December 22, 2012

Kids today...

I know many have written about the Newtown tragedy.  Many who are more eloquent, more poetic, and who can spell tragedy correctly.  But I'm going to write a bit of hope vs. anger vs. fear vs gun control vs mental illness.

These tragedies affect me pretty harshly.  I am a mom, an aunt, a teacher.  I love children, yes, but I also love humanity.  So when things like this happen (especially so very close to home. i.e.- Aurora), it affects me to my core.  I so want to see the good in people.  Especially in children.  And let's face it, it seems the young are doing these evil deeds...students...young men.  
Because of this, people are doubting the humanity of our boys, our young men.

So let me give you hope.  Let me tell you that there is great humanity in our children.  I see my students do remarkable things everyday.  Kind things, brave things, brilliant things.  And a majority of my students do not have a home life most of you take for granted.  Most of them have to work all night, go to school all day, take little siblings to practice or the doctor or the park.  I see them give hugs when a friend is sad.  I see them run to the counselor when a friend is upset.  I see them ask for help for a friend that feels that they can't go on.  I see them come in everyday with a smile when I know they are hungry or sick or mad or tired from being in the ER with their dying (or mentally ill parent.)  They are strong, and they really care about you and me.  Just look at my desk with cards, and candy, and homemade goodies...from boys...for the librarian!

During the election students where adamant about their views and opinions about policy...EVEN WHEN THEY COULDN'T VOTE.  When Hurricane Sandy hit, they volunteered money and donated items.  When Haiti was devastated students rallied together to raise money (without any motivation from teachers).  They wore green and white on Monday, they donate cans of food, sell bracelets to help 3rd world children...on and on and on.  When is the last time you gathered your friends to raise money for anyone?  

Still don't believe in our future leaders?  Just ask me about my nephews.  My sweet, brave, talented, kind nephews.  They are so talented and loving.  I am in awe of them.  When tragedy strikes (and for some reason my nephews have seen great great tragedy in their young lives) they persevere and get even stronger, and kinder.  And the way they all love and take care of their family and mothers.  And their faith...oh their hope and faith.  It would bring you to your knees.

Our children are good, strong, brilliant children.  Our boys are resilient.  Even though all of my nephews and son play video games with guns and read books about zombies they are kind, and good, and I would trust them with anything.

Don't give up on them, help them, love them, support them, above all believe in them.  They believe in us, even when they shouldn't.

December 20, 2012

December Reads Part 1...

Where Things Come BackOh wondrous book leaving me wanting more, how should I count the ways? Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley sucked me in at sentence one.  The main character has small town charm that is both endearing and real.  His Southern small town is seeing sudden fame with the possible sighting of a previously thought extinct woodpecker.  However, during the woodpecker take over of his town (hilarious banter about the local cafe calling their regular burger the "Lazarus Burger"), his beloved brother disappears.  Their are many subplots that at first intake you feel they have nothing to do with each other.  Then everything fits together with a simplistic beauty that makes sense all at once.

     This book has no action scenes, zombies, or guns, but it will still leave you breathless with it's candor, it's heart, humor, and it's legitimate display of humanity.

December 11, 2012

November Reads Part2...

I read a lot of fantasy...a lot...and it's been a long time since I've read something so different, so compelling as Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  This book takes you to the world of  music prodigy, Seraphina.  A world where 40 years before dragons and humans battled and raged, killing large numbers of both species.  The General of the dragons and the Queen of the humans decided to end thousands of years of death and destruction with a peace treaty.
The catch?  Humans must not hunt dragons and except them as an intelligent species.  Dragons must be in their 'human form' at all times, not hoard gold, and not treat humans as a tasty snack.  In short, equality.
40 years later the peace is going well, although with much prejudice from both sides.  However, what happens when a dragon mates with a human?  An act seen as a crime, and strictly forbidden by both sides.  Song mistress Seraphina is an abomination, and must hide her biracial heredity or die.  But when the reluctant peace starts to falter she may be the one to bring change and progress.

Equal parts thrilling, thought provoking, and romance this book will not let you put it down until every page is devoured.

December 8, 2012

November Reads Part 1...

Occasionally I will post book reviews of things I have read.  This of course won't be everything I have read, but some of the highlights.  Enjoy concise, meandering summaries of some YA good reads...

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
This book starts with a bang as Charlie is pulled out of bed in the middle of the night by Jasper Jones.  Jones is the town bad boy, always blamed for anything the town deems as juvenile delinquency.  This time Jasper is in serious trouble.  He brings Charlie to a secret spot, where he sees something so hideous, so terrifying it changes him forever.  This book is equal parts thrilling, mysterious, funny, and touching as Charlie finds that truth is harder to take when it's surrounded in lies.

Why I gave it
4 stars=too much cricket.  This is such an American thing to say, but I have never watched and do not understand a thing about cricket.  So instead of completely negating the beauty of this book about a boy caught in a hideous string of events, I just skipped over the cricket pieces.  Well until the best friend made a legendary debut.

4 stars=the banter was lengthy.  I loved and laughed out loud during the banter between the main character, Charles, and his wonderful side kick, Jeffrey.  Yet at some points I thought it went long.

4 stars=everything was so packed together.  Can all of this shit happen within such a short amount of time?  The boyfriend gets there minutes too late, the sister...the mother...the estranged grandfather...the racists...the garden, etc.  That's one hell of a month.

Yet this book is a raw, page turning beauty that I did not put down until I had figured out what happened to Laura.  This could be an amazing movie.

November 4, 2012

I would marry Harry Potter if he were real, and other confessions.

"Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits"
"More than eight in ten Americans ages 16-29 read a book in the past year, 
and six in ten used their local public library. Many say they are reading 
more in the era of digital content, especially on their mobile phones and on 

Ha!  I say HA to those who constantly doubt our teenagers and future leaders.  I hear everyday how kids today are ungrateful, rude, and lazy.  Guess what?  So were you when you were a teenager.  Even Ms. Goody Two Shoes here occasionally bad mouthed a teacher or parent (I remember my nick name in one class was "pop-off."  That can't be good).  But also guess what?  You didn't read as much.  I really bet you didn't.  Publishing companies are now making more money off of YA book sales than any other market.  (only to be rivaled by the horny middle aged ladies who are buying the Shades of Gray garbage in droves).  Yeah, yeah you read Lord of the Rings, or Catcher in the Rye, or Huckleberry Finn.  All fantastic, but did you read a 7 book series?  Then did you read another 4 book series?  Ever go to a midnight release of a book when you were a teenager?  Did you?

How can you not be excited by this new study by the Pew Research Center?  Honestly, when I first heard about the results of this study I was not surprised.  Since the creation of Rowling's Harry Potter, kids have not stopped devouring books.  Crazy devouring...and I've seen it.  I've seen students read at a rate that is insatiable.  And this proves it.  What is also cool is that instead of books disappearing due to the creation of ebooks, tablets, and mobile devices real live books are still big with young adult readers.  Now books are being read faster, and books are getting more accessible to more readers.  I also feel there is more out there for them to read.  Graphic novels have never been better.  Great fiction, biographies, and non-fiction are being created everyday that will leave you wondering why you've never read a YA book before.  Yes there is some horrible things out there (but not any worse than Danielle Steele or John Grisham).

I live and breathe with students everyday that crave more to read, more to share, and more to talk about.  The cool thing is we adults can't keep up.  I try, I actually get paid to try.  However, these readers will read all the time.  They will not let other stuff get in the way, especially if they get their hands on the latest of a new hot series.  So get your favorite teen what they really want for Christmas...a book!

Here are some of my most favorite of YA fiction that are steaming up the glasses of this librarian...
   The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, A fantastic story of a Native American boy who is expelled from his reservation school due to neglect then gets sent to a small town school.  This book deals with NA issues, alcoholism, and racism with an eloquence to rival Twain.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon, Narrated by a boy with autism who tries to solve the murder of a neighbor's dog, but unravels much more as he finds out people don't make sense.

The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer, Matteo Alacran was not born; he was harvested with the DNA from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium. Can a boy who was bred to guarantee another’s survival find his own purpose in life? And can he ever be free?

The Enemy, Charlie Higson, They'll chase you. They'll rip you open. They'll feed on you...When the sickness came, every parent, policeman, politician - every adult - fell ill. The lucky ones died. The others are crazed, confused and hungry. Only children under fourteen remain, and they're fighting to survive. Now there are rumours of a safe place to hide.

The Book Thief, Mark Zuzack, It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery....
Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany.

The Perfect, Gentle Knight, Kit Pearson, the story of the six Bell children, each of them coping in various ways in the aftermath of their mother’s death. Set in the 1950s and seen through the perspective of the middle child, 11-year-old Corrie, Pearson’s story illustrates how a rich fantasy life both helps and hinders children trying to cope with loss, loneliness, 

Americus, Graphic Novel, MK. Reed, Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activists are tryingto get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it.

The Princess Academy, Shannon Hale, just read something by this woman...she updates the fairytale like noone else.

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson, A girl is rapped, she won't tell anyone and it is destroying her from the inside.  An amazing look at being your own advocate and to just speak!

I could go on forever.  What is your favorite YA book?

October 26, 2012

Why I am like a woman's undergarment

This year I am taking on a very new adventure...high school librarianship.

I know, what?  Those still exist?  I thought budget cuts, ereaders, and illegal immigrants sent these bun-haired ladies packing.  Alas, no.  In fact I'm living, breathing proof that schools still value the library and it's librarian.  Oh sorry...they value their "library media centers" and their "Media specialists."  Yikes!

What I have learned at this new position is that
1) I am where I was always meant to be, and
2) Librarians are the librarians worst enemy.

I absolutely love, love being a high school librarian.  The incredible books (John Green!) the incredible students (passionate, intelligent!), the incredible staff (passionate, intelligent ).  I have never felt so at home.  Don't get me wrong, my first librarian job was the bees knees.  I cut my teeth at the most wonderful middle school ever invented.  I worked with the best of the best...I really did.  Those Reading teachers worked their asses off to get kids to love reading.  And they succeed every year.  I was just a support.  Like a bra.  Much needed, somewhat inexpensive, unnoticed, yet cradles lovingly the real goods.  Me=bra.

This time around I am taking everything I have ever learned and am very slowly making this library a sanctuary again.  For although the past librarian was extremely beloved she was not a librarian that put faith back in the profession.  The collection is old, the budget non existent.  Oh, and did I mention I'm the ONLY certified librarian in the district?!?!
So this brings me to #2.  The librarian is the librarian's worst enemy.  One teacher at the feeder middle school admitted they never went into the library because the librarian was mean, and yelled at students and teachers.  I have also heard that some librarians don't actually like to read YA books so never have anything to suggest.  WTH!  Why are you in the profession?!!!  A few English teachers become librarians as a way to retire, or work in schools in an easier position.  IF IT'S EASIER YOU AREN'T DOING IT RIGHT!

If librarians truly want to be respected for helping students achieve success, or to love reading they first have to work on themselves!

So this is my numero uno on my Life List (inspired by Mighty Girl blog's suggestion)...I am putting it out to the universe...
I want to build a platform/ program that promotes solid librarianship that focuses on 
1) Flexibility
2) Customer Service
3) Relevance  
and I want to model it, teach it, and consult for it.
Not one of my University Librarian classes or conferences talked about customer service.  Not one ever mentioned that our main objective is to SERVE our patrons in the most efficient, helpful manner.  My goal is to bring this to the forefront of Library dialogues.  My ultimate hope is that by being that relevant, crucial piece of our schools and community, people won't let the library budget be cut.  They will tie themselves to the bookshelves in protest.  With book tape, so that it won't hurt the books of course.

To be honest, I'm not sure where to begin.  Suggestions?

April 22, 2012

Give Bunnies a Chance

Recently in our local paper it was reported that a mom wouldn't return a book to her son's elementary school library. The book was The Book of Bunny Suicides, a comic book that depicts bunnies killing themselves in a variety of ways. I know...sounds hilarious. She is adamantly opposed to the book, and feels it should actually be burned. Well since I have am having an issue with the banning of my comic books in my library (by a mom who feels they are inappropriate for anyone), my anger flared so I did what any angry person would do and wrote a letter to the editor..."words are mightier than the sword" my friends. Here is my letter:

It's amazing to me that in this time of great progress and vast availability of information that we still have people who want to burn books! In regard to the mom who stole The Book of Bunny Suicides from the school...I wonder what other parents in her school district think. Does this mom realize she now is speaking for her entire community? That she now is parenting every child by censoring that books? She is saying no one else has the right to read this story or laugh at its comics.

What gives her the right to take everyone else's away? She says she doesn't care "if your kid is 16, 17, 18" reading this book is "wrong."

Yet this book could be the right way to discuss why kids take that desperate step. It could start an open discussion with your child about the third highest cause of death among teenagers. Not to mention, it's bunnies?! If it gets kids reading instead of playing video games, I'll take two for my kids.

This was written  a year ago but never posted.  Book banning is something every librarian has to deal with  during their career.  I feel school libraries see the brunt of it.  Parents are worried that their babies will be influenced in a way they don't approve of.  My daughter's class is going through this with Tin Tin, and my library is going through this with The Hunger Games.

I understand we want to keep our children young and innocent for as long as possible, but once they start school the influences they receive will not (and should not) be 100% controlled by us the parents anymore. 
Most often two things actually happen:
1) The kids don't get the references we are so worried about.  During the Golden Compass scandal I kept telling the parents that the students who read this book 99% of the time did not get the atheist undertone of this wondrous fantasy series.  It went over their heads.  They focused on the awesome idea of the deamon - the animal equivalent of our soul.  And if they did get it, they are old enough to have a discussion.

2)  Your student already knows about sex, violence, and cuss words.  The one thing parents complain about is sex...NOT  So if the student is reading the book they will either not get the implications (see #1) or they already have heard about it, henceforth THEY ALREADY HEARD ABOUT IT.

In either instance these books bring about opportunities for open, safe discussion with their care giver. How is this bad?
Enough of the book banning people!  Trust your professionals, and more importantly trust your kids!

April 16, 2012

A study of the Teacher-Librarian creature

The teacher-librarian is an interesting creature.  We are teachers, yes, but we are upholders of all things media.  Our job is not evaluated by a high-stakes test, or by a final.  It is instead evaluated by the students themselves.  Have I helped to create an efficient and successful consumer and user of media? Have I helped prepare this student for their next step in education?     Have I helped connect that student with a good book that will carry them on to be a life-long lover of literature?   These are my teaching objectives every day.  An enormous job, but one so rewarding I can’t imagine doing anything else.

The key is to be approachable.  The librarian is the librarian’s worst enemy.  Too often we have come across librarians that act like the books and the library itself is their baby.  Too precious for anyone to intrude or handle.  Librarians are still depicted in movies and TV shows as old, bun wearing, shushing ladies.
Instead we should be rockstars of information!   I always try to create a space of neutrality, a sanctuary, where everyone feels welcome, and knows I can help them – better yet, that I want to help them.  Another essential skill is flexibility.  I never know what is going to walk through that door, or what the teacher/ student will need at that moment.  Every request is important to the requestor, so I have to adapt, think quickly and smartly, and genuinely want to help.  

So let's change librarians!  Let's become the most essential part of that school.  That when budget cuts come the staff and students will bar the door to the library with their bodies!  Let's make them ask, how could we possibly run this school without this bunless woman!?  We can do it!