Storytime Picks of the Month: January

In this monthly feature, I pick my favorite storytime reads of the month–one from my baby storytime, one from toddler storytime, and one from preschool storytime.

Oh, I’ve been so behind on blogging lately. Nothing shows that more than this “monthly” feature, which I haven’t updated in almost a year! But, back to it now. This month I was super inspired by Jbrary’s list of favorite storytime books for 2015. My baby and toddler choices are ones I discovered from that list, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I urge you to! (Also, check out their 2014 & 2013 lists, as well. Great stuff!)

This month, I really tried to focus on trying new books for all of my storytimes. I’ve been doing storytimes for over 3 years now, and it’s easy to fall back on old favorites and standbys you know work. But I really wanted to push myself this year, to expand my favorites, and to try new things in storytime. So, without further ado, here are my favorite books from storytime this month:

baby loveBaby Storytime Pick: Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi; illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes. The caregivers in storytime LOVED this one. There were so many ooohs and aaahs at the end. I got a little chocked up myself, to be honest. It’s a simple, sweet book, with interactive elements–caregivers can touch the body parts on baby as the book identifies them–which makes it perfect for baby storytime. This will definitely go into my baby storytime rotation!

supertruckToddler Storytime Pick: Supertruck by Stephen Savage. Trucks are always a big hit with toddlers, and this was no exception. They were riveted by the pictures and the story. The parents all loved the disguise that supertruck wears at the end–while the toddlers didn’t really get that part of the book, they were enthralled by the overall story. Another book that I see myself going back to again and again.

white rabbits color bookPreschool Storytime Pick: White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker. My coworker and I share storytime planning, and this is one that she discovered for a colors themed storytime. There are lots of books like this: Color Dance, Mouse Paint, and Blue Goose are three I can think of right off the top of my head, but I’d never read this one before and it absolutely delighted the kids. They loved the rabbit, and the fact that colors blended to make other colors was just magical to all of them. This is one of those simple concept books that works really well with preschoolers.


Fall 2015 School Visit Booktalks

We’ve been lucky enough to dramatically expand our school outreach at my library this year. I’ve been behind on blogging everything, but here’s a list of the books I booktalked to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in the fall (if you click on the book’s title, it will take you to my full Goodreads review). Coming soon: a blog post talking about how we set up these outreach trips, and how great they’ve been for us!

Nest, by Esther Ehrlich (5th). This was also a This Book is My Jam pick, because I absolutely loved this book. I was happy the kids asked about this, and I hope they loved it as much as I did.


Smek for President, by Adam Rex (4th & 5th). A lot of the kids didn’t realize the movie Home was based on a book, so they were excited to learn that this was the sequel.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia (5th). I always feel like historical fiction is a tough sell for kids, but the combination of funny sisters, the Black Panther Party, and a complex relationship with the girls’ mother make this an irresistible choice to booktalk.

starry river

Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin (5th). This one was recommended to me by a patron and her daughter, who listened to it on audio and loved it. I loved it too, and sold it to the kids as a magical, mythical book. They were definitely excited.

Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan (5th). Another beautiful, magical book, and while some of the kids seemed a little intimidated by the length, they loved the plot summary and seemed really intrigued.

terrible two

The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett & Jory John (4th & 5th). Not surprisingly, this was a hugely popular book. The kids loved the cover, loved the description, and were clamoring to get their hands on it.

The Imaginary, by A. F. Harrold (4th and 5th). Creepy books are always a big sell. I opened the book to a particularly creepy picture which made a lot of the kids shriek with horror and delight. Definitely a book the kids wanted to read!

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This Book is My Jam: Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson

Welcome to This Book is My Jam, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about a book I recently read and really loved. I read books written for kids, teens, and adults, so it could be aimed at any age group.

symphonyHave you ever read a book that you loved so much you can’t be coherent about it? When you try to talk to people about it, you just freak out, and people perhaps back away, with a little bit of fear in their eyes? If so, you understand how I feel about Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson. It’s really hard for me to put into words how much I loved this book, but I’m going to try.

This book tells the story of Stalinist Russia, of Russia’s role in WWII, of art and music, of how impossible it would be to live under a totalitarian regime, and so much more. And despite being full to the brim with all of this history, it never feels like too much. It flows beautifully, and clearly lays out the rise of Communism in Russia, what happened when Stalin took power, and how this affected every facet of life in Russia.

Anderson tells this story through chronicling the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, a Russian composer who lived through it all. Using Shostakovich to study this time in Russian history was a brilliant move. He became a world famous composer, with popularity in the West as well as in Russia, and Anderson explores how this was problematic for Shostakovich. The fact that he constantly lived on a tightrope–sometimes beloved, sometimes close to being part of the purges is shown, and the tension for the reader is almost unbearable. I know that I can never really understand what it would have been like to live during this time, and the constant fear it must have made people feel, but I understand it just a little more through Anderson’s excellent writing. Anderson also looks at the ideas of bravery and heroism and how it’s hard to make them apply in a totalitarian regime. As he says, it’s easy from the comfort of our own homes and time to say we would be part of the resistance, but it was much harder to do when the lives of your friends and family were under constant threat.

The book also explores the idea of truth, and how hard it is to know objective truth in the case of Shostakovich’s life. Anderson talks about why the famous biography of him (written by someone who defected from the Soviet Union) is problematic. This book is aimed at teens, and I think this is such an important message for teen readers to hear. I like that it encourages questioning sources and thinking about where they come from and why they might have issues.

If you want more of my thoughts, you can check out my Goodreads review (and please friend me on Goodreads!), but, really, you should just go out and read this book. It was published for teens, but is a really excellent read for adults, as well. It’s one of those books I think everyone should read.

Throw a Noon Year’s Eve Party!

I’ve been thinking about a Noon Year’s Eve party for the last year or so. I’ve heard librarians talk about them, and I’ve thought, “That would be fun!” (I got some great ideas for mine from this Facebook post on Storytime Underground.) And let me tell you, IT IS! We did one this year at my library and it was fabulous. We had a great time, a GREAT turnout (125 people!), and if you are like me and have been thinking of throwing one, I think you should mark your calendar for next year and do it.

What We Did:

1. Explained New Year’s Eve. Our party was aimed at ages 2-5, and for a lot of those kiddos, this might be the first time they are really aware of the new year. So I talked about how we were in 2015, but soon it would be 2016, and that lots of people like to celebrate that. Mostly, I tried to set the tone that this was a party!

Hooray for Hat2. Read a Book. To span the age group for our party, I read Hooray for Hat by Brian Won, and it was the perfect book! All of the kids loved yelling “HOORAY FOR HAT!” with me, and it was a fun book to set the tone.

Party Hat

photo credit: new year’s hat via photopin (license)

3. Make a Craft. To go along with our book, we made party hats. A coworker and a volunteer manned this station. Our hats were really easy: we put out paper bowls (the hats), a bunch of craft supplies (tiny cut out hearts and stars, sticky jewels, pompoms, and feathers), glue, a hole punch (to punch holes in the hats), and yarn (to tie the hats onto heads, if people wanted to). The amazing creativity we saw from the kids was wonderful. There were lots of beautiful hats. Since we had such a big group, this took a lot longer than I anticipated, and meant I had to shuffle around the rest of the party plan, but it worked out just fine.

Balloon Drop

photo credit: IMG_7218 via photopin (license)

4. BALLOON DROP AT NOON! To me, this is the essential part of the party. It was so magical! I made the balloon drop using the instructions on this site. I actually had to make two of them to accommodate all of the balloons. It was amazing to see the looks on the kiddos faces when the balloons dropped. The countdown, the balloons, the joy–it was amazing to watch! One thing to be aware of: it’s super cheap to make the balloon drop using the site I did, but it is time consuming to make and to set up. Next year, I’m going to look into buying a balloon drop kit. If you want to see pictures of the event, my library has some on its Facebook page.

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This Book is My Jam: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Welcome to This Book is My Jam, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about a book I recently read and really loved. I read books written for kids, teens, and adults, so it could be aimed at any age group.

goodbye strangerYou know those books that the more you think about them, the more you remember the characters, and the more you sit with them, the more you love them? That’s Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead for me. I really enjoyed it when I read it, but I finished it over a month ago and just can’t let it go. I want more people I know to read it so we can talk about it. If I had a middle school aged daughter, I’d want us to read it together and talk about it. In fact, in writing this review, I decided to bump my Goodreads rating up to 5 stars.

Here’s why I loved this book:

  • The relationships between the women and girls in the book. I thought this was going to go in a mean girl direction at one point, and it really didn’t. The story centers around 3 girls who have been friends for forever and have decided that they will never fight. While they figure out that this may be unrealistic, they are (mostly) supportive of each other and really try to embody what it means to be good friends. There’s also a lot of time given to mother/daughter relationships, and the conversations the girls have with their mothers are authentic and wonderful. There’s an older sister who makes an appearance and takes one of the girls under her wing. It’s really a tribute to the wonderful richness of female friendships and relationships and shows how positive those can be.
  • The portrayal of middle school. I said in my Goodreads review that I wasn’t sure these kids sounded like middle schoolers, and I stand by that, but I do think the way middle school is portrayed is accurate. Boys who want girls to send them a certain kind of picture: that’s a thing. Pushing boundaries and trying to figure out who you may be: that’s most definitely a thing. A lot of the books that deal with middle school are aimed younger than this, and present a somewhat sanitized version of what middle school is. I thought this was honest, and aimed at older middle schoolers, and I think more books like that are needed.
  • The characters. This is a really character-driven novel and I loved all of them. As I’m writing this, I realize I miss them!

For me, Rebecca Stead just keeps getting better and better, and Goodbye Stranger was most definitely my jam.

What I’ve Been Up To (Because It Clearly Hasn’t Been Blogging)

I’ve missed blogging! I keep adding blog ideas to Evernote, but haven’t had the time to sit down and blog about anything. That changes now. I have lots of posts that are in process or scheduled for the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

But what have I been doing while I haven’t been blogging? Here are a few highlights and hopefully interesting links until my next post:

  • I presented to my CALLI cohort about tough conversations and how to have them. I worked on a team with two wonderful women and I thought our presentation was awesome. I will be sharing more about the presentation and what I learned in an upcoming post!
  • I presented on toddler storytime at the CLEL Conference. CLEL is an organization I’m so lucky to be involved with. Being on the Steering Committee has been so full of learning and fun–I’m sad that my tenure is almost over! The conference was amazing. If you’re ever able to get to Colorado in September for professional development I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.
  • Inspired by Abby the Librarian’s excellent post, my department has been getting into local schools and giving booktalks to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Coming soon: how we did it, how it’s been going (spoiler alert: AWESOME), and books I’ve booktalked.
  • Reading lots of awesome books. Look for more This Book is My Jam segments coming soon.
  • We had so many awesome summer reading programs! While it’s a bit late, I’m planning on blogging about a few of them very soon.
  • Preparing for my last CALLI session. I’m so sad about this, but happy at the same time. It’s really been a phenomenal year, full of growth. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my leadership style, and I feel like it’s had a deep impact on me. It’s been so fun getting to know all of the amazing people in my CALLI cohort, and I’m sad I won’t get the excuse to see them as often. Look for more posts with wrap-ups of my time on CALLI coming soon.

So that’s a little taste of what I’ve been up to. Busy, excited about libraries, and working on cool stuff. I’ll be sharing about all of it very soon!

Goodbye to Summer Reading

The summer reading program at my library ended a while ago, but I’m talking about the online summer reading program I did this year and just ended yesterday! Here’s my last check-in:

Books Read (If you click on the link, it will take you to my full Goodreads review):

Lost in the sunLost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. I really love Lisa Graff. I think she writes lovely books for children. This book was no exception. I loved the characters, the portrayal of family, and everything about it really. It’s a heavy book–it wasn’t really light, summer reading, but I truly enjoyed it and spending time with Trent.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Ann Tyler. My first Ann Tyler book. Maybe not the best one to pick for my first read of hers. Well written, and great characters, but I wished there was a little more plot.

The Miser of Mayfair by Marion Chesney. I got pretty sick this summer for a couple of days, and while laying on my couch, feeling awful, I needed some comfort reading. So I picked up this series, a Regency Romance series that I LOVED in high school. Fun to revisit an old favorite.

girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. A bit slow to start, but once I got going, I had trouble getting out of my car when I got home (listened to it on audio).

Plain Jane by Marion Chesney. Part of my sickness reading, another Marion Chesney from the same series as The Miser of Mayfair. (Did I mention that these only take an hour or two to read?)

liar temptressLiar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott. Civil War spy women: what’s not to love? I really learned a lot reading this book, and found it really interesting. I wished at least one of the women profiled was a woman of color, and I was less interested in the stories of the two women from the South, but the book is packed with fascinating details.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Good audiobook, and interesting idea. This is also a book that a lot of my teen volunteers were telling me to read this summer, so it’s obviously popular with teens!

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. A fun little fantasy romance about what it would be like to fall in love with a prince. It’s Prince William and Kate Middleton fan fiction, basically, and it’s a lot of fun.

goodbye strangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Stead is another author I really enjoy, and I thought this book dealt with a lot of issues in a way that didn’t feel heavy handed or over the top. The more I think about it, the more I really love the way it portrayed female friendships, and friendships and mentoring from older women to younger girls/women. It’s nice to see a book that really shows friends looking out for each other, rather than trotting out the mean girl or frenemy trope.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. A fun graphic novel with some pathos thrown in. I wasn’t familiar with the webcomic before reading this. This made me want to read Lumberjanes posthaste.

echoEcho by Pam Muñoz Ryan. I highly recommend listening to this on audiobook. There’s music playing throughout, and it’s magical. Magical is a great way to describe this story–part fairy tale, part historical fiction, all lovely.

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum. I didn’t know much about the Stonewall Riots before reading this book. I liked that this followed the history of the struggle for LGBTQ rights both before and after Stonewall. I listened to this on audio, the wonderful Tim Federle narrated, and I definitely recommend this as an audiobook.


Those were the books I read over the summer. Between this and my midpoint check in, I read 24 books over the summer–double my original goal! As for my other goals, I didn’t start any Jane Austen books (boo–will have to make that my goal for fall!), but I did read some books that have been on my to-read list for forever, and I read widely and across genres, so I’m happy with that. Yay for summer reading! And now I’m ready for soup, sweaters, and the cooler weather that comes with fall. It can start any time now!