Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To Theme or Not To Theme?

Do you use themes for your storytimes?

I've been thinking about this since I started my new job. At my previous library, we didn't generally use themes for storytimes. The idea behind that is that it's better to read a handful of great readalouds than to stretch to find books that have to do with your theme. We kept track of the books we used in a database so that we didn't repeat them too often.

At my new library, we do tend to use themes. I've done storytime a couple of times now and to be honest, the kids could care less if all the books are about chickens or colors or whatever.

What are some advantages to using themes?

- It can make it easier to plan. There are a bazillion picture books out there, so which ones do you read at storytime? It's a little more manageable when you narrow it down to just books about dogs or eating or zoos. That said, it gets a little less manageable when your theme is so narrow that you can only find one book to read. I always keep in mind my good friend And. As in, "Today's theme is Cats and Dogs!"

- It might push you to include different books that are unexpected hits. Or maybe you don't normally look in the nonfiction section for your storytime books, but since your theme is "Milk", you decide to include a true book about where milk comes from. I'm always one for pushing the envelope and trying something new. And I'm a big advocate for including nonfiction books in programs and displays. If needing to stick to a theme will push you to try something new, I say go for it.

- Themed storytimes lend themselves to displays. Set up a table in your story room where you can display more books on your theme, and encourage attendees to check out the books. This is another chance to push your nonfiction and include some of those great picture books that aren't necessarily great readalouds.

All that said, does it really matter if we're reading books on the same theme? I'm thinking not. The more experience I get with this whole librarian thing, the more books I know about and the better I am at picking out books that'll work as readalouds. So that makes it easier to pick readalouds on certain themes.

And even if I do use a theme, I'm not afraid to go off-theme for a song or rhyme if need be. Throw a little Jim Gill in there or do some dancin' with Sharon & Brahm. The important thing is that you're sharing books with kids. That's why we love being librarians, right??

So, librarians, what do you think? Do you use themes for storytime? What are some of your favorites? Do you hate themes and all they stand for?

ETA (12:06pm): Seems we've heard from several supporters of themes for storytimes. Anyone want to make a case for not having themed storytimes? I know you're out there!

And parents, do you have a preference? Does your child? Why do you like themes (or dislike them)? Is there a reason you like stories that are connected in some way or does having a connection matter as long as all the books are fun readalouds?

(I am apparently full of questions today!)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Review: Beyond: A Solar System Voyage

Beyond: A Solar System Voyage by Michael Benson. (Grades 6-10.)

You know about the planets, but you've never seen them like this before. Using images shot by space probes over the last forty years, Michael Benson gives us an up close and personal view of even the farthest of the planets in our solar system. The photos are absolutely stunning and you should definitely pick up this book or the original adult version, Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes, to look at them, but there are some great facts about the planets tucked in there, too.

Did you know that there may once have been oceans on Venus? Or that the sun is so big that it accounts for 99.8% of all the mass in the Solar System? Or that Mars has a pink sky and sometimes has blue sunsets (the opposite of what we have on Earth)?

Beyond starts off with a history of astronomy from ancient times through the rapid technological advances of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. Then Michael Benson explores each planet in detail, starting with stunning photos of the Earth. Seriously, you have to see these photos. They're huge photos of the Earth from space, but with such detail that you can see dust from African deserts blowing out to sea or a volcano exploding in Sicily. Very cool. Besides the planets, Benson also includes a section on the Sun and asteroids.

The text is a little much for recreational reading. There's a lot of it in big chunks and while some interesting trivia is presented, some of it is kind of dry. I ended up skimming some sections, but what the book lacks in text it makes up for in the photos. Benson includes a glossary, photo credits, a short bibliography, and an extensive index. This book would definitely be of service to kids and teens doing reports on planets, and the photos will hook browsers. I'd pair it with The Mysterious Universe for more spectacular space photography.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Book Aunt's got the roundup, so check in and see what nonfiction everyone's reading this week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Around the Interwebs: Really, Really (Part 2)

Okey doke, Around the Interwebs, Part 2.

Sarah's hosting a giveaway for Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson! Definitely head over there and enter because it's a fabulous book.

Liz posted a press release about Class of 2k9 member Albert Borris, author of the upcoming Crash Into Me, who suffered a stroke and is still recovering. The kidlitosphere's great at showing support, so do check out Albert's book.

Adrienne pointed me to this great interview with Jan Thomas, author of What Will Fat Cat Sit On? and Rhyming Dust Bunnies (among many other fabulous books).

And speaking of authors of my favorite storytime books, check out a sneak peek of Mo Willems's upcoming easy reader, Cat the Cat. And don't forget, Mo has the best dining room ever (I have such house envy).

Susan reminds us about the wonderful Mid-Continent Public Library's awesome listing of series and sequels. If you don't know about this site, you seriously need to check it out. It's my first resource to find out what the third Pony Pals book is or print out a list of all the Junie B. Jones books.

Carlie's wondering if Twilight and Harry Potter are the best choices for the preteens who want to read them. From the post:
I can sort of see why Harry Potter trickled down, though I personally refuse to recommend it to anyone younger than sixth grade. At its opening, it's a fun adventure-in-magic-school story. By book three, though, the layers have built so thick and dark that the book beyond its surface is best enjoyed by readers with more life experience. IMNSHO. I still think third-graders are better served by books other than Harry Potter.
And that's it for Around the Interwebs this time around. What have YOU been surfing lately?

Around the Interwebs: Really, Really

This is what happens when you don't think you have time to blog (is it blog flu? Nahhh...): you end up with over 20 starred items and all of them are really cool (in my opinion). Tell you what... I'll post the first half of this now and promise more interwebby fun for later tonight or tomorrow.

If you're looking for some great non-fiction to read this summer (I know I am!), check out ACPL's first 2010 Mock Sibert reading list. And better yet, join in the discussion of these titles on their Mock Sibert blog! If that still doesn't give you enough reading suggestions, check out which books made Sarah's sixth graders say "You HAVE to read this!"

Got a school/public library partnership that you're proud of? Submit it here. And speaking of the ALSC blog, I am pleased to see posts about programming for kids with special needs. This post, the first in a series, has a lot of great information and ideas!

Many of you are involved with it already, but if you're wondering what the point of Twitter is, John Green's happy to give you an answer.


Bok bok bok revisited

As those who have worked with me could tell you, I have a soft spot for books about wacky chickens. I don't know what it is, but I'm drawn to them. So, of course, I put together a chicken storytime.

I'd posted about chicken books previously, but here's what I did this week:

Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman - Every day of the week, something goes wrong at the farm. Luckily, there are chickens to put everything right again.

The Wolf's Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza - When Mr. Wolf decides to fatten up a chicken for some stew, his delicious gifts have an unintended consequence.

Hungry Hen by Richard Waring - Every day, the hen eats and eats and gets bigger and bigger. When the fox on the hill can stand it no more, he rushes in for his dinner but gets a surprise instead.

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox - Hattie the black hen spies something lurking in the bushes, but none of the other barnyard animals care until she identifies it as a fox.

The Most Wonderful Egg in the World by Helme Heine (felt story) - The king will make one of the beautiful hens into a princess - whichever one lays the most wonderful egg. But how to decide?

Of course, we needed to sing and dance, so I also threw in a little Silly Dance Contest by the incomparable Jim Gill.

I turned The Most Wonderful Egg in the World into a felt story and that worked pretty nicely. I created felt pieces for the three hens, the king, a nest, the three eggs, and three princess crowns.

There are tons of great books about chickens out there, so here are some others you might consider:

This Little Chick by John Lawrence
Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan
Dora's Eggs by Julie Sykes
Lottie's New Beach Towel by Petra Mathers
Minerva Louise by Jan Stoeke

Monday, June 22, 2009

Is this a... what day is it?

I feel like this blog's been radio silent for the past couple of weeks (although I suppose I've posted a few things since the 48-Hour Book Challenge). I do apologize. It's just that things have been totally crazy with New Job! and New Apartment! and I'm still not in my routine yet. I had a bunch of posts saved up from my hiatus, but I've posted them all now and these days it feels like a small miracle when I finish a book. ;)

So, what have I been up to?

Well, planning my trip to Chicago for ALA, for one. It'll be a whirlwind trip and I'll only be going to the exhibits on Saturday, but Travis isn't the only geek who ordered bloggity business cards. I ordered "free" ones from VistaPrint and was very happy with them. (You get 250 business cards free, but you have to pay for the shipping, which came to about $10.00.) The cards are cute and they arrived very quickly.

If you want one, you're going to have to track me down at ALA. I'm still trying to figure out my Twitter strategy, as it seems like Twitter would be a reasonable way for us bloggity types to find each other. (Anyone have ideas? And who's going, by the way?)

And I have been reading (albeit very slowly [or so it seems to me]). Last night I finished Eyes Like Stars, which was wonderful. I'll be posting a full review as part of a blog tour in early July, so stay tuned for that. And I'm in the middle of Fire, which is totally awesome.

Annnnd I listened to Nation, which is one of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to. Highly recommended if you have an upcoming car trip or a new, long-ish commute to work.

Summer Reading Club's been going well. We're super busy, of course... And on that note, I think I'd better put my sleepy self to bed. Coming this week: storytime about chickens and an Around the Interwebs post if I can find the energy...!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cats and Dogs storytime

As y'all know, I recently started a new job at a new library. It's been great, but there's always an adjustment period at a new job, which is why I was so happy to get back to storytime last week! At my previous job I did storytime at least once a week, but with the job transition and summer reading starting, it had been over a month since my last storytime and I was having a little bit of withdrawal. So, what did I do for my first storytime at the new library?

I really wanted to use my new Bark, George! felt, so I did Cats and Dogs and it went swimmingly. Here's what I did:

Books read:

I started with the classic and perennial favorite Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion. Harry is a white dog with black spots and he hates taking a bath. So he buries the bath brush in the back yard and runs away. While he's playing, he gets dirtier and dirtier until he's a black dog with white spots! How will his family recognize him? This one is a surefire hit for storytime (but it's a little on the long side, so it might be a better choice where you've got a slightly older audience).

Next up, I threw in some cats with Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming. Of the three kittens, Boris is the stinker. No matter what Mama Cat and his siblings do, Boris naps. The kids love to chime in with "Boris naps" and you can have the kids dig in the dirt, sharper their claws, and wash their paws along with the cats in the book.

For another dog book, I brought out Hunky Dory Ate It by Katie Evans. No matter what foods are made, Hunky Dory is sure to grab some for himself. Spaghetti, tarts, steak... nothing is safe from his voracious appetite! And he pays for it with a stomachache and a trip to the vet at the end of the story. I love the rhymes in this book (especially when one of the kids exclaimed "This is a rhyming book!" It makes me want to cheer when they hear rhymes!) and the story is simple and funny.

And my last cat book was Have You Seen My Cat by Eric Carle. A boy is looking for his cat and he asks various people if they've seen one, but all the cats they suggest (a lion, a panther, etc.) are definitely not his! Kids enjoy identifying the wild cats and roaring along with each one.

In addition to the books read, we also sang BINGO with a felt glove one of my coworkers had made. It has velcro letters so that you can take off the "B", the "I", etc. as the song proceeds. This is great for letter recognition and most kids will know the song and enjoy clapping along.

And, of course, I also did Bark, George! as a felt story. It's one of my favorites and I love the surprise ending.

Great readalouds about cats and dogs abound. Some others you might consider for your storytime are What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems (I can never figure out exactly how to read the Pigeon books aloud, but the kids love them so...), Clifford's Kitten by Norman Bridwell, and Top Cat by Lois Ehlert.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Calling all Harry Potter Fans!

Did you know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out in paperback on July 7??

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a breathtaking finish to a remarkable series. The final chapter to Harry Potter’s adventures will be releases in paperback July 7th! It all comes down to this - a final face off between good and evil. You plan to pull out all the stops, but every time you solve one mystery, three more evolve.

And because I know there are so many Harry Potter fans out there, I was so pleased to partake in this HARRY POTTER GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate the release of the 7th book in paperback, Scholastic is giving out prize packages of the 5th, 6th, and 7th books to five lucky winners!

That's right! Five of you will win a prize pack containing a copy of each of the last three books in the series. Have you reread them so much that your copies are falling apart? Know a kid who's just getting into the series and needs the last three books? Or maybe you took advantage of your fantastic local library to read the series. Or maybe you work at a library or school that could use an extra copy of the last three books.

Enter this giveaway by leaving a comment on this post. If you link to this giveaway somewhere, add an additional comment for an extra entry!

The contest will run through July 7 and I'll draw five winners (FIVE!) on July 8.

Good luck!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Review (and giveaway!): Twenty Boy Summer

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. (Grades 9+)

Summary from the ARC (try as I might, I couldn't write a better one):

"According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there's a pretty good chance that Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie - she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Okay, Twenty Boy Summer had me at hello. It starts with Anna finally getting together with Matt after she's pined after him for years. And Sarah Ockler just captured that flying, giddy first-love feeling so perfectly that I was immediately absorbed in the story. I instantly cared about the characters. And I felt a hole in my own heart after Matt's unexpected death left Anna breathless.

And can you imagine how terrible it would be to not only lose your first love, but to have to keep that first love a secret from your best friend?

The book's not perfect - I felt it dragged in a few places and while I really heart the cover, I actually don't care for the title. Maybe it's me, but Twenty Boy Summer sounds like it's going to be a fluffy chick lit and the book is actually more serious than that. It really reminded me of Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott, so I'd heartily recommend it to fans of those authors.

And here's where I gush about the cover a little bit. I couldn't tell this until I actually had the book in my hand, but that heart on the cover is not made up of torn up paper or something like I'd thought. It's made up of pieces of sea glass. Which is so perfect for the book and so beautiful to boot. A+ for cover design!

Annnnnd the lovely people at Little, Brown have provided me a couple of copies of the ARC to giveaway to two lucky readers!

Leave a comment to be entered. Please include your email address if it's not readily available in your profile or on your blog.

Bonus entries for each time you link to this contest (please leave a separate comment for each entry).

And a bonus entry if you'll recommend a great CD to me (I am in a music rut). I like a great variety of music and favorites include Ben Folds, Ingrid Michaelson, and Barenaked Ladies. (Please leave a separate comment with your recommendation).

The contest will run through the end of June and I'll draw two winners on July 1. Contest is open to anyone anywhere.

This is definitely a great one for your summer reading list, so I hope you'll enter!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Help Me Help You: Wrapping it Up

I got so many great suggestions for Help Me Help You that I couldn't let them languish in the comments. So, wrapping up this feature, I have suggestions from librarians throughout the interwebs. (And I apologize for this taking so very long... life just got crazy for a little bit!)

Help Me Help You: What ELSE Librarians Want You to Know About the Library

There are age restrictions on programs for a reason. Planning programs is a lot of work. Implementing programs takes knowledge and a lot of energy. Programs get exponentially harder when the kids attending do not have the necessary fine motor skills or attention spans for the activities planned. The age restriction also might be for the simple reason that many fifth graders won't want to come to a program with first graders. If a program is listed for kids in 3rd-5th grade, please respect our rules and don't try to sign up your first-grade child.

You can request that we buy materials. We do our best to anticipate and fulfill the needs of our patrons, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. We overlook a book or a movie or a CD. Let us know! We can't buy everything, but we'll certainly do our best and it never hurts to ask.

Spaces designated for children and teens are just that. If you want to use the computers, tables, or study areas, we'd appreciate it if you'd use them in the adult areas, especially during after-school, weekend, and summer hours. We create special areas for teens and kids so that they will want to hang out and use those areas. While adults are certainly welcome to use the collections, teens and kids need their own space.

Parents/cargeivers, we want you to participate in storytime!! Your kids will get so much more out of storytime if you're doing the songs and rhymes along with us. Get up and dance! And when we're reading books, model good listening behavior. Your kids will emulate you (and you just might enjoy the stories). How can you expect your kids to be engaged in storytime if you're not engaged?

Some topics might not have a book written about them. And, on a related note, some topics might not have any internet info on them. Someone has to write books, articles, and web pages, you know. We try our best to find whatever information you are looking for, but sometimes it just doesn't exist. There are some other things to try, though, if you're looking for a topic that doesn't have any books written about it. Maybe there's a broader book that would contain some information about your specific topic (ex. a book about fish that might have a chapter or an entry on the humuhumunukunukuapua'a). Maybe there's a magazine article in an electronic database or a reliable website. And don't forget the trusty encyclopedia!

We may be able to request a book from another library. If you don't see the book you want, ask us about it. We might be able to get it from another branch or through interlibrary loan. This could take a couple of days or weeks, so planning ahead is your friend!

It is not our job to police your child's internet use. Some libraries may have filters on the children's computers, but if you're really concerned about what your child is accessing on the computer, you need to be there to oversee it. Likewise with what books your child is checking out. My job is to find the books and information I am asked for; it is not to decide what's appropriate reading/viewing material for each child. And what one parent considers acceptable might be objectionable to another child.

And that wraps up my Help Me Help You feature. Thanks, everyone, for your comments! I hope these posts have been helpful (as well as giving librarians a place to vent a little bit and know that we've all experienced similar frustrations!). If you have any more suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments.

Thanks for reading and be sure and check out the other parts:

Part 1: Research and Reference

Part 2: Storytime

Part 3: Library Logistics

Part 4: What Librarians Wish Teachers Knew About the Library

Monday, June 8, 2009

48HBC Wrap-Up

Annnnd I'm spent.

Total time spent reading/blogging: 20.5 hours
Total # of books finished: 5
Total $ of pages read: 1528

I've made it to 20.5 hours and I'm calling it quits. I didn't separate out time spent reading, blogging, and social networking, but this is what the weekend looked like for me:


7:00am - Time officially starts

4:45pm - I get home from Cincinnati and begin reading. (2.5 hours)

7:15-8:00p - Take a break for dinner.

8:00p-9:45p - Reading/blogging (1.75 hours)

9:45-10:15p - Break

10:15-11:00p - Reading (.75 hours)

11:00p - Fall asleep.


7:30a - Wake up

7:50a-1:50 - Reading/blogging (6 hours)

1:50-2:45 - Break

2:45-6:15 - Reading/blogging (3.5 hours)

6:15-6:50 - Break for dinner

6:50p-12:30a - Reading/blogging (5.5 hours)

So, counting the time it's taking me to make this post, I've made it to 20.5 hours.

In that time, I've finished 5 books and read parts of 2 additional books.

Books read:

by Philip Reeve

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork

Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant

I also read 66 pages of The Comet's Curse and 111 pages of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, which I am really enjoying. I'd love to keep going, but I don't think I can keep my eyes open for much longer.

My total number of pages read is 1528.

I hit both my goals this year, which were to read for at least 20 hours and finish at least 5 books. I was also able to visit a lot of blogs and leave encouraging comments (so important!) and I really appreciated the encouragement to Tweet and socialize.

I think for next year, I might set a mini-challenge for myself to visit and comment on a certain number of or percentage of participating blogs. The sense of community this year was great and I know that comments and tweets from everyone kept me going! Plus, visiting blogs and talking to people about the Challenge made a nice break when I just couldn't read for a minute longer.

This year might have been easier with a couch... I alternated between my one comfy chair and the floor and (towards the end) my bed. My new couch should be delivered June 19, so hopefully I'll have it for next year... ;) (Jeez, am I already thinking about next year? What is wrong with me?)

And, since I fear I'm now rambling incoherently, I'll stop this wrap-up post and go to bed. MANY thanks to MotherReader for hosting this challenge - it's an event I look forward to! (And now I'm looking forward to getting my copy of The Sims 3 this week and not even thinking about reading unless I want to... ;)

Great job, everyone. And if you're still finishing up, READ READ READ! You can do it! Keep up the good work!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

48HBC: Mothstorm

Mothstorm: The Horror From Beyond Uranus Georgium Sidus! by Philip Reeve, illustrated by David Wyatt. (Grades 4-8.)

Art and Myrtle are back in this third book of the Larklight series. It's the Christmas holiday and the Mumby family is just about to relax and enjoy their Christmas dinner when visitors arrive with a very strange photo and word of a distress signal from the planet Georgium Sidus (only improper people call it Uranus!). So, off they go on another rip-roaring Victorian space travel adventure! And, as usual, the fate of the universe hangs in the balance.

I've quite enjoyed all three of the Larklight books, although I must confess that I've found each one of them a little bit longer than would be ideal. They're action-packed and funny in an extremely well-crafted alternate world.

And one thing that occurred to me as I was reading this tonight is...

(I don't think this spoils anything, but I'll give you a spoiler alert just in case. If you haven't read them and want to, you might want to skip the next paragraph!)

...that the books are children's fantasy stories with protagonists that are not orphans. Mr. Reeve has crafted many believable and creative ways for the kids to take over the action without killing off the parents. Writers take note: this is how it's done!

Highly recommended for fans of fantasy-adventure.

And as for the 48-Hour Book Challenge, I'm closing in on my goal. I hope to stay awake long enough to finish another book! We'll see....

So far:

Total time spent reading/blogging: 18 hours
Books finished: 5 (woohoo!)
Pages finished: 1418*

*I did start The Comet's Curse and read 66 pages before putting it down. It just wasn't keeping my interest enough for this late in the game. I think it's due back at the library, but I may pick it up at some point in the future. Has anyone read it that wants to weigh in?

48 Hour Book Challenge: Checking In

If I'm doing my math correctly, it's been about 33 hours since my official start time. So that means I have 15 hours to go until my deadline and I need to read/blog for 8 of those hours in order to make my 20-hour goal.

Sounds like it's time to check in! It's been almost 24 hours since I got back into town and really started reading and in that time I've read/blogged for just about 12 hours.

So far I've read 4 books:

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant

So, it looks like I'm going to make my in-my-head goal of finishing at least 5 books.

And on that notes, I guess I'd better get back to the reading! See you in a few hours!

48HBC: Confetti Girl

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez. (Grades 4-7.)
Reviewed from ARC provided by Little, Brown.

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

"Apolonia 'Lina' Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover, and a girl who's just looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of books (her dad's a bibliophile), she's having trouble figuring out some very big questions, like why her dad seems to care more about books than about her, why her best friend's divorced mom is obsessed with making cascarones (hollowed eggshells filled with colorful confetti), and, most of all, why her mom died last year. Like colors in a cascarone, Lina's life is a rainbow of people, interests, and unexpected changes."

That's the jacket copy since my brain is too fried to write my own summary.

I picked this one up because I had heard Diana Lopez called a "Latina Judy Blume". I couldn't agree more (and that's a compliment because Judy Blume's been one of my favorite authors since I was about nine).

Still grieving her mom, Lina's dealing with an absent father, a crush on a boy, and navigating that tricky territory of middle school. I loved all the details of Lina's Mexican-American community in Corpus Christi, Texas (and HOORAY for a book about Latino kids where race isn't an issue). Lina's got a lot to deal with, but the tone of the book is upbeat and I was regularly chuckling out loud.

I'd consider this an essential purchase that'll appeal to middle-grade girls, Latina or otherwise. I wouldn't hesitate to hand it to any fan of Just as Long as We're Together, Are You There, God, It's Me Margaret, Shug, and others of that girly-coming-of-age ilk.

Um, and the cover has really cute socks!

Total reading/blogging time: Just over 12 hours
Books read: 4
Pages read: 965

48HBC: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman. (Grades 8+)

It snowed in Oregon that winter morning. Mia celebrated the day off from school; it was a day off from everything, really. Her cello was at school, so she couldn't practice. Her parents stayed home from work and the family decided to visit some friends.

On the way there, a truck ran into their car. Mia's parents were killed instantly. Her brother, well, she wasn't sure what happened to her brother. And Mia found herself standing outside her broken body and facing a decision: should she stay or should she go?

As Mia's watching herself go through surgery, watching streams of friends and relatives come to be with her in the ICU, she remembers things about her life. She recalls things she did with her family, how she met her best friend, and when she went on her first date with her boyfriend Adam. And she has to figure out if she can face living without her parents or if maybe the best thing for all involved would be for her to let go.

This is a beautiful little book. The characters felt so real and multidimensional. There's a lot of music in the book. Mia's parents are punk rockers and she plays the classical cello so well that she auditioned for Julliard. I loved reading about Mia's relationship with Adam. It unfolded so organically that it felt really realistic. It wasn't boy meets girl, they kiss, and it's happily ever after. Things took awhile to develop. They had problems that they had to work out. It's one of the most realistic relationships I've seen in a book in a long time.

And ohhh, it's sad. Parts of this book are so touching, I won't tell you how many times I heared up (it was more than a handful). It's definitely character-based, touchy-feely, and kind of quiet in a way. I don't know that it will necessarily be everyone's cup of tea. But if you're looking for a touching book to curl up with for awhile, you can't go wrong here.

Total time spent reading/blogging: 9.5 hours
Books finished: 3
Pages read: 771

And now for something a little lighter, I think...

48HBC: Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. (Grades 9+)

17-year old Marcelo has his future planned out. He'll work training horses this summer at his school, a special school for kids with disabilities. In the fall, he'll return to Paterson for his senior year and then go to college to study nursing. But Marcelo's dad has other plans for him. Arturo would like Marcelo to join "the real world" by working at his law firm for the summer and attending a typical high school in the fall. They make a deal. If Marcelo gets through the summer working at the law firm, adapting to new situations and following the rules of the real world, then Marcelo can choose what school he attends in the fall. But the real world is more complicated, beautiful, and frightening than Marcelo could ever have imagined.

WHY did I wait so long to pick up this book??? Seriously, I have owned it for months and somehow I always put something else in front of it. *kicks self* I knew I would love it and I did love it.

It took me a little while to warm up to Marcelo. His voice is very precise, very literal. I was a little confused in the beginning because he calls his parents by their first names. But after a couple of chapters, I got used to Marcelo's unique way of talking and I just loved everything. Working at the law firm, Marcelo gets involved in a conundrum that would be hard for anyone (neuro-typical or not) to sort out. He really has a trial by fire when he's asked to join the real world. So besides the fact that it's a beautifully-written novel about a kid on the autism spectrum, it's also just a beautifully-written coming-of-age story about a teenager who's figuring out what it means to love, to consider consequences, and to do the right thing.

This would be a great crossover book for your adult friends who don't know (yet) that they like YA books.

And now, I'm back to read, read, reading...

Total time spent reading/blogging: about 6.5 hours
Books finished: 2
Pages read: 575

I think next up is going to be If I Stay and then maybe something middle grade like Strawberry Hill or Confetti Girl.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

48 Hour Book Challenge Update

I've read about 4.25 hours tonight and I'm exhausted from last night's shenanigans, so I might be heading to bed shortly. I'll try to stay up and read a little longer, but no promises. I'm halfway through Marcelo in the Real World and LOVING IT (as I knew I would. Why did I wait so long to pick it up???).

S'ok. I'll get some rest and read like a demon all day tomorrow until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. Luckily, I'm working Monday evening, so I can stay up as late as I want on Sunday and sleep in before my shift. :)

Time spent reading/blogging: 4.25 hours
Books finished: 1.5
Pages: Um.. like 410? ish?

48HBC: Kaleidoscope Eyes

Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant. (Grades 5-8.)

It's the summer of 1968 and Lyza has realized that her mother, who left two years ago, is never coming home. Her personal tragedies pale in comparison, though, to the families who have lost sons and brothers to the Vietnam War. In the midst of all this, Lyza's grandfather dies and leaves behind a mystery for her to solve. It's an honest-to-goodness treasure hunt and Lyza, along with her best friends Malcolm and Carolann, will spend the summer of 1968 searching. But even if they find the treasure, it won't bring Lyza's mother back or protect family members from the devastating war.

I was excited to read this one because I so enjoyed Jen Bryant's previous novel in verse, Ringside 1925. In Kaleidoscope Eyes Ms. Bryant's created a lush portrayal of small-town New Jersey in 1968. It's a vibrant time, a time of confusion and rebellion and passion and fear, and I think that really comes across in the book. Quotes from songs of the time (protest and otherwise) add to the scenery.

But I have mixed feelings about novels in verse and this one didn't work so well for me. I enjoyed the parts of the story that were longer prose (for example, letters sent home from Vietnam) more than the actual poems. I enjoyed the characters, for the most part, and the setting, but I just feel like I would have enjoyed the story more if it had been prose.

That said, it's part adventure and part coming-of-age and a richly detailed portrayal of the 1960s. I'd hand it to any kid interested in that tumultuous time period.

Oh, and I do have to mention the author's note, which provided information about towns and places mentioned in the book as well as Janis Joplin, Captain Kidd, and others. It made my heart skip with glee. :)

Time spent reading/blogging: 2 hours
Books read: 1
Pages read: 263

48 Hour Book Challenge 2009: Really Go!

Okay, I am back in town, relatively unpacked, and ready to START READING!

(And just in case anyone questions my dedication to the 48HBC and the blogging community in general, I turned down going to this place with my best friend and her husband tonight so that I could come back here and read "with" all of you!)

Official start time was 7:00am this morning, but unofficial start time is 4:37pm. And I promise I'll take a reading break later and catch up on everyone's posts and tweets.

OH. And the ceremony was very beautiful and I'm so, so happy I could be with my friend on the day she's ordained as a rabbi. As a side note, I heard from one of the other guests that at this ceremony, the very first female African-American rabbi was ordained! Historic!

Okay... reading... now!

48 Hour Book Challenge 2009: GO!

So, officially my time is starting at 7:00am (EDT) Saturday morning. Um... and I'm currently in Cincinnati watching my college roommate become a rabbi! So I should be back home some time this afternoon, which is when I'll start reading. And I'll read my little eyes out until I can't keep my eyes open anymore on Sunday.

I have a sizeable TBR pile, including these books:

This year, I'm not making a goal of number of books read (although, okay, in the back of my mind I'm hoping to read at least 5). I do have the goal of reading for at least 20 hours.

So, good luck, everyone! Have fun! I am seriously jealous of anyone reading Catching Fire or Fire this weekend! Annnd I'll have another post when I'm actually back in town and ready to start.

Ready... set........ GO!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Around the interwebs

Are you doing the 48 Hour Book Challenge this weekend? Pam's posted the starting line, so don't forget to sign in! Still thinking about it? Check out the rules and the prizes (and yes, Pam is giving away not one but TWO ARCs of Catching Fire - one to the winner and one to a random participant). Also, if you're tweeting about the challenge, don't forget to tag using #48hbc.

Speaking of Twitter, follow Sarah Ockler to join in the tweet party for her book Twenty Boy Summer. It's tonight (Friday) from 7pm-11pm Eastern. And I'll be reviewing the book next week (along with a special surprise...), so keep a look out for that.

Ready to dive into summer reading? Check out what some of your favorite authors have on their summer reading lists. (Link via Mo.)

The ALSC has posted more sites to their list of Great Web Sites for Kids. Kiera has a post up about doing programming for kids with autism. Definitely something public children's librarians should read. And if you're promoting early literacy (and who isn't?!) you should check out this post about Follow the CAR.

Ever wanted to have a cat at your library? Meet 8 of them in 8 Library Cats (my favorite is Nyx). J, are you falling over with the adorableness? ;)

And a plea for Pixar to include some (non-princess) girls among their protagonists. YES, PLEASE.

Okay, that's all I've got for you and it's time for me to start my errands. I'm starting the 48HBC tomorrow morning, but good luck and go-go-go! to everyone who's already started or is starting tomorrow. My cheerleading will be back in full force tomorrow afternoon.

Book Review: Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin. (Grades 4-7.)
Copy provided by my local library.

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

Twelve-year-old Jason has autism, so the world looks different to him. He doesn't really have any friends because most kids can't see past his disability. They think that if they can't understand you, you must not have anything to say and if you don't express your feelings like they do, you must not have any feelings. All that changes when he meets PhoenixBird on an online writing website. Emails from her are the highlight of Jason's day, but when he gets the chance to meet her at a conference, he must decide if he's brave enough to show her who he really is.

Protagonists with autism, I can name a few. Ted from The London Eye Mystery. Christopher from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Maybe you even want to count Emma Jean who Fell Out of a Tree.

While I enjoyed all the above mentioned books*, none of them put me into the heart of someone with autism quite like Anything But Typical. Jason knows he's different - he processes things differently, he thinks differently, he sees the world differently. But underneath all that, underneath perception and thought processes and what everyone thinks about him, is a twelve-year-old boy who wonders if he'll ever have a girlfriend. A boy who wants to have friends and who loves his family.

I was drawn in quickly by Jason's voice, but it was the following passage that really made me sit up and take notice (and it's really not a novel in verse, it's just that this particular passage happens to look a little like verse):

...Why do people want everyone to act just like they do? Talk like they do. Look like they do. Act like they do.
And if you don't -
If you don't, people make the assumption that you do not
feel what they feel.
And then they make the assumption -
That you must not feel anything at all
. (pg. 14)

Jason's struggle with himself as to whether he's going to meet his online "girlfriend" was interesting, but what I really loved was Jason's relationship with his family. His younger brother looks up to him so much that he requires one of those divided plates because Jason couldn't stand it when his foods touched on the plate. When no one can figure out what's bugging Jason, Jeremy can figure it out.

If you liked The London Eye Mystery or The Curious Incident..., pick up Anything But Typical.

Read more reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads and Readingjunky's Reading Roost. Check out this Guys Lit Wire post on books about autism spectrum disorders and you might also want to read this Q&A with Nora Raleigh Baskin.

*And before you ask, I do have Marcelo in the Real World on my TBR pile! ;)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Contest winner

The random number gods have spoken and the winner of an ARC of Love You, Hate You, Miss You is Ashley from Books Obsession!

Thanks, everyone, for entering, and stay tuned because I'll have another giveaway next week after all the 48 Hour Book Challenge madness has passed (you DID sign up, didn't you???).

Book Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. (Grades 4-7.)

Young child Minli lives in a village at the foot of Fruitless Mountain. Everything there is brown.

Nothing grows on the mountain and the people are forced to toil long and hard in the mud to raise barely enough rice to live on. Although Minli is content hearing fantastic stories from her loving father, Minli's mother is not happy. So Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon on the Never-Ending Mountain and ask him how to change their fortune.

As soon as they find out she's gone, Minli's parents become crazy with worry, but it's too late - Minli is gone. And as her parents try to pass the time until Minli comes home (oh, how they hope she will make it home), Minli is off having adventures and learning new stories from everyone she meets.

This is a magical book about the power of hoping for impossible things and the importance of story. Since the whole novel reads like a fable, it's fitting that some of the stories within the book are based on Chinese folktales the author read when she was a child.

This was really a feel-good book for me. The ending was just perfect! Short chapters make the text fly by and it has a good amount of adventure. You'll find dragons, evil tigers, kings, trickery, and plenty of magic within the pages of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. This will be a big hit with any kid who enjoys fairy tales, folktales, and mythology.

I loved Grace Lin's Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, but this book is completely different. It's a powerful story that will stay with me for a long, long time.

I'm reviewing from an ARC, so I don't have the full-color illustrations, but you can get a preview of this beautiful artwork here:

Check out another blog review at BookDragon.

Due out July 1.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review: Ash

Ash by Malinda Lo. (Grades 8+)

Aisling has lived all her life on the edge of the Wood, a dark and magical place where fairies roam, or so the stories say. When her mother and father die and she's forced to work for her stepfamily, Aisling longs for the fairies to take her away. She sneaks away as often as she can to walk in the woods with the fairy Sidhean, beautiful and brooding. But when Ash meets the king's huntress Kaisa, everything begins to change. This retelling of Cinderella features a lush fantasy world where the old magic still flourishes, even if most people deny its existence, and a thrilling new love story - one where the prince doesn't get the girl... the huntress does.

The first thing that really struck me about Ash was its atmospheric setting. It's dark. It's brooding. The forest is alive with magic that can be beautiful and dangerous at the same time. People are warned not to tarry with the fairies, not to eat any of their fairy foods, not to join the fairy hunt. If they do, they might never come back. Or they might come back but waste away, longing to return to the fairy lands.

And how are people warned? Through the stories that are told throughout the novel. Stories have a prominent place in this world. They warn children not to stray too far into the woods. They celebrate heroes of the past. They hold power because they hold the knowledge of the old world, of the magic that still runs through the trees. Ash loves hearing and reading fairy tales and one of her prized possessions is a book of tales her father brought her. To Ash, the stories have an extra dimension because she believes in fairies and treats the stories like they're truth.

The book reminded me of A Curse Dark as Gold for its detailed, dark setting and atmosphere. This is a book that's not all about the plot, but more about descriptions and world-building. This isn't a bad thing, but it started a little bit slow. Also, I felt a bit removed from the characters, like I could see what was happening to them but it wasn't like I was right there with them. The huntress Kaisa, in particular, was a closed book. I'd love to see another tale from her point of view.

That said, I love, love, love that Aisling fell in love with the female huntress instead of the prince. And I also love that it wasn't "OMG Ash is in love with a girl!" with the townspeople freaking out. An issue book this is not. (Yay!) It's a refreshing new look at the Cinderella story and one that is sure to please fans of fairy tale retellings.

Add it to your TBR list because it's due out September 1.

PS: How much do I love this cover? It's different and dark and I feel like it perfectly reflects the story within.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: The Dragon of Trelian

The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen (also, Michelle has a blog). (Grades 5-8.)

Being a mage's apprentice is not at all what Calen thought it would be. He was picturing a life of adventure! Daring feats of magic! Saving kingdoms and transporting people through portals and lots of other cool stuff.

But instead... well, it's kind of boring. All Mage Serek wants him to do is gather plants and study trees and practice the same boring spells endlessly. Calen doesn't see the point.

But then Serek asks him to read the divination cards. And even though Serek is quick to say that divination is hardly a precise art, he can't hide his reaction when Calen easily reads the cards. And the cards are predicting bad things for the Kingdom of Trelian.

And then there's Princess Meglynne. The first time they meet, Meg almost kills him. (It won't be the last time she almost kills him.) Meg takes an instant liking to Calen. She feels drawn to him. She trusts him. Which is good because Meg has a secret.

A secret she can't tell anyone else.

Together, Meg and Calen will be responsible for Trelian's future, and, as evil gathers in the kingdom, the future has never looked more uncertain.

To be completely honest, I wasn't at all sure I would like this book. I thought to myself, Dragons, eh? Dragons have been done. Magic, eh? Magic has been done. And while I think it's likely that the book's widest following will come from fans of other fantasy novels (Eragon, Septimus Heap, etc.), it definitely had enough surprises to keep me on my toes. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

The first thing that struck me was the tone of the book. It's got its serious moments and there's plenty of adventure, but I enjoyed the lighter moments a lot. Here's an example from when Meg's describing the man her sister's going to marry:

..."She thinks he's quite handsome, but of course she's only ever seen his portrait, and honestly, if I were painting a portrait of a prince I'd probably make certain he looked handsome in it, too..." (pp 9-10)

The characters of Meg and Calen are complimentary to each other. Meg's feisty and impulsive. Having always gotten her own way, she demands immediate satisfaction (but not in a bratty way... well, only occasionally in a bratty way). Calen is more thoughtful. He takes his time and proceeds with caution. They sometimes drive each other crazy, but really they're the perfect adventuring duo.

Like I said, I'd hand this to any fan of Eragon, Septimus Heap, or Dealing with Dragons. It's got enough comfortable fantasy elements to keep them happy, but it's got enough twists on the familiar to keep things interesting. The ending is an obvious setup for a sequel, but it wraps things up very satisfactorily.

I reviewed this book as part of the Kidz Book Buzz blog tour and you should definitely check out the rest of the stops on these lovely blogs:

A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children's Books, Becky's Book Reviews, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Homeschool Book Buzz, KidzBookBuzz.com, Novel Teen, Reading is My Superpower, Reading to Know, Small World Reads, The 160 Acre Woods, Through a Child's Eyes, and Through the Looking Glass Reviews.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Help Me Help You: Teacher Edition

By popular demand: What do librarians wish teachers knew about the (public) library? If you've been tuning in lately you know that I've done several posts about what librarians wish people knew about the library. Teachers and librarians working together can accomplish great things and we have a lot of the same goals. How can teachers' interactions with the library go even more smoothly? Here's what we want you to know:

We would love to know about your assignments ahead of time. Believe me, by the time the third kid in a row has asked for a biography on a famous woman, we know someone has assigned a biography report. We can usually figure out what school and grade it's for and we do pass the information around our department. It would be wonderful to get a quick email from you giving us a head's up about an upcoming assignment, especially if the assignment contains multiple parts or asks for certain kinds of books. Sometimes kids lose their assignment sheets. Sometimes it's the parents coming in to pick up books and they don't know exactly what they need. We would love to find the right book or resource for every child, but it's not always easy when we don't know what, exactly, teachers are looking for.

We appreciate when you make sure there are resources available before giving your students an assignment. Yeah, I won't forget that spring we had students doing reports on endangered animals that were so rare that nothing was written about them! Or maybe you're asking your students to find historic newspaper articles, but the local library only has current newspapers. It's a frustrating experience for students and librarians. Please make sure there are resources available before you give out an assignment. If you're not sure, ask a librarian! We're happy to help.

Other teachers in your school (and in other schools) might be doing the same units that you are. Okay, this seems like a total no-brainer, but we often get requests for the same materials at the same time. I understand that sometimes teachers follow the same curricula and therefore the assignments might be the same, but please understand that we have limited resources. The library only has so many books on hibernation or butterflies and often we don't have the resources to purchase more. We'll all have to share what we've got.

There are lots of different book-leveling systems. Accelerated Reader, Lexile, Fountas & Pinnell... those are just a few of the different systems schools use to determine a book's reading level. If you require students to read books that are "at their level", please consider talking to one of your local librarians. We can better help your students if we know what leveling system you're using. Also, please talk to your parents. I can't tell you how many parents I've seen who are looking for a "Level F" book but have no idea what that means. We're happy to help educate parents about book levels, but an informational handout from a teacher might make the process easier. Or, better yet, invite a librarian to come to your open house or back-to-school night to talk about reading levels and booktalk a few books.

We are happy to have your class visit, and your visit will be better if we know you are coming (and when and for what purpose).
Different libraries have different rules about class visits, but I can tell you one thing - your visit will be smoother for all involved if we know you're coming. We can make sure that we are adequately staffed. We can pull books for you. We can put together a program if you'd like. We can suggest a time when the library is generally quieter and your students will have plenty of room to browse and work. I'm going to say that, generally, at least a week's notice is preferable (and more notice is even better).

We need your help to promote our programs over the summer and during the school year. A good word from a trusted teacher goes a lot farther than a paper (or online) schedule from the library. We'd love to be invited to your school or class to promote the summer reading club, talk about upcoming programs, show kids & teachers our online resources, and do booktalks and/or storytime. You want your kids to read and we do, too!

We'd love a copy of your summer reading list. Whether you're assigning summer reading or just offering a list of suggested titles, we'd love to have a copy before kids come in looking for the books. That way we can make sure we have enough copies on the shelves. Also, please remember that books sometimes go out of print (and if they're out of print, we can't get more copies!). If you're not sure about a book's availability, contact your local library and we are happy to help you find out. Using in-print books on your reading list will make it much more convenient for kids and parents to find and read these books.

The public library may have more freedom to buy materials that aren't approved by the school board. While school libraries must meet the needs of their students, public libraries aim to meet the needs of all patrons. If you're looking for a book that your school library doesn't own (for whatever reason), check the public library!

Many libraries offer teacher cards or school loan programs. If you want books to use for your classroom, ask your local public library if they have a special loan program for teachers. Benefits may include longer check-out times, no overdue fees, delivery to your school, and/or professional guidance in selecting books for your classroom. If you do take part in a school loan program, please remember that other teachers and patrons may want the same books you do, so it's important to get those books back on time.

So, readers, what else would we like teachers to know about the library? Teachers, what would you like librarians to know about schools? Any school media folk have something to add?

Be sure and check out Help Me Help You Parts 1: Research and Reference, 2: Storytime, and 3: Library Logistics. And I got so many great suggestions in the comments, that I'll wrap it all up with Part 5 later this week.

Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass

Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass by Erica Kirov. (Grades 4-7.)

Moving from hotel to hotel with his Las Vegas magician dad, Nick is used to making new friends and losing them as soon as their vacations are over. And he's used to having a tiny room and not much money (his dad is not a very talented magician). But on Nick's thirteenth birthday, everything changes as he learns that he comes from a line of very powerful magicians called the Magickeepers. Nick learns that he has the gift of sight and he's whisked away to train in magic and learn about the Magickeepers' glorious history. There he meets Isabella and her intimidating trained tiger Sascha and he learns about the Shadowkeepers, evil magicians who will stop at nothing to collect the most powerful relics in the world. And they seem to be after Nick...

The action is very fast-paced and I'd definitely try this on Harry Potter or Percy Jackson fans who just can't get enough magic. I love that Erica Kirov wove strands of Russian culture and history into the story. That definitely makes it stand out.

But to be honest the book didn't completely grab me. I'll be the first to admit that I've got a lot on my mind at the moment with the start of the Summer Reading Club and all that goes with it. It's very possible that it's just my state of mind that's keeping me from getting hooked.

Anymore, any good or middling children's fantasy novel gets compared to Harry Potter and this one has a lot of the same elements. True, the Russian elements do add to the story, but I didn't really feel connected to the characters enough to really enjoy the novel. Again, maybe that's my state of mind, but 80 pages in I sat up and realized that the only thing I really knew about Nick was that he loved cheeseburgers...

So, it wasn't totally my thing, but many other bloggers have liked it quite a bit. Check out the other blogs participating in the Magickeepers' blog tour*:

YA Books Central

Word Candy (5/29)
One more thing... I've heard several compliments on the cover of Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass, but whenever I look at it I can't help but think of the cover of Larklight. What do you think? Am I stretching?

*And yes, I was supposed to post on May 28, but a ridiculously slow FedEx delivery nipped that in the bud... Apologies for the delay!