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Staff Picks: Books

Booked

 Kwame Alexander has written another beautiful novel-in-verse about boys and sports.  It’s funny, sporty, literary, and full of middle school emotion.   Booked is a quick read, but you’ll want to savor this one. 

 

 


The Seventh Wish

A banned book just makes me want to check it out. Earlier this year, a Vermont school uninvited beloved children's book author, Kate Messner, from a planned visit due to the content in her latest book, The Seventh Wish . Honestly, I might have missed this gem of a story, had it not been in the news for this reason. But I'm so glad I didn't because it's an important story and a good read. 

The Seventh Wish is about so many things, including Irish dancing, ice fishing, middle school friendships, and the love of a close-knit family. It's also about opiod addiction. In the story, the main character's older sister struggles with drug use and eventually leaves college to go to rehab for her addiction. In the midst of the rest of the main character's life, the effects of addiction on each member of the family are explored. This was, of course, this part of the book that caused it to be censored earlier this year. You can read some of the author's thoughts and details on this summer's events here


Don’t Ban Heather and her Family!

Heather has two arms, two legs, two pets and two mommies. There is a lot of love in her home, but when Heather goes to school, she worries maybe she’s the only child without a daddy. The teacher helps all the students learn that each family has their own special combination of people and that “the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.”

Leslea Newman self-published Heather has two Mommies in 1989. It’s been re-published many times since. This most recent version, published in 2015, is the best in my opinion. The pictures make all the difference! Laura Cornell’s watercolor illustrations add color and many comic touches to the story.

For example, when Mama Kate, the doctor, and Heather listen to each other’s heartbeats with stethoscopes, the two pets participate. Kitty Gingersnap is comfortably plopped on Mama Kate’s medical bag, and Midnight, the dog, leans in with her ear flopped over Mama Kate’s knee. The band-aids on Mama’s knee--stuck to the outside of her blue jeans--and at various spots on the sofa, as well as the purple lily attached to Heather’s hair are all chuckle-worthy. Gingersnap and Midnight appear some special place in every home scene, helping out -- mixing cookie batter and ‘cleaning’ the floor-- or just hanging out. (Look for them on the bed at storytime.) The school scenes are just as precious. This is a picture book, after all, and the pictures draw the reader in.

Heather has two Mommies was one of the most challenged books in the 1990’s, because it doesn’t represent some people’s beliefs about what a family should look like. The book endured over time, regardless of efforts to ban it. All kids benefit from seeing themselves and their family lives represented in story and pictures. Children can learn to embrace diversity by reading about all kinds of families and other children.


Hispanic Heritage Month

I am a huge fan of the award winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month I submit these two excellent picks by this author.

The Princess and the Warrior is a re-telling of one of Mexico’s most cherished legends. It is the story of unlikely love between a princess and a lowly warrior. The king issues a challenge to the brave warrior: defeat their enemy Jaguar Claw. Will they end up together? Find out.

My other pick is Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. This is the history of the Day of the Dead Calaveras. Calaveras are those skeletons dressed as ladies called Catrinas, and other characters that you see around the time of the Day of the Dead. The library will be hosting programs for the Day of the Dead at many locations. Check our LINK.

If you’re interested in a jump start on the history of the artist Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) who made the skeleton images an indelible part of these celebrations, you’ll enjoy this book.


The Upside Down Boy - El niño de cabeza

In The Upside Down Boy - El niño de cabeza, United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera tells the story, in verse, of a pivotal time in his childhood when his mother and father moved their family to the city so that he could attend school. He tells the story of how his third grade teacher, Mrs. Sampson, invited him to the front of the class to sing a song. He sang “Three Blind Mice” and Mrs. Sampson told him “You have a very beautiful voice”.  The book is dedicated to Mrs. Lucille Sampson, Herrera’s third grade teacher, who, at age 95, was present at the Library of Congress when Herrera was inaugurated as the United States Poet Laureate in 2015. You can hear Herrera tell this story in front of an audience at the Kansas City Public Library on New Letters On the Air.

Juan Felipe Herrera’s Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes is a Pura Belpré author honor book.

B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy)

While working in the chapter books collection of the Children’s Room, B.U.G (Big Ugly Guy), a middle grade chapter book by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, caught my attention. Sammy Greenburg gets bullied (a lot) because he stands up for other kids. When a new 6th grader, John “Skink” Skinner, comes to Sammy's aid, they are fast friends - in part because both are musicians and they both love words. Sammy plays clarinet and Skink plays guitar. Sammy introduces his friend to klezmer music and they aspire to start a band with their friend Julia on violin. The plot thickens when Sammy decides to make a golem, the mythical, hulking, protecting colossus of Jewish folklore, out of his father’s pottery clay. And, of course, that’s how they get a drummer for their nascent klez/punk band. It’s pretty cool to find a middle-grade novel with references to The Klezmatics and even a brief explication of some klez scale patterns. There are inevitable problems when building your own golem to vanquish school yard bullies. You’ll have to read the book to find out how it ends.

 


Unveiling The Cloud Forest Dwelling Olinguito

Olinguito, from A to Z! by Lulu Delacre is an award winning alphabet book written in both Spanish and English. It takes the reader on a journey accompanying an intrepid zoologist searching out the elusive olinguito. An olinguito is a mammal recently discovered to be a separate species. Related to the raccoon, olinguitos live exclusively in the cloud forests of Ecuador.

This beautifully illustrated volume features the many plants and animals who call the cloud forest their home. It also includes the author's notes about the real discovery of the olinguito, as well as additional information about the cloud forest, how the illustrations came to be, on being an explorer, and a glossary of the various cloud forest plants and animals(with their Spanish pronunciations).As an added bonus, there is a built-in puzzle/game that will have younger readers going back to play more than once.

Very creative and truly Magnifico!


Worms For Breakfast: How to Feed A Zoo

What did you have for breakfast this morning? What is usually on your breakfast menu? I bet you are not having dried ants to taste, ¾ pound small oily fish or 1 teaspoon ground cuttlefish bone. But a gorilla will have the ants, a flamingo chick will have the oily fish and a snail will have the cuttlefish bone mixed in his snail trail mix. If this sounds interesting, then you will want to read Worms For Breakfast: How to Feed A Zoo. It is full of information and recipes for feeding all the zoo animals. Feeding time at the zoo is always one of the most popular events and this book is a cookbook for the animals. There are recipes for Predator Popsicles, Presto Pesto Sauce – Koala Style and Elephant-slimming Fruit Fandango. Worms For Breakfast is packed with facts about animal nutrition and feeding them. It also includes how the animals hunt and eat in the wild and how the zoo feeds them so they feel as though they are in the wild hunting for their own food.

The author answers questions about what and how much each animal eats, who cooks and serves the food (a zoo nutritionist) and what does the grocery shopping list look like. There is so much fun information in this book. The photographs and illustrations will keep families busy reading and looking at this book over and over again.

This book really is fun – oh by the way I had an English muffin with peanut butter for breakfast today – hold the ants!


Ada Twist, Scientist

You can never go wrong with a children's book that rhymes.  You can go far with a children's book that promotes STEM.  Ada Twist, Scientist is the newest creation by the authors of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect.  A must read for inspiring the young and encouraging the curious mind.


Grandparents Day

Yesterday was National Grandparents Day, but these picture books featuring stories about kids and their grandparents are great to share all year long.

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji

My Abuelita

A Morning With Grandpa

North Woods Girl

Last Stop on Market Street


Mango, Abuela, and Me