Wink by Rob Harrell

By Lynn Thomas,

Trying to fit in in middle school can be a difficult feat, but add in the diagnosis of a rare eye cancer and it’s a whole new experience. In the semi-biographical book, “Wink”, written by Rob Harrell, you are able to follow seventh grader Ross Maloy as he navigates this difficult journey.

Not only does Ross have to endure uncomfortable cancer treatment, he also has to try to not stand out as the “cancer kid” at school. And to make things worse Ross is the brunt of bullying because of his evolving appearance (eye goo, hair loss and having to wear a cowboy hat as advised by his doctor). Ross felt like his life was falling apart and just didn’t know how he was going to prevail. He had to learn to lean on family to help him cope. True friendships blossomed, his love for cartooning grew, and Ross also discovered a new passion….music, which all helped him while he navigated this difficult time.

This is a great read for upper elementary children to learn that they are not alone in wanting to fit in, and to just be considered normal. There are many ups and downs in Ross’s life that the reader will be able to relate to and to learn from. This inspirational story will remind the reader about the important things in life and to always remember the importance of kindness. -Reviewed by Lynn

The Skeleton Tree

By Lynn Thomas,

Imagine being shipwrecked with someone you hardly know. That’s what happened to Chris and Frank when they embark on a trip with Chris’s eccentric Uncle Jack. Chris’s mother was reluctant to let Chris go out with his “daredevil” uncle, but felt it may do Chris some good to spend time with his uncle since Chris’s father had just recently passed away.

The boys finds themselves stranded in the Alaskan wilderness with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Frank is just a few years older than Chris, and he uses this age difference to his advantage. When they stumble on an abandoned cabin, Chris has to sleep on the floor while Frank gets to sleep in the only bed. The two boys have to scavenge for food and make the best of the shelter that they can, with hopes of being rescued before winter sets in.

While they are struggling to survive, mysteries from their past are uncovered. The once enemies must learn how to work together in order to come out of this experience alive. If you are a fan Gary Paulsen books you will enjoy this thrilling and heart warming story. It is a book you won’t want to put down.

Storytime Kits!

By Lynn Thomas,

Since we are unable to do storytimes in person, we have packed up storytimes for you and your family to do at home! Each themed kit includes 3-4 books (with read along prompts), fingerplay, a snack idea and a craft. All you need to supply will be a cozy place to read together, minimal craft supplies (something to color with and glue would be the most you would ever need), and the potential snack ingredients.

We have a kit for almost every letter of the alphabet: Apples, Bears, Carle/Caterpillars, Dinosaurs, Elephants, Flamingos, Garden, Helpers (Community), Igloos (the kit that’s pictured), Jungle, Kites, Llamas, Monsters, Narwhals, Olaf (and other snowmen), Pirates, Queens & Kings, Rockets, Snakes, Turtles, Unicorns, Valentines, Walruses, and X,Y,Z! The Igloos, Olaf, Narwhals and Walrus themed kits would be great to read during the Alaska Winter Reading program!

Someday we will be able to have storytime together, but until then these kits will have to do. You can also access archived storytimes on our YouTube channel here.

LIGHTS! CAMERA! ALICE!

By Lynn Thomas,

 LIGHTS! CAMERA! ALICE!:The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker is a non-fiction picture book written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo.

Here in America, we like to believe that the movie industry began in Hollywood. However, there was a little known young woman living in France who began to make what we think of as “movies” long before Hollywood existed.

Lights! Camera! Alice! tells the true story of Alice Blache’, who grew up in France and, by working for a camera company, became very good at using the new “moving picture” camera. Through hard work and perseverance, Alice convinced her employer to allow her to create “stories” on film using regular people as actors. Alice made the costumes, wrote the scripts (although these films were silent), and ran the camera. She “colorized” her film long before anyone in the United States ever thought to do so. Her hard work paid off with success and she immigrated to the United States, where she had many more adventures in film. Unfortunately, World War I and the Great Influenza of 1918 brought her business to a close, and she went back to France.

Although Alice had a few bumps along the way, she is a great example of grit and determination in the face of hardship.

This review was written by Dorothy S.

All the Impossible Things

By Lynn Thomas,

“All the Impossible Things” by Lindsay Lackey was a book that I could not put down. This is a story about Red, an eleven-year-old girl, that has become a part of the foster care system. Your heart will break as you discover some of the things she has to endure, like always keeping her backpack packed and ready to go to yet another family. The sad thing is she admitted that the backpack is a step up from the plastic bag she used to put all of her worldly possessions in as she started her foster care journey.

The book starts with Red being transferred to a new foster home at the home of a couple that runs a small zoo. Throughout the book you will feel the roller coaster of emotions as Red deals with her new family, a new school, and trying to figure out if being reunited with her mother is really the best thing for her. Just like her mother, Red has the ability to control the wind to match her emotions. There are plenty of wind storms in this book, but there are also times that the wind has a calming effect on those around it.

At a young age Red learned from her gamma that most things are not impossible. They are just harder to get done. This book will remind you about the importance of self-care, that you should look for silver linings, and to invest your time in people that truly care for you (they are out there.)

This book is filled with a little bit of supernatural (the wind matching emotions), tweens trying to figure life out, family relations (good and bad) and a few animal anecdotes. Children ages eight an up will be able to relate to the thoughts and feelings of the characters. Adults will also be pulled in to this story and remember what it was like to be a tween.

COVID Books for Families

By Lynn Thomas,

We have all been cooped up for over a month now. Your children may be asking why this is happening. How do you explain COVID-19 to children? Here are a few books available that might help explain what’s going on in this world to your children.

I, Lynn, did a quick search and found the book COVIBOOK. This book is intended for children under the age of 7. It is a simple way to explain the virus, to teach children how to keep themselves safe, how to stop the spread, and relieve some of your child’s anxiety. This 12 page book can be downloaded and filled out by your child.

The Indiana State Library sent out a link for another book that would be useful for older children. The book Coronavirus: A Book for Children has been made available in PDF form from children’s book publisher Candlewick Press. This book talks about the virus, why places are closed, emotions your child may be feeling, things we can do to help stop the spread, and what our future looks like. Candlewick Press has also provided activities, online resources, and boredom busters at their site.

While watching the morning news I saw a report about a local author from Brownsburg, Indiana. Jeff Graham has written the book Parenting Moments From Quarantine. This is a journal that will allow families to chronicle moments in their lives during quarantine. This keepsake book will allow families to someday look back at this time and share the memories that were made, both good and not so good times. Links to order his book can be found on his website. Mr Graham has also given people the option to download his book in PDF form at the site.

So, if you are looking for some books to pass the time, or you need help explaining these times to your children, check these books out. Here’s a short YouTube video that explains these times to little ones called Time to Come in Bear. Stay safe and well.

Women and Girls in Science

By Lynn Thomas,

Every February 11th women and girls of science are celebrated on International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This day was created to focus on the females of the world that have made, or still are making, a difference in the field of science.

If you have a child that is interested in science there is a great book in the adult non-fiction section that you could read along together to learn about some fantastic women in this field. The title of the book is Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. This book is filled with facts about women in the fields of STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math), it is vividly illustrated and each illustration has a quote from the featured woman.

Another great book to share with your children includes both men and women in science, but it is not about their accomplishments in the field of science. Instead, Kid Scientists: True Tales of Childhoods From Science Superstars By David Stabler, is about the childhoods of each of the featured scientists. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was known for not being interested in most school subjects (except reading), having a love for traveling the world, and being a team player in her youth. She could have played tennis professionally, but gave that up to be a scientist. Her team player spirit was helpful to her in the field of science.

There remains a tremendous gender gap in the field of science, but hopefully young ladies will take the time to read about the women of the past and present that are making a difference in the field of science. Everyone is welcome to attend our STEAM programs every second Saturday at 2:00. During our STEAM program we focus on the STEM of a topic (but we also include Art, which makes it STEAM). Next month we will be having STEAM Pi/Pie Day on March 14th where we will do experiments and art using pi and pie!

Do Not Lick This Book*: *It’s Full of Germs

By Lynn Thomas,

It is the time of year when people are getting sick. You try to explain to your children the importance of hand washing and covering their mouths to not “share” their germs. If your children are still not understanding germs, we have just the book for you. The book Do Not Lick This Book*: *It’s Full of Germs by Idan Ben-Barak  brings various microbes to life. The book starts by explaining that over 3 million microbes could fit on a dot the size of a period (give or take a few million!) The reader is then asked to take microbe Min on an adventure, both inside and outside of the book. Photographs of common every day items are enlarged (a lot) to reveal microbes. While taking Min on her adventure, the reader picks up other microbes along the way. Towards the end of the book the reader is encouraged to place all of the microbes back in the book. The last page of the book gives definitions of the various microbes that were picked up along the way. Hopefully this book can be a useful tool in teaching children just how tiny germs are and how easily they can be shared if one is not careful.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick

By Lynn Thomas,

Sometimes children can be overwhelmed by the number of pages a book has. They see a “thick” book and think that there is no way they would be able to finish it. If an older child comes in that feels like they can’t get through a book with many pages I like to introduce them to books by Brian Selznick. Brian Selznick has written the books The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, and The Marvels. The average number of pages in these books are over 600 pages. I like to show reluctant readers these titles to let them know that they can indeed finish a long book. Each of these books has limited text combined with a multitude of beautifully illustrated pages. Children will feel like they have accomplished a great feat when they finish any of these titles.

Brian Selznick’s Baby Monkey, Private Eye is the type of book that will encourage beginning readers to tackle a “thick” chapter book. Once again, text is very limited and there are amazing illustration that will pull a child into the story. There are five chapters in this book. Each chapter is a different case for Baby Monkey to solve; from missing jewelry to a missing clown nose. Children will realize that artwork in the waiting room of the monkey detective changes with each case. In the back of the book there is a key that explains the changes that occur in the waiting room. This book will not only entertain a child, it will also make them feel like they can read bigger books.

Anyone Can Change the World

By Lynn Thomas,

Brad Meltzer normally writes adult thrillers and he also hosts the show Decoded On the History Channel. One day, he realized that his young daughter was surrounded by princesses, but he wanted her to discover real-life heroes. To complete that task, he began his wonderful book series called Ordinary People Change the World. These books are written for children to learn about the character and influence ordinary people have shared in our world. Each book is titled “I am…” and starts with the person’s childhood in a way that young children can relate to; the person then shares information about her or his accomplishments throughout adulthood. The books are written in an easy-to-read format and include eye-catching illustrations in which the person highlighted in each book is drawn as a unique cartoon caricature that jumps out on every page. Each book ends with black and white photos, a timeline, and a quote from the person the book is written about. Even as an adult, I find these books encouraging and they make me want to continue to find ways that I can make this world a better place. If you or your child would like to know more about everyday people who changed the world as scientists, activists, artists, athletes, adventurers, and more, be sure to check out the Ordinary People Change the World book series.