Eva's blog

Storytime Kits Are Here!

Storytime Kits at ELPLELPL is excited to announce the debut of our newest section of the children’s collection: storytime kits! Storytime kits are just what they sound like – collections of books, music, and activities with a central theme that let you have your own mini storytime at home. With kit themes like animals, colors, ABCs, and more, you and your little readers are sure to find a fun kit to take home and enjoy.

Each kit comes with several books, a music CD, an interactive toy, and a tips sheet featuring songs, rhymes, and activities caregivers can use to supplement the materials and have their very own storytime at home (or in the park, or on the go! The possibilities are endless). These tip sheets focus on the five key concepts of the Every Child Ready to Read program, which emphasizes the importance of reading, writing, talking, singing, and playing in pre-readers. Engaging in these activities through stories, music, and play – both at home and at the library – builds a foundation for life-long reading skills.

Storytime kits can circulate out like all other library materials, and are checked out for 3 weeks. Don’t see a storytime kit on the shelves? They may be checked out, but you can place a hold on them as you would any other library materials so that they will be reserved for you when they are returned. Find all our storytime kits here!

These kits are funded by a generous grant from the East Lansing Rotary Club – many thanks for their support!

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!)

Okay, so this book had a head start with me, because I love alligators and crocodiles, so any picture book where they're a main character already has a leg up.

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Okay, I love Kate Beaton. I’ve already recommended her first picture book, The Princess and the Pony, here. I hoarded our copy of Hark! A Vagrant! for several weeks.

My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo

It’s always such a nice, warm-and-fuzzy feeling to come across a new picture book that’s sweet, well-written, engaging, and that you can tell immediately is going to resonate deeply with many of its readers, and My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo is exactly such a book.

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett

There are certain (okay, several) picture book authors and illustrators whose books I will automatically check out whenever they publish something, and Mac Barnett is definitely one of them. I love so many of his stories (Leo: A Ghost Story and Count the Monkeys, anyone?), so when his newest book, How This Book Was Made, was released, I knew I had to snag it. I did, and as I expected it would be, it was so much fun!

This is a book that’s all about the process of making a picture book – how an author writes, how an editor edits, how an illustrator illustrates, and how all of those things come together to make the books we love. In other hands this might sound like a somewhat dull premise, but this book has Barnett’s goofy and insightful sense of humor all the way through, and Adam Rex’s illustrations match that tone perfectly. There’s plenty of information as well as silliness for little readers as well as grown-ups to love here, and it just might spark an interest in a kiddo who can see themselves writing their own books some day!

Find How This Book Was Made and other works by Mac Barnett here at ELPL.

Back to School Reads

It’s hard to believe that summer is over and another school year is starting! Get back into the swing of things (or ready for your very first day) at elementary school by checking out our list of back-to-school picture books and early readers!

And remember that while we’re closed to complete the library renovation, you can still order books and pick them up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and our digital collections are always available at elpl.org!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Is there anything more exciting and more terrifying than when one of your favorite books (dare I even say, favorite book, full stop?) gets made into a movie? It’s either going to be amazing and wonderful and everything you’ve ever dreamed of, or a deplorable affront to something you love. I’m in the throes of that emotional roller coaster right now, with the news that Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is currently being adapted into a movie -- although I am buoyed by the fact that it happens to be starring one of my current actor-obsessions, Sebastian Stan (or, the guy who plays The Winter Soldier in the Captain America movies). As you can imagine, I’m both incredibly excited and highly nervous to see the end product, but in the meantime, it’s a great excuse for me to reread the book for the (redacted)th time.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of 18 year old Mary Katherine (or Merricat) Blackwood and her older sister, Constance. They’ve lived in seclusion in their enormous family estate with their elderly uncle Julian for the last 6 years, ever since the rest of their family was poisoned with arsenic at dinner. Constance was arrested but acquitted for the murders, and ever since, their family has been ostracized from the nearby village. Merricat is the only one in the household who ventures into society for groceries and library books, and whenever she does she’s met with taunts and vitriol. Despite the animosity Merricat feels for their neighbors (she spends a lot of time wishing they would all die), she's very content in her life with her sister, uncle, and cat Jonas. She uses wards and homemade magic to protect them from intruders, but when one ward fails, she knows that change is coming -- which it does, in the form of their estranged cousin Charles Blackwood. Charles is determined to establish himself as the head of the family and draw the sisters back out into society, but Merricat is suspicious of his intentions, and as exposure and calamity inch closer and closer to her carefully safeguarded life, it seems like her suspicions will prove correct.

It’s technically a novella, so it’s a short read, but I swear, every time I read it I discover some new layer to it that I’ve never considered. Shirley Jackson is, in my opinion, one of the greatest writers ever (seriously, even if you didn’t love reading The Lottery in high school, check out The Haunting of Hill House, where she basically invents the genre of the haunted house ghost story). She does American Gothic fiction like no others, and for a book with absolutely nothing supernatural, it’s still deeply, eerily unsettling. Jackson puts forth the idea that the creepiest things in the world are both right in your own backyard while still being nothing you would ever suspect so gloriously and with the best turns of phrase that I’m now banned from reading any out loud to my husband for too many interruptions that start with “Okay but listen to this amazing sentence!” I could gush for many more paragraphs (the English major in me is showing), but I’ll just end by saying that you can find Shirley Jackson’s works, including Hoopla and Overdrive eAudiobook versions of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, here at ELPL.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

Thank you to Kelsey at ELPL for showing me The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas! This picture book tells the sweet story of a man who uncorks bottled messages set adrift in the ocean and delivers them to their destination, all while secretly hoping to one day find a message that’s meant for him. When he comes across an invitation to a party happening the next day with no name attached to it, he sets out to find the recipient – and finds friendship of his own in the process. It’s a sweet book with beautiful artwork, and although it’s definitely one of those picture books that was probably written with the intention to appeal foremost to adults, little ones will nonetheless enjoy this comforting, whimsical book and its gorgeous illustrations. Find it here at ELPL!

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

As a children’s librarian, I read (and love) tons of books for kids and young adults, but I still find myself needing to return to my English-major roots and pick up a long literary novel from time to time. And I’m so glad that I happened upon Elena Ferrante’s series The Neapolitan Novels as my most recent choice. I’ve heard them hyped up for a while, but didn’t know much about them going in, and yet from the first 20 pages of the first installment, My Brilliant Friend, I was hooked.

The series of four books follows two childhood friends, Elena and Lila, as they grow up together in Naples. The scope of all four books – a daunting 1,700 pages between them that I nevertheless cruised through entirely in under a month – is massive, and follows the trajectory of their entire lives. Through this, they deal with an enormous swath of issues: family, education, marriage, motherhood, class, politics, personal and professional achievement, female identity, violence, socio-political upheaval, what it means to be from a place, what it means to be. The writing itself is brilliant, insightful and incisive, and completely unflinching –Ferrante refuses to pull even one single punch. There’s a reason so many reviews have referred to this series as a “masterpiece.”

Adding to its impressive impact is the fact that Ferrante writes under a pseudonym; she gives no clues to her identity, nor any in person interviews, and so no one is quite sure of who she is, save for that she is a woman from Naples. It’s an intriguing mystery, but I tend to agree with the idea that I’ve heard Ferrante quoted on – that once a book exists in the world, it doesn’t need an author, it needs only to tell its story. These books do exactly that, and near perfectly.

The series starts with My Brilliant Friend, followed up by The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. Find all of Ferrante’s works here at ELPL.

Babies Learn Language Through Social Interaction

I’m always on the lookout for more information on how little ones learn through play and interaction, and this article on gaze shifting in babies recently caught my eye (no pun intended!). Based on a study that appeared in Developmental Neuropsychology, it discusses evidence for the idea that we can gauge when babies are making mental connections for later in life based on tracking their eye contact, especially as it shifts between objects (such as toys and books), and the adult they’re with.

So what does that mean for how little ones learn? According to the study’s coauthor Rechele Brooks, “Our findings show that young babies’ social engagement contributes to their own language learning—they’re not just passive listeners of language. They’re paying attention, and showing parents they’re ready to learn when they’re looking back and forth. That’s when the most learning happens.”

There are many implications for this information, especially as it pertains to learning and language development (including foreign language building) in children, but it particularly reminds me of the importance of the services libraries offer for families and children. Libraries are a great place for little ones to interact and play, both with their grown-ups and other children, on their own or at storytimes and playgroups, all in a rich literary environment. And this study confirms it: “Babies learn best from people,” Brooks says. “During playtime your child is learning so much from you. Spending time with your child matters. Keeping them engaged—that’s what helps them learn language.”

So when you bring your babies to the library for storytimes, read and play together, and spend quality time interacting and sharing, you’re not only fostering a strong relationship with your little one, you’re setting them up for a lifetime of learning, literacy, and growth!

There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith

I picked this book up as I was going through my semi-regular scouring of the lists of potential 2017 Caldecott Award contenders (which is a great way to stumble across new and wonderful picture books). Out of the most recent stack I checked out, There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith was by far and away my absolute favorite. I expected to like it (I’ve been a fan of Lane Smith’s work since my own childhood when he teamed up with Jon Scieszka to illustrate several of his books, including The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs), but even with that expectation, I was blown away by just how beautiful and touching this book turned out to be.

The premise of the book is straightforward enough: we see an unnamed, leaf-clad child in nature as he encounters different groups of animals and learns the names for their various communities (a pod of whales, an unkindness of ravens, and so on). We watch him join in with these different communities and take part in their rituals and experiences before moving onto the next. What initially seems like it might be a disparate set of encounters turns out to be his journey as he eventually makes his way towards his own group, a – you guessed it – tribe of kids. And although it’s clear that his path is designed to take him towards this tribe where he belongs and recognizes himself in its others members, we still see him joyfully experiencing life among the other groups of animals as he makes his way there, even if they aren’t his own tribe.

The text is sparse while still being engaging, and the illustrations elevate this book to something really beautiful and immersive. They are rich, textured, and whimsical, with so many things to discover that you almost have to go back to certain pages. From his very first meeting with a colony of penguins, I was hooked on this gorgeous celebration of nature, communities, and the joy we can feel while immersed within both those things.

Find it here at ELPL.

Welcome to Summer Reading!

 

 

 

Welcome to 2016’s Summer Reading Program at East Lansing Public Library! Our theme this year, On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! focuses on games, sports, and activities – a great opportunity to try out a new sport, get outside, play your favorite games, and of course, read! With the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro coming up, this summer is the perfect opportunity to exercise our bodies and our minds.

Why should you take part in the summer reading program? Here are just a few reasons:

  • Summer reading is for everyone! Kids, teens, and adults can all sign up and win prizes every week. Even little ones from birth to age three can take part in our SRP Jr. program!
  • It helps fight the “summer slump,” the decline in reading skills that can occur while kids are out of school for the summer. Setting aside time to read on a regular basis during the summer helps your family stay on top of their reading skills so they can come back to school in the fall at the top of their game and ready to learn. Plus, it’s fun!
  • Weekly prizes! Each week you participate, you can earn a new reward.
  • A chance to get out in the community! We’re partnering with lots of local groups and organizations to offer fun, free weekly programs and activities all around East Lansing.

So what does our Summer Reading Program (SRP) involve?

Starting June 13th, you can sign up and win a cool new prize every week you complete our weekly challenge. Weekly challenges involve reading, answering trivia questions, attending library programs, and more.  You can complete challenges online at elpl.org/summer-reading, or get a paper form from the library.

We’ll also have a fun, free event each week centered on a different sport or game, as well as weekly storytimes and more. Make sure to pick up our summer newsletter to find out when and where they all take place, or visit our online calendar of events at elpl.org/content/events.

And don’t forget to join us at our Summer Reading kickoff party on Tuesday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m. for games, crafts, team sports demonstrations, and more. Plus, bring a picnic dinner, or purchase one from the Grand Grillin’ food truck that will be on site. We can’t wait to see you there and get started on another great summer!

Find out everything you need to know about SRP here: elpl.org/summer-reading

Ida, Always by Caron Levis

In Ida, Always, by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso, we meet Gus and Ida, two polar bears who live together at a zoo in New York City (based loosely on the real life polar bear residents of the Brooklyn Zoo) and spend all their time together. But when Ida suddenly falls terminally ill, they both have to confront the fact that soon she won’t be around anymore, and we see them both grieve in their own ways. Sometimes they play like normal; sometimes they’re angry; sometimes they need to be alone; and sometimes they need to be together. When Ida ultimately passes away, Gus is left to make sense of what her life – and her absence – means.

Ida, Always isn’t the first picture book to address the tough (but necessary) concept of loss and grief in a way that’s accessible and appropriate for children, but this is one of the best versions I’ve come across recently. Both the text and the illustrations hit on the exact right tone; it’s tender without being overly cloying or euphemistic, and it reminds children that it’s okay (and expected) to grieve in a multitude of ways when a loved one dies. And the underlying concept that threads through the story – the idea that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not still with you, illustrated by Gus’ ability to hear the sounds of New York City around him without ever being able to see it – brings a poetic and uplifting sensibility to a tough subject in a way that will resonate with children and adults alike.

This is a touching, carefully done book about grief – a topic that we all grapple with eventually, and sometimes at far too young an age – that will stand the test of time.

(Maybe don’t read this one at your desk if you tend to cry easily like I do, though).

Find Ida, Always at ELPL.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

First, two disclaimers: one, I’m using this review as an opportunity to recommend the whole series, so if you haven’t already, don’t start with The Raven King, which is the newly released fourth and final book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series – start with The Raven Boys and its two follow-ups, The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily Lily Blue. And two: I already knew I was going to love this book even before I read it. I know that might be a little overconfident, because conclusions to series can often be a let-down, but the first three books in this series are not just some of my favorite young adult books, but some of my favorite books of all time in general, so I was pretty confident this installment would be no exception (and I was right – I loved how this book wrapped up the series as a whole).

To briefly sum it up, the books follow Blue Sargeant, the daughter of a psychic, and the four “Raven Boys”, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah (called Raven Boys because they attend a private school whose crest is a raven) she’s tentatively found herself forming a friendship with. The action follows their quest to find an underground sleeping Welsh king named Glendower, who is rumored to be buried in Virginia and who can (hopefully) stop Gansey from meeting his untimely – but maybe unavoidable – death. The search for Glendower (and all the other magical goings-on that sidetrack them) is fascinating, unique, and well-written, but what ultimately makes this book so engrossing is the characters in it. The plot is almost secondary to the five of them navigating their new-found relationships with one another in ways that are thoughtful, hilarious, and heart-wrenching, sometimes all at once. The setting, which is lush and atmospheric from page one, is almost a character itself, and leads to a whole host of new characters, powers, and foes cropping up during the series, some dreamily magical and some heartbreakingly realistic.

This series ticks every box on the list of things that make me love a book series, including:

  • Fully fleshed-out, multi-dimensional characters (who still manage to believably act like teenagers)
  • Creepy magic, ghosts, psychics, and the looming specter of imminent death
  • Co-dependent friends and found families
  • Dreamy, atmospheric writing that has a style all its own
  • Cliché-free romance

(And that’s an abbreviated list).

I already miss these characters so much that I’ve started re-reading the series from the beginning, and in the mark of truly great books, it’s just as good – if not a little better – the second time around. This is a young adult series, but I think it has appeal for adults as well. If you only try one YA series this year, I recommend this one.

Find all the installments in The Raven Cycle here at ELPL.

Spring Reads for Kids

Spring has finally sprung! Ready for a great read about all things spring? Check out the following titles available here at ELPL!

Babies and Toddlers
Baby Loves Spring! by Karen Katz

Preschool and Kindergarten
Springtime In Bugland by David A. Carter
Spring Surprises by Anna Jane Hays
When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes
Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub
999 Frogs Wake Up by Ken Kimura
The Thing About Spring by Daniel Kirk
Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms by Julia Rawlinson
Poppleton In Spring by Cynthia Rylant
Carrot Soup by John Segal
 

1st – 3rd grade
Melody and the Sea Dragon by Katy Kit
Clementine and the Spring Trip by Sara Pennypacker
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies by Erica Silverman
Almond Blossom’s Mystery by Kay Woodward
 

4th - 6th grade
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall (ebook)
Persephone by Sally Pomme Clayton
Tales From A Not So Dorky Drama Queen by Rachel Renee Russel
The Ice Castle: An Adventure in Music by Pendred Noyce

 

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