Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Boo! At the @alscblog

Happy Halloween, everyone!! 

I'm over at the ALSC Blog today talking about some slightly scary and Halloween-y books that just might still be on your library shelves, even if the rest of your Halloween books are checked out! Just click the book below (a suggestion from one of my AWESOME Twitter friends for this post!) to head over there and check it out. And make sure you leave your own suggestions in comments!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

Ahhh, it's been forever since I did A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian! Well, it's back and I've got another one coming to you next week.

8:35am - Arrive at library, put my purse away.

8:40am - Start getting room set up for this morning’s storytime. To set up the room, I put out chairs for parents and set up a table for display books. I get all the materials together that I'm going to use - usually all the stuff I plan to use and one or two extra books or rhymes in case we blitz through everything or in case one of the books or activities doesn't grab the kids.

9:15am - Pull some music to use with the storytime, download a song I want to use and burn it to a CD. As much as I try to be prepared well in advance for programs, I almost invariably get some last-minute ideas.

9:45am - With the room all ready for storytime, I sit out at the reference desk and help the kids find their nametags as they come in. Each week that they attend storytime they get a little sticker to put on their nametag.

10:00am - Storytime! This week, we're talking about clouds, which is perfect since it's a cloudy day outside.

10:30am - Done with storytime, sit out at desk for a little to help clean up nametags and answer questions.

10:45am - Take photos of storytime stuff and write up blog post about this week’s storytime. I try to do this right after storytime is over because once I clean everything up, I hate to dig it back out again.

11:30am - Check email.

11:45am - Put storytime stuff back for the next people who will use it. Check calendar and realize I have a meeting at 3pm that I forgot about...

11:55am - Start cleaning off desk, determined to get desk cleaned off before taking a lunch break. I am a piler. I tend to pile up stuff and let it lay there until I can’t stand it anymore and having a cleaning fit.

12:30pm - Desk is (relatively) clean. I can see that the top is brown, everything’s in fairly neat piles, and that’s good enough for me. Now off to lunch!

1:30pm - Back from lunch, chat with staff about the schedule, etc.

1:45pm - Work on handouts for the YALSA YA Lit Symposium.

2:15pm - Make some changes to the department schedule for November.

3:00pm - Meet with members of the city’s Bicentennial Committee to discuss creating a coloring book for Pre-K through 1st graders. One of the ladies on the committee has been tasked with creating something for the littles, so she commissioned a local artist to create a coloring book. We talk about what people and places should be in the coloring book, activities we can include to involve the whole family, and how the coloring books will be distributed.

4:15pm - Finished with the meeting, hang out on desk for a little bit and help one of our homeschoolers find some CDs.

4:30pm - Chat with staff member about workload and projects.

4:50pm - Chat with other staff members about our upcoming Winter Break Lego Day and the start of our monthly Lego Club.

5:15pm - Send off a few last emails... and...

5:30pm - Time to go home!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Zombie Makers

Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson. Grades 4+ Millbrook Press, October 2012. 48 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Real-life zombies walk among us... and they're closer than you think! Okay, so they're not the zombie you probably think about, the ones you see on TV and in the movies. Those kind of zombies don't exist. But there are animals that take over the bodies and brains of innocent creatures, and this book will give you the scoop on...

  • a fungus that eats the inside of a fly, while controlling where it travels
  • an insect that lays its eggs inside another insect, leaving it to "babysit" while the larva hatch and eat their way out
  • a virus that drives its host mad with the uncontrollable urge to bite
  • and many more!
Form meets function in this great children's nonfiction title. You won't want to miss Zombie Makers for your library and classroom shelves!

So, first of all, zombies are so in right now and this is a book that gets it right. With huge, color pictures of super gross stuff (like fungus coming out of an ant's head) and an ear-catching title, this book oozes kid appeal. The spreads are short and sweet with the perfect text-to-photo ratio that'll keep kids turning the pages (and probably exclaiming "Eeeeeew!" like I did on every spread). A quick stat chart on every new animal gives the animal's proper name, its nickname, its "zombie victim" (read: host), and its location. The spreads are embellished with splattery red, green, and black paint, perfectly evoking the zombie vibe. 

And the book provides tons of information. It's a topic that has a lot of appeal and the facts are presented in an engaging tone. Most of the spreads conclude with some information about the scientists who study or discovered that particular "zombie maker" or some additional information about it. The back matter makes my heart skip a beat (particularly satisfying in a title that has so very much kid appeal). Back matter includes an author's note, a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, an index, and a list of further resources. 

For some reason, this book doesn't have the feel of a Sibert winner (maybe because the topic seems trendy?), but I certainly hope the committee will give it strong consideration. Nonfiction for kids? YER DOIN' IT RIGHT!

Pair this book with Exploding Ants by Joanne Settel for more fun facts about amazingly weird animals. 

Hey, Betsy of A Fuse #8 Production also reviewed this book, so go check that out. Zombie Makers is on shelves now!

And HEY, happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is over at Practically Paradise, so make sure you check that out, too. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Storytime: Clouds

It was a cloudy day on Monday, perfect for our storytime all about clouds. This is a storytime that one of my staff members planned and I didn't get to use all the fun props she developed, but I'll share everything with you and let you know which ones I used and how they went. Here's what I did:

I played the theme from "Singin' in the Rain" as the kids came in for storytime. We had it on the CD Over the Rainbow: Songs from the Movies.

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a feather from Thirsty Thursday by Phyllis Root.

Book: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw. I had one little guy who kept saying "What is going ON?" every time I told them "It looked like ___, but it wasn't ___..." I've used it before with groups that got it right away and kept shouting "It's a cloud!" but this was definitely a hit with my group this week.

Prop: Cloud Board. I used this board to talk about how clouds come in lots of different shapes. Sometimes they're thick and puffy, sometimes they're thin and feathery. Sometimes they're BIG gray storm clouds! And sometimes they're tiny little white clouds like...

Book: Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld. I wanted to give this one a try because the illustrations are so cute and it's a nice story about perseverance and the big things a little being can do. I was worried it might be too long, but I think it was a nice fit for my group except the little siblings got really squirrelly. The kids who were in the planned-for age range did fine with it.

Song: Little April Showers from the Bambi soundtrack. I passed out bells and told the kids we were going to be raindrops (remember how Cloudette rained at the end of the book?). We didn't listen to the entire song, but I had them "rain" faster and faster as the storm picks up. Then we rang our bells fast and slow and high and low and put them back in the basket.

Book: Thirsty Thursday by Phyllis Root. This is a short, gentle, silly book that worked great for storytime.

Prop Activity: Color Raindrops. A made this cloud out of a donated (new, clean) pizza box and laminated construction paper. I passed out the raindrops of different colors and as I called the colors up, kids brought theirs up and put it in the box to "feed" our cloud.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Craft: A little hanging cloud!

Other Activities:

A made a couple more props, but I ran out of time because I got started a little late and Cloudette was a longer title. So I didn't actually use these with my group, but you might want to!

Felt Rhyme: Five Little Clouds. This is patterned off of "Five Little Pumpkins", so I'd read it with that cadence.

Five little clouds, so white and plain.
The first one said, "I want to make it rain!"
The second one said, "Where are we?" 
The third one said, "In the sky, don't you see?" 
The fourth one said, "Let's go, go, go." 
The fifth one said, "Look out below!"
Then out came the stars, out came the moon, 
And the clouds rolled away but they'll be back again soon!

Felt Rhyme: Fluffy cloud, fluffy cloud, what do you see? This one is modeled after the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin.

Fluffy Cloud, Fluffy Cloud, What do you see?
I see a hot sun looking at me!

Repeat with: airplane, brave bird, bright star, rainbow, lots of tiny raindrops.

Alternate Books:

If you don't like or don't have any of the above books, consider using some of these:

Little Cloud by Eric Carle
The Cloud Book by Tomie DePaola
Once Upon a Cloud by Rob D. Walker
Sector 7 by David Wiesner

You can also supplement with books about rain or weather. I posted about a weather storytime we did last year and Storytime Katie has posted a storytime about clouds and rainbows.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Get the Job: Resume and Interview Tips

We've recently been through the process of interviewing and hiring several new librarians at my library (yay!!). These were my first times on the other side of the table, so to speak, and interviewing was definitely an eye-opening process. As I was poring through resumes and cover letters and Skyping with candidates, I thought about what advice I would give to people applying for librarian jobs. A lot of this might be stuff you've heard elsewhere, but evidently not everyone has heard it.

(Here's where I have to tell you that none of this stuff is directed at any person directly, just some general advice! And also that this is my personal opinion - other hiring librarians might have a different view or different advice, so check the comments to see what they have to say. And if you have a different view or different advice for job seekers, please leave it in comments!)

You may also be interested in my advice on how to make the most of your library school experience and make yourself employable!

On resumes, cover letters, and references:

Your resume and cover letter are SO IMPORTANT because they're your gateway. It's the first thing potential employers are going to see. If something in your resume doesn't add up or you don't showcase your skills properly, you may never get to the next step.

Fancy doesn't hurt, but it's not the be-all, end-all. Of course, a resume is an opportunity to show off design skills if you've got 'em. It doesn't hurt to have a snazzy layout. But simple resumes are fine. The content is most important. Make it snazzy if you can, but don't stress over that part too much.

Customize your resume to the job you're applying for. Look at the job ad. Myself, I would assume that they're going to list the most important duties or aspects of the job first. If you have experience that is relevant to these items, list it more prominently in your resume. For example, I would assume that most teen librarians have done some sort of collection development and reference work (even just in MLS classes). As a potential employer, I'd be much more interested to know about the cool technology program you developed or your partnership with a local organization to bring a great teen program to your library. That's the stuff that not everyone has done. Make sure potential employers know about it!

Try not to have gaps in your resume. If you have worked somewhere other than libraries for the past few years, list where you've been employed, but leave out information about duties that are irrelevant to the specific job search. If you've been unemployed for a time, that's understandable, but be prepared to explain that in your cover letter and show how you've been staying involved in the library (or literary or technology, etc.) world.

Include your social media accounts (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.) IF:

1. They are PROFESSIONAL in nature. That means you're blogging, Tweeting, etc. about library programs, library issues, your grad school projects, books, etc. It means you're NOT blogging mostly about your cats, knitting, cooking, fashion, etc.


2. They are current and updated regularly. I have no interest in looking at a Twitter account that you have only updated three times since you were at ALA Midwinter in January. Instead of listing your actual account, I would just include Twitter under computer programs or social media platforms with which you are comfortable. (One exception might be a blog you kept during an internship or for a special project in grad school. Even if your internship has ended, if you feel that your blog has valuable insight as to your experiences, feel free to include it.)

And remember that your blog can be a powerful tool if you think of it as a digital portfolio. Add clear links to the content you want people to find: posts about library programs (with photos!), storytimes, or book reviews that you're proud of. If your blog is centered around books, think about how you can highlight the breadth and diversity of your reading - an essential asset for a librarian.  

If you mention you write a book blog, include the URL. Otherwise, I think you're hiding something or it's a blog that is not professional in content or quality, in which case do not mention it at all.

It's perfectly okay to call, unless it's not. If a job ad specifically asks you not to call, I wouldn't. Otherwise, if it's been a while and you haven't heard anything, it's perfectly fine to call and check up on your application. TRUE STORY: when I applied for the job I have now, my email with my application materials didn't go through the first time. If I hadn't called to check up on it, I would not have gotten this job! It's fine to call (once!) and say something along the lines of, "I was just calling to check up on the materials I submitted for XX job posting. Is there anything else you needed from me?"

Provide references from relevant past employers. Make sure the contact information is current. If you're applying for a public library job and have worked in a public library before, but the only references you're providing are from grad school and unrelated jobs, the committee is going to wonder why. Make sure that the contact information you're providing is up to date and let your references know that you're applying for jobs so someone might be calling. If your relationship to your reference might be unclear, clarify it.

On interviewing:

Okay, you're through the door and you've been asked for an interview. It's just as important to put your best foot forward here. There's only so much an employer can tell from your paper application. The interview is where you can let your personality shine and show potential employers what they'd be getting if they would hire you.

So, before the interview, do your research. Spend 30 minutes looking at the library's website. Make note of the programs and services they're offering. Check out their social media presence. You don't have to memorize the whole thing, but a committee will be MUCH more impressed with a candidate who's done their research rather than a candidate who doesn't know whether or not the library's already on Facebook.

Research the community, too. Especially if you're going to be moving for this job, do some research on the community. Demographics, community organizations, local schools. For youth services jobs, take special note of local organizations that serve youth and think ahead of time about how you might partner with them to promote library services. Check out what clubs and activities are offered at local schools (this info is often available on school websites).

Reread the job ad and pay attention. If a job ad mentions specific programs or services that the library offers, figure out what those are and prepare for questions relating to them. Remind yourself of what skills the library is looking for and brush up. If you're doing a phone or Skype interview, you can even have notes alongside you to help you remember.

Dress to impress. Yes, some libraries have casual dress codes, but you don't know that about this library yet. Always, always, always err on the side of being overdressed. For ladies, this means a nice (clean, no stains) top and slacks (not jeans) or a skirt. It could mean a suit or a dress. Dress conservatively - cleavage has no place in a job interview (um, at least a library job interview). For guys, this means at least a button-down dress shirt or a nice sweater. A tie or suit jacket never hurt anyone. Even if you know the library has a more casual dress code, there will probably be occasions where you'll be asked to look more professional (think: giving a presentation, meeting with someone important in the community, etc.). Dressing professionally for your interview shows the committee that you can pull it together, even if you would be wearing jeans to work most days.

Take notes. If you want to. While you're actually answering questions, you may not be able to concentrate on taking notes, but you'll have time to ask questions and you'll want to at least jot down what the rest of the interview process will be.

Smile! Be able to laugh at yourself. It's nerve-wracking, I know, but try to relax as much as you can. Your job search may be wearing you down, but you need to keep it positive (especially when you'll be working with children or teens). You want the search committee to want to work with you. It's okay to talk about weaknesses, projects that didn't go perfectly, mistakes you've made. The people who are hiring know that you're not perfect. Show them that you've learned something from your mistakes and that you strive to improve yourself.

It's okay not to have all the answers! Believe me, experienced librarians do not always have all the answers. But you're a librarian (or will soon be one). If you don't know the answer to a question, if you're not familiar with a computer program or book series mentioned in the interview, it's okay to admit that (we can't all know everything), but make sure you let them know that you're willing to learn. A simple "I'm not familiar with that, but I would use x, y, and z resource to find the answers" or "That's a skill that I would be able to develop with mentoring" shows your interviewers that you know you're not perfect and you know how you would improve in that particular area if asked to do so.

Ask questions. It's perfectly fine to have a list of questions prepared. An interview is your chance to find out about your employers as much as it is their chance to find out about you. Ask about the teen or children's space, find out who you'll be reporting to and working with, ask about the teens or kids you'll be serving. We're happy to tell you anything you want to know about our library and it reassures us that you'll have an idea of what you're getting into if the job is offered to you.

Send a follow-up note. It's always nice to send off a brief email after an interview, thanking the interviewers for their time, responding to anything that you may have blanked on or forgotten to mention in the interview, and letting the committee know that they can contact you if they need anything further. Keep it brief, no more than a couple of sentences. A handwritten thank you note will not go amiss either.

Don't burn your bridges. If this job's not offered to you, it's best to accept that gracefully (as least as far as the committee can see). You never know what's going on behind the scenes and it's always possible that an employer may have another opening coming up soon. Of course, if the library's not a good fit, it's not a good fit, but if you're tempted to respond with sour grapes or making yourself feel better about not being hired, just tell it to your friends instead.

What advice do you have for librarians applying for and interviewing for jobs? Leave advice in the comments!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Afterschool: October

This month, we started back up with our visits to the local YMCA Afterschool program. The Y program meets at each of our nine public elementary schools and provides afterschool care for K-4th graders in groups ranging from 20-60 kids. This will be our third year visiting them and I've written about it before at the ALSC Blog here and here. I want to post throughout the year and let you know what books we're sharing with the kids and how they're going.

I have to get sappy for a minute here and tell you that I love these visits. I love the kids and site leaders that we see each month. I got to work a table for the library at the annual Lights On Afterschool program and was happily greeted by many of the site staff, one of whom told me that her kids were so excited that I'm going to be visiting again next week. It really made me feel good that they value this partnership so much. And on a more personal note, I was a kid who had to go to the YMCA Afterschool program in elementary school. It was probably good for me, but I actually disliked it quite a bit. I was shy and the counselors' attempts to get the other girls to befriend me were well-intentioned, but misguided. I much preferred to sit in a corner with my book and read until my mom or dad picked me up. I would have loved a book lady who came every month. So I also love these visits because I know there are kids like me at these programs, kids who maybe don't ever say anything but love it when I come and share books. (And MAYBE someday those kids will be librarians who also make it a point to partner with afterschool programs.)

This year, we've got it down to a science, it seems, and the visits are going really well so far. Enough of the kids know us and know the routine when we come that the visits are going smoothly. I also spoke with the coordinator for the visits and asked her to encourage her site staff to separate the kids into two groups at craft time, allowing those who don't want to do the craft to go outside or go to the gym. This has made it a lot easier to administer the craft with the larger groups.

Here's what I shared with my groups this month:

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall. Houghton Mifflin. 1977.

This is a classic story beloved by pretty much every kid I've ever read it to, and I like to kick off the school year's visits by reading this title. Even though kids have read it before, they love to hear it again and again and it's one of my favorites to read aloud. The kids who are familiar with it love to solve the mystery for me at the end. This month, I also read this with my homeschool group and they loved it just as much as the school kids have.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems. Balzer + Bray. 2012.

We are HUGE Mo Willems fans in my Children's Room and as soon as this one came through on the New Books cart, we all agreed that it would be perfect for our afterschool crowds. This retelling of the Goldilocks story features a family of dinosaurs hoping to entice a little girl snack into their home, with lots of clues to alert young readers as to what is actually going on. It's perfect for the school-age crowd because they're familiar with the original story and the humor carries across a wide range of ages. You definitely want this book for your collection if you don't have it already!

Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves. Chronicle Books. 1999.

I came across this title as I was planning for my preschool storytime on dance earlier this year and it wasn't the right fit for that group, but I knew I wanted to keep it in mind for my afterschool kids. It's a great choice for October because it's a little gross without being too scary. And the monster theme makes it Halloween-y, but inclusive to any who may not celebrate the holiday. Frank's biggest dream is to cut a rug on the stage, but when he starts getting carried away with his toe-tapping, he starts to fall apart... literally! His brain and eyes bounce across the stage, his arm falls off, etc. As I was reading, I got a pretty constant chorus of "Ewwwww!" Which is exactly what I was hoping for. :)

Our craft for this month was magic scratch art photo ornaments, ordered from Oriental Trading. Since the kids recently received their school photos, this gave them a way to dress up one of their photos a little bit. I feel somewhat lazy because we use scratch art with the afterschool kids A LOT and it's so easy. But. The kids love it (no matter how many times we do it) and since we're planning a craft for 250+ kids every month, I feel like it's okay to take the easy way out. Still, I've tried to switch it up a little bit so that we're not doing scratch art every single time.

Any EASY school-age craft ideas you have are welcome! The crafts that work best are crafts where we can distribute the supplies and let them be creative in decorating, drawing, etc. Step-by-step crafts don't work so well due to the large groups and the large age range we're working with.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Storytime: Construction

We're back for our second session of Fall Storytime! I have a lot of the same kids signed up, but a few new faces this go-round, too. One of the nice things about doing two 4-week sessions instead of one 8-week session is that we "weed out" the kids who aren't showing up. We absolutely understand that sometimes things come up and families can't make it to storytime, but sometimes that means they're taking up spots that we could fill with other kids. Doing a "restart" halfway through means that for this session hopefully we'll have even better attendance (and stats!) than we did last time.

This week, we read books about Construction. I planned this week's theme and I found that there are TONS AND TONS of construction books, so this is a great theme with a lot of choices. Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. The kids who were with me for the last session were already familiar so they were jumping in with suggestions right away! I start with hands and feet and then ask them what else we can say hello with. I like to end with "My tongue says hello" because it's so silly!

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a paint brush from the book The Construction Crew. 

Book: The Construction Crew by Lynn Meltzer. I love the bright, bold pictures (featuring a diverse group of people) and the bouncy, rhyming text. This was a great book to start us off because it introduces a lot of the construction vocabulary (excavator, backhoe, bulldozer, etc.). Honestly, I was surprised the kids in my class were not as familiar with the machines as I thought they would be. I know when my brother was little he knew every truck known to man. ;)

Book: The Little Dump Truck by Margery Cuyler. This book describes a day in the life of a dump truck, using rhyming text and cute cartoony illustrations.

Song: "Dump Truck" (to the tune of "Ten Little Indians")
Bumpity-bumpity comes the dump truck,
Bumpity-bumpity comes the dump truck,
Bumpity-bumpity comes the dump truck,
Duuuump out the load!
(Credit: Pre-K Fun via Storytime Katie)

They needed to get some wiggles out, so we stood up and did this song. I had them bump up and down and then bend over sideways on "dump out the load!". I only did this one verse and we repeated, so we did it normal and then fast and then slow ("like we have a reeeeally heavy load and we have to go really slow and careful!"). There are more verses if you click through to Pre-K Fun.

Prop Rhyme: Five Little Nails (credit to Mel's Desk for this one!)

Five little nails,
Standing straight and ready.
Along comes the carpenter
With his/her hammer ready...
(And I put one nail down and we moved on to four little nails, etc.)

I had the kids clap together on the BAM BAM BAM part.

Book: Construction Countdown by K. C. Olson. Since we had just done some counting with that last one, we did a little more counting in this book.

Felt Activity: Color construction machines. I passed out the machines to the kids and asked them to bring them up and put them on our felt board (our "construction site") when I called their machine. We'd been practicing the machine words all storytime. When we do activities like this, I always keep back one of each color or item to hold up as an example.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Craft: A movable dump truck! Credit: Texas Reading Club.

Playtime: I brought out blocks and the cars and trucks from our Toddler Time toys so that the kids could spend some time building. While they constructed, I put on the CD John Deere: Crazy About Big Truck Songs by The Wonder Kids. 

Alternate Books and Activities:

There are SO MANY construction books!!! If you don't like or don't have any of the above books, consider one of the following:

Pre-K Fun has a huge list of construction songs and rhymes.
Storytime Katie has storytime plans for Construction, Tools, and Trucks.
What Happens in Storytime: Build With Me.

Builder Goose by Boni Ashburn
Digger Man by Andrea Zimmerman & David Clemensha
I'm a Truck Driver by Jonathan London
Job Site by Nathan Clement
Raise the Roof by Anastasia Suen
Road Work Ahead by Anastasia Suen
Roadwork by Sally Sutton
Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia
Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia
A Truck Goes Rattley Bumpa by Jonathan London
Truckery Rhymes by Jon Scieszka
What Can A Crane Pick Up? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Storytime: Bugs

We're on Fall Break from our fall storytimes this week while the kids are out of school and our annual harvest festival is going on, but we had a preschool group visit and did storytime for them. They are studying bugs and reptiles this week, so we featured those animals in our storytime.

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: I Love Bugs by Emma Dodd. This book has fun, rhyming words with lots of different sounds describing lots of different kinds of bugs. The large, colorful pages invite kids to share their observations as we read.

Book: The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. The kids chimed in on animal sounds with me as we made our way through this book and the spider spun her web.

Song: The Itsy Bitsy Spider. I had a felt for this song and we repeated it with the eensy weensy spider and the BIG FAT spider!

Book: Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas. This is a fun, interactive book that gets the kids up and moving around after they had been sitting for quite awhile.

Song: The Ants Go Marching. Since we were already up with that last book, we did a little marching around the room as we sang this song.

Felt: The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I have a felt set that I bought at Lakeshore Learning several years ago and used it for this story. This is one of my favorites and a favorite of the kids as well.

Activity: Color bugs. I handed out felt bugs of different colors and had the kids bring them up to the board (to "put them in our garden") as I called their color.

Book: See You Later, Alligator by Laura McGee Kvasnosky. Since they were also talking about reptiles this week, I threw in this book which rhymes words with lots of different reptile names. It was a good book to end with because it says goodbye in so many different ways.

Ending Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

After we finished our storytime, the teachers allowed the kids to spend some time in our Children's Room playing with the computers and toys and looking at books. The teachers found some great books to check out for their classroom, too. We love to have groups come in and visit!

Check out more bugs storytime plans at Storytime Katie (she has two - Bugs 2011 and Bugs 2012) and Cozy Up and Read, and Flannel Friday has a whole pinboard for bug flannels on their Pinterest site.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Welcome Back, Grace Lin!

Today, I have the honor of hosting Newbery-honor-winning author GRACE LIN for her Starry River of the Night blog tour!! *kermit arms* I participated in her blog tour for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and you guys know how much I loooved Starry River of the Sky. You won't want to miss Grace's awesome blog and check out the previous tour stops:

Monday, October 1 @ Bookie Woogie

Tuesday, October 2 @ The Enchanted Inkpot

Wednesday, October 3 @ Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Thursday, October 4 @ Pragmatic Mom

Friday, October 5 @ Charlotte’s Library

Starry River of the Sky came out last week and Grace was kind enough to answer some questions for me, so without further ado...

Abby the Librarian: I love the artwork that accompanies the story in both STARRY RIVER and MOUNTAIN. How do you decide which scenes you will illustrate? Do you have a vision of what the illustrations might look like first or do the words come first?Grace Lin: Very rarely does the art come first. While I write and think of ideas, images to float in and out but I never put pencil to paper until the writing is done. Choosing which scenes to illustrate is a mixture of which of those floating images I see most concretely and where it falls in the timeline of the story.

AtL: Winning a Newbery honor for WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON was a life-changing event. How did that affect how you approached writing its companion book STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY?

GL: Well, it was intimidating. Now, I knew people would be expecting something “really good” so there was a lot of pressure. On the flip side, there was also a kind of pleasant excitement though, too. I knew that whatever I wrote would have a larger audience than anything I’ve ever written before, it would be shared on a greater scale than what I’d experienced in the past. And to an author who publishes that is what you hope for. I knew it was an opportunity not to squander, so I tried to write a book that I would be completely proud of, done to the absolute best of my ability.

AtL: When you were writing and publishing WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, did you already know that you wanted to write a companion book? If not, how did you decide to write STARRY RIVER?

GL: When I wrote WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, I didn’t think about a companion book until after it was finished. That’s because there were so many stories that I loved that just didn’t fit in the book and I could already see the whisper of a new thread tying those together. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I wanted to try.

AtL: I'm glad that the desire to share those stories led to another book! Were the stories in STARRY RIVER inspired by items you found in your research or stories you may have heard from others?

GL: Both! Many stories I had read or had heard when I was younger, especially the Moon Lady stories. And others I more recently researched. Interestingly enough, the more I researched the more I discovered different accounts of the stories I thought I already knew. Obviously storytellers from ancient times have been doing what I was—adding, embellishing and creating new versions of the old legends. 

AtL: Story plays a very important role to each of the characters in STARRY RIVER. Obviously, story is important to you as an author, but how would you say story is important to you in your everyday life? 

GL: I think story is important to everyone in their everyday life, sometimes people just don’t realize it. A couple years ago, my friend's grandfather passed away and at his funeral, my friend heard for the first time about some his grandfather's experiences in WWII, how he had been in a Polish prison camp, how he escaped from the Nazis. These were things my friend had never known about his grandfather and he realized with his grandfather's death, that these stories--his grandfather's stories-- were gone too. He would never know those stories. And that made his death all the more poignant and heartbreaking.

So while my book has nothing to do with WWII or escaping Nazis, I feel that this is why stories are so important. It's stories that connect us to our past and carry us to our future. Stories are the things we treasure and the things we truly mourn when they are lost.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Grace!

And readers, do not miss Starry River of the Sky. It is excellent, whether or not you've read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (but why would deny yourself the pleasure of reading both of them?!).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fall Storytime: Penguins

This is the last week of our first fall session of preschool storytime and today we talked about penguins. This is the first time that we've had two fall sessions of storytime (previously we would have done 6-8 weeks straight). So far, I really like it because we had a few sign up who never showed up, so having a second session allows people who are actually interested and available to sign up for the next go-round. Plus, 4 weeks is less of a commitment for people to make than 8 weeks. And... yeah, we'll have to see how it goes with the second session!

So, today. Penguins! This was a very popular theme! Honestly, when Miss T suggested this theme, I wasn't sure she'd be able to find enough books, but she did an awesome job and this was a really fun storytime! Here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. This has been a good song for my group because it allows them to participate but it's a little quieter than, say, Shake Your Sillies Out. Since I've got many of the same kids signed up for the next session, I will keep this song.

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a snowflake from the book Penguins, Penguins Everywhere. The little boy who guessed what it was was SO PROUD. :)

Book: The Puzzled Penguin by Keith Faulkner. This pop-up book is a cute story with a funny twist at the end.

Felt Story: Penguins by Liz Pichon. This is a super cute story about penguins who have fun with a lost camera at the zoo. Miss T turned it into a felt story for us and I particularly liked showing everyone the pictures the penguins had taken.

Book: Penguins, Penguins Everywhere by Bob Barner. This is a rhyming book with facts about penguins. It's the perfect level for sharing with preschoolers and early elementary students and there are some great vocabulary words!

Stretch/Rhyme: Everybody had been sitting down for a long time, so we got up and stretched and did the following action rhyme (it's not sung, just spoken!):

I'm a little penguin
Aren't I cute?          (raise arms as if questioning)

I'm a bird
In a penguin suit      (flap arms at sides)

My suit has thick feathers,
Black and white      (turn around, show off outfit)

I can't fly
But I swim all right  (swimming motions)

I can waddle 'round
On my webbed feet  (waddle)

Fresh fish are what
I like to eat!             (eating motions)

Rhyme: To get everyone to sit back down, we did "Handy Spandy":

Handy spandy, sugar and candy
We all jump IN!
Handy spandy, sugar and candy
We all jump OUT!
Handy spandy, sugar and candy
We all jump UP!
Handy spandy, sugar and candy
We all SIT DOWN!

Felt Rhyme: Five Baby Penguins. A flannel from Miss Mary Liberry's Flannel Friday entry! Woo!

Activity: Number penguins. We do colors a lot, but Miss T made number penguins and I passed them out and had the kids bring them up to put on the board as I called their number. The older kids did a great job of helping their younger siblings and helping me tell what number came next.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? This is the song that we do with pretty much all our storytimes, from Mother Goose to Toddler Time to Preschool Storytime. I like that it gives our storytimes some continuity as they age up through the programs.

Craft: A... penguin!

Alternate Books: If you don't like or don't have any of the above books, here are some other you might consider:

I Am Small by Emma Dodd
A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Silhouetted by the Blue

Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones. Grades 5-8. Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 2011. 200 pages.

"Take care of my boys, baby girl. Take care of them till I get home." That's what Serena's mom told her before she left on a business trip... but she was in a car accident and never came home. Now Serena's trying to deal with her grief while she keeps up with everything else. Memories of her mother lurk everywhere, but Serena doesn't have the luxury of wallowing in her sadness. Instead, she has to pick up her little brother from school, do laundry, attempt to finish her mound of homework, and memorize lines for the school play. She wishes more than anything that her dad would get out of bed and take charge, but her father's sleeping and crying all the time these days.

Serena's dad has "had the blue" (as her little brother would say) from time to time, but before, her mom was always around to take care of him. Can Serena see them through until her dad feels better or will her dad's blue swallow them all this time?

This is a beautiful story about a likeable middle schooler who's feeling very lost. It's fitting that the play Serena is starring in is The Wiz, a story about a girl who's lost in a very strange place, just wanting to go home. Serena wants to go home, but the home she knew - where she had happy Friday night dinners with mom, dad, and brother Henry - doesn't exist anymore and no one in her family knows how to move on. Art plays a big part in this story, and it's not just Serena's singing and acting. Her father is a children's book illustrator and Serena's friend Elijah is an artist, as well. The "blue" of depression is saturating Serena's life as she realizes that she can't count on her dad to pick up Henry from school or even to buy toilet paper.

Periodically lightening the mood is Serena's blossoming friendship with Elijah, an artistic boy in her Spanish class who keeps telling her sweet things in Spanish. It's obvious he cares for her, and as their friendship grows into an innocent something-more, moments talking to Elijah become bright spots in her gray, dreary days. I wasn't entirely convinced by the dialog - the occasional slang felt a bit forced - but I really enjoyed knowing the characters. Traci L. Jones ratchets up the tension as Serena's dad continues a downward spiral and Serena begins to search desperately for help.

When I was in middle school, I loved tearjerkers. Give me any Lurlene MacDaniel book, the more melodrama the better. Silhouetted by Blue is a beautiful book that's tween-appropriate but a little on the edgy side. I'd hand it to tweens who are wanting sad stories or edgy books but who aren't ready for some of the more mature content found in many edgy YA books.

Silhouetted in Blue is on shelves now!

Monday, October 1, 2012

AudioSynced: September Roundup!

Y'all might know that I moved to a new apartment in April and I now live 7 minutes from my library. I never miss my commute... until it's time to work on the monthly AudioSynced roundup. Truth be told, it's really hard for me to carve out any time to listen to audiobooks anymore and I miss them! So you enjoy these audiobook reviews, and if you have any tips on how to make time for audiobooks, I would enjoy it if you'd leave them in the comments!

Allison found time for downloadable audiobooks when an injury kept her off her feet for awhile (maybe I need to injure myself?). And Sarah finds time while she's creating delicacies in her kitchen (maybe listening to audiobooks would actually make me WANT to cook?); check out her review of Beat the Band below.

AudioSynced is a monthly roundup of audiobook reviews and posts from around the blogsophere, hosted by Kelly of STACKED and myself. Do you have a September review or post that I missed? Please leave me a link in comments and I'll update this post to include it. Don't have an audiobook review this month? Worry not; AudioSynced will be back next month at STACKED. And, of course, don't forget to check out Audiobook Jukebox for an extensive audiobook review database.

Children's/Middle Grade Audiobooks

The Council of Mirrors (Sisters Grimm #8) by Michael Buckley, read by L.J. Ganser, reviewed by Lisa at Shelf-employed. Lisa says, "Overall, a satisfying listen."

Dead End in Norvelt, written and read by Jack Gantos, reviewed by Abby at Abby the Librarian (that's me!). I say, "Jack Gantos narrates, which fits the story perfectly since it's such a personal story. The reading is a little weird and quirky, but if you've ever heard Gantos speak, you know that's just how he is."

On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck, read by Lincoln Hoppe, reviewed by April at Good Books and Good Wine. April says, "While I enjoyed On The Wings Of Heroes and the themes of family and the American home front of World War II, I did not fall head over heels in love with it..."

Satchel Paige by Lesa Cline-Ransom, read by Dion Graham, reviewed by Lisa at Shelf-employed. Lisa says, "Lesa Cline-Ransome writes in a folksy manner, and Dion Graham's relaxed Southern voice is a perfect complement, enhanced with sound effects and music."

The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Howard, read by Michael Maloney, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "This book isn't immediately captivating, but it does reward the patient listener."

YA Audiobooks

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, read by Katherine Kellgren, reviewed by Catie at The Readventurer. Catie says, "The best part of this book for me was that it was narrated by Katherine Kellgren."

Beat the Band by Don Calame, read by Nick Podehl, reviewed by Sarah at YA Love. Sarah (who is cooking and listening - SMART! I wish I liked to cook...) says, "...[J]ust as I expected, it is fantastic!"

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr, read by James Marsters, reviewed by Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks. Heidi says, "...Marsters voiced the characters of Carnival of Souls excellently, and I certainly recommend this format."

Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Schecter, read by Kirsten Potter, reviewed by Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks. Heidi says, "This was the third Sync title I’ve listened to this summer, but the first to truly impress upon me the certainty that I could not have enjoyed this book more had I read the text instead of listened."

Swim the Fly by Don Calame, read by Nick Podehl, reviewed by Sarah at YA Love. Sarah says, "Do you enjoy laughing out loud? (I’m going to assume your answer is yes.) Then you need to read Swim the Fly by Don Calame, or even better, listen to the audiobook."

Adult Audiobooks

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne, reviewed by April at Good Books and Good Wine. April says, "I cannot imagine two better people to narrate Amy and Nick. Their voicing was just spot on, and also, pleasing to my ears, like I legit never set this audiobook aside."

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, read by Peter Altschuler, reviewed by Melissa at Book Nut. Melissa says, "...I adored it because Peter Altschuler is a brilliant narrator. All the right voices, all the right inflection... all the right emphasis in the right places, so I got the humor and I understood the conflict and I loved (absolutely adored) the Major."