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Saturday, April 27, 2013

What next?

At some point all readers encounter the "What do I read next? quandary.
"I'm wondering what to read next. I've finished all the children's books." Matilda ~ Roald Dahl

Maybe you just finished the Hunger Games Trilogy and now you want to read something similar.

Perhaps, you have read every book by Stephen King and are searching for an author that is equally prolific and terrifying.

There are some great websites out there such as:
What should I read next?
Good Reads
Library Thing

Or you could simply ask your local librarian. We love to talk about books and are always excited to dish on authors, series, new releases, etc.

If you are a parent, however, you understand that when children are trying to choose a book to read the process can become emotional, frustrating, and totally illogical. Part of this is because kids cannot resist any opportunity to vex their parents (I truly believe this, my daughter would argue the color of grass just for the sake of arguing).  Another reason, though, is that kids do not like change. If they like a particular author, series, or book  they will continue to read and reread it over and over and over before trying something new and unkown.

Case in point, is something that I refer to as Wimpy Kid Syndrome. This is the kid that comes to the library with his or her exasperated mother who informs me that her child will not read anything but Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the rampant success of Jeff Kinney's books have resulted in a multitude of copycats. I say unfortunately because many of these are not very good and are simply authors jumping on the doodled journal bandwagon.

Some of the better ones are: Dork Diaries, Big Nate, Timmy Failure, and The Popularity Papers.

Eventually, though, the child must accept the reality that not all books will have adorable stick figure doodles and less than 20 words per page. THE HORROR!

So what do Wimpy Kid fans read next, then? There are a lot of hilariously funny, well written books and some of them contain a few pictures (just in case you child needs to be weaned slowly).
My Favorites are:

Origami Yoda  by Tom Angleberger
NERDS by Michael Buckley
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen
Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford
Jacob Wonderbar by Nathan Bransford
Popular Clone by M. E. Castle
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung
Aliens on Vacation by Clete Smith

You have probably noticed that most of these books seem skewed towards boys, but it is so much easier for girls to read boy fiction versus boys reading girl fiction.

Here are some amazing books with girl protagonists:
Penelope Crumb by Shawn K. Stout
The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
Sleuth or Dare by Kim Harrington
My Life in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald
Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood
Ivy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore
Dear Know-it-All by Rachel Wise
Eleven by Lauren Myracle

I could go on and on and on like the energizer bunny (didn't I tell you that librarians love to talk about books), but I will stop for now. Hopefully there are some readers out there who will enjoy my recommendations and not need doodles in every book they read.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April is Poetry Month!

Am I the only one who misses The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show? Mr. Peabody and Sherman were always my favorite, but Bullwinkle's Poetry Corner is so much more appropriate for National Poetry Month. What cartoons today would expose children to poems like The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson or Poe's The Raven?

Stackable Lego Poetry
In lieu of my monthly children's book club, I held a special kid's poetry night last Thursday.  I had multiple poetry related activities for all ages including: a color poem book for younger children, a pushpin poetry wall, Lego stacking poetry,and a special flower/poem craft for Mother's Day.  Also local poet, Bill Davis came to share his love and knowledge of Haiku.

Even though the attendance was low (hey, poetry is a tough sale), the kids that did come enjoyed writing and sharing their own poems.

Learning how to write Haiku
It is always wonderful when members of the community want to share their gifts, talents, and hobbies. I would like to give a huge thank you to Bill Davis for taking the time to teach children about something he loves.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Institute

Last Thursday and Friday Wendy and I were at the Michigan Library Association Spring Institute; which is a two day conference specifically for children's and teen librarians. This was my third year attending Spring Institute and I look forward to going all year.

It is always gratifying to mingle with others in your profession and share war stories, new ideas, and opinions. Spring Institute offers so much more. There are multiple breakout sessions, which are small classes on different topics that pertain to youth librarians. This year I attended a session on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and how libraries can partner with schools to implement them. Some other sessions were Early Brain Development, Getting Out of the Programming Rut, and Children's Programming on Shoestring Budget. Tomorrow I will head back to work rejuvenated, inspired, and abounding with ideas that I plan to "borrow."

Long before I was a librarian I was and continue to be an avid reader. The part of Spring Institute that I anticipate each year, therefore, are the guest speakers. Usually there are five keynote speakers that are authors and/or illustrators.
Past speakers have been Gary Schmidt, Eric Litwin, and Jonathan Rand.
This year the the keynote speakers included: Daniel Kirk, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Aprilynne Pike, Tim Cusak, and Eugene Yelchin.
It is so intriguing to listen to an author's story. How they began writing, what inspires them, their writing process, etc. Of course, it is also fun to get a book signed by the author. I always tell myself I am not going to spend too much money, but I end up buying at least one book for each of my kids and a couple for myself. 

This year I was most excited to hear Eugen Yelchin (no offense to the other authors who are all amazing). Breaking Stalin's Nose was easily one of my favorite books this year and it is not only a Newbery Honor book, it was awarded the 2012 Mitten Award at this year's Spring Institute. The Mitten is the Michigan Library Association's version of the Newbery Award and even though I was not on the committee that chose the winner Breaking Stalin's Nose would have garnered my vote.
  Breaking Stalin's Nose is the story of Sasha Zaichik, a ten year old boy living in communist        Russia at the height of Stalin's tyrannical regime. Sasha is a good and loyal communist who has dreamed of the day that he will join the Soviet Young Pioneers. Everything Sasha has known and believed in crumbles away when his father is arrested. 

Yelchin tells a heartbreaking story with beautiful illustrations, a touch of humor, and a unique style that grabs the reader and pulls them into a historical period that is frequently ignored. The character of Sasha is based on Yelchin himself even though he was born several years after the death of Stalin. Yelchin did grow up in communist Russia, though, and through his book he relates the trauma of living in a country inundated with fear, suspicion, and barbarity.

 His speech at Spring Institute was equally moving, and I admit to having tears in my eyes by the end.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian

So it was a pretty exciting evening, because I took my two oldest children to meet and listen to Jeremy Bastian at the Eastwood Schuler Books. Bastian is a Michigan artist and author whose graphic novel Cursed Pirate Girl is a frolicsome adventure that is certain to mesmerize readers of all ages.

Now if you are thinking; "Graphic novel? I would never read a kid's comic book";  please,  please, please do not leave the page! This is not a DC or Marvel superhero comic that men still living in their mother's basement horde and preserve. (If you fit that stereotype I apologize, but I said it in fun. My own husband has boxes of Superman comics he has collected since elementary school.)

Cursed Pirate Girl is totally unique and probably one of my favorite books that I have purchased this year for the library. The story revolves around an intrepid and boisterous orphan known only as the Cursed Pirate Girl (Bastian does not give her a name which only adds to her mystery).  With a sharp cutlass and a parrot that shadows her every move, the Cursed Pirate Girl grapples with  mortal peril while searching for her father on the Omerta Seas.

The story Bastian tells is a homage to fairy tales and classic adventure stories like Alice in Wonderland and In Search of the Castaways. One of Bastian's favorite books as a child was The Adventures & Brave Deeds of the Ship's Cat on the Spanish Maine by Richard Adams and illustrated by Alan Alldridge. Obviously Bastian has an affinity for pirates and intricately detailed illustrations.

In addition to the humorous text, Bastian tells the story of the Cursed Pirate Girl with artwork that is both whimsical and stunningly beautiful. The amount of detail that he packs into each picture is astounding and, therefore, each reading offers something new to discover. 

What is truly mind boggling, though, is that Bastian does all of his illustration with a brush and to scale. Most comic book illustrators draw the pictures large and then the image is shrunken to the size of the comic book. Bastian paints his illustrations at the same size that they will be printed.
How this man is not blind I do not know, but one thing is certain: He is an amazing talent and I cannot wait for Cursed Pirate Girl Volume 2.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Let the Weather Ruin Spring Break

Does anyone else feel that Mother Nature is the one playing the ultimate joke by having it snow in April? With the weatherman forecasting more snow, sleet, and temperatures in the low 30's  for the remainder of spring break I am predicting severe cabin fever. In my home cabin fever leads to petulance, animosity, and, occasionally, take my brother down brawling.

If you did not flee the frozen wasteland that is Michigan for Florida (or some other place where the sun is shining) you are probably wondering how to prevent your children from turning you into a gibbering, drooling, loon by the end of the week.

Since my family does not go away for spring break, my husband and I at least try to take the kids on a couple of fun day trips. Of course, with three kids even a trip to the movies can end up costing more than $40.

Sometimes just a quick change of scenery is all that is needed to avoid open hostility between siblings. I feel so fortunate to live in a community that has a library with a cheerful and spacious children's area that offers so many activities for kids. It probably sounds like I am tooting my own horn a little, but before I worked at the library I was a stay-at-home mom of three kids and the library was one our favorite places to go. Now my kids are 11, 9, and 6 and they still love to come to the library.

If you and your kids need to escape the confines of home this week don't forget the Portland District Library. In addition to our usual story times on Tuesday at 6:30 and Friday at 11, the library is offering a different program every day this week at 2pm.

Today Kristie organized a video game tournament. About a dozen kids had fun competing against one another in MarioKart, Wii Sports, and a couple of other games.

On Tuesday there is going to be a daytime sleepover. Come to the library in you pj's ready to play games, eat snacks, and watch a movie.

Wednesday is Lego day and there will even be a Lego cake  to eat while building your master creations.

Sierra is going to lead kids in making several crafts out of duct tape on Thursday.

Finishing off the week will be a presentation of Rise of the Gaurdians and, of course, who can watch a movie without popcorn!

I am sure that most kids (and parents) would rather be soaking up the sun in Florida. For those of us looking for more local and less expensive entertainment for our kids this week, check out the library. We offer activities that are fun, free, and right in your neighborhood.