Friday, January 12, 2018

What My Niece is Into: Sharks

Whenever I hear that my niece is into something, I immediately run out and buy her a few books about it if I can. Providing kids with books that fit their interests is a great way to encourage reading and help kids develop a love of reading. I already highlighted books you can sing, which I bought her for Christmas, and I think I'll try to make this a regular feature on my blog. 

Niece: S, age 18 months
Currently into: SHARKS.

S showed up with a beautifully scientifically correct stuffed shark at book club the other night (rows of teeth and everything!). My sister in law said that she's also got fish bath toys; sharks are big right now. I think it comes from the song Baby Shark, which maybe they sing at her daycare? Not sure. But my mission was clear: shark board books for a toddler (particularly I wanted to get her some science-based ones)! Here's what I came up with: 

Sharks by the American Museum of Natural History (Sterling Children's Books, 2017). This is my favorite of the ones I ordered. It has real photos and lots of information. Too much information for a toddler, but we can definitely talk about the pictures together and it shows lots of different types of sharks, so there's lots of great vocabulary. 

The inside is awesome: each shark spread gets its own die-cut page, so it looks really cool. I think S will have a lot of fun turning the pages and exploring this book. 

I Spy in the Ocean by Damon Burnard, illustrated by Julia Cairns. (Chronicle Books, 2001). This is a cute board book with a die-cut hole in each page to give a clue as to the new spread coming up in our game of eye-spy. Spelling out the word OCEAN, each letter features a different ocean animal: O is for Octopus, C is for Crab, and so forth. The game is probably a bit beyond my niece right now, but it's a nice introduction to the eye-spy game and I like the soft watercolor illustrations. Highlighting letters is a good way to build letter knowledge. 

My Little Golden Book About Sharks by Bonnie Bader, illustrated by Steph Laberis (Golden Books, 2016). This will definitely be one for the library for her to grow into. It has a lot of information, including naming the parts of a shark and showing a cutaway of a shark's skeleton. Some of the illustrations are kind of scary, which I think might be too much for her right now, but if she's interested in ocean animals in a few years she may be super into them. This one would be a good choice for early elementary kids who are interested in sharks. 

That's what my niece is currently into and what I just bought to add to her library. If you're looking for more picture books about sharks, check out my recent Shark Storytime for some ideas. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

There's No "I" in Collection Development

(Okay, of course there's an "i" in Collection Development, but bear with me...)

Image of teetering, overstuffed bookshelves. If I am not careful, our shelves will look like this.

It's a selector's responsibility to maintain a balanced collection in the library. We're taught that in grad school. They say that if 20% of your library's collection personally offends you (politically, religiously, etc.), you're doing your job.

But there are smaller biases that we need to be aware of, too. What are your personal biases? And how do you check them as you're selecting for your collection?

What I mean is, I can tell what personal interests our selectors have had as I look at our collection. There are some sections that are just perennially popular and have been widely ordered throughout the years: mysteries, large print, Christian fiction... But there are some sections that give me pause.

Looking at the collection, I can tell that at a certain time our selector of nonfiction loved reading biographies. Our biography section ballooned at that time. Other past selectors have had other personal interests I can spot as I look through what's circulating - and what's not - in our collection.

When I first heard I had gotten this job, I thought "Great! Now I can make sure we have any book my heart desires; I can just buy any book I think I want to read!"

Surely, I thought, if I read it someone else will want it. I have great taste! Everyone will love the exact same books I will!

That's flawed thinking and will probably result in many books sitting on the shelf, not circulating or checked out once (by me!). And that's not doing any favors to our collection.

Being in charge of selection is about more than getting the books I personally want to read on our shelves. I'm selecting for the entire community. And that means more than just ensuring that I'm buying books I know my patrons will be interested in. It means checking my impulse to buy the books that personally sound interesting to me and asking myself if they're a good fit for my community as well.

I've learned some surprising things as I've stopped to think carefully about what I'm selecting. I have an impulse to buy every book with feminist themes that is being published. I love reading about icky medical history, I crave short story collections, I am drawn to writers from Africa. Some of those may be interests my patrons share, but I've got to make sure I'm asking myself this question: who am I buying this book for?

If the answer is that my patrons will be interested and check it out, great! In the cart it goes. If not, maybe I add it to my GoodReads to-read list and seek it out for myself later.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Short Story Project

How do I love short story collections? Let me count the ways... 

1. A well-crafted short story brings the reader to care and wonder about a character or a situation in quite a short amount of pages. Some stories you'd happily read a novel-size version of, but some you're fine to let go when they're done. If they're well-written, you keep thinking about them long after the pages are turned. 

2. They provide natural stopping points, so story collections are awesome if you don't have hours and hours to read at a stretch. You can pick up your book, read one or two stories, and then set it down without having to remember who your characters are when you are next able to pick up your book again. Stories are great for busy times when you don't get a lot of time to read. 

2b. I especially like to point this feature of story collections out when I am booktalking - students and other folks often don't have a ton of time to devote to leisure reading and they may not naturally gravitate towards short stories. I point out that this type of book is very easy to pick up and put down without losing your place. 

3. If you don't like a story in a collection.... skip it and move right on to the next one. Maybe you'll like those characters or that setting better. This is another great feature to emphasize when booktalking! 

3b. Story collections (and essay collections!) by multiple authors can be a GREAT way to sample a lot of different authors if you're looking for a new favorite. Back when I first started reading stories in high school, I would go through the Best American Short Stories and copy down the names of my favorite authors so I could go back and read their novels or their own story collections. 

3c. Story collections for middle-graders and teens are great to be familiar with and to promote to teachers because they can be utilized for reading practice for kids who may not be up for reading an entire novel. Or they might be able to be used in the classroom for talking about literary elements, etc. If you work with kids and/or teachers, becoming familiar with story collections is a great thing to do!

As I thought about ways I could read better this year, I wanted at least one way to be devoted to reading something I enjoy. Not because I need to be familiar with the books for work (although that is still helpful!), but just because it's something that I want to read. This year, I decided to rekindle my love for short stories by starting a Short Story Project: read at least 6 story collections in 2018. 

And since I've been thinking about it, I've got a few on deck and I'd also love to know what story collections (for any age!) you would suggest! 


Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin (Random House, 2016). My husband bought us a short story advent calendar this year and Ms. McLaughlin had a story in there, so I wanted to read her collection. I'm in the middle of it now and quite enjoying these domestic tales centered around family members interacting.  

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang (Lenny, 2017). These are stories of first-generation Chinese-American immigrants which The New Yorker calls "ingenious". I am fascinated by the immigrant experience and I think it's important to read and learn about it, so sign me up for this collection. 

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press, 2017). Shortlisted for the National Book Award, this collection is visceral and sensual. I started it a few months ago, but I ran out of time with it and there was a holds list, so I'll definitely be seeking it out again to finish it!


An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao (Flatiron Books, 2016). These historical fiction stories center around the Partition of Pakistan from India in 1947, so this one might also count as a postcolonial novel for Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge. 

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, 2017). I have not yet read Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, so these stories might be a good way to get my feet wet. Plus, I just read Thi Bui's amazing graphic memoir The Best We Could Do, which has piqued my interest in Vietnam.

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin, February 2018). Yes, Newbery-Medal-winning Kelly Barnhill has a collection of adult stories coming out this year. Gimme!

Those are all adult collections, but there is a particular YA collection coming out this year that I'm super excited about, too: 

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (Greenwillow Books, June 2018). This multi-author teen collection "reimagine[s] the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate." (Quote from GoodReads description.) Sign. Me. Up.

So, tell me: do you read short stories? Which collections would you suggest I put on my radar or pick up this year?