Books Lists resources

An Unconventional Librarian Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are just around the corner (eek!) and now’s the time to start thinking about gifts for the bibliophile on your list.  I’m compiling my list and I’m checking it twice, making sure Santa knows what book goes to which lucky reader.
An Unconventional Librarian Holiday Gift Guide
I am now curating books in the following categories:
Cookbooks make great gifts: aka cookbooks for the terrible cook (COOKBOOKS)
Books Dad wants but doesn’t know it (HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, ROCK AND ROLL)
Books that will keep the little ones busy on Christmas morning and out of Mom’s hair (MIDDLE GRADE AND PICTURE BOOKS)
Books Mom will curl up under the blanket and enjoy: aka Mommy’s Day off! (CHICK LIT, MYSTERY, POP FICTION)
Book related items: bookmarks, book themed clothes, jewelry, etc.
Want your title in this list? Email me at [email protected] SUBJECT: 2015 Holiday gift Guide

Grab These 5 Books for Dad for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is here! What did you get your old man? Another stupid tie he doesn’t need? More grilling paraphernalia? Get the best dude in your life something that he’ll love.



Trust me on this.

Here are 5 books to grab for Dad for Father’s Day:

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Sure, Dad’s seen the movie. But the attention to detail Hillenbrand goes into when describing the plane? Unreal. Dad will dig all the history references and the building and rebuilding of stuff and the atrocities of war.  Man book. Good.

2.  A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre

A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre

Because believe it or not, Dad was a kid once too. And like you, he probably secretly wanted to be a spy. Years later, he’s your dad, but he still harbors that itty bitty secret desire to be a super secret spy. Keep Dad from spying on your stuff by giving him this book so he can read about actual real life honest to goodness spies. I’m not a fan of the cover of the book so, wrap it in brown paper like a ninja. Er, super secret spy!

3. The Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

The Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

When Dad’s not dreaming of being a super spy, he’s navigating a ship. Here’s the tale of a captain who navigated toward the North Pole. I don’t wanna spoil it for you, but be glad Dad wasn’t on the USS Jeannette. This is my MUST READ pick for all Dads. And Granddads. I bought this title for Mr. Pam when it came out.  Get it for Captain Dad.

4. Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb

Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb

If you’ve heard the phrase: “There’s a sucker born every minute” then you know what I’m talking about. Think roaring 20s, smart lawyer, deception, swindling, Panamanian oil wells.  Thirty million dollars worth of swindling. Oh boy. Mr. Pam doesn’t know it, but he’s getting this in his Father’s Day basket. Gift bag. thingy.

5. Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Because good old Dad’s been reading Stephen King since he was in high school and you’ll want to add this to his collection. This plot has creepy Johnny Depp style movie written all over it. Opening lines are everything people. Dig this: Wake up, genius.

Stephen King, creeping out families for decades. He’s the dude. The creepy serial killer writer dude.  just what Dad wants.

There you have it. Pick one or pick all. Give the best dude in your life a book. Happy Father’s Day Dad!

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Children

A Sweet Book for Dads to Read at Bedtime: Elizabeth’s Constellation Quilt by Olivia Fu

Elizabeth is a young mouse who wants to be a sailor like her father. Her father tells her a sailor must use the stars to find his way, but to Elizabeth, all stars look the same. Then her mother makes her a constellation quilt. When her father is lost at sea, Elizabeth is the one who sails to rescue him, armed with her quilt and her new knowledge of the stars.


I thought it might be fun to talk to the author/illustrator about the book, so here’s an interview with Olivia Fu.

Q: How did you come up with the characters? How did you come up with the name?

The characters in Elizabeth’s Constellation Quilt were inspired by my own family, but the relationships aren’t a direct reflection of mine. It is more of a fantastic creation of what the relationships could be, in this whimsical world. Elizabeth is my oldest sister’s name, and I dedicate the book to her because she has always been a strong force in my family. She is in many ways like Elizabeth in the book, strong willed, self-determining, and adventurous.

On the process of illustrating the book

The process happened very quickly. This is my first published children’s book, so I’m still working on my process. There is no exact formula quite yet but there is structure. I start out by writing the manuscript. This means scribbling notes on postets, sketch books, and in the margins of my agenda. Eventually, these notes get woven together into a coherent story.

I want to mention that I my editor, Barney, had given me some really helpful information before I began illustrating this book. He had sent me a blog by Mem Fox, where she provides advice for writers. She says when you write, you need to be in a COMPLETELY silent room. It is like creating music and you need to be able to hear the words in your head. I really latched onto this idea when creating the illustrations for this book. When I read the manuscript, it was in a completely silent room. The initial pictures just sort of came to me. I am more likely to get a successful picture the first time, if I have razor focus in a room where not even the buzz of a fly will distract me.

I am creating the images in my head, as though I’m recalling them in a film I’ve already created. Certain lines in the story naturally fit together. These become one page or a spread. Certain parts of the story start to separate, need a pause here and there, or need a page of no words for the story to escalate or de-escalate. Then I make ROUGH thumbnail sketches. When it comes time to make the finals, I need TONS of source images. I am the kind of artist that needs to look at something.

Q: Do you have pets?

I have a fish named Kitty. I had wanted a cat, but I am not allowed to have cats in my apartment, hence the name Kitty. I am very attached to Kitty and he is surprisingly needy and responsive. He has the personality of a very flirty corgi. Growing up, I also had a fish named, Phoebe, who lived for a long time, about 5 years. There are four kids in the family including me, so for my parents that was enough lives to take care of.

Q: What’s your favorite color?

At the moment green, but my favorite color changes all the time. It used to be blue, then red, then purple, now green.

Q: What kind of art do you do – media and subjects?  

I’ve always been a painter and I have the most experience with it, but it is important to me to choose the media that best tells the story. Elizabeth’s Constellation Quilt is a story about a close father daughter relationship and it has ups and downs. It’s a rich story, which required a rich medium, so I chose paint.

I’ve done a lot of advocacy based artwork in mural painting, covering topics like traffic safety, immigration, and the history of Riverbank State Park and Water Treatment Plant. Before that I did large scale painting about current and historical events that are important to me, like the Rape of Nanking, and the creation of the atomic bomb.

Now I am focusing on children’s books about family relationships, unlikely friendships, and finding meaning in the world. The thing that ties my artwork together, is that I like to tell stories. Sometimes there is a clear message, and sometimes I just want to provide a different perspective. Stories provide just the right amount of structure and flexibility in my creative process. I enjoy creating the characters, the world they inhabit, and the events they will overcome and draw meaning out of. Creating a character is like getting to know a new person and discovering a new perspective. I escape into my stories.

Q: Where are your parents from/background?

My dad is from Hong Kong and my mom is from Taiwan. They met in graduate school in West Virginia. I’m really close to my parents.

Q: Why did you get into art?

This is going to sound cliché, but I just need to create things. It is how I communicate myself and it has taken me a long time to realize home important it is to me.

Q: What age did you start drawing?

I started drawing when I was 5 years old. My mom signed me up for an after school art class that I attended every Friday, from age 5 to 18. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Camozzi and she was one of the most patient and kind teachers I’ve ever had. She gave me a lot of freedom.

Q: Is it hard to be an artist/teacher?

Most definitely. Both being an artist and a teacher take a lot out of me emotionally. I hold myself to a high standard. I feel very responsible for how I influence young people, both as a teacher and as a artist/writer. It is also a lot to juggle mentally. When I plan a lesson, I have to think of things in a very structured organized way. When I make illustrations, although I have my own system for that, I have to let go of some control and be able to trust my instincts.

Q: Where do you live?

I live in Harlem New York, but I plan on moving back to California very soon.

Q: What things do you like to do outside of art/writing/teaching?

That is a very good question. At the moment my career does somewhat take over my life, but when I do have free time, I see friends and family, eat good food, go to museums, watch many animated movies, and try to keep myself out of trouble. Like Elizabeth I am a risk taker and deep down am always seeking adventure.

I love how the little girl goes to rescue her father. It’s so sweet! Perfect book for Dads and their little ones, don’t ya think? This book can totally count toward your Diversity Reading Challenge, as it’s written by an author of color.

Enjoy it’s cuteness!