Thursday, July 31, 2008

John Green in Chicago!

Attention, all you Chicagoland-ers:

John Green's going to be in Chicago on 8/08/08! He's speaking at the Harold Washington Library Center at 2pm and then there will be Wizard Rock listening and Something Really Awesome at 8:08pm. Alas, I will be at work (and also I'm not the biggest fan of Very Crowded Things, which I suspect this event might be). But if you are available, you should totally go see him.

I was lucky enough to see John Green last year at the Schaumburg Library and it was awesome. I even won a free book!

So, yes. Go see John Green. And then get your wizard on at Terminus (the Harry Potter conference), which is also in Chicago next week.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Storytime Favorites

I've got some new storytime favorites to share today! I've used all of these books in storytimes over the past couple weeks and they made great readalouds.

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson. I start this one by asking what kind of animal is on the cover. At least one kid will know that it's a hippo and I then ask if a hippo is a big animal or a small animal. Hilda is a hippo who loves to dance. And when Hilda is dancing, everyone knows it from the booms and crashes that echo across the jungle. Hilda's driving everyone crazy and they all try to find her new hobbies, to no avail. This book's got a great rhyme scheme and lots of good vocabulary and sound words (like boom, crash, splish, etc.). Great for phonological awareness. Plus, it's an entertaining story and has big, bright pictures.

Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia. Brightly colored machinery shows just what we can do with a dirty old lot... turn it into a beautiful park! Each machine does something different and you can have the audience motion along with you as you read. The mixer mixes, the bulldozer pushes, etc. The very simple text makes this one great for a younger crowd. At the end of the book, the whole sequence of movements is repeated and I like to go through them super fast at the end!

The Scrubbly Bubbly Carwash by Irene O'Garden. The fun sounds in this book make it a real winner for storytime. When the car gets dirty, do we put it in the bathtub? The washing machine? NO! We take it to the scrubbly bubbly car wash! Going through a car wash is something a lot of kids can relate to and the funny, silly language is as much fun to say as it is to hear. This is another great book for phonological awareness. This is a great shorter book for a break between longer stories, too.

If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks. Mama's put her in the corner, but this little protests that she can't possibly be wild... Wild is claws and fangs and biting and scratching! As the book continues we get plenty of hints about why her mother might call her wild. Spilled cereal and drawings on the wall are just the first of many hints at the beginning of the book. Nice rhyming text and detailed illustrations showing the girl's powerful imagination make this a great choice for older preschoolers or maybe even lower elementary students. I had success with it at storytime, but it would be great for one-on-one reading, too, because there are lots of details in the illustrations that might be missed in a group reading.

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton. What little kid doesn't like dinosaurs? The simple text of this book about dinosaurs makes it easy to add your own words and get the kids' input. For example, you can count the baby dinosaurs on the first page. When the dinosaurs are fierce you can get the kids to show you their fierce faces. When the dinosaurs are scared you can ask the kids why they might be scared. Although the text is simple, there's lots to talk about in this book and the subject is sure to hold their interest.

These have been some of my favorite recent storytime books... What are yours?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book Review: Starcross

Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel, and Curious Hats by Philip Reeve. (Grades 4-8.)

The crew from Larklight is back in this delightfully unusual fantasy novel.

In Larklight, we discovered a world set in the Victorian era but with space travel. Imperialism isn't limited to Earth... England and other countries have branched out into space, putting colonies on different planets with mixed success. Great ships fly through the aether and one of these ships is Larklight, home to Art and Myrtle Mumby and their parents.

In Starcross, the Mumby's have decided to go on holiday. After receiving an appealing ad for a beachside hotel called Starcross, they depart at once, but upon their arrival they discover several strange things. First of all, there is no beach (although they are assured that the sea will reappear when the tide's in). Secondly, Art finds a strange black creature floating outside his room and all it says is "Moob!" And then they discover that Jack Havock, Art's pirate friend, is staying at the hotel, but under a different name.

Strange things are happening at Starcross, that's for sure. And soon enough all the Mumby's are caught up in another adventure across space.

I think I liked this one even better than Larklight (and that's saying a lot because I thoroughly enjoyed Larklight). My coworker J pointed out that we get familiar with the world in Larklight, so when we get to Starcross, we already know how the world works and can get straight to the adventure. It certainly is a non-stop adventure and the beautiful and humorous illustrations by David Wyatt add so much!

Larklight and Starcross are great books for young fantasy fans who seem to have read everything the genre has to offer. They're unusual, funny, and action-packed. Also, keep your eyes peeled for Mothstorm, the third book in the series due out in October.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Book Bucks

There are two weeks left in our Summer Reading Club (not that I am counting down or anything...). I've previously mentioned that at my library we have Summer Reading Clubs for every age. In our Young People's department, we have a club for preschoolers (up through going-into-Kindergarten), grade schoolers (grades 1-5), and "teens" (grades 6-8).

It's the teen club that I want to talk about today. I've worked on our teen club the past two summers and it's definitely been a fun learning process. Last year we decided to introduce the "book buck". Kids earned a book buck for each book they read and they could spend them in our prize "store". We had lots of different prizes (most ordered from Oriental Trading and the like) that ranged in price from 1 to 5 book bucks. We figured that even if a kid only read one book, they'd still be able to get some small prize.

What we did not anticipate was just how much these kids would read. I'm not exaggerating when I say that some of them read over 100 books. We quickly ran out of the higher-end prizes and the kids that cashed in at the end were left buying pencils and bouncy balls. Fearing that many kids may have saved up their book bucks expecting something better at the end of the summer, we put together a silent auction at the end-of-the-summer party and let kids use their book bucks to bid on ARCs and other prizes we had around.

This summer, we kept the book buck format but tweaked the prizes. This year their book bucks can be used to buy slips in our prize drawings or they can save them up for the silent auction at the end of the summer. There's no guarantee that they'll win a drawing, but the prizes are pretty great (several are gift certificates to various places). From what I've seen so far the middle schoolers seem pretty into it. We do a weekly prize drawing for a smaller gift card and each entry costs 1 book buck. At the end of the summer, we'll draw for the grand prizes and each entry for those drawings costs 5 book bucks.

We'll also have a silent auction this year. Again, we have ARCs that we've gotten over the past year and we bought some additional books as well. I have no idea how many kids will show up for the silent auction, but I'm hoping for a big crowd. The kids can check out what books and prizes they can bid on and if they don't see anything they like they can still enter any of the drawings.

One thing that's been really successful this summer is the Teen Review Blog. This was a new thing this year. Previously, the kids in the YA (high school) Summer Reading Club have been required to post a short review of their book on a SRC blog. This is the first year we've done a blog with the teens and it's actually been a much bigger hit than I could have imagined!

The kids receive one book buck for every book they read and they have an opportunity to earn an extra book buck by posting a short review on our teen review blog. In June alone we had over 200 reviews posted on the blog, which is pretty great! Although every blog post is sent to my email, we run it on the honor system when the kids check in to collect their book bucks and we haven't had any problems with it.

So far it's been a really fun summer and I love reading the kids' reviews (some of them are SO GOOD! I think these kids may be our future book bloggers!).

I've been nominated!

Does this mean I'm one of the cool kids? The lovely Miss Print nominated me for this blog award! Thank you, thank you! :)

The rules are simple

  1. Put the logo on your blog.
  2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
  3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
  4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
  5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.
Okay, I'm not going to nominate seven blogs because I'm contrary like that, but I would like to nominate the following:

Wizards Wireless - Because I love getting her bookseller's point of view and because she was instrumental in getting my blog off the ground. She made a post with tips for new bloggers that was in one of the Carnivals and the rest is history!

Jen Robinson's Book Page - Because she posts about so many different interesting topics and always features what's going on in the blogosphere. I love reading her reviews!

The YA YA YAs - Because they not only post great, interesting reviews, but they post about crafts sometimes, too! Useful crafts that I am going to try out at my library!

Friday, July 25, 2008

If You're Wearing Red Today

Okay, you've pulled books for your storytime. Maybe you've got a felt story or some puppets or fingerplays, but you need just one more thing... I want to share one of my new favorite songs. This song has been a hit every time, it's super easy, and it's a great one to know in case of momentary lulls or a gap in your program. It's called If You're Wearing Red Today.

I've heard it used with two different tunes. I usually use the tune to Mary Had a Little Lamb, but you can also use Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.

If you're wearing red today, red today, red today
If you're wearing red today, please stand up!

That's it! Easy peasy, right?! Of course you repeat and replace the color red with whatever colors you see out there in the audience. And I usually do "please stand up" two or three times and then warn them that I'm going to mix it up, so they'd better listen. And then I do other actions. Please clap your hands, please touch your ears, please stand on one leg, please rub your tummy, etc. etc.

In my experience, the kids really respond to it and they like listening for the colors and the actions. When I think we've gotten everybody to do an action at least once, I'll ask if we missed any colors (and often they'll suggest doing the color I happen to be wearing..!).

So, keep this one in your bag of tricks and the next time you blaze through the stories you thought would take up 30 minutes, you can pull it out and have a good ol' time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Book Review: Cicada Summer

Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty. (Grades 4-7.)

Lily has perfected the art of being invisible. For the past two years she hasn't spoken to anyone or looked anyone in the eyes. Everyone thinks she's brain damaged. But Lily has a secret. A secret she's never told anyone. One day a new girl, Tinny, shows up in town and discovers one of Lily's secrets: she's not brain damaged. And Lily knows right away that Tinny is trouble.

Lily has read every Nancy Drew book in her school's library and she considers herself to be a pretty good spy. Plus, since people tend to look right past her, she notices things that other people might miss. Lily decides to keep her eye on Tinny and find out what the deal is. Tinny is hiding something. Just like Lily's hiding something. And if they can find the courage to tell, they just might find forgiveness.

For me, this book had the perfect buildup of suspense. I was hooked right from the beginning when I found out that Lily was hiding something. It takes awhile to find out exactly what happened to Lily two years ago, but the climax was not disappointing. It was a little heartbreaking, actually.

I love the portrait of small-town Illinois. The quirky characters of Fern, Miss Pearl, and Miss Opal really gave the book flavor and even some comic relief. The book has a sort of timeless quality. It could be three years ago (at least that was when the cicadas swarmed southern Indiana) or it could be twenty years ago.

I guess my one quibble is that Tinny's story didn't quite sit right with me. I loved her and her trouble-making ways until we got to the end and learned what Tinny's secret was. I'm not sure why, but it didn't seem realistic. I loved Lily's story and the unfolding of her secret. And I get that Tinny's secret brings the girls together and instigates the action at the end of the book. But it just didn't ring true to me. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'm not giving specifics... Those of you who read it, what do you think?

I'm hearing Newbery buzz about this one and I think it makes a fine contender. See other reviews by Jen and Shelf Elf. It's been listed for the Anokaberry, ACPL's Mock Newbery, and one of Joanna's favorite books of 2008. Be sure and check out Andrea Beaty's website and Three Silly Chicks where she blogs about funny books for kids.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Art for Everyone

Last year, I co-wrote a grant along with a librarian from Adult Services. We were fortunate enough to win an Emerging Grant Writers' Grant from LSTA and we used the grant funds this summer for our Art for Everyone series. The idea was to hire local artists and purchase all supplies so that patrons could come in and try their hand at an art form they might not otherwise have been able to try. It fits it nicely with our Master the Art of Reading summer reading club theme. We booked three adult programs and three children's programs and I'd like to talk about the children's programs for just a bit.

At the beginning of the summer we hired a lady to do a family workshop on face painting. She brought all the paint, mirrors, brushes, etc. and families had a great time painting themselves and each other.

In June, we brought in an art teacher from our local school district to do a program about Chinese ink painting for grade-school kids. Not only does this tie in with the upcoming summer Olympics, but my library currently has on loan a pair of Chinese lion statues. With the funds from the grant we were able to purchase ink sticks, bamboo brushes, ink stones, liquid watercolor paint, and more so that the kids could create a really unique project. It was tons of fun and the kids were really creative.

In July, we brought in an art teacher from a local art school and she did a program with acrylics for preschoolers. Each child got a square of stuff canvas and used these little metal tools to put paint on their canvas and spread it around. We got some really colorful masterpieces and the kids got to try a different art form that they may never have gotten to try otherwise.

It's been a great series and I've gotten some great experience writing the grant and the subsequent reports that go along with it. One big thing that I took away from this experience is to use your local resources. The art teachers we booked for the programs were great. They had experience working with kids and brought really fun projects for them to do. It's been a great addition to our summer programming!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thinking about YA

Liz just posted about Margo Rabb's essay in the New York Times: I'm Y.A., and I'm O.K. and it's perfect timing because YA is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. For me, YA tends to be "guilty pleasure" reading. Okay, I know, I know. Officially I don't believe in "guilty pleasure" reading. I'm a librarian. I respect everyone's right to read whatever they want to read.

But the fact of the matter is, my department serves kids up through 8th grade. So children's books and middle-grade novels can be considered helpful to my job. And when I read great adult books, I can recommend them to my mom or my aunts or my non-librarian friends*. And somehow YA gets left along the wayside, even though I love it so. I don't tend to make it a priority.

So what I've been planning is my Celebration of YA Literature, coming this fall. Since I'm taking time to read adult books this summer (due in no small part to my local library's Adult Summer Reading Club), this fall I'm taking time to read all the awesome YA books on my TBR list. I can read books for the SRC until August 31, so starting September 1 it's all about the YA.

It actually works out nicely since Teen Read Week is in October. I'm just kind of... expanding it for a month or so on each side. ;) And I'm working on a great TBR list. I've already got way, way more than I'll actually be able to read in a season and I'm so excited about digging in to all these great books!

It's funny because when I actually was a Young Adult, I definitely felt the stigma of YA lit and tended to avoid that section at the bookstore. Of course, once I started picking up some YA titles, I realized how great that "genre" is and now the YA shelves are often my first stop in the bookstore or library. It's a total shame that some adults feel like YA is beneath them and I suppose it's up to librarians, booksellers, and authors to show them how great books can be.

* And yes, I know I can and should recommend YA books to my friends... I know some of them will be more receptive than others. And I'm intrigued by Liz's idea of recommending YA books and not mentioning that they're YA... HMM.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Totally Off Topic

This has nothing to do with librarianship or kidlit, but I really, really think you all should go over to and check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. If you like Joss Whedon, musicals, evil geniuses, or things that are awesome, you will love it. It's up for free on the web until Sunday, so don't delay!

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading...

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:30a - Arrive at work, put lunch away, check email

8:40a - Make to-do list for the day, create budget sheet for my audio orders for this fiscal year

8:55a - Work on audiobooks order. I order all our children's audiobooks and audio book-and-CD kits. I recently finished weeding the audio cassettes and kits, so in addition to our regular standing orders I have a wish list I'm working on. It's quite fun and I've discovered a love for audiobooks since starting this job!

10:15a - Turn in my audio order for the month, get together with J in the story room to practice the storytelling program we're doing

11:00a - Finished going through our program, I head back to the office to plan our upcoming preschool educator night. Update my monthly report, chat with my boss about our new Flickr account

11:45a - Head outside to do our oral storytelling program (Garden Tales). J tells Beware the Bears and The Most Wonderful Egg in the World and I tell Epossumondas. We do rhymes and songs in between the stories. Families are invited to bring picnic lunches and eat while we entertain. We do this two or three times a summer and it's always well attended.

12:45p - Clean up Garden Tales and head inside (ahhh air-conditioning!)

1p-2p - Lunch time!

2:00p - Back in the office, go through PUBYAC emails, draft and send various communications about upcoming outreach programs

3:00-4:00p - On desk. In between signing up and checking in kids for the Summer Reading Club, here's what I am asked:

Do you have Twilight? (Yes, but there is a long holds list.)

Can I get the "real people" 101 Dalmatians? (By "real people" she meant the live-action version and we do not own it. I ILL it for her.)

Where are Judy Moody audiobooks? (I walk her over to the audiobooks and we find the one she wants.)

4:00p - Off desk, I head back to the office and work on my list for our storytime planning books. We do storytime sessions in the fall and spring and we plan them out ahead of time. It took some getting used to, but now I find it really convenient to have books and alternate formats already pulled. We're trying something a little different this fall, having drop-in programs instead of registered storytimes, so we'll see how it goes!

5:00p - Time to go home!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Audiobook Roundup: Time for a Road Trip!

'Tis the season for car trips and I've taken a couple over the past weeks. I love having audiobooks in the car and I've listened to some great ones on my trips! I posted about some non-fiction titles yesterday and here are the novels I listened to:

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver, read by Ian McKellen. I am a huge, huge fan of this series, but I had never heard the audio recordings. I'd heard that they were fabulous... and they totally are! All the action and drama in the story are unleashed by Ian McKellen's great reading. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was delighted by the way he creates different tones and voices for each character. This is a great listen and I highly recommend it for families with middle school or older kids (or just for adults!).

Crash by Jerry Spinelli, read by Jeff Woodman. John "Crash" Coogan has always crashed through life. He's a jock and a bit of a jerk, caring more about clothing labels and sports than anything else, but his favorite pastime is making fun of his dweeby neighbor Penn Webb. Penn is a vegetarian and a pacifist and always seems to go against the grain. While Crash plays football, Penn tries out for the cheerleading team. But as seventh grade goes on, Crash just might find that he and Penn have more in common than he ever thought. I hate to designate anything as being "for boys" or "for girls", but this would be a great book for your reluctant readers. I think it's something middle school boys would definitely identify with and there are lots of items for discussion. It'd be a great book to read or listen to with the whole family and then discuss afterwards. Plus, it's funny and there are lots of sports.

This is what I've been listening to recently... how about you?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Audiobook Roundup: Non-Fiction

I've had the pleasure of listening to some great non-fiction audiobooks on a couple of road trips this summer. I think non-fiction is a great choice for family listening, especially with older kids, because you can find something that is interesting for everyone. Or you might find something you didn't know you were interested in... So here's what I've been listening to:

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogran, read by Neil Patrick Harris. This is an adaptation of the bestselling Marley and Me and it's expertly narrated by Harris. Y'all know the story... Marley is a goofy, naughty, but loveable lab who gets into scrapes, is filmed in a movie, and enriches the Grogan family's lives more than they ever thought possible. I loved listening to it, but I'm not sure who I would recommend it to because the ending is, well, quite sad. So, that's one red flag for listening on road trips... I was teary throughout the fourth disc...

The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman, read by Sharon Washington. Marian Anderson was an internationally acclaimed singer in the 1930s and '40s. Internationally acclaimed, and yet she still couldn't book some venues in the United States because she was black. In this fascinating biography, Freedman explores Anderson's life from her under-resourced roots in Philadelphia to her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt to her success performing in countries around the world. I didn't know anything about Anderson before listening to this book, but I found her story absorbing and important. A great choice for families with upper elementary or middle school students.

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, read by Kathrin Kana. This book tells the story of children and young adults growing up in Nazi Germany. The reparations from World War I had hit Germany hard and the Nazi party promised jobs and money. Children joined the Hitler Youth, not knowing that the Nazis were committing such atrocities. Bartoletti concentrates on a handful of German youth, each with a different and interesting story. I was especially interested by the kids who found out the Nazis were lying to them and participated in resistance movements. This is definitely a choice for older kids - middle school and high school.

I think all these books would make great family listens because they're interesting to a range of people and they provide material for lots of discussion. And happy Non-Fiction Monday! Check out the round-up at Picture Book of the Day!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Non-Review: The Underneath

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt with illustrations by David Small. (Grades... 4-7?)

I'm not going to review this one. Nope. Uh-uh. Pretty much everyone and their mother has already reviewed it, so I'm going to point you to their reviews and just tell you that I LOVED IT. It's sad and violent and lyrical and hopeful... Truly, I think it's the best book I've read in a long time.

If it's on your TBR list, bump it up.

Or if you'd like, y'know, more information than some random librarian in Illinois loved it, you could check out the following reviews:

A Fuse #8 Production
Sarah Miller: Reading, Writing, Musing
The Reading Zone
educating alice
A Year of Reading - Franki
AYear of Reading - Mary Lee
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Becky's Book Reviews
The Goddess of YA Literature

(Do you SEE why I cannot possibly review this book? What could I possibly say that is different from all these heavy-hitting reviewers?)

The Underneath is also in the running for the ACPL Mock Newbery (so if you've read it, feel free to add your comments).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today's my birthday and in celebration, I thought I'd share some picture books for a birthday-themed storytime!

Otto has a Birthday Party by Todd Parr. I love the goofy humor and super bright illustrations in Todd Parr's books. In this one, Otto the dog throws a birthday party, but all the gifts he receives are not quite what he wants (underpants that are too small?! Yipes!). This is a silly book that will get the kids laughing!

The Cake that Mack Ate by Rose Robart. A cumulative story that's a variation of The House that Jack Built, this story starts with the egg that went into the cake that Mack ate and continues all the way to the farmer's wife who baked the cake that Mack ate. A cumulative story is a great way to get the kids chiming in and the unexpected ending is a sure crowd-pleaser.

Whopper Cake by Karma Wilson. I'm sure I've mentioned my undying love for Karma Wilson, right? Well, Whopper Cake is another favorite. Unlike one of my coworkers who is creeped out by larger-than-life food, I really enjoy this story of a doting husband creating the world's largest cake for his wife's birthday. It's so big, they can't mix it in a bowl, they have to mix it in the bed of a pickup truck! And the fun doesn't stop there. It may be a little long for younger audiences, but the bright pictures and rhyming text make it great for storytime.

I am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems. Piggie is invited to a party, but she's never been to one before and she's not really sure what to expect. Luckily, Elephant knows parties and comes up with all kinds of outfits in case of any possibility. And when it might be a fancy party, a pool party, or a costume party, the outfits get pretty silly indeed!

A Birthday for Cow! by Jan Thomas. Thomas, creator of the hilarious What Will Fat Cat Sit On? brings us another book sure to have them giggling. (Have you noticed that I prefer silly/funny books for my storytimes?) The animals are making a birthday cake for cow and duck keeps trying to add a special ingredient... Will cow like his birthday cake? Bright pictures and simple text make this a new storytime favorite for me.

The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli. When he gets a present from Grandma, this young child eagerly unwraps it and finds the perfect present... a box! With a little dose of imagination this box can be anything! It's perfect for standing on or hugging... and eventually he might discover that what's inside is even better! (Or maybe he'll just keep playing with the box...)

So, there you have several of my favorite birthday picture books. What are your favorites??

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:20am - Arrive at work, put lunch away, fill out review slips for employee summer reading club, return books

8:30am - Organize desk, check email, go over the storytime I'll be doing later, check with other staff members going on outreach this morning to make sure we're all on the same page

9:30-11:30 - Outreach program at local neighborhood. We bring books for families to check out, sign kids up and check them in for the summer reading club, have a storytime and do a craft. This week I read Minerva Louise, Tanka Tanka Skunk, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, and Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? (and had them retell it with velcro pieces). We also sang a few songs and did a craft.

11:30 - Back at the library, I put together the narrative report for the grant I co-wrote and get that mailed off. Call the winner of our weekly prize drawing for the middle school SRC and leave a message telling him he's won.

12-1pm - Lunch time!

1-4pm - On the reference desk. In between signing kids up and checking kids in for the summer reading club, here's a sampling of questions I was asked:

Where are the shark books?


Do you have any novels about gymnastics?

She was already looking at the American Gold Gymnasts series, so I gave her The Gymnastics Mystery and Megan's Balancing Act. She took both.

What are some good books for 4th- and 5th-grade boys?

I handed her the lists we update every year for summer reading. We keep spiral bound copies at the reference desk and the SRC table.

What programs do you have in July?

Gave her a copy of our calendar and let her know the schedule's on the website as well.

Can I sign up to put my collection in a display case?

Absolutely! Signed her up to bring in a collection next year.

Do you have any books about the Jonas Brothers or Hannah Montana?

No to the Jonas Brothers, but yes to Hannah Montana. Showed her the books and also pointed out the High School Musical books which were one shelf down.

4:00pm - Back in the office, go over Wednesday's storytime with J, we pick out books to read and songs to sing

4:15 - Work on planning a middle school craft program we've scheduled for August. We're doing back-to-school crafts inspired by a couple of posts I read on The YA YA YAs

4:35 - Am starving, so take quick break to grab a donut in the staff room. Our new director started today, so there were donuts! Yay!

4:50 - Tidy up desk and make to-do list for tomorrow

5:00 - Time to go home!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

See Mom (and Dad!!) Read

I'd like to take a few minutes here and post about a phenomenon that was not common where I grew up or where I went to school. That phenomenon? Adult Summer Reading Clubs. I love 'em!

Before moving here to the library-rich suburbs of Chicago, I'd never seen a library that held a Summer Reading Club for adults. The library I worked at while in grad school does have a winter reading program for adults, which is a great idea. Winter, summer, I'm totally in support of it.

In terms of developing literacy, one of the best things parents can do is read themselves. Seriously. It seems like such a simple thing, but I think it's a really potent thing. Kids watch their parents. They want to emulate them. If they see their grownups enjoying books and making time to read, they'll want to know what all the fuss is about. They'll be eager to learn how to read.

And is it easier to get a kid to do something they want to do or something they don't want to do? Exactly.

My library runs Summer Reading Clubs for every age (including a staff SRC). And I, of course, signed up for the Summer Reading Club at my home library. (Yes, Chicagoland is so library-rich that I live five miles down the road from the library at which I work and I actually live directly behind a different library in a different library district!) Not that anyone ever needs an excuse to read anything, but I feel like the SRC gives me an "excuse" to read grownup books. It's easy to get caught up in all the children's and YA literature that I love to read and need to read for my job. This summer I'm making sure to take time to read adult books.

So far this summer I've read the following adult books:

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
ridiculous/hilarious/terrible/cool: a year in an american high school by Elisha Cooper
Prey by Michael Crichton (which I reviewed since I read it for the 48 Hour Book Challenge)
State of Fear by Michael Crichton
I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic (arguably 'tween or YA reading, but found in the adult section of my library, which means it counts!)
Naked by David Sedaris

I'm currently in the middle of The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger and I have a big stack of "grownup books" waiting for me.

So, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but I think it's important for parents to read and to make time for it. And any way the library can promote that idea, well, I think it's awesome.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Book Review: George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver by Tanya Bolden. (Grades 4-6.)

There was much more to George Washington Carver than peanuts (though I admit that prior to reading this book, I thought of him as the "Peanut Man", too).

George Carver was born in Missouri during the Civil War. When his mother, a slave, was kidnapped, George was raised by the family that owned him. Since he was a young child, George had a thirst for knowledge. He loved the outdoors and nature. Neighborhood folk came to him with their gardening questions and George was able to help them. They called him the "Plant Doctor". George was handy and crafty and he could fashion tools from things around the farm. He also painted, creating paintbrushes and paints from plants that he found.

Eventually George went to school and to college and graduate school. He studied and learned more and more about plants, believing that everything humans needed could be fashioned from growing things. He became a professor of agriculture and was recruited by Booker T. Washington to teach at the Tuskegee Institute, a school for African-Americans. The South during Reconstruction was a bleak place. The soil was exhausted from continuous cotton growing. The people were uneducated and under-resourced.

Carver taught classes in agriculture, encouraging people to respect nature and not just take from it. He spread his teachings to people he met every day, on the street, in church, etc. He prepared pamphlets with gardening tips and advice on how to use plants in many different ways. And yes, he developed many, many uses for plants such as peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes.

Carver lived a life of study, finding practical applications for nature's bounty, and educating his fellow men. This biography tells his story in an interesting and accessible way. Tons of photographs accompany the text, bringing the man and his plants to life. I had no idea that there was so much more to the "Peanut Man" and that it would be such an interesting story. Weeks after reading it, Carver's story is still in my head! Hand this one to science buffs, ecologists, or anyone wanting a great biography.

Be sure and check out The Brown Bookshelf's interview with Tanya Bolden. I'll certainly be checking out more of her books. You can read more reviews at Fuse #8 and Check It Out.

Annnnd happy Non-Fiction Monday! Check out the other posts over at Picture Book of the Day.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Book Review: Debbie Harry Sings in French

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers. (Grades 9-12.)

Johnny has had a difficult life. His dad died when he was 12 and his mom collapsed inside herself, leaving Johnny to take care of the house and the bills and everything. To dull the stress, Johnny turned to alcohol and eventually found himself in rehab at the age of 16. When he gets out of rehab, his mom decides she can't deal with him and she sends him to South Carolina to live with his uncle. Johnny finds himself living with a new family, attending a private school where the jocks beat him up every day, and coping with his addiction by listening obsessively to Blondie. He first heard them in rehab and he immediately fell in love with Debbie Harry. But it's not so much that he wants to be with her... more like he wants to be her. She just seems so strong and sure of herself, like the person Johnny wants to be.

This is a great coming-of-age story. With music as an essential part of the plot and the main character's rather naive view of the world, it really reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which was the book we all passed around obsessively at my high school). I love that Johnny finds a strong father figure in his uncle and that his uncle is so open-minded. Throughout the book, Johnny questions whether he might be gay. He doesn't think he is, but the thought of putting on a little white dress and lip syncing to Heart of Glass is actually quite appealing... I love that his questioning is a natural thing. Johnny's figuring out who he is and if being gay is part of that package, he's okay with it.

Read more reviews at Oops...Wrong Cookie, Reading Rants, and Worth the Trip.

Much thanks to the publisher Henry Holt for sending this book along with my copy of The Adoration of Jenna Fox! It was a very pleasant surprise!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. (Grades 7+)

In a future America where overuse of antibiotics has led to the existence of super-bacteria that cannot be cured and genetic engineering has wiped out some species of plants, Jenna Fox was in a car accident. She doesn't remember the accident. In fact, she doesn't remember much of anything. And her parents aren't providing the answers she needs.

Jenna knows that they recently moved across the country. She knows that she used to have two best friends, but they're not around anymore. She knows that her grandmother seems to hate her, but she doesn't know why. And she knows that something fishy is going on.

As Jenna starts to remember more about her life, she uncovers exactly what happened to her. And she finds out just how far her parents would go to keep her from dying.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book from Amanda's giveaway and I devoured it immediately. I've read bunches of great reviews of this title and I was eager to sink my teeth into it. Why was I intrigued?

First of all, it's sci-fi with a girl for a main character. It seems like our local schools always end up giving a science fiction reading assignment and it can be such a struggle to find sci-fi that appeals to girls (if they're not already fans of the genre, that is).

Secondly, it's set in a well-imagined future America with problems that could really conceivably happen. It's future, but it's a future that seems so real that one could imagine it might not be that far off.

Thirdly, I've really been into amnesia books this year and this definitely has some flavors of that as well.

The book is totally gripping. The reader finds out what's going on as Jenna begins to uncover what happened to her. For the first half of the book I couldn't put it down because I wanted to know What Happened to Jenna?! I had my theories and they were partly right. For me, it was the perfect building of suspense, the perfect amount of clues and uncovered information. The answer wasn't obvious, but by the time we got there, it wasn't totally out of left field either.

So the first half of the book is completely suspenseful. The second half of the book was really intriguing because we get to see how Jenna deals with the information she finds out. She realizes just how much her parents wanted to save her, but she also figures out that she can make some decisions on her own. Her whole life Jenna was this perfect little girl on her mommy and daddy's pedestal, but now she can essentially start over. Will she want her life to be the same as it was? Or might she want to change some things?

I really, really enjoyed this book and the more I think about it the more I really like it. I'd hand it to fans of The House of the Scorpion or anyone looking for a great sci-fi read.

Read more reviews at The Well-Read Child, Becky's Book Reviews, Jen Robinson's Book Page, Reading Rants!, The YA YA YAs, and oh so many more... Mary E. Pearson was interviewed for the Summer Blog Blast Tour and wrote a guest post over at Teen Book Review.

Many thanks again to Amanda for holding the drawing and to Henry Holt for giving away copies! This'll end up as a prize book in our teen silent auction at the end of the summer, so the love will be shared!