Friday, April 25, 2014

April Reads

It's the last Friday of the month, so time to present my April reads! I did some speed reading this month in order to cross off my remaining reads from the ALA Youth Media Awards lists, so this post is rather long this month. Hope you read some excellent titles as well! 

Baseball Is is a superb picture book read for baseball fans. It's a delightful salute to the excitement of the game, the history of the sport (including nods to the Negro League and the short-lived women's league) and the legends (including Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente), culminating with a celebration of the World Series (with the inspiration that perhaps YOUR team could be the star of the parade!)

The Black Pearl was one of four novels to earn a 1968 Newbery Honor; while not one of my favorite Scott O'Dell novels, it's a tightly woven tale of a boy who enrages a ferocious sea creature after he captures a mysterious black pearl.

Leon Leyson was ten years old when the Germans invaded Poland; after the removal of Polish Jews to the Krakow ghetto, he and his family were taken to the Plaszow concentration camp.  Were it not for Oskar Schindler, Leon would have likely not survived the concentration camp, as was the fate of most young children at the camps.  I've read quite a few Holocaust memoirs written for both children/young adults and adults, and The Boy on the Wooden Box is one of the most striking ones I've read.

Charm and Strange received the 2014 William C. Morris Debut Award, which honors a first novel by an author of young adult literature.  It's definitely well-written and deeply affecting, but do know that it's an unsettling and powerful novel about sexual abuse.

The slim (I haven't read one that is close to 200 pages) yet satisfying reads in the American Presidents series make my president biographies project so enjoyable. I recently fan-girled about it with a patron who wanted a printout of all our available titles so that he can work his way through the series, and I know that other patrons are checking them out, so I am stoked that our patrons are enjoying the series.  While every year seems to bring a new Lincoln or Kennedy biography, quite a few presidents have only inspired one or two biographies. Thankfully, the American Presidents series fills in gaps with up-to-date scholarship and remarkable insight on our presidents. Chester Alan Arthur is long forgotten by most; as one of the "accidental presidents" due to the assassination of James Garfield, he never aspired to the presidency and only served one term. His term, however, lead to an overhaul of the civil service system. Karabell's biography ranks as one of my favorites in this series so far, as it's not merely a cradle to grave biography.  Modern presidents may bemoan the fact that in this age of 24/7 news cycles, every glance, gesture, awkward phrasing, and stumble is remarked upon and analyzed, but consider being president under these circumstances:
There wasn't much to do in Washington, and speculation and gossip about a new president's primary form of public locomotion could fill a number of otherwise dreary evenings. 

(I did not skip over James Garfield; I read and reviewed the magnificent Destiny of the Republic last May, so I decided to move forward in this project. It's the last book reviewed in that post. I also finished the Grover Cleveland biography in this series; just as fine as the others in the series.)

For the past months, I have been working my way through the 2014 ALA Youth Media Awards winners. Now that I can put that aside and really concentrate on newly published titles, I am picking out potential choices for the awards. I definitely hope The Crossover is recognized for something next January. Literary sports fiction for youth is not uncommon, yet it tends to go unnoticed come awards time. Basketball is at the forefront of this novel in verse, but there's also powerful stuff here about growing up, children and parents, regret, and grief.  Josh Bell and his twin brother, Jordan, are basketball superstars at their school. Their father was also once a rising basketball player, yet injury cut short his career. Josh and Jordan are pretty tight until Jordan finds a girlfriend (this is a common theme in coming-of-age stories about young female friendships, so it's great to have this explored with young male characters). Everyday issues that come with maturity are complicated when their father suddenly becomes gravely ill. Kwame Alexander's writing is pitch perfect; his teen characters are authentic, and the basketball action is exciting. It's earned four starred reviews, so major kudos are in order for this Virginia author!

The Egypt Game and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, And Me, Elizabeth  received Newbery Honors in 1968. Both are fast-paced reads that offer multicultural characters as a matter of fact and without cringe-worthy stereotypes; they also feature children deeply involved in creative fantasy play, which is very fun to read.

As a 2013 National Book Award finalist, Far, Far Away has been on my radar for some time. I avoided reading it, though, because I heard it was a bit gruesome.  Which it is, but it is also a book that is hard to put down.  The plot is too involved to discuss without getting bogged down in the details, but know that it involves the ghost of Jacob Grimm (of the Brothers Grimm) and teens kidnapped by an evil baker, who then hides them in his dungeon. Creepy!

The Favorite Daughter
Allen Say draws upon his Japanese heritage for his memorable picture books; although I would be hard pressed to name my favorite Say title (I love them all), The Favorite Daughter would definitely be at the top of the list.  As you can see on the cover, the young girl on the cover obviously has Japanese-American facial features, but her hair is blond.  This causes her some confusion, as her classmates tell her that Japanese people only have black hair. Combine that with her wish to change her name to Michelle from Yuriko, which causes some teasing and mispronunciations, and you have a young girl struggling with her identity.  Her patient father works with her on her discomfort with her biracial heritage, with the result that she eventually learns to accept and celebrate both heritages. Say obviously based this on his own daughter's experiences, as her photographs (as a child and as a young adult visiting Japan for the first time ) appear at the beginning and the end of the story.  It's a beautiful and authentic look at a child learning to accept her special heritage.

Feathers Not Just For Flying
For some reason, we are being flooded with extraordinary books about birds! Birds are fascinating creatures ("bird brain" should be a compliment, not an insult!), so I am loving these new books.  You may think that birds only use their feathers for flying, but feathers are also necessary for attracting mates, protection from harmful sunlight, camouflage, and much more.  Gorgeous illustrations round out this immensely delightful look at birds and their feathers.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is the touching and hilarious sequel to the 2013 Newbery Honor book, Three Times Lucky . Mo and Dale are ready to find their second mystery case and receive the challenge of a lifetime when they investigate a local ghost.  You will need to read Three Times Lucky before reading this one (trust me, you want to read both books).  This has earned an eye-popping amount of five starred reviews.

I vaguely knew who Josephine Baker was before reading Josephine, but I had no idea that she was a spy for France during World War II, among other unique accomplishments.  This pulls no punches when it comes to Josephine Baker's difficult childhood or the racial climate in America that led her to pursue her career in Paris, but it's handled in an appropriate understanding for young readers.  I wasn't planning to read the recently published  Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation very soon, but it's jumped to the top of my list (I also want to read Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in Her Time, a 1989 biography).  Patricia Hruby Powell's biography has received three starred reviews; Christian Robinson's dazzling illustrations absolutely contributed to the book's very positive reception!

The Kingdom of Little Wounds received a 2014 Printz Honor award; it's a huge YA  fantasy/fairy tale involves scandal, mystery, and class struggle between the servants and royals whom they serve.  It's engrossing, but quite bawdy, so definitely for mature readers. Susann Cokal is a Virginia author.

I am really, really glad we have The Lion Who Stole My Arm; its provocative title and cover immediately draw attention, as evidenced by the fact that our copies have circulated very well in the short amount of time that we've owned them. Pedru longs to be an expert hunter like his father, but those dreams are dashed when he barely survives a lion attack.  The loss of his arm is a grave concern, as hunting is a means of survival in his African community.  Pedru and his community are intent on finding and killing the lion that attacked him, but coming face to face with his attacker after meeting the conservationists who are researching lions creates a moral dilemma.  This could have easily turned into a dreary moralistic tale, but Nicola Davies masterfully evokes empathy for all sides: the community that wants to protect their citizens and livestock from lions, the researchers who are trying to save lions from extinction, and the lions who find their natural habitats encroached upon.  Davies includes facts about lions and the conservationist movement in Africa that instead of preaching and condemning African citizens, empowers them with tips on avoiding lion attacks and enlists their help in monitoring and researching lions. Yes! I LOVE environmental/conservation stories like that (see also the Scientists in the Field series, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,  The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families, Parrots Over Puerto Rico and Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World).

Warning! Do NOT start The Living just before bedtime. Not only is it tense and rather scary at times, but Matt de la Pena is such a genius at creating a well-written survival/post-apocalyptic (and I am not a super fan of those stories) tale that you will not be able to put it down.  I had to finish this in one sitting, which I rarely ever, EVER do (and at 311 pages, this took some time). Shy (he explains his nickname early in the story) thought his job making first-class passengers on an elite cruise ship comfortable at all times would be a hard but fun summer job (even if it means slightly flirting with matrons and enduring condescending remarks in order to get hefty tips). Palling around with new friends after work and catching the eye of a cute coworker makes it all worthwhile....until an earthquake--the BIG ONE that everyone has been warning that would eventually hit California--causes massive devastation on the West Coast, resulting in the cruise ship being capsized in a tsunami.  Promises of "just one more chapter" were naught as I raced through this book, all the while thinking, "He's going to live, right? He better live! What happened to his little girlfriend?!" Does he? Will she? I'm not telling, but there's plenty of chaos and destruction to satisfy even the most jaded dystopia fan.  Matt de la Pena writes about Latino characters, so it's great to have a top of the line dystopia YA novel that features multicultural characters.  A sequel should be out...eventually.  (No word on his website, but mention of a sequel is at the end of the book.) Yay! And...yikes! What more can happen? Looking forward to it!

Maggot Moon
If you like your dark dystopias, you'll want to read Sally Gardner's baffling, yet intriguing, Maggot Moon.  One of the 2014 Printz Honor books, Maggot Moon is set in an alternate universe in which a curious teenager discovers that the oppressive Motherland (which has strong Third Reich overtones) is hiding the "truth" about the first moon landing.  It's a quick read (chapters are quite short), but with a powerful and occasionally violent (but not sensational) story line.

Oh, wow.  Midwinterblood. I'm not really sure how to describe it, because it's so super weird and strange.  If you think a  mature and sophisticated fantasy novel about dragons and reincarnation is up your alley, try this one.  The stories are all interconnected, so it takes a careful read to figure it all out.  This earned the 2014 Printz Award for "excellence in young adult literature."

Mister Orange won the 2014 Batchelder Award for "the most outstanding children's book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States." Got all that? Originally published in Dutch, this novel, based in Manhattan during World War II, concerns a young boy dealing with his brother's abrupt wartime absence and encountering an unusual artist during his rounds as a delivery boy. It's a quietly moving novel based upon the last days of artist Piet Mondrian.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi is a must read for history and spy story fans; it's a fast-moving read of one of the ultimate stake-outs in modern history. As the Third Reich collapsed, Adolf Eichmann escaped to Argentina, as did other Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. As other high-ranking Nazis were being brought to trial, the search was on for Eichmann, who was at the forefront of the execution of Hitler's Final Solution.  Israeli undercover agents were determined to capture Eichmann and bring him to justice in Israel, but operating on foreign soil in a country that housed and looked the other way in regard to pro-Nazi demonstrations was incredibly risky.  Neal Bascomb earned the 2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction; a well-deserved honor for this important book.

Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery is an irreverent but informative look at the discovery and redefinition of Pluto, everyone's favorite former planet. In addition, Margaret A. Weitekamp demonstrates how science is constantly adapting and changing due to research. A fun read about a confusing topic.

I know it's super early, but this has zoomed to the top of my 2015 Caldecott picks. Can you believe that Lois Ehlert doesn't have a Medal? (She has one honor). Could 2015 be her year?  The Scraps Book: Notes From a Colorful Life is a stunning memoir of Ehlert's childhood and long career; Ehlert is known for her painstaking collage work, which she demonstrates throughout the book. Keep this in mind for autobiography/biography assignments for readers who are intimidated by lengthy biographies.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a conundrum for me. It struck me as somewhat manipulative, and the precocious toddler was a bit unbelievable. BUT. It's a darn good read. And it has important insights into not just the power of literature and the future of reading, which is what many reviews focus on, but also on relationships, second chances, and new beginnings. I find very few books about books appealing (fiction or non), but this one is an exception.

Tito Puente: Mambo King chronicles the life of Tito Puente, the "Godfather of Salsa."  Enchanting  illustrations and text bring this New York musician to life in a vibrant bilingual picture book biography. Illustrator Rafael Lopez received a 2014 Pura Belpre Honor for his illustrations.

The Tyrant's Daughter is already one of my favorite YA reads this year. After her father, a Middle Eastern dictator-king, is killed, Laila and her family escape to a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C.  The cultural shock is overwhelming for Laila, as is the fact that she is slowly discovering the true history behind her family's governance of her home country (which is never named).  To be sure, there is political intrigue, mystery, and suspenseful spy action, but J.C. Carleson's multi-layered characterization of Laila is the true heart of the story. Her depictions of Laila overwhelmed by the cereal choices at the grocery store and the chaos of a high school dance are vivid and authentic; as a former CIA agent, Carleson has great knowledge of customs and current events in the Middle East (major kudos for including a list of suggested reads, an author's note in which she explains her inspirations for the story, and a commentary by Dr. Cheryl Benard on Benazir Bhutto and choices that Laila could conceivably make in the future; this amount of further insight and information is rather rare for fiction).  The ending is rather surprising (to me, at least); perhaps J.C. Carleson has a sequel planned?

The War Within These Walls
This 2014 Mildred Batchelder Honor Book is a stark and stirring illustrated novel (not a graphic novel) about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  Told in first person narrative through the perspective of a young Jewish boy, this is a sorrowful and important story about a historical event that needs to be remembered.  Not for sensitive readers, obviously.  This was originally published in Dutch.

On a much lighter note, I blogged about funny picture books on the ALSC blog.

In January, I made a goal to read the 2014 ALA Youth Media Award winning titles (and honors, if available). I finally finished it this month! Here's the list for a refresher. While I didn't enjoy every title, it was a good exercise. Will definitely do it every year.

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, April 18, 2014

National Library Week

As National Library Week 2014 draws to a close, let's look at some terrific books featuring libraries! 

 The cutest yellow dog in children's books is back! In Biscuit Loves the Library, Biscuit plays with puppets, listens to recorded books, and meets a friendly librarian.  The Biscuit easy readers are always adorable; this one is doubly so!

Bob Shea's young dinosaur has found himself in many challenging situations, but the library might be his biggest one yet. Dinosaur vs. the Library finds our young friend learning proper library manners in a very boisterous and wacky way, as only Bob Shea can create. 

Angela Johnson's Lottie Paris is a darling character, so I'm hoping that we'll have more adventures with her. What is the "best place" in Lottie Paris and the Best Place? Why, the library, of course! Lottie Paris and Papa Pete not only discover new reads, but also meet a new friend.  

Cross-cultural books are among my favorite type of books to read, so My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World has always been at the top of my "books about libraries" list.  Margriet Ruurs introduces us to the way children who don't have physical libraries in their community get access to books. It's an informative and humbling read illustrating how books are cherished by diverse communities. 

We have several excellent picture book biographies about our third president; Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library  focuses on Thomas Jefferson's insatiable thirst for knowledge and his enormous personal library, which became part of the restored Library of Congress collection, whose original contents were destroyed in the War of 1812. 

Adult patrons might want to check out these two intriguing library reads: 

Dewey: The Small-Time Library Cat Who Touched the World is not only a sweet story about a cat who supervises a library, but it's also a fine story about a community and library facing challenging economic times. 

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, And the Power of Family is not only an awesome title, but it's also an awesome read about a librarian who deals with infertility, struggles with his Mormon faith, and Tourette's Syndrome with a great deal of strength (emotional and physical-he lifts weights), insight, and humor.  

(Psssst....Susan Orlean is writing a book about the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, in which 20% of the Central Library collection was destroyed, with the remaining holdings suffering smoke and water damage; if you've read her books, you'll agree with me that it will probably be amazing. More details here.) 

Happy National Library Week! 

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, April 11, 2014

Time to Celebrate

The two most important holidays in the Jewish and Christian faiths are right around the corner: Passover begins the evening of April 14 and ends the evening of April 22 (Jewish holidays and the Sabbath always begin and end at sunset), while the Christian Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday on April 13 and ends with Easter on April 20.  It's not too late to pick up books on your holiday of choice!

National Geographic's Holidays Around the World is an excellent series that looks at the history and culture behind significant holidays. Celebrate Easter With Colored Eggs, Flowers, And Prayer teaches readers about the many traditions and customs centered around Easter;  Celebrate Passover With Matzah, Maror, And Memories is a look at the history of Passover and the ways Jewish families around the world celebrate it.  As can be expected from National Geographic, the photographs are interesting and inviting.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Gail Gibbons's nonfiction books are ideal for elementary school students able to read short nonfiction books. Her Easter  nonfiction picture book is a succinct look at the religious and secular observations of Easter, complete with appealing cartoon-like illustrations.

Here Comes the Easter Cat has not lingered long on our new books shelf; with its arrival so near Easter, it's been as popular as hot cross buns straight from the oven.  It's a hilarious and clever tale of a cat determined to usurp the Easter Bunny...until it finds out how hard the Easter Bunny actually works (the ending hints at the cat's aspirations to replace another beloved holiday figure...that sequel will be out in the fall!).

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah is obviously a take on the traditional folktale, but with a Jewish twist (Yiddish words are even sprinkled throughout the narrative). You can guess how the story goes: no one wants to help Little Red Hen bake the passover matzah (a glossary of terms is included to explain Yiddish words and aspects of the holiday) until her Passover table is set.  Instead of shunning her friends, the Little Red Hen understands that Passover is a family/community event, so she invites them to celebrate (they DO help with the clean-up).  Normally, I'm not a fan of rewriting fairy/folktales to make them "nice," but this one is such a charmer that I can't resist it.

While there are many things I love about Easter and springtime in general, one of the things I really enjoy are new dresses and shoes for the warmer spring days.  However, I'm not a hat person, so a new Easter hat is not part of my outfit (although I LOVE looking at fine millinery). Miz Fannie Mae's Fine New Easter Hat is a charming story about an Easter hat that literally comes alive during an Easter service!

The Passover Lamb  fits my wish list for holiday books: any book that, in addition to being well written, presents a new aspect or angle to the story immediately catches my attention.  There aren't many stories of Jewish families that live in the country, so this sweet tale of a young girl who must care for the unexpected arrival of triplet lambs, at the expense of missing the Passover Seder at her grandmother's house, is a beautiful and joyful read for Passover. One of my favorites from 2013.

The Yankee at the Seder also presents a Passover story in a unique way, for it looks at Jewish life on both the Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War.  When a Jewish Union soldier stumbles across a Jewish Virginia family about to observe their Seder meal, he is invited to join the family, even though he fights for the Union Army. The solider and the family discuss the meaning of freedom as it pertains to Passover and the Civil War. This is a thoughtful story based on a true story; author Elka Weber includes information on Cpl. Myer Levy, upon whom the story is based.

If you'd like a more sacred approach to the holidays, browse the selections in the J 226 section for religious Easter titles and the J 296.437 section for religious Passover titles.

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, April 04, 2014

Great Reads for Autism Awareness Month

With April being Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to highlight my favorite books about autism.  Before we begin, let's look at some facts from the Autism Society of America:
  • 1% of the U.S. population ages 3-17 has autism or is on the autism spectrum. 
  • 1-1.5 million Americans have autism or an autism spectrum disorder. 
  • Only 56% of students with autism finish school. 
  • Costs of lifelong care can be reduced to 2/3 due to early diagnosis and intervention. 

You can't talk about autism without mentioning Dr. Temple Grandin.  Dr. Grandin may be the most famous person with autism; although her primary work is in animal science (she has pioneered ways in which to humanely handle and house cattle), she is a sought-after and influential advocate for people with autism.  Her books are numerous, but my favorite is The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum.  We also have the award-winning Temple Grandin television drama based on her life. You can read my May 2013 review here (I've quoted the entire review): 
Temple Grandin's latest is a must read for anyone fascinated by neuroscience (I love that stuff, so it's right up my alley).  Although Dr. Grandin obviously discusses autism quite a bit in this excellent read, there's a lot about the effect of brain injuries, the way artists, musicians, authors, and scientists use their brain, sensory issues, and much more.  She also shares her concern over the revised (and controversial) DSM 5 (diagnostic manual by the American Psychiatric Association) and her thoughts on treatment and care of people with autism spectrum disorders. Definitely going on my list for top reads of 2013.

I was very happy when Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World was selected as one of the Fauquier County Middle School Battle of the Books selections.  Not only is it a fine middle grade biography of Dr.Temple, but it also includes her advice for children with autism/autism spectrum disorders.

The Tales From Alcatraz series, which starts with the 2005 Newbery Honor Al Capone Does My Shirts, features a secondary character with autism.  As this takes place in the 1930s, autism is not specifically named.  This look at a family living on Alcatraz Island (father is a prison guard) is a memorable historical fiction novel for middle grades.

Nora Raleigh Baskin's YA novel Anything but Typical won the Schneider Family Book Award, Middle Grade division, for its authentic, occasionally funny, occasionally heartbreaking, and inspirational tale of a high-functioning 12 year old boy on his journey to self-acceptance.

We have a handful of the Medikidz series, and I'd eventually like to get more as needed. Unfortunately, not many are available in the United States.  The Medikidz is a group of preteens from the planet Mediland who help children coping with various issues.  Not the greatest of literature, but it presents medical information with a lot of kid appeal.  In addition to Medikidz Explain Autism, we also have Medikidz Explain Breast Cancer and Medikidz Explain Food Allergies.

My Brother Charlie explains autism from a sibling's point of view.  Although it's sometimes hard to understand Charlie, Callie loves her brother very much.  Although he is different from other children, he is very much the same as other children--he loves to swim, play the piano, and play with his sister.  Perfect for very young children who need books about autism.

Cynthia Lord's exceptional Rules received a 2007 Newbery Honor for its unforgettable portrayal of a 12 year old girl who longs for a normal family life--one that isn't constantly disrupted by younger brother David's embarrassing behavior.  Forming an unexpected friendship with a paraplegic boy named Jason makes her question if anyone could really be called "normal" or have a "normal family."

Free Spirit Publishing is a noted publisher of books for children and parents dealing with a variety of difficulties.  The Survival Guide for Kids With Autism Disorders (And Their Parents) is part of their Survival Guide series, which explains coping mechanisms for children with ASD (we also have the ADD and the Learning Differences guides)

One of the most incredible reads I've experienced in the past five years is Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, And the Search for Identity. Yes, it is unwieldy at times, but if you're into developmental psychology, you need to read this!  My longer 2013 review is here (I've quoted the entire review):

Far From the Tree is a DOORSTOPPER. The actual narrative (minus the notes) runs about 800 pages. Yowza. Andrew Solomon interviewed families with exceptional/special needs children (deaf children, autistic children, severely disabled children, prodigies, children with dwarfism, children affected by Down Syndrome, etc) as well as families affected by adult children with schizophrenia and children (some adult, some not) who committed crimes (he interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine High School shooters, at length).  When possible, he interviewed both parents and children. He also researched the history of how these very different children and adults were educated and treated by society.  There's lots to absorb in this meaty read--not only in the tons of fascinating information about these families and how exceptional or different children have affected their lives, but also in the emotionally charged stories related by the families and their (grown) children. It's an impressive read, but can be overwhelming at times. In the chapter on deaf children, Solomon delivers an outstanding discussion about cochlear implants, giving both sides of the controversy careful due, and explaining both the benefits and significant limitations and problems of these implants. In the chapters on deafness, autism, dwarfism, and Down Syndrome, he interviews activists who challenge the inclination to "cure" such situations with devices, therapy, genetic engineering, prenatal testing, or surgeries, as well as those who support such inclinations. The chapters on adult schizophrenia and parents of criminals are the most challenging to get through; while the chapters on children afflicted with disabilities and disorders offer many stories of struggle, heartbreak, and challenge, there are also stories of acceptance, integration, activism (by both parents and children), and personal growth. Such stories are few and far between in the chapters on schizophrenia and crime (even less so in the schizophrenia chapter). As you can imagine, you really need to dedicate time to digest this book, but it's well worth it.
For more information on autism, check our selections here.

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, March 28, 2014

March Reads

More snow days in March meant more time available to whip through books!

And We Stay
A YA novel about surviving the suicide of a boyfriend could easily slide into mawkish writing.  Jenny Hubbard rather skillfully managed to avoid turning it (and other situations that emerge) into a slobbering mess, and has created a thoughtful and tragic story of regret and renewal.  This is mature YA; definitely one to watch for the Printz.

The Bathing Costume, Or the Worst Vacation of My Life
One of the many reasons I love ALA Youth Media Awards day is that it introduces me to books that I had never heard of until they are announced as winners.  The Mildred Batchelder Award  honors English translations of books originally published outside the United States in a language other than English; more often than not, the books are unknown to me.  Such was The Bathing Costume, Or The Worst Vacation of My Life (one of three honor books); originally published in France, this tale of an eight year old adjusting to a summer vacation without his parents is funny and endearing.

Becoming Ben Franklin
Russell Freedman's biography and history books are tremendous; this biography on Benjamin Franklin is a vivid depiction of the inventor, writer, and statesman.  His books are also beautifully designed; text and images (maps, illustrations, etc) are perfectly aligned.

Biscuit Loves the Library
The ever-adorable Biscuit is having a great day at the library; he plays with puppets, listens to a story on CD, and finds a cozy spot to read with a young friend.  Although not actually about a Paws to Read type program (check out Lola Goes to Work for an actual therapy dog story), this would be a perfect read for our friends who participate in our monthly Paws to Read sessions (check the calendar for upcoming dates)! I appreciate the fact that Alyssa Satin Capucilli portrays a busy, friendly, and modern library; looks like a great place to visit.

The Dolphins of Shark Bay
The Scientists in the Field series astounds me; they are magnificent and fascinating looks at different areas of science.  The Dolphins of Shark Bay introduces us to scientists who are studying the language and intelligence of dolphins located in coastal Australia.  Remarkable insights about these amazing creatures (including their different personalities, especially in their parenting skills and interactions with tourists, which have been greatly limited to their benefit) and striking photographs make this a win for dolphin lovers.

Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives
While the Scientists in the Field series has largely focused on animals (so far), the series does occasionally feature non-animal subjects.  Not knowing much about volcanoes, I was immediately drawn into the book through the scientists' passion for predicting volcanoes and for educating citizens who live near known volcanoes.  Keep in mind that volcanoes such as Colombia's Nevado de Ruiz, which erupted unexpectedly and killed 23,000 people are investigated and vividly (but not sensationally) depicted in words and photographs.  Elizabeth Rusch clearly explains that people living near volcanoes rely on them for building their homes and other important features, which makes questions of relocation complicated.  One of the best in the series!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
This 1968 Newbery Medal winner about siblings who hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a favorite for many children's literature fans. It's certainly a well-deserved classic, but I've never really warmed to it, for some reason.  This is definitely a look at a bygone New York (prices and mention of a transistor radio!).

The King's Fifth
Okay! If you want a depressing story about a young mapmaker for Coronado's troops who is now awaiting a murder trial, try this 1967 Newbery Honor!

The Lightning Dreamer
How is it possible that Margarita Engle published TWO fabulous novels last year? (See my Mountain Dog review).  Engle returns to familiar territory--Cuban history--in this fictional biography of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (nicknamed Tula).  Tula grew up in an upper-class Cuban family, in which she was expected to have a limited education and to be betrothed as quickly as possible.  Tula loved poetry, despised slavery, and yearned for independence, which she fought for all her life.  She used her poetry to speak out against slavery and arranged marriages, which was revolutionary in 19th century Cuba.  Engle explains liberties taken with Tula's story in an afterword.  This is another great achievement from Engle!

The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit's Amazing Migration
Sandra Markle's lengthy career has included many informational nature books that are occasionally
fine read alouds for elementary school children.  The Long, Long Journey, which focuses on the migration of the bar-tailed godwit, is one of her finest (and would be a great read aloud!).  Bar-tailed godwits fly 7,000 miles from Alaska to New Zealand every year, making theirs the longest nonstop bird migration.  Mia Posada's brilliant illustrations also make this a stand-out nature title.

The Mad Potter: George E. Orr, Eccentric Genius
I'm going through all the 2013 ALA Youth Media Awards titles that I missed last year (and titles on the many "Best of 2013" lists as well); The Mad Potter was the only Sibert Medal (for informational books) that I hadn't read, so I checked it out.  If I had known that this was about a Biloxi, MS potter, I would have picked it up long ago! (I spent a lot of time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast during my childhood).  George E. Orr was definitely an unusual artist; he created oddly shaped pots and vases that were not fully appreciated and celebrated until after his death.  Luckily, his art is now displayed at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi (destroyed by Hurricane Katrina 18 months before construction was complete, the museum will eventually be an outstanding collection of not only Ohr's artwork, but also African-American art, a center for ceramics, and plans for cultural/community events).  If you're a biography fan like me, books that fall outside of the standard biography subjects are always attractive; this is an inventive work!

The Noonday Friends
Sorry--no cover image available.  The Noonday Friends (1966 Newbery Honor) is a charming realistic coming of age story in Greenwich Village; Franny's artistic father has unemployment issues, which makes buying anything other than essential difficult.  Although it is a dated look at New York City, it features a Puerto Rican family without cringeworthy stereotypes.

Paperboy was the only Newbery Honor book that we didn't own at the time of the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements, so I'm just now getting around to reading and reviewing it.  Set in 1959's Memphis, this is a moving novel with a character struggling with a severe stutter (author Vince Vawter, who is also a stutterer and offers further information about stuttering in an afterword, based the story on his childhood memories).  It's a sophisticated and mature novel that straddles the children's/YA divide.

Russians: The People Behind the Power
Some of my favorite reading is focused on books that investigate countries and/or cultures; Russians: The People Behind the Power is an engrossing and extremely timely focus on Russian politics and culture, including common views on gender, problems with alcoholism, the importance of friendship, corruption in politics and business, treatment of prisoners, and so forth.  After reading this and Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, I want to read everything I can about Russia. I have many other things to read, though, so I'm trying not to go down that rabbit hole.

Rutherford B. Hayes
I am determined to see this presidential biography project through! Some presidents, however, are more interesting than others. I doubt many people thought much about Rutherford B. Hayes in years until the 2000 presidential election, when comparisons between Hayes's win and that election were drawn (Hayes lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote, and  there were controversies in several states' voting, including Florida).  Hans L. Trefousse's biography (part of the exemplary American Presidents series; I read its terrific volume on Ulysses S. Grant as well) puts Hayes's presidency into new focus, arguing that Hayes's ending of military occupation of the South helped the reunification process of a still-wounded and fragile nation.

Serafina's Promise
I was on the Jefferson Cup committee that named Ann E. Burg's All the Broken Pieces as the 2010 winner, and I'm thrilled that her second novel in verse is just as powerful as her first.  Set in Haiti just before and after the devastating 2010 earthquake, Serafina's Promise is a heartbreaking and hopeful tale of a young girl who dreams of becoming a doctor; school fees, however, make this dream a seemingly impossible one.  Life in Haiti is hard enough for the poor even before the earthquake; the tragedy makes it doubly so, yet the faith of the Haitian people is strong and humbling.  This is an incredible read; I am always appreciative of author notes and afterwords, though, and wish that one had been included (a pronunciation guide to Haitian Creole words is included, which is very much welcomed).  One minor complaint of an otherwise perfect read.

A Star for Mrs. Blake
Oh, look! A 2014 adult fiction read! My second....and also a historical fiction.  (I'm trying to branch out in my adult fiction to reads to things other than historical fiction, which I crave).  Oh, well.  This one was a treat to read.  As 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the first year of World War I, there is an increase in the number of fiction and nonfiction books about that era.  Did you know that Gold Star Mothers (mothers who lost sons in war) were invited to visit their sons' final resting places in France in 1930? A Star For Mrs. Blake is centered on a group of women who have all lost sons on the battlefields of France, but are all from different social backgrounds.  It's a remarkable, intriguing, heartfelt, and sorrowful character study; some parts of the story are funny, but this is a very sobering read.  Well worth it if you are a historical fiction fanatic.

Historical fiction novels set during Reconstruction are few and far between.  Jewell Parker Rhodes's latest YA novel (published in 2013), set on an 1870s Louisiana plantation, is an enlightening novel concerning an orphaned former slave child named Sugar; Sugar is torn between wanting to stay with her familiar surroundings and yearning for a new start.  A complicated friendship with the young son of her former master and the arrival of imported Chinese field workers adds tension and realistic conflict to the story (the scene in which the Chinese workers, chained to each other, arrive on the plantation is unforgettable).  Sugar is an appealing and truthful character in which you become quickly invested, and a novel that you won't soon forget.

Words With Wings
Knock, Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me and Words With Wings were the remaining 2014 Coretta Scott King Medal books that I had yet to read; although Knock, Knock is a picture book and Words With Wings is a novel in verse, both are acutely sensitive stories about children thrust into difficult situations.  The young boy in Knock, Knock is dealing with his father's sudden absence, while the young girl in Words With Wings is trying to cope with her parents' divorce and her tendency to daydream, which is affecting her schoolwork. Ideal for readers who prefer character-driven realistic fiction, this is a first-rate story of the importance of creative outlets and the impact a caring teacher can have.

Zlateh the Goat: And Other Stories
I am almost DONE with the 1960s Newbery books; I have three or four left, then it's onto the 1970s era.  Zlateh the Goat: And Other Stories was one of three Newbery Honor books in 1967; it's an amusing collection of Jewish folklore, with the addition of illustrations by Maurice Sendak (in the early days of his career).

We will order a batch of new children's/YA books for April soon; if you are a Fauquier County Public Library patron, you should subscribe to Wowbrary so that you are among the first to know when they have been ordered!

I wrote about bee/butterfly themed picture books on the ALSC blog. Perfect for a springtime story time.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

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