adventures in weeding

I have the sense of humor of a twelve year old boy. Farts, poop, burps–anything gross and juvenile will set me off. Any time I see a Ford commercial, as soon as they mention “super-duty” I am snickering.

Recently in my library adventures I came across discovered a book with the phrase “three magic balls” in the title, and I nearly lost it. Needless to say, it got weeded (for many other reasons besides the balls, but the balls were funniest reason).

pigs & pancakes

At my (awesome) library, we’ve been using letters of the alphabet to structure our preschool storytimes this spring. I borrowed the idea from Motherreader and tweaked it to my own tastes. Here’s my letter P storytime:

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore by David McPhail

This Little Piggy fingerplay

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff

Blow the Balloon/Sticky Sticky Sticky Bubblegum

I’m Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems

Letter P party: name things that start with letter P.

I love Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore. If you’re not familiar, it is the story of an Everydude who is, one night, swarmed by hungry, messy pigs (oh, the stereotyping!) Eventually he makes peace with the pigs, and after they clean up the mess they made they all enjoy a slumber party. (While I may not be the world’s best summarizer, it is just that weird). We talk about how those words–aplenty and galore–mean a WHOLE BUNCH of pigs. Some groups really lose it during the underwear part (Pigs from England,/ Pigs from France,/ pigs in just/ Their underpants) and other kids don’t even notice. Depends on how u-word centric they are, I guess.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake is one of the entries in Numeroff’s “If you” series, which intends to educate small children everywhere about the subjunctive mood tense, second person pov, and the dangers of being TOO GIVING. The pig eats her pancakes with syrup, and becomes sticky, so of course I follow this book with “Sticky Bubblegum.”   I learned blow the balloon and sticky bubblegum  from Hugh Hanley.*

I’m Invited to a Party is an easy reader, but it works surprisingly well for preschool storytime if you have an attentive group of kids and you read it in such a way so as to help them follow the sometimes slight changes in the characters’ appearances. At my library, we actually have made a flannel board set, and allowing the kids to actually see the layers of party clothing be added helps them recognize the absurdity of it all.

Then, of course, we end by naming a bunch of words that begin with P, and I write them down on the dry-erase boards. I have a couple kids who couldn’t care less about the stories and songs–they want to tell me all of the words they know, and pronto (PRONTO STARTS WITH P MISS JULIE!).

What are some of your favorite words that begin with the letter P? I like prelapsarian and potentate.

*I hereby COMMAND you in my most authoritative librarian voice to buy all of Hugh Hanley’s books and CDs (three altogether, and if you buy all of them you get a shipping discount). With these CDs in your professional tool-kit, you will never be at a loss for songs and fingerplays. Also, you should listen to all of them in sequence a few dozen times to absorb Hanley’s masterful ability with sequencing and creating a dramatic arc out of a series of songs. Trust me. Do it now. Further, you’ll be supporting an independent musician, which is always a good thing, right?

get off my (book) case!

From ohdeedoh, a cavalcade of adorable bookshelves for your wee ones. Or yourself. Heck, I’d put most of those in my apartment and feel no shame.

You do surround your children with books, right?

A house without books is like a room without windows. No [one] has a right to bring up children without surrounding them with books…Children learn to read in the presence of books.” –Heinrich Mann.

free willys.

I just finished reading a coworker’s arc of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It is extremely hard to not accidentally type Willy when I try to type that repetitive title. Then I am reminded of my co-worker who is eagerly awaiting the release of Free Willy: Willy vs. The Gorton’s Fisherman. Or whatever it is called.

Anyway. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a lovely book. I enjoyed reading about a fat character who wasn’t ashamed to be fat (even though he recognized that society thought he should be) and who was, in fact, a sex object. Yes, sometimes people become more physically attractive when we’re ensnared by the sheer force of their personality. I don’t think I’ve seen a strong example of this since The Phantom of the Opera.*

I also liked the platonic love story, which, according to the authors’ notes, was a major theme. I didn’t learn how to acknowledge this love until I was well into my twenties, so having all of these recent examples aimed at teenagers is a good thing, I think. Maybe if we all realized that love can occur without romance, we’d all feel a bit happier with ourselves and our lives.

Along with How to Say Goodbye In Robot, Dramarama, and Sweethearts, this book is a welcome addition to the platonic romance genre, which I have JUST NOW ushered into being.**

*I’m sure there are others, but I can’t think of them right now.

**Please don’t burst my inflated sense of power and self-importance, it is all I have right now.

gate hate.

I was fairly late to the twitter game. I didn’t really see much value in it, until I discovered that I could spend most of my time following people and not worry about creating my own content. Now I spend my twitter time enjoying the jarosity of Maureen Johnson and the pictures of food from around the world that Roger Ebert twitpics.

I also find value in the twitter chats such as kidlitchat and yalitchat. The majority of chatters (I believe) are writers of kid and ya lit, along with a smattering of readers and bloggers. I am not sure how many of the chatters are librarians. Sometimes I feel like the only one, but I know I am not.

Occasionally, in the midst of the chatting, a comment will be made about librarians. The comments I notice the most, and try to respond to without getting angry, are the ones that imply librarians have a mission to keep books away from readers instead of giving books to them.*

Librarians love authors and the books they write. If a librarian loves your book, s/he will do everything s/he can to put it in the hands of readers. If those readers love your book, chances are good they will want to buy their own copy. This, I understand, is good for authors. You want people to buy your books, right? So do librarians. We buy as many copies as we can justify. Sometimes the demand is there because of pop culture forces beyond our control or ken; other times, we create that demand by being passionate about books and telling everyone we know to READ THIS BOOK.

This is why I get especially sad and upset when I see authors making comments such as:

Kids may not mind swears, but it’s their parents and librarians who will prob. buy most of the books.

This is a brief comment, tossed out casually, but its implications are vast. It implies that librarians will choose not to buy a book because of its content, regardless of quality (so, most librarians wouldn’t stock Ulysses, I suppose). It implies that librarians are censors. It implies that we are arbiters of taste who only buy books we like. It implies that we cower in fear every time we come across a swear or a nonheteronormative character, because we fear the wrath of a mob of angry parents. This is not true. I will repeat: this is NOT TRUE. Let me present to you one of the articles of the Freedom to Read Statement:

There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.

Okay, so that second clause, “to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents”, is a little weird, but what it essentially means is: it’s not our job to tell fourteen year old Johnny he can’t read Stephen King. That last clause, though! Look at that! It’s not our job “to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.” What does that mean? It means, don’t worry about that sex scene or that swear word or that depiction of violence in your book. If it serves the story, if it serves your art, DO IT. A good, honest, ethical librarian will never not  buy a book because of those elements. Will we give the book with the graphic sex scene to every reader? No. Hell no. You give books to readers based on their tastes. You ask, What books have you read recently that you liked? That you didn’t like? What did you like about that book–the characters? The plot? The writing? We suss out what they enjoyed, and we try to match them with something similar.

So if a girl tells me she’s recently read and enjoyed It by Stephen King and Boy-Toy by Barry Lyga, I’d probably suggest she read Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan and Deerskin by Robin McKinley. If she’d told me she loved Nancy Drew and the Princess Diaries, would I still suggest Tender Morsels and Deerskin? Uh, no. I’d have to work a little harder to find books for her, since I don’t read much in that area, but there are tools I can use–Novelist gives out lists of read-alikes, and one can also use goodreads and librarything to find similiar books. I can ask coworkers. I can figure it out. I want to give her books she will enjoy reading just as much as I want the other girl to have books she will enjoy.

Librarians serve the public, and the public is diverse and varied with different tastes, needs and wants. I need to have books (and DVDs and CDs…) that will appeal to goths, to Christians, to Muslims, to struggling readers, to geeks, to skateboarders and knitters…and on and on and on. So I’ll need some books with sex, with swears, with violence and abuse; I’ll need some books with kittens and puppies and unicorns who poop marshmallows; I’ll need some books with romance but no sex.

Where will I get those books? Why, from authors! So, authors, follow your guts and write what they tell you to write, whether that is cozy mysteries full of tea-times and gentle jokes, historical war fiction full of blood and guts, or sex comedies full of scatalogical humor. Because out here in the world, there is a reader for every book, and unless you write that book, that reader will be very sad indeed.

Instead of thinking, “Golly, I’d better not write about gerbil rodeos  because some gerbil rodeo hating LIBRARIAN will get her bun in a twist and censor my book,” think, “I AM SO HAPPY that there are librarians out there who will find the person for me who wants to read my great American novel about gerbil rodeos.”

I will say it one more time, just to be clear: Authors should NEVER censor themselves because they think librarians, and to a lesser extent, teachers, will censor their books. Good librarians do not do that. Some, sadly, do, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Librarians are your friends, and if we are passionate about what you write, no matter the content or genre, we will do our damnedest to get it into the hands of someone who will love it. We buy for our public, not for ourselves (okay, occasionally for ourselves, but we make sure to have a balance).


your librarian,

Miss Julie

*Many authors know the value of librarians and love them accordingly. One bit of  evidence:

You know, I love librarians. I really love librarians. I love librarians when they crusade not to be stereotyped as librarians. I love librarians when they’re just doing those magic things that librarians do. I love librarians when they’re the only person in a ghost town looking after thousands of books. I love the ALA and am proud to be on one of their posters. —Neil Gaiman

(You should go read the whole post, because he goes on to criticize the ALA president, which is kind of neat).