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).

The Switch

The book cover, in pastel shades of green, yellow, lavender, and pink, shows an older woman in a black cloche hat and yellow top in the upper right-hand corner, standing in front of an apartment building, and a younger woman in jeans and a flowing white top with a bag over her shoulder, walking a dog on a farm in the lower left-hand corner.

By Eliana H.

This is the third year I’ve participated in The Ridiculous Reading Challenge, an activity co-organized by some good friends of mine in which they combine the annual reading challenges set by several publications into one spreadsheet full of categories to inspire participants to stretch our reading habits. For 2021, there are 117 different categories. Wish me luck in managing a unique book for each of them!

When one of the friends who runs the Ridiculous Reading Challenge mentioned enjoying The Switch, by Beth O’Leary, I was excited to note that it took place at least partly in Yorkshire. With family and friends living there, as well as it being a beautiful place, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the category of “a book set somewhere you’d like to visit in 2021.” Yorkshire is definitely the top of my list for where I want to visit when it’s safe for my family to do so. What I didn’t know when my friend shared the book was how much I would love the story.

The Switch tells the tale of two Eileen Cottons – a grandmother and her granddaughter, who goes by Leena – both feeling a bit stuck in their lives. They’ve struggled since the loss of Carla, Leena’s sister and Eileen’s other granddaughter. After a panic attack at work, Leena is given a mandatory two-month vacation from her job as a business consultant. At loose ends about what to do with that time when she should be finding her way back to herself, she ends up suggesting that she and her grandmother swap lives for two months. Eileen makes her way down to London for the adventure she didn’t get the chance to have in her youth, and Leena heads north to Yorkshire to slow down and take over the responsibilities Eileen has in her small village. Neither woman has quite the experience she expected, but both learn quite a lot about themselves and the people around them during their sojourns. With a cast of lively supporting characters, it is a joy to follow Eileen and Leena on their journeys. The book made me chuckle and choke up in turn, and I’m so glad to have read it. I hope you will be too.

The Switch is also available from HCLS as an eBook from Libby/OverDrive. Beth O’Leary is also the author of The Flatshare and The Road Trip (available from Libby/OverDrive as an eBook and eAudiobook).

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).

Make Something Great with August #ELKReads

By HCLS Elkridge Branch staff

Have you ever visited the Howard County Library System Elkridge Branch? If you haven’t been in a while – or at all – you might not realize that it’s now the Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center! DIY, which stands for Do It Yourself, is an area that we know a little something about at Elkridge. You can check out tools for building, gardening, crafting, baking, and exploring from our DIY collection. We have everything from cake pans to knitting needles to reciprocating saws. Visit HCLS Elkridge Branch and get ready to tackle your next home or garden project! In the meantime, take a look at the selected titles below for inspiration and ideas about crafting and creating of all kinds. Keep an eye on our social media to see even more related books to explore. 

Grace and Box by Kim Howard, illustrated by Megan Lötter, shows a little girl and a dog in front of a cardboard box with a rainbow coming out of the top and a smiley face on the side, against a blue background with stars. Play with Paint! by Jenny Pinkerton shows a colorful painted flower dripping with paint, and the lettering of the title in the same set of colors (blue, green, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow). The Fun Fort by Kirsten MacDonald, illustrated by Fátima Anaya, depicts a boy popping out of the top of a cardboard fort, underneath a tree. Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Heather Ross, shows the title character with her hands triumphantly in the air, next to a ladder and underneath a banner with her name on it. She is surrounded by paper and crafting supplies on the floor, with her dog wearing a paper star-shaped hat and looking comically disgruntled. Crafty Llama by Mike Kerr, illustrated by Renata Liwska, shows a llama, a beaver, and birds, working with thread and yarn and knitting, with the title in knitted multicolored letters. What Will These Hands Make? by Nikki McClure shows a woman holding up a tattered red sweater, looking as if she is pondering how to repair it.

For Little Kids: 

Crafty Llama by Mike Kerr, illustrated by Renata Liwska, also available as an ebook on OverDrive/Libby

Llama loves to knit, and she decides to create something special and lovely but isn’t quite sure what it will be. As different animal friends join her, they are each inspired to make their own special projects. When Beaver declares that he likes to make things that are useful, Llama and her friends get creative deciding how their projects will be used.

Grace and Box by Kim Howard, illustrated by Megan Lötter

Grace loves playing with her pretend buddy Box, and she’s not about to let some wear and tear change that. This fun rhyming books makes a great read-aloud about imagination, crafty repairs, and all the joys of creative open-ended play time. 

What Will These Hands Make? by Nikki McClure, also available as an ebook on OverDrive/Libby 

Hands can do so many things! In this charming picture book, author and cut-paper artist Nikki McClure follows a family as they notice a wide variety of activities that a pair of hands might do. From a play to a house to a safer neighborhood, readers are reminded of the many important parts of a community that hands can make. 

Wood Shop: Handy Skills and Creative Building Projects for Kids by Margaret Larson shows a variety of kids doing woodworking projects, including stilts, a birdhouse, and a clock. Create a Costume! by Sarah Myer depicts a cartoon of two kids and a flying hamster in superhero costumes.  Make It! by Jane Bull depicts a picture frame, a puppet, beadwork, a paper mache frog, and other crafts along with two young people. The Stick Book: Loads of Things You Can Make or Do with a Stick by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks depicts a reindeer, a tree trunk, a slingshot, and a tepee.  The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio shows the title character, Lou, with two friends, building a tiny house with a ladder, lumber, and tools. Roll with It by Jamie Sumner shows a girl wearing a yellow coat and jeans in a wheelchair, popping a wheelie with one hand and spinning a top with the other.

For Big Kids: 

The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio 

Lou is a resourceful tween who dreams of creating a space of her own, away from the hubbub of her loving, extended family home. A talented woodworker, she sets out to build a tiny house, but finds it’s more difficult than expected. In this heartwarming story of community, Filipino culture, and perseverance, Lou learns about how to make a house a home. 

Make It! by Jane Bull 

In this complete guide to making crafts from materials already found around the house, kids can find inspiration to give new life to old objects and entertain themselves (without a screen). Projects are divided up by materials used, including paper, plastic, metal, and fabric, with clear instructions and illustrations as well as suggestions for alternative materials if the primary one isn’t available. Find fun ways to clear up clutter with the ideas in Make It!.

Maker Comics: Create a Costume! by Sarah Myer 

Bea and Parker are just a few short weeks away from the comic convention and without costumes! Learn along with Bea and Parker how to make a budget friendly cosplay with an easy-to-find mix of materials, tools, and a lot of imagination. Then, check out other titles in the Maker Comics series.

Boys Don't Knit: (in public) by Tom Easton shows the title and three balls of yarn with knitting needles against a dark blue background; the word "knit" appears to have been knitted from the tan ball of yarn. The Maker's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse: Defend Your Base with Simple Circuits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi by Simon Monk shows two buildings against a yellow background underneath the title, which is in teal and brown. Marvelous Makeable Monsters: 21 STEAM Projects That Light Up, Buzz, Launch, and Occasionally Chomp by Sam Haynor shows several adorable monsters on sticks with a rocket ship dangling from above; the rocks and ground surrounding them suggest a moonscape. Drawing Is Magic: Discovering Yourself in a Sketchbook by John Hendrix shows many little creative sketches in black and red, including but not limited to books, pens and an ink bottle, a dragon, playground equipment, a jack-in-the-box, a person reclined and reading, and a bomb with a lit fuse. The Baking Cookbook for Teens: 75 Delicious Recipes for Sweet & Savory Treats by Robin Donovan shows a slice of chocolate cake with a white cream filling, chocolate icing, and rainbow sprinkles; the sprinkles are also scattered across the cover's blue background, with the title in hot pink. Primer: A Superhero Graphic Novel by Jennifer Muro shows a girl with long red hair and glasses on her forehead, in a white tank top and gray-green shorts with a black belt and gold buckle, and black combat boots.  She holds a spray paint can and there are five more cans on the floor surrounding her. The walls behind her are sprayed in overlapping patches of green, blue, purple, yellow, and pink, and some of the patches are dripping down the white walls.  The title sits boldly in white against the colorful spray paint background.

For Teens: 

Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton 

Ben Fletcher has gotten himself into a bit of trouble, and he ends up deciding on a knitting class as the best option to perform the required community service. Even though it turns out not to be taught by the expected (good-looking) instructor, Ben discovers that he’s actually good at knitting, and it helps his anxiety. Will his family and friends – not to mention his enemies – judge Ben harshly for his new pursuit?

The Maker’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse by Simon Monk 

Even if you’re not too worried about zombies threatening anytime soon, this book will give you some great ideas and step-by-step instructions for projects to communicate, defend, and generate power. Use circuits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi systems to prepare for a time when you might not have access to all your usual electronics. Maybe until the zombies come, you can hone your skills as you practice defending your room against pestering pets or bothersome siblings.

Primer: A Superhero Graphic Novel by Jennifer Muro 

Thirteen-year-old Ashley Rayburn has bounced from one foster home to another, always finding herself in trouble along the way. When she stumbles upon a set of body paints that grant the wearer a multitude of superpowers, the government agency that created them comes after her to get them back. To protect her new family, Ashley has to make some hard choices while facing the shadows of the past.  

Green from the Ground Up: Sustainable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient Home Construction by David Johnston shows a partial silhouette of a home building in progress, with the title in white against a green background. Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces by Michelle Slatalla shows an English-style garden with trees, manicured shrubs, flowers, and greenery. Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide by Barbara W. Ellis shows several photographs depicting a river garden scene with a fence gate, a bush, and a flowering shrub; hydrangea; cattails and greenery in a marshy area; a monarch butterfly; and purple bee balm. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey shows a couple kissing at the top of a yellow ladder; the woman is in a pink dress with white shoes, and the man is wearing grey shoes, blue pants, a grey shirt, and a grey backwards baseball cap. A Patchwork of Clues by Sally Goldenbaum shows a colorful patchwork quilt in the foreground, and then a view through two window panels of shops along a street, with a green plant in a white pot on the windowsill. Down to Earth: Laid-Back Interiors for Modern Living by Lauren Liess shows a cozy living room in shades of brown, grey, and white, with an elegant yellow-flowering plant on a low table, a fire in the fireplace in the background. exposed wooden ceiling beams, and a brown sofa and settee with a window in the back.

For Adults: 

Chesapeake Gardening and Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide by Barbara W. Ellis 

This volume provides the reader with instructions to develop a natural landscape in the Chesapeake watershed region. A few of the principles the authors enumerate are to “reduce lawn, grow native plants, and welcome wildlife,” all laudable goals. This book may have more prose than some of our other gardening selections, but it still contains beautiful photos. 

Down to Earth: Laid-back Interiors for Modern Living by Lauren Liess 

If you enjoy what could be described as “modernish eclectic,” a style that is very “in” now, then you will like this book. Think lots of wood, and lots of black and white, or a monochromatic color scheme. And of course, gorgeous photos! 

A Patchwork of Clues by Sally Goldenbaum 

This first in a series of mysteries introduces the Queen Bee Quilt Shop in Crestwood, Kansas, where a group of women have been gathering to make a quilt in honor of the shop owner’s anniversary. While out on her morning run, Po, the unofficial leader of the group, discovers a dead body right on the quilt shop’s doorstep. She and her friends are great at working together to make beautiful quilts, but can they combine their unique strengths and knowledge to find a killer? With a charming small-town setting, cast of quirky characters, and compelling who-done-it, A Patchwork of Clues not only has everything you could ask for in a cozy mystery, it also celebrates crafting, particularly the art of quilting, as a way of connecting with friends and building community. 

Summer Fun with #ELKReads

by HCLS Elkridge Branch Staff

The past year (plus) has been hard for everyone. As we start to move toward something approaching our previous normal, many families are looking for special ways to enjoy the summer. The Elkridge staff has selected a wide range of titles for all ages to inspire and entertain, no matter your plans for the summer. Read fun stories together, learn about activities that you might try out, or plan a trip to take. If you’re not ready to travel for real, armchair traveling along with authors and photographers is the next best thing. Let the library help you make memories all summer long with these fun reads and many more! Join Summer Reading and check out our calendar to find classes and events for even more summer fun. 

Summer by Ailie Busby Our Celebración! by Susan Middleton Elya Cannonball by Sacha Cotter Where Is Baby's Beach Ball? by Karen Katz One Hot Summer Day by Nina Crews Where's Rodney? by Carmen Bogan

For Little Kids 

Cannonball by Sacha Cotter and illustrated by Josh Morgan 

How would you perform the most perfect cannonball into the pool? Would you wiggle your arms and do a little twirl? That is just what the main character of our story is trying to figure out. Join your little one this summer and learn about overcoming fears, being true to yourself, and nailing your perfect cannonball!

One Hot Summer Day by Nina Crews 

What can you do outside when it feels too hot to do anything? Can you shade yourself from the sun or chase your shadow? Explore all the fun things in this book you can do on a hot summer day or even during a sudden summer thunderstorm!

Our Celebración! By Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Ana Aranda 

This rhyming, bilingual story invites readers to join a small town’s summer celebration, which even a rain storm can’t diminish. The illustrations give a glimpse into the full range of festivities, including foods, parade floats, animals, and even a firework celebration to end the night. A glossary at the end helps readers learn new words found in the text.

The cover of The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit depicts a boy and girl jumping from a high cliff into blue water, with orange butterflies in the background. The cover of The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon depicts a boy in a backwards baseball cap and jean shorts diving into a pool over the heads of two friends who are seated by a small waterfall watching him. 
 The cover of Aquicorn Cove by Katie O'Neill shows a redheaded girl in blue shorts and a beige top riding a peach-colored "aquicorn," or aquatic unicorn, over the waves with mountains and clouds in the background.  The cover of Backyard Adventure: Get Messy, Get Wet, Build Cool Things, and Have Tons of Fun! 51 Free-Play Activities by Amanda Thomsen is a collage of photos showing children doing fun outdoor activities including science experiments, a tire swing, performing on an outdoor stage, banging on a wall of noise, and making exploding sidewalk chalk. 
 The cover of Ranger Rick Kids' Guide to Hiking: All You Need to Know About Having Fun While Hiking by Helen Olsson shows two hikers in silhouette with trekking poles and backpacks, one looking through a monocular and one pointing at the other, with mountains and pine trees in the background against a yellow-orange sky.  The cover of The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson depicts two children biking on the sidewalk of a small-town street, one wearing a backpack, with an antique store and other local businesses in the background.

For Big Kids 

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill 

When Lana and her father return to their seaside hometown to help clean up after a terrible storm, she begins to remember how much she missed the sea, as well as her aunt. As Lana explores the beach, she discovers something wonderful: a colony of aquicorns. She rescues an injured aquicorn and cares for it with the help of her aunt, who seems to know far more about these incredible creatures than she’s letting on.

The Nebula Secret (Explorer Academy Series Book 1 of 5) by Trudi Trueit (also available as an eaudiobook on Libby/OverDrive)

If you loved the questing and mysteries of Harry Potter, the puzzles of The Mysterious Benedict Society, or the thrilling history of I Survived books, The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit will keep you on the edge of your seat. This book is the first in a fantastic adventure series by National Geographic that’s full of action, cutting-edge tech, and plenty of surprises. Join a diverse and relatable cast of tweens as they train to become elite explorers. Cool maps and real photos take this captivating story to the next level.

Ranger Rick Kids’ Guide to Hiking: All You Need to Know About Having Fun While Hiking by Helen Olsson 

Hiking is a fun summer activity for children to explore! This great book introduces hiking and hiking safety to children, including topics such as trail etiquette, staying safe, and what to wear. Check it out to prepare for family fun on trails in and around Howard County.

The cover of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon shows a girl with a bright smile and an orange shirt drinking a cup of iced coffee through a plastic straw.  The cover of Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy depicts a black raven on top of the sign for the camp, which is attached to a tree stump in a ghostly wood.  The cover for  Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen shows line drawings of various summer objects and activities such as lawn chairs, flashlights, guitars, microphones, cameras, and pizza, among many others.  Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee shows the title character in a tan jacket and blue-lensed glasses, looking up into a bright blue sky.  The cover of Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama depicts a girl in white robe, blue coat and pointed blue and white hat, gesturing with an arm out as if casting a spell.  The cover of A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy shows two women facing each other, one in a silver collar and brown robe with tattoos on her outstretched arm holding a dagger, the other also in a silver collar with a teal dress, holding a glowing orb.

For Teens 

Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy (also available as an ebook on Libby/OverDrive)

Twenty-five campers who were invited to Camp So-and-So back in February arrive in the summer to discover that this is a wholly different kind of camp. Rather than arts and crafts, activities on the lake, or friendly games, the girls at Camp So-and-So have been divided into five cabins that each have to navigate unexpected and sometimes quite frightening challenges. Trapped in this remote camp with no adult supervision to be found, the campers are forced to find their own way in this creative, unusual story.

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy (also available as an ebook on Libby/OverDrive)

In the land of Myre, Eva is princess born with a dark and terrible magick inside her, one that has not been seen for generations. Eva must learn to harness this power to defeat her sister, Isa, in a battle to the death to ascend to the throne.

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen 

Readers will find plentiful inspiration in this volume with a wide range of activities for young people, keeping them entertained all summer long. Some old favorites are sprinkled among creative new adventures for kids and teens, with detailed instructions and safety guidelines as needed. Vibrant illustrations and extras such as timelines, trivia, and interviews, bring this book to a level beyond your traditional how-to.

The cover of Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World's Most Amazing Places (National Geographic, author not listed) is a photograph of a wooden house set into the side of a tall cliff, with a blue cloudy sky and mountains in the background.  The cover of Great Hiking Trails of the World: 80 Trails, 75,000 Miles, 38 Countries, 6 Continents by Karen Berger is a photograph of Mt. Ngauruhoe,  along the Tongariro Crossing on North Island, New Zealand. The cover of Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Best Hidden Travel Gems (also National Geographic, author not listed) is a photograph of rows of lavender plants in a sunny field. The cover of My Mamma Mia Summer by Annie Robertson depicts a straw beach bag with overhanging towel and sunglasses, flip flops, and a beach hat on the sand overlooking the Mediterranean.  The cover of The Jersey Shore Cookbook: Fresh Summer Flavors from the Boardwalk and Beyond by Deborah Smith shows a lifeguard stand and beachgoers by the shore with a roller coaster and ferris wheel on a pier in the background.  The cover of Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher depicts the main character, Domino Swift, dressed in bikers' gear and perched on a motorcycle, looking back over her shoulder with a board with nails sticking out over her other shoulder.

For Adults

Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places 

If you are planning an epic journey for this summer, next year, or sometime in the next ten years, you will want to check out this book on awesome places to visit. In fact, even if you are not planning to leave your zip code at all, the dramatic and colorful pictures captured in Destinations of a Lifetime will brighten your thoughts and your coffee table. The travel section at your local library is the perfect place to go to plan vacations, staycations, and to feed your imaginations.

Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr

In the stylish, futuristic city of Nova Honda, Domino Swift is a champion motorcycle racer. By day, she competes in the World Grand Prix, earning fame and fortune, and by night, she races on the streets, pulling off dangerous maneuvers and making risky bets to score Crush, the illegal engine stimulant her body needs to survive.  Filled with hot locales and cool characters, this graphic novel has all the fast-paced action and fun of a favorite summer blockbuster.

My Mamma Mia Summer by Annie Robertson 

Pick up this charming summer read to join Laurel as she takes her recently deceased grandmother’s words to heart and jets off to Greece to follow her dreams. As she lives out her own version of her favorite movie, Mamma Mia!, Laurel finds herself feeling more at home than she expected on her vacation. With romance blooming, will Laurel decide that Skopelos is where she’s truly meant to be?

Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month with #ELKReads

By Elkridge Branch Staff

For the past 50 years, June has been celebrated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The celebrations began with the first Pride march in New York City, on June 28, 1970. That date celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a six-day period of unrest, sparked by a police raid of a gay bar. Though not an uncommon occurrence, this particular raid did not go as planned and led the queer community to fight back against the targeting and tactics being used against them. As queer communities around the world continue to seek recognition, respect, and equal rights, we invite you to explore the books suggested below – and on our social media – for all ages. You can also learn more about the history of Pride Month on the Library of Congress website.

For Little Kids:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Little Kids" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover of And Tango Makes Three shows two penguin parents huddling with their chick. The cover of Pride Colors shows a toddler in striped shirt, jeans, and fisherman's sandals, standing next to a table with rainbow-colored legs. The cover of Love Makes a Family shows a variety of families of different genders, races, and ages, with rainbows, hearts, doves, and arrows among the symbols in the turquoise background. The cover of They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! has the title lettered in stylized fonts with geometric patterns in shades of turquoise, green, and yellow. The cover or Prince & Knight shows the prince surrounded by young maidens all giving him attention, while he gazes with head turned toward the knight, who leans against his horse and waves at the prince. The cover of My Rainbow shows a transgender girl wearing a rainbow-colored wig of leaves and flowers against a yellow background.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

This book celebrates the thing that all families have in common, which is love. All types of families are represented in this book. Families are shown engaging in happy activities together.

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack

In this beautifully illustrated modern LGBTQ+ fairy tale, a Prince Charming and a Knight in Shining Armor find true love in each other. The young men are celebrated as heroes for saving the kingdom from a dragon together, and their love is affirmed and embraced with a royal wedding in a delightful happily-ever-after. Be sure to also check out Daniel Haack’s Maiden & Princess

Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson

Celebrate Pride Month with your little one by enjoying this photographic concept book filled with the colors of the Pride flag. Artist & activist Gilbert Baker created the original Pride flag and each color in the flag has a special meaning, so be sure to turn to the end of the book to find out what each one represents!

For Big Kids:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Big Kids" and has a collage of six book covers. Better Nate than Ever shows the title character leaping into the air in front of a stylized New York City skyline which includes the Statue of Liberty, with the name "Nate" lit up with light bulbs resembling a theatre marquee. Be Amazing shows a character in drag, posing with hand on hip and one arm in the air as if on a catwalk, wearing a dress and hat in gold, orange, and black, with a blurry rainbow-colored background resembling butterfly wings. The cover of Witch Boy shows the purple silhouette of a dragon looking over the title character, who is reading by candlelight against a pink background. The cover of Queer Heroes depicts famous queer celebrities and artists, including Freddie Mercury, Frida Kahlo, Josephine Baker, and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The cover of Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World shows the backs of two girls as they face a whirlwind rising up to the sky with words in cursive, presumably the contents of Ivy's letter, swirling within. The cover of Rick shows the title character with his back to the reader, wearing a grey shirt and a lavender backpack covered in stickers, including an alien, a spaceship, a smiley face, and a rainbow. The title is in rainbow letters against a white background.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (also available as an audiobook on CD,  an ebook and eaudiobook on Libby/OverDrive, and an eaudiobook on CloudLibrary)

Nate Foster has always dreamed of starring in a Broadway show, but he worries about how he’ll ever reach his dream while living in a small town in Pennsylvania. With the help of his best friend, Libby, Nate plans a daring escape to New York City when he hears of an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical. Nate knows this could be his big break, and he won’t let this chance at stardom slip away.

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

Aster’s family is magic: boys grow up to be shapeshifters, and girls grow up to be witches. But at age 13, Aster still hasn’t shifted, and he is captivated by the witchery that his family members who are girls get to learn. This beautiful graphic novel follows Aster as he makes a new friend, works to protect his family from a mysterious threat, and finds the courage to be true to himself.

Queer Heroes: Meet 52 LGBTQ+ Heroes from Past & Present! by Arabelle Sicardi 

From the heartfelt introduction by the author to the inclusive glossary at the end, this diverse collection of biographical snapshots is a great starting place to learn about real-life LGBTQ+ heroes from around the world. Vibrantly colorful portraits illustrate the incredible life stories and contributions of LGBTQ+ artists, athletes, inventors, activists, and more.

For Teens:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Teens" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover of When the Moon Was Ours shows the two main characters, Sam and Miel, silhouetted against the dark backdrop of a starlit water tower, with arms outstretched towards one another, and one climbing a ladder as if on a stage. The cover of The Best at It shows the main character in glasses and sports gear, with arm outstretched, against a teal background with scattered books, calculator, camera, football, pencil, triangle, photographs, and other school-related items scattered about. The cover of Cemetery Boys shows two boys back-to-back, one wearing a collared shirt and one wearing a hoodie, in front of a ghostly skeleton figure in red robes and a flowered crown silhouetted by the full moon. The cover of Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens shows the title extending from the top to the bottom of the book, in rainbow letters, with the subtitle in smaller white letters across the middle from left to right, all against a black background. The cover of The Great American Whatever has the title and author's name in black and red letters against a white theatre marquee background, The last "a" in "American" is missing and the first "E" in "Whatever" is crooked, as is the "D" in the author's last name (Federle). The final "E" in his name is substituted with the mathematical epsilon symbol. The cover of I'll Give You the Sun has the title in dark teal lettering with dashes radiating out from the center in rainbow colors.

Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke

This comprehensive guide supports teens who are – or think they might be – queer, as they navigate everything from coming out to standing up for their rights. Background about queer figures throughout history and personal stories from the authors’ lives are interspersed with guidance throughout. While the information included is general enough to cover a broad range of topics within the single volume, a list of resources can direct readers to more details about specific areas of interest.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Miel and Sam live in a small town where magic isn’t so out of the ordinary. But when the Bonner Girls decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrist, and they threaten to tell the secret they know about Sam to get her to cooperate, Miel has to face her past and try to find the path forward. The lush, evocative language in this novel brings a lyrical beauty to this story of friendship, family, love, magic, and finding your true self.

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy (also available in ebook and eaudiobook format on Libby/OverDrive)

Rahul Kapoor is an Indian American boy just entering seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. To help soothe his worries, his grandfather gives Rahul the advice to find one thing he does well and become the BEST at it! As Rahul searches for the special thing he can be the best at, he also confronts his anxieties and finds that he can count on his friends and family for the support he needs.

For Adults:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Adults" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover for Lot: Stories shows a silver fire hydrant emitting a rainbow of colored water against a white background, with the title in stark black lettering. The cover of Cantoras shows a setting on the shore, with a blue sky and ocean, and white waves crashing against a rocky beach. The cover for Untamed has the title in white lettering against a background of swirly colors: pink, red, turquoise, blue, and glittery silver and gold. The cover for Written in the Stars shows two women, one blonde and one with long red hair, embracing in front of a silhouetted cityscape and sky in shades of blue, lit up by white stars and constellations. The cover of Good Boy shows a brown retriever with a pink collar, seated against a white background, with the title in rainbow colors beneath his feet. The cover of Fun Home shows a pen and ink drawing of one adult and three children, framed as if in a traditional portrait, with a teal background.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

“Sometimes, when things were going well, I think my father actually enjoyed having a family.” As you might guess, Alison Bechdel had a fraught relationship with her father, a high school English teacher who ran their small town’s funeral home out of their Victorian-era home that he restored himself. During college, when Alison came out as a lesbian, she learned that her own father was a closeted gay man, but his death soon after left her searching for answers that he could not provide. Check out this critically-acclaimed graphic memoir that has also been adapted into a Tony-award-winning musical!

Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan (also available in large print format and as an ebook and eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive)

In a 2017 New York Times opinion column on rescue animals, Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote: “When you lose a dog, you not only lose the animal that has been your friend, you also lose a connection to the person you have been.” Here Boylan uses the memories of her beloved dogs to reconnect with, or at least fondly remember the many people she has been- a son, a father, a mother, a wife. Good Boy is at once a deeply personal reflection on Boylan’s unique journey as a trans woman and a celebration of the changes in identity we all experience as we grow up and grow older and the animals who we love along the way.

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive)

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington affords readers a front row seat to several aspects of life in a Houston, Texas neighborhood. The burdens and exhilarations of family dynamics, race, sexuality, economics, friendships, and societal influence all feature prominently in short stories connected through common characters.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. Our staff are always happy to help you with your questions about books, tools, technology, and more!

Wordless Joy

The cover shows a child and dog at the edge of a marshy pond, surrounded by trees, with herons and deer in the foreground. The pond is in shades of turquoise and the child, animals, and trees are in shades of grey and white with a hint of the turquoise blue; only the dog has a pop of yellow, on its collar and leash.

By Eliana H.

Many stunningly beautiful picture books are available to readers these days. Even if you don’t have young children in your life, you might be surprised at how much you appreciate picture books as an adult! Picture books can include a wide range of writing styles, sometimes with sparse or rhyming text aimed at younger readers, and sometimes with denser, more complex language. For this post, though, I want to highlight wordless picture books. 

The cover is a father and child walking hand-in-hand down a city sidewalk. The illustration is done entirely in shades of black and grey, except for the child's red coat and flowers in blue, yellow, and pink. The father carries a basked of groceries and their are parked cars and historic-looking buildings in the background.

Wordless picture books offer appealing illustrations that tell the creator’s story on their own. They tend to include abundant details that provide renewed enjoyment every time the book is read and reread. If you are a caregiver for a young child, you can use wordless picture books to practice important pre-reading skills. Look through the book together. Talk about what is happening in each of the pictures. Ask the child what they notice on the page. Teach sequencing ideas and language by showing the order of events in the story. Promote the child’s confidence by inviting them to read the story to you! 

The cover depicts the dog, Daisy, a white dog with brown ears and tail and a black nose. She is shown in two scenes: standing on hind legs as if alert for a treat, and chasing a red ball. There are bands of blue, red, and yellow, with the title and white and the two pictures of Daisy, as well as the gold Caldecott medal for this award-winning book.

Even with older children, opportunities abound for wordless picture books to enhance their literacy experience. As their vocabulary and comprehension develop, children will be able to tell more detailed and complex stories to accompany the images. Repeated experiences with reading other picture books together may inspire them to create a story that sounds very much like a published book! Children can begin analyzing literature by comparing the way a story may be told without words to a version that does include text. 

Of course, the main factor that will determine the impact of sharing a wordless picture book, or one with text, is the connection between a caring adult and a child exploring the story together with joy and love. Take a look at a selection of wordless picture books from our catalog below, or ask library staff at one of our branches on your next visit.

The cover shows a royal blue bluebird against a pale blue sky and a cityscape of buildings in shades of white and grey.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

Bluebird by Bob Staake

Delivery by Aaron Meshon

Draw! by Raúl Colón

Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

The Fisherman & the Whale by Jessica Lanan

Float by Daniel Miyares

Flotsam by David Wiesner

Fossil by Bill Thomson

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

The Paper Boat by Thao Lam

At the Pond by Geraldo Valério

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

Wave by Suzy Lee

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).

Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month with #ELKReads

By the Elkridge Branch staff

It seems especially vital to raise up and celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) this year, during the increased violence and harassment faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the United States. Racist attacks fueled by fear and hatred, especially surrounding the pandemic, have been on the rise in 2020 and 2021, including here in Howard County. We must all stand together against hatred and work to protect and honor the rich cultural heritage of the AAPI community. Reading “own voices” stories about the life experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is a good starting point for increasing our understanding and appreciation of the AAPI community. See our suggestions aimed at readers of all ages, and keep an eye on our Facebook page for more titles as well.

The collage includes: Good Night Friend by Nidhi Chanani, against a blue background, a white circle shows an illustration of two children and some animals. Lift by Min Lê has a lush jungle with the word LIFT in all caps tilted across the center with a girl and her cat sitting in the doorway of the "I". The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin illustrative cover has soft drawings of a girl and her mom working in a garden. On the bottom of the collage: Toddler Two by Anastasia Suen shows two small children, one on a bicycle and one with a striped ball. Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet by Sanae Ishida has a watercolor painting of a bamboo stand with the title character.  Drawn Together by Minh Lê shows a young boy hugging an older man with all sorts of imaginative images in the background.

For Little Kids

Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet: An Adventure with Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida

Will Chibi Samurai find a special pet just for him? Join the adventure in this second beautiful picture book in the three-part Little Kunoichi series. Meet all kinds of creatures familiar in Japanese culture throughout this playful tale, and find out more about Japanese animals and culture with special notes at the end of the story.

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat 

Where can an elevator take you? Join your little one on their adventure with Iris, a little girl who loves to press the elevator buttons to go up or down the building where she lives. After the button accidently breaks, Iris is able to save it from the trash, and the elevator button takes her on new adventures in her room.

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin  (also available as an eBook on CloudLibrary)

In this charming story about celebrating differences, a Chinese-American girl wishes for a garden of bright flowers instead of one full of bumpy, ugly vegetables, but her mother assures her that “these are better than flowers.” Once it’s time to harvest, the whole neighborhood agrees that those ugly vegetables turn into the most delicious soup! A recipe at the end invites readers to try their hand at making their own tasty vegetable soup.

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar shows several characters in silhouette, including one holding the Indian flag, and one character above the title facing forward amidst a background of colorful flowers.  Cilla-Lee Jenkins:  Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan depicts a girl with raised arms in front of a door from which fantastical creatures are emerging, including a dinosaur and a unicorn.  Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung shows a blue fish in a fishbowl surrounded by goldfish.  Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence shows the title character holding a plate of mochi, dressed in a pink tutu and crown.  My Beijing:  Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Nie Jun shows a character on a bike carrying a small child in front, with statuary, trees, and a building in the background.  Frazzled:  Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes by Booki Vivat shows a  frazzled-looking character in yellow pants and an orange shirt, reaching out in the direction of a gray cat.

For Big Kids:

Cilla-Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan

With a new baby sibling on the way, spunky eight-year-old Cilla will make sure her family can’t forget about her. She vows to become a famous bestselling memoirist before the baby arrives. Being both Chinese and Caucasian is an essential part of Cilla’s family and her life story. Sincerely touching and irresistibly funny, this is the first book in an excellent three-part series.

Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes by Booki Vivat

Abbie has big plans for the school year, such as running for class president. She’s also thrilled to have her own shiny new locker – that is, until she finds out she has to share it with someone else. Follow the frazzled life of Abbie Wu as she navigates the hazards of middle school in this fast-paced title filled with adventures and doodles.

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung

Chloe Cho has always wondered why her parents will NEVER talk about their lives in Korea before moving to the United States. Other people’s parents are thrilled when their kids ask questions about their lives, but Chloe’s parents just dodge and change the subject. As Chloe enters seventh grade, she is excited to learn that she will have a Korean American teacher who can finally help her learn more about her heritage, but what she learns is VERY different from what she imagined, leading to a whole different set of questions.

The cover of You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins depicts a woman dancer in muted pastel colors.  The cover of Frankly in Love by David Yoon is in stylized letters in shades of green, blue, and turquoise against a yellow background.  The cover of Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay shows a character in a black shirt against a peach background, with flames behind him and erupting from his two outstretched hands.  The cover of The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen depicts the main character, Tiến, wearing an oversized bomber jacket and holding a book that he is reading, against a background of a mermaid-like fairy tale character.  The cover of Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed depicts a girl against a pink floral background, holding a camera and pointing it at the viewer as she looks through the lens.  The cover of Almost American Girl by Robin Ha depicts the title character, a teenage Korean girl, walking into a classroom and holding books, turning back to look at the viewer, with students in desks all face-forward and looking at her.

For Teens:

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook on Libby/OverDrive)

Frank Li is a high school senior trying to balance his parents’ expectations of him as a first-generation Korean American, and their racism, with his own dreams and desires. He sets up an elaborate plan to start dating a white girl without his parents knowing but ends up finding his heart pulling him in a different direction. As he faces unexpected obstacles, Frank must figure out what is most important to him and how he can best help all those he loves.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (also available as an eBook on Libby/OverDrive)

Jay is preparing to graduate high school and attend the University of Michigan in the fall, but his plans take a turn when he learns that his Filipino cousin Jun was killed as part of the president’s war on drugs. With his family refusing to discuss what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines himself to find out the truth. In this captivating story, Jay has to work through more than he expected to find the full truth and his own peace.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook on OverDrive, and as an audiobook on CD)

In this sweeping novel, author Mitali Perkins draws on her own experiences as an immigrant to the United States to give readers a look into the life of one family across generations. Hear from alternating narrators in the Das family as they experience defining moments during their adolescences, spanning decades and continents. Each woman brings her own views and strengths to the story as she works to find her way through the challenges that face her.

The cover of They Called Us Enemy by George Takei shows young George in line behind his parents at a Japanese-American concentration camp during World War II, with a fence and an armed guard in the distance.  The cover of The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo shows a woman in elegant dress, lying on her side with her arm outstretched in front of her, with magenta flowers, green leaves, and glistening gold stars creating a muted, magical effect in the foreground.  The cover of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See shows a girl peering through several branches in the foreground of the picture, all in shades of orange and green.  The cover of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a black and white photograph of one person embracing another from behind.  The cover of L.A. Son:  My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi shows the author in an L.A. baseball cap, with newspapers plastering the walls behind him, pointing at the title of the book.  The cover of All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung shows a brown branch with four white blossoms against a purple background, with the branch weaving through the white lettering of the title.

For Adults:

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook on CloudLibrary, and an eBook and an eAudiobook on Libby/OverDrive)

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a moving title about class, race, love, and the power of storytelling. Written in the form of a letter to his illiterate mom, Little Dog – our speaker – recounts his family’s history from before he was born, using it as a gateway to expose parts of his own life that his mother has never known. With a stunning rawness and grace to its prose, this is an intimate, striking portrait of the Vietnamese immigrant experience.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

In the Chinese community of 1890s Malaya, Li Lan, the 17-year-old daughter of a struggling merchant, accepts an offer from the wealthy Lim family to become a ghost bride to their recently deceased son, ensuring her a future of comfort and respect as the widow of a man she never knew. What she expects to be her uneventful new life takes an unexpected turn as she finds herself haunted by her ghost husband and drawn into the land of the dead. Hunted by vengeful spirits and assisted by creatures of legend, Li Lan must solve the mystery of her husband’s death and find her way back to the land of the living. By weaving together both history and mythology, Choo creates an enchanting and atmospheric fantasy adventure.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (also available as an eBook on OverDrive)

They Called Us Enemy is a graphic novel memoir written by famed Star Trek actor George Takei. Detailing his family’s internment during WW2, it explores the tough choices made by his parents during this dark time of sanctioned racism. Though he was just a child at the time, Mr. Takei’s insights explore his feelings of betrayal and injustice during this harsh chapter of American history.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. Our staff are always happy to help you with your questions about books, tools, technology, and more!

Explore Nature with April #ELKReads

Spring is here! Temperatures are warming, plants are budding and blooming, and animals are reemerging – including creepy crawlies that we might be less than enthusiastic to greet. As you welcome the change of seasons, here are some reads that celebrate the natural world. Take a look below to find titles for all ages, and keep an eye on our social media to see additional suggestions for each age group.

A colorful collage of "Nature PIcks for Little Kids" with purple mountains in the background. Titles include: 
Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson whose cover features bright flowers and red type.
Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez, which shows a boy in a green shirt and blue pants standing with arms outstretched in front of a tree.
Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal shows a mother and child paddling along water and the rocks, reeds and fish under them.
The Invisible Garden by Valérie Picard and Marianne Ferrer has lush greenery enclosing a small girl in a blue dress.
What Does Bunny See? by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Maggie Smith features a a small brown bunny in a colorful field.
Gator, Gator, Gator! by Daniel Bernstrom and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon has clear crisp painting of a girl with binoculars in a boat in a bayou.
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For Little Kids:

What Does Bunny See? A Book of Colors and Flowers by Linda Sue Park, pictures by Maggie Smith

A rabbit explores a garden and finds flowers of every color, before hopping home for a nap and dreams of rainbows. Rhyming clues invite the reader to answer the question: What does bunny see? 

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Also available as an eBook.

Join your little one in discovering all the amazing creatures that live in the unique ecosystem of a mountain pond. As a boy and his mother paddle across the pond, they discover the interconnected nature of the creatures that call the pond home. Turn the pages to the end of the story to read facts about all the animals you see.

Call Me Tree = Llámame árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Come balance, sway, sing, and stretch along with children imagining what it’s like to be a tree. Bright, colorful pictures show children of different backgrounds learning to embrace nature, each other, and themselves. The fun, singsong text is full of sweet affirmations written in both Spanish and English.

A colorful collage of "Nature PIcks for Big Kids" with purple mountains in the background. Titles include:
Wild in the Streets by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Gordy Wright, which features a monkey with a juvenile on her back with a city in the background.
Love, the Tiger by Frédéric Brrémaud art by Federico Bertolucci shows a leaping, snarling tiger in full color.
Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen has the title encircled by leaves and a child centered at the bottom holding a white flower.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman features a grid of six squares with pictures of a Black man, a pticher, and a young white woman in the top row; and an eggplant, an older white woman, and a jumprope in the bottom row.
One Well by Rochelle Strauss's cover features a coastline next to a rich blue sea.
Extinct by Lucas Riera has a collage of extinct and endangered animals on a pale yellow cover.

For Big Kids:

Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared by Lucas Riera

Explore the gorgeous illustrations in this volume filled with information about the species that have vanished over the last century. Along with the tragic stories of how many of these species have been lost to the world, this book also shares inspiring tales of species that were rediscovered and some that were successfully reintroduced into the wild.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. Also available in eBook and eAudiobook format.

A vacant lot in inner-city Cleveland, Ohio brings together a community in unexpected ways in this classic tale. Follow the stories of 13 diverse residents as they discover the power of gardening and working together to heal and make change.

Wild in the Streets by Marilyn Singer

This richly illustrated book combines poems with the fascinating backstories of 20 animals who’ve figured out how to thrive in cities. From reticulated pythons in Singapore’s sewer system to coyotes in Chicago, discover why these animals came to be such close neighbors with humans. At the end of the book, enjoy bonus pages on poetry forms and resources to learn more about these clever creatures.

A colorful collage of "Nature PIcks for Teens" with purple mountains in the background. Titles include:
Zen and Gone by Emily France's cover is deep blue with orange, yellow, and aqua stylized trees.
I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall has a stark black and white cover with a pen/ink drawing of pine trees.
Feral Youth by various authors (Shaun David Hutchinson + 9 others) shows legs walking beside a puddle, reflected in the water, in watery blues and black.
Consider the Platypus by Maggie Ryan Sandford has a deep teal cover with a white circle from which a platypus emerges.
Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo shows a girl in a parka and a pointe shoes, with glaciers in the background, on a medium blue background.
Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki features the manga illustration of a red-haired girl in rappelling harness.

For Teens:

Consider the Platypus: Evolution through Biology’s Most Baffling Beasts by Maggie Ryan Sandford, illustrated by Rodica Prato 

This beautiful nonfiction volume explores some of the quirkiest creatures you can find, along with more common animal companions and friends. Beginning with Darwin’s theory of evolution, the author also explains how advances in scientific knowledge, especially genetics, have expanded our understanding of how animals became their current selves.

Feral Youth

This multi-authored novel tells the story of ten teens left alone in the wilderness for a three-day survival test. The diverse group of troubled teens have to overcome their vast differences to survive in the wild with no readily available food or water, just the packs on their backs.

Zen and Gone by Emily France. Also available as an eAudiobook.

When Oliver takes a summer trip from the bustling city of Chicago to Boulder, Colorado, he experiences a bit of a culture shock. There he meets Essa, a nature-loving girl who plays wilderness survival games with her friends. The two begin to explore Buddhism and meditation at the local Zendo. When one of their survival games goes wrong, the two have to rely on their newfound spiritual strength if they are to save Essa’s sister, Puck, and survive the trip themselves.

A colorful collage of "Nature Picks for Adults" with purple mountains in the background. Titles include:
Down from the Mountain by Bryce Andrews has a rim-lit sihouette of a grizzly bear against a black ground.
The Overstory by Richard Powers shows a painting of a stand of trees, with an inset circle of the same picture smaller.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson has a the snout and ears of a brown bear peeking up from the bottom of the cover with green woods behind it.
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
has an old-fashioned typographical cover in greens and golds.
Gardenista by Michelle Slatalla shows the photo of a lush green garden on a misty morning.
Garden Renovation by Bobbie Schwartz features the photo of someone in an apron and gloves standing about potted decorative trees.

For Adults: 

Down from the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear by Bryce Andrews. Also available in eBook and eAudiobook format.

In Montana’s Mission mountains, conservationist and rancher Bryce Andrews watches a young grizzly bear be tagged with a GPS collar. As the seasons pass, he tracks her through forests, cornfields, and cattle ranches as she struggles to feed herself (and later her two cubs) from a wilderness increasingly fractured by human use, while he works with farmers, hunters, and Native organizations to protect the bears. Tensions rise as bear encounters with humans and their property become more frequent and destructive, and, as a series of tragic events unfolds, Andrews eloquently wonders what can be done to find balance between these two species. While deeply personal and rooted firmly in the landscapes and culture of the American West, this story is also emblematic of global struggles where habitat loss is pushing wildlife into ever closer proximity with human settlements.

Garden Renovation: Transform Your Yard into the Garden of your Dreams by Bobbie Schwartz

Spring is upon us, and maybe you want to venture into the yard and get ready for outdoor living! In Garden Renovation, you’ll find practical do-it-yourself plans to build or re-build your garden environment. Like many gardening and outdoor project books, the beautiful pictures are just as much fun to look at and dream over as they are instructive. If you decide to take on a project, don’t forget the DIY Education Center can help!

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Also available as an eBook, eAudiobooks on OverDrive or CloudLibraryaudiobook on CD, and as a Playaway.

If you’re not familiar with this humorous author, you are in luck, because we own many of his fantastic books. In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson recounts his discovery of and attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail. In this book, you are not inspired by the story of a very fit hiker doing the entire trail from Maine to Georgia in record time, but rather laugh along with the story of an average middle-aged person and his old friend hiking and discovering together. While very funny, Bryson also weaves interesting trail history and social commentary into his tale. I always recall his comments on how few people walk in the woods, and how, after days in the woods, the modern world seems harsh, especially for those on foot. Robert Redford produced and starred as Bryson in the film adaptation, available on DVD

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. Our staff are always happy to help you with your questions about books, tools, technology, and more!

Slay by Brittney Morris

A slightly pixelated picture of a young Black woman with long natural hair and glasses features the quote, "I am a queen and this is my game."

by Eliana H.

“We meet at dawn.” Characters in the online virtual role-playing game Slay confirm duels with that line. In Slay, author Brittney Morris builds two worlds. She shows us the real-life world of high school senior Kiera Johnson, one of the only Black students at Jefferson Academy. We also get a glimpse inside the world of Slay, a video game that Kiera built from the ground up to celebrate Black cultures from around the world. In the game, Kiera is Emerald, a queen who cares for the tens of thousands of players, who use cards inspired by everything from Louis Armstrong to natural hairstyles to battle virtually. But the game Slay is a secret from everyone in Kiera’s real life, as she is confident that none of her friends or family would really understand and appreciate it. The only person Kiera can talk to about the game is Cicada, a friend she met through the game who is now a moderator, but Cicada and Emerald only exchange messages on Whatsapp and don’t know each other’s real names or locations. 

Kiera is preparing to graduate high school, looking ahead to her life in college and beyond, and planning for her future with her boyfriend, Malcolm. She is doing pretty well handling the stress of keeping her worlds separate, until one day when she sees on the news that a boy in Kansas City was killed in his sleep over a disagreement based in Slay. Kiera is devastated, tortured by the guilt she feels that what she created could lead to such a horrific event. Was it her fault? Adding to her distress is the analysis from pundits discussing whether Slay – which is designed specifically for Black players, and which you need a passcode to join – is racist. Of course, many “experts” declare that anything made for Black people and not explicitly welcoming white people is inherently racist. But all Kiera wanted was a place where others like her, who so often find themselves in a world trying to erase them, could shine as the kings and queens that they are. 

Over the course of the book, readers see snippets of other players’ experiences and journey with Kiera through her struggles to face the hard truth of who is threatening to destroy everything she worked so hard to build. 

Slay is also available from HCLS as an ebook through OverDrive/Libby.

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).