Monday, February 13, 2017

Random Reads: Check Them Out!

It's only the middle of February, but I am already overwhelmed with the amount of amazing sounding 2017 titles that are coming our way (or already on our shelves)! I'm still playing catchup with 2016 titles that I missed, so I've held off on some 2017 titles, for the most part. From time to time, I will share"Random Reads" posts on my recent reads. It's always a hodgepodge of picture books, chapter books, YA, and some adult nonfiction/fiction from time to time, so if you're not in the mood for anything particular, I hope something here will pique your interest!

I was made aware of Alan's Big, Scary Teeth thanks to the Notable Children's Books committee's list, and now I can't wait to share it in story time (along with Snip! Snap! What's That?). Alan takes his role as a ferocious reptile very seriously; he takes great care of his sharp teeth and  practices his most terrifying faces before settling in for a productive day of scaring the other jungle animals. Alan has QUITE the secret about his teeth, though--which leads to chaos....until he and the other jungle animals work out an understanding. It's super funny (not scary at all) with big and bright illustrations perfect for grabbing the attention of young listeners.

No one, in my mind, does pastels quite like Kevin Henkes. He is the pastel master. His latest, Egg, has arrived just in time for spring, and it's stunning. Four eggs hatch, with the fourth egg revealing something very surprising!

Books about children in other countries tend to either be historical fiction, or feature the country (and characters) in its contemporary crisis; these are definitely important to have, but we really need books that feature children in other countries living ordinary lives, which is why I really delighted in Juana and Lucas. Although she lives in Colombia, Juana's life is quite similar to many American children's lives: she loves drawing and her dog, Lucas, but finds her foreign language classes (English) difficult and boring. A promised trip to Florida to meet her favorite superhero, Astroman, is a great incentive for her to take her English classes seriously! Spanish words are sprinkled throughout this beginning chapter book.

Tell Me a Tattoo Story is another Notable Books for Children list find; I was touched by how sweet and warm this unusual title is! There's not much actual story here--a dad and a young boy talk about dad's tattoos and the importance behind each one--but it's a very touching family-oriented title that is refreshingly free of fake sentimentality and cloyishness that can creep into parent and child picture books stories.

Need to explain the concept of perception? They All Saw a Cat  will get the message across loud and clear. When I looked at the major "best books of 2016" lists that came out November-December, this title repeatedly appeared on title after title. This undoubtedly caused it to go on backorder status, which meant that we didn't receive it until the week after it received a Caldecott Honor. As a cat "walks through the world," other animals observe it entering their space. Of course, the dog sees the cat differently than the mouse, the fish, or the bee do, which is brilliantly reflected in the illustrations. This is the rare Caldecott that would work well as a read aloud, which is always a bonus (criteria is only based on illustrations).

I usually don't get too excited about the latest superhero movie, but I am super pumped for the Wonder Woman movie this summer. (And I wasn't even a WW fan when I was a kid; the TV show was a few years before my time.) DC Comics is ramping up interest in the movie with an avalanche of Wonder Woman books for kids and teens (and the interest crosses both genders, evidenced by one of our young boy patrons saying, "Wonder Woman! Cool!" when he saw our new Wonder Woman picture book).  Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is a gorgeously illustrated YA graphic novel origin story. It's been super popular at all branches since we received it; I was finally able to grab it off our new shelves in order to review it!

I'm a huge biography fan, so this 2017 biography about the great children's picture book author, Margaret Wise Brown was at the top of my to-be-read list. In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown is an intimate and revealing look at this incredibly gifted woman whose ideas for picture books were ahead of her time. As she died tragically young, this is a rather short biography (just a little over 200 pages); Amy Gary's discovery of unpublished manuscripts, poems, and diary entries round out this enigmatic figure.

I'll admit that costume drama series like Downton Abbey tend to sweep past me, as do anything involving the Tudors, but anything with Queen Victoria gets my attention. And although I've found some parts of ITV/Masterpiece Theater's Victoria slow-going at parts (now that Albert has been introduced, we're no longer focusing so much on scandals involving the appointments of ladies-in-waiting, thank goodness), it's my new appointment television. However, given that it's a miniseries, some things are rushed (such as V&A's courtship) or not fully explained, which is why you need to read Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire. Yes, it's a doorstopper, but full of enticing details about the controversies and scandals of Victoria's early reign (like any eighteen year old would, she immediately seized the opportunity to show everyone who was in charge, beginning with her mother and her mother's dumb friends), her passionate and tumultous relationship with husband Albert (and the crippling depression she fell into after his death), and her complicated though mostly loving relationship with her nine children. Baird effectively dispels myths about Victoria as a frigid woman and cold mother, the seesaw relationship she and the British public had with each other, and clearly shows that the editing and even burning of her private papers by youngest daughter Beatrice has permanently damaged our understanding of Victoria (and why we'll never know what really happened between her and John Brown). If the Victoria miniseries has made you wonder why everyone looked at Her Majesty as if she had three heads when she told them that she wanted a white wedding dress, or if Victoria really fancied a relationship with her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne (Victoria was rather dramatic in her writings and discussions about her thoughts and feelings, but the show probably exaggerates it for dramatic effect), you need to read this book.

My home state, Louisiana, is known for its unique and facinating food cultures, but barbecue is not one of them. Our neighbor to the west tends to dominate any talk of barbecue, and its influence will be what you find in most BBQ places in the state, I presume (I can name any number of awesome places to eat in southeastern Louisiana, but BBQ joints are not among them--I am sure that I am missing out on awesome barbecue places, but I don't go back to LA to eat barbecue. I can find excellent BBQ places here.). That plus living in Houston for nearly two years prejudices my barbecue preference for  (east) Texas-style barbecue (tomato-based sauce with a preference for brisket, although Texas barbecue is different in other parts of the state). It wasn't until I moved to Virginia that I discovered other ways of preparing barbecue and barbecue sauce, and it wasn't until I read Virginia Barbecue: A History that I learned that the history of barbecue points to a Virginia origin, with a massive emigration of Virginians to North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, and Georgia after the Civil War bringing "authentic Virginia barbecue" (as it was advertised) to these BBQ-strong regions, influencing and creating their unique styles. If you love Virginia history and food history, this is a book for you (although be warned that you will likely have a massive craving for barbecue while reading it!).

Want some last-minute book suggestions for Valentine's Day? Here are my favorites.

I also recently blogged about career resources (in print) for young readers on the ALSC blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, February 06, 2017

Hidden Figures: Books for Black History Month

While I enjoy reading biographies of famous people in history (currently devouring Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire), I love learning about little-known people who made enormous contributions to society, as well as everyday people living in extraordinary circumstances. Inspired by the book and movie Hidden Figures, here are my favorite books about lesser-known African-American historical figures, as well as books that highlight the everyday experience of African-Americans throughout the ages:

Need a read aloud for Black History Month? Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal should be at the top of your list. Bass Reeves was born into slavery and became one of the first African-American deputies west of the Mississippi River. He was a successful and tough marshal (even had to arrest his son at one point in his career!), bringing many fugitives to justice.

Brick by Brick is an illuminating look at the building of the White House, which included slave labor. Text and illustrations are quietly powerful, making this a strong read aloud for elementary school students.

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream is a stunning tribute to Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina, through the eyes of a young admirer. Readers wanting to learn about modern day African-American dancers should read our outstanding books on Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince.

Brown v. Board of Education was the pivotal court case in the school integration movement, but it came in the footsteps of other court challenges, such as the one brought by Sarah Roberts in 1847. The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial introduces readers to Roberts v. the City of Boston, which was the first court case to challenge school segregation, and the first case in which an African American lawyer argued a case in court. For other titles on school integration, read The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement, The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine, and Through My Eyes (by Ruby Bridges).

I'm impatiently waiting for the movie version of Max Brook's graphic novel, The Harlem Hellfighters. Although created for general adult readers, it's definitely appropriate for high school students, as long as they understand that sensitive situations and language is present throughout the story. The Harlem Hellfighters (who received their nickname courtesy of the Germans) were the first African-American regiment in World War I and fought six brutal months in the war, one of the longest of any American unit. This is a thrilling, inspiring, and occasionally painful read. If African-American military history is an interest, check out Courage Has No ColorRed-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, and The Port Chicago 50 for World War II stories. J. Patrick Lewis's Harlem Hellfighters is an excellent read for elementary school students.

For many months, the hottest tickets in Washington have been for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Those of us who haven't been able to make the trip up to DC should definitely read How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is a detailed and intriguing look at the nearly 100 year quest to build a national African-American history museum. Much of the collection came from everyday Americans, who donated cherished historical artifacts.

Ira Aldridge was considered one of the greatest Shakespearean actors in the 19th century. Educated in a New York City school for children of slaves and freedmen, Ira immigrated to England and became a sought-after actor by both audiences and stage companies. He regularly toured Europe, performed for heads of state, and was an inspiration for African-American actors in the United States for some time after his death. Ira's Shakespeare Dream tells his story with remarkable illustrations and storytelling.

African-American churches have been places of refuge and community organization throughout history; Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church is a poignant tribute to their importance. Also consider Come Sunday, I See the Rhythm of Gospel, and Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song.

African-Americans traveling in the South in the days of Jim Crow relied on the Negro Motorist Green Book (1936-1966), which listed African-American restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues, as well as Caucasian establishments that welcomed African-American patrons.  Ruth and the Green Book features a young girl and her family traveling from Chicago to Alabama, who use the Green Book in order to find rest and nourishment. It's an honest look at a shameful part of history, but also a vivid look at strong community ties.

Although he never had formal education beyond high school, surgical assistant Vivien Thomas was responsible for pioneering surgical procedures to correct the heart defect known as "blue baby syndrome." Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas is one of medicine's astonishing achievements and stories; one not to be missed.

Sarah Breedlove Walker's life story needs to be made into a movie; until then, you should read Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker. Sarah Breedlove Walker was one of six children in her family, but the first not born into slavery. She was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, and developed her own hair care business for African American women at thirty-seven, under the name Madam C.J. Walker. She was an ardent philanthropist and activist who mentored and employed thousands of African-American women in her lifetime.

Like quite a few inventions, the Super Soaker was "accidentally" invented. NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson was actually working on a new rocket cooling system when he created the popular water toy!  Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is definitely a fun and charming biography that showcases Johnson's curiosity and inventiveness from a young age, but is also honest about the challenges he faced as a young student in the late 1960s. For other books on African-American inventors, check out To the Rescue! Garrett Morgan Underground and What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman is one of my favorite picture book biographies; I once read it to a Boys & Girls Club group, who loved it! When Wilma Rudolph was stricken with polio at the age of four, doctors didn't believe she would ever walk again, much less win three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics! Rudolph overcame enormous challenges beyond polio, including deep poverty and prejudice, which makes this otherwise joyful story heartrending at times. For other inspiring stories of African-American athletes, consider Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson, You Never Heard of Willie Mays?,  and Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive.

Looking for new reads? Check out the most recent editions of Wowbrary; lots of great 2017 titles on their way (or already on our shelves!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, January 30, 2017

Are You Ready for Some Football? Books for the Super Bowl

Football season is nearly over (it's been over for some of us for a while, AHEM). Whether you're cheering for the Patriots or the Falcons (cheering AGAINST one might be more like it for some of us), here are some very cool football books that will keep you entertained until the big game: 

What is the Super Bowl? is a fun and informative guide to the history of the game, including famous fumbles, last minute wins, and even highlights from halftime shows. 

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Football is a sequel of sorts to his superb Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Baseball.  If you want a riveting history of the Super Bowl (up to XLIX in 2014--this was published in 2015), this is it! 

No More Dead Dogs one of my favorite Gordon Korman titles; as part of his detention sentence, eighth grader Wallace has to attend rehearsals of the school play. Although he initially hates it, he finds himself getting more intrigued with the production! This is super funny and smart. 

Rooster finds a recipe for what he thinks are the best snacks for the Super Bowl--buffalo wings! Setting off to find wings from buffalo, he soon discovers what buffalo wings are really made of (the illustration of when he makes his realization is hysterical). Buffalo Wings is one of my favorite funny read alouds for elementary school students; they will love it (as long as they know what buffalo wings are!). 

If you have a reluctant reader, books with annotated lists, books about world records, and the like are surefire ways to get them to open a book. (Avid readers love them too! I was a huge fan of books like that when I was a kid, and I still do). 1st and 10: Top 10 Lists of Everything Football is packed with lists about the best rushers, trick plays, and even best touchdown celebrations! This was published in 2016, so it's as up-to-date as you can get. 

If you're a sports fiction fan, you need to read Tim Green! Children's and YA sports fiction is currently experiencing a renaissance of talented writers who tackle important issues of family, friendship, and other matters (including sports training and sportsmanship issues) in addition to creating exciting sports moments throughout their stories. Left Out is one of Green's most recent stories,featuring a football player with a hearing impairment. 

Poor Mo! It's hard being the smallest and youngest kid on the football team. Luckily, Coach has a plan to develop Mo's football skills and to boost his confidence. If you like Don’t Throw it to Mo, you'll want to read the sequel, Get a Hit, Mo! 

The Day Roy Riegels Ran the Wrong Way is one of my favorite sports picture book, and a great one to read to elementary school students (you'll want to practice it a bit to make it work--there's a part where you have to read an announcer's voice--but it's worth it). The 1929 Rose Bowl was going well for the University of California Golden Bears...until Roy Riegels ran the wrong way down the field. Can you imagine?! Although it's definitely a funny tale, it conveys a strong message about accepting and learning from mistakes.

If you're interested in more football nonfiction, check out the books shelved in the J 796.332 section.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, January 23, 2017

And the Medal Goes To: 2017 Newbery, Caldecott, and More!

Why did youth services and school librarians across the country wake up super energized, excited (and probably caffeinated) on Monday morning? For the announcement of the Youth Media Awards! Not only are the Newbery and Caldecott medals and honor books are annouced, but other really awesome book awards are announced. While the number of awards presented are too numerous to go into detail (or to include them all), here are the highlights of this year's announcements! 

John Newbery Award: First presented in 1922, this is the oldest award for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." Authors must be citizens or residents of the United States. 

I did not have a clear favorite for the Newbery this year; I haven't even read the medal winner, so I have some catching up to do! That being said, I would have liked to see All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook receive a nod; it's a compelling and compassionate look at a young boy and his incarcerated mother. 

Randolph Caldecott Medal: First presented in 1938, this award is presented to the "artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children."  As with the Newbery, recipients must be American citizens or residents. 

For personal reasons, much of my reading in the middle part of 2016 were picture books, nonfiction picture books, and graphic novels; therefore, I had a ton of favorites for the Caldecott, only one of which received an honor (Freedom in Congo Square). However, we didn't order "Radiant Child" and the other Honor books until after Christmas, so I haven't read these yet! "They All Saw a Cat"is still on back order, so we're just as impatient to read that as you might be. Quite sorry that Emma and Julia Love Ballet, Coyote Moon, Miracle Man, The Night Gardener, or The Water Princess were not recognized. 

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I think March: Book Three is an amazing concludsion to a modern classic graphic novel series. So did a bunch of the committees: it received the Printz (for YA literature), the Coretta Scott King Author award, the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Adults, and the Sibert Medal (for nonfiction), as well as the National Book Award for Young People's Literature late last year. While I think the second volume is the superior title in the trilogy (the final pages are stunning), I'm super glad that graphic novels are finally being taken seriously for major literature awards (in the past several years, we've seen graphic novels receive Honor titles, but never main medals). I wish we had a better name for graphic novels that are actually nonfiction, but no one seems to have come up with a good way to identify them. 

I've not yet read Giant Squid (an early January order!), but I'm always happy when a non-history title is recognized; as you can see, this award can be heavy on the history at times. I actually read "Sachiko" last week; it is a hard-hitting but inspiring account of a young girl who survived the atomic bomb explosion. "We Will Not Be Silent" is another outstanding title from nonfiction master Russell Freedman, who at at the age of 87 continues to find incredible stories from history to bring to life. 

While not all of our favorites can be recognized, Youth Media Awards morning is always the best Monday morning of the year! 

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Birthday Celebration: Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

We have so many outstanding books about Martin Luther King Jr that choosing books for this post was difficult! If you'd like to share Dr. King's legacy with your children (or for your own benefit--many patrons and staff members have told me how much they learn from and enjoy children's nonfiction!), here are my top picks:

Out of all the picture book renditions of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, none can top Kadir Nelson's I Have a Dream. Not only are the illustrations magnificent, but it also includes a CD recording of the speech.

Walter Dean Myers's I've Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  biography is a strong choice for young readers.

I admire  the March trilogy so much that I can't leave it off this collection. Representative John Lewis is the sole surviving speaker from the March on Washington; if you haven't read this graphic novel adaptation of his life story, you are missing out on one of the greatest graphic novels ever created.

Toward the end of his life, King's work focused on workers' rights; Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Hours is an insightful and moving look at his final days, which was centered on a sanitation workers' strike in Memphis (where he was assassinated).

Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song is a gorgeously illustrated and told dual biography (in picture book form) of King and the great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  received a Caldecott Honor in 2002 for Bryan Collier's magnificent illustrations. This is a modern classic in children's nonfiction.

If you need a fantastic civil rights read aloud, you need to read A Sweet Smell of Roses  and/or We March. Both fictional stories are set during the 1963 March on Washington.

Young people were instrumental in the civil rights movement; Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March is a compelling and inspiring account of the Selma march through the perspective of Lynda Blackmon Lowery.

For more nonfiction titles on Martin Luther King, check out the JB King and/or the J 323.1 sections.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Royal Reads: Books About Queen Victoria

I don't know about you, but I am counting down the days until the Queen Victoria miniseries premieres this Sunday on PBS. Although not produced for children, this is a great time to look at our Queen Victoria books for children and teens, as well as books about the Victorian era (or written during the Victorian era):

Want a quick introduction to the life of Queen Victoria? The ever-popular Who Was/Is's Who Was Queen Victoria? should educate and entertain those who want the highlights of her life story.

At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England  is the incredible biography of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, an African princess and one of Queen Victoria's adopted goddaughters. 

Although the fashions and customs of the Victorian era are fascinating and charming, life during the Victorian era was harsh and unyielding for many, especially poor childen. Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London is an eye-opening and compelling look at how these children lived, and how Charles Dickens brought their plight to widespread attention and reform. 

Victorians were enchanted with fairy stories and fairy art; when most people picture fairies, Victorian images are often the ones that come to mind (if you see a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the fairies will look quite different if the production keeps the Elizabethan setting). This is a collection of fairy stories by Victorian authors. 

Victoria Rebels is for the YA crowd; written in diary form (Victoria was a prolific diarist), this is an entertaining retelling of her early queendom and marriage to Prince Albert.  

The Victorian era (1837-1901) was rich in books that are still read and loved today. Queen Victoria was an avid reader; although some of her favorite authors have faded from history, she was a fan of Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, and of course, Charles Dickens.  In addition to authors such as William Thackeray, Thomas Hardy, and Mark Twain (his piece about Victoria's Diamond Jubilee can be found in A Tramp Abroad), the Victorian era also launched the careers of many classic children's authors: 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) was one of Queen Victoria's favorite novels; its word play made it popular with readers of all ages. 

Black Beauty (1877) has been called "the most influential anticruelty novel of all time" and was instrumental in the fight for anti-animal cruelty legislation in both England and the United States. 

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885) inspired a very popular style of dress for boys (Buster Brown suit) and was Frances Hodgson Burnett's first children's novel; like many novels during this time (including Dickens's work), it was serialized in newspapers. A Little Princess was also published during this era.

Little Women (1868-69) was an immediate critical and popular success in both the US and UK; it was published in two parts. 

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) was recently named "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairy tale" by the Library of Congress. Although it was a critical success when it was first published, snobbery over fantasy as a literary genre (unlike the movie, the novel is pure fantasy) and other elements in the story led to it either being ignored or under censorship challenges in later years.

Want more comprehensive books on Queen Victoria? Check out our biographies for adults.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, January 02, 2017

Out of This World Stories: Books For National Science Fiction Day

In honor of famed science fiction author Isaac Asimov's birthday, January 2nd is unofficially National Science Fiction Day. As I don't often have the patience for 400+ paged fiction (youth or adult), science fiction novels can be daunting. However, in the interest of diverse reading, I make it a habit to pick up a science fiction novel every now and then. In addition to classics such as A Wrinkle in Time, The Giver, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, here are my favorite children's science fiction novels that aren't enormous doorstoppers!

You may be familiar with the Kelly astronaut siblings(the only siblings to have both traveled in space, although not in the same mission); as they are identical twins, NASA conducted studies on both Mark and Scott during and after Scott's year-long work on the International Space Station in order to study the physical differences caused by living in space for an extended period of time. Both brothers have retired from NASA, with Mark starting a new career as a children's author with the launch of the Astrotwins series. Based loosely on the brothers' childhood, Astrotwins follows two brothers who build a rocket, which leads to all sorts of amazing adventures! Facts about space and space life are intertwined into this fun story that will appeal to reluctant readers. 

Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist is a super funny series about a young scientist who constantly runs into troubles with her experiments (such as a monster popping out of the school lunchroom's garbage can). I recommend this series all the time to both boys and girls, avid and reluctant readers all! 

When patrons ask for beginning chapter books, I always recommend Galaxy Zack. With short chapters and illustrations sprinkled throughout the story, this series about a boy who moves to Planet Nebulon charmingly deals with everyday issues such as moving to a new place, making friends, etc in an outer space setting. 

I adore the HiLo graphic novel series, and can't wait to read more adventures of Hilo and his friends. HiLo is hilarious, touching (it might just be me, but there are some elements that remind me of E.T.), and offers much needed diversity in children's science fiction stories. This OUTSTANDING (as HiLo would say) series about a blonde-haired alien who falls to Earth is one of my favorite graphic novel series of all time. 

Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast features a young boy and his eccentric grandmother, who operates a very unusual bed-and-breakfast for a rather eccentric clientele. Not only is this quite funny, but it's also a good pick for those not quite ready for YA science fiction, which tends to be rather heavy. 

Science fiction stories often deal with societal questions and issues; YA science fiction is no exception: 

Set in 2050 Los Angeles, Bluescreen features non-stop action in a virtual reality setting; it also includes a diverse set of characters, which is very welcome in YA science fiction. 

Looking for an insanely fun and addicting read? Marissa Meyer's enormously popular Lunar Chronicles is for you! This science fiction series with a fairy tale twist is super smart and clever(check out Meyer's latest, Heartless, if you're already a fan).

Noggin images a world in which cryonic freezing is a reality, through the experiences of a teenage boy who is brought back to life five years (with a different body other than his head) after his death. The emotional consequences are sky-high; this is a mature and thoughtful read. There are moments of levity that break the somber tension, but overall, this is a read that will linger with you for a long time. 

Like many people traveling this holiday season, I took two books with me to occupy my time waiting at airports and during the actual plane trips; as my first flight was delayed three hours, I had plenty of time to delve into George Lucas: A Life. As a fan of both Star Wars and biographer Brian Jay Jones's remarkable Jim Henson biography, I had eagerly anticipated this ever since it was announced. Science fiction movies in the 1970s were thought to be a dead medium, which is why the enormous success of Star Wars was unprecedented (Lucas had no champions for his movie and was so discouraged by the constant problems faced on the set  that he thought it would be a failure as well). This is an even-handed look at a very private man who tends to be unemotional on the surface and whose major scandals involved tinkering with the original series and an over-reliance on special effects in the prequel series (so not so much drama in his life, especially since he seems to be very content with life post Star-Wars; this could have made for an unmemorable read if written by lesser-skilled hands).  

If  science fact rather than fiction is more appealing, don't miss Hidden Figures (I haven't finished it yet, but I'm planning to do so before I see the movie next weekend). This account of African-American women who worked as human computers at NASA during the early days of the space program is inspiring, compelling, and eye-opening. This is also Virginia history, as the women worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton (author Margot Lee Shetterly is also a Hampton native). We also have the young readers' edition available. 

I recently blogged about some of my favorite 2016 children's books on the ALSC blog; check out the comments from other ALSC members as well! 

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library