Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading Resolutions

2012's been quite a reading year! As we wind down the year, many of us start thinking about the year to come. The bookish among us might set some nerdy reading resolutions... but first, we'd have to look at how we did on our resolutions last year. 

Last year, I made three reading/blog-related resolutions: 

1. READ LESS. I am happy to say that I accomplished this goal and that it actually came about very naturally. I have been doing more for ME this year and thinking less about work and this blog, and that's been a welcome and necessary change. So, yes, I read less this year. I blogged less this year. I stressed about work this year. But I've been much happier this year than I have in a long time. 

2. Read at least 20 adult books this year. This one was a fail for me. Part of that is because I moved closer to work and I'm no longer making time for audiobooks. I miss audiobooks, but right now I'm having trouble figuring out where to fit them in. 

3. Blog more about preschool storytimes and librarianship. I feel like I have done that this year and I've loved the results. I'm building a wider network of supportive colleagues and my posts about librarianship and programs tend to get the most feedback and discussion, which is gratifying. 

Now that my staff at the library has stabilized somewhat (we hired both a new teen librarian and a new children's librarian and had a long-time staff member retire from my department), I'm really looking forward to this work year. And I'm looking forward to the reading year, too!

This year, I'm only really going to set one goal: to read at least 20 adult books. I will do a reading goal on GoodReads again (probably 150 books again). I have missed reading adult books and I did not make time for them this year.

Things other than reading have made me happy in 2012 and I am hopeful that will continue. :) 

Did you set any reading goals for 2013? 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012: My Favorites and My Best

It's that time of year again: time to look back over what we've read this year. I do have some favorites that I wanted to mention today. Since I already did a post on my Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2012, this list will be mostly fiction with just my tippity top nonfiction favorites included (don't miss that other list, is what I'm saying!). No effort has been made to balance this list. These are my from-the-heart favorites of the year.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. Okay, this is the third book in a trilogy. I know a lot of people had mixed feelings about it. But this is a book that I read early in the year and I'm still thinking about it. This is one of the best portrayals of a teen assuming a royalty/leadership position that I've ever read. When Bitterblue takes the throne, she doesn't automatically know the answers. She has to figure out how to educate herself and how to best serve her kingdom, even when it means going against her friends in the castle.

Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This might be my favorite book I read this year. I mean tippity-top favorite. It's a compelling nonfiction book about a serious and controversial topic, written in a way that tells the story and introduces teen readers to historical figures that they'll come to care about.

Every Day by David Levithan. This book made me think about love. Why do we love the ones we do? Could you truly love someone separate from the physical them? This is another one that got a mixed reception and I know it's not perfect - there are some definite issues with body image going on here.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This is my favorite of John Green's books (and I have been a fan for quite some time). I used to think that I liked him more than I liked his books, but this book is different. It feels like a gift for his readers. Thanks, John Green.

Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado. This was my favorite graphic novel of the year. A feisty girl giant-slayer tricks her friends into going on a hunting expedition with her. I loved the likeably-flawed and spirited characters and I'm always down for a full color graphic novel.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Nuns of death! Courtly intrigue! This was another one that I read early in the year and it's stuck with me. The romance built just right, the fantasy world was intriguing without being politically overwhelming. This was a fun, fun read and I've been recommending it to fantasy fans all year.

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin. This companion book to her Newbery-honor-winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is just as good, if not better than that book. It deals with the power of story through a cast of characters that readers won't soon forget. I will be rooting for a shiny gold sticker for this one, come January.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. This awesome biography is laid out in an appealing format. Here, young readers will meet Temple Grandin, an important player in the humane treatment of animals, and they will come away with a better understanding of disabilities and autism. Two thumbs way up.

As I look back over this list, I notice that they're almost all fantasy or nonfiction. I read a LOT of excellent nonfiction. I did read less overall this year than I did last year and I've listened to VERY few audiobooks (owing in large part to the fact that I no longer have a 40-60 minute daily commute time).

So, what do you think? What excellent book did I maybe miss out on this year? What are YOUR 2012 favorites?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Everything

This weekend when I was a #SundayLibrarian, a young lady (third grade or so) was making a card for our librarian Ms. Jan who just retired. (We have a little craft station set up so the kids could make her cards.) She was working on it when she suddenly stopped and asked me, "Does Ms. Jan celebrate Christmas?" I told her that yes, Ms. Jan does celebrate Christmas and she said, "Okay, I'm going to draw a Christmas tree on her card."

I guess I'm just always impressed when anyone (especially here in my fairly religious and conservative Southern Indiana community) DOESN'T assume that everyone celebrates Christmas. And especially when that person is a kid. Way to be thoughtful, kid!! I celebrate Christmas secularly, so Merry Christmas Eve! if you celebrate and Happy Nonfiction Monday! if you don't (or if you do!). And either way, I hope you can enjoy one of my favorite B-side Christmas songs (for the sentiment, if nothing else).

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a safe and happy holiday (AND/OR a safe and happy last week of 2012)!

Abby the Librarian

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beyond the Buzz

Today I have the honor of contributing to author Nova Ren Suma's blog series Beyond the (Latest) Buzz. I'm featuring five awesome books I read this year that didn't get the buzz they deserved. Please click through and check it out! And then check out the rest of this awesome blog series for more titles that might have flown under your radar.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Afterschool: December

December is a tricksy time to visit afterschool programs. (Click for more info about the afterschool outreach programs we do!) Kids are excited for the upcoming holidays and winter break. They may have been having a celebration in their classroom, someone may have brought in treats to get them all hyped up... I chose carefully which books I shared with my groups this month. :)

This month I read:

Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Russ. Anderson Press, 2012.

I love the funny language in this wacky rhyming story. Hippopotamus has a spotamus on her bottomus. The other animals try to diagnose her problem, but none are successful until a little boy comes along, looking for his lost bubble gum... With a little practice, the fun rhymes roll off the tongue and the ending will have the kids giggling for sure.

Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident by George McClements. Harcourt Children's Books, 2008.

When I held up this title, one of the boys observed "He looks like a sneaky guy!" and I asked them what made him look sneaky. They said his sunglasses, "his face" (I mentioned the crazy eyebrows), his ICE RAY, his suit and gloves. Baron Von Baddie is always coming up with evil plans and he's always foiled by his nemesis, Captain Kapow. But when the Baron accidentally freezes Captain Kapow with his ice ray, having free reign is not as fun as he had imagined. This was definitely a favorite of my kids. The text is short and makes for a great readaloud.

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012.

This is a rather quiet story about a boy who finds a robot in the woods. When the robot accidentally gets turned off, the boy tries to make him feel better by feeding him applesauce, reading him a story, and tucking him into bed. When the robot gets turned on and sees the boy sleeping, he tries to fix him by giving him oil and reading him an instruction manual. The kids appreciate the turned tables and enjoy the idea of a boy and a robot being friends.

Merry Un-Christmas by Mike Reiss, illustrated by David Catrow. HarperCollins, 2006.

This is my go-to Christmas book because it's KIND OF not about Christmas. I feel a little weird sharing Christmas books with my groups because I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but at the same time they expect a Christmas book and I don't want to disappoint them. Merry Un-Christmas is about a town where it's Christmas 364 days a year, so the holiday they get excited about is UN-Christmas, the one day a year when kids get to go to school, the family eats TV dinners for supper, and the mailman comes. It's funny and the kids like it. I have used it many years in a row, though, so other suggestions for holiday readalouds are hugely appreciated!

Our craft this month was scratch-art candy canes, ordered from Oriental Trading. All our groups seemed to figure out at once that if you can peel the plastic layer off, all the color on top comes off, which is way easier than scratching the whole thing. I don't know if this batch of scratch art was just easier to peel or what. The kids still love it and I'll tell them it's their choice how they want to do it.

Hey, please leave suggestions of holiday books that might be good for my groups! I can definitely use some non-boring, non-religious holiday books to spice up my December afterschool visits next year. And hey, Valentine's Day is coming right up and I've already read Zombie in Love this year, so I'd appreciate suggestions for that holiday, too!

Monday, December 17, 2012


Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Grades 7 and up. Flash Point, September 2012. 272 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

So, you knew that the first atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, forcing Japanese surrender and ending World War II. But, um, what exactly is a nuclear weapon? And how did scientists develop it? And what was with all the secrecy? And to what lengths would the Soviets go to get their hands on scientific information about the bomb? And to what lengths would Americans go to keep the bomb out of the hands of the Germans?

Bomb answers all those questions and so many more in a compelling narrative that will keep teens (and adults) turning the pages. Looking for literary nonfiction that fills Common Core Standards* and won't put teens to sleep? THIS IS IT, folks.

Here's why I loved this book:

1. The characters. I love character-driven stories, and Steve Sheinkin turns all those major players at Los Alamos and beyond into real people. Not only does he shine a light on Robert Oppenheimer and the other physicists who are developing the bomb, he presents a balanced look at the Americans who passed secrets to the Soviets, as well.

2. The espionage. Not only were there Soviet spies trying to get their hands on American information (and Americans who helped them out), but there were Americans doing covert operations to keep the Germans from developing the bomb. Americans also spied on German scientists to try to find out how close they were to developing it. The book includes many stories of such operations and espionage, which is something I really knew nothing about.

3. The science. Sheinkin artfully explains the science behind the atomic bomb in an accessible way. You don't have to be a physics student to understand this book. (But there could very well be passages that might be useful in a physics or science class! *cough* CommonCore *cough*) I particularly liked how Sheinkin builds tension in the beginning of the book when published physics research begins to inspire scientists to contemplate the possibilities of such a weapon.

4. The back matter. Of course. You don't get to be an ENYA-Award-winning author without including awesome back matter in your books. This book includes extensive source notes and resources for further research, as well as archival photos and original documents like Einstein's letter to FDR warning him that an atomic weapon might be possible.

All of these elements are expertly woven together to create one hell of an adventure story, particularly appealing to curious and thoughtful teens and for adults wanting to know more about the bomb. I'm really into YA nonfiction that has crossover ("crossUNDER"?) appeal for adults. I think YA and kids' nonfiction is a great way to get an overview on a topic you're curious about without having to read hundreds and hundreds of potentially complex and technical pages. There is so much GREAT nonfiction being published for teens and kids that there's a really rich selection to choose from.

Bomb was a finalist for the National Book Award this year, and you can read another review at The LibrariYAn.

Bomb is on shelves now!

* My staff and I have been to several trainings on Common Core Standards over the past couple of months, and I'm so excited that literary nonfiction (which I have loved for years) is such a big part of it. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Butter by Erin Jade Lange. Grades 8+ Bloomsbury, September 2012. 316 pages. Reviewed from egalley provided by NetGalley.

He's called Butter because of an incident that happened to him a couple of years ago. Oh, kids have changed how the story goes. Butter hears himself touted as the hardcore dude who ate an entire stick of butter. That's not exactly how it happened. Butter will never forget how it happened. And now, after years of bullying, years of hating himself, years of being rejected by the girls he likes, Butter has had enough. He creates a website. And he invites the kids at school to watch live via the internet as he eats himself to death on New Year's Eve. Almost instantly, Butter is a sensation at school. The popular kids adopt him, inviting him to parties even as they're taking bets over what his final menu will be. But the biggest question is one that Butter's still trying to answer: will he actually do it?

Guys, the tension is built so perfectly in this book that I was actually anxious as I was reading it. I went back and forth as Butter was going back and forth: WILL HE actually do it? No, no way. He's not gonna... well, wait... maybe he IS going to... And that was hard to take because Butter is actually a pretty great guy. He's smart and thoughtful and musically gifted. If the kids at school or even his own father would take the time to look past his looks, they'd find kind of a great kid in there.

The theme of looking deeper than the surface is prevalent throughout the book. Not only is Butter dealing with how kids see him, he's got a huge crush on a girl at school, even though he barely knows her. As Butter hangs out with the popular kids more, he can see that they're not exactly the best friends to each other.

I recently read Allen Zadoff's Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have, which takes a similar premise the opposite way and it's hard not to compare them in my mind. Both feature obese teen boys who are bullied at school. While Zadoff's Andy chooses to join the football team and gain popularity that way, Butter chooses a much darker path. It'd be really interesting to pair these books for a discussion on teen obesity, cliques, and bullying.

I'd hand this book to fans of Allen Zadoff's book and also Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Joshua C. Cohen's Leverage, or Susan Vaught's Big Fat Manifesto.

Don't miss Kelly's review of Butter over at STACKED.

Butter is on shelves now.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Grades PreK-3. Chronicle Books, June 2012. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

Red is the rug Dad kneels on to pray,
facing toward Mecca, five times a day...

So starts this beautiful Muslim book of colors. With simple, rhyming couplets, Hena Khan takes us through a rainbow of colors, relating each to an item or event in the Muslim faith. The text is sparse and perfect for sharing with older preschoolers or early elementary students. Each couplet introduces new vocabulary (defined in the back of the book), including hijab, mosque, kufi, Ramadan, and more, making this a great choice to start conversations about different cultures.

Each spread by illustrator  features a different color, of varying saturation. The red spread is rich and warm while the blue spread is paler, a blue reminiscent of a cloudy day. The Muslim family members who take us through each color and concept are depicted with large, almond-shaped eyes, giving them a dreamy look. Muslim people featured throughout the book have varying skin tones and features. Details in the illustrations (such as people in their sock feet while at the mosque putting money in the donation box on Eid) invite further discussion.

This is a versatile book that could be used to add diversity to storytimes and units on colors or could be used to start units on religion or cultures. Be prepared to explain the many Muslim words included when sharing this book with young children. It will definitely be welcomed in libraries and schools serving Muslim populations, but this is a wonderful book that should be read by a wide audience.

Pair this with Faith by Maya Ajmera, Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon for a discussion on different religions and cultures or with Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong and Grace Lin for a concept storytime featuring different cultures.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is over at Wrapped in Foil, so make sure you stop by and check that out for more great nonfiction book reviews!

Friday, December 7, 2012

#FlannelFriday Color Library Cards

This week, I visited 4 classes at a local early childhood center. Y'all know I love outreach. It's fun to get out of the library, to see where the kids spend their days. We're modeling for teachers some methods of sharing books with their students and we're making connections with the kids so they'll know there's a friendly face at the library. I wanted to include an activity that would encourage the kids to come back to the library with their families. Enter: felt library cards!


Miss T had made these for one of her Toddler Time programs and they were the perfect thing to bring with me. I told the kids I had one last activity and I would need their help. I showed them one of the cards and asked who had a library card ("Or maybe your mom or dad or grandma or grandpa has a library card?"). I explained that if they don't have a library card, they can come to the library any time and get one for free, and with  their library card they can check out books and movies and CDs to borrow. This was something familiar to some of the kids, which was great. 

I passed out different colored cards to the kids and sang a song: 

(To the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", but you can do it to pretty much any tune you want!)

If you have a blue card, a blue card, a blue card,
If you have a blue card, bring it up to me! 

(Repeat with different colors.)

[You can also do "Put it on the board" or "Put it in the basket/bag" depending on how you're equipped. The classrooms I visited didn't have feltboards at ready and I hadn't thought to bring my own, so I asked the kids to bring the cards up to me. In one class I had a few special needs kids who weren't as mobile as the other kids, so I asked them to "Hold your cards up high!" and went around and collected them.]

Miss T made these cards by photocopying the front of one of our library cards, laminating them, and hot-glueing them to a colored piece of felt. 

Here's hoping that talking about library cards today will encourage some kids to come visit us at the library! 

And hey, it's Flannel Friday! Cate at Storytiming is hosting this week's roundup. 

What do you do at outreach visits to encourage families to visit the library? 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Princesses of Iowa

The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes. Grades 8 and up. Candlewick, May 2012. 464 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Paige Sheridan has been looking forward to senior year for pretty much as long as she can remember, sure that she'll be elected to the homecoming court along with her two best friends Lacey and Nikki. But that was before a drunk driving accident that got Paige exiled to summer babysitter hell in Paris and left Lacey walking with a limp even after months of physical therapy. Suddenly, senior year is definitely turning out differently than Paige had always dreamed. Not all the changes are bad - a dreamy new creative writing teacher has Paige thinking more deeply, and new friends bring unexpected happiness. But can Paige the Princess fit in with this new crowd? Does she want to?

The Princesses of Iowa surprised me by being more serious than I thought it would be. Several of my friends have read and liked it (sidenote: I have a surprising number of friends with strong ties to Iowa, it turns out!). From the cover and title, I figured it would be about catty mean girls and drama, and it was, but that's far from the whole story. The truth is, there's a lot going on in this rather lengthy novel and different plot lines are carried out with varying degrees of success.

The characters are nicely developed and each stands out from the others. I enjoyed reading Paige's story, even though I didn't always like her. Even though she's a princess with a life that looks perfect to those on the outside, it quickly becomes clear that Paige has just as many problems as anyone else. Her mother is overbearing and controlling, trying to relive her own high school years. Paige doesn't really like her friends very much and she's ambivalent about her boyfriend. And Paige makes mistakes. She's mean to people sometimes and she speaks without thinking and she gets drunk and creates drama at parties.

But through it all, once the accident and her summer in exile kick-start her thinking, Paige is learning and figuring out her mistakes and trying, trying, trying to make them right. That's the part that felt so real to me about the book. After the accident, Paige starts thinking more critically about everything. It's not something that happens over night, but over the course of the first few months of her senior year.

Like I said, there's a LOT that happens in this novel and overall it felt like a little bit too much. Maybe an issue or two less would have been perfect. But I always believed in the characters and that's a definite selling point for me.

I'd recommend this book to fans of contemporary fiction, particularly anyone with ties to Iowa, as my Iowa friends have commented that the setting was a big appeal factor for them. I'd hand it to fans of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall for the similar mean-girl-wants-to-make-good plot line. And for kids who enjoy this book, I'd hand them Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gymsuit (YES, even though it was a book I loved when *I* was a teen, which means it's "really old") because (no spoilers) there's a significant subplot where a beloved teacher is challenged by administration.

Read more reviews by: our teen librarian Renata!, Jennie at Biblio File, and Kelly at STACKED.

The Princesses of Iowa is on shelves now!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Day in the Life at @alscblog

Folks, I'm over at ALSC Blog today with A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian! Please click on through and check it out. Here's a teaser:

10:00am – It’s time for Mother Goose on the Loose! I had 15 very active under-2’s and the room was a million degrees (I knew I shouldn’t have worn these boots!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Two About Florence: Baby Flo & Harlem's Little Blackbird

This is going to be a two-fer today, folks! This year, two picture book biographies came out about Florence Mills, an African-American performer popular in the early 1900s. I think both of them are great books and they definitely complement each other. Both picture books are great examples of narrative nonfiction and would be great to use with social studies units (including, but NOT LIMITED TO Black History Month).

Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage by Alan Schroeder, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. Grades 2-5. Lee & Low Books, 2012. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

Florence Mills was an African-American performer in the early 1900s. Born poor in a poor neighborhood called Goat Alley in Washington D.C., Florence took any chance she got to perform. From singing songs in her neighborhood butcher shop to entering dance contest after dance contest, performing brought joy to Florence's young heart. She first appeared on stage at the age of three and got her first marquee billing at the age of seven. This picture book biography tells the story of her earliest years.

The illustrations pair perfectly with the text. This is a joyful book and the sheer joy of performing is evident on Florence's face in nearly every spread. The illustrations reinforce the back matter that elaborates on Florence Mills's life and says, "... she remained cheerful and optimistic, rarely uttering a bad word about anyone." It's evident here that Florence Mills was a lovely person to know and it's no surprise that her untimely death caused a general outcry of mourning.

An extensive author's note is included in the back of the book, filling in the rest of Florence's story. Several photographs are included along with information about the rest of Florence's career and personal life. She was well-loved among the performing community and it's been speculated that if not for racial issues Florence would be hailed as one of the great performers of the 20th century. Florence died at age 31 of tuberculosis (a fact I found very interesting, having recently read the excellent biography of tuberculosis, Invincible Microbe).

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, illustrated by Christian Robinson. Grades 2-5. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

In Harlem's Little Blackbird, Renee Watson explores the entirety of Florence Mills's life, instead of concentrating on her childhood. We don't get the level of detail provided in Baby Flo, but we do get a better overall picture of her life. Florence Mills grew up in a teeny-tiny house in Washington DC, always loving to sing and dance. Eventually her singing and dancing landed her on stage in Washington (where she refused to perform if her black friends were not allowed in the theater to watch) and overseas in London, performing for the Prince of Wales. Throughout her career, Florence spoke up for equality and she remained generous of spirit.

Renee Watson chooses to include song lyrics that supplement her text, giving readers a taste of the songs Florence was singing. She pairs these lyrics nicely to emphasize Florence's background singing spirituals and her continual fight for equality. Again, the illustrations pair perfectly with the text. These cut-paper collages are full of color and action, just like Florence's life was. The characters are all very expressive, and Florence is often smiling or singing (unless she's not being treated fairly). The ending spreads, discussing Florence's untimely death are sober scenes without any people pictured.

An author's note gives a little information about how Renee Watson found out about Florence and names a couple of sources.

These are essential biographies for your collection. As I was reading them, I thought about those biography assignments that kids have to do sometimes where they have to dress up like their subject. Florence Mills would be an excellent, little-known choice for such a project and a vaudeville costume would be such fun!

Baby Flo and Harlem's Little Blackbird are both on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is over at Booktalking, so make sure you stop by.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

AudioSynced: November

Holiday travel means time to listen to audiobooks in the car or while you're cooking fantastic holiday treats and meals. Even if you're not traveling (or cooking) for the holidays this year, you just may find your next awesome audiobook by checking out some of these audiobook reviews from around the blogosphere.

If you've reviewed or posted about audiobooks this month and I don't have your link here, please leave me a link in comments or shoot me an email at and I'll add your review to the roundup. (Please note: only reviews that actually evaluate some aspect of the narration and/or audio recording will be included in the roundup. Not sure how to review an audiobook? Kelly's got some awesome tips on reviewing audiobooks!)

Didn't get to an audiobook this month? Don't worry! Kelly will be hosting AudioSynced at STACKED next month.

Looking for more audiobook reviews? Check out Audiobook Jukebox, a comprehensive collection of blogger audiobook reviews.

News and Posts

What's involved in making an audiobook? John Schwartz explores the audiobook experience for the New York Times in his article "Sound Check".

Children's/Middle Grade Audiobook Reviews

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming, read by Andrew Sachs, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "Sachs reads the novel beautifully."

First Light by Rebecca Stead, read by David Ackroyd and Coleen Marlo, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "Unfortunately, neither narrator seems completely comfortable with the English accent, so the dialogue always sounds a bit stiff and artificial."

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, read by Bronson Pichot, reviewed by Beth at Nerdy Book Club. Beth says, "This is one of the most memorable audiobooks I’ve listened to in recent history and that is all thanks to the sheer comic genius of actor Bronson Pinchot, who not only narrates this audiobook, he performs his heart out in it."

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Well, written and read by Chris Colfer, reviewed by Lisa at Shelf-employed. Lisa says, "As one might expect from Glee star, Chris Colfer, the narration is superb." 

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, read by Jenna Lamia with Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne, reviewed by Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks. Heidi says, "[Jenna Lamia] is the type of narrator that infuses a book with life and makes the audio into an experience that is richer than you could have had merely reading the story on the page..."
Young Adult Audiobook Reviews

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zach Stentz, read by Jesse Eisenberg, reviewed by April at Good Books & Good Wine. April says, "Colin Fischer is certainly an audiobook that I would recommend to audiobook aficionados and newcomers alike."

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor, read by Khristine Hvam, reviewed by Brenda at proseandkahn. Brenda says, "Khristine Hvam turned in another flawless performance."

Dodger by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "He [Stephen Briggs]'s good; he's an excellent match with Pratchett's rapid-fire jokes, whiplashing plot developments and all-around silliness."

Speechless by Hannah Harrington, read by Emily Bauer, reviewed by Sarah at YA Love. Sarah says, "[Emily Bauer's] voice fits Chelsea’s character, especially how she’s able to make herself sound snobby and catty like Chelsea is at the beginning. I noticed, though, that as the story continued and Chelsea grew as a character, Emily Bauer’s voice became more compassionate and down to earth."

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, read by Michael Page and Anne Flosnik, reviewed by Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks. Heidi says, "I do recommend the audio, but not so enthusiastically that I would insist it were an improvement on the book itself."

Adult Audiobook Reviews

Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry, read by Michael Page, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, " [Michael Page] has a very actor-y voice -- rich and resonant with lots of variation. He is very good at characterization -- the more obvious choices through social class, but I particularly admired the subtle differences between his voice for Pitt and for Narraway..."

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland, read by Kimberly Farr, reviewed by Melissa at Book Nut. Melissa says, "I wanted to like this one, and sometimes I did. The narrator was good -- nothing spectacular, but not annoying, either."

The Dangerous Animals Club, written and read by Stephen Tobolowsky, reviewed by Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks. Heidi says, "...Stephen Tobolowsky is a damn fine storyteller."

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr, read by Campbell Scott, reviewed by Lee at Reading With My Ears. Lee says, "[Campbell Scott's] low-key style suits nonfiction, as he steadily but patiently tells us the story of this paper chase."

The Professor and the Madman, written and read by Simon Winchester, reviewed by Lanea at Books for Ears. Lanea says, "Winchester makes for a wonderful reader–his diction is lovely and his pacing is good throughout, and his accent is just right for this subject matter. I’m looking forward to listening to other books of his."

Seriously... I'm Kidding, written and read by Ellen Degeneres, reviewed by Jeanne from Books for Ears. Jeanne says, "If you have seen Ellen DeGeneres doing standup or hosting her show, you have a good idea of what you are in for here. She is off the cuff, engaging, goofy and lighthearted."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Afterschool: November

Here's what I did with my Afterschool visits in November!

We read:

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell. Atheneum, 2011.

The kids LOVE this book and even remembered it from last year and requested that I bring it again. I read this to the group I saw right before Halloween. A zombie, having no luck with the ladies, puts out a personal ad and invites anyone who would like to meet him to show up to the Valentine's Day dance, with hilarious results. The illustrations are slightly creepy and the kids go nuts over it. I only wish the book was a little bigger so they could see the illustrations better. The text is a perfect length for sharing with the afterschool crowd, too. With the popularity of zombies right now*, this is a book that will have wide appeal, even outside its school-age audience.

The Book That Eats People by John Perry, illustrated by Mark Fearing. Tricycle Press, 2009.

This book was suggested as I was collecting ideas for non-Halloween scary picture books and after reading it I decided I had to share it with my group. This was another creepy hit that was perfect for my visit right before Halloween (and, like the zombie title, will have wide appeal after October as well). I made sure to play it up big that I had to be very careful with this book and if they wanted to look at it after we read it, they couldn't have any food on their fingers. ;)

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, 2012.

I think I maybe like this one even better than I Want My Hat Back. Before we started, I asked the kids to look at the cover and tell me what they thought the story was going to be about. After we'd finished, I asked them what they thought happened to the fish who stole a hat (resounding chorus of "HE ATE HIM!!!"). Pair this one with Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon and I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry for a really fun underwater-animals-eating-each-other storytime. :)

For our craft this month, in an effort to do SOMETHING that's not scratch art, we made I-Spy collages. We had volunteers cut up tons of old magazines and catalogs and brought bags full of the pictures and half-sheets of cardstock for the kids to make small collages. We chose to do half-sheets to cut down on the craft time since we usually only leave 15-20 minutes for the craft, but the kids got into it and I think they would have loved to do full sheets. We also brought glue with us. We didn't have enough glue sticks for everyone to have one, so we brought liquid glue bottles and poured out small amounts into coffee filters and gave all the kids q-tips to use to spread the glue. This is a cheap and pretty easy way to do glue with large groups and then we could throw away the coffee filters and q-tips so we didn't have anything messy to pack back up. Glue sticks or glue dots would also work. The kids loved sorting through all the little pictures and picking out ones to add to their collage. They especially liked pictures of animals and of any kind of recognizable characters. This was a fun and cheap craft, definitely one that's going into our roster for the afterschool visits.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2012 (so far)

Or, What Is Up With That PW List??

'Tis the season for the Best Books of 2012 lists, which makes me really happy. I haven't read as much this year as in previous years, so I can definitely use all the help I can get in reading this year's best titles. Publisher's Weekly was one of the first major outlets to publish their "Best Of" lists, which I perused with great excitement...

until I got to the Children's Nonfiction list.

While PW's other children's lists included a large selection of excellent books (11 picture books, 25 middle-grade/YA novels), the Best Children's Nonfiction of 2012 included only 4 books. Now, I have no problem with the books that made their very brief list, but there have been SO MANY other great children's nonfiction books published this year! Here are some awesome children's nonfiction books that did NOT appear on PW's list:

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole by Carolyn Crimini DeCristofano (Charlesbridge). The humorous, conversational tone of this book gives it high kid appeal, helping middle-graders wrap their heads around the mysteries of space.

Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point). This National Book Award finalist is an espionage thriller starring physicists, army officers, and spies. It reads like fiction and has back matter that'll make your heart skip a beat (if you are a nerd like me).

Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renée Watson (Random House BFYR). This colorful picture book illustrates the life of Florence Mills, a popular black performer who entertained thousands in the early 1900s. The bright collage illustrations are paired perfectly with the text to bring this young performer to life for young readers.

Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Neverending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy & Alison Bank (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). I'm not kidding when I say that this biography of a disease has changed how I view so many different things. Tuberculosis is ALL OVER THE PLACE in books and movies and I never really paid it any mind until I read this book.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers' Notes to Their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books). This collection of letters from top authors is a must for library shelves. It's the type of book that will mean something different for everyone and it's an important contribution to this year's YA nonfiction.

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Lu and Andrés Vera Martínez (Graphic Universe). This graphic novel memoir introduces children to life in China in the 1970s through stunning, emotional art.

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch (Houghton Mifflin). This is an incredible story of science and perseverance, of problem-solving from millions of miles away. Stunning photographs and fantastic back matter round out the book.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter (Knopf). Illustrated by my favorite, Melissa Sweet, this book tells the story of Ruth Harkness's journey to bring back America's first panda. I was especially pleased to find a line in the author's note addressing how opinions about taking pandas from China have changed since the 1930s.

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm (Blue Sky Press). This nonfiction picture book shines a light on the tiny plants that contribute a surprising amount to our ecosystem. The authors present a giant concept in an accessible way.

Superman Versus The Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers (National Geographic Children's Books). This fascinating history books weaves two riveting origin stories together: the beginnings of Superman and the development of the Ku Klux Klan.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery (Houghton Mifflin). This excellent biography of Temple Grandin succeeds in prose and layout, pairing visually appealing photos and sidebars with an interesting story about a largely unsung hero of animals. 

Now, this is a list of my favorite children's and YA nonfiction books of 2012, but I certainly have NOT read everything published this year. Please let me know which of your favorites I may have missed so I can get caught up!

Monday, November 26, 2012

THE 13TH SIGN Preorder Contest!

Welcome to DAY CANCER of 13 Days of THE 13TH SIGN Preorder Contest! 
You guys might remember how much I enjoyed Kristin Tubb's middle grade novel Selling Hope, so I was very excited to find out that she's got a new book coming out! The 13th Sign is coming out in January and here's a synopsis from GoodReads: 
What if there was a 13th zodiac sign?

You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign.

Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s.

What about the rest of the world?

What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change—and infuriating the other 12 signs?

Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend on it.

This is definitely a book I'm looking forward to reading, so I'm happy to participate in the 13 Days of 13 SIGNS preorder contest! 
So. What is this contest all about?
If you preorder a copy of THE 13TH SIGN by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, you will be entered into a contest! Where you can WIN THINGS! And there are new prizes every day!
And. EVERY preorder will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF, a literacy program committed to placing books in the hands of kids who need them most.
What can I win TODAY?
If you preorder THE 13TH SIGN today, Monday, November 26, you could win:

-key charm
-star-shaped art supplies
-signed THE 13TH SIGN swag
-signed KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES by Shannon Messenger bookmark
-a FREE 1-hour Skype session with a school or writer’s group of your choice
-signed paperback of AUTUMN WINIFRED OLIVER DOES THINGS DIFFERENT by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
-a 13th SIGN tshirt

How do I enter?
Preorder THE 13TH SIGN! You can preorder it through AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, or through your local independent bookstore. Then email your receipt TO KRISTIN at You will be entered into that day’s drawing, the grand prize drawing, and your purchase will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF!
Are there other ways to enter the contest?
Yep! You can be entered into the daily prize drawings by doing one or more of the following:
-Each preorder of THE 13TH SIGN = 10 entries into grand prize drawing and 10 entries into that day’s drawing
- Each person who blogs about the contest = 10 entries into that day’s drawing
-Each person who changes Twitter or Facebook avatar to cover = 5 entries into that day’s drawing (for each day it is present)
-Each Tweet or Facebook status mention of the book and contest = 2 entries for that day’s drawing (must include hashtag #the13thsign)
-Each RT of book and/or contest = 1 entry for that day’s drawing
BUT. You have to preorder THE 13TH SIGN to enter to win the grand prize and to have your purchase matched with a RIF donation.
ALSO. To make sure you get the correct amount of entries, please let Kristin know if you’ve done any of the above! You can email her at with everything you’ve done to enter.
What is the grand prize?
Nexus 7 ereader! BOOM. The grand prize will be given away on Kristin’s blog ( on Friday, December 7th.
How long does the preorder contest last?
13 days total! You can visit these other blogs for each day’s prizes:
DAY ARIES: The Book Vortex
DAY TAURUS: The Housework Can Wait
DAY GEMINI: Magnet 4 Books
DAY CANCER: Abby the Librarian
DAY LEO: Mother Daughter Book Club
DAY VIRGO: S. R. Johannes/Market My Words
DAY LIBRA: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
DAY SCORPIO: Citrus Reads
DAY OPHIUCHUS: Young Adult Books Central
DAY SAGITTARIUS: Bloggers [heart] Books
DAY CAPRICORN: – Middle Grade Mafioso
DAY AQUARIUS: Smack Dab in the Middle
DAY PISCES: From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors
Good luck! And don’t forget to take THE 13TH SIGN quiz!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

AudioSynced is coming up!

Reminder: November's AudioSynced Roundup will be posted here on Saturday! Did you get some listening in during your Thanksgiving travel this weekend or sometime this month? Review those audiobooks and send me a link so I can include it! Leave a link in comments or email to 

Happy listening!

Monday, November 19, 2012


Howie and I thank you for reading. :) 

I'm on a much-needed vacation this week, so Abby the Librarian's taking a short break. To everyone in the States, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. I'm definitely thankful for readers like you that make this whole blogging thing fun and interesting. I'll be back next week!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Look Back at Fall Storytime

Last week was our last week of Fall Storytime, so I want to take a look back at what we did.

Our library has traditionally offered registered storytimes in the spring and the fall. This year, we decided to split our storytimes into three 4-week sessions instead of two 6-week sessions. This was based on feedback from our patrons that it was easier for them to commit to a 4-week session than a 6- or 8-week session and also feedback from my staff that it was more manageable for them to plan and implement two 4-week sessions rather that one longer session.

I think it worked pretty well. We had a lot of the same kids sign up for both sessions, but we also had a handful that were no-shows for the first session, so after 4 weeks other families had a shot to sign up for those sessions. (We always try to get everyone in that wants to come and we very rarely have storytimes where everyone signed up shows up.)

This year, the way the schedule worked out we only had a week in between the sessions. I think it will be a little different next year when we'll have three weeks between the two fall sessions. Even though we asked families to sign up for each session, I know I had mostly repeats in my group and it did kinda feel like an 8-week session with a fall break.

We offered four different class times and families decided which to sign up for and attended at the same time each week. We offered:

  • Mondays at 10:00am
  • Tuesdays at 7:00pm
  • Thursdays at 11:00am
  • Thursdays at 4:30pm
In the spring, I think we will move our second morning session up to 10:00 because we had feedback that that was easier for families trying to fit lunch and naptime in. It's always a hard call because sometimes we have 15 different Head Start classes trying to schedule field trips to the library and all wanting to come at 10:00, but it seems like whenever we try to schedule our programs to accommodate this possibility, none of the Head Start teachers call for field trips.

In the spring, we will probably add another class time since we will FINALLY be back at full staff! Since we moved one of our baby storytimes to Monday afternoons, I think we will probably add a Wednesday morning session, but we'll just see how it goes.

Our evening class was very well-attended this time around and our afternoon class was okay. Hopefully by the spring we will have a better marketing plan in place and more people taking advantage of the programs we're offering.

For our fall sessions, we did storytimes on the following themes:

Session I:
Session II:
As you can see, there's no rhyme or reason to the themes we choose and I'm totally fine with that. I'd rather my staff have the freedom to pick a theme they're interested in and able to find lots of readalouds for than have them constrained to a larger theme. Plus, having a variety helps us ensure that there will be something of interest to everybody.

I asked my staff if they wanted to offer a winter series, but we elected instead to have several special programs (like library dance party and Lego Club) and to create take-home storytime kits while we're on our storytime break. So, goodbye to preschool storytime until the spring!