Search This Blog


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Millages and Materials: A Library Story

Every year, large groups of 3rd graders descend upon the Portland District Library and City Hall to learn about how government works.  As I take them on tours of the building, I always stop to ask if they know where the library gets its money.  While they always have a vague understanding of taxes and overdue charges, the finer points of library funding are unfamiliar.  I feel it's this way with most people . . . they have a vague idea of how the library pays its bills, but they'd be hard pressed to explain it fully.  

On August 2nd, the voters of Ionia County will be asked whether they want to renew the county-wide library funding that is already in place, with a small addition of funds to increase services.  As the library director, I thought I already had a pretty firm handle on the ins and outs of our funding, but as I worked through this process of getting the measure on the ballot and informing the citizens of the county, I learned even more.  

All six libraries in the county have the same four major sources of funding.  The percentages from each category may be different for all of us, but the sources are pretty much the same.  They are:

  • State Aid--Every year, the Michigan government agrees on a certain amount of money to be set aside in the state budget for libraries.  These funds go to the Library of Michigan, who uses it to pay for statewide databases, Melcat, and more.  A portion of these funds are also distributed, on a per-capita basis, to the public libraries in the state.  There are certain benchmarks we have to maintain--being open a certain number of hours per week, having a certain level of education among the staff--but as long as we do, we receive this funding. 
  • Penal Fines--Michigan libraries are constitutionally guaranteed penal fine income.  In other words, when overweight trucks are stopped on the highways, or when someone is pulled over and given a speeding ticket, the fines and fees associated with their tickets go to the library.  The amount of revenue that this generates depends on how many people break the law, who writes the ticket, what sort of ticket is written, and how many patrols are out, so the number can fluctuate wildly from year to year.  
  • Library Millages--Simply put, this is a portion of your property tax that you vote to set aside for a certain purpose . . . libraries, schools, fire departments, etc.  In Ionia County, our original one mill was approved by the voters in 1998 for 20 years, and supports all six public libraries in the county.  The funding can only be used for operational expenses, which means no buildings are renovated or constructed using these funds.  Most of the libraries in the county receive 50% or more of their annual income from the millage.
  • Donations, Fees, and Miscellaneous--While this is the category that people usually think of first when discussing library funding, it's actually usually the smallest source of income.  Libraries do make money from overdue fines, printing charges, fax charges, and other services provided, but we usually just charge enough to pay for the materials used.  Generous donations from our patrons are always useful, and round out this category.

So, those are the basics, which I tried to simplify as much as possible.  It can still be very confusing, though, so I hope that you'll share any questions you may still have, either via the blog comments, or by stopping by or calling the library.  I'll do my best to answer them!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It's All About Dad!

Father's Day is only a few days away so I thought that I would take the time to highlight some picture books that feature dads. It's a sad truth that there are a lot more picture books that showcase kids with their moms than with their dads. Hopefully, this list will give you some amazing books to read with your little ones not just on Father's Day, but year round.

1. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
I adore all of Stein's picture books, but Interrupting Chicken is my favorite. Papa Chicken agrees to read his daughter bedtime stories, but only if she promises not to interrupt.Well, Little Red Chicken just cannot resist blurting out alternate endings to all of her favorite stories. Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Chicken Little suddenly star a little red chicken who swoops in and saves the day.
It is impossible not to fall madly in love with this precocious little chicken and her indulgent papa. Interrupting Chicken is also a wonderful reminder that reading with our children should be a fun and interactive experience.

2. Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle
Eric Carle proves that a father's love for his child has no boundaries in this visually stunning picture book. Every night Monica watches the moon outside her window and wishes that she could play with it. Despite her best efforts Monica cannot quite reach the moon so she asks her Papa if he will get it for her. There are several gorgeous fold out pages as Papa takes a very long ladder to the top of the tallest mountain and climbs up to the moon. Once the moon wanes from full to a small sliver that he can carry Papa takes it home to Monica who plays with it until gets so small that it disappears. At first Monica is heartbroken that the moon is gone until it appears backs in the sky and grows bigger with each passing night.  Simple, yet beautifully told, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me is also a fantastic way to introduce young children to the lunar cycle.

3. Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Big surprise, another Eric Carle book!  Who knew that there were so many animal species in which the male takes on the role of mom? Considering I just had my fourth baby I am feeling quite jealous that with seahorses the male gets to be pregnant and give birth.

Not only will kids learn some interesting scientific facts about marine biology, they will be fascinated by the special acetate pages that can be lifted to reveal fish hidden behind rocks and seaweed.

4. Mitchell's License by Hallie Durand

Ok, I had to include Mitchell's License on this list because when I began writing this post my husband immediately chimed in that the book where the dad is a race car was his favorite to read to our sons. What dad hasn't put their son or daughter on their shoulders or back and zoomed around the house? Four year old Mitchell is not too keen on bedtime. That is until he is given a special license to drive his dad around the house before hand. Not only is Mitchell's License a sweet and charming picture book about a father and son it will give you a new strategy to put that difficult toddler to bed!

5. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
You may be more familiar with the Elephant and Piggy or Pigeon series, but Mo Willem's 2005 Caldecott winning book, Knuffle Bunny, is a delightful standout. Featuring a unique juxtaposition of bright, cartoon characters set amidst sepia toned photographs of city scenes, Knuffle Bunny tells the story of a little girl who loses her favorite stuffed toy on a trip to the laundromat with her daddy.

Knuffle Bunny not only spawned two sequels, it was also made into a children's musical that has toured all over the United States.

6. We Love Our Dad by Jan and Mike Berenstain
How could I not mention Papa Bear when writing about dads in picture books? This is the one book on this list that is specifically about Father's Day. Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear know that their Papa Bear is the greatest dad of all so they decide that they are going to do all of his work and spoil him on Father's Day.

As you have probably noticed, Mike Berenstain is listed as the coauthor of We Love our Dad. Call me a sap but I find it touching that the book series that Stan and Jan Berenstain began writing for their son is now being continued by that same child following the  deaths of Stan in 2005 and Jan in 2012.

7. Just Me and My Dad by Mercer Meyer

What can I say? I am a sucker for a Little Critter book and there happens to be one for every occasion and/or situation that your child is experiencing. Little Critter books are sweet, simple stories accompanied by lush, detailed illustrations that little ones will ogle for hours.

In Just Me and My Dad Little Critter and his dad go on a camping trip together.  Of course, all sorts of things go wrong at first, but eventually Little Critter and his dad manage to pitch a tent, catch dinner, and enjoy their father/son time in the woods.

8. and 9. Darth Vader and Son and Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown
So, I already gave you a glimpse of Darth Vader and Son at the beginning of this post. These books are probably more for the dads than the kids. In fact, I gave both of these books to my big Star Wars geek for Father's Day. They are so hilarious that I couldn't resist including them on my list of favorite "Dad" books. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Once Upon a Time

A few weeks back I published a post titled Fractured Fairy Tales in which I reviewed several books and series that are fresh spins on classic stories and fairy tales. Since I only wrote about chapter books in that post I thought that I would take some time to highlight a few picture books that are unique re-tellings of stories we all grew up with.

The first books that come to mind are Jon Scieszka'a hilarious riffs on fairy tales and fables.
Probably the most popular of these is The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf As told to Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. This is Alexander T. Wolf's side of the story and it turns out that this whole big and bad thing is a complete misunderstanding. All he wanted was to borrow a cup of sugar from his neighbors so he could bake a cake for his granny. Unfortunately, Mr. Wolf happened to have a terrible cold that day and kept sneezing down the little pigs' houses. It wasn't his fault that two unintelligent little pigs made their house out of straw and sticks. Of course, Mr. Wolf did lose his temper when the third little pig in the brick house insulted his dear old granny, but who could blame him?

Two other collaborations by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith are The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales, which was a Caldecott Honor book in 1993, and Squids will be Squids: Fresh Morals, Beastly Tales.

The former of these is a series of ridiculous parodies of fairy tales all narrated by Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. Instead of Little Red Riding Hood there is Little Red Running Shorts, The Gingerbread Man is replaced by The Stinky Cheese Man, and we have The Really Ugly Duckling who does not grow up to a be a beautiful Swan.

In Squids will be Squids Scieszka and Smith take on Aesop's fables and the results are hysterical. If you are an adult that is easily offended by juvenile humor you might want to leave this book on the shelf. Kids will crack up, though, at morals like:  He who smelt it, dealt it.

Scieszka also wrote The Frog Prince Continued which features stunning yet slightly dark and sinister paintings by Steve Johnson. After the princess kissed the frog and turned him into a handsome prince they lived happily ever after. At least that is the way the story goes, but according to this sequel the couple haven't quite settled down to marital bliss. The princess is constantly irritated that the prince continues to behave like a frog and the prince decides that his life was better before he became human. Now all he has to do is find a witch that will turn him back into a frog.

Do you see pigeon?

There are countless versions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but my absolute favorite is Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems. My youngest son loooovvveedddd this book and we read it together more times than I can count.  If you are a fan of Mo Willems other children's books, you will also enjoy looking for the hidden pictures of pigeon throughout Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.

I am not one for perfect, pretty princess stories, which is probably why I adore Falling for Rapunzel and Waking Beauty by Leah Wilcox. The poor tower-bound princess in Falling for Rapunzel cannot understand what the prince is asking and throws everything but her hair out the window. Rather than silky tresses Rapunzel tosses out some silky dresses. Asking for curly locks gets the prince covered in dirty socks and, of course, hair is misinterpreted as underwear.

In Waking Beauty the three fairies try to tell Prince Charming how to awaken the sleeping princess, but he keeps interrupting with his own ideas. When he finally learns that he has to kiss Sleeping Beauty, the prince is not too sure. After all, hasn't he heard that girls have germs?

Adult, child, boy, girl. Every reader will be laughing out loud at Wilcox's farcical versions of these classic princess stories.

Okay, back to the beginning with two more unique versions of The Three Little Pigs. The first of these, The Three Pigs by the incomparable David Wiesner,  was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2002. The story may start off  familiarly with three little pigs gathering straw, sticks, and bricks to build houses. Wiesner's version veers from the classic Grimm fairy tale, though, when the big, bad wolf huffs and puffs the first little pig right off the page of the book. Soon all three of the pigs have escaped the pages of their book and set out to explore other stories.

From Tuesday
 If you have never read a David Wiesner picture book go to the library and check one out today. The three-time Caldecott Medal winner creates stories that are stunning, whimsical, and completely original.

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat is wonderfully silly and fun to read. In order to combat the big bad wolf three porcine siblings sign up for martial arts lessons. As in the original fairy tale, two of the pigs are lazy and want to play, whereas the third little pig (the sister because girls are just smarter) works hard.  Well, big surprise as to who has the ninja skills to defeat the wolf when he shows up in town. Afterwards, the brothers decide to follow their sister's example and put forth the effort to earn their black belts.

Schwartz and Santat collaborated again on Ninja Red Riding Hood, which is a companion to The Three Ninja Pigs. With the three ninja pigs around the big bad wolf can no longer huff and puff his way to an easy meal. Hunger sends the wolf to a dojo to master the martial arts.  Who better to test out his new karate skills on then a little girl and her granny? Well, unfortunately for the wolf Red Riding Hood has some butt-kicking ability of her own.

Fans of The Three Ninja Pigs and Ninja Red Riding Hood will be thrilled to hear that a third book, Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks, comes out later this month.