More Toddler Favorites

About a year ago, I shared some of my favorite books for reading aloud to toddlers. If you want to read that blog again, click here . That time around, I was looking for titles that I had read over and over (as toddlers like to do).  Since then, I have come across more books that have gone over well with toddlers that I would like to share.  They aren't all necessarily new, but were new to me.

Be sure to try Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell. This book appeals to tiny tykes' love of waving hello and good-bye. Readers are encouraged to wave to babies passing by in the illustrations, who ride in wagons, rest in backpacks and so on. So simple, yet so inviting of active participation.  These are some cute babies!

Another book with a simple, yet satisfying concept is Hooray for Hat by Brian Won. Grumpy Elephant is so cheered by a surprise gift of a box of hats on his doorstep that he ends up sharing them one-by-one with a succession of his similarly grumpy friends. Readers can join in by exclaiming, "Hooray for Hat!"

Let me just say flat-out that I think Mo Willems is a comic genius. He has written best-selling picture books (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny) and readers ( the Elephant and Piggie books). He has also started a series for the youngest readers: the Cat the Cat books. The first is called Cat the Cat, Who is That?  In Cat the Cat's world, everyone has a name that reflects who they are: Cat the Cat, Mouse the Mouse, etc. Not only that, everyone is her friend, even the mysterious critter who says "Blarggie! Blarggie!"  Every one of the books in the series has a humorous twist. For example, in Let's Say HI to Friends Who Fly all the friends are sure Rhino the Rhino can't fly -- until he shows up in an airplane!

Karen Katz is a prolific author whose many books are geared to toddlers. Here's one of her newer titles: Now I'm Big! A number of children with Katz's signature large round heads, stubby arms and cheerful wardrobes list all of the things they can do now that they are not babies any more.  Best of all, now they can help their baby brothers and sisters.

If you have any favorite books for toddlers, please list them in the comments below. We want to keep our youngest readers happy!


Every Choice Has A Price

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn, translated by Y. Maudet, is a short novel about teenage sisters living in a Muslim community in France. Sohane and Djelila are very close until they reach high school. Since they are the second generation born in France, their parents allow many liberties customarily not permitted in a Muslim household. Sohane embraces Muslim traditions. In contrast, Djelila elects to become secular which allows her to dress as she wants and socialize with her non-Muslim friends. Because of her choices, a local Muslim gang bullies Djelila. Sohane dislikes her sister’s decisions so she watches on as the bullying continues; hoping Djelila will learn a lesson. Conversely, when Sohane publicly pronounces her religion by wearing a scarf, her school expels her when she refuses to remove the scarf. Djelila may not agree with her sister’s beliefs, but she supports Sohane’s pursuit to express her individuality.
The simple prose is in Sohane’s voice, following her train of thought as the chapters alternate between past and present events. This heartbreaking story raises the issues of freedom of religion and expression, individual values, family relations, feminism, guilt, grief, morality and what it is like to be a Muslim woman in a secular society. Seemingly torn from the headlines, this book is ripe for a thought provoking discussion in any book club.


Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book month! Join us in celebrating this month-long celebration of picture books. How many picture books will you read this month? 

Picture books are essential for early literacy. The best way to help children get ready to read on their own is for children and their families to read together! Reading picture books aloud to your child teaches them concepts such as, print awareness, letter knowledge and print motivation. Learning to recognize letters, hold a book and follow words on a page are all skills that will help your child get ready to read on their own as well as help instill a lifelong love of reading.


There are many ways to find picture books you and your children might like to read. One option is to search the OC Public Libraries’ catalog and utilize the “power search” option. Under power search, locate the “Reading Level” tab and select Children’s Primary Fiction. You can then search all the OC Public Libraries branches for books or limit your search to an individual branch of your choosing. This is a great way to search if you just want to browse picture books. You may find your next favorite picture book!

Another option is to use Book Talk as a resource to find great picture books recommended by OC Public Libraries’ staff. Look to the right side of your screen and you will see the subject tags in the margin. Locate the Read Aloud Picture Books link. Click this link and view all the Book Talk posts about picture books! There are a lot because we love picture books and are so excited to share them and recommend them!

There are many other great ways to find picture books. Each year the prestigious Caldecott Medal is awarded and honors the artist of one exceptional children’s picture book. The Caldecott Medal was first awarded in 1938 and you can find the entire list of award winners from 1938 through the present on the OC Public Libraries’ website. Some of my favorite Caldecott winners include, This is Not My Hat, Lon Po Po, The Polar Express, and Where the Wild Things Are. In honor of Picture Book Month, take a look at this list and find your favorite Caldecott winner!

Each year the publication School Library Journal puts out a best picture books list. Take a look at the SLJ Best Books 2013 Picture Books and keep an eye out for the upcoming 2014 list. The editors of School Library Journal who select the books on the list describe this list of picture books as being the year’s “best of the best”. The Picture Book Month website has lists of picture book authors and illustrators along with a variety of information and literature about the importance of picture books. This site also has a variety of fun activities for children, families, and teachers. Take a look at this website to learn more about Picture Book Month.

Don’t forget! You can always visit or call one of your OC Public Libraries branches and ask for a picture book recommendation. We all have our favorite picture books and are happy to share. Think of the month of November as a special time to devote to gobbling up these beautiful books. Let’s all celebrate Picture Book Month!


Halloween Reads for Little Ones, Kids & Middle Schoolers

It’s that wonderfully spooky time of year again!  We wanted to share with you a sampling of the many great and recent Halloween-themed books and ghost stories for youth which you can check out at OC Public Libraries.  We’ve got fun picture books for young ones, more-giggly-than-scary “beginning readers” for children learning how to read, thrilling tales for school-age children and slightly to quite scary novels for middle schoolers.  All treats, no tricks -- we promise!

PICTURE BOOKS (Toddlers through Grade 2)

Black and Bittern Was Night by Robert Heidbreder
When skeletons take over a small town, the grown-ups call off trick-or-treating, but the kids in town vow to save the day.

In this Halloween countdown book, ten orange pumpkins are each carried off by a witch, a ghost, a spider, and other Halloween creatures until there's just one.

Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Dog and Bear are back in three new stories, all with a Halloween theme.  This book is part of a series.

BEGINNING READERS (Preschool through Grade 3)

Katy Duck’s Happy Halloween by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Katy Duck is excited about Halloween…until she sees Alice Duck dressed up in a shimmery, glimmery outfit.  But with a little help from Alice and Ralph, Katy realizes that her costume is still very special.  And besides, she can be shimmery and glimmery next year. This book is part of a series.

When Petal admits that Halloween is too spooky for her, Poppy helps her understand that it's all pretend.  This book is a part of a series.

As Halloween nears, Captain Awesome and Nacho Cheese Man set out to protect Sunnyview from monsters.  But when they encounter what may be a real haunted house, they suddenly remember that they have homework to do.  This book is a part of a series.


Home Sweet Horror by James Preller
After the death of his mother, eight-year-old Liam and his father and sister move to a new house for a fresh start.  However, Liam soon discovers that the house is haunted.

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
Lockwood & Company are hired to investigate Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead.  Meanwhile, Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in a ghost jar. This book is the sequel to The Screaming Staircase.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
When Miss Lana accidentally buys a haunted inn at the Tupelo Landing town auction, the Desperado Detectives agency -- a.k.a. Mo LoBeau and her best friend Dale -- opens up a paranormal division to figure out the ghost's identity before the town's big 250th anniversary bash.   This book is the sequel to Three Times Lucky.


Irish orphans Molly, fourteen, and Kip, ten, travel to England to work as servants in a crumbling manor house where nothing is quite what it seems to be.  Soon the siblings are confronted by a mysterious stranger and the secrets of the cursed house.  This book is the sequel to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.

Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones
In Victorian London, an undertaker's son can see ghosts and is haunted by their constant demands for attention.  He must decide whether to help when a horrible disease imprisons ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living.

In a seaside New England town in the 1920s, twelve-year-old Clare finds refuge from the cruelty of her society friends in a mysterious glass house.  The house is also inhabited by Jack, a charming and playful ghost who cannot remember his real name or how he died.


7 Days of Transformative Teen Reads

Teen Read Week

To kick off Teen Read Week, a nationwide initiative encouraging teens to read and visit libraries more, here are seven teen titles recommended for all ages (one for each day of the week, and an extra title in case you run out) featuring enterprising, unconventional, and interesting young people, who hopefully will inspire you to stand up, to speak up, to be unafraid of change, to be yourself.

If you enjoyed Looking For Alaska (or any John Green book for that matter), you’ll like at least one of these titles. Especially since one of them is by John Green!  See what I did there?

The Carrie Diaries, by Candace Bushnell, follows the high school exploits of a teenage Carrie Bradshaw, and serves as an engaging and tantalizingly familiar origin story for Bushnell’s popular character of broadcast fame. Beginning her senior year of high school, Carrie is at a crossroads (as all teens find themselves), conflicted between the future her father has planned for her or following her dreams of living in the Big Apple as a writer. At a time when everyone else around her seems obsessed with more trivial pursuits, Carrie is determined to rise above that. If only those trivial pursuits didn’t come wrapped up as cute boys, needy friends, and high school arch-nemeses.

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, is one of my all-time favorite coming of age stories, one that I think just about anyone would enjoy. Wonderfully written, it’s filled with clever humor, real heart and the surprising thoughtfulness of all great novels for young people. Holling Hoodhood is convinced that Mrs. Baker hates him, not the least because he’s the lone Presbyterian in a school filled with Catholic and Jewish students, his Wednesday afternoons spent in manual labor under her supervision while everyone else is off learning religion. After particular incidents spark Mrs. Baker's realization that Holling isn’t quite the hoodlum he appears to be, those labors, with the help of Shakespeare, become lessons on life, love, family, and the intricacies of human folly, both antique and modern.

And check out the sort-of sequel called Okay For Now, which follows one of Holling’s friends, another boy of surprising contrasts named Doug Swieteck, who discovers his own strengths and talents when his family moves to a new city.

What if you didn’t like who you’d become? What if you regretted the choices you’d made leading up to where you are now, like your eating habits (or lack thereof), your dating choices (great-looking but shallow), and your plans for your future (ew, really?). Then one day, you wake up in an ambulance and your memories of the past few years pretty much cut off right before you hit puberty? Welcome to the life of Naomi Porter, high school junior and teenage amnesiac. Enjoyably insightful, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac examines the choices of a teen who is given a second chance, but one with all the consequences those kinds of second beginnings rarely explore. Like how to deal with the discovery that your parents are now divorced AND remarried, you’re one of the popular mean girls at school, AND you dress like one, too!  Naomi has a lot of catching up to do, and maybe…. a lot of changes to make.

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green, follows Colin Singleton, anagram aficionado, mathematical prodigy and aspiring genius, whose nineteenth endeavor in love has ended unhappily, with a girl named (same as the eighteen girls before her) Katherine. At the urgings of his best friend, the funny and Judge Judy-obsessed Hasan, the teens take to the road, in part to help Colin get over his break-up with Katherine XIX a.k.a. Katherine the Great, and to help Colin find his Eureka moment, that thing that will help him finally achieve genius-hood, in particular his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Probability, which will predict the future of a relationship between two people. His calculations become a tiny bit more complicated with the introduction of non-Katherine variable, Lindsey, and her boyfriend, Colin, or as our protagonist and his friend dub him, TOC, “The other Colin.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is just as curious and evocative as the title, with a main character who is as interesting and endearing as he is odd and true-to-life. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Bone is a true fan of master observer Sherlock Holmes, an expert mathematician who can calculate prime numbers up to 7, 057, and he doesn’t like to be touched. And colors, those affect him like physical stimuli (don’t even get started with the color yellow). When his neighbor’s dog is found, dead in the garden with a kitchen utensil sticking out of it, and Christopher is initially blamed for it, he takes it upon himself to find the true culprit, a mystery case that will test not only his social skills (what few he has), but any skills really concerning the big world beyond his front door, leading him to uncover things, both terrifying and wonderful, that he never would have otherwise.

For a more comprehensive review, click here.

And another related read that I found particularly stellar, with a character similar to, yet very different from, Christopher, is Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork, whose main character, Marcelo (of course), a teen who hears music that no one else can hear, finds how he fits into the world that everyone else expects him to be a part of, the one that he has such a hard time relating to.

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, is another one of those books that I think should be a classic in young adult literature. Seen through the eyes of a high school boy named Leo, we’re introduced to newcomer Susan Caraway, or Stargirl, as she introduces herself, as delightfully unconventional and quirky as her self-given name. The entire school, steadfast conformists all, are taken aback at Stargirl’s enthusiastic disregard for popular opinion: she wears the unlikeliest clothes (from kimonos to buckskin to flapper-era wear), she sings Happy Birthday for people she doesn’t know (accompanied by an ukulele), and she cheers for both teams at sporting events, among many other things. First Leo, then the rest of the school body, find themselves enamored of this lone-drum marcher, and not a little changed, while Stargirl herself begins shifting polarities, but none of those things come without their own consequences, good and bad.

Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website to reserve a copy today!

For more information on Teen Read Week, visit the official site here.  Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).