This book, which is extremely amazing and you should read it! It’s steampunk/magical New York, and it’s romantic and scary and fabulous and just about 100% my idea of what a perfect YA book should be.
This designer, who made my wedding dress (I’m getting married in three weeks), and whose entire Etsy store I want to buy!
The Stratford Festival, which has long been one of my favourite ever things! We came every year for a hefty part of my older child/teen years (thank you Grandpa!) and now I go with my parents (or now my Mom and my soon-to-be-wife, now that Dad is dead and I have a partner) every other year or so. This time we saw Guys and Dolls, Tartuffe, and Twelfth Night, and it was all very good! Do go sometime, if you live in reasonable distance, it’s always worth it!
Walking. I have driven to and from work for the last five years, and I finally got rid of my car and am now walking/taking the bus, and it’s great! 4 km of exercise per day, and an hour of reading on the bus each way!
I, like every other children’s librarian in North America, have been insanely busy, and for me, I’ve been crazy busy even by usual summer standards. This was the summer I decided we really need to offer a ton of programs, and since all my staff feel programmed out when they do more then 4 or 5 per month, that left me. Friends, I did 29 programs in two months, not including an awful lot of outreach. So yes, I’m very tired, but it was definitely worthwhile!
Here are a few of my favourite things from this summer:
This program, which is making kaleidoscopes, and is really cool. It takes a lot more prep work than I would usually do for this kind of program, but is well worth it. Even the parents were really impressed by how well the kaleidoscopes worked. A note for those in Canada: the mirror board is available at Michaels (in the one-sheet-at-a-time scrapbook paper section), but in Canadian dollars it costs almost $4 per piece with tax, and I could not figure out how to get more than 7 scopes per piece, even with making some of the 3-sided pieces in 2, 3, or even 4 pieces, taped together. So it’s a pricey program compared to my usual free one-time programs, which usually just use whatever we have in the cupboards.
Wonderworks again, for the second summer in a row. This summer I did it as a straight drop in, and it was crazy popular, attracting anywhere from 20-50 people per week, which for an August program here, where almost everyone goes on vacation in August, is incredible. We did this one, Does It Absorb, and it was literally one of the best programs I’ve ever done. Everyone got damp but mostly not soaking, and cleanup was relatively easy (we have a hard floor and lots of plastic), and everyone had such a blast! Do a water program at your library next summer if you can, it’s fabulous!
We’ve also started having colouring pages and pencil crayons available at the Children’s Information Desk, and it’s really been awesome. Sometimes kids give us their art, and we hang it on our ugly and dull concrete pillars, which helps make the place look more child friendly, which we have a problem with. Our little kid room is nice and kid-friendly, but the rest is not, and we’re always having people forget that the whole floor is for children and teens, so a little messy colouring is really helpful!
I also realized something I’ve been inching towards, which is that while I love teaching technology to kids (3D printing, coding, Raspberry Pi, etc.), our normal program sizes are just too big. This summer I had two Robot Petting programs, where kids could play with Dot and Dash and Cubelets and Blue Bot, the first of which was 16 kids (which drove me insane, even with someone helping me), and the second of which was 7 kids (which was fantastic and fun). So I’ve decided never to run another technology program for more than 10 kids.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about this blog, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time I varied things a bit, so I’m going to start posting more often, but also more randomly, just about whatever I’m reading, or making, or enjoying, whatever it may be. Plus, I can have more photos if it’s my stuff (our program photos are mostly not shareable for me), which is more fun. So look out for hopefully weekly posts about more things!
Sorry, been a crazy, crazy Fall/Winter, and I may just have to give up on this blog thing. However, for now, here are the 2016 reviews that I wrote for my library’s website, and one bonus 2017 review that hasn’t been published yet–I know, such a gift 😉
As a 2nd bonus, the ones I absolutely, 100% recommend unreservedly from a personal perspective are asterisked–I read a lot of books that I don’t love, but I know someone will.
*Clover’s Luck, by Caillie George
Despite her name, Clover has always felt decidedly unlucky. So when she stumbles upon a mysterious cottage in the Woods, she can hardly believe her good fortune. It’s the Magical Animal Adoption Agency, and it houses creatures of all kinds. Fairy horses, unicorns, and a fiery young dragon are just the beginning! Mr. Jams, the Agency’s owner, agrees to hire her as summer helper and Clover hopes her luck has finally changed. But when she’s left alone to care for the Agency, a sneaky witch comes after the magical creatures! Will Clover outsmart her in time to protect the animals?
Ramona Forever, by Beverley Cleary
Did you know that Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old in April? So it’s the perfect time to read her books! In Ramona Forever, Ramona is in grade 3, and starting to feel more grown-up. She and Beezus still stay with Howie Kemp’s grandmother till their parents get home, but now that Beezus is almost a teenager, the girls convince their parents that they can be at home alone after school instead of going to the Kemps. That’s only the first of the many big changes coming to the Quimby family, but while things get different with weddings, funerals and new babies, there’s one thing you can always count on, which is Ramona being Ramona forever!
*Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Mrs. Jane Tabby can’t imagine why her kittens were born with wings. Cats don’t have wings! But Thelma, Harriet, James and Roger do, and soon it becomes clear that cats with wings can’t live underneath a dumpster the way ordinary cats can. Fortunately, cats with wings can fly, so the Catwings fly away, till they reach the country, where things are very different, and where maybe James, Harriet, Roger and Thelma can find a place where they belong.
The Dogs, by Alan Stratton
Cameron and his mom have been running away for years. Cameron never knows if he’ll come home from his new school to find his mom in the car, all ready to move to a new town in another part of North America. Cameron’s dad is looking for them, and Cameron’s mom knows he mustn’t find them. Cameron isn’t sure though. Was his dad really that bad? Then they move to a remote haunted house in the Prairies, and as Cameron unravels the mystery of what happened to the boy whose ghost haunts the property, he starts on a terrifying path that may end in his becoming the second ghost to haunt the house. This is an atmospheric, frightening, and gripping Canadian title.
Trouble is a Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromley
Zoe has just moved to a new town, and somehow she’s already acquired a friend, Digby. The only thing is, she doesn’t want to be Digby’s friend. Somehow, though, she ends up helping Digby investigate a mysterious disappearance eight years ago, an investigation which includes a lot of things Zoe would never in a million years have done before she met Digby, including a lot of things that aren’t exactly legal. Is Digby crazy? Or could he be a hero? One thing for sure, Zoe’s life will never be the same, no matter which it is.
The Kiss of Deception, by Mary Pearson
Lia is a princess on the run from an arranged marriage. After her escape, she gets a job as a barmaid in a seaside tavern and enjoys life as a nobody greatly. When two young men, Kaden and Rafe arrive in town, she finds herself taken with both of them. What she doesn’t know? One of them is the prince she was supposed to marry, the other an assassin hired to kill her. The thrilling and romantic first book of a planned trilogy, the Remnant Chronicles.
*You Know Me Well, by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Mark and Kate are classmates, but they’ve never spoken. Until they meet at a gay club during San Francisco Pride, where Mark and his best friend (and secret crush) Ryan, are celebrating their first Pride, and where Ryan seems to be getting on very well with another boy. Kate, on the other hand, is running away from a meeting with the girl she’s wanted to meet forever. Their friendship is sudden, but everyone needs a friend in time of trouble, and for now, Mark and Kate are exactly what each other needs.
Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy
Willowdean Dixon knows she’s fat, and that other people are made uncomfortable by that. But she isn’t. She knows who you are is more important than what you weigh. Unfortunately, in Clover City, Texas, home of the oldest beauty pageant in Texas, it can feel like people don’t know that fat doesn’t matter. Especially when your mother is a former beauty queen, and runs the annual pageant. But Willowdean does her best to ignore that, and lives her life, going to school, hanging out with her best friend, and working at a burger joint with her crush, Bo. But then Bo and Willowdean kiss, and she finds herself suddenly uncomfortable with her size. Willowdean has always had plenty to deal with, and now is no different, but she’s never felt uncomfortable with herself before. Can she find a way to make peace with herself, get the guy, and still be the fabulous person she is?
*Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
Six messed up but super talented, outcast kids, members of The Dregs, a criminal organization. One giant mission: to rescue a prisoner from the world’s most secure prison. And maybe save the world, too. This is an incredible, cliff-hanger of an adventure/fantasy/mystery crossover, and you should not miss it! The sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is out and is a worthy successor.
And the bonus review!
*The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz
The story of three possibly miraculous children and their saintly dog, told by many people assembled in an inn, all of who have met the children, and seen the miracles they perform. But are they miracles, or tricks and lies, or something evil? No one is quite sure: Jeanne the peasant girl who sees visions, William, a hugely strong monk-in-training who’s the child of an African woman and a European crusader, and Jacob, a Jewish boy who seems to have healing powers seem an unlikely group of saints, to say nothing of the dog, Gwenforte, who is rumoured to have returned from the dead to look after Jeanne, seem an unlikely group to have miraculous powers of good.
This is a beautifully illustrated tale of medieval times in France, of truth and lies, of three brave children, their dog, and a (bonus!) farting dragon.
It’s been an insane summer, more programs and more kids than ever, and so I haven’t been able to even think about posting. However, school begins in two weeks, and so things are winding down, so here’s a quicky “What’s been happening in my library this summer” post!
TD Summer Reading Club: of course, the must-do for Canadian public libraries (at least in Ontario, I know some provinces offer alternatives). I think I posted about it last summer, here, so I won’t again, but once again we are offering an alternative Activity Path (as opposed to the read-books-and-get-prizes model of the Reading Path, aka the typical TD Summer Reading Club), and it was more popular than last year, I think (stats not in yet), partly because I made it easier this year, and partly because more people knew about it, and I really encourage my staff to talk it up. It’s most popular for kids who finish the Reading Path first and early, so need something else for the rest of the summer, but also good for kids for whom reading is not so much fun.
Wonderworks: borrowed wholesale from the wonderful Library Makers blog from Madison (WI) Public Library. I chose four of the posted programs, made a few adjustments, and have run it as an August drop-in special. I won’t say attendance has been awesome (but it’s August in a very cottage-owning town), but those who have come have really enjoyed it. So far we’ve done Sorting, Velcro, Chains, and we’ll end with Blocks and Playdough this week. I’d love to run it during to school year, but I just haven’t got a time and place.
What Wednesdays: designed to occupy our summer programming student and to fill a need, this was an hour every Wednesday morning during the summer when anyone 6-11 years could come in and explore something: animals one week, games another, colour another, and so on. We had six to ten activities each week, and kids could explore them as they wanted. It turned out really well, mainly thanks to our brilliant summer student (and former library page).
Sew Crazy: I already posted about this here, but once again it was very popular. I did downsize it to about eight kids, which was so much better.
Preschool Gym: a rerun from last summer, and a good one. We have a few articles of gym-type equipment: a pop-up tunnel, a balance board, a rainbow gym mat, and a bean bag toss game. We put those out, plus a few other things–this year we had ‘soccer’ balls to kick into a cardboard box goal, a tape balance beam and math hopscotch. Very, very popular, I think we have 70-odd people show up–way too many for the program room, but they worked that out fast, and some people left so it was more manageable.
That’s not all, but it’s the more exciting free things that I had some involvement in, and I highly recommend any or all!
I recently ran a fun sewing program for kids at the library, called of course, Sew Crazy! Here’s how it worked:
This was a registered program, I did it once before as a drop-in, but it was too much, it works much better as a registered thing. I registered 15 kids, but only 12 showed, and that was still too many for one seamstress, given that 10 of them had never even seen a needle. I think I’ll register 12 next time, and hopefully have 8-10 show up.
Our project was making a small purse/pencil case from a piece of felt. Total cost for this program was less than $20, which involved a piece of felt, a small spool of thread and a needle for each kid, and they could take it all home to practice further sewing. I supplemented those with sequins, beads and buttons from our huge stash.
To prepare: thread a lot of needles, double thread, with a good thick knot at the end. Do at least five more than you have kids.
Project: each child gets a piece of felt and a threaded needle. Have them orient the felt with the short sides at top and bottom, like this:
Then fold the bottom up, leaving a flap of about 5 cm (2 inches) at the top.
The folded part is the bag, and the top part will fold down to make a sort of envelope bag.
Have the kids sew up both sides of the fold (I usually have them use an ordinary up and down stitch, so they learn that, but whip stitch looks nicer, if you have more advanced sewers).
Have them pick a button, and sew it on (they will initially need a lot of help finding the holes), here:
Then help them cut a slit in the upper part, as a buttonhole, to close the bag.
Then, let them go crazy with decorating! If you’re nice, have glue to add sequins and stuff, if you aren’t, make them sew them on (I did the latter–they learned more techniques that way!) Fabric paint or markers are a nice addition as well.
I did this for ages 7-12, which was a good range, and invited the kids to bring adults with sewing skills along–I got one grandmother, and her granddaughter was very lucky to get so much individual attention!
For kids who already knew how to sew, I had some random fabric scraps (donated) out, and almost everyone was doing things with that by the end of the program.
It was a surprisingly popular program (with a waiting list of almost half the registered number, which is very rare for us for this kind of program), and it’s something I feel good about teaching. Yes, we need more people to learn computer coding, but not everyone will grow up to be a coder, yet everyone will grow up to wear things with buttons and hems that need an occasional, easy repair, and it would be nice if everyone, coders too, could learn to do that. I know people who take things to a tailor to have a button sewn on, and that’s ridiculous! Everyone can learn to sew a button on, and this is my way of helping make sure at least a few kids learn (and clearly their parents are very enthusiastic about this).
Things are crazy at work (everyone’s sick, including me), but here’s a couple excellent new/recent picture books!
The Night Gardener, by the Fan Brothers.
This picture book is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in ages. I don’t buy many new picture books (no kids of my own and I can get most of the books I need at work), but I am totally buying this. It’s a touch creepy, I guess, but it is SO beautiful! You need to read it.
The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas, by Tony Wilson, pictures by Sue deGennaro.
Prince Henrik’s older brother found his princess by placing a pea under a pile of mattresses, but Prince Henrik finds his sister-in-law kind of ridiculous. He wants a princess who isn’t so sensitive, one who will play hockey and go camping. So he tries putting a packet of frozen peas under one mattress, and all the princesses whine and complain and get bruised–until his old friend Pippa shows up for a sleepover. A charming and funny happily-ever-after story for those of us who wouldn’t notice a pea under a pile of mattresses!
Some 2015 Children’s and Teen books that I really liked. Neither complete nor based on anything other than the fact that I liked them a lot.
Anderson, R.J. A Pocket Full of Murder. Charming, steampunk-ish mystery/fantasy. Fantastic strong female character, the only thing I didn’t like is that the language of the invented world is a bit clunky at times. (Children’s, ages 10+).
Beaton, Kate. The Princess and the Pony. Go and get this hilarious and delightful picture book about a Viking princess who’s trying to stop getting crappy princessy presents and wants some real Vikingy presents right now! (and while you’re at it–if you’re an adult–save yourself some time and buy Kate Beaton’s books of cartoons, because you want to read them) (Children’s, ages 4+)
Bradley, Sandra. Henry Holton Takes the Ice. Henry Holton’s family is all hockey-mad, and Henry loves to skate, but somehow hockey just doesn’t feel right. A sweet, funny book emphasizing that there are other things to do with skates than play hockey (a lesson many Canadians may need). (Children’s, ages 4+).
E.K. Johnston. Prairie Fire. Sequel to The Story of Owen (a Excellent Canadian teen book of 2014). Fantastic, heartbreaking, will make you want to strangle the author AND worship at her shrine. Oh lord it’s good (but be prepared to stay up all night weeping). (Teen, ages 14+)
—. A Thousand Nights. You know you want to read this fantastic and mysterious retelling of the 1001 Arabian Nights–not the 1001 stories, but the linking story of the girl who tells stories in order to save her life. This one will merely make you want to worship at Johnston’s shrine, not strangle her. (Teen, ages 12+)
Juby, Susan. The Truth Commission. A funny but powerful story about three friends at an arty high school and their attempt to allow their classmates and teachers to experience the freeing power of the truth (and how everything goes wrong). (Teen, ages 12+)
Oppel, Kenneth. The Nest. Absolutely fantastic and horrifyingly creepy. Do not read this right before bed, it may lead to terrifying dreams. Prepare yourself if you have a deep fear of wasps. (Children’s, ages 10+)
Tromley, Stephanie. Trouble is a Friend of Mine. Oh my this is funny! Absolutely read this if you think teen books about serious things are always depressing, because this is, and it isn’t. Don’t give up if you read a hundred pages and go “meh”; I did too, but I promise it’s worth persevering! (Teen, ages 12+)
School started yesterday, the Summer Reading Club ended this past Saturday, so we have a temporarily quiet respite here in children’s services. The first week of school tends to be quiet for us no matter what else we do, since most kids and their families are more worried about getting settled in school than what to read next, and it’s a little early for assignments requiring lots of reading.
What’s next? Well, Fall preschool programs start next week, that’s all our registered story times, and school-age one-time programs start happening in about two weeks, when the newness of school has worn off a bit. Right now we’re all tidying our desks and counting the summer reading stats, as well as doing any final prep for next week’s programs.
It’s going to be a busy Fall, with more programs than we’ve ever run in one season here (to my knowledge anyway, and that includes the input of people who have worked here for more than thirty years). We’re doing a bunch of 3D Printing for Kids programs, since the one I ran in the Spring was an insane hit (not a good program–too many people, but a huge one for the content). We’re also starting this library’s first ever weekly story time. Previously all our story times have been in 2-4 week registered sessions, or once or twice a month drop-ins. Getting a weekly story time is something I’ve been trying to do since I started (since it’s so much better for families if they can just know it’s always happening if they want to come), but it’s been a long time coming, thanks to various factors. I’m guessing it’s going to be a huge hit which may change how we do all our other story times.
I’ve just been going through our Summer Reading survey, we asked older kids (7 or 8 and up) or parents to answer two questions and provide any other feedback about the program, and it’s really nice to read all the feedback. 63% said they read more this summer because of Summer Reading, and everyone said they enjoyed the program. Lots of comments said how much the program encouraged reading and how nice the staff were, which is such a shot in the arm for all of us–and provides us with tons lovely quotes for budget presentations and so on all year.
The appalling heat of the past few days is finally starting to break, and I (being one of those weird people who loves Fall, even if it means winter is up next) am very pleased–no air conditioning at home is not fun when it’s 32-36 degrees (C) outside!
So, like other children’s librarians everywhere, I have been insanely busy with the summer reading program. We’ve still got almost a month to go, so no end in sight, but it’s going well–our file boxes of cards for registered kids are more full than ever, so we’re hopefully well up from last year. What are we doing? Well, we do our normal thing, kids register, read books in threes, tell us about one of each three, and get a little prize. It’s good, it seems to work well for most of our kids, but we’ve always got a few non-readers or crazy readers who finish in the first week (finishing is twelve books). So this year, inspired by many fine blog posts from libraries about their redesign last summer, we added this:
We call it the Activity Path (and the usual model is the Reading Path). Kids can do it instead of or as well as the Reading Path, but we prefer that they not take both at the same time–start one, do a level, than start the other. If you’re going to be away all summer we’re happy to give you both, but if you’re coming back every week, we’d rather one at a time.
The Activity Path is somewhat popular as an alternative to the Reading Path, and very popular indeed after the Reading Path has been completed. I suspected that we were maybe losing people because reading twelve books was too little, and I think I was right. The Activity Path requires more actual work, if you’re a serious reader, because for pretty much everything you do have to do something; even if it’s reading, you mostly have to do something with your reading afterwards, like read a science book and then do an experiment based on the book–kids who are hoping to do it all in the library in one afternoon are disappointed, and I’m okay with that. Everything shouldn’t be easy 🙂
We also have this adorable summer reading video, made by a design intern we had in the spring, and we have a 3D printed model of the mascot, who’s name (we had a contest) is Mr. Bruce Sparkington!
So yeah, work is really busy (because guess where the kids go if they aren’t in school/camp/on vacation), but pretty good. And I’m going on vacation soon!