Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

the-stars-beneath-our-feet.jpg (1800×2700)We need diverse books hashtag has certainly had some impact almost five years later...For more on diverse books check out the website or simply search the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks.

Lolly Rachpaul is like any other kid in New York City. He hangs out with his pal Vega, is waiting to see what he gets for Christmas (a new phone would be nice) and he loves building Lego. There is something else bothering him also-he is still in mourning over a recent tragedy What's worse is that the siren call of the streets has now turned its attention to Lolly and his friend, if they heed it, things could change drastically.

Lolly is at that awkward stage when he is aware of girls but still not sure if and how to approach them. One of the girls at his after school program is called Rose (the kids call her Big Rose) and they strike up an unlikely friendship over a shared love of legos and as coping mechanisms. The kids think Rose is strange and either mock or play pranks on her.

I liked that I could read a book with a young man with a heritage similar to mine (West Indian/Caribbean). The old adage is that it take a village to raise a child and Lolly benefits from various caring adults who influence him in different ways. I think of all the many children growing up in the United States, and in New York City in particular with similar heritage who will see themselves in this book, will be faced with similar social and societal obstacles and may even know someone with similar circumstances. Moore also does a great job presenting different family dynamics.

I would recommend this book for readers aged 10+. Some similar reads would be Walter Dean Myers' A Star is Born,  Jason Reynolds' Patina and Ghost.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott

Image result for the summer of owen toddAs a father of young children I always worry about whether or not I have given them the tools to handle stranger danger or even danger from familiar faces (statistically children are more likely to be abused by a family member). One such way I can do is by looking for literature that handles difficult topics in a sensitive manner. Luckily, The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott does just that.

It starts off like any other summer for Owen Todd on Cape Cod...visions of baseball, go karting and beaches fill his's going to be a long, fun summer. His best friend Sean has similar plans but due to extenuating circumstances his mom hires a babysitter. The babysitter turns out to have other plans up his sleeve besides mere babysitting and Sean confides in Owen.

Owen is shocked by the revelations and  his tween mind struggles with what  to do with the information especially when he considers what revealing the truth could do to the tight-knit community. Owen could take the easy route out as he has his own issues to deal with. He never loses sight of the big picture which is that what someone-a grown up no less- has done something wrong to his best friend and as a friend he should try to do something about it.

It would be easy to blame Sean's mother what with all that she has to do and the other mitigating factors. Like many single parents she has a lot on her plate and in trying to make ends meet decides to use a familiar resource.

The author also includes an afterword that implores readers to use many of the resources available if they know or suspect sexual abuse is occurring (if you see something, say something). Although there aren't graphic descriptions of events, the subject matter may be better understood by children aged 9+.  A good read for adults to share with younger ones is Some Secrets Should Never be Kept by Jayneen Sanders.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sensory programs at libraries, children's museums and the like

 I am the parent of a child with sensory processing disorder (SPD). In a nutshell this means that he has trouble processing stimuli in order to respond appropriately to the demands of the environment. Over the years my wife and I have worked with his school in order to help his teachers find ways to ease the sensory burden (he has sensory chews, fidgets etc.)

Here are some of the questions that are always going through my mind as a parent of a child with SPD.

How do we help our child self regulate?
How do we make our kiddo comfortable in a noisy program or when kids are too noisy for him?
How do we help other parents know that his body can't control itself sometimes and he goes straight to "lizard brain" bypassing "wizard brain" completely?

What are some simple ways that libraries, museums and other places can help make things less stressful for children with sensory issues and their parents and caregivers. Programs that cater to the needs of this growing segment are becoming more popular.

I have seen:
*Programs where kiddos make sensory play things, fidgets, eye spy rice jars and the like
*Storytimes that have a visual schedule and with books that are interactive. Here is a how-tosensory storytime blog that ALSC did several years ago

Below are some other crafts that can be made simply and relatively inexpensively

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Some parents and caregivers are not attentive, as a library professional who has worked in three different library systems in a large urban area I can attest to this. So, there may be times where staff may have to gently redirect kiddos. This guide I received a few weeks ago from one of my lists provides some tips to help refocus tired, hyper or restless students.

Transitions are always rough- in the classroom and in storytime...Some ways to help sensory kids are to have a few phrases that let them know that one activity is about to end and another is about to begin:
-5 more minutes Timmy
-We will finish this activity in a few minutes and then move on to something else
-Sing: "Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up"

Be patient, it is not an easy fix and there is no one size fits all solution. Parents will appreciate your efforts to help their kiddos!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner

images (715×1080)Nationally stats on homelessness are stark especially in cities like mine where increasingly there are less units that low income people can afford. In my library system we sometimes see families in transition who are temporarily displaced and are sleeping in their car in our parking lot. Some branches in my system have created packets for families, single moms and single men as each one of these groups has different needs.

Kate Messner is the author of novels such as Manhunt, The Seventh Wish and All the Answers. In her newest book, The Exact Location of Home, we meet Kirby "Zig"Zigonski who has settled into a routine that he loves. He mostly hangs out with Ruby and Gianna and he loves tinkering with simple circuits and electronics which he finds at yard sales and around the neighborhood.

His dad does't live with the family and his mom burns the candle at both ends trying to make ends meet while also finishing school. Zig is convinced that his mom is deliberately preventing him from seeing his dad (it's been more than a year since he's seen him) and when he finds some geocaches left by someone who seems to bear many similarities to his father he determines to follow the clues -even if he puts himself at risk. Zig's determination to find his dad increases when he and his mom have to leave their rental and wind up at a homeless shelter.  Zig learns some valuable life lessons in the process and is also able to teach what he learned to other-which is important.

These issue oriented novels are important for kids to read first because they may have a friend or classmate who has experienced homelessness or displacement and second because even if they haven't, reading books such as this helps create empathy in kids. Some read alikes to this book are Jewell Parker Rhodes' Towers Falling, Joan Bauer's Almost Home and Nicole Lea Helget's The End of the Wild.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

Image result for the wizards of onceSprites and snowcats and bears...oh my!  Cressida Cowell has created a middle grade fantasy that is very entertaining, provides a character lesson or two and has some spooky illustrations to boot.

We meet budding wizard Xar in the Badwoods on his way to capture a witch. He has a talking raven called Caliburn  assigned to him.  Caliburn serves almost like a Jiminy Cricket figure to Xar, constantly trying to keep Xar out of trouble, a thankless task to be sure.

By pure coincidence he meets Wish, daughter of Queen Sycorax of the warriors. Wizards and warriors have been sworn enemies for generations so at once the two young'uns have a disagreement. Wish's bodyguard Bodkin, himself only a child, tries valiantly to defend the young, quirky princess but with little success. Thus begins a wild adventure involving enchanters, giants, sprites and other magic beings.

Both characters are thirteen and Cowell does a masterful job of showing how they are coming into their own and coming into conflict with their respective parents while simultaneously struggling to measure up to their older siblings. Xar's older brother Looter is especially mean to him.

Much of the marketing of this book talks about the fact that Cowell is the author of the immensely popular How to Train your Dragon series but this book is good enough to stand on its own. Kids aged 9+ will enjoy this tale.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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I try not to review authors more than once but every so often a book comes across my path that is so intense, so good and so gripping that I bend that rule. I had reviewed another of Kelly Barnhill's works, The Witch's Boyhere and her latest The Girl who Drank the Moon is the subject of this review.

As you may have heard this novel has won the 2017 John Newbery Medal (awarded by the Association of Library Service to Children to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children) and with good cause. Barnhill has created a world that speaks to the reader on many levels.

There is a witch who steals babies and a young boy determines to find the witch and kill her. Except...the story is a bit more complicated than that. Xan is an old witch who lives with a happy young dragon and a great big creature near a Bog. Xan, in addition to doing witchy things like learning and casting spells, happily takes babies left in a spot every year and delivers them to the Outside Cities. Then one night she accidentally enmagicks a young babe, Luna after giving her moonlight.

Meanwhile in the town from where the babies come, a young lad is trying to make his way in the world and after several false starts he becomes a craftsman and soon settles down with a family. After it is determined that his baby is to be the one sent for the witch he determines to end this once for all. Thus begins an epic quest involving many characters.

The story takes many twists and turns and is certain to thrill readers of all ages. Barnhill deftly weaves in various topics such as conservation, philosophy and even patriarchy. There is one scene near the end of the book involving the dragon that is sure to leave manya reader misty-eyed to be sure. Highly recommended. Some read alikes to this book are Alice Hoffman's Nightbird, Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs and Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories series.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Let 'em play: Building Creativity in Young Children through Self-Directed Activities

Some of my library colleagues here in Colorado, Katie O'Brian and Kristen Bodine and Andrea Cleland both did presentations at CLEL's recently concluded conference in which they talked about child-centered programs.

Here is what I gathered:
-focus on the process rather than the product. It is not helpful to anyone to have parents and caregivers yelling at their little ones just because they aren't doing it right

-let children explore a material. If they want to talk about the clay or wood then let them do so. The goal is to expose them to a variety of materials that they may not necessarily see each day

-it's not necessary to provide a sample or a template and there is not necessarily a right answer...whatever kids do is the correct answer. Many schools prioritize teaching to the test so often library programs are one of the few places kids can have some spontaneity and autonomy

-some developmental benefits are increased motor skills, greater self expression, sensory exploration, spatial ability, decision making

For highlights from these and other great presentations check this link, we should have most of the session materials loaded here soon.

Here are a few pics: