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.

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.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #508

January brings a number of terrific debut novels. The one I am most excited to share is Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (MFA, Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan). Follow her on Facebook, and plan to attend her signing @ Literati, 7pm on January 27.

She calls herself Julie now, from California. For the past 2 years, Grace restores bric-a-brac, repairs antiques and jewelry in a Paris chop shop, and lives alone in a shabby room. Regularly, she checks the Garland (TN) newspaper online for news of a case involving robbery of The Wynne House, a local heritage estate and museum, and the two young men caught for the crime, a heist that Grace meticulously engineered. Now, Grace's past and carefully constructed lies are about to catch up with her half way around the world, as the two men are being paroled.

In a series of flashbacks, from small-town USA to the Manhattan art scene, and the backstreets of Europe, we follow the "unbecoming-of-age" of a young woman with a special gift for restoration and for reinventing herself with equal deftness.

"Mesmerizing, nail-biting, atmospheric, and sensual... Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity."

"Scherm mixes a character study with a caper novel full of double-crosses, lies, and betrayals... She is at her best when describing precious objects: a Dutch master's still life, a James Mont cigar box with hidden compartment, an ornate centerpiece with fanciful fruit and figurines, and silver spoons ignored by their owners but appreciated by the professional hired to evaluate them."

Readers looking for an elegantly well-played cat-and-mouse game should delight in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1954); The Thomas Crown Affair (1968, and the 1999 remake); and White Collar, the just concluded (sadly) tv series.

Fans of Gillian Flynn who appreciate "(a) bleak tone, deeply flawed protagonist, and dysfunctional relationships" wouldn't want to miss this one. And let's not forget Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels as read-alikes.

Waiting (not so) patiently for Pioneer Girl: an annotated autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder?

Me too! I am crazy about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and learning more about her life after the books and her work as a writer. Pioneer Girl was Laura’s first attempt at writing her memoirs, and unlike her beloved Little House series, this book was aimed at adults. Pamela Smith Hill and the South Dakota Historical Society have done an incredible job of filling out Laura’s story - adding details about minor characters she encounters along the way, or explaining how events in this book were later fictionalized and expanded in later works. It’s a dense read, but Laura lovers will be amazed at all the new things there are to learn about her life and times.

While you’re waiting for Pioneer Girl, try:

- William Anderson - William Anderson is a big name in Laura Ingalls Wilder scholarship. Not only has he written multiple books on her, he has helped found and secure some of the home sites and museums, such as at Rocky Ridge, Laura and Almanzo’s home and farm in Missouri. Especially check out The Little House Guidebook and Pioneer Girl: the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These were written for a youth audience but any Laura fan will appreciate the historic photos.

- Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink - Caddie Woodlawn is a spunky eleven-year-old tomboy in 1860s Wisconsin, and these stories of her adventures in the woods are based on the stories of the author’s grandmother. This is the nearest readalike to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s own writing in my opinion, and due to episodes of friction between the Native Americans and the settlers, it’s probably shares the most with Little House on the Prairie.

- The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure - Blogger McClure travels from Laura location to Laura location - from wading in the banks of Plum Creek to sleeping in a covered wagon during a hailstorm on the South Dakota prairie - and encountering varieties of Little House fans from lookalike contest competitors to doomsday-prepping butter churners.

- Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen - This novel tells the story of Lee Lien, whose childhood is spent crisscrossing the Midwest as her family moves from managing one Asian buffet to another. Now an adult, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may connect her family to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter. In tracing Wilder family history, she makes some discoveries about her own family as well.

- Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden - This biography of the author’s grandmother tells of two college friends from New York who take on an invitation to become teachers rural Northwest Colorado in 1916 - and enter a whole new world with different social conventions, students who have to ski to class on barrel staves and don’t know who the president is, and the challenge of being the only marriage prospects for miles around.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Her Place in the World

Monday March 23, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens grades 6 and up

Interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder is at a peak – especially with the recent publication of her autobiography Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

At this special AADL evening, explore the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose experiences traveling and homesteading with her pioneer family spawned her series of popular children's books. Author and Wilder scholar William Anderson and University of Michigan History professor Michelle McClellan lead us on a journey through Laura's life and tell the story of how the places she lived have now taken on a life of their own.

Wilder's legacy extends far beyond her Little House series; millions know her from the 1970s television show based on her books, and the locations she wrote about, including Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Missouri, have become tourist destinations for her devoted fans.

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