Small town librarian discusses crafts, books, comics, media, teens, and more.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Youth Book Award predictions

I like trying to guess the books that will win the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards. It lets me take a look at some of the titles from the year and be a little snarky. Snarky because of my feelings on the awards lately, and that like many others, I don't think they actually have much connection to what youth want to read. Back in May I talked about some of my feelings on the subject.

So my picks for the 2008 winners:
Caldecott: Always a tough category to call, especially for me. My favorites so far this year are Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea, Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex, and Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman. In the case of Dinosaur... and Katie Loves... I think the text and pictures match perfectly, which is the goal. Otherwise, I'm guessing it will be a title that's on SLJ's Best Books of 2008 list.

Newbery: I'm still going with The Underneath by Kathi Applet, which I admit I haven't read yet. I like her Bubba and Beau picture books, so I'll give Underneath a try.
I'd love to see a book like Diary of a Wimpy Kid win, something that is pure comedy. Or the new books by two of my favorite authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett could make the honor list for Newbery or Printz. Probably won't happen, but they are both making other lists at least.

Printz: Gotta say Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, which I haven't read yet, but is getting lots of buzz lately. Other ones I think are likely: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Paper Towns by John Green, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, or Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Pratchett's Nation has a chance for an honor at least I hope. The winner will probably be something no one would have guessed, if the last two years are anything to judge by.

What titles are you predicting? We'll find out in about a month. I'll be breaking in the new children's librarian at that point, so it'll be interesting to hear her views on the winners, and we'll have to try and find time to read them.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Duct Tape

Duct Tape is one of my favorite crafts to do with me teens, and one of their favorites as well. We usually do it 2-3 times a in year. This past summer one of the tweens in the group started up a business selling purses after learning how to make them at a program. Other teens have found duct tape items are a good gift. My teens seem to like it best if I leave it up to them what to make.

Supplies needed:
-Duct tape in a variety of colors. I usually get at least three or four rolls of the standard silver-grey and half a dozen in other colors. I encourage them to use the silver-grey as the base, and add decorations with the others.
-Some good scissors. Duct tape isn't hard to cut, but if they are using things like cardboard you'll need strong scissors. And yes, you can tear duct tape, but some teens have trouble with that, and cutting it leaves a cleaner edge.
-Patterns and directions. I use ones from the Duck Tape Club and books, such as Got Tape? Many of the teens are fine to figure out what they are making on their own, but the first time they usually want directions. Make extra copies of the basic ones.

Optional supplies:
-Paper punches of various shapes and sizes.
-Cardboard, to use as support in some projects
-Waxpaper. If you put a piece of duct tape on wax paper, it can then be cut into shape or put in a paper punch, and then peeled off to be stuck to something else.
-Add-ons, i.e. fake flowers, gems, fringe
-Hot glue gun

To start with, I give the teens a quick lesson in making duct tape fabric, show them the patterns, and mention a few words of caution about being patient and not taping themselves or each other to things. And then it is basically up to them, and walking around helping them.

Some things my teens have made: wallets, purses, roses, sculptures, hats, gloves, shirts, skirts, flip-flops, wings, and my personal favorite: a Guitar Hero style duct tape banjo.

Overall it is a decent priced craft to do. Duct tape is somewhat expensive, but it lasts awhile and is useful to have around.
Price: ~$25-$50 for 2-3 programs
Age range: 11 and up
Time: 1 hour or more

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Teen Craft Resources online

While there's not a lot targeted at teen librarians, there are a tons of good craft websites on the net, some general and some specifically teen geared. Here's some of my favorite to sift through:
-Instructables - How to make cool DIY project. Instructions on how to make almost anything you can think of and lots that you never would. Some of it is pretty impractical for most library programs, i.e. too complicated and expensive.
-Not Martha - Not the sort of projects Martha Stewart would generally make. Not a ton of stuff, but fun, and has good links. Someday I will knit myself this wig.
-Cut Out + Keep - Sort of like a less tech heavy version of Instructables. Slightly more practical for library programs. Sadly, not all the projects actually have instructions. If you work with teens that sew, there's a good variety here to choose from
- Craftster - Crafting Community & Forums: Crafts, Patterns, Projects & Craft Ideas. Less instructions than I'd like, but lots of cool things to look at.
- Diary of a Crafty Chica - Blog and website with some really cool stuff. Some of it is way more complex than I'd get into with my teens, but there's some workable/adaptable ideas. She's also got a line of books and craft supplies. I really like her Crafty Diva books, and have used them with my teens.

Next time, some crafts and a book list.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Teen Crafts for Libraries

As a teen librarian, I've always got my eye out for good crafts to do with teens. And I have found that there aren't really that many resources out there targeted at crafts for teen librarians, not like what there is for children's librarians or teen book reviews. So, I've decided that that's something I can do. There is a book coming out, soon rumor has it, called, The Hipster Librarian's Guide to Teen Craft Projects, which promises to be most helpful.

Stay tuned, and if you have a good craft, please comment or contact me in some way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

It is the start of Banned Books Week, which raises awareness of challenged and banned books, and celebrates the freedom to read.

Public libraries are places for people of all walks of life to come together, and thus must cater to a wide range of interests, reading levels, and upbringings. What is right for one family might be offensive to another. The important thing is that public libraries do serve everyone and it is up to individuals to choose for themselves and their children what to read and watch, and not force their choices on the rest of population. To paraphase my father, if the library collection doesn't have some items that offend you and/or that you wouldn't want to read, then you aren't doing your job. Our freedom to choose what we want to read and to have access to it is one of the benefits of living in a democracy, and one that librarians continue to fight for.

From the ALA website here's the “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” which reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

The ten most frequently challenged authors of 2007:

1) Robert Cormier
2) Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
3) Mark Twain
4) Toni Morrison
5) Philip Pullman
6) Kevin Henkes
7) Lois Lowry
8) Chris Crutcher
9) Lauren Myracle
10) Joann Sfar

Some authors and their books that didn't make the list this year that are frequently challenged that you may have read:

J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter

Madeline L'Engle and Wrinkle in Time

C.S. Lewis and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Dav Pilkey and Captain Underpants

Katherine Paterson and Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins

Barbara Park and Junie B. Jones

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer movie rundown

I've been going to see a movie every weekend lately. Which is nice (though expensive) as I saw like three movies in theaters last year.

Iron Man- Best superhero movie of the last year or two, though way more violent. Marvel is laying the groundwork for something big. Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Tony Stark. Go for the theater if possible, and remember to stay through the credits.

Get Smart- A fun film, not great but funny. Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway make a nice team, though the chemistry isn't quite there. Dwayne Johnson and Masi Oka are fun. A good rental, but if you don't know the original show, you might not get some of the jokes.

WALL-E- Definitely the best of the bunch. Check out my full review. Go see this in theaters.

Wanted- I don't really like violent movies or movies with really stupid plot devices, and this movie unfortunately is both. Four words: Mystical loom of fate. It wants to be Kill Bill or the Matrix, but it would need better writing. Rent if you like mindless violence filled movies with Angelina Jolie. Rent Beowulf if you like Angelina Jolie, violent and intelligent movies.

Hellboy II- Good movie, fun characters, lots of action and humor, and a gaping plothole. However the huge fight happens so soon after the plothole that you won't have time to consider it. Great creatures throughout, though some appear to be Pan's Labyrinth leftovers. Del Toro is good at combining humor, action, and scary stuff, so I'm quite hopefully about the Hobbit. If you liked the first Hellboy go see this one in the theater, it deserves the big screen.

This weekend is The Dark Knight, which looks very promising.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Reading is upon us

6/9/08 (not posted earlier due to lack of time at computer)
Across the country libraries are either beginning Summer Reading or finishing up their first week or two. My library has begun today, and is off to quite a start. With schools out and temperatures in the 90's-100's, families and groups of teens seem to be flocking to our air-conditioned library. We've got over 60 kids and 30 teens signed up for the Reading Program at the main branch, and who knows how many at the other branches. The children's librarian told me that she'd be out at the desk signing youth up all day. I am lucky enough to have teens volunteering and doing sign-up at the moment.

Teen volunteers are a great thing to have in libraries, though I fear somewhat underused and unavailable. We have use volun-teens mainly during the summer, though I'm trying to get them to work during the school year too. They currently say that they to busy to do anything more when school is on, but I'll try again in the fall.

Summer Reading is a definitely a mixed blessing for libraries. Our circs, door counts, program attendance, and reader's advisory go way up. Earlier we had at least six families in the children's area reading, looking for books, playing games, making puppets eat each other. It is chaos and it is kinda the most wonderful thing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Printz and Newbery award books

I just finished listening to "Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy" by Gary Schmidt. It is the winner of both the Printz Award and a Newbery Honor, which is a pretty big honor. Now this is also tells you some things about the book with having even seen it.
-The main character will be between 11 and 14 years old
-It will very likely be historical fiction
-It will almost certainly be realistic fiction
-There will be some sort of death
-There will be issues
-It will be depressing in at least some parts
-It will likely not circ great at my library

Now I haven't read all the Newbery books or even all the Printz ones. I'm certainly making some generalizations here, but there are definite trends to be observed in the winners and honorees. Of the 2008 Newbery books, all four are historical and realistic fiction, and all deal with race, religion, or class issues. The 2007 batch brought us two of historical and two contemporary, with the issues of families and disablities thrown in. Only about 12 fantasy or sci-fi books have won the Newbery Medal going book all the way to 1922. And that is including the ones that are fantastical because they are about and told through the point of view of animals.

As my father said when I spoke to him about this the other day, the depressing nature of the books and the issues like racism, classism, and religion are things that real youth are experiencing and helps them connect them to the book.

The Printz Award is definitely edgier, but still it is fond of historical fiction, issues, and depressing bits. But they at least chose winner and honor books with good amounts of humor and interesting characters and narrators like Death, demons, the Monkey King, and ghosts.

My current bet for a Newbery this year is The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. It appears to have all the requirements, other than historical. Looks like it has some strong fantastical elements at least.

In the case of the Printz, I haven't a clue. It seems to be the book no one predicted in the past couple of years.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Summer Reading Countdown

Summer Reading is a great, wonderful, fun thing for kids, teens, and libraries. But preparing for it makes me pull out my hair.

Here's a piece of my To Do list:
- Choose movies
- Screen movies
- Choose crafts
- Make sample crafts
- Book program space
- Buy prizes
- Photograph prizes
- Write up prize descriptions
- Create bulletin board
- Make fliers for schools
- Use up all the copier toner
- Make packets (will be done as soon as more toner arrives)
- Visit schools
- Website
- Prepare a book list for visiting 4th graders
- Make drawing bins
- Print sign-up sheets

Writing it up actually makes me feel better.
Getting close to the end!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reading lots, but not writing

Summer Reading is hurtling towards us, and I feel sort of ready. I'm trying to get a lot of things going with the Teen Advisory Board too. They have agreed to make posters promoting Summer Reading, and the review blog is finally getting off the ground. I'm very pleased that it is finally happening, so I hope it continues to grow.

We are talking about meeting at Barnes and Noble to do some end of the fiscal year shopping, as there is always money that needs to be spent quickly in May or June. The TAB has been asking about a field trip and this might be a good opportunity. I'm always asking them for purchase suggestions and understandably they have trouble thinking of specific titles. The nearest bookstore that carries teen books is about an hour away, so they aren't as easily exposed to the newest titles.

Might get a couple reviews up later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PLA rundown

I really enjoyed PLA. There were good programs, good company, and good food. It is nice to be able to go to a conference where I actually had to chose between programs every session. Highlights included:

Reader's Advisory for Teens program- Helped confirm that I'm doing things right, and gave me some new hints.

Game Studio program- The Minneapolis Library is using a really cool program called Scratch. It is a free program that you can use to program/make some things of various types, i.e. games, videos, or other things. It uses some of the same code that the old Logo programming language used, but now the scripts are written in blocks that the user just has to select and stack. Projects are uploaded onto the Scratch website, where there's an online community like YouTube or Flickr. People can download projects to look at the coding. Minneapolis Library has a regular program where they have teens teaching other teens how to use Scratch.

Dealing with Teens Virtually- Respect the teens and respect their use of the net. Don't make the teens always come to you and your space, go to them in their's. Those two sentences sum up most of the important stuff from this program, though we also talked about ways to reach teens. Meebo, texting, e-mail, Flickr, blogs, and MySpace are just a few of the things we talked about.

Those are just a few of the programs I went to, and a very few of the ideas I picked up. Lots more to think about, consider, and do. I've gotten permission to start a blog for my teens to review books, movies, and music in. Maybe an online book group will happen as well in the future.

In a side note about PLA and to the organizers: If you are going to have a "paperless" conference, stop the daily newspapers or print them on demand, and even more importantly, don't give everyone books they don't want. This is one of three like it at the end of the conference.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Comic book rundown

Visited a number of comic book stores this weekend and picked up a bunch of stuff. Here's a rundown:

Echo- Terry Moore's new series looks interesting and science-fiction-y. Will it be good? Probably. Will it be appropriate for teens? Hard to tell so far, as really very little has happened, but I hope so. The cover of the first issue is very shiny.

Serenity: Better Days- Joss Whedon's new miniseries, which is nowhere near as good as the show, but if you are a fan of Firefly I'd suggest picking it up, or at least reading the forthcoming collection which your local public library will likely get. This one is a lost episode type mini-series, so everything is pre-movie state. *Bonus info* The letters page reveals that a Shepard Book mini-series is planned for later this year.

Teen Titans Year One- I love the art style (other than Aqualad, who looks scary) in this, and it is good to see young Ollie, Barry, and Arthur. Batman and Wonder Woman really haven't changed in appearance or even attitude (depending on who is writing them).

Tiny Titans- Adorable, short, and funny, yet somehow strangely wrong. Cyborg is not an Easy Bake Oven and Wonder Girl doesn't seem like the type to bake cakes. I'll admit that Terra throwing rocks cracked me up. When this gets collected, I'm definitely putting it on the kids' graphic novel order.

Booster Gold- I have a strong fondest for the characters from the old Justice League International. Something to do with reading the comics while I was growing up. Booster Gold and Blue Beetle were two of the leads in the series, and the ones who were always causing trouble. After both dying recently (they got better), they have ceased being simply comedic characters and are now saving the multi-verse and time. That's cool, and the series makes fun references to things and people past. It is funny and serious. Unfortunately, time travel, paradoxes, and the general current state of DC makes the whole series rather confusing and difficult for a new reader to pick-up.

Also picked up the first volume of Honey and Clover, which I haven't had a chance to read yet. It looks amusing. Wanted to buy, but couldn't find, the first volume of Pumpkin Scissors.

I also managed not to be mistaken for a bookstore employee this weekend, so that's good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Review of Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by George

"Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow" is Jessica Day George's second book. It is a retelling of the old Scandinavian story "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," which has elements of Beauty and the Beast and the myth of Cupid and Psyche. It is a story of which I am particularly fond, and George's version did not disappoint me at all.

"Sun and Moon" is in the same vein as Gail Carson Levine's "Ella Enchanted" and Shannon Hale's "Goose Girl." They tell an old story, but make it their own story, adding new elements and making the characters well-rounded. George adds some nice backstory for our heroine, though, as usual, the male lead could have used a bit more himself. It is a book I had trouble putting down. Fast-paced, with a good supporting cast and likable lead, I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes Levine and Hale's books, or enjoyed George's first book, "Dragon Slippers."

George also gets bonus points from me, as she is a Scandinavian Studies major. Maybe I should write a Scandinavian story based novel.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Quick book reviews

Read a number of books this week so here's a quick run down:

"A Wreath For Emmet" by Marilyn Nelson
One of the Printz Honor books for 2006, "A Wreath..." is a complex poetical remembrance of Emmett Till, a young man, only fourteen years old, brutally murdered for supposedly whistling at a white woman in 1955. Everyone has heard the story at one point or another in high school history class, though this book drives home the true horror, and reminds the reader that Emmett was not simply another death, another note in the history textbook. The book is a quick read, but it will stay with you for a long time. The art completes the power of this book, and compliments the poems. This is a powerful book, though one you may want to read with a dictionary handy, as it has some complex vocabulary. Make sure to read the author's notes at the beginning and end.

"Not the End of the World" by Geraldine McCaughrean
This book theorizes what life would have been like on the Ark, and is told largely through the eyes of Noah's daughter, Timna (no daughter was mentioned in the Bible). It is realistic, sparing no details of grim and horrors of the flood and spending more than a month in a large boat with a zoo's worth of animals. The first days involve Noah's family dealing with the swimming survivors who are trying to get on board. It is ultimately a book about understanding God and His will. Does he speak to and work through only Noah, or does Timna have some part of the great plan as well.

"eleven" by Patricia Reilly Giff
Sam is just about to turn eleven, and he's decided to find out where his birthday presents are hidden. In the attic he finds a box of things, including a newspaper article with his picture. Sam cannot read, and only is able to figure out the word "missing." Does the contents of the box have anything to do with the dreams he has been having? Maybe the new girl at school can help him figure it out, though she starts out by telling him she won't be around long.
Patricia Reilly Giff writes another book with a tween with a mystery and a secret in their life. A enjoyable read, though it wraps up a little too nicely in the end. As the book is from Sam's POV, though it is in third person, certain details are left out, such as why Sam can't read, that would have been helpful. Also, the cover makes the book look more creepy and exciting than it is.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Review of Airman by Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer, long time teen favorite for his Artemis Fowl series, has produced an exciting new work. Airman is about young Conor Broekhart, who begins his life by being born in a falling hot air balloon. He lives on the Saltee Islands, a small, but wealthy, kingdom of the cost of Ireland. His childhood is idyllic and his education includes fencing, languages, and the science of flight. In a time before the Wright brothers Conor and his teacher, Victor, dream and work towards creating a heavier than air self-propelled flying machine. Things do not last and Conor is framed for a horrible crime and sent off to prison, where he plots his way towards freedom and revenge. In a manner reminiscent of Batman and the Count of Monte Cristo, Conor recreates himself as the Airman.

Airman fast-paced, well-written, alternate-history adventure story, that should appeal to a wide range of readers. The characters are interesting and generally likable, though like Batman, Conor does tend to brood a fair amount. There's a little be of romance, but nothing extreme, so the book is fine for older children, younger teens, and family car-trips. Older teens and adults will not be bored, due to the high amount of action. I'd recommend the book and the audiobook to any public, middle school, or high school library. One of my favorite books so far this year.