Mock Caldecott: Week 3 and Finalists!

I talked about our Mock Caldecott program set up here, so it’s time to talk about our week 3 books and the three finalists for our library!

Week Three Books and Book Club: Sadly, no one showed up to our week 3 book club, so I can’t talk about how these books worked with the kids. I’ll do a mock Caldecott wrap up sometime next week, but suffice it to say that while the passive part of the program was a lot of fun and worked really well, the actual book club was less successful.

gravityGravity, written and illustrated by Jason Chin. There’s something fun and lovely in the illustrations here. There’s also some humor and wit in the illustrations that I really responded to. I also love books like this that explain science concepts to kids in an easy to understand way. I feel like this is a book kids will love and parents will love sharing with their kids. It’s great for younger kids and older kids alike, and it’s a nonfiction book that would work well in storytime.

dance like starlightA Dance Like Starlight, written by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. I really loved both the story of dreaming and dancing, and the beautiful, soft illustrations. They melded to create a wonderful reading experience. This is a great introduction to Janet Collins, the first black prima ballerina, and will be a lovely read for aspiring dancers everywhere.

viva fridaViva Frida, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. The arresting images here just need to be looked at. The book feels very surreal to me. My one concern with the book is that it didn’t make a lot of sense to me until I read the author’s note at the end. Once I did that, and reread the book, it all came together, but I do wonder how many kids are going to be familiar enough with Frida’s work, or will take the time to read the author’s note at the end in order to have the context to understand the book. I think either way that they will enjoy poring over the pictures.

rogetThe Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This was my favorite picture book biography that I read this year. I love words, and thesauri, and just loved Roget’s story. The illustrations are just amazing–detailed and fascinating. You could spend hours looking at this book without getting bored. Melissa Sweet is on quite a roll this year–I’ve seen her mentioned for possible Caldecott contention for both this book and Firefly July. While I loved them both, to me the illustrations, and the look into Roget’s world, make this the stronger contender.

And the winner of week 3 is (drum roll please): Gravity! I can see why this fun and educational book won. It has tons of kid appeal, and is a great read.

And our 3 finalists are:

  • Gravity, written and illustrated by Jason Chin
  • Where’s Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio and illustrated by Barbara McClintock
  • The Adventures of Beekle, written and illustrated by Dan Santat

We will be holding voting on our finalists over the weekend and will announce our winner with the actual Caldecott winner on Monday when the library opens! I’ll be curious to see how our patrons vote in comparison to the Caldecott committee.

Mock Caldecott Program: Week 2

I talked about the setup of our Mock Caldecott Program here, so let’s get down to the books and the winner of the week!

Week Two Books and Book Club:

farmer and the clownThe Farmer and the Clown, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I really love this gentle story of a clown baby and the farmer who finds him. And I think it’s an excellent example of a wordless book. The illustrations are simply beautiful. The kids weren’t as into this one, though. I think adults respond better to the poignancy of the story than kids do (or at least better than the kids who came to the book club did). They enjoyed telling the story as we read it together, but they just didn’t seem to be as into it as some of the other books we read with them.

mr ferris and his wheelMr. Ferris and His Wheel, written by Katherine Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford. This one was a little long for a read-aloud. Although at the end I think the kids who came to the book club enjoyed listening to the story and the facts they learned from it, there was A LOT of restlessness during the story. This is one of the issues of doing this program both as a passive program and book club where we read the books together. Some of our choices are limited by what we can feasibly read out loud, which is of course not a consideration that the actual Caldecott committee has to take into account. So, while I love the illustrations here and think it’s an interesting book, the kids definitely saw it as the least exciting of the choices this week during book club.

where's mommyWhere’s Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock. The beautiful, detailed illustrations make this better suited to poring over one-on-one, but it’s still a good read-aloud. The kids liked the story, especially the twist ending. They also really liked looking at the differences between the mouse family’s house and the human family’s house. A girl who comes with her older brothers, who is more preschool aged rather than school aged, especially seemed to connect with this. I love the sweet story, and think that the illustrations are amazing.

sam and daveSam and Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. It’s probably no surprise to any librarian who has shared this book with kids that this was the hit of the week as a read-aloud. The kids loved it. All of the near misses where the boys almost find treasure made the kids exclaim out loud (“Oh, come ON!” one boy said as they narrowly missed the second jewel). It was really a fun one to read with them, and I loved how invested in the story they all were. Again, not a big shock that this was our winner of the week from the book club.

Passive Program: This part was actually a shock for me. I assumed that the voting over the week would go as it did in the book club–that Sam and Dave Dig a Hole would be the clear winner. In fact, I had assumed that it would be the winner of the entire Mock Caldecott at our library. I was wrong!

And the winner of week 2 is (drum roll please): Where’s Mommy? It joins The Adventures of Beekle as one of our finalists. I have really loved Where’s Mommy? since I first read it when it came out–I think the incredible detail in the illustrations, and the way the images mirror each other, is amazing, and it’s just a nice story that I can see parents sharing with their children for years to come. But I did not expect it to win at all in our Mock Caldecott–I’m glad to be proven wrong! On Friday I’ll post the results of weeks 3 & 4, and then post our winner next Monday when the actual Caldecott is announced. I can’t wait to see what it is!

Things I Wish I’d Known: Preschool Storytime

Welcome to Things I Wish I’d Known, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about things I wish I’d known when I started my job as a children’s librarian.

In some ways, the learning curve I had when I started preschool storytimes was the biggest one for me. I was worried about how to do a good baby and toddler storytime–it felt foreign, and like I had a lot to learn. I knew the learning curve would be steep. But preschool storytime felt like it was more intuitive. I felt like it was something I could do without much of a problem. Which meant when I ran into the inevitable problems that come with learning how to effectively do a storytime, I had a lot of angst about it. Here’s what I wish I’d known when I started my preschool storytime. If you want to look at what my preschool storytime looks like, I talked about it here. I’ve also blogged about what I wish I’d known when I started my baby and toddler storytimes.

1. Baby and toddler storytimes are more about the rhymes. Preschool storytime is more about the books. To be fair, I did know this. My coworker at the time, who mentored me A LOT through my first year of storytimes, told me this. But it took me a long time to figure out how this worked for me. I had to spend a lot of time reading, reading, reading to find engaging and age-appropriate books for preschoolers. And I tried many, many books that I liked, but that just didn’t work in storytime. Now I have a much better idea after reading a book if it will work for me or not. At the time, I didn’t have that, and felt like every book was a dare–was it going to work, or was it going to flop?

photo credit: JBLM MWR Marketing via photopin cc

photo credit: JBLM MWR Marketing via photopin cc

2. That being said, the rhymes/songs/fingerplays/etc. are still important! I also took the advice in the first point a little too literally when I started doing storytimes. My preschool storytimes were quite small at the time, and I had trouble engaging a small group of preschoolers with the rhymes and songs. I wasn’t as silly and crazy with them as I was in toddler time, and that was a mistake. Preschoolers love silliness, too! They love singing and dancing. They like doing silly fingerplays and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Just go with it! Now no matter the size of the group, I let myself be as silly as I can during the rhymes and activities

3. Look for books with really great stories. My old coworker was the champion of using long folktales or classic books in preschool storytime, and the kids would sit, rapt with attention, while she read them. She made me realize that longer books can work in storytime, as long as the story is captivating (and having a repetitive refrain doesn’t hurt, either). When I started doing preschool storytimes, I used a lot of shorter, rhyming books. Now I very rarely use rhyme-y or “list” books in preschool storytime. I’d rather read a story that we can talk about. It lets the kids predict what’s coming next, allows us to use our words, and is more fun for me.

4. Really love the books you read. I try to pick books that I can’t wait to share with the kids. My goal is no “throwaway” books just because they fit the theme (more on that in a second). It’s true that your enthusiasm for a book carries through and the kids can tell. Choose books that you love!

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Preschool Storytime: How Mine Works

Ah, preschool storytime. It’s a completely different beast than either baby or toddler storytime. This is the storytime where the kiddos can talk back. And we want them to! First of all: we know from the research that encouraging kids to talk is so important for their developing brains. Also, as a bonus, preschoolers say the funniest things. I love preschool storytime. Since I’ve talked about my toddler and baby storytimes before, I also wanted to give a breakdown of what my preschool storytime looks like.

photo credit: maryfrancesmain via photopin cc

photo credit: maryfrancesmain via photopin cc

Our preschool storytime is 30 minutes long (not including the craft at the end) and is aimed at ages 3-5. Here’s the plan from last week’s preschool storytime, which was a dance themed storytime: Preschool 1_14_15_Dancing. As you can see, it’s a pretty unstructured list. In preschool storytime I always choose way more books then I plan on reading for two reasons. First: my coworker and I share storytime planning. We are a small library, light on staff, and we are each responsible for 3 storytimes a week. It’s just much more efficient if we switch off on planning on storytime. So I grab a lot of books so that she has options to choose from, and she does the same for me. Second: I just never know what I’m going to feel like reading on storytime day. I want to have some options, in case it’s a crazy day and the longer story I wanted to read won’t work out. Or in case my kids just want story after story and ask for longer stories to read. I want to be prepared.

Also, as you can see, preschool storytime is the only storytime where I use a theme. I think it works really well with preschoolers to have a theme. It gives you great things to talk about with the kiddos. You can talk about how stories tie into each other: what is similar about them? How are they different? It also helps me mix up my books. A theme makes me try new books and find new favorites for both me and the kids.

So, keeping in mind that my preschool storytime is much less structured than my baby or toddler times, here’s what mine looks like:

Opening spiel: This is the perfect place to let my kiddos use their words. I ask them what the “rules” of storytime are. We talk about sitting criss-cross-applesauce and listening during the books. We talk about the rule of the purple circle–my library has a multicolored carpet, and I let the kids sit wherever they want, except for on the purple circle. That’s where the storytime chair is, and gives me a little room to move around. It’s a pretty short spiel, but I’ve found having the kids tell me the rules makes for a lot of buy-in and a smooth storytime.

Opening songs: I have two. “These Are My Glasses” by Laurie Berkner and “Open, Shut Them.”

Talking about the theme: Another great chance to let the kiddos use their words! I always ask what they think the theme of the week is, based on the books on display on the storytime table. It’s always interesting to hear their guesses, and help guide them to the theme, especially if it’s not an obvious one.

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Mock Caldecott Program: Week 1

We are doing a mock Caldecott program at our library over the month of January. It’s a combination of a regular program and a passive program, and so far it’s going well. Every Thursday in January, we have a Caldecott book club. In that program, we read 4 books together, and the participants vote on their favorites. Then we put a display of those four books out and allow any patron to vote on them for the rest of the week. The winner of the week becomes one of the finalists. The next week, we read/display 4 different books. By the last week, we will have 4 finalists, and will vote from those to pick the mock Caldecott winner for our library.

Week One Books and Book Club: Books were chosen based on blog buzz, other people’s mock Caldecott lists, our favorites, and books we thought had strong pictures and a lot of kid appeal.

ivanIvan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This was a fun one to read with the kids in the book club. It’s too long for normal storytime, so I’d never gotten a chance to read it with kids before. The kids had no idea what to expect, as they thought it was going to be a silly story about a gorilla who goes shopping. So it was a bit unexpected when I started reading it, but the kids really did like the story and couldn’t believe it was a true story. They were all very happy when Ivan was taken out of his sad situation and went to a zoo. And we got to talk about how pictures can convey meaning. There are some really beautiful pictures for illustrating sadness and loneliness here (as well as happiness at the end), and it was fun to talk about how the images could convey feelings with the kids.

flashlightFlashlight, written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd. The kids pored over the illustrations in this one. Once they realized there were cutouts in the book, they made sure they identified them on every page. They were completely engaged by the illustrations. This was interesting to read with the kids, because it lent itself to a great discussion about purely the illustrations, without the words of the book coming into the discussion. We had a small group, and it was clear that this kind of visual analysis was new to them, so that added a fun element.

hi kooHi, Koo! written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth. I loved all of the books we read this week, but Hi, Koo! is my favorite. I love the illustrations and the poems, and I’m a sucker for a good seasons book. The kids liked it too, especially the illustration where everyone’s eyes are square from too much TV. I did notice that they struggled a little more with the books that weren’t “regular” picture books–they had a harder time tracking this book and Flashlight than the other more traditional stories.

adventures of beekleThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat. This was far and away the hit of the book club. As soon as the kids saw Beekle, they said, “He looks like Baymax!” and they were hooked. The lively, beautiful illustrations and lovely story kept them engaged throughout. We had a small group for the first week of the book club (a family of 4), and all of them voted for Beekle.

Passive Program: After we met on Thursday, we put the 4 books out on display on Friday and let patrons vote on them throughout the week. It was fun to watch older kids read the books on their own and vote, and to watch families read them together. The votes also evened out over the week–all of the books got some votes.

And the winner of week 1 is (drum roll please): The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. It’s easy to see why this is our first finalist. The pictures are lively, the story is fun, and there’s a ton of kid appeal here. Come back next Monday for our week 2 finalist and breakdown!

This Book is My Jam: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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.

nestI find it hard to put into words how affecting this book was for me. I cried (a lot) when I read it. I cried when describing it to a coworker and it made her cry (and she had not read the book). It was recommended to me by another coworker’s daughter, who said it was the best book she had ever read (she’s 11, so the exact target age for this book). When discussing it with this coworker, we both teared up. There’s no doubt that I’m a softie, but seriously: bring the tissues when you read this one.

I’ve been thinking about this book a lot since I read it, mulling it over in my head. There are so many reasons why Nest worked so well for me. I think the thing that really struck home for me was how real the characters felt. They felt incredibly specific, yet at the same time very relatable. Chirp’s (our protagonist) father, a psychiatrist, deals with things in the way you would expect a psychiatrist father to deal with things (although it never felt stereotypical) and the way his daughters, Chirp and Rachel, talk reflects that they have a psychiatrist for a father. It just felt like a family you could actually imagine meeting.

Chirp as a main character was much the same way. There are a lot of quirky, precocious kids in children’s literature, and I appreciated that Chirp was not one of these characters. She did so many specific kid things (like deciding that if she could get changed in less than 15 seconds everything would be okay) that I felt like a lot of kids would relate to her. I also loved that her and her family were Jewish and that this was both a big part of her life and not the main focus of the book. I want to read more diverse books this year, and reading this book made me realize that there aren’t nearly enough Jewish characters and families in middle grade literature.

Another thing I appreciated: a lot of bad stuff was presented and dealt with very realistically. Mental illness, having a sick family member, and child abuse were just some of the issues here and are presented pretty starkly. Some of this realism and how people reacted to it really made me mad. Nothing was tied up neatly with a bow. But it felt like reality, and I liked that Ehrlich didn’t condescend to her audience. She just showed a reality. And sometimes, reality sucks. Pretending that it doesn’t doesn’t change that, and doesn’t help kids who are going through bad times.

I could keep talking about this book, and I did talk about it quite a bit more in my Goodreads review, if you’d like more of my thoughts. Even though it made me cry, I loved reading this book, and would highly recommend it. There are some pretty serious issues discussed in the book, which I’ll discuss in the next paragraph. Be aware they do contain spoilers so don’t read the next paragraph if you don’t want to know anything (else) about the book.

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I Resolve to Rock in 2015!

It might be a little late for New Year’s resolutions, but I really liked Storytime Underground’s call to resolve to rock in 2015 and wanted to take a little time to think about, and then blog about, my professional goals for the year.

Resolve-to-Rock-meme-image1. Presume good intentions from others. I haven’t blogged about CALLI much lately, which is mostly because it slows down in November and December due to the holiday season. But in January we will be meeting to discuss leadership books we’ve been reading and to share what we’ve learned. I plan on writing a longer post about the fabulous book I read, Trustology, but one major takeaway I got from the book was that you need to presume good intentions from people. This is especially hard to do with people you might have had difficult relationships with in the past. This is both a personal and professional goal for me. It’s something I strive to do naturally, but this is the year I’m going to make sure I’m intentional about it, and give the people around me permission to call me out if they see that I am not presuming good intentions.

2. Finish our department’s weeding project. We’re planning a room redesign, and before that happens we want to be well weeded. The biggest area to be weeded is the nonfiction section. I’m halfway through the 600’s right now (my section is 500-999). It’s going slowly, but it’s amazing how much better the shelves look. I’m excited to keep going with it.

3. Be intentional about adding new songs and rhymes to my storytime repertoire. I have a lot of favorite songs and rhymes I use over and over again for baby and toddler storytime. I love those songs, and so do the babies and the toddlers, but I want to make sure I’m keeping it fresh for everyone. This year I’m going to seek out new songs, rhymes, (and books!), and try them out. It’s always fun to do new things and I want to make sure I don’t get bored or stuck in a storytime rut.

4. More school-aged programming! For our size and staff, our library has a really great amount of baby, toddler, and preschool programming. I’m really proud of the focus on early literacy, but I’d love for us to have more regular school-age programming during the school year.

5. Continue to grow and learn from CALLI. I’m so lucky to be part of the CAL Leadership Institute, and I can’t wait to continue my professional development in the program. I think 2015 will be a year of great learning and growing for me because of my participation in CALLI.

6. Have more fun with my work. This is a professional goal for me every year. Finding joy and fun in what I do is incredibly important to me, and one of the reasons I became a children’s librarian. And the more I focus on having fun, I think I’m both better at my job and happier with my life. Every year at my current job has been more fun than the last, and I want to continue that in 2015.

So those are my professional goals for 2015. What are yours? Also, be sure to check out Storytime Underground if you haven’t already and see what other awesome youth services librarians are resolving to do in 2015!