Search This Blog

Monday, June 19, 2017

Beginning Chapter Books

Recently I have had a number of kindergarten and first grade teachers, as well as parents, asking me for recommendations of beginning chapter books. You know, something other than Junie B. Jones or Magic Tree House. Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with either of these series but, come on, there are so many other amazing books for kids just starting to read chapter books.

1. Galaxy Zack by Ray O'Ryan  
I confess that I ordered the first Galaxy Zack book because the title character on the adorable cover looks just like my son, Zane. I have continued to order the Galaxy Zack series because they are adorable and incredibly funny. O'Ryan puts a unique spin on the "new kid in school" plot by setting the books in the year 2020 and 8 year old, Zack Nelson, has just moved from earth to the planet, Nebulon. Kids will love all of the futuristic technology, from flying cars to I.R.A. (Indoor Robotic Assistant), and there are just enough illustrations to ease that transition to chapter books.

2. Captain Awesome by Stan Kirby
Eugene McGillicuddy (how can you not love a character with a name like that) is obsessed with comic books and superheroes. He even has his own superhero alter ego, Captain Awesome. Along with his best friend, Nacho Cheese Man (who has an unlimited supply of spray cheese with which to battle bad guys) and Turbo, the super hamster, Captain Awesome will protect the town of Sunnyview from evil. It is impossible not to giggle as Eugene (aka Captain Awesome) grapples with villains like the Fun E. Racer, Queen Stinky Pants, and the Baron and Baroness von Booger.

3. The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler
I couldn't resist throwing in a series about a library.  Edgar Award winning author, Dori Hillestad Butler, has written more than 40 books for children. The Haunted Library is her most recent series and revolves around a young girl named Claire who lives above the town library and is able to see ghosts. In this sweet and not really scary mystery series Claire and her ghostly best friend, Kaz, form the C&K Ghost Detectives to investigate hauntings around town

4. The Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn
If you have read any of my posts you know that I am a huge fantasy nerd. The Kingdom of Wrenly is the perfect series to introduce young readers to the fantasy genre. The series follows 8 year old Prince Lucas and his best friend, Clara, who is the daughter of the castle seamstress, on their fantastical adventures throughout the magical kingdom of Wrenly.Outside the walls of the palace is Primlox, the land of the fairies, Burth is the island of trolls, dragons inhabit Crestwood, and wizards rule in Hobsgrove.
5. The Princess in Black by Shannon  & Dean Hale
Shannon Hale has written numerous books for kids and teens, including the 2006 Newbery Honor book, The Princess Academy. The Princess in Black series (which Shannon co-wrote with her husband, Dean) which came about after their young daughter insisted that black was not a girl color and it could definitely not be worn by princesses. Enter Princess Magnolia, who is right at home wearing frills and ruffles while dining with a duchess. When danger threaten the kingdom, though, she dons an all black disguise and uses her formidable fighting skills to kick monster butt back all the way back to Monster Land.

I love Shannon Hale's books because they all feature strong, resourceful, and intelligent female characters. Two of my favorites are Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack. These two graphic novels (which were also co-authored by Shannon's husband, Dean) are wonderfully unique, steampunk western spins on the classic fairy tales of Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk.  In both books, Rapunzel is not some damsel in distress who is going to wait for someone to rescue her. Instead she uses her lengthy locks to save herself and protect her friends.

6. Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo is another incredibly prolific children's author who has won two Newbery Medals for her books The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses and a Newbery Honor for Because of Winn-Dixie. The Mercy Watson stories are hilarious beginning chapter books with gorgeous color illustrations by Chris Van Dusen. Of course, how can you go wrong with an adorable pig who has a penchant for hot buttered toast and getting into trouble.

7. Nancy Clancy by Jane O'Connor
Young readers who loved the Fancy Nancy picture books will be exited to follow an older Nancy in her own chapter book series. Nancy is now is third grade, but she still loves to stand out in a crowd whether she is starting her own detective agency, playing soccer, or auditioning for the school play. If you have a girly girl and want something that emphasizes positivism, kindness, and friendship Nancy Clancy is a terrific beginning chapter book series.

8. George Brown, Class Clown by Nancy Krulik
Is there a kid out there who would not be attracted to titles like Super Burp, Attack of the Tighty Whities, How Do You Pee in Space?, and World's Worst Wedgie?  George Brown is actually a spin off Krulik's other early chapter book series, Katie Kazoo. The former classmate of Katie Kazoo has moved to a new town and is determined to not just be the class clown at Sugarman Elementary School. It turns out that being funny and staying out of trouble is not always easy (at least for George).

Krulik has recently come out with a new early chapter book series, The Kid from Planet Z, about a family of aliens that has crash landed on earth and now has to blend in with humans.


9. Branches Books by Scholastic
Branches is an entire line of book series published by Scholastic that are targeted at beginning chapter book readers. There is a Branches series for every genre and interest: humor, fantasy, realistic, mystery, animal stories, etc. At our library Owl Diaries, The Notebook of Doom, and Dragon Masters are hugely popular with young readers.

Tank and Haggis Unleashed is a relatively new Branches series that has instantly become one of my favorites. The stories follow the hysterical adventures of a sweet and clumsy Great Dane named Tank and Haggis, a cantankerous Scottie dog. So far there are only two Tank and Haggis books by I found them to be utterly charming.

Branches books are particularly great for reluctant readers.  In addition to the regular text there are plenty of pictures and comic book style pages to keep less enthusiastic readers or those intimidated by full pages of text engaged.

If you have a young reader making the transition from easy readers to chapter books, hopefully, this post has given you some new books to check out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Recently, I attended my first National Library Legislative Day to learn how to advocate for our libraries.  We started the day listening to Hina Shamsi, the Director of the National Security Project for ACLU.  She spoke of her own experience with the Muslim ban. She has lived and worked here legally for over a  decade, however, after the first ban was enacted she was returning to the country after interviewing a person in relation to a case she was working on. She was detained and interrogated at the airport simply because she had a Pakistanie passport.  This story led to the main topic of her speech. To impress upon the importance of libraries in the fight for intelluctual freedom and the importance of real privacy and surveillance law reform. There are several acts that are being reviewed  in the legislature at this time. 
Image result for hina shamsiWith all of the political unrest and threats to the future of libraries I felt the need to become more actively involved. To start, I decided to attend National Library Legislative Day in Washington D.C.
What a great learning experience.
There I was in a room full of more than 500 librarians all with the same goal. To visit with our federal Representatives and ask them to save the funding for libraries. Funding that provides the statewide MeLCat interloan service along with over 4 million in grants to libraries in Michigan. These funds help us provide many of the programs that we offer to the public for free.
The Email Privacy Act: This act fully protects your right to privacy in communictions via emails, text tweets, and cloud-stored files under the fourth admendment act. Currently such forms of communitcation can be accessed without a warrent or probable cause if they are older than six month. It has passed in the house but is still sitting on the senate floor.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: This act is in need of being reformed.  Under this Act, the NSA was able to collect all communitcations and store them for later use. This includes but is not limited to  phone messages and conversations, texts and tweets, and social media comments. The reforms would stop or limit the collection of these communications without a warrent or probable cause.
Why is this important for libraries you ask? Well, as a philosohpy of the library we believe in the freedom of privacy for our patrons. The Email Privacy Act helps to protect your freedom and privacy.
While the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act erodes your freedom and privacy.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: A Man Called Ove

It is always exciting when a book that has been praised by both readers and critics actually lives up to the hype. I probably should not say this as a librarian, but books can sometimes be a lot like movies, and the ones that get rave reviews and win oodles of awards can be exceptionally boring. No, A Man Called Ove is not some action-packed thriller by James Patterson. However, this deceptively simple story will make you laugh, cry, and, most importantly, fill you with hope about the goodness of people.

For those of you have not have heard of A Man Called Ove it hails from Sweden, hence Ove's vehement opinion that  a Saab is the only vehicle anyone should own or drive. Also, I have included this video to answer your biggest question: How do you pronounce Ove? I must confess that I pronounced it "Oh-Vay" the whole time I was reading it.

At first glance Ove is the quintessential crotchety old man: bitter, stingy, gruff, and a wee bit scary. Gradually the reader discovers that Ove is also hardworking, loyal, honest, gentle, and kindhearted (though he would never concur with those last two). With seamlessly incorporated flashbacks Backman reveals the people and circumstances that have shaped Ove into the man that he is. Have the tissue box handy for some of these flashbacks because Ove's life has been fraught with tragedy. In fact, I encouraged my 15 year old daughter to read A Man Called Ove and she came home from school very upset with me. I asked her what I did and she told me: "You made me read that book and I started crying right in class and everyone kept asking me what was wrong!" Personally, I see nothing wrong with crying over fictional characters; I do it all the time.

I promise that the book is not all a downer, though. Ultimately, A Man Called Ove is about love and the remarkable connections a man who has given up on life makes with neighbors, strangers, friends, and even a bedraggled cat. Poignant and remarkably honest, A Man Called Ove is a book that you will be thinking about weeks after you read the last page.

Now is the perfect time to pick up a copy of A Man Called Ove because it is the 2017 selection for  On the Same Page in Ionia County. What that means is that libraries throughout Ionia County will be hosting book clubs and special events revolving around the novel. Portland District Library will be showing the movie, A Man Called Ove, on May 18th at 6pm in our community room and there will be a book discussion May 25th that will include special treats from an Iranian bakery.