Allison’s Favorite Reads of 2016, Part Two

Part Two of my favorite reads is long overdue. I love to pick a variety of books for these lists and try to have books on here for every age – nonfiction, picture books, middle grade, YA, adult, fiction, graphic novels. I will admit I changed my mind about this list about 15 times. There were a lot of good books this year! But here are 5 more books I loved in 2016.

28114411Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

Like many children, I loved E. B. White’s books growing up. I remember very fondly my teacher reading The Trumpet of the Swan to us in second grade. This biography by Melissa Sweet is a very unique book. Not quite a picture book biography, it does have chapters and feels a little thick. But the scrapbook-style illustrations are half of what makes the book so wonderful. Sweet’s description of this man’s life made me love him so much for the quiet, thoughtful man that he was. I was so touched I was brought to tears multiple times. I so appreciate E. B. White for being such a good man and one who truly loved words and nature and understood so completely the sensibilities of child readers.

11324722The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided By Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

I ended up reading this in November during and after the elections. It was very good timing. If you want to understand why some people are conservative and some are liberal, this book is an excellent look into that question. Haidt is a moral psychologist and has done several studies on morals and deeply held beliefs. According to him morality is not just being fair or doing good but there are 6 different moral foundations we all hold to one degree or another. Liberals place more importance on some of them and conservatives on others. He also talks about how humans are 90% ape and 10% bee and that ten percent is very important in understanding how and why we form groups and are happiest in groups of like-minded people. It’s just all so really fascinating and it changed the way I see a lot of things and I can’t wait to discuss it with my book club next month.

28763485The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I enjoyed Yoon’s first book Everything, Everything but I didn’t love it. It was a fun read, but a little too fluffy. This book is leaps and bounds above her first. The Sun is Also a Star is a really, really sweet YA romance but it is also a look at the immigrant experience, both documented and undocumented. There are also lots of fun juicy philosophical discussions and debates between the two main characters, Daniel and Natasha. Daniel is a dreamer and a poet but is feeling the pressure of his first generation Korean American parents. Natasha is a realist, a scientist, who clings to facts. Her family is about to be deported back to Jamaica. Most of the story takes place in the one day where fate or destiny brings them together in New York City. I loved that these felt like real characters and they talked like real teenagers (ahem, ahem, John Green).

1466455Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

I am a huge fan of Liane Moriarty. I’m working my way through her backlist and of the 3 Moriarty books I read this year, this one was my favorite. It is about triplet sisters Lyn, Cat, and Gemma. They are each very different and their relationships with each other are volatile and complex. You know at the start of the book that during their 33rd birthday dinner they get into a huge fight at a restaurant and one sister throws a fork at her sister’s pregnant belly. Did I mention it was also hilarious? So we go back in time to see the events in their lives that led up to this big blowup. They are each dealing with very different issues but they are all super relate-able. And of course I extra loved it because I have two sisters myself so even though we aren’t triplets, I know how sisters can be. I listened to the audio of this through Hoopla and the narration with a slight Australian accent was absolutely perfect.

26221428The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

I have not read the Mysterious Benedict Society series by this author but it always sounded like something I would love. So when this new series starter came out this year I snatched it up. It was a really fun Middle Grade read, especially for smart kids who love mysteries and puzzles. Our main character Reuben finds a watch with magical properties to make the owner invisible and he goes on a quest to find out more about this watch and where it came from. He makes some great friends on his quest but there are also dangerous men chasing him who want the watch for themselves. There is a family of lighthouse keepers who help him on his quest and a mansion with hidden passageways and trap doors. It was a pleasure to watch this mystery unfolded and I highly recommend it to all mystery and puzzle lovers who enjoy a good story.

 

 

Advertisements

Allison’s Favorite Reads of 2016, Part One

greenWhen Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano

I recently weeded my library’s poetry section so I can tell you for a fact there are A LOT of books out there with seasonal poems for children. However, absolutely none of them compare to this stellar new collection by Julie Fogliano. I love Fogliano’s previous two picture books, And Then It’s Spring and If You Want to See a Whale. This is similar in tone but the poetry is just so, so good. Each poem is titled simply with a date. It starts and ends with the same poem at the beginning of Spring, March 20. Each poem is so evocative of a particular moment in time. You feel you are there with the smell of blossoms in the air, or the feel of the sand at the beach between your toes, or the silence of the snow falling out your window. Fogliano has an amazing gift for rhythm and pairing sounds in fantastic ways. For a small sample, here is the poem titled august 10: “just one seagull flying by/water/water/green grass/sky” Sigh. Reading this is just a beautiful exploration of the sounds of language and the passing of the seasons. My vote for Newbery this year is on this one for sure.

 

wildThe Wild Robot by Peter Brown

This is a really delightful little book. It is the perfect chapter book for second through fourth graders. It has short chapters and lots of really great black and white illustrations. This is Brown’s first chapter book, he has previously written picture books (lots of great ones, many also have a theme of wildness). Roz is a robot in a crate on a cargo ship. In a shipwreck, Roz is the only robot to survive and she lands on a little island populated with lots of animals but no people. Over time she befriends the animals and learns to survive in the wild. It is a really fun friendship story, survival story, animal story, and robot story all in one. It is a perfect readaloud and I am definitely putting it on my list of books I want to read to my toddler in two or three years.

 

illuminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

More science fiction and artificial intelligence, but much darker and for a teen audience. This is my number one could not put down book of the year! I also read the sequel Gemina this year and it was just as thrilling. I don’t even want to get into a plot summary to spoil it for you. It is a really thick book but the story reads super fast because it is told through emails and chat transcripts and other ways full of interesting typography and things you have probably never seen in a book before. Seriously, just flip through the pages and you’ll see what I mean. It is. So. Cool. This book has everything. Fleeing spaceships, viral zombies, artificial intelligence, secret plots, hacking, and on and on. I can guarantee that once you start you will not be able to put this one down.

 

station_elevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I read this in August and I already knew it was my favorite book of the year. That has not changed. This might be in my top ten favorite books of all time. It’s that good. Once again, we have science fiction but this one is a more literary post-apocalyptic story. What really stands out about this book is the characters and the way their lives are connected across time and distance in small ways and large. A virus has wiped out most of the population of the earth. Twenty years later the few survivors have formed tribes and some places are safer than others. We follow a group of traveling performers in one timeline (the after) and there are two other timelines that follow during the immediate aftermath of the virus and the life of an actor before the virus. It sounds disjointed but it is beautiful the way the storylines come together. This is a novel about art and love and what it means to be human. I loved every minute of it.

 

beingBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande 

Atul Gawande is a surgeon and author. This book is a very important book and one that everyone should read. Gawande examines death and the way death is treated in the medical field. What is the goal of medicine when it comes to dying? What is the cost of prolonging life by any means necessary? Gawande makes a very compelling case for talking with your loved ones about their end of life wishes and addressing those difficult questions we would rather avoid. In many cases end of life care should be focused on quality of life rather than extending life. We really need to have a conversation about dying in our culture, and Gawande does an amazing job starting that conversation for us. This is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.

 

 

Baby Play Day

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This program is probably the one I had been looking forward to the most all summer. We had a 6 week series of regular Baby & Me and the seventh week we had Baby Play Day!

This program was mostly inspired by Brooke Newberry at Reading With Red and her fun Play, Baby, Play program. She also gave a fabulous webinar co-hosted with Kendra Jones at on Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers.

My second biggest planning resource was the awesome and essential book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro. This book has tons of recipes for play, everything from finger-paints to play-doughs to slimes. She labels which are taste-safe for babies which has been a huge help. I have made probably 5 recipes from this book (or the author’s website) without a single fail.

22495057

So for Baby Play Day I put out about 10 activities and we had unstructured playtime for an hour. These are the things we had:

Cloud Dough (similar to what some people call Moon Sand): Part flour, part sand, and some vegetable oil.bpd15_censored

Colored Rice: Dyed with food coloring and vinegar.

Ball Pit: 200 balls purchased on Amazon and a kiddie pool. I blogged about our first time using this here.

Crinkly Paper: Bright orange and green packing paper from a box from Mango Languages.

Tunnel: Brought from home, my daughter’s first birthday present.bpd14_censored

Texture Boards: Pieces of cardboard with bits of various textures hot-glued on.

Kleenex Box Scarves: Pulling colorful scarves out of tissue boxes.

Pom-Pom Chutes: Tubes taped to the wall to put pom-poms through.bpd3

Boxes: These were empty soda can boxes left over from when I did Giant Jenga with the teens a couple weeks ago. The babies loved stacking them and pushing them over. The boxes were nearly as big as them!

Dance Corner: Rainbow ribbons, shakey dggs, and bells. And music!

Books: I put out books from our Parenting section on play activities for babies and toddlers as well as a selection of Board Books.

Oh, and there were also bubbles, of course!

Even with all that, I worried that there wouldn’t be enough to do, or that parents would be expecting more structure or direction. I didn’t need to worry! They got right down to play and had a grand time. At the 30 minute mark, I did turn up the music and invite people to come on over and dance with me, but only a few took me up on it. Everyone was so engrossed in all the other activities. It was a really great time for all (even though I was completely exhausted the rest of the day from all the set up, clean up, and playing!). And I am already planning to do another one in November.

 

Movie Scavenger Hunt

I love scavenger hunts and teens always seem to enjoy them too.  In fact, during a recent Boys & Girls Club visit to the library I gave the Middle School kids a scavenger hunt and as the group was leaving, I overheard one of the boys (who had been acting too cool for school) say to his friends, “That was actually pretty fun.” I consider that high praise from a teenage boy!

But I have done a lot of scavenger hunts in the library, my friend. And they were starting to get a little stale. So when I started planning my April programs I wanted to try something a little different. And that is how I came up with Movie Scavenger Hunt! Really, my thought process when I came up with the idea was, “I need a draw to get teens to come to a scavenger hunt program. What do teens like? They like movies! I will do – A Movie Scavenger Hunt!” And I had no idea what that was but I had a few months to figure it out, so I went with it.

It turned out to be pretty cool! Here’s what we did. I selected several movies from a variety of genres that I like and hopefully teens liked too. I played clips from the movies and each movie clip helped solve a clue to find the next book in the library, which would have another clue and we would watch another movie clip and so on. For example, I showed the following clip from Toy Story 2 and the clue they were given was, “The aliens might need help writing what kind of note to Mr. Potato?”

And of course, the answer is “A Thank You Note,” which lead them to find a guide to writing thank you notes in our stacks. Preparing this scavenger hunt was lots of fun and also made me feel rather clever! Plus I loved revisiting some of my favorite scenes in some really great movies.

Read below for the rest of the scavenger hunt:

The Princess Bride: “If Fezzik runs out of rhymes, he might need this book to help.”

(Answer: A Rhyme Dictionary!)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: “What creatures should Harry prepare to meet in the next task?”

(Answer: A book about Mermaids)
Robin Hood (Disney version): “”Eww! They’re ______! If Skippy wants to know more about what he and Maid Marion did together, he could read this book.”

(Answer: A book about kissing)
The Lego Movie: “Find a biography of the latest actor to be able to say the iconic line, ‘I am Batman’.”

(Answer: A Ben Affleck biography)
The Wizard of Oz: “Oz is clearly very different from Dorothy’s home state. Find a book about the state east of where Dorothy is from.”

(Answer: a book about Missouri)
Guardians of the Galaxy: “Find a young adult novel about a girl with the same type of leg as ‘that guy’s leg’.”

(Answer: The Running Dream by Van Draanen)

More Books for Baby & Me

Two years ago I posted about my favorite books to read with the babies. I still use those regularly and love them just as much two years later. Here are a few more that have worked really great with my Baby & Me crowd.

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: My coworker shared this one at a youth services meeting and instantly I knew it was perfect for Baby & Me. The repeated refrain encourages parents to join in and the illustrations are just darling.

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn: I love to do this one at the beginning of a session. Leo attends Baby Time where they read stories, sing songs, bounce, and play with scarves. It is a lovely introduction to a lot of the same things we do in our program.

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee: This one has more ‘plot’ than the books I normally read, but I had caregivers bounce the babies as we read it and there was joy and laughter all around.

Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz: Of course we know that books by Karen Katz are baby-time gold. This one is no exception. It is a really fun counting book plus it has a great rhythm and rhyme and shows the babies doing everyday activities.

Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry: I have yet to find a colors book I like more. This one is short and sweet and makes a rainbow as you turn the pages.

If You’re Happy and You Know it by Jane Cabrera: I love Cabrera’s sing-along picture books! The illustrations are so bright and cheerful. This one is especially fun because it adds lots of verses with different actions all the animals do.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Bill Martin Jr: I mostly don’t need to mention this beloved classic but I am so delighted by the way parents recite it along with me as I read that I will never fail to include this one. It’s a great way to remind parents that re-reading favorite books over and over increases print motivation.

 

What to do with Doc McStuffins? Increasing Circulation Part 1

My number one goal for 2016 is to increase our circulation. It seems that in libraryland that circulation of print books at most libraries has been trending slightly down. Now, on the flip side, circulation of ebooks and other electronice materials skyrocket as we devote more funding to them. (If you are really curious, check out this annual report from the Public Library Association to get into the nitty-gritty numbers of library statistics.)

When it comes to children, though, ebooks will never take the place of physical books. Kids need the tactical experience of holding the books in their hands, the page turns that add moments of suspense, and so on and so forth. This is why I am confident we can reverse our downward trend in the Children’s Room and bring circulation back up.

I am attacking this goal on four fronts: Weeding, Focused Selection, Displays and Booklists, and New Collections. In October we introduced our new collection: the Character Shelf.

26783333861_c8ec54ee65_zThere is nothing new about putting all the media-tie-in books together. Tons of libraries do this. But it was nothing short of revolutionary for our patrons and our staff. Previously, a good amount of staff time was taken up by searching for ‘Barbie books’  or ‘Thomas books.’ They were cataloged by author, they all have different authors, and were not even in the same collection (some are Easy Books, Easy Readers). Plus most are very thin paperbacks making them even trickier to find. It was really time consuming for staff and frustrating for kids because they couldn’t find books about their favorite characters on their own.

Now, voila! We have one place to go where all the Disney Princess books are next to each other, all the Superhero books are in one place and easy to find, etc. Needless 26756982152_7bf7b50d8b_zto say this has been great for our circulation. These books are flying off the shelves. All it took were some stickers and a new shelf location in the OPAC. This is only one part of  our “giving the patrons what they want” strategy and already we are seeing great results. It gives me a huge burst of pleasure every time a child comes in and says, “Where are the Dora books?” and I can walk them over to one shelf and say, “They are all right here!”

Baby & Me: Trying New Things

My baby storytime looks very different from the one I started with 4 years ago. I have had so much fun challenging myself by continually adding new elements to Baby & Me.

Parachute

Jbrary’s post on parachutes in baby storytime gave me the courage to finally try something I have been contemplating doing for a long time. This felt really out of my comfort zone and the first week I was really nervous. Lindsey at Jbrary gives a really fantastic breakdown and explanation about how it works for her, which really helped me because a lot of the info I had found previously was about using the parachute with older kids so I wasn’t sure how my babies and caregivers would react.

The other thing that motivated me was that we had such a great group of babies and caregivers in our February-March session. Some had been coming for a year or more already so we were all familiar with each other. So one day I took the plunge and brought out the parachute!

 

And it went really well! Who knows what I was so nervous about. Several of the babies LOVED it. Little ones were sitting under the parachute as caregivers lifted it up and down. The walkers had a great time running under the parachute and back out. I did have one or two kiddos get overwhelmed by the new experience, so I recommend keeping it quiet and gentle at first while they get used to it. We sang the really Let’s Go Riding in an Elevator (by Jbrary of course!).

The second or third time we got the parachute out, we had a bit of a smaller group so I decided to try sitting the babies on top and  pulling the parachute around in a circle. The caregivers were skeptical, but it worked and they absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to do that again in our summer session!

Ball Pit

25866805360_435a4384ce_z

For a special surprise at the end of our last Baby & Me of the session, I brought out a ball pit! I was so excited to do this with my babies. I first saw the idea on Brooke Newberry’s fabulous blog, Reading With Red. She  wrote up a great post about her baby play groups. There are a ton of great ideas there, and when I saw the ball pit, I thought, I MUST do that! I was further motivated by her webinar with Kendra Jones, “Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers.” You can still view the archive, and I highly recommend that you do!

It was especially meaningful to bring the ball pit out when I did, because two of our longtime Baby & Me attendees had their second birthdays and were graduating. Since it was their last session, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye. It was such a hit, I added a Baby Play Day to my summer schedule based on Brooke and Kendra’s great ideas.