Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Trendy Report

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at work doing what we child librarians love to do most - take a look at the NEW book cart. Even if you get to do the ordering, seeing the books all shiny and new out of the box or on the book truck inspires the happy dance. It then occurred to me that I was seeing some trends (completely unscientific of course) and that I should share with you my totally random observations and opinions.

Timely Topic
It's no surprise that for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing we are seeing tons of great space books. And if your library is doing 'space' for summer reading like mine, you are in luck.

 Breaking News: Alien Alert by David Biedrzycki
A Kite for Moon by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Marty's Mission: an Apollo 11 story (Tales of Young Americans) by Judy Young, illustrated by David Miles

What's In a Name?
Apparently, the letters R-U-B-Y.

Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo
Ruby's Birds by Mya Thompson, illustrated by Claudia Davila
Ruby's Sword by Jacqueline Veissid, illustrated by Paola Zakimi

We can add these to the other amazing characters sharing this perfect kidlit name:
Ruby Lu
Max & Ruby
Ruby Lavender
Hello My Name Is Ruby
Ruby Redfort
Even the Duchess of York has a Ruby character....

Amazing Illustrators (besides G. Brian Karas)
Every librarian I talk to agrees that the level of talent for illustrators of children's books just keeps getting better and better. Two new faves dealing with grandfathers:

The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay
Grandpa's Stories: a Book of Remembering by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Allison Colpoys

Now I'm going to pretend that I get to give out book awards for my own little world. Here are three:

This one is called, Duh! (as in, why didn't I write that?)

Chicks Rule by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Renee Kurilla

So Clever (or, this is what they mean by a 'hook')

Baby's First Bank Heist by Jim Whalley, illustrated by Stephen Collins

And finally,
Cuteness Overload (Just, stop...)


Little Taco Truck by Tanya Valentine, illustrated by Jorge Martin

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The New Nutmegs Are Here!

I'm so excited to be able to talk about the New 2020 Nutmeg books! If you are unfamiliar, the Nutmeg Book Awards are Connecticut's children/teen book awards - you can find more info here:

Having served on the committee for the Intermediate reads in the past, this was the first time I got to serve on the Elementary Committee (Grades 2-3) and it was so fun. We got to read so many great books from graphics to poetry to picture books and easy fiction, I think we read somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 books and then had to narrow the list down to these fabulous 15! Parents and educators can rest assured that these books were chosen by librarians and teachers with great care, lots of debate and of course, love for reading and readers!

Here's my personal take on the top 15 Elementary choices:

Let the Children March
written by Monica Clark-Robinson
illustrated by Frank Morrison

As a librarian it's tough to know where to put this one because it looks like a picture book but its really a fictionalized account of the Birmingham children's march that took place in May, 1963. It was named a Coretta Scott King Award honor book and rightly so, it serves as an important reminder of the power of children to affect social change. A great choice for teachers and one of the older picture books that parents can talk with their children about when they are at an age to understand.

by Thyra Heder

This is just an adorable and unique story about a girl and her turtle who goes on a hunt to find her the perfect birthday present. Told from the perspective of both characters, its sweet and the ink and watercolor illustrations hit the right note. Perfect for all ages!

Anything But Ordinary Addie: the True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic
written by Mara Rockliff
illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

The best things about this picture book bio are that it's visually stunning and it's about someone that you've probably never heard of before. The length of the text and author's notes are just right to inspire more young girls (and boys) to delve into the world of magic and stage artistry. Bravo!

Robins! How They Grow Up
by Eileen Christelow

Robins! is a non-fiction book that teachers and media specialists must love because of its design. It follows baby robins as they grow, adding in readable text with graphic picture elements and even some text bubbles by the birds themselves - all without being too overwhelming or busy on the page. Another winner from Eileen Christelow.

The Dinosaur Expert
written by Margaret McNamara
illustrated by G. Brian Karas

When Kimmy's class goes on a field trip to the natural history museum, she wants to share all her knowledge with her class until a classmate tells her that girls can't be scientists! Thankfully her teacher and other students encourage Kimmy to follow her passion and become a dino expert. I've probably said it before but G. Brian Karas is one of my absolute favorite illustrators so of course I lobbied for this title, though it wasn't hard because dinosaurs, author Margaret McNamara and Karas are a winning combination.

by Sean Rubin

I literally can't wait for kids to find this book if they haven't already. For those that aren't already reading every graphic incarnation they can get their hands on, this will be such a welcome introduction to the format. The story of Sybil and her neighbor Bolivar, a dinosaur of course, is such a treat and visually appealing to younger elementary students because of color-coded speech bubbles and traditional picture book text. There's so much to see here in this great story of friendship and much more.

If Sharks Disappeared
by Lily Williams

This super non-fiction picture book takes readers on a journey through what would happen to our world if only this one animal disappeared. Williams does it with a light touch through child-friendly illustrations and with information perfect for this age group.

Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems
by Julie Paschkis

Short, accessible animal poems in English and Spanish decorated with folk art-style illustrations makes this a perfect poetry text for classes, projects and just fun reading. The author's note is fascinating and shows how Paschkis came up with the concept and created the poems.

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: the record-setting dive of the bathysphere
written by Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by Katherine Roy

In 1930, an engineer and an explorer got in a hollow metal ball and dove into the depths of the ocean. Even if you aren't an inventor or engineer, you will love following along as the bathysphere descends into the depths, revealing a little of what Otis and Will discovered. The illustrations perfectly match the suspenseful story and the end notes are a great addition.

Her Right Foot
written by Dave Eggers
illustrated by Shawn Harris

This is not an easy book to explain in a blurb. You must hold it in your hands and read it. I fell in love with this book the moment after I read it because it took me a second to absorb how totally awesome it is. What is it about the Statue of Liberty's right foot? I think kids are often mesmerized by monuments like this and this book takes it to a whole new level. A perfect jumping off point for what is happening in our world at this very moment.

Trombone Shorty
written by Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews
illustrated by Bryan Collier

This book has won the Coretta Scott King Award and was named a Caldecott honor book. It's about music and New Orleans and all sorts of great things like making your dreams come true. So we couldn't not include it on our list so that as many kids get to read it (and even hear it if you buy the version with the CD!) because it is really something.

Lola Levine Is Not Mean!
written by Monica Brown
illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Lola Levine is a smart and spunky second-grader who is navigating the world of friendship and school and will steal your heart. The first in a popular series about this multicultural character that every kid can relate to.

The Story of Diva and Flea
written and illustrated by Mo Willems and Tony Diterlizzi

Another tour-de-force, this one combining amazing author/illustrators/friends Willems and DiTerlizzi with a Paris setting and an adorable cat and dog duo. How can this not be amazing?  A chapter book destined to become a classic.

Book Uncle and Me
written by Uma Krishnaswami
illustrated by Julianna Swaney

A am a champion of the quieter books especially when they are about books and awesome characters like young Yasmin. When her city in India threatens to shut down a rickety old book stand that she frequents, she gets to work and displays some community activism at its most basic and important. Totally accessible to young chapter book readers and with a great message.

A Boy Called Bat
written by Elana K. Arnold
illustrated by Charles Santoso

There really was no way we were coming up with this list without having this title on it. It's a longer fiction/chapter book but the character of Bat, a boy on the autism spectrum, was too well done to pass up. This is a perfect book for parents/child reading and for a teacher read-aloud. It offers typical readers a great glimpse into the world of someone not so different from them - and includes an adorable baby skunk in the process!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Writing Life Wrap-Up

Thanks to Julie Hedlund's 12 Days of Christmas for Writers for getting me to actually write a blog post!

Our task for Day 3 is to write our SUCCESSES - all of them, big or small. Mine are still relatively small compared to some, but I do agree with Julie that it is important to celebrate our achievements because we spend SO much time beating ourselves up over rejections.

*Made an awesome writer's vision board in January of 2018 that I love to look at
*Did Tara Lazar's STORYSTORM for the first time and it was totally worth it and productive
*Wrote and revised (many times) 3 new picture book manuscripts for 12x12
*Submitted 26 times (up from 18 for 2017)
*Had a great idea for a new MG and wrote the first 10 chapters at the end of this year!
*Completed a year of co-leading our SCBWI Critique Group
*Got involved with another group and came together to create a SCBWI local Meetup group - helping to coordinate the January MEETUP as we speak
*Managed to send in a 12x12 submission each month (whether I should have or not!)
*Spent many valuable Tuesday mornings (and a few afternoons) with a writer friend at a local coffee shop, writing and ok, chatting a bit about writing!
*Storystorm, 12x12 for 3rd year, NESCBWI Spring Conference, Mini Study Hall w/ Marcie Colleen
*(related more to my job but benefits here too) Read over 150 1st-3rd grade books as part of our state book award - Nutmeg Elementary Book Award Committee
*Got some nice comments from an Editor saying a pb I questioned had "great pace and a cute storyline"

And to all my writer friends, may you have great SUCCESS in 2019!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

On Kids & Halloween...

It's no secret that most kids love Halloween. Costumes and candy. That's what it's all about, right?
I, too, still love Halloween, though I think it has more to do with being around children at the libraries where I work, than actually enjoying parties or dressing up as an adult.

By the end of September, kids are taking out Halloween books from the library - and we have gobs of them! In storytime, I start to hear from those who already know what they will dress up as.

A cat.
A Ninja Turtle.
A mermaid.

This year, one of my 4-year-old storytime kids has decided to be a hermit crab, just like the pet he got for his birthday. I started to think back on the costumes I chose for myself as a child, and I also wondered, why?

It's safe to say that I was an anxious kid. I'm pretty sure a childhood illness and an absent father left thier marks. So it's no wonder that I often chose powerful characters to become on that one day of the year.

A princess with a magical wand.
Miss Piggy (quite possibly the bossiest, karate-chopper ever)
Wonder Woman.

When so many things in my life were out of my control, it must have been fun to be one of these, even if just for one night. I started to look at kids and their costume choices in a different way. Sure, sometimes you just want to be a taco. Who doesn't? But sometimes, kids want to be a beautiful mermaid who garners attention, a superhero who is way stronger than they feel, or a firefighter to please their firefighter Dad. Who knows what goes on in their little heads at this confusing time of year.

In storytime, I am careful about what books I choose if I do a Halloween storytime. Some kids love stories with mummies and bats and all the ghoulies. Others are afraid of costumed characters in general and suspicious of the holiday. One book that I made a matching flannelboard set for a few years ago is Three Little Ghosties by Pippa Goodhart. I'll do this story with the 3-5 year olds and get them to help add some of the characters. Basically, the three ghosties go around and scare ghouls and witches and eventually children. But the jig is up when a child sits up in bed and scares the ghosties! Sounds perfect, right? Well, one year, a little girl sat completely unphased through the witches and even the giant ogre, until the part when the three little ghosties' mother comes into the story to scold the ghosties for scaring everyone. As she was sending them to bed, my storytimer stood up and began to cry uncontrollably, to the point where I had to get her mother. Turns out, she could have cared less about the creepy characters in the story. She was so worried about the three little ghosties and how they had gotten in trouble!

So maybe Halloween is about way more than costumes and candy. It's a darn scary world out there and Halloween stories, costumes and creepy things prepare us to deal with our fears. It's okay to read about monsters when you know you can scare them away. It's okay to go to a strangers house when you know you'll get candy and your parents are waiting on the sidewalk. It's okay for me to go see the new Halloween movie when I know that Jamie Lee Curtis is going to face her fear. Okay, maybe I'm still working on facing mine...

Some of my favorite Halloween books:

By the Light of the Halloween Moon by Caroline Stutson
Ed Emberley's Halloween Drawing Book
Hist Whist by e.e. cummings
In a Dark, Dark Room & Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming
Pumpkin Heads by Wendell Minor
Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Melanie Watt
Three Little Ghosties by Pippa Goodhart
Which Witch is Which? by Pat Hutchins

Monday, April 23, 2018

Permission Granted

I, an official, MLS, 20+ years-experienced librarian, am granting you permission to get rid of your books. Why, you ask?
It's spring - book sale time at many libraries, and the time when many well-intentioned people bring their old books to libraries so they don't physically have to do that gut-wrenching thing and throw them in the trash themselves. Yes, I just let a secret slip - sometimes, libraries throw out books. 

Before I go furthur, I feel obligated to say that, OF COURSE, do these things first:

If you love the book and want to re-read it or it has HUGE sentimental value, keep it.
If you love or like the book but won't re-read it, share or donate it.
If you hated the book but think someone else could like it, share or donate it.
If you loved, liked or hated the book, it's in great condition but you don't want it cluttering up your life, share it or donate it.
Regardless of your love for it, if the book is in bad condition, moldy, smelly or falling apart, throw it out.
If someone gave you the book and you feel like you need to hang on to it for that reason, share or donate it. They won't know and it will help de-clutter your life.

Contrary to what you might think, most librarians I know are NOT in love with all BOOKS. Really. Yes, we may love the ideas, the words, the covers, the smell. We may collect some for a variety of personal reasons just like you. For the average person, just because a book is a book, it does not make it a treasure to hold on to for a lifetime. Sure, some are. But that 10th reprinting of a James Patterson best-seller in paperback from 1999? Nope. That thousand-pound cookbook from 1954 that even you did not make a single recipe from? Nope. That copy of The Giving Tree that your old college roommate gave to you but you never really liked it anyway? Nope. Obviously I am not speaking to people in third world countries or a child in a homeless shelter whose books may be her lifeline. These people are why we donate books.

I have maybe six bookshelves in my house, and after I write this, I'm going to purge those and bring the good ones to the library book sale. I'm getting rid of the old hiking trails books that we really don't use anymore, the parenting books we have aged out of, and some gifty books that I haven't looked at since they were gifted. I'm keeping a few books my mother-in-law passed on to me for that day when I'm desperate for a book to take in the car, craft books on writing, a book that a friend wrote and included me in the dedication, and two boxes of children's books in the basement that were my kids' favorites. Everything else I can get at the library or borrow or buy if needed. Then go through the process again.

Librarians serve, among other reasons, to give you access to books and information. Our job is not to save every book in the world from destruction, nor is it yours. Re-read the rules at the top. 

What I am saying is, I GIVE YOU PERMISSION not to have to hold on to every book that has crossed your path. 


DE-CLUTTER, DONATE and DO yourself and the world a favor. 

Permission granted.

"Sharing education, sharing a book...that's what 
changes the world." - Brad Meltzer

Besides your local library, here are some places you can contact to possibly donate your books:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

THE THAW - #50 Precious Words Challenge

It's that fun time of year again for Vivian Kirkfield's


In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, Vivian is asking us to write a story using only 50 words, unlike Dr. Seuss who used limited words over and over again. Get it? Two different approaches to a fun writing prompt that I suggest you try!

So here's mine, inspired by a little critter I found on the sidwalk at work this past January. Thanks for reading!

While groundhog slept
and bear snoozed
woolly bear thawed her Halloween fur
in the golden sun of
this unusually warm January moment
while trudging over gritty sidewalk
through not-yet-crimson clover
on her way to somewhere
before the re-freeze from the approaching storm.
Her presence? Quiescence.

Here's a great book on the subject by Laurence Pringle!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year, New Inspiration

I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, probably because I know I will just feel worse when I set about breaking them. However, I do like the idea of fresh starts, and as a children's librarian, the idea of themes per month and a set number of days in a month and....well just all that good stuff!

Soooo, having never tried PiBoIdMo before, I am on my second day of Tara Lazar's STORYSTORM (previously PiBoIdMo - thank you Tara for changing the name!) and can't wait to see how long I can stick with it!
(You probably know all about it since I am late to the party, but if not, go here):

Basically, you are spending the month of January coming up with at least 30 story ideas in 30 days. Why is that revolutionary? Because apparently I had 4.5 stories just sitting around inside my head and they would have not materialized at this point (maybe never) but for STORYSTORM. 

I also like the idea from some guest bloggers on Tara's site that changing location is good for inspiration. Again, something you KNOW, but don't DO. So since I'm in the arctic freeze, I relocated to our newish craft room/dance/yoga basement and found some inspiration as I played with the latest products from my 11-yr-old's slime studio.

I read 15 picture books I'd been meaning to read (and also because I'm on a book award committee and had to), re-wrote 2 picture book texts I really like the rhythm of, typed up a pb draft I'd written out on paper and came up with 2 new ideas! (I also did 4 loads of laundry but that doesn't seem to count).

So at least for this month, this will be the year where I focus on new ideas and lots of writing. Maybe less querying and less re-working of the same old stories. I'll check back in in February and see how it went...