In my family the Fourth of July was a big deal. My family loved to celebrate the birth of the United States of America. We knew who the founding fathers were. Because of this I tend to pay attention to the many myriad of picture books that are published about Americana themes. Here are my top five favorite Americana picture books to get even the younger readers in the mood for any patriotic holiday.
John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, and Ben Franklin are four of the most famous early American patriots. In this humorous picture book author and illustrator Lane Smith explains why these four men were so important. Smith also throws in a few tidbits for the adults who will tend to read this book to youngsters by comparing these patriots to another John, Paul, George and…Ringo who also made a historical impact.
One of the most beloved past presidents of the United States is Abraham Lincoln. Arguably he could be credited with holding this country together. In this biography Doreen Rappaport shows not only the great accomplishments that Lincoln was able to achieve, but she also includes actual quotes from speeches or writings of Lincoln. Readers can learn from his actual words just exactly what he thought and said. And to top it all off, the illustrations by Nelson are sure to keep young readers interested in this great man.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are both credited as being founding fathers of the USA. And at times they were great allies and friends. But there is also a history of the two patriots being frustrated and angry with each other. Jurmain tells younger readers about the impact that these two great men had on the young nation as well as explaining their whole history—including the quarrels and disagreements.
Granted, this isn’t a picture book about a particular founding father or patriot—but it is a picture book about an Americana legend. Yankee Doodle is a song that most children sing around holidays such as the Fourth of July. In this picture book twist Crankee Doodle is just that—cranky. His horse has to try to convince him to head to town and complete what children know should happen according to the song. Kiddos who especially love twists and silliness will enjoy reading this parody.
There are a lot of Americana books for young readers that are about the early days of the United States; but what about the American spirit that is still around today? This particular book is full of poems of all the many Presidents of the United States. They tell about all sorts of somewhat unknown facts (like how one particular president got stuck in the bathtub and had to get help to get out). With a variety of Presidents and time-periods young readers will learn that Americana picture books aren’t just about things that happened in the distant past—they can also be about what happened more recently
Electricity came to Provo in 1890. It started with generators at A. O. Smoot’s Provo Woolen Mills and supplied power for 16 street lights in Provo. The Woolen Mills had contracted with the city to provide electricity for three years (1). The Provo Tabernacle was wired for electricity and supplied with three chandeliers by employees of the woolen mills(2). During 1890 the Brigham Young Academy was wired for electricity and supplied with 10 electric lamps(3).
Sometimes the lights failed and the city wanted to re-negotiate the contract. So the streets of Provo went dark again in the spring of 1892 and for 6 months a period of re-negotiation ensued. In October the lights returned under a new contract containing a stipulation that the city was to be reimbursed for any lights that failed to burn(4).
Serious power arrived in Provo with the advent of Lucien L. and Paul N. Nunn, brothers who had established that hydroelectric power could be generated, transmitted, and used to power mining equipment in Telluride, Colorado. Arriving in Provo they proposed a power plant on the Provo River. Initially supportive, Provo objected when they heard the plans to construct an 80-foot dam in Provo Canyon. The Johnstown flood of 1889 had killed 2,200 and was all too present in recent memory. The fight went to the Utah Supreme Court and the dam was reduced to 16 feet. Nunn’s plant was completed in 1897. It generated 40,000 volts that were transmitted 32 miles to the mines in Mercur. This was the longest power transmission in the world at this time(5).
Nunn's Power Plant on the Provo River
The Nunn brothers expanded with lines to Eureka (1900) and Provo, interconnecting the Provo plant with another plant in Logan, and constructing the larger Olmsted Plant at the mouth of Provo Canyon (1903), the beginnings of a grid system in connecting with another power plant in Logan. Paul Nunn published a nice overview of the Nunn brother’s accomplishments in a 1905 article in Cassier’s Magazine(6).
Interior of the Provo Power Plant
Lucien Nunn was an ambitious, shrewd, and tenacious businessman. Although he never finished high school or college, he operated schools of electrical engineering at his power plants pairing education with work experience. Nunn developed a progressive educational model and went on to found the Deep Springs College in California in 1917.7 Nunn’s Telluride Power Company generated the power, but there were separate companies which retailed the power to the populace. Provo’s power by this time was supplied by A.O. Smoot’s Electric Company. They were located at 95 North Academy Avenue (now University Avenue) and carried a “complete line of all kinds of electric appliances such as lamps, shades, chandeliers, wire, bells, cord, flat irons, batteries, etc.”(8)
Reading books before bed has been known to foster parent-child bonds as well as prepare a child for sleep, but did you also know that recent research has shown many more benefits to adding reading into your child’s bedtime routine? Reading to or with your child helps stimulate brain activity, foster creativity and imagination, and promotes and develops language and literacy from an early age.
This research is highlighted in an article published by The New York Times, which asks several pediatricians and psychologists about the topic.
“When kids are hearing stories, they’re imagining in their mind’s eye when they hear the story,” said Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “It will help them later be better readers because they’ve developed that part of the brain that helps them see what is going on in the story.”
The child also develops a greater vocabulary and understanding of language through reading with a parent. In comparing the words found in books to the words used by parents talking to their children, researchers found that the picture books contained more “unique word types” that the child may not typically hear, and sometimes even complex sentences and rhymes.
So, not only does reading books with children help them hear more words, but at the same time, their brains are hard at work imagining things they associate with those words. Both creativity and logic are being developed all while you and your little one are sailing with Max to the land of the Wild Things, exploring the zany worlds of Dr. Seuss, or saying goodnight to the moon.
“I think that we’ve learned that early reading is more than just a nice thing to do with kids,” Dr. Hutton said. “It really does have a very important role to play in building brain networks that will serve children long-term as they transition from verbal to reading.”
It’s incredible to see what such a simple activity can do for a child. Come to the Library and pick out some books to read together tonight. We have a great list of perfect bedtime stories both you and your child will love.
February might be the month of love, but it’s also the month for daring escapes, thrilling races, blood-soaked tales of revenge, and revolution . . . at least in the YA world! There are some fantastic voyages awaiting YA readers in February, from the streets of Dan Wells’ new science fiction world of Mirador to Victoria Scott’s action-packed mechanical horse racetracks. Join Tommy Wallach on a three-day romp through the streets of San Francisco with the ultimate manic pixie dream girl; delve into the world of adolescent best-friendship with Lindsey Leavitt and Robin Mellom; or start a revolution with Victoria Aveyard. Whatever you love to read, you’ll find a great match in this month’s new releases.
Here are the titles I’m most excited to book-push in February!
I was lucky enough to get an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of this book from my agent in October, and was absolutely blown away by Modesto’s style. Not only is this one of the most creative books I’ve read in a while, but Modesto blends the fantasy, steampunk, and Western genres almost seamlessly. I adore Westie, Modesto’s tough and somewhat irascible heroine, a girl willing to do whatever it takes to see her family avenged. Though it’s still early yet, REVENGE AND THE WILD is already one of my favorite books of the year.
Please, please, please read this book. Then stop by the reference desk so we can chat about it, I’m dying to talk to other readers about this one!
From the publisher:
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.
Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.
But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.
Speaking of heroines who rely on artificial arms, let me introduce you to Marisa Carneseca—gamer, hacker, and science fiction super-sleuth. While BLUESCREEN’s drawing a lot of comparisons to M.T. Anderson’s novel FEED, I personally think is sounds like more of a young adult SNOW CRASH (Neal Stephenson), which is nothing short of awesome. A Utah native, Dan Wells has given us some fine science fiction in the past, so I have high hopes for his newest offering. Plus, you can check out the fabulous BLUESCREEN artwork on his blog now!
From the publisher:
Los Angeles in 2050 is a city of open doors, as long as you have the right connections. That connection is a djinni—a smart device implanted right in a person’s head. In a world where virtually everyone is online twenty-four hours a day, this connection is like oxygen—and a world like that presents plenty of opportunities for someone who knows how to manipulate it.
Marisa Carneseca is one of those people. She might spend her days in Mirador, the small, vibrant LA neighborhood where her family owns a restaurant, but she lives on the net—going to school, playing games, hanging out, or doing things of more questionable legality with her friends Sahara and Anja. And it’s Anja who first gets her hands on Bluescreen—a virtual drug that plugs right into a person’s djinni and delivers a massive, non-chemical, completely safe high. But in this city, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and Mari and her friends soon find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that is much bigger than they ever suspected.
Ruta Sepetys’ novels are always automatically added to my TBR pile, and her newest novel, SALT TO THE SEA, is no exception. Sepetys has a remarkable ability to render the past with vivacity, eloquence, and empathy; and Salt to the Sea is already being hailed as Code Name Verity’s spiritual successor. Maggie Stiefvater says this book is “swift-footed, kind-hearted . . . [and] is intensely satisfying in just about all the ways a novel can be satisfying.”
Honestly, if Maggie Stiefvater loved this book, I know I’m going to love it too.
From the publisher:
In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
I remember hearing about this one when it first sold—Victoria came up with the idea of mechanical horses while watching a car commercial and drafted the entire concept that night. While the concept comes off as a little SCORPIO RACES-esque—it’s been pitched as NASCAR meets NATIONAL VELVET—still, I’ve heard amazing things from people who’d had the opportunity to read this one early.
From the publisher:
Ever since the Titans first appeared in her Detroit neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan’s world has revolved around the mechanical horses. She and her best friend have spent countless hours watching them and their jockeys practice on the track. It’s not just the thrill of the race. It’s the engineering of the horses and the way they’re programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she’ll ever touch.
She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines to ride, and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid’s who wager on them.
But when Astrid’s offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year’s derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it’s more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about.
Make sure not to miss . . .
THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE, by Tommy Wallach
GLASS SWORD, by Victoria Aveyard, book two in the RED QUEEN trilogy
THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, by Emily Henry
THE SHADOW QUEEN, by C.J. Redwine
THE PAGES BETWEEN US, by Lindsey Leavitt and Robin Mellom
BEHOLD THE BONES, Natalie C. Parker
Find these and other great, brand new YA titles in the Teen Corner in the first floor reference wing!