It’s 1963 in London, and Maggie Stephens suffers from stuttering. She’s on her fourth elementary school, since no one knows how to handle her problem. Maggie’s father is threatening to send her to an institution to be “cured, ” which has her terrified. Yet Maggie has no trouble speaking when she’s alone with her pets : a mouse, a bird healing from a broken wing, some snails, a spider and even some roly-poly wood lice (each with its own name). But Mrs. Stephens intervenes, and Maggie is sent to live with her grandfather in southwest England, on the very edges of Wildoak Forest. Fortunately her grandfather Fred is a very kind soul, and Maggie befriends an injured snow leopard cub she stumbles upon in the forest, dumped there by a disgruntled owner. This is such a magical book, I absolutely loved it. It forces you to believe in the inherent goodness in others. Be sure to have a box of tissues handy, though, some moments of suspense might have you weeping…

The Long Ride Home

A new picture book recently released tells the poignant story of two best friends, a koala and a tiger. On a long car ride home, the koala friend is reminiscing about the good times they’ve had together in the past. But as the car ride ends, it turns out they had lived next door to one another, until the tiger moved away. A sweet children’s story about separation, just in time for the angst of starting school…

Children’s library play area

I recently read an article in Children & Libraries about the importance of play in early literacy development. You needn’t spend a fortune on toys to support this learning for babies and toddlers. Find out how to make some simple tabletop activities in a blogpost by a new youth services assistant, Kirsten Caldwell. She suggests a simple sorting activity for younger children, and making tangram shapes to laminate and use as puzzles, or a Mr. Potato Head made from felt for older kids.

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

I came across this book recently and it reminded me of the Lisa See novel The Island of Sea Women, about the female South Korean divers who harvest a variety of sea life to sell for their income. This story is the children’s picture book version, with wonderful illustrations by Jess Snow and informative text by Tina Cho. There is a brief explanation of haenyeo on the back pages, and I found it to be a fascinating subject.