There is no higher praise for a book than an award from its target audience. Each school year, seventh and eighth grade students from thirteen area middle schools, read from among twenty recently published young adult books and vote on those they feel merit a Café Book Top Teen Pick award. Chosen titles are displayed at local libraries where they fly off the shelf even before summer fun officially begins.
My husband’s job as a historical researcher frequently provides the opportunity to hear well-known historians opine on the importance of history. The speech’s always end the same way; concern about the lack of historical knowledge among today’s youth. The statistics support their fears, but while history is unchanging the future is not! Think back to your favorite history teacher. The chances are you enjoyed the class because that teacher brought history alive with stories and that’s an easy gift to share with your children. There are many wonderful historical fiction and nonfiction titles published today for children and teens. Gone are the days of biographies where George Washington cuts down a cherry tree! Today, historical non-fiction is so well-written it has the ability to bring the past to life in vivid and memorable ways.
“The Camping Trip that Changed America” by Barb Rosenstock reads more like fiction than fact. When President Theodore Roosevelt read naturalist John Muir’s book on vanishing forests, “he knew that was someone he just had to meet!” Together they shared adventures while camping their way through what was then known as the Yosemite Wilderness. Mordicai Gerstein’s dynamic illustrations capture Roosevelt’s liveliness and Muir’s quiet while the author’s words detail their commonalities: their love of the outdoors and their determination to save them. Thanks to this remarkable, yet little known, camping trip that brought these two unique individuals together, the number of national parks and monuments was dramatically increased.
A trip to the farmer’s market is one of the highlights of a visit to “Aunt Bek’s” house. Recently, my six year-old niece declared she couldn’t wait to go to the market. The only correlation I could make during the cold winter months was the grocery store and I kept wondering why the sudden interest in food shopping. Finally it dawned on me that she meant the Farmers’ Market. Her enthusiasm is understandable. There she meets the people who planted the seeds and grew the produce. The farmers welcome her, encouraging her to touch and taste a new and wide variety of food. Never an adventurous eater, this is a chance for her to possibly expand her palette. She also loves helping choose the ripest plums, pay for them and carry the bags.
Starting in May, the library will visit each of the four area Farmers’ Markets once a month, offering information on library resources, checking out a few recipe books for cooking the delicious produce and providing quick, fun hands-on activities for children.
Boy are we lucky! The England Run Branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system is one of only ten libraries in the country to receive the exhibit, Discover Earth: A Century of Change. This exciting and fun educational opportunity is more than just a collection of information panels. It features interactive, multimedia displays allowing visitors to experience digital information in a dynamic way, encouraging new perspectives on our planet and reinforcing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts. Between now and the end of April, visitors can experience the exhibit and enjoy special classes and events. The exhibit will answer many earth science related questions, but it’s also designed to encourage scientific inquiry. The library has purchased wonderful titles for adults and children to further pursue these interests.
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.