Category Archives: Articles

Blobfish and Underwear: New Books for Younger Readers

Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating
blobfishFascinated by the bizarre, strange, and… pink? Featured on the cover is the internet sensation, the Blobfish (which is real, by the way) and his grumpy demeanor is sure to hook you in. But that’s not all that is weird and delicately colored! You’ll meet pink preying mantises called orchid mantises, sea snails that look like bubble gum, and rosy Amazon River dolphins. Whether your favorite color is pink or not, this is a fun book that will make you marvel at nature’s enigmas. (ages 5-9)

Polar Bear’s Underwear, by Tupera Tupera
polar bear's underwearPolar Bear lost his underwear. Good heavens! Luckily his good friend Mouse will help him find it. The quest for missing undergarments isn’t easy, especially since Polar Bear forgot what they look like. They find Zebra’s colorful underpants, and Butterfly’s teensy underwear, but where could Polar Bear’s be? As the title and content suggests, this is a fun read aloud. Tupera uses cut outs, repetition, and questions that allow for audience participation. The ending has a hilarious twist. (ages 3-5)

Two White Rabbits, by Jairo Buitrago
Two_White_RabbitsWhat is it like to be displaced? Look through the eyes of a young girl as she follows her father along the perilous road to a different life. She plays innocent games while hopping trains, such as finding shapes in clouds. Danger looms in law enforcement and betraying “coyotes,” but the girl and her father look to the horizon for freedom and safety. The reader does not know why this father and child are on the road. Perhaps they escaped conflict, or the father cannot find work, but either way, this is a universal tribute to all refugees. Because it is designated for a young audience, parents and educators have ample opportunity to discuss current events, such as the Syrian refugee crisis. (ages 5-9)

Be a Survivor by Chris Oxlade
survivorDo you long for the great outdoors, but don’t have the slightest clue how to survive in them? Don’t fret! This short book teaches young camping enthusiasts how to make a fire, build shelter smartly, find water, and construct an igloo! Oxlade shows readers how to put together a survival kit and offers guidance when some of these items are lost. This is the perfect introduction to wilderness survival for young kids. This accessible book is loaded with cute illustrations and remains concise with all its valuable information and safety courtesies. (ages 8-12)


Adventurous Creative Writing

writebacksoonAfter hosting a wonderfully stimulating creative writing program last year, I had the privilege of witnessing middle schoolers suppress their laughter as they “mischievously” tucked little gifts to strangers inside library books — a porcelain fish wedged into one book, a kind anonymous note left in another. The fun they’d had with their creative writing was palpable, and I’m happy to say that local author Karen Benke is back this year to lead another creative writing circle for middle schoolers.

It’s easy for tweens to have a negative association with writing, since homework and merit systems often take precedence. Creative writing outside of school envelops another dimension where we can play, make mistakes, ask, and lament. It is a place where writers can do whatever they want. To encourage this creativity, Karen often brings chocolate to her programs so participants can slowly savor and reflect on an often rushed sensory experience. The creative writing circle meets monthly through April, with upcoming meetings on February 25, March 24, and April 28. Click here for more information and to sign up.

If you are a librarian or educator who wants ideas for creative writing exercises, or if you’re looking to stimulate your own creative writing mind, I recommend Karen’s books:

Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing

benkeCreative writing is a process, and this book allows readers to write in it, try out prompts, share them, and rip the pages! (Unless it’s a library copy, of course.) Writing prompts include a “personification party” and descriptions on the inner life of a stone. Authors Lemony Snicket, Patricia Polacco and Karen Cushman make appearances through self-disclosures and words of wisdom.

Leap Write In!: Adventures in Creative Writing to S-t-r-e-t-c-h and Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind

Leap-Write-In-copyTaking risks is a big part of writing, and this book encourages writers to take a leap, in spite of self-doubt. Creative exercises include mini memoirs and “sensory surveys” such as “Lemons and light remind me of….”


Write Back Soon!: Adventures in Letter Writing

Karen’s newest book highlights the magic that snail mail brings in a digitally saturated era. Writing prompts include delivering an anonymous compliment to a grouchy neighbor and retelling an eavesdropped conversation. Authors Neil Gaiman, Ruth Ozeki, and Wendy Mass are among the contributors who share personal journeys and inspirations.


Secrets and Dreams: New Books for Older Readers

The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst
girl who could not dreamSophie is anything but a normal middle school kid. For one thing she cannot dream. Also, she has a fiercely loyal pet monster that she accidentally brought into the real world the first time she drank a dream from her parent’s secret dream shop. When Sophie is seen by one of the shop’s unusual customers, it sets off a chain of terrible events that have Sophie and Monster fighting to save the life they love. Funny, creepy, magical, and full of adventure this irresistible story is the best magical realism title to come out since Lisa Graff’s A Tangle of Knots. (ages 10-14)

Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel by William Ritter
beastly bonesIn this sequel to Jackaby, Abigail and the unconventional detective investigate a mysterious death that may be connected to a missing dinosaur bone. Concurrently, the pair come upon a rare breed of shape-changing animals that pose a terrifying threat to humanity. Historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy are seamlessly woven together into another thrilling adventure sure to please Jackaby fans. (ages 12 and up)

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin
ruby-on-the-outsideRuby Danes has a big secret, something no one but her aunt knows: Her mother is in prison and she won’t be coming home anytime soon. Maybe this secret life is the reason that Ruby has never had a real best friend, that is until she meets Margalit. Ruby and Margalit instantly click, but their developing friendship leaves Ruby sick with guilt about not sharing her true self. While this story’s underrepresented topic may not appeal to a wide audience, Baskin does a fine job of exploring the issues that children face when their parents are incarcerated. (ages 9-12)

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
goodbye-strangerBridge, Tab, and Em have been best friends for years, but upon entering seventh grade new friendships, changing bodies, and developing ideologies test the girls’ bonds and their no-fighting pact. Subsequent stories are from the perspective of Bridge’s new friend Sherman and a high school student struggling with guilt over the betrayal of a friend. At first glance this novel might seem like another preteen melodrama, but this story explores serious issues that middle schoolers face, from first romantic relationships to the far-reaching effects of a single selfie. (ages 10-14)

-Sarah Beth

Glowing and loving and telling stories: new books for younger readers

One Day by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Fred Koehler

This story features a girl with a busy imagination and a thirst for adventure. While the text tells a series of very, very short tales (“One day… I went to school. I came home. The End.”), the art presents a fuller story of chaos that occurs on the way to school, disasters with chemistry experiments, and an unpredictably happy ending. An original and incredibly deep combination of text and art invites readers to make up stories of their own. (ages 4-8)

S is for Seattle by Maria Kernahan, illustrated by Michael Schafbuch

This book takes the reader on an alphabetic journey through the city of Seattle, with descriptions of some of the things that make this city so iconic. Modern and bright illustrations mixed with whimsical rhymes makes this book a great way to mix the alphabet and the culture of this vibrant city. (ages 5-7)


The Only Child by Guojing

Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as a best book of the year, this part picture book, part graphic novel is as original as it is beautiful. A little girl—lost and alone—follows a mysterious stag deep into the woods, and, like Alice down the rabbit hole, she finds herself in a strange and wondrous world. But home and family are very far away. How will she get back there? In this magnificently illustrated—and wordless—masterpiece, debut picture book artist Guojing brilliantly captures the rich and deeply-felt emotional life of a child, filled with loneliness and longing as well as love and joy. (ages 5-9)

Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights by W.H. Beck

Why be afraid of the dark when there is so much to see? Whether it’s used to hunt, hide, find a friend, or escape an enemy, bioluminescence—the ability to glow—is a unique adaptation in nature. In this fun and fascinating nonfiction picture book, join world-renowned photographers and biologists on their close encounters with the curious creatures that make their own light. (ages 4-7)


Spare Parts by Rebecca Emberley

Meet Rhoobart. He’s tarnished and tattered and, worst of all, his heart’s broken. He’ll have to go to the Spare Parts Mart, dig through their parts, and find a new heart. Meet Poptart. She’s energetic and smart and has her own ideas about broken hearts. “You just need a jump start!” That’s how two robots who are nothing but spare parts meet and make each other whole in this rhythmic robot love story. (ages 3-7)



last stopIt’s that time of year again, the awards season, and I love it! I knew I needed to be up by at least 5:15 a.m. to hear most of the announcements because this year’s ALA midwinter conference was in Boston. I almost slept through them, but I shot out of bed at 5:25 and quickly grabbed my phone to hear the remaining awards announced. Luckily, I didn’t miss the two I was most eager to hear: the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book, and the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

My favorite part about listening to the announcements live is to hear the roar of the crowd after each book is announced. This year did not disappoint. While some of my favorites were recognized like The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson both with Newbery Honors, I don’t think many people predicted that the picture book The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson would win the Newbery. The crowd roared as it was announced, possibly because they were so surprised. Matt de la Peña is the first Latino author to be named a Newbery winner, and it’s the first picture book to win this honor.

After hearing the acceptance speeches for these awards at the ALA Conference last summer, I have a deeper understanding of the impact these awards have on the authors’ lives. Fame and fortune maybe, but, it also means that these books that they poured their hearts and souls into will not go out of print. Congratulations to all the winners!

I look forward to putting these books in the hands of our readers:

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

Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson


     The War that Saved My life, written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

     Roller Girl, written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson

     Echo, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan


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

finding winnie     Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, written by Lindsay Mattick


     Trombone Shorty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Troy Andrews

Waiting, illustrated and written by Kevin Henkes

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Carole Boston Weatherford

Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson, written by Matt de la Peña

See the full list of winners for many other awards here.

Favorite 2015 Books for Younger Readers

Every December, the Children’s Room staff all pick some of their favorite books from the past year. Click here to see our favorites from 2014 and 2013.

And click here to read about our 2015 favorites for older readers too.


bear duckblackcat whitecatlast stopwaiting

Bear and Duck, by Katy Hudson

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Waiting by Kevin Henkes


princessandpony_hires.jpeg.CROP.original-originalDrumDreamGirltoys meet snowwolfie

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López

Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman


sarahbethSarah Beth
newsmallpersonbear ate sandwichsnow whiteThank You and Good Night

The New Small Person by Lauren Child

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs by Cali Davide

Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell



this-is-sadiesupertrucktad and dadbig-red-kangaroo

This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Supertruck by Stephen Savage

Tad and Dad by David Ezra Stein

Big Red Kangaroo by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne



Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio, pictures by Eric Wright

My Pen by Christopher Myers

Chu’s Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

mouse mansionfloatplease mr pandaHungryRoscoe

The Mouse Mansion by Karina Schaapman

Float by Daniel Miyares

Please Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

Hungry Roscoe by David J. Plant



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Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

Wait by Antoinette Portis

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Favorite Books from 2015 for Older Readers

Every December, the Children’s Room staff all share some of their favorite books from the past year. Click here to see our favorites from 2014 and 2013.

And click here to see our 2015 favorites for younger readers.

Drum roll please…


Crenshaw_Finalwar that savedorbiting jupiterTheMarvels-final-cover

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

The Marvels by Brian Selznick


imaginarylisten slowlyUnusual-Chickens-jacketrollergirl

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

sarahbethSarah Beth

thenestNightbirdthickety whispering treessleeper and the spindle

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

The Thickety: The Whispering Trees by J.A. White

The Sleeper and The Spindle by Neil Gaiman


detective gordonfuzzy mudboys who challenged hitlercastle hangnail

Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

New Reading Buddies Program

First of all, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and a happy, healthy new year. I know I’m looking forward to some relaxing time with my family during the winter break. As I reflect on 2015, I am proud of the many quality programs we offered to children in our community.

reading_buddies_web_square_artBut, we continue to look for ways to connect children to the library and encourage them to become more confident readers. On January 25th, we will begin a new 8-week program called Reading Buddies. The idea for the Reading Buddies program came from our new Teen Advisory Board. This group of 18 high school students meets monthly to discuss ways to connect more teens to the Library. One member suggested starting a Reading Buddies program to give teens another opportunity to do meaningful volunteer work at the Library. Reading Buddies is an established program at many libraries in the United States. After researching the idea, it became clear to us that this program was a winning combination for the teen Big Buddies, the Little Buddies, and the Library.

To participate in the Reading Buddies program, teens will complete an application, attend a training session, and commit to the 8-week series. Little Buddy participants — kids in grades 1 through 4 — and their parent(s) will be required to complete an application as well, as space is limited. Once we have all the applications, we’ll pair each teen mentor with a Little Buddy. The library will assign a 25-minute time slot that begins at 3:30, 4:00 or 4:30 on Monday afternoons. During the session, the Little Buddy will read aloud for 10 to 15 minutes as the Big Buddy listens. The rest of the time will be used to play literacy-related games. It’s important that the Little Buddy and caregiver commit to the entire 8-week series, too.

The first series will be a pilot. We’ll definitely learn from this first series, and make some changes for the next series we plan to hold in late spring. We are very excited to watch the confidence of the young readers, as well as the teen mentors, grow over the course of the series.

For more information and to apply, visit our Reading Buddies web page.



Marvelous Friends and Hamsters: New Books for Older Readers

Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon
hamsterHarriet Hamsterbone is a hamster and a princess. Princesses are supposed to be pale and melancholy, but ten-year old Harriet doesn’t fit the bill; she would rather ride her quail and slay dragons. When her parents tearfully reveal the sleeping curse that will come on her twelfth birthday, Harriet realizes something….the curse needs her alive until then, which means for two years she’s invincible! In addition to being laugh-out-loud funny, Harriet the Invincible pokes fun at modern culture and flips stereotypical gender roles on its head. A hilarious spin on Sleeping Beauty, this is an ideal recommendation for reluctant and visually inclined readers. (ages 8-11)

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
TheMarvels-final-coverGet ready for a remarkable work of art that will leave you enamored with the storytelling process. Brian Selznick brings the generational story of the Marvel family in his signature style of somber, charcoaled drawings. After you are immersed in the illustrations of family joys and woes dating from 1776, you are transported to 1999 and the luminous text tells the story of a young boy running from the present, and his uncle who hides in the past. A tale woven in the bricks of a house and as romantic and tumultuous as a ship at sea, you either see it, or you don’t. (ages 8-12)

Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss
friendsforlifeNeeding to be alone, Francis looks for solace on a private bench. When a curious looking girl sits next to him he offers his thermos of tea. To both of their surprise, he can see her. She is dead, after all. What follows next is an unbelievable friendship and a jovial time with a ghost! Jessica can walk through walls and help Francis on tests. They have fashion in common. But why is Jessica here? And who else can see her? Friends for Life is a fantastic story that deals with teen suicide in a compassionate, authentic way that does not feel preachy. It is easy to read, important and even funny at times. It made Publisher’s Weekly 2015 best middle grade books for a reason. (ages 10-14)

My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Anderson
In this looking-glass story, Gracie Lockwood lives in a perilous world where it’s illegal to own faeries, people need dragon insurance, and dark clouds absorb people when it’s their time to die. Her father is a mad scientist who is ridiculed for his belief in the Extraordinary World, where it’s safe to be human, and people can do things like swim in the ocean without being kidnapped by mermaids. When the dark cloud arrives at their doorstep for Gracie’s little brother, this beautifully flawed family will pack up and flee in a Winnebago to the Extraordinary World….to see if it exists. This is a fast paced adventure written in first person diary format. Gracie is a brazen narrator who adds wit to this fantastical story. Fans of the Septimus Heap series should enjoy this. (ages 9-13)


New Biographies for Younger Readers

Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box by David McPhail
beatrixpotterThis picture book biography tells the story of Beatrix Potter as a little girl. Beatrix would become one of the most legendary children’s book creators in the English language, but here McPhail concentrates on her story before that happened. He relates the details of her first paint box, her sketchbooks made of paper and string, her mouse named Henrietta (among many, many other pets), and her summers in the countryside. McPhail is a gifted illustrator, and it’s pleasing to see him depict Beatrix’s tale in his own style. The images are richly colored and Beatrix and her family are shown with wide, cherry-apple cheeks and broad brows. The smaller size of the book and the warmth of the pictures creates an intimacy that is satisfying to read, and reflective of Beatrix’s own books, with their small shapes. The story ends as Peter Rabbit’s begins; the perfect segue to reading Beatrix’s own, magical tales. (ages 4-8)

The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Kathryn Brown
As a little girl, Jane Addams dreamed of helping people, and finding “a way to fix the world.” As she grew into an educated young woman, she did not let slip of that desire. This is the story of how a “strong soul” like Jane summoned bravery and heart and hard work to build the first settlement house in Chicago and open its doors to the city’s neediest. With wide pages and accessible, appealing watercolor images, The House That Jane Built relates the true tale of one child growing into an adult of uncommon generosity and resilience. Young readers will relate not only to little Jane, but to the children she helped in Chicago and the impact she had on their lives, including building the first public playground in Chicago! If you have ever been to a community center, then you know the spirit and legacy of Jane Addams. (ages 6-9)

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, illustrated by John Parra
marvelous cornelius
Though not a biography, this energy-filled picture book tells the story of the real-life Cornelius Washington, a sanitation worker from the French Quarter of New Orleans known as “a wizard of trash cans.” Marvelous Cornelius transforms garbage collecting into a performance of dance and song and joy that is so fun to read and see. “Rat-a-tat-TAT!” he calls as he strums the side of the truck; “Hootie- hoo!” he sings as he passes by, flinging bag after bag into the maw of the garbage truck. Then, Hurricane Katrina sweeps through New Orleans, devastating the city and filling it with debris. The wreckage is shown sensitively, and truly. And the response of our marvelous hero? “Cornelius rose. He dried his eyes. For his spirit and will were waterproof.” This inspiring tale of joy and hard work, of resilience and love, is moving for all to read. (ages 5-8)

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Swan_jkt_Bologna.inddThe Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova changed the way we see ballet. This sumptuously illustrated picture book captures the snowy cold of her childhood in Petrograd, the first time she ever saw the ballet, and the dreams she nursed as she helped her mother hang laundry. Anna eventually becomes a world-famous dancer who travels the world. Before that, though, she must wait and practice and audition and work tremendously hard. Snyder tells the story with spare lyricism, recounting the way Anna “becomes a glimmer, a grace” on stage. Anna’s story ends sadly, with her death from illness, which Snyder handles carefully and with great tribute to this legendary performer. This is a lovely and elegant tale that will engage all fans of ballet and dance. (ages 5-8)

This year has brought a treasure trove of picture-book biographies for young readers. Here are some more books from 2015 that combine inspiring tales with vivid historical events and fascinating characters…

aaronalexanderAaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History written and illustrated by Don Brown

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot; illustrated by Aurélia Fronty

Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre & His World of Insects by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri

bennyandrewsDraw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson, illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate

outofthewoodsOut of the Woods : A True Story of an Unforgettable Event by Rebecca Bond

Emmanuel’ s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Growing up Pedro by Matt Tavares

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrations by James Christoph