Sunday, December 18, 2011

We've Moved

Prose and Lexicons has moved to my new blog and website Visit me there for book blogs, musings on storytelling and writings on library science. See you there!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Respect and Respectability

As I make my way through my coursework, I'm always looking for ways I can apply what I'm learning to my everyday work at the library—I'm also looking to be inspired by what I am learning. Most things I find inspiring focus not on books, libraries or librarians—but on library patrons.

Today I was reading Free to All Carnegie Libraries & American Culture by Abigail A. Van Slyck and I read a passage that I found quite inspiring. Van Slyck writes:

“When the children’s librarian distinguished herself from the generalist only by the age of the reader she served, she placed herself in a degraded professional position… However, when the children’s librarian distinguished herself from the generalist by a knowledge of the scientifically-established stages of child-development, she placed her claims to professional status on sounder footing; when her readers were perceived as passing though a crucial stage in human development, she was in a better position to garner professional recognition. “

This passage is the perfect set up for an idea that was true at the turn of the century—and is true now, “…by redeeming the child, child psychology also helped redeem the children’s librarian.”

I try to have a lot of respect for children in my work. As a child and teen, I craved respect. I wanted adults to feel that I was smart, engaging and worth their time. I'm sure I'm not the person who's felt this way, thus I extend respect to the children and teens I know. This passage affirmed my belief that respecting or redeeming the child patron brings respect to the work that I do. I think we are far from the place where librarians act with hostility or indifference towards children. Still, the words of Van Slyck serve as a great reminder that our work is only as important as our patrons.

If you have an interest in library history or American history in the years surrounding 1900, I would highly recommend checking out this book. Van Slyck provides amazing detail on the good and bad of Andrew Carnegie’s contributions to the American public library system as well as information on the professionalization of librarians and architects throughout the era.

Van Slyck, A. A. (1998). Free to all. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Story Journal: Part 2

Over the past several months I’ve become nothing less than obsessed with Twitter. There are a lot of reasons I enjoy this social media outlet—and I’ve found one more: storytelling. Tonight has been a night of school work and crazy storms. As I’ve sat at my desk, looking out the window at the weather—I’ve tweeted. I just looked back at my tweets for the night and realized that they begin to tell a story or they could be used as a great prompt for a story.

This makes me wonder—could twitter be the storytelling form for a web 2.0 culture? Twitter was first defined as a micro-blog. Many have dismissed this early definition of the forum. Depending on the user I think twitter can be a micro-blog or micro-story site.

Tonight’s Tweets:
• There's some cool lightning happening outside my window—an awesome backdrop for late night school work.

• Ok. Cool lightning just turned into scary lightning. The thunder woke up my husband—so it must be bad.

• This lightning is so creepy I'm expecting Vincent Price to walk into the room and offer to tell me a spooky story.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Story Journal: Part 1

For one week I kept a story journal as a final assignment for the Storytelling class I took this summer.The idea of the story journal is to capture my thoughts on how story is present in my daily life. I found no shortage of things to write about. For the next few posts I will be sharing the journal highlights here on my blog.

Written on the Ceiling - July 23, 2011

My favorite show, Chicago Tonight, just aired a story on what is arguably Chicago’s most important mural. It used to be on the ceiling of the foyer in the Chicago Daily News building. During renovations to the building, developers placed the mural in storage. Renovations are long completed, but the mural remains hidden away. According to Chicago Tonight, the mural tells the story of how news is printed and distributed. I think murals are created for many reasons. From an aesthetic perspective, they’re a great way to brighten up a large space—they’re decoration to scale. But murals quite often serve to tell a story.

Chicago Daily News Building | Image from

Chicago is a city with lots of stories and lots of murals. I think it’s interesting that the Daily News mural is tucked away. When commissioned, the mural told a vital story—distributing the news. The people who worked in the Daily News building in the early part of the 20th century—their lives revolved around news. The mural told a story that mattered to them. The Daily News is no longer around. The Daily News building is just an office space run by a real estate developer.

If the mural were to be restored, I doubt it would resonate with the building’s tenants in quite the same way that it likely resonated with Daily News workers. Today’s tenants may have little or no connection to a newspaper entity. Beyond that, the story of how news is distributed has changed. The mural contains printing presses and an airplane flying out to bring the paper to the masses. A modern day adaptation could include a thirty-something typing “” into a web browser—or surfing Twitter for the latest news updates. This makes me wonder, at some point do all murals lose their story only to become decorations? This may or may not be the case. Nevertheless, the mural is still a work of art, and I’m sure its story still comes through after all these decades. It would be great to see it on display for the public to enjoy.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Train Tale

Since beginning my work in a children’s library, I am amazed at how loved our train books are. A couple of my train-loving patrons inspired me to write this story (for my storytelling class). I wanted to call this story "The Little Engineer That Could"--but that title's taken. For now, it's "A Train Tale." This story is dedicated to the Bancks family, to wish them well on their journey.

JP Bancks woke up on his 4th birthday and just knew it was going to be a great day. First of all, it was his birthday. Second, he was taking his very first train ride. Now, you have to understand--JP Bancks LOVED trains. JP and his family lived 2 blocks away from the train depot, so he spent hours each day, in his bedroom, watching the trains go by. JP called it a hobby; JP’s Mother called it an obsession.

When he opened his eyes that morning, he smelled bacon--so naturally he rushed down to breakfast. When he reached the table, his birthday present was waiting in his chair wrapped, in a big green box with a big blue bow. JP had no clue what it could be, the only thing he’d asked for for his birthday was a train ride--and he knew he was getting that. He slowly peeled away the ribbon and paper to find a pair of genuine railroad engineer overalls and a genuine railroad engineer cap. “This is amazing!” JP exclaimed. Then it hit him--JP paused, then looked to his Mother and Father and asked, “Does this mean I’m an engineer?”

His Mother smiled and said, “Sure JP, you’re an engineer.” Father said, “Yeah, I bet they’ll even have you drive the train today.” JP couldn’t believe it. He scarfed down breakfast as fast as he could and ran back up to his room. With care and attention he put on his genuine railroad engineer overalls and genuine railroad engineer cap.

When he got downstairs Mother and Father were ready to go. Father was holding the tickets and Mother was holding her purse. The walk to the depot was only a hop skip and a jump away--but Mother insisted on walking slowly in her high heeled shoes while Father fidgeted with his pocket watch.

Mother and Father were paying JP no attention, so he decided to walk ahead. When he reached the depot, the train was already there and a group of people were waiting to board the passenger car. JP waived at them and headed to the front of the train, to the engine. He figured if he was driving it would be silly to board the passenger car. When JP reached the engine he grabbed the railing and started to step up on to the train. A cole man turned around just as JP was stepping on to the train.

“Where you goin’ kid?”
“I’m JP Bancks, I’m driving this train today.”

“Nice to meet you Mr. JP Bancks but my money says you aint drivin’ this train today.”

Just then JP heard the voice of his Father say, “and my money says he’s not driving the train today.”

Father grabbed JP by the overall straps and started to carry him away.

“But wait!” JP exclaimed. “Mother said I’m an engineer--and you told me I was driving the train today.”

“JP, they don’t let little boys drive trains!” Father said.

“But it’s my birthday!”JP replied.

“Even on their birthday.”Father said.

“You lied to me.” Said JP.

“I was joking son” Father replied.

JP was crushed. Just then a tall stocky man stepped out of the engine room. He was wearing genuine railroad engineer overalls with a genuine railroad engineer cap. He looked at JP and said, “Actually kid, it’s my policy to let little boys drive trains on their birthday--especially if they’re wearing genuine railroad engineer overalls—and most especially if they’re wearing a genuine railroad engineer cap.

JP couldn’t believe it. “You mean it?” He asked.

“I do.” The Engineer turned to JP’s father and said, “Sir, you can take your seat. JP and I will take it from here.”

This was the greatest birthday ever. JP Bancks turned four that day, he rode in a train---and drove a train in his genuine railroad engineer overalls.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sun and The Wind: New York Edition

It’s been a bit busy these last couple of weeks with work and school. I’ve been hitting the audiobooks, but my children’s and YA reading has slowed quite a bit to make room for school work. Because school is dominating my reading and writing time, I figured I would share something I wrote for school. This is a quick adaptation of The Sun and The Wind that I wrote for my storytelling class. Enjoy.

It was a spring day in Manhattan. The golden Sun shone brightly through the alley ways onto the pavement of Wall Street. Bankers passed by in tightly tailored suits as a chilly wind cried out from the Hudson River.

The Sun, in all his spring time glory turned to the Wind, smiled and said, “It’s such a lovely day—wouldn’t you like to see the folks down there shed those suit jackets and trench coats and enjoy the spring?

The Wind sneered and paused, then said to the Sun, “Do you see that banker there?”
The Wind pointed to a tired young Man, no more than thirty, sitting on the steep steps of Federal Hall. He wore a hand-me-down navy suit, worn wing tip shoes and a crumpled fedora to top it all off.

The Sun looked at the Man and replied to the Wind, “Yes I see him. The one there on the steep steps of Federal Hall.”

The Wind, with his sneer, said to the Sun, “I bet you all the bills in all the banks of Wall Street that I can make that Man lose his suit jacket before you can.”

The Sun, never one to shy away from a challenge, said, “It’s a bet.”

Just then, the Wind began to gust. He pulled every bit of air he could find. From the Battery of lower Manhattan to the Reservoir in Central Park and planted it on the young Man sitting on the steep steps of Federal Hall. The Man’s fedora flew from his head and toppled down the steep steps. He buttoned his jacket and trotted down after his hat.

The Wind was disappointed. He just knew that gust of air would knock the Man’s jacket right off him. The Wind was not one to give up so easily. Once again he began to gust. He pulled every bit of wind from the saxophones of street musicians, from the cheers in Shea Stadium, from the voices of Broadway, from the building tops and subway tunnels and planted it on the young Man standing near the steep steps of Federal Hall.

The Man, looking tired as ever, popped his collar, to shield against the wind. He picked up his hat and placed it back on his head. He was sure to push the hat as far down as it would go, to keep the Wind from pushing it off again.

Just then, the Sun smiled a big smile—for he knew something great would happen to the Man today. As the Sun smiled the dark crooked corners of Wall Street were illuminated with a light they had never seen before. The pavement radiated with a heat that could soak through the soles of your shoes.

The Man put his collar of his jacket back down. Feeling no relief the Man removed his hat and began to fan himself with it. He soon realized that there was no getting around it—he was hot. He unbuttoned his jacket, then—he removed it. He draped the jacket over his arm—as he did this, a slip of paper fell from one of the jacket pockets. The Man reached down and picked up the paper. It was a bond, purchased by his father more than thirty years ago. By his calculations, it was worth almost all of the bills in all the banks on Wall Street. The Wind whimpered, for he knew he was defeated. The Man smiled to himself, and the Sun smiled with him, as he took his bond all the way to the bank.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In the Mood for Movies: A Reading Rec for Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is on its way to theaters this weekend. While the movie is premiering with lackluster reviews, Book No. 1 of the series, Judy Moody Was in a Mood, shines bright.

In this book, Judy heads back to school to start third grade. Judy’s first assignment is to create a “me collage” to introduce herself to her new classmates. As Judy pieces together the collage she makes a new friend and gains a better understanding of who she is.

Looking at this summary you may think that Judy Moody is average elementary fiction fare—don’t be so sure. Judy is a character with gusto. She is fiercely independent, strong-minded and wears her heart on her sleeve. Judy Moody is enough like actual kids to resonate with actual kids—she’s also entertaining enough to be worth reading about—author Megan McDonald strikes a great balance. This book is sure to entertain—so check it out before or after seeing the upcoming movie.

Find Judy Moody Was in a Mood at a library near you!

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
In theaters: June 10, 2011
Rating: PG
For more info on the plot, rating and content visit