Step into Storytime, February 10

Storytime books with bowls of crayons

There was a big group for storytime this morning, about 15 kids plus their adults, and many of them were at the younger end of our age group. I put out some extra colored sitting mats because I could tell not everyone would fit on the rug. Fortunately, most of my books today were relatively short and simple, and/or had an interactive component, and most of the group stayed through till the craft at the end.

  • Welcome and announcements (library is closed next Monday for Presidents’ Day)
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Mr. Scruff by Simon James: I adore this new book, which reminds me of Let’s Get A Pup, Said Kate by Bob Graham, but is much shorter and therefore perfect for two- and three-year-olds. There are person-and-dog rhyming pairs (e.g. Molly and Polly), and then there’s Mr. Scruff and Jim…who make a perfect pair, even though their names don’t rhyme.
  • Quick wiggle: Wiggle fingers up to the sky, down by our toes, out to the sides (if you can without hitting a neighbor), repeat.
  • Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer: One of my all-time favorite books to read at storytime. Everyone can identify with the grumpy penguin who washes away his mood by taking a nice cold bath.
  • Song cube: “ABCs” and “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” The latter we sang three times: regular, slow, fast. This is a simple way to change it up and the kids are usually into it – it’s like a game.
  • My Heart Is Like A Zoo by Michael Hall: I explained that all of the animals in the book were made with heart shapes, and asked if anyone knew what holiday was coming up on Friday (Valentine’s Day). I pulled my felt animals out and the kids identified them (except the clam, which is a tricky one); once they were on the felt board, I asked them to point to them when we got to that animal in the book (clam, crab, owl, penguin, frog). They did great!felt board tickle monster
  • Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau: There are a lot of pieces to this felt creation, so I asked the kids for help to put it together. I propped up the book cover so they could see what Tickle Monster was supposed to look like, then pulled the felt pieces out one by one and they told me what each one was and where to put it.
  • Yoga cube: Warrior one, forward fold, half lift, chair pose (with our invisible chairs, of course). Then some bilateral, cross-the-midline movement: touching right hand to left foot and left hand to right foot.
  • The Button Book by Sally Nicholls and Bethan Woollvin: This is a new book that invites the reader to take part in the story by pushing different colored buttons and making sounds or doing actions (beep, thbbbt, tickle, hug, bounce, sing, etc.). It includes two songs (“Wheels on the Bus” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) and is just generally fun and delightful – recommended for groups who like Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson, There’s A Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda, etc.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Clean up mats
  • Craft: color and glue paper hearts to butcher paper on the floor (or color hearts and take them home to give as valentines)

Step into Storytime *and* Preschool Storytime, February 3 & 4

 

Step into Storytime, February 3

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
  • The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury: A classic, and they can help count to three with Mama Frog.
  • Song cube: “ABCs” and “I’m A Little Teapot”
  • Yoga: mountain pose, forward fold/seated forward fold
  • Chicken Wants A Nap by Traci Marchini and Monique Felix
  • Mouse House game: Usually I save this for toward the end when the kids are getting wiggly and chatty, but in this case I moved it up because they were so quiet and I wanted to get them more engaged. (I know it’s possible to be engaged and quiet while listening to a book, but I felt like shifting gears would be helpful.) Needless to say, they were super into it, they love this game.
  • Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
  • Song cube: “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon” (I had the lyrics for the kookaburra song up, but decided not to sing it)
  • Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier: Our library copy was destroyed (every page scribbled on, some ripped), so I bought my own. It’s a simple but creative concept, nice and bright, and an easy tie-in craft.
  • “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with scarves. I handed out two each and we practiced waving them, throwing and catching them, then sang “Twinkle” in star pose, leaning or rocking back and forth.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Craft: coloring with crayons and gluing “lots of dots” to butcher paper on the floor

Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play posters

Preschool Storytime, February 4

Due to the planned absence of another staff member, I got to do the preschool storytime this week! Attendance was lower than usual, just four preschool-age kids and one little sibling, and all five were boys. Two of them brought their own books that they looked through while I read the first two books, but all of them were responsive and engaged for songs and the mouse house game, and more interested in the last two books as well.

Stack of picture books

  • Welcome, introduction, announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (2x)
  • The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker and Mark Pett: I think at least two of the four were interested in this story, but it was hard to tell.
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and “Where Is Thumbkin?”
  • World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi: This one felt a little long, especially after The Very Last Castle (which is also longer than I would do with 2- and 3-year-olds), but it’s got a big sneeze and some interesting pizza toppings (seaweed, spicy pepper, chocolate cherry), so we got to talk about pizza toppings afterward. And I only teared up the tiniest bit at the line, “And in that moment the world was filled with kindness and love and no fighting.”
  • Song cube: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “ABCs,” “Itsy-Bitsy Spider”
  • Princess Bess Gets Dressed by Margery Cuyler and Heather Maoine: Proof that boys can be into princess books! Especially if the book ends with underwear. We talked about our favorite outfits (costumes and pajamas, mostly).
  • The mouse house game: this has yet to fail. If you need a sure-thing felt board activity, this is it. (Hat tip to a children’s librarian in Belmont.)
  • There’s a Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott: As close to a sure thing as there is in storytime. Everyone had fun chasing the monster out of the book, and then luring him back.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL
  • Clean up mats and put out craft: A big castle outlined in black on butcher paper, with crayons, markers, paper animal cutouts, and glue sticks.

 

Step into Storytime, January 27 *and* ALA Youth Media Awards

Last Monday we were closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and next week I get to do a double storytime (2- and 3-year-olds on Monday as usual, preschool storytime on Tuesday), but this week was a regular Step into Storytime session. Attendance was on the low end to start with, about seven kids (all boys, coincidentally), but a few more came in during our initial songs and first few books.

Goose, Dragon, Pirate, Bear books on chair

  • Welcome and announcements (including “storytime is my favorite part of the week.” I borrowed this lovely phrase from a librarian at the library in Arlington said this at her storytime last week. It is 100% true for me as well, as long as we’re talking about the work week)
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • Name song (“___ is here today”)
  • Goose by Laura WallPirate Jack gets dressed felt pieces and list
  • There’s A Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher (this book encourages plenty of interaction: blowing out fire, popping a water balloon, etc.)
  • Song cube: “The Wheels on the Bus”
  • Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Allison Black: This is such a fabulous book to talk about colors (and getting dressed). I made a set of felt shapes to correspond to each item of Jack’s clothing and placed them on the felt board as we got to their page in the story. Before starting the book, we also took a look at what colors we were wearing.
  • Mouse house game (by request). “Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the [color] house?” Apparently this never gets old!
  • Song cube: “Zoom zoom zoom, we’re going to the moon” (twice)
  • Make A Wish, Bear by Greg Foley: I had A Parade of Elephants with me too, but decided to save that for next week and made Bear the last book of today’s storytime. We noticed the star shapes on the cover and in the book, to tie in to our craft project.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Invited questions, and one boy raised his hand and said, “I have a question! Will you put the paper out now?” (Later, a grown-up came up and asked for books for her kindergartener who likes funny books like Elephant & Piggie and Pigeon, so I helped her find several funny picture books.)
  • Craft: Butcher paper taped to the floor, pre-cut colored construction paper stars, glue sticks, crayons.

And when I was finished cleaning up from storytime, the ALA Youth Media Awards had been announced! I was so excited to see that New Kid by Jerry Craft won the Newbery AND Coretta Scott King, and that Dig by A.S. King won the Printz, and Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez won the Pura Belpré. Many other winner and Honor titles were books I’ve liked or loved this year:

  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (Newbery Honor)
  • Bear Came Along by Richard Morris and LeUyen Pham (Caldecott Honor)
  • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (Coretta Scott King Honor)
  • What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison (Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award)
  • The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (Schneider Family Book Award Honor)
  • Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (Schneider Family Honor Book)
  • Dominicana by Angie Cruz (Alex Award)
  • The Swallows by Lisa Lutz (Alex Award)
  • Children’s Literature Legacy Award to Kevin Henkes
  • ALSC Children’s Literature Lecture Award to Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop (if you’re heard of mirrors, windows, and doors in children’s literature, she is why)
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka (Odyssey Award for best audiobook, though I read the print edition)
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell (Odyssey Honor; American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor)
  • We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey (Odyssey Honor)
  • ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raúl Gonzalez (Belpré Illustrator Honor Book)
  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar (Belpré Author Honor Book)
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal (Sibert Award; American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor)
  • This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy (Sibert Honor)
  • Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis (Sibert Honor)
  • Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell (Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor)
  • The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli (Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor)
  • Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed (Asian/Pacific American Picture Book Honor)
  • Stargazing by Jen Wang (Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature)
  • Frankly in Love by David Yoon (Asian/Pacific American Young Adult Literature Honor)
  • Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell, cover art by Marlena Myles (American Indian Youth Literature Middle Grade Award)

…and naturally I added several others to my to-read list this morning. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators, thanks to the committee members, and happy reading to everyone! | School Library Journal ALA YMA announcement

Screenshot of SLJ tweet announcing Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz winners

 

Chunky Monkeys at Belmont Books

Tonight, seven of the eleven members of the Chunky Monkeys writing group spoke on a panel at Belmont Books. I’d seen Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light, speak once before (at the Arlington Author Salon) but hadn’t had a chance to hear the others speak, even though they’re all local (they meet in person) and many teach or have taught at Grub Street.

The group started in 2012 with Jennifer DeLeon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From) and Adam Stumacher, and expanded to nine members, then eleven. When the group started,  none of them had yet published a book; the goal was that, within a decade, all of them would. Grace Talusan (The Body Papers) said she believed in all of the others, but “I didn’t necessarily believe in myself – but all of you did.”

Grace, Jennifer, and Adam were on the panel tonight, along with Whitney Scharer, Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere), Sonya Larson (who just won an NEA grant), and Calvin Hennick (Once More to the Rodeo).

screenshot of @bostonbookblog tweet and photo of panel at bookstore

They started by discussing tenets of an effective writing group (noting that, of course, the exact same rules won’t work for every group):

  • Discuss and agree on expectations and hopes for the group, and level of commitment, at the beginning
  • Rigorous feedback
  • Positive support
  • Specific systems in place (more rigid at first, more flexible now)
  • Deadlines!
  • Ongoing experiences together
  • Relationship with each other and each other’s work (“they know how to give feedback in a way that you can hear it”)
  • Inspiration and integrity; mutual admiration and “healthy intimidation”
  • Respect each other as readers and as human beings
  • Make decisions by consensus

Sonya described the “standard workshop”: a writer submits 20-25 pages, and receives a written letter and line edits. The group meets once a month for three hours on a Sunday, planned 5-6 months in advance (they use a Google calendar and a Doodle poll to set the dates). Hosting rotates, and they workshop three writers’ work each time, but there is not a strict rotation.

Sometimes, in order for the group to thrive, and to be useful to every member of the group, they do things differently. (“Ask the group for what you need on this project right now.”) In fact, the name Chunky Monkeys doesn’t come from the ice cream flavor – it’s because they referred to “chunks” of writing, sometimes asking for the group to review a “double chunk” (twice the usual length) or asking a few members of the group to form a “side chunk.”

They are also connected via e-mail, daily (though this isn’t a formal requirement for group membership). They share “yay-ables” and occasionally have family get-togethers. After many years together, they have a high level of trust, and Sonya said, “with high trust comes high freedom,” which is reflected in their feedback on each other’s work. And being in a group with other writers you admire makes you “up your game” in a way that is positive, not competitive. “All boats float.”

Celeste also talked about the high level of trust among group members: not only do they workshop each other’s writing, but they offer support in “meta-writing” activities, like practicing Q&As before a book tour, helping each other with book proposals, helping each other find agents (“and break up with agents”), and figuring out how to ask for an honorarium. Because they’re at different stages of their writing careers, and have different areas of expertise (fiction, nonfiction, memoir, short fiction), it’s useful to compare notes.

When bookstore employee and moderator Miriam Lapson asked, “How many of you are in multiple writing groups?” the reaction was almost comical, with everyone looking around at everyone else, asking, “Who’s cheating on us?!” (Only one admitted to being in another group, but others said they sometimes asked other people to read their work to get “fresh eyes.”)

Moderator Miriam asked the group how they manage conflict; Jennifer replied that there’s usually something underneath, but “there’s a level of maturity – it’s our passion, but also our profession.” Adam reiterated the group norm of decision by consensus, which means they have to talk through big decisions (such as whether to allow members who move away from the Boston area to stay in the group, or whether to add a new member). It can be a long conversation, but everyone gets heard. Celeste said, “All of us are very invested in making sure everybody’s voice gets heard.”

Once the Q&A time opened up, I observed that every member of the group had a background in teaching writing – how did that inform their workshop process? (At the beginning of the panel, they had said that any writing group could have their kind of success, which I thought was a tiny bit disingenuous, since all of them had taken and/or taught classes at Grub Street and some had MFAs.) Adam replied that when the group started, they’d had a facilitator/moderator for each session, and that, as teachers, they had a specific way of thinking about craft. Celeste added that their feedback is focused on the intent of the writer; they don’t read a piece and say, “You should do this,” but rather, “It seems like your intent is _____, here are some ways you can do that.” (As someone who hasn’t taken creative writing classes or done any formal workshopping, I found this particular piece of advice really helpful.)

Another person asked what the group members did when they had a complete draft ready for submission. Enter “side chunks”! Three or four people read the whole manuscript and critique it. This is also a point at which “fresh eyes” from outside the group may be helpful.

Thanks to Belmont Books for hosting, and to all seven of the Chunky Monkeys for sharing their time and expertise on a freezing Thursday night.

 

Wands Out: Harry Potter Trivia at the Library, round 3

Daily Prophet photo frame
Daily Prophet photo frame

We hosted our third Harry Potter trivia event almost a year to the day from our first one. Registration didn’t quite fill up this time (we cap at 52 due to the room capacity), but we still had about 50 people: a lot of kids/tweens around 10 years old, plus some families, teens, adults, and even younger kiddos. We’re planning to do it again this summer, around Harry’s birthday, and then make it an annual thing instead of a biannual one.

Program time: 2-4pm. We started checking people in as soon as they showed up, about 10-15 minutes before 2pm. We were going to finish on time, but ended up needing about seven tie-breaker questions, so we went a few minutes past 4pm.

Staff: Four staff members are present at this program. I check people in and MC the event; another one makes the refreshments and manages that table; and two more do the scoring (one collects answers on post-its and the other enters them into a google spreadsheet. If that seems like something that one person could do alone…I invite you to try it!).

Cost: We usually spend about $100 on food and drink and $100 on prizes. I like to do House-themed coffee mugs or travel mugs for door prizes, so we can pick one winner from each House, as well as prizes for the first- and second-place teams. It’s a little bit of a challenge finding cool items in the right price range, because they ought to be equally suitable for adults, teens, and kids, and teams can be up to 4 people, so there must be 4 of each prize for the winning team(s).

Setup:

  • Large table for food and drink: This time around, our magical chef whipped up lightning bolt cookies, pretzel wands (not chocolate-dipped this time), jelly beans, and gillywater (seltzer, mint, and cucumber water. Less popular than the butterbeer – cream soda and whipped cream – but also way less sugar and not so sticky).
  • Small table for registration and door prizes. If people registered ahead of time, have that list of attendees so you can check them off as they come in. Also, the door prizes, raffle tickets, pens (our teen librarian decorated some bic pens with feathers to make quills), and pads of post-its.
  • Small table for scoring
  • Chairs for the participants, organized in clusters of 2-4 throughout the room
  • A working mic
  • Music: We used a laptop streaming from hoopla, but with so many devices in the room it was lagging.
  • Decorations: We are minimalist where decorations are concerned. I hung five handmade Golden Snitches from the doorframe, and scattered a few stuffed owl puppets around.
  • Photo op: Our teen librarian made a mock-up of the Daily Prophet on posterboard that people can hold up to frame their faces.
punch bowl with mint leaves
Gillywater

Cleanup: There are usually several spills and some dropped food. Chairs need to go back to their places around the edges of the room or get stacked up and returned to storage.

Review: Thanks to my “what to do differently next time” section after last July’s trivia event, and the fact that we’d run this twice before, it went pretty smoothly. When making up the questions, I designed them so that they could be answered in one or two words, and most were single-part questions worth just one point each (there were a handful of two-point questions). However, this made the scores very close, and I had only prepared three tie-breaker questions. With a lot of Potterheads in the room, it can be hard to design questions that are very hard but not impossible! (And, one team caught a mistake in one of the answers about who was the Minister of Magic at the start of the sixth book. After verifying that she was correct, we threw out that question.)

All our attendees seemed happy, and it’s a pretty fun program for staff, too (in my opinion). We’ll be doing it again in July. For now…nox.

Step into Storytime, January 13

We had another great Step Into Storytime session this morning! Although I don’t run my storytimes that differently from when I started (all-ages storytimes in summer ’18, 2- and 3-year-olds in fall ’18), I’ve made some tweaks and the last few in particular have been smooth and successful. The grown-ups who come to storytime set a great example for their kiddos by being alert and engaged – they sing with me, do hand motions or help the kiddos do them, and react to the stories.

bowls of crayons, stack of books

  • Welcome, announcements (library is closed next Monday for MLK Jr. Day)
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka: I almost never do board books during storytime, because they’re smaller and therefore harder to see from the back of the room, but this one is perfect. It has a simple pattern (animal, jump, animal, jump), a funny surprise (guess what snails don’t do so well?), and ends by including the reader (“And I jump, too”). Of course we read this one standing up so we could JUMP!
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld: This is a longer, quieter book, but an important one, and the kids paid attention. It’s a good reminder for everyone about how to handle disappointment: when something you made collapses and you’re disappointed, what you might want isn’t a solution – it’s for someone to listen.
  • After all that listening, we stood up again and I explained about the body’s midline, then we did some crossing the midline stretches (inspired by the December SLJ article “Storytime’s Brain-Building Power“) to help develop bilateral coordination.
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • Song cube: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” three times: regular, fast, slow
  • Red Light, Green Lion by Candace Ryan: I skipped most of the text in black, focusing on the text in red and green. “Red light, green liiiiiiiii-“
  • Mouse house game with felt board: Three rounds of finding the mouse, trying to make sure each kid who wanted a turn to pick a color got one. “Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the [color] house?” Everyone looked invested in the mouse hunt, even those who didn’t want to guess a color.Five colored mittens on blue felt board
  • Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson: I whipped up five felt mittens. We identified the colors before the book, then I handed the mittens out to five kids. Unlike with the fruit in The Very Hungry Caterpillar last week, there weren’t enough mittens for everyone who wanted one, so I might not do that again unless I can figure out a way to give everyone a turn. Good book for today, though, since we had snow flurries this morning.
  • “Shake Your Sillies Out” with egg shakers: This was my first time attempting freeze dance in storytime. Some of the older kids were familiar with the game (we had a couple 4-year-olds today), but the music wasn’t quite loud enough. It was fine, though! They love dancing with shaker eggs.
  • I decided to skip my last book (Make A Wish, Bear) because it had already been half an hour, and go straight to “Goodbye Friends”
  • Clean up mats
  • Color giant mittens (I drew two huge mittens in black marker on a piece of butcher paper that I taped to the floor; kids used crayons to color in and around them). Also pulled out our giant blocks to tie in with The Rabbit Listened.

Jump, The Rabbit Listened, Red Light Green Lion, Little Penguins

Stepping into storytime in 2020

The first Step into Storytime of 2020 was a great success! As usual, there were some familiar faces and a few new ones, and everyone was pretty close to the target age range (2- and 3-year-olds; some looked a little younger). The kid:adult ratio was 1:1 (except in one case where there were two adults for one kid), which helped make it a tamer affair than when there are more kids than adults. Of course, I also like to think that my book choices, songs, and felt board had something to do with their great listening today…

song cubes and picture books

  • Welcome and announcements (Happy new year!)
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL (“more,” “together,” “happy,” “be,” “friends”)
  • Book by Kristine O’Connell George and Maggie Smith
  • Stretch arms from seated position, wiggle
  • I Will Chomp You! by Jory John and Bob Shea: lots of engagement from the adults on this one.
  • Song cube: “Zoom zoom zoom, we’re going to the moon” and “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” (the latter we did once at regular speed, once slowly, and once fast)
  • Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes: This is the first time I’ve used this book at storytime and it is perfect for this age group!
  • Yoga/music: “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in star pose, rocking/swaying back and forth
  • Hurray for Hat! by Brian Won: I always get the kids to show me their grumpiest faces, and they never disappoint.
  • Hand out felt pieces for The Very Hungry Caterpillar: with fifteen pieces of fruit, there was enough to go around.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: As each fruit was mentioned, the kids holding that fruit came up and stuck it on the board. I added the caterpillar at the beginning and the butterfly at the end.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Coloring with crayons on butcher paper

2019 Reading Wrap-Up

Here’s the 2018 reading wrap-up.

Using data from my LibraryThing account, my total number of books read in 2019 was: 779. Which seems stratospheric and/or false, but remember that some I didn’t finish (16), and more than half were picture books (452) or early readers (46).

Partially read / started-didn’t-finish: 16. Sometimes it’s a case of right book, wrong time, or right book, wrong reader. Whatever the case, if you’re reading for pleasure, and you don’t like the book – put it down and find another!

Picture books: 452

Early reader: 46. If you haven’t read the Charlie & Mouse books by Laurel Snyder, please check them out immediately. They have a Frog & Toad / Bink & Gollie vibe that is just – as Mary Berry would say – perfection.

Now we’re down to 265 books, which is still, even in librarian circles, respectable. I’ve broken that down into categories below, but math-minded folks take note: there’s a lot of overlap within those categories (particularly between chapter books and middle grade, middle grade and YA, audiobooks and pretty much everything except graphic novels, graphic novels and fiction/nonfiction).

Chapter books: 22. It’s been such a pleasure to revisit Ramona Quimby and Clementine, and to meet Ivy & Bean. Nate the Great, Anna Hibiscus, and Princess Magnolia are good, too.

Middle grade: 96! I’ve been reading more middle grade novels since I’m working more hours in the children’s department, and MG has some of the most amazing characters. (There’s setting and world-building and all that, too, but what sticks with me is the characters.)

YA/teen: 38 (including 14 that overlap with middle grade. For the uninitiated, “middle grade” does not mean “middle school”: it usually refers to upper elementary, but it can also include middle school territory.)

Adult fiction: 46 (approximate genre breakdown, keeping in mind that there is plenty of overlap between genres: 47 fantasy, 13 historical, 11 sci-fi, 6 mystery, 4 romance)

Nonfiction: 29 adult (including 11 how-to), 117 total (children’s/teen/adult). Kids’ nonfiction is often presented attractively and is really informative! Together with my kiddo, I learned a lot about ladybugs, the Northern Lights, and outer space this year (that “a universe of stories” summer reading theme was influential).

Graphic novels: 49. My appreciation for this format continues to grow. Standouts this year included Good Talk by Mira Jacob (adult, memoir) and New Kid by Jerry Craft (MG/YA), plus new books from Shannon Hale, Raina Telgemeier, and Ben Hatke. My standard line for adults who hem and haw about their kids reading graphic novels instead of “real books” is: Graphic novels ARE real books. Kids develop visual literacy along with print literacy, and they might read them fast, but they re-read them often. If they’re developing a love of reading by reading graphic novels, fantastic.

Short stories: 8. There’s some incredible speculative short fiction out there: see Kelly Link, N.K. Jemisin, and Ted Chiang for a start.

Audiobooks: 52. See note for graphic novels: audiobooks ARE books. In fact, they have one specific advantage over print: the narrators pronounce words correctly! There are so many words that I can spell and define but not pronounce confidently because I’ve never heard them out loud…until audiobooks. Also, many narrators bring so much talent and expression to their performance – like Jessica Almasy’s reading of the Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker.

Author gender pie chart LibraryThing
Screen shot from LibraryThing stats on author gender

#WeNeedDiverseBooks: 92. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center collects statistics about diversity in children’s publishing. Looking at the infographic comparing 2015 with 2018, what struck me is that while the percentage of books featuring white characters dropped from 73.3% to 50% over three years, the percentage of books featuring non-human (animal/other) main characters rose from 12.5% to 27%. So, we still have a ways to go before our children’s literature reflects the actual children reading the books. More diverse books, more #OwnVoices.

Five star ratings: 26. The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Secret Commonwealth, Invisible Women, City of Girls, Wordslut, Good Talk….See my “Great books of 2019” post.

Re-reads: 24. Mostly picture books, but a few others as well: Slade House by David Mitchell, because I bought the beautiful UK paperback at No Alibis in Belfast; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, because it had been ages; and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlotte’s Web with the kiddo.

Although I’m not setting any particular goals or reading resolutions for this year, I’m  looking forward to more wonderful books. I’m already in the middle of Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (fun!) and Inconspicuous Consumption by Tatiana Schlossberg (not fun).

How was your reading year? What are you looking forward to? I’m always adding suggestions to my ever-growing to-read list…

Top Ten Books to Read in 2020

It’s the future now, no question. 2020! Well, whatever else happens this year, at least we can count on books. Here are some titles slated to be published in 2020 that I’m looking forward to:

  1. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel: Finally, the third book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.
  2. The Thief Knot by Kate Milford: Another Greenglass House book. Rejoice!
  3. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
  4. Go to Sleep (I Miss You) by Lucy Knisley
  5. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
  6. Chirp by Kate Messner, author of Breakout
  7. The Night Country by Melissa Albert, author of The Hazel Wood
  8. Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir by Rebecca Solnit

There are also a couple from last year’s list: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (After reading reviews and talking with several people who had read it, I elected to skip The Dreamers.) And a couple that have been lingering on my “currently reading” shelf: the short story collection Ghostly, edited by Audrey Niffenegger, and Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil, both of which I started and then set aside intending to go back to.

There were (more than) a few published in 2019 or earlier that are still on my to-read list, a few of which my book club is considering:

  1. Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (YA, historical fiction)
  2. Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins (YA contemporary)
  3. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (adult fiction)
  4. The Line Becomes A River by Francisco Cantu (adult fiction)
  5. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (adult fiction, Booker Prize)
  6. The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri (memoir)
  7. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (fantasy/horror)
  8. Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (YA, historical/ghost)
  9. Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire (adult fantasy)
  10. Falter by Bill McKibben (adult nonfiction), climate)

And if we’re really, really lucky, Philip Pullman will publish the final Book of Dust, and Audrey Niffenegger will publish Alba, Continued (or whatever it’s going to be called), and David Mitchell will publish…anything at all. Fingers and toes crossed.

Obviously this is more than ten. But who’s counting?

 

Great books of 2019

All year, every year, I read like it’s my job. (It kind of is, but in case anyone still believes the myth that librarians get to read while at work, let me swiftly debunk that one for you: NO.) However, I don’t hold a candle to librarian/reviewer extraordinaire Betsy Bird, so I want to recommend her “31 Days, 31 Lists” feature for School Library Journal, which is comprehensive. There’s also no shortage of year-end lists from other sources, including but certainly not limited to:

I do read a lot of new books, so there are plenty of 2019 titles on my list(s), but there are older ones as well. Publication year is noted along with author and title. If I listened to an audiobook, I’ll note that as well with “(audio)” (if I only listened to it) or “(+audio)” (if I listened and read it in print as well). I may winnow this down to a Top Ten list later in the month (after all, the #libfaves countdown on Twitter is starting soon has already started, see below), but it’s hard to leave out books that I feel deserve more eyeballs! All of my reviews are on LibraryThing.

Picture Books (Fiction)

Lambslide by Ann Patchett (2019)
Little Taco Truck by Tanya Valentine (2019)
The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol (2019)
Red Light, Green Lion by Candace Ryan (2019)
Truman by Jean Reidy (2019)
Is 2 A Lot by Annie Watson (2019)
Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards (2019)
Here and Now by Julia Denos (2019)
Twins by Mike Ciccotello (2019)
Just Because by Mac Barnett (2019)
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang (2019)
Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed (2019)
Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller (2018)
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (2018)
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker (2018)
Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack (2018)
Ginny Goblin Is Not Allowed to Open This Box by David Goodner (2018)
It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel by Sebastian Meschenmoser (2018)
Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day (2018)
I Am Not A Fox by Karina Wolf (2018)
Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly MacKay (2017)
I Really Want the Cake by Simon Philip (2017)
World Pizza by Cece Meng (2017)
Are You A Monkey? by Marine Rivoal (2017)
My Dog’s A Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari (2016)
Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis (2016)
Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian (2016)
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood (2015)
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev (2015)
Down Here by Valerie Sherrard (2015)
Spots in a Box by Helen Ward (2015)
The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young (2014)
Froodle by Antoinette Portis (2014)
Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder (2013)
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry (2010)
Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig (1998)

Picture Books (Nonfiction)

If Pluto Was A Pea by Gabrielle Prendergast (2019)
Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex (2019)
Skulls! by Blair Thornburgh (2019)
The Spacesuit by Alison Donald (2019)
Magic Ramen by Andrea Wang (2019)
Just Like Beverly by Vicki Conrad (2019)
You Are My Friend by Aimee Reid (2019)
Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons (2013)

Early Readers/Chapter Books

Penny and Her Sled by Kevin Henkes (2019)
Charlie & Mouse; Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy; Charlie & Mouse Even Better by Laurel Snyder (2017, 2017, 2019)
Louise Loves Bake Sales by Laura Driscoll (2018)
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (2015)
Bink & Gollie; Bink & Gollie, Best Friends Forever; Bink & Gollie, Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee (2010, 2012, 2013)
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems (2010)
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows (2007) (+audio)
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006) (+audio)
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (2013) (+audio)
The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume (1981)

Middle Grade

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell (2019)
Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly (2019) (audio)
All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker (2019)
The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King (2019)
Sunny and Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2019) (audio)
A Tale Magnolious by Suzanne Nelson (2019)
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy (2019)
Roll With It by Jamie Sumner (2019)
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart (2019)
For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington (2019)
The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu (2019)
Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu (2019)
Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes (2019)
We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey (2019)
Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen (2019)
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (2019)
The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin (2019)
My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder (2019)
This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce (2019) (nonfiction)
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (2018)
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (2018) (audio)
Blended by Sharon M. Draper (2018) (audio)
The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen (2018)
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (2018) (audio)
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (2005) and Princess Acacemy: Palace of Stone (2012)
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (2011) (audio)
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (2005)
Frindle by Andrew Clements (1998)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (1971) (audio)

Middle Grade Graphic Novels

New Kid by Jerry Craft (2019)
Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer and Matthew Holm (2019)
Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (2019)
Stargazing by Jen Wang (2019)
Guts by Raina Telgemeier (2019)
Best Friends by Shannon Hale (2019)
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis (2019)
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (2018)
Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley (2014)
The Babysitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier (2015)
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon (2017)
Awkward; Brave; Crush (Berrybrook Middle School) by Svetlana Chmakova (2015, 2017, 2018)

YA

The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman (2019)
The Poet X and With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (audio) (2018, 2019)
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (2019)

Adult fiction

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (2019)
Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess (2019)
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (2019)
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames (2019)
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (2019)
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz (2019)
Dominicana by Angie Cruz (2019)
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2017)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (2019)
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (2019)
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (2019)
Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger (2019)
Normal People by Sally Rooney (2019)
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer (2019)
Milkman by Anna Burns (2018)

Adult Nonfiction

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (2019)
Dear Ally, How Do You Write A Book by Ally Carter (2019)
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty (2019)
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)
Wordslut by Amanda Montell (2019)
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (2019)
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda (2016)
Peacerunner by Penn Rhodeen (2016)
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson (2016)
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2015)

YA and Adult Graphics

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks (2019)
Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley (2019)
Good Talk by Mira Jacob (2019)
The Unwanted by Don Brown (2019)
The Mental Load by Emma (2018)
March (Books 1-3) by John Lewis (2013, 2015, 2016)

My #libfaves19 picks  (Updated 12/17/19)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Wordslut by Amanda Montell
The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Honorable mention #11: New Kid by Jerry Craft