Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reminder: AudioSynced!

Did you review or post about audiobooks in July? Make sure I have your link so I can include it in Monday's AudioSynced Roundup! Leave a link in the comments or email 

Happy listening!! :D

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Reading Club (Week 10 - THE LAST WEEK!)

Honesty: I'm ready to tear down all the decorations! I'm ready to take our programming break! I'm ready to send the kids back to their teachers and their dedicated school librarians!

Reality: We still have people coming in wanting to sign up for Summer Reading Club!

Even though our last day is Saturday, if people make the effort to come into the library and ask me about the Summer Reading Club, I try to be as accommodating as possible. We'll draw our grand prize winners on Monday morning before we open, but if people bring logs in after the club is "over", we will certainly give them prizes while supplies last. One big thing for us is that some of the schools reward kids who finish the Summer Reading Club, so for some kids getting on "The List" is more important than the actual prizes.

We had our last big program of the summer on Wednesday - Life Sized Candy Land. We did this program for Spring Break in 2010 and since we had all the props made, we brought it back. This was our biggest program of the summer (even counting the Zoo!). We had over twice as many kids come through this time.

We partnered with the YMCA Summer Camps and had the Teen Camp kids come early and set up the game board for us. Then they stayed and helped out as we had the YMCA preschool summer camp and another summer day camp bring kids to go through the game. After the groups had gone through and the teens were gone, we opened up the game to the public. We offered free prize books to the tween volunteers (culled from book donations throughout the year). It all went pretty smoothly, but it was definitely a lot of work and I'm glad it's over!

I know some libraries are still going strong with the Summer Reading Club, but our kids will soon be going back to school. Some of our private schools start back on Monday and our public schools start back on August 15. Give me a couple of months and I'll be ready to start thinking about next year. (I lied - I have already been thinking about next year.) And give me a week or so and I'll be ready with coherent thoughts about Summer Reading 2011.

If you've posted about your Summer Reading Club this week, leave a link in the comments and I'll round 'em up.

And here's my own completed Summer Reading log:

To everyone who's done with Summer Reading, congratulations! We made it! To everyone who's still going, good luck and keep up the good work!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Youth Services* Librarian

Here's what I did on Tuesday!

11:55am - Arrive at work and everything is crazy-go-nuts! Our toddler time has just let out and the department is full of kids. The computers upstairs are down until Thursday because they’re doing construction. A daycare came in to register all their kids for the Summer Reading Club. I touch base with staff and send them all off to lunch while I cover the desk. The dept. settles down after about 15 minutes.

12:10pm - Check email.

12:20pm - Check out DVD for tonight’s Anime Club meeting. Straighten up department.

- Recommend fantasy books for an adult who’s enjoying the Angie Sage books and The Lightning Thief.

1:00pm - Go over to the storage Annex to get candy castle for tomorrow’s Life-Sized Candy Land program.

1:20pm - Put together registration sheets for our fall programs.

1:45pm - Work on weeding videos. (OMG, we have a video called Pound Puppy Tales... I wonder if we have any Poppels videos**...)

3:15pm - Set up Auditorium for tonight’s program and for tomorrow’s Candy Land program.

4:00pm - Lunch time!

5:00pm - Check email.

5:10pm - Get stuff together and finish setting up for Anime Club.

5:45pm - Open doors for Anime Club. Teens are already showing up!

6:00pm-8:00pm - Anime Club! We have 27 teens, which is awesome attendance for us. You can read a little bit about what we did at last month's Anime Club meeting. This month, I provided a couple of laptops for the kids to watch other stuff and we put out some games, too.

8:00pm - Kick out*** the last of the kids and clean up the room.

8:15pm - Look at photos I took at the program. Decide I don't have enough time to put them on Facebook tonight.

8:20pm - Help my closer close up our department for the night (pick up books, turn off computers and lights, etc.).

8:30pm - We close up and I go home!

* Okay, technically my title is Children's Librarian, but my department's getting more involved in the teen programming, so I'm angling to change it to Youth Services (or something along those lines). 
** Sadly/luckily, we do not. ;)
*** You know I do this with love, right? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Bunheads by Sophie Flack. Grades 7+ Poppy (Little, Brown), October 2011. 294 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA.

Hannah is a total bunhead, but don't call her a ballerina. She's been a corps dancer for the Manhattan Ballet for what seems like far too long. But although she longs for the spotlight (a coveted soloist position), she's also wondering about life outside the dark theater. When she meets a cute guitar-playing college student at her uncle's restaurant, she tries to balance a relationship with the heavy demands of her job, but it's not easy. Hannah starts to wonder if her sacrifices will ever pay off... and if they do, is the life of a principal ballerina really what she wants? 

This book reminded me of nothing more than the movie Center Stage*. The dialog sometimes felt awkward and a bit expository. Besides Hannah, the characters were not very developed or nuanced. I never felt particularly compelled by either of the potential romantic leads (and honestly, neither did Hannah). The real strength of this book is the beautiful and detailed portrayal of the ballet life. 

The beautiful descriptions of the dances, costumes, and makeup bring the reader onstage with Hannah. Sophie Flack's insider perspective enables her to bring readers backstage as well, giving a look at the drama and competition between the dancers. What impressed me the most was Ms. Flack's portrayal of Hannah's ambivalence. There are no easy decisions here. On one hand, Hannah's sacrificing everything for her career - her relationships, her health, and any other possible life she might dream of. She can't even find the time to finish one book. On the other hand, dance is Hannah's passion and she's one of the lucky few who has a job that pays her to do the thing she loves most in the world. That's not something that's easy to walk away from. 

Although I doubted Hannah's ambivalence between the two guys who were interested in her, not once did I doubt in her struggle between exploring all life had to offer and embracing her destiny as a dancer. Sophie Flack gives us an insider's view as very few can and I hope to read much more from her. 

Hand this to teens who are interested in the theater life or obsessed with reality dance shows. I'd also try it on fans of Sarah Bennett Wealer's Rival or E. Lockhart's Dramarama or Barbara Snow Gilbert's Broken Chords (I haven't read this last one, but it was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend!).  

Bunheads will be on shelves October 10!

* I LOVE that movie. :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The end is in sight...

Y'all bear with me this week because it's the last week of our Summer Reading Club and I'm behind on writing reviews and, well, you know how it goes.

The good news is that August is in sight! I take August almost completely off from programming. We will have our TSI meeting and our Anime Club meeting in August, but no storytimes. Staff take vacation in August (including myself!) and we use that time "off" to plan for fall programs and start getting caught up on everything that has been put aside during the summer months.

In particular, I'm going to be spending some time weeding in August. I've already picked up my video weeding project again and I also hope to get most (if not all) of our folk & fairy tale section recatalogged. Our folk and fairy tales have really long, obnoxious call numbers that made sense before computerized catalogs, but we've worked out something a little different that I hope is going to be easier for patrons.

We've been doing a lot of thinking about our fall programming. The past two falls that I've been at my job, we've tried doing after school programming and it has had terrible attendance. We've tried afternoon, weekend, and evening programs and have not hit on anything popular yet. Even programs that are super popular in the summer or on spring break (Percy Jackson, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) have absolutely flopped when we did them on Saturdays during the school year. To add to that, I'll have one full-timer in my department off on maternity leave and our teen librarian will be out for medical leave, as well.

This year, we'll be concentrating our school-age programming on winter break when the kids are out of school. I'm also hopeful that we'll continue our partnership with the YMCA Afterschool to visit their kids. Of course, we'll continue our programming for homeschoolers and our baby, toddler, and preschool storytimes. I am adding a little more teen programming - a couple of literary lounges for our summer Teen Literary Magazine kids (who insist that they want to keep going during the school year, though I remain skeptical that they're going to have time) and our Anime Club in addition to our monthly TSI meetings. We'll also be having a Zombie Prom around Halloween. (With the exception of Zombie Prom, I don't think these are programs that are going to take a lot of prep.)

So, August will be a time to think about upcoming programs and start to plan and prep. Of course, we'll also debrief about Summer Reading Club and talk about what we liked and what we want to change for next year.

But first, we've just got to get through one more week...

What are you looking forward to getting done after your Summer Reading Club is over?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Reading Club (Week 9)

CC: Emily Bergquist



I've gotten several questions about our numbers for the summer reading club. My library serves a county population of about 75,000 people and we are the only public library (no branches, no Bookmobile). As of Thursday morning, for the Children's club (ages 0-5th/6th grade), we have 2087 kids signed up and 619 kids completed. For the Teen club (grades 6th-12th), we have 453 signed up and 92 completed. I am very curious as to what the numbers are like at other libraries, so if you're willing to share your service population and how many kids participate in your summer reading club, please tell me in the comments!

I think a lot of different factors can influence program attendance and it's going to be different at each library. If you're in a rural county, it may be hard for families to get to you. If you're in an urban county, families may have more choices of summer activities and participate less in library programs. Of course, whether or not schools are on board and help you promote definitely has an effect. I mean, each community is different and there are tons of factors in play. Even the weather... a particularly nice summer or a particularly stormy summer can definitely affect your numbers.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't know if it makes much sense to compare numbers at all. You know what's a good attendance number for your library. (Although I do sometimes wonder if my numbers are "good".)

This week was actually kind of a "light" week. We had all our normal drop-in programs (Monday movie, storytimes, Open Art Studio). We had a puppet show Tuesday evening, which drew a nice crowd for an evening. Evening and weekend programs are a struggle for us. We definitely get requests for them from patrons. BUT our evening & weekend programs are NEVER as well-attended as our daytime programs. We tried offering a Saturday session of storytime and attendance was abysmal. We're still trying to work out what we're going to do to balance serving our patrons with investing our staff time in the most productive manner.

We had our teen programs and Dragon Slayers Fantasy Book Club this week. They all went very well.

We were also able to get our fall program schedule out this week in hopes that we could promote some of our fall programs as people are coming in to finish up summer reading. We don't have a whole lot on the schedule for the fall, especially since one of my full-timers is going on maternity leave in September. Instead, we're going to concentrate on offering some fantastic stuff during Winter Break and increasing our evening/weekend programming in the spring.

We have one more week to go and we've got a big, huge program next week... Life Sized Candy Land is coming back to our library. We're partnering with the local YMCA summer camp and the kids in their "Teen Camp" are coming to do set-up for us and to volunteer during the program. In exchange, we're opening up the program for their KinderCamp before we're opening it up to the public. I've also got the second meeting of our Teen Anime Club next week and I'm so excited to see the kids again! (Also: I happen to know that two of the teens who met at the club last month went out on a date to see the Harry Potter movie. Hee!)

Let's check in with our other Summer Reading Club friends (and if you have a post that I missed, be sure and leave it in comments and I'll add it!)...

Kelly at Field Acquisitions - Week 5 and Week 6

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. Grades 4-8. Scholastic, 2009. 218 pages. Review copy provided by publisher for Young Hoosier Book Award consideration. (This review reflects only my own opinion, not the opinion of the commitee!)

When Homer Figg's dear older brother is sold into the Union army against his will, Homer sets off to bring him home. Homer has no idea of the dangers he'll face, but he figures he owes it to the brother who took care of him for so many years. Still, it'll take pluck and a quick tongue to help an Underground Railroad conductor, join a traveling medicine show as the Amazing Pig Boy, take to the sky in a hot air balloon, and save his brother by trying to kill him. Luckily, Homer's got plenty of both.

Confession: I read this book when it first came out and I didn't know what the heck I was doing because I kinda set it aside as "not my kind of book" and didn't really think about it again. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

On the reread, I discovered what an absolute joy this book is. From the very first page, I sank into Homer Figg's story (easy to do, since Homer is nothing if not a boy who loves his stories - no matter what form they happen to take). This is a book that begs to be read aloud. Homer's voice and the language Rodman Philbrick uses is just delightful.

Throughout the book are references to the importance of story in all its many forms. Yes, this is a historical adventure story with a good dose of humor, but it's also a testament to the power of tales. Tales take many forms in this book - the lies Homer spins, hometown legends, fairy tales, songs, even tattooed ladies have stories to tell...

This book is also a testament to brotherly love and the lengths to which one brother will go to help the other. It's about finding bravery you didn't know was inside you. And, of course, it's about laughing at yourself the whole way through.

I'd highly recommend this to fans of Christopher Paul Curtis's historical fiction and it particularly reminded me of Elijah of Buxton, set around the same time.

A note on the cover: I much, MUCH prefer the paperback cover, so that's the one I've used for this review. I think a more photo-realistic image packs more kid appeal and I love the little smirk on Homer's face.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is on shelves now!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trip to Malaysia

Last week, I hosted another Reading Around the World book discussion at my library. In June, we read Rickshaw Girl and made rotis. Since I picked a "girl book" before, I wanted to choose a "boy book" and this month we read Kampung Boy by Lat and we brought in all different kinds of tropical fruit for the kids to see and  taste!

Our spread is pictured to the left. We brought in grapes, bananas, pineapple, coconut, mangoes, and dates. The kids were huge fans of the fruit they already knew (pineapple was an especially big hit) and they dived right in to the more "exotic" fruits, too. Collectively, they did not care for the coconut (they're probably used to having sweetened coconut) and they thought the dates looked very strange. 

After we went through all the fruit and had cut up some of it for the kids to try, we talked a little bit about the book. The kids LOVED Kampung Boy and that makes me really happy since I love it, too. I brought out our globe and we looked at Malaysia, almost exactly halfway across the world from us. They noticed that Malaysia is divided into West Malaysia and East Malaysia and I found the spot in West Malaysia where the book is set and showed them. 

I started off the conversation by asking the kids to tell me what happened in the book. They all spoke over one another, telling about their favorite parts (and there are so many funny bits that they had a lot to mention!). One girl loved when the dad jumps into the river and his towel comes off, one boy couldn't get enough of the policeman scaring all the kids out of hiding by shooting his gun up into the air. 

Next, I asked the kids how Lat's childhood was different from their childhood here in Indiana. They mentioned that there were only boys in his school, that the houses were different (raised up on stilts), that they ride in cars while Lat mostly walked or rode a bicycle... I brought up how Lat was born at home and asked them where they were born (they were all born in a hospital). 

That segued into something I wanted to show the kids. At the beginning of the book, Lat mentions how his father whispers the muezzin's call to him just after he was born. There are many videos of azans (calls to prayer) on YouTube and I chose this one since it featured a kid around their age: 

The kids were absolutely riveted by the video. One of the boys mentioned that he had heard similar things on the news sometimes when they reported about the Middle East and he asked me how he could find other videos like that to watch at home. We didn't actually discuss the video in great detail, but I was ready with questions for them about the music in whatever religion they may participate in.

After we talked about how their experiences were different than Lat's, I asked them how their experiences were the same. The kids had lots of good things to share on this topic, too. They rode bikes, they went fishing, they went swimming with their dads, they went to school.

I followed some advice from Reading Everywhere about running a tween book group and asked them some questions about the book's cover and what they would say when recommending it to a friend. (They all agreed that they would recommend it to a friend!)

After we had discussed the book a little bit, I brought out some blank comic strip panels that I had printed off the web and invited the kids to draw a cartoon based on their own life the way Lat had drawn cartoons about his life in the book. Some of the kids stayed to do the art activity and some of them took it home to do later.

We only had one copy of the book's sequel, Town Boy, checked in. And all of the kids wanted it, so we did a lottery to decide who would check it out that day. The others left their names with me and I put the book on hold for them.

One potential red flag if you're considering this book for a book discussion is that there's a brief section where Lat discusses the rite of circumcision. It's not done in a graphic way at all, but you might want to prepare in case that comes up in your conversation. It didn't come up in our discussion, but I was prepared to tell the kids that it was a religious and cultural rite of passage. I would have asked them if they have any rites of passage in their religion (think: bar mitzvah, first communion, etc.).

All in all, it was a very successful program and I think I might revisit it next summer, even though the Summer Reading Club theme will be different. Even though we didn't have huge attendance numbers, I think the kids who came had a great time and learned a lot. Plus, it's great to give exposure to awesome multicultural books.

If I do this series again, I will definitely have kids register when they pick up the book. Almost all of our books were checked out for both titles, but I think people forgot to come to the discussions. If they registered, I could call and remind them. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Reading Club (Week 8)

It's a bit raggedy at this point...
As of this posting, we have 2054 kids signed up and 532 have completed. I'm anticipating a lot more finishers coming in over the next two weeks (and I really hope they do - typically about 50% of the kids who sign up go on to complete...).

When the kids come in with their finished logs, they get a packet of coupons donated from local businesses, an entry slip for our grand prize drawings, and a duck from our treasure chest. Last year, Miss T in our department created a treasure chest out of a cardboard box. This year, to fit in with our One World, Many Stories theme, she created a suitcase for us!

Y'all, I am not gonna lie. I have hit my Summer Reading Club wall and I'm at the point where I'm counting down until it's over. We had some fabulous programs this week. In addition to our regular weekly programs, we had:

- A Harry Potter party on Tuesday which brought in 44 kids. A bunch of them dressed up in their costumes! We had a few tables set up around the room with crafts and activities for the kids to do. We played the soundtrack and talked to the kids about how excited they were for the movie coming out this week.

 - A book discussion on the graphic novel Kampung Boy by Lat. We didn't have a huge turnout for this one, but the kids that came LOVED the book, which makes me happy since I love it, too. I'll have a detailed post on this program coming next week.

- And tomorrow, our friend Mr. Pako is coming back to do bilingual storytime and talk to the kids about Mexico... Last month he came and we didn't have great attendance (but we almost never get good attendance on Saturdays...), but the kids who came got a lot out of it. I'm sure it will be fun tomorrow, no matter how many kids show up!

Two more weeks to go and here's my reading log...

I better finish some books and knock out those last two spaces!

So, my friends, how are you doing with your Summer Reading Clubs? Here's a round-up of posts and if you have a post I missed, please leave me a link in comments and I'll add it!

Anne at so tomorrow
Eva at Eva's Book Addiction
Jessica at Musings + Teen Librarian
Kelly at Field Acquisitions
Madigan at Madigan Reads
Mollie at What Happens in Storytime (This week, she has the same ducks we have!)

THE END IS IN SIGHT, PEOPLE!! We can do it!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Trash by Andy Mulligan. Grades 8+ David Fickling Books, 2010. 231 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Surrounded by crushing poverty, Raphael, Gardo, and Rat eke out a living by sorting through massive trash dumps. Most of what they find is, well, stuppa. But one day, they find something spectacular - a key that starts them on a treasure hunt. The payoff will be huge... if they're brave enough to follow through.

A riveting and eye-opening mystery, Trash is an accessible story that won't soon be forgotten.

It's set in an unnamed Any City where poverty and political corruption go hand in hand. Caught in the crossfires are the children, left sifting through the trash for anything they can sell to support their families. School's an afterthought - what's a trash boy going to do with an education? - and there's never enough food or clothing to go around. With politicians stealing aid money and taxes, the cycle seems unbreakable.

The story is told in alternating points of view, shared between the three trash boys and a few others who step in to help along the way. I appreciate the subtle differences between the narrators and I liked getting bits and pieces of the story from some outside eyes. Short chapters keep the action moving and the mystery was a compelling one. As the boys try to figure out what has been hidden and who it belongs to, they're hounded by corrupt police and constantly face the need for bribes to grease the wheels.

This is going to be an eye-opening story for many. Comparisons to Slum Dog Millionaire are inevitable but this story is its own story. It would make a great companion read to Slum Dog or for a unit on ethics or world current events. A passage narrated by a volunteer aid worker who helps the boys long the way does a pretty nice job of summing up one of the major themes:

I learned that the world revolves around money. There are values and virtues and morals; there are relationships and trust and love - and all of that is important. Money, however, is more important, and it is dripping all the time, like precious water. Some drink deep; others thirst. Without money, you shrivel and die. The absence of money is drought in which nothing can grow. Nobody knows the value of water until they've lived in a dry, dry place - like Behala. So many people, waiting for the rain. (pg 149)

Of course, some students know that all too well, but for others this is going to be an eye-opening story.

Trash sat on my to-read pile for longer than it should have. Honestly, the cover turned me off, even though it's appropriate for the story. I thought it was going to be too dark, too depressing. Now, if my copy had the British cover (pictured at right), I would have picked it up straight away. While the US cover portrays the desolation of crushing poverty (definitely a major theme in the book), the UK cover portrays the ultimate feel of the story, which is hope for the future. I do think the US cover may appeal more to teens, while the UK cover looks younger.

Check out more reviews at Biblio File and Book Nut (bonus: interview with Andy Mulligan).

Trash is on shelves now! Don't let it fly under your radar like I did (although it did quite well in this year's Battle of the Kids' Books, so I really have no excuse...)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Should you apply for Emerging Leaders?

Photo by ellenm1
Are you thinking about applying for ALA's Emerging Leaders program? The deadline is fast approaching (August 1), so I wanted to share my thoughts on the program. As you know, I was a member of the 2011 class of Emerging Leaders.

Overall, the program was a positive experience for me. I got to work with some great librarians whom I never would have met otherwise. I had fabulous mentors (JP, Justin, and Buffy) who were hands-off enough to let us take ownership of our project, but constantly available for questions and feedback. If nothing else, it was great to get to know them and our wonderful ALA staff liason, Jenny. Also, to be frank, getting into the program was what enabled me to attend ALA's Midwinter and Annual Conferences for the first time. My library isn't often able to send people to conferences, but they were very supportive of me in this endeavor and made it happen!

So, here are a few of my thoughts. Just know that they're solely based on my experience, which is not necessarily going to be the same as everyone else's experience.


... getting to work with librarians all over the country. And not just any librarians, but librarians who have also applied for and been accepted to the Emerging Leaders program. These are librarians who are dedicated to our field. These are good people to know.

... a great thing to put on your resume and possibly a step up for your committee applications. When you fill out applications for ALA committees, you can check off that you were part of the Emerging Leaders program. This will mean something to the people assigning committee spaces (or so I am told!).

... potentially a chance to meet and work with awesome mentors who will tell you to party hard and #makeithappen. But then again, I think I lucked out in the mentor department, so I can't guarantee that your mentors will be as awesome as mine. :)

... a chance to use technology you might not be familiar with. Since ELs are located all over the country, the vast majority of the work is done virtually. My group used Skype, ALA Connect, Google docs, and email heavily throughout our working months.

... going to entail a good deal of work in May and June, leading up to the Annual conference. I mention this specifically for my public, children's and teen librarian friends. I am not gonna lie: It was super stressful to have so much work on top of all the stuff I was doing for my actual job. And as much as you say to yourself that you'll plan ahead and get the stuff done early, when you're working with other people, it's just not going to happen (no matter who your group is - and I had a great group!).

... a group project. And yes, theoretically the people in your group are hard-working, dedicated fellow emerging leaders. But sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes communicating is hard, sometimes people don't do what you think they're supposed to do. I mean, it's a group project. Take that as you will.

... dedicated to improving itself and open to feedback from participants. I truly believe it's a great idea and that the program will only get better as more people go through it and offer their feedback.


... a free ride to Conference. It's possible that this may change at some point, but through my year at least, ALA did not provide financial assistance for conference attendance. And you are required to attend both conferences. There are some sponsorship opportunities available that may offer you some financial assistance and I encourage you to look outside the box, consider state library associations and other groups you belong to that might sponsor you. I was not sponsored, but luckily my library and our Friends of the Library were able to pay for me to attend both conferences.

... an automatic committee assignment. Yes, you will network and get to know people within the organization. Yes, it looks good on your resume and has weight on committee applications. But you still have to stand up and reach for what you want. If you want to serve on a committee, you're still going to have to do the legwork (figuring out where you want to serve, applying, etc.). And the work of ALA is done in committees (pretty exclusively, from what I can tell... just like pretty much everything else outside of ALA...!).

... the only way to be on a committee or to get involved with ALA. 90% of getting involved is just showing up and being willing to work. There are virtual committee spots available on some committees so that you don't have to attend conference at all. If Emerging Leaders isn't for you, that doesn't mean you can't get involved.

Take these thoughts as you will... And if anyone has any questions about my experiences in Emerging Leaders, I'm happy to talk about it. Leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email at!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ten Things We Did

Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski. Grades 9-12. HarperTeen, June 2011.  357 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA Midwinter.

It started with a lie to her parents (#1). When her dad announces they're moving to Cleveland, April convinces him to let her move in with her friend Vi. Two fake email addresses later, April's dad never has to know that Vi's mom is out of the state on an acting job and not likely to be home any time soon. And pretty soon, that leads to skipping school (#3), buying a hot tub (#4), and throwing a crazy party (#8). Somehow, April's gotten in over her head and suddenly everything she thought she could count on is falling apart. She's going to have to figure out how to put everything together again.

Suspend your disbelief and buy the premise and you're in for a madcap story of first loves, friendship, and one girl figuring things out on her own. I needed something to read for the plane down to New Orleans and this turned out to be the perfect thing - funny chick lit with some meat to it.

First, the funny. The book's divided into little sections with headings that add to the humor. The layout of the book really adds to its humor and I found myself chuckling along as I'm reading. April's mishaps as she tackles living on her own also bring some laughs. She's written very realistically, and the mistakes she makes as she figures out running the dishwasher, grocery shopping, and the joys of pet ownership are the mistakes many of us have probably made.

Now, the meat.

ETA: Hey, I've been alerted that what I'm about to tell you might be a little bit of a spoiler. I still think there's much to enjoy about this book, even if you read the paragraph below, but if you are sensitive to spoilers, be warned!!

Along with living alone, April's dealing with her boyfriend of the past two years, and the decision of whether to lose her virginity to him. She weighs this decision very carefully, plans in advance... and somehow winds up with an STD. I really like that this bit was included because I can't think of any other YA titles (there must be some, right? Help a girl out) that deal with teens getting STDs other than AIDS. I liked Mlynowski's treatment of this topic and safe sex in general and I think it manages to educate without being didactic. (Win!)

I would definitely hand this title to fans of chick lit with a little meat on its bones. Think Sarah Dessen, Ann Brashares, and others in that ilk.

Check out more reviews at Galleysmith, Novel Novice, and Read This Instead.

Ten Things We Did is on shelves now!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Drawing from Memory

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say. Grades 4+ Scholastic Press, September 2011. 63 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.

When an editor tells you that an upcoming book is a "career-making book" for the author and said author has already won a Caldecott medal, you sit up and take notice.

Drawing from Memory is the story of Allen Say's childhood, growing up in Japan during WWII and its aftermath. It's the story of a boy who would do anything to pursue his dreams, including leaving home and getting his own apartment at the tender age of 12. It's a picture book. No, it's a graphic novel. No, it's an autobiography. No, it's all three combined in a way that is utterly unique.

Allen Say was born in 1937 in a seaside village in Japan. Unfortunately, his mother was terrified of the water, so Allen spent a great deal of his childhood indoors. He learned to read at an early age and he loved,  loved, loved to draw. When he told his father that he wanted to be a cartoonist, his father was appalled. So Allen drew while his father was at work and then hid the drawings when his father came home.

Eventually, Allen moved out of his family's home and sought out a mentor, cartoonist Noro Shinpei, who had been mentioned in the newspaper. That is perhaps what struck me most about his story - Allen's independent streak and his determination to make it in his chosen field. It's hard enough for adults to muster this kind of drive, but for Allen to do it when he was 12 years old...

Mr. Say tells his story in a mixture of mediums, including watercolor paintings, cartoons, pen-and-ink drawings, and photography. The book is rife with emotion - gray watercolors depicting the destruction and despondency after WWII bombings, brightly colored pen-and-ink drawings showing his path to find his mentor and his happy time spent drawing and painting.

Of course, any librarian will tell you that an autobiography written on a grade-school level is a treasure. (Such things are often assigned and great ones are hard to come by!) But this book is a treasure unto itself. It will give readers a look into another culture, another time, another life. And it's obviously a treasured journey for the author as well.

In the author's note, Allen Say speaks about a conversation he had with his mentor's daughter:

When I finished the illustrations for this book, I sent Chieko-san the original drawing of her mother. She thanked me and wrote: "About one year before my father died at age eighty-seven, on February 20, 2002, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do. He looked at me steadily and said, "Kiyoi is the treasure of my life. I want to work on a book with him.'"This is that book. 

This book must find its way into the hands of young artists and would-be illustrators. I'd also hand it to fans of Peter Sis's books - his graphic memoir The Wall, but also his picture book biographies The Tree of Life and Starry Messenger.

Drawing from Memory will be on shelves in September 2011!

And hey, it's Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is over at proseandkahn.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Reading Club (Week 7)

CC: bayasaa
Fireworks for Independence Day and because we hit our 2000-registrations mark this week on Thursday! Yup, we have 2000 kids in the Children's Summer Reading Club and about 440 teens. Our teens number is already past what we had last year (hurrah!) and I anticipate our Children's number being a little lower than last year's since one of our biggest schools did not allow us to visit to promote the club. 2000 kids is pretty typical for us, so now that we've hit that marker I can kind of breathe a little sigh of relief. (Of course, I will continue to challenge my staff to hit 2025... 2050... 2100 if possible...)

I've discovered that it is VERY possible to bump your registrations up if you just make sure to ASK people coming in.

This was a short week for us because the library was closed for Independence Day on Monday. It's been a relatively slow week, too. I think a lot of families were on vacation this week. The only program to get major attendance this week was Toddler Time, which is generally one of our biggest programs.

We had our regular Mother Goose and Toddler Times... Very small crowds for Mother Goose this week. We also had Family Storytime, again with a small crowd. On Wednesday, we had a performer - an interactive storyteller who was great at getting the kids moving and giving them parts to act out.

We also had a couple of teen programs this week. My Teen Literary Magazine is going like gangbusters with a handful of very loyal and enthusiastic writers. They're totally taking the reins and that is fine by me! We have one more write-in the week after next and then in early August before I go on vacation, I'll pull together all the stuff and we'll publish it. I am kinda flying by the seat of my pants with this program, so we'll see what happens. The kids have already requested that we keep it going after school starts, though, so I'm going to schedule monthly meetings in the fall!

There was also Teen Gaming - another easy program with board games, the library's Wii, snacks, and a craft. We had a decent crowd this week and the kids that have been coming to programs are starting to get to know each other and become friends, so that's awesome. :)

Since our Children's attendance was quite low, I'm wishing I had given us a break and not scheduled any programs this week. Next year, with Independence Day happening on a Wednesday, I will probably refrain from scheduling any programs that week. Many of our families take vacations around this time and that gives us a good opportunity for a little breather.

I'm at the point where I'm really starting to count down the days until Summer Reading is over. I worked on my August staff schedule this week and August is BLISSFULLY free of programs. In June, we offered 46 programs (including Children's and Teen) and we've got 41 programs on the schedule for July. So, although I love it and I have fun with the kids, I'm ready for a break (and a vacation!).

OH and I don't have an update on my reading log because I forgot to take a picture of it yesterday. But I will say that last night a family noticed and commented on our staff reading logs. They loved that all of our department staff is involved (and they loved how colorful our reading logs are!). That was definitely a fun idea and one we'll be repeating next year!

So, how's your Summer Reading Club going?

Here's another roundup of Summer Reading Club posts... if I don't have your link, please leave it in the comments and I'll add it! :D

Drea at Book Blather
Kelly at Field Acquisitions
Jennifer at Jean Little Library
Jessica at Musings + Teen Librarian (I missed this link in my previous roundups, so I'm including it today!)
Anne at So Tomorrow (and she's got Week 4)
Marge at Tiny Tips for Library Fun
Mollie at What Happens in Storytime

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Past Perfect

Past Perfect by Leila Sales. Grades 8+ Simon Pulse, October 2011. 322 pages. Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher.

When Chelsea returns to another summer of working at Essex Historical Colonial Village, she knows what she's getting herself into: a sweaty costume, clueless tourists, and the same old, same old. At least her best friend is joining her this year! But when Chelsea discovers that her ex-boyfriend Ezra is also working at Essex, she doesn't know how she's going to deal. As much as she wants to be, she's just not over him, and the thought of spending the whole summer working with him is almost more than she can bear.

Then Chelsea meets a new dreamy guy, Dan. The problem? He works for Essex's rival historical village across the street (yes, really!). How did this summer get so complicated?

Love. Love!! So much love for this book. Y'all know I loved Leila Sales's debut, Mostly Good Girls, so you know I was really looking forward to this book. I am happy to report that it met all my (high) expectations. In fact, I'm reading over my notes and... wow, there are a lot of exclamation marks and hearts. :)

The first thing that caught my attention is Chelsea's wit and unexpected dry humor. As soon as I met her, I knew this was a chick I could settle down and spend some time with. And Leila Sales has a way of capturing scenes so that they feel so very realistic. From that crushed feeling after your first love crumbles to a perfect lazy summer night spent on a trampoline with a budding love interest, Ms. Sales gets it and she's able to write so  that all her readers will get it, too.

As I was reading, I thought to myself that parts of the story were predictable in a comforting, romance-novel type of way. But then Chelsea goes on to examine her past relationships in a deep way that takes the book to another level. It's a hard thing to do, but not once did I doubt that Chelsea was capable of it. It felt genuine and organic, which is a mark of a truly talented writer. Chelsea's learning that we choose to remember things a certain way, that we can hold on to our past or we can let go of our past. And sometimes we need to let go of our past to move forward. These are such important lessons to learn, but not once did I feel like Leila Sales was trying to teach me something.

Honestly, I wish I could hand this book to my 18-year-old self when I was clobbered by love and needed to learn the same things that Chelsea's learning. Um, and if I'm being completely honest, I wish I could also hand it to my 22-year-old self. Ahem.

Seriously. So much love for this book. Partly funny. Partly romantic. Partly serious. Completely wonderful.

(I do have to note that I'm not a huge fan of the cover. It's definitely cute, but I don't think it's representative of the book and it leaves out the piece that intrigued me the most: a girl working at a living history museum. I wasn't a fan of the cover of Mostly Good Girls either, so... yeah.)

Past Perfect will be on shelves October 4. Normally, I would wait until much closer to the pub date to post my review, but I just couldn't hold it in any longer. I DEMAND THAT YOU PUT THIS ON YOUR RADAR.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

OMG Anime Club!

Okay, here's where I think all the awesome teen librarians are going to roll their eyes at me and think "Oh, how original, a teen anime club." (Or they would if they weren't such nice people...)

But seriously, guys. We had our first Teen Anime Club meeting last week and it was a HUGE HIT!

The teen librarian at our neighboring library system has been encouraging me for months and MONTHS to start an anime program and we finally got it going. All the awesome things she told me about it turned out to be true:

1. It drew in kids that I've never seen before.
2. It drew in high schoolers.
3. It drew in boys.
4. It was super easy to run.
5. I have a feeling that the anime club kids are going to be loyal and keep showing up.

The program basically ran itself. We provided:

- An anime movie to play.

I borrowed a few movies from our neighboring library system and let the kids vote on which one we'd play. There was an overwhelming majority in favor of Ouran High School Host Club, so we put that one on. My library does not currently have an anime collection, but we got tons of suggestions from the kids, so we're starting one.

- A display of manga books from the teen section. 

The kids kept poring over these all night, borrowing from each other, reading and swapping. It was awesome to see. Tons of them got checked out. And we got their suggestions for more manga to buy, too.

- Drawing books, paper, pencils, and printouts showing different styles of anime hair, anime eyes, etc.

A lot of the kids brought their own sketchbooks. Since our anime drawing books are almost always checked out, they skipped over the other drawing books we brought down and feasted on printouts we found on the internet. Do a Google image search for "anime hair" or "anime eyes" and you'll find sheets with a bunch of examples for the kids to copy.

- Snacks.

In this case, fruit punch and chips. In the future, we will probably serve something like Sprite that's colorless. Just sayin'.

I also made sure to put out two clip boards: one to gather teens' suggestions of what awesome anime and manga to buy for the library (we got... so many suggestions... I hope we can track them all down...). The other to collect teens' contact info so we can email or call and remind them about the next meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, I introduced myself and my co-librarian. We voted on which DVD to put in. Then we got out of the way and let the teens do their thing. Some of them sketched, some perused manga, some sat and watched the show. Things got loud, but that's okay.

We met from 6pm-8pm and about halfway through I went around to each group and introduced myself and asked their names. Around 7:45, we got to the end of an episode (we probably watched 4-5 episodes total) and I turned off the DVD and reminded them to put their contact info on the sheet and write down what anime and manga we should get. We got lots of suggestions from the teens for next time. A couple of them asked if they can wear their cos next time, which I, of course, encouraged.

Myths About Anime Clubs:

- You have to be really familiar with anime to run one. I don't know anything about anime, but the kids were more than willing to tell me all about their favorites and make suggestions. I was up front with them that I wasn't that familiar with it and they were okay with it. We also had a large range of fan levels. Some kids were seriously obsessed and some kids were more casual about it.

- The kids will be "scary". I admit! I was a little intimidated by starting a new program that I thought would draw a whole different crowd. It did draw a different crowd and the kids are just as awesome and enthusiastic and sweet as our TSI kids (in kind of a different way, though).

I'm so glad we finally started this program and I'm already eager for our next meeting and all the meetings beyond. :)

Do you have an anime club at your library? What are some of your favorite anime films/shows? Have you done any great crafts or activities? I want to hear about them!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Students & Recent Grads, Get Thyself to ALA!

It was so heartening to me to see so many library students and recent graduates at the recent ALA Annual Conference! It's a great place for networking and to experience the type of learning that you'll do throughout your career for professional development. But don't take my word for it... Today, I have a guest post from Eli Riveire, a library student at the University of Kentucky's School of Library and Information Science and a good friend of mine. She went to this year's Annual Conference and this is what she had to say:

Hi! I'm Eli, and I'm just about to begin my last semester of library school at the University of Kentucky. I've known Abby since we were t(w)eens. Not only is she the best Abby there is, we also share the same birthday, AND she was one of my biggest inspirations for wanting to go into librarianship at all! I was fortunate enough (with a decent tax return and help from my parents) to be able to attend the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans last week, and just had a phenomenal experience. One of the highlights was getting to spend a whole evening with Abby, talking about life and asking her all sorts of n00brarian questions! When she asked me to write a little about my experiences at ALA Annual as a student, I was excited to have the opportunity to reflect and ramble. (There will be rambling. Oh yes.)

Things I'm glad I did (and would recommend to you!):

Just go.

Seriously. If you have the time, and a little bit of money, just go. The experience might not be as expensive as you think. Student registration was only $95! There are add-ons, seminars, preconferences, workshops, etc that you can add on to rack up the bill, but really? The $95 registration option will go incredibly far in terms of what you'll learn and do. As far as other costs go... 

Getting roommates will stretch your lodging costs oh so far. Don't know anyone else coming? If you're comfortable, take advantage of social media to find people. Of course, use your judgement with this, but librarians are nice. Remember that.  

Food costs don't have to be high. Just because you're out of town doesn't mean you have to eat fancy meals all the time. Bring snacks from home, find a convenience store near your hotel for sandwich-making supplies, and research ahead. When in doubt, think "would I eat like this at home?"

Travel is expensive. There's no way around this. But save up, look around for deals, and try to make it work somehow. Remember, this is an investment in your future! The fire you'll feel in your belly for librarianship is more than worth it. 


If you're in a new city (especially one as magnificent as New Orleans), take some time to look around! Just because there may be available sessions at every timeslot doesn't mean you always have to fill your plate. The conference can definitely get overwhelming...don't be afraid to take a mental break! I spent one mid-morning ferrying across the Mississippi River to the historic neighborhood Algiers to get brunch at this neighborhood cafe I found online. Not only did I get to feel a little like Huck Finn on this FREE ferry, make friends with local folks over panini and blues, and most importantly (to me) get to wander around beautiful, historic house-lined streets empty of other people, I also spent enough time out in the New Orleans heat and humidity to fully appreciate the extreme convention center air condtioning. 


Seriously. Watching and being vocal on the #ala11 feed made me feel like I knew what was going on, whether or not I had the energy to physically participate (case in point - ALA Dance Party). I also used Twitter to coordinate and investigate vegan dining options in NOLA with my fellow veg*n conference-goers, which made every meal an adventure! Plus, this is pretty much the best icebreaker ever: "Hey.....I think we're friends on Twitter!" 


This cannot be stressed enough. I brought two pairs of cute flats that I planned on wearing most of the time, but after the first day of probably walking over two miles all around the gigantic convention center, my feet were dying. Though I was self conscious at first about the image it would present, I switched to my (simple, black) flip-flops for the rest of the time. The rest of my wardrobe was based around black suit pants or a black suit skirt with colorful sleeveless tops and simple cardigans (oh yeah, another tip? Bring a sweater. Even to New Orleans in June. Convention Center A/C can be ridiculous), and no one was looking at my feet anyway.

Talk to people!

Talk to people on the shuttle buses, in your sessions, in your hotel elevator, at nearby restaurants, or wherever you are where fellow librarians might be around. You never know who you'll meet and how that connection might help you find a job someday. I learned more about actual job opportunities from the librarians who were waiting in line at FedEx with me to mail books home than I did the rest of the conference! Also, bring business or networking cards to give to these new contacts, and don't be shy about asking for theirs. I'm a stutterer, and approaching new people has always been difficult for me, but it's something I've been working on recently. What helped me keep my cool and courage was to realize that librarians are just generally nice and want to help! I found that once I told people I was still in library school, they were already impressed that I'd taken the initiative to come to the conference on my own. 

Things I wish I had done:

Use the job-seeking services.

ALA provided many free career-building services, like resume reviewing, counseling, and even actual job interviews scheduled at the conference. As I still have a semester left in school, and am not quite sure which area of librarianship I'm most interested in, I decided not to participate... I now realize that this was a mistake since this is about the perfect time to begin my job hunt! Luckily, some of these services are provided online (through ALA's website and mentoring programs), so I'm definitely going to look around and take advantage of what I can remotely.

Shop around for non-conference hotel lodging options.

Abby touched on this in her post, but I agree 100%. Conference hotels are not always the cheapest (or nicest) options, and especially if you have roommates on board, you can get more creative. I heard through the grapevine about a group of librarians who stayed in a rented house in the French Quarter! I would've much rather gone this avenue, as it would've been much easier to actually cook and eat in.

Don't overload on "How to get a job" sessions.

Not tryin' to hate, and reality is a good thing, but these were kind of depressing. There was some good advice for sure, but I feel like I learned more (and in a more encouraging way) from actually talking to people. 

Don't overlook the exhibits!

The Exhibit Hall was overwhelming. I think I went in twice, whirled around, and then got out pretty quickly. I'm sure there's so much cool stuff I missed, as well as missed opportunities to meet authors, win prizes, or network. I did buy some great comics though (shout out to Top Shelf!). 

Make sure your cat/home is being taken care of while you're gone.

My domestic partner was out of town during this time too, and though it's tough to admit, we were a little too lax with leaving our cat behind. HE'S FINE! But he probably just went about a day too long without human interaction and was super mad at me when I got home. Plus, I spent a lot of conference time worrying about him when I could've been having fun! Never again. Check yo cats, yo. 

Overall, my experience was so positive, and it just made my heart for my librarian future swell so much! I can't wait to begin my career in this field. I'm so glad to have had the experience of going to an ALA Annual Conference, especially since I'm just starting out and don't know how soon I'll have the opportunity again. Many thanks and high fives to all the great librarians I met, and especially thanks to Abby for being such a great librarian role model for me! If you're reading this, please feel free to email or add me on Twitter...I like friends!

- Eli Riveire

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Crossing

The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution by Jim Murphy. Grades 5-9. Scholastic, December 2010. 96 pages. Reviewed from library copy.

In the winter of 1776, George Washington, commander of the American army, faced not only the British troops but the panic and disillusionment of the American soldiers. With his ragtag army untrained and outnumbered and half of his soldiers' enlistments ending in the coming January, Washington knew he had one last chance to save his job and his country. So, the day after Christmas... in the middle of the night... in the middle of a storm... Washington crossed the Delaware.

You know what you're getting with Jim Murphy - impeccably researched, detailed nonfiction for kids. The Crossing is no exception. Mr. Murphy does a very nice job painting a picture of George Washington and the obstacles he faced when he took command. Washington had never commanded an army of that size and he was met with untrained soldiers whose ideas of democratic freedom led them to desert on a whim. Add to that the fact that the Americans were grossly outnumbered. Washington needed a win.

And a win he got. Using maps to show the progress of the battles and positions of the troops, Jim Murphy explains what happened in various battles, including the Battle of Trenton (the first time Washington crossed the Delaware). Mr. Murphy also explains why this battle was a turning point for Washington and for the American soldiers.

Mr. Murphy includes lots of archival paintings and portraits to bring the time period and the players to life. The back matter is excellent, including a timeline of the Revolutionary War, a list of sources, further resources, and a detailed index. Mr. Murphy also includes a note about the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware, noting its technical factual inaccuracies in light of the bigger message that artist Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze meant to send.

This will be a definite hit for young history buffs and will certainly add to any unit on the Revolutionary War. Kids doing biography reports on George Washington should peruse this book to ascertain exactly why Washington was so important to the Revolution. They'll certainly come across impressed.

The Crossing is on shelves now!

Hey, it's Nonfiction Monday!! Head on over to Bookmuse for today's roundup!