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Staff Picks: Books

A John Berry Meachum Story

This fictional children’s story was inspired by a real event. In Missouri in 1847 a law was passed that prohibited the education of Blacks, slaves or free. This law was passed by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri and it stated that: “No person shall keep a school for the instructions of negroes or mulattoes, reading or writing in this state.”

A man named John Berry Meachum lived from 1789-1854. He had been born a slave and worked to earn enough money to buy his freedom. In 1826 he became a minister of the first African American Baptist Church in Missouri. Although, educating blacks was against the law it was very important to Meachem. Being a very resourceful and creative person he worked to find ways to defy the unjust law that stated black people could not be educated within the state. He built a steamboat and used it in the middle of the Mississippi River as a school for Blacks.

That’s where the idea for this great story, Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson, came from.

Awake Beautiful Child: an ABC Day in the Life

I love Amy Krouse Rosenthal's way with words and letters and many of her books have become favorites at our house. Awake Beautiful Child is a wonderful picture book that tells the story of an average day in new creative way. Each phrase uses words that start with A-B-C in alphabetical order. Some of my favorites include, "Above, Birds Chirp", "Afar, Bells Chime", "Afternoon Brings Calm", and "Always Be Curious". We were inspired to create our own stories at home using just words that start with just those 3 letters again and again. The illustrations with Gracia Lam are wonderfully retro, calming, and fun! Find it in our picturebook collection in the JE Concepts Neighborhood.

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly

Welcome to a brand new series by the author of Dork Diaries. The new series: Misadventures of Max Crumbly is based on Max who is facing the scariest place he’s ever been: South Ridge Middle School.

Max has been homeschooled by his Grandma, a retired kindergarten teacher, and frankly he is tired of animal crackers and naps. He must make middle school work or it’s back to Grandma’s kindergarten. In Locker Hero, Max runs into some trouble from Thug (Doug) the 8th grade school bully, who takes every opportunity to stuff Max into his locker. Max must become like his favorite comic book hero in order to think and act his way out of his locker at the beginning of a 3 day weekend. There might also be a part with thieves trying to steal the school computers, Max seeing them and then trying to get away. Super hero powers are needed – can Max do it?

Written in the same diary entry format and the same great illustrations, this is sure to be a fun new series which will fly off the shelves. Watch for it to be another bestseller for Rachel Renee Russell.

Squid for President!

Jokes about presidential candidates are just too easy this time around so I’m going to skip that part and get right to Aaron Reynolds new picture book President Squid. It is true that no giant squid has ever been president before, but this might be the right time. Squid wears a tie, lives in a big house (a sunken cruise liner), is famous (he’s in a book), does all the talking, and likes to boss people around so he thinks he is perfect for the job. Will he be the fifth president carved into Mt. Rushmore? If you aren’t already having enough fun during this year’s presidential race, check out President Squid for even more laughs. 

Speaking of storybook characters running for president, stay tuned for our mock election this Fall where each library location will nominate and campaign for one for president. Of course, Washington Square’s nominee, Dora the Explorer, will win!

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood

Mira loves to "doodle, draw, color, and paint" so her room is filled with vibrant pictures that she created herself.  Her neighborhood, on the other hand, is dull and gray.  Until the day a muralist moved in.  Together the two of them set off to paint the town.

Based on a true story, this picture book is about the East Village neighborhood in San Diego.  It tells the story of a community that Rafael and Candace Lopez brings together and the creation of the Urban Art Trail.  Lopez (who is also the illustrator of the book) along with community leaders, teachers, artists, and residents worked together to turn their neighborhood into a walkable piece of art.  This picture book is an inspiring story with wonderful illustrations that young children will love.

School's First Day of School

 Everyone is just a little bit nervous on the first day of school, even the brand-new school building.  “A sign above the door read, FREDERICK DOUGLASS ELEMENTARY.  ‘That’s a good name for me,’ thought the school.”  On this first day, some kids learn about rectangles, some cry, some are bored, some play on the jungle gym.  “So that’s what that is for,’ thought the school.”  Be sure to take a look at this book before school starts . . . School’s First Day of School is a reassuring story about new beginnings for everyone. 


Lane Smith’s “There Is a Tribe of Kids”

Lane Smith’s picture book titled: There Is a Tribe of Kids is both curious and educational, plus, it’s a reference book. Patrons have traditionally asked librarians questions such as: what do you call a group of this or that, whether it be animals (animal aggregations), or some other group. Familiar animal aggregations are: a school of fish, a flock of geese, pack of dogs, you get the idea. In Smith’s book, a lone child takes us on a journey from animal group to animal group and eventually to a group of children. Lane Smith’s illustrations are truly amazing and full of antics and delightful detail. Lane Smith has written and illustrated many children’s books, and Lane received a Caldecott Honor Award for Grandpa Green. He was named an Eric Carle Artist for “lifelong innovation in the field of children’s picture books” in 2012!



Soon all the books about Jupiter will be out of date and I can't wait! On Monday the Juno mission reached Jupiter. Now we can look forward to new discoveries about this giant of our solar system. When I was in third grade, my father brought the family telescope to school for an evening event where we all had the opportunity to see Jupiter, and some of its moons, through the eyepiece. A home-built six-inch reflector telescope is enough to see what Galileo so famously observed: a tiny dot of light with a few even tinier dots nearby. Those tiny dots were a few of Jupiter's moons. It was about that time that the Voyager probes began to deliver spectacular much-closer-up images of the outer planets and their satellites. And, of course, all the books about the planets became woefully out of date. So get ready, publishers. We're looking forward to updating the books about our outer solar system with new and up to date materials!



Emma Dodd's picture books are among my favorite to read with my kids. My latest favorite is, Happy, the story of a Mama Owl and her happiness with her babies. The beautiful illustrations with occasional metallic accents always grab our attention. The rhyming, joyful text comforts us when we're grumpy because it's almost time for bed. The sweet, but not achingly sweet, storyline brings us closer together as we read. I know my children will cherish these titles when they leave my house and I'm grateful we get to share them while they are young. For a complete list of Emma Dodd's titles, check out our catalog.

Bear and Hare - Two Good Friends Off On Another Gentle Adventure

Author and illustrator Emily Gravett has written another book featuring that likeable pair, Bear and Hare.

In Bear & Hare: Where’s Bear?, the duo play hide and seek and unfortunately it’s Bear’s turn to hide. After counting to ten, Hare has no problem finding Bear as he attempts to conceal himself in places that are far from obscure. Bear is just too large!

Then it’s Hare’s turn to hide while Bear counts to ten. Bear has a much more difficult time finding Hare. He looks in the teapot, under the rug, and under the blanket. Bear gives up and decides that a quick nap is in order. He curls up under the blanket, while Hare, comes out the other end. Now Hare is once again looking for his friend Bear. Finally, after checking all of Bear’s previously ineffective hiding spots, Hare states loudly “I WANT BEAR!” Bear comes out from underneath his blanket and they reunite with a big hug. There! They’re back together once more, and all is well with the world!

A sweet and endearing story which is sure to please any preschool child. Wonderful whimsy!