Monday, July 23, 2018

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: Books for Shark Week

As 2018 is the 30th anniversary of Shark Week, Discovery Channel is planning lots of fun new shows (and bringing back some old favorites) for this year's celebration. They're also incorporating more educational aspects (especially the importance of conservation efforts) to programming, in response to recent criticism. If you're planning to tune in, here are some top-rated titles about these magnificent creatures. Although they were written for children, readers of all ages will definitely find new amazing tidbits and fun facts: 

Young independent readers ready to tackle short chapters in a nonfiction reader should pick up Hungry, Hungry Sharks. This is a basic overview of sharks, their characteristics, eating habits, and more. 
I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916  by Lauren Tarshis ; illustrated by Scott Dawson. book cover

I'm a huge fan of the I Survived series, and hope Lauren Tarshis never tires of writing them.Reluctant readers and avid readers alike devour these fast-paced historical fiction novels. I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 features the terrifying shark attacks on the New Jersey coast through the experiences of a young boy. 

If you want a sweet nonfiction read aloud, Little Shark is your best bet. Written by master informational picture book creator Anne Rockwell, this is an engaging look at shark life through the eyes of a small shark. 

On the other hand, if you want something purely fun and creative, don't miss Shark vs. Train. A shark and a train compete in various contests to decide who's the strongest of them all. 

Published in 2016, Shark Week: Everything You Need to Know is a browser's delight of all things shark related, complete with amazing photographs. Everything you ever wanted to know about sharks--from their defense mechanisms to their everyday habits--is covered. 

While modern nonfiction books about sharks usually include information about shark conservation, If Sharks Disappeared is a serious nonfiction picture book just about the importance of shark conservation.  Readers wanting more in-depth information should check out Mission Shark Rescue: All About Sharks and How to Save Them; published by National Geographic, it is a mix of intriguing information about sharks, and practical things we can all do to help sharks have a healthier enviornment. 

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting With the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands recevied a Robert F. Sibert Honor (which honors outstanding children's informational books) citation in 2014. It's a captivating look at the great white sharks that live only 26 miles from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, and the scientists that study them. 

Sharks : Nature's Perfect Hunter by Joe Flood. book cover
The creativity and ingenuity in children's nonfiction publishing is astounding; I don't know if there's been a better time for attractive, unique, and fascinating informational books for children and teens, including board books. Sharks: Nature's Perfect Hunter is one of the latest entries in the super-popular Science Comics, which presents science topics in a comics/graphic novel format. Not only does Sharks:  Nature's Perfect Hunter cover the basics in-and-outs of shark life, but it also introduces readers to various species of sharks, how they adapt to environments, and more. 

Finally, National Geographic's The Ultimate Book of Sharks is another fact-filled browsable delight of everything you would ever want to know about sharks, complete with National Geographic's legendary photographs. 

Jennifer Schultz, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, July 16, 2018

One Small Step: Books for Space Exploration Day

July 20th marks the 49th anniversary of the first manned exploration of the moon. With the anticipation for the First Man movie, and leading into the 50th anniversary celebration in 2019, there's no better time to remember or learn about this momentous event!

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong has been on my radar for years, and I'm planning to read it well before the movie comes out in October. It's supposed to be a honest exploration of the deep personal affects suffered by Armstrong (and his family) before and after the moon landing.

I love, love, love The Astronaut Wives Club (didn't see the miniseries). It's a fascinating and revealing look of the enormous pressure felt by these ladies to be 100% clean-cut, all-American wives and mothers (and the pressure on their husbands to be dashing heroes). Super fun read for those who enjoy nonfiction but don't want something depressing and weighty, but still want substance.

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon is one of my favorite children's books about the Apollo 11 project, because it celebrates the many unknowns who made the landing a success, from the seamstresses who stitched the astronauts' suits to the flight directors.

Although Katherine Johnson's work on John Glenn's Friendship 7 was the highlight of Hidden Figures, she also did important calculations for Apollo 11. You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson is an excellent introduction to this unique woman, ideal for those not old enough to read the young readers' adaptation of Hidden Figures (there's also a picture book adaption of the book for adults.

I love biographies about little-known people who made important contributions, which is why I must include Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing. Hamilton handwrote (!) code that made several lunar missions possible, including Apollo 11.

Who Was Neil Armstrong? is another fine entry in the terrific Who Was? biography series, which neatly bridges the gap between picture book biographies and lengthy biographies.

I was on the Jefferson Cup committee that named Mission Control, This is Apollo as one of the 2010 Honor books (in a very strong year!). It's gorgeously designed and has an engaging voice, which makes it a fabulous pick for independent readers and adults who want a superb overview of the mission, but don't want a lengthy read.

Buzz Aldrin: Reaching For the Moon  is a beautiful picture book memoir by Buzz Aldrin; highly recommended for patient listeners. The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins is a must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about the mission.

Jennifer Schultz, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, July 09, 2018

Recent Reads: New(ish) Titles for Summer Reading

I hope everyone has had time to enjoy some awesome summer reads. My to-be-read list constantly expands; now that I've been hired for the collection services development librarian position with Fauquier County Public Library, my reading interests will diversify even more. However, this blog will continue to have a children's literature focus for the time being. That being said, here's what I've been reading this summer:

If you luxuriate in rich storytelling with a Southern twist, you'll love The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Momma's Table. I got a bit impatient with it toward the end, but that's usually normal for me when I'm reading a 400+ page title. For the most part, this tribute to Bragg's mesmerizing, offbeat, and hardscrabble Alabama family, particularly his mother and grandparents, is an abosrbing read.

While recent Southern culinary histories (like The Potlikker Papers) have discussed the importance of African-American influences in Southern foodways, books such as The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South remain distinct and important. It recently received the prestigious James Beard award for Book of the Year (the first book authored by an African-American to do so), and is a fascinating, sorrowful, enlightening (and occasionally wandering) read. Twitty is a noted reenactor at plantations, at which he demonstrates the cooking habits of the enslaved African Americans who lived there, which makes his connection to African American southern history very personal and intimate (he also has a deep interest in his personal genealogy). Twitty packs a lot into his debut title, so be prepared to give this one some time.

I'm enthused and excited by the growth and depth of YA fiction and children's fiction by authors from Arab/Middle Eastern heritage. Author Anat Deracine grew up in Saudi Arabia, which gives Driving by Starlight  an authenticity that heightens its quality. Leenie and Mishie enjoy typical teenage girl interests--chatting about boys, school, dancing to pop music, and dreaming about their future--but their severely restricted life in Saudi Arabia means that every small step outside their rigid culture can mean severe consequences. This is a revealing and heartfelt look at a society that is little known to most American readers.

You may be familiar with the lyrics to "God Bless America," but do you know the history behind its creation? Famed songwriter Irving Berlin, who fled anti-Semitic persecution in Russia during his childhood, created it during the dark days of World War I (and later slightly revised by Berlin during Hitler's ascendancy).  God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin is a moving tribute to this iconic American song.

I'm not an avid true crime reader, but I'll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer gripped me from the very beginning. I love it when authors reveal their personal connections/reasons for their interest in their subject(s); McNamara honestly reveals how her amateur sleuthing into the GSK case personally affected her. Whether it's justified or not, I'm wary of most true crime books because the genre can feel sensationalist to me; McNamara's sensitivity and genuine compassion for the victims and survivors of the brutal GSK read honest and true. McNamara died suddenly before she could complete her book; it was finished by her main researchers, complete with annotations and extracts from her drafts. This is a remarkable achievement. An arrest in the decades old Golden State Killer case was made several months after the book's publication.

Need more ideas? Here's what I'll be working on in the near future:

Pumpkin Spice Secrets (a newish middle-grade series that bridges the gap between children's and YA, for readers that want some boy-girl romance--and conflicts! Cute so far.)

Ali: A Life (working on an idea for a history/biography project, so working my way through biographies and histories now!)

Give Me Some Truth (I thought Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here was exceptional; this has received amazing reviews)

Rome: A History in Seven Sackings (super excited about this one; all about how seven attacks on Rome have changed the city, starting from ancient times and ending with Germany's attack in 1943).

Crazy Rich Asians (always interested in reading books from different cultures; this one has been hard to come by due to the movie, so I need to read it fast)

There There (contemporary Native American literature about twelve Native people attending their annual powwow; eager to read this, as are other patrons, so will finish this soon)

Jennifer Schultz, Collection Services Development Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Monday, June 25, 2018

GOOOOOOAAAALL: Books for Soccer Fans

Have you caught World Cup fever? Judging from the soccer books carried out our libraries, our patrons definitely have! No matter who you are rooting for, we have lots of outstanding soccer titles for our young patrons:

Soccer is exciting to watch, but the rules can be confusing. National Geographic Kids's Absolute Expert: Soccer is packed with the ins and outs of the "beautiful game," plus fun trivia and more.

Poor Betty Bunny. She's so disappointed after losing her first soccer game that she wants to quit! Luckily, her parents convince her to keep trying and to appreciate the fun of the sport. Betty Bunny Wants a Goal is part of a funny and cute series about a preschool-age bunny who learns important life lessons (without being too condescending).

We received The Field  several months ago, and it's already one of my favorite picture books of the year. This simple story of young children (in Saint Lucia) playing soccer is a sweet story of friendship, teamwork, and the universality of the game. Creole words are included throughout the narrative.

I don't know much about soccer stars, but I do know some current names, such as Neymar da Silva Santos Jr and Lionel Messi. When I saw Neymar, a Soccer Dream Come True advertised several months ago, I took a chance and ordered copies for all locations, not knowing how many patrons would be interested in the Brazilian soccer star. I'm definitely glad I did, because all three copies have been checked out!  This highlights his hard work and determination throughout his childhood and career, making it an inspirational story for all readers.

Even if you don't follow soccer, you've surely heard of Pele, widely considered one of the greatest (if not the greatest) soccer players of all time. Told in graphic novel format, Pele, The King of Soccer not only pays tribute to his amazing athleticism, but also to his deep committment to UNICEF.  Younger readers might enjoy Young Pele: Soccer's First Star.

I love the What Is-- series (and the Who Was and Where Is series). Covering everything from the Ten Commandments to the history of rock and roll, these knockout series make learning about important events, places, and people super fun. What is the World Cup? covers everything from the basic history of the tournament, important players (including Pele), and even controversies surrounding the games.

World Team  is an awesome depiction of soccer's worldwide popularity. Children playing soccer (or dreaming about playing soccer while doing other things, such as walking to school) in the United States, Lebanon, Mexico, France, Italy, India, and other countries. While their ball and field conditions vary, they all have one big goal--of playing (and being on the winning team) for the World Cup.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Reading With Dad: Books For Father's Day

Father's Day is this Sunday, so why not take some time to read with Dad? While you're waiting for your delicious celebration lunch, fit in a picture book, a chapter or two, or even some poems about some really cool dads. 

If you're looking for a cute series set in space, pick up Archie Takes Flight (#1 in the Space Taxi series). When "Take Your Kid To Work Day" rolls around, Archie discovers that his dad has a very unusual taxi route--in space! His alien customers certainly make life more interesting, as does a unique cat, and an evil overlord plotting to take over the universe!

A Different Pond  (2018 Caldecott Honor) is one of my favorite recent Caldecott books. This father-son story captures the hard work and sacrifices of an immigrant father and his son. Bao Phi and his father are not fishing for fun in the pre-dawn hours; they are fishing for food to put on their table. While they wait patiently for the fish to nibble at their bait, his father tells him about a similar yet different pond in Vietnam.

The Favorite Daughter is one of my top favorite Allen Say stories; like his others, this is based on his family life. Yuriko is teased because of her name and her mixed heritage, which is apparent with her blonde hair and Japanese facial features. When she tells her father that she wants to change her name, he patiently and lovingly helps her realize her special qualities and heritage.

Short science fiction (ish) novels can be hard to come by, which is why I enjoy Fortunately, The Milk so much. When a father heads out on an ordinary day to get milk for the family's cereal, he is suddenly kidnapped by aliens and taken onto a wild travel through space! (Or he is just telling a tale?)

Poetry collections are awesome additions to a nightly bedtime read aloud ritual, so why not mark Father's Day with My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads? Each poem captures a different father, drawn from different situations and ethnicities.

I grew up loving the Ramona book by Beverly Cleary, and have reread them a number of times in my adulthood (rereading childhood favorites can be a dangerous thing!). Ramona and Her Father  (1978 Newbery Honor) is probably my favorite one, and remains rather contemporary and timeless in its depiction of a parent's unemployment on a family (especially around Christmas time).

Tell Me a Tattoo Story  was one of the sweetest and most memorable reads from 2016. There's not much action: it basically consists of a father telling his son about the significance of his tattoos. The bond between the dad and his son is tender and universal, with the father's elaborate tattoos making it unique.

Happy Father's Day!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Monday, June 04, 2018

Summer Reading 2018: Calling All Cowgirls and Cowboys!

We are getting ready for another fun-filled summer at Fauquier County libraries! We are kicking off our "Reading Takes You Everywhere" summer reading program with a return visit from The Singing Cowgirl! Join us at your favorite Fauquier County Public Library on Saturday, June 9 to enjoy a feet-stompin' salute to cowgirls and cowboys of yesteryear and today.

Sleeping Bear Press's numerous alphabet books are excellent for multi-level learning. The basis of each book consists of rhymes (some, admittedly, better than others) about aspects of the book's topic. Sidebar information contains fun facts to maintain the interest of older listeners/readers. B is for Buckaroo: A Cowboy Alphabet introduces readers to the ins and outs of life on the range.

Nat Love was one of the most famous African-American cowboys during the western expansion era. Born into slavery, he was regarded as an expert shot and wrangler.   Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love presents his exciting life in graphic novel format.

Buster's owner is away for a few days, so he sends him off to cowboy camp. Buster misses home, but his homesickness is soon cured by the super cool camp activities such as herding balls, gathering sticks for the campfire, and so much more! Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp is not just a cute "cowdog" story, but also a great read for a camping trip.

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa is one of my favorite easy reader series. Cowgirl Kate and her horse, Cocoa, are best friends. Whether they are counting cows, crossing the range, or just enjoying stories, they always have lots of fun (even when they argue).

One of my favorite titles from the late Russell Freedman is his eye-opening look at the Mexican ranch hands who taught the uninitiated American cowboys their wellhoned roping techniques, clothing styles, and even their slang.  In the Days of the Vaqueros: America's First True Cowboys is a fantastic read for those wanting to learn more about the western expansion era.

When students need a historical fiction recommendation, I often bring them to the "My Name is America" section. These short novels (many under 200 pages) feature a fictional child living through a specific historical moment. The Journal of Joshua Loper: A Black Cowboy follows sixteen year old Joshua, a rookie cowboy, dealing with the uncertainties of cowboy life and a tough boss.

We are looking forward to another great summer!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Summer Reading: New Books to Kick off the Summer

YOU GUYS. We have so many amazing books coming our way that it's unreal. With Memorial Day and summer vacation coming up, I hope you and yours have a reading-filled summer planned! If you're looking for some outstanding titles to add to your to-be-read list, keep reading:

Children's Books

Front Desk has received fabulous reviews and a ton of buzz on Twitter, so I'm looking forward to reading this story about a young Chinese-American girl and her family's hotel.

I loved Amina's Voice, so I cannot wait to read her series opener, Power Forward, about fourth grader Zayd's love for basketball (and his plan to be the first Pakistani-American in the NBA).

Sci-Fu U has been a hit at our branches ever since we received our copies; this graphic novel series combines 1980s hip hop, robot aliens, and martial arts into a super-fun story.

This year's Shark Week (30th anniversary!) begins July 22, so I know Science Comics: Sharks will be one of our hottest titles this summer! The Science Comics series has been one of my favorite additions to our children's nonfiction collection; every one has been a top hit.

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School sounds so sweet; to find out exactly what is causing their beloved human Stewart's anxiety, they decide to impersonate as a new student in order to investigate what's bothering him at school.


I am up to my eyeballs in YA fantasy featuring teen princesses/teen queens, but our YA fans can't get enough of them! Ash Princess features a teen princess captive in her own palace after her country is invaded and her mother is murdered; it's received very good reviews.

Bethany Hamilton's latest inspirational book, Be Unstoppable and Unsinkable: Moments, Milestones, And Medals, should be a popular read with her fans. It's a companion to her documentary, which should definitely spark interest.

Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here is one of my favorite YA historical fiction novels, so Give Me Some Truth is definitely high on my TBR list. Although it also takes place on the Tuscarora reservation in the decade after If I Ever Get Out of Here, this involves new characters who are also finding their way as Native teens in a community that has to face tensions with the surrounding Caucasian community in the area. Pop music was a major part of the first novel, and it appears to be the same with this one. Favorable reviews and lots of Twitter excitement precede this one; Gansworth is a much needed voice in YA fiction.

If you're looking for an addicting and romantic YA fantasy, check out CaravalLegendary is its sequel, also set in the strange audience-participation game show.

We received Royals right before the recent royal wedding, so it's not surprising that our copies immediately checked out. With her older sister engaged to a crown prince, 16 year old Daisy finds her life uncomfortably in the public gaze. Of course, she meets the prince's younger brother (who's just a heap of trouble), which makes her life even more complicated!

Based on the hit Youtube series Rooster's Teeth, RWBY features students at Beacon Academy training to save the world from ferocious monsters. I'm always ready for a new graphic novel series, so I have my eyes on this one!


Anything food-history related grabs my attention, especially if it features a specific community or heritage. The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South recently won the prestigious James Beard award; I've followed Michael W. Twitty on Twitter for some time and am fascinated by his work, so can't wait to dive into this one.

I have so many books checked out that I needed to finish due to other people waiting for them; as soon as I am done, I'm coming for The Cottingley Secret (provided it's available).The faked fairy pictures scandal in 1917 is one of the most fascinating stories from 20th century history; we have the superb The Fairy Ring: Or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World that readers of this book should definitely check out, but there's not been much on this geared toward adults (there was a beautiful movie made about it sometime in the early 2000s). I prefer my historical fiction to be purely historical fiction, and not time travel to the present; there are only a few that I really enjoy that do that, such as The Sandcastle Girls. However, this sounds just up my alley, so I'll deal.

I guess historical fiction about old Hollywood is becoming more of a thing; although I was resistant to it for some unknown reason, Melanie Benjamin's The Girls in the Picture has me more open to the idea (and it's a break from wars, epic family struggles, and the like). I'll admit that I know little about Laurel and Hardy other than that they were a very successful comedy team in the 1930s and 1940s;  He: A Novel intrigues me because we don't often get historical fiction that features the friendship and working (sometimes fractious) relationship between two men (which is probably why it caught my eye; I loved The Girls in the Picture for the same thing, albeit it being between two women).

Since much of my reading about dinosaurs tends to be written for preschoolers-3rd graders, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs might be a bit daunting for me, but I'm willing to give it a go. It's received amazing reviews.

Although Civil War historical fiction doesn't automatically interest me on the whole, it's another story if you tell me it's actually set in Virginia and covers the expanse of 100+ years (ending in the 1980s). A Shout in the Ruins sounds like a powerful read.

Need more ideas? Check out Wowbrary, which lets you know about books/DVDs/recorded books/ebooks that have been recently ordered (back issues are available).

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library