Monday, October 17, 2016

Looking Ahead: Caldecott 2017 Favorites

Back in June, I discussed my favorites (so far) for the Newbery, Caldecott, etc awards that will be announced on January 23rd (a rather late date, which gives me more time to read and order more potential titles). This has been an extraordinary year, in my opinion, for illustration. I have so many favorites for Caldecott 2017 that I don't have room to discuss Newbery or Printz, so that will be for another post! After eliminating some titles due to the citizenship/residency requirement for illustrators (such as Cloth Lullaby, unfortunately) Here's my shortlist (so far):

Few people would choose the coyote as a beloved animal. After reading Coyote Moon, however, you'll probably gain a better understanding of this creature. As a coyote hunts late at night in a suburban neighborhood, a golf course, near a library, and by a lake, she uses her heightened senses to capture food for her babies. Not only is the artwork evocative and gorgeous, but the text (which is not evaluated for the Caldecott) makes this a perfect read aloud for young listeners, provided they aren't too squeamish about the predator-prey relationship (information about coyotes follows the story). Nature in the suburbs is rarely depicted, which makes this quite special! Author Maia Gianferrari is a Virginia author. 

Like many people, I have a long-held interest in World War II. However, my interests are not so much with battles and such, but with the way ordinary citizens lived day by day. The many home front campaigns (and the propaganda for them) amaze me, especially the Victory Garden project, which involved both young and old citizens. Diana's White House Garden introduces us to Diana Hopkins, daughter of President Roosevelt's chief advisor. Diana is quite the lucky girl, because she lives in the White House! Like many children, Diana wants to be part of the war effort; after a few false (and funny) starts, Eleanor Roosevelt seeks her help with the White House's own Victory Garden. I adore this story; not only are the illustrations divine, but it also speaks to the importance of taking children seriously and involving them in important work. An afterword gives further information about Diana Hopkins (including photographs--yes, this is a true story!). Although there are many superb picture books about World War II, many are rather lengthy (The Greatest Skating Race and Boxes for Katje) and/or appropriate for older children (The Cats in Krasinski Square); this is a first-rate choice if you need a World War II read aloud for a lower elementary classroom.

Barbara McClintock has never won a Caldecott. Not even an Honor. Could Emma and Julia Love Ballet be the ticket? This sweet story about a young ballet student and a professional ballerina who also attends her school is among her best (and the perfect gift for young ballerinas).

Freedom in Congo Square has earned a ton of Caldecott buzz ever since it was published, and rightfully so. R. Gregory Christie's skillful and unforgettable illustrations of enslaved African Americans gathering every Sunday in New Orleans's Congo Square to market and socialize are among the best this year. Definitely would not be surprised to see this capture the Medal, or an Honor.

How This Book Was Made  pairs two of my favorite funniest authors/illustrators into a book that is not only hysterical, but a genuinely informative story on the book making process. Everything from the author writing several drafts, the editor making her corrections, the book publishing overseas and being shipped on a boat back and forth (they don't go into the economics behind that reasoning), and finally, to the book being made available to readers is included. A must read for classrooms writing, drawing, and "publishing" their own books!

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood  is an inspiring and joyful testament to the power of art (and community involvement) in everyday life. No one would think Mira's city neighborhood is beautiful or anything special, until an artist (inspired by Mira taping her artwork to a gray wall) helps her neighborhood create vibrant murals along their drab buildings. This is based on illustrator Rafael Lopez's own experiences with San Diego's Urban Art Trail; further information is included at the end of the story.

 I agree with Betsy Bird that Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus  might be an outlier for Caldecott 2017, but I share her appreciation for the exquisite artwork in this moving depiction of Jesus's life. This is an extraordinary gem.

The Night Gardener is offbeat, wondrous, and a glorious reminder of the importance of mentorship and creativity--things that Caldecott committees tend to love. William (like Mira in Maybe Something Beautiful) lives in a dull-looking neighborhood (he actually lives in an orphanage). No one is really connected to their community or thinks much about it--until a mysterious gardener sculpts amazing formations. As the neighbors are awed by the transformations in their community, they also began to take pride in their houses and land, thus adding to their neighborhood's vitality. This book has grown on me since I first read it, and it's now one of my top favorites this year.

You think you have problems? Try putting a gorilla to bed! This gorilla wants to party. Unfortunately, it's bedtime for both the gorilla and the little boy.  Playtime? is nearly wordless (I think the only words are "playtime" and "bedtime" repeated throughout the story); the  humor is all in the illustrations. This might not have a great deal of Caldecott buzz--and I don't normally warm to most wordless or near wordless books--but this has tons of charm and fun. I would be very happy to have a book full of charm and fun win the Caldecott (or an Honor).

The Storyteller has Caldecott written all over it: the illustrations are detailed and immense, it's quite a sophisticated and lengthy picture book (make sure you have time to sit with it), and it is all about the power of storytelling. A community is threatened by a Djinn and its monstrous sandstorm; can it be saved by a young boy and an elderly storyteller? This profoundly beautiful story is set in Morocco; Evan Turk includes an afterword, in which he explains that Morocco's legendary storytelling tradition is being severely threatened by the the proliferation of the entertainment industry and smartphones/tablets (however, steps are being made to preserve this ancient tradition with storytelling cafes).


I love, love, love Thunder Boy, Jr. Little Thunder admires his father, Big Thunder, very much, but he wants a name that makes him distinct. Father and son consider names before choosing the perfect name. The story is simple, but the illustrations are so sweet; this is a darling father-son story. As you might guess (or if you know who Sherman Alexie is), Little Thunder's family is Native American. Modern representations of Native American children in children's literature is maddeningly rare; this is a much-needed story.

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Neighborhood will break your heart, but its strong message of peace and hope helps to balance the tragedy of Anne Frank's life being cut short. Through the perspective of the tree growing near the annex in which Anne Frank spent two years hiding from the Nazis, this chronicles the legacy of both Anne Frank and the tree in inspiring peace and strength long after their deaths (seeds from the tree have been planted in places such as Central High School in Little Rock and the September 11th memorial in New York).

For some reason, seasonal books don't tend to receive Caldecott recognition. When Spring Comes  is just so fabulously pastel and adorable that I can't leave it off. All the wonders of spring are celebrated, including the cool days of early spring. Spring doesn't just happen overnight; you have to be patient for the animals to awake and for the flowers to blossom. This is one of the best spring books out there, and I hope it gets recognized.

What an incredible year for illustrations! I'll update my list when we are closer to the actual ceremony in late January.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Star Wars Reads Day

Star Wars Reads Day is October 10th, but this annual celebration of Star Wars books has turned into a month-long celebration! Now that the franchise has been reignited, the amount of Star Wars books has exploded (the quality of the books for children and teens has greatly improved as well). My last Star Wars post was back in December (and in May before that), but we have even more awesome books to tell you about!

I am not a Star Wars Rebels viewer, but I know many of our patrons do watch the series. (From what I know and seen, Ahsoka is pretty cool.)  It's also quite impressive (or should I say, most impressive) that E.K. Johnston is the author of this first YA novel about Ahsoka.

Claudia Gray is the author of the fabulous Lost Stars (among other things), which quickly became a favorite for Star Wars fans of all ages, so her Leia-centric novel (not YA, unlike Lost Stars) was eagerly anticipated.  Bloodline sees Leia as she grapples with the fact that Darth Vader is her biological father and the dangers that threaten to destabilize the fragile peace that was established after the Empire was defeated. A must read for Leia fans! (Adult fiction)

Aftermath was the first Star Wars novel I read (I'm late to the Star Wars books world); I wasn't sure if I would really care about reading Star Wars characters that were not in the movies, but Chuck Wendig got me hooked (Star Wars characters--except for Luke, who at the moment is not featured in the post Return of the Jedi literature--are prominent throughout the story, but are not the central characters)! Aftermath: Life Debt is even better, with Han Solo and Leia being very central to the events. The final book in the trilogy will be released in early February. (Adult fiction)

Don't expect too many books about Rey until her past is fully revealed, so Rey's Survival Guide will probably be it for a while (other than easy readers that retell events in The Force Awakens). Boys and girls have both enjoyed this heavily illustrated volume (it's written in script; I haven't read the entire thing because it drives me crazy).

If you can't deal with the script in Rey's survival guide, check out Star Wars: Before the Awakening, which reveals limited information about the origins of Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron. (Poe's recent comics will be released as a bound volume in the near future; his heritage has already been revealed in post-Return of the Jedi comics, so his background is not being kept secret).

Th ever-popular Star Wars Character Encyclopedia has been updated to include new characters introduced in The Force Awakens and Star Wars Rebels.

The Star Wars comic book collections continue to be very popular, so I add them when they are bundled into a collection. Arriving soon will be  Star Wars: Darth Vader 3: The Shu-Torun WarStar Wars: Vader Down, and Star Wars 3: Rebel Jail 

We are celebrating Star Wars Reads Day during our What's Up Wednesday programs on October 19th (4-5 PM at all libraries). 

But, wait! There's more!

When I sent my orders for new fall/winter books, I was determined not to order any more titles for those seasons unless I came across something extraordinary. Well...I did:

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep (not necessarily fall related, but squirrel stories are often part of fall learning themes and story times)

Wonderfall follows a tree throughout the seasons, so this can be enjoyed year round!

Yellow Time has received superb reviews and looks gorgeous.

Mary Engelbreit retells the Nativity events in the guise of a children's Christmas pageant. Hello. How could we not have this? CANNOT WAIT. A Night of Great Joy is beautifully multicultural (as are other Engelbreit creations) and should be extremely popular; reviews have noted that she includes little mishaps and surprises that inevitably happen when  young children are on stage.  (Also see The Christmas Pageant for a sweet rendition of a children's Nativity pageant.)

So many outstanding books are coming our way!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Seasons Readings

Last week, I told you about the awesome books that we will soon receive for the fall holidays. Now, it's time to discuss new winter holiday reads for 2016! These books should start showing up mid-October through early November, so keep these in mind when you are ready for holiday reading:


Several years ago, Zonderkidz launched a line of Berenstain Bears books (written by Mike Berenstain, the son of the original creators) that included Christian teachings in the story; the stories are nondenominational and feature lessons on being courageous, celebrating Easter, enjoying nature, doing your best, helping others, and more. The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Angel feature Brother and Sister Bear learning about angels.

Stories  of Santa's childhood are nothing new, but A Boy Called Christmas is already receiving outstanding reviews; when a young Finnish boy discovers the North Pole (while searching for his missing father), he is immediately locked up by suspicious elves. Christmas cheer is at a record low; can Nikolas break free, convince the elves that he can help, and find his father? Kirkus Reviews believes that "this has great promise as a read loud."

Fly Guy is back in Fly Guy's Ninja Christmas; when searching for a present to give his best friend (on Christmas Eve, no less), he accidentally ninja-attacks a stranger in black boots and a red suit. Oops.

Gingerbread Baby is back in his third adventure! Gingerbread Baby really wants a gingerbread band; luckily, his human friend Matti is ready to help. When the townspeople realize that the band is actually delicious gingerbread cookies, Gingerbread Baby and his band are off on a wild chase. I expect quite a few holds for Gingerbread Christmas, so get those requests in soon!

Gordan Korman's fun and funny mystery series Swindle continues with Jingle; Griffin Bing is reluctantly volunteering with the town's annual Christmas celebration when the famous "Star of Prague" is stolen!

Truthfully, The LEGO Christmas Ornament Book is tops on my list for new Christmas books; I'm always eager to find unique and fun holiday books that will be super popular, and I'm pretty confident that this will not stay on our shelves for long!

The sister and brother team behind the Babymouse graphic novels is bringing their adorable creation to the picture book crowd! Babymouse fans know that a Babymouse story isn't complete with tons of mishaps and hilarity; judging from the synopsis for Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes, this new one is no exception. And it's not often that you read a Christmas story that features cupcakes AND dragons, do you?

Oh, wouldn't it just be lovely to go to a Christmas tree farm, pick out a beautiful tree, marvel at the beautiful scenery, and maybe enjoy a cider doughnut and a cup of cocoa? That does sound like a fun day...unless you have allergies like Maple (and me!).    Maple and Willow's Christmas Tree continues this darling sisters story that addresses a situation that's very common, but never addressed in Christmas stories.

Salina Yoon's Penguin finally gets his very own Christmas story! Penguin has the perfect Christmas celebration planned, but what can you do when things don't go as planned? Penguin's Christmas Wish celebrates finding joy in unexpected circumstances; something that everyone who has seen their holiday plans altered can relate to!

I'm excited to read Presents Through the Window, because it was originally published in Japan! Santa peeks through the windows of animals and guesses what presents they would like. Sometimes this works great, while other times....not so much.

I've been intrigued by a series that retells Shakespeare's plays through text messages, but have held off on actually purchasing a title. When I saw that A Christmas Carol has been retold in the same format as Scrooge #worstgiftever, I immediately added it to my winter holidays order (it's rare to find a YA holiday book).

This is the Stable was mentioned in a review for another Nativity picture book told in the form of a "This is the house that Jack built" format. The reviewer said that this one was much better, so I ordered it; it's on backorder status (it's a few years old), but we should get it in plenty of time for the Christmas season.

Yay! A Christmas board book for our youngest patrons. Tiny Blessings for a Merry Christmas is a praise of thanks for Christmas blessings; everything from the beautiful lights to to family members celebrating together.

I'm lucky if I can find one YA holiday book, but this year we have two, thanks to The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily (the sequel to Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which is also set at Christmastime). Dash and Lily are hoping that a trip to Manhattan will boost Lily's Christmas spirits; she's not really feeling the joy of the season due to her grandfather's heart attack.

For readers that want a scary Christmas story, R.L. Stine's Young Scrooge should fit the bill. Like Stine's other middle grade reads, humor is a huge part of this retelling of A Christmas Carol.


We have plenty of Hanukkah picture books, but Hanukkah novels? Not so much. Dreidels on the Brain is not only set during Hanukkah, but it's also historical fiction (set in 1971 Los Angeles). As important as historical fiction centered on the 19th-20th century immigration experience and the Holocaust are, I'm super appreciative when historical fiction featuring Jewish characters are set in time periods other than those historical events.

Potatoes at Turtle Rock features a Jewish farm family; we don't often see Jewish stories in rural settings (The Passover Lamb is an exception), so this is a welcome addition. Annie leads her family around their farm on the first night of Hanukkah; riddles and potatoes are marks of both old and new traditions.

Winter and New Year: 

I adore Shirley Parenteau's bear stories, so I can't wait to use Bears in the Snow for a winter themed story time!

Lori Evert and Per Breiehagen's gorgeously photographed Wish series (daughter Anja is the little girl in the pictures) continues with The Brave Little Puppy. Enjoy the stark and serene beauty of Norwegian winters from your favorite warm and cozy reading nook. This remarkable series began with The Christmas Wish (which actually began as a Christmas card to their family!); the movie version is slated for a 2017 Christmas release.

We don't have many New Year books, so I'm sure Happy New Year, Spot! will be extremely popular!

Ride the Big Machines in Winter will definitely stand out among the picturesque and dreamy wintertime stories; this is all about the snowplows, salt trucks, Zamboni machines, and other winter-related machines that keep the roads clear and the ice clean for travel and sports.

It's not often that we see a giant wooly mammoth in winter stories, which definitely makes Samson in the Snow stand out. This friendship tale of Samson and a little flower-loving mouse definitely sounds like a sweet and irresistable story from picture book master Philip C. Stead.

I recently blogged about books for National Good Neighbor Day on the ALSC blog; check it out for some fabulous stories about neighbors and neighborhoods.

If you're not quite ready for winter-related reads, check out Wowbrary for the latest and greatest books, DVDs, ebooks, and more that have been ordered for our patrons!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, September 26, 2016

'Tis the Season....For Holiday Book Ordering!

I know you probably don't want to think about the upcoming holidays just yet, but Halloween is in 41 days. And you know what comes soon after that....Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter!

I actually started thinking about the fall and winter holidays in August. Once our summer reading program has ended, it means that it's time to start reading reviews of forthcoming books for the holidays. Professional review publications publish their reviews many months in advance (I've been reviewing 2017 publications for School Library Journal for several months now). Although it's hard to consider books about trick-or-treaters, turkey feasts, Santa, and dreidels when we're winding down the final days of summer, it's important that I order the holiday books no later than the first several weeks of September. I don't want to run the risk of titles going on backorder status and not receiving the titles until right before or even after the holiday has passed (which has happened!); while many families will read holiday books weeks or even months in advance (Halloween books are starting to fly off the shelves!), very few people will want to check out a holiday-related title after the holiday has been celebrated and the novelty has worn off. (Same thing for winter books. If we do a quick display of winter-related titles when our first winter storm of the season threatens, we have trouble keeping it stocked. Patrons have visions of reading The Snowy Day while curled up in blankets and sipping hot cocoa after a romp in the snow if it's December or  January.  If we do a snow-related display when a March snowstorm looms, those books don't go, because snow isn't that cute in March.)

Keeping that in mind, we recently sent off our orders for new fall and winter holiday titles! Here's what I'm looking forward to reading this fall:

Cats (and dogs, too) are probably not big Halloween fans; too many strangers coming to the door and lots of noise and excitement are not fun for pets. Nick Bruel's hilarious Bad Kitty is back in  Bad Kitty, Scaredy-Cat (in picture book form), and she is not a happy camper with all the trick-or-treaters disturbing the peace. Like the previous Bad Kitty picture books, this is also an alphabet book.

If you loved Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea's Guess Who? Haiku, then you will definitely want to grab Boo! Haiku in time for Halloween reading. Just like its predecessor, Boo! Haiku is a fun guessing game of sorts, with clues written in haiku form.

We don't often have multiple hold requests for board books, but it's a different story when Sandra Boynton has a new board book out! Eek! Halloween features chickens freaked out by Halloween happenings.

Need a general book about fall? Hocus Pocus, It's Fall! might be just what you are looking for. It's received excellent reviews (Kirkus Reviews called it "[A] buoyant welcome to the season") and features characters from different diversities!

The Tony Baloney books are cute stories for young readers wanting to transition into chapter books (so far, they are just under 40 pages). Tony Baloney, Yo Ho Ho Halloween! features the young penguin getting ready for the big Halloween parade.

Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton's Very Fairy Princess series is quite popular, so I know that Attitude of Gratitude will be in demand once we receive it! Gerry's school celebrates Gratitude Day; Gerry knows all about gratitude, but it's hard to be grateful when disaster strikes...especially on Gratitude Day! While not specifically Thanksgiving oriented, the idea of being grateful certainly resonates with the celebration.

Ladybug Girl returns, and she's ready to tell her fans about the things for which she is thankful--her friends, her family, her books, pumpkin pie, and more! Each Ladybug girl story stands alone, so you don't need to read the others before reading Ladybug Girl Gives Thanks.

Next week, I'll tell you all about the Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter books that will be coming our way soon. Because Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter seasons are longer than Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons, I tend to order more winter holiday books than fall holiday books. We have some awesome holiday titles this year, including a book that shows you how to make LEGO Christmas ornaments!

Not quite ready for fall holiday books yet? The Young People's Literature longlist for the National Book Awards has been released!


Burn Baby Burn


March: Book Three 


Raymie Nightingale

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story  (publication date 10/1)

The Sun is Also a Star  (publication date 11/1)

When the Moon Was Ours  (publication date 10/4)

When the Sea Turned to Silver (publication date 10/4)

The finalists list will be announced on October 13, with the winners being announced at the annual celebration of honorees on November 16.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library