Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Finding the Right Book at the Right Time

beach and books and text: What should I read next?
Are you having trouble finding books that you or your child would enjoy reading this summer? I've always been a voracious reader, but I remember as a young adult getting stuck reading just one genre or rereading my favorite books or authors. I didn't know what other books were out there that I'd enjoy. After I came to work at MCPL, my reading life expanded greatly.

Being exposed to a variety of engaging books and customers with different reading preferences gives our librarians a wealth of book knowledge that we can't wait to share. We're here to help you find the right book at the right time for you or your child!

Events are a fabulous way to discover new books for you or your child. We have more storytimes than ever this summer. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can start the magical journey to becoming lifelong readers. At storytimes, you can learn how to get your child ready to read. We also offer special storytimes like bilingual and pajama storytimes.

boy reading to dog
There are many children's programs to delight your elementary school age children too. If you have a new or reluctant reader, try one of our read to a dog or grandreaders programs. Reading to wonderful certified therapy dogs or senior volunteers from the Jewish Council on Aging (JCA) enables kids to gain reading confidence and skills Our dogs and senior volunteers are ideal companions who listen attentively without judgment. It's a pawsitive experience! Be sure to also see storyteller Chris Fascione, who will be bringing books to life this August at several branches. This program is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, Inc.

Summer Read and Learn 2017 finishers with prizes
Kids and teens should also sign up for this year's exciting Summer Read and Learn programBuild a Better World! Kids can complete read and learn activities. Teens can write book reviews all summer long to win prizes. All ages can sign up for the MCPL Reading Challenge 2017. It's a fun way to expand your horizons by reading one book each from twelve different categories.

And don't forget about book discussions! These are lively events where you can meet new friends and deepen your understanding of books. We have book discussions for both teens and adults. There are also book discussions that have a specific focus, such as our African American, Chinese, FrenchJewish, mystery, and talking books discussion groups. Thinking about starting your own book discussion? We've got tips and reading suggestions to get you started.

Reading Suggestions
It's never too early to start reading to your babies. We also have books for older children who are reading on their own, whether they are comfortable readers or beginners. We have booklists on many favorite genres from Adventure to Trains on our Kids' page as well as diverse booklists by grade that will be mirrors and windows for your children. Does your child have a favorite book or author? Try NoveList K-8 Plus for reading suggestions based on books or authors that your child has enjoyed.

brother and sister reading at OlneyFor teens there are a variety of popular "if you like" and topical booklists, on subjects like dystopian worlds and road trips, on our Teensite. Our librarians who love teen books have also compiled some great diverse books to read this summer and beyond for middle and high school students. Be sure to have a look at our Teen Pinterest board and YouTube playlist Teen Talk! which includes fun videos of MCPL staff and teens talking up their favorite teen titles!

Let's not forget about the adults. Have a look at our entertaining reading suggestions on Readers' Cafe. These include our We Recommend and Librarian's Choice selections. You can also find What We're Reading and more on our Pinterest boards. We also have NoveList Plus for adults with reading suggestions based on books or authors you have enjoyed. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast, Library Matters where you can get to know our staff and get the inside scoop on what fabulous books they're reading. For parents or caregivers I highly recommend the episodes "Reading Aloud to a Child" Parts 1 and Part 2.

All ages can get personalized reading recommendations from Beanstack either online or through email. Parents can choose from a variety of fun options to get the recommendations that are best for their children. Select your child's interests (such as Diverse Main Characters; Ninjas, Feelings & Friendship; Pirates & Warriors), favorite genres (such as Adventure; Fantasy; History & Biography), and character backgrounds (such as aliens, animals, people).  Teens & adults can choose two out of four reading doorways (People Focused, Place Focused, Plot Driven, or Prose Driven) for book suggestions.

Ask MCPL Librarians
people reading at a cafe and text: What Do I Check Out Next
If you're stuck, or just looking for a personal book recommendation for you or your child, you can always ask us, the reading experts! You can ask our librarians in-person at any of our branches. Or you can ask us online through our award winning What Do I Check Out Next? service. Just complete the form and we'll email you 3-5 book recommendations in 3 business days.

At MCPL we're here to help you or your child discover your next favorite read! Happy reading this August and all year long!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Where Do Your Ancestors Come From?

Where do your ancestors come from, and how did they arrive in this country? We asked young Olney Library customers to help us celebrate our country's multicultural heritage, during the month of El Día de los Niños, by telling us a story about how or why their ancestors came to the United States. Kids of all ages shared stories, photos and drawings of their family members' voyages from distant shores-- challenges they faced, new experiences gained, and ultimately their decision to put down roots in their new country.

Thanks to the children who submitted essays-- we enjoyed reading all of them! Here are the winning essays.

My Great-Great-Grandfather by Laura Forrest, 6 years old

Image of handwritten essay by 6 year old Laura Forrest

"My Great Great Grandfather, Neils Tobiasson came to America by boat when he was six years old from Iceland. I am six, too." 💜

Steamboat on the water with flying seagulls nearby

The Journey by Alyssa Forrest, 9 years old

Formal picture of Victoria and Neils Tobiasson as children
Victoria & Neils Tobiasson
Whoosh, Splash, Plop. The storm blew in. "Everyone under," yelled a sailor. We climbed down the ladder to the cabins. "Victoria, where are you?" yelled father. "I'm here," I called back. We met up and I saw Neils, my brother, clinging to my father. As we sat on our bunk I thought of our home in Iceland, my mother, my siblings all left behind. I thought of hiding from Father because of the alcohol he drank, and the missionaries teaching us and helping my father stop drinking. I thought of learning we would have to leave Iceland, the cold place we call home, to go to a strange place called Utah that was a hot and sunny desert. "Papa," Neils said, "when will we get to America?" He was seasick for almost the whole trip. "I don't know, son, I really don't know." Just then the trap door opened and the ladder came down. A sailor stuck his head in. "Land ho," he called, his face shining. We all raced up the ladder to the deck. There was America. Two days later we stepped onto the deck. Utah, here we come!

Essay winners Alyssa and Laura at Olney Library
Alyssa (left), and Laura

The grand-prize winning essay was submitted by Nina Grace Thomas. Congratulations, Nina!

My Appachen's Voyage to the United States by Nina Grace Thomas, 9 years old

Body of water in Kerala, India
Kerala, India
My family is from Kerala, India, where Malayalam is spoken. In Malayalam, the word for grandfather is “Appachen.” My Appachen traveled to the United States in September 1963 to attend graduate school in Putney, Vermont. Although he had applied to other graduate programs, he chose Putney since it had awarded him a full one-year scholarship.

Homes near a body of water in Putney, Vermont
Putney, Vermont
After that one year at Putney, my Appachen planned to continue teaching at Asram High School in Perumbavoor, Kerala, India. Despite his plans, he never returned to his previous teaching position in Kerala. My Appachen did not have enough money to return to India and also wished to continue his studies. His Putney advisor connected him to a professor at Boston University who offered my Appachen entrance to a doctoral program in education that included a full scholarship! My Appachen did not know it at the time but this opportunity led him on a journey from being a school teacher to a teacher of teachers. Four years later, in 1968, the same year that my dad was born, my Appachen received his doctorate in education. He completed his thesis that year, which he later transformed into his first book.

A red 1962 Ford Galaxy sedan
1962 Ford Galaxy
Since my Appachen came to this country to only stay for a year to study in America, he included a trip to go out and explore the United States before returning home. He bought a ninety-nine dollar ticket on Greyhound. Spending three to five days at each stop, my Appachen spent ninety-nine days visiting 15 cities: Springfield, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Seattle. His stays included site-seeing, visiting people, and learning more about schools and education in America.

Dr. T.M. Thomas and Nina Thomas
My Appachen and I,
Dr. T.M. Thomas and Nina Thomas

As his year came to an end, money was very tight and my Appachen did not have enough to return home, where my Ammachi (grandmother) and my dad’s brother were. Appachen had spent all of his savings, three hundred dollars, on a used 1962 Ford Galaxy. Luckily, there was an opening for a security guard and he was able to take this job. This position allowed him to earn enough to live off of but not enough to travel back home. Fortunately, in 1965, the United States immigration laws changed, allowing more Asians to travel to America instead of just Europeans. So, in 1965, my Ammachi and his five-year-old son (my uncle), moved to the United States to join Appachen.


My uncle’s name was T.T. Matthews. My Appachen’s name is T.M. Thomas. In India, the naming system is different. For example, my Appachen’s name is T.M. Thomas and his brother’s name is T.M. Philip. In India, using this method, you can’t tell if two people are related using their last name but instead, by their first two initials. In this case, the T.M. stands for Thanikapurttatu (their house name) and Mathai, my valiya-Appachen’s (great grandfather’s) name.

Once my uncle was in the United States, the people working at the airport didn’t think that it made sense that my Appachen and his son did not have the same last name. The workers wouldn’t allow my uncle on the plane unless he changed his last name. So, he did. From then on, he was (and still is) known as Matthews Thomas. My father is Daniel Thomas and I am Nina Thomas (now we follow the American way of naming).

I hope that you enjoyed reading the short version of my Appachen’s voyage to the United States and how it has led me to writing this essay. If you would like to read more, read his most recent book, Joyful Vocation of a Teacher. Thank you! 😀

Nina Thomas with her winning essay
Nina Grace with her winning essay
This post originally appeared on the Olney branch blog.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

At the Lake

A pier and a boat at Deep Creek Lake
Deep Creek Lake
I just returned from vacation at Deep Creek Lake, the fourth summer I’ve spent a week there with my daughter, son-in-law, and four grandsons. It is the perfect vacation for active boys – boating, swimming, fishing, and hiking. In the evening ghost stories are told around the fire pit while roasting marshmallows. For the adults the lake is a tranquil retreat from the pressures of everyday life. A sloping lawn stretches from the house to the water, sunlight shimmers on the lake surface, and gentle waves lap the rocky shore. At night the scene is especially beautiful with moonlight on the water and fireflies twinkling in the trees. Peaceful, relaxing. Surely nothing bad could ever happen here?

Evening at a pier on Deep Creek Lake

But when you turn to the pages of fiction lakes are anything but peaceful. They represent mystery and dark secrets from the past. A lake is where a murderer dumps his victim, where an innocent passer-by sees a body floating, where a mysterious splash breaks the silence of the night, where people disappear without trace, where a town’s murky history is submerged. You won’t think of lakes as just beautiful scenery again after dipping into one of these tales:

  • A classic well worth a return visit is Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake. Private Investigator Philip Marlowe leaves the mean streets of Los Angeles and heads into the San Bernardino Mountains to investigate the deaths of two young women. Both were last seen near a cabin on Little Fawn Lake.
    Book cover for Lost Lake by Phillip Margolin
  • Everything I NeverTold You by Celeste Ng is a critically acclaimed contemporary novel that explores the tensions and secrets in a Chinese-American family. Daughter Lydia is found drowned in a nearby lake, a suspected suicide. The novel moves back in time to examine what led to her death from the perspective of all the family members. This book was Amazon’s #1 Book of the Year in 2014 and is the winner of many literary awards.
  • If you are drawn to complicated conspiracy thrillers, the twisty Lost Lake by Phillip Margolin is for you. What really happened twenty years ago when a congressman was tortured and murdered at an isolated cabin on Lost Lake? And what does it have to do with a renegade general who runs a covert unit of assassins? The general’s daughter, who found the congressman’s body, is involved in the investigation.
  • Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart takes place in a remote area of rural Ireland. Pathologist Nora Gavin is summoned to examine an ancient body dredged from the boggy depths of the Lake of Sorrows. It appears that the man died in a pagan sacrifice ritual. But when another body is found, this one wearing a wristwatch, it becomes clear that the threat is far from ancient.
  • Can dreams kill? That is the unusual suspected cause of death in Wolf Lake by John Verdon. When four victims are found dead, stabbed with daggers ornamented with a wolf’s head carving, it turns out they all recently visited a controversial psychologist at his Wolf’s Head Lodge in the Adirondacks. Former NYPD detective Dave Gurney investigates.
Book cover for The Lake House by Kate Morton
  • Finally The Lake House by Kate Morton. This is my personal favorite and will appeal to fans of Daphne du Maurier. Like Rebecca it is set at a magnificent estate in Cornwall, in this case Edavane, a now abandoned ivy-covered ruin. The lake, once the scene of jolly boating parties, is now a weed choked swamp. The mystery involves what happened at a long ago party when little Theo, the baby of the family, disappeared. Years later Alice, Theo’s elder sister, returns to the house and joins forces with a young detective to unravel the mystery. 

If all these dark deeds have put you off a lake vacation I suggest you head to the beach. Much safer. Except for the sharks of course!

Rita T.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Windows and Mirrors

A few weeks ago, I picked my son up from a friend’s house. He hopped in the car and started talking about how great Career Day was. It wasn’t a fireman or a computer programmer he was enthusiastic about, it was an author. Yes, I have to admit I was a little surprised. He went on to tell me about an author who came to his classroom to speak about the need for diverse books. I could hear the excitement in his voice. He’s a teenage brown-skinned boy of Chinese-Mexican ethnicity and an avid reader. He told me how important it is for him to see kids who look like him in the books he reads. As a librarian I was thrilled about his excitement. As a mom I was sad that this is still a topic of discussion. Shouldn’t diverse books already exist in abundance?

Author Ellen Oh
Ellen Oh speaking at MCPL symposium on
Diversity in Children's Literature 
The author he met was Ellen Oh, YA author and president of We Need Diverse Books. Ellen Oh, when speaking on this need, uses the term “Windows and Mirrors.” It’s not a new phrase, but one that’s been around for almost 30 years. It is attributed to an article written in the 1990 by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop titled “Mirrors and Windows and Sliding Glass Doors.” And while things have improved, there is still a long way to go. We Need Diverse Books is an organization that advocates for more diversity in publishing for youth by providing mentorships, grants, and awards as well as creating awareness.

Books that provide windows show us outside our world, they allow us to learn about other cultures, people, and places. Books that are mirrors are just as important, they help us to relate and to self-identify. When children only read books that are windows, they are unable to see themselves and they are unable to cheer for characters they identify with. Books need to be windows and mirrors to show an accurate account of our world and a view of those around us.

Book cover for Last Stop on Market Street
One of the brightest features of Montgomery County is the people who live here and the fabulous diversity that exists. MCPL is doing its part to provide books that reflect the communities it serves. Our selectors are always on the lookout for new and exciting books that our customers will not only enjoy, but that will provide windows AND mirrors. Our updated booklists by grade and age reflect MCPL's commitment to diversity. Some of my personal favorite books are Better Nate then Ever by Tim Federle, Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de La Pena, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, and Burn, Baby, Burn by Meg Medina. Explore our online catalog on our website or ask a librarian at your local library what they recommend.

Listening to my son, and hearing how this author spoke to him and his needs, it really hit home how important this is for young people. Check out your local public library, let’s give our youth the books they want and deserve!