"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

27 February 2015

Interactive Displays

Our library's picture book room has a very long bulletin board. The board itself takes up the entire length of two walls, so it's probably 30-40 ft. long.  That being said, it's great to have that much space in which to create thematic displays or add information that parents might need. It's also kind of a pain in the neck, because it's a really long board, and even if you create a lot of things to put on the board, there will be a ton of space left over.

I decided that for this spring I would enlist the help of our patrons in decorating part of the bulletin board. Half the board is dedicated to information about Every Child Ready to Read, but the other half had only a paper tree in the middle and needed some assistance.  

I printed out some outlines of flowers, birds, bees, and other spring-like objects, then set them out on a table with instructions.  Patrons could choose an item to color and cut out, then they could give that item to the librarian to add to the board.  A lot of parents were grateful to have something pseudo-constructive for their children to do, and the children definitely enjoyed having their artwork added to our board. 

One thing I did learn from this experience, though: only set out a few sheets at a time. At one point I tried to set out about twenty pages, hoping not to have to refill the supply, and those of you more experienced than I am are already laughing, because you know what happened: a teacher, a parent, someone walked off with every last copy.  So now I set out two sheets of each shape and leave it at that.  The board still needs work, to be sure, but it looks much, much better than it did before, and it gives the patrons a good reason to visit our picture book room (besides checking out books, of course).

Have you ever had patrons help create a display? What kinds of things did you have them do?

25 February 2015

Like No Other

LaMarche, Una. Like No Other. Razorbill, 2014.

Devorah is a good girl, obeying all the rules her Hasidic community has placed before her, no matter how strict those rules may seem. Jaxon is a stereotypical nerd whose parents are insisting he work hard and get into college, providing him with opportunities they never had. The two meet in a broken-down elevator during a hurricane. Devorah is not supposed to be alone with a boy, not supposed to talk to one, and she's definitely not supposed to fall in love. But Devorah is finding herself questioning her upbringing, while Jaxon tries to find ways to show Devorah he cares for her while still honoring the rules she chooses to live by.

I liked the inclusion of both a West Indian character and a Hasidic character in this book, and the insights into the Hasidic community were definitely interesting and different. I was actually surprised at the ending, though; and those who like their romantic stories to end with a "happily ever after" may be surprised at what "happily" means in this particular story. All in all, this is a good diverse book that should be included in any YA collection.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language - fairly minor b/c of Devorah's upbringing, but she still manages to think swear words, even if she doesn't speak them; some violence b/t members of Devorah's community and Jaxon; some consensual groping but no sex and nothing graphic
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Hush, The World Outside, Keep Sweet

23 February 2015

Half Bad

Green, Sally. Half Bad. Viking Juvenile, 2014.

Nathan is a half code - he's the product of a white witch and a black witch, and it hasn't been decided yet whether he's good or bad. The rules set by white witches are becoming stricter regarding half codes and black witches, and Nathan's 17th birthday is approaching. He needs to find his father so he can receive his Gift, but before he can do that, he has to escape his cage.

This book started out in medias res, so the beginning seems a bit abrupt, but I think this was a wise choice as the intense beginning was a good hook for readers who need to be caught in the first few pages before abandoning a book altogether. I was intrigued by the choice to keep Nathan in a cage and train him, while I wondered whether his father was still alive and whether Nathan would be able to meet up with him on his 17th birthday. The paranormal parts of this story are fairly balanced with intense action sequences, so fans of thrillers would enjoy this book just as much as those who are looking for the next vampire/werewolf/zombie read-alike.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: lots and lots of violence, usually toward Nathan
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Rebel Belle, Rot and Ruin

20 February 2015

Page Turners Book Club

Not only do I run a book club for younger kids (ages 5-8), but I also have a book club for our tweens (ages 9-12). For the most part, I run this club the same way I do the other club: kids and their parents can sign up at the beginning of the month, and they receive a free copy of the book, which they should then finish reading before they come to book club at the end of the month.  I start our meetings with a discussion of the book, followed by a variety of activities the kids can choose to do.  We always end with the opportunity to sign up for the next month as well as browsing through a cart of read-alike suggestions.

There were two things that make working with this group very different from working with the younger kids.  First, our discussion lasted a lot longer, both because the book was longer and invited more discussion and also because the kids seemed to want to contribute more to the discussion than their younger cohorts did.  Second, the younger kids flitted about trying all the various activities I had set out for them, whereas the older kids, for the most part, chose the one same activity and stuck with it for the remainder of the time.

Book Discussed: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Book Questions: I found them here.  I also added a few standards of my own, but I don't like to reinvent the wheel.
Activities: I created four options:
  1. Decorate your own superhero mask:  This was by far the most popular activity.
  2. Superhero photo booth:  This was the favorite activity of the parents; they all wanted pictures of their kids wearing their superhero gear.
  3. Draw your own comic strip.  I found a template online and set out markers and colored pencils.
  4. Magnetic Poetry a la Ulysses: I have two kid-friendly sets of magnetic poetry.  The kids fiddled with this a bit, but they were more excited about making superhero masks than anything else.

I also had out healthy snacks for kids to munch on, since our book club meets at 6:00 PM and that's pretty close to dinner time.  Additionally, I made sure to make enough masks and comic strips so that siblings could also join in the activities.  Most of the parents stayed in the room for the entire meeting, but a few went into the other areas of the library after I offered to bring their kids to them when we were finished. 

I definitely enjoyed working with the younger kids, but I think the book club as a whole was more successful with the older group, mainly because they were able to think and talk about the book they had read, and the book was long enough to have a legitimate discussion about it. 

Do you have a book club for tweens at your library? What kinds of things do you do at your meetings?

18 February 2015

Gadget Girl

Kamata, Suzanne. Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible. GemmaMedia, 2013.

Aiko is fourteen and she's never met her father. She has cerebral palsy, and she channels her energies into drawing a comic called Gadget Girl, where the main character has all kinds of special abilities and is always saving the man in distress. Aiko's artist mother is invited to exhibit her art in Paris, and Aiko gets to accompany her. Aiko has heard of the healing waters of Lourdes and wonders if they would help her become more like Gadget Girl.

This was a fairly standard coming-of-age and falling-in-love teen girl's story, with the obvious twists of Aiko's disability and also her secret identity as a comic artist. I was glad for the emphasis on comics as well as the fact that Aiko's disability didn't really get in her way, for the most part. She was a teen girl who wanted to know her father and was tired of being her mother's muse, none of which had much to do with her abilities or lack thereof.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: mild language
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Anna and the French Kiss, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, Say What You Will

16 February 2015

El Deafo

Bell, Cece. El Deafo. Harry N. Abrams, 2014.

Cece contracted meningitis when she was very young and consequently is severely hearing-impaired. She wears a hearing aid called "phonic ears" when she is at school so that she can hear her teacher and follow along with her class. Cece imagines herself to be a superhero with her ability to hear her teacher anywhere, even when her teacher goes to the teacher's lounge or the bathroom!

This graphic novel gave great insight into living with a hearing impairment. From the difficulties of lip-reading on television to convincing people not to speak extra loudly/slowly, Bell gives the reader insight into a different world. The readable graphic-novel format will make this book approachable for a wide range of children. Recommended.

Recommended for: middle grade
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Hurt Go Happy, The Adventures of Superhero Girl,How Mirka Got Her Sword

13 February 2015

YALSA Hub Challenge

It's that time of year again!  The 2015 Youth Media Awards have been announced and librarians and bibliophiles everywhere are gearing up to read all of the award winners.  For the past four years, the youth services division of ALA has put on a challenge: Read at least 25 of the books which won awards or were in the top ten for their category, and read them before the end of June.

Although I've participated every year, this is the first year I've been able to create a display to encourage my patrons to participate as well:

My display is pretty simple.  The sign at the top explains the reasoning for the display, and each section on the display focuses on one award list. Fore example, the top left display is for the Printz award winner and Printz honor books. When Grasshopper Jungle gets checked out, I'll put another book in its place, and the list is right there behind the book, which makes it really easy for me to figure out what needs to go in that space. 

I also made a chart with all the award winners and top ten list honorees, sorted it by author's last name (the same way the books themselves are sorted), and printed it out so patrons could keep a copy of the list if they were interested.  I haven't heard any enthusiastic exclamations of excitement, but I have seem people looking at the display, which is a start. 

There are 83 books on the final list for the Hub Challenge; participants are encouraged to read 25 for the chance to win a bag of books, but I will be attempting, for the third year in a row, to conquer the list by reading all 83 titles.  We'll see how long that takes me.

How do you encourage patrons to participate in competitions that are library-related but not specific to your library? Does your library hold a Mock Newbery or Mock Caldecott or something similar?

11 February 2015

A Time to Dance

Venkatraman, Padma. A Time to Dance. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014.

Veda is a dance prodigy in India and shows great potential in becoming a famous dancer when she is involved in a car accident. One of her legs is amputated below the knee, and Veda's plans for dancing are shattered. She learns to walk again, but longs to dance again as well.

This story is told in verse and does a fantastic job at painting a picture of life in India. The culture is woven throughout the story, so I ended up learning a lot without feeling like I was just sitting there learning a lot. Veda is a very realistic and likable character. I was glad for the way she was able to translate her struggles into her art. I'm not a fan of novels in verse, so I would have enjoyed this one more in straight prose, but it would be an easy recommend to kids who can't get enough of Ellen Hopkins's work.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Weight of Water, The Language Inside, The Running Dream

09 February 2015

Say What You Will

McGovern, Cammie. Say What You Will. Harper Teen, 2014.

Amy has cerebral palsy, so she uses a walker to walk and has a device that allows her to talk as well. Matthew is struggling with OCD, and he and Amy meet when he is hired to be one of her student assistants during her senior year of high school. They fall for each other and spend the rest of the book deciding whether or not they can be together.

This is a romance novel, so it doesn't have a big, amazing plot to follow, but there definitely was plenty of character development. The author does an amazing job at allowing the reader to see the struggles of a disability as well as the struggles of mental illness. Because of all of this, I was glad I read this book.


I wish Amy hadn't been so controlling/bossy toward Matthew. She kept pushing him and pushing him to work on his OCD, so the tone of the book seemed almost to say, "It's okay to struggle with cerebral palsy, but if you have a mental illness, you'd better work hard at getting better." I wanted Amy to be more compassionate toward Matthew, especially since she herself struggles with things other people take for granted, like being able to walk unassisted. Nonetheless, this was a good book, one that I'm glad to have read, and I will definitely be adding it to my library's collection.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: underage drinking, language
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: All the Bright Places, The Fault in Our Stars

06 February 2015

Blind Date with a Book

Everyone is doing Blind Date with a Book displays these days. I myself did one last year at the middle school library, and this year I decided to continue the tradition at my public library.  The difference, though, is in the range of ages I serve.  At the middle school, my patrons were 7th and 8th graders or teachers. Now that I am at public library, my patrons range from newborns to recently-graduated teens. I need to provide programming for all of our youth, not just the ones reasonably old enough to be dating.

So I did create a blind date with a book display for the teen area. Teens can pick up a pink or red wrapped book, check it out, read it, and fill out the enclosed review card. If they return the card, they have a chance to win a prize.

I didn't want to leave the kids out of this opportunity, but I didn't think many parents would want their 2-year old or 9-year old "dating," so I created the idea of a super secret book.  The "super secret books" are the same as blind date books - they are wrapped in pink or red paper and have an enclosed review card. The kids can still review them and return the review card for a prize.  But these books are picture books, early chapter books, middle grade books - all things easily accessible to kids. And even if you can't tell what book it is based on the mysterious description provided, you can still guess about what level it's at based on the size and shape.

The adults at my library are also doing blind date with a book, so this means the entire family can participate, and I have seen several families come in and choose books for everyone. I am glad there are ways I can involve kids in what is normally an adults-only activity.

What kinds of things have you done at your library to tie families and patrons of all ages together in one activity?

04 February 2015


Brown, Rachel. Stranger. Viking Juvenile, 2014.

The world has undergone a major change, governments have fallen, and now people are picking up the pieces and attempting to survive and thrive in a different and dangerous world. The western U.S. has turned into an Old West type of atmosphere, with each town having its own unique government and dangerous critters roaming the wild. A new boy comes to the town of Las Anclas (formerly Los Angeles); he's carrying a secret, and a powerful king from the east wants it. Is this boy worth saving, or should he be turned over to pacify the king?

This book fits into the second category of dystopian fiction. Unlike the standard Divergent or Hunger Games-style books, where the world has been taken over by a corrupt government, this book tells of a cataclysm that sort of reset the world and stole its technology. People, plants, and animals have many different kinds of mutations, and each town has its own rules. This story is told from five different viewpoints, each of which adds an interesting perspective on the larger story.

What I Liked: Lots of diverse characters. Lots of Latino culture with smatterings of Asian and Native American cultures thrown in. Gay and lesbian people mentioned without it being a big deal at all. One of the main characters thinks she might be asexual, which her dad tells her is completely normal, until later on when she is in a relationship with both a boy and another girl. The multiple perspectives on the story sounded different and were emphasized with different fonts as well, making it easier to transition between characters.

What I Didn't Like: This book wasn't that much different from Killer of Enemies or Inhuman. It would be a good read-alike, but I found myself rapidly skimming the last pages in the book, because I didn't really care what happened. The reading wasn't as compelling as I expected, although it is indeed a good story. Due to both the popularity of dystopian stories as well as the need for diversity in literature, I would add this book to my library's collection if it weren't already there.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Inhuman, Killer of Enemies

02 February 2015


Korman, Gordon. Masterminds. Balzer & Bray, 2015.

Eli lives in the remote town of Serenity, where no one does anything wrong and there's never any crime or any problems. Even the streets are named for peaceful things: harmony, amity, etc. One day Eli and his friend try to ride out of town to explore the desert, and Eli is assaulted with throbbing pain. He's taken by helicopter to the hospital, and his friend is whisked away to his grandparents' home out of town. Before he leaves, Eli's friend leaves him a message: "There's something screwy with this town." Will Eli be able to figure out what is screwy here, and can he do it before he or the other kids in town suffer the consequences?

This book is part mystery, part action-adventure. Because the town is so squeaky-clean, there's no violence or profanity to worry about, but there's plenty of intense mystery as the kids try to work through what's going on. This book would make an excellent classroom or library read-aloud, and will be an easy one to book talk to my patrons. Strongly recommended.

Recommended for: middle grade
Red Flags: none (seriously; a kid gets in trouble for taking too many donuts, but that's about it)
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Poop Fountain!, What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World, The Mysterious Benedict Society