A Universe of Stories – Summer Reading Program 2019

A Universe of Stories
2019 Summer Reading Program Theme

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Readers of all ages will explore all things space this summer as libraries throughout Pinal County presents “A Universe of Stories” during their summer library program. Activities may include costume creation, group games, space-related crafts, art projects, science and engineering experiments, and more.

Here are some resources for an out of this world journey through our 2019 Summer Reading Program.

Reading Is a Blast!

Booklists on the themes of astronomy, science fact and fiction, and the history of space exploration:



Craft Ideas

The 2019 Summer Reading Program is open to young people, preschool through young adult, with programs, prize drawings, storytimes, a reading club, and more. Families are invited to join the Read-to-Me portion of the program.  Registration for “A Universe of Stories” begins on May 28th, 2019. All programs are free of charge.

Check out our calendar of events for all listings.


Some additional resources for Pinal County Librarians

Evaluation Forms

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Preschool Storytime – New York City

It’s fun for children to learn about new places.  In a recent preschool storytime I read three new books that had New York City as a location.  Each story was unique but contained locations that were similar.  By the third book, children began to identify some of these places including The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty and the New York harbor.  All of these are inviting books that spark children’s imagination and curiosity about the real world.

mighty tug

Mighty Tug by Alyssa Capucilli, published by Simon & Schuster Books, 2019.

The large format pictures of this book, sound effects and rhyme make this an ideal choice for reading aloud to a preschool group.  Beautifully modern cartoon illustrations by David Mottram give life to the boats in New York’s harbor.  The boats have faces, but still maintain a large degree of realism so that children are able to identify several different types: cargo boats, fireboats, as well as Mighty Tug.  Mighty Tug is the tiniest girl boat, but her hard work throughout the day proves that she is one of the strongest.  She works the busy harbor guiding ships, pulling barges and helping with rescues.  Familiar sites of New York City such as skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty are also introduced.

big city

Syd Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur in the Big City by Bruce Hale, Charles Grosvenor and David A Cutting. Published by HarperCollins, 2019.

Syd Hoff’s original Danny and the Dinosaur, first published in 1958 is a classic of children’s literature.  Hoff himself followed up the original with several additional titles in the series.  Hoff passed away in 2004 at age 91 after an extensive career as a cartoonist and children’s book author.   The spirit of Danny lives on.   In this new book, the three creators involved really emulate the spirit of Hoff in the look and feel of some of his best books.  The story is modern though in that it contains updated views of New York City as Danny and the Dinosaur visit such locations as New York City’s High Line and Rockefeller Center.


In New York by Marc Brown,  Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.

This inviting and informative guide to New York is a love letter to the city by someone who calls the Big Apple his home.  Reader’s may be familiar with Marc Brown as the creator of Arthur.  The prolific artist shows off a different side of his range of styles here.  The pictures are incredibly detailed yet still remain appealing to children.  Each spread shows off a different aspect of the city such as the subway system, the Empire State building, Times Square, Central Park, The Statue of Liberty and more.  Other aspects of the city, such as the diverse types of foods available, are also introduced.  Children will be able to identify objects that were introduced in the previous books read in this storytime such as the boats in the harbor and the High Line.  Even Arthur himself makes an appearance as a balloon in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  This is another excellent read aloud choice with enough details to propel rereads.  Like New York City itself, each visit will allow the reader to discover something new.

Finally, children can create their own cities using stickers and coloring pages from a workbook.  In this case, I used the book Fold Out and Play! by Craig Shuttlewood published by Paragon Books, 2017 (see below)


Talking Book Library

Did you know that the Arizona Talking Book Library provides free services to those in need?  They serve the following individuals:

  • Arizona residents with low vision, making it difficult to read standard print
  • Those who find it hard to hold or handle a print book
  • Individuals who have a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction

They provide:

  • Lending Library: including audio books and magazines; movies with audio descriptions; and Braille books and magazines by postage free mail
  • Loan of special equipment to play audio books
  • Audio and Braille book downloads (BARD)
  • Access to NFB-NEWSLINE® and over 300 newspapers and magazines by phone and online.

Applications are available online or at your local library.

Please visit the Arizona Talking Book Library  or the National Library Service for the Blind and Handicapped website for more information.

You may contact the Arizona Talking Book Library over the phone:

  • 602-255-5578 (Phoenix metro area)
  • 800-255-5578 (Toll Free within AZ)

*The Pinal County Library District also has two readers (see below) that can be sent out to member libraries in order to demonstrate with patrons.  If you would like to borrow one, please contact us at pinallibrary@pinalcountyaz.gov


Professional Development Collection

The Pinal County Library District houses an extensive professional development collection for library professionals.  These materials are available to request by staff or the public through our catalog here:

Below is a list of some recent acquisitions.  Please borrow them.


Adobe Photoshop CC Classroom in a Book
(2019 Release)

by Andrew Faulkner (Author), Conrad Chavez (Author)

This book is the perfect course to learn everything about the latest version of Adobe Photoshop. Edit photos, draw digitally and become a stellar graphic designer!
Full color throughout with step by step instructions.

Writer’s Market 2019:
The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

by Robert Lee Brewer

Have you written a short story, novel or nonfiction book? Don’t know where to start in terms of looking for a publisher?  This excellent reference guide will give you thousands of listings for publishers, agents and more! We also have the new edition for Children’s Writers and Illustrators as well.


The Outdoor Toddler Activity Book:
100+ Fun Early Learning Activities for Outside Play

by Krissy Bonning-Gould

Get your toddlers ready for preschool and beyond with these fun and educational outdoor toddler activities.  This colorful book has over a hundred ideas to booster skills and creativity.


The Kid’s Awesome Activity Book:
Games! Puzzles! Mazes! And More!

by Mike Lowery

Pure interactive fun between two covers! This is a great workbook that teacher’s may want to use with groups or to draw inspiration from.

Simple craft for children with Cricut

Cricut is the brand-name of a product range of home die-cutting machines used for scrapbooking and various projects.  These can be useful for developing craft programs in libraries for children, especially when you need multiples of a craft element.

Below is a simple craft I did at a preschool that accompanied a storytime related to gardening.  After looking at some wild illustrations of plants in picture books, I wanted to give the children a chance to create on their own.

The machine I am using is Craft Explore Air 2.  It is widely available at many retailers.


I log into Cricut Design Space from my desktop computer via the internet.  I can also use Design Space from an app on my phone.  I can create a design on my own or I can choose from many templates or pre-made designs.  Because my topic was gardening I do a search for plant stems.


When I find an item I like, I simply import this into the Design Space.  Once it is imported I copy and paste it several times so that I can have multiples of the same element cut onto my vinyl paper.  The vinyl paper is 12″ square and come in a variety of colors.


I click on the “Make It” button in design space.  I am then prompted to load my vinyl paper using the design mat.  I connect my computer or phone to the Cricut with bluetooth.  There is also a material type knob on the machine which I set to “vinyl”.


The cricut machine cuts out multiples of my stem that I will use in the project.  The stems are then easily peeled off of the sheet.


I cut up the remaining scraps with a scissor so that the preschoolers can use these stickers creatively.


I place the sticker stems on construction paper.  Below it I cut out some cre paper to represent grass and I fasten it down with double-sided tape.  You can let the children do this step too, if you like.


I make twenty of these in various colors to bring to my preschool group.  I then supply them with the scraps and crayons in order to see what they come up with.  The finished result looks something like this:


Picture Books on Gardening

It takes persistence, patience and teamwork to develop a healthy garden.  These concepts are beautifully illustrated in the following three picture books.


The Curious Garden by Peter Brown.  Little Brown & Co., 2009

Liam is a curious boy who lives in a drab industrial place.   There is little nature to be enjoyed in his world.  One day he discovers some wildflowers along an abandoned rail track that used to run on a raised platform throughout the city.  He begins to care for the plants.  Eventually the garden grows, covering the railway with color and life.  When winter comes, it takes its toll and nearly destroys the garden. Quickly however, because of his previous knowledge gained, Liam revives the garden and inspires others to do the same.  Eventually the whole look of the city changes into a green and creative environment.  The illustrations in this book often speak for themselves with beautifully painted spreads, at times divided into panels.  They show a transformation of not just a city, but also of the heart.


The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes.  Flying Eye Books, 2015.

In this imaginative and lavishly illustrated book a miniature gardener, smaller than a blade of grass, tries to tend the land.  He works hard but the size of the garden is overwhelming.  His efforts tending to a flower goes noticed by normal sized children in the real world.  They begin to tend the garden, not knowing the little gardener exists.  As a result the garden flourishes.  The story speaks to the value of beauty in nature, quiet partnership and caring for your environment.  The text is simple but the detailed artwork lends itself to an almost search and find feel where a reader can make new discoveries with each viewing.

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We are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines and Kids.  Illustrated by Julianna Swaney. 2019, Thomas Nelson.

The narrative of this book demonstrates how all great achievements begin with humble intentions.  It shows how a family’s interest in gardening began with an interest in a small potted fern in a hardware store.  When the fern dies, the family becomes interested in why and goes to the library to do some research.  In the process, they learn how to better take care of plants and their interest grows.  Eventually they begin planting a variety of vegetables and flowers, facing some obstacles along the way.  This is an inspiring and informational story told with a light touch in pastel-hued watercolors.

Here are some other resources on this topic:

Noir fiction makes its way to comics

The term Noir was first coined by French filmmakers in the mid-1940s.  It refers to the dark look and downbeat mood of many American crime and detective films that came out after World War II.  Some famous examples would be The Maltese Falcon (1941) or Double Indemnity (1944).  Noir fiction has its root in pulp fiction as does the hardboiled genre.  In hardboiled fiction, the protagonist is usually a detective.  Noir fiction is a slightly different type of crime story because the protagonist is either a victim or the actual perpetrator.  James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich, Dorothy B. Hughes, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Charles Williams, Harry Whittington and Elmore Leonard are some of the most well-known names in noir fiction.


Noir fiction was a popular pulp fiction genre from the 1940s through the 1970s.  As its popularity began to wane in the 1970’s, it started to get renewed interest in the 1980s by way of Barry Gifford.  Gifford is a novelist and poet.  He is most well-known for his screenplays of the David Lynch films Wild At Heart (1990) and Lost Highway (1997).  In the 1980s he was the editor for the crime fiction publisher Black Lizard.  They reprinted many of the works by the aforementioned authors.

Later, in 2004, the publisher Hard Case Crime took over where Black Lizard left off. Edited by writer Charles Ardai the series recreates the look and feel of the paperback crime novels of the 1940s and ’50s. The covers feature original illustrations done in a similar style as those seen in the paperbacks of that time period by using such veteran artists as Robert McGinnis.  Hard Case Crime reprints classics of the genre by authors such as Donald Westlake.  It also prints brand new material by people like Max Allan Collins, Lawrence Block and even Stephen King.

In 2017, Hard Case Crime also began to publish comic books penned by many authors that they publish.  This includes Quarry’s War, written by Max Allan Collins and based upon the series that Collins created.

Collins is a long time veteran of comics in addition to being a well-respected novelist.  He took over the writing chores of the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1977.  He also started the first long-running female detective crime comic, Ms. Tree, in 1981.  Additionally, Collins wrote the Road to Perdition graphic novels that were used as the basis for the 2002 film with Tom Hanks.

Noir comics have never been bestsellers but they do seem to have a cult following among adults.  They have been around since the 1950’s with EC’s controversial Crime SuspenStories.  Those comics were the causes of a Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency because of their graphic depictions of violence.  This led to the industry’s self-censorship with the comics code.  Crime comics have been making a comeback though.

Most notable is writer Ed Brubaker’s collaboration with Sean Phillips.  The two worked together on various superhero titles but then branched off to create the series Criminal in 2006.  Like some of the most effective stories in the Noir tradition, Criminal was a series of books that explored the underworld usually from the criminal’s perspective.  The series was followed by the graphic novels Fatale, Velvet, The Fade Out and Kill or Be Killed.  They are now (2019) continuing work on the Fatale series.

Another fan favorite noir series was 100 Bullets.  It was published by DC comics Vertigo imprint for ten tears from 1999-2009 and lasted 100 issues.  The series was written by Brian Azzarello and artist Edward Risso.  It contained very detailed plots, mystery and stylized graphic violence.

Probably the most well-known noir comic book series for adults was Frank Miller’s Sin City which started its publication in 1991.  It was a black and white series (with occasional flourishes of color) completely written and illustrated by Miller.  The books were later adapted into the films Sin City (2005) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014).  The comic book series won multiple Eisner awards between 1993-1998.

If you enjoy Noir, or are looking for comics geared at a more mature audience, I’d recommend checking out some of these comic books for adult readers.  They are available to download via our Hoopla app.

Additional resources:

Superhero Women

Cute girl as superhero against decoration. Comic strip city them

In recent years many female prose writers have also taken up writing for the comics. It is interesting that many of these authors are writers for young adults.  This demonstrates how big companies like Marvel and DC are taking risks in order to try to appeal to a wider audience.  It looks as though they are now trying to reach a more diverse audience with stories written by women.

Female cartoonists have always been an important part of comics history.  However, in the past, women who worked in mainstream comics were a rarity.  Most well known female cartoonists worked in animation, comic-strips, or in underground/alternative comics.  Mary Severin was an exception, having worked on many of Marvel’s superheros early on.   Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti were well-known names in the 1980s/1990s because they were women writers/editors on popular mainstream titles such as Superman and The Uncanny X-Men.  Around the same time, Diana Schutz was an important editor at Dark Horse known for publishing popular titles such as Frank Miller’s Sin City.  Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson are cartoonists and innovators who began working for Marvel and DC in the 1980s and are still working today.

Since the early 2000s, with the success of the Marvel Universe movies, DC and Marvel began hiring many writers from outside of the comics world to script their titles. In 2014, G. Willow Wilson reinvented Ms. Marvel as a Pakistani-American teen-age girl from Jersey City named Kamala Khan.  Around the same time the popular young adult author Rainbow Rowell began writing a new version of Marvel’s The Runaways.

In 2006 DC tried its hand at appealing to an audience of teenage girls with a new imprint called Minx.  That line only lasted two years, as the books never quite found an audience.  One of the books published by Minx was The Plain Janes, a rare comic written by a popular young adult author.  Two volumes of that book, illustrated by Jim Rugg, were completed before the cancellation occurred.  A renewed interest in titles like this are evident in the fact that more than ten years later this series will finally be completed. Little Brown will be publishing an expanded version of The Plain Janes in 2020.

Last year DC announced that they would be creating two new lines aimed at a tween and teen audience with DC Zoom and DC Ink.  Many of these titles are scripted by young adult authors.  This list includes Laurie Halse Anderson, Kami Garcia, Melissa de la Cruz, Meg Cabot and Marie Lu.

It’s a powerful time for female creators and readers!

Here are some links to more information on this subject:


Picture book workshop

The library is a great place to read and discover comics and graphic novels for all ages.

This summer the Pinal County Library District is hosting free cartooning classes as part of its summer reading program.  The program will be for children in grades four and up.

The four session program will be happening in June, 2019.

Participating libraries include:

  • San Manuel Library:  Thursdays in June from 2 – 3:30 pm
  • Eloy Public Library: Tuesdays in June from 1:30 – 3:00 pm

Girl drawing using pencil

Space is limited to ten participants at each library.  Kids will receive a free copy of Jason Ford’s The Superhero Comic Kit (2015, Laurence King Publishing).  Stickers, pens and other supplies will be available so that participants can create their own comic books.


Interested in making your own comics or cartoons digitally? 

Here are some fun resources to get you started:

Free online art and design tools:

Apps for cartoonists and animators:

Books on Cartooning:

  • Link to books on the topic from our catalog
  • Brunetti, Ivan. Comics: Easy as ABC: the Essential Guide to Comics for Kids. Toon Books, 2019.
  • Ford, Jason.  The Superhero Comic Kit. Laurence King Publishing, 2015.
  • Smiley, Jess Smart.  Let’s Make Comics: An Activity Book to Create, Write and Draw Your Own Cartoons.  Watson-Guptill, 2018.

Comics and Libraries:


Portrait of Indian boy drawing with colorful sketch pen


We Recommend…The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

The Girl in the Spider’s Web
by David Lagercrantz
Knopf, 2015

girl in the spider's webThe Girl in the Spider’s Web, is a Lisbeth Salander novel written by David Lagercrantz. This is the 4th book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lagercrantz was chosen by the family after Larsson’s death to continue the series and he does a great job.

The story follows journalist Blomkvist who has fallen out of favor, and his magazine is about to be reduced to the level of entertainment journalism. Blomkvist is looking at actually being let go, when he stumbles into a story that starts out small and then grows quite large. A Swedish scientist may have discovered how to produce an Artificial Intelligence that can grow smarter, with implications that could prove devastating for the human race. As the scientist desperately tries to keep a large dot.com company from stealing his work, he is murdered—and the only witness is his autistic son who has never spoken a word. As Blomkvist is drawn into the tale he asks Lisbeth for help, and, as usual, she comes through, saving the good guys and hurting the bad guys.

David Lagercrantz does an awesome job of continuing the series, with lots of action and adventure and hackers galore. If you enjoyed the first three books in the series, you will definitely enjoy this 4th entry.

On the Web:
David Lagercrantz
Author Interview

Book Reviews:
New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Booklist Online

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