Saturday, January 29, 2022

So, I'm Not Really Here Anymore...

 It's been awhile. And I'm probably not posting here anymore. I don't have plans to delete this blog, although I will say that a lot of the stuff here is pretty darn dated (so use at your own risk, I guess!). 

I haven't stopped writing. I'm just mostly writing for places that pay me now, to be honest. If you miss me, you can find me on the ALSC Blog or School Library Journal occasionally. If you use NoveList, you may see my name pop up in there sometimes, too. 

Or feel free to follow me on Twitter @abbylibrarian (although I am not super great at Twitter either, honestly) or connect with me on GoodReads (don't judge me for how behind on my reading goals I am and I promise I will never judge you for yours). 

Blogging's been fun! It has helped me develop my writing and connect with the bookish community so much. It was a beloved hobby for many years and it's part of my professional foundation. It led to many cherished friendships and cool opportunities and I'll always, always be grateful for that.

Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

How to Get Permission for StoryWalks

This post originally appeared on the ALSC Blog on April 7, 2021. It is reposted here with permission.

You can read my other posts about my library's StoryWalk here:
Does your library have a StoryWalk®? Are you thinking of adding one? My library added ours in 2019 and our patrons LOVE IT! One question I get all the time is how to get publisher permission for StoryWalks®. Today, I’ll share what I’ve learned in the past 2 years.

The first stop on our StoryWalk! Photo by Luis Munoz, used with permission.

What is a StoryWalk®?

A StoryWalk® is just what it sounds like. It’s a picture book presented on posts along a walking path or trail so that you read the story as you walk along the path. Started at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, VT, you can now find StoryWalks® all over the country. There are many posts about StoryWalks® on the ALSC Blog – check out the StoryWalk® tag to see them all! I’ve written more about the Floyd County Library StoryWalk® on my personal blog, so feel free to check that out, too. The original StoryWalk® calls for books to be physically disassembled and the pages laminated and posted to avoid violating the title’s copyright. But if you would like to scan or screen capture and reprint the book (which is a lot easier if you have someone who knows how to do it), you’ll need permission for StoryWalks®.

How do I get permission for StoryWalks®?

Ask the publisher! The first step is figuring out what company has published the title you want to use. Check the copyright information in the book and it should list the publisher. Be aware that many larger publishers have multiple imprints, so Google is your friend. You want to find the parent publishing company. That’s who you’ll need to ask for permission. Once you’ve determined the publisher of the title, check their website for a page titled Permissions. I have sometimes found this under a Contact Page. If all else fails, you could do a web search for [publisher’s name] + permissions and hopefully that will get you to the right place.

I have also had some success with contacting the library marketing contact I have at a publisher. That’s something you can try if you’re having trouble figuring out who to ask. They likely can’t grant you permission for StoryWalks® themself, but they often will be able to quickly get you to the right person. And the blog Early Word has a really handy list of children’s library marketing contacts if you need it.

Every publisher treats StoryWalks® differently

Some publishers will have an online form you can fill out. Some will ask you send your request in writing by email. If you’re sending in your request, it’s helpful to include the full title and author’s name, the ISBN of the book, and the publishing imprint. The publisher may also need to know the address where the book will be displayed and the dates you intend to display it.

I don’t think I’ve filled out any publisher permission forms that actually listed StoryWalk® as an intended use. You may need to get creative and select whichever option is closest to what you need. I believe every online form I’ve seen includes space somewhere where you can describe your project. That’s a great place to include information about your StoryWalk®.

Some publishers charge for permissions

Most of the publishers I have approached have granted permission for StoryWalks® for free. Some publishers list a charge on their website, but I have been granted gratis permission by approaching them through a library marketing contact.

Plan ahead because it can take some time!

In my experience, some publishers are quicker to respond than others. Prepare for it to take a number of weeks or months for a publisher to get back with you. (Just like you and me, they have a lot of tasks on their to-do lists!)

And a caveat…

I am still learning this process myself and I have not worked with every publisher. Since I have not worked with every publisher, I am not going to get more specific with details about what which publishers do or don’t do here. If in doubt, reach out to them and ask!

What questions do you have?

I know you probably have more questions about StoryWalks®, so let’s hear them! Or if you have a StoryWalk® at your library, I’d love to hear your advice, tips, and tricks! Feel free to share in comments. And happy StoryWalk®ing!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Game of Fox and Squirrels

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A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese. Grades 5-8. Henry Holt, 2020. 224 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Eleven-year-old Sam and her older sister Caitlin have just arrived in Oregon to stay with their aunt and her wife after an incident shattered their family in California. Sam misses her parents and is desperate to get back to her life in LA and start school with all her friends. She knows things weren't always the best with her family, but she was managing fine, thank you, and she doesn't want to be here in Oregon. 

So when a talking fox appears to her with a deal, Sam agrees. She'll do what the fox asks in order to earn the Golden Acorn that will grant her one wish - a wish for things to go back to how they were before. But somehow the rules keep changing and Sam will have to figure out how far she will go to please the fox and what she is willing to sacrifice. 

This is a dark magical tale about a girl navigating life with a foster family after being removed from her abusive home. Sam's game with the fox and his squirrel emissaries mirrors the game she played for years with her abusive father. She never know when the rules will change or what will set him off or what she might have to sacrifice next. This isn't an easy read, but it's a powerful read and could be a necessary read for some. I don't have a ton of knowledge about foster kids, but I have a little bit and what I read rings true with my experiences (such as they are). 


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Pair this with another stellar book that came out this year, Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, which offers a similarly searing, but realistic take on abuse and foster care life.  

Monday, January 18, 2021

ACPL's (Virtual!) Mock Newbery

 Last year, I had the immense pleasure to travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana (about a 4 hour trek from my home in Southern Indiana) to attend the Allen County Public Library's Mock Newbery discussion. I had been one time before and it's always been a really great program. It's such a fun experience to get together with like-minded book lovers and talk in depth about some of the best books of the year. 

This year, due to COVID, the discussion is taking place virtually, mirroring the work the actual committees are doing right this very moment. I'm very excited that I get to take part in the discussion once again and I'm really excited to see how the discussion will work virtually. 

These are the titles that we'll be discussion on Saturday afternoon this year with links to any that I've blogged about. I have some personal favorites that I'll be discussing a bit on Wednesday, and I'd love to know your top contenders for the Youth Media Awards!

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All He Knew by Helen Frost (Indiana author!)

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Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

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Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

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Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

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Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford 

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Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

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Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese

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Go With the Flow by Karen Schneemann & Lily Williams

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Kent State by Deborah Wiles

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The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

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Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

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Show Me a Sign by Anne Clare LeZotte

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Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

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The Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest

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Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

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When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

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When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Light in Hidden Places

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The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron. Grades 7+ Scholastic, 2020. 400 pages. Review copy provided by publisher. 

If someone needed your help, would you give it? Even if it could cost you your life? Stefania Podg├│rska was a teenager when she started hiding Jews in her tiny apartment in Poland during WWII. It started with a close friend and as more and more people needed her help, she ended up with 13 Jews hiding in her attic. It was a life or death situation for them and a life or death situation for Stefania - she would be shot by  the Gestapo if anyone ever found out. She worked night and day to keep everyone fed and safe. And then the Nazis showed up at her door and commandeered her apartment. Two Nazi nurses who worked at the hospital across the street were moving in to her second bedroom. Stefania had no choice, she had to let them stay there. And she had to hope that they never discovered the 13 Jews living right above their heads. 

This absorbing historical novel is based on a true story about a real woman and it was Reese Witherspoon's December YA book club pick. It is definitely a fascinating story and if you love historical fiction that you can really sink your teeth into, this is a great one to pick up. It takes place over a number of years during WWII as Stefania moves to the city from her family farm and starts working for a Jewish family running a shop. As the war moves in and her employers find themselves in increasing danger, Stefania has to grow up quick and make a lot of decisions about what she will do. The hook in this booktalk doesn't happen until about three quarters of the way through, but I was so interested and invested in Stefania's story that I found myself completely absorbed. 

Author Sharon Cameron has done her research and includes a section at the end with photos of the real Stefania and information about what happened to her and her family after the war. This is a story about a little-known hero of WWII that needed to be told. It's teen, appropriate for middle school and up, and has a ton of adult crossover appeal. I added a short booktalk of this title to my Wowbrary email this week and it immediately got 5 new holds, even though it's not a new book. 


Pick this one up if you've enjoyed immersive historical fiction like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak or The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Reading Resolutions

 Happy 2021! It's definitely a year like no other. Maybe you feel like this is a year to give yourself some grace and take it easy. Maybe you feel optimistic about changes you want to make. Are you planning on making some reading resolutions this year? 

As you can see, I'm already late to the game, but part of my plan for the year is to practice grace for myself. If 2020 taught me anything it's that being uber-focused on productivity and optimization is not the best. Sometimes you need some space to take a breath, to rest, to refocus, or just to get through your day.

That said, I do have some reading goals for myself this year, and I'm curious what yours are (if you have any - it's totally fine if you do not!). 

But first... deep breath and let's look back at last year's reading resolutions...

40% of the books I read will be own-voices by diverse authors. 

Okay, as far as I tracked, I read 122 books by diverse authors, which is only about 23%. Part of this resolution was to be more intentional about tracking and I absolutely did not do that. If I had tracked and checked on myself each month like I had intended, I bet I would have done better with this.

500 books read and tracked on GoodReads this year.

Yes! I did this! I started tracking picture books to help with my NoveList work and even though I got super way behind in the spring, I caught back up by the end of the year and finished with 529 books tracked in GoodReads. 

Continue my romance project for another year. 

Okay, I did read nine romance books in 2020, most of them romcoms. I did not do anything to track them or log them or really review them (outside GoodReads), but I read a bunch of books I really enjoyed. I'm calling that success. And I may revisit the romance project in 2021. 

Read at least two pre-pub titles each month. 

Hahahaha, no way. I've been really bad at this. I absolutely did not make this goal. I miiiight have read 24 pre-pub titles over the course of the year, but honestly probably not. 

So, let's look ahead to 2021 (as scared as we might be about that...)

My biggest thing this year is giving myself grace. I realized what it's like to live through trauma this year (very privileged trauma, yes). And although I love reading, it's not important enough to be something to stress out about. I'm going to set some goals for myself because I like to have projects to work on, but I also have some non-reading projects going on this year and we're striving for balance and reasonable expectations. I have already hit library book bankruptcy where I just return ALL my checked out books and start over with a clean slate once this year. 

Read more teen books

Now that I have turned over adult collection responsibilities to my new collection development librarian, I can let myself more fully concentrate on youth materials. And one area that I know I need to step it up is teen literature. According to GoodReads, I read 28 teen books in 2020 and I'd like to do better this year. Let's try to read at least 36 teen books in 2021

Try the Read Native Challenge from the American Indian Library Association

It's been a minute since I attempted a reading challenge that gives specific categories for titles, but when I saw this one pop up, I wanted to give it a try. It dovetails with my always-goal to read diversely and I've been trying to add more Native writers into my reading life over the past few years. I'm not sure if I'll be able to complete the adult challenge with adult titles, so I may shoot for some kind of hybrid or use the adult challenge prompts but with teen and children's titles. I'm sure I won't be eligible for any prizes, but that's okay since I have intrinsic motivation for wanting to do this challenge. 

Read and track at least 500 books in GoodReads again. 

I did find tracking picture books and logging everything in GoodReads to be helpful. It was surprisingly helpful when I went to compose my 12 Days of Giving book lists this year. So I think that's a good goal and my hope is that I will easily be able to hit 500 books logged (including lots of picture books!). Of course, that's counting on no trauma-inducing shut-down work-from-home months to put me behind again. WE'LL SEE. 

And other areas that I may not make "official" goals, but you may see some blog posts about this year... I have enjoyed reading romance and I'm going to embrace that and encourage it. You may see some romance project updates from me this year since I think that would be fun. And one of my non-reading goals is to cook 50 new recipes this year, so of course I started out the year by checking out a ton of cookbooks. It might be fun to blog about some of the cookbooks I'm discovering and trying out. No promises, but maybe! 

And that's it for 2021 Reading Resolutions. How about you? Are you setting any reading resolutions? Or even just casual goals for yourself (if resolutions maybe feel like a bit much coming off of 2020)? 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Happy Merry!

I'm not gonna lie, one of the nicest things about having a more "behind the scenes" job is being able to schedule time off basically whenever I want. There are a lot of things I miss about being a front-lines children's librarian, but having to work at least part of every Christmas or New Years due to winter break coverage and allowing my staff time for vacations is NOT one of the things I miss. 

So I take advantage of that most years now and I'm currently off work until January 4. Honestly, for us it's a good time of year to be off as our business office is busily closing up the books, lots of my vendor contacts are also home with their families, and our ordering is paused until next year anyway. 

Of course, I'll be working here and there on committee work and side-gig stuff, but I'm also trying to take some time to relax and unwind. The next two weeks I'll be playing Animal Crossing, reading books, probably doing some writing, hopefully cleaning out some closets and dressers, doing lots of cooking, and just generally puttering around. 

I hope you have a holiday season as happy and restful as can possibly be expected and I'll see you here around the new year to talk about some reading resolutions. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Alphabet's Alphabet

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The Alphabet's Alphabet by Chris Harris, illustrated by Dan Santat. Ages 5-8. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. Review copy provided by my local library. 

This is not your toddler's alphabet book. Designed for an older set who are already familiar and comfortable with letter shapes, this book plays with how letters can look like other letters, imagining creative ways to connect them. In rhyming text, the book goes through every letter of the alphabet, explaining how it's related to another letter. Dan Santat's bright, expressive artwork really brings this book to life and makes it so much fun. 

Most of these connections are super clever and readers could easily imagine them even without the illustrations to guide them "A B is a D with its belt on too tight" Some depend more heavily on the illustrations, like "An R is a K with a mask where its face is", which shows a K wrestler wearing a luchador mask that covers the top part of its "head". Overall, this book is really great fun and kids will enjoy puzzling out the shapes of each of the letters and then coming up with their own ideas for connecting different letters. While I think kids already comfortable with letters will get the most out of this book on their own, it might be fun to read it with younger children and help them see the different letter shapes in the illustrations.

I would hand this to elementary age picture book readers who enjoy other books that play around with letters like E-Mergency by Tom Lichtenheld, Al Pha's Bet by Amy Kraus Rosenthal or Every Little Letter by Deborah Underwood. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

#LibFaves20, Reading Challenges, and Other Goings On

 It's a wonderful time of year - the time to celebrate all the amazing books that have come out over the past year and look forward to what next year's reading will bring. 

One thing that's been bringing me joy this past week is the annual LibFaves voting on Twitter. Follow the hashtag #LibFaves20 to see library workers' top 10 books of 2020. Since December 7, library workers have been shouting about one book a day with volunteer tabulators keeping tallies of the titles that have been mentioned. While it's centered on adult books, some folks are including YA and children's books, too. 

I'm eagerly following the hashtag because I have two Audible credits I need to use in the next month and I'm in need of great audiobooks to motivate my morning runs in the cold, so I'm keeping my eyes on what everyone is loving best this year. The fully tabulated list will be posted on EarlyWord when it's ready, so keep a look out for that! 

Another wonderful thing about this time of year is that the 2021 book challenges are starting to come out. I haven't participated in a book challenge in awhile and I doubt that 2021 will be the year for me. But I still love to see the prompts and challenges that others are undertaking. Do your patrons know about and participate in reading challenges? This might be a fun thing to share with them, especially this year when everyone's looking for socially distanced things to do. Challenges I love to spy on are: 

I have a January blog post for our staff blog devoted to highlighting some reading challenges because I think some of our patrons might enjoy them. Reading challenges might not be on their radars, so I like to spread the word. 

And it's not reeeeally a challenge (although it does have challenge elements this year!), but Everyday Reading's printable 2021 Reading Log was just released this week. If I could picture a place in my house where I could spread this out and color it (and if I could picture myself actually devoting time to keeping up with it), I would be ordering a large print of this gorgeous reading log. If you're in need of some stress relief coloring, I highly recommend checking it out! I'm almost convincing myself to give it a shot here. Maybe. 

Also not really a "challenge", but another exciting reading thing happening right now is all  the Mock Newbery discussions. I won't say I'm HAPPY about this because I hate the reasons behind it, but my favorite Mock Newbery run by the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne is going virtual this year on Zoom. It's 4 hours away from me, so I wasn't going to make it in person this year, but once they pivoted to virtual, I signed myself up. I'm approaching it with excitement and anxiety - what will a Zoom book discussion look like?! I guess we'll find out! And will I be able to finish (and reread?) all the books before our meeting? I'm going to give it my very best shot. 

School Library Journal's Heavy Medal Blog is also going with full force this year. Now's the time to be reading those 2020 books to be prepared to make ALL THE COMMENTS during the Youth Media Awards webcast on Monday, January 25. 

Are you following any Mock Awards this year? Are there any 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer

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Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz. Grades 4-7. Dial, 2020. 224 pages. Review copy provided by publisher. 

Jamila's pretty sure that her summer is ruined. Her mom wants to send her to camp, but all Jamila wants to do is shoot hoops. When Jamila meets Shirley at a neighborhood yard sale, the girls strike up a tentative friendship and convince both their mothers to let them hang out together this summer. Jamila will get all the time she wants at the b-ball court, she just has to hang out with Shirley, who is nice, even if she's a bit odd. 

When a neighborhood kid shows up asking for Shirley's help in finding his missing pet gecko, Shirley is on the case and Jamila finds herself helping, too. But when Shirley starts taking the case too seriously and their new partnership hits a rough patch, Jamila's not sure that their new deal is working out.

Enola Holmes meets Shannon Hale in this graphic novel mystery that will please detective fans as well as fans of contemporary friendship stories. Shirley is a Sherlock-Holmes-ian detective and kids will enjoy looking for clues and learning about how she solves her cases. Middle grade readers will also relate to the girls' struggle to figure out a new friendship. I really enjoyed getting to know both characters and the realistic Toronto setting.