Sunday, May 31, 2009

Act freakin' NOW

Because the fabulous Steph is giving away a copy of Catching Fire. YESTHAT'SRIGHT.

Her awesomeness knows no bounds. (I hope I win!)

Book Review: Dork Diaries

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell. (Grades 5+)

When she starts the eighth grade at snooty prep school Westchester Country Day, Nikki Maxwell is determined to live up to her star potential. She'll hide the fact that her dad is the school's exterminator (hence her scholarship). She'll get a fabulous cell phone and be best friends with queen bee Mackenzie, thereby guaranteeing her place in the CCP (Cute, Cool, & Popular) group at school.

Um... things don't work out the way she'd planned. Instead of an iPhone, Nikki's mom buys her a diary. Sigh.

I was like, OH. NO. SHE. DIDN'T!

My mom had given me two things: a DIARY and irrefutable evidence she IS, in fact, CLINICALLY BRAIN DEAD!!

Absolutely no one writes their most intimate feelings and deep, dark secrets in a diary anymore! WHY?!

Because just one or two people knowing all your BIZ could completely ruin your reputation.

You're supposed to post this kind of juicy stuff online in your BLOG so MILLIONS can read it!!!
(pg 8*)

And Nikki's misadventures continue from there.

I was definitely chuckling along as I read and I think this'll be a great hit with girls who can't get enough Wimpy Kid. Nikki accompanies her diary entries with manga cartoons that she draws. While maybe not quite as amusing as Jeff Kinney's stick figures, the illustrations definitely add to the text (as does the typeface, which looks like handwriting).

Check out more reviews of Dork Diaries at Becky's Book Reviews, The Reading Zone, and The Picnic Basket (reviews are in the comments).

If you have as many fans of Greg Heffley as I have at my library, you'll definitely want to get this one!

Oh, and can I just say that along with the ARC, Rachel sent a cute little purse with lots of girly little items including my new favorite (and my cat's favorite) fluffy pink pen? I only mention this because it was such an effective tool... every time I'd pull out that pen to make a note, I'd remember "Oh yes! Must read Dork Diaries!" Publicists take note: we all use pens a lot. :)

Reading rocks indeed!

I visited Cake Wrecks, one of my favorite blogs, this morning and found, to my surprise and delight, a post all about book-inspired cakes!

Mmmmmmm. Do check it out. On that note, I'm going to go in search of breakfast. :)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Around the interwebs

Color me jealous of everyone who's gallivanting around BEA right now. Not getting my act together in time + starting new job (so no vacation time yet) = no BEA for me this year. Next year, I will be there for sure.

For those of us left at home this weekend, here are some great sites/posts to check out:

I can't imagine that anyone hasn't seen Betsy's Top 100 Picture Books, but do check it out if you've missed it. She ran a poll, collecting readers' top ten picture books of all time, and she's written great, detailed posts about each of the top 100.

Y'all remember that I loved Linda Ashman's Come to the Castle, right? Well, The Children's Book Review is giving away a copy, but you have to act fast and enter by June 1 (Monday!).

Editorial Anonymous has been discussing the Coretta Scott King Award, something which people seem to be divided on. Check out what she says in The CSK is Dead (Long Live the CSK) and then read CSK: Redux. Very interesting points are brought up in the comments of both posts. I'm not quite sure where I stand on the issue, so I guess all I will say is that librarians do love their book awards.

There have been several posts around the Kidlitosphere about the Emily Strange/Nate the Great lawsuit, but I loved Liz's. The whole situation is very bizarre.

Thanks to Sarah for letting me know that The Vampire Diaries is going to be a TV show!!!! I loved that series when I was in middle school (high school? I have no idea) and I'll definitely put that one on my DVR and give it a whirl. I need to get the new volume that was recently published. *eyes teetering TBR pile* Hrmm.

SPEAKING OF TV SHOWS, DID YOU WATCH GLEE?! In case you missed the preview episode, you can watch Glee online all summer long. It fills my heart with joy and I can't believe we have to wait until fall to see more. Good on you, Fox!

In completely unrelated happenings, if you're writing a grant you might be interested in this Grant-Writing Tips on the ALSC blog. As competition for funding gets more and more competitive, we can use all the advice we can get!

Maybe you've had that experience of recommending your favorite YA book to a layman and getting that "Oh, that's YA... No, thanks..." response. Well, Kelly's got 5 Ways You Can Convert YA Scoffers.

And last, but not least, Susan's got a post up on Booklights about diverse board books, which is something I'm always interested in. If you're looking to add some diversity to your board book collection, check out that great list and the suggestions in the comments.

On that note, I'm out. Tomorrow's our Summer Reading Club kick-off and I have about a million things to do today. Hope everyone at BEA is having a great time and collecting lots of great ARCs. Please leave some ARCs for me to collect at ALA kthx. ;)

What do you want to know? (In which Abby is a total copycat.)

Sarah of The Reading Zone recently asked her readers what questions they had for her about her reading & writing workshops in her classroom. She got a ton of great questions from other teachers (and a random one from me) and I think it's a great idea. So I'm stealing it.

What questions do you have for me? What are you wondering about public libraries? Programming? Library school? Etc.?

Post your questions in the comments and I'll be happy to answer them.

And as a side note, thanks for all the input on the What Librarians Want You to Know... posts! I'm working on a couple more posts for that series that'll be up soon.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Help Me Help You: Library Logistics

This post concludes my series, Help Me Help You: What Librarians Wish Patrons Knew About the Library. Make sure you check out Part 1: Research and Reference and Part 2: Storytime. And here we go with

Part 3: Library Logistics

The library is not totally silent. Yes, we want you to do your homework here. Yes, many libraries have quiet areas or silent reading rooms. But what you've got to understand is that the group of chatting teens or giggling three-year-olds have just as much right to be at the library as you do. The library is for everyone and it's no longer always a silent space. If you're looking for a quiet place, I can probably recommend some places that tend to be quieter, but I will defend the teens' right to use the library, too.

If you reach a voicemail when you call, we will get back to you! But we can't get back to you if you don't leave a message. It's helpful if you leave a phone number and say it slowly and clearly. Along the same lines, if you IM and don't get a response, don't give up! The person checking the IM might be on the public service desk and helping another patron. Please be patient or if you can't wait, please call.

We appreciate when you cancel your holds for items you no longer need. We know that you want the new stuff and sometimes you (like me!) just can't wait. If you get the book from a different source, please cancel your hold. Many libraries order additional copies based on how many holds are on the item. And if you've got a book on hold that you don't intend to pick up, it's just sitting on the shelf when it could be in someone's hands.

It's okay if you are unable to come to a program you signed up for. Just please let us know! We understand that things come up, plans change, and you might be unable to make it. What you should understand is that there might be a waiting list for the program and/or we might base our prep and materials on how many people are registered. If you let us know that you can't make it, we can let someone else take your space. They will appreciate it and we will, too!

We want you to follow us into the stacks when we're showing you where something is. Our job is to show you where things are, not to fetch them for you. (Of course, if there is some reason you can't follow us into the stacks most librarians I know would be more than happy to help you out and pull things for you.) You never know what you might find on your venture into the stacks - maybe something on a nearby shelf that is an even better fit for your needs!

Librarians, this is the end of my Help Me Help You feature. This was going to be the end, but I'm working on Part 4: What Librarians Wish Teachers Knew About the Library. What should be on it? And please keep in mind that this is meant to actually be helpful, not as a venting of frustrations. What should teachers know about the library in order to use it to their full advantage? How can they help us help them? I've already got some suggestions from previous comments, but give me your input and I'll get Part 4 up early next week.

Librarians, what have I missed in my Help Me Help You posts? I've gotten lots of great additions in the comments so far, but what else?

Parents, teachers, readers, teens, kids, what would you like librarians to know about patrons? What are your questions for librarians? Maybe there will be a Part 5: What Patrons Wish Librarians Knew...

ETA (June 11): Do check out Part 4: Teacher Edition and Part 5: Wrapping it Up!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Help Me Help You: Storytime

Thanks for joining me for the second part of Help Me Help You: What Librarians Wish Patrons Knew About the Library.
Part 2 is all about storytime!

It's okay to leave storytime if your child is Just Not Into It.
In fact, in most cases we prefer that. I try and make an announcement at the beginning of every storytime that if your child is distracted or becomes a distraction to others, please take them out for a little break. We do expect a certain degree of chaos, but if your child is running circles around the story room, they're not getting anything out of the program and they're just distracting everyone else in the room. We won't be offended if you leave and it's okay to get up from your spot and fetch your child. Come back in later or try tomorrow. Every child (every person!) has good days and bad days. Some days they're Just Not Into It. And that's okay.

It's also okay to leave if you are the only one there (it's also okay to stay if you want to). I wrote a post last year about what to do when there's one child at storytime. We're happy to go ahead and do a storytime for one child, but if you don't feel comfortable with it or if your child isn't that into it, we won't be offended if you don't want to stay. We know that you made the effort to come to the library for storytime, but we also don't want to do anything that makes your child uncomfortable and being the only kid in a room with two or three adults might be intimidating for some children. Feel free to stay, but also feel free to leave.

The library is not your babysitter. As a children's librarian, I like working with and interacting with kids. We try to make the library a safe and comfortable place, but it is still a public place. Would you leave your child unattended at the mall? Then don't leave them unattended at the library. To expand on this, I would say that the library is certainly a place for individual reading or for your child to play a computer game by himself, but there is also much for caregiver and child to do together at the library. If you're checking your email while your kid is playing by themselves at the train table, you might be missing some of the best things the library has to offer! Read a book together, play a game together, attend a program together. Which leads me to my next point:

Storytime is not time for you to have a conversation with your adult friend. While we strive to make the library a place for people to gather and socialize, storytime is not the time for this. It's time to spend with your child listening to books, singing songs, and develop those early literacy skills. By all means, after storytime is over, get together with your friends and catch up. We try to make our storytimes entertaining and educational. Your child will get much more from storytime if you're there participating with her and talking to her about the stories later.

Librarians, what would you add? What do you want patrons to know about storytimes?

Check out Part 1: Research and Reference and look for Part 3: Library Logistics coming tomorrow!

ETA (June 11): And do check out Part 4: Teacher Edition and Part 5: Wrapping it Up!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Elephant and Piggie Party!

We all love Elephant and Piggie at my library and we've taken them on many an outreach visit with a lot of success. What better way to celebrate than to throw an Elephant and Piggie Party?! We made this a drop-in program for kids in grades K-2, but due to an extremely rainy afternoon we only have a handful of kids in that age range show up. We opened up the program to all ages and asked that preschoolers come with a parent and that went fine.

My coworker N and I started the program by reading some of our favorite Elephant and Piggie books. My favorites for reading aloud are I Will Surprise My Friend, I am Invited to a Party, and There is a Bird on Your Head! We read I am Invited to a Party together (she was Piggie, I was Elephant). I had wanted to try acting it out with costume props, but the planning gods were not with us on that one. Maybe next time.

Since our program was only 30 minutes long, we just did one craft after reading: bird nest hats to go along with There is a Bird on Your Head!

What you'll need:

- Paper bowls
- Brown paper bags or brown paper
- Yarn or string
- Glue
- Scissors
- Crayons

Before the program, I poked holes near the bottom of the bowls and threaded yarn through so it could be tied to keep the hat on their heads. I also put masking tape over the holes to hold the yarn in place and to make sure no glue leaked through the holes and into their hair if they put the hats on right away.

You can prep as much or as little as you want. Since we had such a limited amount of time, I shredded a brown paper bag beforehand, but you could have the kids do this if you had more time. Have the kids color the sides of the bowl brown and glue on pieces of the paper bag. Depending on how much time you have, you can glue paper to just the rim of the bowl or you can glue it on the inside as well. When the kids are wearing the hats they won't be able to see inside, so you might want to concentrate on how it looks from the side (up to you!).

I used a picture of Pigeon from The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. I photocopied the cover and then cut out the pigeon (I didn't include the legs since he'll be sitting in the nest). I had the kids color their pigeon, cut him out, and glue/tape him to the side of the bowl so that he's looking out of their nest.

Voila! Bird nest hats! And ohhh they were super cute. :)

After kids were done with the craft, they were invited to try to find the cardboard cut-out of the Pigeon that we had hidden somewhere in our department. If they found the pigeon, they could come to the reference desk and collect a sticker (we ordered these Pigeon reading stickers from ALA for a previous event).

Since we made the program so short, we only did one activity but if you wanted to expand it, here are a few ideas:

- Make party invitations (I am Invited to a Party)
- Getting-Dressed-For-the-Party Relay Race (I am Invited to a Party)
- Egg Relay Race or Egg Toss (There is a Bird on Your Head)
- Backwards ball throwing contest (Watch Me Throw the Ball)
- Have kids vote on their favorite Elephant and Piggie Book
- Create paper bag puppets of elephants and pigs

There are lots of activities available in this Elephant and Piggie Party Kit (link opens a PDF). Print out word searches and coloring sheets for the kids to take home or for them to work on while they're waiting for the party to start.

The newest Elephant and Piggie book comes out June 9 (Elephants Cannot Dance) and it looks like there's another one slated for October (Pigs Make Me Sneeze), so there are plenty of upcoming occasions to celebrate Elephant and Piggie. Yeah, like we need a reason!

Help Me Help You: What Librarians Wish Patrons Knew About the Library

Help Me Help You: What Librarian Wish Patrons Knew About the Library

I got the idea for this post after a rather frustrating reference transaction right before closing time one evening. We simply didn't have enough time to find as much information as we could have if this patron had come in, say, half an hour before closing instead of two minutes before closing (and of course they needed the information for the next day). So that got me thinking about other things that I wish patrons knew about the library. Once I started writing, I came up with much more than would fit into one post, so consider this part 1. You might also be interested in the Seattle Books Examiner piece that ran last November: Top 20 Things Librarians in Public Libraries Wish Patrons Knew or Did.

And without further ado, help me help you...

Part 1: Research and Reference

Ask us questions! What do you think we're sitting at the desk for? Because it's more comfortable than our couch at home? Whether you're looking for materials for homework, a suggestion for a good book to read, or just where the bathrooms are, we're at that desk to answer your questions. We might look like we're busy on the computer or doing work, but a good librarian's first priority at the reference desk is to talk to you and answer your questions. We're happy to answer any questions you have, but we're also happy to show you how to find the answers to your questions on your own. Ask us how to search the catalog or how to use the databases and the next time you come, you may not have to ask us anything! (Although you can always come by to say hello. :)

You'll get better results if we have time to research, think, and discuss your needs. I completely understand that sometimes the assignment is due tomorrow (or yesterday) and it's 8:55 and you just need the book!! (It happens more than you would probably guess.) But if you have a reference question or need resources for your paper or are looking for a book for a book report or books to read to your child's class, give yourself and the librarians plenty of time to figure out exactly what you need. Feel free to call ahead or send an email and let us know that you're coming - we may be able to pull some books for you to look at when you get here. If we have plenty of time to think about your request and confer with colleagues, we might be able to explore resources that don't immediately come to mind.

Bring your child in to do the research for his project. Not only will we be able to make sure he's getting what he needs for his report, he will start to learn the process of finding the materials he needs for homework. Librarians are happy to show your child how to use the library catalog, databases, and print resources. This is stuff he's going to need to know (in middle school, high school, college...) and the more practice he has with finding resources and asking librarians for help, the better he'll be!

We might access some information via the internet, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is a website! I get it all the time - a child needs information for a report and the moment I turn to Biography Resource Center or World Book Online, she balks, saying "We're not allowed to use websites!" We access databases through the internet. Contained within these databases are newspaper articles, magazine articles, encyclopedias, and reference material. These items are different than a website on the internet. Plus, websites can be valuable sources of information as well. Ask a librarian which websites are reputable and we'll be happy to help you evaluate internet information.

If your child is doing a project for his class, chances are there are 20 other kids doing the same project. We really appreciate it when you don't take all the books on a certain subject. By all means, take what you need. Also be aware that we can help you find non-book information on the internet or using our databases. But if the entire class is doing a project about the moon and the first person to come in takes every moon book on the shelf (or every moon book on a second-grade level), we have nothing to offer the rest of the kids in the class. Please be courteous when deciding how many books you need to take for a project.

Librarian readers, what would you add to this list? What should our patrons know about doing research in the library?

I'll be continuing this series with Part 2: Storytime and Part 3: Library Logistics, so stay tuned!

ETA (June 11): And do check out Part 4: Teacher Edition and Part 5: Wrapping it Up!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Reading Around the World for Early Elementary

Here's the second part of my Reading Around the World series.

Reading Around the World - for Elementary Students

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby B. Beeler. Collecting tooth traditions from around the world, this book will be a hit with any who are waiting for a visit from the Tooth Fairy.

Play with Us: 100 Games from Around the World by Oriol Ripoll. This book presents over 100 pages, both indoor and outdoor, played by kids in different countries all over the world.

My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs. Not everyone has a library nearby and this book shows how children all over the world receive library service. Some get books delivered by camel, others by boat, still others by van. How do you get your books?

How Much?: Visiting Markets Around the World by Ted Lewin. From New Jersey to Egypt to Thailand, this book explores different markets all around the world.

A Life Like Mine and A School Like Mine by DK Publishing. These books are filled with bright photos and lots of information about kids and schools around the world. See how different children play, work, and go to school in many different countries.

World Team by Tim Vyner. In this book, kids are engaging in a pastime that's common in many countries - soccer. Although the kids are growing up in many different places, they all have a dream to play in the World Cup.

Wonderful Houses Around the World by Yoshio Komatsu. Take a peek inside different kinds of houses all over the globe.

People by Peter Spier. This picture book has intricate pictures that kids will love poring over. Spier talks about the many different kinds of people all over the world - how we are all different and how we are all the same.

These are just a select few of the many wonderful books that celebrate kids and people all around the world. What are your favorites?

Check out the first installment of the list - Reading Around the World for Preschoolers.

And happy Non-Fiction Monday! Tricia's got the round-up at The Miss Rumphius Effect!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reminder: 48-Hour Book Challenge

I hope everyone's having a lovely weekend. (I know I am... this weekend has been particularly relaxing in light of the fact that I just started a new job this week, which has been wonderful but also stressful and tiring.)

There are still almost two weeks until MotherReader's 48-Hour Book Challenge kicks off, but I just wanted to post a small reminder about it. I keep forgetting that it's nearly June and I've been so busy with things that I can't ever really tell you what day it is, but June 5-7 is definitely marked on my calendar.

Lest you think that you're too busy to participate, I should tell you that I will be going out of town that Friday night and not returning until at least Saturday afternoon and I'm still signed up. I'm not sure if I'll be able to join the 20-hours club this year, but I'm certainly going to give it my best shot!!

It's going to be great fun and for all of you who are signed up, I'll tell you what I learned last year.

I started off with the goal of reading as many books as I could. I consider myself a fairly fast reader, but I quickly found that there was NO WAY I was going to keep up with the bloggers who were reading 20+ books in the 48-hours. And comparing my reading times to other bloggers' was just frustrating and disheartening for me: OMG! She read Rumors in 2.5 hours and I've been reading it for 4 and I'm not done yet! I am so inadequate! Woe is me!

I also had picked out a stack of books that I thought would make for quick reading. I had several series books and short books, figuring that I'd do better with reading a whole bunch of short books rather than a handful of longer books. That didn't work so well for me, either, as I felt bogged down by books that I wasn't really that excited to read.

So what worked for me was concentrating on the time spent reading, rather than the number of books read. After the first evening and morning, I decided to try and read for at least 20 hours and not worry about how many books I read in that time. I also put down all the short books that I had only really picked because they were short, and I started reading the books that I was really excited about reading.

Ohhhh that made such a difference! Suddenly it was fun! I wasn't going to beat all the other bloggers and read the most books, but that's not what it should really be about anyway. It's about dedicating time to reading and blogging. It's about being part of a community and encouraging others. And it's about having fun. Most of us aren't paid for this blogging stuff, so if it's not fun then why are we doing it?

That's what worked for me last year and that's what I'll be doing this year - picking up books that I've really been looking forward to and aiming to read for at least 20 of the 48 hours. And if I reach my goal, that's great. If I don't, I know I'll have fun trying.

And since the 48HBC is coming up in a couple of weeks, maybe I'll save a few books I'm really looking forward to for that weekend. So far, my list includes Marcelo in the Real World, Crows and Cards, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and The President's Daughter, but I'm sure more will crop up.

What about you? What's worked for you in the 48HBC? What are your goals? What books are you looking forward to and/or saving for that weekend?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Maybe the fates have aligned?

So, I just found out via Sarah Dessen's blog that she'll be at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville...

with Laurie Halse Anderson...

the weekend I'll be in Chicago for ALA...


Um. Can we say Happy Birthday to me?! I'm trying to figure out if I can possibly arrange things to attend all these wonderful things at once. But if I can... wow, what a weekend!

Book Review (and Giveaway!): Love You Hate You Miss You

Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott. (Grades 8+)

ETA (June 4): The contest is now closed. Thanks for entering!

I hate that I've become a bunch of quotation marks. "In Recovery." "At Risk."


All her life Amy has felt too tall, too quiet, too awkward. The alcohol helps and that's why she drinks - to forget herself, to feel blurry and free. Julia also helped. Ever since Amy and Julia met, they were best friends. Amy knew she could count on Julia no matter what.

But now Julia's gone and it's all Amy's fault. Amy doesn't know how to deal with the sudden loss of her best friend. As her therapist has her write down her thoughts (which take the form of letters to Julia), Amy will begin to figure out her complicated relationship with her best friend.

Ohhhh, Elizabeth Scott... She better write a bazillion more books. Every time I read a new book of hers I enjoy it even more than the one before. I saved Love You Hate You Miss You until I moved because I was looking forward to it so much and I knew it'd be a great way to de-stress. I was totally right. I was actually a little disappointed that I didn't have a long wait at the DMV because I didn't get a chance to read.

What did I love about this book? Well, Amy's voice, for one. She's been through this terrible tragedy. She feels incredibly guilty. But she still has this razor-sharp sarcastic edge. She hates being labeled and, as much as it hurts her, she sees things that she and Julia would have made fun of or laughed about. She's also a bit of an unreliable narrator, which I didn't think I liked but Elizabeth's crafted it with the perfect amount of tension so that it's really believable.

I also just loved the writing. I would get caught up with the characters and the plot and then these really great lines of description would jump out at me, like:

Describing the accident:

All around us, the air smelled like burned rubber and cracked metal, and my cigarette still glowed as the world ended.

Amy describing her hair:

Mine in short and the color red leaves are right before they rot.

And (one last one) I love her description of the rejects at school as "all pimples and desperation".

Not only are these lines poetic and beautiful, but they tell you so much about Amy and how she thinks and how she feels about herself. Brilliant.

So, yeah. It's not as "chick-lit" as Something Maybe, and not nearly as disturbing as Living Dead Girl. I'd highly recommend Love You Hate You Miss You to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's edgier titles (say, Speak or Wintergirls). Don't take my word for it; check out more reviews at Hope's Bookshelf, Becky's Book Reviews, and Katie's Book Blog.

And y'all are in luck because I have an extra copy of the ARC that I am GIVING AWAY TO ONE OF YOU. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post to enter. If you would make sure your email address is in the comment (or on your profile), that would make life easier for me. If you link to this giveaway in any way (on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) I will give you one extra entry for each link. Please leave a separate comment for each link.

You've got until June 3 to enter and I'll draw on June 4. My giveaway is open to anyone anywhere!

AND SPEAKING OF contests that end on June 3, head over to Reviewer X where you can enter to win ALL OF ELIZABETH SCOTT'S BOOKS. I'm tellin' ya, you don't want to miss that one!

*Quotes are from ARC and may not reflect the final version.

Stories Under the Stars

Several weeks ago, I did a program at my library for upper elementary students (grades 2-5) called Stories Under the Stars. I totally stole the idea from a librarian on PUBYAC (thank you!!!).

My coworker M and I learned the myths behind several constellations and did an oral storytelling program sharing those myths with the kids. We included the Greek myths and some Native American tales for constellations like Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, and Orion. We used several books to find the stories including Stars of the First People by Dorcas S. Miller and Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories in the Stars by Joan Marie Galat.

First, I decorated the room with glow-in-the-dark stars. I created posters with the constellations that we'd be talking about, using glow-in-the-dark paint for the stars. As we told the stories, we showed kids the constellations and then at the end of the program we turned off all the lights so they could see the constellations glow. If I could make the posters again, I'd make the glow-in-the-dark parts bigger because the littlest dots didn't show up so well.

The first part of the program (about 30 minutes) was storytelling and then we made constellation window hangers for a craft. The craft came from the book Crafts for Kids Who Are Wild About Outer Space.

What you'll need:

- plastic lids (like from cream cheese or hummus or chip dip)
- glue (we tried white Elmer's glue and Elmer's gel glue and the white glue was MUCH easier to work with)
- blue food coloring
- yarn or string cut into pieces about 4 inches in length
- craft sticks
- aluminum foil and a star puncher OR confetti stars
- glitter (optional)

Pour glue into the plastic lid and fill it up (but not so the glue spills over). Add a few drops of food coloring and mix it up with the craft stick so that you have blue glue. You really only need two or three drops of food coloring.

Make a loop out of one piece of yarn or string and place the knot into the lid, pressing it down into the glue. Make sure the knot is covered in glue. When the glue dries, you'll take the star-catcher out of the lid and hang it by the yarn loop. This was the hardest part for the kids and I think M and I ended up tying almost all the knots.

We had some random confetti on hand from various projects and I went through it and pulled out the star-shaped bits. If you don't have star confetti, punch out small stars from aluminum foil. You'll use the stars to make your constellation by putting them into the glue in the lid. Use the craft stick to press them down into the glue. We provided paper and pencils in case kids wanted to sketch their constellation before putting the stars in because they're hard to move around once they're in the glue. Since the wet glue is opaque, the stars look like they are disappearing, but when the glue is dry it will be clear and you'll have your constellation hanging in a blue sky.

If you are brave, you can use some glitter to liven up your sky.

It took several days for the star-catchers to dry, so you may want to have kids leave them at the library until they're easier to transport. Pry them out of the lid very carefully! Or you can leave them in the lid - they still look nice that way.

This would be a great program to try this year because 2009's the International Year of Astronomy! Make sure you have lots of space books on hand for this kids to check out (like one of my favorites, The Mysterious Universe).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Review: The Beef Princess of Practical County

The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts. (Grades 4-7.)
Review copy provided by publisher.

(This is a 2009 Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my personal opinion of the book, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)

Since she can remember, Libby Ryan has watched her older brother Ronnie raise and show steer at the Practical County Fair. Now that he's left for college and Libby is twelve, it's her turn. She knows that she can raise a great steer and win Grand Champion at the fair... and then maybe her dad will notice her, will respect her. Libby can prove to him that girls can do cattle work, too. She can find her place in the Ryan family beef business. But first, she'll have to learn how to let go.

The title of this book was what drew me in originally. The Beef Princess of Practical County. I love it! I admit that the first half of the book seemed kind of mottled to me. I couldn't figure out where it was going. But the end made up for it. The book wasn't perfect, but it was a solid first novel and I'll definitely keep my eye on Michelle Houts.

Parts of the book had me laughing out loud, like the introduction of Libby's nemeses, the Darling sisters. The oldest Darling is named Precious. And my first thought was "C'mon. Really?!" And then I got to this part:

Now, when Mr. and Mrs. Jim Darling named their first daughter Precious everyone in town wanted to puke. I, of course, was not yet born, but I felt the exact same way once I was old enough to appreciate Precious Darling's lack of ability to live up to her own name.

Heh. Okay. I'm on board. Then I got to this part:

Two years after Precious Darling was born there came another Darling baby girl. Lil. Not Lilly, not Lillian. Just Lil. The lady who typed the birth certificate nearly refused. Okay, I wasn't born yet then, either, but that was what everyone always said.

So, yes, I laughed. And I teared up, too. I mean, we know from the beginning that this story is not going to have a completely happy ending. After the fair, the steer are sold at auction. So part of the draw was seeing how Libby was going to deal with saying goodbye to her prize steer.

Something else I really liked about the book was the inside glimpse into the process of raising and showing a steer. You can practically smell the manure (in a good way!) and it was something I knew very little about. I appreciate that the setting is unusual and that made it refreshing to read.

I do have to say that some things felt a little too cute to me (like the name of the town was Nowhere, Indiana). And I wish that the supporting characters had been fleshed out a little bit more, especially Carol Ann, Libby's best friend who makes a few forgettable appearances.

That said, I enjoyed the novel and will definitely look for more from this author. I went into it expecting Dairy Queen (based on the title and setting, I guess), but Dairy Queen it's not (and that's okay). It reminded me more of Linda Sue Park's Project Mulberry.

Check out more reviews at Bookworm Readers and A Patchwork of Books and check out Michelle Houts's super cute website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Author Interview: Linda Ashman

Today, dear readers, I am lucky enough to talk with the lovely Linda Ashman, author of bazillions of great picture books including M is for Mischief, Babies on the Go, and Starry Safari (among many others). I reviewed her latest book, Come to the Castle, a few weeks ago for Nonfiction Monday and I love, love, loved it!

ATL: First of all, thanks so much for talking with me! I've loved lots of your picture books and Come to the Castle is definitely one I'm eager to share with my library patrons! You've written great picture books about all kinds of different subjects. How do you come up with the next idea? What inspired you to write Come to the Castle?

LA: Ideas appear in so many ways, and their origins seem to be different for each book. For example, Stella, Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse came directly from my aging dog, Nicky, sitting beside me in my office. At 14, I knew she wouldn’t be around much longer, and wondered what she’d tell me if she could speak. M is for Mischief came from my son Jackson’s fascination with naughty behavior when he was little. Rub-a-Dub Sub started as a first line and a rhythm that kept going through my head—but refused to develop into anything else until a year later when I pulled it out of a file again. And sometimes ideas don’t develop the way you expect them to: Babies on the Go began as a collection of poems about nocturnal animals. As I began doing research and taking notes, I discovered that many animals had really interesting ways of carrying their babies (this discovery probably had something to do with the fact that I was pregnant at the time!).

COME TO THE CASTLE had a fairly strange genesis, given that I’ve never been very good at remembering historical periods, rulers, dates, etc. I started it in 2003, shortly after the Iraq War began. I was distressed at the state of the world, and wondered if any time in history was as turbulent and violent as our own seemed to be. This got me thinking of a Medieval Torture Museum my husband and I visited in Italy years before, and the horrendous torture devices on display. Somehow this led me downtown to the medieval history section of the Denver P
ublic Library, and from there—eventually—to books on castle life in 13th Century England.

When I don’t know what I’m going to work on (and I usually don’t), I take out my idea files—several manila folders filled with 14 years worth of scribbled-on scraps of paper and partially-completed manuscripts. I’ll pull out a few things that seem to have potential, then start playing around with them. With any luck, something will develop
into a story.

Can you tell us a little about your process for researching Come to the Castle?

“Process” is a very nice word for what would more aptly be described as flailing around—I really had no idea where I was going initially. I started by browsing through big, beautiful books on the Middle Ages, till I narrowed my focus to castles, and then to British castles. That, of course, led to more books, and to lots of note-taking. Daily Life in Medieval Times by Frances and Joseph Gies was very helpful in the beginning. At some point I’d done enough reading and research that the story and characters began coming to life and I could begin writing.

You probably found way more information than you could actually fit into the book. What were some of your favorite facts that didn't make it into the final book?

You’re right—there definitely were other things I thought I’d include. I found the medical beliefs really interesting—the balancing of the four humors, bloodletting, various superstitions, the unsanitary conditions that contributed to illness, and all the botanical remedies. I managed to touch on some of this in The Doctor poem, but thought I’d be able to work in more. Since the whole idea started with the Torture Museum, I thought I might have something about crime and punishment—but much of it didn’t seem appropriate for a children’s book. Also thought I’d work in something about women’s make-up (made from sheep fat) and the clothing of the time—fortunately, Steve Schindler’s detailed illustrations covered that beautifully.

One of my favorite spreads was the gong farmer because it was so unexpected (and funny)! Did you always intend to include that particular castle job or is that something that you stumbled across in your research?

I didn’t know about the gong farmer until I started doing research But as soon as I read a description of the garderobe, and the
poor guy who had to clean it, I knew it would be in the book. I love this illustration, and love how they changed its orientation to get a sense of that long, disgusting, chute!

If you had to be one of the people in the castle, who would you like to be? Who would you least like to be?

Oh, I think the Earl has a pretty fine life relative to the others; I’d opt for his role. And what could be worse than being a gong farmer? Although I don’t envy the daughter much, either, being married off to some unsavory fellow at such a young age.

What are some of your favorite nonfiction books for kids? And what do you like to read in your spare time?

I don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction for kids, but I admire the visuals of the DK Eyewitness books. I also like Judith St. George’s So You Want to Be . . . series, illustrated by David Small, and Kathleen Krull’s Lives of the . . . (and What the Neighbors Thought) books illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt. I recently picked up Hey Batta Batta Swing by Sally Cook and James Charlton (illustrated by Ross MacDonald) and When Royals Wore Ruffles by Pamela Jaber and Chesley McLaren—both very clever and fun. And I think Kadir Nelson’s We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball is a masterpiece.

As for my own reading, I seem to favor books that address how to maintain your sanity, live simply, and connect with something deeper amidst the noise and bustle of daily life. I love Thomas Moore’s books, Anne Lamott’s essays, Robert Benson’s Digging In, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the memoirs of Karen Armstrong and Sue Monk Kidd. As for fiction, recent favorites include March by Geraldine Brooks and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows. And, as a gardener, I’ve got stacks of gardening books around the house—though they’re really more for feeding fantasies of some future glorious garden than for actually reading.

Okay, I've definitely added some books to my TBR list now. ;) Linda, thanks so much for talking with me today! And blog readers, run (don't walk) out to your nearest bookstore or library and pick up Come to the Castle and an armful of Linda's other excellent picture books!

Book Review: Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jill Wolfson. (Grades 8+)

Amanda is a star gymnast.
Dani struggles to walk across a room.
They've never met. But they're about to become more intimate than most people can even imagine.

Dani was born with her heart on the wrong side of her body. It's a failing heart, a broken heart, and there's only one option if she's going to see her sixteenth birthday: a heart transplant. When Amanda breaks her neck in a gymnastics accident, Dani receives the ultimate gift: a donor heart.

In Cold Hands, Warm Heart we get Dani's story, but we also get the perspective of Amanda's family as they deal with devastating loss and a tough decision.

I had to pick up this book after Amanda blogged about it. I share her fascination with medical novels and this one did not disappoint. I guess my interest in medicine stems from my mom who is a retired pediatrician. So, yes, I picked this one up because it's about organs and surgery and meds... but what I really fell in love with was Dani's voice.

She's funny! Dani's got that sarcastic humor that I really dig. Take this passage where she's describing her condition:

Fifteen years ago, I got taken out of the womb with my heart on the wrong side of my body, the right as opposed to the left. There's a technical name for it, dextrocardia, but I invented my own: Dani's Freakish Feng Shui Chest Cavity.

I could have lived just fine like that. No problem. It was all the other crazy stuff, like screwed-up valves and how messed up the wall separating the two sides of my heart was. Nobody expected me to live long, but I did - long enough to start a whole big stink in seventh grade by putting my left hand over my heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. Certain girls accused me of being unpatriotic. It was very gratifying to hear the president of the Young Patriot's Club grovel and apologize when my mom set them straight
. (pg 26)

I thought to myself, "Here's a feisty girl. Here's a heart patient I can get on board with." I would have been completely happy had the entire novel been written from Dani's point of view. But the more I read from other points of view, the more I appreciated the alternating narration. You get little glimpses of the transplant coordinator, the courier who delivers the organs, even Dani's bratty eight-year-old kidney patient roommate.

Tyler's the other major narrator. He's Amanda's older brother and now that his sister has died, he's figuring out how little he actually knew her. Tyler has Amanda's computer and while his parents are taking comfort in the Jewish grieving rituals, he's getting to know his sister. Getting to know her and saying goodbye at the same time.

Funny and heartbreaking and hopeful with a little romance thrown in (Dani and a transplant patient at the hospital - Milo who's hoping for a second chance that he might not deserve), Cold Hands, Warm Heart is a novel that will stick with me for a long time. If you're interested in medical books or if you like books with realistic, imperfect characters, pick this one up. I might also recommend this to fans of Lurlene McDaniel who are looking for meatier fare.

(Oh, and I'll chime in with Amanda and say that I did not particularly care for the cover. It didn't make me want to pick up the book. Any teens reading? What do YOU think?)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Zigzag Nonfiction Series

Filling requests for preschool book bags has made me a lot more conscious of good nonfiction for the youngest kids. When I stumble across a nonfiction series that'll work for pre-readers, I do my happy dance. What do I look for in good nonfiction books for preschoolers? Large, bright pictures or photos and simple text. Bonus points if it rhymes. The Zigzag series by Becky Baines has all of these! Hooray! *happy dance*

In What Did One Elephant Say to the Other? we explore animal communication. How do people communicate? We speak and we write. Well, animals can't do these things, so how do they communicate? Answer: they communicate with their body language and the sounds that they make. This book looks particularly at elephants and the different ways they use their body to talk to each other.

A Den is a Bed for a Bear looks at all different kinds of bears and the homes in which they live. It explains that bears bulk up by eating lots of food before finding a den in which to hibernate. It shows baby bears getting bigger, growing strong inside the warm den.

Your Skin Holds You In talks about your skin - it comes in different colors, it heals itself, it keeps you warm or cools you down. Here's an example of the rhyming text:

Skin is like a suit of armor.
Skin can tell where you've been.

Your brain and heart do their part.

But it's your skin that holds you in!

These basic facts are accompanied by smaller captions that give more information and each page includes colorful photos and playful drawings to illustrate the concepts. The small size of these books make them perfect for little hands.

Besides the three I've mentioned here, there are more books in the series: Every Planet Has a Place, The Bones You Own, What's in That Egg?, What Does a Seed Need? (coming in September 2009), and An Artist Named Spider (coming in September 2009). I'm hopeful that there will be many more! If you're looking for great nonfiction for preschoolers, check these out!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! The round up's over at the ACPL Mock Sibert blog!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Audiobook Roundup: Moving to a Different State Version

My new job requires a bit more of a commute than my last job and I have to admit that I am actually kinda looking forward to that because it means I'll have more time for audiobook listening*.

I did get a chance to listen to a couple of great books on the trip down to Louisville with all my stuff. Albeit, it was a little hard to pay attention when my cat was yowling in his carrier, but I did the best I could. ;)

Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson is the recently-released adaptation of the author's adult title Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer and I found the book to be absolutely riveting. Sure, I knew the basic details about Lincoln's assassination: John Wilkes Booth, Ford's theater, gunshot, etc. But Chasing Lincoln's Killer gives you all the gruesome details, blood and guts included, and it even mentions how John Wilkes Booth's crime changed the perception of Lincoln. He was a controversial political figure that was changed over night into a tragic hero, shot down in the prime of life. The text reads like fiction and this would be a great choice for those narrative nonfiction assignments that kids get from time to time. The audio would be an excellent choice for family listening with older kids (grades 5+) because adults will dig the historical facts, too. I say grades 5+ because it is a bit bloody in parts and Swanson goes into some detail about the gruesome injuries sustained by the president and Secretary of State William H. Seward (so take note if you're sensitive to that kind of thing). This book was booktalked at Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast and former coworker J highly recommended Manhunt, so I'll probably pick that one up at some point, if only to look at the photographs.

For something completely different, the other audiobook I listened to was Stink and the Incredible, Super-Galactic Jawbreaker by Megan McDonald. I'd been meaning to pick up one of the Stink books for quite some time, as that series is pretty popular. The story is funny, but the real draw, for me, was the incredible narration by Nancy Cartwright (you might be familiar with her as the voice of Bart Simpson). She gives each character his own distinct voice and she really brought this spunky story to life. I'd highly recommend Stink audiobooks to families with young elementary school kids and they're short so they're perfect for when you're driving around town.

*I am such a geek, but if anyone would understand it's the readers of this blog, so there ya go.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Around the interwebs: getting settled version

I'm almost back, you guys, I promise. I'm in Louisville and getting settled into my new apartment. I've had this week off between jobs and it's been nice to have time to get things done, but I am so ready to get back to work!

Regular posting will resume next week and thanks for your patience during this hiatus. In the meantime, I wanted to bring your attention to what I've been reading around the Kidlistosphere.

You've been keeping your eye on the Bridget Zinn Auction, right? Well, if you're looking for more ways to give back, consider buying something for the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys. From their post:

We are moving today into the second phase of GLW, where we put our money where our mouth is and physically act on getting books into the hands of boys that otherwise have none. Today we start the first two week Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys to help the teens incarcerated in the LA County Juvenile Justice System. They have no books - at all - and they need them; they need them desperately.

(Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.)

You also might want to check out the Libraries Are Free But Books Aren't book drive benefiting the Louisville Free Public Library. Whether or not you want to donate, this is something for all libraries to note: if you have a wish list, people might buy you books! So think about that, librarians and teachers!

Travis gives us such great tips for our libraries and here he is with Using Unshelved in Your Library. How can you use this deliciously geeky web comic to promote books in your collection?? Click through and find out.

Um... I kinda forgot to mention on the 12th that The Chosen One is now available, but it is! Hurrah! You won't want to miss this book. And you also won't want to miss Steph's Epic Contest. She's got FIFTY COPIES to give away in various ways. There are many things you can do to win and you have until June 1st to enter (but don't delay!).

Malinda Lo has an incredible interview with superstar fantasy author Tamora Pierce over at The Enchanted Inkpot.

And Carlie wonders at the wisdom of increasing the age range of "Young Adults" to include college students and 20-somethings. She says:

I think YA librarians taking on the 18-25ers is a great way for YA librarians to do more work for the same amount of pay and to devalue the work we're already doing.

I can totally see her point and I don't think anyone should be on board with doing more work for the same pay. At the same time, I wonder how libraries are reaching out to that age group? How can we bring them in and who should be developing programs for them? Anyone got some great programs to share? Read the post at the YALSA Blog: Start Something New With YALSA and chime in with your own thoughts.

And there is still time to sign up for the 48 Hour Book Challenge!! You know you want to. Do it. Doooo iiiit.

And that's it for now. I'll be back next week with book reviews and all that fun bloggity jazz!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Around the interwebs: transient version

I just wanted to check in and let y'all know that the move is going just fine (so far). We've completed Phase 1 (acquiring and loading the truck) and Phase 2 will be tomorrow (wrapping things up here and driving all the stuff down to Louisville). Phase 3 (moving into the new apartment) will be happening Monday. Today was my last day of work. I'm going to miss that place like crazy (but I'm excited to start my new job the week after next).

And since I'm checking in, I'll point out a couple of things I've been browsing lately.

ETA (May 9): D'oh! How could I have forgotten to mention the auction?! I'll make it for that oversight by planting it here, front and center.

Three things happened to Bridget [Zinn] in February:
1. She got an agent for her young adult novel.
2. She got married.
3. She found out she had Stage Four colon cancer.

And what do you think members of the Kidlitosphere did when they found out about this situation? Well, they up and created an auction of fabulous items with proceeds going to help Bridget pay medical bills. What a wonderful and supportive community we blog in. So head on over there and check out the auction. I bid on (and was promptly outbid on) a few choice Babymouse items and new items are being added all the time. They've got everything from signed books and original artwork to manuscript critiques and publicity services. And with the proceeds going to such a great cause, how can you go wrong?

Sarah at GreenBeanTeenQueen alerted me to the fact that the movie rights to The Forest of Hands and Teeth have been sold. Parts of that book were seriously creepy (the baby! The baby!), so I'm not sure I'll go see that one. Maybe if someone holds my hand...

Laini Taylor has a great post about The YA Ghetto. She says:'s the adults who need to get over themselves and read good books regardless of what shelf they're on at the bookstore, rather than making books of interest to teens harder for teens to find.

Hear, hear! (And, um, someone pointed me to that link, but I'm not sure who anymore... apologies!)

Tricia of The YA YA YAs pointed me to this interview with Sarah Dessen in The Horn Book. Sarah's one of my favity-faves, so I loved reading her thoughts on writing for girls.

Ever wanted to host a sleepover in your library? Stacy Dillon tells us how it's done.

Have you been over to check out Booklights yet? This blog on the PBS site stars some of the Kidlitosphere's own: Pam from MotherReader, Susan from Wizards Wireless, and Jen from Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Speaking of MotherReader, have you signed up for the 48 Hour Book Challenge?! I was FINALLY able to do it last year and it was great, great fun. I'm totally doing it again this year even though my college roommate is being ordained that weekend. I'm not sure I'll be in the 20+ club (hours, that is), but I'll do what I can. The 48 HBC will be held June 5-7 and you can go on over to MotherReader's post to read the rules and sign up.

And has everyone seen this Twilight cake on Cake Wrecks? Yeah, thought so.

And on that note, I have a long day of packing up and driving (with two cats in the car... oy) tomorrow, so I'd better hit the sack. I'm not quite back from my hiatus, but rest assured I have some great posts* pending and I should be fully back some time next week. Thanks for sticking around!

*Topics include the following: an Elephant and Piggie Party, an author interview with Linda Ashman, and a review of The Beef Princess of Practical County (among others!).