Search This Blog

Monday, December 30, 2013

An Endearingly Creepy Trilogy

Author John Connolly is best known for a series of thrillers featuring a private detective named Charlie Parker.  I've never read any of those books.  However, I can't get enough of his Samuel Johnson books, which feature a slightly peculiar young boy and his loyal dachshund.  In the first book, The Gates, Samuel and his dog accidentally witness a portal to Hell open in his neighbor's basement, and said neighbor become possessed by a demon intent upon bringing Hell to earth.  I know . . . it sounds weird, but it's really, really well-written.  This book is filled with wonderful characters and highly amusing sarcastic footnotes.  It's sort of like a Lemony Snicket book for adults.  The second book, The Infernals, finds Samuel dragged to Hell along with four cranky thieving dwarfs, two policemen, and an ice cream truck.  In the third book, The Creeps, infinite darkness attempts to take over all known universes via Samuel's small British town.  I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes quirky tales, main characters who are heroes in spite of themselves, and lesser demons with hearts of gold. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Books are great gifts too!

Nothing against e-readers, there are three nooks at my house, and the portability is wonderful. My family spent a week in the UP this past summer and if my daughter and I had packed books rather than our nooks the weight of the luggage may have buckled the Mackinac Bridge.

Tablets and e-readers may be convenient, but I still prefer to hold a real book in my hand. Tabbing to the next page cannot compare to turning the pages of a real book and don't get me started on the smell. Maybe I am strange, but I love the smell of books (especially old ones) and how cool is that there is actually a scientific reason for this. 

Supposedly this is going to be the Christmas of the tablet, but don't forget that "real" books make wonderful gifts too.

Of course, I work in a library so I USUALLY recommend borrowing books rather that purchasing them. However, there are some books that you just want to have a permanent home on your bookcase.

If you are looking for a gift to give a new Mom (or even an older Mom) who has a daughter I recommend Someday by Allison McGhee and illustrated by Peter Reynolds. I am a huge fan of Peter Reynolds simple but stunning water color illustrations. They are perfect for McGhee's story of a mother/daughter relationship from birth to adulthood. If you have a daughter keep a tissue handy because this book will bring on the waterworks.

Another great book for moms is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I know that some people think that this book has a negative message, but I believe that is a captivating allegory about unconditional love.

Speaking of Shel Silverstein, everyone (whatever age)should own his collection of poetry books. Funny, sweet, cute, and hysterical; each page offers a new treat.
There are more, but these two are the most popular.

Giving a picture book to a child is special, because it implies that you are going to sit and share it with them. There are so many spectacular picture books that your child will want to own so that they can have it read over and over.  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and anything by Dr. Seuss are incredibly popular choices.

I also recommend The Monster at the End of this Book.
Your child does not need to be a Grover or Sesame Street fan to love this book. It is a hilarious, interactive book that will have any child shouting "You turned the page!"
Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart
 Most people would assume that a pop-up book would be for a small child. Not so with the pop-up books by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. Just google either of their names and you will see that they create not mere pop-up books but magical feats of engineering. Older children (and adults) will spend hours marveling at any of the books created by these extremely talented artists.  No matter what the interests of the reader there is a Sabuda or Reinhart book for them from classic books like The Wizard of Oz to mythical creatures or Superheroes. There is even a Star Wars one!

As you can see, these books are just awesome and I would probably just keep adding pictures. You would probably assume that they are incredibly expensive, too, but they are only $20-$30! My older kids have received a couple of these as gifts and they adore them. My son has had the dinosaur pop-up book for a couple of years and he still loves looking at it.

There are so many more picture books that I want to recommend as Christmas gifts and I have not even mentioned chapter books, adult books, graphic novels, etc. Instead of making this one extremely long post, I will mention a couple of more picture books now and save chapter books for another post.

Every child should own The Velveteen Rabbit and have it read to them at least once a year. Long before Buzz and Woody were loved by Andy, Margery Williams taught us that “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” There are so many editions of the book so you can choose the one that you like the best. My kids actually have this older edition that belonged to me as a child.

If you know a little boy that is obsessed with trucks and/or dinosaurs combine the two and present them with Chris Gall's Dinotrux and Revenge of the Dionotrux.

Some other great picture books to gift are the Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin. Be sure to download the songs that goes with these from the Harper Collins website, they are so groovy. Speaking of cats, the Splat the Cat books by Rob Scotton are also very cute. Anything by Mo Willems is sure to be a winner too.

Another fun and interactive picture book is Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite in which a giant crocodile is trying to eat the book. What kid doesn't like some carnage when they read?

There are so many more, but hopefully these will give you some ideas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday Fun Night

Holiday Fun Night was a huge success this past Wednesday! I think the whole town showed up for the festivities! As you can see from the pictures families enjoyed making Christmas crafts, indulging in sweet treats, and, of course, petting the reindeer.

Holly and Noel (mother and daughter from Rooftop Reindeer Farm) definitely stole the show.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Santa Claus Has Come to Town

 Santa took some time out of his busy schedule to visit the library on Saturday. After sitting on Santa's lap and having their picture taken, kids made Christmas ornaments and enjoyed hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies (Santa's personal favorites).

The library would like to thank the Ionia Intermediate School District for arranging this wonderful holiday event. The very generous people at Ionia ISD took pictures and printed them free of charge. They even brought adorable foam frames for kids to make and display their pictures in. I have three children and it was so nice to have them see Santa without waiting in an endless line at the mall or paying a small fortune for a photo.

If you didn't make it in to see Santa, there are several other holiday events planned at the library.

The next two Tuesdays, the 10th and the 17th of December, we have our fireside readings. Kids of all ages can enjoy cookies and hot cocoa while listening to Christmas stories by the fire. On the 17th Rush Clement of Rush Hour Studios will bring his guitar for some fun holiday music. Both fireside readings will begin at 6pm and we encourage kids to come in their jammies.

On Wednesday, December 11th at 6pm the library is having a holiday open house for the entire community. There will be fun stuff for kids in the children's area and lots of goodies and door prizes for adults too. The most exciting part is that the Rooftop Landing Reindeer Farm is bringing some special friends for everyone to pet and feed. If you need another incentive to go to the library that night, we will be offering amnesty for all library fines during the two hour event.
Fine Amnesty from 6-8pm Wednesday, December 11th

The Holly Jolly Movie Series has been going on throughout December.  You can watch a fun Christmas movie on our big screen while eating free popcorn. Elf is showing this Monday at 6pm and the following Monday at 6pm we will be showing How the Grinch Stole Christmas. 

Since the kids will be on Christmas break, we will be showing Prep and Landing on the 23rd and Babes in Toyland (the awesome one with Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands) on the 30th at 1pm in the afternoon.

The holidays may be hectic, but try to make time for some free good cheer at the Portland District Library.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Woolbur Picture Book Winner

Congratulations Rachel Kowalski for winning our Woolbur Picture book giveaway! We ran our contest for two weeks and had fourty-four entries and you are our lucky winner!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I.O.U. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

At a recent staff meeting, we were putting to a vote whether or not to put our DVDs back into their cases. The vote had been 5-4 in favor of returning them to their cases. I, myself, was on the losing end of that vote. My reasoning behind this had been that within the last few weeks we had actually seen an increase of missing materials. I'm not sure how much of our local community actually reads our blog, but some must know the issues we have been having with our circulation scanner lately. While we should be getting a new system soon(ish), the current scanners tend to be slow and will sometimes pause for a few seconds between scans. This causes materials to be "scanned" but not checked out. Then when someone is looking for that material, it says it is in when in fact it was checked out. At the that point we either assume the former, or have to concede that the item has been stolen. 

In the last few weeks, we have seen more DVDs go missing, and I have had about half a dozen graphic novels M.I.A. If you've read my blog posts before you'll know I take care of the graphic novels and stake a lot of their continuity on the collecting of series. With our comics going missing though, I have series with no beginnings or no ends. As I write this I am missing the two earlier trade paperbacks of Batwoman that I had in circulation.To me, this ruins 2 thirds of our story so far. And that is just what I am missing from one series, from just the adult section alone. I haven't even looked into the children's department yet. 

So that is my reasoning behind my vote against DVDs going back into their cases. While this doesn't account for all our patrons, it accounts for a lack of respect for materials and other patrons that would want to check out these materials. At the moment I'm just waiting and hoping that Batwoman will show back up before I do any inventory on what is missing. I'm hoping to not have to write a plea bargain to whoever absconded with them as well. TPBs aren't cheap, and I would rather put that money to use expanding our collection, getting new series, and making sure we have readable copies of what might be getting worn out. The 30+ dollars I would have to spend just to replace those two Batwomans take a somewhat large bite out of my monthly budget, which disappoints me. 

The takeaway from this should be that, as a librarian, I try to show respect to our patrons that respect our materials, premise, rules, and other patrons. Although, the handful of patrons that do not respect any of those belittles my faith in our patrons and being a librarian in the first place. That's a sad thing for me to write, seeing as I may have only been a librarian for four years, but I have been doing this since I was a High School senior. I want to continue to build our collection of graphic novels, until such a time as I can no longer fit any more. Then I will weed the least popular, rinse, and repeat. If I have to continually replace books that have only been on the shelf for maybe 4 months, this will never be accomplished. That is my goal on top of my other duties I carry on here. Please help me reach this goal. Respect our library materials, and in turn, our patrons and other librarians and libraries in general. We depend on you for our millage, and we're depending on you now to help protect your investments. Don't steal, especially when its already free.

Monday, November 25, 2013

School and Library Collaboration

So last week I attended a workshop on Public and School Librarian Collaboration (say that 10 times fast). Now you may be wondering why such a workshop is even needed. After all, children's/teen librarians and school librarians are both in the business of books and encouraging kids to read said books.  Communication between schools and libraries, even though it seems logical, does not always occur.

Why? Well,unfortunately a big reason is that there are fewer librarians in schools. Check out this article to see what a travesty that is.

 Even when there is time and manpower, though, we (school and public librarians) don't always realize how working together can be mutually beneficial. We all know that school librarians and teachers are incredibly busy. Then  a public librarian comes in asking can I do this, that , and the other. It probably seems like we are trying to give them more work, or put them out of a job.  Nothing could  be further from the truth. Public librarians have access to resources that are not always available to teachers and school librarians and we want to share them. What do we get out of it? A captive audience! The biggest struggle for public librarians is getting kids in the building. Schools have access to kids everyday and working with teachers and school librarians gives us the opportunity to reach them.

It was amazing to hear about school and public librarians that have formed successful partnerships that have helped each other and, most importantly, the kids they serve.  Two of the speakers, one being the librarian from a middle school and the other a teen librarian, have partnered for several years to develop distance learning opportunities for at risk kids and, also, for students during the summer. The public library has increased patronage and the middle school has seen improved test scores. From spring to fall students have shown no summer slide and sometimes even gain. How cool is that?

Another library and school system has an amazing program called ThinkLink. Each school in the district has a blue bin at the public library and a corresponding one in the school library. Teachers can email requests for materials to the public librarian, who checks them out and places them in that school's bin. Parent volunteers ferry the bins of books back and forth. Teachers and students get access to twice the materials without having to even visit the library. For busy teachers this can be an additional bonus.

At the Portland District Library we are fortunate to have a wonderful school district. The schools  are very supportive of the public library. It still takes a lot of time and effort to reach out to teachers, librarians, administrators, etc. but the outcome is worth the endeavor. Reading is important. If you need facts and statistics look here.

At the end of the day, I came back to Portland with increased enthusiasm and lots of ideas about how to better connect with schools.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November is Picture Book Month

November is not just about pilgrims and turkey. It is also the month to read, share, and celebrate picture books!

Why do we need an entire month extolling the importance of picture books? In my mind, picture books deserve just as much attention and praise as any novel. Eric Carle puts it this way:  "if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with 200,000 word novel. We picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and reduce it to 20."

There is no denying the preeminence of picture books and their creators. After all, picture books are a child's first exposure to art, literature, creativity, and inspiration.

Picture books sparked my love of reading and story telling. Look back through your own childhood. Was there a picture book that you treasured and begged your mother or father to read again and again? Do you share those books now with your own children?

I know that I am book nerd, but when I found out I was pregnant, the first things that I purchased for my unborn child were two picture books. I was not thinking about her cognitive development, even though that is a happy byproduct of reading to your child. Each book was really a message from me to her. With The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein I wanted my daughter to know that  I would always support her and that she was unconditionally loved. With the second book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, I wanted to show my daughter that her imagination could take her anywhere.

In 2010 the New York Times published an article about the decline of picture books. You can read the article here for yourself, but in a nutshell, children were being rushed into chapter books and independent reading and sales of picture books were declining.  If anything, the plight of picture books  has probably worsened since this article was written.
Why?  Personally I think that are two main reasons:
1. We (parents) are so determined to see our children succeed academically that we bombard then with flash cards, learning games, apps, etc. and suck all of the joy and wonder out of reading.
2. We are always in a hurry. Who has the time to sit down and read a picture book to their child? There are dishes to be washed, laundry to fold, practices to attend, dinner to make, and I could list a thousand other things.

Reading a book together, turning the pages, and talking about the pictures cannot be replaced by an ebook, video game, or app. Nor is it the same as a child reading by themselves. Obviously, children need to learn the nuts and bolts and how to read. Picture books, though, offer an unique experience that you get to share with a child. As a children's librarian, I am so fortunate in that I get to read with lots of children.

Even if you do not have a child to read a picture book with, pick one up for yourself. The stories can be silly and hilarious like Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Moe Willems. Historical like Unspoken: A Story of the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole.
Even tender and heartbreaking like Homer by Elisha Cooper (I grew up with a yellow lab so this one made me shed more than a few tears).  And let's not forget nonfiction because sometimes it can be fun to learn. I recommend anything and everything by Steve Jenkins.

If you have not read a picture book in some time, you just may be stunned by the artwork also. Picture books such as Jerry Pinkney's retelling of The Lion & Mouse have museum quality illustrations.
In fact, I believe Pinkney's work has been in a museum, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

If you would like to learn more about Picture Book Month check out the official website here. Don't forget to spread the joy of picture books this month and the rest of the year too. Any nieces, nephews, cousins, etc? Picture books make wonderful Christmas gifts. Or you could donate a few to children that may not own any books of their own. They just may grow up to be talented author/illustrators themselves.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Battle of the Books

Battle of the Books 2014 kicked off tonight with an informational meeting for kids and their parents. After the Q & A teams could sign up and check out one the four battle books.

Are you totally perplexed and wondering what I am talking about? Let me bring you into the loop. Battle of the Books is a trivia competition similar to Jeopardy or Quiz Bowl. However, rather than having random categories, all of the questions and answers are drawn from four books that have been chosen by the Ionia County Youth Librarians (I will get to the books in a minute).

The competition if for kids in third through fifth grade (we are hoping to have a middle school battle of the books in the future).  Kids form teams of three or four and they can be any combination of grades and/or ages; so if you have a siblings in third and fifth grade they can compete on the same team.  Also teams are required to have a team leader. This can be a parent, teacher, teenage sibling, etc. that will serve as a contact person and help the team stay on track.

This is the third year that Portland District Library has hosted Battle of the Books and I know that this is going to be our best year yet. It was amazing to see so many kids this evening excited about participating.  Saranac has taken first place the past two years so this year I am positive that  Portland will prevail.

So kids just read books and answer questions? Well, yes and no. The library will host a number of fun programs leading up to the preliminary and final battles. First up, we will have a team spirit night during which kids will do a team craft. Last year all of the participants decorated team t-shirts, so kids will get to use their creativity while building team unity. Next, teams will have the opportunity to reinforce their knowledge of the books playing fun team games like pictionary, charades, hangman, etc.

Then we get down to the actual battles. There will be one practice battle so the kids can familiarize themselves with the battle format. The first real battle is what we call the preliminary battle. This will take place at the Portland District Library and all of the Portland teams will compete against each other. The Portland teams that come in first, second, and third will go on to the final battle that will take place at the Ionia School District.  At the final battle the top three Portland teams will compete against the top three teams from Saranac, Lyons, Clarksville, Lake Odessa, and Sunfield. Even if teams do not make it to the final battle we encourage the kids to come to the final battle to cheer on Portland.

Battle of the Books is something new and different for kids to participate in during those long winter months. It also gives kids that don't play sports a chance to compete and shine. If you have a third, fourth, or fifth grader that is interested bring them to the library. Sign up will continue through December 1st and we also have a list of kids that want to participate but don't have a team yet.

Of course, one of the first questions is: What books do we have to read?   It is always important that we (the ionia county youth librarians) choose books that are appealing to everyone and entertaining. After all, Battle of the Books is not a graded school assignment; we want kids to enjoy the experience.  Here are the four books:

There are extra copies available in the children's area of the library. My personal favorite is The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, which is based on the author's own childhood. It is an older book and it takes place during the late 1800s in a small Utah town. John D's older brother Tom has a great brain, which he uses to please his "money-loving heart". All I have to say to sell this book to kids is that the opening chapter has Tom selling tickets to flush the magic water closet when his family gets the first indoor toilet in town.

There is a little something for everybody from historical fiction to sci-fi and adventure.