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

Sunday, June 5, 2011

That's a Wrap! Day 2 of the 48 Hour Book Challenge

I am now at the end of the 48 Hour Book Challenge. Over the past two days I have read for 843 minutes (14.05 hours), which means I exceeded my 12 hour goal. Victory! In the interest of making it to bed at a decent hour, I will keep this post and my reviews brief.

While I didn’t finish tons of books, I did finish The Hunger Games—and I loved it. I can be a bit of a contrarian. There are certain books that people go crazy over that I refuse to give in to. I’ve been holding out on The Hunger Games for a while but couldn’t resist any longer. I was totally enveloped by this book. I’d recommend this book for readers 12 and older who like action, adventure, thriller or sci-fi books. Click here for more information on The Hunger Games.

Much of my time has been spent listening to The Carrie Diaries this weekend, but I’m still not done with this book. So far I can say that the author, Candace Bushnell, and the producers of the audiobook truly capture the younger essence of the Carrie Bradshaw we know and love from Sex and the City. Beyond that I have to say that a lot of the situations seem cliché and the conflicts in this story seem to pile on. I know that there are real teens out there who have multiple, complex situations happening in their lives all at once. However, I think that the number of YA characters in the same situation seems to be inflated. Carrie is met with every vice and temptation a high schooler is likely to come across. In addition she has a deceased parent, abusive boyfriend, a best friend who is jealous of the boy friend, doesn’t get into her dream school—I could go on. While this book has been an interesting and enjoyable read/listen, I find that I believe the story less and less as it continues. My existing affinity for Carrie Bradshaw is the only thing keeping me interested in The Carrie Diaries. So, if you are a Sex and the City fan, this may be a fun pick. If not, you may be better off skipping this book. I have not finished The Carrie Diaries—so there may be more updates to follow.

The 48 Hour Book Challenge has been a fun and surprisingly relaxing exercise. I’m all rested up for a week of work, school—and more reading.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It’s Been A Day! The First 24 Hours of the 48 Hour Book Challenge

The Experience
I suspected it was going to be a busy weekend when I embarked on this challenge. I was right. While I have been busy--I’ve been reading. I may not read through a stack of books during this challenge, but I am challenging myself--and that’s the whole point right?

Looking at my reading time sheet for the day, I’ve logged 361 minutes of reading--just over 6 hours. I am most interested in how I logged that time. Most of my reading has been completed in short increments. With 12 separate instances of reading my average read time was 30 minutes. My maximum reading time was 65 minutes, my minimum was 10 minutes.

Why is this important? My schedule is usually busy. I rarely have time to read for hours on end. 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there adds up. Today has made me realize that there is always time to read--even if it’s just a little bit of time.

The Books
At the end of day one I am about 1/2 way through the audiobook of The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell and I’ve read 109/359 pages of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. While I’m really enjoying both books, my overall reactions to each are quite different. The Hunger Games, with all its popularity, obviously has broad appeal. There are very few readers from teen upwards that I could not recommend this book to. I'm excited to provide a more complete review once I’ve finished The Hunger Games.

As for The Carrie Diaries--I am most struck by the context and the content of this book. The Carrie Diaries follows Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw through her senior year of high school. As a prequel, this book is met with a set of expectations from Sex and the City fans. Not all teen readers of this book will be familiar Sex and the City, but many will be. Thus far, The Carrie Diaries meets my expectations. As a high school senior, most of Carrie’s life is learning to handle relationships, both friendly and romantic. While Carrie is perhaps the most conservative and pragmatic of her group of friends, this book is peppered with sex, drinking and references to drug use making it a read for older teens and adults. I will follow up with a complete review of this book after I’ve completed it.

With 24 hours left in the challenge, I hope to complete 6 more hours of reading. Anything beyond that is bonus. I'm looking to finish The Hunger Games and perhaps sneak in Zombie Blondes or perhaps a graphic novel. Judging by the weight of my eyelids, bedtime is swiftly approaching--so reading will have to wait. Goodnight and happy reading.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ready, Set, Start! The 48 Hour Book Challenge

The post marks my entry and starting time for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. Over the next two days I will read and blog as much as possible (for prizes, bragging rights, fun etc.) This book challenge focuses on books targeted at middle grades through adult.

While I would love to make a hefty dent in my “to read” pile, progress is measured by hours, rather than number of books read. To win prizes, I have to read for at least 12 hours--since it’s going to be a busy weekend 12 hours is my goal. Wish me luck and check back here to see my progress.

I will be Tweeting my progress @2TheLibrary. You can also follow other contestants of the 48 Hour Book Challenge using the hashtag #48hbc.

Click here for more information on the 48 Hour Book Challenge

Recommended Reads for the X-Men: First Class Moviegoer

The release of X-Men: First Class is just hours away. Perhaps you are already lining up for a midnight showing or maybe you’ll wait to see this flick when it’s released to DVD. No matter how pumped you are for X-Men: First class, I have some reads that are sure to stoke your enthusiasm to see the movie--or to get you through post-viewing depression.

Meet the X-Men by Clare Hibbert
Meet the X-Men is a level 2 easy reader released by DK Readers. This book is targeted at readers “beginning to read alone” but keep in mind that X-Men: First Class is rated PG-13 and may not be a great match for younger moviegoers. This easy reader offers quick bios of popular X-Men characters and would be a great way to introduce young readers to X-Men mythology before taking them to see the movie.

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
This teen graphic novel was an awesome read that made me truly excited to see X-Men: First Class. While reading Gifted I realized what many X-Men fans have known all along--there is a strong social justice theme laced throughout the X-Men story. X-Men are mutants, different from other members of society. Instead of being ashamed of their differences they choose to use their mutant powers to make the world a better place. In Gifted, the X-Men are met with a scientist who has developed a cure for the mutant gene. Many mutants (and some X-Men) are tempted by the idea of normalcy and are eager to use the cure. The X-Men cling to their mutant identities while getting to the bottom of the cure and its source. While this graphic novel contains mild sexual content, and references to drinking (though not under-aged)--I think the positives of the book’s themes shine through and make it a great read.

X-Men: First Class
In theaters: June 3, 2011
Rating: PG-13
For more info on the plot, rating and content visit

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Movie Series

If you look at this year’s list of summer movies, you’ll see a lot of flicks inspired by books and comics for children and young adults. From Judy Moody to Green Lantern, there’s a lot to see-- and read. To celebrate summer movies and encourage summer reading, I will be reviewing and recommending books to enhance your movie going experience. So grab some popcorn and a box of gummy bears, it's going to be a great summer of reading and movie watching!

Coming Soon → Recommended Reads for the X-Men: First Class Moviegoer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recent Recommended Reads

I read and enjoy many more books than I can realistically blog about--for these books I am adding a “Recent Recommended Reads” section in the right column of my blog. These recommendations will be broken out into three broad sections: Picture Books, Children’s Chapter Books, and Young Adult Novels. I’ve included my classification guidelines below to be clear on what type of books will generally be included in each section.

Picture Books
While there are picture books out there for readers of all ages, the ones featured in this section of Recent Recommended Reads are likely to be appropriate for readers 0-7 years of age.

Children’s Chapter Books
In this section of Recent Recommended Reads I will feature chapter books (including standalone novels, series & graphic novels) targeted at readers ages 8-12.

Young Adult Novels
This section of Recent Recommended Reads will include books (standalone novels, series & graphic novels) that are intended for teenagers (13 and up). Keep in mind that books in this section could have content that some parents and educators feel is not appropriate for younger audiences.

Since I will not be writing full blog posts on my Recent Recommended Reads you may have questions about a book’s content, plot, target age group, reading level etc. Feel free to visit StorySnoops, WorldCat or NoveList K-8 Plus for more information.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thoughts On Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Lanesha lives with her elderly caretaker Mama Ya-Ya in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Just before Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf Coast, the intuitive Mama Ya-ya dreams of the destruction heading for New Orleans. Lanesha is bright, studious, and equally as intuitive as her Mama Ya-Ya . Lanesha uses her special sight and intelligence to survive the storm and the wreckage that followed.

Some readers may have a different experience based on their knowledge of Hurricane Katrina--as for me, I picked up this book knowing what would happen in terms of major conflict. Even with this knowledge, Ninth Ward surprised me page after page. Lanesha has a great many challenges in her life--she’s been orphaned, she’s bullied and she is quite poor. Through all of this I found it impossible to take pity on Lanesha because she is so strong and resilient. The pity I might have felt for her is replaced with a faith that she will persevere and a curiosity about how she will do so. Jewel Parker Rhodes paints a portrait of Mama Ya-Ya that is crystal clear to the reader. We are made to understand her physical appearance, her smell, her movement and her essence as she guides Lanesha through life. We become attached to Mama Ya-Ya through Lanesha’s undying devotion to her caretaker. Perhaps Rhodes’ greatest triumph in this book is overcoming the reader’s existing knowledge of the storm and making this story fresh and brand new.

As a reader of Children’s and Young Adult Literature I have to remind myself that the majority of the adult population does not usually read books targeted at tweens. I also have to use my “everybody should read this book” statements sparingly. That being said, I think anyone from age ten to one hundred and ten will gain something by reading Ninth Ward.

Find Ninth Ward at a library near you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Alphabet Book With Staying Power: ABC Kids by Simon Basher

ABC Kids by Simon Basher is a different class of alphabet book. As expected, Basher offers the reader the routine “A is for...” example which is helpful for very young readers as they learn their alphabet. What makes this book different, and applicable for older children, is an alliterative sentence for each letter. If you need a refresher on alliteration--here’s an example: Mary mastered making muffins. I personally recommended this book to a friend with a one-year-old and a four-year-old knowing both kids could gain something from the book--I hope your young reader will too.

Find ABC Kids at a library near you!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Reading About (and watching) Hummingbirds! : Little Green by Keith Baker

Spring is here. For me that means tulips blooming, sunshine, a light jacket (instead of my heavy coat) and birds chirping. If you’re looking for a book to celebrate spring with your young reader try Little Green by Keith Baker. This quick story shows a boy as he discovers a hummingbird outside of his window. He watches the bird fly as he paints its flight patterns. The illustrations in this book are bright and vivid collages accented by strokes paint. I think you’ll be delighted by this fun and simple read.

If you want to see a real hummingbird after reading this book, go to Live Hummingbird Cam and check out Phoebe the hummingbird.

Find Little Green at a library near you!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Civil War Non-fiction Pick: You Wouldn’t Want to Be in the First Submarine! by Ian Graham, Illustrated by David Antram

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Like any major event in U.S history, the Civil War presents readers and educators with a lot of ground to cover when it comes to understanding all of the whos, hows and whys. Lately I’ve been interested in the technological advances made at sea and on the battlefield during the Civil War. A catalog search at my public library led me to You Wouldn’t Want to Be in the First Submarine!: An Undersea Expedition You’d Rather Avoid.

This non-fiction picture book offers up a history of submarines and then focuses on advancements made on submarines during the Civil War, particularly the H.L. Hunley. After many failed voyages, this Confederate vessel was the first submarine to engage another ship in battle.

You Wouldn’t Want to Be in the First Submarine! has fun yet informative illustrations that blend seamlessly with the well balanced text. Best of all, this book shares the scientific principles behind submarines along side their historical timeline making it a great cross curricular read. I would also recommend this book as a an addition to Civil War displays and reading lists.

Find You Wouldn’t Want to Be in the First Submarine! at a library near you!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Favorite Web Resources: Part II

Back in February I shared some fun and useful reference resources that I’ve discovered through my LIS coursework this semester. The title of the blog was ‘My Favorite Web Resources: Part I’ --which implies that there will at least be a Part II. So, as promised/implied--I present another round of my favorite web resources.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog
This catalog captures the entire image collection of the Library of Congress. While not all of the LOC’s collection is digitized, around ⅓ of it is--which means there is a vast amount of images waiting to be explored. LOC digital collections include everything from Walker Evans Farm Security Administration photos to vintage baseball cards to Japanese woodblock prints.
This website is essentially a guide that offers links and descriptions for additional web resources about the U.S. Government. The site is made up of three broad sections. The first lists sites and resources appropriate for kids in kindergarten through the 5th grade. The next section lists government themed websites for students in grades 6 - 8. Finally, there is a section of the site designed for educators.

Statistical Abstract
The Statistical Abstract is a document and web resource published by the U.S. Census Bureau. This resource aggregates statistical information from multiple government organizations to provide a comprehensive, user-friendly statistical document for free public use. So if you’re wondering how much a gallon of gas cost in 1990 or you want to compare presidential election campaign funds--the Statistical Abstract has you covered--for now. Earlier this year it was announced that the Statistical Abstract is on the chopping block. To learn more about the Statistical Abstract and find out how you can help save it, see the Library Journal article: Statistical Abstract Faces an Untimely Death.

If the unknown fate of the Statistical Abstract can teach us anything, it’s that information resources need us as much as we need them. Some resources aren’t worth saving, but a great many of them are. If there’s a book, website, or service that you can’t live without--tell someone.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Season Opener

Lets make one thing clear--this blogger loves baseball. This week it occurred to me to marry my love of baseball with my love of books. I went to the Chicago Public Library and checked out a few baseball related picture books. Of the ones I check out, Baseball from A to Z by Michael P. Spradlin, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan, really stood out.

As implied by the title, this book takes the reader through the alphabet, relating each letter to baseball. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I judge themed alphabet books on how well they handle Q, X and Z. Spradlin hits a grand slam by demonstrating those letters against “Quick Release”, Extra Innings” and “Strike Zone.”

The illustrations in Baseball from A to Z make it a true winner. Pamintuan depicts the game in a cartoon-like style juxtaposed with a realistic texture and gem tone color palate. Each player has energy and motion breathing life and excitement into the book.

This book is a great pick for young sports lovers. It would also be good to have on hand at the ballpark to keep younger kids engaged and occupied during games. The simplicity of the alphabet format, combined with artful illustrations make this book accessible and relevant to a range of readers. If you are 3 or 63, I think you will enjoy Baseball from A to Z.

Find Baseball from A to Z at a library near you!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thoughts on Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Its the Great Depression and Abilene Tucker has spent the better part of her life drifting and riding the rails with her vagabond father Gideon. After Abilene survives a serious injury, Gideon decides that a life on the road is no life for a young woman. Abilene is sent to live in Manifest, the only town Gideon has ever called home. As Abilene settles into her new digs, a bar turned makeshift Baptist Church, she uncovers a box of letters and trinkets. With the help of these mementos and a Hungarian diviner Abilene visits 1918 Manifest and discovers a world of knowledge about the town as it was--and why her father called it home.

Side by Side With Other Award Winners
There are two books I can think of that parallel elements of Moon Over Manifest (Newbery Medal), each is well regarded in their own right: Holes by Louis Sachar (Newbery Medal) and Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal & Coretta Scott King Award) by Christopher Paul Curtis. Like Sachar, Vanderpool unites two stories--one present, one past--and makes them whole. In Bud, Not Buddy our title character sets out to find his father with the help of mementos from his mother’s past--Abilene discovers her father in a similar way. Bud, Not Buddy and Moon Over Manifest, both set during the Great Depression, shed light on racial and ethnic inequalities. Moon Over Manifest would be well paired with Holes or Bud, Not Buddy on library and class reading lists.

Final Thoughts
Moon Over Manifest is quite honestly one of the best books I’ve read. Why? First, the book is technically sound. Vanderpool weaves together two fully developed storylines like a true professional. Her vivid language makes the setting become real. The main characters are extremely well developed, helping the reader latch on to the story. Beyond that, the supporting cast (a whole town full) adds vital color and content to the book.

I must say, I think the setting of Moon Over Manifest is what really makes me love this book. If a young reader you know enjoys historical fiction, this book is an obvious next read. Vanderpool serves up the Great Depression, World War I, and prohibition. Along with that she addresses immigration, race and class struggles of the time. Moon Over Manifest is an amazing opportunity for young readers to learn about these eras and issues through “experience.”While none of these topics are to be taken lightly, this book is a fun and enjoyable read. There's a great balance between the weight of the subjects at hand, and the whimsy of the story and its characters.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beyond Books & Basketball

This week I was privileged to hear former NBA player John Amaechi deliver a speech on Corporate Social Responsibility. Since retiring from the NBA Amaechi has earned a PhD in psychology. He now works as a consultant, and runs the ABC Foundation which focuses on youth outreach.

Amaechi presented a few simple yet impactful ideas in his speech that I’d like to share. He was speaking to national sponsors who build their brands with CSR campaigns, but I feel like there are some major learnings from his speech that apply to the library world as well. When speaking to these sponsors, he communicated that companies and community organizers can’t expect things like a baseball camp or a junior basketball league to magically make kids better people. Amaechi made his feelings very clear, there is nothing magical about sports. People who assert that they learned leadership or team work from playing a sport were likely influenced by other people, not the sport itself. Sports and other activities are just vessels to deliver life changing content to young people.

Another major point Amaechi made is that we have to set tangible goals for youth programs. We can’t set up a soccer camp to create “hope.” You can’t measure hope. We must be clear about attainable objectives so that we have something real to work towards. In the end, it makes organizers more successful and it makes a more lasting impact on kids.

My biggest takeaway is that there is a huge need to teach kids emotional literacy. For various reasons many children (and adults) in our society don’t know how to express, share or cope with their feelings. Lack of emotional literacy can have a host of consequences on an individual’s well being and society at large.

This is the point in the blog where you may ask--”what does this have to do with the library?” Everything. Just as people think that sports will magically change kids, I think people think reading will magically change kids. In general, I have the attitude that “as long as a kid is reading I don’t care what they’re reading.” This attitude is fine if we are just measuring literacy. However, if we are looking to make young people more emotionally literate, we must hand them reading materials that show them a range of life experiences and emotions.

At one point, Amaechi touched on the importance of empathy. Empathy is sharing the feelings of others--feeling their feelings. Empathy helps us to evaluate how we are treating others. If we make another person feel bad, but start to identify with them--we may stop. When we read novels, we have the chance to invest in characters and experience a piece of their lives. We also have a chance to feel what they feel--to experience empathy. Each time a kid reads a book there’s the potential to add another emotional experience to their empathy bank. For children and adults alike, a capacity for empathy may be the difference between bullying and not bullying--between committing violent crime or not.

During his speech Amaechi looked to the crowd and said, “You are axes in a sea of wood”-- meaning corporate marketers have control of massive marketing and CSR budgets that can be used to do a lot of good. I think that libraries are in the same position. Each library contains shelves of books that kids can access to vicariously experience situations and emotions that they might not otherwise. This leaves me with a new mission. As I read through the cannon of children’s literature, I’m now looking for books that can create a lasting impact on the reader. Amaechi likened creating an impact to a footprint in wet cement--it's there forever. Don't get me wrong. I don’t want books to be preachy and not everything a kid reads has to be profound. But I am on the lookout for things that will not only influence kids immediately upon reading, but also for books with situations that can be stored away and called on later when the difference between a good decision and a bad one is emotional literacy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lets Hug it Out: Thoughts on Hug by Jez Alborough

When I tell people I’m in library school, I get two pretty standard reactions that go something like this: “Oh, so you’re taking Dewey Decimal 101?” Or “Can you recommend any good books for my niece? She just turned 1.” The first response is usually met with some form of sarcasm followed by a semi-rehearsed speech on why librarians need a special degree and the details on what I’m learning. As for the serious question--the one about books--I usually recommend that people stick to books made of cloth or cardboard that focus more on illustrations than text.

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with some good friends when their 16-month old brought me a prime example of what a baby should be reading: Hug by Jez Alborough. Hug is about a “baby” monkey, Bobo, who observes other “baby” animals being hugged by their own kind. Bobo becomes sad that there is no one to hug. Finally, Bobo’s mother appears with open arms. After being hugged by his mother, Bobo exchanges hugs with other animals.

Hug is a great book for babies and toddlers. The text is basically limited to one word leaving room for readers to focus on the pictures. The illustrations, while not realistic, are vivid and well drawn. We see a range of Bobo’s emotions as he searches for someone to hug. Picture books aid in building emotional and visual literacy. The range of feelings put on display for the reader in Hug make it a great addition to any board book collection.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Favorite Web Resources: Part I

As part of my coursework I have been charged with exploring and a evaluating a multitude of print and online reference resources. I’m doing this work in 3 batches, so for each batch of resources I’d like to share my favorites with you. Since you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you’re a fan or at least a user of the internet. That being said I will focus on valuable web resources that will make your everyday information quests easier. You may be wondering, “Can’t I just google what I’m looking for?” Well--yes. Yes you can. I’ve found that the resources listed below offer more credible and relevant results than my typical Google search. So, here are some of my favorite web reference resources to date:

To library types, this resource may seem like an obvious pick. Before I began library school I was not familiar with WorldCat, so I’m assuming some of my readers may not have used this resource. WorldCat is a compilation of catalogs from member libraries from around the world. Users can conduct general searches to see what materials are available on a particular subject. By clicking on an entry you see standard bibliographic information as well as a listing of libraries who own the resource (in order of geographic proximity). If you really like buying books the entries also link to web retailers who will sell it to you. Attention scholars and students--entries also include citation information in APA, MLA and Chicago style among others. Just so we’re clear, WorldCat catalogs more than books. The catalog captures everything from DVDs, downloadable audio books to full text journal articles and web resources.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia
I may end up eating my words, but I’m done with WebMD. A.D.A.M medical encyclopedia is now my preferred source for self diagnosis (yes...that was a joke). But seriously, at some point we all need to know about health and wellness issues. A.D.A.M., a service of the National Library of Medicine, is a user friendly, reliable resource for health information. Articles include information on causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment. Articles also give recommendations for when to consult a physician. The best part-- articles list their contributors and their sources, so you know where the information is coming from.

By definition, ipl2 is a guide. What does this mean? You can search ipl2 (like you would with google) or you can browse for resources by topic. Because ipl2 is a guide and not a search engine website listings include a brief description of the website’s content. ipl2 includes sections for kids and teens on their site, providing a safe haven of searching and researching for younger users. The site is developed and maintained by library and information science students within consortium schools like Drexel University and the University of Michigan--so the information can be trusted.

Go ahead-- try out these resources as part of your everyday web searches. Hopefully you will find that they provide you dependable and relevant results.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mr. Darcy on my Mobile

Last night I watched the beloved BBC miniseries version of Pride & Prejudice with a couple of my gal pals. Admittedly, Pride & Prejudice is a gap in my literary knowledge so I’m catching up. Disc 1 ended right where I am in the book, so we called it a night. If you’re familiar with the series, at the end of disc 1... stuff gets real. As I communicated to my friends how excited I was to see disc 2, they implored me to finish reading the book. While we were on the topic of reading I shared that I am reading Pride & Prejudice on my phone using the Kindle for Android app-- Gasp! Like good friends and Austen fans my gal pals gave me my choice of three print copies to read from. I explained that reading the book on my phone is a personal growth exercise. While I may not be an avid e-book reader, I have to come to understand why others love the format. Why not learn through experience?

E-readers and mobile readers have arrived. While they may never replace books in print (at least not anytime soon) people are finding the format extremely useful and appealing. From my personal perspective, the Kindle app comes in handy when I’m on a crowded train. Sometimes I have to choose between reading a book or holding on so as not to fall. Reading on my phone allows me to do both. E-readers and mobile readers allow users to have their books without the bulk. If you are reading this and you drive a car, you may not get it. If you’ve ever been on a CTA Train at 8 a.m., you know where I’m coming from. Others may like the appeal of instant downloads, customizing font sizes or having their personal library on hand at all times. You may be a print diehard, but many readers find e-books to their liking.

Why does this matter to libraries and librarians? I believe that some people will only read if it’s really easy. E-readers add a level of ease and convenience that print materials can’t always compete with. For libraries to capture and keep the attention of these types of users, we have to play in the e-book space. While Kindles can’t offer the same services as a library (see Merrimack Public Library’s blog post "What A Librarian Can Do That A Kindle Can’t") libraries must strive to offer the same service as a Kindle in order to retain these users.

I currently have 6 days to finish Pride & Prejudice before my friends and I continue to disc 2. With plenty of crowded trains in my future, finishing the book shouldn’t be a problem.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Farewell Cordelia

Finishing The Skull Beneath The Skin was bittersweet for me. Sadly, P.D. James only wrote two Cordelia Gray mysteries. Finishing this book was like saying goodbye to this great character. Perhaps it is for the best. If there were more Cordelia Gray books I would probably neglect my coursework in favor of solving English mysteries.

In this book Gray is charged with protecting an aging ingenue from death threats. As the novel progresses, Gray has a murder mystery on her hands. The Skull Beneath The Skin has a very different pace than its predecessor, An Unsuitable Job For A Woman. James takes her time with this novel offering great detail and back-story for each character. The bulk of the action takes place on an island off the English coast. The characters have little to do as the police investigate the murder. Cordelia discretely puts her detective skills to work to solve the case.

As I say farewell to Cordelia, I begin classes for this semester. My reading will now become more focused on course related materials. Any extra time I have will hopefully be devoted to reading children’s and young adult literature so that I can continue to become fluent in those works. Ramona the Brave is up next on the blog docket. Cheers.

Back to Narnia

With The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, and half of The Horse and His Boy under my belt, I’m quite smitten with The Chronicles of Narnia—but what’s new. People have been telling me to read these books for years. So, if you want recommend a book to me, start now and maybe I’ll read it before I’m 40.

The Chronicles of Narnia are much beloved. This leaves me with the feeling that there is little I can say that would add to the conversation. But I do have a couple of points. As I said above, a lot of people tried to push these books on me when I was a kid. At the time, I wasn’t a fantasy reader. If you are an adult new to fantasy, I strongly recommend taking a second look at The Chronicles of Narnia.

Earlier this week I was discussing fantasy literature with a woman I know. Unfortunately she believes that fantasy is inappropriate literature for anyone, including children. Her stand comes from religious conviction. I offered The Chronicles of Narnia as a faith friendly fantasy option since they are packed with Christian themes and imagery. I’m not sure that she will take my recommendation, but perhaps you will.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Reading Frenzy

A quick blog to check in. As winter break at UNT comes to a close, I am frantically finishing up my "engaged reading." Blog posts to come: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Tokyo Vice, and Skull Beneath the Skin.