Best Books for Christmas 2015: Ideas for what to read or gift to others

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By Marci Tate, local mom and library media specialist at Vandergriff Elementary

It’s the holiday season, so that must mean it is time for something great to read!

Here are few suggestions for everyone on your list.

For the Kiddos:

Lego books are some of the most popular books in our elementary library. We can’t keep them on the shelf!

awesome ideas, legoThe latest Lego book to hit the shelves is called Awesome Ideas. It is filled with helpful building advice, builder secrets and showstoppers. This book has appeal for all ages. Colorful photos to discover new ideas and techniques for every builder make this a fun purchase.

A very popular series in our library is the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis. The author takes the reader to big events in history and tells the story of a fictional elementary age kid surviving that event. She has done her research, so the stories have an authentic feel for the reader. It would be hard to say which one is the most popular in our library as all of them are constantly checked out. For someone just starting out with the series, try I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 or I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912. Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

Whether you have already read Harry Potter ten times, or are just picking it up for the first time, don’t miss Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition. Coming in at over 250 pages, it is not something light to carry around in a backpack. Instead, this is something to savor over with its beautifully illustrated pages. This is the complete book with illustrations added by award winning artist Jim Kay. I see this as a collectible to enjoy for many years to come. Be watching for each book to have its own illustrated edition in the future.

As always, one of the best ideas during the holiday season is to buy fun books to complement the interests of the child/tween/teen. For those who love to cook, try The Complete Children’s Cookbook from DK Publishers. For the Star Wars fans, try Star Wars Absolutely Everything You Need to Know by Adam Bray.

For the sports fans, try Sports Illustrated Kids the Top 10 of Everything in Sports.

For the Grown-Ups:

One of the most unusual books that I read this year was The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. It is the journey of a man’s lifetime and all of the lives he touches along the way. Don’t give up on this one when you get started because it all comes together along the way. This is the kind of book that sticks with you and you will always remember that “everyone joins a band in this life”.

humans of NYFor the person who has everything, I would suggest Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton. For those not familiar with this author, he started an ambitious project in 2010 to take a “photographic census” of the citizens of New York. After it started, he began also adding interviews with his subjects. He now has over 12 million followers on social media. This book is a recap of some of the photographs with interviews. It is a fascinating book. (There is some adult language in a few of the interviews).

If you have a friend or family member who enjoys cooking, but doesn’t want anything too complicated, then try The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime. This one is a bit different than her other cookbooks in that it features very easy fixes with some that you can make ahead. As always, she has great photographs of each step of the process for each recipe. While some of the recipes are fairly common, others will inspire to try something new – my family tried the Pawhuska Cheese Steak sandwiches and they were a hit (plus really easy to make with your own alterations).

For Everyone on your list:

One of the little daily pleasures in life is to open the mailbox and pull out a magazine (instead of those dreaded bills). For kids, it is a real treat to get something addressed just to them.

Magazine subscriptions make a great gift idea and it is a gift that continues to give all year. I like to buy the current issue and fix it up with a special note telling the recipient they can enjoy 12 (or whatever number) more issues for a full year. Pair it with something fun like a mug, cocoa, slippers or warm socks, or just slip it into the stocking.

catsterFor the younger readers try one of these: Sports Illustrated for Kids, Discovery Girls, American Girl, Boys Life. For the pet lover (or the young reader) try Dogster or Catster (formerly Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy).

For the men in your life, look for something that interests from sports to hunting to automobiles.

For the women in your life try one of these: HGTV Magazine, All You, More, AllRecipes. If you shop carefully, sometimes you can find a deal where you can bundle two magazines for the price of one (I recently saw a deal for House Beautiful and Country Living bundled together for one year subscription for the one price of $15).

Marci Tate of Fayetteville is a busy wife, mom of two boys, avid reader (when time allows) and Library Media Specialist at Vandergriff Elementary School.

Linked Kin: New book by Northwest Arkansas author

linked kinGet ready because we’re about to brag a little. One of our very own bloggers, the hilarious AND brilliant Jen Adair who writes the Slightly Tilted blog, has just published her first book! And if you’ve got kids who love computers like Jen’s kids do, you’re going to want to own a copy.

The book is called “Linked Kin: How to help your child start a tech business.” (We love, love, love the clever title.) And here’s the kid-version of the same book, a perfect read for your kids: “Bossy: Online Startups for Kids and Teens.”

Long before she wrote the book, Jen lived the book. As a homeschooling mom to two kids, she asked them what new project they wanted to do. When they answered “build an iPhone app,” Jen dove into an ocean of technology info and started figuring out how to make it happen.

The result? She and the kids built an app called Citiblox. You can download it in the App store. (We were so impressed with Jen’s app-building skills that we hired her to design and build the nwaMotherlode app!)

A few years later, Jen and her kids launched their own website called Ponder Monster. (Click here to check out Ponder Monster. It’s such a creative site full of fun info, and our kids love it. The fact that it was created BY kids and FOR kids makes it extra cool.) They also have their own YouTube channel and have designed decals sold at local stores.

If you’re wondering if this book is for you, we’ll let Jen answer that in a passage from the book’s introduction:

“This book will show you ways to encourage your child (and you!) to try new things, explore ideas, and create a business while they are young to earn their own money, further their education, and inspire creativity. Age is not really a factor — don’t let it limit you and certainly don’t let it limit your child! Amazing things can happen no matter your age or location. You just have to work at it.”

Jen is one of those rare people who not only understands complex technology but can also EXPLAIN it to the rest of us in a way that makes perfect sense. And the fact that she can deliver this type of material in a way that’s also funny and relevant to everyday mom life makes this a book that you will love.

The best part? This just might be the book that sparks something HUGE in the life of your child. Future Mark Zuckerberg? Future Steve Jobs? Anything is possible when parents nurture the creative spark that lives within each and every child.

Good news! Jen’s new book is available on Amazon right now for only 99 cents! Woo-hoo! We love a bargain. (Click here to see it.) But please know that this book is a bargain at any price. Jen has done all the technological heavy lifting for you so that, when you and your kid decide to create a new business, you’ll have the tools and know-how you need to get started. Happy reading!

What We’re Reading: 5 fantastic teen books headed to theatres

whatreading FPL

By Hotspur Closser, youth services librarian, FPL

It is nearly impossible to keep up with the flood of feature films based on young adult novels nowadays.

I’m convinced that the recent trend of turning teen literature into movies is no longer a trend at all and is officially here to stay, as Hollywood studios continue to see dollar signs in the mostly original (albeit occasionally derivative) world of YA fiction—a world that continues to produce bonafide blockbusters one after another.

Without further ado, here are five fantastic end-of-summer reads to get you ready for their upcoming feature film adaptations.  All five books are available for checkout at the Fayetteville Public Library.

THE 5th WAVE  by Rick Yancey

The first installment in a planned trilogy, Rick Yancey’s exciting sci-fi series kicks off shortly before the fifth and final wave of an alien invasion of Earth.  The first wave was a worldwide EMP (electromagnetic pulse) to take out our technology; the second wave was a literal wave in the form of a massive tsunami to destroy all of our coasts; the third wave was pestilence in the guise of a global virus similar to Ebola; and the fourth wave sends specially designated “silencers” (alien-infested humans) to pick off the remaining survivors while they await the as-yet unknown fifth wave.  Action-packed and chock-full of characters, this series should appeal to fans of post-apocalyptic survival stories (War of the Worlds, The Walking Dead, etc.), and you can bet audiences are going to eat these movies up.  The first film is slated for early 2016.

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NERVE  by Jeanne Ryan

Jeanne Ryan’s young adult debut is a fast-paced story set in the not-too-distant-future world of reality television.  Vee, the novel’s protagonist, is an introvert in high school who finds herself competing for prizes on “Nerve,” a kind-of reality game show that rewards its contestants for successfully completing humiliating dares which prey on their insecurities.  The premise isn’t nearly as far-fetched as most young adult speculative fiction, and much of the story’s subtext (themes of bullying, impact of social media, manipulation, social anxiety and insecurities) is highly relevant to today’s teens.  With an unscheduled release date in 2016, it will be interesting to see how Hollywood decides to treat this adaptation, as it’s likely to be closer to Easy A or Mean Girls than to The Running Man.

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This dark and strange story follows 16-year-old Jacob Portman as he copes with the mysterious death of his grandfather.  Believing his grandfather to have been killed by a monster, Jacob travels to a remote island in hopes of finding clues at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an orphanage his grandfather used to tell him stories about that housed children with fantastical abilities.  One part Edward Gorey and two parts “Twilight Zone,” Ransom Riggs’ novel is both highly original and a well-written read.  The film adaptation is being directed by Tim Burton, cinematic master of the dark and strange, so the movie’s mood should be a good fit when it hits theaters in March of 2016.

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RED QUEEN  by Victoria Aveyard

Author Victoria Aveyard weaves a fantastical tale about a world inhabited by two classes of people—a ruling class of genetically superior beings with silver blood and superhuman abilities, and a lower class of powerless red-blooded plebians who live only to serve their silver-blooded masters.  When 17-year-old Mare finds out that she possesses both kinds of blood, the system finds itself shaken to its very core.  The first in a planned trilogy, Red Queen successfully covers the themes of class warfare and political intrigue which are present in so many dystopian teen stories like The Hunger Games and Divergent.  No release date has yet been set for the film.

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If you like your teen fiction to be realistic, gritty and intense, then this novel is for you.  Matthew Quick, who also authored The Silver Linings Playbook, tells the tale of Leonard Peacock, a troubled teen fighting figurative demons (both at home and in his own head) as he nears his 18th birthday.  Harboring a dark secret that he just cannot live with anymore, Leonard decides to make his 18th birthday one to remember–for others, not for himself–as he plots a murder/suicide.  Hollywood heartthrob Channing Tatum (he of Magic Mike fame) is currently slated to direct and possibly star in the film adaptation, but no release date has been set.

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All these books are available for checkout at the Fayetteville Public Library, our What We’re Reading sponsor on nwaMotherlode.

Click here to see more about the Fayetteville Public Library’s Summer Reading Program. Win prizes for doing what you love — reading!

What We’re Reading: Tween summer reads

whatreading FPL

By Hotspur Closser, Teen Librarian, Fayetteville Public Library

School is out, temperatures are rising and summer is in full swing as thousands of Northwest Arkansas tweens are finding themselves faced with copious amounts of free time.

What better way to spend a summer day than lounging underneath your favorite shade tree with a glass of lemonade and a good book?  Below are a few titles your “tweenager” might enjoy, and all are available for checkout at the Fayetteville Public Library.

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DEAR HANK WILLIAMS by Kimberly Willis Holt

Perhaps the best titled book in this bunch, Dear Hank Williams tells the story of eleven-year-old Tate Ellerbee, a small-town girl growing up without her parents in Louisiana in the late 1940s.  Tate takes a liking to the relatively new country music star Hank Williams and chooses him as her pen pal for a school assignment.  Author Holt, who won the National Book Award in 1999 for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, crafts an equally well-written novel here about a young girl growing up in the face of adversity, cleverly documented in the diary-like format of Tate’s correspondence with Hank Williams.

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Primarily a writer of adult fiction, George Hagen (The Laments, 2004) ventures into the world of Juvenile and Young Adult Literature and it proves to be a successful one.  The story follows the title character, an adolescent Brooklynite, as he attempts to uncover the mystery of his parents’ disappearance and how it relates to humankind’s mysterious and secret history with talking ravens.  An interesting novel that’s hard to put a label on (Mystery? Fantasy? Adventure?), Gabriel Finley & The Raven’s Riddle is very much evocative of The Mysterious Benedict Society meeting the magical world of Harry Potter.

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THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS by Christopher Paul Curtis

Newbery Medal-winning author (and distinguished guest of the Fayetteville Public Library in 2014) Christopher Paul Curtis wrote The Madman of Piney Woods as a companion novel to his 2007 Coretta Scott-King Award-winning and Newbery Honor book Elijah of Buxton.  Though not technically a sequel, this companion novel revisits the former Canadian runaway slave settlement of Buxton, Ontario, in 1901–forty years after the events of the first book–and follows the stories (and histories) of two friends, Benji and Red.  The Madman of Piney Woods is a well-written coming of age tale full of history, humor, and heart.

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THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel ed. by P. Craig Russell)

Fans of Neil Gaiman’s Newbery Award-winning novel The Graveyard Book would be wise to check out the official graphic novel adaptation, edited by author/illustrator P. Craig Russell.  Russell compiles quite an impressive collection of contributing artists (including himself) to bring Gaiman’s dark and mysterious gothic novel to life as a graphic novel (which only seems fitting, considering Gaiman was once renowned as a comics writer rather than a writer of fiction).

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No list of tween summer reads would be complete without Harper Lee’s magnum opus, To Kill a Mockingbird.  If you have never read this quintessential coming-of-age classic about growing up in the South, or never even seen the brilliantly-adapted 1963 film of the same name, then you owe it to yourself to do both.  And if you have read it, then now is actually the perfect time to re-read the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, as Lee’s recently unearthed and previously unpublished sequel, Go Set a Watchman, is poised to hit bookstores this summer.

All books are available for checkout at the Fayetteville Public Library, our What We’re Reading sponsor on nwaMotherlode.

Click here to see more about the Fayetteville Public Library’s Summer Reading Program. Win prizes for doing what you love — reading!

What We’re Reading: Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile

Facebook shareHappy Friday, mamas!

It’s cold and might even snow this weekend, so it’s a good time to cozy up with a fun book by the fire. And we’ve got a great recommendation for you because Gwen’s book, Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile, is on an Amazon special promotion right now which means you can get the e-book version for 99 cents. (That deal will be over by the 20th so grab it while you can.)

You can also give the e-book to a friend (and even schedule the day it arrives in their inbox) so this would be a great way to give a few holiday gifts without rockwood files photo logospending too much money.

In addition to being the co-founder of, Gwen is also a syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about marriage, motherhood, kids, pets and more, and this book is a collection of columns that her newspaper readers have loved most over the past 18 years.

Click HERE to see read the reviews posted by Amazon readers, and get the e-book version for yourself or a friend. Stay warm this weekend, and Happy Reading!