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!

Continue reading

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.

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.

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!

My Summer Reading Check-In

Summer reading at my library is moving along swimmingly, but this check-in is about the online summer reading program I’m participating in this summer. I’ve already blogged about my goals for the summer. So, how am I doing?

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

Sphere by Michael Crichton. I can’t believe I haven’t read any Crichton before! I thought the science-y stuff was really interesting, and am definitely planning on reading a few more of his books–Jurassic Park and Andromeda Strain–very soon.

Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg. Funny, fast, and literary all at the same time.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia. I adore spending time with the Gaither sisters, and I think I liked this book even better than the first one, One Crazy Summer. I listened to it on audio–a great listen! Print

To Dance With Kings by Rosalind Laker. If you’re interested in the history of Versailles, or in epic family sagas, this book would be a good one to check out.

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove. An interesting concept about a world where different places are also different ages. Listened to this one on audio, as well.rithmatist

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. I generally listen to Sanderson books, but this one had quite a bit of drawings in it that were central to the plot so I read it. While it took me a while to get into it, once I did I was completely sucked in. It has Sanderson’s trademark interesting, complex magic systems, as well as great world-building.

Quiet Leadership by David Rock. I read this for my CALLI final project, where we are going to talk about “tough conversations.” I’m really excited about digging more into this topic. So, while this wasn’t exactly fun summer reading for me, it was interesting.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. A really fascinating mystery/thriller set in Soviet Russia.

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest. A mystery/thriller for teens featuring really cool comics throughout. The cover is one of my favorite new book covers I’ve seen lately.i am princess x

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. One of my favorite chick lit authors writes a YA book! It’s more serious than her adult books (although still with her trademark humor)–it’s about a girl with an anxiety disorder and her road to recovery. I enjoyed this quite a bit.

Spoiled by Jessica Morgan & Heather Cocks. I have been meaning to read this one for a while, and also have The Royal We (their new book) on hold at the library. This is good, easy, light summer reading. I personally was less excited about the Hollywood angle in this book, but am excited for the royalty angle in The Royal We. fad mania

Fad Mania by Cynthia Overbeck Bix. A YA nonfiction book that talks about various fads in America throughout the 20th century.

How I’m doing on my goals: Well, one of my goals was to read 12 books, and this list is exactly 12, so I’ve definitely already fulfilled that goal! Since this reading program goes until the end of August, I will probably read closer to 20 books over the summer, although we’ll see. Some of the books I’m planning on reading are longer, and may take a while to get through.

Another goal: to start on my project of rereading all of Jane Austen’s books. I haven’t started on that yet. Once I get through the last few library books I have at home, I may try that next.

Another goal: to read books that have been on my to-read list for a while. I’ve definitely been doing that: Child 44, Spoiled, and To Dance With Kings have all been on my to-read list for a log time, so I was excited to read them all.

Last goal: To pick books that sound fun and get into the spirit of summer reading. I’ve definitely been doing this–I haven’t let myself get too concerned about genres or anything like that–I’ve just been picking up books that I want to read and savoring them. Yay for summer reading!

Currently Reading:

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I’m listening to this one–it’s my first Anne Tyler. Apparently I’m really into family sagas this summer!

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. One of my favorite children’s authors just came out with a new book and I’m tearing through it. It’s really heavy, but so far beautifully written and gripping.

How’s your summer reading going?

School Visits and Books We Booktalked

I previously blogged about how our summer reading promotion school visits work, and the books we brought to read to K-2nd graders. For grades 3-5, we bring books to booktalk. We brought a lot of books this year, and most were successful. Here are the books we talked about, and the reactions to them:

snicker of magicA Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. This was asked about by pretty much every class, and was one of the most popular books we bought. And obviously the booktalk worked–I just had to buy another copy of this for the library because we had so many holds on it! A fun cover, a magical town, and a girl who moves super often were all elements that intrigued the kids.

drizzleDrizzle by Kathleen Van Cleeve. This was also asked about by every class, which surprised me. I didn’t realize how compelling that cover was! And even though booktalking this book shows how strange it is (a magical rhubarb farm?!?!), it’s another one that has so many holds on it I just bought another copy for the library. So obviously a successful booktalk!

treatires trenchesTreaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale. Another very popular cover–it was asked about in every class we had it out for. This series continues to be popular in our library (our graphic novel collection is generally just insanely popular, as I assume it is everywhere), and this was no exception. It was the only book where after our presentation, a child actually asked me to write down the title so he wouldn’t forget it.

Tricky Vic by Greg Pizzoli. I think what always surprises me the most about booktalking to classrooms is which covers the kids are interested in hearing more about. This one got asked about a lot, and I have had a few kids come in the library since and ask “what was that book about the conman, again?” This is a great picture book nonfiction, that I loved, but I didn’t expect it to be as popular with the kids as it was.

absolutely almostAbsolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. Another cover that surprised me–it was asked about a lot. I LOVED this book, but realized it’s actually kind of tricky to booktalk. I think my booktalk rambled on a bit the first time I tried to booktalk it, so I ended up just reading a chapter from the book, which seemed to work better.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. This book reminded me that I can’t wait for The Marvels to come out soon. I love Selznick! A lot of the kids had already read this one, and they loved sharing with us that it was a great book. It is 🙂

greenglass houseGreenglass House by Kate Milford. I love the cover of this, but it always seemed a little adult to me, and I wasn’t sure it would appeal to kids. I was TOTALLY wrong about this. This one got asked about a lot, and I still have kids coming into the library wanting to put holds on it.

Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan. The animals on the cover of this made it a big draw. And the kids all liked the fact that this was about a family that owned a lot of animals.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Another book that both my coworker and I loved, but found somewhat difficult to booktalk without rambling. We brought the audiobook, rather than the physical book, which meant we couldn’t just read from it. But it was asked about a lot, and the kids definitely seemed intrigued by it, and our copies aren’t staying on the shelf, so I think this will be a summer hit! Continue reading