Category Archives: Articles

A Swallow, a Badger, and Squirrels: New Books for Older Readers

The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter
swallowPolly loves reading ghost stories and spends hours at her window staring into the nearby cemetery waiting for a ghost to appear. Little does Polly know, her next door neighbor Rose dreads seeing ghosts because they follow her everywhere, from the old lady sitting in the rocking chair in her bedroom to the man who enviously watches her eat breakfast. Even though Polly and Rose have lived next door to each other for months, it is not until Polly hears someone singing in her attic that the two girls meet. Of course she wants to believe it is a ghost, but it is only Rose on the other side of the attic wall. The girls quickly become friends, but their friendship puts Polly in danger when one of the ghosts in Rose’s house takes a dislike to Polly. The girls embark on an investigation to reveal the secrets swirling around Rose and the ghost of her Aunt Winnie. The Swallow is a mysterious and bittersweet ghost story that centers on the friendship between two lonely but brave little girls. (ages 10-13)

The Badger Knight by Kathryn Erskine
badgerknightLife is hard enough for most people in Medieval England, but for Adrian, a sickly albino boy, it is almost unbearable. His father treats him like a baby, his aunt thinks he is a useless addlepate, and the other boys in town bully him. When war with Scotland erupts Adrian sees it as his chance to prove his worth. He sets out on his own — against his father’s orders — to follow his best friend Hugh into battle. On his journey he encounters street gangs, corrupt monks, and virtuous knights, but nothing prepares him for discovering a secret about Hugh. Adrian’s own beliefs are tested as he realizes that the world is not black and white, as he has been taught. The Badger Knight is an excellent choice for introducing young readers to historical fiction. Erskine has created a tale rich with adventure and details about the middle ages. (ages 10-14)

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf
nineopenIt is 1937 when Fing and her large motherless family move to an old ramshackle farmhouse far from the small Dutch town they call home. The seven siblings’ well-meaning but inattentive father is still alive, but it is their strict grandmother Oma Mei who manages to keep everyone in line. Their new home is nine open arms long and holds many secrets, which slowly emerge through Oma Mei’s stories and her crocodile bag. Divided into sections, this book focuses on the three sisters struggling to adjust to the hardships that their new life brings and the history of the house’s previous owners. The stories from the past and present intertwine to create an enchanted, spooky tale that is at its heart about the true wealth of a family. (ages 10-14)

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
nutstoyouWhat is a squirrel to do when scooped up by a hawk? For Jed the squirrel he employs the ancient technique of “Hai Tchree,” which involves relaxing his muscles to slip through the hawk’s talons, landing him in an unfamiliar part of the forest. Even though Jed befriends the local squirrels and even likes their strange food, he misses his own home. Luckily for Jed, his friends TsTs and Chai have begun their own adventure after setting out along the “buzzpaths” to bring him home. When TsTs and Chai finally find Jed there is no time to dally as a loud rumbling is quickly approaching. The three squirrels realize that humans are cutting down the trees surrounding the “buzzpaths” and they must race home to warn their families. This nutty story gives readers a chance to experience life in the treetops as a squirrel. (ages 8-12)

-Sarah Beth

Coats, Dresses, and Star Stuff: New Books for Younger Readers

grandfatherMy Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
In this retelling of the Yiddish folksong, “I Had a Little Overcoat,” a man turns his well-worn coat into a jacket, which later becomes a vest, then smaller and smaller items of clothing until he has nothing but the story. Similar in structure to Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback, this version becomes more robust through the illustrations that show the passage of time. We first see a young man immigrating to America and becoming a tailor, then meeting his wife and having a child. As the garment wears out, he ages as well, and the family expands and the fashions change – his grown daughter wears bellbottoms and drives a Beetle. Eventually even the toy he makes for his great grandson disintegrates and a mouse collects the threads for a nest. The heartwarming pictures and multigenerational story are enchanting. (ages 5-6).

hortonHorton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories, by Dr. Seuss
In the 1950s, Ted Geisel published short stories in the magazine, Redbook. Some of these, such as The Sneetches, he used in books he wrote later. But just as with The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, here we have Dr. Seuss stories that are new to us! We get to read “new” tales of Horton and the Grinch and Mulberry Street. It’s a fascinating look into Geisel’s work before The Cat in the Hat made his career really take off. (ages 5-6)

morrisMorris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino, pictures by Isabelle Malenfant
Morris loves school, and his favorite thing is the dress-up center. He particularly loves the tangerine-colored dress and the many pairs of shoes that go click, click, click across the floor. It reminds him of tigers and his mother’s hair. Sometimes the boys and girls make fun of him for wearing a dress; they won’t let him play astronaut with them or sit with them at lunch. So Morris builds his own spaceship and hangs his safari adventure drawing from it, and before long some of the kids want to “[follow] Morris to a planet they had never visited before.” With a similar subject to Jacob’s New Dress, this is a sweet story that gently addresses identity and acceptance. (ages 4-7)

star stuffStar Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos, by Stephanie Roth Sisson
This picture book biography introduces children to Carl Sagan, a supremely curious and imaginative boy who lived his dream of exploring the wonders of space. He grew up loving science fiction and as an adult, wanted to bring an understanding and delight in the stars to everyone. Beautiful illustrations show his early life, the solar system, many of the NASA projects he worked on, and the messages he helped put on the Voyager spacecraft. Sagan’s television show, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, has been revived as the hugely popular Cosmos series, starring astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. (ages 4-8)


2014 Staff Favorites for Younger Readers

We asked the Children’s Staff to tell us their favorite books of 2014. Here are our favorites for younger readers. Check out our selections for older readers here.


magnificentsam and davesebastian

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Sebastian and the Balloon by Phillip Stead




Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrations by Frank Morrison

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won

A Piece of Cake by LeUyen Pham


sarahbethSarah Beth

cover-HYSMD_cover HI-RESbears sea don't play

Have You Seen My Dragon by Steve Light

The Bear’s Sea Escape by Benjamin Chaud

Don’t Play with Your Food by Bob Shea



teacherMy-Heart-Is-Laughing  vivafrida

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not) by Peter Brown

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photography by Tim O’Meara

My Heart Is Laughing by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson




Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, pictures by Christian Robinson

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers



misterbud hikoobugs

Mister Bud Wears the Cone by Carter Goodrich

Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

2014 Staff Favorites for Older Readers

We asked the Children’s Staff to tell us their favorite books of 2014. Here are our favorites for older readers. Check out our selections for younger readers here.


eldeafo absolutelyalmost crossover

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


FourteenthGoldfish_Cover westofthemoonNightGardener_cover_final

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jenni Holm

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier


sarahbethSarah Beth

Thickety-rev large_Under_the_Egg-copysevenwild

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

The Thickety by J.A. White

Seven Wild Sisters by Charles De Lint



Bluffton: My Summers with Buster by Matt Phelan

Anubis Speaks! A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead by Vicki Shecter

Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea by Matthias Picard




Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Travel Around the World with these New Books for Older Readers

cartwheelingCartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell
Feisty, fearless, and honorable Wilhelmina Silver is known as a wildcat on her Zimbabwean farm. Nicknamed Wheel, Will, and Cartwheel because she cannot be confined, Wilhelmina earns respect from the farm boys and elders with her feral spirit. But Will’s golden life is tarnished when her father dies and she is sent to a boarding school in London. She can make fires, ride horses without a saddle, and save monkeys from bullies, but can she handle the gossip and tyranny of an all girls’ school? This rich and magical story teaches readers that courage comes in various shapes, love is never lost, and friendship glimmers when you least expect it. (ages 8-12)

harlemHarlem Hellfighters, by J. Patrick Lewis & Gary Kelley
Germany called them the Harlem Hellfighters for their tenacity in the first World War. These eager black soldiers hail from Harlem, New York, bringing their original big band jazz for morale along with their fearless bravery to the trenches. Bigots at home call them “darkies playing soldiers,” but despite the shameful racism, the Harlem Hellfighters do not lose hope or pride. They fight like hell and give birth to legends, such as James “Big Jim” Reese, and red cap Albany porter Henry Johnson. This lyrical picture book for older readers is an artistic tribute to a lesser-realized, yet awesome part of World War I history. It is well suited for young history buffs. (ages 9-12)

halfaworldHalf a World Away, by Cynthia Kadohata
Jaden loves Thomas Edison and electricity, but he is not sure he loves his parents. Adopted by Penni and Steve when he was eight, Jaden cannot forget his former life of abandonment, hunger, and group homes in Romania. How can he feel attached when they might just leave? He finds outlets through burning things, “aggressive running,” and hoarding. Now his parents want to adopt a baby from Kazakhstan. Jaden is not sure he wants a baby brother, but they fly to Kazakhstan to start the process. While Steve and Penni try to bond with their new baby, Jaden feels a jolt of electricity from a toddler named Dimash. Half a world away, in a strange place, Jaden will remember what it is like to feel love for another person. (ages 10-14)

strikeStrike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for their Rights, by Larry Dane Brimner
Many Filipinos immigrated to America with nothing but the American dream in their pocket. They envisioned education, justice, equality, and reward for hard work. The grape farmers in Delano, California, in the mid 1900’s did not expect to be paid $1.20 per day, face xenophobia from Klan members, or to live in worker camps that felt like shantytowns. On September 8, 1965, Delano farmers traded their tools for picket signs to protest their conditions, sacrificing their livelihood for justice. Led by Filipino farm worker Larry Itliong, their spirit will echo across the nation, attracting Cesar Chavez and spearheading one of the most revolutionary agricultural strikes in American history. Brimner presents this history with primary sources, gripping language, memorable photographs and an accessible layout to show the beauty of solidarity and the power of insurmountable courage. (ages 11-14)


Winter Nights and Ninjas: New Books for Younger Readers

Ninja-Red-Riding-HoodNinja Red Riding Hood, by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat
“Once upon a Ninja-filled time,” a wolf just can’t find anything to eat. Instead, he gets walloped by a rabbit, defeated by a turtle, and overcome by a masterful praying mantis. Finally having had enough, the wolf enrolls at ninja school. After achieving master status, he goes off prowling in the woods where he meets — you guessed it – a little girl wearing a long red cape. Fast forward to grandma’s cabin, and things don’t go the way ninja wolf expects. It turns out he’s not the only one to have studied at ninja school. This hilarious picture book gives us a martial arts-packed, vegetarian-inspired, totally enjoyable new version of the classic fairy tale. (ages 5-8)

vivafridaViva Frida, by Yuyi Morales
With this sumptuous bilingual picture book, Yuyi Morales serves up a dreamlike tale of Frida Kahlo that even the youngest readers can enjoy. In the simple story, Frida finds a yellow wooden box. Opening the box with the help of a little monkey, she discovers a marionette. Then, she dreams and floats upward in her sleep, flying through a gauzy pastel sky. Eventually, she returns to waking and her life of love and art. The images are breathtaking. Morales created stop-motion puppets, posed them, and photographed them. She then supplemented the images with acrylic painting and some degree of digital wizardry. The colors are gorgeous, rich, and bright. The puppets are whimsical and lovely. This is one of the most uniquely illustrated picture books of the year. (ages 4-8)

flashlightFlashlight by Lizi Boyd
In this wordless book, a boy explores the woods at night. The cone of light cast by the child’s flashlight reveals a stray yellow rain boot. A flock of bats! Three small mice. A gray owl with round yellow eyes. On each page, the hero’s flashlight illuminates some aspect of the outdoors in the pitch dark — nocturnal creatures, lost items, the forest floor. As he explores, the nighttime creatures gather to watch. When he trips and the flashlight flies from his grasp, the animals pick it up and shine it on him. What a reversal! This sweet little book is a gem. Beautifully illustrated and clever, it will be fun to talk about together or for any child to examine on her or his own. (ages 2-6)

winter_beesWinter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
Tundra swans, moose, beavers, chickadees, voles, and other creatures flap, stalk, swim, and burrow through this gorgeous new picture book about winter life. Joyce Sidman’s poems are a delight to read, especially out loud. Begin with the “rascally moose;” that “slumberous moose.” Then, buzz over to the winter bees, the “ancient tribe… a hardy scrum.” Each two-page spread offers one poem and one paragraph of explanation about the creature, plant, or thing represented there. For instance, what is the life cycle of a snowflake? Or how do garter snakes hibernate? (It’s actually called a “brumate,”) Rick Allen’s unusual illustrations stretch lavishly over each page. Allen created the images first as hand-colored linoleum block prints, then digitally scanned them and layered them together. The effect is, as Allen says, “oddly pleasing” and filled with quiet dignity. (ages 5-8)


Great New Holiday Reads

Tired of reading The Grinch and The Polar Express yet again this year? Need some new ideas? The library has some brand-new titles that might put some new life into your holiday read-alouds.

animals santaThe Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett
Jan Brett is the author of one of my all-time favorite winter tales, The Mitten. This year she brings her beautiful illustrations to a story of a skeptical rabbit celebrating his first Christmas. The other animals of the snowy forest try to convince him that Santa will bring gifts, as lemming “elves” craft pinecone hearts and other treasures in side panels. When the big snowy owl swoops in with gifts, little rabbit is convinced. The beautiful, Native American-inspired art was created using porcupine quills! (ages 3-5).


Shooting at the Stars: the Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix
Inspired by a true story, this beautiful picture book is told through the fictional letters from a British soldier stationed in France to his mother back home. He tells how on Christmas Eve, 1914, soldiers in the trenches on both sides of the field stopped fighting and instead sang Silent Night together. The next day those French, British and German soldiers shook hands and buried their dead, and even took photos and exchanged trinkets with each other. An author’s note describes the historical facts. (ages 8-12)

santa catHere Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Eastwood, pictures by Claudia Rueda
On the heels of Here Comes the Easter Cat!, which was one of my favorite picture books from 2014, the titular cat thinks he’s been too naughty to get a gift this year. His solution: become Santa! The unseen narrator speaks to the silent cat, who communicates by holding up signs, showing the grand plan to outwit the holiday. This book is ultimately about giving and receiving while disguised in a very funny package. (ages 4-8)

simon bearSimon and the Bear : a Hanukkah Tale by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Young Simon has left his family in Europe to make his way to America, and plans to celebrate Hanukkah along the way. However his steamship hits an iceberg and he needs a miracle to survive. Instead, he receives nine miracles, one for each candle on the menorah. He shares latkes with a polar bear, is rescued by sailors, and realizes he has saved the life of the mayor of New York City. The beautiful blues of the ocean and golden glow of the Hanukkah candles bring a warmth to the magical realism of this story of selflessness and miracles. (ages 3-7)


Giving Thanks

thankfulLast fiscal year (July 2013 – June 2014), the Children’s Room offered 572 programs, and 24,020 children attended those programs. From six different weekly story times to Lego Play Days, creative writing workshops to book clubs, author events to read-alouds, and hands-on science to craft programs, we are incredibly fortunate to offer such diverse programming for kids. Programs and services like ours would not be possible without the hard work of so many who have contributed to their success.

The Mill Valley Library Foundation, Storybooks and the Friends raise funds so that we can offer a wide range of programming and services for ages zero to 13. They provide funding for performers, instructors, part-time staff, supplies, equipment, books, and publicity. Without these funds, we would not be able to offer the high quality entertainment for our Sunday Special series throughout the year and Wednesdays on Stage during the summer. After-school series such as Stories & Science for Kindergartners and Picture Books & More for first and second graders would not be possible. The robust programming we offer during the summer would be scaled back dramatically. Our collection would suffer, and its relevance questioned. Thank you to them, and thank you to those of you who support these groups.

While the funds for the programs are so important, it takes the dedicated, creative and talented Children’s Staff to development, promote, and staff the many programs we offer. Lauren, Molly, Sarah Beth, Jenny, Toni, Courtney, Serianna and Yolanda: thank you for bringing the Roll up your sleeves, What’s next, How can I help you become a passionate reader attitude to the Children’s Room each time you work. Thank you, also, to Circulation, Adult Reference, Technical Services and Operations Staff who all contribute to the success of the Children’s Department and ensure everything runs smoothly. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all the kids and parents who come to the library to participate in our programs and use our collection. Without you, being a librarian would not be much fun. Thank you for your willingness to learn, your openness to our suggestions, and your can-do attitudes. We look forward to continuing to offer new items in our collection and expanding our program offering. I feel grateful to head the Children’s Department and to be a part of the full-time staff at the Mill Valley Library. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places to work, but also among the most innovative and rewarding. Happy Thanksgiving!


Heroes, Villains and More: New Books for Older Readers

greenglassGreenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrations by Jaime Zollars
Milo has looked forward to a promised quiet winter holiday at the cliffside hotel where he lives with his parents. But on a snowy night, the bell rings and a guest arrives. Then another, and another, until five strangers have shown up and seem suspiciously connected – to each other and to the history of Greenglass House. When mementos start disappearing, Milo and his new friend Meddy invent a role-playing game to help them solve the mysteries. In the vein of Agatha Christie or The Westing Game, this book’s twists and turns keep you guessing. (ages 10-14)

minionMinion by John David Anderson
In this companion novel to Sidekicked, Michael lives in a town without a superhero, one that’s run more by organized crime families than anything. His adoptive dad builds mysterious boxes that he sells to the mob to support himself and Michael. But Michael’s no bad guy, though he does have a particular ability to make people do what he says. When a mysterious blue superhero streaks into town and upsets the mob’s doings, Michael and his dad are thrown in and have to make some serious decisions. This is a gripping story that shows how regular – and not so regular – people can get caught up in the grander stories of heroes and villains. (ages 10-14)

Aviary-Wonders-cover-300Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth
It’s the mid-21st century and of course you want to build your own bird. This catalog is just what you need! They have been renewing the world’s bird supply since 2031. Perhaps you’d like a wader or a percher, or one of the new flightless models? Then choose a beak – you can get a second, decorative beak for 25 percent off – a tail, wings, legs, and feet. Be sure your bird’s proportions are balanced! This weird and wonderful book is full of beautiful and brightly colored illustrations, laid out just like a catalog. Facts about extinct birds, wingspan ratio, and other avian tidbits pepper the pages. Don’t miss the Troubleshooting section at the end – is your bird depressed? Does it need a crest to soften its look? Try the Granny Warhol or the Rockette. Allow 12-16 weeks for delivery. Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. (ages 9-14)

eldeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell
In this autobiographical graphic novel, author and artist Cece Bell describes what it was like for her growing up deaf. She had to wear a large and conspicuous hearing aid to school, and she was profoundly embarrassed by it. However she soon realized she could hear the teacher even when she was out of the classroom – in the teacher’s lounge gossipping and even in the bathroom. Cece began to think of herself as El Deafo, with super hearing powers! The adorable bunny-like drawings make this an accessible book for a wide range of ages, and the feeling of wanting to fit in rings true for so many kids. This is an outstanding, heartfelt, and funny read. (ages 7-12)


Imagine It and Create It: New Books for Younger Readers

buddyandbunnies_coverBuddy and the Bunnies in Don’t Play with your Food by Bob Shea
From the creator of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime comes another irresistible book that is destined to be a story time favorite. Buddy the monster sees some tasty bunnies and decides that he must have them for his dinner, but they offer him freshly baked cupcakes instead. The bunnies fill Buddy’s tummy with yummy cupcakes, but he threatens to come back the next day when he is hungry again. The bunnies continue to trick Buddy out of eating them day after day until he realizes that he has been playing with his food! These bunnies are better as friends, not dinner. A hilarious monster, adorable bunnies, and fantastic illustrations…what’s not to love? (ages 4-8)

zoes jungleZoe’s Jungle by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Zoe and Addie are back in this newest edition to the Zoe series, as the two sisters’ ordinary trip to the park turns into an exciting jungle adventure. Zoe imagines that she is an explorer and her sister Addie is a wild beast in their game of hide and seek. She must forge her way through the jungle tracking the elusive Addiebeast before she escapes. Their mother has given them five minutes, will it be enough time to capture the Addiebeast? The illustrations switch back and forth between the playground and the jungle showing how children easily slip from reality into fantasy. Zoe’s Jungle celebrates imaginative play and the bond between two sisters. (ages 3-6)

magnificentThe Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
A little girl who loves to make things has a new design that is perfect… in her head. After hiring an assistant and gathering her supplies, she hammers, glues, tinkers, adjusts, and measures, but her magnificent thing just won’t turn out right. Luckily for her she has a clever assistant who knows just when it is time for a break. After clearing her head with a nice walk the little girl is able to come back to her project with fresh energy. She realizes that by combining the right parts from some of her failed creations she is able to create the most magnificent thing! Children will relate to the protagonist’s growing frustration and hopefully learn that it is okay to make mistakes. This is a great book for encouraging a child to never give up!

foundFound by Salina Yoon
Bear loves the stuffed bunny he finds in the woods but he knows that it must belong to someone else. He tries to be responsible by making a Found poster for the bunny and putting up copies everywhere while secretly wishing that he could keep his new friend. After a long time of looking for the bunny’s owner, Bear is walking through the woods with the bunny when Moose stops him with a shout, “Floppy, my bunny!” To Bear’s delight, Moose realizes that he no longer needs his bunny and gives him back to Bear to keep. Found is a touching story about the importance of doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. The sweet characters, brightly colored illustrations, and simple story line make this a great choice for little ones that are ready for their first picture book. (ages 3-6)

-Sarah Beth