Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Tales

With just days until we celebrate Thanksgiving, let's take a look at some top-notch children's books about the big day:

For a historical take on the festivities, 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving  is a fascinating look at the actual events of the first Thanksgiving. At just under 50 pages, this is an accessible read for both independent readers and adults who want a basic (re)introduction to the 1621 observance.

If it's simply not Thanksgiving morning without watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, check out Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade . Melissa Sweet's charming information picture book is a must read for all parade watchers.

Looking for a funny chapter book read for a road trip? Take along The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. What happens when you go to pick up your Thanksgiving turkey and return for a 266 pound chicken?  Although this was first published in 1977, it still remains fresh and hilarious.

Otis the tractor's stories are very popular with our patrons, so a Thanksgiving-themed board book was sure to be a hit! Otis Gives Thanks is a simple board book perfect for introducing this character to very young listeners, as well as a great discussion starter on "things I'm thankful for" for older listeners.

Did you know that Thanksgiving wasn't an official public holiday until 1863? Thank You, Sarah! The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving pays tribute to the woman who persisted through five administrations until Abraham Lincoln made it official.

Ever wonder why the President pardons a turkey every Thanksgiving? Although declaring which president was the first to officially pardon a turkey is up for debate, the first White House pardoning of a turkey is probably thanks to young Tad Lincoln, who intervened on behalf of a turkey presented to his father and destined for the White House Thanksgiving feast. The Lincoln boys were, by all accounts, overindulged and spoiled; when Tad became the only child living at the White House due to older brother Robert being in college and brother Willie lost to tuberculosis, the Lincoln found it hard to resist any plea from Tad. When Tad learned that the turkey he had adopted as a pet was going to be the Thanksgiving turkey, he begged his father to reprieve him, which he did.   Thanksgiving in the White House is a charmer!

Finally, Thanksgiving Is... is a great introduction to the history and traditions of Thanksgiving for young readers and listeners. Gail Gibbons informational picture books are "just right" for young learners, and this one definitely fits the bill for a read aloud nonfiction book for kindergarten students and up.

For more Thanksgiving suggestions, check out Warrenton Youth Services's recent Staff Picks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, November 13, 2017

Never Too Old For Picture Books: Celebrating Picture Book Month!

Although I understand that parents, grandparents, and other family members and friends can't wait to share their beloved novels from childhood (I can't wait until I can share Charlotte's Web, and many, many other chapter books with my three-year-old niece when she is older!), I  wish that we would not be so quick to cast away picture books past the kindergarten stage. There are so many hilarious, poignant, and gorgeous picture books that preschoolers and even kindergarten students would just not enjoy and/or understand. The vocabulary in these sophisticated picture books are often more advanced than the words you would find in beginning chapter books (and certainly beginning readers, which have controlled vocabulary). In honor of Picture Book Month, I decided to focus on my favorite books for the elementary school age crowd. These are the titles that I recommend to patrons who have been asked to be a guest reader in their child's/grandchild's classroom, or the ones I bring when I have been asked to participate in a family literacy event, read to a class, or have a Scout troop or class visit:


One of the best things about picture books for elementary school students is that there are so many that are HILARIOUS. Want to have an awesome guest reader experience? Bring one (or two, or three!) of these books:

So, you bring The Book With No Pictures to a classroom, and many of them (excitedly) tell you that they've read the book. NO PROBLEM. They will love hearing it again. I make a small modification on one page (changing "kid" to "kids"), but other than that, this is a perfect read aloud for a K-3 classroom.

Want a fabulous Super Bowl themed read aloud? (Of course, due to copyright issues, the phrase Super Bowl is never uttered) Buffalo Wings is for you. Rooster gets wind of the fact that Buffalo Wings is *the* snack to have for the Big Game. Naturally, he thinks that a buffalo is involved....until he and the other chickens discover the truth. (The illustration for this scene is hysterical.) This does require some knowledge of what buffalo wings are in order to get the humor.

I remember reading Miss Nelson is Missing when I was a child, so I love using it with school or Scout groups. Miss Nelson's clever "lesson" for her misbehaving class begs for an over the top presentation, so don't be shy when reading this aloud!

Jon Agee is a master of quirky humor picture books for elementary school students. Nothing is my favorite; not only is this tale of how  a wealthy woman's insistence on buying "nothing" starts a crazy outrageously funny, but it's also a pointed take on how silly fads can take off so quickly.

Need a STEM-related read aloud? The Secret Science Project That (Almost) Ate the School should be one of your first picks. Elementary school students will be all too familiar with the drama and unpredictability of a science project, which makes this wacky tale doubly hilarious.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs was published 29 years ago, so the first generation of children who loved this fractured fairy tale will soon introduce it to their students or children. Want to introduce the concept of "perspective" or the "other side of the story"? Read this take on the 3 Little Pigs story, told from the Wolf's perspective.


I love reading folktales to elementary school students. My favorite folktales are funny, lively, and have a clear lesson imprinted in the story without being too obvious or patronizing.

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is a folktale classic; it's a classroom favorite, so students may be familiar with it if you choose it for a read aloud (no matter, for most love rereading and being read their favorites). Anansi is a familiar trickster character in West African folklore, appearing as either a spider or a man. He often finds outsmarted at the end, but continues on to get into more trouble. This has a lot of animal voices, so some prep is required (you shouldn't do a read aloud without pre-reading the material, anyway!).

Cooperation. It's a necessary thing to learn, but can be difficult to put into concept. Head, Body, Legs: A Story From Liberia is a pointed and riotous explanation of the importance of compromise and working together, as each body part realizes that they work best when they work together.

Jewish folktales are noted for both their poignancy and humor, both of which are apparent in It Could Always be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale . A poor man blessed with many children consults his rabbi for advice, as he is unable to bear the crowded and noisy conditions anymore. When the rabbi advises him to bring in his farm animals one by one, he is incredulous, but follows his advice. Naturally, the situation goes from bad to worse....until the rabbi's final advice makes the man realize his good fortune.

I've read The Rumor: A Jataka Tale From India  to many school/Scout groups over the years. Before we begin, we have a little chat about what rumors and gossip are and what they can do. This story of a high-strung hare who mistakenly whips the other forest animals into a frenzy over the world ending can spark interesting discussions at the end of the story. If story pairings are your thing, consider reading this with the similar Chicken Little/Henny Penny, which has a very different ending!

Next week, I'll share my favorite Thanksgiving (ish) stories; after that, we'll wrap up Picture Book Month with some outstanding books that feature everyday kids, historical fiction, and books to "linger over."

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, November 06, 2017

Many Nations, Many Cultures: Books for National Native American Heritage Month

For National Native American Heritage Month, I wanted to highlight outstanding books by Native American authors. If you're looking for authentic representation instead of romanticized and/or stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans, these books should definitely be on your radar:

When someone mentions The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I try to tell them about the formidable The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich. Featuring a young Ojibwa girl named Omakayas, this is a moving and memorable coming-of-age saga.

Buffalo Bird Girl  is a gorgeously told and illustrated story of Buffalo Bird Woman, a member of the Hidatsa tribe during a period of transformation (from hunting to agriculture) for the community.

Although I have many favorite Christmas books and find new ones to enjoy every year (looking forward to going through A World of Cookies for Santa) there are a handful of books that I try to reread every Christmas: Ramona and Her Father, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story, The Christmas Pageant (just took a peek at this one again and I had to resist the urge to read it through), and   The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood. Based on the author's childhood living on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, this is a beautiful portrayal of sacrifice and community spirit. I also love the illustrations of her community's Christmas celebration, especially the Three Wise Men in native attire and the Native American dolls in Santa's sack. (And now I'm trying to resist the urge to take home my favorite Christmas books and read them before the mad dash for the Christmas books begins.)

If you don't know that Longfellow's Hiawatha poem is full of errors, then you should read Hiawatha and the Peacemaker. This lengthy and powerful story of peace is a much needed tonic for troubled times, unforgettably illustrated by David Shannon. An author's note gives further details on the story and on the Iroquois nation, including its impact on the Constitution.

Joseph Bruchac is one of the most well-known Native American authors of books for children/young adults. Jim Thorpe: Original All-American is an unusual biography in that it is told through Thorpe's perspective; it also sheds light on some long-held inaccuracies about Thorpe. Other must-read books by Bruchac include A Boy Called Slow: The True Story of Sitting Bull, Code Talker (a YA novel about the Navajo code talkers), Pocahontas, and Rabbit's Snow Dance.

I love Jingle Dancer for many reasons; it's a heartfelt story about a young girl preparing for a very important life event, it's joyfully illustrated, and it's a contemporary story about a Native American child, of which we definitely need more!

America's first prominent prima ballerina grew up on an Osage reservation in Oklahoma and was one of George Balachine's stars.  Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina is a simply told and vibrantly illustrated picture book biography that lends itself perfectly for a read aloud.

Thunder Boy, Jr. was one of the highlights of the 2016 publishing year; this darling father-son tale about a young boy wanting to establish his own identity is another deeply needed contemporary tale featuring Native American children. Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and recent memoir, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me are emotionally difficult yet unforgettable reads.

Finally, let's end with one of my favorite YA historical fiction reads. When I'm asked for YA historical fiction recomendations, I often suggest If I Ever Get Out of Here. Set in 1975 (with copious attention paid to popular music at the time), this story of friendship between a young Tuscarora teen and a teen living on the nearby Air Force Base is a heartrending and gripping read. Cannot wait for Eric Gansworth's next novel, out in 2018! (And a contemporary tale, with music also playing a big part in the story!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, October 30, 2017

LOL Reads

While I enjoy reading to learn about history, science, biography, and other subjects, and certainly enjoy a good tearjerker from time to time, there's no doubt that a good funny or lighthearted read is needed from time to time. I'm sure many of you could use a fun and funny read right now (I am in the home stretch of Ron Chernow's invigorating but massive biography of Ulysses S. Grant, and I seriously need something quick and fun before I start the new doorstopper biography of Herbert Hoover that I've been eager to read for months), so here are some light, fun, and funny reads:

I love Doreen Cronin's Chicken Squad easy chapter book series; each is one is as hilarious as the previous one. The Chicken Squad is thrust yet again into another crazy mystery on the farm. Something weird is following Sugar, and Poppy's shoe (the one that keeps her safe) is missing! It's not necessary to read the other three books in the series before starting Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure, but you'll definitely want to read them right after reading this one!

Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike arrived just when we introduced a new "castle" to our beta fish, who was quite wary of it for several days, so I found it extremely timely. Life is pretty good for these five fish...except for "clean the tank day." They're not terribly fond of the snail that also resides in the tank, but they mostly ignore him. However, things quickly get out of hand when a strange new castle appears in the fish tank! That snail might come in handy after all....

Jada Jones: Rock Star isn't laugh out loud "ha ha" funny, but it's a sweet and realistic story about friendship, making new friends, and discovering new interests. Jada's best friend and fellow rock enthusiast has moved away; as a result, Jada is struggling to find a new friend group. She bonds with her new teammates on the class rock project...except for one, who really doesn't like anything Jada suggests. Can Jada and her team partner find compromises--and can Jada be open to discovering new interests? This charmer is a kickoff to a new series that I will eagerly watch (Jada Jones: Class Act is its great sequel)

I seriously cannot wait to find out who wins Next Best Junior Chef! Lights, Camera, Cook! (Next Best Junior Chef) is the opener to this awesome trilogy centered on a reality show competition featuring four talented young chefs. The competition is quite stiff, with all sorts of surprises and drama that you would expect in such a high-stakes competition! Cooking tips and techniques are included for readers inspired to get creative in the kitchen. Although you won't be screaming with laughter, it's definitely lots of fun to read.

Wedgie and Gizmo, on the other hand, might literally make you LOL. Children's novels narrated by animals are nothing new, and can be difficult to pull off. That's not a problem for Suzanne Selfors, who is an expert at animal narratives! Gizmo (the guinea pig) is plotting world domination, but is frequently derailed by Jasmine (who loves to dress him up), Abuela (who Gizmo suspects wants to eat him), and overexcited corgi who loves to run around in his cape, as he is convinced that he is a superhero. Gizmo and Wedgie are both trying to adjust to their new living arrangements, as is their new blended family. Co-narrated by Wedgie and Gizmo, this is a hilarious story of new beginnings and even possible friendship (or at least grudging acceptance). Wedgie and Gizmo's adventures will continue, but not soon enough!

If you want to practice your joke-telling ability, check out our jokes section (J 818)!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Happy Halloween!

It's the most wonderful time of the year....seasonal books! From now until the end of the year, it's boom time for library book displays. Just as soon as we take down the Halloween book displays, we'll put out the Thanksgiving books (and keep up our general fall books). After Thanksgiving break, we break out the kings and queens of seasonal books: our Christmas, Hanukkah, and general winter books! Until then, here are some of my favorite Halloween books recently published in the last year or so:

Poor Bad Kitty. She doesn't like the scary monsters who came to her door one October morning! However, once she discovers that tasty treats are involved, she decides to no longer be a scaredy cat!  Bad Kitty, Scaredy-Cat is similar to the other Bad Kitty picture books in that it is an alphabet story; if you're looking for an ABC book that goes beyond "A is for apple," check this out.

Herbert is ready for his first trick or treat outing--maybe. Luckily, Dad is right there to help him make a tiger costume, practice a fierce roar, and fill his bucket of candy! Herbert's First Halloween is a sweet story about an exciting but potentially intimidating rite of passage.

Mouse's First Halloween is one of my favorite toddler Halloween read-alouds; Mouse explores the sights, sounds, and smells of Halloween, from glowing jack-o-lanterns, bats flying, and children shouting "trick-or-treat!"

If you want a Halloween-ish story that doesn't focus on supernatural elements, Pumpkin, Pumpkin is a first-rate choice (there is mention of the holiday). It's a very simple story; a young boy plants a pumpkin seed and observes it changing through the growth cycle until it is ready to pick and carve for Halloween (he replants the seeds in the spring).

Trunk or Treat is a charming look at a church's trunk-or-treat/harvest celebration. A young girl and her brother enjoy carnival games, a bounce house, and "trunk-or-treating" among the many cars parked for the celebration!

Galaxy Zack is one of my favorite easy chapter book series; it's a funny series about a boy who moves to planet Nebulon. Galaxy Zack: A Haunted Halloween is a special Halloween edition, complete with spooky ghosts and all.

I have a special fondness for beginning chapter books, especially series; Monica Brown's Lola Levine series, starring an adorable Latino Jewish girl, is a treasure in our collection. Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream finds Lola playing Halloween tricks on her friends! Her friends aren't too happy with the surprise; can Lola mend their friendship?

Monsters Unleashed isn't a Halloween story, but anything monsters-related is popular right now! What happens when two boys use their school's 3-D printer to (accidentally) bring their monster creations to life? Mass chaos, of course! Can they stop them before they take over the entire town? This is #1 in a new series, so we can bet that the monsters will be back to wreck havoc once more.

National Geographic's Holidays Around the World  is a superb nonfiction series about holidays commonly celebrated in many countries. Celebrate Halloween: With Pumpkins, Costumes, And Candy looks at Halloween's origins and the different ways it is celebrated, complete with fine photography as is expected from National Geographic.

If Celebrate Halloween is too much for your reader to comprehend, The Tricks and Treats of Halloween, part of the super fun History of Fun Stuff series, is a good choice for independent readers. From intriguing ways that people carve pumpkins to the staggering amount of money spent on Halloween, young readers will love the cool facts presented throughout this reader.

Have a fun--and safe!--Halloween!

Fauquier County Public Library will host Halloween programs on these dates:

John Marshall Library: Monday, October 30 from 4:30-5:30

Warrenton Library: Tuesday, October 31 from 4-5

Bealeton Library: Tuesday, October 31 from 4-7 (DIY Halloween crafts)

All ages welcome for Halloween stories, crafts, and activities. Come in costume!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Library, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, October 16, 2017

May the Force be With You: New Books for Star Wars Fans

With the first official trailer dropping last Monday, we are officially in countdown mode before The Last Jedi opens on December 15. During the next two months, an avalanche of Star Wars books will be headed our way! If you have a young Star Wars fan in your life, keep an eye out for these titles (and maybe get some early Christmas/Hanukkah ideas as well?). Some are available now, while others will be published when we get closer to the actual theatrical release:

The cutest addition to the Star Wars universe since the Ewoks certainly deserves his own picture book. BB-8 on the Run is basically BB-8's origin story in picture book form.

What are porgs? I'm not quite sure (birds, I think), but one was featured very prominently with Chewbecca in the trailer. Perhaps Chewie and the Porgs will give us more details; it seems like he and these little creatures have a bond of some sort!

I continue to be amazed at the talent involved in the new Star Wars books (Adam Gidwitz, Claudia Gray, etc) The critically acclaimed YA author Elizabeth Wein is one of the latest outstanding authors of a Star Wars novel;  Cobalt Squadron introduces us to some of the new characters in The Last Jedi fighting in the Cobalt Squadron.

Star Wars Forces of Destiny originally aired on Disney's Youtube Channel and later on the Disney television network; if your young fans are already hooked on the series, you definitely need to check out Star Wars Forces of Destiny: Daring Adventures and Star Wars Forces of Desiny: Tales of Hope and Courage.

While "Level 1." "Level 2"  and other designations vary wildly from publisher to publisher, I'm encouraged by the fact that  A Leader Named Leia has a "Level 2" status. Quite a few of our Star Wars readers are a bit too complicated for beginner readers, so I'm hoping this will be easier for our "just beginning" readers to comprehend.

Heroes of the Galaxy introduces us to the new characters, vehicles, and planets in The Last Jedi, along with brand-new information on returning characters. At 48 pages, this is a perfect length for fans not quite ready for more in-depth guides, such as....

The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary, by Star Wars storyline guru Pablo Hidalgo, is a continuation of the DK Star Wars visual dictionaries. Like all DK books, it will be filled with first-rate photographs and every little detail you could possibly hope to know about the movie.

Many fans are hoping that The Last Jedi will explain exactly what Luke's been up to since the defeat of the Empire. As implied in The Force Awakens, Rey grew up hearing myths and legends about Skywalker, and never knew that he was an actual person. In The Legends of Luke Skywalker, deckhands on a cargo ship trade stories about Luke and argue over his existence (or if he was actually part-droid). Written by award-winning fantasy author Ken Liu, this is an enormous (400+) read all about the Jedi Master; whether or not the tales are true remains to be seen!

Rey to the Rescue is another addition to our always-in-demand Star Wars easy readers, and a most welcome one! Find out about Rey's origins (what's been revealed so far), her friends and enemies, and more.

While we have many fabulous and popular Star Wars comics in our YA section, we definitely need publishers to create more Star Wars comics for younger readers. While The Rise of a Hero  is more of an illustrated story than a comic in its layout, graphic novel fans won't care about the difference. This is basically Luke's origin story as told in Star Wars IV: A New Hope.

Thank goodness for the Star Wars Golden Books; they fill a need for Star Wars picture books. Tales of the Force weaves stories about force users (Light and Dark), including characters from both the prequels and sequels.

YA readers, take note! We also has some awesome Star Wars books coming your way (the visual dictionary and Luke legends books would also be enjoyed by preteen/teen fans):

Fantasy author Claudia Gray is becoming one of the go-to authors for modern Star Wars novels, both YA and general adult. Leia, Princess of Alderaan, which takes place before the events of A New Hope, follows teenage Leia as she trains to be the next ruler of Alderaan and becomes interested in the Rebel Alliance.

Captain Phasma joins our ever-popular YA Star Wars comics section, and promises to expand upon her story and how she escaped the destruction of her base. Want more Star Wars comics? Look for Star Wars 4,5, and 6 on our shelves soon (note: these are not retellings of the movies)!

Happy reading! (And hope you have some holiday gift ideas for Star Wars fans!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library