Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hello, Summer.

It's summer.

The kids were out of school today.

The air conditioner was out at the library today.

And you know how the rest of that story goes. (Hot. It was hot.)

I can't wait for summer... to be over.
Our schools had no snow make-up days added to the end of the school year, so I'm feeling about a week behind in planning and getting ready. I was out for a couple of weeks this spring and I have been dealing with planning for some upcoming staffing changes for the past month. We have a part-timer on unexpectedly early maternity leave, so we've been understaffed during our heaviest planning and school visit time of the year. So... yeah. I'm feeling really behind.

I need the Calming Manatees.

Hey. You got this. 
Our Summer Reading Club officially starts tomorrow. And although I am really taking this summer one day at a time, I am also really eager to see how many books the kids in our county read this summer. (We challenged them to read 20,000 books.) It has been nice to see so many kids who proclaim "You came to my school!" I adore handing out books we've booktalked through the months. I am nerdily excited to add books to our staff summer reading "logs".

So, yeah. Summer is exhausting, but there are some good things about it. And, as Victory Baby says:

The only way out is through!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Series I Love: The Thickety

I am NOT a big series reader. As a youth services librarian, I usually feel like reading the first book in a series is good enough. I get to know what the book is like and who I would hand it to. No need to read the rest of the books when there are so many more first books to read. Plus, it's hard for me to keep track of characters and plots for months or a year while waiting for the next book to come out.

So it's a special series that grabs my attention enough that I keep reading subsequent books. There are a few, and I want to write about them. Starting with:

The Thickety by J.A. White
Gr. 4-7. Katherine Tegen Books. Review copies provided by publisher.


When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. She was sentenced to death and ever since that happened, Kara’s family has been shunned by the community because to them, magic is the most evil thing there is… except maybe the enchanted forest that covers much of their island home and grows larger every day: The Thickety.

One day Kara is lured into the Thickety by a colorful bird and she discovers her mother’s grimoire, her witch’s spellbook. She knows that she should take the book straight to the town Elders, she knows that it's illegal for her to have this book, but this last connection to her mother means too much to Kara to give it up. So she opens the spellbook…

And that’s just the beginning of the story.

If you like a fantasy magic adventure story that’s a little bit scary and completely engrossing, this is a great choice for you. Even though the book is really thick, the pages are small, so it’s actually a pretty fast read. I love that it almost feels like you’re holding a spellbook as you read.

And this is the first book in the Thickety series, so if you like this one the adventure continues in the next books.

Books in the series: 

1: The Thickety: A Path Begins (2014) 496 pages.

3. The Thickety: Well of Witches (2016) 505 pages.

Why I Love Them:

The books in this series are fast-paced and magical with a strong heroine. I have always been drawn to witch stories, but more than that, this series is about a girl against the world, a girl that few people in her community (including her own family) really see or care about. She's imperfect, she's fallible, but Kara would do anything to protect her little brother. I just love Kara so much and I'm rooting for her the whole way through. 

The world that J.A. White has created here is intriguing and detailed. Magic is not to be trusted, even by those who may wield it themselves, and yet it's an irresistible force. There's history here. 

And I think the format of the books have a lot to do with my love for them. When I booktalk this series, I always mention the design of the books. They're thick and long, but because the trim size is small, the pages go by in a flash. You can read a quite long book in a relatively short amount of time (and then feel very accomplished). The pages have beveled edges (those rough-hewn pages) and the overall effect is that you might actually be reading from a spellbook, which adds to the allure of the magical story. 

Readalikes: The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014) for its blend of mystery and fantasy. Dreamwood by Heather Mackey (Putnam, 2014) for its fantasy wilderness adventure. The Septimus Heap series, first book Magyk by Angie Sage (Katherine Tegan Books, 2005) for readers who love the small "spellbook-y" format and a magical story (although the tone is different). 

So, there you have it: a series I love and have actually kept up with. There are a few more, so look for more series features in the weeks to come! 

What series do YOU love??

Monday, May 16, 2016

You Can Fly

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. Grades 5 and up. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, May 2016. 80 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.

You guys. I am so, so pleased to be able to share an amazing behind-the-scenes look at this awesome new book. If you (or your kids/students) love adventure stories, war stories, and/or learning about American history, you are not going to want to miss this book. I am a huge fan of Carole Boston Weatherford and her latest does not disappoint.

First, check out the book trailer:

This small package packs a powerful punch. Like Kadir Nelson's We Are the Ship, the narrative is written in the second person (using "you"), which puts the reader right into the middle of the action. Using prose poems, Carole Boston Weatherford is able to get across a lot of information about the Tuskegee Airmen in an engaging read.

Back matter includes an author's note, a detailed timeline, and resources for further information. Ms. Weatherford includes an extensive list of lesson plans and teacher resources on her website. Black and white illustrations by her son Jerry Boston Weatherford illuminate the action.

And I am privileged to share a special Q&A with debut illustrator Jeffery Boston Weatherford. If his name sounds familiar it may be because he is author Carole Boston Weatherford's son.

Jeffery Boston Weatherford poses with Tuskegee Airman portrait

How did you come to illustrate children's books?

I doodled a lot in elementary school. In middle school, my mother enrolled me in studio art classes. I illustrated my first children’s book manuscript for my high school senior project. I used my mother’s unpublished manuscript Which Way to Dreamland? In college, during an internship with author/illustrator Jim Young, I created digital illustrations of the Airmen. Shortly after college graduation, I got my first contract. That project was killed and eventually reborn—with scratchboard illustrations—as You Can Fly.

When did you first hear about the Tuskegee Airmen?

I first heard about them when I was a boy. My family visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. I saw the Tuskegee Airmen’s planes, uniforms and other World War II artifacts.

Archival photo provided by the author

What was your inspiration for the illustrations?

I always had dreams of flight. I watched the movie Red Tails and researched documentary photographs on the Library of Congress and National Archives websites. While doing my research, I had some dreams of meeting Tuskegee Airmen.

Describe your creative process.

Of course, I began by reading the poems. After I did my picture research for each poem, I drew a graphite study to layout the composition. Once that was completed and approved by the publisher, I refined the image and transferred it to scratchboard. I used various nibs for different effects.

Do you have a favorite illustration?

I like the one of boxer Joe Louis punching the German Max Schmeling during their historic rematch.

Illustration by Jeffery Boston Weatherford

Do you have military ties in your family?

My great great great grandfather fought in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. And my mother’s father was in the Army during World War II. He served in New Guinea and the Philippines. My grandmother still has his uniform. I think he would be proud of me and my mom.

I want to thank the author and illustrator for stopping by and providing some great content today. I've said it before and I 'll say it again: don't miss this book!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reading Wildly: Funny

At today's Reading Wildly meeting, we discussed funny books. We've discussed funny books in the past and we keep on doing it because this is a genre that kids want all the time and it can be hard to identify these books using the catalog.

We talked about some sources for identifying funny books, including lists on the internet and getting recommendations from friends or colleagues. We also talked about how a lot of funny books have parts that are funny and parts that are serious and that there are different kinds of humor that kids may be interested in. Some kids are really looking for wacky, weird humor and others like something more subtle.

Here's what we read:

SUMMER IS COMING, so next month will be Reader's Choice, though I have challenged my staff to read something from the room they don't normally gravitate towards. Staff who normally choose books from the Children's Room should pick something from Teen, staff who normally gravitate towards teen books should choose something from the Children's Room. And if anyone feels like they read pretty equally then they can choose. 

We probably won't be able to meet over the summer months because we're so busy in our department, but I'm definitely intending a return to our library staff "summer reading log" where we'll share our reading with staff and patrons!

This was the start of our "reading log" last summer.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Preschool Storytime: Spring

Last week, I visited one of our local childcare centers to do storytime about spring. I know I have posted spring storytimes on my blog before, but since I was using some different materials, I wanted to share this one, too. You can see my previous spring-themed storytimes here and here.

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello - This is our standard opener and it works in the library and outside the library.

Book: When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, 2016). Oh, new storytime gold! This bright, colorful book is a great book for talking about spring. In simple text, the book introduces lots of spring concepts like snow melting, grass turning green, eggs hatching, flowers growing. There's a lot here, but it's not too much and it's a great storytime starter because you could make a lot of different connections to move to your next book.

This is a great book to practice or demonstrate dialogic reading (encourage kids to talk about what you're reading about and have a dialog with you) because there are lots of spreads with many different things to talk about. And don't forget the endpapers: the beginning endpapers show lots of spring things and the ending endpapers show lots of summer things!

Book: Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Charlesbridge, 2014). After reading the poem "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary", Lola wants to plant her own garden and this book follows the steps she takes to do so. I love that their first step is to visit the library to read books about gardening and I always exclaim about how that's such a good idea. ;) This book is a great book to introduce the activity of planting a garden and I love that it includes some everyday diversity, too.

Song: Ten Little Flowers. I use this song pretty much every time we do a spring storytime because it's easy to teach the kids, gives them a chance to stand up and get some wiggles out, and it's a great way to include a little STEM knowledge that flowers need water and sunshine to grow.

Source: Storytime Katie

(Tune: Ten Little Indians)
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

Book: Duckie's Rainbow by Frances Barry (2004, Candlewick). This is another book that I use ALL THE TIME. It's a neat book for reinforcing color knowledge and the rounded pages create a rainbow as the story unfolds, which kids love, so this is a great book for developing print motivation. I like to read the story straight through and then pass out scarves and read it again, having the kids help me retell it by waving their color scarves when we read their color. 

Scarf Play: Since we had the scarves out and scarves are my favorite, we did a few activities with them. All of these activities help reinforce basic concepts and help kids practice following instructions: 
  • wave scarves high and low
  • wave scarves fast and slow
  • wave scarves behind and in front
  • toss scarves up in the air on the count of three (always their favorite!)
Rhyme with Scarves: While I say this rhyme, I ask the kids to hold their scarves in the middle and flap them around the room.

Butterflies, butterflies, flapping around.
Visiting flowers, not making a sound.
Flapping your wings, as you go.
Flapping your wings, up high, then low.
Butterflies, butterflies, flapping around.
Visiting flowers, not making a sound.

Source: Jean Warren's Scarf Songs

Putting Scarves Away: To put the scarves away, I sing the following song. This is another activity that reinforces color knowledge, listening, and following directions. 

(Tune: Do You Know the Muffin Man?)
If you have a red scarf, a red scarf, a red scarf
If you have a read scarf, please bring it up to me

(Repeat with different colors until all the scarves are put away.) 

Felt Story: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This is a felt story that I bought from Lakeshore Learning when I was a baby librarian and it looks like it's not available there anymore. Since this is a classic story that many children are familiar with, I like telling it in a different format and will usually use my felt set or the pop-up version of the book so that it's something a little different from what the children have probably seen before. Not only does this story follow the life-cycle of a butterfly (STEM knowledge! Egg - caterpillar - chrysalis - butterfly!), it can be used to practice counting and to talk about different foods. 

Closing Song: Goodbye, Friends

Additional Resources: 

There are TONS of great books about spring and spring things! If you don't like or don't have any of the materials listed above, here are more great resources for storytimes about spring and you may also want to search for storytimes about flowers, gardens, bugs, eggs, birds, weather, etc.: