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Mystery and Adventure Galore: New Books for Older Readers

The Thickety: The Whispering Trees by J.A. White
thickety whispering treesThis suspenseful and creepy sequel to The Thickety: A Path Begins picks up right where the first book left off. Kara and her brother have escaped their village and have no choice but to seek refuge in the darkness of the Thickety. With the forest demon, Sordyr, on their heels they are forced to accept help from an unlikely ally, the witch known for stealing children’s souls, Mary Kettle. With Mary’s help the children travel deeper into the Thickety facing creatures out of their worst nightmares and overcoming terrifying obstacles all while Kara is learning how to use her magic without the assistance of her grimoire. Expect many twists and turns and another cliffhanger ending in this delightfully frightening installment. For lovers of dark adventure stories this series is a must read! (ages 10-14)

If You Find This by Matthew Baker
If-You-Find-ThisLife for Nicolas Funes is not easy.  Being a mathematical genius and musical prodigy has turned Nicolas into a social pariah at school. His only confidant, his deceased brother, is buried under a tree in the backyard. To make matters worse, his parent’s financial problems have forced them to put their house up for sale, threatening to separate Nicolas and his brother forever. Hope comes in the form of Nicolas’s senile grandfather — fresh from prison and bursting with muddled memories about long lost family heirlooms. Nicolas, with help from fellow outcasts, must piece together his grandfather’s clues to find the treasure and save his family. An intriguing cast of characters, well-paced action, and clever writing make If You Find This a truly engaging mystery. (ages 9-12)

Murder Is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens
3murderMannersHazel Wong and Daisy Wells have no idea that when they start the Wells and Wong Detective Society that their first case will be solving the murder of their teacher Miss Bell. The two eighth graders attend Deepdean Boarding School where nothing exciting ever happens, until the evening that Hazel discovers the body of their teacher on the gym floor. When the students are informed that Miss Bell has quit, Daisy and Hazel realize that someone at their school is covering up the murder and it is up to them to not only discover who the murderer is, but also prove that a murder did indeed take place. Written in the form of a diary, the narrator Hazel helps the reader to understand 1934 England as she is also new to this world having recently moved from Hong Kong to receive an English education. A clever and surprising ending makes this book a worthwhile read for children who love mysteries. (ages 10-14)

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison
grounded_cover1Everyday is much the same for Rapunzel: she reads books starring herself, plays jacks by herself, washes and braids her abnormally long hair, and is visited by Witch who takes care of her every need and protects her from the many dangers waiting on the ground. She is perfectly content with life in her tower until the day when a strange boy named Jack climbs into her room seeking a cure for a fairy that Rapunzel had supposedly poisoned the day before. Rapunzel has no choice but to leave her magic tower and beloved Witch to discover the truth about the fairy and her lost memories. As Rapunzel journeys further from her tower she realizes that the world is not the terrible, frightening place that Witch had described, so why was she kept locked away? Adventure, suspense, and humor abound in this fairy tale mash up that will have readers clamoring for a sequel. (ages 10-14)

-Sarah Beth

Dancing, Biking and More: New Books for Younger Readers

It’s Only Stanley by John Agee
only stanleyA family is woken up in the middle of the night by a spooky sound, but it turns out it’s only their dog, Stanley, howling at the moon. Then they hear a clanking sound, a buzzing noise, and more, but each time, “it’s only Stanley” fixing the tv or making catfish stew. Readers paying close attention will notice that Stanley’s tasks get more and more outrageous, until reaching a fantastic and awesome conclusion. This is another brilliant and funny book from local author, John Agee. (ages 5-8)

Hippos are Huge! by Jonathan London, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
hipposHippos have always been my favorite animals. They look so cuddly but are actually very dangerous. This book neatly captures that contrast, with illustrations that are round and soft on pages that talk about the animals’ size (“They can weigh as much as 50 men!”). But the art turns fierce once that hippo opens her mouth: “Watch out! Hippo’s ‘yawn’ is a threat!” This nonfiction picture book mixes in amazing facts with intense illustrations that bring hippos to life, and then cools down with images of hippos gently gliding through the water. A note about the animals’ endangered status completes the book. (ages 3-7)

Tommy Can’t Stop by Tim Federle, pictures by Mark Fearing
TOMMY-CANT-STOP-coverAuthor Tim Federle, who wrote the excellent middle grade book Better Nate than Ever, taps into his own childhood for this picture book about a boy who can’t stop moving.  He’s a a pogo stick when he bounces through the house and a bulldozer when he kicks a ball in the kitchen. His parents try everything to wear him out before his sister – a ballet dancer – suggests tap class. Now he can kick (it’s a brush), hurdle (it’s a leap), and clomp (it’s a stamp), and he loves it all! The illustrations are exuberant and full of movement, and they include fun modern touches, like the sister’s attachment to her cell phone. With just a few lines on each page this will appeal to a wide range of ages, and particular to parents with children who just don’t ever stop moving. (ages 3-5)

My Bike by Byron Barton
my bikeByron Barton has written and illustrated two of my favorite and most crowd-pleasing books for toddlers: My Car and My Bus. Now he brings us the equally terrific My Bike, which follows Tom as he rides his bike to work as a circus performer. With simple and large text, bright colors, and bold illustrations, Barton captures the delight children take in passing buses and trucks on the road, and then adds monkeys and acrobats to the mix. (ages 2-4)


Take a Hike with Your Kids, and Have Fun!

children-535399_1920Hiking Marin’s beautiful trails is one of my family’s favorite things to do together. When we first moved to Mill Valley from New York City eleven years ago, I was eager to explore our new surroundings and I wanted our four-year-old girls to experience everything that Marin offered, especially its open spaces. What I quickly realized was how unprepared I was for our family hikes. We had many failed hikes because the girls became tired, bored and hungry. We learned that a bit of preparation goes a long way when taking a hike with our kids. Bringing things for them to do along the trail was helpful for keeping them engaged, noticing their surroundings, and forgetting about the distance they were walking!

The library has Experience Backpack for Kids that will help you with the preparation and keep your young hikers busy throughout their hike. Not only can you get out to the trail sooner, but your time spent hiking will be more fun!

Each Experience Backpack for Kids includes:

  • Exploring Marin Trails: Includes a map for each trail and easy to follow directions for the trail with level of difficulty for each hike.
  • A pocket naturalist guide: Nature of San Francisco and the Bay Area with  pictures to help identify trees and shrubs, wildflowers, marine life, reptiles and amphibians, birds, mammals, and butterflies
  • A journal and colored pencils to write or draw something you experienced during your hike to share with families who will be using the backpack in the future
  • One pair of  waterproof binoculars
  • One handheld magnifying glass
  • A pocket compass
  • A Nature Scavenger Hunt and a dry erase pen to mark what you find
  • A first aid Kit

Two Experience Backpacks for Kids are available for check out.  Backpacks can be checked out for seven days on a first-come, first-served basis. Rules for checking out and returning Experience Backpacks and their contents will be explained when the backpack is picked up at the Circulation Desk. Also available are two Experience Backpack kits for adults: Wildflower Guide and Bird Guide.

We hope that this Experience Backpack for Kids will help instill a love of the outdoors and ensure many family hikes in the future!

Funding for the new Experience Backpacks for Kids was made possible by a grant from the Walker Rezaian Memorial Fund.


An Echo of Honey: New Books for Older Readers

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
echoA harmonica acts as the silken thread that connects three children who seem worlds apart. Frederich in Nazi Germany, Mike in a Pennsylvanian orphanage, and Ivy on a Southern Californian farm encounter family hardships and rely on their musical gifts as their stories crescendo into tragedy. Each character stumbles upon the beloved harmonica with the curious engraved M, unaware of the promise it brings: “Your fate is not yet sealed. Even in the darkest night, a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed.” Harmonica tabs introduce each protagonist’s part, enhancing each story with the magical sounds each character leans on. Pam Munoz Ryan is a master storyteller, weaving these intricate plots together like a symphony. Themes of hope, musical transcendence, and courage will shine to readers. Fans of West of the Moon will gravitate towards this story for its folk-like undertones. (ages 10-14)

Honey by Sarah Weeks
honeyTen-year old Melody Bishop must get to the bottom of who Honey is. Her thesaurus-happy father has been singing “You Are My Sunshine” around the house and wearing a hushed grin when he hangs up the phone. When the irritating Teeny Nelson tells Melody that her father has been bitten by the love bug, Melody follows the trail of information to the Beehive Nail Salon. Meanwhile, a French bulldog named Mo is eager to discover the sunflower-haired girl that appears in his dreams. Orphaned to a tall lady with red hair, Mo is happy but feels that something is missing. Two characters with seemingly polar opposite lives eventually meet at the Beehive for a sweet sense of clarity. This delightful story will please readers who enjoy realistic fiction, short novels, and a touch of mystery. Fans of Pie will not be disappointed. (ages 8-12)

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
madmanBenji Alston is a spirited and arrogant boy who aspires to be a cracking journalist. He has a lot to write about, especially in Buxton, Canada, where neighbors whisper about the Madman of Piney Woods, the former slave who terrorizes forest intruders. Sensitive Red lives on the other side of Piney Woods. Besides dodging blows from his Irish grandmother, Red is wary of the notorious South Woods Lion Man, the vicious hermit among the trees. Benji and Red may live on opposite ends of the woods, but their paths will intertwine to uncover friendship and the startling truth. Young history buffs will enjoy this sweeping book that takes place post-American Civil War. Readers will learn about the self inflicting nature of resentment, the healing effects of forgiveness and the power of friendship through the eyes of this fascinating generation. (ages 8-12)

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
listen slowlyTwelve-year old Mia is ready to spend the Southern Californian summer ogling over HIM and discussing lip gloss with her best friend at the beach. Too bad her plans have been thwarted and she is forced to go to Vietnam with her grandmother, Ba. As soon as Ba meets with the Vietnamese detective who has uncovered new information about her long lost husband, they can go home. Mia schemes to get back, especially after she gets eaten alive by mosquitoes, is rarely given a second of privacy, and has to access Facebook through dial-up in town. But slowly, she begins to see the magic here, and opens her heart to this home away from home. In this funny, angst-driven book about growing pains, Thanhha Lai gives a candid voice to first generation Asian American youth. A Newbery honoree for the novel-in-verse Inside Out & Back Again, Lai writes Listen, Slowly as a novel, once again conquering cultural gaps and encouraging dialogue about identity. Fans of Kira-Kira and Blackbird Fly will like this book. (ages 8-12)


Guess What? It’s Bunjitsu Bunny and More!

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman
bunjitsu“Isabel was the best bunjitsu artist in her school.” But that doesn’t stop the other students from challenging her with their strongest kicks, punches, and throws. Nor does it warn away four fox pirates, Jackrabbit, or Bearjitsu Bear. Isabel confronts her challengers with grace and strength, never forgetting the peaceful ways of Bunjitsu. Writer and illustrator John Himmelman crafts this series of stories about martial arts and philosophy in a way that makes them exciting and inspiring, charming and whimsical — all in one graceful flourish. This chapter book also makes for a fun read-aloud for younger readers. (ages 6-8)

As An Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas
oaktreeThis gorgeous picture book traces the life of a single oak tree, from a “sunny late summer day” in 1775 when a young boy plants an acorn, to the year 2000 when a fearsome storm consumes the sky and a bolt of lightning splits the tree in two. Yet, even then, the tree is honored by the people who visit it, and its parts are used for furniture, firewood, and mulch. This moving, beautiful book of the life cycle of one glorious tree offers much to look at, and talk about. (ages 5-7)

Guess What? – Sweets and Treats and Guess What? – Flowers by Yusuke Yonezu
guesswhatThese two board books employ sturdy flaps and bold colors and shapes to surprise and delight the youngest of readers. Four daisies line the page. Are they all daisies? Guess what? Lift the flap to find a sweet fluffy sheep instead! Is it a marigold? Guess what? Lift the flap to find a crowing rooster. Yonezu arranges the flaps all over the page, keeping the surprises coming, and uses such bright hues, bold lines, and sweet faced animals that even the grown-ups will enjoy these simple board books over and over and over. It’s hard to make a solidly built board book appealing to everybody, but guess what? Yonezu does it. (ages 0-3)

Big Red Kangaroo by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne
big-red-kangarooIn the baked-earth center of Australia, the magnificent red kangaroo rests in the early evening, watching over his tribe of females, joeys, and young male kangaroos. This family, or “mob,” follows their chief as they search for food, flee storms, and shelter in trees. Now, readers can also follow the red kangaroo as he protects his mob and fights to maintain dominance. Each two-page spread tells a story about the kangaroo and also provides additional background on the animals, making the book enjoyable for home and classroom reading. Byrne’s arresting images, often cast in silhouette, capture the grandeur of these creatures and the land they inhabit. We are living through a golden age of nonfiction picture books. Big Red Kangaroo is a shining example of the time. (ages 5-8)


Personalized Reading Lists for Kids

It’s April, and the thoughts of a Children’s Librarian turn to SUMMER! Later this month we will be visiting public school classrooms of the fourth and fifth grades to let them all know about our popular PeRL program: Personalized Reading Lists for kids in grades 4 through 8.

PeRL logoHere’s how it works: Call the library (415) 389-4292 x4 to set up a 30-minute appointment for your child to chat with Children’s Room staff. We’ll talk about books they love, books they hate, and everything in between. The more we know about what a child has already read, the better our suggestions can be.

The interviewers take copious notes, and then pass those notes off to the rest of the Children’s staff. We all give our suggestions, and after about 10-14 days, we have created a list of ten books or ten series of books that we think your child will love.

This is a fantastic program for those voracious readers who can’t find enough great books to read. But it’s also truly wonderful for reluctant readers! According to research done by Scholastic, “Nearly three-quarters of both boys and girls (73%) say they would read more if they could find more books they like.” Kids want to choose books themselves, but so often need a few suggestions to get them going. This is where librarians, and our PeRL program, can come in.

Last year, more than 100 kids participated in our PeRL program. Whew! It’s a very popular program, so get your appointment request in soon. I know summer seems ages away, but it’ll be here before you know it!

New Read-Alouds for National Poetry Month

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth
hikooFans of Koo, the young panda from Zen Ties, will love these 26 three-line haiku poems about a year and its changing seasons. Koo starts out on his own with just a few falling leaves in a white background: “Autumn, / are you dreaming / of new clothes?” Later two children join him to throw snowballs, read to sparrows, and skip stones. Muth’s beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations bring each season to life, and the simple autumn drawings become more vibrant as the months go by. An author’s note reveals that Muth uses haiku “like an instant captured in words — using sensory images.” These haiku stray from the five-seven-five syllable format readers may be familiar with, but they are faithful to the original focus of the Japanese poetic form — our natural world. (ages 4-8)

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, selected by Paul Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
fireflyjulyTo take a totally different, yet still poetic, trip through a year, Janeczko chose 36 short and child-friendly poems from such poets as Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and William Carlos Williams. This book starts in spring, with poems about flowers and hills and chickens, before summer takes over with moonlight nights and screen doors. Then leaves fall, cats drink from rain puddles, and finally, winter arrives. Acknowledgements list each poem and its author. Melissa Sweet’s delightful mixed media illustrations bring warmth and accessibility to these beautiful poems. (ages 6-9)

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems, by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
poem-mobilesRemember the pickle car from Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go? Lewis and Florian have captured that spirit in 22 short and sweet poems that introduce delightfully crazy cars, like the Giant Bookmobile of Tomorrow and the Dragonwagon. The poetry is fun to read aloud: “Our caterpillar cab in green / We roll it down the street. / a fifty-foot-long limousine / with wheels instead of feet.” The jam-packed art is outrageously amusing, as when the High Heel Car – inspired by the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe – races at the shoebox derby against a boot and a saddle shoe. Don’t be surprised if readers end up creating their own contraptions, and poetry to go with them. (ages 5-9)

On the Wing, by David Elliott, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
onthewingBeautiful gouache illustrations accompany 16 concise poems about birds, from the lowly crow to the majestic bald eagle. An owl stares the reader in the eye, and a flock of flamingos take flight right off the page. The text ranges from thoughtful to funny: “The Sparrow / chips from the branch / but wants to roar — / small cousin of tyrannosaur.” Less an introduction to different species, this serves as a reminder of the beauty and character of the avian world. (ages 3-7)


March Programming Wrap-up

It’s been a fantastic month of programming this March, with three multi-week programs for children. On Monday, we finished our toddler music series, Jump and Dance with Jaime Currier, this Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll finish our wildly popular 1st and 2nd grade series Picture Books and More, and on Thursday, our newest after school series, Stories and Science for Kindergartners, winds down.

Jump and Dance with Jaime Currier (Monday mornings)
photo(3)Twenty children ages 18 months to five years gathered on Monday mornings to go on a musical journey with Jaime Currier. With her ukulele as her companion, Jaime weaved musical adventures each week. She’s a big believer in getting kids moving to the rhythm of the music. Scarves were also a big hit with all the kids. In the last class, she asked for requests and it was no surprise when the toddler-set yelled “Let it Snow!” Jaime knew all three verses and belted them out with all the kids singing right along with her. Bravo! We’re hoping to have Jaime back for a summer concert for our Little Sprouts series.

Serpents, Sirens and Silly Sea Creatures (Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school)
696Serpents, Sirens and Silly Sea Creatures brought twenty-five enthusiastic first and second graders together to hear stories, make crafts, and enjoy a snack based on the theme. Kids listened to sea-themed stories including Pirate vs. Pirate and Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent and then made a craft to go along with the stories. They turned paper bags into sea otters and pirates, paper plates into sea turtles and goldfish, and foam poster board into sea-life collages. Snacks are also a highlight for this program, which are always creatively tied to the theme. We’ll be offering this program again in October with a new theme and activities.

Stories and Science for Kindergartners (Thursdays after school)
DSCN3071Twenty-five kindergarten scientists joined us each Thursday afternoon to learn about the weather, gravity, water, and light. After listening to stories about the science topic of the day and enjoying a healthy snack, the kindergartners divided into two groups to observe, question, and try hands-on activities that helped them learn more about these topics. We used shaving cream, water, and food coloring to simulate a rain cloud and rain. Water, a little vinegar, dish soap, and glitter in a two-liter bottle and vigorous circular motion helped show how tornadoes occur. Kindergartners love to learn through hands-on activities. Kindergartners are curious, ask wonderful questions, and are always ready for the next activity. We’re looking forward to a Hands-on Science Drop-in Program in August, and we’ll do Stories and Science again in October.


A Dash of Starlight: New Books for Older Readers

Stella by Starlight, by Sharon Draper
stella-by-starlight-9781442494978_hrWhen Stella and her brother see a cross burning on a nearby hillside, their world is turned upside down. Everyone is afraid, but friendship and community can overcome a lot. Draper, the author of Out of My Mind, has written an accessible tale of life in segregated North Carolina, and the fight for equality.  Stella dreams of becoming a writer, even though it’s not easy, and this parallels her father’s quest to register to vote. Persistence is a virtue, even in the face of unfairness and bigotry. (ages 9-13)

Dash, by Kirby Larson
dashWinner of the 2014 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Dash tells the story of Mitsi, a Japanese American girl whose family is sent to a Japanese Internment Camp. In addition to losing her friends and her home, she is unable to bring her beloved dog with her and must leave him behind with a neighbor. When letters from Dash, written of course by the neighbor, reach Mitsi, they give her strength to confront her family’s troubles in the camp. This is a very sweet story for dog lovers as well as a gentle introduction to a terrible chapter in American history. (ages 8-12)

The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson
TerroroftheSouthlands_hiresIn this second book in The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, Captain Blacktooth insists that young captain Hillary Westfield chase down a pirate king or a sea monster to demonstrate her piratical worth. Instead, Hillary and her companions, including a talking gargoyle, decide to save her former headmistress, the Enchantress of the North. This exciting and funny magical tale shakes up the conventions of lowly pirates and haughty socialites. Incompetent detectives, true blue friends, and bloodless swashbuckling make this a ton of fun. Fans of the first book in the series, Magic Marks the Spot, will enjoy this newest adventure, and new readers will catch right up by reading the funny diary entries dictated by the gargoyle. (ages 7-12)

Timmy Failure: We Meet Again by Stephan Pastis
TimmyFailure3The World’s Greatest Detective and his polar bear sidekick are at it again, but this time they face their greatest challenges yet: partnering with his nemesis, Molly Moskins, for a science project and surviving an overnight field trip. With a bit more heart than in his previous adventures, Timmy confronts some common fears (sleeping away from home, dealing with his mom’s new boyfriend) in his own unconventional and hilarious ways. Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will enjoy this writing style, which includes drawings throughout. (ages 8-14)


Bears, Bunnies and Babies: New Books for Younger Readers

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

bear ate sandwichHave you ever lost a sandwich? This is the TRUE story of what happened to it! After a feast of berries a bear fell asleep in the back of a pick-up truck. When he awoke in a curious forest (actually a city) he set out to explore the many sights that are similar but very different from his home. Telephone poles seemed nice for scratching his itchy back, wet cement felt just like mud, and there were lovely treats left unattended. What is a bear to do when he finds a sandwich all alone? But before he could finish that last piece of lettuce some dogs scared him off, so that is what happened to your sandwich! Beautiful illustrations, an adorably expressive bear, and comical situations will keep readers so absorbed that they will not realize this is really a tall tale until the very end.

Betty Bunny Loves Easter by Michael Kaplan, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

bettybunnyOur favorite handful is back!  In this fourth Betty Bunny story, Betty discovers the value of hard work while at an Easter egg hunt. Every year Betty Bunny has found more eggs than all of her siblings, but this year she discovers that her siblings have secretly been helping her! After a brief meltdown and subsequent pep talk from her mother and father she is determined to find eggs on her own.  While this is difficult, it ends up being well worth the effort. This Easter tale makes another worthy edition to the Betty Bunny series, but the best part of this book is its comical watercolor illustrations. Children will delight in Betty Bunny’s naughty behavior and relate to the humorous sibling interactions.  Like the other books in this series, it provides teachable moments and by now the sassy ending should be expected.

The New Small Person by Lauren Child

newsmallpersonElmore Green loves his life. He loves to line up all of his precious things on the floor, he loves to watch his favorite cartoons, and he loves having his parent’s full attention. When a new small person arrives, Elmore’s life is turned upside down. His parents seem to like the new small person better than him. To make matters worse “it” touches his things and copies him! Elmore wants his old life back until one night when “it” proves his value and Elmore is able to realize how much fun having a sibling can be. Lauren Child does it again in this fresh take on sibling relationships. Elmore’s reaction to a new baby will be relatable to many older siblings and his eventual acceptance and love for his brother should be reassuring to parents. Child’s humor and charm make this story stand out from other new baby stories and the vibrant, playful illustrations are spot on. I love that Lauren Child has finally featured characters with something other than blonde hair and blue eyes.

Puss & Boots by Ayano Imai

pussbootsIn this retelling of Puss & Boots, Puss heads out into the world to drum up new business for his old shoemaker friend. Puss comes across a castle in the woods and convinces the monster inside that he must have a new pair of boots. When the monster refuses to pay, Puss tricks him into taking the shape of a mouse and gobbles him up. While this story only loosely resembles the classic tale in that a clever cat helps his master while wearing very stylish boots, it reads as a completely fresh story. For a fairy tale it is particularly accessible for younger children with a shorter length and less grisly details. The beautiful and simple illustrations are able to be at once contemporary and old fashioned. They feature muted colors, except for the bright red accents, and a wide-eyed, human-like cat.

-Sarah Beth