Thursday, September 16, 2010
So my boyfriend sent me this article about a recent study suggesting that playing first-person shooter games makes you a better decision-maker. He says there have been a number of studies suggesting that playing video games makes you smarter. But he thinks it's the other way around: smart kids are attracted to video games. I think that video games just develop different parts of your brain. It makes you smarter at some things, but not at others.
Still, the article is interesting, because it highlights the benefits of playing first-person shooters, probably the most notorious kind of video games. In similar news, Stan Lee recently wrote an open letter to the Video Game Voters Network encouraging them to resist censorship and regulation. He compares the way people are vilifying video games now to the way they vilified comic books back in the day.
Just the fact that people are vilifying something always makes me want to buy it for the library, but I obviously have a lot more thinking and research to do. I like the idea of video game tournaments at the library, a model for incorporating gaming that has been championed by Eli Neiburger (who I saw present at ALA--he was awesome). But I don't know that I have the resources.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
But somehow the realms were severed, so that living people were reincarnated without passing through the other worlds. Anyone stuck in Half World had to reenact their greatest traumas over and over again without every getting over them. And no one's heard from the Spirit Realm.
Enter a melancholy girl named Melanie Tamaki (Canadian-Chinese, I think?), whose mother is a vague, lifeless woman who lives like a fugitive. One day, Melanie comes home to find the phone lines cut and her mother missing. While she's wondering what to do, she gets an impossible phone call from a man with an icky sticky voice who commands her to go to a highway overpass and look for an emergency door. I bet you can guess what's on the other side.
Friday, September 10, 2010
"JEFFREY JENSEN ARNETT, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “emerging adulthood.” He says what is happening now is analogous to what happened a century ago, when social and economic changes helped create adolescence — a stage we take for granted but one that had to be recognized by psychologists, accepted by society and accommodated by institutions that served the young."If "Emerging Adulthood" is a stage with its own psychological profile, it follows that it must have it's own literature. At least, I think. And I can even think of a few examples:
Friday, August 6, 2010
One of the most notable findings was that children improved their reading scores even though they typically weren’t selecting the curriculum books or classics that teachers normally assigned for summer reading. That conclusion confirms other studies suggesting that children learn best when they are allowed to select their own books.I prefer the NPR take, which highlights people's love of bookmobiles. It has always been my dream to drive a bookmobile! There was a bookmobile that stopped at the retirement home across the street from me when I lived in Portland, ME, and although it was there to serve less mobile people than myself, I happily took advantage of it. In fact, I remember checking out a number of books about the Bermuda Triangle. So cool.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
For example, the age when kids can string beads and noodles on a piece of yarn that is taped at one end: 7. The age at which children become embarrassed to do finger rhymes and songs: 9. And the age when they can operate the bathroom key and therefore do not need parents in the vicinity to accompany them: 10.
Obviously, some of these only apply to my library, but this is invaluable data for me. Part of the reason I've been so focused on ages and skill levels is that I've been trying to do more effective programming for my older kids. And by older, I mean older than 5, so actually, I'm talking about everything besides my preschool programming. One of my goals has been to introduce longer, more complex picture books, and I would like to announce my first successful approach to this end: story maps!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I did read three of the other nominations and ended up buying all of them for the library, despite their boring, grown-up covers. Seriously, do these look like teen books?
No. OK, maybe the middle one does. But the one on the left screams "Where's my poodle skirt? I want to go to the sock hop!"
Anyway, short reviews after the jump.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
As a child, I actually found the Ramona books a little stressful, because something was always about to go wrong. You know that feeling? So I blocked a lot of the books out. Other people have rosier memories of Ramona, but I like this article from WSJ, which (naturally) looks at the economics of the Quimby family and confirms that there was a bit of doom to the books.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
So although ebook comics are now available on Overdrive, I cannot partake of them. But here's what I'm hearing from other people:
And while we're on the subject of lists, I just found a new graphic novel list through a very long chain of emails on the GN listserv: Texas Maverick Graphic Novels. Add that to the Cybils and my beloved GGNFT, and I don't understand why some librarians still lament the lack of tools for GN collection development.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Anyway, how do you search for authors and illustrators by geographic location? I thought I'd share some of the most helpful strategies:
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The article also pointed me toward this interesting story about how Arizona State University tried to use the Kindle DX instead of text books. The program never got past the pilot because the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) pointed out that Kindles are not accessible to blind students.
And just today, an article I wrote about ebooks appeared in the RILA bulletin! I was predicting that ebooks would be come viable in public libraries sooner than some people thought. (Notice how I don't give an actual timeline. Clever, no?) I mentioned DRM as an obstacle to providing ebooks to patrons, but the ASU story also raises the issue of the accessibility for people with disabilities. Guess we better put on our thinking caps!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Let me be clear: I'm very grateful for the AC in my building. Not only does it make me comfortable, but it allows us to be consistently accessible to patrons. However, I did enjoy this anti-air conditioning article from the Washington Post.
I did not enjoy this article, which has been circulating among librarians as well: Public Libraries Serving as Makeshift Summer Camps for Some Children in Chicagoland.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Just last year, we would have been thrilled to have too many people for a program. Last year, there was no such thing as too many people! People were the measure of our program's excellence! But this year, we have enough people coming that we're getting picky. We're also running out of supplies, so we're requiring sign ups. But we've always been so loosey-goosey that a lot of our regulars are coming without signing up, because there's no precedent for it.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Cat Burglar Black, by Richard Sala, is arguably part of a genre-within-a-genre: the education of young criminals. It's a graphic novel in which a sticky-fingered, white-blond orphan is rescued from a Dickensian orphanage by a strange relative. Then she's promptly deposited in a mysterious school for girls that only has 4 pupils, where it seems she is expected to play an important role using the extralegal skills she developed at the orphanage.
It has an odd sense of humor to it. It's sort of a parody of all those novels about con artist orphans (Do those novels really exist, or am I just thinking of the movie Candleshoe?), but it's more awkward than funny. I had to keep checking to make sure it wasn't by Joann Sfar. It also reminded me of the movie St. Trinians, which is also about an English girls school where the girls learn the criminal arts. Sidenote: St. Trinians is based on a series of drawings by cartoonist Robert Searle. Obviously, Robert Searle isn't part of the current trend in YA books that I am attempting to posit, but the movie based on his work is evidence. So is Catherine Jink's Evil Genius.
White Cat, but Holly Black, imagines a world like ours, except with "curse workers," or people who can have a magical affect on you by touching you with their hands. In this world, everyone wears gloves and those with magical abilities are called "curse workers." Because curse work--all kinds, even nice kinds, like luck work--are illegal, most curse workers are associated with organized crime. Cassel's family is no exception, although he's an exception in the sense that, unlike the rest of his kin, he has no magical abilities. What he does have is a crush on the heiress to a crime family throne, a guilty conscience, and a sleep disorder that might just get him killed--or at least kicked out of boarding school. Cassel is also a bit of a con artist, and the book teaches you a few tricks of the trade. At the end, Black references books like Games Criminals Play and The Big Con, which was also reviewed on Guys Lit Wire, and which is cataloged under the subject heading "Swindlers and Swindling," which is adorable.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
And this year, I made things worse by spending way too much time on the Martha Stewart website. I never thought it would come to that. But she has so many ideas for kids crafts! I must have printed out 20 pages! But everyone knows what too much Martha Stewart can do to a person. Fortunately, while looking for cupcake cookbooks in the adult section (it's for a teen program--really*), I found I Like You by Amy Sedaris.
Of course, I'd seen the book before, but I never really understood if it was a humor book or a guide to entertaining. And after reading some of it, I still don't understand. But it is so funny that I think it's the cure for too much Martha Stewart. So, if you're like me and you're planning a summer reading program and feeling stressed a la "what if no one comes?" then I highly recommend I Like You.
How can you resist advice like this: "Once they've been assessed, it's important to magnify your strengths and ignore your weaknesses. If you have thick ankles, wear pants. If you're boring, pick exciting music. If you are a lousy cook, order out. Never overreach to mask your weaknesses. There is nothing cute or adorable about noticeably reaching beyond your capabilities. Remember, the goal is to entertain, not overtain."
Doesn't that make you feel better?
*That was like me at K-mart yesterday, where I was buying those gosh darn silly bands** as prizes. The guy at the register was like, "We have these? Seriously? Where did you find them? Are you getting them for you or your kids?" I was like, "um, my kids?"
**Oh, excuse me, silly bandz.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
And then there's the more disturbing issue of rape scenes that aren't unsettling enough. I was reading a graphic novel yesterday that included two rape scenes. While they weren't graphic, something about the art was so pulpy--the woman's clothing clinging to her breasts in artistic shreds, her mouth a perfect "o"--that I couldn't get the images out of my head. They were sexy rape scenes. The more I thought about it, the more angry I was.
I had been considering the graphic novel for my YA section. I do include some books with sex and violence, as long as they are generally worthy and pass the no-false-advertising test. In other words, I'll put books with "graphic" material on the shelves as long as the description and packaging of the book warn readers that it's going to be that kind of book. And frankly, the book I was considering focused on a historical figure who was known for violence, so no false advertising, but ... still. No way can I do it. I didn't know I had this particular criteria for evaluating books, but there it is: no glorification of sexual violence.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Brixton Brothers and the Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by the fantastic Adam Rex, is not about two brothers. It's about Steve Brixton and his best "chum" Dana, who really prefers not to get dragged into Steve's amateur detecting schemes. But Steve is obsessed with the Bailey Brothers' mystery series, so by the end of this action packed book (it includes a car chase and an escape from a sinking fishing vessel), Steve tells Dana they're going to have to call themselves "the Brixton Brothers" because it sounds better.
The best running joke in the book is that everyone believes Steve Brixton is a private detective hired by the evil "Mr. E" to help steal a national treasure--all because he follows the advice in his Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook. Of course, the advice is ridiculous. Or at least written to help children "play" detective: "Shawn and Kevin love a good booby trap. Trapping a crook gives their knuckles a break. You can trap baddies just like the Bailey Brothers! Just make like Tarzan and dig a hole in the ground, then cover it with sticks and leaves. Crash! Your unsuspecting suspect will fall right in!"
The humor in the book is consistently on point. My favorite scene is when Steve dresses up as a sailor--including a striped shirt, fake mustache, and eye patch--to infiltrate a tough fisherman's bar. When he gets in the door, he notices everyone is wearing jeans and flannel shirts. But is he daunted? No. "Yes, Steve thought, catching his reflection in a gaudy mirror. He looked more like a sailor than anyone in the place!"
So my conclusion about whether or not kids'll get it?
Thursday, June 10, 2010
In the past, my friends and I have bemoaned summer reading lists, because they bring out the rigid, insistent side of so many parents. But this year, for the first time, I was in the position of helping create a summer reading list. And it was intoxicating. You start with a jumble of books you love, and then you start asking yourself: Do I have a few nonfiction titles for this age group? Are all these authors white (Ooops)? What about something in verse? How many copies of that book are in the system? And before you know it your list is twice as long as it should be. So then you start crossing things off, and then you start hating all the books on the list, and then you start adding things again. And it's fantastic.
The list is going home with the report cards of all the students at the 3 elementary schools closest to me. So the titles on the list will be popstars of my collection this summer. They will be coveted, anticipated, and considered "above" the rest of the collection. And while that means some other really wonderful books will be overlooked, it also means that some of my favorites will see super high circulation.
But you know which age group was the toughest one to pick books for? Second and third grade.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I'd like to say "Amen!" to this Huffington Post article about the myth of men not reading. I don't think you have to be a man to publish and select books that men will like. But if the population you serve includes, for example, Asian men in their early 20s living in urban areas, then you have to figure out what Asian men in their early 20s living in urban areas want to read. Probably not Anne Tyler, much as I love her. Sometimes you have to read stuff you're not interested in. That's why it's called your job and not something you do for fun. (via Guys Lit Wire)
And where was this list last year when I was seeking out books about the different ethnic populations in my neighborhood? It's wonderful! At this point, I actually have all the books on the Cambodian list, which makes me feel good about myself, but also sort of sad. But it's not cake to find children's books that represent South East Asian experiences, and then when you find them, you think, who wrote this? Is it accurate? So I'm very grateful for this list from the talkstory website, and I'm totally going to use the Hawaii part as a resource for one of my summer reading program activities. (via the YA YA YAs)
Finally, I was interested in the Chasing Ray review of Sources of Light, because although she doesn't take about white privilege specifically, I feel like she's alluding to it. So now I have to read this novel-about-Mississippi-during-the-civil-rights-movement and compare it to My Mother the Cheerleader, which has actually grown on me since I read it a year ago. And Summer of Kings, which I need to re-read after reading The Rock and the River, because they both have scenes in which characters discover radical Black Panther newspapers. I feel like there's an article in here somewhere.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
June 12: Youth Reading Across Rhode Island Kick-Off. 12-3 p.m. @ the Statehouse. Sponsored by OLIS, Rhode Island Center for the Book, and others. This year's book is Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise, which is an epistolary novel, so at my table I'll be doing a recycled stationary craft. Come visit me! Of course, there's also going to be a book giveaway, author talk, and live music.
June 25-29: ALA Annual Conference in D.C. I'm on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee. Although we don't vote at the meeting, we discuss all the titles that have been nominated so far, which means what I should really be doing right now is reading the stack of GN behind me ...
And other than that, it's all summer reading all the time.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Pazer, co-author of forthcoming Teenage Waistland, analyzed the plots of a number of books with overweight protagonists, from Precious to The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, and measured how "fat-accepting" the narratives were. But then she took it in a direction I hadn't expected. She asked whether librarians had an obligation to seek out books that model healthy habits, as well as books that encourage a positive body image no matter what your weight. This is in light of the disturbing trend in obesity.
It was obvious she'd hit on a hot topic, and the discussion following her powerpoint ranged from rewarding children with cookies to hiding a body-image obsession behind a commitment to whole foods. Which brings me to revisit a book I reviewed on Good Reads a little while ago: Fat Cat by Robin Brande.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The story is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in a small town near an Air Force Base. The main character, Juliet, lives above her family's grocery store, which is threatened by the arrival of a local supermarket. But Juliet's primary concern at the beginning of the novel is that her best friend, Lowell, no longer wants to hang out with her, because she's a girl. Soon Lowell and Juliet are both entangled in a competition between the boys and girls in their neighborhood: ten tests of skills and bravery to prove once and for all whether boys or girls are the best.
It's the kind of kids game that parents never approve of. Each test is a little more dangerous than the last, and although most of the characters are aware that the challenges don't really prove anything, they all have their reasons for participating. I related most to Patsy, an Air Force brat who wants to be a pilot when she grows up and has no romantic interest in the boys. She just wants to beat them. I think this is one way girls cope when they hit adolescence and realize that people expect them to do certain things, but not others, and gender and sex become the most salient aspects of their identity. It can be a shock for a daddy's girl and a tom boy.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
First of all, Rubina's family comes from Pakistan. So when Rubina rushes home, waving a birthday party invitation, her mother (referred to as "Ami") wonders what a birthday party is. And then she insists that Rubina take her little sister, Sana, to be fair. Rubina knows that none of the other girls will bring their younger siblings, but her mother insists.
So where do you think this is going? In so many books, the child is horrified to be different, but it all works out when, after a little prodding by an understanding adult, the other children are delighted by the difference. Not so here.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
And look, I'm slowly remembering what I learned about design in college!
Blurbs after the jump.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Anyway, the Nook has a mini full-color touch screen on the bottom, separate from the screen that displays the text of the book. This is best-of-both-worlds in that it you have a quick-responding touch screen menu, but the beauty of the E Ink display up top, unmarred by the extra layer required for touch screen capability. The touch screen definitely makes navigation faster than on my Sony eReader pocket edition, although the page-turn delay is about the same. There are forward and back buttons on both the right and left sides of screen, which give you more flexibility in how you hold it, too.
However, there is also just a little bit of a disconnect:
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The way this applies to story time is that once the kids hit a certain reading level, they want to read the words off the page before I say them. Which kind of drives me crazy. Which shows what a narcissist I am. But I've been thinking for a while about how to turn that into a program.
So far, I've imagined:
- handing each kid a copy of the book I'm reading and having everyone read along. Maybe having something that makes a "bing" sound when they're supposed to turn the page. But that might not mean anything to them.
- having the kids help me make giant versions of popular books so we can all read them together. That was sort of inspired by the Angry Chicken blog post on book copying, although I think that requires a certain kind of child.
- giving the kids parts to read. Lots of books lend themselves to this, although I've been thinking about doing it with Melinda Long's How I Became A Pirate, because there are parts where the pirates repeat things after their captain. The only question is how to get the words in front of the kids and tell them when to read their parts.
- having the kids write their own "magnet poetry" type stories with words cut from magazines (or that look like they were cut from magazines, using the magic of my color printer) at the end of each storytime and reading each other's stories.
- having the kids draw while I read the stories. The idea is that they do little symbolic/comic-type drawings that will help them retell the story after I close the book. This is based on an activity I did when I was student-teaching that was surprisingly popular. It was inspired by the Inuit girls' game of telling stories while drawing symbols in the ground with a knife.
- ending the program with computer time, but limiting kids to Starfall or the literacy programs that are installed on the computer.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I have created another book list! This one is just a, um, what does wikipedia call it? A stub? A schlub? A stem? It's just a beginning. It has only 8 titles, and I'm sure there are more, but here's the "disclaimer" at the top:
WARNING: The endings of these books are unpredictable!!! If I made a list of books in which everyone ended up as miserable as you are right now (sorry), then you’d know how all the books ended, and you wouldn’t be motivated to finish them, right? So instead, I’m offering you a mix of happy and sad endings, books about people who move on, people who get back together with their ex’s, people who break up with the love-of-their-lives because they just can’t get their crap together (I’m still bitter about that one), people who learn to love being single, and people who never, ever, ever give up hope. So I hope these books make you feel better, but it’s possible they will make you feel a lot worse. However, I promise they will make you feel something. And that’s better than listening to people tell you there are plenty of fish in the sea, whatever that means.
Teasers after the jump.
"Mr. Zabriskie, 39, now assistant coordinator for youth services at Queens Library, says manga is for these teenagers what punk rock, New Wave, and Dungeons and Dragons were for his generation: a world of specialized knowledge that excludes adults and opens a private creative space for young people.
“This kind of secret, hidden knowledge gives them a power and an empowerment,” he said. “It’s this generation’s esoterica.”
But, he said, unlike other teenage rituals like graffiti or, at the extremes, gang membership, manga fandom increasingly happens at one of the safest places around — the library."
I love the word "esoterica."
Friday, May 14, 2010
But I'm visiting a high school on Monday and I was thinking of reading a few excerpts from new books, so I took You Don't Even Know Me back off the shelf and proceeded to read it cover to cover. I figured I might as well write about it, too.
Now, Sharon Flake has great narrative voice. No question. But what makes her books so significant is the subject matter. She's just plain writing about stuff no one else is writing about. Like wanting to hook up with an older woman or trying to help out a 9-year-old who knows more about the streets than you do.
Sharon Flake definitely writes about issues--AIDS, suicide, sex abuse, and gangs in this volume alone. But she's never preachy, and I'm trying to figure out how she does it. But there's no one way. For example, in one story, she shows us what it's like to have a caretaker who's obese. It takes an hour and a half to walk a few blocks to the shoe store. You live on disability checks. You think everyone's staring even when they're not. I'm thinking the story is about how hard it is to live in a situation like that, but it turns out the story is about how good the boy has it--and he knows it.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
And just to refresh, the Youth RARI kick-off is at the State House at noon on Saturday, June 12th. To quote from the blog: "There will be information and activities for kids grades 3 - 6 beginning at noon. Kate Klise, author of Regarding the Fountain will speak at 1:00 and Joe's Backyard Band will perform at 1:45. The first 250 families will receive a free copy of Regarding the Fountain."
The force driving the plot is Reggie McKnight's campaign for president at a progressive school in New York city. To win, he has to overcome the mental image everyone has of him throwing up on stage on the first day of school.
However, Reggie doesn't declare his campaign until page 178 of 324.
That's because the author also wanted to cover Reggie's "big brother" relationship with a troubled kindergarten kid, his community service project at a homeless shelter, his worries about his dad's unemployment, the rift between him and his sometimes-clueless white friend, the spiritual questions his youth pastor raises, and his sister's attempted transformation from basketball queen to cheerleader.
I was genuinely interested in how these issues would work out, but I tended to lose one thread as another one was woven in. And a lot of the issues never got worked out. But I think that was intentional. The author is showing us real life: a messy tapestry full of loose ends. The feeling of completeness at the end of the novel comes from Reggie finding peace with himself--not from him fixing anything.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Also at RIEMA, I attended the Rhode Island Children's Book Award workshop. The RICBA is going paperless this year, so I thought I would link to the list of nominations. I'm thinking about participating for the first time--I don't think there are a lot of public libraries that do. It's more of a school library thing. But I'm interested in tapping into the power of statewide programs.
So I'm thinking of creating a "Backwards Book Award Book Club" for 3rd-6th graders in the fall. I know--why "backwards"? Well, rather than requiring them to read the books before they come to the meetings, I want to use the meetings to promote the books. I'm thinking of reading parts aloud, having snacks that are featured in the stories, doing related activities, and making predictions about what will happen in the books. And maybe if your prediction is correct you get a prize?
Have any other public libraries participated in RICBA?
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I always enjoy the RIEMA conference: it's small enough that you can actually catch up with people, but big enough to give you a nice selection of workshops. And there's free coffee all day. I attended Bonnie Lilienthal's reference workshop, and had some interesting conversation with her before and during. She said that many librarians tell her they're ordering fewer reference sets (which didn't surprise me) and fewer nonfiction titles in general (which did surprise me). They claim they're simply getting fewer reference questions, because kids use online resources to complete their homework.
I don't have that problem. I do have kids coming in with different kinds of information needs, so I am switching up the selection on my reference shelves. But I'm not eliminating that part of my collection. Frankly, I wish I knew one of the librarians who is buying less nonfiction so I could say: "That's so interesting! Tell me more!" when really I mean: "That's wack. Don't the kids in your school district still do reports on Native American Tribes, Countries, States, specific species of animals and ancient cultures? Don't the kids want world record, poetry, joke, and drawing books? Don't you have those ambitious early literacy teachers who want science books appropriate for 3-year-olds?" But every community's different, so I shouldn't judge.
So instead I'll focus on the new demands for reference. In some cases, I haven't found a good reference set to meet these demands, but here are the kinds of questions I'm getting:
Thursday, May 6, 2010
So I've found a number of jazzy titles, and I'm now putting them on the shelf like bait to see which ones get snapped up.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
But now I have a color printer! I am unstoppable! And the blurbs are on the back! My dream is to print it on an 11x17 paper and make it foldable. But perhaps I should actually make it smaller? Anyway, blurbs after the jump.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Actually, I bet libraries are big buyers of some of the niche nonfiction titles, but publishers never rely on niche nonfiction to bring home the bacon. We all know now that publishers rely on a few bestselling titles to subsidize the rest of their publications. Which is either ridiculously inefficient or sort of encouraging, if you're an aspiring writer.
So the only thing I can figure this means for libraries is that we better get on the ebook and erotica trains, because those seem to be what people want. Interestingly, both ebooks and erotica in the library evoke questions about what a library is "supposed to be."
Friday, April 30, 2010
They're closing a number of schools in Providence, and I've been discussing with people how this might affect the libraries near the schools. Mount Pleasant, my humble library, is walking distance from two public elementary schools, two Catholic schools, one public high school, and one private high school. Of course, "walking distance" depends on the length of your legs and your walking tolerance, which depends on how often you are transported by minivan.
I once had a volunteer (pity her) take the NCES list of schools in Providence and map them, along with the public libraries, so I could figure out what schools were my responsibility.
[View Providence Schools in a larger map]
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I guess you don't have to celebrate my Swedish heritage. You could celebrate yours (if you're lucky enough) or you could celebrate Astrid Lindgren's. I usually get worked up about my Swedishness around Santa Lucia day, but delightfully, the Tor blog is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Moomins. What are the Moomins? I quote (from Tor):
"Well, they’re like white hippos. And they’re Finnish. They’re sort of like the Finnish version of Winnie the Pooh and all his friends. They sprung from the imagination of artist and writer Tove Jansson 65 years ago, and over time became a European phenomenon!"Now, this is surely delightful, but the above does fail to mention that Tove Jansson was Swedish-Finnish. And that the Moomins look a bit like Jeff Smith's Bone. Other than that, yes. Go to Tor for re-reads and a chance to win the first four books in the series.
And that is not the only way you can celebrate Swedish children's literature. Oh no. You can get your hands on a copy of Kitty Crowther's Jack and Jim.
Monday, April 26, 2010
It's really magic, and I'm a little afraid I just jinxed it by writing about it. But it has yet not to work, and it's a chance to showcase some books that are really the illustrator's show. And I don't think you need much musical ability to do it. I do a sort of whispery singing with long pauses between lines. It's a lullaby thing.
The books, after the jump.
Friday, April 23, 2010
There isn't too too much else going on, because the summer is fast approaching. And this summer, we'll have the first ever Youth RARI, so that's something to look forward to.
Mostly, I will spend the coming month planning the nitty gritty of summer reading and trying to wrap up the library floorplan redesign, because that was my big project for the winter. And it's no longer winter.
So here are the children's librarian professional development highlights for May (after the jump):
So without further ado, here's what she said (skip to the 35:50 mark if you want to just hear her).
My favorite things:
- When she say she's received her layoff notice. That brings the gravity.
- When she says, "I asked my students to be the voice of students across the country." That's what makes Jamie such a great leader--she always includes people, seeks input, gathers people, data. She's a gatherer.
- The battery image. That student is a genius! It's so sci-fi.
- The way she finishes with specific steps. No wishy-washy suggestions. She has a plan.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
OK Go by Carin Berger. This is the kind of picture book I like to give my very-very-very beginning readers who can't even read "beginning readers" except for possibly Pip and Otto. If you can read the words "stop," "go," and "OK," you can read most of this book, and you can have an adult look over your shoulder and read all the little fine print. The illustrations are intricately detailed and just weird enough that you can't figure them out at first glance, so the little ones like to sit and pour (pore?) over it. Which kind of pour? Anyway. What the illustrations actually contain: funny little creatures puffing around in contraptions that pollute. Then half way through, they switch to bikes and feet and other environmentally friendly forms of transportation.
I think I got started on this project when I heard some kids in the library talking about so and so being "B" or "W," meaning white or black. The kids were shortening the words the way you do swear words, because they had got the message that they weren't supposed to talk about race. Don't get me wrong: most of the kids in my library don't mind labeling people, and the labels are usually black, white, Spanish or Chinese. Never mind that most of the Asians in this neighborhood are Cambodian or Laotian. But there are some white kids who treat race like a taboo subject. And I think they could use some books that talk about the entitlement and the guilt that can go along with being white.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
So she ends up hanging with Naleejah. Naleejah has Gucci bags, great hair, and lots of guys. Interestingly, Kate's not impressed by that. She spends most of the story being disgusted with Naleejah, but she can't quite extricate herself from the "friendship," because she keeps accepting Naleejah's offers to do her hair and let her borrow better clothes. Especially on days when she expects to see a certain guy.
So here's my question. I found the story to be a little didactic, but do I just need to get over that? I love YA books that are ambivalent about truth, that don't honor the authority of adults, and that raise more questions than they answer. But lots of tales of urban, African-American teens eschew ambivalence--this is something discussed in the Hornbook article, "And Stay Out of Trouble." So if an author sets out to write something between a cautionary tale and an inspirational story, should I evaluate the book on the basis of how well the author succeeds?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
This relates to a larger issue: the list has very few examples of books by or about people of color. This isn't really surprising, because lo these many years, books by and about white people have been getting published and winning Newbery awards and getting assigned by classroom teachers much more often than books (imagine all the unpublished--even unwritten ones!) by people of color. In fact, in the last issue of Hornbook, there was a wonderful article about being black and growing up reading books like The Secret Garden.
Also, the CCBC has been collecting data on the number of books by and about people of color that are published in the US, and it's distressing. Here's just a sample:
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Number of Books
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So it's not surprising, to me, to find that most of the people who participated in Elizabeth Bird's poll have read and liked more books by and about white people. So--how helpful!--the Fuse #8 poll reveals the bias in our field. But it also reinforces it. At least it does if our response is to use it as an assessment tool rather than looking at it as an interesting snapshot.
Naturally, I have a solution. After the jump are all of the chapter books on the CCBC's 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know. There are ten. (How perfect!) So give yourself 10 points for each of the following that you have read. Now average that with your Fuse #8 grade. Now you have a grade which is adjusted for white bias. This is obviously mathematically suspect, but entertaining, no?
That's how I found Wench, which I'm in the middle of. It focuses on the lives of four women, living in slavery in the South, who are forced to play the role of mistress with the white men who own them. The setting glistens hot on the page, and the characters have to make impossible choices: attempt to run away, abandoning their children and possibly endangering the lives of the slaves who remain behind? or stay in slavery, subjecting themselves to the abuse of the men and the venom of the women, hoping to convince the white men to set their children free?
Well. There's absolutely no possible transition after that. But more relevant-to-children's literature, White Readers Meet Black Authors today had a reminder about Marvelous World by Troy CLE. I ordered the first book back when Vibe magazine was calling it the black Harry Potter, and the author was already imagining the films. And then I thought it fizzled. Not so!
The series has continued, the new covers look great, and there's a book trailer!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
OK, probably sort of because it's hard sci-fi. But I don't have a tiny brain, really. I think the questions the novel raises are interesting. For example: If you were going to try to communicate to aliens the concept of friendship, how would you do it? Forget about the technical aspects of sending out messages into the unknown. What images would you use? What if the aliens don't eat together? What if they don't communicate verbally? What if they don't use physical touch to show affection? What if they're like ants or microorganisms and their relationships aren't based on feelings? Tricky, huh?
So I learned a new word: Xenopsychology. Alien psychology.
But the book disappointed me in a way that has nothing to do with the genre or the quality of the writing. This was the first Haikasoru book that arrived, fully cataloged, at my library, and I was hoping it would appeal to teens. The blurb goes thus:
Aki Shiraishi is a high school student working in the astronomy club and one of the few witnesses to an amazing event—someone is building a tower on the planet Mercury. Soon, the Builders have constructed a ring around the sun, threatening the ecology of Earth with an immense shadow. Aki is inspired to pursue a career in science, and the truth. She must determine the purpose of the ring and the plans of its creators, as the survival of both species—humanity and the alien Builders—hangs in the balance.You can understand why I thought it was going to focus on a teenager, right?
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Second, the Eisner noms were announced--I'm a little late with this, but the winners won't be announced until July. Here are the kids and teens nominations (Bold titles are also on the 2010 GGNFT list):
Friday, April 16, 2010
And I hate it when adults shush kids over and over, because it's so normal for kids to want to respond to a story by yelling out things like, "I have a pet fish, too!" I like to remind people that Shakespearean theater was punctuated by much less adorable outbursts.
But the problem with high-energy, all-singing, all-dancing storytimes is that I don't get to read the touching, quiet stories. My philosophy has been that those stories are great for intimate reading between parents and children but can't work in a group, in the middle of a one-room library, on a Monday night.
But lately, I've been challenging myself to read those stories, because I think I have to have faith in a good story--forget the finger games and the repeated lines and the instructions to study the illustrations closely so you can hear what the words aren't saying. If librarians won't believe in the power of bare tale-telling, who will?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
So these books with crazy boy appeal are actually harder for boys to get their hands on, because awards committees, librarians, and parents (who shall henceforth be referred to as literary gatekeepers) are all like, "Oh no, dear, you don't want that nasty book about exploding flatulence, you want this nice book about making friends."
Boys come to the library looking for Captain Underpants and face a wall of Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody books.
But I just read an article that makes a good, related point: it's not really that girls like more sophisticated books. It's just that the literary gatekeepers of America have embraced trashy girl books while still looking down on trashy boy books.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
And then all my readers hated me.
Most of the fans had already read the first 5 volumes, and if they hadn't, it's not like it took them very long to get to volume 6. But I just couldn't bear to spend three times as much money on Naruto as I did on other series. It's that classic librarian dilemma: give the people what they want or give the people choices. You know what I mean?
Anyway, the point is that story arcs are my new thing.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
(Actually, we had to move all the furniture, because G-Tech donated a block of children's computers, and they just wouldn't fit in our old space. But I still think the 3D model gave me a lot of credibility when I proposed a new layout.)
I used Floorplanner to do the 3D model, without really investigating my options. So I was wondering what else was out there, and guess what? Google has a similar program. Shocking, right?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
A teacher came in yesterday and asked me for examples of personification in picture books. The idea is to teach 5th graders about literary special effects, like onomatopoeia, personification, simile, metaphor, etc. I was like, oh great idea no problem. Then I was like, huh.
It was one of those reference questions that's harder than it sounds. I couldn't specifically remember whether certain books attributed human qualities and actions to non-humans.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
"Regardless of how to interpret different ways of categorizing comics in a library, what underlies such questions is how readers read, and what comics means to them. Do they follow writers (what one librarian at the session I was at called the “Neil Gaiman problem”)? Do they follow publishers (as above)? Do they follow pencilers (or some other artist)? Do they follow a particular character (what another librarian called the “Wolverine problem”)?