Monday, March 12, 2018

Healthy Habits: Books for National Nutrition Month

Making healthy eating a mainstay can be difficult at any age, much less with children who don't understand how good food fuels your body and mind. Luckily, we have a great collection of enticing books that might help!

DK is one of my top favorite publishers for children and adults; they can make any topic fun and exciting.  Are You What You Eat? A Guide to What's On Your Plate and Why! is filled with intriguing facts about food and nutrition (along with interactive quizzes), but as you can guess from the cover, it's laced with plenty of humor.

One of my favorite alphabet books (and Lois Ehlert books) is Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables From A to Z. Many varieties of fruits and vegetables are represented, from apricots to zucchini.

I love cross-cultural books; DK's Children Just Like Me series is exceptional.  Food Like Mine introduces readers to foods commonly eaten in different countries , organized by common ingredients such as rice, wheat, corn, potatoes, and "other staples" (milk, chicken, plantains, chickpeas, etc).

Growing Vegetable Soup is another gem from Lois Ehlert; like many of her other books, illustrations are notated throughout the story (tools, seeds, etc). From sowing the seeds, weeding, harvesting, washing, chopping, and finally cooking the soup, this is a fabulous illustration of food production for very young listeners.

We are experiencing an explosion of beautifully created board books made specifically for the board book market (rather than picture books squished into board book format). Jane Foster's books for infants, Jennifer Holm's new comics series, Nina Laden's interactive stories, Once Upon a World's multicultural fairy tales, the American Museum of Natural History's alphabet books, and my current obsession, Jessie Ford's "Mrs. Peanuckle's" seriesMrs. Peanuckle's Vegetable Alphabet is larger than the average board book, which makes this readily available for sharing with a group. This goes beyond your standard "A is for apple," as fiddleheads, jicama, and kale are included in this adorable read (with little facts about each vegetable or vegetable-related entry included).

There's not much story to Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant, but it's an infectiously fun read aloud celebration of vegetables, combined with April Pulley Sayre's outstanding photography (still waiting for a Caldecott Medal committee to recognize her day, perhaps!)

A rainy summer day might not be an exciting day for play, but it's a wonderful day for thirsty plants and roots! Rainbow Stew follows three children and their grandfather pick vegetables and recreate his famous "Rainbow Stew." The vibrant illustrations of grandfather's vegetable garden and his soup will make you crave a hearty bowl of soup, regardless of the weather.

Poor T. Veg. While the other dinosaurs want to eat meat all the time, he'd rather enjoy colorful carrots and other vegetables. When the other dinosaurs make fun of him, he retreats to find other like-minded dinosaurs (and also proves to the carnivorous dinosaurs that vegetables make him healthy and strong!). T. Veg: The Story of a Carrot-Crunching Dinosaur is a funny story without being too heavy-handed or preachy about vegetarianism.

The little girl in Grace Lin's charming The Ugly Vegetables wishes her mother's garden looked like the other gardens in the neighborhood, with their bright and colorful flowers. Instead, her mother's garden is filled with vegetables that are staples in Chinese cuisine, which her mother assures her are better than flowers. When her mother's delicious cooking fills the neighborhood with its tempting aroma, she is finally convinced that her mother's garden is the best on the block (as are her neighbors).

If you need a basic informational introduction to vegetables, Gail Gibbons's The Vegetables We Eat is a perfect fit (as are her other basic informational books for young readers).

Looking for cookbooks? Check out the J 641.5 section.

For more information about National Nutrition Month, go to the Academy of Nutriton and Dietetics's site about the annual observance.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Celebrating Women! Books for Women's History Month

As someone who loves reading history and biography, February and March are two of my favorite months for blogging purposes: Black History Month and Women's History Month! Here are my top favorites for learning about women from all walks of life:

Want something that's possibly the most (visually) cheerful and adorable children's book about the suffragist movement? Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten, And 10,000 Miles  is for you. Nell Richardson and Alice Burke traveled the country in their little yellow car with a typewriter, a sewing machine, a tiny kitten, and much determination to fight for women's right to vote. Along the way, they dealt with uncooperative weather, car issues, and backlash--but also people who believed in their cause.

I haven't read Before She Was Harriet (2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor recipient) yet, but this gorgeous picture book biography written in verse is next on my to-be-read list. Harriet Tubman was many names in her lifetime: as Minty, she was a young enslaved woman; as "Moses," a leader of hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad, and as General Tubman, a spy for the Union Army. Older readers would find Who Was Harriet Tubman? and Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent fascinating; Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom is a fabulous biography for adults (especially if you're only familiar with her Underground Railroad work).

Count on Us: American Women in the Military is a bit dated (2004 publication), but it's still a great overview of American women military history, starting with the Revolutionary War (time for an update, National Geographic!). If women's military history interests you, also check out Yankee Doodle Gals: Women Pilots of World War II or Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurses of World War II; adults should read Ashley's War (heartbreaking story, but one of my favorite reads in the past several years).

Duncan Tonatiuh is one of my favorite author-illustrators, so I was excited when his latest, Danza! Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico was another outstanding read. Combining elements of traditional Mexican dance, Amalia Hernandez created the famed El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico; as it is with many new artistic endeavors, there were many who did not approve. However, the company is now celebrated worldwide. Tonatiuh continues his immediately recognizable and unique illustration style modeled after Pre-Columbian art (Mixtec code).

In the late 1950s, Chinese cuisine was largely unknown outside of Chinese-American communities.  After fleeing the Communist takeover in China, Joyce Chen opened her first restaurant in Cambridge, MA, popularizing the concept of a Chinese buffet (she also promoted healthy cooking techniques and refused to use food coloring). Later, she wrote a popular cookbook and had her own show on PBS. Dumpling Dreams: How Joyce Chen Brought the Dumpling From Beijing to Cambridge  is the inspiring story of the Chinese-American immigrant who expanded other Americans' taste buds.

We just received The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science , so I haven't had a chance to read it. It's received outstanding reviews and is by one of my favorite poet-illustrators for children, Joyce Sidman. This biography of the artist who discovered and documented metamorphosis sounds fantastic; cannot wait to read it.

Collected biographies are great for quick read alouds; Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters features profiles on Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, and others, written by one of the best children's nonfiction authors writing today. Other superb collected biographies: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, The Book of Heroines: Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals, and Lives of Extraordinary Women.

I'm ready for a knockout full-length biography of Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut. In the meantime, Mae Among the Stars is an enchanting introduction to this incredible astronaut, engineer, and physician. The obstacles and discrimination that Dr. Jemison faced is only hinted at in this story; her Caucasian teacher is doubtful of her dreams of going into space. Instead, this is a moving story of Jemison's aspirations and her parents' love and support. For a very basic biography, try the recent Rookie biography. Interested in the history of women astronauts? Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream and these biographies of Sally Ride are available: Who Was Sally Ride? and Sally Ride: America's First Women in Space (adult biography). To the Stars! The First American Women to Walk in Space is a great picture book biography of Kathryn Sullivan. For general books about women scientists, try Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World  or Women Who Launched the Computer Age. Of course, don't miss the two Hidden Figures books for young readers (picture book and middle grade adaptation).

If you love A League of Their Own (raises hand), Mama Played Baseball is right up your alley. This fictionalized story of a young girl observing her mother play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is darling. Older readers would enjoy A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League .

If your reader is too young for Malala Yousafzai's memoir (or its adaptation for middle grade readers), Malala's Magic Pencil is a beautiful introduction to the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines is a poignant picture book biography of the architect most famous for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Adults interested in the full history of the long (and controversial) process of creating the memorial should check out A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, And the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial. .

Need a great biography read aloud? Nothing But Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson is one of my favorites. This vibrant biography of the first African-American to win the Wimbledon Cup is a charmer and shows the value of mentorship. Tennis fans should also check out Who Are Venus and Serena Williams? 

Not only is One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia  an inspiring selection for Women's History Month, but it's also a winning read for Earth Day! This picture book biography of the founder of the Recycling Center of N'jau not only found a way for her community to recycle plastic bags that were littering their habitats, but also created a way for local women to generate an independent income.

America's first prima ballerina was an Osage Nation member and lived on a reservation until she was eight. American ballet was at its height of popularity in the 1950s, with Tallchief's performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker and the lead in The Firebird  establishing the ballets as classics in American ballet.   Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina is a gorgeously illustrated picture book, with Tallchief's simple narrative making it an excellent read aloud for young listeners. Ballet fans should also read Traiblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, Misty Copeland's young readers adaptation of her intriguing memoir, or the recent biography of Misty Copeland for young readers.

Did you know that the first woman to solo hike the Appalachian Trail was 67 years old when she accomplished that feat? When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike is an upbeat tribute to this remarkable woman.

Adult Fiction/Nonfiction:

Want something written for adults? Here are some of my favorite reads in the past several years that would be outstanding reads for Women's History Month!

American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton

The Astronaut Wives Club

First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies

The Girls in the Picture (fabulous story from one of the best historical fiction writers out there; if you're tired of war and despair in your historical fiction, get this glam read about two superstars of the silent movie era)

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II 

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Victoria: The Queen

The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (have not read, but will soon! Cannot wait!)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Honoring the Past: Books for Black History Month

Although there's still much work to do, we are finally seeing a better variety of children's books centered on African-American history. If you're looking for reads that are unique and revealing, check out these titles. I've met many adult patrons who enjoy and learn a lot from children's nonfiction, so even if you don't have a student currently studying African-American history, these titles will educate and inspire readers of all ages!

You might remembering learning about Crispus Atticus and Phillis Wheatley in elementary school, but if that's the extent of your knowledge of African-American involvement in the Revolutionary War, don't miss Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the Revolution.  Richard Allen (founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church), Agrippa Hill (served for six years in the Revolutionary War), and many other fascinating lives are explored.

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Football Field to the Art Gallery has been one of our more popular new biographies. Ernie Barnes was an ardent artist when he was a child, but the football field beckoned. When his football career ended, he went back to his first passion--and influenced many artists along the way. This is on my to-be-read list; sounds like a fascinating read!

I am so excited that there's a picture book biography of the amazing NASA mathematicians profiled in the Hidden Figures movie (which was based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, who also authored the young readers' edition and this picture book biography). Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race will be a great introduction for readers not ready for the young readers' edition.

When the weather turns warmer, I'm planning a weekend trip to DC to visit several museums that have opened in the last few years; hopefully, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be one of them.  How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History is an enriching and detailed look at the long process of creating the museum, as well as its many treasures.

Finally, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History burned up the New York Times Bestseller list when it was released, so it's no wonder that our copies were immediately snatched up when they arrived. An exciting array of personalities such as  Harriet Tubman, Mahalia Jackson, Mae Jemison, Oprah Winfrey, and more are profiled.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, February 19, 2018

And the Winners Are...

Last Monday, the Youth Media Awards were announced at the American Library Association's Midwinter conference. Committees for the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and other awards have been reading and critiquing like mad all year long. It's an honor to serve on these committees, but it's an enormous time committment (and financial, since members have to finance conference attendance if their employers do not). You can see the full list here, but I'm just going to mention my favorites: 

Newbery Medal: Hello Universe
Newbery Honor: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut; Long Way Down; Piecing Me Together

I did not have a favorite for the Newbery this year. From reading other blogs and Twitter feeds, I know that I was not alone in that. The only one I haven't read is Long Way Down. Crown (also an Author Honor recipient for the Coretta Scott King award) was one of my favorite 2017 reads, so I'm very excited that it received so much recognition. Piecing Me Together (also the Author winner for the Coretta Scott King award) is on the older end of the Newbery eligibility (0-14); it's a fantastic middle school read. Hello, Universe is moving and memorable; definitely a worthy selection. 

Caldecott Medal: Wolf in the Snow

Caldecott Honor: Big Cat, Little Cat; Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut; A Different Pond; Grand Canyon

Excellent selections in this group! Big Cat, Little Cat was on my hopefuls for the Caldecott, so I'm excited that this sweet "circle of life" story won. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is utterly unique, fresh, and joyous: it deserved everything it received. A Different Pond is a beautiful father-son story and a tribute to the immigrant spirit. Grand Canyon is a marvelous depiction of one of our greatest national parks. Wolf in the Snow was a surprise for me; it's definitely a fun book, so not unhappy that it won. 

Geisel Award/Honor (for beginner readers/chapter books): King and Kayla is one of my new favorite beginning chapter book series, so I am thrilled that King and Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats is one of the honor titles for 2017's best beginner reader/chapter book. This mystery series featuring a girl and her dog solving mysteries is adorable (and narrated by the dog, King!)

The Sibert Medal for nonfiction titles often goes to history/science/biography books, which is why I was not expecting  Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability to be one of the honor titles! This is an eye-opening, honest, and revealing read by a charismatic author. 

Two of my favorite 2017 reads were honored by the Pura Belpre committee, which recognizes outstanding Latino/Latina authors and illustrators: Lucky Broken Girl and The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. If you want something powerful and compelling with unforgettable characters, read these two titles.

The Printz, Oh, the Printz. This award for YA literature is always difficult to predict. I've read and admired two of the honor titles: The Hate U Give (winner of the Morris Award for an outstanding debut YA title and an Author Honor for the Coretta Scott King award)) and Vincent and Theo (also the winner for YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction). 

The Schneider Family award honors books that depict "the disability experience." One of its winners, You're Welcome, Universe, is a poignant and occasionally funny YA novel about a student kicked out of her deaf school for creating a graffit mural in order to cover up an ugly slur against her friend. 

Want more award winning books? These awards will be included in next year's Youth Media Awards presentation, giving these awards more visibility! 

Asian Pacific American Library Association recognized  Saints and Misfits, Cilla-Lee Jenkins, Future Author Extraordinaire, and A Different Pond as distinguished titles by Asian/Pacfic Islander American authors. 

Association of Jewish Libraries acknowledged The Language of Angels: A Story About the Reinvention of Hebrew, Refugee, The Librarian of Auschwitz, and This is Just a Test for its Sydney Taylor award.

The American Indian Library Association named #notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women and Marrow Thieves among its recipients for the AILA Youth Literature Award.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sweet Reads: Books for Valentine's Day

With Valentine's Day just around this corner, let's look at some sweet reads to share with your favorite little valentine(s):

Alfonso wants to catch Ida's eye, but she constantly has her attention on her book. When he decides to make a cake, only the salt from the deepest sea, butter from the summer sun, and flour as delicate as snowflakes from the sky will do. Apple Cake: A Recipe of Love is a gentle, warm, and beautiful story that features an interracial couple; one of my favorites.

Blanket of Love is a unique celebration of love, symbolized by comforting and enveloping blankets: blankets of flowers, blankets of kisses, etc.

Celebrate Valentine's Day is part of the excellent National Geographic's Holidays Around the World series. Like the others in the series, it explores the history and traditions of the holiday as it is celebrated around the world.

Emma Dodd is the queen of gentle, sweet, and comforting stories about unconditional love. Forever  features a polar bear mama and her cub; her other similar stories feature animals as well.

When I did preschool story time on a regular basis, Full, Full, Full of Love was one of my standard titles for my Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day story times. It features a large family gathering for a meal at grandmother's house, full of good food, fun, and definitely hugs and kisses.

Sophia and Mrs. Goldman have been friends for a long time--ever since Mrs. Goldman knitted baby Sophia a hat to keep her warm.  Mrs. Goldman is so busy knitting hats for everyone else that she doesn't have a hat of her own! Sophia tries very hard to knit a hat, but gets discouraged with all the lumps, holes,  and missed stitches...until she gets a brilliant idea!   A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love is charming, funny, touching, and multicultural (Mrs. Goldman is Jewish; Sophia is Latina); a great choice for kindergarten and lower elementary school students.

Here Comes Valentine Cat continues Deborah Underwood's hilarious Cat series. Cat is definitely not interested in Valentine's Day and all its mushiness. Next-door-neighbor Dog constantly throws things over the fence, annoying Cat in the process...until he throws a ball! This is a tad less snarky than the other Cat books, which makes it more accessible for toddler young preschool audiences (the other Cat stories are great for K-3 students).

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? is part of Jane Yolen's super popular How Do Dinosaurs...? picture book/board book series, featuring dinosaurs demonstrating good/bad behavior. Dinosaurs show their love in different ways, from cleaning up their messes, to not roaring, and more. This series shows positive behavior without being boring or preachy, which is why it continues to be a hit!

Love Is is a gorgeous rendition of the 1 Corinthians passage, ideal for sharing with young listeners (especially if you have a Sunday School or religion class scheduled around Valentine's Day).

A Mother for Choco is one of my standard Valentine's Day read alouds. It's become an adoption classic of sorts, as Choco finds a mother that looks very different from him (with a delightful surprise at the end).

Looking for a biography about the saint for whom the holiday is named? Saint Valentine is a richly illustrated biography of the Christian martyr (Ann Tompert's biography is another good choice).

My favorite Valentine's Day story, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, is a bit too long to share with my regular story time groups; happily, all library copies are checked out, so it's well-known to our patrons. Mr. Hatch is quite the curmudgeon, which makes the fact that someone is anonymously sending him valentines quite surprising! In the process of finding out the source, Mr. Hatch extends kindness and friendship to all, which has a rippling effect. It's a sweet story without being saccharine, and its message remains timeless.

By the time this is published, the 2018 Youth Media Awards will be underway (I'll post thoughts on them the following week!). Unfortunately, due to residency requirements, Town is by the Sea  won't be one of the Caldecott winners, which is a shame. It's quiet, sophisticated, and rather lengthy, which means that it's not for everyone; however, this stunningly illustrated story about a young boy thinking about his father as he works in the coal mine is a unique gem.

If you want a nonfiction read aloud for kindergarten and lower elementary school students. Gail Gibbons's Valentine's Day Is-- is one of your best bets. Gibbons's trademark cartoon-like illustrations and succinct text makes this accessible for young learners.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library