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Children's Books

It’s National Reading Month, so, each week, children’s librarians from around Connecticut are “taking over” the Learning Snacks newsletter to recommend their favorite picture books for grown-ups and children to read together. We hope you will visit your local library and plant the seed for a lifelong love of learning and reading with the little ones in your life!

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Saturday

Author & Illustrator: Oge Mora. (Little, Brown and Company, 2019)

This wonderful and perfectly paced read-aloud tells the story of Ava and her mother on their favorite day of the week: Saturday! They have such great plans, but things keep going wrong… what will they do? The story is one of quality time and what really matters in life, and it’s got great sound effects, too. Oge Mora’s works are all knockouts, highly recommended!


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The Bad Seed series

Author: Jory John. Illustrator Pete Oswald. (HarperCollins 2017-2021)

The Bad Seed, the Good Egg, the Smart Cookie, the Cool Bean, the Couch Potato: these ingenious stories take those classic puns and talk about growth and development, social-emotional learning, and how to be a good human. Each story includes a lesson but never feels didactic: you’re learning along with the character, who is just as surprised as you are when it feels good to be good, smart, active, and others.


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The Charlie and Mouse series

Author: Laurel Snyder. Illustrator: Emily Hughes (Chronicle Books 2017-2021)

I love the short stories of this pair of siblings: written for early readers, the stories are short but endearing. The family and the neighborhood are both diverse in many ways, and the family is warm and welcoming. Even Charlie and Mouse get along! There are a few books in the series, so you and your family can get to know Charlie and Mouse as they grow and play and learn.


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Julian is a Mermaid & Julian at the Wedding

Author and Illustrator: Jessica Love. (Candlewick Press 2018 and 2020)

Something truly special about the Julian books is the paper Jessica Love uses to create: she starts with a warm brown page, which changes everything from the start. There is no white default. And then, the story of Julian, wanting to be a mermaid, wanting to be special for the wedding: they are gorgeous tales of a young person exploring what they want to be.


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Jabari Jumps & Jabari Tries

Author: Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick Press 2017 and 2020)

Who among us hasn’t been scared or frustrated? Jabari is a wonderful character who deals with what we deal with, and his father and younger sister help him through it. These stories are great for showing young readers that everyone feels these emotions and there is another side to it. Another great pick for some gentle/subliminal social emotional learning and discussion.


The Willimantic Public Library strives to serve its diverse community! They offer storytimes multiple times a week, in both morning and evening, and programs ranging from babies to older readers. They have bilingual programs and services, a fully functioning Makerspace, and programs for the student community — in both homeschooled and traditional systems. The library is always open to what the community needs, so if a patron requests a program, they do their best to create and accommodate! The Willimantic Public Library aims to be a hub of the community, a destination, a routine, and a welcoming place for all. Visit the website at willimanticlibrary.org.


PARENTS & CAREGIVERS:

Reading, Singing and Playing Together Builds Babies’ Brains

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From birth to age 5, our children’s brains are rapidly developing and building the neural networks that will shape their futures in profound ways. We—their community and caregivers — can help babies to build strong brains through all the ways we interact and care for them: Love them. Talk with them. Sing with them. Read to them. And show them the world. Watch for Little Wonders on PBS KIDS or see the short videos here.


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Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment

Author: Parker Curry & Jessica Curry. Illustrator: Brittany Jackson. (Aladdin, 2019)

Many of us remember Parker, the young girl who looked up in awe at the portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, but did you know that she wrote a picture book about the experience with her mom? In this beautifully illustrated story, we learn more about four-year-old Parker and understand how she saw herself in that stunning portrait. This book is a clear demonstration of why representation is so important.


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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark

Author: Debbie Levy. Illustrator: Elizabeth Baddeley. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the most famous justices to ever sit on the Supreme Court and in her time she has proved herself to be a passionate force of nature, always standing up for what she believed was right. This picture book biography shares the story of how RBG grew up and the trials she overcame throughout her life to become the strong and powerful woman we knew in her last years on the highest court in the land.


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Nina: A Story of Nina Simone

Author: Traci N. Todd. Illustrator: Christian Robinson. (G.P. Putnam’s Son, 2021)

From the stunning endpapers to the beautiful collage illustrations in between, this book is a work of art. Eunice Kathleen Waymon was a child prodigy who played beautiful music and, as she grew up, became jazz legend Nina Simone, she used her powerful voice and words to help get the word out to the people about the Civil Rights Movement.


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Maria Montessori

Author: Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. Illustrator: Raquel Martin. (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2019)

Maria wanted a good education, but boys and girls were not treated equally during the time when Maria Montessori grew up in Italy. Maria was lucky to have a mother who supported her. Maria was smart enough to study medicine, but she went on to create a classroom approach to learning that emphasizes independence, choice and environments that satisfy children's natural curiosity.


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Kamala Harris

Author: Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. Illustrator: Lauren Semmer. (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2021)

Kamala Harris is biracial. Her parents, who are from different races and cultures, taught her about justice and civil rights at a young age. She decided to help people and she studied to become a lawyer. She went on to become the first African American and South Asian American female to be United States Attorney General. She is now the first female Vice President of the United States.


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Frida Kahlo

Author: Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. Illustrator: Gee Fan Eng. (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2014)

Frida Kahlo turned lemons into lemonade. She contracted polio when she was six. She beat the disease and became a tomboy, though one leg was smaller than the other. Later, a terrible bus crash left her bedridden with a broken collarbone, ribs and pelvis. She began painting in bed and she became famous for her style. Her art has bright colors and symbols from her Mexican culture, which she loved.


The Norwalk Public Library will be having in-person programs again beginning in May. Please check out our events at the Sono Branch Library and the Main Library.


Reading Can Inspire & Equip Children to Become Leaders

Reading regularly is one of the most important habits for developing a mastery of language and communication skills — critical qualities necessary for effective leadership. To empower young girls and boys alike, spend time reading together to increase vocabulary and spelling prowess. These PBS KIDS games and programs enhance the reading experience for your child, building their curiosity and confidence.

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Word UP! Language is her Super Power!

In the PBS KIDS superhero adventures of “WordGirl,” our heroine fights crime and enriches vocabulary usage, all in a day’s work. WordGirl helps to close the gap for those who don’t grow up in language-rich environments, instills a love of language, and fosters better reading comprehension. Try WordGirl’s Interactive Comic Book game together.

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Super Why! Goes on a Reading Adventure

Super Why! makes reading an empowering adventure by using interactive literacy games. In Super Why! reading is power! Each adventure begins in Storybrook Village, a magical 3-D world hidden behind the bookshelves in a children's library. Play “Princess Presto’s Spectacular Spelling” game and link letters together to make words.


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Anywhere Farm

Author: Phyllis Root. Illustrator: G. Brian Karas. Candlewick; Illustrated edition (March 14, 2017)

This book shows that all you need for a farm is yourself, a seed, soil, sun, and water. You can plant your little seed anywhere and watch what becomes of it. I just love this book and it is always a crowd pleaser with simple rhymes and colorful illustrations. It’s a perfect time to read this book as well because seed planting is just around the corner. This is a great book to share with your family and I highly recommend it.

Contributed by Melissa Meagher, New Haven Free Public Library Wilson Branch


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The Serpent's Secret

Author: Sayantani Dasgupta (Scholastic Press; Illustrated edition, 2018) From The Kingdom Beyond series.

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey — until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive! Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it! Children of first-generation immigrants will find Kiran to be very relatable character — trying to balance Indian parents at home and American friends in school. This is the story of an ordinary-girl-turned-demon-fighting-princess and her eventual self-acceptance. It is most suitable for children in grade 4 and up.

Contributed by Soma Mitra, New Haven Free Public Library Mitchell Branch


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When You Reach Me

Author: Rebecca Stead. (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)

Miranda, a latchkey kid living in New York City in the late 1970’s, receives four mysterious letters over the course of Stead’s taught story. It is easy to get consumed by the letters. Who is sending them? How are they being delivered? How does the letter writer know things they have no business knowing? Take the clues and hints as they come, but stay focused on the moments as they are presented. The puzzle box mystery and Miranda’s experiences navigating friendships, mothers, and sixth grade are knotted together – strengthening each other’s hold on the reader until the “invisible veil is lifted away” in the book’s final pages.

— Contributed by Jenny Nicolelli, New Haven Free Public Library Fair Haven Branch


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¿De dónde eres?: Where Are You From?

Author: Yamile Saied Mendez. Illustrator: Jaime Kim. (HarperCollins Espanol; Bilingual edition, 2019)

This is the touching story of a young girl and her search for identity and belonging. Our young narrator is constantly asked where she is from and having no answer that seems to satisfy her inquisitive onlookers, she turns to her loving grandfather for guidance. “Where am I from?” she asks him, and from there he describes the beauty of their homeland through an exquisite and lyrical tale. What she learns is more special than she could’ve ever imagined. With poignant themes around self-acceptance, heritage, and identity, this compelling and beautifully illustrated picture book will be sure to resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Contributed by Melissa Lopez, New Haven Free Public Library Ives Main Library


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We Don't Eat Our Classmates

Author/Illustrator: Ryan T. Higgins. (Disney-Hyperion, First Edition, 2018)

When a young dinosaur starts school, she is understandably worried. After all, starting school means meeting new friends. Lots of tasty… umm, I mean NICE…new friends. And even though she KNOWS her classmates don’t want to be gobbled up, she can’t help herself. Lonely, Penelope decides the classroom pet would be a good friend, but he has his own plans…and once Penelope realizes that being eaten maybe isn’t so fun for everyone, she decides that having friends to play with is a lot nicer than having friends in your belly! I recommend this humorous story for parents of young children getting ready to go off to school for the first time, or for those who need a gentle reminder to treat others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves.

Contributed by Margaret Girgis, New Haven Free Public Library Ives Main Library


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How To Be a Lion

Author/Illustrator: Ed Vere. (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2018)

Did you know that there are very specific rules for lions? Leonard does. He knows the rules very well. Not just because he is a lion…but because the other lions told him so. They pointed out all the ways that Leonard is just doing it wrong. But just when Leonard thinks that he has to be just like the other lions out there, he and his friend Marianne the Duck come up with a poem that just might have a lesson for all of us about how to be a lion. I strongly recommend this book for younger children and for every person out there who has ever felt like an outsider in their own crowd (and who hasn’t?) this story reminds us that we don’t always have to be the same to be “right”.

Contributed by Margaret Girgis, New Haven Free Public Library Ives Main Library


The New Haven Free Public Library offers a variety of exciting programming and events for patrons of all ages! From story times to chess and Lego clubs to computer, tech and makerspace classes, you're sure to find something fun to learn!


Little Girl playing dress up
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Little girl stands in front of a white framed mirror playing dress up.

Grown-ups & Kids: Reading Can Help You Discover Your Own Identity

Discovery of one’s own self-identity begins around 18 months of age, and continues for … a lifetime. Stories are a powerful way to help us understand how we as individuals relate to the rest of the world. See more book lists from PBS Parents that nurture identity, and offer opportunities for conversations with children about who they are — and who they may aspire to be!


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How to Make a Friend

Author: Stephen W. Martin. Illustrator: Olivia Aserr. (Clarion Books, 2021)

A plucky young inventor uses her STEM skills to construct a new friend out of parts she finds around the house. All seems to be going well until unexpected complications crop up, as can be the case in any friendship, and she learns that sometimes you have to start over, but that it will be ok to try again.


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Cows Go Boo!

Author: Steve Webb. Illustrator: Fred Blunt. (Andersen Press USA, 2021)

The silliest time can be had by all in this barnyard romp full of animal sounds. Farmer George has things under control, except for his fun-loving cows. Half the time he cannot find them, and the rest of the time they are finding ways to sneak around and surprise him! He thinks he found the perfect task for his cows that go BOO!!


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Mel Fell

Author & Illustrator: Corey R. Tabor. (Balzer & Bray, 2021)

A confident young kingfisher decides that today is the day that she will fly. She jumps from her branch, flips, spreads her wings – and falls. Down, down, down she plunges past many other tree dwelling creatures. Will she crash? Will she fly? Ingeniously designed, with a lot of humor in the artwork, this picture book is a sure crowd pleaser.


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Vivi Loves Science: Sink or Float

Authors: Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes. Illustrator: Joelle Murray. (Greenwillow, 2022)

Vivi, an early elementary student with a love of all things underwater, goes on a field trip to the local aquarium. Wonderfully rich vocabulary (examples include: marine, tropical, species, density, and experiment) matched with colorful illustrations of Vivi's diverse classmates will make this book a delight for all young science-lovers. A "sink or float" experiment rounds out the story. Directions for conducting your own "sink or float" experiment at home are included. A whale of a time indeed.


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Going Up!

Author: Sherry J. Lee. Illustrator: Charlene Chua. (Kids Can Press, 2020)

Sophie and her dad are invited to a special birthday party, and their whole apartment building will be there. Departing with their cookies from their first-floor apartment, the elevator stops at each floor to pick up more guests and Sophie’s (and the reader’s) excitement for the party builds. Just when the elevator is packed to bursting, they arrive at the big celebration.


Visit the Ferguson Library website to see a full calendar of programs for kids, teens and adults, as well as more recommendations for the whole family.


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Grown-ups & Kids: Explore Your Local Library Together

Visiting the children’s library in your town can be an adventure, and a treat! Do you remember the day you got your first very own library card? It’s like a limitless ticket to the world of knowledge, and it empowers a child to make their own choices about the books and media that interest them. It can also help build a sense of responsibility and self-confidence. (Your town is trusting you to take care of those books while you have them!) Here are some ways to get your children excited about their library.


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Russell: The Kid Nobody Wants to be Around

Author: Diane Young-Rodney. Illustrator: FX & Color Studio (Youndrod, LLC, 2021)

This beautifully illustrated book tells a story of how lonely someone feels when they can’t make friends. Friendship is about giving someone a chance to be themselves and it takes just ONE person to make a difference. Russell's annoying behavior at school prevents him from making friends. Surprises at his birthday party transform his life—and that of another boy who takes the time to care. RUSSELL: The Kid Nobody Wants to be Around offers readers a fresh perspective on navigating friendship, and reminds us that everyone deserves to have a friend.

— Contributed by librarian Nancy Mendez


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Watercress

Author: Andrea Wang. Illustrator: Jason Chin (Neal Porter Books, 2021)

This book is an emotional, multigenerational story — capturing the immigrant experience of an Asian American family who shared memories of family traditions and values after gathering wild watercress growing by the roadside in their hometown in Ohio. The narrative is simple, straightforward, and honest, based on recollections from the author's childhood. This story sends a message of hope to children who feel different and families with difficult pasts.

— Contributed by librarian Lina Osho-Williams


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Ada Twist, Scientist

Author: Andrea Beaty. Illustrator: David Roberts. (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016)

Ada Twist, Scientist is a rhythmic adventure following the emerging young scientist whose curiosity for the world around her knows no bounds! From her constant questions to wild experiments at school, Ada’s curiosity and solution-seeking grows as she does. Though exhausted, her parents are resolved to nurture their brilliant child and make space for her interests and talent!

— Contributed by librarian Katherine Trouern-Trend


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Beautifully Me

Author: Nabela Noor. Illustrator: Nabi H. Ali. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021)

Meet Zubi: a joyful Bangladeshi girl excited about her first day of school. But when Zubi sees her mother frowning in the mirror and talking about being "too big," she starts to worry about her own body and how she looks. As her day goes on, she hears more and more people being critical of each other's and their own bodies, until her outburst over dinner leads her family to see what they've been doing wrong — and to help Zubi.

— Contributed by librarian Selina Sharmin


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Harriet Gets Carried Away

Author & Illustrator: Jessie Sima (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018)

From the author and illustrator of Not Quite Narwhal, comes a fun and engaging story about an imaginative young girl who loves dressing up in fun costumes all year round! Harriet wears her special errand-running costume – a penguin suit complete with bow tie – to go birthday party supply shopping with her dads, but at the store she gets a little carried away.

— Contributed by librarian Alexa Esposito


Grown-ups & Kids: Enjoy Some PBS KIDS Read Along Stories

Find these and many more on the PBS KIDS YouTube Channel.

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Mixed – A Colorful Story
When we all mix together, the world becomes a more colorful place! Join author and illustrator Arree Chung as he reads his book, and offers a drawing lesson!

The Lemonade Problem
Watch Peg + Cat co-creators Jen Oxley and Billy Aronson read about an Eid al-Adha adventure.

Berry Itchy Day
Join Molly of Denali creative producer Yatibaey Evans as she reads this special story about Molly and her family’s adventures. They go berry picking only to be swarmed by mosquitos! A book in the Trading Post may have a recipe for making insect repellent from wild plants.

Welcome to the Party!
Join NBA Legend Dwyane Wade in a very special read along to Gabrielle Union's book — a love letter from parents to welcome a new baby to the family.


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The Paper Bird

Author & Illustrator: Lisa Anchin
(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021)

The Paper Bird is about a girl named Annie who begins to lose her confidence when she suspects the other students are making fun of her artwork. This affects Annie so deeply, she finds it impossible to draw and loses interest in her daily activities. Anchin’s illustrations use color to portray Annie’s emotions: doubt is gray, while confidence and happiness flow like a rainbow. We learn that the spark of inspiration we’re looking for may be right before our eyes.

Alexis Young, Youth Services Librarian, Newfield Branch Library


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Whoever You Are

Author: Mem Fox; Illustrator: Leslie Staub
(Voyager Books, 2001)

Whoever You Are is one of my favorite picture books to read at storytime. The beautifully illustrated story shows children, who might not look the same, speak different languages, and have different homes and schools, are still all the same on the inside. This is a perfect multicultural storybook to teach children diversity and point out differences and similarities among people all over the world.

Anna Knorovska, Youth Services Librarian, Burroughs-Saden Main Library


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PAR-TAY! Dance of the Veggies (And Their Friends)

Author: Eloise Greenfield: Illustrator: Don Tate (Alazar Press, 2018)

The late poet Eloise Greenfield imagines a wild kitchen scene after the family goes out for the evening. The head of cabbage makes sure the coast is clear, then he "throws his head back and yells PAR-TAY!" The dancing begins...Zucchini is cool, String Bean is doing the pop hip-hop, and baby limas wobble-dance! Clever verse paired with Tate's ebullient illustrations will make any kid want to dance and sing! The book includes two pages on what is a vegetable.

Bina Williams, MLS, Youth Services Librarian, North Branch Library


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Interrupting Chicken

Author & Illustrator: David Ezra Stein
(Candlewick Press, 2018)

Papa has a problem – Little Red Chicken won’t stop interrupting their bedtime stories, preferring to jump in to save the characters herself. With a delightful plot and bright, colorful illustrations, Interrupting Chicken is the rare combination of adorable, clever, and funny. Rather than shaming kids for interrupting, it mirrors the ingenious ways children think – with empathy, enthusiasm, and creative problem-solving. Highly recommended for kids and their adults!

— Kristin Munley Graf, Youth Services Librarian, East Side Branch


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Gaston

Author: Kelly DiPucchio, Illustrator: Christian Robinson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014)

Belonging is a theme as old as time. This adorable picture book brings home the message that we all belong somewhere, but not necessarily where it looks like we belong. Bulldog Gaston and Poodle Antoinette were switched at birth. Was switching back the right solution? Gaston and Antoinette are not so sure.

Michele Jacobson, Branch Manager, Black Rock Branch


Read Together!

Try these four ways to encourage family reading time. By swapping out screen time for bonding time with a good book, your child will strengthen their vocabulary, imagination and stamina.

LET YOUR CHILD CHOOSE
Reading should never feel like a chore! Kids have become accustomed to visually-engaging media like video games and television. For children to be engaged in reading, they should be shown a love of reading. This means allowing them to choose their books. Picture books, chapter books, magazines, and graphic novels are all great options. These five tips will help make reading fun for your child, and for you!

BUILD BRAIN POWER!
According to this study by Ohio State University, reading to children during their first five years of life may give them a 1.4 million-word edge over other kindergarteners.