Parent Magazine Update -- Good for You

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This month's parent magazine update focuses on things that nourish the soul and body, starting with my personal favorite -- books.

Book Links magazine starts with some interesting articles on multi-platform books -- books that include online components. The popular 39 Clues series is a great example of this innovative genre, as is the Skeleton Creek series for teens. Also featured in this issue are series books that are good for reading aloud -- The Porcupine Year, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and The Runaway Dolls for example -- and books about young artists, along the lines of Peter Reynolds' classic The Dot.

Mothering magazine has its own list of recommended books -- "visually sophisticated" picture books. Though he isn't mentioned in the article David Wiesner would be my personal recommendation in this category. This issue also features lots of other good-for-you stuff -- foods to boost the immune system, ways to foster creative play indoors and an article about celebrating your daughter's menarche in a supportive and empowering way.

Let's Do Spring!

Folks are still saying that here in Michigan we have often had spectacular snowstorms in March. But at the Pittsfield Branch our preschool storytimes are charging into Spring with no regard of what happens outside.
We have our storytimes on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. and Friday mornings at 10:00 a.m. Each storytime features live music by one of our talented musicians as well as an easy craft related to the week's theme.
This week's stories will feature some puddle stomping by a father, a son and a big dog as well as an exuberant cat that sings and dances.

If your kids love to do the crafts, check out this website. It has ideas for all occasions and links to other crafty sites.

Past Academy Awards

The Oscars air Sunday, March 7th, which makes now a great time to watch a few past Oscar winners with your kids. The Best Animated Feature Film Category was introduced in 2001, and the winners make great movies to enjoy with your family.

Films distinguished by winning Best Animated Feature Film include Shrek (It's sequel, Shrek 2 was also nominated in 2004), Spirited Away (a Japanese anime film dubbed with English actors), Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Happy Feet, Ratatouille, and WALL-E. Clearly computer generated movies by Pixar have been big winners in this category.

Treasure Planet earns an honorable mention from me as my personal favorite nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, as I've always liked Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and I think setting the story in space only improved it.

Youth Music Notes -- Up and At 'Em

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Doctors and scientists have been telling us for years that it's better to get up and move than to zonk out in front of the TV, but we all need a little help getting motivated. Good thing that the AADL Youth Department has some CD's to get you moving, shaking, dancing and stretching.

Any of Greg Scelsa's cd's are an excellent place to start, filled with catchy, energetic tunes to get your toes tapping. Fun and Games is my personal favorite, containing such classics as "Peanut Butter and Jelly," "Mr. Knickerbocker" and "The Riddle Song."

For songs that really get you moving and thinking, try Where is Thumbkin?, a collection of songs with instructions for movements and extension activities. The author of this CD has also written a book containing over 500 activities that you can do with your family! Finally, to calm down after all this excitement, Yoga Child will lead you through some simple stretches and breath exercises to both relax and energize you.

Of course, if none of these CD's sound like your cup of tea, the Youth Department's CD collection has an entire section of "Activity" CD's that you can browse.

Valentine Fun

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Valentine's Day is coming up again, and with it, the chance to show all your friends and loved ones how much you appreciate them.

Some of you have undoubtedly purchased your boxed sets of Valentines already, but remember, nothing says "love" like that special, homemade touch. Come on down to Mallett's Creek Branch this Saturday, Feb. 13 from 2-4 to make a creative Valentine or two for those you love!

Oscar-worthy Movies for Kids (or Kids at Heart)

The Animated Film category is always filled with children's movie nominations, but the really special kids' movies can hold their own against adult movies in the other categories. This year Up has been nominated for five Oscars, including best picture. It's a computer animation about an old man who rigs thousands of helium balloons to his house and floats away on an adventure.

If you like clay-mation you might be interested to know that the newest Wallace & Gromit film, the mysterious A Matter of Loaf and Death is nominated for best Animated Short Film. The Wallace and Gromit films are always big hits at the Academy Awards. The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, and the feature-length Curse of the Were-Rabbit (featuring the voices of Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter) all received Academy Awards in previous years, and A Grand Day Out was nominated in 1990, but it lost to Creature Comforts, which is another clay-mation movie by the same filmmaker, Nick Park.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince is nominated for best cinematography. The Harry Potter films have not yet won any Oscars despite their wild popularity and six past nominations. Neil Gaiman's Coraline, featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher is nominated for best animated feature film. Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Princess and the Frog both earned Oscar nominations too, but they won't hit library shelves until March, so don't forget to place your holds on them after they're ordered because they are sure to be popular.

Youth Nonfiction Finds -- Story and Prayer

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Over thousands of years of human history, the different cultures of the world have produced some diverse and beautiful expressions of spirituality. Fortunately, the Youth Department has plenty of books to help you explore the wide world of spiritual traditions.

For stories of the sacred, try Burleigh Muten's books, Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic and The Lady of Ten Thousand Names. These books provide an impressive collection of goddess myths from around the world. Kris Waldherr's book Sacred Animals, presents stories of spiritually significant animals and what they represent in different cultures.

For a comprehensive collection of prayers, try the beautiful little book In the House of Happiness, or the The Barefoot Book of Blessings, which contain prayers, old and new, for every occasion and circumstance. Here's the Navajo prayer which inspired the title of "In the House of Happiness":

In the house of happiness, there I wander.
Beauty before me, there I wander.
Beauty behind me, there I wander.
Beauty below me, there I wander.
Beauty above me, there I wander.
Beauty all around me, with it I wander.
In old age traveling, with it I wander.
On the beautiful trail I am, with it I wander.

The AADL Kid-i-cotts

Join us this Friday in the Downtown Multipurpose Room from 6-8:30 pm to celebrate the Caldecott medal winner. The Caldecott Medal has been awarded since 1938 to recognize excellence in illustration. This year the award has gone to Jerry Pinkney's excellent rendition of The Lion and the Mouse, which tells Aesop's classic fable entirely in pictures.

This Friday, after a brief presentation of the Caldecott winner and other historical Caldecotts, you will have the chance to tell stories in pictures yourself. Your imagination is the only limit, so bring all your creativity, enthusiasm and love of art!

Youth Nonfiction Finds -- Special Edition: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day when we should look forward and backward -- backward into history to appreciate how far we have come as a country and the hard work of those who brought us here, and forward to the challenges we still have to face in order to bring about true equality. Here are some good books to help you get a good understanding of the history of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.:

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.? provides a concise biography of its titular subject and background on the issues underlying the Civil Rights Movement, such as Jim Crow Laws and the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision. My Brother Martin, written by Christine King Farris, tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood, for a more human picture of the great man. Did you know that he was quite the prankster as a child? I Have a Dream presents Dr. King's famous speech in manageable bites, accompanied by evocative illustrations.

For those who want to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement itself, Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round presents a very understandable, illustrated history of the major events of the movement. A Dream of Freedom provides a more in-depth look at the issues, from Emancipation to the Black Panther Party. In Freedom's Children activists like Claudette Colvin and Ruby Bridges share their experiences of growing up during those tumultuous times. Finally, The Civil Rights Movement for Kids combines history with activities, like skits, songs, speeches and even recipes, to really bring history home.

An Extraordinary Child with a Special Destiny

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is the story of a hyperactive pre-teen boy who discovers that his real father is one of the great Greek gods of mythology. That makes him a demigod, a half-god half-mortal with special powers and a special destiny. He is whisked away to a magically protected camp where he discovers a whole community of demigod kids learning to survive and develop their special talents in a world suddenly full of magic and monsters. Percy soon discovers that a great evil is trying to use him to return to the world, and nobody can be trusted, not even the gods of Olympus.

This series bears many strong thematic resemblances to the Harry Potter series, and its a great fit for any kids or adults who enjoyed Harry Potter and are looking for other things in the same vein. However, Riordan writes from the perspective of young Percy and uses Percy's irreverent (and often sarcastic) voice to ensure things stay light-hearted on his quests of near-constant monster battles and conflicts.

The Lightning Thief, the first book of the series, is being made into a movie which is due to be released later this year. It has the potential to be great, despite its lack of my most favorite character, Nico di Angelo. That kid is awesome. Am I right?

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