So last year, when I saw MilesMorales: Spiderman hit the shelves, and written by all-star YA novelist Jason Reynolds no less, I was intrigued. The familiar hero was getting a much need update.  But after watching the dazzling movie that introduces the new Black and Puerto-Rican web slinger to the big screen, I knew that I needed to read this novel immediately.

 I was delighted to find out more about Morales’ world—the strained and complicated relationship between his dad and his uncle, and to see what a solid friendship he has with his roommate Ganke. But then as the story continues to unfold it becomes clear that this Spiderman isn’t just duking it out with a giant lizard man or whatever. That’s too easy. The first Black Spiderman in the MCU takes on one of the most powerful enemies facing the Black community today: institutional racism. This novel pulls no punches and examines important issues while sacrificing none of the excitement and action-packed antics that we’ve come to expect out of our Spiderman stories.

Your twelve year old might say they hate reading, but have they read about Miles Morales? 


ONE HUNGRY BUNNY WITH EARS SO FUNNY

Hungry Bunny is a fun, interactive preschool picture book about, ( yes, you guessed it), a hungry bunny. This bunny's tummy rumbles and grumbles, so he sets off to pick some juicy apples that just might be the perfect snack to appease his appetite.

The young reader can help bunny perform his apple gathering task by shaking the tree so that the apples fall down, blow away the leaves, etc. This book also has a handy "red scarf", ( really a bookmark ribbon), to help our little buck-toothed protagonist climb the tree and even make a makeshift bridge. In the end, bunny and his family enjoy some freshly baked apple pie and share it with the reader! Imagine that!

By New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Claudia Rueda. This is an all-around wonderful book to please the fancy of the younger set!


The Season of Styx Malone

I really enjoyed the new book by Kekla Magoon. It reminded me a little bit of Orbiting Jupiter but more lighthearted. When ten-year-old Caleb and older brother Bobby Gene meet sixteen-year-old Styx Malone, they are in for a not-so-boring summer. Caleb and Bobby Gene have really different personalities even though they are very close. Of course, that's typical of siblings, but the way their relationship is portrayed is really well done. And while I started out thinking that their dad was going to be nothing but a jerk, his character changes over time. Styx's character also grows over the course of the book. I kept turning pages because I wanted to see if what I thought was going to happen would happen. Well, I can tell you that it did and it didn't. No plot spoiler there at all, right? 

Great storytelling, great turns of phrase, and a diverse and interesting cast of major and minor characters makes this a really good read. The Season of Styx Malone asks: What are the limits of friendship? When does being protective become overprotective? The small-town summer-time setting reminded me of summers from my own childhood. This is a great book to enjoy as a family over the Thanksgiving break.


My Beijing by Nie Jun

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everday Wonder by Nie Jun is a children's graphic novel that collects four brief but fantastic stories. The tales bring Yu'er and her grandpa's neighborhood to life, all with interesting characters and a twist of magical realism. Nie Jun's art is whimsical and bright. I read this graphic novel quickly, but it stayed with me, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more from this author. Although you'll find it shelved with children's books, My Beijing is for all ages of comic fans.


What Makes a Garden Grow?

A really wonderful, sad and yet hopeful story, The Rough Patch written and superbly illustrated by New York Times bestselling author Brian Lies is about a fox named Evan and his devoted dog.

Truly the best of friends, Evan and his pooch do everything together. Of all the activities that they engage in, they most relish working in Evan's magnificent garden! It is almost a magical place for plants, and everything they planted there thrived.

But one day , completely out of the blue, Evan sees his beloved canine friend lying dead in his doggie bed and everything in their wonderful existence changes.Evan first shuts himself out from the outside world by staying inside his house. He then decides to vent some of his dark feelings by cutting and slashing his beloved garden to the ground and disposing of the resultant plant trash by throwing it into a large pile. In place of his once beautiful garden filled with fragrant flowers and vibrant vegetables, newly sprouted, unattractive, prickly, dark weeds grew and so this garden became a sad, desolate place which matched his now never-changing mood.

However, one day he finds a pumpkin vine had snuck under a fence from the neighboring yard. His first inclination is to destroy it, but he rationalizes that since it was fuzzy, prickly, and spidery, that he would let it be. Evan ends up watering it and caring for it and decides to enter the pumpkin in the local fall fair. His pumpkin wins third place and as a prize he gets to choose either ten dollars or a pup found inside a cardboard box. Evan's first inclination is to take the money but he then hears a scratching sound coming from inside the box and thinks it wouldn't hurt to peek inside. He ends up adopting one of the pups and drives it home in his old red truck. And the rest( as they say) is history.

 A well written book on the topics of friendship, loss and redemption. Accompanied by beautifully detailed illustrations done with heart. This winner of a book is sure to please kids and many adults as well!

 

 


Coding for Kids!

While computer coding is a deep topic, like math and technical fields, it never hurts to set foundations early. Kiki Prottsman and DK have created a fun way to set these foundations with the new “My First Coding Book.” The basics of coding have to do with learning logic and the words used to describe certain actions and ideas. My First Coding Book teaches young readers these concepts, with fun illustrations, and lift-the-flap style games. This book is very cute, great fun, and I recommend it to anyone (even adults) who want a better sense of how this computing stuff -- at its core -- really works.


Dreamers

Books became our language.  Books became our home.  Books became our lives.  Yuyi Morales has created another beautifully illustrated picture book about her experience as a young immigrant mother with her infant son.  She left her home in Juarez, Mexico and settled in San Francisco feeling completely lost, until the day she discover the public library.


The Word Collector

Like many in the library profession, I am a fan of words. So is young Jerome, who has a unique way of collecting them and sharing them. To be enjoyed are both the story and the artwork.