Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Galgorithm by Aaron Karo

    Imagine that there was a formula that you could use whenever you had a crush on someone that was almost guaranteed to work. Imagine if there was a list of techniques that, if followed faithfully would eventually make the cutie you were eyeing start to like you back. Now imagine if a high school senior was the one who had devised such a strategy. What do you think he would do with it? Galgorithm by Aaron Karo explores what could happen if such a scenario were to occur.

 Shane is a high school senior in a cushy middle class  suburb in California. He makes good grades, stays out of trouble and is generally well-liked. He hangs out with his best friend Jak (Jennifer Annabelle Kalkland) mostly but he has a secret that even she doesn't know- he is a dating consultant sought out by lovelorn students throughout the school.

   Shane's methods seem to be very effective however- he has hooked up the most unlikely couples. Balloon and Hedgehog, Reed and Marisol to name a few. But soon things start getting weird. A staff member at school seeks Shane out desperate for help with a colleague and Shane must decide if he wants to help a grown up.Then one of the most attractive girls at school falls for Shane but he can't shake the nagging feeling that he likes someone else. He will have to make some hard decisions.

If you are looking for a book that analyzes teen problems and tries to find a cause for their angst then this book isn't for you. This was a breezy read filled with beautiful, high-achieving kids. Although I don't usually read books like this I admit that I enjoyed it very much. I highly recommend this book for readers aged 13+.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Kids Paint at the Library

      For the longest while I have been itching to do some painting at my branch's weekly craft activity for kids. We have washable tempera paint in abundance so I didn't have to buy any paint.  I wanted to combine a recycle activity with some STEM-related activity so I used some tp rolls and some paper towel rolls which a great teen volunteer and I then made into shapes. I will say from now that the heart shape was the hardest to make and I ended up making two variations of those.  Inclement weather meant that the turnout wasn't as great as most weeks but I was able to save the materials for the next time I do this activity probably in six months or so.

   Here is how I ended up setting up the room. I thought about putting the drop cloths on the tables but decided not to. Some paint ended up spilling on the table and I was able to use clorox wipes to clean the mess fairly quickly. If you look closely you will see some small dixie cups in which I placed small amounts of paint. The kids then dipped the shapes into the paint to make various patterns. I started with red and black paint and then poured more as requested. Going forward I will pour less paint in the cups (just a dot not a lot!) because I had too much left over and I will also wait and see how many kids turn up before I set material out.

This is the cart that I used to wheel all the materials into the room.

Here is a sample pattern I did just to show the kids what they could do.

I could not take pics of any of the actual participants at the branch but I was able to get one of my son when I reproduced the craft at home with my son. We discovered that dollar store paints aren't the best quality (big surprise!)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye

Dennis the Menace, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Kevin McCallister have nothing on Tobias Eggers, the main character in Witherwood Reform School written by Obert Skye and with beautiful and slightly scary illustrations by Keith Thompson. Many a nanny has endeavored to reform Tobias but with little success.

His sister Carolina, although younger than he, is more level-headed and kind-hearted. In the novel's opening we see a nanny, the bombastic Ms Childress as she attempts to straighten out the children. Needless to say she learns her lesson and departs the house in a huff. This latest kerfuffle is too much for the children's father Ralph to bear and he takes them to what unbeknownst to him is the Witherwood Reform School, a place built on a mesa and that supposedly possesses magic powers.

This proves to be a fateful night in many ways because Ralph is forever changed after that night and the children, try as they might find that they are now considered students at the school and are subject to a set of rules most of which can be summed up in one word: OBEY.

The novel echoes Stanley Kubrick's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in that the children are mistakenly carried to a place and then have to make sense of the place and why they are there. I also thought I saw echoes of the old British tv series called The Prisoner.

This book is unlike many other books aimed at young readers in that details, even when provided are very nebulous and ambiguous. You get the sense that there is more to be revealed than meets the eye. The book's conclusion leaves enough potential for a sequel or a series. I liked it and I recommend it for readers aged 9+.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dance Party at the Library! pt. 1

     Dance Parties are all the rage now at libraries as a fun way to get kids in the door (thereby boosting entrance numbers). You would be surprised how many people who normally do not frequent libraries would attend these programs.  I wanted to find some songs that would work for kids of all ages. Most libraries advertise these parties for ages 5 and up but sometimes a parent may bring a  ten or eleven year old too who might be rolling their eyes at the baby stuff.

This song is repetitive and rather silly but kids love it! Who would think that a buck-toothed gummy bear jumping around and being silly would be attractive to the little ones eh.  If you have not heard this song before I give you the Gummy Bear song.


     The Wiggles' lineup has changed somewhat in the twenty plus or so years they have been active. Their new songs are as catchy as ever and work well in you have a projector or smartboards creen as the little ones can see how to do the songs. actions described. Propeller is a fun interactive song

This Wiggles song is called Say the Dance and is one of those songs that says the name of the dance and kids can do the actions described. This song has statue, belt buckle shine and so forth.

   This is one of the older Wiggles songs called Do the Monkey. This one is catchy because it has the actions and the sounds as well. I have listened to this song countless times in my car and I still am not tired of it. 

   Laurie Berkner is performing here in Denver this weekend and I think it is a testament to her great musical style and fun demeanor. I have been rocking out to her songs for some time now and I fondly remember her vids on the Nick Jr channel before they modified their format.

  The Minions movie comes out today so I thought I would include this song. Unlike some of the other songs above kids are free to dance however they want or if they want they can just look at the crazy antics of the Minions.

    Kidz Bop cds are another excellent dance party option. They feature kids doing clean cover versions of popular hits. Sometimes they even make videos for their versions of songs as is the case with  Uptown Funk. On the whole I would recommend Kidz Bop videos for older kids who might not want to do Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and that sort of stuff. The Kidz Bop cds come out pretty fast and a major plus for me is that all songs are clean.

There is freeze dance and then there is a Jim Gill freeze dance. I have listened to Dance Anyway You Want To probably about one hundred times and in a variety of settings ranging from story times to read alouds at preschools in the area and I am yet to see this song flop. It is that good.  Try as I might I could not get a good vid of his but any of his many cds would be good for a dance party as he is an incredibly consistent artiste.

That's all for now.  Till next time!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

    Family and loss are themes that are not usually the themes in jfic books and when one does encounter one such book it is hard not to feel depressed upon completion of the book. This novel is different however, so light is the author's touch (it is no wonder she has won awards for her writing) that the book is a page turner despite the heavy subject matter.

   Set in the sixties our story focuses on a Chinese- American family in Pennsylvania. As in most families they don't always see eye to eye but their love of baseball unites them.  Ba is the patriarch and he is a strict no-nonsense guy who lives by the Confucian ideals. The three children Peter, the central protagonist, the youngest child Elaine and the oldest son Nelson are obedient although they sometimes chafe at Ba's view of the world.

Peter idolizes his older brother Nelson both for his natural grace, his skill at baseball and also because he is a cool big brother. After tragedy strikes the family's very core is cut through and Peter's mom retreats into herself. Peter tries everything he knows to get her to come out oh her self-imposed shell.

Sports, and in particular baseball is the family's favorite pastime and Peter is surprised when his father, perhaps the most orderly, reserved person he knows volunteers to coach his Little League baseball team.  He and his teammates are even more surprised at Ba's methods but surprisingly they bear fruit.  Father and son will learn some important lessons through having to work together for the team.

Despite the sad events this book describes it is written in a gripping style and the historical references would make this a good starting point for Social Studies units and even for guidance lessons dealing with family tragedy. I would also recommend this for reluctant readers and especially boys because of the themes of friendship and sports. This would be a good book for ages 10+.