Goodreads Challenge Update #3

2016 Goodreads Challenge 3

Well folks, I have just over 5 months to read 20 more books to meet my Goodreads Challenge! When I posted my last update for this challenge, I mentioned that I hoped I’d fit in an adult book and nonfiction book for this third round, and neither of those things happened. Fingers crossed that I get both an adult book and a nonfiction book in during the fourth round because I’m pretty sure the final round will be mostly middle grade fiction as I read the best middle grade books of the year in preparation for my work’s annual Mock Newbery! Anywho, onto the books:

Amulet // I finished round two of this challenge at the end of April/beginning of May, and there were two books coming out that first week of May that I knew I would devour. So I didn’t want to start a big book, but I needed to read something during the few days that I had before the books came out. So I reverted to what I always revert to in these situations: graphic novels. I picked up the first volume of Amulet because it’s hugely popular at my library (this seems to be a theme with me this year…reading stuff that’s popular with the kiddos). I have to admit that the first volume didn’t enthrall me, but I can see the appeal. I got some strong Neil Gaiman vibes from it, and I would love to read another in the series just to see where it goes. (Whether or not that actually happens is yet to be seen.)

The Crown // I was initially so excited for this one because I love the Selection series, and Eadlyn’s story in particular. However, I was disappointed from the moment I picked the book up in the store. It felt so light to what I was expecting, and I would not be surprised in the slightest if I found out that Kiera Cass wrote both The Heir and The Crown as one book, decided it was too long, and lopped off the last part to make into a separate book. The whole thing felt like one, rushed denouement, and I really would have liked to have seen more development. Plus the guy I was hoping for didn’t win. However, I still really liked this book. It’s a perfect example of how sometimes a book isn’t what you want, but you can still appreciate it for what it is.

The Rose and the Dagger // This was another book that I was very excited for and then somewhat disappointed in when I finally read it. Although my disappointment for this was is because I thought that this series would be a trilogy for some reason. So I read this book thinking that it was the second book. It felt very much like a second book, seeing as it introduced us to new characters and places and concepts. It also felt…and I hate to say it…a little sluggish. Much like how many second books feel. So when it ended, I felt very disappointed. Both over the fact that there wasn’t a third book, and also because for 400 pages, the characters were preparing for a big battle…one that really didn’t seem to come. But, again, I liked it. I think if I had known that there wasn’t going to be a third book, I would have read it in a different mindframe and wouldn’t have been so disappointed with the end.

A Court of Mist and Fury // After reading two books that I was very excited for but ultimately a little disappointed in, I ended up picking up a book that I wasn’t really excited for and ended up loving SO FREAKING MUCH! I read A Court of Thorns and Roses last year, and I wasn’t that into it. As a matter of fact, I remember skipping/skimming entire chapters of it. It was only the end…a moment between two characters (Rhys and Feyre) that made me pick up the second book. And I am so glad I did.

This is Where It Ends // This book had been on my to read list for awhile, so I picked it up once I was able to move onto a new book that wasn’t A Court of Mist and Fury (that book stuck with me for a long time, keeping me from reading anything else). This book is powerful. It’s well-written. And it made me cry at the end (which rarely happens). As a side note, I finished this book (which is about a school shooting) the night of the Orlando shooting. I woke up the next morning and heard the news and promptly decided that I probably won’t read another book about a shooting anytime soon.

The Crown’s Game // I don’t know how I feel about this book. It’s well written, the characters are great, and it has a really strong setting. It also has a lot of things that I would normally love in a book: a historical setting, Russia, magic… Still, it was kind of a slow read for me. I liked it. It was fine. But I found myself sighing a lot and wondering how much longer I had until the end of the chapter. 

The Raven Cycle // I hadn’t intended to read this series. The plot seemed very weird to me (psychics? a dead king? prep school boys? what?). But so many people were raving about the series that I decided to pick it up…and I became enraptured with it. The plot’s still silly. But the writing is amazing. The characters are amazing. The setting is amazing. Definitely one of my new faves!

Makerspace Challenge: Pipe Cleaner Creations

Pipe Cleaner Creations

June’s Makerspace Challenge was pipe cleaner creations, and it was a huge hit! As a matter of fact, the day that I changed the challenge to pipe cleaner creations, a coworker came up to me as I was filling a tub with pipe cleaners, and she said, “Did you stock up on pipe cleaners? Because I can see this one being popular.” And even as she said it, a tween left her computer to come over to the Makerspace and make something!

Since then, I saw a lot of flowers and bracelets and finger puppets, all made with pipe cleaners! I even had one tween make a very realistic pipe cleaner Sonic the Hedgehog!

Sonic the Hedgehog

June is almost over, so in a few days, I’ll be putting most of the pipe cleaners away in favor of a new medium. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what else kids will make!

Makerspace Create: Exploding Boomerangs

Exploding Boomerangs

Back in April, I started a kid’s Makerspace. It’s been going pretty well, and one of these day I’m going to have to post an update about it, but today is not that day. Today, I’m going to talk about a maker program that I did a few weeks ago that ties in with the Makerspace.

Makerspace Create is a monthly maker program for kids that I’ll be offering at my library. Starting in August, this maker program will be held in the actual kid’s Makerspace, but because we get SO MANY kids during the summer, I held the inaugural Makerspace Create in one of our larger meeting rooms. I also chose a project that was relatively simple, cheap, and could work well with a large group of kids of varying ages: exploding boomerangs.

I got the idea for this project from I Can Teach My Child. If you follow the link, you will find super simple instructions for how to assemble the boomerang.

As for the program itself, here is what I did:

Introduction:

I started the program by talking about boomerangs, what they look like and how they work. I would have liked to add a bit about the cultural and historical aspects of the boomerang, but this program took place during the first full week of Summer Reading, and I just didn’t have time to prepare and research, so I left that out.

I then talked about the boomerangs that we would be making. I explained that the explosion wasn’t a chemical explosion with a puff of smoke (and there were some groans at that). Next, I demonstrated how to put the boomerang together. This demonstration is tricky and almost impossible for a large crowd, particularly because I can only do the fourth part by placing the boomerang on a table. Still, the kids got the basic gist of it.

Boomerang Assemblage:

My program helper and I passed out little baggies that each contained 4 Popsicle sticks and instructions. I told the group to follow the instructions to make their boomerangs and to raise their hands if they were having trouble.

Some kids caught on quickly and were able to assemble their boomerangs all on their own in a matter of minutes. Others were able to follow the first three steps and understood how the fourth step worked but didn’t quite have the fine motor skills for it (it is tricky…even for me). And a few were just plain lost.

Because kids were at different skill levels, there were a few minutes of frustration as the ones who had their boomerangs assembled were impatient to try them out, but we had enough kids who still needed help that my program helper and I were too busy to organize lines for the exploding part. Therefore…

If you plan on doing this program and expect a large group of kids, you may want to either have extra helpers on hand, or have a simple craft (maybe coloring paper boomerangs?) that kids can work on if they assemble their boomerang quickly.

Time to Explode:

After everyone was ready, I had the kids form three lines, and they took turns throwing their boomerangs at the wall and watching them explode. Some of the explosions were spectacular, with sticks flying everywhere, and there were a couple of times where the boomerang wouldn’t break a part, and I would congratulate the builder for making a super strong boomerang and give him/her another turn.

Once the boomerang(s) exploded, the owners would rush forward to collect their sticks, and I had a rule that the next person in line couldn’t throw theirs until everyone was out of the way. Kids would then assemble their boomerangs again and run to the back of the line.

We spent about 15-20 minutes exploding the boomerangs before I called for one last throw in which several kids lined up and threw their boomerangs all together. The kids were delighted to hear that they could take their boomerangs home, but I did tell them to ask their grown-ups about where they’re allowed to throw them.

Overall Assessment:

There are definitely some things I would do differently if I offered this program again. I would definitely add a little bit about the culture and history of the boomerang at the beginning, and I would make sure to have a project for kids to work on while they waited for others to assemble their boomerangs. But other than that, this program was a big hit with most of the kids, who loved the process of building something and then destroying it only to build it again.

How Does Your Garden Grow: A Gardening Program for Preschoolers

How Does Your Garden Grow 2

On Monday, my wonderful coworker, Teresa, and I partnered together to offer a gardening program for preschoolers. The day was warm and sunny — prefect park weather — yet about 70 people showed up for this program. It was so much fun! And really simple! Here’s what we did:

GARDEN STORYTIME:

We decided to start off with a storytime. This was a great idea, because there are always a few late comers to every program. By starting with a storytime, by the time we got to the actual gardening part of the program, we had everybody and everyone started on the same page.

Also, as most of you probably know, I gave up themes ages ago. It takes a very special program for me to break out a storytime theme, and this was one of them.

Garden Storytime Books

Books:

My Garden by Kevin Henkes
What Does Bunny See? by Maggie Smith
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres
Alfie in the Garden by Debi Gliori

This was a great assortment of books. We were able to practice our colors with What Does Bunny See? We stood on tippy toes, crouched down low, and spun around with Up, Down and Around. And Alfie in the Garden had the kids acting like animals.

Flower Color Matching

Activities:

Flower Color Matching:

I did a very simple flower color matching activity with the kids. We had five colors total (blue, red, orange, yellow, green). Each child got one flower, then waited until I called their color to come up and place their flower in a hat. It’s an oldie, but goodie. And the kids really enjoyed it.

Five Green Peas in a Pea Pod Pressed Fingerplay:

Five green peas in a pea pod pressed (make fist)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (count on fingers)
They grew, and grew, and did not stop! (extend arms wide)
Until one day, that pea POPPED! (clap)

Four green peas in a pea pod pressed…

Credit: ???

TIME TO GARDEN:

After storytime was over, everyone headed over to our program room where we had all the supplies necessary to start a small garden that the kids were able to take home.

Garden Supplies

Teresa was in charge of getting the supplies for the program. I believe she got them from Lowe’s (but it could have been Home Depot…one of the two). We had flowers for them to plant, as well as biodegradable pots, potting soil, and a few seeds for those who wished to plant a seed. Here’s how we organized the gardening portion of the program:

  • We had every family grab some newspaper and spread it out on the floor.
  • We passed out small bowls and souffle cups.
  • People came up to get a flower and/or seed, and they filled their bowls with potting soil.
  • They then went back to their newspaper area and used the souffle cups to transfer the soil to their potted plant/seed.
  • We had measuring cups by the sink, so once the plant/seed was planted, children came up to the sink and used the measuring cups to water it.
  • Lastly, we had paper bags on hand for parents to put the plants in to save it from spilling over in their cars.

Overall, this was an AMAZING program!

Makerspace Challenge: Not a Stick

Not a Stick

This month’s makerspace challenge was inspired by one of my favorite picture books! I originally wanted to do Not a Box, but I didn’t have enough boxes to last for an entire monthly challenge. I did, however, have plenty of Popsicle sticks. So…

Because the makerspace is all about creativity, I left this challenge completely open. I basically pulled the book for inspiration, threw a bunch of Popsicle sticks, notched sticks, and old fashioned clothes pins into a tub, and let the kids have at it.

Not a Stick 2

I honestly can’t tell you if this challenge is going over well with the kids or not. May is a bear of a month for the Children’s Department. Between some vacation days and working on SRP stuff, I feel like I haven’t really had time to pay attention to the makerspace, aside from making sure that it stays stocked.

But I will say that A LOT of the Popsicle sticks have disappeared, so they’re obviously being used for something!

2016 Goodreads Challenge Update #2

2016 Goodreads Challenge 2

It took me a little longer than expected to read the next 10 books in my Goodreads challenge. This is due to many reasons: I got sick with a particularly nasty sinus something or another — twice — in the past few months, and I find it hard to read when I’m not feeling well. I’ve also been going through phases where I’d rather reread favorites instead of reading something new. And there were a couple of books that I picked up, read a few chapters, then put down again. But I made it! So here we go:

Winter –> I bought this book when it first came out, and I started reading it right away. I inhaled the first 1/3 of the book, and I was certain that I’d finish it before 2016, but then the middle part dragged on, and I ended up putting it down for…a month or two? I don’t know. It was awhile. But once I picked it up again and managed to get through the slow middle part, I inhaled the rest of it. Over all, I thought it was a good ending to a beloved series (even if the middle part was kind of slow).

The Walls Around Us –> I picked this book up during a phase where I wanted to read something, but didn’t feel like reading anything in particular. The book had been on my To Read list for awhile, and I had an arc of it laying around, so I picked it up. This book and how I feel about it is a perfect example of how being a mood reader affects what you think of books. I think this book is incredibly well written. The characters are vivid and the mood is eerie and suspenseful. But, as I was reading it, I thought it was just okay because I just wasn’t in the mood for a spooky magical realism book about murderous ballerinas.

The Shadow Queen –> I wasn’t going to read this one initially because I am SO OVER the whole fairy tale retelling genre. (I’ll probably get back into it when it becomes popular again, but for now I’m DONE). But then I heard that the Snow White character also has magic, and that there are DRAGONS in it, so I decided to pick it up. Again, this is a book that has good writing, good characters, nice setting, okay plot…but I felt very meh about it. I didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it. It was just okay. I did, however, recommend it to a friend who I thought would enjoy it. She was interested enough to pick it up, but I haven’t heard about whether she finished it or not.

Illuminae –> This book! THIS. BOOK! You can imagine that after reading several books that were just meh, I was starting to feel very apathetic about reading. But I heard a lot of good things about this book, so I picked it up. And, OH BOY, I am so glad that I did! This book is storytelling at it’s finest, and it’s just so visually appealing! My review of it on Goodreads is simply, “This book is a work of art,” and it really is. It’s also science fiction done right, and I am so much in love with this book!

Into the Dim –> And we’re back to a book that’s just okay. This book was described as Outlander for the younger crowd. While I haven’t read Outlander, I’ve seen bits of the show, and I generally really like time travel stories, so I picked it up. And. Yeah. It’s decent. The characters are good. The setting is…well, the setting is really well done. The plot is okay. I can totally see why there are so many people loving this book, but for me it was just okay.

The Dragonet Prophecy & The Lost Heir –> The Wings of Fire series is really popular at my library, so I decided to read the first book to see what all the buzz was about (and to help with my reader’s advisory, of course). I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, but there you go. I love the characters and the world building and the plot. And the writing is such that I found it really hard to put down. If I were a 10-year-old, I would be GEEKING OUT about this series. But I’m not 10, so I’m not geeking out, but I did really, really enjoy it. I don’t know if I’ll read anymore in the series…but maybe.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook –> I picked this one up solely because the premise of a child being raised in a prison was very intriguing to me. I have to admit that this book was wonderful, but I didn’t love it, love it. And I’m not sure how many kids would enjoy it.

First & Then –> I was so excited about this book because I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen retellings. Seriously. A great Sunday afternoon for me would consist of a Jane Austen movie, tea, and some form of baked goods. Since I was so excited for this one going into it, I was doubly disappointed to find it very meh. (Are you seeing a theme here?) There were some good things about this book, but I mostly found it boring and a little baffling (Why does this girl who seemingly has only 1 friend get invited to the popular parties? Why does the writing sometimes try to imitate Jane Austen, but then goes back to a typical YA writing? Why is a girl pregnant when we never really expand on that story?) UGH!

The Wrath and the Dawn –> And we are finally, FINALLY, back to a book that made me love reading all over again! This one came out last year and has had a lot of good reviews. It’s a retelling of 1001 Nights (there’s been a lot of those lately), and I completely fell in love with the world and the characters. I’m pretty sure I read this book in a day, and I have the sequel on hold at my library, and I am waiting very impatiently for it to come in!


And there you have it! Goals for my next ten books include trying to read an adult book (I’ve fallen so behind on my adult book reading that it’s kind of sad). I also would really like to throw in some nonfiction too, but we’ll see if that happens.

Confessions of a Children’s Librarian

Shh! I have a librarian secret.

Well, I actually have many librarian secrets. And most of them probably aren’t even that scandalous of secrets, because I bet a lot of us probably feel this way. But still, there are a few things that I don’t mention out loud very often. And because I’m in a sharing mood, I figure I should go ahead and mention them here. So here you go…

Secret #1: I don’t care for a lot of today’s most popular children’s books…

Nope

I don’t get Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I couldn’t make it past more than a few pages in Geronimo Stilton because the cheese jokes were just too cheesy for me. I’m far too old to appreciate the potty humor in Captain Underpants. Monster High kind of scares me, simply because the monsters remind me of Bratz dolls (which also scared me back in the early 2000s). Speaking of things scaring me, don’t get me started on the bobblehead covers for the Who Was series… While I can appreciate the Minecraft game, some of the Minecraft fiction books have me lamenting the state of children’s literature. And can someone please tell me when Caillou is going to disappear for good?

…But I still get excited when I see children reading them.

Rey Dancing

What can I say? I’m a librarian. It doesn’t matter if I like the books or not. What’s important is whether or not the child I’m helping likes the books. So when a kid asks me for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I’m all, “YEAH! Let’s see what kind of shenanigans Greg is getting up to in Old School!” And when someone else asks me for Monster High or the Who Was series I…admittedly don’t look at the covers…but I very happily hand them over. When someone asks me for Caillou…I manage not to cringe. Most of the time. And when I get to booktalk books that I actually like? Well, that’s just an added bonus.

Secret #2: I hate the evening shift…

I am all for library’s being open during the evening. And I understand that someone has to staff the desk at that time. But that doesn’t mean that I actually like it. I’m most productive in the mornings and early afternoons, so coming in at noon means that most of my productivity has vanished for the day. Don’t get me wrong, I still do stuff and try to make the best of it, but I spend most of the shift feeling apathetic and blah until it’s time to go home and I can wrap myself up in a blanket, eat pizza, and watch Netflix.

…But I love working on the weekends.

Lets Go

I get insanely excited when I have a weekend off, but when I do have to work weekends, I’m pretty okay with it. The library has a completely different atmosphere on Saturdays and Sundays. I mean, think about it, people can choose to go anywhere on their day off, and they choose the library!!! How awesome is that? Weekends at my library are typically packed and busy and full of book recommendations and crafts and trying to figure out why so many kids still love to play Roblox. And at the end of the shift, my coworkers and I all walk out of the building together (no 9 PM shifts on the weekends!).

Secret #3: I’m growing disillusioned with Summer Reading…

Miss Piggy No

Which is extra sad because Summer Reading is one of the cornerstones of children’s librarianship, and I’m only 5 years into my career. But I just can’t get myself all that excited over handing out trinkets. My library also hands out books as the 2nd and 3rd prizes, and that’s a little better (because I of course want to give away free books), but I feel that even book prizes are not that great for kids who are either developing or dormant readers. So I feel like Summer Reading is ultimately for the kids who would be reading anyway (either by choice or because their parents are forcing them). And that makes me sad.

…But more and more libraries are taking a look at changing their Summer Reading Programs

New Girl Excited

I don’t know what the answer is to the SRP problem, but I do know that there’s a lot of talk about SRP in the children’s librarianship field, and more and more people are agreeing that timesheets and trinkets may not be the way to go. In the meantime, I just have to keep reminding myself that SRP is doing some good! It is bringing kids into the library, and some of them definitely are reading (and reading lots!). So I’m just going to have to soldier on and continue to try to get kids excited about reading (even if reading for trinkets isn’t all that exciting).

Secret #4: Sometimes I suck at Reader’s Advisory…

Elmo Shrug

I love reader’s advisory, and I’m constantly trying to expand my knowledge of children’s literature. And, not to brag or anything, but there are definitely days when I am ON FIRE when it comes to connecting books to readers. But there are also days where I completely draw a blank. Days where I can’t think of the authors for some of the most popular books. Days when I can’t pinpoint exactly what kind of book the customer wants. Days when I do find a good book, but I can’t articulate why its a good book. Etc.

…But I am working on it.

Working

Reader’s advisory is just one of those things that you just have to practice, practice, practice. And I do. A lot. Like I said, I really enjoy it, so I really don’t mind spending time trying to familiarize myself with various genres and authors and books. RA is actually something that I’d like to talk more about on this blog, but I just don’t have the time right now. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I’m just going to have to keep practicing.

Secret #5: This one might get me in trouble but…I kind of think the MLS is just a piece of paper…

Sorry

I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s diploma (including my own), but…come on! Everything I learned about children’s librarianship, I learned on the job (because my focus wasn’t children’s librarianship in grad school). I also work with a lot of people who are AMAZING, but who don’t have an MLS. I did enjoy getting my MLS, and I will highly recommend my program to anyone who genuinely wants to get an MLS. But I ultimately feel like the MLS is an expensive piece of paper that divides the profession.

…But I LOVE continuing education!

Brand New Info

The ALSC classes I have taken were wonderful! I love webinars! I very happily read The Book Whisperer and From Cover to Cover and felt so enlightened about books and how we use them with children when I finished! I think it’s VERY important to continue to learn and grow in the profession. I just don’t think spending thousands of dollars on a piece of paper is necessarily the way to do it.*

*This is mostly for public libraries. I have no idea how this applies to academic or special libraries. I do kinda feel that if I became a corporate librarian after grad school, my business information classes would have been very beneficial. But I have a sneaky feeling that people could probably learn all of that stuff on the job too.

So there you have it, folks. My secrets. What are some of yours?