105 Ways to Give a Book

Cybils 2014

The last couple of weeks, I've been doing much of my kidlitosphere work behind the scenes selecting the judges for this year's Cybils awards. I'm very excited to introduce the panels for Fiction Picture Books, and we're going to have a great time sorting through over two hundred expected nominations to bring you the best titles. Get in your nominations and make us work for it!

I just wanted to say that if you weren't selected this year as a Cybils judge, don't take it personally. Please understand that the category chairs balance a lot of factors in putting together panels that can represent different perspectives and experience. Many times we were passing on former judges to let someone new have a chance. Other conversations had us comparing how many librarians versus authors we had in a category. We might "give up" an experienced candidate to other category that needed more institutional knowledge. A blogger with tons of reviews might balance a less prolific blogger. An impassioned statement of why a candidate wanted to participate in the Cybils might trump their less passionate reviewing. Or not. In putting together panels we're looking for a mix of experience levels, different perspectives, blogging frequency, community participation, thoughtful reviewing, positive referrals, and application statements. Even the state where you live can become a tie-breaker.

And all these factors don't even getting into the various preferences of the category chairs. For me, an enthusiastic statement on the application can be more compelling than in-depth reviews. The Young Adult category, on the other hand, may pass on a candidate that uses a lot of jacket-flap copy. Some of us look first to the "kidlit-related actives" part of the application, while others are noting the Twitter handle.

So while we certainly applaud all this year's judges, not being selected isn't a value judgement. Looking ahead, if I were to give any advice, I'd suggest to apply early in the process, use the two discussion questions to tell us about yourself, make sure you submit sample posts that are relevant and show off some level of book analysis. If you didn't make the Cybils judging, please try again next year. And certainly participate in Cybils 2014 by nominating your favorite titles.

Back to Basics

This past Saturday I staffed my library's booth at the local fall festival. I have two takeaways from the experience. One, never to accept the booth location downwind from the barbecue. It's hot and you'll be soooo hungry. Two, children do not know nursery rhymes. Or kids songs. Or much about books.

To encourage visitors to our booth, we had a trivia game to win a free book from our book sale donations. Given that we had brought a very very lot of books, we were very very disposed to the kids answering correctly. This turned out to be harder that expected.

The five year old who didn't know the story of Little Red Riding Hood had a hard time picking out the wolf as the bad guy. A preschooler couldn't identify "wool" as the product that the black sheep might provide. I gave up on asking the color of Madeline's dress or even - most sadly for me - what the pigeon wanted to drive. (THE BUS!)

The older kids were spotty in their knowledge, but I got better at sifting through my question choices to find easy ones. I thought the kids would know the author of Fudge and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I thought teens would know the author of Twlight. These were the questions I thought were fairly easy - and were multiple choice, by the way - but instead revealed the Book Bubble that we occupy where everyone is a reader.

I helped at this festival last year as well, finding the same thing, and it changed the way I do story times. I stopped looking for clever ways to incorporate fall leaves into "Old MacDonald" and started just singing "Old MacDonald." I went back to the basics with songs and rhymes. I brought in more classics that I hadn't been using because I figured everyone knew them already. Spoiler alert: they didn't.

Another thing on the songs and rhymes. I've noticed a difference in the participation of the kids and parents from when I started doing this. Ten years ago I had more kids sing along a bit, and definitely more parents. Now the kids look at me blankly as if they've never heard "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and the parents are looking at the handout for the words.

My fellow storytellers, I love all that is new and exciting in our book world, but it might be time to go back to the basics. What do you think?

Back to Work

I didn't intend to take a summer-long blog break. It just sort of happened. Some part of it can be attributed to a big life change of sending my eldest to college. I will admit that I spent time sort of staring at her as if she were a great work of art. And really, it's not far from the truth. But my girls didn't dominate my attention in the way they did when they were children - negotiating playdates, refereeing squabbles, fixing snacks, and making endless trips to the pool. They were self-sufficient. The eldest with her job and college-bound friends. The younger with music/theater classes and play rehearsal. But I relished the time I could spend with them, even if it was simply sharing the same room.

A bigger part of my blog absence is due to working at the library among children's books, which seems counter to expectation. But this was the busiest summer for me that I can remember. Mostly because we were continually understaffed and my work shifts were intense. When I wasn't answering endless questions at the information desk, I was shelving yet another influx of the new returns and replenishing the displays that I had just filled that morning. I'd leave the day tired and literally sweating.

While it was exhausting, I was happy to see so many library patrons and summer reading participants. I was excited to help kids find books they wanted, and I loved the attention from kindergarteners who stared at me wide-eyed before shouting, "You came to my school!" I was a minor celebrity in this little world of books.

But sometimes it could be draining, with a fair number of the summer crowd who were starting from scratch in the library. Now they wanted to know what their kids should read. But when I asked what they had been reading or liked to read, I got blank stares. Many of the parents - a diverse selection - had absolutely no idea. Occasionally I'd hit on a series like Magic Tree House or Harry Potter that helped me make a suggestion. When able, I'd turn to the child and could always find something suitable.

I was glad that they were using the library. I loved finding the books that they liked. But the interactions left a lingering discomfort of the parental role in reading. And these were the ones who came to the library and asked for help. Has recreational reading been completely outsourced to school and the teachers?

Knowing that these parents, the ones who cared enough to come to library, didn't know about books or what their child might be reading made it hard to write about books. Maybe, I wondered, no one really cares. The parents don't want to leaf through suggestions. They want lists, preferably by grade and/or Lexile score. They aren't interested in which books transcend the genre. They want to know the DRA level. They often didn't want to know what was good, just what was here - on the shelf.

So much of my summer was bittersweet. Spending time with my girls who are growing up and moving on. Spending time among my favorite books, knowing that the specifics of quality that I invest myself in finding is probably less important to most parents that what book has the right Lexile score or happens to be handy.

How does that change what I'm doing? I don't know. If my revelations and soul-searching was bittersweet, well, I tend to focus on the sweet. So I'll do that


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Booktalking Season

Last year I was so organized that I shared my booktalks online, while this year I've been lucky if they are mentally rehearsed before I go into the school. I've had a lot on my mind.

But whether or not I have a graduating senior or need to plan the Girl Scout bridging ceremony for over a hundred girls, our booktalking season is upon us. Quite late this year as our kids are still in school. In fact, that senior doesn't even get to do the graduating part until June 23rd. Crazy, right? It's especially frustrating as other high schools were done yesterday, but we all have to take our turn with the local university facilities and we are last. It's ridiculous.

So far I've gone into two elementary schools to talk about the summer reading program and booktalk some titles, and it's gone well. I had a great partner both times, which really helps. We have different kinds of books, and we can take turns with the introductions and the talking. I'm not thrilled to be heading out tomorrow alone for a four hour stretch with no breaks and seven class sessions. Is that how other public libraries do it, I wonder?

Later I'll share some of the books I talked about this year. My "hooks" weren't as good as usual, but there were definitely some titles that caught their attention. It was great luck being able to pitch a soccer book - Keeper, by Mal Peet - during the World Cup games. Lots of interest there!


Ninth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge: Winners!

What a weekend! With all the reading and reviewing done over the last couple of days, I feel like we're all winners. Am I right? But there were some noteworthy 48HBC achievements to be recognized and to prizes to award, so let's get started!

With 38 hours and 34 books read, the Champion of the Challenge is one Ms. Yingling! She wins the opportunity to donate a set of forty multicultural titles to a school or library of her choice through the generosity of Reading is Fundamental. Since she was a big prize donor of books and is so reluctant to receive back, she'll be getting a surprise prize package from yours truly. Both congratulations and thanks go out to her!

Coming in at 35.5 hours and 13 books read and reviewed is The One and Only Marfalfa. Beth at Library Chicken gives up 32 hours and reviews eight books for the challenge, and close behind with 30 hours of reading and reviewing is Alex at Randomly Reading. They will all be receiving an audiobook from Robin Brande and a collection of books contributed by Ms. Yingling!

And now for some prizes selected at random, just for playing:

The winner of five multicultural picture and chapter books from MotherReader is:
Sprout's Bookshelf!

The winner of a set of four diverse young adult books from Kelly at Stacked is:
A Random Hodge Podge of Bookishness!

And the winner of the second RIF multicultural book collection, along with an author signed Cupcake Cousins and tote bag designed by Tiffany Gholar, is:
Library Mama!

We had eighteen members of the 20 Hour Club:

Always in the Middle - 25.25 hours
As Inclination Leads Me - 21.5 hours
Book Challenge Blog - 20.5 hours
By Singing Light - 20 hours
Charlotte's Library - 20.25 hours
Confessions of a Bibliovore - 25 hours
Library Chicken - 32 hours
Love Notes to the Future - 24.5 hours
More like Flowers - 20 hours
MotherReader - 22 hours
Ms. Yingling Reads - 38 hours
No Boys Allowed - 24.5 hours
The One and Only Marfalfa - 35.5 hours
Quietly 20 hours
Randomly Reading - 30 hours
ReadSpace - 21.75 hours
The Sphere Also Gazes Into You - 25 hours
Technically a School Media Specialist - 20 hours


Thanks to all for being part of the 48 Hour Book Challenge!

Ninth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge: Finish Line

You made it! Yay you!

When you finish your 48 hours, sign in with Mr. Linky below with the link to your final summary, which should include the number and/or titles of books read and the amount of time spent on the challenge. Rounding to the quarter hour will do just fine. Given different starting times over the weekend and time zones, the absolute end is set at Monday, June 9th, at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and all final summary posts should be up by then. Winners, prizes and such will be announced on Monday afternoonish.

Thanks to everyone who participated, supported, and promoted the 48 Hour Book Challenge!


Another #48 Hour Book Challenge Update

Got in five solid hours of reading and blog reading/responding last night with two books, both of which broke my heart a little. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods reminded me of my niece, as she is biracial raised in a white family. At seven, I haven't heard her express the concerns or thoughts of Violet Diamond, but I've always thought I was prepared to address them. Reading this book, I'm not as ready as I believed myself to be. It was just so open about things, it took me off guard. But in a good way. Really enjoyed it.

After reading Zane and the Hurricane, I felt like going back to read Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes. It was a good decision, because it filled the lyrical and emotional gap I found wanting in the first book. That said, Zane's story is a better account of what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A good pairing should be enough, but I realized that I had Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere in my small ARC pile, so we're going for three Katrina books in one weekend. I'd watch Beasts of the Southern Wild again to complete the experience, but I don't need to cry on my birthday.

Yup, it's my birthday. One of the reasons I started doing 48 Hour Book Challenge around this time of year to spend my birthday reading. Not a bad plan, right? I've started with a light title this morning, Tua and the Elephant, and now it's time for some YA.

Wondering if you could still join us even now? Sure, why not? From where I sit you could do a block from now through the early morning and get your twelve hours in on time. Nothing like last minute Sunday plans. Here's where to start.

Edited to add:
I'll do an official summary later, but I'm finishing my time now with five hours and two books this afternoon. Meg Medina's Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass was a tough read, but a well-done and well-needed book on bullying. I ended with a real treat, Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin. Beautiful cover, beautiful book. Absolutely loved it. So that's 22 hours, and nine books. If I'd had more time, I would have spent it on reviews and reading blogs. But I'll be checking in tonight and tomorrow on that part, so it's all good.

Halfway Through 48HBC Update

If you're going to host a reading marathon thing, maybe don't make it around your daughter's senior prom. Because while you might think that after she heads out the door - a sparkling princess in a gabbing group of giggly girls - you'll have the evening to relax and read as you wait for her post-midnight pick-up call, you won't. Well, there will be the time to read, if you can avoid the pictures already coming up online and if you don't drift off mid-paragraph wondering if they'll play her jam.

So while I put in five hours of reading time on Friday evening, with two middle-grade titles completed it was not my speediest reading. Reviews come later, but I'll mention the titles, Zane and the Hurricane and The Garden of My Imaan, and that I enjoyed them both.

This morning I woke up and found myself analyzing Facebook pictures with the Teen and her best friend, as we talked about the current style of prom dresses, who is really dating as opposed to who needed a date, and which couples are just the nicest people.

I can really only claim another five hours so far today, with another two books down and a little writing to show for it. (Did I mention that new pictures from my senior Girl Scouts are coming out all day? It's very distracting.) While The Servant by Fatima Sharafeddine left me a little cold, I was surprised by the depth and insight of The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong, by L. Tam Holland. I'd expected the first title to have a literary feel, and it read rather dry. Interesting, but the third person point of view through me off. The cover of Holland's book led me to think I was in for fun, and while there was humor, there was a lot more hurt and heart within. Honestly this afternoon, I would have preferred something light and fluffy, but I can't be annoyed at a book for being too good.

I did break in the middle of today's reading to run up to my library, where one of my books I had earmarked for this weekend had come in from a hold, and because after reading Zane and the Hurricane I had a craving to revisit Ninth Ward. So after a bit of writing and dinner, that book is up next along with the library book I retrieved, The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods. I also have some fantasy on deck.

I'm holding off on posting my reviews so I don't crowd out the official 48 Hour Book Challenge posts. Oh, and if you are just tuning in, you are welcome to play along. At this point there isn't the whole weekend to work with, but enough to carve out at least the twelve hours that officially counts you as a participant. Sign-up at the 48HBC Starting Line and get reading!