Telephone, by Mac Barnett

You know the hilarious game where you sit in a circle and whisper something to the person next to you, then they whisper it to the person next to them, and so on? And once the message gets passed to the the original person it is quite unlike the original message? It’s called telephone. You probably played it at a slumber party as a kid. The wonderful new picture book, Telephone, by superstar author Mac Barnett features something similar.

Several birds are sitting on a very long telephone wire. Momma bird says, “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” The message gets passed from bird to bird until it finally reaches Peter at the other end of the wire. You wouldn’t believe the silly message the birds keep incorrectly passing along the wire.

With beautiful illustrations by Jen Corace, this picture book is a winner and will put a smile on your face.

An Alphabet Book For Everyone

Sick of regular old alphabet books? Never fear! The brand new picture book Take Away the A, by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo, will delight readers of all ages.

"Take Away the A" goes through the alphabet letter by letter, showing what would happen if that letter were removed from a word. On the first page, the beast becomes the best, and is donned with a sash proclaiming him the “Scariest & Hairiest.” My favorite page shows the G disappearing, causing a glove to fall in love. Throughout the book, tiny mice watch the scenes unfold in lovely and meticulous detail.

Kids learning the alphabet will have fun searching for where the letter is missing, and the whole family will adore the illustrations and funny scenarios.

Lydia Loveless' amazing album Somewhere Else

Wow! I can’t get enough of Lydia Loveless’ newest album, Somewhere Else. I’m almost to the point where I want to stop listening to it… but I just can’t. I’d come close to saying that it might be my favorite album of all time… but that award is still firmly and deservedly in the hands of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (shameless Fleetwood pitch). Somewhere Else is an amazing mix of rock, pop, folk and country that quite a few critics have actually called “a little Fleetwood Mac-y,” so I guess that explains why I like it so much. In all seriousness though, this album is awesome!

Somewhere Else is actually Loveless’ third studio album, and she scrapped an entire album’s worth of songs before finding the 10 tracks that suited her that appear on the album. Many of the songs are about love and relationships found and lost, but the lyrics are far from cookie-cutter. In fact, they’re some of the most poignant and poetic lyrics I’ve ever heard, filled with unexpected analogies and amazing imagery. She has said, in fact, that many of her songs are adapted from poetry that she has written over the years. Paste magazine describes the album in this way: "an album of blood and guts and emotions—anger and yearning and lust—that are so honest and immediate that they beg to be shared. The strength in Loveless’ vocals is how deftly she moves between tough and vulnerable, the emotions in both realms sincere and familiar."

Loveless grew up in rural Ohio on an 80-acre farm and was homeschooled. She started learning to play the guitar when she was 12, but didn’t become passionate about it until she began learning Hank Williams songs at age 15. Loveless, her father, and her two older sisters were briefly in a band together, but after they disbanded, Loveless released her first album, The Only Man, in 2010, followed by Indestructible Machine in 2011, and finally, the wonderful Somewhere Else in 2014.

Skeleton Twins

The indie comedy-drama Skeleton Twins made its way through film festivals across the country last year with much acclaim. The film stars SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig with phenomenal performances as fraternal twins Maggie and Milo.

They are both in their 30s, live in different states, and haven’t talked to each other in ten years. Unbeknownst to each other, they both plan to end their lives on the same day, and they each end up foiling the others plan, which forces a reunion. They spend the film getting reacquainted and trying to sort out their messed up lives. The movie is darkly funny, and the characters are so deeply flawed and loveable.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

The film that almost wasn’t has now finished. After the legal battle the prevented The Hobbit trilogy from being made closer to when the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed, fans wondered if Peter Jackson’s adaptation would ever set foot in theaters. This many years later, so completes the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

The third and final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, completes the (essential) story that was told in Tokien’s lone novel The Hobbit.

It’s the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who heads off on an epic quest to help the dwarves reclaim Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug. Along the way is high adventure and many encounters with other creatures, namely the band of dwarves that he travels with. It is on this journey that Bilbo meets the creature Gollum, and where he first lays hands on “the one ring” that changes his life, and that of Middle Earth, for all time. This third film picks up right where the second film left off, after the introduction of Smaug. So make sure you watch The Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug first.

As a super fan of LOTR and The Hobbit, I loved seeing both trilogies, and am sad that this is the last(?!) time it’ll be on the big screen as we now know it. With the credits rolling in the last film, with Billy Boyd singing a last goodbye, well it may have caused me to well up.

"Write On!" Contest Guidelines are now posted! Entries accepted February 9 - 27th!

Young writers in 3rd-5th Grade may now view the 2015 "Write On!" Short Story Contest Guidelines! The "Write On!" Short Story Contest is now three years old and has received a total of 200 submissions from previous years! Keep the stories coming, writers of Ann Arbor and beyond!

"Write On!" will begin accepting submissions on Monday, February 9.

Need some help getting started? Check out the Writing Resources page. For more information about the contest, please visit the contest home page.

Happy writing!

PreK BITS - "R" is for Rules

Ms. Rachel brought bears to demonstrate etiquette this week.
Some rules are recommended for real bears.
Some rules are recommendations for toy bears.

NEVER ASK A BEAR shows consequences for errors with real bears.
BROWN BEAR IN A BROWN CHAIR demonstrates difficulties a toy bear experiences in a brown chair.

For more recommended titles regarding etiquette,.. and sometimes bears ... try the following:
TEA PARTY RULES by Ame Dyckman
TIPTOE JOE by Ginger Foglesong Gibson
BIG BAD BRUCE by Bill Peet
MR. TIGER GOES WILD by Peter Brown
SUPPOSE YOU MEET A DINOSAUR by Judy Sierra

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads!

Popular children's author Bob Shea has struck gold yet again with his new title Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads.

Drywater Gulch has a problem: The Toads are in town. These thieving Toad brothers have been stealing, kidnapping, and kissing cattle (not to mention insulting chili-- the horror!). Just when all seems lost, hope arrives via a very slooow tortoise. Ryan has come to town with his trusty tortoise companion, and although he doesn't know how to handle a shooting iron, ride a horse, or perform rope tricks (and has a curfew of 8 p.m.), he is made Sheriff of the town. Although Ryan might seem like an unusual choice for the role of Sheriff, he soon proves that he has what it takes to finally stop those no-good rotten Toad brothers once and for all!

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads takes familiar Western tropes and creates a brand new narrative story. This wacky and slightly sarcastic book is downright hilarious for kids and adults alike-- at several points I found myself uncontrollably giggling while reading. Because of this, Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads would make a wonderful read aloud book, especially for younger children.

In the mood for something similar? Other fantastic titles by Bob Shea include: Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great, Dinosaur vs. the Library, and Race You to Bed!

Parent’s Corner: Reading

The Parent Shelf is located in the downtown youth area, and on this shelf you’ll find a variety of parent-child related books on a multitude of topics- including everything from homework to potty training to time-outs to bullying. These books are available for checkout and can be found in the catalog when searching “parent shelf.”

There are some great books in the collection that focus on books and reading, including choosing what to read and how to help encourage children to read. To get you going, check out these titles:

Silly Books to Read Aloud

Reading in the wild: The book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Llifelong Reading Habits

Diversity in Youth Literature: Opening Doors Through Reading

Book love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers

For additional resources on kids and reading , check out this longer list of parent shelf titles.

The Warren Commission Report is an awesome graphic novel!

I sat down to read The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination, and finished it in one sitting. I loved it! I didn't know too much about the JFK assassination prior to reading this super-cool graphic novel, and it was so great to learn about it and its aftermath through Dan Mishkin's carefully chosen language and information, accompanied by the beautiful art of Ernie Colon and Ann Arbor resident Jerzy Drozd. This book details the events of the assassination itself, the findings of the Warren Commission, and explores the controversies and conspiracy theories that still surround the event. The book "speaks to theorists and skeptics alike, breaking down how decisions made in the days that followed the assassination not only shaped the way the commission reconstructed events, but also fostered the conspiracy theories that play a part in American politics to this day," reads the jacket, and I agree wholeheartedly. I appreciated that the book was not the least bit didactic, but simply well-researched and presented clearly and concisely.

If you're at all interested in learning more about the JFK assassination, I would highly recommend starting with this fantastic graphic novel.

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