Online Reading Challenge – June Wrap-Up

Hello Everyone!

How was your reading in the month of June? Did you find something new and wonderful, or did you revisit a childhood favorite? It was a month full of possibility with the potential for a lot of fun. Let us know how it went for you!

This month I went with a children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle. Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963 (the Newbery is awarded each year to the best children’s book in writing), this is a dramatic adventure story filled with alien creatures, distant planets and fantastical imagery. It’s also a story on a more intimate level – the value of friends and family, loyalty, accepting others as they are, being courageous and, most of all, the power of love.

Meg’s father has been missing for many months and she feels his absence keenly. She doesn’t know what has happened to him, only that he was working on something called a tesseract and no on can explain where he’s gone. When her little brother Charles Wallace introduces her to three strange women living in the woods behind their house, it sets them, along with their friend Calvin, on an incredible journey.

While I enjoyed this book – there’s quite a lot of action and even some scary bits where you just want to know what happens – I think I would have liked it even more if I had read it when I was a kid. Maybe my imagination is too “stuck” now to let go with the flights of fancy described here, or maybe I’m just not scientifically inclined (this book really celebrates math and the sciences). I did love Meg and how brave she was, even when she didn’t feel brave. She’s a young teen, at that awkward and unsure stage, but she’s smart and she’s strong. A role model for anyone.

What did you read this month? What did you think of your choice? Let us know in the comments!

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello All!

Are you enjoying the June Reading Challenge? Have you found something fun to read? Or are you still looking for the right title?

I’ve started reading my book (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle). I’m still trying to keep all the “mrs’s” straight, but I’m quickly getting caught up in the story. What I’ve found interesting is how other people react when I ask if they’ve read this book. I heard a lot of enthusiastic yeses; everyone seemed to love it. Best response, though, was from a co-worker who told me that A Wrinkle in Time was the book made her a library patron. When the teacher at school that was reading it to her class wasn’t reading fast enough for Shelley, she asked her Mom to take her to the library so that she could check out a copy. Thus began a lifelong love affair with reading (and, I hope, libraries!)

Another great story came from a Challenge reader that commented she is going to read a book written in 1898 that had been a childhood favorite of her mother. I love this idea! It shows how books are a bridge – to the past, to the future, to knowledge, to entertainment and that they can also be a connection to the people in our lives. Books (stories) are magic.

Let us know what you’re reading and, maybe, why you chose what you did!

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – June

Hello Fellow Readers!

It’s a new month and that means it’s time for our next Online Reading Challenge! This month it’s – Childhood.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been looking forward to this month’s challenge. It’s pretty wide open to interpretation, so there are lots of possibilities. Let’s look at some suggestions.

Read a Children’s Classic You Missed.These are the books that tend to stay with us always and that have a big impact on how we view the world. Also, to be considered a classic, they have to be good enough to be read by multiple generations of children. You can’t go wrong with A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, any title by Beverly Cleary, the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder or my favorite, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (I still remember laying on the couch in my grandparent’s farmhouse, sobbing at the ending).

Revisit a Childhood Favorite. Did you read lots of Nancy Drew growing up? Try re-reading one and see how it holds up. Or, if you read the more recent titles (the “re-boot”), try reading one of the original titles. The same goes for the Babysitter’s Club or the Boxcar Children series. Or dig up that title that was so amazing when you read it as a kid – is it still amazing or has it lost some of its magic?

Read What Your Children/Grandchildren Are Reading. Find out what’s so awesome about Harry Potter (lots) or Percy Jackson or the Wimpy Kid. Pick a title that he or she is reading right now and read along – think what fun it’ll be to discuss it later and learn what they think of the book!

Try Something New. Children’s literature is pretty amazing and not just for kids. I highly recommend Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Smile by Rainia Telgemeier, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson as well as many others. These books deal with difficult subjects in thoughtful and sometimes humorous ways and never talk down to their audience. You’ll also find lots of great books on the Newbery shelf (the Newbery is the award given annually for excellence in children’s literature)

Adult Books with a Child Narrator. Although somewhat uncommon, there are some excellent adult fiction books told from the point-of-view of a child including Room by Emma Donoghue, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, and the Flavia de Luce mystery series by C. Alan Bradley.

I am planning on reading A Wrinkle in Time, a classic I somehow missed. I’m assured it’s very good, so I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

As always, we’ll have displays at each of our buildings with lots more great titles to choose from. Some of these books are pretty slim – maybe you’ll have time to read more than one! So what about it, what are you reading this month?

Inspiring Children’s Books: “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark”

As shown in the fantastic children’s book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, loved visiting public libraries.  She “took to the library” because “on the shelves were stories of girls and women who did big things.” In 1940, when Ruth was growing up, “[B]oys were expected to grow up, go out in the world, and do big things. Girls? Girls were expected to find husbands”. But Ginsberg didn’t accept that short-sighted vision of what she was capable of. Time and time again, Ginsberg was told what she should and should not do: but she dissented on all accounts.

And thankfully so. Her initial public library education was revolutionary. Her strong and compassionate mother set an early example that women could, in fact, do anything that they set their minds to. Ginsberg learned at a young age what it felt like to be the recipient of discrimination. A young Jewish girl, she recalled a time when businesses would post signage that read “No Jews” and “Whites Only”. The pain and injustice of oppression profoundly changed her.

Ginsberg pursed social progress and social justice relentlessly. Despite efforts by her peers to diminish it, her inner strength shown brightly. She is and was true dynamo in every sense of the word: a Jewish Mother at the top of her class in law school working double-time to continue proving herself in a sexist society that viewed women as “timid”. She went on to fight for both men and women and to challenge the restrictive roles that were typical of the mid-century status quo.

For the reasons that Ginsberg was drawn to public libraries, I have always found them to be spaces of contemplation and possibility.  I spent days browsing library shelves and anticipating of all of the wonderful new things I could discover because I was fortunate enough to be able to read . Literacy enables you to change or improve your life or the lives of others. We don’t celebrate this realization nearly enough.  I brought home bags full of books, magazines, video, and music — and all for free. Today, I have the privilege of working in a library–a necessary and radical space for personal transformation available to anyone with a library card. I’m drawn to stories like the one told in I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark specifically because they feature people who refuse to have their humanity defined for them.  I’m so proud that Davenport Public Library provides access to such wonderful and inspiring children’s books.

Physical and virtual library spaces are chalk-full of stories of underdogs and of every day people who do extraordinary things, and access to these stories is gloriously free. All you need is a library card, and that won’t cost you a cent.

 

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Banned Books Week: Surprising Challenges

“Something will be offensive to someone in every book, so you’ve got to fight it.” – Judy Blume

Judy Blume would know — she has 5 of the top 100 most challenged books from 1990-1999 — but when you peruse the lists of the most frequently challenged books, it is hard not to agree.  Below, I’ve highlighted the three challenged books that surprised me the most.

strega nonaStrega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola’s classic picture book is often cited as one of the best picture books of all time — it was #34 on SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books — so it might come as a surprise that it has been challenged.  The story of a magical old woman (“grandma witch”) who tells her assistant — Big Anthony — not to touch her magical pot of pasta.  Big Anthony ignores her and Strega Nona must save the day before the town is overrun in pasta.
Why was it challenged or banned? Witchcraft, of course.

wheres waldoWhere’s Waldo by Martin Hanford
I loved Where’s Waldo books as a kid.  My mom would bring a stack of them with us on long car rides and they would entertain my brother and me for hours.  Waldo books are a challenge of concentration and a fantastic way to get kids to pick up on pattern and color.  I looked at these books for hours and before reading about why the book was challenged and banned, I would have never guessed.
Why was it challenged or banned? Apparently in searching for Waldo, some people have been shocked to find topless sunbathers, gay couples, and people holding up the rocker hand sign (or as they called it “Hail Satan”).

charlotte's webCharlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I wept the first time I read this book.  This beautiful story about the friendship between Wilbur, a pig, and Charlotte, a barn spider, is a classic.  It is heartbreaking in the way many of the best children’s books are, and is beloved around the world.  When I think of stories to share with children, I’ve always thought that this is a safe (albeit sad)  book to recommend.  Apparently, I was wrong.
Why was it challenged or banned? It was banned in 2006 when a group of parents were upset that it included talking animals and inappropriate subject matter (death).

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

frankshowGrandpa Frank is just a grandpa and he doesn’t seem to like anything (except pickled onions), so how could his grandson possibly talk for a whole minute about him in front of his entire class?

In The Frank Show by David Mackintosh, Frank’s grandson is nervous about presenting about his curmudgeon grandfather during show and tell.  Especially since his friends have exciting people to introduce, like Fay’s cousin who “tells you if your bag is too heavy at the airport” and Hugo’s stepbrother who’s sports car has an eight-ball gearshift knob.

The Frank Show is the perfect example of a picture book that seems to have been written more for adults than for kids. I see the jokes flying right over younger kid’s heads, and not many children are going to spot Edgar Allen Poe and his raven in the illustrations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend this book — because it is fantastic.  Mackintosh’s illustrations are funny and child-like, filled with subtle references and jokes. This story is as much about the generational divide as it is about taking people for granted — both topics rarely explored in picture books. Grandpa Frank’s exaggerated stories and cranky advise are entertaining, and his grandson’s fears are completely understandable. Seriously, pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed, unless you’re Frank. I’m sure he’d say that they don’t make them like they used to or something as equally crotchety.

Wordless Wonders

It may seem counter-intuitive to give new readers, students with disabilities, or ELL students books without words to help build vocabulary, but that is exactly what I’m going to suggest.  They can help all readers develop a more descriptive vocabulary, help teach visual decoding, assist readers in understand multiple viewpoints, and teach readers to interpret meaning from visual objects.  According to a 2011 Utah State University study, parents use more complex language when discussing wordless picture books than they do with books with text and pictures.  Not to mention the fact that they can be less intimidating than traditional books and they can be exceptionally entertaining. The last few years some fantastic wordless books have been added to the collection at the Davenport Public Library, so pick these books up for an emerging reader or for yourself!

floraandtheflamingoFlora and the Flamingo by Molly Schaar Idle

The newest wordless addition to the library collection, Flora and the Flamingo tells the story of a girl named Flora and a flamingo as they learn to dance together.  The beautiful illustrations are full of humor and call back to the mimicking game many played as children.

aballfordaisyA Ball for Daisy by Christopher Raschka

Daisy, a dog, has a great time with her ball, until it is lost.  Her story is told through bright, primary colored illustrations.  The story is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, but would delight all children (and adults!) that love dogs.

unspokenUnspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

The detailed pencil drawings set the scene in this story of a southern girl helping a runaway slave.  The format is perfect in setting the quiet, but intense mood of this story.

whereswalrusWhere’s Walrus by Stephen Savage

After escaping from the zoo, a clever Walrus disguises himself to outsmart the zookeeper that is pursuing him.  With vintage style illustrations, this humorous picture book will appeal to kids and adults.

waterloo&trafalgarWaterloo and Trafalgar by Oliver Tallec

This anti-war tale, with tri-colored die-cut illustrations is a perfect example of using a wordless book to facilitate conversation.  While the subject matter is somber, the book has expertly used humor throughout.

beardespairBear Despair by Gaëtan Dorémus

Never, ever, under any circumstance steal a bear’s teddy bear.  This humorous story follows the plight of a bear after his closest pal is snatched by a mischievous wolf.

The Boys by Jeff Newman

A book about being the shy new kid, Newman’s The Boys employs subtle humor and a sense of nostalgia that shapes this water colored wonder into an instant classic.

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

met nijinsky

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky by Lauren Stringer: This is the story of how the famous composer, Stravinsky, and the famous dancer, Nijinsky, collaborated to create a performance of Stravinsky’s work that was so shockingly avant-garde that it caused a riot in the streets of Paris.* Can you imagine a ballet so shocking that it caused fistfights and screaming matches across the aisles of a sophisticated French theater in 1913? Astounding!

This book is to be read with “The Rite of Spring” playing in the background or not at all – the illustrations complement the music in a way that’s truly special. It’s so necessary to really enjoying the book that I’m a little mad it doesn’t include a CD, but of course you can always get the music independently from the library – whether you want it on CD or if you want to download it directly from Freegal!

when stravinsky“The Rite of Spring” is the music playing during the death-of-the-dinosaurs segment in Disney’s Fantasia, or as my childhood self knew it, “one of the scary parts!” This is powerful music, and accompanied by powerful, beautiful illustrations, this book is one to check out.

 *Please note: the library cannot be held responsible for any damage done to your home or car by riots this book/music may cause.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: This book came into my life like a freight train of emotion and steamrolled over everything else I was doing. Auggie is starting fifth grade after being homeschooled for the previous five years: he has extreme facial deformities that make going out in public an almost unbearable trial. Everywhere he goes, people stare at him and whisper to each other. Auggie almost always notices, and wants so very much just to be normal. Inside, he’s as normal as any bright ten year old can be – he adores Star Wars, he likes to play Halo, he’s read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and Halloween is his favorite holiday (since everyone is wearing a mask, he can too, and goes around just like a truly normal kid).

But Wonder isn’t just about Auggie, though he’s the main character. This is one of the few children’s novels I’ve seen that uses more than one narrator, and it’s surprisingly effective. Palacio doesn’t get carried away trying to make each narrator sound distinct (which would complicate matters for young readers): she uses a similar voice for each of the six viewpoint characters, letting their experiences and their emotions differentiate between them rather than her writing style.

This is a happy-sad book. Some moments will stab at you and make you weep, but overall you’ll feel rewarded and uplifted and most of all lucky: lucky to have met August, a character of such everyday bravery that you won’t soon forget him, lucky not to have the cascade of medical afflictions that have made him so remarkable, and lucky to have this beautiful book as a reminder to always be a little more kind than is necessary.

Oliver, Anna, Miss Moore and Rabbit: not just for kids

If you think children’s literature isn’t worthy of discussion, pick up one of these books and prepare to eat your words. These books are not just beautiful, simple, cute stories for children: they have big ideas, big hearts, and important messages to teach readers of all ages. Whether you have a little one to share them with or not, I highly recommend all of them.

oliverOliver by Birgitta Sif: gorgeous, rich, layered illustrations in muted earth tones and fluid character lines that suggest life and movement – brava. So beautifully done, and each page has so much going on; you can follow the unwritten story of the mouse on each page, and careful readers will see that many characters turn up over and over (besides Oliver, of course). Olivia is there all along, living her life parallel to Oliver’s; you can see that they will become best friends. So precious and wonderful.

 

anna the bookbinderAnna the Bookbinder, by Andrea Cheng and Ted Rand: A fantastic picture book! Anna’s father is a bookbinder; she’s helped him in the shop her whole life, and she knows the process very well. When her father is called away from work, Anna steps in to complete an important order. It’s odd to see these historical books where children and parents are coworkers as well as family members, since it’s so unusual now. Despite this book’s happy ending, I found myself wondering if Anna would be able to go to school, to travel, to marry for love – or if her father’s need of help in the bookshop would keep her tied to home forever. Maybe I’m thinking about it too much. 

miss mooreMiss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough and Debby Atwell: Oh Anne Carroll Moore! How I wish I were you. This book – the story of how Miss Moore created the Children’s Library space as we know it today – will make you thankful for children’s libraries. Miss Moore blazes her own trail, she has agency and verve and it’s just so satisfying reading about her successes! Since this is a children’s book, it is biased towards the positive, which made me wonder what Anne’s life was really like, and whether she ever wanted to give up, and what she dreamed of doing but couldn’t finish, and who were the intractable powers-that-be that she overthrew to make her dreams a reality for children everywhere? (It also really, really made me want to time-travel to the opening of the NYPL. Where’s my tardis?)

Rabbityness by Jo Empson: because neon paint splatters. And because of the word ‘rabbityness.’ And because this is a book that doesn’t pretend bad things don’t happen, it’s one that acknowledges that good & bad and old & new change in relation to each other all the time; and one person (or rabbit) can have a big impact.
Rabbityness