Sunday, March 30, 2008

What Are You Broadcasting?

A idea has been repeating in my head over and over the past few weeks... God doesn't promise "easy"; He promises good. That's tough. I'm kind of conflicted. I'm not going to lie; I'd love if I got some of the things I've been wanting, when I want them, but that wouldn't be best. Because God is Father... that means He loves us, He disciplines us, but the image that He's been showing to me recently is that this means he is guiding me. He knows what's best for me and in what time. I can't get everything I want, when I want it. In fact, going back to the whole "easy" vs. good thing, I shouldn't. I think I've mentioned it before (and I doubt I'm alone on this) but my personal reaction to "easy"... when things are all going according to my wants... is to become complacent. No. I don't want that. It's a struggle between wanting my comfort zone and wanting to step out of it... wanting to turn my back on that safety so I rely more on God.

In Bible study, we finished a video of Louie Giglio (Passion Conferences). It is called "Hope", but ironically, he starts out seeming to offer very little. I family torn apart by a college student's tragic early death. But this one girl... this young girl... who didn't know God and, in her own words, "wasn't truly alive" until the final four months of her life has reached thousands. Her family isn't the same, her friends and the people who've apparently been watching her story online. Her atheist father recognized the change in her life that words and preaching couldn't. That's not to say we don't use words! But Louie's point at the end was that we will face struggle... but take heart, Christ has already overcome the world! (John 16:33) Our hope is in the cross. So prepare yourself for it, because it will come, and then when it does, use it. Grow from it. He pointed to this girl's story and others', and how they pointed to God in the midst of it. How they found joy and peace... only through Christ. Our struggles are real. They are raw. And I've learned that just because I finally get what I think God's trying to teach me, that doesn't mean *poof* He takes away the "problem". That might not be all He's got planned to use this situation for in my life or someone else's. I'm thinking of things that I have wrestled with God over... questions I've asked of Him... for years. But I've learned a lot, and I've been able to share with others. They can be used by God (if we allow ourselves to be used) to point to Him. Our struggles are a megaphone. Our stories are a megaphone. What are you broadcasting?

On a book note, I'm counting down the days (less than two!!!) until Mo Willems' new pigeon book is released! You can bet I'll be reviewing the as-yet unannounced title in the next few days! And I get to meet the author himself in just over 2 weeks!! :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

To Manga or Not to Manga?

My vote... NOT to manga! For those of you unaware or just not fully informed on what it is, manga is basically Japan's version of comic books. This is different from the graphic novel. I see graphic novels more as a story told through illustrations. I don't mind comics; I grew up reading them in the paper or the Garfield books. But the Japanese version known as manga has taken it a little too far.

I know, I know, kids love the stuff. And I also know that as a librarian, I want kids reading. I order books about bodily functions and magazines if it'll get kids reading. So for me to lean toward the no side means something. By all means, make your own decision, but please, please, please... review these books very carefully before letting your kids read them. There's a review site No Flying, No Tights that has reviews of different series. But go further. Skim through them. There are a few exceptions (Naruto, I believe is fairly safe.), but in large part, manga features characters in skin tight outfits running around doing who knows what. Before I took over collection development for the youth departments, the previous staff worker ordering young adult bought a lot of manga. She bought a series that "had good reviews"... turns out it's about a young girl turned into a sex slave and the pictures were very risque, who cares if they're illustrated and not "real". The director decided to put them on the shelves since we had purchased them and once we made the decision to order it, she didn't want to censor them.

I see young children back at the manga shelf, skimming through the books because the format is legitimately appealing, especially to a reluctant reader. It makes me cringe when they're anywhere near this particular series. If you want my professional advice, this is one genre I could do without. But make your own decision.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Things with Wheels

When it comes to purchasing books for boys, I will buy anything Thomas... as in the Tank Engine. I can't keep the books (or videos) on the shelves. The hardest thing a week ago was seeing one of my two year olds heartbroken face when, after 10 minutes of searching the different possible locations, we didn't find a single Thomas book in the place. Thomas had left the building. In large part due to Thomas, I can safely say out of all the "things that move", trains are the most popular. In general...not to stereotype, I know my boys... they like dinosaurs, gross things and things that move. I'll never forget when I got schooled on backhoes by a three year old! Boys also tend toward non-fiction. I could go on and on (trust me!) on the differences between boys and girls when it comes to reading.

So in honor of the boys, I wanted to share a great collection of books by Sarah Bridges. It's the Working Wheels series, and includes titles like I Drive a Train, I Drive a Semitruck, I Drive a Crain, I Drive a Street Sweeper, I Drive a Garbage Truck, and I Drive a Snow Plow, just to name a few. I got one or two to test them out on one of my more discriminating three year olds... the one who schooled me on backhoes. He started with I Drive a Backhoe. Not only did I get a thumbs up from him, but his mom, despite the fact that she ended up reading each book multiple times a day. Great for 3 years to young elementary school age, depending on interests and reading level.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Happy, HAPPY Birthday, Dr. Seuss!!

March 2nd. A date that means something to teachers and children's librarians across the country... it's the birthday of the one, the only, Theodor Geisel. You probably know him as "Dr. Seuss". The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks, The Lorax, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I could go on, My Many Colored Days, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!, Gerald McBoing-Boing. There are too many titles to mention! TV movies and film versions for the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and now Horton Hears a Who. The website Seussville has interactive games, activity ideas and information on the life of Geisel and his work... and some pretty catchy background music too! Books he wrote but did not illustrate are under the name of Theo LeSieg (Geisel backwards).

The man's writing was new and I can comfortably make the claim that no one else has matched the depth of his creativity or made as much of an impact. His books open up children's imagination. Oobleck? A Lorax? He made up words. His rhyme scheme is consistent throughout his books (and a great way to introduce young children to poetry!) His stories had a political or social issue underneath all the wonderful imaginative chaos that is a Dr. Seuss story. Not to mention the staying power... what adult can't name a favorite Dr. Seuss book? I'd venture to say that most could recite a line or two as well!

The American Library Association created the Theodor Geisel Award for the best contribution to children's literature for beginning readers, and winners have included the wonderful Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and the amazing Mo Willems' There's a Bird on Your Head! Books that are about imagination, creativity, and getting kids to love to read! The National Education Association hosts Read Across America, celebrated annually on Dr. Seuss' birthday, and encourages birthday parties, events and other celebrations of the author and his work. Yesterday, I hosted a Dr.Seuss Birthday Party/Seussapolooza for 60+ people, dressed as Cat in the Hat (yes!), complete with Birthday cake, oobleck, Cat in the Hat hat craft and a speed reading contest for The Foot Book. We had to turn people away because of staffing/room limitations! Dr. Seuss is big. Lots of memories for adults. Lots of new experiences to wonderful worlds for children! Thank you, Dr. Seuss! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!