DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Kids & Parenting

Nov 8 2013

Taking School Home

by Rebekah B

At the library, I often encounter homeschooling families.  In fact, a mom recently asked how she could make a donation to the library as a gesture of thanks for all of the great resources we have available  in our catalog or through our online reference data bases which help her teach her kids at home.  I had been searching the catalog prior to her visit, looking for items specially designed for homeschoolers.  I found a series of kits created by FLIP, the Family Literacy Involvement Program, made available to our library system through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  These kits are designed to support early learning and literacy through home and family-centered activities.  The kits contain books, activity guides, art and school supplies and other materials and are available to all patrons for checkout.  There is even a homeschooling page on the DCPL website containing books, reference databases, web links to outside resources, book club kits for kids (Book Buddies Take Out).  Another website I found called Homeschool World has a lot of resources for homeschool families including contact information for groups locally and around the world, events, teaching materials, contests, and articles.  Another fun site I found is an online art gallery for homeschooled budding artists.  Many museums, including the High Museum of Art,  have programs for homeschoolers.

web page

Homeschooling or un-schooling, as some people call it, is an increasingly popular trend in education.  For some, the desire to remove children from public or private collective establishments might be for religious or spiritual reasons, for others the choice might be motivated by social or philosophical reasons.  Some children have special needs to which a larger institution might not be able to effectively cater.  Families might wish to preserve a native language or languages by promoting multilingual skills.  Homeschooling allows parents as educators a great deal of flexibility in scheduling,  curriculum, dietary choices, and in the style and content of material presented.  It seems to me that creativity, freedom of expression, and flexibility are great advantages of this type of educational focus.

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captnunderpantsIn honor of banned books week last week, today’s post will discuss the popular children’s book series Captain Underpants by author Dav Pilkey.

The Captain Underpants series revolves around two fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, and Captain Underpants himself, the superhero alter-ego of Mr. Krupp, the cruel and antagonistic school principal, who first becomes Captain Underpants after being hypnotized by the two boys. The book series includes 10 books and 3 spin-offs, and won a Disney Adventures Kids’ Choice Award in 2007.

And according to the American Library Association, it also has the distinction of being the most frequently challenged book of 2012. It has appeared on the list in the past but this is the first year it made it to the top spot; reasons cited were “Offensive language” and “unsuited for age group”. And admittedly, the subject matter, primarily toilet humor and gross-out gags, as well as a subversive and somewhat anti-authoritarian message, might raise eyebrows for some parents. But as children’s librarian Laura Giunta explains in this recent essay, banned books week is all about

[celebrating] the freedom to read, even if that includes reading material that others deem to be objectionable or inappropriate. The freedom to read is linked to our first amendment rights, specifically that we are not only entitled to our beliefs, but that we have the freedom to express them without the threat of censorship. Public and school libraries have a duty to uphold these rights and to provide a forum for all ideas to be represented, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them all. As outlined in the Library Bill of Rights, the library is not simply a place to get books, but one that affirms intellectual freedom – that is, an entity that ensures equal and uncensored access to information for all people, including information that represents varying viewpoints, beliefs, or cultural perspectives…As we celebrate “Banned Books Week,” we celebrate the freedom to read, not just for ourselves, but for everyone, including those with different beliefs, views, and values than our own. We celebrate the freedom to be subversive and irreverent, to dissent against the majority perspective, to challenge societal norms, and to disagree with authority.

So consider picking up a copy of Captain Underpants (or any of the many other frequently challenged books) and enjoy not only the “Action”, “Thrills” and “Laffs”, but also the freedom to read whatever you wish.


Aug 7 2013

Library Memories

by Joseph M

gus-loved-his-happy-homeGrowing up, I always liked visiting libraries. My first library memory is sitting with my mom in our local public library as she read to me. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. If I recall correctly, we were enjoying one of the Gus the Ghost books by Jane Thayer. I liked the illustrations so much that I begged my mom to photocopy some of the pages, which she did. The seating in the children’s area was unusual, sort of like large blocks covered in a plush material and stacked in arrangements that were good for climbing. I remember feeling like the library was a fun and exciting place to be.

I felt the same way about my elementary school library when I got a little older. My class would visit the library about once a week or so, and the school librarian would read to us from what seemed at the time to be a vast collection of children’s books. The librarian selected a lot of stories by Bill Peet, which was always an entertaining choice in my opinion. It was around this time that I was first introduced to the concept of nonfiction and shown how to work the card catalogs, which I found daunting yet intriguing.

A little later in my childhood, my mom was taking classes at a local university and so had access to the library there. I had been assigned a school project about American Indians and I needed to do some research, so my mother graciously took me with her to the campus library. This was by far the largest library I had ever seen, spanning multiple floors filled with row after row of bookshelves. I was highly impressed by the wealth of knowledge arrayed before my eyes, and I quickly found several books relevant to my project.

I credit the above experiences with inspiring my life-long fascination with libraries and helping to guide me into my current career. Do you have fond memories of your early library experiences? Please share them with us.


Jul 31 2013

National Back To School Month

by Glenda

Back to SchoolAs summer comes to a close, parents and students all over the country will celebrate National Back to School Month. As we all begin to prepare for school, children all over will be doing back to school shopping and parents will be looking for information to ensure their students are prepared. One helpful series of books for this is The Core Knowledge Series. What your kindergartner needs to know: preparing your child for a lifetime of learning edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. and John Holdren is an excellent book for parents who have kindergartners starting school. This series continues through sixth grade with What your sixth grader needs to know: fundamentals of a good sixth grade education.

Some students may also be looking for something more light-hearted such as Back to school for Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos, Seventeen things i’m not allowed to do anymore by Jenny Offill, or Back to school with Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. For kids in middle school a couple of great books are Middle school is worse than meatloaf: a year told through stuff  by Jennifer Holm and Middle school, the worst years of my life by James Patterson. An excellent book for high school student is 97 things to do before you finish high school by Steven Jenkins and Erika Stalder.

These are just a few titles that will help both parents and students preparing for school, so stop by your local library and pick up a great back to school book.


Mar 18 2013

Listen Up!

by Nancy M

Bloody-Jack-298431Spring Break is just a few weeks away and I’m sure many of you out there have road trips planned. Personally, I hate being in the car. I was the youngest of 3 kids who always had to sit in the middle seat for our endless 16 hour drive to Lake Michigan every summer. These days, I have a long daily commute to the Library and on my weekends I get to drive around with a toddler who hates being in the car just as much as I do. But I really can’t complain (I know it would seem that’s all I’m doing) because I have access to something amazing…audiobooks!

Now, we have a pretty extensive audiobook collection and they get checked out quite a bit so I know most of you out there know about audiobooks. But what you may not know is how beneficial they can be to your child’s reading abilities. Listening to audiobooks carries many of the same benefits that reading instills in your child plus more. They can help improve language skills, (“oh, so that’s how you pronounce that word!”), concentration, and allow many children who might not be strong readers to enjoy a range of books without hampering their confidence. Plus, there are a ton of really great kid and teen audiobooks out there that parents can enjoy with their kids.

Here is a listing of my top 3 favorite audiobooks in the following categories:

Teen (12-13 and up)

3.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and narrated by Kate Rudd (be warned, especially if you are driving, that you will cry your eyes out. This was the 2013 Odyssey winner.)

2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (narrated by the author as well as a full cast. This is truly an amazing imaginative audiobook experience. The Golden Compass is the first in the trilogy His Dark Materials. Book 2 is The Subtle Knife and book 3 is The Amber Spyglass.)

1. Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer (hands down my favorite audiobook ever! Katherine Kellgren is the most talented narrator out there today and Bloody Jack is just the beginning of an expertly narrated series. Check out her other books as well; she is building quite a resume.)

Middle Readers (8-12)

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (13 books in total with Tim Curry narrating a number of them. The first book is called The Bad Beginning.)

2.  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and narrated by the author (Neil Gaiman lends a perfectly creepy voice to this perfectly creepy tale.)

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and narrated by Jim Dale. (117 hours of pure storytelling delight. Peter & the Starcatchers is the first in another great series narrated by Dale)

For Younger Children

3. Frog and Toad Audio Collection by Arnold Lobel and narrated by the author.

2. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne and narrated by the author.

1.  The One and Only Shrek! Plus 5 Other Stories by William Steig and narrated by Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep.

You can check out audiobooks at your local DCPL branch or you can download some of them by accessing OverDrive on our website. Click here for Amanda’s tips on how to download audiobooks or check out a tutorial here. And please feel free to share your own audiobook favorites for any age. I’m always looking for good suggestions!

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Feb 25 2013

On Book Recommendations

by Jnai W

I realize that I’m at least a few years late to the party but I’ve just recently finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (loved, loved, loved it!) and am now tucking into book two of the trilogy, Catching Fire. I’ve been aware of The Hunger Games for the past few years because…well, it’s hard not to be when you work in a library. But for whatever reason I’d never gotten around to reading it. Recently, however, it became quite inexcusable for me to not read this book. In the case of The Hunger Games I ran out of excuses not to read it based on the recommendation of one of DCPL’s adorable teen patrons (yes, Readers, teens can be quite adorable!). Our circulation desk conversation had somehow turned to the Hunger Games series. I’d mentioned to the young patron that I hadn’t read the book yet but “I’ve heard good things”.

“Oh my gosh,” said the youngster. “You’ll love it! You’ll really love it!”

Her enthusiasm for this book was honest, overflowing and contagious, so much so that I’d decided that I would be reading this book at my earliest convenience. “Earliest convenience” is still slightly non-committal but at least now reading Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed trilogy was officially on my to-do list.  After talking for a while longer, I checked out the patron and wished her happy reading with the items she’d borrowed.  Perhaps half an hour later, the young lady and her mother returned to the library and presented me with their copy of The Hunger Games, suggesting that when I was finished reading it I could pass it along to someone else to read or donate it to the library. Ecstatic and touched by the gift, reading this book graduated from being a to-do list item to My Plans For The Evening. It took me three days to read it but only because I had to break for things like going to work and sleeping.

As a library worker, book recommendations from patrons are always welcome and appreciated. But nothing compares to when a teenager who’s normally too-cool-for-school cracks a smile at the mention of a book he likes.  Or when an adorable, gap-toothed kiddie-grin widens with the mention of each of Victoria Kann’s -Licious books (“Did you like Pinkalicious? Have you read Purplicious? How about Silverlicious?”).  So if there’s one recommendation from today’s post it is that it pays to pick your nearest youngster’s brain for an excellent book. May the odds of a great read be ever in your favor!


YouthMediaAwardsThe moment we’ve all been waiting for has come! Well, maybe we haven’t all been waiting for this, but if you are a children’s librarian or into children’s books, the American Library Association’s annual announcement of the best books and audiobooks in children’s and teen literature is pretty exciting stuff. So let’s get to it! DCPL Youth Services Librarians and staff recently had its own Mock Caldecott election, for which we chose Extra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen, so I was highly anticipating these results. The Caldecott is given to the illustrator with the most notable children’s picture book and this year marks the 75th anniversary of the award.

And the 2013 Caldecott Award goes to:

This Is Not My Hat illustrated and written by Jon Klassen


The honor books are:

Creepy Carrots! illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds


Extra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett

extra yarn

Green illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger


One Cool Friend illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo


Sleep Like a Tiger illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue


Love these choices! I’m not too surprised with these winners and am thrilled that a few of my personal favorites were chosen, including, of course, Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen. He cleaned up this year by taking home an honor award and the top prize for This Is Not My Hat.  A follow up to his 2011 picture book, I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat is a must-read not just for its beautiful illustrations but for the very humorous storytelling with an ending that leaves readers a lot to ponder. You can check out some of his charming illustrations at http://jonklassen.tumblr.com/

I also loved that Creepy Carrots was chosen. With a description like this (from Simon and Schuster) how could it not be award winning? :

The Twilight Zone comes to the carrot patch in this clever picture book parable about a rabbit who fears his favorite treats are out to get him.

It’s funny and witty, and of course, creepy and makes for a great read-aloud!

What do you think of the Caldecott committee’s choices this year? Are there any books that you felt were more deserving?

The Newbery Award is given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children and this year’s award went to Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan.


And the Newbery Honor Books are (click on the picture to take you to the catalog listing):





The Caldecott and Newbery are the highest of the awards but there are many other notable awards including the Coretta Scott King Award, Printz, Belpré and more. For a full list of winners, click here.


Jan 21 2013

DCPL Mock Caldecott Winners

by Nancy M

untitledThis past year, DeKalb County Public Library Youth Services Librarians and staff have been reading, reviewing and voting on picture book titles leading up to our first ever Mock Caldecott election. The Caldecott Medal is a prestigious children’s award that has been given out since 1938 to the illustrator with the most distinguished picture book. Recently, we all came together for our final vote and here are the results:

The 2013 DCPL Mock Caldecott Medal goes to…

extra yarnExtra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett



Our Honor Books are:

bootandshoeBoot and Shoe written and illustrated by Marla Frazee



indexChloe written and illustrated by Peter McCarty



indexCindy Moo illustrated by Jeff Mack and written by Lori Mortensen



indexBear Has a Story to Tell illustrated by Erin Stead and written by Philip C. Stead


It was a tight election and there were many beautiful picture books to choose from in 2012. This was our third and final vote and you can check out our past finalists here. Here are some more picture books that did not make our final vote but are definitely worth a read. Click on the title to be taken to the DCPL catalog.









The real Caldecott Medal will be awarded on Monday, January 28 along with many other American Library Association children’s and young adult book awards including the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Book Award. You can view the winners here and check back to DCPLive that week for a listing and to share your thoughts.


Dec 20 2012

The Children

by Veronica W

Mine has been a seat of honor. For over twenty years I have been privileged to work with the little ones; from chubby-legged toddlers in Building Blocks to raucous teens in a library scavenger hunt. When they haven’t come to me, I have gone to them, in the schools and in the daycares. If you want an adrenaline high, stand in front of 30 upturned little faces and watch their glee as they roar like a lion or their wonder as a story unfolds.

Therefore, in the midst of the festivities of this holiday season and for the coming new year, I wish all parents and grandparents, all teachers, all caregivers and all who have a child to love, the joy of watching them grow up. For those of us who have only the memories to hold on to, may those memories gladden our hearts and bring us a measure of peace.

A song, written by Barry De Vorzon/Perry Botkin and recorded by the Carpenters in the 1980s, has always been very dear to my heart. May the words resonate with you as well.

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice, t
hey have no choice.
Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be, t
he world they see.
Light their way w
hen the darkness surrounds them
Give them love, l
et it shine all around them.
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, k
eep them warm
Light their way, w
hen the darkness surrounds them
Give them love, l
et it shine all around them.
Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe, k
eep them warm.
The children
The children
The children.


Nov 26 2012

A Tale Dark and Grimm

by Nancy M

I recently reread A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz when my teen book club chose to discuss it.  The book is an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, whom we all know, but continues their story by placing them in several lesser-known Grimm fairytales, such as “Faithful Johannes”, “The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs” and “The Robber Bridegroom” (renamed “A Smile as Red as Blood” in this retelling). And the reason these tales are probably lesser known is because these are the bloody, gruesome tales that you don’t want to be reading to your toddler. But while Gidwitz recreates a dark and often frightening fairytale world, he interjects a lot of humor, mystery and suspense into a really great coming of age story that is so captivating that I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Originally, most of the Grimm fairytales were very dark and “downright cannibalistic” as Dea Anne accurately describes in her recent blog post, but so many of them have been watered down over the years.  And while I wouldn’t say I particularly love blood and guts, this retelling definitely has sent me on a mission to get my hands on some of the less insipid tellings. Currently, I am reading The Juniper Tree selected by Lore Segal which is much more child friendly, but has a great selection of tales and is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. But I am eagerly anticipating Philip Pullman’s new collection, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version, which promises to be a bit more mature. Also, check out Dea Anne’s post for more recommendations.

Gidwitz recently published the companion novel In a Glass Grimmly which follows the adventures of the nursery rhyme characters Jack and Jill, again weaving Grimm fairytales and this time Hans Christian Andersen’s tales as well. I haven’t read it yet, but if you can get your hands on it, I am sure it will not disappoint!

And in case you were wondering if A Tale Dark and Grimm is too violent for kids? Well, when I asked the kids in my book club if they liked it, I was met with a resounding “YES!” While they did think parts of it were gross, it’s what made the book even better. The author, it seems is asked this quite frequently, and has a great explanation on his website here that you can check out.

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