Thursday, January 28, 2016

Added to the Booktalking Roster #2

I love developing new booktalks to share with our students at our monthly booktalking outreach. A few months ago, I posted about some books I added to my booktalking roster this year and now I thought it was time to update you once again about which books I'm excited to be talking up to kids.

All the Answers by Kate Messner (Bloomsbury Children's, 2015).

Booktalk: Ava Anderson is a worrier. She’s always asking herself “what if?” What if the girls at her lunch table don’t like her? What if she bombs the jazz band audition? What if her parents get divorced?

And don’t even talk to her about tests. Even though she studies, even though she knows that she knows the answers, Ava is terrible at tests. She gets so worried and worked up that her mind goes blank and all the test answers fall out of her head.

But all of this changes when Ava discovers a magic pencil that will tell her the answers to every test. It’s just an old pencil she found in the junk drawer, but its powers are enormous. Before long Ava and her best friend Sophie are trying out other kinds of questions on the pencil. It can tell them which boys like Sophie. It can tell them what their favorite celebrity is doing right at this moment. It can even tell them what color underpants their math teacher is wearing! 

But is it right to use the magic pencil to find out all the answers? What do you think? If you had a pencil that would tell you the answers, would YOU use it? Find out what Ava does in All the Answers by Kate Messner.

I'll booktalk it to: Grades 4-6.
Why it's awesome: What kid wouldn't love a magic pencil that helped them with tests?! It's always interesting to see what a group of kids will say when you ask if they would use a magic pencil. The premise of this book is an intriguing one for kids.

 Anna Banana and the Friendship Split by Anica Rissi (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015). 


Anna has two favorite things: her best friend Sadie and her dog Banana. Anna loves that Sadie is always coming up with really good ideas, like her idea for Anna to have a picnic birthday party. And when it rained on Anna’s birthday, Sadie saved the day by suggesting they have the picnic inside and even bringing a handful of plastic ants.

But at Anna’s birthday party, Anna and Sadie get into a big fight. Suddenly Sadie is acting like Anna’s best ENEMY, not her best friend. Anna’s not really sure what to do, but she knows that she needs to save her friendship with Sadie.

So Anna comes up with a plan. A plan to save her friendship. But what if Sadie doesn’t want their friendship to be saved? 

This is a realistic story that’s sometimes funny and sometimes serious. If you like Judy Moody or Clementine, I think you would like the Anna Banana books. And if you like this book, there are two more Anna Banana books that we have at the library!

I'll booktalk this to: 3rd graders
Why it's awesome: This is a sweet early chapter book with a lot of depth to the story. The plot will resonate with elementary students who are navigating tricky friendships themselves. Also, a wiener dog named Banana? Awesome. 

Big Top Burning by Laura Woollett (Chicago Review Press, 2015).
Read my booktalk for Big Top Burning here!
I'll booktalk it to: 5th grade and up.
Why it's awesome: It's a thrilling adventure story and a true historical mystery. I suggest this one to kids who have grown up a bit from the I Survived series and enjoy a fast-paced survival story.

Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012).


I LOVE to watch gymnastics at the Summer Olympics and that’s one of the things I’m most excited for this summer.

Joey Jordan has known what she wants to do with her life since she was a little kid. She wants to follow in her big sister’s footsteps and become the gymnastics National Champion. But then she’s NOT going to do what her sister did, which was QUIT right when she was on top. Joey has her eyes on the prize - a National Championship and then Olympic gold.

But Joey will have to deal with some distractions this summer. Her best friend who was always by her side in gymnastics class has gotten really moody and Joey is worried she’s going to quit the team. How can she face Regionals without Alex by her side? And an old friend has moved back to town this summer and Tanner has gotten SUPER CUTE. How is Joey supposed to concentrate on practice when she keeps picturing Tanner’s smile?

Does Joey have what it takes to take the gold at Regionals at the end of the summer and move on to the National competition?

If you love to do or watch gymnastics, this might be the perfect book to hold you over until the Olympic games start this summer.

I'll booktalk it to: 5th-7th grades.
Why it's awesome: This is a new-to-me backlist title, but with the Summer Olympics coming up this summer, it's a great choice to booktalk this year. There are plenty of gymnastics details to please kids who do or watch gymnastics and there's also a gentle romance and friendship story that will have wide appeal.

The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins by Sandra Markle (Lerner, 2015).
Read my booktalk for The Great Monkey Rescue here!
I'll booktalk it to: 3rd -5th grades.
Why it's awesome: Hello, look at the cute monkey on the front. Animal books are very popular and this book is a great combination of animal info and real-life science as scientists try to figure out how to save these cute monkeys from extinction. The photos of monkeys sell themselves!

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015).


DJ’s life is pretty boring. He lives in Berke County where nothing ever changes, including him. His brothers and sisters are all super talented and involved in tons of activities, but DJ mostly hangs out by himself after his best friend Gina moved away.

But then one day, DJ sees a fiery streak in the sky and something crashing to earth. [Show page 16-17] When he investigates, he meets Hilo. [Show pages 18-19] Hilo comes from somewhere else, but his memory was damaged in the crash, so he’s not exactly sure where he comes from or what he’s meant to do.

Life with Hilo is kind of crazy. One of my favorite funny things in this book is that when DJ meets Hilo, Hilo surprises him and DJ screams “AAAHHH!” and then Hilo thinks that’s the way that you greet new people on this planet. So when Hilo meets someone new, instead of saying hello, he says “AAHH!!”

Between letting a raccoon loose in the school office and drinking the salad dressing when he comes over for dinner, DJ has to keep a close eye on Hilo.

And little by little, Hilo starts remembering things and figuring out why he’s come to this planet.[Show page 142] Something named Razorwark is on the way and will spell doom for the entire planet, unless Hilo can figure out how to defeat him.

If you like funny adventure stories and comic books, this is a great choice for you.

I'll booktalk it to: 3rd-6th grade.
Why it's awesome: It's laugh-out-loud funny and a superhero adventure story and the next Hilo book is coming out in May. 

Hoodoo by Ronald Smith (Clarion Books, 2015).


Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a hoodoo family, one of the many families in the Southern woods that practice folk magick. Called Hoodoo because of the heart-shaped birthmark that appears on his cheek, he has always been curious about the conjuring that goes on in his family, but he’s never been able to conjure himself. His grandmother tells him that he must really believe to be able to do it, but so far nothing’s working.

Then a mysterious Stranger appears in the woods and starts showing up in Hoodoo’s dreams. And strange things start happening in the woods. Someone starts digging up graves and cutting off the hands of the corpses. And a crow appears to Hoodoo and talks to him, telling him that he must rid the woods of this Stranger or else bring certain doom down upon his family.

So Hoodoo has to figure out who this Stranger is, why he’s there, why Hoodoo is the only one who can defeat him and HOW he’s going to do that (because remember, Hoodoo’s magic isn’t working yet). If you like a super creepy, atmospheric story, this is the book for you.

I'll booktalk it to: 5th & 6th grades. 
Why it's awesome: This book is super creepy and we have a ton of scary story fans. 

 The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke (Papercutz, 2015). 


I heard she doesn’t say ‘Do you want fries with that?’ She says ‘Do you want flies with that?’ I heard she pulls the legs off spiders and uses them for blueberries. Don’t eat the meatloaf: it’s made from pencil shavings from all the school’s pencil sharpeners.

Believe everything you hear. The new lunch lady at Salem Elementary is a witch. Grunhilda the Black Heart, to be exact, and she’s dying to serve you curdled milk and the most disgusting concoctions you can imagine.

You see, it turns out that there just aren’t a lot of career opportunities for a witch anymore. No one wants to buy her potions, she can’t stand working at the fake haunted house, and there are no listings in the classifieds for “hags” or “crones”.

So it’s to the school cafeteria Grunhilda goes. And she LOVES her new job.

So when one of the students finds out she’s a witch and threatens to tell unless Grunhilda makes her a potion to become smart, Grunhilda has to play along… even if it means doing something nice for someone and really ticking off her ancestors. Things are about to get out of control at Salem Elementary. 

If you like a book that’s darkly funny and has a little bit of a gross out factor, this is the book for you.

I'll booktalk it to: 4th-6th grade. 
Why it's awesome: This graphic novel is gross and funny and unlike anything I've ever read before. Kids who are looking for something a little odd will really love it. 

So, that's what I've been booktalking this winter. Check out what else is on the Booktalking Roster: 

And what awesome books have YOU been booktalking lately??

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reading Wildly: Reader Profile Swaps

This month, at Reading Wildly, we did something we'd never done before. In November, I distributed copies of Becky Spratford's Reader Profile and asked everyone to fill it out for themselves. At our December meeting, everyone picked an envelope with someone's reader profile and I asked them to practice their reader's advisory by giving their person at least three suggestions. For our January meeting, I asked everyone to read at least one of the books that had been suggested to them and talk about it at our meeting.

We really tried not to make our meeting a show-and-tell of how successful the reader's advisory transaction was (and I think everyone found something they liked, anyway, which is great!). Rather, we talked about what the challenges were with this assignment and what resources we used to make our suggestions.

Some of us felt pressure, even though we were working with people that we know and feel comfortable with. That pressure was elevated when working with very avid readers - what to hand someone when they seem to have read everything? Time was also a factor - we all knew that we had a limited amount of time to get our suggestions in to allow our person enough time to select and read something. Of course, we have even less time when we're on the reference desk!

One thing that everyone felt helped them feel more confident was handing their person multiple suggestions. This is always something I recommend when doing reader's advisory: encourage people to walk away with a couple of choices. Giving their person three choices gave more flexibility for that person to pick up something they were in the mood for.

We talked about filling out the Reader Profile for ourselves and I think everyone agreed that it was different for us to stop and think about why we liked or didn't like a book. One of our teen librarians pointed out that she loves when kids talk about a book they hate because that will often give her more information about what type of book might work for them. It's also sometimes easier for kids (and people?) to express what they didn't like than to think about what elements appealed to them in a book.

I think this was definitely a fun exercise and a little more interesting than just doing a Reader's Choice month, so we will definitely be doing this again. Just from seeing everyone's Reader Profiles come across my desk, I think that it would be fun to mix it up and try again with someone different.

Next month, our genre is Sports and I assigned an unrelated, but still very interesting blog post: The Importance of Making Reading Resolutions from a RA Service Standpoint by Becky Spratford. Since it is still early in the year, I think this is a great post for us to talk about. Plus, Becky will be visiting our library later this year in October and presenting some workshops for our Staff Development Day, so I am really excited for everyone to familiarize themselves with some of her work before we get to meet her! (That is going to be a great day; I am already really excited!!!)

Have you every practiced reader's advisory on other staff members or on family or friends? How did it go?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Babies Need Words Every Day: Read!

I am so happy to be taking part in the Babies Need Words Every Day Blog Tour alongside many fantastic librarian bloggers (check out the entire schedule here)! If you don't have these gorgeous posters up in your library yet, what are you waiting for? It takes just a little effort to print them out (and laminate them if you're feeling energetic) and they are great for your bulletin boards, in your restrooms above the changing tables, in your lobby or anywhere that parents and caregivers will see them!

We put posters right outside our storytime room!
Encouraging families to read together is one of my favorite things to do at my job. It seems second nature to me, but I run into so many people who don't realize how important it is to read with their babies. It's up to me to keep reminding parents and caregivers that it's great to read to babies, even if they don't understand everything you're reading yet and even if they don't have the attention span to listen for very long.

I am lucky enough to lead one of our weekly baby storytimes - it's definitely a highlight of my week - and each week, I get to model multiple ways to read with babies. Here are the ways I include the practice of READING in our baby storytimes:

  • We always share at least two books. The first book I read aloud, always aiming for a way that's going to make the book engaging for even the youngest kids. We might count together, put actions to the words in the book, all say a repeated refrain, or make animal sounds as we read. This models ways parents can share books with their young kids. 
  • The second book that I always share is using a book with farm animals to sing an animal sounds song. As we sing the song together, I hold up a spread in the book to show everyone which animal we're going to sing about next. I do this to model to parents that there is more than one way to read a book together! You don't have to strictly read the words to "read a book", especially with very young children who might not have the attention span to listen to a wordy book. 
  • I include a few minutes for reading together right in the middle of our storytime. I'll pass out a basket of board books and allow grownups a few minutes to explore a book with their child. (This is also a great time for me to breathe for a minute and get a head count for our statistics!)
  • I put up a book display every. single. time. If parents don't seem to be checking out books from the display, I'll gently nudge them by saying something like "Please feel free to check out the books on the table! If you check them out, you're saving me from reshelving them!" (which, of course, is no big deal, but if grownups feel like they're helping me out, maybe they'll take some books home!)
  • I promote two programs that help encourage grownups to read to their children in our community. Our county is lucky to have some wonderful advocates who have brought Dolly Parton's  Imagination Library program to our families. I do whatever I can to encourage families to sign up their children. 
  • The other program I promote to families is our 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. Many libraries offer a program like this across the country and we certainly did not come up with this idea, but it's been popular with our families. I've found that it especially engages families with young children because it's something they can start from birth and having a sheet to keep track helps some families keep reading in mind. 
What do you do to encourage families to READ with their babies??

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Few for 2016

I've been struggling with how to talk about books on this blog. I love writing about books, but lately regular reviewing has been too much for me. I just never get around to doing it and by the time I want to, too much time has passed since I read the book to write a detailed review and then I'm in a shame spiral so I just ignore the blog for a month and...

This year, I'm going to try to post sort roundups of what I've been reading so I can write more about books, even if writing out a full review seems overwhelming. And remember to friend me on GoodReads if you're interested to see a little something about pretty much everything I read.

Today I want to share a few books I'm excited for in 2016:

Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo. Grades 9 and up. Random House Books for Young Readers, January 2016. 368 pages.

Since she was a preschooler, Harper has had The Plan. She and her best friend Kate are dancers. They will work hard. They will sacrifice. Harper will teach ballet classes so she can afford to take her own classes. They will graduate high school early, audition for the San Francisco Ballet (their hometown), join the company, and share a cheap apartment while living out their dream. But when best laid plans go awry, Harper flees to "winter over" in the frozen darkness of Antarctica.

I couldn't put this book down. The premise is a little far-fetched, but absolutely compelling. It's a little quirky in a way that I wasn't sure I would like, but the characters are strong and the emotions are written genuinely. Both settings - San Francisco and Antarctica - are well realized, which is important since they're both so important to Harper. I would definitely hand this to teens who love ballet stories; this is one that's off the beaten path in a great way.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Grades 7 and up. Philomel Books, February 2016. 400 pages.

Ruta Sepetys is back with another little-known WWII story. Alternating between four different viewpoints, we hear the stories of four teens near the end of WWII in Europe. As refugees flee East Prussia, Russian soldiers hunt them down. They're hoping to get passage on a ship, but one ship's terrible fate includes tragedy.

The quick point of view shifts make this almost read like a novel in verse. We get the story in small snippets, but it all comes together nicely. The short "chapters" make the pages turn super quickly. This will be another engrossing story for teens interested in WWII or historical fiction.

Booked by Kwame Alexander. Grades 4-8. Houghton Mifflin, March 2016. 

Of course this follow-up to the 2015 Newbery Medal-winning The Crossover is dear to my heart. :) It's not a sequel, not the same characters (although Kwame did sign a deal with HMH to write a prequel to The Crossover!), but it's similar in style and subject matter. This novel in verse is about Nick, a boy who loves soccer and is dealing with some tough stuff this year. Using different styles of poetry and pulling on his own experiences of having a dad who highly values literacy, Alexander presents the story of a kid who thinks he hates to read. Nick deals with family problems, first crushes, friendly? competition, bullying... all without overwhelming the story. I think this will definitely be a popular follow-up. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

No love

The Youth Media Award winners were announced earlier this week and, while that is exciting and interesting, I know that some people are lamenting that the books they personally thought were best got "no love".

I believe that the ALA's Youth Media Awards (including, but not limited to, the Newbery, the Caldecott, and the Printz) are very important. I think they do good for the book world by encouraging authors to write and publishers to publish distinguished works of literature for young people. I believe that they open readers' eyes as to what books and what about those books are distinguished.

But they're not everything. And they can't be everything to everyone. And that's okay.

I also believe that if YOU LOVE a book, that matters. If a book speaks to you, if it's one that you booktalk to your patrons or students, if it's a book of your heart, that matters.

It's a difficult charge and a weird charge to narrow down the year's entire field of excellent books for young people and select ONE title to receive an award. And, really, there's no empirical way to do it, so every award every year is subjective. If a different committee of people had looked at the same books, they might have decided differently. If the same committee had looked at the same books a month later or a month earlier, they might have decided differently.

You might think that I mean that the awards don't mean anything, but really I think they mean quite a lot. Having gone through the experience of choosing a Newbery winner, I can tell you that committee members come to love their chosen books in a bigger way than I was able to imagine before I served.

I do believe that awards like the Newbery Medal are important. And I know that awards like the Newbery Medal make a difference in sales and print runs and that also is important.

But if you love a book, that's important, too.

So, please don't say that your favorite book got "no love". It has your love. It has the love of the people you've handed it to. Your favorite books are worthy of that love, even if they didn't win an official award. And that's far from nothing.

ETA: Katie Salo (a.k.a. Storytime Katie) and I were on the SAME wavelength today. Check out her post at the ALSC Blog about how participating in the Morris Seminar changed her views on book awards.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winter Storytime Ideas at the ALSC Blog

Okay, it is definitely WINTER now. Schools were delayed earlier this week due to the snow and ice here and it was colder in Indiana on Monday than it was in Boston!! So, head on over to the ALSC Blog today where I've compiled tons of ideas for winter-themed storytimes. Be sure to add your favorites in comments!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Last Stop on Market Street Won the Newbery Medal!

Oh man. By now you know that the 2016 Youth Media Awards have been announced and what a year it was! I did not go to Boston, but a couple of my staff members and I got to work super early to tune in to the live webcast together, which is always so fun. I am very proud to say that we already own MOST of the award winners and I'm ecstatic that a couple of my 2015 Favorites were honored!

I was very excited to see a diverse slate of books honored throughout the awards and I was especially thrilled that one of my tip top favorites, The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, came away with multiple awards (Schneider Family Book Award, Newbery Honor, and an Odyssey Award for the audiorecording).

The BIG SHOCK of the morning is that a picture book won the Newbery Medal!! It was a book I read back when it came out and didn't think too much more about, but I'm certainly glad the Newbery Committee was on it! As you may know, the age range for the Newbery Medal is 0-14, but it's been a long time since a picture book or easy reader was honored.

I came home to reread this book today and was delighted to find such sensory details as:

"The bus creaked to a stop in front of them. It sighed and sagged and the doors swung open."

Think for a minute about getting on a city bus. Isn't that exactly how it sounds?

I appreciate bits in the text that almost rhyme without becoming singsongy like:

"CJ looked around as he stepped off the bus. Crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded up stores."

No, this book is not a novel. It doesn't have to be. I think it's a perfect book for what it is - a story about a young child experiencing the sights and sounds of the city around him as he travels with his nana to the last stop on Market Street. As I reread this book tonight, it reminded me of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats for its colorful depiction of city life and that's another one that I love to read out loud.

I read it to Howie and he loved it, too.

What did you think of the award winners??

Monday, January 4, 2016


Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling. Grades 7 and up. Algonquin Young Readers, January 2016. 240 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.


Irene Curie. Lise Meitner. These are two names that I'd guess you're not too familiar with. And yet, without the discoveries made by these remarkable women, our world would be a much different place.

Curie, daughter of the Nobel-prize-winning Marie Curie, discovered artificial radiation - that nonradioactive materials can pick up radioactivity when exposed to radioactive materials. Meitner unraveled the clues that led to the discovery of fission - that the atom could be split and generate a TON of energy. Both these discoveries - artificial radiation and fission - led to the creation of nuclear power and the atomic bomb.

It wasn't easy to be a woman in the male-dominated world of science in the 1920s and 1930s, but that's not really what this book is about. It's about these two strong, smart women and their incredible determination to solve some of the world's mysteries. Curie poisoned herself with radioactive elements to make her discoveries. Meitner fled from the Nazis and started a new life to continue the work she was doing.

If you like the science adventure in Bomb by Steven Sheinkin, don't miss Radioactive! which is kind of like a prequel.

My thoughts: I loved this book. It's part biography, part science book, part adventure story, and all fascinating. It illuminates the work that these two women did, which not very many people know about (which is one of my favorite kind of books to read).

Conkling also does a great job of explaining the science without going over the head of readers. I vaguely remember a few solitary facts from high school chemistry and physics classes, but I never felt lost as I was reading. She heightens the drama of these important discoveries and makes it easy to see why they were so significant.

I found this book fascinating and would happily push it into the hands of budding scientists, especially (but certainly not limited to!) young female scientists.

Readalikes: Of course, Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, which kind of takes up where this book leaves off and explores the development of the atomic bomb.

Readers interested in more narrative nonfiction about science and discovery might enjoy Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligmen, which is another great blend of biography and science.

Readers looking to explore important females in history might also be interested in Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam CJ Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters by Jeannine Atkins. This biography-in-verse explores these famous women and their relationships with their daughters.