Monday, September 19, 2016

Preschool Storytime: Firefighters

Our Preschool Explorers is back for the fall and my first storytime of the season was about firefighters. A couple of summers ago, we did a firefighter storytime and invited the local fire department to come down, which was really fun. They were super happy to do it, so don't hesitate to reach out. This time around was a more casual affair since it was just part of our normal storytime schedule.

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Dan Santat (Bloomsbury, 2012). This brightly illustrated book shows a team of firefighters responding to a local house fire and sprinkles Spanish words in with the text. Before I started, I went over two Spanish words that happen a lot in the text: bomberos (firefighters) and fuego (fire). I wanted to share this one because it's a great adventure story and I wanted to include some diversity in my storytime. A lot of firefighter books are along the same lines as this one: the process of firefighters responding to a call, so why not choose a diverse book?

Song: Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck

This is a great action song to get everyone up and moving a little bit. I also love that we use our imagination. After reading a book about firefighters putting out a fire, we used our imagination to pretend that we were putting out a fire. Since a kitty gets rescued in Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos, we added that to the end of our song, climbing the ladder one more time and then holding out our arms for the kitty cat.

Book: A Visit to the Fire Station by B.A. Hoena (Pebble Plus, 2004). I love Pebble Plus books for adding nonfiction to preschool storytime. The large trim size and clear, colorful photos make this series nice for sharing with groups, while the easy text is straightforward enough to share with young children. I chose this one because I wanted to include a book with real photos.

Action Rhyme: Five Brave Firefighters

Five brave firefighters (stand up, hold up five fingers)
Sleeping in a row (hold hands against cheek like sleeping)
Ring goes the bell (librarian rings bell)
And down one goes! (sink to the ground)

Source: adapted from Storytime with Miss Tara and Friends

Book: Fire Truck by Peter Sis (Greenwillow Books, 1998). I have a soft spot for Peter Sis, since I did my illustrator project on him way back in library school. This imaginative story is illustrated almost exclusively in black and white and red. Young Matt loves fire trucks so much that he turns into one and races around his house having adventures until he smells some pancakes and goes to have his breakfast. Again, a lot of firefighter books are pretty similar, so I chose this one because it's something a little different.

Felt Action: Build a fire station. We have a felt set of "things you'd see at a fire station", which includes fire trucks, fire fighters, ladders, fire extinguishers, etc. I passed those out and had the kids bring up their piece when I called it. I almost always do an activity like this to end storytime if I have a set that fits my theme because it's good practice for kids to listen and follow instructions. Plus, having them approach the felt board gets them used to approaching an adult who's not their parent (school readiness!). And also most of them are fascinated with the felt board and love to interact with it. :)

Play Stations:

I didn't have anything that specifically related to firefighters today, so I just put out blocks, cars & trucks, our color boxes, and let them manipulate the fire station stuff on the felt board.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet. Grades 4-8. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2016. 160 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.

You guys. Melissa Sweet is my GIRL. And she has outdone herself this time.


Do any of you know a certain spider named Charlotte?

What about a mouse named Stuart? Or a swan named Louis? If you know any of these classic children's book characters, you have author E.B. White to thank.

E.B. White (his actual first name is Elwyn) grew up loving words and loving nature and animals. Ever since he was a young boy, Elwyn wrote and wrote and wrote. He wrote poems and articles. He wrote a guidebook to his family's favorite vacation spot at the lake. And yes, he wrote books. He wrote books that are now beloved and read by millions of children.

This biography of E.B. White tells about his childhood and his path to becoming a famous writer. My favorite thing about this book are the beautiful illustrations. I like how the author and illustrator weaves together photographs, diary pages, and bits of Elwyn's writing with her own original illustrations. I love the colors she uses to bring Elwyn to life in the pages of this book.

If you are a writer or if you are a reader who loves books like Charlotte's Web or Stuart Little, pick up this book.

My thoughts:

This book is just a beauty. It feels like a beautiful scrapbook of E.B. White's life. Newspaper clippings, letters, photos, illustrations done in Sweet's signature mixed media style. The rainbow of colors and the care that Sweet takes to depict nature scenes emphasize Elwyn's love of nature and animals.

I don't know what else to say except that this is a book for the writers out there. It's a love letter to writing and to a man whose life was devoted to writing in many different forms.


Readers may be interested in other books about writers and wordsmiths that Melissa Sweet has illustrated: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams and The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus, both written by Jen Bryant.

Readers who are writers may also be interested in these beautifully-crafted memoirs, which celebrate the beauty and craft of writing:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

Or readers who are writers might enjoy books about the craft of writing like Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Reading Wildly: Nonfiction

Hey! It's been awhile since I posted about our Reading Wildly meetings! Part of that is because SUMMER (we don't usually have time to sit down and have meetings during summer) and part of that is because we've been short-staffed and going crazy for the past couple of months. We've done several months of Reader's Choice and share-with-each-other-when-you-can.

But now it's September and we're back! We met last week to share nonfiction titles and to talk a little bit about Becky Spratford's Call to Action: Get Out There and Read Something You Are "Afraid" Of. This felt like the perfect piece to get us back in our groove of Reading Wildly meetings because this is exactly what we try to do with Reading Wildly every month. When we choose our genres for the year, I ask my staff to think about what books they do Not normally gravitate to, what genres or topics they get asked about that make them nervous.

If you are thinking about ways to improve your own reader's advisory skills or  about working with your staff to improve your team's skills, read that post above. It is definitely a call to action that deserves an answer!

And while you're at it, I want you to think about helping a patron with a reader's advisory question about any genre and what your reaction would be if that patron said "Great, which of these books feature people of color?" And then tell me that you don't think librarians should need to read diversely.

Ahem. Nonfiction.

Here are the books that were shared this month:

I am really super excited about October because we will be welcoming the wonderful RA librarian and trainer Becky Spratford to our library to hold some RA workshops for our Staff Day. And also we will be reading thrillers. This is in direct response to some teens who were looking for April Henry readalikes and I came up empty from my own personal experience. I'll be filling that void this month!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Some Light

Light at the End of the Tunnel 2 by Rebecca Swift

I think maybe I've come out of my tunnel. 

I wrote previously about being overwhelmed, first on the ALSC Blog back in December and more recently here this summer

I almost hate to say it because it feels like I'm going to jinx something, but these past couple of weeks I have been feeling better. I had honestly been wondering if I was ever going to wake up without dreading going to work. 

And then one morning.... I did. 

I woke up actually optimistic and excited to go to the library and do the job that, yes, I still love. 

A big part of that is that we are finally back to full staff (our new normal of full staff, that is). We filled a part-time position that had been vacant almost four months due to Circumstances. And I think what was really weighing me down was the Not Knowing. 

I am a planner. I like to know what's going to happen. I like to be able to think about the months ahead and know that we're going to be able to handle what's coming. Now that we're at the staffing level we're going to be at for the foreseeable future, I finally feel like we can begin to move forward. 

I've also accepted our new level of programming (much less than what we could previously offer). And as we train up our new staff person, we'll see where we're able to go from here. 

I don't know what the future holds. But I know that for now I am feeling okay, which is much better than I have felt for the past several months. And I'm just going to hold on to that and do the job I love. (And maybe blog a little more frequently...)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Grades 5-9). Algonquin Young Readers, August 2016. 400 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.


(This booktalk is adapted from the publisher's copy on GoodReads. It said exactly what I wanted to say but more concisely and I think it makes a great booktalk!)

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave the youngest baby in the town as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest, hoping that will protect their village from her evils. But what they don't know is that the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise swamp monster Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon named Fyrian.

Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, feeding the babies starlight on the journey.

But one year, Xan mistakenly feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, Luna, as her own. To keep Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her.

When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule, but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her, even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she has always known.

If you like magical fantasy stories with unforgettable characters, stories that are sometimes serious and sometimes funny - the Perfectly Tiny Dragon in this story is hilarious - pick up this book.

My thoughts:

I had been hearing major buzz about this book and it was for good reason. This book is awesome. It has that feel of a classic fantasy story about witches and forests and magic, but it's also a fresh approach that interweaves science and critical thinking and legend and being kept down by The Man. 

It's a review cliche to say that it's a story about the power of stories, but IT IS and this book approaches the power of stories in a way that's new to me. There's a lot of power here in WHO is telling the stories and the tale gives us a macro view of that while the characters are very much only seeing what's in front of them.
The writing is rich and dark and complicated, but not in a way that bogs down the story. In a way that begs for a reread.

I am sure that the Newbery Committee will be taking a close look at this one.


Readers who like a rich, epic fantasy story might also enjoy Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire. I think the tone of these books is similar and Xan reminded me a little bit of Baba Yaga.

Readers who enjoy the dark forest setting and the strong female characters might enjoy West of the Moon by Margi Preus, which is not fantasy but is based in fairy tales and features a feisty young heroine.