Category Archives: Articles

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)


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

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.


Successful Family Hiking

Hiking 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 ten 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!

At the library we’ve created an Experience Backpack for Kids that will help you with the preparation and keep your young hikers busy throughout their hike.  So 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.
  • Family Hikes in Marin County brochure (yours to keep): tips and tricks for hiking with kids, a trail mix recipe, kid-friendly hikes taken from Exploring Marin Trails, and suggested reading from books in the Children’s Collection
  • 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.

-Jessica Ryan
Senior Children’s Librarian

Superheros, Ghosts, and Mysteries: New Books for Older Readers

My Basmati Bat MitzvahMy Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman
Tara Feinstein has a decision to make: should she have a bat mitzvah? While she enjoys Hebrew School, Tara doesn’t want to forsake her Indian heritage. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is Tara’s story struggling to find an even balance between the two cultures that is uniquely hers. While fighting with her two best friends and befriending her enemies, Tara is determined to prove — and be accepted for — her two birthrights. The perils and stresses of young teenagers are all set against a Jewish backdrop and this novel encourages and promotes knowing and accepting others of culturally diverse backgrounds. A fun story with a hint of romance, My Basmati Bat Mitzvah demonstrates how being true to yourself and setting things at your own pace can help overcome any problems.

WinterSkyWinter Sky by Patricia Reilly Giff
Siria is a fire-chaser, but with good reason! When her mom passed away, Siria promised she’d take care of her father, a firefighter. Dad is her only family so she doesn’t mind ensuring his safety by sneaking out of bed to chase the fire trucks late at night. While keeping an eye on her father, Siria notices some odd occurrences: a shed on fire, a familiar green jacket, a dog in an abandon movie theater. When she begins to suspect the fires around town are acts of arson, she’s determined to solve this mystery and confront the arsonist. In solving the arson mystery, Siria discovers the true meaning of family and what it means to protect and take care of a loved one.

Rogue_JKT_FINALRogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Kiara wishes she could be a superhero with a superpower, like her hero, Rogue from the X-Men. She already feels she’s a lot like her hero: they are both misunderstood girls who only want to have friends and help others. Kiara, self-diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, has trouble making friends. When Chad Elliott and his family move into her neighborhood, she is determined to keep his friendship even though he is mean-spirited. Kiara tells him about a BMX trail in the next city and they ride to meet high schoolers also interested in BMX stunts and racing. Once Kiara begins recording their stunts, she’s wanted by everyone! Her happiness is short-lived, however, when Chad’s terrible family secret catches up to both of them.

how_i_became_a_ghostHow I Became A Ghost by Tim Tingle
Isaac, a young Choctaw, has a few secrets. The first secret is his visions: he’s witnessed the deaths of his friends and family before they happen! He also has the ability to talk to ghosts. But the secret he doesn’t want to tell anyone — especially his family — is that he knows he will become a ghost soon. How I Became A Ghost is not only Isaac’s story of his life, his death, and his afterlife but also of the many Choctaws who lived and died during the tragic Trail of Tears — the forced removal of Native American tribes in the Southern United States. When Isaac befriends young Nita and Joseph, the three of them form an unlikely bond to rescue Nita’s older sister from the soldiers forcing them to leave their homes. When Isaac unburdens his secrets to his family and friends, he’s able to accept who and what he truly is and help his family and friends. The first in a trilogy, How I Became A Ghost is one boy’s moving, emotional, and harsh journey to accepting his fate and, despite the odds, doing everything he can to save others.


Bears, Babies, and Bedtime Monsters – New Books for Younger Readers

kids_bearsongbook_300The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud

Papa Bear and Little Bear should be hibernating but Little Bear only has honey on his mind. When Little Bear hears a bee’s buzz he follows it out of the cave, through the forest, and into the city in pursuit of delicious honey. Papa Bear wakes and realizes Little Bear is missing! He chases Little Bear through bustling city streets and a Parisian opera house before winding up on stage in front of a startled audience. Will Papa Bear find Baby Bear? This charming oversized picture book features detailed ink and watercolor illustrations that entice kids to play I Spy with Little Bear and the bee. (ages 3-5)

hillenbrand offOff We Go! A Bear and Mole Story by Will Hillenbrand

Bear and Mole are back! In this adventure Bear and Mole are about to set out to the Storymobile to return their books when Mole decides he is ready to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. After removing the training wheels, checking the bike, packing his book bag, and putting on his gear Mole is ready. He gets off to a bumpy start and it takes a little encouragement from Bear for him to keep trying. Mole’s first ride is full of near misses, but with the help of Bear he has a triumphant ending. Expressive characters and lots of action make this a great addition to the Bear and Mole series. It will serve as inspiration for many future bike riders.  (ages 3-6)

book-of-babiesA Book of Babies by Il Sung Na

From the author of Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit and A Book of Sleep comes a perfect book for spring. A father duck leaves his nest and newly hatched ducklings to visit other baby animals in A Book of Babies. Very young readers will learn about the characteristics that make each baby animal different: some have siblings, some are alone, some can walk, some must be carried, some have fur, and some have scales. Children will enjoy looking for the duck on every page and supplying the names of all the different baby animals. Pleasant illustrations and a soothing tone make this a great read aloud at bedtime.

bedtimeBedtime Monsters by Josh Schneider

Arnold likes to pretend he is a monster during the day, but when it comes time for bed he’s scared that a real monster will come and bite off his toes! When the light goes out none other than the terrible toe biter crawls onto Arnold’s bed. With his mother’s advice in his head Arnold asks, “Are you just as scared of me as I am of you?” But the terrible toe biter isn’t scared of a little boy; he is scared of the horrible tooth gnasher. One monster after another crawls into Arnold’s bed for safety from another monster until they realize that the most terrible monster of all is already in the bed, an Arnold monster! In scariness terms, the monsters in this book are mild and a little silly. Reminiscent of Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, this is another good read aloud for helping children face their nighttime fears. (ages 4-8)

-Sarah Beth

Sing, Sing a Song…

One important practice for encouraging early literacy, that is what children learn about reading before they actually learn to read, is singing. Here are just a few of the wonderful reasons to sing to your children:

  • Songs are easier to remember than short stories, so they help develop children’s memory. Think about how even as adults, it’s easier to sing rather than say the ABCs.
  • Songs stretch out words so each syllable and vowel sound can be heard more clearly. Kids can hear individual sounds better in songs than in speaking, so they pick up new sounds and new vocabulary. Songs also tend to have a lot of rhymes and word-play, again emphasizing specific sounds.
  • Kids love to sing, and love to hear songs. It doesn’t matter what you sound like; your children love to hear you sing.

Below I’ve listed three wonderful new singing books: picture books that are meant to be sung aloud. I love to incorporate song books like these into my story times, and I hope you’ll read (and sing) them at home as well.

cooperNighty-’Night Cooper by Laura Numeroff (CLEL Bell Award Winner).
The author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie tells a rhyming story of Little Cooper, who can’t go to sleep until his mom sings a lullaby, and another, and another. This adorable book puts new words to familiar tunes like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, so you’ll be able to sing right along.

boatRow, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera
Cabrera has added her adorable and colorful illustrations to many childhood favorite songs, and this is her latest. It adds the familiar tune to the fun sounds of jungle animals. Other great books of hers include Over in the MeadowIf You’re Happy and You Know It, and The Wheels on the Bus.

large_old_mikamba_coverOld Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora
Just as in her book, There Was a Tree, Isadora has taken a familiar tune and transported it to beautiful Africa. This farmer has has a baboon, an elephant, and a lion, with great sounds as well as animal facts to go beyond the picture book. This is a real treasure, and so much fun to sing.

Finally, here are a few of my older, can’t miss favorites:


Animals Aplenty: New Books for Younger Readers

superwormSuperworm by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Picture book masters Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are back. With this new story, they present the tale of the super-long, super-strong, and ever-ready Superworm. Watch him wiggle! See him squirm! All the insects and small creatures of the woods know they can depend on the fantastic strength, astounding length, and generous heart of Superworm to save them when they’re in trouble. But when the dastardly Wizard Lizard hatches a plan to kidnap Superworm and use him for his own nefarious deeds, who will come to Superworm’s aid? (ages 4-8)

The-Long,-Long-Journey-JacketThe Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Mia Posada
This is a beautifully illustrated, simply told story of the godwits, long-billed birds who make an astounding annual migration from Alaska to New Zealand — more than 7,000 miles — without stopping. As the story begins, a baby godwit chick cracks free from her egg. She grows from a fluffy down ball to a hopping, flapping bird. And then, “for the first time, she does what godwits do best. She flies.” Follow along as she joins the migration through the sky; Posada’s illustrations of the birds in flight are stirring and wondrous to behold. As the birds swoop down to the sandy beach of their final destination, it’s almost impossible not to feel a shiver of thrills. (ages 6-9)

Memoirs_of_a_HamsterMemoirs of a Hamster by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers
Seymour the hamster has it made. He’s got a bowl full of seeds, a pile of wood shavings, and room to run. Life is good, even if the little girl in the house gives him sloppy, wet kisses on the nose. Yuck! (She makes it up with yogurt drops.) However, Pearl the cat keeps coming by. Pearl keeps saying things about how much better it is outside Seymour’s glass cage. Soon, Pearl convinces Seymour to make a wild escape to this promised world. However, things don’t go as planned — and Pearl is suddenly showing a very different kind of interest in our little hamster hero. Follow along with Seymour’s memoirs as he recounts his amusing and heart-thumping adventure. And then check out Scillian’s equally hilarious Memoirs of a Goldfish. (ages 5-8)

water in the park coverWater in the Park: A Book About Water & the Times of the Day by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Good morning, park! As the sun rises, the first visitors of the day wander into the park. Dogs bound toward the pond, followed by their humans, cradling to-go coffee cups. Soon, the babies arrive with their caregivers, who lift them to sip from the water fountains. As the day passes, all kinds of people use the park and its water. With sensitive and realistic drawings, Water in the Park traces one day in the life of a well-loved playground. This is a lovely read for any child who adores the playground, as well as a preschool class learning about water or the passage of time.


Sequels, Winners, and Scary Fun: New Books for Older Readers

paperboyPaperboy by Vince Vawter
During the summer of 1959, a young baseball player takes over his friend’s paper route for a month. He loves biking through the neighborhoods and pitching the papers right on to the porches, but dreads the end of the week when he’ll have to collect the subscription charges — he has a debilitating stutter. He has surprising and touching interactions with people on his route, including an abusive junk man, a drunk housewife, and a kind and patient retiree of the merchant marines. Author Vawter, a stutterer himself, won a Newbery Honor for Paperboy, his debut novel. (ages 11-15)

jinxmagicJinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood
In this sequel to last year’s terrific Jinx, our hero is a wizard’s apprentice who can see people’s emotions and hear the thoughts of the trees in the Urwald — the forest source of all magic. But the Urwald is being cut down, the evil Bonemaster is attacking villages, and Jinx has been sent to a desert land to learn the ancient magic it may take to save everything. Jinx’s Magic is a strong follow-up to the first book, and will leave you eagerly awaiting the final work in the trilogy. (ages 9-12)

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinksbogle
Birdie McAdam is a ten-year-old orphan who has found a home with Alfred the Bogler, and a calling, as monster bait. Bogles eat children, and with a magic circle and Birdie’s singing voice, the team can catch these mysterious creatures. When a Victorian lady takes an interest in the beasts, Birdie has to convince her that yes, there are fates worse than luring bogles out of their lairs. A wonderful and scary fantasy that also shows just how bad things could be for those on the streets of Victorian London, and how kids find happiness in unlikely situations. (ages 9-12)

nateFive, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
In this sequel to one of my favorite books of 2013, Nate moves to New York City to be the understudy to the understudy in his first ever play – the Broadway production of E.T. The Musical. Sure, he’s left his terrible middle school behind, but what he’s gotten himself into when everyone else around him is a seasoned professional. Last year’s Better Nate Than Ever was an absolute delight, and Federle follows up with a strong second act here. (ages 10-14)


Our Many March Programs

The Children’s Room has some exciting programs and fun activities planned for March! A few of these programs are brand-new to the library, designed to follow STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics — programming/education. Our music programs and the Picture Books & More series emphasize art and creativity education while the Stories & Science program highlights everyday science and the power of experimentation. A common theme of our March programs are stories and setting aside time to read to young children to foster good reading habits and brain development. Take a look at our March programs below and feel free to contact us for more information about these entertaining and educational programs!

Sunday Special Randy Kaplan: March 2, 11:00-11:45 a.m.

Randy Kaplan will be the star of March’s Sunday Special! “Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie,” Kaplan’s newest album, is an award winning Country Blues and Ragtime CD for kids. This Sunday Special will take place in the library’s Main Reading Room, before it is open to the public. Randy will perform a wide variety of music and do some comedic storytelling for children and families. No advance sign-up is required and children and families of all ages can enjoy and groove to Kaplan’s fun music.

Groovin’ With Teacher Barb: March 3, 10, 17, and 24, 11:00-11:45 a.m.

Monday mornings in March are set aside for preschoolers who want to begin their music education! Teacher Barb’s performance here last summer was so great we had to invite her back for more great tunes. In Groovin’ With Teacher Barb, preschoolers will discover music, rhythms, and their voices. Advance registration is required. Click here to register.

Picture Books & More: Mystical Magical Mayhem: Tuesdays OR Wednesdays in March

The Children’s Room is hosting a new series of Picture Books and More in March, especially for first and second graders! The theme is Mystical Magical Mayhem where kids will listen to stories of myths, monsters, and trickery before creating magical works of art. Tasty snacks and treats will be provided. Advance sign-up is required for this serial program. Sign up for Tuesdays (March 4, 11, 18, and 25, 3:30-4:30 p.m.) or Wednesdays  (March 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2:30-3:30 p.m.). Click here for more information and to register.

Stories & Science for Kindergarteners: March 6, 13, 20, and 27, 1:45-2:30 p.m.

Every Thursday afternoon in March, kindergarteners can become scientists and immerse themselves in how science effects our daily life. This new program will discuss the science of color, water, gravity, and more through stories and hands-on experiments! Advance registration is required for each Thursday session. Click here for more information and to register.

Creative Writing Circle With Karen Benke: March 25, 6:45-7:45 p.m.

Our third session in the Creative Writing Circle program will be held on the last Tuesday evening in March. Writers in sixth through eighth grades can experiment and let loose their creative side with help from popular author Karen Benke. Fun writing tips and tricks as well as chocolate will be provided. Advance registration is required. Click here to register.