National Library week occurs every year towards the beginning of April. I may have missed the actual celebration this year, but in my mind, we should always be celebrating the librarian, so I’ve put together a few outstanding nonfiction picture books about librarians for this week’s nonfiction picture book challenge.
One of my all time favorites is Miss Moore Thought Otherwise, by Jan Pinborough. This book tells the story of how Anne Carroll Moore created libraries for children. It is hard for children today to comprehend that we live in a world where girls are not expected to just stay home and take care of the children. It is also hard for children, and adults for that matter, to comprehend a time when children were not welcome in libraries. When librarians didn’t want kids to touch books for fear that they would hurt them (a la The Library Dragon). It was not until 1896 that the first library room designed for children was even created, and Miss Moore was given free rein to implement her ideas about how it should be run, including a pledge for kids wanting to take out books, story times, and the removal of “silence” signs. Miss Anne Moore was a major force behind publishing companies seeing the sense in publishing more books aimed at children and to make sure that they were quality books. This book is full of wonderful history about Miss Moore and about the public library system. Continue reading →
I have a deep and abiding respect for Patricia Polacco. Her books are outstandingly good and never fail to amaze me with their depth. Her stories are aimed at a slightly older audience as they tend to cover serious subjects and are wordy for picture books, but they provide wonderful learning lessons for children in the form of a story.
The most recent Patricia Polacco book that I picked up is “Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair.” This book is a ringing endorsement for reading and a warning about allowing televisions to take over the world. This book was written in 1996 and could easily be updated to be about over-use of the internet, but the whole feel is exactly the same.
How much TV is too much TV? Welcome to Triple Creek, where the townspeople watch TV day and night. They watch it when they’re eating, working, playing, and sleeping. They even use TVs to teach the kids at school. Sounds pretty horrible, and yet, sounds like the direction we have been heading with computers instead of televisions. Everyone in Triple Creek loves television. Everyone, that is, except for Eli’s Aunt Chip, who doesn’t even own one.
Everyone sees Aunt Chip as the eccentric old lady who refuses to leave her house. Apparently, well over 50 years earlier she took to her bed and vowed never to get out of it again. She constantly railed that “there will be consequences.” What consequences? Well, it turns out that Aunt Chip took to her bed when a television tower was built in the town and when they closed down the library. Since then, the people of Triple Creek have lost the knowledge of how to read and instead spend all day staring at their television screens.
Eli loves his crazy Aunt just the same, and visits her almost every day. He is amazed when she tells him stories and wonders where they all come from. “Some come out of thin air. Some come out of my dreams. Some come right out of books!” Eli can’t understand how she gets a story out of a book because the town now only uses books as building materials. When Aunt Chip realizes that no one knows how to read anymore, she decides that enough is enough and gets out of bed. She is shocked when she wanders around town and finds that there are no children playing in the streets…they are all inside about to watch a TV show.The town is depressing and Aunt Chip has had enough. She shows Eli a book and teaches him to read. His knowledge starts to amaze his friends at school and he teaches them to read (along with Aunt Chip’s help). The kids start borrowing books from all over town, taking them from wherever they can find them. One day Eli pulls out a copy of Moby Dick from a large pile and accidentally opens up a floodgate of water which topples the television tower. As it starts to rain books, the town is finally given a sign about the importance of books and reading and the consequences of an addiction to television.
Understand, folks still had their TV’s, all right, but they were wise about what they watched and for how long. They had so much else to do!
Polacco, in her amazing way, urges parents and children alike to open their eyes to how bad an addiction to technology can be. She also shines a light on how spectacular the world of reading can be and how it can take you places and change the world around you. A ringing endorsement if I’ve ever seen one. To reading!
Recently my 3rd grade daughter had a quick unit on poetry. I was thrilled that they were teaching this as it is such an important style of writing. The more comfortable you can get kids with poetry at an early age, the better, in my opinion.
So when we found the book Echo & Echo, by Marilyn Singers, which not only was written in verse, but about Greek Mythology, I grabbed it up! My 3rd grader loved it as well. Kids and adults will find this book captivating.
Echo & Echo is a book of reverso poems where the poem is written twice – read top to bottom and then bottom to top. The fabulous thing about having them written this way is that it manages to highlight the fact that reading the poem differently also manages to tell the story from someone else’s perspective, which can be exactly opposite to the story most of us know. We have enjoyed studying perspective lately as well, since it is good to realize that things change depending on who tells you the story and that there are many sides to every tale.
Since many of these myths might be unknown to young readers, and not fully remembered by many adults, each poem has a brief explanation of the myth at the bottom of the page. Each poem is also accompanied by gorgeous illustrations by Josée Masse. (If you enjoy these, Marilyn Singer has 2 earlier books of reverso poems that deal with fairy tales)
Speaking of poetry, we found a wonderful book that combines poetry with a love of books and libraries. In Jumping off Library Shelves, Lee Bennett Hopkins put together a marvelous collection of books praising the library.
These poems are aimed at the young poet and they read remarkably well. In terms of poetry, it is nice that not all of them rhyme as it helps children understand that rhyming is not a requirement. The poems explore subjects from taking refuge in the library, the power of a library card, the brilliance of a librarian, and the power of a storyteller. There is even a poem with the modern twist of utilizing computers in the library and being an “Internet Explorer.”
In addition to the wonderful poems, Jane Manning has done a marvelous job with illustrations, and whoever did the actual layout of the pages did a nice job of making the lines of text feel like they have movement and shape. As a lover of all things library, I highly recommend this title.
J has been on a great kick of reading a slightly wider variety of books these days. Not that she doesn’t still love her fairy tale themed stories, but we are definitely taking a look at other options. Since she is truly a mini-me, she has the annoying habit of constantly adding to her to-read list, so it can be hard to keep track of everything. Such a horrible problem to have – just kidding! You simply can’t argue with a child who has a deep and profound love of books. So deep is her love that at a recent fund raiser for her school, we were more than thrilled to win J getting to be “Librarian for the Day.”
One of her recent favorites is “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein. I read it when it first came out and enjoyed it, but reading it through the eyes of a book loving child made it that much better. What is so fabulous about this book is that it tackles a wide variety of topics through the guise of a treasure hunt in one of the most amazing libraries of all time – if only it was real!
The main premise of the book is that twelve children get to experience a lock-in at their brand-new, local library. The next morning, they are also challenged to find a way out. The main character, Kyle, is an an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. He isn’t much of a student and definitely is not a fan of reading. However, he desperately wants a chance to participate in the lock-in when he discovers that the library was built by his idol, game-maker extraordinaire, Luigi Lemoncello.
At the same time that these kids are learning about classic literature, the dewey decimal system, and utilizing logic skills to solve clues, there is also a great deal being taught about friendship, fair play, and teamwork. There of course is the “bad guy” character who will stop at nothing to win. There are kids who have reasons that they want to win the challenge that have nothing to do with a love of books or games. We also watch as some of the kids decide to join into alliances understanding that collective strengths can work better than relying on individual knowledge at times. In addition to dealing with different characters, the reader also gets the opportunity to help solve some of the clues and encourages new looks at logic puzzles.
I think that this book has a little bit of something for everyone. J specifically felt a kinship with Sierra Russell. Sierra lives for reading and spends the early parts of the book as a loner, but she grows as a person by participating on a team and forging friendships. Reluctant readers will probably identify with Kyle. Through his adventures in the library, Kyle realizes that there are all kinds of books and that the stories in some can be quite exciting and even pose challenges just like his games. As he proceeds through the challenge, he keeps finding books that he should add to his own brand new to-read list. Each of the characters has strengths and weaknesses that make them seem like people you might actually meet in a school.
One of the assignments in J’s class this year is that every week they have to write a letter to a classmate about a book that they are reading. She not only wrote about this book, but has started loaning out the book to her classmates. That’s the power of a good book!
I haven’t forgotten this blog, it has just been crazy busy around here and I haven’t found the time to write, but I am definitely going to get my act back in gear. So in honor of my own return, here are our thoughts on the Return of the Library Dragon.
In 1994, Carmen Agra Deedy wrote the outstandingly good book, The Library Dragon, in which Miss Lotta Scales takes over the Sunrise Elementary School library, but won’t let the children touch the books. With the help of little Molly Brickmeyer, Miss Lotta learns that the children belong in the library and need to touch books in order to grow from them. It is a remarkable book that praises books, storytelling, reading, and definitely librarians.
Fast forward to 2012, and the landscape of an elementary school library has dramatically changed. No longer are they even called libraries, but are now known as media centers. So it is more than appropriate for Ms. Deedy to come back with a similarly awesome book The Return of the Library Dragon.
In this installment, Miss Lotty Scales is retiring! When she arrives at school on her last day of work, all of the books in the library have been removed by Mike Krochip, an IT guy from Central Office. The books are gone, computers are in, and welcome to the new cybrary.
“‘It’s a brave new world,’ Krochip beamed at Lotty. ‘Books stain and tear and take up room. Check out the Book-be-Gone 5000. It’ll kindle your fire!'”
But the kids want the books back because even though you can put 10,000 books on an e-reader, “10,000 books on a screen all look the same.” “Right, but 10,000 books in a library all look and feel different.”
And just as you think that the old-school way of libraries only housing books has won the battle, one of the children turns on a “MePod” and everyone else crowds around to see the amazing new technology. This of course brings the Library Dragon back in full force.
What brings Miss Lotty back to normal, just as before, is little Molly Brickmeyer. Now she is all grown-up and taking over as Sunrise Elementary School’s school librarian, but only if all of the books find their way back to the shelves immediately. Miss Molly is the balancing point of the new way of doing things. She knows that computers and technology are a good thing and that our children need to be learning and experimenting with them, but she also knows that it is important to unplug. She learned from the best and understands that a school librarian should still dress up in goofy costumes from time to time and enjoy reading to kids, but that they also have to be media savvy and understand how kids of this crazy technologically advanced generation function. So even though Miss Lotty introduces Miss Molly as the new “media-library-cyber-book specialist,” Miss Molly still prefers just being known as the “librarian.”
As I said, we loved the original Library Dragon, and this book just took it to another level. Our kids are definitely going to wind up using e-readers and they have to be incredibly comfortable with the computer world, but we are walking a fine line and it is doubtful that we will be able to instill a love of reading to our children if they don’t get to experience the joy of seeing the vivid beautiful colors of a well-done picture book. There is also the sense of joy in checking out books from the library, running your hands over the spines of well-loved books, and as my daughter likes to do, lining your books up across the floor in the order that you plan to read them.
The inside covers had tons of wonderful quotes about books, libraries and librarians and I leave you with this one: “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers; a librarian can bring you back the right one.” (Neil Gaiman) To all the librarians out there – we love you!
September is national library card sign-up month. If you hadn’t already figured it out, I would be completely and utterly lost without the local public library. Buying books is great, but finding books in the library allows us to read a much wider variety of great books. I still have fond memories of the library where I grew up, and we are fortunate to have two libraries here even if I do have to pay to use one of them. Granted, I still miss living in a bigger city with multiple connected libraries, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Sometimes I go to the library with a specific list of books I want to get for the girls and sometimes I just randomly pull things off the shelves. I’ve gotten really lucky the past few times and wanted to share a bunch of gems that we’ve found.
We fell in love with the original My Name is Not Isabella, and I was thrilled to find another of her adventures on our local library’s bookshelves. Isabella: Star of the Story is an homage to books and to the library in general. How could we not love it? Isabella goes to the library with her parents and checks out Peter Pan, Goldilocks, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Black Beauty, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz.
The title of this book attracted me, and both my 2 year old and 6 year old LOVE it. This fabulous rhyming story dedicated to Dr. Seuss brings a librarian and her bookmobile into the zoo. There she lures the animals into a love affair with books in the same way that we all hope to lure our children into loving books. With absolutely beautiful artwork by Marc Brown, we watch as the librarian finds just the right book for each animal. The crocodiles read Peter Pan while giraffes want “tall books” on subjects like basketball and skyscrapers and the Pandas demand “more books in Chinese.” By the end, the animals are writing their own stories and opening a zoobrary. The animals are wild about books and we are wild about this one too.
I was actually shocked to find this on the shelves of our small town library as it is a brand new book. The story is about a goat who thinks he’s pretty hot stuff until a unicorn moves into town. When the unicorn flies, makes it rain cupcakes and turns things to gold the goat gets a case of the green eyed monster. Then one day, while moping around eating some goat cheese pizza, the unicorn comes up and is jealous of all the things that make goat special. The two realize that they each have qualities that make them pretty awesome and that together they would make an unstoppable team. It is a great story about being happy with yourself while learning that the grass only looks greener on the other side.
I picked up this book because we struggle with J and keeping her hair brushed, let alone pulled back in pretty barrettes. So imagine my shock when we get to the end and Sophie decides to chop off her hair and give it to “Locks for Kids,” a hybrid of Locks of Love and Wigs for Kids. What seemed like a superficial story turned out to be a lesson in humanity. It is hard to explain to a 6 year old that kids can get cancer too, but this is a truly wonderful story.
For all of the picky eaters out there, I present a ridiculous story of a little girl who refused to eat her green beans until the beans came to town and kidnapped her parents. The only way for her to save her parents from those mean old beans was to eat them, but the beans didn’t think she could do it. This was a silly tale that shows that you shouldn’t be afraid of your food. We read a lot of semi-serious picture books, and those are usually the books that make it onto the blog, but a little fluff now and then is important too 🙂
Peter Reynolds gets a lot of press in September with the 15th being International Dot Day. The Dot is a marvelous book with a great lesson, but in looking for that on the shelf, I came across the lesser known, but stunningly wonderful Sky Color. Reynolds’s books encourage kids to nurture their inner artists, but what I love about this one is that it takes someone who is comfortable with her inner artist and forces her to think outside of the box. Marisol’s class is going to paint a mural and she volunteers to paint the sky, but when she goes to the paint box there is no blue. “How am I going to make the sky without blue paint?” Marisol watched the sky to try and figure out a solution and dreamt of a sky of swirling colors, mixed together “making too many colors to count.” Her final product shows how many ways to look at things there are. I loved the colors and her frustrations and her attempts to figure it out. An unusual, but impressive little book.
We are obviously a house of book lovers. As such, we are also huge devotees to the public library. J devours books as fast as she can get her hands on them, so if it wasn’t for the library, our house would be overwhelmed by piles of books and we would have no money left for anything else. This is an inherited trait. I love my books and also rely heavily on the library to get my fix. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of getting my MLIS and becoming a librarian in some fashion once the girls have grown a bit.
So it made my heart smile when J came home from her first day going to media studies at school a few weeks ago (she is in year round), and she couldn’t stop talking about the book that the librarian read to them – The Library Dragon. Of course, that sparked my thinking about how great it would be to put together a post of books about the library and about a love of books. This of course is not a complete list, it is only a great jumping off point. Funny thing is, while I was prepping this post, the wonderful website No Time For Flashcards also did a post about picture books about reading. Some of our books overlap and some don’t. So right away, there is another great list for you to check out.
The Library Dragon, by Carmen Agra Deedy, is a wonderful book about Miss Lotta Scales, a thick skinned school librarian who doesn’t want any of the children to touch her library books for fear that they will get them dirty or put them back in the wrong place. Order is of the utmost importance to this dragon and she doesn’t care if the children stop coming into the library simply because they fear her and her outrageous rules. She doesn’t even believe in story time! Then one day a little girl wanders into the library looking for her glasses and starts reading a book that falls off the shelf. Children heard her from the hall and outside the windows and followed the sound like the children following the pied piper. Miss Lotta Scales took the book from the little girl, inspected it, saw that it was still in great condition and began to read it to the children herself. As she read, a magical thing started to happen – her scales began to fall to the floor until all that was left was Miss Lotty, librarian and storyteller. It’s a wonderful tale to start a conversation about how to treat library books, how to act in the library, and the power of storytelling. J absolutely loved it.
Library Mouse, by Daniel Kirk, might very well be one of our favorite books. Sam is a library mouse who lives in the children’s section of a local library. When the library is open, Sam sleeps, but when the library is closed he comes out of his hole and reads all of the books. One night Sam decides to write a book of his own and leave it in the library. So starts Sam’s foray into the world of being an author. When the librarians want to meet the elusive Sam he comes up with an idea to show all of the library patrons that anyone can write a book. It is a wonderful book about the power of reading and the power of storytelling. J says that she would like to be a library mouse because it would be amazing to live in the library! We also highly recommend one of the follow-up books, Library Mouse – A world to explore.
But Excuse Me That is My Book, by Lauren Child is another in the great Charlie and Lola series. In this book, young Lola wants to go to the library to get her most favorite book – “Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies.” Charlie tries to encourage her to pick out a new book since she has checked this one out over and over, but Lola is adamant. When they get to the library, however, someone else has taken that book off the shelf already. Charlie explains that this is how libraries work and that it isn’t her personal book. He shows her how the library is filled with books about so many topics, but nothing fits her. She finally tries another book and realizes that she loves that as well. We love Charlie and Lola and their unusual way of looking at the world and explaining things. This is a great view of how we pick books and use the library.
In Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t), by Barbara Bottner, the little girl telling the story is not a fan of books. Miss Brooks, the school librarian, tries to get everyone as excited about books as she is, but this little girl just can’t find one that she likes. When each child is supposed to pick their favorite book for book week, she just doesn’t know what to do. Miss Brooks supplies her with a wide variety to choose from, but she doesn’t like any of them. When her mother tells her that she is as stubborn as a wart, she finally lights up. “I want to read a story with warts!” So her mom finds Shrek! and she is hooked. I can’t imagine a reluctant reader, but this story really speaks to the fact that there are all kinds of books out there, you just have to find the ones that your little reader loves.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum is Library Lily, by Gillian Shields. Lily loves reading. She loves it so much, in fact, that she forgets to do much else. When she first visited the library it was like going on an adventure. Her mom wanted her to have other adventures and took her to the park one day and encouraged her to leave her book behind. Rather than playing, Lily read the signs until she meets Milly who asks what she was doing. Milly explains that she hates reading and likes to do lots of other things like playing, climbing and exploring. Milly shows Lily that there is a world outside of books and Lily shows Milly that books can be fun too. The two become best friends and after they explore the world around them, Lily writes a book about their adventures. This is a great book for readers like mine who sometimes need a reminder that there are other things to do then read a book (gasp!).
In Beverly Billingsly Borrows a Book, by Alexander Stadler, children learn the importance of returning a book to the library on time. Beverly is super excited to get her very own library card and check out her first book. As she is finishing the book, she realizes that she kept the book one extra day. But she doesn’t know what happens to someone who is late with their book and she gets nervous and is afraid to return it. After having nightmares about the overdue book, her mother takes her to the library where the librarian kindly says, “it’s only a couple of days late, dear. We won’t worry about it. Just try to be more careful next time.” It is a very sweet book letting kids know that they can’t keep a book forever, but that they won’t lose their library card or go to jail for turning a book in late.
I.Q. Goes to the Library, by Mary Ann Fraser, is a book about a mouse who is learning about the library. IQ is the class mouse in Mrs. Furber’s class. One Monday the class finds out that it is library week and every day that week they will be going to the library. Each day, IQ learns something new about the library while searching for the funny book that was read to the class on the first day. Also peppered through the pages are “Mrs. Binder’s Reminders” – librarian’s tips for library behavior. IQ learns to love the library and not only finds the book he is looking for, but manages to get his own library card. A great book for showing all of the parts of the library – fiction, non-fiction, magazines , computers etc. while also imparting some important rules to follow.
The Shelf Elf, by Jackie Mims Hopkins, is a good book about learning library rules. Skoob is a Shelf Elf who is trying to win the Golden Shelf Elf Award. He earns it by taking care of the books in the library and encouraging children to behave to use proper library manners like being quiet, using shelf markers and treating the books kindly. Many pages have rules about library etiquette and Skoob himself is learning what is allowed to do in the library. This would be a great book to read to kids at the beginning of the year.
Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian, by Jessica Spanyol, tells the story of young Carlo the giraffe and his first experience at the library. When he first meets Mrs. Chinca, the librarian, he is a bit afraid of her, but then he is amazed at how much she knows about books. She shows him around the library, helps him find books and reads him stories. This book is a wonderful tribute to the awesome children’s librarians out there!
Speaking of awesome children’s librarians, Librarian on the Roof, by M.G. King, is based on the true story of RoseAleta Laurell who took to the roof of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, TX on October 16, 2000 to raise money for the children’s section at the oldest library in Texas. Ms. Laurell didn’t conform to anyone’s old notions of a quiet librarian and wanted to see people and children using her library. In order to raise money, RoseAleta Laurell camped out on the top of the library dome for a number of days to raise the money and her efforts got the community to come together and raise funds for the library. Now they have a busy children’s section and a fully utilized library so that everyone can share in the power of reading!
I love it when books show that librarians are not the mousy old ladies depicted by movies and television shows. Library Lil, by Suzanne Williams, introduces readers to a librarian who read her way through the library as a child and was destined to become a librarian, she also happens to have superhuman strength. Her speciality was storytelling, but when she started a storytime at her first library, no one came. She was in a town where everyone was glued to the television and didn’t take the time to read. Lil was determined to get people into her library and away from the television. When the power goes out one night, Lil brings her bookmobile to all of the townspeople and got them all reading. After 2 weeks without power, “the townspeople had solidly formed the habit of reading.” When some bikers come to town one gets annoyed that the local pool hall doesn’t have a TV. The bikers wind up losing a bet to Lil and get turned into readers themselves. This is a really funny story that highlights the “power” of reading.
Finally, Miss Smith’s Incredibly Storybook, by Michael Garland is a wonderful tale about a magical book that truly brings stories to life. It isn’t about a library, but it is a great book about books and the power of storytelling. Miss Smith is an unusual teacher whose storybook brings characters to life. Her classroom literally gets swept up in whatever tale she is telling. When she is late one day, the principal begins to read from her book is frightened by the characters that pop out. The children begin to read from the book and characters from a variety of stories come out as they skip from story to story not finishing any of them. Soon, the school is being overrun by storybook characters. Miss Smith returns to class and gets all of the characters back by finishing each of their stories. It was a really fun book. Even more, I had heard of this series before and have now just ordered Miss Smith’s Under the Ocean which I think might be even better!
Books are seriously magical. They whisk you away to other worlds. They teach you about new things and new people. They challenge the way that you think and encourage you to be creative. If you have other books about libraries or books, let me know. We are always on the lookout for something good!