Monday, October 31, 2011

Balloons Over Broadway

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet. Grades 1-5. October 2011, Houghton Mifflin. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

Happy Halloween! Are you ready for a Thanksgiving book?!

Since he was a little boy in England, Tony Sarg loved figuring out how to make things move. When he was six years old, he rigged pulleys so that he could open the chicken coop doors from the comfort of his warm bed, prompting his impressed father to excuse him from chores. As he grew older, Tony developed a love for marionettes and began to create them in London and then show them on Broadway after he moved to New York City. He first worked for Macy's by designing moving figures for their holiday windows and when Macy's wanted to add puppets to their Thanksgiving parade, they knew who to call.

 The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924 to honor the many immigrants who worked for the store and their cultural celebrations. Tony Sarg, an immigrant himself, created the iconic floating balloon puppets, which debuted in 1928 and have been in every Macy's parade since (except for 2 years during WWII when rubber and helium were needed for the war effort). In accessible prose, with just the right level of detail, Melissa Sweet tells Tony Sarg's story.

This story is destined to become a Thanksgiving favorite. This time of year, we're inundated with tales of turkeys and giving thanks. There's nothing wrong with either of those topics, of course, but Balloons Over Broadway gives us a refreshing change of pace with a look at another Thanksgiving tradition. The fact that the parade was started to honor immigrants ties in nicely to the bigger themes of the holiday.

I love the art in this book and it's definitely one of my Caldecott picks this year. Melissa Sweet, Caldecott honor winner for A River of Words*, uses colorful watercolor paintings and mixed media collage to bring this story to life. She includes whimsical details in the pictures that kids will love to pick out (and I'm sure Tony Sarg would have appreciated). I'm especially impressed with the toys she created for the mixed media spreads, some of which are based on toys that Sarg himself created. Even the endpapers contain information and details that add to the story - the back endpapers include an original advertisement for the 1933 Macy's parade.

As all children's nonfiction should, the book includes an author's note and a bibliography and source notes. A librarian would be hard-pressed to ask for more. Don't miss this book!

Balloons Over Broadway is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out this week's roundup over at Jean Little Library.

* Incidentally, this was one of my mock Caldecott picks back in 2008, a fact that I remain proud of to this day. ;)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reminder: AudioSynced

Remember: your October AudioSynced roundup is coming up next week over at Stacked! If you've reviewed or posted about audiobooks during October, shoot a link to Kelly or me and we'll make sure it's included in the roundup! You can leave links in the comments here or email me at Happy listening!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Breakdown

Last week I had a little bit of a breakdown.

I had had a wonderful turnout at our monthly teen anime club program and I'd successfully engaged a couple of the teens who thought they were too cool for school by asking them what kinds of activities and programs they'd like to see at the library. They exploded with ideas. An internet meme class, video game tournaments, an origami club (and by the way, we needed better origami books at the library)... I was so excited to hear about the stuff they were excited about, but at the end of the night all I could think was:

I'm exhausted. 

I got home that night and felt totally depressed. How could I possibly provide all the things my teens were asking me for? On top of programming for all the other ages that we're doing? And how could I still have time for myself and have a life, too?

Dude, I was freaking out. I was feeling useless and inadequate, which seemed ridiculous since I'd just had 37 teens at a library program.

I needed to remind myself of a few things:

- Librarian shoulders are great for crying on. A fellow librarian might not have magic answers, but he or she can certainly sympathize with you, offer advice, and just maybe make your whole day feel better. When in doubt, reach out.

- A career in librarianship is a marathon, not a sprint. I tend to have lots of ideas (inspired by all of you wonderful librarians and teachers out there). It is impossible to do every idea all at once. Don't try it. Just because I'm not doing it NOW doesn't mean I can't do it someday. It will still be a great idea next month or next year or three years from now.

- I'm still making a positive impact on my community with the things that I'm already doing. Even if I can't do everything I imagine, I am doing something. And it's making my community a better place for kids and teens.

- Programming is not all that matters. Building relationships with our patrons just by engaging them when they come to the library should be a valued part of my job.

- Even if I did offer every single program that my teens suggested, what are the chances they would actually show up for all of them? We've had great success with a few of our programs and we've had some that have completely and totally flopped. This summer, the teens involved in our teen literary magazine BEGGED me to continue having meetings during the school year. Not one person showed up to those programs. This doesn't mean that I should throw my teens' ideas out the window, but just that I need to take those ideas and make them into something that's going to work for my library and my community.

- It's okay to take some time for myself. It's okay to take a break from programs for awhile to get my bearings. It's much better than burning out and being no help to anyone.

And by remembering these things, I'm coming back from my breakdown. I wouldn't say I'm completely better yet (October kinda kicked my butt), but I'm getting there.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Storytime: Colors

Here's what I did this week for preschool storytime:

Opening Song: Glad to See You

Memory Box Item: This week's Memory Box item was an ant from I Ain't Gonna Paint No More.

Book: Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh. One of my long-time favorites. Storytime Katie also has a great flannelboard version of this story.

Book: I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont. Another favorite of mine. I love to sing this one.

Felt: Little Color Fish (apologies, but the source of this rhyme has been lost)

Five little fishes, swimming near the shore,
The red one took a bite, and then there were four.

Four little fishes, swimming in the sea,
The orange swam away and then there were three.

Three little fishes in the ocean blue,
The pink one took a seahorse ride and then there were two.

Two little fishes, swimming in the sun,
The yellow one swam too far away and then there was one.

One little blue fish, now you're all alone.
I'll put you in my fish bowl and then I'll take you home.

Stand Up and Stretch: I just asked the kids to stand up and stretch. We stomped like elephants, flapped like birds, waddled like penguins, jumped like frogs. And then we all sat down like little girls and boys.

Book: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. I sang this (to the tune of "Baa Baa Black Sheep", although many tunes will work) and many of the kids knew the book so well that they joined in singing right along with me, which was cute as all get out.

Song: If You're Wearing Red Today

Book: Duckie's Rainbow by Frances Barry. After I finished, one of the kids said, "That was a short book!"

Felt Activity: I Have a Crayon. Hand out the felt crayons to the kids and as you read this rhyme, have them put their crayon on the board when you call their color:

I have a crayon, I'll give it to you.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of blue.

I have a crayon, a lovely little fellow.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of yellow.

I have a crayon, I think it's just right.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of white.

I have a crayon, it's here on my head.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of red.

I have a crayon, I found it in town.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of brown.

I have a crayon, we can draw a circle.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of purple.

I have a crayon, what do I see?
Here is my crayon, an orange one for me.

I have a crayon right in my sack.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of black.

I have a crayon, I think it's just right.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of white.

I have a crayon, the best ever seen.
Here is my crayon, my crayon of green.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? 

Take Home Craft: My Color and Texture Book. I totally lifted this idea from Rachelle Doorley's guest post at Not Just Cute.

We ordered tiny crayons from Oriental Trading and included them in the take-home packet, along with white paper (cut down to booklet size), a front and back for the book, and the instructions. We didn't staple the books so it would be easier to make the texture rubbings. Parents can staple the books together when they're done. And, of course, if the kids would rather just draw on the paper, that's okay, too!

Alternate Books/Ideas:

I did a similar, but slightly different color storytime for our preschool outreach a few months ago.   Also check out Katie's color storytime (and Katie's other color storytime) and Mel's color storytime.

Blue Goose by Nancy Tafuri
Freight Train by Donald Crews
Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Kid Tea by Elizabeth Ficocelli
Lemons are Not Red by Laura Seeger
Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Your Radar: November

Culled from PW's On Sale Calendar and my handy dandy Baker & Taylor carts, here are some November releases that I think you should know about!



Home for Christmas by Jan Brett (November 1)
Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen (November 10)


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney (November 15) - LIKE I NEED TO TELL YOU ABOUT THIS ONE, EH?

Gooney Bird on the Map by Lois Lowry (November 15)


Crossed by Ally Condie (November 1)

The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles #1 by John Flanagan (November 1)

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (November 8) - Again, like I need to tell you about this one. ;) 

The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix (November 15)

Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler (November 21)

Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker (November 22) - So excited for this one! I loves me some Sally Walker!

These are the November books that I want to make sure are on your radar... What other November releases are you excited about?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Around the Interwebs

The happy-haps:

So, the National Book Award finalists were announced. Except, apparently they goofed up and announced Lauren Myracle's Shine as one of the finalists when it... wasn't. Twitter was not pleased. And Vanity Fair has an interview with Lauren about the whole fiasco. Also, read Lauren Myracle's article in the Huffington Post.

Dude, Jennie had the kids at her library make 1,000 cranes for Japan. AWESOME passive program idea!!

Someone I know just recently celebrated her library's birthday with an intense week of events. This idea is easier, but no less fantastic. Thanks to Travis for sharing this great project with the blogosphere!

Do you love creating book lists? Or hate it? Either way, you're going to want to check out the ALSC's Quicklists Consulting Committee. Betsy has the scoop!

This post at Not Just Cute is written about classrooms, but the points are applicable in libraries, as well. Do holidays have a place in the classroom (or library)?

If you, like me, have a soft spot for YA books about the performing arts, check out Stages on Pages, "young adult & middle grade authors touring America in support of the performing arts". Link via Kelly on The Hub.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Audiobook Review: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, written and read by Jack Gantos. Grades 3-6. Listening Library 1999, 2009. 3 hours 36 minutes. Review copy provided by my local library.

Joey Pigza was born wired. Some days, his meds work and he's able to calm down and concentrate. Other days...

Well, there was the day that Joey was sharpening pencils and decided to play vampire and sharpen his fingernail in the pencil sharpener. There was the day that Joey ate an entire molasses pie and ended up jumping off a roof. And there was the day that Joey swallowed his key, of course. But when Joey hurts a classmate, it's his last chance to get things under control.

If you haven't read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, I must insist that you do so at your earliest convenience. This is a modern classic that every children's librarian and elementary teacher (and parent) should read. I read it first in grad school and recently revisited it on audiobook. Joey's story is reality for a LOT of kids. According to the Center for Disease Control, almost one in ten children between the ages of 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives. In an author's note, Gantos mentions that he was inspired to write this book by a child he met at one of his school visits.

Joey is such a believable and likeable character that kids, ADHD or not, are sure to identify with him and sympathize with his struggles. Jack Gantos brings Joey to life with details about how he's feeling when his meds aren't working. He's a kid with a good heart, but his goodness is often hidden by his impulsive decisions and hyperactivity. Of course, the story is told with plenty of humor and even some gross-out moments, so kids are sure to appreciate that, as well.

Audiobook is a great format in which to experience this story, BUT I say that with the caveat that I've met Jack Gantos and heard him speak and I think he's totally awesome. I'm not sure his narration would have the same charm if I hadn't previously seen him in person. Y'all know that when an author reads his own work, it's not the same as an actor reading it. Gantos's reading isn't flashy and it's not voiced. But it's earnest. Jack Gantos reads the story as if it actually happened to him and until I heard the author's note at the end, I could have sworn that he was writing from his actual experience. He writes it and he reads it so that his listeners can experience ADHD, too, and so that they might understand. And so that kids with attention disorders will understand that they're not alone and that they're not bad kids.

For kids, this is a fun story and they'll be rooting for Joey all the way through. For adults, this may be a necessary story.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is on shelves now!

Hey, I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you purchase stuff after clicking the links on my site, I may get a small commission! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Storytime: Horses

Woohoo, it's time for our fall storytime session! Although we do baby storytime and Toddler Time every week, we have a short session of fall storytime this year since we've had one staff person on maternity leave. You can read a little bit about how we typically run our storytime sessions here. For this session, I have 4 staff members (including myself) presenting storytimes, so we each have one time slot during the week and we each planned one of the weeks. Of course, each storytime presenter may tweak the storytime plans to fit her group.

Opening Song: Glad to See You

Memory Box Item: This week's Memory Box item was a lion from Are You a Horse?

Book: Are You a Horse? by Andy Rash. The kids loved this one! A cowboy gets a saddle for his birthday and he must find a horse so he can go riding. He meets several different objects and animals, asking each one, "Are you a horse?" The kids loved to shout out "NO!" and identify the object or animal. The text might get a little wordy for a storytime readaloud, but it works just as well if you shorten it and everyone cracked up at the surprise ending!

Felt Rhyme: 8 Little Horses from A Year Full of Themes

I'm not going to put the entire rhyme here because it's kind of long. We have felt horses of different colors and matching manes and tails. I passed out the manes and tails to the kids and when I called their color in the rhyme, they brought up their pieces and put them on the appropriate horse.

Eight little horses grazing on hay,
Noticed something missing one sunny day.

They looked out across the grassy land,
Their manes and tails were in children's hands.

The first horse said, "If you're holding black,
I'd like you to bring my tail and mane back."... Etc. through all the colors.

Song: I'm a Little Cowboy

To the tune of I'm a Little Teapot

I'm a little cowboy, here is my hat! (Point to head.)
Here are my spurs and here are my chaps. (Point to feet and pat legs.)
When I get up, I work all day. (Jump up.)
Get on my horse and ride away. (Galloping motion.)

Book: Clip Clop by Nicola Smee. I had a longer book picked out, but they were getting a little squirrelly and I didn't think they would sit through it, so I chose this shorter book instead.

Felt Activity: Color horses in the corral. This is similar to the felt activity we had already done. I passed out horses that were made out of different felt colors and as I called the colors, each child brought up their horse and put it "in the corral". When I do this, I always try to set aside a set of one felt item in each color that I place on the board when I say the color. This helps any kids who aren't quite sure of their colors yet. At the end, we counted all the pieces as I took them off the board.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Take-Home Craft: Footprint Horse. We had all the pieces pre-cut and included google eyes and pre-cut yarn so all they have to do is glue the pieces together at home. We also include an instruction sheet and a handout with a related book list and early literacy information/activities in each take-home packet.

Alternate Books:

The longer book that I skipped over was We Go in a Circle by Peggy Perry Anderson. It's a quieter book and I tend to prefer funny books for storytime, but I wish I could have shared this with the kids. It's about a racehorse who hurts his leg and is taken to a farm where kids with disabilities can ride him. This is a great topic to introduce to young children to incorporate some diversity in your storytime.

Great storytime horse books are not incredibly easy to find. I believe one of my staff members is using Oh, Harry! by Maxine Kumin, but I thought it was a little too much for my crowd. You could definitely supplement with farm books that have horses. Any ideas for horse readalouds?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr. Grades 9+ Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October 2011. 341 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA.

Jill's just wishing things would go back to the way they used to be: her mother, her father, and her. But her dad's dead and her mom's going off the deep end and adopting a baby from some girl she met on the internet. Worst of all, the pregnant girl is coming to live with them until she has the baby. Between her on-again-off-again boyfriend and her friends whom she's driving away one by one, the last thing Jill wants to deal with is some hick town baby mama.

Mandy's just hoping that things will never go back to the way they used to be: her mother, her mother's boyfriend, and her. Eighteen and pregnant, she's taking the train to a new place and putting her trust in a family she's never met, all in the hopes of saving her baby from the life she's had. But Mandy kind of needs someone to care for her, too. Could Jill's small family be the answer?

Holy realistic contemporary, Batman. Sara Zarr is a superstar.

Not only has she created a lovely story dripping with grief and yearning and hope and regret, but she's managed to do the nearly impossible and create two very distinct voices for her dual narratives. This is something that's so easy to do badly, but Zarr does a bang-up job. Not once would I have ever mistaken Jill for Mandy or vice versa. Their ways of speaking, of thinking, of looking at the world are completely unique and this shines through in their voices.

Sara Zarr uses lots of details to create a strong sense of place. She's perfected the art of showing, not telling and while I was reading I felt like I was truly getting to know the characters. Secondary characters are well-developed and I enjoyed getting to know them, too. From Jill's eyeliner-sporting boyfriend to her boss at the bookstore to Mandy's white trash mom, these characters helped build a world. I could hear the snow crunching and feel the bitter cold of winter melting into spring. It's a sad story, oh yes. Jill's crushed by grief over her father's death and the reader feels it right along with her. Mandy's running away from something terrible and Zarr does a very nice job of slowly revealing Mandy's story while building tension.

These are two characters that I will not soon forget. I'm still rooting for both of them, long after I've finished the book.

Check out another review over at The Book Smugglers and look for How to Save a Life ON SHELVES TODAY!!

Monday, October 17, 2011


Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal. Grades 6 and up. Flash Point (Macmillan), May 2011. 160 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

This book starts with gangsters.

(Did I get your attention? Good. Keep reading.)

On January 17, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, outlawing the sale, transportation, and manufacture of intoxicating beverages. The amendment was supposed to make the country stronger and more moral. It was supposed to protect the children and strengthen families. Instead, the country began a slide into lawlessness, inviting corruption and gangs to take over.

Karen Blumenthal examines Prohibition from its roots in the early 1900s to its repeal in 1933, and even though we know from the get-go that Prohibition "failed", Blumenthal shows us a balanced view. Women's campaign efforts contributed greatly to the ratification of Prohibition, perhaps paving the way for the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Prohibition also resulted in fewer arrests for drunkenness and an overall reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed for years to come (even after the amendment was repealed).

A somewhat strange effect of Prohibition was:

"... booming business at beauty salons. 'When men drank, they were not so critical,' Mrs. Harry Newton Price told the New York Times. But now that men were sober and could see the wrinkles and straight hair of their partners, 'women are flocking to beauty parlors.'" (Page 77.) 
The book's arranged very effectively and it starts with a bang (kind of literally). The opening paragraphs describe the St. Valentine's Day murders, an act of blatant violence spearheaded by public enemy Al Capone. It was certainly enough to grab my interest and it's sure to grab the interest of many teens, as well. Quotes and photos pepper the pages, helping to bring the time period to life.

Extensive back matter includes a glossary of Prohibition terms (including words like "bootlegger", "flapper", and "teetotaler"), source notes, an author's note, and a thorough bibliography. This book is a valuable resource for reports, with writing accessible enough to be recreational reading for young historians.

Check out another review at The Fourth Musketeer. And then go check out this book because Bootleg is on shelves now!

It's Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to Simply Science for this week's roundup!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nominate books for the Cybils!


Listen, folks, a book CAN'T WIN if it's NOT NOMINATED. Here are some awesome books and big releases that are eligible and have not been nominated yet (as of this posting). Please consider nominating one of them (or one from each category)! Remember, ANYONE can nominate one title in each judging category. You don't have to be a blogger! Click here for the nomination form!

YA Fiction

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro (Feb. 2011)
Taking Off by Jenny Moss (Jan. 2011)
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (Jan. 2011)
Vixen by Jillian Larkin (Dec. 2010)

Fantasy/Science Fiction

Hero by Mike Lupica (Nov. 2010)
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini (May 2011)
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (Aug. 2011)
The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch (May 2011)

Middle Grade Fiction

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney (Nov. 2010)
Pie by Sarah Weeks (Oct. 2011)
Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald (Jan. 2011)

Fiction Picture Books

M.O.M. (Mom Operating Manual) by Doreen Cronin (Oct. 2011)
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle (Oct. 2011)

And be sure to check out these lists of nomination-worthy titles from other bloggers! Don't let your nom go to waste! Make sure you get your nominations in by October 15!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jefferson's Sons

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Grades 5-8. Dial, September 2011. 368 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Don't you ever call him Papa. (pg. 17)

Thomas Jefferson. One of America's founding fathers. A president. Owner of Monticello. The guy on the five-dollar bill.

But to Sally Hemmings, he was something else. And to her children, he was a father, even though they were never allowed to say that aloud.

Jefferson's Sons is the fictionalized account of Beverly and Maddy, two of Thomas Jefferson's sons with his slave Sally Hemmings.

This is a book to sink your teeth into. It's not a quick read, but a book to savor, a book to ponder. And this is a book that will help kids to understand what slavery really was and how much freedom means. Slavery was more than working in fields, it was even more than being sold away from your family or beaten by masters. Certainly Beverly and Maddy weren't beaten. They didn't have to work in the fields. And, in fact, according to the law they had enough white great grandparents to be considered legally white. But they were still slaves. They didn't have the one thing that mattered most - freedom.

The boys' relationship with Thomas Jefferson was one intriguing thing aspect of this book. He was their father and everyone knew it,* but no one ever said it. The boys got special treatment on the farm, saving them from having to do manual labor. Jefferson even gave them a violin and paid for their music lessons, but they still weren't treated equally to his legitimate children. As you can imagine (and as Kimberly Bradley imagines), it wasn't easy for boys to grow up that way - so close and yet so far... caring about their father and yet knowing that even as he fought for America's freedom he held other people captive, he held his own children captive.

Another intriguing aspect of the book was the choice the children would have to make when they turned 21. Jefferson promised Sally Hemmings that her children would be freed when they turned 21. For some of her children, that meant they could conceivably "pass" for white (and actually, legally, they would be white, seven out of their eight great-grandparents being white). It seems like an easy choice, and it was something that Sally Hemmings fought for and constantly worked towards - having her children live as white people. But living as a white man meant that Beverly would never see his mother or his darker brother again. Could you make that choice?

This is a book that's garnering a lot of Newbery buzz and it's definitely a book that has stuck with me. It might sound a little dramatic to say this, but I think I will never stop thinking about Jefferson's Sons. Ms. Bradley has made these characters so real that I can't stop thinking about the choices they had to make and the choices that led to their lives.

Read another review at A Fuse #8 Production.

Jefferson's Sons is on shelves now!

* Most scholars agree that Thomas Jefferson was the father of these children. Ms. Bradley includes a very nice author's note about her research. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Anime Club = Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

At least the kids in my county seem to think so, which is awesome. Picture 31 teens in a library auditorium, dancing around like this:

and you know how my night was. (They had no music, by the way. They just started randomly doing it!)

It's got me thinking: Anime Dance Party. But I'm not sure what the logistics would be for something like that... It may just be too much for the library, but I'm wondering if maybe the YMCA or the Parks Department would partner with us... Just general ideas floating around in my head at the moment. 

One young man came dressed up as L from Death Note and he had a black notebook with him that everyone went crazy for. I'm thinking that next month I might put out supplies for the kids to make their own Death Note notebooks (as long as they don't write MY name in it...). Also next month, as suggested by one of our regulars, we're celebrating Halloween by inviting optional cosplay. (Really, I'm always in favor of costumes, and some of the kids have been wearing them already.)

The kids are NOT into actually watching anime at Anime Club. They prefer to use the time to socialize, talk to their friends, and hang out on the computers. (I bring down a number of laptops for them to use.) And that's absolutely fine with me. :) 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Around the Interwebs

Short and sweet because that's the way I'm rolling this week...

Adrienne's throwing Preschool Dance Parties!

Rick Riordan's going to do a series about Norse gods! (via Betsy)

Flannel Friday is on Facebook!

Please go fill out the ALSC Blog survey and let us know what YOU would like to read about!

Also, please go nominate books for the Cybils! I won't stop bugging you about this. A great book CAN'T WIN if it's NOT NOMINATED. Nominations are open until October 15, so get thee to it! (Make sure you read the eligibility requirements...)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods. Grades 4-6. Penguin, September 2011. 144 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Hurricane Katrina is coming and nothing will stop her. But Saint Louis Armstrong Beach doesn't really believe that it could be all that bad. After all, New Orleans has weathered many a hurricane in its day. So he keeps on playing music on the streets to raise money for Julliard someday and when his dog runs away, Saint goes back to find him... and finds himself in the middle of the worst storm of his life.

I've reviewed a few Hurricane Katrina novels that have come out for kids and teens over the past few years. There was Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi, which put teenage Miles in the middle of the Superdome. There was the superb Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which painted a sensory picture of 12-year-old Lanesha going through the storm. And this year, we have Saint Louis Armstrong Beach.

One definite strength of this book is that it's very kid-friendly. Yes, the storm's coming and yes it's seriously, but Brenda Woods focuses on Saint's life before and after the storm, rather than the horrors he's going through during the storm. This isn't to say that she brushes over everything, but there's a definite emphasis on living through it - that life was happening in New Orleans before the hurricane and that life went on in New Orleans afterwards. Having visited New Orleans this summer and having seen how the city is absolutely infused with music, I was very pleased to see that music is a big part of the story.

Another aspect of the story that I was pleased to see was Saint's relationship with his former best friend, an older girl who lives next door. They're reaching those tween years when so many boy-girl friendships get awkward as new feelings develop. I feel like we get this scenario all the time from the girl's perspective, so it was refreshing to see it from a boy's view, even though it wasn't entirely successful. There's a lot going on in the book - Saint's music, Saint's attempt to save his dog, the coming storm, the girl-next-door-best-friend, another girl who has a crush on Saint... Some of the plot elements didn't seem to go anywhere and there were spots where I definitely had to stretch my suspension of disbelief to buy everything that was going on.

That said, this is a nice addition to the Hurricane Katrina books available for kids. It will make the storm accessible to elementary school kids and is perfectly appropriate for the classroom or library.

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is on shelves now!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In which I discuss my lack of laminating prowess

I'm over at the ALSC Blog today, talking about some awesome genre displays that I created based on inspiration from two of my favorite librarian bloggers! Sneak peak:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez. Grades 7+ Simon Pulse, October 2011. 304 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Violin is everything to seventeen-year-old Carmen Bianchi and the most prestigious violin competition of her life is approaching. To win would guarantee professional success and the approval of her overbearing, former-opera-singer mother/manager. To lose is unthinkable. Enter Jeremy King, a British violin virtuoso and Carmen's biggest competition. When Carmen scopes out her rival, they end up meeting and Carmen discovers that maybe he's not the enemy. Or maybe he is. Maybe winning this competition is all Carmen's ever wanted. Or maybe it isn't.

Jessica Martinez has created a realistic and engrossing tale that captures the pressure put on young musicians. She's got Carmen down - a supremely talented violinist who has lost sight of what she's doing. She's no longer capable of enjoying her own music because she's so caught up in competition and her mother's struggle to reclaim her own broken dreams. She's hooked on anti-anxiety drugs to make it through her performances and high-pressure violin lessons.

The rest of Carmen's family is nicely fleshed out, from the crazy stage mother (seriously, Diane will cut a bitch) to the even-keeled step-dad who dutifully shows up at all of Carmen's performances to the absent, wealthy grandparents who just pop by to buy Carmen a million-dollar violin. I appreciated Ms. Martinez giving Carmen two very different parents. Diane's the character you love to hate. Clark is the step-dad you love to love because it's so obvious he cares about Carmen (and also, he puts up with his wife's crazy antics, so...).

Jeremy's still a little bit of a mystery to me. Maybe it's because I didn't completely buy Jeremy and Carmen falling in love over a handful of dates leading up to the competition, but I liked that I never stopped questioning whether Jeremy was completely on the level. Is he genuinely interested in her? Or is he plotting ways to destroy Carmen's chances in the competition?

Maybe I'm just noticing them more, but it seems like there's been a surge in performing arts titles for teens lately, a trend I'm very happy about! Hand this to teens who liked Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer or Good Enough by Paula Yoo (still one of my favorites!). This title will also pair nicely with another fall release, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, for its insider look at the performing arts.

Virtuosity will be on shelves October 18!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Afterschool Update

Earlier this month, I posted at the ALSC Blog about starting our after-school programs at our local schools and today I wanted to post a little update about how they're going.

We've now been to each of our nine schools once and this week we'll start another round. For the most part, they're going really well. This new schedule is working and it seems like everyone is on the same page. All of the sites have been ready for us when we got there. We did have one site with 65 kids there, which was a little too much for us to handle, but we'll probably split them up into two groups next time we go there.

At one of my schools (I specifically took this site because I knew we'd had some troublesome kids there in the past), I have a couple of kids who are Just Not Convinced that the library has anything to offer them. My goal this school year is to prove them wrong, of course! In September when I went, I only read two books and then let the kids who weren't into doing the craft peruse the books I brought with me. They seemed to like this, so I'll do it again this month. And at the tail end of my visit, one of the too-cool-for-school kids sidled up to me and said, "So... what was the craft you were doing, anyway?" I told him and when I looked at the clock and said that it was too late, I'd be leaving in a few minutes, he said, "Well, I didn't want to do it anyway..."

This month, I am totally bribing them. We're going to decorate treat bags with Halloween stickers (and crayons) and anyone who decorates a bag will get a little candy to put in it. Heh.

So, what books are they digging?

I've been pairing I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry with How Big Is It? by Ben Hillman. They liked Biggest Thing and I generally get the laughs I'm looking for, but they LOOOOVVVEEE How Big Is It?! I don't read all the words or even show them all the spreads, but I open the book to a spread and explain what it is and read a few of the facts from the page. I show them 4-8 spreads, depending on how the group's doing. I always tell them that I'm not reading the entire thing because it's too long for our program but that if they would like to check it out of the library they certainly can! And I always mention the other Ben Hillman books that they can find at the library.

Another hit with the kids this month has been Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett. They absolutely crack up at all the illustrations. And their favorite is my favorite, too (the chicken!). And, of course, they're loving Elephant and Piggie. This time around I brought I am Invited to a Party! I saved it for last and one of the groups actually applauded when I brought it out (they remember Elephant and Piggie from last year!). It warms my librarian heart to hear them chanting "Party! Party! Party! Party!" as they start doing their craft. :)

Of course, each group is a little different and some of them are going to dig different kind of stories. I have one particular group that is very attentive and will pay attention to quieter and/or longer stories, so I brought out There's No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent for those kids. This was a favorite of mine when I was small and I'm all about spreading the love of MY favorite books. If just one kid grows up remembering the time a librarian read them that book, I have done my job. :)

Our craft this month was quite simple - we made our own bookmarks. We just cut up white cardstock into bookmark-sized strips and gave the kids crayons and stickers and let them go to town. A very important thing to know about kids and stickers: some of them will consider it a mission to use up every single sticker placed before them. Just know that before you set out your entire sticker supply.

So, that was September and now I'm looking forward to a fun October with our afterschool friends! I'll be sure and report back.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time to nominate your favorites for the Cybils awards!

Yes, that's right! Cybils nominations are officially open! The Cybils are the Children's & YA Blogger Literary Awards and ANYONE can nominate one title in each of the following categories: 

  • Book Apps
  • Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Fiction Picture Books
  • Graphic Novels
  • Middle Grade Fiction
  • Non-Fiction Picture Books
  • Non-Fiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult
  • Poetry
  • Young Adult Fiction

So, what are you waiting for? Keep in mind the updated eligibility rules and go forth & nominate!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

AudioSynced: September Roundup!

It's October 1! NOT ONLY are the Cybils nominations now officially open, but it's time for your AudioSynced Roundup!

AudioSynced is a monthly roundup of audiobook reviews and news from around the blogosphere. If you've got a link I missed, please add it in comments and I'll include it with the roundup. And if you're looking for more great audiobook reviews, always remember to check out Audiobook Jukebox, an extensive database of audiobook reviews!

Audiobook News and Posts

Amanda at YALSA's The Hub posts about the Amazing Audiobook Nominees and reminds us to nominate our favorite recent YA audiobooks for the list!

The voters have spoken and the winner of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Best Audiobook Blog is Devourer of Books

Children's/Middle Grade Audiobooks

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, read by Gerard Doyle, reviewed by Allison at Lost in the Pages. Allison says, "I think this might be a case where the audiobook version of the story could actually be better than the printed version. At times Beddor’s writing feels a little superfluous or stilted, but Doyle read it in a way that made it all feel quite natural and perfect for the story..."

The Misfits by James Howe, read by a full cast, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "[Spencer] Murphy does the major narrator duties, and he creates a completely believable character of a sad, shy boy. The other young readers also sound comfortable and natural in their performances."

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall, read by Susan Denaker, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "Denaker portrays a large cast of characters with interest and appropriateness... It's a lovely performance."

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, read by Joel Johnstone, reviewed by April at Good Books & Good Wine. April says, "I absolutely recommend reading Gary D. Schmidt’s book via audio. The narrator, Joel Johnstone, has a pitch perfect voice, reminding me of The Wonder Years or the Sandlot narrator."

YA Audiobooks

Delirium by Lauren Oliver, read by Sarah Drew, reviewed by April at Good Books & Good Wine. April says, "Sarah Drew does a fantastic job handling the character of Lena... [Her voice] really carried the story and sounded exactly how I would imagine a teenage girl. She’s rather convincing."

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex, read by Kirby Heybourne, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "[Kirby Heybourne's] relatively high voice, the sing-song quality of his reading, and the precise diction simply aren't very interesting to listen to. Occasionally, he breaks out of these patterns, and is really, really funny!"

Heist Society by Ally Carter, read by Angela Dawe, reviewed by April at Good Books & Good Wine. April says, "[Angela Dawe]... has a bit of 1940s sophisticated twang which is exactly how I would imagine a globetrotter to sound."

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, read by Jonathan Todd Ross and Chris Sorensen, reviewed by Susan at Librarian Pirate. Susan says, "The audiobook narration is good. There are two male narrators, though, for the two main POVs of the book, but I didn't even realize that until haflway through because the voices were so similar."

Juliet Immortal by Stacy Jay, read by Justine Eyre, reviewed by Michelle at Never Gonna Grow Up. Michelle says, "The narrator for this audiobook is a great actress, but her voice sounds really old. Like, I thought she could be Juliet’s grandmother."

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, read by Nick Podehl, reviewed by Beth of A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust. Beth says, "I did not buy Nick Podehl's performance of Todd in the slightest. What Nick sounded like to me was a refined, college educated man trying way too hard to sound like a young, illiterate 13-year-old boy and yet it was also half-hearted at the same time."

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith, read by Mark Boyett, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "Mark Boyett reads the novel, and he is very good... His voice is a bit gravelly for a teenager, but Boyett overcomes this by speaking in those boy rhythms as Jack and Conner exchange insults as conversation."

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, read by Laura Flanagan, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "Flanagan gets the teenage voices really well, and is particularly effective with the inflections and characterization of first-person narrator Jessica. She portrays Rosa's speech impediment (which Jessica describes as "under water") honestly, while ensuring that we can understand her."

Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen by Garth Nix, read by Tim Curry, reviews by Susan at Librarian Pirate. Susan says, "Tim Curry needs to quit all his other jobs (and I love all his other jobs) and just read books to me."

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, read by Macleod Andrews, reviewed by Abby at Abby the Librarian (that's me!). I said, "Andrews simply becomes Sutter Keely and that lets the listener really sink into the audiobook and become immersed in the story. This audiobook had me looking forward to my commute and road trips so I could continue the story."

Story of a Girl written and read by Sara Zarr, reviewed by Abby at Abby the Librarian (that's me!). I said, "Sara Zarr doesn't voice characters, the reading's not flashy, but Sara Zarr, narrator, gets out of the way and lets Deanna's words speak for themselves."

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci, read by a full cast (kinda), reviewed by Jeanne at Books for Ears. Jeanne says, "With six readers, I do list this as a ‘Full Cast Audio’ book – but it isn’t really. Each voice is tied to a single character and tells their part of the story. It is a good set of voices – though I did like some better than others."

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt, read by Sharon McManus, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, " There was real emotion in [Sharon McManus's] reading, I heard the lump in her throat when Drew reads a section of her father's notebooks. I'd listen to her read again."

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, read by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman, reviews by Abby at Abby the Librarian (that's me!). I said, "Both [narrators] read clearly and with the requisite emotion for these intense roles. I probably wouldn't have read the whole book if I had been reading instead of listening."

Adult Audiobooks

Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison, read by Orlagh Cassidy, reviewed by Jessica at Cover to Cover. Jessica says, "ALWAYS SOMETHING THERE TO REMIND ME worked extremely well as an audiobook, especially since the book flashed back between past and present. This give the narrator Orlagh Cassidy a chance to use many different voices and tones."

Cryoburn by LoisMcMaster Bujold, read by Grover Gardner, reviewed by Jeanne of Books for Ears. Jeanne says, "I really enjoyed this book, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone who has never read any of the rest of the Vorkosigan Saga."

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw, read by Heather O'Neill, reviewed by Lanea at Books for Ears. Lanea says, "Heather O’Neill is a fantastic reader, and I think her tone and pacing were just right for this book."

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, read by Dion Graham, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "Thank goodness for Dion Graham, whose really stellar performance makes this go down pretty easily."

Insatiable by Meg Cabot, read by Emily Bauer, reviewed by Susan at Librarian Pirate. Susan says, "Insatiable is quintisential Meg Cabot. Fun, quirky, deceptively light (she always packs quite a bit of substance into her fluffy reads, if that makes any sense), and fantastic."

Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent, read by Tavia Gilbert, reviewed by Carin at Caroline Bookbinder. Carin says, "Initially I wasn't crazy about the narrator. I'm not sure why but her voice didn't match up to what I was expecting or it wasn't fitting with the emotions or something, but by the time I was halfway in, that wasn't a problem at all anymore."

What did I miss?
If you've got a link from September that I missed, please leave a link in the comments and I'll include it! Didn't review an audiobook this month? No worries - AudioSynced will be back on November 1 at STACKED.