"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

12 December 2017

Top Ten Books of 2017

2017 is the third year that I have not completed a GoodReads reading challenge, and although I miss the addition of shiny digital badges to my page, I stand by what I said about that before: reading challenges cause me to stress-read just to add books to my "read" shelf on GoodReads instead of reading books because I enjoy them. Before we get to my top ten list for this year, I want to share my reading stats (which may have changed slightly since it is November when I am typing this):

This year I read significantly fewer books than other years. Even if I speed through a bunch of books before the end of the year (something I have no intention of doing), I will not make it to 500 books. Or 400. Or even 365, which equates to approximately one book a day.

I can think of a couple of reasons why my list is shorter this year. I probably didn't log all the books I read in preparation for every storytime. For some storytimes, I reused an old theme, so I already had books picked out. The other books I read were significantly longer than books in previous years. Mostly, though, I was just plain too busy with other things.

That being said, here are my top ten books of 2017, in no particular order:

  1. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (also the follow-up titles Down Among the Sticks and Bones and Beneath the Sugar Sky). These are excellent fantasy books, perfect for teens or adults. The writing is lovely and lyrical, and I only wish there were more books in this series.
  2. Ship It by Britta Lundin. This is a great teen novel full of fandoms and fanfic and embarrassing parents and all sorts of good things. This isn't out until May 2018, but if you're a librarian you should be able to request an ARC on NetGalley. 
  3. Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna the Very First Chicken by Douglas Rees. I read this book to several classes during my outreach storytimes, and the kids and teachers alike were in stitches. It is hilariously funny and perfect for large-group or one-on-one reading.
  4. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. This is a great read-alike for fans of the Harry Potter franchise.
  5. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. This is the first book I've ever read with a genderqueer character who requests that their pronouns be changed based on the way they present that day. Moreover, this character is respected by those around them. Plus there is the whole Hunger Games-esque fight to the death thing as well. 
  6. Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill. A graphic novel featuring a pair of lesbian princess who have no time for princes. LOVE IT.
  7. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison. I don't read as much adult fiction as I probably should, but I loved N.K. Jemison's series. This first book is the best place to start. It took me a while to get used to the story and the world-building, etc., but it was well worth it.
  8. Scythe by Neal Shusterman. Imagine there is no death by natural causes anymore. In order to control the population, people are tasked with being scythes and winnowing down the numbers. Two teens are apprenticed to the local scythe. 
  9. Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. A sweet middle grade story, again with lesbian characters. To my knowledge, this is the first middle grade / tween book with lesbian main characters (as opposed to a kid with two moms). 
  10. Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Blake. If Star-Crossed is the first lesbian tween book, this is the second. And it's precious. It won't be out until March 2018, so look for it then.

05 December 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish Settings I'd Love to Visit

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. 
  1. Hogwarts (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling)
  2. Brakebills (from The Magicians by Lev Grossman)
  3. The Shire (from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)
  4. Diagon Alley (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling)
  5. Battle School (from Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card)
  6. The planet where Swans & Klons by Nora Olsen takes place. 
  7. Hogsmeade (from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling)
  8. The island the Amazons live on in Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo.
  9. The land of David Wiesner's Tuesday where the frogs fly around town. 
  10. The Burrow (from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling) - actually, I'd be happy living there if Molly Weasley would adopt me.

14 November 2017

Dinovember Day 14

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to a Child

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. 

I don't have children, which surprises some people who meet me and say things like, "But you're so good with them!" I am, but that's because they are not mine and other people's children are super easy to chat with and spoil and suchlike. So these are not ten books I'll be passing on to any of my own offspring, but rather books I'd give to a friend's child or to a niece/nephew, which I don't have, either.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling because everyone should believe in magic and courage and love.
  2. The Giver by Lois Lowry because sometimes the majority are wrong and it's important to stand up for what you believe.
  3. Red: A Crayon's Story because labels are for crayons and attic boxes and not for people.
  4. Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester because oddballs make the best friends.
  5. Love Monster by Rachel Bright because everyone, at some point, feels as though they do not fit in.
  6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar because produce is good for you and junk food can give you a tummy ache.
  7. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat because wonder, magic, and imagination can carry you through the worst day.
  8. A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O'Leary because there are lots of different types of people in this world and we need to be able to get along with all of them.
  9. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak because a hot dinner, forgiveness, and open arms will always, always be there for you.
  10. Miles is the Boss of His Body by Abbie Schiller because consent is beyond important.
If you could purchase / give ten books to a child, hypothetical or otherwise, which books would you give them? 

01 November 2017

Dinovember Day 1

Every year at my library the dinosaurs come alive for the month of November and get up to all sorts of silly antics. It takes a fair amount of preparation on my part to have things ready, but the positive response we get is definitely worth it.

31 October 2017

The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Morrigan is a cursed child, so everything bad that happens is blamed on her. That doesn't matter, though, because she will die on her twelfth birthday and everyone will be rid of her, including the family that only grudgingly acknowledges her existence. However, on Morrigan's 11th birthday, two unexpected things happen: death comes for her and she is rescued by a strange man from Nevermoor and invited to join the trials for entrance to the Wundrous Society. Morrigan revels in this new world where she isn't thought of as cursed and where strange, magical things occur every day, but what will happen if she doesn't pass the trials?

This is an excellent fantasy story a la Harry Potter, and one that I will easily and readily recommend to the middle grade readers in my library. My only quibble is that it is just the first book in the series and the rest haven't been written yet, so I can't read the second one at the moment.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: mild fantasy violence
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Iron Trial

24 October 2017

Last Day on Mars

Liam and Phoebe are Martian children; that is, they are humans who have been raised in the Mars colony. Earth is no more, and the sun will soon go supernova, so the Martian colony is being emptied of its inhabitants as they head for a distant star and the hopes of another planet. The children of scientists, Liam and Phoebe are among the last to leave the planet. But then they discover a deeper plot behind the destruction of their home world.

I enjoyed the idea of a Martian colony, of the kids sneaking around and getting in trouble like kids do, and of the various catastrophes that befell the duo as they attempted to save their parents and get to the colony ship before it left orbit. The big, hidden, twist in the plot that made things complicated at the end, however, seemed a bit much for a kids' book. In an adult novel, there would have been more room to address this twist; in this kids' book, it seemed like a bit of a stretch.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: "fantasy violence" - people nearly dying, etc.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Silver Six

19 October 2017

Storytime: Worms

My science storytimes have been much more successful than the separate science club program I attempted to do. Here's what we did for worm storytime.

Opening Rhyme: Open them, shut them

Rhyme: Two Little Blackbirds

Book: Worm Weather by Jean Taft

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

Book: Bob and Otto by Robert Bruel

Felt Board: Dinosaur, Dinosaur

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

Book: Ned's New Home by Kevin Tseng

Closing Rhyme

Instead of a craft, we made worm habitats. Googling "DIY worm habitat" will yield plenty of ideas, but I gave each family an empty 2-liter bottle which had had its top cut off, a 20 oz water bottle to sit in its center, and a bunch of sand and soil to spread in layers in their bottles. Once the sand and soil are in the layers, the kids were able to choose their worms.

Next, while the worms were settling in, we made "curtains" for the outside of the habitat. Worms don't like sunlight, so they need a barrier around the bottle. I cut black construction paper so it would fit around the bottle and let the kids decorate it with chalk, then we taped it into a "sleeve" that would slide on and off the bottle with ease.

I sent home directions for caring for the worms along with suggestions for ways to "free" the worms when the families were done with them. This program was a huge mess and took much longer to clean up than a standard storytime, but it was definitely worth it. I do science-related storytimes once a quarter, and this one definitely got the best response so far. I have had parents and kids coming up to me and giving me updates on their worms throughout the week.

17 October 2017


Jazz lives in Artemis, the only city on the moon. She's a courier and a smuggler, and ends up involved in a complicated plot to take over the city's oxygen business.

If you are looking for another Martian story, this isn't it. If you're looking for a story similar to The Martian, this isn't it. What this is is a mystery-thriller type story that happens to take place on the moon, so there are complications one wouldn't expect on Earth. Weir's "voice" is very clear in this book and I enjoyed it, but it is not, I repeat, another Martian story.

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

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

12 October 2017

Storytime: Crayons

I did a storytime about crayons for my "back to school" storytime this year. Our craft involved making "crayons" out of colored craft sticks and pipe cleaners, so these crayons could be used by the children to reenact the stories about anthropomorphic crayons that we read.

Opening Rhyme: Open Them, Shut Them

Rhyme: Two Little Blackbirds

Book: Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin

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

Book: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Felt Board: Dinosaur, Dinosaur

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

Book: Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall

Closing Rhyme

10 October 2017

The Eternity Elixer

Gordy comes from a family of potion masters, and he is in training to brew potions himself. His parents are impressed at his abilities to make excellent potions. While his mother is away on potion-brewing business, Gordy receives a package addressed to his mom and opens it. Soon after, mysterious people come to his house and attempt to steal the package. Thus begins a race between Gordy and his family and the villians who want what Gordy has received - the eternity elixir.

This book is an action-packed fantasy adventure perfect for fans of J.K. Rowling and Holly Black. The story reads similarly to the final chapters of the first Harry Potter novel: there isn't much world-building, but plenty of action and problem-solving. Fans of fantasy will enjoy the potion-making world and will be eager to read the next one. Recommended.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: fantasy violence - people experience results of various potions (explosions, growing an extra limb, etc.)
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Iron Trial, The Glass Sentence

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

05 October 2017

1000 Books Before Kindergarten: A Relaunch

My library was already using 1KBB4K when I started here, but I quickly realized that this was a very underutilized program. It is listed on my monthly statistics, but I can count on one hand the number of times in the past year that someone has asked about it or turned in a reading log, etc. etc. If we're going to do a program, I want us to actually have some involvement, so I decided it was time to relaunch 1KBB4K at my library.

I planned my relaunch for late September, after the school-aged kids were settled in at school and storytime had returned to its non-summer routine. I planned to do this relaunch twice: once during our regularly scheduled morning storytime and once as a special evening event for families who cannot attend our daytime programs.

As part of this relaunch I decided that our materials needed to be gone through as well. Previously our library had used colorful reading logs where each color corresponded to a particular level in the program. We also had a small bin of prizes - mostly temporary tattoos - and no signage or displays relating to this program.

I created a racetrack display in our meeting room. If a racetrack doesn't suit your fancy, there are dozens of different 1KBB4K display pictures available on the internet. The important thing was to have something up on the wall that the kids could see. For me, this has a double benefit: the display is up so kids can keep track of their progress, and this display happens to be in the same room where we have storytime every week, so kids and caregivers will see this display and be reminded about the program.

I admit I was disappointed to discover that we only had temporary tattoos as prizes to give to 0-5 year olds. Many of the kids participating in this program are too young to want or enjoy a temporary tattoo. I understand that the idea is to give them a fun prize they will enjoy, but that won't break the library's budget, but I was able to replace those tattoos with some prizes from the party aisle of my local big box store. I found a variety of things - small sports balls, bracelets, little containers of Play-Dough, etc. I made sure to include items that are good for very young children and are not choking hazards. A box of colorful toys is much more fun to dig through than a box of temporary tattoos.

This is not from my library, but these are what our log sheets looked like.
Our old reading logs required parents to write out the title of every individual book they read with their children. This means in addition to reading 1,000 books, they had to write 1,000 titles, and all of this on top of what is probably already a very busy schedule. Since I don't actually need to know what books a child has read, I made a new form that consists of 100 flags, and the kids and their caregivers can color in or cross out a flag every time they read a book. Not only does this eliminate the title-writing requirement, but it also allows the child to participate in marking their books on the sheet, which will help build enthusiasm for the program. Our new reading logs also leave a space to write in what number the patrons are working on (0-100, 101-200, etc.), so we can use the exact same log paper for every patron and there is no need for storing multiple copies of multiple sheets. When I can make things easier for the patrons and easier for my staff, everyone wins.

I ran the kickoff program itself much like I would a standard storytime. I read books, sang songs, and recited rhymes with the kids, and in between activities I told the parents about various benefits of reading 1,000 books with their child. At the end of the storytime, I had a craft set out for the kids and a table where parents could sign up for the program. Patrons who signed up received a bag with some small goodies (pencil, bookmark, etc.) as well as information about the program and a list of suggested books to read. Each child attendee was given a raffle ticket as I was able to give away some of the Kohl's Cares plushies and book sets (which our library received as a donation).

Time will tell if this does indeed respark the interest in this particular program.

Does your library use 1,000 Books before Kindergarten? Do you do a different, similar program? Let us know in the comments!

03 October 2017

Ban This Book

Amy Anne is a true bibliophile; she has even told her parents that she's part of various after school clubs so that she can stay longer at the school library and read. One day she discovers that her favorite book has been removed from the shelf because a parent thinks it is not appropriate for an elementary school. Before she knows it, dozens more books are being removed, and the librarian is powerless to stop it. Amy Anne gets her hands on as many of these books as possible and starts a library in her locker, but like most secrets, this one doesn't stay hidden for long.

As a librarian, I obviously have a vested interest in the freedom of information. I love that I have books on my shelves for all kinds of people. I enjoyed Amy Anne's story like I enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library - the literary references were fantastic. The story itself is a fairly standard "middle grade girl develops backbone, talks about her problems, and gets them solved" story a la the afterschool specials I used to watch. And it's just as preachy as an afterschool special, which caused me to roll my eyes a few times. But it's a cute story nonetheless, and I think it would appeal to those kids who have read every single book on the shelf twice and are eagerly awaiting something new.

Recommended for: middle grade
Red Flags: lots of challenged books are mentioned, along with the reasons for their challenges
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library; The Day They Burned the Books; Book Scavenger

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

28 September 2017


Redgate, Riley. Noteworthy. Amulet Books, 2017.

Jordan is a junior at an elite performing arts boarding school, and as someone focusing on theater, she has yet to land a role in any of the school productions. She knows college apps are on the horizon, and she's desperate to make herself stand out from her peers. Thus she poses as a guy and auditions for an a capella group on campus. Jordan then has to lead a double life - she's Jordan in class and while Skyping her parents, but she's Julian when she rehearses with the group. This group seems to be Jordan's only way of guaranteeing that she can stay at this school, if she can keep her secret long enough.

What I liked: Jordan's exploration of gender was fantastic. When she is inevitably outed, one of the boys in the group responds with, "Oh, so you're trans?" which I think is also fantastic. Also, yay for lots of diversity! This is a classic boarding school-style story, with pranks and sneaking out at night, etc. etc.

What I didn't like: Two picky details, one small, and one large. Small: Jordan is initially outed because she's on a retreat with the guys and someone bumps into her as she exits the bathroom post-shower. Why oh why did she not just BRING HER CLOTHES INTO THE BATHROOM so she could dress immediately after showering? This just seemed unnecessarily complicated to me. I would never consider walking around some rando's house in a towel - of course my clothes come into the bathroom with me.

Now for the large detail: Jordan is from San Francisco, but the author may possibly have not been to San Francisco ever or just chose this location because Jordan is Asian. Jordan mentions having an air conditioner; in fact, part of her family's money struggles comes from having to repair/replace said air conditioner. However, no apartment in San Francisco comes equipped with an air conditioner, nor would anyone waste money on an object that would be used maybe three times per year.

Also, Jordan's dad supposedly works at a gas station, but there are only 17 gas stations in the entire city of San Francisco (don't believe me? Google map it.). His gas station salary, combined with Jordan's mom's part-time work, supposedly pays for their rent and Jordan's school fees, in addition to food, health care, electricity, etc. etc. The average rent in SF for a one bedroom apartment (assuming Jordan has to sleep in the living room) is $3500 a month as of 2015, so we can assume closer to $4K now. There is simply no way that Jordan's parents can afford to live in San Francisco in anything bigger than a shared studio apartment. Supposedly her family is really poor and that's why she's on a scholarship and when their rent goes up she's going to have to leave school. Unless her family is actually living in the East Bay, like in Oakland or San Leandro, there's simply no way they could afford to live there. I know this because my spouse and I attempted to live in the suburbs of SF for three years, and even two salaried masters degreed full time employed humans couldn't afford an apartment there.

Bottom line: Yay for gender discussions and an overall good story. Boo for the San Francisco details being WAY off and Jordan's weird Imma-walk-naked-thru-a-house-full-of-dudes shower routine. I'd still hand this book to any teen in my library.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: some minor violence - fighting and such; underage drinking and drug use
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Honestly Ben, Winger, A Separate Peace

26 September 2017

Storytime: Forts

My final "building" themed storytime for the summer had to do with forts. We read books about forts, then I brought out two giant cardboard boxes that I had available for kids to color on or play in or read in as their own forts.

Opening Rhyme: Open Them, Shut Them
Rhyme: Two Little Blackbirds
Book: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Song: "If You're Happy and You Know It"
Book: Harry's Box by Angela McAllister
Rhyme: Dinosaur, Dinosaur, Are You Behind the [Color] Door?
Song: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"
Book: The Tree House by Marije Tolman
Closing Rhyme

21 September 2017

Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Ormsbee, Kathryn. Tash Hearts Tolstoy. Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Tash is a vlogger, and when her web series Unhappy Families goes viral, it's all she can do to keep up with the pressure. She wants to keep her cast happy as well as her fans. When the vlog is nominated for a Golden Tuba, Tash nearly buckles under the stress. She is also concerned about meeting a crush IRL at the Golden Tuba awards. How will she explain to him that she likes him, but that she's a romantic asexual?

There were lots of things to like about this book. The YouTube/vlog connection will obviously appeal to my teen patrons. The diverse cast - including an asexual character - is wonderful. Tash is not a completely likable character, but she gets called on it near the end of the book, and that's good. There is no magical Disney-esque ending. I will definitely be book-talking this title with my teen patrons.

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

Read-Alikes: Afterworlds, Fangirl, Gena & Finn