Monthly Archives: April 2015

Good morning, Baltimore

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I have a real blog post to write, but I don’t feel like writing it today.

Instead I have a few links to share about what’s going on in my hometown of Baltimore. (This blog is not the place to share my personal thoughts – it’s my book blog/storytime blog, not my “Let’s comment on civil unrest” blog, so I won’t say anything on how I feel.)

[It’s worth clarifying here, based on what I’m about to share, that many people don’t realize that “Baltimore” is made up of Baltimore City and Baltimore County, and thus has two different library systems: the Baltimore County Public Library, and the Baltimore City system, the Enoch Pratt Free Library. (Sister A works within BCPL.)]

One of the most notable and positive outcomes of the clashes in Ferguson, MO was the outpouring of love for the Ferguson Public Library, after it became a refuge for adults and children alike. Donations to the tiny space eventually topped $350,000. You also may remember that its director, Scott Bonner, won the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity from the American Library Association.

It seems like the same thing is happening in Charm City.

I urge you to check out the Pratt’s Twitter feed and see how happy and thankful people are to have their library open today as a resource. MTV News (!?) reported on the decision to stay open. (Please send them good vibes, love, and/or prayer, if that’s your thing. Or money, if that is.)

It’s essential that libraries stay open throughout the conflict, because they are a resource. A safe space. A haven. “A hub of comfort and community,” according to the article.

Libraries are all those things and more. And never more so than at times like these.

Baby Lapsit, Friday, April 24

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I’m back at Main Branch, and it feels good to be home. Back into my regular schedule, knowing the same routines, and seeing my regulars (a lot of whom very kindly said, “We missed you!”). I do miss Neighborhood Branch a lot, though. A lot. More than I thought I would. People are asking me if I want to transfer, and while a transfer to that particular branch isn’t in the cards, I have been able to see the benefits of working at a branch. (Notice I’m not answering the question. I don’t know the answer.)

I do have some ideas that I hope I can bring from Neighborhood Branch to Main Branch. Some wouldn’t work, but some would work well. So I’d have to talk to Boss and see if we could put some into play. For example, some branches, like Neighborhood Branch, have strict limits on age groups in storytime. Baby time is only for babies – non-walkers, that is. At Main Branch, we’re a little more relaxed. But I think there might be a lot of benefits to sticking firmly to toddlers-only or babies-only at the posted groups. That’s something I think I’ll suggest, for one.

Today was my first storytime since being back, and it was a baby storytime. A low turnout, sadly, but I used some good books, and we all had a good time.

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I did make the mistake of using The Seals on the Bus for babies. I should know better to stick to the standard “Wheels on the Bus,” which I’ll do in the future.

For songs, we did our usual bounces, and I modified a version of the Hokey Pokey so that instead of singing “You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around,” you sing “You do the Hokey Pokey and you’re bouncing up and down” if you have a baby on your lap. For older kids, we can do the Hokey Pokey as usual, but for laptime, it’s hard to turn a baby 360 degrees. So that one little change worked nicely.

And now you’re going to have the Hokey Pokey song in your head for the rest of the day! HA! TAKE THAT! Welcome to my life!

Links!

This isn’t a link, but I follow “Robert Galbraith” on Facebook, and the newest book will be published this autumn! Yay! Of course you all know that Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling, right?

In the top spot, look who won Pulitzer Prizes!

Buns! Lots and lots of buns!

We can all agree: this is stupid.

These are hilarious, and true.

Masterpiece has optioned Elizabeth Gilbert’s (she of Eat, Pray, Love) latest book.

Stolen from Friend R’s Facebook – one should take pride in one’s personal library (assuming one has one – not having a personal library is like not having any underwear).

From Friend D:

A good spencer makes the woman.

An update on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography: you still can’t get one, so there.

This one is dedicated to my book club gals: I won’t admit which one I am!

The commuter half of me says this is really poor form, but the reader half of me says this is kind of ballsy and awesome.

From Friend E:

A lot of people are taking Jonathan Crombie’s death hard, as if Gilbert Blythe the character has been wiped out out of existence. But for all of us who loved the movie version of Anne of Green Gables, Crombie’s portrayal is absolutely equal to our vision of Gilbert. Here’s why we love(d) him.

From Friend L:

You know how I feel about punctuation, and here’s a list of why commas can make or break a sentence. Note: language.

From Mama Bear:

I don’t know if I can go, but if I can, I will, because, I mean, Judy Blume.

ABOUT FREAKIN’ TIMEhuh, amirite, Sherman Alexie?

Don’t be a wife in gothic fiction. (Spoilers!)

A crisis indeed.

Subtle, they ain’t! But all fabulous.

From Sister A:

The cover art from Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On squee!

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I very much liked Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. I find extremes of any kind fascinating, and can’t imagine what it was like to have to sneak Judy Blume under my mattress or fantasize about wearing pants. This was a well-written set of vignettes.

Pajama and Family Storytimes, April 15 and 18

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My two last storytimes at Neighborhood Branch went quite well. I particularly enjoyed Pajama Storytime, since I had my usual cadre of participants – College Friend D and his son J, and was happily surprised by a mid-storytime visitor, College Friend C, and her three, G, H, and E! I didn’t even know they lived near me! Hooray!

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All of my books were new this week, and, no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you; that is indeed a French book in the middle (the title translates to One Wolf, Two Dogs, and Three Underpants). We had a lot of fun with that, as I read it to them in English. Side note: thank you, Mesdames E and T, for my Lower School French! The rest of the books, in English, were Interrupting Chicken and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. (I recommend the latter for older children, as I had to take some time to not only explain typewriters – damn, I’m old – but also the concepts of bargaining and negotiation.)

On Saturday, for Family Storytime, I wanted to really emphasize the concept of National Library Week (HOLLA!) So after Rrralph, borrowing Coworker S’s puppet, which you can see looks uncannily like Rrralph, and Tikki Tikki Tembo, which took freaking forever, and should be used only with older kids, I asked the participants what we see and do at the library. The first thing they said was “storytime,” which was lovely. We talked about movies and books and meetings and book clubs and all kinds of things that happen in libraries. Neighborhood Branch Boss happened to be watching this part, which was nice. The kids were super-responsive, which was relieving.

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So in the spirit of National Library Week, we then read Dinosaur vs. the Library, a new book for me, and the kids were eager roarers, even the one who hadn’t seemed interested in storytime at all up to this point. His parents told me afterward that he loves dinosaurs, so I suppose I hit his happy spot with a book about a roaring dinosaur.

In other news, one child told me this week that she loved me, and another told me I was his favorite librarian, even though he’d only met me 30 seconds before.

And then today I almost needed to break up an argument between patrons over who got to use the copier next.

Links! (You may notice the common theme of National Library Week running through these links.)

In recent deaths, Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass, and one that really tugs at my heartstrings, a literary figure by proxy, actor Jonathan Crombie, who played Gilbert Blythe in the Kevin Sullivan adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. (Here’s what Forever Young Adult had to say.)

This may not be child-friendly, but it’s fan-tastic (get it?).

Just hug your librarians anyway.

Right now I’m absolutely obsessed with Wolf Hall, so the news that… well, just read this for yourself.

And so, so, so many more.

From Camp Friend D:

I think they have been community anchors all along.

From Friend C:

Who wrote, “See how important your work is!” – but this is a viewpoint I hadn’t considered.

From Friend D:

Facts you probably didn’t know about The Great Gatsby.

If it’s done right, it can be very good.

From Friend P:

A new Wrinkle in Time?

From Friend R:

I’m biased, but I agree.

From Mama Bear:

Both Sister A and I got perfect scores. How will you fare?

This may have just decided my next vacation.

Or time it carefully for this?

I will get to these. I promise.

These are the tip of the iceberg.

EW talks with My Birthday Twin about Paper Towns.

My hero, Beverly Cleary, turned an astounding 99 years old earlier this week. YOU GO, BEVERLY CLEARY. FOUR FOR YOU, BEVERLY CLEARY. #meangirls Here are some of her “vintage” covers. I have to put that in quotes because some of the covers are the ones I had growing up, so they’re not quite as vintage as some of the other ones in the link.

Libraries, in any form, are amazing.

Summer reading, essential. Computers, not so much.

READ BANNED BOOKS. As often as you can. And make it a point for people to see you reading banned books. Congratulations to Sherman Alexie for topping the list.

So many terrific choices!

How sad to be remembered for these reasons.

From Sister A:

In other Beverly Cleary news, things every BC fan knows to be true.

Being a feminist in the kids’ section.

Any list about libraries and librarians has to include MatildaPeriod.

Any of your homesteads on here, chickadees?

“Don’t forget Alistair Cookie of Monsterpiece Theater,” she wrote (because she shares a birthday with the real Alistair Cooke.)

Maybe during that vacation to London, I’ll “accidentally” get locked in here.

Mama Bear loves British crime novels. Give her a dead body on a moor, and she’s very happy. Here are 11 new series.

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I zoomed through quite a few books recently, helped along by some welcome days off. Sometimes you read two books, back to back, and one is not great, and then the other is super-great, and the comparison is striking. First I read Invisible City, and figured out who the murderer was once all the main characters were introduced, so, meh. But then I read The Arrivals (which would make a great YA crossover, now that I think of it), and loved every page and every character. I demand a sequel.

After that I read an acknowledged rip-off/knock-off/blatant copy/”contemporary retelling” of my favorite book ever ever ever (so much so that the first sentence was “Last night I dreamt I went to [not Manderley] again”), and easily recognized which character was which… interesting, but not necessary to read. Next, speaking of not necessary to read, I read possibly the most depressing book I’ve ever read – and I’ve read Sophie’s Choice – and a YA book to boot. It’s called The Bunker Diary and had zero redeeming value to it, no resolution, no growth… I’m glad it was a quick read because it left such a bitter taste in my mouth.

LUCKILY! Who arrived on my holds list but the hilarious Amy Poehler, praise Beyonce, to cleanse my palate after that. So I read Yes Pleasehooray, which was fun, and then happened to grab a copy of Cary Elwes’ As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride, which I recommend to anyone who loves the movie, loves Cary Elwes (you should on both counts, frankly), or books about moviemaking. Not surprisingly, everyone had a great time making the movie and laughed a lot. Wish I’d been there. I think I’ll watch it tonight.

Pajama Storytime and Preschool Storytimes

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Boy, did I have two great storytimes in the past two days. I’ve been lucky enough to have a great cadre of regulars for my Pajama Storytime, so it’ll be super-sad when I have to leave to go back home to Main Branch.

For PJ on Wednesday – counting me, we had three sets of Pajamas (well, mine didn’t match), but one set of vampire teeth, and another set of knights and castles, both on boys, and it was epically adorable – we had a great time.

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My new book this time was Jan Thomas’ Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny, but it’s not like I was worried about how it might be received, because, come on: Jan Thomas, right? Always reliable, always hilarious. A few drop-in families had a good time, too, and I hope they’ll come back.

Before I get to my next storytime report, I want to share that I finished my big project here: sorting, cataloging, and “dotting” the holiday collection. Most of it was in order, and not all of it was marked as “holiday” in the database – a lot of it was marked “children” instead – and any book marked “holiday” also needed a green dot on it, to make it easily identifiable. Once they were marked, they needed to be put in order per holiday: non-fiction, then fiction (picture book, chapter book, easy reader, board book), then media (CD, then DVD).

Remember those paint sticks? Holiday separators. Voila!

Here’s a look at the green dots up close, with some of the sticks:

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And the holidays (a few, that had fewer than 5 materials, were demoted to the regular collection. Sorry, Arbor Day.):

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Some people might find this daunting, but I love tasks like this. I’m so Type A that I LOVE getting things in order and making things right.

This morning I had a small, private preschool storytime for a local daycare. The kids were wonderful and well-behaved, the adults were enthusiastic and participatory, and the child:adult ratio was 2:1… in short, it was a far cry from Main Branch. How sad.

We had a good time with some old favorites, and the new book, Wee Little Bunny, was the perfect source for participation and hand motions for kids this age.

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If all of my storytimes were this enthusiastic and smooth…!

I was shelving in our easy readers the other day, and I noticed this book. It’s a real book, and a legit easy reader, but it’s darkly funny and has parts in it about vampires and bats. I’m not sure if our collections person knew this when she was ordering it, or has a wicked sense of humor I never knew about before, but I smile every time I see it. It’s charming in the Dick and Jane throwback way (I think I bought my mom this a few years ago), so if you know of an emerging reader with hip parents, it will make a great gift.

Links:

In the top spot, an article to read about the creative process – how those YA books we love get written. (And a must-read for fans of my Birthday Twin!)

More better book titles – these courtesy of The Soup. (Just skip through the ads.)

We’re having #16 at our Staff Day in a few weeks.

These would be awesome.

From Friend L:

Buy me a plane ticket, someone! (Still only been to one of these.)

Drawings and facts! Betcha didn’t know these.

From Mama Bear:

Yeah, all of them.

So my family once went to Portland for my cousin’s wedding, and Sister A and I naturally threw ourselves on the ground and pounded our fists and screamed and yelled that we HAD to go to the Ramona Park or else our parents didn’t love us and wasn’t Klickitat Street nearby and could we go pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease (I was in college at the time, shut up)* so we went, and it was awesome, and there are pictures (next time I’m home, I’ll find some, and scan them, and put them in a future post). TL;DR: you can visit there. 

*this may or may not have actually happened. 

A new website! Check it out. 

April is National Poetry Month, and what better way to commemorate the occasion that lots of hot people reading poems?

Sister A and I regularly laugh at a hometown restaurant that regularly featured “chocolate mouse cake” on the menu.

From Sister A:

Because Mallory Ortberg of “The Toast” is HILARIOUS and should be recognized for her genius.

You know how I feel about this man.

I never read this till a few years ago, and I know everyone loved it, but it really never took with me. Maybe I was just too old.

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I finished a terrific YA book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, about a gay teenage girl in Montana in the early 90s (yikes) who loses her parents (double yikes) and whose Bible-thumping aunt sends her to a gay-conversion boarding school (triple yikes). It’s written with a lot of heart, and it’s a valuable addition to the LGBTQA section of any YA library. 

Surprise Seder Puppy Storytime

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Happy Easter and Passover, chickadees. This past weekend I went home to Baltimore to head to my usual Seder, the one I’ve been going to for 14 (!) years, at my friends’ (they’re sisters) S’s and N’s and their parents’ house. (By great good fortune, their parents’ house is about 10 minutes from my parents’ house, so it works out beautifully.)

This year, N got a puppy, Albert, and S asked me to bring some books to do a little puppy storytime, which I interpreted as S and N and Albert and I reading some stories. But what I had forgotten is that when S and N do something for Passover, they do it up right, so it ended up being me, the dog, and all the Seder attendees before the dinner began, and me doing a full-fledged, hardcore, pretend-everyone-is-four-years-old storytime.

Albert was legitimately the youngest one there (“Did he have a bark mitzvah?” asked Sister A, the punster of the family), but the next youngest folks were S’s and N’s cousin, a high schooler, so it was a Seder of adults, all of whom graciously sat through my storytime and pretended to enjoy it. Some of them actually may have. It was a lot of fun.

Here’s Albert, by the way. You may notice that he’s wearing a little doggie yarmulke and tallit.

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I read Dayenu, a little board book, which was a simplified version of the actual song, and a funny, yiddische version of the Little Red Hen story, called The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah, and we sang “Head, shoulders, knees and toes,” (a modified, sitting-down version), and I kept it short and sweet. What fun!

Links:

In the top spot: THE TOURNAMENT OF BOOKS! Forget your other brackets (what’s this NCAA mess?), check this out! I’m very excited about the final winner, as you’ll see at the end.

In other news, I’m still just not sure. I’m sorry, but it’s all fishy to me.

Um, ouch!

A map library? A map library.

“You have lost track of your twin again.”

The brilliant parodies on Sesame Street continue. This one? Game of Thrones.

From Friend D:

Gee, I wonder what this says about Amazon?

You need to be a little brilliant, and a little weird, to have this kind of talent.

Mad Men is back! Here are some of the literary references – and there are lots – they’ve made so far.

From Friend L:

Need some new YA to read? Here are some underrated YA series.

From Friend P:

Who wants to chip in with me??

From Library Friend D, who lives in LA:

To put on my list, and your list, and everyone’s list…

From Mama Bear:

The 11 greatest children’s books… your thoughts?

Some childhood classics – all of which particularly considered classics in our family.

Picture books are absolutely NOT JUST for kids! Some are real works of art.

With the debut of Wolf Hall this week, based on Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker-prize winning novel (and you should watch it, it’s excellent), here’s a question: could you survive Henry VIII’s amorous attentions?

From Sister A:

There is one at the school right next to Neighborhood Branch!

It’s National Poetry Month! Here are some projects to try. In Neighborhood Branch, we have up a Poet-Tree; isn’t that cute?

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I’d been on the waiting list for Station Eleven FOR. EVER. and finally, finally got it. It was worth the wait. Carefully crafted, spooky and disturbing as all hell, and one that won’t leave me for a long time. It’s obvious why it was on all the best-of lists in 2014. Not for delicate minds, though – it’s a vision of the end of our civilization as we know it, and it will hit you hard.

Pajama Storytimes, Wednesdays, March 26 and April 1

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My chickadees, I’m sorry, I’ve been lazy and not updated this blog in fo-eva (wow, sorry, I hang with the tweens a lot, I’m turning into one, clearly).

Last week’s Pajama Storytime was the one week I forgot to wear my pajamas (natch) and had about 20 attendees. Whew! How about that? And of course I forgot to take pictures of the books I used, too. But I used Caps for Sale and Count the Monkeys and another book I can’t remember. Sorry.

For today’s storytime, being April Fool’s Day, I wanted to use the absolute silliest books I could find. (Part of me was thinking about just getting random Christmas and Hanukkah and Halloween books and using those, but that might just confuse the little ones, saying, “Hey, guess what, today is Halloween!”) So I stuck with plain old silly books. Again, I forgot to take pictures, but I used The Book With No PicturesCan You Make a Scary Face, we sang Peanut Butter and Jelly (a real blast from the past, that one) and read a new book, Dinosaur Kisses, which was fun! It was a small group, but a good one.

But guess what else I got to do today?

LEGOS!

Earlier this year, Neighborhood Branch applied for, and received, a grant from their Friends of the Library group to purchase some starter sets for Legos, and now has a steadily attended weekly Lego Construction Crew – that’s really what it’s called, isn’t it great? – at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. The tagline is “We supply the Legos, you bring your imagination.” We had an enthusiastic group of mostly regulars, but some newbies, and they were so, so excited to be there, and to show me their creations, and explain the (often lengthy) backstories behind the creations.

Here are some of the masterpieces.

This one's mine. I forgot windows. But it has a swimming pool and diving board, and a ladder to the roof  where you can sit and read. Not even my idea - wish it were.

This one’s mine. I forgot windows. But it has a swimming pool and diving board, and a ladder to the roof where you can sit and read. Not even my idea – wish it were.

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This one was done by a mother/daughter team – a robot pool with animals in it, TVs, and a sheep somewhere. Notice the jet skis. Epic.

Done by an eight-year-old boy. Notice the flowers; he said the house wasn't complete without them. I agreed.

Done by an eight-year-old boy. Notice the flowers; he said the house wasn’t complete without them. I agreed.

Also, what are these for? (Yes, they’re paint stirrers.) You’ll find out soon!

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Links:

In the top spot, I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.

In the next-to-top spot, this almost guarantees that Ready Player One will be excellent.

In the third-runner-up spot, my coworkers and I all teared up a little bit watching this. We wished we could say this is what we do in a day. (And this is why you should throw ALL THE MONEY at your local libraries.)

New children’s better book titles.

Realistic YA plots. I know a lot of teens, and these are all true.

The cover of Go Set a Watchman revealed.

Community” being the key word here.

The worlds’ most translated books may surprise you.

Alexander McCall Smith – who just rewrote GAHHHHHH Emma – on making Our Jane available to the masses.

“Free books” are two of my favorite words in the world.

NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Could you survive in the Harry Potter books? (Spoiler, I did not.)

From Friend D:

A fascinating little story about a little bookshop.

Print ain’t dead anywhere, but nowhere like in NYC.

Did you know that Mies Van Der Rohe designed the main Washington, D.C. library?

And these aren’t even the best insults. But good ones to keep in mind, should you need one.

From Friend L:

I try not to believe in “books you absolutely have to read,” but there are some cornerstones of world lit on this list.

Another Stieg Larsson book?!?!

From Mama Bear:

I refuse to post my score on the grounds it may incriminate me. Let’s just say I didn’t even hit 50%.

I got 11/15. That’s sad.

The trailer for J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. 

Here’s the dream cast for that Little Women remake from my last post.

Libraries aren’t going anywhere – and honestly none of them are improbable.

Some sweet remembrances from Neil Gaiman about Terry Pratchett.

Mama Bear, Sister A and I all got Elizabeth, which praise Beyonce, because anyone would have been acceptable, except Mary, because she is boring.

A new museum for Dr. Seuss!

Deep.

Some bookish hotels (my trip to Brooklyn last month was possibly my first ever in which I didn’t stop into the Plaza to pay my respects to Eloise… I’m not kidding.)

Great GIFs, but the comments are the best part.

From Sister A:

Clarissa Explains it All novel in which Clarissa is all grown up! (And it bears repeating – one of the early writers of the show was The Hunger Games’ Suzanne Collins.)

Another gem by Mallory Ortberg, who wrote Texts from Jane Eyre. (Don’t skip the comments.)

Sister A and I agreed on most fronts on this (neither of us were SVH readers).

Her first one was delightful, so can’t wait to read the second. You know there’s some juicy Christopher Plummer tidbits in there.

Some fascinating secrets from the publishers behind Harry Potter. Definitely worth reading.

More HP/JKR secrets.

In What’s Annabelle Reading, I read Unbecoming, another one of those unreliable narrator, manipulative female protagonist books, and it was good, in the same vein as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I also read one of the most fascinating books I’d read in a long time, but it was about so many topics that it could have focused on any one of them and been good. Instead, it felt jumbled. But it took place mostly in Baltimore, so hooray for that.