Thursday, March 29, 2012

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor...

So, as you may know, The Hunger Games movie was released last week. Happily, this coincided with our Spring Break and we thought it was the perfect time for a teen Hunger Games program!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this program. Our teen Zombie Prom was a huge hit in the fall and we were having to turn teens away because registration filled up really quickly. We didn't require registration for the Hunger Games program and we ended up with a group of 20, which turned out to be a perfect turnout - full, but not so full that it was overwhelming.

I actually had the pleasure of doing this program twice since I partnered with one of our neighboring teen librarians. She came over to help me with the program at my library and then I went over there to help her run it for her teens!

Here's what we did:

3:00pm - Open doors and welcome the kids in. We gave them a little time to hang out and gush about the movie and books while we waited for everyone to get there. As the kids arrived, we had them put their name on a ticket for "The Reaping" (actually door prizes!).

3:10-3:30pm - Hunger Games trivia. Two of our staff members put together a kind of trivia board game. We taped sheets of paper to the floor for our game board and let the kids roll our large foam dice. In order to move along the board, their team had to answer the trivia question correctly. The kids were super awesome at the trivia.

At the second program, the kids got through the game board very quickly, so we did two rounds.

3:30-4:00pm - Cornucopia Challenge. This was a really fun activity and the kids really liked it. We printed out cards for the items instead of having the actual items, just to save a bit on cost and to keep from having to track down all those items. I'd recommend getting a large posterboard or whiteboard to keep track of the scores. The teens also had some great ideas about different things that could happen in the arena and I think it'd be really fun to have them collaborate on writing a script and then run the game with them!

We had prizes for the winning teams of both the trivia and the Cornucopia Challenge. I let them choose either a candy bar or a free book from my stash of ARCs. If you're low on cash, another prize could be an extra entry in the Reaping (door prize drawing).

4:00pm - 5:00pm Training stations. We had several stations set up around the room, so after we finished the group activities, we gave them some free time to do whatever stations they chose. At my library, we did cookie decorating at "Peeta's Bakery", a costume design station, and a weapons-making station. We also did knot tying at Kate's library.

Cookie decorating is pretty self-explanatory. For the costume design station, we printed out information about each of the districts and I printed out some sheets of Hunger Games costume sketches from Deviant Art for inspiration. We asked teens to design a costume for a tribute from a district of their choice and we put the gallery up in the Teen Scene.

For the weapons-making station, we put out all kinds of scraps and materials that we had on hand and let the kids go crazy. Suggestions for materials: duct tape, aluminum foil, red and black construction paper, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, pie tins*, paper towel rolls, toilet paper tubes, string or yarn, and whatever else you have on hand. They were extremely creative and some of the boys just sat down at this station for the rest of the time.

We assigned staff to stations, but really they were all self-directed. The stations actually kept them busy for the entire hour, and it gave us a chance to mingle and chat with the teens about the books and movie. It's always good to have a backup, though, and we figured we'd bust out some more trivia or some board games if we noticed that anyone was getting bored.

Periodically, we'd draw out a couple of names for the door prizes. At my library we gave out $10 iTunes gift cards (which I found in 3-packs at Kroger) and at Kate's library we gave out a Hunger Games poster. We gave out Hunger Games bookmarks, which I had picked up at the ALA Store in Dallas. Kate also created a perfect Hunger Games readalike bookmark that we gave to everyone.

All in all, it was a wonderful program and a ton of fun for both teens and librarians. I was very happy to have a nice mix of regulars and new faces in our crowd and I hope to see them all again soon!

* Okay, my teens loved used the pie tins, but I realized after they started cutting them up that they were quite sharp. You should probably think about whether you can trust your teens not to slice themselves (or each other) into pieces. ;)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming Soon: ILF District 6 Conference!

Okay, I'm going to take a minute here and promote an upcoming event that is near and dear to my heart. The Indiana Library Federation's District 6 Conference is coming up on Friday, April 13, 2012 at Ivy Tech in Lawrenceburg, IN. Lawrenceburg is in Southern Indiana, very close to Cincinnati, OH.

Where else can you hear the inimitable Michael Stephens AND the fantastic Jessamyn West speak for the low, low price of $47 (and even lower - $32 - for ILF members!)? Not only that, but we have some great breakout sessions, including sessions on storytime props, redesigning your website, hosting a Big Read, dealing with teen volunteers, eContent, customer service, and MORE.

Your registration fee covers breakfast and lunch. Parking is free and you will definitely want to check out Ivy Tech's beautiful campus, right on the river. You'll also want to stop by and check out the Lawrenceburg Public Library, which is right down the street.

This will be a great event for librarians in all fields and library school students, as well! If you're in the area, this is an opportunity to network with local librarians and get some great professional development. Please join us and feel free to spread the word!

Click here for more information about the ILF District 6 Conference or to register!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reminder: AudioSynced!

It's almost that time... time for your AudioSynced roundup! If you've posted about or reviewed audiobooks in March, I would be ever so grateful for a link to include in this month's roundup! Post your link in the comments or email to If you didn't review any audiobooks this month, neverfear! AudioSynced is a monthly feature, hosted by myself and Kelly of STACKED.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Storytime: Fish

This week, we swam into the library for a storytime about fish!

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was swim goggles from Fish Wish by Bob Barner. Interestingly, no one could remember what was in the box from last week and I wonder if that's because they're not as familiar with knitting needles as they might be with other items we've had in the box. Hmmm.

Book: Ten Little Fish by Audrey Wood. I just love the bright, computer generated images in this book and it has a nice, catchy rhyme as we count down from 10 fish.

Rhyme: Five Little Fishies Swimming in the Sea. This rhyme is adapted from "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree"!

Five little fishies, swimming in the sea
Teasing Mr. Shark, "You can't catch me!"
Along comes Mr. Shark, quiet as can be
And snatches that fish right out of the sea!

Count down...

Book: Fish Wish by Bob Barner. Simple text and bright, colorful illustrations make this a good choice for your storytime. We also talked about how "fish" and "wish" rhyme. I asked them if they could think of any other words that rhymed with "fish" and we came up with "dish", "splish", "squish" and "mish".

Dance Break: After last week's dance storytime, I decided I want to incorporate more music and action in my storytimes, even if it's not thematic (I have mixed feelings about themes, anyway). So I told them they'd been sitting still for a long time and it was time for a dance break. I passed out scarves and we danced to "Silly Dance Contest" by Jim Gill.

Rhyme: Color Fish. My own Miss T made this prop rhyme for us. It's a box with a slit in the top and as you say the rhyme, you can drop the fish into the tank! Miss T has even labeled the back of the box so we know what order to drop the strings in:

There's a plastic baggie holding each fish in order to keep them from getting tangled.

On Saturday, I got my wish
When I found a tank for a fish.

But an empty tank is not much fun, 
So I bought an orange fish and now I have one. 

I have a fish, but one won't do,
So I bought a purple one and now I have two.

I have two fish swimming happily,
But I bought a yellow one, and now I have three. 

I have three fish, but I want more,
So I bought a red one and now I have four. 

I have four fish that jump and dive, 
But I bought a pink one and now I have five. 

On Saturday, I got my wish
When I found a tank for a fish. 

A tank full of fish is lots of fun, 
But the cat just saw them so I'd better run!

Book: Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert. A lot of fish books have to do with counting. Hmm.

Activity: Felt color fish. I passed out the fish and as I called out the colors, kids came up and put them on the board!

Take-Home Craft: A fish in a fish bowl. We provided all the pieces (die-cut hand shapes, pipe cleaners for seaweed, shells, a google eye, and the outline of the fish bowl to cut out and the outline of bubbles to cut out. Making the outlines is a great task for our teen volunteers and letting the preschoolers cut things out is good for fine motor control. They loved having real shells in their bags!

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

Fish Faces by Norbert Wu
Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins
I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean! by Kevin Sherry
Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Ugly Fish by Karen LaReau (know your audience with this one - the fish gets eaten at the end!)
Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Page by Paige

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge. Grades 6 and up. Abrams, 2011. 192 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

What's wrong?
I don't know. 

What do you want? 
I don't know. 

Geez, do you know ANYthing? 
I know I need to draw about it. 
So I bought a sketchbook. 
Maybe it will help. (page 6)

Paige's family has just relocated to New York City. It's huge. It's completely different from everything that Paige knows. And now she's faced with starting over: new friends, new school... new Paige? Here, Paige has a fresh start and she can be whoever she wants to be.... but who is that exactly?

You know what? My words can't do the stunning artwork justice, so you'd better just check out this book trailer:

Paige isn't quite sure who she is, but she knows that she's not quite the person she wants to be. And if you've ever felt the same way, this is the book for you. Laura Lee Gulledge's gorgeous art expresses that wish for change and the process of going out to find it better than I could have imagined. This is a book that struck a chord with me and if I could go back in time and hand it to myself as a teen, I totally would.

We definitely see Paige grow and change through the pages of this graphic novel. Her sketchbook helps her sort through things, giving us a glimpse inside her head. Other characters are similarly well-developed and we see Paige dealing with problems with her friends and her parents throughout the course of the year. The romance that develops feels organic and well-paced.

The art is a perfect mix of funny and poignant, whimsical and dark. The art reflects the many facets of Paige's character and what she's dealing with. It changes with Paige's mood and thoughts, sometimes darker, sometimes lighter.

This is a story that will resonate with many teens and it's a great graphic novel for your teen girls. Hand this to your artistically-inclined teens, but make sure it's also out there for the wallflowers who may be too shy to ask.

Page by Paige was a finally for the 2011 Cybils Awards and you should also check out more reviews at GreenBean TeenQueen, Stacked, and Wyz Reads.

Friday, March 16, 2012

These are teens...


This post is for anyone who's ever wondered why teens are worthy of exemplary library service.

As you probably know, we had some bad weather here in Southern Indiana a few weeks ago. One of the worst-hit areas was Henryville, a town about 30 miles north of my library in New Albany. The Henryville schools were completely destroyed. Henryville High School students were sent home with literally minutes to spare before the tornadoes hit. If school administration hadn't acted when they did, hundreds of students would probably have died.

You may also know that the country group Lady Antebellum is holding a video contest for an appearance at one high school prom this year.

Henryville High School students put together a video to enter the contest. But that's not what this post is about.

Students at D.C. Everst High School in Wisconsin, hundreds of miles away, completely unrelated to Henryville made an entry for the contest... an entry asking Lady Antebellum to come to Henryville's prom:

And last night, my friend, Silver Creek High School English teacher Mr. Hankins shared a video that the Silver Creek High School students had made. Another entry for Lady A's contest... asking Lady Antebellum to come to Henryville High School's prom:

If you have any doubts about why teens deserve the very best service and a place in the library to call their own, just look at these videos. I'm so impressed by their capacity for empathy. Look at what they're doing here, for their neighbors, for their fellow Americans who have had a tragedy.

It may seem like a small thing, a contest for a prom performance. But to Henryville, it means the world. It means not being forgotten. It means knowing that people want to lend a helping hand, that other teens are putting aside their worries about tests and dates and jobs to do something nice for them.

If we, as librarians, have the chance to serve these teens (and other teens who are just as capable of great acts of kindness), we need to jump at it and do the very best that we can. Our teens deserve it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Storytime: Dance

What better way to get the blood pumping than dancing for 30 minutes with a bunch of preschoolers?! This storytime definitely woke me up after a very blah morning-after-Daylight-Savings-Time-started.

Opening Song: "Body Rock" by Greg & Steve. I switched it up a little bit to get the energy flowing!

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a pair of knitting needles from Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson. 

Book: If You're Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera. I had the kids stand up and we did the motions while I sang this book to them. I don't think I read the whole thing and when I was ready to move on, I closed the book and sang "If you're happy and you know it please sit down!"

Book: Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson. I'm a huge fan of the big, bright pictures and the rhyming text. Plus, there's tons of great dance vocabulary here: samba, tango, rhumba, etc.

Song: "List of Dances" by Jim Gill. I wrote out all the dances on a big posterboard that I put up on our easel. This helps me remember what's coming up so I can prompt the kids.

Felt Rhyme: Five Ballerinas. I found two different rhymes that would work just fine for ballerina felt pieces.

Five dancing ballerinas
Prancing on their toes.
They twirl and spin and jump,
Then off the stage she goes!
(And continue with counting down.)


Five little ballerinas, dancing across the floor.
One twirled away and then there were four.
Four little ballerinas, stretched tall like a tree.
One leaped away and then there were three.
Three little ballerinas dressed in tutus of blue,
One danced away and then there were two.
Two little ballerinas, having lots of fun.
One twirled away and then there was one.
One little ballerina, dancing all alone.
She danced away and then there was none.

Song with Scarves: "The Freeze" by Greg & Steve. I let the kids select a scarf and we danced however they liked, freezing when the music stopped. When we were done with the song, I had the kids bring their scarves to me by color.

Rhyme: Thelma Thumb

Thelma Thumb is up! (thumbs up!)
Thelma Thumb is down! (thumbs down)
Thelma Thumb is dancing all around the town! (thumbs wiggle all around)
Dance her on your shoulders, (thumb on shoulders)
Dance her on your head, (thumb on head)
Dance her on your knees (thumb on knees)
And tuck her into bed. (fold thumb in and cover with other fingers)

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time it Is?

Take-Home Craft Dancing hippos! This is a super simple craft that can be tailored to any number of themes. We provided the hippos (we have a die), straw, yarn, and bead. You could also provide materials to decorate your hippo with a dancing costume (feathers, cloth scraps, tulle, stick-on gems, etc.).

Alternate Books: As you can see, I didn't even get to all the books I have pulled for this week, choosing to use music instead. But there are lots of great choices! Any book that can be sung will work.

Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont
Color Dance by Ann Jonas
The Croaky Pokey by Ethan Long
Dancing Feet by Lindsay Craig
The Dancing Tiger by Malachy Doyle (a quieter story, great for settling down at the end)
Down by the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton
Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andrae

Alternate Songs/Dances: Everyone's taste in music is different! If you don't like or don't have any of the songs listed above, try one of these great action songs:

"All the Ways of Jumping Up and Down" by Hap Palmer (found on Walter the Waltzing Worm)
"Bop 'Til You Drop" by Greg & Steve (found on Kids in Action)
"Get Ready, Get Set, Let's Dance" by Greg & Steve (found on Kids in Action)
"I Know a Chicken" by Laurie Berkner (found on The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band)
"Jump Down, Turn Around" by Greg & Steve (found on Ready... Set... Move!)
"Jump Up, Turn Around" by Jim Gill (found on Jim Gill Sings Moving Rhymes for Modern Times)
"Let's Dance Now" by Jim Gill (found on Jim Gill Makes it Noisy in Boise, Idaho)
"Move and Freeze" by The Learning Station (found on Brain Boogie Boosters)
"No More Monkeys" by Asheba (found on No More Monkeys or on Putumayo's Picnic Playground)
"Ready Set Move" by Greg & Steve (found on Ready... Set... Move!)
"Shimmy Shake" by Greg & Steve (found on Ready... Set... Move!)
"Silly Dance Contest" by Jim Gill (found on Jim Gill Sings The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes)
"Song About Slow, Song About Fast" by Hap Palmer (found on Walter the Waltzing Worm)
"Swing, Shake, Twist, and Stretch" by Hap Palmer (found on Walter the Waltzing Worm)

You can also pass out scarves and dance to whatever music you like! Try picking songs that have different tempos or moods and tell the kids to dance how the music makes them feel. Is it fast or slow? Sad or happy?

And of course, you can throw in dances you can do without recorded music. Try "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes", "I'm a Little Teapot", "The Hokey Pokey" or "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush".

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Girl Named Faithful Plum

A Girl Named Faithful Plum: The True Story of a Dancer from China and How She Achieved Her Dream by Richard Bernstein. Grades 4 and up. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 270 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

It took Li Zhongmei three days and two nights on a filthy, crowded train to travel the 1,000+ miles from her tiny hometown in northern China to Beijing for her audition for the Beijing Dance Academy. She was eleven years old and had never left Baoquanling. Her parents had to borrow money for the train ticket. 

The Academy would take only 12 girls and 12 boys. From the entire country of China. 

Her sister told her she never had a chance. Her fellow dancers she met at the auditions told her she never had a chance.

But Zhongmei was accepted into the Beijing Dance Academy... and began the most torturous year of her young life. If Zhongmei could survive, she had a shot at her dream. But to survive the physical and emotional strain of that first year would take all of Zhongmei's determination.

Zhongmei is a plucky young girl with a stubborn streak and it's easy to sympathize with her struggles. She's looked down upon by both her classmates and her teachers, but their prejudice only serves to strengthen her will. This is an inspiring story, but it's not overdone or didactic. Young readers with empathize and root for Zhongmei, even as they're caught up in the descriptions of the dances she's learning and her day-to-day life in a rigorous school. 

As I was reading, I especially liked getting a glimpse of China through Zhongmei's eyes. Depictions of her long journey really brought home just how huge China is, and seeing the differences between her country life and life in the city emphasized how diverse the country is. And although I learned about China while reading this book, it all happened organically as I was swept up in Zhongmei's story.

The writing left a little to be desired.  The story was fascinating enough to propel the book through occasionally stilted turns of phrase and some repetitive passages. The beginning was a little slow for me, with it taking over a third of the book for Zhongmei to get to Beijing and get through her auditions. However, I can appreciate an emphasis on how hard auditions can be, as that's something many young dancers are dealing with. I suppose I wasn't expecting so much of the book to be about the travel and audition process since we know from reading the title that Zhongmei makes it as a dancer.

This is an inspiring true story that will be a sure hit for fans of dance and theater books. Although Zhongmei is eleven years old in the book, I think it'll have wide appeal and I'd recommend it to middle grade and teen readers. Once I picked it up, I didn't want to put it down!

I'd hand this to fans of performing arts and dance stories like Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin, To Dance by Siena Cherson Siegel, or Bunheads by Sophie Flack. I'd also hand it to kids interested in Chinese life, stories like Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah or Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine.

A Girl Named Faithful Plum is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is at Rasco from RIF, so make sure you check it out!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Young Hoosier Book Award, Here I Come!

Tomorrow, I will trek up to Indy for the start of what I like to call Young Hoosier Book Award Season. Yup, I'm on the middle grade committee for the Young Hoosier Book Award (YHBA). YHBA is Indiana's state kids' choice book award program. There are three lists of 20 nominees set forth each year and announced in November at the Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference. There's a committee for each of the lists - picture books, intermediate books (think 3rd-5th grade) and middle grade books (think 6th-8th grade). ILF also has a high school book award - the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award.

Last year was my first year on the YHBA committee and I didn't know exactly what to expect. Now that I'm returning for my second year (a term on the committee is generally two years), I have a better idea and I'm really excited to get started! Here's what we'll do.

We have a meeting in March where we get our list of field-and-committee-nominated books (yup, Indiana librarians, teachers, students, and parents - you can nominate books!). Our tireless YHBA committee chairs go through the field nominations to assess eligibility and give us a list of approximately 60 titles that we have to narrow down to 20. We also get many review copies provided by publishers. As a committee member, I really appreciate getting any review copies publishers are able to provide because it makes my job a lot easier!

Once we get our list, we start reading, reading, reading! For YHBA, we also create activity sheets for each of 20 finalists. The activity sheets include vocabulary words, discussion questions, and classroom activities that correlate to the Indiana state educational standards. It does add an extra layer of work to the committee reading, but once you get the hang of it, it gets easier.

We read all spring and summer and then have another meeting in September where we hash our the 20 books on the list. We choose 20 books and a couple of alternates, which are used if a publisher doesn't have enough copies of a book to satisfy demand. We spend a day hashing out the list and putting together the activity sheets. And then we sit back and wait to brag on our hard work until the list is announced in November. After that, it's out of our hands! Kids will read the books and vote on their favorites!

Serving on a state book award committee can be a really fun way to get involved in your state library association. I've gotten to know some great people through my YHBA work and it's super fun to talk books with people in my state who are just as passionate as I am about reading. I definitely learned some things from my experience on the committee last year...

1. Start reading right away! Some of the people on my committee (about half, I think) were school librarians or classroom teachers and it makes sense that they might not start reading in earnest until school is out for the summer. For a public librarian, the opposite is true! In July, I was really wishing that I had done more reading in March and April. You can bet that as soon as I get home from Saturday's meeting, I will be placing some holds at my library and getting started.

2. Leave some great books for last! I did the opposite last year and it was such a drag to slog through some of the books I was least interested in at the very end of the summer when I had been reading like a maniac for months. Of course some books will surprise you - books you weren't that interested in turn out to be pretty awesome. But if there are some books on the list by favorite authors, books that have gotten great reviews all over the place, books you've read before and loved... save a couple of these as a reward at the end. It'll be a great motivational tool for getting through some of the ones that you're not that into.

3. Take good notes! I made a YHBA notebook last year so I could keep all my notes in the same place. When I was creating my activity sheets, I jotted down vocabulary words, discussion questions, notes about possible classroom activities, etc. I also took notes about the books I wasn't assigned activity sheets for, just so I could remember what was great or what wasn't so strong. This notebook came in really handy at our selection meeting in September. Rather than vaguely saying "Hmm... I think I liked that one..." I could tell my committee members specifics about the strengths and weaknesses. It makes for a much stronger argument for the books I wanted on the list and the books I didn't think deserved to be on the list.

4. Communicate with your committee members! This was something that didn't happen as much as I would have liked last year. It's understandable - everyone is so super busy, I know. But I'm aiming to make this happen this year. I think it'll make the whole process easier and more fun if we're chatting throughout. We'll see how it goes...

5. Don't forget about audiobooks! Of course, I couldn't use audiobooks for the titles I need to create activity sheets for, but audiobooks are a great way to supplement print book reading. I especially liked audiobooks for rereads, books I needed a refresher for. I also liked audiobooks for books that I thought would be popular with kids, but which weren't really my genre or my cup of tea.

6. Read as MANY of the books as you possibly can. Everyone's going to be different about this aspect, of course, and sometimes things come up and you just can't get to every book. For myself, every time I thought about skipping a book or just giving up near the end and calling it good, I'd ask myself "If my committee members want this book on the list, am I comfortable putting it on there without having read it?" The answer was always NO! There were a few of the books that I didn't finish, but I read enough of them to know that they weren't strong enough for the list.

That's my game plan heading in to this year's YHBA Season. I'm excited to greet my committee members, new and familiar, and to get started reading some fabulous books!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Storytime: Picnics

Monday was a gloomy, snowy day in New Albany... and we had a picnic with our storytime kids! I had a very small group today since the weather was so cold and wet, and I had several new kids who forgot or were sick last week. It was a small group, but a good group!

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a piece of watermelon from the book Ready for Anything by Keiko Kasza.

Book: Ready for Anything by Keiko Kasza. This was maybe a little long for my kids - I have a young group and today I had several younger siblings with us. I think it would be perfect for Kindergarten or early elementary, though.

Song: I passed out bells and we rang them to the beat of Teddy Bears' Picnic. I like this version better than the one I actually used:

The song has a nice beat and you could add marching, too, if you wanted!

Felt: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.Of course, there are tons of ways to use this story, but I used a flannelboard set I bought from Lakeshore Learning several years ago. Of course, the caterpillar isn't actually having a picnic, but he's eating lots of different foods, which is what we do on a picnic!

Song: The Ants Go Marching. We have lots of different foods at a picnic. Do you know what ELSE we have lots of? ANTS! We stood up and marched around the room singing the first two verses of this song. You could go longer if you wanted, but my kids weren't super into it, so we just did two rounds.

Book: The Beastly Feast by Bruce Goldstone. I love this book for its rich vocabulary and rhyming text. All kinds of different animals bring rhyming foods to this beastly feast!

Activity: I passed out plastic food and had the kids bring it up and put it in our picnic basket when I called the food they had. If you don't have plastic food, you could make felt pieces (would be very cute for the feltboard with a checkered felt "blanket" to put them on!) or even laminate paper pieces.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Take-Home Craft: Paper plate watermelon. We include the supplies and instructions in the take-home packet, along with a book list and activity sheet with early literacy activities. For this craft, you just color the paper plate to look like a watermelon, fold it and staple all the way around. We found that the staples will even go through the craft stick.

Although it's pictured above, I skipped Mouse's First Summer for the Monday session. I did read it with the very young, quiet crowd I had for our Tuesday evening and it went over very well with them. I was glad it had watermelon in it (for the memory box) because there's no way that crowd would have sat through Ready for Anything. They were just too young!

Alternate Books: If you don't like or don't have any of the books mentioned above, here are some alternates for read-aloud or display. Many of the books I've found about actual picnics are a little long or wordy for preschool storytime, but you can throw in any books about food. You can also look for seasonal books on spring or summer or sunny weather. And you could even tie in books about bugs or animals you might see while you're on a picnic.

Over in the Meadow by Jane Cabrera (Where might we go to have a picnic? A meadow!)
We're Going on a Picnic by Pat Hutchins
The Best Picnic Ever by Clare Jarrett
Kite Flying by Grace Lin (While we're on our picnic, we can fly a kite!)
The Ants Go Marching by Ann Owen
Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli (We picnic in a park and what else do we do in the park? Swing!)
Sam's Sandwich by David Pelham
Mouse's First Summer by Lauren Thompson
Oh My Gosh, Mrs. McNosh by Sarah Weeks (In the park!)
McDuff Saves the Day by Rosemary Wells
From Fruit to Jelly by Shannon Zemlicka

What other books would be great for a picnic storytime?

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, illustrated by Michael Carroll. Grades 5-8. Charlesbridge, February 2012. 74 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.

"A black hole is NOT a hole - at least not the kind you can dig in the ground or poke your finger through. You can't just walk along and fall into one. A black hole isn't a hole like that.

"If a black hole is not a hole, then what in the universe is it?" (pg 2)

Carolyn DeCristofano answers that question, writing in a conversational and humorous tone that will help young readers get their minds wrapped around the mysteries of space. DeCristofano approaches her subject step by step, first explaining that black holes are places in space that have a massive gravitational pull and then going into how they form and why they're called black holes (the gravitational pull is SO strong that even light can't escape!). She also addresses how black holes were discovered, how scientists "see" them, and how Einstein's way of thinking about gravity enabled scientists to predict and find the first black holes.

This is a special book, not only for its accessible explanation of a tricky subject, but for its candid tone. Not only will young scientists learn from this book, but they will enjoy reading it, as well. Astrophysics is a subject that could easily overwhelm young readers (let's face it: old readers, too), but the text builds on itself, breaking down a complicated subject into easily digestible pieces. It pretty much blows my mind to know that:

"If you were to aim a powerful-enough flashlight at the Moon right now, the light would reach it in a little more than a second - maybe before you got to the end of this sentence. And how long would it take for light to reach our nearest known black-hole neighbor, called V4641 Sagittarii? Fifty billion seconds. If you aimed your flashlight in its direction, toward the constellation Sagittarius, the light would arrive there sometime around the year 3600." (pg. 49)

Illustrations by Michael Carroll help illuminate the subject matter, presenting black holes in a visual way that will aid readers' understanding. Careful notation is made whenever images are not to scale and the artist's pictures are labeled as "artist's rendition" so as not to be confused with the photographs that are also included.

Sidebars, designated with orange backgrounds, are laid out in sensible places so as not to detract from the main text and they add information. The book includes impressive back matter: a time line on the discovery of black holes, a glossary, a list of resources (books and websites), image credits, an index, and one of the best author's notes I've read in a long time. Titled "How Do You Know I Know?", DeCristofano's author's note explains how she researched the book and emphasizes that science research is always going on and scientific facts change very quickly. She reiterates throughout the book that the facts as we know them in 2012 might have changed if someone's reading at a later date.

I'm most impressed with this nonfiction book and I hope that you'll seek it out and take a look yourself! Hand it to young scientists along with The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes by Ellen Jackson and Nic Bishop.

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Travis has the roundup over at 100 Scope Notes!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Vacation Reads

Y'all, between getting back from vacation and working my tail off trying to get caught up with everything going on (I'm helping with the library's strategic plan, getting everything ready for the District 6 Conference in April, starting spring storytimes, and planning for Summer Reading Club in addition to all the regular day-to-day work)... my brain's taking a little vacation when it comes to writing reviews. HOWEVER, I still want to tell you about some of the awesome books I read when I was on vacation. So, here goes!

172 Hours on the Moon by John Harstad. Grades 7 and up. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2012. 355 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Eager to build publicity for the space program, NASA decides to send a lucky group of teenagers to the moon for 172 hours. For Mia, Antoine, and Midori, it's the trip of a lifetime. But there's something that NASA's not telling them. There's a reason that no one's been back to the moon for 40 years. And by the time they figure out what's going on, it might be too late.

This is one wild ride! It's a crazy, sci-fi romp, translated from Norwegian, and teens who dig horror and thrillers will eat this one with a spoon. It reminded me of nothing more than my beloved Christopher Pike (and I mean that in the kindest way possible). Bonus: it's a science-fiction book that's not too science-fiction-y. Great for fulfilling genre assignments.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Grades 7 and up. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2012. 509 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

On the eve of her forced marriage to a brutal man, Ismae is brought to the convent of St. Mortain, patron saint of death, where she learns that Mortain has blessed her with deadly gifts. She trains at the convent, learning thousands of ways to kill a person who bears the marque of Mortain, but when she gets her most important assigment - to accompany Gavriel Duval to the high court of Brittany and protect the young duchess - she learns quickly that she's not as prepared as she thought. Oh, she can converse with souls of the departed, fire a crossbow with uncanny accuracy, and poison the most wily of people, but how to deal with the tingle of electricity whenever she touches Duval's hand?

This story swept me up and didn't let go until it was finished. The courtly intrigue! The slow-burning romance! The nuns of death! I had heard great things about this book from some of my trusted librarian friends and it didn't disappoint. It's a richly constructed world with a lot of characters to keep straight, but it'll be a great choice for teens who have loved Tamora Pierce, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Sabriel by Garth Nix, or the Kingdom books by Cynthia Voigt.

Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown. Grades 7 and up. Little, Brown, July 2012. 358 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

All her life, Kendra has had to be perfect to make up for her completely imperfect older brother, Grayson, whose debilitating OCD has often put him in the hospital. But when Kendra makes a terrible mistake and Grayson gets back from his latest hospital stay no better than he was before he left, Kendra makes an impulse decision: it's time to escape. Kendra just knows that as soon as Grayson has to force himself to step outside his routines and face his anxieties, he'll get better. Heading west into the sunset, Kendra will get way more than she bargained for... and she just might get her brother back.

I love brother/sister stories and it's obvious that this is a subject close to Jennifer Brown's heart. She constructs Kendra and Grayson's complicated relationship with care and treats Grayson's OCD with sensitivity. I liked this one more than Bitter End and not quite as much as Hate List.

Purity by Jackson Pearce. Grades 9 and up. Little, Brown, April 2012. 224 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

When Shelby's mother died, she asked Shelby to promise her three things:

1. To love and listen to her father
2. To love as much as possible
3. To live without restraint

And even as Shelby doubts her faith in God, she follows these three promises religiously, letting them guide how she's living her life. So when her father takes on the task of organizing their church's Princess Ball, a purity ball, Shelby feels compelled to follow along. But Shelby's not sure that she wants to pledge her purity, so she finds a loophole: she'll lose her virginity before the Ball. But with only five weeks to pick out the lucky guy and get the deed done, Shelby doesn't have much time.

This was a deeper story than I expected. Shelby's dealing with sex and love and friendship (and just who has the right to her purity, anyway), but she's also questioning her religious faith and finally starting to connect with her dad after too many years of silence. I appreciated the messages about taking one's convictions seriously and questioning what doesn't seem right until you figure out what you do believe in.

Whew! Those are some of my vacation reads. Thinking about them now kinda makes me wish I was back on the beach! What have YOU been reading lately?