How's your reading year going? Read anything awesome yet? While waiting for the avalanche of new 2016 books to arrive, I've been catching up on 2015 books (and even older):
I adore the Bad Kitty series, but I must confess that I was rather disappointed with Bad Kitty: Puppy's Big Day. It was fine, but didn't have the truly laugh-out-loud moments that the previous Bad Kitty books had for me. How happy I was when Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet turned out to be super funny (with a bizarre twist in the middle!). As you can guess, this chronicles Bad Kitty's unfortunate visit to the vet (good thing the vet is a pro when dealing with skittish kitties), along with Uncle Murray's fun facts about cat care and veterinarians.
The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York ranks as one of the oddest books I've read in a long time; ultimately, I loved its unpredictability and its unexpected endearing message. Jonathan York is your average worker bee who finds himself in a creepy forest with some unusual inhabitants and is dismayed to learn that the innkeeper requires an incredible story as payment. When he is unable to provide such a story, he is cast into the unpredictable forest and onto an amazing journey. Although this doesn't entirely read as a children's story (the protagonist is an average middle-aged man, and some of the humor might go over a young person's head), there's nothing that is inappropriate for readers who want to embark on a deliciously weird heavily illustrated fairy tale.
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is a hilarious, endearing, and adorable graphic novel about an alien boy (who looks like your average blond kid) who crashes on Earth and befriends two young friends. With a touch reminiscent of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, readers will root for this appealing and diverse trio; as Hilo himself would say, it is "OUTSTANDING!" Cannot wait for Book #2.
2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death; as such, there are many exhibits, activities, and more planned throughout the year. With this anniversary and Black History Month in mind,
Ira's Shakespeare Dream is a perfect read for this time of year. Born in 1807, Ira Aldridge received a classical education at a New York City school for African American children; he quickly caught the acting bug and after many obstacles, traveled to Britain in hopes of establishing a theatrical career. He soon became known as one of the best Shakespearean actors of his day; his tomb in Poland is still maintained by a Polish acting society, and he is one of 33 actors memorialized at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
We often get asked about books that talk about appropriate behavior for toddlers and preschoolers; while they may have good intentions, some often miss the mark in terms of appeal for young listeners. When we received titles in the Little Dinos series, I was excited to see that they had tons of charm and were written on a level perfect for two and three year olds (Jane Yolen's How Do Dinosaurs...? series is perfect for 3-4 year olds). As I expected, they have been supremely popular at all library locations.
I'm a huge fan of Joan Bauer; her realistic YA novels have lots of heart and tackle serious subjects (illiteracy, homelessness, etc) without being too dark or hopeless. Her latest, Soar, stands out as one of her best. Jeremiah has not had an easy life; abandoned by his mother at birth and adopted by his loving and offbeat single father, his heart defect and eventual heart transplant cause him to live a life different from his peers (and unable to fully participate in his obsession, baseball). A move to a baseball-obsessed town brings new friendships, even if people are oddly tight-lipped about the reason about the lack of a middle-school baseball team. When a high school baseball star suddenly dies, the small town is rocked by grief and accusations against his coach. Jeremiah's quest to assemble and coach a middle-school team is jeopardized by antipathy and his health condition, but he is so not a quitter. Bauer grasps the multi-faceted experience of a chronically ill adolescent; Jeremiah has an almost adult sense of humor and vocabulary (not uncommon among children/teens who spend a great deal of time in the hospital and surrounded more by adults than children for great lengths of time) and the adults in his life are torn between wanting him to live as much of a normal life as possible yet painfully aware of his limitations. Jeremiah is an instantly appealing and approachable character; you can't help but immediately root for him and empathize with him. The funeral for the 17 year old is sensitively and achingly described, as is the trauma and shame felt by the community over the allegations surrounding the coach. Just outstanding, and one of my 2017 Newbery picks.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library