Great Books and more

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Antidotes to teen romances for my precocious pre-teen?

Q: My daughter is in 6th grade, and she’s an avid reader. She’s choosing teen stories that seem to actually be romances - vampires, warriors, rebels, detectives - they all seem to focus on the love interest in the end! I feel Twilight is one of the books the 6th-grader had it might be influencing her behavior toward the boys in her school - in a way that to me seems vulnerable. Do you have any good stories about strong female characters without the romance? Akata Witch - See below for details.

A: As your child continues to develop her individual identity, it would be nice to have a steady supply of role models in literature that show a variety. We can find plenty!

As to her current reading choices; while romance is a real option for older teens, if younger people believe they should emulate it before they actually feel it from within, it could get confusing for them.

You could talk to her to figure out what those romantic scenarios mean to her - at her age, she may be very interested in them, or she may be skimming those parts. Aim to keep the lines of communication open in both directions. She is still at the age where your opinion matters, and she may have questions for you if she can trust you to be open and nonjudgmental.

Sabriel - see details below!In any case, it is best to not interfere with your child’s reading choices. Those books are not going to damage her, and as much influence as they have, her family, her friends, and all the other books in the world have just as much or possibly more.

So...your idea is perfect; have a couple of books on hand every time she finishes another one of those racy novels. Here are some ideas - these are stories that stay in the social & emotional world of middle school kids ages 10 to 13, have strong, self-aware, individuated female characters who focus on their mission, their interests, and their own strengths, and don’t chuck it all for the hot guy in the end.

Fantasy & Magic 

Kat, Incorrigible (Burgis), Princess Curse (Haskell), Howls Moving Castle (Jones), Kiki's Delivery Service (Kadono), Tale of Two Castles (Levine), Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Lin), Princess Ben (Murdock), Sabriel (Nix), Akata Witch (Okorafor), Wee Free Men (Pratchett), Golden Compass (Pullman), Thickety (White);  

Kat, IncorrigiblePrincess CurseHowl's Moving Castle - also a great Miyazaki movie!Kiki's Delivery Service Tale of Two CastlesWhere the Mountain Meets the MoonPrincess Ben Sabriel (First in Abhorsen series) Akata WitchWee Free Men (first in series of 4 books)Golden Compass (first book in His Dark Materials)Thickety

Science Fiction

Search for Wond-La (Diterlizzi), City of Ember (DuPrau), Skyjumpers (Eddleman), Wrinkle In Time (L'engle), True Meaning Of Smekday (Rex), When You Reach Me (Stead);

Search for Wond-LaCity of EmberSky JumpersWrinkle in TimeTrue Meaning of SmekdayWhen You Reach Me

 Realistic Fiction

Breadwinner (Ellis), Mare's War (Davis), Lady Grace Mysteries (Finney, aka Cavendish), Harriet The Spy (Fitzhugh), Journey to the River Sea (Ibbotson), Thing About Luck (Kadohata), From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg), Wild Girls (Murphy), Wonderstruck (Selznick), Counting By 7s (Sloan), At The Sign Of The Star (Sturtevant) Revolution (Wiles);

Breadwinner (first in series)Mare's WarLady Grace Mysteries (Assassin & Betrayal, bks 1 & 2)Harriet the Spy - see other editions tooJourney to the River Sea The Thing about LuckFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerWild Girls WonderstruckCounting by 7sAt the Sign of the StarRevolution 

Each of these books is a favorite of mine for a different reason. (Okay, there are 2 on these lists I haven't read, but I have on good authority they are worth reading...) Your daughter won’t like every one of them, so please ask us how to narrow it down. If you click on the book cover, you can see if the book is in the library today, and place a hold if you like.


Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians will answer questions on  this blog the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. We'd love to hear your ideas and feedback in our comments (below).  We also would love to answer YOUR question! Click here:   

Click here to submit a question!

You Can Throw Your Pizza On MY Roof

You know, we all get a little mad sometimes. But throwing perfectly good pizza onto the roof of your house is NOT an okay way to show your anger! It makes me cry to think of the tragic--TRAGIC--scene in the TV series Breaking Bad when Walter White hurls a delicious-looking pizza onto the roof, instead of directly into his mouth where it belongs. 

I'm not the only one weeping. According to Buzzfeed, the people who live in the house where the show was filmed would really like you to stop throwing pizza onto their roof, please. They have backing from the show's creator, Vince Gilligan, who says "there is nothing original or funny or cool about throwing a pizza on this lady’s roof."

This belongs in me, please.

What IS original and funny and cool, though, is picture books about pizza. Here are my favorites!

Secret Pizza Party, by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

I once read this book out loud 2,486 consecutive times during a weekend trip with my friend and her kids. It still had me laughing to the point of tears by the end. I don't want it to be a secret anymore--this book is the BEST.

"Hi, Pizza Man!" by Virginia Walter and Ponder Goembel

There's a reason your local children's librarian probably has a copy of this squirreled away in her office: it's the best readaloud ever. Yes, EVER. And it's out of print. Fortunately, you can check it out at OPL (though you may have to wait a bit!).

Pete's a Pizza, by William Steig

William Steig was a New Yorker cartoonist who wrote several much-loved children's classics, including Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Pete's a Pizza is a quiet gem that acknowledges the universal truth of children: they would all LOVE to be made into a pizza.

Still hungry? There are lots of other picture books about pizza at your local OPL branch. And the next time you are tempted to fling a pizza onto your roof in anger, take two deep breaths, get back in your car, and bring the pizza over to my house instead. I'll make sure it never troubles you again.

PS Grownups, did you catch that you can find every season of Breaking Bad at your library? We know what you like!

Aw, Bologna

Someday when I'm rich, really disgustingly wealthy, I'm going to the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Bologna, Italy, and I will meet aaaaalll the wonderful illustrators and buy them a glass of vino. Seriously, I am obsessed with picture book illustration, and the book fair in Bologna attracts artists from every corner of the globe.*

This year, though, we're all in luck! Because you don't have to go any farther than your local Oakland Public Library branch to see almost all the 2015 winners of the Bologna Ragazza Awards. 2015 is the 50 year anniversary of the award, which means--fun fact--that it was created during the birth year of Alex Winter, aka Bill S. Preston of seminal American film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. CONNECTIONS.

This year's winners are:


Flashlight, by Lizi Boyd


Avant Après, by Anne-Margot Ramstein, illustrated by Matthias Aregui (we have the English translation)

NEW HORIZONS (A special recognition reserved to the publishing industry in the Arab countries, Latin America, Asia and Africa):
Abecedario, by Ruth Kaufman and Raquel Franco, illustrated by Diego Bianki

That last one is my personal favorite. I bought it for OPL at FIL Guadalajara, and loved it so much I got a copy for myself, too. These pictures!

The last Bologna Ragazza Award is the Opera Prima, which recognizes exceptional first books. We don't own this one, and I haven't seen it for sale in the US yet. 

Lá Fora, by Maria Ana Peixe Dias and Inês Teixeira do Rosário, illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho

Here's hoping some intrepid US publisher snaps it up, along with all the awards' Special Mentions. (Enchanted Lion, are you watching?)

*Globes don't have corners, FYI

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have books that explain about the birds & the bees?

Shocked dadQ: My eight-year-old son is asking me about how babies are made. I gave him a short-version answer, and now he has a lot more questions. I'm realizing that my older daughter (now 12) probably had a lot of questions she didn't ask out loud when I gave her the simple answers a few years ago. What books do you have for both of them?

It's Perfectly Normal - a book cover.

A: We have plenty of books on this topic for different ages. You will find it much easier to answer your children's questions with the help of some well-chosen books! Whether you read a book aloud to a younger child, give one to an older child to read herself, or simply read one yourself to get ideas of the best ways to respond to their questions, having some published information will help you teach your children about human development and reproduction.

Cover of a COMPLETELY inappropriate book for this blog post.You may not agree with every statement in all of these books – each family has their own set of values and perspectives. However, these books represent ideas that exist in the world, so responding to them either with agreement or disagreement will clarify for your children what you believe and what your expectations are for them, while at the same time sharing essential information they need to know.

Here are some books for kids to read on their own, or for you to read aloud to them:

    Sorry, this book (Asking about sex & growing up) is no longer available at the Oakland Library.              

As you can see, they range from those books that simply explain how babies are made to those that explain what changes a body goes through that enable people to have babies! Those questions come up more as a child grows.

Here are some books written for adults that give tips for talking about reproduction and sexuality, and about setting boundaries as they grow up:

Children of every age have questions, and it's never to early to present an age-appropriate answer to any question they have. (See the blog post from last month for books about how babies are made that are best for preschool-age kids.) If your kids see you as a neutral and reliable source of information, you will have the basis for continuing communication as they become teenagers.

We'd love to answer your question next! We assure confidentiality. Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month.   

Button to push to submit a question!

7 Reasons The 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards Are SO COOL

Did you see the ALA Youth Media Awards this year? They are SO COOL. Groundbreaking choices were made in every category of these annual awards for children's books. Here's why:

1) Diversity rules!

This year's Medal and Honor recipients are African-American, Latino, Asian, multiracial, deaf, queer, and differently abled. The Newbery and Caldecott Awards have been criticized in the past for being overwhelmingly white; perhaps the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement is causing a cultural shift in children's literature.


Amy Koester, the Show Me Librarian, has a great post on how this year's awards can help book selectors examine their own privilege.

2) A graphic novel won a NEWBERY HONOR for the first time.

A big surprise, because the Newbery is for best writing in a book for young readers; traditionally, illustrations are not to be considered. Since graphic novels are written in both words and pictures, it would seem this year's Newbery committee broke from tradition and considered visual text in honoring CeCe Bell's wonderful El Deafo.

3) A graphic novel won a Caldecott Honor, also for the first time.

This one seems more natural, since the Caldecott is for illustration. But no graphic novel has ever won or been honored before. Jillian and Mariko Tamaki's This One Summer is also the first book for older kids to nab a Caldecott Honor, which has caused some controversy.

4) A picture book won the Stonewall Award for the first time ever.

We love Gayle Pitman and Kristyna Litten's This Day in June here at OPL-- happy rhyming text and colorful pictures depict a gay pride parade, complete with Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It's the first time in the award's 44 year history that a picture book has taken the prize, confirming that there are wonderful books for the very youngest about queer life.

5) Dan Santat cried like a baby when he found out he won the Caldecott.

Which is pretty adorable. You can see lots of winners and honorees get the call here.

6) I got to watch them live.

Braggy brag brag. The ALA Youth Media Awards are basically the Oscars for children's literature. But ours start at 8am, not 8pm, and you have to get there by 7 if you want a seat. There's no formalwear, but I did see at least three people including myself wearing these sweet socks.

7) ...after a 6:30am talk by Cornel West.

ALA knocked it out of the park with this year's keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunrise Celebration. Seeing him speak was thrilling. But here I go bragging again.

Check out all the ALA Youth Media Award winners and honorees on Pinterest!

African American Literature Read In Hits Oakland Next Week!

Book Cover of My PeopleNext week, the Oakland Public Education Fund is sponsoring an African American Literature Read In in the schools and is looking for volunteers. If you can volunteer to read in a school next week, it is not too late to sign up.

Their site includes a great recommended reading list, which we contributed to, and includes many of our favorites. Check them out, anytime. 

Book Cover Heart & SoulIn support of the Read In, and in celebration of Black History month, all Oakland Public Library storytimes next week (February 2-7) will highlight African American authors, illustrators, and characters.  

We strive for diversity in our collections and storytimes every day of the year and are excited to support next week's activities. We look forward to seeing you. 

You can browse and place holds for some of our favorites books for next week right here


Tuesday is Multicultural Children's Book Day!

The push for diversity is one of my favorite things happening in children's books these days, and grassroots organizations like We Need Diverse Books are jumping to support the cause. Add to that list of organizations Multicultural Children's Book Day, which had its first day in celebration of diverse children's books in 2014.


This year, Multicultural Children's Book Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, January 27. Have a celebration yourself by visiting their blog for Author and Illustrator Spotlights, book suggestions, and profiles of their sponsors.

While you're at it, stop by Oakland Public Library's Pinterest board for book suggestions! We have recommendations on books about multiracial children, books about differently-abled children, and many more.

An Extremely Boring Book You Should Probably Never Read

These days I always seem to have a friend on the Caldecott committee, which gives the annual award for best illustration in a children's book, which means every time I go to a bookstore I'm texting pictures of book covers to that friend with a message: "you GOTTA see this one!!" 

It's unusual for a book with NO pictures to send me scrambling for my phone. But... have you SEEN this book?

Okay- wrong question. Have you READ this book? It's pretty much the funniest crowd-pleaser of a picture book I've read in years.

Okay okay- still the wrong question. Have you had this book read to you by its author, B.J. Novak*?

Once you've seen the creator in action, you'll need to try it for yourself. The next time you're at the library, ask for The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak. We might give it to you if we're not too busy giggling over it ourselves.

*former writer for The Office, and PS my future husband

6 kids' books from 2014 that hit uncomfortably close to home

1. My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems

Gerald (the elephant) sees Piggie playing with her new bat friend, and he is JEALOUS. Gerald, I know the sting you feel all too well: maybe Piggie will have so much fun with Bat, she won't need you anymore. I'm sure we'll outgrow these insecurities someday.

Read it to: the BFF who keeps breaking brunch plans.

2. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

You ever just KNOW you're on the brink of discovering something that will change your life? Sam and Dave keep digging aaaalmost to the giant diamonds, then deciding to change course, leaving readers shouting "NO! NO! It's RIGHT THERE!" 

Read it to: adults in your life whose purpose just plain eludes them.

3. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, by Bob Shea and Lane Smith

These master crooks can't STAND to hear someone else get credit for their low-down deeds, and they finally implicate themselves. Isn't that one of the theories on the Serial subreddit?

Read it to: the co-worker you KNOW is stealing your snacks from the break room fridge.

4. Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan

If telling your younger sibling terrible things--such as that leaving one red sock on a clothesline will attract a giant, bloodthirsty hell-rabbit with eyes of fire that will hunt him down no matter where he hides--is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Incidentally, my big sister once told me that pizza is made from dead bodies in graveyards, and it BARELY interrupted my pizza eating habits.

Read it to: any siblings who still won't talk to you.

5. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers

Burn any bridges this year? This book gets you.

Read it to: anyone with regrets.

6. Toot, by Leslie Patricelli

I'm definitely too old to find farting so funny. And yet here we are.

Read it to: yourself, over and over.

Travel Books for Kids

If you’re looking for a little adventure this season, check out the library’s selection of travel books for kids! They describe lands both near and far, highlighting aspects of each destination that young readers are especially interested in exploring. Take an armchair tour through California, Mexico, and beyond with some of these exciting informational books:

For younger readers

All Aboard! book coverCountry Explorers Ghana book coverIn New York book coverOff We Go to Mexico book coverOur California book coverThis Plane book coverWe're Riding on a Caravan book cover

All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet / by Chris Demarest; illus. by Bill Mayer

Country Explorers series / Lerner Publications

In New York / by Marc Brown

Off We Go to Mexico / by Laurie Krebs; illus. by Christopher Corr

Our California / by Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Rafael López

This Plane / by Paul Collicutt

We're Riding on a Caravan: An Adventure on the Silk Road / by Laurie Krebs; illus. by Helen Cann

For older readers

Enchantment of the World Pakistan book coverGo, Go America book coverHow Do you Burp in Space? book coverMy Yosemite book coverNational Geographic Kids World Atlas book coverNational Parks book coverNot-for-Parents Wonders of the World book coverTop to Bottom Down Under book cover

Enchantment of the World series / Children's Press

Go, Go America / by Dan Yaccarino

How Do You Burp in Space?: And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know / by Susan Goodman; illus. by Michael Slack

My Yosemite: A Guide for Young Adventurers / by Mike Graf; illus. by Annette Filice

National Geographic Kids World Atlas / National Geographic

National Parks: A Kid's Guide to America's Parks, Monuments and Landmarks / by Erin McHugh; art by Neal Aspinall, Doug Leen, and Brian Maebius

Not-for-Parents guidebook series / Lonely Planet

Top to Bottom Down Under / by Ted & Betsy Lewin