Eat or Be Eaten: A Disturbing Storytime for the Older Child

I’m reading aloud to a group of fifth graders soon, and I knew I wanted to start off with one of my sure fire hits, Gobble Gobble Slip Slop by Meilo So. I’ve read this book with all ages and the repetition, gross out factor, and beautiful illustrations win everyone over. The fat, greedy cat who gets his painful comeuppance really strikes a chord with kids, and the the cries of “OH NO! He can’t eat THAT!” as the cat’s snacks get progressively larger are a sure sign that kids are having a great time, even as they squirm in horror.

Then I started thinking...I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen has the same appeal. Quirky, funny, and with a disturbing “Did he or didn’t he?” ending to it.

Which led me to my third and final book to read aloud, Beware of the Frog by William Bee. This tale involves a frog, an adorable old lady, some hilariously creepy fantasy creatures with catchphrases like “Nickerty noo”, and a surprise ending that is guaranteed to delight and disturb in equal measure.

Since this is a read aloud for older kids, in between the books I’ll have some conversation about what we just read. At the end, I’ll encourage to write their own tales, involving questionable dietary choices, ambiguous endings, and the like.

Are there any titles you’d add? And what do you read aloud to kids in 5th grade?

May the Fourth Be With You: 2013

May 4th is on a Saturday next year and so help me, I’ll be planning and implementing a large scale, fun for the whole family “May the Fourth Be With You” Star Wars nerdamondium party that will be so awesome I may just explode.

Other libraries have done it with much success. You can get free cosplay storm troopers etc from your local branch of the 501st legion which is really the thing that’s going to make the party. The idea is to have a wide range of activities that would appeal to all ages, bringing in families as well as single adults. Additional ideas include:

Do you think you’d have a Star Wars party at your library?

Roll With It

We got a new alligator puppet. Our previous alligator puppet was a head and torso model only, whereas our new one is a full body model.

I use this alligator to eat the monkeys from our monkey mitt during the song “Five Little Monkeys Swinging In The Tree”, which is really just Battle Royale/Hunger Games for toddlers and preschoolers. The old alligator was able to adeptly “spit out” each monkey after eating, contributing to the ruse that he was snapping those monkeys right out of that tree.

The new puppet, however, must have a more felt-y, less plush mouth, because with him, the monkeys stick. In his mouth. Between his teeth.

Oh, the hysterical laughter. The squealing. The joy tinged with bloodlust.

I could have freaked out that something went wrong. I could have stopped in my tracks because something was different. Instead, I made a joke, went with it, and ended up with an even better performance than usual.

You never know unless you try.

The full body puppet, by the great people at Folkmanis.

for you, a Thanksgiving Casserole of Randomness

So, here’s a bunch of disjointed notes with very little context from a small notebook I found again recently. I think most of them are from the Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough that I attended in 2008? or 2009? Enjoy!

Coffeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Kids doing rubic’s cubes

Irish–Pat
Latin–Mendoza
Makes me a Leprecano

Y’all hush now, it’s Doug Elliot’s turn

(Choich) Foist Church birthday

Snake eating an egg out of his hand

Windham

hide the switch–
and whatever kid found it could switch the other kids
“Happy birdy doo doo” [with drawing of bird singing “doo doo”]
Sat up in bed–“I can play the comb!” And you can do it, too. It’s healthy!

Francis would eat all the cookie dough– she toined out real well.

Comb & wax paper played right through the Methodist hymn

Even when I was seven I thought the plagues were… Wagnerian.

a humorless masoleum of a woman

Feel like 40 miles of bad road

There’s a man at the door-I think he’s here to rape us.

I just wanted her to enjoy the snake!

It was time to go see if my Grandmother was dead.

“The Narrows”

Wide mouthed like the bass we just ate for supper.

“He told me, ‘Question everything.’

“‘Why?’

“‘Good, you’ve got it.'”

The old lady committee for being angry about stuff.

Ben Haggarty–frock coat–HAWT!

at the same moment her two sisters realized the same thing–that’s called morphic resonance

When I was scared by scary stories–my grandmama told me not to worry, vampires don’t bite Black people.

A trick or a marvel. 3 lies that are not lies. They made a journey–it wasn’t long and it wasn’t short.

I prayed to God to tell Jesus to ask Santa to get me the squirrel monkey. -Kevin Kling

Uh huh. We call it a thunder bucket.

picture book-a-loo

I’ve had a pile of picture books that I’ve been meaning to talk about, so here we go, in no particular order:

A Wild Father’s Day by Sean Callahan

Inspired by a card that reads “Have a Wild Father’s Day,” the dad and two kids in this book act like various animals–running like cheetahs, swimming like dolphins, and swinging like monkeys. The text and art are both simple and bold. It would have been nice if the family had been more multicultural, but as it stands this book would work well in a family themed toddler storytime–because all the action will keep kids engaged and moving–or in a Father’s Day storytime for any age. Review copy provided by publisher.

Rapunzel illustrated and retold by Sarah Gibb

Now that Rapunzel has been Disneyfied it might be harder to get a beautiful book like this into the hands of princess crazy readers, which is a shame. Still, Gibb’s bright, stylized art* is akin to some of the best of Disney (it reminds me a lot of Sleeping Beauty, actually), so if you try hand-selling it to Disney-fanatics you’re very likely to succeed. The retelling itself is serviceable, and definitely suited towards a more tender audience (while I, jaded adult that I am, am more of a fan of versions with the questionable sex and twin babies). I am pleased to report that the prince’s eyes are still destroyed by thorns and healed with tears, so I’ll graciously accept the absence of the sex in a children’s picture book. Review copy provided by publisher. *You can see some of the art over at SLJ.

E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer

I can see this book being prominently featured in a future session of my Beginning Reader Storytime. Here’s the publisher’s description:

It’s an E-mergency! The letter E took a tumble and the only way to get her back on her foot is for people to stop using her. But who can take her place? The other letters have to make a decision ASAP. Z is too sleepy and Y asks way too many questions. Thankfully, O rolls in to try and save the day. Now E can rost up and got bottor . . . as long as ovorybody follows the rulos. Chock-full of verbal and visual puns, this zany book is sure to tickle both the brain and the funny bone.

This book would make a great pairing with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and even Dr. Suess’s ABC. A Call for a New Alphabet by Jef Czeka would be a good title to send home with kids. Review copy from publisher.

Tom’s co-author, Ezra, has an interesting story (also taken from the publisher’s website):

Ezra Fields-Meyer is a high school student and an expert on animated movies and animals. He is the creator of the animated short “Alphabet House,” which inspired this book[.]

Here’s the short, if you’re interested:

 

A Dog is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan

Wow. This book is…bizarre. In the best way. You know I like weird (Square Cat, another weird picture book, is one of my more recent favorites and would pair well in a storytime with this book) and Shaskan’s first picture book has weirdness in spades.

It starts off innocently enough, telling us “[a] dog is a dog, whether naughty or nice. Whether it suns on the beach, or glides on the ice. A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat. A dog is a dog unless it’s a….CAT!” (You can see the charmingly horrific image of a cat crawling out of a dog suit here at the publisher’s website.)

My new favorite thing to do with picture books is to read them aloud to a trio of eighth graders who tend to hang out at the youth desk after school. These kids are awesome and funny and appreciate Doctor Who, so they’re the perfect test audience for quirky picture books like this. The general consensus: awesome. And messed up. But mostly awesome.

This would be a good book to toss into a costume/imagination storytime, or pair it with other multiple level picture books like Cow,Too and There Are Cats in this Book. Review copy provided by publisher.

librarian, weed thyself.

So the most recent Andy Poll was about weeding the library profession:

http://twitter.com/#!/wawoodworth/status/129942473882611713

Most people are replying with attributes (View the story “Weed the librarian” on Storify) rather than a set of criteria, which I don’t think is really answering the question. How do you weed librarians out of the profession? Don’t reinvent the wheel–just use the same process most libraries use for materials: CREW and its charming companion MUSTIE. CREW, as everyone should know, stands for “Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding.”

As a professional, you should be continuously reviewing and evaluating your own performance, and weeding the skills and projects that are no longer beneficial to you or your organization. If you realize at any time that you’ve become MUSTIE*, then you should quit your job immediately and allow a newer, better librarian to have your job. If it’s good enough for our materials, it’s good enough for us.

*M is for : Misleading–factually inaccurate. I think we’ve all been there–we’re sitting on the desk with someone else, listening to them give out blatantly WRONG information. Even with gentle correction, our coworker refuses to change his or her way. Or, at best, they decide that they’ll just make you answer all of the hard questions because they’re too lazy to actually do their job.

U is for: Ugly–worn beyond mending or rebinding. Let’s not get into this one too much, except to say that ugly, when it comes to people, applies more to their attitude than their appearance.

S is for: Superceded–by a new edition of by a much better book on the subject. When you use the computer mouse by banging it against the desk, or answer a ready reference question with the phone book, you’ve been superceded.

T is for: Trivial–of no discernible literary or scientific merit. Have you been running the same programs for youth year in and year out with no changes? Do your booklists not have any titles published in the last twenty years on them? Are you chained to your reference desk?

I is for: Irrelevant to the needs and interests of the library’s community. Closely tied with trivial, many of the same questions can be asked. If you’re sitting at your desk waiting for people to come to you with their questions and their needs, you are irrelevant.

E is for: Elsewhere–the material is easily obtainable from another library [or librarian]. There are thousands of people with library degrees frothing at the mouth to work, and at least some of them have to be more outgoing, engaging, exciting, and innovative than your MUSTIE a**. How about you do one brave thing in your professional life and QUIT, so they can have a chance?

flash posts

I wrote about the Cybils for my BEA Librarian Blogger gig. Man, I love the Cybils.

A great post about how much the Chicago library cuts will suck, and why. Jesus, I’m sick of everyone punching women, children, and poor people in the face. Screw you, world.

Children’s librarians: you’ll learn more about children at a NAEYC conference than you ever will at any library conference. Metro areas often have local conferences; I’m hoping to go to Chicago’s Opening Minds conference in January. You’ll learn about how kids learn, grow, and develop, and learn strategies for working with them and developing their skills in literacy and other content areas. Way more useful than another “use Chase’s calendar of events to come up with library program ideas” panel, imo.

If you’re not following the blog How About Orange, you’re missing awesome stuff like these free printable Halloween crafts. Print those babies up, put ’em out after school, and you’ve got yourself a craft program, baby!

I love this proclamation of awesomeness in picture books. Hear hear!

We’re running out of sexy Halloween costumes. Sexy Hungryman dinner is my personal favorite.

In other news, I’m trying to write a story about a tiger who keeps getting food poisoning, and a musical about stranger danger. Good times. What are you geeking out on these days?

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

In 2012, A Wrinkle in Time will be fifty years old, and I’ll be one of many people celebrating this marvelous, mind-bending, heart opening piece of children’s literature.

It’s been a dark and stormy week here in a Chicago, which makes it a perfect time to reminisce about this, one of my favorite books of all time.

It was 1988. I was in the fourth grade, I had English class with Mrs. Sandoval. I loved her name–it was pronounced “Sanduhvall” (rhymed with fall)–but when I saw it, I always imagined an oval shaped sand box. I loved her eloquent speeches, her expressive reading voice, her slightly bohemian clothing, and her ginger hair. I loved her classroom, full of books and rich with new ideas and words. One of her rules was to “finish assignments within the allotted time.” I had no idea what “allotted” meant or that it was an actual word, and I, in my over-read fourth grade know-it-all-ness, asked her, “Are you sure you don’t mean ‘allowed’?” She kindly said no, allotted is the word she meant to use, and she gave me the dictionary so I could look it up–and so began my love of dictionaries.

We read so many good books in that class, including A Cricket in Times Square and Charlotte’s Web. Half-way through the year our class reading assignment was A Wrinkle in Time. The edition we read had this amazing, wackadoodle, good show sir worthy cover:Isn’t that insane? It completely blew my nine year old mind. The wings for arms, the creepy red-eyed disapproving turtle face, the mountains…several kids in my class mumbled and groaned their displeasure when they saw the book (actually, they hated every book, and I hated them with equal fervor), but I could hardly wait to start reading.

And that opening line! Who else could get away with using that line outside of the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest? Madeline, that’s who.

Here’s a synopsis from the publisher’s page, and the synopsis I remember from my youth, for you sad, sad people who haven’t read this book yet:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

I immediately loved and identified with Meg Murray. Like Meg, I was an ugly duckling who had to protect herself and a younger brother from the cruelty of other children. I admired Meg’s hot-headedness and her willingness to stand up for herself and her beliefs. When I was faced with bullies, I tended to hang my head and wish for them to go away. I wished I had Meg’s foolhardy bravery and determination (I developed it as an adult, much to the chagrin of some of my friends, family and colleagues) instead of my low self-esteem and self-hatred.

I loved other characters, too: Charles Wallace, Mrs. Murray, the Ws, and I loved loved LOVED Calvin O’Keefe. What dorky, awkward girl didn’t love charming, awkward Calvin? He’s like the proto-Rory* (maybe that’s why I love Rory so much…) I loved to hate IT and its creepy, pulsing brain-ness, and the man with red eyes. I loved how Mr. Murray was real and flawed and yet Meg still loved him. (I myself had a real and flawed father who was proving to be less and less loveable every day, but that’s another story for another time).

I wanted to live in that rambling old farmhouse and eat tomato sandwiches and have an attic bedroom and a dog named Fortinbras. I was fascinated by how they made hot cocoa with milk, since I was used to powdered hot chocolate made with boiling water, usually in the microwave. I was as amazed at the mundane day to day details as I was at the time and space traveling aspects. This book was everything I needed and wanted.

I loved this book so much that not even hearing my fellow students reading aloud in their plodding monotones could hurt the story. While they stumbled along I was reading ahead, silently, desperately wishing to reach the end while simultaneously wanting the book to go on forever.

I cried when Meg saved her brother by loving him. I had never felt love like that from anyone, and I didn’t think I ever would. I couldn’t think of anyone in my life who would risk so much to save me, and I felt miserable, yet strangely elated—if brassy, bitchy, mousy, insecure Meg could find love, didn’t that mean that someday I could, too? I wished, that when I was cold and alone and scared, that I could crawl into the warm, loving arms of an Aunt Beast.

When I re-read this book, I experience my own wrinkle in time. I am simultaneously an adult, identifying a bit more with the adult characters in the novel, finding myself somewhat exasperated with Meg’s behavior, and a child, thrilling to the romance, danger, and overwhelming love of the novel the same as I did the first time I read it.

Someone recently told me that they’ve never read Wrinkle, yet they really enjoyed When You Reach Me. I said, I’m glad you enjoyed the book, but you only had half the experience.

You should fix that. Right now.

Especially if it’s a dark and stormy night as you read this.

hark! an arc!

I’ve come into possession of several ARCs recently, and normally I don’t give a frak about that kind of thing, and book-bragging fills me with an inexplicable rage, but I really have liked these books so Imma gonna tell you about ’em. However, I don’t do synopses because they bore me, that’s what we have goodreads and amazon.com for.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, due September 2011.

My lovely coworker Miss Stephanie nabbed this at BEA, and Maureen Johnson signed it, along with the poignant inscription of Pizza. Judging by the cover, I thought a red haired girl went back in time and met Jack the Ripper, who ended up being sexy like Chuck Bass, and I was hella excited. While the book was nothing like that, I still enjoyed it. It reminded me a lot of Torchwood, in the best way. A++ would read again.

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, by Kenneth Oppel, due August 2011.

I got this by filling out a form through a website that I can’t even remember now, but I am glad I went into a fugue state and did so, because this novel is pretty well written, and it allows me to imagine young Victor and Konrad Frankenstein as played by Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve only read the first quarter or so thus far but I am enjoying it immensely because, hello,”it’s my Cumberbatch imagination, running away with me…

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, due August 2011

I was introduced to Jonathan Auxier at the Newbery/Wilder/Caldecott banquet at ALA 2011 while I was traipsing about with James Kennedy. And by introduced I mean that James suddenly froze, sniffed the air, yelled “SCOP!” and bolted in the direction of a tall hairy man in the distance. When I finally caught up to the both of them, Jonathan (I discovered his name by reading his name-tag, because, unlike most librarians, I am thoroughly and utterly LITERATE),  was deftly juggling James’ collection of pocket kittens while James took painstaking and quite intimate measurements of the depth, width, and color of Jonathan’s beard. James dictated these measurements to me and I copied them down, because 1) his handwriting is atrocious and 2) like I mentioned before, I am a literate librarian and must show off at every opportunity. After this auspicious meeting, I sent Mr. Auxier a message on twitter asking for an autographed beard photo and was sent a copy of his book instead, which in the grand scheme of things is a-okay with me.

If you’re a fan of James Kennedy’s writing (which I am) I have a hunch you’ll enjoy Auxier’s book (an excerpt of which you can read here, and a Fuse#8 review of which you can read here). I myself have not yet begun to read, because once I begin I am sure I will quickly read it through until the end, whereupon I am sure I shall be sad, because you can never have the first read of a book again once you’ve done it, and there’s nothing quite like that first breathless romp through a truly wonderful book. Which is what I believe Peter Nimble to be, for a little Betsy Bird has told me that there will be Peter Pan references abound, and the only thing I love more than Peter Pan references are Alice in Wonderland references, and since Auxier’s line drawings are strongly reminiscent of Tenniel’s work (as well as a little Gorey and a little Blake for good measure), I am quite confident I will be satisfied on all counts.

The other reason I haven’t read it yet is because James told me that every tenth copy is infused with fairy dust, and since I will be ever so happy while reading this book, once the fairy dust hits me I will most assuredly begin flying about, and since I am in the middle of summer reading right now and don’t really have the time to go flying about, I must postpone my reading until I am sure I will have flying time to spare, which will be soon, I hope.