105 Ways to Give a Book

Booktalking in School

Last week I mentioned that I'd be back on the book talking circuit within the first two weeks of my job. And when you consider that I'm a part-time employee, it was really like my fifth day of work. So you might ask how that worked out for me.

Pretty good, thanks for asking. I'd say fantastic, but my throat started to hurt last night and by the end of the second group I was straining a bit. Fortunately, the last group of kindergarteners were a smaller group and well-behaved, so I made it through before my voice gave out. The booktalking itself felt great. Natural even. I love talking about the books and engaging with the kids.

I kept props to a minimum - though I couldn't resist putting a stuffed rabbit on my head for A Boy and his Bunny - and let the stories speak for themselves. I simply read aloud Sharon Creech's A Fine, Fine School, stopping right after the part where the principal decides the kids should go to school all summer long. I showed some of the fantastic pictures from Prehistoric Actual Size and facts from Just a Second.

Nursery Rhyme ComicsI started with a couple of easy rhymes and then explained how the artists interpreted them in Nursery Rhyme Comics. Like, what was that mouse doing going up the clock anyway? I paired two easy chapter books with descriptions of each, Jackie Jules' Zapato Power: Freddy Ramos Takes Off and Nikki Grimes' Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel with hints towards the rest of the series. I pulled out an old favorite in Lowji Discovers America reading a passage of how Lowji convinces the landlady to get a cat. Polling the crowd for hamster owners was an easy way to introduce Trouble According to Humphrey, along with the rest of that series. It also introduced me to a bunch of kids who came up afterwards to compare our hamster stories. The third graders were tempted with excerpts from How They Croaked, and they loved every gross minute of it.

I was lucky to start off with just kindergarten through third grade but in two weeks I'll share the books I used with the older elementary kids. I know it's hard to wait, but next Wednesday I'll be at Book Expo America collecting books for the whole summer. Can't wait!

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Playing Nicely

Today I am happy to take part in an Unconventional Blog Tour as conceived by the master minds of Kelly Jensen and Liz Burns. Other bloggers will take you through the finer points of integrity, professionalism, accountability, intellectual property, and more. I will take you back to childhood, specifically the times your mother reminded you to "play nice."

I truly hope that generations continue to the enjoy the sandbox before it goes the way of the seesaw and merry-go-round of my youth. Because really, the group sandbox was the ultimate in play-based relationships before activities like Tiny Tutus and Pee-Wee Soccer steamrolled our unstructured play. It's the Wild West of the playground experience, and as such a fantastic metaphor for behavior on the Internet and perhaps some useful reminders.

Don't throw dirt.
Sand is just tidy, parent-sanctioned dirt. As such, it seems harmless to fling it around and watch it fly. But someone always ends up crying, and the sand-thrower always gets nailed. Similarly, in the blogosphere be cautious about where words get thrown. Being quick to react puts you in the middle of the story, but not always with all the information. Don't be so anxious to be part of it or so intense in your response that you toss words around that can hurt someone, and get you called out at the same time for being a bully.

Be friendly.
With the right attitude and a smile a new best friend or a chance to play with the multi-layed sand sifter is in your reach. Blogging is a solitary activity in the writing, but a group activity in the reading, connecting, and sharing information. Play your part in that aspect by commenting on other blogs. Who knows when you'll find a new best friend or a future presenting partner.

Don't take things that don't belong to you.
Whether you hope no one notices or that no one will say anything, when - and it's always when - they do, it's not pleasant for anyone. The taker feels bad, the take-ee is upset, and what could have been a fine time together is ruined because you didn't opt for the next choice.

Share and ask nicely.
The easier way to use someone else's toy is to share yourself and ask nicely. In blogging this would translate into transparency in sharing credit with appropriate links back to the original and asking to use content. When do you need to ask? Full or nearly full content is a definite, and that means photos, poems, and reviews. (More on this during the week.)

Don't hog all the good stuff.
Sometimes there are lots of things available for everyone, and that doesn't mean more for you. Where I see this most in book blogging is grabbing ARC's and taking extras at conferences. It seems acceptable in theory to want one copy for you and one to give away to readers, but it's bad form because it's unsustainable for everyone to do that. Be selective, not greedy.

Play with others.
The best thing about the group sandbox is the chance to create more than you can alone. Castles, roads, and towns form as everyone works together. Online communities offer the same opportunities to be part of something bigger by participating in tours, various round-ups, carnivals, challenges, and charity events. Even perhaps a combination challenge and fundraiser. And bonus, when you find yourself more connected to everyone it's easier and more intuitive to play nice.

For more advice and/or reminders, head to helping info on authors and bloggers at Chasing Ray and check back with the Unconventional Blog Tour through the week. If you have other suggestions for playing nicely, I'd love to hear them!

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Thursday Three: Wearing Diversity

Mama’s Saris
by Pooja Makhijani, illustrated by Elena Gomez

Mama's SarisAs a little girl turns seven, she watches her mother unpack saris to wear to her birthday party. While helping her mother choose just the right one for the special day, she pleads to wear a sari herself. Knowing that young girls like her aren’t old enough for the lovely garments, she reflects on their beauty. But sometimes birthday girls get special treats, and in this case it is getting to dress up like mama. A sweet book universal in a daughter’s desire to be like her mother —whether it's walking in her high heels or wearing her bindi. Reference is made to the mother’s every day working clothes, implying the that the story takes place outside of India. A helpful glossary makes the Hindi words accessible to all readers, while beautiful illustrations bring magic to the story.

What Can You Do with a Rebozo?
By Carmen Talfalla, illustrated by Amy Cordova

What Can You Do with a Rebozo?Bright, lively pictures show the many ways you can use a rebozo - a traditional Mexican woven shawl - from a cradle to a cape. It can be a place to cuddle with a grandma or wrap a sick puppy or hide a little brother. While on the surface it could be a tribute to a multipurpose item of clothing, it is really a view into a life with a multi-generational family. The ideas of using the rebozo are both practical and playful, combining the expected uses and the imaginative. The rhymes are a little labored, but the cultural portrayal is well-done and the feeling is fun. The book won the 2009 Pura Belpré Illustration Honor award.

Suki's Kimono
By Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

Suki's KimonoFor the first day of school, Suki wants to wear the kimono that her grandmother gave her. It makes her feel special as she remembers their time together over the summer. Her older sisters disapprove of her decision, walking ahead of her. But Suki finds acceptance when she shares her memories of a Japanese festival, along with the dance, with her first grade class. Suki's independence shines through as a model of individuality with a touch of cultural and familial pride. The lovely illustrations in watercolor and ink bring life to this irrepressible girl.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Back to Work

Last week I was speculating on going back to work in the public library system. Now with two work days behind me, I can say that it's all good.

My main worry had been not knowing what I didn't know. Having done the job for nine years, I was aware that subtle but significant changes can take place along over time. Different procedures, new databases, and branch particulars could influence the things I thought I knew. Then there are the things I've forgotten almost entirely, like trouble-shooting the Internet sign-ups and print jobs.

As it turns out, that wasn't as much a problem as I feared. The books, the library, the customer service are all coming back like riding a bicycle. If the other parts keep me a bit off-balance, then maybe it's like riding a unicycle. But either way, it's not stressful. My co-workers are nice, helpful, and understanding. The patrons have been patient, even when I lead them in the completely wrong direction in the library. (Oops.) There are definitely some things I need to learn or relearn, but I'm getting back in the game quickly.

In fact, I'll do my first book talking session in a week! I had been planning to do this as a volunteer anyway, so I did have some books planned. My Fair County puts together a list of books for the Summer Reading Program that used to consist of new titles, but now pulls from years of great books. The good thing for me is that they are titles I've used before, making the work that much easier. Of course, I never write these things down, so maybe not that much easier.

A Fine, Fine SchoolSince I'm starting with a kindergarten through third grade, my focus is on picture books today. Sharon Creech has written the perfect booktalk title with A Fine, Fine School about a principal who thinks school should go all the time because he's so proud of his students and teachers. Reading about keeping school going all year long is so much fun to do in a room full of kids days before summer break. I'm also looking at Bark, George as a read aloud, because it's first title I ever booktalked. Yup, really. I already have a stuffed rabbit to wear on my head to introduce A Boy and his Bunny, which I'll pitch as a beginning reader as well as a picture book. I'm also looking to the wonderful Steve Jenkins for Prehistoric Actual Size and the new Just a Second. Of course, it wouldn't be me if I didn't bring the magic of Mo Willems to my booktalk with the Elephant and Piggie series. I'm still pinning down my early chapter book selections, so I'll save them for next week. Stay tuned.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

48 Hour Book Challenge FAQ's

As we count down to reading as a marathon sport, let's go over a few points. More questions? Ask them in the comments.

Do I need to have a blog to participate?
Pretty much. But if you set one up just for this challenge, you wouldn’t be the first to do so. You might find that the 48HBC kicks off a new hobby for you.

How does this reading for charity thing work?
This year we will offer our support to Book People Unite by making 2012 a Readathon for RIF. Sponsor yourself for an hourly pledge to contribute directly to Reading Is Fundamental. No money will go through me and your donation is at your comfort level. You are welcome to seek sponsorship as well, but it is not required.

Why can't we read for our own charity, like before?
I have always been reluctant to assign a specific cause, thinking that people should do what moved them. However, with the introduction of Book People Unite, I wanted a way to make that pledge more concrete and to help my other Book People - that would be you, kidlitosphere - do the same. Using the 48HBC offers a chance to promote one cause that we all believe in - that Reading Is Fundamental

Can I count time reading to my child? Can my kids join in?
You can certainly count time reading aloud to your child. Kids can always play along for the fun of it, but no prizes are offered. However, that doesn't mean that you couldn't give your own prize to your kid. Why not?

Can I count hours spent writing reviews during the 48HBC even if I schedule them to post after the challenge? That is so adorably organized. Yes, feel free to write reviews that will post later, though you might note that in your final summary.
I can't read the whole time because I have a wedding/graduation/recital/monster-truck rally to attend. Is that okay?
Yes. Once you start your hours they are continuous, but that doesn't mean that you won't have breaks - maybe even truly significant breaks - in your time. Though I'd gently suggest that if it is your wedding, you might reassess your priorities.

Why does the 48 Hour Book Challenge actually takes place over more hours in the weekend?
See above. True, it would be easier to have two specific days. But with time zones, work schedules, and the general freedom of bloggers to participate or not, a broader window of opportunity seemed more appropriate for our community.

How can I contact you to donate prizes?
Write me at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com and let me know what you’d like to donate. I usually pull together a bunch of things — books, jewelry, notecards, T-shirts, etc. — to make prize packages for the winners. I also like to have a few authors who’d be willing to send a personalized, signed book to a blogger for a few randomly selected “door prizes.” I’ll also take critiques, illustrator art/sketches/doodles, an offer to name a character in a book after a winner, or an eReader. A girl can dream.

I love this idea! How can I help?
Blog it. Tweet it. Share it. Seek sponsors. Post the button. Tell friends. Tell frenemies.  Most of all, sign up! Being part of this community event is helping.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Science & Stories Program: Growing Things

STEM Friday focuses on books that promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Over the year I’ll be sharing the preschool program I created for the library and that I’m presenting once a month. The concept behind the program is to introduce science topics by combining fiction and nonfiction, songs and mini-experiments, action rhymes and hands-on times. As a preschool program the information conveyed is basic, and intended to encourage a questioning, observational approach to scientific topics. At the end, I leave up the mini-experiments for the kids to explore with me or a parent, and I explain that experiments should be done with a grown-up.

Growing Things

Book: Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move, by Joann Early Macken

Experiment: What’s a seed? Look at and identify different kinds of seeds like acorn, sunflower seeds, corn kernels, seeds in an apple core, maple tree seed pods, and whatever else can be found.

Book: Whose Garden is It?, by Mary Ann Hoberman

Experiment: What a Plant Needs What does a plant need to thrive? Show on paper or felt board with cutouts representing soil, sun, water, seeds, earthworms, flowers and bees. Or act it out!

Book: From Seed to Pumpkin, by Wendy Pfeffer

Experiment: How Plants Drink Take a stalk of celery and cut off a ½ inch off the bottom. Before the program, put it in a glass of water with food coloring. Wait one hour, and cut the celery lengthwise to see the colored water making its way up the stalk.

Book: The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown

Experiment: Plant Seeds Put a few seeds on a paper towel. Add two tablespoons or so of water. Put in a plastic bag with a little space for air. Take it home to see them sprout.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Thursday Three: Chapter Book Classics II

Here in the midst of SLJ's Top 100 Children's Novels countdown - and by the way, do not miss it! - I'm waiting for some of mine to show up on the list. As I said in an earlier post of three of my selections, I was surprised how "classic" I went with my own suggestions. I've read so many fantastic books over the last ten years, and yet when faced with picking ten favorites, I go old school. In a way, it goes to show the problem with these lists when sentiment is so hard to overcome. Maybe we should start by having equal representations from different age groups so that their nostalgia will be, you know, current.

by A.A. Milne
Winnie-the-PoohIt's obvious that the nostalgia factor is so high on this title, though perhaps the years of Disneyfication of Pooh may be taking a toll on this impeccable, imaginative classic. After years of making the characters preschool fodder, the original stories have all been lost in the shuffle. Kids who are finally old enough to appreciate the sophisticated language and nuance, have tossed aside Pooh as baby books. It's a crying shame. The only advice I have for new parents, is to own the classic set and ban any and all Disneyfied versions with a fierceness usually reserved for smoking near the baby. Do it for the children.

Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Alice in WonderlandHere's a book that is entirely about imagination, and by that I mean one that gives the reader's imagination a complete workout as she visualizes the worlds and events of the story. It's one of the reasons that I see it as a perfect one to read aloud to a younger child who can freely imagine the scenes in this fantastic adventure without working through some of the harder text. ('Twas brillig, and the slithy toves...) There will be time later to come back and work through the annotated books to learn of the political implications of the verses and all that grown-up stuff. But for childhood, it's just fun to follow the white rabbit and see where he leads you.

The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
The Bad BeginningIt is a stretch to put the Series of Unfortunate Events as a classic, but I think it's just a matter of time. This title is where the Baudelaire children first become orphans and are placed with Count Olaf, who will soon become the villain in their long tale of woe. The wit and wordplay in the books bring in the fans, along with the ever-more-complicated mysteries that grow deeper with each title. What I still find interesting about this book over ten years, is that it tends to get a love it or hate it reaction. While the Amazon ratings for The All-of-a-Kind Family were overwhelmingly five stars with a handful of low ratings, the ones for The Bad Beginning come in at about a 6:1 ratio for the book. Unusual for a book of this caliber.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Working MotherReader

Last Wednesday, I covered a lot of good stuff happening in my family. My husband made a great movie for the 48 Hour Film Project. My teen daughter had three of her Cappies reviews published and was a beautiful lead in the school's Shakespeare scene for Text Alive. My also-teen daughter did a brilliant solo number in a musical revue and landed a part in a community theatre production of 13: The Musical. Seems like we're on an upswing... and...

I got my job back! The back is the key word here, because I can't find any other way to say it. While I was getting antsy at home, I wasn't looking for a job. I still kinda I wanted the job I had held for nine years before budget cuts took it away from me. And three years later, a position finally opens in a library branch near my home and the girls' school. I'm back, baby.

My new branch is excited to have me aboard, especially with summer just around the corner. In fact, I'll jump right in with school booktalking sessions in my third week. Like before, it's a part-time position in youth services, so I'll be working with the community and the books I love. Starting this Saturday.

There is a part of this change that is bittersweet. It is impossible to take this job without reflecting on the fact that I lost it in the first place, with much sadness. That I lost three years of salary. That the county considers me a "new employee" because of my unintended break in service. That colleagues hearing of my return respond with a sense of justice on my behalf. That I also have a sense of that justice too, even though I don't blame my Fair County for the staff cuts. I just got caught in the wrong position at the wrong time. But yeah, it still stings.

As I prepare to be a working mother (or MotherReader) again, I can't help but reflect on these last three years with some regret. I didn't publish a book or clear my household clutter or start a craft business. My blogging didn't bring a profit and Broadway didn't beckon for my daughter. I'm not really sure what I've been doing with my time.

At the same time, I have to look at the gifts of that space. I was free to organize a conference, help with my mother's stroke, and run two Girl Scout troops. Without always being busy, rushing from job to home to activities, I became more patient and calm. When my younger daughter was having trouble with school, I was able to help her with homework without mentally running through the things I needed to do. Maybe most important of all, I understood how much I need the interaction and activity of working outside the home to be energized. I even have hopes it will bring me new vitality online as the books I read because more relevant to other aspects of my life.

While I expect some challenges to being a working mother again, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to be working in the library again. Let's see where this next journey goes.

48 Hour Book Challenge Update

All right, I may have put up the challenge and then disappeared. It's been a bit crazy and I've never been good at managing more than one big thing at a time. It's why I'll never be president. Well,that and the incident in Reno.

But with three weeks to go until the Seventh Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, it is time to get serious. Certainly, Carol Rasco is setting the tone. Excited that the 48HBC will contribute as a readathon for Reading Is Fundamental, she's throwing in a wonderful prize:
Three Multicultural Book Collections for the winners in each of the three Challenge categories (or however you wish to use) to be donated to a school or non-profit of the recipients choice; the collection for this year titled Celebrations in honor of RIF's 45th Anniversary is made up of 45 books and activities for each to be used by Teachers, Parents, and Community members. I'll recruit some RIF cheerleaders, some of those Book People, you know! Thanks again for the support!
What a great way to coordinate the campaign for Book People Unite with our own love of reading lots of books in an artificially compacted time limit. Please sign up in the comments, post about the challenge, seek sponsorship and/or sponsor yourself. Don't worry if you can't read for an impressive number of hours. Participate because it's one way, one time, one weekend where we can be a community with a shared goal. All on the same page, as it were. Let's go team!

Debriefing of a Weekend

See the exciting update at the bottom of this post!

I try to save my personal news and stories for Wednesdays, but so much has been going on that I haven’t been able to share — and now have too much to share. I’m going to work backwards with this past weekend, which I mentioned would be a bit insane.

First of all, Tohubohu was participating in the 48 Hour Film Project. On Friday night, we got our random genre: drama. The required elements for Washington, D.C., didn't give us much to go on either: a prop of keys, a character that was a recruiter named Denny or Denise Murray, and the line of dialogue, “I have just one question.” Fortunately, our writer and YA author Robin Brande had a fast and brilliant idea. Then Bill and I debated storyline, available actors, settings, and other logistics and made some changes. We had the script done at 10:00 p.m. — for a new Tohubohu record. Only foreseeable problem being that it was only four pages. Would it be enough to tell a story?

Well, I think so. I didn’t do much with filming but observe and chat. But I did learn how to hit a person with a car for the movies, so there’s that. The trailer is ready now and the film will screen at the AFI Silver Theatre on Friday, May 11th at 7:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, since Teen is a student critic for a theatre program, the Cappies, she had plays to see both Friday and Saturday nights. Her reviews were so well crafted that both were chosen for publication in local newspapers! Very proud of TeenReader! Her theatre class was also part of Text Alive, a D.C.-based program to bring Shakespeare to life for teens. Using one Shakespeare play, each school performed one scene with the setting of their choosing varying from post-modern to wild west to hip-hop club. Teen was the lead in her scene, and knocked it out of the park!

At the same time, Also-Teen was performing in a musical showcase on Friday and Saturday nights, with a Saturday matinee. The family split up our attendance so she always had some support. She probably didn’t need our accolades, because people came up to her afterwards to tell her how much they had liked her performance. She sang “The Lamest Place in the World” from the musical 13, and had a boy from the cast with her to make it like a real scene from the show. She was so professional that even when her microphone went out, she didn’t miss a beat. Then it was an audition on Sunday for that exact musical. She was fantastic, but there were a lot of talented teens there, so it isn’t a certainty. Still a great experience!

That’s enough for one debriefing, but stay tuned for updates!

UPDATE: Also-teen was just cast as Cassie in the 13 musical!

Thursday Three: Moms

The past two weeks have been crazy, and it's not over yet. Teen finished her high school production of Arabian Nights, but isn't done with a dozen other obligations. Also-teen is in the middle of her community theatre production, which involves a lot of driving on my part, and is getting ready for her next audition. And tomorrow it all comes together in the perfect storm when we add in the 48 Hour Film Project. When I come up for air, I'll be back with news and announcements and perhaps a debriefing or two. For now here is repost of books about mommies to find for Mother's Day.

 Before You Were Here, Mi Amor
by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Santiago Cohen
Before You Were Here, Mi AmorAn Hispanic mother talks to her baby about all the loving thoughts, wishes, and preparations in the time before he or she was born. Filled with Spanish words that flow seamlessly within the text, the book brings a fresh take to the mommy-love category of picture books. The illustrations make the translations clear, though a glossary is included at the end. For example, the picture of the little girl with her ear on mommy's tummy with "Before you were here, tu hermana placed her face against mi barriguita and whispered, "¡Hola, bebe!" Oh, and before we drift too far from illustrations - or fresh takes for that matter - the artwork with its bright colors and bold lines is a nice change from the usual pastels that tend to dominate these books about a mother's love. Definitely a keeper.

 Just Like Mama
by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Julia Gorton
Just Like MamaAs a mommy and daughter share a regular day, the little girl recounts all the wonderful things a great mom can do. The glowing testimony to a mother's love starts in the morning, "with a whirl and twirl across the fuzzy purple rug, she swoops down on my bed and scoops me up into a hug. Nobody wakes me up just like mama." At the end, it becomes a love letter right back, "Nobody loves mama just like me!" This sweet book will remind you of all the little things that us moms do right. Things that are sometimes perfect in their very ordinary nature - like brushing hair - or ordinary things that can be made special with an extra touch - like whipped cream in the cocoa. Simply delightful for young readers.

 In Our Mothers' House
by Patricia Polacco
In Our Mothers' HouseA grown-up daughter tells the story of her and her siblings' years in their mothers' house. And note that apostrophe, because this is a book about two mothers and their adopted kids. The topic is handled in a nonchalant manner, except for occasional reference to a neighbor who "just plain didn't like us." Okay, and one page where the neighbor spits out her hatred of the two moms. But after that, it's back to the block party, and making dresses and growing up. Regular life. Polocco's illustrations are always special, and here they capture the love of this beautiful family. The amount of text and meandering story would make it a better choice for older picture book readers or younger ones with longer attention spans. Overall, a wonderful view into family, love, and acceptance.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.