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 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Celebrations: Books for Easter and Passover

With Easter and Passover just around the corner, there's no better time to tell you about our awesome books for both occasions. If you're preparing for Easter or Passover celebrations, drop by the library to pick up some books that will reinforce both the fun and the importance of your holiday.

National Geographic Kids's Holidays Around the World series is inarguably the best children's series on holidays.  Celebrate Easter With Colored Eggs, Flowers, and Prayer and Celebrate Passover With Matzah, Maror, and Memories are packed with beautiful photos and engaging information on how families around the world celebrate Easter or Passover. If you need a nonfiction Easter book for younger children, consider Gail Gibbons's Easter book, ideal for reading aloud to preschoolers and kindergartners.

When The Easter Egg was published in 2010, I was surprised that this was Jan Brett's first Easter book. Brett's elaborate and intricate illustrations of stories populated with animals lend themselves perfectly to Easter pastels that I had assumed that she had created an Easter tale in the past. Nevertheless, The Easter Egg was worth the wait, as this is a sweet story about a rabbit who wishes to help the Easter Bunny deliver eggs.

Deborah Underwood's series about an aspirational but lazy cat wanting to rule the holidays began with the hilarious Here Comes the Easter Cat! Cat is quite jealous of the fame and attention received by the Easter Bunny, so he wants in on the action. The work of the Easter Bunny is quite an undertaking, much to his surprise! This is genuinely laugh out loud funny; even your elementary school readers who think they are too old for short picture books will love this.

We have a number of stunningly illustrated picture books of Bible stories, but occasionally, the stunning illustrations are accompanied with the stunning poetry of the King James Bible. The KJV is a bedrock of Christian history and literature, but the language is quite difficult for young readers and listeners to comprehend. On That Easter Morning is a simple yet gorgeously illustrated retelling of the Gospel accounts of the Christian Holy Week.

Anyone can dye Easter eggs, but Ukrainian style Easter eggs take Easter egg decorating to another stratosphere. Patricia Polacco's tale of a elderly Russian woman and a goose that lays mysterious eggs is joyfully told and brilliantly illustrated. If you want an Easter story for readers that have outgrown charming picture book stories about bunnies, Rechenka's Eggs is for you.

Seeking a Bunny is one of the best Easter read alouds I've read in some time; all the attributes of the ideal bunny for Easter are charmingly depicted in this adorable board book.

Nonfiction books with photographs are always an instant draw for children; It's Seder Time! features photos of a preschool class preparing for their school's Seder and acting out the Passover story. This endearing read aloud is a winner for families that celebrate Passover, or for families wanting to introduce the holiday to their children.

Normally, I don't care for rewrites of The Little Red Hen story, but The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah is such a funny and spot-on depiction of "performing a mitzvah (good deed)" that I love it. If you know anything about keeping kosher for Passover, you know that it's a tremendous undertaking. Unfortunately, Little Red Hen is not finding any help for making the matzah (unleavened bread), but of course, all her friends want to eat it when it is ready. The traditional story ends with the Little Red Hen eating the bread with her family (or by herself), but this Little Red Hen knows that the Haggadah (the readings recited for Passover) says to let all who are hungry eat, and that Passover is a family/community celebration. So, her no-goodnik friends join the celebration (and as a mitzvah, help her clean up after the meal!). Yiddish words are scattered throughout the story (a glossary is included), as well as a short essay about Passover, and a matzah recipe!

If I were to name my favorite Passover picture book, there's no question that The Passover Lamb would be #1.  Miriam is super excited for this year's Passover, because it means that she is finally old enough to ask the Four Questions recited during the Seder (tradition is that the youngest child is expected to memorize and recite this section of the Seder). However, anyone who knows anything about farm life knows that animal birthing and infant care is unpredictable and delicate, which is the case when triplet lambs are born on Miriam's family farm! The lambs require around-the-clock care, as the mother lamb only has enough milk for two babies; the family's participation in her grandparents' Seder is in jeopardy. As Passover is a crucial holiday for Miriam's observant Jewish family, she creates an unusual plan for the family to care for the lambs AND celebrate Passover--which just might work! Linda Marshall based this story on her actual farm life, which adds relevance and truth to the tale.

Children's books about Passover usually only focus on American and/or Israeli families, but Passover Around the World shows that Passover is celebrated by Jewish families in India, Turkey, Ethiopia, and more! Even those familiar with Passover will find this eye-opening and fascinating.

The Yankee at the Seder is one of the most remarkable Passover books that we have; as a Jewish Confederate family prepares to observe Passover the day after the Civil War has ended, a Jewish Union soldier appears on their doorstep. Although the family and solider are at opposite ends of the war, Jacob's parents invite him inside, as it is a tradition to welcome and honor guests at the Seder table. Jacob is confused and furious, while the solider and the family discuss and argue about the real meaning of Passover, freedom from government vs. freedom from slavery, and how victors should not relish the suffering of the defeated. Based on a story told by a Jewish Union soldier who found himself in a Virginia town during Passover, this is a mature, throughtful, and unique perspective on Jewish life during the Civil War.

Want more nonfiction for Easter and Passover? Check out the J 266 and J 296 sections.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Poems A Plenty: Books for National Poetry Month

Poetry can be a tough sell. Too often, our image of poetry are long verses about clouds moving across the sky or whatnot, and that image often starts in childhood. Luckily, there are so many fantastic children's books of poetry that make reading (and reciting) poetry a fun and rewarding pasttime. Here are some of my favorite poetry books published in the last year or so: 

Margarita Engle is best known for her YA novels in verse about Cuban historical figures, so Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics is a bit of departure for her. From Juan de Miralles, a Cuban who fought with American soldiers in the Revolutionary War, to Tomas Rivera, the first Hispanic head of a University of California campus (and whose childhood story is told in the marvelous Tomas and the Library Lady), Engle's poems introduce a variety of Latino civil rights leaders, artists, pilots, and others who made history. This is a compelling introduction to intriguing and inspiring Hispanics beyond Cesar Chavez and Roberto Clemente (who are also profiled).

What makes a poem? Daniel's animal friends certainly have their own opinions, whether it's a warm pond, shining morning dew, or the crunch of autumn leaves. Of course, poetry is all these things, and much more, as Daniel winningly discovers in Daniel Finds a Poem. If you're looking for a read aloud during National Poetry Month that's not just a collection of poems, this is a charming book that gets its point across (poetry is limitless in what it can be) without being too cloying.

Encourage a love of poetry at an early age with A Great Big Cuddle: Poems For the Very Young. Michael Rosen's poetry will resonate with very young listeners, tackling important subjects such as playing hiding games, wanting to "do it myself," and even going to the potty.

Marilyn Singer's reverso poems are incredible; if you're not familiar with her reverso poems, you are missing out on some awesome poetry! Reverso poems are poems told two different ways: the second version starts with the final line of the original version, which gives a completely different outlook on the subject. Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse  tells (and retells) fairy tales, giving you unique perspectives on the stories (her other reverso poems focus on Greek myths and a variety of subjects).

The Harlem Renaissance was an amazing outpouring of African-American art and literature, including poetry. Nikki Grimes has collected poems from a range of well-known (Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar) and some that deserve reintroduction to a wider audience (Georgia Douglas Johnson) ; she has also included a number of her own original poetry, as well as illustrations from outstanding illustrators such as Brian Pinkney and Javaka Steptoe (winner of the 2017 Caldecott Medal). We have several poetry collections centered on the Harlem Renaissance, but  One Last Word: Wisdom From the Harlem Renaissance is at the very top of this distinguished pile.

Not a winter goes by that I don't read The Snowy Day to my toddler and Head Start story time attendees. Published 55 years ago, the story of a young African-American boy enjoying a snow day remains hugely popular with patrons, but those not familiar with the book's history would likely be shocked that it was quite a sensation when it was first published, as picture books featuring African-American characters were quite scarce (or featured stereotypical attributes). A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day is the moving tale of how Ezra Jack Keats, the child of Jewish immigrants from Poland, created one of the greatest picture books of all time. Andrea Davis Pinkney's story in verse is an extraordinary and touching tribute to a book that changed children's book history.

Every now and then, Warrenton Youth Services staff melts over a book. Currently, it's Wake Up!, which we are all coveting for our spring themed story times (we're also verklempt over Big Cat, Little Cat right now, but that's for another post). Told in Helen Frost's usual style  of combining gorgeous photography and verse, this is one of the most magnificent spring books we've received in a some time. You can't get much more adorable than pictures of baby animals; this one is a star.

If this has inspired you to seek out more children's poetry, check out our J 811 section (and ask for recommendations)!

March may be over, but if you're in the mood for some outstanding children's books on women's history or that celebrate crafts, check out my recent ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) posts on Women's History Month and National Craft Month.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, March 27, 2017

Color Your World: Books For National Crayon Day

Unless a holiday has a formal proclamation (from the president, Congress, or other government agencies) or an official website, it's often difficult to get information on how and why a certain national day/week/etc got started. Luckily, for National Crayon Day, there's no surprise, as March 31 is the official founding day for the Binney and Smith Company, later known as Crayola. While Crayola is certainly not the only crayon brand around, it's a great excuse to talk about some terrific books that feature crayons:

There's no better book to start a National Crayon Day post than Crockett Johnson's classic picture book, Harold and the Purple Crayon. Published in 1955, this engaging story about a little boy who creates many adventures with his purple crayon continues to inspire and enchant new generations. 

Inch by Inch is my favorite Leo Lionni picture book. His adaptation of the classic song is charming and endearing; I don't often enjoy picture book adaptations of songs, but this one works perfectly. Lionni used a collage of rice paper and crayons to create his magnificent illustrations for this story. 

The Day the Crayons Quit has been consistently popular ever since we received it in 2013 (as is its sequel). This hilarious story about crayons complaining about their treatment (in the form of letters to a befuddled young boy) is immensely clever, and a great example of how picture books remain appealing long beyond the kindergarten years (and can contain sophisticated vocabulary and humor that enriches young listeners and readers).  

New crayons eventually break, get crushed, or go missing. Such is the dilemma that faces our young character in Snap; although he is frustrated, he learns that combining colors or using them in different ways creates art that is just as cool as the art created by fresh crayons. 

Finally, Wax to Crayons  is a fine and simple overview of the process in which crayons are created. Starting with wax, readers learn how wax is molded and created into bright new crayons. 

Hope this inspires you to create something with crayons--or to find new reads the next time you visit the library. Happy National Crayon Day!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Read Around the World: Books For World Folktales and Fables Week

Folktales are one of my top favorite types of stories; when patrons ask for read alouds for elementary school classes, I always take them to our J 398 section and start pulling titles. Throughout humanity, folktales and fables have communicated universal messages about cooperation, being appreciative for what you have, the comeuppance of tricksters, and the triumph of the small over the powerful that continue to resonate with listeners young and old.

Since we just celebrated National Tell a Fairy Tale Day, you might be wondering what the difference is between fairy tales and folktales. It's not easy to have a hard and fast rule, but one of the best ways to differentiate the two is that fairy tales pretty much end with a "happily ever after" ending. Think Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc that are popular in our culture (most cultures have fairy tales, with Cinderella-type stories being perhaps the most universal fairy tale). Fairy tales usually involve royalty, dragons, witches, and other supernatural beings. Folktales, on the other hand, do not always have a happy ending for the character; indeed, like the famous Anansi stories from West Africa, the main character often suffers to learn a lesson. The main character might also be portrayed as foolish, sneaky, vain, or some other negative trait, which is usually not the case in fairy tales (going back to Cinderella as an example--Cinderella is good, downtrodden, and taken advantage of by her family, but eventually triumphs). On the other hand, folktales might also feature characters that outsmart those of a higher station or class.   While this collection of titles doesn't include all my favorite folktales, here is a sampling of some of our outstanding folktales:

Although we don't know much about the ancient Greek storyteller named Aesop, the stories attributed to him continue to bring home universal truths, particularly The Boy Who Cried Wolf. B.G. Hennessy's retelling of the boy who told a falsehood one too many times is a cautious reminder about the importance of truth-telling.

How Many Donkeys? An Arabic Counting Tale is a Saudi folktale starring Jouha, a popular "wise fool" found in many Middle Eastern folktales. When Jouha takes his donkeys to market, he consistently forgets to count the donkey upon which he rides, causing him great consternation that a donkey is missing. As the subtitle suggests, this is a helpful story in learning how to count in Arabic!

Jewish folktales are often filled with humor at the expense of the main character, as is the case with It Could Always be Worse (1978 Caldecott Honor book). When a man visits his rabbi to get guidance on how to manage his crazy, noisy, and cramped household, the rabbi instructs him to bring in his farm animals. With each subsequent consultation from the rabbi, the house gets even more crowded...until the rabbi's final suggestion leads him to be thankful for his original situation.

Margaret Read MacDonald's many folktale retellings are top-notch reads, but Mabela the Clever, originally told by the Limba community in Sierra Leone, is my favorite. A sneaky cat manages to trick the mice into joining his Secret Cat Society (with fatal results), until the smallest mouse figures out what's really going on. It has a great refrain that lends itself easily to audience participation, which is a cool bonus!

While I love folktales and fairy tales, I admit that our most popular stories often feature stereotypical attributes and behavior of both girls and boys. If you're searching for an alternative to traditional prince and princess stories, check out Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls and Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales For Strong Boys. Both collections feature authentic folktales from diverse communities (France, Afghanistan, England, Sioux, and more) that glorify brains over brawn and beauty, adapted by master storyteller Jane Yolen.

Virginia Hamilton's The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales  is a classic in folklore collections. Well-known African American folktales with Bruh Rabbit and other animals are included, as well as folktales about slaves that outsmart their slaveowners. The title story is also available as a picture book.

Rabbit loves the snow; he just can't get enough! When Rabbit starts a traditional Iroquois drum and song dance to coax snowfall, the other animals are NOT happy...because it's summer! Rabbit continues his dance, undeterred, until he finally gets a lesson about too much of a good thing (and at inappropriate times!). It's also one of the great "how [name of animal] got its tail/stripes/etc" found across many cultures.  Rabbit's Snow Dance: A Traditional Iroquois Story is a magnificent read aloud by esteemed Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac and his son, James.

Cautionary tales about spreading gossip are found in many different cultures, such as The Rumor. Jataka tales are Buddhist tales that often feature the Buddha as a wise animal that teaches lessons about sharing, compassion, and the difference between good and evil. This Jataka tale features a hare, who upon hearing a mango fall to the ground, is convinced that the world is ending, and turns all the other animals into a tizzy until they reach the lion, who is determined to get to the bottom of the situation. Sounds familiar? Of course! It's very much like the Chicken Little/Henny Penny stories!

Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folktale Collection is a master lesson in folktale collections; not only does it include marvelous retellings of popular Hispanic tales, but it also includes intriguing information on the origins of Hispanic folklore in general as well as notes on each folktale. The illustrations are also evocative of Hispanic art.

Southern culture is renowned for its storytelling, whether it involves African-American folktales in the Deep South, Cajun stories from southeastern Louisiana, or tales from the Appalachian mountains.  With a Whoop and a Holler: A Bushel of Lore From Way Down South is an outstanding collection of Southern folklore, divided by regions (The Bayou, The Deep South, and The Mountains).Notes on each regional variations is included. Nancy van Laan's Cajun retellings are expertly cadenced, with the other stories including regional dialect that rings authentic but not so much that non-natives would find it difficult to read aloud.

We have so many amazing stories awaiting new listeners in our J 398 section! Browse through our collection next time you visit, or ask for more recommendations.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, March 13, 2017

We Can Do It! Books for Women's History Month

When I started compiling the list of books I wanted to feature for Women's History Month, I quickly realized that I needed a narrower focus than just "women's history." I love reading books about women's history and biographies of little-known women, so my list of favorites was way too long for a post! Therefore, I decided to focus on outstanding books about women that do not have the same recognition as women like Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc. If you're looking for memorable reads about extraordinary women, you are in for a treat!

Before Sally Ride, there was the "Mercury 13."  Funded by William Randolph Lovelace in a non-NASA initiative, these 13 women underwent the same physical screening and challenges as the men being screened and trained by NASA during the 1960s. All 13 were accomplished pilots; all passed the Phase I screenings and one of them, Jerrie Cobb, passed every single test and challenge (due to family and work obligations, the other women were not able to finish every test) before the program was suddenly cancelled.  Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream is a mesmerizing, inspiring, and heartbreaking look at these amazing women who definitely had the right stuff (and would make an incredible movie!).

You've heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but what about Nell Richardson and Alice Burke? Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, And 10,000 Miles is a charming tale of these two yellow-clad suffragists who spread the message of women's voting rights across the country.

I've mentioned how much I love The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier several times; its a compelling biography of an intelligent, resourceful, and community-minded colonial women who championed the rights of Native Americans and counseled her Quaker neighbors on legal matters.

Barbara Johns was only a teenager when her fight to end segregation in her Virginia community became part of the Brown v. Board of Education case. Her extraordinary story and determination is memorably told in The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement.

Did you know that America's first major prima ballerina was an Osage Native American who grew up on an Oklahoma reservation? Tallchief became a superstar as one of George Balanchine's top ballerinas in the 1950s, when American ballet became an international powerhouse. Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina is gorgeously illustrated and told through Tallchief's perspective. Although those looking for a great deal of biographical information will need additional sources, this is a must read for all young balletomanes.

When I was young, a Nellie Bly biography was one of my favorite books. How I would have loved Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original "Girl" Reporter, Nellie Bly! As I haven't really read anything about Nellie Bly since I was a kid, I learned so much from this fabulous read. Nellie Bly's journalism highlighted the plight of the mentally ill in institutions and lead to real reform; her race around the world introduced readers to new cultures and sights. This is fun informational reading at its finest.

If you're in the mood for an inspiring biography about a modern-day woman, Wangari Maathai: The Women Who Planted Millions of Trees is not to be missed. Although we have several biographies about the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, this is my favorite. (And if you need a read for any upcoming Earth Day activities, this one is ideal!)

One of my favorite movies is A League of Their Own; sure, it's not great cinema, but it's fun, funny, charming, and moving. If you're also a fan, then you should definitely read A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a captivating chronicle of the league that played from 1943-1954. Mama Played Baseball  is a sweet fictional picture book told through the eyes of a young daughter of a league player, and is perfect for younger readers and listeners.

You can find many more terrific biographies in our juvenile biogaphy section!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Celtic Pride: Books for St. Patrick's Day and Irish-American Heritage Month

A (belated) welcome to March! March means many things--spring is just around the corner, baseball season starts, and the beginning of our favorite spring holidays, including St. Patrick's Day! March is also Irish-American Heritage Month, which is a great time to reflect on the many ways Irish immigrants have enriched our culture, and the many hardships they faced and overcame in their homeland and in their new country. Before you don your favorite green apparel and celebrate St. Patrick's Day, why not check out these super awesome books about St. Patrick and Irish heritage?

Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland is a super introduction to the life of St. Patrick, written and illustrated by picture book master, Tomie dePaola. DePaola includes both factual information and legends about this British-born missionary. 

Irish culture is well-known for its colorful and magical stories of fairies, leprechauns, and fantastical legends. A Pot O'Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, And (Of Course) Blarney  is a must read for anyone wanting to delve into the rich folklore of Ireland.

Did you know that the Cinderella story appears in many cultures? The Irish Cinderlad and Fair, Brown and Trembling  are two examples of the "rags to riches" tale, with unique elements; in The Irish Cinderlad, the two main characters are reversed (the boy is the one plagued by his stepmother and stepsisters), while Fair, Brown, and Trembling includes the more familiar aspects of the story. 

Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850 is an eye-opening and humbling account of the Irish Famine, during which one million Irish men, women, and children died and two million fled Ireland. 

When parents ask for books that their I Survived young fans would like, I often recommend the Dear America and My Name is America series; both series offer compelling historical series with charactes that young readers will relate to. (I also recommend the You Choose series.) So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, An Irish Mill Girl and The Journal of Finn Reardon: A Newsie follow two young Irish-Americans who endure much difficulties in their young lives.

If you're picking up a St. Patrick biography, why not check out Jean Fritz's picture book biography of St. Columba? The Man Who Loved Books features the Irish saint who copied 300 New Testaments so that Scottish churches could have their own copy.

Happy St. Patrick's Day (and Irish American Heritage Month!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library