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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Winter is Coming. Books for a Cold, Winter's Day.


Winter is coming and some books are best read on a cold, blustery day or night. The Game of Thrones books that I have recently been devouring have their fair share of snow and ice scenes but I have always thought that any book by Charles Dickens is best read in the winter. There is something about the despair and struggle of his characters to a better life that makes me think of winter.

So here are some books that will make you cozy up to the fire place with something hot to drink.

Picture Books

The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett. A fun story where several animals try to squeeze themselves into a mitten. Will they all fit inside?

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. A delightful book in rhyme describing what snowmen do at night while everyone is asleep.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. What every kid hopes to wake up to. The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. On a cold, winter night many animals gather to party in the cave of a sleeping bear. But what happens if the bear wakes up?

Kid's Chapter Books and Nonfiction

7 Professors of the Far North by John Fardell. Sam finds himself involved in a dangerous adventure when he and his new friends set off for the Arctic to rescue kidnapped professors from a mad scientist.

White Star: A Dog on the Titanic by Marty Crisp. Sam, a passenger on the Titanic, volunteers to help care for the dogs in the ocean liner's kennel and becomes fast friends with the Irish setter of the ship's owner.

I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer by Carole Weatherford. True, dramatic story of Henson's journey with Robert Peary to the North Pole.

Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears Will Never Be Neighbors by Elaine Scott. No penguin has ever lived at the North Pole, nor any polar bear at the South Pole. Find out why in this lively and informative book.


Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn. What is more entertaining than a winter scavenger hunt in New York City? This story is told in the alternating voices of Dash and Lily.

Shackleton's Stowaway by Victoria McKernan. My feet were cold the entire time reading this book. The tragedies and triumphs of a stowaway aboard Shackleton's ship Endurance during his 1914 Antarctic expedition.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.

Trapped by Michael Northrup. Seven high school students are stranded at their New England high school during a blizzard. Will they survive?


Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A snowstorm provides the backdrop for this story of the murder trial of a man accused of killing a local fisherman in December 1954.

Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Love alternate timelines? Try this murder mystery set in the imaginary Alaska Jewish homeland.

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Alaska, 1920. A childless couple builds a child out of snow. The next day the snow child is gone and in its place they see a blonde-haired girl running through the woods. Who is she?

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Love locked-room type mysteries? A journalist in Sweden goes to investigate the disappearance of a girl 40 years ago for her grieving uncle.

Happy winter reading!

CATEGORIES: Books , Winter , Children's Books , Teens , Reading , Susan M.
POSTED: 11:07:00 AM |

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A House Divided

A House Divided:  American Civil War History Resources for Kids

The Storm Before AtlantaAfrican-American Soldiers in the Civil War

This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the U.S. Civil War engagement the Second Battle of Bull Run or, as the Conferderates called it, the Second Battle of Manassas.  Many lives were lost during the battle and the resulting Confederate victory gave confidence to the Conferderates to go on the offensive.  The offensive lead to the Conferderate Army marching into Maryland and Pennsylvania.  The result was the Battle of Antietam (the bloodiest single-day battle in American history) and, the following year, the Battle of Gettysburg, a major turning point in the war. There's nothing like a personal visit to these national parks (Manassas, Antietam,and Gettysburg) to learn about history right where it happened.

I've been interested in the U.S. Civil War for many years because it is such an intriguing chapter in American history.  It was a war that pitted a nation against itself, a war that divided families and friends, and it was a war about ending slavery.  Of course the 150th Anniversary is a great way to get kids interested in the Civil War.  I've found many engrossing books (both fiction and nonfiction) and easy-to-use databases that can give kids a good glimpse into the human struggles that went on during this war both on the battlefield and on the homefront.

There are many absorbing children's historical fiction stories.  Bull Run is a novel that describes the first major battle of the Civil War.  Besides fighting on land, the war was also fought at sea which is central to the story Iron Thunder:  The Battle Between the Monitor & the Merrimac.  As the war dragged on for years it affected homefronts like the one protrayed in Across Five Aprils.  A great story for younger readers, based on true events, is From Slave to Soldier.  For older kids The Storm Before Atlanta focuses on an alliance that is formed between a Union drummer boy, a young Confederate soldier, and a runaway slave. 

There are also many nonfiction books to engage kids.  Two Miserable Presidents:  Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War not only provides insight on the lives of Union President Lincoln and Confederate President Davis, but also has general information about Civil War presented in a fun way with cartoons, illustrations, maps, and diagrams.  Along those same lines kids will enjoy You Wouldn't Want to be a Nurse During the American Civil War!:  A Job That's Not for the Squemish.  Women played important wartime roles.  Two great titles are Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent:  How Daring Slave and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War and Nurse, Soldier, Spy:  The Story of Sara Edmonds, A Civil War HeroAfrican-American Soliders in the Civil War is a good look at the bravery of these men and their struggles both on and off the battlefield.

Teens should check out this Civil War page from Teensite.  It has excellent book suggestions, area civil war sites & events, informational websites, and more.

MCPL has authoritative, easy-to-use databases such as History in Context - U.S., History Reference Center, and the Oxford African American Studies Center.  Be sure to also check out 150 Years Ago This Week - Maryland in the Civil War.

During this conflict Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech known as the Gettysburg Address. In that speech he expressed his hope "that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Two Miserable PresidentsYou Wouldn't Want to Be A Nurse During the American Civil War

CATEGORIES: Susan M. , Children's Books , History , Teens
POSTED: 2:28:00 PM |

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Crossover Appeal

beach reading, a photo from the flickr.com photostream of aafromaa
I have a reading confession to make… I read promiscuously. I just can not limit myself to one genre, one style, one writer, one age level or even one format. I read cereal boxes and I read articles from the New York Times. I read books about social psychology and I read blog posts of all sorts. I listen to books in the car and I read them on my nook© in bed. Heck, I even “read” TV shows and movies because I am hearing impaired and use closed captioning. Reading has kept me awake all night, it has made me late to work and it has always been one of my favorite escapes when life gets rough. One of the great pleasures of being a librarian (for me) is getting to introduce people to new authors or genres that they have never before tried. It may not lead to a long-term reading relationship but it could spark some flirting with different styles.
Adults, allow me to introduce you to Young Adult Fiction. You may dismiss this section of the library as being beneath your adult tastes… but you will also be missing some great stuff! Young adult fiction is a booming category these days, especially with the recent blockbuster print and film successes of Twilight and The Hunger Games.  Here are a few suggestions for testing the waters:
cover image of wintergirls by laurie halse anderson


Books by Laurie Halse Anderson, especially Speak, Twisted and Wintergirls. These books set in contemporary times are powerful tales dealing with serious topics. Her portrayal of teens is sympathetic and realistic without being overly dramatic or exaggerated. Try Anderson if you like Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve or Chris Bohjalian.




cover image of out of the dust by karen hesse

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Young Billy Jo’s harsh life in dust bowl Oklahoma during the Depression is told in poetic form. Readers who liked Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time should definitely seek this one out.




cover image of graceling by kristin cashore

The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy—Graceling, Fire and Bitterblueby Kristin Cashore. This trilogy packs a punch with action and strong female protagonists who use both physical strength and supernatural powers in battle. The trilogy is set in a well-crafted fantasy world rich with political intrigue and a bit of romance. Fans of George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Orson Scott Card or Ursula LeGuin should give these a try or look for books by Garth Nix (Abhorsen series), Tamora Pierce (Beka Cooper series) and Catherine Fisher (Incarceron series).

Other great teen books for adults to try:
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Bog Child by Siobahn Dowd
So, go on... have a book fling with a younger book.  I promise not to tell your regular books.
CATEGORIES: Books , Reader's Advisory , Reading , Teens , Tina V.
POSTED: 11:54:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007