Posted in Uncategorized

Five Picture Books for Valentine’s Day that Won’t Make you Roll Your Eyes

*This post originally appeared on BookRiot.com.

Picture books about holidays have a tendency to be heavy handed, with a cloying, sticky sweet message that goes in one ear and out the other.  Valentine’s Day is one of the worst offenders:  store shelves overstuffed with chocolate roses and teddy bears, over the top jewelry commercials on TV, and hearts. So. Many. Hearts. If you can look past the red glitter everything, there are actually some really great books to read with your kids this time of year. Books that aren’t always explicitly about Valentine’s Day, but which still send a message that says, in the immortal words of Lin Manuel-Miranda: Love is love is love is love is love is love is love….

 

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and Mike Curato.

worm-loves-wormOh, how I love this story. Worm and Worm just want to get married! But all of the other bugs they know keep insisting that they do the traditional wedding things. Who will wear the rings? Who will wear the dress? Which one is the groom and which one is the bride ? Worm and worm, agreeable as ever, decide that they will both be the bride and the groom, dividing up the traditional garments between them. And when the stodgy grasshopper complains “this isn’t how it’s always been done!” They say, “Well then, we’ll just change how it’s done.” Because worm loves worm. And… cue the tears.

penguin-and-pineconePenguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon.

An adorable penguin finds a pinecone on the ground in the snowy north where he lives, and can’t, for the life of him, figure out what it is! Nevertheless, they spend the day playing together, until the tiny little pinecone sneezes. Penguin realizes his friend cannot stay in the north and must be returned to the forest where he can grow and thrive. So they set out on a journey together. Kids and adults alike love and remember this book. It takes a special kind of talent to make a pinecone look cute, but Yoon pulls it off!

And Tango Makes Three  by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

tangoe makes threeTwo male chinstrap penguins meet in their home at the zoo, fall in love, and decide to mate. When they notice that all of the other penguin couples have eggs to look after, they are sad and confused that they don’t also have an egg. The zookeeper gives them an extra egg from another penguin couple and the happy couple take turns sitting on the egg until it hatches and their family grows by one more. Based on a true story, this now-classic picture book was one of the first to present a same-sex relationship.

 

Somebody Loves you Mr. Hatch

somebody-loves-you-mr-hatchMr. Hatch is a lonely man set in his ways. He follows the same routine, day in and day out, rarely engaging with anyone he sees. One day, a mail carrier drops off a package for him that contains a giant, heart-shaped box filled with candy and a small slip of paper that reads “Somebody Loves You.”  Well, Mr. Hatch is transformed by the knowledge that somebody cares for him and becomes a completely different person overnight. But when a sudden change in his fortune occurs, will Mr. Hatch revert back to his lonely ways? Read it and see! A charming classic that never gets old, no matter how many times I read it.

 

One Love by Cedella Marley. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

one-loveWritten by Bob Marley’s daughter, this ebullient, gorgeously illustrated book is adapted from the iconic song. The story follows one determined little girl as she shows her family and her community how love and friendship can improve everyone’s life. The illustrations by Brantley-Newton are so vibrant and smile-inducing, that it is nearly impossible not to feel better when looking at this book. And of course, if you’re reading with a little one, what better time to introduce them to the song.

Posted in Five Minute Book Prescriptions, YA

Five Minute Book Review/Prescription: My Lady Jane

my-lady-janeSometimes you just need a distraction. And that is exactly where I found myself when I picked up My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows.  Having just started and abandoned no less than three other books (which shall remain nameless!), I was starting to feel desperate.

I was definitely attracted to this book when I saw the cover. But when I read the description, I was ALL IN.  My Lady Jane tells an alternate version of the fate of Lady Jane Grey, who was, in actual history, queen of England for nine days before being beheaded by Mary Tudor, aka Bloody Mary. In this retelling of  Tudor history, the three authors have followed the facts to a certain point before tossing it aside and writing their own, happier ending for Jane Grey.

This in itself is an intriguing and fun idea, but the authors have taken the idea even further out there, by reimaging the struggle between Catholics and Protestants as one between Edians and non-Edians. What, pray tell is an Edian? Edians are humans who have the ability to turn into animals. Some Edians have masterful control and can change at will, whereas others experience their “change” as more of a curse, and have no power over when it comes or goes. Some people in England find Edians to be abominations and would like to see them all rounded up and imprisoned or killed. Others, Lady Jane Grey included, would like to see a hospitable and collaborative relationship between Edians and Non-Edians.

The authors have made no secret of how much fun they had writing this book, and it is evident in the prose. Readers are treated to three points of view in alternating chapters: Lady Jane Grey’s, her new husband Gifford Dudley’s (an Edian who spends his days as a horse) and the sickly teenage King Edward Tudor’s. All three are an absolute delight to spend time with and their anachronistic, hilarious, sarcastic and sweet world view will make you love them. Indeed, I was so sad to reach the end of this book. In all honesty, I could not love it enough.

Prescription: The perfect read for anyone looking for something humorous, romantic and  good natured, but still steeped in historical references. Will also appeal to fans of Tudor history in general, even if everything you know about the Tudors you learned from the Showtime series, as I did.

Posted in Read and Resist

Resist and Read

There is so much to be angry about right now. As President Trump methodically guts the nation,  it feels hard to go about ordinary life without, I don’t know, doing something! There are lots of guides out right now providing instructions, including this one, at Daily Action, where you can sign via text to receive relatively simple instructions for one action item per day against the Trump agenda.

For those quieter moments in your life, when you are ready to read and reflect, or you are looking for ways to share information with your kids, consider some of these excellent book lists:

Children’s Picture Books about Protest and Civil Disobedience. 

Erica over at What We Do All Day provides tons of wonderful book lists for kids, from picture books all the way up to chapter books. I use these daily in my job as a librarian and when I’m looking for inspiration for my kids. She has several great lists including books about Peace, books to inspire kids to change the world and books about kindness. Her index of book lists is a treasure to have in your back pocket.

 

The folks at Book Riot can always be counted on to come through with a good list. (Full disclosure: I also write for Book Riot!) . The lists below have already come in handy for me. Remember to watch their page for more great lists to get you through the next four years.

Short reads on Race and Activism 

Must Read Immigration Stories by Latinos 

Books to Help get you through a Trump Presidency 

 

 

 

Posted in Five Minute Book Prescriptions

Five Minute Book Prescription: Something In Between by Melissa De La Cruz

something-in-betweenWith the recent actions on immigration by President He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I keep thinking about Something in Between,  Melissa De La Cruz’s excellent and timely novel about an overachieving high school senior who discovers that her family is undocumented. Eighteen-year old Jasmine de los Santos has worked  hard throughout her school career to ensure that she will get into the  best college.  A nearly perfect student and the captain of her cheerleading team, Jasmine wins a coveted national scholarship and can’t wait to share the news of her achievement with her Filipino immigrant parents. Only, they seem less than pleased to hear the news. In fact, they seem crushed. Turns out, Jasmine and her entire family are undocumented. Her parents came to the U.S. with legit work visas, but did not leave when they expired. Jasmine has no social security number and is therefore unable to redeem her scholarship.

What’s worse, her family is in imminent danger of being deported if they are discovered, or if her father gets pulled over while driving. Jasmine is in shock. And to top it all off, she has just met a cute new boy whose father  happens to be a Republican Congressman dead set on crushing an immigration bill that would give her family a path to citizenship.

With all of these these things swirling around, Jasmine is forced to re-examine her life and goals. She must decide what steps to take and how to take them. Melissa De La Cruz does has written an excellent character in Jasmine, whose thoughtful, compassionate and level headed decisions make her sympathetic, relatable and admirable. De La Cruz expertly balances the drama of a teen romance with the practical concerns of a family in crisis.

A great read for anyone interested in, or even going through an immigration crisis of their own. Would also make a great read for someone who lacks sympathy and understanding of the plight many illegal immigrants with families. The Trump administration has a tendency to paint “illegal immigrants” as dangerous criminals, which is completely untrue and dangerous. Something in Between does a fabulous job of portraying a complex and difficult reality that many families are facing right now. Highly recommended.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

In which I Vow to Return, Again.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from trying to make a (part time) living as a freelance writer, it’s that finding the time to do everything you need to do feels next to impossible. Freelance writers are always always working and looking for projects and emailing and researching and editing. Very often, the paycheck you hope for is not the paycheck you get! And when you throw another professional job and a family in the mix, it gets even more challenging!

I’ve been bobbling back and forth about what to do with this blog and, without boring you too much with my reasons pro and con, I’ll tell you what I decided:  Let’s Do This.  I want to keep writing and I want to keep sharing the books I love. I also want to write more about the work I do as a librarian: What I’ve learned, what I still struggle with, what I still hope to learn. So I’ve expanded and added some new pages to the site. Library Dose now has a section about the work of a children’s librarian. Specifically, I will write about Baby Storytime and Middle School Book Club. And, as always, I will continue to highlight books I love for children and adults.

I can’t promise that I will faithfully write a post every week. There may be huge gaps, due to my other writing and family commitments, as well as the time I’d like to put aside for creative writing pursuits.  But I really want to keep this up. I have gained so much from reading other librarian’s blogs about stoytime, and I hope to give that back a little bit.

As always, I will keep writing about books, with five minute book prescriptions and lists, and thoughts on the power of reading and sharing literature in our current political climate.

Chin up everybody. I know the world feels like the beginning of a dystopian book series right now, but we have to moving forward. Remember the wise words of the late, great Carrie Fisher :

take-your-broken-heart

Posted in Five Minute Book Prescriptions

Five Minute Book Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

accident-seasonI started reading this book from my library’s digital audiobook collection mostly because it was immediately available and I needed something to listen to right away! Turns out, it is a story that hits so many of my literary sweet spots. Read by excellent Irish narrator Colbie Minifie, this eerie story follows the lives of one family who, every October, are mysteriously afflicted with what they call “the accident season,” in which family members are subject to injury and disaster. From minor bumps and bruises to fatal car accidents, the accident season wreaks havoc physically and psychologically.  This year, 17-year old Cara is particularly anxious as she investigates why a missing classmate has been showing up in the background of every photograph she takes with her phone. Dark family secrets and clues to the origin of the accident season will rise to the surface. Spooky, atmospheric and overflowing with lush prose, this book will transport you to the cobblestone streets of Dublin, broken down houses in the countryside, and the chilling quiet of an Irish forest. Fanastic!

Posted in Hear ye, Hear ye

It’s that time again….

October is my favorite month. I am most certainly not alone in my affection for this beautiful time of year, with its cool mornings, gorgeous blue skies and brilliant colors. I also love the appearance of spooky Halloween decorations everywhere. Pumpkins and bats and ghosts. The occasional skeleton hand sticking up out of the earth.

It’s also the season for All Hallow’s Read, that unofficial holiday made up by Neil Gaiman in which we are all encouraged to give someone a scary book to read. I have done this several years in a row now, and I look forward to doing it again this year. In the coming weeks, I will offer up a list of All Hallow’s Read possibilities for you to give away. In the meantime, please enjoy Mr. Gaiman’s video describing this wonderful tradition he created: