African Mythology (Anansi)

Welcome to my maiden voyage into the world of graphic novels. Don't get me wrong, I know what the research says about graphic novels (specifically, boys and graphic novels) and I certainly have chosen several of them to enhance my school library collection, but I've simply never wanted to read one myself. 

Graphic novels are basically comic book-style books. They usually come in chapter books and are rich with illustrations. That feature, in addition to the chunking of text within subsections, is attractive to many reluctant readers. Which (not always) usually means boys. My graphic novel collection extends from Greek and Roman mythology to biographies of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington to plain old Spider Man and the Hulk. 

Personally, I would not choose to read a graphic novel. I'm definitely a visual learner, but my brain gets nervous when trying to decide which frames and text bubbles to read next. I caution all my kiddos who select these types of books about this, and instruct them on the LEFT-RIGHT, TOP-DOWN strategy for interpreting text within a graphic novel. 

But enough about graphic novels. 

This one is about Anansi, who was the world's first spider and desired to own the world's stories so he could know the beginnings and the ends of all things. To do this, he had to capture 3 creatures and take them to the sky god. (Can you tell this is from the 389.2 section?). Through some classic fable drama, he accomplishes his goal and lessons are learned in the process. This one is short enough for a student to read in a few minutes, and move right along to something else. 

Yeah, so the graphic novel thing is never going to be my bag, but there's always value in exploring something for the value of passing it along to someone who'll need it one day. 



Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid (Lemony Snicket)

Lemony Snicket (which I think is a pseudonym for Daniel Handler, and a writer who I find fabulously entertaining) is best known for his authorship of the Series of Unfortunate Events. I have a few books left to complete the series, but I know enough about them to know that A) Lemony Snicket is hilarious, and B) this series in particular is most delicious when consumed audibly.

Horseradish is a collection of maxims that are categorized by applicable areas of life (as Lemony Snicket sees them), including Home, Family, Literature, A Life of Mystery, the Mystery of Life, and An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does, etc. There are some adages that are of a more serious nature, and others which seem serious but end silly. And then there are those that start silly and end serious. Something for everyone, you see.

Just a few of my favorites:

"No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don't read is often as important as what you do read."

"A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late to read them."

"A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded."

"Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby - awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess."

"Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of "systematically assisting Sisyphus's stealthy, cyst-susceptible sister," which is easier done than said."

Easily consumed in one sitting, Horseradish is sarcasm at its best.


Gone With the Wand (Margie Palatini)

Margie Palatini is one of the funniest children's authors there is. I fell for her at Piggie Pie, and have long since been her biggest fan. She manages to write in such a witty, funny way that makes kids roll around on the carpet laughing and it gives us grown-ups a good chuckle too. I love the way her stories are just plain funny, and I love the way kids love her books. 

Gone With the Wand is the tale of a fairy godmother who was having a "bad wand day." Suddenly her wand wouldn't work, and through the help of another fairy friend, she makes a valiant attempt at finding another line of fairy godmother work that would crank up her wand magic once more. There are some zany adventures that will crack your kids up before this fairy godmother gets her very own "happily ever after."



I Have a Dream (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

In this book, fifteen winners of the Coretta Scott King Award come together to illustrate Dr. King's most famous oratory in its entirety. Each page illustrates a section of his "I Have a Dream" speech that was given on the steps of the Lincoln monument on August 28,1963. It is a brilliant work, giving readers a visual connection to the events that had taken place to inspire Dr. King's speech.

My favorite line from each page:
-I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
-This momentous decree [the Emancipation Proclamation] came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering justice.
-But one hundred years later...the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination...
-When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir....It is obvious today that America has defaulted on the promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned....But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
-This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
-There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
-Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
-We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality...We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto into a larger one.
-We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating, "For Whites Only."
-You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
-I have a dream one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
-I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
-I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with words of interposition and nullification, one day, right there in Alabama, little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!
-With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
-...And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

After slowly reading through the book, I then located the audio of Dr. King's speech online, and read it again, this time listening to this great man deliver his speech. And I cannot tell you how moving it is. Over and over I got chills, hearing the passion of Dr. King and the people whose voices are heard cheering in the background. Especially as the mother to two daughters, one who is white and one who is Ugandan American, the line about little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers is especially moving to me. Thank God for Dr. King and others who had the courage to stand up for freedom!

There is a special foreword written by Coretta Scott King. Her comments are the book include the following quote:
"His vision of peace with justice and love for everyone still inspires and challenges us to create the beloved community. His legacy of courage, determination, and nonviolence still lights the way to the fulfillment of his dream. May God give us the wisdom and strength to carry forward his unfinished work."

Amen and amen.

Listen to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech here.


David Goes to School (David Shannon)

Poor David. Wherever he goes, someone is always telling him not to do this or not to do that. In this school version of No, David! this mischievous little guy gets reprimanded for everything from needing to go to the bathroom too many times to having a food fight in the lunchroom.

If you work with school age kids in any capacity, you know a David. That kid who always gets in trouble, who always has a rough time making the right choices. I love these books because they remind me what life is like from David's perspective. They remind me how bad it must feel for those kids who have the hard time making good choices and hear about it all day long, everywhere they go-from Mama, from the teacher, from the cafeteria workers... And these David books also remind me of just how good it feels when those kids hear that rare "yes" or "good job."

The David books make want to be that teacher, that librarian who gives my kids a happy encouragement.


Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf (Judy Sierra)

B.B. (Big Bad) Wolf has been invited to the library to tell the story of how he met the three little pigs. He agrees, but tries to tell a modified, more self-flattering version of the tale. The pigs aren't going to let him get away with it, though, when they show up at the wolf's story-time.At the end, he confesses the truth and asks for the pigs' forgiveness, which makes this a fabulous extension of the original story. Once they reconcile, B.B. comes to stand for something entirely new (which makes this a great book for teaching synonyms, use of the thesaurus, and the word choice trait of writing).

It's hysterical how the author weaves in characters from well-known children's books and fairy tales, including the Little Engine That Could, the troll from Three Billy Goats Gruff, and Humpty Dumpty. In a funny way, this book reminds me of how when our kids at school get caught doing something wrong and they try to talk their way out of it. 

This is the Big Bad Wolf's very own version of "See, what had happened was..."


Malia and Sasha Obama (Jennifer M. Besel)

I always find the Biography section of the library a most interesting place. This section is filled with the life stories of people who have lived important lives and done important things and experienced important events. Anytime I browse a new vendor catalog I am always a wee bit concerned over the saturation of biographies of young people who (Lord willing) still have 3/4's of their lives left to lead on this earth. Is it appropriate to write biographies of children and young adults? Is it appropriate for kids to read these stories of lives that can so easily change in the next month, or perhaps were drastically changed even before the book was completed, printed, and published? Is that contributing to the amount of inaccurate information our kids can take in, if we are not careful? And I wonder also about the subjects' opinion of people writing books about them. What are Malia and Sasha going to think in 20 years when there is a book on a library shelf stating that their favorite musicians are the Jonas Brothers? (Nothing against the JB, I'm just sayin'...)

Maybe I'm overthinking it.

After all, Malia and Sasha Obama are easily the most famous kids in America right now. With their dad as President Barack Obama, that makes them the youngest children to live in the White House in a very long time. As school-age children learn about how our government functions, they are naturally curious about current leaders and their families. This book, this biography of America's most popular 12 year old and 9 year old, barely stays on the shelf in my school library. I can hardly check it in before another child wants to check  it out, and unlike most biographies there are no boundaries in its target audience. Boys want to read it, girls want to read it, high readers, low readers, etc. Even teachers are interested to flip through it.

Here are a few things that I learned about the Obama girls from this book:
-Malia's birthday is July 4th; she gets to be in a parade every year on her bday (how fun is that!)
-Her dad calls her "Little Miss Articulate" because she has a talent for saying just the right thing.
-Malia suffers from allergies and asthma.
-Sasha's real name is Natasha; Sasha is just a nickname.
-Her dad calls her his "precious pea."
-Sasha had meningitis when she was just 3 months old.
-Their room at the White House was decorated from items from Pottery Barn, Target, and Crate & Barrel. When they moved into the White House, they brought their own Jonas Brothers posters from home.
-They have chores, which include cleaning up their own rooms, making their own beds, clearing the dishes after supper. If they complete all of these, they get $1 a week as their allowance.

The pictures of the girls at places such as the presidential inauguration, serving troops by stuffing backpacks for their children, helping serve food to the homeless, and looking beautiful in their famous attire are probably what draws most readers to this book. I like that the visuals communicate to kids that being the child of the American president doesn't make you a princess; it makes you a joyful servant of the nation's people...and that makes me think that this is a pretty great addition to my library.