Blog Archives

Hilariously Humorous Children’s Books

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Deptartment

Hey, no kidding! April is National Humor Month. So, in no particular order of hilarity, here are 7 raucously funny children’s books to help you celebrate:

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems (J E WIL) AR level 0.9, Caldecott Honor book
Pigeon just wants to drive the doggone bus. He begs, pleads, whines, and offers a bribe to the reader to let him drive the bus, to no avail. Pigeon’s frustration drives him to have a spectacular little meltdown when he doesn’t get his way, but as he is ranting and carrying on, a ginormous red semi pulls up, and Pigeon’s dreams of driving are rekindled.pigeon_bus_cover_lg

Olivia by Ian Falconer (J E FAL) AR level 2.0
Olivia has been one of my personal favorites for more than a decade. I mean, how can you not admire and adore this charming, creative, confident, stylish creature? The original book spawned many more Olivia titles and an eponymous television show, but the whole Olivia experience — and often, parenthood itself— can be summed up by the last page, where Olivia’s mother kisses her goodnight and says, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.”410E4S3D33L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Duck! Rabbit! By Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (J E ROS)
“Hey, look! A duck!” “That’s not a duck. That’s a rabbit!” And thus ensues the spirited debate over what, exactly, it is.51g38hPe5dL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) and Lane Smith (does not rhyme with Fresca). (J E SCI) AR level 3.4
“Oh, man! What is that funky smell?” And that’s not even the funniest line from this rollicking collection of short stories that totally lends itself to reading aloud in funny voices. Why, this anthology is so hilarious, it even comes with a SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: It has been determined that these tales are fairly stupid and probably dangerous to your health. Most of the stories are twisted variations on classic fairy tales; for instance, “The Stinky Cheese Man” is a modern retelling of “The Gingerbread Man.” Unhinged, I tell you!StinkyCheeseMan

He Came With The Couch by David Slonim (J E SLO) AR level 1.5
After an exhaustive search, Sophie’s family has finally found the perfect couch. But there’s just one catch to the couch: a mysterious blue Muppet-ish creature is currently ensconced upon it. Sophie and her family try valiantly to remove him (and also cure his raging case of upholsterosis) but to no avail. In the end, the little blue dude proves his worth when he saves Sophie from calamity.51rwrbUpQSL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (J E STE) AR level 2.2
This charming book will resonate with anyone who has ever attempted to get a child to wind it down to bedtime with a nice, relaxing story. Little Chicken wants Papa to read her a bedtime story, but she just can’t bear to see Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, et. al. make such potentially dangerous mistakes, so she keeps interrupting the stories and putting her own spin on the endings. Stein’s sweet story demonstrates that being an active participant in the storytelling process can be satisfying and very funny.Interrupting-Chicken-Book-Cover

The Cat In The Hat by Dr . Seuss (J E SEU) AR level 2.1
Seriously, what list of humorous children’s books would be complete without the rollicking tale of the stovepipe-hatted feline troublemaker who shows up on a boring, rainy day with the sole mission of showing two well-behaved kids how to have a little fun? Yes, Cat completely trashes the house, but he cleans up his mess just in the nick of time, subliminally imparting a lesson to Sally and her brother (who was never officially named in the book, but was christened “Conrad” in the 2003 film adaptation, just so you’ll know.) Also, an ethical matter to consider is imparted in the final pages:

“And Sally and I did not know what to say.
Should we tell her the things that went on there that day?
Should we tell her about it? Now, what should we do?
Well . . . what would YOU do, if your mother asked you?”

9780449810866Laugh it up, Faithful Reader—


***As always, the viewpoints espoused here are solely those of the author and not in any way reflective of the opinions of WCPL employees, their families, or their pet chickens. Also, the author’s last name doesn’t rhyme with Fresca, either.)

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An Unlikely Ballerina: Misty Copeland

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

There you are, minding your own business, just trying to be an average teenager—daughter, sister, middle school student, hall monitor, drill team member—when your drill team coach suggests that you go check out a ballet class taught by her friend at your local Boys and Girls Club, the place where you hang out after school in order to avoid the grim, grimy two hotel rooms that you and your mother and your five siblings call home. So you go, and are an audience of one in the bleachers for a few weeks, until you summon the courage to stand at a ballet barre for the very first time. You spend an hour feeling like a “broken marionette,” awkward and clueless and a little overwhelmed, and then you put it all in the rearview mirror and scurry past that section of the gym for the next few days. But Cynthia, the dance instructor isn’t letting you off the hook that easily. You eventually drop your defenses to her relentless persuasion and begin taking classes in earnest, but you are still haunted by insecurity and doubt.

Then, something in you changes. Your confidence rises. You begin to believe what everyone else is telling you: that someday, you will dance in front of kings and queens, and that you will have a life that most people cannot even imagine.

You are a ballerina.f0b3fd5259f1f29e8a53954f622a23ca

In case you haven’t twigged to it yet, the “you” in the vignette above is ballet dancer Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s history.

Misty Danielle Copeland was born on September 10, 1982 in Kansas City, Missouri, to Doug and Sylvia Copeland. She is the youngest of four siblings from her mother’s second marriage and has two younger siblings, one each from her mother’s third and fourth marriages. Misty has no childhood memories of her father; she didn’t see Doug Copeland from age 2, when Sylvia, a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader, left Doug and loaded Misty and her siblings onto a Greyhound bus bound for Bellflower, California until she was 22, when she was traveling the world with American Ballet Theatre. “From the time I turned two, my life was in constant motion,” Misty states in her memoir Life In Motion. And that statement is not an exaggeration. Misty’s childhood was unstable and turbulent, and she has said that in retrospect, she used to measure time through the sequence of her mother’s dependency upon an ever-changing string of men. “We Copelands were like a nomadic tribe: hardy, fiercely protective of our band, and adaptable. We clung tightly to one another.” Those familial bonds would be severely strained in Misty’s teen years, when she had to make an excruciating choice: legally declare her emancipation from Sylvia in order to continue her dancing, or give up her dreams and remain with her family.f0b3fd5259f1f29e8a53954f622a23ca

A lengthy series of legal machinations ensued when Misty began emancipation proceedings from Sylvia, at the urging of her longtime instructor and mentor Cynthia Bradley, with whose family Misty had been living during the week for the past three years, and returning to her mother’s home, two hotel rooms at the Sunset Inn in Gardena, California, on the weekends. Sylvia retained the services of lawyer Gloria Allred and they claimed that Misty had been “brainwashed” by the Bradleys and that they turned Misty against Sylvia by belittling her intelligence. After several court hearings in autumn of 1998, the emancipation proceedings were dropped, as well as the restraining order and charges of stalking and harassment by Sylvia against the Bradleys. Misty would return to her mother’s custody, and she wouldn’t see Cynthia or Patrick Bradley again for more than a decade.f0b3fd5259f1f29e8a53954f622a23ca

Misty completed high school in California, and in September of 2000 joined the ABT Studio Company, which is the American Ballet Theatre’s second company. In 2001 she was promoted to ABT’s Corps de ballet. She was sidelined for a year due to a lumbar stress fracture, but recovered and embarked upon a series of beautiful, memorable roles in La Bayadere, Swan Lake, and Cinderella, to name only a few. In August of 2007, she was promoted to soloist, one of the youngest dancers ever to achieve that distinction. She was a standout among her dancing peers and appeared in The Firebird, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Sleeping Beauty, to name just a few of the numerous productions she danced in over the ensuing years. On June 30, 2015, she was promoted to principal ballerina, the first African-American woman to achieve such an honor in the 75-year history of the American Ballet Theatre.

Misty currently resides in New York City with her fiancé Olu Evans, a Manhattan attorney. You can read more about Misty’s amazing life in the 2014 memoir she co-authored with Charisse Jones titled Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Simon and Schuster; 92 COPELAND.) She also co-wrote a children’s picture book, Firebird (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, J E COPELAND), and in November 2015 she announced plans to publish a health and beauty guide tentatively titled Ballerina Body.

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*** author’s note: this is the first in a series I’m going to call “Amazing Women Athletes.” The theme for this year’s Summer Reading Program is sports-related, so, you know. I take my inspiration wherever I can find it.

Are You There, Judy Blume? It’s Me, Parish.

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Dear Judy,blume 1
Happy 78th birthday! I really wish you lived closer to me so that I could take you out to lunch and buy you a present, although nothing I could give you would remotely compare to the marvelous gifts that you have bestowed upon readers of all ages over your prolific and inspiring career. I mean, seriously—find me a woman in North America whose life as a young adult wasn’t made just a little bit better as a result of reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Although, I guess there are some unfortunate people out there who were deprived of the opportunity to read Margaret and Deenie and Forever, which in turn possibly inspired you to become an active proponent of the National Coalition Against Censorship.) I hope your day is as fantastic as your books. Blessings on you—

Stacy Parish, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin TN

(Author’s note: So, yeah. I have serious doubts that Judy Blume will ever read my birthday wishes to her, but I’m still going to put it out there. Doesn’t cost me anything.)

blume 2If you’ve read this far (bless your heart) and are wondering to yourself: Who is this Judy Blume that you speak of? Then please, Dear Reader, continue. Judy Blume, nee Judith Sussman, was born on February 12, 1938 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a suburban town just west of New York City to Esther and Rudolph Sussman, a homemaker and a dentist. Judy, as she preferred to be called, had a brother David, who was four years her senior and preferred to spend his free time working on mysterious and often volatile science experiments in the garage. Hence, she found herself being the one who entertained her parents and other family members with her games and performances, much like funny, charismatic Sally Freedman in Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself. In fact, Judy would again draw upon her own childhood experiences, seven years and seven books after publishing her award-winning Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret., as the basis for Sally, and her brother David as the model for Sally’s sardonic loner brother Douglas.

blume 3Judy Blume was a voracious reader as a child, and loved stories and books of all kinds. She says that she spent most of her childhood making up stories inside her own head, but no matter how much she read, she never found any characters in those books whose lives and experiences were relatable to her own. Books of that era were often “sanitized for your protection,” to borrow a phrase one of my coworkers uses frequently. That is, nobody had an agonizingly annoying little brother who went into their room and messed with their stuff and swallowed their turtle (a la Fudge, from Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing), nobody was bullied (Blubber), nobody started their period (Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret), and you can be absolutely certain that nobody ever wrote about their father being shot and killed in a convenience-store holdup (Tiger Eyes.)

blume 4After graduating from high school, Judy was accepted by and enrolled in Boston University, where she spent all of two weeks before contracting mononucleosis. She returned home to New Jersey and transferred later that year to New York University. Life for Judy, as it does for most of us, proceeded apace—during her junior year of college, she began dating John Blume and was soon engaged to be married; she lost her beloved father, whom she affectionately called “Doey-bird,” in July before her senior year; she married John later that summer; and by the time she graduated from college in 1961, she was pregnant with her first child. Her daughter Randy was born later that year, and two years after that, the family moved from their apartment in Plainfield, New Jersey, to a house a few miles away in Scotch Plains. While living there, Judy gave birth to their second child, a son they named Lawrence. (How fun is this–Judy has stated in interviews that Lawrence was the inspiration for the character named Fudge, and Lawrence directed the critically-acclaimed film adaptation of Tiger Eyes in 2012.)

blume 5As a young suburban homemaker, Judy didn’t enjoy the activities that the other wives and mothers did. Golf, tennis, and shopping held no charm for her, and as a result, Judy often found herself being bored. Determined to make her life more interesting and to flex her creative muscles that had atrophied since childhood, she tried for a time to write songs. When that didn’t work out, she started making crafts out of felt, but she found that quite unsatisfying and also developed an unfortunate rash from the craft glue. Then one fine day when she was twenty-seven, Judy received a brochure in the mail from her alma mater (NYU) that advertised a class on writing for children. She was already trying to write and illustrate children’s books, so this was a positive omen. Judy signed up for the class, and even took it again the following semester. Her patience and persistence paid off, and before her second semester ended, she had a few of her stories accepted for publication in a magazine and was paid the roaring sum of $20 per story. And the rest, as they say, is history. Her first full-length children’s book, The One In The Middle Is The Green Kangaroo, was published in 1969, and in the decades since, her novels for children and young adults have exceeded sales of 85 million copies and have been translated into 32 languages.

blume 6By the end of the 20th century, Judy’s original demographic of readers had grown up and had children of their own. Her books had extended from the first generation and were still popular with—and relevant to—the next one. Her original readers were also rewarded with several adult novels from Judy’s beautiful mind—Wifey (1978), Smart Women (1983), Summer Sisters (1999) and In The Unlikely Event (2015.) Just as with her children’s and young adult novels, these books all showcased Judy’s transcendent talent for chronicling family life and its convoluted, often messy, occasionally hysterical, events. She also published a nonfiction book, titled Letters To Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You in 1986. Inspired by a 10-year-old girl named Amy, the purpose of the book was to illustrate what kids were thinking and feeling about different issues such as divorce, sex, drugs, suicide, et cetera, issues that kids might be hesitant to approach their parents about and parents in turn might be completely in the weeds for talking to their children about.

Lucky readers are we, as the delightful Judy Blume shows no signs of slowing down, even as she approaches her eighth decade on the planet, and that her books of such timeless quality have endured along with her. What a marvelous way to spend a winter afternoon, curled up with a cup of tea and some of the charming characters she brought us—Margaret, Deenie, Davey, Fudge, to name just a few. Happy birthday, Judy Blume! Mazel tov, and thank you.


Suggested reading and sources:

  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Bradbury Press, 1970. (J F BLU)
  • Everything I Needed To Know About Being A Girl I Learned From Judy Blume, edited by Jennifer O’Connell, Simon & Schuster, 2007. (813 EVE)
  • Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, Delacorte Press, 1988. (F BLU)
  • Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, Delacorte Press 1981. (J F BLU)
  • Who Wrote That? Judy Blume by Elisa Ludwig, Chelsea House Publishers, 2004. (J 92 BLUME)
  • Women Who Broke The Rules: Judy Blume by Kathleen Krull, Bloomsbury USA, 2015. (J 92 BLUME)
*The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and not intended in any way, shape, or form to influence anyone to trespass into their sibling’s room and swallow their pet. The author and her employer hereby absolve themselves of any such untoward behavior being emulated by WCPL patrons, their families, neighbors, classmates, yada yada yada.

Remember, Remember, Picture Books in November (or December)

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

So, yeah. November is (WAS! says that shrill, nagging voice in my head that is remarkably similar to that of Howard’s mother from Big Bang Theory) National Picture Book Month. Having the great good fortune to be employed in the Children’s Department at WCPL, in addition to being the mom to two awesome kids, to whom and with whom I got to read thousands of picture books over the span of more than a decade and a half, gives me a pretty broad perspective on the genre. However, in the spirit of the holiday season, I have decided to give my colleagues the opportunity to share their feast of favorites with y’all. (Please note: This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I haven’t been able to put together a coherent sentence for the past month; it’s just me being generous and inclusive, I swear.) Hence, I posed the following query to a random sampling of some of my esteemed library co-workers: What is your favorite children’s book or picture book?

  • Julie Duke, Children’s Department Manager, WCPL: Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore by David McPhail is Julie’s favorite, because “Who doesn’t love a houseful of pigs gone hog wild?” The book is written in rollicking rhyme form and features fun, whimsical illustrations.

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  • Shifay Cheung, Circulation: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. “I love this book because it mentions food, and all those fun shapes and cutouts are just brilliant. I also love Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss because I love the rhyme and it of course mentions food.” I’m seeing a pattern emerging here, Shifay . . .

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  • Erin Holt, Teen Librarian: Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood. “I love owls, and this is such a sweet story about a curious little owl who stays awake one day when he should be sleeping instead, so that he can see how things work during the daytime.”

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  • Marcia Fraser, Special Collections: anything by Tomie dePaola. “Who can resist any of Tomie dePaola’s books? They were loved by my children and were definitely our favorites for reading aloud, as they were written to be told in the oral tradition. Strega Nona, Clown of God, Bill and Pete, Fin M’Coul are just a few of the standouts in the dePaola anthology. His books seem to hark back to the old world and are often written like folktales, with beautifully selected words to carry the story, stunning illustrations so rich in detail and color, and always a delicately disguised lesson or moral. DePaola’s books are classics in the world of Children’s literature, and rightly so.”

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  • Liz Arrambide, Children’s Librarian: Irene’s Wish by Jerdine Nolen. “Irene, like many children, wants more time with her dad, who is a hard-working and talented gardener. His job keeps him so busy that he doesn’t have a lot of time with the family. Irene knows that wishes can come true, so she wishes very hard and her wish does come true! However, as it sometimes is in the case of wishing, things are just a bit different than she expected.”

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  • Dolores Greenwald, Director, WCPL: “ My favorite children’s book is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Not only is fun and entertaining, but it teaches a lesson about not being closed-minded and critical. It is a great lesson and Dr. Seuss delivers it perfectly.”

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  • Jessica Dunkel, Reference: “My favorite picture book is This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen.  It’s an underwater tale that follows a small fish who steals a bigger fish’s hat.  It’s a simple, funny story with cute fish characters, a great ending, and an even better message!”

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As for me, asking me to pick my favorite children’s picture book is like asking me to choose my favorite child. But I can narrow it down to two, for today (interestingly, also like picking my favorite child.) The first of these is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. With very limited resources (a purple crayon that never loses its sharpness, no matter how much he uses it), Harold creates a magnificent dreamscape full of beauty and excitement, and is able to keep his wits about him when faced with a situation such as too much delicious leftover pie from a picnic (“all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best”) which necessitates the creation of a very hungry moose and a deserving porcupine to finish it up.

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My other favorite is Maurice Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are. Who among us hasn’t daydreamed about sailing away and becoming the King (or Queen!) of all wild things? This book inspired me from the first time I read it as a child, continued to do so into my 20s (the door to my room in my college sorority house during my senior year was adorned with replicas of Max’s wild friends, and a warning that there might be wild things lurking within), and then became one of my children’s favorites. Snobby bookworm disclaimer: I don’t like the movie adaptation very much. Hearing the late James Gandolfini’s voice makes me happy and sad at the same time.

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So there you have it. Our randomly assorted, in no particular order, today’s favorite but maybe not tomorrow’s, list of favorite picture books. I hope we have inspired you to come to the library and check out an armful. Also, this would be a most serendipitous time to mention that we have increased the checkout limit to 30 items per card! Come visit us soon and help us “Make It A Million,” i.e., one million items circulated this fiscal year. Take care, dear readers—


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and the coworkers she shamelessly glommed on to for help in completing her assignment. Also, just because I don’t like the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are doesn’t mean that you can’t.

It’s The Greatest Comic Strip Ever, Charlie Brown!

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

See what I did there with the title? And if you don’t, then you may have been living under a rock similar to the ones that Charlie Brown used to get in his trick-or-treat bag on Halloween. For the uninitiated, Peanuts is a syndicated comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz that made its debut on October 2, 1950 in nine American newspapers: The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Minneapolis Tribune, The Allentown Morning Call, The Bethlehem Globe-Times, The Denver Post, The Seattle Times, The New York World-Telegram & Sun, and the Boston Globe. Original strips ran daily and Sundays until February 13, 2000, and at its peak, Peanuts appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers worldwide and was translated into 21 languages. The four-panel format set the standard for comic strips, and combined with other media and merchandise, Peanuts earned Schulz more than $1billion in his lifetime. Reprints are still syndicated and run in almost every U.S. newspaper.

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The debut strip from October 2, 1950. From left to right: Charlie Brown, Shermy, and original Patty.

 

Peanuts originated from a weekly panel comic called Li’l Folks that appeared in Schulz’s hometown newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947 to1950. In addition to a round-headed kid that evolved into Charlie Brown, the early strip also featured a little dog that resembled the early 1950s version of Snoopy. Li’l Folks was dropped in early 1950, and later that year Schulz approached United Feature Syndicate with a collection of his best work. A deal was accepted, but a name change for the new strip was necessary in order to avoid confusion with two existing comic strips, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner and a comic titled Little Folks. The syndicate settled on Peanuts as the name for the new strip, and it was a name that Schulz always disliked. (Author’s random thought: I wonder if he got over that, when his earnings from Peanuts climbed into the millions.)

The final daily original Peanuts comic strip, in which Schulz announced his retirement, was published on Monday, January 3, 2000. It contained a farewell note to readers from Schulz, and had an illustration of Snoopy deep in thought atop his doghouse with his iconic typewriter. Schulz had drawn 5 extra Sunday strips which had yet to run, and the last-ever of these was published on February 13, 2000, the day after Schulz’s death at age 78 from complications from colon cancer. It incorporated a colorized version of Schulz’s farewell strip from January 3, several drawings from past strips, and the sweet note to Schulz’s faithful readers.

Final Peanuts Sunday strip, issued February 13, 2000, one day after the death of creator Charles M. Schulz.

Final Peanuts Sunday strip, issued February 13, 2000, one day after the death of creator Charles M. Schulz.

 

Despite the end of the strip, Peanuts remains popular throughout multiple platforms –syndicated strips in daily and Sunday newspapers, television specials, books, theatrical productions, apparel and other merchandise, board games, amusement park characters, and perhaps the largest single venue of them all: the MetLife Insurance Company blimps, christened “Snoopy One” and “Snoopy Two.”

I have to confess, that in addition to having that pervasive earworm of a song in my head while I wrote this—you know, the song that Schroeder played on his magical piano in A Charlie Brown Christmas, that all the gang did their righteous dance moves to—I also had Bob Seger’s “Beautiful Loser” in my head. According to a 1986 interview by Seger in Creem magazine, that song is about people who set their goals so low that they never achieve anything of substance. It occurs to me that Peanuts’ central character, Charlie Brown, does just the opposite of that. He can’t fly a kite, win a baseball game, talk to the little red-haired girl without freaking out, or kick the football that Lucy heartlessly pulls away Every. Single. Time. Yet, against the mountain of evidence that suggests that the results will be the same, he keeps trying. He doesn’t give up. He perseveres.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and not a reflection of Williamson County Public Library or its employees. She can occasionally be found sitting behind a desk in the Children’s Department offering psychiatric help, but she is no longer allowed to charge 5 cents for her services.

 

No Summer Slacking! Six Sweet Selections To Savor Before September

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Below is the annotated—and sanitized– version of a conversation that took place in my kitchen, once upon a time. (Verbatim content has been carefully edited for appropriateness on a family-oriented website.)


Child: “But Mooooooooooom, it’s summer. I don’t want to read books in the summer.”

Me (interspersed epithets redacted for decorum’s sake): “Are you kidding me with this? You are aware of what I do for a living, right?”

Child: “Reading is so boring.” (strategic eye roll by child inserted here.)

Me: “Okay, I don’t even know who you are. And don’t roll your eyes at me.”

Child: “OMG. I hate reading.”

Me: “Well, now you’re just being hurtful.”

 

Hence, my attempt to prevent another parent from hearing those vile sentiments is manifested below in a short-but-sweet list of summer reads for kids. In no particular order:


6178UNtUYML._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Pete The Cat’s Groovy Guide To Life by Kimberly and James Dean. Personally, I aspire to be as cool and laid-back as Pete, and to have just a fraction of his unparalleled fashion sense. In this charming new book, Pete makes a personal interpretation of his favorite famous inspirational and feel-good quotes. For instance, Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and Pete distills that to “Go for it!” Books starring this brilliant blue feline generally range within a 1st-2nd grade reading level but are appropriate and enjoyable for readers of all ages.

 

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10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle. Duck overboard! Well, ten of them, to be precise, accidentally tossed from a freighter out into the sea by a raging storm. Each one of them floats off on a journey to a different part of the big wide world, making friends with animals along the way. The tenth little duck gets the best ending of all. Carle’s signature cut-paper collage style, combined with a sweet story, makes for a lovely counting adventure. AR level 2.4.

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13 Words by Lemony Snicket. Feeling a little triskaidekaphobic? (Yes, it’s a thing.   Go look it up. Do I sound like somebody’s mother?) Let this whimsical and striking little adventure help you get over it, just as 13 words such as “haberdashery” and “panache” help the main character, a quirky blue bird, get over his despondency. AR level 3.5.

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamilo. A precious tale by the Newbery award-winning author of The Tale of Despereaux and Flora and Ulysses. Edward, a remarkable yet arrogant rabbit, teaches us that even the coldest heart can learn to love, to endure loss, and to love again. The story alone soars from DiCamilo’s talent, but the stunning illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline take this book to another level of kid-lit. AR level 4.4

 

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Spy School by Stuart Gibbs. Precocious 12-year-old Ben Ripley takes a “leave of absence” from his public middle school to attend the Central Intelligence Agency’s super-secret Espionage Academy, which is billed to the general population as an elite science school. This fast-paced, charming book is the first in a series, which continues with Spy Camp and Evil Spy School. AR level 5.3.

 

61zvD2jvP4L._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey. When siblings Dorrie and Marcus chase Moe, an ill-tempered mongoose (is that redundant?), into the custodian’s closet in their local public library, they discover something that many of you may already know; to wit, librarians are not a group to be trifled with. This secret cabal of blade-slinging, sword-swinging, karate-chopping, crime-stopping warrior librarians has a mission: protect those whose words get them into trouble, anywhere in the world and at any time in history. Dorrie and Marcus go on a fantastic adventure and make lots of new friends along the way, and the book ends with the door wide open to a sequel. AR level 5.8.

 

Happy reading!


(Opinions, implied profanity, and suggested readings are solely those of the author and should not be considered a reflection on other WCPL employees. The author also does not advocate young patrons running into the janitor’s closet at the library. If your mongoose gets away from you, please ask an adult for assistance.)

Most Memorable Literary Dads

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Greetings, Darling Readers. Take a moment, please and thank you, and re-read that title, and take note that it doesn’t say “Best Literary Dads,” “Most Lovable Literary Dads,” or even “Exemplary Human Beings of the Male Persuasion Who Happen To Have Fathered A Child.” To further belabor the point—some of the entrants on this list (see the author’s disclaimer at the end of this article) will never be considered for the Father Of The Year Award and as such, you’d be better served to find another source of reference for good parenting skills. In no particular order:

Rick Grimeswalking dead
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.

Rick tops my personal list of memorable literary dads for a couple of reasons. Not only is he doing the single-dad thing, but he’s doing it in a post-apocalyptic world while also being the de facto leader of a ragged group of survivors. Seriously, you think hauling your kid to guitar practice once a week is a big deal? Try doing it while being pursued by flesh-eating zombies.

road“The Man/ The Father”
The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Coming in at number two on my list is another post-apocalyptic dad. The Man (also called The Father), like Rick Grimes, is doing everything he can to keep his son alive in the barren wasteland that America has become. Stark and haunting, this story of the bond between The Father and The Boy is one that will resonate with the reader for a long time to come.

Arthur Weasley
The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling.harry potter

Arthur may come across to some readers as a more laid-back dad, content to let his wife Molly take the lead on child-rearing (and in particular, disciplinary) matters in the wild and wonderful Weasley household, but he is undeniably a kind and loving dad to his own red-haired brood of witches and wizards as well as a fine father figure to young Harry Potter.

Jack Torrance
The Shining by Stephen King.

shiningMany of you may be more familiar with Jack Nicholson’s brilliant and beautifully unhinged performance in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, but the literary Jack was certainly a dad who leaves a lasting impression. Sure, he had a whole herd of demons in his head to deal with, as well as the ones inhabiting the Overlook Hotel, and he tried to kill his son Danny at their urging, but what else are you going to do when you’re a recovering alcoholic who has taken a job as a caretaker of a haunted, snowbound hotel?

Horton the Elephant
Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss.4

When the flighty (you should pardon the pun) Mayzie the bird lays an egg but can’t be bothered to go the parental distance to seeing it hatched and takes off on an extended vacation to Palm Beach, Horton takes on the role of mother and father to the egg. Even after Horton is captured and put in a traveling circus, he still won’t abandon his charge. “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant . . . An elephant’s faithful—one hundred percent!” Horton’s parental love and patience is rewarded a thousandfold when his egg hatches.

Don Vito Corleonegodfather
The Godfather by Mario Puzo.

The patriarch of the Corleone clan may have had a few moral shortcomings, but as evidenced by his quote “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” he most certainly loved his children. Let’s just overlook the fact that his love imperiled his children and led to the deaths of two of them. Hey, nobody ever said life in a mafia family was a walk in the park.

Humbert Humbert
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

(OK, remember that part in the intro when I said this list was about memorable fathers, not good ones?) Humbert Humbert is not merely a bad stepfather to Dolores; he is thoroughly, unadulteratedly evil. His vile obsession with the 12-year-old child he privately nicknamed Lolita destroys her childhood and ultimately, her life.

learKing Lear
King Lear by William Shakespeare.

Old King Lear was a silly old dear. In a completely misguided plan to determine which of his daughters loved him best, and would therefore inherit his kingdom, he is driven to madness. (Note to self: I wonder if his daughters were teenagers.)

Allie Fox
The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.mosquito

Fourteen-year-old Charlie Fox’s dad Allie is a brilliant yet slightly unhinged inventor who has had just about enough of American consumerism. He moves his family from suburban Massachusetts to the eponymous Mosquito Coast in Honduras. (Spoiler alert!) Allie is killed by a religious zealot named Spellgood, but before his untimely death, he invents this really cool ice-making machine.

Colonel Wilbur “Bull” Meecham
The Great Santini by Pat Conroy.santini

Inspired by Conroy’s own experiences growing up in a military family, this powerful and immensely readable novel is told from the viewpoint of Bull’s son Ben and chronicles the complicated relationship between them. The lengths to which Ben goes to earn the love and acceptance of his father, “A warrior without a war,” is at times heart-wrenching, but it is clear that Bull Meecham loves his family with the same fierce passion that he loves his country and the United States Marine Corps.

Atticus Finchmockingbird
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Yes, I saved the best for last. Atticus Finch is the absolute acme of parenthood—he is kind, dignified, brave, and loyal. He holds tight to his principles, even when it comes at a tremendous cost. It is nearly impossible not to be inspired by Atticus’ quiet yet steely strength.

 

So, Dearest Readers, if you’ve made it this far, bless your heart, and thank you from the bottom of mine. Regardless of your location or your circumstances, may you all have a blessed Father’s Day. Happy reading—


(***Same as it ever was—the opinions and viewpoints expressed here are solely those of the author and are in no way reflective of Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, or their fathers.)

Hooray, Hooray for Father’s Day! 9 Great Books Celebrating Dad

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Let us now praise . . . Dear Old Dad! Yes, that fixer of bicycle chains and broken hearts. That guy, who ferried you and your giggly girlfriends to the skating rink or the mall, and reluctantly agreed to let you out of the car a little ways down the sidewalk so that you wouldn’t be seen climbing out of a very uncool Dadmobile. The fellow who coached your youth soccer team and took everyone out for ice cream afterward, rain or shine, win or lose. The man who escorted you down the aisle and tried valiantly not to let you or anyone else see the tears in his eyes. The one who will always be there for you, and for his grandchildren.

Here, in no particular order, are nine great books that celebrate Dad.


Tad And Dad by David Ezra Stein. Tad the Tadpole just loves spending every minute with his super cool awesome dad, including sharing his lily pad for sleeping. But when Tad begins to grow bigger, the lily pad starts to become a bit crowded. What to do? Caldecott Honor winner David Ezra Stein’s sweet story of familial love will amuse and delight, and may look a little bit like your own life.  1

 

Kevin And His Dad by Irene Smalls. This Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner chronicles a day Kevin and his father spend tidying the house, doing some repairs, playing ball, seeing a movie, having milkshakes, and just sharing each other’s company. It is a graceful and powerful celebration of the bond that exists between boys and their dads.2

 

Dad and Pop: An Ode To Fathers and Stepfathers by Kelly Bennett. The protagonist of this story is a very lucky girl indeed. She has a father and a stepfather who are very different in many ways, but they share one trait without question: they both love her very much.3

 

Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss. Horton the Elephant sat and sat on the egg Mayzie the Bird laid (and abandoned) because “I meant what I said and I said what I meant . . . An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!” Horton’s patience and love is rewarded a thousandfold by the creature that hatches out of the egg that he protected and nurtured. Pure magic!4

 

How To Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler. Little Jumbo’s dad is having a bad day, and LJ has no idea why (hint: it’s LJ’s own mischief-making that is causing Dad’s consternation.) Fortunately he does know how to cheer Dad right up. Fred Koehler’s whimsical debut is a lovely tribute to fathers everywhere, and to their own high-octane Little Jumbos.18079483

 

Dad Runs Away With The Circus by Etgar Keret. In this wildly imaginative picture book, Audrey and Zach’s father joins the circus, travels the world, and becomes a star. Dad’s message to Audrey and Zach: you’re never too old to follow your dreams. This is the debut children’s book by acclaimed Israeli writer Keret.6

 

Rock On, Mom & Dad! (A Pete The Cat book) by James Dean. Pete’s mom and dad are total rock stars, as they do so much for him. But how can he show them how much he appreciates and loves them? His rockin’ surprise is a result of Pete discovering that it’s not what you do, but how you do it, that matters–as long as it’s from the heart.7

 

My Dad The Magnificent by Kristy Parker. Seems like no matter how cool your dad is, there’s always someone whose dad is just a little bit cooler. When Buddy’s new friend Alex brags about his firefighter dad, Buddy can’t resist being drawn into the game of one-upsmanship and invents a new and increasingly exotic persona for his dad each day for a week. At the end of the story, Buddy realizes that his plain old dad is pretty magnificent, even if he wears a business suit instead of bunker pants.51qp0BtQYrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

 

The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman. More graphic short story than traditional children’s picture book, this witty and whimsical book by the author of Coraline explores what can happen when you want something so badly that you’re willing to trade your own father for it . . . and then what happens when Mom gets home and learns what you’ve done.8

Thanks for reading. Happy Father’s Day to one and all—


(As always, the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and in no way reflect upon the beliefs and principles of Williamson County Public Library, its employees, or their fathers.)

The WCPL Children’s Department and the Terrific, Fantastic, Very Good, Not Bad Suggested Summer Reading List

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Yeah, my humble apologies to Judith Viorst for so shamelessly ripping off her title like that.horrible

Why should kids read during the summer? Because I said so. Because the experts said so. Because it’s fun. Because you can score some cool prizes from us, just for reading a few books, listening to a book on CD, and attending any (or all!) of the fabulous special programs we have at Main and all branches. (More about that in a minute.)

What should kids read during the summer? I’m so glad you asked. Start off in May with Faulkner, ease on into some Chaucer for June, and then progress to Tolstoy by July. (Yes, I’m kidding.) If you have an avid reader child at home, you really don’t even have to ask that question, because more than likely they already know what they want to read. It’s tempting to recoil in horror if your kid wants to plow through the popular ones such as Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series or Jeff Kinney’s wildly successful Diary Of A Wimpy Kid books. My personal un-favorites when my kids were younger were the Junie B. Jones books by the late Barbara Park. Junie B.’s atrocious grammar and obnoxious behavior pushed me to the outer limits of my patience every time I read them with my younger daughter, which was nightly for what seemed like a millennium but was really only a few months. (Disclaimer: my fellow University of Alabama alumna Barbara Park was a tremendously talented and wonderful human being and is greatly missed by the kiddie-lit world.) Whether you have a ravenous reader or a reluctant reader at home, the song remains the same: whatever it is, if it gets them engaged, go with it. However, if you still need some suggestions (and you’re still reading this blog, bless your heart), here are a few selections by staff members of the WCPL Children’s Department to get your summer started:

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli. AR level 1.0.
After swallowing a watermelon seed, a crocodile imagines disastrous results. Bold colors and whimsical writing make this a fun choice for the picture-book set.watermelon

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. AR level 2.8.
Henry loves to eat books and is on his way to becoming the smartest person in the world, until he starts feeling quite ill and decides maybe he could do something else with all those books he’s been (literally) devouring.boy

Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse. AR level 3.6.
A young girl anxiously awaits a rainstorm to bring relief from an oppressive summer drought.rain

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, And A Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. AR level 4.7.
The first book in a series chronicles the unforgettable summer that four spirited girls have with their widowed father in the Berkshires. A National Book Award winner.penderwicks

Half Magic by Edward Eager. AR level 5.0.
Facing the prospect of another dull summer in the city, four children suddenly find themselves caught up in some extraordinary adventures after discovering a coin that grants wishes. This series continues in Magic By The Lake.magic

How Tia Lola Saved The Summer by Julia Alvarez. AR level 5.5.
Miguel is not thrilled that a family with three daughters will be living with them for the summer. Luckily, Miguel’s aunt has some tricks up her sleeve guaranteed to take this summer from worst to first.tia

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. AR level 5.5.
The first book in the phenomenal series, in which Harry Potter finds himself rescued from a grim and joyless life with his insufferable aunt, uncle, and cousin and transported to the fantastic wizarding world of Hogwarts.harry

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan. AR level 7.0. 
Fifteen-year-old Will reluctantly becomes an apprentice to the mysterious Ranger Halt and winds up protecting the entire kingdom from danger. This is the first book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series.apprentice

All these fabulous titles, and thousands more, are available to be checked out from Williamson County Public Library. Oh, and while you’re there (remember earlier when I mentioned cool prizes?) sign your child up to participate in the 2015 Summer Reading Program. It’s fun, it’s fabulous, it’s free. Happy reading!


** As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the philosophies or principles of Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, their parents, children, friends, or housepets.

Reflections on Children’s Poetry, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Lorax

By Stacy Parish, Children’s DepartmentShel_Silverstein_-_Where_the_Sidewalk_Ends

One day several years ago, when my children were small, it occurred to me that perhaps I was letting them watch too much television. I had this particular epiphany after an episode of Teletubbies led me to idly speculate what sort of expensive pharmaceutical usage had led to the invention of the aforementioned pudgy nonsense-spouting creatures, and if the ensuing commercial success of the Teletubbies then enabled the program’s creators and producers to be able to afford more of whatever controlled substance had been instrumental in bringing Dipsy, Po, Laa Laa, and Tinky-Winky into existence. And then there’s Caillou. (Which translates to “small smooth pebble” in French. You’re welcome.) Do not get me started on that whiny, round-headed little twerp. * Even hearing his name all these years later makes me immediately start casting around for a sharp object. If an animated children’s television show inspires such sinister thoughts, it’s probably not a great idea to let your kid watch a ton of it.

I’ll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet—

And you know what I tell you is true.

He loved to watch his TV set

Almost as much as you.

                                                     –Shel Silverstein

 I’ve always been a bookworm, and I read to my kids (okay, technically I suppose I was reading to my burgeoning midsection, but you know what I mean) even before they entered the world, but maybe it was time to step it up a notch from Eric Carle and Lucy Cousins to something a little loftier. Poetry? What a great idea!

Between the dark and the daylight,

When the night is beginning to lower,

Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,

That is known as the Children’s Hour.

                                           –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So. Where to begin? At the library, of course, after a brief detour to the local ice cream parlor. (It’s merely a suggestion. If you prefer active culture frozen yogurt with organic mix-ins, go for it. Just don’t judge me.) Here we go–Shakespeare, Silverstein, Seuss. Nesbitt and Nash. Milne, Moore, Millay. Prelutsky and Poe. In case you’re wondering, and I really hope you aren’t, those beautiful, haunting verses created by Edgar Allan Poe may ignite a fire in your adult soul but are generally not appropriate for– or amusing to– your average preschooler. That old saw about knowing your audience definitely holds true when diving into the poetry pool with your child. In other words, if you decide to make a foray into poetry with your kiddo, don’t overthink it. Whether you choose The Giving Tree or Green Eggs and Ham, or something else entirely, enjoy the exploration of a new genre with your child. And . . .

When called by a panther/Don’t anther.

                                                          –Ogden Nash

Suggested sources for children’s poetry, in no particular order:

  • Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
  • The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash
  • Shout! Little Poems That Roar by Brod Bagert
  • Here’s a Little Poem collected by Jane Yolen
  • Treasury of Poetry selected by Alistair Hedley

 

*Opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the philosophy or preferences of the Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, their families, friends, or pets.

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