Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm Moving!

... my blog.

I've been too much a slacker here, so I'm picking up and starting fresh. Check it out here if you like to follow me...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Connecting Boys with Books

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time (or had time to go back to previous posts... there aren't many!), you may notice a oft-repeated topic... how to get and keep boys interested in reading. Well, crazy things are happening in library-land! (Cool things happen when you talk to God about not sitting on your butt for fear of failure.) The statistics are there about boys... the research about brain/learning style differences are there. (I'll bore you sometime with the info, I'm sure.) Thankfully, there is evidence of some changes due to the past few years increased awareness (and acceptance) of the difference between boys and girls in reading.

Well, in recent months, we've continued with our daddy and me storytimes, daddy catcher days, collection development (material ordering) and reader's advisory focused on boys and educating grown-ups. But we've stepped it up a notch at the library. In December, I put out a display to collect names of boys interested in a "guys read"/boys only reading group. I was hoping for at least 5-10 boys so I could start a "pilot" group... to date, over 30 boys have signed up. Luckily, as I contacted male teachers in the school district (because I can do the program, but I think it would be that much better to remove even myself from the mix), I have four guys from the elementary level and one from the middle school, so a total of 5 teachers. That means I can have a middle school age group and split the elementary school age kids into two age groups! THREE groups to start. Those will be starting in March.

In addition, we have Eric Wight, author of the awesome prose/comic hybrid (review to come, because they're awesome... starred reviews in Kirkus, the most "wet-blanket" tough of professional review sources librarians use)... coming for a visit at the end of the month. We currently have over 40 kids signed up after the signup was out about a week, and we expect an increase after Eric visits local schools the days leading up to his library visit. We also have two local authors, Josh Berk and Scott Heydt, coming for an older/middle grade audience to do a writing workshop and author visit in April.

And the crazy (awesome) thing is, it's all definitely struck a chord with people... not just me doing something I have an interest in personally. Parents continue to ask me "when are we starting the guys read?", "my son keeps asking me". They sign up for related programs as soon as I explain what it's about. Parents seem relieved and enthusiastic when I share information about boys and reading.

Oh, and the Pennsylvania Library Association Early Learning Best Practice Award my director and I will go to Harrisburg to pick up in April won't be too bad, either!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

They're the Oscars of Children's Books!

So I know I should totally be banned from being a blogger EVER AGAIN. It's always the same excuse... living life. I should get in the habit of short posts, just to keep on top of things ;) But yes, busy life. Busy, busy life.

But on to the book fun! The American Library Association Announced the 2010 Youth Media Awards yesterday! It's a day I look forward to the last few months of the year as I wait for the announcements... reading blogs, results of "mock" contests, etc. This year, I pretty much had an idea of what would win, not because I'd read them and loved them (although they got amazing reviews and I ordered them!)... but because each probably won 90-95% of mock contests and were children's book blogger favorites for their respective awards.

And the winners are...

Newbery Medal: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Caldecott Medal: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

I'd already requested the library's copy of When You Reach Me due to all the buzz/general interest in reading it, so I was stoked. In general, I'm just children's book nerd enough to be stoked that I had guessed the winners right and had most of the medal/honor books in general!

Okay, I'll be satisfied with this for now. But I promise I'll try to be good (for real this time). For all two of my readers. Because maybe then I'll get to share all the fun news... like about winning state awards, planning author visits and more fun!

Now it's time to pick up a good book and read.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's a Grimm Tale

Life. It’s crazy sometimes. Super busy. Lots hitting you from many angles. It currently is, but God's giving me joy... especially in serving others. Crazy how knowing it's not "all about me" can produce such joy ;)

Anyway... a couple of weeks ago during storytime, I was making my preschool boys happy with a “truck” themed week. I was reading “Hansel and Diesel”, a takeoff on “Hansel and Gretel”. Does anyone remember how twisted Grimm Fairy tales are? Or nursery rhymes? You kind of forget… block it from your memory. Do you remember that the witch wants to put Hansel and Gretel in the oven? Do you remember that “Ring Around the Posey” is about the Plague, “London Bridges” is about the big fire in London and in “Jack and Jill”, Jack fell down and broke his crown… cracked his skull, poor Jack! Yet, we remember them as “classics” and block out their more morbid bits… and most of us are quite normal functioning people despite exposure to them!

Well, I was reminded of the grimness of Grimm tales after reading “Hansel and Diesel”, but had two thoughts. First, kids have a strange curiosity for scary. A bunch of the kids had a lot of questions… especially when I forgot to skip the whole “wicked winch and the metal shredder” part! *yikes* They were kind of scared, yet they wanted to edge up to that fear and were curious. Second, as scary as those stories are, they have a moral (a slightly twisted moral, but a moral nonetheless). If Hansel and Gretel had remained home and safe and not gone anywhere without Mom and Dad, they wouldn’t have had to face the witch on their own.

So why am I thinking of this so much? Over-analyzing (as I often do) for a deeper meaning? Life is full of these situations. Kind of scary or hard. We have a strange curiosity toward them. We’re scared. Yet, I think there’s something deep down in us that wants to step up and stand up. And it might be hard, but if we do stand tall, we learn a valuable lesson. One thing God has taught me and reminded me time and again is that happiness is more situational… depends on all the people and events surrounding us. And let’s face it, life can be crazy at times! But joy from Him is something I can claim no matter whether I’m in the mist of something joyful or deep down in something hard.

And this musing from my mind is courtesy of thinking too long on fairy tales and nursery rhymes ;) I'm also reading a very thought-provoking book by Donald Miller called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. More on this to come, because it ties in and it definitely makes me think... and it's making me act. But that's the tease for now...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lunch Lady's Serving Up Justice... and Lunch

Finally! After months of waiting, Jarrett Krosoczka's graphic novel series about a crime fighting lunch lady and three kids who find out her Clark Kent-ish secret have hit the shelves! Unfortunately, as my personal copies are in transit from Amazon and only the first of the two titles released today has reached the library, I can only comment on Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute. I must be patient for Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. (Evil librarians!! *gasp*)

Well, first, purely from "an enjoyable read" standpoint... I laughed out loud. The book actually came in a few days ago (perks of being a librarian), but had to keep it mum until it was released. But I promptly made my joy known by, the second my sharp eyes saw it on the cataloguer's truck, squealing like a little kid, swiping it off the truck and sitting down promptly to read the long-awaited masterpiece. Okay, I'm being *slightly* dramatic, but it was so good. I proceeded to annoy my coworkers by obnoxiously laughing out loud, interrupting their work to read lines and bounce up and down in my seat. Seriously.

The story revolves around the lunch lady. Three friends innocently ponder whether their lunch lady has a life outside school. "Nah, she probably lives at home with her hundred cats" type comments ensue, only to cut away to a very James Bond-ish lunch lady. Her faithful sidekick makes super-cool spy gadgets like spatulas that turn into helicopters and a lunch tray laptop. Back to the Cyborg Substitute plot. Something fishy's up when a beloved teacher's class is taken over by a sub. The kids are suspicious. The lunch lady's suspicious. And the kids are suspicious of the lunch lady. I'll save the rest of the plot, but you're left with a cliffhanger, so I can't wait to see what happens in League of Librarians!

As for the "professional" part of the review, the illustrations are amazing! Jarrett Krosoczka is one of my favorite if not the favorite. His illustrations shine in a graphic novel format. I'm not a huge graphic novel lover. But I loved this. The white, yellow, and blue only of his illustrations seems odd, but perfect. The story is fully told, even in graphic novel format. The font lends to the story; for example, when the cyborg substitute is unveiled, the font of his voice just screams "robotic". The book will appeal to both boys and girls, but especially boys. It's probably for the 7-11 year old crowd, mainly, but as always, that can swing. Fans of everyone from the Stink books to Captain Underpants and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid crowd will love it! It's definitely got the corny humor... when the lunch lady sees the spatu-coptor, she says "Sweet potatoes!" But it's spot on perfectly funny!

So can't say enough. He's one of my favorites. The first Lunch Lady did not disappoint and I can't wait to get my little hands on the League of Librarians! For another good read in the same genre, check out Eric Wight's Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom (how could a book with that title go wrong??)

Now... which of my young patrons will get the pleasure of "first reader"...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

The power of choice. How often do we take that for granted?

As Mo Willems said on his blog, it's "summer hours"... which means I don't usually have much time to write with how crazy living life is, but I emerge from insanity because of something that God's been showing me repeatedly this week. I have the power to choose.

Yes, people are inconsiderate and often lack common courtesy. Situations are so chaotic you think someone was dispensing free crazy pills. You struggle through something. You just experience life and life is not easy. (Thankfully though, a lot of times it's amazing!) But in the midst of living, think of this quote I read.

You might not be able to control the first thought that pops into your head, but you can control your second and third.

I saw that in action this week through the famous saluting construction worker with his skeleton sidekick, making the most out of their stretch of roadwork near the intersection of Brookside and Lower Macungie Rd. Directing traffic in a construction area could be boring. It could get motorists... someone perturbed. But how could you not smile in response to this guy? He's choosing a different response from the norm.

And I want to, too.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Radical Militant Librarian Say What?

I always hated that term in grad school. It was usually accompanied by some ugly 50s housewife meets guerilla soldier looking picture, that did librarians no better justice than the stereotypical poor-dressing, cardigan-wearing with cat glasses, hair-in-a-bun stereotype we've been fighting for years. But you know what? Librarians can get pretty fired up and fiesty when it comes to certain issues. Like right now...

There is a budget in the Pennsylvania state senate right now, to be voted on July 1st, that will cut state funding of libraries 50%. That's right. HALF. If that happens, libraries stand to lose from federal aid as well, since the federal budget won't pick up the slack for the state's inability to at least produce level funding. What happens if that passes? Power Library databases, used by schools, public libraries and students across the state: gone. Access PA, used to interlibrary loan items libraries don't have in their own collection ("library sharing") for their patrons: gone. Collection sizes? At state minimum. Staff? My library (and others) forced to lay off or cut hours when we're already grossly short-staffed as it is. And I don't even want to think what that could mean for programming.

So the very thing that people need in a recession: free materials, free programs, free computer classes, free wireless internet, research databases, quiet places to study, and much more... all provided to anyone, regardless of whether they are employed or not... devastated. I know the whole economy's hurting right now, but why is it always the education and community service related things that get cut? The things community needs at times like this? Yes, I'm biased. I love my work. I also want to keep my job. But I have to trust God's in control of that. But I still don't get it. I know the people reading this have probably already received my email, but please, please, please... write your lawmakers! Let them know how you feel! If you need to know what to write or who, let me know. But they need to hear us! We've already received updates from the President of the Pennsylvania Public Library Association that legislators are feeling the heat, calling him to "call off his library attack dogs"! Great! Keep up the good work, Pennsylvania! Keep hitting them until they see how much we care!