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Engaging Methuen Readers


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New Picture Books 2017

2017 has been a great year so far for picture books. Here are a few that you can check out now from the Children’s Room of the Nevins Memorial Library:

 

Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel by Adam Rubin

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The much anticipated Dragons Love Tacos 2 is finally here! The world has run out of tacos and the emergency supplies have been depleted. Our protagonist must travel back in time with the dragons to procure some tacos to bring back to the present and plant taco trees. But like last time, he needs to watch out for that spicy salsa that will give the dragons the tummy rumblies.

 

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

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The newest from the creator of The Dot encourages the reader to be a dreamer. When the world tells you to be quiet and stay still, keep on dreaming! With gorgeous color illustrations, discover what type of dreamer you are and persevere even if you feel boxed in by outside expectations.

 

Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman

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Previously available only in audiobook format, Neil Gaiman’s text Cinnamon becomes vibrant with Divya Srinivasan’s illustrations. Set in ancient India, a young princess is blind and refuses to talk. When a tiger offers to help her family is suspicious, but he may be their only hope.

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder was the inspiration for this picture book. Auggie knows that he looks different than most kids and it hurts when people don’t accept him. He wants everyone to know that he is a wonder and they are too. We’re all wonders and just need to see each other with kindness.


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Books and Beer. And Maybe Some More Beer.

The plus side of having a beer nerd on staff (the only plus side that I can discern) is that if you want to celebrate Oktoberfest with a blog post, you have someone who will go way over the top in preparation. Let’s just set aside the fact that Oktoberfest is traditionally celebrated in Germany in late September and ends the first weekend in October.

Humor me.

The leaves are turning, there is apple picking, pumpkin carving, reading by the fire. And there is beer. In my quest to successfully pair books with beer, I wanted to stay local. If you live near the Nevins Memorial Library, all of these breweries can be reached within 30 minutes of driving.

 

Beer: Smuttlabs Biere De’Shire

Book: Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

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In 2007 Smuttlabs was created as a small batch/experimental/fun-things-that-can’t-be done-large-scale deal by Smuttynose (Hampton, NH). Their stuff is harder to find if you’re not from the area, but if you can make it to Smutty or their neighboring restaurant, Hayseed, it’s easily accessible right now.

Saisons are my jam. Historically brewed in Belgian farmhouses during the off-season and then primarily consumed by farm workers as a form of payment, they actually taste like you’re on a farm. Biere De’Shire was brewed with Brettanomyces which means even more of that funkiness. Medium orange/honey color with fruity flavors and a bit of spice. The Brett doesn’t come through super strong and it’s actually a little sweet for a saison, so if you’re not a fan of the typical funkiness associated with Brett I’d still give it a try.

Starting with a bonfire of one Guy Fawkes Day and ending one year later, Return of the Native is mostly people running around outside. Okay, it’s definitely so much more than that, but Hardy was absolutely obsessed with creating pastoral literature that yearned for a time before the Industrial Revolution. If you’re a fan of crazy love triangles before a time in which they were acceptable, descriptions of the outdoors which are beyond compare, and most characters that you love dying (definitely a precursor to George R.R. Martin) then sip on some farmhouse funk and imagine you’re there. It’s more beautiful than it sounds, I promise.

 

Beer: Earth Eagle Brewings Rhubie

Book: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

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Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, NH will take you by surprise. Approaching it, you might think that it’s a colorfully painted garage behind a homebrew store. Don’t let appearances deceive; it happens to be home to some incredible food and many gruits, including this amazing sour. “What is a gruit?” you may ask, for they are far and few between. Before hops were extensively used in the brewing process, one could make an herbal medley (depending on what was available and the desired flavor of the resulting beverage) to preserve the drink. If you’re interested in why gruits were phased out, you can read a whole lot about the emancipation of German princes during the Protestant Reformation. All you need right now: Gruits are good. They are still a thing. They are in Portsmouth. Go find them.

Like Biere D’Shire is good if you’re not used to saisons, Rhubie is great for sour newcomers. This gruit uses wormwood for preservation and is dry-hopped with rhubarb and sumac. The rhubarb comes through for a fruity, juicy taste. Mildly funky and moderately sour, the sourness doesn’t stick around like many of the palatte-wreckers out there.

I paired this with a compilation of short stories by one of America’s leading humor writers, David Sedaris. The tales relate Sedaris’ life growing up in Raleigh, living in New York, and then moving to Normandy with his partner and knowing no French. The journey is both sweet and sour. While you may know Sedaris from public radio, his prose is juicy, mildly funky, and sometimes sour, just like Rhubie.

 

Beer: The Tap Brewing Company Joshua Norton

Book: Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson

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Located in downtown Haverhill, The Tap produces a wide range of beers on their limited system, similar to Earth Eagle. They distribute more widely though, so Joshua Norton will be easier to find in bottles than the other beers listed here. The brewpub is located in an old leather factory, Haverhill previously being known as the “Queen Slipper City” for its shoe production. Now the building houses a 10 barrel system that pumps out some pretty great stuff.

Joshua Norton was the English-born, self-proclaimed king of the United States in the mid-1800s. He was pretty crazy and the story is really interesting, but I’m not exactly sure why a Russian Imperial Stout was named after him. Drink this and you won’t care. Dark brown in color, this seasonal winter beer has notes of chocolate and coffee with a bit of smoky flavor. The body is lighter than most stouts. It ages well, so if you find it whaling on the shelves of some store that doesn’t rotate their stock, go for it.

In M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead there’s the added bonus of a local author. Anderson often appears at book signing events in the area to promote his work and is hilarious in his speeches. Despite his humor, he manages to hit some pretty intense topics in his writing, such as this latest non-fiction (yes, it’s Young Adult – read it anyway). When Leningrad had been trapped for almost three years by Hitler’s Wehrmacht and the Soviet government, the culmination of terror hit in the winter of 1943-44. Dmitri Shostakovich memorialized the terror that the citizens faced in his Leningrad Symphony. Obviously I had to pair this with a solid Russian Imperial Stout.

 

Go books and beer!


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In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by James Marshall III

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Light haired, blue-eyed Jimmy McClean doesn’t look like other Lakota boys. Ruthlessly teased for looking too white, and accepted by neither his Native America nor Caucasian peers, Jimmy is miserable at school. Then his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, tells him about Crazy Horse. He was originally called Light Hair, and not fondly, until he proved himself as a warrior. Their summer road trip to visit the famous battle sites teaches Jimmy a lot about Crazy Horse and a lot about himself.

Ingeniously blending contemporary reservation life with the oral tradition of the Lakota tribe, James Marshall III proves his expertise on both Crazy Horse and Lakota life in a unique format. Tales of Crazy Horse are told amidst Jimmy and his grandfather’s journey, culminating in a moment of truth. With gorgeous jacket design and chapter heading illustrations done by Jim Yellowhawk, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in a compelling historical fiction.

Age Range: 10 – 14 years

Click here to find In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse in our library catalog!


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Review: Hidden

Hidden by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, Greg Salsedo

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Dounia’s granddaughter awakens one night to find her in the sorrow of memories. Elsa wants to make her grandmother feel better by talking about the “nightmare,” but the nightmare is 1942 Paris. Dounia decides to talk about her experience as a girl for the first time. She tells her granddaughter about being Jewish in a French school during Nazi occupation, her parents being taken from her, and being taken in by the neighbors and forced into hiding. Beautifully worded and illustrated, Dauvillier’s Hidden is poignant and subtle.

This story open up many avenues for the child reader to question and learn about what happened during the Holocaust without being graphic. The time period is difficult to portray for children’s authors and illustrators because of how terrible the atrocities were. The fact that Dauvillier managed to show just how dire Dounia’s situation was without violence is impressive. It ends on a happy note, with family connecting further through the pain of the story which needed to be told.

Age Range: 6-10 years


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Review: A Wrinkle in Time (Graphic Novel)

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

Madeleine L’Engle’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time, was originally published in 1962. Although we can now marvel at the fact that a juvenile science fiction novel with a female protagonist was written at that point in time, L’Engle had a lot of difficulty getting it published. The countless rejections she faced finally gave way to its publication though, and it proceeded to win the Newbery Medal. This modern adaptation of the work by Hope Larson sheds new light on the story.

Meg Murray’s father disappeared mysteriously while working for the government. Everyone in town talks about him leaving his family, but the Murrays still hold out hope that he will return. When strange new ladies move into an abandoned house nearby, Meg, her little brother, and an eager friend are shown the way to find him and rescue him. On a planet called Camazotz their father is trapped by IT, a dark, evil thing. Can they save him?

Done entirely in monochromatic blue, this graphic novel adaptation by Hope Larson has the feel of an old-school comic book. It looks like the time period during which the novel was originally written. I thought I would get bored with the images, but the limited color scheme works well here and the verbage was well done.

Age Range: 10-12 years


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Review: Everyone Loves Bacon

Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio

Everyone loves bacon. But he loves himself most of all. He loves how good he smells and how much everyone likes him. The other breakfast foods cheer him on in his self-love. He starts to get a big head from all of the attention he is getting though. The merchandise with his face on it, the adoring fans, the fancy cars–these all aid the growth of his narcissism. The other breakfast meats become upset that he is stealing their thunder and his old friends begin to realize how self-absorbed he has become. In the end, we find out that everyone loves bacon sooo much… that he is eaten.

This picture book is an easy read and it is hilarious. It is perhaps slightly morbid that, in the end, bacon meets his demise at the tines of a fork. He certainly meets with a deserving end however. Everyone Loves Bacon is essentially a cautionary tale against narcissism, but in the funniest way possible.

Age Range: 3-6 years old. The story portion of this picture book is very simplistic, so it would be easy to follow for preschoolers. Even elementary school children who think they are too old for picture books would likely appreciate the humorous aspect of it. The illustrations are a bold comic style that fits the personal dilemma which bacon is facing.

Editor’s Note:  It’s Children’s Book Week, May 2-8 2016!  Celebrate by picking up your favorite children’s book at your local library.


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Review: The Princess in Black

The Princess in Black by Shannon & Dean Hale

Princesses do not wear black. Princesses do not run. And princesses certainly do not fight monsters. Princess Magnolia, however, does all of these things.

While dining with Duchess Wigtower, Princess Magnolia’s monster alarm goes off. She has to sneak away from the Duchess to stuff a monster back down the Monster Hole or he is going to start eating goats left and right. She manages the task, but while she is gone the Duchess has been snooping through the palace. Will Princess Magnolia’s secret be discovered?

The theme of The Princess in Black is what I love so much about this book. Princess Magnolia can be a princess, but she can also be a superhero. While it is potentially problematic that she cannot show people that she is also a superhero, the message to the reader is that she is good at being both. She even maintains the tiara while she is doing her superhero duties which indicates that her personality overlaps between the two jobs. This is a strong heroine who doesn’t have to choose between being a princess or being a superhero because she is great at being both.

This chapter book is ideal for children 2nd-4th grade who are interested in princesses. It is heavily illustrated and contains short chapters. This is definitely a princess book, but one with pizzazz that shows the strength of the female lead. She needs no rescuing, she will rescue you.

Book Cover: Saving Lucas Biggs


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Book Review: Saving Lucas Biggs

The married children’s authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague have teamed up to create Saving Lucas Biggs. This compelling story follows the journey of Margaret, a young girl whose father was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit by the cruel Judge Biggs. The family lives in a small mining town in Arizona and Judge Biggs is swayed by corporate interests in his conviction of Margaret’s father. The young girl has a special power, but it is one which she is forbidden to use. Her family is able to time travel, but “history resists” and they have all taken part in a promise to never use their powers. Never–but Margeret can’t stand the thought of losing her father. When her best friend’s grandfather explains that he once knew a member of her family who went against that promise and lived to tell the tale, Margaret decides to take the chance and attempt to change Lucas Biggs and keep him from ever becoming corrupt in the first place. Will she be able to make it back to her family safely though?

De los Santos and Teague make an incredible team in this novel which is perfect for 5th-6th grade students. The themes seem very heavy, but this dynamic duo deals with the issues of death and corruption in very poignant ways. Opening up the eyes of children to the possibility of corruption, while also making clear that it can be changed with perseverance and goodness, is a refreshing end to this fast-paced novel. Lovers of fantasy as well as realistic fiction will find this read pleasurable.


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National Underwear Day

National Underwear Day is here! It might seem like a strange thing to celebrate every year, but if the number of children’s books published on the topic is any indication then its popularity is far more than the adult mind would consider on a daily basis. Underwear is just funny.

It might be something you don’t generally think about, but your child is going to think any book on the topic of undergarments is hilarious. So here are some picture books for kids in K-2 grade that will keep them entertained and you sane:

Image of itemDinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort claims “this book solves the mystery” about how the dinosaurs were wiped out. Cavemen invented underwear for themselves, but then the dinosaurs want in on the product too. They start chasing after the cavemen. Not to eat them–the dinosaurs want their underwear. All while educating about the names of dinosaurs and prehistoric life, the book does swirl into hilarity, the dinosaurs ending up in a massive tug-o-war. The Mighty Underpants War lasts until the dinos are wiped out and the cavemen get their briefs back!

Image of itemApparently Claire Freedman and Ben Cort really like writing/illustrating books about underwear. Rather than prehistoric, they go futuristic this time with Aliens in Underpants Save the World. This tale is also told in rhyme, now with adorable illustrations of the aliens who are saving our world. A meteor is headed straight toward earth and the aliens are worried about the destruction of their underwear supply! In order to save it, they pillage as much underwear as they can find and turn it into one massive pair of underwear to bounce the meteor back to outer space. The use of rhyme and science vocabulary add to the merit of this silly story about underwear.

Image of itemTodd H. Doodler has multiple books about a bear in underwear, but the one that started it all is Bear in Underwear. The illustrations of the woodland creatures are a modern pop-art style. Dichotomous, yes. Incredibly cute, also a yes. Identifying the animals is a central feature to this book, as is explaining the different types of underwear that bear tries on. In the end, all of the animals get their own pair that suits them perfectly.

Image of itemOne Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl and Tom Lichtenheld is a unique counting book that doesn’t just do the traditional one to ten. It goes back and forth between numbers, requiring more numerical competency than the average 1, 2, 3… type story. It all begins with a big pair of underwear and two bears who do NOT want to share. One animal from the many keeps getting the short end of the deal until, all together, the animals learn to count and share because of the big pair of underwear.

Image of itemFor the middle reader (2nd-4th grade), the iconic Captain Underpants cannot be forgotten! The series was started by Dav Pilkey in 1997 and quickly rose to fame among the school-age crowd. These are quick reads for reluctant readers but will certainly be enjoyed by even the most stoic elementary school kid. There are now twelve pseudo-comic/novels about the stinky, smelly villains whom Captain Underpants defeats, as well as Collectors’ Editions and books about Super Diaper Baby. Although the series is often challenged in censorship battles for being unsuitable due to its nature of revolving around all things disgusting, it is worth a try for the laughter which will ensue.


Book Review: Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

Isabel is the best Bunjitsu student at her school. She can kick higher, throw farther, and hit harder than anyone else! But Isabel uses her abilities wisely, only using them to defend herself when she needs to. Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman is composed of vignettes following Isobel’s adventures on the path to enlightenment. The stories are clearly inspired by Eastern wisdom and the illustrations are reminiscent of Japanese wood-block carvings and ink calligraphy. This composition is primarily for middle readers (grades 2-4), but will delight both younger and older. A good read-aloud, these clever and humorous stories of Isabel are fast-paced yet remind the reader to slow down and observe. I highly recommend this book, having become attached to Isabel through the course of my reading.