SJPL Recommendation News: November 2023

Welcome, or Welcome Back!

Welcome, or welcome back, to SJPL's Rec News, an occasional publication featuring recreational and recommended reading from our SJPL Librarians. Last month, we took a look at authors making their debut with their first novel publications to celebrate National Book Month. We also had plenty of Halloween picks featuring all our favorite spooky characters for kids, as well as paying homage to the genre at the heart of Halloween - horror; all of which will keep us reading through the colder, darker months of the year.

Plenty to Celebrate

I am of the opinion that Halloween is the true kickoff of the holiday season, and with this celebration in our rearview, there's plenty more to celebrate. Really, there is always something to celebrate, but with shorter days and longer nights, celebrations are not only joyous, but necessary as something to look forward to. In November we have some big holidays coming, notably Thanksgiving and Diwali, but with the month long celebration of Native American Heritage Month falling in November, I'd love to showcase the booklists collecting all the excellent titles from Native American authors active on the literary scene today. Additionally, we have some picks for the lesser known Family Stories Month, as well as Picture Book Month.

Family Stories Month falls in November because it coincides with celebrations such as Thanksgiving where families tend to gather. While sitting around a table breaking bread, or perhaps feeling stuffed on the sofa while still working on a slice of pie, these moments are excellent times to share stories with one another, and learn more about your own family's history. Trading stories and sharing memories is an excellent way to relate to those related to you, as well as for those dining with found family this holiday season. To honor family stories, we're featuring a list of a special genre of books - the Family Saga.

Picture Book Month is an international celebration of one of my favorite ways to enjoy a story - through picture books. I often say that, as a woman in her thirties, that I read more picture books than any other kind of book. While that may be because I'm primarily a children's librarian, I also think that it's because I know of no other medium that is such a perfect marriage of story and art. Picture books are also a time-honored tactic for imparting important lessons on the next generation, so to celebrate the picture book I will share a variety of picture book lists that show how versatile these books truly are.

Picks for Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month honors the ancestry, traditions, and culture of the myriad and distinct native tribes all across North America. A brief history of this celebration, from

What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.

The first American Indian Day in a state was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916 by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.

November is a great time to learn more about different indigenous cultures in America, and also the perfect time to expand your reading horizons and amplify native voices in literature, which the above linked lists can certainly help with. The lists we are featuring primarily contain works from authors in North America, which does include some works from Canadian authors.

Family Sagas for Family Stories Month

Family Sagas (Adult)

The Family Saga is a genre of book that follows one family through multiple generations, and sometimes even different branches of the same family through generations. Many Family Sagas will have a historical element to them, as they need to relive into the past in order to get to a story in the present. Some Family Sagas will contain speculative elements as the stories continue into the future.

Picks for Picture Book Month

The picture book is a beloved story format for all ages, and the above lists show just a fraction of the picture book's versatility! From special interests to silly stories to serious lessons, there is a picture book for almost any occasion. As I mentioned before, I read a lot of picture books, and naturally I have some favorites I'd like to share in addition to the lists linked above.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Mem Fox is a well-known and fairly prolific author hailing from Australia, as do I. I have distinct memories of my mother reading this book to me as a child, which is part of why I love this book. The other is that it is a grand tour of European Australian foods, including my favorites (pavlova and lamingtons), as well as the legendary Vegemite sandwich. While I am a fan of nearly all Mem Fox's work (Where is the Green Sheep is another favorite of mine), this beloved childhood read will always be at the top of my list of favorites.

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown is better known for Goodnight Moon, opens a new window, a classic bedtime story that, with some well-timed yawns as you read, is sure to help a little one off to the land of Nod. Yet, it is The Dead Bird that makes my list of favorites. There are several things I truly appreciate about this book. I love the overall green-ness of the lovely illustrations added by Christian Robinson. I love the gentle story that explains death rituals and grieving practices to children, helping ease our relation to death. And, I love the versatility of this book- I can see it being of use to a child attending a funeral/memorial/wake for the first time, and it's sure to be a favorite of any child that is going through a phase of fascination with death. It also, with a bit of a stretch, teaches us to value life, avian and beyond. It's also just a charming story of children perhaps modeling behavior they've observed in an elaborate yet serious game of make believe. Regardless, this one is a winner in my heart.

Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems

Another renowned author, Mo Willems is always an excellent choice if you're in the mood for something silly, and this book is...quite silly. I'm also a huge fan of wordplay, and this rhyming bonanza is full of it. If you've ever baked your own bread or picked up a still-warm loaf from your local baker, you will certainly understand Nanette's plight throughout this delightful story. If you've enjoyed the Japanese reality show Old Enough! , I feel that this book embodies the spirit of this show. Regardless, I highly recommend this quick and fun read.

I could honestly go on and on and on about my favorites, but if you're interested, here is a full list of this librarian's favorite picture books.

SJPL Picks: Quick Links

If this month's featured reads aren't quite what you're in the mood for, or you're looking to expand your browsing further, try checking out any and all of the lists from our librarians on our SJPL Picks team. All our lists will be labeled "SJPL Picks" or "SJPL Recommends".

SJPL 5forU

If you're looking for further recommendations and aren't in the mood to browse, let us do the browsing for you! San José Public Library's 5forU team offers personalized recommendations via email. We'd love to find you something to read, but you can also fill in the profile on someone else's behalf and we can find just the right titles - perfect for caregivers looking to recommend books to their children, for book clubs stumped on what to discuss next meeting, or if you're hoping to give the gift of literature. Just fill in the profile and we'll do the rest - and remember, the more information you give us in the profile, the better and more tailored your recommendations will be! Hearing exactly why you love or hate a book gives us more clues to find your new favorite- it just so happens to be what we love to talk about, too, so don't hold back. Ready to begin your 5forU journey?

Start your 5forU Request!