LibraryPages: Finding a Good Book

Jul 9, 2012

Nearly four years ago, when Aaron was just a wee babe, I began making regular trips to the library in search of high-quality children's literature. I soon found that while searching through the stacks sometimes yielded some real gems, it could also be rather fruitless. I also discovered that leisurely perusing shelf after shelf was just not that practical while trying to keep track of one, and then two, and now three children.

The solution? Let the librarians do the work for me! From the comfort of my comfortable couch, I can find the books I want and put them on hold. Then when I go to the library, I pick up the pile of 15-20 books that are ready and waiting for me. It's so easy! If I have time to wander down the aisles, great, but if one of the boys has a meltdown, we can leave right then, and I'll still be going home with a bag full of new books. Isn't the library wonderful?

Well, that's all well and good, you might say, but how are you deciding which titles to put on hold? 

Excellent question! I'll admit that staring at the blinking library cursor can be just as daunting as looking over the expanse of books in the children's section. Here are a few of my favorite resources for finding the really good books:

1. The library catalog itself
I've had great success with the keyword search. If Aaron is interested in sharks, then I put in the word "shark" and see which titles come up. It's a little bit of a blind search (just because the title sounds intriguing or the cover looks promising doesn't mean it will be worth the time, and doing it this way you don't have the added advantage of being able to peek inside), but I've found that the descriptions reveal a lot, and it's still more convenient to search from home.

Also, on our library catalog, I can view the recently acquired items, and, I'll be honest, I LOVE being the first or second patron to check out a book. All the flaps are in good shape, the plastic is shiny, and there aren't any disgusting fingerprints to wipe off.

Finally, when we find authors we like, I look up the other books they've written, and over the course of several months, we check them out. For example, everyone knows Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, but have you ever read Lentil, also by Robert McCloskey? Definitely worth checking out.

2. Award lists
There are all sorts of children's book awards...from the prestigious Caldecott to the Geisel Award to local honors like the Beehive Book Award. Looking up winners from past years is a great way to rediscover some forgotten treasures.

3. Book lists
Goodreads has hundreds of great lists that have been compiled on any number of subjects. For example, I entered "children nature" into the search field and found this great list of 80 picture books about gardens.

Also, don't forget about Google! You can pull up all sorts of book lists by looking for things like Best Picture Books of 2003. (Why would I narrow it down by year like that? Simply because I like to weed out some of the popular classics, like Where the Wild Things Are, that will show up on every single list if you're not careful. I already know that's a good book. I want some new ideas.)

And, of course, the ever-popular Pinterest. I see book lists pinned all the time over there (but, just so you know, they're often the same kinds of lists, so you see a lot of repetition...and really, there are waaaaay more than 25 good books out there!).

4. Blogs
So often, someone has already done the work for me. They've already tested and tried a stack of picture books and reported on the ones they love. Here are a few of my favorite sites to go to:

Amy @ Delightful Children's Books
Besides posting dozens of lists herself, a few weeks ago Amy did a similar post to this one where she listed many of her favorite resources. This was such a valuable post. I definitely recommend checking it out and pinning it so you have it for future reference.

Allison McDonald @ No Time for Flashcards
Besides having frequent guest posts, Allison posts these great reading lists which feature great books by subject. I've gone to this page many times when I'm out of ideas.

Janssen @ Everyday Reading
Hands down, this is one of my very favorite blogs. You really should take a look at it. But not to get sidetracked from the subject at hand, Janssen has a two-year-old little girl, and she often writes about their current favorite books.

Tara @ Feels Like Home
Tara created a list of 101 of her favorite picture books. It was a really unique and original list, which I appreciated. 

Danielle @ There's a Book 
Danielle has regular picture book reviews which include thoughts from her kids. This year she's also doing the Year of the Picture Book where she features a favorite picture book almost every day.

So now you see why I can have a new pile of books waiting for me every week at the library and also why there isn't enough time in the day to get through all the good books (or to waste my time on the bad ones!).


  1. Wow. Thank you so much for the mention! I'm honored to be with such a wonderful group of bloggers and book devourers. What an amazing post! These are all fantastic resources and many I've never even thought of. So thank you also for the thoughtfulness, I'll definitely be referring back here for more resources!

    1. No, thank YOU! I'm happy I can share your blog with my family and friends!

  2. I used to work in a small college library, one of the disciplinary ones, and it used to drive me crazy when people would request books from my library to be put on hold at my library. I thought, why are these students and professors so lazy that they can't be bothered to walk over to the shelf and get their books themselves?! I never had a problem with fetching books to be sent across campus to one of the other libraries (perhaps because I did the same thing, requesting books from the main library to be sent to the one at which I worked). Thank you for reminding me to be a little more understanding. Laziness may not always be the motivation - certainly, going to the library with three children can be difficult, but it's such a great experience for them and if putting books on hold enables that, I must applaud the practice. So thanks for the reminder not to jump so quickly to conclusions that cause me irritation.

    I hope your kids love going to the library! For a while, my mom took my sister and me to the library every single week, and that created some of my fondest childhood memories.

  3. Samantha, thank you for the different perspective! I hope I didn't come across as rude or offensive when I said that I let the librarians do the work for me...although I can totally see how it would sound like that to a librarian! I have two other reasons (besides my children) for sometimes putting things on hold that are already at my own library: if I know it will be several days before I can go to the library, I want to make sure it's still there, and also, I know I could make a list of items to find when I'm there, but it's so much easier to just do it at home while I'm thinking about it. So, it probably is partially laziness on my part...

    Yes, my boys absolutely love the library. We go at least once a week, and besides the books I have on hold, we always check out things that they select themselves directly from the shelves.

    1. Nope, not at all rude or offensive! It made me recognize that jumping to conclusions is unfair to people. I'm also sure that academic and public libraries are totally different animals and that librarians may have different roles depending on which one they work in. I remember a grad student once brought his small son in to the music library where I worked - it was unusual and delightful to have an energetic little boy zooming around in what was normally such a formal space!

      Wow, all three of your children are boys? That must make life interesting!


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