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As discussed in a previous blog post, many of us make New Year’s resolutions. It’s a way to start our year off on the right foot and motivate ourselves, if you will.
For one of my resolutions, I always set a personal reading goal. Last year, on Goodreads, I pledged to read 65 books in 2018 and finished at 68. A few of my favorites from the last year were Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
This year, I wanted to up it a little bit, so I have pledged to read 70 books in 2019. To some, that might sound like a lot, and to others, it might seem easy. That’s more than a book a week, which seemed like a good goal for me.
I try to read all the Rebecca Caudill and Bluestem nominees every year, so that’s around 40 books right there. I also read the Monarch nominees, but I don’t track picture books so most of those will not count toward my goal. And once the Newbery winners are announced, I will read those if I haven’t already done so. Mostly, I just like to try the new books we purchase at the library so I have recommendations for readers who come in looking for something new.
I love hearing about what you have read and enjoyed. I like adding those books to my list, too. So, stop in and tell me about your most recent find!
In Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly Devos, Cookie Vonn is very passionate about fashion and has dreamed of working in the industry since she was a little girl. Now she is a senior in high school, wondering why she can’t get into Parsons School of Design. Cookie is considered “plus-size,” which makes it hard for her to become a designer, because many people think thin is more attractive. This novel follows Cookie on her journey to persuade clothing lines to make larger sizes and accommodate all women.
There are a handful of reasons why designers prefer skinny models. Skinny models provide a “blank canvas” for designs to be better seen and imagined by people. There are fewer last-minute alterations when the clothes are smaller, and this can cut down on catwalk stress. Another huge reason is because consumers and fashion editors prefer looking at thin models as opposed to plus-size models. (See Model scout admits designers seek ‘straight up-and-down’ figures, Feb. 19, 2016).
Cookie definitely feels pressure to be skinny and follow in her mom’s footsteps as a successful model. I admire her for her strong personality and her ability to stand up for herself while people give her trouble for her size. She believes that “There is more to life than how we look on the outside. Happy endings can’t be reserved for the thin” (p. 53).
But many thin girls get negative comments as well. After Cookie loses weight, people still make remarks about her appearance. An example of this happens when a limo driver repeatedly mentions that Cookie can have any kind of food she wants, and he even tells her, “You pretty girls never eat” (p. 60).
The story switches from past to present tenses every other chapter. The past tense is Cookie’s life while she is “fat,” while the present tense chapters follow Cookie after she becomes “skinny.” I found the switching back and forth a little confusing at times, trying to track both stories at once. In my opinion, I think it distracted me from the main point of the book. I wish the author would have put the past tense “fat” story first and then halfway through the book switched to the “skinny” story. In a way, it would sort of be like reading two books in one. I think it might have been easier to see how differently Cookie was treated at those times in her life. You can definitely tell that she is treated better and respected more when she is skinny.
Cookie has big dreams and a true love for fashion. She doesn’t let her weight get in the way of her interests. She says that “Fashion isn’t about finding clothes, it’s about finding yourself” (p. 43). After Cookie becomes thin, she still wants to make plus-size clothing, having experienced first-hand what it is like to be too big to fit into designer clothing.
I think having a goal is a good way to motivate yourself and give you a clear idea about where you want to be in the future. However, if you take self-improvement too far you may never feel satisfied with your progress, which then makes it hard to accept who you are. I think the difference between having a goal for yourself and accepting who you are is based on things you can and can’t control. When you have a goal, you are working toward a result you want to see in the future. It may take lots of work, but it is achievable at some point down the line. Accepting who you are is about understanding your strengths and weaknesses and being comfortable in your own skin. You know that there are things you can change, but you accept the good and the bad. Then you can decide whether or not you are willing to put forth the effort to achieve a vision that you set for yourself.
Youth library staff love to talk about their favorite children’s books, and this is the best time of the year to do so, because the annual awards are right around the corner. The American Library Association (ALA) will announce the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Geisel, and other notable honors on January 28. Here are a dozen of our favorites that we feel are noteworthy for our upcoming “Mock Caldecott” discussion for staff development. We highly recommend all of these books and will be announcing our local winners soon. The Caldecott Committee criteria is as follows:
In identifying a distinguished American picture book for children, defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:
- Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
- Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
- Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme, or concept;
- Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood, or information through the pictures;
- Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.
Check out our recommendations below, and host your own Caldecott discussion with your friends or family! Here are some tips for a good discussion:
- Narrow down your nominations to 10-15 choices for best picture books of the year.
- Let everyone make their best “pitch” for why they feel a particular book is noteworthy. It’s fun and interesting to try and sway others.
- On the day of the discussion, have 3 rounds of voting. Round 1 = all titles, Round 2 = half the titles, and Round 3 = final votes for top three.
- Pick a winner and two Honor books.
- Celebrate with an announcement on social media and tag us! (@glenellynpl)
Over the past few years, we have had more and more people telling us they no longer own a CD player at home, and new cars often don’t come with one, either. Playaways are available at the library for adults and older kids, and we also have apps to check out books on a mobile device. But we haven’t always had a good solution for our youngest listeners that enjoy looking at a book as they listen.
Enter Vox Books. Last month, we added this option to our picture book collection. Vox has the audio built right in, with a control panel inside the front of each book that allows children to turn it on/off, adjust the volume, and advance or go back a page. There is also a chime that plays, telling children when to turn the page. These are perfect for road trips and just enjoying at home. The listener can plug in earbuds or play the stories out loud.
We own around 30 Vox titles, available here. They are currently on our new book display, but once they are no longer new they can be found in our Books with Sound area. Pick one up today!
My second grader recently brought home his reading log from school. This year the students in his class are tasked with finding books from different genres, and the first three assigned were fantasy, realistic fiction, and nonfiction. My son loves fantasy, and almost everything he reads includes a talking toilet, lifelike robot, or complaining crayons. We’ve also read some realistic fiction—one of his all-time favorites is Building Our House by Jonathan Bean.
So that left us with nonfiction. I had heard about the popular Who Would Win series and decided to see if my son was interested. Each book matches two different animals against each other to determine who would win in a fight. They provide information about each animal, comparing physical characteristics, speed, lifestyles, etc. After these comparisons, the books imagine a duel between the two animals and predict a winner. The books are chock-full of great information and suspenseful. You’ll be biting your nails!
I first brought home Who Would Win: Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark. My son read it right away and immediately asked for Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Velociraptor. He had a strong prediction about who would win in the dinosaur battle and wanted to see if he was right. We have now read six of these books and he is anxiously awaiting Lion vs. Tiger!
I highly recommend this series to young readers interested in nonfiction or animals. Some children might not like that the animals fight, so discuss with your child if these are books they want to explore before diving in. And make sure to predict a winner before reading!
Check out some of our favorites here:
Do you find the human brain fascinating?
Are you a parent, grandparent, or caregiver?
Are you an educator or are you interested in education?
Are you a speech therapist?
Do you love the power of language?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to read Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain by Dr. Dana Suskind, and come listen to her presentation on Tuesday, November 13.
I originally picked up Thirty Million Words because I wanted to learn the “how and why” behind something that I already knew. Talking to your child is the most important thing you can do to support their future success, especially for young children ages 0 to 3. This is because at this point in life, the brain has the most neuroplasticity.
Thirty Million Words focuses on research that indicates that some children hear 30 million fewer words by their fourth birthday than other children. Let’s pause for a moment and let that number soak in: 30 million (non-unique) words. This gap has a significant, lasting impact on a child’s future. To help close the gap, Dr. Suskind has developed The Thirty Million Words Initiative.
If you are not already convinced that you need to read Thirty Million Words, here are a few powerful quotes.
- An infant’s brain, at the height of neuroplasticity, can distinguish the sound of every language, from the German umlaut to the Chinese pinyin to the glottal, slightly implosive consonants of the Masai, and is ready to learn the language a sound belongs to, or even several languages with very different sounds.
- It [a baby’s brain] does not learn language passively, but only in an environment of social responsiveness and social interaction.
- The brain, unlike almost all other organs, is unfinished at birth. The heart, the kidneys, and lungs function from day one as they will for their entire lives. But the brain is almost entirely dependent on what it encounters on tis ride to full development.
- Optimal caretaker language, in the very early years of a child’s life, is geared at helping a child toward independence.
- We have to make the importance of the early language environment part of the American vernacular. Every parent, in fact, every person, should understand it.
Join us on Tuesday, November 13, from 7-8:30 pm to hear Dr. Suskind explain how adults can “tune in, talk more, and take turns” to set the stage for optimum brain development. There will be a Q&A and book signing after Dr. Suskind’s presentation. Prairie Path Books will have copies of Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain available for purchase. Educators will receive one (1) free CPDU credit for attending this program. Reserve your spot.
Every year, on November 11, we honor veterans, living and deceased, who have served our country. It is difficult for many children to imagine the ways service members risked their lives and the hardships they endured to protect our freedom. How can you help your child show veterans their appreciation and gratitude?
1. Display your flag. Fly the American flag at home. Not sure how to display it properly? Learn flag etiquette. Don’t have a flag? Kids can put small flags from the dollar store or received at parades in the front yard. This is a great way for children to express their patriotism!
2. Attend a Veterans Day event. There are many parades and community events that honor veterans. Children will experience a sense of community and feel the excitement of honoring those who have protected us. We have listed below a few local events scheduled on or near Veterans Day.
3. Read stories about Veterans Day. There are titles in many different genres that will give your child a better background of Veterans Day and insight into a soldier’s life. Here are some titles to explore at the library.
Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco
Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner
The Not So Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis
What is Veterans Day? by Elaine Landow
4. Write a letter to or make a card for a Veteran or a soldier who is actively serving. Websites like operationgratitude.com, amillionthanks.org, and soldiersangel.org distribute the cards you send them to veterans and soldiers. Here are a few tips to get started.
- Begin with a generic salutation, such as Dear Brave One or Dear Freedom Fighter.
- Express your thanks for their selfless service.
- Talk about your life and interests – Sports, Weather, Music, Movies, Food, and Books.
- Don’t include a date on your letters. Sometimes it can take up to a few months for letters to be received.
- Include only first names and do not include addresses.
- Can’t find the words? Consider drawing or painting a picture instead.
Are you in middle school and at the Glen Ellyn Public Library in the month of November? You can write a letter to or make a card for a veteran or soldier in the Middle Room, and we will mail it to the organization for you! We will be accepting letters until Friday, November 30.
Hopefully, these four suggestions will help your children understand the purpose of Veterans Day and express gratitude to the veterans and soldiers who protect us. To my father, and all our soldiers and veterans, Happy Veterans Day!
Local Veterans Day Events
Saturday, November 3 | 7-10 am | Cantigny Park
15th Annual Cantigny 5K Run/Walk. A charitable run with all proceeds donated to Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans.
Saturday, November 10 | Noon-3 pm | Cantigny Park McCormick House
Second Saturday: Family Program. Celebrate Veterans Day by creating cards for the Hines VA Hospital. Several other service activities will be planned to benefit local non-profits. Free with parking fee ($5).
Saturday, November 10 | 1-4 pm | Cantigny Park
Brew It Forward Beer Tasting – Family Activities include making cards for veterans at the Hines VA Hospital, Cantina Cantigny hot chocolate station, poppy craft, story time in a WWII-era vehicle, and preparing gift bags for veterans in need.
Sunday, November 11 | 10:50 am | Cantigny Park
Program to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that took place at 11 am in 1918. Parking is free.
Sunday, November 11 | Noon | Glen Ellyn’s Lake Ellyn Park
Veterans Day ceremony with Glen Ellyn American Legion Post 3, the local VFW, and Daughters of the American Revolution.
National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 through October 15, honors the histories, cultures, and contributions of people from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
El Día De Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a multi-day holiday celebrated October 31 through November 2. It originated in central and southern Mexico and is a celebration of loved ones who have died. It is celebrated throughout Mexico and elsewhere by people of Mexican heritage and has grown in popularity throughout the United States.
You can learn more about the Day of the Dead from books like Day of the Dead and Daniela’s Day of the Dead, and learn about the Mexican artist behind the popular skeleton figures in Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras.
Other ways you can celebrate Hispanic Heritage month are by checking out books that focus on Spanish countries and cultures or feature Hispanic characters or authors. There are books on traditional costumes, meals, and even folktales. Keep an eye out for the display near the entrance where some of these books will be featured throughout the month of October. Some titles include the following.
Meals in Mexico by Cari Meister
Peru by Michael Burgan
The Bossy Gallito = El Gallo de Bodas ; A Traditional Cuban Folktale by Lucía M. González
Hispanic Heritage month is also a great time to learn some simple Spanish words and phrases, read some bilingual books, or read an entire book in Español! GEPL has a growing collection of books in other languages. These books include bilingual text, which is a great way to practice going from English to Spanish or vice versa. The Language category in the Picture Books section features easy-to-read books with text in both languages.
You could also explore our bilingual picture books or books entirely in Spanish. The Non-Fiction 400s section contains both picture and chapter books in Spanish, including some well-known favorites such as the Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. There are several new titles from the popular Who-Was / Who-Is books on the New in Non-Fiction shelf!
Other bilingual options include Bilingual Storytime (Hora de Cuentos Bilingue) on Saturday, October 27 and Saturday, November 17 where you can enjoy fun books, poems, songs, and finger plays around a different monthly theme in both English and Spanish! All ages welcome.
Disfruta con nosotros mientras participamos con libros divertidos, poemas, canciones, y toques de mano en ingles y espanol! Cada mes tendra un tema diferente! Todas las edades son bienvenidas.
A leaf falls upon my window sill in my room. It gives me an idea and I look around. Sketchbook? Check. Wooden pencil? Check. Eraser? Check. With these things in hand, I wrap a sweater around me, step outside, and sit on my front porch. My next door neighbors are playing outside, the kids are yelling gleefully, and their dog is jumping on anyone she can get her hands on. I laugh inside. I probably have a dumb smile on my face. It’s fine; no one is looking at me anyway.
I’m still holding my drawing tools. I open the tattered sketchbook — the one I’ve had for ages — to its first page. It’s a drawing of the wooden tree house in my backyard. It was my first observational drawing. I remember sitting on the stairs leading into the backyard that day and deciding to create a sketch the ever-neglected treehouse found on the scrawny oak tree. I admit it was a pretty bad drawing. The roof turned out too pointy and the long ladder leading up to the front door came out too thin. The pencil I was using was probably blunt; I could tell by the oblong edges of the tree house. I look to the bottom of the page and see the date on it: May 21, 2013. It’s been five years since my love affair with the wistful world of drawing what I see began.
Observational drawing, in my opinion, is the most authentic you can get with art. When you draw what you see, you are bringing to life the image in your mind. All the curves made with your pencil, all the shading of the shapes you draw, all the splashes of color you paint with — it’s your work of art. It’s all you. It’s your own masterpiece. Observational drawing allows you to share what the world looks like through your eyes.
One of my art inspirations is the well-known artist, Helen Frankenthaler. Her masterpiece, Mountains and Sea, has long been on view at the National Gallery of Art. Her style is soothing and she captures Earth’s landscapes through her unique lens.
Now, the leaf that sat upon my windowsill falls to the ground beside me. It’s beautiful emerald green rue and symmetrical oak-leaf shape urge me to do what I’ve grown to love. I open to a fresh page of my sketchbook, pick up my pencil, and start drawing what I see. The drawing doesn’t end up looking exactly like the leaf, but it’s not something I fuss over. I embrace its imperfections. I’ve learned to love what I create, because the drawing is not just itself; it’s also me.
Discover more about creativity and art with these books and Ted Talks:
Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Tol You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative Florence Williams
Syllabus by Lynda Barry
Back to school – it’s a bittersweet time! Parents breathe a silent sigh of relief as they get back into a school routine, and teachers take a breath of empowerment to get energized for the next nine months. Families and teachers alike start their routines.
For some families, like mine, it’s a new experience. My oldest is going to preschool. He attended a preschool prep class last summer and summer camp this year. It was the longest he was on his own.
In just two weeks, he’ll be in “junior” kindergarten. I can’t even fathom what it’ll be like to drop him off for kindergarten next year. It’s a difficult adjustment for both of us. My son is very attached and he cried for twenty-five minutes after I dropped him off on the first day of preschool prep. (He’s much better now.) It feels strange to be home without him.
There are a lot of things you can do to prepare for the first days and weeks of school. There are many helpful books and apps available.
For Little Ones
Keeping Things Organized
Setting a Routine
Ready2Go App ($1.99)
Chore Monster (Free)
No matter what you decide to use, or how you decide to tackle this challenge, just know the library’s here to provide some literary help.
Which mom are you? (I’m definitely number two.)