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Results 26 - 50 of 72,096
26. The Art of Listening

Silence. It is the other side of talk. It is the back board of listening. When we are silent it opens up our mind to what is going on around us. It allows… Continue reading

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27. Fusenews: Don’t Let the Pigeon Shoot First

  • Hi-ho, folks. Well, there’s a nice little second part to that interview I did with Kidlit TV last week.  Basically, if you’ve ever wanted me to predict the Newbery and Caldecott on air or offer up my assessment of the worst written children’s book of 2014, you are in luck.  I think there may even be some additional free copies of WILD THINGS: ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE in the offering as well.
  • In other news, I wouldn’t call this next link workplace safe.  Not because it’s gross or inappropriate in any way.  More because it’s going to make you laugh out loud, probably in a rude snorting-like fashion.  The kind of sound a hippo might admire.  When I worked the children’s reference desk there were certain websites I was not allowed to read because they’d make me give great gulping guffaws and scare the little children.  And a close close examination of Goodnight Moon?  Yep.  That would be dangerous.  Ditto the author’s previous post on Knuffle Bunny.
  • Hey, New Yorkers! Those of you who happen to find yourself with time to spare this Sunday and need somewhere to be.  You like author Gregory Maguire?  You like Tuck Everlasting?  You like the idea of actually seeing Natalie Babbitt for yourself live and in person?  Well Symphony Space is having a heck of a cool event with all these elements put together, and I cannot help but think you’ll have a good time if you attend.  Just sayin’.
  • I come home from work the other day and my husband says, “So. You heard about that J.J. Abrams / Mo Willems thing, right?” Come again?  What the which now?  Yes indeed, there was a story going around the news about a case of mistaken identity between Mo Willems and Mo Williams.  It’s a funny piece, but I do wish they let us know if Abrams ever actually got in touch with Mo.
  • Full credit to Zetta Elliott.  She has created a list of all the 2014 African American Black-authored middle grade and young adult novels were published in the US in 2014.  She found 40.  An incredibly low number, but the list should prove useful to those of you preparing for some African-American book displays in your libraries and bookstores.

New Blog Alert: With two small children in the house (slash taking up valuable cranial real estate) I haven’t indulged in my blog readings like I used to.  I miss things.  So a picture book blog like Magpie That can exist for lord only knows how long before I see it.  And talk about content!  Or a beautiful layout!  If the plethora of illustrators providing magpies along the side are any indication, this site’s been up for a while. A lovely thing to stumble upon then.

Oo!  Thing!  So recently PW was kind enough to write up my last Children’s Literary Salon on the topic of science fiction for kids (as in, why the heck don’t we have any?). Now I know that some of you are planning on coming to NYC for the SCBWI Conference at the beginning of February.  I’m sure you have a lot on your plate, but if you just happen to be free on Saturday, February 7th at 2:00 p.m., take a stroll over to the main branch of NYPL for my (free!) Children’s Literary Salon on “Collaborating Couples“. The description:

Living together is one thing.  Working together?  Another entirely.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, join married couples Andrea & Brian Pinkney (MARTIN & MAHALIA) and Sean Qualls & Selina Alko (THE CASE FOR LOVING), and Betsy & Ted Lewin (HOW TO BABYSIT A LEOPARD) as they discuss the pitfalls and pleasures of creating collaboratively.

For a full roster of my upcoming Salons (more are in the works) go here.

  • Speaking of NYC, there was an interesting piece in the Times on how we need a children’s literature mascot for the city.  London has Paddington, so what do we have?  Some good suggestions are on hand (Patience and Fortitude amongst them) and it’s tricky to come up with the best of the lot.  I guess if I had my wish it would be the original Winnie-the-Pooh toys.  They’re immigrants, they live in the library, and everybody loves them.  What more could you want in a New York mascot?
  • Daily Image:

The old Daily Image well appears to have run dry. Would you accept this picture of an adorable baby Bird asleep in his books instead?

Darn right you would.


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28. Migratory Animals

When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin from five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiance without knowing when she can return, Flan learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the crippling genetic disease that slowly killed their mother. 

As their close-knit circle of friends struggles with Molly's diagnosis, Flannery must grapple with what her future will hold: an ambitious life of love and the pursuit of scientific discovery in West Africa, or the pull of a life surrounded by old friends, the comfort of an old flame, family obligations, and the home she's always known. But she is not the only one wrestling with uncertainty. Since their college days, each of her friends has faced unexpected challenges that make them reevaluate the lives they've always planned for themselves. (Goodreads)

I admit, I struggled to get into this. I'm in the middle of another book that contains several of the same themes (returning from Africa after 5 years, past secrets, difficult family relationships) and this one is not nearly as readable. It takes some patience to understand Flannery and the way the author wrote her story, but once I got into it, I wanted to see where the story would go. 

The effects of the disease Molly is diagnosed with are devastating to the family and the circle of friends, yet I didn't necessarily feel that emotion like I wanted to. The passages describing her downward turn were moving, yet not as powerful as I had hoped and I always closed a chapter wanting more. 

If you'd like to check out the rest of the stops on the tour, go here

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29. Notable Videos — 2015 Discussion List

Caitlin Jacobson, chair, and the rest of the 2015 Notable Children’s Videos Committee, invite you to join them at their Midwinter discussions. Check the ALA Midwinter Scheduler for exact times; all discussions will take place in the Chancellor Room of the Fairmont Chicago.

Titles to be discussed include:

Anna and Solomon.  Dreamscape Media, LLC
Bailey Dreamscape.  Media, LLC
Bailey at the Museum. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Bailey Bee Believes: The Five B’s. Eyecon Productions/Bailey Bee Believes
Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle.  Dreamscape Media, LLC
Big Bad Bubble. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Boom Snot Twitty. Dreamscape Media, LLC
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! Dreamscape Media, LLC
Brave Girl. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Bus Story. National Film Board of Canada
Children of Military Families. Professor Child
The Christmas Quiet Book. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Confessions of a Bully. Human Relations Media
The Dangers of Sugar and Salt. Human Relations Media
Daredevil. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Doug Unplugs on the Farm. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Dragons Love Tacos. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Driving Stupid. Human Relations Media
The Duckling Gets a Cookie? Weston Woods
Each Kindness. Weston Woods
Exclamation Mark. Weston Woods
Extra Yarn. Weston Woods
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau. Dreamscape Media, LLC
The Funkiest Monkeys. PBS/Nature
Get Me Goin’ Danceable Music. Video Jill Jayne
Getting Through It: Kids Talk About Divorce. Human Relations Media
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Good Friends – Bad Friends & How to Know the Difference. YouthLight, Inc.
Hansel and Gretel. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Herion Rising: Cheap, Addictive and Deadly. Human Relations Media
How Could This Happen? A True Story about Binge Drinking and Death. Human Relations Media
Honey Badgers. PBS/Nature
Is There a Monster in My Closet? Dreamscape Media, LLC
It’s a Dog’s Life. National Film Board of Canada
Jack and the Beanstalk. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Locomotive. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Lucky Ducklings. Weston Woods
Making a Friend. Dreamscape Media, LLC
The Man with the Violin. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Marijuana and the Teenage Brain. Human Relations Media
Marijuana: Does Legal Mean Safe? Human Relations Media
Me and My Moulton. National Film Board of Canada
Me…Jane. Weston Woods
Milo’s Hat Trick. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Molly: Innocent Name, Deadly Drug. Human Relations Media
Mr. Wuffles. Dreamscape Media, LLC
The Museum. Dreamscape Media, LLC
A Nation’s Hope. Dreamscape Media, LLC
No Fish Where to Go. National Film Board of Canada
Nothing. Dreamscape Media, LLC
One Cool Friend. Weston Woods
One is a Feast for Mouse. Dreamscape Media, LLC
The Paper Bag Princess. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Rain, Rain, Go Away; Winken, Blinken, and Nod; & One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Secret Pizza Party. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Separate is Never Equal. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Shelly Goes to the Zoo. Shelly’s Adventures, LLC
Shelly’s Outdoor Adventure. Shelly’s Adventures, LLC
The Smallest Gift of Christmas. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Someday. Weston Woods
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Star Bright Dreamscape. Media, LLC
Stronger, Tougher, Smarter: Stories of Teen Resilience. Human Relations Media
Terrific.Dreamscape Media, LLC
Thanksgiving Is… Dreamscape Media, LLC
This is Not My Hat. Weston Woods
This is the Rope. Weston Woods
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; & Star Light, Star Bright. Dreamscape Media, LLC
The Ugly Duckling. Dreamscape Media, LLC
Under the Freedom Tree. Dreamscape Media, LLC
The Very Fairy Princess. Weston Woods
We ALL Fit. Good Friend, Inc.
What Could You Do? YouthLight, Inc.
What’s Up With E-Cigarettes? Human Relations Media
When the Sun Goes Down. Kite Tails LLC
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Weston Woods
Wizard of Oz. Dreamscape Media, LLC
You Are In Charge of Your Body: A Sexual Abuse Prevention Curriculum. Human Relations Media


You might also be interested in looking at the 2015 Notable Children’s Books discussion list which was posted yesterday afternoon, and the 2015 Notable Sound Recordings discussion list which was posted Monday, January 19th .

The post Notable Videos — 2015 Discussion List appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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30. Emmanuel's Dream- Blog Tour and Giveaway

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah  by Laurie Ann Thompson illustrated by Sean Qualls Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015 ISBN:9780449817445 Grades K-4 We received copies of the book from the publisher. Today we are pleased to take part in the Emmanuel's Dream blog tour and book giveaway! Laurie Ann Thompson introduces readers to Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah's inspirational story in

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31. YALSA Board @ Midwinter Preview: Budget Priorities

I know I know for some, maybe many, YALSA members learning about the YALSA budget and the fiscal priorities of the Association seems like incredibly dry stuff. But, in order for YALSA to provide members with the services they need in order to work with teens successfully, the YALSA Board and the Association's members have to think what monies are spent on, and where funding is coming from. That's why there are three documents on the YALSA Board Midwinter Meeting agenda that are important to look at:

  • Item 17 on the agenda is titled Prioritizing Endowment Funds. The document explains the current state of YALSA's endowments and includes recommendations of how the funds generated from the endowments should be spent over the next year. Take a look to find out what initiatives the Board is going to look at funding in this way - maybe you'll find there is a grant coming up that you'd like to apply for if these funds are used as suggested. This agenda item is an action item which means that the YALSA Board needs to make decisions at the 2015 Midwinter Meeting in order move the process forward.
  • Item 21 on the agenda is titled 2016 Budget Priorities. This document provides an overview of the steps the YALSA Board needs to accomplish at the 2015 Midwinter Meeting in order to be fiscally responsible about planning for the 2016 budget, an overview of the ALA/YALSA budget process, and a review of some of the priorities the YALSA Board might set for 2016. This year the Board will work in small groups - organized within YALSA's Board Standing Committees - and brainstorm the ways in which the Association's dollars should be spent in order to reach specific goals of the organization. This agenda item is a discussion item which means that the YALSA Board will talk about the topic and will continue to talk about the topic but it is not something that needs to be acted on at this year's meetings.
  • Item 27 on the agenda is titled FY '14 Final Close Figures and Implications for FY '15. This document gives everyone the chance to see how YALSA's budget was spent in 2014 and trends in revenue streams over the past eight years. This data raises a lot of important questions for the Association and those are also included in the document. This agenda item is an informational item for YALSA Board members to read and know but it will not be acted upon or discussed specifically at the Midwinter Meeting.

It's important for the YALSA Board to think strategically about YALSA's budget and funding priorities. It's important for YALSA Board members to keep at the front of their minds the capacity - human and fiscal - of YALSA to move things forward in order to engage and support members successfully. It's important for members to understand how the YALSA Board makes decisions about the Association's budget. Take some time to look over the fiscal information that is a part of this year's YALSA Board member meetings and if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me. As YALSA's Fiscal Officer I'd be happy to talk with you.

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32. Start thinking about the March Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge!

         I  know that it’s January, but this really is the perfect time to…start thinking about the March Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Here are some factors to consider:… Continue reading

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33. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week - January 23, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between January 23 and January 29 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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34. 2015 Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson, part 2: The Crossover + Dash + The Fourteenth Goldfish

Our students have had passionate, thoughtful conversations all year, recommending books to one another, considering which book they liked and why it resonated with them. Throughout, we talked about the key components of literature and storytelling: character development, plot and pacing, setting, language and themes.

Ever since I first shared Kwame Alexander's The Crossover with Emerson students, it was clear that this book spoke to our students in a unique way. It's been fascinating listening to kids talk about why.

The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
my full review
Your local library
ages 9-14
From the very first page, the language of The Crossover pulls young readers right into the rhythm and feelings of a fast-moving basketball game. Just look at the opening lines and you can see the combination of basketball terms, rhythm and rhyme, and downright attitude.
"At the top of the key, I'm
              MOVING AND GROOVING,
POPping and ROCKING--
Why you BUMPING?
              Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING,
Be careful though,
'cause now I'm CRUNKING"
As Norah said, "It's not quite rhyming, but it's almost like rap, like a song." Mahari added that he likes the form of poetry: "It made it more interesting for me as a reader. The language conveyed the character's feelings." Norah added that it isn't just printed normal on the page. Kids really noticed that the way the words are arranged enhanced the way language conveyed both character's feelings and the author's message.

Other students commented on the character development in The Crossover. Maddy said that she "felt like she was there with the characters at every move" (that word choice seemed so appropriate to me, since there's so much movement in this story). Kids could really see twin brothers Josh & J.B. as distinct characters and relate to the tension between them. Madeline added that she felt their father was a very detailed character, because Alexander showed how much he loved basketball but how he also really loved his family.

I asked students if they felt that they could see what was coming (in other words, was the plot too obvious?), and they really felt like they were right there with the characters. While some might have had an idea of the foreshadowing, they really didn't notice the signs that the mother was concerned about the father's health -- certainly not the way adult readers would notice.

Several students commented on how The Crossover made them think a little more about what they were reading. They liked how the titles of the poems related to the themes and the plot--giving them a sense and focus. Several other students talked about how they had to take a second, reread a passage and ask what the author was really saying. I think this attests to Alexander's nuanced, layered language.

Historical fiction often draws the attention of the Newbery committee, and I was happy to see students respond so passionately to Kirby Larson's story about Japanese internment during World War II. "Dash is one of the best books I have ever read!"
by Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 2014
my full review
Your local library
ages 9-12
Here's Abby's recommendation from early September: "If you like dogs a lot, you'd probably love it. If you like books with hardship and struggle, you'll probably like it. It's also heartfelt, with a lot of love. Every single chapter keeps you hanging." She passionately shared this book all year long.

Right from the beginning, young readers relate to how alone Mitsi feels when her friends start avoiding her -- all because of something that happened in a war far, far away. Larson creates a unique, distinctive character, but focuses on elements that many readers can relate to. Just as I write that sense, I realize what a tricky balance that is!
"The author describes Mitsi's emotions so well, her love of being an artists and her talents and passion. She brings out who she is and who she wants to be. I could imagine what she looks like and what she's feeling at the moment."
Abby said, "The setting and details of the characters and their experiences were amazing. I could picture it like a movie in my mind---they should make a movie of it!" I would agree with Abby, especially noting the way I could picture the different camps in my mind and how the harsh conditions made life so much more difficult for Mitsi's family.
Mitsi Shiraishi and her beloved dog, Chubby -- inspirations for Dash
I was particularly moved reading in Kirby Larson's blog this letter from Louise Kashino, who endured experiences similar to Mitsi's:
I read DASH and poured over every sentence inasmuch as I was 16 when we were incarcerated on May, 1942. My family was assigned to Area D inside the Puyallup Fairgrounds, where our barrack among others was built inside the racing grounds. I don't know who guided you through the whole incarceration, but you did an excellent job of describing the experiences for someone like me. I also relocated to Chicago and eventually returned to Seattle, so again, your description of the whole movement brought back many memories. Thank you for your accurate descriptions of our experience to give the general public an insight into what we experienced during our incarceration.
We had a rousing discussion about The Fourteenth Goldfish, with students arguing on both sides of the fence. It had real supporters and others who just weren't drawn into it.
The Fourteenth Goldfish
by Jennifer L. Holm
Random House, 2014
my full review
Your local library
ages 9-12
Overall, my students loved Jennifer Holm's blend of realistic relationships, humor and science with a touch of fantasy. Maisy said, "It's a really good book because it has lots of science, but not too much so you can't understand it." I am impressed with how well Holm understands her audience, adding in just enough layering of science to introduce students to the history of science and scientific thinking without overwhelming young readers.

Some students really enjoyed the fantasy elements. Talia noted that it reminded her of Tuck Everlasting. But other students found it a little confusing, especially at the beginning when Ellie is figuring out that this teenager is actually her grandfather.

I would actually venture to guess that the students who liked it were drawn in by the themes of the story -- the idea that you can figure out a solution, that things are possible if you work at a creative solution, and the idea that grandparents and grandchildren actually have a lot more in common if they could only discover a little more about each other as real people.

The review copies came from my home collection and our library collection and our classroom collections. Early review copies were also kindly sent by the publishers: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Scholastic, and Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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35. A Dog Called Homeless - a book trailer

In preparation for an upcoming 4-week club for kids that I'll be hosting, I created a book trailer for A Dog Called Homeless, winner of the 2013 Middle Grade Schneider Family Book Award,  The Schneider Family Book Awards "honor an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."

A Dog Called Homeless is written by Sarah Lean and published by Harper Collins. I hope you enjoy it.

I'll be adding this to my Multimedia Booktalks page.

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36. App of the Week: True Legends

True Legends LogoName: True Legends
Price: Free
Platform: iOS

True Legends is a very interesting and, fortunately, free app that I can best describe as a combination of a short story and an animated short. The app first asks users whether they would like to use the app in Hebrew or English. Once you have made a language selection, you are presented with an opening screen that looks very much like the front cover of a book with credits for the writer (Alex Epstein) and the illustrator (Tsach Weinberg).

At this point, the app also demonstrates the swiping motion that is required to advance through the story. Rather than turning pages, users swipe as if zooming in to trigger motion and animations throughout the story. Sometimes these animations are, in fact, zooming in to see details, but they also include movement and scenery changes. While there is only one path through the story, this does add an interactive quality to the app and makes for an impressive user experience. The soft and meditative music that plays throughout also adds an immersive quality to the app.

True Legends Screenshot

The story, and therefore the app, are quite brief, but the beauty of the artwork and the haunting and fable-like nature of the story makes up for that, at least for me. In the end, I think this app is an interesting example of how the app format can allow artists to change the way that they present stories and artwork and it is an example of the types of innovations that we will hopefully see more of in the future. Especially given the fact that it is free, I think this is a great app to load on library iPads for demonstration purposes or to show to those who are disappointed that ebooks are so frequently simply text presented on an electronic device.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog's App of the Week Archive.

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37. Poet to Poet: Jane Yolen and Lesléa Newman

I'm pleased to post another installment in my ongoing "Poet to Poet" series in which one poet interviews another poet about her/his new book. This time it's Jane Yolen and Lesléa Newman who have very generously volunteered to participate.  <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]--> Lesléa has a powerful, heartbreakingly beautiful new book out just now, I Carry My Mother, a work for adults that has crossover appeal for teen readers too. 
Jane Yolen hardly needs an introduction, but I'm often surprised to find that people don't know about all the POETRY she has published. Her poetry for children includes these and more:
- Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children; Once Upon Ice and Other Frozen Poems, and more weather and seasonal poetry
- An Egret’s Day, Birds of a Feather, and many more wonderful bird-focused poetry books
- Mother Earth, Father Sky: Poems of Our Planet, Bug Off! Creepy Crawly Poems, and many more beautiful nature-themed poetry books
*Plus those very appealing "How Do Dinosaurs" books
*As well as collaborations with other poets such as:
- Self Portrait with Seven Fingers: A Life of Marc Chagall in Verse; Take Two! A Celebration of Twins both with J. Patrick Lewis
- Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy Tales with a Twist (and a forthcoming follow up book) both with Rebecca Kai Dotlich
- Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry both edited with Andrew Fusek Peter.

Her book for adults, The Radiation Sonnets, inspired Lesléa's new book, I Carry My Mother. Both focus on coping with the serious illness of a loved one-- such a tough topic-- but poetry is such good therapy.

Lesléa Newman may be best known for her groundbreaking book, Heather Has Two Mommies (which will be reissued this year!) and she has many other picture books to her credit, but her poetry is also very compelling and engaging. Did you read October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard? So powerful, such craftsmanship. And last year, she published Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays, a fun and engaging family treasure.

Jane read I Carry My Mother (and heard drafts read in the writers' group they share) and asked Lesléa several questions. Here we go. 

1. Mourning poems have a fine, long, old tradition. Did you think about that when choosing to write in forms?

The idea for the book was actually inspired by your collection, THE RADIATION SONNETS. I was so moved by both the poems themselves and the concept of a poet writing a poem each night after tucking a loved one who is ill into bed. So the first section of the book, which is a fifteen-part poem called “The Deal” and consists of triolets (a French form using a strict pattern of repetition and rhyme) was written while I was taking care of my mother. Each night for two weeks, after I’d tucked her into the hospital bed we’d set up in the living room, I’d climb upstairs, retreat to my childhood bedroom, and write a poem. After she died, I picked up my pen and began the second part of the book. It made sense to continue writing in form.

2. How long did the writing of the poems take, and when it ended was it like the lighting of a yahrzeit candle?

The poems took about a year, so yes, it was like lighting a yahrzeit candle. It was bittersweet because while I was writing, I felt my mom very close to me. She wanted to be a writer, and for various reasons never pursued it. I literally heard her voice in my ear while I was writing, encouraging me, and being proud of me. When I was finished writing the book, it was like losing her all over again.

3. I know you workshopped most of the poems, which could have felt like people stepping on your deepest emotions or taking flint and knife to your mourning. How did you sidestep such a feeling?

I have been writing poems for a really long time—half a century!—and I know that I am not the best judge of them. I am always grateful for honest, kind, thoughtful feedback which helps me make the poems the best they can be. I am also very careful about choosing my readers. For example, I trust the women in my writers’ group completely. I have learned to detach from my poems emotionally and just look at what’s on the page, almost as if someone else wrote them. You have to be tough on yourself! I tell my students that the first draft of a poem and the final draft of a poem resemble each other as much as a fish resembles a bicycle. I hold myself to the same standard. I am not my poems and my poems are not me. So it wasn’t difficult to receive feedback. Though it never fails: the lines that I am the most attached to are always the ones that need to be cut. And that can be hard. But only momentarily. Then I see that the cut actually improves the poem, and once again, I am impressed with my own brilliance!

4. You pull no punches. Some of the poems are relentless and unsparing—the pukes, moans, groans, asking for a pill to die. And yet even within the tough, gritty poems, your voice of love soars. I wonder which was harder—recording the disorderliness of your mother’s dying or chronicling your own shattered heart?

I definitely felt more emotional when I wrote about my own grief. While my mother was still alive, no matter what shape she was in, she was still among us, and she was still very much herself. Her absence leaves such a large hole. It is almost unbearable, even more than two years later. So the poems in the third section of the book, such as “Looking at Her” in which I describe applying makeup on my mom while she’s lying in her coffin, and “How To Bury Your Mother” were rather excruciating. But necessary.

5. There is anger in these poems, too, as when you say, “I am an orphan and not an orphan…” or the poem that ends with the thought that your mother, who died of a cancer brought on by cigarettes, had a life that had “gone up in smoke.”

It’s interesting that you read them that way. I don’t see the poems that way.  Which doesn’t mean you are reading the poems “incorrectly” as there is no right or wrong way to read a poem. I never felt anger about my mother’s illness and death. Lots and lots of sadness, and much despair, but never anger. My mother was very clear about her choices. She was also very smart. She knew the risks of smoking two packs a day for more than sixty years. When the doctor told her she had six months to live—actually he told me, and I was the one to tell her—my mother absorbed the news and then said matter-of-factly, “Everyone dies of something. This is my something.” She felt no anger. I felt no anger. Only sorrow.

6. And then there is a sprinkle of galgenhumor—gallow’s humor. My favorite of these is the Seussical: “Pills.” Were those written to lighten the book or because you needed a moment of playfulness to hold yourself together?

Humor is a tool of survival that I inherited from my mother. Actually everyone in my family uses humor—often self-depreciating humor—to get by. One day I was thinking about all the pills my mother had to take and I tried writing a poem in the voice of her pills but that didn’t work. Often when something doesn’t work on the page, something else emerges. What emerged was the poem “Pills” which of course is modeled after Dr. Seuss’ poem, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” The start of the poem is amusing:

One pill
two pills 
red pills
blue pills

Then the poem turns darker, though still maintains its humor:

pills so that her blood won’t clot
pills so that her brain won’t rot
pills to only take with food
pills to change her rotten mood

And the poem ends with no humor at all:

pills that make her stomach churn
pills that make her insides burn
pills that make her wonder why
she has no pill to help her die

In a way a poem like this is more devastating than the others because the tension between the lightness of the form and the heaviness of the content pulls at the heartstrings in a very painful way. But to answer your question, the whole book held me together, both while my mom was dying and afterwards. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t write poems. Writing poems has gotten me through all the tough times in my life. I am exceedingly grateful that I have this outlet and that the poems often resonate and offer comfort to others.


THANK YOU, Jane and Lesléa-- for this wonderful exchange. I really feel like I'm eavesdropping on two friends talking deeply about a serious subject, but with the care and lightness of a long friendship. What a privilege! 

Now head on over to A Teaching Life where Tara is hosting this week's Poetry Friday gathering. 
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38. Paddington Bear

Paddington, the beloved children's book character, is starring in a brand new movie which opened last Friday.  To celebrate, we hosted a drop-in Paddington Bear craft in the Children's Room.

Stop by the Children's Room and check out one of our many Paddington Bear books and read all about his adventures!

Posted by Amy

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39. YALSA BOARD @ MIDWINTER PREVIEW: Virtual Selection Committee Recommendations

Have you wanted to serve on a selection committee, but couldn’t manage to attend both Midwinter and Annual conferences? You’re not alone! In the 2014 Member Survey, several members stated they were looking for ways to get involved with YALSA virtually. For the past two years, YALSA has piloted the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee and the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee as virtual committees. Virtual committees allow members who are not able to attend conferences to participate in selection committees, thereby making the organization stronger as more members are engaged in YALSA’s mission and work. Members of both committees were surveyed in April 2014 and their comments were mostly positive. Some members mentioned that communication on their virtual committees was more frequent than was their experience on traditional face-to-face committees. Board document #15 recommends that going forward, Margaret A. Edwards and PPYA should be virtual committees. The document also explores what other committees might be candidates for a future pilot and what additional support or training members of virtual committees might need. Remember, we’ll be live tweeting from board meetings, so please follow @yalsa for more details.

Questions, concerns or suggestions? Please send them to the following members of the YALSA Board Standing Committee on Membership:

Krista McKenzie (Chair)

Carla Land

Nicola McDonald

Rachel McDonald


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40. 2015 Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson, part 3: The Great Greene Heist + Half a Chance + The Life of Zarf

Emerson's 2015 Mock Newbery discussions
Like the Newbery Committee, our students have been reading and reading over many months. Some books created a strong initial impression, but they did not stay with readers the same way as other books. What does that say about a book? Is it less distinguished? Maybe or maybe not. These three books below had fewer readers that championed these books in our final discussion.
The Great Greene Heist
by Varian Johnson
Scholastic, 2014
Your local library
ages 10-14
Students liked this complex, engaging plot as they followed Jackson Greene's efforts to help Gabriela win the student council election. Thea wrote when she nominated it, "This book is good because it felt like you were there with the characters. I couldn't put it down." I really enjoyed the twists and turns in the story when I read this. But I did find the way it started right in the middle of the action--with a big cast of characters--a little confusing. I kept wishing there was a cast list!

This is a great story for kids who like thinking how all the pieces of a puzzle fit together. Although we had two copies at school all fall, not many students picked it up. At first, I thought it might be more suited to middle school, but it isn't circulating very much at our neighboring middle school. It will be interesting to see how this does over time.

Cynthia Lord's Half a Chance is as different as can be than The Great Greene Heist. While the former is sharp and witty, Half a Chance is quiet and reflective. Since our students picked which books they wanted to read and didn't read all of our nominated titles, these two books drew very different readers. One of the interesting things about the Newbery committee members is that they read everything and they need to consider a wide range of readers.
Half a Chance
by Cynthia Lord
Scholastic, 2014
Your local library
ages 8-12
This friendship story appealed to readers who enjoy quieter stories with a lot of heart. Gwen nominated it, saying it had a unique style and felt very special. The rural New Hampshire setting was very different for our urban readers, and Cynthia Lord's language & tone created a timeless feel. Readers noted that it didn't seem like the 21st century--a big contrast to The Crossover and The Swap.

As we discussed setting, Gwen noted that the setting was "quiet but beautiful"-- and that the setting really helped develop the whole feeling for the book. The characters were reserved, and I'm not sure if my students really understood the full scope of the story. If we had more time, I'd love to draw the students who read it together and ask them more about the grandmother's dementia.

Where Half a Chance is quiet and reflective, The Life of Zarf is funny and zany. The students who loved this book were so excited that they convinced lots of friends to read it. It definitely had "book buzz" throughout the fall. But I'm not sure many readers considered it their top book by the end of the year.
The Life of Zarf
The Trouble with Weasels
by Rob Harrell
Dial / Penguin, 2014
Your local library
ages 8-12
Our students laughed and laughed at Zarf's attempts to deal with middle school social structure, albeit in a mixed up fairy-tale world with princes, trolls and neurotic pigs. Like many kids, Zarf is goofy and funny -- it was a joy for them to read. Over and over again, kids ask me for funny books and this is a great one to hand them.

As we talked about the elements of a distinguished book, students noticed that Harrell's plot was suspenseful and funny. But more than that, they noticed how he paced the story. McKenna said, "There are times when I thought it was scary, but then it ends up funny." Harrell develops a rhythm, so kids were excited to turn the page but could expect something outrageous to happen in just a moment to break the tension. They also loved the exaggerated reactions. Here's McKenna again:
"One exciting part that ended up funny is when Chester (Zarf's friend, the neurotic pig) is walking and a branch hit him. He thought it was a Snufflewheezle and he started freaking out. Then Zarf and Kevin Littlepig who were with him started freaking out too."
Just like the Oscars, the Newbery goes to "serious" books much more often than funny books -- even though slapstick humor is just as difficult to write well. I think it's because taste in humor is much more individual and varied. I didn't respond to the themes quite the same way that the kids did, probably because the humor seemed too exaggerated for my tastes. But if you know a kid who wants a fast-paced, funny story, definitely seek this out.

The review copies came from my home collection and our library collection and our classroom collections. Early review copies were also kindly sent by Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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41. ALSC Member of the Month — Cindy Boatfield

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions with ALSC member, Cindy Boatfield.

1.  What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

CindyI have been a librarian for over 20 years but have been in my current position, Youth Services Senior Librarian at the Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas since 2008. My major responsibility is to coordinate all aspects of Early Literacy. I also order picture books, provide reference and reader’s advisory for all ages, create displays, serve on the e-resources committee, provide in-house tours and outreach when requested. I also oversee the Student Teller Program. Each year we audition and coach students ages 8 to 18 to tell a story during the library’s annual storytelling festival.

2.  Why did you join ALSC? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?

I think the major reason is so I have a connection with other youth services librarians. To stay on top of current trends and practices. To learn about upcoming workshops. And I enjoy the resources and ideas I get from this blog! No I do not currently belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables. But I should probably join YALSA since I read so many YA books and enjoy assisting with events for teens.

3.  Would you rather bring a lunch from home or eat out at lunch?

I would rather bring a lunch from home so I can spend as much time as possible reading my book!

4.  How do you incorporate STEM/STEAM activities in your work with children? 

We have STEM Spots (we created a graphic) during our 2’s and 3-5’s story time classes. We provide take-home sheets and post the activities on our website. Here is an exciting moment from last session when we successfully launched a balloon rocket.

During our Stay, Play & Learn dates, children can build with DUPLO Legos while reading books featuring STEM topics, and can delve into math by playing with the Farm Sorting Set we purchased from Lakeshore.

In February, we are offering a workshop, I STEM, You STEM for childcare providers, preschool teachers, and parents. Demonstrations of exciting hands-on activities to spark young children’s interest in science and engineering will be shared.

We also have big books with activity sheets featuring science, math, and art topics children and adults can enjoy while at the library.

5.  What form(s) of transportation do you prefer?

I like to travel by airplane and train for obvious reasons but I have wonderful memories while riding on a boat. When I was around seven, my dad, mom, sister and grandparents (my father and grandfather jointly owned a boat) would head to Guntersville Lake in Alabama to go for a ride. I would hold on tight while dangling my legs off the bow. There was a little grocery store where we docked to get gas and they had chocolate ice cream, Yum!

6.  Would you rather go to a 5 star restaurant or on a picnic?

As much as I like to dress up, and would enjoy the atmosphere, and fancy food I would still rather go on a picnic. I could pack plenty of my favorite foods (I’ve heard that some people leave a 5 star restaurant hungry), I could invite a few friends, pick a lovely spot, and just relax.

7.  What do you love about your work?

I love the variety throughout my workday whether it is presenting story time, putting books in the hands of children and teens, ordering materials and looking at new books (SWEET!). I love that I can be creative when planning story times or when putting together a display. That I am continually learning. What I love most of all is I am in a position to impact the lives of children.

8.  What’s the last book you recommended to a friend?

I have a friend who loves to read young adult. So I recommended, We Were Liars by e. Lockhart. That book still haunts me to this day.

9.  If you could bring back any extinct animal, which would it be?

I would bring back a dinosaur so I could take him to story time.

10.  When was the last time you “messed up” during story time?

During my ECRR tip in story time this past summer I told the adults they could create a matching game to extend the bird theme at home. I told them to go to Google Images, print pictures of different kinds of birds, cut them out, and put them on index cards. Then I went on to say, they could write the names of the birds on index cards like cardinal, robin, and mockingjay… I’ll leave it at that.


Thanks, Cindy! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to alscblog@gmail.com; we’ll see what we can do.

The post ALSC Member of the Month — Cindy Boatfield appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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42. The Red Pencil (2014)

The Red Pencil. Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Shane Evans. 2014. Little, Brown. [Source: Library]

I found The Red Pencil to be a mostly fascinating read, even if it was written in verse. (Do remember that I've said many times that verse novels aren't exactly the best match for me personally). In fact, I found the verse to be strong: that is very well-written. The book itself, though perhaps a tiny bit slow in the first dozen pages or so, was emotional and compelling and hard to put down. The strength of the poetry actually helped me connect with Amira, the twelve-year-old narrator of The Red Pencil. What I didn't enjoy quite as much, perhaps, are the illustrations. Part of me knows that to the character, Amira, drawing is essential. She expresses herself through drawing: she draws with a stick in the sand/on the ground. Throughout the book, this is just an important part of who she is, how she sees her world, how she copes. So I could see why the book is illustrated. But even so, I personally didn't "love" the illustrations.

So. What you should know. The Red Pencil is set in South Darfur, Africa, in 2003/2004. Readers meet Amira, her mom and dad, her sister (Leila), her best friend, her neighbors. (Particularly Old Anwar and Gamal.) One gets a sense of place and community. Readers come to know that what Amira wants, really wants, is an education. To learn to read. To learn to write. Readers also know that her mom is very opposed to the idea. (Her father is not opposed.)

Life does not stay the same for Amira and her family. Upheaval is coming. Her life will be disrupted. Things will be forever changed with the war--the unrest--the coming of the Janjaweed. Soon Amira finds herself a refugee living in a refugee camp....

The Red Pencil is a book to be experienced. I found it to be well-written. Is it as informative and as thorough as a nonfiction book would be on the subject? Probably not. The book focuses on an emotional connection, which I believe is just as important. It gives one a reason to care, a reason to look for more information, seek out more stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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43. Blog Tour: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski PLUS Giveaway

About the Book: (From Goodreads)-Winning what you want may cost you everything you love 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: As an avid reader and librarian who has a constantly huge TBR pile, it takes a lot for me to get into a series and want to read a sequel and keep a series on my radar. And oh my goodness, let me tell you that The Winner's Curse is a book that I am keeping on my radar and eagerly awaiting the next book in the series and I can't wait to keep going!

There are so many things to like about The Winner's Curse. First off, I really love Kestrel. She's a strong female character and I love seeing strong women in YA, especially young women who really come into their own and learn to stand up for themselves over the course of the book. She doesn't swoon for boys or need a guy to save her. Kestrel is uncovering the veiled world she's lived in and questioning what she has always thought she knew and her journey there is fantastic to read. 

Arin might be a bit on the broody side, but he's a strong character as well. I LOVE that there was not a love triangle in this book-thank you Ms. Rutkoski!!! Kestrel and Arin are both having to uncover long held truths and put aside prejudices they have about each other and this aspect of the novel is especially well written and developed. I really liked the interplay between them as they go from mistrust to an uneasy trust to a possible relationship that has too many barriers in its way. It's intriguing and makes the novel especially appealing.

The world building is also fantastic. It's hard to classify this book exactly-it's a bit fantasy, a bit historical, a bit dystopian, a bit romance, a bit adventure, a bit mystery, and a bit political intrigue. There really is something for everyone. And while there is a romantic plot line, it is not so central to the story that non-romance readers would be turned off from it. 

I actually listened to this book on audio and I really enjoyed the various accents the narrator used throughout. It made the characters even more realistic and I thought it created even more intrigue. With a big surprise cliffhanger for the ending, readers will be eagerly anticipating the sequel!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook checked out from my local library

The ‘Winner’s Curse’ is an economics term that means you’ve gotten what you wanted – but at too high a price.  What would you pay too much for?

As part of The Winner's Curse blog tour, participants have been asked what they would pay too much for. That is such a hard question! 

My first answer when I saw this question was books-ha! I know Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan would say that's the truth! But I can't help it-I love books. And while I don't think I would spend thousands of dollars (or more) for a signed copy or a limited edition (I'm not that much of a collector), I do think in my own way I spend too much for books at times. 

It's always a risk-taking a chance on a book that you may or may not like. If it turns out to be something you don't like, did you pay too much for it? Or what if you purchase a book and you don't ever end up reading it? And then it takes up room on your shelf (shelf space is valuable!!) and you keep telling yourself you promise you'll read it this year, but then another year passes and you still haven't read it? Was the price too high then? And like I tell my readers at the library all the time, life is too short to read bad books. It takes time to read-precious time out of your already busy day, so you want to make the most of it and read something that you will enjoy reading. You don't want it to be a chore. And if it becomes a chore, than it's not enjoyable anymore and you've paid too much by loosing your enjoyment of reading.

Maybe that's silly to think of books in that way. But with as much time as I spend thinking, researching, reading, talking, and writing about books, books make up a significant part of my life! I want to get what I paid for! Maybe that's why I should just stick to library books!

Want to win a copy of The Winner's Curse? Enter the giveaway below!
-One entry per person
-US  address only
-ages 13+
-One entry per person
-Contest ends January 30


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44. Animalium curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, 112 pp, RL: 2

Animalium, curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, is the newest, biggest book from the fantastic Big Picture Press and is the first in their "Welcome to the Museum" series of books. It has also made many "best of 2014" book lists. There are hundreds of books about animals out there for kids, but Animalium is set apart - and far above  -from the rest because of the museum concept employed

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45. Blown Away by Rob Biddulph

I fell in love with Blown Away, the debut picture book by Rob Biddulph after only a few page turns. First of all, Biddulph, the award-winning art director for the Observer magazine, has written a rhyming picture book that I actually like! His text is haiku like at times, short bursts of well chosen words. It never feels forced, as so many rhyming stories do, and its simplicity suits the

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46. Morning Mailbag: Trinkets, Treasures, and Apples

We’re experiencing that time of the year when the mail comes fast and loose and continual. Every day it seems like there’s something interesting to see. So while it lasts, let’s have another round of Morning Mailbag where I highlight some of the more interesting items that have cropped up in my office this week.

First up, Circles by Yusuke Yonezu (ISBN: 978-9888240678) which is a minedition book.  If you’ve seen Yonezu’s other board books you’ll know what to expect.  Good thick lines and bright colors.  This one has loads of cut outs as well.  Plus it’s hard to resist the back of the book.


Moving on, the publisher Little Bigfoot’s been upping the ante lately.  I don’t know why but their books have been getting increasingly lovely on the eye.  Sure they’re all about the Pacific Northwest in some way, but why should that stop me from enjoying them?  One of the latest is My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure by Claudia McGehee (ISBN: 978-1570619502).  It’s sort of a memoir with the dimensions of a picture book.

Plus the interiors are drop dead gorgeous.

In other news, any book from Emily Gravett is cause for celebration.  Bear and Hare Go Fishing feels like a no-brainer.

This next book took me totally by surprise.  It’s In the New World: A Family in Two Centuries by Gerda Raidt (ISBN: 978-1580896306).  As someone who has to deal with the continual Ellis Island assignments given kids in NYC, it’s a relief to see a book that actually attempts to systematically remove the veil of confusion surrounding historical immigration and to show what it would have typically consisted of for European immigrants.

Note how it shows the different parts of the ship and what the sleeping arrangements would have resembled.

And in an interesting twist it shows a farmhouse when it was first built . . .

. . .  and what it looks like today!

Then there’s poetry.  Or the lack thereof.  In the past I had a hard time finding good fairytales and folktales in a given year.  Now?  Good poetry can be difficult.  Fortunately there are times when something like this comes along:

Curious?  It’s Beastly Verse by debut author/illustrator Joohee Yoon (ISBN: 978-1592701667).  I’d tell you more but I’ll be doing a little Enchanted Lion Press roundup soon and I don’t want to give too much away.

Finally, today we’re going to look at one of the more peculiar bits of advertising swag I’ve received in a long time.  I received a box of a peculiar size and weight.  Oh ho, thinks I.  Weirdo swag!  I’m fond of weirdo swag, particularly when it’s edible.  At first, though, I couldn’t quite figure out what to make of this.

On the one hand you had this little booklet for The Isle of Lost written for Disney by none other than Melissa De La Cruz (ISBN: 978-1484720974).  This appears to be a little novel to accompany the made-for-TV movie about the adventures of the Disney villains’ kids.  Yes, they all had kids.  Jafar, Cruella, Maleficent, the works.  I read an Entertainment Weekly piece on the film a couple months ago.  I had no idea a book would accompany it as well.

So there was the booklet.  Then there was this odd looking wooden box.  Open it up . . .

Nope.  They’re not real apples.  More like stress balls.  And that little purple piece there screams like a banshee if you open it. Me oh my.

Now to see what next week may bring!


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47. 10 Math & Science Topic Choice Mentors + 10 Book Giveaways

Do you have students who are interested in math and science, but claim they hate writing or don't know what to write about in their writer’s notebooks? Here are 10 newer picture books to inspire them to write about their passion.

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48. Tuck Everlasting 40th: What If You Could Live Forever

Tuck Everlasting was a book I missed out on reading until I was teaching fourth grade a few years after college.  I adored the book and had several amazing conversations with my students.  Almost without fail they would tell you they would drink from the spring.  I guess when you are 10 and 11 forever doesn't seem like anything at all.  Back then I knew I wouldn't want to drink from the spring, but I thought about it longer.

Then I became a parent.

I would never want to outlive my children.  Never.  And there is a part of me that thinks I wouldn't want them to drink from the spring either.  I have loved growing and maturing and getting older and I want that for my children.  I want them to experience the full circle of life, because I have loved most every stage of my life.

The things that the Tucks had to do to avoid suspicion, like separating for years at a time, makes me sad.  But then again, living together for eternity probably wouldn't be good either--can you imagine how on each others' nerves you'd be?

Now that I am older and have lived, I truly cannot see an upside to living forever.

What about you?  If you had the chance, would you want to live forever?  Would you drink from the spring?

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49. The War That Saved My Life (2015)

The War That Saved My Life. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 2015. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

"Ada! Get back from that window!" Mam's voice, shouting. Mam's arm, grabbing mine, yanking me so I toppled off my chair and fell hard to the floor.

It should come as no surprise that I loved, loved, loved Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life. It's my kind of book. It's set in Britain during World War II. (To be honest, it could be set practically anywhere during World War II, and I'd want to read it.) It reminded me of Good Night, Mr. Tom which is a very good thing since I loved that one so very much!

Ada's existence before the war was bleak. Because of her club foot, Ada is verbally and psychically abused by her mother. She's restricted to staying in the family's one room apartment, and she's discouraged from even looking out the window. She hasn't been outside ever as far as she knows--can remember. Her younger brother, Jamie, may not be as abused as his older sister. But neglected and malnourished? Definitely. He at least gets to leave the house to go to school, even if he isn't leaving the house clean.

When London's children begin to be evacuated days before war is declared, their mother agrees to send Jamie off to the country. She has no plans of sending Ada, however, telling her that no one in the world would want her--would put up with her. Ada, who has secretly been teaching herself to stand and even to walk, sneaks away with her younger brother. The two of them need to be together.

Susan reluctantly takes the two children into her home. It's not anything against Jamie and Ada, she says, it's just that she doesn't feel adequate enough to take care of anyone else. If truth be told, she sometimes struggles to take care of herself. Since Becky died, she's been isolating herself, often depressed. But Susan finds herself caring for these two children very much. Could it be she's found her family at last?

Ada and Jamie are difficult, no question. Ada is not used to being treated decently let alone kindly. She doesn't know how to respond and react to love and tenderness and respect. And the fact that Ada knows that it's temporary isn't helping. But Ada will slowly but surely be transformed by the war. One thing that helps Ada tremendously is Butter, a pony. (Butter belonged to Becky, a woman readers never actually meet, but, Susan talks about her often with much love and affection.) Ada teaches herself to ride, and her confidence increases almost daily. 

Ada, Jamie, and Susan are all well-developed characters. I cared about all of them. Readers also meet plenty of other villagers. The story has plenty of drama!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. How to Have a Successful Author Visit

In December, my library was very fortunate to be selected as one of the stops on Jan Brett’s tour for her latest release The Animals’ Santa. We’ve hosted author’s before at the library, but never anything this large. We had around 800 people show up for the event and people drove from Kansas City, Arkansas and across Missouri to here Ms. Brett speak and get books signed. We had a lot of fun and the event was fantastic and we couldn’t have been happier with the way everything turned out. But I learned a few things along the way on how to ensure a successful author visit.


Photo Credit: Springfield-Greene County Library
  • Create a schedule of events for staff as well as listed job duties and descriptions of what is expected. This was incredibly helpful since we had numerous staff involved in the event from various branches and departments.
  • Use a ticketing system for the signing line. We used tickets created by our Community Relations department that also doubled as bookmarks. These were passed out as families came into the library the day of the event. During the signing, we called groups of 25 into the auditorium and had the crowd organized so the signing line went smoothly-and there were no mad dashes to get in line.
  • Have activities while people are waiting. Expect a long line and a lot of waiting. We turned our story hour room into an activity room with crafts, trivia, and games based on Jan Brett’s books to entertain children why they waited.
  • Limit the number of items to be signed. Ms. Brett was very gracious and signed numerous items for our patrons, but the line was just too long for her to continue the amount that she started with. We had to cut down the number of items signed by the end to keep things moving along. Next time I would have a set number to start with and advertise that so everyone knows what to expect.
  • If possible, check in with previous tour stops for tips and advice. We were able to talk to the previous tour stop about how many people they had, how they handled the lines, and any other tips. This helped us prepare and give us an idea of what to expect.
  • Think about parking! We thought we had everything planned-until we talked to the previous tour stop and realized the day of the event we didn’t know what we were going to with parking! Next time I think signage for parking and even someone directing traffic would be very helpful.
  • Make sure you have food and water for your visiting author-and your staff. We had a break room with snacks and water for staff and made sure we had a stash of water bottles for Ms. Brett as well. We tried to give staff managing the lines short breaks to get something to eat or drink as needed. I would make sure you have someone on your schedule that can give breaks to staff along the way!
  • People don’t understand what “personalization” means. We offered two books to be personalized and had post it notes for the names to be written on for Ms. Brett to see. What I realized in line is that people didn’t understand the difference between just getting a book signed and getting it signed with a name to someone specific. They also didn’t understand that they couldn’t write out a long inscription such as “To Mrs. Nelson’s class-you’re a great group of readers”. I think more explanation on what it means to get a book personalized from the line managers and book seller table would be helpful.
  • Expect a few grumps and complaints. Not everyone will be satisfied with everything-and that’s OK-you can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try. I would say 95% of the feedback we received about the event was how smoothly everything ran, how friendly the staff was, and how happy they were the library was offering this event. There were a few minor complaints along the way-the lines were long, they couldn’t get a large stack of books signed, but these were largely out of our control. Once we explained that we had a large crowd and we needed to move everyone through the line, people were understanding. And the positive comments outweighed the negatives and we focused on that!
  • Celebrate a job well done. Make sure you thank the author, any tour assistants they may have, the publisher, and your staff on a job well done. Send the publisher feedback on your event and pictures if you have them-they love to know how events turned out!

Have you hosted an author event at your library? Any tips you have for making it successful?

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