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Summer of Science: Read-Aloud Science Books

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Readaloud ScienceI like to incorporate some non-fiction books, science in particular, into my family’s nightly reading routine. Not all science books read the same, however. I’m pleased when I find titles that are easy to read aloud, yet still contain good solid information. Here’s a list of informative and interesting read-aloud science books to share with your children, written for ages 4 and up.  -Teresa

Balloon Trees by Danna Smith

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray

Beetles (also Centipedes, Spiders and others) “Creepy Critters” series

Things That Float and Things That Don’t by David A. Adler

You Can’t Ride a Bicycle to the Moon by Harriet Ziefert

Body Actions by Shelley Rotner

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

“The Giver” Debuts in Theaters

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“Kids deserve the right to think that they can change the world” Lois Lowry

The Giver Movie

Lois Lowry is a prolific and beloved children’s and young adult author. Having written over 40 books,  her goal is seemingly simple: to tell a good story. If you grew up in the ’70’s like me, you probably remember her coming-of-age series starring Anastasia Krupnick . Perhaps you’ve shared her goofy Gooney Bird Greene stories with a child. Or maybe you’ve read her account of courage and compassion set in war torn Denmark – the award-winning novel Number the Stars.

One of her stories is about to become more renowned. Utopian story “The Giver” is appearing on movie screens today, two decades after the novel’s publication. Here’s a brief description of the book from Lowry’s website:

Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.”

And, a description of the film version, from IMDB:

“This film, based on Lois Lowry’s book, tells the story of a perfect world. Everyone here is happy. When Jonas is 12 years old, he’s chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. He enters into training with an old man called The Giver. From the Giver, Jonas learns about pain, sadness, war, and all the unhappy truths of the “real” world. He quickly realizes that his community is fake. Confronted with this reality, Jonas faces difficult choices about his own life and his future.” (Click on the movie poster above to watch a trailer). Jeff Bridges plays The Giver and Meryl Streep is the Chief Elder, among other well known entertainers such as Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.

The NY Times interviewed Lowry recently. She notes that the heroine, Fiona, is sixteen in the movie (in the book she’s twelve). She requested the story not be turned “into a teenage romance”. Soon we’ll get a chance to see if the filmmakers listened.

Have you read the book, either as a child/young adult or recently? Do you plan to see the movie? We’d love to hear from you! -Rebecca



Summer of Science: Learning Shapes and Patterns

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summerofscience4This summer our youth librarians presented a family storytime featuring shapes. Before kids learn to read and write (early literacy) they need to know how to recognize shapes and distinguish between patterns. Once this is established, they can tackle letter recognition and start distinguishing between letters like A & O and M & W, etc.  Play and learning go hand in hand. Play is a crucial mode of learning, so allowing little ones to investigate their world while supporting their natural curiosity is important.

Block play is a great way to encourage creativity, social skills, math, language and science (Teaching Numeracy, Language and Literacy with Blocks by Newburger). Babies and toddlers will feel blocks, pick them up, put them in their mouths. Older children who play with blocks and other manipulatives will learn to create patterns and sequences of shapes, as well as colors and textures. For example, knowledge of patterns, geometry and space develops as they create bridge supports and block designs, as they organize blocks by size and shape on the shelves, and as they make enclosures for their animals (Colker, NAYEC).

There are many fun ways to develop shape and letter recognition- we’ve listed our storytime titles as well as other great books and extension activities you can do at home. -Rebecca

Books for Toddlers

My Shapes/Mis formas by Rebecca Emberley

Animal Spots and Stripes (and A Starfish: A Shapes Book) by Britta Techentrup

GO! and others (Flip-A Shape books) by Sami

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett


 Books for Preschool and Kindergarten

Picture Books:

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Green Shaw

Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban

Little Cloud by Eric Carle

Follow the Line series by Laura Ljungkvist

Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert

Easy Nonfiction:

Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald

Eating Fractions by Bruce McMillan

Round is a Mooncake: a book of shapes by Roseanne Thong

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

Shape (Math Counts) by Henry Pluckrose

Circles, Stars, and Squares: Looking for Shapes by Jane Brocket

Books for School Age

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff by Dr. Seuss

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell

Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell

When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene

Asian toddler building block tower DreamstimeExtension Activities

1) Make a DIY shape sorter from cardboard or an empty oatmeal container 

2)  Go on a shape hunt- look for shapes in the environment (especially good for summer road trips!) Create a car game by using a cookie sheet and attaching magnets to the back of shapes for your child to play with.

3)  Cut out shapes in different sizes or make puffy paint shape cards and let your child play with them. These two-dimensional shapes are different from the three-dimensional blocks which will encourage a different kind of play. You can also make shapes using playdough.

5) Create a “House of Shapes” rhyme using flannel or construction paper: House of Shapes Rhyme & House of Shapes pattern

6) Make a shapes book, helping child paste cutout images of different shapes on the pages and label each page with circle, square, etc.

7)  Math play ideas from Scholastic


Rugged Survival: Books for Middle School Students

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BestofbookshelfIt seems as though there are survival shows and competitions everywhere these days. Maybe it’s because I’m addicted to watching them on tv that I’m also drawn to books about survival. Two of my favorite survival stories are Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong and Ice Story: Shackleton’s Lost Expedition by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Grades 4 and up). Both are suspenseful and dramatic accounts of Ernest Shackleton‘s voyage to cross Antarctica and what happened when the entire ship and crew were trapped in ice. None of them should have survived, but they did- they ALL did- thanks to Shackleton’s amazing leadership and strength.

You may never be trapped in ice or faced with a rugged survival situation, but the library has materials to help you prepare, just in case.  One noteworthy title about a more recent survival situation is Trapped: how the world rescued 33 miners from 2,000 feet below the Chilean desert by Marc Aronson (Grade 4 and up).  -Teresa

Check out these other guides from our nonfiction collection:

howtosurvive  How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz (National Geographic, 2011)

survivorkid Survivor Kid: a practical guide to wilderness survival by Denise Long (Chicago Review Press, 2011)

worldexplorer  How to Be a World Explorer: your all-terrain training manual by Joel Levy (Lonely Planet, 2012)

survivealiveemergency “Survive Alive” series by Neil Champion (Amicus, 2011) Grades 3-7

Make It An Audiobook: 5 Recommendations for School Age Kids

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audiobookWhether you are traveling or staying home this summer, be sure audiobooks make it on your reading list- not only because they are an entertaining alternative to screens, but because they are also another way to “read” a book. According to School Library Journal article, “Listening, Literacy and the Common Core: How Audio Books Improve Reading Ability,” (view archived copy here), audiobooks are a “proven literacy resource” which provide “enhanced vocabulary, fluency and listening skills.” -Wendy


Here are 5 recommendations from ALSC’s list of 2014 Notable Children’s Recordings:

betternatethaneverBetter Nate than Ever by Tim Federle, Ages 11 to 14

Reader and author Tim Federle captures Nate’s hope, desperation, and exasperation when he runs away to audition for “E.T.: The Musical.” (A 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook)

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, Ages 8 to 12floraulyssesilluminated

With warmth, compassion and bravado, Tara Sands narrates the story of a superhero squirrel and his adored human companion.

matildaMatilda by Roald Dahl, Ages 7 to 12

An exceptional girl develops extraordinary powers that she uses to triumph over nasty parents, wretched friends, and a monstrous headmistress. Dahl’s cast of vivid characters is infused with life by Kate Winslet’s dynamic performance.  (A 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook)

P. S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams-Garcia, Ages 10 to 14psbeeleven

Sisi Aisha Johnson gives emotional depth and authenticity to each character in the continuing story of Delphine and the rest of the Gaither family.

PaperboyPaperboy by Vince Vawter, Ages 12 and up

The story of an eleven-year-old boy with a stutter and the issues he faces in the summer of 1959 are thoughtfully voiced by Lincoln Hoppe in this portrayal of author Vince Vawter’s childhood.





Amazing Authors: David Macaulay

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amazingauthorsI’m a big fan of the Science Channel’s TV series Strip the City. The show peels the layers (by the magic of computer animation!) from famous cities and lets you see what is beneath the buildings, roads, and sidewalks.  The show also takes you “live” underground and lets you see parts of cities that are inaccessible to most of us.

Author and illustrator David Macaulay does the same thing for famous buildings and everyday objects in his books. Parents may remember them from their own childhood. His first title was Cathedral: the Story of Its Construction published in 1973. Through intricate pen and ink drawings he tells the story of the construction of the fictional medieval Cathedral of Chutreaux. This book was a Caldecott Honor book.  He continued this series with Pyramid, Mosque, Castle, Mill and the deconstruction of the Empire State Building, titled Unbuilding.    In 1988 he used this same technique in The Way Things Work, a fascinating glimpse at the engineering of everyday objects.  He updated this title in 1998 in The New Way Things Work and tackled how the human body functions in 2008 in The Way We Work.

PicMonkey Collage macaulay

Several years ago, he updated Cathedral and Castle with new, color illustrations for a fresh generation of readers.  If you remember the original books it is fun to compare them with the newer editions.  Within the last year he released a set of beginning readers from Macmillan that detail how a toilet, the eye, a jet plane and a castle is constructed and functions .

Toilet: How it Works was a finalist for the Cook Prize this year. The Cook Prize honors the best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture book published for children aged eight to ten. It is the only national children’s choice award honoring a STEM book.  The David Macaulay Studio imprint at Macmillan has additional STEM titles by other authors that are aimed at emerging readers. -Ginny W.

Other resources for David Macaulay:
David Macaulay’s Website

Interview with NPR

Teaching Books Interview and Video

National Building Museum




Building a Young Adult Library Collection

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Young Couple Sitting with a Pile of BooksYoung adult literature has exploded in popularity over the past few years. With some of these books becoming pop culture movie events like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games“, the hunt is on for the “next big thing”. This has led to trends overtaking young adult fiction as we swing from paranormal vampire romance to dystopian adventure to teens with challenging illnesses. Because of this new popularity, more YA books are being published than ever before. So how do I decide which ones to buy for the library, knowing that we can’t purchase everything?

The first step is to listen to our teens. We have a teen library council that meets once a month and one of their tasks is to let us know what they are reading and enjoying. Some of these teens record a book discussion about new books they have read. I will frequently buy books that they recommend.

Next, I read review magazines like VOYA and School Library Journal. VOYA is full of great book suggestions and program ideas for libraries. They have a unique rating system that considers quality and teen interest. If a book gets a 5 in both categories, it’s a guaranteed purchase.

One of my favorite websites for info on teen books is Teen Reads. This site covers most of the new books published each month in a concise way that gets input from teens as well. Other book blogs that are worth following are Bookshelves of Doom and The Hub. Diversity in YA is another great website, and although it’s infrequently updated, it’s still a great place to find books featuring teens of diverse backgrounds.

Amazon, Good Reads, Indie Bound and YA Lit are also useful websites. I’m also on the lookout for special interest titles that fit our community well. Interesting and unique nonfiction especially those dealing with science experiments, lego mindstorms, or any college prep books are welcome additions in our teen nonfiction section. Graphic novels are also a very popular genre and I rely on No Flying No Tights and Previews for information on the latest comics.

We also buy multiple copies of the OBOB titles every year and we’ve even started carrying Kindles with YA titles on them, with one dedicated to titles that aren’t in print (also known as e-originals).

Do you have a favorite YA book that’s not in our current collection? We encourage purchase requests. Just check the WCCLS catalog to see if we have the books first. Want some reading suggestions for your teen? Check out our teen booklist page.