Groovin’ with Pete the Cat

Children’s books are notoriously hard to get published. Everyone has an idea for a children’s book, and almost all of them will never see a contract. More than 21,000 children’s titles are published every year in the US, by a number of publishers, which is only a dent in the number of actual submissions. Scholastic, the one who haunts school kids with that monthly flier, publishes just 600 books a year, from board books through High School. So when a children’s book is self-published, sells 7,000 copies in its first ten months and is then signed on by major publisher Harper Collins, you know there’s something really good there. And in this case, the really good is Pete the Cat .

If you haven’t read him, Pete the Cat is a groovy large-eyed, laid-back blue/black cat who lives with his mom and dad and his tuxedo-patterned brother Bob. He has a host of friends (Grumpy Toad, Gus the Platypus, Callie, Squirrel, etc) and he loves bananas and surfing. His stories are mostly easy-readers that play to the 2-7 year old crowd, but he is infinitely more interesting than that. Pete is the kind of story you want your child to like, because you want to read more of his stories.

Pete is the creation of James Dean, whose early illustrations wound up as musically or rhythmically-oriented stories by storyteller/musician Eric Litwin. Litwin wrote four of Pete’s adventures (Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, Rockin in my School Shoes, I Love My White Shoes, and Pete the Cat Saves Christmas). I have to admit, these early volumes are my favorites, and I cannot help but read Pete stories as if he’s a surfer dude. Groovy, man. While Litwin and Dean split in 2011, Dean and his wife Kimberly have written more than 60 Pete adventures, with more on the way. Pete’s adventures range from curing hiccups (Mom knows best!) to sleepover friends who won’t sleep, to shopping in the grocery store and scuba diving.

The actual Pete the Cat

Being an artist was not Dean’s plan. His father was an artist, and he didn’t relish  reliving the struggle. While being an electrical engineer paid bills, art crept into his life more and more, until he began to pursue art full-time. When he adopted a tiny black kitten he named Pete, Pete’s antics crept into his artwork , and a legend was born.

Dean’s success is an author’s dream – self-published, picked up by a real publisher just two years later, a runaway success (more than 7 million copies sold), merchandise deals, and now a TV series on Amazon Prime, with voices by no one less than jazz singers Jason Mraz and Diana Krall (which totally fits, because Pete gives off that groovy chill of a cool jazz cat). They say self-publishing doesn’t pay, but Dean is one of those handful of lucky authors who won that lottery.

While I find some of the titles to be uneven and lacking the lyrical qualities of the bigger titles such as Groovy Buttons, Pete remains one of my current favorite preschool titles, stories you don’t mind reading over and over again, with subtle morals (family, keeping your cool, how to be a friend, sharing, learning, etc) that won’t make you roll your eyes with saccharine. Rock on, Pete!

Cheshire Library has more than thirty Pete titles!  Here are some of them:

Pete the Cat: Rockin in My School Shoes
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons 
Pete at the Beach
Pete’s Big Lunch
Pete the Cat: Scuba Cat
Pete the Cat: Snow Daze
A Pet for Pete
Pete the Cat and his Magic Sunglasses
Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes
Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues
Pete the Cat Goes Camping
Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party
Pete the Cat and the New Guy

Pride Month Books for Kids

June is here and so is Pride month! The library has a great selection of kid’s books featuring all different kinds of families, relationships, and love! Here’s a list of picture books and chapter books available at the library for you and your family to enjoy during Pride Month, and beyond!

First up, let’s talk about picture books. Here are some great titles available at CPL: 

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff; illustrated by Kaylani Juanita –  This new publication is a beautifully illustrated and touching story about Aidan, who, after realizing he was a trans boy, with the help of his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore. When Aiden becomes a big brother, he wants to make sure everything is perfect, and panics when it isn’t. With his parents help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self. This book is perfect for kids who are becoming older siblings, and for those struggling with trying to be “perfect”. It has great characters and an even greater heart.

Stonewall : a building, an uprising, a revolution by Rob Sanders;  illustrated by Jamey Christoph – Take a look into the history of the Stonewall Uprising in this picture books, which was released on the 50th anniversary of this movement, which led to important changes in LGBTQ+ rights and representation. This can be an important history lesson for you, and your child to learn the true reason we celebrate Pride, and why we have the right to celebrate it safely today.

And Tango Makes Three  by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; illustrated by Henry Cole This picture book tells the true story of two male penguins raising a baby at the Central Park Zoo. While the other boy and girl penguins at the zoo find each other and become couples when the time is right, Roy and Silo (two boys) do everything together. They even build a nest together like the other penguin couples. When another penguin lays two eggs and can’t care for both, a zookeeper decides to let Roy and Silo care for the egg. They take turns lovingly keeping the egg warm, until one day little Tango is born. This book shows that family is family, no matter what. 

Next, how about some great middle-grade titles? These are all available in our juvenile fiction section at CPL: 

Hurricane Child  by Kheryn Callender  – Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and twelve-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately. But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, becomes Caroline’s first and only friend — and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush. Together, Caroline and Kalinda must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s missing mother — before Caroline loses her forever. This story is packed with adventure, as well as things that every kid has to deal with, including bullies, new schools, and new friends.

To Night Owl from Dogfish  by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer – A laugh-out-loud tale of friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters, follows the experiences of two 12-year-old girls–one bookish and fearful, the other fearless and adventuresome–who are sent to a camp to bond when their fathers fall in love. This is a great summer reading book and showcases how different friendships can thrive and develop. 

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill; edited by Ari Yarwood; designed by Fred Chao – When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other.

These titles and more are available from the library for you to celebrate pride with you and your children.

More titles…

Broadening Your Story – People of Color in Children’s Literature

People of color have historically been under-represented in children’s literature. Thankfully, that has been changing in recent years. If you’re a black child, it’s important to see yourself represented positively in books. Equally important, it is important for white children to see positive representation of people of color. Here’s a list of books written by black authors that are available at your local library. These stories center, reflect and affirm the lived experiences of black children.

Sam Brown, writer for Bookstr summed it up perfectly, stating “Children’s books are powerful tools that help instill a sense of empathy in young readers. They are testing grounds for new ideas and exercises in ethics. Reading, at any age, teaches us that the experiences of other people are not only valid, but influential to our own lives. It’s for this reason that representation in children’s books matters”

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry ; illustrated by Vashti HarrisonZuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson ; illustrated by Rafael LópezThere are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. CabreraAfter a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie cant take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina & 13 artistsThese short, vibrant tanka poems about young men of color depict thirteen views of everyday life: young boys dressed in their Sunday best, running to catch a bus, and growing up to be teachers, and much more. Each of Tony Medina’s tanka is matched with a different artist―including recent Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award recipients.

Radiant Child : the story of young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe – Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes ; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-NewtonStarting kindergarten is a big milestone–and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements–and then wake up to start another day.

Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne ; illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, and Woke : a young poet’s call to justice by Mahogany L. Browne, with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood ; illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. Woke Baby is a lyrical and empowering book for all the littlest progressives, waking up to seize a new day of justice and activism, Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o ; illustrated by Vashti HarrisonSulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

I am Enough by Grace Byers ; pictures by Keturah A. Bobo -This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it.

Now more than ever is the time to promote and share stories of all kinds. Know that the library is a place that welcomes everyone, following Cheshire Public Libraries mission statement “The Cheshire Public Library transforms lives and strengthens the community”.

Looking for more? Here are some other titles available from the Cheshire Library:

Anti-Racism : A Reading List

Right now, many are wondering how to come to a better understanding of racism (particularly against Black Americans) in our culture and what they can do to support anti-racist initiatives. With something so deeply ingrained in our society that some don’t even recognize it, education is a good starting point. There are hundreds of books on the subject, many available at your local library. We’ve put together a “primer” of titles available at Cheshire Library that many consider essential reading on the subject:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.  Examines the sensitive, hyper-charged racial landscape in current America, discussing the issues of privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Combines ethics, history, law, and science with a personal narrative to describe how to move beyond the awareness of racism and contribute to making society just and equitable.

The Fire Next Time  by James Baldwin. The powerful evocation of a childhood in Harlem that helped to galvanize the early days of the civil rights movement examines the deep consequences of racial injustice to both the individual and the body politic

Just Mercy  by Bryan Stevenson. The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama explains why justice and mercy must go hand-in-hand through the story of Walter McMillian, a man condemned to death row for a murder he didn’t commit. 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

The Condemnation of Blackness : Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad. Chronicles the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, and reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Argues that the War on Drugs and policies that deny convicted felons equal access to employment, housing, education, and public benefits create a permanent under caste based largely on race.

White Fragility : Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. Anti-racist educator DiAngelo illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility, how these actions protect racial inequality, and presents strategies for engaging more constructively in these conversations.

I’m Still Here : Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. An eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America.

Me and White Supremacy : Combat racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by  Layla F. Saad. The host of the “Good Ancestor” podcast presents an updated and expanded edition of the Instagram challenge that launched a cultural movement about taking responsibility for first-person racism to stop unconsciously inflicting pain on others.

 

Books for Pride Month at CPL

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

The library has an opportunity to be an advocate for library patrons in a number of ways, including the collections they offer. In celebration of Pride Month, we’re  highlighting four outstanding YA novels with LGTBQ themes, characters, and ideas.

First up is, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The story follows Aristotle, an angry teen with a brother in prison.. and Dante, a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. Aristotle and Dante is relatable to all ages, and a breath of fresh air to the YA genre. Everyone can remember being a teen, and this book is fantastic, no matter your age, or experience.

Next up is Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, the same author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Leah is an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon. So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended. Albertalli’s voice as a writer shines strong, and her characters are beautifully written well-rounded characters.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is a book about loving yourself, and being loved for who you truly are. Meredith Russo was born, raised, and lives in Tennessee. She started living as her true self in late 2013 and never looked back. If I Was Your Girl was partially inspired by her experiences as a trans woman. Like Amanda, Meredith is a gigantic nerd who spends a lot of her time obsessing over video games and Star Wars. Amanda is the main character in the book, and a new girl at school. Like everyone, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is holding back. Even from Grant, the guy she’s falling in love with. Amanda has a secret. At her old school, she used to be called Andrew. And secrets always have a way of getting out. If I Was Your Girl is important, eye-opening, thought-provoking and emotional, and a book needed in this day and age. 

Our fourth book, Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender is a brand new release, focusing on the story of Felix Love. Felix has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone.  As he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.  A quote from the book sums it up perfectly, stating ““I’m not flaunting anything. I’m just existing. This is me. I can’t hide myself. I can’t disappear. And even if I could, I don’t want to. I have the same right to be here. I have the same right to exist.”