Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory Deveaux, from Louisianna has the opprotunity to go to London for her senior year when her parents take a job in England. She goes to Wexter, which lies in the heart of where the Ripper murders took place a hundred years ago and her first day there is the night after an imitator has started the Ripper murders again. Then Rory chokes one night during dinner and starts seeing ghosts, one of whom appears to be committing the murders. She gets a chance to see how the Shade Police work (London's ghost police.) 

For the most part I really liked the book although occasionally Rory would strike me as much younger then she was supposed to be. I liked the friends she made and the guy was interesting. I didn't realize this was going to be the beginning of a series and I am very curious about where this is going and the development of the ghostly powers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Story Time: Letter A

So my very first story times were designed by my coworkers.  When the September rolled around and Fall Story Time started I was finally given the opportunity to design my own story time crafts.  I decided to go with an alphabet craft based on a parent's passing comment.

The letter A seemed like the most obvious place to start.  I did a google image search and came across lots of A crafts, but my favorite by far was the craft that turned the capital letter A into an alligator.  I found a full page print out of the Letter A cut it out and used it as a stencil to to cut out green letter A's, then cut small white and green triangles for eyes and teeth.   I also handed out crayons so that each of the kids could draw eyes into the green triangles and write their name on their alligator.

I read 4 books and did 2 songs.  For this story time I picked three alphabet books and one story book that focused on something that began with the letter A.  I also do the alphabet song and the hokey pokey because it helps get the wiggles out.

For the letter A story time I read: Max's ABC by Rosemary Wells
                                                    Alligator Alphabet by Stella Blackstone
                                                    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Martin Bill Jr.
Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington

The Max and Ruby book was by far the most popular of the four books, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom would have been more successful if I had gotten more of the kids to say the words along with me.  The other books were fairly well received.  All in all it was a good story time for my first time handling the whole thing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin

I always think that books are supposed to make you feel things and this book definitely made me feel a barrage of different emotions. Sasha is a good communist. He wants nothing more then to become a pioneer but the night before the ceremony the police come to arrest his father. Sasha believes that it's an error; however from that point on everything seems to wrong for him.

At first I enjoyed the book but felt bad for Sasha. He just seemed so clueless. As the book wore on I just started to dread it. Horrible things were happening and it was just so hard to listen to (I probably wasn't having the right type of day for this either.) I did like the ending.  I think I needed nothing horrible to happen to this kid and for him and the reader to understand that even with all the horror and fear there were still good people.

This book does have illustrations.  Since I listened to the audiobook I didn't realize that.  Fortunately I happened to glance through a copy at work and realize it.  I took the time to page through the illustrations and while they are simple I think that they served a purpose of lightening up some of the story.

I think the author's informational note on the last page was very important. It helped to put things into a context and I believe that it is important for readers to understand that these things really happened to people.  

While this book was not the right book for me at the time I absolutely believe that it is well written, important and feel that the Newbery Honor was well deserved. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Teen Craft: Glowing Jar

I was flipping through Instructables two years ago and came across this amazing project for a glowing sun jar.  I was completely sure that the teens would love the program but it required soldering which I 1.  Have had several horrible experiences with
2.  Soldering didn't feel like something I could pull off with a group of 20 teens ranging between 7th and 12th grade if I had to run the program by myself.  (This was before Maker Spaces gained popularity in the library)

However after looking through the instructable I decided to see if I could doctor it to make it more manageable for both myself and a large group of teens.

Solar Powered Garden Lights (See photo on the left, these are ideal)
Wire Bale Glass Jar (jars in photo are not correct jars)
Glow in the Dark Paint (See note)
Foam brushes
Epoxy E-6000 Adhesive
Tin Foil
Hair Dryers
Packing Tape

1.  Paint a thin layer of glow in the dark paint on the inside of the jar.  Once finished hit the inside of the jar with the hair dryer until the paint is completely dry.  Repeat two more times for a total of 3 coats of paint.  If your initial coat of paint was thin it will be easier to apply subsequent coats of paint.

2.  Take a piece of tin foil, fold it into a square and stick it in the bottom of the jar.

3.  Unscrew the top of the light from the stake.  You don't need the stake for this project, you can either throw it away or save it for another project.  Unscrew the plastic from the garden stake as well.  It will just be a bare bulb hanging from the top.  Using the Epoxy glue the solar light into the top of the jar. Use two pieces of packing tape to hold the solar light in place until the adhesive dries and let the kids know that it can take up to 24 hours for it to dry.

Note:  I used Michael's paint on the test jar which is more green and ghoulish looking however it seemed to melt in the extreme summer heat over the course of the summer, I have since used paint purchased at Home Depot which seems to hold up better over time

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This Cinderella story takes place in the future after 4 world wars have ravaged the Earth and a plague is running rampant over the Earth. Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing. She works at a stall in the market and brings in the only money her family (which consists of one nice step sister, one evil stepsister and an evil stepmother) lives off of. Cinder is also a cyborg. When she was younger she was in a horrible accident and she was rebuilt with machine parts. When Peony (the nice sister) gets sick, Cinder's step mother volunteers her for the cyborg draft, where each day a cyborg is sent to test plague antidotes. Then she meets Dr. Erland and her whole life changes as Cinder learns more about both her body and her past and gets to spend more time with Prince Kai.

Over all I really liked this book. Cinder is a great character and I loved Iko and her malfunctioning personality chip. Kai is also a pretty interesting prince.  He comes across as smart and interesting and not as overly vain as one would expect. There were some things I figured out fairly early (it is Cinderella after all) and there were other twists that I was never expecting.  

I listened to this as an audiobook and I really enjoyed it.  I thought the narrator did a good job getting the different personalities and feelings to shine through with her voice.  I am hoping that when the next volume in the trilogy is released it will be available on audiobook at the library and that it will have the same narrator.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Story Time: Monsters

This was my second story time and I felt so much more prepared than I was the first time.  Again one of my coworkers had preset up a craft for me.  She printed some monster clip art, cut the middle out of a paper plate and had the children glue their monster pictures to the paper plates.  We then punched holes in the top of the paper plates and thread yarn through so that the kids could hang them as mobiles or wreaths.

Again I selected books that went with the preselected craft. I chose:

My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck

If You're A Monster and You Know It by Ed Emberley (I had the kids pretend to be monsters and treated it like the song, they really seemed to enjoy it.)

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone 

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

In addition to the Hokey Pokey I changed the Five Little Monkeys song to Five Little Monsters with some fabulous monster finger puppets made by my friend Anne from mymonsterhat.  When I described what I wanted to do she shipped out for me specifically for this story time.  The kids loved them!

This felt much more successful than my first story time.  I also had a lot more fun than I did for my first story time, which I can only hope means the kids were having fun too.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon

This was also part of the Omnibus phase I was talking about in my previous book review post.  I read about this run somewhere (I wanna say DC Girls Kicking Ass) and I love most of what Joss Whedon has done. I was also a huge fan of the X-Men way back when so I saw no bad here (This was the omnibus that started it all). It was a great read and I couldn't put it down. I was up until 4 am reading it.

There is a great intro in the beginning that catches you up on the history of the X-Men to this point, which was really useful b/c I am clueless about Emma Frost, the destruction of Genosha and the virus. 

A small group of X-men reform the superhero team and run the school. This one is less about the team as  students and more about the adults. The four story lines I thought went incredibly well together. 

Standouts for me:  I am a huge fan of Kitty Pride and Colossus separately so the two of them together was definitely awesome. I do wish they hadn't killed Kitty Pride off b/c I felt like she was a great character for girls to relate to, particularly young girls, although as evidenced through Colossus very few characters stay dead in the comics. I also really liked this version of Beast, both artistically and his evolution/de-evolution. He is still probably one of my favorite characters. 

I also actually loved the art style of the entire volume.  I'm thrilled they stuck with the same illustrator for the duration.  A worthwhile read for any X-Men or Joss Whedon fan. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Crafty Kids: Decoupage Frames

One Tuesday a month I run an evening craft program.  It is essentially a drop in although we do have a sign up for it.  It's listed as open to kids in first through fifth grade, however I am not terribly rigid with those rules.  If parents want their younger children to participate they are expected to stick around and help their younger children with the craft and if sixth graders want to do the craft they are expected to be respectful of the little ones.

For December's Crafty Kids (originally it was called Third Tuesday since it usually takes place the third Tuesday of the month, however after a scheduling mishap I suggested a name change) I decided to have the kids decorate frames that they could either keep for themselves or give to someone as a holiday gift.  Since attendance at this program varies greatly from month to month I wanted to use supplies that could be re purposed if they weren't all used up, so I had the kids decoupage their frames with origami paper, but you could also use old magazines or scrap booking paper.  Whatever is lying around that's pretty or cool.

1 Frame
Modge Podge
Foam Brush
Origami Paper

ribbon (optional)

1.  Each child gets a frame, some modge podge in a cup, foamy brush and at least two sheets of origami paper (you need minimum 2 sheets to cover an entire frame, if the child wants to use more than 2 patterns then they will need more than 2 sheets)

2.  Have the child plan out what they want to do and cut the origami paper into appropriate sized pieces.  They will want to cover the front and the edges.

3.  Coat a section of the frame in a thin layer of modge podge, then place the origami paper onto that section and smooth out any wrinkles or creases before that section dries.  Then move on to the next section.

4.  Once the entire frame is covered in the origami paper paint another thin layer over all the paper to seal the frame. (See optional step 5) Then let dry.

5. (Optional I've only done this step when I was running the program with teens and tweens as a drop in as it feels a little bit finicky for smaller fingers.) After you have painted a thin layer of modge podge all over the paper, take a piece of ribbon and wrap it around the edges of the frame. Paint another thin layer of modge podge over the ribbon and let dry.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: New X-Men Omnibus by Grant Morrison

So as often happens I go through phases with my library requests.  Earlier this year I went through a crazy graphic novel omnibus phase.  While this was not actually the book that I requested I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway so it wasn't such an issue.

Most of the story arc's flowed easily one into the next and I found a lot of the characters very interesting and different then other incarnations. The U-Men and Cassandra Nova were particularly terrifying incarnations of villains and I really liked the idea that ***spolier***being Xorn had begun to affect Magneto.***end spoiler***

I liked the students that we met, however I really wish we had been allowed to get to know them better. I often wonder if Marvel wouldn't benefit from doing a storyline on the students. Not the traditional X-Men as students but "nameless students" that will not necessarily go on to join the team with only passing mention of the X-Men as teachers; sort of like how DC does the Gotham Central books that are just about he precinct where Batman is only an incidental character sometimes or maybe just as a series of one shots.

I was very confused by the final story arc that took place in the future. I didn't quite understand how Hank became Sublime. I'm not sure if it was explained and I didn't understand or if they just never bothered to explain it and considered Jean being reborn as the Phoenix enough to keep it connected to the previous story lines in the omnibus. 

There's a lot of interesting extras here as well.  Morrison's proposed outline for the series was probably one of the most interesting. I found it intriguing to see where changes were made and found it a little bit funny that someone who claimed to have read all the X-Men trades wasn't aware of some characters deaths. I also thought that it was intriguing that he was very focused on having it be a series that new readers would have an easy time with however I often felt that some previous story lines were weaved in (such as the Shi'Ar) that without previous knowledge were confusing. (i.e. I know who the Shi'ar are but didn't remember enough to understand Lilandra and Charles relationship.) There are also some scripts and lots of pretty covers. 

As with most omnibuses where the artist's are not kept the same throughout the entire series the artwork was at times downright ick and at other times it was phenomenal, making allowances for my personal taste of course.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My First Story Time Ever

For my first story time ever my coworkers already had a very simple craft for selected for me.  My coworkers printed out pictures of pirates and princesses from microsoft clip art, had a page cut them out and handed out construction paper and glue sticks.  The kids made collages by glueing down the pictures.

From the get go my story time was something of a disaster.  The story part lasted only 10 minutes long.  Due to a large number of children arriving substantially late for many of the children there was technically no story time.  I also forgot the words to Mary Had A Little Lamb about half way through the song (when all the late arrivals showed up) and cut the rest of my planned songs in sheer panic.  I went back and forth about what books to read and how many.  I chose to read books that fit the craft theme:

Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Stemple

Do Pirates Take Baths? by Kathy Tucker

In retrospect I should have had a fourth book ready just in case. In the future I would add The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Muncsh if I did a Pirate/Princess story time again.

I also realized after the story time that I have very specific feelings about princesses and how they should behave.  I also since then have made it a point to learn to let things like lateness fluster me less  and I have practiced all my children's songs.  The other librarians all told me stories about their first story times which were apparently also a disaster.  So if your first story time is a disaster, know that it will get better and that apparently almost every librarian's is!