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

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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