The Lacemaker and the Princess

This book explores the life of a young lacemaker, Isabelle Bonnard, living in 18th century Versailles. Isabelle's world changes forever when she bumps into Queen Marie Antoinette and becomes the friend of her daughter, Princess Thérèse. But the changes are not all good and their unlikely friendship is soon threatened by the rise of the French Revolution.

At first I was skeptical of a book about the French Revolution being appropriate for kids if it was not entirely historically inaccurate. But I want to assure both parents and historians that the author managed to stay true to the turmoil of the period without going into too much gory detail. There is some blood but surprisingly little, all things considered, and the exact charges leveled against Marie Antoinette are very broadly described and narrated from the perspective of an eleven year old. Still, it does not in any way candy-coat the real strife of the times. There is the raiding of the Bastille and the Women's March on Versailles demanding bread. Meanwhile, the story focuses on the main character, Isabella's, struggle to stay loyal to her friend when all around her are rising up against the monarchy. It is inevitably a sad story since it is generally accurate, but it's also an engrossing page-turner (I finished it in one day)! The end felt a bit abrupt to me, but otherwise it's an excellent novel, particularly for girls into historical fiction.

Construction Junction

A marshmallow toothpick tower, a Q-Tip ramp or a castle out of cups? It's amazing what unique creations you can come up with from simple objects, a visit to the Scrap Box and your imagination! Children five and up are invited to join us on June 19th at 2:00 pm at the Pittsfield Branch for Construction Junction. Don't eat too many marshmallows!

3rd Annual Lego® Contest and 2nd Annual Manga Drawing Contest Guidelines!

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A year has passed, you've been planning and we can't wait to see what you come up with! We're happy to be hosting our 3rd annual Lego® Contest for preschoolers thru 12th grade. Prizes will be awarded in five age categories. Complete rules and guidelines can be found here. Even if you don't enter the contest we invite you to come and take a look on the evening of Wednesday, July 30 in the Downtown library multi-purpose room - it's a spectacular, but limited time only display. Last year we had over 100 entries! Doors open @ 7.

We invite fans of anime and manga, who also like to draw, or write comics, to enter our 2nd Annual Manga Drawing Contest. Entries are limited to those in grades K - 12. Prizes will be awarded in four age categories! Complete rules and guidelines can be found here. All artwork submitted will be on display in the Downtown Youth Department during the month of August.

Alanna the First Adventure: Audiobook

Summer reading is approaching. Remember you can listen to books too, so why not try an audiobook?

In this first book by Tamora Pierce, Alanna wants more than anything to be a knight, but it's not allowed for girls in the country of Tortall. She finds a way to sneak into the school for boys, but she has a long and arduous road ahead of her before she can claim her shield.

Trini Alvarado, an actress who played Meg March in Little Women, reads the story. There are no special effects but her reading reminded me of an enthusiastic teacher and brought back good memories of elementary school storytimes. The audiobook our library owns is on cassette, but if you don't have a cassette player and would really like to listen to it, the CD version is available on melcat.

In this day and age it seems stories about girls wanting to break the gender role are at least as common as the ones who don't, so I was originally skeptical of this story. Alanna's desire to do boys things didn't seem enough to define her as an interesting and individual character. But the school drama of her knights training and the fast paced adventure got me interested enough to read the rest of the stories which I also recommend.

Find appropriate books and movies with DiscoveryJourney

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Want to know if there is sex, drugs, or offensive language in a book without having to read the whole thing? Check out the DiscoveryJourney website. DiscoveryJourney has reviews of many popular children's books and movies with listings of each incidence of violence, profanity, nudity, sexual content, scary elements, and the use of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. It also suggests an appropriate age range for the intended audience.

DiscoveryJourney rates books and movies on each of ten character traits, including honesty, compassion, courage, and faith. The reviewers give positive and negative examples of each character trait. For example, in the review of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," Harry and his friends' bravery is listed as a positive example of courage, while Gilderoy Lockhart's behavior is listed as a negative example of courage. When rating morals or values, there are bound to be some personal differences of opinion, so use your own judgment when reading the reviews.

Artemis Fowl: Audiobooks

Some twelve year olds might be prodigies. Artemis Fowl, however, is a criminal mastermind. While plotting to restore his family's wealth after his father's disappearance this young Irishman discovers an entire world below Ireland, full of fairies, elves, and all manner of creatures of legend. But gone are the days when magic is their only weapon. These mythical folk are armed with high-tech gadgetry and they bring it all out in defense of their gold.

All the audiobooks are read by Nathaniel Parker who does excellent Irish accents and voices for all the characters. The stories also start and end with a techno-rock theme that, while some may find cheesy, I quite liked and I thought it definitely fit the tone of the story. I liked the audio versions so much that I listened to the entire series which is currently five books long with a sixth (Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox) scheduled to come out July 15th. It is also worth noting that the audio versions are the original Irish editions and not changed or edited for America. There are very few changes, but if you'd like the original versions, audio's the way to go.

Miss Spitfire

I was not the only Helen Keller obsessed girl in my 1963 classroom. We read everything about Helen and Annie that we could get our hands on and we would have eaten this book alive! This dramatic tale, told through the suffering eyes of Annie Sullivan, will create a whole new generation of Helen and Annie fans and remind older children that words are filled with power.

Edible Architecture

Can you build a skyscraper out of lasagna noodles? A house out of marshmallow cereal treats? What about the Taj Mahal out of graham crackers? Come hang out at Mallets Creek Friday, April 11 from 2-3 pm for Edible Architecture.

The Golden Compass Series: Audiobooks

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Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) follows the story of Lyra Belacqua, the secrets surrounding her birth and future, and travel between the worlds.

With the recent film and a revival of the controversy that has always surrounded the Golden Compass series, these books are once more in the public eye. I've been told that even people who like them find the books difficult, but I throughly enjoyed listening to them on audio. This is possibly because they're performed by a full cast complete with sound effects and narration from Philip Pullman himself, making the whole experience more like an old fashioned radio drama than your average audio book. I highly recommend the entire series.

ABC Mania

Study your ABC’s in a book, a movie or a video online. Put on your cape for the Superhero ABC, or ride your firetruck to the Alphabet Rescue. Join a band of pirates on the quest to capture the rest of the alphabet besides R in Shiver Me Letters: a Pirate ABC, or party at the Alphabet Fiesta and learn your letters in English and Spanish.

For your viewing pleasure, learn your ABC’s with the Sesame Street crew in Sesame Street: All-Star Alphabet or Winnie the Pooh: ABC’s.

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