Category Archives: Children’s literature

Currently reading

There’s a large stack of books next to my favorite chair, waiting to be read.  Most are for upcoming book groups, but I’m also starting to accumulate some “fun reading” books in anticipation of the June break from book groups (and then the August and September break from book groups, which allows me a lot of time to read other things!).

Here are the books that are piled next to me:

  • The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (5th grade book group)
  • Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (6th grade book group)
  • The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan (Teen book group)
  • The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown (Teen book group)
  • Years of Dust by Albert Marrin (Teen book group)
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  • The Outcasts by John Flanagan
  • Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante
  • My Heart is Boundless edited by Eve LaPlante
  • The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
  • Curtain by Agatha Christie
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • And assorted magazines, long neglected by me:  The Atlantic, many New Yorkers, and Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.

Any other must-read suggestions for me for my upcoming season of fun reading?

Currently reading

In the last few months, I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie mysteries – and I do mean a lot – in addition to my usual book group books.  I’m cooling down a wee bit on the Agatha Christie books now, partly because I have less time available for “fun” reading now that book groups are in full swing again (each group met only once over the summer, and not at all in September, which was a lovely gift of “fun” reading time for me) and partly because I seem to have exhausted the supply of Christie books at our two local bookstores.

This weekend I need to read The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for next Tuesday’s Teen Book Group meeting; I have great memories of reading the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was in highschool, and am looking forward to an adult re-reading of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  This reading of it will be tinged by laundry soap and dryer lint, since I need to spend a couple of hours at the laundromat today washing our comforter, but hopefully that won’t wreak the book for me.

I’m also reading The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda, a book which has happily surprised me.  I really only brought it home to read because the reviews written about the book have a wide range of reading levels – from 4th grade and up to 8th grade and up – and thus placement of the book in the library is difficult.  I placed it in our advanced reader section, which is for grades 5 & 6 and up, but now the book’s sequel is about to be published, with similarly divergent age recommendations in the reviews, so it was time for me to read the book myself and thus make a totally informed decision about placement.  It turns out that the book is well-written, engaging, full of action (which kids today demand above all else), and also gently educational as it introduces Indian mythology and culture.  I like the book enough that I may even choose it for a book group…hmmmm…

Other books in my to-be-read pile right now:

  • Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
  • The Outcasts by John Flanagan
  • The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
  • Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
  • Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
  • The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
  • Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
  • Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

And I’ve officially given up on the Megan Whalen Turner series that begins with The Thief.  I loved the first book, hated the second, and am luke-warm on the third at the half-way point.  Frankly, the character of Eugenides got on my nerves early in the second book, and it’s tough to finish a series when the main character drives you nuts.  I’ll be taking the whole series to the used book store soon, just to get it out of my house.

On that note, time to get to the laundromat and start reading The Hound of the Baskervilles

Happy September

I actually love the month of September – even though we’re busy at the library after school with kids coming over from the elementary, middle, and high schools, the mornings are lovely and quiet and I get tons done.

Sometimes my storytime regulars ask why I take a couple of weeks off from storytimes in September, and I always reply, “So I can get some ordering done after the summer!”  Summers at the library are almost relentlessly busy, and it’s difficult to focus on reading book reviews in The Horn Book Magazine and Kirkus when kids are coming up to the desk every few minutes to redeem summer prizes or ask for summer reading book suggestions.  I need these next few weeks to pay some careful attention to ordering, and to make sure our shelves are fully stocked with the latest and greatest as winter comes around the corner.

But there’s another reason I take a couple of weeks off from storytimes in September: it’s vitally important to take a little time off from them so that I get refreshed and revitalized.  Yes, I could keep plugging along at the usual stiff storytime pace that I keep up the rest of the year (five or so storytimes a week), but we all benefit from me having just a few weeks off.  I actually love that I get nervous and edgy before my first September storytime, because it means that I’m coming back to storytimes with a fresh perspective.  If I’m nervous, then I’m fully engaged, and if I’m fully engaged, then storytimes are soooo much more fun for everyone.

One of my greatest fears is getting stale in my job, which is why I’m always pushing myself to do more and to try new and different things.  And by stepping back and taking a break, I can look at my storytimes from a bit of a distance and evaluate what I’m doing well and what I need to do better.  I’ll never go so far as to film myself doing a storytime, because that would destroy my self-confidence, but I’m very capable of being objective about my own performance.  I know that I overuse certain phrases, and I’m aiming to not say those phrases coming up in September.  I know that I’m a little afraid of using parent tips in my storytimes, but I need to get over that hump and start incorporating those tips more regularly.  And I know that by the end of the summer I was a bit tired and worn out, and I’m glad to take this breather and regain my enthusiasm.

So the next few weeks will be devoted to freshening my storytime perspective, and spending some intense time doing my absolute favorite part of my job: ordering books.  Yay!  Happy September, everyone!

Summer books

Today I chose the books that we’ll be reading this summer in my book groups!

Teen Book Group ~ Grades 7 to 9:  Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

6th Grade Book Group:  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

5th Grade Book Group:  The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor

Yay!  I’m really excited about all of these titles, and I think each book really suits the personality of the book group that will be reading and discussing it.

First foray

We read all kinds of books in my library book groups, but until yesterday we had not yet read and discussed a nonfiction title.  I’ve tried to convince the groups to let me try a nonfiction book, but the idea has always been promptly shut down.

I was very pleased, then, when this years’s 6th grade book group acquiesced and permitted me to thrust a nonfiction title upon them.  They weren’t enthusiastic – they were skeptical – but they still said “yes.”  And so yesterday we discussed Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose.

I purposefully chose a book that I was excited to read, knowing that some of that excitement would help carry the group, but I also chose this book because it is absolutely fascinating and engaging.  A species of shorebird that is suffering a rapidly decline, yet one individual bird of that species has thrived for twenty years or more?  And flown from the tip of South America to the Arctic and back each year?  Amazing.  I LOVED this book: it’s one of the best books I’ve read in the last year.

Unfortunately, as I had predicted to myself, it didn’t go over so well with the book group.  Of six group members, only three attended yesterday (one who couldn’t come most surely had read the book, though), and of those three, only one had actually read the whole book.  One other had read four pages, and the third hadn’t read any of it.  Fortunately, Phillip Hoose’s website has some great links to useful video and audio, so we watched (and heard) Hoose discuss why he wrote the book and read an excerpt from it.  We also watched part of a great informative video by Parks Canada about the rufa red knot to bring everyone up to speed on the subject of the book.  And the group member who had read it helped me discuss and explain the most interesting parts of the book to the other two sixth graders present.

All in all, not a failure, this first foray into having a nonfiction title to discuss in book group.  Perhaps the secret might be to introduce nonfiction titles right at the beginning, with our youngest book group (the third graders) so that it doesn’t seem odd or unusual the way that it did to the sixth graders.  I’ll keep trying, definitely, and I’m very glad to have had a reason to read this excellent book.

My New Books

Thanks to N—-, I had a sizable gift certificate to the Concord Bookshop burning a hole in my pocket.  The Concord Bookshop is my favorite bookstore, and I can’t think of anything more fun than having a guilt-free shopping trip there.

Monday was the day I got to use my gift certificate, and for the first time in years (more years than I can count), I didn’t make an immediate beeline for the children’s and young adult section at the back of the store.  In fact, I realized that I had absolutely no interest in looking at books in either of those sections; I wanted and needed to avoid them for a change.  One bad side effect of being a children’s librarian is that you need to read gobs of children’s and young adult books, and it becomes very hard to have enough time left to read grown-up books.  And, for the first time in years, I think that I’m actually burnt-out on juvenile literature.

So here is what I ended up buying:  two Agatha Christie books, The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and a Philip Pullman book, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, A New English Version (which was shelved in the adult section).  Admittedly, fairy tales are often viewed as children’s literature, but I like to remember that they were not always intended for just children; I’ll be reading Pullman’s versions of the tales from that perspective.  And, admittedly, Agatha Christie’s books aren’t necessarily deep and challenging novels for adults, but oh how I do love them.  Nothing like a good murder mystery to keep you company by the woodstove on a winter’s evening.

It’s been lovely reading these books the last few nights, knowing that I don’t have to read them, and that I can savor and enjoy them just because I want to.  I’ll need to kick into gear this evening and reread Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon for tomorrow’s book group, but then I’ll move right back into one of my new purchases for a little study break before I dig into next week’s book group book.  And I have a feeling that I’m entering a phase of obsessive reading of Agatha Christie…

Trivia

Last night, as Jim and I were out enjoying the gorgeous night on our evening walk, he gave me the coolest bit of musical and children’s literature trivia:  the song “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” was written by Shel Silverstein.  Way cool.  And, how did I not know that already?!?!?

Study break

I’ve been working hard all day at more book ordering, this time making my way through issues of School Library Journal.  It’s fantastically fun, really, though maybe not my first choice of a way to spend my Sunday [yes, yes, yes, it’s off the clock…I do that a lot!].  Fun because I love seeing which series have a new title – sometimes it will be several years from one entry in a book series to the publication of the next, sometimes it will only be months – and which of my favorite authors have come out with a new book.  And I also love seeing what unusual nonfiction topics have now been addressed in a children’s book.  Sometimes those nonfiction books aren’t worth buying, but lately there have been a ton of great nonfiction children’s books on cool topics.

And I’ve enjoyed ordering today because it’s given me a chance to spend some quality time with Ophy as she (hopefully) recovers.  I’m sitting in the middle of the couch with my laptop and the review journals, and Ophy alternates between napping curled up to my left leg and then my right leg – with water drinking breaks in between.

Study break is over, though – I still have more ordering to do, and I suppose it might be wise to eat some dinner, too.  My goal is to go on my vacation next week having absolutely no loose ends at work, and I think I can achieve the tying of those loose ends this evening.  Yahoo!!!

New Books

Since Jim works every Saturday, and since he had a gig last Saturday night, I spent this past Saturday doing a LOT of book ordering at home.  Hours and hours and hours of book ordering, interrupted only by moving the laundry along and occasional chocolate breaks.  (Nipping the perpetual question in the bud – this was on my own time, not on the clock…)

At this point in my career, I am looking at what I spend most of my working hours doing, and comparing it to the reasons for choosing this career.  I love the library’s patrons, young and old, I love running storytimes, and I love things like the summer reading program.  They’re all good things, and happy things.  But the reason that I took this job, the reason that this career makes me HAPPY, is what librarians call “collection development.”  Not being one for buzz words, I prefer to call this part of that process simply “ordering books” (and I do also love the other parts of the process, including weeding).

There’s a reason that I got my master’s degree in children’s literature, and that reason is that I am and always have been a passionate fan of children’s books.  And there is nothing more exciting than reading reviews of newly published children’s books (and, sometimes, republished older books), ordering the best of the best which fit into my budget, and then seeing those books come in on the UPS truck a day or two later.  This afternoon I went down to tech services and gathered up a very full book cart of gorgeous brand new books to bring back to my office for sorting tomorrow.  (Sorting, for those of you who are interested, involves labelling the fiction books as JJ, JE, J, AR, and YA – and putting genre stickers on the spine where appropriate, and also labelling the nonfiction books as J+correct call number or JJ+correct call number.)

Without a doubt, picking up that cartful of brand new books was the highlight of my week.  All that lovely new book smell, all those crisp pages, all those enticing covers.  One book in particular got my attention, probably because it looks like a great summer read, is Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst; definitely one I’ll be indulging in soon – a little guiltily, but that’s ok.  Also exciting for me to see is a book from one of my Simmons College gal pals, Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby.  It’s been too many years since I’ve seen Hannah (twelve years since we all graduated from the children’s lit program!), and it will be so cool to read her book.  Maybe it will be even appropriate for one of my book groups to read…hmmmmmm…

So tomorrow at work will be heaven for me, handling all those lovely new books and getting them ready to go down to tech services for their final processing before they get into the hands of some eager young readers.  Books, really, are what it’s all about.