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“Deacon King Kong” and “Fathoms” Win 2021 Carnegie Medals

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Looking for great books to add to your to-read list? Each year, librarians and booksellers come together to award the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction—and the newly-announced 2021 honorees are not to be missed.

Deacon King Kong by James McBride has won the 2021 medal for fiction. Set in 1960s Brooklyn, the novel features unlikely heroes, gripping plot twists, moments of humor, and powerful social commentary.

The 2021 award for nonfiction goes to Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs. With lyrical prose and meticulous research, Giggs explores humanity’s enduring fascination with whales, which are now acutely threatened by climate change and pollution.

The Carnegie Medals are administered by the Reference and User Services Association and Booklist, both part of the American Library Association. “It has been my great honor to work with this committee of such passionate and discerning readers,” Bill Kelly, chair of the selection committee for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence, shared in a press release.

“As we collectively read and discussed scores of incredible books this last year, a year of extraordinary challenges, we discovered a renewed appreciation for the power of literature,” he continued. “More than ever we need books that nourish the mind and heart alike. Our two winners are exemplars of this power and it is our privilege to award them this honor.”

For even more great book recommendations, check out this year’s Carnegie Medals longlist.

These Animated Librarians Have Big Hearts and Big Heads

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by Burkely Hermann

Animated series such as Hilda, Cleopatra in Space, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power have portrayed libraries in a positive light; Too Loud, a 16-episode, two-season animated comedy web series on YouTube, is another great example of libraries in animation. Created by Nico Colaleo, the series focuses on two clumsy and loud volunteers at the Chestertown Public Library somewhere in the Western United States: Sara (voiced by Kelsey Abbott) and Jeffrey (voiced by Colaleo), with abnormally large heads, have fun even while they do their jobs. The show has already garnered a wiki, fan art, and a loyal group of fans. While the show is geared toward children, viewers of all ages can enjoy its message about the value of libraries.

In the first two episodes of season one, the so-called “loud mouth librarians,” Sara, and her brother, Jeffrey, help patrons: Sara uses her huge cranium to find a book on an obscure topic, while Jeffrey licks a library card to discern whether a book is overdue. Both explain the personal importance of helping library patrons, saying it brightens their day. In the second episode, both work together to save the library from being shut down by the town’s mayor. In later episodes, they meet friends in the library, with Jeffrey using the size of head to give a sci-fi author an idea for a new book, breaking his writer’s block, and a new librarian named Sarah is introduced.

Although the library is not shown as many times in the second season, the show emphasizes the library’s value to the community over and over again. In the third episode of the season, Sara is overwhelmed with her library duties and joins a group of “bad girls.” But when they approach the library and prepare to egg it, she remembers the positive memories and experiences she had there and tells the girls to leave. Afterward, Jeffrey and the head librarian, Mrs. Mildred Abbott, thank Sara for her hard work, saying they appreciate her efforts. In the fifth episode of the season, on the 100th anniversary of the library, Mildred’s twin and the chancellor of the libraries, Muriel, declares that the library will be sold off so the area can become a parking lot, all due to a long-standing grudge against her sister. The usual patrons are horrified by this, as are Jeffrey and Sara. Just in time, they help bring the two sisters together, and they reconcile, saving the library from destruction.

Other episodes highlight the importance of libraries and proper organization. In one episode in particular, the story centers on the Jeffrey and Sara picking up overdue library books and punishing those responsible is emphasized.  They convince a skeptical Sarah, a fellow librarian, to help them break into someone’s house to get an overdue book, but in truth Jeffrey had the book the whole time, for over eight years, and had forgotten to re-shelve it. After the person’s house collapses when they grab the book, all three of them learn that being punitive with those who have overdue books is not worth it.

The same can be said for an episode where Jeffrey and Sara travel deep into the library’s stacks to search for their friend, Molly, and find their long-lost cousin, Steven, who had been stranded there. In this abandoned part of the library, which has not been touched since the 1980s, there is even a VHS rental section!

Due to their role in the library, Sara and Jeffrey, along with their new colleague Sarah, are valued by those in the community. For example, in one episode, after Sara and Jeffrey get head reduction surgery, they have trouble doing their jobs, and ordinary patrons miss the usual banter of Sara and Jeffrey. It turns out this is a nightmare and both vow to never change the size of their “big, glorious heads” for anyone.

Even Mildred, the head librarian, bucks librarian stereotypes in several ways. At first, viewers may see the older white woman with glasses as dotty and clueless. For instance, she buys a burned sign for $100 dollars to eat in one episode, and is unsure how to answer reference calls from patrons. However, she has institutional knowledge dating back to the founding of the library, which her father built and founded. She helps Jeffrey, Sara, and Sarah with their duties from time to time and values their work at the library. Since the series is focused on Jeffrey and Sara and those who interact with them, she does not appear as much, but she adds an interesting dimension to the series.

While showrunner Nico Colaleo has proposed ideas for a third season, the season has been on an extended hiatus since November 2019—but viewers are still discovering the show and enjoying its depiction of libraries to this day. Even as the library’s size and layout differs from episode to episode, Colaleo has shared designs of the library on his Twitter account, including new angles of the library and the rainy day version of the library’s exterior, and a poster of a pop star promoting literacy displayed in one of the episodes. Hopefully, the series will be renewed, as having a show centered around libraries, like this one, would be a boon for representation of libraries and librarians in animation.

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Readers Share Their Most Cherished Library Memories

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We love hearing people’s favorite memories about using the library, so we’ve asked our readers and the American Library Association’s social media followers to share their experiences with us.

Here are a few highlights:

“My best memory of the library was when my twin boys found the nonfiction section. They were around three years old and obsessed with dinosaurs and sharks. The squeals and excitement that came from them that day is etched in my brain. You would have thought they hit the jackpot!”—Bridget K.

“My grandmother founded her town's library and then was head librarian for many years. I would often spend the night at her house as a child, and would go to the library with her after hours while she caught up on paperwork. There was something so magical about being free to explore that wonderful place on my own in the dim light, with no chairs scraping, doors opening, or voices murmuring. The wonderful scent of paper and ink...I felt like it was my own special world. I have always found great comfort in books and in libraries, and it was no great surprise to anyone when I grew up and became a school librarian!”—Laurie T.

“Watching the light bulb moment when my oldest son realized how the library worked. From then on, every trip to the library he tried to stump the librarians with a question and come up with a word that wasn't in their unabridged dictionary.”—Lydia T.

“Sitting for hours at age five, on the floor cross-legged, surrounded by a pile of picture books I had pulled from the shelves, and being granted all the time in the world by the librarian to read each one through to the end. When I finished, she helped me to carry the books to the desk so that I could check them out to take home with my mom and read them again. When we returned them, the librarian held a solemn conversation with my five-year-old self on the merits of each and every one! Her genuine love of reading mirrored my own; and, on a more permanent level, instilled in me a desire to encourage that love in everyone with whom I come in contact.”—Anita B

“My parents took me and my brothers to the library every Saturday morning—before we could even read—and checked out books for all five of us. This was our tradition for years, and I both love to read and to visit libraries. My husband and I are retired and travel a lot. We visit a library in every city we visit.”—Marge H.

“My favorite library memory is from childhood. After participating in the summer reading program and completing the required number of books to read, I was invited to a celebration party with all of the other kids who had completed the challenge. There were treats and a drawing. My name was drawn for one of the prizes: a cellophane wrapped package of special Spanish peanuts that were sold under a heat lamp with other types of nuts from the Rexall drug store around the corner. I was so happy to have won— it was the first time I had ever won something, and also so happy to be surrounded by people who loved books as much as I did, in a place that I treasured visiting whenever I could.”—Karen B.

“I always went to the library with my mother. Our home library was always full of soft whispers and the smell of hundreds of books! The library had a Stereopticon viewer and a big box of picture cards. It was very old and heavy to a four-year-old and I absolutely LOVED it! I was fascinated by all those cards and I spent my entire time looking at the pictures while my mother browsed and visited with the librarians.”—Suzanne J.

“The winter of 1984, I took my almost one-year-old son to the library in town and a librarian suggested Richard Scarry’s book Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. She said that on each of the two-page spreads there was a little gold bug to search for. That book was a major hit with my son as well as the other siblings that came along. This book has been a go-to baby gift and every little person I have shared it with has loved looking for the gold bug. This librarian gave us a real gift way back when.”—Diane P.

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30+ Librarian-Recommended Sci-Fi Books for Youth

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Core, a division of the American Library Association, just announced their 2021 Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction Notable Lists. Their selections include a diverse mix of engaging sci-fi reads for kids and teens.

Check out the full list:

Books for Kids Ages 6 and Under:

The Barnabus Project, by Terry Fan, Eric Fan, and Devin Fan

Field Trip to the Ocean Deep, by John Hare

A Jedi You Will Be, written by Preeti Chhibber and illustrated by Mike Deas

Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse, written by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox

Mara the Space Traveler, by An Leysen

Mars' First Friends: Come on Over, Rovers!, written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

Robobaby, by David Wiesner

The Stray, by Molly Ruttan

Books for Kids Ages 7 to 11:

Alien Nate, by Dave Whamond

Bloom, by Kenneth Oppel

Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, by Jake Burt

Dragon Ops, by Mari Mancusi

Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox, by Michael Buckley

GenPet, by Damian Campanario, Mike Kennedy, and Alex Fuentes

Glitch, by Laura Martin

In the Red, by Christopher Swiedler

Jinxed, by Amy McCulloch

Last Pick, by Jason Walz

Mega-Dogs of New Kansas, by Dan Jolley and Jacques Khouri

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez

Books for Kids Ages 12 to 18:

Catfishing on Catnet, by Naomi Kritzer

The Cloven Book One, by Garth Stein and Matthew Southworth

Crown Chasers, by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Devastation Class, by Glen Zipper and Elaine Mongeon

Girl of Flesh and Metal, by Alicia Ellis

Hard Wired, by Len Vlahos

The Loop, by Ben Oliver

Malice, by Pintip Dunn

School for Extraterrestrial Girls #1: Girl on Fire, by Jeremy Whitley and Jamie Noguchi

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything, by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

The Sound of Stars, by Alechia Dow

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, by Maggie Stiefvater and Morgan Beem

For more great book recommendations from librarians, subscribe to the I Love Libraries newsletter.

Why First Lady Jill Biden Loves Libraries

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At the American Library Association’s virtual Midwinter Meeting, First Lady Jill Biden joined ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. for a conversation about libraries, learning, and literacy.

Dr. Biden shared childhood memories of walking to her local library every two weeks and taking home as many books as she could carry. In college, she met young students who couldn’t read, which inspired her to become a teacher.

“Loving to read means loving to learn,” she explained. “And learning is how we grow into the people we want to become.”

As a community college professor, Dr. Biden always sends her students to the library when she assigns papers. “That's where they learn to research,” she said. “In a world where there is so much information to wade through, [librarians] help students develop their critical thinking skills.

“In big cities and small towns, libraries fulfill a purpose that almost nothing else does,” she continued. “They're a place of information for all. A place where people can come together as a community.”

Dr. Biden’s remarks included an inspiring message to library workers about the difference they make every day. “Never forget that what you're doing matters. Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you,” she shared. “Someone is standing a little taller because you helped them find the confidence they need. Someone is working a little harder because you pushed them to try. And someone is kinder because you showed them what that meant.”

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Proceeds from this Retro Muppets Tee Support Libraries

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For more than 40 years, beloved actors, musicians, and fictional characters have championed literacy by starring in American Library Association (ALA) READ® posters. Thanks to a collaboration between ALA and Out of Print, you can now sport a t-shirt adorned with one of the first-ever READ® poster designs, featuring Muppets Kermit and Miss Piggy.

The tee is available in both a unisex crewneck cut and a relaxed fit women’s style. Both shirt are 20% off through January 31—as is the rest of Out of Print’s READ® collection, which includes everything from Star Wars socks to Elephant & Piggie tote bags.

Shopping Out of Print’s READ® merchandise is a great way to do good. A portion of the proceeds supports the ALA’s work to keep libraries strong, from promoting technology and internet access for those in need to fighting censorship and book banning. 

Need more READ® in your life? The series is still going strong, with recent posters featuring stars like Misty Copeland, Milo Ventimiglia, and even The Mandalorian fan favorite The Child (AKA Baby Yoda or Grogu). Check out the full selection at the ALA Store.

Head to the Out of Print website to get your very own Muppet READ® tee.

The Year’s Biggest Book Awards for Kids and Teens Are Here

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Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) and affiliated library organizations present the prestigious Youth Media Awards, a celebration of the very best content for children and young adults—all curated by expert librarians.

This morning, ALA announced 2021 honors including the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott Book Award, and more. Check out the full list below:

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:

When You Trap a Tiger, by Tae Keller

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by Michaela Goade and written by Carole Lindstrom

Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing an African American literature for children and young adults:

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award:

Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Carole Boston Weatherford

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award:

Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:

Dorothy L. Guthrie, author of “Integrating African American Literature in the Library and Classroom”

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story), by Daniel Nayeri

Schneider Family Book Award for literature about the disability experience:

Schneider Family Book Award for Young Children:

I Talk Like a River, written by Jordan Scott and illustrated by Sydney Smith

Schneider Family Book Award for Middle Grade:

Show Me a Sign, by Ann Clare LeZotte

Schneider Family Book Award for Teens:

This Is My Brain in Love, by I.W. Gregorio

Alex Awards for adult books that appeal to teen audiences:

Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse

The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune

The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice - Crossing Antarctica Alone, by Colin O’Brady

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, by Derf Backderf

The Kids Are Gonna Ask, by Gretchen Anthony

The Only Good Indians, by Stephen Graham Jones

Plain Bad Heroines, by emily m. danforth

Riot Baby, by Tochi Onyebuchi

Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh

We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel, by Quan Barry

Children’s Literature Legacy Award:

Mildred D. Taylor, author of  “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”, “The Land”, “The Road to Memphis”, and more

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:

Kekla Magoon, author of “X: A Novel” (co-written by Ilyasah Shabazz), “How It Went Down”, “The Rock and the River”, and more

Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book in translation:

Telephone Tales (Favole al telefono), written by Gianni Rodari, illustrated by Valerio Vidali, and translated into English by Antony Shugaar

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults:

Kent State, produced by Paul R, written by Deborah Wiles, and narrated by Christopher Gebauer, Lauren Ezzo, Christina DeLaine, Johnny Heller, Roger Wayne, Korey Jackson, and David de Vries

Pura Belpré Awards for Latinx literature:

Pura Belpré Illustrator Award:

¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat, illustrated and written by Raúl Gonzalez

Pura Belpré Children’s Author Award:

Efrén Divided, by Ernesto Cisneros

Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award:

Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award:

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann

The Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award:

The Imagine Neighborhood, produced by Committee for Children

Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award for LGBTQ books: 

We Are Little Feminists: Families, written by Archaa Shrivastav and designed by Lindsey Blakely

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for beginning reader books:

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

William C. Morris Award for a debut book for teens:

If These Wings Could Fly, by Kyrie McCauley

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults:

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, by Candace Fleming

Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature:

Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature – Picture Books:

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist, written by Julie Leung and illustrated by Chris Sasaki

Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature – Children’s Literature:

When You Trap a Tiger, written by Tae Keller

Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature – Youth Literature:

This Light Between Us, by Andrew Fukuda

The Sydney Taylor Book Award for literature about the Jewish experience:

Sydney Taylor Book Award – Picture Books:

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tailby Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Susan Gal

Sydney Taylor Book Award – Middle Grade:

Turtle Boy, by M. Evan Wolkenstein

Sydney Taylor Book Award – Young Adult:

Dancing at the Pity Party, written and illustrated by Tyler Feder

For more information about this year’s Youth Media Awards, visit American Libraries.

Stephen Colbert is Confounded by this Library Potato Mystery

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A starchy enigma has been bedeviling staff at the Wayland Free Public Library in Massachusetts: over the past two weeks, potatoes have been inexplicably appearing on the library’s front lawn. This unexplained occurrence has managed to attract national attention, garnering a segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“This is the kind of news I hope to spend more time thinking about in 2021,” Colbert shared before unpacking the mystery. He goes on to speculate about whether the “taters of chaos” are “responding to some sort of primal potato call to assemble for the great potato uprising” or if Bigfoot may somehow be involved.

Wayland residents have been sharing their own theories on Facebook, positing everything from “TikTok shenangians” to “a game of hot potato gone awry.”

For now, library staff remain vexed. “One doesn’t even know what to think!” assistant director Andy Moore told WHDH. “One doesn’t randomly encounter tubers on the lawn.”

Check out the Late Show clip below:

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Readers’ Most Anticipated Books of 2021

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A new year means new books—so we asked I Love Libraries readers and the American Library Association’s social media followers to share the releases they’re most excited about for 2021.

The responses included a diverse array of fantasy, YA, nonfiction, mystery, and more, from a mix of bestselling authors and debut writers. Here are some of the highlights:

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (June 15)! I cannot wait to see young Maverick in action and revisit favorite characters! Ms. Thomas' books are so engrossing, lively, and resounding with current events and memorable moments that you carry with you long after finishing the book!”—Mandy G.

Hall of Smoke by H. M. Long (January 19). There's a heavy epic fantasy element involving gods and Viking-like elements which makes it seem hardcore! I'm a sucker for epic fantasy and since I played Assassin's Creed: Valhalla recently I've been looking for some good Viking stories!”—Julia B.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken (January 5) because it is a unique take on mythology that seems completely enthralling and action packed.”—Kyera S.

The God Equation by Michio Kaku (April 6). I have always loved popular science books, and I believe Kaku is one of the best and clearest communicators of complex theoretical physics. Books like this inspire me to believe that we may be close to a unified understanding in my lifetime of how our universe really works. Not to mention the book comes out the day after my birthday!”—Jessica K.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (March 30). I’m looking forward to this Multigenerational family saga that’s got history and present so beautifully blended together. I’m also a sucker for debut novels!”—Amy W.

Dork Diaries 15: Tales from a Not-So-Posh Paris Adventure by Rachel Renée Russell (May 4) because I've read all of the other Dork Diaries books, and I have a lot of them on audiobook too. I even trace the cartoons to make my own coloring pages. The waitlist is already 30 people long at my library. I can't wait to see if Nikki gets to go to Paris, because I'd like to go there with my friends one day too.”—Jett C.

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury (June 15)! I love urban fantasy, I love witches, and I love seeing diversity in YA, so I am extremely pumped for this.”—Louie M.

For more great book recommendations, visit the Booklist Reader.

Librarians’ Top Graphic Novels for Teens

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Members of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) have put together an amazing list of recent graphic novels for teens.

A committee of librarians curated their 126 favorite titles from 145 nominations submitted by readers. Their picks include a diverse mix of fiction and nonfiction books and are curated for youth aged 12 to 18.

Here are YALSA’s top ten favorites from the 2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens:

Almost American Girlby Robin Ha

Blue Flag, by Kaito

Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence, by Joel Christian Gill

Go With the Flow, by Karen Schneemann, art by Lily Williams

Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison, by Sarah Mirk, art by Gerardo Alba, Kasia Babis, Alex Beguez, Tracy Chahwan, Nomi Kane, et al.

The Low, Low Woods, by Carmen Maria Machado, art by DaNi

The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen

Snapdragonby Kat Leyh

Superman Smashes the Klan, by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru

Wonder Twins, by Mark Russell, art by Stephen Byrne

Check out the full list at the YALSA website.

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