Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Vacationing on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula’s scenic west coast shoreline is a wonderful choice. More than one hundred years ago Buster Keaton’s family and their vaudeville team vacationed in Bluffton, near Muskegon. Matt Phelan wrote and illustrated a graphic novel titled: Bluffton: My Summers with Buster.
The story, told in remarkable drawings, is about a boy named Henry Harrison who lives in Muskegon year round. Henry hears about the vaudevillians and is captivated by the performers and their animals! He and the young Buster Keaton form a summer friendship and they hang out and play baseball with other kids. When summer ends, kids go back to school, but not for Buster! Buster travels around doing vaudeville acts, then returns to Bluffton the next summer. Bluffton offers a glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most well-known silent screen actors and the few summers he lived on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Go back in time and watch Buster Keaton’s black and white slapstick silent films on KPL’s Hoopla site. It’s accessible directly from the KPL catalog, just enter Buster Keaton in the search field.
Bluffton: My Summers with Buster
Some Bugswritten by Angela DiTerlizzi is a new favorite picture book! The rhyming text and the large illustrations make it perfect for storytime and it's a hit with every crowd I read it to, from preschool to first grade! Bugs do all kinds of amazing things and this book shows off those qualities. Full of action words like "buzz, build, make, take", we learn something new about bugs every time we read it. And at the end there is a full spread of bugs with their official names perfect for poring over together after reading this wonderful book! Eeach time we notice something new!
Leo and his mama go to the library every week for Baby Time . . . sharing stories, playing peek-a-boo with scarves, and singing the happy song.
Leo Loves Baby Time is a sweet story, perfectly suited to very young children, with uncluttered illustrations, few words, and a focused plot. If you like this book, also take a look at Lola Loves Stories, which is about Leo’s big sister.
Leo Loves Baby Time
What do you know about “the other Ellis Island?” Between 1910 and 1940, Angel Island was the port of U.S. entry for thousands of Asians seeking a new life in America. Russell Freedman’s new book: Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain tells the story of those who passed through, those who were detained, and those who never made it any further into the U.S. before returning to their country of origin.
Especially poignant are the poems that were carved into and painted on barracks walls: “Nights are long, the pillow cold; who can comfort my solitude? . . . Shouldn’t I just return home and learn to plow the fields?” Discovered by a maintenance worker long after the facility closed, the poems have been preserved and incorporated into the public areas of this National Historic Landmark.
Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
This is based on a true story. It is World War II and a group of Polish soldiers who are escaping the Germans and Russians by way of Iran purchase a tiny, half-dead orphaned bear cub from a boy. The soldiers name the bear cub Voytek, which means “Smiling Warrior.” Voytek is cared for by Peter and Stanislav and Junusz and Lolek and Pavel… they explain to their sergeant that the bear is their new ‘mascot.’
The soldiers join the British army. The story follows the soldiers and Voytek from camp to camp for five years watching the many different soldiers’ reactions to Voytek. Voytek is a sweet bear. Peter is his keeper and there are a few instances where he aids the soldiers: he carries bombs, he corners a spy, and he entertains. Voytek provides comfort amid the horrors of war. The soldiers have a few other animals: Kaska, a monkey, who rides on the back of a big dog named Stalin and Dottie the Dalmatian.
Soldier Bear has been translated from the Dutch into English by Laura Watkinson. Soldier Bear received the Margaret Bachelder Award, an American Library Association Award given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.
Zoe loves cupcakes and she loves princesses, what a combination. She loves making pink cupcakes with sparkles, and she really loves her playhouse where she has tea and cupcakes with her favorite stuffed animals. But of course there is a problem: Zoe’s older brother, Ralph, also loves cupcakes. He wants to eat them and so do all his friends – they want all of the cupcakes and Ralph never asks to eat them he just does! All the cupcakes – GONE.
But the next day, Zoe makes cupcakes and she wishes really hard about being a princess and hopes her wish becomes part of the batter. When she is done baking, frosting and decorating the cupcakes they do look magical. One bite and Zoe realizes they are sweet and sparkly - they are Princess cupcakes and Zoe has become a princess! Her playhouse is now a castle and the tea party is real, her guests (the favorite stuffed animals) can talk. While they are out exploring the magical kingdom the evil Prince Ralph steals the cupcakes, but Zoe plans a special surprise for him. And as the day ends so does the magic.
The next day Zoe works very hard making green cupcakes. Again she wishes very hard for some special magic. When Ralph and his friends rush in for cupcakes something amazing happens. Hum – little green frogs – but Zoe says not to worry – cupcake magic only lasts for a day.
The last page includes the recipe for pink cupcakes and frosting. A fun activity for reader and listener to share after the story ends.
The story and illustrations are just right for a little princess imagination. The cover art with lots of pink, sparkles and a crown on Zoe’s head will surely call to young readers who can never get enough stories about princesses.
Pink Cupcake Magic by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Kristin Varner
Looking at the illustrations in this picture book, I get some reassurance that we might yet see spring here in Michigan!
A boy in Pakistan competes in Basant, the annual kite festival; whoever captures the most kites becomes “king” for a day.
The story is full of excitement and the artwork adds lovely details, combining to present an exuberant celebration of wind and flight.
King for a Day
Can fruits and vegetables be beautiful? Yes they can! Set in August when's it's "steamy hot", Cheers for a Dozen Ears is a colorfully illustrated counting book that celebrates a family's trip to the farmers' market. This book will make you hungry for fresh tomatoes and beans, watermelons, peaches, and more. I could see using this book to build excitement about visiting the market and the farmers who bring their produce for sale to we lucky consumers here in Kalamazoo. A trip to the market is ripe with opportunities to see text and numbers in action. Why not start with this cozy counting read-along?
Cheers for a Dozen Ears
Isabelle, a young dancer, is the newest girl in the American Girl series. Isabelle by Laurence Yep is the first book in the series, 2 others: Designs by Isabelle and To the Stars, Isabelle have also been published.
The first book, Isabelle, sets up the characters, her family, friends and the setting. Isabelle is excited about starting her first year at the Anna Hart School of the Arts, a prestigious school for the arts in Washington D.C. She can’t help comparing herself to her older sister, Jade, who also attends Anna Hart and is an amazing ballerina. Actually all the kids at Anna Hart are exceptionally talented. Isabelle questions her dance ability and wonders if she can navigate the new school.
As Isabelle prepares with her class for the Fall Festival, she continues to doubt her own ballet ability. What she doesn’t doubt is her desire and sense of style for designing Jade’s and her own costumes for the program. As the Fall Festival draws closer, Jade gives Isabelle some spot on tips for her dancing that allows for her to finally give the performance she has been dreaming of. And Jade and her both have amazing costumes as well. Both Jade and Isabelle are noticed by a professional Director and dancer and are asked to perform in the Nutcracker – a dream come true.
Fans of American Girl will enjoy this new series. The books are fun and read quickly.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Early Bird likes to wake up early. Then she “stands as tall as she can,” and she “takes a deep breath of fresh morning air.” Then we follow her through pages of simple shapes and solid blocks of color as she makes her way to the garden where she finds . . . the Early Worm!
There’s much more to this book than one might expect: strong action words and design elements that support the story line, plus a sweet surprise at the end.