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

Monday, October 09, 2017

Earth and Beyond: Books for World Space Week and Earth Science Week

When I saw that World Space Week (Oct 4-10) and Earth Science Week (Oct 8-14) overlapped, I immediately thought that it would be a perfect time to talk about our terrific outer space and earth science related books! Earth science encompasses geology, meterology, and astronomy, so there's lots to explore!

Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long's informational picture books about nature are must reads for young naturalists. A Rock is Lively is gorgeously illustrated and has a great read-aloud quality for elementary school students.

When DK Publishing and The Smithsonian collaborate on a book, you know it's going to be packed with eye-popping pictures and fascinating facts. The Rock and Gem Book is an outstanding guide to popular and lesser-known rocks and gems, perfect for budding collectors.

Amateur meteorologists will definitely want to check out DK's Eyewitness Weather; like all books in the Eyewitness series, it is crammed with eye-catching photography and intriguing information about rain, snow, natural disasters, and everything inbetween.

The Weather Disaster continues the adventures of the Mad Scientist Academy; this time, the class of monsters face a multitude of weather phenonemons, using scientific information to survive conditions.

Want a gigantic and browseable guide to ocean animals? National Geographic Kids's Ultimate Oceanpedia is a captivating guide to ocean creatures big and small.

I'm a huge fan of the Science of Fun Stuff series (and its companion, History of Fun Stuff series) Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing; it's one of the best nonfiction easy reader series out there. Comets, constellations, eclipses, and more are explained in a fun and factual way for elementary school students.

If you need something more comprehensive than Looking Up, National Geographic Kids's Night Sky is a must-read for young astronomers. Not only does it include star maps, planet facts, and tips on how to get started as a backyard astronomers, but it also includes space jokes!

For more information about these official observations, check out Earth Science Week and World Space Week

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, October 02, 2017

Teachers Rock! Books for World Teachers Day

Hopefully, everyone has at least one teacher that has inspired and influenced their lives. Teachers can bring history to life, introduce awesome books to their classes, and cultivate a love of science and math. In honor of World Teachers Day (October 5), let's take a look at some top-notch children's books about teachers and the influences they have on their students:

The Art of Miss Chew is one of my top favorites on this list. Trisha may have trouble academically, but she is a gifted artist. When she gets accepted into Miss Chew's advanced art class, she meets a teacher who is not only artistically talented, but also a dedicated advocate for all her students. Like many of Patricia Polacco's stories, this is based on her personal experience.

Luis Soriano is a Colombian grade school children who created an innovative and successful way of bringing books to Colombian children--via a team of donkeys! Biblioburro: A True Story From Colombia is an endearing and inspiring tribute to this dedicated teacher.

Canadace Fleming is best known for her fascinating nonfiction books, which might be why her two novels set at Aesop Elementary aren't as well known. The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary (and its sequel), follows a class of fourth (and later fifth) graders and their teacher, Mr. Jupiter, as they encounter everyday situations and problems. As you can guess, there's an Aesop element to the books: each chapter is a self-contained story with a moral lesson at the end. Lessons are definitely learned, but it's not through plodding "teachable" moments; this has both heart and humor.

I love sports history, even if I'm not an ardent fan of the particular sport. Sports history includes a multitude of thrilling and inspirational stories of ingenuity, hard work, teamwork, social advancement in civil rights, and individual achivement. Take James Naismith--a physical education instructor who inherited a YMCA class of unruly young men fed up with being perpetually stuck indoors due to a harsh Massachusetts winter. Naismith was given 14 days to create an energetic indoor game for the boys that didn't take up too much room and emphasized fair play and cooperation among players. And thus, basketball was born, albeit with a soccer ball and peach baskets.  Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball is a rollicking tale of a creative and determined teacher who paved the way for an internationally popular sport played by 300 million people.

Lailah is finally old enough to fast during Ramadan, but as a new student in a new country, she's unsure and shy about how to explain it to her classmates. Luckily, Lailah has both supportive and creative help from her school librarian and teacher, who also help her make new friends! Lailah's Lunchbox is a sweet story about the importance of understanding and friendship.

If any authors need an idea for a biography project, a new biography of Mary McLeod Bethune (beyond the type typically produced for the school market) would be very welcome. Until then, Mary McLeod Bethune is your best bet for an sizeable biography of the noted educator and civil rights activist. Bethune was the daughter of enslaved African Americans and started field work when she was just five years old; as an adult, she started a private school for African-American girls and was an adviser to Franklin Roosevelt. Her long life was filled with dedicated work for students and the African-American community at large; definitely a person that needs to be rediscovered.

I often recommend Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller when patrons ask for historical fiction recommendations; as you can guess, it's a  fictionalized (and very moving) account of Anne Sullivan (Macy)'s early work with Helen Keller. Helen's Eyes is an excellent biography of Anne Sullivan; for adults wanting a remarkable and comprehensive biography of both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, you must read Helen and Teacher (sadly out of print, but we have a copy!)

Finally,  Teachers Rock is a cute and fun salute to the importance of teachers; while it's an ideal read "back to school read," the sentiment that teachers rock is 100% year round!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hispanic Heroes and Heritage: Books for National Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month (which began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968) has been celebrated since 1988; unlike most month-long observances that begin on the first of the month, Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 in honor of independence anniversaries for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (Mexico and Chile celebrate independences on 9/16 and 9/17) and ends on October 15.

When I started to make a list of my favorite children's books with Hispanic/Latino characters or dealt with Latino history, I immediately knew that I had to whittle down my list for time and space reasons. Here are my top favorite choices for Hispanic Heritage Month:

I always look forward to a new Duncan Tonatiuh book; his illustrations (based on pre-Columbian art) are always wonderfully unique, and he brings new life to aspects of Latino culture and identity. His latest, Danza! Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, focuses on the creation of Mexico's famed El Ballet Folklorico, which choreographs and performs works based on Mexican folk dance (though altered a bit, which has brought criticism and is noted by Tonatiuh). I've noticed that unlike his early books, there is no explanation about his illustration style (which I think would help newcomers to his work).

Margarita Engle's picture books and novels are often retellings of Cuban history and historical figures. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir takes a different path by relating her experiences as a young Cuban-American living in Los Angeles during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Torn between her love and concern for her family members in Cuba and her life in the States, this is a memorable and heartfelt look at what it's like to be caught between two cultures.

Esperanza Rising has become a modern classic. This compelling story of a young Mexican girl and her mother working in the California migrant camps during the Great Depression has been beloved by readers since its 2000 publication.

Did you know that a great deal of what we associate cowboy life was actually initially brought to cowboy culture by Mexican ranch hands? Over 100 years of experience rounding up cattle for wealthy Spaniards meant that they were more than well-equipped to teach the inexperienced American Westerners the finer points of cattle herding, trail life, cowboy clothes, cowboy slang and more. Russell Freedman's In the Days of the Vaqueros: America's First True Cowboys is an eye-opening examination of the debt cowboy culture has to the vaqueros.

Recently, we've been enriched by a slew of children's books about luchadores! Luchadores, if you're not familiar with them, are Mexican wrestlers who wear elaborate costumes and create multi-detailed characters. If you need a counting book that stands apart from the counting books crowd, The Great and Mighty Nikko is one for you. Nikko wrestles luchadores jumping on his bed, while counting (now, that's talent)! Other awesome lucha libre (the wrestling style that they use) are Nino Wrestles the World, Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask, and Lucia the Luchadora.

The first Latino inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is richly celebrated and remembered in Jonah Winter's Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates. "The Great One" brought two World Series wins to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but his life was tragically cut short in a plane crash while en route to help Nicaragua with earthquake recovery. Every year, Major League Baseball presents the Roberto Clemente award to the player who has demonstrated exemplary community service, and Roberto Clemente Day is celebrated every year, with the Pirates players engaging in community work (and Clemente's wife and children often in attendance for the festivities). This is a endearing study of one of baseball's greatest athletes and humanitarians.

Lowriders in Space is a very goofy and quirky graphic novel series opener, but it's tons of fun. Not only are Spanish words and phrases sprinkled and translated throughout the story (along with science facts!), but it's  a colorful look at the lowrider culture that was popular in California and Mexico during the 1950s. This is pure entertainment.

On the other hand, Lucky Broken Girl is a serious, occasionally heartbreaking, heartfelt tale based on the author's own childhood experience of being bedridden after a major accident. 5th grader Ruthie's life is turned upside down after she survives a car accident that forces her to be in a body cast for the remainder of the year. During this time, she endures friendship issues, conflicts with her mother, and her fears of failure during physical therapy exercises designed to literally get her back on her feet. Set in 1960s New York, Ruthie is of Cuban-Jewish heritage (her grandparents fled Europe for Cuba) and is a realistic, sometimes exasperating, but wholly believable character.

For more information on National Hispanic Heritage Month, check out the official site.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, September 18, 2017

We the People: Books for Constitution Week

Do you remember taking a civics class? Learning about the branches and duties of government? Watching "I'm Just a Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock? If so, it's likely that younger generations do not. In fact, a 2016 comprehensive study of recent college graduates found that:

-Only 20.6% were able to identify James Madison as the "Father of Our Constitition." (Most named Thomas Jefferson--clearly mixing up the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution.)

-Half of college graduates could not explain how the Constitution is amended.

-Nearly half incorrectly stated the term lengths of senators and representatives (Article 1, Section 1-2).

(As a contrast, 76.7% of college graduates over the age of 65 knew how the Constitution is amended.)

With Constitution Week approaching, there's no better time to study our Constitution and to teach its value and importance to young citizens. The Daughters of the American Revolution have celebrated Constitution Week since 1956, as an effort to emphasize civic responsibility and pride. We have many outstanding books for young American readers to instill knowledge and pride in our great living document:

Granted, the Constitution is not the easiest (or most interesting) read. Luckily, Constitution Translated for Kids is a top-notch choice for learning about our Constitutional rights.

Yes, you know that James Madison was the architect of the Constitution, but can you name any other signers other than Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin? The Founders: The 39 Stories Behind the U.S. Constitution reveals the long and drawn out fight to create and ratify the original Constitution.

Jonah Winter's picture book biographies are always fun and informative reads (hoping for a Lou Gehrig biography from him!) The Founding Fathers! Those Horse-Ridin', Fiddle-Playin', Book-Readin', Gun-Totin' Gentlemen Who Started America is a slightly irreverant take on the men who shaped our nation, specifically focused on the drawn-out battle to create our Constitution.

The "If You Were There" series is classic nonfiction (I remember reading them!), and still a worthy resource. If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution presents the basic facts and intriguing details in a fun-to-read question and answer format.

Russell Freedman is a giant in children's nonfiction; winner of the 1988 Newbery Medal book Lincoln: A Photobiography, he continues to create unforgettable history reads.   In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America's Bill of Rights is an eye-opening and thorough account of the tension-filled creation of the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments), as well as challenges to the Bill of Rights over time.

Kathleen Krull is another great in children's nonfiction; she recently updated her A Kids' Guide to America's Bill of Rights for a new generation.

Shhh! We're Writing the Constitution is another classic in children's nonfiction.

If you want to read the original constitution, try The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation. Created in a graphic novel format, it's a great choice for middle school students and higher.

Lynne Cheney, the former Second Lady of the United States, has made a post-White House career of writing children's books on American historyWe the People: The Story of Our Constitution is a picture-book length (30 pages) look at the delegation that formed the original Constitution.


Benjamin Franklin is inarguably one of our most fascinating and colorful characters in American history (and unique among the Founding Fathers in that he is the only person to have signed the three major documents that formed American independence: The Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Paris, and the Constitution). Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin is a vibrant tribute to this unique man, complete with actual quotes.

Jean Fritz's James Madison: Father of the Constitution continues to be a memorable read about the "Father of Our Constitution" and the fourth president of the United States.

Don't feel like tackling Ron Chernow's massive Alexander Hamilton biography (I admit I'm looking a little askance at his enormous Ulysses S. Grant book coming out in October, but still can't wait to read it!)? I recently finished Teri Kanefield's impressive Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America, perfect for those wanting a more substantial read than our other Alexander Hamilton books for children.

For online information about the Constitution:

Congress for Kids

U.S. Constitution for Kids 

Constitution Facts is not designed for children, but it's a great resource for middle school students and older (and includes fun quizzes as well, including one that tells you which founding father you would vote for!).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library