Out + About: December Nature Guide + Book List

As it gets cooler and the days get shorter, it is even more crucial to get outside for our mental health and wellbeing. However, that can also be more difficult with shorter days and cooler temperatures. Below, I am going to feature as many night time events and weekend events as possible to aid you in your December outdoor activities!

Ice Skating in Rail Road Park-Credit, AL.com

11/27/2020 Black Friday Outside at Oak Mountain State Park

Winter in Oak Mountain State Park – Credit ALparks.com

Head to North Shelby’s neighbor, Oak Mountain State Park, for a guided, socially distanced hike on the Maggie’s Glen loop at the North TrailHead. The Hike will begin at 10:00 am and will take a couple of hours. Don’t forget to bring your camera, water, and snacks! 

We have plenty of books in our collection to aid you on your hiking journey!


Call Number: J796.50 MckD

This book is a simple beginner’s guide to hiking. It covers everything from what to bring, pack, and wear. It includes straightforward chapters with bright pictures and tips along the way. This book is a great choice for comfortable readers who are interested in taking up this wonderful sport!

Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail

Call Number: E ParH

This book is a part of our Easy Readers collection and is perfect for introducing younger readers to the sport of hiking. With large texts and beautiful pictures, readers can follow Amelia Bedelia on her school hiking trip!

Outdoor Adventure! Hiking

Call Number: J796.51 KleA

This book is a more detailed hiking guide and would be a great read if you are preparing for a longer hike. It covers topics such as making a plan, wild animals, dehydration, and even conservation. Because it touches on different topics than the books above, it is another solid read to add to your list. The book also includes a detailed packing list and recipes for trail mix. If you are looking for tangible examples of how to prepare for your next hike, look no further.

In addition to hiking, December brings yet another launch by NASA to the international space station. On Dec 5th, at 11:39 EST, NASA and SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket to the international space station. This rocket will not be carrying people, but rather cargo and supplies for the astronauts already at the space station. The rocket will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida.

We have many books in our collection to learn more about NASA!

What Is NASA?

Call Number: J629 FabS (in the who is/what is section)

The What Is NASA book is a detailed guide to the history and foundations of NASA, starting with its inception during the Cold War and ending with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, this book is a great guide to one of America’s most beloved organizations. The book also includes pictures in the back from launches and training throughout the years.

Hidden Heroes: the Human Computers of NASA

Call Number: J629.45

Did you know that some of the first black employees of NASA were from right here in Alabama? If not, that’s ok! This book is for you. Gracing the cover is Birmingham’s own Annie Easley, a human-computer for NASA during its inception at the Glenn Research Center in Ohio. While not featured in the recent Hidden Figures movie, Easley was one of the first handful of black employees at NASA and was there when the organization changed names from NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) to NASA (National Air and Space Administration). When the human-computer program, which wrote the code to put the first man on the moon, ended, Easley and other human computers adapted to learning to code and became computer scientists. Learn more about Easley, Guntersville’s Jeanette Scissum, and many many more groundbreaking women in this book, Hidden Heroes.

Astronaut: Mae Jemison

Call number: JB Jemison LasA

Keeping in line with the women of NASA, did you know that the first African American woman in space was born in Decatur, AL? Yep! Mae Jemison was a quintuple threat after graduating from Stanford with a degree in Chemical Engineering, dancing as an advanced point ballerina, attending medical school at Cornell University, and of course serving as an astronaut and mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor. If anyone is going to inspire you to dream big, it is her. Learn more about Jemison’s incredible life in this biography. 

We also have many easy readers on Jemison in our collection as well for younger readers.

Picking the books to feature about NASA was a real challenge due to the many books we have that discuss everything from NASA missions, to astronauts, to space technology. I would encourage you to visit the 629.4 section of our non-fiction collection to check out some other amazing reads on NASA.

Winter Outdoor Programming

Winter GeoCaching Begins

Grab your coat and GPS! It is time for another geocaching hunt, this time for icicle and snowflake ornaments hidden around North Shelby! From Dec 1st until Feb 28th, you can participate in the North Shelby winter geocaching hunt outside of the Library! A geocaching hunt is when you utilize GPS ( google maps on your phone) to type in the coordinates in the scavenger hunt packet to identify leaves native to Alabama. The scavenger hunt includes coordinates for native trees in the park!

You can register for the geocache here!


Out + About: November Arts & Culture Guide + Book List

written by Victoria Phillips

November brings cooler weather and a slew of holidays and cultural events happening in Birmingham. Learn more about what you can celebrate this month and the books to help you do it.

National Novel Writing Month: or NaNoWriMo for short

NaNoWriMo is a website dedicated to helping people of all ages learn to write novels! Every November, students from around the world submit novels and participate in virtual writing groups. There is a program specifically dedicated to helping young writers write and submit a novel. Check it out here.

In Our Collection We have Many Books that can help young writers formulate their stories and gain confidence in their writing.

Dream it, Do it! Get Writing:

Call Number: J808 GuiC

This is an awesome book with large, easy-to-read text that helps young writers collect ideas, develop characters, get inspired, and set the scene. With colored pictures and writing activities sprinkled throughout, this book is a great resource for writers of all ages to learn how to write their 1st novel. 

Creative Writing: The Plot Thickens

Call number: J 808.02

This book dives into literacy tools that help spice up your writing. With topics like Dialogue, Diction, and Figurative language, this book is great for older readers who are ready to take their writing to the next level. It also explores topics such as genre, atmosphere, viewpoint, and structure and includes activities with each topic. If you are looking for a simple and straightforward guide to seasoning your writing, look no further.

Veterans Day:

The My Name is America Series: The Journal of Rufus Rowe A Witness to the Battle of Fredericksburg.

JF Dear

This book is a part of our My Name is America series which tells first-person diary accounts of famous events in American history. The story is written from the perspective of a local witness to the Battle of Fredericksburg, an important battle in the Civil War. This is a great middle-grade book for fluent readers.

I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg

JF I Survived

Similar to the My Name is America series, the I Survived series tells the first-person perspective of spectators who endure memorable moments in history. The I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg tells the story of a young man who experiences the battle first hand. Be sure to check out the other I Survived stories to experience other iconic moments throughout history.

Indigenous People’s Month

Among the many holidays happening this November, one is Indigenous Peoples Month! We have a variety of books to help you celebrate this year’s Indigenous Peoples Month.

Navajo Code Talkers

Call Number: J940.54

This delightful interactive book explains the work done by the Navajo Code Talkers in WWII. The Code Talkers were a select group of translators that translated secret coded messages in the Pacific front of WWII. This book comes with keyword definitions, pictures, and many coding activities. If you are interested in WWII, secret codes, and information that was once classified, this is the book for you.

Bowwow Powwow

Call Number: P ChiB

This adorable picture book is about a girl with vivid imaginations, her dog, and a love of storytelling. After attending a Powwow with her family, she falls asleep, and in her dreams, she imagines a Powwow with her dog, Itchy Boy.

Black Friday + Cyber Monday with a Sustainable Twist 

Maya’s Blanket

P BroM Spanish

P BroM Vox

Maya’s Blanket is a part of our Vox Book collection and our Spanish collection. Vox books are battery-powered books that read the story out loud to you as you flip the pages. They come charged and ready to use. Maya’s Blanket tells the story of Maya’s beloved manta (blanket) that gets repurposed into a scarf, hat, and eventually a blanket. The story inspires us to value and reuse old things and might just motivate you to consider crafting instead of shopping this Black Friday!

Get Real: What Kind of World are you Buying?

Call Number: J174 RocM

This book is a detailed dive into the story of our stuff. It touches on everything ranging from recycled water bottles to fair trade cocoa. This book will have you second-guessing the things that you are buying and thinking deeply about what happens to the items you throw away. With smaller text and text-heavy pages, this book is not for the faint at heart. I would recommend this book to older readers who are interested in the environment and sustainability and enjoy a more challenging read.

Max Goes to the Recycling Center

Call Number: E Max

This book is a part of our Easy Reader collection and is perfect for introducing younger readers to the basic concept of recycling. With simple vocabulary, large texts, and adorable illustrations, this book is a fun introduction to learning the life of our things. Check out the other books in the Max Goes collection to get an introduction to other places in our community.


Out + About: November Nature Guide + Book List

written by Victoria Phillips

Happy November! Now that it is starting to get cooler, there are many things to look forward to doing socially distanced outside! We’ve got you covered with a selection of books to aid you as you get outside and enjoy this month!

November 5th – 19: Taurids Meteor Shower

The Southern Taurids Meteor shower, which happens annually from September 23rd to November 19th will peak November 5th. On November 5th after 12am midnight, you should be able to see around 10 meteors per hour. This shower is caused from debris dropping off of the Comet 2P/Encke. (1)

Image of the Taurid Meteor Shower

Some books in our collection that will aid you in viewing this shower are:

Astronomy for Kids: How to Explore Outerspace with Binoculars, a Telescope, or Just your Eyes!

Call Number: J523 BetB

This book is broken down into three sections based on how you will be viewing the night sky. Each section discusses what you should look for when viewing space with either your naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope. This book reads more like a guide and is super easy to use and filled with beautiful illustrations and pictures.

Meteor Showers

Call Number: J523.53 KelJ

This book is easy to read with large text, colored facts, and lots of pictures. It explains what a meteor, asteroid and comet are (did you know they aren’t the same thing?) and talks briefly about how scientists observe these bolide objects!

Night Sky: National Geographic Kids 

Call Number: E520 DriS

This book is a part of our easy reader non- fiction collection. With large words and plenty of pictures, this book will be a hit with new readers. This book covers the basics of space in a more general manner. It is a great starter book for introducing younger readers to some space vocabulary.

Asteroids and Meteoroids

Call Number: 523.44 HanG

This is another book in our easy reader non- fiction collection that helps younger readers learn the basic concepts of asteroids and meteors. It covers how they form, why we can see them from Earth, and where many of them reside in our solar system.

Fall Bird Migration September – November:

Image of a Painted Bunting: A bird you can spot in Lower Alabama!

The cooler weather brings changes in the sky as thousands of birds migrate in and out of Alabama. Grab your binoculars and a book to enjoy this special time.

Some books in our collection that will aid you in your birding are:

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

Call Number: j598.072 CatA

This book is amazing. It is illustrated and written in a style similar to a newspaper comic strip. The bright illustrations and quirky commentary hook young readers and invite them to consider birding as an exciting and exhilarating pastime. This book breaks down everything from what to bring when birding to common birds to look for.

Citizen Scientists

Call Number: J590.72 BurL

This book is a personal favorite of mine. It is broken down by season and introduces young readers to the concept of citizen science. Citizen science is  when everyday citizens participate in scientific research by collecting data and observations about the world around them and then send that data to a lab. Winter birding on page 25 discusses collecting data after fall migration. Check this book out if your student is interested in nature, environmental science, biology, or wildlife.

Animal Classes Birds

Call Number: E598.2 MurJ

This book is a part of our easy readers non-fiction collection. It is a general book that introduces younger readers to the basic biology and habits of birds. With large texts and plenty of pictures, this is a wonderful book for kids interested in the outdoors.

What to check out around Birmingham!

North Shelby Library Geocaching at Heardmont Park: Leaf Scavenger Hunt!

Heardmont Park (Source: Melynda Schauer)

Grab your GPS! It is time to hunt for fall leaves! From now until November 20th, you can participate in the North Shelby fall leaf geocaching hunt at Heardmont Park. A geocaching hunt is when you utilize GPS ( google maps on your phone) to type in the coordinates in the scavenger hunt packet to identify leaves native to Alabama. The scavenger hunt includes coordinates for native trees in the park!

You can register for the geocache here!

Alabama Auduobon talk “Black Birders and the Deep South” – Nov 18th 6:00pm – 7:30 pm (Registration Required – Free)

This is an incredible line-up with “Black Birders Week” founder and ornithology Masters student Corina Newsome. Black Birders Week was started out of an incident that sparked controversy after, Christian Cooper, a seasoned Birder  and board member of NYC Audubon had the cops called on him in Central Park. Tens of thousands of black birders participated in Black Birders Week across the nation which spurred  many webinars, talks, and virtual events about diversity and inclusion within outdoor spaces. Christian Cooper will also be a part of this talk as well as Alabama’s own Christopher Joe who owns Birds and Nature Tours LLC which takes people on birding tours throughout Alabama’s Black Belt region.

Plants in the quarry: Virtual Guide to Fall plants in Ruffner Mountain’s Quarry:


Ruffner Mountain  Quarry in the Fall. This is accessible via hiking trails at Ruffner Mountain Preserve

This virtual video introduces you to some of the many plants you can see around Birmingham this fall. Head out to Ruffner Mountain Park to follow along with  the guided video and look for these plants yourself. Did you know that Alabama ranks 5th in the Nation for biodiversity (i.e. number of counted species)? It is the most biodiverse state East of the Mississippi River, and number 1 in the US for Freshwater fish species! Talks like these help you discover why our state ranks higher than Alaska, Florida, and even Hawaii! (2)


1:  https://www.space.com/33974-best-night-sky-events.html

2:  http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3462#:~:text=With%20more%20than%204%2C533%20documented,east%20of%20the%20Mississippi%20River.

Explore These

Explore These: National Hispanic Heritage Month

From September 15 through October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a time period to recognize what Hispanic Americans have contributed to the culture, history, and enrichment of the United States. Reading the following books is a good way to celebrate Hispanic Americans not only during this time period of recognition, but all year round!

These books are available through the Shelby County Public Library System. Place a hold through our online catalog or call 439-5509.


Crafts with Ms. Carol: Give a Hoot!

Do you think you can make a fun birdie craft, using only simple tools and materials that you probably already have around the house?   Well, owl think you can!


  • a brown paper grocery sack
  • some colored paper (you can use construction paper or just a colored envelope from your household mail)
  • a pencil
  • a saucer
  • a cup
  • kids’ scissors
  • glue or a glue stick
  • a black pen or maybe a button or two from your adult’s sewing kit.


Place the folded paper grocery sack flat on a sturdy table and, on it, use your pencil to trace around an upside-down small saucer.  (This will be your owl’s body and head). Then, on the same sack, trace your left hand and then your right hand – – your adult can help with this. (These hand tracings will be your owl’s wings.)

Trace around hands and saucer.
Looks good!

Now cut out the circle and the tracings of your hands, using kids’ scissors.

Cut out the tracings. Ask your adult if you need help!

Then, on the colored paper, trace an upside-down cup; this circle will be your owl’s face.  Also trace a plastic pop-bottle cap twice, to make your owl’s eyes. Cut these three circles out, too.

Use whatever color of paper you like to trace around the cup and bottle cap!

Use glue or a glue stick to attach your hand tracings to the owl’s body, for wings. Glue the large colored circle to the owl for his tummy. Cut out and glue a tiny colored triangle shape for his beak, and glue the two small colored circles for his eyes. 

If you happen to have some googly eyes in your craft box, you can use them to finish his eyes.  Or maybe your adult will share a dark button or two for his eyes.  If you don’t have either of these, use a dark pen to draw the small circles in his eyes.  If you like, you can even make him wink!!

Nice to meet whoo!

What’s Ms. Carol Reading?

Hi there, North Shelby Library friends!  Ms. Carol here. While the library’s closed for a while, I’ve found that I can still enjoy some really wonderful books online with Libby/Overdrive… Books about all sorts of things! Last night, while I was reading a story before bedtime, I suddenly heard a strange sound from the big old oak tree outside my bedroom window:  Woo woo… woo woo wa woooooo! “Why, that’s my old friend, the barred owl,” I said. And then I thought I’d look on Libby to see if I could find some good books about owls.

The first book I found was Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan.  What a fun way to explore the night with a little owl friend! It’s evening in the forest and Little Owl wakes up from his day-long sleep to watch his friends enjoying the night. Hedgehog sniffs for mushrooms, Skunk nibbles at berries, Frog croaks, and Cricket sings. A full moon rises and Little Owl can’t understand why anyone would want to miss it… Don’t you miss it!  Check out this wonderful bedtime book!

Then I “tuned in” to Baby Owl’s Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis.  This book, with its beautiful, very realistic illustrations tells the story of a baby owl who falls out of his nest at the top of a tall, tall tree and lands on the ground at the very bottom of his tree.  What’s he going to do?  What would you do to help?

Two kids live in the house near Baby Owl’s tall tree, and luckily they have a resourceful mom who knows a lot about helping animals in distress.  Read this book to find out what happens to Baby Owl.  Can his friends help him get home?  You’ll have to check out this book to learn the end of his story…

What have you been reading? Your librarians would love to know!     

Also, don’t forget about to check out North Shelby Library and Mt Laurel Library’s Cabin Fever Reading Challenge! Go here for more information     and to register: http://shelbycounty.beanstack.org/.

What's Ms. Vanessa Reading

What’s Ms. Vanessa Reading?

Hey, everyone! Ms. Vanessa here. I’ve been reading some books that I really want to share with everyone! I love stories about unusual creatures and the friendships they make, and the characters in the following books are definitely unusual and very awesome:

Inkling Cover Thumbnail

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel
One night, a splotch of ink frees itself from a sketchbook. The sketchbook belongs to Ethan’s dad, an artist and creator of a popular comic book series who is going through a creative slump. Ethan discovers the ink splotch and names him Inkling. Whenever Inkling absorbs ink from books and pictures, he gains a greater understanding of the world around him (and he can also become whatever he wants since he’s made of ink). Inkling appears right when Ethan’s family needs him the most: he helps both Ethan and his dad with their artistic projects, and he becomes the dog that Ethan’s sister has been wanting for so long.

Full of humor and adventure with a touch of sadness, Inkling is a moving story about family and friendship and being true to yourself while helping others.

Bob Cover Thumbnail

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
It’s been five years since Livy visited her grandmother in Australia, and she forgot about quite a few things since she’s been away. Somehow, she forgot about Bob, a mysterious, green creature who’s been waiting in the closet for Livy to return like she promised she would. She also promised Bob that she would help him figure who he was and where he came from. And she intends to keep that promise.

Magical and meaningful, Bob is a touching mystery that will captivate young and old readers alike. A good story for independent reading or family read-alouds!

Both of these books are available digitally through Libby/Overdrive.

What have you been reading? Let Ms. Vanessa know! Also, don’t forget about North Shelby Library and Mt Laurel Library’s Cabin Fever Reading Challenge! Go here for more information and to register: http://shelbycounty.beanstack.org/.

We also have a new virtual book club for tweens (Grades 3rd-5th)! Tweens can make and share short videos about what they’ve been reading using Flipgrid. They can respond to other videos with their own video comments as well! If your tween is interested in joining, please email Vanessa at nschildrenslibrarian@shelbycounty-al.org for more information!

Explore These

Explore These: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, a whole month-long celebration of poetry in all its many forms. We’ve compiled a list of books written in poetry or verse that we think you might enjoy! These books are available either in eBook or digital audiobook formats on Libby/Overdrive and/or Hoopla. So go ahead if something catches your eye: explore it!

Salsa Cover Thumbnail

Salsa by Jorge Argueta
(Grades PreK – 2)
eBook available on Hoopla

Two siblings sing and dance their way through this poetical recipe for tasty salsa. Complemented with illustrations by the multiple award-winning Duncan Tonatiuh, Salsa is a delicious poem that will satisfy the whole family!

Gracias/Thanks Cover Thumnail

Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora
(Grades PreK – 2)
eBook available on Libby/Overdrive

A sweet bilingual celebration of family and friends and the world around us as a young boy expresses gratitude for all of the different things that enrich his life.

Button Up Cover Thumbnail

Button Up!: Wrinkled Rhymes by Alice Schertle
(Grades K-2)
eBook available on Libby/Overdrive

Do you ever wonder what your clothes might think about their roles in life? In this fun collection, various articles of clothing from shoelaces to bicycle hats express themselves in verse form. Delightful illustrations of animals modeling the clothes add to the whimsical charm of Button Up!.

Blue Sky White Stars Cover Thumbnail

Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus
(Grades K-3)
eBook available on Libby/Overdrive

A lyrical and richly illustrated ode to America, and all of the symbols, places, and people that make it so unique. America represents something to everyone, and everyone represents America.

Where the Sidewalk Ends Cover Thumbnail

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
(Grades 1-3)
eBook available on Libby/Overdrive

A classic collection, Where the Sidewalk Ends is where an unusual and zany world begins. Here, you will read about everything and anything from crocodiles who go to the dentist to a place where shoes fly!

Out of Wonder Cover Thumbnail

Out of Wonder: Poem Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, et al
(Grades 3-6)
Digital audiobook available on Hoopla

What better book to celebrate poetry than Out of Wonder? Featuring 20 poems dedicated to 20 poets and their unique styles, this book provides a great introduction into the world of poetry.

Moo Cover Thumbnail

Moo by Sharon Creech
(Grades 3-6)
eBook available on Libby/Overdrive and Hoopla

Blending poetry and prose, Moo tells the story of a young girl who moves from the city to the Maine countryside with her family. The young girl, Reena, didn’t know what to expect, but she certainly didn’t expect to befriend a particularly stubborn cow.

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
(Grades 4-6)
eBook and digital audiobook available on Libby/Overdrive

Through her powerful poems, Woodson shares her childhood experiences in poignant detail. Growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, she was raised in both New York and South Carolina and struggled to not only find a place to call home, but also to find herself. As she grows older and becomes more aware of herself and the world around her, she discovers a love of stories that would lead her to her future career as a writer.

Other Words for Home Cover Thumbnail

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
(Grades 4-6)
eBook available on Libby/Overdrive and Hoopla

Written in verse, Other Words for Home tells the story of a young girl who, along with her mother, leaves her home in Syria to live with relatives in the United States. Now, she has a new identity in a new country. Not everything is as she expected, or hoped for, in America, but there are some pleasant surprises as well.

What's Ms. Vanessa Reading

What’s Ms. Vanessa Reading?

Hello, everyone! I hope you all have been able to get some fun reading in during this time at home. Ms. Vanessa has been catching up with some good books! Here are a couple of books I’ve been reading that tween readers might enjoy:

Unteachables Cover Thumbnail

The Unteachables by Gordan Korman
The Unteachables, the most infamous group of challenging students at Greenwich Middle School, are paired up with teacher Mr. Zachary Kermit, who is older and tired and ready for his early retirement. Can any good come of this besides hilarious mayhem?

Told from the perspective of several characters, The Unteachables showcases the potential of children (and teachers) who are perceived as lost causes. Humorous with a heart, this read is a fun choice for tweens looking for books about friendship and school issues.

The Penderwicks Cover Thumbnail

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Summer is not complete without an unforgettable trip, and the Penderwick sisters spend this particular summer at the sprawling estate of Arundel with their father and faithful dog, Hound. They meet a few people during their stay, such as Jeffrey, the gardenar Cagney, as well as the chilly Mrs. Tifton.

Ms. Vanessa can’t believe she took this long to start reading this series! It’s been highly recommended by many young patrons. Touching and fun, this read is a good choice for anyone looking to explore an expansive estate with a group of sisters who are both strong as a family and as individuals.

Both of these books are available digitally through Libby/Overdrive. The digital audiobook for The Unteachables is available through Hoopla.

What have you been reading? Let Ms. Vanessa know! Also, don’t forget about North Shelby Library and Mt Laurel Library’s Cabin Fever Reading Challenge! Go here for more information and to register: http://shelbycounty.beanstack.org/.

~ Ms. Vanessa