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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Best Graphic Novels of 2017

With me leaving the library at the end of this year, I'm putting together a Best of 2017 list. I'll only be covering two books per category, but that shouldn't stop you from coming in and finding out for yourself which books were our best from the last year, or the rest of our collection, which is also great.

-God Country- 
Donny Cates
 Emmet Quinlan is an old man deep in dementia and Alzheimer's. This is a problem for his son as well as the local cops. When a tornado levels the entire town, Emmet finds himself restored with the God of All Blades in his hand. Now beings from other worlds are on his doorstep, trying to wrest the God of All Blades from his grip, and lose his sanity in the process. This book is a great 
one-shot volume that gives a lot in the small bits of mythology it delivers while at the same time outlining the life of a mere mortal man trying to grasp at the last pit of his person-hood he's been granted.


-Spill Zone-
Scott Westerfeld
The city of Poughkeepsie is a wasteland thanks to toxic spill. What spilled, no one seems to know, but whatever it was has warped reality with the Spill Zone. Only one ex-resident dares brave the Spill Zone, collecting pictures of the twisted remains of the city for top-dollar profits. After being given a million-dollar offer, Addison has a bounty she's not sure she can fulfill if it means having to face what remains of the Poughkeepsie population.


Leila Del Luca
Boetema suddenly develops the ability to astrally project to other worlds, unintentionally possessing the bodies of people light years away. Inotu, her inquisitive brother with a pension for trouble, finds himself on the run after he's caught eavesdropping on an illegal business deal between small town business tycoons and their cyborg bodyguard. When Boetema accidentally gets someone hurt while in another girl's body, the siblings are forced to work together to solve the problems they've created on their planet and others.

-Adventures of Superhero Girl-
Faith Erin Hicks
 Trying to balance between a day job and crime fighting is a run-of-the-mill premise for most super hero tales. Superhero girl deals with that premise incredibly mundanely, but delivers a realistic slice of life, when it come to dealing with a non-super-powered arch-nemesis or your older brother upstaging you in your own city.

-Witch Boy-  
Molly Ostertag
In thirteen-year-old Aster's family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn't shifted and he's still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be. When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help -- as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family and be truly himself.

-All's Faire in Middle School-
Victoria Jamieson
Eleven-year-old Imogene has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she's eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she'll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Imogene has just the quest in mind—she'll go to public school after a life of being home schooled! But it's not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Imogene falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don't) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family's unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Imogene has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.  

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Falling into Autumn

Burning leaves, apple picking, football games, and cooler weather. Fall is finally here!!! Personally, I would be perfectly content to live somewhere where it is fall year round. Without getting into Halloween or Thanksgiving (since those holidays deserve their own respective posts) here are a few of my favorite fall picture books and crafts to share with little ones.

My youngest son at the apple orchard:)
Of course, it would not be fall without a visit to an apple orchard. My family has gone to the same apple orchard every fall for years and we always have an amazing time. (FYI: Klackles in Greenville, Michigan is awesome if you are looking for a fun fall day trip with your kiddos!). Before you go, read some picture books about apples and orchards.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson is a gorgeous, interactive picture book perfect for talking about changing seasons. On the opening page the tree is bare and stark , but a tap from the reader sprouts a green leaf. With each turn of the page there is an action that results in seasonal changes on the tree: pink blossoms transform into ripe red apples, green leaves turn yellow then orange and red before blowing away on a breeze, and naked branches are covered in a blanket of snow.

If you want a few more details about the growth cycle of apples try Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. Colorful collages by Shari Halpern depict an apple tree from the first green leaves to ripe red apples ready to pick. There is even a recipe for apple pie.

You can never have too much apple pie and Amelia Bedelia's First Apple Pie by Herman Parish also includes a recipe at the end of the story. If you grew up reading the original Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish you should give the updated series written by her nephew, Herman, a try. The newer books are beautifully illustrated and feature a young Amelia Bedelia in more modern settings and situations.

With vivid illustrations and simple text Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. This first glimpse into an apple farmer's life will show young readers how Annie picks, sorts, and sells apples and uses them to make scrumptious treats.

Older children will love Deborah Hopkinson's delightful picture book, Apples to Oregon. This tall tale reminiscent of Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan is very loosely based on the real life of Henderson Luelling who did actually transport wagons of fruit trees west via the Oregon Trail in 1847. Hopkinson's hilarious and made up version of Luelling's story stars his daughter, Delicious, and is accompanied by Nancy Carpenter's brilliant oil paintings.

Here is a torn paper pumpkin.
In addition to picking and eating apples, or making yummy treats like homemade apple pie or applesauce, you can make paper plate apples. If you do not want to paint them you can color them with markers or crayons, or use torn construction or tissue paper. Tearing paper into tiny pieces may seem silly but it is actually an excellent pre-writing activity for little ones, because it helps to strengthen the small muscles in their hands and fingers. As you can probably tell, I always have paper plates (small and large) in the craft cupboard because you can use them for so many different things.

Speaking of pumpkins Mr. Murray and Thumbkin by Karma Wilson is a story that I read every fall. I love it because it is one of the few picture books that has a pumpkin in it but is not specifically about Halloween. This retelling of the classic ant and grasshopper fable features two mice. Mr. Murray works all day collecting food and preparing his snug teapot home for winter, whereas, Thumbkin fritters the days away singing and playing. When winter arrives Thumbkin's pumpkin house collapses and Mr. Murray kindly offers to take him in but realizes that he did not store enough food for two mice. Luckily their is plenty of pumpkin to eat and enough seeds to plant more in the spring.

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri is a simple and bright picture book about a hardworking animal preparing for the winter.  Cats, dogs, frogs, and birds repeatedly ask the squirrel to play with them but he is far too busy collecting corn, apples, seeds, etc. to store in his nest. I have yet to meet a toddler who does not enjoy a book that allows them to make animal noises.

Married author and illustrator, Philip and Erin Stead, first collaborated on the adorable picture book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (which won the 2011 Caldecott Medal). In my opinion their second book, Bear Has a Story to Tell, is even more charming. Bear wants to tell a story to his friends but they are all getting ready for the impending winter. Being kind-hearted and generous Bear helps his friends before crawling into his own den to hibernate. When spring finally arrives the friends reunite, but bear can no longer remember his story. Duck, Frog, Mouse, and Mole help him tell a new story about a bear who helped his friends in the fall. Kindness, friendship, and compassion are central themes to A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Bear Has a Story to Tell and I absolutely adore Erin's somewhat muted but beautiful and highly detailed illustrations. And as if I needed another reason to be a fan of Philip and Erin Stead's work they are from Ann Arbor, Michigan (my old stomping grounds: GO BLUE!!!)

Ok, the last book I am going to share is Leaves by David Ezra Stein which as you can see is also about a bear in the fall.  I think that I include one Stein's picture books in every post, because I just love his work. Leaves, Ol' Mama Squirrel, Interrupting Chicken, etc. they are all just so much fun to read. Poor bear thinks that the trees are sick when their leaves begin to fall off. Little ones are sure to giggle when he tries to make them better by sticking the leaves back on. Saddened and drowsy Bear fills a hole with fallen leaves and crawls in. After sleeping all winter Bear is very relieved to see new green leaves budding on the trees.

Leaf rubbings are a super easy and fun fall craft. All you need is plain white paper, old crayons, and leaves (which are laying all over the place this time of year).

Another fun craft that you can do for any season is finger painted trees. I do these with green and pink for spring and summer; red, orange, yellow, and brown for autumn; and white for winter (just use blue paper so the white shows up).
I have also finger painted Indian Corn in story time, but this year I had used paint so often that I decided to glue cheerios. The multigrain cheerios have better colors but you can use regular or get wild and use fruit loops. I cut the corn shape out of old file folder dividers which are stiffer than paper and a cream color. Also, we had about two billion of them donated to the library so I like finding crafts that use them.

If you have been around for any length of time you have probably noticed that I sing a lot. Let me apologize because I am well aware that I do not have a spectacular voice. Even if you cannot carry a tune in a bucket, singing is great way to help babies and toddlers develop language skill not to mention it is just happy and fun. I promise that kids do not really care what you sound like. That is until they are teenagers and are embarrassed by everything you do. Scarecrow Scarecrow (sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and Autumn Leaves are Falling Down (sung to the tune of London Bridges) are songs that I love to use during story time in the fall. They are easy because you already know the tune. Even better they have motions and anyone with a toddler knows the importance of wearing them out.

Here they are:

Scarecrow Scarecrow
Scarecrow, scarecrow turn around
Scarecrow, scarecrow touch the ground
Stand up tall and blink your eyes
Raise your hands up to the sky
Clap your hands, then tap your knees
Turn around and tap your feet
Scarecrow, scarecrow touch your toes
Scarecrow, scarecrow tap your nose
Swing your arms so very slow
Now real fast to scare the crows
Touch your head, jump up and down
Now sit down without a sound

The motions with this one are pretty self explanatory.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves are falling down
falling down, falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down
All around the town
Some are yellow, some are brown
some are brown, some are brown
Some are yellow, some are brown
All around the town
Some are orange and some are red
some are red, some are red
Some are orange and some are red
falling on my head.

With this one I give kids leaves of each color which they have to wave in the air when they hear it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Christian Books and Movies

Christian Books and Movies

Heaven is for Real

Image result for heaven is for real bookWhen Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren’t expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed—a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back. Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery–and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on. He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born. He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read. With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much God loves us. Retold by  his father, but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, Heaven Is for Real offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”
I loved this book and movie because they show God through a child's eyes. To me it is so interesting the way kids think and how they see things. God wants us to have a childlike faith and Heaven is for Real shows that. 

Left to Tell
Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Immaculee’s family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans. Incredibly, Immaculee survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them. It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having discovered the meaning of truly unconditional love—a love so strong she was able seek out and forgive her family’s killers. The triumphant story of this remarkable young woman’s journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.

I first read this book because I was interested in learning about the Rwandan Genocide. After reading Left To Tell I thought it was more about Immaculee's faith. She truly felt God and trusted that He would protect her and He did. It's hard to believe that Immaculee had such strong faith in such a difficult and scary time.  

He Chose the Nails
The wood. The thorns. The nails. Christ's sacrifice has defined the very essence of mankind's faith for the past 2000 years. And now, Max Lucado invites you to examine the cross, contemplate its purpose, and celebrate its significance with He Chose the Nails.With his warn, caring style, Max examines the symbols surrounding Christ's crucifixion, revealing the claims of the cross and asserting that if they are true, then Christianity itself is true. The supporting evidence either makes the cross the single biggest hoax of all time, or the hope of all humanity. More than a book, the campaign includes the first stand-alone workbook, leaders guide, and video package from Max, as well as a praise & worship CD from Here to Him music featuring several of today's favorite Christian artists.
                                     A Year of Biblical Womanhood
Image result for a year of biblical womanhood What is “biblical womanhood” . . . really? Strong-willed and independent, Rachel Held Evans couldn’t sew a button on a blouse before she embarked on a radical life experiment—a year of biblical womanhood. Intrigued by the traditionalist resurgence that led many of her friends to abandon their careers to assume traditional gender roles in the home, Evans decides to try it for herself, vowing to take all of the Bible's instructions for women as literally as possible for a year. 
Pursuing a different virtue each month, Evans learns the hard way that her quest for biblical womanhood requires more than a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). It means growing out her hair, making her own clothes, covering her head, obeying her husband, rising before dawn, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church, and even camping out in the front yard during her period. See what happens when a thoroughly modern woman starts referring to her husband as “master” and “praises him at the city gate” with a homemade sign. Learn the insights she receives from an ongoing correspondence with an Orthodox Jewish woman, and find out what she discovers from her exchanges with a polygamist wife. Join her as she wrestles with difficult passages of scripture that portray misogyny and violence against women. With just the right mixture of humor and insight, compassion and incredulity, A Year of Biblical Womanhood is an exercise in scriptural exploration and spiritual contemplation. What does God truly expect of women, and is there really a prescription for biblical womanhood? Come along with Evans as she looks for answers in the rich heritage of biblical heroines, models of grace, and all-around women of valor.

The Year of Living Biblically
Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.
The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history’s most influential book with new eyes.
Jacobs’s quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All. His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations—much to his wife’s chagrin.
Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.

                                   The Shack
The ShackMackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. I have not read the book because it is always checked out but the movie is amazing. The movie shows God in a different way that makes you think. When I left the movie I truly felt God with me. Even now when I think about the movie I get chills. If you have not seen the The Shack I highly recommend it.  

Heaven is for Real
 Heaven Is for Real for Kids: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Colton Burpo came back from his trip to heaven with a very important message: Jesus really, really loves children. In an effort to reach even more families with this eternally significant story, this runaway bestseller is now told from Colton—kid to kids! Children will receive the same comfort and assurance that so many adults have received from the trade book.
Beautifully illustrated under Colton's direction, he shares his experiences in first person and comments on things that will be important to kids. A letter to parents is included to guide them as they talk to their children about heaven. Scripture along with a Q&A section with answers from the Bible are also included in the book.

I really liked this book because of the artwork. You get to see exactly what Colton Burpo was describing. 
Image result for movie courageous