Thursday, January 31, 2008

POP Goes the Tire!

Thank God. Thank God for friends. Thank God for friends who don't think twice when you need help. Let me elaborate...

It had been a great day: Thursdays and the 2 year olds storytime is my absolute all time favorite. This is the first group of kids who've only ever had "Miss Erin" as their children's librarian, they stuck with me in my first year working with kids, they actually seem to enjoy coming to the library (dare I say it, they seem to think the library is a cool place!!), and mainly for the pure and simple reason that they are two years old and full of life and excitement and make me smile just by being their crazy two year old selves... I light up when I see them. I admit it, I get as giddy as a two year old. Literally. You wouldn't be able to tell me from my kids except for the height! And yesterday was one of those very special little boys' birthday. I made a big deal about it, giving him a sticker and letting him sit on my lap in my special rocking chair while everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to him. And to top it all off, the kids really got into the stories and the craft. So let's just say it was a fun day :)

Next stop, my weekly dinner with one of the best gifts God has given me: Megan. Our (hopefully) weekly dinner and the conversations inside Panera's walls mean so much. We can talk for hours. This woman is a gift and has gotten me through many challenges the past year. And don't worry, plenty of crazy hijinx and fun times as well! I had time to stop at Barnes & Noble first (always a dangerous/potentially expensive stop for me), and got into my car to head to Panera. Which is when I had my first ever flat tire... in nearly nine years of driving. I guess that's not too bad a record, right? Still slightly inconvenient.

Well for sake of brevity, being two girls with no clue as to how to change a tire and being closer to Megan's, we called her dad. He so graciously came to help with the situation. The situation being lug nuts that wouldn't come off at first, then a tire that wouldn't come off (tense ten minutes of "will it or won't it?"), then the spare was flat! No place was open at that point that could handle a Volkswagen (buy domestic!). So luckily, Rick had brought a tire pump and he inflated the spare. It seemed to hold the air, so we decided to risk trying to get my car home. He followed; Megan drove with me. These two saved me from this particular "first" experience alone. They helped without a second thought. They brushed off my apologies for the inconvenience. They remained calm and unworried which helped me do the same. I am grateful. But at this point, I need to thank the other One who kept me calm, even more than Megan and Rick... God. Because He's been working on me for years.

Here's my confession. In the past, I used to (still do) worry. But in the past, I used to worry a lot more and the situations could ruin my day worrying about them. Well, God has shown me over the years that it doesn't help. Scripture points to that (Matthew 6:25-24), and even more so, God has shown me by experience over the past few years. I still hit those times of worry or stress, don't get me wrong. But as I learn more about Him and as He proves Himself faithful, even when I am not (especially when I am not!)... why worry? Yes, address the situation head on, but do not let it rob you of living moments. Ironically, it's in seeing myself as just a tiny piece of a much bigger picture that has helped me in this fight with worry. We talked about that in Bible study a week ago: humility does not mean that you have a self-esteem issue. It's about seeing yourself in the right context and in comparison to God. 1) My life and worries are important to God, 2) there are countless other worries in the world and 3) He is God. Three very important thoughts. By keeping my focus on Him and not myself and remembering how He has provided and guided in the past, something as inconvenient as a flat tire and all the hassle it'll take to get life back to "normal" melts away. I have a God who provides and friends who love. Why worry?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This One’s for the Girls… Older Girls!

From girly girl picture books to something for an older audience. The picture books were all about pink, frills and princesses. These titles are equally for the girls, but these heroines are feisty and adventurous. They’re tough, but caring; they struggle; they learn; they grow. Their stories are those “coming of age” ones I love so much. And two authors are must reads in this category.

Shannon Hale:
Her website has reading guides on each book and her blog is always interesting!
Princess Academy (Gr. 4 and up)- Do not be dissuaded by the word “princess” in the title. This is about a girl finding out who she is, her worth in her father’s eyes (allegory alert!), and much more. Love it!
Goose Girl (Gr. 6 and up)- This is a modern take on the Grimm fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen. Enna Burning and River Secrets (and a fourth on the way!) in the Bayern series round out the stories of Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee and her friends.
Book of a Thousand Days (Gr. 6 and up)- This is another retelling of a Grimm fairy tale. Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren are shut in a tower for seven years because the lady refuses to marry a man she despises. Eventually they escape, but the story’s just beginning.

Alison Croggon:
The Books of Pellinor (Gr. 6 and up)- I describe this to people as “the female version of the Lord of the Rings”. Croggon isn’t Tolkien, but she’s better than a lot of recent imitators. These books are more challenging, but it’s well worth the effort! Maerad of Pellinor discovers she’s a bard. What all that entails would be too difficult to summarize, but with the help of her mentor, Cadvan, Maerad begins to discover her calling. Like Frodo in TLotR, Maerad is the “Chosen One”. Yes, this is a battle between good and evil (the Light and Dark). Maerad faces many obstacles. What I love about this character is that Maerad uses these as growing opportunities. This story begins with The Naming and continues in The Riddle, The Crow (which focuses on a secondary character from the previous books), and will conclude in the fourth book, The Singing, to be released sometime in 2008.

These two women can write! They pull you into their character’s world. I’ve recommended these books, particularly the Shannon Hale ones, to readers from 4th grade to my mom’s age (love you mom!) and every single woman has told me they loved them!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This One's for the Girls!!

For any girly girls... whether you know one or you are one (I admit I am!) this is the news you've all been waiting for...

*drum roll*

Bonjour Butterfly, the third in the insanely popular Fancy Nancy series is arriving in bookstores (and libraries!) on February 5th! Not to brag, but I knew how popular this book was going to be from the first moment I laid eyes on it, weeks before it first became a New York Times bestseller. The first two books, Fancy Nancy and Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, both stayed on that list forever. Along with the third picture book in the series, the author, Jane O'Connor is also releasing the Fancy Nancy early reader books. The first two are Fancy Nancy and the Boy from Paris and Fancy Nancy at the Museum. Fancy Nancy's Favorite Words: From Accessories to Zany is coming out April 22nd. The early readers look like a level 1 book, so they're for beginner readers... minimal words on the page. The picture books are geared toward the preschool to first grade crowd, but I know a certain 24 year old 3rd grade teacher who went nuts over this fancy little girl! And moms of my preschoolers love the books, too! This is not a book to grow bored with after repetitive (and it will be repetitive) readings. There's glitter on some of the pages!

If you've been there, done that with the Fancy Nancy, just ask for more... there are plenty more titles on the tip of my tongue! Pinkalicious and Purplicious, the Angelina Ballerina books, Do Princesses Really... books, the Priscilla books and Double Pink just to name a few!

Say It Like You Mean It

This is one of those times I'm sharing a personal story... something God showed me, as opposed to a book. But it does take place in library!

I worked this past Saturday. Saturdays have become the most insane day in the library. It's non-stop. It's also the day we're the most understaffed. We normally have a minimum of four staff on a Saturday, but that should be four circulation people. This past Saturday, when I had three back-to-back teen programs and was in the program room until 1:00, I was being counted as one of those four people working. There were frustrated patrons, there was a voices-raised altercation between two of my coworkers, we never had less than five people waiting to be checked out (often more) and a constant stream of books to check in, patrons needing reference help, and there were multiple times that a book had gone back on the shelf without being checked in... just slightly embarrassing. I didn't even have time to take a lunch break.

It would have been so easy to follow the crowd and be equally short-tempered with coworkers and patrons, giving in to the frustration of it all, or I could choose to fight the tide. And the crazy thing is... it worked! As I was efficiently moving patrons through the line or assisting them, I made an extra effort to smile at them, make small talk as I checked their items out, and smile and wish them a great weekend, making eye contact with them as I said it so they knew I meant it. I can tell you, it wasn't in my own strength! Only God could have helped me, because with all the factors and all the crazies (myself included), I know myself enough to know I could have easily given into the frustration. The cool thing is, I began to see people change as the afternoon went on. One of my coworker's mood improved dramatically, and I noticed patrons demeanors transform in front of me. When I smiled and looked them in the eyes, they'd cock their head at me kind of surprised, and you could just see the change over their expressioin. In most cases, frustration and impatience were replaced with good wishes in return. So by the end of the day, I was enjoying myself as much as any preschool storytime day (which are my all time favorite days!) And I know I'm not perfect or a saint, so it's something we are ALL capable of doing.

So the question I ask both you and myself is do you mean it when you smile at someone and tell them to have a nice day or when you ask how they're doing? The challenge I give to each of us is to do just that... mean it. I hope I'm seen as a pretty friendly person. Some days are easier than others. This may not always be a struggle. But I know that some days it is. We can't do it on our own. I know God honored my request on Saturday, and I don't want it to be just a one time thing.

Think about it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stimulating the Adult Brain...

Sometimes (usually just prior to or post-preschool storytime) my coworkers make a joke about my energy level ("Do you ever slow down??") or my love of children's literature and how that's all I ever read. Well, the truth of it is, I love children's literature, so that's not that much of a problem for me. There are a lot of brilliant authors out there who write for a slightly younger audience, and are therefore ignored by the grownups with more money than whatever fits in a piggybank. I can give you a list of quality books written for children or young adults, but that are loved by people of any age.

That said, I read a recent article in School Library Journal. The suggestions didn't necessarily appeal to me personally, but the gist of the article was a good reminder... it's okay for me to put aside the kiddie lit (that I love) for a little adult brain stimulation now and then! And what do you know, within a few days, I stumbled across a book for... *gasp*... grownups that I really wanted to read.

It's called The Irresistable Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne. I'm only a few chapters in, but it feels really good to read something that isn't a children's book! And it's certainly thought-provoking. This guy, a cofounder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia, a community of Believers living their faith in a practical "being the hands and feet of Jesus" kind of way, shares his journey. Stories like this make me want to get out there and DO something. But I've learned that my story doesn't have to mirror what I read in a book, fictional or true. Claiborne shares his story as a fellow traveler on a faith journey to discovering more about God and to living out the kingdom here on earth. He even states at one point his belief (and I agree) that "fewer things have more transformative power than people and stories".

So I guess that, even though I'm reading a "grown up book", I can't get away from the idea of story. Our stories, our life experiences, are given to us by God and they're given to us to share and to learn from. Just like stories in books... the good ones anyway, whether true or not, are opportunities for us to make connections and learn. We each have different stories; mine doesn't have to look like yours. And you don't have to get the same thing out of hearing another person's story as everyone else who hears it. So whether you like children's books or not, whether you like to read or not, just take a minute and think about story... not limiting it to something in print bound between paper or leather. Think about it as what challenges you, uncovers some truth, helps you grow, helps you connect in some way to the world in general or the people around you. Story is awesome. So go have coffee with a friend and share what's going on in your lives, take some time to yourself to think through your own story, or *gasp* pick up a good book (I'd be happy to give recommendations! ;) Seriously.) and get lost in story.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Library Thing!

Have you ever heard of This might be a librarian thing, but you can catalog your books. Okay, that definitely sounds librarian nerdy-ish, but I'm not talking about assigning Dewey. This helps you keep track of your books. If you're into books, this is a cool thing. No more forgetting what you own. You can list everything as you buy it. OR you can add books you don't own but want to read... so it functions as a reading wish list of sorts. OR a combination. Whatever works for you. OR you can use it for readers' advisory, which is why I'm sharing this information here (I know you were starting to wonder).

I have two accounts: a children's book list (picture books, chapter books and young adult books)- and regular adult books (fiction and non-fiction)- So if you're curious to find which books I love so much that I've bought... read reviews if I've had time to add them... check them out.

For those of you looking to use LibraryThing yourself, some cool selling features include the ability to tag (add keywords to) your books and see tag clouds (what type of books are represented most heavily in your library), see who else has them, join groups, see "special sauce recommendations", and much more. It's kind of fun to play around.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Best of the Best!

Okay, so it's been a little while. But I'm back in 2008... and feeling the need to share some of children's literature's best!

In big "library world" news, Monday was the announcement of the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards, which are often referred to as "the Academy Awards of children's books". There's the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature, the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children, the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the outstanding book for beginning readers and the Alex Awards for the best adult books that appeal to teen audiences. I admit, I woke up early Monday morning, just to ensure I would get one of the limited number of live webcasts for the announcement. It's a bit of a personal challenge for children's librarians to already have the winners in the collection at the time the announcements are made. I am happy to report we had all Newbery and Caldecott medal and honor books, and most of the rest!

So what were the winners? Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz won the Newbery and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick won the Caldecott. I actually read The Invention of Hugo Cabret in two days just last week, and I have to say, it was amazing! Completely original. Two days for the medal winner for best picture book, you wonder? That's the big news... the Caldecott usually goes to a picture book, which is on average 20-40 pages and has a minimal amount of text. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, at a whopping 533 pages, is a mixture of text, drawings by the author, and still images from the beginning of the film industry. And the amazing thing is that it switches between all three media seamlessly! It immediately became a favorite of mine (hard to do when I read literally hundreds of children's books a year!), both for the orginality AND the story of Hugo Cabret. I can't do it justice. Just know you don't need to be a kid to appreciate this story! So I'm surprised, yet thrilled it won!

So in addition to these awards, I wanted to share three authors with you who I like to call the "triumvirate of picture book authors". These men are my favorite. I've never met any of them (but will soon!) but will buy anything they ever write and I recommend them all the time! Jarrett J. Krosoczka, who wrote Punk Farm, Mo Willems of Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny fame, and Jon Scieszka, who wrote about the stinky cheese man and Time Warp Trio. Look at Punk Farm's "Farmspace" profile, check out Willem's blog, and just peruse Scieszka's entire website... particularly hysterical are his bio and FAQ pages! These men are equally capable of talking to a room full of professionals and parents as they are capturing the attention of a bunch of preschoolers! And yes, I can spell each of their names from memory ;)

Here ends the "best of the best" (in my humble opinion)... I guess I've done the overdone "look back on the previous year" thing. But trust me on the Krosoczka, Willems, Scieszka thing!! That'll make up for the boringness of the rest!