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Nonfiction for Young Readers

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

When you think about your reading life as a child, do you remember going through phases?  Maybe you couldn’t get enough of the Berenstain Bears as a preschooler?  Maybe there was a time when Nancy Drew was the only fiction you would read?  A lot of readers might remember devouring nonfiction in the early elementary years.  This trend is still true today, with boys and girls alike asking for nonfiction throughout their elementary years.  Publishing companies invested in children’s reference books have made great strides in producing quality material for all ages.  In the Children’s Room, we have nonfiction books for preschoolers, sixth graders, and every age in between.  Here are some great series of books to consider for your young nonfiction reader.

dk“DK Kids”:  Dorling Kindersley is the world’s leading illustrated reference publisher, and it is very apparent in their kids’ publications.  DK Eyewitness books are aimed at older elementary readers and teens, while DK Eyewonder books are intended for younger elementary readers.  Full of color pictures and information on subjects like animals and history, these books are perfect for children wanting to explore new topics.

“Let’s Read and Find Out Science”: Books in this series range from topics on weather and the earth, to how our bodies work.  Hand-drawn illustrations are used, helping children to transition from picture books to nonfiction.  These books are shorter, intended for preschoolers or younger elementary age students.

“National Geographic Kids”: The National Geographic Society has a wealth of information and photos about the world around us, so it should come as no surprise that their children’s publications are stellar.  The titles are a great stepping stone for early readers, as they each contain a picture glossary, captions, and large text.  This series comes in four reading levels, allowing students to “graduate” to the next level of reading but stay in the same format of book.  National Geographic Kids also has many titles for older readers, such as bird guides, almanacs, and atlases.

“You Wouldn’t Want To” series: Aimed at older readers starting to think critically about science and history, this series examines what it was like to live at a certain time period.  Titles include “You Wouldn’t Want To Sail with Christopher Columbus” or “You Wouldn’t Want To Work on the Great Wall of China.”  Told in second-person narrative, these books allow readers to truly enter into the lives of people in history.

amelia“Childhood of Famous Americans”: This series explores the early years of important American figures.  Though each book is a fictionalized account of one life, the stories are true to the values and experiences of Americans during that time.  Readers can find out what gave Thurgood Marshall a passion for justice, or what made Mark Twain such a gifted and honest writer.

If your children are interested in nonfiction reading, make it a priority to encourage them down this path.  There is so much to learn about history, nature, and how things work.  If you don’t know where to start, ask a librarian.  We will be your advocates in exploring this part of your child’s reading life.

 

 

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The History of Baseball

by Keri Mills, Young Adult Librarian

With spring just around the corner, that means it is once again time for baseball, the all American pastime. To get yourself ready, or just to impress your friends with your vast knowledge, why not read up on the history of the sport?

If you want to brush up on your knowledge of the Negro Leagues, we have several books on the subject. Here are just a few to get you started.

monarchs“The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball” by Janet Bruce:   This book traces the story of the Kansas City Monarchs from their beginning as a charter member of the Negro National League in 1920 until their demise in the mid 1950’s due largely to the integration of the sport. The Monarchs were a powerhouse in their league and employed some of the great stars of that era, such as Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson. Did you know that the Monarchs were the first team to regularly play night baseball? They brought a portable lighting system with them which they quickly assembled at each new location when they travelled on the road. Bruce fills the book with many other interesting anecdotes as well as over 90 photographs of various players or scenes.

“Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams” by Robert Peterson:   Originally published in 1970, this is a classic book that thoroughly covers Negro league baseball from start to finish. There is detailed history about the league and some of its greatest players. There are also biographical sketches of many great players who never had the chance to play in the major leagues. Peterson manages to capture the heart and soul of Negro league baseball, while underscoring the tragedy of the lost opportunities of Negro league players because of segregation.

jackie“Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy” by Jules Tygiel:   No baseball history would be complete without the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues. Tygiel, through interviews with players, newspaper accounts, and personal papers, recounts how Jackie Robinson influenced not only baseball, but American society as well.

 

 

 

For a general look at baseball history, the library has many books to offer. Here are a few of my picks:

boys“The Boys of Summer” by Roger Kahn:   Many are of the opinion that this is the best baseball book ever written, or at least somewhere on the list.  Kahn describes his youth  growing up in the 30’s and 40’s near Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, as well as his time as a beat writer covering the Dodgers in the early 50’s. In a very poignant section, Kahn then recounts what happened to these great players long after their baseball days were over. Even non-baseball fans should appreciate this book.

“Mudville Madness: Fabulous Feats, Belligerent Behavior, and Erratic Episodes on the Diamond” by Jonathan Weeks:   For a lighthearted look at baseball, give this one a try. Weeks takes you chronologically from baseball’s earliest days up to the present day, recounting the strange, bizarre, and little-known events that happen on the field of play. For instance, in 1957, while a woman was being carted from the game on a stretcher after being hit in the face by Richie Ashburn’s foul ball, she was hit in the leg by another Ashburn foul ball during the same at bat.

baseballwomen“Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball” by Barbara Gregorich:   The story of women in baseball is a fascinating one. I had no idea that there were a number of barnstorming “bloomer teams” that travelled across the U.S. playing against men’s teams. Or, that during the 1930’s in an exhibition game, one woman, Jackie Mitchell, struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Gregorich’s book is an entertaining account of this little known piece of baseball history.

These are only a fraction of the baseball books that MPL has to offer, so be sure to stop in and see what we have. Also, don’t forget to come hear Phil Dixon speak at the library on March 29 at 2:00 p.m. Mr. Dixon is an African America sports historian, author of nine baseball books, and co-founder of the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Mr. Dixon will be discussing the history of the Kansas City Monarchs, games the Monarchs played in Manhattan, and the history of African American baseball players from this community.

 

 

 

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Library Secrets

By Danielle Schapaugh

Psst…I have a secret to tell you. There are free services at the library that you don’t even suspect!

scannerFor starters, Manhattan Public Library has a high-quality digital flatbed scanner. Users can scan documents, photos, articles, or even maps in color at high resolution, and save the images to a flash drive or send them directly to an email account. All for free.

If you’re in need of a high speed Internet connection, the library’s got you covered. Cardholders can access free 30Mbps WiFi in the building and at three WiFi hotspots around town: the Douglass Community Center at 901 Yuma, City Park Playground, and the Wefald Pavilion in City Park. The library received a grant in 2013 to test TV Whitespace as a way to provide free Internet access and it has been very successful. Log in to using your library card number and password. If you forget your password, visit the library to have it reset.

For those of us who feel outpaced by new technology, the library offers technology classes twice a month. In addition, Wandean Rivers in the Assistive Technology Center is available for one-on-one technology tutoring by appointment. Call Wandean at 776-4741 ext. 202 to schedule a session. Desk staff can also help with basic questions and assist you in finding the resources to learn more. These services, like all the services at the library, are free to cardholders.

Lynda_homepage_icon2If you prefer to explore on your own, the library offers several options for self-education. The most exciting new service is called lynda.com. With topics ranging from Improving Your Memory to 3D Video Game Design, lynda.com provides training to interest any user at any level. I’ve used the service to improve my professional skills in office programs and graphic design. I can’t say enough about lynda.com; I want to shout about it from the rooftops! Try any of the thousands of video tutorials and you will be amazed. Lynda.com is available completely free for all library card holders through the library’s website.

Perhaps you are someone who is “all about the books.” If you just want something good to read, ask a librarian. We have resources to recommend books based on your tastes, authors you like, genres you enjoy, bestsellers, and more. If you want a complete and customized list of recommendations, take a minute to fill out a personalized reading list request.  A librarian will comb the collection and give you a long list of books you’re sure to love. Why waste time reading mediocre books when there are so many great books to enjoy?

There are resources galore for children and families, but you may not have noticed the storytime kits and discovery packs. Librarians package books, games, toys, and even costumes in a backpack for a complete learning and entertainment experience. Find topics like New Siblings, Fire and Rescue, Potty Training (complete with Potty Elmo doll), World Records, and Dinosaurs. Discovery packs are perfect for grandparents with visiting grandkids!

Another resource you may not have noticed is simply space. The library has three meeting rooms and one computer classroom that are available to the public. Community and civic groups can reserve space to hold meetings, conduct classes, and even teleconference in the library’s meeting rooms for free. No groups can charge admission or conduct sales at the library, and some other restrictions may apply. For more information please call or visit the Manhattan Public Library.

I could go on and on, and then some. You can find language learning programs, resources to help teach your child to read, fun events, Consumer Reports, Ancestry.com, and more. If you would like a group tour of library services, please call us at (785) 776-4741 ext.120. We would love to show you all the wonderful resources available at your local library.

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Read a Tale, Tell a Tale

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

February 26 is National Tell a Fairy-Tale Day.  I know you already know them, but in case you need some inspiration for your Thursday bedtime story, come visit our Fairy Tale and Folklore Neighborhood in the Children’s room. Look for the banner with the impressive Neuschwanstein Castle pictured atop its woodsy Bavarian hillside. In this section, we have pulled together our fantastic collection of anthologies and picture books so you can find plenty of options, including classic tales, tall tales, new tales, whimsical or “fractured” fairy tales, and stories from around the world.

A few recent additions to this neighborhood include:

chickenBrave Chicken Little retold and illustrated by Robert Byrd. Chicken Little is sure the sky is falling, and he gathers an even larger than usual crowd of animals in his wake when he runs into that sly Foxy Loxy.  This time, Loxy has a wife and seven little kits “who frazzle my wits,” and they are all hungry. Down to the cellar the other animals go, waiting for the stew water to boil. Can little Chicken Little save the day?  Byrd turns the tables on this tale and gives kids an unlikely champion for problem-solving and resourcefulness.

My Grandfather’s Coat retold by Jim Aylesworth. Children love the old Yiddish tale “I Had a Little Overcoat,” with the continual surprises of what the old man will make out of his clothing next.  This retelling has just the right amount of repetition for young listeners to get into the rhythm and start chiming in: “He wore it, and he wore it. And little bit by little bit, he frayed it, and he tore it, until at last…he wore it out!”  Barbara McClintock’s illustrations of family life add a personable tone, showing how the overcoat lasts for generations until “there was nothing left at all. Nothing, that is, except for this story.”

Twelve Dancing Unicorns by Alissa Heyman. In this magical fantasy, a king has 12 unicorns chained to trees in a pen. Only a little girl with a special cloak can discover the mysterious secrets of the mythical creatures and try to save them. This story is sure to satisfy young unicorn lovers with beautiful illustrations by Justin Gerard.

blueThe longstanding favorite anthologies by Andrew Lang are being reissued with the original illustrations, and you can find The Blue Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book and The Green Fairy Book in the library’s collection, each with dozens of tales from around the world including both well-known stories and rare little gems. Lang’s prefaces are worth reading aloud, during which he generally acknowledges the superiority of the child’s mind over the dull thinking of grown-ups.

Two Robert Sabuda pop-up books are also displayed in the Fairy Tales & Folklore Neighborhood: Dragons & Knights and Beauty & the Beast. They are not available for check-out due to their delicate inner workings, but kids and adults love to pore through them while sitting on the fanciful purple bench.  So come read some books, play dress-up with your child, gaze into the “magic” mirror and be inspired to tell a thrilling tale with your own new endings on Fairy-Tale Day.

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New Year, New Room!

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

It has been nearly a full year since Kelley Construction Company broke ground outside the library to begin the children’s room expansion. Now, on January 17, 2015, just 358 days after the ceremonial groundbreaking, we will have a grand opening celebration to showcase the new Children’s Room, including fantastic reading areas, imaginative play spaces, and a larger Storytime Room for programs.

Already, the room is drawing crowds of kids, from an excited after-school bunch needing a place to hang out before evening ball games, to little tots discovering the secret doors into the playhouse.

kidsWalking into the room, anyone familiar with the library will immediately notice changes. Colorful carpet tiles lighten up the room, and an innovative bookshelf in the entryway draws readers in to have a look at the newest books available.  Kids who find something they like can crawl right into the bookshelf and begin reading in a comfy built-in nook.

Picture books have grown in popularity, so that space is enlarged with more book displays to show off the fantastic illustrations that define this genre.  The area formerly used for storytime has been renovated to encompass both an early literacy space for preschoolers and toddlers, as well as a parent and teacher resource center with a collection of books for adults.  Parents can browse for the perfect “toddler years” guide while their little ones are entertained with puppets, puzzles and books.

The new Storytime Room is a fabulous space with media capabilities that will allow for innovative programs.  There will be plenty of room for all the kids an  caregivers and even the double strollers.  Our first storytime in the room will be January 19.  Until then, children are enjoying the large, open space, bean bag animals, and bright colored cubes for seating.  On nicer winter days, families can slip out the side doors and enjoy the fenced-in garden area, free to explore nature, read outdoors, draw with chalk or play with items on the outside table.  Our new storytime schedule includes a Nature Storytime twice a week that will take place outdoors as often as possible.

roomOn the other side of the room, a special feature kids of all ages seem to enjoy is the climbable “Mount Verde”, a large, lime green, multi-level structure where kids can sit, lounge, or pose as King of the Mountain.  The structure resides in the Reading Corner amidst giant pillows, puzzle shaped seats, and soft comfy chairs.  The oval sloped lounge chair and blue wavy couch are other fun pieces on which kids or adults can relax as they preview their library choices.  This is the scene passers-by see as they drive past the windows of the library on Poyntz, and it is often teeming with children and parents.

Nestled around the edges of the room next to the Reading Corner are “neighborhoods” of books: Arts & Crafts, Science & Nature, Graphic Novels, Transportation, Geography, History, Animals, and Fairy Tales & Folklore.  Excellent selections of books on these subjects are perfect for young browsers who want to find everything on their favorite topics.  Children are drawn in with interactive features such as a magnetic gear and propeller wall, an enormous globe to spin, crafts to make on the spot, rotating displays, objects to build with, and even some live fire-bellied toads.  The fairy tale dress up clothes have been very popular, too.

The library’s large collection of children’s fiction is also relocated to this part of the room, and it includes divisions for beginning readers and early chapter books to help younger children find titles at the right reading level.

The additional space has allowed room for the children’s media collections that had been housed next to the adult media.  Children’s movies are now next to the librarians’ service desk, along with the children’s music CDs and audiobooks.  Customers have commented that they didn’t know the library had books on CD or music CDs for children until now.

studySoon, the Technology Zone in the children’s room will be upgraded with twelve touchscreen computers just for kids, loaded with entertaining and educational games, and quick links to kid-friendly websites.

Check it all out first hand, and tell us what you think. We are interested in hearing feedback as we continue to organize all our new furnishings and materials to make it the best library possible for all the kids and families who come in.  Join us on January 17, between 1:00 and 4:00, as we celebrate this new space with donor recognition, fun activities around the room for children, a musical performance by Rockin’ Rob at 2:00, and costumed characters Olivia and Curious George roaming the library.

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The Day is Short; Read Fast

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Today is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter, and the shortest day of the year. You have 9 hours, 33 minutes, and 11 seconds of daylight to work with today. What will you do with yours? If reading is on your to-do list, you might want to consider reading one of the many influential books that have the added advantage of being short.

animalA search of the Web results in several variations of lists of the best short books. Goodreads lists the most influential books under 100 pages .  Titles include “Animal Farm,” “The Little Prince,” “The Art of War,” “Common Sense,” “Hiroshima,” and “The Constitution of the United States.”

“War and Peace,” weighing in at over 1,400 pages, makes a big impression, but books don’t have to weigh a lot to be heavy hitters. The MentalFloss website lists seven slim books that pack a big punch.  Among the seven are “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine (52 Pages), “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (72 pages), “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli (82 pages), “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau (26 pages), “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White (52 pages), “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu (68 pages), and “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (54 pages).

castleLooking for something a little lighter? Checkout Flavorwire and its list of incredible novels under 200 pages. Titles include “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” a macabre and hilarious book by Shirley Jackson (all in only 146 pages), “Dept. of Speculation,” a book exploring intimacy, trust, and faith by Jenny Offill (a good bet for 179 pages), and “The Buddha in the Attic,” a mesmerizing account of the Japanese “picture brides,” by Julie Otsuka (a breeze at 129 pages).

You can find a list of 55 great books under 200 pages at Reddit.com.  Consider Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” In this 181 page novel, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home, drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, at age seven, he encountered a remarkable girl. Or try “Last Night at the Lobster,” by Stewart O’Nan, a 146 page tale of an under-performing Red Lobster Restaurant in a run-down New England mall. It’s four days until Christmas, and the manager has to convince a less than enthusiastic staff to serve their customers as if their jobs depended on it.

miceIf a literary classic is what you’re after, you can read one of several short novels by John Steinbeck including “Of Mice and Men” (107 pages), “The Pearl” (87 pages), or “Cannery Row” (196 pages). Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” will only cost you 93 pages, while “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a bargain at 180 pages. Finally, don’t forget one of my personal favorites, Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” At 96 pages, you can afford to read this Christmas classic every year.

The average adult reads between 250 and 300 words, or one page per minute.  At that rate, you can finish “War and Peace” in just under 24 hours, assuming you refrained from sleeping, and didn’t stumble too much on the Russian names. Or, you can enjoy a short book in two or three hours, with plenty of time for other pursuits. You do also have the option of switching on a lamp and reading after the sun goes down on this shortest day of the year. In any case, pick up a good book and enjoy.

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Icons in the World of Music: The Latest in Unforgettable Biographies

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Hard times were a daily reality for Elmo and Mamie Lewis in the state of Louisiana during the 1930s. Elmo made a living sharecropping and sometimes cooking whiskey, until he was caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Son Elmo, Jr., who often sang in church and who cared for his younger brother Jerry Lee, was killed at the age of nine when a drunken driver struck him. That left Mamie and little Jerry Lee to make the best of the situation.

jerryIn 1940, four-year-old Jerry Lee realized the path his life was to take. During a visit with his mother’s sister, he pressed down a single key on his aunt’s piano. He later described the experience as one similar to fire reaching through his head. With no previous experience, he immediately began the opening chords of “Silent Night.”

Yes, Jerry Lee went on to lead a scandalous personal life, shocking his followers with his many marriages and his exploits with drugs and alcohol, but he also produced a phenomenal library of songs that few have matched. Songs like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” which were considered provocative when they were first released, are now deemed groundbreaking rock and roll with hillbilly overtones
What makes “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” remarkable is author Rick Bragg’s flair for retelling the musician’s story. Bragg, author of award-winning tales like “All over but the Shoutin’” and “Ava’s Man,” brings to the story an incredible skill for southern storytelling and a genuine fondness for Jerry Lee. This story packs a wallop as a colorful character study. (more…)

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Celebrate “Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week”

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Librarian

“Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week” is an annual event that promotes reading to all Kansas children from birth through age five. Parents, librarians, and caregivers are encouraged to read the chosen book during the week of November 16-22.

funI am especially excited about this year’s selection, Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas. Three happy cows and a frustrated chicken bounce through the pages of this light-hearted picture book. We love promoting this event at Manhattan Public Library, and each child who attends a storytime during the week will receive a free book! Funding for the free books is generously provided by the Manhattan Library Association.
My love for books began when I was very young. I have such fond memories of sitting in my mom’s lap while she read Don Wood’s The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear to me night after night. She later told me that she had the book memorized since I requested it so many times. What a patient parent! Another of my all-time favorites is The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. I remember chanting along with that brave engine, “I think I can, I think I can!” These engaging books stirred a desire in me to learn how to read the words on the pages.
readaloudAs a children’s librarian, I obviously endorse reading aloud to children, but research supports it, too. One example is a study by the U.S. Department of Education, which concluded with these words: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” This quote is from The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, a wonderful book filled with read-aloud suggestions and helpful tips for parents. Books include a wider vocabulary than we often encounter in television shows or everyday conversations. Even though children are unfamiliar with these new words, exposure to them is a stepping stone to reading independently. If they have heard the word before, they will be better equipped to know how to read it on the printed page.
A love for reading is just as important as the actual reading process. The fancy name for the desire to read is called print motivation. This is one of six skills children need in order to read successfully. The other skills are: Notice Print All Around; Talk, Talk, Talk; Tell Stories About Everything; Look for Letters Everywhere; and Take Time to Rhyme, Sing, and Play Word Games. These skills were originally identified by the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read Program. Johnson County Public Library modified the information that program first developed, and they renamed it “6 by 6: Six Skills by Six Years.” Many of these skills are things parents already practice with their children without taking much time to consider the educational benefits. Things like pointing out the letters on a stop sign or words on a billboard can actually help children notice that words are all around them. Little habits like this can truly make a big difference in a child’s attitude toward reading.

Our librarians love to help children discover the joy of reading. Come visit us at the library for great book recommendations and resources for growing readers.

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In Defense of the Graphic Novel

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

The concept of telling stories through images has been around since the beginning of time. The idea has evolved in many ways, including the introduction of the comic book. From superhero stories to biographies, one can find a graphic novel about almost any subject. In recent years, the literary merit of reading comic books has come under fire, and many educators and librarians have joined the debate in defense of the graphic novel.

Reading visuals and text together requires the reader to make inferences about what is happening in the scenario or storyline. Think about the experience of reading picture books to your child. Very rarely will the characters’ emotions be portrayed through text; often, the illustrator allows the character to emote through illustrations. These inference skills start developing at the beginning of a child’s life and should continue on throughout the rest of his young adult and adult reading life.

Graphic novels also allow the reader to explore time and motion in a different way. As a young reader’s comprehension and reading levels increase, he wants to read stories with more characters and complicated circumstances. The same concept applies to graphic novels, as authors add more panels and more scenarios. A graphic novelist may make the storyline move faster and slower by modifying panels and introducing visual transitions. (more…)

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Bedtime Books for Summer Nights

by Grace Benedick, Children’s Librarian

As a child, I loved the long summer days and the warm summer nights, but if there was one thing I really hated about summer, it was bedtime. I think we can all remember the childhood trial of trying to fall asleep before the sun had set—when it seemed the whole world was still wide awake. Fortunately, for all of you grown-ups with children undergoing that yearly trial, the library is full of wonderful bedtime stories to appease your wakeful children. In fact, over 200 titles will come up if you search our catalog for picture books about bedtime, so here’s a small selection of summery favorites to get you started:

atnightJonathan Bean’s debut picture book, At Night is all about one of those restless nights when sleep just won’t come. The story moves at a poetic, quiet pace, following a restless girl as she chases the night breeze up to her city roof. With her curious mother trailing behind, she takes her pillows and blankets upstairs to the rooftop terrace, where she can see the moon and feel the breeze, and better yet—fall asleep.

 

(more…)

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