Wednesday, April 19, 2017

STEM on a Budget- Things that Move

 Budget cuts affect everyone and the climate since the turn of the year has not been friendly to libraries to say the least what with threats to various funding sources and the like. Conversely however, STEM and STEM-based programs have gained traction in schools and libraries as educators seek to make science fun again.

These programs however cost money and a single magnetic set for example can cost well into the hundreds on Lakeshore and similar sites. This post  is  snapshot of a recent STEM program for babies and toddlers that I put on at my library. I work in a multi branch system and we have a library of materials available for check out so this enabled me to use materials free of charge. I did make some simple ramps using some cheap posterboard I got at the dollar store.

I did not want to forget babies since they often are the furthest ones from our mind when we think of every program except baby storytime. However if we provide simple directions to the parents and caregivers and provide an inviting space, the little ones can indeed have a great time. One thing I would change for next time is to make a few small 3x 5 laminated cards with simple instructions for activities parents can do at home with their little ones.






In the next few months we will do Texture, Size and Shape. That should provide lots of fun learning opportunities for families.












Friday, April 7, 2017

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

61lNbRTlzwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (331×499)Is it ever too early to encourage kids to become active in their community? From an early age some parents teach their offspring about volunteering, fundraising, canned food drives and the like. Some kids however become influenced by what their parents and guardians don't do and this is part of the story in this novel for middle grade readers.

Jin's grandparents run a bodega and make kimchi and she is content to help out in the store and journal her observations. Then two weird things occur. One night an older gent buys a goat's head pez dispenser and then later a kid from her school comes in and leaves metro cards on the shelves. Thus begins some new friendships as her world opens up.

Jin along with a reticent classmate named Alex and a newcomer called Elvin are drawn into a decades old mystery that involves history, friendship and art. In the process they learn about each other, about themselves and about the wonderful borough in which they live.  The author Tarpley lived in Harlem and her love for the borough shows in her descriptions of the streets and various sections of the borough.

Gentrification is not something you see covered a lot in middle grade fiction, neither is the Harlem Renaissance but Tarpley manages to do so without being heavy-handed. I recommend this book for ages 8+. Some read alikes to it are The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg, Blue Balliett's The Wright 3 and Kate Messner's Capture the Flag.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

Image result for the evil wizard smallboneMagic, young apprentice...evil wizard...seems pretty straightforward right?  Well not so much. Set in a coastal Maine town, Sherman's novel mixes realistic fiction with fantasy in just the right amount to enthrall both lovers of fantasy as well as realistic fiction in equal measure.

Nick is a tough cookie. he has to be, he lives with a bully older cousin and an uncle who doesn't know how to spare the rod. Could Nick help his case by not getting into trouble at school so much? Sure. Nick doesn't learn his lesson though so he seizes his chance one bitterly cold night and runs away and ends up in a strange house with an even stranger old dude who just so happens to be a wizard-an evil wizard if you believe the denizens of Smallbone Cove.

Before long Nick is learning a thing or three about magic and beginning to tolerate life with Smallbone, his quick temper and his menagerie of animals. Journeys to Smallbone Cove are exciting too and You can't escape your past though and Nick finds he has big choices to make when his former life catches up to him.

This is a slightly irreverent read as you may expect. Insults and barbs fly back and forth regularly so I would recommend it for ages 9+ simply because I think most kids at that age have enough sense to know not to go around repeating the stuff they read in books. Some read alikes are Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase series, Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon and Holly Webb's Rose.

Friday, March 10, 2017

I Am Drums by Mike Grosso

Image result I judged this book by its cover (really cool, vibrant and eye-catching).  Plus, I love books about kids who are into music. I think there is just so much boy/girl drama that one can take. Not that this book doesn't have any...but more on that later.

Girls aren't into drums right? I used to think so years ago until I saw a music video with Lenny Kravitz's drummer (will never forget how cool she looked in one of his videos, afro flowing and drumsticks flying). Some of the characters in this book think girls shouldn't play drums either. It's a good thing that the protagonist is no shrinking violet

 Sam (short for Samantha) is a sixth grade drummer who  desperately wants to get better at the drums. However all is not well with her family and her dad is always mad...the last thing he wants to hear about is noisy (and expensive) practice. Sam chances upon a drum tutor and thinks up ingenious ways of earning cash.

Sam has other issues at school however, some of which  she may not be able to solve by herself. My take away from this book is that it is never too late to ask for help. I think even as adults we sometimes hesitate to ask for help lest we be perceived as weak or a screw up. This book is apt for kids in grades 4 and up.  Some read alikes are Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban and Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M, Martin.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

images (710×1080)I am part of a committee at my library system that plans social book talks- we find books that speak to pressing social issues and then we host an event inviting the public to come in and discuss the book and the issues. This month we partnered with a local book store and  we were able to bring in the authors of All American Boys last Saturday for an inspiring conversation. Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds are two great guys. Reynolds in particular is on a hot streak and  his latest book is Ghost.

Set in the city it deals with a young tween called Castle Crenshaw who describes himself as having "mad and sad feelings" which sometimes leads to altercations at school.. He has had a hard life and now he and his mom eke out a hardscrabble existence in a less than desirable neighborhood. His mother works long hours to provide for them both and she has high expectations for him.

He is a tough kid but not tough enough to escape frequent taunts at school from a bully. He stumbles into a track meet one day and although he isn't impressed by the coach's gruff manner and reptilian appearance (Castle thinks he has a "turtle face") he tries out. Lo and behold he discovers that he is a runner. Coach invites him to join the team and thus begins a new phase in Castle's life.

This book covers a lot of topics. I like it's hopeful tone however. Castle is a kid with many flaws but he is resilient, he knows right from wrong and works hard. With those qualities he will go far in life. This is the first in Reynolds' Track series so I will definitely keep my eyes open for future installments. I recommend this book for ages 9 and up. Some read alikes are Coe Booth' s Kinda Like Brothers and  Andrew Clements' The Jacket.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trouble Next Door by Karen English

Image result for carver chronicles trouble nextTrouble Next Door by Karen English is an installment in a great little series called The Carver Chronicles. The characters are for the most part people of color but the setting isn't necessarily urban. The series is set in Carver Elementary school in

In this book,we meet an ordinary kid who sometimes has trouble doing his homework and who is having even more trouble thinking of a great idea for the science fair (something he desperately wants to win). At school he sometimes has to evade a big, gruff kid everyone calls Monster Boy. Then one day Calvin gets a new neighbor-Monster Boy!

Calvin must decide whether or not to accept Monster Boy as his friend as his dad wants him to or to completely ignore him despite the fact that they're neighbors. His friends would recommend the latter option.  Doing so would go against everything his parents taught him and besides...it's hard to avoid him when their bedroom windows face each other!


This book covers a lot of subjects (such as different families, bullies, science among others) but in a nice understated manner that is just right for  kids in grades 3 and up. I reckon it has some hi-lo potential as well. Highly recommended and I am going to check out the rest of the series as soon as I get a chance. Some read alikes are The Buried Bones Mystery by Sharon M. Draper, Nikki & Deja by Karen English and Sally Warner's EllRay Jakes series.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg


images (1875×2550)Novels in verse have surged in popularity over the last few years and this is another excellent addition to the genre. Set in pre-Civil War America we meet Grace just as she is told she has to go to the Big House and leave her family whom she loves very much.  Her light skin is the reason she has been chosen for this new job.

At the Big House she meets some other slaves including Jordon, the man servant; Anna, a girl who sleeps on the floor of the master bedroom to help the Mistress and Aunt Tempie the cook. Aunt Tempie takes Grace under her wing and teachers her about the duties in the kitchen as well as the whims of the masters.

Grace is by nature a passionate person who has a strong sense of justice and this sometimes gets her into trouble. At the Big House she is exposed to many slights and microaggressions in a more direct way than when she was in the field and she finds it hard to contain her emotions. Of course impudence can lead to serious consequences and soon she finds that she must grow up a lot faster than she would like.

Aunt Tempie and Grace's mother are, to me, the voices of reason and it is their example that Grace ends up following in the end. Though at first she is tempted to blame all whites for the bad things done to herself and other slaves she soon realizes that such thinking is dangerous. To the author's credit she does introduce one person, Ms Charlotte, who is sympathetic to the slaves' plight. This may be a hard book to read for some but it is well-written. Some read alikes to it are Lisa Fowler's Snakes and Stones and Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy.