Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reading Resolutions for 2018

I posted last month about how I failed all my reading goals. Well, it's the very end of the year and time to look back and see if that's true and see what we want to do for next year.

Last year, I set a few reading resolutions, as I have done for many years.

I wanted to finish the 2017 Read Harder Challenge. NOPE. Not even close! I started it, but due to developing circumstances throughout the year, I had way less time for reading this year. So when I wanted to read, I wanted to read what I wanted to read, not what a challenge told me I should be reading. So, yeah. I gave up pretty early on. Ah, well.

I wanted to read at least 30 children's or teen nonfiction books this year. Well, nope. I read 23 children's or teen nonfiction books. But I also read a bunch of adult nonfiction books.

I wanted to read at least 50 teen books this year. Again, nope! I read 42 teen books this year.

I wanted at least 25% of the books I read to be by people of color. As of Dec. 23, I had read 172 books total, according to my GoodReads page. 71 of those books were written by authors of color, which is 41%. Yay! A goal I met! And probably the most important goal to me, so we'll call this year good.

I had set a goal of reading 201 books this year and that didn't happen. It was partly because I had less time to read and partly because I read way more adult books, which just generally take longer to read than youth books.

Let's look ahead to 2018.

I'm not going to set a GoodReads goal because at this point in my life and career, reading more just isn't my goal. I have looked at Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge and many of the categories fit with personal goals for my reading this year (particularly to read more adult genre fiction). So I'm going to attempt it this year and we'll see how it goes.

I have a number of ideas for reading projects that I want to try this year.

I want to focus on a couple of authors that I always mean to read more of: Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich are my picks for this year. So I'm going to attempt to read at least two books by each of them this year.

I find myself drawn to short stories and that's a genre that I have not picked up much lately! So I'm doing a Short Story Project and aiming to read at least 6 collections of short stories this year.

I need to expand my genre reading and I'm hoping to get Reading Wildly back off the ground this year, but I'm not sure what it's going to look like yet, so no official goal on that one (yet?).

And I loved concentrating on reading diverse voices this year, so I'm going to up the ante and say that I want at least 40% of my reading this year to be books by people of color.

And I'm super geekily excited about trying out this detailed Reading Log created by Book Rioter Rachel Manwill. I love all the things it tracks and that it automatically calculates percentages for you (arg, another goal for myself this year should be to learn about spreadsheets!). So I will be putting that to good use this year.

What are your reading goals for 2018? How are you going to read better this year?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Books to Send out 2017

What are you reading to send out 2017? What great books are on your TBR pile to start 2018 off right?

In my new position, I don't have to worry as much about taking vacation days on the same days as other people. Or about what days we'll be inundated with kids due to school breaks. So I took next week off! Yes, I've worked my last shift of 2017 and I have the next week and a half off. Of course I have scheduled myself PLENTY of reading! Here's what's on my TBR pile for next week:

I'm in the middle of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Del Ray Books, January 2017). It's an atmospheric fairy-tale-esque fantasy set in Northern Russia and I'm digging it. It's not a quick read, but one I can sink my teeth into, and I love how it's pitting old religions and superstitions against new ones and how it examines feminism.

I'm also in the middle of Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Simon & Schuster, April 2017), which is another read just perfect for these winter months. I had started it weeks ago but my library copy was due back. Luckily, my library ebook came in right before my vacation - score! This Swedish import deals with a teen hockey team that might be their backwater town's last hope for prosperity. It's a great read heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics, too!

So many bears... but there are also a few other things high up on my to-read list. Our next Family Book Club pick is The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster, October 2017), prequel to her popular book Practical Magic (which I have not read). Set in the 1960s and about witches, from what I gather. We'll see!

And because you can never have enough fantasy in the wintertime, I've also got The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager, November 2017) on my stack. This was my Book of the Month pick for December and I started the very beginning and I'm in love with it already. Great voice, strong female lead... I'm in.

(Do you want to try Book of the Month now that you know they offer great books like this one? Use my referral link to get your first book for $9.99 + a free tote [and I'll get a free book, too!]. No apologies for the shameless plug - I love Book of the Month and I love getting free books, too!)

Here's to a week off for reading! I'd love to know what's on your TBR pile right now!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Books You Can Sing

My 16-month-old niece S is obsessed with music. She goes to a wonderful preschool where they must sing a ton of songs because when you start singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", it's like the sun just came out after a long winter. Even better if multiple people are singing the same songs together. She seems amazed that we all know HER songs and she loves anything she can dance or move to.

My sister-in-law requested books that are songs for Christmas for her this year and I wanted to share what she's loving and what I bought for her. (Kelly, if you're reading this, stop if you want to be surprised!)


S already has some favorites. Since her go-to song for a couple of months now has been The Itsy Bitsy Spider, I've already gotten her Annie Kubler's board book version and Richard Egielski's super cute pop-up version (for when she's a little older).


She also has most of Annie Kubler's song books, great choices for their simplicity and the diverse cast of illustrated babies featured in the books. She asks for these by name ("Row Row!" and "Itsy!"). She also loves "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" (although she concentrates mostly on the toes). These are sure bets for baby gifts or for storytime staples.

For Christmas this year, there will be some new additions to her library!

The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night by Peter Spier (Dragonfly Books, 1961). This is a song that's important to my family; I have many pleasant memories of singing this traditional story-song with my parents in the car and they still will burst out with it when prompted. It's important to me to expose S to this music, but we're all a little rusty on the words. Buying this book for her library will help us remember to sing it with her and give us happy memories as we remember how fun the song is. She may be too little now to sit through all the verses, but with this book in our collections we can keep revisiting it any time we want.

Do you have traditional songs that have been passed down in your family? If there's a book version, that makes a great gift. Not only do you get the fun of reading/singing it with the young ones in your life but it can help preserve the words, which may have become fuzzy since you were a kid!


The More We Get Together by Caroline Jayne Church (Cartwheel Books, 2011).
You Are My Sunshine (2011).

These board books are super cute, although they are woefully monochromatic. They feature shiny illustrations, which are pretty eye-catching and I love these songs that emphasize love and friendship.

Every Little Thing by Bob Marley and Cedella Marley (Chronicle, 2012).
What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele, George David Weiss, illustrated by Tim Hopgood (Holt, 2014).

Based on popular songs, both these books send really positive messages without being didactic. I would love for my niece to internalize the messages that every little thing is gonna be alright and that we live in a wonderful, colorful world. Of course we're singing tons of nursery rhymes with her, but I wanted to expand her options of sung books and give her parents something a little different to choose if they want.

It's going to be a musical Christmas at our house this year! What are your favorite books to sing?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#libfaves17: Abby's Favorites of 2017

If you've been on Twitter recently, you might have noticed that librarians all over the world have been tweeting their top ten favorite books with the hashtag #libfaves17. Checking out this hashtag is a great way to see what books librarians are loving this year, find books you may have missed, or collect titles to put on a book list or display.

I, too, have been tweeting along, but I wanted to compile my list (with some BONUS PICKS because who can choose just 10 books?). I present to you my personal 2017 Favorites (with the caveat that of course I have not read every book and of course I have not even read as many books as I really wanted to this year). This list is in alphabetical order because, really, who can choose actual favorites???

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking, October 2017). Stop and go read Akata Witch if you haven't already. This sequel won't mean much without it. That said, this was an amazing sequel, which is awesome because the first book came out in 2011! This book continues the adventures of a team of Nigerian (and American-Nigerian) tweens battling the big bad dark magic threatening their existence. For middle schooler and high schoolers who loved the magic and adventure of Harry Potter, these books are a must-read.

All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (Dial, September 2017). Imogene was raised in a Renaissance Faire. Homeschooled by two parents who both work at the local Faire, Imogene had rather a unique upbringing. And now she's turned 11 which is the age she can begin to squire at the Faire and she's taken on yet another challenge: she's heading to middle school. Victoria Jamieson has been so clever here with how she infuses Imogene's personality and behavior with Renaissance-isms that it really adds another fun layer to this book that's about lots of things that middle-schoolers struggle with: starting at a new school, figuring out who your friends really are, dealing with strict teachers... For the Ren Faire lover or any comics lover in your life.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (HarperCollins, June 2017). This is a visceral and powerful story that needs to be widely read. The strength it has taken for Roxane Gay to write about her body and her experiences this way; we as readers are privileged to be let in. And the things she says about her body and the way fat peoples' bodies are perceived and treated in our culture - I kept saying YES over and over again. She is speaking truths here that are not easy, that are not comfortable, but that need to be said and acknowledged. This is a book that I read as a digital galley and then pre-ordered and bought with my own cash money because I needed my own copy on my shelves.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press, September 2017). When a nomadic artist and her daughter drift into the town of Shaker Heights, Ohio in the late 90s, their landlords the Richmonds will never be the same. Multiple moving storylines come together in a really satisfying way in this story that deals with belonging and ownership, motherhood and daughterhood, race and inclusion in a planned community. This was pick for my book club and we had some really great discussions about it.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, October 2017). You had me at Jason Reynolds. No, but seriously, this is a book that does a lot with a very few words. Will knows what you do when someone you love is killed: you get revenge. And that's just what he sets out to do. But when ghosts from his past start appearing in the elevator on his way down, can they change his mind? This was one of the most powerful books I have read and I can't get over the ending of it. If you or your readers like intense books about contemporary issues, grab this book.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick Press, September 2017). This book is fantastic, a must-read and a must-add. Collected here is art in many forms - poetry, essays, photography, and other visual art - all by modern Native American women. If all you know about Indigenous people is the Thanksgiving myth you learned in school, pick up this book and educate yourself. These pieces are powerful and they speak volumes in just a few words. This is another one that I checked out from the library but then bought a copy for my shelves. I want to be sure that my niece will be able to read this one day when she's old enough.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (Walden Pond Press, May 2017). I am the first to tell you that I have read nowhere near enough books to make qualified guesses about this year's Newbery Award, but this one just keeps sticking in my mind and won't let go. It actually took me a long time to figure out if I loved it or hated it. Set on an island where every year an orphan appears and every year and orphan leaves, the kids have the run of the place. They also follow the rules. Until one year they don't. I found this book both maddeningly frustrating and also so incredibly relateable.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (Bloomsbury, February 2017). Jade is dealing with a lot of different stuff - body image issues, being socioeconomically different than most of her classmates at her private school (she attends on scholarship), and hearing about racial violence in the news, stories her white classmates don't pay attention to. It could be a lot for one book, but Renee Watson pieces it together masterfully with even the format of the book (told in short chapters, scenes, and vignettes mixed with longer chapters) mirroring Jade's chosen art form: collage. This is a YA book, but I think a case could be made that it fits on the upper end of the Newbery criteria.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks, May 2017). This gripping and horrifying true story, part medical mystery and part courtroom drama, brings to light a forgotten chapter in women's history. In the 1920s, radium was all the rage and doctors advised people to take it for health. Radium was starting to be everywhere, including on the luminous dials of watches so you could tell time in the dark. The numbers and watch hands were painted with a glow in the dark paint, painted by hand, painted by women working in the dial factories. And to make their brush points fine enough, the women shaped the tips of the brushes with their mouths, ingesting small amounts of radium every time the brush touched their lips. No big deal - radium is healthy for you! Except it's not. In fact, it's deadly. And the companies knew that (or they knew it wasn't good for you), but they did nothing. They denied that young women were getting sick and dying. And because the companies were giant, rich companies, they thought they could get away with it. Until they couldn't. This is riveting narrative nonfiction and it was a book I couldn't put down.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Dutton, 2017). Okay, so you know that I'm a John Green fangirl, so now I will tell you that this is my favorite of his books. Intensely personal, this novel features a character with severe anxiety and OCD. When a reward is offered for information about a missing billionaire, Aza and her best friend rekindle a friendship with the billionaire's son. But it turns out to mean much more than just solving a mystery to Aza. I appreciate how much of himself John Green puts into this story as he explores the spiral of Aza's thoughts.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial, October 2017). Here's another sequel not to miss, but make sure you've read The War That Saved My Life, one of my favorite books in recent years. I was so hopeful for this sequel and it did not disappoint. Kimberly Bradley has a way of writing characters that lets the reader get right into their souls. I am a very character-driven reader, so this is a series that is right up my alley.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, June 2017). This is a heartbreaking masterpiece. In a blend of poems, vignettes, and prose chapters, Sherman Alexie gives us his memoir. This raw, fiercely personal memoir delves into Alexie's painful childhood, his discoveries about his family, and some of the awful things that were done to him and members of the Spokane Nation by white people. Alexie digs deep into his reactions and feelings after his mother's death; Alexie had a complicated relationship with his mother that is maybe even more complicated after her death. I listened the audiobook, which is read by the author, sometimes with obvious emotion, which was an extremely powerful experience. This read has inspired one of my Read Better goals to read more (much more!) of Alexie's work this coming year.

It pains me to leave out some of the other books I've loved this year! Do me a favor and visit my GoodReads profile where you can see all the books I've rated five stars this year. Feel free to add me as a friend!

What were your favorite books of 2017?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

On Reading Failures... and Possibilities

I have failed at most of my reading goals this year. I've constantly been behind on my GoodReads goal and I'm now so far behind that I will never catch up. I set out to complete Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge again this year, but gave up pretty soon into the new year.... I'm pretty sure the only one of my reading resolutions I have stuck with has been that at least 25% of the books I read are by authors of color. (Which is great and a resolution I am sticking with for good!)

So, I am definitely failing at my numeric GoodReads goal I set. But instead of seeing it as a failure, let's look at it as a possibility.

I recently read a post on Book Riot: On Abandoning My Reading Goal and it struck such a chord with me. I do a pretty good job of reading as much as I can. It's no longer feasible for me to concentrate on hitting a certain number of books read. So let's see how I can read better next year.

I want to read more books by Sherman Alexie. I listened to the audiobook of his gut-wrenching memoir You Don't Have to Say You Love Me this year, and it left me wanting to explore more of his works. (Yes, I love Part-Time Indian, too!) So part of my Reading Better goals for next year will be to read backlist by new favorite authors.

I want to reread one of my favorite YA books of all time: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. I've been telling myself all year that I would devote time to rereading it, but I don't really let myself reread books unless I have to for a column or post. So part of my goals will be to reread.

I've been doing some freelance work this year and the extra income has made me feel more free about buying books, so I want to tackle that to-read shelf and read all the books I have bought lately. This includes my Book of the Month books, which is such a fun service.

I've also stepped into a new role at my job, so part of my reading goals this year needs to be about expanding my reading in adult genres. We've been doing Reading Wildly to expand our genre knowledge with our Youth Services staff at the library for a number of years. Eventually I'd like to get something going for all staff, but I have to see how it will be feasible with our staff restructure and our new staff schedule. I know that I personally need to explore some new genres, so that will be part of my reading next year.

I have lots of possible ways to "read better" next year. Tell me about your reading goals (if you set any) and how they're coming along. What ways would you like to read better next year?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Long Way Down

You had me at Jason Reynolds.

Yes, I am a fangirl for Jason Reynolds (join the club, right?!). He is a master of voice and voice is the way to my reading heart. My first Jason Reynolds was When I Was the Greatest, which I listened to on audiobook.

Audiobook is a great way to experience Jason Reynolds's work. It really feels like a character is sitting down and telling you their story. VOICE, MAN.

And my latest Jason Reynolds read is his National Book Award-longlisted novel in verse Long Way Down. (I picked up the print for this one.)

Will knows the Rules. When someone you love is killed, you don't cry, you don't snitch, and you do get revenge. That's how it's always been, how his pop dealt with matters, how his uncle dealt with matters, how his brother dealt with matters. And it's how he's going to deal with matters.

When Will's older brother Shawn is shot and killed, Will grabs his brother's gun and heads down the elevator, on a mission to complete Rule #3 and take care of the guy he knows shot his brother.

But Will's not expecting the past to catch up with him. He's not expecting ghosts from his past to visit him in the elevator. In a modern, tragic twist on A Christmas Carol, Long Way Down explores how it feels to lose a loved one. And how it feels to lose your way, even when you've never been more certain about the path you're about to take.

Written in verse, the text is short. Fitting, since the entire book takes place during a 60-second elevator ride. The verse is visceral, infused with emotion. It's expertly crafted to pack a huge punch into a small number of words.

Here's a sample from page 37:


is when you take a word
and rearrange the letters
to make another word. 

And sometimes the words
are still somehow connected

Same letters, 
different words, 
somehow still make 
sense together, 

like brothers. 

This is a book that makes it clear how easy it can be to fall into a cycle of violence, even if it's the last thing you ever thought you'd do.

And (no spoilers) THAT ENDING, FOLKS. I need everyone to read this book so we can talk about that ending.

I would hand this to teens who devour Ellen Hopkins or who like books about modern issues like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Grades 7+ Atheneum, Oct. 2017. 320 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Thanksgiving Myth and #NotYourPrincess

I'm still working on figuring out what to do about Thanksgiving books. If you're not familiar with the Thanksgiving myth and the harm it does, I'd start with Debbie Reese's posts about Thanksgiving (linked to my favorite and there are more linked on the left side of her page). Reading While White has also thought about Thanksgiving and offered resources on updating your Thanksgiving displays.

My library still has a large collection of books that perpetuate the Thanksgiving myth. When we looked into withdrawing them, we realized it would leave us with about 10 titles. And there's not a lot to replace them in the holiday section, particularly for young children. So, we're still working on figuring out what to do.

One thing I know I can do is focus on Native American voices during the month of November. One of my catalog display lists focuses on Native American authors (it scrolls - there are more than just four books that rotate through!):

And speaking of Native American authors, I want to make sure you know about this book for your library: 

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale is a powerful collection of writing and art. The collection includes poetry, essays, paintings, photography, and commentary from a wide range of Native American women. Topics run the gamut from identity to fashion to sexual abuse to sports. 

Essays address "the invisible Indian" from a young lady who doesn't "look Indian" and is made to feel out of place for that or the continuing pain felt by families who were forced into the residential Indian schools. A powerful poem "The Things We Taught Our Daughters" talks about allowing a cycle of violence against women to continue because "We don't call the police on our own." 

These women use expressive language and images to get their points of view across in a paucity of words. This book packs a lot of bang for its buck. One passage that stuck with me is from "The Invisible Indians" by Shelby Lisk (Mohawk). She's speaking of white people who want to learn about Native Americans: 

"They want buckskin and war paint, drumming, songs in languages they can't understand recorded for them, but with English subtitles of course. They want educated, well-spoken, but not too smart. Christian, well-behaved, never questioning. They want to learn the history of the people, but not the ones who are here now, waving signs in their faces, asking them for clean drinking water, asking them why their women are going missing, asking them why their land is being ruined."
This book truly has the potential to change minds, but we've got to give it to our teens. Now. The format of the book is that large format nonfiction, which can be a hard sell with teens. But it's worth the effort of pressing it into their hands. Maybe sell it as a magazine-style book instead of what can appear to be a picture-book format. The colorful spreads and varied, interesting formats do resemble a magazine's content.

Do what you need to do to get this book and put it into the hands of teen (and adult) readers.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. Grades 8+ and adult crossover. Annick Press, September 2017. 103 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book of the Month

(This is not a sponsored post, I just truly love Book of the Month. However, if you use my Book of the Month referral link, you get your first book for just $9.99 + a free tote bag!)

Do you know about Book of the Month? I am a subscriber and I am loving it.

I started last year when I thought that BOTM would be a good Christmas gift for my sister-in-law. She loves to read, but she lives pretty far from her nearest library branch, and working full time and having a one-year-old at home keep her pretty busy. Book of the Month gives her one free book a month, delivered to her door, with the option to purchase additional books at a steep discount. The bonus for me was that they were running a special discount on a 3-month subscription if you purchased a gift subscription. Win-win!

Here's how it works:

You sign up (or you gift someone a membership). For $14.99 a month, you get to choose one book from a curated list of five titles. Not interested in any of the titles that month? Just skip the month. They make it really easy and you can skip as many as you want. If you like more than one title that month, you can purchase up to two additional books for your box for just $9.99 each. They also provide a selection of their backlist titles for $9.99, so if you have BOTM regret and realize that you need one of the previous month's titles, you can still get it.

Gift plans come in 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month subscriptions and you get a little discount if you purchase the larger gift plans. The recipient can still skip a month if they want. They do NOT ever force you to take a book you don't want.

I love that you get to CHOOSE which book you're getting (I have always liked to choose my own books). I love that it's EASY to skip a month, so you're always buying books you actually want. I love that they have great choices - new and noteworthy books. November's choices included Andy Weir's new book Artemis and Louise Erdrich's new book The Future Home of the Living God, both of which were already on my to-read list. And I love getting things in the mail!

It has been super fun to subscribe along with my sister-in-law. We'll often talk to each other about which books we're choosing or offer to choose different titles and swap later if there are several we both want to read.

And she likes it so much that she casually asked me if I might consider that for her Christmas gift this year, too (which of course I will!).

Want to check it out? Use my Book of the Month referral link to get your first book for $9.99 (and a free tote bag!) and I'll also get a free credit. :D

Monday, November 13, 2017

Collection Development Tool: Google Keep

So, I've started my role as the Collection Development Leader for my library and I'm slooooowly learning the ropes. One tool I've been using a lot already is Google Keep.

Google Keep is a free app and web tool that's part of the Google Suite. Basically, it's a digital bulletin board where you can make notes, keep lists, pin links, add photos, etc.

I am a person who loves to read about books and reading. I love perusing Book Riot for their recommendations and checking out what people are reading on Litsy. I have been known to view online publisher book previews at home on my day off. I love making lists of books I'm interested in reading, even if I know I'll only have time to get to a tenth of them. I've done that for a long time, not just because I'm now a collection development librarian.

We talk a lot about work-life balance and, even though my work is something that I LOVE and researching new books is something I sometimes do for fun, it could all too easily turn into me working all the time, around the clock. If I was constantly bringing up our library catalog to check if we have books or pulling up our vendor's site to add books to carts, I would be working all the time.

So I wanted a tool that would allow me to save relevant links, lists, etc. for further investigation when I'm back at my desk. I needed an online tool so that it could be accessed on multiple devices and I needed something that has an iPhone app so that it would be with me where I am.

That way, instead of digging out my bullet journal to jot down the URL to the amazing Rich in Color, the diverse books release calendar, I can add a link from Chrome or my phone or snap a screenshot so I remember to look it up later. I don't have to obsess about something in hopes I'll remember it on Monday when I'm at my desk. I can quickly note it right where I am and then go back to living my life.

Here are ways I've already used it:
  • I jot down titles that I want to check and see if we have. This is great for when I'm hearing about a book during casual conversation, etc. and I don't want to forget.
  • I snap and save photos of new books or book displays at the bookstore when my husband and I are browsing.
  • I keep lists of book display and book list ideas that I can add to whenever something occurs to me (no more scrambling for themes on the first of the month!).
  • When I'm scrolling through my blog subscriptions on Newsblur, I can save links to posts that I want to read in close detail, so I can catch up on my blogroll as I'm watching TV or something but not miss anything that might be useful in my job.
  • I keep resource links saved in there that I want to check regularly. Since I can make notes about the links, I can note what I want to explore when I have time, what I want to check regularly, etc. 
I'm sure there are other similar organizational apps out there - what do you use to keep notes about new books or trends you hear about??

Monday, November 6, 2017

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Here is a book that you need:

It's called Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and it's written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James (published by Agate Bolden, October 2017). Y'all, I have never stepped foot in a barbershop but this book makes me want to find our nearest one and press this book into the barber's hands. And then frame all the spreads and hang them up everywhere. But not our library copy because that needs to be right up front on display where everyone can see it and find it. 

Buzz has been building for this book and I was thrilled when the publisher offered me a copy for review. I'm not accepting too many review pitches these days, but I snatched this one up. It's got three starred reviews so far and I wouldn't be surprised to see it on many of the 2017 Best lists. 

So, this is a book that celebrates that feeling of confidence and joy when you get a new haircut. Sounds like something small, right? But it's a big feeling: when you feel like you're looking your best and everyone will notice and you can conquer the world, you can do anything you want to do. Walking through a boy's visit to his local barber shop, the text describes the visit as well as the feelings that go along with it. 

Ebullient! These gorgeous illustrations celebrate African American boys and men everywhere, something that's much needed in our world. From the crowns on the cover to a boy with his head held high, these paintings communicate that take-on-the-world feeling you get when you have a fresh haircut. It's a small moment, but it's a big feeling and the illustrations express that. And the last spread... how it flips perspective just like a kid who's gotten a fresh cut and now he looks different to the world and the world looks different to him! 

The text, it bounces right up off the page with energy and enthusiasm. This is a book that begs to be read aloud. It begs to be shared and shared and shared. 

"You're a star. A brilliant, blazing star. Not the kind that you'll find on a sidewalk in Hollywood. Nope. They're going to have to wear shades when they look up to catch your shine." 


"It's how your mother looks at you before she calls you beautiful. Flowers are beautiful. Sunrises are beautiful. Being viewed in your mother's eyes as someone that matters - now that's beautiful. And you'll take it. You don't mind at all." 

And so much more, but I can't quote the whole book for you here - you'll have to go buy it and put it on your shelves and (please) display it prominently. All the world should see that Black boys matter, and they'll see it in this book. 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James. Ages 5-10. Agate Bolden, Oct. 2017. Unpaged. Review copy provided by publisher. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Am I Still a Children's Librarian?

I posted awhile back about changes in my career and since then we've been busy transitioning at my library. We're managing a lot of changes all at once, which has been stressful, but I'm excited about where all these changes are taking us.

I knew that transitioning into a new role wouldn't be easy, but to be honest it's been harder than I thought. Part of that is my own tendencies toward stress and anxiety. As I've started taking on some of the tasks of my new position but also remained doing some of the tasks of my old position (necessary since we're in the process of moving things around), I've tried to remind myself that no one expects me to do two full jobs at once. I've gotten the time-sensitive stuff done and everything else has had to wait until I'm more fully into my new position.

And that's had me thinking a lot about my old position as Youth Services Manager and not being that anymore. I've got the skills and knowledge to put on a children's program, to do storytime, to cover the Children's or Teen reference desks... but that's not going to be my job anymore. So am I still a children's librarian?

Being a children's librarian will always be part of who I am. I've offered to be a sub any time they need me. But to be really fair to my new position and to do justice to the part of my new job that's concerned with the needs of adult patrons, I'm starting to think of myself as a collection development librarian. I have to - it's my new job and one I'm really excited about.

But "children's librarian" has been my label for so long that it's hard to let it go. It's really bittersweet to think about my last (regular) baby storytime coming up in a couple of months or that I've worked at possibly my last teen after-hours program. I won't be part of our Thursday night crew anymore (lovingly called the Thursday Night Dream Team) and I will probably only rarely need to use the hashtag #SaturdayLibrarian.

As I've been winding down my time in youth services, I've realized how much that type of work took it out of me. I have loved what I do, but it's also always stressful for me to run a children's program or to work a public service desk. These are jobs where you have to be "on" even more than when you're working with your library colleagues in a more "behind the scenes" fashion. And while I will still want to jump in on the public service desks sometimes to give me a sense of how people are using our collection, it's a relief that it won't be part of my everyday work life any more.

I don't think I really have a point here... I'm just exploring what this transition has meant for me and what I've been thinking about lately as I make this change. I'm still really excited about my new position, even as I'm feeling nostalgic (already!) for the job I haven't quite left yet.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Seasons Readings

When I read the wonderful book Savvy by Ingrid Law, a book about a family with extraordinary powers they call savvies, I started imagining what my savvy would be, if I could choose. While it would be awesome to have a savvy that would give me some kind of superpowers, I thought I'd love to have the savvy of being able to pick up the exact right book for each moment in my life. Is there much more satisfying than finishing a book that was the exact perfect book for you to read at that time in your life?

When I look back on my reading memories, I can remember some books that were just perfect for the time I was reading them.

I remember listening to the audiobook of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo as I drove home from Chicago for the first time in late spring. I had the windows down and the smell of freshly turned fields in northern Indiana wafting through the car as I listened to this poignant adventure story.

I remember reading A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly when I had moved home after college and was still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. Reading about a strong young woman figuring out her own life, despite all the hardships she faced, was just what I needed. And I was just beginning to discover the amazing world of children's and YA literature as I pondered over my first career steps and decided to apply to library school.

Last year, I was listening to the audiobook Ghost by Jason Reynolds as I was walking miles around my neighborhood in the heat of late summer, the perfect time to be reading a book about track (and so much more!).

Besides the events going on in your life, the seasons can also have a lot to do with creating those perfect reading moments. Do you have certain genres that you gravitate towards more in certain seasons? For me, I always get a craving for historical fiction in November as a chill sets in and the nights get long. And after Thanksgiving, as snow maybe starts to fall (iffy here in Southern Indiana!), I start picking up fantasy books. Once the new year begins, I'm more likely to branch out, to think about reading challenges and expanding my own horizons, to try something new or pick up that book that everyone's talking about that didn't seem like something I'd normally like.

As we head into these next few seasons, here are a few that I'm looking forward to picking up (or finishing!):

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central, February 2017). This multigenerational family epic about a Korean family starting in the 1920s and spanning decades is right up my alley. I'm in the middle of it and really enjoying it. If you like character-centered books, historical fiction, and/or multigenerational stories, this is a great one.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray, April 2018). This alternate historical fiction about a zombie uprising during the Civil War is inspired by retelling like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but asks hard questions about whose lives really matter in this country. I've started the very beginning of it and I'm hooked, y'all.

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar (Lee & Low, October 2017). From publisher summary: "In 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle. But it turns out he isn't the one joining. Anjali's mother is... When Anjali's mother is jailed, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother's work, ensuring that her little part of the independence movement is completed."

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman (Knopf, October 2017). I have this book waiting on my shelves and as a huge fan of the His Dark Materials trilogy, I am eagerly looking forward to diving in!

Do you like to read certain genres during certain seasons? And what books do you associate strongly with certain moments in your life?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Preschool Storytime: Sharks

We had the Shark Cart from the Newport Aquarium visit earlier this month, so to get the kids excited about it, I did a shark storytime the week before. This is one of those storytimes that I thought would be difficult to plan, but it turns out that LOTS of librarians have done shark storytimes and there was plenty of fun material to be had.

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Great White Shark by Deborah Nuzzolo (Pebble Books, 2008). I used this book because I wanted to use one with real photos and the Pebble Plus books are great for having large full-color photographs. We talked about lots of great vocabulary words in this book - predator and prey, nostril, and more. I was worried about real pictures being too scary, but it turns out kids are brave. I did warn them before the last spread of the shark jumping out with its toothy mouth open wide. ;)

Felt Rhyme: Two Little Sharks
(A variation on Two Little Dickey Birds)

Two little sharks in the deep blue sea
One named Leonard and one named Lee
Swim away, Leonard! Swim away, Lee!
Come back, Leonard! Come back, Lee!

Source: Sunflower Storytime

This is a traditional rhyme that helps children practice motor skills and following directions.

Action Song: Bubble, Bubble Pop

I adjusted the lyrics slightly:

One little blue shark
Swimming in the water
Swimming in the water
Swimming in the water
One little blue shark
Swimming in the water
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble

We repeated with different colors until the kids were ready to move on.

Book: How to Spy on a Shark by Lori Haskins Houran (Albert Whitman, 2015). This nonfiction book uses gentle rhyming text to describe one way that scientists study sharks: by tagging them and having robots follow and record what they are doing. I chose this one because it's a very simple introduction to some of the work scientists do.

Action Song: The Sharks in the Sea
(Tune: The Wheels on the Bus)

The sharks in the sea go chomp, chomp, chomp
Chomp, chomp, chomp
Chomp, chomp, chomp
The sharks in the sea go chomp, chomp, chomp
All day long

Repeat with different sea animals. We did fish/swim, lobster/click clack and then I turned it over to the kids and they suggested sea turtle/glide, octopus/wiggle, and dolphin/flap tail.

Source: Adventures in Storytime

Felt Rhyme: Sharks in the Bathtub

One little shark in the bathtub
Going for a swim
Knock, knock (clap twice)
Splash, splash (pat knees twice)
Come on in!

Repeat with two, three, four, and five. At the very end "They all fell in!" and knock the felt pieces off the board.

Source: The Storytime Station

Book: Shark in the Park by Nick Sharrat (Corgi, 2000). This is one of our department's very favorite storytime books. It's cute and has actions the kids can do along with it (looking along with their telescope). This is a great one for practicing directions (look up, look down, look left, look right) and it has a fun surprise ending that kids love.

Felt Rhyme: Five Little Fishies

Five little fishies, swimming in the sea
Teasing Mr. Shark "You can't catch me!"
Along comes Mr. Shark, quiet as can be
And SNAPS that fish right out of the sea! (clap on "Snaps!")

Repeat: count down until there are no fish left.

Source: Never Shushed

We have a shark puppet and I love to use puppets with this rhyme.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Preschool Storytime: Rain

I spotted the book Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre on a display and I was inspired to create a rain-themed storytime this summer. I did it during our last week of summer storytimes and this was a really fun one to go out on because I tried a new thing and it worked (yay!).

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello (our standard!)

Intro: Okay, I was going to bring out our rainstick to show the kids so we could hear it and I could talk about how they are made. BUT I couldn't find it on the hectic morning of our storytime, so I skipped that. If you have a rainstick, it would be a fun thing to show the kids.

Book: Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre (Bean Lane Books, 2015). I was drawn to this one for its photo illustrations, which are a little unusual in children's picture books and I think they're neat. This is a great book for introducing kids to new vocabulary because Sayre uses such a rich selection of different words.

Felt: Five Little Umbrellas

This simple rhyme helps kids practice counting down and you could use it to practice colors, too. I put it in here to break up my books a little bit and give them something a little bit active (they can count on their fingers as I go through the felt pieces on the board). You can use the names of the kids in your storytime or substitute Mom, Dad, Cousin, etc. or just say "Someone".

Five umbrellas stood by the door.
Riley took the pink one, and then there were four!

Four umbrellas, pretty as can be.
Ben took the blue one, and then there were three!

Three umbrellas with nothing to do.
Ollie took the green one, and then there were two!

Two umbrellas having fun.
Lincoln took the yellow one, and then there was one!

One umbrella alone in the hall.
Ashly took the purple one and that was all!

Book: Storm Song by Nancy Viau (Amazon, 2013). We talked about what happens when a storm comes - what do we see, what do we hear? And one kiddo mentioned that it's sometimes scary, which lead right into this book. A storm comes and the power goes out and this family observes the storm and finds things to do with the lights out. It's a book that depicts something that most kids are familiar with and it has a lot of interesting rhythm and sounds in the text.

Action Song: If It's Raining Outside, Wear Your Boots

(Tune: If You're Happy and You Know It)
If it's raining outside, wear your boots.
If it's raining outside, wear your boots.
If it's raining outside, then your boots will keep you dry!
If it's raining outside, wear your boots.

Repeat: raincoat, hat, umbrella, etc.

I asked the kids to tell me what we need to wear if we go outside when it rains, so feel free to turn this over to the kids and use their suggestions in your song! Doing action songs in storytime not only helps get some wiggles out and allows kids to then sit and listen more calmly, but singing songs helps kids hear that words are made up of smaller sounds.

Book: Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car by John Burningham (HarperCollins, 1976). It's a sunny day and Mr. Gumpy is going for a drive. All of the farm animals want to come, but none of them want to help push when it rains and the car gets stuck in the mud.


Book with Props: Rain by Manya Stojic (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2000). I chose this book because I wanted to use some props with it (this was the new thing I tried!). As a rainstorm starts on the Savannah, animals see lightning, hear thunder, and finally the rain comes down. I divided my group up into three smaller groups based on where they were sitting. The kids on the right got yellow and orange scarves for lightning, the kids in the middle got egg shakers for rain sounds, and the kids on the left got rhythm sticks for thunder. First, we each practiced our parts. The lightning kids waved their scarves in the air up and down like lightning striking. The rain makers shook their eggs. And the thunder beat their rhythm sticks on the floor.

Then as I read the book, each group chimed in when it came to their part in the story. I didn't read the whole book - after the rain came and then the rain stopped, I skipped to the end where it gets hot again.

The kids had a lot of fun with this and even though I was nervous of chaos with so many noise-making props, it turned out to be really fun. I like finding ways to get kids involved with the story in unusual ways! And in this activity kids practiced motor skills and following directions.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?