The only way to describe Kate O’Neill’s series The Tea Dragon Society is that she has crafted a world that feels just like a soft warm blanket.
In the first book we are introduced to Greta, who is learning blacksmithing from her mother. While in town she finds an injured tea dragon and returns it to Hesekiel and Erik. She’s then introduced to the world of tea dragons and Minnette, a young girl who was training to be a prophetess and inadvertently lost her memory. Through the seasons, Greta and Minnette grow closer while learning more about themselves, Hesekiel and Erik, and the power of memory.
In the second book, which serves as a prequel, Rinn is an aspiring cook and lives deep in the woods. During a day of foraging, they meet Aedhan who has pulled a Rip Van Winkle and been asleep for 80 years. Aedhan, guardian dragon of Rinn’s village, was enchanted into sleep by a mysterious forest spirit. To atone for “disappearing” for all those years, he begins to help out around the village, getting to know its inhabitants and striking up a close friendship with Rinn. Through their friendship and the acceptance of the villagers, we learn to let go of guilt and accept what life gives you.
In the third (and hopefully not the last) book, we once again see Greta who is trying her best to take care of her tea dragon to no avail, as well as training to become an apprentice. Minnette has also been dealing with her own demons and must learn to discover herself again. And we are treated to seeing Rinn and Aedhan again when they come to visit Hesekiel and Erik. This book is a culmination of the Tea Dragon story and teaches about grief, loss, and most of all, growth.
A good cup of tea is comforting, familiar, and warms you from the inside out. Take it from me, these books will do the same.
Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and collects way too many things.
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.
I hate to state the obvious, but an unfortunate fact of life is that we will gradually lose the ones we love. In this year alone, I’ve had the reality check of all reality checks as I said goodbye to my sister-in-law, my daughter’s great grandmother, my best friend from high school’s parents, my best friend from my first job out of college, a former colleague (RIP Joe McHugh), and two icons: Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman. Yes, 2020, I’m going to have to ask you to leave, please?
In Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir, the author writes about her experience losing her mother when she was 19 and dealing with the 10-year aftermath of grief. The writing and illustrations are insightful, poignant, and humorous at the same time. The author’s mother died of cancer and the author vividly describes the myriad of emotions caregivers endure, so readers can connect to her story on many levels.
Like the author, I lost both my father and sister to cancer, and I found myself nodding in heartfelt agreement at many of Feder’s descriptions of losing a parent and enduring the magnified heartache of cancer. In particular, she captured the reality of the endless trips to the hospital for treatments and cancer’s physical and emotional tolls on the ill and their families.
As a reader, I connected with Feder’s reflections on how death can be so difficult to talk about for some. No one really knows the exact right thing to say when you hear that someone has died. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and unexpected, much like death itself. I laughed at the author’s inflections of humor and her ability to find humor even in her darkest days.
I’m lucky I still have a living mother. As we celebrated her 80th birthday this year, my thoughts trickled to the thought of what life may look like some day without her. I hate that image. As Feder highlights in the book, I, too, consider my mom to be a rock star and an undeniable force in my life. More time is always what we want with those we love and, selfishly, it’s never enough.
Put this book in the hands of someone who is hurting from recent loss, has someone succumbing to illness, or anyone in need of finding the right words of comfort.
Carmen J is a teen instructor at HCLS East Columbia. Among her favorite things are great books, all things 80s, fall weather, Halloween, and pumpkin spice everything.