Program Recap: Zombie Night

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Once again, our Council of Awesome T(w)eens hosted an after-hours program zombie night. Teens and T(w)eens can come to the library after hours on a Saturday for playing zombie tag, games of Mafia and capture the flag.

Everyone was broken up (somewhat randomly) into four separate teams. While not everyone could be with all of their friends, it did allow kids to be social, which is one of the primary goals of Zombie Night. Kids often make new friends, and get to talk with kids that they might not already know. We split 2 random teams to go and play mafia, and other teams to play capture the flag. The lights were dimmed and the library was decorated. This was beneficial because it allowed for smaller groups, and kids felt more comfortable to participate.

Also, the capture the flag game had time limits, with the final minutes being jail free and forcing people to go onto the opposition’s territory, which also encouraged participation and action. We only used the Youth & Teen area of the library, and the small space allowed for a more action-packed game of capture the flag! This also allowed for different versions of capture the flag, including versions with spies, multiple flags, and even a sudden death version! Kids could also switch after games, which gave kids multiple options.

We finished the night with pizza and snacks and conversation. This program is also an opportunity to showcase how one can volunteer and be a part of an active library, and see first-hand how much fun our volunteers have planning programs. Be sure to check back soon for more programs!

Exploration Station Review: Light and Heavy

Posted & filed under Blog, Early Literacy, Uncategorized, Youth & Teen.

Want to do some crafts at home, as well as explore some scientific principles? Here’s what we did at exploration station this week. You can join us on Thursdays at 11:30 for a new theme every week. This week was light and heavy. We read Balance the Birds, which is a great introduction to the scientific idea of weight, balance, and logic!

We did three activities. The first was a “Does it float?” station, which had two small bins filled half way with water. There was a wide variety of objects – all of which could be found in a house – cloth, pens, magnets, and more. Kids were able to explore whether or not they float, with caregivers asking questions along the way. It allowed kids to think through the idea of weight and how to apply it practically.

Some of our items for our “Does it Float?” Station

The second activity was to use an actual balancing scale. Many kids had not interacted with one before, and found it fascinating to see how directly weight impacted the scale. The fact that some bigger items were not always heavier was a main theme throughout the program.

The final program was to make a DIY scale. Kids used cups with a hole punched in it. They then used string or yarn to make a loop through the hole. They then connected the string to ends on a Popsicle stick. Kids were proud to be able to utilize scales themselves, and excited they could continue to play with weight at home.

Working on our DIY Scales

Join us on Thursdays for more Exploration Stations!

Program Recap: Weird and Wacky Sound Editing

Posted & filed under Blog, Uncategorized, Youth & Teen.

This month, we hosted an introductory sound editing program. This program is unique for many reasons. First, it engaged kids who were not as interested in other, traditional programs, and had a greater interest in music than other mediums. Kids were able to pick their own music, record their own voices, or they can use pre-downloaded audio that was pre-loaded. Second, it accessed a unique combination of traditional creativity combined with modern technology. Most kids had never explored these types of technology pieces, and it was done in a low pressure environment. Third, they were able to have something complicated and their own as a finished piece of audio that was all their own.

Sound Editing Effects

Attached is a list of the effects that we worked with. After briefly going over different effects and how to implement them, kids were able to use their own creativity and explore what they wanted. It was both polished and, indeed, wacky. Be sure to check out our upcoming programs for February! See you there!

Caldecott Club 2020 Voting Party

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians. We hosted our highly anticipated Caldecott Club Party on Thursday, January 9 from 3:30-5:00 (and a bit beyond that) at Lincolnwood Library. Over the course of the past three months, we’ve explored twenty incredible picture books published in 2019, conducted picture walks through the books to examine the art with our artist eyes, and voted for our top 11 books that would go to our voting party. We had also developed as a community of readers, gaining new members of our Caldecott Club, who each added new insights to our discussions. It had all come down to this session where we’d choose THE best picture book of 2019. (If you’re new here and want to learn about our program, check out first blog post about Creating a Caldecott Community.)

The books we discussed were:

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol 

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman 

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham 

Another by Christian Robinson 

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita 

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre 

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña 

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal 

Saturday by Oge Mora

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson 

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

During this program series, different kids have attended a variety of sessions so it was pretty exciting to have most of our regular attendees – and some new friends – attend our culminating program. The wonderful thing about picture books is their accessibility for engagement, whether you’re a first timer at Caldecott Club or a longtime fan. 

We began our session by reviewing what the Caldecott award is, which is “most distinguished American picture book for children awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children.” Our group used their own language to determine what makes a Caldecott worthy book. Ms. Gaby offered multitasking support by keeping us on track with a timer that allotted five minutes per book. I urged her not to listen to me when I asked for more time – and we were pretty good at sticking to our plans. She also helped us with the slides so everyone could see the images of the books – and frequently went back and forth for the kids to spotlight things they noticed and lead us in close reading. Ms. Lisa, our newest Youth and Teen Services staff member, was also instrumental to the success of our program, managing so many new tasks during her first week with us. A huge thank you to Ms. Gaby and Ms. Lisa for all of their help at Caldecott Club!! We also had a special guest, pre-service teacher educator, Dr. Shira Roth, who kindly brought art giveaways for our Caldecott Club! 

We then jumped into our discussion. I started the conversation about each book with a quick booktalk/picture walk to ensure everyone was familiar with the books. (The summaries below are from the descriptions in our library catalog and the publisher’s pages.) During our discussion, I asked the kids to share what they liked about the art, starting with the positive things first, as per the CCBC Book Discussion Guidelines, and then share what didn’t work for them about the art.

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol

Tiny creatures rampage through a forest collecting food for themselves only to discover that kindness and cooperation trump greed.

This book was one of our first books we discussed back in October, but our group remembered it fondly. Yu. shared that “the art is neat and nice and understandable.” Al. added that “it’s not one flat color. It has textures and lots of other colors.” M. expressed that “It’s really simple which gives it character.” C. thought that it had a good lesson. Em. shared that “maybe kids would like it so they would know how to not annoy their brothers and sisters,” which we connected to the criteria about recognition of a child audience. Ya. added to our discussion of the theme by saying, “the lesson is sharing is caring.” Ay. mused about the design of the little guys, saying, “it’s kind of creepy so it gives it a kind of scary tone to it, which I like, and at the same time, I don’t like it,” to which, S. added, “yeah they don’t have eyes.” Dan. suggested that maybe their acorn hats are covering their eyes. Dal. wrote on her evaluation that “I like how the little guys look.” L. shared that she liked when they work together. B. shared that he liked the backgrounds, while E. would have liked more color in the backgrounds. F. liked the cartoon style of The Little Guys. S. shared that “I like this book a lot because if you took away all the words, the picture would still tell the story,” which was a huge revelation for our group – and an essential part of evaluating picture books.

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

Carl is an earthworm. He spends his days happily tunneling in the soil until a field mouse asks him a simple question that stops him short: “Why?” Carl’s quest takes him on an adventure to meet all the animals of the forest, each of whom seems to know exactly what they were put on this earth to do, unlike the curious Carl. But it’s not until the world around him has changed that Carl begins to realize that everyone, no matter how small, makes a big difference just by being themselves.

Our group was really impressed by Deborah Freedman’s use of watercolors and colored pencil, which came up throughout our discussion. Da. shared “I can see that it’s made of watercolors because of the background. It’s just like an effective color.”  Several kids remarked on the design of the animals and how much they enjoyed them. S. pointed out that she liked “how the fox looks the same on every page,” which led us to talk about consistency of design as a hallmark of excellence. Mi. shared how she liked how the art bled to the edge of the page, which helped draw us into Carl’s world. K. shared how he appreciated how you could see the grass and dirt – and could see Carl everywhere. Yu. recognized that this book had a lot to teach us. 

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham 

Once there was a river flowing through a forest. The river didn’t know it was capable of adventures until a big bear came along. But adventures aren’t any fun by yourself, and so enters Froggy, Turtles, Beaver, Racoons, and Duck. These very different animals take off downstream, but they didn’t know they needed one another until thankfully, the river came along.

Em. liked so many things like how the pages are colorful and you’re with the animals on the trip. This led us into a discussion about perspective, which LeUyen Pham does so well. Da. shared, “I can see their mood,” which helped us talk about the characters’ expressions in the art. K. shared, “I like how the turtle is many colors. I like how everything is unordinary. How all the animals hang out together. My favorite thing is how the book literally shows them in the water going fast.” C. shared, “I like how there’s different kinds of trees.” S. ruminated about the drawings, considering how they are nice and simple at the same time, declaring them “simply nice,” which provoked us to think about how art that looks simple took a lot of work to look almost effortless. F. shared that she liked how the pages are full of color with not a lot of white space. K. led us in a close read of the book, compelling us to return to the scene when the animals are at the brink of falling down the waterfall. C. declared that “it’s like VR (virtual reality),” which caused Mi. to add how she liked how the book’s orientation changes as we move forward. S. added that “I like how we can see what they see and we’re in their perspective.” It’s really incredible how kids’ ideas fuel each other’s insights.

Another by Christian Robinson 

A young girl and her cat take an imaginative journey into another world where they discover others like them.

K. instantly made a text-to-text connection to The Other Mother from Coraline, which provoked me to share how Another is also influenced by Alice in Wonderland. Em. shared how “the pictures are up and down. And you know what’s going to happen from future spreads in earlier ones like the colored balls,” leading us to talk about how predictions work in this book. Like Bear Came Along, this book also challenged our ideas of perspective – and took it to the next level. Our group had many questions about the world of the story. Da. shared how he was confused about how the girl woke up to discover the portal. Yu. shared that the light and noise of the portal could have woken her up. She shared that the pictures are very unique, which you don’t see it often, connecting Another to the criteria about books being individually distinct. Mi. shared that she loved the parallel selves scene. Ay. wondered about the imaginary world and how it worked – so we talked about how we had to suspend our disbelief to explore Another. K. offered a pragmatic solution: “Maybe she’s dreaming.” S. noticed that “there’s so much white space,” as a design feature of the story. 

After this book, I put in a movement break where we stretched up and down to get some of our wiggles out. Out of all the changes I made in this program, this was the best way I implemented. Yes, we did pretend to be the little guys reaching for the berry and then toppling over.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita 

Aidan, a transgender boy, experiences complicated emotions as he and his parents prepare for the arrival of a new baby.

I started our discussion by sharing a picture of Kyle and Kaylani together. We had the opportunity to host Kyle at our library earlier this fall and he told us he was going to meet Kaylani for the first time – and our Caldecott Club was super invested in this meeting. Sa. liked the details in the art, which I shared was done digitally, although it feels like watercolors. F. shared how she liked “how the text matched the pictures and worked together well. The art gives people more information about what is going on.” We learned from Kyle how he left space for Kaylani to work her illustrator magic – and our kids noticed how effectively she applied her skills to tell this story. Sa. shared that she liked that you don’t find out the gender of the baby or what their name is. K. pointed out how Aidan is holding the baby at the end of the story, which was an effective choice for the final spread. L. shared how she liked the scene where they paint the baby’s room, which is also my favorite spread.

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

At the mountain’s base sits a cabin under an old hickory tree. And in that cabin lives a family–loving, weaving, cooking, and singing. The strength in their song sustains them through trials on the ground and in the sky, as they wait for their loved one, a pilot, to return from war.

Yu. shared how it’s a good book. She told us how around Veteran’s Day she shared it with her Social Studies teacher who read it to her class who really liked it. This led us to talk about how it’s individually distinct, unlike anything else we’ve read this year. Mi. pointed out how the family was connected to their family member in the plane. She was  curious to know more about Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexcoat, an Oglala Lakota pilot who inspired this book, so we made sure to read selections from the author’s note. 

The group was curious to know more about the airforce building that honored her. I want to make sure I share this information here that the Ellsworth Airfield Operations Building was renamed the “Millie Rexroat Building,” on Oct. 2, 2017. Em. wondered about how when they were praying if they could talk to their loved one. We talked about the family’s connection to their family member and their ancestors. This reminded me of a quote from an Cynsations interview with the author, Traci Sorell, who shared, “I hope [the book] sparks discussions about the contributions that Native people have made that go unnoticed. I also want to uplift how Native Nations honor those active duty military personnel and veterans regardless of how they are treated in the broader United States culture or by its federal government. Similarly, there is no separation between our lives here and the spirit world, all are connected. I love that Weshoyot’s art shows that so beautifully.” Fe. liked how the art zooms in the airplanes and goes closer, using comic panels to express these ideas. She also added “I like how they’re talking about weaving and then we see the airplane on the pattern.” We talked about how Weshoyot did her research about these traditional Cherokee weaving practices. B. shared how he liked the scene with the pilot in the air connected to her ancestors.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.

Fe. began our discussion by sharing, “I like how it’s about love,” which really captured the essence of the theme. Em. liked how the conflict was solved at the end with Daisy Ramona and her family getting raspados. Sa. liked how the art showed the stores with actual names, which helped ground the story in reality. The group enjoyed the sense of movement and action in the pages. 

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal. Fry bread is food. It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate. Fry bread is time. It brings families together for meals and new memories. Fry bread is nation. It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond. Fry bread is us. It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

Our group was very curious if Kevin and Juana talked to each other through the process of creating Fry Bread, as we’ve discussed how illustrators don’t often talk to authors. Sam. pointed out how she like how it has details in the characters like the tattoos, which I shared were Seminole symbols tattooed on the wrist.  K. shared that the art made him thoughtful. Our group was increasingly curious about how to make fry bread, which led us to examine the back-matter of the book, including the recipe that Kevin provided. This book definitely sparked our group’s interest in making fry bread, which then provided an important opportunity to talk about authenticity and respect. Our kids would love to invite Kevin to come join us at our library to talk about making Fry Bread, the book and food! This was an important opportunity to talk again about how Native people are here in our community. We all gushed about how much we love the baby in the “Fry Bread is You” spread. 

Saturday by Oge Mora 

When all of their special Saturday plans go awry, Ava and her mother still find a way to appreciate one another and their time together.

Al. shared how Saturday looks like it’s made out of paper, which led us to talk about how it’s made with collages made with acrylic paint, china markers, patterned paper, and old book clippings and then hand-lettered. Em. pointed out that the tickets are on the table at the beginning of the story. Dal. shared how she liked that it was a bit abstract. S. pointed out the effectiveness of the  park scene. C. pointed out how the book is also made of newspaper clippings. Sa. shared how she liked how detailed the book is that is made of words. I’d love to know more about the source material that Oge Mora used to create Saturday myself, which I know has hidden layers we’ve yet to uncover.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson 

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.


Sa. immediately pointed out how she liked how Kadir Nelson’s illustrations look realistic, which led us all to obsess about how these oils on panel paintings are extraordinary. L. wondered how Kadir made the pictures look so good. Our special guest, Dr. Roth, responded, “Kadir Nelson is a genius.” Our group was particularly moved by the “The Unspeakable” spread with the cracked photographs. This is a painting of pictures of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Westley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise Mcnair, the four young girls who were killed in the racially motivated 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. There are so many moments within The Undefeated that readers return to again and again.  K. shared that “this book makes me feel strong.” He shared an illustration to express this feeling. What could be better than kids responding to picture books by making art?

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

A little girl’s daddy steps in to help her arrange her curly, coiling, wild hair into styles that allow her to be her natural, beautiful self.

Br. shared that he loved that the dad has cool hair too. Our group really like making connections between the Hair Love short film and the picture book. I’m so glad that we had a chance to watch it during our extra session when we made art based on the picture books. It’s clear they remembered a lot from the film. Bi. shared how everything is not empty in the backgrounds. Fe. shared how it’s related to My Papi has a Motorcycle since it’s about a daughter and father relationship. At the end of the program, Mi. shared with me that she loves that it’s about natural hair.

We had successfully discussed all eleven books and were ready to vote for their top 3 picture books. This was definitely a challenge for many kids who didn’t have one favorite – or had too many favorites. The struggle is real. Once they voted, they were tasked with completing an evaluation. When they completed the evaluation, they each received a prize bag. While I did the math with the ballots, Ms. Gaby and Ms. Lisa ran a raffle with the kids to give away a bunch of swag that Dr. Roth brought for us and some additional merch related to the books we studied. I really appreciate their willingness to help out with the raffle, which was no easy feat – and something I’m definitely changing for the future Caldecott Club since it made it a bit too chaotic at the end. But kids do so love prizes…

Finally, the math was complete and we were ready to announce our winners!

The Winner of our 2019 Mock Caldecott is….

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 9781626724426-1024x793.jpg
The moment we revealed the winner…

Our Honor Books are:

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham 

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita 

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña 

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Finally, our group received their well-deserved CaldeCookies as a delicious treat for their hard work!

Our group created this video to “make the call” to let Vera Brosgol know that they had chosen her book as our Mock Caldecott winner.

But wait, there’s more!

Please join us for our Caldecott Club Viewing Party at the library of the webcast of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 27 at 3:30pm, including the Newbery, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Book Awards. We’ll provide predictions, refreshments, and raffle off Beekle and a signed copy of When Aidan Became a Brother! Everyone will receive a free 2019 Caldecott Award poster donated by Baker & Taylor. You can watch the webcast live that morning at 7am CST – but please keep the secrets before our group gets together.

Did you miss any of our sessions? Curious what happens in Caldecott Club? Want to know the brilliant things our kids said? Check out our recaps of each of the previous sessions!


Caldecott Club Session 1

Caldecott Club Session 2

Caldecott Club Session 3

Caldecott Club Session 4

Caldecott Club Session 5




Exploration Station Activities: Magnets

Posted & filed under Blog, Early Literacy, Uncategorized, Youth & Teen.

For our first exploration station of the new year, we looked at all the different things magnets can do! We did three activities after going over what a magnet is, focusing on what things are magnetic, and what they are.

Our first activity was Magnetic Sensory Painting. We used a paper plate, paper clips, magnet wands and paint. Using a magnet underneath the plate, kids could drag the paper clips to paint their own masterpiece!

Magnet Sensory Paintings
Magnet Sensory Painting

Our second activity was DIY magnets. Kids cut out letters, pictures, and used paper magnets to explore how they can use magnets in their own everyday life.

DIY Mangets

Our last activity was a magnet Sensory Bin, which is all about figuring out what is magnetic and what is not! Kids dug and explored through a bin to find the magnetic items and sorted them between magnetic and non-magnetic. This gave kids hands-on experience to deepen their understanding of magnetism, as well as promoted classification and sorting, an early math skill. What activities will we do next week? Visit us on Thursdays at 11:30am to find out!

Caldecott Club #6

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians and I’m back with another recap of our latest Caldecott Club session. We had our 6th session on Thursday, December 19th, which was a special additional session to focus more on what the kids wanted to do. From the beginning they have been fascinated by the grown-up committee and what they do to select the most distinguished picture book for children, given out each year by the Association for Library Service to Children. So I reach out to my colleague, librarian Sarah Bean Thompson, a member of the 2016 Caldecott Committee, who graciously agreed to Skype with our group. Last session I had the kids share questions they had for her and then Sarah did her best to answer all of their pressing questions. Well, the questions that she could answer. D. was pretty fascinated with the fact that secrets were being shared – but Sarah was clear about what she could tell him – and what she couldn’t…

Sarah shared a presentation she created about her experiences
on the Caldecott committee.

Sarah shared her fascinating process of serving on the 2016 Caldecott committee. She shared the meeting process for the Caldecott Committee, with a practice discussion in June 2015. She then told us how they submit 3 sets of nominations with a total of 7 nominations each (like book reports) from the around 800 picture books they read. They then met in a room in January 2016 for three days pretty much nonstop discussing the books they had nominated. Sarah showed us the boxes that publishers sent to her, like the box we open at the beginning of each session. She shared how she had books everywhere in her house. Sarah shared how it was a lot of work – but also a lot of fun. She talked about how the committee was very respectful and kind and listened to each other to choose all of the books together. Once they chose the book, they had to keep the secret until they made the call to the illustrators on the Monday of the press conference. She showed us a video of the committee making the call and cheering. She also showed us a video from Sophie Blackall reacting to the news and spotlighting other Caldecott clubs. 

We could feel Sarah’s passion and enthusiasm for this experience, as she said, “It was an amazing – one of the coolest things I’ve ever done as a librarian.” Our kids were very curious about Sarah would take on this huge responsibility. She explained, “When you are a librarian and love books as much as you do, being on the committee is one of the top things you can do, a once in a lifetime opportunity, to give back to the world of children’s books and make a lasting impression.” Sarah also validated the fantastic work we’ve been doing in our program. She told us that she’s read the kids’ comments in our blog posts, and our discussions are just like the grown-up committee – as we find a book that rises to the top. She told us that one of the cool things about the Caldecott committee was that many of the people had Caldecott clubs and take the feedback from the kids and share what they said. Sarah encouraged us to share our feedback with people on the committee now. After all, “It’s all about what the kids want.” Sarah then turned the questions on our group, asking them what books stand out to them. Mi. declared her support for Hair Love. M. told us she loved The Little Guys. Al. told us she liked Carl and the Meaning of Life. Ya. praised The Undefeated. D. shared a whole list of books. Our challenge will truly be to determine which of our 11 fabulous books is the one that we think is the best picture book of 2019. Thankfully, with Sarah’s insights and knowledge in our minds, we will certainly come to consensus together. We are all so grateful to Sarah for joining our program and sharing her experiences with us. It was truly wonderful to learn more about the behind-the-scenes process of book evaluation!

Learn more in the Horn Book article, “And now, a word from the “Real” Committee” by Martha V. Parravano

Since this session was all about what the kids wanted to do, we then turned our attention from evaluating art to making art. From the beginning, they have expressed an interest in making their own pieces inspired by the styles in the books we studied. I set up several stations with materials based on the books, with directions to use them to create their own versions of the book covers. I had colored paper, painted paper, discarded books, and textured paper at stations inspired by Saturday by Oge Mora and Another by Christian Robinson. I provided yarn, glue and watercolors for a station inspired by At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell and Weshoyot Alvitre. I provided watercolors, colored pencils and crayons for a station inspired by When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita. (While this book was done digitally, it feels like watercolors….) Interestingly, all of the kids were eager to play and explore using watercolors, moving around the different tables and using the materials to create their own art. The kids made this activity their own, which is what this is all about! While we made the art, we finally watched the Hair Love short film.

Here’s some of the wonderful art they made:

We ended our program by making short video trailers for each of the books. If you’re interested in helping make our Caldecott party video, feel free to contact me! 

We actually did not have time to review all of the books going to the party. So, if anyone missed a session or wants to refresh their memory of the books we’ve discussed, you can visit our Caldecott Club display in the library and explore the books. They are reference only but you can put any of the books on hold here

The books going to the party are:

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Another by Christian Robinson 

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukof, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita 

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Saturday by Oge Mora 

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson  

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Please join us on January 9 from 3:30-5:00 for our Caldecott Club Voting Party where we select the best picture book of 2019. Snacks – and Caldecookies – will be provided!

Did you miss any of our sessions? Curious what happens in Caldecott Club? Want to know the brilliant things our kids said? Check out our recaps of each of the previous sessions!

Caldecott Club Session 1

Caldecott Club Session 2

Caldecott Club Session 3

Caldecott Club Session 4

Caldecott Club Session 5

Early Literacy Activities: Exploring Textures and Senses

Posted & filed under Blog, Early Literacy, Uncategorized.

At our weekly Exploration Station: STEAM Play, which takes place every Thursday at 11:30am, we looked at textures and senses. We read a touch, play, and feel book about Food, which got kids excited about different feelings. It was a great way to get kids excited about the theme, and understand it, as so many kids explore food on a daily basis.

Our first activity was “Touch Painting.” Kids put on blindfolds. By taking away the sense of sight, kids could focus on the sense of feel (and touch), by painting. Kids were shocked at the new sensations, even though they had painted before. They were also surprised at what they could create without using sight.

Touch Painting

The second activity was called “What’s Inside?” Kids played with a bunch of different materials. We gave them a sheet with lots of different feel and texture words to help encourage them to describe the feelings they were experiencing. They then used blindfolds again to reach into the bags and see if they could identify the items in the bag, again using both senses and textures, as well as putting their vocabulary to use. Kids loved seeing the contrast between all of the different materials, and were excited to see how good their identification and explanation was throughout the game. Both activities kept kids coming back. We hope to see you there on Thursdays for new themes!

What’s Inside?

Program Review: Books & Bites with Author Shane Burcaw

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Our library was lucky enough to talk with Shane Burcaw for a special edition of Books & Bites. We talked about his children’s book Not So Different: What You Really Wanted to Ask About Having A Disability. We also talked about his popular YouTube Chanel with his fiancé Hannah (Squirmy and Grubs). We discussed his disability (spinal muscular atrophy), as well as his purpose in writing his 3 books, popular blog (Laughing at my Nightmare), and YouTube channel, to demonstrate how normal his life is and how you can overcome obstacles with your attitude and humor. Everyone was able to get a good understanding of who he was and some of the basics before we spoke to him, and were able to use that discussion to write down excellent questions for him when he spoke to us.

Shane spoke to us about a lot of things. First, he spoke about the basics of his life. He also touched on his writing process, some things that are unique about his life, as well as common misconceptions and challenges that he deals with when talking with people, buying a house, and even eating food. Kids asked him formal questions about his book, but also about his personality and everyday life. In this way, they were able to get a full and comprehensive understanding of Shane during the discussion and Q&A session. Because his books are so intertwined with his life, he was a perfect person to have an author visit, and kids were able to access his work to a much larger degree than if they hadn’t talked to him.

Be sure to check out Shane’s writing and content here, and stay tuned for more program updates! 

Not So Different

Laughing At My Nightmare

People Assume My Girlfriend is My Nurse

Laughing At My Nightmare – BLOG

Caldecott Club #5

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians and I’m back with another recap of our latest Caldecott Club session. We had our 5th session on Thursday, December 5th and selected our final 2 books to send to our Voting Party in January. To refresh your memory, the Caldecott Award is the award for the most distinguished American picture book for children, given out each year by the Association for Library Service to Children. We began our program by having Ya. open our final box of books for us to explore.

The books we discussed in session 5 were:

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jamie Kim 

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson  

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Here’s the necessary spoiler alert for all of these picture books.

Picture Walk

The irony of hosting a program series is once you figure out the things that work and don’t, the program is almost over. Our latest Caldecott Club session was the best yet, I think, with our group sitting around a table by the screen with clearer images of the books. Everyone was very welcoming of our new friend, Al., who joined us at this session. I remain grateful that Ms. Gaby joined us again during this session, which was a huge help! She ensures that everything runs smoothly. Thank you, Ms. Gaby!!

I began our session by playing a video made by club members, A. & K., with their friend, Ab., revealing the titles we were going to read. How cool is it that some of the authors mentioned actually reposted this video on Instagram? One of our friends also told me that their teacher played their video in class! We’re famous!

I began our journey by asking our group a pre-reading question. Our theme was pride, so I asked them to think about and write down their ideas: What’s something special about you that you’re proud of? Something special about your family, your culture, your history? Some answers included skills like dancing or singing, another kid wrote that she was proud of her different cultures and that she’s a lefty. Framing our conversation with these ideas in mind helped us look at the books thematically. 

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jamie Kim

I began our discussion by asking the group, “when you see this title, “Where Are You From?” what does it remind you of or make you feel? Y. shared that it’s asking where her family members are from, where they live. C.. asserted, “mind your own business,” which led us to discuss how this question can be asked in mean, nosy way. S. said it reminded her of her grandmother’s house and visiting her there. A. said “I think about my family.” A. later added, “sometimes when people ask that, people feel uncomfortable.. Or if they say it, maybe there’s something going on there, and they don’t like the place [the other people are from].” This brilliant insight helped us think critically about the often double-meaning embedded within this question that is used to isolate or discriminate against people. 

I shared that Yamile Saied Méndez is an Argentine-American and her husband is Peurto Rican. In a TeachingBooks interview, Yamile said, “My name is Yamile Daniela Saied Mendez. Yamile is an Arabic name, and because I’m Argentine, I pronounce it with an Argentine accent, the Y like an S-H. So, “sha-MEE-lay” And my grandfather named me. His name was Ricardo, and he was the son of an immigrant father from Syria in Argentina. Yamile means beautiful, and every time my parents said my name I really did feel beautiful.” I wanted to make sure we all knew how to say her name correctly, which is an essential part of learning about authors. I also introduced them to Jamie Kim, who is the South-Korean born, North Carolinian illustrator who used watercolors and digital techniques to bring this beautiful book to life. 

The kids shared their impressions of the children asking the little girl about where she is from. A. said, “They’re asking as if you can’t be from somewhere else.” C. reacted with “stop being so nosy.” E. thought “it looked like a teacher [the dancer] was asking her and the students were looking to know.” We talked about the physical space between the girl and the other kids, towering over her and how that must feel. Dal. shared, “she’s like, can you stop asking me all of these questions.” E. noticed the different color palettes on the pages with the girl and the group questioning her, so “she might be feeling down or sad.” C. added, “there’s another aspect of power, with the ballerina standing right in front of another kid, so he’s standing on his tippy toes.” When her abuelo, her grandfather, appears, A. expressed her appreciation for the art, saying, “I love the picture. He’s closing his eyes and the background is the sky.” C. shared how he “loved how it was 3-D, like you’re looking up.” 

We experienced the journey with the little girl and her grandfather in the Argentine pampas, among the mountains and sky, exploring the many facets of her family history and identity. C. pointed out the birds in previous spreads. When we ruminated about why the birds were included, Dal. shared that birds are part of their country. A. shared that the birds show “that they can fly and feel free.” E. said that they’re free to roam like they did on the land. As we shifted perspectives to think about Puerto Rico, C. noticed even more birds, which led us to think about migration. We talked about how the color shifts as the locations change, which Jamie Kim did brilliantly. C. shared “I love how the text is wrapped around the sun.”

S. wondered if Jamie Kim chose where the words would be placed in the art. We touched upon some of the history in Argentina referenced in the book, thinking about how our stories are shaped by the history our families experienced. We then geared up for the dramatic page turn when the girl asks where she’s really from and, “[abuelo] points to his heart, “you are from here, from my love and the love of all those before us.” We talked about how this page is zoomed in right where abuelo’s heart is. We talked about how we are from our ancestors.

With the ending of “I Am,” A. asserted, “I’m from your heart.” Da. made a wonderful personal connection to this book, sharing a song that he usually sings at church called “I Know Who I Am,” which he loves to sing. C. then made a connection to Moana singing about her identity. Dal. wrote in her evaluation that “I love the artwork so much. I like the colors in the book.”

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Kadir Nelson 

As soon as I showed them the cover of this book, they instantly recognized Kwame Alexander, whose book, “How to Read A Book,” illustrated with Melissa Sweet, was part of our previous Caldecott Club session. They were adamant to point out that he also wrote The Crossover, which A. shared she’s reading right now. I then shared a pre-reading question with our group: What does it mean to be undefeated? A. shared that “anything that life throws at you, always get back up.” C. shared “to be winning at something.” Da. shared, “never to get defeated.” K. shared, “if you get hit, always come back up.” For this picture walk, we actually shared a video of Kwame and Randy Preston sharing this book on tour this spring, while showing the PowerPoint slides. Ms. Gaby was instrumental to making this picture walk happen and go so smoothly, especially with so many working pieces.

We began our picture walk by noticing the birds on the title page. E. shared connections to “Where Are You From?” saying, “they got judged by their skin color and they were not free like the birds…” This led us to think about how birds can be a metaphor for spirit. We then talked about the first spread with Jesse Owens, talking about Kadir Nelson used oil painting to create realistic art, using shadows and light to convey meaning. When we read the spread, “And the ones who didn’t,” we talked about why the page is not illustrated. Al. shared how the “ones who didn’t survive, there’s no people to put on the page.” We talked how it’s a visual moment of silence for the ordinary people whose stories and contributions may be unknown, but we need to recognize them. We then paused, like Kwame, to ask what the book is about. E. said, referring to heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, “it was kind of brave of him.” Da. said, “it’s about the freedom to be heard.” We made the connections about visual light and shadow as we talked about artists shining their light. We shared an annotated slide with the names and photographs of the people referenced in the art. C. asserted that the righteous marching ones spread was about protesting.  

As we headed into the series of spreads about the unspeakable, I thought it was important to provide a preface for our group to let them know we were going to discuss some difficult things and create space to process and share. Aya shared how these pages were about “how they couldn’t say what they wanted to say.” We made connections between all of these unspeakable events as we thought about the history of racism and the fight for justice and equality that continues today. The kids instantly recognized Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the next spread. In the next spread, C. instantly noticed Michael Jordan. E. noticed LeBron James. I then asked the group who are the undiscovered.

We then noticed the birds on the underdogs and uncertain page. E. shared “it’s saying that they’re free.” S. shared “I feel like it connects to the unspeakable, maybe the ones who lost their lives became birds and are free.” This connected to some of the research I did where Kadir Nelson talked about his use of birds as a metaphor for spirit, going back to the ancient Egyptians. This helped us think about those who have come before us who have given up their lives to fight for freedom. E. thought they looked like doves, which means peace. S. shared that Kadir “is so good at drawing.” I played Kwame and Randy performing the final page of the book, declaring “this is for you and you and you – this is for us,” all while Randy sang and played guitar.

I pointed out the most excellent back-matter in the book, which informed much of what I shared. I then shared the quote from Maya Angelou that Kwame cited in his author note, “you see, we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose.” We then did a movement break by doing stretches while watching Kwame’s The Undefeated performance from ESPN.

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

We began our discussion by getting to know the creators of this extraordinary, beautiful book. We talked about how fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first hijab-wearing U.S. athlete to qualify for the Olympics in 2016  and the first Muslim-American woman to earn a medal at the games. I shared that she had written a book called Proud: Living My American Dream, and C. brightly declared that there’s a copy in his school library.

C. wondered, “whose idea was this?” I shared the research I had done about Ibtihaj’s inspiration for writing The Proudest Blue, paraphrasing this powerful quote from her Bustle interview, ”It can be difficult to navigate spaces when you’re made to feel different, but one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to love yourself as you are and push past society’s limited expectations of who you are.” 

We began our picture walk in the endpapers joining sisters Asiya and Faizah with their mom on their trip to get Asiya a hijab, where they purchase a gorgeous blue hijab. When they arrive at school on Asiya’s first day wearing her hijab, a girl in line asks Faizah about her sister’s hijab. Our group pointed out how this question was a curious one, rather than a double-meaning question like in Where Are You From?

The perspective then shifts as we travel into Faizah’s mind, seeing Asiya’s hijab as the sky. S. pointed out the birds on this page, noticing a reoccurring theme in all of our books I hadn’t noticed until she pointed it out. C. pointed out how Asiya is the sky. On the next spread, we noticed Asiya’s friends’ reactions when a figure points. Al. shared “they’re mad.”

I asked the group what they thought about how Hatem illustrated the people laughing without distinct features.  E. shared “I kind of like it.” C. “they’re kind of there but not.” We talked about how we’re centering Faizah and Asiya’s experience and this isn’t a story about the bullies. Da. pointed out how the waves spread is also the front cover.

We talked about the movement in the cartwheel scene. When I asked the kids how this scene made them feel, Al. shared “sad because it’s mean.” This is based off of Ibtihaj and S.K Ali’s experiences wearing hijab at school.  Again, we talked about the insights from the writers, specifically from the Hijabi Librarians blog’s interview: “…we wrote the book the way we did – not centering the bully’s transformation or change to become a better person (as many books on bullying tend to do) but focusing on the internal process by which a young person can move on from being attacked for who they are.” 

We talked about their mom’s advice for dealing with hurtful words, “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them. They are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them.” E. shared that “if they [the bullies] say hurtful words, they’re going to keep them and be known as mean.” Al. thought “it would be good to drop it, but it would be pretty hard because it would be rude to say it back to the person who said it to you.” Da. shared how it connected to the bullying training they did in school last year. We looked at the author’s notes, making connections about why the authors created the book. We then saw the endpapers where the parents are waving the girls goodbye as the head back to school the next day, coming full circle. 

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

I began our journey by sharing how this book is based off the short film, Hair Love, which was literally released online that day. What perfect timing! You can watch it now too! 

I told the group that Vashti Harrison made all of the art digitally, which blew them away. We started our discussion by talking about Matthew A. Cherry’s interested in portraying an African-American dad with his daughter, providing representation for that relationship. Da. shared how he had a friend who had the same hairstyle as Zuri. We made a connection to the other books, thinking about self-love and taking pride in who we are, as the text says, “Daddy tells me it is beautiful. That makes me proud. I love that my hair lets me be me!”

We talked about how Zuri loves her hair in all its different styles. We noticed how the dad tries to help do Zuri’s hair and how the art sequentially shows the different styles, before and after he tries to help. When the dad covers her hair with a hat and Zuri gets upset, we could see the love between them as they figure out what to do together.

Once, with the help of a YouTube tutorial, Zuri and dad figure out how to rock her perfect look, it’s revealed that she wanted to look her best for her mom’s return. E. asked, “When the mom comes back, where was she?” Da. suggested “maybe she went to Florida or something.” Our final spread is a beautiful picture-talking moment celebrating family and hair love, with Rocky, the cat, of course. S. noticed that the tablet is just a grey circle rather than an Apple icon for copyright reasons. D. shared in her evaluation, “I like her cat. It is cute. I like the last page.” D. asked “Can I say they’re all my favorite?” 

Voting

After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to vote. Each child received a paper ballot to select their top 2 choices. The top books then are the winners of our session and go on the Voting Party on January 9. Al. added our final two books to our Caldecott Club poster.

And the winners are….

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson  

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Please join us for our next Caldecott Club session on Thursday, December 19 at 3:30-5:00. This will be our recap session where we’ll review all of the books going to our voting party, so if you missed a session, this is the one to attend. We’ll also have a super special guest, a grown-up committee member, and we’ll make art in the style of the books we’ve been exploring! 

Did you miss any of our sessions? Curious what happens in Caldecott Club? Want to know the brilliant things our kids said? Check out our recaps of each of the previous sessions!

Caldecott Club Session 1

Caldecott Club Session 2

Caldecott Club Session 3

Caldecott Club Session 4

Resources

A librarian always provides their sources – here are a series of resources I found while preparing for this program that you may want to check out:

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jamie Kim

For Anyone Who Has Been Asked, “Where Are You From?” By  Yamile Saied Méndez (Medium)

My Family Tree Activity

You Belong (Margie Myers-Culver’s Librarian’s Quest)

Yamile Saied Méndez’s website 

Jamie Kim’s website 

Publisher’s website

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez Review (Latinx in Kid Lit Review)

¡Vamos a hablar! | Let’s Talk! — Interview with Yamile Saied Méndez (Adriana M. Martínez Figueroa/boricuareads)

Truer Words Podcast interview with Yamile Saied Méndez

A Letter from Yamile Saied Méndez

New Release: Where Are You From? – Yamile Mendez ’17

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & Kadir Nelson  

How Did A Poem Commissioned By The Undefeated Become A 2019 New York Times Best-Selling Children’s Book? (ESPN Front Row) 

National Gallery of Art Talk with Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson, moderated by Kevin Merida, senior vice president and editor-in-chief, ESPN’s TheUndefeated.com (Video)

The Undefeated by Monique Harris (Calling Caldecott) 

WPR’s “The Morning Show” Interview with Kwame Alexander

This Is For ‘The Undefeated’: A New Picture Book Celebrates Black Brilliance: Interview with Kadir Nelson (All Things Considered) 

Author Kwame Alexander Wants to Help Young People Imagine a Better World (The Takeaway) 

Poetry as History in The Undefeated by Erika Thulin Dawes (The Classroom Bookshelf) 

The Undefeated Review (Betsy Bird’s A Fuse #8 Production) 

Kwame Alexander on The Undefeated (Video) 

Kadir Nelson’s website

Kwame Alexander’s website

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad on message of ‘resilience’ in new kids’ book (Today Show)

Publisher’s Website

Ibtihaj Muhammad’s Website

S.K. Ali’s Website 

Hatem Aly’s Website

Ibtihaj Muhammad | Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream (Video) 

Book Discussion: The Proudest Blue (Hijabi Librarians)

Author and Illustrator Interview: S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly (Hijabi Librarians)

Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Has Written A New Book For Children About The Beauty Of The Hijab

By Cristina Arreola & K.W. Colyard (Bustle) 

Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Turns Bullying Experiences Into New Children’s Book (Here & Now) 

Under by Hijab by Hena Khan Teachers Guide 

Color Them Courageous (Margie Myers-Culver’s Librarian’s Quest)

2020 Charlotte Huck Recommended Book 

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Hair Love Film 

Publisher’s Website 

Matthew A. Cherry’s Website

Vashti Harrison’s Website 

Animation Magazine article 

Movie: ‘Hair Love’ (All Things Considered)

Children’s Review: Hair Love (Shelf Awareness) 

Hair Love | Meet author Matthew Cherry & illustrator Vashti Harrison (Video)

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry Book Review + Natural Hair Tips and Techniques (Here Wee Read) 

A Q&A with Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison, Author and Illustrator of HAIR LOVE (Blue Willow Bookshop Blog)

Interview With Hair Love’s Matthew A. Cherry by Carolyn Hinds (Black Girl Nerds) 

The Interview : Vashti Harrison by Carolyn Hinds (Black Girl Nerds) 

Illustrator Spotlight: Vashti Harrison (KidLit411)

Vashti Harrison Lets the Light In (New York Times) 

Minorities in Publishing Podcast: Interview with Vashti Harrison (Podcast)

Interview: Matthew Cherry and Peter Ramsey on the Importance of ‘Hair Love’ by Dorian Parks (Geeks of Color) 

How a short film helped me teach my daughter the beauty of her natural hair by Wanna Thompson (Hello Giggles) 



New Book Tuesday 12-10-19

Posted & filed under Blog.

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin

A ferociously talented writer makes his stunning debut with this richly woven tapestry, set in a small Nova Scotia town settled by former slaves, that depicts several generations of one family bound together and torn apart by blood, faith, time, and fate.

Structured as a triptych, Africaville chronicles the lives of three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Omar/Etienne, and her grandson Warner—whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century from the Great Depression of the 1930s, through the social protests of the 1960s to the economic upheavals in the 1980s.

A century earlier, Kath Ella’s ancestors established a new home in Nova Scotia. Like her ancestors, Kath Ella’s life is shaped by hardship—she struggles to conceive and to provide for her family during the long, bitter Canadian winters. She must also contend with the locals’ lingering suspicions about the dark-skinned “outsiders” who live in their midst.

Kath Ella’s fierce love for her son, Omar, cannot help her overcome the racial prejudices that linger in this remote, tight-knit place. As he grows up, the rebellious Omar refutes the past and decides to break from the family, threatening to upend all that Kath Ella and her people have tried to build. Over the decades, each successive generation drifts further from Africaville, yet they take a piece of this indelible place with them as they make their way to Montreal, Vermont, and beyond, to the deep South of America.

As it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home, Africaville tells the larger story of the black experience in parts of Canada and the United States. Vibrant and lyrical, filled with colorful details, and told in a powerful, haunting voice, this extraordinary novel—as atmospheric and steeped in history as The Known World, Barracoon, The Underground Railroad, and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—is a landmark work from a sure-to-be major literary talent.

The Book of Science and Antiquities by Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally, the bestselling author of The Daughters of Mars and Schindler’s Listreturns with an exquisite exploration of community and country, love and morality, taking place in both prehistoric and modern Australia.

An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Shelby Apple is obsessed with reimagining the full story of the Learned Man—a prehistoric man whose remains are believed to be the link between Africa and ancient Australia. From Vietnam to northern Africa and the Australian Outback, Shelby searches for understanding of this enigmatic man from the ancient past, unaware that the two men share a great deal in common.

Some 40,000 years in the past, the Learned Man has made his home alongside other members of his tribe. Complex and deeply introspective, he reveres tradition, loyalty, and respect for his ancestors. Willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, the Learned Man cannot conceive that a man millennia later could relate to him in heart and feeling.

In this “meditation on last things, but still electric with life, passion and appetite” (The Australian), Thomas Keneally weaves an extraordinary dual narrative that effortlessly transports you around the world and across time, offering “a hymn to idealism and to human development” (Sydney Morning Herald).

Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn

An enthralling, atmospheric new novel from Emily Littlejohn, author of acclaimed debut Inherit the Bones, featuring Colorado police officer Gemma Monroe.

It’s Halloween night in Cedar Valley. During the town’s annual festival, Detective Gemma Monroe takes a break from trick or treating with her family to visit an old family friend, retired Judge Caleb Montgomery, at his law office. To Gemma’s surprise, Caleb seems worried—haunted, even—and confides in her that he’s been receiving anonymous threats. Shortly after, as Gemma strolls back to her car, an explosion at Caleb’s office shatters the night.

Reeling from the shock, Gemma and her team begin eliminating suspects and motives, but more keep appearing in their place, and soon another man is killed. Her investigation takes her from a chilling encounter with a convicted murderer at the Belle Vista Penitentiary, to the gilded rooms of the renovated Shotgun Playhouse, where Shakespeare’s cursed play Macbeth is set to open in a few weeks.

Yet most disturbing of all is when Gemma realizes that similar murders have happened before. There is a copycat killer at play, and if Gemma can’t stop him, he’ll carry out his final, deadly act.

The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams

The dazzling narrator of The Wicked City brings her mesmerizing voice and indomitable spirit to another Jazz Age tale of rumrunners, double crosses, and true love, spanning the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Long Island to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

1924. Ginger Kelly wakes up in tranquil Cocoa Beach, Florida, having fled south to safety in the company of disgraced Prohibition agent Oliver Anson Marshall and her newly-orphaned young sister, Patsy. But paradise is short-lived. Marshall is reinstated to the agency with suspicious haste and put to work patrolling for rumrunners on the high seas, from which he promptly disappears. Gin hurries north to rescue him, only to be trapped in an agonizing moral quandary by Marshall’s desperate mother. 

1998. Ella Dommerich has finally settled into her new life in Greenwich Village, inside the same apartment where a certain redheaded flapper lived long ago…and continues to make her presence known. Having quit her ethically problematic job at an accounting firm, cut ties with her unfaithful ex-husband, and begun an epic love affair with Hector, her musician neighbor, Ella’s eager to piece together the history of the mysterious Gin Kelly, whose only physical trace is a series of rare vintage photograph cards for which she modeled before she disappeared.

Two women, two generations, two urgent quests. But as Ginger and Ella track down their separate quarries with increasing desperation, the mysteries consuming them take on unsettling echoes of each other, and both women will require all their strength and ingenuity to outwit a conspiracy spanning decades.