"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

25 October 2016

My 1,000th Post

This is the 1,000th post to appear on this blog. Wow, it's been a long ride. I started this blog back when I was a fundamentalist teaching at a private religious academy on the island of Guam. I've come a very long way since then, and along the way I have deleted some of my older (and scarier) posts, mainly because they reflect views that I no longer agree with. So my 1,000th post probably came a few months ago, really, but this is the 1,000th post to stay on this blog.

In the last six years of blogging, I have had a few posts that became very, very popular. Here are the top ten posts from this blog:

  1. Far and away the most popular post is the one about consent at storytime.
  2. My post about the results from dividing the fiction section into genres.
  3. Why I let kids make noise in the library.
  4. The one where I get rant-y about observing holidays in the library.
  5. How I made display signage.
  6. A science club post about race cars.
  7. The original genre dividing post.
  8. A science club post about color.
  9. The post about hungry kids at programs.
  10. And last but not least, my library bingo post. 
Now that my blog has been around for more than ten years (although you can only access six years' worth of posts), I have a few tips for maintaining a blog online. This blog, after all, is one part hobby and one part professional development for me. 

Pick a Topic. Pick a specific topic for your blog. My blog is both book reviews and library programming, but both of these things related to youth services. In the course of this blog, I could have written about a number of things that I enjoy - Harry Potter, LEGO bricks, Pokemon, crocheting, etc. - but I decided to focus exclusively on youth services. That means when I have something important to say that doesn't relate to the library, I save it for a Twitter rant or a Facebook post or some other venue. Keeping to one topic will make it easier for your blog to find followers.

Build up Your Posts Pre-Launch. Before you launch your blog, have a few posts ready to go. You can still post just once a day or once a week or whatever schedule you pick, but have a few posts lined up before you go live. This will ensure that you have material ready for your new followers to read.

Keep It Current. It is a lot of work to maintain a blog. When I'm not posting programming ideas or book reviews, I have to think about what other things I'd like to have up, because my goal is to make sure there is always fresh material on my blog. I take occasional breaks - when I've moved cross-country, when I'm in the middle of summer reading, etc. - but I always announce those. If you gain followers and then all of a sudden stop posting because you've run out of ideas, then you will lose those followers. I currently post twice a week, and I always have at least three posts pre-scheduled so that I have time to come up with other things to post. 

Connect to the Community. Find other blogs that post material similar to yours. Comment on their posts. Post links to their blogs on your page. Share the love. This will bring followers to you and will also send followers to those other sources of information. It definitely gives me a boost for my day when I check my stats and realize my post has been shared somewhere else. 

Have Fun! Blogging should be enjoyable. If it becomes too much of a chore, perhaps consider if you need to tweak your topic or if you should take an announced sabbatical from your blog. Consider bringing in guest writers to post, or make a few posts a compilation of links to other locations or something fun and different. 

Is there something I should start writing about that I've neglected in my first thousand posts? Let me know in the comments!

20 October 2016

The Mighty Odds

Ignatow, Amy. The Mighty Odds. Harry N Abrams,  2016.

When a school field trip turns into a bus accident, four unlikely allies all inherit strange powers. They must band together to find out how they received these powers and what they should do now that they have them.

This book is the first in a series, so there is a considerable amount of character development and backstory happening before the actual plot begins. Once the story does pick up, the action keeps it flowing right until the end, which is a cliffhanger as there is another book coming after this one. I could easily place this book in the hands of Wimpy Kid fans, especially once the sequel is out, but some reluctant readers may find it difficult to get through the all of the background bits that happen at the beginning of the book.

Recommended for: middle grade, fans of book/cartoon combinations like Wimpy Kid
Red Flags: racial teasing of a Middle Eastern boy, some "mild violence" in the form of explosions and such due to a character's special powers
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Bully Bait, Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life

18 October 2016

TTT: Top Ten Character Names I'd Borrow

All the yarns are belong to me.

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

I regularly name things, not just animate things, like my cat, but also house plants, cars, stuffed animals in the library, etc. Without further ado, here are ten character names I would borrow or have borrowed to name both animate and inanimate objects:

  1. Crookshanks from Harry Potter. My cat is named Crookshanks, because she is orange. Fortunately, she doesn't have the squashed-face look or temperament of her namesake.
  2. Tacky from Tacky the Penguin. My baby storytime plushie is a penguin, and I have named him Tacky in honor of my favorite picture book character. 
  3. Clifford from Clifford the Big Red Dog. At my previous library we had a large, red, stuffed dinosaur whom the children dubbed Clifford the Big Red Dino. 
  4. I once had an umbrella named Mahershalalhashbaz, which is a name from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. The name means something like, "swift to the booty, speedy to the prey," which doesn't sound like an umbrella at all, but I was a weird college kid, so what can I say?
  5. When I was in college I suffered from chronic vertigo, requiring me to use a cane when I walked places on campus because the world was spinning so much I could barely stay upright. I gave my cane a biblical name, too: Abel. 
  6. I am considering naming my spider plant Longbottom, in honor of Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter. It certainly grows as though the Herbology professor is caring for it. 
  7. I named my dad's cat Yoda in honor of the Jedi master who has appeared in numerous books, not the least of which is The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda. Yoda the kitten had unusually large ears. Unfortunately, Yoda the adult cat looks nothing like a Yoda, so now he gets all kinds of nicknames.
  8. If I ever have another animal, which I don't want to think about because that involves my current animal being no longer with me, I want to give it a very long pompous-sounding name like Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, which is Nearly Headless Nick's full name. 
  9. I am considering naming our Christmas cactus Ebeneezer, because like its namesake it tends to ignore Christmas altogether and bloom at whatever time it feels convenient, like Fathers Day or Constitution Day.
  10. Finally, I have a few stuffed dinosaurs, many of whom I have named Steggy in honor of Steggy from What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night
What names do you like to co-opt from books? Do you have a list of names you'd like to use in the future? Let me know in the comments!

13 October 2016

Vassa in the Night

Porter, Sarah. Vassa in the Night. TOR, 2016.

Vassa lives in Brooklyn where the nights are becoming longer and longer. When one of her stepsisters sends her out for light bulbs, she becomes trapped at BYs, a strange dancing convenience store surrounded by severed heads on pikes. She has to work for three nights to free herself, but will she survive?

This is a classic magical realism YA novel. It helps to be familiar with the Russian fairy tale Vassilissa the Beautiful before reading this book, although it's not entirely necessary. I would recommend this book to strong teen readers because it is indeed very bizarre and can be rather gory at times.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: lots of gore b/c Baba Yaga kills thieves, so there's blood and axe-chopping, etc.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alike Suggestions: As I Descended, Bone Gap, Egg & Spoon

06 October 2016

Three Dark Crowns

Blake, Kendare. Three Dark Crowns. HarperTeen, 2016.

On the island of Fennbirn, triplet queens are born every generation. They are raised separately until their sixteenth birthday, when they are crowned and given one year to kill their sisters and become the one reigning queen. Each of the queens has a special ability - to withstand poison, to tame the elements, to communicate with animals, etc. As their sixteenth birthday approaches, the three queens-to-be consider the best ways to survive and reign supreme.

This is an excellently told fantasy story, full of sub-plots, backstabbing, world building, and wonderfully round characters. The narration is excellent, the action keeps the story well-paced, and the ending makes it clear where the second book may lead. As an added bonus, this is a world where the women lead and men follow. I would easily recommend this book to teen fantasy fans.

Recommended for: teens, fans of fantasy stories
Red Flags: lots of violence - the queens are trying to kill each other, so there is poisoning, mauling by animals, etc. None of it is very graphic.
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Fairest, A Thousand Nights, Alanna: The First Adventure

04 October 2016

Storytime: Pirates!

I haven't posted a storytime lineup in a while, mostly because I am at a new library, which means I've been systematically recycling my old storytimes and programs from my previous library. However, last month I was able to do a pirate-themed storytime during the week of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Opening Rhyme: Open them, Shut them

Book: How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long

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

Book: The Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

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

Book: Are You the Pirate Captain? by Gareth P. Jones

My previous storytimes had this pattern: rhyme, book, song, book, rhyme, book, song, book, rhyme, book, rhyme, craft. That's five books total. My current crowd is considerably younger than my previous crowd, and they are used to much shorter storytimes, so I follow the same pattern I have for the pirate storytime above and just switch out the books. We repeat songs because repetition is comforting to kids and easy for me.

For our craft we made paper plate pirates. I supplied the half-circles for the pirates bandana and the black eye patches. The kids colored in the faces and added spots to the bandanas.