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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ramadan Reads: Books About Ramadan

Ramadan, the annual month of fasting that is part of the Five Pillars of Islam for practicing Muslims, ends on July 5. If you're interested in learning more about this observance, you've come to the right place! Let's look at our Ramadan books and books on Islam for further information:

The YA world has presented a small number of fun and thoughtful books about Muslim teenagers (including Does My Head Look Big in This? and Scarlet Undercover).  Bestest.Ramadan.Ever features fifteen year old Almira, who wants to fit in with the other students at her high school. Being Muslim (even though her family is not regularly observant), especially during Ramadan, makes that rather difficult! Dealing with a crush on a (non-Muslim) boy, being intimidated by a new Muslim student, and with the universal struggle between Westernized children and their immigrant parents puts a lot on her plate, but Almira deals with it in her entirely relatable way.

Celebrate Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr  is part of National Geographic's superb Holidays Around the World  series. Readers learn about the historical aspects of the observance, as well as the traditions surrounding the holiday.

Ten year old Lailah, newly arrived from the United Arab Emirates, is looking forward to fasting during Ramadan just like her relatives back home. But how will she tell this to her classmates in Atlanta? With help from her school librarian and teacher, Lailah explains why she will sit out lunchtime.  Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story is a sensitively and warmly told story of new beginnings and forming new friendships. This has been a popular selection from our new books shelves for several months!

Want more? Consider these titles:

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors (a very popular choice at our libraries ever since we received it several months ago!)

Salaam: A Muslim American Boy's Story

Where the Ghost Camel Grins: Muslim Fables For All Families of Faith

Father's Day may have come and gone, but great books about dads are year-round reads! I recently blogged about recently released children's books about fathers on the ALSC blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, June 20, 2016

Newbery and Caldecott Choices: At the Midway Point

It's nearly hard to believe, but we are just about halfway through 2016! For those that follow prediction/discussion blogs like Heavy Medal, Calling Caldecott, and Someday My Printz Will Come, it means that spirited discussion on the year's top titles will commence very soon (usually in September). While I haven't yet read titles that are my #1 pick for each medal (way too early for that!), I do have some strong favorites so far:

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
Previously reviewed: May 30
Consideration for: Newbery

Perry T. Cook's childhood is unusual and yes, improbable, but Leslie Connor deals with the delicate subject of children with incarcerated parents in a sensitive, deeply felt, believable, and even humorous way that remains memorable long after you read it.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle 
Previously reviewed: n/a
Consideration for: Newbery

This spooky eccentric World War II fantasy is a must-read for young horror fans who have moved beyond Goosebumps. Definitely not for scaredy-cats. If a somewhat dark and creepy story set at a boarding school in Scotland sounds appealing, then this is right up your alley!

Emma and Julia Love Ballet
Previously reviewed: March 28
Consideration for: Caldecott

My favorite picture books tend not to win the Caldecott, so I'm not holding my breath for my picks. However, this darling story of a young ballerina and the professional dancer whom she admires is charming, sweet, and ideal for all dance fans. Barbara McClintock has never won a Caldecott-not even an Honor. That's unbelievable.

Freedom in Congo Square 
Reviewed: May 30
Consideration for: Caldecott or Newbery

I'll definitely be shocked if Freedom for Congo Square is not among the ALA Youth Media Award selections in late January. R. Gregory Christie's illustrations are vibrant and somber when appropriate; Carole Boston Weatherford's evocative text makes this appropriate for young elementary students studying slavery.

Reviewed: February 1
Consideration for: Newbery

Although any Joan Bauer book is heads and tails above many YA books, I haven't loved her most recent stories as much as I've loved older titles such as Hope Was Here. Soar is an exception; this is among her best she's written. Although she tackles heavy material (the main character has a heart condition, and much of the story is centered on the grief, shock, and shame felt by the community after a promising young athlete dies), there's tons of heart and humor to balance it out.

The Tree in the Courtyard 
Reviewed: May 2
Consideration for: Caldecott

Oh, my heart. Make sure you have plenty of time to read and consider this one, because this isn't the sort of story that you forget days after reading it. Told through the perspective of the chestnut tree that grew outside of Anne Frank's hiding place (and, like Anne Frank, has had a long legacy), this is a powerful title that parents and teachers might use for young readers beginning to learn about the Holocaust.

When Spring Comes
Reviewed: February 29
Consideration for: Caldecott

Finally (and to end on an upbeat note), Kevin Henkes's latest is bright, joyful, and now one of my favorite spring reads. Seasonal books don't tend to be chosen for the Caldecott, but this one is so perfectly pastel the way only Kevin Henkes can create, and such a unique addition to spring stories that I can't leave it out. This is a celebration of the ending of winter and the arrival of spring, but not forgetting that early spring can occasionally have some rather cool days (that is often ignored in other spring stories!). Tuck this into next year's Easter basket.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, June 06, 2016

Celebrate Our Four Legged, Feathered, and Finned Friends: It's Pet Appreciation Week!

Most children are fascinated by animals and long for a pet to call their own. While some are drawn to dogs and cats, others may focus on small mammals, horses, snakes, or even rats! Whether they are searching for information on a new/forthcoming pet, or just dreaming of a day in which they can call one their own, the library has many awesome selections for young readers:

As a child that loved all sorts of animals, I'm 100% sure that I would have checked out Great Pets repeatedly from my local library if it had been around when I was a young reader. For a child that loved mini-encyclopedia books stuffed with information (too bad DK wasn't around yet!), this information-packed guide to pets large and small would have been right up my alley. As a youth services librarian, I love its organization; instead of merely grouping the pets alphabetically, the animals are categorized into "aquarium pets," "pocket pets," "unusual apartment pets," and "backyard pets," in addition to "pet birds," "pet dogs," and the like. There's even a section on "pets in the wild," which discusses pigeons, earthworms, and bugs!

Since I can never have too much nonfiction for beginning readers, especially on animals, I immediately ordered Hedge-Hedgey-Hedgehogs when I discovered it. This early reader about hedgehogs has eye-catching photographs and controlled text aimed at young elementary school readers.

Even children who don't take riding lessons are curious about horses and horse care, which is why our horse care section is very popular! Kingfisher's Horse and Pony Care is one of our best guides; a horse's requirements for housing, feeding, and grooming are highlighted.

On the other end of the spectrum (in terms of pet size), Small Pet Care is ideal for pet owners of cute and compact critters. Tips on caring for hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs are presented in DK's typically photo and information-rich format.

Finally, American Humane Association's Top Pets for Kids series is a great resource for young pet owners seeking manageable books on birds, cats, dogs, fish, small mammals, and even reptiles and amphibians!

Animal fans of all ages should join us for our summer reading program kickoff on June 11. Wildlife Ambassadors will present a fantastic program with their animal ambassadors (who have been rescued from a variety of situations, ranging from exotic birds surrendered by their owners or wildlife animals unable to be returned to the wild). They've visited us many times, and always put on a fabulous program!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library