Monday, May 29, 2017

Honoring Our Veterans: Books for Military Appreciation Month

While Memorial Day is specifically set aside to honor our servicemen and servicewomen who died in the line of duty, May also includes other official military days such as Loyalty Day (May 1), VE Day (May 8), Military Spouse Appreciation Day (May 12), and Armed Forces Day (May 20). In honor of Military Appreciation Month, here is a sample of our fantastic children's books about the military:

Most people know the first three parts of the International Communications Alphabet, but do you know the rest of it...or how it was created? Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Military Alphabet  is an intriguing overview of the ICA, complete with the official signal flags used by the US Navy to indicate each letter.

When a military parent is deployed, it's a hardship on both the spouse left behind and on the children waiting for mom or dad to return home. Brave Like Me is a beautiful book that acknowledges the concerns and fears that are inevitably felt by children in military families.

Count on Us: American Women in the Military is an revelatory look at American military women, beginning with their involvement in the Revolutionary War! Published by National Geographic, this is a gorgeously created tribute to the brave women in the armed forces.

Throughout US military history, dogs have been used in countless ways to fight wars and protect our armed forces. For an expansive and heartwarming overview of these amazing dogs, check out Dogs on Duty: Soldiers' Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond.

With 2017 being the 35th anniversary of the completion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we will see more article and books about its unique creation. Those not familiar with the long journey involved in building the memorial may be surprised that its design was quite controversial, and that the architect was a 21 year old college student. Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines  is a stunning picture book biography of Maya Lin, as it chronicles her childhood influences (including her parents fleeing oppression in China), the difficult journey from design to completion, and the emotion that many feel when encountering the memorial (including Lin finding the name of her friend's father on the memorial). This is one of my top favorites for 2017.

Although Japan was able to crack the Army and Navy codes during World War II, they were never able to crack code used by the Marines. What made the Marines different? They used American Indian soldiers fluent in Navajo and able to send codes using their language. Navajo Code Talkers: Secret American Indian Heroes of World War II retells the thrilling and humbling work of the Navajo code talkers.

Who were the Red-Tail Angels? If you're not familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American  fighter and bomber pilots of World War II, you need to read Red-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Written by the inimitable Patricia and Frederick McKissack, this is one of the best World War II books for children that you'll ever read.

We received Rolling Thunder just in time for Memorial Day. A young boy accompanies his grandfather to the annual Memorial Day tribute and demonstration; this has received excellent reviews, so I'm sure this will be a popular choice!

We are gearing up for another fun-filled summer reading program! This year's theme is Reading by Design, so we're celebrating construction, architecture, inventions, and the arts! If you're interested in some fantastic picture books with a building theme, check out the ASLC (Association for Library Services to Children) blog. 

 Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, May 22, 2017

L'Chaim! Books for Jewish American Heritage Month

Since 2006, May has been designated  Jewish American Heritage Month by presidential proclamation. We have so many outstanding books about Jewish life and famous Jewish Americans that it was difficult to whittle my list down to a manageable size! Here are some of my top choices:

The shenanigans of five Jewish sisters growing up in early 1900s New York has charmed generations since its publication in 1951. The family's sweet, touching, and funny adventures continue in Sydney Taylor's sequels to All-of-a-Kind Family.

Dave at Night is quite the personal story for Gail Carson Levine, as it was inspired by her father's experience growing up in an orphanage for Jewish children. When Dave runs away from the Hebrew Home for Boys, he encounters a man who introduces him to the burgeoning culture of the Harlem Renaissance.

Want a rollicking and entertaining biography? It's hard to top Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini. Written by the great Sid Fleischman, this is an incredible read of a larger-than-life character, the great magician Houdini.

Hank Greenberg was the first Jewish athlete superstar and faced opposition and discrimination along the way to becoming one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history (he never forgot what that was like, which made him one of the few MLB players to openly welcome Jackie Robinson to the leagues). Hammerin' Hank: The Story of Hank Greenberg is an inspiring picture book biography of one of the sport's great players. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? is another superb biography of a great Jewish-American baseball player.

Based on actual events, Hanukkah at Valley Forge is a beautiful account of a Jewish-American Revolutionary War soldier celebrating Hanukkah at one of the low points in the war, and how he taught General Washington about the downtrodden Jewish army's victory over the powerful Greeks.

Although Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea  isn't an ideal choice for a homework report on Levi Strauss, its tall-tale feel makes for a super fun read aloud that celebrates American ingenuity.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein is a fascinating picture book biography of the esteemed physicist. If you need an introduction to Einstein, this is the place to look!

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself is Judy Blume's only historical fiction novel for children; personally, it's my favorite from her work. As it takes place just a few years after the end of World War II, ten year old Sally's Jewish family is still dealing with the lingering shock felt by the revelations of the concentration camps, and dealing with the polio epidemic.

Finally, Who is Stan Lee? is one of our most popular Who Was/Who Is titles; there are few things better than a genuine American rags to riches story, and Lee's rise from lowly assistant at Timely Comics (which later became Marvel) to the creator of the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, and of course, Spider-Man, is one of the best rags-to-riches stories ever.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Coming Soon to a Library Near You: New Books for Summer Reading

Summer means lots of things to many people: vacations, swimming, more time to play with friends...and more time for fun reading! We just ordered some amazing sounding titles for June-July, and I can't wait to have them in our libraries. Here are just some of the titles that I can't wait to read this summer:

When middle schooler Kelly's charge gets kidnapped by monsters, it's up to her--and a secret babysitting league--to save the world (without embarrassing herself at the middle school Halloween dance, of course!). Kirkus Reviews calls A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting "[A] series opener that melds Goosebumps and The Babysitters Club with ironic glue."

Want a meaninful patriotic read for Indepenence Day? Blue Sky White Stars's tribute to the American flag "gives new life to Old Glory for young readers" (Kirkus Reviews). Kadir Nelson is a giant in illustration, so this is extra special.

If the name Leland Melvin isn't instantly familiar to you, you may be familiar with his NASA portrait, which included his beloved (rescue!) dogs, Jake and Scout. His 2009 portrait has gone viral several times, introducing the former NFL draftee and Virginia native to the nation several times. His memoir, Chasing Space, will be released simultaneously in its original memoir for adults and in a young readers' edition. Melvin's success as an astronaut did not come easily; after suffering injuries that prematurely ended his NFL aspirations, he experienced a training accident that left him deaf in one ear and almost ended his astronaut career. No reviews yet for the young readers' edition, but the adult memoir is drawing praise for his honesty and candor.

Imagine getting a message that you're being watched by aliens. While trying to fend off the impending alien threat, he's also trying to find his cat and get his homework finished on time! Do Not Open (Marty Pants) is perfect for "fans of goofy, illustrated novels" (School Library Journal.

WIth that fabulous cover, I don't expect A Dog Like Daisy to stay on our new shelves for long! Daisy has been chosen to be a service dog for a veteran dealing with PTSD, but it's not exactly working out well. However, she discovers that finding a new purpose will be a great way to serve another family. Told from Daisy's point of view ("petting is a joy like sunshine"), this is receiving great reviews for its charm, originality, and a honest depiction of a veteran surviving PTSD.

When an asbestos situation causes her school to immediately close (in the middle of an important baseball game), Gabby transfers to an exclusive private school, where she develops a playbook for getting on the baseball team and making friends. When those plans fail, she makes plans to join the school's dismal hockey team. Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook has been called "[H]ilarious and joyful" (Kirkus Reviews); can't wait to read it!

Rolling Thunder follows a young boy and his grandfather as they journey to and participate in the annual Rolling Thunder event on Memorial Day. This will be a great addition to our Memorial Day book collections!

This is just a sample of the awesome books coming our way! Check out Wowbrary for even more titles.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Places Near and Far: Books for National Travel and Tourism Week

Whether it's a novel set in a different country, a nonfiction title about contemporary issues in a specific country, or a beautifully designed travel book, books that have a strong geographical bent are always high on my list. If you're a fellow armchair traveler, you're in luck! Although sites like TripAdvisor and Pinterest are fantastic for gathering travel information, there's still nothing like a trusty guidebook for in-depth information and inspiration, or an informational book for background historical information for a must-see attraction. National Travel and Tourism Week (May 7-13) is a great time to start gathering information for your summer travels, or just enjoy some armchair travel reading:

For years, I've lamented the lack of good children's travel books. Many's the time I've had to give a country profile book (written for homework assignments rather than casual reading) to a parent wanting his/her child to read about a country or state that they will be visiting. Thankfully, Lonely Planet stepped up, and they are way ahead of the curve for publishing fun, attractive, and informational travel books for children. Of course, children are unlikely to be interested in hotel or restaurant reviews, so don't expect those. Instead, readers will be entertained and enlightened by weird, funny, or even freaky trivia about city landmarks and history. Warrenton Youth Services staff ooohs and ahhs over each new City Trails book that comes in, and they don't stay on the new books shelves very long!

Here's something else that took much too long to update: standout picture books about airplane travel! While there are certainly still cute and longstanding books about airplanes still in print, anything published before the creation of TSA in 2001 will be wholly unrecognizable to young travelers. The Airport Book is a must read for young children embarking on an airplane trip: it follows a family though the airport as they check their bags, go through security, and wait at the gate for their plane to ride. Many children's books focus just on the airplane ride and not so much on the airport experience itself (or focus on the mechanics of airplane travel); this is a welcome addition! Families with very young children (2 years or younger) should check out Flight 123.

Planning a road trip? Make sure you pack Backseat A B See (also in board book for the car seat crowd!) for the car! This inventive alphabet book uses road signs (including L for library) to teach the alphabet. This is also a great book for babies, as the illustrations are bright, clear, and use contrasting colors.

If visiting a national park is in your summer plans, don't miss National Parks U.S.A. Major national parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Shenandoah, and others are profiled.

Following on the heels of the enormously popular Who Was/Is? series is the Where Is? series. Discover the ins and outs of such historical sites as the Colossuem, Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon, and more!

The hottest ticket in town continues to be for the National Museum of African American History and Culture; if you've managed to get tickets, make sure you have time to read How to Build a Museum , which chronicles the almost 100 year journey to build the museum.

The Living In series is an automatic buy for me; these are ideal for those not ready for longer books about countries. Each title introduces readers to a child living in that particular country, who introduces his/her country's famous sites, as well as information about important historical and cultural tidbits.

Happy trails!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Time for a Rhyme: Celebrate Mother Goose Day!

Happy Mother Goose Day! Mother Goose Day (May 1) was declared in 1987 by Gloria T. Delamar. It's a day to celebrate the classic Mother Goose rhymes, and also a great way to learn about nursery rhymes popular around the world! Nursery rhymes are pretty much universal; they teach babies and young children rhythm, rhyme, and sometimes riddles. If your knowledge of Mother Goose rhymes is rusty, we have a fine collection of nursery rhymes that will jog your memory; if you are from a culture that is not familiar with the English rhymes, these books will introduce the most famous and fun ones: 

Iona and Peter Opie were giants and early pioneers in the academic study of children's folklore, games, and rhymes. While their Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes is more of interest to those studying nursery rhymes, Here Comes Mother Goose is a sweet volume of the classic rhymes (with some lesser-known ones thrown in for variety), winsomely illustrated by Rosemary Wells.

The Neighborhood Mother Goose is my #1 favorite Mother Goose treasury by far; it's a fabulous baby gift (the first nursery rhyme treasury I gave to my niece when she was an infant). What makes this unique is that the nursery rhymes are brought to life through adorable photographs of children from many ethnicities "acting out" the rhymes. Babies and young children are drawn to photographs of other children, which makes this one of the most appealing nursery rhyme treasuries out there. The companion volume, The Neighborhood Sing Along, features classic children's songs.

Mother Goose doesn't have to stop at the preschool stage! You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together (part of the very fun You Read to Me...series) presents Mother Goose rhymes in an easy-to-read format for beginner readers.

Want to expand your horizons? Check out these collections of nursery rhymes from many cultures. These are not translated versions of Mother Goose rhymes, but are collections of rhymes unique to particular cultures:

 Los Pollitos Dicen: juegos, rimas y canciones infantiles de paises de habla hispano/The Baby Chicks Sing: Traditional Games, Nursery Rhymes, and Songs From Spanish Speaking Countries is a charming bilingual collection of nursery rhymes popular in Spanish speaking countries. Music notation is included for the first stanza, which helps to understand the rhythm; instructions for games are included.  Pio Peep and Tortillitas Para Mama are also excellent collections of Spanish nursery rhymes; Pio Peep includes a CD of selected songs/rhymes, and Tortillitas Para Mama includes instructions for the fingerplays.

Skip Across the Ocean: Nursery Rhymes From Around the World collects many nursery rhymes from countries such as Poland, Japan, Nigeria, and Canada (from First Nation communities), as well as Native American nursery rhymes. Brief notes about the popularity/origin of rhymes are included when available, as are instructions for fingerplays.

Songs From the Garden of Eden: Jewish Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes is a small gem of a nursery rhyme collection; Yiddish, Hebrew, Sephardic, and Arabic lullabies and rhymes are beautifully illustrated, with intriguing notes on cultural traditions of each song included at the end of the book. Not only that--a CD is included!

You probably know that many nursery rhymes have historical and/or political references hidden in them; if you've ever wanted to know the real story behind "Humpty Dumpty" or "Baa Baa Black Sheep," Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme is for you. Not academic at all; this is a quick and entertaining read.

Looking for more collections of traditional Mother Goose rhymes? Check out our J 398.8 section.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Random Reads: Check Them Out!

I haven't written a "Random Reads" post since early February, so I have lots to share with you! Random Reads posts will include a mix of children's, YA, and adult books, so if you're not looking for anything in particular, I hope you'll find something here that captures your interest! 

Picture Books: 

Knitters will sympathize with the grandmother in Leave Me Alone  , who just wants enough peace and quiet to finish her knitting. A large family and a small house precludes that, so she takes drastic measures to ensure that she can finish her project. Unfortunately, bears, goats, and even...aliens pester her tranquility! Luckily, Grandmother perseveres and returns just in time to clothe her family with beautiful warm sweaters for a cold (presumably Russian) winter. This is one of the 2017 Caldecott Honor recipients, and definitely well deserved! 

Speaking of the Caldecott Medal...A Perfect Day   went on my 2018 Caldecott shortlist the second I turned the last page. What constitutes a perfect day? Well, that would mean something different for every person...and a cat, a dog, a squirrel, a bird, and a bear (who arguably has the better day of everyone in the book). This is gorgeously illustrated and has a story line with a funny surprise ending, which is always a winner! 

Sweet, sweet, sweet, but not saccharine. The Ring Bearer is a tender, funny, and joyous celebration of new beginnings. Jackson is a ring bearer at a very important wedding--his mom's! He's quite nervous, because it's a big job, but new stepsister Sophie doesn't seem to take her flower girl responsibilities as seriously as he thinks she should. As with most weddings, there's some unexpected drama, but Jackson saves the day, making his mom, new stepfather, and new stepsister very happy! 

I adore Big Cat, Little Cat (it's also on my Caldecott 2018 list), and for cat fans that have been looking for a sweet cat story (instead of a crafty or aloof cat), this is for you. When little cat moves into Big Cat's home, Big Cat teaches him the ways of being a cat. Be ready for a lump in your throat in the middle of the story, but rest assured that the ending is well worth it! 

Lucia loves to race around in her superhero cape, but is discouraged when she is told that "girls aren't superheroes." Luckily, her grandmother explains that she is actually descended from a line of luchadoras, who like the Mexican professional male wrestlers in lucha libre, wear dazzling masks. Lucia the Luchadora  is a stunningly illustrated and charmingly told salute to the vibrant traditions of lucha libre! 


After Fabiola's mother is detained when they enter the United States from Haiti, she must adjust to Detroit life (and her American aunt and cousins) on her own. Fabiola desperately misses her mother and her life back in Haiti, but she copes as best she can with different food, attitudes, school, friends, and even a relationship, which drags her unwittingly into the illegal drug trade. American Street is a powerful, gripping, and unsettling read that will linger with you long after you finish it. 

If you love fantasy, but have had enough of rebellious princesses and whatnot, Vassa in the Night  might be for you. But be warned--this modern urban fantasy based on the Russian Baba Yaga folktales is quite strange, as a dangerous shopping center ruled by Babs Yagg takes center stage. I'll confess that I didn't wholeheartedly love it (it gets a little out there and gory at times), but it was definitely a welcome change from princesses who are tasked with saving the world (it also received a ton of starred reviews, so many love it).

On the other hand, if you can't get enough of princesses saving the world, Caraval might be for you. Scarlett flees her island community after her father arranges her marriage, as she's convinced that she will never see Caraval, the famous audience participation extravaganza produced every year. When her sister is kidnapped at Caraval, she is drawn into the Caraval game in a way that she never expected. I didn't love this one either (I'm not a big fantasy fan, but I read it every now and then because so many patrons love fantasy), but the worldbuilding is pretty cool, and the relationship with the sisters is just as important as the romance with the mysterious, aloof, and sometimes cruel stranger at Caraval. This gets a little breathlessly romancey at times, but nothing beyond passionate kissing (but there's quite a bit of violence instead, so there's that). If you're into magnificent costumes and Gothic atmospheres, you'll devour this Alice's Adventures in Wonderland meets The Night Circus story (I loved The Night Circus and can't wait for Erin Morgenstern's new book).  This is #1 in a series, and has been a huge hit among our YA readers. 

Adult Fiction/Nonfiction: 

I devoured The Bear and the Nightingale, and it's not exactly my style. As I said, I'm not a huge fan of fantasy. However, this is historical fantasy, and I've really liked the few historical fantasy books that I've read (The Golem and the Jinni, which is for adults, and The Crown's Game, which is YA), and I love love love stories set in Russia, so I had to try this out. This book is pretty wild--there's lots about the struggle between Russian Orthodoxy and the old pagan traditions, the role of women in medieval Russia, Moscow life vs. Russian country life--but it's mainly about a very unusual girl (later young woman) who must fight powers threatening her village (there's also a marvelous magical horse as well!). This is #1 in a trilogy (second is out in January 2018, and I can't wait!). 

I'm drawn to books that are set in foreign countries or are about foreign countries, and even more so if the author is embarking on a personal journey to the country, so My Father’s Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq was a natural for me. Author Ariel Sabar grew up in Los Angeles, far from his father's tiny village in Zakho, high in the mountains of northern Iraq.  In Zakho, Kurdish Jews spoke a form of Aramaic (the same language Jesus spoke) and lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbors, until the community left their homeland for Israel (and other parts) in the 1950s, discarding their dialect for Hebrew and English. Ariel's father, Yona, became an academic superstar for his preservation of the ancient language and its oral traditions, and traveled with his son to postwar Iraq to visit the village and to find out the truth behind Yona's missing sister. Life for the Kurdish Jews in this isolated village was undeniably harsh (more so for the women), but community ties and traditions were strong, and the niceties and respect expressed by both Jewish and Muslim villagers during that time were moving. This reminded me very much of Dawn Anahid MacKeen's The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey and Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, which are also outstanding reads. 

Historical fiction is obviously my bag (most historical fiction is, save for a few eras). I'm always interested in Russian historical fiction, but a lot of it tends to take place in Tsarist Russia. Which is fascinating, but it would great to have more post-Revolution stories. Thankfully, The Patriots is an incredibly gripping read that alternates between 1930s Russia and contemporary Russia. Young Florence Fein leaves Depression-era Cleveland for a new job in Russia (and to follow a new Russian paramour who has fled the States); she has a romanticized (and inaccurate) idealization of Communist Russia, to her Jewish parents' horror. When Russia declares her stateless, she is trapped in a nightmare that even the United States embassy can't solve. Years later, her son Julian immigrates to New York, later taking an oil industry job that involves frequent trips to Moscow, in which he both attempts to find his mother's KGB file and to deal with his debaucherous nouveau riche colleagues in Russia. If you like sweeping historical sagas, you want to read this! 

Did you know that April is Month of the Military Child? I blogged about books featuring children in military families on the ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) blog. 

Looking for more great reads? Check out current and back issues of Wowbrary, where you'll find the latest orders for our collection!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, April 17, 2017

Grow a Reader (and Gardener!): Books for National Garden Month

Due to the number of books checked out about gardens, flowers, and spring in general, it's obvious that our patrons are definitely glad that spring is here! Luckily, we have many outstanding books for young green thumbs and nature aficionados. Take a break from your yard and garden chores with these stunning reads:

Flower Garden is a sweet reminder that you don't need a big suburban garden to enjoy your own garden. As long as you have an empty shoebox, a few seeds, and nurturing care (with assistance from Dad), you can create a lovely garden--which makes for a special birthday present for Mom. This is one of my  Mother's Day themed story time staples.

Kevin Henkes is the king of gorgeous pastel illustrations. My Garden  is perfect for sharing with toddlers and preschoolers; as the young girl dreams of jellybean bushes and chocolate rabbits, it does have an Easter feel to it, but great for any time during the spring.

Like Waiting for WingsPlanting a Rainbow is a intricately collaged Lois Ehlert gem. A mother and her young child prepare their garden for a beautiful array of flowers (which are labeled) in this exceptional informational read aloud.

It's always a bright day when a new Kate Messner informational picture book is out (or any Kate Messner book, for that matter). Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, like her sublime Over and Under the Pond (her latest!) and Over and Under the Snow  are breathtakingly illustrated and written, sure to inspire nature outings after the last page is turned.

If Cathryn Falwell's Feast for 10 and Christmas for 10 are regular selections for your Thanksgiving and Christmas read alouds, add Rainbow Stew for your spring or summer reads! It's a rainy day, but three children and their grandfather pick delicious vegetables to make his famous Rainbow Stew. Not only is this a gorgeous grandchild-grandparent story, but it also includes the recipe for Rainbow Stew at the end of the story.

Looking for children's nonfiction books about gardening? Check out our J 635 section.

Happy gardening!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library