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Staff Picks: Books

The Magic Mirror

Kamara had a hard day at school. One of the boys called her names and used some nasty words talking about her. The one bright spot is that she is on her way to gramma’s house. Kamara knew that gramma would make her feel better. And gramma did. Gramma sent Kamara to clean the mirror upstairs. It was a mirror that had been passed down from her great grandmother to her grandmother and it turned out to be a magic mirror. When Kamara started rubbing the mirror she saw another young girl’s eyes staring back at her.  Through the eyes of women throughout the past centuries Kamara was able to see the violence, hatred and poverty that women of color have faced throughout history. Through it Kamara sees humiliation and determination. She sees pride, beauty and courage.  

There is a lot of history in this very small book. In The Magic Mirror Zetta Elliott does an amazing job of teaching history and courage. She sends the message to young girls that they are not alone.


Float

In Float we have a wordless picture book about a boy, a folded paper boat, and a storm. Even without words, though, we also have a story about creation, play, loss, comfort, delight, and tenderness.

Take a close look at this small book and then marvel at how Daniel Miyares can give us a complete story with only his wonderful pictures.

 


Swing Sisters

Swing Sisters: the Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a new picture book written by Karen Deans and illustrated by Joe Cepeda, tells the story of the first racially integrated, all-female swing band in the United States. The Sweethearts' story begins with the founding, in 1909, of the Piney Woods Country Life School for African-American orphans in Mississippi. In 1939 the school's founder, Laurence Clifton Jones, started a school band that he thought could help raise money for the school. By the 1940s the band was traveling across the country and, in 1945, even played a six-month tour in Europe for American troops stationed there. The band grew to include girls and women of different racial backgrounds, including Chinese, Mexican, Native American, and white. Because of Jim Crow laws barring socialization between different races, this was a dangerous prospect when the band played in southern states.

Swing Sisters is a great introduction to this unique American treasure. If you want to hear the music of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, you can download some of their hits from Freegal with your library card.

 


Rescue Cat Rescues Boy

 When Fraser Met Billy is an engaging true account written by Louise Booth, the mother of two kids; Fraser and Pippa.

 

When Fraser was just several months old, Louise was aware that her son was not completely normal. Her intuitions are confirmed when at 18 months, Fraser is diagnosed with autism. Besides this, he also has hypotonia, a rare muscular disorder that makes his joints loose.

 

At an early age, Fraser finds it difficult to communicate, often has tantrums, emotional meltdowns and easily withdraws into his own private world. Depending on the circumstances with which he is confronted, his behavior is unpredictable and volatile. Fraser begins speech and behavioral treatment, but his therapists soon come to the conclusion that Fraser will never attend a normal, mainstream school. This is devastating news to Louise and her husband Chris.

 

Prior to this crisis, the Booth family had always loved cats. In fact, they share their space with an aging cat named Toby, who is mostly preoccupied with sleeping and eating. Louise starts wondering if a much younger pet would prove to be a positive influence on Fraser; a “special” friend of sorts that her son could interact with and bond.

 

Shortly thereafter, the parents contact the Cat Protection League. A caregiver there senses that one of two identical cats, Billy or Bear, found together earlier in an abandoned house, might make a good fit for Fraser.

 

Prior to meeting the cats, Fraser studies their photos and keeps these by his bed. Unlike most adults, he is right away able to distinguish between the two. When Fraser and his parents meet the cats at the rescue, he instantly latches onto Billy. Upon arriving home, he declares that “Billy is going to be Fraser’s very best friend”, a statement that truly predicted their present and future relationship in more ways than one.

 

The two become inseparable and this rescue cat transforms Fraser’s life. As Louise puts it “Billy had the ability to enter Fraser’s own, private universe, a place that none of us could penetrate. It had made that universe a less lonely place for Fraser but not only that; it had encouraged him to venture out of it so that he was more and more part of our world”.

 

As time goes by, Fraser is able to enroll into a mainstream school and is currently doing remarkably well.

 

I found this book difficult to put down. I read it in two sittings and love its reaffirmation of the power of the animal/human bond; something that can never be overestimated.


Happy Loving Day

Today marks the 48th anniversary of legal protection for interracial families and their right to marry throughout the nation. The landmark case, Loving V. Virginia (1967) and the story behind it, has recently been transformed into an illustrated children's book called The Case for Loving: the fight for interracial marriage. Sound interesting? Check out the HBO-produced documentary about this significant legal case and its historical importance.


The Scraps Book; Notes form a Colorful Life

The Scraps Book; Notes from a Colorful Life
By Lois Ehlert

Lois Ehlert is a “go to” author for preschool picture books, children really like her books. Lois is an artist and a writer and she has a passion for the importance of early literacy. She uses an art technique called collage which means she cuts out scraps of paper, fabric, real objects, painted objects, photographs, and then she assembles and glues them into place onto a background resulting in an image. KPL has many of Lois’ books.
Children love to identify exactly what “part” is used in making a picture, such as, what is the snow girl’s mouth made from? What is the snow boy’s nose made from? Lois finds her ideas for books from the world around her… gardens, shopping at the market, watching fish at an aquarium, a squirrel who ran into her home… Lois finds free art supplies from Mother Nature when she goes for walks… “I keep my eyes open. An idea may be close by. “
After Lois writes a story, she sketches out the entire book to decide what to illustrate on each page. Not only does Lois write a story, but she also has very appealing artwork for youngsters.  Lois relays that her mother shared many colorful fabric scraps, buttons, lace, ribbons with Lois and her dad gave her woods scraps and taught Lois how to paint, saw, and pound nails. Lois was given an old table for doing her artwork and she even took it to college with her! Lois grew up in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and now lives in Milwaukee. This is a great line from her biography: Why did I choose to be an artist? I think it’s the other way around. Art chose me.


A graphic novel telling the true life story about Nat Love

A publisher friend asked Nat Love to write his story. He lived an interesting life at an important time in American history. He was born a slave but was fortunate enough to be on a plantation where he was treated kindly. It was well after the war when his family found out they were free but, farm life was tough and they all had to pull together to make a living. Everyone had to do their part. That’s when Nat started wrangling. He became a cowpuncher, learned to shoot and became a real cowboy. 

 
This was easy reading and the graphic novel version was an interesting way to tell a true story. I enjoyed it.

 

 


Click, Clack, Peep!

As all of the farm watches an egg – they hear nothing. Then a CRACK! Each animal answers ….crack /moo? Crack/baa? And so on until out pops a baby duck.

Baby duck laughs, waddles, and plays all the while peep, peep peeping. The animals yawn, peep. The chickens sing a lullaby, more peeping. That baby duck won’t sleep! The cows and the sheep try peep, peep, peeping. All the animals go outside to sleep but they can’t – too much peeping. Finally, Duck takes off his headphones and puts them on sleeping Farmer Brown. Duck puts baby duck in a bucket, covers her in a blanket and takes her outside. All the while baby duck keeps peeping. Duck climbs into the tractor, buckles their seatbelts and backs out of the barnyard. And you guessed it… Duck drives back and forth – peeping continues until finally little duck falls asleep. When Farmer Brown wakes up he doesn’t hear any animals but he sees Duck and little duck on the tractor sound asleep. Duck drove all over the farm – he was not a good driver - but mission accomplished!

Kids will love the animal antics while parents and caregivers will laugh at the premise. And really who hasn’t tried that age old trick of taking the baby for a car ride in hopes of having them go to sleep.

I love the Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin combo of stories and illustrations. They are so child pleasing but with that added adult humor which is so much fun to find in picture books. Enjoy sharing this book over and over again.


Breathe

Follow the baby whale as she experiences her first day of life in the sea . . . “Breathe, little whale!”  After a day of play, making friends, singing, and exploring, the baby ends up with her mama: “Most of all, love and be loved.”  Breathe is a lovely story to share with your own small person.

 

 

 


Drum Dream Girl

In 1932, a 10-year-old Chinese-African-Cuban girl broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers. She performed with her older sisters as Anaconda (great band name), Cuba's first "all-girl dance band". Written by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael LopezDrum Dream Girl shows how a young person who loves rhythm hears it everywhere she goes - in the whir of parrot wings, woodpecker beaks, and her own heartbeat. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriago, Drum Dream Girl tells the story of how Millo's love of rhythm and drumming could not be denied. This is an inspiring book for young and old about honoring your dreams and breaking barriers.