ELEVATE your relationship!

You see to feet, one in a chunky boot and one in a black sneaker, crossed toward each other with a deck be

by Holly L.

UPDATE: SERIES CANCELED – MAY BE RESCHEDULED.

Are you looking to take your relationship to the next level? Or searching for a new twist on date night?

You can hone your skills for maintaining a stable marriage or committed partnership through upcoming classes using material from ELEVATE. Developed in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Georgia and at Auburn University, the program blends practical skills with an understanding of the physiology of human interaction to enhance healthy adult relationships.

Join us at Miller Branch on three Tuesdays, October 4, 11 and 18 from 6:30 – 8 pm, to participate in these free sessions, presented in partnership with the University of Maryland Extension. Registration required.

The Elevate logo has a green heart that contains an upward pointing arrow above the

The two core components of ELEVATE are (1) practical strategies and tools and (2) the inclusion of mindfulness practice activities that help couples manage intense emotions by learning to regulate their heart-brain response to stressful triggers. Couples leave equipped with tools to communicate (and argue) more effectively, resolve conflict, and strengthen their relationship.

University of Maryland Family and Consumer Sciences Specialist Dr. Alexander Chan leads this inclusive and LGBTQ+ friendly class. This series is designed primarily for couples who are currently in a committed relationship. Individuals may attend without a partner, but couples attending together receive the most benefit.

Holly is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting, preferably with a strong cup of tea and Downton Abbey in the queue.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

The image is of two photographs of young Black men, one above the other. The one on top is looking directly at the camera while the one underneath is looking towards the ground. The title is in light blue across both photographs, with a background of pale red and orange.

By Ash B.

Are you looking for a lyrical novel to savor slowly, perhaps while sipping tea (or your warm beverage of choice) on a quiet day? The type of novel that can break your heart and then put it back together, over and over again? 

Well then, reader, do I have the perfect suggestion for you. 

Open Water is the debut novel from Caleb Azumah Nelson, a 26-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in south-east London, and wow, what a debut! Consider me truly impressed – in fact, if I had to recommend a single 2021 release for you to catch up on, it would be this one. (Yes, it is that good)!

A love story at its core, Open Water follows two young artists, one a photographer and the other a dancer, as they develop an intimate friendship that challenges the boundaries of platonic and romantic relationships. 

However, the connection between these two is complicated not only by the details of their initial meeting, but also by the realities of life as Black British young adults; experiences of falling in love are not mutually exclusive with experiences of racism. The desire and affection two people feel for each other can be healing, but it does not create an impermeable bubble from fear, pain, and violence. So, this is absolutely not “just” a love story. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those, either, but Open Water is a different vibe).

Nelson masterfully balances Black joy and creative expression – especially descriptions of music and the South East London cultural scene – with experiences of racial profiling and the policing of Black bodies. Life is so beautiful yet so painful, and Nelson captures this complexity with ease.  

He writes with insight into vulnerability and mental health in a style that is understated yet breathtakingly poignant. Also, the narrative is told in second-person, which might be off-putting to some readers, but I found it to be all the more engaging. You know that saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? Nelson skillfully places the reader inside the inner world of his protagonist through this use of second-person perspective. It’s brilliant. 

Months have passed since I actually read this book, but I still can’t get over the flow of Nelson’s writing – it truly is like water, smooth at some times and turbulent at others. If you enjoyed On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong with its poetic vignettes, but would appreciate a more hopeful tone or different subject matter, you will love Open Water. 

And even if this doesn’t sound like what you would typically read, I would still recommend this book to just about anyone. I’m nearly begging for more people to read it at this point, if I’m being honest. I’m so desperate for this book to get the attention it deserves! 

At under 200 pages, the slim size of the book isn’t intimidating, and despite this short length, there is so much to get out of this book. You might even want to keep a camera (or, you know, your smartphone) close by in order to take photos of all the beautiful quotes you don’t want to forget. That’s certainly what I did, as well as repeatedly putting the book down throughout to marvel at what I had just read. I got chills. I felt literal aching in my heart. I was reminded what an utterly tender, yearning type of human I am. I loved, loved, loved this book. I hope you will too! 

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson can be requested here. It is included in both our regular Adult Fiction collection as well as our Equity Resource Center collection.

Ash is an Instructor & Research Specialist at Central Branch. This time of year, they are especially fond of reading while cuddling with their golden retriever and sipping hot cocoa or tea.

Loving Stories in Picture Books

By Eliana H. 

During this time of year, we are bombarded by messages trying to convince us to buy things for “that special someone.” Flowers, chocolate, jewelry, and more. Not everyone celebrates Valentine’s Day, but I hope we all have people we love. Research shows that a loving bond with a caregiver helps young children thrive. Share these picture books about love with your little one, or any other stories you like, to help develop that bond. For more tips from The Basics about maximizing love and managing stress, visit https://thebasics.org/brain-boosts/maximize-love-manage-stress/

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (ages 5-11) 

The cover depicts a barefoot child in a blue top and pants with a pink jacket, and blue and pink hair, with arms outstretched in front of a heart that is comprised of gold stars.

With simple words and watercolor illustrations, this book gently invites readers to think about how they can show love. The author and illustrator work seamlessly together to show how we can support ourselves and each other with specific, concrete loving actions. Heart-opening yoga poses and a heart meditation accompany the author’s note at the end of this title.  

I Love Us!: A Book About Family by Theodore Henry, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (ages 0-3) 

The cover shows a variety of different multicultural families interacting while doing various activities - running through the rain under an umbrella, playing with a dog, drawing, making music, and eating.

A wonderful read to share with your youngest loved ones, I Love Us! shows various families participating in loving activities together. After you read, talk about the things you love about your family and what it does. A mirror at the end lets you and your little one imagine yourselves in the story! But if you want to complete the family tree activity on the final page, please do it on a separate page and not in a library copy of the book. 

Love the World by Todd Parr (ages 2-6) 

The book cover, in bright pink with yellow, blue, and green lettering, depicts the Earth with a heart superimposed for the "O" in "World," and anothe heart in the center of the "O" in "Love." Two children in brightly colored outfits are shown leaning into the frame from either side of the title with their hands outstretched, and a brown and white dog with a red collar pops up at the bottom. Small red and yellow hearts are scattered across the cover.

If you’ve ever read a Todd Parr book before, you will immediately recognize his unique style. With brightly colored illustrations and simple, rhyming text, Parr invites readers to love activities that support the community and specific parts of themselves. Throughout the book, in full-page spreads, we are reminded to “Love yourself. Love the world!” Invite your little one to talk about all the things they love after reading this volume. 

Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera (ages 4-8) 

The cover shows a girl and her mama playing peek-a-boo, both wearing shades of pink. The little girl is "peeking" out from behind her hands with a little grin on her face, but the mama's eyes are completely covered although she, too, is smiling.

This quiet, beautiful book celebrates the special bond between a little girl and her mama. As she says on the first page, the little girl wants, “to be everywhere Mama is.” She shows readers things that are hers and her mama’s before bringing us along on a walk in the rain. As day ends and she falls asleep, the little girl remembers parts of the day, especially “me and Mama.” 

When a Grandpa Says “I Love You” by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell (ages 3-7) 

The cover depicts two anthropomorphized bears; the grandpa bear wears blue checked pajamas and square glasses, and the baby bear is in pale red pajamas, holding a flashlight. The two look as though they are in a tent and the grandpa is making shadow puppets. There is a wooden chair to the right of the frame, holding up the tent.

Many grandfathers don’t say “I love you” in words, although some certainly do. Even those that aren’t saying it out loud display their love for grandchildren through their actions. A wide range of animal pairs show grandfather-grandchild relationships in the illustrations of this book, all participating in a variety of activities that demonstrate loving feelings they share. Follow a reading with a discussion of the ways that we can show love to a special person. 

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (ages 4-7) 

The cover depicts Aidan in a rainbow-colored coat and yellow pants, on the shoulders of his Dad and being kissed by his pregnant mom, who is wearing a white dress. A white cat looks up at them from next to Aidan's mom, and there are flower blossoms and petals floating across the cover.

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. It took some time, but Aidan’s family all adjusted to make sure his life fit who he is. Now Aidan’s mom is expecting a baby, and Aidan knows that being a big brother is an important job. He helps his parents get things ready for his new sibling, but he also worries that he won’t be a good big brother. Thankfully, Aidan’s parents remind him that loving someone is the most important part of that job. 

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor 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).