Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Storytime Favorites

Halloween time is one of the best at the library. We decorate the children’s room and are rewarded by toddlers barreling into the area joyfully shouting, “Halloween!” upon seeing the confetti filled cauldron, jack-o-lantern lights and hanging cobwebs. We buy ghost stickers, purple spider rings and black cat bookmarks as treats for the kids. We put together costumes, shopping at thrift stores, sewing something from scratch or raiding our closets, in order to properly impress the little ones. We create festive flyers featuring images of pumpkins and scarecrows for the main focus of our Halloween celebrations - storytimes.

There are a plethora of delightful picture books to choose from for Halloween storytimes but my favorite ones are those that you don’t need to read but can tell instead. Doing weekly storytimes year round isn't conducive for proper storytelling without the book. It can be time intensive and takes a lot of prep but for our special holiday events I love to lose the book. I think groups have a more memorable and captivating experience when they must use their imagination and rely solely on the storyteller’s voice. It also allows for you to better connect with the audience and involve them in the story. Here are some of my favorites that I have used in the past few years.

The Teeny Tiny Woman by Paul Galdone
The incessant repetition of “teeny tiny” makes it easy to tell. Even if you don’t remember the story word for word, you can easily ad-lib and just tack on “teeny tiny” in front of whatever you say. Plus, kids find the fact that you are constantly saying “teeny tiny” exasperatingly entertaining.

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything 
by Linda Williams
A true Halloween classic. This is great with or without the book, although, you need something to show at the end since the big surprise is a scarecrow, so I’d recommend doing it as a flannel board. This interactive story is great for a wide range of ages and no matter how many times kids have heard it, they don’t get sick of it.

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman
Modeled after The Enormous Turnip, it is a fun story starring a witch who can’t get her big pumpkin off the vine so enlists the help of a ghost, vampire, mummy and a bat. Again, the repetition makes it an easy and engaging story to share. I speed up the sequences as it goes along to make it more dramatic.

The Little Green Witch by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
This one too is a spin off a familiar tale, The Little Red Hen. The ghost, bat and gremlin in the story are lazy and refuse to help the little green witch throughout the process of making a pumpkin pie so she decides to teach them a lesson and cleverly turns them into little red hens.

The Little Orange House by Jean Stangi
This is a cut and tell story so while cutting a piece of orange paper with scissors you describe how you are making a house for a little witch and at the end you have an unexpected picture of a jack-o-lantern. The audience is always pleasantly surprised.

Looking at my list, I realize the best Halloween stories all seem to feature petite women or witches. Another story I’m excited to try out in the future, that does not feature a little woman, is one I heard from a locally hired performer who tells campfire stories. It’s called The Ghost with One Black Eye. Again, it has all the right elements, repetition, humor and a somewhat unexpected ending.

When I do end up using the book during holiday storytimes, I select ones that have a little more pizazz since we get a huge turnout and it takes a little something extra keeping the attention of a large crowd of young ones. Here are some of my favorite books to use and they all have a musical bent.

Shake Dem Halloween Bones by W. Nikola-Lisa
I had high hopes for this one after looking last year for some fresh Halloween book fare. I somehow ended up watching a Youtube video of a teacher and her first grade class reading it. The class looked like they were having the best time performing it so I knew that it would work perfectly for storytime. I had the pleasure of reading it to preschoolers yesterday and it lived up to my expectations.

Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews
A super interactive story about a town's Halloween romp in the graveyard. It will get everyone moving, in high spirits and will be stuck in your head long after you finish reading it.

The Monster Mash by David Catrow
This is a recently published book with beautiful illustrations accompanying the well-known Monster Mash song. I must admit that I haven't been brave enough to actually try it yet. I’m not much of a singer and while I’ll unabashedly sing storytime rhymes and chant loudly and proudly, this might be beyond my scope. Maybe I’ll practice it and see if I’m up to it next year.

These special Halloween storytimes always feel magical and because Halloween programs are an easy sell to families, they provide a wonderful opportunity to share with kids the absolute joy of reading, introduce parents that are new library users to the fun and free activities that we offer and leave a positive and lasting impression on all who participate.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Silver Phoenix's Cindy Pon Has a Heart of Gold

As is probably the case for most teen librarians, attendance at my In BeT(w)een Book Club waxes and wanes throughout the year. In order to spice things up and attrack more members I often invite authors of the books we're reading to join us. It's usually via Skype, so imagine how thrilled I was  when San Diego author Cindy Pon agreed to come chat with us live in person!

Her books Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix are epic adventures set in ancient China so attendees were treated to scrumptious Chinese food.

The turnout was one of the best I've had all year, and the discussion was non-stop. We even went over our allotted hour because the teens didn't want to leave. That's a successful book club!

Discussion topics included the process of designing a cover and the implications of having an ethnic model as the star; the type of research needed to complete a tale set in an ancient, foreign land filled with adventure, fantasy, heartbreak, and loss; and a new vocab term "unrequited love". Here is just a snippet of what Cindy had to say.

JA: What does your writing process look like? Do you carve out a routine (same place/same time every day) or do you just start writing when an inspiration strikes you? Do you outline your books and already know how they will end from the beginning, or does it develop organically as you write?
CP: I can take months off after finishing a novel. In fact, I've had a good four month break since finishing my third Xia fantasy featuring a serpent demon as a heroine. I hope to start the sequel in November. I am very organized in real life. I love lists, I love planning ahead. Imagine my surprise that this is NOT the way I approach novel writing. I am very intuitive when I write. I don't do outlines. I don't plan. I do have a document that is a "catch all" for any ideas, dialogues, scenes, etc that come to mind that I think can be in the new novel. Also notes to myself on possible inconsistencies and things I need to fix during revisions. I do visuaIize scenes in my head before I write them. Perhaps not the entire scene, but some of it. I seem to write the novel in two parts. I will set aside time in the mornings (now that my children are at school) to write one thousand words a day. If it is more than that, great! Sometimes it takes forty minutes to get those one thousand words. Some days it takes four hours. I will often write the first half of a novel (thirty to forty thousand words), take a few months off (not on purpose, but due to schedule) then finish the second half later.

JA: Where did the initial idea for these books come from?
CP: Silver Phoenix was the first novel I wrote. It came about because I was staying home with the kids full time and needed something to call my own again. Fantasy had always been a favorite genre and at the time, I was beginning to learn more about Chinese history and culture. I decided to blend the two loves for my first novel. I didn't know anything about Silver Phoenix going in other than that it would be inspired by ancient China, it would be a heroine's journey, and that it would be about unrequited love.

JA: Why do you use the term eating sticks instead of chop sticks?
CP: Ha! I know it might seem totally random but chopsticks is such an "American" term to me. It is like fortune cookie and chop suey. Not a Chinese term. Unfortunately, the Chinese words for "chopsticks" doesn't translate into anything easily understood, so I made up "eating sticks' instead. =)

JA: Ai Ling has the most amazing super power of being able to enter another being and hear their thoughts and even control them from within. If you had a super power, what would it be?

CP: Oh, that is easy. Telekinesis. The ability to move objects with your mind. Best superpower ever. Never get up to get the remote control again!!

JA: What are your top 10 YA books of all time?
CP: Oh, these questions are so hard. Because I do think the list often changes as one reads more and more great books within young adult. I shall focus on great reads that are inclusive of diverse characters:

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Huntress by Malinda Lo
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills T
he Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
White Cat by Holly Black
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
Cindy is incredibly busy writing, being a full time mom, and traveling to participate in conventions, conferences, and other important author business. However, if you tweet at her @cindypon and ask really, really nicely she will probably make time to connect with your book club as well. It's completely worth it!

Thank you, Cindy, for making our book club so much better!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ch...Ch...Changes! Welcome new Dewey Devils!

We've had a lot of change recently here at So-Cal Connection. Kirby accepted a new position and is doing incredible things in Oregon, and Lali decided to concentrate on multicultural reader's advisory by creating her own fabulous blog, Masala Reader. We'll keep tabs on them through their periodic guest posts. I'm excited to have three new Dewey Devils on board, though, to share their wisdom, programming ideas, and tales of woe from the world of Youth Services Librarianship!

So check out their pics and bios, stay tuned for some awesome posts, and if you have ideas for topics you would like us to blog about please leave us a comment!