Children’s Collection Devastated at West Hartford Library

Hurricane Irene may not have had a huge effect on New York City, but many other areas were quite hard hit. An example is West Hartford, Vermont, where the basement of the library flooded, damaging the entire children’s collection.

You can donated through the Norwich Bookstore to help this library reopen. It is an open resource for all of the public, but especially for children, many of which rely on public libraries for their early literacy needs.

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Libraries and Literacy

Jim Scheppke, the outgoing Oregon State Librarian, has an amazing opinion piece in today’s Oregonian. He reminds us all the literacy development comes not just from school, but from reading for pleasure. Having fun and interesting things readily available for reading is what changes children from reading because they have to into children who read because they want to.

For Mama: Books for Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day and what better way to celebrate than through all of the literature the celebrates mothers. Moms appear in a lot of children’s literature as they are primary caretakers for so many children. What got me thinking about this post, other than it being Mother’s Day, is the classic book by Robert Munsch – Love You Forever. We had two copies of this on our house because moms love it and kids like to hear about how much they are loved. This story still brings a tear to my eye.

Not all stories about moms are the same because not all moms are the same. Some of the best stories about moms talk about all the different moms about there and how they love us, no matter who they are and no matter if we try to flush their keys down the toilet. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mom and Me by Marla Konrad. For very little ones, this picture books shows moms and kids from all over the world and the love that they share. Though it does not identify location or culture, the photos show children how different moms still do many of the same things.
  • Mama’s Kiss by Jane Yolen. The always fantastic Yolen shares the hilarious tale of what happens when Mama’s kiss does hit its target and instead starts to travel the world.
  • Mother Number Zero by Marjolijn Hof. A recent chapter book for older readers, Mother Number Zero explores the issues of adoption and wanting to know all of ones mothers.
  • Brushing Mom’s Hair by Andrea Cheng. Another chapter book for older readers, this verse novel explores the emotions of Ann as her mother deals with breast cancer.
  • I have already mentioned the fabulous Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman in my post about GLBTQ lit, but Mother’s Day means it deserves another mention. Along the same lines check out Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden about drawing exactly what your family is to you and In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco, which deals with adoption as well as same sex parenting and the love and challenges that go with both.

There are almost as many stories about moms as there are moms. No matter what form your family takes – happy Mother’s Day and happy reading!

Happy Birthday to Me: Books about Birthdays

Today is my birthday and as much as I love mine, I know children love theirs more. Because of this love, birthdays are a common topic in children’s literature, from the parties that make their lives to the embarrassing moments that make them wish their birthday had never happened. Here are some great stories about birthdays:

  • 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. Imagine having your birthday happen over and over again. Sounds like fun, right? Well, what if it was the worst day of your life and your former friend and birthdaymate was going through the same thing? A funny story about friendship, and time, go awry. Finally is the sequel and though the main character is different, birthdays still play a prominent role.
  • Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party by Melanie Watt. For younger kids, this is a hilarious tale of what to do and not do at a birthday party (answer: sit quietly) that you didn’t even want to have. This is a great addition to the other Scaredy Squirrel stories and will be appreciated by shy kids who haven’t always had the easiest time at birthday parties.
  • A Party for Papa Luis/Una Fiesta para Papa Luis by Diana Gonzales Bertrand. A bilingual cumulative tale tells the story of the preparations for Papa Luis’ birthday fiesta!
  • Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique by Jane O’Connor. What’s a post about birthdays without a Fancy Nancy book? When her sister’s birthday party takes a bad turn, Fancy Nancy helps out with her fabulous fashion sense and products from her front yard boutique.

Celebrate birthdays all year with these fun stories.

Always Time for Poetry: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month and even though it’s close to the end, there’s always time for poetry. In the text for my children’s information services class, Vardell mentions that for many people, poets end after Silverstein and Prelutsky. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because a good foundation means you have something to build on.

There is a lot of really great poetry out there for kids today. Just like anything else in children’s literature it pays to find out what the interests are of the child you’re working with.

Do they like humor stories like Captain Underpants? Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky are obvious (and still good) choices, but have you read the hilarious poetry available at Giggle Poetry? It’s separated into sections, like tall tales or silly rhymes and is easy to navigate.

How about animals? A common interest for children, animals appear a lot in poetry compilations, like the 2011 ALA Notable In the Wild by David Elliott, which uses beautiful woodcuts to show off the animals and compliment the poems. Along the animal/humorous line is A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems by Deborah Ruddell. My favorite is the one about the turkey complaining about its portrait done using a child’s hand.

Even classic poetry can be reused for children. My favorite recent example of this is My People. The poem is by Langston Hughes and it is made new again by Charles R. Smith, Jr.’s photography that illustrates the words of the poem and makes it perfect for children. My People was the 2010 Illustrator Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Other areas of interest to find poetry are:

Experiment with different types of poetry: limericks, sijo, haiku, ballads, refrain, free verse. Combining interest with rhyme is an easy way to expand the world of a child. Poetry can be fun and interesting if there doesn’t have to be a right answer. All you have to do is read it aloud. Try this Silverstein poem and see if it doesn’t put a smile on your face or the face of a child. It’s one of my favorites and I remembered that recently as it is posted on my internship site supervisor’s desk.

Tree House

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.

A street house, a neat house,
Be sure and wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all–
Let’s go live in a tree house.

Have a good rest of poetry month! Read it aloud. You’ll be surprised at how much fun poetry can be.

______________________________________________________________________________

Silverstein, S. (1974). Where the sidewalk ends: The poems & drawings of Shel Silverstein. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Vardell, S. M. (2008). Children’s literature in action: A librarian’s guide. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

Focus on the Illustrator: Il Sung Na

I mentioned Il Sung Na back in my post about spring, but I’ve recently had a chance to look at more of Na’s work and I am still impressed. The paint like layers lend texture to the illustrations and each part seems to play delicately with the others. Na has created worlds of every day animals rendered anew, whether they are sleeping as they are in A Book of Sleep or an elephant that can’t figure out an umbrella like in The Thingamabob.

Though Na does not have many works to look through yet (book number 5, Hide and Seek, comes out in July), they are all beautiful and are as lovely to read as they are to look at. Again, I highly recommend Spring Rabbit, Snow Rabbit, which really works for any season.

The delicate illustrations will draw children in. Watch how the rabbit changes or how the fish keeps its eyes open in sleep. These books are really wonders to behold.

Excellent GLBTQ Lit for Children

For far too many years, children’s literature has lacked any kind of breadth in the field of GLBTQ literature. Though the tide is turning, it can still be difficult to find good, appropriate GLBTQ literature for kids. These books generally come in two categories – books for children in gay families and books for children who are themselves gay or questioning. Both types allow children to be comfortable in who they are and who their families are and have their lives represented in the books that they read.

The ALA has helped with The Stonewall Book Award, which has a category for children and young adults. This would be my first stop for new literature, especially for finding stories for and about GLBTQ youth. A couple of great resources for children of gay families, either for the kids themselves or the parents, is the Gay-Themed Picture Books for Children blog and Rainbow Sauce’s Children’s Books for Gay and Lesbian Parents.

For my part, I have read some excellent books lately. Much of what I remember from my childhood is Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies. While these are good, seminal works, the range has expanded to fantasy literature as well as many other genres of children’s literature. Here are some of the new(er) ones that I’m loving:

  • King & King and King & King & Family by Linda de Haan. Both of these express, through the folkloric tradition of kings and queens, how love can be found in different forms and families.
  • And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell. Based on a true story of two male penguins who adopt an abandoned egg and raise the baby, Tango, together. I love this story of alternative family structures, especially through the easy to understand form of animals.
  • My Princess Boy (A Mom’s Story About a Young Boy Who Loves to Dress Up) by Cheryl Kilodavis. One of the most endearing stories I have ever read, the faceless boy loves to dress up and he has been both mocked and accepted. It’s up to the reader to decide how to treat him and all princess boys. This is truly a story of acceptance of those who break gender norms. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert is in a similar vein.
  • Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman. Newman is probably best known for Heather Has Two Mommies. This is a fantastic board book about a lesbian couple raising their baby. It’s wonderful to have books for children so young where they can see their own family structure represented. Newman also has Daddy, Papa, and Me.

The field is expanding and different gender representations and family structures are being represented more and more. The books I listed above should be a part of any library and your children’s literature collection.