Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Leo and his mama go to the library every week for Baby Time . . . sharing stories, playing peek-a-boo with scarves, and singing the happy song.
Leo Loves Baby Time is a sweet story, perfectly suited to very young children, with uncluttered illustrations, few words, and a focused plot. If you like this book, also take a look at Lola Loves Stories, which is about Leo’s big sister.
Leo Loves Baby Time
What do you know about “the other Ellis Island?” Between 1910 and 1940, Angel Island was the port of U.S. entry for thousands of Asians seeking a new life in America. Russell Freedman’s new book: Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain tells the story of those who passed through, those who were detained, and those who never made it any further into the U.S. before returning to their country of origin.
Especially poignant are the poems that were carved into and painted on barracks walls: “Nights are long, the pillow cold; who can comfort my solitude? . . . Shouldn’t I just return home and learn to plow the fields?” Discovered by a maintenance worker long after the facility closed, the poems have been preserved and incorporated into the public areas of this National Historic Landmark.
Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
This is based on a true story. It is World War II and a group of Polish soldiers who are escaping the Germans and Russians by way of Iran purchase a tiny, half-dead orphaned bear cub from a boy. The soldiers name the bear cub Voytek, which means “Smiling Warrior.” Voytek is cared for by Peter and Stanislav and Junusz and Lolek and Pavel… they explain to their sergeant that the bear is their new ‘mascot.’
The soldiers join the British army. The story follows the soldiers and Voytek from camp to camp for five years watching the many different soldiers’ reactions to Voytek. Voytek is a sweet bear. Peter is his keeper and there are a few instances where he aids the soldiers: he carries bombs, he corners a spy, and he entertains. Voytek provides comfort amid the horrors of war. The soldiers have a few other animals: Kaska, a monkey, who rides on the back of a big dog named Stalin and Dottie the Dalmatian.
Soldier Bear has been translated from the Dutch into English by Laura Watkinson. Soldier Bear received the Margaret Bachelder Award, an American Library Association Award given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.
Zoe loves cupcakes and she loves princesses, what a combination. She loves making pink cupcakes with sparkles, and she really loves her playhouse where she has tea and cupcakes with her favorite stuffed animals. But of course there is a problem: Zoe’s older brother, Ralph, also loves cupcakes. He wants to eat them and so do all his friends – they want all of the cupcakes and Ralph never asks to eat them he just does! All the cupcakes – GONE.
But the next day, Zoe makes cupcakes and she wishes really hard about being a princess and hopes her wish becomes part of the batter. When she is done baking, frosting and decorating the cupcakes they do look magical. One bite and Zoe realizes they are sweet and sparkly - they are Princess cupcakes and Zoe has become a princess! Her playhouse is now a castle and the tea party is real, her guests (the favorite stuffed animals) can talk. While they are out exploring the magical kingdom the evil Prince Ralph steals the cupcakes, but Zoe plans a special surprise for him. And as the day ends so does the magic.
The next day Zoe works very hard making green cupcakes. Again she wishes very hard for some special magic. When Ralph and his friends rush in for cupcakes something amazing happens. Hum – little green frogs – but Zoe says not to worry – cupcake magic only lasts for a day.
The last page includes the recipe for pink cupcakes and frosting. A fun activity for reader and listener to share after the story ends.
The story and illustrations are just right for a little princess imagination. The cover art with lots of pink, sparkles and a crown on Zoe’s head will surely call to young readers who can never get enough stories about princesses.
Pink Cupcake Magic by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Kristin Varner
Looking at the illustrations in this picture book, I get some reassurance that we might yet see spring here in Michigan!
A boy in Pakistan competes in Basant, the annual kite festival; whoever captures the most kites becomes “king” for a day.
The story is full of excitement and the artwork adds lovely details, combining to present an exuberant celebration of wind and flight.
King for a Day
Can fruits and vegetables be beautiful? Yes they can! Set in August when's it's "steamy hot", Cheers for a Dozen Ears is a colorfully illustrated counting book that celebrates a family's trip to the farmers' market. This book will make you hungry for fresh tomatoes and beans, watermelons, peaches, and more. I could see using this book to build excitement about visiting the market and the farmers who bring their produce for sale to we lucky consumers here in Kalamazoo. A trip to the market is ripe with opportunities to see text and numbers in action. Why not start with this cozy counting read-along?
Cheers for a Dozen Ears
Isabelle, a young dancer, is the newest girl in the American Girl series. Isabelle by Laurence Yep is the first book in the series, 2 others: Designs by Isabelle and To the Stars, Isabelle have also been published.
The first book, Isabelle, sets up the characters, her family, friends and the setting. Isabelle is excited about starting her first year at the Anna Hart School of the Arts, a prestigious school for the arts in Washington D.C. She can’t help comparing herself to her older sister, Jade, who also attends Anna Hart and is an amazing ballerina. Actually all the kids at Anna Hart are exceptionally talented. Isabelle questions her dance ability and wonders if she can navigate the new school.
As Isabelle prepares with her class for the Fall Festival, she continues to doubt her own ballet ability. What she doesn’t doubt is her desire and sense of style for designing Jade’s and her own costumes for the program. As the Fall Festival draws closer, Jade gives Isabelle some spot on tips for her dancing that allows for her to finally give the performance she has been dreaming of. And Jade and her both have amazing costumes as well. Both Jade and Isabelle are noticed by a professional Director and dancer and are asked to perform in the Nutcracker – a dream come true.
Fans of American Girl will enjoy this new series. The books are fun and read quickly.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Early Bird likes to wake up early. Then she “stands as tall as she can,” and she “takes a deep breath of fresh morning air.” Then we follow her through pages of simple shapes and solid blocks of color as she makes her way to the garden where she finds . . . the Early Worm!
There’s much more to this book than one might expect: strong action words and design elements that support the story line, plus a sweet surprise at the end.
Have you heard of an animal called the tapir, but have little or no idea what it looks like, much less what it’s up to on our fair earth? Well, The Tapir Scientist is just the book to correct this unfortunate state of affairs! With text by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Nic Bishop, it explores the world of this unusual looking creature, whose closest living relatives happen to be the rhinoceros and horse.
The focus is upon the field investigation work of Pati Medici, an animal conservation scientist who is one of the founders of the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil. It is dedicated to helping endangered animals such as tapirs survive.
The tapir actually existed in prehistoric times and surprisingly, its appearance has not changed much over 12 million years. What has changed is where they live. Once roaming all over Europe, Asia and both North and South America, their natural habitat has shrunk to parts of South and Central America, as well as Southeast Asia. It is South America’s largest mammal, and there are four distinct species all of which are endangered.
Tapirs are rather solitary, nocturnal animals who are difficult to see, much less count, capture, study and track as Pati and her team sets out to do. However, they persevere knowing that their work is crucial, since tapirs play a major role in propagating forest plant life. Being fruit loving herbivores, they eat, digest and then let’s just say “plant” seeds from one area to another. Without them, forests and all the animal life found within may very well disappear.
This book is part of a series by the Montgomery and Bishop team called “Scientists in the Field.” Author Sy Montgomery has taken on many challenges in the past including swimming with piranhas and chasing gorillas among other things. Nic Bishop is a renowned nature photographer. His photos have captured many animals in their full, natural glory. Fun fact: Nic used to live in the Winchell area of Kalamazoo for many years before relocating to New Zealand.
KPL owns a number of titles in the “Scientists in the Field” series, including The Tarantula Scientist, Snake Scientist and Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, as well as a few others. Both author and photographer have won many awards, and their works have been noted as being distinguished examples of the best science books for youth. (Although as an animal loving adult, I too found it to be engaging.)
With it’s lively, information laden text and beautiful pictures, The Tapir Scientist is a wonderful Brazilian animal travelogue!
The Tapir Scientist
Recently, I’ve come across some fascinating non-fiction books for kids. I’ve just finished Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone.
Full of wonderful photos, this book tells the story of the men who served in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion out of Fort Benning, Georgia. These soldiers became America’s first black paratroopers and author Tanya Lee Stone uses their story to explore the role of African Americans in the military. This is a great addition to the literature of World War II.
Tanya Lee Stone also wrote Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, another book that sheds light on a little-known aspect of American history.
Courage Has No Color