What I’m Reading

Some of my favorite posts on other peoples’ blogs are of the “What I’ve Been Reading” variety.  I don’t even care if they include detailed reviews or short synopses or just a few bullet points about what they liked or hated about the book.  I just love these types of posts and want to start including my own from time to time.  So here we go:

Ophelia and the Marvelous BoyOphelia and the Marvelous Boy
By Karen Foxlee

Goodreads SummaryUnlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

My Thoughts:  I should admit that I personally feel that the Snow Queen plot is a bit over done in children’s literature, and it’s never been one of my favorite stories.  So I went into this story with low expectations.  What saved this book, for me, was the setting.  I may not like the Snow Queen plot, but I do love museums, and the majority of this story takes place in one of the most interesting museums I have ever encountered.  I loved how big the museum is, how much history it possesses, and how it has rooms upon rooms of seemingly random objects!

Another plus for this story is the main character.  Ophelia is portrayed as a very realistic girl.  She is grieving for her mother and trying to connect with her father and sister, all the while trying to help this mysterious boy even though the thought of helping him and going against the Snow Queen terrifies her.  She is nervous — almost to the point of panic — yet courageous.  She is flawed and innocent, yet intelligent.

While this book isn’t one of my favorites and even felt slow in parts, I still enjoyed it overall.  Which is saying a lot, considering I really don’t like the Snow Queen plot.  I would definitely place this book in the hands of fantasy enthusiasts.

attachmentsAttachments
By Rainbow Rowell

Goodreads Summary:  “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . “

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

My Thoughts:  Okay, this isn’t a children’s book.  It isn’t even a YA book (though I can see it having a YA audience).  This is an adult book that came out in 2011 and focuses on characters who are 28 and who are trying to make that final transition into full blown adulthood.  I loved this book!  Maybe not as much as I loved Eleanor and Park or Fangirl, but I still really, really enjoyed it.  Rowell has a talent for writing characters who could very well be my best friends.  Her stories are bits and pieces of my own experiences sewn together and — okay — given a bit of fictional flair.  This book may not be the next great American novel, but it’s definitely a story to get attached to.

a snicker of magicA Snicker of Magic
By Natalie Lloyd

Goodreads Summary:  Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

My Thoughts:  I’m calling it now…this one’s a Newbery contender.  This book has the unique talent of combining the ordinary with just enough of the fantastical to make you believe that maybe, just maybe, magic exists.  A strong cast of characters, an intriguing setting, and a whole lot of ice cream makes this a book worth reading.

Two things that I really loved about this book were Felicity’s penchant for seeing words, and the fact that Jonah’s in a wheelchair but it isn’t made into a big deal.  The words that Felicity sees are no doubt magical in themselves, and I firmly believe that Lloyd considered each word she chose for Felicity to see with great care.  The groups of words usually have a cadence that feel as though they belong with one another, and often they represent the characters or situations being mentioned in the book.

As for Jonah being in the wheelchair…  Usually in media, the characters don’t possess any real handicaps, or if they do, their handicaps become their story.  That isn’t the case with Jonah.  Yes, he’s in a wheelchair, but he is not helpless and the chair does not define who he is as a person.  He is an amazing character, who does a lot of good and becomes Felicity’s quasi-crush (this isn’t a romance, but the crush is hinted at for both parties).  While I don’t have a problem with stories that focus on handicaps, I still think that it’s very refreshing to see a character who’s in a wheelchair, but isn’t defined entirely by the wheelchair.

Puppet Program 2014

A few weeks ago, one of my amazing coworkers and I did a puppet show program for preschool aged children.  We’re fortunate enough at our library to have both a theater and staff who can record and edit video.  The recorded version of our puppet show has been up on our youtube channel for about a week or so now, and I’ve been pondering about whether or not to post it here.  I don’t expect anyone who actually reads this blog to have the time — or even the inclination — to watch this 19 minute puppet show program; however, as much as this blog is for sharing ideas and networking, it’s also sort of an online portfolio for myself, and I’m very proud of this performance, so I’m going to go ahead and post it here.

If you do happen to watch this video, take note of my coworker’s awesome puppet voices!  She is fantastic!  Other fantastic coworkers who you don’t see here but were important nonetheless are the light and sound folk as well as the video folk!  Yay team!

Perfect for Storytime: March/April Edition

Perfect for Storytime Banner

I’ve been a bit remiss with my posting lately.  I wish I could promise that I’ll rectify this problem, but the truth is that my updates will most likely become more and more sporadic as Summer Reading draws nearer (and I’ll probably go on a full on hiatus in June and July…you’ve been warned).  But it’s not summer yet, so here are a few books that are perfect for storytime!

orangutangled

Orangutangled by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Published 2/11/14

This wild romp of a book is perfect for any jungle themed storytime!  Two orangutans wake up, craving a snack, in the middle of the night.  They find some delicious mangoes in a tree, but when they reach for them, they lose their balance and the mangoes and monkeys come crashing crashing down and end up orangutangled!  Several other jungle animals attempt to free the primates but end up being orangutangled as well!  The illustrations, rendered in ink, brush, and photoshop, fit well with this silly story that kids will love.

DangerousDangerous by Tim Warnes
Published 3/1/14

This book is short and simple, but would still be wonderful to share in storytime.  Mole loves labeling things, but when he comes across an alligator, he doesn’t know what to label it.  So he labels it many things, such as bumpy and lumpy and dangerous.  The alligator wants to befriend mole (and, believe it or not, his reasons aren’t nefarious), but mole grows angry when the alligator continuously eats all his labels.  In the end, they both apologize and mole gives alligator a new label: friend.  The cartoonish illustrations are awash with bright greens and yellows, and the text is large enough to read easily to a group.  But the best thing about this book is the vocabulary.

the short giraffeThe Short Giraffe by Neil Flory
Published 3/1/14

Boba the baboon wants to take a picture of the tallest animals, the giraffes.  But there’s one tiny problem — Geri the giraffe is much smaller than his friends, and it’s difficult to get him into the shot.  They try stilts, a turtle tower, and even helium, to no avail (but some hilarious pictures result from it).  Finally, a tiny caterpillar suggest that instead of raising Geri up to their heights, the taller giraffes should bend down to Geri’s height.  This works perfectly and the final picture of the giraffes is the best one yet.  The giraffes look a little silly, and the text can’t decide if it wants to rhyme or not, but overall this is a great story to share for a jungle theme, a big and small theme, or a theme about being a little different.

go go go stopGo! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper
Published 2/25/14

This terrific book combines the concept of stop and go with construction!  One day, little green said a word:  Go!  And the construction trucks woke up and got to work.  But when there’s a little too much go and things get out of hand, little red steps in with a new word:  Stop!  They work together with hilarious results and a bridge gets built.  And just as the cars start to drive over the bridge, little yellow rolls into town.  I bet you can guess little yellow’s word!  This book would work well with any construction, things that go, or movement storytime!

tiny rabbit's big wishTiny Rabbit’s Big Wish by Margarita Engle
Published 3/4/14

Tiny rabbit wants to be big and strong, but the only thing that seems to be big for him are his ears.  However, he soon realizes that his big ears are very useful because they allow him to hear all sorts of things — including a hungry lion.  And his tiny frame is useful too because it allows him to hide from the hungry lion.  The acrylic illustrations are adorable, although I’m not quite sure what forest animals are doing in a jungle animal habitat.  Also, the text in this book is a little bit on the tiny side, which is appropriate for the story but it makes group sharing a tad bit difficult (but not impossible, especially if you practice beforehand).

 

Early Learning Fun: Lines and Measurements

Early Learning Fun Banner

We have an Early Learning Center at my library.  It’s a 2200 square foot room filled with toys and books to encourage early literacy, and it’s a huge draw/asset to the library.  Our intention for this room is for parents and children (ages 6 and younger) to play together and learn together.  My coworkers and I have been tossing around the idea of bringing programming to this room, and we’ve done a few pop-up programs in the room to great success (including a monthly passive programming Letter Play Day that one of my brilliant coworkers arranges)!  This month I decided to do some legit programming in this room to encourage discovery and play among the children and caregivers.  My theme was lines and measurements, and I brought in a few simple activities that we could do together.

How It Went:  There were about 40 people (adults and children) in the Early Learning Center when I came in to start my program.  And I’m pretty sure that none of them actually came specifically for the program.  We were having a drab day with wet snow falling, so I’m sure that everyone who was in the room was there because they couldn’t go to a park.  I made an announcement that I was going to have some activities available for kids to do and that anyone who wanted to participate could, but if they’d rather keep playing, that was cool too.  So in a room of 40 people, I only had 7 children and 2 adults participate in the activities.  Not quite a success number-wise, BUT those who did participate LOVED the activities!  And since this program was on a Saturday, I was reaching kids who don’t normally make it to storytime during the week, so I felt that I was making a big impact.

Click the images below to download the PDF of my Lines and Measurements plan, as well as a few extras that I made for this program:

Lines and Measurements PlanInchworm FB 1Inchworm FB 2Rulers

 

A Few of My Favorite Themes: Gardens!

Spring Header
I know I promised a Polar Animals Favorite Theme awhile ago but…I’m kind of sick of winter!  I don’t know about the rest of you, but my home in Indiana was pretty much buried under snow from January until…well, there’s still snow on the ground, but at least we can see a few patches of grass poking through!  All the snow coupled with near constant below freezing temps made me wish I was a hibernating bear this winter.  Unfortunately, I’m not a hibernating bear, so I had to deal with all this snow and cold, and now I’m sick of it.  I’m ready for spring!  So here’s my first spring Favorite Theme:  Gardens!

As usual, click the images below to open up downloadable PDFs.

Garden Books ImageGarden Rhymes ImageGarden STEM and Crafts Image

Discover 3D Printing

Printed Objects 2
The other week, I did a 3D printing program for children ages 6 to 11.  Now I know that 3D printers are still the hip, new thing and that many libraries do not own one just yet.  However, I figured I’d go ahead and post about my program because, with all the emphasis on STEAM/Makerspaces and the fact that 3D printers are getting cheaper, I’m sure it won’t be long before 3D printing programs become commonplace in children’s services.  So here’s what I did for my program:

Part 1:  What is 3D Printing?

I started the program with a discussion about 3D printing, including some fun facts and some limitations.  Most of the kids were already familiar with the basic concept of 3D printing, but they were interested in learning more about it.  For example, did you know that the plastic used in a 3D printer is called Polylactic Acid (or PLA for short) and that it heats up to 420 degrees while printing?  Another cool fun fact?  PLA is biodegradable!

Some of the limitations we talked about include size restrictions (our printers can print roughly 5 in by 5 in by 5 in) and color choice (one color per printer and we don’t switch colors until it’s used up).  To get around the size limitations, you can make smaller parts separately and join them together to make something bigger.  As for the color problem, my library tries to have different colors loaded in our 2 printers, so that patrons can at least have a choice.  But even that doesn’t solve the problem if you want to print a TARDIS but one printer has yellow loaded and the other has red.  (Who ever heard of a yellow TARDIS, I mean COME ON!)  Still, maybe someday we’ll have 3D printers that can have multiple colors loaded at once.  Until then, we’re stuck with yellow TARDISES (TARDI?).

Tinkercad Tardis

Part 2:  Designing

After our discussion about 3D printing, I introduced the group to Tinkercad.  Tinkercad is a web-based program in which users create a free account and then design objects that can be printed with a 3D printer.  Tinkercad is extremely user friendly and has great tutorials.  The only glitch is that you have to be 13 years of age or older to create an account (and you need an e-mail address).  To get around this, I had the parents create the accounts using their own e-mails and birthdates.

Many of the kids chose to go through some of Tinkercad’s tutorials prior to making something on their own, while a few kids decided to just jump right in and start creating.  Like I said before, Tinkercad is very user friendly and when kids did run into questions, I was able to help them.

I also introduced the group to another website called Thingiverse.  Thingiverse is an online repository of 3D printed objects that you can download to Tinkercad and print.  About half the kids went to Thingiverse and downloaded TARDISES (TARDI?) and Minecraft creepers.  The other half spent time creating objects on their own.

Printer

Part 3:  Printing

Because 3D printing requires a lot of time (even some of the simpler objects can take 20 minutes), we were unable to have everyone print their objects during the program.  Instead, I printed something and showed them as a group how to do it.  After the program, I e-mailed each participant a certificate for one free 3D print at our library so that they can come back on their own time and print it themselves.

So how do you 3D print things from Tinkercad?  It’s simple!  First, you download your object to a USB drive.  You can do this in Tinkercad by going to Design –> Download for 3D printing –> select .stl.

Once you have your object saved, plug the USB drive into the computer that’s connected to the 3D printer.  My library uses Makerware software to print 3D objects, so if I were printing something, I would open up Makerware, navigate to my USB drive and open the document I want to print and print it.

There’s a few more details/steps that I won’t discuss here because they really don’t make sense until you can actually see what you’re doing, but I assure you it’s all pretty simple.  Once your object is finished printing, you can take the tray out of the printer, use a putty knife to scrape it off the tray, and VOILA! you’re done.

Final Thoughts:

A few things that really stood out to me about this program:

1)  There was an equal number of boys and girls in attendance!  We had 6 boys and 6 girls come to the afternoon program and 4 boys and 4 girls come to the evening program!  Awesome!

2)  This program drew dads into the library!  Okay, dads have been coming to the library a lot lately…I see them in storytime all the time!  But this was a program that dads really took an interest in, many of them asking me questions and following along on Tinkercad as I taught their kids.  Also Awesome!

3)  This really is a kid’s program.  I know when most people think of 3D printing, they think of engineers and architects and adults in general.  And I admit that I had my doubts about 6-year-olds using a 3D printer.  My doubts were put to rest this afternoon, however.  I was sitting in the picture book section of the library, trying to find some friggin’ fire fighter books, when a 7-year-old who had attended the program last week came up to me and proudly showed me the object he had created/printed.  DAY = MADE

Perfect for Storytime: February Edition

Perfect for Storytime Banner

February is slowly creeping to an end, which means it’s time for me to talk about a few of my favorite new picture books!  I was able to keep a better eye on the new books that came in this month, and I was also able to read a good selection and ended up writing reviews for a few on Goodreads.  I’m going to post my favorite books today, so here we go:

I HatchedI Hatched by Jill Esbaum
Published 1/23/2014

This picture book features rhyming text that details the hatching and first day of a baby bird. The ink/watercolor/pencil illustrations steal the show as the young bird discovers running, singing, and eating, among other things. The book ends with another hatching and the baby bird says hello to a sister. The rhyming text and large scale illustrations makes this book perfect for sharing with a group.

How to Wash a Wooly MammothHow to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson
Published 1/21/2014

Joining the ranks of other great odd pets picture books, How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth is a hilarious step-by-step bathtime story that preschool children will love!  While this book would work well for storytime, I would also encourage parents to check it out after storytime so that they and their little ones can pour over the illustrations.  There are some details in the pictures that they may not have noticed in a storytime crowd, but would love to laugh over together in a one on one reading session.  One of my favorite things about this book in particular is the mammoth’s facial expressions.

MonsterBeGoodMonster Be Good by Natalie Marshall
Published 2/26/13

Colors abound in this short picture book in which the audience is in charge of a group of rowdy monsters.  If a monster is noisy, children can tell him to be quiet.  If a monster is selfish, children can tell him to take turns.  Storytime crowds will love the chance to tell monsters to “sit still” and “go to sleep” and parents will appreciate that this book introduces a fun way to talk to their kids about manners and other social situations (including bullying).  What I love best about this book, is what usually grabs my attention when it comes to picture books:  bold, bright, and fun illustrations!

Big-Rig-Cover

Big Rig by Jamie A. Swenson
Published 2/4/14

While there are a lot of things to love about this picture book about an 18-wheeler big rig, two things that really stand out for me include:  the terminology and the sound effects.  This book introduces young children to the work, mechanics, and terminology of trucking.  The word ‘cargo’ is explained in the text, and the other terms are defined in a glossary at the back of the book.  While adults will love the fact that this book helps expand a child’s vocabulary, children will love sounding the horn along with the truck throughout the story.  I can already see myself going “URRRNNT-URRRNNNT!” in storytime now!

And now two books that would be great for toddler or baby storytimes:

NestNest by Jorey Hurley
Published 2/4/14

Wonderful photoshop illustrations chronicle a year in the life of two birds.  With one word per page, this book would be perfect for baby or toddler storytimes, though it could also work well with a slightly older group under the right circumstances.  While not nonfiction, this book could still be used as a way to introduce habitats.  My favorite thing about this book is how the seasons change in the illustrations.  This book would be perfect for a birds, homes, forest, or seasons storytime.

say hello like thisSay Hellow Like This! by Mary Murphy
Published 2/11/14

Reminiscent of Murphy’s “A Kiss Like This,” this picture book is bright, colorful, and has ample opportunity for little ones to make animal sounds.