Kiddosphere: Random Reads: Check Them Out!

Posted by Aaron on

It’s only the middle of February, but I am already overwhelmed with the amount of amazing sounding 2017 titles that are coming our way (or already on our shelves)! I’m still playing catch up with 2016 titles that I missed, so I’ve held off on some 2017 titles, for the most part. From time to time, I will share “Random Reads” posts on my recent reads. It’s always a hodgepodge of picture books, chapter books, YA and some adult nonfiction/fiction from time to time; I hope something here will pique your interest!

I was made aware of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth thanks to the Notable Children’s Books committee’s list, and now I can’t wait to share it in story time (along with Snip! Snap! What’s That?). Alan takes his role as a ferocious reptile very seriously; he takes great care of his sharp teeth and practices his most terrifying faces before settling in for a productive day of scaring the other jungle animals. Alan has QUITE the secret about his teeth, though–which leads to chaos….until he and the other jungle animals work out an understanding. It’s super funny (not scary at all) with big and bright illustrations perfect for grabbing the attention of young listeners.

No one, in my mind, does pastels quite like Kevin Henkes. He is the pastel master. His latest, Egg, has arrived just in time for spring, and it’s stunning. Four eggs hatch, with the fourth egg revealing something very surprising!

Books about children in other countries tend to either be historical fiction, or feature the country (and characters) in its contemporary crisis; these are definitely important to have, but we really need books that feature children in other countries living ordinary lives, which is why I really delighted in Juana and Lucas. Although she lives in Colombia, Juana’s life is quite similar to many American children’s lives: she loves drawing and her dog, Lucas, but finds her foreign language classes (English) difficult and boring. A promised trip to Florida to meet her favorite superhero, Astroman, is a great incentive for her to take her English classes seriously! Spanish words are sprinkled throughout this beginning chapter book.

Tell Me a Tattoo Story is another Notable Books for Children list find; I was touched by how sweet and warm this unusual title is! There’s not much actual story here–a dad and a young boy talk about dad’s tattoos and the importance behind each one–but it’s a very touching family-oriented title that is refreshingly free of fake sentimentality and cloyishness that can creep into parent and child picture books stories.

Need to explain the concept of perception? They All Saw a Cat will get the message across loud and clear. When I looked at the major “best books of 2016” lists that came out November-December, this title repeatedly appeared on list after list. This undoubtedly caused it to go on backorder status, which meant that we didn’t receive it until the week after it received a Caldecott Honor. As a cat “walks through the world,” other animals observe it entering their space. Of course, the dog sees the cat differently than the mouse, the fish, or the bee do, which is brilliantly reflected in the illustrations. This is the rare Caldecott that would work well as a read aloud, which is always a bonus (criteria is only based on illustrations).

I usually don’t get too excited about the latest superhero movie, but I am super pumped for the Wonder Woman movie this summer. (And I wasn’t even a WW fan when I was a kid; the TV show was a few years before my time.) DC Comics is ramping up interest in the movie with an avalanche of Wonder Woman books for kids and teens (and the interest crosses both genders, evidenced by one of our young boy patrons saying, “Wonder Woman! Cool!” when he saw our new Wonder Woman picture book). Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is a gorgeously illustrated YA graphic novel origin story. It’s been super popular at all branches since we received it; I was finally able to grab it off our new shelves in order to review it!

I’m a huge biography fan, so this 2017 biography about the great children’s picture book author, Margaret Wise Brown, was at the top of my to-be-read list. In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown is an intimate and revealing look at this incredibly gifted woman whose ideas for picture books were ahead of her time. As she died tragically young, this is a rather short biography (just a little over 200 pages); Amy Gary’s discovery of unpublished manuscripts, poems, and diary entries round out this enigmatic figure.

I’ll admit that costume drama series like Downton Abbey tend to sweep past me, as do anything involving the Tudors, but anything with Queen Victoria gets my attention. And although I’ve found some parts of ITV/Masterpiece Theater’s Victoria slow-going at parts (now that Albert has been introduced, we’re no longer focusing so much on scandals involving the appointments of ladies-in-waiting, thank goodness), it’s my new appointment television. However, given that it’s a miniseries, some things are rushed (such as Victoria and Albert’s courtship) or not fully explained, which is why you need to read Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire. Yes, it’s a doorstopper, but full of enticing details about the controversies and scandals of Victoria’s early reign (like any eighteen year old would, she immediately seized the opportunity to show everyone who was in charge, beginning with her mother and her mother’s dumb friends), her passionate and tumultuous relationship with husband Albert (and the crippling depression she fell into after his death), and her complicated though mostly loving relationship with her nine children. Baird effectively dispels myths about Victoria as a frigid woman and cold mother, the seesaw relationship she and the British public had with each other, and clearly shows that the editing and even burning of her private papers by youngest daughter Beatrice has permanently damaged our understanding of Victoria (and why we’ll never know what really happened between her and John Brown). If the Victoria miniseries has made you wonder why everyone looked at Her Majesty as if she had three heads when she told them that she wanted a white wedding dress, or if Victoria really fancied a relationship with her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne (Victoria was rather dramatic in her writings and discussions about her thoughts and feelings, but the show probably exaggerates it for dramatic effect), you need to read this book.

My home state, Louisiana, is known for its unique and fascinating food cultures, but barbecue is not one of them. Our neighbor to the west tends to dominate any talk of barbecue, and its influence will be what you find in most BBQ places in the state, I presume (I can name any number of awesome places to eat in southeastern Louisiana, but BBQ joints are not among them–I am sure that I am missing out on awesome barbecue places, but I don’t go back to LA to eat barbecue. I can find excellent BBQ places here.). That plus living in Houston for nearly two years prejudices my barbecue preference for (east) Texas-style barbecue (tomato-based sauce with a preference for brisket, although Texas barbecue is different in other parts of the state). It wasn’t until I moved to Virginia that I discovered other ways of preparing barbecue and barbecue sauce, and it wasn’t until I read Virginia Barbecue: A History that I learned that the history of barbecue points to a Virginia origin, with a massive emigration of Virginians to North Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, and Georgia after the Civil War bringing “authentic Virginia barbecue” (as it was advertised) to these BBQ-strong regions, influencing and creating their unique styles. If you love Virginia history and food history, this is a book for you (although be warned that you will likely have a massive craving for barbecue while reading it!).

Want some last-minute book suggestions for Valentine’s Day? Here are my favorites.

I also recently blogged about career resources (in print) for young readers on the ALSC blog.

Looking for more program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers? Make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

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