A Time to Give Thanks

The cover depicts a group of Native Americans in a circle around a fire, with hills and trees in fall colors against a sunset.

By Laci R.

I truly believe in the importance of taking time to reflect on what makes us feel thankful – what fills our hearts with joy. I’ve compiled some of my favorite picture books for the Thanksgiving holiday, traditions that accompany it, and thankfulness in general that I hope you enjoy sharing with the children in your life.

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules
Tuyet is worried her family isn’t celebrating Thanksgiving properly because they’re serving duck instead of the popular turkey option. Her worries melt away as she learns that holidays don’t look exactly the same in every household and that those differences make for no less of a beautiful celebration. Culture, personal preference, and loved ones are all part of the formula for a successful Thanksgiving, and this book does a great job at showing the real diversity that fills family traditions.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard (also available as an audiobook on CD)
Fry bread comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. It unites family and friends and is a form of art and history that has been passed on for generations, a delicious staple in hundreds of tribes and celebrated in this book by a modern Native American family. Fry Bread beautifully represents the culture and legacy that lives on today in many of our own Thanksgiving celebrations. Pair this story with We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell – a vibrant and detailed book full of cultural and historical information earned an impressive list of awards. “Otsaliheliga” is a Cherokee word that means gratitude. Learn how the Cherokee Nation celebrates a year, starting in the Fall.

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story! By JaNay Brown-Wood (also available as an audiobook on CD and an audio Wonderbook) is a quick and adorable read. Grandma is hosting a feast and pretty much everyone is invited. The only problem is that her tiny house quickly runs out of space for the eight uncles, fifteen hungry grandkids, and many other wonderful guests. Through counting (1-15) and rhyme, this story effortlessly builds an experience where you feel like you, too, are about to walk down Grandma’s back stairs into a glorious, warm-hearted, welcoming outdoor celebration. Pair this story with another classic counting story told through rhyme; Feast For 10 by Cathryn Falwell.

Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora (also available as an audio Wonderbook)
This bilingual read is sure to delight and make you reflect on the many things to be thankful for. Maybe it’s a ladybug landing on your fingertip, a new favorite book suggested by a friend, bursting with laughter from a pea fight with your sister, or the cricket serenading you to sleep. Pair this story with Apple Cake by Dawn Casey, where special thanks are given to the bees, sun, earth, farmers, and everything and everyone else that makes this simple pleasure possible – apple cake! This story includes a recipe on the last few pages so you can make your very own apple cake to share with loved ones. Don’t forget The Thankful Book by Todd Parr; I couldn’t write about this topic without mentioning a favorite of many. Gardening, hugs, friends, pets, and music are all things I’m incredibly thankful for and these are mentioned on pages bursting with color in Parr’s book.

 
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet (also available as an eAudiobook) is one of the most interesting biographies I’ve seen for children. Pages are filled with multimedia collage art that draws you into the world of Tony Sarg, a self-taught immigrant with a creative dream. From his love of marionettes at a young age to the invention of his whimsical and enchanting floating balloons, you go along for every part of the journey! Learn how he avoided his chore of feeding the chickens at a young age. Pair this book with Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson where Sarah fights for many things she believes in, including Thanksgiving to become a national holiday. If it weren’t for her, there would be no distinct day to celebrate or reason to make parade floats!

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing
Want a story that’s silly and a guaranteed laugh? Cousins Gavin and Rhonda are stuck in the kids’ room with slobbering babies upon arrival to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s. They soon make a plan to escape outside to play. Quickly realizing there are a few obstacles to get past – including vicious guard dogs, the hall of aunts, and teenage zombies – the cousins must resort to a new plan, fast.

In November by Cynthia Rylant offers a look into the entire month and all the changes that happen in nature. The weather is getting colder, trees are becoming bare, and birds and animals are going on a journey or preparing for the season right where they are. November is also a time for enjoying delicious food and gathering for Thanksgiving, sitting by a crackling fire, and allowing ourselves to rest.

While the holidays may look very different this year, one thing remains the same – there’s always a reason to be thankful. Sharing these stories with you and knowing you will share them with the children in your life, is just one of the many things I’m thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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.

October 12th is Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

The photograph shows an indigenous person in native dress at an outdoor gathering.

By Claudia J.

Mark your calendars on October 12th! Beginning this year, Howard County will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. On WJZ-13 CBS, County Executive Calvin Ball released a statement on the decision. “Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day does not absolve us from our history, but we hope that it sets a tone and opens up discussions on the importance of restorative practices throughout our government and our community.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an exciting opportunity to explore the incredible history and culture of Indigenous communities that have often been underrepresented in our celebrations.  Of course, what better way to observe this holiday than to curl up with a new book? I know I will! Here are ten books for you and your family to read and learn about Indigenous culture by authors of Indigenous descent: 

For the Little Ones: 

The book cover depicts a mother holding a child who is eating fry bread from the bowl the mother holds in her other hand.

Fry Bread: a Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard; Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Do you know what fry bread is? This colorful and touching picture book by Maillard answers this question and provides a kinship to the Native tradition of communal food preparation. In addition, Maillard provides a personal background to the narrative as he is an enrolled citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Coupled with the illuminating illustrations by Martinez-Neal, children and adults will enjoy reading Fry Bread together. 

The book cover depicts a young woman holding a feather, with blue-green water swirling around her.  In the background are people on a hill, hands joined together, in front of a starry night sky with a moon.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; Illustrated by Michaela Goade

“Water is the first medicine, It affects and connects us all…” Earth is made up of 71% of water and it provides its inhabitants with nourishment and hydration. What would you do to protect it? Inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, We Are Water Protectors is an incredibly accessible picture book for children to learn more about water and its importance to the health of the Earth. Lindstrom provides readers with a piece of her culture, as she is Anishinabe/Metis and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. She also calls Maryland her home!

For the Big Kids:

The book cover depicts a young woman holding a letter along the shore of a lake at sunrise.  There are mountains in the distance and a dog with a stick is approaching her.

I Can Make this Promise by Christine Day

With her debut middle grade novel, Day tells the semi-autobiographical story of a 12-year-old girl’s search for her true identity. Adopted at a young age by a white couple, Edie has always been curious about her Native American heritage. When she and her friends find a box of letters and photos of a woman who shares her name, Edie begins to question her parents and the secrets they kept from her. Powerful and important, Day weaves a storyline together that draws from her own Native heritage as an enrolled citizen of the Upper Skagit tribe. I am very excited about this novel and will be adding it to my reading list. 

The book cover depicts a young woman in front of a landscape background that progresses from rural, with animals, trees, and a log cabin, to urban, with a car, palm trees, and a cityscape in silhouette.

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManus with Traci Sorell

Straight from our 2020 Summer Reading list, Indian No More tells the heartbreaking story of 8-year-old Regina and the erasure of her Native American identity. It’s 1954 and her family is told all tribes in their state of Oregon no longer exist. Much like the other selections on the list so far, this novel is based on McManus’s own experiences when her tribe, the Umpqua, was terminated in 1954. Sadly, McManus passed away in 2018, unable to complete the revisions to her novel. Her friend and fellow author, Traci Sorell, completed the revisions as she wished. 

For the Teens: 

The book cover depicts a young woman wearing a white shirt and black pants, with a black and white checkered shirt tied around her waist.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Told from the perspective of young Native American/Indigenous women, #NotYourPrincess weaves together a traditional narrative with artwork, poetry, photography, and interviews to present a well-rounded depiction of issues affect Indigenous communities. While parts of the stories can be tough to read, this anthology is a great conversation starter for teens, especially young women, who could relate to the issues depicted in these stories. 

The book cover depicts half the face of a young woman, with a stripe of white makeup on her cheek.  There are also several stickers indicating awards the book was won.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Imagine a dystopian world where a majority of the world’s inhabitants have lost the ability to dream. Set in the future, The Marrow Thieves tells of a world such as this and how the lack of dreams has caused intense madness among society. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous communities. Their bone marrow is the cure for all mankind for the world to return to prosperity, but this means the certain death of the marrow holders. This sets the stage for Frenchie – a 15-year-old Indigenous teen, trying his best to survive, protect his companions, and flee from “recruiters” who hope to steal his marrow.  Written by Canadian writer Cherie Dimaline, who is a member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community, The Marrow Thieves is an action-packed novel for fans of dystopian societies. It also packs a moral punch as to how we, as a society, view Indigenous communities and resources. 

For the Graphic Novel Fans: 

The book cover depicts three young women and one senior woman against the background of an immense cityscape that rises behind them.

Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett, Illustrations by Natasha Donovan

As if to speak entirely from its title, Surviving the City is based in an urban environment in Canada, where readers are introduced to Miikwan and Dez. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inniew. They are best friends trying their best to navigate the normal struggles that come with being teens as well as being faced with the challenges of being a part of a small, Indigenous minority in an urban landscape. When Dez’s grandmother falls ill and is unable to take care of Dez anymore, Dez is faced with the possibility of going into a group home. Unable to deal with that solution, Dez leaves home and disappears. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Tasha Spillett’s debut graphic novel series at first seems simple in telling Dez’s mysterious disappearance, but it also sets the tone for providing information about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada. 

The book cover depicts a young woman i profile, wearing a jacket with patches on the shoulder, putting earbuds into her ears.

A Girl Called Echo by Katherena Vermette, Illustrations by Scott B. Henderson, colored by Donovan Yaciuk

Time travel fans will enjoy the story of Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Metis girl adjusting to a new home and school, separated from her mother. During one of her first lectures with a new teacher, Echo transports to the past in several different environments: a fur-trade route, the Pemmican Wars, and a bison hunt, to name a few. Selected for our 2020 Summer Reading list, teens and adults alike will enjoy this refreshing take on Indigenous history, written by Katherena Vermette, a Metis Canadian author. 

For the Adults: 

The book cover depicts two feathers facing in opposite directions, against a background of orange with the title in yellow lettering.

There There by Tommy Orange 

An instant hit upon its release, Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange provides readers with an intense narrative of the urban Native American. This novel follows the journeys of 12 characters from Native communities, all en route to the Big Oakland Powwow. Each character has endured their own unique struggles, and the interwoven narratives provide a larger, deeper story of the contemporary Native American struggle while grappling with a painful history. A very popular book club choice, There There will definitely provide some complex conversation and will pique your interest in Indigenous history. 

The book cover depicts the title and author in white against colorful background stripes in blues, mauves, and greens.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

I thought I would end with a recent release from this year. Highly acclaimed author Louise Erdrich writes a fictionalized version of her grandfather’s life as a night watchman in the 1950’s. Set on her family’s home reservation (in what is now North Dakota), night watchman Thomas Wazhashk is a Chippewa Council member who is grappling with the new “emancipation” bill proposed by U.S. Congress. Despite “emancipation” as a synonym for freedom in previous events, this bill presents the term more like a “termination” of Native American culture, land, and identity. His story is coupled with that of Patrice Paranteau, a young adult who makes jewel barrings at the plant and is saving to search for her sister, Vera. Poverty, violence, exploitation: Louise Erdrich combines these intense themes and crafts a novel based on her Ojibwe roots and current Anishinaabe membership. I am definitely adding The Night Watchman to my to-read list. 

No matter what age, we can all celebrate Indigenous voices this year and for many years to come on Indigenous Peoples Day. I hope there are some selections you will explore this fall, and all are available at HCLS! Add these books to your holds queue and enjoy these amazing stories. 

Claudia J. is an instructor and research specialist and has worked for Howard County Library System for a little over four years. She enjoys writing on rainy days and drinking iced coffee on sunny days.

Let’s Celebrate! Birthday Books

The book cover shows the title with a tabby kitten, Bernice, beneath. She is wearing a blouse and a peach jumper and has her hands on her hips. A green party hat lies on the floor next to her.

 By Laci R.
 
A favorite class of mine to conduct at the library is called The Unbirthday Party. Everyone has one birthday, but all the other days of the year are reason enough to commemorate your unbirthday! The class is a place for everyone to celebrate by enjoying themed books, songs, and party games/activities. The world might observe birthdays a little differently right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate at all. These two picture books, personal favorites of mine, can even become part of the celebration when given as gifts to be enjoyed for years to come. 
 
Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah Harrison
It’s a dreary day, and the weather suits Bernice’s mood just fine. This cat gets even grumpier as the forest birthday party festivities begin. Waiting for your slice of cake is like wondering whether you’ve hit the lottery. Will you get a corner piece? A frosting rose?… or a plain white square from the middle, like Bernice? When the drinks are distributed, everyone gets ice cold strawberry-melon soda. Too bad all that’s left for Bernice is prune-grapefruit… and it’s warm. Bernice doesn’t even get a turn hitting the pinata before someone else breaks it open and candy flies everywhere. Even then, all that Bernice can find is a gumball that someone stepped on. Bernice decides enough is enough and takes matters into her own hands. When the balloons are brought out, Bernice grabs them all and gets lifted into the sky. She reaches a brooding rain cloud and decides to share some of her vibrant balloon bouquet. Everything immediately starts to look and feel brighter for Bernice and those around her. Giving balloons away one by one to friends who need them along the way, Bernice makes it back down to the ground. With an improved mood and lots of sharing, the party ends in the sunshine with friends. This story is a favorite due to the relatability of getting the undesired cake slice, the expressive faces of all the animal partygoers, the stunning color palette, and the opportunity to talk about feelings and emotions in a natural way.  

The book cover shows a little boy, his animal guests in party hats, his birthday cake, and multicolored balloons and pennants.

The Backwards Birthday Party by Tom Chapin 
At the backwards birthday party, everything is out of whack. A wild pack of guests arrive and say “Good-bye,” with the cake served soon after. Clothes are on inside out, someone is heating up the ice cream, and the donkey is the one pinning the tail today. The longer the party goes, the earlier it gets: with time running backwards, the party ends before it starts. The birthday boy says “Hello,” pushes the guests out the door, and returns to his room once more. The silliness in this book is wholesome and delightful. There’s never a shortage of cheer throughout this unconventional day as friends all come together and have a blast. The story is told in a rhyming melodic tone because the words are lyrics to a song! Sheet music can be found on the inside of the front and back cover.   

Want to have a backwards-themed birthday celebration for the child in your life? Try writing the letters or words on the cake backwards, hang non-helium balloons with ribbon from the ceiling, and invite guests to dress with their clothes inside out.
 
Birthdays (and unbirthdays) are cause for festivity. The great thing about any celebration is that it can look however you like; I just wouldn’t suggest heating up the ice cream! I hope these stories make it into your reading routine, as they’re sure to be favorites enjoyed any day of the year.   

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. 
 

Rainbow Reads for Children, Part Two

The cover shows two pairs, each with a rabbit and a chick. The chick in the most prominent pair is vocalizing the word "Neither" in a speech bubble, referring to the baby animal in the foreground, who is "neither" rabbit nor chick. but a blend of both, with the legs, beak, and wings of a chick and the ears and tail of a rabbit.

 Reviews by Laci R.

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.

Rainbow Reads for Children, Part One

The book cover shows a multicultural, multiracial group of adults and children holding up a rainbow sign with the title.

By Laci R.

June is LGBTQ+ Pride month, and it’s a time to celebrate all the beautiful identities and colors of the rainbow. Luckily, many vibrant books and stories can help you do so. Representation is incredibly important. Aside from the sheer joy and pleasure of getting to see yourself in books and stories, it promotes inclusivity and begins vital conversations with the children in your life about the history of the LGBTQ+ community and queer characters. Reading books with queer mention needs to be paired with open, safe, and informative conversation so compassion can flourish and curiosities can be sparked.  
 
I have chosen several books to share with you. It was difficult to narrow my list, but having many more resources available that feature characters in the LGBTQ+ community is such an amazing and liberating phenomenon.
 
I’ll start with some of my favorite non-fiction books:  

Stonewall: A Building, an Uprising, a Revolution by Rob Sanders (picture book) gives us a unique perspective on an essential civil rights story. The building itself narrates the story of how the police raided the Stonewall Inn located in New York City early in the morning on June 28, 1969. This wasn’t the first raid that took place, but things were different this time. A protest occurred full of members of the LGBTQ+ community in and around Stonewall Inn as demands of equal rights and justice filled the air. This movement continues even now, as I type these words.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders (picture book) tells about social activist Harvey Milk and how the gay pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, came to be created. It shows Milk as he is elected as one of the first openly gay people in political office and follows his fight for LGBTQ+ rights and freedom. Together, Milk and Baker create a symbol of hope- the rainbow flag. It’s a symbol you still see today proudly displayed all over the world. 

Pair this story with Sewing the Rainbow by Gayle Pitman to see a different perspective and learn other details about the rainbow flag’s creation. Need a follow up activity? Ask the child in your life to make their own flag! One that represents them and what makes them special. Encourage them to share with you and be sure to do the same. 
 
Please note: These books should be shared with the understanding that they offer an introduction to these major events and should be supplemented with additional information and conversation around the topics.  
 
Be sure to also check out Gay & Lesbian History For Kids: The Century Long Struggle for LGBT Rights by Jerome Pohlen, A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be by Maya Gonzalez. These books contain excellent information and guidance for understanding a wide variety of identities. 
 
When it comes to picture books, I wish I could write about every single one. I decided to share a sampling of those that are well loved and ones that became unforgettable from the moment I read them. Here are a couple for you to look into, with more coming in Part Two of my LGBTQ+ recommendations for children and families.

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman became an instant favorite. This rhyming story invites you to attend a Pride parade and meet all the wonderful people. Every page exudes joy and pure love. I absolutely adore the illustrations by Kristyana Litten. They are brimming with color and depict an undeniable energy bursting with flair. A note to parents and caregivers is included that provides information on how to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with children in age-appropriate ways. You’ll also find a reading guide full of facts about LGBTQ+ history and culture.  

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff covers a lot of ground and will surely resonate with transgender children. It offers reassurance about becoming an older sibling all while celebrating some of the many transitions experienced by a family. When born, everyone thought Aidan was a girl. He was given a pretty name and his room and clothes looked like that of girls he knew. However, none of this felt right to him and changes were needed. Aidan’s parents offer endless support as he transitions to living in a way that allows him to flourish and thrive. In doing so, Aidan learns what it takes to be the best older brother he can be: the ability to love with your whole self. I also feel the need to mention that I wish I could share a wardrobe with Aidan because that little guy sure is stylin’.  

I hope these titles will make it into your home, classroom, gift list, or anywhere else that needs a bright rainbow. I invite you to continue learning about LGBTQ+ materials for children by joining me for Part Two, where we’ll take a look at more of my favorite picture books. Let’s keep this celebration going!

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.