Library Lists: 10 Interactive Books for Kids

Books aren't just for reading! Awesome books like the ones on this list allow you to be inventive and engaged by using and interacting with them!

Kaleidoscope: With a built-in spinning kaleidoscope lens, every page of this book is transformed into a visual delight. Simple rhymes describe the changing seasons, making this lovely and inventive book a unique and colorful journey through a year.

Mythology: the gods, heroes, and monsters of ancient Greece: This fascinating book on Greek mythology uses newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs from the “past” to impart information about famous myths. Other great books in the series include Dinosaurology, Alienology and Pirateology.

Alphablock: What a fun way to learn the alphabet! Thick pages in this book are cut into the shape of each letter, allowing children to peek-through the letters and guess them based on both their form and words associated with them.

Press Here:This creative book encourages kids to perform actions on each page: pressing dots, shaking the book, turning it upside down, and more. The result of each action is demonstrated on the next page. Kids love “influencing” the story and seeing the effects of their actions!

Panorama: a foldout book: Simple text and beautiful illustrations invite readers to view different places around the world. Then, the pages can be folded out to see the same scenes at nighttime.

Book-o-Hats, A Wearable Book: You can become a chef, a firefighter, a pirate, and more in this book that features wearable hats with fun rhyming text. There’s more wearable books in this series too, including Book-o-Teeth, Book-o-Beards, and Book-o-Masks!

What Happens When…: This lovely book allows readers to explore what happens to things that are lost or let go through text and illustrations on fold-out pages. I love how this book—originally published in French—offers simple solutions to some of the most common questions, such as “what happens when I let my balloon go?”

Guess what?—Food: This lift-the-flap book allows young readers to see familiar foods transformed into unexpected animals! Author Yusuke Yonezu is also the author of Guess What?—Fruit, an equally cool lift-the-flap book for young ones.

Small Smaller Smallest is a great way to learn differences in sizes and quantity. Each page has a pull-tab for children to tug on to see phenomenon like a flower growing from tall to taller to tallest and snowflakes falling low… lower… lowest.

Pinwheel allows readers to spin different wheels to create colorful scenes of natural areas. Like in Kaleidoscope, Salina Yoon’s simple poetry reminds readers of the beauty around us every day.

If you want even more great interactive books for children, check out this more extensive list!

IAW 2015 Get to Know the Judges: Cyn Balog

Leading up to the It's All Write Teen Short Story Contest celebration on June 7 (mark that on your calendar!), we'll be posting information about the judges who have the difficult task of choosing the top three contenders in each grade. Up first is Cyn Balog, who also writes under the name Nichola Reilly.

Originally from New Jersey but now in Pennsylvania, Balog has written a number of paranormal and post-apocalyptic young adult novels, including FAIRY TALE (2009) and DROWNED (2014). Her books have been translated and published in Germany, Italy, and Hungary.

DROWNED is an unusual post-apocalyptic book (the first in a series) that takes place on an island where the tides routinely swallow up the land, and the only thing that saves the inhabitants is the creaky wooden platform they must stand on for hours at a time until the tides recede. Coe, the one-handed teenage protagonist, has always felt unwelcome among and reviled by her people. When the king who rules them falls ill, however, it's up to Coe to find answers to secrets long buried and to find a way to save everyone before the waters swallow them all whole.

Interesting facts about the author: She's obsessed with all things Disney, she once had a crayfish named Harry as a pet, and her favorite book is Charlotte's Web.

Back Down the Rabbit Hole

Recently, Disney has been re-making some of their classic stories, Cinderella and Maleficent being the newest. But, going further back, we see the re-make of Alice in Wonderland from 2010. Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are very popular children's novels, and are full of images and stories that delight children and adults alike. (Check out The Annotated Alice for details on the inspiration behind the book!) Since the original publication in 1865, it has inspired art, music, books, and multiple film adaptations.

In fact, the story has been told and retold so many times, isn't it possible that the original story has changed over time? That is what author Frank Beddor explores in his trilogy, The Looking Glass Wars. In Beddor's book, Lewis Carroll meets a young girl named Alyss, who has escaped her home kingdom of Wonderland, a place run on imagination. But when she tells her story to Carroll, he gets everything wrong and writes his book Alice in Wonderland! Follow Alyss in this 'true story,' along with her bodyguard Hatter Madigan, as she tries to return home, defeat her evil Aunt Redd, and reclaim her kingdom in the first book of Beddor's young adult series, The Looking Glass Wars.

Can't Wait for our 3/23 Laura Ingalls Wilder Event? Try Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen!

In advance of AADL's upcoming event, Laura Ingalls Wilder & Her Place in the World on Monday, 3/23, here is a review of Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen, a beautiful work of fiction that ties into loving Laura Ingalls Wilder, and shares themes that appear in the Little House books and in Laura's own life

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen is the story of Lee Lien, a first-generation American daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, who spent her childhood reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series in the backseat as her family crisscrossed the Midwest, running one tacky Asian buffet after another. Lee is now grown and in possession of a English Literature Ph.D, but no job offers. In returning to live with her short-tempered mother and goodnatured grandfather, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may prove a connection to Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Lee’s beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder. As she chases down clues to prove her theory, she struggles with the everyday realities of her own family.

Nguyen draws some striking parallels between her story and that of the real life and fictionalized versions of the Ingalls Wilder characters. There’s the “missing pieces” of the Ingalls’ family’s real life that are not depicted in the books, such as the birth and death of a son and a stint as innkeepers in Iowa, which relates to the unknowable things in Lee’s own family history, such as the impact of her grandfather’s Saigon cafe on a traveling American writer, the circumstances of her father’s death, or the true state of her mother’s relationship with a family friend. The fraught relationship between the real life mother and daughter Laura and Rose is mirrored in Lee’s interactions with her own mother. Even Laura’s “itchy foot” desire to move ever westward appears as Lee follows her investigation from Illinois to the California coast.

This is the story of a young woman who must go back in order to go forward and how you never know what you might find between the covers of a book.It’s an excellent read whether you are a Little House lover or not, but readers of the Little House series will be especially appreciative of hints of Nguyen’s own obvious adoration.

Looking for more Laura Ingalls Wilder? Try this list of titles that includes biographies, writers chasing their own Laura obsessions, or books that just capture that young girl/big frontier feel.

Waiting (not so) patiently for A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

Anne Tyler's 20th (and rumored to be final) novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, continues her trademark talent for finding beauty and complexity in the mundane details of average family life. The story follows the Whitshaw family, whose long-married, but mismatched parents, Red and Abby, are aging and beginning to struggle with the upkeep on the big house in which they raised their four children. As Abby's memory begins to fail, their grown children circle home to help, to make decisions, and to open old wounds and resentments. Fans of Tyler's previous novels may find some familiar ground here, but all readers will appreciate the Tyler's ability to hone in on universalities in family dynamics.

Here are a few titles to tide you over while you wait or to recommend to your book club after they devour A Spool of Blue Thread:

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy - The 13 Turner children, nearly all of them born and raised in the family's 3 bedroom house on the east side of Detroit, face the realities of their pasts and their futures as they come together to decide the fate of their family home in a disentigrating city.

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver - The house at Ashaunt Point has long anchored the Porter family through the upheaval of war, personal tragedies, changing fortunes, in this powerful examination of the ties that bind families together.

Someone by Alice McDermott - This gem of a domestic fiction novel follows Brooklyn-born Marie Commeford as she navigates changing social norms and expectations from her pre-Depression birthdate throughout her humble yet fascinating life.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley - This first part of a planned trilogy tells the story of Iowa farming family the Langdons, starting in 1920 and moving through the decades as their family grows and changes against the backdrop of the 20th century.

Life-Changing Magic…

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is an international best-selling book by Marie Kondo that is apparently magically changing lives. Kondo is a cleaning consultant that has created the KonMari Method, and with this she challenges you to ponder the significance of everything you own, and to keep only those items that spark joy. This includes everything – clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff, and items with sentimental value. She instructs on how to sift through these items, how to purge what is not needed, and how to feel wonderful after doing so.

The book is full of wisdom and insight on how to make what you own fit into the space you live in. She states that no one should claim they have no space for storage. Her idea is that if you tidy a little bit every day you will be tidying up for the rest of your life. If you follow the KonMari method and follow through, tidying every day will not be necessary. This is not simply buying some bins and storing your stuff. This delves much deeper into analyzing every item you own and in a particular order.

People across the country have been devouring this book, including me, and I wonder how others are doing with the process! Will you Kondo your house?!

RIP Terry Pratchett, Fantasy Author


Prolific British fantasy author Terry Pratchett passed away this week, leaving behind a legacy of over 70 novels and legions of fans. He continued to write through his diagnosis with a rare form of Alzheimer's Disease in 2007, completing his final novel last year. In his 35-book Discworld series, Pratchett skewered everything from the postal service to the invention of the steam engine with his trademark wit.

Toward the end of his life, his brain struggled with the tasks of reading and writing, and he began using speech recognition software to compose his novels. In a touching but funny remembrance of Pratchett on NPR, the author admits he had to teach the American-designed software a lot of words, and not all appropriate ones.

He will be remembered for his beloved fantasy books, which were endlessly creative and never without a sense of satire, and his unflagging sense of humor. Rest in peace, Terry Pratchett!

Library Lists: 10 Great Animal Books for Kids

Are you looking for cool facts about animals? Are you interested in seeing amazing, detailed pictures of animals and how they swim, run, climb, and eat? Here’s ten of the best designed, researched and illustrated books on animals for kids in grades K-8.

1. Bone collection: Animals: This book has detailed pictures and drawings of the skeletons of some of the world’s most fascinating animals! Study their bones to find out how they move and survive.

2. Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth: Many animals can survive in conditions that humans could never tolerate. Learn about these animals and their special adaptations that allow them to brave the driest deserts, the coldest poles, and other amazing locations.

3. Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World: Animals have eyes of all different shapes, colors, and seeing-capabilities. Learn why different animals have such unique eyes and how they use them to gain information about what’s around them.

4. Amazing Giant Wild Animals: This awesome book features fold out pages of some of the longest, widest, tallest and heaviest creatures on Earth, allowing you to get a feel for their true size!

5. Actual Size: Steve Jenkins’ amazing paper-cut illustrations make this amazing book even more wonderful. Each page features part of an animal or a whole animal presented in its real-life size. You can see how animal shapes and sizes compare to your own body parts and to other animals!

6. Nocturne: Creatures of the Night: Amazing photographs of nocturnal animals take readers on a journey through the animal kingdom at night. Learn about the habits and habitats of forty different night-dwelling creatures.

7. Creature Features: Some animals have strange features! In this beautiful book, the animals themselves explain why they look the way they do, and why their seemingly unusual traits actually help them survive in the wild.

8. National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds: This colorful almanac for beginning bird watchers is filled with over a hundred species, arranged by habitat. A must-have guide for those interested in learning about the birds we see in our backyards!

9. Animalium: Take a journey to the museum with this stunning book! Invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are all featured in gorgeous illustrations in this virtual museum with exhibits open 365 days a year!

10. The Animal Book: This “collection of the fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest--and most surprising--animals on Earth” features over 300 types of animals and offers an easily comprehensible history of life on Earth. My personal favorite animal book for kids!

Still want more? Check out this more extensive list of great, kid-friendly books on animals!

The 2015 Story Prize

Elizabeth McCracken was presented with the $20,000 Story Prize for her collection, Thunderstruck and Other Stories * * on March 4 in New York City.

The Story Prize is an annual book award honoring the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction with a $20,000 cash award.

Anyone who loves her work (my favorite remains the unforgettable The Giant's House - her debut novel and a National Book Award finalist) will agree that this award is richly deserved.

Thunderstruck is a collection of stories that navigates the fragile space between love and loneliness, including the title story in which a family finds their lives irrevocably changed by their teenage daughter's risky behavior.

Other finalists for the prize are Francesca Marciano for The Other Language * *, and Lorrie Moore for Bark * * * . They each received $5,000.

* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred review

New Adult Fiction: In Some Other World, Maybe

I saw In Some Other World, Maybe, by Shari Goldhagen, reviewed a few months ago and have been eagerly anticipating its arrival at the AADL ever since. And now that I’ve read it, I can vouch for its greatness! The premise of this book is an intriguing one. One night in the early ‘90s different groups of teenagers across the country go to see the same movie. Their motivations for seeing the film are all different (and some don’t even make it through the whole thing), but this early insight that readers gain into the characters’ younger years sets an excellent backdrop for the rest of the book. Over the next two decades, these characters’ lives connect and disconnect, entwined by friendship, love, ambition, fame, and tragedy. Goldhagen chooses to focus on different characters at different points in their lives, so sometimes readers are left wondering what the others are up to. More than once I was surprised and pleased when one character appeared in the plot line of another and the two stories went along together for awhile. It’s this instilment of curiosity in readers that keeps the book moving at an unexpectedly quick pace, and that kept me turning pages later into the night than was good for me.

BookPage calls In Some Other World, Maybe, “a compelling tale that leaves readers pondering what is and, had life taken another direction, what could have been.” Fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings should absolutely give In Some Other World, Maybe a try.

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