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franklin county times
Lori Skinner

Literary celebrations bring extra joy to March

Do you want to know a secret? Librarians love to celebrate unusual things! One of our favorite days to celebrate is Pi Day, March 14, with pie!

Pi, a mathematical constant commonly represented by 3.14, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. This number is also an irrational number, a decimal with no end and no repeating pattern, and it has been the object of human fascination for more than 4,000 years.

If you are looking for an easy introduction to pi for a younger audience, “Happy Pi Day to You!: All About Measuring Circles” by Bonnie Worth and illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu is a fantastic option from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library. It features Dr. Seuss’ beloved Cat in the Hat. Readers will learn to recognize circles in various forms and then learn about circumference, diameter and pi concepts. This title has the hallmark language style of Dr. Seuss’ works.

For middle-grade audiences, check out “Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi: A Math Adventure” by Cindy Neuschwander and illustrated by Wayne Geehan. This series opener features Sir Cumference and his son Radius ineptly dealing with his stomach ache by turning the intrepid knight into a dragon! Radius must use math to save his father before the knights vanquish the dragon.

Another fun math read for middle-grade audiences is “Math Curse” by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Mrs. Fibonacci didn’t mean to curse her student when she said, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem” – but a curse it is!

Everything suddenly becomes a math problem for our narrator to figure out in the course of the day. This can be a hilarious read-aloud, especially if the reader uses body language to express the mounting panic our student encounters as they realize math is in everything.

“Navigating Early” by Newberry medal winner Clare Vanderpool is a Michael L. Printz Honor Winner.  When Jack is sent from his home in Kansas to a boarding school in Maine, he doesn’t expect to make a friend out of Early Auden. Early is one of the strangest boys Jack has ever encountered: He reads the number pi as a story and keeps to himself.

Despite their differences, the two boys connect over their feelings of loneliness. This friendship leads them on an adventure on the Appalachian Trail, where they encounter people and discoveries that will risk their friendship and their lives.

Readers of nonfiction will enjoy “A History of Pi” by Petr Beckamnn. Beckmann renders a history of pi in a way that will allow readers to skip areas that might be heavy with formulas without losing the narrative of how pi has evolved through the centuries.

We also recently celebrated National Read Across America Day, with schools and students across the nation taking part. I thought it would be great to share a selection of books that celebrate the pure joy and laughter to be found in language and books, as National Read Across America Day is celebrated on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2.

Works by Dr. Seuss are an absolute staple for introducing new readers to books. When my son was a baby, we read Dr. Seuss’s “ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book” so often that I had it memorized and could recite it as we drove to the grocery store. We then graduated to another favorite, “A Great Day for Up!,” which we still quote in our household when it is hard to get a little one out of bed in the morning. The creativity, lyrical rhythm and imagination in this book and other Dr. Seuss works are hallmarks of his writing style and continue to be recognized as important elements for emerging readers.

Each year the Theodore Seuss Geisel Award is bestowed on an author and illustrator of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers. The 2021 medal winner, “See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog,” written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, is a hilarious trio of tales of a dog who is at odds with the narrator of the story. Definitely check this one out for your beginning readers.  

A funny read for young audiences is “Llama Destroys the World” by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox. A sequel published in 2020, “Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse,” is a great follow up for fans of poor unwitting Llama.

Another great read for older elementary students is “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors” by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Adam Rex. Discover the “true” origins of the epic battle of rock, paper, scissors as each of our characters battle opponents and find their way to each other. I freely admit I will never outgrow this book as a personal favorite and can guarantee it will appeal to any reluctant reader with a sense of humor.

For young adults and adults, check out “Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters” by Mark Dunn.  Young Ella Minnow Pea tells the story of a town that bans the use of individual letters as they fall off of a memorial statue dedicated to Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” As the island edges towards totalitarianism, Ella works to restore the use of the full 26-letter alphabet.

Lori Skinner is head librarian for Northwest-Shoals Community College.