Don’t you love the new year’s big events--the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and the American Library Association’s book awards?
Last week, librarians everywhere eagerly watched this year’s announcements, hoping to hear that their favorites were selected. Many shouted in exaltation, while others shook their fists at colleagues who didn’t make the choices we preferred. Although I did a little of both, one announcement was particularly thrilling. Tamora Pierce, one of my favorite authors, won the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring her significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens.
Athletes train for the big game, musicians rehearse for their recital and area youth services librarians prepare for the mock Theodor Seuss Geisel awards named after America’s beloved Dr. Seuss. This past year we read a multitude of recently published beginning readers, carefully evaluating each for it’s quality of writing, distinctiveness and ability to instill in young children a love and enthusiasm for books.
No matter how hard we try to shelter young children from disturbing news, it has the unfortunate tendency to get through, whether from an overheard conversation or even by putting their new found reading skills to use and learning it for themselves. School begins in a couple of days and your child may be expressing more than the usual post-holiday, lack of interest in returning. Or perhaps they’re clingier than usual and you find you’re exhausting your bag of tricks to help them feel safe and reassured. When you are running out of comforting words, the public library has books that can serve as conversation starters and offer new techniques to support you and your child in managing their fear and anxiety.
Growing up there was one present I looked forward to more than any other--a box of books. As an adult, it’s still a favorite and I carry on the tradition with my son, nieces and nephews. Whether you give a box full or a handful, here are a few of my favorite 2012 picture books that are perfect gifts for the holiday season.
As soon as they open the book, readers will recognize “Black Dog” by Levi Pinfold as something special. The illustration on the end pages is beautiful--snowy woods with tall, bare trees whose height is echoed by a narrow red house. Turn the page and you see the home’s interior is cluttered, cramped and delightfully cozy. Although similar in theme to the classic storyline, in this case the “monster’s” not under the bed, but outside the house. Both parents and older siblings are frightened by the mysterious black dog they see through the windows and who grows in size as each new member discovers it. It’s not the parents who vanquish the creature, but instead Small Hope, the youngest, tiniest member of the family. She bundles up, steps outside and bravely confronts it in a remarkable illustration where she is a mere yellow spot, barely an inch tall in front of a dog that covers a 2-page spread. His large, realistically rendered nose is so lifelike you can almost feel when it “snuffs” at her. Leading him on a wild goose chase, under a bridge and through a tunnel, the black dog magically shrinks in size until finally, he fits through the home’s doggie door. The rest of the family who has hidden behind a makeshift fort, wearing various household items to protect their heads, gaze in wonder at their heroic little girl.
Shop local--authors that is! Many people apply this well known encouragement to some aspect of their life: visiting one of the area Farmer’s Markets, eating at a locally-owned diner or buying jewelry from the artist that lives down the street. Local authors probably aren’t on their radar, but they should be! We are home to many who write for children and teens. Their books are available for pre-purchase perusal at the public library and for sale in area bookstores. Here are a few recommended, recently published titles that are perfect for holiday gift-giving. As an added incentive they are all are set in Virginia.
“ABC’s From the Rappahannock River, With Love” by Betty Lewis Ellett can be enjoyed on several levels. Readers of any age will enjoy the lovely, full-page photographs of our beautiful river and its environs. Share only the first line of every page, and preschoolers will enjoy it as a vocabulary expanding alphabet book, for example “P...is for pier,” with an accompanying photo that perfectly illustrates the new word. Children with longer attention spans can read the detailed text and learn about the various aspects of the river, from man-made structures such as the bridges, features like the quarry, and wildlife like herons and eagle nests. This attractive and informative picture book provides a fresh look at a major area feature, and will make a great gift for preschool and early elementary aged children.
Even Thanksgiving, that most American of holiday’s, is a melting pot of celebrations. Some will eat turkey at grandmother’s house, others fish at a restaurant and some Chinese food ordered in. Some of us will play football, some will watch it on TV and others will head to the movies. No matter how you celebrate, the following titles will bring new and delightful insight to this long-standing tradition.
I remember my first election. I was ten years old and there was a long line, but the reward was an “I Voted” sticker which I proudly wore. The next morning, I eagerly asked who won and was disappointed that it wasn’t my mom’s candidate. That was the first time I ever took an interest in politics and all of these years later, I still remember the experience. When you vote, you have a chance to create similar memories. Take your young person and talk to them about the election process. If you’re not sure what to say, the library offers excellent resources some of which are featured below.
“Today on Election Day” by Catherine Stier captures the excitement of voting from the point of view of several young protagonists. On election day, one child waits to cross the street with construction workers, restaurant servers and a pilot, all of whom are heading to the polls. Another is going with his 18 year old brother to vote in his first election. Yet another joins his grandfather who, in all of his years of voting, has pushed down a lever, punched a card and even marked a paper ballot. Stier successfully relates the voting experience to an early elementary audience. Readers will finish the book with an understanding and sense of pride for our election process.
We know the majority of you weren't yet old enough to vote in this year's general election, but we wanted to give you a chance to be heard. So we came up with two candidates for our mock election and invited you to elect one as your president. Over 1,000 of you voted in the library and online!
The candidates were:
Edward Cullen from Twilight, "Because no one else has 111 years of experience!"
Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, "Hungry for change? Vote Katniss! "
and the winner is ... Katniss Everdeen!
Call me clichéd, but autumn is one of my favorite times of year. On a physical level, I can pull out my cozy sweaters and boots and be consistently warm, and on a spiritual one, I can kick leaves with my husband and enjoy the breeze while walking the dogs. Somehow picture book authors successfully capture all of the wonderful elements of this beautiful season of change.
The five titles for the Scariest Book Contest have been selected!
Prizes will be awarded.
Does thinking about your favorite horror title put you in the mood to read more? Checkout librarian Craig Graziano's flowchart to help you navigate some new suggestions. We also have several great book lists to choose from in Reading Matters, like: