Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Non-fiction

Book review: The Voice of Liberty by Angelica Shirley Carpenter

The Voice of Liberty book cover

The Voice of Liberty, by Angelica Shirley Carpenter 

There was a grand celebration when the Statue of Liberty was presented   to the United States of America. It was a gift from the people of France. This enormous statue of a woman holding a torch was an icon of freedom, and was a symbol of welcome to immigrants arriving by sea, as it is to this day. 

But not all of the citizens believed they were free. Some of the community were troubled enough to say they wanted a real change. The women of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association noticed that they were not even allowed to vote in an election. “How can a statue of a woman represent liberty when women have no freedom in this country?” They wanted women to have the liberty to vote and have their own voice in government.  See what these courageous ladies decided to do to get some attention  and help to make some positive long-lasting changes. Check the facts about this statue and a history timeline of voting rights  which is included in this book. 

Learn more about the book and its author by watching this in-depth interview.

This book could be paired with The Big Day, by Terry Caruthers, about the exciting first day women of color could vote in Knoxville, Tennesee. You can hear the author read some of the book here.

The Big Day book cover

    Review by Darice C., Youth Services Assistant

Book review: Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera  

J B BROOKS, G. 

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade book cover

Discover the life and legacy of this famous Chicagoan in a biography that is beautiful to read and look at. 

Gwendolyn Brooks grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a family that didn’t have much money, but was rich in love and books. Hearing her father read poems made her want to write her own poetry, and her parents truly believed in her dream to become a great poet. Her first poems were published when she was only 11, but writing poetry didn’t help her make friends or pay bills once she became an adult. But still she wrote and wrote, and before long, she won the greatest prize in poetry, the Pulitzer Prize! Her poems were about her life on the South Side of Chicago, and about the inequalities she and her neighbors faced because they were Black. 

I loved learning about Gwendolyn’s life in this quick, award winning read with gorgeous illustrations. I bet you will too! 

-Review by Claire B, Youth Outreach Librarian

Presidents’ Day

Mount Rushmore figurine
Photo by Takefreebies on Unsplash

What is Presidents’ day? To find out, I looked it up in one of our digital resources, Britannica Library Children’s edition. It says:

“Presidents’ Day is a U.S. holiday that honors Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Its official name, however, is Washington’s Birthday. […]

In the 1880s the U.S. government made the birthday of Washington (February 22) a national holiday. New YorkIllinois, and some other states made the birthday of Lincoln (February 12) a holiday, too. In 1968 the U.S. Congress passed a bill to move Washington’s Birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. At the time, some members of Congress wanted the holiday to honor Lincoln as well. They tried to change the official name to Presidents’ Day, but they failed.

Today many states and individuals call the holiday Presidents’ Day, despite its official name. They consider it a celebration of Washington and Lincoln, or even of all U.S. presidents. Some states, such as Illinois, also still recognize Lincoln’s birthday as a separate holiday.”

We put together a resource list that includes information on the holiday, individual presidents, and some fiction books about presidents and elections. Happy reading!

Black History Month 2021

Today is the first day of Black History Month! According to Britannica Library for Children:

The month of February is African American History Month, also known as Black History Month, in the United States. It was first celebrated in 1926 as Negro History Week. It was created to highlight the contributions Blacks have made to American history and culture. Within a few decades, the event had become an important part of African American life and had spread throughout the country. The United States government declared it a monthlong celebration in 1976.

You can learn more about Black history by researching in our online databases, or come into the library and check our display on Black History Month, which features just a handful of the materials we have about the achievements and history of Black Americans.

Black History Month books
the Black History Month display in youth services

You might also enjoy checking out our Black Joy reading recommendations, featuring many #OwnVoices* authors.

*The term #OwnVoices was coined by the writer Corinne Duyvis, and refers to an author from a marginalized or under-represented group writing about their own experiences/from their own perspective, rather than someone from an outside perspective writing as a character from an underrepresented group. (thanks to Seattle Public Library for this concise definition.)

Christina Soontornvat

Christina Soontornvat
photo by Sam Bond Photography

Back in October, Christina Soontornvat visited MPPL to talk about her Diary of an Ice Princess series. Today she won several awards from the American Library Association for two of her other books!

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, published by Candlewick, won a Newbery Honor, a Siebert Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. A Wish in the Dark, also published by Candlewick Press, won a Newbery Honor.

While youth services staff knew about Christina’s books, we probably wouldn’t have booked her for a virtual author visit if we hadn’t had some encouragement from one of our patrons.

In the summer, staff presented a program called Fandom Friends, and the first program featured the popular series Dogman by Dav Pilkey. At the end of the program, staff encouraged the participants to please reach out if there were other popular series or characters they’d enjoy having a library program about. Patron Jackie quickly reached out to library staff with a request for a program about her daughter’s favorite book series, Diary of an Ice Princess. She explained that her daughter, Brooklyn, was such a fan of the books, and would love to meet the author. She thought other kids would be interested, too, and asked library staff if they could coordinate a vist with Christina. We said we would love to!

Christina was offering free thirty minute visits for groups who had read and discussed her books, so we reached out to her to book a visit. Christina was so great to work with and really excited about meeting kids who loved her books!

We scheduled two events for this fun series: a virtual visit with the author, and a book party to discuss the books and get ready for the author meetup. Jackie was happy to help spread the word, and many of the kids in attendance were friends of Brooklyn’s and also big fans of the books. We ordered additional copies of books in the series and put up a display with flyers. All the books were checked out by the day of the program! Staff also emailed a flyer to schools, created a Facebook event post plus an extra post with a video about the author, as well as word of mouth and social media shares from tpatrons. All of these efforts really helped! Feedback after the program told us that 4 attendees heard about the event from a friend, 3 from library staff, 6 from Facebook, and 10 from their teacher or school. 

Twenty-five people attended the book party on October 5 and 14 came back to Zoom with us and Christina two days later. Many kids had books with them and were super excited to share their favorite characters and things about the Diary of an Ice Princess series. Christina was so fun to talk to! She and the kids talked about their favorite characters and plots, and even tossed around ideas for what Christina can write about in future books in the series.  

After the programs, Jackie reached out to thank us. “Brooklyn had a fantastic time at the Diary of an Ice Princess event yesterday!  Thank you again for organizing-it was really great for her to have a chance to talk about the books she loves so much!” wrote Jackie. “Thank you so much for reaching out to coordinate this.” We also thanked Jackie for reaching out to share the idea with us! We love to hear from our patrons and create programs that they will enjoy.

You can learn more about Christina and her books at her website, soontornvat.com. You can also look for her books in our catalog and place them on hold!

If you have an idea for a program you’d like the Youth Services staff to consider, please email us at KidsRead@mppl.org. We can’t promise to take every suggestion, but we will try our best!