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Ferndale Library Staff Recommends: Ms. Jillean's Picks

Another round of personal picks presented for your consideration of recreational/enlightening engagement by the staff at the Ferndale Library. This week, Head Librarian of Youth Services Jillean McCommons.

Most of our younger readers, those below 4-feet in height, may know her personally as "Miss Jillean."

Jillean McCommons was hired as Head of Youth Services at in February 2011. She loves performing storytime with kids of all ages. She is proud to work in Ferndale as youth services librarian extraordinaire.

McCommons has been nothing short of a sparkplug to the overall spirit and enthusiasm of the staff here at the library and though I am often at the circulation desk during her story hours, I can tell just from hearing that the kids are having a blast. We particularly admire her emphasis upon the inclusion of music into the reading-hour events.

Jillean: "Here are my Patch Picks for the week."

1. Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke
This early chapter book series deserves a lot more love. It is awesome for so many reasons.  First, it's set in modern Africa. Second, we get a glimpse at a middle-class, mixed-race family in modern Africa. Third, it's an early chapter book covering, in a very gentle and age-appropriate way, issues like class, tradition, family and culture.  And, lastly, the writing is just heart-warming. It's an endearing series for a new independent reader or for those pre-bedtime family moments. Anna, along with her extended family (including twin baby brothers named Double and Trouble), enjoy all sorts of simple and sweet moments together. Besides how hard it is to find a story with characters with these backgrounds, it's just a great series that I'm sure Ferndale families will appreciate.

2. Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr.
Okay, another book that won me over immediately. Nat Love was one cool dude. Born a slave, Nat went on to become the most famous African-American cowboy in history. What better way to get to know his amazing life than through a graphic novel with sleek, almost futuristic imagery. Flipping the pages is like watching film stills go by. A very stunning book about a cool historical figure. We need more kids' westerns, if you ask me.

3. Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett
This is the kind of book children's librarians get really excited about. We get a lot of questions about books that address issues like meanness and bullying in a covert way. Here is a great example of an early chapter book that is both intelligently written and that addresses a not-so-pleasant subject. It's about a girl named Hannah's who puts on wild shows with Sadie and Ratz, the names of her hands. Sadie and Ratz seem innocent enough until they start to torment Hannah's little brother by attempting to rub his ears off. With themes like self-expression, bullying and sibling rivalry, I think this is great choice if you're looking for a realistic look at the hard and the soft of family dynamics between siblings.

4. Can You Survive the Titanic: an Interactive Survival Guide by Allison Lassieur
Just like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of old (which we still have because they're still awesome), this book let's you choose how to try and survive the titanic. Who will you choose to be? Once the titanic hits an iceberg will you help other passengers or protect yourself? What equipment will you choose? This book puts you smack-dab in the middle of the action. It was kinda like reading an episode of Man vs. Wild. A great choice for summer break or an adventurous spirit and a very neat way to learn about history. The library also has Can You Survive Storm Chasing and Can You Survive Antarctica.

5. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This last pick isn't a children's book. This is a novel about the Igbo people of southern Nigeria in the 1960s. The story is told through a number of characters, the most memorable for me is a pan-Africanist professor navigating the onset of the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War. I heard about this author a few years ago and made a mental note to read her work. She has won multiple awards and has been repeatedly compared to Chinua Achede. So, of course she went on my to-read list. Now that I have read her works (I've devoured them all) I wish I hadn't, just so I could read them all again. Adichie is an artist. She creates a world that is both surreal and real, engrossing and disturbing. At times you just wanna set it down, kind of like pushing a really sweet piece of flourless cake away after a few bites. Yet, it's not just the story but the writing that is so rich and powerful. I could just go on and on...

Ferndale Patch thanks circulation specialist Jeff Milo and head of youth services librarian Jillean McCommons for contributing to Patch! Check back soon for more ideas from library staff. Are you looking for recommendations on something specific? Email jessica.schrader@patch.com, and we'll pass on your questions to the library.

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