Tarō Gomi

Have you ever wondered what picture books made in other countries look like?  Tarō Gomi is one of Japan’s most prolific picture book artists.  He lives in Tokyo and has created around 300 picture books.  Some of these books have been translated into English.  Gomi’s books usually have minimal text and a lot of the humor that comes from the pictures themselves.  Some favorites include I Really Want to See You, Grandma.  In this book a girl and her grandma keep on missing each other in their travels which builds a lot of suspense and anticipation.  In Gomi’s Over the Ocean a girl looks out upon the sea and wonders what could be found on the other side.  Below are some of the books by Tarō Gomi that can be found in the Pinal County Library District’s Catalog.

Pop Classics by Kim Smith

If you love movies from the 1980s and 1990s then you ought to check out these amazing children’s books by Kim Smith.  She has done a number of adaptations over the past couple of years.  Not only are these books cute, but they accurately retell these modern classics.  Her illustrations are a marvel to look at and the storytelling is clear.  The books are in a large format that would lend themselves well to a read aloud. These would make for a great retro themed storytime paired with the actual films themselves.  The Karate Kid is the latest in the series and I am hoping for more in the future.

Kamen, Robert Mark, et al. The Karate Kid. Quirk Books, 2019.

Rekulak, Jason, et al. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Quirk Books, 2018.

Rekulak, Jason, et al. The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird. Quirk Books, 2017.


Smith, Kim. Home Alone – the Classic Illustrated Storybook. Quirk Books, 2015.

Thomas, Jim K., et al. E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial. Quirk Books, 2017.
Zemeckis, Robert, et al. Back to the Future. Quirk Books, 2018.

Library News

Silhouette of engineer and construction team working at site over blurred background sunset pastel for industry background with Light fair.


Libraries in Pinal County are expanding. The Casa Grande Library will receive a 600-square-foot addition which will include larger spaces for meeting and study rooms. Construction will begin later this year and will not effect the library’s hours.  You can find more information on this story from Pinal Central.

In early 2020, a new library will open in Maricopa.  Construction is underway and this larger library will replace the current location.  Details can also be found on Pinal Central.

New Language Resources

Learn a new language

Pronunciator is a new language learning site via the State Library that is replacing PowerSpeak. Pronunciator offers 100 languages and Pronunciator for Spanish speakers offers 87 languages.  Additionally, we have added ProCitizen, a US Citizen preparation site, available in both English and Spanish.  You can find Pronunciator & ProCitizen through the research tab on the Pinal County Library District’s website.

ProLibrary  is a Spanish learning site for Library staff. This is linked only through the Language Learning e-source category in the catalog.

Mostly wordless picture books

You may have heard the phrase “a picture may be worth a thousand words”.  But a picture book that uses images to tell a story may be worth even more. Mostly wordless picture books rely on carefully executed sequential imagery to help visual thinkers play to their strengths.  They make the most of visual images as a means of storytelling.  Without relying on words, the design of these books must be clear and precise.

Even though a lot is left to the imagination in these types of books, the reader often still has to do a lot of work.  Readers must decipher context clues and infer what has happened between the pictures.  Many of these types of books are also open to different interpretations which may create interesting discussions.  Just because there are no words doesn’t mean that there is no story.  Examining a wordless picture book and understanding how it works is an alternative reading method, but one that can also prepare young children for understanding and interpreting text as well.

Below are some favorite picture books by authors who have excelled at creating mostly wordless stories.  These three books vary in style/technique but none of them were created using a computer.

Baker, Jeannie. Home. Greenwillow Books, 2004.


The Australian artist Jeannie Baker has produced numerous wordless picture books, as well as animated films, that are detailed, nuanced and complex.  Her collage technique is distinctly her own making her landscapes seem like real places that you can touch yet still infinitely different from a photograph.  In her 2004 book, Home, readers are treated to a view of a city street from the protagonist’s bedroom window.  The image changes slightly page by page.  The drab view of the city street becomes a living, thriving neighborhood as graffiti gets painted over and gardens begin to grow.  Inside the home, we also see changes to the girl who inhabits the room and clues that shes is getting older (without actually seeing her).  The book clearly shows how both people and communities can change and make a difference.

Liu, Joanne. My City. Prestel, 2019.

my city_liu

The premise of this whimsical book is that a young boy must deliver a piece of mail for his mother.   What ensues is a visual exploration of a city as seen through a child’s viewpoint.  Liu’s paintings are loose, full of color, lively and at times bordering on the abstract.  Though they never loose their readability. In one illustration, the boy waits at the bus stop.  Unlike the adults around him, he is not staring at his phone or watch.  Instead he marvels at the view of the sky and airplanes as seen in the reflection of a puddle below.   In another sequence people stand in line to an exhibit on modern art at the museum.  Around the corner  the boy sees a pile of trash that seems to be the inspiration for the paintings being advertised.  All the pictures are clever in this manner and clearly the author, Liu, is able to recall the creative daydreams of childhood with her pictures.

Wiesner, David. Flotsam. Clarion Books, 2006.

Wiesner has made many wordless picture books and even, more recently, a graphic novel.   All of his work is wonderful.  In this one, washed up items on the beach offer keys to a puzzle linking the present with the past.  Created in lush watercolors, this will also appeal to fans of Chris Van Allsburg.

For some similar lists and additional resources refer to the list of links below:

Local History – Pinal County

If you are interested in the history of Pinal County our libraries are a great way to start your research.  All of our libraries have books related to the area.  The Apache Junction Public Library has a dedicated space with reference materials specific to Arizona.  Likewise, the Oracle public library has a unique Southwest collection with many rare books.

Images of America have published books with historic photos of many of the towns within Pinal County.  These books are available through our catalog:

The Arizona Memory Project is an online resource available to use through the library and accessible here.  It is made available through the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State, with funding from a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Some of the things you can find here include fully scanned versions of nearly the entire run of Arizona Highways magazine as well as old newspapers, photos, maps and oral histories.

memory project

Reading Arizona is a statewide eBook platform of Arizona related fiction and non-fiction titles.  You can create a free account with your library cart on their site here.


Living Superior Arizona, from 1930 to 1950: A Narrative History by Joaquin Trujillo was recently published in 2018.


It is a well-researched history of an important time in Superior’s history.  Here is a video from YouTube of the author talking about the book:

Pinal County also has other excellent historical resources that include the following:

Archie Comics, 1941 to Riverdale

In addition to stocking Archie comics in our libraries, we have the Riverdale tv series on DVD and over 10,000 pages of classic Archie comics available to view through our Hoopla app.  Check it out from our catalog here.

Archie Origins

Have you watched the Fox series Riverdale and wondered about the origin of Archie and his friends?  Archie comics have been around for over 75 years.


The company that would eventually be known as Archie Comics, was originally called MLJ Magazines and it was founded in 1939.  Originally MLJ mostly published superhero comics.  All that changed in 1941 when Archie made his first appearance in Pep Comics #22.  The first issue of Archie comics (actually numbered #114) appeared in 1942.  It now has one of the longest runs in comic book history.

MLJ Publications from the 1940’s are available to read on the The Internet Archive.

Many artists have drawn Archie over the years and below are some of the standouts.

Dan DeCarlo


Dan DeCarlo became one of the main artists at Archie in 1951 to replace the original artist Bob Montana.  DeCarlo’s drawing style differed from Montana’s.  It was Dan DeCarlo’s drawings that became the recognizable look of Archie that most people remember.  Subsequent artists like Stan Goldberg and Dan Parent would draw heavily upon DeCarlo’s inspiration.  Dan also created the character Josie (later Josie and the Pussycats) based on his wife.  His real life sons also worked as artists at Archie comics.  Additionally, Decarlo created the look of the character Sabrina: The Teenage Witch in 1962.

Bob Bolling


Bob Bolling was an Archie cartoonist who created a spin-off title: Little Archie.  Little Archie was an adventure comic that focused on Archie when he was a kid, rather than as a teenager.  Dexter Taylor later replaced Bolling but his stories were less fantastical and more humor oriented.

Henry Scarpelli


Henry Scarpelli drew the Archie newspaper comic strip.  He also was an artist for the regular comic book series and created such variations as “The New Archies”.  Additionally, he based an Archie comic character on his son, Glenn Scarpelli, who was a Hollywood actor.

Dan Parent


Dan Parent started drawing Archie in the late 1980’s and modernized the characters as a writer and artist into the dot com era.  He worked on many of Archie’s flagship titles and brought back underutilized characters such as Cheryl Blossom.  He also created the first openly gay comics character in Archie’s history, Kevin Keller, in 2010.

Tania Del Rio


In the early 2000s Tania Del Rio was a cartoonist who gave the Archie comics characters a radically different look that was influenced by Japanese manga.  She wrote and drew a new Sabrina series that unlike any other Archie comic had a continuing story arc.  She also did some shorter stories in the same style with the Josie and the Pussycats characters.


Archie has changed a lot in 75 years.  You can learn more about all the characters from the Archie comics website. Below are a couple of covers from 2019:

D.I.Y books to empower youth

Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Embark on a new project by doing it yourself. With a library card you can feel empowered with books as your guides and tools.  Kids can make discoveries in the library that are not necessarily part of their day to day curriculum.  The following is a list of illustrated books that are great inspirations for young people to get out of the house, explore and make the world a better place.

McConnell, Ruby. A Girls Guide to the Wild: Be an Adventure-Seeking Outdoor Explorer! Sasquatch Books, 2019.


This book is overflowing with information, biographical sketches, projects, games, and practical knowledge about camping and exploring the outdoors.  The first section explains the benefits of going outside by explaining some of the wonders of our natural world including our National Parks and beyond.  It also gives a breakdown of land, water and snow sports to participate in.  Then, the book is divided into sections for the beginner and the advanced.  The basic section focuses on camping: what to bring, how to set up a tent and what to cook.  There is also a lot of information (specific to girls) on how to take care of your body in the wild, away from home.  The advanced section discusses how to read maps, deal with difficult weather, animals, critters and dangerous plants.  The information is parred down in a fun way and easy to locate in the book thanks to the excellent design and artwork.  I also found the short biographies of people like Clara Barton, Sacagawea, Clare Marie Hodges, Fannie Farmer to be both relevant and insightful.

Mothes, Lee. Keep out!: Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse. Storey, 2013.


Have you ever dreamed of building your own backyard clubhouse?  This book can make that dream a reality.  The author built his first clubhouse when he was only 11 years old. The preface of the book shows his childhood notes and the actual photos from his finished project.  The book then goes on to simplify the tools and techniques one would need to make their own clubhouse.  Mothes breaks it down to nine essential tools.  He also encourages readers to find recycled materials for free and gives some ideas on how to make that work.  Then, the book gets detailed with the practicality of  the construction including step-by-step instructions and diagrams.  Once the basics are applied, one can go wild with adding on their own creativity and inspiration.

Drummond, Allan. Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016.


This picture book for young readers tells the true story of Greensburg, Kansas.  In 2007, a tornado devastated this small town.  Amid the rubble and destruction, some town members saw this as an opportunity for a new beginning.  With help from  volunteers, donations and government assistance, the town decided to rebuild itself as a sustainable community.  The residents who decided to stay were temporarily relocated into trailer parks.  The town was rebuilt as a “green city”.  The illustrations show how a sustainable house is built and how wind can serve as a power source through the use of wind farms.  Another ambitious project of the town was in the construction of their school that incorporated recycled materials, wind powered energy and ground source heat pump system.  The whimsical illustrations make this story very enjoyable to read while it teaches important lessons and tips about going green.

Bram, Elizabeth, and Chuck Groenink. Rufus the Writer. Random House Childrens, 2015.


This painted picture book for young readers is about a boy who starts his own business.  Instead of a lemonade stand, he opens a story stand.  He exchanges his stories for gifts from his friends.  The books that Rufus makes are shown within the book, as two page spreads in a slightly different style.  I like this book because it shows children that creative ideas do not need to stay in their head and that books do not have to come only from adults.  Rufus shows us that with some ambition, we can write these ideas and easily share them with others.  In doing so, we make friends and build relationships.  Rufus’ business is more about getting outside of his house and interacting with others than it is about making money.  Groenink’s illustrations are lush, full of Fall colors, and perfectly compliment’s  Bram’s carefully chosen words that will speak to kids who value sharing.


Forky craft

We were inspired by the new Pixar film Toy Story 4.  Children at the San Manuel library created their own version of Forky, as well as a variety of other characters made out of spoons and sporks.  Below are pictures from this event which took place in July, 2019.

(The original Forky as seen in Toy Story 4)

(some of our versions)



Movies filmed in Pinal County

Did you know that many Hollywood stars have visited the same towns where our libraries reside in Pinal County?  Towns like Florence, Superior and Apache Junction have made stunning backdrops for all types of stories seen on the big screen.  Below is a list of some these films.  Some are still known while others have been forgotten to time.  It’s fun to watch some of these old movies and recognize certain spots today that haven’t changed all that much.  Which ones have you seen?

Florence, Arizona

Florence is home to many well-preserved historic homes, one of Arizona’s oldest main streets, the restored Pinal Superior Court and the Arizona State Prison.  All of these landmarks played significant parts in the following productions.

Riot, 1969.  Director: Buzz Kulik.  Stars:  Jim Brown, Gene Hackman.
Filmed mostly on location at the Arizona State Prison in Florence and the surrounding areas of Coolidge and Eloy.

The Trial of Billy Jack, 1974. Director: Tom Laughlin.  Stars:  Tom Laughlin, Delores Taylor.  Features footage filmed in the Arizona State Prison and Pinal Superior Court.

Escape From Bogen County, 1977. (made-for-tv movie). Director: Steven Hilliard Stern.
Stars: Jaclyn Smith, Michael Parks.
Pinal County Superior Court and Florence’s main street can be seen in this film.

Stir Crazy, 1980.  Director: Sidney Poitier. Stars: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor.  While most of the Arizona locations in this movie were shot in Tucson, the prison scenes were filmed in Florence.

Murphy’s Romance, 1985. Director: Martin Ritt. Stars: Sally Field, James Garner.
Florence’s main street and surrounding areas of Collidge and Eloy are featured prominently in this film.

Superior, Arizona

Superior is home to the Magma Mine which was active for over 75 years.  The historic town, sitting below Apache Leap, has made a unique backdrop featured prominently following movies.

The Gauntlet, 1977. Director: Clint Eastwood.  Stars: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke.  Much of this film was shot in Phoenix however there is about 15 minutes of footage shot in Superior.

U-Turn, 1997.  Director: Oliver Stone. Stars: Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte. Filmed almost exclusively in and around Superior at structures that are still there today.

Eight Legged Freaks, 2002. Director: Ellory Elkayem. Stars:  David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer.
The Magma Hotel, the old Superior High School and other Superior landmarks can be seen.

Apache Junction, Arizona

Apacheland was a “western town” movie set that opened in 1959 at the bottom of the Superstition Mountain.  In 1969, a fire destroyed many of the facades, leaving only seven buildings.  In 2004 there was yet another fire and the studio was closed.  The remaining buildings were moved to what is now the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction.  Many Western TV shows were filmed at Apacheland.  Probably one of the most well-remembered films shot at this location was Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster.  If you want to get a good look at what Apacheland looked like in its heyday, I recommend the following films:

Charro, 1969. Directed by Charles Marquis Warren.  Stars: Elvis Presley

The Ballad of Cable Hogue, 1970.  Directed by Sam Peckinpah.  Stars: Jason Robards and Stella Stevens.

Second Chance, 1972. TV Movie directed by Peter Tewksbury. Stars Brian Keith, Elizabeth Ashley.

Reissues of Children’s Books 1969 – 1982

The 1970s were a creative and slightly odd time for children’s books when experimentation and innovation went hand-in-hand.  Topics in children’s literature seemed to embrace diversity and explore a wider variety of themes.

Sesame Street premiered in 1969, the same year that Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock.  The Beatles broke up in 1970 and the Vietnam War ended in 1975.  1974’s made-for-tv movie Free To Be You and Me starred Marlo Thomas and Michael Jackson.  The special celebrated the breakdown of traditional gender roles and adapted several children’s books into animated cartoons.  It was a decade of counterculture, flamboyant style and excess.

Cricket magazine was formed in 1973 as a sort of “New Yorker for children”.  Artists like Mark Alan Stamaty and Frank Asch delivered a decidedly hippy, psychedelic and nonconformist drawing style in their early works, possibly influenced by rock posters and underground comics of the time.  The end of the decade introduced major characters into the collective unconscious such as Marc Brown’s Arthur, who originally looked less human and more like an aardvark in his first book Arthur’s Nose from 1976.  Other artists such as Remy Charlip would incorporate non-narrative structures into their work.  In his case, it was incorporating elements of the avant-garde that he had experienced in his other career as a dancer.

Below are some recent children’s book resissues from these turbulent and exciting times.  More than just nostalgia, I believe these timeless books can still be entertaining to new generations.  All of these books employ cartoon styles and interesting narrative choices that have a sincere playfulness and sense of humor that is as relevant now as ever.

Asch, Frank. Popcorn. Little Simon, 2017.

Originally published by Parents Magazine Press, 1979.

Frank Asch’s first bear back was Moon Bear (1978).  He liked the character so much that variations of it appeared in over 20 books.  Prior to this Frank Asch utilized a more psychedelic style and his books were mostly in black and white.  The bear, he used in Popcorn (1979) was slightly more sophisticated than MoonBear in that he was more like a stand-in for an actual child.  He had a family and a name: Sam.  Popcorn was one of the first books in which Asch employed bold, flat colors and the story almost has a comic strip like sequence making it easier to read aloud than his previous efforts.  He seems to be moving away from the crowded scenes that he used with his previous collaborator Mark Allan Stamaty.  Although the motif of the expanding popcorn in this particular story certainly brings to mind the denseness of Stamaty’s work.  In fact, this book is dedicated to Stamaty so his influence should not be understated.

The story of Popcorn takes place on Halloween.  Sam’s parents go out to a party and leave him home alone.  Unbeknownst to his folks, Sam decides to call up his friends and have his own party.  They come, one by one, all dressed in costumes, and all bringing popcorn.  As the night progresses, the more popcorn is popped, the more the party gets out of control.  Soon the popcorn overtakes the whole house.  In order to solve the problem his friends begin eating all the popcorn.  Eventually they become full, sick, and leave in a daze.  Sam goes to sleep, exhausted.  His parents arrive home and are still oblivious to the party that occurred.  The punchline is that they bring Sam a gift.  It’s popcorn!  The ending is ironic and absurd but the story is told in such a straightforward way that one can’t help but laugh.  Other books in Frank Asch’s Bear Book series have also been issued but Popcorn remains the one where the narrative packs the biggest punch.

What grounds this book in the 1970’s is the feather and headband of Sam’s Indian costume, which makes him look like a hippy.  Also, from an adult’s perspective, parallels can be drawn from Sam’s innocent popcorn party to perhaps something more devious like a fraternity party.

Brown, Marc Tolon. Pickle Things. Marc Brown Studios, 2016.

Originally published by Parents Magazine Press, 1980.
Marc Brown is one of the most celebrated and well-known children’s author/illustrators of all time.  His character Arthur, created in the 1970s, received worldwide acclaim and notoriety  when the character was licensed for the WGBH animated series which began airing in 1994.   Pickle Things is one of Brown’s earlier books from 1980.   His style at this point had a harsher black outline and is less cute or gentle than his later work.  This short book plays with the idea of something that is relatively ugly – a pickle – for the purpose of humor.  Through the pictures we see various other uses for pickles such as pickle pie, pickle cake and an equally ridiculous pickle character walking a tightrope or flying in a pickle plane!  It’s absurd and silly and reads like a pun.  But it’s fun and it works.

Charlip, Remy. Arm in Arm: a Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and Other Echolalia. New York Review Books, 2019.


Originally published by Four Winds Press, 1969
Several Remy Charlip books have been reissued over the past couple of years.  Arm In Arm, the latest of this reissues, comes out in the fall of 2019.  It is, in my opinion, Charlip’s best and most original book.  Don’t miss it this time around.  This is not a read aloud book, but one to be explored alone.  It is unique in that there is no narrative structure to be found here.  The book is based upon Charlip’s experimentation as a dancer.  Each page works alone as either a joke, a play, a puzzle, a pun, a search and find, a comic strip, an experiment in movement.  Charlip  has inspired a generation of artists including Brian Selznick who used him as a model for the Georges Méliès character in his award-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Charlip’s artwork for Arm in Arm was also used as the cover for Elizabeth Mitchell’s 2012 album Blue Clouds (it also features a song Arm in Arm that was inspired by this book).  This is an extremely positive and playful book that invokes curious readers to explore the extraordinary in even the most simple things.

Quackenbush, Robert. Henry Goes West. Aladdin, 2018.

Originally published by Aladdin, 1982.
Robert Quackenbush did a whole series of these slapstick stories featuring his character Henry the Duck who continually makes a fool of himself trying to impress his girlfriend Clara.  They are hilarious and great for read alouds.  I believe there were plans to resissue all of the Henry books but it looks like only two have come out so far.  Henry Goes West was of particular interest to me because the scenery will be familiar to the children that I will share this book with in Arizona.

Spinney, Caroll. How to Be a Grouch. Random House, 2019.

Originally published by Western Pub. Co.in cooperation with Children’s Television Workshop, 1976.
Sesame Street premiered in 1969 which means 2019 marks its 50th anniversary.  Hopefully this leads to many reissues because the Children’s Television Workshop has published a plethora of beautifully illustrated books over the years.  This particular one, originally published in 1976, is special because it is both written and illustrated by Caroll Spinney.  For those not in the know, Carol is the actor who has played Big Bird all these years.  He is the man walking and talking from inside the suit!  He also plays Oscar the Grouch as well.  His talent does not end there.  Spinney has been drawing even before Sesame Street existed.  The cartoons in this book are funny and read like self-contained newspaper strips.  And they are most definitely in the grouchy spirit.

Waber, Bernard, and Elliot Kreloff. Nobody Is Perfick. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
Originally published by Sandpiper, Houghton Mifflin, 1975.













Bernard Waber’s most well-known books include the classic Lyle the Crocodile series and Ira Sleeps Over.  Both of these have been in print for decades.  Nobody is Perfick is one of Waber’s less known works.  It is a series of short free form comic strips without panels that originally appeared in Cricket magazine in the 1970s.  The stories are quite funny and their looseness bring to mind Jules Feiffer’s work.  In a sense this is a sort of “graphic novel for kids” before the term was coined. Recommended!