Children's Book Columns
Being outdoors in nature offers children endless possibilities to engage and stimulate their curiosity. If you can’t get your children outdoors for one reason or another, books are a great way to explore the wonders of nature further. Many children are keenly interested in animals and nature, and there are a nearly endless number of books for elementary-aged children and older where they can learn about plant and animal life.
If you have children or teens in your life, you know that computer coding and coding for kids has been gaining popularity. With electronic devices used in nearly every area of our lives, there is great interest in teaching kids how to go from being simply users of technology to becoming creators of technology, and learning to code is one way to do that. Computers, smartphones, websites and apps all run on code.
Learning to code teaches children and teens problem-solving skills and also gives them the opportunity to “look under the hood” of the technology all around them and understand how it works. Coding has been taught at the high school level for decades (I took a computer programming class when I was in high school), but today there are several platforms which have been created for younger children, so children as young as early elementary (or younger!) can enjoy coding, and there are many fun ways to encourage interest in coding for children and teens.
Lauren Thompson’s story begins, “This is the pie, warm and sweet, that Papa baked.” But how did Papa make the pie? Start with apples, “juicy and red,” then the tree, “crooked and strong,” and so on until we come to “the world, blooming with life, that spins with the sun, fiery and bright…”
Perfect for this time of year, The Apple Pie That Papa Baked is a rollicking picture book illustrated by Jonathan Bean in tones of cream, sepia, black and red, evoking classic illustrations by Virginia Lee Burton and Wanda Gag.
Things are buzzing in the Harry Potter world. A new book is coming out! I am among the fans anxiously awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on July 31. When the last book in the Harry Potter series, The Deathly Hallows, came out nine years ago, many fans had mixed emotions. While we couldn’t wait to know what happened with the story, we were also sad, knowing that, when we came to the end, our journey with Harry and his friends would be over. The Cursed Child promises to whisk us right back into Harry’s world, and I can’t wait! This eighth book in the Harry Potter story is going to be unique. The Cursed Child is a two-part play based on a story written by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne. The play opens in London on July 30, and will be followed the next day by the release of the script publication. The details of The Cursed Child are under tight wraps, but we know that the story is set in Harry Potter's adulthood, picking up 19 years after the defeat of Voldemort. Harry is raising a family and working at the Ministry of Magic, and his son, Albus, figures prominently in the story.
When I was given my list of responsibilities as the new Youth Services Coordinator for Central Rappahannock Regional Library and found writing this column was among them, my first question was about the content. Was I supposed to write about something in particular? When I was told it was all about books, I felt like a kid in a candy store. So many options! Where do I start? My mind began racing, and I came up with a long list of ideas, which I will be mining in the weeks to come, but, for my inaugural column, I decided to go with something that was fresh in my mind: family vacations and what to do with bored kids in the car and on the airplane. My family and I recently returned from a vacation involving several hours in airplanes and cars, and it got me thinking about great books to keep younger children entertained. These are also great books to have at your house for young visitors.
It’s always hard to say goodbye, even if it is to friends that you’ve never met and only speak to every couple of weeks. Next Friday, I will start a position as CRRL’s Deputy Director. It will be a big change, but I am excited for new adventures! Many of you may know the wonderful Darcie Caswell as the Youth Services Department Head at our Salem Church Branch, and she has recently been named Youth Services Coordinator and is taking over the column in July. I know you will enjoy sharing books with her.
In the meantime, I’m going to share some of my all-time favorite titles. My mantra, when it comes to reading, is that there are too many books to read a title more than once. Luckily, some of my favorites have been made into terrific audios, and I have plenty of time in my car to listen and enjoy them again.
Your children worked hard this school year, so don’t let them lose ground! Reading throughout the summer helps students prevent summer learning loss, and the public library offers incentive-based programs, making summer reading easy and fun. This year’s themes, “On Your Mark, Get Set...Read!” and “Get in the Game—Read,” promote being active, whether through playing a sport, going for a swim, taking a walk in the park or having an adventure. There’s no required list, so any book counts; after all, any reading is good reading! Here are a few suggestions to kick off your summer.
Area seventh and eighth grade teens have created the ultimate summer reading list, the Cafe Book Top Teen Picks. Every school year, students from 14 area middle schools read from among 16 recently published young adult books and vote on their favorites. The titles they choose the most frequently are stickered and displayed in library branches, and we can’t keep them on the shelves! This year, five titles were chosen by at least nine schools.
Every Wednesday night when I was a child, I would put on my most old-fashioned nightgown and the bonnet my mother had sewn and watch Little House on the Prairie. I received the Garth Williams illustrated books as a Christmas present and read them repeatedly. Little did I know, but I was “geeking” out and “cosplaying” (short for costume play.) Recently, I watched a Little House reunion on TV and was enthralled by all three hours, and, no, I didn’t wear my bonnet. The only thing that would have made it better was having someone to share it with.
Even without a visit to a local art museum, young children can be exposed to great art. Picture books offer not just great stories, but are a feast of color, movement, and images that stimulate not only children’s brains, but also their creativity. When selecting these books, make a conscious effort to choose a variety of styles, not just those that immediately appeal to you, and let your child pick some as well. Broad exposure will excite the imagination! In the following titles, art and story combine for terrific and creative books that are bound to inspire.