Monday, July 24, 2017

Tappers, Toe Pointers, and More: Books for National Dance Day

Break out the tutus and tap shoes--National Dance Day is upon us! National Dance Day (July 29) was established in 2010 to "educate the public about dance and its many benefits, as well as make dance accessible and inclusive to everyone." We have many fabulous books about all kinds of dance and dancers that will entice both young dancers and dance fans; check them out before or after your next dance lesson! 

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring is a glorious depiction of the creation and performance of famed modern dance choreographer Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring. As a celebration of American pioneer heritage and spirit (Aaron Copeland's composition includes varations on the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts"), it became Martha Graham's favorite ballet ("Ballet for Martha" was the program's original working title).

Rachel Isadora has several ballet-themed picture books, but Bea at Ballet is my favorite. It's a simple and sweet story about a little girl attending a ballet class (and learning basic positions).

Jingle Dancer is a modern classic tale about a young Muscogee/Creek girl preparing for her first jingle dance. Author Cynthia Leitich Smith is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, so her insights are authentic and relevant.

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina is the young readers' adaptation of Misty Copeland's adult memoir by the same name. Copeland's original memoir is a compelling read suitable for high school students, but this brings Copeland's remarkable story to a younger audience. Copeland's unlikely and difficult journey to ballet stardom is a powerful and inspiring read.

Princess Cupcake Jones looks forward to every dance class, but executing an arabesque remains tricky. Will she be able to master it in time for the dance recital? Princess Cupcake Jones and the Dance Recital is one of several Princess Cupcake Jones stories, which are great for Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious fans.

Song and Dance Man was published in 1988, when its audience likely had grandparents who lived during the vaudeville era. Despite that, this charming 1989 Caldecott Medal winner is an endearing story about a former vaudeville performer who shows off his signature moves to his delighted grandchildren. Thankfully, children's books are getting better about their depiction of grandparents and reflecting modern day grandparenting (rather than only featuring grandparents dealing with illness or forgetfulness); this remains one of the best for featuring an active and vibrant grandfather.

Want nonfiction books about dance? Look through the J 792.7 (tap dance) and J 792.8 (ballet) sections for more fantastic titles.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Crazy for Comics: Books to Celebrate Comics and Comic Con International

While there are multiple Comic-Cons throughout the year, the oldest and the most prestigious one is the original Comic-Con International in San Diego. Attending Comic-Con in San Diego is definitely on the bucket list for comics/graphic novel superfans (I'm envious just reading through the program guide!). Since 1970, Comic Con International has celebrated not only the popular comics of the day, but also lesser-known works as well as movies and science fiction/fantasy stories. The highlight of the convention is the announcement of the Eisner Awards, the most prestigious award in the comics/graphic novel industry. To get in the spirit of Comic-Con, let's take a look at some of our awesome comic books and graphic novels:

Truthfully, I've been rather lukewarm about the barrage of superhero movies until recently, when I saw Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming. I'm hoping that the pendulum is swinging away from overly dark and dreary plots and remembering the fun and escapism that comics and superhero movies were meant to be. The recent reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man has endearingly captured Peter Parker's awkward adolescence, his humor, and his frequent instances of getting in situations over his head. If you need a Spider-Man refresher (the recent movie does not include the origin story, but doesn't everyone already know that he was bitten by a radioactive spider? The character's been around since the 1960s.), pick up the Essential comics.

Before the Black Panther movie opens, check out the new comic book series launched in 2016 (you have time--it won't be out until February 2018). The first mainstream black superhero first appeared in 1966; the story of the nation of Wakanda ruler is epic and unique.

Young comics fans should definitely investigate the Comics Squad series; each collection features a variety of fun comics from top creators in the children's graphic novels field, including Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, Raina Telgemeier, and more.

Sure, you may know that DC Comics=Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman, but what about the other 1000+ superheroes, villains, sidekicks, and other assorted characters that fall under the DC Comics umbrella? The DC Comics Encyclopedia is a comprehensive and up-to-date (published in 2016) guide to both popular and lesser-known characters.

Hilo is one of my top favorite graphic novel series; it's a funny and adorable tale of a young blonde-haired alien who falls to earth and forms a close friendship with two humans.

Gareth Hinds is creating an impressive body of work with his graphic novel reimaging of literary classics, including Macbeth, Beowulf,  and The Odyssey. I'm really looking forward to his collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories in August!

While picking up the DC Comics Encyclopedia, why not also take Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know? Characters including Spider-Man, The Avengers, Thor, and many more are fascinatingly detailed.

Ms. Marvel aka Kamala Khan is one of Marvel's recent breakthrough characters; the first volume, featuring the first Muslim American mainstream superhero, was a New York Times bestseller and received the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. Like Peter Parker, she is a smart teenager dealing with insecurities and feeling different from her peers. Kamala is a huge Avengers fan (especially of Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers) and writes Avengers fan fiction, to the puzzlement of her Pakistani immigrant parents. When she is enveloped in the Terrigen Mists and encounters the Avengers in her unconscious state, she awakens to find that she has actually emulated Captain Marvel--blond hair and tight superhero costume to boot. Kamala's journey to finding her own superhero identity (including new costume!) in which she is comfortable and confident is heartfelt.

The recent Star Wars comics have varied in quality (IMO), but the storytelling and art in the Darth Vader comics (sadly discontinued for now) are consistently powerful and even emotional at times. Beginning with the end of A New Hope, this series follows Vader as he seeks his own vengeance against the Rebels (particularly rebel pilot Skywalker) and attempts to discover the Empire's secrets.

A Superman comic from graphic novelist master Gene Luen Yang? Yes, please! Superman vol 1: Before Truth is a compelling and gripping tale featuring the Man of Steel.

Wonder Woman's reintroduction to a new generation makes me happy; Diana is compassionate, kind, and a true warrior for justice (no grey area with her). Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is a gorgeously created origin story, and it's been hugely popular at all branches since the launch of the movie.

George O'Connor's Olympians series is a sure-fire hit for young fans of both graphic novels and Greek mythology. Each slim volume includes a retelling of myths associated with its featured god or goddess.

The 2017 Eisner Awards will be announced July 21. We have several nominated titles, including Batgirl, Ghosts, and Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, July 10, 2017

Allons-y! Let's Go! Books for the Tour de France

While the Tour de France has a controversial past, I still enjoy watching parts of it when I can. While I admire the skill it takes to compete in the tournament, the main attraction (for me!) is the scenery, whether it's through the countryside or in the final stretches on the Champs-Élysées. If watching the Tour de France has ignited an envie for books about bikes or France, here are some outstanding books to read while you keep an eye on the race:

Frank Viva's picture books are fabulous read alouds for young audiences. Along a Long Road follows a cyclist on a trip, with brief text and illustrations conveying the twists, turns, up and downs of his ride.

If you want a thorough and fun bike book for young readers, Popular Mechanics for Kids's The Best Book of Bikes is for you. Everything from the history of bikes, the different types of bikes, and how to keep your bike in working order is covered.

For something on a simpler scale, Gail Gibbons's Bicycle Book is a top choice. Brief overviews of bicycle history, design, and care are included.

Learning to ride a bike can be quite the challenge, but as the dad patiently teaches his daughter in the darling Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle, you just have to get back up and try again!

I always look forward to Allan Drummond's positive stories about environmental issues; Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World is another winner. Amsterdam is known as one of the most bicylist friendly cities in the world, but it wasn't always like that. In fact, Amsterdam was so crowded with cars that it was extremely dangerous for cyclists to maneuever, especially the mothers and children who relied on bikes for transportation. The people of Amsterdam, mostly led by women, advocated and protested for changes until city officials created plans to reduce the vehicle congestion.

If you're more inclined to books with a French setting, here are my favorites:

La La Rose perfectly evokes the beauty of Luxembourg Gardens as we follow the adventures of a beloved bunny temporarily separated from her owner.

When Monsieur Saguette bought his humble baguette, he had no idea that he would use his loaf to save a child from a menacing alligator to stopping a robbery. Monsieur Saguette and His Baguette is a funny escapade on an otherwise ordinary day.

Lonely Planet Kids has the best line of "travel books" for kids that highlight both historic and offbeat facts about individual cities. Paris City Trails is a gorgeously designed guide to Paris packed with cool facts about the City of Lights.

Oooh la la! Diva and Flea are two very different animals; Diva is quite the pampered Parisian pooch, while Flea roams the streets of Paris as an independent cat.  The Story of Diva and Flea is an adventurous romp through Paris with two very different friends.

Au revoir, mes amis! Until next time!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, July 03, 2017

Go Fourth: With Books for the Fourth of July

History buffs often have a "favorite" time period or country for studying. For many, it's the Civil War. Others read copiously about World War II. For me, it's the American Revolution (and American history in general). I love reading about not only our Founding Fathers (and Mothers!), but also about everyday men and women during this tumultous time period. Here are my favorite books about the holiday and the Revolution:

Hamilton (the musical) has renewed interest in our First Secretary of Commerce, which has in turn produced a number of books about this fascinating man. If you don't feel like tackling Rob Chernow's compelling yet massive biography (upon which the musical is based) try Alexander Hamilton: From Orphan to Founding Father (an easy reader) or  Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America (a children's biography) for a more in-depth perspective. (And if you loved Chernow's Hamilton biography, you must read his even better, in my opinion, George Washington biography. He also has a Ulysses S. Grant biography coming out this fall--cannot wait! Yes, I'm a presidential history nerd.) 

The more you learn about the American Revolution, the more you learn that many people took part in the struggle: African Americans, women, and immigrants included. Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution is an amazing read about the role African Americans, both enslaved and free, played during the Revolution. America's Black Founders; Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders and Liberty or Death: The Surprising Story of Runaway Slaves Who Sided With the British are also must reads for those looking for more information on African-American involvement with the Revolution.

Apple Pie Fourth of July is one of a recent number of picture books celebrating both inclusion and diversity on American holidays (Duck for Turkey Day is one of my favorite Thanksgiving stories). A young Chinese-American girl frets about her parents cooking Chinese food at their store for the Fourth of July. Everybody wants hot dogs and hamburgers, right? Turns out...maybe not, as the people along the parade route enjoy her parents' delicious cooking.

A picnic with family and friends is a fabulous way to celebrate the 4th, as Celebration joyfully depicts. An African-American family gathers in young Maggie's backyard for a day filled with food, fun, and family (not to mention splashing in the pool!).

It's common to think that only American born descendants of British colonists fought in the Revolution, but that's simply not true! Everybody's Revolution is an eye-opening and memorable look at the African-Americans, women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans, and other immigrants involvement in the war. One of my top favorite reads on the Revolution!

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution is a spirited reminder that not all Revolutionary heroes served by firing cannons. In fact, one German immigrant, named Christopher Ludwick, served his country (via General Washington's hungry troops) with his delicious gingerbread!

France was a powerful ally during the American Revolution, notably in the form of the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette and the American Revolution is one of master historian Russell Freedman's greatest books; it brings this colorful and enigmatic Frenchman to life.

I doubt Lin Manuel Miranda is interested in another Revolutionary War era musical, but if anyone else is...could I put in a plug for a Benedict Arnold/George Washington musical (or movie)? While it doesn't have the pathos of a tragic early death (both men lived into their 60s, albeit Arnold living in exile), it has treason, espionage, and the downfall of a brilliant war hero.   The Notorious Benedict Arnold is an incredible read!

"Listen my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere." To be fair, Longfellow's poem is not really historically accurate (same for his Evangeline poem and The Song of Hiawatha).  However, I'm all for cultural literacy, so I'm including Paul Revere's Ride (and unlike other classic poems typically read to children, such as A Visit From St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas and Casey at the Bat, its vocabulary isn't as archaic).  After enjoying the beauty of this American classic, check out Jean Fritz's And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?, The Many Rides of Paul Revere, or the informative Paul Revere House site.

Can we just say that colonial/Revolutionary War era women were awesome? Because they were! The Extraordinary Suzy Wright, the indomitable Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, and the women nicknamed Molly Pitcher are humbling examples of women's lives during this unique era. Although the story of Molly Pitcher passed down through generations might be a composite of several women, Mary (Molly) Hays is probably the most accurate representation.  They Called Her Molly Pitcher relates Mary's bravery during Revolutionary War battles, including firing cannons when her husband and other soldiers were injured.

Ever heard of Peter Francisco, the Portuguese immigrant hailed by General Washington for winning two crucial battles? I certainly hadn't until I read The Virginia Giant, a rollicking nearly "tall tale" biography of an intriguing hero that separates folklore from fact.

Yankee Doodle is an iconic song for Independence Day, but did you know that the British sang it in jest about the American troops (their intent was to slam the troops as being foolish un-masculine hicks)? In true American fashion, Americans adopted it and added lyrics insulting the British and praising General Washington (and in epic troll form, Lafayette ordered the troops to play the song when the British surrendered at Yorktown). Steve Kellogg's illustrated edition of the iconic song is a perfect addition to a July 4th read aloud.

Want some books about summertime fun? Check out Fun in the Sun: Books for Summertime Reading on the ALSC blog.

Happy Fourth!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, June 26, 2017

Random Reads: Check Them Out!

We are full steam ahead with our summer reading program! With the armful of books we see leaving the checkout desks, we know that many readers are (hopefully) discovering some awesome new reads (or enjoying old favorites). I hope you're having a great summer filled with reads that entertain, inspire, and/or educate; I certainly am! Here are my favorite recent reads:


The Most Magnificent Thing is a sweet and encouraging testament to the value of creativity, hard work, and determination. This young lady has an idea for a magnificent thing; however, she's not quite sure how to make it happen! It's rather harder than she thought it would be; but with the help of her dog, she's determined to be successful.

Dan Gemeinhart is one of our newly popular (in the last two years or so) authors, so I knew Scar Island would be popular. Think Oliver meets Lord of the Flies; this is a bit more mature than his other novels, and really straddles the children-YA divide. Jonathan has been sent to a reform school for juvenile delinquents; his crime (unstated until much later in the story) haunts him, and he cannot forgive himself (unlike some of the other boys at the school, he receives regular contact with his parents). To his horror, he discovers that the school is run by a cruel supervisor, who delights in physical and mental abuse of the boys. Due to a freak accident, the boys suddenly find themselves unsupervised and isolated. This is a gripping and haunting story (and a bit melodramatic at times, as usual for Gemeinhart's novels) that's full of action and adventure.

If you're looking for something more light-hearted, consider Short. As someone who is short statued and who loved participating in plays when I was a kid, I delighted in this fun read. Julia reluctantly tries out for a local production of The Wizard of Oz, due to her mother's insistence. The production is a big deal for the community, for professional actors will fill in for some of the roles (as well as a professional director). To everyone's surprise, Julia is cast--as one of the Munchkins. Despite her misgivings, Julia loves being part of the show (her emotions after the final curtain has dropped will resonate with not just those who have worked in theater, but also anyone familiar with the emotional letdown that happens after a wedding, graduation, or other big event has passed). As can be expected, there are certainly real-life dramas that occur during the production, as well as new friendships formed (particularly between Julia and one of the professional actors in the show, who has dwarfism).

Sherri Winston is known for her light realistic chapter books featuring African-American girls; The Sweetest Sound is abit more serious than her other stories, but just as heartwarming and compelling. Cadence loves to sing and has a beautiful voice--just like her mother, who left years ago to pursue her singing career. In her small mountain community and her tightly-knit church, Cadence (nicknamed Mouse) has been overprotected (and pitied, as she is well aware), especially by her father. Cadence longs to join the Youth Choir at her church, but that requires an audition...something that the painfully shy girl dreads. Readers who like sensitive stories with unique characters will enjoy this.

Delia thinks her summer will be quite boring, until she is invited to accept an internship at her uncle's Earth Time Museum!  When the interns are whisked away on time travel adventures (including with dinosaurs and into the future!), they have to use their wits to make it to the next challenge. The Time Museum will be a hit with those who love fun and exciting graphic novels with plenty of humor.


City of Saints and Thieves is a heartrending and stunning mystery set in the Congo (Democratic Republic). When Tina decides to investigate and seek justice for her mother's murder, she discovers unsettling secrets about her past and her mother's life before her birth. This is an evocative murder mystery that ties in great insights into the troubles of the region, especially as they affect women.

Jade's private high school is worlds away from her neighborhood; as one of the few minority students and scholarship students, she often feels different from the other students. Hoping to be accepted into the school's study-abroad program, she is dismayed when she is instead invited to join Women to Women--a mentorship program for "at-risk youth." After reluctantly attending outings, she discovers that her mentor is an affluent and well-intentioned young African-American woman who also treats Jade like a charity case (and inevitably offends Jade's mother in the process). Jade's passion for collage art and photography provide escape and opportunities for her to express herself, resulting in a very satisfying and hopeful ending.


I've seen Homegoing pop up on many book reading club selections, so it's been on my radar for a while. I love historical fiction and books set in other countries, so it had instant appeal.  Beginning with half-sisters Effia and Esi in 18th century Ghana, Yaa Gyasi creates an epic saga through the slave trade, American slavery, Ghana's fight for independence, the jazz era, and 20th century Harlem. If you love epic historical sagas, you should read this (as you can expect, it gets quite sad and dark at times).

Looking for more titles? Check out Wowbrary (including back issues).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Outdoor Adventures: Books For Great Outdoors Month

At the start of summer, thoughts inevitably turn toward outdoor adventures, whether it's catching a baseball game, embarking on an early morning fishing adventure, or simply flying a kite on a windy day. So, it's not surprising that June has designated as the official Great Outdoors Month. Here are some of my favorite books celebrating the fun of the great outdoors:

Of course, baseball officially gets underway in the spring. But late sunsets and lazy days of summer make watching baseball games an ideal summer pastime. Baseball Is...  is a superb celebration of baseball's history (including the Negro Leagues and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League) and the joys of winning the World Series. This is a great read aloud for young baseball fans!

Sam is really looking forward to his fishing trip with Dad...until little sister Lucy wants to join in the fun. Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse is a sweet, touching, and funny story about siblings, family adventures, and, of course, fishing. Each poem is told in a specific style, which makes it a great way to learn more about poetry. (There's also a sequel: Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse.)

Kimmy is determined to make her own kite, despite everyone's doubts that it will fly. After all of her hard work, will her special kite fly? Kimmy's Marvelous Wind-Catching Wonder is an adorable story of creativity, hard work, and determination.

If you think you have to make a special trip to a big park to go bird-watching, think again! Getting started with bird-watching can begin in your own backyard. Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard is an eye-opening (and funny, thanks to the snark supplied by the birds in the book) read destined to inspire budding ornithologists.

With no early morning alarm bells for school to worry about, summer nights are perfect for astronomy nights. Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing (part of the terrific Science of Fun Stuff series) is an energetic introduction to stargazing.

Kate Messner's nature-themed picture books are absolute stunners. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a gorgeous look at the seasons through a vegetable garden; don't miss her follow-up, Over and Under the Pond.

Remember, the best time to visit your local library is when it's simply too hot to enjoy outdoor activity! Check out our summer reading program for (free!) ways to enjoy the entire summer.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library