Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reading Wildly: Series Fiction

This month, for our Reading Wildly staff reader's advisory training, we discussed series fiction books. We decided to tackle this topic because kids are asking for these books all the time and we realized that there were many that none of us had read. We challenged ourselves to choose books in the popular series that are frequently requested at our library.

To jump-start our discussion, we all read the article "Not the Newbery: Books That Make Readers" by Betty Carter (The Horn Book Magazine, July/August 2010). In this article, Carter talks about the importance of books that are popular with kids but might never win literary awards. Reading books that they enjoy is a leisure activity for kids, "one that requires them to move their eyes across print and thus strengthen their basic skills" (p53). And reading what their friends are reading helps create a "community of readers", kids reading and talking about the same books. I know when I was in middle school my group of friends was crazy about Goosebumps and we all wanted to read them to talk to our friends about them. Valuing what kids like to read helps librarians create a connection with kids and it helps kids see that they are valued members of our library and of our community.

And if we don't read some of the books ourselves, how will we talk with kids about them?!

Here are the books we read and booktalked at our meeting:

It was great to get a little booktalk and learn a little bit about a bunch of different series at our discussion. A lot of these series are quite popular with our kids; they're definitely creating communities of readers! 

Next month, our topic is sports. Although I know that boys AND girls can and do read about sports, the article I chose to go with our discussion is a chapter from Serving Boys Through Readers' Advisory by Michael Sullivan. We are reading the chapter called "Booktalking for Boys". 

What are some of your favorite sports books for kids? 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest Post: Sarah Bean Thompson for 2016 Caldecott

Today, it's my pleasure to host a post from a dear friend of mine. Sarah Bean Thompson is an awesome youth services librarian and on the ballot for the 2016 Caldecott. Voting opened last week for the ALA Elections, so make sure your voice is heard!


When I think about award lists, I always think about which books on the list are my favorite. And having to pick favorites is so tough - each book is special in its own way, you hate to only list a few. But as much as I love so many of the winning books, there are always some that stand out and have a special place in my heart. So to make it easier, I decided to pick three of my favorite Caldecott titles from my childhood:

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

Oh I don’t know how many times I read this as a child. This might have been one of my most frequently checked out library books. First, I loved the plot of a silly king would not get out of the bathtub (what child can’t relate to never wanting to get out of a bubble bath?) Then there was the silly cast of characters that try as they might, can’t get the king to leave the tub. But what I loved most were the illustrations. I would read this book and just pour over every page and soak in every detail. I was always amazed at all the little hidden gems I would find. The food the king was eating for lunch, the animals that appeared during his attempt at fishing, the elaborate masquerade costumes. I love the spread of everyone dancing and slipping in the tub, water splashed out over the side. Each time I look at that page, I can feel the water pouring out through the pages-it’s so detailed and realistic! And the hilarious ending-it’s just the icing on the cake. This is one I love to read over and over and each time I do I discover something new to love.

Tuesday by David Wiesner

Frogs that come out flying on a special Tuesday? This is a weird funny book that I loved as a child. I’m not sure what it was exactly that I was drawn to, but the idea of frogs flying secretly on lilypads through the night sky was just the sort of oddball humor that appealed to me. And again, the detailed illustrations drew me in. I guess I just have a thing for elaborate, detailed illustrations! I also loved that this one is wordless, leaving the reader to make up the story.

The Stinky Cheese Man: And Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

The way this book is laid out is so creative and fits with the story and the humor so perfectly. The way the text falls down, the characters jump from page to page, and the uniqueness of each character make this a great package. The text and illustrations work so well together and the illustrations add to the humor of the story. The story and text wouldn’t be complete without the other. And the humor in this one is one that I laughed over again and again as a child.

What are some of your favorite Caldecott titles from childhood?

Sarah Bean Thompson is a Youth Services Manager and blogs at She has served on the 2013 Printz Committee, 2014 Cybils, and is on the ballot for the 2016 Caldecott Committee.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Preschool Storytime: Spring

Yesterday, I had a Head Start class visit the library for storytime. Since I've started doing preschool science programs, I hardly ever get to do a straight up preschool storytime anymore, so this was a real treat and we had lots of fun! I didn't realize until I started writing up this storytime how much STEM material I went over in this storytime without even realizing it! Here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. When doing a new song with a new group, I'm careful to sing slowly and clearly to give the kids a chance to learn the words. They love to sing along and will try, so make it easier on them to hear what you are saying and learn the words. Singing is one of our five early literacy practices - it helps kids hear that words are made up of smaller sounds.

Book with Scarves: Duckie's Rainbow by Frances Barry (Candlewick, 2004). I was inspired by this post on Thrive Thursday: Using Scarves with Stories and decided to break out our colorful scarves for this one. I passed out the scarves to the kids (remember: you get what you get and you don't throw a fit) and then as I read the book, I asked the kids to wave their scarves when we got to their color. At the end, we all waved scarves together to make our own rainbow and then we scrunched them up and threw them into the air!

To put our props away, I called them up by color and let them put their scarf in the bag. This makes putting the scarves away part of our game!

This activity reinforced color knowledge and helped them practice listening and following instructions, both school readiness skills. The book Duckie's Rainbow is a short book, but contains lots of great vocabulary words like "poppy", "waddled", "hurried", "indigo" and more! Books are a great way to expose kids to words they may not hear in normal conversation, and it's easier for kids to learn to read words that they know!

Felt: Five Umbrellas
(Borrowed from Anne LaBoon's kindergarten class!)

Five umbrellas stood by the door,
The pink one went outside, then there were four.
Four umbrellas, pretty as could be,
The blue one went outside, then there were three.
Three umbrellas with nothing to do,
The green one went outside, then there were two.
Two umbrellas not having much fun,
The yellow one went outside, then there was one.
Just one umbrella alone in the hall,
The purple one went outside, and that was all.

We talked about the rain in the last book and the rain outside yesterday. I asked the kids what we need to take with us when it rains and they chorused, "UMBRELLAS!" and then we did this rhyme! Hearing rhyming words helps kids hear that words are made up of smaller sounds. In this rhyme, we also practiced counting down from five.

Book: Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2001). I wanted to include a book that would show plants growing and this was a great choice. At the beginning, a boy plants ten seeds, but as they start to grow, things happen to our seeds. An ant carries one away, a mouse eats another, a slug destroys a seedling, a ball crushes a plant... until we're left with one flower! I like this book because you can see the seeds start to grow roots and then the plants growing on each page.

This is a great book for including some science information. Talking about science concepts helps increase vocabulary and expand kids' knowledge of the world around them. We talked about how the seeds were growing. We also talked about animals eating seeds - animals need food, too! And it's also a counting down book. I think this is a book that can be used on different levels depending on how old your audience is. For younger kids, I might just emphasize the counting down aspect, while for these older Pre-K kids, we had a conversation about how the seeds grow. (Yay STEM!)

Song: "Ten Little Flowers" (Tune: Ten Little Indians)
Borrowed from Storytime Katie!

One little, two little, three little flowers
Four little, five little, six little flowers
Seven little, eight little, nine little flowers
Ten flowers in the spring
Give them rain and lots of sunshine
Give them rain and lots of sunshine
Give them rain and lots of sunshine
So they'll grow up tall!

It was time to stand up and give the kids the chance to move a little bit and get some wiggles out, so we all stood up and did this song together. I went over the actions first (counting on fingers, fingers coming down for rain, arms above head for sunshine) and then we sang the song. We sang it twice since the kids were learning it the first time. Singing it again reinforces learning and gives the kids a chance to sing along with me.

This song not only gave the kids a chance to move around a bit, it also reinforces science knowledge - plants need water and sun to grow. Using their hands to make the movements helps develop fine motor skills.


Rhyme with prop: Three Kites

This is a prop that Miss T made. It uses magnets to hold and move the kites around. I believe she got the idea from a presentation by Susan Dailey.

Three kites up in the air,
Three kites in the air
One kite flew too close to a tree
And it got stuck there!

Repeat as you count down, ending with:

Three kites in a tree
Three kites in a tree
The wind blew hard and harder still
And the kites fell down to me! (Pull off the magnets at the end and let the kites fall!)

Again, we have rhyming words here and counting. After I said our rhyme, I turned the prop over to show the kids how it worked and we talked about how the magnets made the kites move. Just a little more sneaky STEM in this storytime. ;)

Book: Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2001). This book takes us through the life cycle of a butterfly, from tiny eggs sticking to plants through caterpillars and chrysalises to new butterflies... who also lay eggs. The rhyming text contains lots of great vocabulary words. This was also another opportunity to have a STEM conversation. The kids already knew a lot about butterflies and they were happy to share with me. Here's another chance to reinforce science knowledge and help kids learn about the world around them.

Felt Activity: Spring Things

This is an activity that we almost always include in our Toddler Time programs, and it works for the older kids, too. We have many different felt shapes that I pass out to the kids and then ask them to bring up and put on the board when their shape is called. This is another activity that helps kids practice listening and following instructions. When all the pieces are up on the board, I ask them to sit on their bottoms and help me count as I take the pieces off. (This not only reinforces counting skills, but it's a sneaky way for me to get my attendance numbers - bwa ha ha ha!)

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

This is our typical closing song, to the tune of "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" and one of the kids asked me afterward if I know the song "Do you Know the Muffin Man?".

We use a closing song to indicate to the kids when our storytime is over. They're familiar with the song if they've been to the library before and they know this is the end of our storytime routine. For a group visit, when we've sung our last song I tell them that now it's time to be good listeners and listen to their teachers who will tell them what to do next. This is not only closure for the kids, but it's closure for the teachers. They know that I am done with what I was doing and it's okay for them to take over and instruct the kids again.

This was a great group and we had a blast!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guest Post: Kelly Jensen for 2016 Printz

Today, I'm handing over the mic to a dear friend of mine, Kelly Jensen. Kelly is one of the fantastic teen librarians behind the blog Stacked, and she also blogs about YA lit at Book Riot. If you've ever stopped by her blog or read her posts, you know that she is a thoughtful and critical reviewer and she is super knowledgeable about YA books. She is running for the 2016 Printz Committee, and I'm happy to say that she's got my vote! (Don't forget to cast your votes in the ALA Election!)


Hello to the lovely readers of Abby’s blog! My name is Kelly Jensen, and I’m a blogger at Stacked, as well as Book Riot, and I’m running on the ballot for the 2016 Printz Committee. Abby was generous enough to let me talk a little bit about some of my favorite Printz titles in her space today.

But rather than talk about my favorite winners, I thought it’d be fun to talk about some of my favorite honor titles. So here are three awesome Printz honor titles that if you haven’t checked out, you should.

Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

I know a lot of people look down at Rennison’s book as one that didn’t necessarily merit a Printz nod, but I beg to differ. While it’s not what we might consider high literary on the same level as a lot of other titles which have earned the nod over the years, the criteria for the Printz is simple: it’s the best book defined only in terms of literary merit.

You know what makes this book earn an honor? The humor.

Very few novels are able to sustain this level of funny throughout. It’s a much more commercial novel than many Printz titles, meaning only that it’s got a wider potential readership and that it’s got an easier/more sellable hook. That doesn’t mean that it lacks the same literary capacity as other titles do; it simply means that the angling is different.

Georgia Nicholson is that 14 year old, boy-crazy girl you know, and her voice is not only memorable, but it’s consistent throughout this book, as well as the rest of the series (which is not relevant to this book’s earning an honor, but it’s a point worth bringing up). This book skews toward the younger end of the YA readership, but it’s one that is timeless; it earned the honor in 2001 and it still holds up in 2014.

The literary merit here is less in how the words make music or how they create vivid, powerful images for the reader. The merit is through voice, through its consistency, and through the ability to maintain “funny” -- something surprisingly few books can do.

John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge

While serving on the Outstanding Books for the College Bound committee in 2013, Partridge’s book was one that I had to read, since it had been on the prior incarnation of the list. I’m not a Beatles fanatic, so I didn’t think it would be a title that resonated as much with me as it did.

It’s interesting that there were more non-fiction titles that earned Printz honors before the development of YALSA’s Non-fiction award, the ENYA, but I think were this title published today, it would still be a top contender for the Printz. Partridge’s book is a photobiography of John Lennon which gives readers an in-depth look not only at his life, but at who he was beyond what it was that he did. The photos work with the text, rather than compete with it, and the insight into Lennon as someone with an ugly side made me appreciate the honest -- yet still respectful -- writing.

Where it could have been easy for this to turn into a biography that upheld Lennon’s status as a hero or a legend because of what he did and who he was as a Beatle, Partridge chooses not to pursue that; she goes deeper.

While appeal is not a factor for the Printz committee, this is a biography that has wide teen appeal, not just because of the topic at hand, but also because of the format. It’s a book that’s put together very well and the construction and consideration given into the presentation is clear.

Nothing by Janne Teller

This is a weird little book.

This is a weird, dark, twisted, confusing, and yet completely compelling little book.

Teller’s novel is an outstanding translation of a work originally written in Danish and it tells the story of Pierre Anthon, whose nihilism causes great concern, tension, and trauma on the part of his classmates. This is a book that’s about not just one student’s beliefs, but it’s about how that one set of beliefs can impact a larger group and how that group chooses to react and respond.

When I first read this book, back in 2010, I didn’t get it. But the longer I’m away from it, the more I’ve come to realize that not only do I “get” it, but it’s a book with tremendous staying power because it is so utterly hopeless. This is a story with no happy ending and it’s in that risky choice of storytelling that Nothing stands out.

Between the excellent writing -- again, a translation -- and the ability to tell a story that captures bleakness, herd mentality, and so much more in a relatively small amount of pages, it’s not a surprise why this earned a Printz honor.

(Not related to the book itself or its literary merit, but that cover is outstanding, isn’t it? It’s not only memorable, but I think I’d call it pretty iconic.)

Kelly Jensen has worked as a teen and youth librarian in Illinois and Wisconsin since 2009, which is when she began blogging about books and reading at She also writes at Book Riot (, and she's had her writing featured in VOYA Magazine, The Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal, BlogHer, as well as The Huffington Post. She has a degree in English, writing, and psychology from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and she earned her masters in information studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Her first book, The Real Deal: A VOYA Guide to Contemporary Fiction for Young Adult Readers will be published this summer by Voya Press.

Thanks so much to Kelly for stopping by and sharing some of her favorite Printz honor books with us. Don't forget to cast you votes in the ALA Elections!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tween Readers' Advisory and Programming at #PLA2014

Renata Sancken and I before presenting at PLA 2014!
Yesterday, at the PLA Conference in Indianapolis, my teen librarian Renata Sancken and I presented a session on tween readers' advisory and programming. It was a lot to cram into one session, but we had a great crowd with lots of great questions and it was all amazing and fun!

If you were there or if you were not there, you can access our handouts on the PLA Conference website: Our session is titled Betwixt and Be-Tween and was presented on Thursday, March 13 at 4:15 (that should help you find it).

I live in massive fear that people will not actually go and download the handouts, which you SHOULD because our behind-the-scenes (i.e. home with tiny babies!) presenters, Kate Conklin and Sarah Bean Thompson (of GreenBeanTeenQueen), put together a MASSIVE readalikes handout with readalikes for tons of the series and books that are super popular with tweens right now. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Warriors, 39 Clues, I Survived... it's all there.

Thanks to everyone who came out! And please feel free to contact us (contact info..... on the handouts!!) any time. We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Storytime Training You Did or Did Not Receive

Photo by John Boyd, accessed through BiblioArchives
A couple of weeks ago, on the Flannel Friday Facebook page, a librarian asked the following question:

Question for those of you who are children's librarians: Did your library school offer a course that in some way addressed story time? Mine did not, but I am wondering if that is common, or if I am in the minority.
She got a bunch of responses, which ran the gamut from folks who were able to take programming classes and practicums to those who were not offered any classes that addressed storytime. General consensus seems to be that even for those of us who were able to take programming classes in grad school, on-the-job learning has really helped us develop most of our storytime skills. 

So, if you're in library school or if you're a new librarian or if you're transitioning to children's services from somewhere else, what's a person to do?

  • If you're in library school, seek out any opportunities to take classes that will improve your skills. If no children's services classes are offered, or if storytime/programming material is limited, talk to an adviser about other options. Are there workshops being offered on another campus? Is there an online class you can take? Is there an online class through another university that would transfer to your program? CAN YOU DO AN INTERNSHIP OR PRACTICUM???
  • Seek any opportunities to observe and participate in storytime. Befriend your local librarians! I would be very surprised to find any children's librarian who is unwilling to let a library student or new librarian observe a storytime. Approach librarians in neighboring libraries and ask to observe their storytimes. Everyone has a different style and we can ALL benefit from seeing how someone else does things. Read Marge's post about Roadtrip Continuing Education!
  • Related: seek out opportunities to present storytimes to kids. Our Head Start preschool classes are always looking for volunteers to read with the children. You may also try other local preschools, your local school system, or afterschool programs. 
  • Seek out opportunities to attend conferences and unconferences. Organize a Guerrilla Storytime! (You do not have to have all the answers to organize a Guerrilla Storytime... in fact, it's a GREAT way to network and get tons of great ideas!)
  • Related: seek out opportunities to participate in workshops, webinars, online classes, etc. If you're not sure where those are happening in your area, ask a local librarian or contact your state library's youth services consultant! 
  • Find your Personal Learning Network and don't be afraid to ask for suggestions and brainstorm solutions. Your PLN may include friends from grad school, local colleagues, online friends, your colleagues in great groups like Storytime Underground and Flannel Friday, and more!  
The more experience you can get observing and presenting storytimes, the more confident and marketable you'll be! I couldn't sleep for, like, a week before presenting my first storytime for my internship. And it really took me at least a year of regularly presenting storytime before I began to feel pretty comfortable with it. It gets easier as you build your "internal bookshelves" and get a better sense of what kind of books and activities work well for storytime. And the more experience you have in dealing with any kind of behavior issues, the better prepared you are to deal with them when they pop up during your programs. 

Did your MLS program include classes or workshops on storytime or programming? If not, how did you train yourself? What other resources should library school students or new grads be aware of for storytime training?