2018 Reading Wrap-Up

Here’s the 2017 reading wrap-up, with links to all previous years (through 2013). This year, I read a rather astonishing number of books: 597. But let’s start breaking down that number…

Partially-read and Started-didn’t-finish: 19. Some of these I read a few pages of, others a few chapters or chunks; there were some cookbooks, gardening books, and how-to books that I didn’t read cover to cover, as well as a novel I gave up on, a book of essays, and a book of poetry I read parts of but didn’t finish.

Early reader: 35. I created this new tag in LibraryThing this year as I started reading these with my daughter. They have more words than most picture books – certainly more text per page – but they still have illustrations on every page.

Picture books: 359. Yeah, here’s where it gets crazy. Almost all of these I read with my daughter, most more than once (some many times), and I probably used a few dozen in my storytimes.

Now we’re down to a much more reasonable 184 books this year, especially when you consider that a lot of those are middle grade or young adult:

Middle grade: 44

YA/teen: 41. (Some books (8) were tagged both middle grade and YA, because I don’t have a “tween” category.)

Graphic novels: 18. Nearly all of these were middle grade or YA, and thus are included in the numbers above.

Audiobooks: 25. These are also included in other tags, mostly children’s, middle grade, and YA, with the exception of one Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express), Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman’s The Greatest Love Story Every Told, and Morgan Jerkins’ This Will Be My Undoing.

That brings the number down to 107 adult fiction or nonfiction books.

Nonfiction: About 32, including some how-to books on gardening, sewing, quilting, cleaning, and cookbooks, along with Big Biographies and Serious Works of Nonfiction and Critical Essays etc etc etc.

Fiction: 36

Short stories: 11

And people said I wasn’t going to be able to read as much once I had a kid!

Math whizzes will notice that the numbers don’t entirely add up; that’s due to overlapping tags.

 

Pie chart showing author gender
For as long as I’ve been a LibraryThing member (about 6 years now), my “author gender” pie chart has been very close to 50-50, tipping definitively female just last year. That trend continues this year.

 

#WeNeedDiverseBooks: I started using this tag in LibraryThing toward the end of 2017. I use it for books by authors of color (AOC) or about characters who are diverse in some way – their race, socioeconomic status, nationality, immigration status, abilities, etc. In other words, if it’s not straight, white, middle-class America, I’m trying to use this tag.

Five-star ratings: 36! I was much more generous this year than last year. Of these, 16 are picture books or early readers.  (Blog post about favorite books read in 2018 to come.)

Re-reading: As a kid, I re-read my favorite books all the time. Now I re-read less, in no small part because I worked in publishing after college and realized how many new books there are, and now I work in libraries and am surrounded by them every day. But I do believe in the pleasures of re-reading, especially after many years have gone by (or not). This fall I re-read the entire Harry Potter series start to finish (including The Cursed Child) and it was delightful to zoom straight through them all without having to wait years for the next one to be published. I also re-read some of Kate Milton’s Nagspeake books this winter, Ghosts of Greenglass Hosue and Bluecrowne. I re-read John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down because I read it so fast the first time, and I re-read Mandy by Julie Andrews, which I barely remembered at all but loved all over again. I re-read Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, which I hadn’t read since my first semester of college, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and of course I read many, many picture books over and over.

Another year of reading is off to a great start – 21 books already in January, include Kelly Link’s excellent story collection Get In Trouble, which I’ve been meaning to read for years, Kelly Loy Gilbert’s astounding YA novel Picture Us in the Light, and Laurie Colwin’s 1988 book of food essays/memoir, Home Cooking.

 

 

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Accio Firebolt! Harry Potter trivia at the library

Cardboard Hermione
Cardboard Hermione says: Have you done your homework?

Several months ago, I was talking to the Assistant Director at our library, and then I found myself planning an all-ages Harry Potter trivia event at the library. (Does this happen to you?) Last Saturday was the big day, and all our preparation paid off! It helps that Harry Potter is perennially (permanently?) popular, so registration filled up well before the day of the event, and we had a long waitlist. Nearly everyone who had a spot came, which meant we had just over 60 people, and everyone seemed to have a great time – kids, teenagers, and adults alike.

Here’s what we did, so you can do it too!

Preparation

This is not a program that one person can run alone, at least not the way we did it. Figure out the scale of your event, then how many people you need (or, figure out how many people you have, and then how much you’ll be able to do). This event can scale up or down; we had three staff people at the event, and decided to do food and drink, music and some decorations, and a photo frame, but you could skip those and just do the trivia, or you could make it even bigger (see: Brookline Public Library).

Here are the tasks we carried out before the day of the event:

  • Figure out a point person, who will visualize and organize the event, match people and tasks, and make sure everything is ready (that was me!)
  • Make up the questions! We had seven rounds (one for each book) of five questions each. Some were multi-part and worth more points. We also had a couple of practice questions, and some between-rounds questions (no points for those).

    img_20190112_134921
    Door prizes: House-themed tumblers (Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Slytherin)
  • Buy (or make) prizes. We got door prizes (House mugs) and prizes for the winning team (Harry Potter themed candy). The candy came with temporary tattoos, which we put out for all attendees to take and use.
  • Set up the scoring spreadsheet. We used Google Spreadsheets.
  • Test the tech. I had a hand-held mic, and played music from the soundtrack of the first movie using a projector as our CD player.
  • Add the event to the calendar on the library website, and manage registrations/waitlist.
  • Promote the event on library social media. We use Hootsuite to push to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (I posted several warm-up trivia questions to Facebook to gauge interest in the program before we officially put it on the calendar.)
  • Plan and prepare food and drink. One of our children’s librarians caters on the side, so she did 100% of the food and drink prep, including pretzel wands, “cauldron cakes” (pumpkin cookies), and Butterbeer (non-alcoholic, of course).
  • Design and create a photo frame. We have a very artsy teen librarian, who transformed mat board and paint into the front page of the Daily Prophet.
  • Make “quills”: Our teen librarian found fancy feathers and metallic tape to make Bic pens into magical quills (we also put an anti-cheating spell on them, of course).
  • Gather other decorations. I had access to a life-size cardboard Hermione, several owl puppets, some wizard hats, and some Golden Snitches.

Day of Event

Here are the tasks we handled in the hour before the event, during the event, and the hour after the event:

img_20190112_133021
Golden Snitches flying above the doorway
  • Set up chairs in clusters of twos, threes, and fours. (Some people also sat on the floor.)
  • Set up tech: Start the music and do a mic check. We had the soundtrack to the first movie playing at low volume throughout the event. A mic is essential for accessibility (and so that the MC doesn’t lose their voice after two hours).
  • Food and drink: Set up snacks and butterbeer, attend the snack table throughout the event, and clean up afterward.
  • Decorations: Hang up Golden Snitches, place owls and wizard hats around, set up cardboard Hermione.
  • Photo frame: Show people how to take pictures with the photo frame (get verbal consent – or signed waivers, if that’s what your library requires – to post any photos on library social media).
  • Greet attendees: I set up a small table at the door to the room so I could check people off the registration list as they arrived, then explain how to enter the door prize raffle, and give each team a quill and half a pad of post-its.

    Gold-tipped feathers attached to pens
    Quills (pens with fancy feathers attached)
  • Introduction, announcements, and reading the questions and answers! Make sure to point out emergency exits. And give people a few minutes to come up with a team name before the practice question.
  • Scorekeeping: We ended up conscripting a volunteer (thanks, Mom!) to assist our scorekeeper; see “what we’ll do differently next time” below.
  • Draw door prize raffle winners (a good time to do this is while the final scores are being tallied).
  • Announce winners and hand out prizes.
  • Clean up!
  • Post pictures to social media.

Budget

This can be really flexible, but here’s about what we spent:

  • Food and drink: about $100 for ingredients, including “Butterbeer” (about 70 cups; cream soda, whipped cream, butterscotch syrup; 1 bottle of soda, 2 cans of whipped cream, and 1 bottle of syrup left over), “cauldron cakes” (60 pumpkin cookies, none leftover), pretzel wands (80 chocolate and 80 plain; pretzels, chocolate, sprinkles; about 6 plain ones left over); “Every Flavour Beans” (3 bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans, none left over).
  • Prizes: Mugs for door prizes were $17.50 each ($70 total for four), and the candy and tattoos were $30.
  • Art supplies for photo frame and decorations: about $20 for the mat board and feathers (cost of paint and paintbrushes not included)
  • Total: About $220, not including staff time

What worked

Really, almost everything. We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from attendees so far, and most things went pretty smoothly – we even ran on time! It was really helpful to gather advice from other librarians who had run similar programs before, and let staff who were helping with the program play to their strengths/interests. We also had a lot of enthusiasm and support from our awesome Assistant Director! And the questions, it turned out, were neither impossibly hard nor too easy. However, there are always little improvements to be made, so…

What we’ll do differently next time

  • Questions and scorekeeping: The between-round questions were originally intended to be for points, but our scorekeepers were having a little trouble keeping up (there were 14 teams, all running up the answers to each question on post-its), so I made the on-the-fly decision to have those be hands-up questions for no points; most teams got a chance to answer at least part of one of the between-rounds questions, just for fun. Our scorekeeper said afterward that having a separate page for each round of questions and answers would have helped a lot (i.e., Round One questions and answers on one page, Round Two questions and answers on the next page, etc.).
  • Allow more time for everyone to enter and get settled. As I said, we ran on time, but that’s mostly because we definitely didn’t spend 2-3 minutes per question as I had budgeted. We opened the doors about five minutes before 2pm, and didn’t really get started until 2:15. It took a while to check attendees against the registration list and explain how the door prizes worked, and meanwhile people were taking pictures with the photo frame, getting snacks, forming teams, and choosing team names.
  • Remember to read the answers after each round! People want to know. Also, one of our answers had a mistake in it (eek! I had S.P.E.W. standing for the Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare when it should have been the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare. No surprise that the team that corrected me on that was the eventual winning team!).
  • Also, read the team names aloud. After round one would be a good time. They were so clever! We didn’t announce the scores halfway through like they often do at pub trivia, but you could do that if your scorekeeper is caught up.
  • Prizes: The door prizes were a great idea (yes, I’m patting myself on the back for that one), but it would have been nice to have prizes for the top three teams instead of just the winning team. The HP-themed candy is cool, but there’s not a lot of bang for the buck, so I’ll try to find something else for next time – Harry Potter coloring postcards, maybe?

So, we didn’t get 320% on our Muggle Studies exam like Hermione, but Harry Potter trivia at the library was definitely a success, and I’m already looking forward to running it again later this year, perhaps around Harry’s birthday – ten points to your House if you know when that is!

Library social media (Facebook, Twitter) posts from the day of the event:

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wpl-tw-hp3

wpl-tw-hp2

 

Step Into Storytime, January 14

This week’s storytime crowd was a little bigger than last week’s, and it was a mix of regulars, occasional visitors, and new faces. We had about ten to start, and about eight by the end, with some coming and going in between.

Rabbit puppet and six picture books on the storytime chair

I started the way I usually do, with a welcome and songs.

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello friends” song with ASL
  • Name song (“___ is here today”)

Next, I asked a question: Does anyone know of an animal with long ears, a fluffy white tail, and it hops? Eventually the kids came up with “bunny,” and I brought out the rabbit puppet. Everyone got a chance to pet it before we started the story.

  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
  • Yoga cube
  • I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep! by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt. We read I Don’t Want to Be A Frog! last week, and I’ve got the next two Frog books ready for the following weeks.
  • Song cube: “Row, row, row your boat”
  • When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson. I thought this went over pretty well despite its tall, narrow trim size (a little smaller than most picture books).
  • Song: “Happy birthday” (no one in the room had a January birthday, or would admit to it if they did, so we sang to Julie, the author)
  • Yoga cube
  • Pete’s A Pizza by William Stieg: Kids were starting to get a little fidgety by this point, so I invited them to do the pizza-making motions along with Pete’s parents: kneading, tossing, adding tomatoes and cheese, putting it in the oven, cutting it up, etc. Worked pretty well!
  • Song cube: “Shake Your Sillies Out” (with shaker eggs)
  • Dog Blue by Polly Dunbar: A perfectly good book for storytime, but I should have skipped it this time; kids were getting wiggly and some were wandering out.
  • Yoga cube
  • Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won: The kids who remained seemed to like this one (it’s usually a hit, and a safe bet for the end of the line-up)
  • Goodbye song with ASL
  • Clean up mats
  • Make snowflake wands with last week’s die-cut snowflakes and pipe cleaners
  • Dance to “Shake Your Sillies Out” and “Twinkle Twinkle”

Most kids liked waving their snowflake wands during the music, but didn’t want to keep them, which reinforces my belief (based on observation and talking with other librarians) that at this age (2-3 years), any crafts are strictly process over product. Next week, I think we’ll be doing some gluing to go with Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier. Till then, keep warm!

New year! Step Into Storytime, January 7

For the first Monday “Step Into Storytime” session of the year we had lots of our regulars – about eight kids in the target age range (2-3 years) and one younger sibling. It was so great to see everyone again!

Flannel board with caterpillar and fruit, yoga cube, song cube, picture books
Very Hungry Caterpillar and fruit (including an extra fifth strawberry), yoga cube, song cube, picture books for storytime

We started off with our usual “Hello Friends” song with ASL from Jbrary, and then we sang a name song because there were fewer than ten kids (with more than ten or so, it goes on too long).

  • Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller features Aria and her hair, which she loves – and so does everyone else. It’s a colorful but firm message about consent, and the perfect length for storytime.
  • I brought a different song cube this time to change things up; the first song we rolled was “Wheels on the Bus.”
  • I Don’t Want To Be A Frog by Dev Petty, with illustrations by Mike Boldt is about a frog who would rather be almost anything else…but discovers that there is one big upside to being a frog. It is very funny (and there are more Frog books).
  • Yoga cube (3 poses)
  • We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins is one of my favorite picture books published last year. I was taking a little bit of a gamble that the kids’ attention would stretch to three longer books, and it worked. (Humor works!)
  • Song cube: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle with flannel caterpillar, fruit, and (new!) butterfly (I got to play with the hot glue gun during the holiday hiatus from storytimes). I let the kids take turns coming up and taking off the fruit for each day of the week.
  • Yoga cube (3 poses)
  • Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar, even though it was a sunny day today, and a parent ended up taking this one home afterward – yay!
  • Song cube: “Where Is Thumbkin?” I use the version of this I saw at a Cambridge Public Library storytime, which omits the “sir,” rather than the one I remember from childhood.
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, even though we haven’t had any snow yet…we made our own! I handed out paper snowflakes (thank you, die-cut) to the kids (and then to the grown-ups), and at the line “New snow was falling,” we all threw them up in the air to make it snow.
  • Goodbye song with ASL, stack up mats, bring out blocks to play with

 

Multicolored felt butterfly
Felt and a hot glue gun makes a beautiful butterfly!

1/9/19 Edited to add this piece from The Horn Book Magazine, “What Makes A Good Storytime?” by Julie Roach of the Cambridge Public Library, May/June 2016, including “Ten Tips for Reading Aloud.”

 

Top Ten Books to Read in 2019

There are some exciting books coming out this year! (I say that every year. It’s true every year.) Here are the ones I’m looking forward to and intend to read, as well as some older books that I plan to move to the head of the queue this year:

  1. Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken: I’ll read whatever she writes.
  2. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: I’ll read almost anything she writes, and historical fiction is one of my favorite genres; this one is set in New York in the 1940s.
  3. Feel Free by Nick Laird: This poetry collection, his fourth, was slated to come out last year and the pub date got bumped to July 2019. Waiting…
  4. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: Will it be as magical as The Night Circus? We’ll see…in November.
  5. The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker: Literary fiction, good reviews so far, and I liked The Age of Miracles.
  6. Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley: Relish is still my favorite of hers; I think I’d like the others better if I was her exact contemporary, or a little younger instead of a little older, but I do like her style, and graphic novels are quick reads.
  7. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: Also due out last year and then the pub date got bumped. If it’s the same quality as The Hate U Give, though, I’m willing to wait.
  8. Getting toward the end of the list, I’m going to crowd three books into one here, as they all fall under the #WeNeedDiverseBooks/award-winning YA umbrella: Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, and The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. Also Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert, which is already sitting at the top of my pile.
  9. Walking Home by Simon Armitage: This has been kicking around on my to-read list for ages; this is the year.
  10. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link: I’ve been meaning to read more of her deliciously weird, off-kilter stories.

So that’s adult fiction and nonfiction, teen fiction and nonfiction, a graphic novel, and a book of poems…and that’s just for starters. I’m also looking forward to reading plenty of middle grade, more nonfiction in general (always a goal, and this year I’m broadening it to include TV as well), more recommendations from fellow readers. What books are you excited to read this year?

 

Edited to add: Also, short stories Tenth of December by George Saunders; nonfiction on climate change (e.g. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert or Rising by Elizabeth Rush); and more fiction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I’ve already read Americanah, so it’ll be either The Thing Around Your Neck, Purple Hibiscus, or Half of a Yellow Sun. Opinions, anyone?).

#Libfaves18, or, Top Ten Books of 2018

#Libfaves18 is a Twitter phenomenon in which librarians tweet out their favorite books published in 2018, one a day, for ten days, and someone compiles a list. Librarians love their lists, and in fact we already have a “Favorite of Favorites” list from LibraryReads, but librarians just love talking about books. And also, the year wasn’t over yet when the “Favorite of Favorites” list was published – there’s still more reading time in the year! (By that logic, we should wait till January to make our year-end lists – some of us do.) Another difference is that, to nominate books for Library Reads, you need to get galleys, read, and nominate them ahead of time; with Twitter, anyone can jump in.

Here are my #Libfaves2018:

  1. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (adult fiction)
  2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (young adult fiction/fantasy)
  3. The Witch Elm by Tana French (psychological mystery/suspense)
  4. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (picture book)
  5. Transcription by Kate Atkinson (adult fiction/historical/suspense)
  6. The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis (middle grade fiction/fantasy)
  7. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (memoir)
  8. Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (picture book)
  9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll (young adult graphic novel)
  10. Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit (nonfiction essays)

This list may look quite different from my list (coming soon-ish) of best books I’ve read this year, because many of those were published before this year. For example, I just finished listening to the audiobook of Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, narrated by Jim Dale, and it was magical, but it’s from 2011 and therefore doesn’t qualify for #Libfaves18.

What are your favorite books that you read this year? Published in 2018 or not?

Updated 12/19/2018: The blog RA for All has a more thorough explanation of #Libfaves18, and past lists are hosted at EarlyWord.

Step Into Storytime, December 17

This morning was my last Step Into Storytime of the year! (I actually didn’t realize this until the end, when someone asked if there was going to be one next week, and I ran to check the calendar.) We started with seven or eight kids and ended up with about twelve, I think, plus a couple of babies.

Donkey puppet atop stack of picture books

  • Welcome and announcements (this is where I should have mentioned that there wasn’t going to be a storytime the next two Mondays)
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL
  • Name song (“____ is here today, ____ is here today, let’s all clap our hands, ____ is here today”)
  • I Am Actually A Penguin by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek: Putting the longest book first in the set worked! The kids were pretty quiet and attentive and the grown-ups definitely enjoyed it. There is something to be said for getting the grown-ups’ engagement during storytime; it’s best if everyone enjoys the program.
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • Yoga cube
  • Just Add Glitter by Angela DiTerlizzi and Samantha Cotterill: I encountered this one in a storytime for three- to five-year-olds and thought it could work for the younger kiddos also – and it did! (We did NOT do a related craft program.)
  • Song cube: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
  • Yoga cube
  • Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton
  • Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot”
  • Hickory Dickory Dock by Keith Baker: I asked the kids to make the animal noises on the appropriate pages (pig, horse, etc.) and they are so good at that.
  • Yoga cube
  • The Wonkey Donkey by Craig Smith, illustrated by Katz Cowley. (This one is so in demand in our library system right now that I bought my own copy.) We have a donkey hand puppet that I bring out as well, and the kids get to come up and pet it both before and after the book. And make the “hee-haw” sounds, of course! Lots of sound effects today.
  • Song cube: “ABCs,” “Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon”
  • Goodbye song with ASL
  • Clean up mats and hand out Wonky Donkey coloring sheets (available on the author’s website) and bowls of crayons
Five picture books
I Am Actually A Penguin, Just Add Glitter, Please Mr. Panda, Little Owl Lost, Hickory Dickory Dock (not pictured: The Wonky Donkey)