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Staff Picks: Books


Author and Illustrator Emily Gravett has done it again! In "Tidy", she introduces us to Pete the Badger, who happens to be a cleanaholic. Pete was born to clean, scour, tidy up anything and everything; a daunting task if one lives in a forest. No tidying challenge is too big for Pete and he soon gets carried away resulting in a disaster for the forest and its inhabitants.

Luckily, Pete and his friends set things right and Pete learns a valuable life  lesson. Too much of a good thing may not be good after all!

This rhyming book is pure fun and the illustrations are delightful. It also effectively delivers a subtle message about preserving the environment. After all, as the saying goes "you don't know what you've got 'till its gone".

Real Sisters Pretend

Real Sisters Pretend is a simple and moving picture book about two sisters who, while pretending that they are princesses on a hike, talk about how they are not pretend sisters. Real Sisters Pretend is in Kalamazoo Public Library's Grow neighborhood of picture books. The grow neighborhood has picture books about adoption, new baby, bereavement, divorce, first day of school, and more. Sisters Mia, a preschooler, and Tayja, school-aged, reckon with the comments of a lady at the grocery store the day before. The lady had asked them, "Are you real sisters?" and how Momma said "Of course they are." Even though Momma explained to them that the lady didn't understand about adoption, the story is about how the girls talk through their experience through play. While there is a message to this book, I don't think it's heavy handed. Rather, here is a lovely picture book that focuses on the close relationship between two sisters. 

Beach House

Short rhyming phrases tell the story of a family’s trip from city home to beach house vacation: “Breathe salt air / squint at the sun. Hot-foot hopping / Squeal and run.”   The spare couplets are expanded upon in the glorious watercolor illustrations of water and sunshine and kids and dogs and sand and toys and hot dogs and kites and clams.  Beach House is a lovely summertime book!


Bogo, the fox who wanted everything.

As much as I try to not to, I cannot help but fall in love with a story based on the illustrations.  Sonja Wimmer's artwork in this picture book is amazing; the beautiful colors and details on each page really enhance the story. Bogo is a fox who wants to be special, like all his friends in the forest.  He tries to re-invent himself so he can fly like a bird, see like an owl, jump like a frog, and swim like a fish. After several failed attempts, he eventually realizes that he is not only special but unique in his own way. This is a wonderful picture book that sends an important message about being who you are and looking for that something special within.

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.