Monday, April 23, 2018

Middle Grade May!

Yes, it's once again time for #MiddleGradeMay!!!

There's nothing fancy to it - just read middle grade books during the month of May and share them on social media with our hashtag. You can blog about middle grade books, tweet about them, post photos on Instagram, post about them on Litsy, share them with your Facebook friends... wherever you are on the web, share about what middle grade lit you're reading in May.

This year, I am so excited to be collaborating on #MiddleGradeMay with the wonderful Akoss and her YouTube channel. We actually met and bonded over #MiddleGradeMay last year. Check out her intro post here:


She's got it all planned out with themed weeks, so feel free to share your favorites for the themes each week OR just read whatever middle grade you want and tell us all about it.

Here are the themes for each week in May:

  • Week 1 - Favorite memorable middle grade literature characters 
  • Week 2 - Favorite heartbreaking middle grade novels 
  • Week 3 - Favorite under-rated middle grade books (less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads) 
  • Week 4 - 2018 Middle grade debuts you want everyone to request from their Libraries 
  • Week 5 - Middle grade books that feature diversity in a positive and uplifting way
Annnnnd don't forget to check out our cohosts who will be posting videos in May: 
I am so not a YouTuber, BUT I have promised Akoss that I might give it a go, so you MAY see some of that, too. ;) 

Which middle grade books are YOU looking forward to reading in May??

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On Ordering Ebooks


Boy howdy. Ordering ebooks.

As you may know, I recently stepped into a new role at my library as the Collection Development Librarian. One of my duties is, of course, maintaining our electronic collections. This means ordering and managing our ebook collections.

There's a lot I'm still figuring out about this job and ebooks is one of them. Part of the problem is that we're all still figuring out ebooks, including the vendors and publishers. Yes, ebooks have been available to libraries for years now, but the pricing schemes are still sometimes ridiculous and I just have to hope that someday they may become more reasonable.

At my library, we currently use Overdrive for ebooks and e-audiobooks and we just recently subscribed to Hoopla for downloadable movies, music, ebooks, and audiobooks. Since Hoopla is really new to us, I'm closely monitoring how it's doing. Hoopla operates on a cost-per-circ model. That means we pay nothing to make the entire catalog of Hoopla's offerings available to our patrons; we only pay when our patrons actually download the material. And everything Hoopla offers can have simultaneous users, meaning there is never a holds list, all Hoopla materials are always available. We offer 8 downloads a month to our patrons.

Overdrive has recently offered a selection of books that can be offered on a cost-per-circ model, but I haven't explored it in depth yet. I'm waiting to see what our spending on Hoopla will be once it evens out a bit.

I want to offer our patrons what they want to read. I want to purchase the newest releases and the best-selling titles. But it becomes a balancing act because these titles are almost always incredibly expensive. Depending on the publisher, an adult ebook could be upwards of $60-70 per copy (and that one copy can only be checked out by one user at a time). Popular downloadable audiobooks often run $80-90 per copy. I want to provide the most in-demand stuff, but my budget only stretches so far. When I might not think twice about buying 5 or 6 copies of popular print books, doing that with ebooks might break the bank. So that means lots of decision-making.

It's also fascinating to me to see titles that circ like crazy as downloadable when the print copies sit collecting dust on our shelves. Lots of teen titles, in particular, are like this. I'm astonished at the high number of ebook circulations for some whose print counterparts collect dust on the shelves.

The children's ebooks are the opposite of that (for the most part). We tried to build up a good selection of children's materials, thinking that the way to convince families to use them is to have them there so we can promote them. But a lot of the children's material has very low circulation, particularly when compared to adult titles. It's another conundrum: I have a special passion to provide high-quality children's material in all formats. But if it doesn't check out, how can I justify spending my limited budget on it when I know I could buy adult titles that would check out?

I mostly have questions and no answers here, but one technique I have had some success with is placing small orders each week. I try to place an Overdrive order once a week so that there's something new on a regular basis. This helps to keep our circulation up as it keeps people coming back to check for new stuff. Even if the new stuff has a wait list, they may discover something else they want if they're in the mood to download a book. It's frustrating to look at my weekly budget and know that I will only be able to afford 10-15 titles a week (and a lot of times those get eaten up by additional copies to satisfy holds or by copies that have reached the end of their metered access and I need to replace them). But I just take each victory as it comes. Whenever I buy something and then see that it's checked out, I do a little happy dance.

What are your techniques for ordering ebooks? Any special tricks I should know?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

All the Names They Used for Gods

Y'all know that I dig short stories. I've been making a point of seeking out short story collections and adding them to my TBR pile this year, and I just finished an amazing one.

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva is a masterpiece collection. Each story in this delightful collection completely transported me to a new world. It grabbed me from the first story about an albino woman in the pioneer west who discovers a network of caves near her house and explores them while her husband has been gone for months on a trip. Then there's a steel worker injured in a factory accident watching his daughter grow into his supporter and caregiver. There's a fisherman who meets and becomes obsessed with a mermaid and teens abducted by zealot soldiers who will do anything to get away.

Each story is its own world and completely immersive. The characters and settings are so strong that I would have read any one of them as a full-length novel, but they're the perfect length for what they are. They left me feeling like I wanted more, but also like I was satisfied. They're sticking around in my head, is what I'm saying.

There's a mix of genres here, although each story has at least a touch of the fantastic. There's historical fiction and science fiction here, too, making this a true genre-bender of a collection. There's something for everyone here, tied together by striking imagery and unforgettable characters.

I loved this collection. Like, I think I might buy a copy for my personal library, which is a strong statement from a practicing librarian.

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva. Adult. Spiegel & Grau (Penguin Random House), 2018. 256 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Readalikes:

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999; 198 pages). This is another great short story collection that has stuck with me throughout the years.

The Power  Naomi Alderman (2017; 386 pages). This novel has similar science fiction elements and strong female protagonists as several of Sachdeva's stories.

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg (2018; 240 pages). I haven't read this one yet and it looks scarier than Sachdeva's stories, but it might make a good choice for fantasy or horror readers dipping their toes into short stories.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Love, Simon

Have you seen Love, Simon yet??




My husband and I went to see it this weekend and I L-O-V-E loved it.

And, confession: I have not (yet!) read the book. If you aren't aware, the movie Love, Simon is based on the YA book Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, 2015).

I'm sure you're all aware of this movie and this book; librarians can't stop talking about it. When I told my husband we were seeing it this weekend and that everyone I knew said it was great, he said, "Are they all librarians?" Umm...... yes.

But afterwards, he agreed with all my librarian friends that this was an excellent weekend viewing choice. More than just entertainment, it's so important that this movie was made, that this movie exists for today's teens and future teens. That more teens than before can see themselves in the media and know that others have experienced first love many different ways. But it's also just a great movie.

I laughed and I cried. I cried so much. I had all the feels. For Simon, for Simon's parents, for Simon's friends. This movie got how people (teens, yes, but all people) can manipulate their friends, that feeling when your back is against the wall and you do something that you know isn't right, but you do it anyway because it feels like your only choice.

I feel like a cheater-pants for posting about this movie without having read the book (yet!), but I couldn't keep it inside. I laughed, I sobbed, I just want to see it again AND read the book. And probably all of Becky Albertalli's books.

If you haven't seen it, I urge you to go! And then pick up the book (which I will be doing, too) to experience more of Simon's world.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A One-Sitting Read

One of the categories for Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge is "a one-sitting book". That's really hard for me. I tend to be a distracted reader. I need to take breaks. I need to put it down for awhile and do something else. I very rarely finish a book all in one go unless I'm doing a weekend reading challenge. Even when I was serving on the Newbery Committee, I was much more likely to read half of a book and put it down and start another and then finish up the first book the next day.

So, when I tell you that this book was nearly a one-sitting read for me, I want you to know what that means. My husband and I are currently working our way through Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix (which I have never seen and am hugely enjoying) and I even turned down watching episodes to read this book.



Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir from a woman with an unusual upbringing. Brought up by off-the-grid end-of-days-preppers on a remote mountain in Idaho, Tara was never vaccinated, never saw a doctor or dentist, and didn't even have a birth certificate until she was 9 years old. And she never went to school. Her mother attempted homeschool from time to time, but there was always too much work to be done at her father's scrap metal business for a real education to take place.

When abuse from family members escalated, Tara knew that she needed a way out. Some of her older siblings had found ways out: marriage, jobs... and her older brother Tyler had gone to college. Tara began to dream of going to college, too. But that dream seemed impossible. She had never taken an exam in her life, but now would have to ace the ACT to be considered by colleges. She had never studied or written an essay. She had never heard of the Holocaust or the Civil Rights Movement.

It's not really a spoiler to tell you that she makes it out. In fact, Tara Westover went on to not only complete her Bachelor's degree but to study overseas and eventually earn a PhD. It only makes her unusual upbringing that much more fascinating to know how she ultimately went on to live a very different life.

I mean, what Tara and her family members endured... I couldn't look away from this book, even as it completely disturbed me. I completely take for granted that if a horrifying accident happened to me or someone around me, we'd go to the hospital. That wasn't an option for the Westovers. And they just kept surviving medical trauma that I thought for sure would kill them.

Like, I knew Tara would eventually be at least relatively okay because I knew she had gone on to write this book. But I had to read it to believe it and to see how she would possibly escape.

Readalikes:

Hand this book to folks who enjoyed memoirs about others with unusual or traumatic childhoods like The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls or A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. Although this book is published for adults, I think there's a great deal of crossover appeal for teens, particularly teens who enjoyed either of these readalike memoirs.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Random House, February 2018. 352 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrity Book Clubs

Okay, I love me a celebrity book club... as long as their taste is similar to mine. When I was young and stubborn and first working in a bookstore, I eschewed Oprah's Book Club as a herd mentality way of choosing books. Of course, what Oprah's Book Club really did was spotlight literature and get generations of viewers interested in books, which I now recognize is totally awesome.

Lately, Oprah is joined by more and more celebrities using their power to spotlight their favorite reads. Of course, librarians know about Sarah Jessica Parker's ALA Book Club: SLJ Picks. Reese Witherspoon also shares her picks on Instagram in her Hello Sunshine book club.  Emma Watson has a feminist book club on Good Reads. And I'm sure there are more and more to come.

I'm particularly excited that a lot of the recent choices have been diverse titles by #ownvoices authors! I know they don't need any more publicity, but here are a few I have been digging recently:



Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (2017). William Morrow. 304 pages. Audiobook narrated by Meera Syal. Review copy provided by my local library.

Reese Witherspoon's latest book club choice is a story about a British-Punjabi new adult who, floundering about her career choices, starts teaching a writing class at a local Sikh temple. From the publisher copy: "Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind."

I just started the audiobook of this title because I needed an audiobook that would REALLY COMPEL me to keep listening (otherwise I do no cleaning and get no exercise, so...). I think this one is going to fit the bill. I'm one chapter in and loving it so far. 


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018). Algonquin Books. 320 pages. Review copy purchased with my Book of the Month subscription - want to try it? Use my referral link here to get a free book!

I am in the middle of this one right now and pretty much all I want to do is stay home and read it. Oprah's latest Book Club choice is about an African American couple and what happens to their relationship when, after a year and a half of marriage, husband Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's totally character-based, which is my jam, and I'm just fascinated with where the story's going. It may have extra appeal for me as a wife coming up on our second wedding anniversary: what would I do if this happened? How would we handle it? 

Funny story: this book was available to preorder as "Oprah's Book Club Choice" before the title of Oprah's choice was announced. Of course I ordered multiple copies, knowing that a new Oprah pick would be super popular. I came in to the office one day to find four copies of this book on the processing cart and I said, "Oh, no, what did I do now? Why did I order four copies of this book?" only to find out that - of course - it was Oprah's pick. I was so happy because it had already been looking forward to this book. And I am enjoying it so, so much. 


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017). Penguin. Review copy purchased from Book of the Month

This one was a Reese Witherspoon pick from back in the fall and it's recently been announced that it'll be made into a series on Hulu. My family book club read this one last fall and had some great discussions around it; you can bet one of the book club ladies sent me the news of the new TV series as soon as she heard. 

Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of two families, intertwined by happenstance, who change each other's lives in dramatic ways. It also tells the story of a young Chinese mother who abandoned her baby, only to change her mind and fight against a white adoptive couple for custody of the child and how the fight divides their community. 


What do you think about celebrity book clubs? Any favorites you've discovered through celeb recommendations?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Honest Truth

So I just got a survey from my alma mater, Indiana University, which is up for re-accreditation next year. And one of the questions was "Why did you choose to attend Indiana University Bloomington for your degree?"

And I gave the honest answer.

Which is this:

My boyfriend lived in Bloomington and I wanted an excuse to move back there. We broke up two months after I moved back, BUT I got a  great education and have yet to break up with libraries. 

So, y'know. We all have different paths and at least the ex was good for something.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Folks. FOLKS. Are you paying attention? Because if you serve any Percy Jackson fans, YOU NEED THIS.


As you may be aware, Rick Riordan has a new imprint with Disney-Hyperion called Rick Riordan Presents. This new imprint is for middle grade series based on world mythology written by own voices authors. YES. GET EXCITED.

And I want to let you know that this very first book in the very first series of the new imprint is AWESOME. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi.

Aru Shah is somewhat of a loner. She lives with her mom in Atlanta in a house connected to the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, but her mom is gone most of the time on business trips. She tries to make friends with the kids at school, but somehow Aru's active imagination always seems to get in the way. So when three of her classmates show up at the Museum one day, Aru is desperate to impress them... so she tells them about the cursed lamp, the lamp her mother has warned her never to touch.

Aru lights the lamp.
And time stops.
Lighting the lamp awakens an ancient, evil spirit called the Sleeper. And now Aru, a descendent of the legendary Pandava brothers, has nine days to save the world.

If you have fans of Percy Jackson in your library or in your life, you're going to want to get this series opener. Fittingly, it is the best readalike for Percy Jackson that I have yet read. The story is full of action and adventure and interpretations of Hindu mythology, but it also has a lot of humor, giving it a tone that feels very much like Percy Jackson.

I love that Rick Riordan is using his superstar author status to publish own voices stories and I think these are going to be hits. Aru Shah comes out March 27, so go ahead and get your orders in. You'll want this book on your shelves and you'll want to add it to your booktalks.

It's been announced that the next series from Riordan's imprint will be focused on Mayan mythology (The Storm Runner by Jennifer Cervantes is out in September) and Korean mythology (Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee is out next January). I, for one, can't wait!

Featured book: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Grades 4-8.) Disney-Hyperion, March 2017. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Building a Collection Development Toolkit

Image of a light bulb inside a chalk thought bubble. Like, an idea.

When I took on a new position as Collection Development Leader at my library, I knew I would need to reach out to find resources to help me in my job. I have been pretty good at staying on top of what's being published as far as youth materials since that's been part of my job for many years. But I am brand new at collecting materials for adults, so I've been building up my resources in that area. Not only did I need resources, but I needed to figure out how to manage them in a convenient way.

One system that's worked for me is signing up for collection development and reader's advisory emails and then setting up filters so that they go to their own folders and I can peruse them when I have time. Emails go straight to their own folders and then I reserve some time each day or every couple of days to look through them.

What are the resources I have found so far? 

Book Pulse from Library Journal. Becky Spratford of RA for All pointed me to this resource and I am so grateful. Updated each weekday, this blog points out popular titles for the week, books new to the NYT Best Seller List, and books that have been reviewed in big publications or mentioned in the media. It also shares general book news like award announcements, author deaths, etc. The posts can be emailed to you, so I get them in my Book Pulse folder each day.

Baker & Taylor's Fast Facts. This weekly email includes not only hot titles for the upcoming week and titles about to be featured on radio and TV but it includes a spreadsheet of all titles being published the following week. Sometimes that's too overwhelming, but it's broken down into Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, New Paperback, etc. so unless it's a super busy week it's helpful to me to double-check and see if there's anything I've missed that I want to make sure I order. My library is a Baker & Taylor customer, but it looks to me like you can access their Fast Facts even if you're not (I could be wrong!)

Shelf Awareness Pro. This is another weekday email blast that sends out book-related news. A lot of it pertains more to bookstores, but it helps me keep my eye on the publishing world. Even the ads can be helpful, pointing me to books that are being heavily marketed that I might want to put on my radar.

Check Your Shelf. This is a new bi-weekly email sent out by Book Riot for a librarian audience. Even though I haven't actually gotten my first email yet, I trust it will be a useful resource since I already rely on Book Riot's blog posts to help make me aware of new and upcoming adult books. Bonus: if you sign up now you can enter to win a free library cart!

LibraryReads. Each month, LibraryReads announces librarians' top ten picks for the upcoming month so you can put them on your radar. I get these emailed to me so I can forward the list out to my public services staff and make them aware of hot books that will be coming out.

RA for All. Becky Spratford has an amazing blog with tons of resources for reader's advisory, which goes hand in hand with collection development. I've found out about many great resources through her blog.

Book Riot. Here's another great blog for staying on top of what's new and upcoming in books. What I love about this site is that it's geared towards all readers; there's something for everyone here. Not every post is relevant to my work, but there are tons of book lists and they make an effort to feature diverse books, which is important.

Rich in Color: Diverse Books Release Calendar. Here's another great resource for keeping on top of diverse children's books coming out. It's something I have bookmarked to check each month so I can be sure to be collecting diverse titles for my library.

These are some of the resources I have found most useful and use regularly. I use other resources from my vendors (e.g. Baker & Taylor's Automatically Yours plan and their First Look carts). What should I add to my toolkit?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Another Great #24in48

This weekend was the 24in48 Readathon, one of my favorite events of the year! My husband and I cleared our calendars (partially) and stocked up on books and snacks and we read, read, read all weekend long. One of the things I like about this readathon is that it allows some flexibility since it takes place over two days. We hosted an event for our friends and I took numerous naps and I still made it to 24 hours this weekend!


And I read some GREAT books this weekend! You can expect longer posts about some of these, but this was my list: 


  • Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (Soho Teen, January 2018). I got halfway through this one last night. A Muslim Indian teen is caught between two boys she likes while she tries to figure out how to tell her parents she's going to NYU instead of the university they like. 
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2017). So cute and funny, this was un-put-down-able to me. Korean-American senior Desi has always succeeded when she has a plan, but can a plan to find love based on Korean drama shows work when she falls for brooding artist Luca? 
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hinandani (Dial, March 2018). It's 1947 and Nisha and her family are forced to leave their home after India's partition divides the country into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu/Sikh India. The book is written in diary entries and reminded me of Anne Frank and The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. 
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017). After prep school boy Justyce McAllister is arrested for trying to help an intoxicated friend (NOT carjacking her like the police assume), he starts to really notice the injustices happening around him and to write letters to Martin Luther King to sort out his thoughts about what's happening. Teens looking for a primer on privilege and the Black Lives Matter movement need look no further. 
  • Hurricane Child by Khreyn Callendar (Scholastic, March 2018). Born during a hurricane, Caroline has always been able to see things no one else can. When a new girl comes to school and agrees to help her find her mother, Caroline finds herself swept up in new feelings. 
  • American Panda by Gloria Chao (Simon Pulse, February 2018). Mei has always been the good Taiwanese American girl, doing just what her parents want. But as she starts pre-med at MIT she'll have to face the fact that she's a total germaphobe and that she's falling for a boy her parents would never approve of. 
  • Chasing King's Killer by James L. Swanton (Scholastic, January 2018). In the tradition of his other books for young readers, Swanton has written a gripping true crime thriller about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • Superb Vol. 1: Life After the Fallout by David F. Walker, Sheena Howard, and Ray-Anthony Height (Lion Forge, December 2017). A comic with a superhero with Down's Syndrome. Yes, please.
  • And I listened to about 3 hours of my current audiobook, LaRose by Louise Erdrich.
My standout favorites of the Readathon were Chasing Martin's Killer and I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Both of those were un-put-down-able and the pages flew by as I was reading them.  But I really got to read a lot of fantastic books this weekend. 

I want to send a big huge

thank you!!!

to our Readathon hosts. This is such a fun weekend for me and I really appreciate the work that goes into making it happen! 

Mark your calendars for the next 24in48 Readathon, which will be happening July 21-22, 2018!