Tag Archives: Children’s books

Why adults read children’s books

January 17, 2023

I just finished reading a teen book from 2018, “Darius the Great is Not Okay” by Adib Khor­ram. Darius lives in Portland, OR. His mother is Iranian and his father is “Teutonic,” but Darius doesn’t feel like he belongs to either culture. He is struggling to make friends at school and also to connect with his father. The things that are easy for Darius are tea and Star Trek. When his grandfather in Iran becomes ill, Darius’ family travels to spend some time with his mom’s family in Yazd, Iran. 

I love to learn things, and this book had me on my phone pulling up images of various places in the Yazd area as well as reading up on Zoroastrianism and Baha’i. I learned about tea and a lot of different Iranian food dishes too. I love the crunchy rice you can order at some restaurants, but I didn’t know what it was called or how to make it. When I read this book I learned it is called ‘tah dig,’ and I found a recipe online. I also plan to try ‘sekanjabin,’ a minty drink which can also be used as a dip for lettuce leaves.

Darius worries about being able to communicate with his family in Iran, and what it will be like to meet his grandparents in person for the first time at age 14. He finds connections with his grandparents as well as finding a hidden talent. He even makes a friend.

“’Everyone wants you here. We have a saying in Farsi. It translates ‘your place was empty.’ We say it when we miss somebody.’

I sniffed.

‘Your place was empty before. But this is your family. You belong here.’”

A couple of our adult patrons are big fans of childrens’ books.  I asked each of them why they read childrens’ and teen books. Both of them are retired teachers.

“In a well written children’s book, you always learn something. Authors make it a point to write information into books that are part of the story. Something that doesn’t feel like learning, so you absorb information in an easy way that doesn’t feel like a schoolbook.” 

My second reader said when she was a teacher, she read a lot of picture books and she felt like she missed out by not reading many chapter books at this time. She likes the historical aspect of many children’s books.”They are good, with good morals and they’re often funny. What more can you ask for? Kids build friendships and do adventurous things.”This reader looks for a catchy title, but also takes recommendations. She also mentioned that she isn’t up for reading a 500 page book any more when she can read a good story in two or three hours.

“Darius the Great” hit all of the points these readers brought up. I learned about Iranian culture, religions, food and some history too. Travel to another country is always an adventure, and Darius made a close friend while in Yazd.

Reading children’s books isn’t a sign you aren’t a serious reader- a good book is a good book. If you want to try out a teen book, I would recommend “Darius the Great is Not Okay,” located in the teen section of the Gering Library. Most of the children’s book award winners including the Newbery Award, and the Golden Sower selections are well-written and interesting. In the children’s section I recommend “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” by Jacqueline Kelly.

Newbery and Caldecott Awards

February 21, 2023

I made a goal for myself in 2010 to read all of the Newbery Award books. The American Library Association (ALA) awards the Newbery Medal “to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” You might recognize some classics like, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, and “Holes” by Louis Sachar. My idea was not to read them all in one year. The Newbery award was first presented in 1922 and has been awarded to 101 books as of 2023. Three years ago I buckled down and finished reading the last of them, so now I only have to read one a year to stay on top of things. 

This year’s Newbery went to “Freewater” by Amina Luqman-Dawson. Our Youth Services Librarian, Miss Kira assured me she ordered it and it’s on its way, so I haven’t read it yet, but according to Kirkus, 

“Twelve-year-old Homer and his little sister, Ada, become separated from their mother as they attempt to flee enslavement on the Southerland plantation. They are rescued by Suleman, who takes them deep into the Great Dismal Swamp, where they join Freewater, a community of people who successfully fled from slavery and children who were born there…. Set in a fictional community but based on real stories of those who fled slavery and lived secretly in Southern swamps, this is detailed and well-researched historical fiction.”

The ALA awards the Caldecott to “the most distinguished American picture book for children.” The award goes to the illustrator, not the author. Knowing our dog is skittish and nervous, Miss Kira gave me “Hot Dog” written and illustrated by Doug Salati to read. It was an interesting look at mental health and personal care (how to relax) from the viewpoint of a dog. A woman is running errands in a big city with her dog. The dog becomes overwhelmed with the noise, the heat and the busy-ness of the day. When he sits down and refuses to go any further, the woman hails a cab and takes the dog to the beach where he runs around and unwinds. The art is charming and I think kids could place themselves in the dog’s position and sympathize with what he is going through. Miss Kira said, “I love the art in this book, I was so happy it won.” 

Only one author has won both the Newbery and the Caldecott. In 1941 Robert Lawson won the Caldecott for “They Were Strong and Good,” and in 1945 he won the Newbery for “Rabbit Hill.” Some of the classics don’t stand the test of time, and I would include “They Were Strong and Good” in this group. Writing about your family history is a great idea, even if your family did some less than honorable things. When your ancestors owned slaves and fought for the South, calling them “Good” just doesn’t stand the test of time. 

Of the 100 + Newbery winners, only a handful of them were clunkers, so I think most award winning books do stand the test of time. I have started making my way through the Caldecott winners. The Caldecott was first awarded in 1938, so I have fewer books to read, and they are picture books, so most of them are pretty short. I enjoy reading children’s books, and I have already read 25 so I only have 60 left to read.