Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Reading

During 2012, I read a total of 143 books--chapter books, for lack of a better term, although they run the gamut from beginning chapter books to adult books. That represents quite an increase from the 79 I read in 2011. Here's how my 2012 reading broke down:

I am interested to see just how skewed my reading is in 2013, when I'll be reading for the 2014 Newbery Award Committee. Anyone want to hazard a guess just how much of my 2013 pie chart will be children's books?

As we head into 2013, I will leave you with my personal favorite reads of the year (that I haven't talked much about on the blog). If you're looking for something to read in the few weeks before the 2013 Youth Media Awards are announced, try starting here!

Favorite non-fiction I read in 2012:
House of Stone by Anthony Shadid
     I actually listened to this audiobook and reviewed it for Library Journal; I found Shadid's ability to blend his home renovation struggles in Lebanon, his own family history, and the cultural history of this area of the Middle East captivating.

Favorite adult fiction I read in 2012:
Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin
     I enjoyed the grittiness of this non-traditional superhero story far more than I would have anticipated. The book follows Steve Clarke, also known as Reaver, during the two weeks his arch-nemesis has given him between his defeat and his death. The book prompted some great discussions of superheroes in our culture in general.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
     I was completely taken by surprise by the beauty and melancholy of this novel. The story follows Julia, a middle school girl in California, in the first year of the Slowing--when the earth's rotation inexplicably begins to slow and to affect all life on the planet. My book club had a terrific discussion of this book, and I'd recommend it for book clubs in 2013.

Favorite YA fiction I read in 2012:
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
     It's no secret that I fell in love with this book this year. I still don't feel I have words to adequately describe just how masterfully Whaley can weave together seemingly disconnected and odd storylines into a single story that is profoundly moving. This is a quiet book for sure, and it deserves your attention.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
     I read an ARC of this story after picking it up at ALA in June, and I've been listening to the audiobook again--that's how much I enjoy the story. It's kind of coming-of-age, kind of paranormal, kind of realistic, kind of boarding school... Really, it defies easy classification. Give it a try.

Favorite children's fiction I read in 2012:
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
     I was enchanted by the rich setting and characters in this mystery story. The small town of Tupelo Landing is a quaint, quirky sort of Neverland--minus the murder, that is--and the narrator, Mo, is a wonderfully drawn young girl with spunk, imagination, and an energy that makes her jump out of the page and into your brain. This book was a pleasure to read.

Ivy + Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows
     I got on something of an Ivy + Bean kick this year. What can I say? I love those characters! Their personalities capture so well what it is to be children, and their friendship is a great model for children of all ages. I shared the Ivy + Bean series with many, many library customers this year, and they've all thanked me for it.


What were your favorite reads of 2012?
What are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Resolve to STEAM in 2013

I love STEAM programming. I love the curiosity inspired by science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, and I love offering programming the allows children to explore the "mysteries" of the world around them. And you know what? They love STEAM programming, too.

I want librarians to resolve to STEAM in 2013, and I've added a new page to this blog--All Things STEAM--to help you do so. Visit the page for some ideas, then set a goal of integrating STEAM into your programming calendar. Maybe that means including a non-fiction title in every story time; maybe it means adding more of a building/engineering slant to your craft programs. Maybe it means you offer a full-blown STEAM program once a quarter, or once a month. Set a goal to STEAM in 2013.

Offering STEAM programming at your library doesn't need to be a difficult thing. Worried because you weren't that great at science/math/etc. in high school? No problem! Offering STEAM programs for children doesn't require in-depth subject knowledge. All it requires is a bit of curiosity, a few supplies, and a willingness to ask questions and experiment in a group program setting. You can STEAM with Legos; you can STEAM with baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes; you can STEAM with building gingerbread houses. You can add a STEAM aspect to just about every program you offer to your customers, and your kiddos will be all the better for it.

How will you STEAM in 2013?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Update Those Awards Shelves!

Last week I unpacked a very welcome box of books at my library: replacement copies of past Caldecott and Newbery Award books. My branch strives to keep a display of the Caldecott and Newbery winning titles for easy browsing, and every year we add pristine new copies of the most recent winners to our collection. These new copies are great, but some of the older winners? Frightful! Take a look:
New copies on the left, old on the right.

So many of our older Caldecott titles are permabound copies. Yes, they've stayed firmly together since the 1970s. But they've also become dirty as all get-out. I recently went on a replacement-purchasing binge so that the cover artwork of these books with award-winning illustrations is a positive representation of the beauty inside.

Then there are the Newbery winners. Have you looked at your Newbery books lately? Please tell me: what do the covers look like? Do any look as dated and culturally confusing as our copy of the 1951 winner Amos Fortune, Free Man?
New copy, old copy.

Do any boast awkwardly-illustrated dogs that make readers think it's a book about a dog rather than an epic fantasy story, like our copy of 1976 winner The Grey King?
New copy, old copy.

How about a cover that is completely blank, like our copy of 1921 winner Smoky the Cowhorse? Yikes!
New copy, infinitely worse old, blank copy.

As a librarian, I have no idealized notions about how readers choose books. They absolutely judge books by their covers; everyone does it, especially kids. And these covers dissuade readers from ever giving these titles a chance. Say what you want about the books that have won awards, but they did win their honors for a reason. Yet very few children will electively pick up one of these books with disgusting, ridiculously dated, or blank covers. I'm hoping that our updated replacement copies will boost interest--or at the very least, shelf appeal--for the titles that have won some of children's literature's biggest awards.

Fun link: Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes has been recovering the Newbery winners, creating updated covers for each of the books that have won the award since 1922. Take a look at some of his fun designs!

How often do you update your collections of award-winning titles? What's the worst award winner on your shelves right now? Please share.

Monday, December 24, 2012

App Review: Bridge Constructor

There are many conversations going on in the youth services world right now regarding tablet technology and apps in library services. The way I see it, it's my job to select great books, audio, and audiovisual content, and I use these exemplary materials in my programming--great apps should be no different. With that in mind, I am debuting app reviews on this blog. I aim to share apps that I have found to be entertaining, engaging, educational, and well-designed. Without further ado, the first review!

Bridge Constructor App Review

I've built a stable bridge!
App: Bridge Constructor from Headup Games
Platforms: iPad, iPhone (3 or higher), iPod Touch; Android; PC
Content Area: Physics
Age Recommendation: 6+
Premise: Players build bridges to span rivers, valleys, and canals in a fictional landscape. At the beginning of play, only wooden beams are available; the building materials available grow to include cables, concrete, and steel beams as players progress. Players must build each level's bridge on a limited budget, but there are no time limitations to the app. When players are ready to test a bridge design, they can tap icons to test the structure using cars or trucks. An unstable bridge will collapse during the test--the simulated bridge collapses are an enjoyable aspect of the app and do not discourage users.
     Players are able to earn points for their bridges based on cost, structural soundness, and test success; achievements can be shared via linked Facebook accounts, but this aspect is not required. Bridges increase in difficulty as players progress through the 30+ levels; hints are available.
Potential Library Uses:
  - Recommending in reference interviews
  - On library-owned devices for customer use
  - In programs to introduce the topic of bridge-building
Lite Version Available?: Yes


Looking for more app reviews and recommendations? Try these sources!

Where do you go to find out about great apps for use in your library? Or do you just try them on your own?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gingerbread House Workshop: A Holiday STEAM Program

We all know how much I enjoy adding STEM aspects to my craft programs--to offer STEAM programs for the children who visit my library. This week we were able to offer a five-hour drop-in Gingerbread House Workshop for the kiddos. It was flexible, so families with varying schedules could attend as it suited them; it was festive and helped to celebrate the holiday season; and it was, at its core, both an engineering and an art activity.

Remember how I mentioned rinsing out all those milk cartons the other day? Those milk cartons served as the framework for the children's gingerbread houses. A colleague and I created plates with all the major building materials: milk carton frame, graham cracker bricks, and embellishments in the form of Necco wafers, candy corn, pretzels, peppermints, mini marshmallows, and licorice bites. These items were ready for gingerbread house assembly on all of our six covered tables. The construction glue--white icing--was set out on every table within easy reach. All these supplies may sound expensive, but the program ended up coming in at $0.74 per participant.

This program worked remarkably well for a few reasons. First of all, because we had the program room open for five hours, we never had an overwhelming crowd--people came as it fit their schedules. Thus each child was able to get individual attention and praise from a library staff member while they constructing a gingerbread house. We were even able to have some great book chats during our slower stretches. Our final attendance count was 112; a high number for our program room, to be sure, but when spread out over five hours, very manageable.

The program also worked well because children could succeed in making their creations regardless of their overall skill levels. We had fifth and sixth graders taking their time to make intricate houses, and we had two-year-olds focusing quite hard to wield the icing knives properly. Children at all ability levels were able to make their very own gingerbread houses, a point of pride.

Additionally, this program is a great example of a basic STEAM program--the engineering and art aspects blend wonderfully. Children engaged their minds to figure out how to construct stable structures (the STEM side), and then they were able to add the sweet and savory embellishments to serve whatever purposes they chose (the creative, art-y side). Both sides of the brain were engaged in creating these gingerbread houses, and all the children were really cognizant of was how much fun they were having.

Clean-up was very easy for this program, especially considering its overall stickiness and the large scale. We wrapped all our leftover materials in our disposable tablecloths at the end of the five hours, and after throwing them away, all we had left was a bit of vacuuming crumbs off the floor. We did have wet wipes and paper towels in the program--after all, as every children's librarian knows, if the potential for stickiness exists, at least 95% of the children will become sticky by activity's end. A little bit of sticky was a small price to pay for such an engaging, enjoyable program.

Do you create and decorate gingerbread houses at your library? Had you ever thought of the program as a STEAM program?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

Did you see Abby the Librarian's "Day in the Life" post on the ALSC Blog a few weeks ago? I love getting a glimpse into the workdays of other children's librarians, and I enjoyed clicking through on the links she shared to see what my peers are up to. I figure it's about time I share a new Day in the Life, too; here's what I did on a recent Monday.

8:20 a.m. - Arrive at the branch and look over the program schedule for the day.

8:30 a.m. - Get our circulation and reference desk money drawers set up and count the money from yesterday's fines and fees. Lots of people want to start the new year with clean slates, and it seems we've been getting more fines paid off than usual.

8:50 a.m. - Ten Minute Meeting with the opening staff. My branch manager instituted these brief daily meetings after our recent staff development day; they're a great, informal way to bring everyone up to speed on what to expect for the day, what programs to talk about with patrons, etc. We rotate who leads the meeting and who writes what we discuss on a giant sticky note in the staff room. Staff who aren't present at the morning meeting initial that they've read the notes when they start their shifts. Communication about all aspects of the branch has improved--messages don't get lost or garbled between shift changes anymore!

9:00 a.m. - Open the branch, then meet with my branch manager to go over what's been happening since we last worked together.

9:15 a.m. - Head to my desk to check my e-mail and gather things for my outreach story time visits. This includes reading over the books I'll be sharing and reviewing the chords I'll need for songs on my ukulele.

9:45 a.m - Head out for Preschool Outreach Story Time!

10:45 a.m. - Back at the branch, I head to the sink in the staff room to rinse out 100 milk cartons. A local elementary school saved them for us to use in an upcoming craft program (more on that later this week...), and even though the extremely kind lunch ladies had rinsed them at the school, they were getting a bit stinky. Aside: no one in library school ever mentioned I might find myself rinsing out dozens of milk cartons.

11:30 a.m. - The director of the library district called to chat about a proposal I'm working on, so I spent some time on the phone with him and then filled my branch manager in on the proposal's progress.

12:15 p.m. - Lunch.

12:45 p.m. - More preschool outreach!

1:45 p.m. - I hurry back into the branch to print off some agendas for a two o'clock meeting. I also get updated on what I've missed while I was out of the branch.

2:00 p.m. - Early Literacy Task Force meeting. We talk about potential early literacy idea-sharing workshops for staff and assess the success of our recent early literacy initiatives. We agree on what we'll report to our colleagues at the upcoming children's meeting.

3:10 p.m. - Work the reference desk. In between reference questions from customers, I'm able to put the finishing touches on an eReader flow chart for reference staff; we anticipate an increase in eReader questions after the holidays, and the flow chart is to help staff keep the devices and their specific set-up steps straight. I also finish formal letters to our teen volunteers informing them of scheduling changes in 2013.

5:10 p.m. - Head home after a busy start to the week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Time to Hibernate! A Story Time Plan

I offer one evening story time every month in an attempt to make story times available to children whose caregivers work or who attend preschool during our regular morning sessions. Attendance at these evening programs has been spotty at best, so I tried something new this quarter: advertising the program theme on our events website and in our quarterly program guide. That means I needed to select my program themes several months in advance--something I don't normally do. We had a decent turn-out for our recent hibernation-themed story time. Here's what we did:

Time to Hibernate! Story Time

Opening Song: "Open, Shut Them"

Talk: We spent a few minutes learning what it means to hibernate; several kiddos chimed in with what they knew about hibernation. We also practiced saying the word: "Let me hear you say 'hibernate.'"

Story: Old Bear by Kevin Henkes
     This beautifully illustrated book has simple, brief text and invites plenty of opportunity for dialogic reading. On every season's spread, we talked about what we could see in pictures and what we remember seeing in those seasons here in Missouri.

Song: "Where is Brown Bear?"
     I used stick puppets with images of a brown bear, a groundhog, and a chipmunk to add a visual to this song (see photo above). The children really loved it--they especially enjoyed seeing the animals go to sleep, which I mimed by setting the puppets on the floor.
"Where is Brown Bear?"
(tune: "Where is Thumbkin?")

Where is brown bear*?
Where is brown bear*?
Here I am!
Here I am!
How are you this winter?
Very tired, thank you.
Go to sleep.
Go to sleep.
*can be repeated with different hibernating animals

Story: Hibernation by Margaret Hall
     This non-fiction title introduces young children to the concept of hibernation. It talks about different animals that hibernate and why; how they get ready; and how they find places to spend the winter months. The children were fascinated to see all the different animals that hibernate; they knew about bears and groundhogs, but the bats and frogs took them by surprise. The big photos are great for sharing.
Matching Game: Colored Bears
     I spread out lots of different colored bears on the story time carpet and, one color at a time, I encouraged the children to take the bears to our felt board cave to hibernate. It just so happened that my story time audience was pretty knowledgeable and confident regarding their colors, but they still enjoyed the interactive aspect.
Craft: Making hibernation caves
     Each child received a white die-cut bear and a blank white sheet of paper. Bears could be decorated however they wanted, and the white sheet of paper was the bear's cave; I encouraged the kiddos to draw the things their bears might want when they wake up in the caves. I saw berries to eat, a radio to listen to, leaves for a bed, and plenty of other great, creative ideas. The last step of the craft was to staple a black sheet of paper over the cave, thus closing the cave door until spring. One child asked his mother if he could hang his cave on his bedroom wall so it was ready for him to open in the spring. Adorable!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Give the Gift of Story Time

I don't want to take much of your time today--I know how hectic things can get around the holidays. I just want to suggest a really great, totally free gift idea for the kids in your life.

This holiday season, give the gift of story time.

Sharing stories is one of life's great pleasures. Reading together helps build strong, positive relationships; it also allows sharers to bond over the stories they read together, whether the stories are funny, sad, touching, scary, or full of adventure. What we share with others becomes a part of our common experience, a touchstone for our future interactions with one another. Stories help us to find our best friends.

Sharing stories is also one of the best things you can do to help prepare a child to succeed in life. Children who are read to frequently and with love are usually better readers and better overall students than those who don't have stories shared with them regularly. Children who experience stories have higher vocabularies and better general understanding about the world; they are often more imaginative than children who did not hear stories, and they are better able to weave their own lives into narrative format, too. Who wouldn't want to give a gift with that sort of lifelong impact?

So this holiday season, grab a few of your favorite books from the library or a bookstore (indie if you can). Sit down to share those books with the children in your life, and plan to spend at least 20 minutes reading together. Go ahead, you can even be indulgent and make this story time a habit. Add songs and rhymes, finger plays and puppets, even silly voices; anything that helps stories jump off the page and into the memory and the heart.

Story time is a gift that can make a big difference--both for the child you read to and for you. Consider giving the gift of story time this year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December Outreach Story Time: Wrapping Up the Building Block Books

I've been making my December outreach story time visits, and with the end of the calendar year comes the time to vote for a favorite Building Block Picture Book Award nominee. My December story times include the last few nominees, a holiday book, and voting for favorite Building Block.

Opening Song: "Open, Shut Them"

Story: Mitchell's License by Hallie Durand
     Remember all those times you sat on a caregiver's shoulders and felt absolutely on top of the world? That's what Mitchell likes to do, and whenever he sits on his dad's shoulders, he becomes the driver of a really great car. Kids love the silliness and whimsy of this title.

Song: "The Wheels on the Bus"
     You guessed it: I whipped out my ukulele for this one. I took crowd suggestions for the different parts of the bus, and we sang a few rounds before hitting the brakes on this song.

Story: Hugless Douglas by David Melling
     Poor Douglas! He's just woken up from a nice, long, hibernation nap, and all he wants is a hug. Getting that hug seems to be rather difficult, though, as he can't seem to find the perfect hugger. He tries a boulder, a tree, a shrub, and a rather displeased owl before finally finding the person who gives perfect hugs.

Story: Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin
     Pete is a perenially favorite among my outreach story time crowds, and since all the centers I visit confirmed that they do celebrate Christmas, I opted to share this fun holiday story with my groups. Ever wonder what would happen should Santa be unable to handle Christmas? Never fear--Pete the Cat is here, and he's got a song to help him bring joy to all the little girls and boys!

Voting: With the help of the teachers at the child care centers I visit, all of the children get the chance to vote for their favorie of the ten Building Block Picture Book Award nominees that we shared over the course of the fall. I have the cover of each book printed on a sheet of paper; voting for a particular book means going to stand by that picture (this is the only way I've found to keep the kids from voting for more than one title--they can only physically be in one place, so the vote by proximity). I tally the votes and say I'll report back with the big winner in January.

Song: "Jingle Bells"
     I had a child request last month that I learn "Jingle Bells" on my ukulele, and that's what I did. There's nothing like finishing off a story time with a favorite tune to which everyone knows the words.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Show Me Librarian on Teen Librarian's Toolbox!

I'm excited to share the news that my blog has been included in the Teen Librarian's Toolbox's 12 Blogs of Christmas! For twelve days this December, the wonderfully talented ladies over at TLT have been profiling their favorite library-world blogs. I am humbled that they've included me.

The write-up is pretty hilarious, too--and I'd expect nothing less from Stephanie, one of the TLT bloggers and a teen librarian from Louisiana. (She's not as much of a "kiddie-hater" as she claims, I promise!)

Thanks for profiling your favorite library blogs, ladies! I strive to continue providing material you can use in 2013.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Return of the Stuffed Animal Sleepover Story Time

When I hosted my first Stuffed Animal Sleepover and Story Time last spring, I didn't know what type of response to expect. Would families find it too logistically difficult to visit the library in the evening and then again the next morning? Would young children be traumatized at the prospect of leaving a beloved stuffed animal at the library overnight? My concerns, as it turned out, were unfounded; plenty of families loved the idea of the stuffed animal sleepover. They loved it so much that we recently offered another.

The basic format for our most recent Stuffed Animal Sleepover and Story Time was very similar to our spring program. Caregivers brought their children to the library on a Wednesday evening with their stuffed animal friends in tow. As each child brought his or her stuffed friend to the reference desk, I asked for a few details: the stuffed animal's name; the child's name, for the back of each animal's nametage; and any special instructions for taking care of the animal. I learned which stuffed friends needed help brushing their teeth, which enjoyed dancing before bedtime, and which needed a hug before being tucked in. Adorable. (And pro-early literacy! Those kids were all about talking about bedtime rituals!)

A teen volunteer was at the library that Wednesday night to help photograph the stuffed animals doing library sleepover activities--ordering pizza for dinner, playing at the train set, having story time... Having a volunteer on hand to assist with the photos was a HUGE help. Whereas during the last go-round I felt frantic on the evening of the drop-off, this time I was able to get things done at a reasonable clip. I had all of the photos taken on my iPad for easy creation of a slideshow for our story time the next morning; everything felt much more seamless this time around.

On Thursday morning, I woke up the animals and got set up for our story time. The formal program included four main components:

1. Viewing the slideshow of the animals' sleepover antics. Kids and caregivers both love this portion of the program--I had a couple of moms snapping pictures of the projected slideshow before I mentioned I would share the link with them. I used the Haiku Deck app to make this simple slideshow.

2. Sharing a few stories and songs. I read some books that the stuffed animals had "read" the night before: Maisy Goes on a Sleepover by Lucy Cousins; Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas; and Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen. We sang a few songs while I played the ukuklele; the favorite was "If All the Raindrops."

3. Enjoying a small breakfast-y snack. I had juice boxes and mini doughnuts set out on a table for everyone. Tests indicate that powdered sugar trumps chocolate, FYI.

4. Getting crafty to create sleepover souvenirs. I printed out a picture of each of the stuffed animals friends doing something at the library. Children were able to cut out that picture and then attach it to a cardboard picture frame that they had decorated. Caregivers particularly love these keepsakes. Each child could also draw and/or write on a small poster to show what their stuffed animal's favorite part of the sleepover was. Funny moment: When I asked one child what her dog Clifford said was his favorite part of the night, she replied, deadpan: "You do know they can't talk, right?"

Children were able to finish their crafts at their own pace before heading home with their stuffed animals. I did share the slideshow with all the caregivers who shared their e-mail addresses, and I got a lot of positive feedback after I sent that message. Already I've heard from families asking when we'll offer the program again--some really enjoyed it, and some weren't able to attend this time. I think it's safe to say we'll be giving this program a permanent spot in our special programs rotation.

Questions? Recommendations? Stories about your own stuffed animal sleepoevers? Share in the comments!

Friday, December 7, 2012

YA Friday: Teen Volunteers in the Library

I've talked before about using teen volunteers to support our annual summer reading program. Now, for a bit of a change, let's talk about using teen volunteers during the academic year. Because that whole shebang is a horse of a different color.

When I started my position at my branch in August 2011, I took on the responsibilities of the volunteer coordinator as well as the children's librarian. That fall, I had a volunteer corps of about 7 teens, totaling an average of 10 hours of help each week. Fast forward to today, when I have a group of 11 volunteers putting in 17 hours each week. That's seventeen hours each week when volunteers show up at my library in order to help us get things done. They come to me looking for their tasks. And I increasingly don't have much for them to do.

You see, in our library, volunteers help with small tasks that are not at the core of any staff person's job description. Our regular volunteers do any and all of the following:

  • Alphabetize carts of returned items
  • Prepare items reserved by customers to go on our reserve shelves
  • Prepare craft components for programs
  • Withdraw items that have been weeded by staff
  • Cut scrap paper
  • Help set up the program room for events
  • Pull items on lists prepared by staff
  • Check in books that were recently used in programs
  • Stock materials displays
  • Assist with special one-time projects as directed

Now let me ask you a question: would your library (considering it is medium-sized like mine with an average of 5 programs per week) have seventeen hours worth of these tasks each and every week? I think you can start to see my problem: I have lots of volunteers, and not enough tasks to keep them all occupied.

That's why I'm reorganizing how we work with our teen volunteers. We're shutting down volunteer operations for the weeks of Christmas and New Year's. Then, when volunteers start to come around again the second week of January, a new schedule will kick into place. Volunteers will have one shift every other week instead of weekly. Ta-da!

I know that modification doesn't seem huge, but it will cut in half our weekly job of frantically organizing volunteer tasks. The demands on staff will be fewer as we have reduced weekly volunteer traffic. Also, by reducing the ratio of volunteer hours to volunteer tasks, we'll be able to give each of our volunteers more substantial and meaningful work. Whereas under our current schedule the weekly Friday afternoon volunteer always gets stuck helping us wrap our reserves, in the new schedule she'll get more variety in her assignments. It's a win-win for everyone.

Or at least I hope. I'm interested to hear what volunteers have to say about the overall reduction in their volunteer hours; after all, some of them volunteer in order to fulfill service requirements for honor societies and youth groups, and spreading out their shifts means it will take longer to reach a volunteer hour goal. I am trying to take that concern into consideration, however, by providing opportunities for interested volunteers to earn extra hours. Many of our children's programs throughout the year benefit from having a few volunteers in the room to help things run smoothly; I have started sharing these program volunteer requests on our library's volunteer Facebook page and at Teen Advisory Board meetings. Additionally, volunteers are welcome to work as much as they want during our summer reading program. Thus, if a teen needs 30 hours of volunteer service, he or she can get those hours no problem with a bit of planning.

I'm looking forward to debuting this new volunteer scheduling in January--I think it will really make for more enjoyable interactions for both volunteers and library staff. I'll be sure to report back.

In the meantime, do you have volunteer tips, tricks, or stories to share? Sound off in the comments.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon

Taylor, S.S. The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon. illus. by Katherine Roy. McSweeney's McMullens. 11 Dec. 2012. p. 384.

When The Expeditioners opens, young Kit West is in the Oceania marketplace with hopes of getting some food for himself and his siblings. Ever since Kit, Zander, and M.K.'s father died while on an exploration, the three children have had to fend for themselves. But when a mysterious man gives Kit a package from their father, the children learn that they may not know the full story of their explorer father's expeditions or his mysterious death. Codes, maps, and a few fortuitous interactions lead the West children to Arizona in search of the legendary Drowned Man's Canyon and its gold, and the trio hope they'll also discover why their father left them a secret quest to follow. Throughout their journey they encounter danger and adventure quite unlike anything they were expecting.

This solid steam punk adventure borrows from dystopian fiction in its setting: after technology was shown to have manipulated and stifled human discovery, explorers learned that the world on the map we all know wasn't an accurate picture of our planet. With the discoveries of new lands and resources, however, came a shady, totalitarian government unafraid to use brute force to preserve its power. Not only do the West children have to face uncharted territories and unknown creatures in their adventure, but they must deal with a regime with unchecked control as well. Taylor provides a well-constructed, believable world for her young heroes. The story moves at a thrilling pace, and the adventure will capture the imagination of readers. Roy's illustrations add another terrific element to the story; the jacket, endpapers, and cover of the hardcover book are stunning. I hope this title marks the first in a series, as I can see many readers developing a fondness for the characters and a desire to see their adventures progress.

I'll be suggesting this title to older middle grade readers who love adventure and steam punk, and I'll also hand sell it to readers who enjoy stories and non-fiction of exploration and geographical discoveries.

Check out the book trailer!

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, December 3, 2012

More Books with Beat

When I ended up covering a colleague's story time for a local moms group last week, and I opted to replicate a recent successful program: a sort of toddler story-and-dance extravaganza. I used many of the same songs in this program as I did in the previous program; the audiences don't usually overlap, so I wasn't worried about seeming repetitive. I did, however, select some new stories to keep my own enthusiasm as fresh as possible. Here are the three great books with beat I used. They're perfect for story times with a bit more song and dance than your usual offering.

Busy Busy City Street by Cari Meister, illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia
     This story combines simple, rhyming text with lovely illustrations. Whenever I've shared this book, kids are really into the fun images on the pages that correspond with the story itself. The repeated chorus of "Honk! Honk! Beep! Beep! Busy, busy city street" catches the attention of listeners, and by the end of the book they are quick to respond to my honks with beeps of their own.

The Croaky Pokey by Ethan Long
     This amphibious version of the Hokey Pokey is a lot of fun. Lots of young kids haven't really heard the Hokey Pokey before, so they are excited about discovering a song that is so interactive and silly (you put your backside in!). I sing the text of the book to get things going, and I jump around with my tongue stuck out to catch flies in the appropriate parts of the story.

Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig, illustrated by Marc Brown
     This book has so many great applications. It introduces a variety of farm animals and the sounds they make, it includes great sounds for promoting phonological awareness, and it boasts a great, consistent rhythm. Animals in the story cannot sleep because "they've got that beat," and every listener quickly catches the beat, too.


What are some of your favorite books with beat to use in story times?