Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sail Away

I was hanging with my friend Patrick Sweeney a few weeks ago at the CLA/CSLA conference and since he owns a boat our conversation naturally turned to boats and sailing. When I got back to work I felt inspired to plan a Sail Away storytime. I selected four titles that worked, but before I could grab them from the shelves one of the books went missing. I sent out a plea on twitter and resident blogger Lalitha came through with a plethora of titles. Since I do "preschool" storytimes two times a week, and I now had more than enough titles I thought, "why not pick different books for the different storytimes?" I'm doing the storytimes next week and everyone is going to get a rubber ducky to take home! Here is my plan:

@ Central (ages 2, 3, 4)
PARENT PATTER: Children learn language and other pre-reading skills by listening to their parents and others talk around them. When we talk about (and participate in storytimes about) the world around them, your child is building their vocabulary by learning the names of things. This larger vocabulary also helps your child understand what they see, hear, and read.
OPENING SONG: "Hello Song" (Dragon Tales)

BOOK: I Love Boats by Flora McDonnell
SONG: Row Row Row Your Boat
PARENT PATTER: Since we live in a beach city, chances are good that you and your child will see a boat or ship sometime as you are out. Respond when your child points one out next time, and extend the conversation. Something like: “yes that is a ship. It’s called an Amphibious Assault Ship" (clearly my parents are retired military)
FLANNEL SONG: My Big Blue Boat (found at Mel's Desk)
BOOK:  Sheep on a Ship by Nancy Shaw
FLANNEL SONG: Five Little Fishes

ACTION RHYME: This is Big Big Big (also from Mel's Desk)
SONG: "Clap Your Hands" (They Might be Giants)
BOOK: Tugga Tugga Tugboat by Kevin Lewis

ACTION SONG: “Peanut Butter and Jelly” 
PROP SONG: "Water Wind and World" (Johnette Downing using SCARVES)

ENDING RHYME: Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

PARENT PATTER: Keep the conversation going about boats! In the sink, bathtub, or pool, try floating different objects and talk to your child about which ones make the best boats and why. Everyone gets a rubber ducky to take home, so try floating during your next bath time adventure.

SONG: "Reach for the Ceiling" (Carol Totsky Hammett)

Here are the books for storytime @ St. Vinny's Shelter Preschool (ages 3, 4, 5) :
Boats: Speeding! Sailing! Cruising!  by Patricia Hubbell
Sail Away by Donald Crews
The Little Boat by Thomas Docherty

Friday, November 25, 2011

Brownie & Pearl

Can I just say how much I love the Brownie and Pearl series written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brian Biggs? Seriously. Brownie and Pearl Step Out was perfect for my birthday storytimes last month and the response from the kids, parents, and teachers was enough to catapult the book to my favorites list immediately.
The simple storyline made it perfect for toddler storytime at the library and it also worked for my preschool storytime at the homeless shelter. For my storytimes at the shelter, selecting books can be kind of tricky because many of the kids I work with are developmentally behind. Funny joke books go over the their heads, longer more involved stories are confusing and require too much sitting still, and the books that feature or focus on traditional living situations and routines are a hard sell. Due to the stressful experience the kids are currently facing the preschool at the shelter is focused on emotional and social development (which makes complete sense if you think about it) so I in turn focus on building and mastering early literacy skills at a lower level than I would with a traditional preschool storytime crowd.  The Brownie and Pearl series is not "too baby" for them, but the limited text allows for interaction with the book that is meaningful. I also appreciate that there are no adults in the books--I know that might sound strange but for some of the kids I work with at the shelter adults aren't always the loving, supportive, wonderful people featured in many picture books.

Currently, I have  this one on my desk and I can't wait to start planning a "Goodnight" storytime around it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

FREE Technology Summit

Library Journal presents their first virtual technology summit, Power to the Patrons: From Systems to Services on December 8, 2012. With e-readers an official reality it's time to take a look at what technologies patrons are using, what technologies they want from their library, and how they can enhance a patron's connection to the library.

Many of my Mover & Shaker colleagues will be presenting, and now you can participate for FREE using the registration code: TechSmt11MS

December 8, 2012

10 AM - 6 PM

with full archival access for 30 days if you have to leave early.

This effects all librarians whether you work with babies or seniors, so don't miss out on this free opportunity.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Teen eunuchs, lesbian Cinderellas, and more: Diversity in YA Tour - San Diego

(Back row, L to R: Joanna, Karen Healey, Malinda Lo, Greg van Eekhout. Front row, L to R: Danielle Clayton - SDCL, Cinda Williams Chima, Jennifer Lawson - SDCL, Holly Black, Cindy Pon, me)

In late spring of this year, the Diversity in YA tour (the brainchild of young adult authors, Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo) kicked off in New York, and wended its way west. The last event was held October 27 in the San Diego area, boasting an impressive line-up of authors: Cinda Williams Chima, Cindy Pon, Greg van Eekhout, Holly Black, Malinda Lo, and Karen Healey (who flew in all the way from Australia!!). We simply couldn't miss it! , Each tour had different authors speaking about diversity in various genres/areas of YA literature; the SD event focused on diversity in fantasy and sci-fi. Danielle Clayton, teen librarian for San Diego County Library, Poway Branch moderated the panel.

Incorporating diversity in YA literature

When she envisioned doing the Diversity in YA tour, Cindy Pon noted that it was really key to include people who were writing about cultures other than their own. Pon also said that while it was important to write from the heart, and from personal experience, there was an even greater responsibility to know the culture and accurately represent it.

In writing Ash, Malinda Lo initially didn't think a lesbian re-telling of Cinderella would sell. So she tried having the main character fall in love with a Prince Charming type, but then a friend told Lo that the chemistry between the two main female characters seemed far more intriguing. While her companion novel to Ash, Huntress has its basis in Chinese history and cultural traditions, characters in the book definitely aren't exoticized; thanks to her academic background in East Asian Studies, readers can revel in Lo's authentic descriptions referencing Taoism, Chinese medicine, and Japanese archery.

Holly Black's diverse cast of characters reflect a world that "makes the books feel true." I completely related to an anecdote about her husband (who has Filipino heritage) watching television shows simply because they contained Asian characters--I've been doing that all my life. When I was growing up, there were no Aziz Ansaris, Mindy Kalings, or Kal Penns on TV-their inclusion in the mainstream has definitely heralded a new era in media. Still, TV and movies have a ways to go beyond exoticizing and/or Othering ethnic minorities, but authors are taking special care with depicting diversity in a manner that is compassionate, realistic, and full of depth.

The fantasy/sci-fi genre expands the world of possibility, noted Greg van Eekhout. In the fantasy/sci-fi genre, social hegemonies that exist in the real world can be upended--simply put, those rules just don't apply here. Black made an interesting point about magic being construed as a metaphor for ethnicity--in crafting magical worlds, writers need to consider what kind(s) of powers they're giving their characters. Magical abilities can be interpreted as cultural and/or ethnic markers.

So, what authors do you like?

Awesome ensued when everyone started sharing some of their favorite books/authors featuring diverse casts and storylines. Here's some of them:

Greg van Eekhout: Annals of the Western Shore (series by Ursula K. Le Guin)

Karen Healey: This is Shyness by Leanne Hall, Kaitangata Twitch by Margaret Mahy, Mercy (Mercy, Book 1) by Rebecca Lim, How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Holly Black: Trip into Somewhere and Unleashed by Kristopher Reisz, Scored by Lauren
McLaughlin, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Cinda Chima: Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Ellen Kushner, Cassandra Clare, Kristin Cashore, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Cindy Pon: Francisco X. Stork, Dia Reeves, Sarah Rees Brennan

Malinda Lo: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

What are some of the challenges in writing diverse YA sci-fi/fantasy literature?

Writing diverse sci-fi/fantasy YA literature is challenging because writers try very hard to stay true to the cultures they're portraying. However, writers run the risk of boring readers with overly extensive descriptions. It's a challenge to make worlds different, but not too much so as to alienate the reader, observed Lo.

High fantasy writing is liberating because, of course, the writer is unlikely to hear any criticism from the "stakeholders," mused Chima. Since it's so risky to write outside of one's own cultural experience, van Eekhout stressed that writers should seek out different perspectives. To avoid "screwing it up," Healey conducted lots of research and consulted with Maori experts while writing Guardian of the Dead.

At some point, writers need to let go of their fears of writing diverse YA material, because "you'll get it right in someone's eyes," noted Pon.

Bonus question: If you could have any magical ability, it would be...

Greg van Eekhout: Telekinesis (ultimate superpower)

Karen Healey: Microtelekinesis (moving molecules, atoms...causing damage that can't be detected with the naked eye)

Cinda Chima: Persuasion - the power to draw anyone to your side. (Aside: Sounds an awful lot like vampire compulsion to me...I know, I watch a lot of Vampire Diaries)

Holly Black: Stop aging, but not necessarily conquer death. (Immortality with an escape clause)

Cindy Pon: Mind-reading/possession (Ai Ling's abilities in the Kingdom of Xia books)

Malinda Lo: Charisma

Several young audience members had compelling questions, but my favorite Q&A question (pretty much of all time) was this one from a 13-year old boy addressed to Cindy: "Um, what's a eunuch?" There were some uncomfortable laughs and people shifting in their seats, but I'm happy to say that Cindy answered the question honestly and completely--we all got an education. I later heard that the boy ended up purchasing one of her books. All in all, the San Diego panel was an amazing finale to a fabulous tour that brought together writers and readers, and created much needed dialogue about the importance of diversity in YA literature.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Heart and Soul

I LOVE Kadir Nelson, check out my facial expression here:
Children's Book Festival, San Diego, 2009

And his lastest book is another artistic masterpiece. I want this book to win the Caldecott Award this year. Seriously. His work is always beautiful; the paintings and illustrations can only be described as breathtaking. This book, written in the same style as We are the Ship wonderfully gives a history lesson through a visual narrative. I got a little confused during Chapter 6; I couldn't figure out if "Pap" and "Grandaddy" were the same person because in Chapter 5 Pap was a sharecropper and in Chapter 6 he is a Buffalo Soldier. Despite that issue, I think this is a must-read for every student--the history of black America is wonderfully personified through one family's experiences. It should definitely be out on display all of February in public libraries at a minimum. For a better review, sans gushing, check out Mr. Schu Reads

Friday, November 4, 2011

Counting down to Hugo the movie

Brian Selznick is one of my favorite authors.His stories transport readers to another place with both words and images in such a unique way that for me he is in a class by himself. I have met him two times at ALA Annual conferences and he was gracious, funny, and took time to chat with each person whose book he was signing despite the gianormous line.

me, Selznick, my sis

Check out the fantastic shoes he was wearing this year while signing Wonderstruck
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of the books on my go-to "gift list"and I added Wonderstruck this summer. I picked it up as soon as I got home from New Orleans this year and stayed up all night reading it. I loved that one story was told through text and the other via graphic illustrations; it made for a very different kind of read. The book flowed so nicely, in spite of the different mediums, and I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how the two characters would meet.  I also liked that two of the characters were deaf, I'm such an advocate of diversity in literature. This was the the second book I read this year with deaf protaganists that was fantastic (check out Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony Green).
While I wait patiently for "Hugo" to hit the big screen (19 more days--right??), I will just have to watch the trailer in repeat. It will definitely be the movie I go see on Thanksgiving this year.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Author Not to Miss: Alexander Gordon Smith Part 1

It's hard sometimes to get in the mood for Halloween here in So-Cal with our lack of a true fall season, but not for teens in Escondido! To celebrate this horrific holiday we Skyped live with Alexander Gordon Smith, author of the Escape from Furnace series.

As Darren Shan wrote, "Furnace is hotter than hell and twice as much fun! Sign me up for a life sentence of Alexander Gordon Smith."

This nightmarish edge-of-your-seat thriller is perfect for this time of year and will have your reluctant readers clamoring for the rest of the books that have yet to be published in the U.S. Whether you're a veteran Skyper or have never chatted live online with an author, I highly recommend that you bring Gordon to your library. The reason he goes by Gordon and not Alex is a funny story that I'll let him tell you!

View pictures from the event, stay tuned for a video, and read the next post with the full'll be glad you did.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Author not to miss: Alexander Gordon Smith, Part 2

Here is the transcript from the interview, video links coming to the blog soon!

AGS: Thanks for interviewing me, Joanna, it’s awesome to be here!!
JA: Your Escape from Furnace series is one of the scariest, most heart pounding, adrenaline pumping series I’ve ever read. How did you come up with such dark, horrific ideas
AGS: Wow, thanks for the compliments!! J To be honest, I’m not sure where all the ideas came from, I think I must just have quite a dark, horrific mind… I set out to try and write the scariest, most exciting book I could, because I love horror stories, and l love action stories, and I especially love horror action stories. With Furnace I essentially decided to use my worst fears as inspiration – I figured that if you write about what scares you then readers will sense that fear is genuine and be carried away by it. It will feel real because it is real. Luckily I’m scared of most things!
JA: How much influence did the Holocaust have on this writing?  I know that the works of Darren Shan were a huge influence on you but what were your other influences?
AGS: I try to be influenced by everything. That’s part of a writer’s job, to keep your eyes open for interesting ideas and characters and history. The Second World War did provide a great deal of inspiration, because it was a time of unparalleled horror and violence and inhumanity, but because of that it was also a time of incredible heroism and hope and humanity too. That’s what I think horror fiction does so well – when things are at their worst, you see people at their best. Darren was a huge influence too, because I love his books. But every single book I read is an inspiration, either for what I want my books to be, or what I want to avoid! Reading is far and away the best way to improve your writing.
JA: Have you ever been in prison? What, if any, research did you do on prison life?
AGS:Luckily, I have never been in prison, but there was a time in my life where it was a close call! When I was about fifteen or sixteen I went through a bit of a bad patch. I started skipping school and hanging out in a notorious biker bar getting drunk and getting into fights. I even started stealing from my parents, my friends, and from my school. It was awful, and I hated the person I was becoming, but I just couldn’t seem to find a way out of it. One night I got into a pretty bad brawl – lost a tooth and nearly ended up in a full-blown knife fight – and after that I made the decision to stop being such an idiot. My family were great, and helped me find my way again, and I started doing well at school and writing books. I’m so lucky to have the friends and family I do, and that nothing seriously bad happened.
That stage in my life was actually the inspiration for the Escape From Furnace books. When I was looking for a scary story to write I couldn’t think of any ideas, but I had this person in my head, this version of me when I was sixteen. I’d gone on to live my life, but this ‘me’ hadn’t, he’d never had the chance to tell his story. So I gave him that chance, and wrote the story of what would have happened if I had carried on down that path and something terrible had happened. That’s why the character is called Alex.
Incidentally, I did manage to get locked inside a cell when I was researching the books. My little brother Jamie and I had tried to get inside the main prison in Norwich, where I’m from, but they wouldn’t let us in. So we decided to visit a medieval dungeon instead. Norwich is a really old city, and beneath the streets are loads of creepy places, including dungeons. We went to visit some, buried deep underground. They are tiny cells with black stone walls and huge oak doors covered in graffiti from centuries ago. I popped into one to see what it was like, and Jamie locked me in! He kept me in there for fifteen minutes, and when he finally let me out I knew exactly what kind of place I wanted Furnace to be.
JA:Is the main character, Alex, named after you?  How did you come up with the names of the characters?
AGS:Like I say, Alex was named after me. In the original draft he was called Alexander Gordon Smith. But Faber, my UK publisher, asked me to change his surname in case it confused people when I brought out a new series of books. I wish I’d kept it! The other names just kind of popped into my head. I spend a great deal of time thinking about characters before I start writing (instead of plotting), and as soon as I get to know them they have a name. Donovan was always Donovan, and Zee was always Zee. They couldn’t have had any other names!
JA:Are there differences in writing for a British market versus an American market?
AGS:Not really. There are a few tiny things, like we say ‘Mum’ instead of ‘Mom’, and ‘pavement’ instead of ‘sidewalk’. There are also a couple of cultural things, like guns. You never, ever see guns in Britain unless you go to the US Embassy or an airport or somewhere like that. In the first part of Furnace when Toby is killed he says something like ‘They’ve got guns, they’re not police!’ Because our police don’t carry guns! But obviously in America that wouldn’t work, so it needed a slight edit. I’ve just come back from a trip to Utah, and everybody I met seemed to have a gun. One guy called Eric even let me fire his assault rifle, which was awesome!
So little differences like that need to be changed. But in terms of story and character, people in the UK and the US are so similar, we all like the same kinds of things. That’s one of the things I love most about the ‘special relationship’, and that’s the reason that Furnace isn’t actually set anywhere specific – it could be anywhere on either side of the Atlantic.
JA:How do you choose your cover art? Do you design it or do you work with a graphic artist?  How much influence you do have on the final creation? Why are the covers different in different markets – particularly between the American and British versions?
AGS:The short answer is that I have absolutely no say in what goes on the cover! Most authors don’t, not unless they’ve sold six billion copies and have a bit of clout. Usually what happens is the publisher sends you their rough for a suggested cover, and ask if you want to change anything, and you write back and say ‘Eek, I hate it!’ and they say ‘Too late, that’s your cover.’ But I have been so lucky with my covers, this hasn’t happened to me yet! I love the UK ones because they look like video game covers, but my favourite covers so far are the US ones, they are absolutely mindblowing. I’m not sure why different publishing companies use different covers, but I’m glad they do because it makes my bookshelves much more interesting!
JA:Why was Alex targeted? The books never really go into detail about why he was set-up and how the Warden and the black suits found him to begin with.
AGS:You’ll have to wait until books four and five to find out! J
JA:Tell us about the process of writing a 5 book series. Do you already know before you start book 1 how book 5 will end?  How do you divide up each book or is that something that happens in the “dreaded editing process”?
AGS:I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen when I started writing the first book – I didn’t even know for sure whether it was going to be a five book series – and that was a deliberate choice. I wanted to see what Alex would do inside the prison, how he’d respond to this nightmare, because his spur of the moment choices would always seem more genuine than any rigid destiny I might have prescribed for him. I realized that if I knew in advance what was going on in Furnace and, more importantly, how (and if) Alex was going to escape, then the book might lose some of its dramatic tension. If I wrote like this then I’d know how he was going to get out, and what happened to him throughout the series, and I think some of that awareness, that relief, might leak into the story. Readers would know that everything was going to be okay because it would already be written into the text, invisible but unmissable.
So I just rolled with it, I just started writing. I threw myself into Furnace the same way Alex had been thrown in, without hope and without a plan. Because I’d done it like this, I felt as desperate as he did. Time was running out for him because the Blood Watch and the gangs were closing in. Time was running out for me because I was getting through the book and I still didn’t know how he was going to get out. I didn’t even know if he was going to escape! I think writing like this – writing at the speed of life – is what gives the books their relentless pace. I didn’t slow down when I was writing, I was living the story alongside Alex, so the story never lets up for a second. I love writing this way!
JA:I know that you own your own film production company. Have you thought about producing a film based on the Furnace series or has anyone purchased the rights to your books?
AGS:I set up Fear Driven Films with my sister Kate and my brother in law Simon. Kate and I are huge horror fans, we’ve been watching horror films together since we were kids. And one day we just figured that since we’d seen so many movies, we might as well have a go at making one of our own! We wrote a script for a slasher movie called Stagnant – about a killer mutant bride slaughtering people on the Norfolk Broads – and that’s currently being made. I would love for there to be a Furnace movie, I seriously think that would be the most awesome thing in the universe. But I don’t really want to try and make it myself! I want to go to Hollywood or Pinewood and see somebody else making the story come to life, it would be ace!
JA:I was so excited to learn that your books have been made into audio productions as well, however, it disheartened me to hear Alex with an Australian accent since he’s clearly British in the books. Did you have any control over that? Why would Brilliance Audio choose to depart so obviously from the book?
AGS:Yes I was exactly the same! I didn’t even realize there were going to be audio versions until Lockdown appeared in the post on disc. I listened to it in the car, and was so startled when I heard that Alex had become Australian I nearly crashed! I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t British, and to be honest I have absolutely no idea why they gave him the accent they did. I had absolutely no say in it. That’s the weird thing about audio books, especially from an author’s point of view: none of the characters sound like they do in your head. I guess it’s the same as when they turn a book into a film and you say ‘hang on, he didn’t look like that!’ and ‘she had blond hair in my imagination!’ and ‘I don’t remember him being a hamster!’
JA:I love your website and all the online content associated with the Escape from Furnace series. How important is it to maintain a strong online presence in terms of reaching your fans?
AGS:Thanks! J I love designing websites and things, I’m a total geek like that. Although saying that I had to get a professional to design the current site as technology moves so fast I can’t keep up! I think it’s important to always be available to fans, but it’s also fun, it’s one of the best parts of the job. I’ve got a Facebook page for the Furnace books ( and use it to chat directly with fans and readers. It’s one of the amazing things about living here and now – instant communication with pretty much anybody in the world. When I was growing up I had no way of contacting my favourite authors other than writing them a letter – which would usually go unreplied – or travelling to one of their events and queuing up with a million other people. Now, though, I get in touch with my favourite authors all the time through email and Facebook, it’s great! It really creates a huge, open community of readers and writers, where you can talk about writing and books and movies and everything else. It puts me in direct contact with people who have read the books, which is so awesome!
JA:From the epilogue online, Alex says "I don’t feel like a hero. What these people don’t know is that I’m a killer, and a coward too. Like I told you, I’m not a good person. I did some awful things before Furnace, and I’m guilty of much, much worse since. But I’m starting to understand that you don’t have to be perfect to be good. You can do bad things and still be a good person. And like I’ve said before, sometimes it’s better to do bad things for the right reasons than good things for the wrong ones. Right?" I love this part and I feel like this is the moral of the story and what I hope teens will take away from this book aside from just the amazing action and horror of it all. Did you do bad things when you were a teenager? :)  What do you hope your readers take away from your books?

AGS:Thanks! Yes I think this really is the moral of the book. I mean, Furnace isn’t a moral book, I didn’t write it to try and teach kids to stay out of trouble. Alex is a bad kid to start with, but when you look back at the crimes he committed before he was arrested – breaking and entering, a bit of bullying – they are almost ridiculously insignificant compared to what he is forced to do to survive inside Furnace. He becomes a murderer inside prison, but that is ultimately the only way he can save himself.

But there are hopefully things that readers can take away with them when they read Furnace. I hope the books help reinforce the immense value of friendship; I hope they teach that sometimes doing bad things for the right reasons is better than doing good things for the wrong ones, and that just because you’ve made mistakes in your life doesn’t mean you’re a bad person and that you’re beyond saving. I think the most important message, the one I’d like readers to take away, is that no matter how terrible things get, no matter how bleak life is, there is always – always – hope. Things will get better.
JA:Your next venture is the Fury series.  Can you tell us about that series?
AGS:Well, it’s horror (obviously, because horror is the best), and very gory (obviously, because gore is awesome)! It’s quite different to Furnace, though, much longer for a start, and told in a slightly different way. So I really hope people like it! This is the blurb for it:
Imagine if one day, without warning, the entire human race turns against you.
Every single person you meet becomes a bloodthirsty, mindless savage, hell-bent on killing you – and only you.
Friends, lovers, even your mum and dad, brothers and sisters – they will turn on you, and they will murder you.
And when they have, they will go back to their lives as if nothing has happened.
The world has the Fury.
It will not rest until you are dead.
Cal, Brick and Daisy are three ordinary teenagers whose lives suddenly take a terrifying turn for the worst. They begin to trigger a reaction in everybody they meet, one that makes friends and strangers alike turn rabid whenever they are close. One that makes people want to tear them to pieces
Cal and the other victims of the Fury – the ones that survive – manage to locate each other. But just when they think they have found a safe haven, a place to hide from the world, things get worse.
Some of them begin to change…
They must fight to uncover the truth about the Fury before it is too late.
But it is a truth that will destroy everything they know about life and death.
Spooky! J It’s out next year in the UK, and very soon in the States!
Thanks again for interviewing me on your site, Joanna, and thanks to everyone for reading!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mobile Stories

Mobile Stories is a partnership program between my library (San Diego Public) and  MEDIA ARTS Center San Diego (MACSD) where teens learn how to use mobile phone technology to become journalists. Teens are empowered to record stories from their perspective in their communities while simultaneously learning the latest in cell phone technology (iPhone 4s).

Here is the information blurb from the Mobile Stories site:
Mobile Stories is a FREE after school program that will use the popularity of mobile phone technology to connect local youth (ages 9-18 years old) with the extensive resources available at their local library in a format that is both current and easily accessible. The library recognizes the ubiquity of cell phone technology; the need for under-represented youth to express their voices regarding news and events in their neighborhoods; and Mobile Stories potential to connect youth and their interests and needs with the information and resources of the library.

  • Use iPhone 4s to record news blogging
  • Audio and music recording
  • Digital photography
  • Learn how to be a reporter
  • Live web casting
  • FREE snacks and more!
Two branches are currently participating (Central and Logan Heights) and I hope we get more started. Projects like this are so great to me because it is all about community partnership and learning. The Youth Services Librarians had a pretty rad training session today with the folks from Media Arts Center so we got to experience exactly what the teens experienced on their first day of the program. Dave and I filmed a hilarious video clip where he talked about the Lord of the Rings movies, but unfortunately it didn't get uploaded. There are still other good clips from librarians at the training and students so check them out via YouTube

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Talk about Graphic Novels... everywhere right now! And thank goodness :)

As a Collection Development Librarian I love purchasing material in this format because I know it circulates. Anytime I point out where the graphic novels are my kids get super pumped, which makes me very happy. There are a few series that I enjoy but as a reader graphic novels aren't my first choice so I am constantly asking fans for good picks. And with my budget getting smaller each  year, I have now started asking folks what are my must haves?

Last week in my inbox I got my Newsletter and not only was it full of good stuff, it also included a GNR Core List that you can see here. I find Graphic Novel Reporter to be a great resource and I would highly recommend subscribing to their mailing list. And then today I recieved my American Libraries Direct email and it was the press release for ALSC's Children's Graphic Novel Core Collection list. I'm going to compare lists, check my system, and then get to ordering!

P.S. I just finished Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco (and of course ordered it for the library)...
Don't you absolutely LOVE this series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka?

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Lunch Lady series website, do it today! With author and book sites I always click on "Teacher Resources" links because even though I'm not a teacher I find it provides different ways for me to promote the books. And this site has Lunch Lady paper dolls :) I gotta find a Lunch Lady lunch box...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Author not to miss: Jenny Downham

I have clearly been sleeping on British author Jenny Downham. I picked up You Against Me based purely on the stunning cover and then I could not put it down. Check out this cover...does it not pull you in?!

Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, and of course things quickly go from bad to worse in his life. His mum can't cope, his sister won't leave the house, and his youngest sister is trapped in the middle.

Ellie's brother is accused of rape and suddenly nothing is the same. Her parents are going mad trying to prove his innocence and Ellie's left with a massive amount of emotions to try to sort out on her own.

Mikey and Ellie meet and their story is one of loyalty,  fear, loss, betrayal, and love.

This was an amazing novel and even though I had to look up some of the British word choices I loved it. Now I can't wait to read the author's other YA book Before I Die.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Banned Books Week

Hopefully you and your libraries are celebrating Banned Books Week in some creative way. I hosted a book club meeting to discuss Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War. We talked about censorship, books challenges, and why some of their favorite books now appear on the Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010 list. We also had a Chocolate Trivia War and a chocolate tasting which, I'm not going to lie, were the most popular elements of the program.

Here's another creative way one cheeky British filmmaker has come up with to keep explain the dangers of censorship and the symbolic meaning of book burning.

Library of Burned Books Pitch from Alasdair Beckett-King on Vimeo.

You can support the creation of this film and even appear as a supporting artist in the production. This could be the perfect gift for those librarians on your holiday list!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reforma National Conference 4

A few weeks ago I attended the 4th Reforma National Conference (RNC4) in Denver, Colorado. The theme was Elevation Latino Services to a Higher Level and celebrating 40 years of Reforma. I have to say, I've been to my share of library conferences, but this one was by far my favorite. The sessions were good and relevant to my work, the socials were entertaining and lively, the city was gorgeous, the conference committee and staff were organized and friendly, and the people I met were awesome! I also liked that it was a much more intimate conference than what I'm used to, by the last day I felt as though I' had interacted with the majority of the attendees. The vibe was relaxed and I didn't feel as though I had to rush to cram everything in, the earliest sessions started at 9:30am. Overall it was a good time and worth the investment.

Here's a list of what made RNC4 a worthwhile experience for me:

  • Networked with other librarians serving similar populations and exchanged ideas.

  • Promoted and recruited presenters for an upcoming workshop I'm hosting at my library.

  • Learned about the history of Reforma and connected with some of the pioneers that paved the way in the organization for incoming librarians.

  • Got inspired to better serve Spanish speaking communities and brought home two new program ideas to implement at my library.

  • Learned about oral storytelling programs and listened to talented story tellers during the "Noche de Cunetos".

  • Met several bilingual children's book authors and even booked some of them for upcoming library programs.

  • Talked to Spanish book vendors and learned more about the Guadalajara book fair experience.

  • Learned about YA book titles with Latino characters and attended a session where several of these authors Skyped in to talk about their work.

  • Did a little site seeing and experienced the city culture.

  • Met active inspiring library professionals and made new friends!

To learn more about Reforma and RNC4 check out their website:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monkey See Monkey Do

Unfortunately, I don't have the chance to do storytimes very often as a teen librarian, but I'm always on the lookout for great resources for my coworkers in the Children's Department.

If you're a visual learner, you'll appreciate StoryBlocks, a website created by Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy that provides videos demonstrating fun songs and rhymes that parents, educators, and librarians can use to help the children in their lives become great readers - long before they ever enter school.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Finger Puppets Fun

After seeing another great flannel post on Mel's Desk, I begged my cousin Jess to make me some finger puppets. On Saturday I got the best surprise package in the mail filled with finger puppets. The blackbird finger puppets are for the rhyme "Two Little Blackbirds" but I am sure I can find another rhyme they can be used for as well.

The black bats are from Mel's Halloween version of "Two Little Blackbirds" called "Two Little Black Bats." Jess made me enough that I can have a pair and the teen moms or dads can have a pair when we do the rhymes. Last week's early literacy practice was talking to your child and we were working on understanding the concept of object permanence. These finger puppets arrived just in time so we can continue building on that lesson.

I am excited to use these in storytime, because whenever we use the regular finger puppets the kids love it, so I am sure they are going to like these new ones.

Check out Mel's Desk for the pattern and rhyme

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spotlight: Portland Public Library Teens

Teen Read Week is coming up so I have been thinking about teens and libraries, and wishing I still worked with teens on a day-to-day basis. The theme this year is "Picture This" and my friend Justin Hoenke is doing rad things with teens at the Portland Public Library in Portland, Maine that I wanted to spotlight.

I asked Justin what his mission is with the teens and here is what he had to say:
"Everyday, teens are using the Portland Public Library to create, share, and remix their lives in unique ways. We here at the Portland Public Teen Library believe it is part of the library's mission to collect these awesome works."

LOVE this! Seriously, I am inspired by this. Justin created a site via google for his teen space,  Made by Teens,  If you are considering doing music or any "non traditional" library projects with teens, check it out. I love that libraries are great avenues for music with teens (see Ady's blog post about her teen music group "Project Unknown" at the Logan Heights Library).

There are so many different projects to create with teens that speak to the "Picture This" theme of Teen Read Week, what are you up to??

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New crowd pleaser just in time for Halloween

I am seeing lots of Christmas books as I am ordering for the system right now, but I will steadfastly ignore those in favor of the holiday at hand. And although Halloween is more than a month away, this little gem came across my desk this morning and I had to rave about it.

 This is the third Mouse adventure from Judy Cox (Cinco de Mouse-O; One is a feast for Mouse: a Thanksgiving Tale) and it is just as great as the other two. The pictures are fantastic, and there is so much happening on each page that the book begs to be re-read and explored often. I particularly enjoyed seeing the world from Mouse's angle. He is so cute and I love how he reacts to the Candy! Added bonus on the cute factor: Mouse wears little blue glasses! He reminds me of my 22 month old nephew who just got blue plastic frames and is constantly waddling about getting into things.

This is one I am going to be putting on display October 1st , and will definitely be recommending to families.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wolves of Mercy Falls

I finally got around to finishing the last of the Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. Although I got an A.R.C. of Forever in New Orleans at ALA, I will admit I was nervous to read it. I wasn't sure if the book was going to have a satisfying conclusion, and after falling in love with Sam & Grace's story I feared I would have a hard time letting go. I am happy to report that I did enjoy the book and would highly recommend this YA series to any werewolf fans out there.

with the author in NOLA

Books in the series:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall Forever

Fall is my favorite time of the year! I will admit (but don't tell anyone)-- fall is the one time during the entire year that I wish I didn't live in Southern California. I know, I know, slap me now. But seriously, I used to live in the midwest and watching the fall leaves change, feeling that crisp "I need a scarf and sweater, but not a jacket yet" wind blow around me, eating apple butter and drinking apple cider, going to football games, and seeing pumpkins in my uncle's garden was pure heaven. So now I basically celebrate fall as soon as September hits, hope that no one complains, and cross my fingers that the kids will use their imaginations to envision the weather changing ('cause it is hot as all get out right now).

A few of my favorites that I will be using during various storytimes--I do baby, toddler, and preschool--over the next month are:
Fall Isn't Easy by Marty Kelley
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
My Garden by Kevin Henkes
Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens
My Father's Hands by Joanne Ryder
One Bean by Anne Rockwell
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall
Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash by Sarah Weeks
Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka

And drum roll absolute favorite is:
Grandma Lena's Big Ol' Turnip by Denia Lewis Hester

I LOVE that "The Turnip" was adapted to feature an African American family!

Mel has some great rhymes/fingerplays to do with fall leaves over Mel's Desk too.
What are some other great fall stories that you love?

Who Loves You?

Are patrons always commenting on how helpful you are?
Do kids and teens run up to hug you whenever they see you at the library or in their school?
If so, this is their chance to say thank you by nominating you for the I Love My Librarian award sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation, New York Times, ALA, and @ your library. In addition to the honors and accolades, it also comes with a $5,000 cash prize!
The nomination process is simple and the form can be found on the @YourLibrary website. All you fabulous librarians out there should post this information to your blog or website and wait for the nominations to roll in. Or if you're a librarian fan, show them how much you love and appreciate them by nominating them today.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Amelia Bloomer Project

Many of you keeping up with this blog are likely familiar with the various book lists created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC). These lists are invaluable resources for librarians, teachers, parents, and caregivers hoping to find books and media that will get their child motivated about reading.

In addition to YALSA and ALSC, the Feminist Task Force (FTF) of the American Library Association's Social Responsibilities Round Table (say that 10x fast!) has the AMELIA BLOOMER PROJECT (named after the American women's rights and temperance advocate), which annually creates book lists highlighting strong feminist messages for young people from birth to age 18. Having an undergraduate background in gender studies, I'm pretty stoked about serving on this committee--I get to combine my interest in feminism with my experience/expertise in library youth services. Yay!

If you are interested in finding out more information about the Amelia Bloomer Project, or you want to access lists from previous years, please visit The committee also welcomes field nominations for the 2012 list; publication dates must fall between July 2010 - December 2011. Please note: the deadline for nomination is September 30!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Countdown is On!

I'm really excited about a new book, The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton that is set to be released September 27, 2011. I love anything that takes place in England and to have a faerie element as well is just icing on the cake! Here's a sneak peak to get your interest piqued!

The cover art is amazing, too. I really think this is going to catch the attention of quite a few teens. What books are you waiting for, with baited breath, to be released?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Encourage Teens to Vote for Top Ten

Every year YALSA invites teen book groups across the country to read galleys and provide feedback to produce a list of the 25 best books published that year. The list it out and now your teens can vote for their Top Ten favorites. The Teens' Top Ten poll will be open until Sept. 15 and the list will be announced during Teen Read Week October 16-22, 2011.
This is a great way to get your teens involved and see what they're reading. It's also a very effective collection development tool. If you run a book club and would like more information about getting involved, contact Nichole Gilbert at

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kirby and Anna are going on tour!

Sadly, we don't have a mega tour bus...but we are coming to a computer/city near you! Anna and Kirby will be all over library land giving presentations about our Cuddle Up & Read Program. First up is an InfoPeople webinar for all our faraway friends. Then we hit the ground running and will be in Pasadena and Philly. Join us if you can, or let other folks who might be interested know.

Tour dates:
1. Tuesday, August 9, 2011 12 PM PACIFIC InfoPeople webinar
"Cuddle Up & Read: Storytimes for Pregnant and Parenting Teens" (presenters)
Webinar attendees will learn:
  • About the Cuddle up & Read programs in San Diego
  • How to establish successful community partnerships in order to create a literacy based program for teen parents and their children
  • How to improve their existing literacy based programs for pregnant and parenting teens.
2. November 11-13, 2011  2011 California Library Association and California School Library Association Annual Conference & Exposition
"At-Risk Populations at the Library" (panelists)
  • presenting during a 2-hour block with two other groups that work with "at-risk" youth
3. March 13-17, 2012 PLA
"Cuddle Up & Read: Storytimes for Pregnant and Parenting Teens" (presenters) **
Program attendees will learn:
  • About the Cuddle up & Read programs in San Diego
  •  This presentation will provide a hands-on overview of the early literacy storytimes conducted with teen parents
  • Statistics will be included to show the impact the program had on the teen parents.
  • Learn how to incorporate early literacy tools into your storytimes and how to start a storytime for teen parents in your community.
**If you want to see Anna and I do storytime (with our dolls, props, music, and books) this is the one to check out

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Stand Alone Debate

How important is it for a book in a series to stand alone? I think this question has different answers depending upon the context. For example, as a member of the YALSA's Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee, we hotly debated this topic as a judging criteria. We determined that it is not our place to critique the story of a particular audiobook. We are merely concerned with the production value. Therefore, even if we are lost in terms of storyline, if the production is off the charts outstanding it could still make our list. Since our list is used widely by librarians as a collection development tool, we've decided to make notes in the annotations whenever a title is part of a series.
But this got me thinking about doing in-person reader's advisory. I like to recommend series because I feel like the tween/teen gets more bang for their buck assuming that if they like one book in a series they will have many more to keep them busy and hopefully encourage them to explore other books written by that author. I can't tell you, though, how frustrating it is when I'm recommending a series and the first copy is checked out! As you know, there are some series that you just have to read in order.
If all authors did as excellent a job at recaping previous books as Alexander Gordon Smith does with his Furnace series this wouldn't be an issue. The first chapter of each book is always a thorough, yet surprisingly non-redundant, recap of the previous books. I'm reading this series marathon style - one right after the other - so the previous events are fresh in my mind, but I still value that synopsis. Even though my preference is that teens read these books in order, I would (and do) tell them it's ok to start with book two since book one is always checked out. I know they will go back and read it later...they're that good!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Subwoofers and Storytime

So this summer, baby's on a budget. Well, let's be frank, for the last three years we've been on a tight budget. I've been employed here for almost two years and for two years in a row I was biting my nails and twisting my fingers because it was likely that I would be getting a pink slip if the Mayor had his way. But alas this June, I was saved again by the outcrys of the people and the City Council voting "no" on the Mayor's budget cut proposals. I still don't undertstand where the "found $$" comes it credit? imaginary? hidden treasure? But that is neither here nor there at this point.

The point of that tirade was to explain what the tight budget means for summer reading at my library (sorry got a little caught up).  Every Thursday from June-August for the last few years two groups of preschoolers walk over to the library. In the past they were treated to amazing performers and had a great time, but we just don't have the funds for performers every week. I'm doing my best to be a great "performer" at storytime, and am counting down the weeks until the real performers come. It's not that I don't like doing storytime, girrrlll you know I love it.... it's just I feel bad for these 50 kiddies (plus about 7-10 regulars) who want some clowns 'cause they know it's summer!

So I'm trolling through storytime blogs to see what new and exciting things I can come up with to add some flare. I was on Mel's Desk in preparation for my Messy/Clean storytime this week and saw her great plan and a link to Susan Dailey's page and I was saved! Mel used the book Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and when I pulled our copy I saw that it came with a free download from Harper Collins.

The download turned out to be Mr. Litwin reading the book and singing the song that the cat sings. I plugged one of our laptops into a speaker with a subwoofer because the head of IT  said it would "blow these little kid's chests open." He was so right! I'm really glad that I decided to use the mp3 file instead of reading it myself, because the story was so much cooler coming from the author. The kids were singing and dancing with the song, their teachers were clapping along to it, and even the staff here in the Children's Room was singing after the storytime finished. Here is my plan, without the parent patter and theme talk I include:

Greeting Songs: I have five different "Hello" songs on my playlist because this allows the kids to get settled in, and helps those already seated to have something to do while we wait for our other friends
Opening Song: "Warm-Up Time" by Georgiana Stewart
Book: Max Cleans Up by Rosemary Wells (this was great because a few kids yelled out Max & Ruby!)
Fingerplay: "Cleaning my Room" by Susan Dailey
Activity: Cleaning Up sorting activity (details on Susan and Mel's pages, great sorting game)
Book: Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up her Wash by Sarah Weeks
Fingerplay: "Washing Clothes" by Susan Dailey
Song Book: Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin (performed during this session by author)
--I planned to do another flannel story, "5 Clean and Squeaky Pigs" from Mel but the kids were getting restless so I transitioned to movement
Prop Song: "Splish Splash" with bean bags
Transition Songs: I played two songs about cleaning up, one from Barney ("Clean Up") and one from Laurie Berkner ("Clean it Up"), while I collected the bean bags and it was great because the kids knew we were almost finished
Closing Rhyme: a modified version of "Teddy Bear Teddy Bear" that I made up to close my storytimes

I've got another round of preschool storytime at the homeless shelter preschool tomorrow, so I hope it goes as well as today's did! And for the record I will be using a subwoofer from now on during storytime.