Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leapin' Lizards!


Now, leap on over to the ALSC Blog, where I'm posting about books, songs, and rhymes to get kids hopping with excitement about Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spring Storytime: Cats

It's that time again: time for preschool storytime! Only this time, we've switched things up a tiny bit and we're expanded the age to 3-7 because we've introduced an after school session. I'm hoping that billing them as "Family Storytime" will bring in the elusive afternoon and evening crowd... So far, the afternoon session (4:30pm) is going like gangbusters and the evening session is still almost small enough that I would cancel it (I said we had to have 5 signed up and we have 6, so...). But we'll see how it goes.

This week, we talked about cats! And here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. Honestly? HONESTLY? I kind of forgot that I needed to pick out an opening song until the morning of the first session and so I went with an old reliable.

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a tiger from the book Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle. Since today was the first session (and I had mostly newcomers), I explained what the Memory Box is and showed them the rhyme that we'll do each week.

Book: Cookie's Week by Cindy Ward. I think this was the biggest hit of our storytime. It's simple and funny and the kids can predict what's going to happen next. It emphasizes days of the week (great for vocabulary). I introduced it by saying that we were going to read a story about a kitty who does some naughty things and one little boy pipes up, "He's on the naughty list!" And then at the end when we see Cookie's tail disappearing through the doorway, I asked the kids if they thought Cookie was going to do something else naughty and one little girl says, "Or maybe he just wants to be private." :)

Book: Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle. I tend to do the book with the Memory Box item as the first or second book because my kids tend to forget to look for the MB item. And sometimes so do I. If I had been thinking, I would have showed them the cat on the cover and explained that that was what the boy's cat looked like. But I was not thinking and so the end was a little anticlimactic.

Felt Song: Down Around the Corner. I totally stole this from Melissa at Mel's Desk, but I realized that I sing it to a different tune. I use the tune from "Over in the Meadow".

Book: What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas. I love this book (and all of Jan Thomas's stuff), but I think my crowd was just a smidgen too young (I had several 2-year-olds) and this book went over their heads a little bit. Ah, well. At least ONE child thought it was HILARIOUS.

Book: How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats? by Jane Yolen. I really wanted to include something that taught the kids how to treat a cat (or a pet in general, really) and this fit the bill perfectly. Rhyming text and the added appeal of dinosaurs caught the kids' attention very well.

Song: Soft Kitty. I told the kids to make one hand into a fist, just like a little cat curled up to sleep. Then we took the other hand and stroked our "cat" very, very softly (just like they should pet a cat in real life!).

Soft kitty, warm kitty
Little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty
Purr, purr, purr.

And yes, if you watch The Big Bang Theory, you are probably already familiar with this song:

Book: Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming. When I introduced this book, the kids asked me if it had a naughty kitten in it and I told them that I thought it did. As soon as I read the kittens' names "Fluffy, Skinny, and Boris" one of the little girls calls out, "Boris is the naughty kitten!"

Activity: This book led right into our last activity. We had printed and laminated several pictures of kittens in different colors. I put our cat puppet into a large basket ("Mama cat") and passed out the kittens so that each child had one. When I called the color of their kitten, they came up and put it in the basket. We generally have 20 or fewer kids in each of our storytimes (sometimes substantially fewer), so we can handle an activity like this. It teaches the kids to listen and to take turns. I always hold one of each color/number/item back so I can show them the gray kitten when I call that one or the white kitten when I call that one. That way, if I have kids that are unsure about their colors, etc. they can easily see which one I mean.

Ending Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Take-Home Craft:

Alternate Books: If you don't like or don't have some of the books I mentioned above, here are some others you could use or display!

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
A Kitten's Year by Nancy Raines Day
Four Fierce Kittens by Joyce Dunbar
I Walk at Night by Lois Duncan
Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert
Top Cat by Lois Ehlert
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone
Cat Count by Betsy Lewin
Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to Sleep? by Bill Martin Jr.
Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Waking Up? by Bill Martin Jr.
Kittens! Kittens! Kittens! by Susan Meyers
There Are Cats in This Book by Vivian Schwarz

Monday, February 27, 2012

Indianapolis Youth Literature Conference

This past Saturday, I was up at 5am. WHY would I do that? To head up to Indianapolis for the 2012 Indianapolis Youth Literature Conference! It was a fabulous day of talking about books and hearing some great talks from authors.

The conference was held at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, which is FABULOUS.

Six floors of books and media and they have some seriously cool stuff for kids

First up was Nick Bruel, author of the Bad Kitty books (which are the latest hot series among kids at my library). 

Nick was a hilarious start to our morning with his talk:

The 8 things included J.K. Rowling: 

(How dare she switch to writing adult books! It's not like adult authors just suddenly decide to CHANGE and start publishing YA books....... wait.....)

And German translations of his book:

After Nick's talk, we went into the first breakout sessions of the day. Nick did a session and they had a great panel of teen authors, but I slipped into a booktalk session about great new kids' books. Shirley Mullin of the indie bookstore Kids Ink gave us a great presentation featuring some of her favorite 2011 and 2012 titles. 

I was familiar with a lot of them, but Shirley can always turn me on to some that I've overlooked!

Our next keynote speaker was Philip Hoose (pronounced "hose" like a garden hose), author of the award-winning Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.

I really dig the smaller size of the paperback, as I think that's more appealing to teens than the larger size of the hardcover. Look at all those awards!!

Philip definitely wins "Best Sweater of the Day" award. He talked to us about tracking down Claudette Colvin and how he researched her story.

After hearing all about Claudette Colvin, it was time to break for lunch. When we came back from lunch, we sat down for a talk from my personal favorite author of the day: Shannon Hale! Shannon Hale is the author of many books for adults, teens and kids, including AustenlandThe Goose Girl, Newbery-honor winner Princess Academy, and the rip-roaring graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge. Here is one of my employees immersed in Rapunzel's Revenge before Shannon's talk began:

Shannon was determined to keep us from getting sleepy after lunch and gave a funny and high-energy talk.

She may have yelled at us a little bit to make sure we were all awake. :) 

Shannon talked about wanting to be a writer since she was very small and shared some pictures and stories about her family. Here, her son is showing off his Bad Kitty project for school: 

Shannon is a very engaging speaker, completely comfortable in front of a crowd, and if you get the change to hear her speak, I urge you to do it! She doesn't travel much lately (she's got 4 kids at home!), so I feel really lucky to have been able to hear her. She told us what it was like to get The Call about her Newbery honor and how she makes time for writing with four kids in the house (a babysitter comes 15 hours a week).

After Shannon's keynote, it was time for breakout sessions again. I stayed to hear Shannon's breakout session, but others went to hear Philip Hoose talk about researching and writing nonfiction or our very own Michele Farley talk about the Caldecott Award and her experience serving on last year's Caldecott committee.

In Shannon's breakout session, she talked about how some of the books she was given and chose to read in high school and college turned her off of reading for pleasure for many years.

Teachers must be able to choose what books to use in their classroom and choosing books with teen protagonists and books that speak kids' language can save reading lives. Teens need books with teen protagonists so they know that they are valued,  that it's not just adults who are the protagonists of stories.

And reading is so important because it affects your brain in a way that no other activity does. It helps readers gain a sense of empathy for their fellow humans and develop imagination.

One of the attendees asked Shannon if she had a response for conservative Christians who might object to the fantasy in her books. Shannon replied that the Bible is full of parable and that much fantasy can be read as parable.

After the last breakouts, we had a chance to get books signed, but the lines were pretty long and we were all tired after our very early start, so we headed back to New Albany. It was a great day, just the thing to get my staff excited about reading some of the books they heard about!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

@YALSA is Not Your Mom Either

YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association) has a firm position on the right to open access to information. One of the points in the YALSA Vision Statement reads that YALSA "supports equality of access to the full range of library materials and services... for young adults". So, I was a little surprised to discover last night that YALSA is now requiring members to log in and non-members to fill out information before accessing the YALSA book award pages and book lists

Here's where I tell you that I'm a YALSA member, but I'm not on any YALSA committees and I was not part of making the decision to change access to the book lists. I didn't know that this was happening before last night. If they announced the change, it was in something that I skimmed or didn't read. Which is annoying, for sure. If only they'd announced the change was coming and explained the reasons behind it, I might not be writing this post.

As I discussed this change on Twitter with some librarian friends, I know I came across as defending the change (and, perhaps by extension, YALSA and/or ALA). 

Really? I know it's a pain. I'm the only YALSA member at my library (and I'm not the teen librarian) and it pains me to have an added barrier to getting other staff members at the library to utilize YALSA's selection lists. I want our library service to teens to be awesome and the YALSA book lists can help make that happen... but not if access to them is restricted. And yes, it only takes a minute to fill out the information they're looking for. And yes, access to the lists is still free. And yes, once you submit that information you can get the direct links to the lists and bookmark them so you don't have to enter your info again. But how many people are going to actually do all that? My guess is not many. And let's not even think about any teens who might want to use the book lists (although I'd guess the number of teens accessing these lists through YALSA's web site is small at best). 

But I can see where YALSA is coming from. Membership is down. I imagine they're trying to emphasize what a valuable resource the YALSA selection lists are. Maybe some people who use these lists have never stopped to think "Hmm... It costs money to facilitate the creation of these lists. I would like to help support them." Maybe some people who use these lists have never even stopped to think about what YALSA really is and what it does. Getting an email address from people who use the lists could feasibly be a way to target non-members who might be interested in joining YALSA. 

And maybe it's not something that's going to work and things will go back to the way they used to be. I imagine YALSA's trying it out. (And I also imagine that the response to this move will be overwhelmingly negative.)

This issue brings me back to thinking about the value of ALA membership, what ALA is and what it isn't. Several people piped up on Twitter last night to say that having access to book lists would not encourage them to join ALA, but having barriers to accessing book lists would stop them from using YALSA's resources. 

It was pointed out (as always) that ALA membership is too expensive. You know the only way that's going to change? If ALA members vote for it to change. (In 2011, YALSA members actually voted to increase the YALSA dues from $50 to $60 for librarians. That is a thing that happened.) If you don't like what ALA is doing, get involved and change it. The people making these decisions are people just like you. Committee members, ALA Council, and ALA members who are voting (and only 20% of ALA members voted in the 2011 election. What is up with THAT?). 

I get that it's not possible for everyone to join YALSA that might want to. It is expensive and if your library can't or won't cover some of the costs of joining a professional organization or attending conferences, the costs can be prohibitive. But the fact remains that the only way to change the organization is to get involved and make that change happen*. 

You can't afford to join a professional organization? I can't afford not to. 

(Wondering about the title of this post? It's a reference to a previous post of mine: ALA is Not Your Mom.)

Edited to add (2/25/12): YALSA President Sarah Flowers has posted about the rationale behind the changes to the website on the YALSA Blog. I urge you to click through to read what she has to say and leave a comment to let YALSA know your thoughts! I won't quote the post here, although I will note that Ms. Flowers said that the change "is not expected to be temporary".

* Or. You could just not use the YALSA book lists and when they find that their site traffic has dropped dramatically, they'll eventually lift the barrier. Maybe? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reflections on Vacation Reading

Last week, I was here:

While I love traveling to see friends and to do things and even to work, my favorite vacation definitely includes plenty of time to read on the beach. And read I did! I brought seven print books with me and oodles more on my Kindle (thanks, Netgalley!). I know it's overkill, BUT I never want to be stuck somewhere with a book I'm not enjoying, so I need to have some variety. 

The interesting thing? Not once did I pick up my Kindle. 

One reason is that I definitely chose my print books carefully and took only books I was particularly excited to read. Another reason is that a lot of my reading time was spent on the beach or by the pool - not exactly the best environment for electronic devices (although I did notice a LOT of people of all ages with e-readers at the pool!). And yet another reason is that when I have a print book in my hands and I finish it and I close the books and stack them up... I guess it feels like more of an accomplishment. I need to change my mindset, because finishing a book on an e-reader is just as VALID. It just feels different somehow. 

My suitcase certainly would have fit into the overhead bins more comfortably if I'd left the print books at home!

I was not the only one reading this week! I was vacationing with my family and we're a mix of voracious and reluctant readers. My brother and my mom were both devouring The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay this week. My brother doesn't read a lot of fiction, preferring nonfiction unless he's on vacation, but he's read and loved Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan books and the Hunger Games trilogy this year! What else should I recommend to him? 

My dad kept himself occupied with a John Grisham book (which he claims to like because "the lawyers are the bad guys") and my brother's girlfriend K was alternating between a fluffy beach read and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. She's totally inspired to pick up some Hemingway next and I just might be inspired to pick up The Paris Wife so I can talk to her about it. 

It was lovely to talk books with my family over the week. Even though it's something we're all doing separately, it's also something we can do together.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll post some reviews of the books I devoured while on vacation, so look for that (blog might be a little slow for awhile until I catch back up). And in the meantime, I'm just going to concentrate on happy things (like the BRIDGE IS OPEN AGAIN*) and dream of the day I can take another week off to read!

* This is a big freakin' deal. I have to cross this bridge to get to work, so for the past 5 months my commute has doubled and I've had to change my schedule so I'm almost never home before 7-7:30. It is seriously a bummer. And now it's oooooover!!!!! Woo hoo! *happy dances*

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

A couple weeks ago was the 8th Round of the Library Day in the Life Project. As per usual, I could not get my act together to actually participate (mainly because I tend to schedule blog posts in advance whenever possible), but I did take a day and keep track of all the things I did! So, here's another installment of A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian!

8:45am - Arrive at work, greet staff member and let her know about other staff member who is sick today. Arrange desk coverage.

8:50am - Put belongings away, turn on computer, get my bag of storytime stuff for outreach storytime.

8:55am - Realize that my outreach storytime is not at the school I thought it was. Look up directions to the school. (Good thing I realized this before I left!)

9:00am - Check email. A bunch of listserv emails came in today because our spam filters had been blocking them.

9:15am - Log on to library Facebook account to read email from a teen requesting that we buy the sequel to Mercy by Rebecca Lim, which she loooved. The book’s out in Australia, but not in the US yet. I email our teen librarian about ordering the book when it’s available.

9:25am - Get agendas ready for Summer Reading Club meeting that’s happening this afternoon.

9:35am - Leave library and drive to Head Start for this morning's outreach storytimes.

9:45am - 10:45am - Visit two classrooms with stories about winter. Here's what I did:

In the Snow by Sharon Denslow - A great, simple book about animals eating seeds in the snow. Kids love to name the animals and I teach them "chickadee", "sparrow", "cardinal", and "possum". Great for vocabulary.

On My Own by Miela Ford - I love the photo illustrations and I have the kids do the actions as I read. 

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson - A perennial favorite. I read this one with the first class, but not with the second class who seem younger and are a bit more squirrelly. 

We made pretend snowmen and sang “Once I Built a Snowman”

We did the rhyme 5 Little Snowmen with our felt snowmen

We sang “Sleepy Bear” with my bear puppet

11:00am - Back at the library, debrief about visit with my staff member who coordinates our outreach visits.

11:30am - Put away books and props from storytime and write up the storytime plan so that we can keep track of which stories we’ve read. We visit this group once a month, so I don't want to repeat the same things.

11:45am - Add a book that a patron requested to our Baker & Taylor cart. Whenever possible, I order books that our patrons request. We have a healthy book budget and I want our shelves to reflect the interests of our community.

11:50am - Run off materials for SRC meeting this afternoon.

12:00pm - Lunch time! Check the mail and mail a letter on the way to lunch. While I eat, I'm reading The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George.

1:00pm - Back from lunch, get some things ready for the Afterschool visits this week: pull books, get crafts sorted, put away leftover craft stuff from last time, etc.

1:30pm - Run upstairs to drop off staff schedule with administration. Talk to Reference Manager about Anime Club, teen programming, and other stuff. 

2:00pm - Staff meeting. We talk about Summer Reading Club logistics and programs, our upcoming Spring Storytimes, and teen programs.

4:00pm - Finish penciling in summer programs on the office calendar. I start an email to department staff with notes from the meeting so we're all on the same page and everyone knows what they ought to be working on.

4:15pm - One staff member stops by to chat about summer ideas. We love to brainstorm! In my department, two (or three or four) heads are most definitely better than one. Everyone has great ideas!

4:40pm - Another staff member stops by to chat about summer ideas.

5:15pm - Back to working on my email to staff.

5:40pm - Email sent, now it's time to go home! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Grades 9 and up. Abrams, March 2012. 288 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by NetGalley.

High school senior Greg Gaines has perfected the art of invisibility. Although he could list all of the cliques and subcliques at his school, and although he's friendly with everyone, he's an actual friend to no one. Unless you count Earl, but Earl's more like a coworker, helping Greg create terrible amateur movies in their spare time. When Greg's mom forces him to call up Rachel, a friend from when they were kids in Hebrew school together (a girl who has just been diagnosed with leukemia), he resists at first. But as he gets to know Rachel again, he realizes that he likes spending time with her. Unfortunately, that time is running out...

This book had me literally laughing out loud. I'm always so pleased to find funny teen books because kids DIG humor and it can be so hard to find. Main character Greg has a very self-deprecating voice and uses humor at his own expense. There's a fair amount of gross-out humor, but those aren't the only laughs to be found. One of my favorite scenes was when Greg and Earl accidentally get high and then decide to make up a story to explain what happened. I was laughing so hard that I'm sure if my neighbors heard me, they thought I was insane.

Jesse Andrews built a perfect arc for Rachel and Greg's relationship with her. Their friendship starts slowly as Greg gets to know her again, and at its peak I found myself caring about Rachel quite a bit and hoping that maybe she wasn't actually dying. But this is a story about a dying girl (it says so right in the title). Mr. Andrews manages to distance the reader from Rachel just enough so that it's not crushing when things take a turn for the worse. It all happens very organically. The humor's toned down as we enter a serious period in Greg's life and then picks up again at the end.

Mr. Andrews throws in some different formats as we go, switching from straight prose to screenplay-like dialog that adds humor, keeps the pages turning quickly, and totally makes sense for Greg's character. Greg's a film buff and an amateur filmmaker and this bits show us how Greg sees the world. Greg wants to be neutral, just like the video cameras he uses - observing everybody impartially. But in order to make a good film, you have to decide where you stand and what you want to say.

Ultimately, it's a story about knowing people's stories, about deciding whether to play it safe or take some risks and let people in. This is a spectacular debut and I sincerely hope there's more coming from Jesse Andrews.

I would hand this immediately to teens looking for a funny story. Know your audience since there's a decent amount of profanity and crude humor. I'd try it on fans of Jordan Sonnenblick's Notes from the Midnight Driver or Brent Crawford's Carter Finally Gets It.

I found out about this book through Capillya's fantastic interview with Jesse Andrews on That Cover Girl, so make sure you head on over there. As a sidenote, the book's cover is amazingly fantastic and I, too, kinda want to rub it all over my face. Also: I get an inordinate amount of delight from the rhyming title.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will be on shelves March 1!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Grades 4-8. Knopf Books for Young Readers, February 2012. 320 pages. Reviewed from ARC received at ALA Midwinter.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? (Summary from publisher, via GoodReads.)

There is a lot to like about Wonder and I definitely think it will have high appeal among kids and teachers and it's a book that will start a lot of important discussions. This is a book that's especially important for schools and would make a great classroom readaloud. 

Auggie's a relateable character whose rather objective view of himself is evidence of maturity beyond his years. You've got to grow up quick when you're facing everyone's reactions to your face every day. But Auggie also seems younger than his years in some ways. He's been kept at home, sheltered and taken care of, partly for medical reasons (he's had many more surgeries than birthdays) and partly to shield him from the outside world's reactions to him. 

Kids will immediately identify with Auggie and they'll be rooting for him. Even if young readers don't have the same health and appearance difficulties that Auggie has, many of them can identify with being the new kid at school or just feeling different for any number of reasons. Auggie can't hide his difference, and he faces the challenge of starting school with an inspiring amount of courage. 

The pacing was a little off for me. I thought the middle part was spot-on with how the plot progressed through Auggie's fifth grade year and multiple narrators showed us how Auggie is perceived to different sections of the community. But the book starts slowly and takes too long to wrap itself up. The overly sentimental ending bothered me a bit in a book that's purportedly about "just an ordinary kid". It just felt a bit twee. 

I had some problems with the multiple points of view, as well. I appreciated seeing Auggie through different sets of eyes and the different narrators did give a sense of how Auggie fits into the community as a whole. But some of the narrators pop in so briefly that it almost felt like cheating, like an easier way of getting across a point that could have been shown without getting inside a different person's head for just a few chapters. The voices didn't sound that different and if we're going to go ahead and have EIGHT different narrators, I would have loved to see inside our main bully Julian's head. 

R.J. Palacio's trying to cover a lot of ground here: not just Auggie's story, but his older sister's struggle with starting high school, best friends growing apart, and more. It feels like a lot to process, but all threads tie back to Auggie's story. 

All that said, this is a strong debut and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a little Schneider Family Book Award action for this title next January. I will definitely be looking for more from R.J. Palacio. 

Check out Mr. Sharp's interview with R.J. Palacio (which, incidentally, addresses why he didn't write a section from Julian's point of view). 

Wonder is on shelves now!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Excuse Me, I'm in Paradise

Yup, I'm on vacation with my family this week and I'll be doing plenty of reading here:

(That's St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.)

...but I won't have a lot of access to the interwebs. I've got some posts scheduled to go up this week, but I may not be around on Twitter or replying to comments or emails until I get back. So, behave yourselves, and catch me up on any kerfuffles next week. ;)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Same Sun Here

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani. Grades 5-8. Candlewick, February 2012. 297 pages. Reviewed from ARC received at ALA Midwinter.

When New Yorker Meena and Kentucky boy River sign up for a pen pal program, they have no idea that they're each finding a kindred spirit. Who would have thought that two 12-year-olds from such different backgrounds could have so much in common? Meena was born in India and moved to New York City to be with her family when she was nine. River has lived in a tiny town in Eastern Kentucky his entire life. As the two write letters back and forth, they discover that they share a love of mountains, they both have a special relationship with their grandmothers, and there are political issues in their hometowns that could have disastrous effects on both of them.

Neela Vaswani and Silas House create two characters that have strong, identifiable voices. I loved getting to know these kids as they wrote back and forth to each other. As Meena and River write letters, they promise to be their own true selves with each other. This leads to the sort of frank discussion about cultural differences and gender differences that might never happen with a face-to-face friendship. The reader can see both Meena and River growing as they learn from each other and as they teach each other. And since they're each being open and honest, they quickly form a strong bond. Even though they're very different, both Meena and River face discrimination because of the way they look and talk.

I found it really interesting that the book explores political issues affecting each of the protagonists, and the issues are dealt with in a very kid-friendly way. We see River dealing with mountaintop removal (a form of coal mining that completely decimates mountains and the communities that sit on top of them). His grandmother is an activist and River gets involved in some of the protests. Meena is dealing with the threat of eviction because her family illegally sublets a rent-controlled apartment. The landlord lets the apartments fall into disrepair in hopes of getting rid of those with rent-control, so he can get new tenants and charge them more. Although Meena is frank about her family living in a not-quite-legal situation, we also see that although her family works very hard, it's still a struggle for them to survive in New York.

This is a story with a lot of heart and two characters that kids will identify with and learn from. As far as audience, I think it straddles the gap between Andrew Clements's Extra Credit (about an American girl sharing letters with a boy from Afghanistan) and Valerie Zenatti's A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (about an Israeli girl sharing letters with a Palestinian boy).

Same Sun Here will be on shelves February 14!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Trials and Tribulations of Anime Club

I've posted before about our Teen Anime Club (see posts here, here, and here), but it's been awhile since I talked about it. For a reason. We've had some trials and tribulations with our Anime Club and I have learned a lot over the past couple of months.

The Good:

The kids LOVE IT. They want to come more often. They want to stay longer. We've had solid attendance of 20-30 teens every month. It's still attracting those hard-to-reach groups (for us, that's high schoolers and guys).

But here's the thing. Our teen librarian was on medical leave from October through January. And I thought "No problem! I can handle Anime Club on my own!" And it turns out that I had a lot to learn (and I'm still learning!) about how to wrangle dozens of teenagers.

First, let me say that I LOVE these kids. I'm getting to know more and more of them every month. I love that they're so passionate about what they like (and dislike!). But the problem is that they're so passionate that it's easy for things to get out of control. I'm okay with things being a little out of control. I want the teens to be teens. I want the library to be a place they can be themselves. But. I there's only so much chaos I can take before my brain explodes.

The first thing I did to cope was to shorten our meetings from 2 hours to 1 hour. We had originally planned the program to last 2 hours, thinking that would give us enough time to watch a movie or a decent amount of episodes. The kids didn't seem to be that interested in actually watching the movie, though. And between cranking up the volume so they few who were interested could hear it and all the other activity going on in the room (teens using computers and just generally being boisterous with their friends), the noise level was getting out of control. Two hours of unstructured time was inviting too much chaos.

We also introduced some different activities. Instead of simply watching anime (which only a handful of kids seemed to be into), we tried some structured activities like anime trivia and origami. We met varying success with these, but the program was still chaotic and our December meeting ended with me having to ask a group of teens to leave the library after repeated warnings about their noise level.

(An aside: it is true that we do not have a great place for teens to hang out, outside of programs. I know that they need a place where they can hang out, have access to their own bank of computers, and talk and laugh without having to be super quiet. I promise I'm working on it, but it's not something that's going to happen overnight. Sigh.)

After our December meeting, I did what I should have done in the first place: I turned to my trusted YA librarian friends and asked their opinion. I felt like my teens were all crazy (I say this with love!) and that I was totally ineffectual as a teen librarian (I'm a n00b and it shows!) and that something had to change.

The first thing they did was reassure me that they have dealt with these problems, too. It's NOT that my teens are crazier than most, it's just that it's how teens are (and kids. And sometimes YA librarians. True facts). The second thing they did was give me some advice about spelling out the rules and making sure I enforce them. I faced our January meeting with cautious optimism (and a little anxiety).

And then... We had a scheduling mixup that resulted in us offering Anime Club twice. And the program was awesome both times. I wasn't there for the first one (I was in Dallas, being crazy with my aforementioned YA librarian friends), but I was there for the second meeting. I did spell out my expectations for the kids and let them know what the consequences would be if they forgot the rules. Because we had accidentally listed two meeting times, attendance was split almost in half for each program. And I tell you: if Anime Club was like our January 31 meeting every time, I would hold it every week.

Here's what I have learned (so far) from my trials and tribulations with Anime Club:

- Spell out the rules for the teens. It's okay to have a certain level of noise and chaos, but figure out where your limit is and let the kids know. I told them no screaming, no yelling, no roughhousing, and no running. (Of course, I will forgive occasional excited shrieks when their friends arrive, etc.)

- Spell out the consequences. They will get one warning. If they forget the rules again, I will ask them to leave the meeting, but they will be welcome to come back to the next meeting.

- Stick to your guns. It might make you the "bad guy", but they'll remember and it will make your program go more smoothly.

- Let your teens know what activity you'll be doing at the next meeting. That way, they can choose whether they might like to come and participate. A little more advance planning will go a long way toward a smooth program (I... hope).

- We're considering offering our program more often in hopes that we might have more manageable attendance numbers. Patterning off of one of our neighboring libraries, we might offer Anime Club twice a month with a craft or activity planned for the first meeting and then showing a movie or TV show at the second meeting. That way, kids can show up for the activity they want to do and hopefully everyone will just be more into whatever we're doing that day.

There's definitely been a learning curve since I started being involved in our teen programming last summer. I have loved being involved and I have had a lot to learn, too.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Grades 4-7. HarperCollins, January 2012. 305 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by author.

Ivan is a gorilla.
It's not as easy as it looks.
Ivan spends his days in his domain at the Big Top Mall, watching TV when someone turns it on, eating, and sometimes drawing.
Ivan has friends - a dog named Bob and an elephant named Stella who lives in the domain next to his.
Everything changes when a baby elephant is brought to the Big Top Mall.
Ivan knows he must protect her.
He knows he must save her.
But how?

The One and Only Ivan is a book that broke my heart, and it's also a book with a lot of hope. It's written almost in verse, almost in prose poems, just the way you'd think a gorilla might narrate his story. The writing is what drew me into the story. As Ivan is relating his situation, he'll suddenly throw in there a little flash of what his life was like before. Just a little flash, a pinprick of something painful that you know has happened to him. But he's not ready to share everything yet. The pacing is spot-on and the story unfolds in its own time.

This is maybe not a story for your more sensitive young readers. There are some harsh realities of how animals in captivity are sometimes treated, but it's clear that this reality is not the only way that animals in captivity are treated. Katherine Applegate includes an author's note that explains how the book was inspired by a true story of the real Ivan who now resides at Zoo Atlanta.

I'd hand this book to kids who liked The Underneath by Kathi Appelt for its raw and tragic beauty. You may want to pair it with the nonfiction book Wild Animals in Captivity by Rob Laidlaw, which provides examples of both good and bad captive environments for animals.

The One and Only Ivan is on shelves now!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Your January AudioSynced Roundup!

It's that time again! Here's your AudioSynced Roundup for January... If I missed any reviews or posts, please leave me a link in comments and I'll make sure to add it!

Audiobook News and Posts

The winners of the 2012 Odyssey Award were announced at the American Library Association Midwinter meeting! At the same meeting, the Children's Notable Recordings and the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults lists were released.

At the ALSC Blog, Jeanette Larson gives us a review of the book Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy by Sharon Grover and Lizette D. Hannigen. Jeanette says, "Listening to Learn is recommended as a great learning resource and collection development tool."

As always, make sure you're stopping by Audiobook Jukebox for tons of great audiobook reviews! You also won't want to miss several blogs that review many more audiobooks than I was able to link to here: The Guilded Earlobe

Children's/Middle Grade Audiobooks

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander, read by James Langton, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "He [James Langton] fully voices this story, creating believable, individual characters for a large cast of humans and non-humans.

Magyk by Angie Sage, read by Allan Corduner, reviewed by Jayla at LadyBlueJay. Jayla says, "[T]he narrator did a wonderful job of giving each character a distinct voice."

Young Adult Audiobooks

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick, read by Caitlin Greer, reviewed by Melissa at Mel's Books and Info. Melissa says, "Greer does an excellent job narrating and her voices feel true to the characters."

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, read by Carol Monda, reviewed by Irish at Ticket to Anywhere. Irish says, "The world in The Demon King is very rich and vivid and its one that I would highly recommend to be experienced in its audio form."

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld, read by Alan Cumming, reviewed by Brian at Wyz Reads. Brian says, "I was instantly hooked by Alan Cumming’s narration... His voice really brought the book to life..."

The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman, read by Christopher Evan Welch, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "While he [Christopher Evan Welch] doesn't sound particularly youthful, his rhythms and delivery capture a youthful feel."

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, read by Michael Finney, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "...for a very emotion-driven story, Finney brings acting skills that help us hear the tears or laughter, or anger or sadness."

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, read by Emma Galvin, reviewed by Abby the Librarian (that's me!). I say, "Cam has a great voice and this is where it was really nice to listen to this book because I think Emma Galvin does a really nice job of bringing Cam's voice to life."

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, read by Laura Flanagan, reviewed by Janssen at Everyday Reading. Janssen says, "...the whole tone of the book was richer than I think it might have been if I'd simply read it in paper form."

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick, read by Caitlin Greer, reviewed by Melissa at Mel's Books and Info. Melissa says, " The audio format suits this book well and is a good way to get through this novel."


Between the Thames and the Tiber: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in Britain and the Italian Peninsula by Ted Riccardi, read by Simon Prebble, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "It's a fine performance, but truthfully I was never captured by the stories." 

Defending Jacob by William Landay, read by Grover Gardner, reviewed by Bob at The Guilded Earlobe. Bob says, "I think one of the hardest things for a narrator to do is have authentic sounding dialogue between two characters, and here it was like I was listening to a masters class on how to do it."  

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, read by Susan Duerden, reviewed by Melissa at Book Nut. Melissa says, "I probably had more patience for this book in audio form because Duerden was such a capable reader, creating a world for me with her voice that wouldn't have otherwise existed."

Pineapple Grenade by Tim Dorsey, read by Oliver Wyman, reviewed by Bob at The Guilded Earlobe. Bob says, "I can go on and on about how perfectly his characterizations fit my vision for Serge and Coleman from the days I read this series in print."

Room by Emma Donoghue, read by Ellen Archer, Michal Friedman, Robert Petkoff and Suzanne Toren, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "Room is one of those books where listening adds a whole level of intensity to the literary experience."

Still Life by Louise Penny, read by Ralph Cosham, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "He [Ralph Cosham] reads with a quiet command of characters and story, much as Inspector Gamache controls both his own staff and the residents of Three Pines."

Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen, read by David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones, reviewed by Melissa at Book Nut. Melissa says, " Both the narrators were excellent (LeDoux read the young Jacob; Jones the older one), and because of that I was able to really "see" the book in a way I don't think I would have, had I read it."

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, read by Heather Corrigan, reviewed by Irish at Ticket to Anywhere. Irish says, "[Heather Corrigan] really helped to bring the character of Hannah to life and I think that it really added to my enjoyment of this book."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. Grades 5-8. Putnam Juvenile, January 2012. 297 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Twelve year old Marlee doesn't really speak. Oh, she's fine talking to her family, especially her older sister who has always looked out for her, but when it comes to people outside the family... Marlee tends to freeze up, certain she's going to say something stupid. Maybe that's why she's been stuck with such a snotty best friend for all these years. But all that changes when Marlee meets a new girl in her class. Liz is unlike any girl Marlee's met and she even helps Marlee find the courage to talk in front of the whole class. But when Liz suddenly disappears from school and rumors circulate that Liz is colored and was passing for white in order to go to a better school, Marlee must figure out where she stands.

And in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958 (the year the high schools were closed because of the controversy over integration), there doesn't seem to be much solid ground.

Many people probably know about the Little Rock Nine - nine African American students who were the first to integrate white schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can even read firsthand accounts of that tumultuous year in books like Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Patillo Beals and A Mighty Long Way by Carlotta Walls LaNier. But what happened after that? Little Rock was a town divided. Schools were shut down. The state government disagreed with the federal government. How did it feel to live in such an uncertain place at such an uncertain time?

Kristin Levine dives in and shows us that world through Marlee's eyes. I'm always one for a historical book that shows me times and events with which I was previously unfamiliar. In the case of The Lions of Little Rock, it was the character of Marlee who drew me in first. She's painfully shy, and although she has a lot of thoughts, she has trouble expressing them. She loves math and dreams of being a rocket scientist someday, an aspiration that's not exactly typical for girls of her age at the time. And she loves her family, which can make things all the more confusing since her father is in favor of integration and her mother is against it.

For Marlee, Liz is a saving grace. She's a good and loyal friend. She doesn't mind that Marlee finds it hard to speak at first, and Liz helps her to find her voice. Marlee can't bear the thought of losing her friend after Liz stops coming to school, but she must also realize that to continue to see Liz is to put Liz's life in danger.

The Lions of Little Rock is about Marlee finding her voice, but it's just as much about an entire town, an entire people finding their voices and speaking up for what is right.

Kristin Levine includes an author's note telling how she came to write about this "lost year" and suggesting resources for further reading. This book definitely has classroom applications and would make a great readaloud when discussing civil rights or black history. Readalikes include Yankee Girl by Mary Ann Rodman and A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack.

Read more reviews at Book Nut, Everyday Reading, and The Fourth Musketeer. Also check out Margo's interview with Kristin Levine at The Fourth Musketeer.

The Lions of Little Rock is on shelves now!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Storytime Planning at the ALSC Blog!

Y'all, today I'm over at the ALSC blog, talking about a winter storytime and baby storytimes and the awesome internet resources I used to help plan them! 

Please click on through and comment on the post!

PS: I know it's time for your AudioSynced roundup, but I'm not quite done with it yet! Look for it here on Friday and in the meantime, please send me links to audiobook reviews or posts that you wrote in January! You can leave me a link in comments or email