Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why Libraries?

A couple of weeks ago my twitter feed kept revealing a #whylib hashtag. Some of the most creative folks in my PLN were participating, so of course I clicked through and have spent quite a bit of time reading the stories of how so many of the people I admire ended up in libraries.

I didn't start out ever thinking I'd be a librarian.  The public library was always part of my life growing up.  I wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club outlining my early experience with libraries. (Please excuse the typo in the text!)

My journey to being a librarian didn't start until I was well into my undergrad years.  Originally I was setting my sights on earning a PhD in History.  After meeting quite a few TAs who were mid thesis and having some serious conversations with them, I started to think more about options for someone graduating with a degree in History and Women's Studies.  After a bit of exploring, I starting thinking about Archival Studies...after all, my favourite bits of history were the research ones - especially those dealing with primary sources.  In the last year of my BAH I applied at UBC's program for Archival Studies.  It was not meant to be.  In hindsight it makes lots of sense, but at the time it did sting.  I took a year after graduating to take some extra classes and thought about library school.

Interestingly enough, once I decided on library school, I asked one of my History professors for a recommendation to McGill's program and she told me she thought I was making a mistake.  She had come the other way...she had been a librarian, and then went back for a PhD in History.  She told me that my love of research would be lost in library school.

She wrote me the letter and the next year I started my MLIS at McGill in Montreal.  The degree is a 2 year program that I attended full time.  The summer between first and second year I scored a job in a special library (thanks, Uncle Michael!) and pretty much decided that special libraries were where I wanted to land.  The second year of my program, I was free to take some optional courses and I decided to take a course in YA lit.  My sights started to shift.

My graduation year was 1996  -  a very different time.  This was a time that the NYC libraries came to Canada to recruit folks.  Entry level jobs were scarce in Canada and many of my classmates were moving to the States to work.  My roommates and I attended ALA in San Antonio resumes in hand hoping to score an offer before graduation.  I was still of two minds - special libraries or YA?  An offer came for each, and ultimately I followed my heart and became the YA librarian at a branch of the New York Public Library.

I landed at the perfect branch for me, which is a lucky thing when you think about the fact that there are 81 branches plus the research libraries.  My teens were little goths and punks and comic book addicts and poetry writers.  I know, right?  I had a fantastic branch manager who let me try things like zine workshops and other programs that hadn't been done in house before.

Ultimately my journey has brought me to school libraries, and I have to say this is where I think I belong.  I am lucky enough to work with a team of librarians (also a rare thing for a relatively small school) who challenge me professionally in a school where I am allowed to take risks.

At the end of the day, I am glad I didn't take my History professor's advice.  While I don't pull on the white gloves and tweezers to look at primary resources, I get to have conversations with kids about their reading and their lives.  Every now and again I get an email out of the blue from a former student who has something great to say.  I am immersed in amazing literature written for children and teens. I am exploring technology and learning about and using resources I hadn't heard of the year before.  Each day is different, and I have to say I love it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jane, the fox & me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

I am smitten with this graphic novel that hits all of the right spots for any tween who has ever felt alone.

Hélène has been dumped by her friends. Not only dumped, but they are actively making her life intolerable.  Huddled in the hallways of school, snickering when she walks by, writing on the walls of the girls' bathroom.  "Hélène weighs 216! She smells like BO?" There's nowhere to hide.

Hélène finds some solace in her reading of Jane Eyre.  She reads better when her old friends aren't on the bus.  If they are she can at least look like she's not listening even when she can't help but hear them.

Hélène doesn't want to burden her mother with what is going on. Her mother works so hard for the family, and Hélène doesn't want to add to her pile of things.  But her mother does have to take her shopping downtown when it is announced that Hélène's class will be going to the woods to nature camp for four nights.  Four night with Geneviève, Sarah, Anne-Julie and Chloé.  And bathing suits will be involved.

Not surprisingly Hélène is selected into the tent of outcasts.  Which is okay with her because at least it's quiet.  But a chance encounter with a fox and noticing the empathy in someone's eyes combine to shift Jane's world of exile.

Exquisitely drawn, this is a book to be owned.  And shared.  I borrowed it from the library, but then quickly purchased the English and French versions.  Jane's life is depicted in black and white, while the Jane Eyre portions are awash in blocks of color.  I would buy this book for the panels on pages 58-59 and 74-75 alone.  I look forward to reading the (original) French version to see what nuances might be different.  This is a quiet book, but it is not to be missed.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd

Sometimes a book will just call out to you.  It tells you that it was meant for you and that you need to read it.  The first time I heard the title A Snicker of Magic, I was intrigued.  The first time I saw the delightful cover, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Felicity Juniper Pickle is a collector of words.  Not in the same way that some of us are, she is lucky enough to see words.  Words surround certain people and things, and when Felicity sees them, she writes them down in her always present blue notebook.  When her little sister Frannie Jo asks for a poem, Felicity can pluck them out of the air and combine them into a soothing rhyme for her.

There are two things that Felicity Pickle cannot do, however.  She cannot comfortably speak those words in front of anyone, and she can't stay in one place too long.  The first thing she can work on, but the second thing is all because of her Mama.

Her Mama is cursed with a wandering heart.  She loads her girls up into her beat-up van and travels around with them.  This last jaunt has brought the Pickles home to where Mama grew up: Midnight Gulch.  Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, but a few generations ago the magic seemingly up and left town right along with the famous Threadbare brothers.

But for Felicity, Midnight Gulch does turn out to be a magical place.  First of all, she acquires her very first friend - Jonah Pickett.  And Jonah, it turns out, has a secret and a bit of a magical identity as well.  As he takes Felicity under his wing, she sees the things that could be -- the things that she didn't even know she was longing for as Mama shuttled them around "Per-clunkity-clunk, per-clunkity-clunk" across the country.

Natalie Lloyd has created the kind of world that readers want to jump into.  This small Tennessee town should exist and feels like it does.  Perfectly quirky, the characters are interwoven, layered and kind. Turns of phrase verily melt in your mouth, and beg to be read aloud.  This is a heart-song book, if ever there was one.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Time, time, time....

Holy cats!  It's been a while.

February was an incredibly busy time around school and this blog has suffered for it.

Rest assured, I have been reading and will be reviewing a couple of titles shortly.  I have been reading all over the place lately, but a couple of good tween fits were among the stack.  Look soon for recommendations of:

Nightingale's Nest, by Loftin - a foray into magical realism that packs a punch.

The Meaning of Maggie, by Sovern - an incredibly likable Maggie adjusts to the changes around her.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Mother-Daughter ALA

I did not attend ALA proper this year, but I did manage to road trip down with my 10 year old daughter to take a turn on the exhibit floor.

If ALA is ever local to you and you have kids who are old enough to handle the relative overwhelming nature of the floor, I highly recommend it.

The publishers all treated her with care, and we timed it so that she got to meet Tom Angleberger and have him sign a copy of Horton Halfpott complete with illustration.

It was fun seeing ALA through her lens.  She couldn't believe that arcs were for the taking, and she is super-excited to have some new titles to blog about this spring.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rooftoppers, by Katherine Rundell

Rooftoppers sat on my shelf for about two months before I pulled it down to give it a read.  I had heard the murmurs that it was not to be missed, and a few pages in I was kicking myself for leaving on the shelf for so long.

Sophie is plucked out of the sea where she has been bobbing in a cello case after the ship she was presumably traveling on went down.  Her rescuer is bachelor Charles, who lives on his own and is decidedly a cerebral sort of gentleman.  According to the National Childcare Agency, Charles is ill equipped to care for a one year old girl, but he knows he possesses all the love necessary to do right by the child.  The NCA decides to let Charles care for the girl for the time being, and worker Miss Eliot vows to stop by to make sure that all is well.

Sophie's upbringing is by all means unconventional.  She is schooled at home according to what Charles deems important: Shakespeare, geography and the art of whistling.  Sophie, however, cannot stop thinking about the mother she is sure she lost when the ship went down.  Charles has alway told Sophie to "never ignore a possible", and though her memories are improbable, they are not impossible. Sophie is certain her mother is still alive and playing the cello somewhere, and she has a growing desperation regarding finding her.  Her phantom memories of trousers worn at the knee are no longer enough.  Once the NCA decides that a girl of Sophie's age needs alternate guardianship and Sophie finds a long overlooked clue, she and Charles decide not to ignore the possible and head to Paris.

Paris is where the adventure truly begins.  A world Sophie never could have imagined is right above her on the rooftops, and it seems that Charles' upbringing was the perfect thing to prepare Sophie for the next steps of her life.

Katherine Rundell has written what can only be described as a modern classic.  It has the feel of a story that has been around for an age, one that is timeless, but somehow has not been done before.  The turns of phrase are magical without crossing into the realm of purple.  Rooftoppers begs to be read aloud, and deserves a place of honor on bookshelves everywhere.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Real Life Tween Reader

D is a girl who reads all the time.  Seriously.  All. The. Time.

She is always up for a recommendation, has no problem with abandoning a book that doesn't fit, and is super enthusiastic about books.  I asked her if she would answer some reading questions, and she answered with an enthusiastic "Yes!"

Do you consider yourself a reader?
Yes.  A serious one. I love to read and get upset when someone tries to interrupt me.

What are your favorite genres to read?
I love to read Realistic Fiction, but my favorite books are FANTASY!

How do you select the books you want to read?
I look at books that might seem interesting and I read the blurb.  I also get book recommendations and look for other books an author may have written.

What is your favorite book so far?
My favorite book so far is...Hunger Games, When You Reach Me, Harry Potter series, Proxy, Crook series, Ranger's Apprentice series, Sea of Trolls series, Cherub and MORE!

What is your favorite thing about reading?
That it takes me to a different world.

Do you read on an e-reader/phone/computer?
No.  I like the feel of paper and the solid form of a book.

What kinds of books do you think are the most popular with kids your age?  Why?
I think fiction books are most popular with kids my age because we like how we can be in a world that isn't possible, or won't happen to us.  We like how we experience problems that most likely won't happen to us now-a-days.

What are you currently reading?
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien