Category Archives: Articles

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)

-Courtney

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)

-Molly

Great New Holiday Reads

Tired of reading The Grinch and The Polar Express yet again this year? Need some new ideas? The library has some brand-new titles that might put some new life into your holiday read-alouds.

animals santaThe Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett
Jan Brett is the author of one of my all-time favorite winter tales, The Mitten. This year she brings her beautiful illustrations to a story of a skeptical rabbit celebrating his first Christmas. The other animals of the snowy forest try to convince him that Santa will bring gifts, as lemming “elves” craft pinecone hearts and other treasures in side panels. When the big snowy owl swoops in with gifts, little rabbit is convinced. The beautiful, Native American-inspired art was created using porcupine quills! (ages 3-5).

shooting

Shooting at the Stars: the Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix
Inspired by a true story, this beautiful picture book is told through the fictional letters from a British soldier stationed in France to his mother back home. He tells how on Christmas Eve, 1914, soldiers in the trenches on both sides of the field stopped fighting and instead sang Silent Night together. The next day those French, British and German soldiers shook hands and buried their dead, and even took photos and exchanged trinkets with each other. An author’s note describes the historical facts. (ages 8-12)

santa catHere Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Eastwood, pictures by Claudia Rueda
On the heels of Here Comes the Easter Cat!, which was one of my favorite picture books from 2014, the titular cat thinks he’s been too naughty to get a gift this year. His solution: become Santa! The unseen narrator speaks to the silent cat, who communicates by holding up signs, showing the grand plan to outwit the holiday. This book is ultimately about giving and receiving while disguised in a very funny package. (ages 4-8)

simon bearSimon and the Bear : a Hanukkah Tale by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Young Simon has left his family in Europe to make his way to America, and plans to celebrate Hanukkah along the way. However his steamship hits an iceberg and he needs a miracle to survive. Instead, he receives nine miracles, one for each candle on the menorah. He shares latkes with a polar bear, is rescued by sailors, and realizes he has saved the life of the mayor of New York City. The beautiful blues of the ocean and golden glow of the Hanukkah candles bring a warmth to the magical realism of this story of selflessness and miracles. (ages 3-7)

-Lauren

Giving Thanks

thankfulLast fiscal year (July 2013 – June 2014), the Children’s Room offered 572 programs, and 24,020 children attended those programs. From six different weekly story times to Lego Play Days, creative writing workshops to book clubs, author events to read-alouds, and hands-on science to craft programs, we are incredibly fortunate to offer such diverse programming for kids. Programs and services like ours would not be possible without the hard work of so many who have contributed to their success.

The Mill Valley Library Foundation, Storybooks and the Friends raise funds so that we can offer a wide range of programming and services for ages zero to 13. They provide funding for performers, instructors, part-time staff, supplies, equipment, books, and publicity. Without these funds, we would not be able to offer the high quality entertainment for our Sunday Special series throughout the year and Wednesdays on Stage during the summer. After-school series such as Stories & Science for Kindergartners and Picture Books & More for first and second graders would not be possible. The robust programming we offer during the summer would be scaled back dramatically. Our collection would suffer, and its relevance questioned. Thank you to them, and thank you to those of you who support these groups.

While the funds for the programs are so important, it takes the dedicated, creative and talented Children’s Staff to development, promote, and staff the many programs we offer. Lauren, Molly, Sarah Beth, Jenny, Toni, Courtney, Serianna and Yolanda: thank you for bringing the Roll up your sleeves, What’s next, How can I help you become a passionate reader attitude to the Children’s Room each time you work. Thank you, also, to Circulation, Adult Reference, Technical Services and Operations Staff who all contribute to the success of the Children’s Department and ensure everything runs smoothly. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all the kids and parents who come to the library to participate in our programs and use our collection. Without you, being a librarian would not be much fun. Thank you for your willingness to learn, your openness to our suggestions, and your can-do attitudes. We look forward to continuing to offer new items in our collection and expanding our program offering. I feel grateful to head the Children’s Department and to be a part of the full-time staff at the Mill Valley Library. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places to work, but also among the most innovative and rewarding. Happy Thanksgiving!

-Jessica

Heroes, Villains and More: New Books for Older Readers

greenglassGreenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrations by Jaime Zollars
Milo has looked forward to a promised quiet winter holiday at the cliffside hotel where he lives with his parents. But on a snowy night, the bell rings and a guest arrives. Then another, and another, until five strangers have shown up and seem suspiciously connected – to each other and to the history of Greenglass House. When mementos start disappearing, Milo and his new friend Meddy invent a role-playing game to help them solve the mysteries. In the vein of Agatha Christie or The Westing Game, this book’s twists and turns keep you guessing. (ages 10-14)

minionMinion by John David Anderson
In this companion novel to Sidekicked, Michael lives in a town without a superhero, one that’s run more by organized crime families than anything. His adoptive dad builds mysterious boxes that he sells to the mob to support himself and Michael. But Michael’s no bad guy, though he does have a particular ability to make people do what he says. When a mysterious blue superhero streaks into town and upsets the mob’s doings, Michael and his dad are thrown in and have to make some serious decisions. This is a gripping story that shows how regular – and not so regular – people can get caught up in the grander stories of heroes and villains. (ages 10-14)

Aviary-Wonders-cover-300Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth
It’s the mid-21st century and of course you want to build your own bird. This catalog is just what you need! They have been renewing the world’s bird supply since 2031. Perhaps you’d like a wader or a percher, or one of the new flightless models? Then choose a beak – you can get a second, decorative beak for 25 percent off – a tail, wings, legs, and feet. Be sure your bird’s proportions are balanced! This weird and wonderful book is full of beautiful and brightly colored illustrations, laid out just like a catalog. Facts about extinct birds, wingspan ratio, and other avian tidbits pepper the pages. Don’t miss the Troubleshooting section at the end – is your bird depressed? Does it need a crest to soften its look? Try the Granny Warhol or the Rockette. Allow 12-16 weeks for delivery. Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. (ages 9-14)

eldeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell
In this autobiographical graphic novel, author and artist Cece Bell describes what it was like for her growing up deaf. She had to wear a large and conspicuous hearing aid to school, and she was profoundly embarrassed by it. However she soon realized she could hear the teacher even when she was out of the classroom – in the teacher’s lounge gossipping and even in the bathroom. Cece began to think of herself as El Deafo, with super hearing powers! The adorable bunny-like drawings make this an accessible book for a wide range of ages, and the feeling of wanting to fit in rings true for so many kids. This is an outstanding, heartfelt, and funny read. (ages 7-12)

-Lauren

Imagine It and Create It: New Books for Younger Readers

buddyandbunnies_coverBuddy and the Bunnies in Don’t Play with your Food by Bob Shea
From the creator of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime comes another irresistible book that is destined to be a story time favorite. Buddy the monster sees some tasty bunnies and decides that he must have them for his dinner, but they offer him freshly baked cupcakes instead. The bunnies fill Buddy’s tummy with yummy cupcakes, but he threatens to come back the next day when he is hungry again. The bunnies continue to trick Buddy out of eating them day after day until he realizes that he has been playing with his food! These bunnies are better as friends, not dinner. A hilarious monster, adorable bunnies, and fantastic illustrations…what’s not to love? (ages 4-8)

zoes jungleZoe’s Jungle by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Zoe and Addie are back in this newest edition to the Zoe series, as the two sisters’ ordinary trip to the park turns into an exciting jungle adventure. Zoe imagines that she is an explorer and her sister Addie is a wild beast in their game of hide and seek. She must forge her way through the jungle tracking the elusive Addiebeast before she escapes. Their mother has given them five minutes, will it be enough time to capture the Addiebeast? The illustrations switch back and forth between the playground and the jungle showing how children easily slip from reality into fantasy. Zoe’s Jungle celebrates imaginative play and the bond between two sisters. (ages 3-6)

magnificentThe Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
A little girl who loves to make things has a new design that is perfect… in her head. After hiring an assistant and gathering her supplies, she hammers, glues, tinkers, adjusts, and measures, but her magnificent thing just won’t turn out right. Luckily for her she has a clever assistant who knows just when it is time for a break. After clearing her head with a nice walk the little girl is able to come back to her project with fresh energy. She realizes that by combining the right parts from some of her failed creations she is able to create the most magnificent thing! Children will relate to the protagonist’s growing frustration and hopefully learn that it is okay to make mistakes. This is a great book for encouraging a child to never give up!

foundFound by Salina Yoon
Bear loves the stuffed bunny he finds in the woods but he knows that it must belong to someone else. He tries to be responsible by making a Found poster for the bunny and putting up copies everywhere while secretly wishing that he could keep his new friend. After a long time of looking for the bunny’s owner, Bear is walking through the woods with the bunny when Moose stops him with a shout, “Floppy, my bunny!” To Bear’s delight, Moose realizes that he no longer needs his bunny and gives him back to Bear to keep. Found is a touching story about the importance of doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. The sweet characters, brightly colored illustrations, and simple story line make this a great choice for little ones that are ready for their first picture book. (ages 3-6)

-Sarah Beth

Far Far Away: International Fiction for Tweens

There are so many people in this world, so many lives buzzing differently and alike to ours. How do young people get to know about the different lives, struggles, and feelings of people in other countries? One engaging way is through well-researched tween fiction. Fiction based in compassion and fact can bring the reader inside the mind and heart of a person far away. This increases empathy, spreads awareness, and helps battle ignorance. Authors who do an outstanding job often conduct interviews, travel, spend time with people, and research archives and personal accounts. They do their best to convey true emotions and believable characters in the real circumstances that form the foundation for their stories. Let’s take a look at a few examples of excellent novels for younger readers about different cultures:

redpencilcvrThe Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Amira’s parents love to tell the story of when Amira was born. Her Muma was picking okra when Amira was ready to come out, and rushed home to deliver both okra and Amira! Now Amira is twelve, and in her village in Darfur this means she is ready to wear a toob and take on more responsibility with the livestock. What she really loves to do is draw in the sand and look up at Allah’s stars with her family, but when the Janjaweed militia brings tragedy and violence, Amira finds herself alive but barely intact. Amira will lose her voice, and it will take a red pencil to help her claim it again. Like many victims of this conflict, Amira witnessed traumatizing events and was forced to relocate to a refugee camp, where conditions were safer but still dire. Written in verse to show the healing effects of creativity, this is a story about the tragedy of war and the hope that still burns.

Brown Skila 2014 CaminarCaminar by Skila Brown
In his small Guatemalan village, Carlos is almost a man, but not quite. When government militia pass through his village and cast a violently suspicious eye on anyone who might be a Communist, Carlos wants to protect his village from any more intruders. But his mom will protect him one last time by sending Carlos out to the fields before their village gets slaughtered. Carlos the survivor is twelve, all alone, and starving when he encounters a small group of rebels. He doesn’t know which side he is on in this battle, but he does know that he needs to get to his grandmother in the mountains. As he navigates his guilt and his doubts, Carlos will travel with these rebels, and discover the man he is to become. Written in verse, Caminar is a novel that is based on real events that happened in Guatemala. It will teach readers about the world Carlos inhabits, a world that is intimate, traditional, close to the land, but also insecurely caught in a crossfire. This is a coming- of-age story that many kids will be able to relate to, even if their lives are vastly different.

Million-Shades-of-GreyA Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata
Thirteen-year old Y’Tin has grown up aware of war. In his small Dega village in South Vietnam, he is known for being an acute tracker, just like his father, who is a member of the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races. But Y’Tin doesn’t want to be involved — he wants to train elephants. When North Vietnamese soldiers invade, burning villages and executing people, Y’Tin’s whole world shatters beyond belief. He will escape a prisoner camp, encounter betrayals, and ultimately learn that war has its own set of irrational rules. In spite of it all, Y’Tin will hold on to his dreams, and be there for his elephant. Y’Tin’s character is mesmerizing because he knows himself well and is honest. Because of this, readers will respect his bravery and his anguish. Kadohata does an excellent job of portraying the initial traumas of war and the long lasting effects. Y’Tin sees his outside world destroyed and violated, and also experiences a change of heart towards friends and old perceptions.

book.Serafinas-PromiseSerafina’s Promise by Ann Burg
Serafina has a passion for healing others, but life in a village in Haiti isn’t easy. Her anxious mother needs her to help with chores, and she makes sure Serafina knows it. When Serafina’s baby brother dies from impoverished circumstances, Serafina promises him she will become a doctor. She convinces her family to let her go to school, with extra money they earn from selling produce. But when floods and the catastrophic earthquake wreak havoc on Serafina’s life and country, she will have to find her family and her lost dreams among the rubble. This novel in verse poetically tells Serafina’s story of natural disaster, poverty, and tragedy. It also shows the beauty of Serafina’s hopeful character, a healing archetype who perseveres with optimism. Readers will learn about poor rural life in Haiti, the 2010 earthquake, and also about Haiti’s past of slavery and becoming the first free black country.

-Courtney

October Programming Wrap-up

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

This was our October line-up:

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

Stories and Science for Kindergartners
DSCN2941
Twenty-five kindergartners joined us on Thursdays for four weeks and learned about a different science topic each week. These junior scientists (mostly girls this time!) learned about color, engineering, plant-life, and body science and did hands-on science experiments to help understand these concepts. They also learned scientific skills such as observation, trial and error, and were encouraged to ask questions. We’ll do this series again in March with a whole new line-up of STEM-related-topics and experiments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

Talk to Me! Early Literacy Pointers

whos in the tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

flashlight

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

normanspeak

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

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

-Lauren

Gods, Robots and Wizards: New Books for Older Readers

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

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

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

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

-Molly