Monday, March 2, 2015

Truffulla Trees

Credit for this beautiful Dr. Seuss display goes to one of my lovely co-workers.  Isn't it lovely?

The display is certainly dramatic, but my co-worker tells me that it was surprisingly easy to make.  The truffulla trees were made with large tissue paper flowers (there's lots of tutorials out there - here's one).  They were affixed to white cardboard poster tubes wrapped with black construction paper to give them their stripes.  The trees are propped up in a planter pulled from storage and surrounded by more tissue paper for the grass.  Writing with a Sharpie on a smooth stone made the "unless" stone - the perfect finishing touch.

Dr. Seuss' birthday, as well as the Read Across America initiative that celebrates this renowned author, falls on March 2.  How will you celebrate?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cover Art - Coincidence?

While perusing my Goodreads account, I went to visit my "medical issues" bookshelf.  (I have various shelves that describe themes/topics addressed in the book.)  I couldn't help but notice something:

All of these books - the most recent 20 books that I put on this shelf all have covers that contain lots of blue and/or green.  I wonder if there's something about this color that publishers associate with this theme, or if this is all just a striking coincidence.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2015 ALA Youth Media Awards

On February 2, the American Library Association announced the winners of their Youth Media Awards.  The oldest, most prestigious, and most well-known of these awards are the Caldecott Medal (given to, "the most distinguished American picture book for children") and the Newbery Medal (given to, "the most outstanding contribution to children's literature").  For a complete list of the medal and honor books for all 22 awards, please visit this website.

This year was a fairly landmark year when it comes to these awards.  Here are this year's winners:

Caldecott Medal

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Beekle is an imaginary friend.  All imaginary friends live together in a magical land until they are imagined by a child and join this child in the real world.  Unfortunately, Beekle's turn never seems to come.  So he takes mattes into his own hands and journeys all alone to the real world to look for a friend.  Eventually he finds a child, Alice, who is the perfect companion.  Dan Santat's signature style really shines in this story.

Honor Books:
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
The Noisy Paint Box:  The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, illisturated by Mary GrandPré
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mark Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Newbery Medal

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Josh and his twin brother Jordan are the best there is on their middle-school basketball court.  After all, they learned the game from their father, who once won a European championship and would have played pro for the Lakers had an injury not ended his playing career.  Josh narrates this story of his own potential championship season with fantastic poetry that really captures the movement and intensity both on and off the court.

Honor Books:
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Wilson

What a year!  There's so much to say that I don't even think that I can do it properly with prose.  Bullet points it is.

  • NONE of the Newbery award winners are written in traditional prose.  Two are written in verse and one is a graphic novel.  Wow.  Speaking of:
  • A graphic novel (El Deafo) winning a Newbery Honor!  That's a big deal.  It's never happened before.  This is history in the making, folks.  I'd seen this book in the talks but wasn't sure if or how the committee could consider it because graphic novels rely so heavily on illustration (a factor that I think that the committee is not supposed to consider when awarding this honor).  But now we have our answer, and I think it's fantastic.  Nice to see graphic novels get a little credence.  Speaking of:
  • Another graphic novel (This One Summer) winning a Caldecott Honor!  This is somehow less shocking since graphic novels rely on illustration and this award is given specifically for illustration.  But somehow it's never happened before until this year.  In retrospect, this is shocking.  More literary history!  What surprises me a bit more about this particular honor is that the Caldecott is specifically for books for children up to age 14, and I really think that this particular book really pushes that limit.  Fourteen is about the youngest I'd give this graphic novel too, and I kind of feel like that's pushing it a bit.  It's worth noting that this book also was graced with another silver medal, a Printz Honor, given to outstanding books for young adults.  Still, there's no denying that these illustrations are gorgeous.
  • So many Caldecotts!  Six honor books, plus the medal.  And I did not see most of these books coming - only Sam & Dave Dig a Hole and Viva Frida were really on my radar.  Not sure if that speaks to my lack of reading this year, or to this year's field of published material.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Big Number

This month in the children's department we are doing a Valentine's Day passive program.  We have a big jar of conversation hears on display, and we've challenged everyone to guess how many are in the jar.  It's all quite charming, and that big jar of candy has been a real attention-grabber.

Today a group of our regulars (two kids, age 5, and their nanny) came in and noticed the jar.  The nanny tried to get her kids to take a guess.  This activity is naturally a bit of a challenging for younger kids who do not yet possess refined estimation skills.  The nanny knew this, and really just tried to get the kids to guess a really big number.  The first child's guess?  One million.

The conversation with the second child is what really cracked me up:

"How many hearts do you think are in the jar?  Think of a really big number."


This lead to a brief, but very nice conversation about how infinity is never ending and there was definitely not a never-ending number of conversation hearts in the jar.  The kids seemed to accept this restriction on their guesses and the conversation continued.

"So let's guess again.  Think of a really big number that isn't infinity."


From one extreme to the other.  Well done, kid.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

All the Books

A mother comes in to the library with her son, four or five years old, and a list of 12 recommended books.  I'm not sure exactly where the list came from, but I'm guessing it came from her child's school or daycare.  She asked if I would please help her find all of the books on the list.

I asked, in the interest of clarification, "Do you need to get all of these books, or just some of them?"

Her response:  "All of them please."

So I take her book hunting.  We're actually doing really well, tracking down such lovely titles as The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.  Eventually we have a stack of seven or eight books.  As I hand her a lovely Robert Munsch book her eyes grow big.  She looks at the stack, then looks at me and says, "I think this is enough books for now."

The moral of the story:  Twelve books looks pretty manageable on paper, but this number is surprisingly heavy to carry.

The second moral:  It's okay to pace yourself.  No need to READ ALL THE BOOKS!**

Image not mine.  Parody of a lovely image from Hyperbole and a Half.
Origin of the parody unknown.  It seems to be all over the interwebs.

**You can read as many books as you want, or as few as you want, as fast or as slow as you want.  No pressure.  It's supposed to be fun.

Monday, February 2, 2015


During the months of December and January, our passive program in the teen area was very simple.  I put out some quarter sheets of colored paper and asked the teens to draw something.  They were then invited to pin their drawings up on the bulletin boards.

In two months time, we had 21 doodles posted up on the bulletin board.  Not bad considering how slow of a month December usually is in Library Land.  It was also really interesting to see what kinds of things the teen choose to draw.  Subjects ranged from flowers to fan art to winter scenes to animals.  The artistic rendering ranged from super basic to very detailed.  But since it's all anonymous, there was (I hope) no real pressure for anyone to do anything in particular - which is in my mind one of the major appeals of this activity.

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.