Thursday, December 14, 2017

Creating Collections: Think Beyond the Book!

Libraries without books are can use this with an endless amount of similes but basically, that is what a library is filled with.  But sometimes, we need to look beyond the basics and start thinking about how we can meet our students and patrons on their levels, whether it's where they live, what is popular for students, or how it can impact reading.  Here are a few things to think about if you're wanting to beef up that collection like....(again, can you finish this simile? ) :)

1. DVDs and/or Blue Rays.  Yes, public libraries do this a LOT....and it's a great service they do for the public.  School libraries should also take a queue from the public libraries and add this as a collection in the library.  I did this a couple of years ago and interest in it, both on campus and with students, has been really positive.  I stocked it with "books to movies" DVDs because if they won't read the book, maybe...just maybe...they would after seeing it. These were both recent and classic books to movies (is Holes considered classic yet?) and it seems like the amount of books to movies for children and teens is never-ending.  All of them are rated PG-13 at the high school level (and miraculously, that included Nicholas Sparks!) so I didn't cross any invisible lines.  And you can get creative too.  Yes, all of the Avengers movies and DC movies are included because hey, graphic novels count!  And of course I had to slip in a few movies that teens should watch, like Gremlins and ET, among a few others.  But think about the displays and pairings you could make with them!  Kids and teachers will thank you for this small but important part of the collection pie.

2. "If you don't read it with your eyes, it isn't considered reading."  Yeah....right....BUT I challenge those who say that to try audiobooks!  I'll admit it, I was a purist too.  But then I found myself in a situation of being on long drives in my car and wanting to keep up with the latest YA reads.  All it took was for one excellent high school librarian to "show" me an audiobook and I was hooked!  Now, it's all I can do to not hop in the car and hit play!  Why is this collection so important?  Because you will have readers in a similar predicament as me.  Long bus rides to games, UIL competitions where they're waiting for the results (and the long drive home), holidays flying or driving to destinations and many many other situations where all it takes is a touch of a play button and the book opens up.  I am absolutely enthralled with the talent of these readers and the different voices they use to make the book come alive.  If you've never tried it, please do!  (And if you need any recommendations, I can give you a few :)  I'm HOOKED....

3. Makerspace items.  Some libraries have them, some don't, but either way think about the possibility of checking out those items to students.  During the holidays, I've worked with students on doing what I call "creative archiving" or taking old books and making something with them.  Once they learn the skill, why stop at school?  Take those glue guns and cute little scissors and add them to the things students can check out to take home and use.  It could be something as small as a loom, knitting needles and other small maker items to more substantial items like a portable green screen, cameras or virtual googles.  If you truly want your makerspace to thrive, allowing students to take them home may just take that interest over the edge. 

'Tis the season to share, and for librarians, it all starts with our collections.  Happy holidays, ya'll!!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Diversity in YA Lit: Three Great Titles

YA authors have really stepped up to the challenge of providing authentic novels with diversity in them for the teen reader.  This particular genre (if we can call it that) is a burgeoning one, and very desperately needed on library shelves.  Our populations are becoming more and more diverse, and having diverse titles in the library helps open up not only pages, but conversations about cultural differences and even dispelling stereotypes of people from different cultures.  With that said, I'd like to introduce three great YA novels that feature diversity in very different perspectives:

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein.  Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2017. 
Jason and Tom have been friends since they were kids.  It doesn't matter that Jason is Jewish and Tom is African-American.  They see beyond this to the foundation of their friendship and interests.  And their love of football is one of them. 
Both Jason and Tom are gifted athletes.  Jason is an amazingly quick wide receiver and Tom's arm is perfection for a quarterback.  Living in New York City, their school doesn't have a football team, but they are given a chance in a play for a prestigious private school that is known for their outstanding athletes who make it to the pros.
But when they arrive at school, something isn't right.  The coaches, who praised them during camp, are now different, treating both Tom and Jason brusquely.  One of the boys is at the tipping point of calling it quits, when the truth begins to slowly rear its ugly face...segregation.  Now they have a very different passion, one that could potentially expose the shining facade of football greatness.  Recommended 7-12 grades.

Bang! by Barry Lyga.  Little Brown, 2017. 
Sebastian killed his little sister.  When he was just four, he picked up a gun and now his sister isn't with them anymore.  His father left, and his mother is hollow, only leaving the house to go to work or her therapist.  Sebastian remembers the details, but wishes he didn't.  And he can't let it go...
Sebastian is fourteen and summer is nearly upon him.  His best friend, Ethan, will be gone all summer and to create a sense of normality, his mom tells him he must find a summer job, no excuses.  Sebastian doesn't even know where to start, until he meets Aneesa.
She's so much more different than any other person he has met.  Up front and honest, she makes him feel like there's more to life than the little voice who tells him otherwise.  What starts as an accident on a bike becomes a new friendship, with new ideas.  Pulling their ideas and expertise together, they decide to start a Youtube channel to create pizzas and some day, sell them.  Aneesa works in her Muslim heritage and Sebastian brings it on with his pizza skills. Slowly, but surely, the channel starts to take off.  First a 100 followers, then a 1,000...and the count keeps growing.
But when things in Sebastian's life begins to crumble again, the little voice starts talking, telling him it's time....go get the gun...  Recommended for grades 8-12.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.  Atheneum, 2017.
No crying.  No snitching.  Revenge.  These are the Rules Will has been taught by his big brother Shawn.  Tough neighborhood, tough life, tough luck... and when things got tough, Shawn made sure he and his little brother stayed tough.  The Rules come into play the day Shawn sees his brother's body lying in the street.  His mourning may be silent, but he also knows what he has to do.  Going to his brother's side of the bedroom, Will takes the gun, tucks it behind him, and walks out the door onto the elevator.
Seven floors to the lobby.  Seven floors to revenge.
But on the ride down, Will meets the people coming on.  And what's so strange is that everyone who comes into the elevator cabin are people Will hasn't seen in a long time.  On floor six, Buck enters the cabin.  He's the one who gave Shawn the gun.  On floor five, a childhood friend.  On floor four, his father.....the only problem with this entire situation is that Will knows these people have died.  And each one brings a new perspective into what happened and what may happen.  Is it Will's imagination or are they truly there?  Will has to decide whether to play by the Rules or change them...and his life.  Recommended for grades 7-12.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Another Round of Great K-12 Library Ideas!

The fun never stops with my current position!  I have seen some more amazing things I'd like to share via the blog.  These are also posted on my Twitter feed (@yabooksandmore) of great ideas I've seen in libraries I've visited.   

If there is one thing we need bring into students' lives, it would be that they live in a world with people and events that make a difference for the better.  This YA librarian promoted this through her awesome display (which can be used for a bulletin board too!) 

This savvy elementary librarian went environmental on the library by re-using things teachers didn't need anymore into some amazing genre signs!  Beautiful!!!  Now, go hit up your teachers for old, unused globes!  (And if you have extra, DM me and I'll take them)  :)

Sometimes you don't need signs to capture attention.  Try wallpapering the backs of the shelves for certain genres like this middle school librarian did with her graphic novels. Plus, it cost little to nothing to do it :)  POW!  Ka-BAM!

This elementary librarian decided to do something to showcase books AND gets students involved in the library.  Taking those large envelopes (that have a tie or metal closure on the backs), she got her students to decorate them for the holidays.  They couldn't open it until they checked them out.  Use it for any holiday and promote student library collaboration :)

This junior high librarian created and used series lists of books and their order to create shelf markers under the series to help students track and find them easier.  She and her library assistant did these on their own but you don't have to if you have a Follett Titlewave account.  It contains a series tracker/finder, including have them in numerical order as well as when the newest one will be released.  You've got to try it out :)  

Enjoy these and be inspired, share, and incorporate them! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

E-books: From Shelf to Student!

Do you ever have one of those days when all of a sudden a light comes on, angels start singing, and a lightbulb literally is hovering over your head?  Yep, had one of those lately! πŸ‘ΌπŸΌπŸ’‘

I was doing some PD with district librarians, and we were talking about collaboration between library and classroom.  We know collaboration creates an environment that engages students and makes them the center of instruction.  It can also be the perfect place to encourage e-book reading for academic and pleasure pursuits.  Here are a few ways to begin to attract readers to the digital side of reading

1. Use excerpts and throw it up on a screen.  E-books don't have to be independently read from a single device.  Try using features on the device to highlight part of the e-book for students to read and discuss in small groups?  It also allows students who don't have their device not to be able to read along with the classroom.  Reading time can be taken to a whole other level, especially when reading picture books.  Show them the cover of the book while you introduce it, which can help encourage curiosity about e-books and (hopefully!) checkouts!


2. Buy an e-book version of popular books.  We all know those students who wait and wait.....and then wait some more for a popular book to come in.  The problem is, that sometimes those popular books always come in late, or even never at all.  If a title is that popular, why not buy an extra copy in digital format?  Not only will it NEVER get lost, but it could also be the gateway for those who want it so badly they'll take the digital copy to become e-book readers!  Bonus?  You get more shelf space to add other titles than duplicates!


3. Create a brochure/poster with QR codes for them to open quickly.  If you're a school library, you may have a circulation system that delivers e-book content to students.  If so, why not make it easier for them to check out books by using QR codes for them to go directly to the system and the book.  I think part of the frustration of reading e-books is actually getting to them.  If you have the QR code ready, wah lahhhhh!!  Easy as pie!  One easy idea: Follett's Destiny Discover has Collections, where you can create a list of e-books and create a PDF you can print or share online that's super easy to create.


4. Do a book talk all with e-books.  Nothing says I love to read more than booktalking all of the amazing books you want to share.  Oftentimes, e-books are overlooked when booktalking so add a few to the mix and see what happens.  What would be even more interesting would be to have the actual e-book open and read the first two paragraphs of the book while they track with you.  That's a powerful hook!


5. Talk to students about the ease and benefits of e-books and the added tools to use with a reader.  E-readers can go farther than just turning pages.  Highlighting, annotations, key word searches and more are built into some e-readers, so never neglect the fact that e-books are great resources especially when doing research. It's all in one handy place ready for them when they need to start using their documentation.


And whatever you do, never ever stop promoting reading and remember there are ALL types of readers.  What may feel uncomfortable to us may not to another reader, so keep your mind open.  Time to crack a book cover...or click a virtual cover!!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trell by Dick Lehr

2017, Candlewick Press

Trell only has one family picture with both of her parents in it.  It was taken on her 13th birthday.  Before that, it was always just one of them because the other had to take the picture.  It can get tough when your daddy, Romero Taylor, is in prison.  

Trell was just a few months old when her father was sentenced for murder of an innocent girl who was shot down during a gang shooting.  It's something the district attorney pursued heavily and it's now being brought up again because the DA is now running for mayor.  No one can forget poor Ruby and the senseless loss of life...

Except Trell is as certain as her father that he didn't commit the crime.

Trell knows about gangs, shootings and drug dealers.  She lives in an area of Boston riddled with them and more but she is trying to get away from it.  With the encouragement of her mother, she now attends the Weld, a private school in another area known for their academics.  People like Thumper Parrish, the local drug lord, scare her and she wants nothing to do with that type of life.  

But it's one visit and visitor that will change Trell's life.  Her father's case catches the attention of a new lawyer, one who is willing to fight for an appeal for Romero.  But it'll be an uphill battle to find evidence.  It'll also be a battle to stay one step ahead of those trying to hide the truth with threats, bullets, and brutality.

Dick Lehr writes a gripping YA novel set in today's urban landscape not only about the struggles of the main character, but also the fight for justice where system are flawed.  This is also a novel based on real life events of a murder that actually happened in Boston when Lehr was part of the Spotlight team of the Boston Globe. Urban realism is deftly written about in this novel and is one that should be on the shelves for those who live it and those who live vicariously through it.  Highly recommended.  JH/HS

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Great October Reads and Activities

Halloween is nearly upon us and it's a good time to cuddle up with a scary book on a long least for some of us.  If you know a teen who loves great horror, try these books with them.  I mixed fiction series with stand-alones; non-fiction titles that reflect horror; and even graphic novels and story collections. 

The PDF can be downloaded and made into posters, as a handout or used on a website.  There are links for the books with book trailers. The pdf can be found here

And if you're one to do activities with teens, create a murder mystery party and open the library a little later than usual.  School Library Journal also has a great online article that feature Halloween programs for K-12

However your celebrate October, have fun and let readers know all holidays and seasons are a great time to start reading! 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Feiwel and Friends, 2018  Pub date 03/2018
compliments of the publisher via Netgalley

     extremely or completely dark"

The year: 2087
Ship: USS John Muir

This ship is part of a group of ships jettisoned into outerspace  during the Exodus.

Tuck wakes up from stasis in a fog of questions.  The first thing he notices is the year: 2433.  Nearly four hundreds year of stasis has wrecked havoc on his physical self, which he desperately needs right now.  Because he has come face-to-face with a horrible bony, twitchy, and deadly alien that looks weirdly human.  The crew of the John Muir have either survived or evolved and a deadly war of survival is happening on a decrepit ship manned by no one but the AI, Dejah, and the ability to speak to each other silently through brain-embedded chips.  And silence is the key to survival against the griefers, mourners, and other monsters lurking everywhere.  Then he meets....

The year: 2435
Ship: Conquistador

This ship is an exploratory vessel aimed at finding viable soil and planets to re-establish humanity.  Earth is now dead, thanks to the terrorist plot Pitch Dark, and this ship, run by the Cruz family with the Smithson family as passengers, is one of their last hopes.

Laura (pronounced low-ra) has no fear except for one: Sebastian Smithson, heir to the powerful family who curates prized artifacts.  Her fear isn't based on him per se, but on the subjugator they have implanted in her, giving them total control over what she does.  But not tonight...she is hacking the system in order to free herself from this technology and tell her family and Mami, captain of the ship, about the mutiny the Smithsons are planning.  They've just found an age-old ship carrying extremely valuable cargo, which holds the key to humanity.  But then she sees the insignia of Pitch Dark appear before collision course between the two ships begins....

Survivors from two very different ships and times, Tuck and Laura meet and form a union to not only save themselves from the horrors within their ships, but also to ensure extinction of their race doesn't happen.  But they must fight not only physical monsters, but also the espionage of the Pitch Dark group, and the power struggle happening between families.  It's enough  to divide, but can they conquer? about edge of the seat reading!!  Alameda creates a interstellar world of two different ages of humanity that still mirror each other in their will to survive and control.  The monsters on the Muir are uniquely embodied human/monsters with destructive power created through the errors of humanity itself.  What makes this novel a standout isn't only the amazing narrative and storyline Alameda creates, but also the diversity she embues in the characters, where the main characters come from a proud line of Latino lineage.  This is a novel that will quickly become part of a lot of "TBR" lists and more.  HIGHLY recommended JH/HS.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Great K-12 library ideas!

I've shared quite a bit on my Twitter feed (@yabooksandmore) of great ideas I've seen in libraries I've visited since school started and I am BLOWN AWAY by the inventiveness of librarians from all grade levels.  As I know some of you may not be on Twitter, this blog post will help you see what I have and perhaps even inspire you to share ideas or even incorporate them into your own library spaces.

A savvy librarian uses bins for Pre-K to check out to save time shelving.  She made them eye-catching, and those are as endless as your imagination.  Even creating an eye-catching table space for them will excite young readers visually :)

Speaking of bins, this librarian used them to separate series so students knew how to grab the next one quickly without having to scour the shelves.  Quick and easy....perfect for readers wanting the next one!

Do your paperbacks get pushed to the back of the shelves only to be lost without as much checkout?  Here again, bins to the rescue!!  This librarian took all paperbacks for that section and put them in bins so they were more visible.  Genius!

Another great way to use displays creatively doesn't always happen in the shelves.  It can happen on top of them as well.  Look at what this librarian did with weeded reference. She used them not only to boost up the signage but also to act as a visual cue.  Get inventive and decorate the spines (bling it on!) or any way you'd like 

All this takes is a little work and a lot of red paper!  I don't think I have to say much about this display.  What's ingenious is that all of the books displayed are books to movies!

What a great way to show school spirit AND cover up some old furniture!  This middle school librarian took old t-shirts and used them to cover stools to update them and make the library more inviting.  Look at your furniture and see what you can cover with a t-shirt and a few DIY tricks :)

If you have a tight library and don't have space for a Lego wall, think outside the box by this librarian and use the backs of shelves to make them.  The shelf space under this can be used for storage and ties the space all together.  I also like that this librarian called her makerspace "I-space" for innovation, imagination, ingenuity etc....

Lastly, sewing machines in the library makerspace!!  LOVE!!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster

Harlequin Teen, 2017

North Shore Illinois is picture perfect. Expansive lakefront properties and even neighborhoods have immaculate yards, successful professionals and little to no crime .  North Shore High School is a reflection of that perfection.  Most of the seniors (merit scholars are common) who graduate usually go on to Ivy League colleges.  Families raise their children to be perfect candidates for a successful future.

But perfection comes at a cost.

Mallory knows this all too well.  She's reminded every time she steps into her house and her mother constantaly barrages her about her weight, her grades, her boyfriend, and her applications for early admissions into university.

Liam, NSHS's golden boy and Mallory's boyfriend has seen the cost of perfection.  It's one he's also hiding from others perfectly until his secret overcomes him

Kent and Stephen consider themselves the geek squad.  Both are looking at early admission to MIT.  They both have mothers who hover over everything they do, from what they wear, to what extra-curriculars they're involved in to their grades.

Owen defies the stereotype.  He's the one that enjoys hanging outside, not worrying about tomorrow and passionate about videography.  But he sees the facade and is hit the worst by the ideology of perfection.

Braden's run with perfection may cost him more than he thought.  

Simone is the new girl in town, with successful artists as parents.  She has lived life how she's wanted to.  She wears beads on her wrists, and doesn't look like the other students.  But that's okay because she's going on a gap year after graduation.  Little does she know she's already succumbing to the perfection

What is the cost?  It's something parents can't see or feel, but their children do all too well.  The stress they put on kids may be intended as good, but comes out in ugly ways.  Everyone is still reeling over the deaths of two of NSHS’s students.


That’s also something that makes North Shore different.  The amount of teen suicides far surpasses the national average in just their city’s boundaries.  Work harder, study more, get involved, be a merit scholar, early admissions, look perfect in everything you own or are….it is taking a toll on the community and the students.  Not all of them will be strong enough to overcome and the ones that do decide to do something about it.

They become Gatekeepers.  They are there to guard against the constant stress to obtain perfection and the cost it incurs. 

This novel is inspired from the 2012 incidents of multiple teen suicides in Forest Park, Illinois.   Lancaster offers a glimpse into the lives of those from wealthy families that many teens think have it all, are it all, and wish they could have it too.  Lancaster pulls readers into the intricate and secret details of each of these kids families and how every one of them could succumb to seeing suicide as the only answer.  The topic of suicide is difficult at best in a fictional setting.  Some may embrace this novel while others find it trite and unworthy of the topic.  And although this subject is tough, I found that Lancaster does an excellent job of building intensity from every character so the reader is taking turns down different outcomes and avenues in a myriad of ways.  Recommended for YA.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

2017, Crown Books for Young Readers

The Tower of Babel was created to reach the sky and it could only do something like this because mankind spoke the same language....

In the world of tomorrow, a new world, Genesis 11, has been found that is compatible to earth.  But what used to take years to get there, it only takes months now, thanks to the Babel Corporation.  And Babel has also found a highly lucrative mineral with endless possibilities.  Nyxia, a black substance, is an object that can be manipulated by your mind to create whatever you'd like, from a translator to a bullet-proof wall.

Emmett Atwater can't believe he was chosen.  Not only will he get to go to a new planet, Emmett also has added benefits, including his family and himself being taken care of for life. Coming from a struggling family and a mother who is slowly dying, Emmett does it out of love.  And he boards the ship.

When he boards the ship created and equipped with highly trained Babel Corporation staff, he finds out he's not the only one who has been selected.  There are nine others including Longwei, a highly competitive person; Jazzy, a girl from Georgia; and Azima, a strong girl from Africa and one of the last of her nomadic tribe.  They will be trained to work and survive on Genesis 11 as they mine nyxia during the duration of the space travel.  All ten are put through rigourous tests, including mind and body.  And they are also vying for position...only a few will make it to the finals.  The rest who don't will have most benefits taken away and sent back to earth.

For Emmett, this isn't an option.  He knows he has to make it or his mother will die.  But each member of the group of ten have their own personal reasons to make it as well.  But not all of them will, and some won't even survive the trip....

Another thing they don't know are the secrets the Babel Corporation is hiding from them.  There is a problem with nyxia, one with deadly outcomes.  On top of that are the inhabitants of the planet aren't friendly to outsiders.  But Babel has plans....

And like the story, the tower will topple and create chaos...

This novel is PACKED with action, suspense, and mystery to compel readers to find out what will happen next.  The reader is fortunate to become an outside observer of all the difficult training happening, as well as the mindsets and secret partnerships that are happening behind each other's backs.  The characters have very different personalities, leaving the reader wondering if what they're seeing is the truth or a cover.  Reading this is like taking a roller coaster ride where you never know if the seat belt is secure or not.  AMAZING science fiction read for all secondary JH/HS.  Highly recommended!  A plus?  It's a series!!!