Saturday, May 16, 2015

Books on the Go: National Transportation Week

It's National Transportation Week! We have no shortage of awesome books to satisfy even the most ardent transportation fan. Here are some of my favorites:

If I had to choose my all-time favorite train picture book, I would pick All Aboard! A True Train Story. Its short length and large but clear pictures make it a hit with young listeners (I've used it in my Baby Steps program with babies 12 months and younger, and they were riveted), but its usage of sophisticated words sprinkled throughout the narrative also make it appropriate and enjoyable for preschool and kindergarten students.  Readers observe a steam train making its way across bridges and through mountains before coming to rest at the end of the day.

Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars is an enjoyable and accessible biography for elementary school students. Biographies of Asians are few and far between, so this helps to fill a huge gap.

Byron Barton's body of work has a strong transportation streak; My Car is one of my favorites. We follow a driver who pumps gas and takes care of his car in order for him to have transportation to his job (which involves another form of transportation!). Although I'm not generally a fan of board book editions of picture books, Barton's picture books, for the most part, make for excellent board books.

I use Donald Crews's School Bus for both my toddler story time and for our annual Kindergarten Kickoff story time program. Although the text is sparse (as it is for Crews's books that actually include text; many are wordless), the attraction of school buses make it appealing for both 3 year olds and for big kids ready for kindergarten. We see a school bus traveling across town to pick up schoolchildren, bring them to school, drop them off, wait for school to end, and bring everyone home at the end of the day.

We have many more fabulous transportation-themed books at our libraries! It's one of our most frequently requested recommendations, so ask the children's reference staff next time you visit.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, May 02, 2015

May the Fourth Be With You (Star Wars Day)

If you're a Star Wars fan, you probably know that May 4th is Star Wars Day (a takeoff on "May the Force be with you"). What better way to celebrate Star Wars Day than to visit the library and check out Star Wars books and DVDs? If you need a refresher before seeing Episode VII this December, we have many books that are perfect for casual and avid fans.

Finding books for the littlest Star Wars fans is tough. Many Star Wars-related books tend to be for independent readers. That's why I immediately ordered Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Read-Along Storybook and CD  when  I discovered it. It's a picture book retelling (in print AND CD!) of Episode V.  We also have several easy readers for this age (look in the easy reader section; they're shelved as ER STA).

If you don't know how Padme Amidala and Leia Organa are related, or the difference between Darth Maul and Darth Vader, the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia will set you straight.

A New Hope kicks off a new children's series that retells the original trilogy. I'm super excited because it involves fantastic authors such as Tom Angleberger and Adam Gidwitz (it also offers "new perspectives"--interesting). Cannot wait to read them! Another series from LucasFilm/Disney (Journey to Star Wars) will be published in forthcoming months; the stories will focus on the characters' lives between IV and V and V and VI. This series promises "Easter Eggs" about A Force Awakens, so sharp fans should take notice!

Jeffrey Brown's Jedi Academy series is adorable and fun. Imagine attending middle school in a galaxy far, far away. This captures the ups and downs of middle school life under the instruction of Master Yoda.

Celebrate Star Wars with some super awesome origami patterns in Star Wars Origami: 36 Amazing Paper-Folding Projects From a Galaxy Far, Far Away (and check out Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda series, too!).

Jedi instruction is hands on, passed from master to apprentice. But what if a Jedi manual existed, explaining the Jedi philosophy and training? Everything from Jedi history, the ins and outs of wielding light sabers, and warnings about the Dark Side would be included.  Such it is with The Jedi Path. Shelved in our YA section.

Love Star Wars? How about graphic novels? If the answer to both questions is yes, then you definitely need to read Star Wars Omnibus: The Complete Saga. This enormous volume is a retelling of all Star Wars movies (prequels and original trilogy) in graphic novel format. Shelved in our YA section.

I read part of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, And Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise when it was first released, but read it at a point in which I was not entirely interested in minutiae. Now that Star Wars excitement is building as Episode VII looms, I'm planning to go back to it once December draws closer. Definitely for hardcore fans. Shelved in our adult nonfiction section.

Star Wars as told by Shakespeare? Yes, and it's absolutely hilarious. Star Wars contains many common themes in Shakespeare--parent/child conflict, evil rulers, sparring enemies who fall in love--so the story lends itself very well to Shakespeare. Although it's shelved in our adult nonfiction section, I've been told by several teens that they find them very funny. William Shakespeare's Star Wars Collection is available in book and CD (adult nonfiction and adult CD collection).

We also have many Star Wars books in our science fiction section (SF). It gets a little tricky because there are many spin-offs as well as retellings of the movies, but a "Star Wars" search will bring them all up. Wookipedia lists all known Star Wars books (and an explanation of what is/is not considered canon).

This is just a sampling of the Star Wars books that we have (fiction and nonfiction in children's, YA, and adult)!

Of course, we have the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, VI) and prequels (Episodes I, II, III). If you're introducing the series to young fans, keep in mind that if you watch Episodes I-III first, the big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back is no longer a big reveal.

Finally, there are tons of Star Wars sites. The official Star Wars site has a comprehensive listing of the best and biggest sites.

May the Fourth be with you!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Can't Wait to Read: Children's Fiction and Nonfiction

It's time for Part III of my Can't Wait to Read series! I've told you about my most anticipated reads for adult nonfiction/fiction and young adult fiction for spring; here are the children's fiction and nonfiction (and some YA nonfiction) that I am eager to read.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler features a group of Danish teenagers ashamed of their country's lack of opposition to Nazi forces. Their acts of sabotage and resistance inspired the greater movement of Danish resistance. Phillip Hoose was able to interview Knud Pedersen for this account, which should make for riveting reading. It's earned excellent reviews so far, and should interest young readers drawn to World War II stories (doubly exciting because this involves teenagers).

Gail Jarrow is becoming the go-to author for books about epidemics (her first in a trilogy of epidemics, Red Madness, explored pellagra). Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary not only features the history of the epidemic, but also raises ethical questions about quarantine (in the light of the ebola epidemic, this should prove to be timely reading). The Horn Book Magazine calls this a "suspenseful medical mystery."

Like animal stories? Firstborn should probably go on your list. This story of a wolf who thinks outside the box (or pack?) is getting rave reviews and comparisons to White Fang and The Story of Ferdinand.

Gone Crazy in Alabama is the third and final entry in Rita Williams-Garcia's 1960s trilogy about the Gaither sisters.  When the sisters spend a summer with their grandmother in Alabama, they discover that everyday African-American life is vastly different than their experiences in Oakland and Brooklyn; they also learn the true reason why their mother and aunt are estranged. This obviously doesn't appear to be a stand-alone title; you'll want to read the books in order. This has received (so far) four starred reviews.

Any publishing year is elevated when Cynthia Lord has a new novel out. A Handful of Stars (set in Lord's beloved Maine, as are many of her books) details the friendship between a young girl and a young Latino daughter of migrant workers (in town for blueberry picking season). This is receiving outstanding reviews (not unexpected, of course).

I was an ardent Baby-Sitters Club fan when the series was originally launched, and think they are still sweet choices for tween readers. However, the original covers scream 80s fashion and cover style, which makes them not very attractive to modern readers. Purchasing new copies with new covers was less than successful, but I'm counting on Raina Telgemeier's many fans and Ann M. Martin's numerous fans of her later series to boost attention to this relaunch. Kristy's Great Idea is her first graphic novel retelling of the original story.

The Octopus Scientists is one of the latest entries in the fabulous Scientists in the Field series. Every title is full of amazing facts and pictures about the natural world around us. Can't wait to learn more about these unique creatures.

Awwww. Yes. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer had me at its very original title and adorable cover. This story of a young girl from Los Angeles who moves to a chicken farm with her family and encounters a telekinetic chicken is "exceptional" (School Library Journal) and a "top pick for young readers" (Kirkus Reviews).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Can't Wait to Read: YA Books

Spring 2015 is positively blooming with amazing YA titles. We have several titles available now, with others to join them very soon! This is part II of my Can't Wait to Read series, which started with adult fiction/nonfiction picks for Spring 2015.

Andreo's Race is helping to fill the need for high-stakes adventure YA novels that aren't dystopian stories, science-fiction, or fantasy. Just straight-up adrenaline racing reads! An adopted teen goes to Bolivia not just to compete in an ironman challenge, but to discover the truth about his adoption. School Library Journal recommends this for "reluctant readers looking for a thrilling novel."

The Boy in the Black Suit is the third recent YA novel involving a teen working at a funeral parlor (see also The Dead I Know and Six Feet Over It). Odd, but there it is. I'm a fan of Jason Reynolds's When I Was the Greatest, so this is near the top of my growing to-be-read list.

Great cover! Great title! I just noticed that this is set in England, so I'm eager to discover if there will be any language/cultural differences that come into play. This story about a teen in trouble with the law who must take up a new hobby is "funny and lighthearted" according to Publishers Weekly.

It's a good thing that I held off reading Prisoner of Night and Fog, because this means that I only need to wait mere weeks (instead of months) to read Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. For some reason, I thought that Hitler's weird relationship with his niece was the center of the novel, and although I knew it received excellent reviews, I was really not keen on reading it (it's a small, but important, part of the story. It's also probably to do with the book's description; I thought the "favorite niece" description meant Geli Raubal, which it does not; she is in the book, but she is not the main character). Gretchen Muller's father is regarded as a martyr for "Uncle Dolf", but when a Jewish reporter (whom she befriends) claims that her father was actually murdered, she begins to question everyone and everything surrounding her highly positioned Nazi family. If you need thrilling, thoughtful, and meticulously researched YA historical fiction, you need to read this book. Admittedly, I was a bit uncomfortable with it (Hitler as a character in a novel just gives me the willies), I was quickly drawn into this impressive story.

Well, that cover will either attract or repel readers! Cuckoo Song is DARK. Set in England just after World War I, this novel about a girl who finds her world confusing and unimaginable after an accident is "nuanced and intense" (Kirkus Reviews) and "painful and powerful" (Publishers Weekly). It's already received three individual starred reviews.

It's finally here--the sequel to The Living! You will definitely need to read The Living, because this picks up right after that ended. Here's my review of The Living from last April.

AWESOME cover. I love it. 16 year old Libby is shocked when stickers, graffiti, and other images of the superwoman character she created with her deceased friend start showing up around town. Reviews have been quite strong for this thriller; I Am Princess X has received two starred reviews. 

Lumberjanes is a graphic novel ("A must-have" according to School Library Journal) set at a camp in which odd things happen (such as a woman turning into a bear). A group of campers investigate these wacky occurrences--this sounds like an awesome read!

Bennett Bardo had just asked his dream date to the prom when she was suddenly abducted by aliens. (What a bummer!) Can he and a band of misfit musicians return her to Earth (hopefully, before prom)? Many reviews for The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion have noted its wit and fast-paced action (and surprising ending). Is it literary YA with tons of meaning and messages? Perhaps not, but it sounds like a fabulously fun read that will appeal to many readers.

We cannot keep Roller Girl on our shelves! This tale of two friends who become divided after one decides to go to roller derby camp and another to dance camp sounds ideal for Raina Telgemeier fans. It's received four ecstatic starred reviews.

Scarlett Undercover has received a lot of buzz based on the fact that the heroine is an African-American Muslim teen. Scarlett tested out of high school, so she formed a detective agency (as one would). Scarlett stumbles upon a mysterious myth about the descendants of King Solomon. It's received admiring reviews (including a starred one from Kirkus); we could always use more diversity in YA mysteries (and YA in general), so I'm excited to receive this soon.

This is just a *sampling* of the 2015 YA books on my TBR list! This is going to be an incredible year for YA. Make sure you look at this Saturday's Wowbrary; it will be full of more titles for YA and children!

We celebrated Math Awareness Month at our libraries this week with fun stories and activities. I also blogged about counting books for Math Awareness Month on the Association for Library Services to Children blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Can't Wait to Read: Grown Up Books

Spring 2015 books are coming in fast and furious. Over the next several weeks, I'll discuss my most anticipated reads in adult fiction/nonfiction, children's books, and young adult books. Some books may already be on our shelves and I haven't had a chance to get to them; others may have a later release date.

I still have a ton of adult fiction/nonfiction books from 2014 to read, but my 2015 list is happily overflowing with fantastic titles:

I love entertainment history, so 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music is right up my alley. Simon and Garfunkel and The Rolling Stones had their first number one hits and Bob Dylan went electric. Soul/funk, jazz, and country also made critical gains (glad the focus isn't just on pop music!). Available now.

Ashley's War hasn't been released yet, but Reese Witherspoon's production company has already bought the movie rights, so better read it now before there's a long wait list (like Wild). Ashley White and her fellow soldiers were the first American women to serve with Special Ops forces; military stories are always hugely popular (American Sniper, etc), so get on the waiting list while you can (if this interests you).

Speaking of waiting lists (and Reese Witherspoon, who starred in the film version of Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants): At the Water's Edge isn't available yet, but the waiting list is already impressive. This World War II story set in rural Scotland has received mixed reviews, but that's not going to dampen interest in this story.

I love history books focused on one specific city, so I'm excited about Beale Street Dynasty. The life story of Robert Church, a slave who became the first African-American millionaire, is key to the narrative.

As I've mentioned before, I've been reading biographies of each president (been working on this since October 2012, and I just took home a biography of Kennedy). I've often wanted to read biographies of the First Ladies, but other than a handful of titles about the most famous ones (Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, etc), there's not much available. Very often, save for the more contemporary ladies (Eleanor Roosevelt and onward), there's not much available on the other First Ladies because there's not a lot of letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and such left behind about them (personal correspondences were also destroyed by family members).  I'm on pins and needles waiting for First Ladies: Leading Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women; it's received excellent reviews.

Willie Nelson's autobiography comes out in May (just after his 82nd birthday), and I am SO excited. This man has lived a long, fascinating, controversial, and complicated life. Can't wait to read his stories.

First of all--that is a great cover. Love it. Shadow of the Crescent Moon is set in a Pakistan/Afghanistan border town, in which a man's brother and wife are taken hostage by the Taliban. The author is the niece of Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated Prime Minister of Pakistan, which adds an interesting touch.

Epic family sagas told through different generations of family members don't usually grab my interest, but The Shore is set in the Chesapeake Bay (Virginia section), which makes a difference.

The holds list for The Wright Brothers is growing, which is not a huge surprise for a forthcoming David McCullough book. I have never read a biography of Orville and Wilbur Wright (other than a children's book), so I'm eager to read this. I'm happy that sister Katharine Wright's important contributions to their work is given due (Jane Yolen wrote a beautiful picture book about her).

If you want to be among the first to know our latest titles ordered for the collection, you need to subscribe to Wowbrary!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Funny Tales: April is National Humor Month

We could all use an extra laugh or two, right? While humor is subjective, here are sure-fire hits that should please many readers:

The Book With No Pictures is now one of my top picks for elementary school read alouds. I've read it on two different occasions this year (a Family Literacy Night at a local elementary school and a Cub Scouts group), and it's been a HUGE hit both times (going to read it to a second grade group next week). It's wacky, hilarious, and involves the phrase "boo boo butt." You cannot be inhibited when reading this book, or it won't be fun. You need to think about how to present it (if you read it, you'll see why). I usually introduce the books that I've planned to read to the group, and when I get to this book, I tell them that we've just received this book, and that I've never read it before (note: do NOT do this in real life; always pre-read anything you're reading to a group). "Should we read it"? I ask them (after noting its strange title), and I get a chorus of "yes." (If you show some uncertainty or resistance, they'll usually encourage you more to read it).  You will have to change "this kid" to "these kids" (which is why you should always pre-read!), but that's the only adjustment you'll need to do if you read this to a group.

Buffalo Wings is a companion story to the equally hilarious Chicks and Salsa. The chickens on Nuthatcher Farm are pumped for the big football game (obviously the Superbowl). Knowing that buffalo wings are a must-have snack, they go off in search of one ingredient that seems to be missing. Apparently, the chickens thought that you need a winged buffalo in order to complete the treat....and are they surprised when they discover exactly what is included in buffalo wings (the illustration for this revelation is fabulous).  A great read aloud anytime, but especially during football season.

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds is a funny read aloud about bunnies who become more rambunctious as the evening wears on, but its clever humor is found in its illustrations (dad's newspaper, for instance). This is one of my favorite "not ready for bedtime" stories.

Miss Nelson is Missing was published in 1977, but it's timeless and still popular with kids.  The sweet and overly accommodating teacher who decides to teach her class a lesson is the first (and the best, in my opinion) of the Miss Nelson series.

Confession: I love Elephant and Piggie much more than Mo Willems's Pigeon books. I feel that the humor has stayed much more consistent in this series than the Pigeon series. We Are in a Book is one of the best; Elephant freaking out when he realizes that the book will end is priceless (and very meta).

I adore the Bad Kitty series and look forward to every new title (the most recent one is Puppy's Big Day; the next one will be out in January and will feature Bad Kitty going to the vet!). The books are super funny, but each title includes facts about the subject at hand, which makes it educational as well as entertaining! (My favorites are Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble and Bad Kitty for President)

Fantasy is grand, epic, and absorbing, but rarely is it funny. Bliss is an exception.  This comic tale of a magical bakery is also a charming tale about siblings.

Amy Poehler was announced as the star of the Lunch Lady feature film years ago, but it doesn't look like much progress has been made on the movie. Luckily, the series doesn't need a movie to increase its popularity; this graphic novel series about a crime-fighting lunch lady has been a hit ever since #1 was published in 2009.

Hope these titles bring a smile to your face! Make sure you are subscribed to Wowbrary to be among the first to know about our latest book and DVD orders.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ridiculously Good Reads: March Edition

March is nearly over, so I thought this would be a good time for another "Ridiculously Good Reads" post. Every month or so, I'll round up my favorite reads published in 2015. (The first post featured a book published before 2015, but now that the 2015 books are pouring in, I don't need to do that anymore).

A tragedy has occurred; SOMEONE has eaten someone's sandwich. The narrator tells an impressive story of a sandwich stealing bear who somehow leaves the forest, stumbles into the city, and just happens upon your sandwich. Quite a story, isn't it? (High school literature teachers who need to explain the concept of "unreliable narrator" should read this book to their classes.)  I'm definitely adding The Bear Ate Your Sandwich to my list of awesome read alouds for K-3 students.

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat is GORGEOUS and already one of my favorites for the 2016 Caldecott, Through four American families making the same dessert, Blackberry Fool, Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall brilliantly depict the evolution of food technology over the course of four centuries. Kirkus Reviews interviewed the pair about their research and creation of this stunning picture book; definitely worth a read. I was bowled over by the intense research and care taken to accurately depict the times in which each family lived.

I Was Here is an authentic, moving, and realistic YA novel about the aftermath of suicide. After her best friend, Meg, commits suicide, eighteen year old Cody attempts to retrace her steps in order to understand why she took her life. For mature teens.

Kadir Nelson made his name for his extraordinary illustrations and writings on African-American history and biographical figures. He took a marked departure last year with Baby Bear, which some adored and which some were rather indifferent. I think even those who weren't that pleased with Baby Bear will fail to resist If You Plant a Seed. The illustrations are divine, and the moral lesson about kindness is never saccharine or preachy. The pictures and story are beautiful; this would be both a fine addition to an Easter basket and the Caldecott Medal canon.

I adore everything by Marisabina Russo (The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds is one of my all-time favorite read alouds), so I immediately scooped up Little Bird Takes a Bath. Little Bird is seeking the perfect after-rain puddle for a bath, but somehow gets interrupted each time. Eventually, of course, he finds a fine bath in this pitch-perfect read aloud for a bird/weather/spring story time.

March: Book Two continues and expands upon the astounding achievement created by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell in March: Book One. March: Book One ended with the rise of the student protest movement in Nashville; the second volume highlights the Freedom Riders movement and the March on Washington. As with the first title, this is presented as a flashback on Barack Obama's first inauguration day. It's remarkably moving (Lewis reflects upon the fact that out of the "Big Six" of the civil rights movement--Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young--he is the only one still alive), and I felt that the scenes involving Obama's inauguration day were more effectively sewn into the narrative (especially the final pages in which Obama's presidential oath is juxtaposed with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing).  Although this graphic novel trilogy is written for adults, teens interested in the civil rights movement should definitely read this (wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than that).

Ilyasah Shabazz was only two years old when she witnessed her father, Malcolm X, assassinated (she has no memory of it). X: A Novel, co-written with notable YA author Kekla Magoon (author of the excellent The Rock and the River and How it Went Down), is a fascinating novel centered on Malcolm Little's chaotic childhood and early adulthood, ending with his first imprisonment and growing awareness of the Nation of Islam.  It's a gritty and mature read (but truthful); a unique addition to YA historical fiction. I'm hopeful that these two authors write a sequel!

Spring 2015 children's and YA titles are rolling in! Check out this Saturday's edition of Wowbrary for many enticing titles.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library