06 November 2012

I'll be back later...

Today is the day my friends.  The most important day of 2012.

Yes, we'll elect a president today.

Yes, today I'll find out whether or not I have a job next year.

But more importantly, this happened....

The long awaited, truly begged for, sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

See you in a week when I finish it.

Oh, and Laini Taylor, if you're reading this, I already know I'm going to need an advanced copy of the next one please.  Please?!?

24 October 2012

Proof that librarians are wicked smart

At CALCon this last week, my friend Sarah and I noticed a fascinating trend...

saucy brown leather
Dansko shoes.  Lots of them.

hello there Mary Jane!
 Don't assume Danskos are "librarian shoes".  I've seen teachers, doctors, and sales people wearing Danskos.
patent brown leather
So why is this significant?  Well, according to their website, Dansko shoes are carefully constructed to "promote good foot, leg and back health".  My feet agree.

You see, librarians don't just sit behind a desk all day.  Whether we work at a public, academic or school library, we are on our feet helping patrons basically all day every day.  In between patrons, we usually rush back to our office/computer/cubby to answer a few quick emails, add a few tasks to our to-do list, and if we're lucky, cross one or two things off that ever-growing list.  So it's extremely important that we wear shoes that are good for our legs and backs.  That, and Danskos are fashionable (if my sister reads this blog, she will laugh out loud).  No, they aren't Christian Louboutins, but NOWHERE on his website does he claim to care about the health of anyone's gams.  At the other end of the footwear spectrum are these bad boys, and while I'm certain they're very good for your legs, I wouldn't call them fashionable.

So as you can see, we librarians prove our smarts by choosing footwear that is both comfortable and not crazy looking.

Though some of us do get a little crazy and wear shiny purple shoes...
ohh la la

23 October 2012

Geek Fest...I mean CALCon 2012

I say "Geek Fest" with the utmost respect for my fellow librarians.  I realize that ninety percent of all professional conferences come with their own level of "geekness" - librarians speak a different language than, say, surgeons and accountants.  And when large groups of accountants, surgeons or any other profession get together, they tend to speak their own language and get REALLY excited about things that are only exciting to their particular professional area.  I imagine that at an accounting conference, people discuss tax laws heatedly, and at surgical conferences there is a buzz and excitement about the newest piece of surgical technology.

For me, the Colorado Association of Libraries 2012 Conference (CALCon) was especially geek-tastic.  Not because of the other conference attendees, but because of two of the keynote speakers.  I completely and utterly geeked out when I was able to meet one of my favorite bloggers and one of my favorite authors.

Jack Gantos has been publishing books since 1976.  He writes picture books, children's books, YA lit and adult books.  He's funny, quirky and smart.  He's like the Johnny Cash of the literary world - minus the scary mean side.  His novel, Dead End in Norvelt won the Newberry Award last year, and it is fantastic - funny, inspiring and meaningful.  I can't think of a single student who wouldn't love this book.
See?  We're bffs.
He spoke on Saturday and it was inspiring.  He talked about how he writes, what inspires him and why librarians are important.  I laughed so hard I almost peed.  But most of all, I loved hearing him speak because he brought a voice to the main character from Dead End - Jack.  In fact, I didn't realize it until I heard him speak, but Dead End is his childhood (with some wonderful twists).

Explaining how "librarians are like constellations"

Gantos also does school visits where he teaches creative writing.  He explained that writing really isn't that difficult.  There are two steps:  figuring out what you want to say it, and then figuring out how to actually say it.  However, since most students can stare at a blank piece of paper and just wish the words would appear, he often encourages them to draw a spy map of their house.
The spy map of the Gantos home
Drawing a map of the house from the perspective of a spy encourages students to open up their imaginations and think of all the possibilities for interesting, fun stories.

Gantos saved all the journals he's written since 5th grade - and he explained that many of the ideas for his books come from things he wrote in his journals over the years.

The other person I had the honor of meeting and hearing speak (twice) was Bobbi Newman.  She's a firecracker - and not just because of her hair.  She truly is a library innovator: she maintains a blog called Librarian By Day that always tackles and faces big library issues (intellectual freedom, access, the changing face of libraries), and she has a great voice.  She's funny and inspiring.  I'm a huge fan.

My library hero
Newman gave a keynote speech as well as lead a breakout session.  Her keynote speech tackled the idea that innovation might be scary and uncomfortable but it's necessary for libraries to maintain relevance within a community.  I enjoyed her keynote speech, but I loved her breakout session.  There she discussed the importance of digital literacy and transliteracy, and the myth of the digital native.  All of which are extremely important to libraries, librarians and anyone who works with the internet.  At least they should be...

Completely enthralled
So you can see, a three day conference turned into a totally library-world-celebrity-geekfest for me.  I also got to spend three days with two of my very favorite librarians:  my best friend from childhood Sarah and one of my mentors, super librarian Becky.  These two women inspire me daily, and I'm so thankful I got to hang out with them, learn with them and be inspired by them.

Now let's see if I can apply all the fantastic information and ideas to my everyday library world.

24 September 2012

Emory's Gift by W. Bruce Cameron

Emory's Gift
W. Bruce Cameron

If you happen to be one of the four people who know me and have not had to listen to me go on and on about the amazingness (it's a word) of A Dog's Purpose, then stop reading this post and read this one and then come back here.
If you aren't in the mood to blog surf, I'll just spit it out for you:  W. Bruce Cameron has written a book that changed my life.  I am a dog lover (not an animal lover necessarily, but definitely dogs) and A Dog's Purpose changed the way I view the mortality of the dogs I've loved in my life and why I keep the stinky little mutts around.
While at the library a few weeks ago, I decided to look for other books by Mr. Cameron, and that's how I came across Emory's Gift.
While the two books are very different, Cameron has a distinctive writing style that is enjoyable to read, and he definitely has a knack for plot twists.
Emory's Gift is about a thirteen year old, Charlie, and a grizzly bear, Emory.  Charlie's life hasn't exactly been a walk in the park - his mother recently died of cancer and his father is struggling to keep it together.  When you add the fact that he's in middle school, well, you can imagine how much life just sucks.  One day while fishing in the stream behind his house, Charlie not only sees a grizzly bear, he pretty much feeds the bear the trout he'd caught.  A few days later the bear writes the name Emory in the sand, and Charlie realizes that this bear is special, but he wants to keep Emory a secret.  Eventually, it is clear that Emory doesn't want to be kept a secret, and Charlie and Emory embark on an unbelievable adventure.
By the end of the book I could not read fast enough and could not put it down.  Cameron weaves a beautiful tale of adolescence, family and growing up in a small town.  However the ending? Meh.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad - it was actually quite good.  I was just expecting something more moving - the ending of A Dog's Purpose stuck with me long after I finished the book.
All in all, Emory's Gift is a great read - definitely something to pick up before going on vacation or a great read for a rainy weekend.  Unline ADP, I don't think it's necessarily an all-ages book.  It's more violent and I'm pretty sure it has a few four letter words.  I'd recommend it for middle school and older, and to anyone who loves the outdoors and the idea that the unimaginable is possible.

Happy Reading!

Confessions of a Grammar Ninja

I will openly admit that I'm really not a grammar ninja, but more of a grammar czar.  I choose not to use the term grammar Nazi - for one, I hate that term, and for two, I won't kill you if you use bad grammar, but I might try to banish you to Siberia.

Why this post today?  In a ten minute time span, I saw three different instances where people used then instead of than.  I was unaware that these two words were so difficult!  I get that people confuse there, their and they're, your and you're, accept and except, but then and than?  They aren't even homophones!

If you don't have to google the word homophone to continue reading this post, I love you.

Every morning when I wake up, I commence an inner battle: correct or not correct. As a teacher, I live in a very odd little world.  When I'm with students, it's my job to help them become productive, world citizens who don't sound like this guy.  When I was a classroom teacher, that was no problem - I spent the majority of my day working with kids, and since they're kids, I could correct their grammar with patience (usually) and understanding because they are/were kids -usually not old enough to vote or know who they wanted to be in twenty years. However in the library things are different (I bet you think you know where this post is going...I promise unless you know me well, you don't, so keep reading).

Now that I'm a librarian, I not only don't have as much time to help students with their horrific grammar and super smart comments, I am now often surrounded by adults with horrific grammar and super smart comments.  Back when I was teaching German, I could go DAYS without having to converse with or listen to dumb adults, now they come into my office looking for help all. the. time.  I spend most of my day helping adults with technology or listening (with a forced smile) to their opinions about books, libraries and the Dewey Decimal System (yes, we still use it. No, I don't know the exact number and classification for the random book you currently hold in your hand. No, I don't think it's outdated and I DEFINITELY don't think the IPAD CAN REPLACE A LIBRARY.  Sorry...rant over).

These days, I feel like I can handle the "super smart" comments with much more grace and patience than I can terrible grammar for two main reasons:  1. it's election season and everyone makes dumb comments about the candidate they adore/abhor. 2. Our media makes us stupid.  Don't even get me started - just watch as many episodes of The Newsroom as you can and we'll probably be on the same page. Love. That. Show.

But I'm still having a hard time with the grammar.  How is it possible that our generation grew up on grammar drills (sentence diagramming anyone? I loved that shit!) and most of us insist on using the word irregardless (I once heard a woman say "irregardlessly" and my head almost exploded)?  How can you be allowed to vote in this country if you say things like "Where's my phone at?" and use words like "excape" and "supposibly"?

Sometimes I'm pretty convinced that an intervention might be the only thing that can save me, but then I catch a glimpse of myself in  the mirror and remember that I'm so far from perfect, I really don't have the right to correct anyone...ever.  So I will continue to correct my students, and when I feel like it will be well received (a word I have struggled to spell correctly my entire life), I will gently correct my colleagues, friends, and family members.  Though I will say I have learned that correcting my sister's grammar will result in a sore arm from her punching me as hard as she can, and correcting my handsome guy's grammar will result in a deluge of nonsensical grammar-diarrhea that will make my head spin.

Just do me a favor: please remember that the words are disregard and regardless.  That's all I ask.

21 September 2012

Library Lesson: Tabletop Twitter

Not until I started teaching elementary, did I realize that technology can actually be limiting sometimes.  Now that I have no students old enough to use things like Facebook and Twitter, I'm faced with an interesting challenge:  teaching them to be responsible online citizens without violating COPPA.  It's not terribly difficult, but to maintain my "cool" image and teach them online responsibility is a bit of a challenge.  Yes, I could stick to the elementary friendly websites, but let's be honest, sixth graders are so over coolmath4kids.com.
Whilst perusing some of my new favorite websites for great library lessons, I came across this fantastic post about table top twitter, and I decided to give the idea a try.  So I created a lesson that taught my 6th grade students a quick history of twitter as well as the purpose of the at symbol (@) and hashtags (#).  Then I put a sheet of butcher paper on each table and asked the students to tweet either a response to the prompt or use the hashtag phrase in a tweet.  Usernames were decided simply by using first name and last name initial, and the students then completed a walkabout* that lasted about ten minutes (one minute per table to write and respond and some movement time).

The muffins LOVED IT!  They came up with some great tweets, and the teachers were completely enthralled (I didn't know that none of the teachers use twitter).  The best part of the lesson was the final result: they came up with some excellent tweets, responded to one another thoughtfully, and (most important in my book) didn't think the activity was "dumb" or "boring".

Here are some of their fantastic tweets (sorry the second one is difficult to read)

In response to the question "What advice would you give younger students about the library?" MylesR gave this great advice:

DuncanJ had great advice, and then MadelynR not only had a great response (@), she also made up her own hashtag that started popping up everywhere (man those little muffins are resourceful!)

Good lord I love it when my lessons are successful!

Happy Teaching!

*in a walkabout lesson, participants are broken up into groups and rotate through "stations" where they are asked to respond to prompts, questions, look at data, solve a problem, etc.  The stations rotate relatively quickly, and once every group has rotated through all the stations, a quick debrief/share out is done.

11 September 2012

Do Unto Otters: a Book About Manners by Laurie Keller

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners

Let me start off by saying teaching Kindergarten is an absolute trip.  I have NO idea how regular classroom teachers handle those little - albiet adorable - bundles of pure energy for basically 7 hours a day.  Kindergarten was definitely the grade that I was the most afraid of teaching.
Now that I have four weeks of "elementary teaching" under my belt, I realize it's fourth graders you want to avoid (I jest...mostly...).
There are two things that I find awesome about Kindergarten and two things that drive me batty.  Here they are:
Drive Me Batty:
1. the fact that most everyone refers to them as "kinders".  The German word for children is Kinder and I constantly want to correct people's grammar until I realize that they would have NO idea what I was talking about.  So far, I haven't corrected anyone, but just wait for the day that I am super tired and cranky.
2. All. The. Singing.  Ohmylanta they sing all the time.  There's a little Kindergarten song for every occasion of the day.  So far, I've abstained from the singing.  I just watch the teacher as she sings, trying to keep the smile on my face and the nausea at bay. (I know it's mean but I can't help it!  12 years of high school will ruin you for things like singing, clapping and sitting in circles)
Pure Awesome:
1. Their unrestrained JOY for library time and all things book.  When those little people - those Kinder if you will - come in to the library it truly becomes Magorium-esque and magical.  They may not be able to read the books, but by God they WILL check them out and they WILL spend hours "reading" them.  It's awesome.
2. Storytime.  I now love storytime.  I get to read the COOLEST books to the Kindergarteners.  One of the best I've read so far is Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller.  Our first Kindergarten unit is on civics, rules and government.  So I found this book and read it to them and not only does it explain manners, it's HILARIOUS.  It's like a Pixar movie: it has everything the kids need and some entertainement for adults as well.  Two of the three times I read it during storytime I started laughing!  Twice because I noticed something new, and once because a little boy (the first one to notice it)  noticed the page where the otter passes and says "excuse me" and loudly exclaimed "The otter tooted!"
This book is not just for Kindergarten - you could read it to just about any elementary age - older kids can learn phrases in different languages (there's please, thank you and excuse me in five languages) and they can learn about play-on-words.  The younger ones can discuss manners and how we should treat each other.  The illustrations (done by the author) are wonderful, though it is quite busy for the little ones - there's a lot to see on each page.

It's an amazing book and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has or works with younger children.

Happy Reading!

10 September 2012

Long overdue update

Yes, I am still alive.
Yes, I'm terribly sorry I disappeared for, what, 3 months.
Yes, I have OODLES to tell you.
Yes, I've read some amazing books.
And again, I'm sorry I disappeared with no warning.

Here's the story.  See the cute boy in this picture?  He's my guy.  He's my dream come true, my knight in shining armor (cheesy but true).  The only bad part is that until July, he lived 4 hours away.  So this summer was spent moving from my home in western colorado to OUR home in the Denver area.  I can honestly say I've never been happier or more fulfilled in my personal life.
The only downside is that I had to leave a job I loved and most of my immediate family behind in order for us to start our life together.  I'm not worried about leaving my family anymore - I still get to talk to my mommy-lein and my sister regularly, and we're planning regular trips back for visits.

My job situation is a different situation.  Part of the reason I have not blogged about my job situation is because I wasn't sure I'd enjoy where my career was headed.  I have switched from a mid-sized school district in a fishbowl community to one of the largest school districts in the country in a very large city.  I've worked in big districts before and enjoyed it. 

However, I'm also working with a new age group: elementary students.  Those two words - elementary students - gave me the shivers until recently.  Don't get me wrong, I think they're cute, but the idea of teaching them?  Shiver.  That wasn't ever in the plan- it wasn't supposed to happen.  I'm a high school teacher for the love of Pete.  I work with students who don't want to go to school and think they know what cool is, not with small munchkin-like beings with snotty noses who want to hold my hand (ehhh...the germs!)
However, God makes the decisions He makes, and now - a mere two years after leaving the high school realm - I am the teacher librarian at a school in the Denver area.  No, I don't love it yet, but after three weeks with students, I can honestly say that I just might.

So for those of you who have enjoyed reading my blog so far, I want to warn you that there are some changes coming.  Being in the elementary library is an adventure, and since my little brain can't handle running more than one blog, I'm going to continue blogging about the amazing books I'm reading and I'll be blogging about my experiences in the world of elementary library science - the lessons I teach to my students as well as the lessons I learn from them.

I hope you enjoy the new direction my blog is taking.  If not, I'll completely understand if you choose to read other, better blogs about things that interest you.

Happy Reading!

06 June 2012

Best. Blog Post. Ever

If I had a nickle for every time I've been asked "Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?", I'd have about $2.  It doesn't seem like much, until you remember that we're talking nickles.  It's gotten annoying.
There are many reasons I'm really not all that interested in reading this book, and I'll admit, I often shy away from super popular books.  Why?  Because I figure if they're THAT popular, they're probably good, so I don't need to read them (I'll admit, I only read book one of Harry Potter).
However, in the case of 50 Shades, I just don't think I'd like it.
Don't get me wrong, I love smut novels - they're fun to read - but this seems like it's a higher level of smut, and I'm really not currently in the mood for more-than-smut.
I could continue listing the reasons I'm not going to read the book, or I could just direct you to this amazing blog, where the blogger lines out some awesome reasons for not reading the book.

I mean, why reinvent the wheel?  And, she's much funnier than I am.

29 May 2012

Shelf Shopping and why I should do it more

In the three years I've been in the library biz, I've all but abandoned shelf shopping (it's like window shopping, only better, because it's books).  Now I choose books based on reviews in professional magazines like School Library JournalBookList, etc., as well as various book blogs (similar to this one, only WAY cooler) like Stacked. Admittedly, most of the books on my to-read list are YA, but I'm a YA librarian (a fact that will change in about a month...more to come on that later), so it makes sense that I'd read what my patrons are reading.  Because of all these recommendations, I rarely wander the shelves and displays at the library, looking for something to read.  However, a few weeks ago, I was forced to shelf shop for the first time in a very long time.  I say "forced" like it was torture.  Well, truthfully, it was and it wasn't.  The good news is, on that trip, I ended up getting a great audiobook.  The bad news is, I tried it again this last week and the results were so terrible, I abandoned the book and am now afraid of shelf shopping again. Crap.
I've forgotten what shelf shopping is like.  On the one hand, it's like an adventure: you have no idea what you're going to end up with, you just head into the stacks and keep looking until you find a book that intrigues you.  Often, your decision is based on cover art and the teaser (the summary on the inside dust-cover or on the back), and even as you leave, you have no idea whether you'll love the book or hate it.  It's exciting and exhilarating and, quite frankly, now that I've been on the other side, scarier than a Friday the 13th movie.
Until recently, I'd forgotten the power of cover art.  Now, when I get a book, I look at it and decide whether the cover art fits with what I already know about the book, and as I read the book, I look at the cover art and decide whether or not the cover art adds to the book or doesn't fit.  It has literally been years since I grabbed a book that I knew nothing about and decided whether or not to read it based on the cover art.  The same goes for the teaser: by the time I get a book, I've usually read a professional review or two, and/or had it recommended to me by at least one other librarian.  When I get a book and read the summary, I immediately look for the "hook" in the summary - something that will catch a new reader's attention - and as I'm reading, I try to figure out which kids would benefit from reading the hook, and which kids wouldn't.
Now that my shelf-shopping muscles have atrophied, going to the library to look for a book takes on a whole new level of...gahhh.  I look at the covers of books way too long, trying to find hidden clues about the book, and I read the teaser 18 bazillion times wondering why there's so little information!  Clearly, my job has dimmed the magic of finding books. And that's sad, because, well, I'm a librarian, and I'm all about the book magic.  So I've decided I need to get the magic back.
So now I have to start thinking about shelf-shopping like a patron.  Being a librarian, I'm not afraid of libraries, I can usually figure out where things are pretty easily on my own, etc.  So my comfort level in libraries made it easier for me to be a shelf shopper - I loved wandering the stacks, looking at the displays, trying to find that next great read about who knows what.  In fact, I used to follow the library volunteers when the were shelving and try to grab books that had just been turned in.  I figured if someone else checked it out, it had to be good (incidentally, that's how I first came across Danielle Steele.  At age 13. Wowza.).  But not all library patrons are comfortable in the library, and not everyone has the time to wander the stacks and go on a book safari.  So if I were a patron, making a quick stop to find a book, or maybe I'm not terribly comfortable finding books in the library and, like my sister, am afraid that wandering the stacks would get me lost in the labyrinth of the library, causing the secret library cult to come out and force me to join, making me a crazy library nerd (no joke, she thinks we have secret handshakes and take blood oaths), how would I pick a book?
And as a librarian, how do I make sure the people who aren't book-finding-pros find books?
Well, for all of you non-book sleuths out there, here are my suggestions:

  1. Don't be in a hurry.  Give yourself some time to look at books, read the teasers, etc.  But if you are in a hurry, just head for the new book display or...
  2. Ask someone who works in the library for a recommendation.  Most people who work in libraries are readers, and they might have a suggestion or two.  Be prepared though, they won't just look at you and say "read this".  If they're worth their salt, they'll ask you about other books you've enjoyed or the genre/type of book you're looking for.
  3. If you're looking for a particular genre, look for the genre stickers on the books (something I used to HATE but now love), or...
  4. Use the OPAC - online catalog.  You can search for books by genre, author, similar author and similar title.  If you just finished reading Old Yeller and loved it?  Search for other books by Fred Gipson, or type in "Old Yeller" and then find the "similar titles" tab and click there.  This will give you a list of books that are similar either in genre or writing style.  This is also something you can do from home, when you have time.  AND you can put books on hold, so that they're ready the second you walk in the door! Yeay!
So what have I learned?  For one, I know that I need to practice my shelf shopping skillz.  I shouldn't be afraid to shelf shop! My insider knowledge of books has made me too critical of cover art and teasers.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at books with a non-librarian eye ever again, but I'm going to try.  With that, I bid you adieu and am headed to the library to just wander.

Happy reading!

28 May 2012

Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

An Impartial Witness
Charles Todd
Narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Audiobooks America 2010

As a librarian, my list of "must reads" is always longer than Crystal Gale's hair, so it's rare for me to just grab a book at the library.  However, two weeks ago I had to make an emergency trip to Denver, and none of my requested audio books were in yet, so I decided to pick one off the shelf.  Two things happened: one, I perused books on the shelf and chose a book based on cover art and the short summaries you find either on the back or on the inside of the dust jacket.  I'll explore this topic in more depth later.  Two, I found a great book by an author I'd never heard of that I really enjoyed.
The book I chose was An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd.  It's a Bess Crawford mystery, and now that I've finished it, I know that there are actually multiple books in the series, and An Impartial Witness is the second of the series, and the newest of the series will be out next week.  The Bess Crawford mysteries are historical mysteries, set in England during World War I. Bess is a very strong female - she's a field nurse for the military and she was an "army brat" of sorts, growing up in India where her father was a high-ranking officer (I can't ever keep military ranks straight, and since I listened to the audio book, there's no way I'm going to figure out his rank, sorry) in the British military. In all of the mysteries, Bess doesn't go looking for trouble, but she definitely doesn't know how to leave trouble alone once it finds her - a fact that is eluded to often in An Impartial Witness.
The book starts out with Bess treating a severely burned pilot who keeps a picture of his wife near him at all times.  After transporting the man to a hospital in England, Bess takes a train to London for a few days leave before she must return to the front.  As she's walking through the train station, she sees the woman from the photograph - the pilot's wife - but this woman is utterly despondent as she bids farewell to a different soldier.  A few weeks later, Bess finds out that the woman was brutally murdered later on that same day.  When Bess volunteers to help Scotland Yard with the investigation, she's caught up in the mystery and nearly gets herself killed a few times.
I loved that the book had a historical element to it that added to the "intrigue", however on the same note, I'm not too sure of the historical accuracy of the book.  For example, the book takes place in 1917, and Bess has her own motorcar that she drives around like it's no big deal.  That seems odd to me - but I wasn't alive in 1917, so maybe women were driving quite a bit back then.  Also, I love that Todd has created a very strong female character who doesn't back down just because she's a female, but I was surprised at the fact that no one objected to her nosing around all the time.  In the end, the flaws didn't outweigh the enjoyment I had listening to the book - Rosalyn Landor did a great job with voices and keeping the pace quick enough so that it wasn't boring.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mysteries and strong female characters, but I wouldn't recommend it to readers who are particular about details.  There's nothing terribly risque in the novel, so it could be HS appropriate, but the historical references and vocabulary would make it difficult for a reluctant reader or MS reader to follow.

15 May 2012

Article Review - TIME Magazine and Parental Guilt

Courtesy of Time.com

I've never blogged about a newspaper/magazine article before, but the cover of last week’s TIME magazine sparked such a discussion, that I was not only intrigued, I couldn’t wait to read the article.  The only problem is, now that I've read the article, I REALLY don't know what to think. I was offended by the cover for oh-so-many reasons, and now that I've read the article, I'm even MORE offended by the cover and a little confused.
For the record, I do not have children.  So if the fact that I am going to comment on what I know about breastfeeding and raising children without any first-hand experience (other than helping to raise my nieces, nephews, etc.) will offend you, thanks for stopping by, but you should probably stop reading now.
Let’s start with the cover, since it’s the what got me going.  My brain tells me that the cover is meant to be shocking.  TIME has done this in the past (here’s the cover that creeped me out so much I tore it off the magazine), and because the article is technically about extreme parenting, the cover should be extreme right?  The only problem is that in this case, the cover feeds into some misconceptions about breastfeeding.  Last week Facebook, Twitter and my RSS feed were absolutely buzzing over the cover – even before people read the article.  Comments ranged from breastfeeding a 3-year-old borders on child abuse and she’s too sexy to be a breast-feeding mom to that kid is totally going to show off this picture when he’s high school and his buddies are going to be jealous.  I’d say 90 percent of the comments were, in my humble opinion, asinine and uninformed.  Regardless of the shocking nature of the cover, I have to say I think TIME took it too far, only because I think this cover will now be fuel for the idea that breastfeeding is “weird”, even though all obstetricians out there would say that breastfeeding is beneficial.  And I doubt that most moms breastfeed their children using a stepstool.  Just sayin.
However, what REALLY bothered me about the cover was the caption: “Are you Mom enough?” It suggests that mothers who aren’t willing to go to extremes – like breastfeeding to the age of 3 or older – for their children are terrible mothers.  And that, even though I’m not a mom, offends me right straight down to my core.  I know some women who were able to breastfeed their children for over a year, and I commend them for that.  I also know women who wanted to breastfeed for longer than they were able and were absolutely tormented by their inability.  We’re talking 2am bawling phone calls about being inadequate mothers simply because they couldn’t produce enough milk.  I also know mothers who physically can’t breastfeed – take, for example, my dear friend Adi, who just adopted a sweet little girl.  Is Adi to believe she’s not “mom enough” because after years of trying to get pregnant, she now has a beautiful daughter she can’t breastfeed? 
Sorry TIME, but I think the cover takes it a little too far to the extreme.  I truly believe the article would have been well read and copies would have sold even if the cover hadn’t been so provocative.

Now for the actual article itself.  For one, it's really not about breastfeeding at all.  It's about Dr. Bill Sears and attachment parenting.  Yes, breastfeeding is an important tenant of the attachment parenting movement, but it’s not the only tenant, AND it’s barely mentioned in the article! The article actually focuses more on sacrificing for one’s children and the author seems to take more issue with the idea of co-sleeping.  In fact, it’s pretty clear that the author thinks Dr. Bill is crazy and attachment parenting is extreme, even though Dr. Bill even says himself that parents should do the best they can with what they have.
From what I know about attachment parenting, I think the ideas are great, but just like anything associated with parenting, it can lead to massive amounts of parental guilt.  I think that’s what bothers me the most about this article and the cover.  I have seen moms racked with guilt over things like letting their kids watch TV or have chocolate after dinner. TIME attempts to address this with a little inset about “detachment fathering”, but unfortunately, this little snippet angered me just as much as everything else.  The author, Nathan Thornburg, is basically telling dad’s that it’s OK not to feel guilty if you don’t do as much as your child’s mother because attachment parenting really is all about ‘attachment mothering’.  I agree with the idea that parents need to work to “distance themselves from the expectations set by everyone from Sears to your peers in mommy-and-me-yoga”, but I don’t agree with the idea that it’s ok to slack off as a parent because “children can – and often do – get by without a father in their lives at all”. That’s a steaming load of crap if I do say so myself.
In the end, I think TIME intended to bring light to a new trend in our society, but all they’ve successfully done is add to the unbelievable guilt that parents face each and every day.  Usually, I can stomach what TIME puts out there – mostly because I’m aware of the slant they put on things.  However, this slant is too much for me. I think of all the amazing moms that I know out there and my heart breaks for them - reading a magazine shouldn't add to guilt feelings!  So TIME, in my humble opinion, you really missed the mark on this one.

11 May 2012

126 pages to go...

I haven't been terribly busy writing reviews lately because I'm nearly finished with a 835 page book (that I will definitely review because it's AWESOME).

However here are a few books that I've started and am still working on that you might want to pick up in the mean time...

Raised Right: How I Untangled my Faith from my Politics by Alisa Harris

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit by Karen Walrond

Impartial Witness by Charles Todd (the audiobook is GREAT)

I'm currently reading all of these, though admittedly I'm really only paying attention to one of them.

Lunch with the book thieves

This week at school we have not only celebrated/honored Teacher appreciation week, we've also celebrated/honored National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week.  The theme for this year's NCMHAW is "Heroes for Hope" - an effort to honor the adults who care about young people and help them emotionally work through trying times and encourage them as they grow into mentally healthy adults.
This year - especially this spring - has been very trying mentally and emotionally for our school, but we've come through it with flying colors.  We have proved that as a school community we are strong, we care for each other, and we can succeed and flourish even when things are terribly difficult.
So today was a special day at school - it was Super Hero Day!  There are many people out and about sporting Batman t-shirts, Superman capes, etc. etc.  Originally, I was planning to come to school dressed as the library ninja that I am - I thought it would be cool to sport my "other uniform" at school.  However, something amazing happened yesterday at lunch that caused me to completely abandon the library ninja and spend about 50 minutes last night creating super hero costumes for myself and four of my students.
I have a group of students who come in and have lunch with me every day.  To an outsider, they would probably be considered "book nerds", but to me, they're awesome.  Its a group of girls who are unique, intelligent, funny (sometimes ridiculous) and caring.  Last year we met after school as a book club.  This year, after school didn't work so great for me because of my athletic director duties, so a few of the girls started coming in for lunch a couple days a week, and now it's a daily thing.
We talk about any and everything.  Today, the main topic of discussion was the very controversial cover of TIME magazine.  They don't know much about breastfeeding, so we talked about what each of us knew, someone jumped on a computer and googled it, and we discussed what we thought about breastfeeding and the cover as well. Our discussions have ranged from the deep and intellectual (how do we make education better) to the downright silly (how do we survive the zombie apocalypse).  Yesterday they came in wondering why today was deemed "Super Hero Day".  So I explained it to them, and we talked about who the "heroes" in our world are.  One of them said I was her hero because I'd introduced her to so many books that had helped her see the world differently (*sniff* is someone cutting onions in here?!?). The girls joked about dressing up as me, and one girl asked me "What does a book super hero look like?"
My response was oh so intelligent: "Uh, I dunno."
So we stared talking about what she would look like, and someone said she looks like the book or character that has most inspired her.
In case I haven't said it eighty million times, one of my favorite books ever written is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  And yes, the entire lunch group has read the book and five out of six loved it.  So long discussion short, we decided to come to school as:

The Book Thieves!

You might be asking yourself, what exactly a "Book Thief" is, and how in the world someone named "thief" could be a hero.  We talked about this yesterday and again today.  The Book Thief is about Death, and his experience following a little girl named Liesel Memminger and his various encounters with her throughout WWII.  So our "super powers" as Book Thieves is the ability to see people as they truly are - just like Death can.  One of my girls also noted that this fits in well with NCMHAW because if we can/could see people as they truly are, we would be more able/willing to help them if they need it.
You might also be wondering about our costumes.  Lemme 'splain.  See, the cover art (er, one of the covers) features white on black dominoes, so we decided to put dominoes on our shirts.  Originally, we were going to do white on black dominoes, but half the girls didn't have white t-shirts, so we switched the colors.  The capes are a)awesome and b) to represent the different colors each person sees when Death comes to collect them (pg 4).
 As my time here winds down and comes to an end, days like today are extra special.  I know that I will miss the staff and the students here immensely.  I will miss these young women who make me laugh, drive me crazy and help me be the best teacher I can be each and every day. My office is littered with their books, lunch sacks and the sweet little notes they leave regularly on my desk/computer...

and when I have moved to be with my guy and am (fingers crossed) working in another library, I won't forget the day I was able to be a super hero with some of the brightest students around. I'm blessed. Really, truly and deeply blessed.

01 May 2012

If Julie Andrews had been a librarian...

Today I read a post by "The Mighty Little Librarian" Tiffany Whitehead about the power of recommending books to kids.  She apparently has the same super power that I strive for: the ability to recommend the perfect book to each and every reader.  While I don't do it as well as she does, I do know that my students have learned to trust me and my knowledge of YA lit. And I also agree with her about the responsibility school librarians have to stay up with trends and popular books in the world of YA lit.
Here's her post - take a gander at it, she really knows what she's talking about:

The Power to Recommend

Her post got me thinking about my job (again) and what I do every day.  More than recommending books to students, I love love love it when a student comes in and says "I loved that book!" or even "I hated that book" because it gives me a chance to get to know my students more.  Being out of the classroom, I no longer have the opportunity to get to know students as well, so these interactions make my day each and every day.
But recommending books isn't the only thing I love about my job.  I love lots of things about my job (don't worry, there are things I hate too, but Julie Andrews never sang a song "These are a few of my most hated things", so there won't be a post about that...).  When you add my love of my job to my love of all things Sound of Music, you come up with the following song:

Research on laptops and sparkly brand new books
Prezi and Wordle and novels on new Nooks
Meeting with book club and writing reviews,
This is why library peeps do what we do!

And THAT took me about 30 minutes to come up with, so that's all you get.  It's just further proof that I was never meant to be a rockstar.

If you've ever wondered why someone would ever become a librarian, please see my recent post about what librarians actually do every day, and realize that those of us who work in libraries do it not (just) because we're book nerds, but because we love books, reading, information and finding ways to connect our patrons - in my case students and teachers - with the books and information they need.

30 April 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books
Usually, I try to review books within two weeks of reading them.  Though I finished this book back in March, it's so awesome, I'm going to review it anyway.

I know I'm not the first person to make this comparison, but whatever:  Divergent is the next Hunger Games.  Only, in Suzannian (my little made up world), it's just a little bit cooler because 1) it takes place in Chicago and that's my second home and 2) there's a character named Tobias and I heart German names.

Tris (formerly Beatrice) lives in a futuristic world where there are five factions.  Each of the factions lives life based on one single virtue: bravery, peace, selflessness, intelligence or honesty.  At age sixteen, each child takes a test that reveals which faction, or virtue, fits them the best.  Only Tris's test results come back inconclusive, or divergent.  So she must choose which faction she wants to spend the rest of her life with.  She grew up Abnegation (selfless),  but has chosen to switch factions and join Dauntless (bravery).  But life in the world of the brave isn't all it's cut out to be.

I loved this book because Roth has, much like Collins, taken a life theme (virtues) and given it a twist that causes us to see it in a completely different light.  With Hunger Games we looked at reality TV and what it could become.  In Divergent we look at values/virtues and see what they could become.  What would the world really look like if we shaped our lives entirely around one virtue?  And which would be worth shaping our lives around? Honesty? Knowledge? Peace?
Roth also looks at these values/virtues in terms of society and jobs.  The members of the Dauntless faction (bravery) are the ones who guard the city, suggesting that the most important trait/virtue for a soldier/police officer is bravery.  But is that the most important trait? What about intelligence, or selflessness?
In any case, Divergent is a book that will stay with you long after you finish it.  I would highly recommend this book to middle and high school students, their parents, their grandparents, and anyone who loved Katniss, Peeta* and Gale.

*Side note: when the Hunger Games movie came out, people combined the two main characters names to create Peenis (not appropriate, but kind of funny).  If you combined the two characters from Divergent, you'd get Fourtris (fortress).  Freakin' awesome.

25 April 2012

How my high school math teacher made me a better librarian

No, this isn't a book review.  But it is an awesome story followed by a bit of a rant...er clarification about what I do every day.

When I decided to become a librarian a few years ago, I never knew I would need math in order to do my job, and most of the time I don't.  However today, a group of girls today were discussing how to solve a riddle, and I helped them solve it using MATH.  Yep. Math.  More specifically, Algebra...the bane of my high school existence.  And the most amazing part is, I hate math.  In general, math confuses me and if you asked me to add two numbers bigger than 12, I'd probably say 7. 

Here's the riddle: How old would you be if two years from now you will be twice as old as you were five years ago.
The girls were trying to figure out the problem by randomly picking ages and seeing if it worked.  When I walked by, they asked me if I knew the answer and I said "Uh, if it involves math, I have no clue", but as I walked away, I was filled with the spirit of my high school math teacher Mr. Thomas, and I remembered how to figure it out.  Here's what I did...

When I was done, the girls were in awe.  Then they asked me how I had done it so I had to go back and explain it, so I did.  And I was so excited that I'd figured it out and been able to explain it, that I did a happy dance.  Then I went and found some math teachers to show off how smart I am.

I'll bet you're asking yourself why I would blog about my mad math skillz.  Well, it's simple.  People ask me all the time what exactly it is that I do every day, and I would love to educate the world on the fact that librarians are more than just book nerds, and we do more on any given work day than just put away books and shush people.  I've been asked so many times what it is that I do, I'd like to take a minute to tell you what I do every day, and maybe dispell some age old librarian myths.
Let's start with the myths about my job.  Here are some of the most common questions/comments I hear that drive me crazy.
  • "Do you know the Dewey Decimal System by heart?" Heck no.  I don't even think Melvil Dewey knew the whole system.  Actually he couldn't have.  I do know more about the DDS than most people, but it doesn't mean I think in Dewey.
  • "You are too loud to be a librarian." Well, I am loud.  But my library isn't a quiet library either.  I work in a middle school, and ask any parent, 12-14 year olds do not know the meaning of the word "quiet".  The truth is, libraries - at least public and school libraries - really aren't "quiet" places anymore.  They are places people go to find information, and finding information isn't always a quiet endeavor.
  • "You're too young/sarcastic to be a librarian".  Whatever.  This statement means that all librarians are either stuffy old ladies, or Bill Cosby.  Librarians in general are younger, hipper and wittier than Marion the Librarian ever was.
And the last question I get is the one I'd really like to try to explain, though if I answered it completely, this would be the world's longest post.  The question I hear most often is "What do you do all day", and the simple answer is A LOT.  But instead of giving you a rundown of what I do every day, I'll tell you what I spend the majority of my time doing.  It's pretty simple.

I teach kids (and teachers) how to find answers to questions, how to find information, and how to find books they want to read.  I teach kids how to solve problems using their brains, the internet and print materials. I train students to know that the answer to their question or the solution to their problem is out there, and then I give them the tools to find it.

And today, I taught a group of kids how to solve a riddle using algebra.

Who wouldn't want to do my job?

16 April 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Feiwel & Friends
New York

Oh holy lord how I have waited to read this book.  Two of my FAVORITE things are science fiction and fairy tales.  And Cinder is written by a woman who is the melding of the Brothers Grimm and Orson Scott Card*.  Since I read a review in Booklist back in the fall I’ve been DYING to read this book.  It just sounds so good! And it was.  I only have one teeny tiny little qualm with it, but I’ll get to that later.  Let’s talk about it’s awesomeness first, shall we?

Cinder is a cyborg – she’s part human, part machine, and she also happens to be an orphan.   Her adoptive father has passed away, and she now lives with her adoptive “step”mother, who never wanted her in the first place, and her two stepsisters:  Peony, who loves her dearly, and Pearl, who is repulsed by her cyborg-ness.  Cinder also happens to be an extremely talented mechanic, which comes in handy since her stepmother is more interested in making her daughters look beautiful (and possibly, hopefully, marrying them off to wonderful men who will provide for her).
Cinder’s mechanic skills are what cause her to meet Prince Kai, who, of course, is much more handsome in person.  Prince Kai has an android that recently malfunctioned and needs Cinder to fix it for him.  Cue complicated love story:  Prince Kai doesn’t know Cinder is cyborg, so she’s torn whenever he flirts with her because she’s sure he wouldn’t be interested in her if he knew she wasn’t completely human.
Another plot twist comes along when Peony catches a deadly plague-like disease called Leutmosis.  Cinder’s stepmother blames her and sells her for scientific research.  None of the cyborgs who have volunteered (or been drafted) have survived the testing as of yet, so Cinder goes to the research center, certain she will die.  Enter plot twist #2: Cinder turns out to be immune.
Plot twist #3 arrives in the form of a crazy queen of the moon (I always wanted to be queen of the moon when I was a kid…).  Queen Levana, and most of the people who live on the moon (“Lunars”) have the ability to “glamour” – or mind control anyone in their presence.  It’s possible to resist their control, but it takes lots of practice, and guts – once Levana knows she can’t control you, she has you killed.  Nice lady.  Anyway, Kai basically has to marry Levana or she’s going to wage war on earth, and earth will lose.

What I loved about the book is that it is so creative and ingenious - I truly love it when author’s take ancient tales and retell them.  I think it adds layers to our years of reading experience.  I loved that Cinder was independent, strong willed and smart.  I also loved that she had a freakin’ lie detector embedded in her eye! Talk about handy...

What I did not love was the ending.  You all know how picky I am about endings.  I do not like it when books end clearly needing a sequel.  Cinder doesn’t really have an end.  It’s almost as if Meyer’s editor said “hmm…a 600 page YA novel?  Methinks not, let’s split that bad-boy into a novel or two.”  The next book in the Lunar series will literally have to pick up exactly where Cinder left off.  As I finished all I could think was “this cannot be the last page!” but, it was.

I would still recommend Cinder to any fan of sci-fi or fairytales.  Like I said, it’s a great take on a classic tale, it’s completely middle school appropriate in both content and reading level, and it is a very fun read.  Unfortunately, the ending has turned me off to the rest of the series.
Remember? I'm picky.

*Since she’s female I couldn’t say something catchy like “she’s the love child of the Brothers Grimm and Orson Scott Card”, but that’s definitely what I think.