There is no doubt that schools have changed over the past fifty or so years, but the changes are not universal. Some schools have few remnants of the past, while others are relatively unchanged. I had high hopes for the book From Chalkboards to Computers: How Schools Have Changed to show this evolution. However, this book demonstrates a serious problem from page one where it defines what a school is in the most basic of terms, the sort of terms one might use to discuss with a child going to preschool. In fact, this book seem s to be aimed at the pre-k-1st grade audience, which means that the real changes have to be simplified to the degree where the before and after blend. Many of the old vs. new are either indistinguishable or point out things that have mostly not universally changed. For instance cafeteria vs lunchroom where kids bring lunch from home or money vs lunch from home or money on account, or saying that teachers now write on white boards or smart boards and not chalk boards anymore. I still see a lot of chalkboards in classes, and I work with classes in a well-off district.
Basically the problem with this book boils down to the attempt to take a complex topic and simplify it down to a series of dichotomies that mask the actual changes that have taken place over the years. I don’t know that children in this age range are interested in this topic as much as older children who would better be able to digest the subtleties.
Meya is interested in whatever you have to say.
Oscar near the weedy garden.
I’m not much of a gardener, most of the things growing in my yard are “wild” even if I did plant them at some time. Recently I spent a sweaty morning trying to pull some of the wildest of the weeds before they could spread to much seed. This made me think of this simple informational picture book: Planting the Wild Garden
by Kathryn O. Galbraith. While many books show how an apple or pumpkin seed becomes a plant and produces fruit, this book places the cycle of seeds into plants in context of the many different ways plants grow and spread. From planting a vegetable garden to catching on someone or floating in the air, this book shows the many ways seeds spread. One of the major points of this book is that all of the creatures in the environment contribute to helping seeds move around to reach as far as possible.
While this book talks a lot about what are essentially weeds, there is no negative tone. Rather this is a sweet and simple book to introduce very young children to the ways seeds move and become plants. I think this book would work well in a classroom or preschool, or even at home learning about seeds. It is a nice story, which kids would enjoy hearing, and not a dry informational book. The watercolors are delicate and beautiful, if sometimes hard to follow the teeny seeds. After looking at my garden I can curse the spread of weeds, but when I read this book I’m left with a much more positive view of nature.
This year I’m hoping to continue my 4th grade booktalk class visits that were so fun and successful last year. I’ve talked with the two teachers I worked with last school year, and one gave me a list of core standards that I could talk about and share books on. I have about 9 topics to cover:
- Folktales, fables, legends, and myths: What are the differences, where can you find them in the library, what are some awesome books in each areas.
- Biographies/Autobiographies: Not just the regular requisite 100 pg assignment.
- Mystery: From sleuths to spooky tales, get a clue here!
- Historical Fiction: From the distant past to recent history, we’ll talk about what it is and some good books to read.
- Non-fiction: There are a TON of super awesome non-fiction books out there that are fun to read and fascinating!
- Fantasy: From talking animals to wizards and everything in between.
- Science Fiction: cool gizmos and aliens, along with travels through time.
- Realistic Fiction: Real kids, real fun, and real situations.
- Fiction: I’m not sure why this is on the list, but sure I can talk about 4th grade fiction.
So here’s to a great school year with lots of awesome book talks!
Oscar's happy, even when the car has broken down by the side of the road!
Since I work in a small branch, I do readers advisory for anyone who walks through the door. Some libraries may not get a lot of requests for book suggestions, but we get a TON. At least three or more times a week an adult asks for suggestions for a “good book” to read. When I’m lucky they are willing to give me more information on what they like, but very often they want to know is if I’ve read any good books lately. Here are some of the adult fiction books I’ve read lately.
Saint’s Gate, Carla Neggers, This is the kind of book I both enjoy to read and to recommend to patrons. Emma, the main character, works for the FBI, but previously she had been a novitiate at a small convent. She is drawn back there by a mysterious message from one of her former companions, which she is unable to receive before her friend is murdered. While she has tried to put her past behind her, this mystery draws both aspects of her world together and forces her to face who she is, was, and wants to be, all the while making her confront her feelings for Colin a fellow FBI agent. I enjoyed the mystery and the relationship, as well as the details of the art history and restoration. While typically I like more romance, and books that are not in a series, this book will appeal to people who like more of a light helping of romance. I look forward to recommending this book to patrons at the library.
Good Girls Don’t, Victoria Dahl. The library where I work only adds a limited quantity of Mass Market Paperbacks to the collection, but Dahl is a local author, so I’m making a point to add some copies. I’ve really enjoyed this Donovan Brother’s Brewery series and think the library patrons will also like it. Tessa’s greatest desire is to keep her family together, which means she feels she must do whatever it takes to keep her two brothers from fighting. This desire is brought into tension when she begins to develop a relationship with a cop. The local brewery and local atmosphere (it is set in Colorado, but this could be my back yard) will appeal to local readers.
Some of my favorite books are Julie Garwood books. She is an author I recommend at the library quite a bit. Romantic suspense is popular and these books are not too intense on the sexuality or violence, something that is very popular in my community.
In The Ideal Man, Garwood takes us on a whirlwind trip from an accidental encounter in the park that plunges our heroine into a world of danger that she thought she had escaped. I found the relationships and suspense to be convincing, but not too intense. I still miss the family drama of some of the earlier romantic suspense, but I felt this was stronger then Sizzle. This book will definitely find a place on our shelves!
Typically it seems that the books that I booktalk are chapter books or non-fiction titles. But any length of book can be promoted with a booktalk–I know I’ve caught more than one person’s interest with just a few words describing a picture book. Here are a few particularly compelling titles:
Monkey Truck, Michael Slack. He’s a monkey and a truck, he races around doing adventurous things, rescuing people, and maybe even eating bananas. If your toddler enjoys animals, trucks, and running around, this is the book for you–plus it has sturdy pages!
Shark vs. Train, Chris Barton, Tom Lichtenheld. Who here likes sharks? How about trains? In an epic battle between Sharks and Trains, who do you think would win? How would they even fight? Who is stronger? Faster? Smellier? Find out who wins in this crazy match up by reading Shark vs. Train.
When Dinosaurs Came with Everything Elise Broach, David Small. Who here’s ever had to run errands with your parents? It can sometimes be boring. What if every time you went somewhere you got a special treat? And what if that treat was a free DINOSAUR!? Would your parents let you keep them? Where would they stay? What would they eat? Read all about what happens in When Dinosaurs Came with Everything.
Part of the War Stories collection, Animal Heroes discusses the various ways animals have served in armed combat through the years. From war elephants to messenger pigeons to bomb sniffing dogs, this book touches briefly on the wide variety of animals that have been a part of war. From the very beginning this book acknowledges that animals have no choice in participating in warfare, and that it may be considered cruelty to force them to participate. With that said, the book goes through the ages to discuss the role of animals in different conflicts, from ancient Rome to modern days. While the cover features a dog, this book focuses attention on a multitude of animals. Readers will enjoy learning about how pigs were used to defeat war elephants by frightening them off, how cats were befriended by WWI soldiers so they’d eat the rats in the trenches, and how today rats are trained to locate landmines. Since this is a huge topic, the coverage of any one animal or incident is brief, but many individual heroes are highlighted.
Gander and the Royal Riffles
Gander is one of the dog heroes profiled. He was the mascot of a Canadian group called the Royal Rifles, and saved the lives of many of the men, eventually giving his life to save the men when he grabbed a grenade that had been lobbed at them and ran with it. He was given a special medal of honor for animals serving in war.
This book would appeal to animal fans, history fans, and those interested in warfare. It is an interesting topic, not one many kids are required to read about, or would know to inquire after, but the book would make interesting reading for kids grades 3-5 if suggested by a librarian or teacher.