New Books…

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As much as I enjoy summer, fall is definitely the best season for book lovers. Beginning right after Labor Day, I try to stop by Buttonwood every Tuesday afternoon – after they’ve had time to display that week’s new releases. I seldom leave empty handed.

Here are six of the best new books for young readers:

New in Town by Kevin Cornell

The town of Puddletrunk has a problem. Their bridge keeps falling thanks to termites – or maybe it’s due to a devious resident named Mortimer Gulch. Picture the Grinch, both in looks and style, and you’ll have Mr. Gulch. He slyly gets the residents to fork over their cash and jewelry to his “Clock Tower Repair jar,” but there’s a new guy in town, the traveling clock repairman, who is not falling for Gulch’s scheme. Of course the bad guy loses, but the way forward is filled with bright, comic-style illustrations, and lots of fun details.

Negative Cat by Sophie Blackall

A young boy has been asking for a cat – for 427 days – without success. After many reminders that he will have to feed a cat, and clean a litter box, and make sure the cat does not have fleas, the protagonist wins! He gets his treasured cat, but as it turns out Max (the cat) does not want to do anything his enthusiastic caretaker dreamed about. No interest in playing, using his scratch post, or even listening to jokes. There is one thing Max likes to do though and all ends well. To see what makes Max the pet of everyone’s dreams, check out this delightful story!

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat by David LaRochelle

One of my favorite early chapter books of 2020 was See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog. Now David LaRochelle returns with a very cute cat in the starring role – ostensibly filling in for a sick dog. There are three vignette style stories in each book, and direct sentences and word repetition make the stories accessible for new readers. The full-color illustrations are cartoon-like, and the format is similar to Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books. Funny and clever, both books are winning combinations of words and pictures.

Maybe…by Chris Haughton

If you’re looking for a picture book to share with a group of young children, this is an awesome choice. Haughton is a master at pacing and illustration – with eye popping contrasts and vivid backdrops on every page. Based on a well-known cautionary tale, Haughton’s story centers on three little monkeys who have been warned: “not to go down to the mango tree.” Braving the threat of tigers, the monkeys are tempted by the juicy mangoes below and decide it’s worth the effort. They make it back up the tree just in the nick of time, but then the mischievous little monkeys learn there are bananas below!

Starla Jean by Elana Arnold

The first installment in this new early chapter book series was published in January, but I’m including it in this list of new books because #2 will be release on November 9. Perfect for new readers. Starla Jean includes four short chapters, lots of white space on every page, and delightful illustrations by A.N. Kang. In the first book, Starla Jean finds a chicken – actually, she catches it, much to the surprise of her dad! Starla Jean narrates her adventure with Opal Egg, the name she gives her new pet. Of course, the problem is that Opal Egg may belong to someone else.

The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor

I had read about this new graphic novel, ordered it for our middle grade collection, and added it to the “to read” list. But when I saw it on the National Book Award’s long list for Young People’s Literature, I took it home to read over the weekend. The book is kind of a mash up: part folk tales, part historical fiction, and part coming of age story. At the center of the story is Mei who, with her father, works long hours at a busy logging camp at the end of the 19th century. At the end of their long work days, Mei tells adventurous and magical stories about Auntie Po, a Chinese version of Paul Bunyan, to her camp friends. Mei also struggles with the Anti-Asian racism at the camp and her romantic feelings towards Bee, the foreman’s daughter and one of her closest friends. A book for readers ten and up about the power of stories to change our lives. I loved it.

Two more notes…

First, I think we have a winner in the “most overdue book” category. They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel was out for 1,110 days! I won’t give this treasured library patron away, but she clearly recognizes special books. They All Saw a Cat is a good one to keep around for a while.

One of the library’s current displays is a tribute to Inly’s long-time office manager, Debbie Haug, who retired at the end of last school year. Many families contributed to a set of books about animals in Debbie’s honor. We had to be careful though – no animals could be sick or “expire” in anything we selected. Debbie loves stories about animals, but only animals that live happily ever after!

Happy Reading…

We’re Back!

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And just like that, we are back in the library: meeting new students, checking out books, planning classes. It already feels a bit more “normal” this year, and fingers are crossed that it stays that way. Of course, we are wearing masks inside the building, but we can be mask-less outdoors. Even better, we are back together. No cohorts. It’s wonderful to see the kids in their classrooms – with all of their friends – again.

The middle school students jumped right into their first project. Each student chose one of their summer reading books and designed a “one pager,” a visual response to reading. The kids chose terrific books, and their one-pagers would be good promotional ads to hang in a bookstore. Here are a few of them:

There are lots more to share, but in the interest of space, I will move on…

The Upper Elementary (grades 4-6) will begin their library visits next week and the plan is to share a notable world heritage site, monument, or architecturally significant building each week. First up: Frank Gehry’s spectacular, oddly shaped buildings. We will use this book:

And we will look at lots of pictures, primarily of the Disney Concert Hall and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

The best part of a new school year is the new books, and as always, there are so many good ones. Our first read aloud in the Lower Elementary classes will be this new book which, as its glowing reviews attest, is awesome:

I recognized the author’s name, Lucy Ruth Cummins, but had to look at the shelf to remember that she wrote one of my favorite picture books of the last five years: Stumpkin.

There are loads of fun Halloween stories, but few as delightful as Stumpkin. Cummins’ brilliantly blends comedy with a sentimental (but not sappy) touch.

My own current reading:

Only 50 pages in. More later….

Happy New School Year!

Late Summer Reading – and Travel – Report…

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One more week. Next Monday, the teachers return to school and we will prepare to welcome over 300 kids to Inly this year – the library will be busy! To that end, I am looking at lots of new books, ordering installments of favorite series, and making a wish list for the fall. Of course, we will still be wearing masks in the building, but students will not be in small cohorts anymore so they will be able to enjoy being with all of their classmates.

I am also finishing my last summer books before reading The Outsiders with the middle school students in September. Here is what I’ve been reading since my last report in mid-July:

Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours by Tony Oppedisano

This may seem a bit out of left field, but when I read about this new book by Sinatra’s long-time confident and road manager, I moved it to the top of my list. I’m not sure what compelled me to put everything else aside, but I love Sinatra’s music and did not know much about him. Oppedisano and Sinatra spent (very) long nights talking about everything: music, other people, Sinatra’s career, and family. It was fascinating and naturally led to lots of Sinatra songs being played on road trips this summer.

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

I loved this book, but be forewarned that it is sad. Sigrid Nunez rightly described reading Henkin’s novel as “an emotional experience.” Morningside Heights centers on Pru Steiner, the wife of a superstar Shakespeare professor, Spence Robin. They have a happy marriage surrounded by all of the trappings of his academic success, but when Spence is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, their lives are turned upside down. Henkin writes about love and loss with real compassion. Pru and Spence felt real to me. It also opened a window into the world of care work, how a person’s all-encompassing needs impact those who do it from a place of love and commitment – and those who are paid to be in physically and emotionally challenging jobs.

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

This is a novel guaranteed a place on my favorite books of 2021. I finished it a week ago and think about it every day. It begins with a scene that is sadly familiar to us from the news. Bodies have washed up on the shore of an island. A ship, filled with refugees, has sunk and only Amir, a nine-year-old Syrian boy has survived. Amir is rescued by a teenage girl named Vanna who is determined to help him. The novel is organized into alternating chapters – half of them about Amir’s experience on the doomed ship and the others on Amir and Vanna’s adventurous quest for safety. There are angels and devils in the book. There are hard questions about the refugee crisis. But mostly it compels the reader to, as cliche as this sounds, to remember our shared human experience.

Being Clem by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Inly’s Upper Elementary students read Finding Langston by Cline-Ransome this summer, and I was looking forward to reading this companion novel, Being Clem, when it was released earlier this month. The third novel in Cline-Ransome’s series, it centers on Clem, a black boy growing up on Chicago’s South Side in the 1940s. At the start of the book, Clem’s father has died in the Port Chicago disaster. He was young when his father left to serve in the U.S. Navy, but Clem wants to live up to his legacy. He is also facing challenges with friends at school, and he misses his mother who is working long hours as a maid to support Clem and his two older sisters. Cline-Ransome writing convincingly about the worries and preoccupations of young boys while gently giving readers an understanding of the hardships faced by black families in WWII-era America.

The highlight of the summer was spending a week with my extended family in North Carolina. Planning to spend lots of time reading on the deck of the lakefront house we rented, I brought two books and hoped it would be enough. After a week at the house, I had read…….10 pages! It was worth every minute. Spending time with my family on a pontoon, discovering new coffee shops, hanging out and talking for hours – it was perfect. A bonus was the three days my husband and I spent in Asheville, a place we’d heard lots of glowing reports about, but had never visited. In addition to visiting Biltmore, hiking, and enjoying delicious meals, we discovered Malaprop’s Bookstore, an excellent independent store that opened in 1982. Ann Patchett, in an article for The New York Times, described Malaprop’s as “the heart and soul of Asheville, NC.”

We loved it so much went twice and bought books each time. On the first visit, while looking at a section devoted to regional fiction, I had a wonderful conversation with two local women who convinced me to buy a couple of novels by the southern writer, Lee Smith. I also purchased What Strange Paradise there – the day it was released.

Last week, I traveled a very short distance – to Boston – to see the Ekua Holmes exhibit at the MFA. Holmes is the award winning illustrator of many children’s books, including a Caldecott Honor for Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibit is beautiful and it’s at the MFA until January 23.

Finally, a note about a special birthday cake. My sister-in-law surprised me with this magical cake this summer. It’s the best birthday cake I’ve ever seen – or tasted!

And that big nest at the top of this post? We saw it on the side of the road in Mooresville, North Carolina, and we pulled over to take a picture!

Happy Reading!

Mid-Summer Reading Report…

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The ONLY good thing about this damp and grey July is that it’s perfect reading weather. That being said, I would prefer bright sunny skies. Fingers crossed for August!

Here’s what I’ve been reading over the last few weeks:

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth – Gansworth’s young adult novel has been on my “to read” list since I heard him speak at a Simmons conference in 2019. We are considering reading his novel about a boy growing up on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in a class next year so it moved to the top of the list. Gansworth is an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation and was raised on a reservation near Niagara Falls. The story centers on a boy named Lewis “Shoe” Blake who is used to his life on the reservation – its joys and its very real hardships. When he connects with a white boy named George Haddonfield through their mutual love of the Beatles, Lewis wants to hide his family’s poverty. He’s concerned that if George discovers the truth of how Lewis and his family live, he will not want to be friends with him anymore. It’s rare to find a funny and thoughtful young adult book about friendship with two boys as the main characters. I loved it.

Next, I read Maximum Sunlight by Meagan Day. This was an offbeat book purchase a few years ago – it’s not even in print anymore (based on quick Amazon check). It’s a short nonfiction book (more of an extended essay actually) about a very small town, Tonopah, Nevada. I’ve had a longtime fascination with super small towns, the kinds of places you drive through quickly on the road to someplace bigger. This book is a deep dive into the character – and the characters – in one of those places. There’s a hotel in Tonopah called The Clown Motel where there are happy clowns in the lobby, but scary clown-themed murals in the guest rooms. In 2017, it was named America’s Scariest Motel for obvious reasons.

From scary clowns, I moved on to scary reasons to worry about our children’s futures by reading Last Best Hope by George Packer. Packer, as you may have read in The New Yorker or The Atlantic, has broken Americans into four groups and the four distinct sets of narratives that guide these groups. His bottom line is that our fragile democracy is at risk. Reading it helped me to understand what happened in 2020.

I needed something less frightening after reading about clowns and the breakdown of trust in our institutions. Luckily, I found Zorrie by Laird Hunt. Zorrie was on an “our customers recommend” shelf in Left Bank Books in Belfast, Maine, and I will be eternally grateful to those customers. It is the story of a woman’s life in from childhood to adulthood in Depression-era Indiana, but it is more. I’m going to quote the New York Times reviewer who captures it perfectly: A virtuosic portrait of midcentury America itself―physically stalwart, unerringly generous, hopeful that tragedy can be mitigated through faith in land and neighbor alike…This is not fiction as literary uproar. This is a refined realism of the sort Flaubert himself championed, storytelling that accrues detail by lean detail…Hunt’s prose is galvanized by powerful questions. Who were those forebears who tilled the land for decades, seemingly without complaint? How did they fashion happiness, or manage soaring passions, in their conformist communities? He re-examines the pastoral with ardent precision…What Hunt ultimately gives us is a pure and shining book, an America where community becomes a ‘symphony of souls,’ a sustenance greater than romance or material wealth for those wise enough to join in.” Zorrie has earned a permanent spot in my stack of books to keep by my bedside to pick up again and again.

Next, The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden and Hanna Luechtefeld. I read this one for Wednesday’s meeting of the Buttonwood Book Club. The 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett is one of my favorite classics, and a book I often recommend to middle school students who want to read an important and influential book. Of course it is dated, especially in its portrayal of Colin Cravin, who is considered an invalid by his father, the owner of Misselthwaite Manor, but there is richness in the way the garden is the catalyst for change in both Mary Lennox and Colin. The graphic novel version captures the magic and beauty of Burnett’s book, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with young readers who will, perhaps, be inspired to read the original book – or plant a garden of their own.

And yesterday I finished reading Dana Spiotta’s new novel, Wayward. Wow. I might need more time to put my thoughts in order about this one. I bought it after reading Parul Sehgal’s glowing review in the New York Times and was further motivated by George Saunders’ blurb on the front cover. They did not let me down, but there’s a lot to absorb in 270 pages: Trump, motherhood, poverty, privilege, aging, and mortality. I may have left some things out. Sehgal accurately described the book as “furious and addictive.” It is also insightful, poignant, and thought provoking. This is the one I want to talk about with friends. For now, I’m leaving it untouched – give it a chance to cool down.

I may need a beach read next.

Happy Reading!

Back to Dayton….

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I was on a plane headed to Dayton less than 24 hours after school got out. Like many people, I was unable to travel for over a year and going to Dayton was the top item on my post-vaccine list. I wanted to spend time with my dad and sisters, eat Marion’s pizza, walk around the neighborhood where we grew up, and visit my hometown library.

When I think of my childhood libraries, I think of two buildings. The first is in Xenia, Ohio where I became a reader. It’s the place from which I carried home stacks of books, read them over a few summer afternoons, and walked back to exchange them for new books. I read whatever was on the children’s room shelves, and in the 70s, the options were limited compared to books written for kids today. Like many 70’s kids, I learned a lot from Judy Blume.

And then we moved to Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton, where I began going to the Wright Library.

Named after the Wright Brothers and their sister, Katherine, it was in the Wright Library that my reading became a bit more focused, although I think most of my time there was focused on school assignments. Compared to the Xenia Library, a Carnegie library that was dedicated in 1906 and looked like many of the other Carnegie libraries around the country, the Wright Library is a beautiful Tudor-style building that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Opened in 1939, Orville Wright was on the Board of Trustees. It was fun to walk around, but my sister and I missed the big card catalogs in the center of the main room.

A bonus was that the cicadas were chirping loudly on our way in, and I was finally able to hear the annoying sound my family had been telling me about!

My summer reading report is short: two books. This past winter, having lots of Covid free time, I read The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. It took nearly a month to finish, but I enjoyed the challenge (to slow down my reading) and Wharton’s timeless comments on what social ambition looked like 100 years ago (much the same as it does now). Based on that, I decided to re-read The House of Mirth, the first Wharton novel I read – maybe thirty years ago. At that time, I understood the tragedy of Lily Bart’s life, but missed the novel’s biting social satire. I’m a different reader now than I was in my late 20s. It’s a different (and more rewarding) experience to read Wharton’s pointed observations and appreciate her genius.

After finishing The House of Mirth, I read Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland which is the first book in Buttonwood’s middle grade summer book group. Both a ghost story and historical fiction, Ophie’s Ghosts takes place in the early 1920s and centers on a Black girl named Ophie who, along with her mother, works as a domestic in the home of a wealthy family. When she discovers she has the ability to communicate with ghosts, she becomes determined to solve a mysterious death. For more information on Buttonwood’s summer book club, here’s the link:

Happy Summer Reading!

School’s Out! Photo Edition

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The last week of school always results in happy moments and good pictures. There was the 8th grade graduation ceremony, a lively performance of Stone Soup by the kindergarten students, and performances by the Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary students, but the festivities began on Monday with Drop Everything and Read:

Adding to the book fun this year was the opening of three little free diverse libraries. You’ve probably seen them in your community. Boxes on street corners or front yards with a sign reading: “Take a Book. Leave a Book.” Little Free Libraries started popping up all over the country about ten years ago, and Inly is now joining the chain of public book shelves. Ours have a specific mission; centering BIPOC authors and/or stories. Thanks to the creativity and hard work of a group of volunteers, our libraries are worth a special trip.

This one is in the shape of the Library and the DaVinci Studio, Inly’s innovation space:

And this one, which contains early chapter books for new readers, is cut into one of Inly’s cows:


The smallest one, which contains novels for middle grade readers, is the original little library that our middle school students built a few years ago and is, at long last, open for business:

We also announced the most “checked-out” book of the school year, Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright.

A couple of other superlatives: A book was returned after 414 days which, I think, was a record for us. And we welcomed the library’s youngest visitor – 6 week old Ada!

Last weekend, Tom and I took a drive to Westerly, Rhode Island to visit the Savoy Bookshop, one of our favorite independent bookstores. After paying for our new books, we walked down to Wilcox Park, a park owned and operated by the Wilcox Library. One of the many statues and monuments on the park’s beautiful grounds is one in honor of Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, among other picture books. I could not figure out the connection between Brown and Westerly, Rhode Island, but read that after her death, her sister donated a set of her published works, personal papers, and manuscripts to the Westerly Public Library.

A final picture. Walking up the main stairs to the library on the last day of school, I looked up and saw this. A moment of appreciation for spending my days in such a beautiful and inspiring place.

Happy Summer Reading!

Four Nights in Miami…

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The first stop on our post-vaccine tour was Miami where our son is in his first year of grad school at the University of Miami. The good thing about waiting a year to visit Bob is that he’s been in Miami long enough to become an excellent tour guide. Of course, since his classes were virtual this year, we all felt like tourists on the U Miami campus. A sign on the campus – warning us that there are crocodiles in the area – was confirmation that we were not in Boston! Over the course of four days, we visited gardens and beaches, enjoyed some delicious meals, and went to an amazing bookstore.

Books and Books is one of the best independent bookstores in the country – and a store I’ve wanted to visit for years. When Bob decided on U Miami, my first thoughts were: it’s warm there and we can visit in the winter, and next, he will be near Books and Books! Founded by Mitchell Kaplan in 1982, Books and Books has seven locations, but the main store is in Coral Gables. Luckily, Bob lives in Coral Gables so we were able to visit the flagship store which is built around a courtyard in a Mediterranean-style building. It’s perfect from the moment you walk in through the cafe, a space for live music and author events. The store is set up in a series of cozy rooms, including a large room dedicated to art and travel books and another space for fine art books by the publisher Assouline.

I bought four books:

Polly Samson’s novel, A Theatre for Dreamers, is about a group of expatriate writers and artists on a Greek island in the early 1960s. This book looks like it should be on a sunny deck next to a cold drink!

Meeting in Positano, by the Italian actress and author, Goliarda Sapienza, has that same summer feeling – but this one takes place in the 1950s in southern Italy.

Bakari Sellers’ book was a total impulse buy. I’ve seen Sellers on CNN and knew he had written a book, but it wasn’t on my “to buy” radar. Maybe it was being in a room full of books with the courtyard visible through the window, but I picked it up from a display table, started flipping through it, and added it to my pile.

Next, my serious book purchase. If I could have lived two lives, I would have wanted to explore a career in art history. As a high school graduate, I didn’t know it was an option – my world was a bit smaller. There was no internet which would have introduced me to museums and artists. What stays with me now is the summer when I was 16 and decided to organize my own art history class. I checked out stacks of library books about the impressionists (a predictable choice for a 16-year-old). When I moved to Washington D.C. after college, the National Gallery was my new school. It’s where I began to understand and appreciate art. Looking back, it’s okay that I didn’t know art history was a possible major. I would not trade my experiences, especially working with young readers, for anything – and leaving art in a place of knowledgeable appreciation. And thanks to the wonders of the web, I take lots of classes, visit museums virtually, and recently signed up for a certificate in art history. It will be a small gesture to the path not taken, but one that has made my life richer and more meaningful. A long explanation for why I bought this book about Giotto:

Besides buying books in Miami, I read two books during the trip:

In 2017, I read Dwight Garner’s NYT review of books by Eve Babitz, an author known mainly for her writings about Los Angeles. The review was so interesting that I bought two of her books the next week. Four years later, I read Slow Days, Fast Company in Miami which caused a bit of cognitive dissonance. I was reading about Los Angeles while sitting in a cafe in Miami. There are parallels. Sometimes, I’d look up from my book and expect to see the Hollywood sign. Babitz’s voice is so original – razor sharp and direct. The last line of Garner’s 2017 review captures her perfectly: Reading Eve Babitz is like being out on the warm open road at sundown, with what she called, in another book, “4/60 air conditioning” — that is, going 60 miles per hour with all four windows down. You can feel the wind in your hair.”

I also read a book that’s been on my nightstand (the priority pile) for about a year. Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri was the winner of the 2020 National Book Award in Translated Literature and a New York Times Notable Book. The narrator, Kuzu, is a ghost haunting Ueno Station where he lived in a village for homeless people. Through his eyes, we see the daily life of Tokyo happening around him – and learn his story. It is a melancholy novel, one about displacement and the cost of “progress” and capitalism.

In my last post, I mentioned that we are counting down to the most popular books of the school year. To recap, in fourth place was Happy Pig Day! from the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems. The third most checked-out book was Click, the graphic novel by Kayla Miller. This week we unveiled the second most popular book. It was no surprise:

Two bright stars of the children’s book world died this week. Both Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert leave vibrantly-colored legacies.

“I remember that as a child, I always felt I would never grow up and be big and articulate and intelligent. ‘Caterpillar’ is a book of hope: you, too, can grow up and grow wings.” Eric Carle

Bringing the Book Fair Outside…

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The weather was spectacular! After weeks of gray, damp, and unsettled days, the sun shined brightly on Inly’s first outdoor book fair. It was small, but our parents were thrilled to take a step (literally) onto campus for one of the hallmark events of our busy spring season. It kind of felt like a week-long party as people greeted one another after our isolated Covid winter. And we sold lots of books for summer reading…

The book fair (made possible by Buttonwood Books and Toys) was combined with an arts walk that included a piece of art from every student – from the toddlers to the middle school. The Upper Elementary students made amazing self portraits. Annemarie Whilton, Inly’s brilliant art teacher, said that she chose a comic book style artist that provided a “good vehicle for considering shape: their particular eye shape, head shape, ear shape.” And for colors, she said, “we tried to stick with primary and secondary colors like Roy Lichtentstein.”

Back inside – the kids have been visiting the library weekly for almost a full school year so Mary and I can take a break and let them lead the class:

During a conversation with one of the Lower Elementary classes, we decided to display the most “checked out” books of the school year – one a week, leading up to this year’s most loved book. So far, we’ve unveiled Numbers 4 and 3. No surprises – Elephant and Piggie books have been in the top five check-outs for over ten years!

Stay tuned for the two most popular books!

What I’m reading:

After finishing The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, I stayed in the same era by reading On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed. I was inspired to buy it after reading last Sunday’s front page review in the New York Times Book Review. I had a “one line” understanding of what Juneteenth is, but Gordon-Reed’s blend of history and memoir was a perfect way to learn about the importance of that day, not only to people in Texas, but to all of us.

After reading that, I moved forward a hundred years and am now reading a new novel that takes place in the mid-70s. Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau, is a coming of age story about a girl nannying for a very progressive family, one quite different from her own. Growing up in the 70s, the book is making me nostalgic for The Partridge Family and Schoolhouse Rock!

Happy Reading!

Summer Reading – and 24 Hours in NYC…


After twenty years of book fairs in the library, we are moving outside. Beginning on Monday, Inly will have its first ever outside book fair so our fingers are crossed for a dry week. After a year (plus) of Covid-related cancellations, we are happy to have even a modified book fair. We are especially looking forward to seeing parents in person (rather than on Zoom) and to sharing the summer reading titles with our community.

Here are the 2021 titles for each level:

Children’s House

The Bird House by Bianca Gomez

A beautiful new book about a grandmother and her grandchild caring for an injured bird – and learning to let it go.

Lower Elementary

Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal

LE students will begin the 2021-2022 school year with an author/illustrator study of Martinez-Neal, the author of Alma and How She Got Her Name and the illustrator of Fry Bread and Swashby and the Sea. Her new picture book, Zonia’s Rain Forest, is the story of a young Asháninka girl who lives in the Peruvian rain forest. Several of Martinez-Neal’s wonderful books will be available during the book fair.

Upper Elementary

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Leaving Langston is the story of an eleven-year-old boy who moves to Chicago with his father and discovers the library – and the story of his name.

Middle School

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

The Stars Beneath Our Feet received six starred reviews and several awards. The novel centers on twelve-year-old Lolly who, after his brother’s death in a gang related shooting, begins building a Lego city at the local community center.

Feeling a little cooped up after a Covid winter, my husband and I drove to New York City on Saturday morning – spent 24 hours – and drove back on Sunday afternoon. It was a quick trip, but we got to the Strand Book Store and the New York Botanical Garden so it was worth it.

It was great to be back in the Strand, one of our favorite bookstores. Everyone was masked, but other than that, it felt completely normal. We spent over an hour browsing and (in my case) eavesdropping on conversations about books. One thing I’ve always loved about the Strand is the signs on the book display tables. Here are a few pics:

Although we were a few hours into May, the poetry month display was still there:

And I love this display of books representing different neighborhoods:

My favorite sign (advice I follow regularly):

Funny Sally Field quote at the bottom of this one:

One of my favorite things about browsing in the Strand is that you can get lost in aisles that look like the one below. Barnes and Noble understandably has to sell lots of other things to survive, so they can’t dedicate shelf space to lesser-known authors, but the Strand can.

For example, I had just heard about Jane Gardam, a British writer, on the New York Times Book Review podcast. John Williams, the Daily Books Editor, recently talked about reading Gardam’s novel, Crusoe’s Daughter, and his description was so compelling that I made a mental note to learn more about Gardam. The Strand has many of her books:

Actually, my picture does not show the whole selection, but you get the idea. I read the summaries on the back of the books, checked reviews on my phone, and selected:

Our other goal was to visit the New York Botanical Garden. I had not realized that the Garden, the Bronx Zoo, and Fordham University were neighbors so it was good to put that together.

My husband is a pretty serious gardener so while he was reading all of the flower and tree tags, I was just happy to see color!

The bonus was an exhibit of the Japanese artist’s, Yayoi Kusama, botanical sculptures – with her signature polka dots patterns.

Fans of polka dots had lots of books to choose from in the gift shop:

And the best window display of the weekend:

Happy Reading!

More Notes from the Library…

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I just enjoyed a poetic walk down the Lower Elementary hallway – reading some student work in honor of National Poetry Month in April. All of the poems are wonderful, but here are two that jumped out at me:

We also celebrated Earth Day – with a full Earth Week! I remember when Earth Day was something that a few people acknowledged by engaging in activities like planting a tree or participating in an environmentally-focused protest. Today, with the increased attention being paid to the many threats facing our planet, it has taken on new urgency. Thanks to the dedication of some of our parents, Inly’s Discovery Trail was turned into a live version of the picture book, Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby.

The trail had stations highlighting the work of twelve students from the book, each of whom took environmental action in their own community.

A short post today, but I’ll have more to share next week after our first post-vaccine out-of-state adventure this weekend. During our short trip, I will continue reading this:

The Underground Railroad has been in my “to read” pile since 2016 – why did it take me this long? In the interim, I read two other novels by Colson Whitehead, Nickel Boys and Sag Harbor, but this one kept slipping to the bottom of the stack until I read that the Amazon Prime series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel begins on May 14. That did it. I was not going to start watching the series without reading the book. I’m not far enough to write anymore about it, but it is horrific and necessary – and I love it. Cora stays with me as I move though my day.