Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Reviews:Falling Hard (Roller Girls #1) by Megan Sparks

Annie and her father move from London, England to her father's small home town in Illinois where her father plans on opening a cafe.  While searching for a place to fit in at high school Annie makes new friends (including artist best friend Lexie)and tries to decide whether her gymnastics replacement should be cheer leading or roller derby.

This was a nice coming of age tale that most tween girls will be able to relate to in some way.  There is a small love triangle forming but as the book is part of a larger series that was not the focus of the book and is in fact left hanging only partially formed.  The real focus of the book is Annie's journey to finding a place for herself and her new love affair with roller derby, which I thought was a nice change from other realistic fiction books I've read for this age group.  Annie has a nice relationship with her father and I thought the author did a good job with both that relationship and Annie's relationship with her mother.  

As a Non Skating Official who has worked with women's, men's and junior roller derby leagues I will say that the roller derby is fairly accurate.  The drills, amount of work and athleticism required were accurate although their timeline for passing a skills test and playing in a bout was a bit expedited.  The author also did a wonderful job illustrating the camaraderie that develops between those involved in roller derby and the sense of welcoming and openness that teams try to foster.

The relationship Jesse has with the players and team which may surprise people from other sports is accurate for the way roller derby officiating currently works.  The book was also written during the last rules set (for those that aren't derby familiar; in January a major revision to the rules of roller derby came out.)  That being said it was only one or two references and I don't think it would keep a reader from going to a game and being able to follow what's going on.

There was one disparaging comment written about men's and women's roller derby being different games because men don't wear fishnets.  I know not everyone is a supporter of men's roller derby however I found the comment demeaning to both men and women's players.  The sport is about more then fishnets as the rest of the book spends a lot of time proving and while I believe there are differences in how the men play vs how the women play I thought the comment was unnecessarily disparaging of everyone.  

E-book copy provided by netgalley.

~Danger Prone Daphne, NSO

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Reviews: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

Parsefall and Lizzie Rose work with Grisini, a foreign puppeteer who unbeknownst to them has amazing powers. Both Lizzie and Parse are orphans that he has adopted and is teaching to run puppet shows. One day they go to Clara's house, a rich young girl, to perform for her birthday. Clara is quiet and reserved. She is only surviving child of a cholera outbreak in the Wintermute home. As such you can imagine her parents heartbreak when she disappears the day after the performance. Lizzie Rose is quite sad as Clara was quite nice to them. What follows is an adventure as the children try to break from Grisini only to get caught in someone else's trap. 

I really enjoyed this. The children were interesting and smart. The true villain was very bad (and the witch clearly not as bad as she wanted to be). The descriptions were lovely (or horrible), the author did a wonderful job making you feel like you were there and the historical detail and information on how puppets work were lovely. While I was expecting some things what actually happened to Clara was quite a surprise; along with how strong she really was. I really loved the ending of this one.

My only complaint was an audiobook complaint. I felt like the voices the reader gave Parse and Lizzie Rose were too grown up sounding for them. Clara and practically all of the other characters felt so perfect otherwise that it was almost unsettling.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Crafty Kids: Tie-Dye Butterfly

Since for March Crafty Kids I did a caterpillar craft, for April I decided that it would be fun to make a butterfly.  First I tripped over this and thought it was pretty much the greatest thing ever.  I also found another version that included a clothes pin for the butterfly body which I had left over from the caterpillar craft.  Unfortunately the link for that craft has since been deleted so I can't post that piece of inspiration.  

I did cover the tables with plastic table cloth before hand, had lots of napkins on hand and I was able to get inexpensive spray bottles for tiny fingers by shopping in the travel section at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  The kids loved the project and two grandmothers ended up asking me if they could make butterflies too which was great.  The coffee filters didn't take long to dry although I admit to speeding up the process by hanging clothes pinning them to my desk handles so they would dry even faster.  I had coloring sheets on hand for the kids to work on while they waited for their butterflies to dry.  


Materials:


Coffee filters
Markers
Spray Bottle w/ water
Pipe Cleaners
Clothespin (optional)
Magnet Tape (optional)

1.  Color your coffee filter with markers.  Make crazy patterns but remember that everything is going to blur a little bit.  (Note:  If the markers you’re using are drying out the colors will not run as much later)

2.  Lay the coffee filter on top of a plastic tablecloth or layer of paper towels and spray 2-3 spritzes of water on to the coffee filter.  Allow coffee filter to dry.  (You can leave it laying flat but it dried faster when I hung it to dry.)

3.  (Version 1)  Pinch the coffee filter in the middle and use a clothespin to keep it pinched.  Fluff the wings if they look too scrunched.  Wrap a pipe cleaner around the top of the clothespin leaving the ends free to bend into antennae.  If you want to turn this one into a magnet you can put a strip of magnet tape on the back of the clothespin.  

(Version 2)  Pinch the coffee filter in the middle.  Fold the pipe cleaner in half and stick the pinched coffee filter in the middle.  Twist the top of the filter a few times leaving the ends free to bend into antennae.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: The Heart Of A Samurai by Margi Preus

Manjiro is a young Japanese teen stranded on a deserted island with four fellow fisherman. Eventually they are picked up by an American whaling ship that will not take them back to Japan due to Japan's closed door policy; foreigners and even locals that have traveled too far from Japan will be fired upon when entering the Japan's harbor's and put to death should they reach land. Manjiro proves himself to be a fast learner and endears himself to the ships Captain with his curiosity and intelligence. The Captain takes Manjiro home with him where they become a family and Manjiro goes to school, tries his hand at an apprenticeship, ships out on a whaling ship as part of the crew, becomes a gold miner and even eventually returns home and manages to avoid being put to death and becomes a diplomat. 

I just want to start by saying that I somehow I had gotten it into my head that this book was going to be about a girl breaking gender barriers, so as you can imagine I was a little surprised when I started listening and it was about a boy. 

There was so much to learn about whaling and life on a ship, mid 19th century life in Eastern United States, life for gold minders in California and Japanese life at that time period. The details are incredible. Clearly the author did a lot of research and I found the historical notes at the end of the book really helpful, particularly since Manjiro was a real person. I had never heard of him before but clearly he led a much more interesting life then the average person. 

The language sounded beautiful and almost lyrical sometimes. Unfortunately the narrator had a very nonfiction quality to the way he read the book that could sometimes be distracting.   However it wasn't all bad, he also did a great job with the japanese and how Manjiro would speak. Several days later I'm still torn between whether this serious matter of fact tone makes sense since it was based on a true story or whether it was in fact too distracting for me. 

About half way though the book I started thinking about this book and that it didn't feel like a children's book. It didn't even really feel like a middle grade or teen book. Both the tone of the book and the time span it covers make it feel more like adult literary fiction. It's an adventurous story but the adventure feels toned down by the language and the amount of introspection.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Personal: Reading Goals and Book Awards

As a Youth Services librarian that works with children and teenagers I feel a need to keep up with new work that is coming out for that age group in addition to reading the award winners each year.  For me that includes the Printz Award and Honor Books, Newbery Award and Honor Books, Caldecott Award and Honor Books, and the Pura Belpre Award and Honor Books.  I also always try to read a couple of winners from the time period before I was a librarian (or before I decided to add the particular award to my reading goals) in an effort to play catch up.  I also tend to look through the Great Graphic Novels for Teens list and read a mountain of those (although I don't keep track) and take a glance at the Orbis Pictus each year and read the winner if sounds interesting.

All of these awards are given by various branches of the American Library Association except for the Orbis Pictus which is given by the National Council of Teachers of English.  The Caldecott, Newbery and Printz are all awards for books that were considered the best in their field.  These are not necesarily the books kids will find most interesting but they will end up becoming school assignment books and every library will try to have a copy of them on shelf. I feel like it's important to read these books because they are supposed to be the best of the best, it's good for professional development and more often then not I do find that a number of the books were on my to be read list anyway because they sounded interesting.  The Pura Belpre award is given to authors and illustrators that do an excellent job of illustrating or writing about hispanic life and culture through their work.  Since my family is all from Spain I always felt like this level was important on a personal level.

However I am beginning to feel torn about this decision.  It's beginning to get a little overwhelming having 16 books added to my to be read list each year, not including the ones I am trying to read from years past.  I don't always enjoy the books.  Sometimes I am not enjoying the particular award winner and it becomes a struggle to finish the work.  I also already have other books that I HAVE to read for library programs that are not necessarily my cup of tea.  I feel like I haven't read anything I've wanted to read in a while now.

What award winners do you try and read every year?  Do you struggle through the books you don't like or let yourself skip that particular one this year?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Review: Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan

Jake Stemple is considered one of the ultimate bad boys. He's been kicked out of every school he's ever attended. Then he ends up at Wit's End. Wit's End is where the Applewhite family lives. The Applewhite children are all home schooled and Jake's grandfather has decided that Jake will be joining them. Jake moves in with the Applewhites and realizes that they are all crazy artists (except for E.D.), but he is eventually sucked in and joins the family for a massive project that will take everyone's skills.

I liked watching Jake find his place in the Applewhite family. He gets sucked in so subtly he clearly doesn't realize it at first. I also like that you get into Jake's brain as he realizes how many of the things he's doing weren't about him but were in fact about how he wanted others to perceive him.

I like the insight into E.D. as well. She is clearly the odd one out but she still plays a vital role in the family. The play could not have been pulled off without her, and in her own way I think she is just as creative as the other Applewhites', it's just in a way that we are not used to thinking of as creative.  

I guess I've been reading too much fiction where relationships play a heavy role. I was totally expecting E.D. and Jake to end up in some kind of relationship and that never happened and it felt so much more right because of it.  It would have made the novel too busy as there was already a lot going on and I don't think it would have felt genuine.

There was lots of humor and lots of hard work. Destiny is a great example of that. He's a funny kid but he takes a lot of work, which also made the book feel more honest and genuine. It was also interesting to see the amount of work that went into putting on the play.  There was just enough technical detail to make things interesting but not so much that it felt overwhelming or taxing to figure out what was going on.  I really enjoyed reading this and when I have time will definitely consider reading the second one.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crafty Kids: Caterpillar Magnet

For March's Crafty Kids program I recreated a craft that I saw for sale as a kit in a catalog many months ago. (Unfortunately I don't remember which one.)  The original craft called for gluing pom poms directly onto a clothes pin, adding googly eyes to the front on and then sticking magnet tape to the other side of the clothes pin.  I felt like the kit was a little too expensive and that all the supplies could be purchased for less then the cost of a kit for 12 kids.  Then I came across the blog Walk in the Sun, and really liked how they added the leaf so that there would be more surface area for the gluing of the caterpillars.  At the library we have Ellison machines that will cut massive quantities of simple shape easily as long as we have the stencil for it, so I had one of the pages cut the leaves with the Ellison machine ahead of time.


Caterpillar Magnet
Supplies:
1 clothes pin
Magnet tape
1 card stock leaf
6 small pom poms (I used 3/4 inch pom poms)
1 large pom pom (I used a 1 inch pom pom)
2 wiggle eyes
Markers
glue

1.  Glue your 2 wiggle eyes to your large pom pom.  This is the front of your caterpillar

2.  Draw a leaf pattern onto your cardstock leaf while you wait for your wiggle eyes to dry

3.  Glue your pom poms onto your green leaf; leaving the face for last.  

4.  Get a piece of magnet tape and stick it to your clothespin while giving your caterpillar a little time to dry.

5.  Once your caterpillar is mostly dry glue your leaf onto your clothes pin.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1

Like most people my age elementary school was all about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I was very sure that I wanted to grow up to be April who was super tough and smart, so when I saw this in the library I was very excited to say the least. This volume covers a massive over arching story line that gives the entire origin story of Splinter and the Turtles from start to finish, introduces the guys to April and Casey and several familiar villains. It also includes in depth notes from on of the creators on the collaboration process, story line inspiration and development, art development and almost personal anecdotes. 

This is not the Ninja Turtles we grew up with. It is much grittier and darker both in it's black and white art style that showcases a seedier side of NYC and it's more serious and at times more grown up storyline. Bad guys die, characters are more violent, teenage turtles drink beer and use not very nice language and all the characters are a little bit more tempestuous. That being said it's very easy to see the roots of the television show we all grew up with (I'd also like to note that I wish the developers of the cartoon had chosen to keep April a scientist. I think that would have been very inspirational to many little girls.) 

I thought the writers did a great job tying everything into this huge origin story that went out of its way to explain everything from where the ooze came from, their battles with Shredder and the foot and to include a trip across the universe. The creators notes added a lot to the story from funny asides about inspiration, pointing out things about the artwork that I may not have noticed otherwise and showing how this comic grew. I thought these notes added a lot to the reading experience and the story itself sometimes; that being said I appreciate how easy they are to skip over if the reader isn't in the mood. The notes are situated between issues, include page numbers and when something from a particular panel or spread is especially high-lighted they include a small diagram. This is much less intrusive then putting notes on each page for those who aren't interested and doesn't force people to keep flipping back and forth. I'm really glad that there are at least 2 more volumes to look forward to and that I already have one of them at home. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crafty Kids: CD Fish Mobile

For February's Crafty Kids program I decided to make fish mobiles out of old cds.  I don't know where I originally saw the craft but I thought it was adorable and couldn't wait to do it.  We have tons of cds and dvds at the library that get so scratched that they can no longer be played, as they get taken out of circulation we save them in the back for arts and craft.  
I made 4 sets of cardboard fin and mouth templates from a cardboard box using the templates from a similar craft on DTLK Crafts for Kids site.



CD Fish Mobile
Materials:

2 old cds or dvds
construction paper
fish fin templates
googly eyes
permanent markers
glue sticks
hot glue gun
yarn

1.  With a permanent marker draw on the shiny side of the cds to decorate your fish.  *see note*

2.  Select up to 5 colors of construction paper.  Use the fish fin and mouth  templates to trace and cut out a set of lips, a fishtail, two large fins and a small fin.  Cut a rectangle out of the construction paper as well using the white sheet provided as a template (should be a quarter of the size of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper).  You may also cut small round circles to mount your googly eyes on (Make sure you cut them out bigger than your googly eyes so they can be seen.  *see note*

3.  Fold the rectangle sheet of paper the same way you would fold a piece of paper if you were making a fan.  Make sure you fold it small enough that it will fit through the holes in your cd.

4.  Using your glue stick glue all the fins (except for one large fin) to the undecorated side of one of the cds.

5.  Using your glue stick glue your second large fin in the same place you glued your first large fin on the second cd.  

6.  Get a piece of yarn and knot together the two ends.

7.  Bring your cd fish up to the front.  The librarian will glue help you thread your yarn and glue the two cd’s together with a hot glue gun.  

8.  Glue your googly eyes and construction paper circles onto the cd fish.  One on each side more or less in the same place.  

9. Thread your folded up sheet of paper through the hole in one of the cds.

*Note*:  Steps 1 and steps 2 & 3 are interchangeable.  While some kids are tracing their fins you can have others begin decorate their cds.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

What an amazing and terrifying book.  Trent is a 16 year old boy obsessed with making movies be editing together clips from other films.  He downloads clips from online all the time.  Unfortunately this is a few years in the future and the internet is more heavily policed than ever and the major film companies have bought laws where people are heavily policed and punished for downloading.  Trent's downloading gets his families internet cut off for a year.  His father can no longer work, his mother can't get her benefits, and his sister can't do her homework.  He leaves home and makes a home for himself with other runaways in a squat in London.  Trent eventually makes an amazing life for himself, however not without many mistakes along the way. 

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this book. In the beginning I had trouble getting into it.  Trent seemed kind of ridiculous to me and I was so disappointed in him running away.   I couldn't imagine him getting his act together.  However as the book went on though I grew to like Trent, 26 and Jem. I loved the dynamic of the Zero Day group and the amazing creativity and smarts the group displayed.   I thought the interpersonal dynamics between Trent and 26 were pretty accurate. I loved how much more self aware Trent was by the end of the book. 

Like all Doctorow's books this book was definitely terrifying. Our society could so easily slip into the trap that Trent's society fell into.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Story Time: Letter G

I got to do two story times in a row and was able to follow the Letter F up with the Letter G.  I had seen an adorable G is for Goose as part of a full alphabet book a mother made with her daughter.  It was so simple and adorable I couldn't resist.  Since I was a little intimidated by the idea of drawing my own goose parts I borrowed both the feet and the tail templates from this goose paper craft from DLTK Kids and just drew a simple triangle for the beak.  I decided to draw some flowers in the background so that our gooses could hang out in the garden.  Next time I do this craft I'm going to make the page horizontal so that there is more room for the garden.


After the previous weeks alphabet book fail I decided to go without an alphabet book this time.  I decided that I was only going to do 3 books and picked two funny goose stories and one nice/gorgeous garden book:

Silly Suzy Goose by Petr Horáček

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Gordon in Charge by Jill Newton

I'm going to be honest and say that I'm not sure all the children got the joke at the end of Gordon in Charge however I think the parents got a big chuckle out of the ending.  When we were reading Silly Suzy Goose I had all the kids pretend to be different animals with Suzy and they all had a lot of fun with the different actions.  Without the alphabet book it felt like it was harder for the kids to see the connection between our stories and Letter G is for Goose craft.  In the future when I do the alphabet craft and can't find an alphabet story I like to go over the letters with I am going to try to remember to point out the letter G in the titles and talk about how different characters and items start with the letter G.  For our songs we did do the Alphabet song, Old McDonald Had a Farm and my favorite, the Hokey Pokey.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: Hole In My Life by Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos tells the story of his high school days, living in a cheap hotel, going to high school and working in Florida while his family moved to the Virgin Islands. Upon graduation he headed down to St. Croix to meet them and arrived in the midst of a Revolution. He ended up smuggling hash up to New York, where he was caught and served several years in federal prison. Throughout this time Gantos struggled to try to become a writer and it was only while he was in prison that he really learned what was important and why he was struggling so much as a writer.

This was a great read. Gantos' narration style is first person friendly. It feels like someone is telling you their story and it works well for the message he is trying to convey. The text is never preachy or didactic even though there are clearly lessons to be learned from the author's story. 

Gantos also doesn't pull any punches. His story is very violent and terrifying at times and he could have glossed those things over but he didn't. He's honest about his mistakes and how long it really took him to figure things out.

However I don't want anyone thinking this book is all gloom and doom. It does have it's funny moments, both funny ha ha and funny awkward. All in all it feels like a well rounded book that is short (which many of the teens I know love) with a lot of great discussion points.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tween/Teen Crafts: Upcycled T-Shirt Scarves

One of my favorite go to crafts for tween girls is the Recycled T-Shirt Scarf.  For my purposes I usually go 4th-6th grade on this, however at a recent parental request the next time I do this I will be including 3rd graders with a adult present.  I've also had success with special needs girls and a parent.  When I advertise the program I do request that each child bring an old adult XL t-shirt from home, however I usually also will go through my things just before and bring a couple of extra t-shirts from home because someone ALWAYS forgets.

I originally found this craft on Cut Out + Keep.  Cut Out + Keep is also one of my favorite crafting sites.  Membership is free and you can post all different kinds of crafty projects and check out crafty projects posted by others.

I like a long skinny scarf so that's the one I made, but there can actually be quite a bit of variation.  The instructions for the T-Shirt scarf can be found here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Mo LoBeau lives in Tupelo Landing with Miss Lana and the Colonel. Eleven years ago Mo floated down the river during a storm and the Colonel found her after getting into a car accident and forgetting his memory. They both settle in town and Mo lives with the Colonel and Lana who run a diner in town. She loves her adopted family fiercely (even though she still looks for her upstream mother) and most everyone else in town as the town is so small that everyone is heavily involved in everyone else's business. When a police officer comes to town looking for a murdered Mo and her best friend Dale will do everything in their power to protect the ones they love. 

What a funny, quirky mystery. The characters are just so amazing. I ended up wishing I could visit Tupelo and meet all these funny, loving people. Miss Lana and the Colonel are both a little bit crazy but you can see how much they love Mo and her friends. Lavender, Dale and Miss Rose were also really intriguing and interesting. I did find myself wondering if someday 10 years from now Mo and Lavender really will end up together. All of the characters and their small town in everybody's business love/hate relationships had me cracking up.

There were some parts of the plot I was able to figure out such as why Miss Rose had Dale fixing things up, however a lot of the mystery I didn't see coming including who dunnit which I was really excited about. It's been awhile since I read a mystery that I didn't figure out right away. I also loved it when the Colonel found out who he was. That brought a huge smile to my face. 

While it doesn't need it, I do find myself hoping for some kind of sequel. I would love to go back to Tupelo Landing and see Mo and Detective Starr solve another mystery.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Story Time: F is for Fish

My coworker did the letter E so it was now my turn to do letter F.  I poked around my usual websites and couldn't find anything that I felt worked for me.  Then I found a new blog that featured alphabet crafts Miss Maren's Monkeys and they had this amazing F is for Fish craft that INCLUDED templates.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before but templates really make things so much easier.  I did make myself a page of fish eyes so that I would only have to cut out one circle for each eye rather then 2 and so that I would feel like I was wasting less paper.  I also ended up not cutting out the seaweed and bubbles mainly because I thought the kids might like to do their own.  I handed out crayons to the kids and they added their own seaweed, air bubbles and background fish.



While I was able to find many story books for my F is for Fish story time I was very surprised that I could not find a fish or undersea alphabet book for a young child.  I found many versions that were clearly for older readers with complicated scientific vocabulary that I knew wasn't going to work for my preschoolers; so I went with a different alphabet book.  I ended up going with:

Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins

Fidgety Fish by Ruth Galloway

The Animal ABC by Leslie A. Baker

Hooray for Fish is an extremely interactive book.  There were all different kinds of silly fish to identify and there was counting to be done so I had the kids help me identify the fish and help me count.  I also had the kids help me figure out the different animals for each page of The Animal ABC.  With two very active books I found that time passed more quickly then I expected it to.  We sang If You're Happy and You Know It and the Hokey Pokey and called it craft time.  


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I love this so much. I'm not really sure that I am going to express it well. Puck lives with her brothers, Gabe and Finn. Their parents were killed by the capall uisce. Sean works and lives on Malvern's horse stables. His father was killed riding a capall uisce in the Scorpio Races. Both are competing in this years races with a lot riding on the outcome, and both of them have reason to want the other to win.

Maggie Stiefvater always uses beautiful language. I can imagine what the horses look like, how the island smells and looks and it just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. The setting itself is both beautiful and terrible and I felt like the island was it's own character. 

I love Sean and Puck and the slow development of their friendship and feelings for each other. I'll admit Sean wasn't my favorite in the beginning but as I read about his feelings for Corr, saw him fight with Mutt and his feelings for Puck develop I found him more interesting. I'm always a major fan of character development and I really enjoyed watching Puck come into her own. I love Finn, George Holly and the Bodley sisters. They are amazingly quirky, smart and likable. 

I also really liked the author's note where she describes how hard it was for her to try and write the water horse story prior to figuring out that she needed to extract the bits she wanted and forget about the things she didn't. I think it can be really helpful to other writers (particularly young ones). 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Teen Craft/All Ages Program: Angry Birds!

So two summers ago a friend of mine who works in another library held a scyfy/anime/general geekery convention for her library.  She asked me to please come an do a booth and I had been dying to do this Live Action Angry Birds craft/game that I saw on 4YA: Inspiration for Youth Advocates which is a blog hosted by a girl I went to library school with.

After watching this video:

I was intimidated by the idea of trying to make birds and pigs all day and keep the booth moving so I decided to make it a carnival game.  I made several birds and pigs ahead of time using the method in the video.  



Then I had my husband help me make two slingshots out of wire hangers, rubber bands and fabric from an old pair of pajama pants.  We got the idea from the book Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball Warfare.  I thought about using the rubber bands the way they did in the video however as this was an all day event I felt like if I encouraged kids to launch things with rubber bands the entire staff would be paying for it all day.  I also thought the slingshots were a little more authentic and they made it tougher too.  It was surprising how quickly some people got the hang of the sling shot and how others were just never able get the hang of it.  All in all people seemed to enjoy seeing one of their favorite games come to life.  


I did a second convention at another carnival a few months later and all of the supplies held up although two seemed to be the limit as the birds and pigs started looking a little bit bedraggled and one of my sling shots began needing repairs every few Teens.  

I plan on doing this again sometime in the near future as a program where each kid will make their own bird and piggy and possibly slingshot....depending on how I think the parents will handle that.  It was definitely a lot of fun and I can't wait to do it again.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals by Hélène Rajcak, Damien Laverdunt

This book divides the world into the Americas, Eurasia, Africa and Oceania and discusses animals that have gone extinct in each locale. Some such as the Woolly Mammoth and the Irish Elk became extinct due to climate change and others such as the Dodo Bird and the Passenger Pigeon were hunted to extinction by humans. 

Each animal gets a comic strip that shares either a myth about them or something concerning their territory or the people that have studied/found them. Then an illustration in the style of the old fashioned images that naturalists made a hundred years ago with a couple of interesting facts. Many of the animals selected are very strange by today's standards and there are also many animals that are larger cousins of animals that are still somewhat common. There is also a small illustration in the upper right hand corner with a human next to it to illustrate the scale of the animal which I found very helpful. At the end there is frieze with a time line of the vanishing animals and a glossary.

I found this book really interesting and I thought that the comic strips were a great way to present all different kinds of information. I also found this book a little sad. More than half of the animals were made extinct due to human involvement. That being said I didn't feel like the authors were trying to beat you over the head with a point. This book is really about the animals which I found refreshing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Story Time: Letter D

So once my coworker did a Letter C story time with a Cookie Monster craft I did a Letter D story time the following week with a D is for Dinosaur craft I saw on Story Time Katie's blog.  Story Time Katie is another one of my go to blogs for story time book suggestions and the occasional story time craft idea, particularly once I saw she had also done a series of alphabet crafts.

So I cut the letter D and 1 large rectangle, 4 small rectangles, an oval and 5 triangles out of construction paper and handed them out to the kids with crayons to draw dinosaur faces and personalize their dinosaurs if they wanted to.


There are so many great dinosaur books that I thought for sure I would have an easy time picking/getting books.  This ended up being both true and not true.  There are a lot of great dinosaur books; they are however, very popular and all checked out.  I had wanted one alphabet dinosaur book, one shape dinosaur book and two dinosaur stories.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the dinosaur shape book I wanted and my second choice was missing.  On the other hand I spent a lot of time on my dinosaur alphabet book identifying other items that also began with that pages letter, so three books was okay.  Next time I will request my books earlier though.

ABC T-Rex by Bernard Most

Dinosaur vs The Library by Bob Shea

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen

Had I been able to find it I also would have done Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald.  

As I mentioned earlier for each page of ABC T-Rex we tried to identify additional items on the page that began with that letter of the alphabet.  For Dinosaur vs The Library I had the kids roar with me and help me figure out all the other animal sounds.  How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? was a quieter book and at least one of the kids turned around after it was over to tell their Mama that they loved her which was beyond adorable.  For songs I changed If You're Happy and You Know It to If You're A Dinosaur and You Know It; we clapped our hands, swished our tails and roared.  

I wanted to end on the Hokey Pokey but one of my regulars adamantly refused.  One minute we were happy and we knew it and suddenly we were nearing meltdown territory.  I always feel this is dangerous when I have less than 6 children as it seems to spread quickly.  This has become even more worrisome now that I've noticed one of my other regulars will repeat the feelings and actions of the other kids.  If one of the kids says they had a good weekend, then she had a good weekend.  If a second kid says they had a bad weekend, then she says she had a bad weekend. It always makes me giggle a little bit since even when she repeats something negative she still seems fairly happy about it; I still feel like the tables could easily turn so I ditched the hokey pokey.  Instead we did the Skinamarinky Dinky Dink song.  




Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

A few weeks before graduation Quentin's childhood friend Margo, that he's been in love with forever and hasn't really spoken to since middle school drops into his bedroom window. They go out on an all night revenge spree and the next day Margo disappears. At first no one is too worried, but as the weeks pass and Margo doesn't make her usual reappearance Quentin gets more and more concerned and starts following clues Margo left behind for him, culminating in a once in a life time road trip up the east coast.

So before this the only Jon Green books I had ever read were Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson Will Grayson. I was really afraid that this book was going to be just like Looking for Alaska and getting more disappointed by the minute, but then, it changed. I loved the road trip and Quentin and his friends. They were smart, funny and genuinely entertaining. I loved how Quentin was able to distinguish between the Margo's he imagined and the Margo that really existed. I was also totally intrigued by the concept of paper towns which I had never heard of before.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Professional Program: Mock Printz

About midway through January the Suffolk and Nassau Library Systems got together and held a Mock Printz discussion.  A Mock Printz is like a mini version of what the ALA Printz Committee goes through every year when selecting Printz Award and Honor books.  Unlike the ALA Committee we only had to read and vote on 6 titles.  The ALA Committee most likely reads an astounding number of books over the course of the year.  I had already read one of the books to be discussed and four of the remaining five were on my to be read list.  I went back and forth about whether or not I should attend mainly because I wasn't sure I would have enough time to read all six books before the discussion and it would suck up my only day off that week.

Then one of my coworkers was asked to lead a discussion on 3 of the 6 books selected.  Of course she ended up despising the book I had already read which I had actually really enjoyed, so she asked me if I would lead the discussion with her; reminding me that it would look fabulous on my resume.  Naturally this was the final push that teetered me into deciding to attend the workshop and help her lead the discussion group.

For Long Island's Mock Printz discussion we had to read:

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Seraphina by Rachel Hartmen

Bomb:  the Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

My coworker and I lead the group discussion on The Raven Boys, The Brides of Rollrock Island and Chopsticks.  We prepared five questions on each book ahead of time.  Due to all kinds of scheduling mishaps and a heavy programming schedule we were unable to meet in person so we used Google Docs to formulate out questions.  I highly recommend this when preparing for a presentation with multiple people and you are unable to meet in person.  It's so much easier then emailing a document back and forth and allows both users to be online editing at the same time and allows for a chat function so that you can discuss changes that you're making in real time in the same browser window which I find extremely convenient.  

I fully admit that I was very nervous going into this.  I don't really do any adult programming and I am generally not used to talking to large groups of adults at the same time unless they are a large group of people that I already know.  I had also never run a book discussion group before.  Fortunately things went smoothly and I actually had a lot of fun.  

First 6 people got up individually and each read a defense of one of the books.  They talked about why they enjoyed the book and what features made it Printz-worthy.  The group was then divided in half with the two of us leading a discussion on our three books and with two school librarians leading a discussion on the other three books  

We did decide to change the order of the books last minute and shift the discussion of Chopsticks to the end.  For those of you that haven't read it Chopsticks is a very different book.  The story is told through visuals mostly and has links to online media.  It can also be downloaded and read entirely as an app.  I think the whole concept is really interesting although not necessarily Printz worthy.  Most people either love or hate the book and we probably could have spent the entire time just discussing the one book.  We then swapped and met with the second group.  Then everyone met together and we voted.   

Our Mock Printz award winner ended up being Code Name Verity, which we now know ended up being one of the Printz Honor Books for 2012.  We also had one Mock Printz honor book Bomb which ended up winning the YALSA Nonfiction Award.  

As I said before I actually had a lot of fun.  It was also a great opportunity.  I read a lot of books that would probably have taken me at least a year to get to otherwise.  I also ran into some folks I hadn't seen since library school, networked with some new librarians and stepped out of my comfort zone a little and succeeded beautifully.  I'm already hoping I get to do it all again next year.  



Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book Review: Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

Alice lives an apartment building alone. Well the neighbors check on her. Alice's mother is the world famous Belinda Amorous and what everyone doesn't know is that Belinda is currently in a psychiatric center being treated for bipolar disorder. Alice has been forging her mother's signature to pay bills, sign books and now she needs to find a way to fill the publishers demand for a new book. Then she meets Errol, a clearly crazy guy who believes he's cupid that wants her to write the true story of Cupid and Psyche. Thrown in for good mix is Alice's impending possible dateness w/ Skateboard Guy and even more going on for good measure.

This book is jam packed with characters, story lines and side plots. And that's not a bad thing. There is always something going on. I ended up staying up and reading it straight through b/c I wanted to know what happened next. It's a romance where the main characters romance takes a back seat. I thought they did a good job showing Belinda's symptoms and how family members especially children worry that they will develop them as well. 

I did think that the Reverend and company didn't pay quite enough attention to Alice. I found it strange that no one thought about the bills being paid, etc. I also was not a big fan of the crazy infatuation scenes. I also thought that they could have delved a little more into Errol thinking Alice looked like Psyche a little sooner, but overall I did enjoy it. Mad Love is a nice mix of lighthearted humor and serious issue book. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Story Time: Shapes

So when we restarted our Story Time program in January (we take a break for December) my coworker told me she had found a Letter C craft that she really wanted to do.  When she first told me this I thought she had the first story time of the new year, but it turned out she had the second story time of the year and I had the first story time so I scrambled around for something else to do.

On the All Kids Network I saw this great Polar Bear Shape craft.  I didn't have time to get felt so I used construction paper instead.  I was also a little over winter and it's crazy weather so I decided to do it as a brown bear craft.  I handed out crayons so the kids could draw in a background and bear face along with the shapes cut out of construction paper and glue sticks.


For story time I read 4 books and we sang the Happy Birthday song (b/c I was misinformed that it was someone's birthday) and the Hokey Pokey Song.  I did two imagination books and 2 books that were more directly shape related.  The books were:

Round is a Pancake by Joan Sullivan Baranski

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Green Shaw

Shape Capers by Cathryn Fallwell

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Round is a Pancake was very pretty but not as much of a hit as the other books because it was less interactive.  The kids did like the end part where we looked around the picture book area for other round things.  It Looked Like Spilt Milk, Not a Box and Shape Capers were all super interactive.  I had the kids identifying shapes or what things were on every page and they had a lot of fun (although I fully admit even the parents and I had some trouble figuring out a couple of the items on It Looked Like Spilt Milk).  All in all I think this was one of my more fun and successful story times.  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: The Death Catchers

Lizzy has a vision of her friends death Halloween morning of her 14th birthday. Her grandmother Bizzy tells her that this is normal in her family and that these are special powers that can be seen as a curse or as a blessing. Upon further research it is discovered they are the descendants of Morgan Le Fey and they are caught in a feud between her and Vivienne.

So I loved the unique take on the Arthur myth. It was creative and unexpected and I am curious as to how the other parts of the myth will come into play in future volumes. That being said I do feel that Lizzy just behaved a little bit too young most of the book and sometimes I found her a little babyish or more babyish than she needed to be.