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Staff Picks: Books

Puppets from some of everything!

 To say that Ashley Bryan has been around for many years is an understatement. After all, he is only 92. His work has been recognized by many and he has been the recipient of many awards. The book Ashley Bryan’spuppets: making something from everything is not only full of amazing, clever and unique puppets but also full of great and thoughtful prose.        

Ashley Bryan grew up in NYC during the depression. He and his sister started salvaging for things they could reuse at a young age. He made his first puppet at age eleven. His puppets are made from tangled fishing nets, weathered bones, sea glass, and driftwood….whatever else he can find. He sees possibilities in all things. His characters and poems include Anansi: the trickster and storyteller, Kwesi: conquering strength (who looks like an elephant) and Animata: good character (made of shells and an upside down champagne glass as a crown).

Jojo: his storyteller says:

               In every finger of my glove I tap tall tales of peace and love

               The fingers of my well-gloved hands store stories told in foreign lands. 

I wish I could share every amazing and unique picture. But that would get me into trouble so I will suggest that you read this or one of his other fantastic books and you’ll see what I mean.


Cecil’s Everlasting Roar

When Cecil the lion was killed in July 2015, the event precipitated a huge outpouring of grief, anger and disgust among people from all over the world. Cecil was a protected lion who was lured out of his safe haven, the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Africa, by native hunting guides for the express purpose of letting Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist by vocation and a misguided, self-styled big game hunter by avocation, shoot him dead. Cecil was killed in cold blood only to satisfy an American dentist’s craving to be surrounded by dead animal trophies.
Shortly after the news of Cecil’s demise spread, numerous protests erupted led by conservation groups, animal advocates and just common folks. The anger and sadness resonated and lingered on for more than a month after the careless killing.

However, one positive outcome was a huge surge in donations for animal conservation efforts. Even celebrities such as Jimmy Kimmel spoke out against the senseless slaughter and helped raise over $150,000 to aid preservation. Jane Goodall the world renowned primatologist simply stated, “I have no words to express my repugnance.”

The authors of Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King are a father and his two daughters, the Hatkoffs. They wrote this children’s book not to dwell on his sudden and inhumane death, but rather to celebrate through narrative a life that was well lived. Photographs by Cecil’s human friend Brent Stapelkamp, underscore the beauty and fullness of his time on earth. Taken over the course of nine years, Brent, a wildlife researcher, tracked, and documented Cecil as he wandered about in the forests and plains of Hwange Park.

Since lions defend their pride and territory against other lions who challenge them, it was known that Cecil was challenged by a long-time rival named Jericho. They fought to see who would gain control. But when other male lions started moving into their domain, something unusual happened; Cecil and Jericho formed an alliance against the interlopers!

After Cecil’s sudden death, it was feared that Jericho would either abandon or kill Cecil’s cubs to start his own family, which is usually the case when the male head of the pride dies. However, in this case another astonishing turn of events came to be when Jericho took in Cecil’s cubs to raise them as his own.

This is a wonderfully touching true story with vivid photos that proclaims that Cecil’s legacy will live on.

Facts about lions as well as the global impact of Cecil’s death are included. New laws and regulations about illegal hunting of lions as well as other endangered species is a hopeful sign that conservation efforts will improve and protect these majestic animals. But as is usually the case, only time will tell if they still have a chance.

 


Caddie Woodlawn

This historical pioneer fiction novel for children takes place in Western Wisconsin during the 1860s. It is a story about eleven year old Caddie (Caroline Augusta) Woodlawn who lives with her parents John and Harriet and six siblings. Caddlie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink, is based on the true story of her grandmother, Caddie Woodhouse. You can visit a park and see exactly where Caddie once lived: http://www.dunnhistory.org/sitecw.html.
The Woodlawn’s moved from Boston seven years earlier, but Mr. Woodlawn was born and raised in England. Caddie is a tomboy and she hangs out with Tom, who is two years older and Warren, who is two years younger, all three are red-headed like their father. They are three jolly comrades in search of adventure in frosty weather or sunshine. She has an elder sister Clara and younger sister Hettie who prefer to stay at home and help mother with quilting or sewing or jelly making. Minnie and Baby Joe complete the family. Another child, little Mary, had died after they came from Boston, and daddy tried an experiment whereby he wanted little Caddie to run wild with the boys. “Don’t keep her in the house learning to be a lady. I would rather see her learn to plow than make samplers, if she can get her health by doing so. I believe it is worth trying.” (p.15). Uncle Edmund from St. Louis arrived on the Little Steamer which came up the Monomonie River once a week as far as Dunnville. Its arrival was a great event, for all the letters from the East and all the news from the great world, most of the visitors and strangers and supplies, came up the river on the Little Steamer. The Little Steamer travels down the Monomonie River to the Chippewa, down the Chippewa to the Mississippi, down the Mississipi to St. Louis.
In 1935 this adventurous book was awarded the John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
There are many events and characters who bring the story alive. Some of the people in the story are: Mr. Tanner, the Circuit Rider; Uncle Edmund from St. Louis, Cousin Annabelle from Boston; Indian John and his dog; Miss Parker the teacher at the one room schoolhouse, and of course, the school children, and the Woodhouse family dog, Nero the sheepdog.


Joseph's Big Ride

 When Joseph and his mother make the long journey from a refugee camp in Kenya to America, he brings along his fascination with bicycles.   Although there is much about  his new neighborhood that Joseph doesn’t understand, he does know a good bike when he sees one.  Joseph’s Big Ride is a story about making new friends, trying something different, and the simple joy of riding a bike. 

 


Reading Without Walls and Surfer of the Century

Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2015-2016, issued a challenge to readers called Reading Without Walls. Yang writes on his blog:

"I want every kid - every reader, really - to explore the world through books. Books have played a vital role in getting me outside of my comfort zone. I believe they can do the same for you. As National Ambassador, I issue you a challenge! I challenge you to read without walls in one of three ways:
1. Read a book about a character who doesn't look like you or live like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don't know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don't normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.
If you really want to go for the gold star, read a book that fits all three criteria! When you finish, take a photo of you and the book (or just the book if you're shy) and post it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadingWithoutWalls. You'll inspire others to do the same!"

This challenge inspired me to finally read a book I'd checked out, but hadn't opened yet. I initially picked up the picture book Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku because I thought the cover illustration looked nice and I didn't know much about surfing. I'd never heard Duke Kahanamoku's name before and knew nothing about his story. Kahanamoku lived a truly incredible and inspiring life. He won six Olympic medals for swimming, introduced the Hawaiian sport of surfing to people throughout the world, acted in over ten films during the 1920s and 1930s, and served as Honolulu's sheriff for 26 years.

In 1960, Kahanamoku was appointed Hawaii's official Ambassador of Aloha. He said, "In Hawaii we greet friends, loved ones or strangers with Aloha, which means with love. Aloha is the key word to the universal spirit of real hospitality, which makes Hawaii renowned as the world's center of understanding and fellowship. Try meeting or leaving people with Aloha. You'll be surprised by their reaction. I believe it and this is my creed. Aloha to you."

Kahanamoku was born in Honolulu in 1890, before the United States' illegal annexation of Hawaii. He passed away in 1968, nearly a decade after Hawaii became the fiftieth state. This book and his story showed me how little I know about the history of Hawaii, and now I can't wait to learn more.

I'm looking forward to checking out:
Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku
Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii
Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii
Unfamiliar Fishes


Through my window : the classic multicultural children's book

As a cataloger at KPL, one of my jobs is to add subject headings to records so people can find books in the online catalog. Lately, I've been extra-careful to remember to add subject headings such as "African Americans Juvenile Fiction" to the appropriate book records in the catalog because as you may know, children's books with African American and other ethnic-background characters are lacking in our society, and I want people to be able to find the books we DO have easily with an online search.

As I was cataloging the book Through my window by Tony Bradman and Eileen Browne, and researching subject headings, I stumbled upon a web site that tells the story of this classic picture book published 30 years ago, featuring the first racially mixed family (where the subject wasn't about race or culture) as well as one of the earliest stay at home dads! The web site is super-cool! Check it out (and also the book!) #WeNeedDiverseBooks


There is a tribe of kids

Lane Smith should prepare for another Caldecott Award, in my opinion.  There is a tribe of kids tells a refreshing story of a young boy who is looking for "his tribe."  He encounters the natural world and plenty of animals along his travels.  This picture book is beautifully illustrated and provides readers plenty of opportunities to tell their own story as they move through the pages.  The publisher has also provided activities to accompany the story.


The Girl in the Well is Me

Eleven year old Kammie, having just moved to a new town with her mom and brother, wants to start a new life but finds herself stuck down an old abandoned well. In an effort to get in with the most popular girls in her new school, she is subjected to harsh initiation rites so she can be the fourth in their exclusive club (or so she thought). Kammie relates her experience and also how her life has changed. What’s gotten her to this Nowheresville town, as she calls it? What follows in The Girl in the Well is Me, as oxygen deprived Kammie hallucinates a French speaking coyote, zombie goats, and thinks about her situation, both immediate and overall, is an uplifting story of a tough girl sorting out her sense of self after some huge changes in her family – and hoping to survive being stuck down a well. 

 


Lea Leads the Way

In this book, Lea Leads the Way, Lea is still in Brazil with her family. The plan for the next portion of the trip was for the whole family to visit the rainforest where Zac is living and going to school. However since her Dad’s hiking accident, he is unable to continue traveling. The family decides that Lea and Zac will continue on without Mom and Dad.

Lea is set for an animal adventure. She has never been to the rainforest before and she is excited to be traveling with Zac and visiting his host family who live in the middle of the rainforest. She loves taking photographs with the camera her Grandmother gave her. She is especially hopeful of capturing the wildlife in the rainforest in photos. While Lea is on her trip, she is writing a blog and posting pictures so that her classmates from school can follow her trip. During a hike with Zac, they discover a baby sloth that is badly injured. Lea decides to do all she can to help the little sloth survive. Zac knows about a wildlife sanctuary and they take the baby sloth there for care. As Lea learns more about the rainforest and what is happening to the area, including poaching of the wildlife, she wonders if she did the right thing.

This is another interesting American Girl series. Readers will enjoy the locale and facts about Brazil and the culture.


Samira and the Skeletons

Today, Samira learned that there is a skeleton inside her!  Yes, a real skeleton with bones and everything.  Her teacher says, “Just look at your lovely teeth!  That’s your skeleton peeping out of your mouth.” Yikes!   This is a terrible situation . . . that skeleton even goes to gym class with her, where Samira has to “run here, run there, jump and hop around and climb and do a somersault—with a body full of bones!”  Samira and the Skeletons is a great blend of humor and science; you can find it in the “Growing Up” neighborhood of picture books.