Monday, August 22, 2016

Ridiculously Good Reads: Late Summer Edition

Where did the summer go? I hope you read some awesome reads this summer! When I realized that I haven't done a "Ridiculously Good Read" post since May, I knew that I had a lot of catching up to do. I had a much longer list than this, but I am saving some titles for future posts. Here are some of my outstanding favorites from the summer:

I've been a huge fan of Sundee T. Frazier ever since I read The Other Half of My Heart, which was shamefully neglected during its publication year for recognition and awards. Cleo Edison Oliver, Playground Millionaire is intended for a slightly younger audience, but Tucker's characters are just engaging and relatable as Frazier's other characters. Cleo (half African-American and Filipino) is a entrepreneur-in-training (her hero is an Oprah-like talk show host and successful businesswoman). When Cleo's latest scheme backfires (and gets her into trouble at school), Cleo must deal with the loss of customers (as well as some friendship issues). Cleo is funny, annoying at times, and has ups and downs with family, friends, and classmates; Tucker is intimately aware of upper elementary school issues, and creates realistic and appealing characters. A subplot involving Cleo's discomfort with a "family tree" assignment (she is adopted) is sensitively woven into the story. I hope we see more of Cleo very soon!

There are many variations of the "tortoise and hare/hare and tortoise" fable, but Alison Murray's Hare and Tortoise is one of my two favorite retellings of this Aesop tale (Helen Ward's version is perfect if you want a more sophisticated and traditional rendition). While Murray doesn't take many liberties with the actual story, this has an irreverant and silly feel (complete with maps!) that make this a top-notch read aloud for preschool and kindergarten students (Ward's ending is not as friendly and is a bit more cynical, which makes it ideal for older students).

If you need realistic and mature reads for older YA readers, you can't go wrong with Chris Lynch. Hothouse is my new favorite (although it was published in 2010); it is absolutely exceptional. D.J. and Russell have known each other for years, but their friendship has waxed and waned as they grew older. When their fathers, professional fire fighters, are killed in a fire, the community swarms around them in adulation of their hero dads...until distubring circumstances about the fire come to life. The new revelations crush the families and turn many in the community against them, with the two boys reacting in very different ways. This a powerful look at the worship of fallen heroes: how it can suffocate bereaved families, and how quickly it can change when heroes are revealed to be human.

Although L.J. Alonge's companion novels, Justin and Janae, are both great quick reads, Janae is the superior title. The trials and tribulations of teen basketball players living in Oakland will appeal to sports fans, especially reluctant readers (Justin has more mature elements than Janae).

While there are many beautifully created and illustrated picture books of Jesus's life, far too often the language is so rich and sophisticated that it is out of reach for young listeners (especially if the text is taken directly from a Bible translation). On the other hand, there is no shortage of crassly and cheaply  produced picture books of Bible stories. Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus is a much welcome relief from both ends of the spectrum. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams's adult and juvenile divisions publish heavily illustrated books for all readers, including the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Origami Yoda series; their adult books are usually gigantic coffee table books about art, design, and entertainment), this is a gorgeously told and painted retelling of Jesus's life. It is breathtaking, deeply moving, and an ideal gift for an Easter basket. Betsy Bird thinks it could be a wild card for the Caldecott; I heartily agree!

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much from One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote; the Cat in the Hat nonfiction titles are cute, but often leave a lot to be desired. However, with the election coming up, I knew that it would be a popular choice. Now that I've read it, it's now my top recommendation for books about the election process! Not only does the Cat in the Hat explain the basics of campaigns and rallies, but also does a little nonvoting shaming (!) and mentions political parties other than the Republicans and Democrats (Green Party and Libertarian party in particular). The rhyme scheme can get a little forced, but for an introduction to the voting process, this can't be beat for its instant appeal, fun nature, and surprisingly diverse overview.

I'm not a huge fan of alternate history; a historical fantasy about the Russian tsars made me a little uncomfortable, to be honest. But  I'm working my way through YA books published in 2016, so I grabbed The Crown's Game from the new YA shelf. This fantasy (a series opener, of course!) about dueling magicians whose fate is intertwined with the Russian royal family is richly epic and tragically romantic.

The history of invention is rife with stories of inventions that came about through mishaps in the creation process; Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Invention is no exception. NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson was working on a new cooling system for rockets when he managed to create one of the most popular water toys for kids; not only is this a fun story about an accidental invention, but it's also a story about the importance of perseverance, creativity, and overcoming obstacles.

Just as adult worker bees in cubicles dream of chucking it all and moving to an organic farm in the country, Homer years to "get back to nature" and tap into his wild wolf ancestry. Luckily, he has some very understanding humans, who ship him off to wolf camp...where he discovers that wolves don't sleep on comfy beds in warm and dry houses (and bacon strips handed over by indulgent humans are nowhere to be found). Wolf Camp is a hilarious "grass is always greener" tale that readers/listeners up to third grade will love.

Next week, I'll blog about newly received or ordered books for Fall 2016; my to-be-read list is overflowing!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian 

Monday, August 08, 2016

Pachyderm Pride: Celebrate World Elephant Day

Elephants are amazing creatures. They are fierce fighters, attentive mothers (and aunts, older sisters, and grandmothers!), and have complex behaviors that have intrigued scientists for ages. In honor of World Elephant Day, let's take a look at the fascinating and fun books we have about these majestic creatures:

Children's literature's most famous elephant stars in his very own yoga instruction book! As Babar demonstrates in Babar's Yoga for Elephants, even the most unwieldy creatures can tackle yoga poses. Through 15 yoga examples, Babar demonstrates how yoga helps to calm him as he travels around the world (he even offers helpful advice on what to do if your trunk gets in the way while practicing yoga).

Caitlin O'Connell 's A Baby Elephant in the Wild is a perfect introduction to elephants for young readers and listeners. With evocative photography and text, a small elephant's daunting world of survival is brought to life.

Although I love the final Elephant & Piggie for its sweetness and nostalgia, Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Book! remains my #1 Elephant & Piggie (or Elephant & Gerald as some call it) book. Elephant & Piggie are super proud to be in a book and being read by a real reader, but Elephant freaks out when Piggie informs him that the book will eventually end. Luckily, they come up with a rather inventive solution. Not only is this hysterically funny (as are the other E&P books), but it also imparts the fun of reading (and re-reading!) in ways that books about the joys of reading often fail to do.

I've been a longtime favorite of the inimitable Scientists in the Field series (I am eagerly awaiting Crow Smarts).  The Elephant Scientist follows renowned elephant researcher Caitlin O'Connell as she researches elephants in Nambia, during which she discovers that elephants actually listen with their limbs!

We've seen examples of gorillas painting (most famously Koko's artwork), but  Elephants Can Paint, Too shows that these immense creatures enjoy playing with paints as well. Katya Arnold's work with preschoolers in Brooklyn is juxtaposed with her work with elephants in Thailand. Read this to young listeners who love books with photographs and true stories about animals.

I've read Little Elephant to my Baby Steps attendees many times over the years; even babies are entranced by infant elephants! Text is extremely short (one sentence per page), while the pictures are clear (by the legendary Tana Hoban) and uncluttered with extraneous details.

Finally, Splash is an outstanding read aloud on a hot summer day. Everyone in the jungle is sweltering on a hot African day, until baby elephant does what what comes naturally--making a huge splash! I've also used this with my Baby Steps class; even very young attention spans will love this.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, August 01, 2016

Crazy About Construction?

Toddlers and preschoolers often get fixated on one favorite subject. With a laser beam focus, they will consume an impressive amount of books, movies, and/or TV shows about their passion, whether it is puppies, dinosaurs, trains, or construction vehicles. For the construction-obsessed youngster, there is no such thing as too many construction books, DVDs, or too much time watching hardworking men and women dig, lift, hammer, and build. Fortunately, there are tons of awesome construction-themed picture books; so much that I had a hard time deciding which books to read for last week's construction story time. Here are my favorites:

Sally Sutton is a construction aficionado's dream come true. With engaging and simple story lines and illustrations, her books entertain even those who are immune to construction fever. Her most recent book, Construction, observes a busy crew building a very important building--a new library! Check out Demolition and Roadwork for more construction fun.

The Construction Crew is a near-perfect read aloud for a toddler group: text is lively and illustrations are bright and bold (with a multicultural construction crew of men and women). We are introduced to the many important tools used by construction workers: wrecking balls, bulldozers, power drills, and more. At the end, we learn that the workers have built a new home for a family (and that friendly neighbors are ready to greet them).

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site strikes a fine balance between the dreamy (and occasionally boring) "going to bed stories" and raucous bedtime stories like The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds. Even bustling construction sites need to wind down at the end of the day. One by one, the construction equipment finishes its work for the day, then shuts down for the night. Young listeners will likely join in the "Shh...goodnight, {name of equipment], goodnight" refrain. 

Machines at Work, like most Byron Barton picture books, are ideal for very young attention spans. With a maximum of one sentence per page and simple clear-cut illustrations, this will captivate little construction fanatics who aren't ready for longer picture books. 

For the hardcore (and older) construction experts, check out the J 624 section. 

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Olympic Fever

Despite the inevitable controversies and worries over each Olympics, I am always excited when another Olympic Games is upon us. Although I enjoy the Winter Olympics very much, the Summer Olympics are my top favorite (I get bored with the endless skiing events). Track and field, swimming, gymnastics, diving, rowing, volleyball--I love all the events! In anticipation of renewed interest in the Games, we recently ordered a bunch of new Olympics-themed titles. Here are some of my favorites (or ones that I am looking forward to reading):

The Count on Me: Sports series are great for all readers, but especially reluctant readers. Each title focuses on key elements of sports (perseverance, generosity, courage, sportsmanship, and teamwork); the true stories feature famous and little-known athletes.

Ever wondered how skateboarders do tricks, how a tennis ball bounces off a racket, or how pole vaulters launch over a bar? As Faster, Higher, Smarter: Bright Ideas That Transformed Sports demonstrates, it's not just due to intense training, but also an application of  physics. Designs of wheelchairs and artificial limbs for disabled athletes are also featured, which makes this much more inclusive than other sports books.

2016 marks two major events in gymnastics history: Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10 (1976) and Team USA winning its first team gold in women's gymnastics (1996). These two milestones are celebrated in Nadia, The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still (a picture book) and Kerri Strug and the Magnificent Seven (a nonfiction chapter book).

If the length of Faster, Higher, Smarter is too intimidating, try the Science of the Summer Olympics series. The scientific elements of swimming/diving/water sports, gymnastics, soccer/volleyball/cycling, and track and field are explained through careful explanations and examples, with a big dose of fun and clarity.

The history of the early modern Olympics can be quite bizarre, as you will find out if you read The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon . The 1904 Games were held in St. Louis and were tied into the World's Fair, introducing most Americans to Olympic events for the first time. Being chased by a dog, stopping to eat apples, and drinking a strychnine potion (in thoughts that it would enhance performance) were all part of this crazy race. An author's note gives further information on the race; this is a terrific read aloud for elementary school students!

Winning Team/Balancing Act has been so popular that I haven't had a chance to check it out yet! Co-written by 1996 Team USA gymnast Dominique Moceanu, this naturally covers the ups and downs of life as an Olympic hopeful. I was taken with Moceanu's memoir (written for adults), so I am eager to read this one as well.

Tumbling has also been insanely popular, so this is also on my to-be-read list; this YA novel about five gymnasts competing for a spot on the Olympic team is undoubtedly full of suspense, joy, and heartbreak.

Totally CANNOT wait to read The Games: A Global History of the Olympics. This adult nonfiction overview of the history of the Olympics is something that I've been wanting for a long time; a comprehensive overview of the highlights and scandals of the Olympic Games.

These books have been/will be super popular when the Olympics get closer, so grab them now!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Read for the Win: Bingo Cards!

We incorporated "bingo cards" into our summer reading program this year, and so far, it's been a big success. Each week's card consists of both reading and non-reading activities (follow the library's social media, bring a friend/child to the library, ask a librarian to recommend a book, etc). If you're still working on your bingo card and need some suggestions to complete your card (a total of three completed activities is required), then today is your lucky day! Remember: children, teens, and adults have the same categories.

Read a book about a sport 

I read Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson to our Bingo for Books crowd on Monday night; Wimbledon had just concluded with Serena Williams tying Steffi Graff's record for most Grand Slam wins (22) and becoming the oldest women to win a major tennis title (at the age of 34), so reading this stand-out biography of the first African-American to win Wimbledon was a no-brainer. Althea Gibson had a rough start as a youngster in Harlem, but with mentoring and guidance from caring adults, she was able to fuel her temper and rashness into some fierce tennis playing!

2016 marks 40 years since 14 year old Nadia Comaneci scored the first ever perfect 10 in gymnastics (the scoring system has since changed, so no more perfect 10s). I've not read Nadia, The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still because it is constantly checked out; however, I've heard great things about it from Bealeton librarian Ann McDuffie, who read it to her Bingo for Books participants! 

With the Summer Olympics fast approaching, What Are the Summer Olympics? has been a hot commodity at our libraries. It's a short read, but very impressive, as it covers a great deal of territory: the ancient Olympics, the emergence of the modern Olympics, the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich games, the withdrawal of the United States from the 1980 games and the withdrawal of the former USSR from the 1984 Olympics, doping scandals in track and field, and Greg Louganis's diving injury at the 1984 Olympics. More lighthearted moments such as the Magnificent Seven's team gold in gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics and the incredible achievements of Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps are highlighted. 

Sports fans and mystery fans should not miss out on John Feinstein's Sports Beat Mystery series, which feature two middle school students who investigate suspicious sports activities and mysteries at prominent sporting events, such as the Final Four in Last Shot.

Kenyans have dominated competitive racing for some time; what's their secret? Adharanand Finn uprooted his family and his professional life to investigate how Kenyans train and live as competitive or amateur runners. This is not just about competitive racing--Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, And the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth (first reviewed in August 2012) is a deeply personal, thoughtful, and entertaining look at a fascinating society. 

Read a book that was turned into a movie 

I also read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to our Bingo for Books group; this wacky tale of food raining down from the sky is one of my childhood favorites, and tons of fun to read aloud (also a cautionary tale of "too much of a good thing" without being too preachy). 

I've never really understood people who say, "The book is ALWAYS better than the movie." (Why do people tell me this and expect me to jump up and cheer? Do they think I hate movies?) First of all, you're comparing two totally different ways of telling stories; it's like saying paintings are superior to sculptures. Secondly, I know of several movies where, in my opinion, the movie is vastly superior:  Forrest Gump, Sally Benson's short stories that were turned into Meet Me in St. LouisThe Devil Wears Prada, and The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which inspired The Sound of Music stage show and movie (yes, with liberties), to name a few. Finally, there are quite a few film adaptations of movies that although are markedly different from their source material in various degrees, are just as beautiful and amazing as the books that inspired them, such as A Little Princess (the novel and the gorgeous but very different 1998 movie), Little Women (the original novel and the nearly perfect 1994 version), and The Wizard of Oz (the 1900 novel and the classic 1939 movie). If you and/or your children have never read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, you are in for some big surprises! 

Soul Surfer is surfer Bethany Hamilton's courageous story of her faith, determination, and courage after losing her arm due to a shark attack. We have both her YA memoir and the movie adaptation (some scenes might be scary for small children). 

The Martian is not normally my cup of tea (my eyes risk being permanently stuck in a rolled position when I come across an excessive amount of exclamation points or swear words), but I was so enthralled with Andy Weir's storytelling that I quickly ignored any small factors that irritated me. This story of an astronaut who must survive on Mars is on-the-edge-of-your-seat reading. (This could also count as your "read a sci-fi novel" category). 

Read a sci-fi novel 

Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist is super fun and super funny; I've known both boys and girls who love the series. Franny K. is an enthusiastic scientist, but her experiments tend to have outrageous consequences. 

Galaxy Zack is a cute and appealing easy chapter series focused on a young boy who moves from Earth to planet Nebulon; not only is this a wacky science fiction series for beginning chapter book readers, but it's also a realistic look at moving to a new place and making new friends. 

I've only read the first book in the Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast series, so I can't speak for books that follow Aliens on Vacation. I can tell you that it's a hilarious tale of a young boy and his grandmother who happens to run a B&B for aliens. Of course, the town gets a little suspicious of all the activity and unusual guests roaming about the town. If general science fiction is too weighty or serious for you, try this one (perfect for readers not mature enough for YA). 

I was so sure that Cinder would not be my thing, but I found this Cinderella cyborg story ridiculously entertaining. I've not read the more recent Lunar Chronicles titles, but I've been told they are just as fab as Cinder. 

People not familiar with science fiction often assume it's just about aliens and outer space battles. In fact, science fiction, both literature and movies/TV, often explores ethical and social issues: Ray Bradbury's novels, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and more. Noggin is an extraordinary YA science fiction novel in which cryonics has been realized. After Travis dies, he is preserved until technology can bring him back to life; when his head is attached to a new body, he, his loved ones, and his community must grapple with the new reality of a Travis that looks somewhat the same, but is quite different in other ways. As it is five years after Travis's death, many people (including his girlfriend) have found ways to cope and move forward from their loss, which are now shaken and challenged by Travis being back in their lives. This is a gripping, heartbreaking, occasionally hilarious, and thought-provoking story for mature readers. 

We have three more weeks in our summer reading program, so keep reading and bringing in those bingo cards! 

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Reading Goals: Graphic Novels

If you're a Goodreads user, you know that the site is helpful in keeping track of reading goals. Users can set a reading goal of X amount of books, and Goodreads will keep track of your progress. While I don't set a general number of books to read in a year, I do keep track of the types of books that I read throughout the year, and try to at least match the previous year's total + 1 title. I divide my completed reads into categories: children's (includes fiction and nonfiction), young adult (fiction and nonfiction), adult fiction and nonfiction, graphic novels/comic book collections, and diversity/disability, which includes any book that prominently features a character in a minority group, a character with a physical, mental, or emotional disability, or a nonfiction/biography title that is about some aspect of ethnic/disability history or a noted member of a minority/disability community.

Realistically, I'll probably never beat my totals in every category. However, I do pick one or two categories to improve upon each year. This year, I decided to beat my 2015 titles in young adult and graphic novels. When I looked at my Goodreads shelves at the beginning of this year, I was disappointed in the number of YA books that I completed (36; I read 38 in 2014). I also wanted to keep my graphic novel reading momentum going (14 graphic novels read in 2014; I read 30 in 2015).

Now that we're at the midyear point, I'm stoked that I've already read 38 YA novels and 34 graphic novels! As I (hopefully) hit my goals, I'll blog about my favorite titles; this week's feature is graphic novels. Although I'll definitely still continue to read graphic novels throughout the year (Raina Telgemeier has a new one out this fall, and the magnificent March trilogy concludes this fall as well), here are my favorite graphic novels that I've read so far:

Darth Vader 2: Shadows and Secrets and Showdown on Smuggler's Moon

Anyone who's known me for some time knows that I am a huge Star Wars fan. I'm a latecomer to the Star Wars books, so I've only read the recent books that have been published since the franchise was rebooted last year (working my way through Bloodline right now). While some have been so-so (Chewbacca and Lando comics), others have been fine and fun titles to read during this looooong wait for Rogue One and Episode VIII. The Darth Vader comics in particular have been outstanding. Vader is very reminiscent of A New Hope Vader: aggressive, impulsive, and furious, with only one scene hinting at his sorrow and regret over his life choices that was evident in his final scenes of Return of the Jedi. While Star Wars fans are notoriously impossible to please, fans should definitely check out Vader's comics.

Although I'm not a huge fan of Amelia Rules, I adore Jimmy Gownley's memoir, The Dumbest Idea Ever! Gownley's adolescence was a bit rocky at times; chicken pox made him miss his basketball championship series, his grades were awful, and nothing was going right with his comic book. When his friend suggested that he create a comic book about their friendship and everyday life, Jimmy thought that it was truly the dumbest idea he had ever heard. Who would want to read a comic book about an ordinary teenage kid? Through hard work and entrepreneurship, Jimmy's new comic book is a minor success (including a television appearance!). Fans of Raina Telgemeier's memoirs should definitely read this.

Hilo 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth and Hilo 2: Saving the Whole Wide World is one of my all-time favorite graphic novel series of all time (and it just came out this year). I adore this story of a young robot boy and his earth friends; the jokes are funny without incorporating too much toilet humor, no boy-girl antagonism, and the multicultural friendship is sweet and strong. The tiny similarities to E.T. continue with the inclusion of a spunky little sister who adores Hilo. OUTSTANDING, as Hilo would say.

I read and enjoyed the first Hereville graphic novel, but have not continued with the series. When I realized that I needed to work on my graphic novel and diversity reads, I immediately checked out How Mirka Met a Meteorite. Mirka is quite an unusual superhero, as she is a practicing Orthodox Jewish girl. There's tons of excitement, humor, and anticipation as Mirka deals with a meteor that has been changed into her identical twin girl, who is a perfect version of herself! Yiddish and Hebrew terms used by Mirka and her family are identified and explained in footnotes.

Little Dee and the Penguin looks sweet and adorable (which it is), but readers should know that it deals with the death of Little Dee's father. After Little Dee's father dies, Little Dee joins a group of animals who are trying to protect Penguin from being eaten by polar bears. Although the circumstances of Little Dee's loss are sad (and not dwelt upon), there is tons of humor and wacky adventures as the crew travel the world.

When I picked up Ms. Marvel: No Normal, I had no idea that Ms. Marvel is a young Muslim girl (but not orthodox). Kamala Khan is just your everyday teen girl from Jersey City--until she is gifted with supernatural powers and turns into Ms. Marvel. Kamala is super confused (who wouldn't be?), but is convinced that in order to be a true superheroine, she needs to have blonde hair, a skimpy outfit, and kicking boots. As Kamala grows into her new role, she realizes that she will be truly powerful if she stays true to herself. Teen superhero comic book fans of all backgrounds will love this, and I can't wait to read the other entries in the series.

Little superhero fans should check out Red Riding Hood, Superhero; this short and adorable comic features Little Red Riding Hood (she has a cape, so she's all set to be a superhero!) saving her grandmother, the President, from Professor Grimm and his wolf-bot. "Visual Questions" at the end prompt readers to examine the story panels closely for insight and clues.

My next target will focus on my diversity/disability reads (109 in 2015; I'm currently at 72, so more than halfway there!).

Want to extend Shark Week for a little longer? I blogged about new shark books for children on the ALSC blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, July 04, 2016

Happy Birthday, America!

Note: Fauquier County Public Library is closed today, but we will be open at 10 AM on Tuesday, July 5!

I love celebrating holidays and seasons with my toddler story time. I break out the Santa and winter picture books for December and rabbits and chickens stories for Easter, but some holidays require some "outside the box" thinking for my toddlers. Parents and caregivers love it when we acknowledge our other traditional holidays such as Thanksgiving and Fourth of July, but picture books about these holidays tend to be suitable for older children (preschool and up). Toddlers definitely know about Santa, and generally have some understanding of Halloween and Easter (secular and sacred meanings), but for Thanksgiving, I tend to read stories about families. I generally don't do a specific story time for Independence Day for my toddlers, until I decided to do a birthday themed story time! (We had a Happy Birthday program earlier in the week for older children, complete with stories and birthday-themed crafts and games). Toddlers definitely know about birthdays, so this was my way of celebrating the holiday in a way that they could understand. It was a great success! Toddlers loved the stories, and the parents/caregivers enjoyed the fact that we noted the upcoming holiday. And if you're in need of a birthday gift, consider these terrific books for a birthday boy or girl:

Bulldozer's Big Day  features a bulldozer who's convinced that all the other construction vehicles have forgotten his special day. It is a busy work day, after all, and everyone has lots to do. Until the final whistle blows, and everyone is ready to PARTY! Give this to a construction-obsessed toddler; this one was a huge hit!

I read Clever Jack Takes the Cake to the children and parents/caregivers who attended our Happy Birthday program. As it's a bit longer than the others in this post, I decided (after much deliberation)  to not read it to my toddler group. Jack wants to give the princess a present for her birthday, but all he can afford is a cake. No problem--except he runs into disaster after disaster after disaster in his journey (every fairy tale involves a quest!). All he can offer the princess is the wild tale of his attempt to honor her birthday....and receives a giant surprise in return! Not only is this a fun story that even the slightly older kids than the intended audience liked (without showing it too much), it also has a lovely underlying message about the joy of storytelling (without being too obvious).

I use Flower Garden  for many story time themes: spring, gardening, Mother's Day, and now for my birthday story time! This simple story about a young girl and her father creating a lovely present for a special someone's birthday is gorgeously illustrated. Urban gardeners/container gardeners will especially appreciate this!

Happy Birthday, Lulu celebrates the special touches of birthdays: receiving cards in the mail, getting ready for a party, and rejoicing with friends (and saying thank you when you receive presents!) Lulu's family is biracial (Caucasian mom, African-American dad), which adds a sweet touch of diversity.

Happy birthday, USA!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library