Picture it: a program

Do you want a program that you can do at your library that is:

  • intergenerational?
  • collaborative?
  • creative?
  • involves multiple departments, including tech services?
  • celebrates picture books and novels?

Well, here it is:

Buy a bunch of blank books from Bare Books. They have paperbacks, picture books, graphic novels, board books–all of them blank and ready to be filled with your patrons amazing stories.

Have programs throughout the month about writing picture books and board books; novels; and graphic novels. These can be as elaborate or as laid back as you desire:

  • Use the picture book month site to get program ideas about the importance of picture books. Programs can be for kids, parents or teachers. As a creative part of the workshop, have attendees write and illustrate their own picture books.
  • Make it an outreach program! Take blank picture books out to schools and talk to students about the parts of a book. Show off stellar examples of endpapers and under jacket surprises. 100 Scope Notes is a great resource for examples of picture books with hidden delights. (I’ve actually done this and it’s a joy.)
  • Have a display of “how to” books, and encourage patrons to stop by the check out desk to pick up their blank book to create.
  • Bring in speakers, including writers in all genres for all ages, either in person or via skype.
  • Have booktalks on exemplary books in each format, then allow for time for patrons to work on their own works.
  • Have children interview seniors and then have them work together to write the life story of the senior, in any format they choose: picture book bio? Memoir? Graphic memoir? Whatever! You can have anyone interview anyone–5th graders interviewing 8th graders about what middle school is like, daughters interviewing mothers, etc and so forth.
  • As a NANOWRIMO challenge, have participants try to condense their novel into a 32 page picture book format. I’m sure afterwards they’ll have new respect for the picture book format!

Have patrons return their finished books to a designated location, and send the books off to be cataloged and added to the collection! Kids, teens and adults will delight in coming to the library and finding their book on the shelf. Feel free to have a limited number of books eligible for this treatment, and for a limited amount of time.

The Bare Books site doesn’t have pictures of its books, only drawings, but I’ve used them multiple times and I can vouch that they are solidly constructed, wonderful items. They have better examples on their pinterest, and this blog post also has a great photo of the books in “finished” form.

If you end up doing this program, please drop me a line and let me know how it goes! I’ve only done the outreach version– I’ve love to see how it works out it in different permutations.

 

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis

Publisher’s information:

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis
In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation – it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell planned to pass as a man and marry seventeen-year-old Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden to ever speak again. Desperate and isolated, Alice pilfered her father’s razor, and on a cold winter’s day, she slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat. Now more than 120 years later, their tragic but true story is being told. Alice + Freda Forever, by historian Alexis Coe and with illustrations by Sally Klann, is embellished with letters, maps, historical documents, and more. (Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe / Published by Zest Books and distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / ISBN-13: 978-1-936976-60-7 / $16.99 Hardcover; 224 pages, Ages 16+)

Alice+FredaForever_9781936976607I have to say I love this book. Like many I go through reading phases, including but not limited to: YA Fantasy and Sci-fi, YA Romance, Adult Fantasy and Sci-fi, Comfort Rereads, Biographies, Radiolab-esque nonfiction, and the genre that Alice + Freda Forever falls under, True Crime. One of my favorite true crime stories is that of Juliette Hulme and Pauline Parker, which, while a different story, does contain a couple of similar elements (which is something I asked Alexis about in my interview with her, which you can read here), so when the chance to read Alice + Freda Forever came up, I quickly took it.

In my work as a youth librarian who works closely with educators, I often think about how the books I read could be used by teachers, and I can see a lot of ways that Alice + Freda Forever could be used in high school classrooms and even in college classrooms, in addition to just being a great, high-interest read. Pair it with Orlando and discuss gender identity, or with In Cold Blood to compare and contrast murder narratives. Assign it in a course about civil rights along with reading the works of Ida B. Wells. Include it in a reading list about obscure and outdated diseases. The possibilities are endless and that is, for me, a mark of quality nonfiction.

Although this book is definitely aimed at an older audience, with upper high school at the low end, I am really, really happy to see the copious amount of research that was done, and the list of sources that were referenced. Nonfiction for youth, despite being an in demand property, is, in my opinion, often lacking in references and source material, and the authority of the author is often questionable (have you noticed how many former lawyers write children’s nonfiction these days?). This is not the case with Alexis Coe, I am glad to say.

I also thought the design of this book was beautiful, and spot on for its audience. I can see teens who enjoy graphic memoirs easily embracing this beautifully illustrated title, and reluctant readers being pulled in by the striking red cover.

AliceFreda_parting
Alice and Freda parting.

One final note about this book and its imprint, Pulp. Ever since the term “new adult” appeared on the scene, I’ve scorned it. It seemed silly, redundant, and none of the books bearing that stamp seemed at all fresh or interesting to me. But then Pulp gave me a definition of new adult that I could accept and even support:

At Zest Books, we’ve been publishing nonfiction books for teens and young adults since 2006, but we’re growing up a little bit in 2014: Today we’re proud to announce our launch of Pulp, an imprint for “new adults.” Like our previous Zest titles, the books in the Pulp imprint will include contemporary and narrative nonfiction books, specializing in memoirs, graphic novels, and art and humor books, but for a slightly older audience. […] We’re looking forward to taking even more risks with these books, especially in terms of how we cover our topics. Many of our Zest authors were coming to us because, as readers, they appreciated our honesty and curiosity, but that sensibility is something that has value for adults as well. In fact, that sensibility is already being reflected at sites like Rookie and The Toast, where some of our current authors now publish. Additionally, the issues that we’re now covering for teens—such as sexuality, health, behavior, and relationships—shift significantly as young adults mature, and the Pulp line allows us to expand both what we can cover and how we can cover it. Some of our Pulp books will have immediate appeal to teens in the same way that our Zest Books titles often sell into the adult market. We embrace that fluidity, while at the same time recognizing a need to let booksellers and librarians know how our respective books are intended. (Emphasis added. Via Zest’s website).

Anyway, this book is a great read and belongs in most public and academic library collections, and could certainly see some applications in upper high school courses. Highly recommended.

reader feed round-up

Here’s some blogs that I’ve been enjoying recently:

  • Teacher Tom, a blog about early childhood and how kids learn and explore.
  • Maria’s Movers, a very niche blog about incorporating literacy in movement and vice-versa; a great resource for anyone who presents a program similar to my Mini Movers. Found via someone’s blog…I can’t remember, I read so many! But thanks!
  • Storytiming, a storytime-focused blog.
  • Ask A Manager, a great resource for manager/HR/job seeking/job retention type questions.
  • Judging a Book by Its Cover: just that, John looks at a book cover and guesses what the story will be about. “Dedicated to the unfortunate practice of judging books by their covers. A fresh look at Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror and Urban Fantasy book covers.”
  • New Cover: Matt reads a book, then recovers it. Beautiful work. Reminds me of Travis’s recovering the Newbery project.
  • The Hairpin. Reminds me of old school Jezebel, Sassy in its heyday, and if ForeverYoungAdult applied its brand of critique to the wider world.

Book Review: Ultraviolet

Ultraviolet, by R.J. Anderson.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

Read this book immediately if:

  • You like unreliable narrators, like Liar by Justine Larbalestier
  • You loved Girl, Interrupted, either the movie or the book.
  • You loved One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, either the movie or the book.
  • You loved the book A Wrinkle in Time
  • You like tall, gangly, awkward boys/young men. Faraday, a young scientist who begins working with Alison, the main character, is like Calvin O’Keefe to the nth degree: super smart, super sensitive, and super sexy. Also, he has (at least when Alison looks into them) violet eyes.
  • You were ever jealous of that perfect girl in your class that always got everything you ever wanted
  • You’re interested in rare diseases. Alison, the main character, has (among other issues) a condition known as synesthesia, which is a disorder which can cause a person to strongly associate numbers with colors, or perceive sounds as having colors (hence Faraday’s violet eyes).
  • You loved Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlen.
  • You love a wrenchingly romantic final line (which I will not give away here, but damn, that was a good ending).

I was sent a complimentary copy of this book from the great folks at Lerner Books/Carolrhoda lab in return for identifying a reference to a review of Lolita and I am so glad they sent it to me; it’s totally one of my favorite books of the summer.

weak in the knees.

Dear Readers,

Consider this cover:

Galley cover of The Kneebone Boy, via Ellen Potter's website

I’ve been smitten with this book cover since I first saw it back in January, on several different sites. The rich, saturated colors; the direct, forthright gazes of the three children; the hidden person; the cat; the fact that they all sort of remind me of Harold from Harold and Maude. Yes, this cover is beautiful, and does what a good book cover should do–it tells me a little bit about the book, while also making me eager to know more. And now, I can know more, because through luck and good fortune (and plain old niceness!), I now have an ARC that I am in the middle of reading.

There will be no review until closer to its release date (September), but I just had to tell someone about this book. I can’t remember being so utterly captivated by a book since I read A Wrinkle in Time in the fourth grade. I want to read it all in one go, but I’m making myself stop because I don’t want it to end. I want to read it out loud to every 3rd-6th grader I can round up, because the voice of the narrator would be so much fun to read.

Remember these faces, friends. You’ll be looking for them come September.

More peeks of Ellen Potter’s The Kneebone Boy from around the web:

From the MacKids Blog

Bookshelves of Doom

JVNLA grabbag

Andrew Smith’s review-lette

Jason Chan, the amazing artist

tight times.

During the  course of my library work not too long ago, I came across a book illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman that was in a sad state of disrepair. Since I love Trina’s illustrations, I promptly looked to see if I could replace it, and, as is my wont, went on a spree of buying replacements for any other shabby titles by her, as well as buying any available titles that we didn’t currently own.

One of those arrived the other day–Tight Times, written by Barbara Shook Hazen. It was published originally in 1979, but the story of a little boy who can’t have a dog because his father just lost his job is suddenly, achingly relevant again for children today.

The writing is lovely and spare, and the pictures work beautifully with the text, such as when the young narrator tells us that after he got home from work, Daddy made them each special drinks, the picture shows us his covered in whipped cream, while Daddy’s is in an old fashioned glass.

I think that sometimes my ear and eye are so focused on picture books that I can use in storytime, I sometimes overlook books like this one. It’s a sad read with a realistically happy ending, so give it to your 1st-3rd graders who are clear-eyed realists, and it just might help them feel a bit better about Daddy losing his job.*

I suppose now I have to be on the look-out for books to help kids with Daddy’s possible future drinking problem.

*This book is also cited in may “how to write” books, and my coworker told me she found an instance of where it was used to teach the concept of inference, so it’s quite a versatile and concept rich little piece of work. All hail the concise power of a picture book!