Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Fantasy for Everyone: New Books for Older Readers

SnickerA Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Felicity Pickle and her always wandering mother return to mom’s childhood hometown, Midnight Gulch. The town once filled with magic – shadows that danced and music that could cure all ills, but jealousy and a curse have torn all that away. Felicity, however, has her own magic. She is a word collector and sees words everywhere – above people’s heads, tucked into crevices – and she writes down the poetry she sees in the world. The nomadic life she and her mother have lead made it hard for her to make friends, and even harder to share the words she loves with the world. This sweet story is full of magic, friendship, and poetry with a bit of Southern whimsy and charm. (ages 8-12)

secretsSecrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier by Ying Chang Compestine & Vinson Compestine
What starts out as a story of a young son of a struggling archaeologist during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, turns into a historical fantasy as an unearthed terra-cotta soldier comes to life. Ying hates living in this small town in Xian, far from the city he grew up in. His teacher berates him for being from an intellectual family, he misses his recently deceased mother, and now his father is in danger of losing his governmental funding. When three farmers bring in a terra-cotta statue they unearthed, Ying is surprised to find that the statue comes to life in his home! The soldier tells his story of the time of Emperor Qin, when the Great Wall was built to keep out the Mongol hordes, and the two attempt to protect the great tomb from the greedy farmers and the local bureaucrats. The authors, a mother and son team, have mixed a fantasy story with photos of the real terra-cotta soldiers as well as historical information from both the Cultural Revolution and the Qin Dynasty. Add in the wonderfully gory details of fighting the Mongols and you have a terrific read. (ages 9-12)

timmyTimmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephen Pastis
Timmy Failure, CEO of Total Failure, Inc., the greatest detective agency town and possibly the country, has a new case to solve. With the help of his (possibly imaginary but definitely lazy) pet polar bear Total, he will enter the school competition to find the stolen globe, win $500, and be set for life. If only he can get his application in on time. With illustrations throughout, similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this will appeal to youngsters and older kids alike, and more sophisticated readers will pick up on the depths of the story behind Timmy’s bravado. (ages 7-14)

NightingalesNest_CatalogNightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
Little John is having a tough time since his sister died, working with his hard-drinking father and avoiding his always-crying mother. Then he meets Gayle, a mysterious wisp of a girl who sings like a bird (a nightingale, as a matter of fact) and whose songs seem magical. He couldn’t protect his little sister, but maybe he can help Gayle, who is in a bad situation of her own with her foster family. This story of magical realism, of betrayal and healing, is told with such grace and beauty that readers will remember it for quite a long time. (ages 8-12)


Finding That Next Great Book

bookshelfSometimes finding the right book or the next book after your child has finished a beloved series is challenging. The Children’s Room offers many services that can help:

Reader’s Advisory
We are always available to help kids of all ages find the right book. This works best if your child visits the library and asks Children’s staff help in finding a book. This is one of our favorite parts of the job. We’ll ask your child what she recently read that she enjoyed and then go from there. Kids usually leave with two or three books that they are excited to read as well as book suggestions for their next visit to the library.

PeRL (Personalized Reading Lists)
Summer is just around the corner, and a PeRL, or Personalized Reading List, may be just the answer for your reader (current 4th – 8th graders). Schedule a 30-minute appointment where we’ll talk one-on-one with your child about what they like to read, don’t like to read, favorite series and authors, and then we’ll use that information to create a PeRL. Sign up or call (415) 389-4292 x4741 to set up an appointment.

New Suggestion Bookmarks
We’ve created eight new bookmarks with “Tried and True” and “If You Like” lists and they are available in the Children’s Room. These bookmarks give suggestions for great Tried & True Early Readers, Big Kid Fiction, Picture Books, and Beginning Chapter Books and If you like… Mysteries, Fantasy, Sports, and Sci-Fi. Each bookmark offers a suggested age range and a list of books that are in the Children’s Collection. We think this will be a great resource for kids who are looking for the next great book.


Pajama Story Time

pajama_story_time_imageMonday, May 12, 6:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Wear your PJs and bring your best stuffed friend to the library for a rousing yet relaxing evening reading of favorite picture books new and old, on the second Monday of every month. (All ages, Children’s Room.)

Birds, Robots, and Trucks that GO!: New Books for Younger Readers

GO-GO-GO-STOP-Cover-copyGo! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper
Little Green says it loud and proud at the construction site: “GO!” The bulldozer, mixer, crane and other trucks try to follow his instructions to finish making a bridge. But things get crazy when all they do is “GO, GO! GO!” A stranger in town named Little Red introduces a new word: “STOP!” Can these opposites work together to make traffic smooth? Written in short, expressive sentences, this picture book will be a hit during story time and at home. Kids who like trucks will love these happy characters with their illustrated smiley faces and cool hats, plus they will learn about traffic lights, colors, symbols, and of course, collaboration! (ages 2-5)

mapleMaple by Lori Nichols
Maple loves her maple tree. It was planted for her when she was a baby. She sings to it in summer, gives it her jacket when fall ends, and throws snowballs with it in the winter. The seasons come with changes, and spring brings the biggest change of all: a new baby in the family! Illustrated with soft earth tones and written in simple sentences, this story offers simple wisdom on transitions, new responsibilities, the joy of nature, and becoming a big sister. The homemade art gives this picture book a cozy and family oriented feeling. (ages 3-6)

Ward_MAMA_cvrMama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward
Did you know that wrens make nests in cacti and flamingos make nests out of mud? Kids will appreciate the diversity and wonder of nature as they learn about these “avian architects.” Caregivers can easily turn this book into a fun sing-a-long with the rhythmic and repetitive rhyming style. Digital and collage styled art fill the pages and are accurate depictions of each bird species in their natural environment. This is a fabulous book for our future wildlife and bird hobbyists! Fascinating and sometimes advanced facts on the side will captivate adult readers’ attentions, as well as a growing audience. This picture book will appeal to Eric Carle and Animal Planet fans alike. (ages 4-8)

Michael_Austin__JunkyardJunkyard by Mike Austin
What happens when two robot machines stumble upon a bunch of junk? They clean it up! How do they clean it? They EAT it! These robots munch on rusty old school buses and slurp up stinky goop with a big smile on their face. But the day doesn’t end there. Watch as these junkyard robots build a garden and fun space so that they can do what they do even better than cleaning: Play! Illustrated digitally, this vibrant book is friendly to young children, where even the junkyard looks like a messy rainbow. Each page consists of a four-line stanza that rhymes, making Junkyard a fun story to read aloud. (ages 4-8)


Free Comic Book Day!

comicCome to the library on May 3 to get your FREE COMICS. The library will have a selection of comics for kids and teens that are available for free, as long as they last (two per person). It’s all part of Free Comic Book Day, when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE to anyone who comes into their stores. Thank you to Blue Moon Comics in San Rafael for helping bring Free Comic Book Day to the library. You can visit them on Free Comic Book Day too for even more free comics!

Comics and graphic novels are a wonderful way to encourage literacy, particularly in reluctant readers.

Stories & Science for Kindergartners: Program Recap

DSCN1855Stories & Science for Kindergarteners was a hands-on science program we launched this spring that was inspired by STEAM programming. If you haven’t heard of STEAM, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. The incorporation of STEAM programming at the library is a natural fit and the foundation for our upcoming Summer Reading Program: Full STEAM Ahead. At the library we have a unique opportunity to reach children in non-traditional ways. We can provide educationally focused programs, like Stories and Science, that are just plain fun, no homework, no tests, no pressure. Since the development of STEAM skills, such as observation, analyzing, and reflecting,  is such an important aspect of a young child’s future success in school and life, we want children to explore the world around them starting right here at the library.

DSCN1823This March, 25 kids enjoyed each session of our inaugural Stories & Science for Kindergarteners. Children arrived directly after school for a short story, a healthy snack, and science activities based on the story. The children explored the concepts of color mixing, strength and materials, plants, and the human body. Here you can see the kids building houses out of straw, just like the Three Little Pigs. Later they listened to each others’ heart beating through a simple tube. The children asked questions and investigated new ideas while interacting with each other and had a great time. Everyone left with take-home science activities designed to further their exploration of each concept. Each take-home science activity sheet can be found below.Stories&Sciencebodyp_s 007

With the success of this program, we hope to hold Stories & Science for Kindergarteners twice a year, in the fall and spring.

Funding for the March 2014 session of Stories & Science for Kindergartners was made possible by a grant from the Walker Rezaian Memorial Fund.

-Sarah Beth

Eco-Climate Creature Workshop

eco-creaturesObserve Earth Day by creating your own creature from recycled stuff. San Francisco’s Green Art Workshop will pose questions about climate change, habitat, and local ecosystems as participants “design” futuristic creatures that can survive in an imagined new environment.

April 23, 2014 from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m.

FREE. In the Creekside Room, Mill Valley Public Library

Grade 2 and up – Advance registration required. Click here to register.

Sunday Special: Pacific Boychoir

PacificBoychoir-triangle022Say goodbye to April showers and welcome spring flowers with the Pacific Boychoir’s first outdoor event of the season! The inspiring Pacific Boychoir will perform choral arrangements of classical and popular songs for all ages. Hear the Cantori and Trouveres, PBA’s premier after-school treble ensemble, in this free public performance.

All ages, no sign-up needed. Main Reading Room
Sunday, May 4, 11:00 – 11:45 a.m.

Wonderful Novels in Verse

April brings spring and poetry to the library, for National Poetry Month. It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore a part of the collection that sometimes gets overlooked. In previous years on this blog, we’ve highlighted some favorite poetry books and some wonderful lines of poetry. This year I’d like to turn your attention to a format I only recently discovered myself: novels in verse.

I must admit, I’m a latecomer to admiring poetry. Sure, I loved Shel Silverstein, but that was easy. “Real” poetry, the stuff they made me read at school, was awful. The teaching style was boring and overly analytical. We’d read long and uninteresting poems and then dissect their symbolism. Yawn.

thanhha_lai_inside_out_and_back_again1As a librarian I’ve learned to read outside my comfort zone so I can understand a wide range of genres and be able to help kids find great books of all types. So when Thanhha Lai won a Newbery Honor in 2012 for Inside Out and Back Again, I picked it up even though it was written in verse. Well let me tell you, I was blown away. This is a terrific book, written in a blank verse journal format. It tells a year in the life of Ha, a young girl who leaves Vietnam with her family in 1975 and ends up in Alabama. Divided into four sections, we learn of Ha’s experiences amidst the ruins of war, her long journey overseas, and then her at times quite difficult transition to American life. A smart girl in Vietnam, Ha struggles with assimilating to America, as when learning English grammar: “Whoever invented English/ should be bitten/ by a snake.” Using verse, Lai has chosen each word deliberately for maximum impact. This books would be particularly good for reluctant readers, as the story is engaging and there are very few words on each page, as well as for those who do not gravitate toward historical fiction. It’s a touching and relatable novel written beautifully. If you like Inside Out and Back Again, try this year’s excellent Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg, about a girl who survives the Haitian earthquake.

Prince-Puggly-of-Spud-CoverPoetry is often meant to be read aloud. The reader can slow down and appreciate the rhyme and meter rather than rushing through to the next plot point. For a very funny and fun novel in verse, try Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff. This short novel is written in rhyme, with lighthearted illustrations and changes in font and spacing (a la Geronimo Stilton) that add to the silliness. Two neighboring kingdoms have very different views on dress: Spiff values the chic over all else, and Spud loves eccentricity. When the crazily dressed Prince Puggly of Spud attends a ball in Spiff, only the pajama-clad princess sees how much fun he is having, and together they hatch a plan to teach the stodgy Spiffers a lesson. This book begs to be read aloud.

salt Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War shows how two youngsters’ relationship reacts when James, the son of outpost traders, finds his people persecuting his friend Anikwa, a Miami tribe member. The two share very little language and even less cultural connection, but have a true friendship that suffers for their peoples’ war in 1812. The pages alternate viewpoints between the two characters, so both boys can tell their story in their individual poetic voices. This short book is another that should appeal to reluctant readers, showing them the richness of the story without bogging down in a lot of words or pages.

gone_fishingFor a different sort of book, check out Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse. It contains more than 40 poems that together tell the story of nine-year-old Sam’s day fishing with his dad (and unfortunately, his little sister too). The tone and illustrations make this perfect for readers of beginning chapter books. It makes a fun read, aloud or independently, and serves as a great introduction to various types of poetry because each of the entries uses a different format, such as rhyming lists, concrete poems, ballads, and haiku.