Friday, April 30, 2010

Dot Com

Nothing's changed around here and this'll take you to the same ridiculously pink site as always, but I give you

Easy to remember, eh? A small step, I know, but an important step towards Blog Improvement. More Blog Improvements will be coming in the near future. :)

Around the interwebs : Derby edition

Tomorrow's Derby Day (which is a Very Big Deal here). Let's have good thoughts that all the horses and jockeys stay safe (and that I get lots of Derby Pie). And while we're waiting for the call to the post, here are some links for you to check out.

Can two books have the same title? YES! Isn't that a copyright infringement? NO! I guess after years of working in bookstores and libraries, it's not news to me that more than one book can share the same title. Kate Milfold's upcoming middle-grade book The Boneshaker shares a title with Cherie Priest's adult book (out last fall) Boneshaker. Read Kate's thoughts about the title deja vu and then read Cherie's thoughts. I love that each author has read the other's book! Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.

Do you love polls? I kind of do. Recorded Books K-12 is asking What Are the Top 20 Children's Audiobooks? I know the post asks teachers to vote, but I checked and public librarians can weigh in as well! So head on over there and submit your list or just head over there to see what audiobooks others love.

Speaking of audiobooks, have you submitted a link for this month's AudioSynced Roundup? Kelly will be posting the roundup tomorrow, May 1, over at Stacked. Send her a link or stop by and leave your link in the comments of tomorrow's roundup. Didn't get a chance to review an audiobook this month? No worries - I'll be hosting another roundup on June 1 right here.

And speaking of polls, you have through the end of today to send in your top 10 YA books to Persnickety Snark to be counted in her Top 100 YA Books poll. She's got over 600 people who've sent their lists - stand up and be counted! 

Can I just say that I love Associate Editor Katherine Jacobs's post What's On My Desk? because that is exactly the process my desk goes through on a weekly basis? I pile things up until the stacks get too high and I just have to spend an hour cleaning off my desk. If you haven't seen the What's On My Desk? feature at the MacKids Blog, do check it out. If nothing else, it makes me glad I'm not the only one with piles!

And I think that's all I've got for you this week. Have a great weekend!

Photo from Paolo's Camera (and, it must be said, NOT from an actual Derby race).

My Top Ten YA Books

Adele of Persnickety Snark has taken on the incredible project of compiling the Top 100 YA Novels by polling readers and asking them to submit their top ten YA books. Top Ten Books? Impossible for a librarian! There's no way to do it other than to just DO IT. And I know that as the Top 100 are revealed, I'll see many that I'll wish I had included, but here is my list:

10. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (2006). First of all, this book was like a community event for the Young People's Services Department at the library where I was working when I read it. We all had to read it and we all loved it. And then Ms. Murdock came out with two sequels that were just as good as the first book. Not an easy thing, but she managed it. And my love for DJ Schwenk, imperfect heroine and football star, just grew and grew.

9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007). I'm a big fan of books that make me laugh and cry. As Dolly Parton once said: "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!" Part-Time Indian did that for me, plus it allowed me to experience a slice of life through a kid of another culture. And it does this in such a completely non-didactic way that it's, well, completely wonderful.

8. Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (1993). This is a book that I loved when I was a teen. The story stuck with me all the way through growing up and when I revisited it as an adult, the story still held up. This is one of those books that helped form me, I think. And I don't know what more I can say.

7. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995). I first read this book in college. It had been given to me by a high school friend and, though I am remarkably terrible about reading books that people give me, I picked it up. It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did, boy howdy I couldn't put it down. And the ending to the trilogy is one of the most moving endings of any books ever.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). I actually never read this book in high school, but picked it up on my own. It's such a powerful story and it always rings true to me and I cry every time I read it.

5. Alanna by Tamora Pierce (1983). I had always heard good things about Tamora Pierce and once I picked up Alanna, I knew why. Alanna's your quintessential kick-butt heroine and I love that about her.

4. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger (1974). This was another one of those books that helped me become who I am. The story's about a girl who has no self-confidence and gets pushed around by her verbally abusive father until, inspired by her new English teacher, she begins to change. When her teacher is fired, Marcy and her new friends protest, standing up for what they believe is right. Seeing Marcy start to come out of her shell and stand up to her father and to others in authority was just the kind of story I loved and wanted when I was a teen.

3. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2003). This is the perfect book for book-lovers. The character of Mattie Gokey leaps off the page - her pain becomes the reader's pain - and I've never rooted for a book character as strongly as I rooted for Mattie. Plus, I first read this one at just the right time - I was just starting to get into teen novels and consider librarianship. I have no doubts that it's reading awesome books like this one that made me take the plunge into becoming a heavy reader of YA (and I'm so glad I did!).

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008). This is, hands-down, the best YA book I've read in recent years. The action is non-stop and it has wonderful characters as well. Plus, the world-building is just fantastic. Every time I read it, I remember anew how much I love it.

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993). I don't even know if this one counts as YA, but even it means throwing my top vote away I included it on my list because that's how much I love it. Of course, it's impossible for a librarian to pick just ONE favorite book, but if I had to... I might pick The Giver. I loved it when I was 12 or so and I've read it many times since then and I still love it now. It's the story of Jonas, a boy coming of age and figuring out some terrible truths about the world he so blindly loved. If that's not a YA plight, what is?

So, let's see. For those playing along at home, my list consists of:

- All American authors except Philip Pullman
- 4 fantasy/sci-fi, 2 historical, and 4 contemporary/realistic fiction
- 3 first read when I was a teen,  0 read for school
- And pub dates all over the map:

1960s - 1
1970s - 1
1980s - 1
1990s - 3
2000s - 4

The entire list leans a little more towards the younger side of YA, though there are definitely some high school books on there. What fun, to make this list! And I can't wait to see what books make the Top 100!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:45a - Arrive at work, get things together for today's outreach event. Today I'm going to an Early Childhood Fair put together by several different community organizations.

9:00a - Leave for the Fair. I have an activity for the kids and I'm bringing someone from our Circulation Department to make library cards.

9:20a - Arrive at the Salvation Army gym, sign in, and get our table set up. What did I bring? A tablecloth, program schedules, business cards, and a coloring activity for the kids. Need some ideas about what to bring on outreach visits? Check out this post on the ALSC Blog: Have Rolling Bag, Will Travel!

10:00a-1:00p - Families arrive for the Early Childhood Fair and we get busy signing up children and adults for library cards, passing out information about the library, and generally meeting and greeting.

1:00p - The last of the families leave the Fair and we clean up our table, pack up our stuff, and head back to the library.

1:20p - Arrive back at the library, put the outreach things away.

1:30p - Back at my desk, I return a call to a school scheduling a visit to talk about the Summer Reading Club.

1:40p - Stop by my boss's office to chat. She's recently back from PLA and went to lots of great programs.

2:00p - Chat with our Circulation Manager about a couple of school classes that are coming later in the week.

2:15p - Get the room set up for this afternoon's program. I arrange the tables and chairs, pull browsing books, pick out music, and make sure I have all the books and supplies ready.

2:55p - Plan next week's Mother Goose on the Loose program. This is our baby storytime that I do each Wednesday. The program calls for many of the rhymes and activities to be repeated, but I choose a new book each week and some new rhymes and songs.

3:30p - Program planned, I make some attempt to clean off my desk, but...

3:40p - I'm called away to take a photo for the library newsletter. Yep, after almost a year I'm finally being "formally introduced". :)

3:50p - Finish the last minute set-up for the program (set out nametags, etc.) and let the kids in for After School Adventures.

4:00p-4:45p - After School Adventures! This is our program for K-2nd-graders and we run it the same weeks as our preschool storytime session in the spring and the fall.

4:45p - Program over, I make sure the kids find their grownups and clean up the room.

5:00p - Reset the room for tomorrow's storytime (oh, to have a magic room that reset itself!). I rearrange the tables and chairs and set out the craft materials, etc.

5:15p - Time to go home!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: Shooting Kabul

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai. (Grades 4-7.) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

After the Taliban pressures his father to join them, Fadi and his family must flee Afghanistan. They sell all their belongings and use their life savings to secure passage to Pakistan. 

On the night that they board the truck, something terrible happens. 

People are scrambling to board the truck, desperate to escape the country. Fadi's six-year-old sister Mariam drops her doll and, in turning back to look for it, lets go of Fadi's hand. The truck takes off, trying to outrun the Taliban members who have appeared on the scene.

And Mariam is left behind in Afghanistan as Fadi and the rest of his family make their way to America. 

I saw this one on Betsy's Simon & Schuster preview post and my interest was piqued. I mean, with a premise like that, how could I not be? Well, I definitely let out a *squee* when I saw this ARC in the envelope from Simon & Schuster and I wasn't disappointed. I picked it up right away and didn't put it down until I was done. 

Shooting Kabul is a moving portrait of one family's flight from a war-torn country and their struggle to acclimate to life in America. Fadi and his family (parents and older sister) have to learn a new language, learn new customs, find jobs (not easy!), and get used to living in a completely foreign place. All that is hard enough without the massive guilt that Fadi feels over letting go of Mariam's hand. He knows it's his fault that his sister is lost. He knows that the family would be doing much better in America if only Mariam was there with them. 

Afghanistan gets talked about a lot and kids might have a rather muddy idea of what has gone on "over there"  during the past decade. Shooting Kabul does a good job of shedding some light on these recent events without sounding like a textbook. Fadi and his family are in America for 9/11 and they face prejudice from the Americans they know. It's not an easy time to be an immigrant in the US and this book gives middle-grade readers a valuable glimpse through the eyes of an immigrant family. This is an impressive debut and I'll be looking for more from Ms. Senzai.

Shooting Kabul hits shelves on June 22.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review: Countdown

Countdown by Deborah Wiles. (Grades 4-7.) Scholastic Press, May 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.


Franny is used to practicing "duck and cover" in school. She knows that the Russians could drop a bomb on them at any moment, completely obliterating life as she knows it. Tensions are running high as news breaks that the Russians have missiles in Cuba, pointing right at the United States. But the bomb's not the only thing causing tension in Franny's life - her best friend is being mean to her, her sister's busy at college and involved in something she won't tell Franny about, and her uncle is trapped in his post-traumatic stress delusions from something tragic that happened in WWI.

Based on the author's experience as a child growing up in the '60s, Countdown takes readers back in time with its unique "documentary novel" format. Archival photos, ads, song lyrics, and factual information accompany Franny's story, helping readers to understand the events happening in Franny's world. It's really extraordinary.

Obviously this book, the first of a trilogy, is a labor of love. I can't imagine the amount of research and work that went into creating it. A lot. And it's pretty much awesome. In nonfiction passages, the reader learns about JFK, Harry Truman, and other figures of the day. We see ads from the 1960s reminding children to duck and cover to protect themselves from the bomb.

Even though I felt like Franny's story gets a little lost in the shuffle, the format alone is reason to pick up the book. It's a visually stunning work that'll appeal to middle-graders interested in history and the 1960s. It'll be a valuable classroom resource for teachers doing units on the 60s. And I even lent it to one of my coworkers who grew up in the '60s and she loved it!

Read more reviews at Educating Alice, A Year of Reading, and A Fuse #8 Production, and check out this post from Deborah Wiles's blog which offers a peek inside the book.

Countdown will be on shelves May 1.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't forget! Don't forget!

1) Kelly's hosting this month's AudioSynced Roundup over at Stacked, so if you've reviewed or posted about audiobooks in April, get a link to her so she can include it! (You still have time - the roundup will run May 1!)

2) Adele of Persnickety Snark is compiling the Top 100 YA Books poll and there's still time to submit your top ten! Make your voice heard and submit your list by April 30. I will share my list soon - I'm so excited to see what the top 100 will be!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Now Available!

These books were reviewed from ARCs and are now available! Go to your nearest indie bookstore and buy them immediately (if not sooner)!

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. (Grades 4-7.) Philomel Books, April 2010.

This is a moving story seen from a unique perspective. Caitlin and the other characters (notably Caitlin's dad, a single father trying to deal with his own grief as well as take care of his daughter) had me choked up in many different spots. But Kathryn Erskine has mastered that blend of humor with poignancy and I found myself laughing out loud in several spots, too.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In My Mailbox #30

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and designed to spread the word about upcoming books! Head on over to Kristi's blog to see what awesome books arrived in bloggers' mailboxes this week!

This week I got a couple of lovely boxes from Scholastic (very excited to see some titles from their fantastic and much-appreciated Librarian Preview Webcast) and a title from Tor as well! Since I don't want to clog up your reader with a super-long post, I'm going to skip the summaries, but I'll link (as always) to GoodReads and you can read summaries on there.

Archvillain by Barry Lyga (Scholastic Press, October 2010). - I actually already read this one and I liked it quite a bit. I'll have a full review up closer to the pub date.

Bobby the Brave (Sometimes) by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat (Arthur A. Levine Books, September 2010). - I quite enjoyed Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally), so I'm excited for this one!

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman and Rob Shepperson (Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2010). - This looks kinda Hugo Cabret-ish with illustrations telling part of the story. Intriguing.

Framed by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Press, September 2010).

No Such Thing As Dragons by Philip Reeve (Scholastic Press, September 2010).

Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, RMS Titanic, 1912 by Ellen Emerson White (Scholastic, November 2010 - rerelease).

The Winter of Red Snow: The Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777 by Kristiana Gregory (Scholastic, September 2010 - rerelease).

The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis, Seattle, Washington, 1941 by Kirby Lawson (Scholastic, September 2010).

A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620 by Kathryn Lasky (Scholastic, September 2010 - rerelease).

The Miracle Stealer by Neil Connelly (Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2010).

The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh (Chicken House, September 2010). - Debut author alert!

Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2010). - Oh, you should have heard the squee when I took this one out of the box! :) Check out my review of Ms. Bunce's first book A Curse Dark as Gold.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow (Arthur A. Levine Books, September 2010). I think I remember that the people at Scholastic were very enthusiastic about this debut, so I'm excited about it as well.

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel (Scholastic Press, September 2010). There was another huge squee for this one. I'm a big fan of Kenneth Oppel. Very excited!!

Legacies (Shadow Grail #1) by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill (Tor, July 2010). This is a YA debut by authors who have adult books, so that might count for the Debut Author Challenge...

Whew. Wonderful mailbox week for me! How about you?

Audiobook Roundup: Revisiting a few favorites

So, remember when I was all like "I'm going to reread more books!"? Yeah. I don't always have time for that. LUCKILY (kind of? I guess?), I have a somewhat decent commute to my job. And what better to do during a commute than listen to audiobooks? I've been revisiting some of my favorites on audio and I've got two to share with you today.

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Audiobook produced by Recorded Books, narrated by George Guidall. Grades 4-6. Copy provided by my local library.

It all started when Leigh Botts had to write a letter to his favorite author as a class assignment in the 2nd grade. He picked Mr. Henshaw. The following year, he again had to write to an author and he, again, wrote to Mr. Henshaw. By the time Leigh was in the sixth grade, he considered himself Mr. Henshaw's number one fan. And as Leigh started to go through some things in his own life (like starting a new school and dealing with his parents' divorce), he wrote to Mr. Henshaw.

For me, this book definitely stands the test of time. I loved it when I was in grade school (probably because I loved reading and writing and the idea of having a dialog with a famous author really appealed to me). And now that I go back to it, I can appreciate how real a character Leigh Botts is. He complains when Mr. Henshaw replies to his list of questions with not only a list of smartypants answers but a list of questions for Leigh to complete (how Ms. Cleary must have laughed to write that part!).

Leigh's facing a situation that many kids face - his parents' divorce. Even though this book was written in 1983, I think it stands up remarkably well. It doesn't really feel dated at all.

The audiobook narrator, George Guidall, does a terrific job as well. The story is told exclusively through Leigh's letters to Mr. Henshaw and Leigh's journal, so there aren't really characters to voice. The recording doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it doesn't need them. It's great as it is. If you haven't read this one, pick it up or grab the audiobook. It's definitely one of my all-time favorites.

The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements. Audiobook produced by Listening Library, narrated by Fred Berman. Grades 3-6. Copy provided by my local library.

Hart Evans is a sixth grade golden boy. Mr. Meinert is the sixth grade chorus teacher, recently RIFed (laid off - Reduction In Force-ed). They don't have a thing in common. When Hart misbehaves in chorus, Mr. Meinert explodes. He can't believe that none of the sixth graders understand what a big deal the holiday concert is! So he leaves it up to them. He bows out as director and the kids elect Hart. Can the sixth graders put together a holiday concert? Will their concert be a masterpiece or a mishmash of weird talent show acts?

Andrew Clements creates accessible school stories and I love that you get some of the teacher's perspective, too. School RIFs are a reality for students and it's good for them to see it from the teacher's viewpoint, too. In this book, I particularly love Clements's description of the concert. It brought tears to my eyes when I read it and it brought tears again when I listened to it.

Narrator Fred Berman brings all the characters to life, creating distinct voices for Hart and Mr. Meinert. His dramatic reading of the concert scene really added to how moving it was.

Both books are great in print or on audio. I highly recommend both. (And they're particularly good if you have a short commute because each recording is less than 3 hours long!)

Don't forget to submit your audio reviews to Kelly at Stacked for the April AudioSynced Roundup!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Search Stories for Fictional Characters

Ohhh, the lovely Jill over at NerdGirlBlogging introduced me to her new favorite thing (which quickly became my new favorite thing, too): Create Your Own Google Search Story.

You remember that commercial from the Superbowl with the Google searches and Paris and all that?

Well, you can create your own. And why not create one for your favorite fictional character? I'm seeing all sorts of possibilities... Post them on your library webpage as a sort of unique booktalk. Post them on your library's Facebook page and invite patrons to make their own. Or just give me a link to the ones you create and I'll make up a gallery for them. :)

Here's Jill's for Nancy Drew:

And here's mine for Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself:

And I made a Baby-Sitters Club one:

So, go forth and create a Google search story for your favorite character or book. Email me a link (abbylibrarian or post a link in the comments and I'll create a gallery for 'em.

Around the interwebs

I have been in a haze of Summer Reading Club planning this week and I have not been keeping up with the interwebs like I usually do. I do have a couple of links for you, though!

If you're going to BEA in May, this will be useful. Kristi of The Story Siren has compiled a spreadsheet listing YA author signings. It is fabulous and I will definitely be using it.

Hmm... Now that you mention it, the Top 100 Children's Book List was pretty, well, white. Luckily, Emily of That Blog Belongs to Emily Brown has a plan.  Head over to her post and see how you can adjust your scores using the CCBC's 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know. Thanks to Bezzi for the link (and happy birthday!).

Susan's posting about the benefits of baby storytime over at Booklights. I don't know if I have expressed this adequately, but our baby program is one of my favorite storytimes to do! Check your local library and see if they offer something for little ones. If they don't, ask them to!

Carlisle Cullen tops Forbes's list of the 15 Richest Fictional Characters. The Tooth Fairy and Lucille Bluth also make the list. I... don't even know what to say about that. Thanks to my Nerdgirls for the link.

And on that note, I'm off to work on our Summer Reading Club video. The music will be stuck in my head forevar.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: The Gardener

The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen. (Grades 7+) Feiwel & Friends, May 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Mason's always had some questions about his past. He never knew his father and his mom is suspiciously quiet about a mysterious college fund that's been set aside for him. When Mason finds the beautiful girl locked away in the rest home where his mom works, something sparks. He knows he has to save her, no matter the cost. But the girl, part of an experiment designed to save humankind, will change everything. 

Okay, I am going to say something and I really mean it as a compliment. The Gardener reminded me of nothing more than the classic Christopher Pike books I read as a teen. That is, the writing doesn't particularly stand out. But once I picked it up, I didn't want to put it down. I'm not sure how a plot can be somewhat predictable and still be thrilling, but The Gardener manages it. 

Long review short, I think young teens are going to enjoy this one. It's a perfect summer read for when kids need a diversion. Find your teens that like thrillers and/or your teens that enjoyed S.A. Bodeen's first book, The Compound, and hand them this one, too.
Hop on over and read more reviews at Book Notes and Stacked.

The Gardener will be on shelves May 25.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What to Read at Baby Storytime

This year, we've started offering Mother Goose on the Loose, a program for under-2's, at my library. It has been really successful and great fun for kids, parents, and librarians alike! If you're looking to spice up (or start offering) programming for babies, I can't recommend the training enough.

The joy of Mother Goose on the Loose is that the program is mostly songs, rhymes, and activities. We do many different things to keep the attention of those little ones, but we always read at least one book. I know it can be tricky to pick out books to read aloud for the bebes, so today I wanted to post about some of the picture books I've used for my baby program and how I used them.

For the little ones, it's important to use short books with clear, bright pictures and books get bonus points if there's an easy way to make them more interactive. Remember that you don't necessarily have to read all the text if it's too long. I think it's good for parents and caregivers to see that you can share books with young children without reading every single word verbatim.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle (Henry Holt & Co., 1967). This book has a rhythmic, sing-songy text that's great for sharing with little ones. When I read it, I sing it to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", which engages parents and kids.

Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia (Boxer Books, 2008). The little boys in my storytime looove cars and trucks, so this was right up their alley. In this book, we see all different kinds of vehicles, from cars to vans to limousines (great vocabulary there) and each vehicle makes a different noise. I ask the parents to say the noises along with me, which helps keep the kids engaged. 

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Harcourt Children's Books, 2007). This sweet book has illustrations of babies all over the world and a rhyming, rhythmic text reinforces the idea that "each of these babies (as everyone knows) has ten little fingers and ten little toes". Parents can wiggle their fingers and touch baby's toes each time that chorus comes up.

Flip, Flap, Fly! by Phyllis Root, illustrated by David Walker (Candlewick, 2009). In Flip, Flap, Fly! we meet all different kinds of animals through the rhyming text and brightly colored pictures. I ask the parents to say the animal noises with me as we go through each one (although some are a bit harder, like otters and fish).

Freight Train by Donald Crews (Greenwillow, 1978). Trains are another popular subject with little guys and gals. For this book, I ask parents to join me with a "Chugga chugga chugga chugga choo choo!" as we turn each page. It helps give the simple text a real sense of direction and we can get faster and faster as the train picks up speed.

If You're Happy and You Know It by Jan Cabrera (Holiday House, 2005). Most parents will be familiar with this popular song and they'll be happy to sing it along with you. The actual text of the book includes a full verse on each page, so I wouldn't read them all. I'd paperclip pages together and read maybe three or four verses. Parents can do the actions in the song as we go through the book.

Over in the Meadow by Jane Cabrera (Holiday House, 2000). This is another book based on a song, so it has a great rhythm. Again, it's a little long, so I might only read the first five or six verses. I ask the parents to clap along to the rhythm and read it in a bouncy way, emphasizing the beat.

These are some of the books I've read in my baby programs at the library. Do you do programs for babies and toddlers? What are some of your favorite read-alouds for the very young?

Want more ideas? Click here for more lists and ideas for baby storytime.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: Keeper

Keeper by Kathi Appelt. (Grades 4-7.) Atheneum, May 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

It was supposed to be the perfect day, this blue moon magic day. Signe was making blue moon gumbo with the crabs Dogie had caught fresh that morning. Dogie was going to sing his two-word song to Signe (finally!). And Mr. Beauchamp's night-blooming cyrus was going to open its blossoms. But then everything got messed up.

All because of Keeper.
But she has a plan to make it right. She's going to steal out to the sandbar in the middle of the night and find her mermaid mama. Her mermaid mama whom Keeper hasn't seen since she was three. Her mermaid mama will tell her what to do to make it right.

But Keeper didn't plan on the riptide taking her out to sea...

Oh, Kathi Appelt. She did good. She really had me. She drew me in to this fantastical little family out on Oyster Ridge Road on the Texas shore and made me feel like they were real. Her short chapters kept me turning the pages. And just when I thought the story was losing its way, just when I was a little bit frustrated, I went ahead and finished the book, only to discover that her writing is like the ocean.

The entire book, from Keeper's preoccupation with mermaids  to Dogie's surf shop to the chattering seagull who loves watermelon... It's all an homage to the sea. And the writing is just another part of that. It gives and it takes. It swirls around in eddies a little bit. It swells like the tide. And it brings you in safe on the sand.

All that's to say that while I was reading, I felt like the story was dragging a bit in places. But when I finished, I was able to step back and appreciate the beauty of the writing.

It's not going to be for everyone, but those readers who can appreciate it for what it is will find a truly special story.

(Can you even tell if you might like it from this review*? Let me just say that I think fans of Kathi Appelt's beautiful writing in The Underneath will enjoy this book as well. And Keeper is much less sad.)

 Keeper is due on shelves May 4. 

*It is lucky I am not a professional reviewer because they would probably fire me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: Prowling the Seas

Prowling the Seas: Exploring the Hidden World of Ocean Predators by Pamela S. Turner. (Grades 3-6.) Walker Books for Young Readers, October 2009. Review copy provided by author.

There are many different predators that live in the Pacific Ocean (sharks are among them, but far from the only ones). While we don't know a whole lot about many of these animals, we do know that their numbers are declining due to pollution, over-fishing, and other man-made causes. This is where the TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Predators) project comes in. TOPP aims to learn more about these animals by tagging them and mapping where they go. By knowing more about where these animals travel and congregate, we can help protect them.

In Prowling the Seas, we learn about four different predators of the Pacific - sea turtles, bluegill tuna, white sharks, and sooty shearwaters (birds). The reader sees the entire process of tagging the animals and a map of where the animals traveled. Young biologists may be astonished to learn that these animals travel great distances (one of the sooty shearwaters traveled over 50,000 miles during a 10-month period!). How the animals find their way across the ocean and why they travel where they do are still mysteries that science has yet to solve.

The text is accessible and will be interesting to future marine biologists and curious kids. And, c'mon, there's a big shark on the cover. This won't sit on your shelves gathering dust. It'll make a great addition to classroom units on sea life and conservation. Full color photos accompany the text, bringing these animals up close and personal. A list of further resources (books, DVDs, and websites) is included.

Read more reviews at The LibrariYAn and Pink Me. And Happy Nonfiction Monday! Go check out this week's roundup at Wrapped in Foil!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In My Mailbox #29

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. Head over there and check out what books bloggers got in their mailboxes this week!

And here's what showed up in mine this week (all summaries are from ARC jacket copy):

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow, March 2010).

Heart-stopping action, intrigue, danger, revenge, and romance, with a hint of a supernatural force as great as the gods - here is the epic story of an unlikely prince and his quest to save his kingdom

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow, May 2010).

What happens when life throws curveballs, one after another, faster than a guy can blink? Lynne Rae Perkins has written an astonishing (and wonderfully funny) novel about how luck - both good and bad - helps us find ourselves, and gets us from here to there.

Fish by Gregory Mone (Scholastic, June 2010).

Maurice Reidy - nicknamed "Fish" because of his incredible swimming abilities - is sent to work as a courier to help support his struggling family. Entrusted with a mysterious package of coins, Fish is waylaid by pirates who abscond with his delivery. But he's determined to get the coins back by joining the crew: some of the wiliest (and smelliest) pirates on the high seas

Julia Gillian (and the Dream of the Dog) by Alison McGhee (Scholastic, July 2010).

Now that Julia Gillian is a middle school "Sixlet" (sixth-grader), life is fundamentally altered. No longer do her teachers coddle her. No longer is recess the carefree pleasure it once was. Instead she must contend with schoolwork that involves "controlling for variables", a steely reading buddy who hates to read, and mortal fear of the burly "Sevvies" and "Crazy Eights" in the upper grades. Worse than all of this, Julia Gillian's beloved dog, Bigfoot, is slowing down, which makes her cozy, predictable world feel out of control

Dark Fire by Chris D'Lacey (Orchard Books, May 2010).

Bestselling author David Rain was lost in the Arctic for five years. Now, his daughter, Alexa, has brought him back, but a lot more has returned to Earth with him. Dragons are back as well. And with them is a hidden trace of dark fire, the deadliest force in the universe. Life hangs in the balance as David, Lucy, and the Pennykettle dragons must destroy the dark fire before it's discovered and used to birth a darkling. Yet David's success could come at a terrible price - the sacrifice of a beloved dragon

Charlie Bone and the Red Knight by Jenny Nimmo (Orchard Books, May 2010).

Dark forces are gathering at Bloor's Academy as the Bloors search for a lost box containing a hidden will - a will that reveals the true destiny of the Red King's heirs. And the Bloors are determined to keep Charlie Bone from finding it first. But Charlie is also facing the lord of the sea, who is trying to drown his parents, and a deadly expert swordsman from another century. The Red Knight might be the only hope. But who is the mysterious Red Knight? And can he help Charlie and his friends defeat the evil magic for good?

How about you? Did your friendly delivery person bring you anything awesome this week?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Around the interwebs

Well, things are a little crazy around here (in a good way) as Louisville gets ready for the start of the two-week-long Derby festival*! So, while I'm getting ready to watch some fireworks, here are some links for you to enjoy.

First of all, I kind of can't believe that more people aren't talking about this (unless maybe it has all of us skittish about Tweeting...). The Library of Congress has acquired the Twitter archive. Like, the whole thing. Preserved for all time. Those tweets about your breakfast? The tweets when you were grumbly about work? Or when you were excited about a TV show about to start? Preserved for all time. Your children's children's children could find them and read them 100 years from now. It's kind of blowing my mind. And making me ever more conscious that the stuff we put out here on the interwebs? It's for keeps. Thanks to Kelly for the link.

Betsy of A Fuse #8 Production announced the top book in her Top 100 Children's Novels poll this week! What a great list for collection development and professional development! Library students and new children's librarians take note - this is a great starting point for broadening your knowledge of children's literature!And Travis of 100 Scope Notes helps us visualize it, too.

Not to be outdone, Persnickety Snark is compiling a Top 100 YA Novels poll. Let's spread the word on this one, eh? You have two weeks (votes are due April 30) to figure out your top 10 YA novels and submit them for the poll.

In the category of Very Exciting News, our own Jen Robinson and her hubby welcomed Baby Girl into the world earlier this month! Mom and Baby are both doing fine. Go on over to Jen Robinson's Book Page and wish her well!

Are your teens singing songs from Glee as they peruse the stacks? Why not hand them a Glee readalike list, such as this one compiled by Sarah of GreenBean TeenQueen?

Pam (of MotherReader) snuck it in there with a bunch of other tidbits (kinda like I am doing right now, eh?), but I'm so excited that I ferreted it out: The 48 Hour Book Challenge will be back June 4-6, 2010! I know I've got a program on the fifth, but will that stop me? Noooo! In fact, I'm already mentally compiling a list of books that would be good to tackle that weekend. And this year, with my trusty new couch, I shall be unstoppable!!

And hey, if you're not checking out The Story Siren's Books to Pine For feature, you might be missing out. She's super duper on top of the new YA books coming out and I always find books to add to my wishlist. I consider myself fairly on top of the YA lit scene, but Kristi's really amazing. Definitely worth a look.

And that's all I've got for you at the moment. If you need me, I'll be drinking mint juleps and eating Derby pie for the next two weeks... :)

*You know, the Kentucky Derby? Horse race? Mint juleps and fancy hats? "And DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME!!!"? Yeah. It's a pretty big deal here.

National Library Week: How to make a felt story

I'm celebrating National Library Week this week by re-running some of my posts that have tips, tricks, and advice for new librarians. (And if more experienced librarians get something out of it, too, more the better!) Please feel free to share tips, advice, or favorite storytime/program activities in the comments. And Happy National Library Week!!

How to Make a Felt (Flannel Board) Story
This post originally ran on September 16, 2008. It has been edited.   

So you want to make a felt story but you're not sure how to get started? I didn't know how either until I recently got a tutorial from J, the felt story expert in my department. There are probably different techniques (and you can even buy them), but I wanted to share how we make our felt stories.

Step 1: Pick a story. Think about what images you will need to tell the story. Is it a story that you can learn and tell without the book? Two books we have turned into felt stories are Bark, George (mother dog, George, cat, duck, pig, cow) and Dog's Colorful Day (dog and a bunch of colored dots).

Step 2: Photocopy pictures for your pattern. The best pictures have a clear enough shape that you can mostly tell what it is from the outline. You might have to find pictures from other books or draw something freehand if you don't find a clear picture in your book. There are also books of felt patterns. Check your local library.

Step 3: Cut out your pattern pieces and select your felt. Remember that the pictures and colors do not have to be exactly like the book. Also remember to think about what color your felt board is. You want to pick colors that will stand out against your background. As an example I've cut out a kitten-shaped pattern and I chose orange felt.

Step 4: Tape your pattern pieces to the felt you want to use. You can also trace around the pieces with a marker, but the tape will hold the piece in place, stiffen the felt for cutting, and it comes off the felt clean without leaving a mark. Cut around the pattern piece.

Step 5: If there are any pieces that need more than one color felt, you can cut out the smaller piece from your pattern, repeat step 4, and glue the smaller piece to the larger piece. (I know the cat looks a little weird, but I just wanted to demonstrate the technique. You might use it to make a yellow bill for a duck or wheels for a truck.)

Step 6: Add details to pieces. You can use a permanent marker or fabric paint. You can add google eyes, feathers, bits of cloth, yarn, sequins... keep it simple or make it elaborate.

Step 7 (optional): Write a script for your felt. It's possible that your book might not always be around. And some stories might not need all the details that are in the book. Think about what someone unfamiliar with the story would need to know to tell the story. Are there particular phrases that are important or repeated? Include instructions for how to place felt pieces so that anyone could pick up your script and tell the story.

So now you know how to make a felt story!

This method is fairly labor intensive, but creates nice, detailed pieces. If you're short on time (and who isn't), you can also photocopy or trace images, color them, cover them in laminating paper, and glue felt onto the back. Check out Lisa's post about making magnetic board stories!

Thanks for tuning in this week and helping me celebrate National Library Week by sharing your tips and tricks!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

National Library Week: How to host a Mock Newbery...

I'm celebrating National Library Week this week by re-running some of my posts that have tips, tricks, and advice for new librarians. (And if more experienced librarians get something out of it, too, more the better!) Please feel free to share tips, advice, or favorite storytime/program activities in the comments. And Happy National Library Week!!

How to Host a Mock Newbery Discussion
This post originally ran on December 7, 2008. The post has been edited.   

As award season approaches, Mock Newbery discussions start to pop up everywhere. You're interested in holding one, but you're not sure what to do? Last week my coworker J lead a Mock Newbery discussion for librarians in our library system. Having a Mock Newbery discussion is a great excuse to get together with librarians in neighboring communities if you can get away for a little bit! I helped prepare and this is what we did:

Step 1: Decide which books you'll be focusing on. You'll probably know several that are getting some buzz and you can always reference other Mock Newbery lists to get some ideas. Might I suggest Allen County Public Library's list and Anderson's Bookshop's list as two of my personal favorites.

Depending on how much time you have for your discussion, you may want to limit the number of books you're focusing on. For our discussion we provided a list of eight books and also encouraged participants to bring any other books they felt might qualify.

The books on our Mock Newbery list were:

Bird Lake Moon by Kevin Henkes
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson

You'll want to make sure to release your list well in advance of your program so that participants have a chance to read all the books.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the Newbery criteria. J printed out the criteria and brought a copy for each person. That was very helpful to refer to throughout our discussion.

Step 3: Decide on how you will vote and, if you have a limited amount of time, set time limits for discussions. With eight titles and 2.5 hours in which to have our discussion, we set an approximate time limit of 10-15 minutes per book and allowed some extra time to discuss any other books people might bring. After our discussion of each title, we used a weighted voting system where people voted for their top three books in order of preference. A first place vote was worth 4 points, 2nd place was worth 3 points, and 3rd place was worth 2 points.

With a total of 10 people in our discussion group, we decided that the winner needed to win by at least 6 points. We voted and tallied up the votes, then took the top four and voted again.

Step 4: Announce your winner!

And I am happy to announce that the winner of our Mock Newbery was Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson! We also named three honor books: Bird Lake Moon by Kevin Henkes, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, and We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson.

Step 5: Thank Nina at Nina's Newbery for posting about how she ran her Mock Newbery because that's what helped us figure out ours. :)

Book Review: The Birthday Ball

The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. (Grades 2-5.) Houghton Mifflin, April 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Princess Patricia Priscilla is nearing her sixteenth birthday, a very special birthday in her kingdom. For when she turns sixteen, the Princess will have a special birthday ball at which she'll choose a suitor to be her husband. The problem? Well, first of all, all the available suitors are awful brutes and the Princess can't stand any of them. Not to mention the fact that the Princess thinks she might like to know what life is like outside the castle... So she orders the maid to trade clothes with her and heads off to the village school. It can't hurt, right? But it ends up changing everything!

The Birthday Ball is a pleasant little ditty of a book. It's got a nice dose of humor that will meets its mark with elementary students. It's a little fairy tale with a spunky princess and a dash of potty humor. I'm not really sure what else to say about it. Kids will find it a pleasant diversion, but I don't think it'll change anyone's life, which is fine because not all books have to be life-changing. Sometimes it's enough to have a pleasant diversion. And kids looking for an afternoon escape will find what they need in The Birthday Ball.

Read more reviews at Charlotte's Library, GreenBean TeenQueen, Book Aunt, and emilyreads (says it all).

The Birthday Ball is on shelves now!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Library Week: Memory Box

I'm celebrating National Library Week this week by re-running some of my posts that have tips, tricks, and advice for new librarians. (And if more experienced librarians get something out of it, too, more the better!) Please feel free to share tips, advice, or favorite storytime/program activities in the comments. And Happy National Library Week!!

Memory Box
This post originally ran on September 29, 2009. It has been edited. 

Allow me to introduce our Memory Box:

We use the Memory Box in our registered storytimes, which we do in sessions of six or more weeks. The first week there will only be one object in the box, but then we add a new object each week. Each week we find a small object that appears somewhere in one of our storytime books. It doesn't have to be the main item in the story - in fact it's better if it's not!

At the beginning of the storytime we ask kids to guess what's in the box and give them hints until someone guesses it. We ask them to be good listeners and good watchers and let us know when they see the object in one of our stories. Each week we ask the kids to remember objects from previous weeks and then we add one new thing. By the end of the six-week session, there are six objects in the box. You also might ask them if they remember which story the item was in.You'll be amazed at what good memories the kids (even young preschoolers) have!

Here are a few examples of Memory Box items we've used:

A small plastic pig to go with the book Bark, George!
An envelope to go with I Am Invited to a Party!
A pie (made out of felt) to go with All for Pie, Pie for All
A kite to go with AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First

Really, any item that will fit in a shoebox will do. It doesn't have to be a huge picture in the book (but if it's so small you think the kids won't notice it, you can point it out when you get to that page and ask them if they see anything that was in the Memory Box).

We do this with our registered storytimes, but you could also do it with drop-in storytimes. What I've done in the past for drop-in storytimes is to pull three objects that are found in our stories. Have kids guess what the objects are, tell them to look for the objects in the stories, and ask them to remember the objects at the end of the storytime.

And making a memory box is not hard! Of course, you can decorate it however you like. I decoupaged ours (which sounds fancy and hard, but is actually really easy). Here's how: I took a shoebox and covered it with white paper. (You might not even have to do this step, I just wanted to make sure that none of logos showed through.)

Get colored tissue paper and rip it up into pieces. Larger pieces will be faster, but if you like the way smaller pieces look, go for it. Dilute glue with some water (I used normal Elmer's glue and it worked fine). Use a paintbrush to paint a layer of the glue mixture over the box and place tissue paper pieces on the box. You can use any kind of paintbrush, but I used a large foam brush, which worked really well because it allows you to quickly paint on a layer of the glue. Use a craft stick or other utensil to smooth out any wrinkles. (DO THIS! I didn't do it because I didn't think it would matter, but now I wish I had. I think it'll look much better if you smooth it out.)

Let the glue dry, then paint on another layer of glue mixture and add more tissue paper. Keep layering until you have the look you want.

OH and there's a rhyme! When we bring out the Memory Box, we do this fingerplay with the kids:

Here is my box [hold up left hand as if you're holding a glass]
Here is the lid [place flat right hand on top of left hand]
Let's look inside [tilt right hand up and look inside your 'box']
And see what we hid!

Book Review: The Red Umbrella

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. (Grades 6-8.) Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

It's 1961 and the Revolution hasn't affected Lucia in her small town of Puerto Mijares, Cuba, but things start to change when soldiers show up. Fourteen-year-old Lucia Alvarez is happy to get a break from school when Castro closes the private schools. And many of Lucia's friends are joining the Jovenes Rebeldes, the youth movement of the revolution. Lucia and her younger brother Frankie have learned in school (before it closed) that the revolution is the best thing for Cuba - Castro is changing things to make them better for all.

But soon Lucia begins to see the dark side of the Revolution. Castro and his men will stop at nothing to eliminate resistance to their ideas. And eventually the danger is so great that Lucia's parents decide to send them to the United States to keep them out of harm's way. Without their parents, in a strange country where they don't speak the language, Lucia and Frankie wonder if they'll ever see Cuba - or their parents - again.

The first thing that drew me into the story was the lush depiction of Lucia's life in Cuba. I don't know what picture I had of Cuban life before, but descriptions of the food they were eating or Lucia's fashionable outfits practically jumped off the page. I could practically smell the cafe con leche and see the bright nail polish Lucia painted on her fingernails.

I have a spot in my heart for any historical novel that deals with an event that I didn't know a lot about. Operation Pedro Pan definitely qualifies as one of those events. In the early '60s, as Castro's revolution spread, thousands of children were sent out of Cuba in the largest exodus of unaccompanied children ever in the Western Hemisphere. Parents were afraid that their children would be sent to camps and indoctrinated. Some families had relatives in the US that could take their children, but some families didn't. Those kids lives in dormitories and were taken in by foster families. The Red Umbrella has an author's note that made my little heart skip a beat (I love them so).

A beautiful setting, well-researched, and an overarching theme that the most important thing is to protect the ones you love, even if it means letting them go. 

I'd recommend The Red Umbrella to not only kids interested in the 1960s, but also to girls who enjoy those coming-of-age stories like Shug by Jenny Han. Pair it with Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa for a contrast of a Cuban-American teen in present-day Chicago.

Read more reviews at Steph Su Reads, Reading Rants,  and Chick Lit Teens.

The Red Umbrella is due on shelves May 11. Do check it out! This is a most impressive debut.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top 100 Children's Books

 Oh, good. I'm so glad someone (Teacherninja!) made this into a meme. And thanks to MotherReader for the link.

Here are the Top 100 Children's Novels, as determined by Betsy's poll. I put the ones I've read in bold. I've read 80/100 and it's pretty obvious that I'm lacking in the classics. How many have you read?

100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)

95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950)
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)

91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)

88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)

84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)

79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)

74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)

65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)

58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)

51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)
49. Frindle - Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)

40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watson's Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)

30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)

23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)

12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)

National Library Week: If you're wearing red today

I'm celebrating National Library Week this week by re-running some of my posts that have tips, tricks, and advice for new librarians. (And if more experienced librarians get something out of it, too, more the better!) Please feel free to share tips, advice, or favorite storytime/program activities in the comments. And Happy National Library Week!!

If You're Wearing Red Today
This post originally ran on July 25, 2008.  

Okay, you've pulled books for your storytime. Maybe you've got a felt story or some puppets or fingerplays, but you need just one more thing... I want to share one of my new favorite songs. This song has been a hit every time, it's super easy, and it's a great one to know in case of momentary lulls or a gap in your program. It's called If You're Wearing Red Today.

I've heard it used with two different tunes. I usually use the tune to Mary Had a Little Lamb, but you can also use Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.

If you're wearing red today, red today, red today
If you're wearing red today, please stand up!

That's it! Easy peasy, right?! Of course you repeat and replace the color red with whatever colors you see out there in the audience. And I usually do "please stand up" two or three times and then warn them that I'm going to mix it up, so they'd better listen. And then I do other actions. Please clap your hands, please touch your ears, please stand on one leg, please rub your tummy, etc. etc.

In my experience, the kids really respond to it and they like listening for the colors and the actions. When I think we've gotten everybody to do an action at least once, I'll ask if we missed any colors (and often they'll suggest doing the color I happen to be wearing..!).

So, keep this one in your bag of tricks and the next time you blaze through the stories you thought would take up 30 minutes, you can pull it out and have a good ol' time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

National Library Week: What to do when there's one

I'm celebrating National Library Week this week by re-running some of my posts that have tips, tricks, and advice for new librarians. (And if more experienced librarians get something out of it, too, more the better!) Please feel free to share tips, advice, or favorite storytime/program activities in the comments. And Happy National Library Week!!

What to Do When There's One
This post originally ran on August 3, 2008. I've edited it slightly. 

So, you've planned an awesome storytime. You're ready and rarin' to go! But maybe some special event is going on. Or lots of people are on vacation. Or it's snowing. Or any number of things happen... and there's only one kid for storytime.

It can be frustrating, sure. But the important thing to remember is that this family made the effort to come to your program, and you might have to adapt some things, but the show must go on! It may be frustrating to you that only one child showed up for your carefully planned program, but the kid doesn't know that!

Generally I start storytimes with Shake Your Sillies Out, but for a very small group I like to use My Hands Say Hello because it's a quieter song and I'm more apt to get participation.

It's to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell and it goes like this:

My hands say hello
My hands say hello
Every time I see my friends
My hands say hello

And then repeat using feet and other body parts. I usually do hands, then feet, then I ask for a suggestion of something else that could say hello. I like to end with my tongue and sing it with my tongue sticking out because it's silly (and I am kind of silly sometimes).

Although it's not be what you planned, a storytime for one may have some advantages. Instead of having to focus an unruly mob of 30 kids, you can concentrate on getting to know one. It's a great opportunity to sit with child and caregiver and, say, demonstrate dialogic reading. You might be able to bring out some extra goodies, like toy drums or shakers or puppets that you might not use with a larger group. If you're doing a flannelboard story, let the kids help you put pieces up or take pieces off. You can even spread it out on the floor instead of doing it on a board.

Above all, you just need to be flexible. And remember that if you make this a pleasant experience, this family is likely to come back the next time.

Nonfiction Monday: Disaster Survivors

Leveled by an Earthquake by Adam Reingold.
Erased by a Tornado by Jessica Rudolph.
Grades 3-6. Bearport, 2010. Review copies provided by publisher.

Kids love books about disasters. Every week it seems like I get kids in my library requesting books about the Titanic, tornadoes, volcanoes, hurricanes... And what's not to love? They're full of drama. And reading about disasters in books gives kids a chance to experience the event from the safety of their bedroom. 

In Bearport's new Disaster Survivors series, kids can read all about different natural disasters like earthquakes, blizzards, tsunamis, and tornadoes. The books are vivid, containing full-color photos and sidebars with extra information. The text is informative but not overwhelming, so this is a great recreational choice for kids who are not so into reading.

Both Leveled by an Earthquake and Erased by a Tornado start off with a specific event (for Earthquake it was the 2008 Sichuan China earthquake, for Tornado is was the 2008 tornado in Jackson, Tennessee). Each title tells about the event from the point of view of one of the survivors, complete with photos. Then we learn a little bit about the particular disaster - what caused it, if scientists can predict it, etc. And each book includes some information about what to do if you find yourself experiencing that particular disaster.

I'd definitely recommend these titles for library shelves - the high-interest topics and appealing visual presentation will have them flying off the shelves*. Consider them for updating your collection if some of your older titles are getting dated or worn.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Go check out this week's round-up at Shelf-Employed.

*Flying off the shelves in a good kids-are-checking-them-out way, not in a bad we're-having-an-earthquake-or-tornado way.