Archive | April, 2017

A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read A Book About War, Task 4

12 Apr

I am now one sixth of the way through the Book Riot Reader Harder Challenge! In the first post I wrote about trying and failing to stick to previous years’ Read Harder Challenges, and hope I can maintain this momentum! (Read more about the books I’ve read so far for the challenge here.)

For Task 4 I decided to read a book about war. The book I chose is called Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes by Maria Goodavage. I purchased the book a few years ago after seeing the author interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. The cover played a role in my decision to purchase the book as well. Isn’t the dog wearing goggles (proper name: “doggles”) the cutest?!

Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes, by Maria Goodavage

soldier-dogs

The most fascinating thing I learned from this book is that dogs are seen by the Department of Defense as equipment–their exact designation is military working dogs, or MWDs. The dogs are given names, which include a special code with a letter and numbers to denote the year their training started that is tattooed inside their ears. If you are a pet owner, I am sure you see your dog as a part of your family and not an object. I have never owned a dog, but my fourteen year old dog-niece Molly is very important to me.

I also learned that dogs have a long history of serving alongside soldiers in war, going back to the Revolutionary War. During World War II people were volunteering their pet dogs to serve. The preserved body of a dog that served in World War I named Captain Stubby is part of the collection at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

MWDs now have a higher profile as a Belgian Malinois named Cairo is rumored to have played in role in the SEAL Team 6 mission in Pakistan to take down Osama Bin Laden in May 2011, and many families are eager to adopt these hero dogs after they retire from military service.

Goodavage wrote about her own dog, Jake, as she interacted with the soldier dogs (and their human handlers) during her research process. She imagined how Jake would perform in the various tests the dogs are subjected to in training, such as determining their temperament in stressful situations, their responses to loud noises such as explosives and gunfire, and how well they respond to commands when working off-leash.

I thought about how Molly would respond in these situations. As Molly is spooked by vacuum cleaners and loud trucks and occasionally her three human sisters, I don’t see her performing well in combat situations. Molly’s main interests in life are resting in the sunshine, eating cheeseburgers, and having her belly rubbed.

molly-2

This is Molly posing with Santa Claus, as part of an adorable fundraiser held each year by the Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City.

This book was pretty good overall, but I found the sections about dog training and dog breeding sort of boring. I don’t have a personal interest in these topics, but those that have experience training a dog and/or the science of animal husbandry may get more out of those chapters.

What I was most interested in was reading about the dogs. My favorite soldier dog in the book was a Jack Russell named Lars J274, an unlikely bomb sniffing dog. Large, imposing dogs like Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are preferred for bomb sniffing, but due to a mix-up Lars was trained in this field. His small size and large personality make him a great fit for sniffing for bombs in submarines, which is his main job. This book has two full color photo inserts so readers can see Lars in action, as well as many of the dogs featured in the book. You can see some of these photos, including Lars, in The Daily Show clip, too.

Soldier Dogs is a book about war, so there are definitely heavy parts. I mostly cried while reading the fourth part of the book, titled “Dogs and Their Soldiers”, which detailed the intense bonds between the dogs and their handlers formed in battle. (To be honest, recalling this part of the book to write this post is bringing tears to my eyes.) One dog stood watch all night while his handler slept in a ditch while on patrol in Afghanistan. When one handler was killed, his dog was listed in his obituary as a family member. Sadly, some dogs featured in the book died in combat or of illness.

Another interesting fact is that these dogs are not eligible for official Purple Hearts, which is a policy I think should change given how much training the dogs undergo before going to war, not to mention their experiences in combat that can leave them permanently injured and, in some cases, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). See this article from the American Kennel Club to learn more about this topic. The United States War Dogs Association works to raise awareness and acknowledge military dogs.

If you are either a dog lover or interested in military history (or both!) I would recommend this book. Do be prepared for the tough sections, though.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

1000 Books Before Kindergarten: My Goth Remix

7 Apr

Recently I attended a convention, and attended a panel about Goth parents.  The thing it made me realize is that though parents may not all look the same on the outside or have exactly the same parenting style, one thing we all have in common is wanting the best for our children and hoping they have happy and fulfilling lives.  To me one of the ways we can set them on that journey is by encouraging a love of learning and reading. I had written previously about the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Campaign with some of my son’s top picks.  Now here are 10 of our Gothy Picture Book Favorites featuring baby bats, cute vampires, a ghost boy, a skeleton girl and spooky adventures for you to share which are available at BCCLS libraries.  Stop by the Children’s Desk to learn more about the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Campaign and how you can take part.

1.  The Sleepless Little Vampire, by Richard Egielski

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I picked up this book on a babymoon trip to Sleepy Hollow when I was pregnant with my son.  Poor vampire thinks he can’t sleep at night because of a variety of other spooky creatures.

2. Jampires, by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell

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When the jam goes missing from Sam’s donuts he learns that some vampires have a taste for fruity fillings. The Jampires take Sam on a magical adventure to their homeland. This book is a silly sweet treat.

3. Dracula: A Counting Primer, by Jennifer Adams (Author), Alison Oliver (Illustrator)

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This simple board book is a fun way to introduce your little one to the ultimate gothic novel and counting. My son also enjoyed Alice in Wonderland, another in the BabyLit series by Adams and Oliver which provides an introduction to colors.

4. Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon

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Perhaps the best known of our picks, Stellaluna, titled after a fruit bat fostered by a family of birds, is a story of differences and acceptance that will resonate with children and their parents. You can also borrow the animated movie adaptation on DVD.

5. Nightsong, by Ari Berk (Author), Loren Long (Illustrator)

nightsong
Chiro (named for the Latin name for bats) learns to be self-sufficient and explore the world on his own in this charming and beautifully illustrated picture book. A nice tale for a child who may be nervous about the first day of school or other new experiences.

6. Bats at the Library, by Brian Lies

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My son loves coming to visit the library with me. Of course if kids enjoy libraries, how can the bats resist?  This beautifully illustrated picture book recounts an evening when the bats sneak in to explore the library.  If your child enjoys this book, Lies also has written further adventure about the bats at the beach, ballgame, and in the band.  Spanish speakers can borrow a Spanish language translation by Carlos Mayor of Bats at the Library here at the Hoboken Public Library.

7. Frangoline and the Midnight Dream, by Clemency Pearce (Author), Rebecca Elliott (Illustrator)

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This first book by Clemency Pearce features a little girl who is well behaved by day but goes on a naughty spooky adventure at night.

8. Skelly the Skeleton Girl, by Jimmy Pickering

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Fans of Tim Burton should enjoy Skelly the Skeleton Girl, a whimsical take on the creatures that go bump in the night, which features a helpful little skeleton girl looking for the owner of a lost bone.  If your child enjoys this book they may also want to check out Pickering’s second Skelly book, Skelly and Femur.

9. Leo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett (Author), Christian Robinson (Illustrator)

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Leo is a ghost looking for a place to belong after the new family who moves in to his house mistakes his acts of kindness for a haunting. A gentle story of friendship.

10. The Wolves in the Walls, by Neil Gaiman (Author), Dave McKean (Illustrator)

wolves-walls
Of course I couldn’t resist including a book by my favorite author Neil Gaiman on this list. I have a signed copy my best friend got for me which has a little wolf doodle from Gaiman.  The Wolves in the Walls was inspired by his daughter’s nightmare about wolves living in the walls.  It shows that sometimes our worst fears don’t mean that everything has to be all over. This story will be enjoyable for fans of Coraline, but this picture book is a bit more suspenseful than the others I have mentioned so I have another year or two before I plan to share it with my son; reading to your kids shouldn’t stop at Kindergarten!

Remember even when children start reading on their own, reading to them is a great way to reinforce a love of the written word and to provide wonderful bonding experience with the child/ren in your care.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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