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Mo Books, Mo Fun! The Wonderful World of Mo Willems

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

I often say that having the great fortune to be employed in a library—yes, Darling Reader, paid to be here—is a wondrous thing, but it really cuts into one’s reading time.  Library Mythbuster Numero Uno:  we don’t get paid to sit around and read.  What, you think the books get back on the shelves all on their own? And that all library patrons are as smart and savvy as you and don’t need my assistance and expertise?  I’m so sorry to be the one to burst your bubble if you were operating under that premise, and were making career plans accordingly.  We are, however, expected to possess an extensive breadth and depth of knowledge of the materials that are available to patrons, especially in the departments in which we spend our days (and evenings. And weekends.  Library Mythbuster Numero Dos:  this is not a 9-to-5 weekday gig.)  Some of us amass this knowledge through advanced degrees in Library Science and/or work experience in libraries, and others of us learn about the abundance of wonderful children’s books from the hours we spent reading to our own offspring.  (Some of us also have a deep-seated loathing for certain children’s books, usually through no fault of the author but because of the stultifying number of times we have read certain books that our kids loved but that we did NOT.  That’s a topic for a future blog, but I have two words for you in the meantime:  Johnny Tremain.)  It saddens me a little that I missed out on the joy of reading Mo Willems’ books with my children, but I have immensely enjoyed perusing them since signing on to the Children’s Department at WCPL and recommending them to patrons.

If you have children, or have ever spent any time with children, you surely know that they have these acute, finely-tuned internal sensors that enable them to see right through any awkward attempts by adult humans to try to be funny or whimsical or relatable when they just aren’t.  One thing that differentiates Mo Willems’ books from the paper-and-cardboard sea of kiddie lit is that they are very, very funny.  I mean . . . a picture book about a naked mole rat who just wants to express himself through creative sartorial choices?  Come on, people, that’s freaking hilarious, I don’t care who you are.  Willems’ formula works due to the culmination of several factors:  excellent timing, precise word choices, and just-right repetitions of words and phrases.

 

Mo Willems was born in February 1968 in suburban Chicago and grew up in New Orleans.  He graduated cum laude from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  After graduation, Willems spent a year traveling around the world, and he commemorated this journey by drawing a cartoon each day.  These cartoons were subsequently published in the book You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons.  When he returned to New York after his adventure, Willems began his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, where he was awarded six Emmy awards for writing during his tenure from 1993 to 2002.  Since 2003, Willems has authored dozens of books for children, many of which have earned him critical acclaim and numerous literary awards.  (A bibliography of Willems’ books appears at the end of this article.)  My personal favorites include, in no certain order:  the previously mentioned  Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed; Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was ExtinctKnuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale; and Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late! Check ‘em out, Darling Reader.  (See what I did there?  Y’all know I couldn’t make it through a blog without a pun.)  Happy reading–

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June is African-American Music Appreciation Month

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Originally decreed as Black Music Month by then-president Jimmy Carter in June 1979, the designation was changed in 2009 to African-American Music Appreciation Month. In his 2016 proclamation, former president Barack Obama stated that African-American music and musicians have helped our country “ . . . to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Hence, I bring to you in no particular order, a great selection of books from Williamson County Public Library Children’s Department celebrating “Lady Day’s” soaring vocals, the Motown Sound, Bob Marley’s plaintive ballads, Jimi Hendrix’s groundbreaking guitar playing, and much more.

First on the list for today’s magical musical journey is Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through The Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney (J 781.6440 PIN) “You ready, child? Let’s go.” Thus begins this beautifully written account of young performers who were catalysts for change in American music, and along with it, a cultural revolution. The 1960s were exciting and often turbulent times. For Berry Gordy, the man who has been largely credited with creating what would come to be known as “the Motown Sound,” it all started with an $800 loan and a vision of greatness. The year was 1959, and Gordy was on the brink of something amazing, something that would have far-reaching influence on music for decades to come. Drawing upon the talents of his family and local performers, Gordy created a record label for black musicians such as Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, and Diana Ross, just to name a few. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next up on the recommended reading list for African-American Music Appreciation Month is Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J 92 HENDRIX).   A stylishly written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented James Marshall Hendrix, known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earth at the way-too-soon age of 27. His legacy lives on decades later, and his groundbreaking music continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216 GOL). At the time of her death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, Billie Holiday (nee Eleanora Fagan) was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time. Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the American civil rights movement.

No reading list about African-American music would be complete without mention of the excellent books about black musicians in the “Who Is/Who Was?” series, which features titles such as Who was Bob Marley? (J 92 MAR), Who Was Louis Armstrong? (J 92 ARM), Who Was Stevie Wonder? (J 92 WON), and Who Was Michael Jackson? (J 92 JAC). The books in this series feature whimsical illustrations and side notes about the subject, and are so much fun to read . Check ‘em out! (OK, that’s my one and only pun for this blog, I swear.)

                   

Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (J 788.9316 AND) is a delightful, picturesque story of how a talented young boy from New Orleans didn’t always have the money to buy an instrument, but he did have the dream to play music. Plucked from a crowd by none other than the legendary Bo Diddley and allowed to play his trombone on stage, he was then inspired to form his own band. Today, Andrews is a frequent performer at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the place where he got his first break.

Last but not least on my list of recommendations is Bob Marley: The Life Of A Musical Legend by Gary Jeffrey (J 92 MARLEY). Part biography, part graphic novel, this very cool book celebrates famed Jamaican musician Bob Marley. His body ravaged by cancer, Marley departed this earthly realm at the young age of 36, but his music and his message of peace continues to inspire people all over the world.


As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone, and not representative of any other WCPL employees. Ms. Parish can occasionally be overheard quoting Jimi Hendrix’s lyrics and belting out “Voodoo Chile,” but only when she’s home alone or behind the wheel of her car.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Yep, it’s that time of year again! It’s time for shamrocks, pots of gold, green, and a tall Guinness. Okay, so that last one isn’t entirely appropriate for the whole family. Luckily, I have fourteen books perfect for celebrating with your kids on this St. Patrick’s Day!

That’s What Leprechauns Do by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
As a storm approaches, three leprechauns get ready to go to work. Their job? Placing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, of course! “No mischief, no mischief along the way,” they chant. But they just can’t help themselves from pulling a few pranks because “that’s what leprechauns do.”

The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing (J E WIN)
In this Irish twist on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” it’s the night before St. Patrick’s Day, and Tim and Maureen are awake setting traps for a leprechaun. The next morning, they’re shocked to find a leprechaun in their trap, but will they be able to find his gold?

St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons (J 394.268 GIB)
Introduce young ones to the origins of St. Patrick’s Day with this nonfiction picture book about the life and works of St. Patrick and the various ways the holiday is celebrated.

The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever! by Teddy Slater (J E SLA)
Follow the Leprechaun family on their favorite day of the year as celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a parade, dancing, music, and an Irish feast!

S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet by Eve Bunting (J 941.5 BUN)
From the Blarney Stone to fairy rings to shamrocks, take an A to Z tour of Ireland in this nonfiction title.

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
Set in a village in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, Jamie, the youngest in his family, is too small to walk in the big parade. Disappointed, he wakes up early and sets out to prove them wrong.

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola (J E DEP)
In this Irish folktale, potato farmer Jamie O’Rourke—“the laziest man in all of Ireland”—convinces himself he’ll starve to death after his wife hurts her back doing all the household and garden chores. When Jamie catches a leprechaun who offers a magical potato seed instead of a pot of gold in exchange for his freedom, the resulting gigantic potato feeds the O’Rourkes and their village longer than imagined.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola (J E DEP)
In this nonfiction selection, readers are introduced to the life of St. Patrick and several different legends about him.

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott (J E MCD)
Tim O’Toole and his wife, Kathleen, are so poor that their neighbors avoid them, fearing their bad luck will rub off. When Tim goes out to find a job, he happens upon the “wee folk,” and they give him gifts to turn his luck around.

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman (J CD E BAT)
The greedy leprechaun king has locked away all the luck in Ireland to keep it from the “big folk” who were soaking it all up. Unfortunately, he went too far, and Ireland suffered its worst luck ever through the potato famine. Thankfully, a young woman named Fiona is clever enough to outsmart the leprechaun king and restore luck to all of Ireland.

The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards (J E EDW)
In this Irish legend, two harpists—kind Old Pat and mean Young Tom—set off for a contest to determine the best harpist in all of Ireland. When greedy Young Tom realizes Old Pat is actually a better musician, he plots against his older counterpart, even going so far as to pluck the strings off poor Old Pat’s harp. However, Young Tom doesn’t plan on a leprechaun intervening on Old Pat’s behalf.

Finn McCool and the Great Fish by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
Finn McCool is the “best-hearted man that ever walked on Ireland’s green grass.” But for all his strength, courage, and goodness, there’s one thing Finn lacks: he’s just not smart. When a wise man in a nearby village tells Finn about a red salmon with the wisdom of the world, he sets out to catch the fish and discover the “secret of wisdom.”

Brave Margaret by Robert D. San Souci (J E SAN)
When a ship carrying a handsome prince arrives in the harbor, Margaret seizes her chance to see the world. But soon she is faced with storms and sea serpents, and eventually finds herself held captive by an elderly sorceress who refuses to let her go unless she can defeat the evil giant at a nearby castle. When her prince is killed fighting the giant, Margaret discovers she is the intended champion of an enchanted sword.

St. Patrick’s Day by Anne Rockwell (J E ROC)
Join Mrs. Madoff’s class as they learn about St. Patrick’s Day traditions!

So read a book this St. Patrick’s Day! After all, isn’t knowledge is better than all the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Reader’s Advisory Websites for Kids

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Looking for a great book to get your kids excited about reading? Do you have a picky reader who absolutely must only read one particular genre? Maybe you have a kid on your hands who just read the best book ever and needs something else that’s just as good. Sure, you could go to Goodreads, but sometimes their suggestions aren’t exactly what you’re looking for. You could also ask us, your friendly neighborhood librarians here at WCPL who are very familiar with our collection and would be more than happy to recommend you the perfect book. But admittedly, there are likely some gaps in our vast book knowledge, so here are five websites full of great book suggestions for kids.

Guys Read

rotate-phpGuys Read is a web-based literacy program founded by children’s author Jon Scieszka. Their mission is to encourage boys to become self-motivated, lifelong readers by helping them find books they’re interested in. This website has collected lists of books recommended by teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, parents, and other guys and grouped them into categories to make them easier to find. From “Creepy and Weird” to “For Little Guys” to “Robots” to “Classics That Actually Hold Up,” guys of all ages can find exactly what they’re looking for in a book, and if they find one they like, there are further recommended titles under each book suggestion.

A Mighty Girl

logo-300x135Similar to Guys Read, A Mighty Girl prides themselves on having “the world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls,” and their impressive book section features over 2,000 girl-empowering books to choose from. Their best feature is easily the over 200 book categories available to explore, where books are grouped by character (from books, television, movies, and historical figures), genre, social issues, personal development, topic, and age.

The Best Children’s Books

best-childrens-books-hdrThe Best Children’s Books is curated by teachers who understand how important it is to find good books for children, and the books featured on this website are books that they use and recommend in their classrooms. For the most part, books recommended here are geared toward ages four through twelve. With blurbs describing how exactly books can be used, there is definitely more of a focus on classroom use, but this website could be an excellent resource for homeschooling families, teachers, or anyone needing a book for a particular report topic.

Bank Street College of Education Book Lists

bank-libraryBank Street College of Education Library excels at creating book lists. From “STEM” to “Back to School” to “Read Alouds for Children Twelve and Over,” there is a list on nearly any topic featuring a diverse array of characters and stories.  If you have the time, I would definitely recommend browsing their Best Books of the Year list that features a whopping 600 titles broken down by age range.

Books & Authors

homepage-leftBooks & Authors is a database available through the library that provides recommended read-a-likes and an extensive selection of genres and authors to browse. You can even create lists of books you may come across that you want to save for later.

 

Once you’ve found a book to read, search our catalog for it and put it on hold, or give us a call for us to put it on hold for you. If we don’t have it in our collection, we can get most books from interlibrary loan. Now go forth and discover your new favorite book!

Celebrate National Hispanic Month with Some Great Books

By Liz Arrambide, Children’s Department

Celebrate National Hispanic Month Tues. Sept. 15 thru Thur. Oct. 15, 2015 with a few titles that will put an “¡Ole!” into your day!

 Picture Books:


  • 51rxLVjf+KL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Flutter and Hum: Animal Poems/ Aleto y Zumbido.: Poemas de Animales by Julie Paschkis
    This Poem book is “sabroso”, Mmmm! delicious! I can easily picture a child in my lap and each of us studying the wonderful detailed drawings and the animal poems that make us smile. It doesn’t matter if we are reading about a snake that only can say one letter “SSS” or a turtle that moves slowly so rubies and emeralds do not fall from her shell. In both English and Spanish the book is “muy rico”/ very rich with delightful illustrations to savor.
  • Green is a Chile Pepper: a Book of Colors and Round is a Torilla: a book of shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
    In this lively picture book, children discover a world of colors all around them: red is spices and swirling skirts, yellow is masa, tortillas, and sweet corn cake. Many of the featured objects are Latino in origin, and all are universal in appeal.
  • 12629258Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/ Marisol McDonald no combina by /por Monica Brown.
    Marisol has flaming red hair like her Scotch American dad and nut brown skin like her Peruvian mom. She loves dressing in a wild mixture of polka dots and stripes. Peanut butter and jelly burritos are her favorite lunch food. One day she decides to dress and act like everyone else, so she will match. Is it worth making the change? A great bilingual English/Spanish read aloud for grades 1-3.
  • Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott
    This is based on an Aztec legend. The Lord of the Night was worried because the people worked all day and night in the dark. They did not laugh or sing. So the Lord of the Night asked the Wind to help free the Three Musicians from the Lord Sun. This is a well told and beautifully illustrated version of this Mexican legend.
  • 51uWJraipqL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Playing Loteria/ El juego de la Loteria by/ por Rene Colato Lainez.
    A Young boy from the U.S. is visiting his grandmother in Mexico. He only knows a little bit of Spanish and she speaks only a little bit of English. How will they be able to talk to each other? This is a lovely bilingual story where they learn each other’s language through the Mexican version of Bingo. This is called Lotería. They discover that loved ones have a special way of understanding each other.
  • Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup/ Caldo, Caldo, Caldo by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
    In Houston, Texas a family gets ready for Caldo Day. “Caldo de res” is a Mexican soup with lots of vegetables, potatoes, cilantro, stew meat and garlic. The special soup calms a cough, soothes sore muscles and makes everyone feel better. While mom makes the soup, the rest of the family buys the tortillas at the Tortillería, where tortillas are made. You can almost taste the fresh tortillas and delicious soup. A recipe for caldo is included. ‘¡Disfrute! Enjoy!
  • 514d1f6tGLL._SY489_BO1,204,203,200_Up and Down the Andes: A Peruvian Festival Tale by Laurie Krebs and Aurelia Fronty.
    Children from all over Peru come by bus, boat, train, truck and walking for the Sun King’s Festival in Cusco, Peru on June 24. They participate in the dancing, the parades and the wonderful parties. This is a beautiful book that shows the different areas of Peru.
  • Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Que Rico! By Pat Mora.
    North and South America grow delicious foods. When Columbus and other explorers brought to Europe some of these new foods, the people all gained needed weight and became healthier. Find out about some of these wonderful vegetables and fruits that started here in the Americas. These are described in short poems called haikus with brief descriptions of these foods; corn, blueberry, chile, chocolate and more! Yum!

Books for Grades 4-8:


  • 745387090 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis J F FLO Grades 5-8
    The author came to the U.S. in 1961 from Cuba with his two brothers. He was 9 years old and part of Operation Pedro Pan, where 14,000 children were sent to the United States without their parents to escape the Castro regime. This novel is based on his experience. This is a fascinating book.
  • Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan Grades 4-7.
    Naomi Soledad Leon is 11 and has been brought up by her grandmother. Life is not perfect, but she and her younger brother, who is slightly deformed, are doing fairly well in a trailer park in California. Then her alcoholic mother, who has been gone for 7 years returns with a no good boyfriend. Gran gets into the car and takes the two children on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in search her father who is a fine man. This way her daughter, will not have legal custody of the children. This gives an amazing look into life in Mexico.
  • 51tJBeYMESL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Enchanted Air: Two Cultures/ Two Wings by Margarita Engle. Grades 5-8
    This book of memoris is told through poems. Ms. Engle lived in Los Angeles and spent summers with her mother in Cuba. She finds herself divided because the two countries she loves are at war. Will her family in Cuba be alright after the Invasion of the Bay of Pigs? Ms. Engle was the first Latina to win a Newbery Honor with her book, Surrender Tree.
  • How Tia Lola Came to Visit/ Stay by Julia Alvarez. Grades 3-6.
    Miguel Guzman lives with his sister and mom in Vermont after the divorce. In comes a crazy aunt, his mother’s sister, from the country of the Dominican Republic. Miguel is afraid that his friends will meet his nutty aunt. In time, all of the town warm to Tía Lola, as she cooks exotic foods and learns English. The story is full of humor as Tía makes a lot of mistakes in her new language and her visit becomes permanent.
  • 51JJEm07KZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Revolution of Eveyln Serrano by Sonia Manzano. Grades 5-8.
    Written by the actress who plays Maria on Sesame Street, this is a very special inside view of what life was like in the Puerto Rican Part of New York City during the civil rights movement in 1969. Fascinating!
  • Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 miners from 2,000 feet below the Chilean desert by Marc Aronson J 363.11 ARO Grades 4-8.
    This is a true account of the miners that were trapped in 2010 in a copper mine in Chile. You’ll be amazed at the diagrams of the mine. There is only one safe place for the men in the miles of the mine. The world didn’t have the technology to save the men. They had to invent it. Oil drillers, astronauts, submarine specialists and experts around the world came together and tried different ways to get the men out. Whose way will work? Or will any of them be able to reach the men in time? A breath taking, true life thriller.
  • 51M7kugEI3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Under the Same Sky by Cynthis DeFelice Grades 5-8.
    Joe Pedersen’s family owns a large farm in New York State. The workers all are from Central America. Joe has never paid attention to the operation of the farm until he wants to earn money for a motorcycle. He learns a lot that summer as he picks strawberries and cares for cabbage along with the migrant workers who tend his farm. He realizes that life for his friends is far more complicated than he imagined. His life too becomes difficult because he wants to help, but he may have to break the law. A great read!
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