Monday, November 28, 2016

Pretty Chill: Books About Winter Sports

When you think about winter sports, what comes to mind? Strapping on skis or ice skates? Or rooting for your favorite football or basketball team? Whether cold winter days keep you inside watching your favorite team or bracing the chill for fun and exercise, these books will definitely be great choices when you're ready to take a break from your favorite sports activity:

A Whole New Ballgame is not just a fun basketball story; it's also a funny, realistic, and honest portrayal of two friends who have to deal with their unconventional teacher's class projects, a new basketball coach, and the challenges that autism can bring (Red is autistic). This is the start of a promising series.

Hoop Genius: How A Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball  explores the fascinating creation of basketball. James Naismith was tasked with keeping a rambunctious bunch of young men entertained at the YMCA. Seeking a way to encourage exercise and teamwork during the harsh Massachusetts winter, he created a fast-moving game with a ball and peach baskets. His game was a hit, of course, and also attracted the interest of young girls attending the YMCA (the illustration of the young ladies playing basketball in their long skirts is a highlight).

As a LSU alumnus, I'm super proud that Shaquille O'Neal's Little Shaq series is such a sweet and engaging series perfect for readers new to chapter books. Little Shaq learns life lessons in each story, but never in a pat or condescending way.

Kate and Jim McMullan continue their adorable anthropomorphic vehicles series with I'm Cool, which is the story of a hardworking Zamboni machine. It's a big job to fix the cuts and scrapes on the ice during the periods in a hockey game, and there's not a lot of time to make sure the ice is ready! This little Zamboni, however, is definitely up to the challenge. Older readers might be interested in Clean Sweep! Frank Zamboni's Ice Machine.

Are you ready for some football? With the football season well underway, young football fans will want to consult 1st and 10: Top 10 Lists of Everything Football to get the latest info on the greatest players of all time.

It's hard being the youngest player on the football team, especially when you're not the best catcher on the team. Luckily, Mo's coach has a plan to make Mo a valuable player. Don't Throw it to Mo is the start of an endearing story about a young player with a lot of determination.

Little Red Gliding Hood is ready to compete in the ice skating competition, but she needs a partner. The Dish and the Spoon are already partnered, as are Hansel and Gretel. When a strange wolf shows up, will she take a chance with him? Young readers and listeners familiar with the name droppings in the story will love this.

Claire doesn't really imagine a skating future beyond the annual Maple Show competition, but when a world-renowned skating coach observes her and offers her a chance to train with top talent and staff in Lake Placid, she enters an unfamiliar world of cutthroat competition. Sugar and Ice  is an appealing story of hard work, sacrifice, and dealing with unkind people.

For more nonfiction sports titles, check out the J796 section.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Over the River and Through the Woods: Books About Families

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is this Thursday? I'll confess that I don't have many favorite Thanksgiving books (Christmas is another story). so I usually focus on books about families and food for Thanksgiving story times and displays. Here are some of my favorite family-oriented books:

Big Red Lollipop captures the challenges of sibling issues in a relatable and sweet way; although Rubina tries to convince her mother that younger siblings don't tag along with older siblings to birthday parties ("they don't do that here"), her mother is not swayed. Little sister Sana embarrasses Rubina at the party, but when Sana is invited to a party and mother Ami insists that little sister Maryam also tag along, Rubina resists the urge to take revenge and convinces her mother to let Sana attend the party by herself.

Building Our House follows a family undertaking a huge challenge: building their own home! As the months progress (as well as Mom's pregnancy in the illustrations), the family lives in a small trailer while the house's foundation is completed, with some help with family and friends. This is an adorable book about a family living a self-sufficient lifestyle; Jonathan Bean continues the family's story (which is autobiographical in sense) in This is My Home, This is My School, which chronicles a typical homeschooling day for the family.

If you know a military family that will not share the holidays together, consider Brave Like Me for a holiday read or purchase. Through the eyes of a girl and boy dealing with the fears and uncertainties of having a deployed parent, this offers a message of reassurance and comfort, with striking photographs of servicemen and servicewomen from many ethnicities.

Tuyet is not looking forward to explaining to her classmates that her Vietnamese-American family will eat duck instead of turkey for Thanksgiving Day. Although her family's Thanksgiving feast turns out to be a fabulous meal, she still dreads "sharing time" on the first day back from Thanksgiving vacation. Much to her surprise, she learns that she was not the only one to have a non-turkey meal: one family served lamb, another cooked enchiladas, and another family had a tofu turkey!  Duck for Turkey Day is one of my favorite Thanksgiving themed books, as it celebrates the commanality of our national holiday, but acknowledging the different ways it can be celebrated.

The unnamed family in Feast for 10 is preparing for a big dinner, which requires all hands on deck! Everyone young and old assists with shopping for groceries, preparing the meal, and setting the table before sitting down to enjoy a well-deserved meal. This simple counting story is a staple in my toddler story time.

Nino is a powerful lucha libre wrestler until he faces his fiercest opponents--little sisters newly awakened from their naps! Nino Wrestles the World is an adorable sibling story and a peek at lucha libre style wrestling, which is popular in Mexico.

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story is a charming read aloud that follows an early 20th century family organizing and gathering for a Thanksgiving celebration; everyone helps to bring the big feast to fruition, including the baby blissfully napping during the busy activity.

Although set during summer, The Relatives Came is a perfect fit for family-themed picture books; this look at a large extended family gathering for food, fun, and memories  is funny and rings true for anyone who knows the chaos and joy of family reunions.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, November 14, 2016

November is Picture Book Month!

Did you know that picture books are so awesome, that the entire month of November is dedicated to celebrating the authors and illustrators who create our favorite stories? Some of my favorite picture books are folktales, so here are some of my favorite picture book folktales/fairy tales:

While there are many beautiful adaptations of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, H. Chuku Lee's Beauty and the Beast  is my favorite. Set in an unnamed West African country, this gorgeous retelling is mostly faithful to the original story, but adds West African backgrounds, clothing, and headdress, making this a highly memorable and oustanding version.

I've heard that the beauty, sensitivity, and sensibility of Hans Christian Andersen's writings can only truly be appreciated in the original Danish. While that's inarguably the case with most literature in translation, I suppose, those of us not fluent in Danish thankfully have creations such as Naomi Lewis's and Angela Barrett's The Emperor's New Clothes. As explained in the foreward, Lewis and Barrett chose to set the story in 1913, one year before World War I erupted (and the eventual demise of many small European kingdoms).

As many Aesop stories can fit on one page, his stories are often collected into volumes (and not as single volume picture books). Hare and Tortoise is an exception, which is why there are many retellings. Alison Murray's Hare and Tortoise is a fabulous choice for very young children; its moral story is clearly depicted, and there's lots of humor to set off giggles (Janet Ward's retelling is a top choice for elementary school children; it offers a more sophisticated and even cynical look at the story).

The cultures of West Africa have produced many imaginative and fun folktales that contain positive moral lessons that can be understand by many young children. Head, Body, Legs, which originated with the Dan people of Liberia, is a hugely funny and entertaining tale with an impactful lesson about the importance of working together.

When I am asked to read at school literacy nights, I often bring Jan Thornhill's retelling of The Rumor. When nervous nellie Hare hears an enormous rumble, she is convinced that the world is falling apart. As the other animals hear the news, they are whipped into a frenzy until they reach a very wise leader, who helps them realize the foolishness of spreading gossip and jumping to conclusions. The subtitle refers to the Jataka tales, which is a collection of stories about the Buddha depicted in human or animal form. As you might guess, this is a "sky is falling" story that can be found across cultures, such as Henny Penny.

Byron Barton's The Three Bears is a straightfoward rendition of the Goldilocks story; his simple illustrations and storytelling make this accessible and entertaining to toddlers and preschoolers.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a favorite for both picture book creators and novelists, even for YA authors and authors of literature for adults. Rachel Isadora often sets her stories in  west Africa, as she did for her version, which adds a fresh look at the story.

Pick up a copy of our Picture Book Month calendar to enter our Picture Book Month contest! Calendars are available at all Fauquier County libraries.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Votes of Confidence: Great Books for Election Day

I have fond memories of Election Day from my childhood. I *think* schools were closed, because some were being used for polling places. We had the old-style machines that had the curtain and the knobs to push, which made it quite mysterious and dramatic when the vote was cast and the curtain would open (the very first elections in which I was eligible to vote included the governor's race and the presidential race; I was a bit nervous that a) I might not be able to reach all the knobs and b) that I might do something wrong and mess up my ballot).  My mother often worked the polls on Election Day; in those days, local candidates would stop by with doughnuts in the morning and Chinese takeout for lunch and we would get the leftovers (this was small-town Louisiana politics; eventually, the powers-that-be put an end to that practice). Since this was a small town outside of New Orleans, the likelihood of running into neighbors or friends at the polls was good. I still find Election Day to be very exciting, even though the doughnuts, Chinese takeout, and the dramatic flourish of the curtain when my vote is cast are no more. If you'd like to impart the importance (and excitement!) of Election Day to your family, here are some fantastic choices available at our libraries:

Bad Kitty is one of my top favorite series; not only is it super funny, but the educational aspects of the situation with which Bad Kitty is dealing are imparted in creative and fun ways. Bad Kitty for President finds Bad Kitty running for president of the Neighborhood Cat Association; she soon finds out that politcking is not at all easy! As usual, Uncle Murray is on hand to explain the election process, including campaigning, absentee balloting, and the importance of registering to vote.

Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights is one of Russell Freedman's many outstanding titles; the courage and determination of the civil rights advocates for voting rights is humbling and inspiring.

Fly Guy is one of our most popular easy reader series, so it was a no-brainer to add Fly Guy Presents: The White House to our collection. Fly Guy and his friend Buzz go on a very special field trip to the White House and learn about presidents. Funny and factual--a winning combination!

One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote: All About Voting was a (happily) total surprise; I didn't expect it to be such an entertaining and wide-ranging look at our electoral process. The Cat in the Hat teaches readers about political parties (including third parties), why we vote in November, and how and why we vote.

Today on Election Day is an excellent read aloud look at Election Day, through the eyes of children accompanying family members to the polls.

Through the process of a mayoral election, Vote! introduces readers to ins and outs of campaigning, rallies, voting, and even recounts.

We have many outstanding titles on the suffragist movement and its leaders (including With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote, The Hope Chest, and my new favorite, Around America to Win the Vote); Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President  showcases the early start of the suffragist movement, during which Susan B. Anthony was arrested, put on trial, and found guilty for casting a ballot in an election.

Growing up in the White House might seem really cool, but it can definitely have its downside. Teaching history through the lives of actual children makes history very relatable to young readers, which is why White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems and Pratfalls of the Presidents' Children is one of my very favorite books about the history of the White House and the American presidency.

We also have some informative and entertaining reads for middle and high school students about the voting process:

Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice, From Student Elections to the Supreme Court is an eye-opening look at the power of every vote, as it examines Supreme Court decisions (with emphasis on those that affect young people) that came down to the difference of one vote. It also has a great overview of the electoral process, who is eligible to vote, and arguments for and against making voting mandatory and lowering the voting age.

Red Girl, Blue Boy is a hugely entertaining read about two teens on the opposite side of the political spectrum who, despite being initially antagonistic toward each other, eventually form a secret relationship. When Katie's Republican father and Drew's Democrat mother run for president, they are naturally instant enemies. When they both appear on a surprise interview, they discover that they have feelings for each other; of course, this relationship must be handled in secret--until the press finds out! This has great appeal for middle and high school students; light on romance and heavy on the funny hijinks.

For a deeply personal and in-depth look at the fights for African American voting rights, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March is a must read. At age 15, Lynda Blackman Lowery was the youngest advocate in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March. Lynda was a strong, intelligent, and brave young advocate who was jailed eleven times for participating in the civil rights struggle before she turned 15. Lowery's memoir is an incredible account of the enormous sacrifices and struggles faced by everyday people in the civil rights movement.

For more information on the electoral process and government, please see the J 324 section.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spooky Stories

Confession: I am not a big fan of horror novels. I'll admit that I chicken out. However, horror/"scary stories"/ghost stories are very popular with children and young adults, so I need to read a few every now and then in order to be able to make recommendations. If you or your young reader are in the mood for creepy stories, here are some great titles:

Among the Dolls is a short read (under 100 pages), but definitely a creepy story. Vicky is quite bummed when she receives a dollhouse instead of a ten-speed bike. Vicky has a vivid imagination, and finds that playing with the dollhouse is a welcome escape from her parents' arguments. When she finds herself actually trapped in the dollhouse, she must find a way to escape before she faces further danger.

It's no accident that two of my titles are about dolls; I find doll stories (and talking toy stories) to be creepy!  For the most part, Doll Bones (a 2014 Newbery Honor recipient) is not scare-your-socks-off scary, but it definitely has a spooky undertone. Even though Zach, Alice, and Poppy are in middle school, they still enjoy making up stories and adventures about pirates, mermaids, and a doll they've named The Great Queen. Zach's dad is pressuring him to give up the make-believe, so he quits their regular story sessions. Spurred on by Poppy's consistent dream about a girl ghost that will not be restful until the doll (made from bone china) is buried, the three friends set off to bury The Great Queen. Mishap after mishap mars their journey, with events becoming more sinister as the friends continue on. If you're familiar with The Spiderwick Chronicles (or Holly Black's other stories), you know that Black's tales are quirky, vivid, and full of action and surprises.

R.L. Stine's horror novels include slapstick and humor, so It's the First Day of School-Forever! is no exception. Artie has a tremendously epic first day of school--epically awful, that is! Starting with his brother squirting syrup in his hair, getting splashed by a poodle (which makes it look like he wet his pants), and getting on the wrong side of a bully makes for an extremely tough day; much to his horror, he finds that the events of this horrific day are repeated every day. Is there anyway to break this Groundhog Day cycle? Although this taps more into psychological fear (which is plenty freaky!), there are some monsters and classic horror hijinks at the end to make Goosebumps fans happy.

Parents of some of our young patrons might remember reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (or Alvin Schwartz's sequels). Not only are these short stories enjoyed by both avid and reluctant readers, but they are actually drawn from American folklore and ghost stories. Plans for a movie version of the stories are finally moving forward, so expect renewed interest in these titles when that happens.

If Alvin Schwartz's short stories are "been there, done that" for your young reader, Terrifying Tales and Thriller from the super fun Guys Read series should definitely be on your list. Top-notch authors such as Walter Dean Myers, Bruce Hale, Rita Williams-Garcia, and more contributed original stories perfect for Halloween reading.

Need reads that are even scarier? Try these YA titles:

Anna Dressed in Blood is my litmus test for scary and violent stories (I tried to read Darren Shan's Zom-B and failed; I can do ghosts, but zombies are not my thing); Kendare Blake's tale of a boy who gets caught up with a vengeful ghost is definitely for mature readers; Blake creates a gripping story line that's filled with careful characterization and world-building.

The Dead of Winter and Forbidden are my kind of horror--historical horror! Both novels feature Victorian era orphaned children who realize that weird and sinister things are happening in their new homes: The Dead of Winter is set in Victorian England, while Forbidden takes place along the Scottish coast.

Some readers enjoy cozy winter reads; Trapped is the antithesis of a cozy winter read. Seven high school students are trapped in their high school during a freak blizzard--and not all survive. Make sure you have plenty of time carved out when you start Trapped, because you'll hate to put it down.

Happy Halloween!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ridiculously Good Reads: Fall Edition

I haven't written a Ridiculously Good Reads since August, so I am overdue! I've read a bunch of awesome reads, so I hope you'll find something that entices you:

Just in time for the centennial celebration of the 19th amendment comes Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists,A Kitten, And 10,000 Miles. Nell Richardson and Alice Burke drove through a blizzard, participated in a circus parade, drove long days through the desert, and even dodged bullets in a rough neighborhood in order to promote women's voting rights. Yellow was a prominent color in the suffragist movement (which was new to me, since I only associated white with that movement!), and it is cheerfully celebrated in Hadley Hooper's irresistable illustrations. This is a late addition to my Caldecott 2017 shortlist! If you're familiar with Mara Rockliff's Mesmerized, you know that she presents nonfiction in a lively and super fun way; don't pass this one by.

The Bolds may just be the funniest--or stupidest--book you'll read this year. You just have to roll with the premise of a family of hyenas impersonating a typical suburban British family. They manage to pull it of with most people not suspecting anything (they have a few close calls) for their surly and VERY suspicious neighbor (who turns out to have a few surprises of his own!). If you're in the mood for a ridiculous read, this is the one for you. Roald Dahl fans will love this.

On the other hand, The Door by the Staircase might be the creepiest book you'll read this year. Twelve year old Mary is delighted to finally be adopted; she now has a warm bed and scrumptious meals. Things seem to be rather strange in her new home; the nearby town is filled with fortune tellers, magicians, and the like (who are scorned by Mary's new mother). When she discovers that her new mother is actually Baba Yaga (a witch in Russian folklore) and is actually fattening her up for a delicious meal, she must quickly plan her escape from her new home, aided by the son of a town illusionist. Not only is this a top read for those that like scary stories that are creepy rather than bloody, it's also one for those that revel in vivid descriptions of food (blini, farmer's cheese with rye bread, etc) and indepth characters. On my list for Newbery 2017.

I love finding stories about little-known American heroes and heroines, which is why The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier is one of my top favorites this year. Susannah Wright was indeed extraordinary; this Quaker woman was influential with Benjamin Franklin, advised Native Americans on their legal rights, was a successful businesswoman, and wrote poetry. If you're a fan of American history (especially colonial America), don't delay in reading this book.

Whenever I see a dog on the cover of a book, I'm reminded of Gordon Korman's hysterical No More Dead Dogs ("Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down."). Even books that don't have an award sticker but do have a dog on the cover often feature a dog in peril. Readers that love dog stories but dread sad books about dogs in danger, dogs being taken away from their owner, dogs dying, etc will find Fenway and Hattie, told from the perspective of Fenway (the hyper Jack Russell Terrier on the cover) to be a huge relief. Many changes are happening in Fenway's life: his humans move him from a city apartment to a suburban home, Hattie seems to be developing interests outside of Fenway....and he's attending training classes (these scenes, which include the dogs talking to each other about the classes, are highlights). If you need a good laugh and escape, this is the book for you. If you've ever had or even known a JRT (or loved a dog that was a good dog but definitely needed to learn its manners), you will love this (the scenes between Fenway and the dogs next door are fantastic). Victoria J. Coe is planning to continue more adventures with Fenway and Hattie, so stay tuned!

I am all about funny and fun stories this days, which is why I was thrilled to find The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. Fifteen year old Justin and his friends are making an epic zombie epic as it can with limited funds for special effects, an unfinished script, and a demanding fifteen year old leading lady. Add in the fact that the principal will absolutely not let them film at school, and you have quite a challenge for these young filmmakers. This is hysterically funny and snarky, but never mean. Although it's marketed for YA, there's no mature language or content (there's an on-screen kissing scene that like nearly everything else in the production, ends up being a disaster). Zombie fans will definitely love the jokes and references, but anyone in the mood for a fun and funny read will not be disappointed.

Hannah and Sugar beautifully capture a common childhood fear: a fear of dogs. Dealing with a fear of dogs can be difficult, especially if you're surrounded by kids who love the neighborhood dog. Although Sugar is quite a polite dog and loves the children in the neighborhood, Hannah would rather just avoid him. When Sugar goes missing one day, Hannah is ultimately the hero in bringing him home.

I reviewed The Infinity Year of Avalon James months ago for School Library Journal, and I can't wait for other readers to discover it! Avalon James and her best friend, Atticus, are waiting for the infinity powers that have been promised to them by the end of their eleventh year. While they wait, they have to deal with everyday issues such as a mean kid taunting Avalon about her incarcerated father, the spelling bee, and the inevitable fallout that happens when a friend shares an embarrassing secret about another. Although there are serious issues throughout the story, the overall feel remains light and positive. This is a superb boy-girl friendship story; no snarkiness or putdowns. This is very light fantasy, so realistic readers that like a touch of whimsy and magic in their stories will appreciate this.

Although we are seeing more historical fiction set in the 1970s and 1980s, not all of them fit the need for a historical fiction title that truly embraces important historical events (some just incorporate fads/fashions of the time for background stuff). It Ain't So Awful, Falafel memorably and sensitively captures the worry and dread felt during the Iranian hostage crisis in the late 1970s from the perspective of an 11 year old Iranian-American girl. Zomorod really wants to fit in with her new school and neighborhood, which is difficult when you have an unusual name and your family comes from America's new enemy. Being called on to explain Iranian history and the hostage crisis in class is also a challenge, especially since she barely remembers Iran and like most 11 year olds, doesn't have a firm grasp on the political implications! Like Margarita Engle's Enchanted Air (a memoir), this is a deeply felt, remarkable, and eye-opening look at what it feels like to feel like an outsider in your own country (The No Dogs Allowed Rule is another excellent title in this regard, although not to the extent of these two books). Readers familiar with the experience of moving many times to different homes will also relate. There's also tons of light moments that make this a warm and positive read.

I have a low tolerance for bathroom humor and anti-girl/anti-boy attitudes, so I was quite skeptical of Slingshot and Burp. Can I just say that I really hope we have more Slingshot and Burp stories very soon? I got a huge kick out of this short chapter book featuring two active, rambunctious boys who love playing cowboys (but have a great honor code and do not play "Cowboys and Indians"). Whether they are searching for rattlesnakes or outlaws, scorpions or ghost cats, Slingshot and Burp are always on the move. Their most daunting foes, however, might just be their sisters, who have commandeered their bunkhouse (and decorated it pink!). There is some limited pretend gun play and some "eww girls" moments, but overall, this is a purely fun chapter book about boys with lots of energy and imagination.

If When I Grow Up: Misty Copeland is any indication of the other books in Scholastic's "When I Grow Up" series, then I hope that other titles will be published soon! Told from Misty Copeland's perspective, this sketches the career of this ballet superstar. If you're familiar with Copeland's life story, you know that there were issues between her mother and her mentor; this is presented as her mother not wanting Misty to be separated from the family, etc. A young readers edition of Copeland's memoir will be released in December for those wanting a more in-depth but still child-friendly look at Copeland's life.

When Woodpecker smells the delicious waffles wafting from the local diner, he becomes obsessed with getting a bite (or more) of this breakfast treat. Unfortunately, the waitress is not at all charmed by his attempts to gain entrance to the diner! Woodpecker Wants a Waffle is a laugh-out-loud tale of great hijinks--you just might have a craving for some waffles at the end of the story (and if you're into the diner theme, check out Everyone Loves Bacon).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library