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It’s December – the time to ponder the best books of 2013, and to wonder which ones will receive the coveted awards of January.
It’s also time to come clean and admit the books still languishing on your TBR pile.
What book did you want to, plan to, or have to read this year … but didn’t?
Here are the two that I most regret not having read this year:
- Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (Simon & Schuster)
- Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg (Scholastic)
So, now that I’ve made you (and me!) feel guilty, take heart – we have 21 days left until next year. Grab a book and start reading!
Luckily for me, I’ll be reviewing the audiobook version of Rooftoppers soon for a magazine, and I’ve got time to squeeze in Serafina’s Promise. How about you?
You know you’re a children’s librarian when …
you know the release date of every major upcoming children’s book and movie right off the top of your head, but if a patron asks you about the latest or upcoming James Patterson or Danielle Steel book, you scurry off to the catalog!
So, now that Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades (Disney Hyperion) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (Amulet) have been released, what are the kids in your library waiting for? Or, how long is your holds list?
Here’s where I stand:
My personal “holds” list captured with Snipping Tool (very useful).
By: Jen Robinson
Blog: Jen Robinson
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There are two important deadlines in the Kidlitosphere today. First of all, nominations for the 2013 Cybils close tonight, October 15th, at midnight PST. This is your last chance to give props to the well-written children's and young adult titles that you think will most appeal to kids. Don't know what to nominate? Bloggers from all around the Kidlitosphere have been publishing lists of titles that they would like to see nominated. Start here and here for links. Many thanks to everyone who has nominated, suggested titles, and/or generally spread the word about the Cybils this year!
Second of all, today is the deadline to obtain our group discount for the KidLitCon hotel (the Sheraton in downtown Austin). You can still register for the conference until October 24th, but you may find it harder to find a hotel nearby. MotherReader (who negotiated our hotel discount) adds:
"Yes, other hotels around will be cheaper but this one is about .5 miles from the conference site, and is between the conference and dinner location. It looks lovely and has a lounge where we can hang out! I'm sorry, I mean where we WILL hang out."
I have to tell you that one of my very favorite parts of KidLitCon is sitting around a hotel lobby or lounge late into the evening, with a glass of wine in hand, talking with my peeps about all things books (and life). If you'd like to join us, today is the day to sign up, and lock in the discounted hotel rate. Contact me if you need more details.
We've also finalized some details about the conference, and the Friday pre-conference event. See the beautiful flyer below for details (with thanks to Tanita Davis and Sarah Stevenson).
In case you're having trouble viewing images, here is some of the key information in text form:
Join keynote speaker Cynthia Leitich Smith, readers, bloggers and
friends at the 2013 Kidlit Con at Austin. Kickoff meetup will be held Nov. 8 at the UT-Austin iSchool Campus, Tocker Lounge 1-4 p.m. The main conference will be held November 9, with coffee starting at 9:15, and the keynote at 10 a.m. Rekindling Your Love of Blogging. Panels and discussion,
catered luncheon. Round out the day with a buy-your-own group meal at Scholz
Beer Garten in downtown Austin. Conference Fee: $65. Registration deadline: October
24. See Kidlitosphere Central
for more information. Register here.
So, get your Cybils nominations in, and book your hotel room for KidLitCon today. And don't delay registering for KidLitCon, because that deadline is approaching soon, too. I hope to see you there.
Has an ALSC blog post every spurred you to action? Spawned a great new idea? Opened up a new opportunity? We all hope that these daily posts help advance the cause of librarianship to children – helping librarians and their young patrons reach a brighter, more meaningful and more interesting future.
Here is one such success story.
Back in the summer of 2012, ALSC guest blogger, Tess Goldwasser of St. Mary’s County Library in MD, wrote a post entitled “Music and Libraries: A Natural Combination.” I read it and thought,
“Hmmmm… I wonder if I could play the ukulele.”
I emailed her about using the ukulele in library storytime programs and I was enthusiastic about the possibilities. She was very helpful, offering advice on purchasing a ukulele and finding music. Then Superstorm Sandy hit, and my life took a different turn for several months; but still, I couldn’t shake that ukulele from my mind.
In the winter, I resettled in my home, and I acquired a shiny red ukulele! I reconnected with Tess, and she gave me continued encouragement and some great ideas for easy songs. I’m still learning and my repertoire is thin, but children are so wonderful – they love it! We learn the letter “U,” we count the strings, we take note of its lovely color, and of course, we sing! I even play at home. “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers lends itself very well to the ukulele.
So that’s my success story. Thanks, Tess. Does anyone else have one to share?
The current nugget that’s lodged in the back of my brain? ”The StoryMob.”
Note: Ukulele enhancements are courtesy of PicMonkey. It doesn’t look quite so effervescent when sitting on my couch, but it certainly comes alive in storytime!
A patron asked the librarian why Tales of Robin Hood had been withdrawn from the children’s collection. The librarian replied, “Too much Saxon violence.”
(adapted from http://www.booknotions.com/riddles.html)
Ever wonder where librarians lark about on the Internet? If you’re in need of a laugh, here are some great sites to put a smile on your face. It’s all in good fun. Enjoy.
- Unshelved – a comic strip devoted entirely to libraries and librarians
Psst … Want to see more of Tamara, Unshelved’s perpetually cheerful children’s librarian? Send your funny stories about library service to children to the creators of Unshelved. You may see them in a future comic (shhh … act surprised) ! (email@example.com)
- Awful Library Books – a collection of the worst books in library collections around the globe. You’ll get a good laugh and some weeding inspiration from these “winners!” You can submit your own worst books, too! (anonymously, of course) Visit Awful Library Books at their blog, Pinterest, or Facebook.
- Doughnuts made me do it!
Need some fast humor? Twitter has it covered.
And if you are the #saturdaylibrarian, #sundaylibrarian, or #nightlibrarian, join your hashtag comrades on Twitter. If you don’t get a laugh in there somewhere, I’ll be surprised.
Is Tumblr your thing?
Or for humor of a more “academic” nature, try
- It’s a mixed bag, but if you search “librarian humor,” you’ll find something to make you smile.
Did I miss any of your favorite sites for library-themed humor?
Emoticon image by The people from the The Tango! Desktop Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hop on over to the Cybils blog to discover the winners for this year. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators, and many, many thanks to all the judges and organizers. This is a big job and it's all volunteer-driven.
I had a great time with my fellow judges for the YA fiction panel, and I feel awfully proud of our choice. Hope you like it as much as we did.
Also, there's some holiday about love or something. Yeah. I don't see it catching on.
Blog: Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them!
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I’m welcoming Alex Boles, whom I met through my critique group (she’s the sister of one of our members) and who has a very exciting and important website and book! I encourage everyone to check out the website here and then the book through the Amazon link at the bottom of the post. I will let her tell you about the book and the website because she took the time to answer some questions! This seems to be teen week on my blog this week because this is another book and website PERFECT for teens! Here we go:
Margo: Hi Alex! Welcome to Read These Books and Use Them. How do you describe the Unwritten Letters Project? When did you get the idea?
Alex: The Unwritten Letters Project (ULP) is a website dedicated to allowing people to release emotions in a cathartic, non-violent fashion. It’s a place where anyone can write a letter to those who they haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to, didn’t have the courage or resources to say these things to them before or just release feelings, or confessions about themselves or their lives. ULP is more than just a letter-writing, interactive website. It’s a place where people can come to release emotions they didn’t know they were feeling and use it to cope and heal. Reading the other letters helps people to realize that we’re not alone in this huge world, and chances are, someone else has gone through or is going through something similar. If you can’t connect with the people close to you, maybe you can through someone’s letter from across the world.
I came upon the idea for the Unwritten Letters Project in 2009. I was a junior in college; and once the book version was released, I became the youngest (and some say first) undergrad to publish a book at Truman State University. The idea was inspired by a number of films and a class I was taking at the time called “Family Communication.” After reflecting throughout the course on how I would communicate my feelings growing up, I realized I tend to write how I’m feeling in journals or through creative writing. I created the website to see how many others use the same writing method of coping. If others used writing or could see how writing can be healing, then I figured the website could help a lot of people through difficult times and overcome hardships.
Margo: So, it started as a website! What were people posting to the website? What did you post?
Alex: Yes, the Unwritten Letters Project is in its truest form, a website. At the beginning, professors at my university would use the site for classroom projects and assignments. I used those letters to create the original base of letters and then began a self-ran marketing campaign to solicit letters from across the globe. Seemingly overnight, I was receiving letters from countries like Japan, Germany, and Great Britain–sometimes in their native languages adding to each letters authenticity. People would write about current love interests, lost love, friendship, regrets, passion, their own lives and wishes. I would receive letters about bullying, suicide, and self-harm. It seemed to open up to somewhat of a confessional, and people began trusting me with their deepest secrets. I feel very overwhelmed and lucky to be trusted by thousands of people just trying to heal.
Truthfully, I have posted a few of my own letters. I posted my own letters more in the earlier years because I had some old letters from my past that I wanted to let loose. Nowadays, I let the readers’ thoughts make up the website. It’s always been more about letting others utilize the website than what I can get out of it.
Margo: What a wonderful service you are providing other people! Why did you decide to make it into a book?
Alex: I decided to make the Unwritten Letters Project into a book because I wanted people to be able to get as much out of this project as possible. It’s a “coffee-table” book–something you read to feel comfort and hope. It’s something to read to realize you’re not alone, and things will get better. I wanted something tangible that readers could cherish and pass down to their children as something that helped them get through life’s hardest moments. I also wanted to use the resources I had while I had them. My college experience was amazing, and my university was very welcoming of ambition. They let me saturate the campus with my dream and embraced my enthusiasm for the project and its message. I was able to go in to classrooms to spread awareness, and the University Bookstore even hosted a book signing where the president and provost attended with campus and local media present. I realized I had an amazing support system through school, family, and friends and wanted to take advantage of the resources at hand, so that I could continue to spread the Unwritten Letters Project.
Margo: How awesome! I went to TSU, too–way before you–it was still Northeast Missouri State University. (smiles) Anyway, what a great opportunity and what a great way you use that opportunity. So, how can teachers, parents, and counselors use the book with young adults?
Alex: Educators and professionals can definitely use the Unwritten Letters Project as a resource for learning or healing. It’s a great example of real life hardships and how people deal with, overcome, and react to these situations. Nothing is embellished or changed from the original letters. Every letter is pure raw emotion and real-life scenarios and actions. With so many fiction and fantasy novels becoming increasingly popular, we lose sight of reality and how people can really be affected by life’s decisions and our actions. Reading this book can remind us of our humanity. It reminds people that we feel, we’re alive, and we need to consciously make an effort to keep living our lives to the fullest each day. Because if we don’t, then we end up regretting the moments we didn’t have or wishing we would have done something when we had the chance.
Margo: WOW! That is powerful and so true and such an important message. Can people still post letters to your website?
Alex: Readers don’t post letters to the site directly. They submit the letters to a portal that sends them to a private e-mail. I then choose letters that are posted. I continue to receive letters on a daily basis and post as often as I can. I am definitely still accepting letters on the website. I encourage everyone to try writing at least one letter. I think you’d surprise yourself.
Margo: I hope some of my readers will consider it and use the website and book with their students/children. Do you have plans for future books?
Alex: I don’t have a second book planned for the near future, but I do have plans to publish more books with specific themes. As long as readership continues or improves, I will always run the Unwritten Letters Project. When the demand for another book increases, I will solicit publishers and agents. I’d like the second book to have a heavier following and possibly a blog/book tour if possible. Another book is definitely a possibility, but when it happens is up to the fans and future unknown publisher.
Margo: Thank you so much, Alex. I am just really in awe of what you are doing and think it is a wonderful idea and service. Readers, you can look inside the book on Amazon!
This past weekend was one of my favorite weekends of the whole year. It was KidlitCon, in which bloggers gather to talk about books, blogging, and the intersection of the two. There's also many hijinx and some drinking of alcoholic beverages.
Every year, a different city is selected and different bloggers organize it, making each KidlitCon a unique experience. This year, it was New York City, and it was put together by Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production and Monica Edinger of Educating Alice.
On Friday, we were treated to publisher previews, which were apparently Monica's brainchild, as well as her blood, sweat, and tears. No word on the proportion of tears to blood and sweat. I attended the Simon and Schuster preview in the morning, and the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt one in the afternoon. I heard about a lot of exciting books coming up, and got a few advanced reader copies to take home. More valuable than that, however, was meeting publisher peeps and talking with them.
At Simon and Schuster, we got the chance to see the research and art that goes into one of Megan McCarthy's appealing nonfiction picture books. She shared with us some of the things she had to do in order to get the pictures and info she needed for her next opus, coming out Summer of 2013. (Hint: illicit photography was involved.)
At the Houghton Mifflin, we discussed Common Core and how books can be used in the classroom. For those of you not in the know, Common Core is the newest thing in education circles. Basically, it's an upgraded set of standards for teachers to plan their lessons by. Of particular interest is that it emphasizes nonfiction reading in language arts, which means librarians get to haul out all the incredibly awesome nonfiction on our shelves. We also briefly chatted about e-galleys vs print ARCs. I was interested to hear that they limit their e-galley distribution just as they do their print galleys, and they were interested to hear that I actually prefer e-galleys.
By the bye, I've since heard from others that they prefer print, so now I'm interested in the topic. How many of you like e-galleys better, print ARCs better, or don't really care as long as you get to read a good book? I may actually do a blog post. Craziness, I know.
On Friday night, the bloggers en masse descended on a midtown restaurant, decimated their sushi bar (Actual quote from a blogger who would prefer to remain anonymous [me]: "Oh, I'll try this one, it's pink!"), and heard Grace Lin speak about her journey from art school to children's-book-illustration. I hear tell that she came into the city with a very small baby and a very large Sasquatch (also in attendance) just to talk to us, and I can't help but feel flattered. We also got the chance to purchase Starry River of the Sky a few days before it was officially on the shelves. If you think we were all over that, you would be right.
Next time: How All The Bloggers astonished Maureen Johnson, and this particular one creeped her out a little bit.
Since KidLitCon, an annual conference for children’s book bloggers, took place right here in New York City this year, I had the happy chance to attend for the very first time, and I also spotted several other publishing people in attendance. I don’t know how the bloggers felt about us publishing folk dropping in on their conference, but hopefully they didn’t mind too much. There were some pretty open discussions of publisher/blogger/author relations at various points, so I don’t think anyone was holding themselves back on our account. And from the publisher standpoint I was glad to be there to listen, in addition to the fact that I am personally a bit of a fangirl of lots of the bloggers who were there and it was fun to meet them face to face.
The inestimable Betsy Bird
There are lots of other great recaps of KidLitCon up around the blogosphere, so I thought I’d just list a few of the things I took away from the conference on the publishing side of things:
1. Don’t forget your friends.
There are many different levels of familiarity and relationships, even when you’re just talking about the Internet. As the women of From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors explained in their panel on community building, some people are readers or browsers while others are followers, fans, or even true friends, and friends/fans should not be taken for granted. For those people, that might mean scheduling an in-person meetup or just emailing to say hello.
The important thing, I think, is that those levels – reader, follower, fan, friend – are not set in stone. With the right book, conversation, or connection, relationships can deepen and become more meaningful.
2. “Google is forever.”
As Greg Pincus explained in his session on avoiding the echo-chamber, once something is up on the Internet you can NEVER really take back. So think through what you post, and make sure whatever you are putting out there adds *value* as opposed to just trying to sell something. I think this is especially true for authors and for us as publishers: there is a lot of noise out there, so don’t just add to it through self-promotion. Instead, contribute to conversations in a meaningful way.
A panel on whether reviews have gotten too nice
3. “New authors should be put in werewolf cages when their books are released. They can be fed, though.“
Author Maureen Johnson suggested this unorthodox but elegant solution to the problem of authors responding to negative reviews of their books. If you are an author (or author’s wife/husband, editor, agent, or personal bodyguard) don’t do it! If you want to respond to a blogger who has reviewed your book, pop online to say “thank you” and then, if need be, go drown your sorrows offline in a pint of ice cream. And if you are a publisher or agent, teach your authors that there is a right and a wrong way to respond to bad reviews.
BONUS: What blogs do your favorite bloggers read?
One last thing I loved, and I think it even came up as kind of an afterthought, was the discussion of what some of my favorite bloggers read themselves. During a panel on whether reviewers have become too nice, Betsy Bird, Liz Burns, Monica Edinger, and a few other reviewers shared some of their own favorite blogs. The ones most mentioned were Pink Me, The Book Smugglers, and Bookshelves of Doom, which was pretty much a universal favorite.
The takeaway of the day, besides the general fact that bloggers are awesome, is that blogging and reviewing is constantly evolving. Luckily, the community of bloggers is a supportive one, so there’s a lot everyone can learn from each other and a lot that everyone can do together.
And my other takeaway of the day was these amazing Charles Dickens postcards that I picked up at the NY Public Library’s Charles Dickens exhibit during a break:
M is for Abel Magwitch, H is for Miss Havisham
All in all, a good day.
Recaps & more recaps: A Fuse #8, Bookshelves of Doom, SLJ, Nova Ren Suma, The Cath in the Hat, and Jon Yang.
Filed under: Publishing 101
I have been doing a secret happy dance for a week. Why, you ask?
Do you need a reason to do a happy dance?
Well, in this case, I actually had a reason, and that reason is because I got asked to be a Round 2 Judge for the YA category! I'm awfully excited about this. Can you tell?
I'll be judging with these other magnificent bloggers:
By Singing Light
The Writer's Republic
The Hungry Readers
Reading on the F Train
Congrats to all the other judges and the other panels. It's always a fun time, working on the Cybils.
Nomination period opens up, as always, on October 1 and run to the 15th of that month. Follow the Cybils blog
for the latest!
Am I a poet in the traditional sense? Nay. My expertise doesn’t stretch much beyond the “roses are red” variety. While I appreciate and am amazed by the poetically-minded, I have trouble pulling the stuff off myself. But book spine poetry is a different story.
The concept is simple – stack books using the titles on the spines to create a poem. The learning curve is low, the results are often awesome – it’s a natural fit for a National Poetry Month program for kids.
Inspired by artist Nina Katchadourian, book spine poems (or “centos”) have been my form of choice to celebrate National Poetry Month for the past two years. I’ve spread the word on my blog, 100 Scope Notes, and gathered the work of others to share.
With April fast approaching, I encourage you to give book spine poetry a shot with your young patrons. Here are my four steps to success:
- Check out last year’s book spine poem gallery for inspiration.
- In the library, start looking at titles to see what strikes you. Arrange and rearrange in your head. The best part of this type of poetry is that you don’t know where you’ll end up.
- Have a pencil and paper with you to write down titles that stand out – you can refer back to them later, and it’s easier than pulling a whole bunch of books.
- Don’t be afraid to use the library catalog to look up titles with specific words or phrases that fit.
If you try book spine poetry with kids, snap pictures and send them my way (scopenotes at gmail dot com). I’ll include them in a gallery up at 100 Scope Notes on April 2nd, and add to it throughout the entire month.
So let’s rock National Poetry Month with a poetic form that kids will take to.
I’ve been reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and every chapter feels like an “Ah-ha!” moment. Besides being a fascinating look into the introvert-extrovert personality spectrum, Cain’s emphasis on appreciating the intuitive listeners, the quietly creative, and the sensitive mentors among us is inspiring. Cain’s central point is that we live in a culture that places inordinate value upon extroversion and we tend to overlook those unique qualities that introverts bring to the table. Quieter types are often the deep thinkers who revolutionize with creative new ideas and methods. Introverts can be highly intuitive and their attention to body language, small details, and interpersonal relations make them surprisingly adept negotiators, analysts, and leaders. Cain finds value in both extroverted and introverted types and makes the case that each have skills and talents to contribute. It’s gotten me thinking deeply about how library space is organized, how staff members and patrons communicate amongst each other, and how we can help create an environment within the Children’s Library that is stimulating enough to motivate the extroverts while also offering peaceful retreats for the introverts to tap into their creative centers.
Children’s Spaces and Programs
Cain explains that introverts typically need time and space to be on their own. This does not necessarily indicate an anti-social personality. Rather, solitude allows introverts to reflect, ponder, and think creatively. What does your children’s library look like? In addition to communal spaces, open play areas, and collaborative workstations, are there tucked away corners and nooks for children (and their grown-ups) to settle in and read, draw, or just think in relative peace? What about your after-school crowd? Are there tables and areas for both team-oriented assignments and private study?
For children on the more introverted end of the spectrum, joining a new storytime or book group can be a nerve-wracking experience. Remember the child who absolutely refused to set foot into the storytime room? What about the child who never speaks up or engages in dialogic reading. Cain suggests that these children need small doses of social interaction, increasing over time to slowly build up confidence. She also suggests that introverts flourish in small groups of two or three- in which conversations can be deeper and more meaningful. So that boy who comes faithfully to every single book discussion group but hasn’t yet said a single word? Don’t sweat it- he may just be taking it all in. Perhaps next time, break up the larger group into bite-sized discussions. Chances are he’ll be more likely to engage with one or two of his peers than hold forth in front of a dozen.
The Back Office
Besides taking a newer, more sensitive look at our spaces and programs for children, Cain’s book made me question the arrangement and practices in our children’s library office. This is the space shared by multiple staff members- both full-time and part-time librarians. It is supposed to be the place where we get all of our work done, when we are not on desk, doing a program, attending a meeting, or chatting with our patrons. It’s a chaotic, busy, often messy space. The truth of the matter is, getting even simple projects accomplished is sometimes as challenging to get done in our office as it would be to do in the middle of Toddler Tales. As staff prepares for storytimes, there might be music playing, puppets being flung about, and conversations sailing over the tops of semi-transparent cubicle walls. Interruptions are par for the
If you’re a school media specialist, you see them all the time. If you’re a public librarian, they are a rare species, requiring cultivation and proper attention. I’m talking about the elementary school reader, of course! With so many activities and commitments competing for time, attracting elementary school-age readers to the library on a regular basis can be a difficult task. Last fall, with this in mind, I enrolled in ALSC’s online course, Series Programming for the Elementary School Age. I’ve posted about it before (“The Best $95.00 you (or your library) will spend…), but today I want to share the “real-life” outcome of the Geronimo Stilton Club that I created for the course.
After much thought about the best day and time for my club, I decided on Fridays after school. In the course, we planned out our advertising strategies, and I stuck with my plan. While Friday afternoon is not the best day for me, it seems to work well for library patrons. In fact, other than tweaking a few things here and there, I stayed fairly true to the outline that I planned in the course. I did, however, make one fortuitous, late addition to the program.
As you probably know, Geronimo Stilton is a newspaper editor, very fond of cheese and classical music. In week one, the kids read maps and followed directions (necessary for finding treasure, of course!), and they interviewed each other. They used good listening skills to pick out instruments from Vivaldi’s “Spring,” and listened to an audio book excerpt. In week two, we had a newspaper scavenger hunt, and I noticed that the kids of our digital age are, not surprisingly, fairly unfamiliar with the printed press. This started me thinking – and by midnight that evening, I had the idea that I should invite a reporter for a digital news outlet to our next meeting.
On Monday morning, I emailed our local online news provider and within a day, the new editor for our area agreed to come to our Friday afternoon club. I invited her not to interview us, but for us to interview her! What better way to practice our new skills!
I invite you to see how the visit turned out. You can read her article (she took photos, too) at this link. http://barnegat.patch.com/articles/kids-ask-the-best-questions-and-i-try-to-answer-best-i-can
We finished up the final week with Geronimo Stilton “mad-libs,” mouse origami, and a rousing game of Pass the Cheese (to classical music, of course). It was fun. It was inexpensive. The kids and parents liked it. All of the survey forms were positive. I only wish that more kids had participated, but, even this doesn’t bother me too much. Because everyone in the Series Programming course shared their projects, I can try it again with a new topic!
Coincidentally, the Series Programming course began again this week. I’d love to see what the current group creates.
We know that children’s books change lives. They show us that apologies and forgiveness can be hard; that everyone deserves a second chance; that sometimes it takes an adventure or two to wind up right back where we always belonged; and that it’s better to be kind than to be right.
My story begins with a confession. For the past few days, I’ve ignored a woman sitting at my subway station, holding a baby and a cardboard sign. The first time I saw her my jaded New York filters kicked in: she’s a scammer, I thought. She looks too young, too clean. She’s one of those charlatans preying upon people’s kinder natures. Or maybe she’s a sociology student working on a project for her graduate thesis; pretending to be homeless and gathering statistics on reactions from cold-hearted urbanites. She’s not really a homeless woman with a very young child, sitting on the dirty subway steps, waiting for help. Watching wordlessly as well-heeled Upper East Siders walk passed, around, and over her. That pink-cheeked infant sleeping in her arms couldn’t possibly need my help. And even if they are for real, what can I do?
In our line of work we help people every day. Being a librarian, particularly a public librarian, we employ our empathy and compassion in so many of our interactions with children and adults. We try to figure out what it is they are asking, what it is they need, how we can guide them to the right source, the right tool, the best book. We rely on body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions as much as we do on the words they say. Each reference interview can be a mini-lesson in social psychology. We serve our users and we give a lot of ourselves in that service. I’ve heard coworkers joke that at the end of a long day on a public desk they feel “all out of nice.” The idea is that we expend so much of our empathy, our patience, and our understanding during our 9-5 that by the time we leave the library, we may feel a little tapped out. I’ll admit it- there have been days when I, too, felt “all out of nice.”
Today I saw the young woman and her baby again on my subway steps. I started to walk on by. In fact, I did. Walked passed her and her baby who was looking up in joy and wonder at the shadows cast on the bright white tiles by the fast-moving commuters. There was a little voice inside telling me to stop, to help. And if it were not for one twelve-year-old orphan boy from Pine Swamp, Maine, I may have ignored that little voice. Some of you may know this intrepid young man. His name is Homer P. Figg.
I happened to be listening to the audio version of The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. I was at the part of the story when Homer meets Mr. Brewster, a Quaker helping escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. Homer is in a tough spot. He wants to help Mr. Brewster and the hiding families, but he doesn’t know if he can. Mr. Brewster tells Homer,
“It all boils down to this: A person has only two options in life, to do something, or to do nothing.”
It doesn’t take Homer long to realize, “I can’t do nothing. Nothing is not an option.”
Boy, did that stop me in my tracks. I pulled out my
You know you’re a children’s librarian
when it’s quittin’ time
and you’ve got to go
but a child asks for help
and you can’t say no.
I’ll admit my bias right up front. If I’m off the clock and an adult approaches me for assistance, I have no qualms with directing him to the reference librarian on desk duty. However, since I’m the only children’s librarian in the branch, if a child asks me for help, I’ll stay – especially if it’s a reader’s advisory question – my favorite!
Photo by Mary K. Baird
By: Stacy Whitman
Blog: Stacy Whitman's Grimoire
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Like I said yesterday, people are loving our spring books just as much as they loved those we published in the fall (for which we’re still getting reviews in–maybe I should do another roundup of those).
Here’s what people are saying about Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off:
In a multicultural family bestowed with supernatural abilities, such as mind reading and laser vision, Nat Ng believes her ability to communicate with cats is more of an embarrassment than a special talent. Only her family and her two best friends, exuberant Oscar and drop-dead gorgeous Melly, know her secret. When a production crew filming a remake of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to the teens’ Chicago high school, Nat reluctantly agrees to join her friends as an extra. Nat might believe that her talent is unexceptional, but cat-loving readers will thoroughly enjoy where her ability leads her as she tours through the same Chicago landmarks seen in Ferris Bueller. This title has the light, buoyant humor of a Meg Cabot book, with the same blend of superpowers and high-school life that won Pauley many fans with Sucks to Be Me (2008). And the cats! Helping, hindering, sniffing out bad guys, sneering at good guys, the cats shamelessly rule.
Publishers Weekly (full review):
Pauley (Still Sucks to Be Me) offers amusing insights into the minds of cats, snappy dialogue, and a fast-paced plot. Readers should easily relate to Nat, and cat-lovers in particular will find a lot to enjoy in this romp.
Kirkus Reviews (full review):
. . . Since there’s no one else ready and able to rescue Easton, Nat and her pair of slightly off-beat friends take on the job. This leads to one perilous situation after another, many of them featuring the italicized thoughts—appropriately laconic and snarky—of the various cats that Nat seeks out for help. Her bumpy budding romance with classmate Ian adds an amusing love interest to the mix. The fantasy elements, solidly grounded in an otherwise real world, seem ever-so-believable. Lively conversation, strong characterizations and a fast pace make this a breezy read. The funny feline thoughts are catnip for the audience.
A worthwhile adventure and an easy sell for feline fanciers who already know what their pets are saying.
School Library Journal (if you are a subscriber, you can access the full review on their site; otherwise, look in the April 2012 print edition):
Pauley’s homage to Chicago and her favorite teen movie is entertaining, hilarious, and exceptionally creative. Populated with wonderfully eccentric and endearing characters, this lighthearted comedy will be an instant hit, especially among teen and tween girls. One thing is for certain—readers will never again look at their feline friends in the same way.
Charlotte’s Library (full review):
Cat Girl’s Day Off is fast a
Looking for some fun new apps to try with various age groups in your library? These are some of of our favorite apps at Darien Library:
Doodlecast for Kids (1.99 by Tickle Tap Apps. Available on iPhone, iTouch, iPad.)
This drawing app has one key feature that sets it apart from other preschool art apps- it allows users to record their voices while doodling. The result is a screencast that immediately syncs to your iPhone, iTouch, or iPad Photos folder or you can upload to YouTube. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
How to use it in the library: Preschoolers will love playing on this app and rewatching their recorded creations. But the real potential is in storytelling. Try it out with a group of slightly older kids and let them draw and narrate their own short stories. For an added bonus, have the kids pair up or group into small teams to create collaborative stories.
Sock Puppets (Free by SmithMicro Software. Available on iPhone, iTouch, iPad.)
Take the interactive storytelling to the next level with this app that allows you to create a digital sock puppet production. Choose sock characters, a setting, props and then record an original masterpiece. The final products may be saved in-app or uploaded to YouTube or Facebook. The best (and most hilarious) part is that your voice recording gets scrubbed during the recording process, producing a funny Mickey Mouse-esque tone. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
How to use it in the library: For our book discussion groups (for grades 4 to 6) there is usually a discussion of a key moment in the text. We discuss why a character made a particular decision and what might have happened if they made a different choice. Use Sock Puppets to extend your book discussion and give the kids the opportunity to make their own alternate endings.
ReelDirector (1.99 by Nexvio. Available on iPhone and iPad.)
This all-in-one app allows users to record or upload videos, edit, add titles and transitions, and publish. It is one of the most sophisticated movie editing apps- especially at this low price point. While not originally created for children, it is much more intuitive and easier to use than iMovie. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
How to use it in the library: Create book trailers and Storytubes. After a class or workshop on media literacy, have kids create their own ads and commercials. Get your TAB or KAB members to creating a walking tour of your library. Use it to create informational videos to post on your library’s website.
By: alethea aka frootjoos,
Blog: Read Now Sleep Later
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Who: Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder
What: We'll attend the signing at 7 and then congregate next door at
Rocky Cola Cafe
for munchies. They are open til 10 pm and have great diner food!
RSVP: You don't have to RSVP but we highly recommend that you reserve your copy before May 31 if you are going to buy one*. I'm calling on them tomorrow to make sure they hold me a copy! Call 818-248-9668 to reserve.
*If you already have a copy of Cinder, you will need to at least make a purchase to get a signing line ticket. Once Upon a Time is a local indie bookstore, and in order to stay in business as well as continue to provide you chances to meet your favorite big-name authors from around the country, they need to sell some books!
Contest: The bookstore is also having a contest--bring your best Cinder shoe and you could win a gift card!
Ok, RSVP: I DO kinda want to know if anyone's coming, so leave a comment below :D or email frootjoos at gmail dot com
Please help spread the word on
With the school year winding down and the summer reading season gearing up, it’s a good time to reflect on the partnership of public youth services librarians and school media specialists. The recent cover story by Rebecca T. Miller and Laura Girmscheid’s, “It Takes Two,” in the May edition of School Library Journal offers up some food for thought, and I urge everyone to read it.
Many of the partnership ideas suggested in “It Takes Two,” are great ones, including “middle school booktalks, outreach to school groups, shuttle buses between schools and libraries, and age-appropriate book clubs.” Miller and Girmscheid also suggest the possibility of a purchasing collaboration, noting that “the results of SLJ’s first survey of public library spending habits on children’s and young adult services reveals a disturbing trend: only 30 percent of respondents say their library collaborates with local schools to coordinate book purchases to support the curriculum—leaving 70 percent that don’t.”
I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts on this. Here are mine.
My library system has a centralized collections department, but that isn’t to say that individual branches do not have some say in the purchase of books. Several times per year, I am offered the opportunity to submit purchasing or replacement requests. Having a close connection with my community, I, of course, request books that I know will appeal to local children or will fulfill the need for commonly requested resource materials (e.g., Ancient Egypt, Colonial America) However, there is a definite difference between a public library and a public school library, particularly when it comes to the library’s collection. Personally, I believe that the school library’s mission should be to support the curriculum of the school and the education of its children. To some degree, public libraries do this as well, but I believe that our main focus is to foster literacy and a love of reading and learning, and to provide appealing, inclusive, informative and desirable books, programs and materials, as well as a place to enjoy them. This, I feel, is where our paths diverge.
Anecdotally, I can say that, over the years, to fulfill homework assignments, I have had children request lower elementary school level books on the brown trout, sea lettuce, Chinese stirrups, Ancient Egyptian jewelry making, anchovies, and obscure local inventors. These materials (were they actually to exist) would not necessarily meet the collection development criteria of the public library. With school and public library budgets shrinking, we definitely have ourselves a dilemma. The school library often doesn’t have the needed books. The students come to the public library, which may not have them either.
I am very fortunate to work in town where I have very close connections with the local school media specialists, as well as some teachers and school administrators. When I contact my district’s media specialists, to let them know of my inability to find age-appropriate reading material on some of the aforementioned topics, they commiserate. They in turn, contact the teachers from whom the requests originate. The teachers may also commiserate. Their requests are often dictated by government requirements.
I’m not offering an opinion on the initiative, but like it or not, the Common Core is coming. (Read USA Today article here) Read more at the Common Core State Standards Ini
Some summertime silliness -
As much as I love Jim Arnosky’s wonderful books, my popular copy of All About Turtles was looking pretty shabby, so I stamped it for the discard pile. Before discarding it however, I decided to take one last look at the lovely illustrations. That’s when I found …
the banana. Yup, a banana - smashed between the gopher tortoise and the diamondback rattlesnake. Strangely, in it’s flattened, and rather petrified state, it almost fits in with the illustration, don’t you agree?
So what’s the weirdest thing you’ve found in the pages of your library’s books? Have a photo? Email it to me and I’ll add it to this post.
I try not to post much about my personal life here unless it has to do with books or author events in some fashion. So sorry for this departure. It's not all directly book related.
But if any of you guys know me at all, you would know that I hate drama. I hate starting it. I hate getting embroiled in others' drama. So when drama comes knocking, I retreat into my shell.
Not like this guy:
He doesn't like drama either, but he usually goes after it with a katana.
There's been a lot of drama in the last few weeks regarding ARCs, greedy bloggers, angry librarians, paid bloggers, Goodreads
bullies, indie authors... it's enough to turn me off blogging completely. Several times this month I've thought to myself, What if I just stop? Wouldn't that be lovely?
I could still see my author pals and read lots of books (actually, more
books! since I will not have to stop every so often to blog about them) and not read other blogs unless I know the author personally. It was really, really tempting.
But the thing is, I was a bookseller for almost 14 years. You can't just turn something like that off. I can't just quit recommending books cold turkey. Connecting people with books and other cool stuff (like tv shows and artists and movies) makes me happy. Getting excited about stories and authors makes me happy. I can't let a few bad, overdramatic eggs spoil all that for me.
I have unfollowed some people that I think are just toxic to my environment at the moment. I'm sad because they are people I admired.
So, that's it. I'm going to keep on keeping on. I'll recommend books and bookstores and tell you in advance about cool author events. And if you have any drama for me, keep it to yourself, or else be studiously ignored by me.
Now back to your regularly scheduled blog ;)
On Fridays, many poetry fans across the KidLitosphere take part in Poetry Friday. Here, today, I offer my first contribution to the weekly meme in honor of my favorite prop, an old brown sheet.
“Ode to an Old Brown Sheet”
You’ve been a “cocoon” from which “butterflies” spring.
“Caterpillars” crawl in, then emerge on the wing.
At the Teddy Bear Picnic you’ve been a dark cave.
There’s snoring inside; enter only if brave!
You’ve helped created theatre – a shadow play,
hiding the actors, keeping bright light at bay.
When you’re a tunnel, toddlers know what to do.
I teach over and under, but you teach them through.
And when I go visiting, pan and bags in my hand
you are my clothing; and don’t I look grand?
Perhaps you have a prop of your own that is deserving of an ode?
Have a wonderful weekend!
Well, almost. In strict accuracy, it's time to register for KidlitCon
. This year, it takes place in New York City, September 28-29. This is your chance to meet and hang out with all the bloggers you ever wanted to know, plus a few more. Talk about bloggy topics, books, and blogging about books.
Because it's in New York City, AKA the Big Apple, AKA You Want How
Much for That Apple?,
they've lowered the price of the conference itself to just 55 dollars. For the whole thing! This includes a pre-con on Friday, with dinner (and special guest speaker Grace Lin!), lunch on Saturday, and naturally the conference itself. If you don't feel like coming to the other stuff (although I don't know why you'd miss out when you're already in New York anyhow), the conference itself is free. Can't get much better than that.
So if you've always wanted to try it out and you've always wanted to visit New York City, consider this your big opportunity. This is the seventh year and I haven't missed one yet.
Thank you, thank you to Carole Di Totsi, PhD, for giving me this reader appreciation award. If you don’t know Carole, you should! She writes a few amazing blogs (see below) and is a wonderful promoter of her friends and colleagues at her Twitter handle: mercedeskat45. I first met Carole when she took an online class from me through WOW! Women On Writing. She has now taken a few, and we have become cyber friends. I keep threatening to go to NYC and visit her!
The Reader Appreciation Award is given to writers who have supported other writers’ blogs. Happily, I’ve received the award from Carole, who has three blogs: The Fat and the Skinny, All Along the NYC Skyline, and A Christian Apologist’s Sonnets. All three are totally different because she blogs about health and wellness issues, NYC events, and her own sonnets respectively. But check them out and leave a comment!
There are a few guidelines for accepting this award:
l) Acknowledge the giver of the award and provide a link to his or her blog. (check!)
2) Copy and paste the award to your blog. (check!)
3) Pass the award on to up to ten bloggers. (see below!)
4) Notify the selected bloggers that you have nominated them.
I am happy to nominate these bloggers and their blogs for the Reader Appreciation Award:
1. Donna Volkenannt (Donna’s Book Pub)
2. Becky Povich (Writer-Humorist-Bliss Follower)
3. Cathy C. Hall (Writing is Easy. Rewriting is a whole ‘nother story.)
4. Penelope Anne Cole (Penelope Anne Cole)
5. Sarah Butland (Sarah Butland: For Writers, For Readers, For You)
6. Sharon K. Mayhew (Random Thoughts)
7. Camille Subramanian (A Day In My Life)
8. Erin (In Step With the Spirit)
9. Patricia (PM27′s BLOG: Notes and Observations)
10. Holly Helscher (Becoming Bookish)
These 10 ladies are super supportive of my blog and the authors I host here. I know I probably missed someone–I’M SORRY!–it’s like when you give your Oscar speech, and you forget to thank your spouse. . .
I hope you have some time to check out their blogs. Thanks, ladies, for your support. You are all well-deserving of the Reader Appreciation Award!
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Recently my blogging buddy, Cecelia Lester, passed along to me and a few other bloggers the Liebster Award.
I am such a forget ninny sometimes that I forgot the thank her for that.
So, A BIG THANK YOU! to Cecelia for honoring me as one of her favorite bloggers. You can read Cecelia's beautiful, sincere devotionals at her blog, Following My King. Her heartfelt words often reach out across