Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’


Stop That Yawn!

by Casey Maynard on January 18th, 2019

Stop That Yawn! The last of ICPL’s 2019 Mock Caldecott titles is “Stop that Yawn”, written by Caron Levis and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. From the outset of this title it is clear that this is not your ordinary, quiet bedtime tale.

Gabby Wild’s story starts on the endsheets with her leaning out a window crashing cymbals into a dark and sleepy urban night. Gabby begs Granny to take her “somewhere a-wake” so they head to Never Sleeping City in a plane made out of Gabby’s bed. Once there, Gabby and Granny set out to stay up all night, but even these best laid plans go awry when Granny lets out a large “YAWN” which sets off a chain reaction through the city. From here we move through panel after panel of Gabby and Granny trying to contain the yawn as it spreads through the city, causing its residents to fall asleep.

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Dreamers

by Casey Maynard on January 4th, 2019

DreamersThis week’s mock Caldecott title is Yuyi Morales’s “Dreamers”. Part memoir, part ode to reading, books, and libraries–I’ve been casually referring to this one with other staff as ‘medal bait’ with good reason. In telling us her own immigration story, Morales reveals the power that stories, libraries as institutions, and librarians as people have to impact our communities and the world in meaningful ways. And she does so resplendently.

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The Best Books I Read in 2018

by Anne Wilmoth on January 3rd, 2019

As a new reading year dawns, I’d like to recommend some of my favorite reads of the past year. Mind you, these are books not necessarily published in 2018, but all are books that I eagerly devoured during 2018.

Adult books: 38 nonfiction; 29 fiction

Juvenile/YA books: 3 nonfiction; 44 fiction

Total: 114

Because it’s impossible to judge adult and children’s books on the same plane, I have to enthuse about my favorites in each category.

Top 5 Adult Fiction I Read This Year:

ThumbnailNine Perfect StrangersLiane Moriarty (2018)

In Moriarty’s newest book, nine strangers meet on a remote Australian health retreat. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different guest, and we learn incrementally about the background of each and their reasons for joining the retreat. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and then becomes creepy – Moriarty is a master of the slow-building thriller. Events become more and more outlandish as the plot builds but in a completely delicious way. The ending is a little weak but by that point you don’t care because the roller coaster has been so exciting.

ThumbnailEligible Curtis Sittenfeld (2016)

I feel defensive of this book because I don’t want people to dismiss it as fluffy “chick lit.” The cover image doesn’t help, but please believe me when I say that Sittenfeld has some of the most sharp, incisive, crisp (and hilarious) writing you’ll ever read here. (If a man writes a book about relationships, it’s taken for granted as valuable literature appropriate for the edification of all, whereas if a woman writes about relationships, it’s frivolous, idiotic “chick lit” that would only appeal to other women [i.e., no one important]…okay, that’s a whole other blog post.) Anyway, this is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, in which the five single, adult Bennet sisters return to their childhood home in Ohio after their father’s health scare and their mother obsesses about marrying them off.

ThumbnailThe Underground RailroadColson Whitehead (2016)

Despite the fact that this book won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick, I was skeptical when I heard that in this book, the Underground Railroad is a real, literal train operating underneath the ground. BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE MAGICAL REALISM. However, I gave it a try anyway, and I was so glad I did, because my mind was absolutely blown by this book. Protagonist Cora endures unthinkable suffering in bondage before her daring escape North, state by state, on the Underground Railroad, launching a twist-filled, page-turning narrative (and the train thing just works). It’s difficult to read, to say the least, but the sanitized version of slavery that fills school history books is not enough to understand our American legacy.

ThumbnailClock DanceAnne Tyler (2018)

Tyler has written 22 novels, but this is the first of hers I’d ever read. This book’s protagonist is Willa, and the book is divided into four sections that describe the four defining periods of her life. In the final section, her son’s ex-girlfriend (who Willa barely knows) is temporarily sidelined with an injury and Willa ends up moving in with the ex-girlfriend and her young daughter in an unfamiliar city. Tyler’s style is fairly understated, in that the details are richly observed, the characters are deeply developed, and the reader is left to largely draw her own conclusions. Some conclusions: women’s choices have been constrained in different ways throughout history; women have been taught to be quiet and not make a fuss about anything; in the modern world, you might have to actively create your own community.

ThumbnailMrs. FletcherTom Perrotta (2017)

In case you haven’t noticed, I like female-driven fiction. In this book, Eve Fletcher is a middle-aged single mother of one son. When he leaves for college, Eve is at loose ends. Then she experiences something of a sexual reawakening when she receives an anonymous late-night “sext,” at the same time she is trying to decide how to address her son’s casual misogyny. Her fixation on this digital overture begins to affect other areas of her life – this book is filled with ethical dilemmas and has much to say that is timely and relevant about gender relations and expectations.

Top 5 Adult Nonfiction:

ThumbnailNomadland: Surviving America in the 21st CenturyJessica Bruder (2017)

You know how you see older adults rambling down the highways of America in their RVs, and you think they’re taking it easy now that they’ve retired, seeing the sights on a great road trip? Well, that might not be the case. This book describes a new, low-cost labor pool exploited by America’s corporations: transient older adults, who lost everything in the Great Recession or simply can’t afford to retire at all, who live full-time in vehicles and work as campground hosts, seasonal Amazon warehouse workers, Adventureland ride operators, or at other short-term, scattered hustles across the country, many of which offer poor working conditions. Prepare to have your eyes opened by this stunning work of investigative journalism, in which author Bruder spent months living in a camper van to document this group, hidden in plain sight.

ThumbnailStranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitMichael Finkel (2017)

This book tells the shocking true story of Christopher Knight, who unceremoniously took to the woods in 1986, when he was 20 years old, and reemerged almost three decades later. During that time, Knight lived alone, year-round, without once seeing or speaking to another human being, in the woods of Maine. Knight had no real agenda or statement to make – he just really, really preferred to be alone. So much so that he stole from nearby summer cabins and camps to survive and evaded law enforcement for thirty years. This is a fascinating account of one man’s dedication to life on his terms.

ThumbnailThe Not Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USADoug Mack (2017)

This was the first book I read in 2018, and it stuck with me the whole year. If, like me, you know nothing about America’s territories beyond a vague awareness that they exist, you will find this book incredibly enlightening. There is a section dedicated to each of America’s five inhabited territories, and interesting facts abound – for example, I didn’t know American Samoa has the highest rate of military enlistment of any U.S. state or territory. (This is despite the fact that those born in American Samoa, unlike those born in any of the other five inhabited territories, are considered U.S. nationals, not U.S. citizens). This book is written as an exciting travelogue, as Mack travels to each territory and writes about the culture, landscape, and history of each location.

ThumbnailSmall Animals: Parenthood in the Age of FearKim Brooks (2018)

It all started when Brooks ran briefly into a suburban Target and left her three-year-old son alone in the car. After she was arrested and battling child-endangerment charges, Brooks began researching the modern-day hysteria surrounding child safety. (Spoiler alert: kids have a literally one-in-a-million chance of being snatched by a stranger off the street.) Brooks, self-deprecatingly and with humor, examines how parenting has changed over the years and the role fear plays in modern parenting.

 

ThumbnailNorthland: A 4,000 Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten BorderPorter Fox (2018)

Fox travels by canoe, car, foot, and steamship along the longest land border between two countries in all the world: the border between the U.S. and Canada. Along the way, Fox examines the history of the border region, including the indigenous peoples and European exploration; how climate change has affected the Great Lakes region; the political climate’s influence on borderlands; and the modern culture of those who live along the border. Fun fact: though the vast majority of American resources go to protecting our border with Mexico, the only two known terrorists who have crossed overland into America have come in from Canada. Also, Fox lovingly describes the breathtaking landscapes so you’ll want to go canoe and camp in the Boundary Waters immediately.

Top 5 Juvenile/YA Fiction:

ThumbnailThe Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 Christopher Paul Curtis (1995)

I have never laughed so hard while reading a book! This multi-award-winning book by autoworker-turned-author Curtis describes one summer in the life of 10-year-old Kenny, a kid tortured by his teenage brother Byron, who is an “official juvenile delinquent” in early-1960s Flint, Michigan. In an attempt to straighten Byron out, the Watsons embark on a road trip to Alabama to visit an intimidating older relation. Some poignant moments hint at what’s to come, but the stunning ending will take your breath away.

 

ThumbnailLong Way Down Jason Reynolds (2017)

In another multi-award-winner, Will’s older brother is shot and killed in an act of gang-related violence, and Will, consumed by with shock and grief, grabs his brother’s gun from their home and goes to avenge his death. However, on the elevator ride down from their apartment to the street, the elevator begins stopping at every floor to admit the ghost of a person from Will’s life who was killed previously by gun violence. They all have a story to tell that influences Will’s understanding of the code of the streets by which he’s always abided – in the end, what will Will choose to do? This book is written in staccato verse, takes place over just 60 seconds, and will leave you reeling. A good choice for reluctant readers, as it can be read quickly and the story is extremely compelling.

ThumbnailMidnight Without a MoonLinda Williams Jackson (2017)

This work of historical fiction describes a summer in the life of Rose Lee Carter, who lives a harsh existence with her grandparents on a sharecropper plantation in Mississippi in 1955. When Emmett Till is murdered nearby, fear and anger reverberate through the community, ultimately leading to some hard choices for Rose Lee. What I enjoyed most about this book are the fully-developed, multi-faceted characters, the nuanced – never simplistic – portrayal of conditions in the American South in this period, and the bold dialogue.

 

ThumbnailThree Times LuckySheila Turnage (2012)

Strong female protagonist Moses LeBeau, a “rising sixth grader” in the tiny town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, has a mystery to solve. When a local eccentric turns up dead, Mo and her best friend Dale (named after Dale Earnhardt), find themselves evading a smooth-talking, out-of-town lawman while they attempt to pinpoint the killer themselves. Mo’s own existence is something of a mystery, seeing as she washed ashore in a hurricane and is being raised by two more eccentrics, who own the local cafe. Mo’s Southern voice is delightful here, and wisdom and wit fill every page (“I’m Baptist. So far, Fast or Never is the only speeds I got with forgiving.”) The book is funny, and the suspenseful mystery keeps the pages turning.

ThumbnailA Case in Any CaseUlf Nilsson (2016)

I don’t know why, but any children’s book translated from the Swedish is a pure delight, and this book is no exception. The third in a series (the first two were just as good), lovable curmudgeon Detective Gordon (a frog) and his deputy Detective Buffy  Then, when two mouse children go missing during a class outing, Gordon and Buffy must find them! A sweet and gentle mystery perfect for reading aloud to children ages three and up, this book is so cute and funny that I had to read certain bits over several times, just to let the pleasure sink in. (“It was all the forest children from the kindergarten on an expedition. Buffy saluted the teacher mouse at the front of the line. The children all wore flowery tops and backpacks.”) The messages of kindness, community, and looking out for one another were welcome, too.

Happy reading! Did you have a reading goal in 2018? What were some of your favorites?

The Stuff of Stars

by Casey Maynard on December 28th, 2018

The Stuff of Stars This week’s Mock Caldecott title is “The Stuff of Stars” written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner and Coretta Scott King Award recipient, Ekua Holmes. In short, this is a book about the birth of the universe, told through verse and hand-marbled paper collages. The simplicity of the text paired with the elegant humility of the marbled collages transform this from a scientific story about the birth of our universe into a timely story about that which intrinsically links humanity.

It opens “in the dark, / in the deep, deep dark” before time and space and follows “a speck [,]/ invisible as thought, weighty as God” through the big bang, the births and deaths of countless stars, the subsequent creation of planets and the evolution of life on Earth. All the while, the free verse conveys information about evolution in a concise, digestible format and Holmes’s illustrations soar. Read the rest of this entry »

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2018: CHILDREN’S – 3rd THROUGH 6th GRADE

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 24th, 2018

The Iowa City Public Library is pleased to present our favorite reads of 2018!

Employees were asked to submit the titles they read and loved this year with all nominations divided into 10 categories: fiction; young adult; children’s – babies through 2nd grade; children’s – 3rd through 6th grades; romance; mystery and thriller; science fiction/fantasy; autobiography/biography/memoir; non-fiction; and graphic novel. The only rule was that the book had to be released in 2018. Any book that was nominated by more than one staff member made our 2018 Best of the Best list.

We’ll share our Best of the Best list on the last day of 2018. Until then, here are the Library’s top children’s books for readers in 3rd through 6th grades for 2018. Keep checking back to see what made the cut in our other categories.

ICPL’S BEST CHILDREN’S – 3rd THROUGH 6th GRADE BOOKS OF 2018

  • We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • Grilled Cheese and Dragons #1 (Princess Pulverizer) by Nancy Krulik
  • The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
  • Payback on Poplar Lane by Margaret Mincks
  • Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill
  • Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renee Watson
  • The Law of Finders Keepers by Sheila Turnage
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2018: CHILDREN’S – BABIES THROUGH 2ND GRADE

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 23rd, 2018

The Iowa City Public Library is pleased to present our favorite reads of 2018!

Employees were asked to submit the titles they read and loved this year with all nominations divided into 10 categories: fiction; young adult; children’s – babies through 2nd grade; children’s – 3rd through 6th grades; romance; mystery and thriller; science fiction/fantasy; autobiography/biography/memoir; non-fiction; and graphic novel. The only rule was that the book had to be released in 2018. Any book that was nominated by more than one staff member made our 2018 Best of the Best list.

We’ll share our Best of the Best list on the last day of 2018. Until then, here are the Library’s top babies through 2nd grade books for 2018. Keep checking back to see what made the cut in our other categories.

ICPL’S BEST CHILDREN’S – BABIES THROUGH 2ND GRADE BOOKS OF 2018

  • Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
  • Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
  • I Am Enough by Grace Byers
  • Yoga Frog by Nora Carpenter
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly (A Narwhal and Jelly Book #3) by Ben Clanton
  • Petra by Marianna Coppo
  • Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan and Eric Fan
  • Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos
  • Stop That Yawn! by Caron Levis
  • A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • Lazybones by Claire Messer
  • Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies by Christian Trimmer
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
  • The Itchy Book! by LeUyen Pham and Mo Willems
  • How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? Jane Yolen

A Big Mooncake for Little Star

by Casey Maynard on December 21st, 2018

A Big Mooncake for Little Star This week’s Mock Caldecott title is Grace Lin’s, “A Big Mooncake for Little Star” . Grace Lin is a well known author and activist in the kidlit world.  She runs a site and podcast called Kidlit Women  in which she interviews prominent creators, editors and researchers about gender issues in kidlit. Most of her work revolves around Asian-American culture and it is clear through her interviews and Tedx Talk that creation, for her, has been a process of reclamation of her own heritage.

Little Star diverges from her previous endeavors artistically, and in doing so offers up a different piece of Lin’s heritage that she is reclaiming. This time, however, it’s not just for herself, but also for her own Little Star to whom she dedicates the book.

 

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Heartbeat

by Casey Maynard on December 14th, 2018

Heartbeat This week’s Mock Caldecott selection is Evan Turk’s “Heartbeat ” . In this lovely tribute to the majesty of whales, we follow an orphaned whale calf through nearly two hundred years of human development. From whale oil candles and machine gun oil to the first images of Earth from space and sound clips on the Voyager, it is no secret that these creatures have had a vast impact on our shared history.

 

 

 

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Ocean Meets Sky

by Casey Maynard on December 7th, 2018

Ocean Meets Sky  This week for ICPL’s Mock Caldecott, I’m taking a look at the Fan Brothers’ Ocean Meets Sky. This sibling duo has been featured in ICPL’s Mock Caldecott every year that we’ve had one, starting with their debut picture book, The Night Gardener. There’s a reason for this. Consistently, these brothers are producing picture books with whimsical, fantastic, and emotive narratives that also pack an illustrative punch.

There is a prolific children’s book creator who you will see referenced throughout the rest of our Mock Caldecott–Maurice Sendak. Arguably one of the best known children’s book creators of all time, multiple authors and illustrators have paid him tribute this year. His work, his studio space, and even a nib pen he used to own, will all come into play throughout the rest of our Mock Caldecott. This is not something the actual committee can discuss, but since we’re not the committee, let’s have some fun! Read the rest of this entry »

Julián is a Mermaid

by Casey Maynard on November 30th, 2018

Image result for julian is a mermaidThe next title up for review in ICPL’s 2019 Mock Caldecott is Jessica Love’s debut picture book, “Julián is a Mermaid”. Utilizing very sparse text, Love relies heavily on her lustrous illustrations for her narrative. In fact, there are only 92 words in this 32 page picture book and the story can be inferred without the text at all. From endsheet to endsheet, even including the back flap, there is not a single iota of space that has not seen narrative use for Julián’s story.

Overall, this is a journey, both real and figurative, about unconditional love and acceptance, both of ourselves and others. Abuela shows Julián that she will not only care for him, but will help him find his way no matter where it leads him.  Read the rest of this entry »