Book Buzz Blog

Minfong Ho: Living in Three Languages

When Minfong Ho was a small girl, she listened. She listened to her parents who taught her all those necessary things that parents do. Their words were Chinese, and their words went straight into her heart, giving her wisdom and strength.

When Minfong became a little older, she played in the streets, marketplaces, and temple fairs of Bangkok. All around her, she heard life being experienced: the shouting, the playing, the prayer, the love, and the daily work. It was time to grow, a time to learn how to do the practical things. Minfong came to think of Bangkok’s Thai language as the language of doing; the language of her hands.

First Night Fun!

New Year's Eve is a time for renewal and new beginnings. It is an opportunity for the community to look ahead collectively with hope and optimism and appreciate their common bonds. Harriet Zieferts book "First Night" captures the excitment of New Years Eve through the eyes of a child as Amada Dade leads her town through the last few seconds of the old year and into the new during the local First Night parade.

Choosing Books for Reluctant Readers

    Two kinds of young readers are hard to buy books for:  the reader who reads everything, and the reader who reads nothing.  For the first kind of reader, finding out what the child has read lately can help avoid the disappointment of a second or third copy of a book that the recipient has already read.  For the second type of reader, try informational books.   


    Nonfiction appeals to kids who don’t read much, because these books tend to have strong visual elements and often allow readers to jump around in the text depending on what interests them most.  Believing firmly that you can’t make kids read but have to meet them where they are, I suggest the following stellar nonfiction for reluctant readers on your list.

The Joy of Gingerbread

 What better way to celebrate the holiday season than by creating a festive — and edible — holiday decoration that has been a Christmas tradition for centuries: gingerbread!  

Princess Hyacinth: (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated)

Every so often a book comes along that completely entrances us. A spell seems to fall over my kids as we are reading, and when we are done, a small sigh is offered up as we reconnect with reality. Princess Hyacinth: (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated) is such a book, one that promises to help you transcend reality for the few moments you are reading it.

Reading Locally

    This year, why not shop locally for your holiday presents?  Jabberwocky Children’s Books, an independent children’s bookstore that has graced downtown Fredericksburg for over twenty years, has a wide selection and knowledgeable staff. Like most bookstores, they will special order any book they don’t have in stock. 


    While you’re shopping locally, look for books by local authors.  We are lucky to have a talented group of writers and illustrators for children in this area, many of whom I have come to know over the years.  Here are just a few suggestions.

Feisty Females for Middle Schoolers

    Nine months before Rosa Parks made history, a fifteen-year-old girl was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  Claudette Colvin was well aware of the convoluted rules about where blacks could sit on the city buses, but on this day she decided not to obey the bus driver’s command to give up her seat.  She was arrested and eventually convicted of assault and violating the segregation law. 


    Deemed too emotional to become the public face of the civil rights cause, Colvin has been a footnote to history for the last fifty years. But that has changed with the publication of Philip Hoose’s “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” winner of this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Thanksgiving Stories

    Thanksgiving disasters usually take the form of dried-out turkey or not enough mashed potatoes.  But for the Peterkin family, proper Victorians all, Thanksgiving disaster strikes when their dinner simply disappears.  In “The Peterkins’ Thanksgiving,” Elizabeth Spurr has adapted one of Lucretia Hale’s charming stories about this hapless family into a picture book edition illustrated with cheerful whimsy by Wendy Anderson Halperin.

December Author of the Month: Jan Brett

Bored? Nothing to do? Jump into a cozy picture book on a winter night. Troublesome trolls and a beauty's Beast! Helpful hedgehogs and polite polar bears! Whether you find yourself surrounded by swirling snowflakes or a chilly blue twilight, there are no better companions for winter's frozen brightness than Jan Brett's tales from the European tradition. Read our author profile for more.

Real Kids, Real Problems, Real Funny

    Oliver Olson’s problem is over-protective parents.  When his third grade teacher opens a space unit by asking, “How many of you would like to walk on the moon?”, Oliver doesn’t raise his hand.  “Oliver’s parents would never let him walk on the moon.  The moon was too far away.  It was too cold.  It didn’t have enough gravity. The rocket might explode.”  And when his teacher announces that the whole class is invited to a space sleepover at school, he knows he won’t be allowed to go.  Ever since Oliver was a sickly preschooler, his parents have worried about him too much.