Monthly Archives: March 2011

Author Study–Kevin Henkes

One of the things I emphasized when I contacted teachers in local schools was that I wanted to contribute to the curriculum they had to cover and not take time away from covering the state standards. I want teachers to feel like the library has resources to help them achieve their goals and show that we can help extend the learning experience out of the classroom and help children bring books to life. So when I got a call from a local 1st grade teacher inviting me to come speak to each class in her grade at her school, I wasn’t surprised when she requested that I speak on a topic familiar to all early elementary grade teachers: the author study. I remember in library school having to put together a packet of information on an author, but this is the first time I’ve actually done it in the field.

They left the specific author up to me, giving me examples of Carle or Lioni. After some thought, I selected Kevin Henkes as a favorite author/illustrator that is still producing books, but has a substantial body of work. This is my first presentation of the kind, so I’m still working out the best structure.

Sheila Rae, the Brave After introducing myself and the library, and talking a little about our programs and getting a library card. I read Sheila Rae, the Brave and asked if the children have ever had a time they were frightened or were brave for their siblings. Then I shared some information about Kevin Henkes, from this biography , how

“Books played an important part in Henkes’s childhood, spent in Wisconsin. His family regularly visited the local public library, and checking out his own books and carrying them home was an important event for Henkes. Illustrations often determined which books he would select, and the works of Crockett Johnson and Garth Williams were particular favorites.”

And then after talking about what books are their favorites, I continued with this quote from the author’s website:

“”I also loved books, and the ones I was lucky enough to own were reread, looked at over and over, and regarded with great respect. To me “great respect” meant that I took them everywhere, and the ones I still own prove it. They’re brimming with all the telltale signs of true love: dog-eared pages, fingerprints on my favorite illustrations, my name and address inscribed on both front and back covers in inch-high crayon lettering, and the faint smell of stale peanut butter on the bindings. I wondered about authors and illustrators back then – What did they look like? Where did they live? Did they have families? How old were they? – but I never imagined that one day I would be one myself.”

Chester's Way Then I read Chester’s Way and discussed how Henkes likes to use animals in his picture books, because as he said “I found I could get much more humor out of animals, and besides it freed me from having to sketch from a human model,” I’ll show some of the other mouse books, and talk about how they tend to discuss common situations that the kids might encounter.

My Garden I finished by introducing his other picture books—Kitten’s First Full Moon, Old Bear, My Garden, and reading My Garden. And I encouraged children to come to the library to check out more books by Kevin Henkes.


Wordless Wednesday

Oscar and his new frog friend on a sunny spring day.

Inspired/Borrowed from the

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is one of those books that shaped my childhood, filled it with wonder, and prompted many flights of imagination on my part. My mother had a copy and I remember pouring over the images and creating stories in my head as I drifted off to sleep. One teacher even had us write a story to go along with an image of our choice, I think I wrote a 20 page fantasy based on the door knob moving. That I can remember almost twenty years later this writing experience, shows what a lasting impact this book had on my life. Of course I became a librarian not a writer.

Now almost thirty years later, the mysteries of the 14 drawings of Harris Burdick are back, but this time a group of talented and well known authors have each taken one story to tell. On one level this threatens to take away some of the mystery, and the introduction by Lemony Snicket suggests that these might be the real tales, dropped off by Burdick for noted children’s authors to find. But after reading them, I’m not sure that all of the mystery is explained away in these stories.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket While the stories are all very different, in tone, style, and subject, they were mostly well written and entertaining. The only one I struggled with was the first one, by Tabitha King, where I had a hard time following what was going on. That said, only one really seemed a perfect fit for the illustration, and that one was written by the illustrator. The other stories seemed to me to be one explanation of the illustration, but many times I’d read the story and then study the illustration and say “well, what about that part?” This, I think is a good thing. It would be a sad thing if these stories became the definitive answer to the mysteries of these images. The fact that someone could read these stories and say, “well, I would tell the story different,” is a good thing!

Among my favorite of the stories were Sherman Alexie’s funny and grim story of two strange siblings, Jules Fieffer’s dark tale of a children’s author consumed in a madness of his own making, Lois Lowry and Katie DiCamillo’s historical fiction stories based on the images, and M.T. Anderson’s darkly mysterious suburbia.

Definitely a recommended read, especially for children’s librarians who grew up loving the original.

Did I do Any Good in the World Today…

So today I went out to the pet store to volunteer with the group I attended the meeting with a couple of weeks ago. Even though they had a lot of talk at the meeting about liability, there was no actual volunteer application or information gathering. So even if a dog I help find a home turns into a monster, I figure they can’t find me to sue me. Though after today this seems less important.

This Patriot the heeler mix up for adoption.

I arrived at the store a little before my 1 p.m. shift, and there were six crates and a wire pen set up. There were only three dogs though, two in crates and one on a lead. The large healer/akita mix was handed to me right as I walked up. An exuberant and happy dog, Patriot was smart and walked well on the leash. At first I thought that the group had already adopted out half of the dogs, but it turns out an accident on the freeway had left one volunteer with six dogs stranded in traffic.

photo of Min Pin by levantarmialma, sadly Freedom does not have a profile on the internet.

As the afternoon wore on, and the dogs finally showed up, we had a lot of people come and visit the dogs. I used my best library promoter voice to encourage people to adopt the adorable MinPin I took on, once she arrived. We walked the dogs through the store, showed off how well behaved and adorable they were, and we were turned down over and over again. After four hours in the store, we adopted one dog to a store employee and a cat from a different rescue group.

So since all but one of the animals we brought out went back to the shelter, was my time wasted, did I do any good today?

While walking around with an overweight MinPin balanced on my hip, I thought about this, while I talked with dozens of people I pondered if there wasn’t another purpose to our presence in the store. There are two parts to this.

This little boy was the only dog that found a new home today.

First, adoption events like this help educate people about the availability of adoptable dogs in shelters and with rescue groups. While the dogs we had at the store today might not be a good match, or now might not be a good time for bringing a dog home, we are spreading the news that there are dogs in shelters that are well behaved, healthy, and in need of homes. Several times I pointed people towards as a good resource to find a dog of a specific breed. As I told people over and over about little Freedom, who was spayed, up-to-date on her shots, house trained, good with kids, dogs, cats, crowds, and just needed a little diet, I was really telling them that there are good dogs out there in shelters. I hope that my words will help them to choose to adopt next time.

Second, for four hours today little Freedom had just that: freedom. She was out of her crate nearly the whole time, carried or walked around the store, and loved on by everyone she met. Unlike some of the dogs, she was relaxed and happy, and would literally jump into the arms of the volunteers. To her, being out of the shelter, being with people, was a gift we can give her. Even though I can’t take her into my home (city law limits houses to two dogs), I can give her attention and affection. Many of the other dogs also benefited from socialization, affection, and exercise. It is true that these events can be stressful, but for many of the dogs the benefit out weighs the harm.

Petfinder Adopt-the-Internet Day So, I think I will continue to spend some small part of my time trying to help the dogs in some little way, and hopefully helping people see that there are good dogs out there to bring home. And I’ll encourage all of you to look on Petfinder for your next pet!

One Crazy Summer, or What’s in the Kitchen?

One Crazy Summer One summer, Delphine’s dad decides that she and her sisters are old enough to fly all the way across the country to spend time with their mother in Oakland California. Only, here’s the thing, it is 1968, Delphine is eleven, and they are flying alone to see a mother that they barely remember, since she left them when they were babies. And they are going to Oakland, which is STILL a scary neighborhood, but THEN it was a hot bed of racial tension. When the girls arrive in California, do you think their mother is happy to see them?

No! In fact, she doesn’t even show up to get them from the airport, until Delphine calls her and begs. And when she does show up, she demands the money they were saving for Disneyland! Things go downhill from there, when she kicks them out of the house the next morning and tells them not to come back until 6 p.m.. All alone, with no breakfast, since their mother wont even let them LOOK in the kitchen, these three girls end up at a Black Panther summer camp. This group is trying to advocate for greater racial equality, and just recently a young man was shot. Things are tense in the neighborhood, and it might get violent. But Delphine and her sisters are there for the free breakfast and not the revolution.

Do you think they will manage to stay out of the revolution and possible violence? Will they ever discover what is in the kitchen? Read One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia to find out what happens to Delphine and her sisters.

I gave this book talk, or something like it as I didn’t write it out beforehand, to a fourth grade class and a boy dragged his mom to the library to get him a card and tracked me down to ask about the book with the kitchen, cause he wanted to know what was in there.

Hosted by The Lemme Library

Meya Monday

Meya has lovely curly fur that she hates to have groomed, but still she has had some awesome hairdos over the years, here are some highlights to get your week off right!

Poodle face

Short Crop

Needed a trim!

World Families for Toddlers

Like a lot of the United States, our Summer Reading Program theme for 2011 is “One World, Many Stories,” a fantastic theme that we hope will introduce children in our community to the world. There are SO many good books to use on this subject, and as I’ve reviewed new books coming in I am starting to identify some that I hope to share. Here are some good non-fiction titles for very young participants, which demonstrate how parents and grandparents are similar and different around the world. I think toddlers will enjoy these books, full of pictures and light on text.

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Arounds the World You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World There isn’t a lot of information here about how families are actually different, rather this book is mostly pictures with a few words. Each spread features a different thing that families do, like eating or reading together, and has pictures of families from around the world doing that thing. This title focuses on mothers, fathers, and children, while the next features grandparents.

Our Grandparents Our Grandparents: A Global Album . This title is very similar to the previous, only focusing on grandparents and having more representation from different groups in the United States. It does have a very nice introduction by Desmond Tutu, which is written for adults, but the text seems to be designed for toddlers.

At my branch for Summer Reading Club, we have massive programs every other week. So many kids come, that we usually divide the group in two. One group is for younger kids, and is basically a storytime, while the other is a full blown activity. We then gather to do crafts at the end, with some for older kids and some for younger. So it is nice to find books like these that would work for the youngest kids. I’d love to hear about others to add to the list!

Book Talk versus Review

In my mind a book talk is vastly different from a review, both in purpose and in execution. When I’m trying to sell a book to someone I want to hook them in, entice them into finding out more, whet their appetite so they can try it and see if they like the book. A review, on the other hand, should tell me more about the book, enough so that I know pretty much what I’m getting and if I’m going to like the book. I use reviews to add books to the library collection, and I appreciate honesty and thoroughness. I don’t mind spoilers or critical reviews, in fact I LOVE critical reviews, and I prefer publications like The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books that will tell me if a book is middle of the road or even not worth my money.

With a booktalk, however, I assume that the person telling me about the book thinks that it is worth reading, otherwise why are they trying to get me to read it? I follow the rule of only booktalking books I like, mostly because it is hard to do otherwise.

I bring this up because another blogger has started up a Book Talk Tuesday and I want to join in (yay a meme!), but needed to first clear the air about what I will be writing. Book talks are the description that sells the book, that hooks the reader, that drags that kid into the library to ask what was in the kitchen. I may only need to read one review of a book to know if I’ll like it or need to buy it, but I can read more than one book talk to see more ways to sell a book to different people.

Frogs, Frogs, Frogs: Picture Book Round Up

Storytime this week was actually all things beginning with the letter F, which is fun, fantastic, and frustrating. Mostly the later. Because so many things start with F, including four-letter things, I like to focus (which also starts with an f) on one thing from the kit. This week it was Frogs, which was perfect because it was a frog friendly day, rainy and cool. We did talk about the letter F and all my little friends (sorry I always try to use lots of words that start with the letter of the theme during the story time) would shout out when we used a word starting with that letter.

Some fun frog tales, a few of which I read in storytime:

Fine As We Are Fine As We Are, Algy Craig Hall. Frog Family of two, finds they can be fine as two or as many.

The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale, Yumi Heo. A Folktale about two disobedient frogs and their mother.

Jump, Frog, Jump! Jump, Frog, Jump! Robert Kalan, Fun cumulative story with refrain, “Jump, Frog, Jump!”

A Frog in the Bog A Frog in the Bog, Karma Wilson. Such a good read aloud, I just want to chant it!

Froggy Gets Dressed Froggy Gets Dressed Jonathon London. In my mind, the best of all the long Froggy series, plus underwear humor.

City Dog, Country Frog City Dog, Country Frog Mo Willems, Jon Muth. I wish I didn’t care about copyright and could swipe some images from this book for my blog. Dogs AND frogs!

A Place for Frogs A Place for Frogs Melissa Stewart, Higgins Bond. Amazing illustrations, simple text.

Down by the Cool of the Pool Down by the Cool of the Pool Tony Mitton. A great candidate for repetition, a frog leads off a dance.

Green Wilma (Puffin Pied Piper) Green Wilma, Tedd Arnold. What if you woke up one morning and were a frog?

The Wide-Mouthed Frog: A POP-UP BOOK The Wide-Mouthed Frog: A POP-UP BOOK, Keith Faulkner. A good book to have as an office/reference title, because it is great for storytime, but lousy as a circulating title.

And one title to have on hand to share the pictures, if not the text:
Frogs Frogs, Nic Bishop.

We also did a rousing rendition of Five Little Speckled Frogs, shoo fly don’t bother me with our egg shakers, and I did a fold and tell story of the rainhat. Lots of fun for a rainy day!

The Duck and the Kangaroo

A little Edward Lear nonsense for a day when the weather is rainy/snowy and very silly for the end of March. Full poem at

photo courtesy of semuthutan

Said the Duck to the Kangaroo,
‘Good gracious! how you hop!
Over the fields and the water too,
As if you never would stop!
My life is a bore in this nasty pond,
And I long to go out in the world beyond!
I wish I could hop like you!’
Said the duck to the Kangaroo.

‘Please give me a ride on your back!’
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.
‘I would sit quite still, and say nothing but “Quack,”
The whole of the long day through!
And we’d go to the Dee, and the Jelly Bo Lee,
Over the land and over the sea;–
Please take me a ride! O do!’
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

Said the Kangaroo,’I’m ready!
All in the moonlight pale;
But to balance me well, dear Duck, sit steady!
And quite at the end of my tail!’
So away they went with a hop and a bound,
And they hopped the whole world three times round;
And who so happy, — O who,
As the duck and the Kangaroo?

The Duck and the Kangaroo