Coding Games in Scratch by Jon Woodcock

Everyone should learn how to code.  That is what we are hearing from the tech industry, celebrities, President Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and yes, even Ashton Kutcher.,  a non-profit launched in 2013 and dedicated to expanding access to computer science (especially for women and minorities) believes this so much that they launched Hour of Code, an initiative to get everyone to try coding for just one hour.

Whether or not you believe the hype, learning how to create and design with any coding language can be a fun, rewarding experience.  Writing code exercises the parts of your mind that control logic and problem solving.  And once you know some code, you can teach others, which strengthens your teaching skills!  There are many ways to get your feet wet and as luck would have it, most of them are pretty fun to try out.

At ELPL when we teach any beginning coding workshop we start with Scratch, an amazing online coding experience designed by the brilliant minds at MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.  Scatch is free to everyone and works right in a web browser.  There is no need to download any additional software.  Scratch also uses interlocking colored "blocks" to build code, instead of typing out commands.  This not only helps to reinforce the ideas of process, order and logic, but it also allows very young children who aren't comfortable with a keyboard to get in on the fun.  With Scratch, coders can create animations, games, and musical creations.  The Scratch contains everything you need to get started and become proficient with Scratch, but we've also acquired some great books for the library's collection that showcase many neat Scratch projects.  My favorite, and the favorite of kids in the library's coding workshops, is Coding Games in Scratch by Jon Woodcock.  We have print and eBook copies and soon, we'll have additional copies at the ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio for anyone who wants to drop by and try out Scratch on one of the Maker Studio computers.

Once you have tried out Scratch and are ready for more challenges, try your hand at some of the most popular coding languages, like Python, Ruby, or JavaScript.  With a computer and an internet connection you can use the free site Codecademy which offers immersive and interactive lessons in all of those languages and more.  To support your learning ELPL has lots of great books for all ages:

And finally, coders of all ages and skill levels should try out, an online instruction portal with thousands of coding classes. features complete training courses designed and presented by experts in the field on thousands of topics, not just technology.  To access you will need an library card and PIN number from ELPL.  Here's just a small sample of some of the great courses available on


Ruby Essential Training



Up and Running With Python



Explore Adobe Creative Cloud




JavaScript Essential Training



Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Orion is a boy with a big imagination, and because of that, he also has many fears. Dogs, spiders, monsters, storms, and Grandma (at times) are all frightening to Orion, but there is one thing that frightens him more than all of his fears combined: the DARK.

After trying all sorts of ways to avoid the dark (eating a LOT of carrots, staging a protest, using night vision goggles) and finding no success, Orion decides that he has had enough, and that is precisely when the Dark pays him a visit. Together, Orion and the Dark explore all of the scary nooks and crannies in his house (the back of the closet, underneath the bed) and discover that the scariest places can also be the most fun.

By the end of the night, when the Dark fades away, Orion is sad to lose his new friend, but he soon finds that night time and the Dark will always come back to him.

Author-illustrator Emma Yarlett (Sidney, Stella, and the Moonhas created a beautifully illustrated story about a young boy who, with a little bit of bravery and an unexpected friendship, is able to conquer his fears. Recommended for ages 3-5.

New Children's Titles for the Cloud Library - January 2016

New Cloud titles for kids include:










See the complete list of new Cloud titles for kids here.


Print Exposure Builds Literacy

Print exposure – the act of making written words visible to young children – is a key component in developing children’s reading skills, and a new study confirms that it is an integral part of developing pre-reader's sense of how meaning is attached to words.

In a study conducted at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers found that children who are not yet able to read can already recognize that printed words have specific meanings attached to them. Even without explicitly being taught, young children grasp early on that printed words have unique meanings, demonstrating a “surprisingly advanced knowledge about the fundamental properties of writing.”  In this experiment, when non-reading children were shown printed words (say, “tree” or “puppy”), they were less willing to accept synonyms or incorrect substitutions for those words than when shown a picture representing that word, indicating that they recognize there is a specific and unique meaning linked to the printed word itself. Researchers also found that “preschoolers who are regularly read to have an advantage in learning that written words have specific meanings.”

So what does this mean for you and your emerging reader? The more they are exposed to written words – through being read to, having written words pointed out to them, and having a print-rich environment around them – the stronger their reading skills! Seeing written words is the first step to recognizing the meaning behind them, and then stringing those words into sentences. So when you point out written words during a visit the grocery store, share a book before bedtime, or check out books and attend storytimes at the library with your pre-reader, you’re helping build literacy skills that will last a lifetime!

ToddlerTime Tuesdays!

East Lansing Public Library

ToddlerTime is an active storytime designed to build pre-reading skills in toddlers.

Upcoming sessions of ToddlerTime:

  • November 29
  • December 6
  • December 13




The Skunk by Mac Barnett and Patrick McDonnell

A picture book pairing of Mac Barnett and Patrick McDonnell has to be good, right? Well, it is. I first picked up this book because of the title and the rather adorable McDonnell style, fluffy-tailed wonder of a skunk depicted on the cover.  I realize that I am fairly rare in my admiration of skunks, both imaginary and real, yet this one is so stinkin’ cute, it is nearly impossible not to like him!

Throughout this adventure, McDonnell’s expert use of color complements Barnett’s text cleverly, further enhancing a subtle change of the skunk’s name from “the skunk” to “my skunk”.  Many readers will find charm, humor, and sweetness in this simple story of role reversal and learning to appreciate someone, or something, unfamiliar or even feared.  We can all benefit from such an enjoyable reminder that shifting perspective from time to time allows us to see the world anew.

2016 Children and Teen Book Award Winners

The American Library Association announced the 2016 youth media award winners today, including recipients of the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and Coretta Scott King medals! Check out some of the award winners and honor books below, and find your next great read here at ELPL!

John Newbery Medal (Recognizing outstanding contribution to children’s literature)

Winner: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Honor books: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. 


Randolph Caldecott Medal (Recognizing distinguished American picture books for children)

Winner: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, written by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Honor books: Trombone Shorty, written by Troy Andrews and illustrated by Bryan Collier; Waiting, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes; and Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de le Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. 


Coretta Scott King Author Book Award (Recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults)

Winner: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Honor books: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds; and X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon.


Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award (Recognizing an African American illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults)

Winner: Trombone Shorty, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Troy Andrews

Honor books: The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; and Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson and written by Matt de la Peña .


Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in literature written for young adults)

Winner: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Honor books: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez; and The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick.


See a full list of awards and recipients at the ALA website.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Book List for Kids

On Monday January 18th, the library will be closed in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. If you are looking for books to share with your young readers that explore Dr. King's life, legacy, and the civil right's movement, check out the following titles, available for checkout here at ELPL.

Babies & Toddlers

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara


Preschool & Kindergarten

Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Margaret McNamara

We March by Shane W. Evans

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport

My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart by Angela Farris Watkins


1st – 3rd Grade

Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Trudi Strain Truet

Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Rebecca Rissman

Love Will See You Through by Angela Farris Watkins

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange

Women Who Broke the Rules: Coretta Scott King by Kathleen Krull

My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris

I Have a Dream illustrated by Kadir Nelson (ebook)

Martin and Mahalia by Andrea Davis Pinkney

I Am Martin Luther King Jr. by Brad Meltzer


4th – 6th Grade

A Dream of Freedom by Diane McWhorter

Martin Luther King Jr. In His Own Words by Ryan Nagelhout

Martin Luther King Jr.: A Great Civil Rights Leader by Jennifer Fandel

M.L.K.: A Journey of a King by Tonya Bolden

I See the Promised Land by Arthur Flowers

Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.? by Bonnie Bader (ebook)

Miss Eva's Favorite Picture Books of 2015

It’s hard to start a new year without spending a little bit of time looking back on some of the previous year’s bests, and for a children’s librarian, that means books! So without further ado (and in no particular order besides alphabetical by author), here are some of my favorite picture books that were released in 2015. Find them all at ELPL!

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett. Leo is a friendly house ghost -- but when a family moves into his house, and tries to get rid of him, he leaves and roams the city looking for a friend.

The Skunk by Mac Barnett. A man is followed by a skunk all day -- until the tables turn.

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. Princess Pinecone would like a real war horse for her birthday, but instead she gets a plump, cute pony. But sometimes cuteness can be a kind of weapon, especially in a fight with dodgeballs and spitballs and hairballs and squareballs.

Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd. In pictures and simple text the book presents unexpected opposites, like a big zebra sweeping with a little broom, or a big lion riding in a tiny wagon.

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt. One day, Duncan is happily coloring with his crayons when a stack of postcards arrives in the mail from his former crayons, each of which has run away or been left behind, and all of which want to come home.

The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena. A young boy rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things.

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman. When her parents find a baby wolf on their doorstep and decide to raise him as their own, Dot is certain he will eat them all up until a surprising encounter with a bear brings them closer together.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry. Stick and Stone are both lonely until Pinecone's teasing causes one to stick up for the other, and a solid friendship is formed.

The Only Child by Guojing. In this wordless story, a young girl traveling from her city apartment to her grandmother's country home becomes lost and enters a fantastical world in the clouds.

Waiting by Kevin Henkes. An owl, a puppy, a bear, a bunny, and a pig wait for marvelous things to happen.

Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler. Tiring of his everyday routine at home, a little boy decides to explore the depths of his pond with his dog, where he discovers a not-so-ordinary world, ready to be explored.

Float by Daniel Miyares. A beautiful wordless picture book about a boy who loses his paper boat in the rain. 

Lizard From the Park by Mark Pett. When a lizard hatches from the egg Leonard finds in the park, he names it Buster and takes it all around the city, but Buster grows bigger and bigger until Leonard realizes he must devise a way to return his pet to the deepest, darkest part of the park and set him free.

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss. A posthumously published work by Dr. Seuss in which a boy wants all of the pets in a pet store, but he and his sister can choose only one.

Books & Bagels at 2.0 - January 2016

ELPL 2.0 Maker Studio - Downtown East Lansing

A great way to share the love of reading with your friends.  Books & Bagels is a discussion group just for 4th through 6th graders.  Each month we discuss a book and enjoy bagels and a hands on activity.  January's book is El Deafo by Cece Bell

Thank you to Panera Bread of Frandor for providing the bagels, and many thanks to a generous, anonymous donor for providing copies of Books & Bagels titles to the first 15 program participants.

Upcoming titles for Books & Bagels in 2016:


Please note, Books & Bagels will be held at the ELPL Maker Studio, located in the Marriott Hotel.

East Lansing Marriott at University Place
Suite 212
East Lansing, MI  48823

The move is due to the library's renovation project which begins in December.

Want to know more about the renovation of the East Lansing Public Library?  Visit:




Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

I first picked up this book when I noticed it was a future story for our Books & Bagels group, and then was further convinced to read it when I saw a review by my favorite author, Neil Gaiman, on the cover.

Thankfully I trusted in his review and our children's librarian Eva who picked it, because this book was an absolute delight to read. It features a 12-year-old girl named September who is whisked away from her mother in Omaha, Nebraska to go to Fairyland, where she has all sorts of adventures and finds true friendship with a wyvern named A-L (his father was a library, of course) and water-loving marid named Saturday along the way. The prose reads magically (almost in a Gaiman-esque way) and kept my attention throughout the story. Each chapter features a different adventure that September and her friends go on, from meeting alchemists in a land that is forever Autumn, to a bathhouse with a lonely soap golem, all part of the main goal of the story, which is September retrieving a sword for the Evil Marquess.

Like I said, this book is a delight, and a stunning example of why adults shouldn't neglect YA and children's fiction! This book was one of my favorites this year, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a tale with a very happy ending.

Bread and Jam For Frances by Russell Hoban

Russell Hoban’s Frances series is a staple of my childhood, and this book just might be my favorite of them all. The title character, Frances, is a lovable but imperfect badger who’s sometimes a little too stubborn and headstrong for her own good (hmm, I wonder why I related to her as a child…). In Bread and Jam For Frances, she decides that the only food she wants to eat is, drumroll: bread and jam. Her parents indulge her, and while at first it’s fun to have her favorite food for every meal, she quickly realizes that she’s missing out on a whole wide world of delicious food.

Although these books were written in the 1960s, their charm and heart and humor stand the test of time. I love that Frances is always allowed to make her own mistakes and learn her own lessons (usually in a way that’s both funny and heartfelt). I’ve been holding onto my childhood copy of this book my whole life, and whenever I pick it up to thumb through it, I remember why.