As it goes, with each start of the new year comes new resolutions. People vow to go to the gym, to eat healthier, to travel more, to work less, and my personal favorite, to read more books. It can be hard getting back into the swing of things after a busy holiday season, so my advice is to start slow.
Oftentimes, it’s best to narrow your search by the genres or authors that you tend to like. For example, I love the author Lemony Snicket and plan on beginning his current series All the Wrong Questions. Maybe you like to read funny stories, so you could read the Justin Case series. Whichever book you choose, make sure you choose it wisely. The more passion you have to read it, the better the chances are of you finishing it! Ultimately though, your resolutions should be fun and exciting — not stressful.
Here’s a few books you might like to get you started!
Let’s talk about book covers. There are usually two teams when it comes to book covers. Some readers say book covers are a key element to what draws readers to the book. Other readers firmly believe that the synopsis is the best way to decide whether or not a book is for you.
I’m with the first team, especially when I’m browsing in the library. I’m a sucker for a beautiful book. I definitely found some eye-catching book covers in 2016, as shown below in this blog. Some of my favorite book covers feature gold foil, simple typography, clever illustrated art, or a really great color scheme. Synopses of my latest book selections are included for readers that want them, but feel free to go ahead and judge these books by their covers.
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.
It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?
The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters, as described in School’s First Day of School.
Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .
While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world in Hour of the Bees.
A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories… where, with only a little imagination, anything at all can happen.
Irresistibly engaging characters by Oliver Jeffers set sail and chart their way through Sam Winston’s fascinating typographical landscapes in this extraordinary ode to the power and promises of storytelling. Forty treasured children’s classics and lullabies are featured in the pictures, providing endless opportunities for discovery, memories and sharing.
Woven together by a simple story line, the one-of-a-kind illustrations in a A Child of Books provide an unforgettable reading experience that will inspire and encourage readers of all ages to explore, question, and imagine timeless stories of their own.
When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? Jazz Day is a captivating collection of poems, in which author Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era. This book includes bios of several of the fifty-seven musicians, an author’s note, sources, a bibliography, and a foldout of Art Kane’s famous photograph.
Play is an essential literacy skill and an important part of how children learn. Allowing time for your child to play can help to build confidence, problem-solving skills, and a stronger imagination. If you’re looking for ways to entertain your young children over winter break, try checking out a Playpack at the library. Our new collection of Playpacks are a circulating collection of toys designed to promote early literacy. Each Playpack features two to three toys centered on a specific concept or theme. Featured items include toys such as puppets, puzzles, games, or pretend play sets. Playpacks are available to GEPL cardholders and they circulate for three weeks (no renewals). Below are a few featured playpacks; please check our catalog for the full list of items available.
Getting Dressed Playpack: Learn how to get dressed with three dressing frames that have easy-to-grasp features. You can also learn how to lace and tie shoelaces with a wooden lacing shoe and extra-long lace.
Music Playpack: Introduce your child to making music with instruments such as bells, maracas, a xylophone, and a drum. Children can also learn the sounds of eight instruments by using a sound puzzle where removing each piece produces a different sound.
Sorting Playpack: Introduce your child to sorting and different shapes to help develop hand-eye coordination. Toys such as ring stacks and blocks provide an introduction to size, stacking, identifying and matching shapes.
Ah, winter break. The time for snowball fights, sledding, and hot cocoa with marshmallows. But then the boredom hits. And suddenly, it’s “what are we going to do today? There’s nothing to do.”
Good thing the library has some great resources to keep you busy, learning, and having fun during your winter break.
If you’re in middle school, come check out our awesome board games and art cart available at any time in The Middle. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 3:30-5 pm, you can join other middle schoolers for Crafternoons. You can also check out a MacBook from the Youth Information Desk (just bring your library card or school ID). If you forgot your ID, there’s plenty of desktop computers, too.
Our 3D printers have been busy lately; stop in to see them at work sometime over break.
If you’re in elementary school and love action and history, come by this morning from 11 am – Noon for I Survived, based on Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series. Or check out one of our new Launchpads. Each Launchpad has different games and activities, so feel free to try your hand at a few in order to find what level or game you like best. Our desktop computers are available, too.
You may have noticed our collection display cases in the front of the Youth Department. Our wait list is down from four years (!) to a little over a year, so it’s the perfect time to get your name on the list to show off all your cool Lego creations, book collection, stuffed animals, or more.
You don’t even have to leave your warm house to enjoy the library. We have some great online databases for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you’re learning a new language, reading books, or watching movies, check out all our databases for all sorts of inspiration and fun from the comfort of your living room.
So you poured your sweat and tears into making batches upon batches of cookies to give as a loving gift to family, friends, and coworkers. You go around handing them out basking in the glory of your own handiwork getting praise from everyone around you until you get to that one person who looks up at you and says:
Wut? You were sure that making homemade delicious sugar cookies — painstakingly hand decorated mind you — would please everyone (making up for last year’s marshmallow blow dart fiasco). You could just sincerely say you are sorry and go on your merry way, maybe make them a card to make up for the lack of cookies. But no! This cannot be! Everyone must enjoy your handiwork, after all those cookies were delicious!
Have no fear! This week is National Gluten-Free Baking week and unlike ten years ago, there are so many actually delicious recipes out there now. I’ve included here my favorite Gluten-Free Christmas Cookie Recipe perfect for any desire to appease your family, friends, and co-workers — yes, even the gluten-free ones. It’s all so easy now it’s hard to fail, and if you do, at least you can binge on chocolate chips like I often do…
Happy Gluten-Free Baking Week!
Check out these amazing Gluten-Free Baking Books here at the Library!
It’s the season of giving! Books always make a great gift — they are easy to wrap and the choices are endless. If you’re struggling to think of some good titles to give, we’ve got you covered. You can preview all of these titles before you buy at the library.
For the wimpy kid lover in your life, there is a new title out — Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down. And for the reader not quite ready for Wimpy Kid, try the Geronimo Stilton series. The new Geronimo Stilton Cavemice title, Paws Off the Pearl, is sure to be a hit with any new-to-chapter-books reader.
If you’re shopping for a Pokemon fan, be sure to pick up a copy of the Pokemon Deluxe Essential Handbook. This book has facts on over 700 Pokemon and will be sure to please all Pokemon aficionados.
Middle school readers will love the Middle School series by James Patterson (yes, that James Patterson). The newest release Middle School: Dog’s Best Friend has main character Rafe starting a dog-walking business that goes hilariously awry.
If you’re looking for an avid reader that doesn’t mind some genre-mixing, be sure to pick up The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz. With tons of history, humor, and medieval adventure this one will be keep them reading right into 2017.
One more historical fiction favorite is The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Set during World War II in England this book will engage any middle grade and older reader who loves historical stories or books that tug at your heartstrings.
For those younger readers, there’s a new Cookie Mouse book titled If You Give a Mouse a Brownie. This would be the perfect gift for any hungry preschool reader.
Also, check out Journey by Aaron Becker. This absolutely stunning wordless picture book is the first of a trilogy that will make a great gift for virtually anyone.
If you need more personalized recommendations please stop by the Youth Desk. We are always happy to help you find the right title.
Technology is taking over the world! But that’s not a bad thing. Technology is supposed to enhance our lives, making them better and easier. Why not embrace it?
Some may think kids these days are born with a mouse in one hand, and a touchscreen in another, but just because middle schoolers were born in this technological era, does not mean that they’re naturally competent in all things digital. It’s important to immerse yourself and your child in technology so you can both learn savvy techniques to survive in our digital world.
While it can be challenging, it’s important to steer into the techno-wave instead of skirting around it and hoping it’ll all blow over. With gift-giving season upon us, it’s hard to avoid things that need wires and batteries. Technology can be a great starting point for a conversation, or even a stronger relationship. Now is the time to start across the technological bridge into the future.
You can adjust slowly by using technology at a lower competency level. Maybe you don’t want your kids to be staring at a screen. Perhaps you want a way for them to connect to you or other loved ones without the hassle of their own smart phones or social media accounts.
Talkies by Toymail suggested age range goes from years 3 and up, but they’re so adorable that people of all ages will love them. Adding in the gold tooth factor ages these to younger middle schoolers easily.
Kids can have up to ten people in their “trusted circle” of messaging. Voice messages can be up to 30 seconds, and don’t delete until the Talkie runs out of storage. The toy messengers work on WiFi, not Bluetooth, but can only be assigned to one WiFi network at a time.
If your child is selfie ready, but you’re worried about the dangers that come with potentially hazardous selfie situations, you can try Snap Pets by Wow Wee. These adorable creatures, that come in dog, rabbit, or cat, help take hands free selfies – known to the older generations as a camera with a timer. They hold up to 20 pictures at a time, and can be sent to a trusted device where they have the ability to be edited or shared.
Technology can enhance and improve your life as well. Most know that fitness trackers can help with health goals and running techniques, but technology has taken it one step further with Wilson, who makes a “smart basketball” that can track and improve your skills on the court.
Like the idea, but not a basketball fan? Try the smart football instead.
You can’t have a blog about technology without bringing up robots! Robots that are available today can be for educational or recreational purposes. The Cozmo by Anki is beyond cute, with facial expressions and its own attitude. Cozmo can play games and evolves the more time you spend with it. For the more advanced user, Anki offers an open-sourced platform where you can edit and build new features for your little friend.
There are a few robotic options that have a more obvious educational track. Spheros have single and multiplayer games on them, but also teach simple coding structures. The coding missions are challenging but not impossible. Third graders from Wisconsin went above and beyond and programmed a set of Spheros to replicate our solar system’s orbit and were featured on Astrology Night at the White House. Students programmed speed, distance between planets, and the degree of their rotation to achieve this feat.
Ozobots teach basic concepts of coding with color coded line sequences. You don’t have to worry about purchasing expensive refill packets, since any brand marker will work providing that it can make a ¼ inch line. Ozobots come with markers, a helmet, and a book of activities and puzzles to get your child started. Once they get the hang of it, they can think way beyond the parameters to create costumes and even stories for the tiny robot that fits in the palm of your hand.
Dash from Wonder Workshop is the more advanced bot from the Dash and Dot duo. Kids learn coding starting with the Dash tutorial. Their free apps can teach kids by playing, and you can enhance their entertainment with add-ons like brick connectors and xylophones. Kids can operate Dash with any smart touch screen device, and can do anything from complete an obstacle course, to make a ball launcher.
Technology has advanced beyond the physical realm and into virtual reality. Devices like Google Cardboard, Playstation VR, and Oculus Rift all allow people to enjoy virtual reality in their own home, at different quality and price tiers. Virtual reality can be used at home or in the classroom to provide more personal experiences in environments that would otherwise be unattainable, allowing for more knowledge retention.
While new technology might be daunting and intimidating, there are a lot of benefits that can enrich your life, as well as your relationship with your middle schooler. Maybe you will purchase one of these gadgets for hours of family fun, or maybe you’ll stop by the library to play with them here. Either way, there’s nothing to be scared of. Jump in!
We have been in our newly remodeled Youth Department for almost a year and the excitement is still alive as we hear our members express how much they love the new play area, the layout, the colors, the 3D printers and the picture book categories to just name a few.
In the beginning we had comments from people wondering why we decided to categorize our picture books and I am always happy to tell them that we did it because we listened to how our members asked for books. Because picture books tend to be for children who are not reading yet, it was hard for them to understand how to find books. Now they learn where their favorite topics are and know where to go each time they visit. Just the other day a three year old walked in with his grandmother and said, “let’s find a new truck book,” and he knew exactly where to go! The grandmother started to stop at the desk to ask but he said “come on, this way.” He was so proud of himself and I loved seeing the smile on his face as he showed his grandmother right where to go without any hesitation.
As I was coming up with the 15 main topics and countless subtopics for categorizing our collection of picture books, my coworker and I tried really hard to think of all of the popular topics children like. I think our members have been more than happy. With the new way to find picture books, our collection check out has grown from about 20% to 30% at any point in time.
If you have questions about the new way we shelve our picture books, please stop at the Youth Desk and ask us for assistance. We are here to help you. We love to hear feedback and have even made a couple of changes after hearing our members ask for a certain author or character.
“The book ends?!” Elephant – We Are in a Book by Mo Willems
We Are in a Book by Mo Willems is a story about best friends that discover they are in a book that a reader is reading! They go along in this delightfully funny story until one of the characters discovers that the book ends. Despair ensues and the hilarity of how it is dealt with is worth reading over and over again. I love funny books.
It is sheer brilliance in writing when an author makes adults and children laugh simultaneously. Funny picture books are at the top of my list followed closely by tear jerkers, which is another blog post entirely, stay tuned.
I have found over the years that funny books are usually the ones that children choose to be read over and over again. Usually they end up memorizing the book which is a great reading readiness skill. So gather your giggles together and pick up one of my favorite funny books:
There was an election this week. If you’ve listened to radio or TV, or if you have spent any time on social media, you know that people are stressed out, angry and anxious. And if adults are feeling this way, kids are going to be worried and anxious, too.
As I write this, I do not know the results of the election. But we all know that it has been contentious and we have heard difficult things from both sides. As we exercise our right to vote, let’s also exhibit our best behavior toward one another, the children are watching.
In a 2012 Psychology Today online article (written long before this election!), Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. talks about civility like this: “The foundational virtue of citizenship, civility is behavior that recognizes the humanity of others, allowing us to live peacefully together in neighborhoods and communities. The psychological elements of civility include awareness, self-control, empathy, and respect.”
So, how do we help our children navigate some of these complex feelings and relationships, which are essential to who we are in community with one another? I believe that books can be great gateways to difficult conversations with kids of all ages. Take time to snuggle up with your sweet child, offer a hug and share a story. Here are a few books that may help foster discussion, empathy and respect for the world around us. Ask at your library for help finding more titles.