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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Storytime Anytime-Tales with Scales

A few days ago the Portland District Library kicked off  Summer Reading 2014 with a "scaly" presentation by the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary.  Kids got to see, touch, hold, and learn about some amazing amphibians and reptiles. The owner, David Critchlow, was hilarious and educational, which is nearly impossible when you are dealing with over 100 children between the ages of 2 and 14.  All of the animals at Critchlow's were abandoned or rescued. It is staggering how many people think that having a pet alligator is a good idea (at least until it gets big enough to bite off your fingers).

Since I have slithering, hissing, creeping, crawling, snapping animals on the brain what could be more apropos than a reptile themed storytime?

Let's begin with snapping and gnashing Alligators and Crocodiles!

 Of course, my favorite picture book featuring an alligator or a crocodile is The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl! (If you have not read any of my previous blog posts, let me just explain that I a revere, adore, idolize, and am completely enamored by Roald Dahl!)  The Enormous Crocodile is a longer picture book, but Dahl's writing and Quentin Blake's distinctive illustrations are sure to captivate the squirmiest of children.

For older children, this a great book to use for story mapping. You can go through and discuss the beginning, clever trick #1, clever trick #2, clever trick #3, and the ending in which the enormous crocodile is "sizzled like a sausage" when the elephant hurls him into the sun.

Maybe I just enjoy carnage (I know my boys love it when there is the chance of something being eaten). In this story an adorable little crocodile decides that he wants to eat a child. At first his parents laugh, but when he keeps refusing his bananas and even chocolate cake they grow worried. Will little crocodile eat a child or decide that bananas make a better meal? Kids are sure to laugh out loud when little crocodile finally gets his chance to "eat a child".

Okay, this is the last alligator book even though I can think of about a dozen more that I love. Mercer Meyer is the famed author and illustrator of the Little Critter books. There's an Alligator Under My Bed is similar to There are Monsters Everywhere and There's a Nightmare in my Closet. All of these are spectacular books for combating those childhood fears about strange and dangerous things hiding in dark corners. Each one features a child who conquers the monster or, in this case alligator, that they are afraid of.

I have actually led several "alligator/crocodile" storytimes and I even bought a special alligator puppet which I use to sing 5 Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree (see I guess I really do have a thing about carnage). If you have never heard the song it is so much better than 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed. Probably because the monkeys get eaten! If you are not familiar with this version of 5 Little Monkeys just click on the link above. You do not need puppets or a flannel board. You can just use your hands to do motions and the kids will love that just as much if not more.

My favorite alligator craft was when I made shadow puppets with my storytime kids.This is the site that I got the idea for the alligator shadow puppet, but I thought that their finished puppet looked a little boring (see right). I added big teeth and a bumpy back and tail. One of my coworkers had a remote control desk lamp with a color changing bulb. I covered the windows and put a huge white sheet on one wall. The kids had a blast moving their puppets in front of the light. They were fascinated that they could change the size of the alligator by moving closer or further away from the screen.

On to Lizards!!!

I recently read I Wanna Iguana to several first and second grade classes that came to the library for class tours (advertising our upcoming reptile presentation).  What makes this book unique is that is written in a series of letters between Alex and his mother. In his letters Alex highlights all of the reasons he should have a pet iguana and his mother offers her objections and concerns. David Catrow is an amazing artist; I love illustrators that have a unique and recognizable style. Catrows illustrations are so colorful and always seem to express such joy.  I highly recommend I Ain't Gonna Paint No More, which is also illustrated by Catrow. It is just such a happy and funny story.

If you enjoy I Wanna Iguana Orloff has written a sequel, I Wanna New Room, in which Alex writes a series of letters protesting that the birth of a new baby sister will require him to share a room with his brother, Ethan.

I have used I Wanna Iguana in my young writers group to as a fun example of letter writing and also writing an argument.

Younger children may have difficulty following the back and forth letters between Alex and his mother. Some simpler books featuring lizards are A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni and The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. Both are bold, graphic, and excellent for teaching colors. There are numerous printable templates for both books that are fun for kids to color or paint.

With my classes that toured the library I used this template for a lizard gift tag.I really like the way that you could bend it to make it look like it was walking. The kids colored them and then I had a variety of sequins that they could glue on if they wanted to.

SSSSS is for Snake!
Ophidiophobia: The fear of snakes  This is a pretty common fear, but I hope that these picture books are cute enough to help you get past it.
Janell Cannon is also the author and illustrator of Stellaluna, which is another stunning picture book. The colors in this book, the bright and vibrant yellow and the lush green of the jungle are mesmerizing. The story is super cute too. Verdi wants to play, play, play and so he dreads turning green and becoming heavy and lazy like the grown up tree pythons.  In the end he discovers that you are never too old to play.

When Mouse learns that Snake and Mice are not supposed to be friends he becomes so afraid that he falls in a hole. Who can help him get out? His friend, Snake, of course! Mouse learns the important lesson that you cannot always listen to gossip.

What makes this book unique is that the book is illustrated in collographs, which are printed collages. Snake's body is a mesh onion bag, the dirt is rumpled pager etc. It is fun trying to figure out the different items and as a added activity you can try painting with different materials. Sponges, paper, potato mashers, nylons, etc.

Snakes are so simple when it comes to crafts and activities. What could be easier than making snakes with playdough or you can make paper chain snakes. Spiral snakes are also incredibly easy and look cool twisting in an open window. Don't allow kids to glue too many decorations on it or it will sag really low. Obviously, I have made this mistake before.

I think that I will leave turtles for another post and I won't get started on amphibians yet (there are a lot of great frog books, though).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gilmore Girl Challenge

Okay, I'm still reading Alice and listening to Huck but this entry has nothing really to do with literature and everything to do with Gilmore Girls. :) Just because. :)

So, I thought I might just share with you some of my favorite Gilmore moments!
My absolute favorite moment is in P.S. I love you when Rory and Richard are talking about why you would need to learn to dissect a frog if you were going into the insurance business and Rory responds "Perhaps if you are insuring the frog."  I think I fell completely in love with the show at that point.  This might not seem as funny out of context, but it struck me as hilarious in the moment.  You should also watch the spring break episode it is another one of my favorites.  Here are a few other quotes.  There are simply to many great ones to ever put them all on here, so you really should watch the show. ;)

You have got to love Michel!

This part is hilarious, I am not sure when I stopped laughing :)  

                                        This is so me!

Just found this online and thought it was funny, and not a bad idea.  I would prob be in awesome shape if I did this every time I watched an episode.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Accepting the Rory Gilmore Challenge

Alas, Gilmore Girls was a family drama with a continuing story line that ran from 2000 through 2007. Years in which  I was sleep deprived and hip deep in spit up, pureed sweet potatoes, and dirty diapers. The only television shows that I watched with any regularity during those years were Sesame Street, Blues Clues (only with Steve, my kids refused to watch after the Joe took over), and The Wiggles.  The few episodes that I have seen of Gilmore Girls I liked, but I am definitely not an avid fan like Wendy.

However, I was intrigued by Wendy's post on the Rory Gilmore Challenge so I downloaded the list of all 339 titles to see how many I had actually read. The List Challenge website makes it incredibly easy because you can just click on the covers of the books that you have read and then it calculates your results.

I have read 103 books on the list. Since I was a lit major in college, though, a good number of these were assigned reading. Trust me. No one on this earth would ever ever ever read The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism unless they were required to do so. The only thing this book is good for is curing insomnia or pressing flowers (since it is about a foot thick and weighs 40 pounds).

I am excited about accepting the Rory Gilmore Challenge, but there are a few books on the list that I already know I am going to skip. First and foremost are Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. I had to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and I attempted to read Ulysses and that was enough Joyce to last me a lifetime. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man takes place primarily in the main character's own head and it is a monotonous deluge of self-flagellation. Stephen Dedalus hates politics, religion, himself, and feels overwhelming guilt about everything he thinks, feels, and does. Finally he decides to live life to the fullest  (build his own metaphorical wings like the mythical Daedalus) and become and Artist with a capital A (yeah).

Supposedly Ulysses is one of the greatest works of literature ever and according to this site it easy to read and everyone should try. After only 100 pages, though, I was crouched in a corner, drooling and ripping out my own hair. Honestly, the book is around 700 pages and it all takes place on ONE day. Taking weeks (or months or years) to live June 16 in Leopold Bloom's head just does not seem worth the effort.

There are a few other books that I am not too sure about, but I am going to stay positive from here on out. Unless, of course, I read a real dud. Then I will give you my honest opinion.
I will try to keep you posted on my progress with the challenge and I am looking forward to reading about everyone's experiences.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rory Gilmore Challenge Alice and Tom

Hi everyone, well I am still reading Alice in Wonderland I haven't gotten very far yet, but so far it looks like Disney stuck to the book pretty well.  I am really enjoying it.  The only problem is every time I read it, I catch myself talking like Alice for awhile afterwards.  I was trying to remember when Alice in Wonderland was mentioned in Gilmore Girls and found that it was the title of one of the episodes Emily in Wonderland (i had a duh moment) apparently there is also fan fiction written on the topic that might be fun to read. Well I will continue on my journey down the rabbit hole, hope to see you there.

I am also listening to the  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  I think I must have heard this story as a child because it sounds insanely familiar but I suppose it could be just exposure to the tale through the years.  Kind of like, you feel like you have seen Disney's Bambi a million times (at least if you grew up when I did) when truth be told  I have probably seen it less than five times it is just that they would show little pieces of the movie on TV all the time.  I am enjoying Huckleberry Finn, at least I am now that I have stopped cringing every time they use the N word, but otherwise I really enjoy the dialect being from the south it reminds me of home.  As I listen I do not think I would want either one of my sons to act as Huck does in the book, at least so far.  He is always up to some kind of mischief.  But it is fun listening to the story, Tom Parker who reads the story does a great job.  Just in case you are wondering where they mention Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Gilmore Girls it is Rory's last assignment at Stars Hollow High.
Just keep reading!
Just keep reading!
Just keep reading!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


According to Stephen King; "Good books do not give up all of their secrets at once". This is particularly true when it comes to mysteries (at least those that are engaging). Maybe, I am just morbid, but give me a calculated murder, an intriguing collection of suspects, and a cunning detective and I am a very happy reader.

I must confess that I am a mystery book "snob". Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. are my go to authors when I want to read a baffling whodunnit. It's not that I am unwilling to try new books, but many current mystery authors don't measure up to the grand masters of murder. Too often you can figure out the culprit before you are midway through the book. Also, a number of modern mysteries rely on gratuitous sex and/or violent (to the point of being grotesque) butchery to keep readers involved.  Classic mysteries just seem to be more eloquent and intriguing. Please understand that I am not trying to bash anyone's favorite author. I just tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to reading murder mysteries.

For those of you who share my affinity for murder and mayhem here is a list of what I consider to be the most puzzling and plot twisting mysteries. These books are certain to have you scratching your head until the detective unravels the clues and delivers the "big reveal".

1. Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe

This short story is prerequisite reading for any mystery aficionado. Why? Because, before Poe wrote Murders in the Rue Morgue there was no such thing as a detective mystery. Let alone a locked room mystery.

Poe begins the story with a discussion of the analytical mind and how deduction can be used to solve a crime. An unnamed narrator than relates how his friend and roommate, used his brilliant mind to solve a double murder that had previously baffled the police.

Hmmm. Seems to bare an uncanny resemblance to another illustrious detective whose sidekick/roommate records his astonishing triumphs of detection. For the record, Murders in the Rue Morgue was published in 1841 and the first Sherlock Holmes stories did not appear till 1890.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Even though Doyle was obviously inspired by Poe and The Murders in the Rue Morgue, all of the Sherlock Holmes stories are masterly written and  fantastic fun to read. The Hound of the Baskervilles with it's gloomy setting, family curse, and a giant, murderous ghost hound  is my personal favorite.

I love all of Doyle's mysteries and it is truly amazing how "Sherlock Holmes" has inspired and influenced so many books, television shows, and movies.

They do not really follow original stories by Doyle, but the films starring Robert Downey Jr. as the title character are incredibly entertaining.

Of course, I am also a massive fan of the 21st century incarnation of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. If you have not seen the BBC show Sherlock we have all three seasons at the library so check them out TODAY!

3.  Murder on the Orient Express by the Grand Madame of murder Agatha Christie

 If you enjoy reading mysteries you absolutely must read ALL of Agatha Christie's books. No other author, alive or deceased, has crafted a whodunnit as well as her. I could have listed any of her books on this list and, honestly, they are all worthy of being included.  I chose Murder on the Orient Express for this list because I have read it more than a dozen times and I still enjoy it even though I know how it ends.

A wealthy and irascible gentlemen is murdered on a train. Which of the other passengers committed the crime? Unfortunately for the murderer, the train is trapped in the snow and Hercule Poirot (Christie's most famous detective) is on the train and puts his "tiny grey cells" to work in unmasking him or her.

A snow bound train, a dead body, a dozen or more suspects, and a genius detective to solve the riddle. What could be better? I promise that you will never see the ending coming.

4. The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Most "Greatest Mystery Books" lists would probably place The Maltese Falcon above The Thin Man. Even though I love Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles are Hammett's best characters.

I know that I have mentioned in a previous post my love for both the book and film versions of The Thin Man. You do not very often have a married couple in a book that are funny, intelligent, and still very much in love without a lot of sap and sex.  The Thin Man was Hammett's last published novel. However, he did work on the screenplays for After the Thin Man and Another Thin Man which were the film sequels to The Thin Man movie that starred the incomparable William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora.

 5. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

See, I do read books that have been published this century. Of course, Shutter Island is a classic noir mystery set in the 1950s but, hey, it was still published in 2003. I read this book after I read Lehane's Mystic River (which is also a spectacular mystery) and I loved it even though the ending made me ball like a baby. 

The book takes place at a hospital for the criminally insane located on a small, remote island (Honestly, what could be a more macabre and ominous setting?). U.S. Marshall, Teddy Daniels, and his partner, Chuck Aule, go to the island to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Trapped at the hospital during a hurricane the two become separated and Teddy finds himself trapped in a tangled web of deceit, murder, illegal experiments, and vengeance. I don't want to give you a more detailed description of  the plot of Shutter Island. This book is such a gripping spine-chiller that you just need to experience it for yourself.

As a general rule I avoid watching films adaptations of books that I like. So, I have not seen the movie Shutter Island starring Leonardo Dicaprio. (I understand that I am incredibly weird.) I have heard from more than a few people that saw the movie (and did not read the book) that they didn't understand it. The book is also a bit enigmatic, but that is part of what makes it such a white-knuckle, page-turner!

6. The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout

This is actually the second of the Nero Wolfe mysteries, but it was the first one that I ever read. Nero Wolfe is an acerbic, orchid growing genius who rarely leaves his luxurious home. In order to solve mysteries Wolfe relies on his intrepid assistant, Archie Goodwin, to do the leg work and report back with information and clues. All of the Nero Wolfe books are narrated by Archie who gives a sarcastic and hilarious viewpoint. Archie is especially entertaining  when he is pointing out all of the idiosyncrasies of his eccentric employer.

In The League of Frightened Men  two  former school friends die under mysterious circumstances. The victims and several other schoolmates were involved in a prank gone awry that severely injured a fellow student. Now the group of friends believe that their injured classmate is out for vengeance and appeal to Wolfe for protection. Who is real culprit and will Wolfe be able to solve the mystery before a third "frightened man" is murdered?

Nero Wolfe is a quirky and entertaining contemporary of Sherlock Holmes and Archie Goodwin as the narrator and sidekick has far more personality than John Watson (at least the literary version of Watson). I know that they are old, but the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout are clever and fun to read. If you want to learn more about Rex Stout's portly, obsessive-compulsive detective there is actually an official Nero Wolfe Society called the Wolfe Pack that has lots of information and intriguing trivia.

7. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
You cannot have a "Greatest Mystery Books" list without including Philip Marlowe, the archetype for the hard-boiled Private Eye. The Big Sleep is the first book that features Philip Marlowe and Chandler actually wrote it by combining two or more short stories that were previously published in pulp magazines. Because of this there are some unanswered questions in the end, but that in no way detracts from the overall story or the enjoyment of reading it. No one can handle murder, blackmail, theft etc.all while zinging witty one liners. For example:
        General Sternwood: How do you like your brandy, sir?
         Philip Marlowe: In a glass.
Ok, I am going to totally contradict myself now and tell you to watch the The Big Sleep  starring Humphrey Bogart. Bogart plays the part of Marlowe so perfectly it is like he walked right out of the pages. Also, it is just a fact that it is UN-American to not watch every Humphrey Bogart movie.

There are so many other mystery books and authors that I want to include in this post, but I am afraid that it would end up taking an hour to scroll through. Next I hope to post on some of my favorite mysteries for kids.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I just wanted to say I watched Maleficent this past weekend and it was beautifully done. I have always been a fan of Disney's Sleeping Beauty even though Disney's version is a little slow, it is amazing.  If you still haven't seen Maleficent, you can't beat it on the big screen.  I will buy it on Blu-Ray when it comes out but I just don't think it is quite the same.  It was interesting to see the story of Sleeping Beauty told from Maleficent's point of view.  It went in a direction I would have never imagined.  I also believed Angelina Jolie was the perfect choice I can't think of any other actress that could have pulled off Maleficent, I know a lot of people were concerned, but I think she was perfect. Well I don't want to give anything away, I just wanted to say I thought it was well worth the money.

The Rory Gilmore challenge and The Pretty Little Liars

Well my first week has gotten off to a bad start.  I will try and explain myself, though it is not a good excuse.  I have not read much of Alice in Wonderland yet and here is my not so great excuse.  A few months ago I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and I happen to click on Pretty Little Liars, I was hooked.  Since then I have used any opportunity I have had to stay up to two or three o'clock in the morning watching back to back episodes of  the show.  Well that was all fine and dandy until I found out last week that tonight was the premiere episode of season 5 and I was still in season 3 so of course I needed to catch up. :) I finished season 3 on Netflix and rushed out to buy season 4. Well anyways, I have almost caught up.  Then I will only be able to watch one a week.  So I promise barring a disaster I will have read more of Alice in Wonderland and will have more to share with you next week.  But please make sure you post what you have been reading (or watching ;)  ). Until next week.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Sale Cart

For those who have perhaps been living under a rock, you may not know we have a used book sale room here at the library. This wonderful room is filled with a hodgepodge of books that have been donated or retired from our own collection. We have everything from board books up to non-fiction. Everything in our book sale room is for sale and were selling items for super cheap. In addition to our fabulous book sale room downstairs we have recently added a book sale cart for upstairs. This beautiful blue cart is now located across from the new book display next to the circulation desk. The next time your in feel free to peruse through the books on our new cart, and maybe even venture downstairs to find more hidden treasures.

DVD, CD, Book on CD, and Hardcover books are $1.00

Paperback books and VHS are $ 0.50

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Rory Gilmore Challenge

“I live in two worlds, one is a world of books,” she said. “I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world.”

This quote is from Gilmore Girls, the best show ever!!!!!  
It is part of Rory's valedictorian speech. I religiously watched Gilmore Girls when it was on t.v. (bought all the seasons and continued to watch over and over again) and when it went off the air, I cried.  I watched this show for seven years and I became really attached to the characters and, even though it drives my husband crazy, Alexis Bledel will always be Rory to me and Lauren Graham will always be Lorelei.  

Anyways, I guess you are asking yourself why I am blogging about this awesome show. Well one of my friends at work knowing my love for the show sent me this link and it lead me to the Rory Gilmore reading Challenge.  Australian writer, Patrick Lenton, compiled a list of every book mentioned throughout  all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, 339 in all.  Now if you have ever watched the show (If you haven't I insist you go buy the first season right now and start watching) you will know Rory is very well read, and as I looked over the list (which made several episodes come to mind) I realized that Patrick Lenton had a very brilliant idea. If you were to read all of the books on this list you  would also be a very well read person, because it is such a broad range of books.  So I have decided to take the challenge (what could be better than Gilmore Girls and books)!!!!  

So, I am asking you to join me on this journey.  Yes, it will be time consuming and, yes, there are books on there I would never normally read. That is really the point, though, because many of the books on the list are classics that everyone should know.  Here is my plan: I am starting a sort of online book club where I am going to read all of the books on this list, but not in any particular order. I will blog (sometimes asking guest readers to blog) about what I have read and let you know what I am going to read next. You can read the same book as me or whichever one you want.  I invite everyone to comment on the book I am posting on or whichever book you are reading. You don't have to be finished with the book to talk about it, just let us know what you are thinking.

For my first book, I am going to read a book I have always meant to read, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  I have watched the Disney animated adaptation many times and also enjoyed the newer one with Johnny Depp.  I am really looking forward to reading this classic.

I had to include the picture just because I like to look at him.  Though I actually prefer Johnny Depp when he was in Cry Baby. :)

Join me on my Gilmore Girls Journey
 (which automatically makes me think of the intro song)