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 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Slimy Scaly Stories: Books About Reptiles and Amphibians

I love reading books with animal characters for story time, but I get a little tired of adorable animal antics from time to time. Since my previous story time was all about baby animals, I wanted something that wasn't so sweet and cute. I have many story time plans that I've revised throughout the years, but nothing was really inspiring me until I decided to combine my outlines for a frogs story time and a snakes story time.

I'd only presented these story times once or twice, and frankly, they weren't that successful. Gathering fingerplays wasn't a problem; I had some fun fingerplays for both themes. The truth was that I was really only excited about two books in my list for each theme. Experienced children's librarians know that presenting a book that you're rather "meh" about is a recipe for disaster. You should only include books that you really love to share. I usually include 3-4 books per story time session, so I decided to create a new "reptiles and amphibians" theme. I found new fingerplays and presented the story time this past Wednesday. 

It was a hit! Two stories were a bit longer than what I normally read, but we had no problems sitting and listening to the story. They even elicited impromptu feedback, which is always wonderful. This story time is a keeper! Here's what we enjoyed: 

I introduced Lauren Thompson's Little Quack in my baby animals story time (a bit hit), so I decided to bring back this darling duckling one more time. Little Frog invites the little ducklings to play, but since he's so different (green and says "ribbit"), they're a little hesitant...except for Little Quack! When the ducklings see how much fun they are having splashing, squishing mud, and ducking their heads in the water (the illustration of the ducklings bottoms-up is precious), they know that having friends who are different is super cool. Little Quack's New Friend is not only a super-cute story, but it has a quiet little message about the universality of play and friendship.

Want to add some drama to your story time? Snip! Snap! What's That? will definitely bring it. An alligator invades the home of three unsupervised children; although they are initially scared (who can blame them?), they drum up enough courage to boot the alligator out. One of my all-time favorite read alouds.

I begin story times with my longest story first; Turtle Day was the perfect way to end the read aloud portion of my toddler story time. It's a simple story of a turtle waking up, quenching its thirst, sunning itself, protecting itself from a snake, and crawling inside its shell at the end of the day. It's also a good "cause/effect story"--because turtle is thirsty, it drinks water. Because it is scared, it goes inside its shell, etc.

We have many excellent children's nonfiction books if  you want informational books on reptiles or amphibians.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cute Overload: Books About Baby Animals

Who doesn't love books about baby animals? With spring on the horizon, I have several spring themes lined up for story time: flowers/gardens. rabbits, and baby animals! There are so many adorable and intriguing books about baby animals that I had a hard time narrowing down my selections:

Babies in the Bayou is unique among the "baby animal books" in that it features animals that are not cute and cuddly. Rather, we see a mama alligator (who are very protective mothers--a baby alligator stays with mom for about two years), baby turtles, and even raccoons. Jim Arnosky is a naturalist, so this isn't just an oddly sweet story; the animals are often arranged together to represent their predator/prey relationship (although not remarked upon). I frequently use this to balance the fuzzy-wuzzy titles in my baby animals story time. (If you're reading this outside of  the Gulf Coast, you may want to explain that a bayou is a lake with water that moves very slowly or not at all)

D'AWWWW SO KYOOT. Sorry. Il Sung Na's books tend to do that to me. LOOK AT THE LITTLE DUCKY. If you want a huge dose of adorableness, you need to check out his books. A Book of Babies. A baby duck observes other baby animals is the basic jist of the story. Very simple text and big, bright, and bold illustrations; perfect for babies and toddlers.

Click, Clack, Peep is Doreen Cronin's latest Click Clack saga, just in time for spring! The barnyard animals are stoked over the arrival of a baby duckling....until the baby refuses to sleep. How will they--and Farmer Brown--ever get the duckling to sleep? Funny, cute, and a great read aloud!

Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? is a must for babies and toddlers. Hold off on The Very Hungry Caterpillar if you can (I couldn't when my niece was born; she got the board book and the toy right away) and get this one for your next baby shower (or just get a bunch of Eric Carle board books). A mother animal and her baby are featured on each spread (Does a X have a mother too? Yes, a X has a mother, just like me and you), ending with an assurance that all animals love their babies, just like yours does too. So wonderful. A glossary of scientific names is included at the end of the book if you want to extend this beyond the baby/toddler stage. (Not sure if the board book version includes this glossary.)

Little Quack is not just a darling story about ducklings, but it's also a great little story about facing your fears and trying new things. Mama Duck is anxious for her ducklings to learn to swim, so she coaxes them out of the nest, one by one. Although they are reluctant to do so, they test the waters (literally) and learn that swimming is pretty cool. All except Little Quack, who holds out the longest, until he is persuaded by mom and siblings to jump in the water. And what do you know? He likes it too. A counting activity runs across the bottom of the pages, but it is not crucial to the story.

Owl Babies is one of my all-time favorite read alouds. I have been using it in story times for nearly 11 years, and I never tire of it. Three little owls awaken to find that their owl mother is gone. Although they tell each other that she'll be back soon (except for Little Bill, who repeatedly says, "I want my mommy!"--if you're reading this aloud, start the desperation level low and work it up), their worry increases. Of course, she comes back, and all is well. Although very sweet, the eating habits and perils of owl life are touched upon (they imagine that she'll "bring them mice and things that are nice," and one wonders if "a fox got her."), which adds authenticity and a little drama to the story.

Want books that have a more definite springtime theme? Check out my recent post on the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Play Ball!

Baseball season is here! Okay, it's still pre-season, but games are happening! I don't know about you, but my football teams had dismal seasons, so I am so ready to cheer on my Nationals. If you want books that will inspire a future MLB player or fan, we have many fantastic books that you need to read! So grab your peanuts and  Cracker Jacks, and read on.  I had a hard time whittling down my choices, so each book will have a brief annotation.

General Awesomeness of Baseball: 

Baseball Is is a fabulous tribute to the history of baseball and its great stars; it ends with tantalizing the reader with dreams of his/her favorite team winning the World Series. This would be a great read aloud for elementary school students.

Baseball has a great literary tradition, with Casey at the Bat and Take Me Out to the Ballgame being two of the most famous poems/songs.

I love cross-cultural books, so Take Me Out to the Yakyu is a top favorite. Through the eyes of an American child with Japanese and Caucasian parents, readers learn how baseball is both similar and quite different in Japan and the United States.

Sports fans and novel readers should definitely seek out books by Tim Green and Dan Gutnam's Baseball Card Adventure series.

Heroes of Baseball History: 

Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man is a poignant picture book biography of the great player who showed strength and courage in the face of ALS.

Sharon Robinson has written several books about her father, Jackie Robinson;  Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America is a comprehensive and personal account of the great player.

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major League Leaguer William Hoy introduces young fans to William Hoy, the first deaf player to have a lengthy career in professional baseball.

I'm a big fan of the Who Was (and its offsprings) series, as are many patrons; they are ideal for young elementary school students. Who Was Roberto Clemente? is a fine overview of the player/humanitarian who was tragically cut down in his prime.

Jonah Winter's nonfiction titles are witty but with tons of facts crammed into a respectful manner; You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax and You Never Heard of Willie Mays? are two critically acclaimed kid-friendly reads (that would work well as read alouds for elementary school students) about two players that showed integrity in the face of adversity,

Pride Through Play: 

Barbed Wire Baseball, Baseball Saved Us, and A Diamond in the Desert are moving and eye-opening tales of the vital importance of baseball games in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.

The Bat Boy and His Violin, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,  and Fair Ball! 14 Great Stars From Baseball's Negro League are must-reads for those wanting to learn more about the Negro Leagues.

A League of Their Own

The short-lived all-women's league is one of the most fascinating aspects of baseball history. Mama Played Baseball and A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League are memorable reads perfect for National Women's History Month! And yes, we do have one of the BEST sports movies ever, A League of Their Own (There's no crying in baseball!)

Here's to another exciting baseball season!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library