Did I ever show these pictures to you, dear readers?

Right before the Ugly Truth came out, we put give-away copies into our locked display case, to taunt entice the children to attend our release party. This was my manager’s idea, actually, and it’s one of my favorite displays my library has done.

How do you use displays to interact with your library patrons?

book battles

There are quite a few book battles going on right now, for practically every reading taste.

SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ books is going strong, and focuses on children’s books from the past year, including chapter books, nonfiction, and graphic novels. I particularly enjoyed match 3, with judge Barry Lyga. My Two Barrys (Barries?)–I’d watch that sitcom. A replacement for Two and a Half Men, perhaps?

Out of Print Books is hosting 2011 Book Madness, with a focus on classic (out of print) books. Each bracket is also sponsored by a different library, which is an added layer of wonderfulness. Lots of voting discussions going on at their facebook page as well. Out of Print is a very cool organization that creates gorgeous t-shirts with book cover designs, and for each shirt they sell, one book is donated to a community in need through their partner Books For Africa.

The Morning News (presented by Field Notes) is also hosting a book battle, focusing on contemporary literary adult fiction. I’m not overly familiar with The Morning News, but I really love their multi-purpose Frankenreview.

There’s also the ongoing battle over e-books, but that doesn’t really interest me overly much; if you want to investigate that battle, go see Toby over at theanalogdivide.

My library does its own version of the SLJ book battle. We have a huge bulletin board in our department that we post the brackets on, and kids vote during Children’s Book Week. When we get down to two books, we have a party with a book cake that has the two finalists frosted on it. We book talk and celebrate the two finalists and then announce the ultimate winner, and devour the cake-y likenesses. It’s a ton of fun and I highly recommend you try it at your library.

Anything I’m missing?

-Miss Julie

new storytime favorites

Preschool-2nd grade storytimes

Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker

I love cats. I love cats in boxes. I love weird books. So, it seemed inevitable that I would love Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker. Eula is the square cat of the title. She is, literally, square. She wishes she were round like her friends Patsy and Maude, but she is not. Being a square, when she tips over, it is hard to get back up. Mouseholes are impossible. Red shoes make her look short. Her friends try to help her become rounder in several ways, my favorite being the two panel spread wherein all three cats sing “oooooooo” with rounded lips, skip in circles, and eat doughnuts. In the end, Eula makes peace with her squareness, and all is well. When I read this aloud, I ask the kids if Eula’s tactics are working, giving them a chance to answer that she is “still a square.” Great for a cat storytime, a shape storytime, or a storytime about friendship.

Banana! by Ed Vere

If brevity is the soul of wit, then Banana! sets a new standard for the witty picture book. There are only two words in the entire story: banana, and please. The telling of this tale entirely hinges on the acting skills of the storyteller, so set your inhibitions aside and really FEEL the pain of these two monkeys–one in red and white stripes, the other in blue and white–as they scream, cry, and whisper their way through the story. The monkey in blue has a banana, which the monkey in red wants. With his one word refrain, the monkey in red goes from excitement over the banana, to questioning, to an all out banana crying fit.  When the text reads “Banana!!” with two exclamation points, and the background is all bright colors and jagged lines, and the monkey’s face looks like the quintessential toddler tantrum face, you need to bring it to your performance, or you might as well not read this book aloud at all. This book would pair well with The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog.

Pouch! by David Ezra Stein

I’ve been reading Pouch! and Banana! together, drawing attention to the exclamation point that is part of each title. I’ll say the title with exclamation point intact, and then I will cover it up and repeat the title without the same fervor. I don’t push the point (ha! see what I did there?) but it is a nice, informal away to start introducing preschooolers to punctuation. Pouch! is the tale of a Joey who is ready to leave his mother’s pouch in search of adventure. Each time he leaves the pouch, he hops a bit farther afield, but is always scared by the creatures he encounters, causing him to shout “Pouch!” and jump back in to hide away. When I read this aloud, I have kids stomp out the number of hops that Joey takes. Stein’s loopy crayon and watercolor illustrations suit the story perfectly.

Baby times (4-18months)

In my baby times for the past year, I’ve been using Annie Kubler’s supremely adorable board book renditions of nursery rhymes. It’s very easy to adapt the rhymes for adults to perform the actions with their babies. I usually read the book through two times. I love Kubler’s illustrations because she includes a wide variety of babies, including babies with hearing aids and babies with glasses, in addition to the wide variety of skin tones. I also use Kubler’s books with the toddlers.

Musically, I’ve taught myself how to play “Stop and Go” by Ella Jenkins . I play it using G, C, and D. I’ve used it with toddlers and kids up to second grade, and it’s been a hit every time.

Are there any other musical librarians out there? What do you play? How do you use music in your library work? Let me know, I’m curious as all get out.

-Miss Julie

All books reviewed from library copies.

an open letter to Stephen King

aka Uncle Stevie.

Dear Mr. King,

One cold, dark night in my twelfth year, I had nothing left to read. I’d read through all of my own books, all of my assigned reading for school, and all of my father’s back issues of Analog and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Desperate for a story, I began rummaging through my mother’s bookcase and came across an enormous book in a slip-case, bound in red. It was your novel The Eyes of the Dragon.

I took the book out of its case and saw that one corner had been chewed by something with sharp teeth. (That night I thought that it was part of the book’s design; it wasn’t until years later that I asked my mother about it and she told me our dog, Blackie, had chewed on the package left by the UPS man–shades of Cujo–when it had been delivered.) The illustration I remember most was the one of the mouse hollowed out by the burning poison. The stark, eerily beautiful black and white ink drawings were the perfect complement to that story I found there, and I read early into the morning, loathe to close my eyes and go to sleep.

That was the right book at the right time for me. I didn’t have the best of childhoods–farm life was hard, money was tight, and my parents were both struggling with personal demons–but when I was reading, none of that mattered. And when I was reading that book, that large, heavy book, so full of magic, I felt protected—like it was a shield that would keep me safe from my own life and take me to another world entirely.

I identified most strongly with Thomas. Poor, unloved, fat, manipulated Thomas, who loved the bitter taste of his own heart; Thomas, who tried so hard to do good but was so easily led astray. These lines about Thomas resonated with me deeply when I was young:

Thomas was not exactly a good boy, but you must not think that made him a bad boy. He was sometimes a sad boy, often a confused boy […], and often a jealous boy, but he wasn’t a bad boy.

I felt like Thomas most days. Sad, confused, jealous of my classmates who had normal households and normal parents who were able to hug them and tell them they were loved and take care of them. I watched them as cravenly as Thomas watched his father in his secret moments, wanting what they had, wondering what they had done to deserve such happy, pleasant lives, while I suffered in quiet misery. It was all too easy for me to understand how Thomas could do the things he did…it was all too easy for me to see myself doing such things, if the opportunity presented itself. That book showed me that my feelings didn’t make me a bad person, just a person whose feelings had been badly used.

I eventually read all of your books that my mother had, Mr. King, but that book–and the Dark Tower books*–always remained the most special in my heart, because it was there when I needed it most, and it had been something special belonging to my mother.

After she died in 2007, I often thought of that grand, beautiful copy of The Eyes of the Dragon that I no longer had; it had been lost when our house burned down the year I was fourteen. Instead I re-read my battered paperback copy, and cried for Peter’s and Thomas’ losses as well as my own.

I am writing this letter to thank you, Mr. King. Thank you for writing a story that saved my life. Thank you for all of your many other books that are an unbreakable connection to my past and my mother. Thank you, most of all, for teaching me that people who PEEK at the END of books are not to be trusted.


Miss Julie

*I waited so patiently for Thomas and Dennis to re-appear in a grand fashion; I will not be one of those beggars who makes demands of Uncle Stevie, but, oh, I am still so very fond of poor, sad Thomas, and fain would know how he fares these days.