Friday, January 30, 2015

2014 Favorites: Picture Books and Predictions!

I thought we would never get here; it's the Friday before the Newbery/Caldecott announcements! Time to wind down my favorites from 2014 by discussing my favorite picture books, and going on record with my picks for Monday's Youth Media Awards.

I don't have an accurate count for the number of picture books I read. I only counted 68 picture books/easy readers, which isn't that much. However, I really only kept track of the picture books/easy reader titles that made an impression. Eight were especially awesome:

I adore this West African Beauty and the Beast a ton, and hope that it's recognized on Monday. H. Chuku Lee's illustrations are divine.

If you want picture books so cute you want to pinch them, you need to keep tabs on Il Sung Na. Just LOOK at that baby duckie. ALL of Na's illustrations are like that.  Full of pep, personality, and adorable-ness. A Book of Babies features a baby duck observing other baby animals. The text is sparse but simply poetic.

Little Green rolls into town and only knows one word: "Go!" Everyone goes, goes, goes...and goes.Luckily, a new friend, Stop, shows up.  Go! Go! Go! Stop! is hilarious, but it also has a well-crafted message about cooperation (without laying it on too thick).

Gus and Me was definitely the surprise (for me) of 2014. I certainly wasn't expecting a tender and wonderfully crafted picture book memoir about Keith Richards's relationship with his grandfather. It's a deeply heartfelt story about the importance of grandparents, mentoring, and music.  Richards's daughter, Theodora (named after Gus, whose formal name was Theodore), created wistful and endearing illustrations that match the gentle tone of the story. I appreciated the simple biographical note about Keith Richards in the back matter ("Keith later began playing in a band with a group of friends, including Mick Jagger. They called themselves the Rolling Stones.") and an overview of Theodora Richards's research and technique for her renderings of post-war London.

HYSTERICAL. Absolutely hysterical. Here Comes the Easter Cat is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Cat is jealous and wants to replace the Easter Bunny, but pretty much falls apart when he realizes what a strenuous job it is to be the Easter Bunny. Its sequel, Here Comes Santa Cat, is just as funny.

I realize that a story about a girl whose favorite playmate is a maple tree is rather out there, but Maple is such a tender and darling story about the arrival of a baby sister that it immediately became one of my year's favorite picture books. I prefer books that present the arrival of a sibling in a positive manner rather one that is is strongly negative (until the very end), so this one is on my recommendation list when people ask for "new baby books."

I'm a fan of everything Byron Barton creates, but his transportation-themed picture books (which make for great board books as well) are my favorites. My Bus is ideal for the youngest transportation-obsessed listeners. There's also a little bit of addition and subtraction going on throughout the story, which adds a great touch.

Remember the game "Telephone"? Perhaps you played it in Scouts/youth group or at summer camp. It starts when someone whispers a phrase into his/her neighbor's ear, who then does the same; this continues until the last person in the circle has to say the phrase out loud. Of course, it's usually completely different from the original phrase! I play this with my Tween Scene group in the summer, and it's always a hit. Telephone stars a mama bird who asks another bird to pass on an important message for baby bird Peter. As you can imagine, the birds add their own interpretations to the original message.  Mac Barnett's picture books are wildly inventive and funny; this is fabulous.

And now, for my probably wildly off-the-wall predictions for Monday's big announcements!

Newbery: Brown Girl Dreaming
Honors: Rain Reign, Revolution, El Deafo (some are naming El Deafo for the Newbery; will be interesting to see if the committee can name a graphic novel according to the Newbery criteria)

Caldecott: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Honors: Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, Beauty and the Beast (please?)

Want to catch the announcements of the Youth Media Awards live? You have several options:

Watch the live webcast.
Follow I Love Libraries on Twitter or Facebook.
The official hashtag for the announcements is #ALAyma. If you follow this hashtag, be prepared for an avalanche of tweets!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Friday, January 23, 2015

2014 Favorites: Young Adult and Graphic Novels

I read so many amazing books last year! In this penultimate post of my 2014 favorites, I'll tell you about the young adult and graphic novel standouts: 

I read 36 young adult novels. Nine blew me away: 

YA coming of age books from a boy's perspective are not nearly as common as middle grade coming of age books for girls. Coming of age books from an African-American male teen's perspective? Even rarer. Which is why The Crossover was one of my 2014 highlights.  Josh and Jordan are pretty tight, as you would imagine fourteen year old twin boys to be, but the balance of their relationship changes when Jordan gets a girlfriend. Dad was once a basketball star, and they appear to be following in his footsteps; when their father becomes seriously ill, their closeknit family ties threaten to be shattered. Written in verse, this is a powerful novel about family, grief, maturity, and basketball. 

Down Syndrome is a rare topic in YA literature, so Girls Like Us is a welcome addition.  Quincy and Biddy have both graduated from their school's special education program, so it's now time to learn independent skills through shared apartment living and working at their first jobs.  Quincy and Biddy face the world in different ways; Quincy is antagonistic, while Biddy retreats. Learning how to navigate their new reality brings its ups and downs; the vulnerabilities that girls with cognitive impairments face are heartbreakingly and realistically portrayed.

How it Went Down tells the story of a community rocked by the fatal shooting of an African-American teen. Multiple points of view are represented, from loved ones and acquaintances of both the victim and the perpetrator, but the details add up to create a confusing and complex situation. Readers that want gritty, mature, and realistic stories should definitely check this out.

The Living (published in 2013) is one of the very, very few books that I have read in one sitting. I could not put it down until I knew how the story ended (at least for this novel; the sequel will be out in May, and I can hardly wait!). Shy (his nickname) thinks his summer job on a cruise ship should be a fun way to pass the summer; it's hard work keeping the passenger happy (older ladies tend to tip better if you flirt with them), but there's enough time to goof off with the other teen employees. Unimaginable disaster occurs when an earthquake hits California, followed by a tsunami. Shy must do everything to stay alive and to find his missing girlfriend. My patience for disaster/dystopian YA is pretty much played out, but this is an incredible and whirlwind read. Shy is also Latino, which adds a great multicultural aspect to the story.

Lost Girl Found is an eye-opening look at the plight of young women in Sudan. Poni and her family must flee her village after it is bombed. Finding shelter at a refugee camp only provides marginal help for Poni. Desperate to continue her education, Poni must seek out an ingenious way to survive and thrive. Contemporary or recent events in countries other than the United States are rarely portrayed in YA fiction; this is a superbly realized and written novel.

A Mad, Wicked Folly is a must read for anyone (not just teens) who can't get enough of Downton Abbey. Set during the Edwardian period, this is a highly entertaining and sensitive tale of an upper-class teen who rebels against the mores of her society. (It's QUITE scandalous.) Victoria yearns to be a serious artist instead of a typical young woman of the nobility; there's lots of details about balls and such, but the emerging suffragette movement in Britain also plays a key role.

The finalists for the 2014 Young People's Literature division of the National Book Award were all tremendous (I read them all, but since I read Noggin in 2015, I can't count it here). Threatened is Eliot Schrefer's outstanding followup to Endangered.  Orphan Luc is a debt slave in Gabon, until he meets a scientist studying chimpanzees in the jungle; after the scientist disappears, Luc must survive on his own. Not only is this a great adventure/survival novel, but it's also a brilliantly researched and told tale of chimpanzee society. 

A Time to Dance is one of my picks for the Schneider Family Book Award. (February 2, people!) Veda's struggle to adapt after an accident leaves her an amputee is not just a fine inspirational story told in verse, but it's also a terrific insight into Indian society, especially the importance of Bharatanatyam dance. It's a standout for readers who like stories about dancers or stories set in countries other than the United States. 

YA novels about the implications of reality TV are nothing new (The Hunger Games is the most famous example, but Surviving Antarctica is even older). While most are harrowing reads (the aforementioned titles, along with Reality Boy), The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy is an emotionally lighter (and more authentic) novel of teens involved in a reality show at their arts-oriented high school. Naturally, the divide between the teens featured on the show and the teens who are not is quite sharp (especially since these teens are all aspiring artists). A group of friends embark on a protest against the show; when one of their own changes sides and becomes featured on the show, loyalties and friendships are stretched even further. Although parts are quite funny (and no one has to fight to the death), this is a literary and sophisticated novel that asks a lot of questions about the price of fame and how far would you go to achieve your dreams.

I made a commitment to read more graphic novels this year! I read 14 graphic novels, which I think is a record for me. Four were outstanding:

I'm a newbie to Lucy Knisley's work, but I'm already a devoted fan. Regular readers know that Knisley's graphic memoirs are often family and food-oriented. An Age of License follows Lucy through Europe as she attends a Norwegian comics convention.  Food inevitably plays a big part in the story, but so does romance and career issues common to twenty-somethings (although Knisley's are rather unique).  Her 2015 memoir, Displacement, will be out shortly (in which she accompanies her grandparents on a cruise). 

Max Brooks is best known for World War Z, so The Harlem Hellfighters  is quite a departure. The Harlem Hellfighters was the first African-American regiment in World War I; they never lost a man to capture or a foot of ground to the German forces.  This is written for adults, so Brooks does not shy away from the violence of the war or the injustices that the men faced at home (I would definitely recommend it for teens interested in World War I history or African-American history). Movie rights have already been sold (to Will Smith), so we'll (hopefully) see this at movie theater in the near future. 

Although Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust is a graphic novel for children, it conveys the nightmare of the Nazi regime and Holocaust in a sorrowful yet age-appropriate manner. A grandmother tells her granddaughter about her childhood in Occupied France; after her parents are exiled to concentration camps, Dounia is hidden by a number of relatives and friends for the duration of the war. This is definitely a book to read together, as some aspects are deeply sad. It's one of the few Holocaust era books that are appropriate for young readers. 

March: Book One was released in 2013, but I read it in early 2014. As Congressman John Lewis prepares for the first inauguration of Barack Obama, he reflects on his youth in segregated Alabama and the early days of the civil rights movement. This volume ends with the start of the student movement in Nashville. It's a fascinating read by one of the surviving leaders of the civil rights movement. Although this is written for an adult audience, teens interested in civil rights history should definitely read it. This is the first book in a trilogy. 

My countdown to the ALA Youth Media Awards ends next Friday with a look at my 2014 favorite picture books and my picks for the Youth Media Awards. Keep in mind that I've been closely following the Newbery/Caldecott/etc awards for nine years, and only once has my pick won a Medal (The Only and Only Ivan in 2013). So don't be surprised if I'm wildly off (my favorites are occasionally Honor books, but only once has one won the big enchilada). The Youth Media Awards will be announced on February 2 at 9 AM ET/8 AM CT. . While the best place to watch the announcements is in person (I've had the chance to do that once, and it's super fun), you can watch the broadcast here. If you'd rather follow the Twitterati, look for #ALAyma. If you just want results (and not an avalanche of tweets), follow I Love Libraries on Facebook or @ILoveLibraries on Twitter.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2014 Favorites: Children's Novels and Poetry

We are so close to the 2015 Youth Media Awards announcements (just over two weeks away)! Today, I'll tell you about my favorite children's novels and poetry. I read 69 chapter books; here are my favorites!

I am so very tired of easy chapter books getting ignored in "Best of 2014" book lists. Writing a great read for beginning chapter book readers is difficult, and it's a shame that they get overlooked for the 300+ paged novels. Claudia Mills has created some of the finest easy chapter books, and she continues her awesomeness in her Franklin School Friends series. Annika Riz, Math Whiz (#2 in the series) loves math, but her friends just don't see how fun math can be! In between preparing for the library's Sudoku competition and the school carnival, she discovers that a serious math mistake could harm the carnival festivities. Super big thumbs up for portraying enthusiasm and aptitude for math as something normal and achievable for everyone, not to mention the humor and realistic portrayals of elementary school kids. 2015 will bring two additions to this delightful series, featuring Annika's friends, running star Izzy and spelling champ Simon.

I cannot tell you how much I adore the Bad Kitty series. Tons of humor, liberally sprinkled with illustrations to interest reluctant readers of chapter books, and educational matter seamlessly presented in inventive ways throughout the story. Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble is quite meta, in that Bad Kitty finally goes head to head with her creator, Nick Bruel. Bad Kitty is not at all happy with how the plot progresses in her story (especially since it involves turnips). Each Bad Kitty novel includes information about the subject at hand; this one introduces children to the process of writing and illustrating books. We just received the latest Bad Kitty chapter book (2015 publication!), featuring Bad Kitty's nemesis, Poor Puppy (this one features information about dog behavior and dog care!).

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond is a sweet, heartfelt, and believable story about a biracial girl who bridges the gap between her Caucasian mother and her African-American grandmother. Stories about children "discovering their heritage" can be preachy and boring to young readers; this has plenty of captivating characters and enough drama (but not overly so) to keep readers turning the pages.

I love, love, love Cynthia Lord (luckily, she has a forthcoming 2015 novel! squee!). Half a Chance takes place in Lord's beloved Maine and features the importance of friendship, family, community, adventures and hobbies, as is common in Lord's novels. Lucy's father is an accomplished photographer, so it's no surprise that she is a budding talented photographer. Lucy spends her summer making friends with the children in her new lakeside community (a story line involving tension with a local girl adds realistic drama) and taking photos for a nationwide photography contest. Although the conclusion stretches credulity a tad (for me), it's a beautifully created coming of age story (and a great summertime read!).

Not only did Cynthia Lord publish the fabulous Half a Chance in 2014, but she also released a new easy chapter book series! Jelly Bean (Shelter Pet Squad #1) introduces readers to animal-loving Suzannah, who unfortunately cannot have pets due to restrictions at her apartment complex. Luckily, a community service project gives her the chance to volunteer at the local animal shelter with her friends. Lord is doing serious research for this series (she recently posted updates on her Facebook page for Shelter Pet Squad #2), and it shows. Most notably is that the children are restricted in what they can or cannot do at the shelter due to their age (i.e. no walking or feeding dogs). The financial strains in Suzannah's life are realistically depicted, but in an age-appropriate manner. Suzannah meets a devastated little girl forced to surrender her guinea pig when her family moves and promises that she will find Jelly Bean (another adorable animal character from the creator of Hot Rod Hamster) a home; due to the issues presented in this story, it's more mature than other easy chapter book series, but they don't overburden the story.

Although The Lion Who Stole My Arm is a short novel (under 100 pages), don't let its length deceive you into thinking that this is a light read. (2014 for me was all about the short novels, apparently.) Pedru's ambitions to be a great hunter like his father are dashed when he loses an arm in a lion attack. Pedru vows to find the lion and take revenge, but will he change his mind when he finally gets the opportunity to confront the lion? Davies balances the need for the community and their livestock to be protected from the lions and the concern about encroachment upon the lions' natural habitat. Western conservationists and community members work together and educate each other, which is the preferred working arrangement in some areas of conservation.

I love Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, and it's really too bad that it's not eligible for the Newbery (Karen Foxlee lives in Australia). Ophelia is a scientifically-minded eleven year old who cannot abide anything that smacks of the supernatural; finding a boy locked in the museum at which her father works turns everything upside down. I am not a huge fantasy fan, but I was bowled over by this book. (And it's under 300 pages! It's not a bloated fantasy novel!)

Revolution (and Deborah Wiles) may have its detractors, but I think, in spite of its flaws, it is an incredible achievement. Although I don't think it is as strong as Countdown (the secondary material needs to be cut back), Wiles's depiction of a young girl whose worldview is challenged by the arrival of Freedom Riders in her hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, is authentic and incredible. Her relationship with her stepmother is one of the best depictions of a stepchild-stepparent relationship I have read in a long time. I don't know when the conclusion of the Sixties Trilogy will be published, but I cannot wait to read it. The final pages of Revolution point to the final book taking place on the West Coast and focusing on the emerging peace movement (the trilogy started on the East Coast in New Jersey, so it makes sense that it ends on the West Coast in California).

Saving Kabul Corner is a companion novel to Shooting Kabul, but it's not necessary to read them in order. American-born Ariana does not see eye-to-eye with cousin Laila, who recently arrived from Afghanistan. When Ariana's family-owned Afghani grocery store faces competition from a rival store, the cousins band together to save the store. This is a richly imagined story about family and heritage, but there's also a mystery subplot that will keep readers on edge.


I probably should have put Brown Girl Dreaming in the nonfiction post, but I needed more titles in my poetry section!  Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse is an astonishing achievement in a distinguished writing career. Her memories of growing up in both rural South Carolina and urban New York City is an eye-opening account of the segregation era. Her relationships with her family, especially her grandparents, are complex and ever-changing.  This won the Young People's Literature division of the National Book Awards, and deservedly so.

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems has won acclaim for Melissa Sweet's vibrant illustrations; this is a Caldecott favorite for many, and it's definitely on my short list!  This very attractive volume includes selections from classic poets such as Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson,  and Carl Sandburg, but also creations by modern children's authors such as Charlotte Zolotow and Joyce Sidman.

Joyce Sidman's poetry collections are extraordinary; not only are the poems joyous to read, but the illustrations are amazingly intricate and the short informational notes that accompany each poem are fascinating.  Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold follows animals as they prepare and endure the winter.

Next week, I'll highlight my favorite young adult reads and graphic novels (children, young adult, and adult).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.

Friday, January 09, 2015

2014 Favorite Reads: Children's and YA Nonfiction

Last week, I told you about my favorite 2014 adult fiction and nonfiction picks. Every Friday in January, I am discussing my favorite reads in 2014. This will lead us right to the Youth Media Awards on February 2, in which the Newbery, Caldecott, and other awesome children's and young adult book awards will be revealed. Cannot wait!

We are experiencing a renaissance of fabulous children's and young adult nonfiction. I read 56 children's and nonfiction titles, ranging from nonfiction picture books to lengthy young adult nonfiction. 10 were exceptional:

Lita Judge is one of those phenomenal author-illustrators who can do it all, apparently. Her specialty is illustrating endearing yet incredibly realistic animals; her nonfiction picture books entertain and educate readers of all ages. Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents features the unique relationship between newborn animals and their parents (mostly mothers, but several fathers as well!).

One of my favorite awards announced on Youth Media Awards day is the Schneider Family Book Award, which honors children's and young adult books that portray a character with a disability (which is deliberately broadly defined and may include physical, mental, or emotional conditions; however, books that feature death of a character as the main theme are generally disqualified). I'm hopeful that A Boy and a Jaguar is among the group of books chosen. Dr. Alan Rabinowitz's depiction of his severe speech disorder and how working with animals helped him (literally) find his voice and become an advocate for animals in captivity is inspiring and gratifying.

The more I learn about birds, the more I marvel at the amount of ingenuity and brainpower in these small creatures. Sure, birds use feathers to fly, but did you know that birds use them for protection against the sun, to soothe thirsty youngsters and for courtship? Feathers: Not Just For Flying introduces readers to 16 birds in this enlightening and engrossing picture book.

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kadinsky's Abstract Art is a remarkable picture book biography of the Russian abstract artist Wassily Kadinsky. Kadinsky had a neurological condition called synesthesia, which caused him to interpret colors as sounds. Although this is a difficult concept to grasp, Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpre explain and explore it so that readers understand Kadinsky's unique condition.

The Scientists in the Field series is one of the best ongoing series in children's nonfiction (I include the Who Was/Who Is/What Is/What Was series and the You Choose in that as well). Each entry explores a current problem or situation in the natural sciences and how scientists and laypeople are working together to solve it. Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America's Own Backyard  features scientists studying animals who live in America's national parks. The pictures are phenomenal (especially of the gila monsters!) and the narrative is sure to grab the attention of young naturalists.

My Caldecott pick. Right here. Illustrator Melissa Sweet has created a masterpiece. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus pays tribute to an intriguing wordsmith. It is gorgeous and a joy to read.

The Scraps Book: Notes From a Colorful Life
Legendary author-illustrator Lois Ehlert presents her creative process, art education and support from her parents in this brilliantly illustrated (she is famous for her collage technique) and written biography. This is my #2 Caldecott pick.

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Solider and a Service Dog  is also on my list of hopefuls for the Schneider Family Book Award. Although it doesn't specifically name PTSD, it introduces the condition in a gentle and age appropriate manner. This is based on Montalvan's memoir for adults.

Young adult nonfiction yielded tremendous titles this year:

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia is one of Candace Fleming's finest, and that's saying a lot! Children's nonfiction fans have been hoping for a nonfiction title to win the Newbery ever since 1988, which is the last year a nonfiction book won the Medal (several have earned honors).  Many have picked this for their Newbery hopeful. As someone who is burnt out (for the time being) on all things Romanov, I found this to be an unforgettable read. The struggles of ordinary Russian men and women under the rule of Nicholas II come alive through their letters and diaries, and makes for interesting juxtaposition against the extremely secluded and isolated family.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, And the Fight for Civil Rights is another winner from Steve Sheinkin (author of Newbery Honor book Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon). This exploration of a little-known catalyst in the fight for the civil rights of African-Americans is heartrending and powerful.

Next week, I'll highlight my 2014 favorite children's novels!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.

Friday, January 02, 2015

2014 Favorite Reads: Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

Happy New Year! Now that 2014 is officially history, it's time for me to look back at my favorites from the past year. Every Friday in January, I'll briefly discuss my favorite adult fiction/nonfiction, children's/YA nonfiction, children's novels, YA fiction, and picture books. On February 6, I'll give my thoughts on the Youth Media Awards (Caldecott, Newbery and a host of other children's/YA book awards), which will be announced on February 2. Let's begin with adult fiction and nonfiction!

I read nine adult novels this year; four were exceptional (all have 2014 publication dates): 

This intricate and unforgettable novel of two young people (one French, one German) caught up in the catastrophe of World War II deserve all the praise, awards, and spots on bestseller lists that it has received. 

I was happy to see this absorbing read of a 1970s young African revolutionary who finds himself in small-town Ohio on several "Best of 2014" lists. 

If you prefer your historical fiction to have more romance, more royals and fewer war scenes, you'll love The Fortune Hunter, especially if you're a fan of Downton Abbey-ish/Upstairs Downstairs historical dramas. This is a literary soap opera and great fun to read. 

Due to the 100th year anniversary of the beginning of World War I, 2014 saw a ton of fiction and nonfiction about the Great War. This follows a group of women who journey to France to visit the graves of their sons who never returned from the battlefield; sorrowful, inspirational, and even funny at times. 

I read 37 adult nonfiction books this year; 6 were outstanding (all have 2014 publication dates): 

Books about Catholic saints are often written for spiritual guidance and inspiration; biographies written from a secular and historical viewpoint are few and far between. This biography of the first American-born saint is a gripping and powerful read for readers of all faiths. 

This was the last book I finished in 2014; fitting, since I read it while traveling to and from Louisiana for Christmas. It encompasses many intriguing and tragic aspects of New Orleans history: the extreme prejudice against African-Americans and Italian-Americans at the time (which resulted in lynchings in both communities), the rise of jazz and the seedy underworld of New Orleans. Although history buffs, jazz lovers, and those who will read anything about New Orleans will tear through these pages, this is also a fantastic read for true crime fans. 

I appreciate an autobiography that goes beyond the standard "I was born on ____" form. The long-standing cartoon editor of The New Yorker not only treats us to his life story, but also gives insight into the creation of cartoons for the legendary magazine. 

This account of a mother of a child with hearing loss is both poignant and informative, with careful attention given to advocates for cochlear implants and American Sign Language, 

The rise and fall of home economics, specifically sensible fashion and clothing repair education, is told in this admiring yet critical overview. 

The life of the very public and very private astronaut, scientist, and science education advocate is movingly and brilliantly told in this first full-length adult biography. 

Next Friday, we'll continue riding the nonfiction train and ponder what a great year 2014 was for children's and young adult nonfiction. 

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Never Too Young to Start Reading: Board Books

I've recently become a connoisseur of board books for two reasons: I have a new baby niece, and I just removed several beat up board books from our library. In between shopping for board books for my niece and for the library, I've looked at a ton of board books recently.

Not all board books are created equal. I favor board books that were specifically designed to be board books, and not 32 page picture books crammed into a board book edition. With few exceptions (which I'll point out later), adapting a picture book into a board book is often not successful, with the illustrations taking the brunt of the compromise.

But a carefully crafted board book? Those are gems. Pictures are bright (or black-and-white if they are designed for newborns!) and uncluttered. If there is a story, sentences are brief. Here are some sure-fire hits that will get baby on the road to a love of books:

Right off the bat, I start with a book that was originally produced as a picture book. While the illustrations are more pronounced in the picture book form, Backseat A-B-See makes such an attractive board book for babies and toddlers that it was one of the first board books I purchased for my niece. There's no story to it: it's basically the alphabet presented through a succession of road signs (including "L" for library!). Pictures are crisp and in contrasting colors. Its companion, Flight 1 2 3 (look for dad getting checked out by TSA) is just as awesome and will soon be available in a board book format as well.

Sandra Boynton is the undisputed queen of board books. Her humor is best appreciated by toddlers, so her books are perfect for the 1-3 year old crowd. We just received The Bunny Rabbit Show, and it's quite hysterical. Ten rabbits form a chorus line and put on a show. Consider this for an Easter basket surprise.

John Schindel's Busy- board books are constantly checked out at our libraries. Books with photographs are beloved by many babies and toddlers, and nearly all children are fascinated with animals, so you can't go wrong with any of the books in this series. Busy Pandas is one of the cutest. Very short sentences describe the actions in the photographs.

Babies and toddlers are also fascinated with photographs of people, especially children, so Global Baby Boys (and its companions, Global Baby Girls and American Babies) is a sure hit. Adorable pictures of babies from many countries, accompanied by brief sentences about babies (the children are identified by their home country) makes this irresistible for both children and adults.

Although I will probably always prefer Byron Barton's books in their original picture book format, I definitely appreciate the fact that sturdy board books make his fabulous picture books even more accessible for toddlers wanting multiple readings of his books. While transportation is not the focus of every Barton picture book (his The Three Bears is a staple in my bears-themed story time), his "things that go" books (with big, bold, and uncluttered illustrations and brief sentences) are undoubtedly his calling card. Planes, like his other transportation stories, points out the function and variety of planes.

Did you know that we have a special story time for children one year and younger? Our Warrenton library offers Baby Steps every Monday at 10:30.  We do a lot of action rhymes (bouncing, clapping, rocking, etc), parachute activities, fun with shakers, guest appearances from adorable puppets and one story. Free play and socialization time follows after the thirty minute program. Story Time is currently on break, but it returns after the new year, so join us starting January 5 for our 2015 sessions!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.