Tag Archives: #LibrariesRespond

Comforting Reads for Difficult Times


The Association for Library Service to Children has released a new list of recommended books called Comforting Reads for Difficult Times, which you can download and print here:

In addition to suggested books for different ages on topics like depression, resilience and violence, ALSC also suggests resources for adults. These books, articles and websites provide additional book suggestions and advice on topics like talking to children about the news.

Thoughts of home

Lately the news has been making me think of the place I grew up, which was historically a Jewish suburb.  There was a centrally located Jewish Community Center, and I was familiar with seeing a sukkah outside in the fall or girls in knee-length skirts (the Jewish community was largely, but not exclusively, Orthodox and Hasidic) playing softball in the parking lot in spring or summer.

Last night I was on Facebook and saw one of my friends join in a conversation with several of her friends about how to talk to their young, Jewish children about recent acts of anti-Semitism.  One mom described her preschooler talking about lockdown practice (Many of the Jewish Community Centers receiving bomb threats house preschools, and they have to be prepared).

The first resources I thought about were ones I had turned to in other cases of violence, prejudice, and scary topics in the news.  The American Psychological Association has some resources for parents and Teaching Tolerance has classroom resources.  Not surprisingly, I found the most at the Anti-Defamation League, which has a whole section on confronting anti-Semitism and recommended books for children and teens (“The Best Kid Lit on Bias, Diversity and Social Justice”).

Here are some titles from their Jewish Culture and Anti-Semitism list:

Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II by Marisabina Russo
After many years during which her grandmother skirted the issue, a young girl finally hears the story of how several of her female relatives survived the Holocaust.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
Traces the achievements of the celebrated Supreme Court justice through the lens of her many famous acts of civil disagreement against inequality, unfair treatment, and human rights injustice.

Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
Told to make a Pilgrim doll for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly is embarrassed when her mother tries to help her out by creating a doll dressed as she herself was dressed before leaving Russia to seek religious freedom.

Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
A long-lasting friendship develops between Larnel, a young African-American, and Mrs. Katz, a lonely, Jewish widow, when Larnel presents Mrs. Katz with a scrawny kitten without a tail.

Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp by Trish Marx
Photo-essay focusing on two Israeli children, one Jewish and one Palestinian, who, in spite of their differences and the longstanding conflicts in the region, learn to play, work, and share ideas together at Summer Peace Camp, a day camp located in Israel. Includes glossary, map, and resources for readers.

The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
In Denmark during World War II, young Annet, her parents, and their neighbors help a Jewish family hide from Nazi soldiers until it is safe for them to leave Annet’s basement.

The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy
Retells the story of King Christian X and the Danish resistance to the Nazis during World War II.

If you’re looking for more books besides the ones on the ADL lists, you might try the page for the Sydney Taylor Book Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries “to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.”  There are also children’s and young adult literature categories for the National Jewish Book Award (It looks like this year’s winners will be announced March 7).

The first time I encountered the story of the golem was when I pulled it out of a book display at the public library (I wasn’t really thinking about it at the time, but it was probably a Passover display).  That book was the first window I had to try to understand what it meant to be in danger from anti-Semitism.  This memory is part of why I try to do displays of everyone’s holidays– both so people can see themselves reflected, and also so people can see where their neighbors are coming from.

Precedent or Never Again?

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I am thinking about not only that event but also a recent statement from Carl Higbie referring to the internment of Japanese Americans after the attack as “precedent.”  His interviewer reacted with shock and a rejection of the idea.  Shortly afterwards I read a statement by actor George Takei, who spent part of his childhood in an internment camp.  He has been using theater to tell the story of Japanese American internment in the show Allegiance (which will be coming to movie theaters December 13 for a one-day event).  Children’s author Yoshiko Uchida has written about her internment experience, as well. You can find biographies, history books, historical fiction, and picture books in our collection to help understand this moment in history.

Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss
A picture book biography of of Kenichi Zenimura, who played professional baseball before internment in the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona, where he built a baseball field.

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
A Japanese American boy learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II, and his ability to play helps him after the war is over.

Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt
Fourteen-year-old Louise keeps a scrapbook detailing the events in her life after her best friend, a Japanese-American girl, and her family are sent to a relocation camp during World War II.

The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida
Emi, a Japanese American in the second grade, is sent with her family to an internment camp during World War II, but the loss of the bracelet her best friend has given her proves that she does not need a physical reminder of that friendship.  You can find the author’s autobiography, An Invisible Thread, further down on the list.

Dash by Kirby Larson
When her family is forced into an internment camp, Mitsi Kashino is separated from her home, her classmates, and her beloved dog Dash; and as her family begins to come apart around her, Mitsi clings to her one connection to the outer world–the letters from the kindly neighbor who is caring for Dash.  This title is also available as a Playaway audiobook.  Duke and Liberty are two other books Kirby Larson has written about dogs in World War II.

A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, thirteen-year-old Tetsu and his family are sent to the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona where a fellow prisoner starts a baseball team, but when Tetsu’s sister becomes ill and he feels responsible, he stops playing.  This title can also be downloaded through eRead Illinois.

Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
The American-born author describes her family’s experience and impressions when they were forced to relocate in a camp for the Japanese in Owens Valley, California, during World War II. This title can also be downloaded through eRead Illinois.

The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis by Kirby Larson
Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis records in her diary her experiences beginning in December 1941 when her brother joins the Navy, the United States goes to war, she attempts to document her life through photography, and her father–the pastor for a Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle–follows his congregants to an Idaho internment camp, taking her along with him. Includes historical notes.  This title is also available as a Playaway audiobook and can be downloaded through eRead Illinois.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler
Drawing from interviews and oral histories, chronicles the history of Japanese American survivors of internment camps.

The Invisible Thread: An Autobiography by Yoshiko Uchida
Children’s author, Yoshiko Uchida, describes growing up in Berkeley, California, as a Nisei, second generation Japanese American, and her family’s internment in a Nevada concentration camp during World War II.

Painting the Rainbow by Amy Gordon
During Holly and Ivy’s annual month-long visit at the family’s New Hampshire lake house in 1965, the distance that seems to be growing between the thirteen-year-old cousins fades when they accidentally uncover hints of a family secret dating back to World War II.

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
Near the start of World War II, young Manami, her parents, and Grandfather are evacuated from their home and sent to Manzanar, an ugly, dreary internment camp in the desert for Japanese-American citizens. This title can also be downloaded through eRead Illinois.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow
Sabaku Ni Saita Himawari by Amy Lee-Tai
While she and her family are interned at Topaz Relocation Center during World War II, Mari gradually adjusts as she enrolls in an art class, makes a friend, plants sunflowers and waits for them to grow.  This picture book is in English and Japanese.

Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas
After Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese, twelve-year-old Tomi and her Japanese-American family are split up and forced to leave their California home to live in internment camps in New Mexico and Colorado. This title can also be downloaded through eRead Illinois.

Remembering Manzanar: Life in a Japanese Relocation Camp by Michael L. Cooper
Uses firsthand accounts, oral histories, and essays from school newspapers and yearbooks to tell the story of the Japanese Americans who were sent to live in government-run internment camps during World War II.

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Tough topics for any age

I can hardly imagine what it’s like to be a preschool-to-primary teacher right now trying to plan a lesson on some of the typical beginning of the year curriculum topics.

“All about me”: I describe myself.  My classmates describe themselves.  We talk about similarities and differences.

“Community helpers”: We learn about the people who work in our community, like the police.

Whether you’re a parent, a student, or a teacher you may be having a really hard time this week as you watch the news (or react to grown-ups watching the news).  I’m certainly seeing this among family and friends.  While I don’t have easy answers, I want to share what we have at the library.  We have some books to help you talk to children about scary things in the news, general resources for coping with stress, and old favorite books and movies if you decide to take a break from news or social media and just gather together as a family.

I really don’t know of any children’s books that talk about contemporary police shootings.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has an online collection of resources at http://www.tolerance.org/racism-and-police-violence to help with discussing the topic and help make students feel safe and supported so they can learn.  We have books at the library that can help you talk to children about race and racism.

We have also helped recommend books for a police officer who was visiting a classroom and wanted to read aloud to the students.  (He wanted funny books.  I asked if his feelings would be hurt if I suggested something with donuts?  The answer was no, and he did check out a doughnut story.)  We have funny picture books and simple factual books about police.  Whatever you need, we will do our best to help you find it.

For the refreshment of the spirit


Is there a favorite book that inspires you, one you return to over and over again?  I was thinking of this idea in connection with this bit in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

“On the next page she came to a spell ‘for the refreshment of the spirit.’ … And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. …before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all.  She was living in the story as if it were real…”

She wants to read the story again and finds that it is fading away.

“…and ever since that day what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.”

(She later asks Aslan to tell it to her, and he promises that he will.)

Is there a story that always makes you feel good?

I asked other people in the department, and this is what they wrote.



Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner are precious to me because they hold my mother’s voice. A. A. Milne’s books were first published in the 1920s when Mom was a little girl when, so the copies that she read to us had been hers as a child.

When I read these stories today I hear her voice in my head. I am transported to the Hundred Acre Wood and to my own childhood. Gloomy donkey Eeyore was my favorite character. “In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail”, “In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday”, and “In Which Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In” were the stories I wanted to hear again and again. Whenever my family was out hiking and came to a bridge over a stream, we always gathered twigs or pine cones so we could play Poohsticks. We wished one another “HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY”, and quoted Pooh, “Time for a little something”, when we wanted a snack. Rereading the familiar words, I am caught up again in the adventures of some of my oldest literary friends.

Milne’s imaginative wordplay, his gentle humor and memorable characters continue to draw families to the enchanted place he created. Share the original with your children, so your voice will be captured in the pages of these classics for them.


Reading really is in itself a spell.
There are two books I turn to most when needing a “refreshment of the soul”.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Doesn’t every child and even adults want a forest to grow in their bedroom?
It is the book that reminds me that our imagination can take us anywhere and when we return supper will be waiting….still hot.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
There are few books that I want to read over and over and this is one of them. The wonderful magical world of Harry Potter is of course the main draw for readers.
J.K Rowling’s writing is so fantastic that I can really get lost into the world the second third or fourth time just  as much the first time that I read it.



I could name a lot of stories, but the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane is a favorite of mine.  It starts in the library, when Nita (who has ducked into the children’s department to hide from bullies) is drawn to a book titled So You Want to be a Wizard.  She takes an oath, meets some allies, and is soon deep in the wizardly business of protecting the universe.

There is plenty of science fiction and fantasy that features battles between good and evil, but there are some things that make this series unique.  The settings range from contemporary New York City (and a creepy alternate Manhattan) to alien worlds.  Humor sneaks in between the more serious moments.  Magic is closely aligned to science and largely consists of being able to talk things into helping you.

I don’t think those things fully explain why I feel truly, deeply happy when I read these books.  They include lots of things I love (astronomy, talking trees, allusions to Norse mythology, more astronomy), but it’s more than that.  These are stories that acknowledge that the real world is full of pain and injustice, but they also show people struggling to do good and make it better– on a big scale or a small one, by magic or by ordinary means.

Looking for more refreshing stories?  You might want to check out the website for the Christopher Awards.  “First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards were established by Christopher founder Father James Keller to salute media that ‘affirm the highest values of the human spirit.'”  They include television, books and movies for children, teens and adults.


We must be kind to one another

Saturday I was moving materials in and out of the Vortex for the library’s hardworking teen volunteers.  I noticed the teen department had a display for GLBT Book Month and thought to myself that I really needed to get it together and make a display for our department already…

IMG_0675[1]and then the next day I caught a couple of headlines before work, and by the time I had a chance to read a little further it had become clear that there had been a terrible shooting targeting the gay community in Orlando, committed by a man with some kind of association with ISIS.

I’ve already shared the best resources I know for talking with children about scary things in the news.  Today I want to share some resources for talking with young people about tolerance and about extremism.

One of the most thoughtful people addressing this topic is Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core.   Living in the Chicago area, you have probably heard him interviewed.  This is from the introduction to his book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation:

This is a book about how some young people become champions of religious pluralism while others become the foot soldiers of religious totalitarianism.  Its thesis is simple: influences matter, programs count, mentors make a difference, institutions leave their mark.  When we look back in the lives of young religious terrorists, we find a web of individuals and organizations that shaped them.  These young killers are not, for the most part, dramatically deranged individuals.  They are kids who fell into murderously manipulative hands. …And then we should ask: why weren’t the hands of people who care about pluralism shaping that kid instead of the hands of religious totalitarians?

He writes about people from a variety of backgrounds who have fallen into extremism, as well as his model for people of different faiths learning and serving together.  It’s a good book for any adult who cares about young people.

The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook is a title that is focused on individuals rather than an interfaith movement.  I’m listing it because it offers basic information (an important alternative to online searches), is inclusive (taking the approach that it’s OK for people to disagree), and contains advice for how to “avoid extremism, fanaticism, radicalism, and other pesky ‘isms’.”

Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child has advice for any parent who worries about children living in a violent world.  There is practical advice on raising children and preventing violence, and specific information on what behavior might be a sign that a child needs professional help.

Two organizations that are well known for identifying and opposing hate groups are the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  They offer tools for Education and Outreach and Teaching Tolerance.  (A bonus this time of year is that in addition to resources for the school curriculum, there are also resources for summer camp.)

PFLAG is another well-known organization, offering support through local chapters to “LGBTQ individuals, family members and allies.”  They are a good first place to look for information, resources, and community.

The GLBT Book Month link above has some resources for finding recommended books (“authors and writings that reflect the lives and experiences of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community”) including the Stonewall Book Awards List (which includes fiction and nonfiction for adults, children, and young adults) and the Rainbow Book List, which has titles for children and teens.  The Horn Book Magazine also featured an article not long ago about Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Remy Charlip, and Tomie de Paola, five gay men who created beloved picture books.

It can be hard to talk to children about difficult and scary topics.  But it’s important to make a start, to keep talking, and sometimes to get advice from other people who are also working to make their world a better place.








Peace begins at home


I hate to use sentences like, “It’s time to get out the post-mass shooting books for the children again,” but it’s time to get out the post-mass shooting books for the children again.  There’s been an awful lot of violence of all kinds in the news lately, and it may be hard for children and families to handle.

The American Psychological Association has a link on its front page right now for “Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting.”  If you follow it, there is a related article on How to talk to children about difficult news and tragedies  (with links to even more resources–including some helpful guidelines specific to children of different ages– at the end).

If you want some books to help with the discussion, these are ones that I recommend again and again (arranged by recommended age, from youngest to oldest).

The Moon Came Down on Milk Street by Jean Gralley
You’ve probably seen a quote attributed to Mr. Rogers about his mom telling him, when he saw something scary, to “look for the helpers.”  That’s this book in a nutshell, as firefighters and rescue dogs and other helpers put things right after a disaster.

More general in their scope, but also helpful, are Aliki’s books Feelings and Communication. These are good titles for opening up discussion between children and parents, and I’ve recommended them in a variety of situations.

Sometimes Bad Things Happen by Ellen Jackson
Mentions some of the bad things that happen in the world and presents some positive ways to respond to them.

And God Cried, Too: A Kid’s Book of Healing and Hope by Marc Gellman
The angel Gabriel helps Mikey, an angel-in-training, to understand why bad things happen for what seems to be no reason and how to hold on to hope and faith during difficult times.

Bad Stuff in the News: A Guide to Handling the Headlines by Marc Gellman and Thomas Hartman; pictures by Meredith Pratt
Discusses how such problems as terrorism, child abuse, natural disasters, violence in sports, and hate crimes are reported in the media and some things that individuals can do to address these problems.

It’s a little dated now, but Media Madness: An Insider’s Guide to Media is a helpful tool for introducing the idea of thinking critically about what you see and hear.

What to Do When You’re Scared & Worried: A Guide for Kids by James J. Crist
This self-help guide has lots of practical and specific advice about how kids can handle their fears.