Your Finalists!

And Genre Champions!

Fantasy

The Hobbit put up a tough fight every round prior, but in the end it really couldn’t handle the pressure from The Golden Compass. Compass will continue on to the semi finals, and is the winner of the Fantasy bracket for this poll.

Science Fiction

In perhaps the least surprising outcome of the round, Ender’s Shadow is the Science Fiction bracket winner over its worthy opponent A Wrinkle in Time.

Realistic Fiction

By the narrowest of margins, Speak beats Eleanor & Park for the Realistic Fiction crown and the spot in the semi-finals.

Historical/Non-Fiction

Also by an extremely narrow margin, Treasure Island is the winner of the Historical bracket over Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

Now, what would happen, if I arranged the semi-finals the same way as the rest of the event, is that The Golden Compass and Ender’s Game would face each other in the semi-final (likewise Speak and Treasure Island). I have, however, been pleaded with to change things up a bit, so I’m going to be feeding them all into a randomizer to decide the final pairings. Come back tomorrow to see who faces who in the YA Championship Semi-Finals round!

Top Ten Storytime Books of 2013

While this is only my first year giving storytimes, but between my internship and my baby storytime, I have given quite a few (and hope to give many, many more)!  The end of the year always heralds top ten lists for everything you can think of – here are my top ten favorite books I read in storytimes this year. They’re arranged alphabetically because I couldn’t figure out how to rank them!

Anton Can Do Magic, Ole Konnecke
Before I actually read Anton to my kids, I was worried that it might not be a great choice – the text is very spare, and some of the illustrations require some abstract thinking in order to follow the story. I’m glad I used it, though, because it ended up being a lot of fun! The trick is to make it a little interactive – Anton thinks he is making things disappear, such as a bird and a friend, when his hat is actually falling over his eyes so he doesn’t see when they fly or walk away. Once my kids got what was happening, through some leading questions and following my finger over the illustrations, they had a lot of fun trying to tell Anton where things were going. The clarity of Konnecke’s illustrations make this one a winner every time. (Ages 3-5)

Go Away, Big Green Monster, Ed Emberley
I really like books that get kids involved with reading it with me (you will see that theme pop up several times on this list), and Big Green Monster is pretty much the epitome example of this. I had so much success getting a group of 2 year olds to tell the Monster to go away, that the next class I read to ( a group of 4-5 year olds) asked if we could read the monster book because they’d heard us having so much fun! This one is also great because it works with any number of kids and really any age group – who doesn’t want to tell the Monster under their bed to just GO AWAY? (Ages 2-5)

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Any of the How Do Dinosaurs books are a lot of fun, with the added bonus that they’ve got little lessons hidden in them (“How do dinosaurs say good night? Do they do all these bad things? No, they are good dinosaurs,” etc.) that are easy for kids to swallow. This one is my personal favorite because of the illustrations – the pages with dinosaurs holding teddy bears and being tucked in by human parents are both charming and funny. (Ages 2-5)

Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Mo Willems
The whole book is completely charming, but it’s made extra awesome by the full page spread of text when Sam tells Leonardo everything that’s wrong and making him cry – I’ve found that the best way to approach this is to take a deep, exaggerated breath…and then say the whole thing really fast. It doesn’t even matter if the kids catch every word, they certainly get the idea and I’ve never NOT gotten a room full of laughs at the end of Sam’s speech. (Ages 3-5)

Little Pea, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Amy Rosenthal and Jen Corace have done a few of the Little books – Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink, among others. What makes them so appealing, in addition to the utterly adorable illustrations, is the obvious contradiction in each one: in Little Pea, the titular character only wants to eat vegetables…but first, he has to eat his dinner (which is candy). Kids find this turnaround of their expectations to be pretty hilarious (because who wouldn’t rather eat candy than veggies?). (Ages 2-6)

Peck Peck Peck, Lucy Cousins
I admit, I didn’t actually read this one – my supervisor read it during the baby storytime while I was still observing. But it worked SO well that I can’t wait to use it myself in the next session! You may recall my story about one of my regular attendees, who came in the week after hearing Peck Peck Peck still ready to peck anything in the room he could reach. A book that stays with the babies like that is clearly a winner. (Ages 0-2)

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit, Il Sung Na
I thought this one could really go either way, and it turned out the best way – my babies were very engaged by the bright, friendly illustrations and they loved being able to identify the different animals on the pages. The story is simple enough that they didn’t get bored, and quiet enough that it made the perfect end book for our storytime. It’s also lovely enough that I want to add it to my own book shelf. (Ages 0-2)

The Sunflower Sword, Mark Sperring
I like this one so much I asked for (and got!) it for Christmas. It’s a very charming story about friendship and inner versus physical strength, and how using a flower can be more effective than using a sword. Plus, dragons! And as a bonus, there are lots of opportunities to get kids swinging imaginary flower swords. (Ages 3-6)

Time to Say Bye Bye, Maryann Cocca-Lefler
Books that ask simple questions, where the answers can be demonstrated in a way for my babies to follow along, are generally winners, and this one is the best of those I’ve found so far. Even my youngest (about eight months old) understood waving good by, and by the end of the book I had my whole audience waving and saying “bye bye.” The colorful, dynamic illustrations of very familiar concepts (playing at the playground, baking at grandma’s house, taking a bath) were easy for them to identify and proved to be very engaging. (Ages 0-2)

The Bear Books, by Greg Foley
I’m 100% cheating by including this whole series, but I couldn’t pick just one – they’re too sweet. From Thank You, Bear to Don’t Worry, Bear; I Miss You, Mouse and Good Luck, Bear; I’ve never had one of these flop in my storytimes. They’re simple but emotive, and I love the way they make complex concepts easily accessible to very young children. (Ages 3-6 are best, but you can totally go younger with these)

Genre Championship Round!

We’re getting closer to the end! This round is going to determine our Genre Champions and the Final Four – are you ready to get your vote on?

Fantasy

The Golden Compass and The Hobbit have been strong frontrunners for the whole race. Now these two giants square off – who will win, daemons or dwarves? Polar bears or wizards? Both books are rich with adventure and excitement, beautiful prose and memorable characters. I don’t know about you, but this is one choice I’m going to spend some time on.

Science Fiction

While A Wrinkle in Time has been no slouch in this competition, I’m not sure what its chances are against a book that has won every poll so decisively there haven’t even BEEN any votes for its competitors. Ender’s Game has dominated this genre for sure, but I’m not willing to totally rule out L’Engle’s ode to the time/space continuum.

Realistic Fiction

In the Entertainment Weekly poll that inspired this series, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was the runner up in the final round. Here, it lost by just one vote to Speak, the harrowing tale of teenage rape and victim blaming. Now, Speak squares off against another book that lost by a single vote, the sweet, emotional, and harrowing in its own way newcomer to the YA scene, Eleanor & Park.

Historical/Non-Fiction

Both of these polls sat at a tie for a long time until just recently – Treasure Island, a bit of a surprise for me, finally edged out over Code Name Verity while Persepolis triumphed over The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Now, pirates combat Marjane Satrapi’s black-and-white memoir in their own head to head of survival tales.

Page to Screen Book Club

Have you voted in the Sweet Sixteen YA Book poll? It closes tomorrow so get your votes in!

One of my fellow librarians runs a Page-to-Screen book club for kids, where each month people can read a book and then come to the library for a special screening of the film adaptation of the book. In theory, the screenings include snacks, discussion, talking about the book and the movie and comparing/contrasting them. In practice, she hardly ever gets attendees to the screenings. And when she does, many of them haven’t read the book and are pretty much only there to enjoy the snacks she provides.

One of the tasks I’ve taken on at the library has been a lot of the advertising – I make flyers for all the youth services programs and make sure they get posted on the different electronic displays in the library and ensure that there are plenty for people to take on our various displays. As a result, I’ve started taking notice of what flyers attract attention, which displays show the most use, what people take notice of. So as the other librarian started setting out her film schedule for next year, we brainstormed some ways to get more people to not only come to the shows, but read the books and participate in the discussions.

Here’s what we came up with:

– First, we agreed the event would probably need to be rescheduled. Currently, it takes place on a Wednesday evening every month. This is problematic because our tween librarian has craft programs that happen every Wednesday from 3:30-4:30; there’s a lot of cross-over in the intended audiences for the two programs, so kids are either faced with leaving the craft early or coming in to the movie late. And since many of them attend the craft every week…

– Like I said, I’ve been able to see what displays get used – and the answer is, anything that’s on display has a higher chance of circulating. I’m working on a small proposal to put together a display for every month with copies of the book set aside and a copy of the advertising flyer out in the center of everything, so it’s easily accessible and very visible.

– The big change she’s making is rotating the target age group. Currently, it’s sort of fluid what age group the books are for, and there are tons of great picture books that have been adapted to films that would make good family events. So starting in January, she’s going to be rotating a picture book, grade school level book, and middle school level book, so the audience for every month is more defined (which is not to say that tweens couldn’t come to Meet the Robinsons! But having a target audience makes things easier to advertise).

Have you guys had a regular program that needed an attendance boost? How did you go about attracting more attendees?

Reading: Divergent by Veronica Roth. The first time I tried to read this book I put it down about fifty pages in – as a tattooed and pierced lady, I was a little impatient with the characterization of body mod as shorthand for “dangerous and edgy.” I picked it back up for two reasons: I want to have read it before the movie comes out, and I had the end of the trilogy completely spoiled for me, which actually made me MORE interested to see how Roth gets to that ending.

Watching: Can I tell you how much I loved Frozen? Because I really loved Frozen, you guys. My full review is up now, go check it out. I also saw Desolation of Smaug, which was MUCH better than An Unexpected Journey. I haven’t reviewed it yet because I saw a very late show and I’d like to see it again, so I know I was conscious for the whole thing.

Storytime Crafts

Our fall storytime session just ended and our next one starts January 6.  I was hired in the middle of this last session, which meant I had to dive into a lot of things headfirst – the big one was being added to the rotation of theme weeks. Each week of our storytimes is loosely themed, and each theme is decided by one of the librarians. We pick our theme, create a list of 10+ books for everyone to draw on for their storytime, and pick CDs and songs/rhymes/fingerplays for people to build into their storytime for that week. We also have to come up with a sensory craft activity for kids to do after.

It was the craft I was most nervous about – I can pick storytime themes in my sleep, and the trickiest part about picking books was making sure the ones I wanted were on the shelf when I was gathering them up. Likewise, gathering rhymes is made much easier with resources like storytimekatie.com out there. But I’ve never planned a craft that was then actually executed by kids before! I was seized with the irrational fear that whatever I planned would flop, the kids would be bored, it wouldn’t work the way it was supposed to. Added to this, which either made things harder or easier depending on my mood, is the fact that my library emphasizes process-based activities rather than product-based activities. We try not to do stuff for the little guys that has a definitive end product, because we don’t want there to be this thought that there’s a “right” way to do the activity.

I had three weeks in this session. My themes were:
– Nighttime
– Fairytales
– Snow
And I have to say, after talking to my fellow librarians, I went three for three on my activities – each one was a hit with the kids. This might be the thing I am most proud of so far because of my aforementioned lack of experience; without any practical experience doing crafts with kids, I didn’t have a baseline for what worked and what didn’t.

Here are the crafts I planned!

– Nighttime: for my Nighttime theme we made night collages, using black construction paper, twigs and googely eyes. It was my least process-based activity, but the kids had a lot of fun gluing twigs and making nighttime animals with the eyes. Here’s what it looks like (and where I grabbed the idea from).

– Fairytales: First, let me just say that when I picked this theme I didn’t know that there are almost no fairytale picture books that are good storytime books. They’re all too long! I had to get creative and dig up some good dragon, knight and princess books, including some early readers.

My craft for this week was foil painting, which I thought was enchanted mirror-adjacent, and mostly thought it would be fun for kids to paint on something other than paper for a change. Hoooooly moly, I was right, they had SO much fun with this. Here is where I picked the idea up from.

– Snow: Possibly the week I was most excited for, because I don’t know if you guys know this, but weather books are almost always awesome (I pulled Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na for this week, which might win as Best Selection for my baby storytime). The craft was snow paint, which unfortunately we only got to do once; no one came to the Monday storytime (because it was WAY too cold), my babies don’t do a craft, and our end-of-session dance party was on Friday. But! The kids who did this one had a lot of fun. Similar to the foil painting, the snow paint was an activity they were familiar with using a new medium – in this case, the paint was a mix of shaving cream and glue, which dried puffy like snow. Check it out here, where I pulled the idea from.

If I have any librarians or other people who work with young children, what kinds of crafts do you like doing? Do you prefer process- or product-based crafts?

Watching: Frozen. Oh my god, Frozen. I actually have too many feelings about this movie to talk about it here – a longer, in depth review will be going up on Boycott Bluray later this week. Suffice to say, I really, really loved it.

Reading: Just finished Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Deeply affecting and not for the faint of heart – it’s one of those books adults need to read so they know when to give it to teens who need it. What Speak does for rape victims, Wintergirls does for sufferers of anorexia and other eating disorders.

Sweet Sixteen

I’M THE WORST. I’m sorry this is so late! I’m glad the polls accidentally got a few extra days to run, though, because there were more ties than I anticipated – many of these scraped by with one extra vote.

Here’s your Sweet Sixteen!

Fantasy Finalists

Science Fiction Finalists

Realistic Fiction Finalists

Historical/Non-Fiction Finalists

I’m starting to feel like our frontrunners are emerging – The Golden Compass, Coraline, Ender’s Game, Leviathan, and The Fault in Our Stars might be the titles to bet on, as they steamrolled their competition pretty thoroughly. I’m particularly interested to see who makes it out of the Historical/Non Fiction bracket, since those votes were SO close there doesn’t seem to be any obvious favorite. But who knows? These polls will close next Thursday, so get your votes in soon!

Reading: Every Day, by David Levithan. I just finished Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski, which was kind of like a more grown-up version of Judy Bloom’s Forever (with more storylines going on). I enjoyed it a lot. I’m having mixed feelings about Every Day, which is trying SUPER HARD for an emotional connection I am just not feeling (which is actually stupendously meta, if you’ve read the book). On the other hand, Levithan has got his portrayals of teenagers down to a science, and it’s definitely an interesting read.

Watching: The X-Files! I watched a lot of The X-Files when it was airing, but since I was pretty young at the time my parents made me stop. As a consequence, I’ve seen most of the show, but not all – so I’m rewatching everything from the beginning. It’s pretty much one of the best shows that’s ever aired, and what I did see as a kid was very influential to my interests, so I’m enjoying seeing everything (and discovering the episodes I never saw).

Storytime Book Selection

Have you voted in Best YA Book: Round Two yet? Do so here! Polls close tomorrow!

My storytime this week went really well – I felt like my kids were engaged with the books, everyone paid attention (one guy kept trying to pull a broom out of our cabinet, but he’s always a wanderer). Last week? Not so much. So today I want to talk a little bit about book selection, which is what made the difference.

Last week, I read Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown, and The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell ad illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. I’d been wanting to do both for a while; they have great sound effects, fun words, repetition, and bright illustrations. However…

They bombed! And it’s not the first time I’ve picked books that I thought were a sure thing – two weeks ago, I read Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho and I Kissed the Baby by Mary Murphy. Again, both books had a lot going for them – Peek! has great repetition and beautiful illustrations, and I Kissed the Baby is sweet with simple illustrations and an easy, identifiable concept. (I have also seen it be used in other baby storytimes with better results than I got.) Turns out all my choices had drawbacks which were clear almost immediately:

– A lot of the repetition in Dancing Feet is nonsense words. I thought they sounded fun when I practiced the book, but my kids were young enough that I guess they didn’t register at all. They didn’t connect with the book at all like I thought they would.

– Turns out, The Baby Goes Beep is kind of boring! And since it was the second book I read, when people’s attention was already wandering, my kids had zero interest in sound effects. I know that when picking books for babies, plot is not super important, but there just wasn’t enough content for me to hook their interest back.

Peek! was too long. I ended up editing it pretty heavily, turning multiple pages to get to the end.

I Kissed the Baby may have been the weirdest one – the black and white illustrations freaked my kids OUT. I ended that one early, even though it’s quite short, because every time I turned a page someone would cry!

This week, I read Time to Say Bye Bye by Maryann Cocca-Lefler and Meeow and the Blue Table by Sebastien Braun (both suggestions I got from Melissa Depper’s blog, off this list). Both were a resounding success, and here’s why I think that’s true:

Time to Say Bye Bye has very simple, easy concepts with great illustrations, but it’s also interactive enough to keep babies engaged. Waving “bye bye” is a pretty universal gesture, and I had my whole crowd waving and saying bye bye by the end of the book. It was pretty great (and also adorable).

– I was concerned Meeow might be too abstract for the babies, but the text is SO simple and the characters are all common enough animals that everyone had fun telling me that Moo was a cow and Quack was a duck. I also appreciated the inclusion of basic concept words (the blanket is red and the table is blue, etc.), which gave me something to point their attention to on every page.

I’m still getting used to picking books for babies rather than toddlers or pre-schoolers, but these last few weeks have been very educational – I’m sad that I picked some books my kids didn’t like, but hopefully that means I’ll be better at picking books in the future.