Music to Your Ears: Traditional Gospel

Traditional Gospel music is performed by large choirs, smaller combos and individuals. The uniting theme is that the music is written to express either personal or a communal belief, namely, offering praise or thanks to God and/or Christ. The origins of it can be traced back to a period when America allowed slavery. The African cultures were combined with Western Christianity, with one result being the emergence of the spiritual.

What most would identify today as “traditional gospel” began in the early 20th century with roots in the Blues and the “Holy Roller” churches, which offered a more enthusiastically participatory form of worship. They encouraged members to “testify,” speaking or singing spontaneously about their faith.

In the 1920s many artists worked as traveling preachers. They started making records in a style that melded traditional religious themes with the musical aspects of barrelhouse, boogie-woogie and blues.

With the popularity of the Mills Brothers around WWII, the quartet became the preferred format for the Gospel group. After the war, the spiritual emotion in the delivery was ramped up, ad-libbing during the song occurred regularly and the music began to take direction from the character of the lead vocalist with the rest of the group relegated to a supporting role.

When roots music, e.g., Folks, Blues, Spirituals enjoyed a resurgence in the late 50s, early 60s Gospel received a boost in popularity as well. In fact, Gospel had a huge influence on popular music in the 60s and 70s; Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar were award winning musicals on Broadway with best-selling soundtracks and many R&B singers got their start in the church choir. Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett and Al Green all had roots in the church and Gospel music.

My picks for Traditional Gospel:

aretha franklin amazing grace
Photo by Brett Jordan Flickr

Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings (1972) Atlantic Records

Aretha could sing the ingredients from a candy bar wrapper and it would sound great!  This was originally released as a double LP album in 1972. It was recorded at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The recording has been remastered and expanded.

The highlights, a wonderfully soulful rendition of Amazing Grace clocking in at 10+ minutes, Mary Don’t You Weep, with Aretha telling the story accompanied by the Southern California Community Choir along with the Queen of Soul’s moving rendition of Carole King’s You’ve Got A Friend which wanders in and out of Precious Lord, Take My Hand. If you aren’t a believer you will be after listening to this recording!

Franklin won a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance for the LP and not only is it one of the biggest selling albums of her career, it’s one of the biggest selling live gospel albums of all time

The staples singers
The Staple Singers Wikipedia

The Best of the Staple Singers (1990)  Stax Records

Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914–2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne and Mavis. The family began appearing in Chicago area churches in 1948. They had various recording contracts throughout the years, but enjoyed their biggest success with Stax Records in the early 70s and were part of that great Muscle Shoals sound.

The Staples family had several crossover hits on the Billboard Top 100 Singles and the R&B charts, but make no mistake about it, they were a Gospel act through and through and while this album contains a few covers, The Band’s – The Weight and Otis Redding’s – Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay the majority of the tracks are songs about improving your life and creating a positive self-image. Highlights; I’ll Take You There – The intro with the bass line and Mavis first line, “I know a place…” her sisters background singing, the horns punching, I dare you to sit still. Respect Yourself a simple melody with a powerful message, “If you don’t respect yourself, ain’t nobody going give a good cahoot”.

If you want inspirational music the library has many CDs representing lots of labels and musicians so stop by and check out the selection.

Top Five: Picture Books that Celebrate Spring

It’s hard to top a sunny, spring day in the Pacific Northwest. With our snow-capped mountains, blue skies, and robins abound, it’s the perfect time to be outside. Here are five picture books that will inspire you and your kids to celebrate spring.

UpinthegardenUp in the Garden and Down in the Dirt 
by Kate Messner

Up in the garden, the world is full of green–leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt there is a busy world of earthworms digging, snakes hunting, skunks burrowing, and all the other animals that make a garden their home.



P. Zonka Lays an Egg
by Julie Paschkis

All of the chickens in the farmyard lay eggs regularly–all except for P. Zonka, that is. She’s too busy looking at the colors of the world around her.




Finding Spring
by Carin Berger

Instead of hibernating as he should, a little bear cub goes out in search of spring–and he thinks he’s found it!



And Then It's Spring

And then it’s spring
by Julie Fogliano

A young boy eagerly awaits to see the seeds he has planted to sprout from the brown earth.



Golden BunnyThe Golden Bunny
by Margaret Wise Brown

This wonderful collection of bunny stories and poems, by the author of Goodnight Moon, has been reissued for a new generation in a beautiful hardcover edition.


Kitsap Regional Library’s youth collection development librarian writes Top Five, a series of blog posts that highlight five recent and excellent titles within a youth collection.

Bringing Kitsap History to Life

Newspapers tell a story.  Week after week they chronicle the comings and goings, births and deaths, industry, politics, and daily life of a group of people bound together by geography and community.  To read a newspaper is to understand a place.

On February 14, Kitsap Regional Library launched online access to the contents of the Bainbridge Review published from 1941 through 1946.  Readers are able to browse through the issues, which are digital reproductions of the actual pages, search for a particular keyword, such as a name or business, or browse subject headings of interest.

What might you find on these pages?  During the years 1941 through 1946, the Bainbridge Review documented events when, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, more than 200 Bainbridge Islanders were the first of 100,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans sent to camps for the duration of the war.  Walt and Milly Woodward, owners of the newspaper, openly opposed the incarceration and made sure the lives of these Islanders, far away from home, were chronicled in the pages of the Review.  This was news, they thought, just as much as civilian defense efforts, the draft, and additional ferry runs to the Bremerton ship yard. To accomplish this, the Woodwards asked a number of internees to serve as camp reporters.  Their articles from Manzanar and then Minidoka, full of marriages, sporting events, and daily life, provide some of the most compelling reading in these issues.

Access to the Bainbridge Review from 1941 through 1946 is available by visiting

Tell Me a Story

How often do you tell stories?  Once a day, once a week, once a month?  Chances are, if you’re human, you tell them every day, you just don’t think that you do.  When you tell yourself, or others, about your day, a strange encounter on the bus, a near miss running into an ex in the grocery story, that really cute thing your son did, you are telling a story.  You pick a start and an end, there’s a hero and a journey.  We are all master storytellers.

“Stories animate human life; that is their work. Stories work with people, for people, and always stories work on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided. …. human life depends on the stories we tell: the sense of self that those stories impart, the relationships constructed around shared stories, and the sense of purpose that stories both propose and foreclose.” (Arthur Frank, Letting Stories Breathe, 2010)

This is some profound stuff.  The news: a story; the latest best seller: a story; your Instagram posts: a story; that hot office gossip: a story.  And with all the stories we share and encounter, we crave more.  In recent years there’s been a rise in storytelling events (both true and fictional) across media.  A story takes on greater meaning when it is shared and experienced with others, whether in person or virtually.  The Ted Talks phenomena and the Moth story hour have joined a long tradition of people gathering to hear stories.

Here on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas oral storytelling has been around for a long time.  The Story People of Clallam County have been hosting the largest storytelling event in Washington and Oregon for 21 years every October. Bainbridge Island’s writer’s community Fields End sponsors a Story Slam twice a year.    Bremerton’s Kitsap Story Night is going strong with a monthly event at the Cloverleaf Bar and Grill (Shameless plug: the Kitsap Regional Library Sylvan Way location has teamed up with Kitsap Story Night: our next event is April 2nd at 7 PM)

If you think about it, these more formalized versions of sitting around a campfire telling tales, help create a sense of belonging, and a greater understanding of ourselves and our community.  Like I said, it’s some pretty profound stuff.

If you’re interested in learning more about the place of story in our lives try The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall or Our Secret Territory: the essence of Storytelling by Laura Simms.

storytelling animal    Our secret territory

If you’re interested in upping your storytelling game  you may find the following two titles valuable. The Storyteller’s Start-up Book : finding, learning, performing, and using folktales including twelve tellable tales by Margaret Read MacDonald or The Art of Storytelling : easy steps to presenting an unforgettable story by John Walsh

Story tellers startup book   art of storytelling


Dig Into Reading with Graphic Novels

When I was first working as a children’s librarian, I had a very frustrated mother come to me with her son. He did not like to read and she didn’t know what to do. She wanted him to be reading chapter books and he had no interest. I started to talk to her son and asked him about his interests, but he was not forthcoming. I decided to take him over to our graphic novel section and when we arrived his face lit up because he recognized a specific graphic novel that his friend had been reading at school. He scooped it off the shelf and started paging through it. His mom was not so excited about this discovery, but I was able to explain what a graphic novel is and that kids could actually benefit from reading them. In the end, she decided to let her son check some out. I was absolutely thrilled to see her son leaving with books in hand that he was excited about!

Graphic novels have become more mainstream in recent years and many people are aware of their existence. However, I would like to define what a graphic novel is for those who wonder or might not be familiar. There are variations on the definition but the one I find most fitting is the American Library Association’s definition. They describe graphic novels as “full length stories told in paneled, sequential graphics.”

Like the mother in my anecdote, some parents are skeptical as to why they would allow their children to read a graphic novel. It has been shown that there are benefits to kids reading graphic novels besides the fact that it is a pleasurable experience. Graphic novels are often highly beneficial for reluctant readers, specifically boys. The visual nature of the novel pulls them into the story. Graphic novels also appeal to advanced readers because of the intricate plots and narrative structure. They can also be highly beneficial to English Language Learners and students with special needs because the images provide contextual clues for the written story.

There are graphic novels for just about any age group from kindergarten up to adults. The subject matter varies widely and there is truly something for everyone. The library is a great resource if you are interested in exploring graphic novels with your child. You can always ask a youth services librarian for help finding them and giving specific suggestions. The American Library Association also has grade specific lists that can be found at

I will leave you with a list of some of my favorite graphic novels for kids, tweens, and teens:

Benny and PennyBenny and Penny in Lost and Found by Geoffrey Hayes

Penny the mouse tries to help her brother Benny find his favorite hat, but Benny warns her that he is in a bad mood. Gr K-2


lunch ladyLunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

The school lunch lady is a secret crime fighter who uncovers an evil plot to replace all the popular teachers with robots. Gr 3-5


BabymouseBabymouse, Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. Holm

An imaginative mouse dreams of being queen of the world, but will settle for an invitation to the most popular girl’s slumber party. Gr 3-5


amuletAmulet, The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

Two ordinary children, Emily and Navin, enter a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a talking fox, and a giant robot in order to save their mother. Gr 4 and up


zitaZita the Spacegirl: Far From Home  by Ben Hatke

When young Zita discovers a device that opens a portal to another place, and her best friend is abducted, she is compelled to set out on a strange journey from star to star in order to get back home. Gr 3-5


sisters.aspxSisters by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier chronicles a three week road trip she took with her family when she was a tween age girl. She specifically focuses on the contentious relationship she has with her younger sister. Gr 3-5


El DeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell

Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences revolving around school, friends, and the large hearing aid she wore called a Phonic Ear. A poignant story about a young girl finding her place in the world. Gr 6-8


One SummerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

Two friends, Rose and Windy, have vacationed every summer at the same beach ever since they were little girls. This summer is different and they are lucky to have each other as they learn about secrets, sorrow, and growing up. Gr 8 and up

Great graphic novels for teens can be found at YALSA site.

Perfect Audiobooks for Spring Break!

Find the perfect audiobook for a spring break family road trip.  Teen librarian, Stefanie, shares her top 5 picks for that family road trip!

Spring break is here, and that means it’s time for one of our favorite American traditions- the family road trip.  But what happens when you’ve played “I Spy” a hundred times and bored voices start chanting “are we there yet?”  Listen to a book!  It can be a challenge to find an audiobook that not only has a great narrator, but is appropriate for a range of ages and will appeal to both boys and girls.  In order by length, here are some all-star audiobooks that will entice kids in upper elementary through high school- as well as mom and dad and even the family dog.

Ghetto Cowboy NeriGhetto Cowboy by G. Neri, narrated by JD Jackson.   4 hours.   After a string of bad behavior, twelve-year-old Cole is sent to Philadelphia to live with the father he’s never met.  He’s surprised to find that his dad works in a stable, caring for horses that he and his friends saved from the slaughterhouse.  Neri’s captivating tale, inspired by real-life black urban cowboys, resonates in Jackson’s rich baritone performance.

The running dream Van DraanenThe Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, narrated by Laura Flanagan.  7 hours.  When a school bus accident leaves sixteen-year-old track star Jessica an amputee, she is devastated, unable to imagine a life without running.  But when she returns to school with a prosthetic limb, her track team rallies behind her, rekindling her dream of running again.  Although the protagonist is in high school, this story of struggle and triumph is perfect for the whole family.

wonder palacioWonder by R.J. Palacio, narrated by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl and Kate Rudd.  8 hours.  Ten-year-old Auggie was born with extreme facial abnormalities and even after 27 surgeries, he still gets horrified looks from strangers.  Now, after years of homeschooling, he’s entering fifth grade and headed to a private school.  As he endures the taunting, fear and pity of his classmates, he struggles to be seen as the regular kid he knows himself to be.  The story is told from multiple age perspectives, including Auggie’s and his teenage sister’s, and the multi-cast performance is a hit.

cinder marissa meyerCinder by Marissa Meyer, narrated by Rebecca Soler.  10 hours.  As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story.  Don’t let this strange premise turn you away- Meyer’s excellent twist on the fairy tale has wide appeal because of the action, suspense, and witty characters.

smekdayThe True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex and narrated by Bahni Turpin.  10 hours 30 minutes.  There’s nothing like a post-apocalyptic comedy about an eighth-grader’s road trip with an alien companion (to find her missing mother and save the planet, nonetheless) to get the whole family bonding.  Hopefully your own family’s road trip will be this laugh-out-loud funny.

Now that you’re set with in-car entertainment, it’s time to hit the open road!  But a word of warning before you hit “play”:  make sure the story will be finished by the time you reach your destination.  If it’s not, you’re likely keep driving just so you can hear what happens.

For more recommendations, don’t hesitate to ask any of our wonderful youth services librarians!

New Biography & Memoir Titles for Every Reader

Choosing to read a biography or memoir allows us readers into another person’s life so that we may learn to see the world in a different way. Some biographies are inspirational; others are entertaining. Some biographies provide insight into a particular time period or culture while some biographies satisfy a reader’s curiosity about a real person, whether it’s a contemporary or an historical figure. One thing is true–there always seems to be a tempting collection of new biographies to choose from.

It’s interesting that two of the most interesting titles of the new biographies are both written by authors trying to deal with the death of a parent.

contentH is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald is a book that first drew my attention because of the bold graphic of the hawk on the cover. I am truly attracted to books with well-designed covers! And it seems that the content supports the strong cover as this book has already won awards and much praise in the UK. The book follows the author as she chooses to raise and train a goshawk, a vicious predator, as a means to cope with her grief after her father’s sudden death.

untitledThe other book is called Bettyville by George Hodgman and it follows the author as he moves from Manhattan to Paris (Missouri) to care for his aging Mother. Paris was not a happy place for the author who had trouble with his parents and the small town mindset while trying to come to terms with his sexuality. His parents didn’t really approve of how he turned out (gay) and this led to hurt and silence. However, Hodgman learns to appreciate some of the lost beauty of small town America before family farms and small businesses were replaced by Walmarts. Along the way he and his Mother come to terms with each other with respect and compassion. All of us will deal with this situation and our own Bettyville at one time and we can only hope to find such compassion as Hodgman has.

For more new biographies and memoirs click here.


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