Holiday Suggestions

There’s no more fun time of the year than the END of the year, when “best of” lists come out; everyone’s mock award results are announced, and we need to buy presents for all the young readers in our lives (and/or hunker down in the cold with some great reads for ourselves)!

This list isn’t a “best of,” nor is it the result of any structured decisionmaking process (stay tuned for our Mock Caldecott results next week). What this list IS, is a brief list of Butler Center staff favorites from 2015 that would make great gift choices, or for personal reading, on a variety of topics.

Happy holidays, and happy reading!

PICTURE BOOKS (suggested by Diane Foote, Butler Center Curator)

Bird & Diz by Gary Golio, illus. by Ed Young (Candlewick)
This book’s remarkable design and construction sets it apart from all other books on the topic of jazz music…it unfolds (literally) as the melody and harmony unfold, or it can be read more traditionally by turning the folded pages. Read and listen along with some of Charlie Parker’s and Dizzy Gillespie’s compositions for the most complete and fulfilling experience.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam)
This brightly colorful picture books hits numerous high notes: it’s an intergenerational story; it portrays a nicely diverse neighborhood of folks; and conveys a gentle yet powerful message about grace and appreciation, as CJ and his Nana travel across town on the bus to work at a soup kitchen.

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (Viking)
The nervous-looking possum on the cover gives a hint  of the hilarity inside; one by one the forest animals, portrayed in shiny gray and white against a black nighttime background, get terrified in turn by whatever “night animal” is following them. The joke is on everyone when kids camping in a tent and the bevy of creatures all scatter, each yelling RUN!

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illus. by Zachariah Ohora (Little, Brown)
A wolf in bunny’s clothing stars in this cheerful story about overcoming perceptions. Baby Wolfie is left on the Bunny family’s doorstep, and when they take him in big sister Dot has to get used to her scary-at-first little brother. In the tradition of great new sibling stories (Julius, I’m looking at you), Wolfie and Dot find common cause against an outside threat and the rest is history.

CHILDREN’S FICTION (suggested by Alena Rivers, MLIS student and Butler Center graduate assistant)

Dolls of Hope by Shirley Parenteau (Candlewick)
Dolls of Hope is a follow up story to Ship of Dolls. Both novels were inspired by the Friendship Doll exchange of 1926 between the U.S. and Japan as an act to prevent future wars. Dolls of Hope tells the story of an 11-year-old Japanese girl, Chiyo Tamura, who has been asked to help create one of the dolls for Japan and keep it safe until it is sent to America. ‘Tis the season for an inspiring story of peace and friendship!

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins/Amistad)
I can’t wait to read this follow up to Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven! Why not spend my winter break reading a story set during the summer of 1969 in Alabama? Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are back! This time the three sisters are sent from Brooklyn, NY to stay with family in Alabama. Ma Charles and her half sister Miss Trotter aren’t on speaking terms. Delphine and her sisters discover there is more to their family’s history than they knew and they learn the importance of family ties.

The Maloneys’ Magical Weatherbox by Nigel Quinlan (Roaring Brook)
A magical phone booth that siblings Liz and Neil call the Weatherbox rings only to signal the changing of the seasons. The keeper of the Weatherbox is their father; when the Weatherbox fails to ring and signal autumn’s arrival, Liz and Neil suspect their neighbor Mrs. Fitzgerald has something to do with it. They must work quickly to discover Mrs. Fitzgerald’s secret and restore the Weatherbox so the seasons continue to change.

Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elise Primavera (Dial)
I am intrigued by the idea of girls attending a boarding school called “Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents.” The headmistress has an exceptional way of teaching the girls lessons on bravery and friendship through the likes of adventures the girls would never imagine! I consider myself a busy parent but, thankfully, not quite so busy that my children need a special boarding school!

The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith (Putnam)
I can’t pass up an opportunity to read a book inspired by one of my favorite holiday stories, The Nutcracker! My family just saw the ballet performance and I’m excited to read a new tale featuring Stefan Drosselmeyer, the son and apprentice of a toymaker who has been kidnapped. Stefan and his cousin Christian must find Stefan’s father and, along the way, their adventures include saving a princess and battling the Mouse Queen’s seven headed Prince of Mice.

INFORMATIONAL BOOKS (suggested by Diane Foote, Butler Center Curator)

Drowned City by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The latest entry in Brown’s collection of graphic nonfiction brings the disaster of Hurricane Katrina to life for a contemporary audience, many of whom may have been too young at the time to fully comprehend the horror and scale of the tragedy.

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri, illus. by A. G. Ford (Candlewick)
At the author’s note states, Cash’s popularity surged in the 1980s after a period in the doldrums. That means parents today, as well as grandparents who remember hearing Cash’s music when it was first released, will be eager to share this success story with their own kids and grandkids. Painterly illustrations and a design that recalls an album cover with liner notes add to the appeal.

Water Is Water by Miranda Paul, illus. by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook)
The water cycle is of course an essential element of all life on earth, and there are several outstanding books for kids on the topic, including A Drop of Water by Walter Wick. Even so, this one stands out for its clever embedding of a friendship story that unfolds only in the illustrations. Clever!

TEEN FICTION (suggested by Hal Patnott, GSLIS student and Butler Center grad assistant)

Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman (Holt)
Alex is she. Alex is he. Gender is not as simple as “boy” or “girl” for Alex, because Alex is both at once. This important, coming-of-age story explores the struggles of defining your own identity when the world around you is trying to tell you who you have to be.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Simon Snow may be the Chosen One, but he struggles with school like any teen. I fell in love with Simon Snow and his evil roommate Baz the vampire when they first appeared in Rainbow Rowell’s 2013 novel Fangirl. Now they’re back, but this time in their own adventure full of magic, mystery, and romance.

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)
Sedgwick links together four stories across centuries with the image of a spiral. Each narrative takes a different form, mixing poetry, prose, and points of view. The concept reminds me of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, one of my favorite books. I am excited to experience each character’s struggle for survival.

Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick)
Fifteen-year-old Kivali doesn’t believe it when her guardian Sheila, a nonconforming artist, decides to send her off to CropCamp, a program for indoctrination into their government-controlled society. I look forward to reading Kivali’s adventure, because it’s not just another dystopian fantasy. Along the way to finding herself, Kivali wrestles with gender identity, first love, and friendship.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen)
I can’t resist an epic, fantasy adventure. Nimona is the story of a plucky and impulsive shapeshifter who teams up with a super villain to expose the fraud of a so-called legion of heroes. Full of dragons, battles, mischief, and humor, this National Book Award finalist subverts the traditional tropes of fantasy. Originally published as a webcomic, Nimona is Noelle Stevenson’s debut graphic novel.


2015 Annual Butler Book Sale 12/15/15

It’s that time of year again: Join the Butler Children’s Literature Center for our annual book sale!

On Tuesday, December 15, the Butler Center (Crown 214) will be staffed from 10:00am-6:00pm and we want YOU to come join us for cookies, cider, expert recommendations, and BOOKS!

If you’re looking to build your personal book collection, stock up for your school or public library, buy some holiday presents for your loved ones, or just want to check out the best books for kids and teens from 2015, you won’t want to miss this opportunity.

Hardcovers are $8 each (two for $15), paperbacks $3 (two for $5). Cookies and cider are free! Cash and checks are welcome.



B3 for November: Kids’ Books about Music on 11/10, 6-8 p.m.!

The third (and final) fall Butler Book Banter (B3), the Butler Center’s popular youth literature discussion group, is taking place Tuesday 11/10/15, 6:00-8:00 p.m. All GSLIS students and youth-services colleagues are welcome!

This month, we’ll be talking about kids’ books about music; primarily those that attempt to present a song or a genre in picture-book format. How do authors and illustrators “translate” an aural medium to a visual/textual one? What works? What doesn’t? I’m thinking specifically of Bird & Diz by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young (Candlewick, 2015). I’m reminded of Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka (Scholastic, 1992), an old favorite that gave my own son his very first spoken words (“fisk, fisk”).

We’ll also take some time to look at some new biographies of musicians; there seems to be a large crop out this year that follow in the tradition of classics such as When Marion Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2002) or Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (Clarion, 2010). This year’s offerings include Elvis by Bonnie Christensen (Holt/Christy Ottaviano, 2015) and Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Holiday, 2015).

There are many, many other types of books for kids about music, from music appreciation such as Blues Journey by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (Holiday, 2003) or M Is for Music by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (Harcourt, 2003); to presentations of single songs such as God Bless the Child by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr., illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (HarperCollins, 2004).

We’ll be specifically talking about the books from 2015, but we’ll have lots of old favorites on hand to use for comparison and discussion. Feel free to bring your own favorite and share it with us!

We’ll also be listening to some of the music under discussion, so we can hear the sounds that inspired the words and pictures. See you next Tuesday!

Bird & Diz by Gary Golio, illus. by Ed YoungElvis by Bonnie ChristensenSwing Sisters by Karen Deans, illus. by Joe Cepeda

Children’s Literature, and…..

For those of us who’ve dedicated our careers to sharing great books with kids, today’s electronic landscape may feel alarming (for those of us who are also parents of, say, 11-year-old boys who get in trouble for watching YouTube videos in the middle of the night, even more so…but I digress). On the other hand, youth librarians are often found knee-deep in emerging technologies and communications, because we have to keep up with the young patrons we serve. You may have seen by now that the American Academy of Pediatricians has revised its recommendations about screen time for kids. This is a particularly timely development for those of us in children’s librarianship, in light of ALSC’s recent white paper on media mentorship.

Kudos to our professional association for ahead-of-the-curve thinking on this one! Read ALSC President Andrew Medlar’s recent blog post outlining resources ALSC offers for helping us educate the children and families we serve about responsible media use.

Online and print media aren’t mutually exclusive; there is no one better than a youth service librarian to help our folks navigate the complicated technology and media environment these days. Stay tuned in this space for more projects (and events?) related to youth media literacy.

B3 for October: Spooky YA on 10/13/15, 6-8 p.m.!

The second fall Butler Book Banter (B3), the Butler Center’s popular youth literature discussion group, is taking place Tuesday 10/13/15, 6:00-8:00 p.m. All GSLIS students and youth-services colleagues are welcome!

We’ll be following the popular cable TV programming theme of “Shock-tober” by focusing on spooky books for teens this month (selected with the reccomendation of Hal Patnott, current grad assistant in Butler and a YA specialist; thanks, Hal!). If you’re prepared to be scared, give these new books a shivery read and join us on the lucky 13th to discuss them:

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
This urban fantasy is receiving starred reviews for its riveting blend of suspense and current cultural commentary. Visit Brooklyn in the depth of night, and the dusty archives of the Columbia University library, with teen Sierra Santiago as she and her friends unravel the mystery of the shadowshapers, and what this group has to do with neighbors who’ve disappeared, and murals that are fading in the neighborhood.

Shutter by Courtney Alameda
The legend of Dracula is extended to a current-day setting, with descendants of the Van Helsing and Harker families doing battle once again with the undead. It’s not necessary to be intimately familiar with the original Dracula story to be enjoyably terrified by this new tale, but it helps; there are subtle references to details from the Bram Stoker book throughout, that add interest for classic horror fans.

Join us in the Butler Center on Tuesday, 10/13 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to freak each other out over these scary stories. No RSVP necessary, but you can tell me you’re coming if you like, at

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older shutter

Butler Book Banter (B3) Returns 9/15/15!

Butler Book Banter (B3), the Butler Center’s popular youth literature discussion group, is taking place on TUESDAYS this fall, 6:00-8:00 p.m. All GSLIS students and area youth-services colleagues are welcome!

The first one is coming up Tuesday 9/15, and we’ll be focusing on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and how it’s portrayed in children’s books. Four new books (at least) have come out this year on the topic:

  • Drowned City by Dan Brown (graphic nonfiction)
  • Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, illus. by John Parra (picture book)
  • Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick (novel)
  • Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith (novel)

We’ll be focusing on the first two, but discussion of the others is welcome, as is discussion of previously-published books on the topic such as Coretta Scott King Honor Book Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, and A Storm Called Katrina by Myron Uhlberg, illus. by Colin Bootman, among other titles.

What makes an effective book for young people about such a disaster? Realism? Fantasy? A combination of the two? How about images and pictures? For which age levels? Is the storm and its aftermath portrayed any differently today than it was immediately following?

Join us in the Butler Center, Crown 214 on Tuesday, 9/15 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to listen to New Orleans music, enjoy snacks, and discuss these books and issues with one another. No RSVP necessary, but you can tell me you’re coming if you like!

Drowned City by Dan BrownMarvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner

Fall into Butler

Welcome to the fall semester here at Dominican University GSLIS! The semester began yesterday, and today’s the first day of September, so despite the fact that it’s 90+ degrees outside and meteorological fall doesn’t begin until the autumn solstice….we’re pleased to announce the fall open hours, AND the fall schedule for Butler Book Banter (B3).

We encourage visitors (teachers, librarians, students, parents, grandparents, caregivers, anyone interested in literature for young people) to come in to the Center to view our array of newly-published books for kids and teens, and of course to attend our events.

Mondays & Tuesdays 1:00-7:00 p.m.
Wednesdays & Thursdays 1:00-6:00 p.m.
Or by appointment (contact me at

I’m thrilled to bring back the Butler Center’s popular series of evening book discussion events! B3 will take place in the Butler Center on the following (TUESDAY this semester!) evenings from 6:00-8:00 p.m.:

Tuesday 9/15: Books about Hurricane Katrina (Drowned City by Dan Brown; Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner)
Tuesday 10/13:
Spooky books (I know, unoriginal perhaps but still fun; titles announced as the date draws closer)
Tuesday 11/10: Books about music and musicians (titles announced as the date draws closer)

Hope to see you here in Crown 214 this fall!