Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Non-fiction for youth review: Hark! A Shark!

Hark! A Shark! All About Sharks from the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library
by Bonnie Worth
Illustrated by Aristedes Ruiz and Joe Mathieu

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: NC760L 
  • Series: Cat in the Hat's Learning Library
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375870733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375870736

I love a good non-fiction picture book! This title has a lot going for it. It is well researched by professionals. This photo of the front matter shows that experts in both marine life and literacy were consulted in the writing of this book. Children can absolutely have informative AND entertaining books at their disposal. 

I love that the both the science and the reader are shown respect by presenting the subject matter with the most possible accuracy.

Another thing I feel is essential to good children's non-fiction is a glossary and resources for learning more about the topic at hand. This book contains both of those elements, as well as an index. 
Regardless of how "good" a title is according to adults, however, the true test is in whether children will read it or accept it as a read-a-loud. This book, with over 4 stars on amazon, fulfills both of those requirements! Hark a Shark! is written in the rhyming style of Dr. Seuss, using the characters from the popular Cat in the Hat reboot that is aired on PBS. The illustrations are whimsical and aid in the presentation of the information. The language used is fun but accurate. In this example, you can see the characters learning about skin grafts using shark skin.
The book holds my kids' attention pretty well. I do think that dividing the book into some sort of section would have been beneficial to the presentation of the information. The cool thing about this book is that it's a great read-a-loud title because it follows the fun structure of Dr. Seuss, but it's also a fantastic choice for independent reading. I'm a big fan of this book, and I will also be looking for more of the Learning Library's titles. We own Would you Rather be a Pollywog? at our house and that has also been popular with my kids. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Non-fiction for youth review: Everything you Need to Know about NIGHTMARES and how to Defeat them: The Nightmares! Handbook

A couple weeks ago, I ordered my daughter's beginning band book from Amazon. When the package came I opened it, and instead of the band book, I received this. 

Hmm... not at all what I was expecting or needed, but somewhat serendipitous. I thought it would be a good book to examine in regards to non-fiction for youth. Though the "characters" In this book are mythical, it fits the non-fiction criteria because it operates as a field guide. 

At a glance:

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0850
  • Series: Nightmares!
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (September 12, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385744315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385744317

When I started reading this I didn't realize it was part of a series. Jason Segal and Kristen Miller have written three prior fiction books in this series. I had hoped for more of an informational text on how kids can manage their nightmares with some information from doctors and child psychologists presented in an engaging way for kids. That's not what was in this book. Each chapter talks about a specific kind of monster that could be in a bad dream and how to defeat them. The book could be entertaining, I suppose, but there's not much real takeaway here. I didn't enjoy it at all and couldn't get through it because I was too bored.
That being said, the book wasn't written for me, it was written for 8-12 year olds, specifically those who have read the fiction series. My 10 year old daughter started the book and ended up taking it to her room because she wanted to read the rest. She loved the illustrations and thought the text was interesting. It's a nice book for this time of year, with a little bit of spookiness form the nightmare monsters, but nothing too horrifying. I would definitely recommend that before reading this guide, you pick up the fiction novels first. My daughter was definitely right about the illustrations, they are charming and whimsical. The text, though not interesting to me, was presented well.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Non-Fiction for youth review: She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

The phrase "Nevertheless, she persisted" took the culture of American feminism by storm after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D. Massachusetts) attempted to read a letter by activist and widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, on the Senate floor in protest of the proposed appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. After Senator Warren was not allowed to continue with her prepared speech, among controversy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.) was quoted as saying, "Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." The phrase has since come to represent the perseverance of women who continued on their intended paths despite strong and sometimes dangerous resistance. 

At a glance: 

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel Books; First Edition, First Print edition (May 30, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1524741728
  • ISBN-13: 978-1524741723
  • Lexile Score: NC1170L 

Activist and author Chelsea Clinton presents a carefully chosen, inspiring list of American women who triumphed over adversity to live their dreams. Though the white, female, liberal feminist movement has been accused of a lack of intersectionality. this book addresses that issue with a commitment to diversity. Five of the women included are Caucasian, Five are African-American, one is Latina, and one is Native American. I was glad to see this representation. The premise of the book is a young girl (African-American) walking through a museum learning about important American women in history  Each short vignette gives a description of the heroine's life and accomplishments, including a quote from the woman herself. Alexandra Boiger's lovely illustrations are the perfect complement to the text. Many of the woman are shown as both a young girl and an adult. 

I was utterly charmed by this book. I read it aloud to my 10 and 8 year old daughters, who were enthralled. My 8 year old's favorite page was the Florence Joyner (Flo Jo) page. She said, "WOW! That little girl grew up to be HER! That's amazing!" 

My ten year old daughter said that the most important message in the book was that women can do anything that men can do and that girls shouldn't let anyone talk them out of their dreams. 

I thought this was a fantastic book and I enjoyed reading it to my daughters. I would recommend it as a read aloud and discuss book to other families with daughters. She Persisted should be a fixture in any school library as it promotes the ideals of gender equality, racial equality, and achievement despite adversity. Thank you to Chelsea Clinton for this lovely book, and thank you most of all to all the brave women who inspired it. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The future of books

What has changed in the world of reading and what does the future hold?

Some major changes I have seen in the way we read books

1) E-readers and audiobooks have come into focus, opening doors for people with disabilities to enjoy more books. The popularity of e-books could drive paper book prices up if it hasn't already. This article from NPR discusses how with e-books, publishers can use a temporary price drop to create the experience of discovery, which use to be a phenomenon unique to brick and mortar bookstores.

2) We shop online for everything, books included. I think brick and mortar bookstore will really suffer, especially large chains. Our Barnes and Noble is already stuffing itself full of toys and curiosities to get people in the door. It never seems to be without a crowd, but I do wonder what will happen in the next five or so years. I don't see a lot of small bookstores anymore, but Half-Price Books seems to be still kicking, and bookstores that offer a unique experience, such as Kids Ink are still able to keep their doors open.

3) Crazy futuristic stuff will happen. Things we are doing with technology right now seemed impossible 20 years ago. 20 years from now, whoa... we will probably be reading from software directly implanted into our brains or something. Maybe a projection directly on our wrists? I feel like I've seen something along those lines already. Ah yes, here it is.

Other than that, I have no idea. I feel like the draw for human beings to the written/typed/spoken word, to telling and hearing stories, to sharing information is so universal and timeless that any changes that come along will not effect the deep down integrity of our human connection to reading.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Marketing the Library's fiction collection

Here are some of my ideas for marketing fiction to library fiction (with help from the Saricks Reader's Advisory text)

Book Discussion Groups: Facilitated book discussions for adults, teens, tweens, and older elementary kids are great to engage patrons with the fiction collection. Virtual book clubs and virtual book discussions can help those with disabilities or difficult schedules to participate.

Targeted shelving: Every two weeks to a month, change targeted shelving locations to feature titles specific to a certain interest such as gardening books for spring and summer, holiday books, librarians' favorite picks, etc.

Use the Internet: Social media posts, blogging, and youtube videos featuring book talks and book reviews can generate interest in the fiction collection!

Booklists: Lists featuring titles and annotations such as those we’ve been writing for Reader’s Advisory class, as well as best seller lists can be helpful to readers looking for something to read. Top ten lists are very popular and effective. Author and celebrity inspired lists such as "What is Emma Watson reading" can be fun and engaging.

Promotion of the Reader’s advisory services: Signs, good spatial arrangement, and engaged librarians can help readers to know that the Reader’s Advisor is eager to help them find their next page turner! 

Talks and book signings from authors can also generate traffic in the library and excite readers. Local fiction authors may be eager to promote their books and patrons might be equally enthusiastic to read them!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

African-American Fiction Annotation and Week 14 prompt

In answering the question as to whether or not "specialty" literature such as LGBTQIA or African-American should be placed in specifically labeled locations within the greater collection, I wanted to be sure to examine my privilege as a heterosexual white American woman. 

My first instinct was to say, no these titles should not be separated from the entirety of a library's collection. I know, however, that through the lens of privilege it is easy to say we are, for example "color-blind" or to use another example, "we do not see disability". It is easy to find essay upon essay describing why these viewpoints are problematic. So, by not wanting to pull these titles out of the whole into subgenres, am I in essence saying those same things?

On one hand, it seems that it makes more literary sense to put African-American literature with the genre of the stories involved (romance, science fiction, etc) and perhaps the same for LGBTQIA. Is that the best way to serve our patrons though? I'm not sure.

In arguing for inclusion in schools for the disabled, the point is often made that the non-disabled students have much to gain from exposure to their disabled peers. The relationship is mutually beneficial. Can including African-American, LGBTQIA, and titles from other marginalized groups nonchalantly within the whole collection do the same? Is it ok to have the ideal of increasing empathy in readers by exposing them to historically oppressed communities via their fiction choices, or is that too didactic? My personal preference would be to include "specialty" fiction within the whole collection except for featured times such as Black History Month or Gay Pride week.

I also see the point, however, that if an African-American reader, for instance, wants to easily find titles that represent his or her life experience as a Black American, those titles should be able to be easily and quickly accessed. Having them separate makes titles that much easier to find.

I haven't yet been employed as a librarian, so I'm eager to hear the thoughts of you who have!

by Octavia Butler
originally published in 1979
Paperback: 264 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0807083690
ISBN-13: 978-0807083697

Dana, an African-American woman living in 1976 Los Angeles, finds herself mysteriously transported to the antebellum South. She and her husband must learn to navigate the strange world of the past and determine how it will shape their lives and future.

Characteristics consistent with African-American fiction (with help from the New World Encyclopedia) 
  1. African-American author
  2. Protagonist is African-American and the plot largely revolves around the African-American experience
  3. Themes often include racism, religion, freedom, what it means to be Black and what it means to be American.
  4. Consistent with a rich tradition of slave narratives
  5. Seems to exist both within the larger context of American culture and also outside of it
  6. Can extend to many sub-genres such as African-American Fantasy, African-American Science Fiction, African-American Romance, African-American Horror, African-American poetry, etc.

Suggested Read-a-likes
incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
Beloved  by Toni Morrison 
Dessa Rose by Sherley Anne Williams
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora by various authors

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Sunday, April 9, 2017

New Adult

I don't get the judgment that seems to come from some people regarding what other people read.


I LOVED TWILIGHT. I loved it. I loved all four books. Then, after I read the books I enjoyed watching the movies too! AND I AM NOT EMBARRASSED. You know what I've never read? Fifty Shades of Grey. That was a HUGE seller. People have polarizing opinions on that book, either finding it tantalizing or repellent. I have no interest but I certainly don't judge those who do.

I like literature, I like some erotic romance, I tolerate graphic novels. I like non-fiction. I like to read in general! I love to get lost in a story. Sometimes it is a story that aligns somewhat with my current or past life experience and sometimes it is completely different. Ranganathan's second and third law make it clear that librarians are to help every reader find his or her book and every book find its reader. To me, that means no judging. It's so unnecessary to assert intellectual superiority over someone who enjoys material which you determine to be inferior.

As far as New Adult, it is HOT right now. A lot of the authors start out self-publishing and their fans are DEVOURING their stories. This is a young market that the library should absolutely serve. We should promote and stock materials they love. What is our excuse if we don't? A lot of college students might enjoy New Adult literature in their downtime when they are not reading their academic material. Let's allow those readers to enjoy their books and make sure they feel ok about it.

Does enjoying a bag of skittles now and again mean you can't enjoy a gourmet meal? No!