Category Archives: Articles

Guess What? It’s Bunjitsu Bunny and More!

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

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

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

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

-Molly

Personalized Reading Lists for Kids

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

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

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

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

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

New Read-Alouds for National Poetry Month

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

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

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

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

-Lauren

March Programming Wrap-up

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

A Dash of Starlight: New Books for Older Readers

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

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

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

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

-Lauren

Bears, Bunnies and Babies: New Books for Younger Readers

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

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

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

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

The New Small Person by Lauren Child

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

Puss & Boots by Ayano Imai

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

-Sarah Beth

New: Picture Book Categories!

Introducing a whole new way to browse for picture books! Because library patrons frequently ask us to help find particular types of books, such as princesses, trucks, animals, classics, new baby, and many more, we’ve made them much easier to find. Over the past month, the Children’s Room staff have read and examined each and every one of the more than 5000 picture books in our collection and placed them into one of nine categories. We hope that creating these 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. These include books about libraries, sports, historical events, dancing, ninjas, robots, super heroes, jobs and many more topics. Dr. Seuss is here too!

Inside of each category, the books are alphabetized by author. In the catalog, it looks 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 circulated so well is because kids who love trucks, trains, and any other transportation vehicle could find all those books in one location. Library staff is still here to help patrons find specific titles, and roughly 30 percent of the collection is not categorized. Those books, which we have designated “Other” and don’t fit into one of the eight colored categories, have a white dot on the spine label and are arranged alphabetically by author. In that area you’ll find great books about libraries, ninjas, sports, ballet dancers, jobs, and much more.

Please, let us know how you like the new system. The Children’s Room staff is always happy to help find books, give recommendations, and more. Just ask!

-Jessica and Lauren

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!

-Jessica

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+)

-Molly

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)

-Courtney