Learn with Jack and Annie!

For over 20 years, elementary kids have loved the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. In each of these short chapter books, Jack and Annie travel to a different location or time period. These books are very popular with kids who have only recently started reading chapter books.

If you are just introducing your child to this series, you may want to begin at the beginning (Dinosaurs Before Dark), because the books do get progressively harder in length and vocabulary.

Did you know that there is a companion series of non-fiction books written especially to supplement the Magic Tree House books? Kids love learning more about the people, places and animals from the stories. Here are just of few of the Magic Tree House books shown side-by-side with their non-fiction companion books.

Sunset of the Sabertooth by Mary Pope Osborne  Sabertooths and the Ice Age by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce

Dolphins at Daybreak by Mary Pope Osborne   Dolphins and Sharks by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce

Day of the Dragon King by Mary Pope Osborne   China: Land of the Emperor's Great Wall by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce

Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne   Mummies and Pyramids by Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne

The non-fiction books present information in a reader-friendly way and often also list online resources for additional information. You may want to read the non-fiction books with your child since they are typically at a slightly higher reading level. Of course, kids usually mange to read the books they are really interested in!

We have most of the Magic Tree House fiction and non-fiction books, but if you can’t find one you need, just ask. Many of the books are also available to download through the Indiana Digital Download Center. The series is still continuing, so keep checking for new additions on our shelves!

There is also a great Magic Tree House web page, complete with book information and games. Parents and teachers should check out specials links for them in the upper right-hand corner of the web page.

What Scientists Do

Do you have a child or teen who seems fascinated by all things science related? Or maybe you are the one in your family who loves to read about the work of scientists. “Scientists in the Field” is a wonderful book series that explores that actual scientific research being done by modern-day scientists around the world. Each book in the series features a particular research focus: insects, under-sea volcanoes, bees, whales, conservation, gorillas, and many more topics. The books have been consistently praised by reviewers from School Library Journal and have won numerous awards including the Robert F. Siebert Award for Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot.

Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery

These books are great for learning about the actual subject being studied, but the real strength of the books is the ability to place the reader at the very center of the research process. These are very much focused on the application of the scientific method. As readers, we get to see the problems, the set-backs, and the refining of the research. We also get to see how different people with different careers all work together in the research field!

Here are a few of the books that illustrate the wide variety of scientific fields covered.

Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives by Elizabeth Rusch   Stronger than Steel by Bridget Heos

The Mighty Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch   Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish are Savingthe World's Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery

A few of the titles will be of special interest to people in our geographic area. Dr. Terri Roth from the Cincinnati Zoo is featured in Emi and the Rhino Scientist. Dr. Roth is the director of the Cincinnati Zoo’s research on endangered animal species, including the extremely rare Sumatran rhino.  The Bug Scientists features Tom Turpin a long-time professor of entomology at Purdue University. Turpin, who retired in 2017, spent 45 years making the study of insects seem cool at events like Purdue’s annual Bug Bowl.

  The Bug Scientists by Donna M. Jackson

Several of the books in the “Scientists in the Field” series are written by Cincinnati author Mary Kay Carson.

Inside Biosphere 2: Earth Science Under Glass by Mary Kay Carson  The Park Scientists by Mary Kay Carson

Our latest addition in this book series is Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island, a fascinating look at the way plant and animal life is developing on a volcanic island that was formed in 1963.

Life on Surtsey by Loree Griffin Burns

Fascinating stuff, wouldn’t you say? Stop by to check out one of these amazing books!

 

 

Looking at Race in Teen Books

There is probably no more polarizing issue today than that of race. Teens are right in the middle of this issue as they engage with different forms of media and they interact with their family and their peers. This topic is also getting more attention in the world of Young Adult Literature. The teenage years are when young adults struggle to make sense of the events taking place around them and also to construct their own world view based on the various viewpoints they hear. Books can help with that process by offering different perspectives!

How It Went Down and All American Boys both point to the difficulty of understanding an event due to the varying viewpoints of the observers. All American Boys is also on this year’s Eliot Rosewater book list for high school students.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon   All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

The following two books address conflicts that arise when an African American teen attends a mostly white prep school. The Hate U Give is one of the most highly praised Young Adult novels to be published in 2017.

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasBlack Boy, White School by Brian Walker

The last four books are classified as historical fiction, but range in time period from the 1960s back to the 1920s.

X by Ilyasah Shabazz   Call Me By My Name by John Ed Bradley

Out of Darknes by Ashley Hope Perez   Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Race is a complicated issue and reading from different perspectives can be enormously helpful for us all! Why not check out a copy to read with your teens? I’m sure that each of these books will provide lots of thought-provoking discussion.

As always, if you’d like more suggestions, just ask!

 

 

 

Pourquoi? Why?

Young children never stop asking, “Why?” For thousands of years, people in different cultures have also asked this. Why does the giraffe have a long neck? Why does the sun seem to move across the sky? Why are there lights in the northern sky? Stories were created to explain things in nature that could not be understood any other way. These stories offer us insight into the customs and resources that were important to cultures all over the world.

You can find these stories in collections of legends, in creation myths, and in many picture books. These are often called “Pourquoi” stories from the French word for “why.” Reading these tales is a wonderful way to take your family on a reading trip around the world. They are also a great jumping off point for informational books that tell the actual science behind these things.

We have a terrific collection of Pourquoi tales collected and retold by Margaret Mayo. With stories from Australia, Africa, Iceland, Central America and other places, When the World Was Young is a great sampler of the genre. Each story is 4-5 pages long with only a few pictures, so it works well for kids who have a decent attention span. I love the author’s note in the back that tells about the source of each story.

When the World was Young by Margaret Mayo

Many of our other Pourquoi books are in a picture book format and are great to share with even very young kids.  Here are a few of my favorites.

The Blizzard's Robe by Robert Sabuda  Why the Sky is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale by Mary-Joan Gerson

Robert Sabuda has become world-renowned for his pop-up books, but the batik illustrations in The Blizzard’s Robe are stunning! Why the Sky is Far Away uses art in a Nigerian folk style to relate an important lesson about protecting our resources.

Tomie dePaola wrote three picture books telling the legends of wildflowers. These are all beautiful stories and can also be found in Tomie dePaola’s Big Book of Favorite Legends.

The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola  The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola  The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

Gerald McDermott wrote a series of picture-book trickster tales. They are fun to read, because different cultures have developed groups of tales portraying certain animals as tricky or sly. These two books also serve as pourquoi tales, telling the origin of the sun and explaining why the tortoise’s shell looks cracked.

 

You may be familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories. Kipling created these stories to tell to his daughter. Although they are not traditional folklore, they fit the mold of explaining the various characteristics of animals.

 

If you have ever wondered about strawberries or stars or chipmunks, we have a book for you!

 

If this type of folklore appeals to you, you can also look for pourquoi tales tucked into larger story collections such as Kwi-na the Eagle and Other Indian Tales and Cloud Weavers: Ancient Chinese Legends.

Read some of these books with your family and the next time your child asks “Why…”, challenge them to create a story explains the reason.

 

 

Picture Books About Scientists

Children are naturally curious about the world around them! As parents, we always want to find ways to nurture that curiosity. We can provide them with a wide variety of learning activities, including lots of books that lead to more and more questions for us to explore with them. Here are some great picture books about famous scientists, paired with a related storybook.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamda relates the story of a young boy from Malawi who brought electricity to his village by building a windmill out of scraps. It would be a perfect book to share after a day of playing with Legos or blocks with your child. Dreaming Up pairs block play with famous buildings around the world in a celebration of creativity.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba   Dreaming Up by Christy Hale

Big Al by Andrew Clements is a story of friendship and will also introduce kids to fish that live around a coral reef. Follow the story up with Manfish by Jennifer Berne, a book about legendary marine scientist Jacques Cousteau.

Big Al by Andrew Clements   Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne

If you and your family enjoy watching birds at a feeder, these next two books are perfect for you! Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward explores all ways that birds build their homes. For the Birds shares the story of Roger Tory Peterson, the creator of many bird guidebooks.

Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward   For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Peggy Thomas

Creativity is the name of the game in Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. When you’re through playing with boxes, read about a scientist who thought outside the box in On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, another biography by Jennifer Berne.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis   On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

Trees are always interesting to kids, for playing under and around. Share A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, then read about The Tree Lady who changed San Diego from a desert town to a garden-filled oasis.

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry   The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

These are all book pairs that work well with younger kids. The following picture book biographies are better suited for upper elementary students or older. There is a new research study that shows that teens who read about the struggles of famous scientists do better in their science classes, so keep the books coming and keep talking about the way that scientists persevere through many mistakes!

   Look Up! The Story of the First Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh  

  

What are “Easy Chapter Books”?

Did you know that the Library District has a special collection of books for kids who are just beginning to move from picture books to chapter books? These books have some important characteristics that make them ideal for that transition period. As your child begins to read longer books, these features will make it less stressful for both of you! If you don’t know where these book collections are kept at the Library, please ask!

  • The words are in a larger size font and lines of text are spaced further apart.
  • Paragraphs are kept very short – usually no more than about 3 short sentences.
  • Lots of white space on the pages.
  • Plenty of illustrations.

 

When children are learning to read, their eyes tire easily. All these features keep each page from seeming too overwhelming. Kids often have difficulty in making their eyes travel from the end of a line of text to the beginning of the next line, so the greater spacing is needed to make the transition easier. Also very short chapters provide convenient stopping places if your reading time is limited. Remember that reading is hard work at first, so you may want to take turns reading paragraphs or even pages. You want reading to be a fun experience, so let your children choose books that interest them.

Books in this format have been around for many years. Two classic series are the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel and the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarek.

Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel    Little Bear's Friend by Else Holmelund Minarek

Cynthia Rylant has written many easy chapter books. Her long-standing series include the Henry and Mudge books, the Poppleton books, and the Mr. Putter & Tabby books. Some of these have been around since the 1980’s, but I continue to recommend them to beginning readers, because I remember how much my own children loved them.

Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend by Cynthia Rylant  Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant  Mr. Putter & Tabby Take the Train b y Cynthia Rylant

Kevin Henkes (the Penny series) and Kate DiCamillo ( the Mercy Watson series) are both award-winning authors who write for multiple age groups. Dicamillo also writes the Tales From Deckaroo Drive beginning chapter books.

Penny and her Marble by Kevin Henkes   Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel began as a picture book, but Bruel has gone on to write many Bad Kitty books in an easy chapter book format. Another of our most popular series is The Notebook of Doom by Indiana author Troy Cummings. The Notebook of Doom series is also available through the Indiana Digital Download Center.

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel   Attack of the Shadow Smashers by Troy Cummings

Keep reading aloud with your children even after they are able to read alone. Research shows that kids can comprehend stories they hear, even if the reading level is higher than that of books they can read for themselves. By continuing to read with your children, you’ll be helping them build vocabulary and comprehension skills. Just as importantly, you’ll be having fun together and will be forming shared experiences.

 

 

Christmas Books and Cookies

The sprinkles are ready! The new Christmas books are here! All we still need is for you to mark this event on your calendar. We’ll be kicking off the holiday season with the Library District’s annual Christmas Cookies and Books program on Saturday, December 2nd. This program will be available at both branches and is open to all ages, whether you have children or not!

Jingle Bells by Susan Jeffers  One Cozy Christmas by M. Christina Butler

At the Aurora Public Library, Peggy will be reading Christmas stories beginning at 10 a.m. and cookies will be available to decorate until 2 p.m. This is also the first weekend that Main Street Aurora will be offering the opportunity to have breakfast with Santa. Make sure to stop by the Library after you share a meal with the guy in the red suit!

Patty will be hosting at the Dillsboro Public Library with activities available between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Little Santa by Yoko Maruyama

 

A new book by John Green!

John Green is probably Indiana’s most loved Young Adult author. His debut novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Printz Award for best teen novel. His last book, The Fault in Our Stars sold over 45 million copies and was made into a popular film.

Looking for Alaska by John Green   The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

In between, he authored An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and (with David Levithan) Will Grayson, Will Grayson. His latest book, Turtles All the Way Down was published in October of 2017.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green  Paper Towns by John Green  Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Turtles All the Way Down has been receiving rave reviews from book critics. People magazine described it as “A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control” and the Wall Street Journal said, “There is tenderness and wisdom here, and a high quotient of big ideas.”

In the book, sixteen-year-old Aza pursues the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, because there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. The book illustrates the difficulties of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that Aza shares with author John Green.

Dealing with difficult situations is a standard of much of Green’s writing and the honesty of his work provides an opening for discussion about these topics. At the same time, he uses lots of humor to keep the plot from becoming too serious and teens are easily able to relate to his characters.

In addition to his writing, John and his brother Hank produce the Vlogbrothers videos (youtube.com/vlogbrothers) and created the online educational series CrashCourse (youtube.com/crashcourse). He also collaborated with YA authors Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle on a book of three intertwined holiday romances.

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Where Are They Going?

The days are getting shorter, the wind is getting colder, and all over the world animals are on the move. This is a great time of year for you and your family to learn more about the earth’s phenomenal animal migrations. Ducks, geese, butterflies, whales, wildebeest and many more kinds of animals make yearly journeys to find better food and shelter as the seasons change. Here is a selection of Library resources on migrations for all members of your family.

For the very youngest, we have some terrific picture books that discuss migrations in very simple terms. April Pulley Sayre always has great non-fiction books for kids, so pick up a copy of Here Come the Humpbacks!  If you enjoy that,  Following Papa’s Song presents whale migrations as more of a story, for even younger readers.

Here Come the Humpbacks by April Pulley Sayre  Following Papa's Song by Giano Marino

Many children’s books have been written about butterfly migrations. Here are a couple of my favorites. Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope features repetition that will stick with your kids for months. Read one of these picture books and then check out the PBS video of butterfly migrations.

Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope  Hurry and the Monarch by Antoine O'Flathart    The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies produced by PBS

Don’t stop with whales and butterflies! Move on to the migrations of turtles, songbirds, caribou, and owls.

The Journey of a Turtle by Carolyn Scrace  Is This Panama? A Migration Story by Jan Thornhill

A Caribou Journey by Debbie S. Miller  Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl by Bruce Hiscock

The book Animal Migration by Jeanie Mebane and the Disneynature Migration DVD both give good overall information about migrations.

Animal Migration by Jeanie Mebane 

Older kids may by interesting in learning how scientists investigate migrations. Tracking Animal Movement is part of our Animal Trackers series of non-fiction books for upper elementary age kids. Moonbird is a great read for older kids or even adults.

Tracking Animal Movement by Tom Jackson  Moonbird: A Year on the Wing with the Great Survivor B95 by Philip Hoose

For adults, David Wilcove’s No Way Home provides an in-depth look at how animal migrations are changing in response to degraded or threatened ecosystems.

No Way Home by David Wilcove

Meet Author/Illustrator Peter Sis

A new book by a favorite author or illustrator is always cause for rejoicing. This time I am celebrating the publication of a new book by Peter Sis. Robinson, shown above, blends the story of Robinson Crusoe with a true adventure from Sis’s childhood and was described in Horn Book Magazine as a “visually stunning and empowering tale.” The large size of this picture book gives Sis plenty of space to showcase his distinctive artwork.

If you are not familiar with Peter Sis, it might be because his works are in several different areas in the Library. We have three of his books in the Easy collection and several books in our non-fiction collections. He has also provided illustrations for chapter books as well as books of poetry by Jack Prelutsky.

Madlenka by Peter Sis  Play, Mozart, Play by Peter Sis

Sis was born behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia and requested asylum in the U.S. during a film-making trip. He wrote movingly about his early years in his illustrated autobiography The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain.

The Wall by Peter Sis

His work as an illustrator of chapter books includes the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson and several books by Sid Fleischman.

The Dream Stealer by Sid Fleischman   The Wind Singer by Wiliam Nicholson

In 2010, he illustrated The Dreamer, a fictionalized account of the life of poet Pablo Neruda, written by Pam Munoz Ryan. His illustrations are an integral part of this inspirational book and provide a magical touch to the story of a boy struggling to find the freedom to express his creativity.

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan & Peter Sis

Peter Sis has written and illustrated several picture book biographies including books about Columbus, Galileo and Darwin. Before Robinson, his most recent book was The Pilot and the Little Prince, based on the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery,  French pilot and writer of the children’s classic The Little Prince.

Starry Messenger by Peter Sis   The Tree of Life by Peter Sis

The Pilot and the Little Prince by Antoin de Saint-Exupery

In 2012, Peter Sis was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Book Award for his lasting contributions to children’s literature. He has one adult book to his credit, The Conference of the Birds. This 2011 book is an illustrated retelling of a classic poem by Persian poet Farid Ud-Din Attar. The picture shown below is from the interior of the book rather than the cover. You can read more here about this incredible book.

The Conference of Birds by Peter Sis