Allison’s Favorite Reads of 2016, Part Two

Part Two of my favorite reads is long overdue. I love to pick a variety of books for these lists and try to have books on here for every age – nonfiction, picture books, middle grade, YA, adult, fiction, graphic novels. I will admit I changed my mind about this list about 15 times. There were a lot of good books this year! But here are 5 more books I loved in 2016.

28114411Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

Like many children, I loved E. B. White’s books growing up. I remember very fondly my teacher reading The Trumpet of the Swan to us in second grade. This biography by Melissa Sweet is a very unique book. Not quite a picture book biography, it does have chapters and feels a little thick. But the scrapbook-style illustrations are half of what makes the book so wonderful. Sweet’s description of this man’s life made me love him so much for the quiet, thoughtful man that he was. I was so touched I was brought to tears multiple times. I so appreciate E. B. White for being such a good man and one who truly loved words and nature and understood so completely the sensibilities of child readers.

11324722The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided By Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

I ended up reading this in November during and after the elections. It was very good timing. If you want to understand why some people are conservative and some are liberal, this book is an excellent look into that question. Haidt is a moral psychologist and has done several studies on morals and deeply held beliefs. According to him morality is not just being fair or doing good but there are 6 different moral foundations we all hold to one degree or another. Liberals place more importance on some of them and conservatives on others. He also talks about how humans are 90% ape and 10% bee and that ten percent is very important in understanding how and why we form groups and are happiest in groups of like-minded people. It’s just all so really fascinating and it changed the way I see a lot of things and I can’t wait to discuss it with my book club next month.

28763485The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I enjoyed Yoon’s first book Everything, Everything but I didn’t love it. It was a fun read, but a little too fluffy. This book is leaps and bounds above her first. The Sun is Also a Star is a really, really sweet YA romance but it is also a look at the immigrant experience, both documented and undocumented. There are also lots of fun juicy philosophical discussions and debates between the two main characters, Daniel and Natasha. Daniel is a dreamer and a poet but is feeling the pressure of his first generation Korean American parents. Natasha is a realist, a scientist, who clings to facts. Her family is about to be deported back to Jamaica. Most of the story takes place in the one day where fate or destiny brings them together in New York City. I loved that these felt like real characters and they talked like real teenagers (ahem, ahem, John Green).

1466455Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

I am a huge fan of Liane Moriarty. I’m working my way through her backlist and of the 3 Moriarty books I read this year, this one was my favorite. It is about triplet sisters Lyn, Cat, and Gemma. They are each very different and their relationships with each other are volatile and complex. You know at the start of the book that during their 33rd birthday dinner they get into a huge fight at a restaurant and one sister throws a fork at her sister’s pregnant belly. Did I mention it was also hilarious? So we go back in time to see the events in their lives that led up to this big blowup. They are each dealing with very different issues but they are all super relate-able. And of course I extra loved it because I have two sisters myself so even though we aren’t triplets, I know how sisters can be. I listened to the audio of this through Hoopla and the narration with a slight Australian accent was absolutely perfect.

26221428The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

I have not read the Mysterious Benedict Society series by this author but it always sounded like something I would love. So when this new series starter came out this year I snatched it up. It was a really fun Middle Grade read, especially for smart kids who love mysteries and puzzles. Our main character Reuben finds a watch with magical properties to make the owner invisible and he goes on a quest to find out more about this watch and where it came from. He makes some great friends on his quest but there are also dangerous men chasing him who want the watch for themselves. There is a family of lighthouse keepers who help him on his quest and a mansion with hidden passageways and trap doors. It was a pleasure to watch this mystery unfolded and I highly recommend it to all mystery and puzzle lovers who enjoy a good story.




More Books for Baby & Me

Two years ago I posted about my favorite books to read with the babies. I still use those regularly and love them just as much two years later. Here are a few more that have worked really great with my Baby & Me crowd.

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: My coworker shared this one at a youth services meeting and instantly I knew it was perfect for Baby & Me. The repeated refrain encourages parents to join in and the illustrations are just darling.

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn: I love to do this one at the beginning of a session. Leo attends Baby Time where they read stories, sing songs, bounce, and play with scarves. It is a lovely introduction to a lot of the same things we do in our program.

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee: This one has more ‘plot’ than the books I normally read, but I had caregivers bounce the babies as we read it and there was joy and laughter all around.

Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz: Of course we know that books by Karen Katz are baby-time gold. This one is no exception. It is a really fun counting book plus it has a great rhythm and rhyme and shows the babies doing everyday activities.

Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry: I have yet to find a colors book I like more. This one is short and sweet and makes a rainbow as you turn the pages.

If You’re Happy and You Know it by Jane Cabrera: I love Cabrera’s sing-along picture books! The illustrations are so bright and cheerful. This one is especially fun because it adds lots of verses with different actions all the animals do.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Bill Martin Jr: I mostly don’t need to mention this beloved classic but I am so delighted by the way parents recite it along with me as I read that I will never fail to include this one. It’s a great way to remind parents that re-reading favorite books over and over increases print motivation.


The Hub Reading Challenge

2014_hub_reading_challenge_logo_participantThis year I am participating in The Hub Reading Challenge. Now, I am not much of a reading challenge person. I’ve considered doing various challenges, like the Shelf Challenge or the 48 Hour Book Challenge. They always sound awesome and fun to start out with, but then I realize I just want to be able to read whatever I want and I don’t want to read books I’m not in the mood for!

But the Hub Reading Challenge is doable, I think. The challenge is to read 25 books between February 3 and June 22.  Not just any books, but books off a list of 2013 YALSA award winners and honors. There are something like 60 books to choose from, and a great variety of adult titles for teens, graphic novels, audiobooks, etc. So it comes down to a little more than one book a week, which I should theoretically be able to do and still read other books if I want do (and oh do I want to).

The hardest thing about this challenge is that I already read so many of the books on the list last year as they were coming out! For them to count towards the challenge, I would have to re-read them during the Feb-June period. And really, who has time to re-read books when there are always new books coming out every day? But that means most of the books left on the list are books I would not normally read on my own, so I do have to go out of my comfort zone and push myself to try reading new things. But hey, isn’t that the whole point of a reading challenge anyway?

The funny thing is that I consider myself a fast reader, but whenever I go to the weekly Hub Reading Challenge Check In I am SHOCKED, shocked I tell you, at how many books my fellow readers have read. Like some people have already read over 30 books, or more! It astounds me. As of today, I am at 12 books. But hey, I guess that means I’m halfway done! (Also, I tried this challenge last year and I only got to 10 books, so I’m already doing better than I did before!)

So now I’ll finally get to the good part and talk about a few of my favorite Hub Challenge books I’ve read this year.

13221769Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills

Gabe was born a girl and his name was Elizabeth. But he has always known he was boy. This story takes place as Gabe is transitioning and going public as identifying as male. But what makes this book so great is that it is so much more than a story about transgender issues. It is about music and friendship and identity and the courage to live and speak your truth.

Relish by Lucy Knisley15786110

I had heard a lot of good things about this foodie graphic novel memoir and they were all true. Lucy Knisley writes (and draws) about her life growing up surrounded by gourmet chefs, food critics, and all around good food. Each section tells a different story from her growing up years and of course ties it all to food and ends with a recipe. I expected the book to be a little snobby but found it to be just the opposite.  I loved the stories about relationships and growing up and found a lot to relate to even though my upbringing did not have nearly so many fancy cheeses!

16231347The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

I am a huge fan of Faith Erin Hicks. I even got to meet her at ALA last summer! I totally wish now I had bought a copy of The Adventures of Superhero Girl and had her sign it because I really loved this book! The comic was originally posted online as a webcomic and I am so glad it has been compiled and printed in paper to reach a wider audience. The story follows Superhero Girl, a girl with your average superpowers just trying to get by. It is very charming and very funny and a really great read.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn 16045088

There is no real way to talk about this book without giving too much away. The story alternates between the present and the past. Andrew Winston Winters used to go by Drew. Back then he was a nine-year-old tennis star with anger issues. Now he goes by Win, attends a New England boarding school, and tries to avoid other people. As the story progresses and more and more is revealed, this book will break your heart.

16151178The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Milljay

Apparently I’m really into books that pack an emotional punch right now, because this one is another hard-hitter. Nastya and Josh are two teens with tragic histories. Nastya has just started at a new school and is doing everything she can to keep people at a distance. She has taken a vow of silence and has not spoken in nearly two years. But she finds herself drawn to Josh, a young man in her woodworking class who also keeps people at a distance. Can their relationship save both of them?


Favorite Books: Baby Storytime Edition

These are some books I’m loving right now for the under twos. I use them in my baby storytimes again and again.

Selecting books to read aloud for this age group is a challenge. A lot of our favorite toddler books are just a bit too long or too complex for infants and one-year-olds. I get a mix in my storytimes from the occasional newborns up to very active walkers, so I do target my books more towards the older babies to capture their attention.There are many board books that I also love, and while I use them occasionally and recommend my favorites to parents, I try to stick to the picture book format during storytime for easier viewing.

Plot is not the main thing when picking books for this group, in fact, with the possible exception of Baby Danced the Polka, none of these books have any plot at all. They are simple, repetitious books about every day events that babies can recognize from their lives.  Illustrations are simple and clean and in bright primary colors. I Like it When… is especially exemplary in this way.

Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont. A charming, romping, rhyming story of a little one who does not want to go to bed. I absolutely LOVE a book with a good rhythm, and this one is just begging to be read aloud.

The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell. A day in the life of a toddler, complete with fun sound effects on every page as the “baby goes yum, yum, yum” eating lunch or “the baby goes splash, splash, splash” while taking a bath. I love the level of interaction the sound effects bring and parents often join in.

Hello Day! by Anita Lobel. This one has the feel of a classic and is just perfect for an animal sound theme. I quite love the cheerful watercolor and marker illustrations. It is a quiet book compared to some I use, so it also adds balance that way.

I Like it When… by Mary Murphy. I like to read this one around Valentine’s Day because it is a very sweet tale of a little penguin and her parent and the things they like to do together. It’s sentimental but in a fresh and non-saccharine way. And I can’t say enough good about the illustrations

Toddlerobics by Zita Newcome. This one’s perfect for your very active one-year-olds. It is not a sit still and listen book, it is a get up and move book! The actions are lots of fun, and the pictures show a very cute group of toddlers having a blast moving around.

Please share your favorite books for baby storytime! I would love to hear what books you read to your under two lapsits.

Youth Media Awards: My Picks

If you are a youth services librarian like me, most likely you also totally geek out for the announcement of the Youth Media Awards every year. These are the Academy Awards of our profession and gosh, aren’t they just exciting! The past several months have been spent reading and discussing and debating and speculating about what each of the committees will chose to honor as the best books of 2013. The three biggies are the Caldecott for best illustrations in a children’s book, the Newbery for most distinguished children’s book, and the Printz for young adult fiction. There will be live stream of the announcements first thing Monday morning, January 27 at 8 am EST for any that want to watch. Or you can follow on twitter with the hastag #alayma.

My department is not missing out on any of the action. I held a virtual Mock Printz Club with my besties from library school and we had our final vote this Tuesday. Let me tell you, that was an adrenaline rush! I said it was one of the best moments of my life and I wasn’t kidding. Just imagine being on the actual committee! My coworker gets to attend a Mock Newbery Club on  Saturday which she has been reading all year in preparation for. The club is held at a nearby library and is lead by an actual Newbery Committee veteran so that’s awesome! And then another coworker will be at the Mock Caldecott at another nearby library on Monday, while the actual announcements are made, and that one is a lot of fun (I got to do it last year). They bring all the picture books out and there are dozens of them to look through and then they vote and it’s wonderful and glorious and the most fun ever.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my top three picks for each of the big awards!

For the Caldecott Medal: Journey by Aaron Becker, Nino Wrestles the World, and Water in the Park

For the Newbery Medal: Flora & Ulysses, The Thing About Luck, and Doll Bones

And for the Printz: Far Far Away, Midwinterblood, and The Summer Prince.

The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock. By Krisitin Levine. Putnum Juvenile, January 2012. 304 pages. $16.99.

The Lions of Little Rock is about an event in history I was not aware of before reading this book. In 1957, nine African-American high school students were integrated into the Little Rock schools and they were known as “The Little Rock Nine.” But this book tells the story about what happened after that. The city was so torn about integration that the next school year, all of the high schools in the city were closed for the entire year rather than integrate. But this story is also about Marlee, a 12-year-old girl who befriends a new girl at school named Liz, only to find out when Liz disappears from school that she was passing as white. Most of all, however, this is a story about Marlee finding her voice.

When the book starts out Marlee is very shy. The only people she talks to are her parents, her brother David, and her sister Judy. Other kids in her school even think she is mute. It is easy to sympathize with this character, especially if you have ever experienced shyness yourself. It is very rewarding to watch Marlee’s growth over the course of the year as she learns to speak up when she sees injustices around her.

The one thing Marlee does love is math. I though this aspect of Marlee’s personality was done very well. I liked that she counted prime numbers to herself when she was nervous, and her interest in magic boxes had me wanting to learn more. Another interesting thing that Marlee does is compare the people in her life to different beverages. “My brother, David, is a glass of sweet iced tea on a hot summer day,” or “Turns out Betty Jean wasn’t just plain water after all. She had a twist of lime that was all her own.” I really enjoyed this unique way of looking at the world, and it’s a good introduction to metaphors for readers. One thing I did notice that was slightly odd was how many times there are spilled drinks in the story, especially in the beginning of the book. I’m still trying to decide if there is any meaning behind this, but it was noticeable.

The historical and civil rights aspects of the story are done very well. We learn a lot about race relations during this period and the ugliness of the racism at this time is not lightly glossed over. This will foster a lot of discussion and if handled well can make this a powerful book. However, because of the racism and the violence and the scary situations that are portrayed, I would be careful about recommending this to younger children. I think for ages 12 and up would be a good guide for this one. There are many lessons to be learned from this book: friendship, finding a voice, courage, and civil rights are just a few. I am sure this book will be discussed in the months leading up to Newbery 2013. I would say it is a definite contender and a very enjoyable story.

It’s Awards Time!

Yessterday the 2012 American Library Association Youth Media Awards were announced at ALA Midwinter in Dallas, TX! I was seriously in anticipation of this day for months. I remember in December, before Christmas, telling people that I couldn’t decide if I was more excited about the awards or Christmas. That’s how excited I was! So when I heard that there was a live webcast people not lucky enough to be at Midwinter could watch from home, some other like-minded library nerds and I thought we would have a little viewing party. Kind of like an Oscars party, but better. That was before we found out the announcements were early in the morning on a Monday. Yeah, not the best time to have a party. And I had to be at work.

So instead of a party, I followed along on twitter this morning. Gosh, was that exciting. Even from far away I could feel the excitement as the tweets were flowing in. I had done a lot of reading in preparation but I knew I hadn’t read everything. I definitely had my favorites that I was hoping would be honored. I had spent a lot of time reading various Mock Award blogs, which are so much fun by the way! My favorites were Someday my Printz Will Come and the Heavy Medal blog.

And so the winners are:

Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. Guys, I was seriously so stocked that this book won! It really deserves it. I read it just a few weeks ago and absolutely LOVED it! The coolest thing is that this book was honored with TWO awards this year; it also won the Morris Award for best debut book! Go out and read it now! The Printz honors I wasn’t so excited about. I had actually just tried to read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater and I could not finish it. I really tried. I gave it 50 pages and didn’t want to give up so I gave it another 50 pages but I still couldn’t understand the appeal after 100 pages so I had to put it down. If someone can tell me why they love this book, I would love to hear it! Of the other three, I really want to read Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and The Returning by Chrsitine Hinwood sound good too and I’ll probably read them eventually.

The Caldecott Award for most distinguished picture book goes to A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka. This picture book is truly excellent. It tells a charming, heartwarming story about a dog and his ball and it does it all without any word! This was a great choice for our winner this year. Grandpa Green by Lane Smith was one of the honors. This is another really cool book you will have to check out. The illustrations are fantastic and beautifully detailed. I still need to read Blackout by John Rocco and Me….Jane by Patrick McDonnell. I am a little sad that I Want My Hat Back wasn’t honored, but also I’m not very surprised that it didn’t. These books are all excellent as well.

Finally, we had the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children. This one I wasn’t so thrilled about. I had a lot of favorite books for middle readers and none of them were selected. The winner is Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. I haven’t read it but it sounds pretty funny I guess. There was one honor book I could get on board with, Inside Out and Back Again. If you’ve been following this blog you know I love that one! The other honor book was Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin, so I guess I’ll be reading that one soon also. Mostly I was super sad that Okay for Now and A Monster Calls were not honored at all. I’m not surprised about Okay for Now, a lot of people had issues with some of the plot, but the fact that A Monster Calls was not honored at all, by the  Printz or Newbery really shocks me. I can not think of a more distinguished book I have read this whole year. Though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because there were some questions if it was eligible because it was also published in England and the age range was kind of right in between both awards. But still, if you were to ask me what book is the most distinguished contribution to literature for children and I would say A Monster Calls without hesitation. Wonderful, wonderful book.