Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on the higher power

In all fairness, this post could be labeled a cheating post. Earlier today I placed this information on the collaborative blog I author with another academic librarian. Since very little has been heard from Susan Patron during the firestorm of controversy I was interested in reading what she had to say about the situation. What I have posted is a very small part of the article, not interview, she wrote for the LA Times. Even though you have to create an account to read the article, it is worth the few minutes required to complete the process.

The AASL blog posted an addendum to their ALA post linking to a Los Angeles Times article by Susan Patron, author of The Higher Power of Lucky. The article, 'Scrotum' as a children's literary tool, is a response to the ongoing controversy.

"Books that offer hope to tender and impressionable readers (by which I mean all children) armor them against the confusing, frightening, numbing realities of life. My protagonist, Lucky, terrified that she'll be abandoned by her guardian, makes a desperate plan to run away with her beloved dog. I wanted to write an honest story that would fill readers with hope and let them see that even in a gravely flawed world, there are adults who will nurture them, adults — no matter how scruffy and unlikely — who have compassion and integrity. I wanted to give readers a book in which they, like Lucky, would find courage, love and empowerment.

And parents who worry about having to explain the meaning of "scrotum" can relax. Children who read the entire book will discover exactly what it means, in a context that is straightforward, reassuring and truthful. " (Patron, LA Times, 2/28/07)

Please note, when following the article link you will be required to create an account with LA to read the article.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New books: activity books

Children's literature is a large, integral part of the overall resource center collection. To satisfy my curiosity, at the end of last year I spent time analyzing my budget and verified juvenile book orders comprised close to half of the materials budget line. Since the collection supports several children's literature courses, as well as education students, it is money well spent. Consider also, when was the last time a student checked out only one children's book? It does not happen; therefore children's books raise library circulation statistics as well. However, there are other important pieces of the resource center circulating collection that are popular with students. One such segment is the activity book collection.

Activity books, or what we have classified activity books, are teacher resources comprised of activities, lessons, and classroom resources for curriculum areas. The collection currently has 737 books with over 60 different categories. From 100th day activities, art, and bulletin boards, to math, must, and social studies, these books are used on a daily basis. It was with glee I looked at a cart last evening and saw a dozen more recently purchased activity books from Teacher Created Materials had arrived. This particular order focused upon math, language arts, and general teacher resources of indoor games and teacher tips. A quick sample of what arrived and is now awaiting cataloging is JumboBook of Teacher Tips and Timesavers, 101 Lessons: Vocabulary Words in Context, Practice and learn the Alphabet, and Indoor and Outdoor Games. As happy as I am with the purchases made, and as secure in the knowledge as I am knowing they will be well used, I am disappointed somewhat with the publisher.

I perused the catalog, made my selections, totaled the order, and figured applicable shipping charges. Instead of sending a single complete order, the publisher (in this instance Teacher Created Materials) sent books in several different shipments and charged shipping on each one. The end result? Over $50 was added to the final order for shipping alone. The acquisitions librarian called to discuss this matter to no avail. It is very disappointing. While I understand they may be looking at this as a service, making sure we get the titles when they are available, I have placed the order in good faith using the charges printed on their order forms.

I like the product published by Teacher Created Materials. But I will definitely think twice before ordering directly from the publisher. It is possible to use the catalog for resource purposes and order the books from Amazon, hence the title links in this post.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Hypothetical discourse

I have been pondering this post for several days now, dithering back and forth while deciding if I should address the topic. I will begin by reiterating I work in an academic library and, as is the case with most any profession, nine days out of ten I very much enjoy my job. What follows is my opinion only and has no bearing or ramification upon my place of employment or anyone affiliated with the university.

Academic libraries can be wonderful places filled with students, faculty, staff, and administration empowered by learning and reaching for a similar goal. But some days, that tenth day, it is clear academic environments are a political abyss. I have little or no patience for the games people play. If you come into the library with a reference question, I do not care if you are the president or the provost, a freshman or a senior, the service and assistance you get from me will be identical. To that end I have worked for the last six years, with full support from the library director, building a resource center that has become an integral part of the library and provides stellar support to the college of education.

Patrons making use of the resource center has easily quadrupled during this time, expanding to include more than just education students. The curriculum and juvenile collections have grown and developed exponentially and two years ago we outgrew our space. During that same period of time, each summer I evaluate and reassign portions of the collection in such a way that they continue to be viable. When a space within the library, double my current space, became available because of campus expansion, I went to the director with a plan. Not world domination, but a feasible plan to take over the larger space.

Committees were formed on campus and our plan was presented. Other spaces were becoming available and many departments were jockeying for position, looking out for their own interests (as was I). Last spring, after two years of meetings and preparation, space allocations were announced and the resource center plan was at the top of the list for our desired location. We had people from the university physical plant provide cost estimates and peruse the charts/floor plans for viability (they approved). All was in place for what was hoped to be a fall renovation.

Fall came and went with no visible progress; the project was on hold but hopes were still riding high. Our I.T. department used the space to store computers and spring renovations were discussed. At the end of the fall term, we were told another department was going to temporarily move into the space until their new offices were ready. Last week, we were informed the move was no longer temporary; deparment offices will remain in the space.

I find myself disappointed, discouraged and disheartened. Disappointed? Not only were the committee recommendations ignored, but the new tenants never even submitted a proposal for consideration. Ironically, I did have a student come to me early last fall informing me this deparment said they were getting the space. I passed on the tip to my boss who found it amusing because they were not being considered at the time. Discouraged? The library now must try to reorganize without the benefit of space. Each year I have worked at the university space has been taken from the library for other campus needs. Study rooms, quiet space, and group work areas have dwindled as a result. Disheartened? Our current administration has effectively determined office space is more important than library space for students, thus setting a tone for the entire campus.

Tags: No tags this time, but there are labels for the post ...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another Milestone

This is blog post number 250, another milestone number (in my opinion at least). Had I posted on Saturday, I would have hit 250 on my birthday ... a numbered milestone I am not willing to share. I decided to share a few of the statistics I am so obsessed with viewing.

Statscounter: February has been the busiest month to date with 648 hits/page loads. Oddly enough, that number equals over 1/3 of the totals for the six months I have been using the counter. I continue to be intrigued by people actually reading this blog and being able to tell what posts people are most frequently hit and what search strings are bringing readers to the blog; to date the Cambridge who's who post(s), the Newbery posts, and several different children’s book reviews have the highest interest.

Technorati: I've really moved up in the world with Technorati links! From zero to the current statistic of 8 (yes, you read correctly) links from six different blogs. I have learned this number is obviously not infallible since several of the links back I have on the sidebar do not show up in Technorati, but did appear in Statscounter.

ZoomCloud: I still have the word cloud located in the sidebar, but am not as happy with the product as I was when first placing it in the blog. First, people clicking on particular words does not register with great accuracy. I had to remove the first incarnation of my word cloud from the side bar and it continued to garner hits a month after it ceased to exist. This brings me to the second point of dissatisfaction. I tried to delete the first ZoomCloud to no avail, it will not go away regardless of what type of connection the computer has (dial up, network, or cable). I find that aspect of the service very annoying. To be fair, it is a free service and I guess you get what you pay for.

LibraryThing: I am not getting any specific statistics from LibraryThing but I still love the site. I did a bit of tweaking with the sidebar widgets (big shock there) from LibraryThing this afternoon so I could add a recreational reading widget beyond the my library book mash. Now it is going to represent the most recently read recreational titles.

As noted in the last post, I did receive and read the newest J.D. Robb book on Friday. I will be posting about it tomorrow.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Haphazard brain flashes

Welcome to Friday afternoon! A word of caution ... there really is no rhyme, reason, or cohesiveness to this post. I am a bit brain dead and the thoughts are flitting about looking for somewhere to land.

After listing to
Bon Jovi's Have a Nice Day CD in the car I continue to hear echo's of Welcome to Wherever You Are in my head, hence the beginning of this post. A country music afficianado, I continue to have a Bon Jovi soft spot from my youth and there are several great tunes on this CD; including the duet with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, Who Says You Can't Go Home . Also in the CD player today was a favorite, Brooks & Dunn's latest, Hillbilly Deluxe (get this CD!).

I have just returned from a meeting in Columbus and, as usual, ponder how it takes 1/2 hour less returning from Columbus than it takes to get there in the morning. The meeting was informative and the gossip intersperced entertaining; best of all was the chat accompanying my ceasar chicken sandwhich at Wolfgang Puck Express (Lane Avenue, near the OSU campus).

This evening I plan to curl up on my sofa, covered with a lovely green throw, and read Innocent in Death by J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts. I admit reading the blurbs about this one causing me some reader angst:

"Eve knows all too well that innocence can be a facade. Keeping that in mind may help her to solve this case at last. But it may also tear apart her marriage." (Jacket flap, Innocent in Death)

What! I am an end of the book reader, though not usually with authors I trust to end the book in way that makes me a happy girl, I opened the book to the last few pages to satisfy my curiosity. Naturally I could not let things go at that and hunted through the book for other key points. I am now able to read the book this evening with a secure heart. I will babble gleefully about this book after finishing it, at least once.

After spending yesterday working with changing over a collaborative library blog to the "new" blogger, I started looking at the way I'm using LibraryThing here for my recreational reading books. It did not take me long to enter in close to the 200 minimum titles for a free account, but now I have no room for recent reads. I have a complete list of my library somewhere. What I focus on here are current titles, both recreational and work related, I am considering deleting my existing library and adding in books as I read them. Naturally, I will also have to change the widget (I can not leave well enough alone) and fiddle with the blog side bar again.

Earlier this week I answered a call for articles for a new book being published about libraries. I sent in two ideas that were of interest to me and Thursday received an email welcoming the submissions for consideration. Now I have to write.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Newbery controversy revisited

More information from the story that just will not go away, today's Children's Bookshelf email newsletter contains a follow-up to last weeks story. Controversy Over Newbery Winner: A Followup, discusses several issues including the idea that authors "sneak controversial words into their work," implications pondered by the Newbery committee during the selection process, and the blasphemous idea that a librarian would ban a book.

Answering the concept of librarians banning books, Maughn interprets some of the same issues mentioned here last week as well:

"Librarians make determinations for their libraries every day about purchasing, replacing or even discarding materials. Such decisions are guided by a variety of factors, which include budget, need, space constraints and appropriateness for library users, and which are supported by the library's collection development policy, which also provides a mechanism for patrons to formally object to the library's selected materials. Communities, including schools, overwhelmingly believe that librarians have an obligation to provide access to information (and instruction on how to use it) and trust that librarians also have an expertise that qualifies them to select appropriate materials. These two missions are sometimes difficult to balance, as witnessed by librarians who are currently debating whether a Newbery winner also meets additional, individual selection criteria. Though not every librarian will make the same decision on a matter of "appropriateness," most librarians would argue that these decisions are never made lightly." (Maughn, Children's Bookshelf, 2/22/07)

Furthermore, Maughn quotes 2007 Newbery committee chair Jeri Kladder concerning the charge that the committee blithely chose the Higher Power of Lucky, disregarding any issue of age appropriate language:

"But Newbery decisions are not made lightly either, and are considered by "15 people extremely passionate about children's literature and highly regarded in the academic world, the world of education, and the world of library service to children and reviewing children's books," according to children's librarian and 2007 Newbery committee chair Jeri Kladder. "To tell the truth, I am astounded that using a correct anatomical term is causing such furor," she says. "Yes, the committee did acknowledge that not every 4th or 5th or 6th grader would know what the word meant, but they would certainly know by the end of the book. And the strength of the story would be such that the child reader would take it as a matter of course that a book about Lucky, the consummate naturalist, would use it as a matter of routine."(Maughn, Children's Bookshelf, 2/22/07)

The article also includes a comment from Lucky's author, a librarian herself Susan Patron. More on the same topic .... Yesterday I read two more blog postings on the topic; one from Keir Graff at Booklist Online and another from Neil Gaiman's blog. Both are interesting and present a new point of view.

  • An Absence of Scrota -- your guide to quality literature... Neil Gaiman's blog
    "I've decided that librarians who would decline to have a Newbery book in their libraries because they don't like the word scrotum are probably not real librarians (whom I still love unconditionally). I think they're rogue librarians who have gone over to the dark side." (Gaiman, 2/20/07)"
  • Scrota and other unmentionablesKeir Graff, Booklist Online
    "This kind of stuff — censorship spurred by the use of a clinically appropriate word – just makes me want to crawl under my bed and stay there until our country grows up. It’s not surprising that other nations are confused by our behavior when we consider ourselves grown-up enough to wage war and yet are too terrified to discuss certain parts of our bodies just because they happen to normally be hidden by underwear." (Graff, 2/21/07)

Is continuing to discuss the issue creating more furor? I doubt I am causing much of a ripple in the blogosphere posting my opinions, but isn't it time to let sleeping dogs lie?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Book of One Hundred Truths

After finishing The Book of One Hundred Truths by Julie Schumacher last evening I decided to do an acutal review for the work blog. I tend to focus more picture books and thought it would do me good. Now I have to admit to really struggling with the review. I worked off and on throughout the afternoon hoping to write something coherent.

Boarding the plane for a summer visit with grandparents in New Jersey, Thea is given a notebook with instructions from her mother to write four truths a day; at the end of her vacation Thea will have 100 true things. Complicating this seemingly simple directive is the fact that Theodora Grumman, self proclaimed liar, has a secret. Begrudgingly balancing vacation with family obligations, Thea spends time babysitting nosy 7 year-old cousin Jocelyn and interpreting the truth. Thea’s notebook account of the girl’s initially harmless day jaunts ultimately discloses their relatives are harboring secrets; while the same entries begin to subtly reveal layers of Thea’s secret, the root of her talent for lying. Schumacher’s characters are ripe with personality; Thea is short tempered and often rude, and from eccentric aunts to annoying cousins, secondary characters are equally charming and flawed. Thea’s secret would have been better detailed outside of her notebook, but when all the lies, half-truths, and secrets are revealed, she demonstrates a maturity and understanding gained during her summer visit.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the underlying theme of secrets and lies. From keeping secrets to not telling for "their own good," in some form or another we all tell that little white lie. Schumacher made her characters believable, every day people. And most importantly, without being preachy, she made sure the adults were not exempt from retribution for keeping their secrets and telling lies to Jocelyn and Thea. I would have liked having Thea's secret revealed in conversation as opposed to thorugh her notebook, but aside from that enjoyed reading the 100 truths.

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New Dancing Stars

I missed the announcement on GMA, but here is the Dancing with the Stars web site link listing all of the new season contestants and the GMA announcement Meet the New Cast. It is an interesting group:

Is there an early favorite? Who knows? Let the dancing begin!

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More about graphic novels

Today's Children's Bookshelf e-newsletter discusses graphic novels. The Young and the Graphic Novel, by James Bickers, makes several interesting points regarding the recent (though some would argue not so recent) popularity of graphic novels, the population reading them, and the quality of what is being published.

"Most publishers point to the changing face of the modern world as a prime mover behind the trend. Today's children are the first generation to grow up more accustomed to digital screens than the printed page; as wireless devices proliferate, kids increasingly understand and appreciate data that is transmitted to them in visual form."(Bickers, 2/21/07)

Giving readers what they want is a good indication that current trends are being watched by book publishers. Kids have always liked comics, but comics have not always liked kids. Many of the graphic format novels have been traditionally for adults, both in content and illustration. With the recent proliferation of Manga, in novel and television (remember Speed Racer?), it seems U.S. book publishers are a bit late to the party with their generalization of why younger readers are now enamoured with graphic novels. Call me cynical, but that reason will work well with upper management.

"From a content perspective, the books that are on the way are all over the topical map. Many houses are leveraging existing brands (Time Warp Trio, Amazon High and Warriors from HarperCollins; Baby-sitters Club and Goosebumps from Graphix; Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys from S&S's Papercutz), while others are using the medium to tell stories from classic literature (Barron's Graphic Classics line, which includes Kidnapped, Moby Dick and Oliver Twist) and history (DK's Graphic Readers line delves into ancient Greece, Rome and China, while School Specialty Publishing tackles the Civil War and the story of Anne Frank). Lerner is also getting in the game with its new Graphic Universe line, which focuses on myths and legends from around the world." (Bickers, 2/21/07)

I completely agree with Bickers's content perspective comment; publishers are in a rush to provide more graphic novels and quality varies. As mentioned in previous posts about graphic novels, when cataloging we have had to make the distinction between juvenile and adult graphic novels in the library stacks. Finding quality children's graphic novels is more difficult since the rush to publication, filling that need, has had an adverse effect on the final product. I have been able to purchase a few classics (Call of the Wild, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and MacBeth), old favorites (Birth of a Nation and Bone), and new favorites (Babymouse and Time Warp Trio).

Due to research, purchases, and reviews, I am learning more about the genre as well. The more I learn, the better our collection becomes.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Random "dancing" thoughts ...

I better type this in the post editor quickly as it has taken me over an hour to successfully log in to my blogger account. After 45 minutes of trying to log in and being told "to access your blogs, sign in with your Google account" ( gee, I never thought of that!) I had given up. I even tried to access my blog via three different browsers, just in case, to no avail. Irritation won out, deciding there will be no witty repartee regarding my day yesterday, and I prepared to shut down my computer.

... after one more college try.

... and viola!

I saw an advertisement this evening for the new spring season of "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC. They will be announcing the cast exclusively on Good Morning America tomorrow morning sometime. However, after a quick search I found is reporting a few of the cast members. Included on their list are Billy Ray Cyrus (so help me, if we hear that song...) and Ian Ziering (Not a 90210 fan, I remember him from Guiding light many, many years ago). Time will tell if the rumors are correct. It's time to put on those boogie shoes!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

More on Lucky

The beat goes on, here are a few links to information regarding Lucky and the ongoing controversy/discussion:

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

And now, my two cents

I finished reading The Higher Power of Lucky, the 2007 Newbery Award winner by Susan Patron, this evening. I am now able to add my comments to the discussion regarding its language appropriateness, for want of a better description. I am sure to offend any number of school librarians for saying I do not have a problem with the authors correct use of the word scrotum.

Yes, Lucky is a ten-year-old girl. Yes, I know children reading this book are undoubtedly going to be third, fourth and maybe fifth graders. Yes, I realize the vocabulary in question, used in several instances, may be off-putting for book talks by librarians in school libraries. I do not want to sugar coat the very real issue possibly faced with having the title in school libraries. However, this book is about more than a single word; one that, I might add, is simply defined at the end of the book without unnecessary embellishment.

I find it interesting that several other topics dealt with in Lucky are not causing issue. For instance, there is discussion of Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, death, and a mother in jail for selling drugs. Each of these topics is potentially troubling for in-school discussion as well, but what I keep reading about is that word. Higher Power of Lucky is a well- written, meaningful book detailing life-changing events for a young girl. By the end of the book, Lucky finds a family in the town's small population both figuratively and literally. By focusing on a single vocabulary element, the meaning of the book is lost.

Let's not forget, there are also issues of fiscal responsibility and library purpose to consider when determining whether or not to add this book to a library collection. I do not foresee any public library having problems with this title. The "word" and book topic aside, public library patrons will expect to have a full collection of Newbery and Caldecott titles on the shelves. Not that there will not be questions, concerns, or statements made by parents and patrons (after all, tax payer money funds the library), but generally speaking the issue is a bit less dicey. School libraries have a catch 22 situation when determining purchasing value for their library, getting more bang for the buck so to speak. School libraries have more stringent policies in place for collection development. They also have parents, administrators, and school boards (not to mention the general public) watching over librarian purchases. So, the librarian needs to have a full Newbery and Caldecott collection, after all these titles have been judged the best in literature for 2206 - but hesitancy to make the purchase because of possible outcry is real. I do not care for it, but it is real.

I bought the title without a second thought after the announcement was made, no I had not purchased it previously and maybe that is telling, because it fulfills a purpose for my academic library's children's collection. Actually, I did not purchase the book, another librarian in charge of a small endowment for children's literature in our library routinely purchases award winning titles, including duplicates of Newbery and Caldecott winners. Why is it an automatic purchase?We have a large, thriving, teacher education program with a full compliment of children's and young adult literature classes. Award winning books are expected to be part of the juvenile collection. Pre-service teachers studying children's literature need an opportunity to read the book and make a determinations for classroom use. Oddly enough I have not heard much from any of the children's literature instructors and will probably gently inquire, via email, as to their opinion regarding the current Newbery controversy.

Newbery critera, while specific in some nature, is very much open to interpretation by the committee charged with choosing a single book (or books if honor's are chosen) for the award. For example, look at the following excerpt from the ALA Newbery Critera web page discussing the concept of distinguished writing to be judged by the committee members:

"a. Interpretation of the theme or concept; Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization; Development of a plot; Delineation of characters; Delineation of setting (and) Appropriateness of style."

"b.Committee members must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience." (ALA, Newbery Criteria)

Those are very broad, and somewhat sweeping, guidelines, guaranteed to generate discussion after award announcements at ALA mid-winter meetings each year.

As I reflect on books read over the summer and early fall, there is one title that impacted me more as literature than what was selected by the Newbery committee. My personal choice would have been Firegirl by Tony Abbott. S
ix months after reading it I remember how touched I was by the book's message. Regardless, the choice has been made and discussion will ensue for several months now with everyone chiming in with opinion pieces. And, in my opinion, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

New Orleans, Jefferson Parish Library Update

This morning I, and every other library who worked for a day in a New Orleans Public library last summer at ALA, received an email update/progress report from NOPL. It read in part:

"We are writing from the New Orleans Public Library to the ALA members who generously volunteered during the summer ALA convention to help New Orleans recover from the aftermath of Katrina. Whether you helped NOPL, schools, churches, or housing organizations, we hope you will be interested in our progress rebuilding our ruined public libraries."

"Late in 2006 we mailed a progress newsletter to 3000 donors and friends across the country, and we would like you to see it too. (After all, many of you literally “had a hand” in our accomplishments.)" (Email, NOPL, 2/15/07)

The newsletter in question, Rebuild New Orleans Public Library, is available online. An entire section is devoted to the work ALA volunteers contributed. Honestly? What I did was small in comparison to the day to day struggles the residents are still striving to overcome. It is encouraging to see the amazing things accomplished by everyone involved. Thanks for the update NOPL!

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Publishers Weekly - Children's Bookshelf

In addition to blogging and reading blogs, I subscribe to a fair list of library related list servs and email notification services (AL Direct, LM_Net, EBSS) as one way of keeping up with news in my profession. One that I stumbled across a year or so ago was Children's Bookshelf; "a free weekly newsletter from Publishers Weekly about all aspects of children's and YA publishing." I tend to browse the message and most of the time there is something to catch my attention. If I delete the email too quickly, they archive the email messages I can always go back and find an item for further reading. Yesterday there was a link to an article by Shannon Maughan at the Children's Bookshelf titled Listservs Buzzing over Newbery Winner.

This is where I humbly admit I have not read the latest Newbery Award winner, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. It happens to the best of us (not that I presume to be one of the best, but still). Every once in a while I miss the Newbery or Caldecott when doing collection development throughout the year and have to order it after the announcement is made at the ALA mid-winter meetings. This was one of those years; I purchased the honor books and the Caldecott winner before the mid-winter meetings, but missed the Newbery. Yesterday afternoon our two copies arrived and I have placed my name on the list so I am able to read it before it begins it's travels in OhioLINK land. Without first reading the book I am reluctant to join in the fracas, or discussion, regarding the author's use of the word "scrotum." Really. The opening paragraph of Maughan's article reads:

"What's in a word? Plenty of controversy, if it happens to be a word naming a part of the male anatomy, and if it appears in a Newbery Award-winning novel. In recent weeks the online blogosphere inhabited by children's book professionals has been abuzz with debate over author Susan Patron's use of the word "scrotum" in her freshly minted Newbery winner, The Higher Power of Lucky. Librarians, teachers, reviewers and others have used blogs and listservs as forums to object to or defend the book and the ALA's selection of the title for one of its highest honors. (Children's Bookshelf, 2/15/07)"

It is an interesting debate, one that I may weigh in on after finishing the title. I also wonder how the use of one word rates in the history of controversy surrounding previous Newbery titles that included the use of profanity, witchcraft, midwives, and violence. I just may need to sneak that book of the cart before it's cataloged and see for myself.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

A pair of good reads

It's a veritable novel feast, as opposed to famine, with new juvenile and YA titles at work. Now I am able to add new recreational reading titles (for ME) to my personal feast. On the way out of the library this evening I had a wonderful surprise in my mail bin, Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Bad Blood, by Linda Fairstein.

I must decide if I will finish my re-read of Born in Death by J.D. Robb (the newest book is due next week, yah!) or start a one of the new books. Decisions, decisions.

Sorry, no book covers accompany this post. Blogger hates me and my lowly dial-up connection.

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The End, Not a Box, and snow

After blithely (okay, it bordered on snarky) noting that I never get a "snow day" from work, yesterday was the first. Over a foot of snow fell in our fair metropolis and while I was prepared for a day of leisure reading, other things (like snow removal and a nap) took precedence. Today the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and we continue to dig out from under the flakes.

Because I have that "camera gene" from my father's side of the family, I naturally put a bright yellow ruler in my front yard and photographed the snow fall amount for posterity. That same gene compelled me to bring my camera to work today and take a few shots around campus. With the aforementioned sun shining, it really was quite beautiful. I found the "keep off grass" signs, surrounded by snow and already pelted with a snow ball, humorous.

A morning full of meetings put me behind, again, on my book reviews for the IRC blog. Promising myself I would do at the least one review a week has fallen by the wayside on more than one occasion. Today I picked up two of my current favorites. The End, by David LaRochelle, was first. I am not familiar with LaRochelle's work, but soon learned I had purchased several titles for the library including Absolutely Positively Not, The Best Pet of All, and Bookstore Valentine. What drew me to the book were the pictures; I am a fan of Caldecott winning illustrator Richard Egielski. To me, the art in this book is very Sendak-ish.

“Once upon a time a clever princess decided to make a big bowl of lemonade.” Or so the story ends? This charming fairy tale has a unique twist; it begins with the traditional happily ever after and ends once upon a time. Led through a series of surprising events with the princess are a brave knight, a fire breathing (yet artistic) dragon, an angry giant, and a kingdom of delightful characters who all contribute as each aspect of the story is revealed. Text on each page is hand lettered calligraphy on parchment colored banners, complimenting richly colored double page spreads. Illustrations are filled with artistically whimsical good humor, deftly highlighting each separate incident; the “enormous tomato” and laughing forest of trees will surely elicit laughter. A great addition to lessons on fairy tales or a classroom read-aloud, students will enjoy predicting what might come next, “because …”

The second book, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, caught my attention when I picked it up; I am very tactile oriented (don't get me started on having to touch fabrics when shopping) and this book not only looks like a box, it feels like a cardboard box. Actually, it reminds me of middle school and high school when we covered our books with brown paper bags to protect them. If you remember that, you know what this books cover and end papers feel like. Luckily, the book lives up to it's textures and a visual level as well. After discussing the book with a student, remember I work with a lot of education students, she ordered it online while I was at lunch. Not a bad recommendation.

A rabbit and his plain brown cardboard box are featured in this witty story of childhood imagination. Readers are introduced to a rabbit, starkly drawn in black and placed on an uncluttered white page, which at first glance appears to be sitting in an empty cardboard box. Turn the page and learn it is not a box, but a race car, a robot, or a pirate ship! Pages featuring drawings of rabbit’s imagination are inked in red, perfectly juxtaposed over the original box drawing, and presented on a creamy yellow background. Simple text of questions and answers allow the wonderful imagination of rabbit to be the focus of this story. Children will enjoy answering the questions in their own words as they follow rabbit on his adventure. This book definitely answers the unending adult question, “Why are you sitting in a box?” Bring in various sized boxes to class and use this book as a culminating activity.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I am watching blowing snow steadily accumulate on the sidewalk, street, and cars outside my window, hoping with child-like glee for "early dismissal" from work (not going to happen). With the exception of Eclipse, by Andrea Cheng, the children's books I took home yesterday are languishing on a chair in my living room waiting to be read. I pulled this title off the cart for several reasons; the author lives in Cincinnati, the main character is a young boy who bonds with a children's librarian, and one of the boys interests is the Underground Railroad that went through Cincinnati during the Civil War.

Peti is an eight year old Hungarian immigrant living with his family in the Ohio during 1952. Told in first person with an eight year old voice, Eclipse is a snapshot of Peti's life and that of immigrant families coming to America. The story opens with Peti's Aunt Olga, Uncle Jozsef, and cousin Gabor arriving to stay in their small apartment. Peti's vision of a happily family visit is for naught. Instead of the new friend he hoped for, cousin Gabor is manipulative and cruel. Uncle Jozsef has difficulty finding a job and Aunt Olga panders to Gabor without seeing his true nature. Peti takes solace in his trips to the library and forms a friendship with one of the librarians, Mrs. Malone, who takes him to see Rankin House, part of the Underground Railroad.

The time and place of this novel highlights Peti's naiveté, making it more believable. Children may have trouble understanding some of the references to Hungary and the trouble Peti's grandfather has coming to America, but these elements do not detract from the story. Historical elements regarding the underground railroad and the difficult plight of many immigrants in the 1950's are, because of Peti's age, simply told. Eclipse would be a nice classroom read aloud and as historical fiction, be a starting point for discussion.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

What to read, what to read?

A morning spent posting recent library purchases on the IRC blog has me wondering a couple of things in regards to blogs and my ever expanding shelf of books waiting to be read. First, the blog issue. I decided this morning the "book list" and information blog needed spiced up a bit and chose to add a few book covers to the lists, longer posts got three covers and briefer posts one or two. It took a bit longer (ok, considerably longer) to compile the lists, tag them correctly, and find engaging book covers to include on each post, but I like the visual appeal it gives the blog. However, as I was gleefully adding interest I began to wonder how many book covers and pieces of clip art would be too much? There is a fine line between visually appealing and grossly overdone. It's fair to say if the added images increase usage of the blog from campus users I have not crossed that line.

After updating a graphic novel bulletin board, highlighting a few new juvenile collection additions, the technical services assistant brought me a present. I have several more juvenile books on my shelf for reading (see New Books, New Books) and know it would probably behoove me to stop hoarding titles for myself. Not that I will, but I know I should. Here are a few of what I've chosen, the full list is on the sidebar, and of course, there are accompanying images:

I have already briefly looked at Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis (charming and so very true), The End, by Richard Egielski (love him), and the previously mentioned Courage of the Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker (fabulous) and will be doing book reviews on these titles for the children's book review blog at work. I will be taking several books home with me this evening as the weather forecasters are predicting doom and gloom for the next several days. Though the library does not close, even when classes are cancelled, I would hate to be snowed in at home with nothing to read!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Who's who, redo

The eternal statistics addict in me has noticed a trend over the last several days regarding 'hypothetical' blog traffic. There has been an increase in hits over the last four days, most of which can be traced to a single post in December: Who's Who? Who am I, What? The topic? None other than Cambridge Who's Who Among Executive and Professional Women in Education.

Guess a new round of nomination letters were sent out in January and people are doing Internet research on the topic. Some of the search terms used were: "who's who among executive and professional women," "scam cambridge who's who," "cambridge who's who," and "cambridge scam." It would be interesting to hear what decision other's have made regarding their acceptance into this directory.


The Adventures of Michael MacInnes

Under the heading of current reads, at least as of last Friday afternoon, is The Adventures of Michael MacInnes by first time author Jeff Carney (take a look at the journal on his website). It's not often that I am drawn to a book by its cover art; all too often the artistic rendition of the novel does not represent the book, but the publishers version of the book. When selecting a book to read I check the flaps and then open it to the middle and read a chapter. Picking and choosing from the numerous books ordered for the juvenile collection in the library is generally win-win since every purchase has an accompanying professional review. Yes, I know, a review is essentially someone's opinion and not a guarantee that I will "like" the book in question. But I was drawn to the almost graphic novel/comic book cover of this title and, in my humble opinion; it adds the right touch to this coming of age novel set at an all boy's boarding school in the 1920's.

Michael McInnis and Roger Legrande meet on the train ride to school. The boys strike up an interesting friendship not necessarily based on like personalities, the boys could not be any different, but the similarities are enough for them bond; both are dreading the new school, both are loners in their own right, and both have secrets of their own. Michael is a self proclaimed poet who has grown up in a series of orphanages. Roger has a scientific mind and is struggling with his sexuality. As with any all boys prep school, there are cliques, bullies, hazing, drinking (during the prohibition), sex, and girls.

This book takes readers through a short time in Michael and Roger's lives, and a time in history that is full of change. Carney's dialogue is realistic and he does not sugar coat issues faced by the characters. I am not so sure about the tag of historical fiction, but about half way through, I'm finding it an easy and compelling read.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

New books, new books, new books

Let's face it, I am a bit of a book geek. For the last several weeks there was been a nice steady flow of carts in juvenile literature, and it makes me happy. Today's batch includes books I ordered, along with selections made by another librarian in charge of a small annual budget given to the library to purchase juvenile literature. From a collection development standpoint, it is nice to have a second librarian making a contribution to the juvenile section of the library. Every librarian thinks he/she is building a well-rounded and unbiased collection. Generally speaking, this is the case. But, no matter how hard you try, some aspects a collection will begin to take on the personal choices of the librarian in charge of the purchasing.

After working as a children's librarian in a public library and teaching first grade, I tend to gravitate towards books reviewed as good for story time and group settings. The other librarian ordering has an interest in fantasy literature. Since she purchases that particular genre, I do not buy much fantasy. Today's cart has many very interesting titles, including Young Adult choices, graphic novels, picture books, and juvenile non-fiction:

The hardest part is looking over the cart and balancing what I want to read with what I will have time to read.

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An now, the weather

A small break to complain about the cold and make note of a few human oddities:

Yesterday, I stopped at the local Drug Mart to purchase a small space heater for the living room. With negative degree's forcasted over much of northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, it seemed like a good idea. I found a little ceramic space heater, reasonably priced (a relief), a very short distance away from the Easter candy display.

If the weather is below 0 degrees (it is a whopping -2 here) and the wind chill is -20, why do television stations force their meterologists to give the forcast from outside in the bitter weather?

Why did the same lovely weather people feel the need to tell us the temperature in Nome, Alaska was warmer than the current temperatures in central and northeastern Ohio? Was it to make us feel better? I think not.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


One of our recent juvenile collection acquisitions caught my eye upon arrival. Since the cataloging team is very kind, meaning they do not mind if I paw through the books before (and sometimes during) the cataloging process, I get to preview what was ordered. I have been paying special attention to juvenile art literature, including dance, theater, art, and music, to support children's literature project. Bob Raczka has published several "Art Adventure" series including More than Meets the Eye: Seeing Art with all Five Senses, and Here's Looking at Me: How Artists See Themselves. So, I was happy to see the latest, 3-D ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet, arrive in the library. It did not disappoint.

Another entry in Bob Raczka’s Art Adventures series, this smart picture book presents the alphabet in a unique manner by utilizing photos of sculpture. Each letter of the alphabet is introduced with a simple sentence, accompanied by a corresponding piece of sculpture, and includes an art appreciation statement. Children will enjoy the visually eclectic variety of sculpture presented, especially the larger than life entries “Walking Man” in Munich, Germany, and the cover art photo of “Spoonbridge and Cherry” in Minneapolis, Minnesota (photo credits are included at the books end). While some of the items chosen may be initially misconstrued, Y is a yellow sculpture and U is an upside down piano, they in no way retract from the overall appeal of this picture book.Use this in the classroom for art appreciation, the alphabet, or just for fun.

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Book lists and Academic Libraries

YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, announced several interesting book list with the last few weeks. Included are:

As with the Newbery and Caldecott award announcements, I peruse each list to locate which of these books currently exist in the library collection. While I follow the trend and automatically include Newbery and Caldecott books to the collection, it is after all, "expected," I look more closely at the YALSA lists before making any determination as to what should be purchased. Alex award winners are great picks for the library as they are often cataloged in the recreational reading area (they are not juvenile) and more closely fit with the library director's vision of having a more literary sampling in that collection. I have to admit I think many of the titles listed are suited more for a public library than an academic library.

We have a strong literature program, both early childhood and middle grade/young adult, at the university and it is important the library collection reflect equally upon various award winning titles. The books are being read by pre-service teachers, distinct literary value is constantly balanced with popular fiction. It is a struggle I do not have when purchasing picture books or juvenile fiction (in general). For example, I looked at the graphic novel list with interest; while this is a small portion of the library collection, reflected both in juvenile and regular circulating sections and it needs to be represented. We have, on order, only one of the top ten titles for teens.

It could be I simply missed several good titles, or this is one of the myriad of academic library - public library collection differences. I'm betting a combination of both (though I am not usually that far off the mark when it comes to having award winning titles). Nevertheless, some collection development elements overlap, others are very dissimilar, but there is no doubting the fact that population served by both libraries differ. I've worked as a children's librarian in a public library and probably would not have hesitated on the YALSA lists if the patron population supported and read the materials.

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