Love, love, love

lovedelapenaThis little flurry of picture books about love has been wonderful – a reminder that even burnt toast and imperfections can be love and that we carry it with us wherever we go, maybe even picking up new things to wonder and love about as life moves on.  I’ll read this book to kindergartners and give it to the seniors graduating and talk about it endlessly to whoever will listen to me, because even in a world of lovely and special books, this one calls out.

It’s not a loud voice, but it’s one we might all need to hear in troubled times full of angry people and leaders who start with negatives.  We can speak out and march and remember that we live our daily lives and are evidence of the power of what good can do, too, even when it’s the burnt toast or a moment sitting on the couch together.  I know.  I’m a softie about this kind of thing, but read this book.  It will remind you, too, of the people and moments you love in your life and for at least a few minutes, you’ll forget the rest.

LOVE by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long

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Girl power + love = this book

deargirlHaving a tough day?

This might be the book to help you power up if you’re a girl (or a woman).  It covers everything from finding awe in the world to not being afraid to ask questions and decorating your room.  So there!  You can do it, sister!

It might work for the little one having a tough day at school (or learning about women’s rights).  It might work for the millennial who’s been mansplained one too many times  or the graduate about to go out into the world or even for your mom.  Dear girls, all of them.

Also nice for valentines!

Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal and Holly Hatam

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Another valentine for words

F&F_Words&YourHeart_JKT.inddWords can fill us with joy, but sometimes, words make us sad.

That’s all you need to know about this book.  It’s a way into a conversation with kids about choosing their words carefully and remembering that words can harm or heal.  Our hearts can be strong and fragile at the same time, and mean words hurt.

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal

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Word nerds unite!

bagelinloveGet ready, young punsters.  You have some work to do.  Work with words and baked goods.  Tough work.  Silly work.  Buttering up croissants.  Doughnuts looking glazed over.  That kind of thing.

Bright and bustling illustrations will spin you along, but this time it’s all about the words.

Nice one for Valentine’s Day?  You betcha.

Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik

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Letters we all could write

dearf451Dear Dear Fahrenheit 451,

You showed up on my desk that extremely cold Saturday when almost no one came in.  Did I read you then?  No, I did not, because unlike the popular (and completely wrong) stereotype, library workers do not sit around reading at work.  I may have spent quite a long time discussing kidlit and graphic novels with a coworker I rarely see that afternoon, but you rested quietly in the stack of books in my locker until I headed home.

When I opened you later from my warm nest on the couch, I laughed frequently enough that my husband and son wondered what was up.  They were watching Game of Thrones (also in my stack) and things were particularly bloody and violent, so it probably seemed a little jarring.  What can you do?

I especially appreciated your letter to Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian, because I have also been told, enthusiastically and repeatedly, that I would just LOVE that book or the previous books in the series by people who don’t know me at all.  I’m not snippy about many books, but let me tell you, that’s one of them.  (Sure, there’s a book for every reader, but that doesn’t mean I’m the reader.) I would be more likely to read Sexy Beast VIII or any of the other originally and uniquely titled Sexy Beast books.  I try to keep an open mind, really I do, but I’m just not all that successful sometimes. But that’s a rant for another day, probably.

What amuses me most about you, however, is that three or four of my favorite patrons suggested you to me, although two were careful to note that some of your language is a little profane.  One handed you to me to check in and commented that she just didn’t think it was appropriate for a librarian to swear that much, but that just makes me love you more, because honestly, there are days when it’s all I can do to wait for the door to close behind the late-in-the-day-angry-at-the-world-and-taking-it-out-on-everyone-jerk-of-the-month to mutter “@#$^%!!!” and head home.

Yours  very truly…

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

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epic kid graphic wonderfulness

bolivar-9781684150694_lgBolivar is an epic picture book and a masterful children’s graphic novel and a great book with amazing illustrations.  There are dinosaurs, mistaken identities, mean girl drama and several chapters, for Pete’s sake. (We have it in the graphic novels at the library, which is probably the best spot for it, but you still worry about it not finding all its readers.  Rest assured — I will find a way to sneak it onto display shelves as often as I can!)

After you enjoy the story, flip back through and appreciate the illustrations one more time.  They are so full of things to look at – buildings, subways, museums, strategically placed word bubbles, and maybe a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark or Edward Hopper paintings.  With the right kid, this book would be a joy to read in one massive, fun sweep, or in smaller chunks as a bedtime story.  What dreams they would have!

Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Bolivar by Sean Rubin

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Self-esteem in the vegetable world

rot-the-cutest-in-the-world-9781481467629_lgIt’s new year, so it might seem a good time for new things of all kinds – new ideas, new authors, that kind of thing.

I’m fairly certain, however, that the new year has never made me consider what a rotten vegetable’s derrière might look like.  So, you know, that’s interesting.

Also, how does a rotten vegetable end up in a beauty pageant with a jellyfish, a bunny, and a kitty and not other vegetables?  What kind of dystopian world have we landed in?  Potatoes vs. bunnies?  Really?

Can we let all that go?  Do we need to follow these strange social rules we set up in our heads?  Can the rotten potato be cute in his own unibrow-y way?  Can’t we all just be ourselves?  Where’s the peace and justice, man?

There’s much to consider in this one, people, but I’ll be thinking about that potato butt for a while.  Just giggling a little or maybe wondering how he’d do in a storytime with Vegetables in Underwear.

Rot: the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton

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Good guys and bad guys, survival and struggle

1saboteurI’ve loved historical fiction about World War II since I was first reading chapter books.  One of my all-time favorites as a kid was Snow Treasure, a story about kids who foil the Nazis by sneaking gold out of the country on their sleds.  Over the years, I’ve also read a lot of nonfiction on the topic, everything from Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts to Double Cross by Ben Macintyre and quite a lot in between.  I also have a fondness for World War II era mysteries – everything from the Foyle’s War TV series to the Bernie Gunther novels of Philip Kerr, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series (which actually starts at the end of World War I) and the Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal.

So it’s no surprise that I loved The Saboteur: the Aristrocrat who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando by Paul Kix.  French Resistance, Nazis, escaping certain death several times – I’m there!  The story of Robert de La Rochefoucauld reads like a spy novel instead of a series of documented life events, which has ensured that I’ve suggested it to all of my patrons who like reading about spies, war, or French history.  It’s also a wonderful book, because it addresses the gray areas in which people exist during war.  Not everyone is 100% good or bad; there are compromises and bad decisions in addition to all of the luck and occasional happy endings.

While I can see many adults and even some teens enjoying this book, you might also consider some fictional favorites of mine on similar topics.  Some are specifically for younger readers; others work for many ages.

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A grim beginning, some art, some angels, a car chase or two…


theroadtoeveraftercover2Sometimes I don’t know why I pick books up.  Maybe I saw something about it online?  Maybe a co-worker added it my stack thinking I’d like it?  Maybe someone, somewhere mentioned it?  Maybe I liked the cover?

Sometimes books just call out to you, I guess.  The cover reminds me a bit of Moon Over Manifest, an excellent book by Clare Vanderpool which won the Newbery some years ago, although The Road to Ever After has a boy facing away and headed down a road with a dog, while Moon has a girl coming towards you on a train track.  It doesn’t suggest a grim dystopian beginning, the magic of a young artist, or anything resembling a walk with Death, but it drew me in, so let’s see where it goes, right?

It’s a quirky kind of a book, but a wonderful one.  Davy David, the unacknowledged angel artist of brooms and twigs, is on his own in a grim sort of town with some unpleasant and unkind adults.  The library, his sanctuary, is going to be closed, and he’s at loose ends until Miss Flint announces that she needs to drive him somewhere – he doesn’t know how to drive – so that she can die.  She might look old and feeble, but she’s smart and has enough of a spark to lead him on a minor crime spree on the way to the shore and her planned death.

It’s not your average middle grade read, but that might just be the reason to pick it up.

The Road to Ever After by Moira Young with illustrations by Hannah George


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Sweet, light, fluffy

someonelikemeIt’s January, and it’s been really cold, although not “bomb cyclone” cold.  Just super-duper, the-car-doesn’t-even-warm-up-enough-for-heat-until-you-get-to-work cold.

And I never seem to sleep well in January, which could be for all kinds of reasons this year—politics, teenagers, old friends and illness, memories creeping out.  You might think this would make me want to read things uplifting and positive and joyful, but really, I find myself heading straight for murder mysteries and teen novels on most days.  I find Flavia de Luce, a connoisseur of poisons, especially relaxing.

But then books pop up on my desk, and I have to read them.  Someone Like Me is full of light and fond memories and drawings that are beautiful but a bit hazy.  There is not an ounce of snark or dark humor.  It’s exactly what should annoy me right now, but I found myself reading it twice.  Why?  It’s not really a story. It’s more a description of how you might become a writer, by listening and imagining and reading.  It is sweet, but it’s wonderful, too, for this brief moment.

Someone Like Me by Patricia MacLachlan and Chris Sheban

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