Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mock Awards

Once again the children's librarians in my system gathered together to discuss the best books of 2014 and try and predict which books would win the prestigious Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards. Here are the books that we loved:

Mock Caldecott:

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassan
Sam and Dave are sure they will discover something exciting if they just keep digging their hole.  Little do they realize that as they dig, they are constantly just missing the treasures that they search for.  As with so many book illustrated by Jon Klassan, the pictures in this book tell a whole other side of the story that is never mentioned in the book's text.

Where's Mommy by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McKlintock
Draw! by

Mock Newbery:

The Night Gardener by John Auxilier
Irish orphans Molly, fourteen, and Kip, ten, travel to England to work as servants in a crumbling manor house where nothing is quite what it seems to be, and soon the siblings are confronted by a mysterious stranger and secrets of the cursed house.  This book is not only creepy, but is also characterized by superb storytelling.  All subplots are woven together seamlessly, and it's fascinating how the horror elements Besides, don't you think that a shiny Newbery Medal would just look lovely on this cover?

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Mock Printz:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Born with bird wings, Ava Lavender is well aware that love has long made fools of her family. When pious Nathaniel Sorrows mistakes her bird wings for angel wings, 16-year-old Ava faces the man's growing obsession, which comes to a head with the rain and feathers that fly through the air during a nighttime summer solstice celebration.  Lyrical prose makes this work of magical realism come to life.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sandy's Favorites 2014

It's been a pretty ridiculous year for me.  I had a baby, and they aren't kidding when they say that it changes everything.  My free time has diminished a bit, and I've found myself wanting to occupy this free time with new activities.

What all of this boils down to is the fact that I haven't read nearly as many books this year as I have in the past.  According to Goodreads, I've read 43 books, most of which are novels for children or teens.  Not included in this total are several works of adult nonfiction all about pregnancy, parenting, and making baby food that I didn't feel the need to review.

Forty books doesn't seem like much when you consider that in 2009  (a year post-grad school where I only worked part time) I read 175 books.  Even in 2013 I read 75 books, nearly double this year's total.  Still, 40 books is perfectly respectable.  Besides, I like to think that I've made up for the lack of quantity with the quality of the books that I have read since many of these books have completely blown me away.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Chapter Books

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Molly and Kip are Irish siblings who don't seem to have parents to care for them.  Molly takes a job as a housekeeper to a formerly wealthy family that is down on its luck.  But it's not just the money that seems to be troubling this family.  The entire family seems sickly, and everyone seems to be getting treasures from a mysterious source.  There is also the Night Gardener who appears during the night, and though know one know exactly what his intentions are, they certainly do not seem to be good.  This bit of Gothic horror features fantastic storytelling, and I love how the horror elements mirror some of the other issue that the characters are dealing with.  Given the masterful writing, I think that this book has a shot at a Newbery Honor.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
One evening, Ellie's mother comes home with a teenage boy in tow.  Strangely enough, her scientist grandfather seems to have uncovered a sort of fountain of youth and have given himself a young body.  Through a series of episodes, Ellie and her grandfather explore the wonders of science and discover what it really means to grow up and to grow older.  This book is an unusual blend of sci-fi and contemporary fiction that will appeal to fans of both Wendy Mass and Madeleine L'Engle.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Wilson
So much has already been said about Wilson's memoir told is verse, which recently won the National Book Award.  It's a bit of a patchwork dealing with Wilson's family, the era in which she lives, race, and other small details from her childhood.    This memoir seems to be this year's "it" book and is widely favored to win this year's Newbery Medal.  It's worthy of the hype.

Teen Reads

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The Sinclair family is everything they are supposed to be:  Beautiful, athletic, and incredibly wealthy.  Every summer they vacation on a private island near Martha's Vineyard.  Cadance, the oldest grandchild, looks forward to spending these summers with her cousins and Gat, the nephew of her aunt's boyfriend.  But then one year Cadance has some sort of accident.  She can't remember what happened and no one seems terribly interested in telling her.  During her 17th summer on the island, Cadance tries to piece together bits of memory to figure out what happened.  What makes this story stand out is Cadance's narrative voice.  The way that this story unfolds and the fact that she is so unreliable make this book stand out in the crowd.

Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo
Leigh's father decides to uproot the family and operate a cemetery, and he does not seem particularly willing to look further than the kitchen table for ready employees.  Leigh finds herself working in the cemetery's office selling graves after school.  Meanwhile she has her own grief to deal with after being uprooted from her beloved home by the sea, the death of her best friend, and her sister's cancer treatments.  This book sounds very dark and while it certainly does have its morbid moments, Leigh's sarcasm and ready wit help to keep it from being depressing.  Leigh is a character that I grew to love as she developed over the course of this novel.  This is my favorite book of the year.

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Victoria dreams of being an artist.  Unfortunately, as a woman in Edwardian England her options are fairly limited.  Getting into a proper art school will be next to impossible without some assistance, and her father absolutely refuses to pay her tuition.  The plot thickens with a sweet police constable / artistic muse, some periphery involvement in the suffragist movement, and a wealthy finance who might not be the easy solution Vicky was hoping for.  This book was a tad predictable in terms of plot, but this author definitely did her research about this era.  Readers will enjoy being pulled into this fascinating time period.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Lily Rose May

A little girl, 5 or 6 years old, came in to the library today looking for a book that she had checked out from the library before.  She told me that the name of the book was "Lily Rose May."  I looked this up in our catalog and nothing came up, so I assumed that she was misremembering the title of the book.  I asked if she could tell me what the story was about.  To paraphrase:

"It was the story of the Princess and the Pea, and there was a princess in the castle who didn't like peas but then she tried the peas and she liked them."


I turned to my handy friend NoveList to see if the database could help me solve this puzzle.  I decided to try searching for "Lily Rose May" first to see what came up since the girl seemed to remember that particular phrase very distinctly, even though I couldn't at all figure out how this phrase connected to the story.  Sure enough, the first title the came up in the results was the book she was looking for!

The book in question was, "The Princess and the Peas" by Caryl Hart.  In this story a girl named Lily-Rose May dislikes peas.  Her father takes her to the doctor who diagnoses her with princess-itus and sends her to live in a castle where she discovers that peas are the perfect princess food.  It seems that she eventually learns to like peas.  Turns out that the girl who was searching for the book has remembered the little girl character's very distinct name.  The fact that both the book's description and reviews of the book contain this name make finding this book a lot easier than I'd originally expected.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wrapped Book Display

My Teen Advisory Group had a great idea for a book display this month.  We wrapped up books and set them out under a decorated Christmas tree.  I made up some stickers that listed the book's genre and affixed the stickers to the books.  People could then take one of the wrapped books and check them out with their library cards.  They wouldn't know anything about the book except for the genre until they took the book home and unwrapped it.

Since my library has RFID, checking out one of these wrapped books is super easy.  The wrapping paper doesn't get in the way of anything with RFID - just place the book on the pad and you're done.  Libraries that scan barcodes for checkout would need to take extra steps to either ensure that the books' barcodes remain visible or to write the barcode number on the wrapped book for manual entry.

December is a slow-ish month at the library with so much else going on, but the display has still been moderately successful.  The teens that I've spoken to who have checked out these books have all been intrigued by the mystery.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Just a little something...

Today I went to take a quick lunch break, leaving the Children's Desk unattended for a few minutes.  When I returned, this was waiting for me on the desk:

Awww!  Too sweet (even if we are missing an "r").

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Are You Thankful For?

November's teen passive program drew its inspiration directly from one of my favorite holidays:  Thanksgiving.  Bad news:  I neglected to take a picture of the display before taking it down.  You're stuck listening to me describe it instead.

Setting up this passive program was super easy.  I made a large sign on 17x11" paper with the question, "What are you thankful for?" written on it.  Then I put out some quarter sheets of colored paper and pens.  The teens could write their answers out and post them to the bulletin board.  Easy!

Most of the answers were very nice.

A few were a little bit more...interesting.

Teenagers:  Gotta love them!

I've also learned that when asking the teens to write something simple like this, a smaller piece of paper is best.  Even these quarter sheets were too large since the answers were so brief.  Next time I might use Post-Its, or perhaps cut these quarter sheets in half.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Teen Polls

For some time now I have been interested in trying different forms of passive programming in the teen area of the library.  Passive programming is great for library staff because it is (generally) much less time-consuming than traditional programming.  It's also great because your audience doesn't need to attend an event at a specific time to participate.  Staff just puts out the supplies needed and library patrons can do the activity whenever they are able to visit the library.  Everybody wins!  

During the month of October, I borrowed an idea that I had seen ages ago (so long ago that I can no longer site the article) in an issue of VOYA and put up three polls in the teen area.  The questions and the options that the teens had to choose from were each posted on a large 11" x 17" sheet of paper.  I also posted an envelope with stickers inside.  To vote, teens simply needed to take a sticker and stick it in the appropriate area to indicate their choice.  Easy!

I posted three questions in total, all of which were book-themed.  Click on the images below to get a closer look at my set-up and to better view the questions.

I wasn't sure what kind of response these polls would get, but we actually had a very good turnout for this passive program.  The number of votes for each poll ranged from 26-38 depending on the question - fantastic for one month's time if you ask me.  I could never get those kinds of numbers doing traditional "arrive at this time and do this activity" programs.  Even better, little things like this will help to give the teens a chance to express their opinions and get them engaged.

With the success of October's polls, I'm planning to roll out a new passive program each month during the school year in this area.  The specific activity will change from month to month.  Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dog with Bunny Ears

Today a girl, five years old, came up to me and asked me to help her find a movie that she had once seen at the library.  She had never watched this movie before; she just remembered seeing it on the shelf at the library once and now wanted to check it out.  Naturally, she did not remember the title of the movie.  All she remembered was that the cover featured a picture of a dog with pink bunny ears.


A dog with pink bunny ears?  Doesn't that just sound ridiculous? Still, I am a professional, and I promised to do my best to help her figure out what the movie was.

I asked a few probing questions but, of course, since the girl had never actually seen the movie she couldn't tell me anything about the plot or the characters.  Her nearby father (not prone to being drawn to cute images of dogs in rabbit ears) was unable to offer any additional clues.  So I decided to take a leap and try searching for Easter DVDs.  I reasoned that Easter was the only real reason that a dog would have to wear pink bunny ears.  I turned to our catalog, did a search, and one particular movie's title jumped out at me:  "An Easter Bunny Puppy."  I was able to show the girl a picture of the movie's front cover and, sure enough, she instantly recognized this movie as the one she had seen.

I'm going to be prefectly honest with you:  This movie looks pretty bad.  It's gotten terrible reviews from viewers on Amazon and IMDB.  For the curious, here's a description of the plot according to IMDB:
"A Mystery writer is not thrilled when she's assigned to write a children's book, 'An Easter Bunny Puppy.' Out of ideas, she asks her daughter for help. Meanwhile, her dog, RUSS, the narrator of the story, digs up a priceless Faberge egg buried in the woods and takes it home with him, unaware that he's trailing a thief who stole the egg."
Still, even if the movie is bad it was exactly what this little girl wanted.  Most days it's impossible to track down a movie or book just based on a description of the cover and absolutely no other clues.  It felt kind of nice to uncover this mystery movie for a lucky library user. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Star Wars Reads Day 2014

October 11 was Star Wars Reads Day, and for the second year I put together a program at the library to celebrate the event.  After getting some experience under my belt with this program last year, it was definitely easier to put everything together this time around.  Several of the activities that we did this year (the scavenger hunt, trivia contest, balloon lightsabers, and thumb doodle bookmarks) were reused or re-adapted from last year's program which made pulling things together a snap.  I did, however add a few activities to the mix to keep things interesting:

Activities Checklist

One thing that I had noticed at last year's program was that while we had lots of kids come into our main programming room to do our craft projects, many of the kids weren't visiting the Children's Room to look at the Star Wars book display.  This was a problem for me because in my mind, the book display was the main reason for having this event in the first place!  To encourage the kids to come into the Children's Room I did two things:  First, I put a few quieter activities in the Children's room to lure them in.  I also created a checklist of all of the activities (including checking out books!) that kids could try.  Kids who tried at least three activities could also drop off their checklists and be entered into a raffle for some Star Wars books.  This system seemed to work out really well.  Kids wandered around the library looking for different activities to try, and we had a lot more books get checked out compared to last year.

Fortune Wookies

A Fortune Wookie was featured in Tom Angelberger's third Origami Yoda book, The Secret of the Fortune Wookie.  This piece of origami is perhaps better known to most of us as a cootie catcher or fortune teller and in this case is styled to resemble the character Chewbacca.  Angelberger provides a printable template with instructions that kids can use to create their own Fortune Wookies.  I put these out along with some scissors and let the kids go to town.

Star Wars Stick Puppets

I found a PDF full of cute Star Wars printables here.  (Note:  When you follow this link, please scroll down to find the links to download the printables.  Don't use the big green "download here" button at the top of the page!  That's an add for something else entirely.)   One of my favorite activities, which I found in the first pack, was a set of printable, stylized Star Wars characters.  These characters could be cut out and then glued onto a craft stick to make an instant puppet.  I had been looking for another craft that would be preschool-friendly, and this project was a perfect fit since the puppets are very simple to make.  I also set up a table and wrapped it with a "skirt" (actually a couple of big black garbage bags) and encouraged kids to use the area as a stage and put on puppet shows once they were finished.  It took a little bit of prodding to get most of the kids to use the puppet stage, but once they warmed up to the idea it worked wonderfully.  It was super cute, and I like that it encouraged a bit of imaginative play and storytelling.

Star Wars Memory

Do you know how the game of Memory works?  Cards are laid face-down in a grid on a table.  Players take turns flipping over two of the cards.  If the cards match, then you get to keep the cards and take another turn.  If the cards do not match, then you flip the cards face-down again and it's the next person's turn.  Play continues until all cards are matched up, and the player with the most matches wins.

The pack of Star Wars printables that I mentioned earlier also contained the printouts needed for the Memory game.  Just print the sheets on cardstock and cut them apart to make your deck.  If you wanted to you could laminate the cards to make them extra durable, but I chose to skip this step and didn't have any problems.  Since I made two sets of cards, I put a different colored sticker on the back of each set to make things easier for me when they inevitably got mixed up.  I just put the cards out on the tables along with some basic instructions and let families go to town.  One thing that I especially liked about this activity was the way it got kids and parents to really interact with each other, rather than the parents just watching their kids have fun.

Star Wars Word Search

I wanted one more simple activity so I created a word search using this website.  There are lots of free online tools like this, but the thing that I especially liked about this one was that the "words" that I wanted to kids to search for could include spaces, allowing me to have the kids search for full character names like "Darth Vader" and "Han Solo."  I just came up with the words that I wanted included in the puzzle, plugged them into the website, and had it generate the word search for me.  I coppied their generated search onto a Publisher document and then added a few images, a heading, and of course the library's name.  Once I settled on this particular puzzle maker it took me all of about 10 minutes to create the word search.  Easy!

As always, Star Wars Reads Day was a great success.  Our total attendance was actually down slightly from last year, a fact that I attribute to the days' unseasonably warm and sunny weather.  Even if the numbers were down, however, we still had a solid turnout and the kids who did attend all had a great time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Storytime: Silly Stories

Who doesn't love to laugh?  My goal with Silly Stories storytime was to get a few giggles from the crowd.  Mission accomplished.

Here are the books we read:

Bark, George by Jules Ffeifer
George is a puppy.  One day his mother says, "Bark, George."  But George does not bark.  Instead, he says "meow," "quack," "oink," and "moo."  So George's mother takes him to the vet, and the vet pulls out a host of animals from inside of him.  This book always makes the preschoolers crack up.  The little guys love it when they know something isn't quite right, and a dog making the sounds of another animal instead of going "arf" is a perfect example of this kind of silliness.

Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
"Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards upside down."  Silly is right in the title, so you know that this one just has to be good for a laugh.  I especially like the illustrations in this book, and the fact that it's goofy just for the sake of being goofy.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas
Four dust bunnies named Ned, Ed, Ted, and Bob always rhyme.  But when Ned, Ed, and Ted list off rhyming words, all Bob can say is, "Look out!"  This book is all about the delivery.  I read Bob's lines with a good sense of sudden panic, which usually inspires giggles.  This book is also a good segue into talking about phonological awareness if you like to incorporate early literacy into your storytimes. 

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewis
One day the cows find a typewrite in their barn.  They leave a note for Farmer brown demanding electric blankets.  So begins a silly bit of barnyard labor negotiation that will please kids and adults alike. 

Of course, we had to do some silly activities too.  First, we listened to Raffi's song, "Shake My Sillies Out" and wiggled our waggles away right along with him.

Later we sang and acted out the song, "Icky Sticky Bubble Gum":

Icky, icky, sticky, sticky bubble gum,
Bubble gum, bubble gum,
Icky, icky, sticky, sticky bubble gum,
Makes your hands stick to your face!
Then you stretch it, and yank it, and pull it away!

Put hands on your face.
Pretend hands are stuck, then pull them away from your body.
Repeat as many times as desired with different body parts.

I also like to frame this song with a bit of narrative, which not only helps to set the mood but also gets the kids back to their seats and ready to listen when the song is over.  We hold up an imaginary stick of bubble gum, unwrap it, throw away the wrapper, chew the gum, and blow big bubbles.  When the song is over we throw away our bubble gum, turn on the water at the sink, wash our hands with soap and water, turn off the water, and dry our hands on a towel.

Finally we finished off this storytime with a craft.  We made Dust Bunnies (a la Rhyming Dust Bunnies) out of yarn.

My version of this project was adapted from a blog post that I found here.  This craft definitely required some adult help, but it was totally worth a bit of fussiness.  To make the dust bunnies, you need to make a basic pom-pom.  I had the kids wrap the yarn around their own hands 50 times (an opportunity to practice counting big numbers was a nice bonus).  Then with a grown-up's help they would slide the yarn off of their hands, cut the yarn, and then wrap a new length of yarn around the middle of the loop they had just created.  A grown-up would help them tie a nice, tight knot and fluff out the pom-pom.  They then glued some googly eyes and a paper nose to the pom pom to give their dust bunny a face.