PLEASE NOTE: Friends will not be taking donations this week as they prepare for their annual Summer Bag-of-Books Sale. Thanks!

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Staff Picks: Books

I Am Yoga

I Am Yoga, written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, is a children’s picture book presenting a journey through various yoga poses. The narrative is carried along with sweeping, imaginative watercolor illustrations, and book ends with a glossary of each yoga pose presented. This short and colorful book is a fantastic way to introduce children to both the idea and practice of calm, focused movement.


Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors

On May 15 the Oshtemo Branch Library hosted a Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors event inviting folks to participate in one-on-one and small group conversations with members of our local Muslim communities. Station activities included henna and hijab tutorials and information stations about prayers and holidays. Shawarma King on Drake Road provided snacks, local Kurdish and Iranian musicians performed, and the Kalamazoo Islamic Center's imam was available to answer questions about the Quran.

If you were not able to make it to the event, or you want to do some reading on your own, check out these books from the library:

The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and That Veil Thing by Sumbul Ali-Karamali

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan

Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam by Sumbul Ali-Karamali

1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization by National Geographic Kids

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan


Animal Cuteness Overload

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World In Poetry and Pictures by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore , with captivating poetry by Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander, observes the natural beauty, diversity and fragility of the animal world.

This mesmerizing and amazing book features more than forty unique full-color animal photographs accompanied by lively haikus, each set against a solid black or white page. The message here is simple: it's steadfast focus is on the conservation of the "natural" in the planet we all live on.

Although officially a children's book, this brilliant collaboration between photos and text will certainly please anyone interested in nature and the animals that inhabit it.


I Want That Love

I Want That Love is a book about Tyrannosaurus who, after a lifetime of terrorizing smaller animals, is transformed when he is mistaken by some juvenile Triceratops for a less fearsome dinosaur. The Triceratopses offer the senior dinosaur something that challenges his perception of himself. He had spent his life thinking that "he could do anything he wanted because he was the strongest." After the elder Tyrannosaurus sustains a tail injury from a group of younger and faster Masiakasauruses, the Triceratopses offer Tyrannosaurus some berries. Then he protects the Triceratopses from a pair of violent Giganotosauruses and passes on his new-found world view which, a generation later, another young Triceratops gleans from his dad: Love is stronger than violence. That is a nice message in this picture book, one in a series from Tatsuya Miyanishi. Originally in Japanese, the art in these books is pretty great, I think. Younger children who like dinosaurs will appreciate the focus on real dinosaur names, if they aren't too put off by the anthropomorphized dinosaurs.


Becoming Bach

In this wonderful picture book, Johann Sebastian Bach tells readers about his childhood filled with music.  Everywhere he went, there was music.  It was his destiny to grow up and become a "Bach."  Tom Leonard's colorful illustrations will guide you through the pages of this delightful biography. And, prepare you for KPL's upcoming Bach in Jammies programs at the Central Library and Oshtemo Branch in partnership with the Kalamazoo Bach Festival.


Novels in Verse

Before poetry month comes to a close, I want to highlight some novels written in verse. Through a series of short poems, an author can tell an amazingly rich story, despite the limited scope for details and dialog. 

Most recently, I read A Girl Named Mister, by Nikki Grimes, who is coming to KPL on May 9. The book combines sections in the voice of the title character with poems in the voice of the Virgin Mary, which are in a book Mister is reading during a challenging time. 

One of my favorites is Sharon Creech's Love That Dog, which is written as the diary of a boy who is learning to love poetry. The title poem pays homage to a poem by Walter Dean Myers, and others throughout the book are modeled after other famous poems. Speaking of dogs, God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant and Marla Frazee imagines what it would be like if God had a life like an ordinary human.

All the novels in verse I've come across are written for children and young adults, but there is much in them to be appreciated for any reader. They seem particularly well suited to addressing difficult topics such as grief and the darker chapters of history, such as Jacqueline Woodson's memoir of growing up during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s, Brown Girl Dreaming. Dana Walrath's Like Water on Stone takes place during the Armenian genocide. 

Other authors who frequently write in verse include Kwame Alexander and Margarita Engle. Novels in verse are not a replacement for regular fiction, but like graphic novels, you can read through them quickly for the basic story, or better yet, you can linger to enjoy the nuances of language.


Call Me Tree - Llámame Árbol

Written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, Call Me Tree is a beautiful journey that imagines life as a tree, from a seed in the ground to an árbol standing tall. Written in both English and Spanish, the sparse, lyrical wordings perfectly complement the rich and expressive imagery exploring nature, connectedness, and individuality.


Big Cat, Little Cat

 Elisha Cooper’s books are always a joy.  His use of line is simple and elegant; here, a white cat welcomes a small black cat to the home and teaches it “when to eat, when to drink, where to go, how to be.”  They live together, play together, and the black cat becomes older and larger as the white cat then begins to age.  Then one day the white cat went away.  “And that was hard.  For everyone.”  Big Cat, Little Cat is a lovely book for young pet lovers. 

 

 


Jake the Fake Keeps it Real

When Jake starts sixth grade at the middle school where big sister Lisa has always been a super star, Jake’s not sure what to expect. He got into the selective Music and Art Academy with his performance of “Song for My Father” on the piano. Now he’s not sure he can do what it takes to be successful there since he’s not really that interested in playing the piano. As Jake warms up to his new environment and makes new friends but keeps the old, hilarity ensues.
Writers Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach are responsible for some terribly funny books and movies, mostly for adults. I have been a fan of illustrator Keith Knight’s comic strips for a while and was excited to see this new work in the children’s chapter book domain. Jake the Fake Keeps it Real was a really funny read. The way the cartoon illustrations expand on the narrative make this a real pleasure to read. If you like Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, or Dork Diaries, I think you will really enjoy Jake the Fake.


Triangle

Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett's latest collaboration is, as you might imagine if you've read any of their other books, not exactly your typical children's book. Triangle and his friend Square are devious little shapes, playing pranks on each other and wandering through a landscape of shapes and things without shapes. Is Triangle as smart as he seems? Is Square really as clever as he thinks he is? And more important- will Square get out of the spot he's in at the end?