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.


Looking for Alaska

Happy Banned Books Week!

One challenged title that’s near and dear to my heart is Looking for Alaska by John Green. Alaska follows Miles Halter as he starts his junior year at Culver Creek Preparatory School. For the first time Miles has friends, and life after meeting The Colonel, Alaska, and Takumi will never be the same. I Love this book. Love with a capital L.

In 2008, the book was challenged by community members near Buffalo, New York who were upset that the book was on an 11th grade reading list at Depew High School. John Green took to his popular vlog, that he runs with his brother Hank, to address the controversy.   

Fortunately, The Depew School Board voted unanimously to keep Looking for Alaska in the curriculum. Yay for intellectual freedom!

If you’d like to read Looking for Alaska, or any of John Green’s books (seriously, you should!), you can find them in the teen section of the library.

John Green with me and the library’s teen group, TLAB


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.


Tim’s Top 10 Banned Books

Banned Books Week: 9/30 through 10/6

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week across the country. Libraries, Bookstores, Journalists, and Book Lovers all join together to celebrate the freedom to read whatever you want! Did you know that there have been over 10,000 challenges to books since 1990? On average, that’s about 500 challenges a year to books in libraries and schools! Surprisingly, the Harry Potter series has been near the top of the list of the most challenged books in the country since it was released.

Books can be challenged for many reasons, including sexual content, offensive language, violence, or occult themes (what Harry Potter is normally accused of). Librarians feel that open access to books and knowledge is an integral part of any open society. You may not agree with the message or the content of a book, but that does not mean the book should be banned. We all have the freedom to read what we want, but we also have the freedom to NOT read what we don’t agree with or what doesn’t appeal to our taste.

Here are my Top 10 favorite Banned Books:

10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
9. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
6. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
5. 1984 by George Orwell
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

All of these books have been challenged over the past twenty years in this country. As you can see, any book can be challenged at any point, whether it is a classic or even a famous children’s title. Any reading list without Banned Books is not only missing out on some great literature, but is missing out on the opportunity to understand the different cultures, people, and the world around us. Celebrate the freedom to read this week and pick up your favorite Banned Book or try a new one from my list.

We want to know what your favorite Banned Books are! Leave a comment below.


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?

Apocalyptic Books

There’s nothing like the End. Pestilence. Famine. War. Rumors of the war. I love a good apocalypse story (this is probably a character defect) and fortunately, the Library indulges my curiosity. Here are some good reads along those lines.

Chalcot Crescent by Fay Weldon

Set in present day London, Weldon’s novel is an interesting look into family dynamics set against a backdrop of economic collapse and a rising fascist government.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

This non-fiction work asks the question: what would happen to the planet – to our cities, homes, pets, the built and natural environments – if humans suddenly disappeared. Weisman explores geology, climate, evolution and other disciplines for a fascinating glimpse into the world without us.

World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

Both of these novels by acclaimed social critic and peak-oil proponent James Howard Kunstler are set in a small upstate New York town. The residents of Union Grove learn to thrive when they are suddenly forced to live without gasoline, cars and the other modern comforts of suburbia. His novels are a bit didactic at times, which leads me to also suggest that you read Kunster’s non-fiction, especially The Geography of Nowhere (where the didacticism is more appropriate).

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

In The Road, Cormac McCarthy, with his standard magnificent prose, offers a chilling vision of humanity’s worst impulses and basest behaviors as a father and son struggle to survive the aftermath of a massive nuclear disaster. Makes for a terrifying and compelling read.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

One of my favorite books, Walter Miller’s one-hit-wonder chronicles events within the monastic community called the Albertian Order of Leibowitz located in the desert of (what was once) New Mexico. Comprised of three parts, this classic work of science fiction explores issues of violence, identity, power, epistemology, and religious belief.

I Love Libraries

I love libraries. 

I have always loved libraries and have spent most of my like in them. My earliest recollection of libraries was in elementary school where I read every biography in the Childhood of Famous Americans series. In junior high I spent my lunch time in the school library and my Saturday afternoons at the city library. In college my husband and I often courted at the library. I was a junior in college when I took a children’s literature course and got an A in it. I had planned to teach social studies, but my college counselor suggested I also get a library science minor. When I graduated from college and started looking for a job the first school system I called hired me as a librarian and I have been one for 47 years. I have never lost my love for libraries. I enjoy helping customers find new authors or answers to questions.

Libraries are my life and it has been a happy one.  


*Check out life-long reader Jo’s quarterly selection of new titles.

Children’s Books for Adults

Jan recently wrote about classic children’s tales and reading to your kids. While I totally agree with her about story time with children should be non-ironic, I personally love children’s picture books that have hidden adult meanings, or children’s-style picture books written for adults. Here are some of my favorites; parental guidance is suggested!

The Amphigorey Series by Edward Gorey. These books are filled with fabulous black and white ink illustrations and dark humor at its finest. This will sound crazy if you don’t know anything about these books, but if you are a fan of morbid humor and the alphabet, you will be trying to buy these with your rent money after reading them.

Go the F* to Sleep by Adam Mansbach. Yes, here it is. The f-bomb in all its glory, I know. However, if you have children, you will most definitely identify with this story. Told from a father’s point of view, this lovely book is a rhyming plea for his child to just go to bed already. Just don’t read this when your kids are taking a nap…your laughter will surely wake them up.

It’s a Book! by Lane Smith. In a world of computers, smart phones, Bluetooth, iPads, and Skype, where do books fit in? I think they fit in quite well, if your brain isn’t too fried to read one. This book is okay for kids, if they are old enough to understand the humor at the end.

All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen. Aw, so sad! All Dinosaur’s friends are dead. All the pirate’s friends have scurvy. This is a book about the downside of being anything, which is funny and sad all wrapped up in a cute 96 page picture book.

Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown.  A very cute picture book written for kids, but is such a good one, I couldn’t resist it. Lucy the bear finds a boy in the woods and takes him home. Mama bear warns her that “Children make terrible pets.” The pictures are fabulous and the story hilarious. I honestly wish I could see a bear with a kid as a pet.

Dick and Jane and Vampires by Laura Marchesani. Written and illustrated in the style of Dick and Jane, this book includes (gasp) a Vampire!  Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending. Spoiler alert: you will also see Spot run.

Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd. A clever parody of Goodnight Moon, this book takes a peek at all the electronics in our everyday lives. Brightly illustrated and full of pop-culture references, it’s a fun, two minute read.

These are all humorous books that will lighten up any bookshelf in the house…just make sure that they’re out of the kids’ reach!


Maureen’s Favorite Books From 2012… So Far

Since we’re already over halfway through 2012 (and HOW did that happen?), I thought I’d talk a little bit about the books I’ve enjoyed so far this year.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: I find it difficult to talk rationally about this book, because I love it so much. It’s not necessarily for everyone, but it’s amazing. It begins with the narrative of a young British woman captured by the Gestapo during World War II. I can’t tell you anything else, or I’ll spoil it, but it’s all about friendship and trust and bravery. If you manage to get through it without needing tissues, I’ll be highly surprised. (For a lot more about this book, see here: http://bysinginglight.wordpress.com/tag/code-name-verity/)

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan: If you’ve ever thought that vampire stories are cool in theory, but not so much in real life, this might be the book for you! This hilarious and slightly snarky book explores what might happen if a vampire actually attended high school. But it also unexpectedly moving, as our narrator has to face her own prejudices when her best friend falls in love with the vampire.

The Book of Blood & Shadow by Robin Wasserman: a YA thriller, complete with secret societies and international travel. The teenage angst is the icing on the cake. Actually, though, this is a great quick read and has enough heart (and smarts) to keep it from feeling too fluffy. Recommended for anyone who enjoys a heart-pounding read.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. The writing is pitch perfect from the beginning and I loved the setting, with its cosmopolitan feel and different groups interacting. It also manages to feel both fresh and comfortingly old-fashioned. It’s a book I would have absolutely adored as a teenager and liked a lot now. Plus, DRAGONS!

So far 2012 has been a great year for books—hopefully that trend will continue!