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Monday, August 22, 2016

Kids' Book Reviews

So, every summer I lead a writing group for kids at the library. I usually do not make them do too much non-fiction writing because: 1. They do more non-fiction writing at school and 2. It is their least favorite genre to write (probably because that is what they mostly do at school). I did manage to get a few of them to write book reviews for the blog, though. As a parent and a librarian I am always interested to hear what kids think about the books that they read. 


Zander (12)
I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I think this book is great there is nice story and lots of action. The characters are well thought out and have clear personality. The beginning of the book is great and it explains well what is happening. Everything that happens in the book plays out well. From start to finish this book is great.







 Zane (9)
Three Ring Rascals #1: The Show Must Go On by Kate Klise

The Three-Ring Rascals is a series about the best circus in the world. In the first book the ring master gets too old and the circus needs a new one. They find a new ring master named Barnabas Brambles who ends up being very mean and tricking the old ring master to get money. You should read The Show Must Go On because it is a fun and silly story and then you will want to read the whole series.





Ruthie (13)
Sailor Moon Manga by Naoka Takeuchi

Sailor Moon is a manga (Japanese graphic novel) by Naoko Takeuchi and was originally serialized between 1991 and 1997. It follows Usagi Tsuckino, who is told one day by a talking cat named Luna that she a guardian of love and justice, Sailor Moon. She must gather up her allies, the other Sailor Guardians (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus), in order to defend the earth. Along the way they are joined by the mysterious Tuxedo Mask and together they work to learn about their past lives. The newest release of the series has 12 volumes of manga among which the 5 main story arcs are split between. During the time of its release Sailor Moon was ground breaking, as there were not many forms of manga focusing on a mostly female cast. It also offered girls a chance to imagine themselves as one  of the main characters as each is unique. Especially Usagi, who instead of being just a pretty face with no personality is ditzy and scared of fighting, but has a good heart that always shines through. While bits of it obviously pander to a younger female demographic, the strong female characters and good morals even out any artificiality that may be mixed in.  That being said, Sailor Moon remains one of my all time favorite series and I highly recommend it for preteen/teenage girls or anyone looking for a start into manga.

Emerson (13)
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
This book is spectacular! An easy two thumbs up. You may wonder: What is so great about Boy? Well, Boy is an autobiography (kind of) by Roald Dahl that talks about his most vivid memories from childhood. If you like Dahl's books and want to know his backstory this book is a great read!







 Ellen (12)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a five part book series by Rick Riordan. it follows the half-blood, Percy Jackson, who along with his fellow half-bloods leads a battle against the Titan, Kronos. This series is filled with amazing character, plot twists, and settings. Plus, it is just neat to see what the Greek gods are up to in our world. I recommend this series to anyone who loves adventure and a good laugh now and then.

Tyler (10)
Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Blood of Olympus is the breathtaking conclusion to the Heroes of Olympus series with a fast pace that will keep readers ready for more. I think that Riordan has done his best work in this book.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Board Book Fun!

So, I recently returned to work after having my fourth child. Yes, there were tears. Probably more from me than my infant.

Since my older three children are fourteen, twelve, and nine we had sold or given away the majority of our baby stuff years ago.  Now, most new moms would be worried about having enough clothes, diapers, blankets, etc. in the house. Being a librarian, though, I was more concerned about the fact that I no longer had any baby board books.

Here is a list of ten board books that are perfect for building any new baby's library. I decided to include only one book by a single author otherwise there would be fifty books on this list instead of ten.

1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
I went back and forth between Goodnight Moon and The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown (really you should just get both). I eventually gave Goodnight Moon the edge, because it is such a  comforting addition to the bedtime routine.

In the great green room. There was a telephone. And a red balloon.

Brown's gentle, lyrical text is instantly soothing. Little ones will love pointing out the different objects in Hurd's vibrant illustrations before saying goodnight to each one. Hopefully the book will also inspire them to say goodnight to the things in their own bedrooms before drifting off to sleep.



2. The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone
How many times have I read this book?  A thousand? A million? Let's just say more times than I count and every time there was a toddler screaming "You turned the page!" right along with Grover. You do not have to be a Sesame Street fan to laugh at Grover's hilarious attempts to keep the reader from getting to the end of the book where a monster is waiting. Be sure to ham it up and pretend that it takes Herculean strength to turn the pages that Grover glues, nails, or bricks over.




3. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
Every child's library should include a healthy dose of Seuss. Hop on Pop is wonderful in board book format because, as the cover says, it is "The simplest Seuss for Youngest Use". It has the classic Dr. Seuss illustrations and rhyming nonsense, but it is not really a story. Rather Hop on Pop is more about concepts like on and off, up and down, in and out, etc.

The little boy, Jim, who is biting the tiger's tail always makes me giggle.  If you have a cat, though, you might want to protect it from the baby after reading this part. Of course, you may also have to protect dads from rambunctious toddlers trying to jump on their bellies after reading Hop on Pop.



4.The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
I know. I highlight an Eric Carle book in nearly every post. What can I say, Carle's books are amazing! The stories are engaging, but simple enough for very young children. Also, the bright contrasting colors used in Carle's brilliant collage illustrations are perfect for a baby's developing vision. Here are renowned pediatrician, Dr. Sears', observations on infant vision development if you don't believe me.

The story of the little caterpillar who eats his way through a whole lot of food before turning into a butterfly is without a doubt Carle's most popular title. Little ones will not be able to resist poking their fingers through the holes where the hungry caterpillar tunnels through each meal. There are sure to be giggles when the little caterpillar turns into a big fat caterpillar and delighted gasps when he is revealed as a stunning butterfly with kaleidoscopic wings.
As children get older The Very Hungry Caterpillar is also a wonderful way to teach colors and practice counting.


5. We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
You may be familiar with the song We're Going on a Bear Hunt, but Rosen's adorable book makes it even more fun to sing with your little one. Don't believe me? Watch the video of the author, Michael Rosen, reading it below.

In 2007 a stunning pop-up version of this classic book was released.  Little feet lift in and out of the squelchy mud; the snow swirls; the grass goes swishy swashy; and the bear even chases the family back home. Of course, you might want to stick with the board book until your child is old enough not to rip the pop-up parts.




6. Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
What is the recipe for the perfect board book? An easy, repetitive text written by Bill Martin Jr. and gorgeous, animal illustrations by Eric Carle. Brown Bear, Brown Bear is really a brilliant little book about colors and animals that little ones will clamor for you to read again and again.




7. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
I usually recommend P.D. Eastman books for kids just learning how to read on their own, but Go, Dog. Go! is also a fantastic board book for babies. The text is very basic and introduces a number of concepts such as colors, counting, and opposites. Children will fall in love with all of the boldly colored dogs driving, swimming, playing, working, and sleeping.




8. Moo, Baaa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton
Sandra Boynton has written and illustrated oodles of board books that all feature whimsical text and characters of cheek-pinching cuteness.   Moo, Baa, La La La! is a sweet, rhyming story about animals and the sounds that they make. Of course, Boynton has to inject her own brand of silliness into it. Instead of saying "Oink" the pigs insist on singing "La La La!". The book ends with all of the animals being quiet and the question "What do you say?" If it is close to bedtime you can hope that your little one will say goodnight.
9. Tails by Matthew Van Fleet
This is the only touch-and-feel book on my list so, obviously, it must be the best one. Matthew Van Fleet has a whole fleet (pardon the pun) of touch-and-feel books for little readers but Tails has always been my favorite. The illustrations are too adorable for words and even adults will enjoy the multiple pop-ups, fold-outs, and textures. There is even a scratch-and-sniff skunk tail that you can smell at your own risk.





10. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Little Blue Truck was published in 2008 and is the most recently published board book on this list. I wish that it had been around when my other three children were babies and toddlers, because it is such a charming little book. Don't think that this story is only for boys because the main character is a truck. Little readers will be beeping, neighing, mooing, and oinking as Little Blue Truck drives around the countryside with his farm animal friends.


For all of you Little Blue Truck fans Schertle has written several sequels. Little Blue Truck's Christmas with real twinkle lights at the end would make a perfect stocking stuffer.


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!