Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One Week Down

So, Summer Reading started last week and now we're one week down with nine(ish) to go. The kids are out of school and we're starting our programming next week. These have been staring me down in my office for a couple of weeks now: 

As you can see, I'm all set for my Milk & Cookies Storytime programs on Monday nights. It's part of my plan to get more families at programs in the evenings and on weekends. This year, I moved our family storytimes to an evening and added a milk & cookie snack to entice people. We also moved our Open Art Studios to Saturdays this summer (last year they were on Fridays). I'm still anticipating that we'll have smaller crowds for the evening and weekend programs than if we offered the same programs during the day. But we consistently get requests for programs that working parents can attend, so it's important to me that we try!

This week, we're still concentrating on signing up kids for the Summer Reading Club, but next week we'll bring back our weekly programs (Toddler Time, Mother Goose on the Loose, Family Storytime, Monday Movies, Open Art Studios) and start our special programs and performers. Whew!

Oh, and here's a special message one of our young patrons left for us on Saturday:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

AudioSynced Coming Soon!

Hey, friends, remember that a new AudioSynced Roundup will be coming on June 1... If you've reviewed or posted about audiobooks this month, please leave me a link in comments or email to abbylibrarian@gmail.com so I will be sure to include it in the roundup!

Happy listening!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Mighty Mars Rovers

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. Grades 4-8. Houghton Mifflin, June 2012. 80 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.

In 2003, two go-cart-size rovers were sent to Mars. Their names were Spirit and Opportunity and their mission was expected to last six months before the harsh climate and dust of Mars rendered the rovers unable to function. Controlled by scientists on Earth, the rovers sent back photos, tested rocks, and reported other information about Mars. Scientists were hoping to find evidence that Mars could have supported life.

The rovers were expected to last six months. The Mars terrain is treacherous, the winters are brutal, blowing dust can easily block the receptors that gather solar power. The rovers were expected to last six months.

Spirit lasted nearly seven years and Opportunity is still rambling around on Mars nearly nine years later. These little machines trekked many more miles than scientists dared to hope they could. They explored craters and mountains and eventually found evidence that Mars could have supported life at some time in the past.

The Mighty Mars Rovers is an incredible story of science and perseverance, of problem-solving from millions of miles away.

You already know that any book in the Scientists in the Field series will provide rich back matter, incredible photos, and an inside look into the life of a scientist. What sets this book apart is Elizabeth Rusch's ability to bring the Mars rovers to life. Of course the scientists that worked on them for so long and had so much invested in their success would feel a connection to them. Rusch is able to bring that across to the reader. Perhaps it's because they look a little like WALL-E*, but Rusch creates characters out of Spirit and Opportunity. She allows readers to get to know them and cheer on their triumphs as their scientists pushed them to achieve more than anyone thought was possible.

Hand this one to young star-gazers and budding astrophysicists and engineers. Publication is perfectly timed: the latest Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars in August 2012. Check out NASA's Mars Rover Mission website for updates on Opportunity and more information.

The Mighty Mars Rovers hits shelves on June 18!

*Okay, technically WALL-E looks a little like the Mars rovers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It began! (And all was okay.)

Yesterday was the first day of Summer Reading Club at my library. I'm breathing a big sigh of relief. We dug in last week and got all that last-minute stuff done, got all the copies made, all the forms run off, got everything cut apart, got a very good start on stuffing the bags the kids will receive when they sign up. My staff did good and we got it all done.

And yesterday, seeing lots of our regular library families making a point of coming in to sign up for the Reading Club, so excited to get their reading logs and check out books... that made it worth all the stress of the past couple of weeks. (Okay, REMIND ME I SAID THAT when it gets to be a couple weeks before next year's Club.)

Summer Reading Club is a marathon, not a sprint. We've got 10 weeks to go (70 days by the countdown app I put on my phone). But we'll take it week by week, day by day, and we'll try to have as much fun as we possibly can.

The photo shows the amazing bulletin board that one of my staff members A put up. We're having an Elephant and Piggie Day in June just because we all love those books so much. We've been sharing them with our Afterschool kids all school year and hopefully we'll have lots of kids come out. (And yes, I will blog about what we do and how it goes!)

In the photo, you can also see the star lights that we put up at the entrance to our department. Thinking ahead, we purchased them around the holidays and they blink and they're awesome. When we put them up on Sunday, I heard a little boy shouting "STARS!!! STARS!!!" as his family made their way down the hall toward our room. That is exactly the effect I was going for.

Summer Reading Club 2012 is officially here (at my library, anyway). So, it's begun.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Around the interwebs

Now that I am finally back on top of my Google Reader, I've got some lovely posts I want to point you to...

Have you signed up for the Seventh Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge?! Pam at MotherReader is bringing this wonderful event back for its seventh year. The weekend will be June 8-10 and if you've never participated before, be assured that it is great fun. I will definitely be joining in, although I may not be able to devote the entire weekend. That's okay! 

One of these days when I'm not super overwhelmed with all the things we're already offering at the library, I totally want to start having Preschool Dance Parties just like Adrienne (and many others who have done them!). 

Looking for programming ideas for middle schoolers? Look no farther. Drea at Book Blather has ya covered. 

Marge at Tiny Tips for Library Fun (are you reading her awesome blog? If not, you should be!) considers whether traditional Summer Reading Club school visits are actually worth it. There's definitely some food for thought there. 

What have YOU been reading around the interwebs? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Other Half of My Heart

The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Frazier, read by Bahni Turpin. Grades 4-6. Listening Library, 2011. 7 hours and 55 minutes. Review copy provided by my local library.

Biracial twin sisters Keira and Minerva don't look anything alike. Keira is dark-skinned like her African-American mother and Minnie has blue eyes and light skin like her white father. Growing up in a small Washington State town, Keira is the one who always feels different and sometimes wrong. But when their grandmother insists on entering both girls in the Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America program in her hometown of Raleigh, NC, Minni will discover what it's like to be the one who doesn't fit in. And seeing the world from Keira's eyes will help her find the voice she so desperately wants to shout down injustice.

I love the premise, but the story fell a little flat for me. I felt like it was slow going at the beginning without many opportunities for Bahni Turpin's excellent narration to shine. When the twins arrived in Raleigh, Turpin's voice for Grandmother Johnson brought me back into the story and that's what I liked best about the whole book. It slowed down for me again at the end when Grandmother Johnson wasn't as prevalent. And I think that shows you what I thought of the book overall, that even with this fabulous premise, the most interesting character was an adult.

There were things about the book that I liked. I liked that it explores issues of race in our supposedly "post-racial" society. The book clearly shows that racism still exists. It's great to see biracial protagonists and the book really did make me think about race and ethnicity as something that's deeper than appearances. Even though Minnie looked white, she was just as much black as she was white. And even though Keira looked black, she was just as much white as she was black. My community's home to a large number of biracial kids and they need books that reflect their experiences, so keep 'em coming!

I think where the book fell flat was in the character of Minni. The book was about her struggle to find her voice, to know and claim her own black heritage and to feel and understand racism. However, even with all that development going on, Minni was still the most boring character in the book. I never connected with her, never felt her frustration at not being able to speak out for what she believed (even though Martin Luther King, Jr. is her hero). Sundee Frazier tells us that Minni is all about social justice, but I never felt like that was shown to me.

Like I said, Grandmother Johnson (a no-nonsense, retired Southern teacher) was the most interesting character to me. I, like Minni, was fascinated with her stories of being the first black teacher in a white school in the South. Keira was also interesting to me with her passion for fashion and her exuberant, outgoing personality. I feel like some plot threads were dropped with Keira, though. It's mentioned that she has dyslexia and struggles with reading, but nothing more is said about it after the middle of the book.

Bahni Turpin's excellent narration saved this book for me. I would have put it down right about the spot where Grandmother Johnson comes in, but Turpin so brought Grandmother Johnson to life for me that I was intrigued and kept listening. However, there's not much opportunity elsewhere for Turpin to do what she does best and use voiced narration to bring characters to life.

I'd recommend this book to tweens with a special interest in the subject matter. It's a nice, clean read for a true tween audience - upper elementary and younger middle school. The book also has tie-ins to the Civil Rights movement and would make for interesting discussions about race and racism in today's society. Especially consider purchasing this one where you've got an audience demanding books with biracial protagonists.

Lee at Reading with my Ears has another review of the audiobook.

The Other Half of My Heart is on shelves now!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

And so it begins...

Honesty time here, okay?

For the past couple of years, we've put up a "Countdown to Summer Reading" poster at both of our circulation desks. We generally put it up about 3-4 weeks ahead of Summer Reading and each morning we pull off the number as we count down. It goes up at the circ desks so as to reach the greatest number of people and because we have Summer Reading Clubs for all ages. We put it up to get people excited about the program, but...

This year, it's kind of giving me palpitations every time I walk in and see how close we are.

Yeah, Summer Reading starts on Monday.

There's been a lot going on at my library this year. In the fall, I had a full-timer out on maternity leave. Then our teen librarian was out on medical leave and I was very involved in the teen programming. I was co-chairing our ILF District Conference Planning Committee and I was on the search committee for hiring a new teen librarian. All this adds up to not feeling very reading for Summer Reading.

So, we're taking this next week one day at a time, chipping away at All The Things until they are done. As much as I love to have everything done and perfect and checked off my list, it's not a global crisis if something doesn't get done. We'll get there. And our patrons will probably never know the difference. All they'll know is that we smile and welcome them to the library, find them the books they want and have fun with them at our programs.

This part right now is my least favorite part: the anxiety and anticipation, the struggle to get as much done as we possibly can, the worry about how everything's going to go (not to mention visiting the schools to talk up the SRC, which means many early mornings...). But going through this part right now means we're almost at my favorite part: seeing all the kids come in, reading and having fun at the library all summer long!

Public librarians, take heart. I know what you're going through or what you're about to go through. I'm there, myself. We'll get through it and our communities will be better for it.

And so it begins...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

AudioSynced and Librarian Favorites at the ALSC Blog

Hey, I'm still on hiatus here, BUT I wanted to pop in and tell you that Kelly at STACKED posted a fabulous AudioSynced Roundup with tons of great audiobook reviews and news! I no longer have a commute, but if you do, you'll definitely want to check out some of those audiobooks for your drive.

Also, I have a post up at the ALSC Blog today: Librarians' Favorites: Thinking Beyond Themes... It's all about my very favorite storytime readalouds. Be sure to click on through and leave us YOUR favorites in comments!