Monday, August 13, 2018

The Sun Does Shine

So, a few years ago I read Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson's book about his work with the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice serving the poor and wrongly condemned. One client that he writes a lot about in that book is Anthony Ray Hinton, a man condemned to Alabama's Death Row for a crime he didn't commit. In 2015, after living on Death Row for 30 years, the charges against Hinton were dropped and he went free. The Sun Does Shine is his story in his own words.

You don't need me to tell you about this book - it's Oprah's latest Book Club pick and hopefully it's everywhere you look. What you might need me to tell you is that it is a compelling, readable story that's definitely worth picking up. This is one of those books that should be required reading for all Americans.

Hinton's the first one to tell you that he's not been perfect his whole life. He went behind the back of his girlfriend, dating her sister on the side, he even stole a car and served time for it (after he brought the car back and confessed). But when Hinton was accused of robbery and murder even though he had a solid alibi, he was astonished to be convicted and sentenced to death.

Hinton's book really puts the reader in his place as he writes about life on Death Row. He writes about trying to comfort his fellow inmates when they were upset, even though he couldn't physically go to them. He writes about the book club he started so that Death Row inmates might have something to occupy their minds besides their own impending deaths. He writes about banging on the bars of his cell whenever an inmate was taken to the electric chair (and later lethal injection) so that inmate would know he was not alone.

It's riveting, terrifying stuff and this book made me cry and it made me shake with anger. It is well worth the read for anyone, but especially anyone who read Bryan Stevenson's book will not want to miss this book.

Readalikes:

For more about the Equal Justice Initiative and Bryan Stevenson's work with Hinton and other inmates, don't miss Just Mercy (2014, Spiegel & Grau). It's written with less immediacy than Hinton's memoir, but it's a fascinating look at the failures of our justice system.

Readers also may be interested in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (2010, The New Press).

For another devastating true story of an innocent person convicted of a crime, pick up A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong (2018, Crown). This nonfiction book tells the story of a young woman who was raped and reported it but the police did not believe her story and accused her of false reporting. In fact, she had been raped and the rapist went on to attack more women.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Day in the Life

What does a Collection Development Librarian do all day long? Read on to find out. Click on the Day in the Life tag to find more (most recently for my collection development position, but older ones are from my Youth Services days).

8:00am - Arrive at work and start checking in books for Our New Branch! We're opening our first branch in a couple of weeks and it was time to get the books we'd ordered up there.

8:30am - While our processor keeps working on checking in new books, I decide I should process the weekly magazines that have arrived so I can go ahead and get those out to patrons who might be waiting for them. To do this, I barcode them, input the new issues into the system, mark our spreadsheet with the issues that have arrived, and put a "current issue" sticker on them so patrons know they don't check out yet. Newest issues of magazines can be read in the library, but only later issues can check out.

9:00am - I help a staff member collect the book drop (we always have two people get it together for safety reasons). When we come back in, a patron's waiting to use the meeting room, so I head down there and unlock it for her. Even though I'm in a behind the scenes position now, we all pitch in to help patrons whenever needed.

9:15am - Back in the office, I resume checking in the new books for the branch. Because it's a floating collection, the books are cataloged and processed just like the books for our central location, but they'll circulate as part of the branch collection for as long as the branch wants them. Patrons at either location can place holds for materials at either collection.

9:50am - I start setting up a placement experiment on Collection HQ for the titles that have been mentioned on our staff blog. Each month I set up this program to track the circulation of those specific titles so I can gather data on how our blog might be affecting circulation.

10:25am - Our Marketing Coordinator stops by for a chat about the blog - we talk about new users recently added and troubleshoot why the RSS feed is not working after changing the blog's URL.

11:00am - Time to head to the branch to deliver the new books! My staff in Collection Development come along since they have not yet seen the new location. They head back after about an hour, but I stay to try to get the books in some kind of order. When our new Branch Manager takes over, she may rearrange or relocate them, but I at least want her to be able to make sense of what we have. We have a VERY small physical collection since it's a tiny space. We're concentrating on digital access and our Makerspace up there.

1:15pm - Back at the central library, I now head home for lunch.

2:15pm - I'm back from lunch and I work on an Overdrive order of ebooks and e-audiobooks. I try to place an Overdrive order every week, even if it's a small one. Having new stuff added regularly encourages patrons to log in regularly and see what's new. I've found that it's really working to increase our circulation of our ebooks.

3:00pm - I finish up the Collection HQ placement experiment.

3:30pm - I need to investigate changing the email we use as contact for our Gale Courses and as I'm looking into this I fall into a little rabbit hole of marketing materials for our databases. I start brainstorming some ideas about how to increase their usage and make some notes about ways to market them.

4:00pm - Our new Branch Manager stops by and I show her the photos I took of the books at the branch and explain how I arranged them and basically how the collection works and what we think the procedure will be for moving materials around and handling holds both at the branch and the central library. Since this is our first branch, this is all new to us!

4:45pm - We wrap up our conversation and I have just enough time to check Library's Journal's Book Pulse and add some books to my weekly carts. I try to place orders once a week, but I work on the carts a little bit each day.

5:10pm - Got that under control, time to head home!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Path to the Stars

I was never a Girl Scout, but reading Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo has made me want to be one. This memoir written by the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA is an engrossing book for those who like to learn about life in a previous decade. This book comes out September 4, so put it on your purchase list now - you will want this for your library!

Sylvia grew up poor in a small town in New Mexico. Her world was small - she mostly interacted with her family and a close circle of friends in their close-knit neighborhood. When her family bought a house in a more affluent - and white - part of town, Sylvia found herself on her own, not knowing how to bridge the gap between her experiences and the experiences of the white kids at her school. Her teachers assumed she was behind in school because of the lower income school district she had transferred from and put her in remedial classes.

All this changed when Sylvia was invited to a Brownies meeting with a classmate after school one day. There, Sylvia began to learn skills that she wouldn't have otherwise had access to. Her parents were not planners, they were not savers. In Girl Scouts, Sylvia learned how to plan for events and be prepared. She learned how to budget by selling cookies to fund the events her troop wanted to do. Eventually Sylvia's mother and younger sister got involved, as well. Her mother gained skills in money management by volunteering to help with the cookie sales. Sylvia's involvement with the Girl Scouts not only enriched her life by teaching her new skills, but it enriched the life of her entire family.

Sylvia Acevedo speaks so well and so passionately about the skills she learned in Girl Scouts and how they helped her gain confidence and build a future for herself that I found myself wishing I could go back in time and join myself. I kept flagging page after page where she writes about the various ways that the Girl Scouts helped her develop as a person.

This is an inspiring book about one girl building a future for herself and not giving up on her dreams, even though she was repeatedly told that girls couldn't fix cars/be scientists/etc. Repeatedly, Sylvia was shown ways that men and boys had more value than women. Her brother was given a library card without even asking for one, but when Sylvia asked for one, she was told she had to save up $5 to cover the late fees in case she wasn't responsible with her books. Through the Girl Scouts, Sylvia began to learn about her own value and that she could develop the skills to have any future she wanted for herself.

Of course you'll want to hand this memoir to passionate Girl Scouts, former Girl Scouts, and troop leaders. Also give it to kids who enjoy reading about others' real experiences or are curious about what childhood was like in the 1960s.

Readalikes:

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tonya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009) is another gripping story about women who are told they can't, but they go on trying anyway. Readers who are interested in more books about women in the sciences despite odds being stacked against them may enjoy this one.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Little, Brown, 2014) is another memoir of a girl facing odds stacked against her and coming out in support of the education of women. Readers interested in personal stories about women standing up for their rights to have an education and careers may enjoy this one.

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Lowe by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion Books, 2012) is a great choice for readers who are Girl Scouts or who are interested in the history of the Girl Scouts.

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret (Albert Whitman, 1996) is another great memoir to suggest to kids who are curious about what life was like for children growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.

Book info: 

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo. Grades 5+ Clarion Books, September 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

What I'm Reading

I'm in one of those periods where there are SO MANY BOOKS I want to read RIGHT NOW that I keep starting new books, even though I'm already in the middle of a bunch of great ones. I spent yesterday cleaning things out and putting together this brand new reading nook since I finally found a chair that I liked:


So of course all I want to do is sit in this sunny spot and read away! Here are the books I've got going right now: 


All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung (Catapult, October 2018). This one's eligible for the next LibraryReads selections, nominations due by August 20. It's a memoir about cross-cultural adoption. Korean-American Chung was adopted by a white couple in 1981 and spent her life navigating the world not knowing anything about her birth family. Celeste Ng called this one a book that everyone should read and I can see why. When my book club read Ng's Little Fires Everywhere we had a heavy debate about the adoption portrayed in the book and this memoir would be a great choice for book clubs who had similar debates! The e-galley is available on Edelweiss, so go get it today!


The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim (Houghton Mifflin, November 2018). This is another one that I'm seeking out for potential LibraryReads nomination. It's historical fiction set in the 1950s about two Korean sisters, one who is living in America with their parents and one who was left behind in Korea with other relatives. There have been so many great books about Korea lately and I'm so into it. I've only just started this one, but it seems right up my alley. 


Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Pocket Books, 1985). This one is for Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge, which calls for a western this year. I was glad to see this category on the challenge because I've never really read any traditional westerns and we have some library patrons that are die-hard fans so I've been meaning to pick some up. 



Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins, narrated by Kim Staunton (HarperAudio, 2016). This is another one for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: a romance novel by or about a person of color. I've actually already read one that would count in this category, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was time to try Beverly Jenkins. This one is historical (might also count as a western!) and I'm enjoying it on audio so far. 


Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (Feiwel & Friends, 2018). #Ownvoices YA horror set in space with a Latina protagonist. Yes, please. From the publisher summary: "In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you'll hear."


Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, October 2018). I was hoping beyond hope that I'd get approved for an e-galley of this title because I keep hearing such great things about it. Contemporary YA about a Muscogee (Creek) teen dealing with relationships and figuring out life. I've only just started it but I already love it. 

Whew! I have a lot of reading to do! What are YOU reading??

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Darius the Great is Not Okay

You guys, I can't get Darius out of my head.

Darius is a teen who's half Persian and half white and he feels like that doesn't actually add up to a whole.

Darius loves tea and Star Trek and Tolkien. He feels like he's never good enough and that his dad is always disappointed in him. He's never had a true friend... until he meets Sohrab. Sohrab cares about him and makes his feel valued and seen and connected to... but the problem is that Sohrab lives in Iran and Darius is just visiting with his family.

There are so many things I loved about this book.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran is a realistic story of a teen living with mental illness. Darius and his dad both have diagnosed depression and take medication. When Darius visits Iran, a country where mental illness has a seemingly impossible-to-overcome stigma, he's forced to confront his brain chemistry in a different way.

Darius's thought patterns are so realistic for someone with depression and anxiety. Throughout the book I wanted to pick him up and give him a hug or sometimes shake him. But his thoughts are his reality. The reader may realize that Darius's dad cares for him, but to Darius the reality that he's experiencing is that he's worthless and no one cares. That he doesn't have a place. This is exacerbated by his feeling like an outsider in many different ways - in America he's different because he's Persian, in Iran he's not Persian enough.

This is a story about a boy having feelings who feels like he's not allowed to have feelings. I think this is probably something that is pretty prevalent no matter where you're growing up, and it's great to read about a protagonist who not only has feelings but remains true to himself by expressing those feelings. Darius feels like he's an outsider no one will love because he can't help that he is the way he is. He doesn't realize that people might look up to him for staying true to himself even when it makes him an outsider.

Throughout the book there's this chorus of "That's normal. Right?" usually said about stuff that is not really okay with Darius. And the journey in this book is Darius beginning to realize and accept that sometimes he's not okay. And that it's okay not to be okay.

I loved experiencing and learning about details of Iranian life through Darius's story, too. Because Darius is visiting Iran for the first time, he's learning a lot too, so his sharing of details and explanations feels very organic. And I personally loved the Star Trek jokes throughout the book - not every reader will get those and that's okay, but it added something extra for those who are familiar with The Next Generation.

I'd hand this to fans of John Green looking for more thoughtful teen protagonists. It's out August 28, so pre-order now!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran. Grades 7 and up. Dial, August 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.

Monday, July 30, 2018

What My NieceS are Into

My niece S just turned two and she is still SO INTO sharks. She has also increased her repertoire of words to include just about any sea creature you can imagine. She had the most amazing ocean-themed birthday cake for her party a few weeks ago:


Of course whenever I am reading reviews of board books or picture books I look for anything that she might like. I came across a new board book that looked super cute AND it was on super sale at Amazon, so I scooped it up and added another recent gorgeous board book that I had purchased for the library. 



Hello Humpback! by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing, 2017) is a gorgeous book featuring animals of the Pacific Northwest. The text is super simple and the illustrations are just so beautiful. It's a great book for talking about the pictures and naming different animals, including some that are rare to find in books like skate, halibut, and prawn. Roy Henry Vickers is a First Nations artist and this book truly celebrates the diverse life found on the West Coast. This would be a perfect gift for kids living in or visiting the Pacific Northwest or for any little ocean lover. 

Goodnight, Seahorse by Carly Allen-Fletcher (Muddy Books, 2018) is another gorgeous book about sea creatures. The text is very simple - each spread says goodnight to a different sea creature as seahorse heads to bed - but this one also includes some unusual words like wobbegong and lionfish that go beyond your typical book sea creatures. The back of the book identifies many of the background creatures found throughout the pictures and it would be fun to go back and search for them all. 

So, some new ocean books for my niece annnnnd I bought a book to welcome my new niece (!!!) due in September! 


We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated byJulie Flett (Orca, 2016). This has become one of my favorite new baby books to give. I touched on this one a little bit in a previous post, but I want to expand on that. This board book is written by a First Nations author and illustrator and features a family welcoming their new baby. The words are so affirming and perfect for reading to a new baby: 

We give you kisses to help you grow
And songs to let you know that you are loved
As we give you roots you give us wings
And through you we are born again

and so forth.... Just a beautiful message in a beautiful book that features a First Nations family but with a message that is so universal. 

I can't wait to welcome a new niece and find out what things she will be into as well! 



Thursday, July 26, 2018

If You Leave Me

1950s and a Korea at war in If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim.

The country is splitting in half and Haemi feels like she's splitting in half, too. Her family has fled their village due to the fighting and they're now refugees, surviving day to day. And Haemi has a choice to make. She is in love with her childhood friend Kyunghwan and he loves her back... but another boy in the village, Jisoo, has proposed marriage to Haemi. Jisoo is well off, he can provide for her family, while Kyunghwan has nothing but dreams. Haemi yearns to follow her heart with the boy she loves, but her heart cares just as much about her ailing little brother who desperately needs food and medicine. Haemi must make a choice that will affect not only her own life but the life of her family for generations to come. And that's only the beginning.

I loved this multigenerational novel set in Korea during and after the Korean War. It was a book that I just wanted to keep reading forever because I loved the characters and I was fascinated to see how their choices took their lives in different directions. Crystal Hana Kim writes with such emotion and her prose is heartbreaking; I felt like I was living the story along with the characters. Readers get the story from multiple points of view allowing us to see the story from different perspectives.

The setting is just as important as the characters as there are many parallels between a country being split apart and the characters being split, caught between their desires and reality. The book brings the Korean War to life, too, illuminating how families were literally split - if your family resided north of the dividing line you would likely never see them again.

This book is out August 4 - preorder now!

Readalikes:

Hand this to readers of multigenerational historical fiction. I would press this into the hands of Pachinko's many fans (Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Grand Central Publishing 2017) or readers of The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, 2013). Readers of character-driven historical fiction set in wartime like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2015) will also enjoy it.

Book info: 

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim. Adult. William Morrow, August 2018. 432 pages. Review copy provided by publisher at ALA.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Stopping by Bookstores on a Summer Afternoon

This past weekend my husband and I drove down to Nashville, TN for a long weekend. We had a ton of fun and one of the things I wanted to do was stop by one of my favorite independent bookstores, Parnassus Books. This is a wonderful bookstore co-owned by author Ann Patchett and I love to stop by whenever we find ourselves in Nashville and have a little time.

As a librarian I don't often need to purchase books. I have a whole library at my disposal and I often get access to galleys and e-galleys. But it's important to me to purchase books by diverse authors so that I can show publishers with my DOLLARS that I want diverse books. It's one thing to show them with my words, which I try to do, and with my library dollars, but I also want to show them with MY PERSONAL DOLLARS. So much better when I can do that and support a great independent bookstore at the same time!

I was so impressed by the diverse selection offered and displayed by Parnassus Books. They had diverse and own voices books heavily on display and faced out. There were many diverse books among their staff picks. They are doing what all libraries should be doing: championing marginalized voices and providing access!

Here are the books I ended up purchasing:


Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li (Henry Holt, 2018) was prominently on display as a staff pick and I have read some great reviews of it. Kirkus called Li "a writer to watch" and I love immigrant stories. 

I picked up The Book Club Journal off a display of the store's recent and upcoming book club selections. Although I already have a notebook designated as my book club journal, this one is specifically designed for the task with space to keep track of where the club met, what food and drink was served (always important!) and everyone's thoughts about the book. 

And of course I had to pick up some board books for my niece(s). I was so excited to see that they had two copies of We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett  (Orca, 2016) on the shelf! This is a super sweet board book perfect for welcoming a new baby and it's written by a First Nations author. It features a First Nations family and the message of welcoming and surrounding a new baby with love is so universal. It's the perfect first read-aloud and will be my first gift to my new niece (ETA late September)! More on that in a future post. 

I also grabbed one of the newest Baby Loves Science books - Baby Loves Coding by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan (Charlesbridge, 2018) - and The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward (Houghton Mifflin, 2018). 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Summer Xylophone

This summer, my husband made us a PVC Pipe Xylophone for the front porch of our library.

A xylophone made of PVC pipes. 

Here is where we found instructions to make it: How to Make a PVC Pipe Xylophone by Frugal Fun 4 Boys.

We delivered it to the front porch of our library where it has lived musically since June 1 when our Summer Reading Program started.

I bought a handful of flyswatters and doctored them with fun foam to make a "mallet". They didn't walk off as I thought they might, but the fun foam only lasts so long with regular use as a mallet, so I have made two replacement "mallets" so far, which is about what I expected.

The signs are posted in our windows. 

I also made up some signs that we posted on the front windows near the xylophone to give families ideas of what to do with it. Most used, I believe, have been the songs. Since the pipes are color coded, anyone can play these color coded songs, no musical ability or music reading required. I'm posting the PDFs here and you're welcome to use them or edit them if you'd like to use them at your library:

The Xylophone cost about $75 for the supplies and my husband donated a day to working on it for us. If you don't have a handy partner, colleague, or friend or if you yourself are not handy, it might be worth asking your local hardware store if they know anyone who might volunteer their time and skills to build it. 

It's been well worth the effort to see people of all ages interacting with it, experimenting with sound and creating music! 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Spinning Silver

You know the story of Rumpelstiltskin? They got it wrong. It's really just a story about paying back a debt. So begins Miryem's story in Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. In Litvas, a land with a constantly encroaching winter, Miryem's family is starving. Her father is the local moneylender, but he's so softhearted that he will never collect what he's owed. So Miryem takes over and finds out that she has a skill for moneylending and making deals. When her ability to take silver and turn it into gold attracts the nearby magic folk the Staryk, rulers of ice and snow, Miryem finds herself captured by the King of the Staryk in a bargain that means much more than she knows.

So, Miryem is such a great, great character. She sees her family is in trouble and she takes matters into her own hands. She ends up not only saving them from starving, but building a comfortable life for them. Miryem is a lady with ambition. And, just as it does in so many cases, that ambition attracts some trouble. The townspeople are bitter that they can no longer get away with shirking their debts. And the Staryk see what she can do and want to capture that power for themselves.

And that's just one part of the rich tapestry that is this fantasy novel. We also hear from Wanda, a local peasant girl who comes to work at Miryem's farm to pay off her father's debt. And Irina, a plain girl whose father is determined that she will marry the tsar, no matter how unlikely that seems at first. All of their fates are intertwined, though none of them know it at first, and how they're connected is slowly revealed as you read farther and father.

This is a great summer read for when the temperatures are climbing. The magic land of ever-growing winter will have you shivering even as the heat index soars outside. This is a story of strong women who use their minds to solve problems and who refuse to settle for what society seems to want for them. There's a rich tapestry of magic here, too, and it's not always easy to see who the good guys are.

If you like fairy tale retellings and fantasy that completely transports you to another place, pick up Spinning Silver. This book is published for adults, but I think there's a lot of teen crossover appeal, too.

You might like this book if you liked:
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Del Ray, 2017). This is another rich, transporting fantasy novel that you can really sink your teeth into. It features a strong heroine and magic and a similarly cold and sweeping Russian-ish setting. 
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Ray, 2015). Novik's previous standalone fantasy novel won a Nebula Award for best novel. Based on Polish fairy tales, this is another story with a strong heroine, a rich forested fantasy setting, and lots of crossover appeal for teens. 
  • East by Edith Pattou (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003). This fantasy novel is actually written for teens, but I think there's a lot of crossover potential for adults. This one is a retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Readers who like sussing out fairy tale retellings and strong girl characters will enjoy this one, too. 
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (adult, with teen appeal). Del Rey, 2018. 448 pages. Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher.