Thursday, November 12, 2015

Reading Wildly: Horse Books

For this month's Reading Wildly meeting, we read horse books! It was a great genre to explore because almost everyone (including myself) read their horse book(s) very reluctantly, which, yes, means it's a genre we need to push ourselves to pick up and explore from time to time. 

We kicked off our meeting with a discussion about our common text, the article "What Makes a Good Horse Book?" by Anita Burkham from The Horn Book. This article was helpful for mt staff and me because it gives some clear guidance as to what horse lovers are looking for in a good horse books. I know it helped me to pick up on these elements as I read my books.

Here are the horse books we read this month:

Next month, we'll be talking about fairy tale novels and reading a couple of articles about the fantasy genre: "Stepping Into the Wardrobe: A Fantasy Genre Study" by Maria Colleen Cruz and Kate B. Pollock (Language Arts, January 2004) and "Finding Fantasy: The Genre That Makes Difficult Topics Easier for Students to Discuss" by Robin Fuxa (Reading Today, October/November 2012). 

We'll also be choosing topics for our 2016 Reading Wildly meetings (exciting!!). We may repeat genres we have done before or add new ones. We're Youth Services now, which includes teens and expands our reader's advisory responsibilities. I'm excited to talk about the possibilities for next year! I know that in June & July we're going to do Reader's Choice and that in January we'll do kind of a variation on Reader's Choice using Becky Spratford's Staff Reader Profile that she posted on her awesome blog RA for All

Monday, November 9, 2015

Big Top Burning

Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show on Earth by Laura A. Woollett. Grades 5 and up. Chicago Review Press, June 2015. 168 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Book Talk: [I start this one off by reading from the Prologue on pages 1-2.]

"Some say they saw the flickering of a small flame on the side of the wall of the tent just above the men's bathroom. At first no one moved; surely the circus staff had it under control. But by the time the circus workers reached the fire, their meager buckets of water had little effect. As the crowd watched, the flame grew, spidering up the tent wall. Then someone yelled "Fire!" and the panic began. A frightened crowd of 6,000 spectators began jostling down the rickety bleachers and across the grandstand toward the exits...

"The tent burned to the ground in fewer than 10 minutes, and 167 people died. It was one of the worst tragedies the country had ever seen. From the ashes, questions arose: How did the fire start? Was it an accident? Could a madman have set it on purpose?...

"The mysteries surrounding the Hartford circus fire are still being explored today, more than 70 years after the disaster occurred. Professionals and amateurs alike have examined the evidence and argued their theories. Now it's your turn."

Big Top Burning tells the story of a tragic fire at the circus in Hartford, CT in 1944. Even today, people aren't certain exactly what happened, but this book gives you the facts and lets you make your own conclusions. This is a great read for anyone who likes exciting, true stories from history or adventure series like I Survived.

My thoughts: This is a pretty riveting story about a disaster that I literally knew nothing about. Plenty of archival photos help bring the time period to life and the action starts very quickly. Much of the book concentrates on the mysteries that arose after the fire was over and survivors started to piece together the remains of the dead.

I would be hesitant to hand this to sensitive readers (and will warn them when I booktalk this title) because the chapter about families identifying the bodies of dead children was especially harrowing to me. However, I tend to be a little more conservative about things like that and it might fascinate rather than bother most children. (Pro tip: "warning" children about gruesome content can be a great way to get them to clamor to take the book home!)

I think that kids who enjoy disaster stories (like Titanic, I Survived, etc.) will eat this one up. A friend of mine said on GoodReads that this book is "well-suited to the budding true crime reader" and I couldn't agree more.

Readalikes: Kids who enjoy reading about true disaster stories might also enjoy the book Fighting Fire!: Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them by Michael L. Cooper.

Kids who like reading about disasters might also enjoy the fictional series I Survived by Lauren Tarshis or the Survivors series by Kathleen Duey and Karen Bale.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Science Playground at the @alscblog

Today, I'm over at the ALSC Blog with a post about our recent Science Playground. Please click through and check out this easy, cheap, well-attended fall break program!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Is Reading Entertainment?

Laying in bed the other night, I put down my phone and told my fiance "Okay, I better be productive and read a book."

And he said, "That's not productive; that's entertainment."

And I was totally surprised that he thought that.

And then I was surprised that I was surprised.

Because of course reading is entertainment. Millions of readers all around the world read because they enjoy it. It's a hobby. It's FUN. That's what we believe and tell kids and grownups all day, every day at the library, right?

But the truth is that it sometimes feels like work for librarians.

Sometimes it legitimately is work; if you're serving on a committee, for instance, or if you're prepping for booktalks or if you're reviewing for professional journals. It might be fun work, but it's still work.

But what to do when all reading has started to kinda feel like work? What to do when you're surprised that reading is supposed to be fun?

It's not that I'm not picking up books I enjoy. But somewhere along the way, I've been more focused on hitting (and exceeding) my GoodReads goal. I've been obsessed with my ever-towering mountain of to-be-read books. I've been reading because it feels like an accomplishment to finish a book and mark it down. This is especially true if it's a library book because then I can return it back to the library.

Donalyn Miller had a really great post recently about those times when we take a break from reading or from writing. It got me thinking. Maybe I'm still in Committee Mode after serving on the Newbery Committee last year. I don't remember what a normal reading life is supposed to look like. I read a bunch on my recent Readcation, but I also kind of stressed out about it, which was not very conducive to, y'know, vacationing.

And when I think about other ways I like to relax - watching TV, playing games, taking walks and talking with friends - I never feel like I want to do those activities so I can "be productive" and finish something and mark it down. Not the way I do with reading.

So, I'm going to strive for more balance, and that may mean less reading. But I'm going to strive to be more thoughtful about what I'm reading and why.

Because reading should be entertainment. It should be fun, at least some of the time. Otherwise, what are we doing this librarian thing for?

Do YOU ever feel this way? How do you keep reading fun instead of allowing it to just become part of your job?

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Great Monkey Rescue

The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins by Sandra Markle. Grades 3-5. Millbrook Press, October 2015. 40 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Book Talk:

Okay, so first of all, how cute is this monkey?

This beautiful monkey is a golden lion tamarin and it’s sad to say that it’s an endangered species. Due to deforestation - the cutting down of trees in the tamarin’s home in Brazil - this species was in danger of becoming extinct.

This nonfiction book tells the true story of the scientists who helped bring the golden lion tamarins back from the edge of extinction. And they did it by building a tree highway to help the tamarins reach protected habitats.

You see, for the tamarins to survive in the wild, they need a large territory so they can find enough food during the dry seasons. The forests in which the tamarins can live are now separated by large pieces of land that have been cleared so cattle can graze there. The tamarins would not cross the open land to get to the next piece of forest. Even birds would not fly over the cleared area to travel from one forest area from another.

So scientists came up with the idea of making a special highway for the animals: a highway made of trees that connects the areas of the forest where tamarins can make their home.
To see how they did it and the other work scientists have done to save this cutest of monkeys, pick up The Great Monkey Rescue.

My thoughts: I have really loved Sandra Markle's science mystery titles (including The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs and others) and this one is also awesome. The books read a little bit like the Scientists in the Field series (which I also love) in that you accompany scientists attempting to help an endangered species and see what work and investigation goes into it. The reading levels are a little easier and the books are shorter while still including lovely full-color photographs. I think it's a little easier to find a readership for Sandra Markle's titles because of these formatting choices.

This particular title is so adorable that I knew I had to add it into my booktalking rotation and kids are going to be clamoring for it. I mean, look at that gorgeous monkey! How can you not want to know what's happening to him?

This book is a great one to suggest to teachers doing lessons about nonfiction text features since it incorporates photo captions, maps, and sidebars. Back matter includes an author's note, a timeline, a glossary, a list of further resources, and an index.

Readalikes: Don't miss Sandra Markle's other titles about animals in trouble:

Readers who are ready for more of a challenge may enjoy some of the Scientists in the Field books. Try one of my favorites, Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery.