Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review: Song of the Sparrow

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell. (Grades 7+)

In honor of Poetry Friday, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the latest verse novel I've read. Okay. I must confess that I don't totally get this genre. I suppose I like it as much as the next person, but if I am completely honest, one of the reasons I like it is because you can read big, thick books really quickly if they're written in verse. That's probably not how you're supposed to read them, but... oh, well.

That said, I must say that I enjoyed this book (though I think I would have enjoyed it just as much had it been written in prose). Song of the Sparrow is a retelling of the Arthurian legend of Elaine of Shalott. I came to the book with pretty much zero knowledge of Arthurian legend.

Elaine is a teenage girl who lives with her brothers, father, and a couple hundred other men at a battle camp in England during the Dark Ages. Her mother died when she was young and she's been raised without a lady's hand. Elaine likes her life among the men. She sews for them and gathers healing plants. She swims in the lake and knows the forest like the back of her hand. It's the only life she's ever really known. And for as long as she can remember, Elaine's been in love with Lancelot. When a lady shows up at the camp betrothed to Arthur, Elaine thinks she will finally have a friend. Unfortunately, Gwynivere seems to want nothing to do with her... and what's worse is the way she looks at Lancelot... and the way he looks back at her...

Although the story has a strong element of romance, Elaine's no swoony shrinking violet. She's pretty kick-ass. Lisa Ann Sandell says in her author's note that she wanted to re-imagine the story of Lady Shalott with strong female characters. She's done just that. Not being familiar with the legends on which the story is based, the first thing I wanted to do when I finished Sandell's book was to run out and read all the legends. Luckily, Sandell provides an awesome author's note with background on the Arthurian legends, the debate over whether Arthur ever actually lived, and a great list of books for continued reading. I am a huge sucker for author's notes. I love them. I want to marry them. They make me happy.

So, yes. This is a great book to give to your teens looking for novels in verse or fantasy with strong women. I'd even venture that the romance element is strong enough to recommend it to your Twilight fans, though Elaine is much more kick-ass than Bella (I hate to say this, but it's true).

Song of the Sparrow has also been reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews and Wands and Worlds.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carnival of Children's Lit

I don't know what you are doing looking at my blog, when you could be reading the November Carnival of Children's Literature over at MotherReader. She's collected tons of great tips for reviewers, readers, writers, librarians, parents, teachers, and more. It's a great topic and there's something useful for everyone over there. (I am particularly enthralled by the tips for new bloggers at Wizards Wireless... I'll be setting up my feed as soon as I get home tonight...)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Literacy Lunches

This week I've been doing Literacy Lunches at a local elementary school. It's a program we came up with in collaboration with our district school librarians. A librarian from our department visits a school during lunchtime and reads a novel out loud to the kids. The school I'm going to is the second school to participate in the program. One of my colleagues went to a school before Thanksgiving and read One Beastly Beast over a period of seven school days. He got a great response from the kids, a group of 40 boys.

The kids sign up for the program and bring their lunches to the library or a classroom where they listen while they eat. The kids in my group voted on and selected the book Whittington by Alan Armstrong. I must admit that it's a book I never would have picked up on my own, but I quite enjoyed it and I think the kids are enjoying it, too. I could see Whittington being on the next Caudill list. (And speaking of the next Caudill list, I am totally ready for it. I love many of the books on this year's list, but I'm ready to see what we'll be frantically reading in the spring and summer of 2008... I have awhile to wait, though... beginning of February, I think...)

It's also been interesting to read a novel out loud. It's actually something I've never done before. I've read countless picture books out loud, but it's totally different reading a novel out loud.

I have 20 boys and girls in my group (mostly girls) and we always have a teacher in the room with us. There's been no problem with discipline. The kids that are there want to be there and they've been remarkably well-behaved so far. We limited it to 4th and 5th graders.

I hope that this program becomes a regular event, perhaps annual or bi-annual. I hope the kids enjoy it enough to want to keep signing up. I hope word spreads and if we're able to keep doing it, that the 3rd graders look forward to becoming 4th graders because they can sign up for Literacy Lunches. Of course, every librarian dreams of that sort of success with their programs. I suppose we will just have to wait and see.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Audiobook Roundup: Fun Listens for Families with Little Ones

I should have posted this before Turkey Day, but I didn't think about it until today. Holidays are coming up and that means people are traveling to visit family, go shopping, etc. And traveling might mean audiobooks. Now, I don't know about you, but I get requests for audiobook recommendations on a fairly regular basis. It can be quite tricky at times to pick out an audiobook that will be appropriate and appealing for the entire family. Something that will keep the interest of the five-year-old, the eight-year-old, the twelve-year-old, and the grown-ups. I don't have a magic formula, but I do have some recommendations for good listens for families with young children.

The Time Warp Trio, Volume 1: #1 The Knights of the Kitchen Table; #2 The Not-so-Jolly Roger by Jon Scieszka, read by William Dufris

Funny. Funny funny funny. This audiobook sounds just like a cartoon. William Dufris is excellent at creating distinct voices for the characters, which is quite a feat when you have three boys of the same age as your protagonists. In this series, Joe, Fred, and Sam are magically transported back in time by a book given to Joe by his uncle. Once back in time, they have madcap adventures until they are able to find the book and get back to their normal time. As you can discern from the title, in Volume 1 they travel first to King Arthur's time and then have to deal with pirates searching for treasure. I really can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this audiobook and I keep hoping against hope that they'll continue recording the series (but thus far only Volume 1 is available... and it looks like they might be re-releasing it).

The Mercy Watson Collection Volume 1: #1 Mercy Watson to the Rescue; #2 Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo, read by Ron McLarty.

Mercy Watson is Dennis the Menace meets Curious George. What's not to love? She's a fun-loving pig who always seems to get her way, but who comes through for everyone in the end. I loved the narration of this audiobook. It really brings the lighthearted stories to life. Luckily, there is a second Mercy Watson Collection for when you finish this one.

Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins, read by Melanie Martinez.

In a series of vignette-type stories, the toys are taken to school, put through the washing machine, go to the beach, and plan a birthday party (among other things). It's a sweet book and funny because the toys sound like children themselves (referring to a subliminal message as a "submarine message", etc.). This recording reminded me a little bit of the Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats (is that even still on? Does anyone remember that show?), and it's sweet but not sappy.

These are a few of my favorite listens that I think would be good car-trip listening for families with young children. I know there are many more out there and I'll continue to post reviews as I'm able to listen to more. If you have any recommendations for family-friendly audiobooks, please post in the comments!

And look for the next Audiobook Roundup with some recommendations for families with tween and teen girls. It'll be coming sometime in the semi-near future. For those who celebrate, I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. Safe travels!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

'Tis the Season... Fall

As Thanksgiving nears and autumn draws to a close, I thought I'd take a moment and share some of my favorite readalouds of the season. These aren't new books, just seasonal books I've come across and had success with in preschool storytimes. The autumn books seem to fly off the shelves in September, October, and November, but these are great books to consider for your storytimes.

Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley.

This is a perennial favorite with our kids. A tree talks about how winter, spring, and summer are easy, but when it comes to fall things get a little more complicated. The tree's leaves are trying to change, but they end up looking ridiculous (a rainbow, a hamburger, etc.). The book itself is small (and, sadly, looks to be out of print). Some kind person way before my time at our library turned the story into a felt and it is wildly popular. The kids laugh and laugh and there is one notable piece (an "Eat at Joe's" sign) that gives the parents and teachers a laugh, too.

Ten Little Mummies by Philip Yates.

Come Halloween time, you might be looking for some "slightly scary" books to share at storytime. Ten Little Mummies is more silly than scary, but it would certainly fit the bill in a Halloween-y program. You start out with ten little mummies, but one by one each mummy disappears leaving nine little mummies, eight little mummies... you get the drift. The pictures are fairly detailed, so make sure all the kids can get up close to see. My particular favorite picture has a mummy sticking his head out of a sphynx's nose.

The Hallo-wiener by Dav Pilkey.

This is one of my long-time favorite Halloween books. It's silly and funny and the wiener dog gets the last laugh. All the other dogs make fun of his silly costume (but, really, what else is a dachshund supposed to wear on Halloween??). But when push comes to shove, the wiener dog shows his true courage and ends up saving the day.

The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis.

Pumpkins are a very popular item in the fall, I've come to notice. I first read this one for a pumpkin-carving storytime at a local farm. This book tells the story of a gigantic pumpkin that starts rolling down a hill, wreaking mayhem as it goes. The most wonderful thing about this book is not the story (although it is kooky and entertaining), but the beautiful rhythmic language. This would be a good one to demonstrate phonemic awareness and explain how hearing rhythm helps kids learn to read.

All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin.

I read this one just this morning for our drop-in storytime and instantly fell in love. This is a very sweet story of a family of cats who eat all but one slice of apple pie. The one slice goes to feed a family of mice who eat all but six crumbs. The six crumbs go to feed a family of ants who eat it all up. They all fall asleep and when they wake up, they decide to all bake (and eat) another pie together. It's not Thanksgiving-y per se, but I introduced it by asking what kinds of foods people ate for Thanksgiving ("Turkey!" "Potatoes!" "Salami!" ... yes, all real responses...). It's a sweet story about eating and sharing and what can be more Thanksgiving-y than that?

So, that's my list of favorite fall readalouds for the under-5 crowd. Hopefully my lists will continue to grow as I continue to spend seasons reading stories to small children. What are some of your favorite fall readalouds?

Monday, November 19, 2007


I had the privilege of visiting a local Montessori school and giving booktalks to their 4th-6th grade class today. It was quite fun, as I expected it would be. It's a great group of kids and our library has a good relationship with them, so we see them on a fairly regular basis. The first time I went was in April, then I saw them again when they visited the library in September. Today they had requested a selection of "new and neat" books, so this is what I brought to show them:


The Nixie's Song by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (especially notable because the Spiderwick movie is due out in February)

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers

Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson


Kids Baking by Abigail Johnson Dodge

The Boys Book: How to be the Best at Everything by Dominique Enright

The Girls Book: How to be the Best at Everything by Juliana Foster

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make it Bad by Mark Gonyea

Chock Full of Chocolate by Elizabeth MacLeod

Gifts for Kids to Make by Cheryl Owen

Ox, House, Stick: A History of Our Alphabet by Don Robb

Exploding Ants: Amazing Facts About How Animals Adapt by Joanne Settel


Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian

By far, the biggest hits were The Boys Book and The Girls Book. They both got passed around so that every kid could look at them (and the girls and boys both looked at each book). They were super easy to booktalk, too, because all I had to do was read them several of the instruction titles ("How to win a bet", "How to fight a crocodile", etc.). Another hit was Exploding Ants.

So, yes. Fun was had by all. I may or may not be doing more booktalks tomorrow for a group of middle school special ed kids. Again, very sweet kids, so I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

Have I mentioned lately that my job rocks??

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review: First Light

First Light by Rebecca Stead. (Grades 4-7)

Peter is a boy on his first trip to Greenland. He's accompanying his father who is doing research on global warming and his mother who is supposedly writing a book about mitochondrial DNA, but who is really spending all her time writing in a mysterious red book. Nothing can spoil this adventure for Peter... except maybe the weird things happening to his vision and the terrible headaches he's suddenly getting.

Thea is a girl living in a secret community under the ice. Her people were nearly exterminated in the "wider world", but that was generations ago and Thea thinks that it's time they explored the surface. Supplies are running thin, but still Thea's grandmother (head of the Council) is determined that everyone will stay put. Suddenly Thea has some decisions to make when someone slips her a map that may show her the way out of their underground home.

Peter and Thea will meet under dire circumstances and they will both have some tough decisions to make. But they might have more in common than either of them could have ever guessed.

Before I picked up this title, I'd heard that it was a readalike for City of Ember by Jean DuPrau. If your teens are anything like the teens at my library, they can't get enough of Ember and I'd certainly recommend First Light to quench their thirst for secret underground societies. I agree with the Booklist review that says "...[t]here are some gaps in Gracehope's invented mythology...", but I still found it to be a satisfying read. The twists weren't particularly surprising, but everything came together well. I especially liked all the parts about the dogs. In the undergound world Gracehope, each human is paired with a canine companion and some humans can actually understand the dogs "speaking".

Altogether, I found this to be a solid science-fiction read. It started off a bit slow, but about 100 pages in, the action really took off and I couldn't put it down. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to a kid looking for sci-fi or for something to read after they've finished the Ember books.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And After School Adventures draws to a close...

This week was our last week of registered storytime. It's a bit of a relief because it's a lot of work to do so many programs each week. We're definitely ready for a break. But I already miss our After School Adventures kids, so I thought I would show off our work.

Last week we made these pumpkin spice decorations. They needed a week to dry and then this week we helped the kids put the ribbons on and they got to take them home. They turned out rather well if you ask me:

These are samples of some of the best ones. They smell really good and one kid really liked to poke holes. :) The craft was kind of a pain to do because the dough didn't set up like it was supposed to, but the end product turned out well and I suppose it was worth it.

Another thing we have to commemorate the end of fall storytime is our storytime poster. Our graphic artist designed the poster and the kids each decorated an Ellison shape to glue on the poster:

Please note the flying pumpkin in the top left corner. Heee.

Tomorrow is the Jim Gill concert. Color me excited!

Poetry Friday

Today's poem for Poetry Friday comes from the book Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits. Obviously, I cannot do it justice because you really have to see these poems to appreciate them. It's a very cool book of concrete poems (concrete poem = a poem that takes the shape of the object it describes) that describe events and feelings in 9th grader Jessie's life.

So, picture this poem written in white text inside a black figure of a zombie. For eyes, the zombie has:

tro tro
phy phy

Zombie Jocks

Trophy, trophy, trophy trophy.
Zombie jocks, we want the trophy.
Trophy, trophy, give us trophy.
Give the zombie jocks the trophy.

Football, baseball, we will win 'em.
When we wrestle, we must pin 'em.
Soccer, hockey, we will skin 'em.
On our bikes, you bet we'll Schwinn 'em.

Don't like music, art, or science.
We prefer the Rams and Giants.
Don't like movies. Don't like dancing.
Don't like dating or romancing.

Trophy, trophy, trophy, trophy.
Zombie jocks must have the trophy.
Shiny, shiny, pretty trophy
With our names engraved on trophy.

Oh, and did I mention that all the e's are backwards? It's a cool book, check it out. (I'm recommending it for grades 7+)

Happy Poetry Friday!

Book Review: Zen and the Art of Faking It

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick. (Grades 5-8)

Eighth grader San Lee just moved to Pennsylvania and started at a new school. He's moved around a lot, from Texas to California to Alabama... and in each place he's assumed a new identity, heeding to his father's advice to "do as the Romans do". Now, with his dad (somewhat mysteriously) out of the picture, San has to decide how he's going to present himself at school. Which of his identities will he choose? Conservative religious kid? Skater boy? Macho jock? When he finds out that his social studies class is studying Eastern religions, which he studied the year before at his Texas school, San's new identity is thrust upon him: Zen master. It fits perfectly with his appearance (he and his mom don't have much money, so he's forced to wear sandals in the winter and has no coat). And the object of his crush, a Beatles-loving guitar-playing wild-haired girl named Woody, seems to dig it. So San goes to the library and studies up... But before he knows it, things have gotten way out of control. Will San be able to come clean and figure out his own identity? Or will he continue to the a master of Zen and the Art of Faking It?

Jordan Sonnenblick is one of my newly-discovered favorite authors. While I didn't find his newest novel to be as funny or heart-breaking as his previous novels have been, I still really loved the characters and the interesting situations he placed them in. San has a real issue with identity in this book. He's always been trying to please other people (namely his father), so he has no idea who he really is. As San gets to know his crush Woody, he finds out that she has a lot of the same issues. I think this book will really speak to middle-schoolers, many of whom are going through a period of figuring out who they are and who they want to be.

I found the whole idea of San being a Zen master to be a really interesting concept for a story. First of all, I don't know much about Zen or any Eastern religion and this story sparked my interest (Sonnenblick does include a recommendation for people who want to learn more about Zen). Secondly, it was awesome how as San was "faking it" and studying up on Zen Buddhism, he actually learned a lot and started to practice some of the Zen things he was learning about. For instance, he "meditates" at the beginning of each school day and it starts out as a way to show off for Woody, but as he keeps doing it, San actually gets into it.

A note about the cover art... I don't really understand why San is standing on his head, but I really dig the image of his socks-and-sandals sticking out in the middle of the sky.

So, yes. I enjoyed it. I have really enjoyed all of Jordan Sonnenblick's books. They're each very different, but each of them have great characters that stick with you. He's one to watch. And he is a master of titles (Notes from the Midnight Driver and Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie). I love his titles. I wish I could write titles like him. If I could, my last two NaNoWriMo novels would not be "Untitled".

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book Review: Prom Dates from Hell

Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore. (Grades 9+)

Give this to the next Buffy fan to approach you for a suggestion, for serious. Maggie Quinn has always been somewhat intuitive. Her gran tells her that the Sight runs in the family. So when Maggie starts having horrific dreams about fire and brimstone and a shadowy demon, she's not completely surprised to find mysterious things happening at her high school. The first appearance is at the pool during gym class. Maggie notices a strange sulfuric odor and then her classmate Karen "accidentally" slips on the high dive, cracking her head on the board on her way down. Maggie knows that it's no accident and she sets out to get her Nancy Drew on. Luckily, she has a dreamy sidekick: an anthropology student in one of her father's classes at the university. Together, they'll have to figured out who summoned this demon, who's on the demon's hit list, and what they can do to stop it... Worst of all, Maggie might have to face her worst fear... going to the prom.

If you're looking for something with a kick-ass heroine and a smidgin' of romance, this one's for you. Maggie Quinn is rocking the Buffy vibes and the cast of secondary characters is not totally generic (I suppose). It's a fun book with a lot of action and a hilarious chemistry teacher. Although this quote's from the end of the book, I don't think it spoils anything:

"Professor Blackthorne was holding his own with one of the beasts, standing over it with a chair leg and splattering it apart every time it re-formed. 'You will not' -splat- 'defy' -squish- 'the laws' -scrunch- 'of nature.'"

Tell me that doesn't bring back recollections of the principal from Buffy the movie standing over slain students and passing out detention slips.

Hand this one to fans of Devilish, the Mediator series, and maybe Tattoo.

PS: There's a sequel due out in August 2008: Hell Week. (And it appears to feature possessed sorority girls!)

My own personal stumpers

Today I solved a stumper that's been bothering me for a long time. It was a book that I loved when I was about 10 years old. The main character of the book is a 12-year-old girl whose father is dying of a heart condition. He's diagnosed, the family gets one last fantastic Christmas with him, and then he dies and the girl feels guilty every time she starts having fun. I knew that I read it sometime in the early to mid-90s and that it was written by a well-known author (but the book wasn't relatively well-known).

The book? With You and Without You by Ann M. Martin.

I found it today on NoveList.

I also found the names of a couple of books I read about the same time about a group of girls that form a club for blondes only. The series is called Not For Blondes Only and sadly it looks like there were only two books written: Five's a Crowd and Show Time! The series was written by Betsy Lifton and Karen Lifton.

I found that one today on WorldCat.

I've only got one stumper left and it's a doozy. I remember reading it around the same time, probably early to mid-90s. It was about a family with a big group of sisters (four or five). I believe they were Jewish and that the youngest sister's name was Magda. One of the middle sisters wants to be a writer and she sends away for this writing course because it has a money-back guarantee. She plans to copy down the course and mail it back before the two weeks are up so that she doesn't have to pay for it. But she forgets or isn't able to copy the whole thing down and ends up having to pay for it, which is hard because the family doesn't have much money. I also remember a scene where the sisters take their youngest sister to school and she wets her pants or something. This is NOT any of the All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sidney Taylor. I looked at all of those today at work. Nope. Not it.

Maybe someday I'll find the answer to that stumper... As it is, I am happy to report that my library owns a copy of With You and Without You and it's circ'ed recently (and not even by me!), so hopefully it will stick around. Although I might have to scour used bookstores and see if I can track down a copy of my own.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Early Literacy Gig

This morning I attended a Preschool Partnerships meeting at NSLS. There were about 20 librarians there from libraries all over the north suburbs and we were all sharing ideas about our early literacy programs. The amount of early literacy programming really varied between libraries and my library is just starting to get into the early literacy gig. We had an ECRR trainer come in September and do a staff training and we've been handing out information about early literacy skills and making book displays featuring skills for about a month now.

In January, we're hosting the first in what I hope will become a series of Preschool Educator Workshops. We'll be doing a training on ECRR and the six early literacy skills. It will be chock full of book suggestions, reading demonstrations, songs, and practical tips they can use in their classrooms (I hope). I'll have more to report on after January 29.

In the meantime, I got plenty of awesome suggestions from the meeting this morning. One library did a program for preschool teachers where they could come in and make felt stories that they could take home with them and use in their classroom. I don't know too many specifics, but I believe the library supplied the felt, craft supplies, and patterns. There were four patterns available and teachers could pick two to make and take. The library also supplied copies of the story and demonstrated how to use the sets to tell the story. I think this is something our early childhood educators would get really into and I'm hoping that if our first Preschool Educator Workshop goes well, this might be next up.

My other favorite idea was adding these Search and Find Rhyming Bags to an early literacy center or activity table. They are super cute and I think our kids would go gaga for them. They also make Alphabet Bags (also super cute). I spent a happy hour on desk browsing Lakeshore's online catalog. :)

So, yes. Lots of great ideas about early literacy. Meetings like this are invigorating and inspiring... but also exhausting because we have so much stuff going on. This is our last week of registered storytime and hopefully life will get a lot less hectic once that's over. Until then, we shall carry on... Jim Gill's this Saturday! YAY!

Book Review: Leepike Ridge

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson.

For some reason, I thought this book was fantasy. I was utterly convinced, and even reading the jacket flap (which in no way mentions anything magical or fantasy-ish) failed to convince me otherwise. Leepike Ridge is not fantasy, but it is fantastic. (Hahaha. I kill me.)

Really, it all started with a new refrigerator. Tom was messing around with the giant piece of foam that came with the new fridge and somehow it ended up down in the creek. Then, when Tom's mother's boyfriend came over and Tom had to get out of the house... well, Tom ended up down in the creek with the foam (no, he didn't fall, which was my other misconception about the plot of this book). It was late at night and Tom was fooling around with the foam and somehow Tom ended up falling asleep on top of the foam. And the foam kept drifting down the creek. And the creek met the mountain. And Tom got sucked under.

Tom came up from the water and found himself in a completely dark underwater cave. Stuck. No one knew where he was, no one even knew that he was alive. And he had no idea how to get out.

So, we have Tom in a watery cave under a mountain. Add in a dog named Argus, a castaway historian, a band of treasure-hunters, and about a pound of albino crawdads and you'll be going on a rip-roaring adventure story along with Tom.

The incomparable Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production aptly called Leepike Ridge "Hatchet meets Holes" and I couldn't agree more. How could any fourth-to-seventh-grade boy resist?

(Plus, take a look at that cover! I could stare at it for hours and it really makes me feel like I'm going to fall about a mile and sploosh into that pretty blue creek.)

Oh, it's also a candidate in Anderson's Mock Newbery.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Preschool Fair and the Mystery That Remained Unsolved

Well, the Preschool Fair was last night. I think it went pretty well and I am mostly glad that it's over. Attendance was not quite as high as we've had in the past and I made some organizational mistakes with the layout of the tables. For my first try, I think it went as well as I could possibly have hoped.

The preschool reps gave me some feedback and hopefully we'll be able to do it even better next year. We had 22 schools come and they brought really neat displays for their tables. The cookies were greatly appreciated (especially by the under-5 crowd). I have to wonder if part of the attendance issues is just the age of the population. My boss reminded me that the reason we do the preschool fair is for our patrons, not the preschools. And that kind of brought it all into perspective.

I'm starting to feel like my programs are cursed, though. No one showed up for After School Adventures on Halloween (totally understandable), we had light attendance at the PF last night, and today no one showed up for our teen mystery program.

My colleague S and I did our first teen mystery program over the summer. We wrote a script and it was like one of those murder mystery games where everyone has a part and you act out your character and try to find out who committed the murder. It went very well and all the teens had a good time, so we decided to try it again. We've been working hard on the script for the last couple of weeks, so we were a bit bummed when no one registered for the program. My best guess is that it's a scheduling thing. Our school district was off school today, so maybe families went out of town. Probably the kids were just glad for a break and not looking for anything extracurricular to do on their day off.

The good news is that we now have a completed script that we can whip out over the summer for a teen mystery program.

I feel like I had so much time off desk today and yet I got nothing done. Wrapping up everything for the Preschool Fair took a lot longer than I expected (but it is finally done and now I don't have to look at any of that until MAY!). I also exchanged a couple fairly lengthy emails with a lady doing book leveling for a middle school in the area. She's actually not in our library district, but she seems really nice and she's working really hard on this project, so I'm happy to help her any way that I can. I might be getting a list of books to level on Monday... We'll see how that goes.

In other news, it's Friday! And this is my first weekend completely off with no travel and no out-of-town guests in a long, long time. Hopefully a large portion of the weekend will be spent wrapped up in blankets reading good books. Hopefully I will feel motivated to write about them on this blog. On the chance that I do not, check out my GoodReads page.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My hands still smell like cinnamon

We had After School Adventures today (and luckily nearly everyone showed up). I had the brilliant idea to do these pumpkin spice decorations. I figured it would be simple. I got the recipe from Glues, Brews, and Goos: Recipes and Formulas for Almost Any Classroom Project by Diana F. Marks. The dough is basically spices and glue. We'd make up the dough ahead of time and all the kids would have to do is squish it flat, cut it out with a cookie cutter, and poke a hole in it with a straw so they could tie a ribbon through it next week when they pick it up to take it home.


The dough would not set up. It was way too sticky and gooey to use cookie cutters. While B read books and told stories to the kids, I spent a frantic half hour adding flour to it to get it to a consistency where we might be able to use it. We had a backup plan in case I couldn't get it to work, but eventually I thought it would be okay to use. It still took the kids forever to work with it and get their shapes cut out. The older kids did great, but the younger kids all needed lots of help.

I think the kids still had fun with the project. It took forever to clean up and I am exhausted from it. I am also living in fear that they won't dry correctly or that someone will throw them away or that our little library mice friends will make an appearance and eat them up. But if all goes well, they will be dry by next Wednesday, the kids will put ribbons in them, and the kids will take them home. Cross your fingers.

Lesson learned: Try out your projects in advance.

The good thing about the pumpkin spice shenanigans is that it kept me from thinking about the Preschool Fair too much... Yes, the Preschool & Enrichment Fair is tomorrow. I don't even know what could go wrong, but I'm anxious about something going wrong. I'm also anxious that we won't get a lot of people showing up... Thursday nights are traditionally quiet for us and we haven't had a lot of success with getting people to show up for programs on Thursday nights. So we shall see...

In other news, I'm doing booktalks for a small class of 4th-6th graders at a Montessori school in a couple of weeks. I'm super psyched because it's a great group and I have a bunch of books that I'm really excited about. Prepping for the booktalks:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia

I finally watched Bridge to Terabithia tonight. First of all, I must say that the previews did not do it justice at all. The movie is actually very close to the book, although I must admit that I was confused at first because I thought it was supposed to be set in the 70s. It's, um, not historical fiction. Duh. :)

I loved Bailee Madison as May Belle. She was absolutely perfect. I also loved Zooey Deschanel as Ms. Edmonds. I think she is so pretty and she has those gorgeous blue eyes. If I were Jesse, I'd have a crush on her, too. ;)

So, yes. I liked it quite a bit and highly recommend it. Though, I will warn you that it's quite sad. I mean, obviously... but I was definitely glad I was watching it at home where I could cry in private.

Poetry Friday: Douglas Florian

Douglas Florian is my favorite children's poet. I admit that I don't know as much poetry as I would like to, but I consistently love his stuff. And so, for my first kidlit-blogging Poetry Friday, I will share my new favorite poem. It's from Florian's newest book Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars and it is called "Pluto".


Pluto was a planet.
But now it doesn't pass.
Pluto was a planet.
They say it's lacking mass.
Pluto was a planet.
Pluto was admired.
Pluto was a planet.
Till one day it got fired.

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I do. For now, I'm off to get my car fixed and write more on my novel. (It's NaNoWriMo, don'tcha know?)

(Speaking of NaNoWriMo, it is also NaNoReMo for both adult novels and YA novels. I'm not participating in NaNoReMo this year, but maybe you should. Check it out.)