Friday, May 27, 2011

Laminate my heart away

I was checking out some library blogs last week and saw a link for Mel's Desk. Literally fell in love with and was inspired by a bunch of the flannel sets she has created. Mel uses a lot of laminated clip art, which is perfect for me because I am not crafty (and no longer have a crafty volunteer) and love the hot laminator machine we have. I attempted the "A Hunting we will Go" rhyme set for the Transportation storytime this morning and it didn't work out too well with my two year olds, but I am still determined. I will give it another go next week with my infants and see how it flows.

I also decided to make a prop set for the traditional nursery rhyme of "Baa Baa Black Sheep". About three weeks ago I said to one of my teen mom groups, "Now we are going to sing a traditional rhyme that I am sure most of you know" and they all told me after I went through the rhyme once that they had never heard it before. I was shocked and wanted to laugh/cry. I taped them on to handles thinking this would be the best way to perform the rhyme, but now I think I am going to put some velcro on the back and see how that goes. Because I like Raffi's version of the rhyme, where he sings about different colored sheep, I mixed it up a little. Here is the final product:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Free Book for Writing Teen Book Reviews

  • Do you (or someone you know) love to read teen fiction?

  • Want to read books before they're even available for purchase?

The Z Street Team is Zondervan Publishing's teen advisory board and they need feedback (from both teens and adults) on books that they're about to publish. Membership is free and members get access to behind-the-scenes details about the books. Each month, members get to choose between two upcoming titles to review in advance. Just for signing up you'll get a choice of a free book to keep. To sign up, visit Zondervan's website.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anything But Typical Book Review

I recently read Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin with my Teen Book Club. It is the story of a twelve year old boy named Jason who has autism. Jason relates the story in first person perspective so we get his perspective on what it’s like to interact with a world full of neuro-typicals (NT’s). Jason doesn’t think and react like the NT’s and this leads to trying times at school. His one outlet is writing stories on an online forum called Storyboard. There he can share his ideas anonymously without people focusing on his autism. Through Storyboard, Jason meets a girl named Phoenixbird that enjoys his stories and corresponds with him. Jason becomes infatuated with her and the boost to his self esteem helps at school. His parents decide to take him to the Storyboard Convention as a reward and Jason is horrified when he finds out that Phoenixbird will also be attending. Phoenixbird doesn’t know how to act so she runs away. Jason is crushed and decides that he will never write again. But he changes his mind after he attends a writing workshop and in the end Phoenixbird hopes they will keep in touch because she enjoys his stories.

The author did a fantastic job in describing Jason’s feelings. His anxiety like pinpricks across his skin and the feeling of disconnect between his head and his body. She makes us understand that people with autism do not process information the same as other people and we should not expect them to do so. Jason’s parents are wonderfully portrayed as his dad accepts and understands Jason’s differences but his mother struggles with it. Phoenixbird’s initial reaction was realistic because she didn’t know what to think upon meeting Jason and you can tell that her request to stay friends at the end comes from a new understanding.

This was an interesting title for my Book Club because we usually read the popular fantasy and adventure stories. Most of them thought the book was “boring” so we had an engaging discussion about the genre of Realistic Fiction versus Fantasy. We tried to figure out the story arc and we tried to decipher what the climax would be without a supervillain that had to be destroyed. They all agreed that the story did provide an awareness and understanding of people with autism. And they learned that stories can be entertaining even though there are no car chases or bloody battles.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Family Place Library

This month we began our second round of Family Place Parent/ Child Workshops at the Logan Heights Library. Last year we were fortunate to become one of the first Family Place libraries in Southern California and we hosted our first Parent/Child Workshop for parents/caregivers and children ages birth to 3 years old.

The core component of our program is the 5 week Parent/Child Workshop where we provide developmentally appropriate toys and activities for children to learn and develop through play. We also conduct early literacy activities and craft activities for young children. Another component of this workshop, is connecting parents and caregivers to resource specialists with experience in different areas such as child development, nutrition, speech, play, and art. During our sessions children and parents play together in various stations and specialists circulate, chat with parents and answer any questions they may have regarding their child's development. We also provide an informational table with free books and informational resources regarding additional services available in the community for families with young children.

We normally have 11 to 15 families participating in the workshops once per week for a period of 5 weeks. The goal of the program is to promote learning through play, provide a special time where parents interact and bond with their child, facilitate a space where parents and young children can meet socialize and interact with other families and connect parents with other library and community resources available to them. Last year this program received a very positive response and lead to the highest Summer Reading Program participation of babies and toddlers at our branch. When we evaluated this program and asked parents what they liked about the library for their young children, an overwhelming majority mentioned that it was a welcoming place for their children with a space where they could play and read books.

In addition to the workshops, our library has a space with toys and low book shelves with board books reserved for families with young children. With the exception of our computer lab, this is probably the second most popular area of our library. I have to admit that I was I bit worried about staff being skeptical or resistant about bringing in toys to the library, but I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed staff jump on board right away and even get excited about when the new toys started arriving. Having toys does require some extra work and special cleaning and we did have to develop a special system to monitor and clean the toys daily. Watching parents interact and read books with their child as well as participate in other library programs, makes this extra work well worth it though!

In addition to the workshops we have a space in the children's area with toys and low book shelves with board books reserved for families with young children. Besides the computers, this is probably one of the most popular areas of our library. I have to admit that I thought that staff might be a bit skeptical or resistant about bringing in toys to the library, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw staff jump on board and even get excited about some of the new toys we were receiving. It is extra work and we had to develop a cleaning system for the toys, but watching how the families interact and read with their children as well as participate in other library programs and visit the library regularly, makes the extra work well worth it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trilogies and Quartets Galore!

Sometimes a good story can’t be condensed into one book. Or even two books. In many instances, it takes three (!) or even four (!!) books to tell a riveting tale. Given the recent proliferation and popularity of such trilogies and quartets as The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), The Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare), The Inheritance Cycle (Christopher Paolini), and Chaos Walking (Patrick Ness), it seems only fair to ask: why does this storytelling format appeal to young readers?

From a marketing standpoint, it’s pretty lucrative for publishers and authors to space out an epic storyline. Marketing aside, it’s a daunting task to try and promote a 700+ page book to children and young adults (especially reluctant readers). However, if an epic tale is broken up across several books, the story gains unbelievable momentum. Also, we see readers become invested in characters’ plights (Team Peeta, anyone?), engaging in heated discussions with friends over story arcs, and creating Facebook fan pages for their favorite literary figures. Here are some of my favorite children’s and YA trilogies and quartets:

Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing)

The Gemma Doyle books were my go-to reads for teens that plowed through the Twilight Saga and wanted to kick it up a notch. Containing gothic mystery, lush descriptions of colonial India and prim-and-proper Victorian England, boarding school adventures, forbidden romance, and spine-chilling horror, this trilogy has it all without being too overwhelming for its readers. My only (very minor) qualm is with the cover art of the books--they resemble grocery store bodice rippers, and are not super appealing to a teen audience. I love these books so much, that when I encountered Libba Bray at a conference a few years ago (was totally star-struck, BTW), I asked her (begged, really) if she would please consider writing a fourth book. She said it was unlikely, but she didn’t exactly say no…

Ruby Oliver Quartet by E. Lockhart (The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends)

I first encountered E. Lockhart’s brilliant writing in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (co-ed boarding school + angst + pranks = win) and immediately combed my library’s YA collection for anything else written by her. I discovered that we had the first two Ruby Oliver books (the last two hadn’t been written yet), and found that the tone was much different from, but definitely just as amazing as DHFLB. Ruby Oliver, the teenage girl around whom the quartet is based, is relatable on so many levels—she struggles with her sense of personal identity, experiences heartbreak, and deals with mean girl drama. Ruby isn’t perfect, but readers find themselves rooting for her all the way to the end.

Melendy Family Quartet by Elizabeth Enright (The Saturdays, Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze)

For those of us who love reading about bygone eras where people enjoy simple and charming activities that don’t involve overwrought technologies, Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy Family Quartet is the perfect nostalgic read. Set during the 1940s, the quartet revolves around the adventures of the four Melendy children who live with their widowed father in New York. These books are wonderful read-alouds that parents and children can enjoy together. Suggested read-alikes include Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series and Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series.

"Best of San Diego"

This post is going to be a blatant attempt at getting some self promotion. My library, the La Mesa Branch of the San Diego County Library System, found out on Friday that we were nominated in the top 5 for San Diego Family Magazine's "Best of Family Fun" in the Best Libraries for Children category. The polls are open now for voting for the final voting. So here is your chance to vote for my library to be the number 1 in this category so that we have a year's worth of bragging rights! Here is the link:

Posted by Anna

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Song books at Storytime

Earlier this year I attended an InfoPeople training with Colleen Willis, a Children's Librarian at Anaheim Public Library called "Clap! Shake! Play! Sing!" about using music to enhance and encourage emergent literacy in storytimes. While I always have playlists on my ipod for storytime, I have not used many song books. However, since that workshop I have made a dilligent effort to try one every few weeks. Last week during my two preschool storytimes and three toddler storytimes  I read/sang Cows in the Kitchen by June Crebbin. It was so much fun and even my teen moms started singing a little as they got the hang of the rhythm.

This is an awesome choice for dialogic reading because there is so much happening on each page. One observant girl saw the mouse hiding on each page which was awesome because I missed it! You can have all the children and parents make the animal noises to work on phonological awareness as well. The repetition was perfect for the younger ones, and the older kids thought the farmer was so silly.  To add another element to the story I purchased the felt version from Art Felt. Anytime I can make a book more interactive, especially with my preschoolers at the shelter, I go for it. It not only gets them excited about the story, but it turns reading into a fun activity which means I have their attention for a few minutes longer than I normally would.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This is one of the best books I've read in the last few months, and fans of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will definifely want to check it out because I found quite a few parallels between Katniss and the heroine of Graceling, Katsa (and not just the similarity of their names). Both are strong, wounded women who have experienced a hard life filled with loss and find themselves unwillingly being manipulated by people in positions of power over them, but they both come out winners in the end - Girl Power!

Graceling is an action, adventure, fantasy with just the right amount of suspense, tension, shock, mystery, battle, horribly unfathomable bad guys, romance (but not in the traditional sense that you would expect), and humor (I laughed out loud at some parts). I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning for quite a few days to finish it because I literally couldn't stop reading it. The world that the author creates is believable and the characters are all wonderfully developed and unique.

From the publisher:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug. She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace - or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

I loved this book so much that I immediately checked out Cashore's second book, Fire, which is actually a companion novel (not a prequel or a sequel) to Graceling. Stay tuned for a review of that one!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Harper Collins

My sister got this email from and forwarded it on to me. I'm sure many of you know Andy, who blogs at, and his campaigns but I thought I would share if you haven't signed the petition yet...

"By day, Andy Woodworth is a mild-mannered librarian. By night, he's still a librarian, just less mild-mannered.
Andy is kind of famous in the librarian community, mostly for getting the Old Spice guy to do a video about how great libraries are, and unsuccessfully campaigning to get Ben & Jerry's to create a flavor called the "Gooey Decimal System." (If you don't get the pun, just ask someone ten years older.)
Oh, and now he's using to help lead the charge in a fight against NewsCorp, one of the world's most powerful companies.

See, more and more libraries are beginning to buy e-books, like those read on a Kindle or similar device. They're programmed to be like normal books -- lent out to one reader at a time, returned, and downloaded by another reader. It's simple, and especially great for working parents or the disabled who have a hard time making it to a library.
  But publishing giant HarperCollins (owned by NewsCorp) is trying to force libraries to only buy e-books that literally self-destruct after the 26th reader in an attempt to maximize profits.
 Having to repeatedly buy the same book will be a financial and logistical disaster for libraries, one that could force a few to close their doors.

  Even worse, there are signs that other publishing companies may soon follow the lead of HarperCollins, which could devastate libraries all around the world. 
Some amazing librarians have launched a full boycott of HarperCollins until the decision is reversed, but they urgently need widespread support to force NewsCorp to back down.

Andy's petition demanding an end to self-destructing e-books has a goal of 100,000 signatures -- click here to add your name now:
Andy declares on his blog that "The world needs more badass librarians." It's true, though right now the world also needs more readers who will stand alongside them.
Thanks for doing your part,
Patrick and the team"

posted by Kirby