Great Books and more

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: How do I teach my child not to fear the dentist?

Q: Do you have any books about visiting the dentist?  It’s my son’s first trip to the dentist, and I don’t want him to have the same phobias I have!  Do you have any great books that will put both of us at ease?

A: Yes, as a matter of fact we do.  To quote Mr. Rogers, “Learning to take good care cover image of Mr. Rogers book Going to the Dentistof yourself is an important part of growing. No matter how much you grow, though, there will always be times when you’ll need help keeping your body healthy. That’s true for everyone – children and adults.” His is still my favorite book, even though it was published in 1989. (The waiting room furniture is retro-trendy now.) Why did anyone bother publishing anything else after that?

Okay, okay, despite the multi-cultural kids, dentists of both genders, and spot-on child-friendly language of Fred Rogers, you still believe there might be other books for you!  If you want more books that tell your child what happens at a dental visit, and show more modern equipment, try these:

cover of book Dentist by Stockham            

In between visits, if you’re trying to make sure everyone in the family keeps up their dental hygiene practices, try some of these books about self-care:


If your child has reached the age where baby teeth are coming out, he or she might like some of these books – some are just silly, some are about the Tooth Fairy, and some give us an opportunity to learn about world cultures:


Oh! ¿Quieres leer un libro en español? Prueba con estos: Oh! You want to read a book in Spanish? Try these:


Finally, if you’re way beyond your first visit, here are some suggestions for readers ages 6 & up, and some for kids even older & into orthodontia:


As a person who experienced dental anxiety, I can tell you this; I now love my family dentist, our orthodontist, and even our periodontist. However, if I can, I want to help you keep your family away from the endodontist! Seriously.  I spent too many hours in the dental care world this summer. 

Okay, here's 2 bonus books because you made it to the end:


Give us a big smile, now!

Percy Jackson Read-Alikes

Every day in the library, we meet young readers who just can’t get enough of Rick Riordan. The author’s exciting blend of reality and mythology has exploded in popularity, with kids clamoring for books in his Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, as well as his Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus series. Riordan superfans who are hungry for more fantastical action and adventure may want to give these books a try:

Gregor the Overlander book coverSea of Trolls book coverPandora Gets Jealous book coverAkhenaten Adventure book coverSkulduggery Pleasant book coverSavvy book coverGods of Manhattan book coverFablehaven book coverMagyk book coverAlchemyst book coverDusssie book coverShadow Thieves book cover Earth Shaker book coverTreasury of Egyptian Mythology book cover

The Underland Chronicles / Suzanne Collins

The Sea of Trolls trilogy / Nancy Farmer

The Pandora series / Carolyn Hennesy

Children of the Lamp series / Philip Kerr

Skulduggery Pleasant series / Derek Landy

Savvy / Ingrid Law

Gods of Manhattan series / Scott Mebus

Fablehaven series / Brandon Mull

Septimus Heap series / Angie Sage

Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series / Michael Scott

Dusssie / Nancy Springer

Cronus Chronicles series / Anne Ursu

The Olympians graphic novel series / George O'Connor

Treasuries of Mythology / Donna Jo Napoli

PAWS to Read: Summer Reading Recommendations for Kids

Parenting a Baby Part 2: Parenting Collections @ OPL

Is your baby having trouble sleeping through the night?  Is breastfeeding not going well?  How and when do you introduce food to babies?  What are the appropriate developmental stages babies go through and when should babies go through them?  Can babies learn sign language?  And, of course, a topic close to my heart, how do you read to a baby?

Raising a baby is hard work and we are here to help.  Last month I highlighted  some of the programs we offer babies and their families.  This month, we look at some of the materials we offer.  All of Oakland's libraries have parenting books, magazines and DVDs that can help you figure out how to best care for a baby and answer any questions you might have.  In fact, we have parenting materials for all ages of children and all kinds of families.   Just go to our home page at and key in your search topic or ask a librararian for help.

Here are some of our favorite parenting books about babies.  What are some of yours?

Book Cover

      Book Cover     Book Cover   

 Book Cover     Book Cover     

The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep /Harvey Karp

Feeding the Whole Family/Cynthia Lair

The Nursing Mother's Companion/Kathleen Huggins

The Read Aloud Handbook/Jim Trelease

What to Expect the First Year/ Heidi Murkoff et al.

My First Signs/Annie Kubler

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Can picture books fix my kid’s behavior problems?

Q: Is there a Berenstain Bears book about not biting people? My daughter has been biting other kids at preschool. Her teachers say it’s getting worse! Is there a book I could read to her showing how wrong this is?

A: Yes! Your question is a profound one. Children’s authors, publishers, teachers, parents, therapists, and children themselves have been seeing books as bibliotherapy for generations. As a result, there are a variety of books both silly and profound that could help in this siNo More Biting for Billy Goattuation. How can bibliotherapy help?Among other things, kids realize...

  • It's okay to have feelings

  • It's okay to talk about it

  • Other people have faced similar problems

  • There are different solutions available

  • Kids can solve problems 

So, where to start? The easy answer is to look up your preschooler’s particular issue in our online catalog. (...type in biting – or any other behavioral issue – and limit to children's books.) If nothing comes up, we'd take a look at A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books. It has picture books indexed under 1,215 subjects, including 53 different behaviors, from “animals, dislike of” to “worrying,” although, biting is not there – but we can look through the 35 books about “fighting.” A cool online resourcehas a few more titles. The Berenstain Bears books often have a clear behavioral message, and kids like to hear stories about characters they know and love. Since there isn’t one on biting, you might take a look at this one; The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends

Berenstain Bears & the Trouble with Friends

I am often asked for books to help a child overcome a particular problem – biting, hitting, whining, lying, stealing, teasing or bullying others, fears, sucking her thumb, screaming or throwing tantrums, etc. Practically every kid does something, sometime! misbehavior a universal experience?

When I was a new parent, I read several parenting books that put forward the view that all children's negative behavior is an attempt to communicate. (Like the 3 below.) These authors proposed that when the behavior annoys, angers, scares, or hurts others, it's very likely an indication that the child has some strong or negative feelings. Therefore, the solution – to all irksome behavior – is to teach the child how to effectively communicate negative feelings & whatever caused them.


An adult who spends a lot of time with a child teaches this vocabulary simply by saying aloud what they observe and guess about the child's feelings – but some things just don’t come up until a moment when the parent isn't there to interpret.

Books provide extra scenarios to absorb or to discuss feelings – the characters’, your own, and your child’s – so you don't have to wait for something to surprise you. Any book that shows characters having any feelings can start a conversation. The language of feelings is complex and may take a lifetime to fully explore. Here are my favorite books on the general topic of expressing feelings, in order from those for the youngest kids (2 years) to the oldest (about 9+ years):


In addition, the popularity of some rather uncomfortable books illustrates how negative feelings are human and common– it really is a comfort when someone else (even a character in a book) struggles through similar feelings. Here are a few that are wonderful to read to a child. They convey that you will love her and take care of her, even when she has so-called bad feelings, and even when she makes mistakes:


All these books (and many others on unrelated topics) show characters feeling something and being heard – by the reader if not by the other characters in the story!

You may not need a book about a biter, a hitter, a screamer, a liar, a thief, or a tantrum thrower. Children's books, by providing a wide range of situations and responses, build the child's repertoire of familiar life experiences. Each book, on any topic, can build understanding, empathy, and self-awareness, and allow your child to witness or imagine possible responses.


Play with your Words

Kids love to play, and librarians love to see kids playing with words! Visit your local library to find these books full of palindromes, puns, spoonerisms, homophones, and much more. And let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorites!

CDB book coverDear Deer book coverE-mergency book coverFollow Follow book coverOn Beyond Zebra book coverPalindromania! book coverPhantom Tollbooth book coverRrralph book coverRunny Babbit book coverSix Sheep Sip Thick Shakes book coverSmart Feller Fart Smeller book coverWumbers book cover

C D B! / William Steig

Dear deer: a book of homophones / Gene Barretta

E-mergency! / Tom Lichtenheld, Ezra Fields-Meyer

Follow follow: a book of reverso poems / Marilyn Singer; illus. by Josée Masse

On beyond zebra / Dr. Seuss

Palindromania! / Jon Agee
Phantom tollbooth / Norton Juster; illus. by Jules Feiffer
Rrralph / Lois Ehlert
Runny Babbit: a billy sook / Shel Silverstein
Six sheep sip thick shakes: and other tricky tongue twisters / Brian P. Cleary; illus. by Steve Mack

Smart feller fart smeller: and other spoonerisms / Jon Agee

Wumbers: it's a word cr8ed with a numbers! / Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Tom Lichtenheld

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about Asian-Americans

Holy beans, what a DIA week it's been! The whole world is talking about how #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We hope you've enjoyed the pictures and comments from OPL. We take great pride in our beautiful city, one of the most diverse in the nation.

Now that we've seen how many people want diverse books.... the next step is to buy them. I know that may sound strange coming from a librarian--of COURSE I want you to check out books from our libraries. My dream is that one day I will walk into a library and there will be NOTHING LEFT on the shelves because everything is out there in your living rooms and on your nightstands. But for those times when you want to buy books for yourself or give them as gifts, take a look at the Diversify Your Shelves campaign. Make a pledge to buy books by people of color from your favorite local bookstore. At OPL we buy as many books by and about people of color as we can, and if we're ever missing something you think we should have... tell us about it!

Today: children's books featuring characters who are Asian or Asian-American. As with the others, more on Pinterest!

Take me Out to the Yakyu, by Aaron Meshon. Catch a baseball game in America AND Japan, side by side.
Grandfather Gandhi, by Arun Gandhi. The grandson of Mahatma Gandhi remembers a time he lost his temper with the famous pacifist.
Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan. Rubina has to bring her little sister to a birthday party--no fair!
Cora cooks pancit, by Dorina Gilmore. This is one of the three picture books I know of about a Filipino-American family. If you know of others, let us know! Warm family story that includes a recipe.

For slightly older readers:

Ling and Ting Share a Birthday, by Grace Lin. The twins are back, and guess what day it is! Part of a terrific series for new readers.
The Year of the Baby, by Andrea Cheng. Wouldn't a baby sister make a great science project?
Alvin Ho: Allergic to babies, burglars, and other bumps in the night, by Lenore Look. First sympathetic pregnancy in the history of child lit.

For even-a-little-bit-older readers:

The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata. Beautifully written and funny story of a girl whose family spends summers as traveling threshers--but her grandmother is ailing, and her little brother is getting out of control.
Where the mountain meets the moon, by Grace Lin. Almost a folk tale, bold and engaging, terrific as a family read-aloud.

And for definitely-older readers (and I mean adults too, you will LOVE this book):

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. Possibly 2013's greatest teen romance. The story of a music-loving loner who falls for a strange girl with a terrible secret. Trust me--this is NOT a manic pixie dream girl story.

Thank you so much for reading along this week! As always, click through to Pinterest for a longer list of books about Asian-Americans.

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about Differently Abled People

Extra extra, bonus list! This afternoon, some great recent children's books about young people who live with disabilities. More on Pinterest!

A splash of red, by Jennifer Bryant.
King for a Day, by Rukhsana Khan
The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Lyon
A Boy and a Jaguar, by Alan Rabinowitz (this one's newly ordered and will be available for holds later in May)

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper.
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
Al Capone does my Homework, by Gennifer Choldenko (third in the trilogy!)

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein.

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about LGBTQ People

 Whoa people, have you checked us out on twitter lately? Like yesterday or today? Tons of pictures and personal testimony in support of #WeNeedDiverseBooks --keep it coming for the rest of the week, will you? Take a picture of yourself holding a sign with your reasons why we need diverse books, then email it to (she's our community relations librarian!). We'll tweet it and you'll be a part of history.

Today, our series of awesome diverse children's books continues with books featuring characters who are lesbian \ gay \ bisexual \ transgender \ queer. As with this week's other post, you'll find lots more titles of note on Pinterest!

You've seen And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson, right? True story of two penguin daddies who raise a penguin chick together at the Central Park Zoo. Lovely story, perfect for sharing with kids under five.

Welp, since the year it came out, it has landed pretty consistently every year on ALA's top ten most frequently challenged books. In 2012, that sweet, cozy story about two male penguins in love and raising a baby came in right under Fifty Shades of Grey in numbers of people who asked a library to take it off their shelves. Is that why there haven't been that many LGBTQ picture books published since that one came out? The 2014 ALA Rainbow List, which collects "quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content," didn't have a single picture book on it. The 2013 list has one. 2010 had the most, with a whopping six. 

This year, we can count on at least one: Jacob's New Dress, by Sara Hoffman. Jacob is a boy who would rather wear dresses than pants; his parents support him, and with his teacher's help, his classmates come to accept Jacob's choice of gender expression. A powerful little story, not dissimilar to Marcus Ewert's 2008 hit 10,000 Dresses. What we're still missing altogether is a picture book about a gender-nonconforming child who was born female. There are plenty of "girls can do anything!" type books, but I can't think of one in which an I-can-do-anything female-born character also has a non-traditional gender presentation. Can anyone else? (Ahem-- if there isn't one, that means one of you local authors needs to write it.) 

A really nice book for families learning to celebrate all kinds of differences. Pick up Mary Hoffman's The Great Big Book of Families--you could spend hours looking at the pictures alone.

Okay, chapter books! Here there are some great choices, and the newer crop has some for tween readers (9-12). First, if you haven't been reading Tim Federle's Nate books, you are going to have to change that right now. Nate is an eighth grade boy who loves musical theater, fears beatdowns from the town bullies, and has a fresh and funny eye for life. In Better Nate Than Ever, Nate sneaks off to New York City to audition for a Broadway musical; in Five, Six, Seven, Nate! his adventure continues. I know that summary tells you nothing! I don't want to spoil it!

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier, is about a theater geek girl who has a crush and... is in for some disappointment. But! the show does go on, and it's a cool and funny one at that. A winner for middle schoolers.


Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, by Kristin Cronn-Mills, was a tied win for the 2014 Stonewall awards with Fat Angie, by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo. In Beautiful, Gabe is a high schooler transitioning away from being Elizabeth; he finds some acceptance in his community, and some dangerous resistance. In Fat Angie, Angie is grappling with the death of her sister and her attraction to the new girl in school. Both terrific reads.

Finally, two recommended by Janine Mogannam, one of OPL's teen librarians. If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan is the story of two Iranian girls determined to love each other despite the risk of execution. Adaptation is part of a sci-fi trilogy by Malinda Lo, a local author. Pick 'em up!

Don't forget to click through to Pinterest for more kids' LGBTQ titles!

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about Latinos

When I first started at OPL, I worked at the César Chávez Branch in the Fruitvale (non-Facebook link here) I could not have a bigger soft spot in my heart for this place. It's sunny, the floors are shiny, the colors inside the branch are radiant. The staff is friendly, and you can get the best veggie burrito in Oakland right across the street.

But for me? It was all about lunch breaks in the staff room with gorgeous old cartoons from Mexico. I dug way into the Spanish-language cartoon section, where there are books you won't find at any other library in Oakland. Also, since Chávez gets the best selection of Latin American DVDs, I brought home Cantínflas episodes, and Chavo del Ocho so I could see what my old coworker meant when he called me "La Chilindrina" Note: that character definitely grew up to be a librarian.

It's true, Chávez Branch has treasures best enjoyed by visiting--a Chicano collection, a gorgeous mural by Daniel Camacho, a seed library, and in the summertime, free lunch for kids--but you can get any of the wonderful Latino children's books on this list at any OPL branch (if your branch doesn't own it, place a hold). Happy reading, happy Día!

Yes! We are Latinos, by Alma Flor Ada. Stories told in short pieces by thirteen different voices about their individual Latino identities.

The best Lucha Libre picture book ever? I'd put money on Niño. Presenting Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales. (If you love this book and you love Yuyi Morales, you can meet her in June in San Francisco.)

Mi familia Calaca: my skeleton family, by Cynthia Weill. I kind of adore this little charmer. Its simple text is also perfect for children beginning to read on their own, and it's in English and Spanish, side by side. You can read about artist Jesús Canseco Zarate in the back.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, by Duncan Tonatiuh. It's clear that Tonatiuh is a boundary-pusher. This beautifully illustrated story spins a folktale: a young rabbit crosses the Mexican border into the US, with the help of a "coyote" (in both senses), to find his father, who went to look for work but has disappeared. Not a subject many would be comfortable tackling in a picture book, but Tonatiuh does it admirably.

Maria Had a Little llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita, by Angela Dominguez. "Mary had a little lamb" transported to a Peruvian village, and now the lamb is a llama. I approve of all things llama. Plus Angela Dominguez is local, and she used to share a studio with a friend of mine! Cool, huh? It's like I know her. (I collect children's illustrators as imaginary BFFs.)

Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, rey del Mambo, by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael López. Spicy-pretty picture book biography of the Mambo great.

Jimmy the Greatest! by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. This one's a bit of a sleeper; and yes, it really is great. Jimmy, a boxer in a small Latin American town, decides to stay and help his neighbors instead of pursuing boxing fame. Makes you think about what it really means to be "the greatest." 

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash, by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Miguel Benítez. I knew the Freddie Ramos books were a hit when I walked into a third-grade classroom and asked the kids what books they'd liked from the library, and they all yelled as one "ZAPPA TOE!" It took a few seconds, but I put it together. ZaPAHto Power is a fun, exciting series for elementary school chapter book readers.

The Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny, by Rhode Montijo. I can definitively say that Gabby Gomez is the FIRST Latina superhero who is made of gum. Well, not really made of it. There's an origin story. I really, really hope this is the first in a series, but there's no word either way on the author's website.... please, Sr. Montijo? (Looks like there are supposed to be three!)

Maximilian and the mystery of the guardian angel: a bilingual Lucha Libre thriller, by Xavier Garza. For that independently-reading kid who loves mysteries AND luchadores.

Luz makes a splash, by Claudia Dávila. Luz is a neighborhood do-gooder, and a leader in water conservation in her diverse community. A good tie-in to this here drought thing we're experiencing.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina. I'm not sure how many more times I'll have the pleasure of recommending a book for children (okay, teens) with a swear in the title, so I'm going to savor it. This is a powerful book about bullying that captures the dread of knowing someone's got you in their sights... for reasons unknown to you.

Saving Baby Doe, by Danette Vigilante. This one has yet to hit our shelves, but you can reserve it now. Two Brooklyn tweens find an abandoned baby, and try to do the right thing for her, but what is the right thing?

For lots more children's books with Latino characters, click over to Pinterest!