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.