Wednesday, October 31, 2012


In this future dystopia, citizens are divided into five factions, but the faction that you are born into is not necessarily your faction for life.  Beatrice is tested when she is 16 to see which faction would be the best fit, but her test does not go as planned.  She learns that she is Divergent, a strange hybrid of several factions, but she must be careful not to show who she really is because the Divergent are a threat to the strictly organized society.  On the day of the choosing, Beatrice leaves her family behind in their selfless Abnegation world and chooses the brave and fearless Dauntless.  Once there, she must quickly learn how to fight, survive and leave her old, simple world behind.  She also discovers feelings for her Dauntless trainer, Four, but his secrets are just as dark as hers.  Add in a revolution in the making and other political unrest, plus some convincing bullies and bad guys, and this becomes a series to watch.

I thoroughly enjoyed Divergent.  I thought that I had overdosed on dystopias lately, so I was determined to be ambivalent toward this book, but after a few chapters, that just was not an option anymore.  Beatrice, renamed Tris upon becoming Dauntless, is quite a compelling character.  She does not feel selfless enough to be Abnegation, but we learn that it is her selflessness that truly makes her brave.  Tris also has to learn about survival by knowing when to show weakness and when to show strength.

Let's talk about Four for one minute.  I'm not often prone to literary crushes.  Edward's not my speed and I only like Jacob because his body temp is 108 degrees, and I'm always cold.  I'm not all about Mr. Darcy or Harry Potter, but honestly, I'd take Four in a second.  I have a total Four, or Tobias, crush.  He's so strong and determined, yet Tris sees a vulnerable side, and he is idealistic without losing sight of the goal.  Plus, I'm guessing he's hot.  That might not be stated outright, but in my mind, in my reading, he's pretty hot.  I think that Divergent has been optioned for a movie, and that's going to ruin Four, because some 19 year old up and comer is going to be cast and I'll feel like a huge perv for being a Four groupie.  If at at possible, please cast someone like Ryan Gosling as Four so I don't feel so icky. Really, any guy over 25 that has not dated Taylor Swift or been in a boy band will do.  (Although I'll take Justin Timberlake if I have to.  I've never been a JT fan, but I wouldn't feel weird about liking Four if he were played by JT.  I would just like Four as played by JT.  This is getting too involved).

Let's bring this back to a more relevant topic.  Setting:  great.  Future, ruined Chicago.  So much more fun than ruined New York.  It was great hearing about the wrecked Navy Pier and train lines.  Imagine jumping from the speeding train over rooftops in Wrigleyville-not me, not ever.  But knowing the train like I do makes it that much more incredible.  I really want to try to get my hubby to read this book.  He really liked Hunger Games, and with the Chicago setting, I really think that he would like Divergent too.

The best part about this series is since I was so slow to read the first book, the second is already out.  No waiting!  I do have several books on my list before Insurgent, so I have a feeling that by the time I finish that one, the third book will be out.  There is really something to be said for being lazy and starting a series late.  

This book gets my recommendation.  It stands out from the other dystopias for me and even though I've been passing on some other sequels lately, I'm all in for Insurgent.  It could be that I just want more Four, but I'm pretty sure I'm in it for the story too.  Read Divergent.  You won't regret it.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Librarian Olympics

Today, I was walking into work, doing the usual-balancing a paper box full of stuff from Wal-Mart while carrying a piping hot Pumpkin Spice Latte and a huge purse over 40 yards from my car to my office and opening all the doors and getting to my desk without an assist, when I thought, when's this gonna be an Olympic event?

So, then I started thinking about the Secretary Olympics.  But I would not be good at that.  Think about it, it would be time typing, filing exercises, creating an overly detailed calendar for 20 faculty members. Nope, I'd never make it out of the qualifying rounds.  But, the Librarian Olympics, I'd be rocking the all around in that!

Let's take a closer look at the events:

1.  Speed Shelving:  You'd put a full cart of DVDs in order, then shelve as fast as possible, but would also be judged on accuracy.

2.  Craft Creativity:  Tim Gunn would hand you random craft supplies like plastic bottle caps, fun foam, pipe cleaners, and those little plastic containers that cherry tomatoes come in (the ones that look like spaceships) and ask you to make a Three Bears Themed Craft.  You have 10 minutes-make it work!

3.  Reader's Advisory:  An eight year old asks you for that book with the blue cover that his school librarian talked about 3 weeks ago.  Again, you are judged on speed, accuracy, and refraining from rolling your eyes and being sarcastic.

4.  The Great Book Hunt:  You have five minutes to find The Mark of Athena which has been crazily mishelved for a waiting patron.  Yes, it makes total sense that this book is located under the couch in the toy area.

5.  Purchasing Craft Supplies:  You will be given a crazy list of needed craft supplies and set lose on Target at 5:00 pm on a Wednesday.  Your goal is to get in, get out, get everything on your list, and not tick off the cashier when you want to use tax exempt.  And you must do all of this with a straight face, like people always by curling ribbon, Pringles, wax paper, and assorted mittens using a tax exemption.

6.  Delivering Craft Supplies to Office:  In one trip you will need to walk 50 yards carrying 7 bags from Target, coffee, your purse, your work bag and your lunch through the front doors of the library and down a flight of stairs, because of course the elevator is broken, to your desk.  Again, you will be judged on time, accuracy, ability to open doors without an assist (because that handicapped accessible button is broke too) and refraining from mowing down several dozen screaming children.

What else should librarians do in the Olympics?  Silence a group of screaming three year olds?  Kick a group of rowdy teens out of the computer lab without using physical violence or swearing?  Appeal to the director for more money for supplies, or at least start stocking toilet paper again?  What do you think?

I'm ready people.  Let's get librarianing in the Olympics!

Happy Reading

Friday, October 26, 2012

I will work at any library--except this one

It's almost Halloween!!  I like Halloween, but I don't like scary things.  I like my Halloween slightly spooky-just enough for goosebumps, but not nightmares.  So I love the old movies like Hocus Pocus and the Charlie Brown Halloween show, but not movies where people are killed by creepy guys in hockey masks.  I'm a big contradiction.

And last night, Doug and I were just watching TV, minding our own business when the lights go out.  I  went around lighting candles, and since I only have scented candles, it was only about 20 minutes before our house smelled like the Yankee Candle factory exploded.  Anyway, it was a dark and stormy night, the wind had knocked out the power, and I was freaking out.

The conversation that followed was pretty funny, but I won't include the full transcript here.  Topics including:  zombies, how water and septic systems work in town, ghosts, is burning a candle while you sleep safe or unsafe, and the haunted library article I read earlier that day.

I was skimming though my American Libraries Direct Newsletter and saw this article on a haunted library in Connecticut.  It described the strange happenings at the library which included noises, apparitions, and books being reshelved in odd places.  Okay, the book thing doesn't hold much merit to me.  Every library in the world has that "library ghost" that misplaces things.

But the article describes that this ghost asks questions, like what year is it, what am I doing here.  Now I'm creeping myself out.  It's like an endless reference interview!  I kept reading and just kept getting more scared.  Then I made it worse by checking out the haunted libraries of the Midwest.  There's a school library in Illinois that's haunted because a school librarian went nuts and killed herself and three students in 1956 and now they hear screams in the library!  Seriously!

Okay, so I've never seen a ghost, or heard weird noises that I couldn't explain, or other such stuff.  But it's fun to talk about and get a little scared for Halloween.  This Halloween, explore the world of haunted libraries by reading up on the Deep River Public Library, or haunted libraries in your area, and see if you've been to any of these haunted places.

Happy Reading and Sweet Dreams!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

100th Post Giveaway Celebration!!

Today's the day!  I've hit 100 published posts!  Tune up the band, start the parade, call those Shriner guys in the tiny cars and let's celebrate!!

First, let's chat for a second about why I started doing this.  I'm a librarian without a library and without a library, I had no one to recommend books to, so I was approaching random people in the street and begging them to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone or talk about how Percy Jackson was different as a movie, and don't you hope they make a sequel?  Now, I just put all of my opinions and excitement about books online, and the good people on the street are safe from my ranting.

Most of what I've posted falls under my Librariany category.  In fact, 68 of my posts have to do with story times, book reviews, and general library land.  But because I am more than a librarian, I've thrown in some other stuff for fun, like my hair donation, local events, my nephew's adoption, and most recently, our basement renovation reveal.  But I would say that 68% librarian describes me pretty well.  For the most part, my nose is in a book and even when it isn't, I'm dreaming about books.

Let's look at the stats for a second, because that's fun and kinda blows my mind.  I've had 1819 hits total.  Not a ton, but I'm pretty stoked about that personally.  My most popular post is Nursery Rhyme Crafts with 181 hits, thanks to a Pinterest Pin by the lovely Joella, the best librarian I know in real life.  Second place goes to Anthony's Adoption Day, because I posted that on Facebook and because he's the most adorable kid I know in real life-love that little monkey!  Can't wait to see you in a month!!

I'm most popular in the US, naturally, but Russia has some love for me with 189 hits.  I have 21 hits from my motherland, Germany, and a scattering of other small European countries have given me a handful of hits, with Australia tuning in 4 times.  It always cracks me up when other countries tune in.  How on earth did these people find me?  It just shows that this world is very small-that with a few mouse clicks, you can read about a girl in small town Illinois, or someone living it up in Australia.

To celebrate my 100th post (whoot-whoot!) I'm giving away my book stash!  Librarians are the ultimate hoarders.  What else do you call someone who saves toilet paper rolls, and encourage others to save their toilet paper rolls for them?  It's a sickness!  And being the library-less girl that I am, I've amassed quite the stack of paperbacks and galleys.  I love a galley grab and I am all over the weekly email updates and Goodreads and Library Thing trying to score free stuff, so now you can reap the rewards of my hoarding!

Here's the deal--everyone that comments on my this post is getting a book!  I'm going crazy like Oprah people!!

I reward punctuality, so the first person to comment gets Clockwork Angel, a great book by the way!  After that I'll start sending out surprise books from my collection of galleys and other early reviewers.  If I run out (and I hope I do!!), I'll start sending out other items that are a librarian's best friend, like stickers, fun foam, and maybe toilet paper rolls-you can never have enough.

So, here are the rules.  Comment on this post.  Tell me what your favorite post has been and why.  And if you have any ideas for future posts, let me know!  If you need personalized book reviews, ideas for story time songs or crafts, a witty limerick written in honor of your birthday, let me know!  I'll try my best to make it happen.

Start commenting people!! Remember, favorite post, any suggestions for the future, and any other compliments you would like to lavish on me!

Happy Reading and Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

August Wrap-Up: Only Really Late

August was such a long time ago, but it was so much fun!  First up, book club, Night Circus edition!

Our lovely host Erin worked so hard to turn her patio into a magical night circus.  Erin is the one in the red dress, in the back row where she is hiding a little.  There were streamers, lights, and food!  She made these amazing chocolate cake pop rat things that were just delicious-I might have had four, and taken a couple home.  And everyone dressed for the theme!  Black, white, with a peek of red.  Check out my amazing headband-sweet right?  All in all, it was a great meeting and I'm so glad that I read that book.  

Oh, and a big hello to Sarah (Macomb Sarah, not to be confused with Lincoln Sara of Pub and Putt Fame), she's my pseudo librarian bud.  She's the one in the cool animal print shirt next to me.  And she got me an amazing present from a library conference!  I'll share soon.

Next up, Redneck Fishing.  It's kinda hard to describe Redneck Fishing.  And this is one of the only pics that shows the spirit, but is still appropriate for a blog mostly about children's books.  Here's the background:  Asian Carp are taking over the Illinois River, so much so that you don't really need to even fish them, just rev your motor and the fly out of the river.  Scary.  So, the goal is to catch as many fish as you can, but you can't use a fishing pole.  Anything else is allowed-nets, baseball bats, tennis rackets, etc.  Some boaters wear helmets because you can get knocked out by a flying fish.  Again, scary.  

So, I went to Redneck because that was the day of Katie's 30th Birthday!!  She would be the cutie in the middle with the Thirty and Flirty cup (courtesy of Laura).  Mostly we hung out watching fish fly and chilling in this bar on stilts and just taking up some very interesting people watching.  Very interesting, and again, scary.  I saw things that day that I can never unsee, but I did it all for you, Katie! Happy Extra Late Birthday!

And finally for something a little more classy:  A great trip to Northern Kentucky to see my Aunt Roxie.  

Our vacation mostly consisted of seeing the sights, and eating really well.  One thing you can always count on with Roxie is good food.  Life's too short for bad food people.  We hit up all kinds of sights- Newport, KY, a color pencil exhibit at a small museum, Germantown, and probably Doug's favorite, Hofbrauhaus.  

The Hofbrauhaus is an authentic German restaurant in Newport.  You sit at long wood tables, drink from huge mugs of beer, and listen to a crazy guy play an accordion.  Above, Doug does the chicken dance.  You are encouraged to stand on the benches, but not the table.  Because if you stand on the table, it could break, causing to you spill your beer and the beer of your fellow dinners, and there is no greater sin than spilled beer at the Hofbrauhaus.  Now, even though I'm like 100% German (my family tree is a little curvy), I don't like German food, or beer.  I think I choked down a glass of the lightest stuff that I could get and tried to order something that wasn't all pork, but I would go again just for the atmosphere.

And you saw this pic already, but this is Roxie and I outside the city museum after we toured the Vesuvius exhibit, which was freaky.  Well all know what happened, big volcano, unprepared town, but it's crazy to see it person.  Not in person in person, but they did have some of the preserved corpses.  It was intense.  But that fountain and view were beautiful.  After that, there was more food, the Taft museum and more food.  And we might have eaten some more food in there.  So museums and food, that's all I ever get with Roxie, but what a fun time!  We'll be back!!

So, that was August.  We also had some cool townie events, like Denim and Diamonds, and the Purple and Gold Auction, with the best night of karaoke that I've ever seen in my life afterward.  Doug and I really got a reputation that night for being great performers.  And then college football started and suddenly summer was over and fall was upon us.  It was a great summer though!  Thanks to everyone who made it so amazing!!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

At first, Jacob believed the fantastical stories from his grandfather's childhood, but after repeating some of those stories at school and being bullied, he decided that fairy tales were for babies, and that those stories couldn't possibly be real.  But he was so wrong.  When he finds his grandfather dying in the woods, he passes on some cryptic last words, instructing Jacob to find the island, and go to Miss Peregrine's home.  And so Jacob does, and not only does he discover that everything his grandfather said was true, but also that Jacob might have the most precious gift of all.

I checked this book out as an e-book from my library, and this was the first book that I had ever checked out that way.  I'm very glad that I passed on this book at the bookstore, not only because the cover is creepy, but also because the book just doesn't live up to the hype.

At first, I found this a really interesting story.  The grandfather dies and Jacob must come to terms with the man that he loved so much perhaps not being the man he thought he was.  I was just starting to really love this concept-grandchild coming to terms with the humanity and dishonesty of this grandfather-when I met the peculiars.  Then this became a rather run of the mill story.  Jacob travels to the Cairn island, a remote, dreary place, and finds the house, then finds the peculiars, frozen in time on September 3, 1940.  They are hidden in time for their protection from wights and hollowgasts, evil former peculiars bent on immortality.  Jacob, like his grandfather, is the only one that can see them, so he suddenly becomes the most important member of this strange troop.

The idea for this book supposedly came from strange antique photos, dozens of which are scattered throughout the text.  But instead of enhance the story, they seem to detract from it.  Whole paragraphs are spent on describing one passing character that is illustrated in a photo.  Some photos just seem forced and some descriptions do little to further the plot.

The action is typical.  The only adult in this hidden world is Miss Peregrine, and she is kidnapped and the children must use their peculiar skills to free her from a dangerous wight.  They ban together like so many demigods, magicians, wizards and radiated youth before them and fight.  Of course they beat the one bad guy, but, gasp, there are more, and the children make the decision to leave the loop, their safe haven and prison, and fight the evil wights and hollowgasts.  And Jacob leaves the modern world and everything he knows to go with them, and to go with Emma, the girl he, and his grandfather (eeeww) loves.

I was honestly more impressed when I thought this book would be about Jacob discovering that his grandfather was maybe not the moral, honest man that he thought he was.  But then the book would not be called what it is.  I'll pass on the next installment, and judging from Goodreads, it's not even close to being published yet, so that makes me think that this device of using pictures to force text is not paying off as well for a second volume.   Interesting in theory, but not in practice.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 22, 2012

My New Favorite Bar

When Doug and I first took a look at this house, Doug kinda feel in love with the manly bar that was installed in the basement.  Too bad the old owner took it with him.  Ever since, it has been Doug's mission to build his own bar, a library bar if you will.  It's less about loud music and kegs than good books and good drinks.  

So, here's the reveal!

Doug did a lot of work.  First up, he brought some lighter colors into the room, with one blue accent wall and the rest are a nice pale yellow, which looks more tan in person.  Also, check out those awesome bookcases.  Thank you Billy from Ikea.  As you can see, they aren't full yet, but they are getting there.  One side is for Doug and his classics and engineering texts and the other side is for my kids books, and random other stuff.

Moving right along, we have the old futon that has been my constant companion since graduating from undergrad.  And in the corner you have the bar.  Let's take a closer look!

It's so beautiful!  I'd love to tell you all about how Doug built the bar, and what type of wood he used and all that, but I honestly have no idea.  I just know that he worked on it a lot and I'm ready for him to hang out with me and dog for a while instead of hanging out in the garage sanding, staining and playing with power tools.

I can tell you that the bar stools are from Bed, Bath and Beyond and that they are pretty comfy.  And that base cabinet is courtesy of Menard's.  Base cabinets are kinda our new favorite things since Doug put in this one, and he fancied one up to be a great buffet in our dining area.

Even Lucy loves it down there.  She just curls up with one of us on the futon, or plays with her toys on the floor.  So far she hasn't done too much damage to the new pillows, but I'm sure she'll try.

So, if you are ever in the neighborhood and you need a nice place to hang out by the fire, have a drink, and read a good book, I've got your spot!

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Know what else I miss?

I miss the gratitude.  Yes, being a librarian is often a thankless job, and more often than not, you're a federally funded babysitter, complete with stinky diapers, hungry kids and bored, destructive monsters.

But, when a little kid says thank you, it's the best.  That happy smile when they finish a craft they really enjoyed.  Shouts of kids asking if they can check that book out after you read it at story time, and the hugs!  I'm going to make myself cry.  I miss that so much!

I miss that look on a kids face when you find that last copy of a book, not on the shelf, hidden on a book cart or misshelved, or under a chair.  Like you, the librarian, brought this book out of hiding by magic, just for him.  Or when you tell a reader, you are the very first person to check this out.  Or suggest a great new book for a reader because you know they'll love it, and they do, and it's just wonderful.  

I miss those smiles, those hugs, those thank you's.  I miss that excitement about something that I helped create.  I miss that wonder and innocence.  

Yep, I'm holding back tears.  But it's been a long thankless day full of demands, but no gratitude, not for the little stuff, or the big, important stuff.  I would love to just see one genuine child's smile today for something that I did.

So, I would really encourage you to share a book with a child today, if you can.  It's the best feeling in the world, and you don't realize how precious it is until it's gone.

What's in Store

Instead of writing an actual post, I'm going to write a post of what to expect.  A sort of to-do list to keep me accountable.  Let's hope in the next week you see:

1.  August Wrap-Up.  I really need to get this done before the end of the month.  I'm just quite-a-bit-a-whole-lot late on this.

2.  Library Bar Basement Reveal!  All of Doug's hard work has paid off and the basement is a wonderful place to hang out.  Even the dog loves it, as you'll see.

3.  Review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  I just started it the other day and I'm already half way through.  It's creepy and strange and making it hard to sleep, but I love it.

4.  An appreciation of Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers through tee shirts.  You'll see why this is important next week!

And don't forget the other great things I have coming up like:

1.  Owl-themed Trunk or Treat.  I have tons of owl crafts planned (that I have yet to make) and a SUV to decorate for Halloween so I'll have plenty to share.

2.  More storytimes with crafts!  I realize from my pages views that people want craft ideas, so I am here to give them to you.  Stay posted and hopefully I will make some of this stuff happen.

3.  A 100th post celebration and giveaway!  I'm going to try anyway.  I know that not a ton of people read my blog yet, but what better way to get people here than to start giving stuff away.  I'm already on post 96 or so and I can't believe that I have stuck to this so consistently.  Stay tuned to see what cool stuff is coming your way.

That's it, that's all.  For now anyway.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Diviners

Okay, I'm ready now.

After shedding light on a scandal in her small Ohio town, Evie is sent to live with her Uncle Will in Manhattan as punishment.  But Manhattan is not punishment to Evie.  She plans to become the most notorious flapper in town, and she is well on her way we her friends, Mabel and Theta, when a policeman comes knocking on the door of her uncle's museum.  Uncle Will runs the Museum of Creepy Crawlies-the unofficial name given to the museum specializing in the occult and unusual, and the officer requests his help in solving an occult murder.  Evie jumps at the chance for adventure, but once at the scene, she discovers a gruesome secret she never saw coming.  Now, the murders are becoming more frequent, her friends are becoming more strange, and she keeps being warned that a storm is coming.  Even if they catch this killer, will it stop all the unusual events happening to Evie and her friends?

Evie is a well drawn character.  She wants to be a good time girl, but with her special ability to read people's feelings and destiny from their objects, she becomes much more involved in righting wrongs than she would like.  Even though she can seem frivolous on the surface, Evie is a caring and brave girl who ultimately wants to use her power to help.

The secondary characters are all wonderful too.  At first glance, Theta, Henry, Mabel, Memphis, Jericho, and Sam, all just seems like support staff, but then the reader realizes that they all have powers too, with the exception of Mabel perhaps.  She didn't demonstrate any interesting abilities in this volume, but I'm sure there will be more from her later.  Some how the reader gets the feeling that each of these people will be important.  

You also get the feeling that there was a generation of Diviners before these youngsters, with the stories of Blind Bill Johnson, Sister Walker, Sam's mother, and even Uncle Will.  But some of the previous generation may be bent on exploiting the newest diviners, not helping them, so the next installment could prove quite interesting.

The writing and tone are incredible.  That first chapter just sends chills up my spine.  The Ouija Board brought out for a good time, then not properly closed.  The wind spinning through town, observing the good and bad, and settling on someplace evil.   The spirit coming home.  It's all very well said and very captivating.  This is not a good book to skim, rather every passage needs to be read, not to understand the plot, but to appreciate the setting, the tone, the somberness of the message.  It's quite masterful.

This book has cross over appeal in spades.  The main characters are all young adults, aged between 16 to 20, but they read older.  Plus the whole description of the Jazz Age is just wonderful, and the description of the crime is pretty intense.  This is a book that can reach up, but not down.  I would keep this on firmly in high school or above.  

Now, I must wait another year for the next installment.  It will be a long wait.  Luckily I have plenty to read before then, but this is my new obsession.  It's right up there with Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  And believe me, Bright Young Things will be positively snore-inducing from now on.  Read this book!  Read this book now!  It's Halloween and we all need something a little spooky in our lives, so this is perfect.  You won't regret it.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yalu and the Puppy Room

Yalu is a little golden retriever puppy living at a puppy kennel.  When someone wants to adopt a puppy, they go play in the puppy room.  Yalu gets her first chance, but that family wants a boy dog, and it seems like after that, no one wants a golden, or at least they don't want Yalu.  Then a couple comes in and asks to see all kinds of dogs.  So, how can Yalu stand out and make this her family?

Full Disclosure:  I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Mystic Publishers, through a Publisher's Weekly email giveaway.  This is not way has effected my opinion of the book.

Let's start with an overall rating and work from there.  This book is a 2.5 out of 5-not great, but not horrible, even though this book started as a self-publish.  The pictures are a little too distorted and much too few.  A book like this needs pictures on every page, and that is not the case here.  Also, Yalu is at some type of puppy breeder, and this book would have been more topical had Yalu been in a shelter.  It almost brings to mind a puppy mill.  

The strength of this book is the dog.  She's cute, she has a struggle and she overcomes that and finds a good family, and her discovery of the new house is adorable.  There's nothing to really make this book stand out, even for an easy reader which are all too often over simplified and quaint.  

I would say that most libraries would pass on this book, as would cash strapped schools, but this book is made for e-books.  The Amazon Kindle price is $2.99, and at that price, I would definitely recommend it to parents with and iPad or Kindle Fire.  Children will like Yalu since she is adorable.  Also, this author is going in the right direction, so while this isn't a hit, it is a good start.

Happy Reading!

Oh, BTW, I did finish The Diviners last night, but I want to soak it all up before I write the review.  This is a book with so much going on, and so many questions left for the next installment.  I'll be back tomorrow with a full review.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let Them Read Anything!

In talking with my teacher/librarian friends, and even just people with kids, I am so hurt when people discount reading magazines, blogs, and graphic novels.  It's all reading people!  I often tell the story of my first library's break room.  Here were dozens of highly educated people, surrounded by the great literary works of our time, and what did we read in the break room?  Us Weekly, Life and Style, and if we were feeling really classy, People.  Seriously-we loved a good scandal and loved the gossip pages.

If your kid is reading nothing but skateboard magazines or pony books or the back of the cereal box, that's a great jumping off point!  Encourage that reading!  For the skateboarder, try to sneak in some adventure fiction-or better yet, a choose your own adventure.  For that pony-loving girl (we all went through that phase), try to work in classic horse book, or something newer like Riding Freedom.  And for that cereal box reader-which often has great games and trivia-a puzzle book, trivia, or joke book.  Granted none of these options are great literature, but baby steps!  If you encourage children to read what they love, regardless of style or substance, and push them one step outside their comfort zone, eventually you will have a genuine reader on your hands.

I will fully admit that the books I remember most from childhood were paperback series books.  They were super cheap and easy to buy from Scholastic book orders, so that's what I read.  I didn't really come to love all things children's lit until I started working in a library in high school.  Now, my nose is always in a book, so much so that my poor hubby knows that dinner might be late since I have to finish this one chapter.

In conclusion, let them read what they want!  If you have a teacher or librarian that is fighting you on this and not counting graphic novels or magazines as reading, fight back.  Yes, your child will have to write plenty of book reports and do lots of required reading, but for fun or silent reading time, encourage them to read anything that interests them.  Beauty is in the eye of the reader.

Now go, read-read anything you like!

Happy Reading!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan 

Ivan is a mighty silverback gorilla living in a circus/mall where he has spent most of his life.  His best friends are Stella, the elephant, and  Bob, a stray dog, but he also loves Julia, the night janitor's daughter.  But business at the circus is slow, so the owner Mack decides that they need a new act, a baby elephant named Ruby.  Stella cares for Ruby but doesn't want her to grow old in a cage, so she makes Ivan promise that he will do what he can to make her free.  Ivan does the only thing that he can do, he draws, and he's not certain how this will help, but it's the only hope that both he and Ruby have for a better life.

This book is told only through Ivan's point of view and the chapters are very short and concise, because, as Ivan says, gorillas do not waste words.  Ivan is a very smart, kind narrator and the other animals have equally heartbreaking stories, making this a somber novel with a joyful ending.  Ivan almost doesn't understand that there is life outside the cage, but Stella is able to remind him and push him toward a better life.  Little Ruby is so innocent and sweet and deserving of her new fate.  And even Bob, with his tough guy attitude, adds just the right amount of humor to the circus, and readers will see that his toughness is just an act.  

I had no idea going in that this was going to be such a grim little book, but I am happy to report that it does leave readers with a better feeling than Applegate's last animal tale The Underneath.  Again, the cover seems misleading.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seems more hopeful than the book reads, but that's just my opinion.  And while the reading level for this book is pretty low, the subject manner and shows of animal cruelty suggest an older audience.  This is not a book for sensitive readers, or fierce animal lovers.  (Aside:  I had one co-worker that flat out refused to read a dead-dog book, and I really can't see her being too happy with this one either.)

As far as recommendations go, I would suggest this for fourth and fifth graders.  This would make a great book report selection, because it's not only short and easy to read, but it also addresses many questions about character and animal cruelty and redemption.  All of the characters are more than they seem, and even Mack has a softer side and a back story that makes the reader fill sympathy for him, so there is a lot to talk about here.  Definitely give this to a child that is not excited about writing a book report-they will find plenty of ground to cover here.

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Out of My Mind

Opening to this post #1:  That's actually a book title in the post title.  Not a comment on how I feel right now.

Opening to this post #2:  I finally read a book and have a review to share!  What with the Vice Presidential Debate on last night, and me just hating the drama, I actually carved out some reading time, and whipped through Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.  Let's discuss.

Out of My Mind

 Melody is a child with cerebral palsy, so her body doesn't work like other people, but her mind is actually very sharp.  She instantly absorbs and retains anything that she is told and has an amazing memory, but due to her physical disability, she is stuck in a classroom for special needs children with teachers that don't understand her.  Once she is finally included in regular classes, it shown that she is very bright and once she gets  a Meditalker, she is really able to shine.  So much so that she becomes a star on the school's Whiz Kid team.  But all of that success brings some negative attention as her classmates still do not see her as a normal girl and think that she is being given an unfair advantage.  But Melody is stronger than anyone knows and she is determined to be heard.

Time to dig deaper.

First, let's talk about that cover.  When Melody was a little girl, she had a goldfish that jumped out of the bowl and died, but she felt like that goldfish probably felt just as trapped by that bowl as she feels trapped in her body.  Wow-that cover just sums it all right up.

The strengths of this book are pretty obvious-everyone is fighting a battle, and you need to look deeper to truly understand a person.  I really did like how honestly Melody reacted to everything.  She worked hard, she got angry, she persevered.  And even she got to know her own classmates in H-5 a little better because of her experience of not being understood.  I think the biggest lesson that this book teaches is that you need treat everyone, regardless of appearance or ability, with respect.  It definitely made me think more about the special needs children in my life and how I interact with them.  

And this book is heartbreaking.  Melody works so hard with the Whiz Kid team, and she's come so far in communicating, but she still feels left out.  Then she truly is let out and that's hard on the whole family, but I honestly think that the way she handled it in the end was pretty clever and true to life.  Good for her.

However, this book got a little heavy handed.  There is an accident toward the end that really has nothing to do with the true plot.  It did feel like a cheap attempt to add more drama, when that was not at all necessary.  Also, the scenes involving the mean girls, Claire and Molly, seemed a little strange.  I can entirely believe that children would say some of those horrible things to another child, but for Melody's aid Catherine to come back at them with junior high level insults all the time was just strange.  

All that being said, I still think this is an excellent book.  Melody's narration rings very true and her journey is inspiring.  This would make a great classroom read aloud and would hopefully lead to some good discussion.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Whooo's Here?

I mentioned yesterday in my random ramblings that I would have the Reading is a Hoot car at my church's trunk or treat this fall.  I have purchased a bunch of decorating supplies, and I will hopefully spend my weekend crafting a bunch of little owlets from yarn, fabric and scrapbook paper.  I also have to buy some favors and treats and such.  But this thing is about reading, and I remembered that I did a fun storytime for my preschools a couple of years ago-way before the owl trend I might say!  I'm a visionary people.

Whoo’s Here for Storytime?
"I'm Not Cute!": I'm Not Cute!

Opening Song:  Roll Your Hands
Roll, roll, roll, your hands, fast as fast can be!
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily roll your hands with me!
Mix it up:  clap, wiggle, go slow

Book:  I’m Not Cute by Jonathan Allen

Rhyme:  Wide-eyed Owl
There’s a wide-eyed owl with a pointed nose
Owl Babies Two pointed ears and claws for toes.  
He lives way up in a tree
And when he looks at you
He flaps his wings and says Whoo Whoo!

Book:  Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Rhyme:  Five Little Owls
Five little owls on a moonlit night
Five little owls are quite a sight
Five little owls, are you keeping score?
One flew away, and then there were four!
Cock-a-doodle-hooooooo! Four little owls, happy as can be,
One flew away and then there were three.
Three little owls calling who, who
One flew away and then there were two.
Two little owls having lots of fun
One flew away and then there was one.
One little owl, we are almost done,
He flew away and that leaves none.

Book:  Cock-a-doodle-hoooo! By Mick Manning

Bear's New Friend Rhyme: Ostrich
Here is the ostrich straight and tall
Nodding his head above us all
Here is the hedgehog prickly and small
Rolling himself into a ball.
Here is the spider scuttling around
Treading so lightly on the ground
Here are the birds that fly so high
Spreading their wings across the sky
Here are the children fast asleep
And in the night, the owls do peep.
Sleeping Cutie
Book:  Bear’s New Friend by Karma Wilson
Rhyme:  Owl Song
I’m a great big owl, as you can see
I live high up in a tree
All the other birds wake me up when they play
Because I like to sleep all day.

Book:  Sleeping Cutie or Little Hoot

Closing Song:  Thank You Clap
My hands say thank you with a clap, clap, clap.
My feet say thank you with a tap, tap, tap
Clap, clap, clap, tap, tap, tap.
And now we say goodbye
Little Hoot