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Dec 11, 2023

Maggie's Favorite 2023 Children and Teen Reads

 Since this was my first year of not being in school after graduating with my MLIS in December 2022, I set a reading goal for myself of 60 books; I have surpassed that by reading 120 books! This includes physical books, audiobooks, graphic novels, etc. 


To me, five star reads are books that:

  • Made me cry

  • Made me comprehensively or critically think

  • Had great dialogue

  • Informed me of a social justice issue I was not aware of

  • Had memorable and engaging characters

  • Basically anything that, 0.2 seconds after finishing the book, had me searching Amazon or my local independent bookstore to purchase it and add it to my collection. 


 


If You’ll Have Me by Eunnie

Recommended ages: 14+

There are so many things to love about this book! About 0.2 seconds after I finished this book, I started following the author, Eunnie, on Instagram. This led to me buying a signed copy of this graphic novel and a piece of artwork from her; I also discovered that she created Spotify playlists for the two main characters, Momo and PG which, of course, I listened to. 


The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich 

Recommmended Ages: 14+

Such a CHEESY romance… Sorry, you know I had to. But seriously! If you like graphic novels, romance, positive female friendships, AND/OR CHEESE, you will love The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich! First of all, everything from the characters (Gorgonzola, Feta, Princess Brie, Camembert, etc) and the kingdom of Fromage have cheese names. There is also such a beautiful relationship between “Count” Camembert and her ladies’ maid, Feta; even though Cam can kind of be a handful. The artwork throughout was so vivid and bold, but my favorite illustrations were any that dealt with fashion (No spoilers but the ENDING DRESSES… iykyk). 




Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Recommended Ages: 11+

I had several months this year where I was dealing with some pretty debilitating health problems which were also affecting my mental health. Several of my friends had told me about the show and after seeing the heartwarming clip of Nick (depicted by Kit Connor) coming out to his mom (Olivia Colman) as bisexual, I knew that I had to give the show a go. Like the rest of the world, I fell in love with the absolute joy, audible “awww” moments and all of the quintessential angst that follows any sort of teen romance show. 

Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy by Faith Erin Hicks

Again, another super adorable graphic novel! You might recognize the artwork of Faith Erin Hicks from her collaborative graphic novel Pumpkinheads with author Rainbow Rowell.

In Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy, Alix is a high school hockey player with dreams of being invited to join the summer camp of Canada’s National Team. But when she gets into a physical altercation with her teammate and rival, Alix knows she has to get her anger under control so her invitational spot is in jeopardy. So, she enlists the help of Ezra, a popular theatre teen at her high school, who never seems to let anything get to him. Through this, they begin to learn and engage with each others’ interests which, in turn, increases their interest in each other. 

The progression in Alix and Exra’s relationship is so sweet, and will definitely have you rooting for the love story of hockey girl and drama boy! 

Recommended Ages: 14-18

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

Iris Winnow’s main focus right now is to beat her arch rival, Roman Kitt, for the position of columnist at the Oath Gazette. But there are more pressing issues outside of the Oath Gazette doors which Iris knows all too well. The gods, Enva and Dacre, have woken from their centuries long sleep and have begun warring; Iris’ own brother is on the front lines, fighting for Enva. Though she does not know where he is, she writes him letters on a typewriter inherited from her grandmother and places them in her wardrobe. Unbeknownst to Iris, the letters appear in the wardrobe of Roman Kitt. Their letters forge a powerful connection and love between Iris and Kitt. However, in the midst of a war, there is no safe road to turn down.


Such a great story! The second book is actually coming out this month, December 2023, and I cannot wait to see how this series continues! 

Recommended Ages: 13-18



Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide

Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, have been selected as Niveus prefects! While this is initially an accomplishment ful of excitement, it does not take long before an anonymous texter called Aces begins to reveal secrets about each of the new prefects to the entire school. Devon and Chiamaka decide to work together to find out who Aces is and bring them down. What is initially thought to be a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game. 


When I say the TWIST in this book is one that literally threw me for a loop! I usually have this uncann ability to tell who the bad guy is before the story is over but this one truly threw me! Such a great thriller, but also a fantastic social commentary regarding racism. 

Recommended ages: 14-18

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

I picked this book up after reading a blog post of books that the character, Toby, reads in the Heartstopper television series and this title was on it (same with Ace of Spades now that I think about it). Reasons to love this book: 1) It is such a quick read. 2) Not only does it address queer people of color, but also those who are striving on how to become better allies. 3) George’s grandmother, Nan! She is seriously the epitome of a classic Southern grandmother; sweet, loving, supportive, but also will give you the what-for when you need it. 4) This book details the LGBTQIA+ community and perception, brotherhood, sexual assault, gender identity, and many other important topics that need to be addressed. 

Recommended Ages: 16+




Curlfriends: New in Town by Sharee Miller

Charlie is used to her family’s near constant moving due to her father being in the military. However, their family has decided to settle for good which means that Charlie has to make the ultimate first impression. When Charlie meets a group of Black girls who call themselves Curlfriends, Charlie learns that maybe her true character and personality is not something to hide from, but something to embrace! 


As you can see, I have been loving so many of the 2023 graphic novels that our Youth Services Department has received! This one just felt so laughably relatable to when I was a girl in middle and high school. I am sure that all of us wish we could go back and tell our younger selves that all of the opinions and judgement from our peers that we were so worried about literally means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Now that I am grown up and have reflected on who I am, I am so excited to dress how I want to and not be worried about what other people might think of me. The Curlfriends are all so different but also remind me of my close friends now; you always have to have the super smart friend, the golden retriever friend, and the friend who tells us the hard things we need to hear. 

Recommended ages: 8-12 


I hope that all of you are going to strive to read more in 2024!


Jul 19, 2023

Baby Sensory Time

Hello everyone! I'm Melissa, a Children's Librarian at GMPL. I've been a librarian since 2015, but I've only worked at GMPL since November. I wanted to share a program I hosted recently: Baby Sensory Time!

This program was designed for our youngest patrons: babies aged 0-18 months. Babies and parents explored several stations throughout the room with different sensory activities. All of them would be very simple to do at home. 

Here is the layout of the room:


Everyone was able to move freely between the stations. Most of the babies and parents seemed to have a favorite station that they wanted to return to multiple times. Let me give you more information about each station:



Pouring Station
This was a plastic container of water with various cups, spoons and measuring cups. Babies enjoyed scooping up water and watching it pour back into the container. If you wanted, you could add some food coloring to make the water brighter and easier to see. If I were going to repeat this activity, I would have used a shallower container. Some babies had trouble reaching the cups in the water. This didn't seem to deter them from trying! I would also recommend putting down towels or a tarp, and having extra towels handy. 



Jello Play Dough
I made Jello play dough using the recipe found here a few days before the program. I stored it wrapped in parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge until the morning of the program. This play dough is completely edible (the flour is even cooked to make it safe to eat), but it includes a lot of salt. I tried it myself; it tastes like very salty Jello. Not very pleasant to eat, but completely safe. It has a wonderful, soft texture and smells heavenly, too! Unfortunately I didn't managed to take a photo of the babies playing with it, but some of the parents asked for the recipe so they could make it themselves at home.



Rubber Band Toy Grab
This one is super simple: a bin with small toys inside, with rubber bands stretched around it. This made getting at the toys difficult, so babies really had to think to figure out how to get to the fun toys inside. Putting the toys back inside was also a fun challenge. 



Water Exploration
Another incredibly simple setup: baking sheets with water, placed on top of some towels to absorb any splashes. This is especially great for babies doing tummy time and working on developing back muscles. Babies had fun splashing the water and observing how the water moved around the pans. You will definitely want to have an extra towel handy for this activity.



Whisk Activity
I gathered some pompoms of various sizes together in trays with silicone whisks. The babies explored putting the pompoms between the wires and pulling them out again. This is a great activity for working on fine motor skills. You could use a metal whisk if that's what you have at home. I happened to have silicone whisks. Any small container would work for containing the pompoms. You could even do this while your baby is sitting in their high chair.



Sponge & Water Play
Another great water activity. I cut up new sponges into strips for easy gripping and put them in a shallow container of water. Babies loved feeling the textures of the wet sponges and squeezing out the water. Several babies wanted to put the sponges in their mouths, so definitely don't use dirty sponges for this activity. If you can, I would recommend using multiple colors of sponges. I was limited by what was available at the store that day. Also make sure to have towels nearby!



This last activity was definitely the favorite with both babies and parents:

Rainbow Spaghetti
I followed the instructions I found in the book Exciting Sensory Bins for Curious Kids by Mandisa Watts to make the rainbow spaghetti. The basic instructions are: 

1. Boil the spaghetti as if you were preparing it to eat, but drain it a few minutes early. You want the spaghetti to be soft and pliable, but not mushy. 

2. Rinse the spaghetti with cold water. This stops the cooking and removes the starch so the spaghetti won't stick together so much.

3. Place the spaghetti in a gallon sized plastic bag with several drops of food coloring. I used gel food coloring, but regular will also work. Close the bag well and shake/massage the bag to help distribute the color. I had to reopen the bag to add more color a few times. Take it slow so you don't add too much. 

4. Once the spaghetti is the desired color, spread it out on a tray or baking sheet to dry for at least an hour. This helps the color adhere to the spaghetti, so it won't end up on your hands later. 

5. Once your spaghetti has dried, you can store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for 3-5 days. I made mine 3 days in advance and added it to a shallow bin the morning of the program.

Babies really liked grabbing the noodles out of the bin and feeling the texture in their hands. Parents loved putting the noodles on the babies' heads like hair! The spaghetti was surprisingly easy to clean up (it did end up all over the room!) and would be even easier once it dried, but I would definitely recommend having a tarp or hard floor underneath.


I hope this inspires you to try some fun sensory activities with your own little ones at home!

Jun 23, 2023

Our Favorite Youth Reads of 2022!

 Our Favorite Reads of 2022!

 WE'RE BACK! 

Hi, friends! I know it has been a while since we published. We have undergone staffing changes, return to in-person programming and much more fun since the last time we posted! However, we thought that now that we are back to capacity and some sense of normalcy, it was the perfect time to start blogging again! And what better way to start off then by telling you all about our favorite Youth reads of 2022! From graphic novels and picture books to chapter books and YA, there is sure to be something on this list for everyone to enjoy, no matter your age :) 

We're so happy to see you again!

xoxo, Youth Services 


Maggie, Youth Services Librarian

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

This was the first book of Summer 2022 that really caught my attention; I have recommended it to every person who comes into the library and wants a recommendation. Owl wants to become a real knight, but he is also told that he cannot because of his size and strength (or lack thereof). However when the kingdom is under nightly attacks, Owl learns that what makes him different is actually what makes him the best knight! Recommended for ages 3-5. 









The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Reyess

The year is 1992 and Amra is a teen living in Bosnia with her family during the Muslim genocide that was taking place in her hometown of Bihac. However, in the midst of overwhelming darkness in her everyday life, there is a glimmer of light: Maci (pronounced Maht-zee), a stray cat that wanders home with Amra. Learning that tragedy and injustice can fall to Amra at school, home, or even walking the streets strikes less of a blow with the unconditional love of her family, neighbors, and her beloved Maci.  Recommended minimum age for readers: 13-17. 

*I read The Cat I Never Named as an audiobook.


Pirates love underpants by Claire Freedman

For my first outreach theme in October, I decided to do a theme of pirates as a subtle nod to costumes, Halloween, trick or treating, etc. Since then, I ask the children that I visit what stories they think we’ll read, and every single month, I usually have at least one child per classroom guess the “Pirates and the underpants book.” I don’t know if it’s because it is a silly story featuring golden underpants and sharks with silly boxers, but the children loved reading this story! For our final session, I plan on bringing in some of their favorites of the year, including Pirates Love Underpants! Recommended for readers aged 2-6. 






Bathe the Cat by Alice McGinty

This has become yet another favorite of the outreach classroom group! The story is of an orange tabby cat who is not too happy with the list of chores that his family has, so he decides to give the chore list a little… revamping! This hilarious and wild story features a blended family, LGBTQ+ parents and flags, and BIPOC characters that are sure to delight families and readers of all ages! Recommended for readers aged 2-6 years old. 

Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Swim Team was such an impactful read for me! I haven’t read too many other graphic novels that pulled me in and genuinely made me feel something/learn something about myself, society, etc. Bree is anxious for her first day at a new middle school which is heightened when she is forced to take the only remaining elective -- Swim 101. Never mind that swimming is one of Bree’s greatest fears! With the help of her elderly neighbor, Etta, Bree begins to learn not only about swimming but the family and racial history that has fed into that skill being lost within her community. I always love when I learn something from a fictional story, and that is exactly what happened here! Recommended for readers aged 8-12 years old. 



















Melissa, Youth Services Librarian

John’s Turn by Mac Barnett

Every Friday at school, there is an Assembly with a special performance by students; some tell jokes, some do magic, and some play instruments! But when it is John’s turn, he feels very nervous about what his friends will think; will he be brave enough to show off his special gift? Recommended for ages 4-8. 










Knight Owl by Christopher Denise 

(P.S. If this is not your sign that this was a great read that it was recommended by TWO Youth Services employees, I don’t know what is)




Don’t Eat Bees (Life Lessons from Chip the Dog) by Dav Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt

Chip is seven years old so he knows a lot about a lot of things, especially what to eat (important papers, Grandpa’s teeth, etc.) and what not to eat (bees). Any reader with a fur-friend will be able to relate with this silly and fun picture book! Recommended for readers ages 4-7. 
























Jessica, Youth Services Associate


Potato Pants by Laurie Keller

A potato and his eggplant nemesis struggle to find the perfect pair of pants in this hilarious, heartwarming tale of forgiveness by Geise-award winning creator, Laurie Keller. Recommended for readers aged 3-7 years. 










Who wet my pants? By Bob Shea, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

Reuben the bear expected a certain kind of reaction when he showed up to give his friends free donuts. However, it wasn’t them staring at the wet spot in a specific area. “WHO WET MY PANTS?!” he shouts, and the blame game starts. A hilarious tale of blame, forgiveness, and compassion, a very embarrassed bear is reminded that accidents can happen-- but with good friends by your side, life goes on! Recommended for readers aged 4-8 years old. 

The World of Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler, illustrated by Joanie Stone

Emily Windsnap doesn’t know how to swim; her mother has always cautioned her to stay out of the water. But when swim class starts at school, Emily thinks that she will finally have a chance to learn until she jumps and her legs start feeling strange-- like they’re stuck together. When she tries it again in the sea, she discovers that she grows a beautiful mermaid tail! With her new tail and an entire ocean to explore, Emily finds her way to new friends and new adventures in this illustrated series. Recommended for readers age 6-9. 


Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua

The first in the Amy Wu series where we are introduced to the brave, tenacious, and funny Amy Wu. It is bao bun day at her house with her mother, father, and grandma, and Amy is determined to make the perfect bao! She watches her family carefully but cannot seem to make the perfect bao. But then, Amy has an idea that might finally result in the perfect bao-- will she succeed? Recommended for readers age 2-5. 

Itty Bitty Princess Kitty by Melody Mews, illustrated by Ellen Stubbings

Something exciting is happening in Lollyland! Itty Bitty Kitty’s eighth shooting star is about to arrive and that means she is going to become a princess! This new change brings excitement, but also some nervousness about how she will do as a princess. The first in a series of chapter books, this book will be sure to entertain the reading royal in your life! Recommended for ages 5-9 years.


Nov 19, 2021

Book Spotlight: The Whole World Inside Nan's Soup

 


There's something special and delicious inside Nanni's big metal pot. When her granddaughter asks what's bubbling on the stove, she gets an unexpected answer: Seeds. And soil. The farmers that lovingly and gently tend to their plants and harvest them. The trucks that drive the food to different corners of the world... and the roads that carry them. Even the sun, moon, and stars are found inside the pot. But what's the best soup ingredient of all? The one that really makes the soup special? That ingredient would be love; Nanni's soup recipe has been passed down through the generations and is meant to be shared. When Nanni asks her granddaughter if she'll remember all the ingredients she responds with, "The whole world!" 



Young readers can flip through this book over and over and still walk away with something new. The illustrations are incredibly detailed. With every ingredient listed, Nanni's granddaughter imagines the people, places, and things it took to make it possible to be inside Nanni's pot on the stove. Spreads are divided between a blue palette, similar to a vintage plate, and full color with an emphasis on beautiful peaches, oranges, pinks, and tans. While the picture book is wordy, it's the dialogue that gives momentum to the story and drives it forward, and the humor and sweetness shared between Nanni and her granddaughter can't be missed. This is a touching celebration of interconnectedness and journeys. So often now, children are disconnected from the work that goes into harvesting the food on their plates. This picture book, granted in a romanticized way, prompts young readers to think of how food goes from the farm to the table. Great for fans of Fry Bread, Thank You, Omu, and One Little Bag.


Nov 1, 2021

Book Spotlight: It Fell from the Sky


It fell from the sky on a Thursday, the beautiful, wonderful, mysterious thing. Despite their marveling, none of the insects in the garden know what it is or where it came from. Some say it's a gumdrop. Others say it's an egg. Is it a magical chrysalis? A fallen star or planet? Whatever it is, it fell near Spider's house. And Spider sees it as an opportunity. He invites insects far and wide to see the object on display for just a leaf, and it becomes an instant sensation. Spider grows greedy, however, building an expensive amusement park in the style of P.T. Barnum with other wonders from the sky. When interest wanes and a five-fingered creature from the sky snatches away the wonderous object that started it all, Spider is left alone and must decide what to do. 

Fans of The Night Gardener and The Barnabus Project will be happy to see another magical, luminous picture book from the Fan brothers. The illustrations and story are not only whimsical, but funny too. The personalities of the insects are clear through their expressions and their hypotheses about the wonder from the sky. The soft monochrome art makes the flowers and insects look like they could come alive and float off the pages, and it makes the colored object from the sky even more wonderous and illuminated. Enjoy this picture book for the fun story, or use it as a way to dive deeper into the themes of generosity, community, and wonder.