Great Books and more

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. How do you know if a person is cheating on the Summer Reading Challenge?

Q: How do you know if a person is just cheating by filling in all the stickers but not reading?A volunteer (unnamed) looking sneaky with her reading log.

A: We don’t know!

Of the approximately 500 kids who have signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge at my branch library, only 3 have had the audacity to ask this question.

However, at the beginning of June, when I visited classrooms at a number of Oakland Public Schools (all the children's librarians do this every May & June) to tell kids about the Summer Reading Program, another dozen kids asked the same question. At every school, there is always at least one person, usually in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, who asks me, "What if someone cheats and fills in all the stickers without reading anything at all?"

So I've answered this question a LOT. Here is what I say:

Bookshelves at Oakland LibraryWe use the honor system, which means we trust you to read a little every day (we count days; not time, not books). We are confident that it's more fun to read something than it is to lie about it and then skulk around feeling like a cheater. 

However, if you are one of the people who can't find anything you want to read for 15 (or even 5) minutes a day, you need to come talk to me!  We have over 30,000 kids books at my branch alone, and it's my job to find the 1 book you really, really, really want to read this summer. (Maybe that is why we call it the Summer Reading Challenge!)

Everyone needs help finding the right book sometimes. If you haven't yet found the book that makes you want to read, it's could be because you haven't yet asked your librarian for help. Come talk to me, and I will do everything I can to find the best book - the greatest book - the most fantastic book for you! 

You know what else? This is your summer vacation! We want you to be able to relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy yourself. You get to pick whatever you want to read, so the 15 minutes a day should be 15 minutes that please you. If you hate fiction, pick up some non-fiction. If you had a bad experience with a fantasy that all your friends loved, try some science fiction, or a mystery. If you are sick and tired of comic books, read some history - or vice-versa!

If we can't find a book that looks like fun for you to read, then probably what we need to do is find a book that looks like fun to hear read aloud. (I wish we had 20 copies of The True Meaning of Smekday - a patron recommended it to me and it's the best.) It's my opinion that kids who don't like to read should sit back, close their eyes, and listen to a wonderful story reader. Usually, it's your mom or dad, a grandparent, or a sibling. If they are all busy, then there are professional story readers who make recorded books that you can listen to on CDs or as downloadable audiobooks.

I'm not worried about you cheating, but it will break my heart if I missed the chance to help you find a good book.

If your librarian never seems to be available when you come to the library (waiting in line is SO hard for kids), try our new online service called Book Me! to ask for help finding a book, or call your local branch library to find the best time to ask for personalized help.

As always, if you have a comment, leave it below, and if you have a question you'd like us to answer online, click the button below.

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It's Summer at Your Library!

The Oakland Public Library has reading, fun, and adventure for children, teens, and adults this summer.

Smiling girlWe invite you to hang out, play, meet new people, and read for fun this summer.

Studies show that kids who don’t read during the summer lose approximately two months’ worth of gains made during the school year.  But we have you covered, with the kids Summer Reading Challenge.  

We know (because studies also show!) that when kids choose their own reading, they enjoy reading more, and when reading is fun, they become better readers.  We'd like to celebrate your child's summer experiences by rewarding them for reading, which they can track in their own reading log.  Come to any Oakland Library to pick one up.

While you're here, check out our amazing activities and performances. Music, puppets, marble runs, an instrument petting zoo and a live animal petting zoo...there's always something to do at your library. 

Baby Bounce ProgramCelebrate reading with the whole family. 

Any child can participate in the Summer Reading Challenge whether they know how to read or not.  Even babies are learning important literacy skills when you or another loved one read to them.  Read together, read often, it all counts, because it all makes a difference.  

You can also get prizes for your own reading, for attending a library program or bringing a friend to the library, or checking out a free Discover & Go pass.  Just ask for an Adult Summer Reading raffle card at any location.  And, yes, your teenager too!

Girl and boy reading togetherStart now.  Here's our favorite reads. 

We love to talk to you and your children at the library to find the perfect book, but your can always browse our favorites at our Great Reads page.   We also love OUSD's Elementary Summer Reading list, and hope you will try our new service, Beanstack. Set up a free account and select your child's age, interests, and reading level. You’ll receive a weekly email with recommended books from the Oakland Public Library!

We've got plenty in store...

Don't miss our end of summer extravaganza at the Oakland Museum, or that special event that just right for you and you child.  We are also serving free lunch for youth at many of our libraries. Check out out events calendar any day this summer.  We can't wait to see you. 

Girl eating lunch in the library

Don't know what to read? Try Book Me!

At some point, it happens in every reading family: You've worked your way through all the Ramonas and all the Fudge books. You've read all the Wimpy Kids and all the Dork Diaries. Harry Potter is history. Every bit of Narnia has been Chronicled. And you don't know what to read next.

You're in luck! OPL has a new service called Book Me! that will help you find your next family favorite. Fill out the form online, and a librarian will reply with a list of suggested titles. Easy peasy.

If you're looking for children's books, your Book Me! request will go to a children's specialist. We can help you find a chapter book to read at bedtime, a picture book about getting a new baby brother or sister, or an exciting fantasy read for your book-hungry tween. Give it a try! Recommending books is our favorite thing.

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer: What book comes next in the series?

This Frequently Asked Question is VERY easy to answer! Your librarian may use the old-fashioned way if she's standing next to you in the stacks, but if she's in front of a computer, she'll use NoveList, which is seamlessly woven into our online catalog. I'll walk you through both ways, so if the librarian is busy helping someone else at the moment, you can figure it out for yourself!

The old-fashioned way:

Q: I love this book! It was so great! What comes next in the series? 

A: Walk over to the shelves that have the author's books (the author’s name is on the cover), and look for the series numbers on the spines. If the number you want is gone, grab one of the higher numbers, and look inside the front or on the back cover for the list of titles published so far. If it's not on the shelf, we have to use our online catalog to place a hold on it. Ask the library staff - what if someone else just returned it?!?

Q: I am going to read this whole series, in order! I’m on number 4. Do you have numbers 5, 6, & 7 here today?

A: First let’s check the series-paperback shelves, under M for Magic Tree House, and then on the fiction shelves, by author (O for Osborne). If you don’t see the ones you want, we'll use our online catalog. You can search the series title and the number you want. For example, “Magic Tree House 5.”  Look to see if there’s a copy here today, and where it’s shelved. If it’s not here today, click on the little basket “Add to bookcart” so you can place a hold on it.

The twenty-first century way:

Q: We found this book, Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door and we're reading it together as a family. We realized it's not the first book in the series, but which one is? 

A: Type the title in our online catalog and click on the first item on the list. Scroll down the page, past the list of locations that have a copy, farther down until you get to a section called “You Might Also Like” and just below that, “Books in This Series.” Six titles are listed there, in order. If you click on the first title, you find yourself in the entry for book 1, and can see if it's here today, or place a hold if it's not. Excellent, right? How easy was that!

Q: My friend told me about the series The 39 Clues. Who wrote it? Which one is book one?

A: This is possibly the MOST tricky series ever published! Different authors, spin-offs, and related series make this simple question complicated, unlcess you just happen to know the title of the first one (which your children's librarian does). If you use the online catalog, type the series title “39 clues” plus the number “1” to get a short list of titles - but they are all the first books in all FIVE of the "39 Clues" series! If you limit them to books, and English, the book you want (Maze of Bones) should appear at the top of the list.

However, you might have to sort by publication date, and click on the oldest date – the bottom of the list! That's because there are multiple series. The best source for this kind of complexity is the Kent District Library's excellent database, which lays it all out.

Not so long ago, to figure out the series-order, librarians always had to sort a list of titles by date, or look the title up in an online database that wasn't available on our public computers. But now that we have NoveList's “Books in the Series” in our online catalog, anyone can get this information instantly! 

Give it a try and let us know if you like this feature. Also, human beings are doing the data-entry, so report it to us if you catch a mistake.

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Keep them coming by clicking on this button! 

Spring 2015 Picture Book Showcase

Let's face it: everyone who's into illustration, cartooning, design or just plain old fine art is into the art of the picture book. Next Thursday, May 21, the Oakland Public Library is joining the Octopus Literary Salon to show off some of our newest favorites....

It's the Spring 2015 Picture Book Showcase! Won't you come on over, buy yourself a drink, and enjoy the show? A surprise musical guest will make an appearance. Copies of the books will be for sale, too.

OPL's Spring 2015 Picture Book Showcase
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6:30-8:30pm
The Octopus Literary Salon
2101 Webster Street in Oakland

Here's a sneak preview:

Vegetables in Underwear, by Jared Chapman


Last Stop on Market Street, by Christian Robinson

The Spider, by Elise Gravel

What else will make the cut? Who knows! I do. And soon you will too. See you next Thursday!

The Octopus is a literary salon, re-interpreted in the 21st Century to engage and entertain readers and writers of all ages in Uptown Oakland, California. The Octopus Literary Salon includes a café, a small-scale specialty bookstore and publisher, and a space for public readings and discussions as well as other literary spontaneity.

Oh, LiLo! Arabic Resources at OPL

By now you've probably heard about Lindsay Lohan's Instagram gaffe--yesterday, she tweeted a picture of Arabic writing with the English words "You are beautiful" underneath. Except that the Arabic words in the picture don't mean "You are beautiful;" they mean "you're a donkey." Whoops! 

If LiLo wanted to build some skills in Arabic, she could very well start at the Oakland Public Library. Did you know that OPL offers language learning courses you can access for free with your library card? Follow this link, and scroll until you see Transparent Language Online. When you sign in with your library card number, you can begin an audio program on any language you like. Great resource for travelers, btw.

But what if Lindsay wants a more intensive course, with a book to go along with her lessons? She could check out one of OPL's language kits, which contain both print books and CDs with audio instruction. Here are the kits we have on learning Arabic. If you don't see one at your local branch, you can place a hold and have it sent to any Oakland library location. We also have language learning kits for Arabic speakers who want to learn English.

Once the former Mean Girl has some basic skills in her repertoire, she could check out some books in Arabic from any of the branches in this list. Our Arabic circuit collection is relatively new and growing, and has books for adults and children. The book that appears in the thumbnail is Alwān al-ḥayawānāt = Animal colors, by Brian Wildsmith.

What we're saying, Lindsay Lohan, is that your buddies at the Oakland Public Library have got you covered. Next time.

Hey kids, get cooking!

There are two cookbooks seeing heavy rotation in my kitchen right now: Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry and Thug Kitchen.


Mmm-mmm! Please try the peach-pomegranate barbecue sauce in Afro-VeganBut what if the kids in your life want to cook? What can you do to help them? After you've finished whooping for joy, kicking your feet into the air, and pouring yourself a glass of relaxing wine, that is.

Why, you go to the library, of course, and check out one of these great cookbooks for kids!

The Garden Cook: grow, cook, and eat with kids, by Fiona Inglis. Inglis was a contestant on Australian Masterchef, and her recipes are perfect for kids who are 8-14 years old.

Garden to Table: a kid's guide to planting, growing, and preparing food, by Katherine Hengel. Another good one for slightly older kids.

Cool Lunches to Make and Take: easy recipes for kids to cook, by Lisa Wagner. This one will be great for the slightly younger set. We also have Cool African Cooking on order--why not place a hold today?

And now, my personal favorite and source of several of my staple recipes: the Easy Menu series.

I declare these to be the perfect books not just for junior chefs, but for busy adults on the go. The recipes are simple to follow, whip up fast, and most of the ingredients can be found in your standard pantry or at the corner store late at night (ask me how I know). There's Cooking the East African Way, Cooking the Vietnamese Way, and many many more!

Bon appetit!

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: I know what kind of book I want but I can't find it!

Kids looking for booksQ: I know exactly what kind of book my son/daughter likes but it is kind of hard to describe.  Can you help me find some good titles that we would like?

A:  Yes, we would love to help!  One of the best book requests I ever heard from a parent was for picture books "where there is a lot of things to look at."  It turned out her four year old son loved pouring over elaborate illustrations with lots of little details to explore.  And guess what?  There are lots of children's picture books that fit the bill!  The tricky part for this parent was to find those types of books on the shelf when there isn't a keyword for "detailed pictures" or "lots to see" in the library catalog.  So how do we find something her son will enjoy?

Looking for books with a certain feel, tone, or specific trait can sometimes be tough.  We can easily find books about "dogs," "soccer" or "princesses" with keyword searches but looking for titles with more abstract qualities like "quiet,"  "old fashioned" or "fun to look at" can be a lot harder since they aren't usually described in library catalogs that way.  Luckily, children's librarians read, hear about and see hundreds of picture books each year and are happy to help you find what you are envisioning!

In the case of the mom I mentioned above, it wasn't books like I Spy or Where's Waldo that interested this young reader.  Instead, it was simply books that had illustrations with lots to see.  A book with something new and special to find during each reading,  little treasures in each picture.

Here are just a few books that have "lots of things to look at" and I bet a lot of other curious kids would love them too!




This is all also true for books other than picture books and for readers of all ages.  Just last week, I had a 5th grader ask for "sad books" and another ask for "chapter books that will help me learn new words."  Neither of these descriptions are in the library catalog but there are tons of books are just what these readers were looking for!  It is the same for adult readers who know they love "gritty" books or "tragic" books or "nonfiction that reads like fiction."  Librarians love to help with these types of inquiries so don't be shy! 

If you want to dig in yourself and find the *perfect* picture book, check out A to Zoo: Subject Access Guide to Children's Picture Books.  This reference book is available for browsing at all OPL locations and has over 1000 pages of booklists for subjects ranging from common ideas like "earth" and "friendship" to more obscure and specific topics like "emotions-embarrassment" and "character traits - orderliness."  It is great fun, if picture books are your idea of fun!

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. 

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What's Your Favorite Bunny Book?

Hippity-hop! It's springtime in Oakland, and I thought we could celebrate with a chat about bunnies, the official animal of spring. I don't know why the vernal equinox gets everyone thinking about rabbits. Scientific data exists that shows they do, in fact, exist at other times of the year.

Also, bunnies are really not sweet and gentle and cute as the books below would have you believe. They are kind of vicious. Have you read Watership Down? If you haven't, you really should. It's one of my childhood favorites. At one point, I considered myself fluent in the language the author invented for the book, so if you read it, maybe you can come by and we can have a conversation in Lapine. Anyway, the rabbits in that book killed each other pretty easily and often, so much so that if you do a Google image search for "Watership Down," the first subset that pops up is labeled "Violence" and filled with graphic stills from the 2002 animated feature film.

We could talk all day about murderous bunnies and whether being a proud eleven-year-old speaker of Lapine is even nerdier than speaking Klingon. But if we do that, I might start looking for internet forums for Lapine fanatics and forget all about showing you some nice cute picture books about bunnies. Without further ado, here are some of my favorites:

The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

This book is perfection itself. I have seen tough, streetwise small kids' minds BLOWN when the mother bunny becomes the wind and pursues her little runaway over the ocean. True story: Margaret Wise Brown, who was awesome, was miffed that her editor didn't like the original ending and suggested she add something. She wrote back, sassily, "Have a carrot." And that became the last line of the book. 

Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu

Look out for the goat in this book. Whenever he appears, you know there's about to be trouble! But don't worry--Bear will fix everything. This one's a real charmer with wonderful, simple artwork.

Father Fox's Pennyrhymes, by Clyde Watson and Wendy Watson

So technically, this is a book about foxes. But as foxes are often depicted being buddies with their prey, many of the delightful ink-and-watercolor illustrations in this book of poems include rabbits. I own a piece of furniture that's lacquered with pages from this book, and I've used it as reference art for a sizeable tattoo. It's sweet and comforting, great for a bedtime readaloud. By the way, if you were wondering, Clyde and Wendy Watson aren't married--they're sisters.

Did you find something you want to read yet? Maybe your tastes run to the political, in which case you might like Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, by Duncan Tonatiuh. Told in the manner of a folktale, this allegorical tale is a story of crossing the US-Mexico border.

And I'll end with a little PSA: if you're thinking about getting a pet bunny, please hop over to the House Rabbit Society first and do some reading. Rabbits are complicated little creatures, and they don't make good pets for everyone, especially families with small children. If you've done your research and you're sure a bun is the pet for you, you can adopt one from Oakland Animal Services.

Now, what are you waiting for? Get in your Hrududu* and come to the library for Hrair** books!


**lots of

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Antidotes to teen romances for my precocious pre-teen?

Q: My daughter is in 6th grade, and she’s an avid reader. She’s choosing teen stories that seem to actually be romances - vampires, warriors, rebels, detectives - they all seem to focus on the love interest in the end! I feel Twilight is one of the books the 6th-grader had it might be influencing her behavior toward the boys in her school - in a way that to me seems vulnerable. Do you have any good stories about strong female characters without the romance? Akata Witch - See below for details.

A: As your child continues to develop her individual identity, it would be nice to have a steady supply of role models in literature that show a variety. We can find plenty!

As to her current reading choices; while romance is a real option for older teens, if younger people believe they should emulate it before they actually feel it from within, it could get confusing for them.

You could talk to her to figure out what those romantic scenarios mean to her - at her age, she may be very interested in them, or she may be skimming those parts. Aim to keep the lines of communication open in both directions. She is still at the age where your opinion matters, and she may have questions for you if she can trust you to be open and nonjudgmental.

Sabriel - see details below!In any case, it is best to not interfere with your child’s reading choices. Those books are not going to damage her, and as much influence as they have, her family, her friends, and all the other books in the world have just as much or possibly more.

So...your idea is perfect; have a couple of books on hand every time she finishes another one of those racy novels. Here are some ideas - these are stories that stay in the social & emotional world of middle school kids ages 10 to 13, have strong, self-aware, individuated female characters who focus on their mission, their interests, and their own strengths, and don’t chuck it all for the hot guy in the end.

Fantasy & Magic 

Kat, Incorrigible (Burgis), Princess Curse (Haskell), Howls Moving Castle (Jones), Kiki's Delivery Service (Kadono), Tale of Two Castles (Levine), Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Lin), Princess Ben (Murdock), Sabriel (Nix), Akata Witch (Okorafor), Wee Free Men (Pratchett), Golden Compass (Pullman), Thickety (White);  

Kat, IncorrigiblePrincess CurseHowl's Moving Castle - also a great Miyazaki movie!Kiki's Delivery Service Tale of Two CastlesWhere the Mountain Meets the MoonPrincess Ben Sabriel (First in Abhorsen series) Akata WitchWee Free Men (first in series of 4 books)Golden Compass (first book in His Dark Materials)Thickety

Science Fiction

Search for Wond-La (Diterlizzi), City of Ember (DuPrau), Skyjumpers (Eddleman), Wrinkle In Time (L'engle), True Meaning Of Smekday (Rex), When You Reach Me (Stead);

Search for Wond-LaCity of EmberSky JumpersWrinkle in TimeTrue Meaning of SmekdayWhen You Reach Me

 Realistic Fiction

Breadwinner (Ellis), Mare's War (Davis), Lady Grace Mysteries (Finney, aka Cavendish), Harriet The Spy (Fitzhugh), Journey to the River Sea (Ibbotson), Thing About Luck (Kadohata), From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg), Wild Girls (Murphy), Wonderstruck (Selznick), Counting By 7s (Sloan), At The Sign Of The Star (Sturtevant) Revolution (Wiles);

Breadwinner (first in series)Mare's WarLady Grace Mysteries (Assassin & Betrayal, bks 1 & 2)Harriet the Spy - see other editions tooJourney to the River Sea The Thing about LuckFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerWild Girls WonderstruckCounting by 7sAt the Sign of the StarRevolution 

Each of these books is a favorite of mine for a different reason. (Okay, there are 2 on these lists I haven't read, but I have on good authority they are worth reading...) Your daughter won’t like every one of them, so please ask us how to narrow it down. If you click on the book cover, you can see if the book is in the library today, and place a hold if you like.


Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians will answer questions on  this blog the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. We'd love to hear your ideas and feedback in our comments (below).  We also would love to answer YOUR question! Click here:   

Click here to submit a question!