Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Scary" Books

I believe that the most frequently used search term in any elementary library catalog is "scary." No matter the time or season of the year, these queries are heard daily:
"Do you have any scary books?" "Where are the scary books?" "Are all the scary books check-out?"

One of my favorite times of the school year was the two weeks we turned off the lights in the library, pitched a tent, dragged in the silk ficus trees from around the building to simulate the "woods" and built a "campfire."

As each class came in I would greet them with my lantern and the kids would turn on their flashlights and we would "hike in" to the campsite, following a trail around book stacks and jumping over "streams" that flowed by the periodicals.

The kids would then unroll their "sleeping bags" and gather around the campfire.

With the quiet sounds of owls and crickets in the background, I would start telling stories, the spookier the better.

Without a doubt the master of scary check-outs is Alvin Schwartz. These are some books you will NEVER find on the library shelves because they go out as soon as they are checked in.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bone by Alvin Schwartz

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories are milder tales for early readers.

After a few years of disinterest, Goosebumps are again flying off the library shelves and R.L Stine's other series are being sought.

Cold Feet by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, 2000

This one of my favorite story-telling stories. Cynthia DeFelice tells the story of the piper Willie McPhee who replaces his worn out boots with boots from a feet of a frozen dead man in the woods. The story has just the right amount of "ewwww..." and can be turned into a jump tale which will evoke delighted screams.

I am always on the hunt for scary tales which is why I was so intrigued by Patricia C. Mckissack's The Dark-Thirty: Southern tales of the supernatural, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, 1992. It is a Newbery honor book and a Coretta Scott King award winner, an ALA Notable Children's Book, a Notable Children's Trade Book in the field of Social Studies and an International Reading Association Teachers' Choice.

These ten tales are wonderfully chilling and trace the history of African Americans from slavery to Rosa Parks. McKissack honors the tradition of oral storytelling with stories that would work wonderfully in a social studies curriculum.

"The Conjure Brother" and "Boo Mama" are classic stories that will resonate with kids.
"The Legend of Pin Oak" and "We Organized" address the injustice of slavery. "The 11:59" honors the Pullman car porters and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters who organized in 1926.

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite story from this wonderful collection but I can hear myself sharing "The Woman in the Snow" with kids as it flows right into a discussion of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

McKissack does not pull back from the authentic language of discrimination. Villains in a few of the tales do use terms, specifically the n-word, that sometimes result in a book challenge. I hope this is not the reason I have not seen this remarkable book in more school library collections.

An absolute, must-have!

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Nearest Book

Via Fuse#8, via Chicken Spaghetti :

Do this...
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig around for that "cool" or "intellectual" book on your shelves. (I know you were thinking about it.) Just pick up whatever is closest.

(OK, I did the next 5 sentences.)

Lily had never been able to imagine the actual thinking of the actual parent as he actually drove to an airport, actually opened his own car door, actually left his eight-year-old on the sidewalk and actually departed.

She had not been to LaGuardia since that day. How amazing tht only Lily (possibly Michael, but eight-year-olds had little grasp of the calendar) knew that the anniversry was at hand. Early September had two anniversaries for the rest of America: Labor Day and Spetember 11. Only Lily had her very own date burned inside her.

This passage is from Caroline B. Cooney's new book, a friend at midnight. How interesting that this passage summarizes the issue that confronts Lily in this thought provoking story.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Movie: Inkheart

Plans for the Inkheart movie are sounding better and better:
Helen Mirren and Andy Serkis join the cast of the family fantasy Inkheart, according to Variety.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The World's Fastest Librarian

The World’s Fastest Librarian is a twelve minute short film following Mary, a fictional public librarian at the Madison Public Library (as played by the UW SLIS Lab Library) as she prepares for the World’s Fastest Librarian Competition.

The World’s Fastest Librarian is a humorous tongue-in-cheek film that shows a different image of librarians than that usually found in films.

This film was a collaborative project involving over a dozen library school students. It was a labor of love and is meant as a tribute to librarians everywhere.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Author: Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot has strep throat. Through the haze of pain and illness though, she has managed to find a photo that summarizes her feelings and that made me laugh out loud. You have to read/see this link. I don't know if it is photoshopped or not but it sure is funny. I have a strange sense of humor.

I hope you feel better soon, Meg.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

His Majesty's Dragon

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, 2006

I admit I had not had time to peruse the promotional material I picked up at my library conference about this book. In fact I had purged the preview chapter in an attempt to clear away the debris around my desk the day before I heard that Peter Jackson had purchased the rights to this trilogy with his own money.

Hmmm...let's give that book another look-see ... arrrgghhh ... I tossed it? Treebeard bought me a copy. I just finished the first book and can't wait to read the next one.

I can imagine the conversation in the Jackson hobbit-home. "Hey, Fran...you know that computer software we have for flying Nazgul and charging Oliphaunts? I think I have found another property where we could use that software with some tweaking--plus, this is a cracking read!"

His Majesty's Dragon does not qualify as children's literature or YA but like McCaffery's Pern books, this could have appeal for fantasy readers.

Imagine, Horatio Hornblower (Forester,) Aubrey/Maturin (O'Brian,) Sharpe (Bernard Cornwell) all fighting Napoleon and then sprinkle-in an airborn fighting force of dragons! A very enjoyable read!

Temeraire: http://www.temeraire.org/

Pond Scum

Pond Scum by Alan Silberberg, 2006

Alan Silberberg's Pond Scum is full of fun and heart and is a hoot to read. Pond Scum will even tempt those nonfiction-reptile-amphipian-reading boys and girls to drop those DK Eyewitness books and try a novel for a change.

The hilarious opening chapter sees a hapless real estate agent attempting to show the old ramshackle house by the pond to some prospective buyers only to be dive bombed by every insect, bird and mammal in the area. The agent and house-hunters run for their lives. No sale!

Oliver and his sister have been uprooted from their home in the city when their newly divorced mother takes a job as a teacher in a small community. Against her better instincts, the real estate agent tries, once more, to unload the old house on this newly-arrived family. Despite what seems to be yet another organized attack on them by the local insects and animals, their mother takes a shine to the old run down house and decides to buy it.

Moving does not really bother Oliver as his only friends are television characters and his idea of a good time is watching TV and tearing the wings off house flies. School is just something else to be endured like his father's infrequent and rushed visits with him and his sister.

The lack of a television signal is making Oliver crazy though. When he attempts to install a rickety antenna on the roof, he is attacked by crows. His plummet through the roof of the house lands him in the attic where he finds a mysterious gem stone that will change his life.

The stone allows him to change form and join the animal kingdom. Unlike Narnia or Neverland, Oliver's secret new world is just outside his front door. He discovers the natural world with his new best friend, Mooch the salamander. Nature is not paradise though as the cruel and power mad crow, General Santo Domingo, is preparing to grab control of the animal Alliance and rule over all the animals of the pond.

Along with the scum and goo and slime and plenty of eewwwwww-ness, Pond Scum also considers the importance of friendship, brother-sister relationships and finding your place in the world.

I am looking forward to booktalking this novel and getting the book into the hands of my reading friends.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Splendid Friend, Indeed

A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom, 2005

The opening pages of this book are wordless but the incredible texture of the polar bear's fur stretches across two pages and begs to be touched. The fur is rendered in pastels or chalk and the tips of the hairs have a green algae tinge to them just like polar bears I have seen at the zoo.

Duck is enthusiastically trying to gain the bear's attention by claiming to enjoy all the things Bear enjoys like reading and writing. Bear is not amused nor interested until Duck writes him a letter from the heart. They become splendid friends.

The simple language is embellished by the comical expressions of Bear and Duck. There is a easy warmth to this story that underscores the importance of not making snap judgements about new people we meet.
A 2X2 selection

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Cybils are coming!

I've volunteered for SF&F in any capacity and YA!

From Big A Little a:

The First Annual Children’s Book Awards, Blog Edition

This month we’ve seen a spate of book awards, some of which have left us wondering: couldn’t we, the intelligent, savvy members of the kidlitosphere do better? Or, at least, differently?

So, we’re inaugurating our own book awards, honoring books published in English for children in 2006. Anne Boles Levy, of Book Buds, will launch a site this week and administer the awards process.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hugging the Rock

Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown, 2006

I have delayed writing about this book because I wanted to be sure my librarian friends were back in "acquisition" mode and ready to add this book to their purchase orders. So, friends, click here to add this book to your B&T, Follett or Mackin book order, right now.

Hugging the Rock is a fine and rare treasure. I read it straight through in one sitting because I just couldn't bear to stop until I knew what was going to happen. Susan Taylor Brown's free verse is so musical as one poem leads into the other that stopping midway through would be like turning off a beautiful song before the final note had sounded.

Rachel's mother never wanted her. That is the truth she begins to face as she watches her mother leave. For a while she hopes her mother will return but her emotions and school work plummet as she realizes that will not happen. She struggles to understand her mother's bipolar disorder and grieves for her loss.

Rachel and her father must learn about each other and rebuild their lives. In the beginning, they are not very successful but they don't give up on each other and ultimately Rachel discovers it has been her father who cherished, loved and wanted her from the very beginning.

The story is so uplifting and positive that is will resonate with readers long after they finish it. I know it has with me.

It is the Wind

It is the Wind by Ferida Wolff, illustrated by James Ransome 2005.

This is a beautiful picture book.
A young boy listens to the sounds of the night as he settles down for sleep.

What is the noise I hear,
in the night
that wakens me,
that shakens me,
the noise, I hear, in the dark
in the night?

It is the swing, I think
by the barn
that sways and clunks
that sways and thunks,
the swing I think, in the breeze
by the barn.

It is the bugs, I think,
in the grass
that stir and crick,
that stir and click
the bugs, I think singing songs
in the grass.

Ransome's watercolors glow with a veil of blue night upon them. He displays small scenes from a farm life opposite each stanza. A lovely and melodic choice for quiet times or bedtime.

A 2X2 selection

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa

The Texas Library Association provides some of the best reading lists around. The 2X2 Reading List is a project of the Children’s Round Table, a unit of the Texas Library Association. The 2X2 Committee‘s charge is to produce a list of 20 recommended books for children, age two to grade two.

I had an opportunity to share some of the books on this year's list with students. What treasures!

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman, painted by Betsy Lewin, 2005.

This title is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book. Cowgirl Kate and her
horse Cocoa understand each other perfectly. Sometimes Cocoa does not
want to work and Kate knows just what to say to get him moving. when
she cannot count all the cattle,Cocoa helps her. Cocoa is always hungry
and Kate works hard to take care of him.
When she can't sleep, he sings her a lullabye.

"Will you fluff my straw?" Cocoa asked.
Cowgirl Kate sighed.
"I am very tired," she said.
But she climbed out of her sleeping bag
and fluffed his straw.
Then she crawled back into her sleeping bag.
"I am hungry," said Cocoa
Cowgirl Kate sighed.
You are always hungry," she said.
But she climbed out of her sleeping bag
andgave him three carrots.
Then she crawled back into her sleeping bag.
"Uh-oh! My water bin is low," said Cocoa.
Cowgirl Kate groaned.
"Why didn't you tell me that before?"
"I didn't think of it before, " said Cocoa.
"First I was thinking about straw.
Then I was thinking about food.
Now I am thinking about water."
"You are doing too much thinking," said Cowboy Kate.

Lewin's paintings are comical and expressive. Their expressions are
priceless as they stare at each other during this exchange.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I'm intrigued

The Fetch by Chris Humphreys, 2006

OK, when the entling reads this book all afternoon and all through dinner and then disappears for the entire evening only coming downstairs after having finished the book and announces it is "better" than Harry Potter, (she is Harry's no. 1 fan) I sit up and stare with wide eyes. Then I burble something intelligent like, "Really?"

When she says she cannot wait until the next book and if it does not come out soon, "there's gonna be trouble (er ... that is "screaming and chaos" to quote her, accurately,)" I go hmmm...and move the book to the top of my stack.

Stay tuned!

Dress Up

Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature has an excellent post about Halloween and kids dressed up as Indians for Trick or Treating. In addition to her thoughtful comments this line leaped out at me:

If the book you select for a Halloween read-aloud in storytime has characters that dress up as Indians, turn that illustration into a teachable moment with your students.

In the elementary schools in this area Halloween is a forbidden word and a non-event. There are no read alouds of Halloween books in schools here. In past years, books featuring scarecrows, bats and spider have even been questioned by some parents because they might be inferring the H-word.

We can share books about fall and the changing color of the leaves and anything seasonal that can be linked to the curriculum.

A few years ago, the district had to issue an apology to parents who were horrified to discover that the dairy had printed a picture of a haunted house on the milk cartons that were served at lunch time.

Even so it seems that decorating the home for H-night is almost approaching the frenzy usually reserved for that other holiday that occurs on December 25. Witches, bats, skeletons, gravestones, monsters and ghosts (even inflatable Tiggers holding Jack-o-Lanterns) have popped up overnight in my neighborhood.

Target is offering their own version of a Naughty Librarian costume this year.

Kids arriving at my door will NOT be greeted in this fashion although they already know that in order to receive a treat they must declare the title of their favorite book and receive a book mark along with the mini-Snickers or M&Ms. One boy just shouts out the title of his book as soon as I answer the door, forgoing the ritual:
(door opens)
"AMAZING SHARKS--uh--Trick or Treat!"

There is a group of girls that come by every year for the Orlando Bloom bookmarks.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I feel like such a blog slacker but I've subbed 3 days this week, it is homecoming weekend for the entling which entails a great deal of planning and angst (for parental units.)

There was the great "mum handoff" this afternoon and a choir concert tonight. I may not surface until Sunday. One cheerful child lit note is I am reading Newbery Honor book, Whittington by Alan Armstrong and S.D. Schindler at school. What a fantastic story so far!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lunching with the stars

School librarians have many responsibilities. They instruct students in research methods, warn against plagiarism, help them find information on topics of importance to them.

Sometimes students remember those lessons. On Friday, I was waiting for my entling to finish up her singing lesson when a bright and extremely intelligent former student who is now in high school, arrived for the next lesson. She told me that I had been in her thoughts that very day as her English teacher assigned a research project on Victorian England and told them they would be using Big 6. She remembered me teaching Big 6 in elementary school. (You can see why she is a very intelligent child. My pearls of wisdom were still, apparently, circulating through her cerebral cortex on some level.)

As I subbed at a junior high library on Friday, I was reminded, though, that my favorite part of the job is helping kids find that special book. I can't do that job unless I read the books and know something about the people who write them.

Reading puts the author's words directly into the brain. The action is between your ears, your imagination is responding directly to the story. It is very personal and initmate which is why I am always interested in the people who write the books I read.

When I attend a library conference I know I should attend those sessions on advocacy, aligning information literacy lessons with the curriculum, making my MARC records sparkle...and I do... attend...some of them. But I flock, beeline and elbow my way to sessions where authors are speaking.

Wednesday, I hastened away from the homestead enroute to Austin to see Jennifer Holm. Incredibly heavy fog and traffic conspired to keep me from arriving in time for her presentation (blast! drat!) but I did get to enjoy lunch with her AND Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith (shiny!) . Cynthia and Greg directed us to Green Pastures for an absolutely delicious lunch.

The warmth of Jennifer's welcome was overwhelming. Cynthia and Greg are legends here in Texas for generosity with their time and their booster support of other Texas writers. It was a dream to have the opportunity to meet them.

Later, you think of things you meant to tell them. I wanted Cynthia to know that Jingle Dancer is never on the shelf because it is continuously checked out by young readers, and how much I loved Indian Shoes. Greg's book Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo is a junior high triumph. The audio version is excellent!

Jennifer, Cynthia and Greg, I am grateful for your imagination and the gift you have for putting your creative sparks into words so I can experience them too!

Cool facts from lunch:
Grandmother Patience, the horrible grandmother from Our Only May Amelia, was based on a real person.
Jennifer Holm's husband designs video games so they own every gaming system known (irony!).
Cynthia is working on a new book and she and Greg traveled to the King Ranch to do research for Greg's new book.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Author: Jennifer Holm

Wow, Jennifer L. Holm is going to be at bookstore extraordinaire, Book People in Austin, TX, tomorrow, Wednesday morning.

Hmm...I'm thinking road trip! This family's motto is "Will drive for bookstores and authors" (as well as Faciemus Melius Prorimo Tempore.)


Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm, 2006

Penny from Heaven is one of the most comforting books I have enjoyed in a long time. The cover art echoes the time period of the 1950s. Penny is a beloved child. Her father is dead and no one will really explain the circumstances surrounding his death but she is surrounded by an extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles who love her and care for her. She and her Uncle Dominic share a passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Her slightly deliquent cousin Frankie is her best friend. Her dog, Scarlett O'Hara is a un-house-broken-nightmare.

When her mother begins dating again, Penny's secure world begins to tilt. A terrible accident brings family secrets to light but then allows Penny and her mother to move on.

This is not a novel with sweeping action sequences. It is a warm and gentle read about family.

Fans of books like Pam Munoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising and Holm's earlier book, Our Only May Amelia will especially enjoy this read.

Jennifer Holm Website