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The Picture Books are Moving!

About Me BooksWhere are the princess books? The truck books? Classics?

Children’s Staff are asked these questions all the time about our picture book collection. Currently, our collection is arranged alphabetically by author, except for the Things That Go! section and 123s and ABCs section. We noticed that these books get checked out all the time. Why? Because they are easy to find! We hope that creating more categories and grouping the picture books together will help you browse them more easily, and discover new ones, too.

Our new picture book categories are:

About Me (dark blue labels)
About MeBooks about behavior, family, feelings, personal health, school, friends, and daily routines. You’ll find books about using the potty and new baby sisters in this area. 

Favorites (pink labels)
Favorite authors like Mac Barnett and Mo Willems, and favorite characters like Fancy Nancy and Arthur.

Concepts (light blue labels)
Books about the ABCs, 123s, opposites, color, shapes, and time.

Things That Go (yellow labels)
Books about cars, trucks, planes, trains, boats, rockets, and things that go!

Classics (red labels)
Award winners and classic authors such as Maurice Sendak, Bill Peet, William Steig, and Robert McCloskey.

Natural World (green labels)
Stories about nature and animals, including weather, seasons, gardening, and dinosaurs.

Fairy Tales (purple labels)
Stories about princesses, pirates, knights, and dragons, plus traditional folk tales.

Songs and Rhymes (orange labels)
Rhyming stories, books based on songs, Mother Goose and other poetry.

Other (white dot)
Books that do not fit neatly into the above categories.

We are currently in the process of looking at each and every picture book, determining its best category, and adding a new colored label to its spine. Currently, the entire collection is in alphabetical order by author, but in a few weeks we’ll group the categories together and alphabetize those books by author within their categories.

In the catalog, it will look something like this, for the book Olivia by Ian Falconer:

Mill Valley Children’s Favorites           E Falconer              CHECK SHELF

You’d find Olivia in the Favorites section of the picture books, in alphabetical order under Falconer.

Our goal is to make the picture book collection easier to browse for our youngest visitors. One of the reasons the Go! section circulates so well is because kids who love trucks, trains, and any other transportation vehicle can find all those books in one location. Library staff is still here to help patrons find specific titles, and roughly 40 percent of the collection will not be categorized. Those books, which we have designated “Other” and don’t fit into one of the eight categories, will have a white dot on the spine label and be arranged alphabetically by author. In that area you’ll find great books about libraries, ninjas, sports, ballet dancers, jobs, and much more.

Many other libraries have forged the path before us and shared their processes to make this project run smoothly. A special thanks to the South Novato Library for meeting with us to explain what worked and didn’t work for them.  We encourage your comments once we have re-shelved the books by category in early March!


Families, Dragons, and Heroes: New Books for Older Readers

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
fletcherMeet the Fletchers: four adopted brothers, two dads, one dog, one cat, and possibly a turtle and a kitten, although that remains to be seen. This vibrant family drama is funny, realistic, and heart-warming. Will soccer-star Sam actually audition for the school musical? Will brainiac Eli survive his first year at a private school that doesn’t believe in recess? Will Jax ever get to interview the cranky neighbor next door, despite the incident with the skunk? And what about preschooler Frog, who claims to have a best friend named Ladybug? Fans of The Penderwicks will enjoy this madcap dash through one family’s year of laughter, tears, and shenanigans. (ages 8-11)

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston
The-Story-of-OwenWhen Siobhan meets Owen, he seems like just another new kid at school, befuddled by where to go and running late. But Siobhan and all the other kids know that Owen is much more than that. Nephew and son to three legendary dragonslayers, the sixteen-year-old is destined to a life of warring against fiery beasts. Now, with lethal dragon attacks on the rise, Owen must join with his father and aunts to battle the fearsome creatures. Told in the voice of Siobhan, who joins Owen as his bard, this modern-day tale of carbon-eating dragons and Internet-fueled theories is richly interesting and a pleasure to read. Highly recommended for fans of The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde or The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. (ages 11+)

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II by Louise Borden
raoulwallenberg_hres-2This accessible biography tells the remarkable story of Raoul Wallenberg, a young Swedish architect who spoke five languages, traveled the world, and was known for his kindness and quiet, listening ways. As huge swaths of Europe fell to the Germans in the early 1940s and rumors of Jews being put on trains and deported grew frighteningly larger, the world needed someone from a neutral country to travel to Budapest to help the Jews. Raoul Wallenberg accepted the job. Armed nearly with charisma and guts alone, Raoul proceeded to carry out an audacious plan that ultimately saved thousands of Jewish lives. This tale of diplomacy, daring, and incredible heart is deeply moving. Louise Borden is right. We should all know his name. (ages 12+)


Rhyming Animals and Saving Them Too: New Books for Younger Readers

1 to 20, Animals Aplenty by Katie Viggers
1.20Counting is curious and playful in Katie Vigger’s animal-infused picture book. Whether it is “one fox in a pair of socks” or “sixteen chickens reading dickens,” this warm book will make readers giggle and admire the aesthetics of the animal kingdom. Young readers learn to count and learn species names, even if these quirky animals wear wigs or pajamas! Using pastel colors, the artwork is the star of the show, in a Jon Klassen meets Wes Anderson way. (ages 3-7)

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan, pictures by Nancy Carpenter
queen-victorias-bathing-machine-9781416927532_hrListlessly gazing at the sea, Queen Victoria of 17th century England longs to swim in the ocean but cannot because it would be an impropriety. Luckily her brilliant and beloved King Albert has the idea to build her a bathing machine! In this studio on wheels, the Queen can change into her bathing suit and walk down her steps to the ocean discretely. Written in rhyme, this witty and pleasant book presents a neat trinket of history. Pen and watercolor art fill the pages while the story teaches kids about love and creative solutions. (ages 5-8)

Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Hazel MitchellImanis Moon Dot DayHazelMitchell2014
“Don’t let the meerkats stomp on your head!” tease the village kids to tiny Imani. Imani may be small, but her dreams are big. She wants to touch the moon and will fly and crash, climb and fall, and endure mockery trying to reach her goal. Inspired by nighttime stories and by the young warriors who do the adumu jumping dance, steadfast Imani will not give up until she creates her own story. Hazel Mitchell bases her story of perseverance and triumph on the Maasai tribe in the Tanzania and Kenyan plains. (ages 5-8)

How to Save a Species by Marilyn Baillie
how-to-save-a-speciesCalling all young wildlife conservations! This important book pulls readers in with wonderful, rare, troubling and successful stories of endangered animals and plants. From the formerly threatened humpback whales who thrive today, to the dangerously low numbers of the Red River giant turtle, kids will be inspired to use sustainable actions to protect dwindling species. Using eye popping graphic design, with photographs, timelines, and a questions & answers notepad, How to Save a Species is a meaningful introduction to ecological preservation. (ages 7-9)


And the 2015 Winners Are…

On Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2015 Youth Media Awards.  As I wrote last year, I love the time leading up to the awards. I visit many of the Mock Newbery and Caldecott web sites and try to read most of the books that are getting buzz for the awards. Just this weekend, I read three books that I thought might win the Newbery Medal, and only one, Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candice Fleming, was recognized with a Sibert Honor, the award that recognizes nonfiction books.

The ALA streamed the awards live on Monday morning.  It was fun to hear the roar of the crowd when it was announced that six books would receive the Caldecott Honor Award, and the disappointment when only two books would receive the Newbery Honor – last year four books received Honors. One day, I hope to be at the Midwinter ALA conference when the awards are announced, but I did enjoy cheering at my dining room table as the announcers revealed the winners. I am happy with the Newbery choices because the books that won are accessible and send powerful messages. I am also very happy that two graphic novels were recognized: El Deafo by Cece Bell was awarded the Newbery Honor and This One Summer illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (a young adult book) was awarded the Caldecott Honor. I never really form a strong opinion about the Caldecott choices ahead of time because I am not an expert on picture book art. I trust that the Caldecott Committee got it right and am happy that so many great books were recognized.

Here is a list Newbery and Caldecott winners for 2015:

crossoverJOHN NEWBERY MEDAL for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

The Crossover, written by Kwame Alexander


El Deafo, written by Cece Bell

Brown Girl Dreaming,  written by Jacqueline Woodson

beekleRANDOLPH CALDECOTT MEDAL for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, illustrated by Dan Santat


Nana in the City, illustrated and written by Lauren Castillo

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock 

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

Viva Frida, illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant

This One Summer,  illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki

Check out the complete list of winners - there are so many more wonderful and important awards, and great books to read.


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)