Great Books and more

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer: Which is your favorite book about Thanksgiving for ages 3 to 7?

Q: What's your favorite book about Thanksgiving for ages 3 to 7?

A: Any question that begins with "What is your favorite..." is hard for me to answer, because my moods change, my tastes change, and new things are constantly coming into my consciousness. Also, it's my job to imagine what might be someone else's favorite.  cover of Circle of Days by Lindbergh

Having said that, I do have a favorite Thanksgiving book! It is Circle of Days by Reeve Lindbergh - every time I read it, it puts me in the mood to be thankful for the total experience of living on a planet that is full of wonderful as well as terrible things. The text is from Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Sun; as a secular humanist, I choose to change a couple of words when I read it aloud. It is a beautiful and meditative book. 

cover of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by RobertsonA book that has recently come into my consciousness is Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson - this one has even more darkness in it, but is a vision for love and unity. Over the past year, many children have witnessed the turmoil in the world, and I am thankful that some authors and illustrators have crafted stories that bring us from fear and hate toward love and unity. I am also thankful that we have alternatives to the mis-portrayals of Native Americans that are ubiquitous at this time of year. If you'd like to read more authentic stories from the native people of North America, look to this blog.

cover of Our Community Garden by Pollak

The harvest feast with my family is the best thing about having a few days off of work and school in my opinion. I really appreciate books that show growing and eating food as a fun, beautiful, community endeavor. One great example (among many books on this topic!) is Our Community Garden by Barbara Pollak, which puts the focus on children's contribution to the harvest, and includes foods from a variety of cultures - plus it is set in the Bay Area!    

 Lado a Lado by FullertonCalifornia's Central Valley is home to dramatic episodes in the historical struggle for the rights of farmworkers, and people who (like me) make an annual trip down I5 will especially want to know this history. If you grew up here, you know about the grape boycot, and you might already include farmworkers in your thankful thoughts. Here's a book short enough to read at the rest stop when you're driving down to your SoCal relatives' dinner: Side by Side : The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (Lado a Lado : La Historia de Dolores Huerta y César Chávez) by Monica Brown


If you are looking for a book about Thanksgiving history, try 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, which presents history alongside many commonly held myths about this holiday.  It may be a little beyond your 3-7 year old, but it is a nice text to pull and learn from.

It's easy to search a library catalog for "Thanksgiving" - it's more complex to find books that will help your family make meaning of the holiday. I hope my suggestions lead you to a favorite book to read when you are eating your favorite foods - and it doesn't have to be turkey, either.

Now it's your turn to submit a question. Click on the button, or leave a comment.  Thank you!

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide--Graphic Novels

We loved so many graphic novels lately, we gave them their own list! Try Dr. Comics and Mr. Games of Oakland for these, though a couple are self published and can be purchased directly from the artists. Follow the links!

We've grouped them under the age of the youngest appropriate reader, but any of the kids' and YA titles may be loved by adults too.


For kids' books that aren't comics, click here.


Flop to the Top
Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing
A silly story about an internet-famous dog. Buy it for: kids obsessed with selfies.

Written and Drawn by Henrietta
Liniers (available in Spanish)
Henrietta drawself as the star of her own story. Buy it for: little cartoonists.

Lost in NYC: a subway adventure
Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio García Sánchez (available in Spanish)
What if you got lost on a field trip--in New York City? Buy it for: the kid who navigates every drive.

El Deafo
Cece Bell
This graphic memoir about growing up with a hearing impairment is an instant charmer. Buy it for: real-life superheroes.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor
Nathan Hale
In the latest installment of this silly history series, Harriet Tubman comes to life. Buy it for: kids who like to laugh and learn.

Sisters and Smile
Raina Telgemeier
Really, just anything by Raina Telgemeier. Buy it for: tweens who like real-life stories.

Roller girl
Victoria Jamieson
Can Astrid survive roller derby camp without her best friend? Buy it for: derby fans.

Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin
The fairy tales you wish you'd had growing up. Buy it for: kids who are over Cinderella.

Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
You'll love these campers and their crazy adventures. Buy it for: anyone just a little too young for Scott Pilgrim.

Noelle Stevenson
Sassy Nimona wants to be a sidekick--but what is she, really? Buy it for: everyone. Everyone should read this book.


For YA and adult books that aren't comics, click here.


In real life
Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Anda, a hero in the game Coarsegold, befriends a boy across the world named Raymond.  Instead of just playing the game for fun, Raymond’s life depends on his avatar’s success. Buy it for: comic fans and gamers.  

Through the woods
Emily Carroll
This beautifully illustrated graphic novel includes five chilling stories. Buy it for: horror fans. 

Liz Prince
Find out how Liz navigates this world when Liz doesn’t feel like a boy or a girl. Buy it for: the graphic novel and memoir enthusiast.

Ms. Marvel
G. Willow Wilson
Muslim- American Kamala loves the Avengers and wants to fit in with the popular kids. Despite her desire to be “normal,” she possesses shape shifting abilities. Buy it for: comic fans who are looking for something a little different.

The Shadow Hero
Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
An updated version of the classic The Green Turtle series, the first Asian American super hero. Buy it for: fans of super hero style comics and the hugely popular comic author Lang. 

Nothing can possibly go wrong
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
Charlie and Nate have an unlikely friendship that nearly ends when they have a war with the school cheerleaders. Buy it for: comedy fans who love the classic “nerds versus popular kids” type stories.



Killing and dying
Adrian Tomine
Six tales from a storyteller known for his cool illustrations, sharp observations and wry yet compassionate sense of humor. Buy it for: witty and moody indie readers.

Step aside, Pops!
Kate Beaton
Kate Beaton's webcomic Hark! a Vagrant is basically the best thing about the 21st century so far. Buy it for: anyone who loved her eponymous first collection.

Saga v. 1-5
Brian K. Vaughan
Saga is kind of impossible to describe. It's fierce, it's feminist, it's funny, and it's loaded with a$$-kicking aliens and ghosts. Buy it for: someone who wants to fall in love with a story--there's no end to this series in sight yet.

Lynda Barry
Lynda Barry is a phenomenon of a human (I'm not even sure she's human) and a pretty terrific teacher. This collection of her lecture notes and assignments for graphic novelists will inspire. Buy it for: that friend of yours who's always talking about maybe drawing a comic someday.

Whirlwind wonderland
Rina Ayuyang
A collection of little moments and stories by an Oakland artist. Ayuyang shows why traffic is your buddy, how to dance with Brad Pitt, and other lessons in charming ink drawings. Buy it for: someone who wants to slow down and notice things.

March, books 1 and 2
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Congressperson and Civil Rights leader John Lewis recounts his story in these first two volumes of a projected trilogy. The graphic format vividly depicts defining moments in the nonviolent struggle against segregation and inequality while Lewis’s point of view adds a personal edge. Buy it for: Activists, historians and anyone who could use some inspiration.

Fun home
Alison Bechdel
Although this graphic memoir came out almost a decade ago, the Broadway adaptation won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015—a great excuse to revisit this groundbreaking work! Fun home is a deeply personal tragicomedy about the author, her coming out story and her relationship with her family, especially her closeted father. Buy it for: Anyone who might enjoy reading someone else’s diary.

Drinking at the movies
Julia Wertz
Not that we want you to move to New York, but-- you will probably love this comic about moving from San Francisco to New York. Julia Wertz (of Fart Party fame) could not be funnier. Buy it for: that hard-to-impress stand-up comedian.

Domestic Times
Tessa Brunton
What's it REALLY like to live with a partner? How does anyone do it and stay sane? This hilarious comic is guaranteed to smooth over any domestic squabbles. Buy it for: your friends who just moved in together.

Get Jiro: blood and sushi
Anthony Bourdain
In near-future Los Angeles, a violent war is brewing between organic locavore purists and exotic internationalists, and famous sushi chef Jiro is slashing through the middle of the combat. Buy it for: food snobs with a taste for blood.

Sandman: overture deluxe edition
Neil Gaiman
This brand-new edition collects all six "Overture" stories, the prequel (more or less) to Gaiman's amazing Sandman series. Buy it for: Sandman fans.

Bryan Lee O'Malley
The thoughtful and funny follow-up to O'Malley's blockbuster Scott Pilgrim series. Buy it for: anyone, and maybe buy them Scott Pilgrim while you're at it.

Thrilling adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: the (mostly) true story of the first computer
Sydney Padua
Victoriana! history! math! computer science! Buy it for: steampunk fans or your friend who just finished coding school.

Oakland Indie Bookstores

Remember to call before you visit if you're looking for particular titles. 

Laurel Book Store, 1423 Broadway. 452-9232
Pegasus- Oakland, 5560 College Ave. 652-6259
Marcus Bookstore, 3900 MLK Way. 652-2344
A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 LaSalle Ave. 339-8210
E. M. Wolfman, 410 13th St. 415-250-5527
Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College Ave. 653-9965
Walden Pond Books, 3319 Grand Ave. 832-4438
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games, 4014 Piedmont Ave. 601-7800

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide--Children's Books

We have a confession to make: we librarians LOVE IT when you buy books. LOVE!! And we know you want to give exactly the right book. 

So, without further ado, OPL is proud to present its first ever Holiday Gift Guide. These are books we love and want you and your loved ones to read, ones that are 99% guaranteed not to garner this reaction. And as if that weren't great enough, we're capping it off with a list of local indie bookstores where you can buy these gems. (Call ahead to confirm availability!)

Click here for our Graphic Novel Gift Guide!

Click here for suggestions for adult and YA readers!

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Children's List 

For babies and toddlers


Frida: counting with / contando con
Patty Rodríguez, Ariana Stein, and Citlali Reyes
We can't get enough of the Lil' Libros series. Buy it for: bebés artísticos.

Global baby bedtimes
Maya Ajmera
Babies love to look at faces, and you won’t find a cuter collection than in the “Global Baby” books. In this one, they are soooooo sleepy. Buy it for: new parents.

Steven Savage
Every truck has an important job except for one—until he becomes Supertruck! Buy it for: the truck obsessed. It won’t disappoint.

For silly billies


The princess and the pony
Kate Beaton
Princess Pinecone wants a pony for her birthday, but not THIS pony! Buy it for: the preschooler to whom you’ve read the same princess book a thousand times.

Vegetables in underwear
Jared Chapman
I wear underwear, you wear underwear, and—turnips wear underwear?! They sure do. Buy it for: any kid who’s ever run through the house in their drawers.

For fierce individualists


Niño wrestles the world
Yuyi Morales
Niño can fight and defeat terrifying luchadores like Cabeza Olmeca and la Momia de Guanajuato! Buy it for: niños y niñas who love lucha libre.

Ballet Cat: the totally secret secret
Bob Shea
There’s nothing Ballet Cat loves more than ballet—well, almost nothing. Buy it for: little ballerinas who like a funny story.

Puffy: people whose hair defies gravity
Aya de Leon
“Puffy here, puffy there; yay! I love my puffy hair.” A celebration of natural black hair by an Oaklander. Buy it for: families who love their puffs and fros. 

For families who love the Bay (and who doesn't?)


Last stop on Market Street
Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
CJ and his nana don’t need a car—they have a bus that breathes fire! Buy it for: families who appreciate the little things.

Neighborhood sharks
Katherine Roy
Visit the great white sharks who live around the Farallon Islands. Buy it for: budding marine biologists.

For kids who've already found Waldo

The world of Mamoko in the time of dragons
Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska
Mamoko is the best thing to happen to search-and-find books since the dude in the red-and-white striped hat. Buy it for: puzzle lovers of all ages.

For older readers


Unusual chickens for the exceptional poultry farmer
Kelly Jones
Sophie Brown is new in town and has some magical chickens to deal with. Buy it for: fans of Roald Dahl.

Alex Gino
This groundbreaking novel about a transgender child is written by an Oakland resident. Buy it for: readers who love stories about defining who you are.

Ellray Jakes the recess king
Sally Warner
The Ellray Jakes series is one of the best going for middle graders. Buy it for: class clowns.

Gone crazy in Alabama
Rita Williams Garcia
The Gaither sisters trilogy draws to an exciting, funny, and warm conclusion. Buy it for: oldest siblings.

Brown girl dreaming
Jacqueline Woodson
A beautiful memoir-in-verse of growing up to be a writer in an African-American family. Buy it for: aspiring novelists and poets.

Graphic novels? Well...........

We literally had too many to mention, so the graphic novels have their own list. Click here!

Oakland Indie Bookstores

Remember to call before you visit if you're looking for particular titles. 

Laurel Book Store, 1423 Broadway. 452-9232
Pegasus- Oakland, 5560 College Ave. 652-6259
Marcus Bookstore, 3900 MLK Way. 652-2344
A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 LaSalle Ave. 339-8210
E. M. Wolfman, 410 13th St. 415-250-5527
Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College Ave. 653-9965
Walden Pond Books, 3319 Grand Ave. 832-4438
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games, 4014 Piedmont Ave. 601-7800

Looking for graphic novels? Look here!

Go here for adult and YA recommendations.

Q & A Patrons Ask, Librarians Answer: What is your favorite part of your job?

Usually I answer questions asked by adults. Today I am going to answer questions asked by children:

1. Who invented the Dewey Decimal System?

Melvil Dewey.

2. Was he a scientist?

No, he was a librarian.

3. You're kidding?


4. Tell the truth Ms. Nichole! Was Melvil Dewey a real person?

 I am not pulling your leg. Melvil Dewey was a real person. Read his online biography here or borrow this book:


5. What are the words to the "I love you" song you sing at storytime?

The song "Skinnamarink Dinky Dink" is what I sing at storytime. It is from my favorite childhood show.

If you are not feeling the love, some librarians like to "Go Bananas" at storytime. Here is one version of the song you can try at home:

6. What is your favorite part of your job?

Helping grown-ups solve real hard problems that will make your life better.  If I can help your mom or dad find a new house, or a new job, or something like that; I know that in a small way I have helped you. I am not always successful, but when I am it is the best feeling in the world.  I love helping people more than I love reading.

7. How do I become a librarian?

First, finish college and get a Bachelor's Degree in anything you want.  Next, get your Master's in Library Science from a school accredited by the American Library Assocation. There are two schools located in California and several programs are available online. And voila, you are now a librarian.

8. How many years of school is that?

Well, let's see.... your Bachelor's Degree is usually takes 4 - 5 years to complete and the average Master's Degree takes 2 - 3 years to complete so... you are looking at at least 6 years of school after you graduate high school. 

9. I don't want to go to school that long!

That's okay. Just like everyone who works in the hospital is not a doctor, everyone who works in a library is not a librarian. In addtition to librarians, we have library assistants, library aides, and library volunteers working in a library. Each job has different education requirements and not all of them require a master's degree, but all of them (except volunteers) require you finish high school. 

10. Do all librarians wear glasses?

Only the ones that don't wear contact lenses! Just kidding, glasses are not required. 


Coming soon: OPL's 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

So, we at the library love letting you borrow books for free. It's kind of our thing. But we know that when you give a book as a gift, you don't want to have to whisper "bring it back in three weeks" while receiving your thank you hug, do you? Sometimes, you really need to buy a book.

And boy, do we have thoughts about which books you should buy, and where you should buy them. That's why on November 12, OPL will release our first Holiday Gift Guide. We'll include recommended titles for the children, teens, and adults in your lives, AND a handy-dandy list of independent bookstores in Oakland! What more could you ask for?

While we're making our list and checking it twice,* chime in with your suggestions here. What books have you loved this year? Which are you planning to give as gifts? I'll go first and say that multiple people on my list will be getting Kate Beaton's two 2015 books: The Princess and the Pony for the kids, and Step Aside, Pops! for the.. big kids.


Comment here with your picks!


*It feels SO WRONG to say that when it's still 80 degrees out...

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. Where do you keep your Level K books?

Q: Where do you keep your Level K books?cover of a reading primer called I Know a Secret

A: The short answer is that Oakland Library doesn't label books with reading levels using any of systems associated with proprietary testing...

...however, we do have areas of the library that gather a range of reading levels together. This allows readers to browse an area that encompasses their reading level and includes choices of subjects, visual presentations, genres, and writing styles. Our hope is that (without too much effort) readers will find books that appeal to them and are close enough to their reading level. 

So, when you ask us for leveled books, let us show you to the section that includes the level you need. At that point, many readers decide to get any books that look interesting and seem close enough to the right level.

We basically have 4 categories; Readers, Moving Up, Fiction (I like to call these Chapter Books), and finally Picture Books, which often means books meant for an adult to read aloud to a child, but includes many different reading levels.  Also, we have Non-Fiction Readers, Regular Non-Fiction, and Picture-Book-Non-Fiction at most library locations, so a person can find informational books at different reading levels, too.  Photo of a family all reading in bed together

However, if we have time and you're committed to finding the specific suggested level, you can get any book that looks good, and we will look it up online to find out its reading level.  The process of looking up each title is time consuming, but it is very likely that you'll get a feel for the level after a dozen searches or fewer, and then you can guess the level yourself. We would use these sites to search by title; Scholastic, AR, or Lexile

The owners of these sites do not enter every book ever published, but between them, we can usually find your title. You can also use these sites to find other titles at the same reading level. In fact, trying that sort of search a few times will give you some perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of leveling books.

Colorful chart comparing systemsQ: What does level "R" mean, anyway? How do I make sense of those "proprietary" leveling systems?

A: Ah, you want the long answer!  At my last count I found three systems that use the alphabet ("Fountas & Pinnell", "Reading A-Z ", and "Basic Reading Inventory" or "BRI"), four that use a numbering system ("ATOS" or "Accelerated Reader", "Reading Recovery", "Developmental Reading Assessment" or "DRA", and "Lexile"), and two that use terms ("Seedling" and "PM Readers").  Occasionally we find a chart or two that compares them to one another. However, another system could be invented while you are reading this blog!

The easiest one for me to make sense of is ATOS, because the numbers correspond to the grade level and the month of the school year. For example, ATOS level 3.5 means your child is reading at a level most commonly seen among students in the fifth month of third grade. It's tidy because there are 10 months in a school year – Yay for decimal systems! For that reason, I use ATOS as my benchmark to which I relate all the other leveling systems. You don’t have to, though.

1965 cover of Fun With Our Friends Dick and JaneEach proprietary system uses some kind of algorithm to calculate the level based on either the entire text or a sample of the text, some with a differential for the length of the book. For fun, paste something into this ATOS analyzer.  For example, this text is level 8.9, but the vocabulary is only 3.5, that means it was challenging, but well-worth reading, right?  

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians are standing by to answer your questions! 

Click here to Ask a Question

Kids' magazines for your smartphone or tablet!

Zinio is the Oakland Public Library's digital magazine provider, and your library card gives you access to hundreds of titles on your iPad, Kindle Fire, smartphone or other digital device. The New Yorker, Vogue, National Geographic, Forbes and many others are available... and now, so are over a dozen popular children's magazines

Do your kids love Highlights, Cricket, or American Girl Magazine? Zinio lets you download them for free, and you can keep them on your device forever.

To use Zinio, you'll need to add the app on your digital device. Get started by clicking here!

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer: Will you really let my kid read whatever they want?

Summary of a conversation I had this week: 

Parent: My kid said you will let him read whatever he wants! Is that true? 

Me: The short answer?  Yeah.  Anything available to the public he is allowed to borrow. 

Parent reply: He's only 9 years old! The library is full of subjects he is not mature enough for yet! You are going to let him borrow anything!?!?!

Me: As long as he checks it out with his library card... yeah, pretty much. 

So I gave the parent the very long explanation why a child is allowed to borrow anything they want in a library. I'm sure you want the long version too. But that's a lot to read, so I'm summarizing it into two basic points.

  1. The public library doesn't censor materials because you have a right to free access to information. All of you. Your kids too. I repeat: YOU. HAVE. THE. RIGHT. TO. FREE. ACCESS. TO. INFORMATION.  Don't believe me check out this link: Library Bill of Rights.  So does this mean I'm recommending materials to your children that are not age appropriate? No, no of course not.  We recommend age appropriate materials to our patrons so they have the best library experience.  So no worries, if your kid asks for scary movies I'm recommending Scooby Doo, not Saw V.  Disclaimer: If your kid asks for something specific, I will give him his specific request, because I don't censor.  So if your kid asks for Stephen King, he is coming home with 
  2. It is my job to fight for your freedom to read. Actually it's my passion and the passion of mild mannered librarians everywhere.  We don't mind if you decide a specific subject, author, or book is not a good choice for your family. Librarians will happily help you find something enjoyable that stays true to your family's values. BUT when people decide their values must be enforced upon others, and that the materials they find objectionable must be removed from the library, we librarians morph from mild mannered storytellers and fine collectors into...


Why? Because again: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FREE ACCESS TO INFORMATION!  It is your job to decide what materials are best for your family. Not mine, and not anyone else’s. The public library holds materials of different subjects and tastes for everyone. It is the passion of the Book Avengers to make sure it stays that way.

Are you thinking we librarians take this Book Avengers stuff a bit too far; that I'm being a bit over dramatic?  Okay well maybe a little bit, but the fight is real folks. Hundreds of books get challenged (that means people are trying to have them removed from libraries and bookstores) and banned (the book was successfully removed from libraries and bookstores) every year by individuals/groups who are offended by its content. Here are just a few examples:


This is based on a TRUE story about penguins in the New York Central Park Zoo. It is a story about two male penguins who raise a baby together. This book was the MOST challenged book of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010  (it won 2nd place in 2009) because a conservative political group called it "a misleading... disingenuous, inaccurate way to promote a political agenda to kids."   The point that this book is based on verifiable factual events was totally irrelevant I guess. 

This is a story about a little donkey who finds a magic pebble and accidently wishes himself into a rock. This sweet charming story was challenged because the police in the story are drawn as pigs. Cops were offended, so the book had to go. Or not. 

The story of Max traveling to the land of Wild Things has been challenged and banned for two opposing reasons: On one hand a parent group was upset that the book glorified Max's temper tantrum, while the other group was grossly offended that his mother punished him by sending him to bed without supper. Mothers are supposed to provide food donchaknow! So the fact that mom addressed the behavior issue and provided hot soup at the end of the book is totally missed by both offended groups. 

 Of course the story of Dorothy visiting Oz is offensive. She encounters a witch, or two, or three if you count the one she dropped her house on.  But what is more horrifying to a religious group in Tennessee was that Glenda is a "good witch." They were offended by the idea that a witch could be good because that is "theologically impossible." To be fair, librarians cannot diss' anyone’s theology. But to remove this book from the library at the demand of the Tennessee group would in essence devalue those whose religious theology believed in “good witches” and those who didn't believe in witches at all.  So in respect of all theological viewpoints the book stays; we have plenty of other books available that do not contain witches.

And my personal favoriate book that was banned: 


In 2010 the Texas Education Board banned the beloved picture book about colors and animals because the author's name was Bill Martin Jr.  The overambitious board members wanted to ensure that nothing written by  Bill Martin (no relation), author of Ethical Marxism  was accepted as a part of the school curriculum; so they banned EVERYTHING ever written by any author named Bill Martin. It never occurred to anyone on the board to iduhno... read a few of the books they decided to ban first. So I guess checking to see if any authors shared the same name but wrote for a different audience was also out of the realm of possibility.

You can find all of the above books in the library, because the Book Avengers fought to keep them there. Without the Book Avengers fighting for your freedom to read, the above books and many others you love would be inaccessible to you. Fun books, enjoyable books, books that make you think, and yes, books that express opinions and ideals you do not agree with. So pick up one of these books and enjoy your freedom to read at any age. Your mild mannered librarian is proud to offer them to you.

Q&A: Patron's Ask; Librarians Answer: I'm out of time, can we do this later?

Q: I love coming in to my local library to get one-on-one help from a children's librarian, but I only have a few minutes! A clock - meant to show time is running out.How can I get your expert help faster?  My middle-school-age daughter is dyslexic, her younger brother is an avid reader of comic books - exclusively, and my toddler has just figured out how to undo her seat belt on the stroller. I need book recommendations for all three of them, and I have to get to the market before dinner. Actually, forget it, I have to take this call from the pediatrician. We'll come back next week!

A: We love it when you come in person to the library, because speaking with you one-on-one allows us to be our most effective. Getting to know you helps us figure out which materials will be right for you. First of all, thanks for making time to bring your kids to the library!  I know it's often a challenge, but observing your child's responses when I hand her one book helps me figure out which book to try next.  Please keep trying, and don't worry about offending me if you run out the door in mid-sentence.

Here are a few ideas to save time and keep track of what you want to read:

Use your phone to snap a photo of any book that looks interesting. Maybe your son's friend's book, or a book your daughter's teacher had on display at back-to-school night. That's enough information to find it later. Show me the photo on your phone, and I'll grab it for you. After you take it home, you can figure out if it's really right for you. ("You" in this case meaning you or one of your children.)

Use our online catalog to put a hold on a book you want - if you have time on the internet. (Does that ever happen? Maybe when everyone else is asleep?) Then, you can run into the library, grab the book, and run out again. While you're in our online catalog, looking at any specific book, take a quick peek at the feature "You Might Also Like..." - and put a hold on one of those, too.

Logo from Biblionasium webpageUse an online bookshelf like Goodreads or LibraryThing, or (for kids) Biblionasium. With these, you can keep track of books you want to read and ones you've already read, and also find related-reading suggestions. For younger kids, Beanstack will suggest titles, and keep track of your reading. If your phone supports either email or the apps that go along with some of those websites, you will always have a book suggestion at hand.

Talk to your local children's librarian, if & when you do have a minute. Get the one-on-one help that is most effective - by telling me what you've been reading, what's been driving your reading, and which direction you'd like to steer next. Even if we get interrupted, we can get started, and build on our familiarity over time.

I can email you the reading suggestions that were not readily at hand if we get interrupted, which makes it super-easy to place holds on the titles, in which case you can grab them quickly when they arrive.

Sometimes the best thing about your children's librarian is the fact that she accepts wherever you are with regards to literature. There is no curriculum and no pass/fail grading system, because there are infinite variations in readers. 

We are here for you even if you only have 5 minutes to spend at the library.

How hot was it? Too hot for these joke books!

How hot is it in Oakland right now? Well, this morning I saw two trees fighting over a dog!* LOL

If that joke made you want to punch me in the face, chances are you're a lil' cranky over this heat wave we're having. And if that is the case, for the love of pickles, do NOT let your child anywhere NEAR this number:


That is the Dewey Decimal number for joke books. Your local OPL branch has a treasure trove of irritating, groanworthy jokes that are sure to make your kids howl with laughter, while you howl in pain. Whatever you do, keep your child away from 793.735, or risk getting pummeled with awesome jokes like these:

Q. Why don't cookies go to the library when it's hot out?
A. Because they feel too crummy.*

Q. Why did the lady leave her purse open when she went outside?
A. Because the newscaster said there would be some change in the weather.*

Q. Why do we want you to come to the library when it's hot out?
A. Because we need all the FANS we can get! 

Ha ha! Seriously, though, come visit us. And if you need a nice, cool break from the heat, Asian and Chávez branches have air conditioning.


Just Joking 2: 300 hilarious jokes about everything, including tongue twisters, riddles, and more!