NOTE: The Friends Bookstore is closed January 18-21 for inventory management. Normal hours resume next week.

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Staff Picks: Books

The Poet's Dog

Patricia MacLachlan creates another heartwarming chapter book for readers of all ages with The Poet's Dog. This is an excellent book to read aloud with children. The relationships between pets, siblings, friends and poets will show you goodness, humor and love. “Dogs speak words, but only poets and children can hear. When you can’t find a poet, find a child.” Thank you to the author for these words. I love looking at the world through the eyes of children, and this book does that perfectly. Does the dog save the children, or do the children save the dog? You’ll have to read for yourself and see if you can decide!

I Am a Child of Books

And I hope you are too. Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston teamed up to create one of my favorite picture books of the year. This is a book that young children will delight in hearing, older children will revisit the artwork and creativity again and again, and book lovers of all ages will be moved by its story.

Child of Books tells the story of a girl who sails across the sea of stories and visits a forest of fairy tales. The waves of the sea are "made" from classic texts, the leaves on the trees are "made" from fairy tale words.

The incredible mixed-media artwork in this book alone is worth checking out. But the real magic of this book is its moving tribute to the power of stories and imagination have to make us into who we are and to help us imagine all that we could be.

Motor Miles

“Miles was a very difficult dog.”  He didn’t like rain, or going for walks, and he barked too much.  But he did love one thing . . .going for rides in the car, especially up the hill to the café.  So the neighbor, Mr. Huddy, decided to make a car just for Miles.  Well, that certainly changed things!  I do love John Burningham’s matter-of-fact story voice; and his illustrations are the perfect blend of watercolor and ink squiggles. 



Anything but ordinary Addie: the true story of Adelaide Herrmann, the Queen of Magic

This winter KPL has invited everyone to take part in a Winter Reading Challenge, and I hope everyone will!  I needed a book for the second reading activity:  Read about a topic you don't know much about.  I thought I knew some things about magicians and how they do tricks, but I realized how little I knew about the history of magicians when I came across Anything but ordinary Addie: the true story of Adelaide Herrmann, the Queen of Magic.  This new biography picture book for children is FANTASTIC!  It is about the life of Adelaide Herrmann who was a "shocking" and "dazzling" magician during a time when being a female magician was unheard of.

I am always excited to see little known facts about women's contributions to history come to light, especially in a children's book.  As a young girl, Adelaide knew she wanted to be different and she wanted to do things not expected of a young girl growing up during the Victorian era.  What better way to shock society than to grow up and become a magician, get shot out of a cannon, be set on fire, or have your head cut off.  The full color illustrations in this book are vibrant and powerful; they bring the pages to life.  The author Mara Rockliff has written a simple, easy flowing story that will engage anyone reading it.  I recommend this as a must read for elementary school kids and preschoolers will definitely enjoy the wonderful illustrations.

Towers Falling

I remember how nice the day was. How I didn’t want to go to school. I remember being bored in my Focus on Freshman class when the assistant principal ran, red faced and huffing, into the classroom, handed our teacher a piece of paper, and then ran out. I remember the whole class asking if we were on lockdown, if there was an active shooter in our school, or in the high school across town. I remember the teacher struggling with how to explain what had just happened to a bunch of 9th graders. I remember thinking the world was about to change.

It’s hard to imagine that something that happened not that long ago, something I can still remember so vividly, could be a foreign concept to someone else. In Towers Falling, fifth grader Dèja Barnes wonders how something that happened before she was born could have to do with her. How could this bit of history, something that happened 15 years ago, have any impact on her now? The story follows her as she realizes that 9/11 may have happened before she was born, but the effects have touched everyone around her, and ripple outward to affect her life in ways she did not previously understand. This book does such a fabulous job of showing how we are all connected through our small communities that build outward and how we’re all connected as Americans to 9/11 and how history is never something that exists only in the past tense.

They all saw a cat

I discovered this book at this year’s Youth Literature Seminar and had to take it home with me. The book has a simple, repetitive, rhyming text that is great when reading to very young children and gives it a sort of sing-song quality. What I really love about this book though, is the way it is illustrated. The cat meets a number of other animals and each has a different view or perspective of it. The dog and the mouse, for example, see the cat very differently. Some of my favorite illustrations were of how the bee, the worm and the, flea see it. Come check out our copy to see what a snake thinks of a cat!


Wet Cement: a mix of concrete poems

Concrete Poetry is poetry where the visual elements and typeface match the topic of the poem. In his latest poetry collection, Wet Cement, Bob Raczka shares the cleverest concrete poems (also called shape poems). Young poetry fans and their caregivers will be delighted by the topics, humor, wordplay, and imagery. It’s a perfect poetry collection for sharing with new readers and is oft requested at our house. It will make you laugh and think and hopefully inspire you to write some concrete poems of your own. My favorite line describes the Big Dipper constellation as a “vessel of stars, my brim overflowing with night.” For a more thorough review and information about writing and learning with concrete poems, visit School Library Journal.

The Princess and the Warrior, A Tale of Two Volcanoes

There have only been a few occasions where I have discovered an author that I would eventually become obsessed with.  Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is one of those authors.  I was so excited to read his latest children’s book, The Princess and the Warrior, A Tale of Two Volcanoes. In it, he retells the legend of the two great volcanoes overlooking Mexico City: Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl.  Once again Tonatiuh's artistic style successfully represents the legends, the people, the history, and the culture of Mexico.  

Tonatiuh is Mexican American and he grew up in both countries.  He has received well-deserved recognitions and awards for his works including the Pura Belpre’ Medal and the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book Award. Now more than ever, it is important to continue to highlight diverse children’s books that promote pride, acceptance, and appreciation for all cultures. This book does all this and more.


My Tata's Remedies/Los remedios de mi tata

Plants are powerful. You probably know how, after cooling with lots of cold water, aloe vera plant can be a salve to soothe a minor burn. Aaron's Tata Gus is a go-to person in the community when people need a remedy for a burn, scrape, or bump. He’s got remedies for lots of different maladies and his community is grateful for them. As in My Nana’s Remedies/Los remedies de mi nana, these traditional remedies are based in herbs found in the everyday world. It is often elders who have earned the respect of the community with compassion, knowledge, and a history of service to the community. The pages at the end of both books give more detail about the plants and herbs described in the stories. Both books are written in both Spanish and English and are based in the author’s community in the Nogales-Tuscon area in North America.
I like how My Tata's Remedies/Los remedios de mi tata, a Pura Belpre Honor book shows how a community looks out for one another with food and with herbal remedies.  

To All Misunderstood Cows, Here’s Moo To You

MOO  is written by award winning author Sharon Creech, who also penned Walk Two Moons, The Wanderer, Ruby Holler and others. She wrote this book partly because she lives in rural Maine and partly because over time she has become “enchanted by cows.”

This work of fiction for third graders and older kids is about a family: Mom, Dad, twelve year-old Reena, and seven year-old Luke. The family moves from the big city to Maine, after the parents lose their jobs at a newspaper that goes out of business.

It’s Mom’s idea to just get away from big city life, buy where to go? At this point. Reena blurts out “Maine!” The reaction of her parents is, “Of course!” That is where they had met and fell in love. It made perfect sense to move back. After all, Maine is full of great things - lobsters, blueberries, a beautiful ocean with breaking waves, lighthouses, mountains. But there is one big minus about Maine: Winters are awfully cold there.

There will have to be a period of getting used to Maine’s unique characteristics such as few buses, little traffic, few tall buildings, but mostly to good things. The family moves to a small town on the coast with the ocean just a short block away. They rent a small old house with a woodstove inside and apple and lilac trees outside. As the parents unpack, the kids are let loose to ride their bikes on wide sidewalks and explore their new surroundings.

Since they move to Maine during the summer months, Mom looks for something to occupy the kids. She meets and befriends an elderly neighbor lady who could use some help. Mom “volunteers” the kids to help her with her farm. Mrs. Falala is rather eccentric and bossy, but plays the flute beautifully. As it turns out she also has quite a menagerie of “pets”- Paulie the hog, China the cat, Crockett the parrot, and last but certainly not least a belted back and white Galloway cow named Zora. Oh yes, there’s also a snake named Edna.

Upon meeting cow Zora, the kids, who don’t know a thing about cows, find out that Zora is not only stubborn but ornery as well. But it is their job to take care of her daily needs. The kids scoop and shovel piles of cow dung as well as fill buckets full with feed and water. They do these tasks over and over again and learn a lot about cows in the process. By the end of the book they grow to appreciate Zora and even get to show her at a fair. Supposedly Zora is a prized cow with great lineage. They also grow fond of Mrs. Falala, her flute playing and all of her eccentricities.

A great read that is humorous, sad and heartwarming. A book I found very difficult to put down. In fact, so much so that I read it in just one sitting. Highly recommended and sure to please young and older animal lovers alike.