Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fighting for Awesome at #cypd12 !

CC: JD Hancock
Sunday and Monday, I was at the fabulous CYPD Annual Conference in Indianapolis! CYPD is the Children's and Young People's Division of the Indiana Library Federation. We're lucky to have such an active youth division and the CYPD Board puts together a great conference every year with fascinating breakout sessions and inspiring keynote speakers.

This year, we were lucky enough to hear keynotes from Emily Ellis (a 2012 Library Journal Mover & Shaker), Katherine Applegate, Thaddeus Rex, and Lauren Myracle. Local independent bookstore Kids Ink sells books at the conference so attendees have an opportunity to get books signed. 

And I attended some great breakout sessions!! Suzanne Walker and Jaymi Edwards presented about their experiences starting an early literacy blog at their library: Explore to Learn. They post videos after each week of storytimes to reinforce early literacy skills and remind kids and parents about what they read in storytime. They both recommended the format they've used of having a puppet interview a librarian about what happened in storytime and generally do their videos in one take. Sammy the toucan even interviewed ME! 

On Monday, I went to a session about Summer Reading Clubs, which I was hoping would feature some ideas for next summer, but turned out to be more of a general session about Summer Reading Clubs. It's always good to share ideas with other librarians and it gave us all a chance to debrief a little bit. I also went to a session about tween programming and heard Carol Evrard of the Spencer County Library talk about some of their favorite activities for tweens.

My last session of the day was Cleaning House: The Story of a Mini-Remodel by Alyssa Morgan of the Morgan County Public Library. Alyssa shared her experiences in rearranging some areas of her department, including creating a tween area, renovating their public service desk, and ordering new furniture to make their computer area work better. Since we've recently undergone some changes in my Children's Room, I was interested to see what they had done with theirs.

I did my fair share at this conference, presenting a session on web resources for programming ideas. I talked about Pinterest, many blogs & websites for programming ideas, and Twitter, emphasizing how to use social media to build a network of professionals to brainstorm with and consult when you run into rough patches. You can have my handout: Only a Click Away: Finding Program Ideas on the Web.

All in all, it was a great conference and, as usual, a great chance to connect with youth librarians from all over the state! Thanks, CYPD!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Starry River of the Sky

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin. Grades 4-7. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October, 2012. 294 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Rendi did not expect to end up here, in the middle of nowhere, a tiny village called the Village of Clear Sky, where people claim to have moved mountains and feuds start with snails and last years. He'll be on his way, thankyouverymuch, just as soon as another guest shows up at the end and Rendi can hitch a ride out of there. Discovered as a stowaway, he takes a job as chore boy until he can sneak a ride with another guest to the inn. But when that takes longer than anticipated, Rendi finds himself swapping stories with the inhabitants of the inn and hoping he can solve the mystery of just where the missing moon has gotten to and why he's the only one who seems to be able to hear the moon's cries.

Grace Lin does it again with this companion volume to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, weaving folklore at its finest with a book that celebrates the very art of storytelling. She is a master here at building tension. From the very first page, the reader experiences the profound sense of wrongness that Rendi is feeling with no moon in the sky. Something is very, very wrong in this village and Lin parcels out clues as her characters open up to each other and start sharing their stories.

Story is quite literally a lifesaver in this book. Not only do the characters resolve their problems and learn how to help each other through sharing stories, but Rendi relies on story to save his life from kidnappers. The importance of tales passed down through the generations is evident here, and new stories are celebrated just as much.

Ms. Lin creates a cast of characters that will stick with the reader. Rendi is intriguing as a protagonist because we don't know what his modus operandi is right away. The reader gets clues as Rendi begins to share stories with the group. The satisfying ending brings all the stories back into play as we see how everything has fit together all along.

This is another hit from Grace Lin. Written in the same style as Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, it's a story that could stand very well on its own. However, if you haven't read Moutain, you should probably go ahead and do that because it's a great book!

Starry River of the Sky will be on shelves October 2!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dogtag Summer

Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge. Grades 6-8. Bloomsbury Children's, 2011. 240 pages. Review copy provided by publisher for YHBA consideration. This review only reflects my own personal opinion, not necessarily the opinion of the committee!

Tracy, a half-Vietnamese girl adopted from Vietnam, has been in America for five years now, but she still doesn't fit in. Tension from the recent Vietnam War lingers in her psyche as she struggles to recover her own memories of her life before coming to the States. Tension from the War permeates her family, too, as her adoptive father struggles to deal with his own army nightmares. When Tracy and her best friend Stargazer find dogtags in her father's tool shed, her father's extreme reaction starts her wondering if the dogtags might be a key to her hidden past.

Lush descriptions of the California coast alternate with and compliment lush descriptions of the Vietnamese jungle as Elizabeth Partridge narrates Tracy's present (California, 1980) and her past. The tension between Vietnam veterans and war protesters is shown in Tracy's friendship with Stargazer and her relationship with his hippie parents. The cast of characters - war veterans from Vietnam and Korea, San Francisco hippies - brings an authenticity to the historical setting of the book.

There are a lot of issues dealt with in the book: not only post-traumatic stress from the Vietnam War, racism, tension between veterans and conscientious objectors, but also personal issues that Tracy is going through. She's intimidated by starting junior high in the fall. Her mother takes her to buy her first bra (an awkward, but necessary purchase). Her best friend is a boy her parents don't particularly approve of because they have different views than his family's. All of these problems are things that today's tweens are dealing with, and this is very much a story that transcends the historical setting.

This dogtag summer is not only about Tracy starting to put together pieces of her past. She also has her first fight with her best friend. She starts to realize that the world is bigger than her own experiences and problems, and she starts to learn why the war was so traumatic for her dad. Even though she lost her family and her home, this was not just Tracy's war.

The book includes a pretty extensive interview with the author, talking about the research that she did and answering questions about the Vietnam War. While the book might need some scaffolding about the War, this is a poignant story that teens will relate to; it's about coming of age and feeling in-between in so many ways. I'd not only recommend this to fans of similar stories like Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell, and Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, but I'd also recommend it to girls devouring Judy Blume's coming of age stories. When I was twelve years old, I would have loved it because I loved the musical Miss Saigon.

A note on the cover: I think it's perfect. The river photo evokes both the Vietnam and the California settings. The contemplative face reflected in the dog tags features a face that could definitely be half-Vietnamese. The solitary figure on the river represents Tracy's journey to finding herself.

Dogtag Summer is on shelves now!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Grades 7+. Random House Books for Young Readers, July 2012. 467 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

In a world where dragonkind can take human form and the dragons have an uneasy peace with humans due to a treaty signed many years ago, Seraphina is an abomination. She's half-dragon on her mother's side. Scales twist up her arm and around her waist, something she's never let anyone outside the family see. If anyone knew, it would be almost certain death for her and for her father who unwittingly broke the law by marrying a dragon. She's taken a job as assistant to the court composer and fills her days with music, although she almost never lets herself perform. Her virtuoso musical talents would bring too much attention upon her, and Seraphina prefers to hide in shadows where it's safe. As the entire court prepares for a visit from the leader of the dragons, tensions rise in the city where some humans believe that peace with the dragons is impossible. Seraphina, caught between two races, may be the one being who can save them all.

I picked up Seraphina because there was a lot of buzz building about it and I wasn't disappointed with this most impressive debut. The world that Rachel Hartman builds is richly imagined and intricately built. Her rich descriptions allowed me to build the palace and city in my mind and populate them with the characters of her story. It's an utterly believable fantasy tale, rife with political tension and courtly intrigue.

Seraphina herself was a great underdog character. Hiding from the world, she does what she can to get by. She never allows herself to think that she might actually find happiness in this life, only that she might survive it. Music is the one thing that truly gives her happiness... until she meets Prince Lucian Kiggs, a man utterly unattainable. Even if Seraphina wasn't a half-dragon abomination, Prince Lucian is betrothed to Seraphina's music student, Princess Glisselda.

The story's told in first person from Seraphina's point of view and she has a wry wit that made the story a pleasure to read. She deftly weaves the history of her land and the treaty and the dragons into her narrative. The language is rich and lends itself well to this fantasy world. This is one of those books that unfolds in its own time, mostly with great success. I did think the politics bogged down the book a little bit in the middle, but the ending more than made up for it. This is a book that wraps up nicely, while still leaving enough of a teaser to have me looking forward to a sequel.

I would definitely hand this to fans of richly imagined fantasy, particularly Graceling (and its companion books) by Kristin Cashore, with their emphasis on politics. You can read a short prequel to Seraphina on GoodReads: The Audition.

Read more reviews at Book NutConfessions of a Bibliovore, Parenthetical, and Steph Su Reads.

Seraphina is on shelves now!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


CC: Jennie Faber
August is a glorious time.

Nope, I'm not on vacation (I... wish, actually).

Our public schools started back up August 6 and we take a break from programming during August. With the kids in school and no programs going on, you might think we're taking a break, but actually we're working just as hard as ever. August is a time to debrief and regroup... and get ready for all the programs coming up in the fall.

We're busy planning, ordering supplies, and prepping crafts for:

  • Mother Goose on the Loose (our baby storytimes)
  • Toddler Times
  • Fall Storytimes
  • Fantastic Friday (our monthly homeschooler programs)
  • Harvest Homecoming Kids' Day at the Tent
  • Our regular outreach visits to the YMCA Afterschool and local Head Starts and preschools
  • Special outreach events like the local hospital's Baby Fair, a community resource fair for a local homeschooling group, and a Healthy Kids' Day put on by a local church
  • Holidays at the Library (a holiday party thrown by our Friends of the Library)
In addition to all that, we're getting our ducks in a row for our teacher collections. We allow teachers at public and private schools, preschools, and daycares in our county to have a teacher card and request collections of up to 25 books to be pulled and checked out to them. We've been busy getting organized and trying to fine tune our procedures to make the process as easy as possible.

We've also been (finally!) setting up shelves and moving our children's media items into the Children's Room. We've been working on some weeding projects. And I've been poring over resumes and doing interviews for the new children's librarian we're hiring.

August may appear to be an "off" month to our patrons, but we finally have time to do the many, many things that it's impossible to do when the hustle and bustle of Summer Reading Club is going on. 

And one of these days, I actually will take a vacation. :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. Grades 9 and up. Balzer + Bray, February 2012. 470 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Cameron Post kissed her first girl, her best friend Irene, when she was twelve. Almost immediately after that, her parents died in a car crash, leaving Cameron to live with her grandmother and her conservative, religious Aunt Ruth. Growing up in small town Montana, Cameron has to hide the fact that she's gay, but that's not a huge problem until beautiful Coley Taylor moves to town. Coley Taylor seems perfect - with a perfect boyfriend to match - and immediately Cameron is smitten. What happens next will change everything.

This book was vaguely on my radar, but it was after I heard some teens talk about it at the BFYA teen input session that I decided to pick it up. I'm glad it was teens that encouraged me to pick it up because otherwise I might doubt the teen appeal of this book. Yes, it's a story featuring a teen protagonist as she discovers her sexuality and deals with the seeming conflict between her sexual nature and the religion she's forced to participate in. But it's told with a certain distance and reflection that is not typical of most YA books and the early-90s setting is going to resonate more with adults than teens. Although it's being published as YA, it reads like an adult book featuring a teen character.

That's not at all to say it's BAD, but it's just something to consider as you pick up this book. It reminded me most of Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, which is an adult book that I loved as a teen. For this reason, I think this is a YA book that has a lot of crossover appeal for adults.

The book is well-written with some very striking imagery. I've never been to Montana, but Emily Danforth brings the sunbaked Montana summers and the bitter Montana winters to life. Even though there's a distance between the reader and the protagonist, I felt very much invested in Cameron's story. I'm not surprised to find that parts of it are based on the author's adolescence. I also loved the supporting characters... Coley, Cameron's first love, the kids she meets at Promise, her Aunt Ruth who truly believes she's doing right by Cameron, Cameron's grandmother who sneaks sweets at every opportunity despite her diabetic diet.

This isn't going to be a book for every reader. I think the style might turn off some teen readers, although it's also what might attract certain readers. I'd hand this one to your teens (GLBT or not) who are starting to turn their noses up at YA books and reach for stuff in the adult section.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is on shelves now!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

AudioSynced: July Roundup

Time for another roundup of audiobook reviews from around the blogosphere! If you're looking for audiobook reviews and recommendations, don't forget to visit Audiobook Jukebox. If I missed your July review or post about audiobooks, leave me a link in comments and I'll add it. And if you didn't post about audiobooks this month, there's always next month when Kelly at STACKED will be hosting another roundup.

Audiobook News and Posts

Teri at The Goddess of YA Literature posts about chairing the Odyssey Committee and shares some great resources for choosing and evaluating audiobooks.

Children's/Middle Grade Audiobooks

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry, read by George Guidall, reviewed by Allison at Reading Everywhere. Allison says, "The audiobook makes for a pleasant way to approach this book."

The Flint Heart by Katherine Paterson and John Paterson, read by Ralph Lister, reviewed by Lisa at Shelf-employed. Lisa says, "This chapter book will make a great family read or listen-aloud..."

Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen, read by Nick Podehl, reviewed by Sarah at GreenBean TeenQueen. Sarah says, "I'm glad I decided to listen, because while I'm sure it's a fun read, it's hilarious as an audiobook!"

Time for Stars by Robert Heinlein, read by Barrett Whitener, reviewed by Flannery at The Readventurer. Flannery says, "I enjoyed [Whitener's] narration for the most part."

YA Audiobooks

Check out flash reviews of Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater at GreenBean TeenQueen.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, read by Khristine Hvam, reviewed by Brenda at proseandkahn. Brenda says, "She matches the novel's initial leisurely pace and utilizes rich accents and a variety of voices for most of the characters."

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, read by Katherine Kellgren, reviewed by Misti at Kid Lit Geek. Misti says, "I was completely . . . enchanted."

The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey, read by Steven Boyer, reviewed by Brenda at proseandkahn. Brenda says, "As usual, Stephen Boyer's performance is nothing short of amazing."

Little Women (Part 2) by Louisa May Alcott, reviewed by Kate Reading, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "Reading reads the prolix 19th century prose with confidence, and creates distinct characters for the four sisters as well as many others in the novel..."

Red Glove by Holly Black, read by Jesse Eisenberg, reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "Eisenberg doesn't voice the novel, but he doesn't need to. His command of Cassel's character is enough to keep this audiobook interesting."

Adult Audiobooks

Redshirts by John Scalzi, read by Wil Wheaton, reviewed by Sarah at GreenBean TeenQueen. Sarah says, "Wheaton gets the humor of the book and adds a nice spin on the characters (especially the captain's more crazy moments). But he doesn't do a wide range of voices like I'm used to from my audiobooks."

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection, written and read by Carol Burnett, reviewed by Flannery at The Readventurer. Flannery says, "This book, specifically this audiobook, is for the people who love hearing people tell stories..."

Friday, August 3, 2012

#flannelfriday : 5 Little Parrots

Determined to be on top of things this fall, I am working on plans for our fall storytimes. One of my storytimes is going to be jungles, so this week, I made 5 little parrots and wrote up a 5 Little Parrots rhyme!

Here are my parrots:

I used large red pom poms, yellow fun foam for the beak, wiggle eyes, and colorful feathers glued on the back for the tails. I attached everything with hot glue and I hot-glued a velcro dot on the back for each use with our flannel mitt.

I wrote a rhyme that counts up from one to five and then back down to zero, but you could use just part of the rhyme if you wanted to shorten it.

Five Little Parrots (Count Up and Down)

One little parrot, not knowing what to do
Along came another and then there were two!

Two little parrots, as chipper as could be
Along came another and then there were three!

Three little parrots, high above the jungle floor
Along came another and then there were four!

Four little parrots, glad to be alive
Along came another and then there were five!

Five little parrots, no room for more
One flew away and then there were four!

Four little parrots, getting quite hungry 
One flew away and then there were three!

Three little parrots, red and green and blue
One flew away and then there were two!

Two little parrots, when the day is done
One flew away and then there was one!

One little parrot, far away did roam
He was lonely, so he went home!

Enjoy! And do check out this week's Flannel Friday roundup at Putting Smiles on Faces for other great ideas!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Elephant and Piggie Day!

Oh yes. Today I posted at the ALSC Blog about the super fun (and fairly stress-free) Elephant and Piggie Day we held at my library this summer!