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Pool smarts

SwimmingSchool’s out, and despite the rain at the beginning of the week, we’re in for some warm days.  If you’re looking for some pool time, check out the swim programs offered through the City of Sunnyvale.  Lessons and open recreational swim are offered at Columbia Park Pool, Sunnyvale Middle School Pool, Washington Park/Swim Center, and Sunnyvale Swim Complex at Fremont High School.  Hours and programs vary by location.  To find out more, go to the City’s Swimming and Aquatics page.

Safety is always a concern during pool season.  We may breathe a sigh of relief once our kids have learned to swim, but even swimmers need to be cautious around water.  Becoming “pool safe” is a process, and it’s a good idea for families to review water safety together before hitting the pool or beach.

The U.S. Consumer Product & Safety Commission’s Pool Safely page is rich in educational information and resources for families.  Elementary aged kids can review what they’ve learned through the interactive game Adventures of Splish and Splash.  Much of the information is available in Spanish as well. 

There’s one more resource I’d like to share.  I’ve recently run across an article titled Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.   Marine Safety Specialist and retired U.S. Coast Guard member Mario Vittone describes how to tell if someone’s in trouble in the water.  Surprisingly, drowning doesn’t look like one might expect.  There’s no splashing and calling out; instead, it’s very quiet and it looks much like treading water.  As we all work to keep our kids happy and safe in the pool, I want to help get the word out about what to watch for.

Now let’s go out and have a safe, fun, and active summer.


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Happy Love a Tree Day

Today is Love a Tree Day!  This relatively unknown holiday falls every year on May 16th.  It’s a good day to plant a tree, water a tree, learn about a tree, and yes, hug a tree.

On a more personal note, the holiday falls during my parents’ visit this year.  And that’s perfect timing.  My dad has a bit of Johnny Appleseed in him.  For the first several years of his retirement, he was all about trees.  On a piece of land in Oregon, he walked miles and miles, digging and planting.  With 100 pounds of Douglas Fir seedlings on his back, he planted the first mile.  He then hiked back to the car for another 100 pounds to plant from mile two to mile three.  Back to the car for another load of seedlings, another mile, and another round of digging and planting.  When I asked why, he simply responded that this would be a good forest one day.  It’s getting closer – the first year’s trees are now twenty feet tall.  In another generation or two, this will be a grand old-growth forest.  My dad is no longer planting his forest, but this year on Love a Tree Day, Johnny Appleseed is In The House.  And we are celebrating.

For a celebration of your own, check out our growing collection of tree tales.

redwoods 1 15Follow a young boy as he wanders through a forest of giant redwoods, using only his imagination and a book he finds as he’s riding the New York subway.


appleseed 1 15Many know the legend of Johnny Appleseed, the Massachusetts man who planted apple trees all the way to California.  But this true story of Johnny Appleseed, or John Chapman, is even greater than the legend.


picture-a-tree-1 x 15This award-winning new book asks, “What do you see, when you picture a tree?”  Lyrical language and sculptured illustrations invite readers to take a new and creative look at trees.


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lenore finds a friend

Lenore and Brutus

Jon Katz, author of the children’s book Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm, has a new tale to tell.  When puppy Lenore comes to Bedlam Farm, she doesn’t quite fit in.  She only wants to socialize while all the other animals have work to do.  In Lenore Finds a Friend, Katz uses his own colorful photography to tell a story of surprising friendship.  If you’ve not yet seen the Bedlam Farm books, check them out.  For regular updates on the happenings at Bedlam Farm, visit Jon Katz’s Bedlam Farm journal.

It might be hard to get to upstate New York to see Bedlam Farm in person, but if your family wants a day on the farm there are lots of options closer to home.

Hidden Villa is located in Los Altos Hills, adjoining the Rancho San Antonio open space preserve.  Visitors can tour the organic farm and gardens or explore open wilderness on over eight miles of groomed trails.  Hidden Villa offers special events throughout the year, including sheep shearing day coming up this April 6th.

An operating family farm since 1922, Webb Ranch covers over 230 acres near Stanford University.  Riding lessons are offered through Webb Ranch stables and trail rides can be booked on Saturdays as weather permits.  Local produce in season is available at the on-site farmer’s market.

In what is now known as the city of Fremont, Robert Patterson and his family settled on 205 acres of fertile farmland and called it Ardenwood.  Visitors can go back in time to the 1850′s Patterson Ranch – a working farm complete with a restored Victorian mansion, elaborate gardens, and a horse-drawn railway.  Docents are dressed in vintage garb and a blacksmith shop is open for public demonstrations.

It’s all about the goats at Harley Farms.  Set on nine acres in the coastal town of Pescadero, this restored 1910 dairy farm is home to 200 alpine goats.  Visitors can take a tour (which includes the chance to milk a goat) or simply stroll the grounds to see goats and llamas in the pens and pasture.  No visit is complete without samples of fresh ricotta, chevre and goat milk feta from the Harley Farms cheese shop.

May through September is berry picking time at Phipps Country Store and Farm.  Kids can roam acres of Pescadero farmland while picking organic strawberries and olallieberries.  An extra treat is the post berry picking stop at the Country Store, which offers fresh jam, dried herbs, local honey, and over 75 varieties of heirloom and exotic dry beans.

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Knitting, Lanyards, and the Next Big Thing

Origami birdsWhat’s hot in children’s crafts seems to run in cycles.  I remember when my daughter was in the third grade and knitting was all the rage with her group of friends.  Her (very patient) teacher allowed the kids to knit during certain subjects in class.  He described the girls as a bunch of miniature grandmas with knitting needles going clickety-clack, clickety-clack in time to his lessons.  My daughter and I went to the store to buy knitting needles and fancy yarn, only to find the most coveted colors sold out.

That was years ago, but the pattern continues with school-aged kids.  When I first arrived at the Sunnyvale Library, we were flooded with requests for books on lanyards.  There were not a whole lot of craft books dedicated to lanyard-making, but with some searching, we were able to get a nice selection of guides for those kids wanting woven plastic doo-dads.  Now lanyards have gone quiet, and ORIGAMI is in.  We got the jump on that craze.  Not only are there Origami books on the shelves, there are more arriving each month.

How do we know what to buy –  not just for the crafts section but for all the Children’s Department shelves?  We read reviews, talk with other librarians, follow well-known authors, check Amazon top-selling lists, keep an eye on forthcoming books in publisher journals, and generally keep our ears to the ground for what’s new, popular, unique, or useful.  Some of our best reconnaissance, however, comes from the kids in the Children’s Department.  We’re happy to take requests and see if we can add special items to our collection.  If the kids all are talking about something new, please let us know!  Whether balloon animals or button spaceships – when the newest craze starts appearing in backpacks, we want the how-to books ready for check-out.

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A Haunting Read


A new children’s nonfiction title caught my eye last week – Horrible Hauntings by Shirin Yim Bridges.  Sure, it’s about ghosts – always a crowd-pleaser.  But in this case, the main characters literally leap from the pages in swirls of howls, screams, and hoofbeats.  Horrible Hauntings may look like an ordinary book, but through the magic of 3D augmented reality, readers can interact with spirits that appear to materialize from the pages.  Download the free app from Google Play or the Apple App Store, aim your device at the page, and watch as ten different well-known hauntings come to life.  For a little taste of the supernatural, check out the demo here.

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