Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Reading African American authors with your kids


A post from Sydney and Ms. Lorraine.

One way to recognize and honor Black History Month is to read books with your family that feature the African American experience, and that are written or illustrated by African Americans.  Fortunately, there are plenty of amazing African American authors and illustrators to choose from on our library shelves!  There are so many that is hard to choose just a few to highlight here.  We highly encourage you try some of these with your family this month, and beyond! 

Picture Books:

We have to start with the wonderful Pinkney Family!  Jerry Pinkney is a Philadelphia-born author and illustrator.  He has illustrated over 100 books since 1964, including picture booksnonfiction titles and novels. Pinkney's works address diverse themes and are usually done in watercolors.  He has received multiple awards for his illustrations and his contributions to the field of children's literature. Jerry’s wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney, is also an author, and several of their children are prolific authors or artists as well.  Search for the name “Pinkney” in our catalog—you will be amazed at how many titles come up!

Here are just a few other ideas for picture books authors and illustrators:

  • Kadir Nelson (e.g., We Are the Ship: the Story of the Negro Baseball League)
  • Donald Crews (e.g., Freight Train)
  • Faith Ringgold (e.g., Tar Beach)
  • Natasha Tarpley (e.g., I Love My Hair!)
  • John Steptoe (e.g., Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: an African Tale)

Chapter Books & Graphic Novels

Jacqueline Woodson has written books for all ages but may be best known for her works for middle grader readers: e.g., Harbor Me (a novel) and Brown Girl Dreaming (her beautiful memoir in verse).  You can read her many picture books--including The Day You Begin, Show Way, or The Other Side (illustrated by the equally wonderful E.B. Lewis)--with young children.  On their own, adults would enjoy Red at the Bone or Another Brooklyn.  Here are just a few more ideas if you are looking for African American authors for middle graders:

  • Sharon M. Draper (e.g., Stella by Starlight
  • Kwame Alexander (e.g., Crossover)
  • Jerry Craft (e.g., New Kid)
  • Rita Williams-Garcia (e.g., One Crazy Summer)
  • Kwame Mbalia (e.g., Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky)
  • Mildred D. Taylor (e.g., Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry)
  • Christopher Paul Curtis (e.g., Bud, Not Buddy)
  • Renee Watson (e.g., Ways to Make Sunshine)

Young Adult:  

It’s wonderful to see more and African American authors appearing on the YA shelves.  Sydney just read a recent publication, Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn, and highly recommends it for fantasy YA fans.  Here are a few more of authors to try—they offer contemporary fiction, fantasy, novels in verse. 

  • Angie Thomas (e.g., The Hate U Give)
  • Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone series)
  • Elizabeth Acevedo (e.g., Clap When You Land)
  • Jason Reynolds (e.g., Long Way Down)
  • Bethany Morrow (A Song Below Water)
  • Walter Dean Myers (e.g., Monster)

Are any of your favorites listed here?  There are so many more to choose from.  Commemorate Black History Month with us this month and check out some of these great reads. We think you'll discover some new favorites to keep enjoying all year! 

Monday, January 25, 2021

What we're reading: Catching up with Christmas gifts

A post from Sydney  (silly dog included in the photo above to catch your attention!)

When you were a kid, did you have that aunt who gave you books for every holiday?  Yeah, I'm that aunt.  It may be even worse for my kids: I am a serious book pusher, giving them for every holiday, every opportunity.  I don’t even wait for my kids to submit requests-- I already know what I think they would like, and they next thing they know, I’ve given them a copy, or grabbed it from the library, and then I am bugging them about what they think of it. 

I can understand how this might be a bit annoying….  But this year, both kids loved their Christmas books, so much so that they turned the tables on me and insisted I read them as well.  I really couldn’t say no, after all the reading I’ve foisted on them over the years, right?  

I just finished Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn.  This was the gift for my daughter who is a lover of all things fantasy and YA.  As soon as I finished that, I started The Crooked Hinge, by John Dickson Carr, which was the gift for my Sherlock Holmes-loving son.  My son is all about logic and deduction, so I thought this classic “locked room” mystery would be right up his alley.  He thought it was great and is eagerly waiting for me to finish it so we can discuss.  In the meantime, my daughter and I are gushing about Legendborn, because we just loved this book.

YA and fantasy fans—you need to get yourself a copy of Legendborn!  On a very basic level, I can describe it as a modern YA novel, where a young girl navigates college, boys, all while suffering through the grief of just having lost her mother in a tragic car accident.  But it is so much more than that.  Throw in the legend of King Arthur and some serious magic.  Now add in the twist that, Bree, the main character, is African American, and the action is set in the South, with all that you can imagine that entails. The author doesn’t shy away from showing the racism Bree faces today, or that her ancestors suffered through.  We loved Bree, Bree’s voice, the relationships between the characters, and the creativity behind this book.  It was enthralling, exciting, and we are very much looking forward to the next book in the series. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Museum Inspired Grab & Go Bags!

A post from Ms. Lorraine.
With many museums closed for public visitation, I thought we could have fun and learn with STEAM activities connected to some of the museums we have library passes for, thus keeping them in our hearts until we can visit in person. 

Using very few supplies, we can create and experiment with ideas I’ve researched and modified. 

Most of their websites have a variety of virtual offerings, as well, depending on your desires to learn or just have fun. 

OK, so what is all the fuss about STEM/STEAM?, you may ask.  What’s the difference between STEM and STEAM? And just what makes STEM/STEAM learning important? Let me share what I have learned.

Science encourages investigation and answering questions, often involving experimentation.

Technology refers to using simple tools like crayons and rulers, as well as more complex ones like microscopes and computers

Engineering refers to recognizing problems and testing solutions

Arts encourage creativity and allows children to illustrate concepts they are learning

Mathematics deals with numbers, but also patterns, shapes, organizational skills and much more

The main difference between STEM and STEAM is STEM explicitly focuses on scientific concepts.  STEM represents science, technology, engineering and math, while STEAM adds in the arts – humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media.

STEM and STEAM learning are both very important because these five disciplines are used in everyday activities. They promote problem solving, innovation, and creative and analytical thinking. STEM disciplines are a growing part of our economy.  Including the A for Arts helps us remember the importance of personal expression and creativity as well.   

So let the fun and learning begin!

Look for our Grab-N-Go Bucket on the Front porch starting January 5th!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

What We're Reading: And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again


What We’re Reading: a series where we, your librarians, share what we're reading this week. A post from Harry.

A new addition to the Conshy Library's collection, And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again is an anthology featuring writers from all over the world responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. With contributions from over 50 global authors, this book collects deeply personal reactions to the pandemic yet remind us that the pandemic is a shared experience, that even in our isolation we are not alone.

This collection ranges from personal essay to poetry, from Mauritius to Canada, juxtaposing genre and location. It offers a global view of the unfolding tragedy, reminding us that we are all in this together as we hunker down and do our best to keep others safe. 

One of the more provocative pieces is by the Sudanese writer Khalid Albaih who asks that the reader reflect on what privilege hides behind the phrases "new normal" and "old normal".  He reminds us that there are people in places around the world that live everyday under lockdown because of geopolitical conflicts out of their control. A more poignant story talks about a child who falls in love with Jane Goodall and her chimpanzee friends during quarantine. A poem talks about a pile of books that the narrator cannot force himself to read. 

Most of the selections were written during the early months of lockdown, between March and May of this year. Reading them now, it is interesting to reflect on how our understanding of the virus has changed, as well as our ability to cope with "the new normal". Uncertainty is one of the underlying themes that connect all the works, and while much is still uncertain, vaccines are being administered for the first time across the United States. The light at the end of the tunnel that so many of these writers are hoping for is finally arriving.

While some might want to put more space between them and the pandemic before reading, I found it therapeutic to read this anthology. I'd highly recommend this for high school age and above. Anyone will find something that they connect with in this collection, and connection has never been more important. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Shake up your reading for 2021

A post from Sydney.

It's the end of the year!  I have a special place in my heart for this time of the year.  Obviously, I love the holidays.  But I also enjoy taking a moment to look back on the year that was, and make plans for the year to come.  This year in particular, I know we all are ready to wave goodbye to the mess that was 2020, and we look forward with cautious optimism to the beginning of a fresh 2021.  One goal I have decided on is to find new ways to shake up my reading for 2021.

I am facing the fact that I probably won't complete my Goodreads Reading Challenge for this year.  You would think that all that quarantine time would have let me read more, but it just didn't.  The disruption in my schedule, the strangeness of working from home, worry, and all sorts of other things wreaked havoc on my reading.  I thought it was just me, but apparently reading anxiety was fairly common this year.  How can we bring back our reading mojo?

Setting yourself a reading challenge might help.  For several years, I have set myself a numerical goal with the Goodreads Reading Challenge.  It's kind of fun to check in periodically throughout the year and see how you are doing.  You race against yourself from prior years, and it's not stressful.  But this year, it was also not really that inspiring. 

There are tons of other reading challenges that give you suggestions of genres to try.  These challenges help you break out your comfort zone by giving you a push to try something different.  They often have Goodreads groups or message boards where people suggest titles to each other, in case you need ideas.  I had no idea that "food memoirs" were a thing until it came up in the BookRiot Read Harder Challenge a few years ago. I read Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton to fulfill that challenge.  (It was unexpectedly fascinating--and the author grew up in my hometown. Bonus!)  

Here are just a few of the reading challenges out there.  You can find a lot more with a Google search!

Happy reading, and happy 2021 to all!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Year In Review: Top Picture Books

'Tis the season for year-end lists! Even this lousy pandemic couldn't stop the Conshy Library from circulating books to our patrons in Conshohocken and around Montgomery County. Here are the Top 10 most circulated Picture Books from 2020. Did you or your kids read any of these titles?

Pig the star, Aaron Blabey
Thelma the unicorn, Aaron Blabey 
Grumpy monkey, Suzanne Lang 
The rabbit listened, Cori Doerrfeld
The curious garden, Peter Brown 

The Pigeon series by Mo Willems was by far the most popular across the consortium with the following books taking the top 3 spots!

The pigeon needs a bath!
The pigeon has to go to school!
The Pigeon finds a hot dog!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Year in Review: Top Adult Fiction


'Tis the season for year-end lists! Even this lousy pandemic couldn't stop the Conshy Library from circulating books to our patrons in Conshohocken and around Montgomery County. Here are the Top 10 most circulated Adult Fiction books from 2020. Did you read any of these titles?

On Earth we're briefly gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
The nickel boys, Colson Whitehead
City of girls, Elizabeth Gilbert
The overstory, Richard Powers
The only woman in the room, Marie Benedict
Robert B. Parker's Angel eyes, Ace Atkins  
Ask again, yes, Mary Beth Keane
The mother-in-law, Sally Hepworth
The giver of stars, Jojo Moyes

Additionally, here are the top 3 from the entire Montgomery County Library and Information Consortium. Where the crawdads sing reached first place by a landslide!

The dutch house, Ann Patchett

Reading African American authors with your kids

  A post from Sydney and Ms. Lorraine. One way to recognize and honor Black History Month is to read books with your family that feature the...