This summer the Summer Learning Program theme for children and teens is “Libraries Rock!” What a great way to think about libraries. They do rock, especially today, when the era of the silent library and the Shushing Librarian is firmly in the past. Mind you, most libraries offer quiet spaces for those who want or need quiet, but libraries also encourage everyone to feel comfortable and welcome. Children, in particular, often need to be able to make noise, within reason. So libraries will indeed be rocking all summer long.
As we planned programs to go along with the Libraries Rock! theme, we also made an effort to include the other definition of rock, as in geology. There are great books for children and for adults about rocks, from books explaining the different types of rock (remember igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic?) to drool-worthy photographic feasts of gorgeous gems and minerals. Beautiful books like these always remind me of the snippet from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic:
When Molly O’Toole was looking at the colored pictures in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s big dictionary and just happened to be eating a candy cane at the same time and drooled candy cane juice on the colored pictures of gems and then forgot and shut the book, so the pages all stuck together, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle . . . [said] “There’s nothing as cozy as a piece of candy and a book. Don’t look so embarrassed, Molly, I almost drool every time I look at those gems–which one is your favorite?–I think mine is the Lapis Lazuli.”
Of course, as a librarian I hope not to see our gem and mineral books returned with the pages stuck together! But it is fascinating and lovely to pore over the pages and imagine finding some of those beautiful rocks. (And I’m sure I’m not the only child who had to go find photos of Lapis Lazuli right away.) Doesn’t reading that bit make you want to go drool over photos of gems and crystals right now?
There are lots of beautiful rock and mineral books in our libraries, including My Book of Rocks and Minerals, Everything Rocks and Minerals, My Little Book of Rocks, Minerals and Gems, Rocks, Minerals, Gems, Crystals, Fossils, and many more. There are excellent books explaining the science and history of rocks, as well.
But what really inspired me was my hunt for picture book stories involving rocks. Now, it might seem at first as if a rock wouldn’t make a very good character for a story. But you’d be surprised! Let me introduce you to some of my favorites.
Meet Petra! She’s a mountain! A mighty mountain. Or wait, maybe she’s an island. Or is she an egg? Or perhaps a pebble? This wonderful picture book with evocative pictures and spare text brings Petra to life with all her imagination, positive outlook, and possibilities. You wouldn’t think a rock could show much personality, but Petra will change your mind about that.
In Charlotte and the Rock, Charlotte, too, shows great powers of positive thinking. Charlotte desperately wants a pet for her sixth birthday. She doesn’t care what kind of pet — “A dog, a cat, a hamster, or even a pig would do.” She wasn’t exactly expecting a pet rock, though. But “she tried to remain positive.” Her rock (named Dennis, a name they chose together) was easy to train, a good listener, and hypoallergenic, and they soon became very best friends, doing everything together. How the story turns out? Well, you’ll just have to read it for yourself.
There are classic rock stories too, such as Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and the many versions of Stone Soup such as the ones told by Marcia Brown, Tony Ross, Aubrey Davis, or Pete Seeger & Paul DuBois Jacobs.
And there are non-fiction picture books about rocks, too. Here are two of my favorites.
If You Find a Rock is a book of free verse poems about rocks. Skipping rocks, splashing rocks, climbing rocks, resting-on rocks, wishing rocks, worry rocks, sifting rocks, and much more. These simple thoughts about rocks are a great way to spark children’s imagination and memories, especially living up here in the mountains where nature and rocks are all around us. The first time I read this book at a storytime, I wondered if it would be too long for them, or whether they would find it boring, but all the children had rock stories of their own to contribute, and had encountered most of the rock types in the book. (A wishing rock, by the way, is a rock with a stripe all the way around it — you wish on it before tossing it back for someone else to find.)
Perhaps my favorite rock picture book of all is If Rocks Could Sing. This ‘discovered alphabet’ book features photographs of natural rocks of all shapes. The author, Leslie McGuirk, found all the rocks herself, mostly on the beaches of Florida. There’s a rock for every letter of the alphabet, as well as rocks for all the things the letters name (the ghosts are particularly wonderful, but so are the couch potato, the seahorse, the lemon, the nose, the elephant, and so many more!). And in case you’re wondering, the K was the last letter she found.
Everyone I’ve introduced to this book has fallen in love with it. Adults, children, teens, it appeals to all ages. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to seek it out!
There are many more rock books to discover at our libraries and online through ebooks. I hope you enjoy exploring them this summer, while Libraries Rock!