Friday, December 29, 2017

My Favorite Reads In 2017, Part 3: Picture Books

Here is the final installment of my "favorite books" list for the past year: picture books. 

Unfortunately, I'm sure I missed a number of good picture books this year, because I am out of the building most of the time now doing outreach, so I often don't get a chance to look through the new books as they come in. There are also probably some I saw, but didn't get a chance to use in storytime, so forgot about. So if you know of some great ones I missed, please leave me a comment! 

Again, most of these came out in late 2016 or 2017, but there are a couple that I only discovered this year that are a little older. Most of these make good storytime books for either preschool or K-2nd grade, with one exception.

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown (2017) is definitely my favorite picture book of the year. While mentioning underwear in storytime always guarantees laughs and snickers, the humor in this book is actually very clever, and the illustrations do a fantastic job of conveying a really spooky mood.

My daughter had a similar experience with a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt freaking her out in the middle of the night, so I especially appreciated this story. I bought a copy that was already signed by Peter Brown, and I'm hoping to get Aaron Reynolds to sign it at a conference in the spring.

Cookiesaurus Rex by Amy Fellner Dominy, Nate Evans, and AG Ford (2017) is a very, very close second favorite. Again, very clever humor that was not as predictable as kids' books often are, and I literally laughed out loud as I read it the first time. 

The dinosaur cookie is being very bossy and demanding about how he thinks he should be decorated, and the baker decides to teach him a lesson. The artwork is very impressive and is the perfect combination of realism and cartooning, and I love the before and after pictures of the kitchen in the endpapers. So cute and clever!

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt (of The Day the Crayons Quit fame) and Adam Rex (2017) is obviously based on the childhood game for deciding who gets their way, and shows Rock, Paper, and Scissors battling it out. The illustrations are fabulous, and the text truly conveys the mood; you can just hear it said in the style of a WWE announcer.

My favorite line is where one of them (I think it was Rock) tells Apricot he looks like a fuzzy butt 😂. I have not had a chance to use this in storytime as I only do preschool storytime, and this would be better for school-aged kids who know what "Rock-Paper-Scissors" is and can get the humor.

Read the Book, Lemmings! by Amy Dyckman and Zachariah OHora (2017) is another book that made me laugh, and I'm a fan of OHora's work. First Mate Foxy (of the S.S. Cliff) is is reading a book about lemmings, which says they don't actually jump off cliffs. But, every time he says the word "jump" his three lemming deck hands do just that! After having to repeatedly rescue them, he tells them to "Read the book!".

This is a purely silly, fun book, but would be great to pair with a non-fiction book to talk more about lemmings, an animal most kids probably aren't familiar with, and also an opportunity to talk about thinking before you do something. I haven't used it in storytime yet, but I'm hoping to soon.

Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins (2017) is a GREAT book for preschool storytime! First of all, this illustration style with brightly colored, simple pictures with heavy black outlines is perfect for this age. But, not only does the book show several different kinds of birds, it is very interactive and gives the kids a chance to imitate their sounds and movements.

They get to say "cock-a-doodle-doo", flap their wings, stand on one leg, waddle, and more. This is a must-have for a bird-themed storytime, and great for a movement program as well.

Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher and Mark Fearing (2016) is a great storytime book! I'm always on the lookout for books that help promote the library and reading that I can use in my outreach storytimes, and this is perfect! A very fun read.

A chicken joins storytime one day, then brings more chickens the next week, and even more friends the following week, which causes storytime to be in chaos. What's a harried librarian to do? The kids love discussing whether they would like to have chickens join our storytime (about 50-50), and whether they think their teachers would like chickens to join their class (a definite "No").

I have Jbrary to thank for bringing Still A Gorilla by Kim Norman and Chad Geran (2016) to my attention. Willy the Gorilla wants to be something else, and tries to become other animals by attempting to look and act like them, but he is "Still a gorilla!"

This book is simple enough for 2-3 year olds, but still funny and interactive enough for the 4-5 year olds. The kids can join Willy in trying to imitate other animals, and delight in telling him he is "Still a gorilla!" They really find Willy's attempts to be other animals quite hilarious.

The Not So Quiet Library by Zacharah OHora (2016) is another book that promotes reading and going to the library that works well in storytime. Oskar and Theodore go to the library every Saturday with their father. But this time, a many-headed monster invades the library, and is eating all the books! Can they convince the monster that books are for reading, not eating?

I like how this book shows going to the library as a regular family activity, and it has just the right amount of humor and drama to keep the kids very engaged. I love seeing how horrified they are at the mistreatment of the books by the monster. This was the favorite book from my library-themed storytime.

If You're A Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter (2015) is a fun pop-up book based on "If You're Happy and You Know It" that is very interactive as it is meant to be sung and acted out. It will have you stomping feet, clapping hands, shooting laser beams out of your eyes, among others.

The kids absolutely loved this book in storytime, and wanted to do it 2 or 3 times. David A. Carter also did one with animals doing the original song called If You're Happy and You Know It much earlier that the kids also really like, if you can find a copy still in good shape.

I was thrilled to discover Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky (2014) earlier this year, because it is so hard to find books that cover basic concepts that really have a story and are engaging for the kids, and this was just the addition I needed to my shapes unit.

This starts out as a simple, straightforward book about shapes, showing everyday objects to illustrate various shapes, until Moose decides to insert himself into the story, and hijinks and chaos ensue. The kids find this very funny and really enjoy it. This was preceded by an alphabet book called Z is for Moose.

So I actually first discovered Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell (2014) last year, but I'm including it because I love it so much, and it is still one of my absolute favorite books to do in storytime because the kids have so much fun with it.

The first page explains we are going to count the monkeys, so be ready as soon as we turn the page....but then, we find a cobra has scared all the monkeys away! Each page has more unexpected characters, and by the end we realize we never did get to count any monkeys, how sad. But wait, some observant child is sure to spot the monkeys on the endpapers as you close the book! It is very interactive as there is not only counting involved, but each spread prompts some type of action, including voting on whether the plural of "mongoose" is "mongooses" or "mongeese". So much silly fun!

This last one is the exception, in that it is not really a book I would use for storytime, though I could see it used with school-aged kids. A Poem for Peter by Angela Davis Pinkney (2016) is a tribute to Ezra Jack Keats and his book A Snowy Day, and tells the story of Keats' life and how the character of Peter and A Snowy Day came to be in a beautiful, lyrical free verse. The illustrations are taken from Keats' original artwork.

I'm really not a poetry person, but I loved this book so much and found it to be so beautiful I ordered my own personal copy immediately after finishing it, and the page with Peter holding hands with Keats actually made me tear up a little. If you are a fan of Keats' work, particularly A Snowy Day, this is a must-read! 💗

Please let me know about all the great picture books (especially storytime books) I missed this year in the comments!

And in case you missed them in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I also put together lists of my favorite books for middle-grade through teen (plus a couple of adult) from the past year:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Favorite Reads In 2017, Part 2: Middle-Grade and Tweens

Now for the second part in my series of favorite books I read during the past year, books geared for the middle-grade and tween audiences. 

Again, this is not meant to be a comprehensive "best of 2017" list by any means; these are just my favorites out of the books I had a chance to read this year. I'll give a short description, with links to any full reviews I may have written. Most were published in 2017, but there are one or two older ones, and an ARC for a March 2018 release I just read.
Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher (2017) is a story about overcoming obstacles, friendship and camaraderie. Seventh-grader Joseph is not your typical athlete. He is small, skinny, and weak, and he also has ADHD, sensory issues, and anxiety. But, somehow his teacher convinces him to join the cross-country team she coaches. He soon finds himself making friends, getting stronger both mentally and physically, and learning to stand up for himself.

I loved, loved, loved this book, and highly recommend it for all middle-schoolers. It is really a great story with a strong, positive message, and truly captures that special camaraderie among runners. This book is very inspiring and empowering, but I really liked that it had a very realistic ending, encouraging kids to set achievable goals and work towards them. I can't say enough about this book! (Realistic fiction, sports-themed)

All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (2017) is all about the angst of trying to fit in during those awkward tween years. Remember how difficult middle school can be? Imagine how scary it would be for someone who had been homeschooled up until then. Then, on top of that, you come from a very unconventional family and lifestyle. That's how it is for Imogene, whose family is part of the local Renaissance Faire and is starting public school for the first time.

I am not really a graphic novel person, but I loved this one! I could readily identify with Imogene's struggles with fitting in, not having the "right" kind of shoes and clothes, and feeling like an outsider. I loved Jamieson's first book, Roller Girl, but this one is even better! I highly recommend it. (Graphic novel, tween angst)

Amina's Voice by Hena Kahn (2107) tells the story of Amina, the child of Pakistani immigrants, who loves to sing but is too shy to perform, and is dealing with all the changes that middle school brings. Her best friend Soojin is thinking of changing her name to something more "American" and has suddenly started acting chummy with their former "enemy". She also has to adjust to her much more conservative uncle visiting from Pakistan, and their community mosque being vandalized.

This is a great story that shows the plurality of the Muslim religion, and how people from various religions and cultures can be friends and pull together to support each other as a community. I also like that for once immigrant parents are not portrayed as being too "old world" and restrictive or close-minded, and there is no conflict between Amina and her parents. I highly recommend! (Realistic fiction, multicultural, community)

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (2017) 

"When I was a baby, someone tucked me into an old boat and pushed me out to sea. I washed up on a tiny island, like a seed riding the tide. It was Osh who found me and took me in...."  And so Crow begins her story of growing up on an isolated island off the coast of Massachusetts after being abandoned as a baby, culminating in finally discovering her history and her inheritance.

This is a wonderful story that explores the meaning of love and family, but also includes a fair share of mystery, adventure, and pirate's treasure, told in a poetic 1st person narrative from the author of Newbery honor book, Wolf Hollow. Unlike the bleak ending of Wolf Hollow, this is a much lighter coming-of-age story, full of hope and adventure, and I enjoyed it so much more! This story has a little bit of something for everyone! (Historical fiction, mystery, adventure, non-traditional family)

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2017) is the sequel to Newbery honor book The War That Saved My Life, which told the story of how the evacuation of children from London during WWII rescued Ada and her younger brother from their abusive mother. I was a little afraid to read the sequel, as they so often fail to live up to the first book, but this one did not disappoint at all! If you loved the first, you'll want to read the second.

In this story, Ada has had surgery to correct her clubbed foot and can now walk and even run, and she and Jamie have been adopted by their guardian, Susan. Ada continues to struggle with her complicated feelings about her mother, and to learn to love and accept love. We also see more about how the horrors of the war affect their community, and how fear gives rise to unfounded suspicion and prejudices. (Historical fiction, WWII, recovering from abuse, prejudice).

Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas (2017) caught my attention immediately because of the title. Having read all the "Little House" books as a child, and again to my own child, I was intrigued. It turned out to be the story of Charlotte, whose loving-but-flaky-and-self-centered mother has once again uprooted the family on a whim, this time to Walnut Grove, believing the spirit of Laura will inspire her writing. When Charlotte's twin brother makes new friends, she feels abandoned, betrayed, and angry at everyone, especially Laura Ingalls!

This is a great story filled with typical tween angst of fitting in, sibling relationships, and feeling helpless, with the extra drama of being accused of a crime she didn't commit. There is enough drama to make it interesting without being dark or trite, and I really empathized with Charlotte. (Realistic fiction, tween angst, unconventional childhood, starting over)

My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson (2017) is the fictitious memoir of 13-year old Lora, a volunteer in Fidel Castro's massive literacy campaign following the Cuban revolution. Follow Lora as she travels to the countryside and spends several months living with a rural family and teaching them to read, at great personal risk.

I found this to be a very interesting and enjoyable read. Since historical fiction does not do very well with the kids in my community, I would play up the revolution and adventure aspects of the story, but I personally liked the historical aspect. This would appeal particularly to those readers interested in social causes, mission trips, volunteering, and teaching. (Historical fiction, adventure, literacy)

Tucket's Travels by Gary Paulsen (2007) is actually a fairly old series of five separate books published between 1995 and 2002, then later published together in this single volume. The first book tells the story of 14-year old Francis Tucket, who became separated from his family's wagon train as they traveled the Oregon trail in 1847, and the rest of the series follows his adventures over the next two years as he tries to reunite with his family.

I normally wouldn't include something this old in such a list, but I bought it for my nephew and was surprised by how much I really enjoyed it! Paulsen also includes notes at the end giving more historical context and dispelling myths about the Old West and Native Americans perpetuated by the television and film industries. (Historical fiction, Western, adventure)

Now I'll do a complete 180 and go from something old, to something that is so new, it hasn't been released yet! I received this book as a digital ARC about a month ago, and finally got a chance to read it, and I was so glad I did! This book is amazing, and is something we need more of, a well-written children's book with diverse characters, written by a new author who is a POC, with a great story and positive message.

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (March 13, 2018) is set in 1983, in the housing projects of Newark, NJ. Vanessa Williams has just been crowned the first black Miss America, prompting 13-year old Vanessa Martin to dare to dream of being in the Miss America pageant herself one day.

The main theme of this book is being comfortable in your own skin and appreciating your natural inner and outer beauty, and will prompt readers to reconsider their own definitions of beauty. Other serious issues facing Nessy's family are addressed as well, such as gang violence, addiction, poverty, dysfunctional families, intolerance, and fear, but in an age appropriate way, and the overall tone is inspiring and hopeful.

I LOVE this book, and strongly recommend you put it on your "to read" list and hope it gets the attention it deserves and finds its way onto many library shelves. It reminds me very much of Rita Williams-Garcia's Gaither sisters series, which I loved, and Rita even supplied a quote for the cover. I could see it as a CSK award finalist, IF it can get noticed by the right people; it is definitely as good as previous winners, in my opinion. (Realistic fiction, multicultural, self-acceptance)

So, there you have it. Please be sure to mention any really great middle-grade to tween books that you read this year in the comments!

Stay tuned for my favorite picture books from this year, and don't forget to check out last week's post for my favorite teen and adult reads from 2017!

Friday, December 22, 2017

My Favorite Reads In 2017, Part 1: Teen & Adult

I thought it might be fun to put together a list of my personal favorites from this year. Now keep in mind, I have a very limited amount of time to read and a broad age-range of literature to try to keep up with, so this is not meant to be a comprehensive list by any means. Some of these were suggested to me, some were assigned for class, and some I just chose to read because they looked interesting.

These are all books that I actually read, from beginning to end. Most were published in 2017 or the latter part of 2016, though a couple are older and one that I received as an ARC won't be out until January. This post will cover teen and adult; I'll cover middle-grade and picture books in the following posts. I'll include a short blurb for each, and link the title to any full reviews I may have written.

Be sure to leave me a comment about great books I missed!

Teen Books
Love Hate & Other Filters is a debut novel by Samira Ahmed that won't actually be out until next month (Jan. 16, 2018), but I was fortunate to receive an ARC via NetGalley. Keep an eye out for this one! I thought it was really good and tackles not only timely issues like Islamophobia and violence, but is also a coming-of-age story dealing with typical teen issues of family, conflicting values and expectations, friendship, and romance. 

Maya is a first generation Indian-American Muslim teenager, who is struggling with her parents' traditional, old-world expectations and her very American desire to be independent and choose her own path in life, which is very different than the one her parents would choose for her. Her dreams of going to film school become further complicated when a nearby bombing sparks an outbreak of violence against Maya's family, causing her parents to become irrationally controlling out of fear. (Diverse characters, realistic fiction)
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe (2017, first published in Spain in 2012) is a fictionalized account of real people and true events during the Holocaust, set mostly in Auschwitz. This is a very powerful and multi-faceted story centered around Dita, a young teenager who is given the responsibility for taking care of the 8 books they have managed to smuggle into the camp. These books are used in the clandestine school they have organized in the camp, under the guise of the simple childcare they are approved to provide.

While many of the events portrayed are shocking and horrifying, the story is not told in a overly emotional way, and we see surprising glimpses of normalcy among the horror, and a determination to maintain dignity and survive as long as possible. Rather than being bleak, depressing, and hopeless, the story is defiant, hopeful, and inspiring. I highly recommend this book for teens and adults, and expect to see it on many reading lists in the next year or two, and possibly a finalist for the Batchelder Award. (Historical fiction)
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (2017) is a lighter read that has some similar themes to Love Hate & Other Filters, but without the violence and hatred. Like Maya, Dimple's parents are more traditional and want her to stay close to home, marry a suitable Indian boy, and have babies, but Dimple has other goals. Unbeknownst to her, they have already tentatively arranged a match and set up a situation for them to meet and get to know one another. However, Rishi is unaware that Dimple has been kept in the dark, which leads to a disastrous first meeting.

Set primarily during an intense residential summer course in web design, Dimple must focus on the design competition and its considerable prize, while feeling very conflicted about her feelings for Rishi. This is a great lighter read that is still interesting and not too superficial. (Realistic Fiction, Romance, Diverse characters)
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bachardoust (2017) has been referred to as a feminist re-telling of Snow White. While fantasy and mysticism usually aren't my thing, I first read an excerpt of this in a preview book from NetGalley and found it very compelling and intriguing, so I requested the ARC, and was not disappointed.

This version of the tale features strong female characters who, while flawed and with human weaknesses, do not need any Prince Charming to rescue them. Mina, the daughter of a magician, represents the evil Queen and Lynet, the daughter of the King, represents Snow White. But their relationship is very different than in the traditional telling, and I think most readers will be very satisfied with the ending. (Fantasy, Mysticism)
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sánchez (2017) is the story of Julia, a Mexican-American teenager who feels that no one understands her and that she will never measure up to the memory of her "perfect" older sister Olga, who was tragically killed in an accident. As Julia tries to work through her feelings of grief over Olga's death and resentment at being constantly compared to her, Julia discovers that Olga wasn't the "perfect Mexican daughter" everyone thought she was.

This story deals with the cultural conflict between immigrant parents and their more independent American-born children, but also with the very serious issues of grief and depression. This is definitely a serious story with a darker tone, but it shows how depression develops and worsens if untreated, but that medication and therapy can help, and hopefully lessons the stigma of mental illness among teens. I think this could appeal to a wide audience, as many people can relate to the struggle with the expectations of others versus what they want for themselves. (Realistic fiction, multicultural, drama, depression & suicidal ideation)

Gabi: A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero (2014) isn't a brand-new book, but I just discovered it this year as part of a multicultural youth literature class (incidentally, the professor was on the committee that selected this book for the Morris award). It has many similarities to I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, but the protagonist has healthier coping mechanisms and does not sink into depression, therefore it is much lighter in tone.

In this story we see all the struggles Gabi and her friends and family go through during her senior year in the form of Gabi's diary. And Gabi has a lot to deal with: body image, a domineering mother who expects her to be a "good Latina girl", a meth-addicted father, a best friend that's pregnant, another that has just come out as gay, and trying to find romance. Gabi copes with it all with humor, food, and discovering her talent for poetry, which leads to some truly beautiful poems within the book.

I highly recommend this book; well-written, authentic, and all teens can find something to relate to. (Realistic fiction, multicultural, drama)

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon (2016) is a teen romance with multicultural characters from last year that I absolutely loved! This not-quite-so-typical tale of star-crossed lovers features two teens who meet by chance on a critical day and have a whirlwind romance while dealing with serious decisions and challenges. Natasha's family illegally immigrated from Jamaica and are facing deportation; Daniel is a dutiful Korean son and plans on doing as his parents expect, going to Yale and becoming a doctor, even though he is an artist at heart.

The conflict is clearly in whether Natasha will manage a last-minute reprieve for her family so she and Daniel can be together, and you are kept guessing and hoping almost to the very end. One thing I REALLY loved about this book is that the ending was left a bit open, but still provided satisfying closure, and tied up all the loose ends and unanswered questions. The take home point I got from this story is that you never know who will end up having a significant impact on your life, or how much of a difference even the smallest act of kindness or consideration can make. (Realistic fiction, multicultural, romance, immigration)

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015) stars a teenage boy who happens to be gay and is a bit hesitant to "come out of the closet" for fear of rocking the boat, but is really about all relationships, those with family, friends, and romantic interests. The main character has good relationships with his parents and siblings, and a strong circle of friends, all of whom he thinks would be okay with his being gay, yet he still hesitates to tell anyone. Until a classmate accidentally sees a e-mail exchange between Simon and his secret pen-pal, and uses it to blackmail him into interceding on his behalf with a romantic interest.

A very touching, funny, and sweet story. Not too sappy or "polyanna", but not too heavy and serious, either. I highly recommend this one, as well. There is some conflict, but it is not super "angst-y". I have a feeling that the upcoming movie based on this book entitled "Love, Simon" is not going to be quite as true to the tone of the book, and will be more sappy, heavy, and greatly exaggerate the conflict and angst. I hope not, as the best part of the book were the solid, healthy relationships Simon had with his family and friends. (Realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) is of course on everyone's list this year, and was chosen as both best YA book and best book by a new author by Goodreads readers, and I'm sure will get more honors at the YMA's. 

This is the story of Starr, a teenager living in the inner city who struggles with a dual identity as she splits her life between her friends and family in the neighborhood, and her more wealthy, predominantly white, suburban friends at the private school she attends. She has already witnessed the death of a childhood friend in a drive-by shooting, then tragically witnesses the shooting death of another friend in a traffic-stop gone bad, which causes her to question everything, and throws her neighborhood into turmoil.

This book is very well-written with wonderful character development (I loved Starr and her family) and is a very engaging story to read, though readers should keep in mind they are only getting one side of the story, albeit a very sympathetic and compelling one, versus the way Kekla Magoon's  How It Went Down shows multiple perspectives of a similar shooting and how they are filtered through each person's own experiences and biases. (Realistic fiction, drama, violence, racism)

Teen/Adult Crossovers & Adult
Unbecoming by Jenny Denham (2016) tells the stories of three generations of women in the same family, each with their own secrets. Mary is struggling to hold on to her memories of her colorful past, and sacrifices that she made that her daughter never understood. Caroline struggles with caring for an elderly parent she barely knows and has always resented, as well as being a single mom to two teenagers, one with special needs. Katie is the peacemaker, trying to mediate between her mother and grandmother while dealing with her confusion about her sexuality and fear of telling her mother.

This is a well-paced, but thoughtful story with multiple story- and time-lines that are very well integrated in a way that is easy to follow and enjoyable to read, not succumbing to the confusion that sometimes arises when this is attempted. 
I think this book could appeal to many people because of the cross-generational content, and each character facing different challenges, making it highly relateable. This is an excellent example of a successful YA-Adult crossover, and would be a great choice for a mother-daughter book club. (Realistic fiction, multi-generational, coming of age, LGTBQ)

The Martian by Andy Weir (2014) is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, part of the first crew to land of Mars, who becomes stranded there when an accident separates him from the rest of the crew when a storm forces them to immediately terminate the mission and leave the surface, mistakenly thinking Mark is dead. Now he must fight for survival.

I loved this book! I read it after seeing the movie, and while the movie did follow the book fairly closely, I really liked all the details the book filled in. If you are not a science person, it might drag on a bit in places with all the detail, but that I was I liked about it. It filled in some of the how's and why's the movie glossed over, and allowed the reader to be be inside the main character's head.

One thing I found very interesting, is that this one of the rare self-publishing success stories. Originally, the author wanted to make it available for free on Amazon, but their policies required a minimum charge of around $1. From there, it eventually got picked up by a big publisher, and made into a blockbuster movie! (Sci-fi adventure)
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (2016) inspired the movie, which actually focused on just one small period of time covered by the book, and took many artistic liberties with both the events and timeline. The book is not just the story of Katherine Johnson, but tells the entire story, starting in WWII when the division of the defense department that would years later evolve into NASA began recruiting women to do all the calculations needed to support engineering.

This book is a little hard to get into at first, probably goes into a little more detail of the early history than necessary, but I think is worth it. It is a very inspiring story, and I found it very fascinating to see how the "Space Race" advanced the Civil Rights movement, a connection I was completely unaware of. There is also an abridged version for younger readers, or those who want the real story (as opposed to the fictionalized movie version) but don't have the time or patience for all the detail. (Non-fiction)

I have to confess these were the only 2 actual adult books I read this year! I have so much I'd like to read, but so little time, so since I work in youth services I do generally focus my reading time on middle-grade and YA fiction, but still only manage to read a small sampling. There is just never enough time!

So, there's my list, for what it's worth! Some I know everyone has heard of by now, but there might be a couple you're not familiar with. What great books did you come across this year that I missed? Tell me in the comments! I want to hear from you, not just the awards committees!

Stay tuned for posts on my favorite middle-grade & tween reads of this year and favorite picture books I read this year....

Friday, December 15, 2017

Flannel Friday Round-Up for 12/15/17

Here is this week's Round-Up! 

Thanks to everyone who contributed! I'll be happy to add any latecomers on Saturday.

Wendy of "Flannel Board Fun" shares her adorable "Three Billy Goats Gruff" flannel set. Flannels are a great way of sharing folk/fairy tails with kids, especially the younger ones, as the books are often very text heavy.

Jessica of "Storytime In The Stacks" shares a great toddler flannel, "Yellow Star, Yellow Star" with a simple, repeating rhyme inspired by Brown Bear, Brown Bear to work on colors. She also suggests some other songs and rhymes that would pair well with it.

Jessica has a second flannel to share that is great for older babies and toddlers, and has three different songs it can be used with. She shows a boat and a duck, but you can use your imagination and add other toys with "Baby In The Tub".

Visit the Flannel Friday Pinterest Board for past Round-Up's and tons of inspiration. For more information about Flannel Friday and how to participate, visit the Flannel Friday Site. This is the last Round-Up of 2017! Round-Up's will resume in January, 2018! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Last Round of Storytimes for the Year

Today I finished up my last round of storytimes for the year, with a Christmas theme (keep in mind these are outreach storytimes and the theme was requested). It was a lot of fun, with several humorous stories, a great flannel board, and singing Christmas songs, which we all know are SOOOO much better when accompanied by bells!

I had all the same books as I've used before, with the addition of two others I came across in our stacks, that I'll highlight here:

That's Good! That's Bad! On Santa's Journey by Margery Cuyler & Michael Garland. I've used Cuyler's original book before in a series of Zoo-themed storytimes and thought this one would be fun, too. It works better with some groups than others, as not all kids get the humor and irony, but the ones that catch on to the pattern of things that seem to be one one turning out to be the other will really enjoy this book. 

Santa has a number of seeming misfortunes, like being stuck in the chimney, bumping his head, being left behind by the reindeer, falling out of the sleigh, splitting his pants, etc., but it all works out and he gets all the presents delivered.

Are You Grumpy Santa? by Gregg and Evan Spiridellis is another funny book that has our poor Santa running into one mishap after another. Mrs. Claus' snoring wakes him up, he stubs his toe, no hot water in the shower, a skimpy breakfast, being chased by a poodle in France, slipping on a noodle in Italy, nearly run down by bulls in Pamplona, and bumping his tush into a Christmas cactus in Phoenix, Arizona!

Poor Santa is upset and miserable, and then spies a card someone left for him, along with a plate of cookies. And now he's no longer grumpy! This story gives an explanation for why we leave cookies for Santa, and shows that anyone can have a bad day and get the grumpies, even Santa.

I had the same Rudolph flannel I used last week, and we sang a lot of "Jingle Bells", with real bells of course, and a few rounds of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" during the two-week rotation.

The kids really loved all the stories and the Rudolph flannel, but what I think most of them loved the most was getting to use the bells. Most groups were so excited and yelled out "Jingle Bells!" as soon as they heard them. In fact, two of my little friends loved them so much they wanted to keep them. One little boy sweetly asked if he could take them home to his mom, but understood when I explained I had to keep them for other kids to use. But one little girl was much more sneaky, hiding them behind her back and slipping to the back of the group so I never noticed she didn't turn hers in. But one of the other kids ratted her out, and she was so mad about giving them up! Ah, the seductive lure of the jingle bells...

While I love doing storytime, I am looking forward to having a little break from it for a bit. I will be taking 3-weeks off from storytime over the holidays, for 3 reasons: (1) there are so many closings and low attendance it isn't worth it, (2) the kids just get too crazy as we get closer to Christmas, and (3) the Storytime Bus needs to have it's annual inspection and maintenance, and scheduled repairs. This gives me a chance to take time off for the holidays or a vacation, but this year I may take a day off, but will be at work most of the time.

I'm looking forward to a break and having a chance to do something different. My major projects will be catching up on some much needed collection development, and working on a presentation I've been asked to give in January. I also might pick up an extra shift at the Children's desk or help with one of their programs, which is always a nice change of pace.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Flannel Friday Round-Up

Flannel Friday

Here's the Round-Up for December 8th! 

Bear In The Lair Flannel Friday
Heather of "Lady Librarian's Literacy, Lifestyle, and Lookbook Log" (some nice alliteration there) has shared a lovely re-invention of the beloved "Little Mouse" flannel, reinterpreted as "Bear In The Lair", with each lair having different colors (think leaves, flowers, moss, mud, or snow) around it. I love it! Isn't it a beauty?

Hanukkah Chanukah Flannel Board

By coincidence, here is another flannel based on the same "Little Mouse" rhyme as Wendy of "Flannel Board Fun" shares her "Little Mouse: Hanukkah Variation". Wendy also has a rhyme that can be easily adapted to any theme as the rhyme is independent of what is hiding and what it's hiding behind, which could come in very handy!

Flannel Friday

Visit the Flannel Friday Pinterest Board for past Round-Up's and tons of inspiration. For more information about Flannel Friday and how to participate, visit the Flannel Friday Site. I will be hosting next week's Round-Up as well, so get those submissions ready! 

Christmas Fun - Preschool Storytime

I had a last-minute idea to make this a full-fledged "Reindeer" storytime rather than a general Christmas one, but of course I had waited too late, and there were no suitable reindeer stories to be found, so I stuck with the original plan.

Christmas StorytimeWe started with our welcome song, then talked about Christmas a little bit, and sang our story song, with a couple of special Christmas verses added (say "Ho, ho, ho!" & say "Merry Christmas"), and settled down for our first story, Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewis. 

This is a good book for groups that are less attentive as it is relatively short, little text, but a fair amount of action going on. Kids can identify the animals, predict what's going to happen when the next ones go up, say the "Ho, Ho...Oh, No!", and predict whether Santa will get stuck or not. This has been very well enjoyed by every group I've ever read it to.

Christmas Storytime, Christmas Pop-up, Snappy Little Christmas
Since they did such a good job of listening and staying engaged with the first book, I decided to go straight to the second book and save all the songs and flannel until the end ['If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is my motto!]. 

Since this group needs highly interactive books, I decided on the Snappy Little Christmas book with it's pop-ups and bright illustrations (though the pop-ups are not quite as impressive as some of their other books as they don't really have as much"pop" or movement). There is a snowman, reindeer, angel, tree, carolers, penguins, and of course, Santa! One thing that I think is funny and always point out is that the reindeer (who, while unnamed, must be Rudolph as it has a red nose) has ornaments hung all over its antlers.

Next we did a great flannel activity I found a few  years ago that the kids all love:

Rudolph, Rudolph

Christmas Storytime, Reindeer Storytime, Rudolph Flannel Board
Rudolph, Rudolph pattern from Library Quine 
Rudolph, Rudolph, what will you do?
You can't guide Santa's sleigh if your nose is BLUE.

Rudolph, Rudolph, you're such a silly fellow.
Who will know it's you if your nose is YELLOW.

Rudolph, Rudolph, your way cannot be seen,
Through the wintry weather if your nose is GREEN.

Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa gave a wink.
But what will he say if your nose is PINK?

Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to fly at night.
But you can't get through the snow if your nose is WHITE.

Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to go to town.
But you can't help Santa if your nose is BROWN.

Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa has his sack.
But you're not ready if your nose is BLACK.

Rudolph, Rudolph, the children are in bed.
And now you can get on your way because your nose is RED!

  *Poem found at Crafty Chic Mommy

The more I ham it up, the better they seem to like it! Each time I try to convince them that whatever color I have is good enough, and of course they always insist we have to keep trying. Usually they cheer and applaud by the time Rudolph *finally* gets his red nose. 

Reindeer sweater, ugly Christmas sweater
After that, I said that since we just helped Rudolph find his nose, and Rudolph was in our book, and Rudolph was on my sweater, that I thought we needed to sing Rudolph's song; they readily agreed. So, we sang "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", then sang it again because the kids didn't know all the words and motions well enough to do the whole thing the first time and faded out very quickly after the initial "Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer..." They did much better the second time.

Then I said "Let's sing another Christmas song. Listen, and see if you can guess which one I'm thinking of..." and gently jiggled my bag to make the jingle bells I had brought ring softly. Immediately their faces lit up and they all yelled, "Jingle Bells!" I don't think there's anything better to them than singing "Jingle Bells" with actual bells.

We sang it twice, just repeating the first verse because I don't know the others well enough, and since they were enjoying the bells so much, I also played "Jingle Bell Rock" and we all danced along. 

Reindeer Food, Christmas Storytime, Reindeer StorytimeI was tempted to do either another song or book because they were doing so well, but I just had a gut-feeling I would lose them if I did, so I decided to quit while I was ahead! We sang our closing song, then I told them about the bags of special "Reindeer Food" (oats, colored sugars, & sprinkles) I was giving their teacher to give them to take home, and how they should sprinkle it outside on Christmas Eve for the reindeer, then passed out stickers.

How It Went

I was a little concerned about how they would be today since it had been a month since I'd seen them because of the Thanksgiving holidays and mandatory training I had to attend. But they were really good and we all had so much fun! They loved Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! and wondering what the duck was up to. This class surprised me, as most kids think Santa will get stuck, too, like everyone else, but they were all sure he wouldn't. They also liked the Rudolph flannel board and song, but I have to say, the highlight for them was getting to play the jingle bells!

Now, I'm sure some will look at this and immediately judge and disapprove that I did a Christmas storytime, but my response is that I am here to serve the needs of my patrons and my community, and this was an outreach storytime to a church-sponsored daycare who incorporates Christianity into their curriculum and had not only approved, but requested the holiday theme, and it was enjoyed by all.