National Education Week & The Importance of Reading

Two adults and two children sit on the modular sofa at the library, both children have books in their laps.
Library Life Savage Branch

by Eliana H.

When was the last time you read a book to a young child? Maybe it was a title you’ve read dozens of times, and the child was even saying some of the words along with you. You might be hoping they will get excited about something different soon. Perhaps it was a book you hadn’t read before, and you enjoyed discovering it along with them. Either way, you were helping that child’s brain develop just by reading to them.

We all want our children to be successful. While there may be a range of opinions on what that looks like and which tools are most helpful to support said success, research provides a few clear answers. One of those is that reading with children, from birth onward, sets them up for academic and later life success. Numerous studies have shown that reading with children from early in life encourages language development, as well as overall brain development. Children who are read to every day during their early childhood may enter Kindergarten having been exposed to over one million more words than their peers who were never read to. This increased vocabulary sets up those from a literacy-rich home for success from the start of their school careers.

Thankfully, you can find plenty of high-quality children’s books to borrow for free at any of our HCLS branches. If you bring a young child to one of our classes, you can even get a break from being the reader! Feel free to ask any of our staff for recommendations for books to read with your children. And don’t be afraid to let little ones choose some for themselves. For more suggested activities and materials to help children develop literacy skills, check out one of our Literacy Activity Kits. Or perhaps select a toy to borrow and act out a story you’ve read or created on your own. Whatever books or materials you select, read early and often with young children to set them up for success in school and beyond.

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Falling for Children’s Books

by Eliana H.

I have to admit that fall is my favorite season. Having moved to Maryland from Texas as an adult, I continue to find joy and excitement in the crisp weather and beautiful colors that nature puts on display around these parts. It certainly isn’t the case everywhere! To help you savor the season with young people in your life, or just on your own, here are a few kid-friendly fall reads for you to enjoy.

The book cover depicts a white elephant eating an apple and a white mouse sitting astride another apple next to an overturned bucket of apples. An orange pumpkin is on the ground next to the elephant. The title, "Fall Friends," is on a sign behind them, and the sun is setting behind that with fall leaves on tree branches overhead as well as on the ground surrounding them.

Fall Friends by Mike Curato 

This seasonal installment in the Little Elliot series finds Elliot, an elephant, and his friend Mouse taking a fall vacation away from the city where they live. Escaping the hustle and bustle gives them the chance to slow down, enjoy what nature has to offer in the autumn, and make some new friends. A sweet, simple read that evokes common features that tend to be fall favorites, share this with a little one in your life and have a conversation about your favorite things to do this time of year! 

The cover is a photograph of fall leaves in shades of red, orange, and yellow against the backdrop of a blue sky.

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre 

Vibrant, detailed photography of fall sights pop in this appealing picture book, accompanied by simple text that immediately brings to mind real-life experiences. The words are poetic and powerful, perfectly pairing with full-page photos. Younger readers will stay engaged with the short text and can point out familiar sights in the pictures, but older readers can enjoy more in-depth discussions about the images and words chosen. Perhaps you will be inspired to take some photographs and make a personal version of this book. 

The cover depicts varying types of leaves, acorns, and a seed pod. The leaves are in fall colors of red, orange, yellow, green, and brown.

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert 

Lois Ehlert is an author/illustrator near and dear to my heart, and Leaf Man is a beautiful example of her work. In the story, the narrator had a man made out of leaves who blew away. The illustrations throughout the book are made from leaves of all shapes, sizes, and colors combined to make everything from chickens to orchards to fish. Although the narrator isn’t quite sure where the leaf man has gone, a repeating phrase reminds readers, “a Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows.” After reading this one, you might find yourself joining your little one as you look for a leaf man – or other leaf shapes – while walking outdoors this autumn. 

The cover depicts someone in a yellow raincoat and blue hat and scarf sweeping a clear path through the leaves on the ground with a broom.

Sweep by Louise Greig, illustrated by Júlia Sardà 

Before he knows it, Ed’s bad mood has swept him away. It spirals out to get in the way of everything and everyone around him, and he feels stuck but isn’t sure what to do. Then, something changes, and Ed can see a way out and think about what he might do the next time he finds himself in a bad mood. The autumnal metaphor the illustrations provide make this the perfect time of year to use this title as a starting point to talk about big feelings and what we do with them. 

The title is depicted in leaves, in fall shades of red, orange, green, brown, and yellow, with leaves of similar shades falling and on the ground beneath.

Awesome Autumn by Bruce Goldstone 

In this nonfiction title, Goldstone offers a wealth of information to answer many questions from little ones about the season. Colorful photographs accompany facts about changes in nature and in the human world during fall. For younger readers, you can choose to share only some of the text, but older children may enjoy additional details. Readers of all ages can consider personal connections to what they see in the book. 

The cover depicts two children and a cat tumbling against the backdrop of a fall leaf.

Autumnblings by Douglas Florian 

Word play is another favorite of mine, and this slender volume of poems and paintings offers plenty. In simple, relatable poetry, Florian offers examples of some favorite forms. They may even inspire a budding poet. Even if no one in your house composes verses, point out some of the unique words used and talk about why they are special and why Florian may have chosen them. 

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Conan Doyle for the Defense

The photograph depicts an atlas and an old-fashioned brass lamp with a large white bulb, next to a misty window in a wooden frame. There is also a stoppered glass bottle in the foreground. The entire effect suggests a Victorian home or office.

By Eliana H.

Although I’ve enjoyed many a Sherlock Holmes adaptation in the form of film or television, or even spinoff books, I will admit that I haven’t read the original stories myself. I certainly don’t know a great deal about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous creator of the residents of 221b Baker Street. I do, however, know quite a bit more now than before reading Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer by Margalit Fox. Nonfiction is not my usual wheelhouse, but I will admit my interest was piqued by the book’s cover and description, which happened to be available as an e-audiobook when I was looking for my next listen. (It is also available in print and as an e-book).

The book cover has the title and subtitle in stylized fonts with the effect of an old-time newspaper, superimposed above illustrations of a jeweled necklace and a hammer.

Many people have heard of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as an author, specifically of the series of detective stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. His impact extends beyond those characters, though. Conan Doyle was trained as a physician himself, and he became enthusiastic about spiritualism in his later life. He also assisted with real-life criminal cases on occasion. One such situation is the focus of Conan Doyle for the Defense. That case involved an emigrant to Scotland who was wrongfully arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for a murder he did not commit. 

Oscar Slater was a German Jew who had traveled to different parts of the world before ending up in Glasgow, Scotland in 1901. Then, in December 1908, a wealthy spinster named Marion Gilchrist was brutally killed in her home in that city. A very tenuous connection was made to Slater, and the prevailing attitudes and crime-solving techniques of the time ensnared him firmly, leading to his conviction and imprisonment in His Majesty’s Prison Peterhead. Eventually, Conan Doyle was able to help win Slater his freedom. 

Fox’s descriptions of the case, the criminal justice system, and the Edwardian time period provided vivid images of the tale as it unfolded. Excerpts of court documents, letters written by Slater, and Conan Doyle’s own texts provide additional insight into the case. The print book includes maps and photographs, as well as extensive notes to support the text. Fans of Sherlock Holmes may be interested to learn more about Conan Doyle’s life and inspiration for his characters, and the miscarriage of justice highlighted in the book can provide a reminder for all of us that there is always more to a case than appears at first glance. 

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

How to Be Perfect by Michael Schur

A clear blue sky of a cover has all the text on the right hand side, with the left containg a fluffy white cloud and a dangling, lonely letter t.

by Eliana H.

Have you ever wanted to be a better person? Well, I have great news for you. Here at the library, we have a title called How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question (available in print, audiobook on CD, e-book, and e-audiobook). Spoiler alert: It does not exactly have the correct answer to EVERY moral question you might encounter. Sorry to burst your bubble.

What How to Be Perfect does have is a lot of information to help guide us through a wide range of moral dilemmas. In fact, author Michael Schur decided to write this book after the extensive research he did to create the television show The Good Place. If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and check it out from the library or stream it on Netflix. You may then have a greater appreciation for the book, but you can still glean a lot even without the context of the show. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice to say the show’s characters explore moral philosophy and ethics in their attempts to be better people and help others to be better, too. Certainly, for this to be even remotely feasible, the creator needed to have a decent grasp of these subjects. So, he worked with experts and did a lot of research, then he was kind enough to share that research in the form of How to Be Perfect. I am not a philosopher or ethicist, and I don’t even tend to enjoy reading nonfiction, but this title offers an accessible, enjoyable overview of the extensive history of moral philosophy and its main schools of thought.

Sounds kind of boring, though, right? Well, it’s not. Michael Schur writes for TV, remember? In addition to The Good Place, he co-created Parks & Recreation. He knows how to keep you engaged and make you laugh, and he uses that knowledge well. While explaining key points of major ethical traditions, Schur also helps us consider some of their shortcomings and the obstacles we may face in applying these concepts.

Overall, he encourages individuals to explore what feels like the right fit for us and to take pieces from each. He also reminds us that we will fail. Constantly. Our obligation, though, is to always keep trying. If you are striving to be a better person, definitely take the time to read this title (or better yet, listen to the audiobook, narrated by the author and numerous cast members from the show). Take comfort in knowing that no one is actually perfect and never will be. We just have to do our best. 

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas 

Against a summery orange background, that shows a ferris wheel and light-rail train, two young Black boys smile

by Eliana H.

R. Eric Thomas is a Baltimore-based television writer, playwright, and the bestselling author of Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America and Reclaiming Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters. He is also the (temporary) Prudie, answering questions for the Dear Prudence column in Slate magazine through mid-summer. He is visiting in-person at the Elkridge Branch + DIY Center on Wednesday, June 15 at 6:30 pm. He will be discussing his debut young adult novel, Kings of B’more. I had the wonderful opportunity to read an advance copy, and I am so excited to share it with you.

Have you ever seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? In the popular movie from the 1980s, the title character, a high school student, skips school to take his best friend and girlfriend on a whirlwind adventure all over Chicago. When the main character of Kings of B’more, Harrison, learns that his best friend, Linus, will be moving to South Carolina in just a few days, he is inspired by the movie – which his dad has just made him watch – to plan an adventure all around Baltimore for the two of them. Despite his grand ideas and the help Harrison enlists, things (of course) don’t quite go as planned. The boys manage to have an epic day nonetheless.

Throughout the book, I was struck by the beauty of the friendship between Harrison and Linus. Author R. Eric Thomas captures a fresh, unique voice and perspective for each of them while highlighting the ways in which they complement one another. They can have entire conversations with their eyes, they see and value the truth of each other, and they show their affection in ways large and small. As two Black queer young men, they certainly face some challenges. But Harrison and Linus support one another as each discovers his own way to take on the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the language that Thomas uses, with vividly descriptive passages that bring the surroundings to life. Baltimore really becomes another character in this story, not just the setting. 

With ups and downs and so many adventures, Thomas has packed an entire coming-of-age tale into a story taking place over a single weekend. The growth each character experiences occurs in a way that is completely natural in terms of what they are going through. Harrison and Linus feel authentic and well-developed, and I was so glad to get to know them as I read. Despite a very satisfying ending, I would love to know what happens next. And I am definitely planning my next foray into Baltimore as soon as possible! 

I hope you will join us at the upcoming author event to hear more from R. Eric Thomas, ask questions, and consider purchasing a book for signing (if you want).

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Loving Stories in Picture Books

By Eliana H. 

During this time of year, we are bombarded by messages trying to convince us to buy things for “that special someone.” Flowers, chocolate, jewelry, and more. Not everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day, but I hope we all have people we love. Research shows that a loving bond with a caregiver helps young children thrive. Share these picture books about love with your little one, or any other stories you like, to help develop that bond. For more tips from The Basics about maximizing love and managing stress, visit https://thebasics.org/brain-boosts/maximize-love-manage-stress/

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (ages 5-11) 

The cover depicts a barefoot child in a blue top and pants with a pink jacket, and blue and pink hair, with arms outstretched in front of a heart that is comprised of gold stars.

With simple words and watercolor illustrations, this book gently invites readers to think about how they can show love. The author and illustrator work seamlessly together to show how we can support ourselves and each other with specific, concrete loving actions. Heart-opening yoga poses and a heart meditation accompany the author’s note at the end of this title.  

I Love Us!: A Book About Family by Theodore Henry, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (ages 0-3) 

The cover shows a variety of different multicultural families interacting while doing various activities - running through the rain under an umbrella, playing with a dog, drawing, making music, and eating.

A wonderful read to share with your youngest loved ones, I Love Us! shows various families participating in loving activities together. After you read, talk about the things you love about your family and what it does. A mirror at the end lets you and your little one imagine yourselves in the story! But if you want to complete the family tree activity on the final page, please do it on a separate page and not in a library copy of the book. 

Love the World by Todd Parr (ages 2-6) 

The book cover, in bright pink with yellow, blue, and green lettering, depicts the Earth with a heart superimposed for the "O" in "World," and anothe heart in the center of the "O" in "Love." Two children in brightly colored outfits are shown leaning into the frame from either side of the title with their hands outstretched, and a brown and white dog with a red collar pops up at the bottom. Small red and yellow hearts are scattered across the cover.

If you’ve ever read a Todd Parr book before, you will immediately recognize his unique style. With brightly colored illustrations and simple, rhyming text, Parr invites readers to love activities that support the community and specific parts of themselves. Throughout the book, in full-page spreads, we are reminded to “Love yourself. Love the world!” Invite your little one to talk about all the things they love after reading this volume. 

Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera (ages 4-8) 

The cover shows a girl and her mama playing peek-a-boo, both wearing shades of pink. The little girl is "peeking" out from behind her hands with a little grin on her face, but the mama's eyes are completely covered although she, too, is smiling.

This quiet, beautiful book celebrates the special bond between a little girl and her mama. As she says on the first page, the little girl wants, “to be everywhere Mama is.” She shows readers things that are hers and her mama’s before bringing us along on a walk in the rain. As day ends and she falls asleep, the little girl remembers parts of the day, especially “me and Mama.” 

When a Grandpa Says “I Love You” by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell (ages 3-7) 

The cover depicts two anthropomorphized bears; the grandpa bear wears blue checked pajamas and square glasses, and the baby bear is in pale red pajamas, holding a flashlight. The two look as though they are in a tent and the grandpa is making shadow puppets. There is a wooden chair to the right of the frame, holding up the tent.

Many grandfathers don’t say “I love you” in words, although some certainly do. Even those that aren’t saying it out loud display their love for grandchildren through their actions. A wide range of animal pairs show grandfather-grandchild relationships in the illustrations of this book, all participating in a variety of activities that demonstrate loving feelings they share. Follow a reading with a discussion of the ways that we can show love to a special person. 

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (ages 4-7) 

The cover depicts Aidan in a rainbow-colored coat and yellow pants, on the shoulders of his Dad and being kissed by his pregnant mom, who is wearing a white dress. A white cat looks up at them from next to Aidan's mom, and there are flower blossoms and petals floating across the cover.

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. It took some time, but Aidan’s family all adjusted to make sure his life fit who he is. Now Aidan’s mom is expecting a baby, and Aidan knows that being a big brother is an important job. He helps his parents get things ready for his new sibling, but he also worries that he won’t be a good big brother. Thankfully, Aidan’s parents remind him that loving someone is the most important part of that job. 

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Wintry & Wonderful Picture Books

A simple illustration of a snowy hill with a bare tree, at the bottom a child and parent walk

by Eliana H.

I hope you have enjoyed our recent snow days and have stayed safe and warm. If there wasn’t enough snow for you, perhaps these titles will fill the gap. If you’d rather stay away from winter weather, curling up inside with a book is a great option for staying warm. Enjoy a sampling of some wintry and wonderful picture books to share with your family this season. If you’re looking for more options or hoping to find some cozy titles for more mature audiences, visit or call any of our branches and speak to a staff member. We will be happy to help you find the right title for you! 

Making a Friend by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Alison Friend (ages 3-6) 

Despite his best efforts, Beaver has a hard time making friends. When the snow falls, it presents him with an opportunity to make a different kind of friend. Will Beaver be able to keep his friend when the snow melts? Use this story as a conversation starter with little ones about how to interact with peers and build friendships. 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr (ages 2-7) 

“When you go owling, you don’t need words.” In this strikingly illustrated, Caldecott-winning classic tale, a little girl goes out into a quiet, snowy night with her father to search for owls. The poetic story shows the bond between parent and child, and the special experiences that can strengthen it. It also demonstrates a connection to nature that deserves to be maintained.  

Rabbit’s Snow Dance by James & Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Jeff Newman (ages 3-7) 

Expert storytelling father and son team James and Joseph Bruchac composed this retelling of a traditional Iroquois story, where readers meet a rabbit who looks different than what we are used to today. Young readers may be able to relate to Rabbit’s impatience, as he chants “I want it, I want it, I want it right now!” Although Rabbit gets what he wants, regardless of the needs of the other animals, the consequences help him learn to be more patient, and perhaps some readers will take the lesson to heart as well.  

Snow Much Fun!  by Nancy Siscoe, illustrated by Sabina Gibson (ages 4-7) 

Three friends are excited to enjoy a snow day! They each enjoy different activities, but they are willing to try something outside their comfort zone for their friends. The friends support each other in any struggles, and they find new joys as they explore. Photos of intricate textile and paper creations bring a whimsical, unique feel to this simple, rhyming tale. 

Thankful by Elaine Vickers, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill (ages 4-8) 

What are YOU thankful for? In this endearing book, a young child shares her family’s practice of making paper chains out of things they are thankful for. The narrator shares many things she is thankful for, throughout the year and in all different situations. As you enjoy the fun, detailed pictures of paper creations in the book, perhaps your family will be inspired to talk about where you find gratitude.  

You’re Snug with Me by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry (ages 4-7) 

This book pairs ornately patterned illustrations with a mother polar bear’s reassurances to her two new cubs as they are born and begin to learn about the world around them. In the text, the author uses the mama bear to teach readers about the beauty and wonder of our polar lands. When her new cubs worry, she assures them each time, “You’re snug with me,” all the while gently encouraging readers to be good stewards of the earth. 

In shades of gold, blue and grey, snowflakes and bears composed of complicated patterns frame the title.

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Book Discussion: Night by Elie Wiesel

The cover of the book shows a hazy, abstract blue-grey background, with the author's name and "Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize" on a beige field in the middle, with a strand of barbed wire running between.

by Rabbi Fuller

Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor in addition to a prolific author and Nobel laureate. Reading Night for the second time (I first read it many moons ago when I was in college) reminded me both of the horrific things he and his fellow prisoners suffered at the hands of the Nazis during World War II, and of that lesson from The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. How much of Wiesel’s memoir could I trust? I learned from reading The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe that everyone’s memory of events is imperfect. How does that help or hinder us from learning about a Nobel Prize winner and human rights advocate’s experience when we read his first book, Night

As we just recently passed the 80th anniversary of America’s entrance into that war on December 7, 1941, we are closer and closer to the time when no eyewitnesses to the Holocaust will be alive anymore. Thankfully, there is now an entire genre of books detailing and remembering the experiences of many survivors of the Holocaust. Though the stories are all different, the one theme that comes through almost all of them is the incomprehensible brutality and inhumanity the Germans perpetrated on 6 million Jews simply because they were Jewish, and countless others for being gay, Roma, communists, or anything else the Nazis didn’t like. 

Night is a symbol of all the darkness that the victims of the Holocaust felt. The fear, the hunger, the horrid conditions, the not knowing what any minute or hour or day might bring. The lack of hope, and the lack of trust even in your fellow prisoners. In some ways, it’s amazing that any of them survived. 

But in Wiesel’s life, I think that Night represents something else as well – his doubt of his faith. Wiesel makes it clear that he grew up as a religious Jew in Sighet, Romania, and that family and religion were two of the most important things to him. Yet as he witnessed the Holocaust, his faith began to leave him. Those who are avid fans of his writings will find these struggles throughout many of his books, and how he resolves it as well. But in Night, he makes clear how his faith is failing in a particularly gruesome scene. The Nazis have just hanged three victims, one of them just a boy (for those of you who wonder why, does it matter? That’s the kind of “night” all the prisoners had to deal with). The two older men die quickly from asphyxiation, but the boy, who doesn’t weigh much, dangles from his noose for a while before finally succumbing. Wiesel reports, “Behind me, I heard the same man asking “For God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where is He? This is where – hanging here from this gallows…” 

After working through his theological crisis, Wiesel went on to become a professor, a father, and a strong voice and advocate for human rights everywhere. That’s what earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, “for being a messenger to mankind: his message is one of peace, atonement and dignity.” The lesson we should all take from this is that no matter the hardships we may face, or how palpable the darkness we feel may seem, we can overcome and do great things with our lives. 

Holocaust Remembrance Day Book Group is discussing Night by Elie Wiesel, with the conversation led by Rabbi Fuller. Join us online January 27 at 6:30 pm. Register.

Rabbi Gordon Fuller is an independently ordained rabbi who grew up in Detroit but has lived in many other places. He moved to Columbia, MD in 2015 to be near children and grandchildren.

Rabbi Gordy worked in Jewish education for 20+ years before being ordained and has co-authored two books. He is as passionate about pluralism and the environment as he is about his family and the Jewish peoplehood.

Becky Chambers: Hope for Humanity

On a busy cover, you see a branching curvy path through plants and flowers. At bottom sits a young man on a cart, holding a cup of tea. At the top stands a grey robot with butterflies floating above his hand.

by Eliana H.

What’s your favorite book? If you can decide, feel free to leave it in the comments. I always have a terrible time answering this question. It depends so much on what I’m in the mood for, but I recently finished A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, and it reminded me yet again why I love this author’s work. She has won the Hugo Award and been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Locus Award, and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, among others. In case you are less familiar with those particular awards, Becky Chambers writes science fiction. 

The first Becky Chambers book I read was The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, her debut novel and the first book in the Wayfarers series. I actually read it for a meeting of In Other Worlds, one of the many fantastic book clubs that the library offers. I remember during our discussion that other participants agreed with me that it was such a lovely, comforting read. One friend described it as comfort food in book form. You can see a little more about this title in one of our previous blog posts

As I read more books by Becky Chambers, I continue to be struck not only by her storytelling, but also by the appeal of the worlds she creates. Each book is like a warm hug, easing me out of the everyday struggles and worries we all experience and into this universe in which everything is different. But although everything is different, there is so much that is familiar. I can relate to the characters and their feelings about what is happening around them, even when they are a completely dissimilar species to myself. 

One of the most refreshing parts of diving into the universe that Chambers shows us in the Wayfarers series is that humans are nowhere near the top of the food chain. Far from being the species in power, humans were some of the last to join the Galactic Commons and are not very technologically advanced. But beyond the change in perspective offered by that dynamic, my favorite aspect of Becky Chambers’s books is the hope they provide. Each is filled with people (mostly non-human, but still people) treating each other respectfully and considerately. Although they may not understand the traditions and habits of those so different from themselves, people originating from an enormously diverse array of cultures find common ground and consistently demonstrate their regard for every individual’s inherent value and rights. It is a profoundly inspiring universe. 

I hope that you will find as much joy and satisfaction from any of the Becky Chambers books you choose to explore. While titles in the Wayfarers series do have a numerical order, they can generally be read as stand-alone novels as well. You can find the following books written by Becky Chambers available now. 

Eliana is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Spooky & Seasonal Picture Books

The photograph depicts a variety of pumpkin - white and green, yellow. and shades of orange - surrounding one large orange pumpkin decorated like a jack-o-lantern, with red cheeks, three white teeth, eyes with red and yellow irises, and a pointy witch's hat in red and orange, decorated with black cats and orange moons. All are resting on a tablecloth in black and white with a motif of bats, jack-o-lanterns, and the word "Halloween" repeating.
Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash.

By Eliana H. 

As the weather turns crisp and we start preparing for fall holidays, you might be looking for books to get little ones into a spooky mood. Our staff have selected some picture books to share with the family this season. Whether you are looking for thrilling tales, heartwarming narratives, or sillier stories, there is something for you. 

The cover of "Creepy Carrots!" shows a startled rabbit in the foreground, dressed in a collared shirt and striped pants. In the background are three carrots, two with angry expressions, one of them literally "blowing his top" as his head and eyes have separated from his body; the third carrot has a surprised expression. All are against a background of clouds, standing on a hill with grass and small plants growing. The illustration is in shades of white, brown, and orange.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds (ages 4-8) 

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially the ones from Crackenhopper Field. His love turns to fear once he swears he starts to see the carrots following him everywhere! Are the carrots really following him, or is Jasper just imagining it? Read this clever tale to find out. 

The cover of "What's in the Witch's Kitchen?" shows the title in yellow, rose, gree, and red lettering against the backdrop of a spooky house in black silhouette, with a witch on a broom silhouetted against the moon above, bats flying around the chimney, and a spider dangling off the rain gutters. A lizard in silhouette is climbing up the side of the house, and a black cat peers out from the window beneath a hanging lamp. The subtitle, "A book with MAGIC changing pictures!," is written on the purple door in beige and white print.

What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen by Nick Sharratt (ages 3-7) 

Find out what this witch has brewing in her kitchen in this fun, interactive tale. Choose to flip the flap left or right and see what you find! Will it be a nasty trick, or a delicious treat?

The cover of "Fright Club" shows various classic monsters, including Frankenstein, Dracula, a ghost, a mummy, and a werewolf, peering out from a hinged wooden window that is propped open. A spider dangles from the title and peers down at the group.

 Fright Club by Ethan Long (ages 3-6) 

Each year, on the eve of Halloween, Fright Club meets to go over their plans for scaring kids on the biggest day of the year for scares. Only the scariest monsters are allowed in Fright Club, but this year, a group of adorable critters want to join. Vladimir, the leader of the club, refuses to let them join, but these cute little critters can be scarier than they look. 

The cover of "El Cucuy is Scared, Too!" depicts the title character, El Cucuy, hiding in a yellow pot with a green cactus growing from it. The other main character, Ramón, is patting El Cucuy on the back in a comforting manner. Both are on a colorful woven rug with stripes in shades of red, yellow, and light blue. The title is in the same colors and is surrounded by foliage and flowers in shades of green, red, orange, and pink.

El Cucuy Is Scared Too by Donna Barba Higuera (ages 4-8) 

Ramón and his family recently moved, and he is scared about his first day at his new school. When he talks to El Cucuy, the Mexican Boogeyman used to scare children into good behavior, El Cucuy shares his own fears and worries. With Spanish interspersed through this heartfelt picture book, Ramón and El Cucuy build each other up and remind each other of how strong and brave each of them is.

The cover of The Dark shows a small child dressed in blue, looking through an open door down a set of brown wooden stairs into a basement. The child looks apprehensive and only the first three stairs and part of the stair railing are illuminated; the rest of the basement is in the dark.

 The Dark by Lemony Snicket (ages 4-8) 

One night, Laszlo’s night light – which has always kept the dark at bay – goes out. Laszlo is afraid of the dark, which lives mostly in the basement, and tonight it invites Laszlo down the stairs. The tension builds in this beautifully-illustrated book, but in the end, the dark only wants to help. 

The cover of "Sir Simon: Super Scarer" shows a cute ghost seated at a desk, with a green printer's visor on his head and a typewriter, pile of papers, coffee cup, and pizza and a cookie on the desk. The setup resembles a journalist's desk although the desk itself is a brown trunk that latches. The figure holds up a sheet of paper from the typewriter that says "Super Scarer."

Sir Simon: Super Scarer by Cale Atkinson (ages 4-8) – also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive

After haunting other things, including a forest, a bus stop, and a potato, Sir Simon is finally being transferred to his first haunted house! Expecting only old people, Simon is surprised to discover a kid has moved in with his grandma. As Simon and Chester try to help each other with their chores, they discover they’re better at being friends together than trying to take the place of the other. Plenty of fun details will have adults laughing along with the story as well. 

Eliana is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).