Is your child looking for a good book to read? Send them to the non-fiction shelves in the Children's Room. On those shelves, kids will find books about all kinds of subjects, from ants to knights to cooking to soccer. If they're interested in something, chances are there's a book about it in the Children's Room.
In fact, non-fiction books often are a great answer for reluctant readers. Just like many adults, lots of kids prefer non-fiction. Unfortunately, well-meaning adults tend to equate reading with reading fiction, and either forget -- or refuse -- to offer the choice of non-fiction to kids.
As one way to remedy that, children's librarians established a new award for non-fiction books five years ago. The annual award, called the Robert F. Sibert Medal, is given to the most distinguished non-fiction -- or informational -- books published in English during the preceding year. The award is sponsored by a Jacksonville, Fla. book-binding company and named for their long-time president.
The winning book is chosen by a panel of librarians and announced at the annual winter meeting of the American Library Association. The panel often names at least one honor book as well. For a list of previous winners, go to ALA | Sibert Medal
Although the Sibert Medal is overshadowed by the spotlight trained on the better-known Newbery and Caldecott Medals, it is helping to raise awareness about the importance of non-fiction for young readers. In addition, the medal has helped establish a core collection of well-written fiction for kids.
This year's Sibert Medal winner is Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley. Written by Sally M. Walker, the book is a fascinating, carefully-documented look at how scientists are piecing together the story of the Hunley, which disappeared after it became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship on Feb. 17, 1864. The book is filled with color photographs and maps that add further interest. Walker first tells the historical story of how and why the Hunley was built during the Civil War, and how Confederate officials hoped to use the submarine to overcome the crippling Union blockade of the port of Charleston, S.C.
Walker then switches gears to recount how scientists have worked painstakingly to unearth the Hunley from the bottom of the sea and to learn her secrets. As the book ends, Walker notes that many questions remain, including why the Hunley sank. She adds: The Hunley ... teaches everyone the value of a good story. And like the very best of storytellers, she spins her tale slowly, one chapter at a time. We're still waiting for the conclusion.
Although Secrets of Civil War Submarine is published in a picture book format, it isn't a book for preschoolers. But kids ages 10 and up who love the idea of a real-life mystery will definitely enjoy this book.
The 2006 Sibert Committee also chose one honor book, Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. Written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, the book also was named a Newbery Honor book this year. Bartoletti's book shows how young people were an important force in helping Adolph Hitler rise to power. She focuses particularly on 12 young people: some were true believers, some were fearful of the consequences if they didn't go along, and some ended up defying the regime. Filled with photographs, Bartoletti's powerful, thought-provoking book spurs young readers to ask themselves what they would have done if they had lived in Germany in Hitler's time. Hitler's Youth makes fascinating reading for kids ages 12 up.
Other new non-fiction books in the Children's Room include:
__ Freedom Riders, written by Ann Bausum, chronicles the efforts of a group of black and white civil rights activitists to desegregate interstate transportation in the Deep South in the 1960's. (Ages 12 up).
__ Author Louise Borden and artist Robert Andrew Parker combine talents to tell a riveting tale of World War II through the eyes of a schoolgirl in Across the Blue Pacific. (Ages 7-10).
__ A lost bird finds a wonderful new home in The True Story of Stellalina, written and illustrated by Matteo Pericoli. (Ages 5-10).
__ Kids get fun, interactive history lessons in How To Be An Egyptian Princess by Jacqueline Morley and How To Be A Revolutionary War Soldier by Thomas Ratliff. (Ages 7-12).
__ Author Trudee Romanek offers an up-close-and-personal look at blood in Squirt!. (Ages 8-12).
__ New how to books include: Knotting (which has projects great for both boys and girls, including a basketball net and guitar strap); Junk Drawer Jewelry; Quick Knits; Horse Crafts; Chock Full of Chocolate; and Birdfeeders. (Ages 8 up)
__ Got a bit of time and a cardboard box? Create something special with the help of The Cardboard Box Book, written by Danny Walsh and his two sons, Jake and Niall. (Ages 7 up, or younger with adult help).
__ In The Forbidden Schoolhouse, author Suzanne Jurmain tells the story of a white woman named Prudence Crandall, who fought a lonely battle against racism when she opened the first New England academy for young African-American women in Canterbury, Conn. in 1833. (Ages 10 up).
Attention all Summer Quest readers! The end is near -- the end of Summer Quest, that is. And we're going to have a party to celebrate the end of another summer of great reading. Join us in the Children's Room on Monday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. We'll share some of the books we've loved and do a craft or two. We'll also have a raffle for the giant bear who used to live in the Children's Room. And there will be prizes -- and books! -- for everyone to take home.
Please let us know if you are coming. Call the library at 301-891-7259 or drop by the main desk to sign up.
Join us for a special event in the Children's Room on Thursday, Aug. 24 from 10-11 a.m. We'll sing songs about trains and other vehicles with Nancy Nuttle, founding director of Music Together Montgomery. Then we'll read "The Little Engine That Could" and other train books.
It's all part of the nationwide "Read for the Record" effort. It's designed to highlight the work of Jumpstart, a non-profit organization working to boost school readiness skills among preschoolers in low-income communities.