“Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House”

In the January 16, 2017 edition of the New York Times, President Obama discusses with Michiko Kakutani his life-long love of books and what reading has meant to him throughout the eight years of his presidency.

Especially interesting is his wide-ranging taste in both fiction and non-fiction–from Lincoln, to Gandhi to Chinese writer Liu Cixin to his last read “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead.

As a president he faced a constant barrage of information.  Reading, he said, helped him to “slow down and get perspective” and gave him “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.”

Wolf Hollow

index-aspxThis powerful debut novel for children by Lauren Wolk deals with the themes of injustice, truth and bullying. Twelve year old Annabelle is living in a rural town in Pennsylvania in 1943, and befriends a homeless WWI veteran, Toby, who walks the nearby hills by day and squats at night in a old uninhabited smokehouse to sleep. Enter Betty Glengarry, a vicious bully, who comes to live with family nearby, shattering Annabelle’s peaceful and quiet life. When Betty disappears, all fingers point to Toby. Wolf Hollow is a coming-of-age story, with haunting prose and issues similar to those in To Kill A Mockingbird, except that the prejudice here is social status, rather than racism. While Annabelle endures a difficult journey as she matures, the ultimate message of the novel is one of hope and empathy. For readers in 4th and 5th grade who can handle difficult issues, and above.

This novel was also chosen as the Newbery Award winner today in a discussion among children’s public librarians of Rockland County.

Chinese New Year

Saturday, January 28, is according to the Stem-Branch counting system the 4714th year in the Chinese calendar–the Year of the Female Fire Chicken.  Other sites refer to this year as the Year of the Rooster.

There are several books that young readers will enjoy dealing with the celebration of the Chinese New Year.  “Curious George Dragon Dance” is a simple story that deals with the Chinese custom of a New Year’s day parade which would feature a dragon dance.  George and his friend Marco met Lily in Chinatown.  They help her practice for the dragon9780544784994_p0_v2_s192x300.jpg dance, but unfortunately the dragon meets with an accident.  Together the three children mend the dragon and are asked to march in the parade.

Lovers of Curious George will enjoy this story and will also learn about customs and traditions relating to Chinese New Year.

“Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas” by Natasha Kim, illustrated by Grace Zong, is a funny retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”  Goldy is asked by her mother to deliver some turnip cakes to their neighbors and wish them Kung Hei Fat Choi.  Goldy trips as she enters Chans’ apartment spilling the cakes all over the floor.  This was an omen: bad luck will follow.

Goldy sees three steaming bowls of congee on the table.  She samples each.  Of course, the small bowl is just right.  And so she continues trying out beds and chairs.  When the Chans return home, they  see the mess Goldy has created.  Goldy awakens to hear the Chans, panda bears,  and runs out of their apartment.th.jpg

At this point, the story parts company from the original.  Goldy makes amends to her neighbors and helps to clean up the mess.  In turn, she is invited to make more turnip cakes with her new friend Little Chan.

In the author’s note, Natasha Kim gives the reader some insights into Chinese customs, the Chinese Zodiac, and a recipe for turnip cakes.  Colorfully illustrated by Grace Zong, this is a story readers from ages four and up will enjoy.


Most school children are well-informed about the life and importance of Martin Luther King to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  However, in a new book by Tonya Bolden, the reader’s understanding of the contributions of other black Americans will be broadened by an introduction to 16 black Americans who made their mark in varied and interesting ways.9781419714559_p0_v1_s192x300.jpg

In “Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls,” the author describes the life and achievements of 16 individuals who most of us have no knowledge of.  From Venture Smith in the 1700s to Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson in this century, Bolden gives us short, but informative biographies.  Photographs, maps, posters, and drawings fill this book.  A glossary, an index, and selected sources round out a scholarly yet very readable collection of these gifted but unfamous people.

Readers from grade four to high school will find “Pathfinders” an interesting read.

“The Children’s March”

Audrey Faye Hendricks is not a name that most children or adults know.  Yet, this nine-year-old was the youngest protester in the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March.

Dr. Martin Luther King was a friend of the Hendricks family.  When he visited their home, he and other civil rights leaders discussed what could be done to right the injustices faced by black people.  Audrey knew all about which water fountain to drink from, or where to sit on a bus, or which elevator to take in a store.

When King asked adults to fill the jails of Birmingham in protest against discriminatory practices, adults feared what would happen to them.  When he realized that adults wouldn’t act, then he called upon children.  He was met with an overwhelming response.  Nine-year-old Audrey was going to protest.  Arrested almost immediately, Audrey was sentenced to a week in juvenile hall.9781481400701_p0_v5_s192x300.jpg

“The Youngest Marcher” by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton is the well-told story of this brave young girl.  Readers ages 5-10 will learn about conditions faced by black people in the 1960s as well as reading Audrey’s story.  The illustrations help explain the text and add drama and impact to the story.

The author’s note and a time line will add to the reader’s understanding of what Audrey and her fellow civil rights activists endured during this turbulent time in American history.