Celebrate Black History Month with #ELKReads

by HCLS Elkridge staff

Black History Month has been observed during February in the United States since 1976, when it was first officially recognized by President Gerald Ford. Ford invited Americans to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” We invite you to join us in celebrating the talent of Black authors and honoring the history of Black Americans by taking a look at some of the titles selected below. You can find more on our website.

A collage of five titles. My Hair is a Garden features a young Black with hair flowing up from the top of her heard. I Am Perfectly Design has an illustration of a man and young boy seated on a park bench with people walking behind them. Child of the Civil Rights Movement shows a young girl in a blue dress holding a rainbow flag. Dream Big, Little One show rounded illustration of three Black women dressed for different professions. The King of Kindergarten has a pale green background and an oval shaped medallion with the portrait of a small child wearing a crown.

My Hair Is a Garden written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

When young MacKenzie is teased about her hair, she turns to her neighbor. Miss Tillie lavishes her with an abundance of wisdom, encouragement, and practical care that empowers the girl to take care of herself with love and skill. Like the beautiful garden Miss Tillie cultivates in her yard, MacKenzie’s beautiful Black hair is tended with love. The appreciation of self-care grows to an inspiring and powerful message of self-love. An afterword provides many specific techniques and recipes for caring for Black hair. 

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. Also available as a Voxbook.

Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board: he’s finished his swimming lessons, passed his swim test, and is a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for. 

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colón 

Author Paula Young Shelton, daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young, brings you along to her childhood experiences in Georgia during Jim Crow, in the heart of the civil rights movement. Shelton shares vivid memories of swimming with Martin Luther King Jr. and marching from Selma to Montgomery. Connect with your little one as you read this moving and poignant picture book. 

Collage of five titles. Young, Gift, and Black has a bright yellow background with green, red, and white decorations and two busts of Black men. Some Places More than Others shows a woman with a ponytail and a scarf walking trough a city. The Fierce 44 has a blue background and a handwritten list of the 44 people featured in the book. The Harlen Charade has the title on a sheet on a laundry line outside of fire escape. Ghost has a bright yellow cover, almost empty except for the the fi

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson

With a title that references the late Lorraine Hansberry’s phrase “young, gifted and black,” this exuberant collected biography is one readers won’t want to miss. Children are invited to explore one- and two-page vignettes of compelling figures in Black culture worldwide. Discover how their childhood dreams and experiences influenced their adult achievements. This book inspires the next generation to chase their dreams! 

The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World by the staff of The Undefeated

Get to know 44 of America’s most impressive heroes with this engrossing and beautifully illustrated collection of mini-biographies. With notable figures such as musician Jimi Hendrix and gymnast Simone Biles, and somewhat lesser-known figures like newspaper publisher Robert Abbott and dancer Alvin Ailey, this book exposes you to the brief histories of both household names and little-known heroes who influenced the world. 

Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson. Also available as an eBook.

For her twelfth birthday, small-town girl Amara gets her wish to visit her father’s side of the family for the first time in Harlem, New York City. Looking for roots to her personal heritage as well as Black culture, Amara is surprised by how overwhelming it all is at first. Through earnest and heartfelt exploration, the help of her loving family, and a school assignment to gather family history, she comes to understand more about herself than she had imagined. Love, forgiveness, and connection shine through in this tender and moving coming-of-age story. 

Collage of five titles. The Black Kids features a Black face wearing sunglasses reflecting a tropical scene. A Phoenix First Must Burn shows the title overlaid a girl with a swirling pink dress. Black Enough features a Black woman and White Man in dialogue. Crossing Ebenezer Creek lays the title in the green and white water of a creek under a full moon, with two figures standing on the far shore holding hands. The Forgotten Girl shows a Black girl with her hair down and curly wearing a white shift dress.

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tanya Bolden. Also available as an eBook.

An astounding work of historical fiction, this book is heartbreaking and graphically authentic in its depiction of violence. Following the burning of Atlanta in 1864, teenage Caleb, a pontooner in Sherman’s army, finds Mariah, an enslaved young woman, searching for rations in an abandoned slave labor camp. She and others join Sherman’s march. As Caleb and Mariah begin to dream of a better future, the horrific true events of the Massacre at Ebenezer Creek unfold. For ages 12+. 

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi. Also available as an eAudiobook.

This contemporary fiction anthology examines the different experiences of Black youth in America. Some of the best Black young adult authors explore a spectrum of the intersectionality of wealth, status, LGBT+, class, rural/urban/suburban, and immigration that impact and represent Black youth today.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

A coming-of-age story, this book filters issues of systemic racism, class, generational mental health, privilege, and racial justice through the perspective of Ashley Bennett, a wealthy, Black teenager attending a predominantly white school. When graphic video evidence of Rodney King’s horrific beating by the LAPD goes viral and the riots following the officers’ lack of accountability, Ashley goes on a personal journey of growth and identity and awareness.

A collage of five books. Another Country emphasizes the author's name against a black background. How Long "Til Black Future Month features a Black woman in profile with her hair up and adorned with roses. The Home Place provides the perspective of looking up at a blue sky and bare branches. Homegoing has a an orange background with illustrations of waves and two overlapping profiles of Black women. Glory Over Everything shows a painting of a wman and a shcild standing in a field, with the illustration of robin in the foreground.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin. Also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook.

This collection of short stories is a wonderful introduction to one of the most innovative and celebrated authors of science fiction and fantasy writing today. Jemisin is unafraid to use her work to explore themes of trauma, prejudice, and oppression, while also creating richly-imagined worlds and unforgettable characters, whose voices have been missing from speculative fiction for far too long. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Also available as an eBook on OverDrive and on CloudLibrary, plus as an audiobook on CD and an eAudiobook on OverDrive.

Reading historical fiction is a great way to immerse yourself in a life different from yours. Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing offers a deep look into the effects of imperialism and enslavement, and considers how the long shadows of their repercussions affect individuals and their families. Generation after generation of two half-sisters’ descendants guide us through the long-lasting consequences of systemic and systematic racism on separate continents an ocean apart.

Another Country by James Baldwin

I’d implore everyone to read anything – and everything – by James Baldwin, whom some have called America’s George Orwell. Perhaps it’s because of his contemplative and introspective essay style, but I think it refers to him as a political and social artist. My understanding is that the title refers to Baldwin’s wish for another country where one’s race or sexual preference aren’t defining characteristics, but sadly, this book is very much about this country. Another Country presents an engaging, well-crafted story about the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in the 1950s, well before most authors thought so broadly. Art, such as excellent fiction with characters everyone can relate to in some way, is a great way to explore these concepts.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.

Stay Cozy with Elkridge – for kids

The picture depicts a boy sitting in a recliner with a fuzzy orange blanket over his lap, reading a book.

By Elkridge Branch staff

Winter is a great time to curl up with a cozy read. Cold and sometimes dreary weather begs for a blanket, a hot drink, and a fire. This month, the Elkridge branch staff members have collected a list of titles to encourage you to Stay Cozy! Keep an eye on the HCLS Facebook page to see titles for all ages highlighted throughout January, and make sure to track titles for the Winter Reading Challenge. Here are just a few of those titles. 

FOR LITTLE ONES:

Stormy Night written and illustrated by Salina Yoon
Bear is frightened by a storm, but singing to his toy, Floppy the bunny, and being with his parents helps comfort him. When the storm is over, he falls asleep. Share this story to help your youngest friends and family members understand that it’s normal to be scared, but we can find comfort in the familiar and move past those feelings. 

A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba, illustrated by Alea Marley
Join two friends as they explore and uncover the colors that can be found all around them on a seemingly gray, dreary, snowy day. Wonderful illustrations bring Marie Lamba’s words to life as as you discover different pops of color on every page. 

Shhh! This Book is Sleeping by Cédric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau
Instead of getting cozy with a good book, this time help a good book get cozy. Shhh! This Book is Sleeping is a fun way to help children feel more involved in their bedtime routine. The book’s cute facial expressions make this story charming and delightful.

My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat
For anytime we’re feeling down or not-so-well, this sweet book is full of ways to comfort each other. With bright illustrations, a young girl tells us about the yummy, playful, loving things her mother does to help her feel better. Whether you see some favorites or discover creative new ideas, this soothing hug of a story is sure to give warm fuzzies.

FOR BIGGER KIDS: 

You’re Snug With Me by Chitra Soundar
Cuddle up for this tender story of reassurances from mother polar bear to her dear little cubs as they wonder about growing up and setting forth from their cozy winter den. With warmth and wisdom, Mama gently guides her curious cubs to know and care for the awe-inspiring natural world. The intricate illustrations are mesmerizing and sure to inspire just as much wonder.

Winterhouse by Ben Gunterson – also available as an eaudiobook on OverDrive
Elizabeth Somers is sent to live at the Winterhouse Hotel by her unpleasant aunt and uncle. In the hotel’s vast library, she discovers a magical book of puzzles that will unlock the secrets of the hotel and the sinister family that owns the property. The first book in a trilogy, Winterhouse is filled with mystery, adventure, and a sharp cast of characters. 

Cool Knitting for Kids: A Fun and Creative Introduction to Fiber Art by Alex Kuskowski
A great book for beginning knitters with an abundance of pictures and step-by-step instructions. This book teaches the basic skills needed to craft with yarn, and shows you how to create hand-dyed yarn to get any color you need. Children can learn to knit scarf and mittens – perfect for keeping cozy during the chilly winter months. 

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue – also available as an audiobook on CD
Jump into the Lottery family’s cozy household in this fun story. Four parents, seven kids, and five pets are unexpectedly joined by a surly grandfather who isn’t used to the way their home operates. He has never been a part of the children’s lives, after being estranged from his son years ago, and the whole family has a lot of adjusting to do. Nine-year-old Sumac, in particular, has to give up her room to this new addition and is not happy about his arrival. Can she help him find a home where he belongs? 

The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen – also available as an ebook on OverDrive 
Want to make your own soft pretzels or a showstopping pie? Or wow your friends with homemade empanadas? During winter, you can make some delicious snacks and bring a touch of warmth to family and friends. From breakfast to breads, from cookies to cakes (yes, even cupcakes!), learn to bake it all here. You can do this, and it’s fun! 

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.

Looking for Something New to Read?

Woman in silhouette against green sunny background, look at a book in her hands.
Contactless Pickup at HCLS Glenwood Branch.

By Eliana H.

Do you sometimes wonder what to read next? But now it’s even more difficult because our buildings aren’t open for browsing the stacks? Sometimes I take calls from customers with just those sorts of questions. I and other library staff are always happy to help our community find a good book, but I will admit that it’s not always easy to find the right book. Thankfully, we have NoveList, a tool that can help us answer those “what should I read” questions.

NoveList icon with a person reading a book while sitting in a tree with a orange background.

The great part is YOU can access that tool also! On our Research Tools page, click Book Recommendations, then NoveList, and you’ll find yourself on a Remote Authentication page where you need to enter your library card barcode and PIN (if you’re not sure what these are, visit My Account and use the links below the boxes to have your information emailed to you).

Now, you are inside the treasure trove that is NoveList. Choose from highlighted themes and styles, browse genres by age range, or check out a Recommended Reads List. If you have something specific that you want to match, enter it in the search bar and explore title or author read-alikes.  Maybe you have read all of the books Louise Penny has written, but you’re looking for something that has a similar feel to the Inspector Gamache mysteries. If you enter her name in the search bar, you can choose Title Read-alikes, Author Read-alikes, or Series Read-alikes below any of the books from that series that come up in your results list. Considering any of the “Read-alike” options shows you a list with a brief explanation of what the two items have in common. 

While you’re in NoveList, preview some of the “Recommended Reads Lists” in the left-hand panel. These are fixtures, but staff at NoveList update them periodically. For instance, right now there’s a “Reading During Pandemic” category. Each of the categories has several sub-categories before you get to the actual list. For instance, if you click on “Reading During Pandemic,” you will see “Quarantine Reads: Cozy and Gentle Stories,” “Quarantine Reads: Fast-paced Thrillers,” “Quarantine Reads: Heartwarming Reads,” and “Quarantine Reads: Pandemic Apocalypse Fiction.” You will obviously see very different options across those categories!

Screenshot from within NoveList.

One thing to note is the “Check Availability” button that appears at the bottom of the listing for a title. Unfortunately, HCLS does not own every title listed in NoveList. You can use “Check Availability” to see if we do own it, though, and how many copies are on the shelf. The listing within NoveList only includes print and ebook formats, but you can search in our catalog to see audiobook (including eAudio) options. If you find a listing you want to read that says “Not owned by this library,” you can always take a look in Interlibrary Loan or suggest we add the title to our collection via the purchase suggestion option on our website.

I hope you take the time to explore NoveList and find some great titles to enjoy. Feel free to leave some of your own recommendations for fellow readers in the comments!

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).

Happy Chanukah!

The photograph depicts a tabletop menorah with nine lit candles in primary colors.
Eighth day of Chanukah menorah” by scazon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Eliana H.

Most people in the United States have heard of Chanukah. Though there are about six different accepted spellings for the holiday, “Chanukah” has always been my preference and that’s what I’m going with here. You may know it is the festival of lights. Many even know the tale of the oil that was only enough for one day miraculously lasting for eight days. Growing up, I always learned that while the oil was a fun story, the true triumph of Chanukah was that a small band of resistance fighters defeated a larger, more well-equipped military force. My family celebrates by playing dreidel, cooking and eating latkes, and, of course, lighting the candles. Although we exchange gifts, I’ve never felt like that is the most important part.

While Chanukah is not among the most sacred Jewish holidays, it is a time of joyous celebration, and we certainly want to take advantage of every opportunity for that during this challenging year. If you’re looking to introduce your child to some Chanukah-themed stories, take a look at these titles from the HCLS collection. Clicking on any of the titles below will open a tab with that title listing in our catalog.

Chanukah with Your Favorite Characters: Many familiar children’s book characters have a book in which they celebrate Chanukah. Here are a few of those titles.

Biscuit’s Hanukkah, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli – BOARD BOOK C

Happy Hanukkah, Biscuit!, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli – E CAP

Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah, by Norman Bridwell – E BRI

Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy, by Lisa McCue – BOARD BOOK M

The Count’s Hanukkah Countdown, by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer – MEDIA TIE-IN

Happy Hanukkah, Curious George, by Emily Flaschner Meyer – BOARD BOOK M

Happy Hanukkah, Dear Dragon, by Margaret Hillert – ER HIL

You might know Dear Dragon from the expansive series by Margaret Hillert. In this volume, a boy and his pet dragon learn about Chanukah from a Jewish friend.

Grover’s Eight Nights of Light, by Jodie Shepherd – MEDIA TIE-IN

Fables and Folk Tales Related to Chanukah: While not telling the historical tale that is celebrated on Chanukah, these stories show characters overcoming obstacles to celebrate Chanukah.

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat, by Naomi Howland – E HOW

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat provides a twist on the traditional magic pot story. A young girl is rewarded for a good deed with a magic pan that cooks up latkes (potato pancakes) on command, but when her younger brothers can’t remember the words to make it stop, they end up with more than they expected.

The Golem’s Latkes, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

Hanukkah Bear, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

Simon and the Bear, by Eric A. Kimmel – E KIM

A Confused Hanukkah: An Original Story of Chelm, by Jon Koons – E KOO

Moishe’s Miracle, by Laura Krauss Melmed – E MEL – also available as an ebook through OverDrive

Celebrating Together: These stories focus on families of all kinds celebrating Chanukah together.

Hanukkah Moon, by Deborah da Costa – E DaC – also available as an ebook through OverDrive

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas, by Pamela Ehrenberg – E EHR

This volume shows readers a way that families of different backgrounds can combine their traditions into meaningful celebrations for everyone. While dealing with what may be a familiar sibling interaction to many, the main characters honor both their father’s Jewish and their mother’s East Indian heritage.

Kugel for Hanukkah?, by Gretchen M. Everin – E EVE

Jeremy’s Dreidel, by Ellie Gellman – E GEL

Hoppy Hanukkah!, by Linda Glaser – E GLA

The Hanukkah Mice, by Steven Kroll – E KRO

Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig – E LEH

This Is the Dreidel, by Abby Levine – E LEV

The Night Before Hanukkah, by Natasha Wing – E WIN

The Eighth Menorah, by Lauren Wohl – E WOH

Chanukah in History: Each of these books shows how Chanukah was celebrated by someone at a particular point in the past.

One Candle, by Eve Bunting – E BUN

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins – E JEN

I remember reading books about the All-of-a-Kind Family growing up, so I was excited to see this picture book arrive on our shelves. A Jewish immigrant family living in the tenements of New York City in 1912 celebrates Chanukah together, with interactions that feel familiar even today.

Hanukkah at Valley Forge, by Stephen Krensky – E KRE

Oskar and the Eight Blessings, by Richard and Tanya Simon – E SIM

Chanukah Nonfiction: Check out these books for more facts about Chanukah, its history, and how it’s celebrated.

The Story of Hanukkah, by David A. Adler – Childrens 296.435A

Celebrate Hanukkah, by Deborah Heiligman – Childrens 296.435H

Hanukkah, by Lisa M. Herrington – Childrens 296.435H

Light the Menorah!: A Hanukkah Handbook, by Jacqueline Jules – Childrens 296.435J

Hanukkah Around the World, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig – Childrens 296.435L

Maccabee Meals: Food and Fun for Hanukkah, by Judyth Saypol Groner – Childrens 641.567G

Hanukkah, by Trudi Strain Trueit – ER TRU

Harvest of Light, by Allison Ofanansky – E OFA

Even though this title is in our picture book collection, it walks readers through the step of preparing olive oil to light in an old-fashioned Chanukah menorah, from beginning to end. Follow a young Israeli girl as she watches the olives grow and helps her family harvest them before finally lighting some of the oil on the first night of Chanukah.

Howard County hosts a community Chanukah candlelighting every year. This year, due to safety concerns, the event will be virtual. It will take place on December 14 at 7 pm. If you’d like to join from the comfort of your own home, register at https://www.jewishhowardcounty.org/calendar/chanukah-menorah-lighting. Happy Chanukah!

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 Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

The book cover depicts someone tearing through the pages of a book as if through a curtain, with a dark abyss behind and a bare arm reaching from inside the book.

By Eliana H.

“Hell is a series of hallways.” I think I can believe that. In The Library of the Unwritten, author A.J. Hackwith imagines not only Hell, but a variety of realms of the afterlife, down to the bureaucracy that governs them.

Claire Hadley has been Hell’s Librarian for a few decades now. She runs the Unwritten Wing, home to all of the stories that authors never actually wrote. Brevity, Claire’s assistant, is a former muse, and the two are joined by a demon, Leto, as they set off to retrieve a character who has escaped from his book and made his way to earth to seek his author. As they are ready to return to the Library, an angel shows up, expecting them to have a completely different book – the Devil’s Bible. 

Before they know it, Claire, Brevity, Leto, and Hero find themselves on an adventure to try to avert war between Heaven and Hell. They know such a battle would spell disaster for the humans who would be caught in the middle. In the end, all of the library’s resources will be needed to defend against those who would harm it. 

Hackwith does a beautiful job describing the worlds they travel through as we learn more about the intriguing cast of characters, none of whom are quite what they seem. She also demonstrates the politics of the different domains. 

This book was refreshing in the way it tied different beliefs and mythologies into an original premise with unique characters. I was captivated throughout. The journal entry or two from librarians through the ages beginning each chapter, which hinted at some of the challenges they faced in previous eras, were a helpful touch. This is the first book in a new series, so I look forward to learning more about the past – both Claire’s and the library’s – as well as further adventures to come.

The Library of the Unwritten is available from HCLS in print and also as an eaudiobook 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).