The Curiosity Cruiser Interviews: Emma Steinkellner, Author of The Okay Witch

Cruiser Blog

The Curiosity Cruiser Interviews: Emma Steinkellner, Author of The Okay Witch

An image with Emma Steinkellner at the center with the two volumes to the right and left of her image. The background is a diagonal gradient of blue, purples, and yellow. There are gold ellipses splattered throughout the background.

A perk of working on the Curiosity Cruiser is getting to preview books to potentially add to our giveaway shelves. When I came across a synopsis of The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner, I knew her work would be perfect for our program. One of the reasons the Curiosity Cruiser team looks for graphic novels is that many reluctant readers gravitate to them. In fact, out of all of our giveaways, graphic novels get chosen the most often. Don’t be fooled though- just because there are pictures on every page, doesn’t mean that these books are “easier” to read than a typical chapter book. You may not know this, but people have and grow graphic literacy by looking at graphics; from graphs, charts, and yes, pictures in books. Illustrations in graphic novels help carry the story and build an understanding of socializing, actions & movement between panels, and power your imagination to fill in the blanks with the story. Graphic novels are quite literally “show don’t tell” and are as important as typical novels in helping children grow as readers. Some children find them more engaging than a book without pictures and this is something that should be supported, not discouraged. Any kind of reading is good for kids! In the below video interview, Emma Steinkellner and I discuss the inspiration behind The Okay Witch duology, her reading experiences growing up, and how her books have made an impact with the Curiosity Cruiser.

If you’re interested in some of the books we discussed, including The Okay Witch, take a look yourself by checking them out from HCPL!

Go to https://curiositycruiser.com/cruiser-blog/books-of-the-curiosity-cruiser/ for the original book review on The Okay Witch.

Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

 For more cruiser information you can visit:

https://www.hcpl.net/about/community/curiosity-cruiser

Social Media:

Facebook: @CuriosityCruiser

Instagram: @curiositycruiser

Twitter: @CuriosityCruis1

Curiosity Cruiser Reads!

 

 The Curiosity Cruiser has so many books to offer, meaning it might be hard to choose, so the Cruiser Team put together a list of some of our suggested reads! Can’t make it to the Cruiser? No worries! I have linked all the titles directly to the Harris County Public Library catalog, where you can request the book for check out from your local branch!


Board Books 

Board books are short books made of cardboard to withstand the behaviors (chewing, drooling, hard page turning) of babies and young toddlers. The illustrations are usually bright and colorful to pull your young one’s attention.  

Suggested Age: 0-3

 

The Family Book

By: Todd Parr

 The Family Book, written and illustrated by Todd Parr, is a board book for babies as growing readers, but can be read by the whole family, as the name implies! From the outside cover to the last page, Parr’s illustrations are full of colorful and playful diverse bonds. Parr pairs these illustrated families with explanations of how there are differences in families but that love and care are at the center of each of them. The Family Book is an awesome example of helping teach children about diversity and how differences make us unique, but that we are all equally loved.

  -Logan T


Picture Books 

Picture books tend to be referred to as “everybody books” as they are enjoyable to everyone. They are best used, however, for story time with preschool children and up until the child starts to read on their own.  

Suggested Ages: 3-6 

 

 What Do you Do With An Idea?

By: Kobi Yamada

 What do you do with an idea? Ideas can come in many forms, in this inspiring story by Kobi Yamada, an idea comes to a young child in the form of an egg with feet! The child then wonders- what exactly do you do with an idea? At first, they are reluctant to take notice of it but soon they nurture and take care of their idea. They wonder how others would see it, and for a moment they doubt their idea is any good at all… until they realize it’s THEIR idea after all! Of course, it’s wonderful and fantastic! They watch their idea grow and grow until one day, HATCH! It’s everywhere and permeates the world in color shown through beautiful illustration by Mae Besom

 Towards the end of the book the author asks again, what do you do with an idea? That open ended question is up to the reader to imagine. I would recommend this book for all ages as it teaches an important lesson that all ideas are unique and important and given the time to grow and learn can become wonderful realities.

   -Marrisa B.


Early Readers 

Early Readers are designed to help children who are starting to read to expand and improve those skills. There are different levels, as your child improves, the books increase in difficulty. They usually involve limited word counts per page and fun illustrations to help the child with story comprehension.  

Suggested Ages: 6-8 

 

​ My Friend Is Sad

 By: Mo Willems

  My Friend Is Sad is another book in the Elephant and Piggie series written and illustrated by Mo Willems. What do you do when your best friend is sad? Well, if you’re Piggie, that means going out of your way to cheer up your best friend Gerald, whether its dressing up as a clown, a cowboy, or a robot. But what if all Gerald really wants is to see Piggie? A wonderful book for all ages with a lovely message for everyone. My Friend is Sad teaches you that sometimes what all your friends need, is you. And maybe a new pair of glasses. I recommend this series for beginner level readers grades Kinder through 2nd. With a cute art style, this is a great series to get your child into reading. 

    -Jason C.


Beginning Chapter Books 

Beginning Chapter Books are short chapter books designed for newly independent readers. They are the perfect transition books from Early Readers to chapter books. Each book has several short chapters and has several illustrations throughout the story. 

Suggested Ages: 7-9 

 

The Captain Underpants Extra-Crunchy Book O’ Fun

  By: Dav Pilkey 

 You may know Dav Pilkey from writing Dog Man, Cat Kid, Dumb Bunnies, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot, and much more. 

 Today I am reviewing the Captain Underpants Extra-Crunchy Book O’ Fun that we have stocked on the Cruiser. I have read many of Pilkey’s books and love the silly, ridiculous humor. One theme that I love across many of his books is that Dav makes writing stories and creating comics super approachable. The main characters are two young kids, George and Harold, who just love making up fun stories! It is just such a fun outlet for creativity! 

 In this short graphic novel, I would recommend for grades 3rd-5th, Pilkey has given us readers tons of lessons on how to draw his characters and show action, word searches for funny words, how to prank a stinky principal, stickers, and a short comic called Hairy Potty! If your kid likes to laugh and/or draw, I highly recommend The Captain Underpants Extra-Crunchy Book O’ Fun.

     -Kelly H.

*This title is not available for check out through Harris County Public Library*

Middle Grade Chapter 

As suggested by the heading, these books are written with our middle graders in mind. Their concepts and writing styles are more ideal for children who have proved they can read completely on their own (although words occasionally come up in books that I even need a dictionary for ha-ha). These books will have few to no illustrations, but their stories dive deeper than those of a Beginning Chapter Book.  

Suggested Ages: 10-14 

 

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe

 By: Carlos Hernandez

  The Rick Riordan Presents imprint is back at it! Rick Riordan’s series about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian gods are beloved by readers. So much so, they began to ask him if he could write stories about their cultures too. Riordan decided to, instead, launch an imprint where authors from those cultures could write new tales! While most of the entries in the series are mythology-based, this one has a sci-fi bent. The book follows Sal, aspiring magician and new kid at Culeco Academy of the Arts. 

 Culeco’s classes are creative and its teachers encouraging, but some problems stay the same. One, bullies are a constant even at nice schools. Two, Sal’s ability to open portals to alternate dimensions is also a constant. And three, he should probably stop doing that since it inevitably involves bringing forth some alternate version of his dead mom.  

 Everything from how the novel matter-of-factly portrays Sal’s diabetes to its considerate exploration of grief, is special. Each character is infused with warmth, including Gabi—a quick-witted girl who bursts into the principal’s office to defend Sal’s bully. It makes sense in context, we promise. So, does the bloody chicken Sal summoned from another world for a “prank” on said bully. 

  -Leslie E.


Young Adult 

Young adult novels are geared towards high schoolers and older. These books may have content not suited for children of a younger demographic. At this point children are reading fully independently. 

Suggested Ages: 15-18 

 

 

You Should See Me In A Crown

 By: Leah Johnson

  After the blooming flowers and allergies of spring, comes prom season! If you’re a fan of sweet romances and the realistic throes of a teen stressing out about financial aid and relationships, then check out this read. Liz Lighty is a great student, first chair clarinet in her school orchestra, and altogether someone who should handily win the music scholarship she applied for, right?

  If only. Losing out on that scholarship hits Liz hard, as her grandparents can’t afford to send her to college without selling their house. Then, her younger brother points out she can run for prom queen and snag the $10,000 prize that comes with the crown. Prom season is a big deal in their small, affluent, mid-western town. Liz is skeptical about entering the spectacle, even setting aside her anxiety and shyness. She’s black, not wealthy, and queer—not the kind of queen their school usually crowns. But higher education is a powerful draw, and Liz does end up running. 

  Her prom campaign is rife with adventures and pitfalls, including crushing on fellow prom queen candidate Mack and spending time with Jordan, the best friend who dumped her the minute they started high school. It’s a fun ride, despite the pushback Liz faces—from others and herself.  

 You Should See Me in a Crown is about a wallflower coming into her own, and well worth the time of any romance lover. And if you’re not a fan of the genre, try it anyways! As Liz shows, stepping out of your comfort zone can be a wonderful thing. 

  -Leslie E.


Graphic Novel 

Graphic novels are today’s version of a comic book. Dynamic illustrations with dialogue bubbles and the works. These are a particular favorite of independently reading children. We have Graphic Novels from Beginning Chapter through Young Adult.  

Suggested Age: Varies- See following review for the book level and follow the book level standard age suggestion

 

The Stonekeeper: A Graphic Novel (Amulet #1)

 By: Kazu Kibuishi

 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel)

 Written by Kazu Kibuishi Amulet is a graphic novel great for readers 3rd grade and up! Amulet tells the story of Emily and Navin, two siblings who discover a magical amulet that kickstarts their adventure into a parallel world. When their mother is kidnapped by a tentacle monster Emily and Navin must head off into the unknown braving all manner of danger as well as learning the secrets of their new amulet powers. With wonderful art, interesting designs, and a cast of relatable characters, the first volume is sure to hook your child, and maybe even a parent or two, and take you on an exciting journey. 

  -Jason C.


Spanish 

The Cruiser and HCPL also have a wide range of Spanish books for all age levels! 

Suggested Age: Varies- See following review for the book level and follow the book level standard age suggestion. 

 

Oso panda, Oso Panda, ¿qué ves ahí?

 By: Bill Martian Jr. 

 (Board Book)

  This board book, perfect for ages 0-3 years old, is the delightful Spanish translation of Bill Martin Jr.’s Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? While savvy readers are aware of the pitfalls that come with any translated work, never fear! The rhythmic writing of the original holds up wonderfully in Spanish, and with Eric Carle’s illustrations—this book is a solid choice for any parent. 

 Oso panda, oso panda, ¿qué ves ahí? opens with the reader asking the panda bear from the cover, what do you see? The panda bear tells the reader, they see a bald eagle. The reader asks the bald eagle, what do you see? The bald eagle tells the reader, they see a water buffalo, and so it goes. From spider monkeys to red wolves, this board book offers readers a look at special animals you don’t tend to see in children’s books. Every character is expressive and set against a vivid background.

 Beautiful to read and beautiful to look at, you won’t regret picking this one up!

                                                                     -Leslie E. 


WOW! What a great batch of books! Find these and tons more on the Curiosity cruiser or from your local library! Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you soon! 

 

Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

 For more cruiser information you can visit:

https://www.hcpl.net/about/community/curiosity-cruiser

Social Media:

Facebook: @CuriosityCruiser

Instagram: @curiositycruiser

Twitter: @CuriosityCruis1

 

The Curiosity Cruiser is back with Afterschool Programming! 

Spring break may be over, but that does not mean the fun is done. The Curiosity Cruiser has exciting news. For the remainder of the Spring Semester the Cruiser is working with local community centers to offer afterschool STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and Literacy based programs! 

Here is a sneak peak of what you can expect. 

Snap Circuits!

What are these? They are kits that introduce children to the concepts of electrical circuits. Students will learn how to make all sorts of distinct functions, such as alarms, lights, and fans, with these easy snap into place pieces.  

Robots!

We have lots of different robots such as: Ozobots, which are small orb shaped robots that follow commands you make on paper, and Lego WeDo that uses Legos and an iPad to function! 

Comic Creation! 

Calling all Dogman Fans, learn the foundation behind what it takes to make a comic book, a comic book! 

D-I-Y Flipbooks

 What story will your flipbook tell us? Is it going to be an adventure, a romance, or even just a stick man dancing? Learn how art has a big role in literacy.  


Here is a list of our locations. 

March 21, 2022 – May 20, 2022: 

Mondays: Afterschool Programing

East Harris County Activity Center 
7340 Spencer Hwy, Pasadena, TX 77505  
4:00pm – 5:30pm 


Tuesdays: Morning Bilingual Story Time and Pop-up Library 

Spring Branch Family Development Center 
8575 Pitner Rd, Houston, TX 77080  
11:00am – 1:30pm 
*Story Time Begin at 11am* 


Wednesdays: Afterschool Programming 

Finnigan Park Community Center  
4900 Providence St, Houston, TX 77020  
4:30pm – 5:30pm  

Lincoln Community Center  
979 Grenshaw St, Houston, TX 77088  
4:30pm – 5:30pm 


Thursdays: Afterschool Programming 

Riley Chambers Community Center  
808 1/2 Magnolia Ave, Crosby, TX 77532  
4:00pm – 5:30pm 

JD Walker Community Center  
7613 Wade Road Baytown, TX 77521  
4:30pm – 5:30pm 

*Cruiser stops are weather permitting. The cruiser also follows the same holiday schedule as other library branches. Please check our social media each day for any notice of cancellation. * 

Contact your community center for more information on how to enroll. I did mention it was all FREE, right? Each participant will also pick out a book at the end of the program. What could be better?! 

We hope to see you there! 


Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

 For more cruiser information you can visit:

https://www.hcpl.net/about/community/curiosity-cruiser

Social Media:

Facebook: @CuriosityCruiser

Instagram: @curiositycruiser

Twitter: @CuriosityCruis1

Who are the Curiosity Cruiser Superheroes?

Well that would be Owlbotron and Northtale! The Super hero duo whose mission is to spread the power of reading and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to kids all over the county.

Well let me tell you their origin story. You see I’m good friends with them, so I have the inside scoop.

To learn who Owlbotron is, we must first meet Oliver Owens. Oliver, who went by Ollie, was your average middle school student. He struggled with his math and science classes and faced bullying from some of the kids in his school. Even though he is an owl, he didn’t know how to fly, and longed to join other birds in the skies. He was a sweet kid with many hobbies, such as art and writing, but this wasn’t enough for poor Ollie.

One day, while in the school Library, Ms. Mapp the Librarian, guided Ollie towards a very specific book. Inside this book was a wonderful secret. It was the key to Ollie becoming an epic superhero! After reading the book, Ollie became Owlbotron the Super Owl. He gained the ability to fly and help light the way for other children.

So, who is Northtale?

First let me ask, are you curious how Ms. Mapp knew that Ollie needed that book? Was it just her Librarian senses tingling, or could it be something more? Ms. Mapp is just your standard school librarian, helping spread the joy or reading and assisting in research projects, right?

Well, what if I were to tell you another secret? Ms. Mapp is Northtale! Totally didn’t see that coming, did you? Oh, you did? Huh, well then maybe you have super powers yourself!

To be honest, we don’t know how Ms. Mapp became Northtale. Maybe she has always been, maybe she earned the power through a book like Owlbotron, all we know is that she is a Super Fox! She has the power of navigation and the knowledge to build awesome gadgets. She’s really good at problem solving and loves to help children on their adventures.  

Together this duo strives to help inspire the wonderful children of Harris county through the use of literacy and STEM.

Always remember:

You can change the world.

For more back story fun, check out this video on Owlbotron’s origin story!

Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

 For more cruiser information you can visit:

https://www.hcpl.net/about/community/curiosity-cruiser

Social Media:

Facebook: @CuriosityCruiser

Instagram: @curiositycruiser

Twitter: @CuriosityCruis1

Back to School with the Curiosity Cruiser!

We are jumping back into the new year with school visits! This past Wednesday, February 9, the Curiosity Cruiser team visited Cimarron Elementary in Katy, Texas to give away books to the students there. In total we gave away 126 books to both Pre-K and Kindergarten grade children.

Visiting a school is a special event, where each child may come aboard our Curiosity Cruiser vehicle and explore the many titles we have to giveaway. This Super Library on Wheels is a state-of-the-art mobile library that seeks to inspire children all over Houston to develop a love of reading and gain access to great books and opportunities- leading to lifelong learning and the ability to reach their fullest potential.  

On Wednesday, each child came aboard and picked out one book. Children can pick whichever book catches their eye or, if they need help picking, our cruiser team will suggest a few titles that may be of interest to them.

We have many popular titles right now, our most popular being the “How to Code…” series by Josh Funk and “If I Built  A…” by Chris Van Dusen.

We also have many great titles including popular character books like Pete the Cat and Peppa Pig! A few children grabbed classics like   “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendakor, a personal favorite, “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!” by Jon Scieszka.  


They are welcome to flip through each book and pick the one they would like to have the most, getting to visit each school and see every child’s individual interest has been a joy!  

Would you like us to come to your next school event? Please visit the Curiosity Cruiser website at www.curiositycruiser.com or email us at curiositycruiser@hcpl.net to find out more about the Curiosity Cruiser, its support, and its efforts.  


Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

 For more cruiser information you can visit:

https://www.hcpl.net/about/community/curiosity-cruiser

Social Media:

Facebook: @CuriosityCruiser

Instagram: @curiositycruiser

Twitter: @CuriosityCruis1

Books of the Curiosity Cruiser

 

One of the main things the Curiosity Cruiser does is give away free books to the kids who stop by to say hi. With at least a hundred different titles, it can be overwhelming and hard to pick out the perfect book, so the Cruiser Team decided to give a few book suggestions for kids and parents alike. Check out what everyone picked and what they had to say about it! The list does starts with suggestions going from youngest to oldest, with special Graphic Novel and Spanish book reviews at the end. All books reviewed are also available through Harris County Public Library, so if you cannot make it out to the cruiser, feel free to stop by your local branch and request a copy for check out! You will find that a lot of these books have more to a series or more by the author if you enjoy them! 


Board Books 

Board books are short books made of cardboard to withstand the behaviors (chewing, drooling, hard page turning) of babies and young toddlers. The illustrations are usually bright and colorful to pull your young one’s attention.  

Suggested Age: 0-3

 

First, I would like to state the link will take you to a different book titled “Grump Monkey”, this is because board books tend to be shorter versions of longer Picture Books. HCPL does not currently have the board book version of this book, but they do have the full-length picture book available for check out. It is just as good as the board book; the only difference is that it is a little longer and might be better suited for preschoolers.  

Somedays are just not our best days, but that is okay. We don’t always have to be super happy; we can have “off” days too. In this book, a little monkey is having a grumpy day and nothing seems to make him happy. He gets angrier the more people try to help him be happy. Eventually everyone leaves, and he starts to feel sad from loneliness. In the end a friend joins him, not to do anything, but just sit with him so he isn’t alone. This doesn’t make the monkey happy per say, but it does make him feel better that he doesn’t have to be alone while having his feelings. I like the concept of this book, because it does teach us that someday just are not happy days and that is okay. It is okay to have other feelings and we should be allowed to express those feelings in the proper manners. Friends do not always have to be there to make you smile, but instead should be there to provided company for you no matter what the situation is.  

The illustrations in the book are cute and simple. When the little monkey is expressing emotion, his face takes up the whole page with a bright colored background to help children find focus on the monkey emotion. I like simplistic illustrations in these types of books, as it does not overwhelm the little ones with too much detail going on and they focus more on the story.  

-Katie B. 


Picture Books 

Picture books tend to be referred to as “everybody books” as they are enjoyable to everyone. They are best used, however, for story time with preschool children and up until the child starts to read on their own.  

Suggested Ages: 3-6 

 

Math Curse

By: Jon Scieszka 

Math teachers are evil. Everyone knows this. None eviler than Mrs. Fibonacci. She’s cast a curse on you. Now everything is math! Shirts? Math. English?? Math! PIZZA??? MATH!!! Sports, pies, space, math-math-math. Even cupcakes aren’t safe. What’s a kid to do when you’re cursed with a math problem?   

  Sometimes you just have to trick your kids. They’re stubborn, they don’t want vegetables, they want fries. So, what do you do? You cut the carrots into fry shapes. Your child isn’t interested in math. What do you do? You give them a book about breaking the curse of math. Math can be tricky for anyone; however, Math Curse sidesteps this by applying math in fun and interesting examples. Math Curse also gives you and your child the opportunity to find the answers, and break the curse, together! Check out Math Curse and any of our hundreds of books from your friendly neighborhood Curiosity Cruisers!  

 -Jason C.  


Early Readers 

Early Readers are designed to help children who are starting to read to expand and improve those skills. There are different levels, as your child improves, the books increase in difficulty. They usually involve limited word counts per page and fun illustrations to help the child with story comprehension.  

Suggested Ages: 6-8 

 

This early reader is a level one, meaning only a couple sentences per page, big illustrations with text to help build better comprehension.  

The bear family makes a visit to the local museum, but their trip turns out to be anything but local. Doctor Bear takes them on a trip around the world in his “Anywhere-Anyplace” machine. Throughout the story you go to different countries and contents to some of their most renowned sites. Learn about some of the biggest features of each of these places, with cute illustrations and quirky remarks. Enjoy pointing out the different climates, animals, and cultures that appear throughout the pages. This is a story that should interest any kid while providing the first steps to learning about some of the most remarkable places on earth. If you want to start teaching your child about various places, this is a terrific book to get the base introduction to the concept.  

-Katie B. 


Beginning Chapter Books 

Beginning Chapter Books are short chapter books designed for newly independent readers. They are the perfect transition books from Early Readers to chapter books. Each book has several short chapters and has several illustrations throughout the story. 

Suggested Ages: 7-9 

 

Flat Stanley

By: Jeff Brown 

I had heard of the legend of Flat Stanley ever since I was in first grade when my classroom got a curious letter in the mail. It was a drawing of Flat Stanley mailed to us from Florida. We took a picture with him, drew our own Flat Stanley’s and mailed ours on to another class in North Carolina.  

School kids have been mailing their own Flat Stanley character to different schools, friends, and families all over the world since 1995 when a schoolteacher in Canada started the Flat Stanley Project. So naturally I was curious what the original story was about and how Stanley was flattened!  

 It turns out that poor Stanley Lambchop had a giant bulletin board fall on him while he was sleeping, and it flattened him into a one-half inch thick pancake of a boy. He could slip under doors and into sewer grates easily. It was just like an old cartoon!  

 Now as for how Stanley came to be mailed all over the world, that started when he wanted to visit his friend in California, but a plane ticket was too expensive. So, his father had the bright idea to mail Stanley in a big, long envelope instead. He made it there and back and showed that the Post Office was amazing at its job. Afterwards, Stanley went on all sorts of adventures and now has 15 books written about him.   

-Kelly H. 


Middle Grade Chapter 

As suggested by the heading, these books are written with our middle graders in mind. Their concepts and writing styles are more ideal for children who have proved they can read completely on their own (although words occasionally come up in books that I even need a dictionary for ha-ha). These books will have few to no illustrations, but their stories dive deeper than those of a Beginning Chapter Book.  

Suggested Ages: 10-14 

 

Aru Shah and the End of Time 

By: Roshani Chokshi 

Renowned children’s author Rick Riordan is adored for his mythology-based series. So, when children everywhere clamored for stories about different mythologies, he created an imprint in which diverse authors would create new worlds for readers to dive into. 

My favorite of these is the Pandava Quintet by Roshani Chokshi. The Pandavas, great heroes of Hindu mythology, have reincarnated countless times. And for the first time—the five legendary brothers reincarnate as girls. Their reincarnations start hero-ing early because Aru Shah accidentally woke up the Sleeper while trying to get out of lie in front of her classmates. 

Considering the Sleeper is prophesized to destroy the world, this is very bad. And it’s up 12-year-old Aru to make it right, with the help of her soul sister Mini and a pigeon. Aru Shah and the End of Time is a blast to read and a great match for any fantasy lover. 

-Leslie E. 


Young Adult 

Young adult novels are geared towards high schoolers and older. These books may have content not suited for children of a younger demographic. At this point children are reading fully independently. 

Suggested Ages: 15-18 

 

 

The Loop

By: Ben Oliver 

Luka Kane is a 16-year-old teen that’s been locked up inside The Loop, a torturous and lonely prison for anyone under 18, for a little over two years. Set in a distant future where an AI named Happy rules technology, Luka finds himself living out the days in isolation and fear. Inmates are put through harsh medical enhancement trials for the sake of the more privileged on the outside, and each night they partake in a “harvest” where the AI takes energy from them and uses that to power the prison.   

To pass the time Luka comes across old-fashioned books given to him by the warden and watches the nightly scheduled rain fall. Soon his routine is disrupted by talks of war from the outside world among Luka’s other inmates. Power outages, deep rumblings, and mysterious happenings cause the prison to go offline, allowing Luka and the others to finally escape the treacherous place. But is Luka Kane ready to face what may lurk outside of The Loop? Was it better to have just stayed inside…? Fans of series like the 5th Wave and Maze Runner will come to really enjoy this sci-fi thriller.  

-Marrisa B.


Graphic Novel 

Graphic novels are today’s version of a comic book. Dynamic illustrations with dialogue bubbles and the works. These are a particular favorite of independently reading children. We have Graphic Novels from Beginning Chapter through Young Adult.  

Suggested Age: Varies- See following review for the book level and follow the book level standard age suggestion

 

The Okay Witch

By: Emma Steinkellner 

(Middle Grade Graphic Novel) 

The Okay Witch is written and illustrated by Emma Steinkellner. This graphic novel tells the story of thirteen-year-old Moth Hush as she struggles with making friends and ignoring bullies. However, an additional wrench is thrown into her life when she suddenly starts unintentionally using magic! What unfolds is Moth’s journey of self-discovery as she learns the history of her family of witches and challenges the old and problematic traditions against her lineage in Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts. 

This is by far my favorite new book we have for our Cruiser giveaways! I have a soft spot for witch stories, and this definitely filled that and then some. Moth is not perfect, she struggles with feeling insecure in her identity and family, with magic throwing an additional wrench into things. By the end of this volume she is able to work through some of these issues, but like everyone, nothing can be covered with a band aid and labeled “fixed”. This is something that, even as an adult, I struggle with a lot! Thus, it is so refreshing to see this kind of anxiety acknowledged- not every issue and struggle we face can just go away forever, and that’s okay. Like Moth and her family, it takes time to heal and continual work to make a difference and heal. 

The cultural heritage of Founder’s Bluff definitely mirrors that of Salem, Massachusetts and the “witch hunts” that took place in America and Europe. If you are interested in that history, it is explored here and expanded upon to reflect some of the contemporary issues facing young people today. This is especially true in regards to the leaders of Founder’s Bluff targeting people like Moth and her family because of their differences. Steinkellner tackles the toxic cycle of marginalization and privilege throughout The Okay Witch- but to avoid too many spoilers, you should give this one a read to see what I mean. 

Overall, The Okay Witch is a fun and spooky magical coming of age story that focuses not only on how we can grow as individuals, but also work together to create a future everyone can look forward to and grow. 

-Logan T. 


Spanish 

The Cruiser and HCPL also have a wide range of Spanish books for all age levels! 

Suggested Age: Varies- See following review for the book level and follow the book level standard age suggestion. 

 

!No dejes que la Paloma conduzca el autobús!

By: Mo Willems 

(Spanish Picture Book) 

By: Mo Willems 

(Spanish Picture Book) 

Celebrated author Mo Willems first splashed into the world of children’s literature with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! This Spanish translation of Willem’s work follows the titular Pigeon who dreams of driving a bus and thinks they have a shot now that the driver has left.  

Little does the Pigeon know that you, the reader, have been left in charge of the bus! Now you’re the one the Pigeon has to convince! When gentle wheedling and sly tricks fail, the clever Pigeon tries different means of persuasion, offering a variety of rewards, ranging from 5 bucks to their friendship.  

This book is a great, amusing read, and although the reader must always say no, it’s fun to watch the Pigeon try to drive the bus.  

-Leslie E.  


WOW! What a great batch of books! Find these and tons more on the Curiosity cruiser or from your local library! Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you soon! 

 

Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

 For more cruiser information you can visit:

https://www.hcpl.net/about/community/curiosity-cruiser

Social Media:

Facebook: @CuriosityCruiser

Instagram: @curiositycruiser

Twitter: @CuriosityCruis1

 

Meet the Curiosity Cruiser

Happy New Year! Some of you may know who we are but for those of you who don’t, we are the Curiosity Cruiser and want to take this chance to introduce ourselves to everyone.  

This blog is designed to keep you up to date regarding the cruisers where-a-bouts, activities, and much more.  

Without further ado, lets us tell you about who we are.  

What is the Curiosity cruiser? 

The Curiosity Cruiser is a program led by Harris County Public Library in partnership with the Barbra Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. Our goal is to provide children, who might not otherwise have access, with free literary materials and programming.  

What kind of Books do you have, and are they free? 

The Curiosity Cruiser mostly focuses on ensuring that every kid that stops by gets a free book to take home and keep. Yes, you heard me right, FREE. We do take books available for check-out from the library system with us to some sites, but we make sure they are carefully marked, and patrons are aware they differ from their free book.  

We carry a wide variety of books. Our selection has something for everyone in a range from age 0 to 18 years. There are picture books, early readers, beginning and middle chapter, and young adult novels. We even have a good selection of graphic novels! 

What kind of programming and events do you do? 

We do all sorts of programming. Our focus right now is providing the communities we visit with pop-up libraries. For this type of program, we set up in community center parking lots or parks for a couple hours. Each child that stops by has the chance to pick out a free book and pick up a take home STEM activity kit. 

When we are allowed to start doing hands-on programing again, we will work with different community centers and set up weekly “classes.”  Here, children that sign up can pick out a book and take part in a either a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or literacy-based lesson. These lessons include things like NaNoWriMo, skits, Lego robots, paper roller coaster construction, coding, and so much more.  

Other event programming includes food drives, holiday parades, school visits, fairs, and anything else we are invited to attend.  

Does my child have to be with me to get a book? 

We understand that children have all kinds of after-school activities, and they might not always be with you. If you ever see us and stop by, just let us know how old your kiddo is and we will let you pick out a book for them. It doesn’t matter if you are mom, dad, grandma, aunt, or any other relation to the child, or even if it’s more than one child, if you have kids at home we will help find them a good book.   

How many vehicles are in the fleet? 

The fleet currently consists of 3 vehicles, but was just approved for a fourth! Our vehicles include a modified box delivery truck and 2 modified utility vans. Curiosity Cruiser 1 (CC1), the box delivery truck, is our biggest vehicle. You are most likely going to see this one at park events or school giveaways. Our other 2 cruisers, Curiosity Cruiser 2 (CC2) and Curiosity Cruiser 3 (CC3), are used for programing and park pop-ups. CC2 is a literacy-based programing vehicle, whereas CC3 is our STEM-based vehicle. This means more shelves for CC2 and extra counter space and tablet lockers for CC3. 

Take a tour of the Curiosity Cruisers

How many books do you give away?  

 In 2021, we gave away 24,267 books and saw 23,561 children! We hope to give away even more this year.  

Now that you’ve gotten the chance to learn about us, we hope to see you all at our future events and site visits! 

For the current semester our weekly schedule is as follows: 

Monday:  

East Harris County Activity Center

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM 

7340 Spencer Hwy, Pasadena, TX 77505

Riley Chambers Community Center 

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM 

808 1/2 Magnolia Ave, Crosby, TX 77532 

Tuesday: 

Spring Branch Family Development Center 

11: 00 AM – 1:30 PM 

Break 

3:30 PM – 5:00 PM 

8575 Pitner Rd, Houston, TX 77080 

Thursday: 

Finnigan Park Community Center 

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM 

4900 Providence St, Houston, TX 77020 

Lincoln Park Community Center 

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM 

979 Grenshaw St, Houston, TX 77088 

*Cruiser stops are weather permitting. The cruiser also follows the same holiday schedule as the other library branches. Please check our social media each day for any notice of cancelation. * 

Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog  for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

What Kids Think About the Curiosity Cruiser

 The Curiosity Cruiser strives to provide the children who visit with good books and a smile. We love seeing kids leave with a new book they will love. This is what preschooler Briseid Flores receives every week.

On Tuesdays, Briseid and her mother stop by the Curiosity Cruiser, at Spring Branch Family Development Center, to check out library books and pick out a free book to keep.  We decided to ask her what she thought about the overall experience.  Here is what she said:

Curiosity Cruiser (CC): Do you like reading?
Briseid: YES! I really like it.

CC: What is your favorite subject or book?
Briseid: My favorite books are Peppa Pig, William and Piggy, and Mulan!

CC: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Briseid: I want to be a painter. I love painting and art!

CC: Have you received books from the Curiosity Cruiser?
Briseid: YES. Angelina Ballerina, Mulan and others. I love them.

CC: What do you like best about the Curiosity Cruiser?
Briseid: I get a new book every week and like the crafts that are given out.

Her mother, Genesis Garcia, went on to add, “ Every week my child gets enrichment, and a new book! It’s something new, and it’s wonderful that you guys are out here providing books for children. Her vocabulary has improved, and we can’t wait for the next Tuesday when you guys are here! Thank you !”

Thank you Briseid and Genesis! We love seeing you out at our stops and we look forward to many more visits.

To everyone else reading, please feel free to swing by any of our stops and say hi.

Check out http://www.hcpl.net/blog  for more Harris County Public Library related blogs!

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Curiosity Cruiser is a state-of-the-art mobile library that provides Houston children with access to books and exciting educational programs that integrate reading with science, math, technology, writing, and the arts.

Harris County Public Library
713-274-6600
CuriosityCruiser@HCPL.net
HCPL.Net

The Harris County Public Library system provides a broad range of traditional and online library services through 26 branch libraries in Harris County, Texas.