ALA Midwinter Meeting Day One

January 8th, 2016

This morning I got up early and my son drove me to the airport — and we survived the experience! (It was his first time driving in months. I have a hard time not exclaiming aloud when in the passenger’s seat. Sometimes, I had to just close my eyes. This was mostly the backing out of the garage part.)

In the plane, I was seated next to another librarian. (Surprise, Surprise!) (We can pick each other out.) We had matching color carry-ons and coats. We were staying at the same hotel, so we navigated the subway together. We live in the same neighborhood, but she’s a cataloger for the Library of Congress. But it was a friendly way to start the conference!

I decided to walk from my hotel to the Convention Center. It’s a mile — if you don’t take a wrong turn. If you take a wrong turn, it turns out that you can see the Convention Center, but it’s hard to actually reach the Convention Center. But I did so eventually. And it was a nice walk. I do like Boston.

I decided to spend the afternoon at the ALSC Notable Books Committee meeting. They were discussing picture books. While I was there, they discussed titles starting with F through M. Since I was just on the Cybils panel for Fiction Picture Books, I especially enjoyed it when committee members shared my enthusiasm for certain titles and my concerns for other titles. I won’t say which!

Then I went to catch the Booklist Author Forum, featuring Ken Burns, Terry Tempest Williams, and Mark Kurlansky. I walked in a little late, so didn’t get the intro, but their conversation was fascinating. The moderator was Donna Seaman.

When I walked in, they were talking about National Parks. Terry Tempest Williams’ new book is about that. Here are my notes:

Ken Burns: National Parks: We don’t have cathedrals, but look what we have.
You feel your atomic insignificance, but you’re made larger by that.
A wonderful thing that the parks do.

Terry: The Hour of Land, out in June.
Writing this book was a transcendent experience.
Not sure they’re our best idea. They’re an evolving idea. There’s a shadow side to our national parks.
Writing this book, she didn’t have anything to hide behind. Her vision has been too small.

Mark Kurlansky: His view of the living world (does both fiction and nonfiction). Much easier to write fiction and nonfiction at the same time than two of the same.
What they have in common is they have to be true.
Where do you get that truth?
In fiction — lots of self-searching and reflection. Often don’t turn out like you thought they would.
In nonfiction, the stories in real life are so great, you could never invent something that great.

Ken Burns is writing a children’s book about Presidents.
When his daughter was 4 or 5, they would lie in bed and go through the sequence of the presidents. Her favorite part was “Grover Cleveland, AGAIN!” Now she’s 33.
A book to teach the sequence of the presidents. “Grover Cleveland, Again!”
Can use it with several age groups.

Talk about bringing humor to complicated subjects:
Mark: Humor is what we live on. Tells his editors: “If it’s funny, I’m not going to cut it!”

Moderator: Terry, you bring beauty and sensuousness to your books. Is that a habit from journal-keeping?
Terry: Beauty is truth, truth is beauty for me. We’re witnessing terrible beauties. Like a swirling rainbow from an oil spill.
How she deals with this is she writes. It’s an act of consequence. Takes hard truths and attempts to recreate them on the page. That’s an act of beauty, of creation.
We are now at the Hour of Land.
Ultimately, the earth will survive us. Wanted the book to be an object of beauty. Photographs, but not feel-good images.

Ken: In Terry’s work, there’s an idea of presence. Youu force me back into this moment, which is a great gift.

Moderator: I think of your work, Ken, as slowing down time.
Ken: In a book, the author has no control over how long you spend with it. He tries to ask for your attention at that moment.
In film you have a little more power to control the moment.
Humor is an important glue in his war films. And helps bridge the gap to different times.
We think because we’re here we know a lot more than folks a hundred years ago.

Moderator: Mark’s forthcoming book is about paper. A uniquely human trait is that people record.
Mark: The history of humans is the story of trying to service this urge to tell stories. Search for more and more efficient ways of writing… and it goes on. We want to tell our stories. We want to pass our experiences on. That will continue as long as we’re around.
Every new idea is confronted with the same objections. Plato said that learning by reading isn’t true knowledge.

Terry: I have a disease with journals. It’s not real unless I hand write it down. Goes through a journal a month. She’s witnessing on the page.
Her journal is her personal library of experience. She feels like she lives twice. Uses them as reference points when she’s writing. Wow. Told about an amazing experience she saw with bison in Yellowstone. Had to get it down in writing right away.
In the act of writing it, it becomes you.

Ken: I write everything out by hand. It doesn’t seem as real without writing it out.
“beautifully pathetic grasp at immortality.” Stories are a way to try to live on.
A seemingly chhaotic world– story puts order into our lives. It keeps us from perceiving our mortality. A wonderful kind of distraction. Writing down things makes sense of it.

Mark: I sometimes think that we talk too much.
With writing, you’re alone with your thoughts and there’s not a lot of talking.
At a Benedictine monastery, the silence keeps the effect of beautiful music.

Moderator: Thinking about distillation. Each of you deal with huge topics. How painful is it to edit it down?

Terry: Out of 400 national parks, focused on 12, and in 30 seconds, each park is its own universse. Was paralyzing. Had to come to grips with her own limitations. The only way to go foorward was to say, “I’m a storyteller.” and approach it that way. You can deal with the world that way.

Ken: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Exactly like making a film.
Shooting ratio of easily 40 to 1.
Began to understand this is not dissimilar to sculpture. What’s on the floor of the studio is not part 2. It’s the negative space. In order to be a there, there has to be a not-there.
Doesn’t like Director’s Cut or extras on DVDs.

Terry — after she was interviewed by Ken Burns for 4 hours, she cried like never before. It was that outpouring of emotion that made her realize she had to write about it.

Ken: It’s important to be challenged, important to bite off more than you can chew and learn to chew it.

Mark: It’s painful to get research into a manuscript. He blows a conch shell when he’s done with that part.

Ken rings a cowbell. Terry howls.

Mark: Then he cuts it and pares it. It’s his favorite part, doing that paring.

Terry: And then you have to return to your family.

Moderator: Tales from the front?
Mark: I love research, and do it myself. Research is learning. It’s exciting and fun and why I do the kind of books I do.
There’s no substitute for a personal experience. Doing the salt book, he went to the site of Carthage — and understood the Roman empire in a way I never have before.
“You have to go places and see things, and when possible talk to people.”

Ken: All history, all biography is failure. Think of the people closest to you and how inscrutable they remain. But we have to try. You can’t farm out the research.
Terry: when she went to Rwanda, she made a pilgrimage to the Library of Congress and looked at all the maps of Rwanda she could find.
One of most powerful things has been curating the photographs.
Researching the images changed her perception of what a park was.

Moderator: Their energy level went up when they started talking about research!

What sticks in Ken’s mind about the Civil War is that Winchester, VA, changed hands 72 times.

Terry: Those details! Was wondering if there were prairie dogs in Gunnison County — found out in a museum.

Ken: In publishing, we’re results-oriented. Research is about practice. What it’s about, really.
He’s exhilarated that it’s the process.
The second it’s done, it’s yours, not mine. What’s mine is the process.

Mark: I know so much more about writing now. Writing is about the only thing you get better at with age.

Moderator: “Collaboration is the only way forward.” What do you mean by collaboration?
Terry: This converstaion is a collaboration. Books are a collaboration with the reader and those who take your words seriously.
It’s especially important for writers because our tendency is solitude. Seeing the world from all these different angles as we become more and more complex. In that prism we see the beauty of the spectrum.

After the talk, we were given books or parts of books by all three authors and they signed them. With Ken Burns, it was pages from his book Grover Cleveland, Again! With Terry Tempest Williams, it was a nice chapbook with the chapter on Grand Tetons National Park from her upcoming book The Hour of Land. With Mark Kurlansky, it was an Advance Reader Copy of his upcoming book Paper. I definitely want to read all three! (And I got about halfway through the chapbook while standing in line for the other two. This is good writing!)

Then came the exhibits!

You know how medieval soldiers used to go berserk? There is a Book Frenzy which takes hold of a normally mild-mannered librarian on Opening Night of ALA, which I believe is similar.

I tried to thwart it a little bit by not participating in the Running of the Librarians when the ribbon is cut and the exhibits open. Instead I waited in line for the signed books.

However, I did collect 30 more books, 3 tote bags, and a hungry tomato.

And the Post Office on the Exhibit Floor isn’t open on Friday night, so I inevitably spend the rest of the conference figuring out where I will tote all those books to ship them home. There is a UPS store across the street from my hotel….


Review of Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, by Harold S. Kushner

January 7th, 2016

9_essential_things_largeNine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life

by Harold S. Kushner

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 169 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Other Nonfiction

The wise rabbi who wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People is 80 years old, and he has some wisdom to share with the world.

Even though I’m not Jewish, I can see the deep wisdom in most of the “essential things” Rabbi Kushner talks about. I have a few minor disagreements with some theological points. (Most notable is that I do think thoughts can be sinful even without actions. What does he do with the commandment “Thou shalt not covet”?) But overall, I find myself filling this book with post-it notes marking outstanding quotes. May we benefit from his years of experience and his wisdom.

In the first chapter, he talks about the influences that shaped and changed his view of God from the theology he was taught as a child.

More than anything else, my half century of congregational service and my dozen or so books have been dedicated to reformulating that traditional theology. I’ve done this not to protect God from bad theologians and people’s righteous anger, but to rescue people who need God from having to choose between a cruel God and no God at all.

An idea I liked very much indeed was found in the second chapter, “God Is Not a Man Who Lives in the Sky.” It is that when someone tells you he is an atheist, you can respond, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in; maybe I don’t believe in him either.”

He talks about many versions of God which he doesn’t believe in and concludes that chapter:

The God I believe in is under no obligation to be the kind of God we would like Him to be, or even the kind of God we need Him to be. Begging Him, bargaining with Him, even living by His mandates will not cause the rain to fall and give us an abundant harvest, nor will it cure our disease or help us win the lottery. God’s role is not to make our lives easier, to make the hard things go away, or to do them for us. God’s role is to give us the vision to know what we need to do, to bless us with the qualities of soul that we will need in order to do them ourselves, no matter how hard they may be, and to accompany us on that journey.

The remaining chapter titles will give you an idea of the topics covered in the other Essential Things: “God Does Not Send the Problem; God Sends Us the Strength to Deal with the Problem,” “Forgiveness Is a Favor You Do Yourself,” “Some Things Are Just Wrong: Knowing That Makes Us Human,” “Religion Is What You Do, Not What You Believe,” “Leave Room for Doubt and Anger in Your Religious Outlook,” “To Feel Better About Yourself, Find Someone to Help,” and “Give God the Benefit of the Doubt.”

Check Sonderquotes for some bits of wisdom. If you like what you read, I do recommend this book. Read one Essential Thing each morning, and you’ll be uplifted, encouraged, and motivated.

Rabbi Kushner closes with “A Love Letter to a World That May or May Not Deserve It,” which is simply beautiful. The first paragraph talks about all he and the world have been through together. Then he says:

But with it all, I choose to love you. I love you, whether you deserve it or not (and how does one measure that?). I love you in part because you are the only world I have. I love you because I like who I am better when I do. But mostly I love you because loving you makes it easier for me to be grateful for today and hopeful about tomorrow. Love does that.

There. Simply typing that out made my day suddenly much better. Rabbi Kushner is right. And there are many more wise gems where that came from.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

YALSA Institute Part Four – Filling the Library with Teens and Digital Literacy for Teens

January 6th, 2016

Here are notes from the last two programs I attended at the November 2015 YALSA Teen Services Institute

Yes You Can!
Presenter: Jenn Cournoyer

Mission Part One: Fill the Library with Teens!

Their program had a real divide – most teens from the wrong side of the tracks.
They had a quiet place to do homework and changed to a Teen Den.
Attitudes you’re fighting: “Us against them,” “This is how we’ve always done it,” “That doesn’t work here.”

Step One: Start with what you have.
She had an anime club, so got to know some of the teens.
Use fresh eyes to assess the space and how patrons are using it.

Step Two: Make the space teen friendly.
Have available food and drink! After school, they’re hungry! It helps behavior to feed them.
The library will be cleaner when patrons aren’t trying to hide food.
Wifi and computer access for teens.
Comfortable seating
Positive signage (Watch the tone of signs!)
Attractive displays of teen materials

Step Three: Be Accessible
Have a Teen Librarian Desk.
Do your teens know how to contact you? Email, Facebook…
SAY HELLO! Introduce yourself to teens in the library.
Hang out. Be yourself.

Step Four: Give the Teens a Voice
Have a white board/ chalkboard.
What do you Geek? Posters with pictures of the teens
Teen Newsletter – sent electronically to middle school and high school. Let them highlight books.
Showcase their work on Facebook, around the library, local news.
Let teens create a display.

Step Five: Let’s talk programming.
Build off the audience you have, not the audience you wish you had. (They started with an anime club rather than a book club.)
Use your own passions and interests as a springboard. (Writer’s workshop, coding club, Hour of Code…)
Don’t be afraid to try something and fail.
Don’t cancel a program just because no one signed up.
Market, market, market!
Advertise on Parent Facebook pages from the schools.
Have program reviews. If teens write it, give them a piece of candy at the end of the program.
Start listservs for program reminders.
Passive Programs – have at least one every month
Don’t forget your volunteers!

Step Six: Bookstore your collection!
They got rid of spinners and added genre baskets.
Get face-out shelving (like bookstores!)
New books display
They have 2-3 displays at any time (use Pinterest for ideas!)

Step Seven: Outreach
She’s had trouble with schools, but good relationships with Boys & Girls Clubs, Phoenix House, etc.

Mission Part Two: Create Buy-in

Model to other staff how to talk to and interact with teens.
Introduce your teens to other staff and brag about them.
Talk about how you handle issues. It’s not a secret.
Empower staff to use behavior modification they are comfortable with.
Have a staff training with role playing.
Remind staff they don’t have to be you, or use your style.
Acknowledge the power of a name – Get to know and use the names of regulars.
Get your Admin’s blessing – use the YALSA report.

Mission Part Three: Keep Your Sanity

Only you know how much you can do.
Consider your budget and your time.
Ask for what you need. The worst that can happen is “No.”
Find a formula and go with it for as long as it works. (Try a monthly routine for programs.)
Don’t reinvent the wheel! Your colleagues – and Pinterest – are great resources.
Take a vacation! You should want to come to work.
Good is not the enemy of perfect.

Final thoughts:
Never make it you and the teens against the other staff.
Back up your colleagues.
Ask for your colleagues’ input.
Change your story: What’s one thing you can change? (More programs? Contact with PTO?)
It’s ultimately about the teens!!!


Using Digital Literacy with Teens
Darlene Encomio, Martin County Library System, Florida

Vision: Introduce teens to technology and information, opening the gates of creation and communication.

Technology: Makey Makey, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printer, Circuit Scribe.
Most of the technology came through grants and donations.
Used open source software and social media.

First program: Makey Makey – Piano with cups of water.
Their website is great – Watch the 2-minute video with them and have them go to the How-to page.

MIT’s Scratch Lab
Pulled up video. Show them the ideas from Pinterest – let teens decide what to do.

Teens love to see themselves on film. They posted the videos on the library’s YouTube channel – The library’s stats went right up!
Used a MacBook and had the teens write their own booktalks.
Edited in YouTube video editor and sound editor – FREE.

3D Printer
They had a small Mini Makerbot

Arduino and Raspberry Pi
“wonderful for the advanced tech teens” especially those who want to mentor others.
Use instructables. Patron base will be smaller groups for this.
For ideas, show them and Kickstarter. Get them thinking about inventing…
Show them the Arduino TED talk.
It’s a great way to introduce technology and engineering. (Though arguably Lego Mindstorms does it a little better.)
They often start Teen Tech Lab with a video.

Circuit Scribe
Great website and Pinterest pages.


STEAM Break – every day of Spring Break
10-12 Technology. (Got funding to order subs for lunch.)
12-2 Science program (Teachers came in and did experiments)
2-3 Art programs

3D Printing Showcase
Vendor came in and set up 3D printers in the hallway

Summer Camp Visit Expo
When summer camps visited the library (groups of 30), they brought out the technology.

Teen Tech Lab
Once a month, 2 hours on a Saturday.
(Would also bring out Makey Makeys on demand.)

3D Printing Resources
(They’d allow one 3D print-out per day.)
Tinkercad – need to be a little more familiar with this
3DHubs – locate 3D printer vendors. (Do a showcase?)

Don’t tell teens step by step what to do. Show them where to find ideas.
Seek out donors and grants. (They got $80,000 from Jim Moran Foundation for Homework Center.)

VolunTeens – Teens helping teens. Empowerment and resume building.
Quality Programming
Got teens into the library. Allows them to fail in a safe place and try things out.
(If just starting a program, Lego Mindstorms are good value for the money.)


Teen Tech Lab Series
1) Ice breakers and creating YouTube videos. (Bean Boozled challenge was their ice breaker. They filmed the challenge and uploaded onto YouTube.
2) Makey Makey
3) Create a story using Scratch.
4) Arduino and Raspberry Pi
5) Digital Art Portfolio/Online Resume
6) 3D printing
7) Circuit Scribe (This is a little more involved – use Pinterest.)
8) Stop Motion Videos (Programs: Stop Motion Studio app and YouTube. Make a challenge, with prizes.)

Then they took questions.
They had four Makey Makey kits – 4 kids per kit.
Check their Make It Idaho Facebook page.
“Makerspaces and the participatory library.”


And that’s the end of my notes from YALSA Teen Services Institute. You can see why my head was spinning with ideas! Will I be able to carry any of these out at my library? We’ll see….

Then there was the fun part of the Institute. There was a Reception Friday night at the top of the hotel. And it ended up with a Teen Poetry Slam.

Saturday night, there was a big room full of authors signing books, and we got tickets for six free books. I met Anne Jacobus and knew I had been to a conference with her. It took a few tries before I realized that she was at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference I went to in Paris exactly 10 years earlier! And she was one of the organizers.

Ann Jacobus

Here are the free signed books I got at the conference. A very manageable amount this time!

YALSA Signed Books

YALSA Institute, Part Three — Teen Programming

January 5th, 2016

Here are my notes from two afternoon sessions on November 7, 2015, at the YALSA Institute in Portland, Oregon.

If You Build It, They Will Come: Establishing Teen Services in Public Libraries
Presented by Molly Kelly and Kat Tigges

After months of research and proposals, they got a renovated teen space at a branch of Chicago Public Library and established a dynamic Teen Services department.

How They Did It:

Build a Framework: Why?

Theoretical Framework: What informs your practice? Consider the developmental needs of teens.

Structural Framework: Work out how your practice will be organized. Their Teen Services became its own department. Where does Teen Services fit in your library?

These speakers recommended putting Teen Services under Adult Services if they can’t have their own department. It’s more attractive to teens than when part of Children’s Services.

HOMAGO: Hanging out, messing around, geeking out.

These are different levels of engagement:
HO: Spontaneous, Flexible, Natural
MA: Self-directed, interest driven, experimentation
GO: Focused, Instruction, Advancement (Level Up)

Connected Learning:
Learning principles: Interests, peer culture, academically oriented
Design principles: Production-centered, openly networked, shared purpose
Core values: Equity, social connections, full participation
Want to be a link between home, school, and community

After you know why, assess what you’ve got and where you are. This was a huge long process. Start with the big picture and work your way down.

Break it into the component parts.

Know your audience: Administrators like options. Make a timeline of component parts.

Empower the whole staff and community: Get input.

Research: Look on the internet for photos of teen spaces.

Prepare patrons. They will offer valuable input (in their case, providing enough outlets) and will feel valued when you use their ideas.

What You Can Do

Work with what you’ve got.
Capitalize on your resources no matter what they are.
They kept board games out and available without check-out.
Remember Numbers lead to Funding!

Be visible. “Hey! I saw you at my school!” Outreach and marketing don’t have to be perfect. Be out there! Show them what they’re getting in terms of programs and impact.

Get input from teens. Make it easy for them to tell you what they want.
Have a Suggestions Box: It’s your space. What do you want to do with it?
Survey for gift cards
Let Volunteers give you info – rather than shelf-reading
Just Ask!

Then make their wishes come true! Ask what they want, then make it happen.
You gain credibility when you follow their suggestions. They heard one teen say, “I asked for couches, and they got couches!” If one teen believes in you, they’ll tell their friends.

Remember Teen You. Be honest with yourself about who you really were.

Be Real. Teens can smell BS a mile away. Teens really like honesty. They really like being treated like adults. Your interests are valid points of connection. You can get them to respond to you.

It won’t be easy!
Get support. Online if not in person.

Funding is a numbers game. Have proof teens are interested.

It really takes: Two YEARS of constant effort to get regulars.
Keep existing participants engaged. Where are they? (including online) Go there.
Keep track of what you’re doing.

Remember: It’s worth it! You can make a difference in a teen’s life!
You’re playing the long game. Look and listen. Try things, and see what works.
Every failure is the chance for a new beginning.
Done is better than perfect.

The next session:

A Series of Fortunate Events: Library Collaborations that help LGBTQ Young Adults Transition to College Life
Amanda Melilli – Curriculum materials
Ashley Nebe – AP teacher
Rosan Mitola – Outreach librarian
David Levithan – Author of Another Day
Susan Kuklin – Author of Beyond Magenta
Ann Bausum – Author of Stonewall
Mariko Tamaki – Author of Saving Montgomery Sole

First, report from librarians. Their program is in the 5th largest school district in the nation. They built a partnership between a high school and a local university.

Look up the GLSEN Report on LGBTQ teens.

High school victimization means teens are less likely to go to college, more likely to miss school, and more likely to be depressed.

The more supportive staff, the more helpful. Supportive staff can help keep kids in school.

Support student clubs such as Gay-Straight Alliances
Provide training
Increase student access to appropriate and accurate information.
The first day of school can be stressful for trans students.
Student success in college is measured by retention, progression, and completion.
For student engagement, focus on: Active & Collaborative Learning, Student-Librarian Interaction, and Supportive Campus Environment.

The library supported high school and university LGBTQIA organizations.
They began with Banned Books Week. Did a Book Tasting with Banned Books.
An event for all people, highlighting LGBTQ issues in everyday events.
Charger Coffee House event – a Talent showcase
Author events
Partnered with UNLV for the Las Vegas Pride Parade.

The library is a way of connecting people. They brought in many different groups from the community.

UNLV partnered with a high school Gay-Straight Alliance – made kids excited about going to college.

Then there was discussion with the authors present:

Question: Major barriers to LGBTQ teens in education?
MT: The word “appropriate” Comfort level is tricky. In her books, she talks about boundaries and feelings more than sex.
DL: Talking about identity. Kids aren’t seeing people saying, “I’m ___.” They think their identity is invisible. If adults aren’t willing to talk about it, how can they?
AB & SK: Safe places are important?

Question: Why is LGBTQ Literature important?
DL: Interesting and frustrating that we still have to defend it. We are reflecting the population of our students. They need actual stories, getting emotional context from fiction and historical context from nonfiction. This is what books do so well.
AB: Historical events allow you to have a conversation about difficult topics.
MT: LGBTQ literature is important and also amazing.
SK: To provide windows and mirrors.
The four authors write on the same subject, but write so differently.

Question: Talk about “politicizing” of the issues.
SK: It’s about identity, individuals, and human beings. How do we treat the marginalized?
AB: How can a school have integrity if they won’t look at difficult issues?
DL: Volunteer to take out all books dealing with social issues! It’s who you are. It’s the challenging that politicizes it.

Question: What can we do as librarians to improve the lives of LGBTQ teens?
DL: Let LGBTQ teens know you’ve got books for them.
AB: Provide books that put human faces on the community.
SK: Creating very safe space to all come together.
MT: Include LGBTQ books in their broader context.
Moderator: “We’ve all read Harry Potter and none of us are wizards.”

Question: Talk about the transition to college.
MT: It was amazing – She made gay friends. It was an opportunity to put on a new identity.
DL: Freedom is exciting, but also scary. The narrative of their lives has gotten more complicated. Still an exploration.
AB: Trickiest part: A very vulnerable place. They don’t have allies and friends yet. Knowing about resources helps. Safety nets are critical.

Question: What are the needs of young adults after graduation?
MT: Very similar: Community and support. In high school, you’re trying on personalities. Same thing in university.
AB: New generation grows up at a different pace. More vulnerabilities.

Question: What groups can libraries connect with to support LGBTQ teens?
MT: Activist groups in every community.
DL: Trevor Project. Try to get 4 different generations in the room at the same time.
SK: Queer Theater. See the back matter in her books.

Summing up:
DL: Teens don’t make as much of a distinction any more. It’s no longer true that only queer kids are in the queer books.
SK: It’s a natural thing to write characters as a picture of the community.

Jack Gantos Lunch – YALSA Institute, Part Two

January 5th, 2016

Here’s another installment of notes from the YALSA Institute I went to in Portland last month. I want to get the notes posted before I go to ALA Midwinter Meeting next week. If you attend a conference and never go over your notes, did it really happen? There were some good ideas offered, and copying out the notes reminds me of them in a setting where I can take my time thinking about them.

The next event of November 7, after the events of Part One of my notes, was an Author Lunch with Jack Gantos.


I was wonderfully lucky and accidentally found a place at the same table with Jack Gantos!

He’s delightful to talk with in person. I still haven’t read his new book, which is biographical, but we were given a copy and it’s at the top of my pile of books to read next. After we ate, he got up front and gave a presentation to everyone.

He began with appreciation for librarians (knowing his audience).

“I love the library because they have to take you in.”

He has written 20-25 books in the Boston Public Library, but has since switched to the Boston Atheneum, a subscription library. If anyone dares use a cell phone in that library, he comes down!

The library is the place where everyone comes together. In the library, you are anyone you want to be at any age you ever were.

He talked about other authors and books. Kevin Henkes is too nice. When Jack Gantos stands next to him, he feels the blackness in his own soul.

The magic of literacy is that when Frog is sad, Toad is sad, and the reader is sad, too.

We’re reckless junkies for feelings – that’s why we read.

You want the book to move into you like a squatter – for about 3 days.

Writing a picture book takes the same energy as writing young adult or middle grade novels.

He writes from his childhood journals. He went to 10 schools in 12 grades. His friends were the Joey Pigza kids – they’d worn out everyone else, so they were friendly to the new kid.

Here are his notes about where he lived in Florida:


When you’re at the library, watch someone reading a book and see their face change.

We know this simple truth about each other: Inside there’s so much more than on the outside.

There’s something exclusively yours every time you read a book. Yet you want to share.

There’s a time in your life when you’re completely uneven. His new book, The Trouble in Me, is about that unevenness and self-loathing.

His books have been used for Community Reads. Everyone leaves feeling so connected.

There’s a Literary Spiritualism among those of us who read and get involved in the community of readers.

You wouldn’t be the same person if you didn’t read good books and put good books in the hands of other readers.

Let’s be little fires for literacy.

(This is a terrible picture, but it shows his enthusiastic gestures.)

Sonderling Sunday – The Hallows of Death

January 3rd, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

Tonight, I’ve got a hankering to go back to Harry Potter und die Heiligtümer des Todes, which translates as “Harry Potter and the Hallows of Death.”


Last time we looked at this book (more than a year ago, I’m afraid), we finished on page 6 in the English edition, Seite 14 auf Deutsch.

Right away, they’ve got one word in German for a long phrase in English:
“The company around the table” = Die Tischgesellschaft

But this is a longer phrase in German:
“Harry Potter’s continued existence”
= dass Harry Potter immer noch am Leben war

“unconscious body” = bewusstlosen Körper

This does sound like the right way for a supervillain to talk about his plans:
“best-laid plans” = bestgeschmiedeten Plänen

“a sudden wail” = ein plötzliches Wehklagen (“sudden woe-lamentation”)

“misery and pain” = Qual und Schmerz

“scrambled” = kletterte

“scurried” = huschte

“a curious gleam of silver” = ein merkwürdiges silbernes Schimmern

“volunteers” = Freiwilligen

Interestingly shorter in English:
“his eyes were sunken” = seine Augen lagen tief in ihren Höhlen (“his eyes were deep in their sockets”)

“wrist” = Handgelenk (“hand-link”)

“Elm” = Ulme

“fraction” = Bruchteil (“break-piece”)

“maliciously” = gehässig

This phrase rolls off the tongue:
“The soft voice seemed to hiss on” = Die sanfte Stimme schien weiterzuzischen

“The huge snake” = Die riesige Schlange

“thigh” = Oberschenkel (“upper-shank”)

“vertical slits” = senkrechten Schlitzen

“absently” = geistesabwesend (“spirit-absence”)

“in bearing and demeanor” = in Haltung und Gebaren

“rigid and impassive” = starr und teilnahmslos

“tears of delight” = Freudentränen

“jeering laughter” = höhnisches Gelächter

“gleeful looks” = hämische Blicke

“humiliation” = Demütigung

“outpouring of mirth” = Ausbruch von Heiterkeit

“Mudblood” = Schlammblüter

“brat” = Göre

“cubs” = Bälger

“family trees” = Familienstammbäume

“breathless and imploring” = atemlos und flehentlich

“canker” = Krebsgeschwür

“infects” = verseucht

“tiny flick” = winzige Schlenker

“cracked and terrified voice” = gebrochener und grauenerfüllter Stimme

Alliterative in both languages:
“stroking the snake’s snout” = die Schnauze der Schlange streichelte

“broad, hunched woman” = derbe, bucklige Frau

“gagged” = geknebelt

“corrupting and polluting” = verdirbt und besudelt

“resounding crash” = dröhnenden Schlag

“trembled and creaked” = bebte und knarrte

And that’s the end of Chapter One!

I’m hoping you won’t be in any conferences with powerful and evil wizards this week and won’t have too much use for these phrases, but if you ever do encounter a riesiges Schlange in Germany, at least you’ll know what to call it!

Bis bald!

2015 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

January 2nd, 2016

Logo_4x4_gold_encircled_sealYes! I got my 2015 Sonderbooks Stand-outs posted before the finish of New Year’s Day, 2016.

Each year’s Sonderbooks Stand-outs is a personal list. They are simply the books that stand out in my mind after a year of reading. Then I rank them according to how much I love them — which seems a little unfair. I assure you that I love every one of the listed books!

I keep a spreadsheet of the books I read and hope I didn’t leave anything important out. Here are the stats for this year:

In 2015, I read:
6 rereads.
16 Teen Fiction books.
36 Children’s Fiction books.
20 Adult Fiction books.
47 Nonfiction books.
95 Children’s Nonfiction books (Many of those were picture books).
626 Picture Books. (Hey, I was a Cybils judge in the Fiction Picture Books category this year.)

A grand total of 220 books, not counting picture books (except nonfiction) and 846 books altogether.

Not bad. I didn’t feel like I was keeping up as well with current books this year, since I didn’t attend Capitol Choices, but hey, I’ve read picture books!

I still have a backlog of 30 book reviews which I wrote in 2015 and still need to post, but only two of those are Stand-outs. I will update the pages of the Stand-out books in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, enjoy reading about my favorite books!

2015 Cybils Finalists!

January 1st, 2016

Happy New Year!

It’s January 1st, and that’s the day the Cybils Award Finalists are announced!


Not everyone’s aware of the Cybils Awards — one of the best awards out there for recommending books to children and teens. Cybils stands for Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. The books are judged by book bloggers (such as me!) and the process happens in two phases: On January first, Finalists are announced in eleven categories. On February 14th, one winner will be announced from each category.

But I persist in thinking that the real power of the Cybils is in the lists!

Here’s why the Cybils are so fantastic for librarians and other people who recommend children’s books:

They’re chosen for literary quality and kid appeal. There’s some question in the Children’s Book world whether the most famous literary awards are actually books children like. Cybils judges are charged to take that into account.

There are eleven categories! Something for everyone, even Book Apps! Besides that, they’ve got Fiction Picture Books, Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books, Poetry, Graphic Novels, and Non-Fiction, Fiction, and Speculative Fiction for both Elementary/Middle Grade and Young Adult.

Each list is chosen to include variety and diversity. This partly comes simply from having a panel of judges, but those judges do a good job representing their category well. You’ll normally find ethnic diversity represented, but also books with male and female protagonists and simply books that appeal to a wide variety of readers.

This year, I served on the Fiction Picture Books panel. Later on today, I’ll be posting my Sonderbooks Stand-outs for 2015. You will notice that the two lists don’t completely overlap. Some of the books we chose aren’t my personal favorites. However, I stand by our list, and I’m proud of it! These are high quality books, and I do recommend all the books our panel chose. They are truly wonderful. (For some, I had to have my eyes opened to their wonder by the other panel members.)

And now to take a look at the other categories!

My usual category is Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction. I haven’t read any of their choices this year, so I need to get busy reading!

Yay! A Finalist I read and loved! Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers, is on the Young Adult Speculative Fiction list. It was my #1 Teen Fiction Sonderbooks Stand-out for 2014. (The Cybils run from mid-October to mid-October publication dates.)

Another book I’ve reviewed, Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly, is an Easy Reader and Early Chapter Books Finalist.

Two books I’ve reviewed are on the Elementary/Middle-Grade Non-Fiction List: I, Fly and One Plastic Bag.

On the Graphic Novels list, I have almost all the books checked out, intending to read. This will increase my resolve! I have read and written a review of The Marvels, by Brian Selznick, but it’s not posted yet.

From the Poetry List, Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold was a Sonderbooks Stand-out last year.

The other categories don’t have books I’ve read, but definitely have books I’m intending to read: Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, and Young Adult Non-Fiction. (Okay, with that last list I am halfway through Symphony for the City of the Dead. It is excellent.)

And I don’t usually try these out, but I like that the Cybils makes me aware of good ones: Book Apps.

Now if you want some great ideas of things to read in the New Year, you know where to look!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Review of Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans

December 31st, 2015

searching_for_sunday_largeSearching for Sunday

Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church

by Rachel Held Evans

Nelson Books, 2015. 269 pages.
Starred Review

Lee Ann, a friend from church, told me about this book, which seems appropriate. Rachel Held Evans is young, but she cuts to the heart of what is wrong with church today. However, while she does point out some negatives, this book wouldn’t speak to me if that were all it is. She also articulates a vision of what church should be and what we should find from Christ-followers.

Her introductory chapter had me hooked. She says she’s often asked to talk about why young adults are leaving the church, and she can’t talk about all the nuances of what’s going on in every denomination.

But I can tell my own story, which studies suggest is an increasingly common one. I can talk about growing up evangelical, about doubting everything I believed about God, about loving, leaving, and longing for church, about searching for it and finding it in unexpected places. And I can share the stories of my friends and readers, people young and old whose comments, letters, and e-mails read like postcards from their own spiritual journeys, dispatches from America’s post-Christian frontier. I can’t provide the solutions church leaders are looking for, but I can articulate the questions that many in my generation are asking. I can translate some of their angst, some of their hope….

I told them we’re tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff — biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice — but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.

I explained that when our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either, and that not every young adult gets married or has children, so we need to stop building our churches around categories and start building them around people. And I told them that, contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops, or pastors who wear skinny jeans. We millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, so we can smell b.s. from a mile away. The church is the last place we want to be sold another product, the last place we want to be entertained.

Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus — the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.

This book does tell her story, and it presents a picture of what Christ-followers should be for, a loving and joyful message.

Rachel Held Evans has a way with words. I was reading a library copy, so I didn’t write in it, but I kept using post-it notes to mark sections to put into Sonderquotes.

She talks frankly about her own doubts and failings and her own journey. And she presents glimpses of the beauty that is so present in the church.

I think what makes this book so uplifting is that she’s honest, but she doesn’t focus on what we should be against. She focuses on what the church should be for.

And even still, the kingdom remains a mystery just beyond our grasp. It is here, and not yet, present and still to come. Consummation, whatever that means, awaits us. Until then, all we have are metaphors. All we have are almosts and not quites and wayside shrines. All we have are imperfect people in an imperfect world doing their best to produce outward signs of inward grace and stumbling all along the way.

All we have is this church — this lousy, screwed-up, glorious church — which, by God’s grace, is enough.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

YALSA Institute 2015, Part One

December 30th, 2015

YALSA Institute Notes

Last month, I attended the YALSA Institute in Portland, Oregon. It was amazing, and ideas buzzed around my head afterward. I am typing up my notes here to try to organize my thoughts about it. I thought it would be nice to start before I head to ALA Midwinter Meeting next week!

Opening Session, Friday night November 6.


The speaker for the YALSA Institute Opening Session was Aija Mayrock, author of The Survival Guide to Bullying. She told her story.

The bullying against her started when she was 8 years old and continued for five years. She moved to another state when she was 13 – and then the bullies found her online and cyberbullying started.

She performed a rap poem. I like this line:

Have you ever hid
what made you wonderful,
Just to appear a regular kid?

She decided to write a book when she was 16 and another kid committed suicide. First she self-published, and now the book is commercially published. There has been an international outpouring of support.

Bullying impacts 13 million American kids and more all over the world, including Russia and Japan.

Five Biggest Problems:
1) Kids don’t communicate.
2) Parents don’t know how to hndle this issue.
3) Teachers don’t know how to interfere in the classroom.
4) Bystanders are afraid to stand up.
5) In schools, bullying is not taken seriously.
Cyberbullying: She wants to empower kids to be superheroes online. You can change someone’s life by standing up for them. In her day, one person was kind to her and got her through.

Creativity helps kids get through anything and communicate. The library was that place for her in middle school.

A teacher later told her, “It’s never your fault when you’re bullied.”

Often the problem is that bystanders don’t feel empowered.

Coding Camp

The Saturday of YALSA Institute, the first session I went to was about Coding Camp, but trouble catching the train meant I was quite late. I think I was mainly there for questions at the end, so the things I heard may seem a bit random. Here’s what I did catch:

The sessions of their coding camp lasted an hour and a half to two hours each. You could do it in an hour, but it can often take 45 minutes to get going.

They used Scratch, which has interactive curriculum. Scratch has many resources, and is coming to tablets.

It helps kids be willing to share if they see all is a work in progress.

In doing programs like this, be willing to fail.

You can do different formats. Once a week, 2-day intensive, etc.

If the kids share laptops, they talk more.

Try to get kids into coding through a variety of interests.
Having interns helped!

One library has an event monthly where kids play each other’s games.

Publicity: Emphasize the interest, then the coding. You do need to know what your patrons are into.

Make presentations optional.

Bringing coding in shows how kids can take interests and do something awesome.

Introducing Middle School Students to the YA section

Presenters: Todd Krueger, Alicia Bowers, Carrie Ryan, Beth Saxon

Todd Krueger:

There’s a dearth of material on middle school switch to YA. For recreational reading, middle school students read more personally relevant books than assigned reading. They find most things more fun when done with others.

Always give middle school students a choice what to read. They love to talk about books. Give them a chance.

Girls are more likely to read recreationally. More educated parents mattered, but not social class, race, or grade. They get as little as 17 minutes per day to read in the classroom.

Don’t use the term “reluctant reader.” Use “occasional reader” instead.

Carrie Ryan’s transition book was by Jude Devereaux. She’s written both YA and middle grade. The heart of the difference is not age or length.
The violence level is different – off screen in middle grade.

Sex is still mostly off-page in YA, but there’s plenty of angst on the page. “All angst all the time.” – the angst of figuring out who you are in the context of romantic relationships. Love triangles are about knowing who they are.

You won’t put anything past a kid reader. If they don’t know a word, that’s what a dictionary is for. In middle grade, there’s a little more telling with the showing and more signposts.

There’s still romance in middle grade, but it’s about friends and family.

In middle grade, you’re figuring out who you are in the context of someone else’s rules. In YA, you realize you make your own rules.

In YA you’re looking forward to the life you’re going to lead. It’s about the firsts.

YA readers don’t realize it’s going to be okay. “That’s not allowed; this can’t happen; I don’t know what to do.”

It’s about what the reader needs: In middle grade, they need to know it’s okay to leave some things behind (like Doll Bones, by Holly Black). In YA, they need to know they can transition forward. The characters are captains of their own ship.

In middle grade: Have a safety net. What reassurances does the reader need right now? Sometimes the safety net is the book itself.

Don’t withhold books. Say, “If you have questions, come and talk to me.” It will be okay.

Alicia Bowers:

She’s a book pusher. She helps transition readers to middle school reading.

Have a safe space, comfortable seating, quick picks, puzzles and games. Lure them into reading.

Kids always link on videos for book trailers (on her library web page).

Assigned reading, she uses Book Bingo: Choose the 5-in-a-row that works best for you. No page count minimum! No written assignment! Put down books you don’t like.

She does author visits and field trips on the weekends.

Choice is the main factor in the summer reading list.

There are always booktalks when she’s around.

Summer: Harry Potter Camp and Hunger Games Camp (see Their favorite thing in Harry Potter Camp was dueling.

Set traps to lure your children into reading!

Beth Saxon:

Program for circulation. All programs should promote some of your collection.

Make the solitary reading experience a social reading experience.

All programs should promote some of your collection.

Goal: An inclusive community of readers.

Go outside your own comfort zone.

Give the message: I see you; I hear you; you are welcome here.

Middle schoolers are always trying to find out how they fit in.

She gave lots of program ideas:

Book Tasting or Book Speed Dating: Give them 3 minutes to read the cover, etc. Give them paper and pencil to note down titles. Pass the book to the right after 3 minutes.

Book Club formats: Traditional read & discuss, BYOB, “Limited Run” – 3 months in a row, that’s it, Quarterly, Genre (Specific or Rotating), Guest speaker (Math teacher with An Abundance of Katherines, detective with a mystery, etc.).

Booktalking: 30 books in 30 minutes (Flash booktalks). Have kids time you on their phones.

Throwback Thursday: Highlight some great backlist titles.

Multimedia: Fandom (collage, fanart), photo sets (Tumblr), music play lists, book trailers

Character Chats: Role-playing program. Come as a character. Ask loaded questions. (This works great for an anime club.)

Programs for Specific Titles and Series: Validate fandom. Encourage curiosity. Really talk with teens about what they’re into. Cosplay? Fan art?

Technology Programs: The Catalog for Fiction Readers (show how to place a hold), e-Content Tutorials, Follow-a-thon (author twitter accounts and Instagram feeds).

Passive Programs: Awesome Box — If you think it’s awesome, return it here; Six Word Book Review Challenge — Every submission is an entry; Nutritional Label for a Book (Example: Total Sex: 100g; Actual Sex: 5g; Desired Sex: 95g; Unfairness: 75g; Love: 250g)


That was only the first evening and morning of the Institute! More notes to come…