Picture Book Month

Did you know that November has been declared Picture Book Month? This is great news here in the Children’s Room because we love picture books of all types. Here are a few of my personal favorites—feel free to chime in with yours!

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina: A peddler walks down the road with hits caps piled on top of his head. When he stops to take a nap, a bunch of monkeys steal the cap and the peddler has to get them back. This is an older book, but it was one of my family’s favorites growing up and it’s a fun read-aloud since you can act out the part of the peddler and the monkeys. With colorful illustrations and lots of detail for children to find, this is a great classic.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey: Speaking of classics, you don’t get much better than the story of Sal and her mother who go picking blueberries on a hill. But on the other side is a mother bear and her baby. When a mix-up occurs, it’s quite a shock for everyone! The illustrations for this story are really funny and there are lots of sound effects for the kids to echo.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: All right, one more classic. I grew up on the story of Alice, the Lupine Lady, who wants to go to faraway places, to live by the sea, and to make the world more beautiful. When she has worked in a library, traveled the world, and settled by the sea, she goes around scattering lupine seeds so that the ground is covered with blue and purple and rose-colored flowers. Without being preachy, this story has a great message.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen: When Annabelle finds a box filled with yarn of every color, she begins knitting with it. She has some extra yarn, so she keeps knitting. And then she covers her cold little town in yarn of every color. I love the deceptively simple illustrations and the slightly humorous tone of the story that at the same time inspires me to make the world a more beautiful place.

Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett and Dan Santat: “Oh no…Oh man…I knew it. I never should have built a robot for the science fair.” So says our narrator at the beginning of the book. Then she has to deal with the fact that her giant science fair robot has gotten out and is busy destroying the world. Her solution is creative…maybe a bit TOO creative!

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen: Fair warning—don’t read this book with those who are especially tender-hearted when it comes to animals. However, for those of us who are a little more thick-skinned, this story of a bear who has lost his hat is absolutely hilarious. There are wonderful little jokes between the story and the pictures

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems: Okay, basically, I love anything by Mo Willems. But lots of people know about the Pigeon books and Knuffle Bunny. Leonardo, the Terrible monster is also delightful and not so well known. Leonardo is a terrible monster. He can’t scare anyone. He doesn’t have scary teeth, he’s not big, or just plain weird. Then he decides to find the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world and scare the tuna salad out of them. As usual, Willems’ illustrations are fun, with lots of expression on the different characters.

Flotsam by David Wiesner: A wordless picture book. At the beginning, a boy finds a camera washed up on a beach. When he looks at the film, he discovers a magical underwater world of mechanical fish, cozy living rooms where octopuses read to their young, and mermaids wave to squid. An enchanting book for the imaginative reader, with always a little more to find in each picture.

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham: A little vampire dreams of becoming a ballerina, but it’s not easy when you have cold feet, or when your smile scares the other dances, or when you’re liable to turn into a bat when embarrassed. This is such a cute book, full of funny little details and a heartwarming story. Great for the ballet enthusiast at any time of the year.


Rachel’s Banned Book of Choice

A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery Medal in 1963. It is a book filled with magic, mystery, and adventure, but the very core of it is the simple quest of a girl wanting nothing more than to find her father- a scientist who disappears after working on a mysterious project involving a wormhole technology (tesseract).

Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin travel to the planet Uriel. On this planet everything is good. While there, they discover, among other things, that the Universe is being attacked by a monster called the Black Thing. The Black Thing captured Meg’s father and took him to the planet Camazotz, which is dominated by a disembodied brain called IT. As Meg and her companions travel the universe she struggles with herself and her fears to a culmination packed with excitement.

Doesn’t sound like such a bad book, does it? Despite the elements of loyalty, friendship, love, and honor it has been suspect of satanic implications due to the use of magic and witchcraft and endorsing ‘New Age’ religions thanks to crystal balls, telepathy, and mystical elements in the story. Despite this, A Wrinkle in Time is still standing as a classic, groundbreaking work within fantasy and science fiction genres and an empowering book for young readers.


Theresa’s Banned Book of Choice


The book that comes to mind during Banned Books Week is Gone with the Wind.  I have read it several times and find that I can’t believe someone could possibly write a book this good.   However, as with most classics there is criticism.  In several articles that I have read about this book it is because of the terminology and the way certain people are perceived in the book.  Books can’t jump off the shelf and make you read them.  You can pick them up, read them or leave them on the shelf unopened.  The only time a book has any strength is when the reader reads the book and then forms their own opinion.  Writing a book takes a certain amount of creativity and hard work to get to the point where it makes sense and captures what the author is trying to articulate.  I have never attempted to write a book, but I would assume it is a very hard, but passionate thing to do.  Here is what is written about the book from the website along with other banned books, www.bannedbooksweek.org/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica.

Banned Books That Shaped America 

 Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

The Pulitzer-prize winning novel (which three years after its publication became an Academy-Award Winning film) follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Critically praised for its thought-provoking and realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the South, it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons. Its realism has come under fire, specifically its realistic portrayal – though at times perhaps tending toward optimistic — of slavery and use of the words “nigger” and “darkies.”

So really what we are talking about is the freedom to read what we want and to have our own opinions about what we read.


Banned Books Week 2012

Banned Books Week is Sunday, September 30 – Saturday, October 6, 2012. 

Books are banned for all sorts of reasons. Should people be able to ban books, or should everyone have the freedom to choose what they want to read?

Your library supports your freedom to read. Check out this video, by many of your favorite library staff members:

What’s your favorite banned book? Why was it banned, and what is it your favorite?

A Game of Thrones

What’s a fan of George R.R. Martin to do? Season Two of HBO’s acclaimed miniseries A Game of Thrones has just finished up and only God knows when Book Six (tentatively titled The Winds of Winter) in A Song of Ice and Fire saga will be published. May I suggest that fans of George R.R. Martin’s medieval fantasy try out A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Companion Cookbook newly available at the library.

The cookbook is the product of the immense Internet fandom inspired by Martin’s works. Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer’s curiosity led the duo to a start a blog documenting their attempts at cooking up some of the dishes mentioned in the stories. They still maintain that blog – innatthecrossroads.com  – which includes additonal recipes and commentary not featured in the book.

But what if you haven’t read the Fire and Ice books or seen the miniseries? The Library has those too! There is little I can add to the lauds already heaped on Martin and his Locus Award winning series. It’s a riveting story well told. And don’t let the “fantasy” label scare you away. There are some fantasy elements to be sure –  dragons, a bit of magic, etc. But these stories are primarily focused on complex characters who struggle with competing loyalties, ambitions for power, greed, lust, and honor. Martin’s eye for detail brings to life everything from the byzantine machinations of the Seven Kingdoms politics to the sumptuous heraldry and feasting of the noble families. A Song of Ice and Fire is a highly entertaining, suspenseful series. 

Whether you’re looking to cook up some Honey-Spiced Locusts to poison a queen, recreate King Joffrey’s 77 course wedding feast, or simply whip up a delicious meal to enjoy while you re-watch A Game of Thrones, A Feast of Ice and Fire will delight fans and risk-taking cooks alike.


Be the First to Know!

A Checklist for Identifying the First-To-Know Syndrome:
 Check all that apply.

__YES __NO  1. Do you envy those who just seem to know when the latest and greatest books first come out?
__YES __NO  2. Do you look forward to each Tuesday, hoping to be the first to nab the latest DVD releases?
__YES __NO  3. Do you find yourself hunting for something to read with little time to browse?
__YES __NO  4. Do you wish you were first in line for that new Jodi Picoult/James Patterson/Sandra Brown book?
__YES __NO  5. Do you have a hard time keeping up with the newest movie, music, and book releases? 

If you checked ‘YES’ to one or more of the above symptoms, there is a high possibility that you have what is known as First-To-Know Syndrome. First-To-Know Syndrome typically affects consumers of media (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.) who enjoy anywhere from 1 book/CD/DVD per year to 5 or more per day. Symptoms can affect anyone of any age. The Syndrome, if untreated, can persist for weeks.

But wait! The Plainfield Library has a cure for that!

Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library now provides you with access to all the library’s latest purchases so you can be the first to know! You can be first-to-know in any of these ways:

  1. Stop by the library’s homepage www.plainfieldlibrary.net, and scroll down until you see the New Book Alerts logo (pictured above). Click it and browse to see the latest new stuff!
  2. Bookmark this address on your personal computer. Check it out occasionally when you have time!
  3. Visit this website, then enter your email address into the ‘Subscribe’ box near the top right of the screen. You’ll receive a periodic email newsletter with our latest releases!


Maureen Loves ALA Book Awards!

On January 23rd, the ALA awards, including the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz were announced. Because I care a bit too much, I watched the live webcast from Dallas. It was pretty neat to see the reaction from the people in the audience, and all the book lovers watching and tweeting.

Shamefully, I hadn’t and haven’t read the Newbery winner or either of the Honor books. But I have read four of the five Printz books.

What won:
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whalley

Honor books:
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
The Returning by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Full disclosure: I may have screamed a little bit when The Returning and The Scorpio Races were announced. Both were among my favorite books of 2011 and I was totally on board with their Honors.

I hadn’t read Where Things Come Back at the time of the announcement, but I have now. It’s a strong book, well-written and interesting. At the same time, I feel like it has stereotypical Printz winner written all over it. It’s contemporary realistic fiction, with a self-aware male narrator and a plot that hints at bad things happening but ultimately resolves tidily.

More disclosure: I’m a huge fantasy fan and I think it’s a shame that the Printz award has never gone to a science fiction or fantasy book. You can make a case for last year’s Ship Breaker being science fiction, but I don’t tend to think of it in that category. (It’s still a fantastic book.) At any rate, here are a few of the books I think could have been Printz contenders, which ultimately weren’t honored. And either The Returning or The Scorpio Races could have easily won, in my opinion.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: Billingsley is a sadly under-rated author in my opinion. Chime, her second book, features a strong narrator, a mystery, and the intriguing first line, “I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.” Briony’s narration might put some readers off a bit, but I found it extremely compelling.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: This one has been hugely popular since it was published, with good reason. Taylor’s writing is effortless and beautiful, and the depiction of Karou’s two worlds is amazing. However, it probably suffered from the fact that it was very obviously the first in a series, rather than a stand-alone.

Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Johnson has been pretty much a contemporary realistic writer until Name of the Star, which takes a turn for the paranormal. It’s fairly light-hearted, despite the subject matter, but the mystery is wonderfully plotted and the characters are a lot of fun.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young: A gritty dystopia, more along the lines of Patrick Ness’s Knife of Never Letting Go than, say, Divergent or Matched. As with Chime, Blood Red Road features a narration style that not all readers will enjoy. But Saba is a fantastic main character, prickly and tender at the same time.

As I made up this list, I noticed that all of these books have a common thread. They’re mostly first person (Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the exception), by female authors and with female narrators. They’re all some brand of fantasy. So clearly, I have my own biases when it comes to YA books. Still, I think that choosing a book outside the comfortable stereotypes of the Printz award would open up the medal to a new audience.

Agree? Disagree? Have a book you think should have been awarded or honored? Tell us in the comments!