Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TTT: Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Books to Buy Children

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

The holiday season is fast approaching, and if you are anything like me, you are already shopping. It can be difficult finding gifts for every special person in your life, especially the kids. There are so many toys and gadgets out there to choose from, but what better gift is there than books! So I have made a list of some of my favorite children’s books that I discovered in 2016 that would make great gifts for any of the little ones on your shopping list this year!

1. Moving Blocks by Yusuke Yonezu
This book was actually published in 2015 but it was included on the CCBC Choice 2016 list as a best-of-the-year picture book. It uses blocks to reveal things that move by asking the question, “What are you building? What can it be?” It is a board book format, perfect for little hands and the bright colored blocks create a fun visual.

2. Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarley
Preschoolers will love this book about three rowdy robots that are keeping up their little boy by asking for things like more oil and loosened fan belts.
3. ABC Dream by Kim Krans
This is a visually stunning book that dedicates each page to a letter of the alphabet. Beautiful watercolor and ink images show the letter itself, along with objects that begin with that letter. Children of all ages will enjoy the imagery in this book.

4. Can I Tell You A Secret? by Anna Kang 
I read this book for a story time over the summer and the kids loved it! It is a simple story about a frog who has a secret (spoiler alert…he can’t swim). I love picture books with characters that speak directly to the reader. This creates a fun interaction with the child.

5. Lion Lessons by Jon Agee
What does it take to become a lion? According to this book there are seven steps which include roaring and pouncing, but most importantly, looking out for your friends. This is a great book for children to act out.

6. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
This is a sweet book about the love parents have for their children and all of the things they hope for them to be. Having just had my first child last year, this book has been one of my favorites to read at bedtime.

7. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex
This is the perfect book for a child starting school. It is told from the point of view of the school building itself. It portrays all of the normal emotions that come along with starting school but with a fun twist.

8. The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell
“The Snurtch” is a scribbly monster that keeps getting Ruthie in trouble at school and she eventually learns that every child has their own personal Snurtch. This is a great book to introduce the concept of emotions to preschoolers and school age children.

9. The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
When Bear discovers his talent for playing piano, he is drawn towards the lights of the big city. Not only is this a beautifully illustrated book but it also has a great message for children about the importance of following your dreams and remembering your roots.

10. The Night Gardener by Terry Fan
Another beautifully illustrated book, The Night Gardener is about a little boy named William that discovers new topiaries popping up throughout his town. This whimsical book is perfect to read aloud before bedtime.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TTT: Children's Books I'm Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic
I've been spending a lot of time with my nieces and nephews and various littles in my life lately, and this has caused me to do a lot of reading of children's books. Thus, I'd like to list the books I'm thankful for in that category. Books I'm glad to read over and over and over and over again (mostly of the board book variety).

Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
Really anything Dr. Seuss is delightful to read aloud to children, but this one is a challenge for me as a reader as well as for the kids to follow along. It's a tongue-twister and I always find myself reading it quickly, thus heightening the fun.

I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, illustrations by Cyd Moore
This is a family favorite, and one that I don't mind reading a lot of. The story of a little boy asking if his mother loves him no matter what is cute, and the different situations he imagines are fun. It's especially fun to ask toddlers and preschoolers if they'd like to eat a bug sandwich like the character in the story. If you enjoy the book Guess How Much I Love You, this is a similar read.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrations by Clement Hurd
It's a classic for a reason. It's a great bedtime read, saying goodnight to everything around them before drifting off to sleep.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae
This book about a poor giraffe embarrassed to shake his groove thing is such a cute tale. It's all about being yourself, not worrying about others, and having fun. The giraffe needs to learn how to 1. dance and 2. not care what everyone thinks. The illustrations are adorable and the story is good for all ages.

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
I tend to give this book as a baby shower gift. It's such a sweet story about how the world changed when "you" were born.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This classic story is a fun read-aloud for preschoolers especially. It's also fun to joke about what a tummyache that caterpillar must have had.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
"If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk..." and so begins the tale of consequences. That mouse is quite demanding and causes a series of unpredictable events, ending up back at the cookies. The other books from this series are also fun reads.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
This is a classic, fun story about asking the zoo for a pet. It's fun to lift the flaps and see what crazy animal the zoo sends the main character. For older kids, they can guess before lifting the flap to discover the animal, and it ends happily. Just a cute, fun read.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Another story of unending parental love. This is a very sweet story. In my experience, the grown up reading the book appreciates it more than the child listening to it.

Baby Beluga by Raffi
This book must be sung. You have to sing the song while going through the pages. It's a requirement. If you don't know this delightful children's song, click here.

That's my list of books I'm thankful for this year (any of which would make great holiday gifts, by the way). What books are you thankful for?


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

TTT: Favorite Hallmark Channel Holiday Movies

Top Ten Tuesday – Movie freestyle! Top Ten Favorite Hallmark Channel Holiday Movies!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

If you’ve ever swung by the reference desk to chat movies with us, you’ve probably learned my deep, dark secret. I love Hallmark Channel movies. I’ve seen almost every one. As we get closer to the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to talk about Hallmark’s holiday offerings. Last year, Cailey and I watched every single Christmas movie that aired and… I do not recommend doing that. But let’s talk about the ones that are worth watching. Below are my top ten picks for best Hallmark Channel Original Holiday Movies (all of which you can check out from MPL's collection!).

1. A Season for Miracles (1999) – Carla Gugino stars as Emilie Thompson, a woman who has taken her young niece and nephew on the run after their mother was incarcerated. They take refuge in an abandoned house in a small town and when they’re mistaken as the long lost relatives of the home’s owner, Emilie hopes they can hide out long enough to come up with a plan. This was part of Hallmark’s Hall of Fame series which means the quality tends to be higher. That’s not even mentioning a young Mae Whitman co-stars.

2. A Boyfriend for Christmas (2004) – Holly and Ryan are lawyers who have butted heads over an emotional child custody hearing. Holly wants nothing to do with Ryan, but Santa has other plans. He enlists Ryan to help him keep a promise he made to Holly many Christmases ago.

3. The Christmas Card (2006) – While stationed in Afghanistan, sergeant Cody Cullen received a Christmas card from a woman he has never met. After returning to the US, he travels to California to meet the sender.

4. An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (2008) – Based on the Louisa May Alcott story of the same name, this movie follows a family as they weather hard times around the holidays. Starring a pre-Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany as Mathilda Bassett, the headstrong and tempestuous eldest daughter.

5. Annie Claus is Coming to Town (2011) – Santa Claus’ daughter goes on rumspringa! Before taking over the family business, Annie Claus gets a chance to experience the world away from the North Pole. She helps a struggling toy business and just might also find her own Mr. Claus.

6. Hitched for the Holidays (2012) – Tired of being harangued by their overbearing families, Rob and Julie strike up an agreement to be each other’s ‘plus-one’ through the holiday season. But what starts out as an innocent deal, might lead to something more.

7. A Very Merry Mix-Up (2013) – Alice Chapman (Alicia Witt) is visiting her fiancé’s family for the first time, but without realizing it, she accidentally goes home with the wrong people. Classic holiday hijinks ensue and Alice finds herself falling for her future “brother-in-law.” I would be remiss if I didn’t also plug Witt’s album, Revisionary History which features her hit holiday song, “I’m Not Ready for Christmas.” It’s insanely catchy (although, I think Cailey would disagree with me on that point) and totally worth a listen.

8. The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014) – Firefighter Zach meets vet student Merilee when he adopts a stray cat. When Merilee gets unexpectedly evicted, Zach offers her a place to stay in the house he’s renovating. As the holidays approach, they begin to realize that Christmas might be the purr-fect time for romance.

9. The Christmas Secret (2014) – Hardworking, single mom Christine is struggling to make ends meet during the holidays. This was definitely above average for a Hallmark movie and it had a little bit of everything: Mistaken identities, baked goods, lost long families reunited.

10. A Christmas Melody (2015) – Two words: Mariah Carey. Enough said.

Honorable Mention: Mrs. Miracle (2009)/Call Me Mrs. Miracle (2010) – Doris Roberts plays the eponymous Mrs. Miracle (technically, it’s Mrs. Merkle, but miraculous things tend to happen when she’s around) a kindly old woman who has a knack for solving problems and bringing people together for the holidays. In the first film, she helps struggling single dad, James Van Der Beek, in the second she lends a hand to harried fashion designer, Jewel Staite.

Enjoy your holiday movie watching!


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

TTT: Books I've Added to My To-Be-Read List Lately

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

1. Gillian Anderson, A Dream of Ice and The Sounds of Seas
This is sort of a two-for-one thing, and here’s why. I recently read A Vision of Fire, the first book Earthend Saga, primarily written by Gillian Anderson. Yes, that Gillian Anderson. As in the brilliant and beautiful Agent Dana Scully from The X Files. In addition to her many other talents she is also a first rate storyteller. A Vision of Fire had a compelling storyline and was replete with strong, three dimensional female characters. It was a pleasure to read (hopefully I’ll get around to a full review of it sometime soon here) and I am looking forward to digging into the second and third books in the series.

 2. Kate Atkinson, Life after Life
I was just rereading Atkinson’s Case Histories the other day. For those of you out there who dig detective fiction I recommend this as something of an overlooked gem. Ok, the BBC did make a series out of it, but Case Histories still doesn’t get the kind of play that other figures in the genre seem to. One of my colleagues described Life after Life to me as “an extremely weird book” which I took as kind of a challenge. If you look at other books that I’ve reviewed here you will correctly deduce that this isn’t the kind of think I normally read, but Atkinson writes absolutely beautiful prose and has a knack for constructing complicated and engaging stories. As I understand it, A God in Ruins is also supposed to be stellar, but we’ll take this one step at a time.

3. Steven S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong, Concrete Economics
Ok, reading a book about economics is a hard sell for most people. But this is a short one. I don’t know much about Steven Cohen, but Brad DeLong is a well-respected professor of economics at Berkeley. His blog (Grasping Reality, http://delong.typepad.com/) is funny, and sometimes it’s kind of wonkish, but it’s generally pretty easy to read and he cuts through a lot of the baloney that you hear in the media about how the economy works. The subtitle of this book is “The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy” which I think means he’s going to talk about Alexander Hamilton. I must be some kind of nerd, because that makes it sound very attractive to me.

4. Jacqueline Riding, The Jacobites: A New History of The ’45 Rebellion
Who doesn’t love a good lost cause? I know I do. The Jacobites were the sort of last gasp of old school English Catholicism. Having been chased out of the country by the rise of English Protestantism, the former Stuart rulers hung out on the continent and nursed plans to recover their power. The rebellion that started in 1745 ended in catastrophe at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 when the power of the Scottish highland clans was decisively crushed on a moor near Inverness. Riding is a former curator of the Palace of Westminster and is about as well informed about his period of British history as it is possible to be. This is a longish book (right around 500 pages) but it is definitely near the top of my stack.

5. Simon Schama, The Face of Britain: A History of Britain through Its Portraits
Schama’s multivolume History of Britain is one of the most entertaining and engaging historical works you’re ever likely to read. Those familiar with Schama’s work will know that he tends to write tomes that are both intellectually and physically weighty. Citizens, the book about the French Revolution that made his name is nearly 1000 pages long, while The Embarrassment of Riches is hardly shorter at just over 700. The Face of Britain is a mere 500, and there are lots and lots of pictures to give your eyes a rest along the way. Schama writes like he talks, in an easy, unaffected style that is easy to follow and pleasant to read. I might not read this one for a while, as it seems like the kind of thing that one might want to spend some time savoring.

6. Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
This is not what you’d call a new title (it was published in 2013) but I’ve sort of come late to Gaiman’s work and I’m playing catch-up. To be honest, I was never a big fan of his Sandman series, much as I love comics and much as everyone says it’s awesome. But a couple of weeks ago I picked up The View from the Cheap Seats, the recently released collection of Gaiman’s nonfiction writings, off the new books rack here. It is absolutely captivating. I then moved on to his 1998 novel Neverwhere, the first of his fictional works that I’d ever read. Well, now I’m hooked. I’m not worrying too much about reading things in the order that they were released. This book has a very odd looking cover, so I decided to read that one next. On the basis of what I’ve seen so far I expect to enjoy this one as well.

7. Patrick Cockburn, The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East
I read Cockburn’s The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution last year and was impressed. It’s short (only 170 pages or so) but it’s one of the most insightful books on the topic that I’ve ever read. Cockburn’s new book is rather more extensive (300+ pages) but looks to continue Cockburn’s penchant for making what is complex into something comprehensible without oversimplifying.

 8. Manuel Gonzales, The Regional Office is Under Attack!
I don’t know a great deal about this book, except that it’s a debut novel and it’s about a group of super-powered female assassins who defend the world from destruction. What’s not to love? A friend of mine read it and can’t stop raving about it. So there you go.

9. Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species
I know nothing about this book. Well, I know two things. Meredith told me the plot of this book the other day and it sounds completely bonkers. Also, Meredith told me (and she’s not the only one) that her writing is a lot like Shirley Jackson’s. I just read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and if this book is on anything like the same level of weird I’m pretty much sold.

10. Charles Stross, The Nightmare Stacks
Have you read any of Stross’s The Laundry Files novels? If you haven’t you really owe it to yourself to check them out. The Nightmare Stacks involves a new twist for the series, as the main character is different. But Stross writes really interesting characters, especially when he’s working in first person. He’s funny, and he has a special understanding of the way that working in a stratified bureaucratic system can drive sensible people nuts. So yes, this book is definitely on my “to be read” pile, but you’d be doing yourself a favor by starting at the beginning of the series.

~John F.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Five Books Worth Reading: Voting for Kids

Vote for Books This Election Season!

Well it’s that time of year again: election season. There are political signs in the yards and campaign ads on television trying to help some candidate win your vote.

The last thing I would want to do is get into a political discussion on this reader’s blog. After all, we’re here to tell you about what books you should check out. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

We live in a country where we have the privilege to choose our own leaders. Voting allows your voice to be heard from small local elections all the way up to the presidential elections. And it’s important to teach kids about the voting process.

So in the spirit of teaching our young ones about democracy, here are a few kids' books about voting that can help spark a discussion with your child, or might just tickle your funny bone.

Squid thinks he has what it takes to be elected as President Squid. But Squid doesn’t quite understand what being President is about. While wearing a tie and giving speeches is all well and good, squid needs to learn that being president isn’t about helping you, it’s about helping others. Not to mention this book is lots of fun to read out loud.

Monster is determined to run for president. He’s set up a solid platform, fighting for longer summers and dessert for dinner. But no one is interested in taking his campaign seriously. That is until Monster takes up a cause close to his heart, saving the local public library.

With this year being a presidential election, it can’t hurt to talk about where the new president will be residing during their term. This book takes readers on an intricate three-dimensional tour of the White House, beginning with its construction all the way to present day. I’m a huge fan of Robert Sabuda’s books, and I must say that this has to be one of my favorites.

For those of you not familiar with Ben Clanton, I would recommend checking out Rex Wrecks It and Mo’s Mustache (as long as I’m recommending books). But Vote for Me! pokes fun at American politics, with a donkey and elephant doing everything they can think of to win votes. Their campaigns eventually resort to mud-slinging, which might not help them achieve their desired outcome.

Grace is not happy when she finds out that there has never been a female president of the United States. She is determined to become the first female president and decides to start by winner her school’s mock election. Unfortunately for Grace her make opponent seems to have won over all of the male voters/ Grace will have to use all of her campaigning skills to prove that she is indeed the best person for the job.

Don't forget! We also have voting at the library for kids starting today! Kids can cast their ballot for president in our mock election in the children's area of the main branch.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running  895.635 Murakami

Earlier this month I found myself standing around on a sunny Labor Day morning at the Cuyahoga Fairgrounds, listening to German pop music and watching guys in lederhosen circulate through a crowd of people in running gear. I was going to run in the Cleveland Oktoberfest 5K, the first time I’d done something like that in…well…a very long time.

I used to do a lot of this sort of thing when I was in high school, but then I got more into team sports (first soccer, then rugby in college, competitive cycling, then soccer again). I’m used to having a bunch of teammates around me. But here I was, alone and trying to figure out how I was going to find my way through this thing. The starter called us to the line. I stood there, waiting for the gun in a crowd of strangers. And at that moment I was struck by a realization: this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

I got back into running about a year ago. It should come as no surprise that, as a librarian, I am kind of bookish and my normal mode of finding my way through something new is by reading about it. I’d read a few books about training, one or two about diet, and a few about the overall process, but I hadn’t really found anything that caught my imagination. Then one afternoon I was nosing around literary memoirs here at the library and I ran across What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. I’ve always loved Murakami’s novels (especially The Great Sheep Chase and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). Murakami’s books have a really odd perspective, and I don’t think that it’s just a matter of cultural translation between the Japanese and us. But they’re also humane and beautiful and once I start one I usually can’t put it down.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running intertwines the story of Murakami’s writing and his running. As in his novels, Murakami has an eye for interesting detail, as when he relates the story of deciding to write his first novel while lounging around the outfield bleachers at a Yakult Swallows game in 1978. For Murakami the process of becoming a novelist and that of becoming a runner had some important similarities. In both cases it took him a while before he realized that he was going to get serious about it. In both cases he was extraordinarily successful, becoming a world famous novelist and getting himself the point that he could run marathons (which only a relatively small proportion of runners ever do).

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Books We've Missed: To Kill a Mockingbird

As I think I've mentioned before, I somehow managed to miss that point in life where everyone read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I just never had to read it in school, and never picked it up on my own. The Monday Night Book Club decided they wanted to read a classic this year, and that's what they chose. So I've finally read it!

I'm guessing, like me, you knew the basic plot of the story, but I'm going to do a brief synopsis here, so bear with me. Scout Finch is a little girl living in Depression-era Alabama with her older brother Jem and her attorney father Atticus Finch. The novel centers around the childhood of Scout and Jem: the games they play, their experiences at school, and their observations of life in Maycomb. The two children are fascinated by a reclusive man, Boo Radley, who lives down the street from them. Together with their friend Dill, they spend much of their time trying to either lure him out or trick him into showing himself.

Atticus Finch, a man who had his children late in life, is a single father and a very respected lawyer in Maycomb. In the course of the novel, he is assigned a case defending a black man against a white woman's claims of rape. This is a turning point in the small 1930s town, and opens Scout and Jem's eyes to the very real racism of their hometown.

Reading this book felt like being transported back to a different time. Harper Lee did an excellent job of immersing the reader in the time and place of the story. Descriptions of the town abound, but don't overwhelm. There are a lot of secondary characters introduced over the course of the book, and these just added to the charm of the story. The "small town gossip" element was fully at play as the book progressed, and the inclusion of the different neighbors improved upon the environment depicted.

Going into the book, I thought that the trial would be a bigger part of the story, based on what I'd known prior to reading it. So I was surprised that the trial did not happen until well into the second part of the book. Also, in discussion, I found that there were some things interpreted differently by different readers, which gave the book that element of interpretation.

Overall, I'm glad that I had a chance to catch up on this "book I missed" and I can definitely see why this book is a lasting classic. The story is still just as accessible today as I imagine it was when first published in the 60s. It is also very easy to read, even with the dialects given. I can also see why some people have tried to ban this book over the years, if only for language. However, the language very much adds to the setting of the story, and I think it would be disingenuous otherwise.

I did a lot of research on this book and Harper Lee prior to leading the book discussion on it, and I have to say I have no desire to read Go Set a Watchman.

I did listen to the audio for part of this story, and I have to say that Sissy Spacek as a narrator was AMAZING. She did an excellent job with the accents and voices.