"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

29 April 2016

Storytime: Llamas

Opening Rhyme: Open them, Shut them

Book: In the Llama Yard by Patricia Stockland

Song: "If You’re Happy and You Know It"

Book: The Littlest Llama by Jane Buxton

Rhyme: Happy Llama, Sad Llama
Happy llama, sad llama
Totally rad llama
Super llama, drama llama
Big, big mama llama

Camel; nice camel.
Happy camel, sad camel
Totally rad camel
Super camel, drama camel,
Big, big mama camel.

Moose, fish, turtle.

Book: Chico the Brave by Dave Horowitz

Book: Maria had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez

Song: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"

Book: Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino

Goodbye Rhyme

Craft: Clothespin Llamas! I did this for a couple of reasons. First, it required no purchase of extra materials - we already had clothespins and paper and markers available at the library. Second, using clothespins helps small children with their fine motor control, and most of the children at my storytime put more than the requisite two clothespins on their llamas, which was fine by me. The more they take those off and put them on, the stronger their fingers are, which will make so many aspects of school - writing, cutting, etc. - much easier for them. 

27 April 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Johnston, E.K. Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Dutton BYR, 2016.

As the captain of her cheerleading squad, Hermione has just one goal for the team: break the school's tradition where one person dies in a car accident and one person gets pregnant every year. When she is raped during summer cheerleading camp, however, her priorities must change.

This book tackles the tough question: "Is it always necessary for rape survivors to struggle and suffer and have lots of difficulties coming to terms with life after trauma?" Many books featuring characters who survive an attack focus on that survivor's struggle and eventual healing. This is not that book. Hermione is a strong person and is focused on cheerleading and her friends and her life. After she is raped, she is still a strong person who is focused on cheerleading and her friends and her life. She does not retreat into herself. She does not hide from hard truths. She does not experience multiple panic attacks or flashbacks, and when she does have them, she has a good support system in place to help her out.

I wish I could say this was a typical survivor experience, but I think each situation is unique and that Hermione is blessed in having parents and friends who can support her in the aftermath of the attack. This is not a "the girl is faking strong and will have a break down at the end of the book and ask for more help" story. Hermione has a good life, and even when something completely horrible happens to her, her life is still pretty good.

What I liked: Hermione is a very strong person and she has strong friends. She speaks her mind and gets things done and her friends stand up for her. Her "boyfriend" at the beginning of the book is kind of a jerk, but that's the extent of his plot. Hermione chooses to have an abortion after her rape, and everyone - including the local religious leader - is okay with this decision. She has a best friend who comes out as lesbian, and everyone - again - is okay with this. Hermione's name is an obvious HP reference, and the "I love you" "I know" bit is from Star Wars, which warmed my geeky little heart.

What I didn't like: Hermione's world is almost too perfect, so while I love this story, I don't think it rings true for many rape survivors. It is typical not to be believed in light of disclosing a rape. It is typical to have people question what you were wearing or what you did or whether you deserved it. It is typical to struggle with things like doctor's appointments, the possibility of abortion, flashbacks, panic attacks, etc. Hermione gets to skip all of those things, and while that makes for a nice story, it doesn't provide hope to those who struggle with surviving. But there are other books that fit that bill, and this one does a good job at what it aims to do - tell a story of a calm survival.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Hermione is roofied and raped at camp; she later has an abortion; she has occasional flashbacks and panic attacks which fellow survivors may find triggering
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Speak, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, All the Rage, Girls Like Us

25 April 2016

Librarian Toolbox: Weeding

If you don't weed, your shelves may look like this.
Libraries often come under fire when the public realizes that the librarians have been weeding materials from the collection. This conjures up pictures of a dumpster full of books, set out to rot and mold in the rain. The simple fact, though, is that if the library is going to continue to buy new books, some of the old books have to be weeded in order to make room.

I call this "after and before."
I have worked at two libraries since graduating from library school. The first was a middle school library, and currently I work at a public library. In both places the collection hadn't been weeded in many, many years, so it was essential that I weed profusely and soon. When collections become too big, the shelves get crowded, and it becomes harder for patrons to find the books they want to read. It's better for everyone involved if the weeding happens gradually, but sometimes there are no other options.  So, when a big weeding project hits you, what do you do?

See how attractive clean shelves can look!
Work gradually. Weeding is hard, dirty, dusty work. Only weed as much as you can handle at a time. Limit by the number of shelves, number of carts, a certain Dewey range - whatever works for you. At both locations I have limited myself to one cart per day. I don't want to overwhelm any support staff who may be assisting with the withdrawal procedure, nor do I want to use all of our book carts exclusively for things that have been weeded.

This nonfiction area is much more user-friendly now.
Weed by list and by sight. Weeding by creating lists of items that are older than X years or items that haven't circulated in X months can work to a certain extent, but this will not help you to pull that copy of Harry Potter that has circulated fifty times in the past year and is missing an entire chapter. It's good to pull lists of items, especially if someone is assisting you and can pull the items after the list is created, but it's also important to walk through the stacks and look at the physical items. This helps to locate items that are badly damaged or that look dated.

Another "after and before."
Use your newly found shelf space wisely. After I completed my initial "major weeding" at both locations, I found myself with yards upon yards of shelf space. I was able to redistribute the collection so that the topmost shelves and bottommost shelves were not used. The upper shelves were too high for my young patrons to reach, and the lower shelves were obnoxious to reshelve and way below anyone's standard sight lines.  I was able to create natural breaks between major subject areas and add more in-shelf displays to highlight areas of our collection. In both cases I received comments from patrons about "all the new books" I had put on the shelves, when really I had just removed the old books so they could see the books that were already there.

Top shelves are a great space for displays.
Dispose of your weeds wisely. Don't fill a Dumpster and park it outside the library. Find a place to donate your used books or use them for an upcycled craft project. Give them away or sell them cheaply. Make sure people see that you aren't "just dumping" all the old books. Some of them may not be fit for donation or resale, but do your work stealthily.

22 April 2016

My Life with the Liars

Carter, Caela. My Life with the Liars. Harper Collins, 2016.

Zylynn has always lived with the Children Inside the Light. She's eagerly anticipating her 13th birthday, less than two weeks away, when she is taken Outside and forced to live with her father and stepmother. She knows she can't trust a word they say - she's been told they are Liars - and she is determined to return to the compound before her very important 13th birthday, when she will go through the Ceremony and become an adult. But her father and stepmother's kindness is wearing down her walls. They let her eat as much as she wants and she gets to wear colors and have her own possessions. Will she be strong enough to return to the Light, or will she miss her Ceremony and live in Darkness forever?

I love stories, real or imagined, about people who escape strict religious cults. This particular book is aimed more at a middle grade audience, and our protagonist is much younger than the typical 16-year old escapee from other books. She's confused because she only knows what she's been taught in the cult, so she does things like sleep with the lights on, hoard extra food under her bed, and refer to her parents by their first names. She doesn't know about wearing clothes with colors, or what an iPad is, or what it feels like to ride in a car. She tries desperately to return to the compound, to the things she finds familiar, but there's a pull in the novelty of things like strawberries, a room of one's own, and love.

I love that this story is told from Zylynn's point of view. We see her confusion and struggle over living in this strange, new world. We see her desperation to return to the compound, and the love and patience of her family. When Zylynn hoards food, her stepmother puts it in containers for her, but leaves it under the bed where she had it, even though it is rotting. No one turns off her light at night while she sleeps because she is used to sleeping under bright lights. I read this book in one sitting, which is something I very rarely do. Recommended.

Recommended for: middle grade, teens, fans of religious cult stories
Red Flags: kids in the cult are neglected and starved, they are punished with what I'll have to call "mild stoning" [yes, with rocks, but little ones],
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Giver, Watch the Sky, Devoted, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, A Good Courage

20 April 2016

Science Club: DIY Marble Run

My science club kids made their own marble runs this week. I was planning to give them scrap paper and masking tape and let them come up with their own design, but then I stumbled upon this website, which has printable plans for a paper roller coaster. I made enough copies so each family could have one to work on together, put out tape and scissors, and let them go at it.

It was neat to see how interested the families were in creating a working marble run, especially as the parents got involved. I showed a video of a 16-ft tall paper roller coaster, which inspired them to work as much as they could on their projects before taking them home to finish later.

18 April 2016

Storytime: Pajamas!

One of my regular outreach locations was having a pajama day for the kids, and they asked me to bring a pajama-themed storytime.

Opening Rhyme: Open them, Shut them

Book: Pigs in Pajamas by Maggie Smith

Rhyme: Five Little Monkeys

Book: The Napping House by Audrey Wood

Song: "If You're Happy and You Know It"

Book: Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz

Rhyme: Pajama Party
Welcome to our pajama party,
Come on, let's have some fun.
First we'll hop on slippered feet,
And then we'll run and run.
Now we'll stretch and stretch our arms,
And then we'll sigh and yawn.
Soon we'll all be fast asleep,
And we'll stay that way until dawn.

Book: Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Song: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"

Book: Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson

Goodbye Rhyme

15 April 2016

Storytime: Libraries

We just wrapped up library week, so this is what I did at my library-themed storytime:

Opening Rhyme: Open them, Shut them

Book: Library Lion by Michelle Knudson

Rhyme: My Book
This is my book; it will open wide
To show the pictures that are inside.
I read about a ball, so big and so round
That is tossed in the air and rolled on the ground.
I read about an umbrella to keep me dry
When raindrops fall from the cloudy sky.
I read about a kitty with a loud, loud purr.
I'd love to stroke her soft, warm fur.

Book: Bats at the Library by Brian Lies

Song: "If You're Happy and You Know It"

Book: Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter

Rhyme: Books to the Ceiling
Books to the ceiling, books to the sky!
My stack of books is ten miles high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

Book: Library Day by Ann Rockwell

Song: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"

Book: Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk

Goodbye Rhyme

Craft: At the end of Library Mouse, the kids in the library write their own stories on "mouse-sized" books. I made small books (1/4 a standard sheet of paper) for kids to use to write their own stories.

13 April 2016

Storytime: Bunnies

Opening Rhyme: Open them, Shut them

Book: Chloe by Peter McCarty

Rhyme: Bunny’s Bedtime
My bunnies now must go to bed
The little mother rabbit said.
But I will count them first to see
If they have all come back to me.
1 bunny, 2 bunnies, 3 bunnies dear
4 bunnies, 5 bunnies, yes all are here.
They are the prettiest things alive.
My bunnies 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Book: Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

Song: "If You’re Happy and You Know It"

Book: Mine! by Susie Jin

Rhyme: Bunny Bunny
Bunny, Bunny, turn around!
Bunny, Bunny, touch the ground!
Bunny, Bunny, wiggle your nose!
Bunny, Bunny, touch your toes!
Bunny, Bunny, rest your head!
Bunny, Bunny, jump in bed!

Book: Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

Song: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"

Book: Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes

Goodbye Rhyme
Craft: We made paper cup bunnies. 

11 April 2016

Storytime: Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Opening Rhyme: Open them, Shut them

Book: The Three Bears and Goldilocks by Margaret Willey

Rhyme: Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Book: Goatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It

Book: Goldilocks and the Three Martians by Stu Smith

Rhyme: Five Little Monkeys

Book: Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

Book: Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians by Jackie Mims Hopkins

Goodbye Rhyme

Craft: I found a mini book version of the Goldilocks story, which we assembled and colored so the kids could take the story home and read it. 

08 April 2016

Book Club: Mission Mars and Titanic

Once again my younger book club (5-8 year olds) had two book options: my 4:00 group read a book about the Titanic, and my 6:00 group read Mission: Mars. The sneaky secret here is that these were leftover summer reading prize books, so this program didn't cost the library anything other than my time, and that's also why each group had a different book. I only had ten of each book, and I wanted both groups to read something nonfiction, so we went with both options.

These books were similar in that they are both nonfiction, but the activities for them were fairly different. For each book I had a coloring activity and a science activity.

Titanic: I found coloring pages of the sinking Titanic but decided those were too creepy. Instead, I gave the kids a page with an open suitcase on it and they could add what they would have packed for an ocean voyage.

For our science activity, I reprised my Titanic science club project from the summer: using the materials provided, make a boat that will float in the water and can hold as many rubber rats as possible. Since I already had the buckets and rats, I only needed to set out paper, tape, aluminum foil, and other craft supplies for kids to make their boats.

Mars: For the Mars book, I found a coloring page of the Curiosity, so that was our coloring option. I also set out a large leftover box and allowed kids to decorate that as their rocket to Mars. Kids love playing with cardboard boxes, and I was fortunate to find a leftover box already at work so I didn't have to go searching for one.

Our science project for the Mars book involved creating a small paper rocket that can be launched using a standard straw. I printed the rocket directions on several varieties of colored paper and set that out along with pencils, scissors, tape, and straws.

Neither book required any outside materials beyond what we already keep at the library, and the parents were grateful that I used a nonfiction book since the focus in school is on students understanding nonfiction texts.

06 April 2016

Book Club: Savvy

My book club kids read Savvy, and then we met to do some activities. I found discussion questions online, but for the most part this group (9-12 year olds) do just fine discussing the book with only minimal guidance from me.

All of our activities were word related. I found a Savvy word search online and also set out Bananagrams and Upwords. All of these activities were enjoyed by the kids and their families. I've discovered that this older group generally gravitates toward one activity each meeting, usually whatever board game I've put out, while the younger book club kids enjoy having a variety of activities to choose from. The older kids use our activity time as social time, while the younger set tend to enjoy the activities themselves and occasionally find opportunity to socialize with their peers while completing the craft or playing the game.

04 April 2016

Librarian's Toolbox: Social Media for Professional Development

This is just one of the groups I have joined. 

Can involvement on social media count as professional development? Yes, it can!

Facebook and other social media sites are replete with groups - silly groups, civic groups, professional groups, random groups. I find the professional groups to be a great source of ideas, inspiration, answers to complicated questions, and other groupthink ideals. If I'm trying to locate a book for a patron based only on a vague memory, posting to a group allows me to ask the collected wisdom: probably someone has already read it and knows about it. I also benefit from reading other people's questions and the resulting answers. Sometimes people ask questions I don't think to ask, but the answers help me to better my service in my library.  I am often inspired by people's posts of interesting things they did at their library or new projects they are trying. This is where I have found ideas like our library's science club, kids' book clubs, our scavenger hunt program, etc. Many of the things I have tried are based on things other people have done, and that's wonderful.

Likewise, I take time to share ideas and wisdom when I have it. Perhaps I know the book with the skateboarding bear on the cover, or maybe I have ideas that I can share to help with the problem a fellow librarian is facing. None of the problems we face are really unique or probably even that new. Someone has faced something similar and will be willing to share ideas or wisdom or experience.

I am fortunate in that utilizing social media is part of my job responsibilities. If your library prefers that you not use social media at work, schedule an hour or so maybe once a week at home to look through various professional groups. Maybe join one and just lurk for a while, or plunge in and start asking and answering questions. Together we are better able to serve our communities than we do separately.

01 April 2016

Storytime: Spring

Opening Rhyme: Open them, Shut them

Book: Spring by Cynthia Amoroso

Rhyme: Five Little Flowers
Five little flowers standing in the sun
See their heads nodding, bowing one by one?
Down, down, down comes the gentle rain
And the five little flowers lift their heads up again!

Book: When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes

Song: "If You’re Happy and You Know It"

Book: And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano

Scarf Play: Give each child a scarf. Have them bunch it up in their cupped hands like their hands are an egg. Have the egg hatch and pull out the scarf, pretending it's a bird that can fly high, fly low, fly in circles, etc. Have kids raise their scarves by color.

Book: The Thing About Spring by Daniel Kirk

Song: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"

Book: Spring is Here by Will Hillenbrand

Goodbye Rhyme
Craft: Muffin paper flowers. Supplies: muffin papers, preferably colored ones, craft sticks, paper, buttons, white glue, scissors, markers.