Support Your Lovely Local Authors!

While I’m feeling all mushy this season, it occurred to me that four talented children’s authors who live in A2 also happen to be some of the nicest people to walk into our library. So Shutta Crum, Jacqui Robbins, Joan Blos and Nancy Shaw, here is a big thank you for doing what you do. If anyone has an Ann Arbor cutie who just needs a good read this holiday season, you need go no further than your own home town!

Kids Sing!

For many of us this time of year is about travel, family and music. Join Diane Kimball at Traverwood this Sunday, December 6th at 2:00 pm for a sing-along. We'll travel the world with songs you know and new ones too!

Joel Tacey Returns!

Looking for something to do the day after Thanksgiving? Joel Tacey will return to the Downtown Library on Friday, November 27 at 2:00 pm. Joel is always a huge hit with the Kindergarten and up crowd because he tickles the family funny bone with his tricks, jokes and juggling. If you have out-of-town visitors, show off your local library and bring them in for a great time at The Reading Rocks Show.
Joel TaceyJoel Tacey

Bill Harley is coming to town!

When I met Bill Harley thirty years ago, and heard him tell stories at a concert in a beautiful old church in Cambridge, MA, I knew he had the sense of humor, depth and compassion to move everyone in the family to laughter and tears. I am tickled pink that our library will be hosting this Grammy award-winning storyteller and musician on Sunday, November 22 at 1:00 pm for a free family show at the Ark for ages five and up. If you are a grown-up looking for an evening of classy entertainment come to the 7:30 pm Ark show that same date for more edgy and exquisite fun!

Beyond "Heather Has Two Mommies"

A few weeks ago, while working in the Youth department downtown, a patron asked me if the library had any books for young children that depicted “alternative families” (by which she meant LGBT picture books). Unsure about how to begin such a search in our catalog, I decided to start with the one book I could think of right away: Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman. When I looked up the title, I found that we do indeed have it, but not where I thought it would be; it had been categorized not with the picture books but in the non-fiction section, in the area for “family issues”. That’s where I also found several other picture books depicting LGBT families. I figured that there must be other people in the community looking for these kinds of books, who like me don’t know where to look or even what’s out there. So I decided to conduct an assessment of the literature available for young children that portrays non-traditional families, particularly same-gender parents.

It turns out that this year, 2009, is the 20th anniversary of the publication of the famous (infamous?) Heather Has Two Mommies. It was revolutionary at its time: it was the first book published in the US that depicted a child being raised by two parents of the same gender. (The very first picture book on the subject was "Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin", published in 1981 by Danish author Susanne Bosche.) Since its publication, "Heather Has Two Mommies" has been a source of controversy; it was one of the most frequently banned books in the 1990s, according to the American Library Association.

Even though the controversy over this particular book has died down in recent years, there is still conflict over books that portray gay/lesbian couples raising children. The picture book And Tango Makes Three, about the Central Park Zoo “gay” penguins, was the most banned book this year. Perhaps for that reason, not many books have been published on this topic in the last 20 years. Fortunately for the patrons of the AADL, we carry many of the titles that do exist. I read most of them, and would like to offer some recommendations and critiques of the ones that may be less familiar:

Daddy’s Roommate (1990) – A little boy talks about all the fun things he does with his daddy and his daddy’s new roommate Frank (since his parents got divorced). While it was probably groundbreaking at its time by being one of the first books to show a happy, loving, gay couple raising a child, the book is actually rather boring and didactic.

Asha's Mums (1990) – Asha is looking forward to going to the Science Centre with her class, but her permission slip has two mothers' names on it. Will her teacher still let her go? This cute story comes from Canada, and features an African-American family and multi-racial classmates.

My Two Uncles (1995) – Elly loves her favorite Uncle Ned and his friend Uncle Phil, but doesn’t understand why her Grampy doesn’t want Phil to come to the family party. Elly’s dad explains both being gay and prejudice against it in a way that shows compassion for both Ned and Phil and for Grampy.

King & King (2000) – A new twist on an old fairytale. The queen tells her son the prince that he must get married, but he isn’t interested in any of the princesses… and then he meets the perfect prince. An intriguing idea, but poorly executed: the writing is awkward, the characters are barely developed, and the multimedia collage illustrations are overly bright and cluttered.

Antonio's Card (2005) – Antonio is making a card for Mother's Day, showing himself with his Mami and his mother's partner, Leslie. But he is afraid to let his classmates see it after he hears them making fun of how Leslie looks. This bi-lingual book tells the story both in English and Spanish, with bright colorful illustrations.

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding (2008) – When Chloe learns that her favorite Uncle Bobby is getting married, she worries that she will no longer be as special to him. As Chloe spends time with Bobby and his boyfriend Jamie, however, she realizes that she will always be special – to both her uncles. This cute story is an excellent addition to the genre because the fact that both Bobby and Jamie are male is not ever an issue.

In Our Mothers’ House (2009) – A new book from Patricia Polacco, who is well-known for her picture books depicting interracial friendship and understanding. From the School Library Journal review: “The narrator, a black girl, describes how her two Caucasian mothers, Marmee and Meema, adopted her, her Asian brother, and her red-headed sister. She tells about the wonderful times they have growing up in Berkeley, CA.” This book is currently on order.

Tellebration!

Time Warp TalesTime Warp Tales

If you have never treated the kids to a mini story festival at your local library, now is your chance. A colorful line-up of tales and tellers from the Ann Arbor Storyteller’s Guild will entertain this Sunday at 2:00 pm at the Pittsfield Branch Library for Tellebration. All kids ages 4 and up are invited!

KinderConcert’s Back!

The little ones love to move to the beautiful piano music of Kathryn Goodson, who joins Gari Stein for a story and creative movement a few times a year when the AADL partners with the A2SO. This Friday, at 9:30 am and 10:30 am, we’ll have a special treat because the talented Arie Lipsky will be here to talk “conducting” with the very young. What fun!

Looking For a Bedtime Story?


If you are in search of a good bedtime story with a thoughtful message and dreamy illustrations, be sure to check out Go to Sleep, Gecko! A Balinese Folktale by Margaret Read MacDonald. This twist on a traditional Balinese tale tells of Gecko and how the fireflies outside his window keep him awake with their blinking. When this grumpy gecko goes to complain to the the head of the village, Elephant, he sets off a chain reaction that teaches him a lesson about the natural cycle of life. The humor in this tale (including buffalo poop!) will appeal to the young listener, and the luminescent night scenes help make this an extra special read-aloud.

Roald Dahl at the Movies

Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox is coming out in movie theaters November 25th. It tells the story of a clever fox who outwits his farmer neighbors to steal their chickens. George Clooney and Meryl Streep are the voices of Mr. and Mrs. Fox and the cast also includes Bill Murray, Willem Defoe, and Owen Wilson.

While you're waiting for the movie to hit theaters, why not check out the film version of one of Dahl's other books, such as the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971, starring Gene Wilder, or the newer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from 2005, starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton. The library also has the movie versions of Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, which was also directed by Tim Burton, The Witches, which features the voice of Anjelica Huston, and Matilda, which stars Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. All Dahl's books and the movies based on them have a creepy side to them that is great if you are wishing Halloween hadn't come and gone so quickly!

You can learn more about Roald Dahl on his website.

Shadow Puppets!

Join Carrie Elizabeth Morris for an unusual and entertaining shadow puppet experience for the whole family this Friday evening at 7:00 pm at the Downtown Library. Weather Channels incorporates video, shadows, narration and fun for Kindergarten and up! Carrie will invite the audience for a behind-the-screen demo of how she weaves her spell.

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