Monday, July 9, 2018

Summer Xylophone

This summer, my husband made us a PVC Pipe Xylophone for the front porch of our library.

A xylophone made of PVC pipes. 

Here is where we found instructions to make it: How to Make a PVC Pipe Xylophone by Frugal Fun 4 Boys.

We delivered it to the front porch of our library where it has lived musically since June 1 when our Summer Reading Program started.

I bought a handful of flyswatters and doctored them with fun foam to make a "mallet". They didn't walk off as I thought they might, but the fun foam only lasts so long with regular use as a mallet, so I have made two replacement "mallets" so far, which is about what I expected.

The signs are posted in our windows. 

I also made up some signs that we posted on the front windows near the xylophone to give families ideas of what to do with it. Most used, I believe, have been the songs. Since the pipes are color coded, anyone can play these color coded songs, no musical ability or music reading required. I'm posting the PDFs here and you're welcome to use them or edit them if you'd like to use them at your library:

The Xylophone cost about $75 for the supplies and my husband donated a day to working on it for us. If you don't have a handy partner, colleague, or friend or if you yourself are not handy, it might be worth asking your local hardware store if they know anyone who might volunteer their time and skills to build it. 

It's been well worth the effort to see people of all ages interacting with it, experimenting with sound and creating music! 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Spinning Silver

You know the story of Rumpelstiltskin? They got it wrong. It's really just a story about paying back a debt. So begins Miryem's story in Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. In Litvas, a land with a constantly encroaching winter, Miryem's family is starving. Her father is the local moneylender, but he's so softhearted that he will never collect what he's owed. So Miryem takes over and finds out that she has a skill for moneylending and making deals. When her ability to take silver and turn it into gold attracts the nearby magic folk the Staryk, rulers of ice and snow, Miryem finds herself captured by the King of the Staryk in a bargain that means much more than she knows.

So, Miryem is such a great, great character. She sees her family is in trouble and she takes matters into her own hands. She ends up not only saving them from starving, but building a comfortable life for them. Miryem is a lady with ambition. And, just as it does in so many cases, that ambition attracts some trouble. The townspeople are bitter that they can no longer get away with shirking their debts. And the Staryk see what she can do and want to capture that power for themselves.

And that's just one part of the rich tapestry that is this fantasy novel. We also hear from Wanda, a local peasant girl who comes to work at Miryem's farm to pay off her father's debt. And Irina, a plain girl whose father is determined that she will marry the tsar, no matter how unlikely that seems at first. All of their fates are intertwined, though none of them know it at first, and how they're connected is slowly revealed as you read farther and father.

This is a great summer read for when the temperatures are climbing. The magic land of ever-growing winter will have you shivering even as the heat index soars outside. This is a story of strong women who use their minds to solve problems and who refuse to settle for what society seems to want for them. There's a rich tapestry of magic here, too, and it's not always easy to see who the good guys are.

If you like fairy tale retellings and fantasy that completely transports you to another place, pick up Spinning Silver. This book is published for adults, but I think there's a lot of teen crossover appeal, too.

You might like this book if you liked:
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Del Ray, 2017). This is another rich, transporting fantasy novel that you can really sink your teeth into. It features a strong heroine and magic and a similarly cold and sweeping Russian-ish setting. 
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Ray, 2015). Novik's previous standalone fantasy novel won a Nebula Award for best novel. Based on Polish fairy tales, this is another story with a strong heroine, a rich forested fantasy setting, and lots of crossover appeal for teens. 
  • East by Edith Pattou (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003). This fantasy novel is actually written for teens, but I think there's a lot of crossover potential for adults. This one is a retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Readers who like sussing out fairy tale retellings and strong girl characters will enjoy this one, too. 
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (adult, with teen appeal). Del Rey, 2018. 448 pages. Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Kiss Quotient

So, I am a romance newb. In my new position developing adult collections, I'm trying to read a little bit of everything. I thoroughly enjoyed this romance I think because it has some great characters that are easy to root for.

Stella, a thirty-something economist in California, is feeling pressure from her mom to be in a relationship and maybe get married and have babies. Not super surprising, right? But for Stella, a woman on the autism spectrum, being in a relationship is not quite as simple as it seems. There's a guy at work who seems suitable, but Stella feels particularly uncomfortable with the physical side of relationships, something she knows will probably get in the way. So she decides to approach this problem like she would a problem at work. Need to know something? Get some training! And she hires an escort to teach her how to be better at sex. Of course the escort she ends up with turns out to be super hot, smart, and kind. Stella knows she's can't fall for him - this is just a financial and educational arrangement, right?

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is a fun, steamy romance novel with characters that will stay with you. Even though Stella has to work hard at relating to people, she's a protagonist you'll love and root for. And you'll love her dreamy escort Michael, too. The heat here rivals our Southern Indiana summer heat for sure. This is one of those books where you just keep rooting for these crazy kids to get their acts together and end up together!  And since the author is also on the autism spectrum, you know she's writing from an authentic place.

There's a lot of talk about the amount of diversity in romance publishing (hint: it is lacking), so this is a great book to know about and to put on your library shelves for your patrons.


Readers who prefer modern day romance novels with likeable and well developed characters may also like The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (Berkley, 2018). For more steamy stories among a diverse group of characters, pick up Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswall (William Morrow, 2017). And readers who enjoy the theme of a character with autism looking for love may enjoy The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Huang. Adult. Berkley, 2018. 336 pages. Reviewed from e-galley.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What My Niece is Into: Swimming!

We had the absolute pleasure of going on vacation with my family earlier this summer and my niece (almost 2) is so into SWIMMING! She's made huge strides (strokes?) even just since our vacation a month ago. When my brother brought her to our parents' condo for Father's Day she could swim the entire length of the pool by herself (floaties on, of course, but no help from Auntie Abby!).

So, when I saw this book had just come out in board book format, I knew we needed it for our collection:

Fruits in Suits by Jared Chapman (Abrams, board book edition June 2018). Jared Chapman wrote and illustrated one of my favorite SURE BET readalouds, Vegetables in Underwear, which works with a wide range of ages and is hilarious to all. This book is a similar concept - fruits in all kinds of swimsuits - and it's just as adorable. Swimsuits aren't quite as funny as underpants (nothing is, really), but there's the one fruit who doesn't get it and tries to go swimming in his business suit. And of course someone tries it in its birthday suit! With bright, funny illustrations and a swimming theme, it's just the thing my niece is into right now!

This one's also available as a picture book, which would be a better format for sharing with groups. Try this one in fruit or food themes storytimes, summer or swimming storytimes, or insert wherever you need something to elicit the giggles.

Review copy purchased by moi.

And two more recent swimming books, which are a little old for my niece right now (toddler attention span, dontchaknow), but are still awesome are:

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick Press, 2017). Jabari is so ready for the high dive this summer, but it turns out it's not quite as easy as he thinks it will be. It's... awfully high. Maybe he ought to do some more stretches first. And he needs to figure out what kind of awesome dive he's going to do... Or maybe he just needs some special encouragement from his dad. (Review copy provided by my local library!)

Saturday is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum (Candlewick Press, 2018). Saturday is the day for her swim lessons, but one little girl has a stomachache. It turns out she always has a stomachache when it's time for swimming lessons, but one kind instructor's gentle encouragement can make all the difference. This is a great choice for kids who are reluctant to learn to swim or afraid of the water. (Review copy provided by my local library!)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Musical Petting Zoo

Image of an orchestra playing
This is a program I have wanted to do for literally years and with our Libraries Rock summer reading theme this year, this was the summer to do it: a musical petting zoo. I was inspired by Anna's awesome marching band storytime (a post from 2013, so you can tell how long this has been percolating!) because band was one of the great loves of my life as a kid. I wanted to present a program that might inspire young kids to want to pick up an instrument.

First, I needed a partner. My first choice was to recruit teen volunteers because I wanted to give teens a chance to show their talents and talk to younger people about their music. Teens learn so much from opportunities where they can teach and lead others, so I knew I had the opportunity to make this program a double-whammy: a learning experience for young children and a leadership experience for teens. I didn't really have any connections to the music programs in my local schools, so I started with some cold emailing. Luckily, I hit the jackpot and our local high school orchestra teacher was excited to bring some of her students in for the program.

In addition to the orchestra students, I was able to recruit adult volunteers to play the harp and accordion (!!) and a staff member who plays the trumpet. I also brought in a few instruments that I play (with wildly varying levels of expertise): a flute, a piccolo, a guitar, and a ukulele. You don't have to actually play instruments yourself to make this program happen. Many musicians are happy to demonstrate their talents to inspire future generations of musicians.

If I hadn't hit the jackpot with my high school volunteers, I next would have reached out to local community orchestras (we have a couple around here), college music programs, or local music stores. You can even put the call out to your colleagues, Board members, and Friends of the Library. Many more people play or own instruments than you might expect!

Here's what we did at the program:

The orchestra kids had just finished up a week of "summer strings" and had some pieces they could play for us, so we started with them playing a few songs so the attendees could hear how the instruments sound playing together. Then I asked each of the kids and volunteers to talk a little bit about their instrument and play a little scale or something so we could hear what the instruments sound like on their own.

After we'd gone through all the instruments we had, I told the audience it was time for the "petting zoo" part of the program. They could come see the instruments up close, touch them or play them if it was okay with each musician, and ask any questions. I also put out a box of student rhythm instruments (triangles, tambourines, etc.) that we had as part of our storytime props.

I learned a ton at this program, too! I had never actually seen a harp up close and Ms. L showed me what the pedals are for and how she tunes it. Mr. T showed us the inside of his accordion so we could see what hitting the keys does.

I had intended to read some books at the program and had pulled Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Simon & Schuster, 1995) and The Remarkable Farkle McBride by Jon Lithgow, illustrated by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2003), but with the way our audience trickled in there wasn't really a great opportunity to do that. I did pull a book display with titles our families could check out afterwards. I had also thought about pulling some teen books that would appeal to musicians and doing some brief booktalks for them, but I wasn't sure how many kids would be coming, so I skipped this. I would definitely add it next time because I think I had some teens who would have been into it.

Both attendees and volunteers had a great time and we had a nice turnout, which is especially pleasing on a Saturday for us. There were a lot of in-depth conversations happening about different instruments and I hope that more kids will now be inspired to pick up an instrument or take music classes when they have the chance.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday Reads

Sadly, I am not at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. I am following along via Twitter and hoping my colleagues bring me back lots of great galleys.

Happily, I am in the middle of some great books! Here's what I'm reading Right Now:

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Ray, July 2018). This book comes out the day before my birthday! Happy birthday to me! It's a rich fantasy retelling of Rumpelstiltskin by the author of the rich fairy tale novel Uprooted, which I also loved. This one's atmospheric and haunting - in a world where all fear the ice faeries the Staryk, a teenage girl catches their attention by turning silver into gold.

Miryem is the daughter of a terrible moneylender. Terrible because he can't bring himself to force people to repay their debts, so Miryem's family starves which those who borrowed their money (her mother's money) live fine lives. When Miryem has finally had enough of starving and watching her ailing mother's health decline, she takes her father's account books and starts collecting the debts owed to her family, bringing them fortune but also attracting the attention of the Staryk. If you're looking for a fantasy fairy tale to sink your teeth into, do pick this one up when it comes out next month. If you enjoyed Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale or Novik's previous fantasy retelling Uprooted, you will like this one, too.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, May 2018). This one has been my pool book for the past week and UNFORTUNATELY it's been rainy and busy this week, so I'm still at the very beginning. I loved Goo's previous YA romance I Believe in a Thing Called Love and so far this one is standing up to it. It's funny and I can't wait to see what will happen next - maybe I can make it back to the pool tomorrow?!

And on audio, I have Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of WWII by Liza Mundy, read by Erin Bennett (Hachette Audio, 2017). I'm only at the beginning of this one, too, but I'm drawn in by this untold women's story. It's reminding me a lot of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt, both of which I enjoyed a lot. Many women were recruited from top colleges to join the US Navy and US Military as code breakers during WWII. Why don't we know their stories? Now we will. Historical feminist nonfiction is my jam, so I think I'll enjoy this quite a bit.

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Summer of Jordi Perez

This book is just what I wanted to kick off summer: a light, fun romance with enough meat on its bones to keep it interesting and great characters. I would definitely recommend starting this season with The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding. I mean, just look at that bright rainbow cover and you know what a fun book you're getting into.

When Abby scores the fashion internship of her dreams at a boutique store near her home, she's determined to do a good job. She's heard that this summer internship usually leads to a part-time paid position in the fall and Abby is determined to get the job and start her career in fashion. She has no idea she's going to meet the girl of her dreams, fellow intern Jordi Perez. Abby goes to school with Jordi and rumors fly about how Jordi committed arson and went to Juvie, but all Abby can think about is how good it feels to earn a rare Jordi smile. Oh, and the fact that they're competing against each other to earn the fall job.

And Abby's got abundant free time to obsess over Jordi since her best friend is newly in a relationship and her older sister is not coming home for the summer for the first time ever. Luckily, a new unlikely friend, lacrosse-playing Jax, recruits Abby for a quest to find the best burger in Los Angeles. And Jax is a ready sounding board for Abby's pursuit of her crush. 

The combination of summer romance, a quest for burgers, and Abby's passion for fashion made this a really fun read that's perfect for light summer reading. I really appreciate Abby's body positive attitude - she's defined vaguely as "plus sized" - and her quest to enjoy and promote fashion fun at all sizes. I also think this was a very realistic portrayal of a bigger girl being body positive but also being unsure about some things. Abby doesn't love having her photo taken and refuses to post her own photo on her fashion blog. She's self-conscious about being in a swimsuit, even just with her friends. Even though Abby's on the path to body acceptance and she's an advocate for enjoying fashion at any size, she's still got her hangups and that's very realistic.

This is a light romance without a lot of physical action, so a good choice for teens who like romance but don't want graphic physical scenes. Hand it to teen romance fans looking for a breezy, fun summer read.


Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour is another teen lesbian romance that has a similar light, romantic tone and gives a peek into the world of film production much like Jordi gives a peek into the world of boutique fashion.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo is another light teen romance with an upbeat, breezy tone and that doesn't have a lot of physical romance.

Book info: 

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding. Grades 7+ Sky Pony Press, April 2018. 224 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Wrap Up

It's been a blast concentrating on reading middle grade books this month. Now that I'm not a youth specialist anymore, it's easy to let that reading slip as I'm concentrating on building up my skills in other areas of collection development and reader's advisory. I read some great books this month and had a lot of fun recording some video booktalks to highlight books to go along with Akoss's weekly themes.

I read a lot of the books from the TBR pile that I started with, but not all of them. And I ended up picking up some other titles as I was inspired to throughout the month. I did a lot of reviewing, as you may have noticed, and it was great to get back in the habit of writing in depth about what I'm reading.

Here are the middle grade books I read this month (some pictured above):
And speaking of middle grade... are you following Heavy Medal, SLJ's Mock Newbery blog? Usually they are quiet this time of year and pick up the discussion in the fall as we approach award season, but this year they're compiling suggestions of titles just like the actual committees do. I LOVE this not only because it gives a greater feel of what being on the actual committee is like, but because it gives all of us a head's up on what books we might want to pay attention to because they're getting award buzz. 

Each month, anyone can submit up to 4 suggestions of already-published eligible books and the Heavy Medal bloggers are compiling the suggestions, grouped by number of suggestions. So if you're wondering what middle grade to check out this year, books with multiple suggestions on their lists are good bets to be books people will be talking about. This is a great resource for collection development, too!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

Save the restaurant, save the world.

Okay, not really, but it feels that way to Arturo in The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Since before Arturo was born, his family has run their restaurant La Cocina de la Isla. La Cocina is a special place in a close-knit Latino neighborhood. Arturo's abuela knows every regular customer by name and it's a place where many in the community feel like family. Now, it's being threatened by a developer who wants to move in and build condos and destroy their neighborhood.

In addition to saving his restaurant, Arturo's trying to win over the girl of his dreams, his god-cousin Carmen who's come to visit for the summer after the death of her mom. She's into poetry and activism; how can Arturo get her attention? And he's starting his first kitchen job in the restaurant - not a prep chef like he'd imagined, but a dishwasher which is harder than it sounds!

It's a lot for one thirteen-year-old boy. Can Arturo make it work? Or will it all be an Epic Fail?

I don't know why I waited so long to pick up this book, but I'm so glad I did. It won a Pura Belpre honor, so that definitely tells you something. I fell in love with Arturo and his family and their neighborhood. This is a great story about the power of people to stand up to bigger, richer forces and defend their neighborhoods and their way of life. It introduces the concept of gentrification in a way that makes sense and really digs into the issues surrounding it. Arturo and the other kids in his family really take an active role, seeing the urgency in their situation even as others in his family want to pretend it's not happening to protect their ailing abuela from the devastating truth.

It's funny and it's serious, which is my favorite kind of contemporary story. I like to laugh AND cry.

I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author and it's great. Pablo Cartaya is an actor, which makes sense since he reads really well and does voices for the characters. Audiobook is a great way to experience this book if you, like me, don't always know how the Spanish words should be pronounced. Or if you're just looking for a fun listen. This would be a great family listen for families with tweens, too.

Hand this one to activism-minded kids or kids who like realistic stories about kids making a difference in their communities.


An oldie but a goodie: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen about a kid trying to save the burrowing owls in his Florida home from development, this is another book for kids who want to save the world.

The tone and characters of the book reminded me a lot of Gordon Korman, so maybe try Ungifted. And readers looking for stories about boys told with a mix of humor and serious subjects might like Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson. 

For kids drawn to Arturo's experience in the kitchen and restaurant life, hand them All Four Stars by Tara Dairmen.

For kids looking for more stories about Latino families, try Enchanted Air by Margarita Engel, Stef Soto Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres, or Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Grades 5-9. Viking, 2017. 230 pages. Audiobook is 5 hours and 6 minutes. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 5: Diverse Books!

Whew! What a month it has been! I don't know about you, but I have really cherished the time I spent this month dedicating my reading to middle grade books. I read more than I normally do and I read and blogged about some truly great books. Let's hope I can keep the momentum going as we head into summer. (My first summer in 10+ years that I will not be stressed out about the Summer Reading Program...)

Our final week of Middle Grade May 2018 is all about diverse books. Akoss asked us to talk about books that portray diversity in an uplifting way. I couldn't narrow it down this week, so I have six booktalks for you with some of my favorite recent diverse reads.

Books mentioned in this video:

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokski (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (Scholastic, 2018)

Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres (Little, Brown, 2017)

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, 2015)

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez (Viking, 2017)

Rebound by Kwame Alexander (Houghton Mifflin, 2018)

How'd your Middle Grade May go? Did you read some great middle grade books? I'd love to hear about them - let me know what you've been reading!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Ghost Boys

You guys. This book. My heart. I just... This is one not to miss if you've got kids asking questions about social justice or things they've heard (or seen or experiences) about police violence. It's incredibly tough and beautiful, and it would make an excellent conversation starter.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is narrated by Jerome. Jerome wasn't doing anything.

He was playing.
In his neighborhood.
With a toy guy his friend had given him.

Until he wasn't.
Until he was shot.
Until he died.

Now Jerome's stuck as a ghost. He desperately wants to move on; he doesn't want to see his family in pain. He doesn't want to see them moving on and living their lives without him. But Jerome, and all the ghosts of boys killed due to racial injustice, can't move on.

The first ghost that Jerome gets to know a bit is the ghost of Emmett Till who was killed in 1955. That's a lot of years for ghost boys to be waiting for change, for the world to get better so that there stop being more ghost boys.

This book absolutely broke my heart. It's a hard read. And it says such important things. It starts a conversation essential to have with middle schoolers.

The only character in the book who can see Jerome as a ghost is Sarah, the 12-year-old daughter of the police officer who killed Jerome. Not only does this show essential similarities between the two children - they're the same age, they're the same height even though Officer Moore describes Jerome as being massive and threatening - but it humanizes Officer Moore. He's a person. He made a terrible decision. He has a family. His daughter cares what happens to him. As Sarah learns more about the trial and hears corrections from Jerome about what went down that day, she has to figure out how she feels about her father and what she's going to do with those feelings.

Middle school kids who aren't ready for books like The Hate U Give or How It Went Down need this book. This is an essential purchase for library shelves. It deserves to be read widely and taught and discussed.


Readers looking for more moving stories of atrocities against people might try How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle, narrated by a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: The Parker Inheritance

A great middle grade mystery story puts child heroes into the position where they are the only ones who can solve the mystery. Sometimes it's because they don't trust the adults in their lives enough to involve them. Sometimes it's because adults aren't present. And sometimes it's because the adults around think the mystery is a joke. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson is one of the latter kind.

Candice is spending the summer in her late grandmother's house due to some complications with her separated parents and their house in Atlanta. When she meets Brandon, the boy across the street, and discovers that he loves reading almost as much as she does, she thinks she might have found a friend. And when she discovers a long-forgotten letter in her grandmother's attic, a letter that speaks of a fortune hidden in town awaiting the person who can solve the puzzle, she knows she and Brandon have to try to find it. Her grandmother tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.

Everyone thought Candice's grandmother was crazy for pursuing the Parker Inheritance, and when she didn't find it, they forced her to resign from her position as City Manager. So of course everyone thinks that the fortune is a myth. And it's going to take two kids with the power to believe and the perseverance to solve the clues to figure it out.

Candice and Brandon begin to decipher the clues in the letter, a challenge that will lead them to research the town's history, racial injustice, forgotten heroes and a true love story. But can two kids do what no adults have been able to do in decades? Can they solve the mystery before time runs out and the answers fade back into the past?

Kids who like puzzle mysteries and solving riddles are going to eat this up. And it's a story with meat on its bones. As Candice and Brandon are researching, they discover a lot of unsavory stuff that happened to the African Americans who started the whole thing in the 1950s. They learn a lot about their families and their town and themselves as they try to piece together where the fortune came from and where it might be hidden.


Hand this one to kids who like puzzle mysteries. Then also hand them any or all of the following:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Puffin, 1978). The original? fortune-hunting children's mystery story, this is still a classic beloved by many. Candice reads it in the book, a fitting homage.

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang (Aladdin, 2017). Take an armchair travel trip to China as Mia tries to find her aunt and maybe a fortune beyond imagination.

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (Dial, 2014). This art history mystery will especially appeal to kids who like the historical and research themes in The Parker Inheritance.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. Grades 4-8. Scholastic, 2018. 352 pages. ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 4: 2018 Debuts

This fourth week of #MiddleGradeMay is all about those debut authors and there have already been some FANTASTIC debut books coming out this year! I'm really excited to tell you about four of my favorites that have come out so far this year in the video below. (Do you like the videos I'm making? I am a totally newbie at YouTube, but I have been enjoying it.)

Books mentioned in this video:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, May 2018) - comes out next week on May 29!

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (Feiwel and Friends, March 2018)

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown, March 2018)
Whoops - this is not actually a debut novel, but it is Blake's first middle grade novel and also I want you to know about it, so I'm leaving it in there!)

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (Charlesbridge, March 2018)

These debuts are awesome! You should definitely check them out and I hope that we'll

Thursday, May 17, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Be Prepared

I do not actually buy a lot of books. When you're a librarian, you don't always need to. We are surrounded by free books. But when I started updating our grade level book lists to get ready for Summer Reading, I was hearing a lot of buzz for this title and I wasn't going to be able to get a library copy in before I needed to have the updates done. So I bought it.

No regrets!!!!

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol gave me the feels. Like, so much that I actually had to put it down at one point and come back to it the next day. And I dreamed about summer camp.

Almost-10-year-old Vera is on the outside a lot. Although she gets invited to slumber parties with the other girls, she's never really part of the in-crowd. And when she tries to throw her own birthday slumber party, things go horribly awry. Vera always feels different than the other kids and part of that is because, as Russian immigrants, her family is different. Which is why, when Vera hears about a Russian culture summer camp sponsored by her church, she is desperate to go. All the kids in her neighborhood disappear to go to various camps in the summer and Vera's sure she's finally found a place where she will really fit in.

But camp is not at all what Vera expected. She's put into a tent with two girls who are best friends and who are much older than her. There's no running water, which means using a disgusting outhouse for two weeks, and Vera can't seem to do anything right. Having no friends at camp is even worse than having no friends at home because at home at least a bear's not going to eat you. And you have toilets.

This story is based on author Vera Brosgol's actual experiences and she definitely captures that feeling of being on the outside. What strikes me about this book is that it's so raw and real; Vera makes some bad decisions and some cruel decisions sometimes. Even though she knows how it feels to be the odd one out, she still is sometimes mean to some of the other kids. When you're growing up and you're figuring things out, you don't always make the right decisions and Brosgol doesn't shy away from that.

Camp is made out to be this idyllic experience that everyone looks back on with nostalgia and longing. And it's not that way for everyone! I was one of those kids who went to camp and did not have an amazing time. I had a fine time, it wasn't torture every minutes, but given the choice I did not elect to go back. So I definitely identified with Vera.

So, yes. Go get this book. Add it to your Summer Reading lists. I think it'll be a hit with kids.


This is another great entry into the Children's Graphic Novel Memoir category, so kids who enjoy books like Raina Telgemeier's Smile, Jennifer Holm's Sunny Side Up or Cece Bell's El Deafo will also enjoy this one.

Don't miss Vera Brosgol's fiction graphic novel Anya's Ghost, which is also great.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. Grades 4-7. First Second, April 2018. 256 pages. Review copy purchased (!!).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Blackbird Fly

Here's a backlist title for #MiddleGradeMay and I'm kicking myself because it took me so long to pick it up. I've recently read Erin Entrada Kelly's latest book and it made me want to go back and pick up the one that I missed. Blackbird Fly (Greenwillow, 2015) is a favorite booktalk title of one of my school booktalk partners and I can definitely see why! This is a raw and realistic portrayal of middle school bullying.

The Dog Log.

Apple is on the Dog Log, a list of the ugliest girls in school that the boys come up with each year. Apple knew she didn't have many friends and the popular kids sometimes said mean stuff to her, like calling her a dog-eater because she is Filipino. But to be on the Dog Log? There's no coming back from that. Apple's plan is to get a guitar, learn how to play all her favorite Beatles songs, and then run away to become a street musician and ditch this middle school life forever.

Unless... When a new kid shows up at school, a kid who knows nothing about the Dog Log, maybe he'll go with Apple to the Halloween dance. And then maybe she won't seem like such a hopeless loser. As Apple gets to know Evan, she realizes he's very different from the kids she thought were her friends. He doesn't seem to care what people think. He's interested in her Filipino culture. And he might be able to help her turn everything around.

As I was reading this, I kept thinking about Blubber by Judy Blume, which I know is a dated reference from my own childhood. But that's the level of meanness going on here, more heartbreaking because I know it happens in schools every day. Apple feels trapped, stuck with "friends" who are mean to her because it's better to be with someone who makes fun of you than to be alone.

Music is a savior and a healing agent here. Apple listens to her Beatles albums over and over again. The Beatles are a connection to her dad who died in the Philippines and they are a bridge to her future. Apple envisions a future writing and performing songs, even as her mom refuses to support her, saying that she won't make any money or get a good job by studying music. As we go through the story, music starts bringing people together.

This is a powerful story that will speak to victims of bullying and it's one that you should definitely have in your RA repertoire for when that question comes up.


Hand this to kids who like Wonder by R.J. Palaccio but don't mind a rather more bleak outlook. Kelly's latest novel You Go First would also make a good readalike with a similar tone and outlook on middle school life and how kids who are different are treated.

Readers interested in the musical aspects of the book should definitely check out Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, 2017), which has a similar theme of a talented musical kid whose parent doesn't approve of his plans to be a musician. Other musical novels that might be of interest include A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin, 2007) and Amina's Voice by Hena Khan (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

Readers interested in more books about kids figuring out their identities might also like Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins, 2015) or The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods (Nancy Paulsen, 2014).

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly. Grades 5-8. Greenwillow, 2015. 296 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 3: Underrated Middle Grade

It's the third week of #MiddleGradeMay and we're almost halfway through the month. I hope you've found some awesome middle grade lit to read this month! The theme set by our Booktuber host Akoss for this week is Underrated Middle Grade, meaning books that have less than 1000 ratings on GoodReads. I have three of my favorite underrated books for you today in this week's video:

Books mentioned in this video:

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang (Aladdin, 2017).

The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtald (Feiwel & Friends, 2015).

(Second Buckle & Squash book is The Gigantic Giant Goof-Up)

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung (Scholastic, 2016).

I was a little surprised at some of my favorite titles that have less than 1000 ratings on GoodReads once I started looking at it. You might be surprised, too! What are some of YOUR favorites that you wish more people would read?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Crushes. Remember how confusing it was to figure out crushes? Maybe you had them and didn't know how to talk about it. Maybe your friends had them and suddenly could talk about nothing else. Maybe you had a crush that seemed like it was "wrong". Maybe you never had any crushes and wondered why everyone else seemed to. Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown, 2018) is a great book about first crushes and that unique ache that middle school love can bring.

There's been a lot changing recently in Ivy's life: Ivy's mom had twin boys, Ivy's suddenly feeling a rift between her and her older sister, Ivy's feeling like she doesn't matter very much to her family. And there's this big thing that she can't tell anyone, not her mom, not her sister, not her best friend. Ivy's never had a crush, but when she imagines herself having a crush, she imagines it with a girl. She doesn't know any other girls or women who have relationships with other girls or women. She knows that girls her age are supposed to like boys. And... she doesn't. So she keeps it to herself, letting her art journal be her only outlet for her feelings.

At the beginning of the book, a tornado descends upon her rural Georgia town and destroys Ivy's house. Her family escapes with their lives, but not much else. And suddenly Ivy's life is truly thrown into tumult. In the aftermath of the storm, June, a girl from Ivy's class, shows up with her doctor mom to help victims of the storm. And suddenly Ivy's imagined crush has a name.

But what do you do about a crush that's such a big secret you can't tell ANYONE? And what do you do if you're not sure and if making a decision about who you like might change your life forever?

Can I tell you that I am so glad that middle grade LGBTQ lit is blossoming? There have been a handful of great titles published over the past couple of years and I'm so excited to purchase it and put it on my library's shelves to reflect our diverse community. These books are so needed. As mentioned by this book's editor in a forward note in the galley, middle grade is when many kids start identifying their preferences with regards to relationships. As gatekeepers, we need to be certain that we're providing mirrors to all kinds of different experiences. And when it's a great, moving story with unforgettable characters, that's just all the more reason to put Ivy Aberdeen on our library shelves.

Ivy's a great tween character, dealing with being stuck in the middle of her family and being stuck in that "tween" place - no longer a child, not yet an adult. She's thoughtful and sensitive and wants to help more than anything, but she's afraid that her family sees her as a bother, a burden when they have so much else going on. I love the use of the physical storm as a catalyst to the story that represents the emotional storm going on within Ivy's mind. And Ivy's pain and confusion is palpable as she tries to navigate after the storm, feeling unsure not only about her place in her family (the unwanted middle child), but about her place in society.

Readers who look for stories about the tween experience or stories about first crushes will find much to love in Ivy.


There have been some great LGBTQ middle grade novels that have come out in the past couple of years. Readers looking for more lesbian or questioning characters should pick up P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy and Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee.

Readers who want additional realistic books that really GET how it feels to be a tween might enjoy P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia.

And readers looking for more middle grade books about exploring first crushes might like Shug by Jenny Han.

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to  the World by Ashley Herring Blake. Grades 5-8. Little, Brown, 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA Midwinter.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: You Go First

Well. Erin Entrada Kelly's done it again. She is a master of that particular ache that comes from middle school. In You Go First (Greenwillow, 2018), we meet two characters separated by 1200 miles. Charlotte and Ben are friends who've never met in real life. They play online Scrabble against each other and battle it out for first place on the leaderboard. Online, each of them can present the persona they want to. They could be kids who have nicknames, kids who are about to be elected student council president, kids who have friends...

But real life is different. Both Charlotte (Philadelphia) and Ben (Louisiana)  find themselves alone. Charlotte's discovering that her best friend is moving on to a different group of girls. Ben has always been a loner. And both of them are dealing with big life changes. Charlotte's dad is in the hospital after having a heart attack and Charlotte's ridden with guilt over how they've been growing apart. Ben's parents just told him they're getting a divorce, his home life will never be the same.

Over the course of a week and many narrative turns back and forth (mimicking the turns taken at Scrabble), Charlotte and Ben will come to depend on each other much more than they ever had before. With no one else to turn to, they turn to each other as they start to navigate the muddled, confusing waters of middle school.

Oh, this one got me in the feels. It's not overtly heartbreaking, but it's heartbreaking in its way of describing exactly how it feels to be in middle school and be totally flummoxed by how others are acting. The small (and big) actions of the other kids are so cruel, but so commonplace. As I was reading, my heart ached for these small, confused kids just beginning to grow up.

Erin Entrada Kelly is a master of showing her characters rather than telling you all about them. Sometimes the things she leaves out are even more important than the things she leaves in, letting readers discover Ben and Charlotte as they read the novel. This book reminded me so much of the Judy Blume books I read as a kid - books I read when I wanted to meet characters like me dealing with middle school life.


This is a great followup to Kelly's Newbery-winning Hello, Universe (Greenwillow, 2017). Readers who loved her character development in that book will find much to love in You Go First.

The tone of the book reminded me a lot of Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb, 2015), which is another character-driven book that explores middle school through the eyes of several characters.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly. Grades 4-7. Greenwillow, 2018. 304 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA Midwinter. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 2: Heartbreaking Reads

How is your #MiddleGradeMay going? I have been reading some really great books and today I have some suggestions for you if you're looking for something great to read. Our Booktuber host Akoss has set themes for each week of #MiddleGradeMay this year. This week's theme is Heartbreaking Books and I've got booktalks of three of my favorites in this video:

Books mentioned in this video:

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry (Laurel Leaf, 1977) - the first book that ever made me cry. I read it for the first time in fifth grade.

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart (Scholastic, 2015).

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, 2016).

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2004). (There is also a sequel, which I forgot to mention but which is also awesome: After Ever After.)

I hope you'll join us in reading and celebrating middle grade books this month! What are YOUR favorite heartbreaking middle grade reads?

Friday, May 4, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: The Serpent's Secret

Oh, you Percy Jackson fans are so lucky. 2018 is your year. Because 2018 is the year that The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta came out, opening a brilliant new mythology series.

When Kiranmala's parents disappear on the morning of the 12th birthday (which also happens to be Halloween), the New Jersey tween doesn't think too much of it. Until a giant rakkhosh demon shows up at her house, thirsty for blood, and two handsome Indian princes arrive, announcing that they're here to save her. Kiran doesn't need saving - she handles the demon pretty well on her own, though it's not pretty - but she does need answers. What has happened to her parents? And how can she save them?

Kiran discovers that there is truth behind the magical stories her parents used to tell her. She is an Indian princess, she's been living under a magical spell that broke on her 12th birthday, and she'll have to journey through other dimensions, meeting all kinds of fabulous and horrifying creatures to try to get her parents back.

This series opener is a great readalike for Percy Jackson because it mixes action-packed adventure with a strong dose of humor. Although there are lots of fantasy-adventure-mythology series that have come out since Percy Jackson became so popular, this one stands out because I think the tone is very similar. Kiran is a smart, strong heroine who is up to the task of saving the world and young readers who enjoy fantasy adventure will clamor for the next books in the series.

I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author. She reads with a ton of energy and singsong voices for the monsters that make the most out of the punny and slapstick humor. If sometimes her voice is a bit unpolished, it's made up for by the fact that I know she's pronouncing everything write and that she's an #ownvoices narrator telling her story. And for an author narrating, it's really very decent.


Of course, hand this book to fans of Rick Riordan's many mythology series (Percy Jackson, Magnus Chase, etc.).

And you'll also want to hand it to fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Disney-Hyperion, 2018), which also came out this year. (See? I told you Percy Jackson fans are hitting the jackpot this year!)

Readers interested in Indian mythology will also want to check out The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda (Scholastic, 2013), although be warned that the only books one and two of the Ash Mistry series were published in the US.

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta. Grades 4-8. Scholastic, 2018. 368 pages. Audiobook from Scholastic Audio. 8 hrs. 14 minutes. Read by Sayantani DasGupta. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Front Desk

Immigrant experiences. They're being talked about a lot nowadays with everything in the news and our current political climate. It's important to give kids books that will show them different ways of life and how life can be for immigrants to this country. It's also important to give kids engaging stories with plenty of humor about characters they will care about and root for. Luckily, young readers will find both in Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, May 2018).

Mia's a girl with a lot of secrets. When she starts fifth grade at a new school, there's a lot that she doesn't want her classmates to know. She lives in a motel instead of a house. She works at the motel, along with her parents. And she dreams of being a writer, even though she doesn't completely have English grammar mastered yet. (And even though her mom keeps telling her to concentrate on math because she'll never be as good at English as the white kids.)

Mia's family lives and works at the Calivista Motel, one of the best jobs her parents have had. A room is included, so they don't have to pay rent. And they're lead to believe that they will make a good salary on top of that. But the stingy motel owner Mr. Yao will do anything to gouge his employees. They're not allowed to swim in the pool (because then everyone will want to swim in the pool and do you know how much it costs to launder that many towels?!). They have to answer the door even in the middle of the night. And they can never leave the front desk unattended. Which means that while her parents clean the rooms, Mia helps out by checking in guests and taking care of their every need.

And she helps her parents sneak in fellow immigrants who need a place to crash. If Mr. Yao found out about that, you can bet they would lose their jobs in a split second. But these folks have nowhere else to turn and Mia's parents can't turn them away. 

Based on experiences from the author's own childhood, this is an amazing debut and a novel that everyone should check out. It has so much to say about immigration and racial issues in this country, and it approaches these issues in a really kid-friendly way. As Mia and her family are running the motel, they run into many immigrants who need a place to crash and they share their stories. Stories like employers taking their passports and IDs "for safekeeping" but really to hold immigrant workers hostage and immigrant children avoiding playing sports at school because their families don't have health insurance and the risk of injury is too great.

Above all, Mia is a big believer in dreams. She and her classmate Lupe talk about two roller coasters - one crappy roller coaster that poor people are stuck on, a self-perpetuating ride they can never get off because they can never get ahead. Just when all the bills are paid, someone needs to go to the hospital and there's no insurance and here you go around the track again. Then, there's the other roller coaster - the rich people roller coaster - much nicer with your ride paid for the people who came before you - your family who can send you to the best schools so you get the best jobs and the best salaries. Mia and Lupe have many conversations about how to get off the low roller coaster and join the higher roller coaster. It seems impossible, but they can dream about it. Maybe all it takes is one lucky break.

Hand this to kids who like realistic fiction with plucky heroines who are learning never to give up on their dreams.


For kids who love Mia's indomitable spirit and can-do attitude, hand them Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage or All Four Stars by Tara Dairman.

For more stories about kids living in unusual places, try All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor or Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

For kids who are interested in reading more about kids living in poverty, hand them How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor or Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate.

For kids interested in immigrant experiences, hand them A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord or Return to Sender by Julia Alzarez.

Front Desk by Wendy Yang. Grades 5-8. Scholastic, May 2018. 286 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 1: Memorable Characters

Welcome to MIDDLE GRADE MAY!!!

Yes, it's that time of year when we drop* all other reading and devote ourselves to middle grade books! Read middle grade during the month of May and post about it on any social media you like with the hashtag #MiddleGradeMay so we can all see what awesome books everyone is reading!

*Okay, I'm not entirely dropping all other reading, but I'm definitely making space for middle grade this month!

This year our lovely Booktuber Akoss has set some weekly themes to give you ideas on what to post about or just to highlight some great books that you might want to check out this month. And the theme for this first week is Memorable Characters in Middle Grade Lit.

And I made a video!! I am not normally a vlogger, but Akoss has inspired me to give it a try. Below you'll see three of my most memorable characters in middle grade lit.


If you don't feel like watching it or if you want more information, here are the books mentioned in this video:

One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters series) by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, 2010). Other books in the series: P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial, 2015). Sequel is The War I Finally Won (also awesome).

Ghost (Track series) by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, 2016). Other books in the series: Patina and Sunny.

Stay tuned this month for tons of posts about middle grade lit. And I hope you'll join us in reading middle grade this month!

Who are YOUR favorite characters in middle grade lit??

Sunday, April 29, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay TBR

It's nearly May and that means I'll be catching up on all the wonderful middle grade lit that I have in my TBR pile and using the hashtag #MiddleGradeMay to spread the word. I have an amazing to-read pile lined up:

Here are the books at the top of my TBR pile for this month. I may or may not read all of them. I may read other stuff, too! But here's my starting pile: 

Who's joining me for #MiddleGradeMay this year? What are YOU most looking forward to reading??

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Day in the Life

I've done many Day in the Life posts before for my previous Life as a Youth Services Librarian... it's high time that I type up a Day in the Life for my current position as Collection Development Leader! This day turned out to be a day that I had lots of little tasks instead of working steadily on a couple of big projects. Although my days are definitely more similar to each other now, I do have lots of different things that I work on. I've worked up a loose schedule of weekly tasks that I like to complete and then there are always long-term projects and a million little things to work on in-between.

So what does a day in the life of a collection development librarian look like? It could look like this:

7:40am - Arrive at work, put things away, check bullet journal for today’s tasks. It's a casual dress day, so I am wearing my new shirt from Book Riot and nerdily excited about it.

7:45am - We’re considering our options for digital content, so I read through a current contract, highlighting relevant information and jotting down some talking points and questions to go over with my Director later.

8:05am - Done with contract, skip down to lounge in search of something for breakfast. Check emails, greet colleagues as they come in.

8:15am - Since I am very new to the world of selection and acquisition, my director and I thought it would be a good idea for me to take a cataloging class. Now, I check in to my cataloging class and add to the discussion boards. I work on and submit my assignment for the week.

9:15am - I want to submit my weekly book order today, so I log in and start working on carts. I have been building them all week, but I check on how close I am to my weekly spending goal and add/subtract titles as necessary. I also double-check that I have my grids set on everything (grids tell our processing and cataloging team which area of the collection they’re for and which branch, if we had a branch) and that there are no books put in without a quantity.

10:00am - Short break for a conference call with our main book vendor. We’re outsourcing our processing to them and still in the process of getting it all set up. We chatted about how things are going and switching to electronic invoicing.

10:10am - Back to finishing up these orders. I’ve submitted them and now make sure that I enter the amounts I’ve spent into my budget spreadsheet.

10:30am - Short break to answer a question about changing call numbers and to look into the process of making global changes in our catalog. Then back to updating budget spreadsheets.

10:45am - We get an email about with the program schedule for an upcoming conference and I shoot out a recommendation to my staff on a session that I would like them to go to.

11:00am - Fun with POs! I put in POs for some previous orders and get a few in order to take up to our Business Office for processing.

11:30am - Early lunch today so I can make sure to be back on time for a call this afternoon. I am lucky to live close enough to work that I can go home for lunch.

12:30pm - Back from lunch and I spent some time poking around Edelweiss. This is a great resource for finding pre-publication books and I am not super familiar with it. I'm on the hunt for finding out about diverse books enough ahead of time that I might be able to read them and potentially nominate them for Library Reads.

1:00pm - My cataloger and I have a conference call with someone from our ILS who is training us on using their online selection and acquisitions module. We learn about updating vendors, importing MARC records, and placing orders through their system so that they get into our catalog as "on order".

2:15pm - I continue the discussion with our cataloger about the new module and what our next steps will be. We got a response to our help ticket about making global changes to the catalog, so we try out the instructions and discover that it is something we can do quite easily.

3:15pm - Read and respond to emails about Hoopla's new Book Club site, resources for finding diverse adult books, etc. I clean up my desk since it's possible we may have some visitors to the office tomorrow.

3:50pm - Work on letter of recommendation for one of my colleagues who is applying to library school.

4:30pm - Help our cataloger finish cataloging some video games and game controllers that were brought in by our Public Services Dept. for us to put in the circulating collection.

- Run a report to find the new Large Print titles that have been added so I can update our new LP binder… then think better of it and email our most recent large print selector and homebound outreach coordinator to make sure the binder is still useful now that we’ve implemented some other strategies to make patrons aware of new books. She felt like we don’t need it, which saves me quite a bit of work. I write up a little reminder for her about running a list of the new titles in case she needs it and we’ll leave it at that!

5:00pm - Type up this Day in the Life and schedule it to post...

5:20pm - Done! Time to head for home!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Mary's Monster

I've got Frankenstein on the brain.

2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of the classic science fiction novel Frankenstein and Indiana Humanities is celebrating with a One State / One Story program, encouraging communities all over the state to read and talk about this book. My library was one of the lucky ones to receive a grant to provide programming, so we definitely have all things Frankenstein on our radar.

Enter: Mary's Monster.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge is a biography in verse that tells the story of Mary Shelley. AND HER LIFE WAS DRAMATIC AS HELL!!!

Seriously. Drama. Her mom died when she was a baby, something Mary always blamed herself for a little bit. She got sent away to Scotland by a stepmother who didn't like her. She fell in love with a married man (who wasn't that much older than her - Mary was 16 and Percy was 21), left her family to be with him and then he started fooling around with her sister. She had a baby with the married man and the baby died. And that's just like the first part of the book.

In Mary's Monster, this is all told in carefully crafted prose poems that are paired with dark, brooding artwork that really brings the time period and the intensity to life. The text and artwork in this book are equally impressive to me. The texture of the art really conveys a lot of emotion - dark and smokey backgrounds lend a sense of mystery and foreboding. At times it looks like ink has spilled across the pages, appropriate for a biography of a writer.

And author Lita Judge gets teen love. Look at this poem about the first time Mary meets Percy Shelley:

The day Percy Bysshe Shelley
walks into my life
is as if a bolt of lightning
shoots through my soul

My heart
had been like the Holborn sky,
thick and cold
and the color of coal.

Then, in an instant,
a crack of thunder
and the entire landscape
of my existence changes. 

(Pg. 74)

This is a powerhouse of a book that will give teen readers a new perspective on Mary Shelley's life. You don't have to have read Frankenstein to get swept up in the drama, but this would make a super supplementary title for students who are reading it. You really see where the creature's longing to be loved and to have a place where he belongs comes from: Mary was searching for the same thing.

The back matter is a joy. Lita Judge includes end notes that flesh out the story of Mary's life and finish the stories of characters we meet in the book. She explains events she left out and why, and there are extensive source notes.

Hand this to teens with dark and gothic souls who will be swept up by the tragic romantic story of Mary Shelley's teen years, teens who are writers, and teens who love to read about All the Drama.


Fans of dark graphic novels like the newly illustrated Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll will dig this verse/graphic hybrid.

Readers who enjoy biographies in verse like Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill (Random House, 2007) or Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins (Henry Holt, 2010) may also like this one.

And readers who like intense, dramatic books about historical figures like The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller (Schwartz & Wade, 2016) or Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin, 2015) may also be fans.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge. Grades 8 and up, adult crossover. Roaring Brook, February 2018. 312 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Middle Grade May!

Yes, it's once again time for #MiddleGradeMay!!!

There's nothing fancy to it - just read middle grade books during the month of May and share them on social media with our hashtag. You can blog about middle grade books, tweet about them, post photos on Instagram, post about them on Litsy, share them with your Facebook friends... wherever you are on the web, share about what middle grade lit you're reading in May.

This year, I am so excited to be collaborating on #MiddleGradeMay with the wonderful Akoss and her YouTube channel. We actually met and bonded over #MiddleGradeMay last year. Check out her intro post here:

She's got it all planned out with themed weeks, so feel free to share your favorites for the themes each week OR just read whatever middle grade you want and tell us all about it.

Here are the themes for each week in May:

  • Week 1 - Favorite memorable middle grade literature characters 
  • Week 2 - Favorite heartbreaking middle grade novels 
  • Week 3 - Favorite under-rated middle grade books (less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads) 
  • Week 4 - 2018 Middle grade debuts you want everyone to request from their Libraries 
  • Week 5 - Middle grade books that feature diversity in a positive and uplifting way
Annnnnd don't forget to check out our cohosts who will be posting videos in May: 
I am so not a YouTuber, BUT I have promised Akoss that I might give it a go, so you MAY see some of that, too. ;) 

Which middle grade books are YOU looking forward to reading in May??