Reading to Children


Yesterday I posted about reading Fox in Socks for our library’s Seussathon. (I also read The Sneetches and Other Stories, Horton Hatches an Egg, Green Eggs and Ham, and Mr. Brown Can Moo… Can You?)

Reflecting about my long history with Fox in Socks also reminded me how completely part of who I am is a delight in reading to children.

My Mom taught us to read before we were in Kindergarten. But the fact is, with the younger kids, we older ones had a lot to do with that. I learned at a young age that the process of watching a small child learn to read is next to miraculous. And I wanted in on it.

So as a kid, I learned both that being read to is cozy and warm and loving and wonderful, and that doing the reading to a younger child is the same.

Then, of course, I read to my own sons. I married a man who had a wonderful reading aloud voice, and read to the boys as much as I did. (Did I love that about him? Did I actually fall for him when we were reading Winnie-the-Pooh out loud in a group in college? Um, yes I did.)

Now my boys are grown, so there’s no one at home to hold in my lap and read to.

So how lucky am I that I get to do this on my job?!?

Mind you, I’m an introvert. Too frequent programs burn me out fairly quickly. However, the perfect thing about it is that as a manager, I don’t do many programs myself — just enough that I still love it.

Bottom line, I get to read books to children. And I get paid for it. I am a lucky woman!


Turns out … the Egret is not an egret. He (or she) is a Great Blue Heron. And the story about them mating for life is not true. This is what happens when you tell a story like that to a Librarian. My coworker, James, made me look it up. (I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it myself. He gets the Librarian points there!) We used books first — field guides, and once the basic identification was made, websites helped.

But the important thing about the story is absolutely true: A big awesome water bird lives on the lake outside my window!

In fact, this morning I went walking by the lake, thinking I had gotten out of my system any need to bring my good camera along.

Today the Great Blue Heron was very near the path, wading in the rocky part by the sidewalk. While I watched, he caught a fish! He then walked onto shore to eat it, to the part of the shore I’d recently left.

I took pictures with my phone, but he’s merely a speck. But I thoroughly enjoyed watching him.

Another fun thing that happened at the library:

I was sitting at the reference desk next to James, this young co-worker who had me look up the Great Blue Heron. (Clearly a very intelligent guy is what I’m saying here.) A patron walked up to him and said, “I’m looking for The Beautiful and the Damned.

I couldn’t help myself. I said, “You’ve found us!”

Christmas Letter 2012

Merry Christmas! It’s been a good year! As the years go by, I’m losing physical addresses, so I like to post my Christmas letter on the web to send to my online friends. I always like summing up the year and remembering the ways I’ve been blessed.

2012 is the year where Tim’s age has 3 prime factors, Josh’s age has 4 prime factors, and my age has 5 prime factors! Woo-hoo! But even more exciting than that was Tim’s graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. He is now a student at the College of William & Mary in beautiful Williamsburg, Virginia, not too far away, and nice and close to his Dad. It seems like a great fit. Students don’t have to declare their major until the end of their Sophomore year, and he’s taking classes in English, Computer Science, Physics, and other subjects he finds interesting.

Meanwhile, Josh is all grown up and settling down in Portland, Oregon. I’m a little jealous – I’m going to have to find lots of excuses to visit.

And I’m so happy in my Librarian career. In September, I promoted to Youth Services Manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library, the branch where I was already working. My two years not (officially) working in youth services showed me that’s definitely where I belong.

Looking back on the year, that career kept me busy traveling all over the country. I went to ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas in January and met up with a good friend. Then I went to PLA Conference in Philadelphia in March and drove through lovely Longwood Gardens on the way home. Next was ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, California – I got to stay with my sister Becky, and I stayed an extra week to see my family and some long-time friends.

With Three of my Sisters in Long Beach

Still not done, I went to New York City in September to KidLitCon – for bloggers who write about children’s books. And I finished it off with VLA Conference in Williamsburg in October, with a chance to see Tim already in college a month. Hmm. No wonder I’m not feeling any urge to travel for the holidays!

I’m also getting involved with children’s book awards. I went to a seminar about book evaluation committees in January, and have been active in Capitol Choices, a DC-area group, all year. Now I’m finishing the year on a panel for the Cybils Awards, choosing the best Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy books of the year. It’s so much fun knowing I “should” be reading!

I’m still so thankful to be alive and functioning after last year’s stroke and am much more healthy than this time last year.

I do feel very blessed and have so many reasons to rejoice! Wishing you a joyful and blessed Christmas,

Sondy Eklund

Top Ten Ways You Know You’re a Youth Services Librarian at Heart

Every year, I like to make a Top Ten list that summarizes my year. All of these have shown up in my life this year.

Top Ten Ways You Know You’re a Youth Services Librarian at Heart:

10. The only movie you’ve seen this year was the final Harry Potter film.

9. You can’t stop checking out picture books, even though your own kids are way past that age.

8. A highlight of your year was when, on vacation, your 17-year-old son read aloud to you from The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.

7. You have taken telecourses about the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Awards.

6. You are blazing fast reading Fox in Socks.

5. You are unable to refrain from collecting Advance Reader Copies at ALA Annual Conference, even though you’ve recently suffered a major neck injury and can barely carry them all.

4. You have lists of Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Medal predictions and hopes.

3. You’re over the moon when you get a picture with Gary Schmidt (who wrote your top pick for the 2012 Newbery Medal, see #4).

2. You attend KidLitCon in Seattle, for KidLit bloggers, and instantly discover a multitude of kindred spirits.

1. You’re already planning to buy a table at the 2012 Newbery/Caldecott Banquet in Anaheim and began a year in advance trying to talk your siblings into attending.

2010 Printz Awards

The final day of ALA Annual Conference — June 28, 2010 — was an exhausting frenzy of acquiring books!

I did go to some sessions:  One on Research and Statistics that I found interesting because of the practical use of math involved — but more applicable to academic librarians than it would be to me.

I also went to the ALSC  Poetry Blast, which was simply fun — hearing poets for children read and recite their own work.

I did catch several book signings.  One of the ones I was most excited about was M. T. Anderson.  I have been convinced he is brilliant ever since I read Feed, was further confirmed in that opinion when I heard his 2007 Printz Honor speech, and was absolutely convinced when I read Octavian Nothing.

I got to chat with him for a bit, and he had some insightful things to say about cuts to libraries.  I’m only a bigger fan now.  Here I am posing with him:

It was the last day of the exhibits, so prices on books got lower and lower until they were free.  I made three trips back to my car!  It was hot, so that was probably not smart — I was completely wiped out that night.  But it was a situation where I was simply incapable of resisting.

Here’s my son amazed at my loot the next day:

If I remember right, I came home from the four days with 124 books, 27 of which were signed by the author!  Very cool!  Here’s a closer look at the titles:

The day finished off with the Printz Awards.  I found a seat right behind Diana Peterfreund, author of Ascendant, and Ally Carter.  John Green’s in the row ahead of them:

The speeches were inspiring.  I love that at the Printz Awards, all the Honor recipients also have to give a speech.  They do a fine job!  We heard speeches by Adam Rapp, Deborah Heiligman, Rick Yancey, John Barnes, and finally the Award winner, Libba Bray.

Libba is full of overflowing exuberance!

A couple of good quotes from her speech:

“There is a place where amazing parallel universes do exist.  It’s called the Library.”

Laughter is defiance, but also acceptance.

“Every time you read a book, it’s a strike against ignorance… unless you’re reading Sarah Palin.”

(Sorry for those who don’t like that last quote.  I loved it, myself.)

During the reception afterward, I got to congratulate most of the winners.

Here I am with Libba Bray:

Here is an Honor winner, Rick Yancey:

And another Honor winner, John Barnes:

Finally, here I am with John Green:

After that, alas! my camera batteries completely died.  But I had great conversations with more authors whom I am  in awe of like Nancy Werlin, Rebecca Stead, Libba Bray, Laurie Halse Anderson, Linda Sue Park, Diana Peterfreund, Ally Carter, John Green, MT Anderson, and more whom I’m afraid I’m forgetting because I didn’t get their picture.

As I mentioned above, I’m convinced that MT Anderson is brilliant.  Several of us librarians were standing around him talking to him, and I think John Green got kind of jealous.  He’s used to being the center of crazy fans!  Though we were more than happy to talk to him, too.  Of course, the last time I went to the Printz Awards, in 2007, I heard both of them speak and was very impressed.

I went home from ALA completely exhausted.  What with three trips to the car loaded down with all the books I could carry in the blazing heat, and not managing to find a place to buy dinner — so only having cake — I woke up in the middle of the night and almost fainted.  I suspected dehydration, but maybe it was just overexcitement from a truly fabulous and memorable and inspiring weekend.

When I went to ALA, I had just spent my first week not working at the library, after being RIF’d.  So I was feeling very sad and discouraged — but ALA picked me right back up.  It confirmed that, in my heart, I AM a Librarian, no matter what job I currently hold.

I also felt, more than ever, that I’m part of a fantastic community of children’s librarians and writers and readers and bloggers.  They are my people, and it’s getting where I actually know a lot of them.  And that feels great!

The 2010 Newbery/Caldecott Banquet

Sunday, June 27, 2010.  I drove back into DC for the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet and experienced the highlight of my whole year.

I went three years ago, sat in the back, didn’t really dress up, and didn’t see a soul I knew — but still loved it.  This year was totally different except the loving it part.  Susan Kusel, founder of the wonderful DC Kidlit Book Club, got TEN tables close to the front.  I talked four other Fairfax County Librarians into going and was surrounded by people I knew from the book club or by reputation for their books.  And I’d gotten bold during the week, happily introducing myself to authors everywhere I turned.

And I bought a dress!  I ordered it, so it was a bit of a risk, but I loved the color and the fact that it matched the shawl I’d knitted so beautifully.  Here I am after the banquet, completely happy:

The evening started with stars of the publishing world milling around with cocktails. 

Here are School Library Journal Bloggers Extraordinaire, the two Elizabeth B’s: Betsy Bird and Liz Burns.  They are helping with the ALA Red Carpet videos.

The first night of ALA, I bought Betsy’s book,  Children’s Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career, and I’d been carrying it around all weekend, hoping to meet her and have her sign it.  But alas!  Due to a sprained ankle, she didn’t get to the SCBWI Kidlit Drink Night, and the only time I saw her, at the Newbery Banquet, was the only time I hadn’t brought the book.

Betsy always wears tattoos in honor of the winners:

In honor of the Caldecott winner, The Lion and the Mouse, Betsy wore illustrations of lions and mice from classic children’s books.

In honor of the Newbery winner, When You Reach Me, Betsy has tattooed on important words that someone needed to remember from the book.

I hung out and watched the Red Carpet interviews for a bit, but they didn’t ask to interview me.  (Can you imagine?)

Here are two authors whose books I’ve enjoyed, Jim Averbeck and Laurie Halse Anderson:

I saw Richie Partington and introduced myself to him.  He’s one of my Facebook friends because we took an online class on the Newbery Medal together. 

Richie is also the sort of person editors walk up to and introduce authors to!  I was chatting with Richie when a Scholastic editor walked up to him and introduced the two authors she was with.  What was I to do?  I was NOT going to walk away, believe me!  So as the group was chatting, they naturally turned to me to begin chatting, too.  One of the authors was Brian Floca, a distinguished author and illustrator and author of the recent Moonshot:

By this time my friend and fellow librarian, Nancy Bronez, joined me and took the picture. 

Next, I saw Laurie Halse Anderson, whom I’d met at the YA Author Coffe Klatch that morning, so I introduced Nancy and myself to her.  Nancy and I both admire her work very much.

The next person I accosted was Jon Scieszka.  I’m a huge fan of his — as you can tell by my attendance at his workshop Saturday and my lurking to take his picture earlier that afternoon.  Now I was thrilled at a chance to get my picture with him.

Looking at the picture above after the fact, it strikes me as hilarious that the sign behind Jon, with an arrow pointing to his head says, “Restrooms are to the Left.”  Since he has a little boy prankster’s heart, smile, and laugh, this struck me as wonderfully appropriate!

The doors opened, and we found our seats and connected with the other FCPL Librarians.  Since I had just been RIF’d and had begun working that week at the Office for Children instead of the library, it was very good to see them.

Here’s Nancy Ryan, my branch manager at Herndon:

Even though Nancy is not a children’s librarian, I have converted her into an even more devoted Mo Willems fan than I am myself.  So when I saw him at a nearby table, we had to go over and introduce ourselves and get pictures:

First, Nancy and Mo:

Next, me and Mo:

Here are the other ladies at our table, two of whom are members of the DC Kidlit Book Club, Patty Reeber, Genie Bailey, and Susan Sikorski.

And here are the other four librarians from Fairfax County Public Library, Nancy Ryan, Gena Bos, Susan Fay, and Nancy Bronez:

And here we are all together and looking at the camera:

Next, more schmoozing.  First, I snagged some authors who were also at Susan Kusel’s tables. 

Sara Lewis Holmes is a fellow member of the DC Kidlit Book Club and organized the SCBWI Kidlit Drink Night on Friday.  I’ve reviewed her book Letters from Rapunzel.

Then I introduced myself to Jim Averbeck.  When I reviewed his book, In a Blue Room, I had no idea he was so handsome!

And next, I had to introduce myself to Tanita Davis, author of this year’s Coretta Scott King Honor book, Mare’s War.

Then at a nearby table, I saw the warm and delightful Soroj Ghoting, a speaker for ALA who had just done a workshop I’d attended at FCPL:

Then the presentation of the awards began.  The speeches were fabulous and inspiring. 

First, here’s Jerry Pinkney speaking about the Caldecott Award:

I think everyone in that room was thrilled for Jerry.  He has won FIVE Caldecott Honor Awards — and The Lion and the Mouse was absolutely brilliant.  As you can tell from my review, I wanted it to win from the moment I first read it.  And once I’d heard this nice man speak, I was all the more happy for him!

Then came the Newbery Award and honors.  Here’s Rebecca Stead speaking:

Rebecca wrote When You Reach Me, another book I was very happy to see win the gold.  I loved Rebecca’s speech.  She talked about knee-knocking joy and helped all of us experience her humbled thrill of this incredible validation.  Again, I got the impression that a super nice person had won an incredible award, and I couldn’t help be thrilled for her.

Afterward, it was time for more pictures with the friends I’d shared the fabulous night with.  Here are the FCPL ladies again:

Here I am with Nancy Bronez:

Here I am with Nancy Ryan:


Here are some cute toes belonging to Nancy Ryan and Gena!

And here I am with the Banquet sign behind me:

On our way out of the banquet room, we saw Susan Kusel, who organized getting seats at TEN tables.  She was still pretty stressed out, though, and couldn’t stop for long:

The expressions on both our faces made me laugh!

We wrapped up a beautiful night by standing in the receiving line to congratulate the winners.  The ALSC folks were very nice, and had someone in front of each winner to tell you whom you were meeting!  I figured it wouldn’t be polite to flash a camera in their faces when I met them, so I took a couple pictures ahead of time:

And another part of the line that included Rebecca Stead:

The whole evening was a peak experience for me.  I was thrilled to meet these authors I so admired, proud to be a children’s librarian (whatever my current job), happy to be with fellow lovers of children’s books, and happy to be a writer and determined to keep at it.  All in all, I was inspired!

NaNoWriMo & Newberys, Headaches & Hassles

I’m thinking about life.

November isn’t turning out like I expected when I decided to try NaNoWriMo after all.  It’s Day 10, and so far, I’ve written 4,214 words on my novel.  I had hoped for 2,000 words a day.  I thought that adding to my personal goal with anything I write on my blogs would make up the difference, but so far I have only written 1,114 words on my blogs, for a grand total of 5,328 words.

But you never know.  Today my headache is finally gone.  Calloo!  Callay!  And all the odd days off in November are starting up.  I have Veteran’s Day off, then Friday, then Sunday and Monday (for working the previous Sunday).  On Thanksgiving weekend, I’m working Saturday, but I get Wednesday off to make up for it, and I’m taking the last day of November off to attempt a last blitz on NaNoWriMo.  My son will be with his Dad for Thanksgiving, so I will have no excuses not to do some writing.

My headaches have been something of a puzzle.  After being completely under control for years now, why are they suddenly acting up?  They haven’t been very severe, but so persistent.  I have an appointment  with a neurologist in a couple of weeks to begin finding some answers.  It will be interesting to see if they stay away until then.  I’m not sure if “headaches” are really the problem, or if it’s a symptom of another problem.

Then there are the hassles from my husband over visitation logistics.  We were best friends for at least 15 years.  We both love our son.  Why can’t we just talk with each other about what times are good for each of us?  I don’t know, and it can absorb far more of my attention than I want it to.  I wish I had my husband and family and best friend back — yet I am surely enjoying this life of doing what I am interested in without worrying about whether it’s taking too much time from anyone else.

Today I learned that I was not accepted for ALSC’s Bill Morris Seminar in January.  But the nice part is that I have no more assignments of books to read.  I’ve finished the reading for the online Newbery class I was taking (It was wonderful!), and now I’m very curious if I could read lots of books that were published this year, if I might be able to guess next year’s winner.

What am I trying to say with all this rambling?  Well, that life is full and interesting.  Two of my best days this past month were when I had headaches — but I went hiking anyway, and walked in the glorious, gorgeous, incredibly beautiful Autumn woods and took some wonderful pictures.  Somehow surrounded by majestic beauty, everything falls into perspective.

One of the cool things about NaNoWriMo is that it looks like a whole lot of people who do it don’t meet the goal of 50,000 words.  So that is NOT failure, by any means!  But the fact is, 4,214 words toward my novel is 4,214 words that weren’t written before, and that is a wonderful thing.

I learned so much in the Newbery class, and read so many incredibly good books.  I’m excited about posting reviews of them and getting my website caught up — and then beginning to put in place some of the suggestions from the Kidlitosphere conference (which I attended the day before the latest headache started) and building community and making a better blog, and making connections.

I was excited when Nina Lindsay of School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog visited our Newbery class and recognized me as a frequent commenter on her blog.  Community and connections!  That’s the sort of thing they encouraged at the Kidlitosphere conference — and I want to get around to following more of my fellow conference attenders’ blogs.

When I did look at some of them, I found that some are doing NaNoWriMo!  So I added them as Buddies on that site.  (And I am down as SondySue on that site, so feel free to add me, if you’re reading my blog!)  It’s all about Connection…

So, this is my plan for my big day off tomorrow:  Post several reviews of Newbery winners, spend at least an hour on my novel, rake some leaves if it’s not raining, and put up some pictures. 

Can I do all that in one day?  Well, if not, that’s okay, too.  Life is full and interesting, and headaches & hassles really can’t stop that.

I’m excited that I’ve found something I’m passionate about:  Books and what makes them great.  And writing books.  And sharing great books with children.  And talking about great books.

 And even more exciting is that I’m making more and more connections with other people who share my passions and find what I have to say interesting.  (And lucky me, it’s even related to my job!)

And meanwhile, I’ve joined a new small group at church and am making good friends, and I live in a place where fabulous hiking is close at hand, and I have a homey “new” place and I’m getting settled in.

Life is good!

My Summer Vacation


Summer vacation is drawing to a close, and ever since June, I’ve been meaning to write about my travels, even though they were much less than when I lived in Europe.

So, better late than never!  The summer began with my birthday trip to my MLIS graduation.  In many ways, that symbolized my new life, my new beginnings.

It seems paradoxical, because I am going through the hardest thing I’ve ever faced — divorce.  Yet, this summer my life has been characterized by more joy and peace than I have experienced in years.  Truly, God is being good to me.

Though I miss my husband, and still hope and pray that our marriage will be restored (and believe that God has personally promised me that it will), yet as they say at, God is being “my husband for this season,” and He is taking wonderfully good care of me.

For the first time in my adult life, my primary identity is not being a wife.  And it feels good!  Graduation symbolized that, as getting my MLIS degree enabled me to get this fantastic job.  I am a Children’s Librarian!  And I love it!

I drove up to Philadelphia on the morning of my birthday, June 14.  I didn’t find my classmates until we were robing and getting in line, but then I did find them, and it was lovely to meet people I had chatted with and done projects with and learned with.  And all of us celebrating the completion of our degrees.  We got to march through together and sit together, and had a long brunch together the next morning.

IMG_1722.JPG  The Drexel Dragon breathing “smoke”!

IMG_1719.JPG  Hagerty Library, where I virtually hung out.

Handshake.jpg  The handshake!

Walking.jpg  A happy moment!

IMG_1738.JPG  Here we are!  Graduates!

Definitely a memorable birthday, to celebrate my new life as a Children’s Librarian!

So it was a propitious start to my Summer Vacation.

On the way home, I had a wonderful interlude at Longwood Gardens….

A Happy Birthday!


My verse for my birthday this year was Psalm 142:7b

Then the righteous will gather about me

because of your goodness to me.

I chose the verse in the morning, and in the evening this wonderful group of people truly did gather about me!  These are my online classmates from Drexel.  We had gotten to know one another quite well, but met for the first time at graduation.

It was wonderful to march in graduation together and celebrate this milestone together.

Marching in my MLIS graduation from Drexel indeed felt like a sign and symbol of God’s goodness to me these past few years.

Yes, I’m still hoping and praying and standing that my marriage will be restored.  But in the meantime, God is pouring out blessings on me.  I still find it amazing that I was able to complete my degree and find a wonderful job that required the degree within two months after finishing.

God is good, and life is good.  And having wonderful people gathered about, rejoicing with me, was a wonderful way to celebrate that.

Definitely a happy birthday!

Sondra Lisa Reading


Today we had some silly fun at the Library.  (It was my boss’s idea!)  Our theme this year is “Master the Art of Reading.”  So we took a poster of the Mona Lisa reading — and cut a hole for kids to insert their face.  Nancy also added words to our display:  Picture Yourself Reading.

We had a lot of fun trying it out!  Unfortunately, I had my camera set on no flash, so most of the pictures taken with it came out blurry.

Anyway, here I am as the Sondra Lisa!