Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, Feiwel & Friends, September 2015. ARC provided by NetGalley.

Genre: Realistic/Magical Realism

Good for: Grades 3 to 6

Summary: Soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson is a pragmatist whose number one rule is that there's an explanation for everything. So when his old imaginary friend, a cat named Crenshaw suddenly reappears, he doesn't quite believe it. His first appearance had been 3 years earlier when Jackson and his family had been forced to live out of their van. Now with the threat of homelessness looming again, Crenshaw is there to help Jackson in his time of need.

Thoughts: This book really tugged at my heartstrings. It's a unique take on the issue of poverty. Jackson's father is dealing with losing a good job due to multiple sclerosis and both parents are working part-time jobs just to make ends meet. But it isn't enough and the family goes through cycles of hard times where it's sometimes a challenge just to get food on the table. Jackson is going through a rough patch emotionally where he's now old enough to understand what's happening, though his parents are still trying to shelter him and his younger sister from it. Crenshaw serves as a device for Jackson to hopefully be able to tell his parents the truth about how he really feels even though he puts on a brave face. There's definitely an underlying sadness throughout, but it's coupled with a hopefulness that it so important in children's literature.

The writing style is simple, but lovely. Jackson is a character that readers will want befriend and/or give a big, warm hug to. Using a giant, charismatic cat as a device for dealing with difficult emotions is smart and effective.

Give this to kids who loved books like Keeper, The Higher Power of Lucky, or The Underneath. This would be a great choice for a book club.

My Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, August 24, 2015

Guerrilla Storytime Recap - OLC Children's and Teen Conference

Last week, I presented a Guerrilla Storytime session at the OLC Children's and Teen Conference. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what guerrilla storytime is, head on over to the Storytime Underground blog and read all about it!

A packed room of participants shared their best storyime tips and tricks. Below are their responses:

What's your favorite way to add SINGING into storytime?

  • One participant isn't a big singer herself, so she likes to get the parents to chime in and help sing
  • A song box! This is a touch and feel type box where the librarian prints out pictures on paper that correspond to the names of the songs. She randomly chooses 3 to 4 kids per storytime to choose a song to sing and the love it!
  • Song cube 
  • Sing the children's names at the beginning of storytime. The kids LOVE hearing their names and it helps the librarian to learn them.
  • In baby time, one librarian goes around with a mirror and sings the children's names. This also helps learn more complicated names.
  • Pass around a drum and kids drum out the syllables in their name.

What's your favorite storytime app?

What's your favorite toddler book/rhyme/song?
  • The Snappy Little... books by Dugald Steer
  • Head and Shoulders Baby 1, 2, 3 song
  • Jumping and Counting song by Jim Gill
  • Anything by Jim Gill!
  • Good Morning, Mrs. Perky Bird (with a bird puppet)
  • Choo Choo
    • A good tip for this one if you have too many kids to be able to do each one's name is to sing it with the names of colors instead!
  • One librarian loves to use puppets in toddler storytime, so she builds her themes around the puppets available.
  • White Rabbit's Color Book by Alan Baker

Audience Question: How do you deal with kids getting so excited about puppet and having to take them away?
  • One librarian says that when the kids get out of control/too excited about her puppet, she tells them that the puppet is getting nervous and needs to hide for a little bit or that the kids need to be quieter
  • Another librarian tells the kids that they can give the puppet high fives at the end

How do you make transitions between activities manageable for kids, especially sensory storytime?
  • Do the same routine so they get used to it and how it flows. For example, they know it's now time for a story, now it's time for a flannel activity, etc.
  • Sing the song "If You Want to Hear a Story..." (tune: If You're Happy and You Know It)
  • Do a stretching or twirling rhyme with them to get any wiggles out.
  • One librarian uses a laminated flip book with a visual schedule for ages 0 to 3 so the kids know what storytime activity is coming next. This is a great idea for both sensory and non-sensory storytimes. You could also use a projector/smart board to display the schedule if you have the technology.
  • Another librarian hangs laminated pictures of each activity across a magnet board.

Sing your opening song.

How have you incorporated different languages into your storytimes?
  • Use sign language based on your weekly theme.
  • One librarian has taught animal sounds in different languages. Use the book Everywhere the Cow Says, "Moo!" .
  • Use sign language in baby storytime.
  • Ask caregivers to share a nursery rhyme in a different language.
  • Have a bilingual storytime
  • Sing a song in a different language and let the kids guess the name of the song/language being sung.

Audience Question: I do a preschool storytime and only have 15 to 20 minutes to get through everything. What are some quick, good activities I could add?
  • A quick song with movement activities
  • A magic bag- You can print off words to drop in as you say a short poem, have the kids say the magic words (I. Love. Books.) and pull a picture or small stuffed animal out.
  • Lose 1 of the books you read and add in a flannel or song
  • Make you 1 book participatory or interactive so the kids get the most out of it.

Audience Question: How do you feel about incorporating apps/technology into storytime?
  • Check out ALSC's white paper about media mentorship for some helpful information.
  • We need to roll with the changes and allow all of our patrons to be on an "even playing field".
  • We need to take into consideration what's right for our community and what their needs are.
  • Have a balance and figure out your philosophy on it.

For those of you who attended the session, if I missed something or something needs to be corrected, please comment below or send me an email!

3D Printing Presentation at OLC

This is my presentation on 3D printing that I presented at the OLC Children's and Teen Conference last week.

And here is a handout of helpful resources.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Pizza and Pages: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Type of Book: Realistic

Plot Summary: When Doug Swietek moves to Marysville with his family, things aren't too great. He finds himself trying to deal with an abusive father and an injured older brother who's just returned from the Vietnam war. With the help of the deli owner's daughter, Lil and an artistic librarian named Mr. Powell, Doug tries to become at least okay...for now.

Average Teen Rating: 6.9
I adored this book and luckily, the teens liked it too. I was worried that it might be too much of a "quiet" book for them, but they praised the writing style and characters.

Discussion Questions: It wasn't difficult to find good discussion questions since this title seems perfect for book clubs. I found them from Houghton Mifflin, as well as here.

Pizza and Pages: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Type of Book: Fantasy/Humor

Plot Summary: From Goodreads: "In the good old days, magic was indispensable—it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading: drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic."

Average Teen Rating: 7.35
I wasn't sure how the teens would respond to this title since it's a lighter fantasy and they usually enjoy pretty dark, heavy stuff. But I think it ended up being a good choice for a summer read!

Discussion Questions: I found some great questions, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.

Pizza and Pages: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Type of Book: Sci-Fi

Plot Summary: From Goodreads: "Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge."

Average Teen Rating: 8.6
The teens really liked this one! They loved the action and the world-building. They didn't so much like the romance between David and Megan and that led into a great discussion about using romance in YA books in general. This is a great pick for teen book clubs.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. David’s main purpose for killing Steelheart is to avenge his father. Prof says to him “You’ve got a passion to kill, but you need more passion to live.” Is Prof right? Is David’s motive (revenge) misguided or not?
  2. Why do you think Calamity appeared? What do you think it is?
  3. In the story, scholars theorize that Epics were a new stage of human development or evolutionary growth. Do you agree? Or do you have another theory?
  4. Epics had a distinct, even incredible, lack of morals or conscience. That bothered some people, on a philosophical level. Theorists, scholars. They wondered at the sheer inhumanity many Epics manifested. Did the Epics kill because Calamity chose—for whatever reason—only terrible people to gain powers? Or did they kill because such amazing power twisted a person, made them irresponsible?
  5. Megan mentions that things will be worse with Steelheart gone b/c he in a tyrannical way, provided food, electricity, etc. What do you think about that?
  6. After Steelheart dies, what do you think happens to Newcago?
  7. In the Reckoners, everyone has their own role:the leader/manager, the techie, the researcher, the odd jobber, etc. What would you do if you were a part of the group? What job do you think is the most important/essential?
  8. Do you think people harvesting and selling the Epics mitochondria/blood for research purposes without them knowing is ethical? Why or why not?
  9. What do you think of Megan as a character? Is her attitude towards David justified? Did you guess she was an Epic early on or were your surprised?
  10. Why do you think that Prof and Megan were so hesitant to give in to their powers? How do you think it changes them?
  11. Do you think Prof accidentally killed his students?
  12. How far in the future do you think the story takes place?
  13. What do you think of the different book covers? Which one is better/more effective?
  14. What do you think happens in the sequel? Will you read it?