Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ten Years Ago: Hurricane Katrina

If you've watched or read any type of media recently, you're probably aware that August 29th is the 10th anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall.  I didn't want the day to pass without letting you know about some truly excellent books for children and teens about this historic hurricane: 

Another Kind of Hurricane  is a moving, sensitive, and ultimately hopeful book about two very different young boys who are affected by Hurricane Katrina's wrath (Henry lives in Vermont; Zavion lives in New Orleans) and form a deeply personal bond based on their shared experiences of grief and loss. This is Tamara Ellis Smith's debut novel, and I can't wait to see what she creates next. 

Don Brown's  The Great American Dust Bowl is an intensely gripping and powerful narrative in graphic novel format about the Dust Bowl, so it was no surprise that  Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans is equally as compelling. (I say graphic novel, but these are straight nonfiction books). Written and drawn for YA audiences, this is an honest and intimate examination of the hurricane, as well as the aftermath. 

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, And Survival  is based on the true story of a cat and a dog, left behind by their owners (many pet owners were forced to leave their pets behind because many hotels, shelters, and authorities refused to let pets accompany their owners; laws were changed in the aftermath of Katrina in order to prevent massive amounts of animals left behind in the wake of evacuations and rescues). This is a remarkable and unforgettable story about friendship and survival.

If you are interested in adult nonfiction books about Hurricane Katrina, please see my review of
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital from November 2013.

Next week, I'll have something much more cheerful to discuss: Fall 2015 books!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Books to Bark About: Celebrate National Dog Day (Aug 26)

Since we celebrated World Cat Day recently, it's only fitting that we pay tribute to man's best friend on August 26.   National Dog Day is the perfect day to grab a few awesome books and cuddle with your favorite pup.  Children's literature is filled with many stories about amazing pups: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Harry the Dirty Dog, Biscuit, Spot,  Lassie, and Because of Winn Dixie, just to name a few enduring classics. Throughout history, dogs have been trained to do an amazing variety of jobs; here are my favorite children's books about real-life canine heroes:

Our Dogs to the Rescue! series was an enormous hit during our summer reading program; they were (and still are) constantly checked out. These nonfiction titles for newly independent readers feature dogs who sniff out bombs, guide dogs, wilderness search dogs, and more.

Lola Goes to Work is a short and sweet introduction to adorable Lola. Although Lola is a small terrier, she has a very big job as a therapy dog; she visits people in hospitals, listens to kids practice reading, and visits people in their home. Becoming a therapy dog wasn't easy for Lola, as she had to pass difficult training sessions and tests (if you've spent time with terriers, you know that they are independent little thinkers, which can make training challenging). This is a simple and charming introduction to the work of a therapy dog (would be a great book to read to our Paws to Read dogs!), but also a testament to working hard and perseverance.

Mogie: The Heart of the House is based on the true story of Mogie, the Labradoodle- in-residence at the Houston Ronald McDonald House. Mogie's littermates were quickly chosen and trained for guide dog positions, search and rescue work, dog show competition, and other jobs, but Mogie's temperament wasn't suitable for any such work. Luckily, it was figured out that Mogie was the ideal candidate for the Key Comfort Ambassador position at the Houston Ronald McDonald House, where he visits, cuddles, and plays with the families who stay there while they/their children receive long-term care at Houston hospitals. While not a very sad book, it is a sensitive portrayal of a dog who means a lot to children and families who are dealing with very serious situations (we are introduced to two children residing at the house), so pre-reading is important before reading it with little ones. Like Lola Goes to Work, this is an affirmative story of the contributions and gifts that everyone has and can give. You can learn more about the real Mogie on his website and see pictures on the Houston RMH's site.

Tuesday Tucks Me In , based on Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan's memoir, is a touching, age-appropriate, and unique look at a different kind of service dog. While many children may be aware that service dogs help people who are blind, deaf, or use a wheelchair, they may not know that dogs help people who struggle with feeling very scared or nervous (Capt. Montalvan has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is not specifically named in this book).  When Capt. Montalvan feels very stressed or scared, Tuesday helps him calm down. This is a loving representation of a very special bond.

Need books on dog care and training? Look in our J 636.7 section.

Happy National Dog Day!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Back to School Books!

What an amazing summer we had! Thank you to everyone who participated in our summer reading program. It's hard to believe that the first day of school for many students is almost here. We are constantly replenishing our "first day of school" book display, so I know that many patrons are looking for fantastic books to help ease the transition into the school routine. Here are a few personal favorites: 

Dinosaur vs. School finds Bob Shea's little dinosaur in a strange situation: school! Dinosaur does his usual impressive roaring and destruction, but eventually (as always) learns to correct way to behave.

Follow the Line to School is a creative and super-fun look at the many awesome places in school; readers and listeners follow the line through the classroom, the art room, the library, the cafeteria, and more. Lots of interactive opportunities make this a great choice for one-on-one reading.

Riding the school bus is a *huge* deal, which is why I always pull out School Bus for my "first day of school" display (I also use it in my transportation story time for toddlers, because they are definitely fascinated by school buses!).  Like most Donald Crews picture books, text is very minimal, which makes this a great introduction to talking about riding the school bus.

If you have first-day-of-school veterans in your family, books that explore how children go to school in other countries would be perfect for kicking off the new school year:

Imagine that you have to build your own school on the first day of school. That is the reality for the children in Rain School. Author and illustrator James Rumford based this story on his experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad. This is a marvelous read aloud about children who are eager to learn in very trying circumstances.

School Days Around the World is an excellent look at the daily lives of schoolchildren in various countries, and perfect for independent readers.

A School Like Mine introduces readers to actual schoolchildren around the world; some live in middle-class surroundings, while others face daunting barriers to their education. 

Best wishes for a great school year!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Purr-fect Reads: Books for World Cat Day

There's a holiday for everything, and August 8th is no exception. Feline fans will be pleased to know that this day is World Cat Day! Cats, libraries, and books naturally go together, so today is a great day to highlight our awesome cat-centered books. 

I recommend the Bad Kitty whenever I can: kids who want illustrated chapter books, reluctant readers, cat fans, kids who want funny books....I can go on. Sure, they're great for readers who want chapter books slightly more challenging than Magic Tree House, but the humor will encourage older readers who struggle with chapter books. Ever-helpful Uncle Murray pops in and out throughout the narrative to offer nonfiction tidbits about the specific issue Bad Kitty is dealing with (in my favorite, Bad Kitty for President, readers learn about the electoral process). 

When patrons ask for books for Fancy Nancy, Pinkalicious,  or Angelina Ballerina fans, I immediately steer them to Cynthia Rylant's adorable Brownie and Pearl series. They are inevitably charmed by this series about a little girl and her cat, who have many adventures. 

The books in the Catwings series may be slim (the first is only 39 pages), but this is a sophisticated tale of a cat family with wings.  

In recent years, child and young adult adaptations of popular nonfiction titles for adults have been more common.  Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story is an adaptation of the excellent Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World

Deborah Underwood's series about an imposter cat is hilarious and highly inventive. Here Comes the Easter Cat is the original (you don't have to read them in order, but the final page in this one gives you a clue about the next title), which introduces us to Cat, who is quite jealous of the attention and fame given to the Easter Bunny, but not of the intense work it is to be the Easter Bunny. Here Comes Santa Cat  and Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat  are equally funny; 2016 will bring us one just in time for Valentine's Day. 

Kitten's First Full Moon (2005 Caldecott Medal) features a tiny kitten who thinks the full moon is a bowl of milk, and goes off in search of it. The text is simple, which gives the reader (and/or listener) ample time to pour over the black-and-white illustrations. 

 I've used Mama Cat Has Three Kittens so many times in story times that I nearly have it memorized; the expansive and bright illustrations are attractive to toddlers and the text is simple enough to use in Baby Steps story time; some toddlers and most preschoolers will catch on to the repetitive element involving one of the kittens. 

Millions of Cats was published in 1928, but its lyrical and funny text make it appealing many generations later. If you want a sweet story that's not saccharine, get this one; the plot focuses on a man who wants to find the perfect cat for his wife, and eventually finds a very unlikely candidate.  

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (the inspiration for the musical Cats)  was not originally published as a children's collection of poetry (although Eliot wrote the poems for his godchildren), but the whimsical and comical poems about an eclectic collection of cats will appeal to young cat aficionados (and fans of the musical). This collection, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, was designed with children in mind. 

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes started the Pete the Cat phenomenon, and although I'm cross about what's happened to the series, I can't leave Pete out in a tribute to cat books. I Love My White Shoes not only has a fun and adaptable rhythm that never fails to coax a story time audience into singing along, but also reinforces colors and the benefits of remaining chill. 

Want nonfiction books about cat care? Look in the J 636.8 section

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Ridiculously Good Reads: Summer Reading Edition

It's hard to believe that summer is nearly over. We have exactly one week left in our summer reading program. Students will return to school in just a few weeks. I hope you've discovered some awesome summer reads at our libraries! If you're planning to squeeze in one more vacation before settling into your back-to-school routine (or need some great reads for a Labor Day getaway), you're in luck. Here are the books I've enjoyed most this summer (all 2015 publications):

Armchair travelers and foodies, take note. Even if you aren't planning a trip to Italy, Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City is a fascinating read about Italian cuisine with a Roman emphasis, with a few select restaurant recommendations and recipes that conclude each chapter (if you want a more traditional guidebook, look here; I recommend any DK or National Geographic guidebooks). If you'd like to order and drink coffee without standing out like a tourist (don't drink cappucino after 10 AM, and stand at the bar to drink; drinking at the table will incur an additional cost), appreciate artichokes like a true native, how to find the best gelato (if the colors are bright, the flavoring is probably artificial), the finer parts of grappa (an Italian alcoholic drink that is definitely an acquired taste), and everything you'd ever want to know about pizza and pasta. Elizabeth Minchilli spent several years in Rome during her childhood, married an Italian (she also notes the distinct regional traits in Italy), and currently lives in Rome, so she definitely knows what she's talking about. You'll want to check out her blog after reading Eating Rome. This is definitely going to be one I reread before my next trip to Italy in October!

This has been an awesome year for nonfiction picture books. Growing Up Pedro is a must read for baseball fans. Pedro Martinez and his older brother, Ramon, grew up in an impoverished community in the Dominican Republic. Like many Dominican boys, baseball was their passion. Their combined and unique journey from the DR to major league baseball (and for Pedro, a World Series win) is an inspiring and awesome story. Above all, it's a tender and sweet story about brothers, perseverance, and sacrifice.

Judy Blume's In the Unlikely Event was *my* most anticipated literary event of the summer. Blume's third novel for adults (and according to her, likely the last book she'll write) is based on a series of aviation disasters that occurred in her New Jersey hometown from 1951-1952. Although it's (definitely) an adult novel, emerging adolescence and young adulthood is prominent in this story. It's reminiscent in ways of my favorite (and underrated) Blume novel, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, as Jewish identity and adolescence during the 1950s is pivotal (the importance of Jewish adolescence is more pronounced in Sally J., but it takes place in 1948, soon after the horrors of the Holocaust were much more fresh). Although much of the story is fictional (save for the events and details of the airplane crashes), the time period of the 1950s is effortlessly brought to life. The long-lasting impact of a disaster (even decades later) on a community is brilliantly portrayed, with heartbreaking results. Need an engrossing read for the beach or a car trip? This should do the trick.

Anything about Mahalia Jackson immediately catches my interest (I'm from the New Orleans area), so it was a happy day for me when Mahalia Jackson: Walking With Kings and Queens showed up on our shelves. This is a beautiful and unforgettable tribute to this great lady of gospel music. Any book about an African-American artist who traveled and performed in the pre-civil rights era is going to have to address some sad and uncomfortable truths about this country's history; Nina Nolan and John Holyfield address the many challenges that Mahalia Jackson faced, even as a noted performer, without making it scary or overwhelming for young readers.

*Sob* Excuse me while I collect myself. I love, love, LOVE Lori Nichols's Maple picture book series. It's a darling and realistic depiction of welcoming a new baby sister and navigating snags in sibling relationships. In their third adventure, we learn that it's time for Maple to go off to school and leave Willow behind. How will both get through the day?  Just fine, thank you, although they are happy to see each other at the end of the school day. ADORABLE. Maple and Willow Apart is a perfect "first day of school" story!

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Solved All of France is SO COOL. Read it. That is all. It's an amazing story about Ben Franklin that explains the scientific process and the use of placebos in medicine. Plus, you learn how we got the word "mesmerized" in our vocabulary.

I will absolutely keep One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia in mind when I'm asked for Earth Day recommendations. Books about environmental issues run the risk of being scary and fatalistic without offering hope; happily, this is not one of them. Isatou Ceesay was concerned about the impact of plastic bags on her small Gambian community; not only were they causing a great deal of trash, but they were endangering the lives of their livestock (vital to the survival of the community). Her ingenuity led her to a creative and gorgeous way of crocheting strips of plastic bags into eye-catching purses and bags! Although she and her fellow crocheters were initially mocked, their creations soon became popular at the local market. As it is with many small businesses, the benefits to her community were enormous; naturally, trash was reduced in the community, which reduced the threat to the livestock and local water. However, recycling the plastic bags into purses created business opportunities for local women, which was also a huge benefit for the community. Not only that, it's a positive story from an African country featuring empowered citizens. Quite a lot packed into one picture book! You can learn more about this fabulous story here.

Sarah Dessen is one of my automatic "buys" for the YA collection; her novels are insanely popular. Saint Anything is one of my favorites, as it's a genuine depiction of a family dealing with incarceration of a young adult. Peyton was the golden boy in the family, which makes his incarceration (for a drunk driving crash that permanently disabled a young man) all the more shocking. Sydney must not only navigate her feelings of shame (the unrelenting attention paid to the events, as well as continuing updates on the young boy's condition takes its toll), but everyday situations involving friends, school, and crushes are paramount. The story takes a darker turn when a family friend's inappropriate attention toward Sydney escalates, but never salacious or unbelievable.

Scarlett Undercover is a must read for fans of YA mysteries. Teen genius Scarlett investigates murders and crimes in her spare time. When she is hired to investigate a suspicious suicide, she finds herself drawn into a very strange and sinister underworld (that concludes with a hair-raising ending!). Scarlett Undercover adds a much needed element of diversity to YA mysteries (Scarlett is the child of Sudanese immigrants and is a non-observant Muslim).

Something Must be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Battle is a deeply felt and personal look at the segregation crisis that shut down Prince Edward County Schools for five years, leaving a long-lasting impact on many families, including the author's family (instrumental in creating the private segregation academy for Caucasian students).  Although the county has made strides to move forward and make amends, it is clear from Green's reporting that the wounds are still fresh. African-American families that had the means to send children to family in other counties and states did so; those that did not missed out on crucial years of education. Caucasian families that could not afford the academy or were opposed to it were also affected. This is a book that you will not soon forget.

My undergraduate degree is in Family, Child, and Consumer Science, so brain development was a big part of my studies. However, our knowledge of human development has changed in the years since then, so I'm always eager to read new books such as The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults. Although the title makes it seem that it's a parenting guide, this is a worthy read for anyone who works with young people or is interested in neuroscience. This is not a quick read, as Dr. Jensen delves into brain function and development in great detail. With chapters on the effects of marijuana, constant access to electronics, the importance of sleep (and why schools are debating school start times for middle and high school students), and concussions (from sports injuries), readers will find that this is an extremely timely read.

We have several books on Wangari Maathai, but Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees is probably my favorite. It clearly illustrates that she was not just an African Johnny Appleseed, but tirelessly worked to improve the lives and living conditions of all Kenyans, especially women, and how the Kenyan government viewed her as a threat. A very inspiring read!

I adore all Toon books (Lost in NYC is another must read for 2015) , so I was not surprised to find myself charmed and entertained by We Dig Worms! Some may be grossed out by worms, but they are super important for the soil and the environment (as explained by our worm narrator). This is written at a simple reading level, ideal for beginning readers needing (or wanting) nonfiction.

Woodpecker Wham! is on my shortlist for the 2016 Caldecott; it is that awesome! Illustrated by the inimitable Steve Jenkins and written by frequent collaborator April Pulley Sayre, this is a gorgeous, inviting, and eye-opening peek into the world of woodpeckers. It's also a fine read-aloud for preschoolers and even early elementary students.

If you need more suggestions for recent books, check out  current and back issues of Wowbrary; we've ordered a wide variety of children's, teens, and adult books that should catch your interest (I know my to-be-read list has grown by a ton!).

Also see: Ridiculously Good Reads: April-May Edition
                Halfway Mark: Reading Through the Year

               Ridiculously Good Reads: March Edition 

               Ridiculously Good Reads: Early 2015 Edition (this includes pre-2015 titles)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, July 25, 2015


This is an exciting time for astronomy fanatics! New Horizons has finally passed by Pluto and its moons, and it only took a little over nine years. Everyone's favorite demoted planet is back in the spotlight. You can catch all the latest pictures and news from John Hopkins's Applied Physics Labratory, New Horizons's official Facebook page (and on Twitter), and NASA's New Horizons site. After you've finished geeking out over the pictures, come visit us to get some awesome books on Pluto:

A funny book about the decommissioning of Pluto? (Well, maybe not funny to Pluto's most ardent and stubborn fans.) How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming is a thoughtful and informative read about Mike Brown's discovery of Eris (a planet larger than Pluto, which triggered the debate over Pluto's status) and the resulting downfall of Pluto's official status as a major planet; it's also a sweet peon to his daughter, who was born during the heated controversy. (adult nonfiction)

Astrophysicist superstar Neil DeGrasse Tyson's The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet  is a perfect demonstration of Tyson's ability to explain complicated and confusing astrophysics topics to a lay audience. As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson was the primary focus of media attention (and hate mail) when the New York Times noted that its exhibit on the planetary system showed Pluto as an object in the Kepler system instead of a major planet. Tyson reveals the fascinating history of Pluto (Pluto was the only planet discovered by an American and at an American laboratory), the contentious debate over its status, and the reasoning behind Pluto's demotion. He also shares many letters penned by angry, defiant, and supportive citizens, many of which were from schoolchildren. One highlight was from a high school science class that thoroughly debated the controversy. (Adult nonfiction)

Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery is quite whimsical, but effectively manages to get the basics down about Pluto's status and how scientists classify (and reclassify) the solar system. This is an attention-getting presentation about the dwarf planet published by the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. (children's nonfiction)

Taking a more serious (but still compelling) approach, When is a Planet Not a Planet? The Story of Pluto offers superb explanations on how technology helps researchers redefine the solar system as well as the history and classification of Pluto. (children's nonfiction)

We have many more amazing astronomy-related books in our children's and adult nonfiction collections (start at 520 and work your way through the stacks for handbooks, single subject books on the planets, and more).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It's Shark Week!

With the recent string of shark attacks on the East Coast, Discovery Channel's Shark Week programming, and the 40th anniversary of Jaws, sharks have been at the forefront of news and media attention. This is a great time to learn more about these immense creatures!

The I Survived series is my go-to recommendation for reluctant readers needing historical fiction titles. Like the Dear America/Royal Diaries/My Name is America series, this is a historical fiction series that many readers actively seek out. I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 follows the concentrated shark attacks that occurred in 1916 along the New Jersey coastline, through the perspective of a young boy.

If you'd like something that's a tad less dramatic, Little Shark is the book for you. Written by a legend in nonfiction picture books for very young children, Little Shark tells the tale of a young shark on its own, complete with intriguing facts about its habitat, eating habits, and more.

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting With the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands was one of the highlights of the 2014 publishing year and one of six extraordinary children's nonfiction titles honored with the Sibert Informational Book Medal. This intricately illustrated and engagingly written look at the great white sharks that live off the California coast (26 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge!) is one-of-a-kind.

Shark vs. Train is a hilarious and crazy story about a shark and a train competing in several events. Who will win in a hide-and-seek contest? A bowling competition? Read and find out!

Shark Wars  is an exciting series for adventure and shark fans that not only includes tons of adventure, but also a glimpse into the effects of overfishing and environmental hazards on sealife.

Sharkopedia, published by Discovery Channel's publishing arm, is a superb guide to shark anatomy, classification, behavior, and hundreds of incredible photos.

We also have Jaws: the book and the movie.  Although it has been criticized for its characterization of sharks, the movie is still worth watching (I guarantee that the theme music will still raise goosebumps!).  Teen readers interested in a true account of a shark attack should consider Soul Surfer (book and DVD); Shark Girl is an excellent and affecting novel about a teen dealing with the aftereffects of a shark attack. Shark Life: True Stories About Sharks and the Sea is another must-read for teen shark aficionados.  You should also browse the 597.3 and 597.31 sections in both the children's and adult nonfiction section for more awesome selections.

Happy Shark Week!

Dum dum...dum dum...dum's almost back to school time! I blogged about new "first day of school" books on the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library