Monday, November 27, 2017

Non-Fiction for youth review: An Egg is Quiet

My little reluctant reader (age 8) LOVES science. She makes a beeline to the dinosaur exhibit at the Children's museum and especially loves the area with the fossils and eggs. I thought she and I would read this book together and learn some things. An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston with illustrations by Sylvia Long
  • Age Range: 5 - 6 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Paperback: 36 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452131481
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452131481

My daughter is at the top of the grade level range for this book, but as I said, she is a reluctant reader. She has a vision impairment as well that hindered her learning to read as quickly as her smart little brain would have otherwise allowed. We read the Kindle version of this book, so I would like to talk for a minute about accessibility. It was really disappointing how small the print was on this e-book. Most of the time I can access e-books quite well, often much better than paper books. For this book, however, the print was so tiny that my daughter and I were both really struggling to make out the text even when we opened the book on my 13 inch MacBook to enlarge the print. I haven't seen the physical book, so I'm not entirely sure if it would have been better or worse trying to read it off the paper. In addition, much of the book is written in a fancy script font, which looks very nice but is harder for children, reluctant readers, or those with visual impairment to read. I would have liked to see slightly less attention paid to the aesthetics of this book and more attention paid to the content being accessible to all. Even my ten year old daughter with near perfect vision who is an excellent reader had a bit of a hard time making out some of the text. I would like to check out a physical book in this series to see if the print is any more legible. Another option could be an audiobook version, but I wasn't able to easily find one.

When I asked my 8 year old what she liked most about this book, she said, "I liked the pictures and that there was so much information." She said what she didn't like was, "HOW SMALL THE WORDS WERE!" This book does have lots of appealing elements. The illustrations are whimsical while also presenting some scientific authenticity. The eggs aren't shown exactly to scale, but the varying sizes are represented. There are lots of fun facts about varying types of eggs and the creatures that come out of the eggs. Some of the pages were nice for reading aloud, while others are more of a catalogue style page that is not as well suited for reading aloud.

These books are part of a series. The other titles are 

A Nest is Noisy

A Seed is Sleepy

A Rock is Lively 

A Butterfly is Patient

A Beetle is Shy 

These books would be nice for winding down before a nap or bedtime or for quiet reading time for a child who can individually read the print and the script. 


Non-fiction for youth review: Grandfather's Journey

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say is a poignant, lovely book about the internal conflict within an immigrant who feels belonging to two places at once. A person can never be in two places at once physically, but many immigrants feel that their hearts are torn. 

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (October 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547076800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547076805

While the text itself is simple, the story is tender and nuanced. Say describes how his grandfather emigrated to the United States and then later returned to his home country of Japan. Whenever the grandfather was in one country, he missed the other country, feeing a sense of belonging to both. Young children may not fully understand the situation described in the book, and the overall emotional feel is a bit sad. That isn't to say that picture books need always to be jolly, and this particular story would resonate with children and grandchildren of migrants, as well as educating children whose families have lived in the United States for many generations on the experience of immigrants and their descendants.
The illustrations in the book are beautiful. They remind me of French Impressionism, such as Claude Monet. This particular illustration in the boat I thought was especially pretty. Grandfather's Journey won the Caldecott Medal in 1994. 

My ten year old daughter read this and commented that she liked the flow between the characters and that the book wasn't disjointed in identifying what was happening to whom. She also liked that it didn't feel like an "average children's book". She said the picture book almost felt like a novel and enjoyed that it was more mature. She said she would have enjoyed more detail about the characters and the story. I loved the beautiful illustrations and the lyrical honesty of the text.I would have liked it to have a more uplifting feel. The last page is at once heartwarming and heartwrenching. 

What do you think? Have you read Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say? If you did and you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy

Tea with Milk by Allen Say 
Watch the Stars Come Out by Riki Levinson

Non-fiction for youth review: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

For this post, I decided to read Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen. I was kind of blown away by it. Here are the quick stats.

  • Age Range: 12 and up 
  • Grade Level: 7 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (April 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525426817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525426813

I love a good coming-of-age fiction novel, and Popular reads in a similar way. The premise of Popular is that Maya Van Wagener picks up a guide to popularity published in the 1950's and decides to implement the wisdom within at her modern day junior high. Maya really does desire that popularity. She feels like an outcast, and is frequently teased. In some ways, the author is your average teenage girl, but her maturity, self-awareness, empathy, and intelligence made this a great read for this 37 year old. I wish I had been able to read this book in my awkward teenage years, to be honest, and I will definitely pass it along to my daughters when they are a little older, as there are some sensitive situations in the book that I don'f feel they are quite ready for. Teen Vogue did a good article on Maya which you can read here. You can also follow her on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. Though she's busy with college at the moment, she has been signed for a two book deal, so we have another book to look forward to in the future, and apparently, Dreamworks has bought the rights to the movie, so that stands to be delightful as well!  

Popular has an over 4 star average on both Amazon and GoodReads, and was recognized as a YALSA book of excellence for 2015. All of the acclaim is well-deserved. This book will stick with you. It's simple and light, the way a book inspired by 1950's vintage insights should be, but it also is tender and touching. I enjoyed the author's eccentric family as well as the descriptions of the town they were living at the time. Some subjects that were not handled as well as I might have hoped are obesity and Autism, but Maya is never hateful in her writing, just very true to her teenage voice in those instances. 

Adult Readers of Popular might enjoy 
Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational Story by Jodee Blanco 


Queen Bees and Wannabees (3rd edition): Helping your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of the Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman

Young Readers might enjoy 

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley 

and of course I would be remiss not to mention the book that inspired Maya, leading to a close friendship with its author, Betty Cornell's Teenage Popularity Guide by Betty Cornell.

Check out this book. It's a quick read, mostly light, and I'd love to hear what you think!  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Non-Fiction for Youth Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeie

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: GN410L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Graphix; 1 edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545132061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545132060

I came across this title when I was looking for biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs geared toward youth. I love a good coming of age story so I thought I would check this one out. To be completely and totally honest, I didn't like it at all. I felt it was boring. I didn't really feel like the author had a story worth telling. I didn't find the characters interesting and they didn't seem to have any depth whatsoever. Not even the main character was very well-formed or interesting. This book did nothing for me, BIG BUT... it wasn't written for me. As a future librarian it's not ever going to be my job to like all the books, but it is absolutely my job to understand why everyone else likes the books. 

So, here we are. Interestingly, when my 8 and 10 year old daughters, who are right in the target audience for this title saw I was reading it, I gained about ten cool points. My 8 year old told me she had been wanting to read it but hadn't checked it out yet, and my older daughter told me she had already read it and put it on her list of favorites. "Hmm..." I thought to myself, "a book that appeals both to my reluctant reader 8 year old and my voracious reading 10 year old... that really is something special." 

Not only that, but check out the reviews on Amazon! I mean Holy Cow! With 1,134 reviews, the book has a score of 4.8/5 stars. The rating is only slightly lower on GoodReads, with a 4.20/5 stars, but 107,754 ratings so far. The book has loads of appeal. I'm going to try to pinpoint some of the reasons why. 

First of all, I think graphic novels have an appeal to both enthusiastic and struggling readers. They can be more friendly to some disabilities than titles with lots of dense text.

There is also the appeal of the coming-of-age story. Like I said before, I felt that this particular coming-of-age story was quite shallow, but clearly I am in the minority.

I do think that Raina's injury and subsequent surgeries and treatments have the ability to draw the reader in due to pity, a smidge of voyeurism, and relief in not being alone in a) feeling weird, b) having medical concerns, or c) being bullied. This plot device was not particularly effective for me considering my own personal life story, but I can see where it might be for people who haven't experienced some of the things that I have. 

It is frustrating to watch Raina continue to hang with her "mean girl" friends. That was one of my least favorite aspects of the book. I wanted her to tell those girls to kiss off much sooner, but at least it was satisfying when she finally did. 

Smile isn't a deep read, in my opinion, but it's quick, light and easy to follow. Most readers love it, and it definitely deserves a place on any library's shelves that is frequented by the targeted age group! 

I'll share two of my favorite moments below. In the first excerpt, Raina is talking to her mother about how she wishes more kids would be open about the stuff that makes them feel like outcasts. In the second excerpt, Raina describes how once she started doing things she cared about and that made her feel good, she found better friends and liked herself more. These are really the best takeaways from this book. 

Did you read Smile? What did you think? 

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!

Monday, April 3, 2017

New Adult Annotation

It Ends with Us
by Colleen Hoover

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (August 5, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1476753180
ISBN-13: 978-1476753188

Lily Bloom is a transplant to Boston on her search for the perfect rooftop for reflection when she meets Ryle Kincaid. Where will their intense mutual attraction lead? Will Lily’s painful past infiltrate her future?

Characteristics consistent with the New Adult genre 
  1. Themes include life experiences relevant to those starting their adult lives; romance, first jobs, etc.
  2. Story contains some heavy or dark elements, plot is dramatic
  3. Sexuality is portrayed unapologetically 
  4. Often self-published books gain a following which leads the author to a conventional book deal
  5. Character driven stories, often introspective, characters experience interior growth 
  6. Focus age 18-26
  7. Can extend to many sub-genres such as New Adult Fantasy, New Adult Science Fiction, New Adult Romance, New Adult Horror, etc.

Suggested Read-a-likes
Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton
Punk 57  by Penelope Douglas 
Just one of the Guys by Kristan Higgins
Twist (Dive Bar #2)  by Kylie Scott
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (YA)