Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Around The World -- One World One Story SRC Early

On December 3rd I co-chaired and presented at the Michigan Library Association's Summer Reading Program Workshop. It was pleasant to be thinking of summer during the Winter, especially in Michigan. The weather's cold, but our thoughts are warm. With the holidays just around the corner, I thought it might be nice to begin the theme of One World One Story with a blog about Christmas books which take place in different parts of the world. Reading each one of these stories again, bring to mind how each culture adds to the Christmas story and bring a whole new perspective on the meaning of the season. Without further delay, I present the top five Christmas stories from around the world that have inspired me and children in my story times.

1. Befana Anne Rockwell This is an older title and not as colorful as Tomie de Paola's book but it is a treasure just the same. The story is beautifully told. The story takes place on Christmas eve when Befana has visitors to her home asking for directions to Bethlehem. Who are these visitors? None other than the Three Wisemen and a shepherd. Befana is invited to go to Bethlehem to see the new born King, but she refuses to go. When the sky is lit up with stars and angelic singing fills the air, Befana runs to find the new born babe. Does she find him? Readers will be satisfied with the ending of the old woman who just wants to see Baby Jesus. As a side note, the folklore originates in Italy and in the Italian version this is an epiphany story. Befana is sure to fly into the hearts of little ones during the Christmas seasons. Black and white illustrations with red borders are ornate and are perfectly paired with the text.

2. The Give-Away
Ray Buckley This is an interesting choice for Christmas because it speaks of the Christian story of a savior in an American Indian traditional style. Although the story may not be part of the traditions of Native Americans, the artwork in the book captures the symbol and designs that are familiar to many tribes. Buckley weaves the story effortlessly to demonstrate that for the tribes creation, humanity, animals and God are all connected to each other. A must read for the holidays.

3. Marta and the Manger Straw A Christmas Tradition From Poland
Virginia Kroll A lovely story that speaks to children of all ages about the importance of sharing good fortune with others. According to Polish costumes, taking a straw from the manger is considered to bring blessings though out the next year. Marta takes a straw and shares it with fellow villagers who have experienced hard times. When Marta and her mother experience their own hardships, they find that Marta's kindness is returned to her in the way of aid from family and friends.

4. The Spider's Gift : A Ukranian Christmas Story Eric A. Kimmel Did you know that spiders are considered good luck in the Ukrain? Kimmel's story begins with Katrusya finding out that there will be no Christmas at their home because of hard times. With a little prodding and convincing, Christmas is on again with the agreement that homemade gifts and a Christmas tree would be enough to bring in the holiday cheer. After finding the perfect tree, and decorating it Katrusya and her family awake to hear her mother screams! The Christmas tree is covered with spiders and their silky web. The tree has to go! Again, Katrusya wins the argument to keep the tree. After the family returns from church on Christmas Eve, they discover a wonderful surprise. The silky spiders' webs on their Christmas tree has become beautiful silver. The buttons and star on the tree has turned gold. The family decides to share their miracle and new found wealth with the villagers. Definitely one to keep on the shelves.

5. The Legend of the Christmas Rose
retold by Ellin Greene A classic old tale from Sweden that details how the Christmas Rose came to bloom in the middle of winter. According to the folklore a poor family who has been banished from the village due to the father's crime of stealing a cow, witnesses the beauty of a beautiful garden that appears only on Christmas and only in the Goinge Forest. The abbot at the Ovid Cloister begs to see the garden and is allowed to on one condition: that the father is pardoned of his crime which would allow the family to return to live in the village. The abbot agrees to the condition and brings along with him a lay brother who can not see through the eyes of faith. This a wonderful tale of a cold heart warming up to the possibilities of Christmas miracles.

Of course by the time Summer Reading programs begin these Christmas tales will be a memory. Having said that, it is an enjoyable trip to go around the world at this time fo yer. I just may repeat it next year.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Musings on Teen Read Week

The third week of October is a unique for teens and YA literature. When ALA decided to dedicate the week to Teen Reading with its inception in 1998, they truly stumbled on a great idea. This week long celabration would have nice to have back in the seventies. Maybe we didn't have this week because adults figured kids would read eventually. As a matter of fact, going out on a limb here, but getting a teen to read forty or so years ago may not have been as difficult as it has become today. Way back in the dark ages, as teens in my library describe that era, there were no video games, cable TV or computers to compete with teens’ attention. After all, there were three major network channels and they went off air (yes, that means no programming) at around 1:00 AM. The only thing that could ruin an evening is if the President was going to make a national address or the power went out. (For my younger readers of this blog, if the President was on TV he was on all three channels! Yippee, right? ) Today’s teens have so many more distractions. I don’t believe I could count them all on one hand or even both hands. The list begins with cell phones and ends at ripping songs off the net and the all time favorite texting!
When do today’s teen find time to read? The good news is that they are making time to read. Why? Because of Teen Read Week? Partially. However, it is probably due to the fact there are so many talented YA authors that keep their interests up and imagination flowing.

This is precisely why adults are a bit jealous of today’s teens. Never mind the fact that they have cooler toys than we could have ever dreamed of but they have such great authors that it blows our mind. Don’t get me wrong. Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton and Robert Cormier all have a tender spot in my heart, but today’s author’s are going places that could never be imagined until now. As a Youth Services librarian, it is a perk for me not only to read the array of YA books, but as an added bonus it’s a real hoot to talk to teens about our favorite characters in the series. In the past decade there have been a steady flow of authors who have stimulated the imagination, challenging teens and adults to discuss topics from alcoholism, suicide, the supernatural and reality games with deadly consequences. Readers have much to choose from that it has become difficult to decide which book or series to read first.

It is hard to pick a favorite chracters among the new comers that have graced YA pages. Percy Jackson has taken us on flights of mythological fantasy better than old Odysseus did in his day. Grace and Connor of Vampirates are the dynamic brother and sister team that can beat pirates and vampires with their arms tied behind their backs. Let’s not forget how Katniss Everdeen of Hugner Games proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that girls are strong, smart and survivors. These brash new breed of characters support the theory that reading for entertainment among young readers is not going to stop anytime soon. That is welcomed news to librarians who serve teens, but also it should be great news for educators and parents too. Today’s YA authors have not only found the heart of where teens think, dream and live but they ahve also sparked interest in finding other treasures, old and new, for them to enjoy.

With so many great novels it is hard to believe that there are teens who are missing out on the rich stories because they don’t like to read. That remains the one constant element for professional librarians serving teens, reaching out to reluctant readers. Teen Read Week themes help grab teens attention, but ultimately it is the books that get them hooked. Maybe this is a Pollyanna dream to have but hopefully one year, Teen Read Week will entice 100 % of teens in America to read for entertainment. Yes, I know lofty goal but it is worth the effort to achieve. Besides, with rich stories lining up on the shelves or ready for downloads, it just may be that we will reach that goal sooner rather than later.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What is a Library?

A library, according to many dictionary sources is described as a building which holds a collection of materials. A library may also be used in a computerized term where one has a library of music on a hard drive. Both definitions are true and yet they both point to the direction that libraries are heading. Access to the Internet has changed so much in how we retrieve, read and report information. No longer do readers fumble through card catalogs, indexes and microfilm tape in search of information. Now with a click or two, information is easier to find, to consume and share with anyone and everyone we know. This is a clear signal that the descriptions of a library in the future will be quite different from what we have known. As a matter of fact, the reach of the librarians will no longer be within the walls of the library or even within their community. An educated guess tells me, that librarians will have to adapt to working within social media networks to establish connections in new and exciting ways. We are boldly going where no librarians have gone before. Frankly, it's about time.

The advent of social media has changed the way people connect and communicate. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks offer the opportunity to state what is on your mind, get information out quickly and stay connected with people who share your interests or like what you do. For any community organization, this is a goldmine opportunity for free Public Relations. Why would anyone pass up that opportunity? Fear? No time? Waiting to see if this is a fad? The fact of the matter is that if we are afraid that new technology will bring more chaos into the library, chew up our time and be gone before we figured it all out then it is time to admit that our role in the communities we serve are no longer needed. However, this is not the case here, this is the opportunity we have been waiting for since the advent of the Internet.

For years libraries have had their identity stolen, or at least borrowed, by big chain bookstores. Walk into any Barnes and Noble and find that it is a clone of classic library space without the classification system. What they added were a cafe, comfortable chairs and occasional entertainment from authors or musicians. Nice. However, it doesn't replace what libraries have done for years and can continue to do so via social media, which is to guide patrons through the maze of information to select what is best suited for their needs. Bookstores can sell you books, toys, magazines but they are not experts in information retrieval. Librarians are the experts of knowing where to look, which sources are more reliable than others, and why one format is better to use than another. Social media will allow libraries to reclaim their identity as the information source. While the bookstores may have a presence online with their web pages, Twitter accounts and fan pages on Facebook, their physical buildings will be gone. They will be seen only in the virtual world. Don't think this is true? Consider the fact that the major book stores are promoting heavily electronic readers. Why? Easier to download a book than have a physical copy of it that would need to be shipped to their customers. However, in the case of the libraries, there is an opportunity to be the expert and provider of information in all formats. Variety is the spice of life!

While the need for bookstores as a physical building seems to becoming a reality of a bygone era, (and I could be wrong on this) the future of libraries in communities is becoming brighter every day. Why? Humans beings need and love interactions with other human beings. Libraries will be what they have always been for their patrons: the meeting place where people and information come together. Social media will make it all the more easier to connect to patrons and draw them into our libraries. At this point, libraries who fail to make waves on the social networks are doomed to the same fate of bookstores. They will be viewed as obsolete and fiscally draining on already burdened budgets. In other words, like dinosaurs, the libraries will be viewed as a great way to retrieve digital information to begin the search but refining it will be done by someone else. Our profession has changed much in just the past twenty years or so, and it is continuing to change to the point of if librarians don't keep up they will be left behind. There is always the chance that there will be mistakes now and then when working with new technology. Consider this: if we don't embrace it, learn from it, and become the facilitator to help others gain access, we will have effectively put ourselves out of the picture in every community. A library will always have four walls, maybe even bookshelves or stations where patrons can plug in their devices to download information, but the added bonus is that librarians are not confined by the walls. They can go to where the patrons are without taking a step out of the library. Hang on tight, it's going to be a bumpy ride but well worth it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Teens Have Taught Me...

The past eleven or so years of my library career has been spent working with children. it has been a source of pride for me because I tell everyone that this is what keeps me young. On very few occasions do I feel truly old around the teens, and that's only when they tell me that my attitude is much in line with their moms and dads. Which in the whole scheme of things really isn't that harsh of a reality check. As much as I like to think that I have taught them something of value, I know deep down, they have taught me some very valuable lessons. Who says age has anything to do with being a teacher or sharing knowledge? I thought I would take the opportunity to share with everyone what the teens have taught me.

!. The more things change, the more the stay the same. Years have gone by since I was a young one in high school, yet when I overhear the conversations before the T.A.B. group meetings, the conversations haven't changed all that much. The girls talk about books, dances and boys. The boys talk about, cars, games, and girls. They make me smile, and realize that yes this is the generation that will be leading us soon but it is so nice to see them growing into their roles. They will make this world a better place.

2. Teens love to Share their opinions. Good golly do they ever. Everything from politics to sports to who will be kicked out on Big Brother. To write down all that they have to say would take years, but just like adults, everyone wants to have a chance to be heard. As adults in their lives, it is our responsibility to hear what it is they have to say and take it on face value.

3. Everyone wants a place to belong. This is what is so cool about the library. Everyone is welcomed. Whether you are a geek, athlete or straight A student everyone has a chance to explore, learn and grow at the library. Once in a while i will be listening to the radio's PSA ad that lectures on how teens need a place to go after school. It seems silly that everyone forgets that the best place to go is the library. It's a great hangout place. Which is why it is so important that libraries have the funding to not only keep the doors open but also to provide an alternate place for kids to call home. I love it when a teen plops down on the couch in the Youth area and starts to read. It's as if they own the place and that's okay with this librarian.

4. Out Of The Mouths Of Babes Comes Great Book Suggestions. Young Adults truly do have a way of seeing things differently than adults. The first cover of Pretty Little Liars made me think, "Great, another chick lit book! " Yet it was one of the TAB members that told me I had to read the book So did. Surprised was I that I actually not only liked the book but looked forward to the next books in the series. What drew the teen to the book? It wasn't the color scheme of the book jacket design, or the title itself. It was the premise of a not so ordinary mystery tale. Another case of not judging a book by it's cover!

5. Going with the flow. Teens have the spirit of spontaneity that adults have seem to lose when they get into the real world. At a recent teen book talk event at the library, I watched a teen describe a book in details with props. It was as if we were watching a one man play based on the book he choose to talk about. At one point I thought that perhaps I should stop the "performance" but decided not to because I saw how enthralled the others teens were and figured this is the time to go with the flow. The program ended a little bit late but the teens are still talking about how much fun they had that night. With the beginning of the school year just around the corner, these teens can become a walking PSA for the library to all their friends. Free advertisement! You can't beat that!

6. Never fear change or technology! Teens have taught me to embrace many new things that before I met them, I may not have tried on my own. Facebook, Myspace along with all the new gadgets did not thrill me when they first came on the scene. To be perfectly honest, the value of the 'new wave" looked more like wasting time than getting things accomplished. Boy was i wrong! This time, I'm glad I was wrong because now I see the potential of making the connection to not only my patrons but friends too! So with the teens help, I will boldly go where no librarian has dared to go before.

All these items individually, are wonderful but together they are the core to why teen advocacy is so important to libraries. Teens need libraries just as they need schools or hospitals. It's not just about educating or entertaining them. It's not even about giving them a safe place to hang our or an area that they belong. It's about providing for future leaders, parents and citizens who will one day understand the value of protecting their community by learning, growing and exploring together. The library is truly a portrait of a community. Invite the teens to be part of the portrait. They can teach others the same lessons they have taught this librarian.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Universal Letter to the Editor Supporting Libraries

In my wildest dreams, advocacy was never part of my vocabulary due to images of activist from the 1960's. An activist or advocate was someone who held signs denouncing the ills of society. It did not ever occur to me that being an advocate for a cause was something I could do or would be take an active role. Who wants to spend days marching in front of public buildings to protest? Not this quiet librarian. However, as the old song goes, "the times are a changing." In these tough economic times, it is becoming apparent that libraries need an army of people who not only support them but will also take action to keep these institutions open. Recently, The Detroit Free Press published a portion of a letter I wrote in support of libraries facing mileages. Below, is the entire letter. This is the start of what is hoped to become a successful campaign for libraries in Michigan and across the United States. This librarian can no longer afford to be silent. Share this letter with friends, family and leaders in your community. The more people out in our communities spreading the word about libraries, the better!

Dear Editor:

The Michigan primary is just around the corner.  A very important time for our state and communities as the process begins to select the Gubernatorial candidates come this November.  In many communities across this great state, voters will also have to consider other matters such as a milage to support their local libraries.   Not to diminish the importance of selecting gubernatorial  candidate, but supporting local libraries is also important for the community and the state. No matter who becomes Governor of our great state, libraries will be needed.   In the past year alone, there have been one too many library closings due to lack of funding.  If Michigan is to be a leader in business, research, education and healthcare libraries must be the backbone of the community as a necessary support.   

In February 2010, EPIC MRA conducted a survey commissioned by The Library of Michigan and MEL to determine adult usage of the libraries in Michigan, it was revealed that 86% of the adults surveyed visit their local library on a weekly basis. The purpose of the visit ranged from internet access, homework to pleasure reading. Contrary to some public opinion, the library is vital to a thriving community. the argument that people will not need libraries in the future due to the ease of access through computers and digital downloads, is thoughtless as it is pointless. Consider in your own homes, how many books are on the shelves? If there is more than ten books on a shelf or a set of encyclopedia, is there still a need for a library? Of course! Libraries hold the keys to gathering information in print, digital and databases that are too expensive for a family to afford on their own. The futuristic library may be computerized but there will still be a need for professionals to instruct, assist and provide information through whatever available format.

In a perfect world, all of Michigan’s communities would have leaders who understood the importance of libraries and the services they provide. In reality,  libraries are fighting to stay open due to leaders looking for an easy fix to an economic situation. For some community leaders it is easier to thow away a valuable service than to stop to consider what will be lost.  What will be lost is the one place in a community where privacy matters, self-education begins and effective means of sharing resources and ideas come together.  It is democracy in action. 

On August 3rd voters will be make many decisions that will affect their lives. In the communities asking for a milage to support the libraries, think about the value that libraries bring to your community. Support candidates who understand the value of libraries, then support libraries by voting yes to the milage. Voting yes for libraries is a vote for a thriving, prosperous community for present and future generations.

Mrs. Nowc Librarian At Large

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finally Understand The Lure of eBooks

It seems that everywhere online reports keep popping up that Amazon is selling more digital downloads than hardcover. First reaction, people have finally took the bait and are willing to see if digital is better. The question that is now begging for an answer is: Does this mean printed copies are on the way out? This debate has been going on for decades with no clear answers for the defense and the dismissal of the printed copy. Then the proverbial light bulb turned on and with it came the realization why eBooks are here to stay and perhaps die hard fans of books may have to give up the pages and ink.

If you are an avid reader the need for eBooks was not pressing. Why would we need an electronic device to do the same job that our hardcover and paperbacks have been doing for years. It is economically and efficient way of feeding our minds with information or imagination. Again why would we want to be bothered with downloads, memory chips and the list goes on and on. The art of reading has not changed in over 2,000 years. Why change it now? This is where the logic is fails. Ebooks are not changing the way we read, but they are changing the format and delivery of what we read. When books were first printed, they were expensive to produce. This meant they were not available to the general population. Which is one reason why most people could not read. With the advent of new technology, the printing press made it inexpensive to print and thus the written word was available to anyone who had the desire to read. Who can argue with that progress?

It now seems that modern readers are at a crossroads in history. Books are not on the way out tomorrow, but their usefulness is is being tested. Are eBooks here to stay? Yes, after all it is just a smaller, portable version of the desktop computer, and who now could live without their computer? There is a paradox here that worries this reader and librarian. Since the format is changing, the expense of reading has gone up a bit. When new technology hits the stores, the prices tend to be quite high. The Kindle is going for $189 while the iPad is going for about $499. Either way, its an expensive piece of technology that in these economic times, most can not afford the luxury of giving up that much income for a new computer. Add in the fact that one will not have a very fun time with their ebooks if they can't afford to download a copy. Where does this leave the economically challenged? Looking for the written word the old fashioned way: paper and ink. Is that such a bad thing? No. In our society, there has to be a level playing field for everyone to succeed. Reading is the tool that allows for everyone, rich or poor to find their own success, Which leads to libraries and why they are so important. No matter the format of reading, one constant should not change, libraries should be at the forefront to providing information for all. There will be a day in the not so distant future when eBooks will be inexpensive, making it affordable for everyone to clear out their bookshelves. Until then, the printed and electronic formats will have to coexist. However, in my personal library, there will be always be room for the printed books.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Saving Our Libraries

Dealing with the dominoes effect in the current economic climate is very had to do, yet it is something that all libraries are dealing with in form or another. Either it’s facing budgets that target staffing, hours of operation , collection development, or all of the above. These times are nothing short of stressful, but it does not have to be bleak. There is nothing like a crisis that points out the obvious problems, which forces the hand to finally deal with it in a positive way. Recently on Twitter I read a post by an irritated library advocate that in Chicago the Fox Affiliate questioned the use of tax dollars to support libraries. Before we go knocking Fox News for presenting this lame piece of journalism for viewers consumption, why not admit that they are actually voicing an opinion that is becoming common among city board members? Is it not possible that taxpayers, who are voting down mileages are thinking the same way? The question remains what can librarians do to save libraries? Plenty, but first it is time to stop the exaggerated reports of our demise.

We are all fortunate to live in an age where communication is quick and hopefully to the point. Social media has opened up an entire new world of reaching out to new and old friends. This can be a good thing or in some cases bad in any case no one can deny that it is a new tool that should be used, and used often. Who can tell the stories of libraries better than librarians? Don't get me wrong, it would be silly not to use patrons support. Having said that, try an experiment in your library, or even with your own family ask them what is the purpose of the library? Don't be surprised if the answers are all the same: lend out books. This is where librarians need to begin educating society. Libraries are not just about books, they are about people.

Libraries hold more than just stories stored in books or in electronic forms, but the stories come from patrons who walk through the doors of the library on a daily basis. Some looking for work, some looking for story hours, and some still look for the poor man's university as Lincoln did in his day. Yes, libraries are timeless. So why the move to close them? One of the disadvantage to living in a capitalist based society is that the bottom line where it concerns dollars and cents are always important. Don't misunderstand, there is much good that comes from capitalism, such as entrepreneurship, (and libraries play a huge role there too) but when budgets are tight something has to be cut. Libraries must find a way to keep the ax from falling on their resources, or find their independence from government budgets to avoid the ax all together. Both routes require lots of work, yet working the two ideas together may be what saves libraries in the end.

The fist step is always hardest to take. As a community of professional leaders in libraries, it is important to recognize the first step and take it together. For those who are willing to be the advocate that libraries desperately need, it is important to work together to formulate our visions and ideas for libraries. It is a shame when others who have no idea of the value of a library define our profession and libraries for us. If this trend continues, surely libraries will fade away. For far too long, the bookstores have been redesigning themselves to be the libraries that everyone loved. In addition, there are multitudes of vendors who will sell the latest customer self-serve gadgets to libraries with the sales pitch that this is what library patrons want. The idea is out there that libraries our obsolete. It is up to us to prove that idea false and be the master of our own destiny. Perhaps it's time to form a non-profit group that does just that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer Reading Club: Inspiration from People Who Made Waves

Make Waves at your library can be a very inspirational message to teens this summer. Teens like to be noticed at least some of them do, on occasion. It sometimes can be amazing how much more in tuned they are about the world around them than we give them credit. It is inspiring to hear them talk about the causes that are important to them from the environment, to pro-life issues to gays in the military. Their ideas are as wide and varied as they are. This idea of making waves in a community, or a movement or in profession is not a new concept. Let’s face it, if we didn’t have an Edison we might be still using candles all the time. Here’s a challenge for your tweens and teens, have them pick out a quick picture book biography of someone who made “waves” in the world. A co-worker of mine complained that this was too “academic” for the teens during summer, after all they have been in school all year round, give the kids a break! This may be true, but what is wrong with a teeny bit of learning? Why do parents take their children to Washington D.C. if not to teach them about the great history of the United States. With this in mind, trick the tweens and teens into learning about someone famous. A picture book is perfect for accomplishing this because it condenses the life story making it a quick read. It often has trivia facts that just may come in handy when there playing Trivial Pursuit. Often times I have found inspirational quotes from these famous people. Finally, it may spark the dream that ignites young minds to learn more so that they too can make waves in our world. Without further ado, here are a dozen titles that really stood out as educational (groan) and entertaining (yeah!) and enlightening (inspriation!)

A Picture Book of John and Abigail Adams / David A. Adler 2010

America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle / David A. Adler 2000

Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star / Lesa Cline-Ransome 2007

Young Thomas Edison / Michael Dooling 2005

What To Do About Alice? / Barbara Kerley 2008

Houdini: World Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King / Kathleen Krull 2005

Lincoln Tells A Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country too!) / Kathleen Krull 2010

Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum / Robert Andrew Parker 2008

Big George: How A Shy Boy Became President of the United States / Anne Rockwell

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right Vote / Tanya Lee Stone 2007

Dizzy / Jonah Winter 2006

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau / Dan Yaccarino 2009

Of course, this may lead tweens and teens to begin picking out other titles on a particular person. If it does, great. If it doesn't that's good too. The point of this exercise in reading is to have fun while getting a teeny bit of learning in during summer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Reading Club: Mermaids Splash Around At The Library

Mermaids are those mystical creatures that have fascinated readers and dreamers for centuries. With this year's theme of Make A Splash!@Your Library there is so much to learn about mermaids and believe it or not quite of few good books out there too! Here are some facts about mermaids and other fantastical sea creatures that may inspire a Children Librarian to do a program or two.

Traditionally Mermaids are seen as beautiful creatures with lovely faces, long hair and signing voices that could lure brave, strong men to their watery grave. Mermen on the other hand, are not as good looking nor do they possess the singing talents as their female counterparts. Let's be honest, is there really anything "beautiful" in a species that is half human, half fish? It must be true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

The stories of mermaids came from sailors who claim to have seen these beautiful creatures and spun their tales when they returned home after a long voyage. Ah, but did they really see mermaids? Or had they been out to sea for far too long? If one were practical, it could be suggested that the poor sailors mistook a manatee or seal for a human like creature? Then again, does it really matter? The story of the menfolks have entertained for years. Sometimes, practicality has to be thrown out the window.

Where is the first mention of mermaids and mermen? Back to Greek mythology. A little test, do you remember the name of the Greek god who was a merman? Give up? It was Triton. Of course his father would have to be the God of the Seas, Poseidon. His mother was a nymph, Amphitrite. The tools of Triton were a trident and a conch shell that was used as a horn. Eventually it seems as though there were many Tritons because Greek mythology tells the tales of how Poseidon would have merman blow their conch upon his arrival and they were also given the task of pulling Aphrodite's chariot across the waters.

In Ireland mermaids are known as Merrows. In some folklore, merrows would marry humans and live happily ever after. Offspring from this union would have webbed fingers and toes. What does that matter when a family home is filled with love and bliss?

In Scotland, there is a creature that is similar to the mermaid but is called a Selkie. Selikies are part human, part seal. As the tales goes, Selkies are seals in the water, but once they reach shore, they may shed their fur and become a beautiful woman. Any many who wished to make this stunning creature his wife would steal the fur, thus trapping her in her human form. Once the Selkie is trapped, she is forced to live a sad life longing for the sea home.

Have you heard the story of Melusine? This story comes from France, and it has a very sad ending because it begins with a curse. A fairy who has married a gentleman has been cursed to live one day a week as a mermaid. Her husband is blissfully unaware of this because every Saturday she turns into a mermaid and she mad him promise to go away for the day. After keeping the promise for many years, he begins to be curious as to why Melusine would want him gone. He sneaks back to the house and takes a quick peak. When Melusine realizes that her secret has been revealed she leaves her husband.

In Japan a mermaid is known as Ninygo. A slight difference in their version is that the body is all fish but the head is human. They generally give warning to humans about bad storms approaching.

Haitians have a story of a man who was lured into the sea by a long silver-haired mermaid. His friends saw him go into the sea and were frightened when he did not immediately return. After several months, the man found himself floating on the ocean and returned home. It seems that the mermaid knew he was missing his friends and family, and allowed him to return.

Whether mermaids are friendly, luring, or nasty, they are fun to read about. Here is a list of books that you many want to consider for your summer reading pleasure.

Juvenile and Young Readers Fiction

The Little Mermaid / Hans Christian Andersen

Mermaid Dance / Marjorie Hakala

The Tail of Emily Windsnap / Liz Kessler (Series)

Sukey and the Mermaid / Robert D. San Souci

Young Adult Fiction

Midnight Pearls (Once Upon A Time Series)/ Debbie Viguie

Ingo, (series) / Helen Dunmore

The Girl With the Mermaid Hair / Delia Ephron

The Daughters of Sea: Hannah / Kathryn Lasky

Sirena / Donna Jo Napoli

Selkie Girl / Laurie Brooks

Mermaid Park / Beth Mayall

Adult Fiction

False Mermaid / Erin Hart

It was a wonderful trip through the seas and back. Each tale had a unique spin on mermaids and sea creatures that it makes one wonder that perhaps these creatures really do exist! For a complete list of books, craft ideas and programs please email me at I'll leave with an old shanty that truly makes one believe the sea faring folks did indeed see mermaids on their voyage.

The Mermaid (Folksong circa 1700)
words and music Traditional
Twas Friday morn when we set sail

And we were not far from the land

When the captain, he spied a lovely mermaid

With a comb and a glass in her hand

O the ocean's waves will roll

And the stormy winds will blow

While we poor sailors go skipping to the top

And the landlubbers lie down below (below, below)

And the landlubbers lie down below

Then up spoke the captain of our gallant ship,

And a brave old man was he,

He said, "This fishy mermaid has warned me of our doom:

We shall sink to the bottom of the sea!"


And up spoke the mate of our gallant ship

And a well-spoken man was he

I have me a wife in Salem by the sea

And tonight she a widow will be

And up spoke the cookie of our gallant ship

And a red hot cookie was he

Saying I care much more for my pots and my pans

Than I do for the bottom of the sea

Then up spoke the cabinboy, of our gallant ship

And a nasty little lad was he.

I'm not quite sure I can spell "mermaid"

But I'm going to the bottom of the sea.

Then up spoke the cannibal who snuck aboard our ship

And a hungry mad invader was he

You can drown right now beneath the cold ocean waves

Or you can be dinner for three, your choice

Then up spoke the parrot of our gallant ship

And a smartarse parrot was she

Brawk, you're going to drown, your going to drown, Brawk

And flew to the shore for her safety

Then three times around went our gallant ship

And three times around went she
hree times around went our gallant ship

And she sank to the bottom of the sea

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SRC: Summer Reading Club: Surfing for Water Info!

Welcome to the wonderful world of Water. This theme for SRC can be so much fun yet so overwhelming. As a youth librarian, I’m always thinking of fun things to do with the young patrons coming through the doors. Let’s face it, any librarian worth his/her salt is pondering ways of making their own splash this summer. Having said that, it’s kind of a weird habit but when planning for SRC I research little known facts about the topic. For example, did you know that more than 75% of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans? A Jellyfish is made up of 90% water yet it's sting can be deadly. Impressed yet? Read on to find out more interesting tidbits that you can share with your patrons, young and old alike.

Let’s begin with basic information about water that every high school graduate should know. Water is not an acid or a basic. It has a ph level of 7. Water can come in three forms, liquid, solid and gas. Water can be found in the air or in the ground. Water boils at 212 F or 100 C. It freezes at 32 F or 0 C

Water regulates the Earth’s temperature making it a very efficient insulator. The human body also uses water to regulate temperature. Water also carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, and removes wastes. All very good reasons to have eight glasses of water a day!

Should you ever get stranded on an island, remember that a person can survive without food for approximately a month. However, make sure you have access to water because a person can live without water for approximately a week.

Wonder where the word Tsunami came from? It is Japanese in origin and it means “Sea Wave”. Whoever came up with that name should have been a little bit more specific like describing it as BIG or huge sea wave.

One of the largest waves ever was 112 feet high, which is as big as a ten story building.

Treasures can lure any man to go deep into the sea. It has been recorded that Ancient Greek divers were able to reach the depth of 75 to 100 feet to search for sunken treasures. How did they breathe, one might ask? When a diver was short of breath, he would poke his head into a weighted diving bell filled with air.

Seaweed is an interesting part of ocean life. It can be eaten as a vegetable and is also used to help make every day items such as ice cream, tooth paste, and paints. Kind of makes you look at that icky green thing in a different light.

Sound travels through water five times faster than air.

Everyone knows that salt is a substance found in the ocean. However, there are also traces of gold, silver, uranium and other valuable minerals are dissolved in the sea.

Can you name the Oceans and Seas:

The Oceans are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic

The largest seas are South China, Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of the four oceans. Pacific means “peace” however, it can be very rough waters to sail across.

The Atlantic on the other hand is the busiest for business.

All this talk about water is making me thirsty. I think I’ll go grab a nice cold glass of water right now. I hope these little tidbits were interesting and helpful. Have you thought about doing fun water experiments with patrons? It can be a little teaching tool, but entertainment as well. You might want to call it: Water Magic. Stay tuned. There will be fun science magic suggestions coming soon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

National Children's Book Week -- Visiting Old and New Favorites

This week we celebrate National Children's Book Week. As some old timers know, this week use to be celebrated in November but has been moved to May. It truly makes no difference when it is celebrated, as long as old and young readers alike remember the good reads of today and yesterday. As a tribute to this week, it seemed fitting to name each day of the week after a beloved children's literature character. The list goes like this: Madeline Monday, Tacky the Penguin Tuesday, Winnie the Pooh Wednesday, Thomas the Tank Engine Thursday, Froggy Friday, Strega Nona Satruday and Seuss World Sunday. Each of these friends are welcome into my story time any day of the year, but a brilliant idea hit me out of the blue! Why not give them each their own day during this special week. There are so many displays, crafts, story time fun that can be developed for children of all ages. So let's begin....

Madeline is a wonderful character, and the original Fancy Nancy in my opinion, who taught little girls about France. The familiar opening to her books of twelve little girls in two straight lines and the smallest was Madeline, still delights little ones. The best books to read in story time is the original Madeline, Madeline and the Bad Hat and Madeline and the Cats of Rome. Both of these stories invoke questions from young readers of the language difference, where Madeline lives and her family of Miss Clavel (who is a nun and why isn't she Sister Clavel is a mystery to all?) and the other eleven girls. I never miss a chance at storytime to make things a little different. For Madeline, I wear a nun's habit. (Yes I have one in my treasure box downstairs. No I did not steal from a nun to get it.) Children love it and want their own hats. So before the storytime begin, simple Madeline Hats are made and if there are boys the hats they make matches the one that Pepito wears in Madeline and he Bad Hat. After everyone has their hats, the rule is that they must keep their hates on for storytime in order to help them hear the stories better. As Madeline's stories end, we say au revoir and look forward to Tuesday.

Tacky is an odd bird. Must be why I like him so much, we have lots in common. Never one to go along with the crowd and the only one on the iceberg with a Hawaiian shirt. Reading Tacky the Penguin would be a mortal sin (okay so I still have Miss/Sister Clavel in my psyche) if I didn't wear my favorite loud Hawaiian Shirt. Tacky the Penguin, Tacky in Trouble and Three Cheers for Tacky fill storytimes with giggles. Tacky uniqueness reminds even the older readers, like myself that being different is not only okay it is what makes everyone lovable. As a librarian, have you ever played the Penguin games? Be ready for a lot of waddling and silly tricks such as carry a medium size ball in between their legs and have them race to a point. For smaller children, a flannel board game consisting of five penguins who need to get dressed up in their best outfits. Each penguin wears a different color top hat, a bow tie and shoes. The children need to mach the colors of each of the items and place them on each of the penguins. My favorite Craft: paper plate penguin complete with goggly eyes and beaks.

Wednesday is for Winnie the Pooh and a visit to the Hundred Acres woods. There are times when I wish that Disney would have left Pooh alone. The story of Christopher Robin and his pal is just perfect without Disney's touch. Be it as it may, the only good to come out of it is that there is a wide range of books to choose from for storytimes for the younger readers. For an older book talk, it is fun to see the expression on older children's faces when they talk about the original book. One reader actually told me that A.A. Milne's book actually seemed more real than Disney. (Either he really liked it or he was trying to score points with the librarian, either way I don't care) My favorite game to play with the young kids is a hunt for the pot of honey. After all, after a wonderful storytime don't we all have a little rumbly in the tumbly? So off they go searching for Pooh's pot of honey. Once they find it, they discover that the secret to a good pot of honey is sharing it with friends. (yes, I do have treats inside for the children, usually it is bit o honey candy bites or Hershey's Kisses) For the older readers, a map of the hundred acre woods as they imagine it to be. Winnie the Pooh has stayed in the hearts of many readers, and that is why his stories still live on and on.

Thursday is for Thomas the Tank Engine, by this time we are chugging along down the tracks to the end of the week. Little boys still love Charming Thomas even after fifty-four years. Thank goodness this series of books were brought to life in 1979 for television to gain a new admirers of Thomas, who is always ready for to help his friends in a jam and prove he is up to the task worthy of a tank engine. How could you not love that can do spirit? My all time favorite game to play with little ones is the train station. In between stories, to get restless feet a chance to move, a little bit of chugging down the "tracks" and picking up "steam" is great fun while testing to see how well the little ones listen to directions. Of course, everyone gets to holler 'ALL ABOARD!" As a bit of warning, if working with a "rowdy" bunch, a smart librarian might want to cover their ears at this point.

Froggy Friday, where every child comes into storytime to sit on their own little pad. My favorite stories include Froggy Gets Dress, Froggy Plays in the Band and and Froggy Rides A Bike. What I love about Froggy is his enthusiasm. No matter what the situation, Froggy puts everything he has into it and comes out smelling like a rose. Well, maybe more like a frog. Kids with lots of enthusiasm have plenty of chance to show it off when they get to jump from lily pad to lily pad until they have completed a circle and found their way back to their home lily pad.

Strega Nona Saturday is the highlight of the week for me. Strega Nona has a spark of magic, a peck of love and a whole lot of Italian that makes me dream of my ancestor's homeland. So it goes without saying that I find an old apron and a babusca on my head. (I hope I make my wonderful Nonnas proud!) The story of Strega (In Italian this means Witch) Nona is more like a folktale and it reminds me of the wise sayings my own mother repeats over and over again. In the first Strega Nona, we meet our heroine and Big Anthony, in her little Italian home. Strega Nona shows Big Anthony the spell of the growing pasta and warns him not to do it himself, since it is a very powerful spell. Well, does the big guy listen? Nope. He tries the spell and finds that he can not stop the pasta from growing. Strega Nona to the rescue! She comes home and stops the overflowing pasta. As punishment for not listening to Strega Nona, Big Anthony has to eat all the pasta. (In my house, that would not be a curse, it would be a blessing!) What better craft to do than a macaroni craft? A little bit of yarn, string it through the pasta, and make it into a necklace or bracelet.

To end the week, we have Seuss Sunday. There are so many titles to choose from that Seuss Sunday could last well into the night. With Green Eggs and Ham, If I Ran the Zoo, Cat in the Hat, and Horton Hears A Who. That's just naming a few of my favorites. During any storytime featuring Dr. Seuss, It is important to bring out the white and red stripped stove pipe hat and wear it with pride. However, with all the activities of the week, it seems appropriate to settle down a bit and read one of Seuss' more reflective books Oh, The Places You'll Go!" This book offers a reminder that everyone has something to accomplish in their own world. In my world, there are so many more books I need to read and go to far off places that only books can take me. Indeed, the places I will go! Luckily, I will always have a group of little ones to take along with me in storytimes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Be A Children's Librarian

Every once in a while, there is a need to update a top ten list. While attending Wayne State University, it was never my intention to become a children's librarian or a school librarian for that matter. What happened? Fate has a funny way of placing you where you never thought you would dream of going. I have worked in both libraries and found that it has it's unique rewards that can not be found anywhere else in the library world. Going through old notebooks earlier this week, I found a list containing why I wanted to be a librarian. It was a nice stroll down memory lane but seriously, the list is so outdated and no longer useful. At least not for me. So here is my new top ten list for choosing to be a Children Librarian.

10. Where else can you color, glue, cut out shapes and get paid to do so.

9. Reading children's literature for work but that is just a "cover" because these books are on the "wish"list of books to read before you die.

8. Always on top of who is hot and who is not! Dora still in, Barney still out.

7. Library tours where children get excited over display cases and really want their own library card.

6. Hokey Pokey in the middle of day with twelve bouncy preschoolers. Need I say more?

5. Never, ever forget a nursery rhyme. However, should this happen, don't panic. A forgiving, encouraging three year old will re-teach it to you.

4. Silly songs to sing. Silly songs to giggle at all day long!

3. Sticky fingers, smiling faces and warm hugs after Story time.

2. A Children Librarian never grows old because interacting with children keeps the mind from thinking like an "old" person.

1. Helping a child find the joy in reading, which hopefully lasts their entire lives. It's actually magical!

Had someone shared this type of list with me back in the day when I deciding where to make my mark in the library world, maybe I would have jumped at the very first opportunity to be a children's librarian. However, I really don't begrudge anyone. Eventually I found my way to the children's room. I intend to stay until I have read every imaginative, adventurous and humorous children's book ever written. Which should take quite a while. Anyone up for Good Night Gorilla?

Friday, April 16, 2010

National Library Week Wrap Up

As National Library Week comes to a close, there is a sense that the opportunity to spread the "wealth" that awaits in every library should be shared every day, of every week and of every year. Each library around my area have celebrated this week in different and creative ways. From each of them I have been inspired about the prospects of what I can do for my patrons in the coming months. The other night, the library where I worked had a program and the library was packed. The topic was about Hamtramck, Detroit's own little Poletown, and how it has changed over the years. Watching the patrons, young and old alike, come in for the program, a flash of "aha" moment came into my head. This is why libraries are so important, the keys to the past, present and futures lies within for anyone to capture for themselves. It may sound corny or nostalgic but it's a true and worthwhile to repeat.

Libraries have a long and colorful history. They are in my humble opinion, the first Do-It-Yourself centers of learning. Where else can a person gain a free education and learn at their own pace? Libraries main purpose in every community has not changed. They are the source to go to when one is in need of information, books, or CDs. That's not to say that there hasn't been changes. Boy, have things changed in the past twenty-five years since my first job in a library. As an example, some of the things I miss like the card catalogs, (which I love so much that I have one at home) the paper indexes, and finally the ever faithful microfilm machine have been replaced by computers. It is absolutely amazing to me that technology has changed so quickly that it three tools that libraries once depended on have now been replaced by one machine: the computer. Life moves forward, and libraries thankfully have moved along with the times.

Since I am allowing myself to be nostalgic and sentimental, it seems appropriate to thank all the librarians that have gone before me, and paved the way for librarians like myself. If it were not for their vision, dedication and hard work, libraries would not be functional today. They truly were trailblazers in so many ways. I can only hope that the work that I do today will inspire the next crop of professional librarians to take up the torch and the light the way for the patrons who are in search of the keys to the past, present and future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Secret Lives of Librarians

We all know and have seen the stereotypical librarians, haven’t we? The hair is always in a tight bun. Their wardrobes always consist of sensible shoes, dull suits and glasses. One of the hallmark characteristics of librarians is the shy demeanor with a vocabulary that consists of one or two words: quiet or sh! After working in a library for over twenty-five years, none of my colleagues fits this description. Heck, at my wedding, the loudest and funniest table was filled with noisy, prankster librarians. Get them out of their elements and those wacky librarians go crazy. The closest I come to “knowing” a librarian fitting that description is my librarian action figure which fits the bill and it is based on a real life librarian, Nancy Pearl. Don’t get me wrong. It is okay if the public likes to think of about our profession as polite, well-educated and professional. We could very well be super heroes, who by day provide patrons with information and great literature. By night, we conquer the world with our super-charged shusher, and Dewey Decimal System. (You are aware that Decimal is just a code word for disintegrate, right?) All kidding aside, the stereotype of the librarian is a far cry from reality, but there are some books out there that portray librarians in a manner that looks at our profession from a different perspective. Which is a good thing for younger readers, they need to see that librarians come in all shapes and sizes.

Eth Clifford’s Help! I’m Prisoner in the Library is a tale of two sisters who are trapped in the library during a blizzard. Everything is fine until the library is dark. The large dolls that were wonderful and interesting in the light, now seem a bit scary. A talking bird flies above their heads scaring them and the moaning coming from the second floor is not what the girls would like to hear. After a climb up the stairs to find the source of the moaning, the little mysteries are solved and the girls find that Miss Finton, the librarian not only runs the library but also lives there. All ends well, when the girls’ father finally finds them the next morning. At first the librarian in this book seems old, mean and unable to bend the rules. Raise your hand if you have ever met a woman like this in your library? Miss Finton does warm up to the girls and confesses that the library may close to make room for a newer, modern library. The story ends with the girls admiring the library and the librarian. . .

Richard Peck, a veteran childrens author, tells the story of Pee Wee, a tomboy who loves automobiles and adores her older brother Jake. Here Lies The Librarian takes the reader back in time to 1914 when the rural life was becoming complicated with the birth of the automobile. When the local library is demolished due to a tornado, everyone in town pitches in to restore it. In come four librarians, fresh out of library school, who know just how to get the library going again. A good thing too, because this gives Pee Wee a glimpse into what she might like to do in the future. As for the deceased librarian, she did cast her presence in the story, but it was more heartwarming than scary. This is definitely a story to warm the heart with nostalgia.

The book that has the ability to help librarians laugh at ourselves, is The Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. Author Jarrett Krosoczka delivers smile after smile with his depiction of librarians who are tired of competing against video games to gain childrens attention. It’s Lunch Lady to the rescue to stop the nasty librarians for destroying the latest video game and conquering the world. (Goodness, how many times have I wanted complete World Domination? Once or twice, perhaps!) It is a charming little graphic novel that gives Lunch Ladies a chance to be in the spotlight. However, everyone knows who the real heroes are in our communities and schools. Shhh…. it’s the librarians.

As stated before, it’s okay to think of librarians as mild-mannered, spinster and shy women. There are many stories out there that share the “secret life” of a librarian with readers. We are, after all, heroes in our community. Just ask Bat Girl.

Monday, April 12, 2010

National Library Week 2010

Here we are again, National Library Week 2010 and where has the time gone? For over 50 yeas, the American Library Association has dedicated the second full week of April as National Library Week, an opportunity to celebrate the great and unique libraries across the United States. Big whoop you say? Well, indeed it is a big whoop. Especially in the economic times that everyone is facing, libraries should not only be celebrated but supported. This year's theme is "Communities Thrive @ Your Library" and what a wonderful reminder of the role that libraries play in every community across the nation.

This could be an opportunity to begin extolling the virtues of libraries and librarians. However, for just a moment, celebrating seems to be more the order of the day. After all, there is another 6 days yet of connecting this week's celebration and the need to gain stronger support for libraries. What better way to get excited about libraries than to share books that readers of all ages can appreciate about the library. There is no shortage of books on this topic however, having said that, there are some titles that just outshines them all.

The Library by Sarah Stewart, this book is by far the best book about libraries and avid readers who can not put down a book. If Elizabeth Brown, the heroine and avid reader, does not make herself endearing when reading the whimsical rhymes, then it just may be possible, that one does not have a heart. Who could not giggle, at the silliness of cleaning the house while reading a book or reading upside down? The love of books and libraries are infused into every page and illustration that it reminds the reader of how wonderful it is to read out of pure joy.

Sometimes Rules are meant to be broken. That is the theme of the children's book Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. Mr. McBee is not happy when a enormous lion comes to stay at the library. Miss Merriweather, the librarian who is the keeper of the rules and keys to the library, states that as long as lion obeys the rules, he may stay. Lion makes himself at home during storytime, (how I would love for that to happen at one of my storytimes!) and providing other servies around the library for patrons and librarians alike. However, the Library Lion breaks the rule when he roars at Mr. McBee to alert him to the fact that Miss Merriweather has had a terrible fall off of a stool. Lion lays low for awhile, staying clear of the library, until Mr. McBee finds him and tells him that sometimes library rules should be broken. Happy ending for all. Lion returns and all is well in the library again! (Can I please have a lion at storytime?)

Bridgett's loves her animals so much, she brings them to the library. What could go wrong in Eric A. Kimme'ls tale I Took My Frog To The Library? So the frog frightens the librarian, the hen lays an egg in the card catalog, and the hyena laughs at the all the wrong places during story time. Big deal! That's not so bad, but when elephant wrecks the library because she is just TOO big, well that was the proverbial straw that breaks the librarian's back. All animals have got to go home, but that's okay. Bridgett's elephants entertains the troop with her own story time. This is an older book, but it is a classic with it's warm pictures and humorous tales. Animal, book and library lovers will love the tale, even if the card catalog is an old fashioned one!

Each of these books are perfect for storytime for preschool up to second grade. Perhaps, a little nostalgic too but is there anything wrong with getting a little attached to a library? For many children at the library where I work, it is a second home to them. Come to think of it, it's like my second home too! The list of books is far from being done. There's more to come next time. In the meantime, celebrate National Library Week by taking someone you love to visit the library. Sit a spell, read a little and check out a book. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Children Literature Loses A Great Writer

As a child, I didn't like to read very much. It was a difficult task and frankly, I'd rather have my teeth pulled out one by one than read a book. (Funny, I became a librarian eh?) One of the books that turned me onto reading was The Ghost of Saturday Night. This was an amazing feat for two reasons. One as I mentioned before, I hated reading and two I hated ghost stories. So what made me pick up this book? My third grade teacher. For that I will be forever grateful because I discovered a wonderful storyteller in Sid Fleishman. As a matter of fact, this book is one of the few that I saved and it still sits on my bookshelf.

Fleishman introduced his readers quirky, off-beat characters who would get into the minds of the reader, challenging them to read behind the lines to find the true story behind the story. The Ghost of Saturday Night was a story not about ghost, but more about how things are not always as they appear. Sometimes it is just fog that clouds the eyes from seeing what is really in front of them. This taught a little third grader that readers should not judge a book by it's title. Sometimes a little investigation, also known as reading, is in order.

Another lesson learned from reading this book was that fiction is not only about the art of storytelling, but it also can give the reader an informal eduction. For example, Fleishman introduced me to the word "moonshine". Mind you, at the tender age of 8, that word meant that the moon was shining. It only made sense since sunshine refers to the sun shining. Right? Wrong. Oh, so wrong. When that word appeared in sentences and it didn't make sense that the person was talking about the moon, it did cause some confusion. I just plugged along hoping that I would understand the context eventually. I didn't think to look up the word because I thought it was another reading "trick" that the slow reader like me would find hard to understand. Thank goodness my third grade teacher set me straight! As part of the requirement that I read this book, I also had to sit with my teacher to discuss the story with her on a one on one basis. The topic of moonshine came up and it became apparent that I had no clue what that word meant. I remember the conversation well. Moonshine, she explained was homemade whiskey. The light bulb went on in my head, and I blurted out "Just like my dad makes homemade wine!" The connection was made and I learned a valuable lesson. To look up the word if you don't understand the meaning is not a sign of a slow reader. It is actually a step towards becoming smarter.

Fleishman's work remained original and entertaining throughout the years. His final book, "The Entertainer and The Dybbuk" published last year, was a tale rich with Fleishman's twist on irony, unusual characters and the realities of life that sometimes adults would like to forget. It was his first story about the horrors of the Holocaust. It was, in my humble opinion, one of his finest work. The world of children's literature has lost a great storyteller, but fortunately for future young readers, his legacy will live on in the pages of his books. For old time sakes, a visit with Opie and Aunt Etta seems to be the right thing to do right now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teen Tech Week - Teens Can Teach Us Lots!

It is not surprising that teens can learn the latest technology quicker than adults. Let's face it, they've grown up with techie gadgets, while the rest of us were watching the gadgets become reality. In a book that I recently read, there was a story about preschool children going to a Retirement community to visit and read to the residents. As each child was paired with their reading partner, amazing things began to happen. Children read better, the residents became more active, which boosted their overall health and lasting relationships were formed. A girl in the preschool class began to ask her partner, an older gentleman, about how life was like when he was growing up. This lead to stories of life on a farm in the 1930’s when it seemed everything was much simpler and quite different. The girl then asked, “How big was your iPod?” You can imagine the look on the older gentleman’s face. Which proves the point, our world has changed so much in the past decades, that teens can be much more in tuned to change and technology than adults. Is this to say that adults can’t adapt to new technology? Not at all. However, what better excuse can librarians have to connect with the next generation than to watch teens using technology and learning from them?

For Teen Tech Week at my library we decided to host a Game Night where teens, sixth grade through twelfth can play Wii games and socialize. Instead of having prizes for the best Guitar Hero player, the prizes can be won in other ways. This will require the teens to use their iPods or cell phones to text messages. A prize will be given to the first teen who can prove that they have a Beatles song on their iPod. Name that app! will be another game where teens can team up to identify as many Apple application symbols in two minutes. There will also be questions for teens to answer to win prizes. The catch, they will have to IM the librarian with the answer. The IM with the correct answer and reaches the librarian first, wins a prize. Besides giving the teens a chance to have fun at the library, the games are aimed to bridge that technology and generation gap, allowing teens to show off their knowledge.

As I get older, working with teens has alerted me to the fact that it is a huge responsibility of my generation to learn to use the tools of today. Especially in my line of work. If teens are to be attracted to the library, knowing how to use technology is vital. On Facebook, many of the teens from the library are my “friends.” It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with them in between our monthly meetings. The most important lesson I learned from having these bright, witty and bold teens “friend” me on this site, is that I need to be flexible, go with the ebb and flow of technology, and be ready to learn something new. When Facebook changed it’s format, I complained for three days straight on my wall. My displeasure was noted by one of my teens, who replied to my post, “Mrs. Nowc, you are old and old people don’t like change.” Granted, it was not the nicest thing to be told, but grudgingly I had to admit he was right. Teen Tech Week is just perfect to bring me up to speed with the teens and humbly acknowledge they can teach me quite a bit. Then again, maybe I can impress them that I know how to download music onto my iPod. I can hear them now, “Cool, but that’s old news! Can you download a video from YouTube?”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't Judge a Book By It's Movie... Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson books are a hit again. Since the movie was released on February 12, the books have not been on our shelves at the library. Which is a good thing. The series is wonderful! Every book in the series is a page turner. So why get all upset about the movie? The only good thing that the movie has done for the series is getting more readers for the series. Other than that, it proves that not all books should be made into movies. Which is a disappointment, because Riordian's series seemed to spell out movie magic, instead it was movie hack job. Sorry, it didn't do the book justice and here's why.

The movie lacked the suspense that the carried the series. Reading The Lightning Thief, it was hard to pick out who was the real thief. What the movie did was pick out one other camp member besides Anna Beth and Grover, which happened to be Luke, as a way of pointing out the possible thief. Good let's just point the finger at the only person in the camp as he possible thief. Wouldn't you know it? The thief was Luke. Didn't see that coming? Than you must slept through the movie. One of the most memorable character of the series was no where to be found. Clarisse is a character everyone loves to hate. She has all the elements of the arch enemy but in a pinch you want her on the hero's side. So where was she? For that matter where were Ares and his cool motorcycle, Dionysus, the Wine god who had a bad attitude or The Fates, the three women who hint at Percy's destiny. So many wonderful supporting characters that would have added more depth to the movie, were eliminated. The movie cuts her out. To bad, the director missed out on a golden opportunity to add the suspense that was desperately needed.

What else was missing? Percy's mission. Throughout the series the mention of how Percy was to be the "one" that all the prophecies spoke about. This demigod. son of Poseidon, would either destroy the gods or save them. There was no mention of this mighty mission. Instead, Percy was thrown into the middle of a war between gods over Zeus' lightning bolt. There is no clue to Percy's destiny other than getting his name cleared. The meeting with Zeus on Mount Olympus was less than satisfying to say the least. When Zeus asks why Luke would want to steal the bolt, Percy answers lamely that Luke wanted more power. Duh! It left the question hanging, Why? Was he working alone? Does he want power for himself? Nope just wanted the gods to destroy themselves so he can have power.

The books let the reader escape reality for a while. It is pure entertainment. Hollywood always tries to add a commentary that they feel is relevant from the headlines. Examples of this in the movie comes at least twice. First when Grover explains to Percy that demigods are everywhere even in the White House. Okay, we get it. Hollywood loves Obama, but does it have to put that in the movie. It is so cheesy. Again, Grover’s got something to say about reality when he tries to pay for the fare across the river Styx. When his money bursts into flames, he makes the statement about the recession. The whole reason to go to the movie is to escape from reality. Politics has no place in this story.

Besides basically re-writing Percy’s story. The acting in the film was average. The only bright spot, was Medusa. Uma Thurman did a wonderful job protraying the most feared woman in Greek Mythology. Too bad her presense in the movie was brief. The casting of Pierce Brosnan as Chiron was fatal. Brosnan’s performance was not up to par. It was very hard to get past the fact that James Bond is now half man/half horse. Shouldn’t Brosnan, with his stunning good looks, been one of the gods? (Minor complaint that has nothing to do with the book to be sure, however still worth mentionng.) The casting of Logan Leman as Percy was perfect if all the Producer was interested in was someone who “looked” like Percy. Other than that, he and his co-stars Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario couldn’t bring the charactes alive. Could it be that the script gave them so little to be inspried by?

If Hollywood decides to go ahead with the series and release Sea of Monsters, I will pass. Instead, I’ll pick up the book and get lost in between the pages using my own immagination to create the scenes of the book. I’m sure it will be much more satisfying.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Newbery 2011? One Crazy Summer

On a previous post, I decided that the first book to read for the Mock Newbery 2011 was One Crazy Summer which was written by Rita Williams-Garcia. My initial thought of the book is that it is okay. Nothing really to write home about and although it may be too early to decide if this would win the top honors or not, my gut instincts tells me it won't for several reasons. In fiction, it is desirable for the readers and the characters to have common ground. While this book will find those readers who will identify with the characters of this book, it lacks broad appeal.

The details that are wonderful and memorable are few. The one character that should have been more involved was Big Ma. It was her strong motherly care for her grandchildren that made this reader want to get to know her more. From the point of view of the main character, Delphine, Big Ma was a women who believed that family came first. With this commandment in hand she drilled into her family how to behave, how to dress and how to have pride in oneself. Who couldn't admire a grandmother like that? The Pop Culture of the late 1960's was also a nice touch. This presents the opportunity for children to ask their parents questions about years gone by and parents can recall memories of bell bottoms, hippies and protests. It's a pretty neat trip down memory lane.

What troubles this reader the most about the book is that it is centered around a woman who gave up her three daughters to write poems in order to "fight against the man". In other worlds, she wrote poetry for the Blank Panther movement. The position of the author on the topic of civil activism and violence is confusing. On one hand, the main character understands that being a the Blank Panther's community center could be dangerous. In the next breath Williams-Garcia describes the workers as wonderful role models who are teaching the children their rights. What is dangerous about this book is that it paints the Black Panther movement as something positive. There are mention in the story of calling the police "pigs" or "racist pigs". It doesn't matter what side of the political scale a person is on, it should be agreed that teaching children to disrespect or mistrust the police is never a good thing. It also shows a lack of respect between the races which is sad. It would be so much better if stories could be color blind. Whatever ethnic background we have, there is one common trait that all of us share. We all belong to the human race.

One Crazy Summer is an okay story but there has got to be better ones out there for the Newbery awards. Next month's Mrs. Nowc's Mock Newbery's selection will be The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. Let me know what you think of either books. If there is a title that you think merits consideration on this list, drop me a line at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ebooks Versus Books: A Book Lover's Dilemma

I am amazed at the many changes in technology during my own lifetime. Growing up in the 70's and 80's who would have even thought of sending someone an e-mail or texting a friend via a cell phone? It seemed virtually impossible. Especially when considering an cell phone in the 80's was about as big as a shoe box. At graduation in 1992 from Wayne State University, the hype was the internet and how it would change libraries forever. Indeed it has, some for the good and some for the bad. Let's be honest, I wouldn't be here pondering this question if it were not for the ease of communicating through a blog. While libraries have gone through major changes it seems that books are on the verge of a tipping point. That is the moment when the world changes with the birth of a technological advance. The news last week was buzzing with excitement over the new iPad. this product will rival the Kindle II, the Sony reader and the Nook. Versions of different types of electronic books. Now the race is on to see which will dominate the field. Personally, I'm not quite sure that any of them will be able to replace my need for a good book.

Do not make the mistake that I am like the Unabomber who maintained that a techno-industrial society would take away one's freedom I like technology because it has made many of the things I use to do manually easier. For example, typing. When I was in high school I used so much whiteout that the company who made the product should have made me their poster child r given me shares in the company as a reward for being their best customer. I still own a typewriter but give me my Mac when it comes to typing up letters, articles and so forth. Technology changes an idea or product because there is a need for a change. Typewriter to computer made a lot of sense to me. Books to a electronic reader? The need for change did not present itself to me immediately. Even now, the question of why still lingers.

Making a list of pros and cons of a an ereader, the pros are strong for certain types of formats or sources of information. For example, ereaders should be good for newspapers and magazines. It would be nice not to have a stack of newspapers waiting to be recycled every week. The ereaders would make a wonderful substitute to the heavy backpacks that students carry filled with books of forty pounds or more. It will be interesting to see if Professors will be able to highlight information that they deem important and sync it to their students’ ereader or iPad. That would be wonderful. so there is value in an ereader.

However, when it comes to leisure reading, this is where the problem creeps in for me. I love my books. They are like security blankets. Everything else in my life has gone digital. Can’t there be one thing left untouched? It is very difficult for me to conceive of getting all warm and comfy with an ereader, with my tea and begin a great story that will allow me to drift away for hours. Novels and books are personal to me because I get involved in the lives of Doctor Zhivago and his true love Larissa. or Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. These characters’ lives with all their trials and triumphs warms the spirit. To think that they will now be on a flat screen which may look like a book but it can not replace the textual feeling of the book. As a matter of fact, it seems computers are devoid of humanity. Literature is full of humanity and it is as if the computer will snuff out the humanity. It seems silly to say I know, but perhaps when radio plays were replaced by television the audience felt the same way I do about books. Once the words were joined with picture, the audience lost the use of imagination. The tube took away the intimacy of the voice. Will the ereader take away the intimacy of the printed word? There is a possibility that it will. Leaving a terrible void for those who love to read but can’t find the joy of the intimate connection with the characters. The only way to find out is to check out a Kindle II at my local library.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Going Bovine Or Bust!

The Printz Award winner for 2010 is Going Bovine by Libba Bray. This is not your ordinary novel. It is not even fair to call quirky because that would give quirky a bad image. After reading this book, it amazed me that it received the honor that it did. However, knowing the American Library Association the way I do and also understanding that they like off beat "real life" stories, the selection made sense. To be completely open about what I perceive as good writing there are three things the story line should try to maneuver around as best as possible. First, don't rely on foul language as a form of authentic dialog. It's boring. It's rude and it's not needed. Second, there is a time a place for having a lovable loser. This book completely falls short on getting the reader to root for the "hero " , Cameron. In a story about a teen dying from Mad Cow Disease, at least give the readers a reason to feel for him. Third, if taking on deep philosophical issues such as the meaning of life either use comedy or drama, but don't do both if you are going use tacky trendy props just to make your tome seem "hip." Last but not least, have a clear time line in the story if going from an event in the present, to fantasy and to the past. The constant jumping around and characters who show up just for the sake of showing up was not only confusing but annoying. Having said all that, guess what Bray's book does. Ms. Bray uses foul language though out the book. The hero is a "loser" in high school but he is anything but lovable. The reader is never really sure if they are rooting for him or just hoping that the story will somehow start to make sense. The philosophical issues of life and death are dealt with in an attempt to be funny, and dramatic. Yet, it fails miserably because Bray could not get the mix of a drama/comedy right. If she attempted to make a stand on her convictions on life and death it may have had a chance. Last, the reader could get serious whiplash just by jumping around in time and space with Cameron. One never knows if the old lady from across the hall is going to show up or if the fire eating monsters are hot on the travelers trail.

The only bright spot of the book was Balder, the yard gnome. It was a treat to meet the second son of Odin. It was sadder to see Odin go on his last journey to the sea than to realize that Cameron's time was up. When does the reader get to meet Balder? Halfway into the book! it would have been so nice to have met him earlier! As much as I liked Balder, it seemed that he was used to bring in a little Norse Mythology and to have a sage voice giving Cameron to listen to once in a while. Let's see, where has mythology been used to tell a story? Ah, yes. Percy Jackson. So would that make Cameron a copy cat? Not really but it does point to Bray trying to tap into a current phenomenon in YA literature. The other trendy device is the gay agenda. To have Gonzo, Cameron's side kick in this adventure, find a gay lover is not only unbelievable but also put into question why that was necessary to be placed in the story. To give the book credibility? Well, it would have worked if the characters were not two dimensional

What's left to say? This year's award choice is a BUST. This book is simply not even worth recommending to friends. Unless, give the option to start at chapter twenty-eight to meet Balder. Many other books would have been a better choice for the first prize.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Job Hunting At The Library

It's in the news quite frequently, how the jobless are turning to their libraries for resources on finding jobs. Listening and reading some media reports, one would think this is something new. Who knew that the library could be so useful? Librarians knew. Savvy library uses know this too. This is no new phenomenon. However, others in the community are just finding
out about what their library has to offer. In almost every public library, there is a section devoted to careers. Some name it Career Resource Center, while others may call it Career Guidance Collection. Whatever the name, these books guide the job hunters in the search for employment. It can't be documented, but one book may have given birth to the career centers in libraries. Ever heard of the book "What color is your parachute?". The first edition of that book is from 1972. It began as a self-published book in 1970. From there it has taken on a life of it's own, not to mention the author Dick Bolles has become the "guru" to go to for career changers and job hunters. Thirty yeas later, the What Color is Your Parachute is considered the bible for job hunters and libraries are providing career information more than ever before.

A week ago, at a Career Ministries of Michigan program, resources for job hunters were discussed. Attendees of this program ranged from those who have been out of work for several months to those who are employed part time but seeking full-time assignment. In speaking with these job hunters it was clear that although the media has talked about libraries' resources, some have heard the message and not giving it a second thought. While others have not heard it at all. The question begs to be answered, why are people ignoring what is right in front of them? Perhaps its because they think they don't have time to go to the library. The news should flash another headline: Libraries open 24/7 via the internet. That might perk the interest of some to begin their search at home. Like it or not, the image of libraries for most people is a building full of books. Most haven't seen how libraries have evolved in the computer age. With this in mind the program focused not only on topics such as what resume books to purchase, but also valuable websites and databases through Michigan eLibrary ( With an unstable economy, just about everyone from job hunters to career coaches will find something of value in these resources.

It is a job of a librarian to teach others how to find information effectively. For job hunters, this is important because time is too precious to waste. In the following weeks, this blog will feature some of the best books and resources for job hunters. The hope is that it will spur librarians to promote them and job hunters and career coaches to use them. Career networking groups or coaches might want to hold their own session of using the library to find a job. Finding a librarian to present a workshop on this topic shouldn't be too hard. This librarian/blogger is willing to come out to spend time with groups of all sizes promoting the resources and providing a helping hand to guide through the maze of information.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Newbery Part II -- The Results!

This year's winner of Newbery was Rebeca Stead for her work When You Reach Me. It has quite a surprising twist to the plot that could not have been predicted by the reader. What was really a treat for me, since the book takes place in 1979 and I was around the same age as the main character in 1979, was that it seemed as though I time traveled back to that age and time. The 20,000 Pyramid, Dick Clark, and of course, A Wrinkle in Time. I loved that Newbery award winner too! It was nostalgic for me but it didn't get to quite the way other works have done in the past. Was it a good book? Yes. Did it deserve the medal? I'm not convinced.

The Newbery Award is given by a group of adults who feel that a piece of work is the best that American authors have offered for the year. I often wondered what would happen if children were the winner for the Newbery. What would have won this year? Diary of A Wimpy Kid? The Last Olympian? Maximum Ride? There are libraries and schools that will hold a Mock Newbery Award. Some of these have produced the same titles as the actual Newbery list while others were off the beaten path. For example, Anderson Book Shop ( held a mock Newbery award, which placed 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass as the winner. Neat book. However it did not even make the honors list let alone the top prize. Another mock winner was Where the Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin in Ocean county. This book did win the Newbery honors award. This got me thinking this little blog could pick the winners of the Newbery for next year. Are we up to the challenge?

Here is the first book on the list to consider for the 2011 Mrs. Nowc Librarian At Large Mock Newbery Awards. (It might be necessary to think of a shorter title!) One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia will be published January 26, 2010 and will be the first book to be reviewed as a contender for this blog's Newbery Mock Award. Grab a copy! Any comments on the book can be posted to this blog or at

Not to worry, teens can send their nomination for the 2011 Printz Mock Award, but that will be a discussion for next time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Waiting For Newberry

It's the night before Newbery Awards will be announced, and I in my pj's is wondering what book will be selected this year. What message will the award committee be trying to send this year. In years past, the books that have been chosen were not top notch books, in my opinion. Not to bring up old news but when Patterson's book The Higher Power of Lucky was chosen in 2007, I felt it was lame and undeserving of the prize. The writing was not spectacular and the story way too depressing. Was there by any chance a suicide prevention group in the city? If there wasn't there should have been. How many support group could one little city have? Way too depressing, not even close to being believable. One of the runner up to the this book was Penny From Heaven by Holmes. I loved this book. It had a plot, it was nostalgic and it was perfect. That's probably why it didn't win. Who wants a normal story when there's a city on the edge of nowhere that has the power of disfuctional support groups?

In 2008, it came as a shock that Elijah of Buxton by Curtis came in as a runner up to a book that didn't even seem like it was on the radar. Curtis' book spoke volumes on the human spirit and the deep need in every soul to be free. How it came second to Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is still a mystery. In defense of the award committee, it is fair to say that Good Masters was different, and charming in it's own way. Definitely on the quirky side for a book that no child would really want to read, but still it is a teaching book. It's goal was to instruct readers on Medieval times with a little entertainment thrown into the mix.

The theme of the underdog or undermouse if you will, is one that will always capture the attention of award committees. Do not get me wrong, I love DiCamillo's books. Her stories are nothing short of imaginative rides that readers wish would never end. In 2004, The Tale of Despereaux won the honors and it was deserving of the prize. How could a reader not love a fairytale that has a tiny mouse act as the knight in shining armor? Not only that, but he loves to read! (Sometimes I wonder if author's have a hidden agenda to add libraries or librarians into their books in order to get us to read and promote their works. Hmm... conspiracy? Maybe, but that debate is for another day.)

Not convinced that quirky seems to win the day when it comes to the Newbery Awards? Last year's winner proves the theory beautifully. Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is off the beaten track. So off the track that a reader could say it's from the "other side" of life. The title threw this librarian off her game, and so much of me wanted to judge the book by it's cover. It came as a pleasant surprise that it was an enjoyable read. Sure it has the disfunctional family aspect. (When a child is raised by ghosts, can one really say they have a normal family life?) Having said that, it was quite imaginative and without being sappy, touching. Is it really possible to shed a tear over a ghost story? Well, it can happen if you hate goodbye scenes.

With a new decade, will the Newbery Award go to a book that will not fit the quirky mold? Will it be given to a writer who pens a story about "normal" life issues? Like Peck, Curtis or Holmes? Well, we shall see soon enough! Hopefully, it will not be a disappointing quirky choice!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Multiculturalism - Kinder and Gentler

There are certain lessons in life that can not be taught through books or school. These lessons are taught by life. For example, a child can be given a book about other children in India. In this book, the story illustrates how the children live, eat and go to school. Will the child reading the book feel empathy for the children of India? Will the child immediately love the culture of India? Perhaps, it is possible that it will happen, but that response comes from the child. In other words, the child has not learned to have the desire to understand other cultures. Instead, what the book may have done, is helped the child fulfill the desire to learn more about the world. A librarian, teacher even parent can not teach someone to have compassion, understanding, or even love. That is one of the major flaws of Multiculturalism. It’s main objective is to provide an avenue where children can develop mutual respect for other cultures. Nobel idea, but it is deeply troubling that educators believe that this can be taught.
Children’s stories have always been used as tools to teach morals of right and wrong. Grimms’ fairy tales, Aseop fables and other folk tales have done wonderful jobs though out the centuries. Perhaps that is why readers don’t mind when a writer retells the stories with new pictures or from a different perspective. The morals in these stories are timeless. Some things in life never change. There will always be greed, liars, mistreated heroes and heroines that forewarn what happens when one chooses to good or evil. Why does this not work for Multiculturalism as well? All too often, the writers of these books are hitting the reader over the head and demanding that the reader not only see all the differences but accepts them too. Some children are swayed by this but others will simply disregard the message. As stated previously, compassion can not be taught. Respect can not be taught either, it has to be earned.
For those librarians and teachers out there who cling to the assumption that multiculturalism enriches the curriculum, might I suggest taking a different approach to the matter at hand. Exposing children to other cultures is a worthwhile endeavor when it is pointed out that we are more alike than we are different. For example, Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is a delightful book that reminds every mom and child that no matter where you are born in the world, everybody’s mommy counts the ten little fingers and ten little toes. Of course, this is teaching the baby from the get go that there are differences but how wonderful that the outside differences may be different but the behavior of human beings are similar. That is for the babies, but there are worthwhile picture books that don’t beat up the reader into accepting other cultures. Some of my favorite books depict the families behaving just like any family children may know from their neighborhoods or their own family. This is not such a bad thing, is it? Wouldn’t it be much better if children saw themselves in the books and thought, “Oh, that reminds me of my mom and dad.” If the goal of multiculturalism is to embrace another culture and accept it. than why point out the differences? Why not remind readers that each one of us walks on the same earth, but sometimes to a different beat but most of the time to the same beat that harmonizes with the world’s song.? Okay, before we all break out singing “Kumbaya”, let’s examine the books that explores different cultures without hitting a reader over the head and actually teaches a lesson that is teachable.

Mama Provi and The Pot of Rice by Sylvia Rosa-Casnova.
Great book that reminds the reader that each culture has it’s own special way of cooking. Mama Provi specialty dish comes from her home land of Puerto Rico and it is called arroz con pollo. Lucy, Mama Provi’s granddaughter, is sick with the chicken pox. To cheer up her granddaughter, Mama Provi makes her special dish and takes it to Lucy. Along the way, Mama Provi meets her neighbors who have their own special “ethnic” foods, and asks them if they would like to trade a little of their food for a bowl for arroz con pollo. By the time Mama Provi reaches Lucy, she not only has food that represents the Puerto Rican culture, but from the cultures of all their neighbors.

Kitchen Dance by Maurie Manning
This book is so wonderfully warm and vibrant. Hispanic parents are cleaning up after dinner, while the children should be in bed sleeping. Not a chance! When the children hear a commotion coming from the kitchen, they’ve got to find out what’s going on. Dancing! That’s what mom and dad are doing, instead of doing their chores. So not to be left out, the children begin to dance too! Gently, Mom and Dad let the little ones know it’s time for them to return to bed. However, the warmth of that kitchen lingers with the reader as the story comes to a close.

Zuzu’s Wishing Cake by Linda Michelin
Zuzu has a new neighbor and she doesn’t quite know how to make friends with the little boy. After several attempts at making gifts for her new friend she finally realizes the best way to show friendship is a wishing cake. Zuzu’s red hair stands out against the little boy’s ebony hair and dark skin. The reader never sees the boy’s mother, except briefly when Zuzu mention’s that the boy’s mother speaks in a language she does not understand. She also wears a sari, which indicates the new neighbors are from India. This book is an excellent example of how not to hit a reader over the head with multiculturalism. It gives plenty of hints that the new neighbor is from another country without being so obvious. It is almost as if the culture didn’t matter because all Zuzu really wants is a a friend.

Grandparent’s Song by Shelia Hamanaka
Celebrates how a child can come from a family tree full of different cultures. Each person in her family tree shares a physical traits with her, but also cultures that makes her family unique and blended. This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss with children how each of our families’ have their own song.

Picnic in October by Eve Bunting.
An oldie but a goodie. Eve Bunting is a well known children’s author who is one of my favorite. This book is not one of her more well known titles, but it is a treasure! The story is about an Italian family who make an annual visit in October to wish the Statue of Liberty a Happy Birthday. On that particular day, the family notices another immgrant family who remind them of what is was like to come to a new country, trying to learn the language and staring a new life. For me, it’s a wonderful reminder of my own Italian family. However, this story could be told from any ethnic point of view and still ring true. America is the home of some many wonderful cultures. Yet, we are all the same.

This short list of books is just the beginning of many books that provide the tools of learning about other cultures without being in the reader’s face. The term Multiculturalism has to be removed from our lexicon as librarians and educators. Perhaps if we focus on what brings people together, family, love and hope, than it wouldn’t be necessary to force children to accept other cultures. They might just begin to look at others as being just like themselves.