Fashion (buns to the left) Fashion (cardigans to the right)

So, fashion. Or style. Or wardrobe. Or costume. What do we librarians wear, anyway, and why does it matter–if, in fact, it does? (Per usual, my discussion is pretty child and teen librarian focused. Allow me to wear my bias like a hot dog button on my sleeve).

For myself, I’ve been known to wear: book themed t-shirts, including Doctor Suess and Where the Wild Things Are; bunches of jelly bracelets (which kids love); sneakers with polkadot laces; and many, many cardigans. At work, my primary focus is comfort and being able to move in my clothes (can’t do storytime if you’re unsupported or your pants are too tight) with style coming in a close second. I feel that you need to wear clothes that you feel like yourself in, both physically and psychologically.

But I also feel, having worked with small children in one capacity or another since 2001, that we who work with children need to constantly work against the assumption that we are cheerful, paste-eating morons who do nothing but play with children (because, you know, playing is frivolous and does nothing to help children LEARN OR ANYTHING). This should be done mostly with what we say and what we do, but, frankly, we are constantly judged by how we look, especially if we are women. And if you’re fat or a woman of color? Good luck with that. (After all, it’s 2012, and we still have to put out things like a guide to writing about politics in a gender neutral way.)

Here’s the thing: we all work hard. Our work is important. We need to present as people who are to be reckoned with, who can’t be ignored or dismissed. If you can accomplish this while wearing costumes (superhero or otherwise), Hunger Games t-shirts, buttons, or vintage polka dots, then so be it. But in my opinion, it’s all proportional–the more quirky your appearance, the more rock solid your foundation needs to be–because people will always use your appearance–clothing, hair, skin color, and body type–to judge you and in some cases even dismiss you.

The thing that bothers me more than book earrings or pencil sweaters is looking like you don’t care. If you’re invested in dressing like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show, and it works for your patrons, then own it. I guess what it comes down to for me is indifference. If you look like you haven’t thought about your appearance, and how you come across to your patrons, then you’re probably not that invested in what they want or need.

What do you think?

Review: Ingenue

Ingenue
Ingenue by Jillian Larkin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really want to like these books. I love jazz, I love the flapper era, and I like historical fiction–but Larkin drops the ball several times. With more research, editing, and commitment to the time period, this series could really be something special, but as it stands it’s a missed opportunity.

“Black” is not the term that is most historically accurate, yet it’s the one that Larkin uses exclusively. “Colored” or “Negro” or even “Nigger” would have been used more than “black”. If you’re going to write about a period in history, you’re going to have to use the vocabulary of the time. Using popular slang while avoiding the uncomfortable terms makes me feel like the author is lacking in bravery. Further, having all the white girls in this novel capable of commenting on the handsomeness of the black characters doesn’t ring true. Racism is an ugly facet of American history that I think you have to acknowledge when you’re writing historical fiction. I also think that the Mann Act would have come up somehow in regards to Gloria and Jerome, but it never did. The issue of race is talked about a lot, but we never really see it portrayed in an effective way.

In this installment, we meet Louis Armstrong, and are told he has the nickname Dippermouth because he chews tobacco. I’ve read a lot about Louis Armstrong, and everything I’ve seen indicates that Dippermouth is one of his nicknames because he loved the song “Dippermouth Blues”. His more common nickname was Satchelmouth, which came about because of his wide satchel like mouth (or because he hid money in his mouth as a child, reports vary), and it was often shorted to Satchmo. Louis Armstrong has a very unique voice and way of speaking, and with a little research this could come across even in a brief appearance–yet Larkin has Louis sounding just like the four teenage girls who are the focus of the novel.

People who aren’t as interested in jazz and this time period probably won’t have as many problems with this series as I do, even with the weak writing.

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Review: Bigger than a Bread Box

Bigger than a Bread Box
Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this cover, which is just one of many wonderful middle grade covers that have been appearing lately. So much better than the severed heads and badly photoshopped models that YA covers have been suffering from. I love a book cover that tells you about the book you’re about to read. The anxious expression on the girl’s face is perfect, and the perspective of peering out from the bread box is intriguing and hints at the slightly strange, magical realism of the story.

Laurel Snyder’s books are a joy to read. Snyder’s writing is clean, crisp, and entirely in service of the story; I never feel like the story has wandered off topic or led me astray as a reader. Her characters are consistently real without being boring, and the interplay of family dynamics in this story especially ring true.

You could hand this book to kids who enjoy gentle fantasy, or to parents who are seeking a read-aloud with a character building message. You could also tuck it inside a vintage bread box for a unique gift this holiday season.

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Review: The Freak Observer

The Freak Observer
The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t summarize worth a dang, so if you need a summary, find it here. First up, this cover–this cover, people! On the whole, I think that these days middle grade and chapter books get the better covers–illustrations, significant objects, great color schemes–while YA has become a wasteland of severed heads, torsos, and wickedly photo-shopped faces. But Woolston’s Morris Award Winning novel avoids that sad fate, and has a cover–and back cover–design that give the reader a huge, satisfying clue about what is in store when they begin reading, which is the whole purpose of having a book cover in the first place.

I’ve had this book since I picked it up at ALA following the YA Author Coffee Klatch. Blythe was one of the authors that came to my table and talking with her was really a joy. She was thoughtful, modest, excited, and a steadfast lover of libraries, librarians, and storytelling. In our packet was a note that we could get a free signed copy of her book at the Carolrhoda Lab booth, so following the breakfast I made that my first stop.

I read most of this book while at ALA, mostly before I went to sleep at night, and then finished it on the train ride back home to Chicago. As the cover promised, this book is visceral yet clinical, detached and engaging, tugging equally at your mind and your heart.

I love this book, you guys. I love it because it both filled and created a whole in my heart. I love it because Loa is me, and I am Loa, and Loa is a direct descendant of Meg Murray (sex drive and all–do you realize how many kids Meg Murray O’Keefe ended up having? A LOT And can you blame her, being married to Calvin?? NO, you CAN’T, so don’t even TRY). I love it because it has a family that is lower/middle/working class, a family that makes hard decisions and yet can still get excited about finally living at an address where you can get pizza delivered.

For fans of: Madeline L’Engle’s Time novels, the ballroom sequence in Labyrinth, Blankets by Craig Thompson, Trespasser’s William, walking fast on a cold day so your nose runs and your eyes sting, handwritten letters, agape love, and Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney.

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars means “I liked it.” I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it…it was okay. The use of the found pictures seemed kind of forced at times, and not as integrated as they could have been. I think I’d really have preferred the pictures just being described rather than reproduced. Also, some of them just seemed unnecessary–such as sad Dad in his bunny suit, or Grandpa with his gun. Why would someone be taking that picture, from that distance?

But those are just my quibbles. If you’re a fan of this kind of thing, then you’ll really dig this book. And I did enjoy some of the characters and situations. Just overall, it wasn’t a book I’m going to love–but I did like it.

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Beginning Reader Storytime

I get bored easily. I think that’s why I work well with toddlers and teenagers– we all have a similar hunger for new experiences and pushing boundaries. I was tired of doing the same old preschool storytime. I mean, I loved it, but like I said, I get bored easily. I want to try new things. I want to explore, experiment, and expand my programming horizons. So I changed my preschool storytime into Beginning Reader Storytime. You can read the full story of how my Beginning Reader Storytime began here. This post is going to detail a bit more how I run this particular program.

As I often love to brag, I started out in the working world as a preschool teaching assistant, and eventually worked as a lead preschool teacher for a while as well. My preschool teaching experience has served me extremely well in my career as a librarian and I put it to good use for my Beginning Reader Storytime (after a couple of sessions I changed the age range to 4 years through 2nd grade, and put three year olds into toddler time. This has been a much better fit for both storytime groups).

Nametags are a staple of every storytime, and always having nametags is actually a great literacy activity–learning to recognize your name is the beginning of your experience with letters.

After children have their name-tags, they come in and sit down and I go through my normal storytime opening routine. This is followed by the Storytime Message. On my dry-erase board easel, I write out a message:

January 1st, 2011

Dear Friends,

Tonight we will be reading the book Snip Snap!

I read the message out loud to them–or one of the older kids does it for me–and then I shuffle through their names to choose children to find the letter of the day. For this storytime, I focused on the letter S.

After we circled all of the Ss in the message, I read the book and then we sang the song “Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree.” I’m really brutal with that song; I have the monkeys on the monkey mitt, and they actually get eaten by a fairly realistic looking alligator puppet. The kids love it, though. But if you take this approach, be cognizant of more sensitive children in your group and tailor your bloodthirst accordingly.

Then we went to do our table activity. To transition from rug to table, I sing “Willoughby Wallabee Woo”, asking the children to listen for the rhymes in their names. This week I had story paper, an Ellison cut letter S, a glue stick, and markers. I told the children to glue their S down where they liked on the top half of the story paper.  Then, they could either create an S creature and tell a story about it, write down some words that began with S, or draw anything they liked and write a story about it. Some parents will balk at this open ended sort of thing, but most will go along with you.

Other table activities have included name writing (for 4’s and 5’s who can’t write their name from memory yet, this means copying their name that is written out on sentence strips), alphabet bingo, and lacing with lacing letters. Sometimes the activity is putting together an alphabet floor puzzle, writing on the dry erase board, or playing with magnet letters on the magnetized side of my easel.

If you clicked on any of these links, you’ll see that Discount School Supply is a great resource for literacy games and materials.

I love this storytime. It’s great to give older kids an opportunity to listen to some great picture books, and it really allows me to show parents that early literacy is NOT Your Baby Can Read or Hooked on Phonics, but rather nurturing a love of literature in children by taking the time to share stories, talk, and write.

If anything needs clarifying or if you want more information, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, or start a conversation with me on twitter or facebook!

-Miss Julie

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,000 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 81 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 101 posts. There were 48 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 11mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 7th with 350 views. The most popular post that day was About.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, facebook.com, schoollibraryjournal.com, 100scopenotes.com, and WordPress Dashboard.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for hi miss, lesbians, hi miss julie, gail sweet, and librarians.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About November 2007
8 comments

2

Being a Librarian July 2009

3

Storytime July 2009

4

music for children January 2010

5

6 by 6. February 2010
1 comment