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Children's librarians often act as their family and friends' personal librarian. We regularly get asked for book recommendations for children of various ages - and we LOVE it! Talking about kids' books is one of our favorite things to do. So, before you even have to ask, I've put together, with the help of some friends, a list of books that would make great holiday gifts for the children in your life. But because we can't read EVERY book that's out there (although we try), at the bottom of this list there are links to other 'best of' lists that will also help you make your book-buying choices.
Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like? by Catherine Thimmesh
For the true dinosaur aficionado in your life, this book explores the history of dinosaur exploration. Since we've never actually seen a dinosaur, how have scientists used the information they've found - bones, fossils, etc. - to re-create the look of a dinosaur?
Locomotive by Brian Floca
Young train enthusiasts will love this richly illustrated story of traveling on one of the first steam trains from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco. They'll pore over the endpapers that explain how steam trains work (including a cross-section drawing) and provide historical context of the Transcontinental Railroad. They'll learn about all the different people who worked on the train and what their jobs were. They'll even learn how the bathroom worked - remember not to use it when the train is in the station!
Poems to Learn By Heart by Caroline Kennedy; illustrated by Jon J. Muth
This book is truly a keepsake. Jon J. Muth's ethereal watercolor illustrations set a perfect tone, and Kennedy has chosen a nice variety of poems - there's surely one or more to delight every reader. The poems are divided into several categories - including family, friendship and love, school, sports, and nonsense. There are both contemporary writers like Billy Collins and Nikki Giovanni and the likes of Shakespeare and Ogden Nash. I've already decided which poem I will learn by heart - Eve Merriam's "Catch a Little Rhyme," the last one in the book.
The Silver Moon: Lullabies and Cradle Songs by Jack Prelutsky
A collection of serene and lyrical poems, this book makes a perfect gift for a family with a new baby. What really makes this book stand out are the illustrations by Jui Ishida. Soft and deep, these loving images evoke a feeling of snuggling with the one who loves you most. - Marcy, Arvada Library
Jenkins is a Colorado author/illustrator and creates his animals out of paper. They are TRULY amazing. He's organized this book not by type of animal, but by things like "defenses," "animal senses," "predators," and "animal extremes." There's so much fascinating information to pore over in this book - kids (and adults) will spend hours with it.
BOARD BOOKS (MADE FOR HANDLING AND CHEWING!)
These books are a great way to start your baby or toddler on the road to reading and writing! The letters and numbers are indented, allowing the child to trace the shape with their finger. Learning the shapes of letters and numbers is one way literacy starts!
Diggers Go by Steve Light
A variety of construction vehicles are shown, and, in bold print, we learn their noises and can make them ourselves! Did you know a dump truck goes: BEEPbeep BEEPbeep SCREEEECH RUUURRRUMP PA-LUMP? Making sounds like these help young children learn about language! There are two other books in this series: Trucks Go and Trains Go
Green by Linda Vaccaro Seeger
I think my love of children’s books is derived from my love of art and this book is a work of art. You can get lost in the lush up-close illustrations that allow you to experience each new manifestation of green. Just follow the die-cuts from one scene to the next and enjoy the journey. - Marcy, Arvada Library
Journey by Aaron Becker
This is a stunning wordless picture that will spark a lot of conversation. Follow a girl through a magic door that she draws on her bedroom wall into a world full of adventure - including a dangerous encounter with a bird! - Jennifer, Lakewood Library
Mo's Mustache by Ben Clanton
This read aloud will have everyone laughing. Mo loves his mustache and feels very unique until all of his friends want one of their own. - Jennifer, Lakewood Library
Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea
While the rainbow colors and sparkle on the cover may draw some young readers in - the story inside lives up to the cover's hype! Goat thinks the things he can do are pretty great, until Unicorn arrives and does something "greater." But just as Goat's ready to give up, he discovers that Unicorn actually thinks Goat is pretty great too.
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
This story of Flora, who imitates a dancing Flamingo, doesn't have any words. But it doesn't need any - the beautiful lift-the-flap illustrations clearly tell the story of the budding friendship between the two pink-bedecked pals.
Again! by Emily Gravett
Little Dragon wants Mama Dragon to read his bedtime story again. And again, and AGAIN! At first, she concedes, but when she falls asleep, little dragon reacts, well, the way a dragon would. Parents and young children will find this story pretty familiar.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Mr. Tiger, a proper animal in a suit and hat, decides that he's tired of city life. It's time to GO WILD! But will he want to stay wild, especially after all the other (buttoned-up animal) city residents express their disapproval? Brown's graphic illustrations are as much fun as the story.
I Dare You Not to Yawn by Hélène Boudreau; illustrated by Serge Bloch
“Yawns are like colds, they spread.” Parents and kids alike will get a laugh out of this. During story time it even garnered a few yawns from my audience. Just remember DO NOT LET IT OUT! If they catch you yawning, they are going to send you to bed! - Marcy, Arvada Library
MIDDLE GRADE FICTION
Playtpus Police Squad #1: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
In this story written in what adults will recognize as a noir style, follow along as newbie Detective Zengo, anxious to prove himself, and veteran Detective O'Malley crack the case of the missing teacher and a possible illegal fish trade. Bonus: this book is only #1 in a series!
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Know a kid who loves the library? Or puzzles? Or mysteries? They'll all love this tale, in which a group of kids compete to find their way out of a brand-new, state-of-the-art playground - um, library. The contest is run by the eccentric Mr. Lemoncello, a Willy-Wonka-esque character who has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K.G. Campbell
When Ulysses the squirrel is accidentally sucked up into a vacuum cleaner, he develops the ability to write, understand humans, lift heavy things, and fly. Flora, who saves him and takes him home, believes he's now a superhero and must use his powers to vanquish evil. But perhaps there's a relationship that needs saving even more?
Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
Young Roan Novachez is SURE he'll be accepted to Pilot Academy. He's disappointed when that doesn't happen, but when he gets a mysterious invitation to attend Jedi Academy, he decides that's a much better option than learning to be a farmer. Master Yoda takes a particular interest in Roan, and while it's rough going for a while (he CANNOT seem to manage to use the force to get that rock to float!) he soon feels like he's found the right place. Young fans of Star Wars will love this graphic novel series!
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Dad goes to the corner store to pick up some milk for his kids' cereal (and his tea), but is a long time returning. What happened? Well, there are aliens, pirates, wumpires, and a hot-air-ballon-flying Stegosaurus involved. Fortunately, he managed not to lose the milk. Wait - did all of this REALLY happen? Brilliantly illustrated by Skottie Young, this tale by legendary writer Gaiman will make a great read-aloud and might spark some parental storytelling of your own!
If none of these titles spark your (or your child's) fancy, DON'T DESPAIR! Here are some more "best of" lists with even more great suggestions!
School Library Journal's Best of 2013 (includes lists for non-fiction, picture books, apps, dvds, and more!)
Last week, on the first night of the really cold temperatures, the Arvada library had our holiday open house. Coincidentally this was also the night of the tree lighting ceremony in the square and Old Towne Arvada's Lagniappe Celebration. (Put this event on your calendar for next year if you have never been!) There were free carriage rides, costumed carolers, and inside the Arvada Library was Santa. Excited children munched on gingerbread cookies and played with mounds of gingerbread scented play dough. It smelled divine! Many parents asked for my recipe - so even if you missed the open house, you can still get in on the gingerbread play dough fun! But remember to warn the kids...this play dough smells amazing, but tastes terrible.
Play dough even promotes early literacy in young children! Playing with play dough strengthens the small muscles in the hand. These are the same muscles that will enable a child to hold a pencil one day. It also encourages them to use their imagination. It may be a brown lump of dough, but they see a cookie, a snake, a bracelet and more!
Gingerbread Play Dough
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 cup water
In a medium saucepan whisk together dry ingredients. Next mix in the water and oil. Stir until a thick batter is formed. Cook the mixture over med-low heat until a thick dough forms. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead until smooth. Makes about 2 cups of dough.
Are you or do you know a kid 10 years or older who just loves to talk about books? Well then, you just gotta check out the Young Readers' Fun Club at the Lakewood Library! Much like adult books clubs, this group creates a list of books they would like to read and then assigns each book a month. On the third Tuesday of each month at 4p.m. the club meets to talk about the book of the month. But wait, the fun doesn't stop there! During club meetings kids also have fun making crafts and enjoying yummy snacks. There is no registration to attend. Just come on in and join the fun. All kids 10 years and older are welcome. Below are some of the upcoming books the club will be discussing.
Relates the surprising gifts bestowed on twelve-year-old Bob Barnhart and his family, who have recently moved to a small Illinois town in 1958, by their larger-than-life neighbor, Mrs. Dowdel.
Hidden in the small town of Xanadu, Wyoming, there is a menagerie filled with mythical creatures like unicorns, dragons, and phoenixes. It's closely guarded. Tightly controlled. Top secret. And six griffin cubs have just escaped.
Skandian outcasts Hal, Stig, and others do battle at sea against the Wolves and the Sharks, in the ultimate race across icy waters where not everyone thinks of the competition as play.
Super cold days like today make me think about comforting things - a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and Ballet Shoes.
Wait. WHAT was that last thing?
Ballet Shoes - A book by Noel Streatfeild I read over and over again as a kid, and still read at least once a year. You know those books - the ones that, even though you've read them a gazillion times, you still pick them up from time to time because that familiarity is a comforting feeling. Ballet Shoes, the story of Pauline (the acting prodigy), Posy (ballet dancer-to-be), and Petrova (who really just wants to fly aeroplanes, thankyouverymuch), and their struggle to survive in 40's London with their guardian, Sylvia, is one of my comfort books.
Another one is Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game. While I know whodunit, I still revisit this puzzle mystery regularly in order to spend time with Turtle and the rest of the quirky Sunset Towers residents. I like to follow along as they try to figure out how Sam Westing died, and if one of them is responsible. It's a mystery unlike any other I have ever read - and it should come as no surprise that it won the Newbery Medal in 1979.
I also pick up John D. Fitzgerald's The Great Brain every now and then. Fitzgerald's semi-autobiographical story of his life growing up in turn-of-the-century Utah focuses on his brother, Tom, aka "The Great Brain." Tom's really good at problem solving, but unfortunately, uses his skill primarily to swindle friends and neighbors out of money. I especially like the chapter in The Return of the Great Brain when his family gets the town's first indoor plumbing (which everyone is convinced will stink up the house) and Tom decides to charge the local kids to come in and take a look. In fact, I loved these books so much that in grade school I won a contest to create a slogan for the school library (nerd alert!) with a drawing that included these two titles. My slogan? "A book a day keeps the lazies away." Winner!
I think I'll go home tonight and grab one of these comfort books off my shelf (I still have all my original tattered copies), fix myself a cup of hot chocolate, and warm up with some comfort reading.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I hope everyone has a wonderful day filled with family, friends, fun, and, of course....FOOD! I've got a quick post for you today, as I've got a pie to finish. But I was thinking about how my sister and I, when we were younger, were able to help out with the festivities. Sure, there's the food preparation, and kids can certainly help out with some of that, but what I remember most from my youth was setting the table. This was our very important job - making the table pretty and special in honor of a special day. The centerpiece was always the most important part, and we used leaves, candles, nuts, fruit, and a variety of other objects to fancy things up.
I took a look on pinterest (oh, how I love Pinterest!) and found some kid-friendly, easy-peasy centerpiece ideas that involve items that I think most folks would have on hand at home (because I know we'd all rather avoid the store today if at all possible!). Check 'em out, and set your young ones to work!
- Thankful tree - branches in a jar with paper leaves on which everyone can write what they're thankful for!
- Pear and clove centerpiece - send a message with lovely-smelling fruit and spice!
- Paper roll turkey (picture only) - write what you're thankful for on the feathers!
- Fall trees - more ideas on this blog!
- Turkey vase (from a soda bottle) - this one's a little more labor intensive, but oh-so-cute!
Enjoy! We're thankful for you!
[Picture via San Jose Library]
Are you piling the clan into the family truckster for the Thanksgiving holiday? Why not make the trip more enjoyable by listening to an audio book? To help you avoid more fighting from the backseat (or front seat), below is my list of audiobooks the whole family can enjoy. These audiobooks are not only great stories that will captivate a variety of ages, but the talented narrators on these recordings have created some tasty ear candy as well.
If you like happy stories filled with good things, then this series is unfortunately not for you. But if you like darkly hilarious adventures and wildly bizarre characters, then you will unfortunately find yourself driving extra miles to listen to more of The Series of Unfortunate Events. I can't think of a better actor than Tim Curry to vocalize the side splitting humor of Daniel Handler, I mean Lemony Snicket. Available for checkout or download.
Want something that will transport your family to a magical land full of adventure and away from that sweaty sock smell coming from the back seat? A who's who of English actors came forward to be readers for the classic series The Chronicles of Narnia and used their talents to the max. Follow Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund through the wardrobe and into the captivating world of Narnia.
Dead End in Norvelt will have you rolling with laughter by the time you are over the river and through the woods. This semi-autobiographical tale connects with kids and the kid in all of us. Jackie is grounded for the summer and as further punishment he is sentenced to help Miss Volker with her job of writing obituaries for the town newspaper and with things around the house like dipping her hands in hot wax to help her arthritis. This is definitely not how he planned is summer to go. Together they get themselves into several ridiculously funny situations. In my opinion, Jack Gantos is one of the few authors who does his writing justice by reading it himself.
This fuzzy headed blast from the past was king of the rock parody with hits like, "Another one Rides the Bus" and "I love Rocky Road." You may recall his video of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" entitled "Eat It." I had a teen one time who came to the library to request all the Weird Al CD's he could get. I guess he learned about him when his Dad had turned him on to Dr. Demento. Most people don't know, however, that a couple of years ago Al Yankovic charted new territory as a children's book author.
When I Grow Up is a perfect read aloud for the older elementary school kids. Billy's teacher asks the class to answer the perennial question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Billy's answer goes on for 22 pages of fun filled, fast paced comedy. I have shared this book with kids up to sixth grade and gotten laughs. Who doesn't want to be a "gorilla masseuse or an artist who sculpts out of chocolate mousse." Some of us grown-ups are probably still contemplating what we want to be when we grow up. What do you want to be?
PS: Look for Billy's next adventure, My New Teacher and Me, coming soon to a library near you!
Books are magic - in the sense that they ignite a love of the printed word, stories, and imagination like nothing else. But sometimes, to a small child, books seem like magic. As in, there's actual magic happening inside the book.
Case in point: Hervé Tullet's Press Here (Presiona aquí en español). In this interactive story, the reader is invited to press, shake, and tap various colored dots that appear on the page and, after turning the page, find that the dots have changed. When I read this to a group of preschoolers, they could not figure out how the changes were happening. In their minds, when I pressed on the one yellow dot and two appeared on the next page, I was performing magic.
Press Here is such a wonderful book that it was chosen by Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy as one of their CLEL Silver Bells - books that especially exemplify early literacy skills learning. Playing is one important way in which children develop the skills they need to become readers, and Press Here is certainly a book that invites play. CLEL has also provided an activity sheet with ideas for how to extend play after reading the book - and build even stronger pre-reading skills!
As Thanksgiving draws near, many families are planning their menus and activities for the day. Parents, why not include a read aloud or two (or six) in your holiday planning? I know that I've subjected my family to storytime at the Thanksgiving dinner table (and they're all adults) and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it. I recall reading Thank You Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson - a picture book that describes how Sarah Hale, a magazine editor, convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
While this blog post from the Association for Library Service to Children is meant for librarians planning storytimes, there are great suggestions for read aloud books and holiday-themed activities that families can use too! Of the books shared, I especially love I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie and All for Pie, Pie for All (not specifically about Thanksgiving, but c'mon, PIE!). For books NOT about food, and more about giving thanks, I love Bear Says Thanks and Thanks for Thanksgiving.
Now, I know that Thanksgiving is a little less than 2 weeks away, but the Thanksgiving books are going fast! So get your holds in now! If the one you want isn't available, ask your local children's staff person for a recommendation. We've got LOTS of great stories to add to your holiday celebration!
Did you know that every four-year-old child in the state of Colorado can get a free book next spring?
One Book 4 Colorado is a collaboration between Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, public libraries, and several nonprofit organizations all interested in getting books into the hands of four-year-old children. Why four-year-olds? The powerful combination of access to books and adults who will read to them, greatly increases a four-year-old child's chances of being ready to read when they reach kindergarten.
Which book they will receive depends on which title gets the most votes. Voting has started at One Book 4 Colorado and ends November 30th. The list has been narrowed down to three choices for you to vote on. Not sure which one to pick? Watch local celebrities read the books in English and in Spanish. You can also check out all three finalists from your local library. Free books will be available April 7-21, 2014, so don't forget to stop in to your library and pick up a free book for the four-year-old in your life.
Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors by Jane Yolen
Pigsty by Mark Teague