This Little Light of Mine

Not too long ago there was a discussion in the Storytime Underground Facebook group about whether or not to read the book This Little Light of Mine in storytime. This post isn’t about that, though; the discussion was civil, people made their cases, people made decisions based on their best judgment and what worked for them.

No, this post is about some feelings and thoughts that I had after researching the book, and the song that it was based on.

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, this little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

 

I’m not going to make it shine
I’m just going to let it shine
I’m not going to make it shine
I’m just going to let it shine
Hallelujah
I’m not going to make it shine
I’m just going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Hallelujah
Out in the dark
I’m going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Looking over my visual resume recently, I realized that I have 15 years of work experience,  with nine of those years having been spent in libraries; all of it I’ve spent working with children and their families. I’ve served a wide range of communities in a variety of positions. I’ve presented hundreds of programs and touched thousands of lives. Families and coworkers from jobs years past on that timeline still remember me, still talk about me, sometimes even still miss me.

I’m sure many will look at my career arc and consider me successful, which I would agree with; I have nothing to complain about. I’ve achieved many things, and I can confidently say that I do good work that I’m proud of.

Yet ever since I first read “Andrea Del Sarto” in college, I’ve been haunted by this line:

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?

No matter what I achieve, I still feel as though there is more I could do (cue “there’s a million things I haven’t done”), both in terms of my career and my creative pursuits. I used to have no problem letting my light shine; in fact, just the opposite–I couldn’t turn it off.

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But lately…over the past few years, I haven’t felt very shiny. I feel like my light has definitely dimmed. I’ll occasionally work on projects in bursts of productivity, but these bursts are few and far between these days.

There isn’t any easy answer. I don’t know if it’s depression or burn out or getting older and less scrappy or a little bit of all of the above. I do know that I don’t necessary like it, but then again,  I don’t know what to do about it.

There are no easy answers, but for me, these days there is one persistent question:

What is it all for?

 

 

Review: The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t cry at books. It’s happened only a couple of times. I’m much more likely to cry at television or movies, mostly because of the added manipulation of the music and cinematography. For a book to elicit such a reaction, it has to be darn powerful.

From the goodreads summary:

“Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn’t have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear – speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn’t matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.”

This is a book, above all, about ethical courage, a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It is a book about speaking up for what you believe in and what is right. It is a book about taking risks, being true to one’s self, and finding one’s place in the world.

I loved that the author, Kristin Levine, was brave enough to use accurate language in this historical novel. I’ve called out other authors for dropping the ball on this issue, and I appreciate that Kristin used the accurate terms and epithets, not because I like those terms, but because using them is important to the story, and the cumulative effect of those terms and this narrative is what, ultimately, had me crying at various points in the story.

This story isn’t only important when studying history, but in this time of “binders full of women”, it also serves as a springboard to talk about who is qualified or entitled to do what, and why. Marlee is a whiz at math, and wants to grow up to build rockets (which reminded me of the most excellent play Flyer by Kate Aspengren, read it), but will she get the chance since she is a girl?

As an accessible description of an important historical period, a beautifully rendered tale of friendship, and an issues novel that provokes discussion, this book succeeds on all counts, and is highly recommended.

Boundtrack suggestions: Fables of Faubus by Mingus, That’ll be the Day by Buddy Holly.

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Play @ your library: Playdough Party

Want to have one of the most successful library programs ever? Make playdough.

We did this program with 3-8 year olds, but I can see this working with even older kids, up through middle school–it’s all how you market it. It’s a great program to do at the library because, sadly, I think a lot of kids don’t get to engage in messy play at home because parents don’t want to face the clean-up.

Before we made the playdough we retold the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with finger puppets because the story uses a lot of descriptive vocabulary–hot, cold, slow, fast, hard, soft—and I thought it was a fun way to launch into the program.

We made the following three recipes, making sure to talk about different textures, scents, temperatures, and other properties. Then we let the kids spend a lot of time playing and building, and allowed them to take home as much playdough as they wanted. We also printed out the recipes for parents to take home if they chose.

(I found the recipes at prekinders.com, which is my new favorite website. There are many more recipes up there, so choose your favorite.)

Kool-Aid Play Dough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 package of Kool-Aid
1 cup hot water
Combine ingredients and mix.

Coffee Play Dough

2 cups used coffee grounds
1 and 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup salt
water
flour
Mix all ingredients until pliable. Add water, flour as needed to achieve a working consistency.

Oatmeal Play Dough

1 part flour
1 part water
2 parts oatmeal
Mix well and knead

Read more: http://prekinders.com/play-dough-recipes/#ixzz20Ka4QwZv

Review: It’s a Tiger!

It's a Tiger!
It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fans of Grumpy Bird will love the Tankard illustrations in this new picture book, which easily pairs with classics such as Head to Toe, I Went Walking, Brown Bear Brown Bear, Going on a Bear Hunt, or Walking in the Jungle.

The bold illustrations and clear, dynamic text make this book perfect for storytime. Toddlers and preschoolers alike can RUN from the tiger, climb the ladder to make an escape, tip-toe past snakes, and jump into a flower bed (that is hiding tiger that they must run from).

This book is a perfect fit for my Mini Movers storytime, so if you do a similar program, be sure to add this title into the mix!

It’s a Tiger! will be released July 18th. Review copy graciously provided by the publisher.

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Review: Beegu

Beegu
Beegu by Alexis Deacon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently pulled this book back out and read it aloud during a stuffed animal sleepover program, for no real reason other than I wanted to and its quiet, slyly funny tone seemed to fit the tenor of the program. I usually gravitate towards louder, brasher, more animated read alouds for story time, but I really enjoyed the challenge of getting the kids engaged in this quieter story. It wasn’t difficult at all, except for the one child who kept screaming “It’s DEAD!” any time he saw Beegu sleeping.

This gently humorous tale of an alien who has crash landed on earth and is looking for friendship is a great addition to any evening storytime, or in a friendship storytime as well.

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Review: Lexapros and Cons

Lexapros and Cons
Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was funny with a side of pathos–think a Louie CK comedy routine for teens, with a healthy dash of prescription drug after school special turned on its head. I enjoyed the thoroughly boy POV, the realistic and sweet romance, and was so utterly charmed that even the contrived plot points didn’t bother me. Give this to fans of Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts series, King Dork fans, and fans of self-deprecating comics.

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Want to Save Libraries?

I think every library, be it public, school, academic, or special, can learn a lot about survival from the children’s departments of public libraries–because we’re not going anywhere. Even if the rest of the library as we know it collapses and crumbles, children’s librarians will still be around, in some form or another, doing what we do.

Why is this? Why will we survive budget cuts and closures while other libraries and library departments might fail? Simple: we provide unique, superior value and we make sure people know about it. Also, we’re the nicest people in the library world, and that keeps people coming back.

Now, this is not to say that no one else provides value, or gets the word out, or is nice. What I am saying is that the most successful children’s librarians–and, very often, teen librarians–have a certain formula that will consistently provide results. A great children’s department will often have both the highest program numbers as well as the highest circulation numbers, and depending on how the library budgets, that often means they end up getting the most money.

There are four key areas in which children’s librarians excel, and they are:

  1. Outreach
  2. Programming
  3. Service
  4. Collections
I’m going to discuss each of these four areas in turn. Stay tuned for our first topic, outreach.
p.s. I think that insect is actually a beetle.

Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy
Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aside from some language that didn’t quite scan for me (the use of the word “scoot” specifically; this book is set in the 1400s and that word wasn’t around until the 1700s), I really, really enjoyed this epic mingling of high fantasy and historical fiction. The romance was close to but not quite on par with the slow burn romances of Robin McKinley, but you can still definitely hand this one to fans of the Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown.

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