Magic at the Biltmore

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Sounds like great advice to me! Robert Beatty is the author is the Serafina series of books for ages 10 and up. The series takes place on the Biltmore Estate outside of Asheville, North Carolina and features the daughter of the estate’s caretaker. Living in the Biltmore’s basement, Serafina has seen a man in a black cloak roaming the corridors at night. As children from the estate begin to disappear, Serafina teams up with one of the Vanderbilt children to investigate and discovers a legacy of magic in the nearby forest.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty

 

Serafina and the Black Cloak, the first book in the series spent weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and is now being used in classrooms across the country. All of the books in the series provide a historical setting as well as plenty of spooky chills.

 

 

Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty        Serafina and the Seven Stars by Robert Beatty

Pens, Pencils, and Crayons!

As kids and teachers prepare to get back to the classroom, I’d like to recommend a group of picture books featuring witty and wise writing implements. In addition to just being fun books to read, I can also see these as great springboards to “What If?” questions. What if a school bus could tell stories? What if the chalkboard giggled every time a teacher wrote on it? What if your writing paper refused to sit still?

Have you ever wondered how your crayons feel about the things you color? Does the blue crayon enjoy being used down to a nub coloring all that sky? Who knew it was so hard to be only used at Halloween? The “Day the Crayons” books take you into the inner world of the crayon box!

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt    The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt

The Little Red Pen by award-winning author Janet Stevens is a story of the dramatic rescue of a pen from a wastebasket. In a clever twist on Little Red Riding Hood, Little Red Writing  is trying to write an exciting story, but has to face the ravenous pencil sharpener, the Wolf 3000.

The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens    Little Red Writing by Joan Holub

All of these books celebrate creativity, empathy, and cooperation. Read a few with your children or students, and then put pencil to paper to create your own story and illustrations.

Making Friends is an Art! by Julia Cook     My Crayons Talk by Patricia Hubbard

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg    Linus the Little Yellow Pencil by Scott Magoon

Wonderful New Picture Books

We have added some amazing picture books to our collection in the last few months! Many of these are from authors and illustrators who are the superstars of children’s literature – well-loved by parents and librarians everywhere. Others were created by authors who may be new to you, but whose work you’ll certainly want to start following. Here are some of my favorites, but you’ll want to come to the library and explore all the other great items on the “New” shelf.

Tessa Takes Wing by Richard Jackson

 

How can you keep from smiling when you see this adorable baby? Have you ever wondered what babies do when everyone else is asleep? If you are not familiar with Richard Jackson, I also recommend his books All Ears, All Eyes and This Beautiful Day.

 

 

A Parade of Elephants by Keven Henkes

 

 

 

A Parade of Elephants is every bit as charming as the rest of Kevin Henkes’ picture books. You may know him as the author of Lilly’s Purple, Plastic Purse, but he’s written a long list of both picture books and chapter books for kids. For your older kids, check out Junonia and The Year of Billy Miller.

 

The Snowy Nap by Jan Brett

 

 

Jan Brett is another author whose books are always popular. The Snowy Nap reintroduces the title character from Hedgie’s Surprise (written in 2000) and is a perfect book to snuggle up with on a cold day. Brett continues her practice of using border illustrations to give a hint of what’s coming on the next page.

 

 

I loved I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony, so I was delighted to see another book about Mr. Panda. Who can resist another cute bedtime story?

 

Giraffe Problems by Jory John

 

 

 

 

 

The creative team that brought us Penguin Problems in 2016 is back with a story of a giraffe who can’t figure out what to do with his long neck!

 

Chomp Goes the Alligator by Matthew Van Fleet

 

 

 

 

Chomp Goes the Alligator is sure to become a favorite of preschoolers. It features counting, rhymes, and a movable alligator jaw!

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

 

 

 

 

 

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is perfect to share with any child who has ever experienced being different or outside of a group. Woodson’s words are always affirming and the illustrations by Rafael Lopez are vibrant and expressive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein

 

 

The “Interrupting Chicken” is back! In this follow-up book, the young chicken is enjoying books with an “elephant of surprise”! This is one of those great picture books for kids who may be old enough to read independently, but who can really enjoy the humor caused by this misunderstanding.

 

Young People’s Poet Laureate

What is a Poet Laureate? Did you know we have 2 in the United States? Poet Laureates are designated by nations or groups and are frequently expected to compose poems for special occasions. The Librarian of the United States Congress designates a poet annually to work toward increasing our nation’s appreciation of poetry. This position is currently filled by Tracy K. Smith.

The Poetry Foundation, since 2006, has selected a Young People’s (or Children’s) Poet Laureate for two-year terms. The chosen poet works on a variety of projects to help instill a lifelong love of poetry among the nation’s developing readers.

Margarita Engle has held this position since 2017. Previously this position was filled by Jack Prelutsky, Mary Ann Hoberman, J.Patrick Lewis, Kenn Nesbitt, and Jacqueline Woodson.

I love this excerpt from her poem “Tula”, found in the book The Lightning Dreamer.

Books are door-shaped 

portals

carrying me

across oceans

and centuries,

helping me feel

less alone.

Engle may be best known for her novels in verse, especially those focusing on different aspects of Cuban history. If that doesn’t grab your attention, I will tell you that you need to give these books a try! Engle has a true gift for highlighting episodes in history that are not well-known.

The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle   The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle   The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle

We also have some books for younger kids that feature poems by Engle.

Orangutanka by Margarita Engle  Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle

Bravo: Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle

I am very excited about Bravo: Poems About Amazing Hispanics, our newest addition by Engle. This book is located in our juvenile biography area and is perfect for families and classrooms!

Diversity is a huge focus in children’s literature and there was so much in this book that was new to me!

You can read more of Engle’s poetry on the Poetry Foundation’s web page.