Author Archive

Being a public librarian

So… I’ve had my librarian position at the public library for about four months now, and I bet you’re all wondering how I’m making out! (hello?  echo!  ECHOooo!!)  Very very well, thanks everyone!  I love it.  I really, absolutely, hundred percent LOVE it.  What a learning experience it has been, and still so far to go I’m sure… but I’ve enjoyed every step along the way.  Working as a public librarian is everything I wanted it to be.  (oh, listen to me gush!)  Some of the super fun and exciting things I get to do:

  • Lots of Reader’s Advisory, with people of all ages, with every interest.  i.e. a teenager looking for “slasher killer” fiction, along the lines of the Friday the 13th movies.  He was a tough cookie to crack.
  • Weeding and collection maintenance.  Not as simple as it seems.  There are some absolutely amazing juvenile and Y.A. books in non-fiction that, sadly, have low or zero circulation, probably just because of their location.  This is a problem, in my humble opinion, one that needs to be given serious attention.
  • Children’s programming.  I have my first solo act in 2 weeks!  I have been assigned Books & Babies in the fall, and (even more exciting) the Hallowe’en party for one of our branches.  I have so many ideas, not sure how I will be able to decide what to keep.
  • Circulation.  Yup, I get to do a bit of circ, being at the branches.  I actually really enjoy circ.  I like being up and busy at the desk, and scanning the books will always be a source of great joy (yeah, laugh if you must).

Do we have “problem patrons”.  Well yeah, of course.  But nothing totally unmanageable yet.  I enjoy a challenge, anyway.  Makes for a more interesting day.  (Am I sickening you yet, with my endless optimism?)  (How about my incessant use of brackets?)

So… public librarian is clearly a role I thoroughly enjoy playing.  I wish there were more full-time positions, like pretty much everyone these days.  Who knows what the future holds, though (oops, there I go again, dripping hope and sunshiney rainbows).  It’s very easy to get discouraged, so I try not to.  Seems like there are so many negative-nancy’s out there as far as the discussion regarding the “future of libraries” is concerned.  Well, I’m done with that.  Long live libraries!  (And long live librarians.)

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Well, I had very good intentions of finishing my Forest of Reading reviews…. and then my long-term job at the school ended, and I was supplying, and then out of nowhere I found a job with the public library – and since then it has been non-stop excitement and learning the where’s and why’s and how’s of a new work-place.

So, this blog is on pause.  Again.  Sigh.  A truly committed blogger would be keeping things updated, events outside the internet notwithstanding.  Hoorah for them.  I’ll be back eventually.  🙂

Review: Perfect Snow

Another Blue Spruce nominee for today’s review.  The timing is perfect, considering the weather we are supposed to receive tonight!

Perfect Snow written and illustrated by Barbara Reid

What a great book!  Barbara Reid manages to capture our imaginations yet again with her gorgeous illustrations molded out of Plasticine.  In this book, she incorporates a number of ink and watercolour comic strips, which add an interesting second window through which to see the characters in action.  Perfect Snow begins with two boys, Scott and Jim, waking up to a perfect snowy morning.  We follow them throughout their day at school, getting caught up in their delight of having fresh snow in which to play and build.  Recess is an exciting whirlwind of snow balls, snow men, snow forts…even snow tornadoes!  The book conveys a wonderful message about creativity and cooperation, without turning readers away with a too-preachy tone.  The kids at school absolutely loved the illustrations.  They wanted to touch the pages to see if they felt like Plasticine!  Every page has something amazing to look at: the expressions on the characters’ faces, the shadows in the sky, the perfect texture of the snow.  The story prompted a number of them to want to try their hand at creating art using Plasticine.  The book also got them very excited about the potential snow day tomorrow.   🙂

Highly recommended!

Review: The Imaginary Garden

Hello, everyone!  I’m back for my second “Forest of Reading” review.  This time I chose a Blue Spruce nominee (ages 4-7, grades K-2):

The Imaginary Garden, written by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher.

The Imaginary Garden is a warm and colourful picture book.  Theo loves to garden with her Poppa.  When Poppa moves from his house to an apartment, Theo is upset to discover that there is no space on his windy balcony for gardening.  Undaunted, Theo and Poppa create a beautiful imaginary garden using canvas and paint.  This quiet story champions the everyday relationships between family, and the special place art and creativity occupy in our lives.  The illustrations capture beautifully the imaginary space shared by Theo and her Poppa, an experience young readers, still adept at playing “make believe” with their peers, will recognize with delight.

Last week I read The Imaginary Garden to the grade 4, SK, and JK classes.  The kindergartens enjoyed the book very much, but the grade 4’s found it much too slow.  The common consensus among the older kids was that there wasn’t enough action.  The kindergartens, on the other hand, loved the bright and colourful flowers, the relationship between Theo and Poppa, and the fact that it is Theo who solves the problem of having no space to garden by suggesting that she and Poppa use their imaginations.

This book would be excellent to use as an introduction to an art project.  Its very peaceful tone also make it perfect for reading during quiet time, or just before bed.  Recommended.

Review: The Giant-Slayer, by Iain Lawrence

Hello, everyone!  So great to hear back from a reader via a comment!  Thanks, Adam and Steph.  It is fabulous knowing that someone is reading my rambling writings.  It encourages me to continue.

I will begin my reviews of the 2011 Forest of Reading nominees with Iain Lawrence’s The Giant-Slayer.  This one is nominated for the Silver Birch Fiction award, ages 7-11 / grades 3-6. *  The book takes place during the 1950’s, and centres around a group of children in a polio ward.  A young girl named Laurie Valentine visits her friend one day and begins to tell him a story, set in a fantastical world where dragons and unicorns coexist with griffins and manticores.  Laurie’s story draws the attention of the other children, and allows them an escape from their pain and loneliness.  Lawrence’s descriptions of the polio epidemic are are honest and instructive, without being overly didactic.  He paints a clear picture of the polio experience: the ever present fear of catching the disease, the immobilizing effects of the illness, the terror of being encased in an iron lung, the final possibility of death – and yet he handles the content with enough gentleness and hope that young audiences can engage with the novel.  As the plot progresses, Laurie Valentine’s fictional tale begins to blend with the children’s reality, posing interesting questions about the strength of the imagination to influence our lives.  The friendships that develop between the children are sensitive and believable.  Modern readers will feel connected to the characters and their plight, even though the book is set in a time and place far removed from current experiences.  Ultimately, the story achieves a bittersweet conclusion, leaving the readers satisfied with the plot and offering much food for thought regarding the magic of story-telling and friendship, and their power to shape our lives.  Beautiful artwork on the cover, although readers may find it misleading (I did, although I wasn’t disappointed with what I found inside).  Highly recommended.  Younger readers will benefit from having this book read aloud to them.  The book opens up terrific doors for discussion!

Check out Iain Lawrence’s website: http://iainlawrence.com/ I can’t wait to get my hands on his other titles.

* A side note:  My apologies for not posting these reviews in order, according to their award level.  I have been allowing myself to base my choice of title on my feelings at that particular moment.  This may make my reviews more favourable than if I were to force myself to read without regard for my current “reading vibe”, but I won’t worry myself too much about that.  I think it’s important to go into a book feeling at least a little bit positive  toward it!  There are so many factors that affect our reading experiences…it’s fascinating, and mysterious, and part of the magic of it all….but I digress, back up to my review!!

OLA’s Forest of Reading

School opens up again next Monday, and with it will come our kick-off of the OLA’s Forest of Reading program.  I am reading each nominee from the Blue Spruce, Silver Birch Fiction, Silver Birch Non-Fiction, Silver Birch Express, and Red Maple categories in preparation for the program….and because the titles are always fantastic Canadian literature worthy of reading (by kids and adults alike).  I figure I may as well post my thoughts on each book after reading, for anyone interested (HELLOOooo – Elooo- ooo – anyone OUT there – OUT there – UT there……? ECHO – echo – cho…!!) and for my own sake, as a record of my reflections.  Stay tuned!

Being an elementary school librarian…

For the last year and a half I have been working as an elementary school technician.  This work has been stressful, exciting, hilarious, frustrating, and everything in between.  Working with children sucks the very life out of you, and at the same time fills your soul right up to overflowing.   I will be honest, the pay isn’t great, especially considering the amount of energy that goes into the job.  I can’t stress this enough.  Anyone who thinks that being a school librarian must be a nice, quiet, peaceful, gentle career is wrong. DEAD WRONG.  Libraries are busy places, and kids are busy little creatures.  Loud and messy, too.  But it is great to be working.  I know so many people who haven’t found a position yet.  More than that – it’s great to be working at something I love.  I do love it.  I love working with the kids, reading stories to all my classes, introducing new and old stories, authors, illustrators.  If you could know what it is like to pass a child a book that you have known and loved, encouraging them to read it, explaining the many reasons why it is so fantastic, and then have that child come back to you bubbling over with their own well-thought out ideas and opinions about the story, the characters, and the pictures….. it is magic!  And the feeling is no less wonderful when the kid comes back feeling very differently about the book than you yourself did (or do).  Imagine debating with an eight year old the merits, or lack thereof, in a book like The Witches!!  I know am I sounding overly gushy.  As I write this, I find myself reliving every magical moment I have experienced since taking up this library tech gig.  Of course there are downsides.  I hate, hate, hate having to discipline the kids.  I’m not very good at it.  It doesn’t matter if they’re 3 or 13, they just don’t seem to take me seriously when I am expressing displeasure at whatever it is they are doing (standing up in my rocking chair, bouncing up and down at the library desk, having a lightsaber-like duel with musical instruments in the storybook area, pulling non-fiction books off the shelf at random and then shoving them back in a completely different spot – grrrrrrrr).  That’s okay, though.  I am learning to be a better discipliner, although it’s not an easy or pleasant task, and I doubt if it ever will be.

I’m not sure how long I will stay working in the schools.  Maybe something new will come my way.  Whatever the future holds, this certainly is keeping me busy and motivated…and entertained…in the meantime.