Friday, January 31, 2014

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders

I'm on a Kate Saunders kick. This is another one I bought and booktalked without reading first. It was definitely popular - it was stolen right off the bat!

The Spoffards have inherited an old, neglected chocolate shop and decide it's just what their family needs; a little more room to grow, especially when the new baby comes. Twins Oz and Lilly are enchanted with the house, especially the old chocolate-making apparatus. Lilly, however, has some trouble adjusting to changes. It's ok for super genius Oz, with his amazing musical abilities. He even finds a friend, Caydon, who lives right across the street. But Lilly is just Lilly; dyslexic, a bit OCD, and not good at anything. Which makes it all the more amazing that she's the one who discovers that the house is truly magical, meets the immortal talking cat Demerara and her sidekick, the rat Spike, and discovers there are more secrets than expected in the old house.

I felt there were some holes in the character development. Oz, especially, definitely seems to be suffering from some Stockholm Syndrome, as he quickly adapts to his captivity and even comes to like his uncle to a certain extent. Like Magicalamity, events and characters pop in and out haphazardly and at the end you feel a little bewildered, although all the various plot ends are tied up neatly enough.

However, I felt that ultimately this was an enchanting romp of a book. There are some poignant moments, like Lilly's bewildered helplessness when Oz and Caydon hit it right off and she's left out in the cold, but mostly it's a fun and light-hearted magical adventure with lots of chocolate, a vain and silly talking cat, a secret magical organization reminiscent of Harry Potter, and a satisfying conclusion where all the threads of the plot are tied up neatly, the good are rewarded, the evil are punished, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Verdict: Kids looking for a fun, magical story with lots of action, funny bits, and a nice chocolate coating will grab this one off the shelves. Hopefully, they'll bring it back again afterwards!

ISBN: 9780385743013; Published 2013 by Delacorte/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Magicalamity by Kate Saunders

Tom always thought he was a nice, normal kid. Until the morning he wakes up to find both his parents missing and an elderly fairy rummaging around in the kitchen. Events move at a breathtaking pace as Tom discovers his father is a fairy and on the run, his mother has been hidden for safekeeping, and only his eccentric godmothers, a punk rocker (who also happens to be a fairy), and his cousin, the most inept fairy that ever lived, stand between his family and a lot of very powerful, very angry, very nasty fairies.

I've been booktalking this for a year without reading it (I know, I know, but I do it all the time. I don't always agree that booktalking something you've read is better. Sometimes it's harder to booktalk a book you know intimately, especially if it's something you really love. That's my feeling anyways) but when I finally got around to it, I really enjoyed it. The cover is misleading though - the dragon is a very minor character and only shows up at the end! It was a good cover choice though, since that's why most kids pick up this book.

This was a really refreshing book to read and very British. It seems like American children's literature, especially fantasy, gets more didactic all the time, even if the "lesson" is just How to Be a Good Friend. There's absolutely no lesson in this book. The elderly godmothers enchant children to steal for them, turn millionaires into slaves and cheerfully inform Tom that he's a second-class citizen because he's a demisprite. At the end, they just as cheerfully reform, admit humans do have some good points after all in passing, and everyone lives happily ever after. Tom and his friends incinerate fairy guards with their lightning guns without post-traumatic stress disorder and while his inept cousin does turn out to have some useful abilities, he doesn't magically gain...magical powers.

Verdict: In other words, this is a light, fun, action-packed read. Kids won't care about the holes in the plot when they're breathlessly waiting to find out if Tom disintegrates when he passes through the fairy realm barrier and anyone would forget that their mother was encased in a jar of sun-dried tomatoes when they're caught up in an exciting fairy court case. Magical and delightful, just the thing to add to your collection and balance all the drama-heavy fantasy series.

ISBN: 9780385740777; Published 2012 by Delacorte/Random House; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Hands-On Science Fun by Lori Shores

 As long as I'm writing critical reviews...

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Pebble, an imprint of Capstone. On the one hand, paying $20 for a library bound book with approximately two sentences on each page, a generous helping of white space, and stock photography makes me want to throw things and go off into rants.

On the other hand, they do offer paperback editions and their books are often high-interest, easy to read, and can fill gaps in a collection. They also make ok storytime selections, if you get one with decent photographs, and are really desperate for nonfiction that you can read aloud.

So, I decided to look at a couple titles from their Hands-On Science Fun series, since we're really getting into science territory and I'm looking for ideas for Mad Scientists Club and Maker Kits. How to make a mystery smell balloon is an interesting idea, although I don't know how mysterious the smell really would be, depending on what you put in it. Basically you smush some garlic, put it into a balloon, and people have to guess the smell (or maybe the mystery happens when you sneak it into a room, as suggested by the book. The book then explains about how it works - the molecules pass through the balloon. Then there's a glossary, three additional sources, and the publisher's website. The stock photography in this one really screams STOCK at you, especially when they reuse the same photo.

Next, we have How to make slime. I feel this is pretty superfluous, since pretty much anyone knows how to do this; it's one of those things that seem to be passed down through the collective consciousness of daycare, preschool, and elementary teachers. But, I can see it being a Cool Thing for kids. There are a couple pages of explanations of how it works - the water and cornstarch don't mix completely, but I'm pretty meh about this one.

The last title I looked at, How to make a liquid rainbow, is simultaneously the most interesting and the most potentially disappointing. This is one of those experiments that layers different liquids on top of each other. You can kind of see the liquids in each successive picture (this being Pebble there is a full-page spread for each liquid you add). At the end, the photos look kind of murky - you can see the different liquids, but they're all dark and kind of mixed. Then you turn the page and voila! It's a rainbow!

I don't believe that. I can't actually physically test it (corn syrup isn't a thing you can find in my pantry, all my food coloring is at work, and my dish soap is yellow) but the descriptions say nothing about "now let it sit for five minutes and all the layers will miraculously separate into vibrant colors, totally unlike what your mixture looked like to start with."

Verdict: While I can't imagine any reason to shell out $25 apiece for these books, I can kind of see buying them in paperback. They are simple experiments that kids will probably enjoy trying out. But there is a definite "let's separate these into separate books so we can sell more books!" vibe to Pebble for me and these really push the boundaries. I mean, you're paying $1 a page practically! I might buy a few in paperback for our maker kits though.

How to make a liquid rainbow
ISBN: 9781429652940

How to make a mystery smell balloon
ISBN: 9781429644945

How to make slime
ISBN: 9781429644921

Published 2011 by Pebble Plus/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, January 25, 2014

This week at the library in excruciating detail

Random Commentary
  • Monday: I came in early at 11:30 (my dentist appt. ended early and I was going to walk over to the post and then remembered that it was closed). Filling displays, some chit chat with staff and patrons, opening boxes in tech services until noon.
  • 12-1: I worked on the series - I have decided what's staying the series collection and what's going to be relabeled by author in the fiction, but we haven't had time to change them all over. Staff are getting confused, so I checked out most of what's left to hold until we have time to change them. I also went through placed holds on everything checked out so we could do the complete series at once. I was not assisted in any way by Sirsi's regrettable habit of freezing at crucial moments. Reflected on the contrariness of kids in asking for series immediately after I have decided that no one is ever going to check them out again and thus have just deleted them. 
  • Then from 1-4 it was time to tackle the project of the day - my office. As you can see in the before and after pictures below, I had an entire years' worth of craft supplies, summer reading prizes, and misc. stuff dumped back there, plus boxes of donations from a patron (she has a business making fantasy art, notebooks, etc. and generously donates leftovers to us). I spent the rest of the afternoon working on this. Which gave rise to interesting questions like where can I store 200 plastic Christmas ornaments for Santa's Kitchen next December? And will I really use this much glue?
  • I took occasional breaks to renew stuff for my list of institutional cards, run some stats for summer prizes, meeting with my director about some policy issues and a new dramatic play area I'm planning, and underneath the craft supplies were things I had to deal with - missing invoices, damaged books, posters, etc.
  • I had totally forgotten we were having Tail Waggin' Tutors! Jessie and her human showed up at 4pm and there was an excited group of kids waiting. We tried to do this the way you're "supposed" to do it. However, my town detests registering for anything and we ended up with no one registered and hopeful groups of little kids asking "can I pet the doggie?" So we made it a drop-in. Most kids aren't actually reading age, but they look at books together and sometimes an older kid or a parent will read-aloud. We had 7 people today which was good for a holiday and winter. At 4:15 I got our adult services librarian to sit in while I ran back and grabbed 15 minutes to eat some soup and crackers.
  • 5-8 I was on the information desk. In addition to information desk duties (answering questions, answering the phone, placing holds, etc.) I worked on a few more things from the pile of papers on my desk, went through some of my stack of review journals, and worked on my dvd series/weeding project. Then 8pm, closing time!

  • Tuesday: I came in at 9 and put up the sign for Toddlers 'n' Books. I usually hand out stickers myself, but I was doing outreach so I just taped them to the sign for people to take on their own. Then I put together my materials for my kindergarten visit and finished the last few piles of supplies and stuff on my desk until 10.
  • I left a little before 10 (this school is outside town and the roads can be iffy) and got back from my visits a little after noon.
  • When I got back around 12ish, I joined in the hunt for the missing shaving cream and food coloring (we didn't find it, so expect exciting developments later), took down the sign, chatted with parents, had some lunch, and tidied the children's area.
  • At 1pm I started setting up for my next group, this one visiting me at the library. That took about 10 minutes and then I worked on packing some things for the post office and writing up my morning visit and unpacking my bags.
  • I went out to wait for my group from Lakeland School at 1:30, but their bus was late so they didn't show up until about 1:50. So I hung out and discussed winter weather and driving conditions. Once they arrived, their tour and storytime lasted until about 2:30. Then I tidied up the storyroom.
  • 2:30: Hiding in my office recovering from my visits. I finished hot-gluing a flannelboard/matching game I need for tomorrow, then while it dried I collected everything people had and went to the post office, where there was a huge line! I didn't get back until 3:15! Then I finished the flannelboard and went out to the children's desk at...
  • 3:20, where I finished writing up my outreach visits, pulled books for the remote collection for the 4K I'm visiting tomorrow, went through a cart of new books, filled book bundles, and answered many computer questions.

  • Wednesday! From 9-10 I set up for storytime, filled in displays, showed off my new candy pot that my aide painted (it is super sweet!) and checked in and shelved all the relabeled series. We still have quite a few to go, but this was a big chunk, including American Girl.
  • 10am was Preschool Interactive. I was finished by a little after 11.
  • 11-12 - lunch, answering email, packing stuff for my outreach visits, making more book bundles.
  • 12-1 - webinar - Rethinking Summer Library Programs
  • I left around 1:15 for my outreach visit and got back around 2:15.
  • 2:15-5pm on the children's desk. Reader's advisory questions, computer questions, etc. Making more book bundles, going over some instructions with my aide, planning programs for next week, looking through the remote collection books from the daycare for rips, etc. and working on my dvd series/weeding project.
  • I also worked on the report our head of circ made for me of all the kids with fines. I am lobbying for a juvenile fine amnesty in May and so I need to take all the information and put it into readable form and make a sample of the handout I'm giving out at the schools.

  • Thursday. I started the day at 9:30 at the daycare. I stopped to get gas (OMG COLD) on the way back so I got back to work at 11. Then I made some phone calls about insurance, wrote up my visits, filled up my new Maker Kits!! Pictures below!! and started putting together my messy art club program.
  • 12-2:15 - information desk. In between reference, I started my monthly report, worked on my weekly newsletter, answered emails, worked on a tentative handout for my fine amnesty program and worked on my dvd series/weeding project. I was supposed to go off desk at 2, but my replacement didn't turn up! She got stuck in the snow coming back from a meeting! I grabbed our head of circ to cover for me.
  • 2:15-2:30 - lunch
  • 2:30-3:30 - put together everything for my afternoon program, set-up started at 3pm, and my aides helped move tables and we went over some staff things while we worked.
  • 3:30-5pm Messy Art Club
  • 5-5:30 I did some clean up and then while my aides finished cleaning up I started writing up the program and processing the pictures, but I didn't finish. It was time to go home.

  • Friday. I came in at 9 (picked up my director on the way - her car is still stuck!) and finished cleaning up from yesterday - the Brownies were using the Storyroom then, so I just left everything on a cart to put away today. Then I got ready for our puppet playgroup (and hoped that not too many people were assuming it was going to be a "real puppet show")
  • 9:45 - 11am was our puppet playgroup. It was very casual - people wandered in to play and I chatted with parents, took pictures, and wandered in and out of the storyroom. I filled in all the displays, tidied the children's area, and did a couple other random things.
  • 11am-12pm People were still hanging out and the room was still open, but I settled down at the children's desk, just keeping an ear out for any loud noises. I finished writing up yesterday's program and put up the pictures, answered questions, and started working on the stacks of misc. stuff on my desk - repair books, new books, etc.
  • 12-12:20 lunch
  • 12:20-2 Cleaned up the Storyroom, sent out the weekly newsletter, cleaned off the children's desk, filled up the book bundles again!, project lists for aides and working on next week's programs.
  • 2-2:30 I took some books to the middle school and then ran my director home to get her (unstuck) car. 
  • 2:30-5 Finished next week's programs (except for some flannels, which I will do Monday), took a break to move 40 boxes across the library with another staff member (it's a long story), worked on the dvd series/weeding project, prize drawing for Paws to Read, checked in new books.
The desk BEFORE

The floor BEFORE

The desk BEFORE

After! I have a desk!

I have a floor!

New maker kits on the shelf!

Candy pot, painted by my aide

Saw an idea on ALSC for making a shelf into a play kitchen. I haven't quite decided how I'm going to do it, but I've got the shelf!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sunny Sweet is so NOT sorry by Jennifer Ann Mann

Masha Sweet's life is going from bad to worse. Her parents are divorced, her mom made her move away from her dad, her old school, and all her friends, and her little sister is a certified genius. She's also a certified brat, as she proves by gluing plastic flowers to Masha's hair with her own, special, insoluble glue. Things go downhill from there, and eventually Masha ends up at the hospital where she gets a change of attitude - and a fake cast. She finishes up the story with a shaved head and a new understanding of her little sister, even though she drives her crazy.

This story is pure wish-fulfillment. For parents. For lazy parents. I'm going to be ranting here, and probably getting wildly dramatic, so check out if you're not interested in the Opinions of One Librarian.

So, while quite a few kids will probably be attracted by the bright colors of the cover, and a few more will enjoy the wacky antics of Sunny, the story as a whole does not stand together. It's way beyond unrealistic - Masha is given painkillers at the hospital and has her head shaved without parental permission, just to name one thing. I'm not even going to mention the "sick kids at the hospital making me realize how good my life really is" hackneyed device. The plot is scattered all over the place and there's no effective resolution, since Sunny ends the story by doing...exactly the same thing she started it with, experimenting on her older sister.

This is one of the things that annoys me, and this is a totally personal gripe; when siblings torture, tease, and otherwise abuse other siblings there should be consequences. Sure, Sunny is a little girl, but at age six she should have some basic boundaries and understanding of privacy. If not, Masha should have a lock on her door! Sunny is supposed to be this amazing genius, but it's extremely clear to me that she's manipulative and she knows what she's doing. The flowers glued Masha's hair isn't the first time she's run an experiment on her older sister, and judging from the final incident, it won't be the last. But their mother just tells Masha to calm down, and Sunny gets out of any punishment pretty much by looking cute and claiming that she's "just trying to help". In my book, that does not give you a get-out-of-jail free card, that gets you a stern lecture on not "helping" without permission, respecting other people's privacy, and possibly a meeting with the school counselor to discuss the concept of "professional ethics" since she's such a super-genius.

Which is why I call this story wish-fulfillment for lazy parents. A good parent would have disciplined Sunny and made sure she understood that she can't experiment on or "help" people without their permission the first time she did this. A good parent would have realized that Masha was suffering from some major self-confidence issues, not to mention the trauma of a divorce and a major move and at least made an effort to get her some help. A good parent would have, at the very least, said "hey, I can't deal with all this on my own" and gotten someone to help - after all, that's why they moved back to the mother's hometown, right? A good parent would, at the very least, have gotten Masha a lock for her door!

But this is wish-fulfillment for lazy parents, so no matter what the cute little brat does, it's ok, it's just an accident. The kids will work out all their feelings over the divorce, have a little sisterly bonding and some wacky hijinks, and in the end they're sisters and they love each other no matter what, they both find new friends at school, and everything is hunky-dory. No parenting needed! You can go off and do whatever it is you prefer to be doing rather than actually parenting your children!

In real life, Sunny is going to pull one of her nasty experiments on someone other than Masha and their family is going to get sued for invasion of privacy - or at the least, Sunny will be suspended or expelled. In real life, Masha is going to request that her custody gets switched to her father and never speak to Sunny again. In real life, Masha will get angrier and angrier at Sunny, at her mother, and life in general and probably end up either in therapy, with an ulcer, or on drugs or all three. Because life is not a Disney comedy and books shouldn't be either.

Verdict: Wish-fulfillment is fine, suspension of disbelief is great, and everybody loves wacky hijinks and pranks. But there's a fine line between socially awkward and immature children doing silly things and extremely intelligent children learning how to manipulate the people around them and consistently doing so, over and over again. A lot of kids probably would find this funny, and like I said it's an attractive cover. There could definitely be a feeling of "well, at least my sister isn't that bad". But, frankly, the book isn't good enough for me to get over my feelings of outrage. You can say I lack a sense of humor about pranking (you're probably right, although I firmly hold to my belief that if everyone's not laughing it's not funny) but there are plenty of other humorous books, books about sibling rivalry, even books about a super-intelligent younger sister, that are better choices than this book.

ISBN: 9781599909776; Published October 2013 by Bloomsbury; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Annual 2013

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Princess Posey and the new first grader by Stephanie Greene, illustrated by Stephane Roth Sisson

This has a really similar theme to the Heidi Heckelbeck book I was just looking at (last November - scheduling means my reviews are never chronological). They're both about a new girl coming into an established group of friends, although in this case Posey's coming from the established group viewpoint, rather than the new girl.

Posey is perfectly happy. She loves reading and is looking forward to getting into the highest group - blue dots. She has a marvelous pretend game to play - magic land. She can't wait to see her two friends at school. But when she arrives, there's a new girl! Grace has long hair like a princess. Grace has pretty yellow princess clothes. Grace sits on Posey's reading cushion and changes Posey's hopping game. Grace is stealing Posey's friends! The last straw comes when Grace tells Posey she has cow lips! It takes a little gentle help from their teacher to straighten things out and get everyone calmed down. Posey does some quiet thinking, especially when she finds out that Grace is in the bottom group for reading, and decides that maybe she does have room for a new friend; and she knows just how to make her new friend feel welcome.

I've loved Princess Posey since I saw her first adventure, Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade. I constantly recommend her to parents who are sick of Junie B. and little girls who want realistic stories with just a little sparkle to them. Princess Posey is an utterly realistic little girl. She's not perfect, she's not a brat, she's not the class clown, she's just a very ordinary little girl with likes and dislikes, friends, and her own little quirks and imaginative games. Stephanie Sisson's soft pencil drawings are a good addition to Princess Posey's cheerful world and her trials and triumphs.

Verdict: This is another beginning chapter series that is a must-have. Spot-on realistic and with gentle lessons that kids won't even realize they're absorbing while they enjoy reading about Posey and her friends. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780142427637; Published 2013 by Puffin/Penguin; Borrowed from the library

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Machines in Motion: Construction Machines by John Perritano

I will tell you in advance, this is not going to be a positive review. In fact, it will probably be liberally sprinkled with snark and sarcasm and may verge into rant territory at some points.

Ok, so construction machines. Tractors! Trucks! Bulldozers! The kids LOVE books about these and it's one of the main reasons I'm planning to switch to a neighborhoods-type organization in my picture books, so parents will find these subjects for younger children. I've ranted elsewhere about my problems with series nonfiction bindings, and will undoubtedly rant again, but I'm perfectly willing to shell out $15-25 per book for a good construction series. They don't get outdated as fast as some other subjects and they take a lot of wear and tear.

However, I'm not willing to shell out that much on a shoddy product, especially one with a very poor layout.

This is one entry in the Machines in Motion series from Gareth Stevens, which also includes Cars, Military Machines, Planes, Space Machines, and Trucks. It actually gives publication as 2014 but I borrowed it at the end of 2013 (I post ahead). The discount price for the library bound edition is $25, although you can buy a paperback for $13. It's 48 pages long.

At first, it starts out well. A brief introduction to the history of construction machines, then we move right into the bulldozers. Then suddenly we've hopped back in time to "mules and winches". If you don't know what a winch is, you'll have to flip to the glossary in the back, because it's not explained here. It's not even pictured - the main photographs for these historical pages are...modern bulldozers. Ok, then we have a super dozer. Cool. Shiny.

Moving on to dump trucks. Nice explanation of how an inclined plane works and a simple experiment.

Excavators! A little math here, in how you figure out the area of something. Then a historical section on William S. Otis who invented the first steam shovel. This is paired with a very confusing picture. It...looks like a historical steam shovel? Maybe? I mean, it's got a lot of smoke and the caption says "even early excavators made construction work easier" but it's obviously being used in a contemporary setting - the operators are wearing jeans and it's, you know, in use. Maybe a five year old historical construction machines enthusiast would know the difference. I don't.

Cranes! Cranes are pretty simple, you can't mess them up. I mean, they're cranes. Oooh, look they've actually got an historical reconstruction of how cranes changed over the years. With little arrows! This is good, this makes sense. (hmmm, I bet we could build cranes at Mad Scientists Club...)

Steamrollers. First picture is an historical steamroller. Even I can figure this out, cuz it's obviously parked permanently in the grass and has a little pipe thingy for the steam. Modern steamrollers, yep, all good.

Loaders, or front-end loaders. I want to know how they keep them from tipping over, especially when they mention that's a hazard, but that's just my morbid curiosity.

Break time! Somebody decided the best place to insert a timeline of historical construction machines the middle of the book. We've got a repeat of the digital reconstruction of a Greco-Roman crane, what is presumable the first steam shovel (covered in snow), a big steamroller, which is presumably the first one built, but don't take anything for granted because there's no caption and the photo credits offer no information whatsoever. Something that might be a steam-powered tractor, and then again might not. And then, for the 1920s entries...three very obviously modern machines. If they couldn't get photo permissions and really wanted photos there, why not caption the dang things?

Aaaand, we're back to the book with marine barges! And a little lesson on buoyancy, courtesy of our friend Archimedes. Then on to tunneling machines and what may be the only really clear caption of the entire book, the world's largest boring machine. And the caption actually says, specifically, that's what's in the picture!

Then on to pavers, which are mostly pictures of construction workers. Oddly...clean construction workers.

Then we get futuristic with digital designs of what are supposed to be "construction machines of the future". Did the artists make these up? Are these actual designs under consideration? Nobody knows...then we have some blurry pictures of what we are assured are "robocranes" and some artists' representation of a smart hauler called the Centaur. We're assured it really exists, but apparently they couldn't get any actual photographs of it. It's a conspiracy! The government is going to track us down with its smart haulers! Several more pages of futuristic machines follow, but no information on whether these are actually being conceived, designed, built, or are in use.

A quick lesson in drawing a dump truck, instructions on building a report (yes, they did), quiz questions on the book, a glossary, a couple resources, and index.

And you are left wondering why you spent fifty cents a page for this mess.

Verdict: As you can tell, I was really disappointed. For series nonfiction, the writing is not bad and the photographs are mostly decent, but the layout and organization is so appalling, I wouldn't add this no matter how many truck fans you have.

ISBN: 9781433996009; Published 2013/2014 by Gareth Stevens; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, January 18, 2014

This week at the library; or, More Exciting Weather and other things

  • Coffee, Kids, and Conversation (Pattie)
  • Tiny Tots (Pattie)
  • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions) (Pattie)
  • Preschool Interactive
  • Books 'n' Babies (Pattie)
  • Lego Club
  • Family Game Night (Pattie)
  • We Explore Science: Fossils (Pattie)
Random Commentary
  • We started back programs this week. As you can see, it was a much more exciting week, program-wise, for Pattie than it was for me! Since we started back later in the month, all her irregular programs converged in the first week.
  • Whooping Cough is making its way through the school district. We thought one of our staff members had it...but maybe not...hopefully not...but it was exciting while it lasted (and while we all figured out if our immunizations were up to date). I learned that you can see your record online! Very handy, especially since the last tetanus shot I remember having was when I was 16.
  • I don't know if it was the stress or being tired or what but it was just an annoying week. I sent the wrong book order and had to send another one, the piles of work never grew less, and I had a number of extremely tense drives home in poor weather.
  • But, we started well with programs. Smaller numbers of course, as we often get when a break and bad weather converge, but still quite a decent turn-out.
  • This is also our winter book sale, although since we got a permanent Friends store, it was just a bag sale. Which was good, because it meant we could still have Lego Club in the community room. There just weren't any tables...but kids are bendy, they had no problem building on the floor, or making their fossils on the floor on Friday for science. We had about 35 people for Lego Club, which is a little low, but quite good for snow, the book sale (which meant no parking) etc.
  • Every time I think I have gotten a handle on this supervisory thing, something new happens and throws me for a loop. I am beginning to suspect that management is a life-long process that is never perfected and there is no handy handbook to tell you how to deal with every contingency. Current supervisory things I'm working - balancing my second aide with my first aide, making sure the shelving doesn't all get dumped on one or the other, everything gets done in a timely fashion, but nobody is left sitting around staring at the wall. It's hard.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

I really loved Page by Paige, but for some reason I just couldn't get the teens into it. I think maybe because we just don't have a lot of teens who are into the arts or...something. I don't know.

I loved this one too, even though it made me cry, but I'm sadly probably not going to buy it. Sigh.

Wilhelmina, Will for short, loves old things. This is a good thing, since she lives with her aunt who runs an antique shop and helps out by repurposing old things, as well as specializing in creating lamps. She has two good friends; Autumn, who loves puppetry although her parents would like her to have more ambition, and Noel, who isn't sure he wants to follow in his parents footsteps and be a chef. Will's lamp art is a good thing, since she's scared of the dark and there are always shadows creeping up about her. It takes some new friends, who are putting on a community art show and a major storm (Hurricane Whit) for Will to face her shadows and step out into the light.

The art is different from Page by Paige - it has thicker lines and a sort of wavy feeling, as if every panel is an antique portrait, framed by an elaborate wooden frame. Will's shadows are beautifully drawn, and the reader is caught up in her struggle against the grainy, dark shadows that threaten to take over her life until she faces her grief and allows herself to feel again. The second half of the book, when the storm takes out the electricity, is bordered in black, showing not just the lack of light, but the darkness that is threatening to take over Will's life, until she accepts the shadows and grief  and leaves the darkness behind.

Verdict: I really don't understand why teens won't pick these books up. Maybe it's the lack of artistic types - I know several teens who enjoy art, but I can't see anyone putting together a community art show or something like that. Anyhow, I really enjoy them and I think most libraries will have an audience, just not mine *sulk*.

ISBN: 9781419705465; Published 2013 by Amulet/Abrams; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2013

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

EllRay Jakes and the beanstalk by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs

In EllRay Jakes' fifth adventure, he and his friends are tackling some new third-grade problems. The popular thing at school is skateboarding, but EllRay doesn't know how. He's not even sure he really wants to learn, but his best friend Kevin is hanging out with Jared just because they are both learning to skate. Jared, the almost-bully who is practically EllRay's worst enemy! To make matters worse, EllRay's dad tells him he can't go over to the neighbor's house when Fly Reilly is there - but he's the only older kid that can teach him how to skateboard so he can get Kevin back again.

EllRay's problems and how he works things out, after some bad choices, are hammered home with the school assignment all the kids are working on; picking fairy tales and explaining what they mean to them personally. In the end, friendships aren't the same but they're still there and both EllRay and Kevin have had the chance to try something new.

I was really excited about the first book in this series and I think it's still living up to its promise. It's not a perfect book, but it fills a niche, speaks to kids about what's really going on in their lives and at school, and has a steady circulation at my library. At some points it feels a little overly didactic and EllRay is much more thoughtful than any other third grader I've ever met. Also, the school assignment feels a little contrived, just there to help the plot along. However, the pros of the story - the real lives and problems the kids face, the way they think about things, and how they work stuff out - outweigh the literary drawbacks. Some adult readers will probably be uncomfortable at how divided EllRay's class is along gender lines and how he and his friends worry about being "girly", how EllRay worries about having to read words like "ass" or "abreast" aloud in class, but things like this are what make the story so realistic. The characters - like Kry Rodriguez, whom everybody likes and is actually a better skater than any of the boys - are not held to the stereotypes, but having talked to a lot of third graders (and had some very vigorous arguments with third grade boys about having girls in Lego Club) I can definitely say this is realistic. And, of course, this is a unique book that I'd push for no other reason than that it features a kid of color as the main protagonist, not as a friend of the main character, and he's suburban and modern, not historical or urban. Mostly boys read this series, but some girls enjoy it too and it really does offer experiences that pretty much all third graders can relate to.

Verdict: This isn't at all an additional series since there's really nothing else like it on the market, that I have seen anyways. Large or small, every public library should carry it.

ISBN: 9780670784998; Published 2013 by Viking/Penguin; Borrowed from the library

Monday, January 13, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Hide-and-seek Science: Animal Camouflage by Emma Stevenson

This is a seek and find book focusing on animal camouflage. After a brief introduction, it jumps immediately into the book, which consists of full-page spreads showing a specific habitat and a number of animals "Hide-and-seek in the desert: Can you find 34 animals?" and then a second full-page spread that reproduces the picture on a smaller scale with each animal numbered. There is an introductory paragraph to the habitat and a brief description of each animal. The habitats include swamp, desert, rain forest, savanna, deciduous forest, snow, and coral reef.

I found this book interesting, but confusing. First, while the paintings are gorgeous, the animals are really easy to find. It's a little hard to grasp the concept of camouflage when they're so easily discovered. I found them all right away and I am awful at I Spy kinds of things, so that just shows you...Now, I do have families who like easy I Spy books, especially for their younger children, so that could be a good audience for this, but the descriptive pages seem more advanced. Even the habitat labels are odd, ranging from "deciduous forest" to "snow". The pictures also want you to count every single animal which is easy when they're all different but not so easy when there are multiples of one animal, like the 44 fairy basslets on the coral reef spread (pictured on the front cover).

Verdict: Easy I Spy books are a popular genre in my library and the paintings are bright and attractive, so despite some of the contradictions in the book I would recommend it. However, I wouldn't necessarily make it your first choice.

ISBN: 9780823422937; Published September 2013 by Holiday House: Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, January 12, 2014

RA, RA, READ: Introduction

Welcome to a new special feature, focusing on readers' advisory and read-alikes.

I'm the only youth services librarian at my library. Technically, I'm a department head, but when your department is you and two teenagers, well...When I take tours around the library and stop at the children's desk, I tell the kids that this is where they can come to ask me questions. Then I ask them "how many of me do you see?" and of course they all yell "JUST YOU" (unless you've got some little wiseacre in the back) and I say "exactly, there's only one of me. sometimes I'm doing a program or visiting a school, or working on special projects in my office" and of course this is a lead-in to get them to go to the main information desk if I'm not available.

But what kind of service do they get there - or at the circulation desk, since our patrons generally can't tell the difference and younger kids are more likely to go there because they have a fighting chance to see over the top of it, if they jump - are we serving all our patrons?

At our staff development day in 2013, we had all the staff fill in big sheets of poster paper to see what areas we covered in reader's advisory. We're good on pretty much all genres of fiction, except horror, westerns, and political thrillers, and most of us knew enough titles to fill in there. We have several staff members who read young adult fiction and a few who read nonfiction. However, we have no one who reads elementary or middle grade and our sheet consisted of recommendations of classics and some random bestsellers. In the intervening years we've had a lot of staff turnover and aging of small children and now have several staff members with kids in the preschool/elementary/middle school age range, but there's a huge difference between "my kid likes Percy Jackson" and "here are books you will like if you like Percy Jackson."

I'm not at all averse to being the go-to person for readers' advisory. I obsessively love to recommend books - that's part of the reason I blog so much! But, like I tell the kids, sometimes I'm just not available. So, this is a resource not just for you, o great wide world that reads my blog, but also for our staff and for me - I'm not the perfect machine of memory when it comes to reader's advisory by any means.

If you have suggestions for this series - of themes or of individual books, don't hesitate to leave a comment and let me know!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

This week at the library; or, COLD

Random Commentary
  • I am really glad we don't start programs until next week because it was COLD. Sub-zero temperatures on Monday, and we only opened noon to five, then we closed early at 5 on Tuesday. There were quite a few people in the library anyways, but it was nice to have a slow start to the year (literally, in the case of my car).
  • Weeding. Program planning. More weeding. Cleaning out the Storyroom. Sorting the accumulation of donations. Decided that even if I don't get enough coupons for super readers club this summer I have enough books to use as prizes instead.
  • Lunch with some of the other children's librarians in the consortium on Thursday. We shared various ideas and just chatted.
  • Spent money! Ordered nonfiction sets from Bearport (and am just kicking myself in annoyance that I suddenly realized, after I'd sent the order of course, that I had meant to call and ask if I could get the newest two books in the Science is FUNdamental series, which is an awesome series, but for some reason they didn't have the two newest books available to buy singly and my contact left and WAAAAA I MISS YOU VALERIE) and after a lengthy phone call to ABDO (haven't ordered from them in several years, lost my account information, finally turned out I just needed to make a new account) I ordered some new sets of superhero comics. I ordered all the movies from the end of the year (we try to end ordering in November) and sent in a big supply order since next week...PROGRAMS.
  • I don't have anyone spontaneously playing with the flannel boards yet, but everyone I've pointed them out to has been excited. A mom and a little girl were playing with them Thursday evening and I realized I am totally a children's librarian when I got all excited over how they were interacting together! And the little girl was telling the story to mom (who kindly reorganized all my pieces, that the last little girls had put away in a hurry) and I was like OMG NARRATIVE SKILLS THIS IS SO COOL!! Sadly, the other staff gave me wary looks and cautiously edged away. I need a partner in crime.
  • Friday sucked. I'm just going to throw that out there. I woke up at 4am with the sudden realization that I had forgotten to send publicity to the schools. In fact, I had forgotten to do any publicity for some of my major programs. The day went down from there. I was sick, I fell on the ice (first time I've fallen in 5.5 years living in WI. It hurts.), I implemented my plan to order supplies for the entire year and then freaked out worrying that I hadn't estimated right, even though I had my numbers from last year, and I finished up with an awful commute home - my normal 15 minutes spread out over nearly an hour with an especially excited bit where I described a graceful parabola across two lanes. Fortunately, I did not get stuck, I did not break anything, and I have two days to recover.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Gold Medal Winter by Donna Freitas

Where have you been all my life, beautiful book?

It's not amazing literature. It's not the World's Greatest Plot. It's not award-winning or deathless prose. It will probably never be on a school list and is unlikely to Change Your Life. But this is the book that hits everything girls have been asking me for over the past five years and I am IN LOVE.

Esperanza, Espi for short, never dreamed that her love of skating would come to this point. Self-taught, and then with the support of her mom, coach, local businesses, and friends she's made it to the US championships and now...the Olympics! It's exciting and frightening and challenging and unbelievable, but she has confidence in herself, her coach and her family and friends are behind her, and there's some support from an unexpected quarter as well...or is there? As Espi encounters drama, bad choices, and starts losing her confidence, will she make it to the Olympics after all, or will she lose sight of what's most important?

I'm just going to check off all the things I've wanted in a book and that this book hits so perfectly

  • A girl playing a sport with plenty of detail and action (I get a LOT of requests for "sports books with girls")
  • A popular, eye-catching sport (Figure-skating probably comes in second to gymnastics for sports most-often-requested)
  • Light romance - nothing graphic or inappropriate, but a few mild kissing scenes, lots of fuzzy feelings and a little hand-holding. Perfect for middle grade girls who want something a little romantic, and even teaches some gentle lessons about thinking through relationships and not making bad choices.
  • A genuine Latina character whose heritage and family are seamlessly woven into the story without the Main Point being Culture
Of course, there's also the perennial popular topics of mean girls, True Friendship, and an exciting climax to round things off. Sure, some of it's probably wish-fulfillment, but that's not the point. The point is that girls who like sports should have books that feature girls playing sports. Latinas should have a wide range of books about Latinas - not just historical fiction and books about their culture, but contemporary, light, fun stories featuring Latina girls who have everyday worries, romantic entanglements, and friendship drama.

Verdict: Great literature? No. But it is reasonably well-written, well-researched, and will fly off your shelves. Buy extra copies, because you will want to hand this to every girl who loves figure-skating, who wants books about girls in sports, and to your Latina readers who would love to see a girl like themselves finally take center stage. The publisher suggests age 10-14, but I have no problem putting this in my juvenile section and recommending it to middle grade, roughly 8-12.

ISBN: 9780545644730; Published January 2014 by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library (there's a gymnastics one too, Gold Medal Summer - I purchased that as well)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lulu and the dog from the sea; Lulu and the cat in the bag by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

 I bought the Lulu books as soon as they came out, several years ago. Hilary McKay, diversity that's not focused on said diversity, and animals - what's not to love? I never actually got around to reading them, since they are almost always checked out or I'm recommending someone to check them out so I was pleased when two were nominated for Cybils and I could justify taking them home.

In the second Lulu story, Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, Lulu and her family (including her cousin Mellie and her old dog Sam) are going to the beach for a week! Everyone in the family has a different plan; Lulu's dad is going to train to run a marathon, her mom is going to read, Mellie is going to make a perfect kite, and Lulu quickly decides, as soon as they arrive, that she's going to make friends with the mysterious stray dog that's hanging around the cottage. Although things don't go exactly as planned, everyone gets what they want, more or less, and Lulu is delighted to add another pet to her collection at home.

In Lulu's third story, her Nan is watching Mellie and Lulu while their parents are gone for a week. Nan doesn't like animals at all and definitely thinks Lulu has too many! When Lulu finds a stray cat, Nan is absolutely horrified; but this isn't just any cat, it turns out to be a cat that's perfect for a gardener, just like Gran.

These stories are utterly delightful. There's a slight air of unreality about them - Lulu is just a little too perfectly behaved, but that's part of the appeal. It's refreshing to read a story about a little girl who isn't having dramatic break-ups with her friends, conflicts with her teachers, or arguments with her siblings on every other page. These are exactly what they appear to be - sweet, funny stories about a little girl who loves animals. Dog from the sea is a little more cliched I felt, with the stray dog, Lassie-type theme, but it's still sweet. Cat in the bag was hilarious - I laughed all through Charlie's deadpan delivery of his antics and Nan was a perfectly peppery character.

Priscilla Lamont's illustrations are perfectly suited for a beginning chapter book. Simple black and white sketches, they bring out the characters and events in the book with small motifs and a few half-page spreads.

Verdict: If you don't already have Lulu in your library, go out and add her! Hilary McKay's writing is sweet and strong with enough animals and humor to keep kids reading and a well-written story that parents will enjoy helping struggling readers or even reading aloud to younger listeners. Lulu belongs in every library; highly recommended.

Dog from the sea
ISBN: 9780807548202

Cat in the bag
ISBN: 9780807548042

Published 2013 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from the library

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner, photographs by Scott Tuason

Pamela Turner's previous entries in the Scientists in the Field series include the award-winning Frog Scientist and Project Seahorse. I've read both but never got around to reviewing them, but I was expecting something similar for her latest book.

At first, I was disappointed. "Where's the insight into the scientists' lives?" I wondered. Where's the description of local inhabitants and how their lives intersect with the animals?" "Where are the detailed photographs to pore over?" But the more I read the book, the more I realized it's a really good entry in the Scientists in the Field series, even if it's not a typical one.

Most Scientists in the Field titles have a blend of science, biography, and sometimes history. We get to know the scientists intimately, more so than the animals they study. In this book, this is reversed. Although we learn snatches about the lives of the various scientists involved in studying the dolphins and some history about the Shark Bay area, the real focus of the book is the dolphins. This works well with the subject of the book which is studying how and if dolphins pass learned behavior, like tool use, through teaching or genetics or a mixture of both. There are lots and lots of photos of dolphins. I have horrible eyesight, so they all look the same to me (same reason I would make an awful birdwatcher) but I can admire the artistry even though I can't discern distinct dolphins.

The back matter includes additional information and anecdotes about the dolphins, resources, and a column of latest news of the dolphins and humans in the book.

Verdict: This is a really well-written book and even managed to hold my interest, although I normally have zero interest in dolphins or behavioral science. It's not going to have the wide appeal of most of the Scientists in the Field titles, which contain enough human interest to attract readers even if they're not interested in the particular subject, but it's definitely going to have an audience. I don't have any kids interested in behavioral science at my library (or not that I'm aware of anyways) but oh boy do I have kids interested in dolphins. Hand this to your obsessive dolphin fans and they'll find themselves learning about research, science, animal behavior, and more without even knowing it. [Brief warning note: If you have parents of the "dolphins are our loving friends that will heal us all" or the "my child is not going to be sullied by any suggestion of reproductive processes until they are of marriageable age" persuasion, they're probably not going to like the descriptions of mating behavior, although they are not graphic or really described in much detail at all.

ISBN: 9780547716381; Published 2013 by Houghton Mifflin; Review copy provided by author

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Budget numbers, Programming numbers, Circulation numbers, I haz them ALL (Part Three)

Finally, we come to circulation. Once I've got all these numbers together, I use them to plan my collection development. Which areas need more money, which should be cut. Which months I should buy more to prepare for higher demands, which months I need to push the collection, etc.

Children's and YA circulation by month
  • January: 8,931
  • February: 8,172
  • March: 9,960
  • April: 9,692
  • May: 8,876
  • June: 12,994
  • July: 13,896
  • August: 11,437
  • September: 8,387
  • October: 9,648
  • November: 8,300
  • December: 6,854
Total Children's and YA circulation for 2013: 117,147

Circulation by Item Type/Location
  • Children's dvds: 27,124
    • This number stayed about the same. It's a novel concept, but I think I need to weed dvds, especially the ones with massive circulation and the old tv series. Time for some new Thomas dvds! Apart from anything else, we're running into a space issue.
  • Picture books (includes tub books and the now defunct concept location): 23,921
    • This went up by 1421, but I think weeding and the new neighborhoods project will increase it even further!
  • Juvenile Fiction (includes the now defunct juvenile graphic location): 13,524
    • The biggest increase here - 1884. That is probably mostly graphic novels and the result of shifting some of the more popular series into juvenile fiction.
  • Nonfiction: 9,215
    • Up by 1215, but this is still a disappointing number to me. I need to do a major overhaul of the nonfiction.
  • Easy readers: 8,910
    • Up by 210. This section needs overhauling - most of the easy readers are old and worn.
  • Juvenile series: 7,465
    • Down by 135 - a lot of this section was moved to juvenile fiction and I expect the number to be even lower next year as we finish the move.
  • Young Adult fiction: 5,142
    • Down by 50 I think, although I sort of rounded the numbers last year. I just can't get this section higher than about 5,000! I've turned over collection development to our cataloger and I'm lending her my primary aide for displays, so hopefully this will be the year!
  • Board Books: 4,070
    • Up by 570. We have a really good board book collection and I made more room this year, so next year I plan to replace a lot of grungy books and buy lots of new ones!
  • Young Adult graphics (includes manga): 2,512
    • Up by 512. I'm going to run out of space for manga! This section has gone up about 500 every year since I started it.
  • Wii Games: 2,512
    • Up by 1112, mostly because we had more to check out! I'm thinking of adding another game format this year.
  • Holiday books (primarily picture books): 1,263
    • Up by 163. I weeded and replaced quite a bit, but circulation on these never really varies much.
  • Blu-Ray: 771
    • Up by 271. Pulling them out from the back shelf where they were buried and putting them up on display made a big difference.
  • Audiobooks (including cd, playaway, and mp3): 524
    • Down by 176. I have no idea. Playaways check out the most, I think...
  • Spanish: 402
    • Up by 22. I just moved Spanish to the back of the area, so it might drop a bit next year, but it's never been a heavily circulating collection.
  • Parenting: 389
    • Up by 109. I moved this to the back as well, so we'll see if it drops or if it continues to stay steady.
  • Toy (our dramatic play bags): 382
    • I don't have the numbers from last year, but I think it's up.
  • Juvenile magazines: 351
    • No numbers to compare.
  • Young adult magazines: 263
    • No numbers to compare.
  • Book and CD (picture book and cd bags): 182
    • Up by 12 - this number never varies much, these mostly check out in the summer.
  • Music cds: 84
    • I don't have the numbers to compare - I think I need to weed this area. I don't buy much here though, because of the low circulation.
  • Oversized: 54
    • One of my eventual goals is to get rid of the oversized collection. We have a lot of huge Star Wars books that would circulate like crazy if anybody knew where to look for them!
  • Professional: 40
    • As you can see, I am quite fond of lending my professional collection out to teachers and anybody who asks really...

Budget numbers, Programming numbers, Circulation numbers, I haz them ALL (Part Two)

Now, on to program numbers; or, Was it Worth it? I have individual programs but mostly program series. I keep an average as well as individual numbers. So if we had really low attendance one month (flu, bad weather, general disinterest) and really high another month, it all averages out and I don't freak out (or that's the idea, I tend to stress out like crazy anyways.)

Total Programs: 358
Total Attendance: 11,559
Without outreach (see below) this was down 1,214 from 2012, but that is GOOD. I actually had a personal goal to decrease attendance in some areas because programs were getting out of control, especially some of our big summer programs and toddler storytimes. This year was much more manageable. However, the final number ended up MUCH higher (see outreach section below!)

Weekly Programs
  • Toddlers 'n' Books, 10am session: 35 sessions, 1239 attendance, average 35
  • Toddlers 'n' Books, 11am session: 35 sessions, 772 attendance, average 22
  • Books 'n' Babies: 31 sessions, 1137 attendance, average 37
  • Preschool Interactive: 35 sessions, 866 attendance, average 25
  • We Explore: 30 sessions, 1124 attendance, average 37
  • Lego Club: 18 sessions, 736 attendance, average 41
  • Messy Art Club: 15 sessions, 665 attendance, average 44
  • Mad Scientists Club: 3 sessions, 131 attendance, average 44
My outside person, Pattie, does Toddlers, Babies, and also a twice-monthly evening storytime and a monthly sort of playgroup thing, but the numbers for those don't really matter. Books 'n' Babies is seriously crowded and I'm trying to think of options to break it up a little next fall. I'm thinking if we shift our base morning storytime to 9:30am and have second sessions at 10:30am, I can do a Mother Goose on the Loose session myself at 9:30 on Wednesdays and then Preschool Interactive at 10:30, even though that gets close to lunch/naps, it's better than 11. Mad Scientists Club we just started in the fall, so there was only a few meetings. We Explore varies like crazy from 100+ when we have performers to lower storytime numbers. In the fall I stopped doing it weekly, so I probably won't keep it as an average next year but as separate programs.

Monthly, i.e. teen, Programs

Our cataloger, Lindsay, does Teens on Screen and I do Middle School Madness. She's gradually taking over more of the (hitherto nonexistent) teen programming and some of the collection development as well. That's what happens when you stand still too long in my vicinity. We also had a couple teen programs in the summer. We had a total of 17 teen programs for the year with 218 total attendance, which averages to 13 per program. Which is ok. (until I added in the middle school outreach visits, and then it average out more to 20, but it's not exact b/c I didn't keep the numbers quite right)

Other Programs
  • Dr. Seuss Celebration: 75
  • Clifford's Birthday Party: 250
    • This is an estimate. It's a program that basically takes over the entire library, so we have no real idea how many people came. We did have a school class from the special school, about 8 kids, join us. It was chaotic and crazy, which is why we only do this once a year!
  • Annual Spring Break T-Shirt Party: 65
  • Muffins with Mom: 40
  • Dance into Summer with Ella Bella Ballerina: 74
    • My Fancy Nancy party was climbing over 100 and I couldn't handle it, so I instituted registration and that cut the numbers down to a manageable amount.
  • Angry Birds party: 68
    • The Star Wars party the previous year was a traumatic FAIL. I did registration this year and this was soooo much better.
  • Book Experience: 43
    • Our new end of summer party. I really like the new model I came up with, not least because my aides planned the whole thing...
  • Santa's Kitchen: 77
  • Smitty and Mary G.: 100
    • A grade of kindergarteners, about 80 kids, were our main audience here.
  • Welty Environmental Center: Wiggly Worms: 60
    • This was our summer kick-off and Lindsay actually supervised, I was doing summer reading in the lobby.
  • Creepy Crawly Zoo: 105
    • This was a Storywagon program - they're selected by a committee and the consortium and go to all the libraries in the area.
  • Puppet Story Theater: 80
    • Storywagon
  • Duke Otherwise: 82
    • Storywagon - a local musician
  • Great Scott: 118
    • Storywagon - local magician
  • Nature's Niche: 100
    • This is paid for by the Friends and I book in conjunction with a neighboring library to get a discount. We've had Dino Tlachac for several years now and it's the highlight of the summer. Last year we had close to 200 people, so this year I really strongly emphasized that this is for older kids, like 6+, and the numbers, thankfully, dropped a little. I am really picky about live animals in programs and it took me a while to find one that I feel is ethical and responsible - Nature's Niche has animals for education, but they're also a rehabilitation center and all the animals are rescued or can't be returned to the wild for some reason.
  • Kohls Wild Theater: 130
    • All the 4k classes from our biggest preschool come to this, as well as other attendees, so it always pulls in a big crowd. And it's free!
  • Puppet Story Theater: 140
    • I had all the kindergarteners from the closest elementary school plus a LOT of other people. We liked this program so much in the summer that I decided to use a little extra grant money I had to bring them back in the winter!
Stealth Programs
  • 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten
    • I gave out 258 folders for 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. This isn't an exact number, since I gave out several big stacks to schools, but close.
    • Participants read 15,480 books (which accounts for our high picture book circulation!)
  • Stuffed Animal Sleepover
    • 42 people participated by dropping off their animals. I learned after the first year to not take any giant animals and photograph in groups!
  • SRP: Rubber Ducky Readers
    • 42 participants, which fell a little short of my hoped-for 50 this first year, but I was still getting people meandering back in the fall to pick up their board book and I have high hopes for next summer, when more people know about the program.
  • SRP: Super Readers
    • 157 participants, which was good, although I estimated 200. I'm not sure if I'll be able to do this program this coming summer or not, since it looks like I won't have enough pass/ticket type prizes.
  • SRP (regular summer reading program)
    • 470 participants. The last year I did registration I had 900, so every year is always a bit of a let-down since I only count actual participation now, but I am determined to get this number up!
    • We did have 55 teens, which is a record high for us - and I think that's because I let middle schoolers move over from the younger program to the teen program if they wanted, which most of them did.
  • Learning Curve: 29 programs
    • This is my most "traditional" outreach. I do a storytime for each of the three 4K classrooms once a month and also select and bring baskets of books for the teachers to use in their classrooms. In addition to my regular visits during the school year, I did two summer visits for the summer care kids, about 15 kids ages 3 to 8. They were my test site for the daycare summer reading program I put together.
  • Tibbets Elementary School: 22 programs
    • Tibbets is one of our three elementary schools that is the farthest outside of town - just like Learning Curve. In 2012 I put together a monthly visit with one kindergarten teacher and in the fall of 2013 I figured out how to adjust my schedule so I could do all three kindergarten classes. I do a storytime for them and it's fun to do older kids for a change. Right before summer, I visit the whole school to promote summer reading - each grade gets about 15-20 minutes of high-energy booktalking and summer reading promotion, which is a total of about 450 kids. I count each grade as a program, because I have to do a quick-change of all the books and promotions for each grade.
  • Jackson Elementary School: 12 programs
    • Jackson does the most walk-overs b/c they're closest. I had their kindergartens at two performances this year, which was great! I only visit the school for kindergarten through fourth grade and then all the fifth grades come and visit me. They have a scavenger hunt, booktalks, program promotion, and my patented 3-part lecture on "Library Policies and Yes We Do Enforce Them" "Everyone has to Compromise So We All Enjoy the Library" and "How not to have the Police Called on You When Hanging out at the Library During Middle School". I also have the younger grades come for visits, sometimes to check books out, and we are a stop on the 2nd grade community walk. This year I also got the 5th graders to start a monthly (hopefully) visit to check out books in the genre they're studying.
  • 6th grade: 10 programs
    • We have one middle school. 6th grade is divided into two "teams" of approximately 100 kids each. At the beginning of the year I went to visit them, and again pre-summer, but by the fall they were coming to visit me, which was awesome, since visits to the school usually involved lugging all my crates of books over there, set up, meet one or two classes of kids, move all the books, set up again, 100 kids for 20 minutes, move all the books, set up again, wait an hour, etc.
  • West Side Elementary School: 6 programs
    • This is the school I do the least with, even though it's really not much farther than Jackson. Right now they just get my pre-summer visits. I am planning to Change All That this spring and get the kindergarteners over for a program and maybe the 5th graders!
  • Summer School: 5 programs
    • This is the one that started it all, that got me asking my director to please let me count off-site outreach storytimes! I do five back-to-back storytimes for the kids going into kindergarten. It's fun and awesome and hot and exhausting and I always forget to bring water and cough drops!
  • Step Ahead: 4 programs
    • I started my remote collection service at this school, taking them monthly baskets of books (although they mostly come get them on their own now - their teachers are big library users and one is actually president of the board this year!). Every April, they bring all the preschool and 4k classes to visit the library and have a tour and storytime. This is pretty busy and for some reason I have been sick through it for the last two years. Oh well, the kids enjoy it. They also brought some 4k classes over to join in Preschool Interactive in the fall, but that didn't really work out.
  • Lakeland School: 2 programs
    • This is the county's special education school. What I do for them varies wildly, depending on the age/ability level of the kids involved, but usually I do some kind of storytime and craft and maybe a little tour if they're up for it. Some years I've had a regular monthly visit, but the class that normally visits wasn't able to work it into their schedule and in the fall their teacher said they weren't quite ready for a public field trip. Hoping they come in the spring! The little I've been able to do with them has had some results - several caregivers now bring the kids to the library on their own, regularly, which is awesome.
  • Headstart: 1 program
    • With the advent of 4K our local headstart program has shrunk mostly to birth through three, so Pattie usually does outreach with them. However, I occasionally add them in to a storytime or have them meet for lunch in the Storyroom.
A couple years ago, after doing yet another five storytimes back to back for the summer school pre-kindergarteners, I begged my director to let me count outreach storytimes, even if they weren't on-site and she said yes! Fast forward to this year and I listened to an awesome webinar about data and advocacy with our state consultant...and found out that I should have been counting ALL outreach, including school visits, tours, etc. for the annual report! I wasn't the only one either - apparently not many of us read the definition section of the state annual report (-:) I called her up afterwards to confirm this amazing information and, well, it's awesome. I figured out how to go back and add in those numbers for this year and well, let's just say I'm pretty confident in still having the highest program attendance of my consortium this year (-:) I put together a kind of comprehensive plan for future outreach and we'll see how long that lasts...You can see it here.

Budget numbers, Programming numbers, Circulation numbers, I haz them ALL (Part One)

If you are anything like me when you see programs, what you REALLY want to know is how much did they cost and how many kids actually came? Numbers, I haz them. This year, in addition to my general budgeting of what money came in and what money went out, I kept a careful count of what I spent on each individual program (except general supplies, which are...general). At least, I kept a careful count...until the fall when things got crazy. So, this isn't exact and I also reuse things but it gives a general picture.

I have a supplies/programming budget which I supplement with grants and donations. This year I had about $3200 in my budget and about $2800 in grants and donations.

General Supplies ($525)
  • $36: construction paper (9x12)
  • $10: construction paper (12x18)
  • $20: paper plates (estimated)
  • $7: glossy fingerpaint paper (100)
  • $20: tissue paper (200)
  • $20: 4 oz glue bottles (24)
  • $10: washable clear glue (12)
  • $31: glue dots (value packs)
  • $16: glue sticks
  • $36: glitter glue pens
  • $28: glitter glue
  • $26: glitter finger paint
  • $20: acrylic paint
  • $50: washable markers
  • $26: paintbrushes (288)
  • $12: pipe cleaners (classroom pack)
  • $24: pipe cleaners
  • $16: colored wiggly eyes (1000)
  • $10: glittering rhinestones (570)
  • $5: sequins and spangles
  • $9: glitter pony beads
  • $9: neon pony beads
  • $13: big bright animal beads
  • $16: bright craft buttons
  • $5: wood alphabet shapes
  • $10: wooden magnetic clips
  • $15: nametags (estimated)
  • $15: brown paper lunch bags (estimated)
  • $10: displays (poster board, misc.)
I gave up trying to refill the glue bottles and just bought lots of the cheap, clear glue. I haven't used the wooden shapes or clips yet - they were on clearance. The nametags and brown paper lunch bags are supplies I use for Preschool Interactive. Glue dots are DEFINITELY worth the cost.

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten ($157)
  • $46: stickers
  • $110: folders (approx. 700)
I bought enough folders for the next couple years. It's a huge production to buy them in bulk at Walmart, but it's cheaper, especially if you get them during the school supply specials. Just put aside several hours of time and don't bother to count them first, because the poor clerk at the register will have to count them all, by color.

Summer Reading: Marketing ($35)
  • $4: posters
  • $9: bookmarks
  • $22: t-shirts for staff
Everything here came from CSLP.

Summer Reading: Rubber Ducky Readers ($766)
  • $70: insect-themed rubber duckies
  • $55: variety of bath squirts
  • $640: board books
I bought enough board books for another year or two of this program. I had the money now, so I bought ahead. A lot of kids accidentally picked bath squirts instead of their summer prizes, which won't be a problem next year when I have that desk staffed all the time. I did have quite a few left anyways though.

Summer Reading: Prizes (main program) ($830)
  • $54: mini bubbles
  • $13: plastic play sharks
  • $60: plastic snakes
  • $20: wheel yo-yo
  • $50: frog poppers
  • $25: color-me hand puppets
  • $13: color-me vinyl wristbands
  • $20: zoo pencil toppers
  • $15: waterbomb ball
  • $27: puffy stickers
  • $24: plush butterflies
  • $11: value card games
  • $46: economy beach ball
  • $35: mini rainbow springs
  • $30: assorted wooden animals
  • $12: splat pig
  • $86: die cast vehicle
  • $18: psychedelic floppy flyer
  • $45: play-doh
  • $228: hi-bounce balls
The wheel yo-yos were crap - they just fell apart and I ended up taking most of them out of the prize box and just recycled them or putting the pieces aside to use in crafting. Hi-bounce balls are our most popular prize, followed closely by playdough and color-me hand puppets. I still had some cars left over after summer and we've been using them in our science programs on friction and motion. I gave out whole sheets of the stickers as prizes. Staff thought the plush butterflies looked tacky (and I agreed) but the kids liked them. The beach balls were surprisingly popular as well.

Teen Summer Reading Program ($145)
  • $120: candy
  • $25: amazon gift certificate
I had enough books from donations and that I'd collected here and there but I had nowhere near enough candy, especially when a bunch of smaller children discovered and looted the teens' prize box! This is the last year I plan to do a gift certificate - next year we're going to try to do some kind of charity/animal thing, maybe with the local shelter.

Messy Art Club ($616)
  • $140: wings "flyaway"
  • $5: shiny fabric butterflies "shinyfab"
  • $16: mini butterflies
  • $21: laminate
  • $2: clothespins
  • $100: decorate your own eggs
  • $6: skewers
  • $24: specialty patterned paper
  • $100: colored planters (plastic pots)
  • $3: dirt
  • $17: bubble solution
  • $32: interfacing
  • $80: wooden snakes
  • $25: facepaint
  • $45: ornaments and paper
I do a huge butterfly messy art program in January, hence the wings. I often have leftovers and we use them again at the summer party or in other programs. The laminate was a failed program - I killed our laminator! We decorate styrofoam eggs every Easter. I found eggs for a crazy discount at the end of the summer and I bought enough for several years to come! The special paper was a flop - could have gotten it cheaper just buying scrapbook paper. I didn't have as many kids come to paint and plant in the summer as I expected, so we reused the pots in the fall for We Explore Science and still have a lot - probably enough for next year. I used the interfacing to make quilts - it's always our final project in August. The prep is time-consuming, but can be done way in advance. I got the wooden snakes on a deal and meant to use them in the summer but forgot. We used them in the fall but I have a LOT left over. Which is fine - it's a project we like doing a lot. Nobody came to the club with facepaint - we'll do it again next year.

Middle School Madness ($105)
  • $9: whirling wooden tops
  • $12: t-shirts
  • $53: maker kits
  • $4: magnetic tape
  • $7: facepaint crayons
  • $20: food
I mostly use leftover craft supplies for this program, since the kids really just want to play Just Dance and eat snacks.We didn't end up using the facepaint crayons - we tried to use them at a different program, but nobody came, so we'll use them again next year.

We Explore ($89)
  • $16: large dinosaur shapes (cardboard)
  • $9: seeds and dirt
  • $42: bulbs
  • $22: food and paper supplies
Most of these programs were either performers or used things we got in the general supplies

Spring Break T-Shirt Party ($122)
  • $34: fabric paint
  • $12: fabric markers
  • $75: t-shirts
Next year I'm not going to supply t-shirts. Not because it's that big of an expense, but because it's too much of a pain to try to get the right size for everyone and register everyone. Next year I'm going to only supply the decorating materials and people can bring their own t-shirts. I do have some left from this year in case anyone doesn't realize they have to bring their own.

Ella Bella Ballerina ($83)
  • $8: rainbow feathers
  • $15: satin ribbon (400 ft)
  • $30: tissue paper
  • $7: sparkling flower jewels
  • $12: sequins
  • $10: cupcake mix, streamers, sprinkles, etc.
Angry Birds ($148)
  • $18: jumbo pompoms
  • $7: jumbo wiggly eyes
  • $15: regular pompoms
  • $15: balloons
  • $10: decorations, plates, etc.
  • $80: cookies, frosting, food coloring
The really expensive part of this was the cookies, but baking for the glittery party is time-consuming enough, even with other staff helping out. The balloons we had to buy extra at the last minute from a more expensive store. Now I know I need lots more next year!

Santa's Kitchen ($170)
  • $33: wire stars
  • $50: cookie decorations and paper supplies
  • $90: cookies and frosting
This is probably my most expensive program, but I like to do something big-ish to end the year's programming and also Christmas is a HUGE DEAL in our town.

Other Programs
  • Dr. Seuss Celebration
    • $18: tablecloths, cupcake mix, paper products
  • Art Show open house
    • $6: cookies
  • Chick Central
    • $25: thermometer
  • Muffins with Mom
    • $5: paper
    • $20: food
  • Fifth grade outreach (scavenger hunt)
    • $10: candy
  • Teens on Screen
    • $50: food
  • Stuffed Animal Sleepover
    • $11: developing pictures
  • Girls Night Out
    • $70: henna, beads, nail polish, soda
  • Book Experience
    • $8: goldfish
  • Homeschool meet 'n' greet
    • $30: food
  • Paws to Read
    • $27: manual and clip art
We're doing something different for Girls Night Out this year. I handed the program over to our cataloger and she's going to do a spa night maybe. Not necessarily cheaper, but she'll be able to do it earlier in the summer and get more attendance.

  • Welty Environmental Center ($113)
  • Stories that Sing with Smitty and Mary G. ($100)
  • Digging up the dirt on creatures underground ($300)
  • Puppet Story Theater: Winter Weather Tree ($250)
Most of these were paid for by grants. I don't do a lot of outside performers, just because I get too freaked out that I will pay all this money and then nobody will come! I tend to schedule them for sure things - in the summer or when school classes come.

One-time Purchases
  • $240: Accucut dies
  • $30: swimming pools
  • $73: bubble wands
  • $60: plastic tablecloths
  • $54: bookmarks
  • $30: new hamsters
In the fall I got the staff to donate used sheets to start using instead of plastic tablecloths, so we won't have that expense except for special parties. I buy bookmarks from ALA graphics once a year but it was such a hassle (and I'm trying to trim my budget) so I probably won't next year. Although the ALA store insisting that Wisconsin was a foreign country was pretty funny...The bubble wands were paid for with a grant and our swimming pools were DEFINITELY worth the cost. We use them all the time for science programs, outside programs, and every week in baby storytime.