Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

2011 has been a big year for me. I graduated and started my big girl career this year. I fell in love and had my heart broken this year. Pinterest happened. That alone would make 2011 a banner year. But I also met a lot of amazing people, and some not-so amazing people too. Books were read, crafts constructed and dance parties danced. Through it all I've been supported by the best family and friends I could ever ask for.

And now it's time to look ahead to 2012; I want 2012 to be even better than 2011 and with none of that whole broken heart business. Seriously y'all, that sucks.

Resolutions for the Library:

1) Read more elementary and middle grade fiction. Even the series. I am shockingly behind on Geronimo Stiltonand the 5 bajillon read-a-likes that Diary of a Wimpy Kid has spawned.

2) Plan more programs for school age kids. Ones that don't include me feeding them. It is unbelievably hard to tear these kids away from the computer if I'm not willing to get them hopped up on sugar. But I'm going to keep trying.

3) Try themed story times. I get in a comfortable rut with the same set of books, flannels and songs that I really like so themes will force me to try new ideas outside of my comfort zone.

4) Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. This bastardized latin phrase kept popping up this year, first in my re-read of The Handmaid's Tale and then again in the more recent Saving June. I'm not going to let the bastards grind me down anymore. No kids, parents, nannies, or co-workers will get to me or make cry this year. Like a duck everything is going to roll off my back. That's the idea anyway.

Resolutions for Myself:

1) Read more books written for adults. Seriously. It's time.

2) Figure out this quilting thing. And learn to knit in the round.

3) Open the Etsy shop I've been talking about forevers.

4) Go see Hunger Games at midnight.

5) Watch the new season of Downton Abbey, and play catch up with all the other series I've been meaning to watch and haven't gotten around to.

6) Get this grown-up thing figured out. Like my dental insurance and the 500 page union contract I was handed this morning.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top Ten YA of 2011

Here's my Top Ten YA Titles of 2011, copied almost exactly from another blog I contribute to. I haven't gotten into my New Year's Resolutions yet, but suffice it to say one of them will deal with reading more middle grade and early elementary titles next year. It'd be nice to do more lists like these, for the books meant for the customers I actually work with on a daily basis, with some authority.

2011 was a weird year. I didn't like almost ANYTHING that came out in the first half, but the second half was loaded with awesome picks. Even now, at the very very end of the year I feel bad about this list because my library account is full of books on hold that I just know will be life changing.

10. 10 Miles Past Normal, Frances O'Roark Dowell
Things I love: Farms (check plus), Awkward Ugly Ducklings Who Don't Realize They're Already Swans (check), Civil Rights Movement Knowledge Bomb (check), Music, specifically bass guitar (check), and Hootenannys (check plus). This book is just a bunch of checks and check pluses in my ledger.

9. Paradise, Jill S. Alexander
I'm a big fan of cowboys and I can't wait for YA authors to catch on and make them the new vampires. I certainly would not mind reading about more cowboys like Paradise. He's cocky and attractive and he plays the accordion with swagger. Throw in mom issues, sisterly bonding, unrequited love (just a little bit and from an unlikely and totally awesome source), crop duster planes and a drum kit and I was sold on Paradise.

8. All These Things I've Done, Gabrielle Zevin
This was a slow burn but a long linger. I didn't initially love it like I loved Zevin's first YA novel Elsewhere, but in a year filled with teenage heroine's in a dystopic future (I blame Suzanne Collins 100%) this is the book that kept creeping back into my mind. It's even set in a recognizable world, which I really appreciated. Sure, chocolate being illegal is a bit of a stretch, but the parallels drawn between this future world and the past world of prohibition, gangsters, dames and gritty New York noir places it firmly in the realm of enjoyable escapism.

7. Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have), Sarah Mlynowsi
Is this book pure fluff? YES. Is it a completely unrealistic teenage fantasy? TOTALLY. Is it worth every single second you spend reading it? OH MOST DEFINITELY. And hidden in between the living without parents, hot tub renting, awesome party throwing escapades are some great insights into relationships (between friends, between boys and girls, between parents and children) that I wish I had been privy to at 16. When I was living with my best friend completely unsupervised by adults. That's a lie, I was very supervised.

6. The Probability of Miracles, Wendy Wunder
I'm a crier. This has been known about me since my junior year of high school when I straight up bawled through an amateur production of Children of Eden and terrified the stuffing out of the poor kid I was babysitting. It's not something I'm proud of, or something I like to do too often, so I normally avoid books about things like incurable cancer at all costs. But man am I glad that I picked up this book. I cried, and it was an ugly cry, but I laughed a lot too and I got totally sucked into this story about a Disney hula dancer and her family who escape to a tiny town in Maine as they prepare to say goodbye and learn to let go.

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
This book is going to show up on a lot of other top ten lists and I'm not going to be able to add a lot new to the discussion. Yeah, it's fantastical in the best sense of the word. Yeah, that thing with wishes as beads on a bracelet are cool and yeah, I like the market scenes and all the crazy traders Karou outwits in her dealings. But here's all you really need to know: A street performance with an actual ballerina pretending to be controlled by a giant reverse marionette puppeteer. Never have I wanted to go to art school in Prague so badly.

4. Past Perfect, Leila Sales
Dan Malkin is the single swooniest boy I read about all year.* That alone would have earned Past Perfect a place on my top ten list- swoon is very important to me- but it got there in other ways too. Like with rival historical reenactment villages, the search for ice cream perfection, territory wars and did I mention HISTORICAL REENACTMENT VILLAGES?

3. Five Flavors of Dumb, Antony John
Fine, this one came out in 2010. But LATE 2010. And in the middle of exams. So I couldn't possibly have been expected to read it then. I read it in January. And again in September. And it was just as good the second time around. This book about the deaf manager of a high school rock band reached the finals of Nerds Heart YA and it makes me really want to dive back into the Nirvana (and Jimi Hendrix) catalog. Oh, and learn sign language. Anyone else with me?

There was a pretty big gap for me between my top 2 favorite books of the year and the other 8 I've already talked about. It's not that the first 8 aren't worthy (they made my top ten list and I am very, very picky) but the top two are books I have a feeling I'll be buying soon. And y'all, I work in a library. I do not, as a rule, buy books. Without further ado:

2.The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
A complete and absolute 100% stand out from 2011. And I don't even care about the horse races. It's a world I want to live in, or at least visit, since I think the people of Thisby would probably chew me up and spit me out. I want to be stoic like Sean, I want to be tough like Puck, I want a love that doesn't need flashy declarations or overwrought pining, just a simple loaf of bread. And I get to have all that when I read and reread and eventually fall asleep with my head on a copy of Scorpio Races.

1. The Piper's Son, Melina Marchetta
I don't know what else to say about this book; it's just so freaking beautiful. I've heard Melina Marchetta is hard to get into (I don't get that personally) but I swear, if you give it 50 pages you'll be in an entirely new world that you'll never want to leave. Luckily, The Piper's Son features characters from two of her other, also amazing books Saving Francescaand Jellicoe Road. So you can keep hanging out with your new friends for a little longer. Froi of the Exiles, the second in Marchetta's fantasy series, is coming out next year and I'm already calling it for my best of 2013 list.

*In an I-actually-want-to-be-the-object-of-his-affection-and-in-his-story kind of way. Sean Kendrick had some intensely swoony moments as well, but man he's dealing with some heavy stuff.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Piper's Son, Melina Marchetta

It's coming up on the end of the year and all over blogland people are putting up Best Of and Top Ten lists. I've submitted my Top Ten YA picks for 2011 over at another blog I contribute to and pretty soon I'll reproduce it here. Yes, I am that lazy. And I'm pretty sure there's zero crossover audience, so deal with it. While I have reviews of some of my Top Ten YA picks up already, written as I read the books (this was a weird year, almost nothing on the front half and completely loaded in the last six months) I won't end up having full length reviews of all of them. But I figured I should at the very least have a review of what is my (spoiler alert) very favorite book of 2011.

It's called The Piper's Sonand it is pure awesome.

The Deal: Tom Mackee's Uncle Joe died in the London subway bombings and it's only now, years after the fact, that his family is beginning to crawl out of their individual grief holes and figure out what the tragedy means to them as a family and to the friends they left behind. For Tom it means coming to terms with breaking the heart of the only girl he's ever loved and trying to make amends with his close friends who he shut out in the aftermath. For his Aunt Georgie, it means finding herself 42, pregnant, and ashamed to be in love with her baby's father. The book alternates between Tom and Georgie's viewpoint as we meet the entire Finch-Mackee family and watch them try to rebuild their family.

What Worked: I can't say everything, can I? Fine. Marchetta writes about grief better than anyone I've ever read. And there is a lot of grief in this book. Georgie's story is rich and deeply realized, giving respect to a character who wouldn't necessarily get respect in another YA novel. She is 40 after all. I love the way Marchetta ties history, both personal and communal, into the story. Every single break through is earned.

What Didn't Work: It's not so much a What Didn't Work as an I Want More, but I would have really liked to know more about Georgie, Dom and Joe's childhood and Georgie's first relationship with Sam.

Anything Extra Special?: YES. So this book follows the same characters as Saving Francesca aka the book that made me a Melina Marchetta fan girl. I missed Jimmy and Siobhan, but I loved catching up with Francesca, Justine, the psycho Tara Finke and of course, Tom. There are also mini appearances by characters from Marchetta's Printz award book Jellicoe Road. Blink and you'll miss them, pick up on it and you'll start praying for a crossover novel.

Would I Read It Again?: I already have.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle little STAR

We held our last STAR session on Monday. Six sessions of girl alternately not giving a crap and listening really intently and participating. Six sessions of pregnant teenagers eating Cups 'O Noodles and Popcorn for lunch. Six sessions that were designed to be presented with babies in the room that we had to redesign on the fly.

We went out not with a bang but with a whimper. Session 6 is "Print Motivation," or basically "Make Reading Fun" and the ENTIRE session is based around having a baby there to interact with, as opposed to the other sessions where a baby was only necessary for 20%-30% of the activities. So we ran through verse six of Hickory Dickory Dock (even the most jaded girl joined in this time! I think she has a soft spot for Hickory Dickory Dock that I do not share) and I did a super speedy version of "Where's Spot" that did no favors to Eric Hill's great lift-the-flap book. Then we busted out the cupcakes and pomegranate lemonade and asked if anyone had any questions.

They didn't, so we collected our evaluation forms and left.

Overall I was really pleased with the STAR sessions. As previously noted it was a pain in the ass to be working off a script that included small children. And not just because of the time we had to cut, or the missed opportunities to see cute kids (you really can never get enough). People, especially teenagers, are a lot more willing to do silly stuff if a baby is involved. Otherwise it's just a bunch of girls shooting side eyes at each other, or begrudgingly participating, while two overly enthusiastic librarians stand at the front of the room and sing the alphabet song.

It also really, really depended on the day with these girls. And I get it, you're pregnant and in algebra. Your boyfriend isn't helping and when he does, he gets all sorts of praise for just showing up. Praise that nobody would ever think to give to you, with you it's expected. You're sick, you're tired, your body is revolting against you and your diet consists mainly of over-warmed school food. Listening, much less participating, in workshops led by women who don't even have children and who are talking about doing even more work than you're already putting in is not how you want to spend your lunch break. But still, it just takes one girl in a bad mood to turn a good session into a conversation on race.

In between the frustrations, there were some truly great moments and some truly great girls. Sa'nai was there every single session and she paid attention, so much so that she remembered both my first and last names from week to week. She took notes and worried about her diet. She's going to do right by her baby because of all the effort she's putting in now. She's not even showing yet, but she joined the Teen Parenting group the second she found out she was pregnant. Last week the girls really got into dissecting letters into smaller shapes. We talked about recognizing circles and triangles in letters and by the time they got done shouting out suggestions we had erased the white board twice and they were coming up with examples I hadn't thought of. Two girls from the class have made the trip to the library to find either me or the other presenter and another seemed much more interested once we told them that right now you can get all your library fees canceled.

We'll be revisiting this high school and these girls again in the spring with a representative from the organization who granted us the money to put on the workshops. They'll do some interviews and we'll give each girl, some of whom will be new mothers by that point, a big and beautiful copy of a Rosemary Well's Mother Goose book as a baby gift. I for one can't wait to see them in the spring and I hope some come into the library before then.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Story Time Anticipation Models

I made a chart. It's highly scientific. Just look at how well I spaced my x-axis intervals (just typing that made me feel even more scientific).

This is a chart that demonstrates how I feel for the hour before story time. It's a vicious cycle, one I repeat every single Tuesday, Thursday and second Saturday of the month. You'd think I'd have learned by now to just chill out, to trust that just like in a Field of Dreams, I have built something that they will come to. But no, record lev
els of freakage-outage are reported every week.

When looking at this chart, please bear in mind that in a perfect world story time starts promptly at 10:30.

And as an added bonus, here's a new feature I like to call Badass Library Find of the Week in which we'll examine some of the particular gems that my branch has to offer the children of this fine city.

This week's Badass Library Find of the Week is holiday themed and it goes to:

Parents are asking for Christmas music these days, they want it all. Still, I saw three separate moms pick up and then put back down the 2007 classic Yo Yo Yo Kids: Yo, It's Christmas CD. When the room cleared out after story time, I put it on the CD player just to see what was up. It was worse than expected. The sticker on the back has a total of two check out stamps and it's easy to see why.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Yes, that's actually her name. It says so on her page. And the fact that she spells it out so clearly is one of the reason I'm so into this new author: She knows what you're going to ask and she tells you with as little fanfare and as much snark as possible.

Full disclosure: 2 days before I started reading The Probability of Miracles I saw a Polynesian dancer perform and visions of hula dancing were stuck in my head. So I may have been predisposed to like The Probability of Miracles even though it centers around one of my plot-points-I-normally-avoid: Incurable cancer.

The Deal: Cam is sick, sick, sick. She's spent the last seven years in and out of hospitals and experimental treatments and she's knows she doesn't have a lot of time left. She doesn't really have a plan for the summer and she doesn't expect to be around for the fall. Still, the last thing she really wants to do is pick up and move with her mother and sister to a tiny town 15,000 miles away from everything she's ever known in Florida just because the name of the town is Promise and miracles are said to happen there. But it's Promise, Maine and all the crazy, wonderful and even miraculous things that happen there that give Cam and her family an opportunity to deal with the awful fact that she doesn't have much time left.

What Worked: Man, I cried like a baby. Cam is a strong lead character who deals with her sickness in an imperfect but totally believable way. This book is really all about relationships and first time author Wendy Wunder draws them so, so well.

What Didn't Work: I wasn't as crazy about everything that happened in Promise. And ohmygoodness so much stuff happened. There were flamingos and unicorns and snow in July. Zip lines, bucket lists and surprise trips to Disney World. Wunder packs so much action into a story that would be just as, if not more, effective as a more slowly paced reflection on coming to terms with the unimaginable.

Anything Extra Special?: Cam grew up in Disney World! Like in, in Disney World. Her classmates are all auditioning to be Cinderella and Snow White for their summer jobs and she's been a hula dancer with the Polynesian hotel dinner experience for a few years. She's so awesome. And sassy. Y'all know how much I love the sass.

Would I Read It Again?: I'll definitely be picking it up again when I need a good cry.

The Probability of Miracles comes out TOMORROW! I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher and did not receive any sort of compensation for the review.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Plays the Race Card

I am white.

Really, really white.

Haven't been outside without sunscreen since I was 12, my people weren't meant for sun we were meant for rain and despair white.

And like a lot of white people in this country I have never been a visible minority. Race discussions growing up were always about things that happened to other people in other times and in other places. They were theoretical and impersonal. And not having to think about what it means to be a racial minority is probably the biggest unacknowledged part of white privilege.

Now I am most definitely the minority. I am often the only white person in the room and now race discussions make me distinctly uncomfortable, because I'm never sure what I should or can say. It's no longer theoretical; it's my real world.

I have become almost entirely desensitized to the n word. In fact, I have a great speech where I use it liberally that I'm going to bust out the next time I hear a kid say it. It's lost all of its shock value for me, but maybe the shock value of a white lady using it will resonate with them. Or at least give them pause. Or get me fired. The possibilities are endless.

Last week I told a girl that it's not a good idea to leave her cell phone next to her computer and then walk away. "Yeah," chimed in another girl sitting nearby, "there're black people here." Which wasn't what I meant, and both girls knew it. It was said as a joke and taken as one, but not one I knew how to respond to.

And then Monday happened.

Monday was the third of our STAR sessions with the teen parenting group at a local high school. The second session went oh so well after the first, kinda rough one that I've already talked about. But today some of the girls were in a foul mood, we had more than expected and I hadn't reviewed the material in a long time. It was my fault for not coming prepared with everyday examples of enhancing narrative skills, but as soon as I asked the girls for examples of how they incorporate the things we had been talking about (telling simple stories, dialogical reading, having "conversations" with pre-verbal babies by asking questions and allowing them time to babble back) with their babies or other babies in their life, all hell broke lose.

"People don't do those things" said one girl, one of our more active participants.
"What'd you mean "people"" asked a new girl, "You mean black people, don't you. Black people don't do this and that's why our kids don't know how to read."

The first girl didn't necessarily mean black people don't do the things we've been encouraging the girl to do with their babies. She just meant that it's hard to keep all these little things in mind when you're tired, sleep deprived and just want a minute to yourself. But that didn't stop the white people do this, black people do that conversation from snowballing. And what it came down to, in this tiny room with a lot of black teenagers, one black adult and two white adults who should have been facilitating but had really just thrown their hands up and were wondering where to break in, was this: Black communities are broken because no one is raising their kids right (in this case teaching kids to read/giving kids the foundations to learn to read before they get to school). And the one or two people who do raise their kids right then have no choice but to send their kids to the same schools as everyone else and so they're back at square one. You can't count on schools to care and a mom's persistence only goes so far.

In my experience this isn't a black vs. white thing. It's the lack of resources and education that hurts communities and has kids starting schools at a disadvantage and forcing teachers to play catch-up, getting kids up to speed on what they should already know. But that's too fine a point to draw when, for the majority of the population in the U.S. and certainly in this city, being black does equal a lack of resources and education.

It wasn't a conversation that either myself or my co-facilitator knew how to curb. I caught one of the girls sneaking looks at me as I watched, eyes wide and ping-ponging back and forth, trying to take in as much as possible. She smirked and nodded when I made an explosion gesture with my hands. It was clear that the two well meaning white ladies weren't going to regain control of the room so we quietly handed out the give-away boardbooks, said good bye and snuck out into the hall with the sounds of this really intense debate about personal responsibility vs communal responsibility in the black community raging behind us.

So this is my problem, how do I talk about race or address the racial issues with kids who have lived every single day as a product of a racially divided city, with very clear views as to who belongs and who doesn't? Especially when I'm someone who does not belong.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater


Good job Maggie Stiefvater.

I admit, I haven't been too impressed by you in the past. Maybe it was the werewolves. Maybe it was the awful book design that led somebody to think green ink was an acceptable choice. Whatever the reason, I gave up on the Linger trilogy pretty quickly and fairy stories? No, I don't think so. I only picked up Scorpio Races once I heard the rave reviews. But oh boy I am glad that I did. You took an obscure myth and transformed it, breathing life into something that could so easily have been flat. You surrounded that myth with believable characters and managed to give us one of the most tension filled, slow burn love stories since Anne of Green Gables.

Can you tackle selkies next? Or maybe the Tam Lin story? Pretty please?

The Deal:
Puck lives on the island of Thisby with her two brothers. Their parents were killed about a year ago by the mysterious and deadly water horses who rise from the sea every November and since then it's been the three Connolly siblings against the world. But now her oldest brother is talking about leaving the island for good and the only way Puck can think to stall him is to announce her intent to ride in the Scorpio Races.

The Scorpio Racesare a tradition on Thisby as far back as anyone can remember, and lately an economy-saving tourist attraction. Water horses are more dangerous and harder to control than regular horses, but they're so much faster. Each year the men of Thisby risk their lives to prove their dominance over the beasts and be the first over the finish line.

Sean watched his father die in the races when he was only ten years old. Now, riding the horse his father was killed on, Sean has won the races 4 times and is heavily favored to do it again. Sean doesn't care much for the races though, he just wants a way to buy Corr, his water horse and only friend, from the island's richest man. Together they'll move to his father's house and never be indentured to any master ever again.

What Worked: All of it. No, seriously. If I truly had to pick a best, most-working part though, it would be the world of Thisby that Stiefvater built. The island atmosphere of tradition and insider vs. outsider gives us some of the creepiest, most suspenseful scenes I've ever read. Carnival scenes and food descriptions juxtaposed against blood letting rituals and sinister pubs gave Thisby extra dimensions and let me get an intimate look at a small community from my couch.

What Didn't Work: Okay, so the villain was a little flat. BUT I AM SO TOTALLY OKAY WITH THAT.

Anything Extra Special?: Like I mentioned above, the tension between Puck and Sean as their relationship grows from distrust and suspicion to mutual respect and then soft, butterfly feelings is exquisite. I don't throw around the Anne of Green Gables title lightly; that slow burn as Anne begins to realize how Gilbert feels for her and how she feels about him can send me into squees by just thinking about it. Puck and Sean are of the same variety and the few kisses they do get to share are made all the more satisfying by how much time they spent working up to them.

Would I Read It Again?: Yes. It's a long linger and super intense, so I'll give it time to settle, but this is definitely something that will make its way back to my bedside table.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods

Is Hurricane Katrina becoming it's own genre these days? In the past year I've seen two middle readers and one picture book dealing with Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. This partial list doesn't even take into account the plethora of adult fiction about the Hurricane. This seems odd since the storm was barely five years ago and it took much, much longer for children's books using September 11, 2001 as a backdrop to start appearing.

Today we're taking a look at the newest addition to the Katrina cannon, a middle reader from Brenda Woods called Saint Louis Armstrong Beach.

The Deal: Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is a little boy with a big name to live up to. Like his Grandaddy Saint and his other namesake, Louis Armstrong, Saint has the music in him. Nothing makes him happier than busking for tourists, dreaming of one day affording his dream clarinet, and playing with "his" dog, a neighborhood stray named Shadow. His former best friend MonaLisa is growing up too fast and refuses to talk to him anymore, which would hurt even if he didn't have a crush on her. When another friend, with a crush of her own, tells Saint that he has an extra short lifeline he becomes determined to live for 99 years, just to prove her wrong. Unfortunately for him, a tropical storm named Katrina is making the news and is headed straight towards New Orleans. His parents want to evacuate, but Saint can't find Shadow anywhere and he knows that he just can't leave without him.

With the storm waters rising, and time running out, Saint finds himself boarded up in an old cottage with his elderly neighbor and (finally) Shadow. Together they'll ride out the storm, for better or worse.

What Worked: Woods invokes the feeling of New Orleans really well with her descriptions of local music and food. While reading Saint... I found myself wanting to rewatch the HBO series Treme just to continue my immersion in the New Orleans world. Saint is a strong protagonist, very much caught up in his own world, and his choices always follow a certain logic even if they're not the best in terms of self-preservation. The interactions between MonaLisa, Saint and the other friend-- a girl named Jupi-- are cute and provide some much needed relief from the excellent building tension.

What Didn't Work: While I thought the build-up of tension before the storm was one of the books stronger attributes, Katrina itself fell flat. I didn't feel any real immediacy or danger while Saint was supposedly fighting for his life, for Miz Moran's life and for Shadow's life. I also wasn't crazy about the addition of magical realism in the third act. If there had been better foreshadowing, maybe, but as it was it popped up out of nowhere and took me out of the story.

Would I read it again?: Probably not. I don't regret reading it, but I think Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes covered the same material and covered it better.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

I spent last weekend in New York, visiting a friend from undergrad. It was a much needed vacation and on the bus ride up there I finished Past Perfect, the new book from Leila Sales. When I got off the bus I handed Sarah the book and said "Oh em geeeeeee, you should read this now. While I'm here. Because it belongs to the library and I have to take it back with me on Monday, but also because you should just read it now." So in between awesome New York things like going to shows, really good takeout and staring a little too long at the ODB mural in her neighborhood, Sarah and I hunkered down to read.

Past Perfect hits a lot of my sweet spots; Leila Sales is a master of dialogue and in between all the general romantic angst of YA books there is some serious discussion of ice cream. A great model of female friendship, a cute but not too cute boy and some seriously pearl clutching swoony times on a trampoline all make this a sweet and addictive read.

But here's the best part: the book takes place almost entirely in a COLONIAL REENACTMENT TOURIST ATTRACTION VILLAGE! And most of what isn't in the Colonial Village, is at a CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT TOURIST ATTRACTION! I spent so much of my time in college and grad school dreaming of getting a gig as an interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, it's not even funny. I love the idea of reenacting Civil War battles and I always, always wonder (just like Chelsea) who would willingly volunteer to play the loosing side. I mean, it always ends the same. Even if you truly believe that the South will rise again, it certainly didn't then.

The second best part of the book was the war. I freaking love a YA book with a good war in it. I think it started with Jellicoe Road, but nothing emphasizes the heightened reality of mundane moments that YA is built around like a war that is all consuming and ever important, but that the adults can never ever know about. This war, between the junior interpreters at the Colonial Village and their counterparts at Civil War Land, is a pretty good one. It's mostly based around sneaking anachronistic things into the enemy's camp, which is played for laughs, but there are serious moments too that ramp up the tension between our star-crossed lovers. (Of course there are star-crossed lovers, did you think there wouldn't be? Have you ever read YA before?)

As Sarah and I lounged around her apartment reading, we quickly adopted a shorthand way of talking about the book- "Oh Dan Malkin." "I know! So great, right?" "So Dan Malkin." or "Ezra!" "Right? Just wait, it gets worse" "Ezra, Ezra, Ezra." "Talent is a turn-on. Sa-woon". Her roommate couldn't participate in conversations with us because lines from the book became our reference points. Especially that one about talent. Sa-woon for reals.

Past Perfect succeeds at almost every turn; it's fun and infectious, well written, given to inside jokes and not thinking too hard (except about ice cream, which should always be taken very, very seriously). Which, really, is exactly what Sarah and I wanted from a book in our hunkering down, reunion filled weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Scientific Analysis of Toddlers

I'm in the middle of performing a very scientific experiment on my story time kids. It's always seemed odd to me that story time at the library is all ages, or as it usually happens 6 months-4 years. That's just cray-cray. If I'm catering to the littlest ones, the big kids are bored and roll their eyes at me. If I'm reading longer stories for the more developmentally advanced, the babies aren't engaged and start crying. And now matter what I do, the 18-20 month olds run around and push all the buttons on the computers.

So my experiment: Babies come to both story times, they're always there. But I've noticed that older kids tend to come to the Thursday story time. I think it's because my home school families have settled on Thursday as their library day and those kids trend older. So without telling anyone, I've started structuring Tuesday story time like a baby bounce/lap sit and keeping Thursday as a more traditional older toddler and preschool story time.

Without (much) further ado, here are the outlines for this Tuesday's baby bounce, followed by Thursday's story time. As you can see, I'm also super getting into making new flannel board sets. If the grand experiment goes the way I think it will I'll be formally dividing my story times at the beginning of the new year.

TUESDAY BABY BOUNCE (I lost my script somewhere along the way, so this is my best recreation)

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth
Poem: Turtle
Book: Mice Squeak, We Speak by Tommie DePaola
Song: Old MacDonald
Flannel: 5 Green and Speckled Frogs
Flannel: Fall is Not Easy (from the book by Marty Kelley)
Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Song: Grand Old Duke of York
Rhyme: Big, Big, Big
Flannel: 5 Little Ducks
Rhyme: Where are Baby's Fingers?
Poem: Turtle
Book: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler
Song: Turn Around (from Getting to Know Myself)


Song: Good Morning Dear Earth
Rhyme: Big, Big, Big (2x)
Rhyme: Patty Cake, Patty Cake
Book: Eight Animals on the Town by Susan Middleton Elya
Flannel: Inch by Inch (from the book by Leo Lionni)
Flannel: 5 Little Ducks
Song: If You're Happy and You Know It
Book: Shout! Shout It Out! by Denise Fleming
Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Song: You Are My Sunshine
Song: Wheels on the Bus
Poem: Turtle (2x)
Book: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler
Song: Turn Around (from Getting to Know Myself)

Tuesday this week went really well. We had a record crowd (36!) and almost everyone paid attention the entire time. Thursday was not as awesome. I should have practiced Inch by Inch before I tried to do it, and as soon as I finished it Jeremy, a 2.5 year old, stood up in front of everyone and sang a song of his own invention- a mix between 5 Little Ducks and 5 Green and Speckled Frogs. This led to extended sharing time- Annie was sick last week, Caleb wants to read more books about Dinosaurs, Frannie thinks the flu is going around etc...

As much as I worry about loosing control of the room though, the moms and nannies never seem to notice. I get just as many compliments in the milling around time after what I consider a disastrous story time as I do after one that I think went smoothly. Thursday's story time highlight came when Sara's mom told me that she had noticed Sara humming the Turn Around Song. They found the song on youtube (bitchin' video by the way) and at the chorus Sara started spinning around. "I didn't know she could follow directions!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Family Story Time

Starting today on the second Saturday of each month I'm offering a Family Story Time at the library. It's aimed at getting parents who work during the day to come into the library with their kids and also at attracting neighborhood kids that are in daycare or preschool during normal story time hours.

I had one new kid today, an older sister of one of my regulars, but I was really happy to see a lot more dads than usual and some new moms with my familiar babies.

Since this was the first day of a new program, I pulled out all the stops and went pretty rapid-fire with things I know work. I'll leave experimenting with new material for weekday story times for now. I think I went a little long, by the last book attention and little bodies were starting to wander over to the toys and coloring in different parts of the room.

Here's what we did today:

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth (I start every story time with this song)
Poem: I Had a Little Turtle
Book: Silly Sallyby Audrey Wood
Flannel Board: 5 Little Ducks
Song: The Wheels on the Bus
Book: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoesby Eric Litwin
Rhyme: Where are Baby's Fingers?
Song: You Are My Sunshine
Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider
Flannel Board: Go Away Big Green Monster (from the bookby Ed Emberley
Flannel Board: Fall is Not Easy (from the bookby Marty Kelley)
Rhyme: Big, Big, Big
Song: If You're Happy and You Know It
Book: Jazz Babyby Lisa Wheeler (This is the last book I read in every story time, I use it as a repeat-after-me)
Song: Turn Around (I end every story time with this song off Hap Palmer's CD Getting to Know Myself )