Turtle in Paradise, originally a children’s book, was published as a lovely graphic novel last year. This story by Jennifer L. Holm works wonderfully for children and teens who may be having trouble reading fiction but find graphic novels and pictures easier to comprehend and follow.
The story follows an 11-year-old girl named Turtle who suddenly has to move to Key West, Florida to live with her aunt. All is going smoothly until she reaches the residence and realizes she is not welcomed with open arms. Although she adjusts to the next few weeks there with her cousins, their weird friends, and jobs, and becomes accustomed to the strange nicknames for everything in the area, Turtle still cannot wait to go home.
If you like a quick read that grabs your heart strings and keeps you immersed, this delightful story has the words and visuals to do just that. Find out how Turtle learns to grow and get along with her aunt and cousins. Take a look at her mother’s love interest and how that affects Turtle and the family. Discover the story behind a pirate and his lost treasure… and what does that have to do with Turtle?
Answer all these questions and more with this riveting tale. For those who would prefer the fiction copy, it might be fun to contrast the differences between the formats. Graphic novels are a good way to incorporate reading and learning with your children, families, or even on your own.
I am excited to be able to host my favorite author at Central Branch on Friday, August 19 at 3 pm and to have the opportunity to celebrate her extensive career. She is a fan favorite, a kid favorite, and my favorite! Over the years, many students have been captivated by the stories she creates, the worlds she builds, and the magic in her words. Mary Downing Hahn thoughtfully weaves ghosts, history, and local places into her books.
As an awkward, homeschooled seventh grader I would hardly have called myself a reader. Far from it, in fact! I enjoyed looking at books, but to be honest I can name only a few that ever stood out to me as a child. While visiting the old Miller Branch, I found a book called The Wind Blows Backward by Mary Downing Hahn. Many of you probably know Mary Downing Hahn for her incredibly popular ghost stories such as Wait Till Helen Comes, Deep and Dark and Dangerous, and Took (also in graphic format), but I first fell in love with her realistic fiction. I devoured her adventures like The Spanish Kidnapping Disaster and mysteries such as The Dead Man in Indian Creek.
At some point, I tried one of Mary Downing Hahn ghost stories, Time for Andrew, and immediately bought my first bag of marbles. I quickly followed that with one of her most popular books, Wait Till Helen Comes, about a young girl at odds with her new step-siblings, a farmhouse complete with a backyard graveyard, and the ghost of a young girl named Helen.
Mary began her career as an illustrator and a children’s librarian before, thankfully, directing her sights on writing children’s books. Her first book was published in 1979 and she has authored dozens of books since then. Most known for her ghost stories, she doesn’t shy away from writing genuinely scary books for children, and they love her for it! Notably, she has won more than 50 child-voted state awards for her work.
I love reading her stories and recognizing the locations where they took place. Mary Downing Hahn is the author of the first book I loved and many more that followed. She is a valued author, a local favorite and she is, without a doubt, the reason that I read.
Julie is the teen instructor and research specialist at Central Branch.
Books can take you anywhere – you can discover all kinds of places and people from the comfort of home. But books can also lead you OUT into real life adventures. This summer, check out some of these children’s books with local connections then take a family excursion to live it yourself!
Interested in ingenuity? For an adventure in Howard County’s backyard, read TickTock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller. Learn about the African American colonial scientist Benjamin Banneker, then explore the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park in Oella. Tour his restored colonial cabin and gardens, hike woodland trails, and participate in fun summer programs with nature and colonial history themes.
Fascinated by famous faces? Read Parker Looks Up by Parker and Jessica Curry. Visit the National Portrait Gallery to see the portrait of Michelle Obama for yourself, as well as those of many other interesting Americans of the past and present.
Seeking sports glory? One of baseball’s legends, Babe Ruth, grew up in Baltimore. Explore his childhood story and how he was introduced to the game – you may be surprised! – with the book Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares. Then visit the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, or go to a baseball game at Camden Yards or Bowie.
Intrigued by history’s mysteries? Take a drive to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and you’ll find the quaint waterfront town of St. Michael’s. Before your visit, check out the picture book by Lisa Papp, The Town that Fooled the British: A War of 1812 Story, to uncover the clever trick that saved St. Michael’s from destruction 200 years ago.
For the ambitious, a trip to Jamestown, Virginia could be like a true crime investigation when combined with the award-winning nonfiction book, Written in Bone by Sally M. Walker. This fascinating (and sometimes gruesome) account shows how forensic scientists are studying skeletons found in Jamestown’s colonial ruins to decipher exactly who these bones belonged to, how they lived, and how they died.
Jean B. is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch and loves reading books for all ages when she isn’t enjoying the outdoors.
Sugar in Milkby Thrity Umrigar, illustrated by Khoa Le, immediately touched my heart because the title reminded me of my dad. My father was a Filipino immigrant who left everything behind and made a life on the U.S. territory of Guam. We lived that first/second generation immigrant life in the Marianas. IYKYK. Dad had quite the sweet tooth. He would always put a spoonful of sugar into a mug of milk and drink it. Needless to say, it took me a while to stomach plain milk without a little bit of sugar.
In this story, a young girl immigrates stateside to live with her Auntie and Uncle. She feels lonely and misses her family and friends back home and just doesn’t feel like she belongs. Her Auntie takes her for a walk one day and tells her a story about a man who leads a group of people forced from their homes in the ancient land of Persia.
They build boats, cross the sea, and end up at the shores of India, seeking refuge from the king. Unfortunately, the king doesn’t think he can help. He reasons that he doesn’t know anything about these folks. They look different and speak a language he can’t understand, and he believes his kingdom is already crowded. The king goes to the seashore to make the refugees leave. And because they do not speak the same language, the king attempts to communicate that there is no room in his kingdom by filling a cup to the brim with milk. The leader of the Persians responds by carefully stirring in a spoonful of sugar from his sack. This illustrates a promise that their people would live peacefully together and would “sweeten” the lives of those in the kingdom. The king is delighted by this spoonful of sugar and welcomes them into his kingdom with a hug.
The young girl reflects on this story as she walks home with her Auntie. She smiles and says hello to passersby and receives kindness in turn. She feels better about being in America and decides to keep a sugar packet in her pocket thereafter to remind herself “to make things sweeter wherever she wandered.”
There’s so much to appreciate about this story within a story. Umrigar’s retelling of the folklore of the Parsis (Zoroastrians) and her own immigration experience weaves through this beautifully illustrated children’s picture book. The end pages are particularly gorgeous with ornate cups filled with milk and flowers. Among my favorite illustrations is the hug between the leaders with a backdrop of peacocks. Their shared symbolic importance in Persian art and Hinduism culminates so respectfully. The birds are carried forward in the following pages, filling the sky where the young girl and her Auntie share a moment in the park by the water. The borders of the pages change throughout the story, emulating the feelings and changes happening therein. As the daughter of an immigrant, it’s easy for me to see the importance of stories like Sugar in Milk. It’s my hope that you do, too. This book is brimming with promises and perseverance. It’s a simple, sweet read for all ages with a universal message we all should be so lucky to receive: “You belong.”
JP has worked for HCLS since 2006. She enjoys gallivanting, Jollibee, and all the halo-halo she can eat.
Enrich your summer with entertainment and educational materials from the Equity Resource Collection!
The Equity Resource Collection (ERC) launched in October 2021 in response to growing community demand for materials related to racial equity, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the increase in mainstream attention to #BlackLivesMatter and systemic racism.
The special collection was created along with the Equity Resource Center, a 700 square foot space located on the second floor of the Central Branch, directly behind the public access computers. An intentional space for learning, healing, and discussing issues, the Center also provides room for thoughtful exhibits (such as Undesign the Redline). This area houses thousands of new ERC materials, including movies, documentaries, and music CDs, as well as fiction and nonfiction books and audiobooks.
While HCLS works hard to maintain a diverse, balanced general collection, the ERC is specifically focused on centering equity, diversity, and inclusive representation, including but not limited to race/ethnicity and racism, immigration, disability, gender, and sexual orientation. By concentrating these titles in a specific place, the ERC serves as a resource if you are interested in books on one of these topics but aren’t sure where to start. I find this particularly beneficial when browsing the children’s ERC and all the nonfiction ERC shelves.
Some titles in the ERC are duplicated in our general collection, particularly popular titles, whereas other titles exclusively belong to the Equity Resource Collection. However, all ERC titles can be requested for pickup at any HCLS branch – which we highly encourage!
If you visit the Central Branch, you might notice three “Equity Resource Center” areas, with materials located in the children’s and teen area in addition to the upstairs section. All ERC DVDs, however, are located in the main Equity Resource Center along with the adult materials, including family-friendly movies like Moana.
Located on the main floor behind and around the research desk, the children’s ERC contains chapter books, picture books, and nonfiction books for a variety of ages and interests.
The collection provides exceptional “mirrors, window, and sliding glass doors” for young readers – allowing youth to discover books about and by people who look like them, as well as to learn about people who may be different from them. Some of these titles are clearly informational in nature – defining terminology, explaining concepts, and narrating history. These range from textbook-like materials for tweens to picture books for the earliest of readers!
One example of the latter is It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni. This gorgeously illustrated book shows examples of gender identity – boy, girl, both, neither – in a way that is nuanced but extremely clear for children (and adults!) to understand. It is simple without being oversimplified, which is an excellent achievement! If you’ve ever wondered “how do I explain gender to a child?” – or if you are new to learning about trans and nonbinary gender identities – then this book is for you!
The Equity Resource Collection also includes children’s books that aren’t necessarily educational in the didactic sense but are still rich sources of learning, with stories about a wide variety of experiences, identities, and cultures. This is the window and doors part of what I was talking about earlier.
One of my favorite recent reads is Home Is In Betweenwritten by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Lavanya Naidu. In this picture book, a young Indian girl moves to the U.S. with her parents, while their extended family remains in India. Vibrant and heart-warming, Home Is In Between tenderly depicts the immigrant experience by conveying the excitement of new things and the challenges of feeling ‘in between’ two cultures. The illustrations are gorgeous, too!
Also located on the main floor, you will find the Teen ERC in the far right corner, with organization similar to the children’s area. Some teen and adult graphic novels reside on the top left shelf, followed by novels and short story anthologies, then fiction audiobooks, and finally, nonfiction.
Some of these novels center the high school experience, such as the award-winning You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, which follows a poor, queer, Midwestern Black girl’s pursuit of prom queen-dom, in the hope of earning a scholarship. The recipient of a Black-Eyed Susan award, Stonewall Book honor, and one of TIME’s best 100 YA books of all time, this title has earned high praise – it’s a sweet, joyous read that evokes the spirit of great teen movies.
Other titles delve into cultural practices, such as Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, which brings together traditions from various Latinx cultures in a supernatural, urban fantasy setting – along with a gay rom-com storyline for a trans male protagonist. With its humor, heart, mystery-adventure, and magic, this is one of my personal favorite books (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook from Libby/OverDrive)!
Fantastic historical fiction novels also address legacies of injustice, such as the incarceration of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, as depicted in We Are Not Free by Traci Chee. The granddaughter of Japanese-Americans who were imprisoned as teenagers at that time, Chee felt personally invested in bringing attention to this oft-neglected history. With many moments inspired by the stories of her relatives, this is an incredibly powerful story about fear, hope and resilience.
For aspiring activists, there are books that can serve as guides as well as stories of youth who are speaking out and affecting change today. Kids on the March by Michael G. Long talks about youth protests from the 1903 March of the Mill Children to the recent movements of Black Lives Matter, March for Our Lives, and the Climate Strike.
There is so much to discover and learn within the Equity Resource Collection! We highly encourage you to come visit if you can… and stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about the other areas of the collection!
Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch and is a co-facilitator for Reads of Acceptance, HCLS’ first LGBTQ-focused book club. Their favorite place to read is spread out on a blanket under the shade of the tree.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
Welcome back! It may be July but I’m still thrilled to share some more of my favorite LGBTQ+ picture books with you. Please be sure to check out Part One of my suggestions so you can enjoy the full list.
Maiden & Princess by Daniel Haack is a modern fairy tale about a strong and brave maiden invited to attend the Prince’s royal ball. She isn’t terribly excited about attending, but with a little nudging from her mother, she decides to go. The maiden makes quite the impression on the guests and even finds love when she meets the Princess. One of my favorite things about this book how it truly celebrates lesbian love, as none of the characters respond with “it’s forbidden” rhetoric. This bedtime favorite offers a lovely alternative to the predictable royal courting fairy tales. Pair with Prince & Knight by the same author.
We Love Someone We Sing to Them / Cuando Amamos Cantamos by Ernesto Martinez offers a heartwarming, bilingual story of a young boy who loves another boy. He shares this with his father and together they write the young boy’s crush a traditional serenata. The lyrical prose and whimsical art made me cry with beautiful depictions of supportive family relationships, cultural traditions, and falling in love for the first time. The lyrics to the songs are words you feel deep in your soul, as they solidify the undeniable power associated with expressing love through music (a personal safe haven of mine). “He says that gardens like mine, even through droughts, have persisted. He says that gardens like mine have always existed.”
I’m always drawn to stories that celebrate not fitting into a certain mold based on societal views and perceived norms. A few great examples include:
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall tells about a crayon who was labeled incorrectly at the factory and so is mistaken for the wrong color. This label confuses the crayon in question as he clearly draws every picture in blue. Many other crayons try to help him be red, but no matter how creative a suggestion, it doesn’t work. After a new friend arrives, things start to feel different for Red as he realizes he’s been blue all along and can live a fulfilling life just the way he is. A life where he doesn’t have to force himself to be something he’s not, just because of the packaging he was given. A great look at gender identity.
Neither by Airlie Anderson takes places in the land of This and That, where the only two things that exist are blue bunnies and yellow birds. What happens when a green egg hatches revealing a new friend who isn’t quite a bunny or a bird? After struggling to fit in with each group, Neither decides to journey to find a new home and happens upon the Land of All – a place with many colors and shapes representing creatures of all kinds. This book does a great job at promoting diversity and teaching that differences can unite us. It’s also a wonderful way to introduce the topic of being non-binary.
Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian features two worms who are in love and excited to get married. As they plan the wedding, all the other bugs and insects in town are ready to help and give their opinions. They offer endless suggestions based on tradition. Who will wear the dress? What about the tux? It’s quickly decided that those details don’t matter. All that matters is that worm loves worm and, in their love, they create a new way of having a wedding that is right for them. Seeing a child cheering for these worms through the light in their eyes, alone, makes it worth reading aloud.
I hope these titles help to introduce or continue the conversation about the LGBTQ+ community and all the reasons they should celebrate and be celebrated this month and always. Books that show LGBTQ+ characters in everyday settings diversify your reading collection while teaching compassion and love. I certainly wish more books like this were around when I was a kid, but I’m thankful to report that some of the mentioned books have helped me, as an adult, solidify layers of my own queerness. I’m learning every day how to embrace who I am and what it means to be me. I see myself in these books, and that is invaluable. There is so much joy to be found in being true to oneself, which is always something worth celebrating.
Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.