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.
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!