Category Archives: Articles

October Programming Wrap-up

It’s hard to believe that October is almost over. We’ve been busy in the Children’s Room offering programs for kids 2 through 13! If you’re wondering why we tend to pack so much in October, it’s because it’s a long month with no school vacations. March is the same way so we plan many of our program series during those two months.

This was our October line-up:

Boogie with Emily Bonn
DSCN2974
Emily got the toddlers and their caregivers moving, singing and dancing in this four-week music series for ages 2 to 5. The kids loved to move with the scarves and the shakers and learned many new songs and sang some of their old favorites like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We plan to do another music series for toddlers in March.

Stories and Science for Kindergartners
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Twenty-five kindergartners joined us on Thursdays for four weeks and learned about a different science topic each week. These junior scientists (mostly girls this time!) learned about color, engineering, plant-life, and body science and did hands-on science experiments to help understand these concepts. They also learned scientific skills such as observation, trial and error, and were encouraged to ask questions. We’ll do this series again in March with a whole new line-up of STEM-related-topics and experiments.

Picture Books & More: Jeepers Creepers
263Jeepers Creepers is right! Two groups of 30 first and second graders came to the Creekside Room on four Tuesdays or Wednesdays this month. They heard some spooky tales, created cool crafts, and ate deliciously creepy snacks. Picture Books & More is one of our tried and true programs. It fills quickly each Fall and Spring. Watch for flyers in February for our next Picture Books & More series that will begin in early March.

Middle School Programs
DSCN2967Our Middle Schoolers were busy this month, too. We offered three programs especially for kids in grades 6 to 8 in October:

Lego Mindstorms Robotics Lab
Our Lego Mindstorms Robotics Lab is up and running! Twenty middle schoolers paired up and built robots and created challenges for their robots along the way. Both the kids and the librarians learned a lot during this first series, and we’re planning to hold monthly Robotics Workshops beginning in January.

Pizza & Pages
Thirteen middle schoolers gathered to discuss Monster by Walter Dean Myers. As always, it was a lively discussion and the kids devoured six extra large pizzas in record time. January’s book will be Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve.

Playwriting Workshop
We are currently partnering with the Marin Theatre Company to offer a five-week series for aspiring playwrights. Eight middle schoolers are working with teaching professional and playwright LeShawn Davis to learn about the craft of playwriting. We will also be offering a Creative Writing Workshop once a month for four months beginning in January with local author and poet Karen Benke.

Thank you to the Mill Valley Library Foundation (Storybooks) and the Friends for making these programs possible. In November, be sure to stop in the Children’s Room to see the five finalists of our Annual Bookmark Contest. Those bookmarks will be printed professionally and distributed all year. We received nearly 600 entries, which are currently being displayed in the library. Thank you to all the young artists who participated.

-Jessica

Talk to Me! Early Literacy Pointers

whos in the tree

One of the cornerstones of early literacy — what your little one knows about reading before actually learning to read — is talking. This starts at birth with the very first words you said to your baby, and continues throughout their lives with every conversation you have. It includes the language your baby hears and later, what he or she speaks.

Research has shown that children of low-income families hear as many as 30,000 fewer words before age 3, leaving them much less prepared to enter kindergarten. Earlier this month, the White House hosted a Summit on Working Families, which in part addressed this “word gap.” There, a study was unveiled that showed it’s the quality of verbal interaction, rather than the sheer number of words, that best predicts a child’s verbal abilities. Simple conversations with children, even those too young to verbally respond, have a significant impact on their language skills and brain development.

What can you do to help your child be read to learn to read?

  • You can narrate your day using shared symbols (“look, a bus!”), rituals (“let’s read a book before bedtime”) and conversational fluency (“yes, that’s a hat!”).
  • You can ask them questions to encourage their thinking and speaking, making sure to give them plenty of time (about 20 seconds) to respond.
  • You can point out the sounds that things make (a car goes vroooom, a cat says meow). This isn’t necessarily to teach what an animal really sounds like but instead what sounds our words contain.

Any and all of these easy activities can greatly impact your child’s kindergarten readiness. The more sounds and rhymes a child hears and internalizes, the more they will be able to decode those sounds when it comes time to learn to read. The greater vocabulary they have heard in their lives, the easier it will be to sound out those familiar words in kindergarten.

Here are some new book suggestions that are particularly good for promoting talking with your children:

flashlight

  • Wordless books encourage little ones to tell a story in their own words. Try Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, about a little boy who explores the forest outside his tent.
  • Books with plenty of questions in the text are great for promoting dialog. Try a lift-the-flap book like Who’s in the Tree? by Craig Shuttlewood.

normanspeak

  • Some books are actually about language. Norman, Speak, by Caroline Anderson and Qin Lang, is about a dog who previously had a Mandarin-speaking owner.
  • Books about sound words introduce animal or other sounds to children in our language. A new favorite of mine is Say Hello Like This! by Mary Murphy, in which six different animals greet one another. It also encourages vocabulary development, with sentences like, “A cat hello is prissy and proud…like this! purrrrrr… meow.”sayhello

Above all, talk talk talk to your children. Tell stories, ask questions, narrate your day. They’ll love it, and you’ll be helping them get ready to learn to read.

-Lauren

Gods, Robots and Wizards: New Books for Older Readers

1.ANUBIS_CVAnubis Speaks! A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead by Vicky Alvear Shecter, illustrated by Antoine Revoy
Welcome, visitors. Meet Anubis, the Egyptian god of the “Mysteries of Embalming,” the “Guardian of the Veil of Death,” and “The Opener of the Ways of the Dead.” In other words, as he likes to say it: “Your. Worst. Nightmare.” It’s showtime, people! With swagger, humor, and a full dose of awesome nonfiction storytelling, the jackal-headed lord of the afterlife leads readers through the ancient Egyptian culture of death. We’re treated to mummification, tomb-building, King Tut, Osiris, monsters, demons, and more. Oh, my! This is the first title in a new series called Secrets of the Ancient Gods. The newest title is Hades Speaks!, and if the rest are as fresh, sassy, and engaging as this one, we’re in for a great treat. (ages 9-12)

frankFrank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs
All is quiet in Frank Einstein’s lab (which is really Grandpa Al’s garage). The town of Midville sleeps (for now), because inventor and “kid genius” Frank is working on something big. Something smart. Something totally unprecedented and sure to win the Midville Science Prize. But then: lightning flashes, thunder booms, a power outage short-circuits the house Frank lives in with his grandpa. Now, two mechanical shapes lurk in the dark, and things don’t go quite as Frank thought they would. With characteristic humor, slapdash action, totally ludicrous situations, and absolutely real science, Jon Scieszka brings us the first in a series sure to win middle school fans everywhere. (ages 8-12)

1395846739000-IronTrialCoverThe Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer
A boy wizard unaware of his own power, a horrible past, and a school of magic staffed by mages both good and terrible. This sounds familiar, but here the plot similarities between The Iron Trial and Harry Potter come to an end. When Callum Hunt limps into the entry exam for the secretive and powerful wizardry school called The Magesterium, he wants to fail. His father has warned him of the horrors and corruption that swirl around the school. But in trying to answer incorrectly, Callum shocks himself and the wizards present with the extent of his raw and untapped power. Forced to enter the frightening world of the school, Callum must figure out what is truth, what is lie, and where he falls in between. This first book in the new Magesterium series is mythic, layered, fascinating, and fast-paced. (ages 10-14)

Junk-Drawer_5Junk Drawer Physics: 50 Awesome Experiments That Don’t Cost a Thing by Bobby Mercer
An “incredibly loud mini air horn.” A pinhole camera. A super squirt bottle. Who can resist the high rewards of this new book from science educator Bobby Mercer? With easy-to-follow directions, clear photos, and materials that are simple to find around the house, Junk Drawer Physics shows how scientific principles and experimentation can be learned and applied in a super fun way at home. The chapters are divided into such topics as forces and motion, sound and waves, light, and fluids and pressure. Each experiment comes with a description of the science behind it. But most importantly, each exercise is approachable and satisfying. So, learn centripetal force and get started on your own spinning force machine! (ages 9 and up)

-Molly

New Nonfiction

bblsSet“Building Blocks of Science” by Joseph Midthun
World Book has decided to take advantage of the widespread appeal of graphic novels and has released their own graphic non-fiction series, “Building Blocks of Science.” The first books of the series were introduced in 2012 and feature topics such as matter, gravity, and energy. New in 2014 are eight books on the human body. The graphic novel format, bright colors, and funny characters will show kids that science can be fun while they are learning about fairly complex concepts. This series is good for readers of various levels. Also included in each book are an index, glossary, and a list of additional resources. (ages 5-11)

yosemite“Preserving America” by Nate Frisch
As part of the Common Core curriculum for California, fourth grade students study state history and learn how to read informational texts. A new series that can help students achieve both of these objectives is titled “Preserving America.” Two of the books in this series feature California national parks and are great for students performing research. Each book discusses the history of the park, resident animals, geography, and current park attractions. The well-written and detailed information is accompanied by many full color photographs, maps, and charts. Children will really enjoy learning about our national parks with this series. (ages 9-12)

New books on national parks in the “Preserving America” series:

columbus“Fact Finders” and Who Was…?” series
Perfect for an upper elementary biography project are the “Fact Finders” and “Who Was…?” biography series. Books in the Fact Finders series feature many colorful illustrations and photographs, an engaging layout, and a Common Core critical thinking section. This series in particular will appeal to reluctant readers due to the contemporary cover and mature page design. The “Who Was…?” series are easy to read, with short chapters, large print, and black and white illustrations on nearly every page. Both series will help children learn about the life stories of interesting historical figures. (ages 8-12)

New biographies in the “Fact Finders” series:

New biographies in the “Who Was…?” series:

chokedHow They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley
For a completely different type of biography check out the sure to please follow up to How They Croaked. How They Choked tells the true stories behind the failures of 14 famous individuals. Most people know the accomplishments of very famous people, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Marco Polo, but they don’t know about these people’s often fatal flaws. Find out why the famous scientist Isaac Newton tried to turn lead into gold or how Montezuma contributed to the elimination of the Aztec people. Even though this book is fairly dark, it is full of tongue-in-cheek humor. Bragg and O’Malley do a good job of engaging the reader with really fascinating historical facts and comical black and white illustrations. Reluctant readers and kids that think they don’t like history will appreciate the short chapters and unique subject matter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this book turn up on future award lists. (ages 10-14)

-Sarah Beth

Crabby Crabs and Poodle-y Dogs: New Books for Younger Readers

pardonPardon Me! by Daniel Miyares
Little bird has found the perfect rock to relax at on the swamp. But not for long! Swamp neighbors use the magical phrase, “Pardon me,” and make him scoot over. When Little Bird has had enough of being crowded, squished, and elbowed, he will discover an unlikely neighbor who will also excuse himself. Pardon Me! does a fantastic job of portraying irony. Little Bird has to deal with the paradox of his friends being polite and rude at the same time. Although he is frustrated, he also discovers that he is not the only swamp animal being stepped on. Written  expressively with short sentences and repetition, this story makes a fun read aloud. Kids who love lush illustrations, and who enjoy laughing at hairy situations will enjoy this book. (ages 4-8)

1905MoondayCover1Moonday by Adam Rex
The moon is always far away, big and mysterious, but what happens when if comes down for the whole day? A young girl wakes to find the moon in her backyard. It feels cold and chalky, but is ultimately beautiful. While the moon’s visit is a wonder, the neighborhood also discovers it is a nuisance. The whole town is sleepy! People constantly yawn, teachers can’t think straight, and dogs are constantly howling. The young girl must take the moon for a ride back home. Written with a poetic ring, this story is philosophical and scientific, and teeters between dreamy imagination and reality. The gorgeous illustrations outline a day flooded with night and magical illumination. This would be a wonderful book for a tranquil story time before bed. (ages 3-7)

crabCrabby Crab by Chris Raschka
Crab is not happy with himself. He doesn’t have fingers, and he cannot walk forward. He is dwelling on what he cannot do, even though there is plenty to like about him! Crab needs to be reminded that he is loved for who he is. Crabby Crab is a simple story, written in a direct and concise style. It has a lot of open space, and uses solid colors to emphasize that each page has a statement. This little book teaches kids to accept themselves and others for who they are, for their strengths and shortcomings alike. Even Crab is painted imperfectly, with some color outside of the lines and parts not filled in. (ages 2-5)

gastonGaston by Kelly DiPucchio, pictures by Christian Robinson
Gaston, a happy bulldog in a family of poodles, practices to be proper and look pretty in pink. When he goes to the park with his family, he meets the rough and tough Antoinette, a poodle in a family of bulldogs. Whoops! When Gaston and Antoinette’s families try to remedy the mix-up by letting the pups switch places, everything looks as it should. But will Gaston and Antoinette feel at home?  Gaston has a classic story structure, with a lesson and a happy ending. The witty and pleasant plot is brought to life with endearing drawings. This is a great book for dog lovers, story time audiences, and kids who are adopted. Kids will learn how good it feels to find your niche, and that family and love does not need to look like you. (ages 4-7)

-Courtney

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

freedomThis week we are celebrating the freedom to read! So why are we calling this week Banned Books Week? Because the freedom to read can be a controversial subject.

You may be surprised at the books that are frequently challenged. Aren’t The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Where the Wild Things Are among the pieces of literature that make up American culture? Aren’t these the books that have resonated throughout the generations?

People have accused Where the Wild Things Are of promoting naughty behavior in children. Others have suggested it can have a frightening impact on kids, with the notion that they can be sent to bed without dinner. Of course, people have a right to these opinions. The beauty of freedom of speech is to hear all sides, even if you blatantly disagree. But, barring other people from reading that material stomps on our beloved First Amendment.

You have the freedom to read. You also have the freedom to choose what not to read, and so does your neighbor. Now, where does the public library fit into all of this?

The public library must balance upholding the First Amendment and meeting the needs and interests of its local community. It must also provide diversity, accessibility, and the ability to check out materials without judgment. As the wise saying goes, “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone” – Jo Godwin.

Now for a potentially even messier topic: the public library and children. A lot of times, well-intentioned parents want to ban books to protect their children. They may want the “right” morals surrounding their children. Or, they simply want their kids to read “enriching literature,” instead of anything they consider non-literary. Of course parents should guide their children toward reading good books. It is a parent’s job to shape and prepare their kids for adulthood. But banning books from the library takes away other parents’ rights to guide their own children. Going full force with censorship is dangerous. Who decides what is the “right” material to read? What voices will get silenced? Will humor and sarcasm be suppressed? This sounds like a dark and gray dystopian novel to me.

So, let’s take a look at some children’s books that have been repeatedly challenged, either in public libraries or in schools. The public library gives you a choice. You may celebrate Banned Books Week by choosing to read one of them, or by choosing not to. (Source: American Library Association)

-Courtney

Aliens or Cowboys? New Books for Older Readers

minionMinion by John David Anderson
This companion novel to Sidekicked follows the life of Mickey, a kid with a hypnotizing gift. Mickey and his adoptive father live in New Liberty, the town without a Super, but with two competing crime bosses who provide a certain level of stability to the city. Mickey and his father perform odd jobs for big boss Tony Romano and life is good, if not exactly legal. That is, until a supervillain called The Dictator comes to town and takes an interest in Mickey’s gift. Only a Super can save them, but a new Super could also ruin everything that Mickey and his father have built. Sidekicked introduced readers to a world where superheroes and villains are a part of everyday life and Minion gives readers everything they could ask for in a companion novel and more. Action, mystery, and a fight between good and evil only add to a truly engaging story about a boy learning about the many complexities of life. (ages 10-14)

skies cover finalSkies Like These by Tess Hilmo
This summer vacation will be like none other for Jade who is used to quiet summers reading and watching TV. She has been sent to Wyoming to stay with an aunt she hasn’t seen in years. On her first day in Wyoming she meets a wannabe Butch Cassidy, who has even renamed himself Roy Parker, after his idol’s real name. Roy turns Jade’s summer upside down when he enlists her as his sidekick to help save his family’s hardware store through a few harebrained Butch Cassidy-style stunts that aren’t completely legal. Jade thinks of a better plan for earning money and keeping Roy out of trouble: he should enter a cowboy poetry contest and she would host astronomy classes on her aunt’s roof. Finding her sense of adventure and a true friend is more than Jade could ask for from her summer. This book will serve as many readers’ inspiration for trying something new. (ages 9-12)

LittleGreenMenAtTheMercuryInnLittle Green Men at the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitich Smith
Aidan’s life at the Mercury Inn is as normal as it can get for a kid who lives at a space-themed motel on the Florida coast. One of the highlights of life at the Mercury is the up close and personal view of NASA rocket launches from the motel’s beach. Aiden’s summer takes a turn for the weird, when a launch is interrupted up a UFO that the government claims is a plane with modified wings but Aiden and his alien obsessed best friend Louis know what they saw. Just when Aiden and Louis think things couldn’t get any stranger they make a shocking discovery about the identity of one of the motel’s guests. Comedy meets science fiction in an entertaining story sure to please UFO and alien enthusiasts. (ages 9-12)

hopeHope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera
Star Mackey has blue hair, a mullet, and a sister who has been kicked out of school. If this wasn’t enough for the students in her new school to make fun of, she also lives by the town dump in a trailer park. Star is a lonely ten-year-old with no friends, no father, and an increasingly distant sister. Instead of letting her troubles get her down, she decides to make friends and educate her classmates on what life in a trailer park is really like by starting The Trailer Park Club. But instead of helping her fit in she becomes the laughing stock of her class. Inspired by the Emily Dickinson poem “Hope” she attempts to form a club again, a poetry club. Through this more successful club Star learns about poetry but even more about herself. She is a determined, relatable girl with a great sense of humor that keeps this book light even when addressing difficult issues. (ages 9-11)

-Sarah Beth

Animal Adventures: New Books for Younger Readers

ChengduChengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg
It’s late at night in the bamboo grove and everyone is asleep: everyone, that is, but Chengdu. This young panda is having a rough time falling asleep on his branch! No matter how much he tosses and turns, he cannot get comfortable. Chengdu’s nighttime dilemma is told through this sweet picture book filled with dark drawings of the bamboo grove, lightened by green branches and Chengdu’s black and white markings. Some pages flip out, giving the reader more to explore as Chengdu’s struggles to fall asleep. When Chengdu finally gets comfortable, he’ll be thwarted again in his efforts to sleep but readers will delight in his new complication. Chengdu’s dilemma is something many experience and Barney Saltzberg captures the struggles and determination of this frustrating nightly ritual. (ages 2-5)

hearti carry your heart with me by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Mati McDonough
This beloved poem has been crafted into a picture book of a parent’s love for her child. Using mixed-media illustrations, McDonough begins the story with a new mom cradling her pregnant belly and as the poem progresses, readers see instances of the child’s young life before she goes off to school. The mom and daughter are not the only parent-child relationship depicted in this book; an elephant and her child and a blue bird and her child also show the deep love parents have for their children in the illustrations. This beautiful picture book not only introduces children to different forms of illustrated art but also to poetry and e.e. cummings. A classic poem telling the tale of a classic love. (ages 2-6)

milesMiles to the Finish by Jamie Harper 
The race is on! Miles and his friend, Otto, are preparing for their class’ race when they see an electric car on the track. The new competition belongs to Indie, who says her car is “fast.” Miles decides to prep himself for racing in his peddle-car by running, climbing, and lifting during recess. Soon enough, the race is starting and everyone is off! Harper keeps the pace and the action going as Miles drives the track, showing other drivers in a pile-up and spinning off the road. Everyone is a winner with this picture book. (ages 3-6)

monkeyThe Monkey Goes Bananas by C.P. Bloom, illustrated by Peter Raymundo 
The monkey is on a sandy beach island, the bananas are hanging from a tree on another, grassy island, and a shark is in the water between the two. What’s a monkey to do? Swimming is out of the question because of, well, THE SHARK! The monkey has several brilliant ideas, including the use of stilts and a fishing pole, but his attempts are thwarted and he cannot reach the bananas. The monkey does eventually reach the other island, but not without some pain. His frustrating situation is told primarily through large illustrations and very few words. The monkey’s expressions are timeless and his immediate wish is fulfilled, if not without some future obstacles. (ages 5-9)

-Serianna

What’s Happening This Fall?

The 12th Annual Bookmark Contest is underway. Design a bookmark celebrating books, reading, and the Mill Valley Library. Kids age 12 and under can make as many as they want, and all entries are due by Tuesday, September 30 at 9:00 p.m. It’s so hard to choose, but we’ll pick the top 30 designs and hang them on the display wall the first week of October. Then, we want the community to come in and vote for their top five, and we’ll pick the winners from those votes and post them the first week of November. Look for an entry form in your public school child’s backpack, or click here to download an entry form. Don’t forget to fill out the back side!

In September, we also celebrate New Library Card Sign-up Month. If your child can write her own name, she can get her own card. A parent or guardian must accompany the child to the library to get a new library card – we’ll take her picture and give her a free book! Check out our website to find out how your Library Card Saves You Cash in September.

Lego Mindstorms Robotics Lab for Grades 6 to 8

131217_Lego_Mindstorms_robot_05-660x440We’re very excited to offer a Lego Robotics Lab using Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots beginning on Sunday, September 28 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. and running through October 26. This course will teach introductory level robotics. Participants will pair up to build and program the robots to do various challenges. Registration required. Participants must attend all five weeks. Click here to sign up.

Boogie with Emily Bonn for Ages 2 to 5

emilyWe know your preschoolers love music so we’re offering a music series just for them on Mondays, October 6 through October 27 from 11:00 to 11:45 a.m. Teacher Emily will bring her favorite old-timey, folk and classic children’s songs to create a playful learning environment for children. This four-week course nurtures creativity, self-expression, and confidence while developing singing and rhythm musicality, body awareness and social skills. Registration and caregiver participation required. Please plan to attend all four sessions. Click here to sign up.

Stories and Science for Kindergartners

DSCN1823Does your kindergartner love science? Join us on four Thursdays in October from 2:00 to 2:45 p.m. for stories about the science topic of the day. After the stories, kids will break into groups and do hands-on science experiments. Sign-up for all four or just come to one. Parents can stay or drop-off depending on their child’s comfort level. Registration required. Please sign-up for each session separately.

Click here to sign up for the October 2 session.
Click here to sign up for the October 9 session.
Click here to sign up for the October 16 session.
Click here to sign up for the October 23 session.

Jeepers Creepers: Picture Books & More for First- and Second-Graders

monster-books-for-kidsOur wildly popular four-week series begins on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, October 7 and 8, and runs through October 28 and 29. First- and second-graders can come hear stories, create a creepy craft and have a spooky snack. Advance registration required. Children should plan to attend all four sessions.

To register for Tuesdays at 3:30, click here.
To register for Wednesdays at 2:30, click here.

Playwriting Workshop for Grades 6 to 8

playBack again this year, Marin Theatre Company will teach this five-week course for aspiring middle school playwrights. Explore your voice in this writing class designed for first-time writers who are interested in crafting plays. This collaborative course will explore conflict, character development, dialogue and more! Workshop runs October 16 through November 13 from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Registration required. Click here to register.

-Jessica

Adventures and Mockingbirds: New Books for Older Readers

mockingbirdI Kill the Mockingbird, by Paul Acampora
Didn’t you know that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird? So who is trying to kill the mockingbird? And why? First in West Glover, Connecticut, then across states and online: Harper Lee’s beloved book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is disappearing from bookshelves. In it’s place is a flier that looks like a ransom note: “I KiLL thE MoCkInGBiRD.” Literary terrorists Lucy, Michael and Elena started this underground project to spark people’s interest in their favorite book before they start high school. But what happens when their plan becomes known as the “summer reading sabotage”? This short novel is ideal for fans of Carl Hiaasen’s novel, Hoot, and middle graders who enjoy realistic fiction. It has themes of activism, going against the grain, friendship, and handling the uncontrollable parts of life with the people you love. Last but not least, it will inspire you to read one of the greatest pieces of American literature! (ages 10-14)

beckyThe Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson
Becky Thatcher is a cherry spittin’, overall wearing, bold young girl who is as superstitious as she is a darn good friend. She throws spitballs at Tom Sawyer for being a goody-goody, and sneaks out in the dead of night to meet the notorious Old Widow “witch” of the neighborhood. Becky has a promise to keep to her deceased brother Huckleberry: to go on wild adventures with his marbles in her pocket. But what happens when Becky’s adventures meet the Pritchard Brothers, the infamous, grave robbing, and murderous outlaws? Written in an old-timey Southern dialect of the 1860’s, The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is ideal for readers who appreciate a strong female character. An interesting twist on the American classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, this story presents the so-called “real” versions of the people who inspired Mark Twain’s stories, who are vastly different from their more famous counterparts. This historical fiction novel is set in Mississippi and has strong themes of loyalty, navigating grief, and being your true and honest self. (ages 8-12)

savinglucasbiggs-typeSaving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
When Margaret O’Malley’s father is wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death by the hardened Judge Biggs, Margaret knows she has to do something, even if it means using the forbidden family trait: time travel. With the guidance of her best friend’s Grandpa Joshua, Margaret will use her time traveling gift to save more than just her dad. She is also trying to save Judge Biggs, who was once an idealistic boy who stood in solidarity with the oppressed people of the local mining corporation, and who saved Grandpa Joshua’s life. What happens to Luke Agrippa during these years will change him forever, into the cold and resentful Judge Lucas Biggs who is too bitter to see the truth. But Margaret is about to discover that time does not like to change. With a combination of historical fiction, adventure and a dash of magic, this versatile book should suit many reader’s fancies. Written from multiple perspectives, this book does a fantastic job of showing how important it is to walk in another person’s shoes. Full of empathy, collective consciousness, politics, and history, it would not surprise me if this novel won a Newbery Award. (ages 9-13)

forbidden libraryThe Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Everything went downhill when Alice hid in a closet and saw a fairy threatening her father. She thought there was no such thing as fairies. Suddenly her father has vanished, supposedly killed on a shipping expedition, and now she must live with her mysterious but kind Uncle Geryon. When Alice meets a blasé cat who lets her in to her uncle’s forbidden library, she discovers that her family has kept her in the dark about what she is. Alice is a reader. When Alice reads the lines of special books, she finds herself in the book. The only way out is to defeat a character in a book, imprisoning them within her. Alice can use the character as a weapon forever when she is back in the real world. But nonetheless, the creature is a prisoner. Are readers the good guys or the villains? This fantasy novel is very action oriented, and will suit readers who like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. The Forbidden Library ends with a cliffhanger, leaving the reader yearning for more!

-Courtney