Children’s Books that Presidential Candidates Need to Read

Children’s books aren’t immune to politics. Many deal with issues that children need to learn about. The Lorax is a good example as a modern fable for protecting the environment. Other books have a left/right divide: In If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is it better to be generous, or are we just “enabling”? Evidently it has generated political discussion.

I was doing some work in our Curriculum Materials Collection, when I pulled this book off the shelf:

The Chickens Build a Wall, by Jean-Francois Dumont. Translated into English and published by Eerdmans in 2013, Dumont tells the story of hedgehog that appeares in the barnyard. Chickens, under the leadership of the rooster, decide to build a wall to keep out other “foreign” and unknown things.

As a read this, I immediately thought of the U.S. presidential campaign–and one candidate in particular, Donald Trump. Then I thought, what about if I assigned children’s books to each of the major presidential candidates?

Here’s my take on it. Some of it humorous, some serious.

Donald Trump, please read:


The Chickens Build a Wall – written and illustrated by Jean-Francois Dumont
Summary: Chicken freak out over an hedgehog. Decide to build a wall.
Why?: Incendiary rhetoric from the candidate.
Lesson: Don’t be xenophobic.


My Mouth is a Volcano – written by Julia Cook, illustrated by Carrie Hartman
Summary: A children’s lesson on not interrupting.
Why?: Candidate never seems to stop talking.
Lesson: Respect others; listen, don’t interrupt.

Hillary Clinton, please read:


Waiting is Not Easy – by Mo Willems
Lesson: Sometimes you just have to wait.
Why?: Candidate was presumed front-runner in 2008. Presumed front-runner in 2016.
Lesson: Duh. Waiting is not easy!


Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib – by Darren Farrell
Summary: A little fib can really escalate.
Why?: Candidate could solve a lot of political and personal issues by simply being truthful and transparent.
Lesson: Honesty is the best policy.

Bernie Sanders, please read:


The Chocolate War – by Robert Cormier
Summary: The pressure one can face when not conforming.
Why?: Candidate stays true to his convictions, but can he compromise when needed to get things done?
Lesson: Taking on the establishment doesn’t always pan out.


The Promise – written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
Summary: Young girl snatches an old woman’s purse. The woman asks her to keep a promise of what’s inside. The girl doesn’t find money, but acorns.
Why?: Candidate promises a lot. Results are not often immediate.
Lesson: Deeds, not words.

Ted Cruz, please read:


Charlotte’s Web – written by E.B. White
Summary: Unlikely barnyard friends.
Why?: Patrol Muslim communities? Dissing single moms? Candidate has a serious “empathy” deficit.
Lesson: Be a friend, not a foe.


Each Kindness – written by Jacqueline Woodson
Summary: Rarely do you get a second chance at kindness. So be kind from the start.
Why?: Candidate’s rhetoric seems overly mean.
Lesson: Your actions influence others. Don’t be a bully.

Need more suggestions on children’s books that teach life lessons? Check out:

Friday Fun: Silence in the Library – A Playlist

Friday afternoon is probably the quietest time in an academic library. Most students (and professors) like to do Tue/Thu and Mon/Wed classes. It’s the freshmen who get stuck in dreaded Mon-Wed-Fri classes…and even then, it’s usually just in the morning.

By Friday afternoon, the library is SILENT. The other days of the week it’s bustling. Groups are studying. People are clacking away on the computers and their devices. Research assistance is busy. An open seat is a rare thing.

But Friday afternoon…it’s what most people think of when they think of a library: quiet, silent, peaceful.

That had me thinking, what playlist could I put together with songs about quietness and silence? Or songs that play on the theme of silence in the title? Here are a few that came to mind:

“The Sound of Silence” / Simon & Garfunkel

“Enjoy the Silence” / Depeche Mode

“Don’t Speak” / No Doubt

“Our Lips are Sealed” / The Go-Go’s

“Hush” / Deep Purple

“Voices Carry” / ‘Til Tuesday 

“A Quiet Place” / Garnet Mimms 

“It’s Oh So Quiet” / Björk

“Hymns to the Silence” / Van Morrison

Hush Hush; Hush Hush / The Pussycat Dolls

What else am I missing?


“Why the hell would I want to leave the library?” – The Library on “Orange is the New Black”

Oh Orange is the New Black: why do you release all of your episodes in the summer?

I will stay indoors on a perfectly beautiful summer weekend and watch all of the episodes. Last year I binge watched season one of the hit Netflix series. Now I’m doing the same with season two. Whether it can be true to “real” prison life is up for debate. What is does have is good writing, great acting, and a showcase for actresses that are unfortunately not often featured in mainstream Hollywood roles.

Naturally, as a librarian, I’ve been tied to some of the scenes involving the prison library and reading. There’s a Tumblr devoted to the books shown in various scenes–even Buzzfeed and Entertainment Weekly have picked up on it.

On the series, the characters Taystee and Poussey, two of my favorites, are shown working in the prison library–usually shelving books.

Taystee and Poussey in the prison library - Orange is the New Black

Taystee and Poussey in the prison library – Orange is the New Black

Taystee loves Harry Potter. Hates Ulysses. I could picture her delivering great “story times” in a library. Poussey strikes me as more of an academic–possibly using a research library to write her own treatise on literature, music, or post Cold War Germany.

Is it sad I want a subplot where either Taystee or Poussey decide to pursue a MLS degree?

Occasionally, as a librarian, you’ll find some “errors” with the prison library. In the screen cap below (featuring Daya and Bennett), you’ll see that the Dewey call number signs don’t reference which *side* of the shelf the call number range falls on. Is Is “550-559” on the left side or right side? Or do I walk down the row and continue around? Quibble, quibble.

Daya & Bennett in the prison library

Daya & Bennett in the prison library

In season two (mild spoiler ahead), the villainous Vee (shown below on the right) recruits Taystee (on the left) to give up her library job to start selling contraband tobacco.

Taystee responds:

Why the hell would I want to leave the library? It’s the best job here!

Vee counters:

Books do not pay the rent. Books do not ‘bourguignon’ the beef.

And there you have it – summed up in one exchange – everything you need to know about library work. It’s a great job, but not always the most lucrative of careers.

Who knew you’d end up getting library career lessons from Orange is the New Black?

Library Wisdom from Taystee and Vee - Orange is the New Black

Library Wisdom from Taystee and Vee – Orange is the New Black

I Heart Poultry, or: The Importance of the Reference Interview

With Valentine’s Day coming up, this reference interaction popped into my head.

Now I normally don’t blog about specific patron encounters, but this one was years ago… circa 2003 when I was a newbie librarian.

A man approached the reference desk and asked a simple question:

Do you have any books on poultry?

With my newly minted MLS, I thought I better do a good reference interview:

Well, are you looking for books on any specific type of poultry: like chickens or turkeys? About farming, urban chickens, or feral? We have a fairly large agriculture collection. 

Wow, how self-important I sounded! It resulted in a quizzical look from the man. He said:

No! No! I’m looking for romance stuff.

At this point I’m confused. Chickens? Romance?

Then it dawned on me. He wasn’t looking for books about poultry. He was looking for books about POETRY. He wanted romantic poems. I misunderstood him.

You see, wanting to “impress” the patron with my knowledge, I should have just started the reference interview with a simple question: Can you tell me more about what you want to find? 

Problem solved and there wouldn’t have been a poultry/poetry dilemma. Lesson learned!

Is your mom Mrs. Huxtable? My first information literacy memory

First a little background: I grew up in small town Indiana. My mom is Hispanic; my dad white.

It’s the mid-1980s. I’m in the second grade. I remember this event like it was yesterday: It turned out to be my first inkling of “information literacy” – although too young to know it – and the term itself wasn’t emphasized until 1989.

This is what happened: My mom came to visit me at school. After she left, one of my classmates asked me in all seriousness:

Is your mom Mrs. Huxtable?

Yes, Claire Huxtable. The mom from 1980s hit The Cosby Show.

As a second grader, I couldn’t define the word askance, but that was the look I had on my face.

Here’s how the conversation unfolded:

Me: Where did you hear that?

Him: Nowhere. I just thought that.

[Insert future librarian thinking: Where did he get his information from? Why hasn’t he verified it?]

Me: You know that Mrs. Huxtable is just a character on The Cosby Show, right? She’s not a real person.

[Insert future librarian thinking: Why can’t he distinguish between fiction and real-life?]

Him: Oh.

Me: You also know that Mrs. Huxtable is African-American, right? My mom is Mexican.

[Insert future librarian thinking: I want to go grab the shiny new World Book Encyclopedia off of the shelf. Why isn’t he using prior knowledge as context? After all, I know he’s eaten at my aunt’s taco truck. Everyone in town knows it!]

Him: Oh. Ok.

Another classmate: “I heard your mom was Hawaiian.”

Me: [sigh]

Here’s my mom – mid-1980s (top) and Mrs. Huxtable, aka Phylicia Rashad (bottom). What do you think?


The Library in Lego Form (aka the absolute last post I will write about Lego librarians)

Lego public library

Lego public library

It’s the summer of Lego Librarians! When I created my own Lego Librarian personalities, I didn’t quite imagine the wave it would create. People love Lego blocks. People love librarians. When you combine the two, you get an irresistible cultural mash-up.

The original post generated over 36,000 views and appeared on sites such as The Huffington Post, Flavorwire, Neatorama, Book RiotMyModernMet, Trendhunter, and Nerd Approved. Evidently it also took the country of Hungary by storm, as I had several thousand views from this one site alone.

After I acquired the official Lego librarian (I got it for cheap on eBay, rather than guessing among the unmarked packages at the Lego store), I decided that the Lego librarian needed a library!

Now I had a few of my own Lego pieces, but I had to ask for donations from co-workers. I also eBayed a few cheap building blocks…and voilà. I started building the Lego library. Just like the real library, there’s something for everyone: books, periodicals, technology, events. All walks of life are represented: young and old, well to do and not-so-much, people making a transition, and people on the edges of society. Here’s the local public library in Lego form…hope you enjoy it!

…and here’s a short movie created with the Lego Movie app:

Notes on Lego Librarians and a Shout-Out to Children’s Librarians

Yikes…who would have thought that Lego librarians could be so popular? The original blog post has had nearly 16,000 views since it was posted on the evening of July 24.

The librarian/nerd in me finds the blog post’s movement through the “interwebs” fascinating. It’s been referenced on Flavorwire, Neatorama, Nerd Approved, and My Modern Met among others. It shows how librarians ARE an integral pop culture phenomenon: stereotypes and all.

One More Lego Librarian

Although I featured over 20+ Lego librarians, the most common request I received was: Where’s the children’s librarian? So, here it is:

"Only a children's librarian would don a chicken suit for story time! That's why the kiddies love me. But once summer reading is done, I'm pawning the chicken suit for beer & wine money."

“Only a children’s librarian would don a chicken suit for story time! That’s why the kiddies love me. But once summer reading is done, I’m pawning the chicken suit for beer & wine money.”

I’ve also added it to the original post. So, I’m officially done now with my various Lego librarian personalities. But you can make your own by hunting around on eBay. You’ll be hooked–I guarantee!

What’s Next?

There will be one final Lego blog post within the next couple of weeks when I unveil my “Lego Library.” Then I will happily retire from Lego librarians all together as I’ve had my fill. Thanks for your comments…this crazy blog post idea has been a truly fun experience.