Monday, April 29, 2013

That's not REAL reading!

Gripe of the Week…
“Children deprived of words become school dropouts; dropouts deprived of hope behave delinquently. Amateur censors blame delinquency on reading immoral books and magazines, when in fact, the inability to read anything is the basic trouble.”  Peter S. Jennison 
Photo by welcometolearn (Flickr)

I get so defensive when I hear staff tell students that they can’t read a magazine or a comic, but rather need to sign out a "real" book.  Seriously, you stand in a library and forbid reading? Out loud.  In front of students.  My circulation stats have gone up across the board once magazines were made available for check out.  When we brought in Graphic Novels, students who had never ventured into the library were claiming corners to hunker down in.  The demands for sequels and more, please, more did not come from my fiction readers (they asked gently or perhaps wrote a note), they came from the excited faces of students who never thought they belonged in a library.  Finally, we had something for the "non-readers" in the class.  Something to, you know, read.

In my experience, magazines lead to books, you know, those fact books we complain are never used? Magazines are samplers, wonderful teases opening up the worlds of thought. And have they never picked up Marvel?  You can’t read just one.  Want students to learn about archetypes and character development and morality?  What exactly to they think comics are all about???  Possibly, it is they that only look at the pictures!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Happily Never After?

What are your favorite fairy tales? Do you prefer the Brothers Grimm or Disney?  Do your kids know that their favorite stories didn't always have that Happily Ever After ending?

Most of us grew up hearing about Jack's trouble with the bean stock, Cinderella's domestic troubles and Hansel and Gretel's truancy issues.  Today's book shelves are home to various tellings of these favorites tales and include some versions that horrify and others that are overly sweet.  The last decade has seen more and more updated retellings make their way into school libraries, bringing fresh eyes, interest and entertainment to the genre.  

My personal favorites are the fractured fairy tales.  What is a fractured fairy tale?  It is an old familiar fairy tale that has been modified to include an unexpected characterization, setting, plot development or point of view.  One of the most well known is Robert Munsch's Paper Bag Princess.  Here are some others that are worth a look:

Bigfoot Cinderrrrrella by Tony Johnston
Cinder Edna by Ellen B. Jackson
Dinorella: A Prehistoric Fairy Tale by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Prince Cinders by Babette Cole

Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle (goldilocks)
Goldilock & Three Hares by Heidi Petach
The Silly Story of Goldie Locks & the Three Squares by Grace Maccarone
Somebody & the Three Blairs by Marilyn Tolhurst

Jack & the Giant: A Story Full of Beans by Jim Harris
Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne

Little Red Cowboy Hat by Susan Lowell
Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Mike Artell

The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell
The Three Little Wolves ; the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf by Jon Scieszka
The Three Horrid Little Pigs by Liz Pichon

The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka

Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen
Sleeping Bobby by Will and  Mary Pope Osbourne

The Girl Who Spun Gold by Virginia Hamilton

Castle sketch by DigitalRob70 (Flicker)

Liesl Shurtliff writes about the adaptability of fairy tales and how they endure...Fairy Tales: Still Living, Happily or Not

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Children's Library Designs

A Children's library should be a place that you find yourself running towards as soon as you see it.  The promise of adventure, new friends (literary and flesh) and the soul-deep comfort of a favorite story should call out to everyone who nears it.   No longer stark rooms with rows of shelves, modern children's sections need to  welcome, inspire and invigorate the imagination!

The entrance to the Children’s Section of the Cerritos Millenium Library in Cerritos, California is wonderful.  You just know that magic awaits beyond these giant tomes!
(photo:Victor Rocha).


Bringing nature indoors.  I like the spaciousness and feeling of height here.  Very often the children;'s section comes with a feeling of close quarters and clutter.  This is a proposed design for the children;s section of the State Library Complex at Kotturpuram  in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.


I love the use of colour and the simple lines and subtle ocean theme of this design.  What a fun way to inject some whimsy in the library when the budget, and possibly the mindset of admin, won't allow for a revamp of the floor design.
photo found at


Lots of colour and inviting - and movable- seating here.  Also, I adore that the shelves are on wheels...perfect for those special events when you need to move things around.  Or have a need to rearrange the library for a fresh look. I would like to see more creative looking lighting or something complementary to view on the ceiling.

The Children's Library, Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library

I like that this one has created a mini world to cater to the intended patrons.  A town to play in, complete with it's own library.  And after sitting and reading, sometimes you just need to go and play for a while.  Luckily, there is a construction zone to make use of all that wonderful creativity.
photo found at
While this is actually a children's book store, I would like to adopt it for a library!   What is more fun than being told to sit on the shelves??  Wonderful use of nooks & crannies to find that private reading spot. I like the flow of the lines, the creative incorporation of natural light and use of the colour wheel on both the shelves and carpet.  Those higher shelves may be a bit problematic for younger users though.  I wasn't able to find the exact location of this store, but the website I found it on stated it was in China.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finding Books that "Look" Like You: What Does Your Family Look Like?

Looking for children's picture books that reflect your family portrait?  Check out some of these titles.  Add your favorite titles in the comments section.

Different Types of Families

The Family Book by Todd Parr.  
This colorful story celebrates many different types of families, including step-families, families with two moms or two dads, and single-parent families.

Picnic in the Park by Joe Griffiths
The story of Jason's birthday picnic and his guests, including a range of family structures, including two- and one-parent families; adoptive and foster families; gay and lesbian families; and step-families.

Who's in a Family? by Robert Skutch
Depicts a variety of non-traditional families, including interracial, same-sex and single-parent families.

Same-Sex Parents

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.
Silo and Roy, two male chinstrap penguins, fall in love and raise baby Tango together. 

This is my Family : a first look at same-sex parents by Pat Thomas
This picture book introduces children to families that have parents of the same sex. Whether a family has a mom and a dad, or two moms, or two dads, this book shows boys and girls that all parents love, care, and support their children in the same way. 

A Tale of Two Mommies; A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager
*A Tale of Two Mommies is a beach conversation among three children. One boy asks another boy about having two mommies. A young girl listening in asks some questions too.
*A Tale of Two Daddies is a simple story about a little girl with two daddies: Daddy and Poppa. When a boy on the playground asks her what it's like having two dads, he wants to know things like "Who tucks you in at night? Which one helps with homework? Which one braids your hair?" The little girl happily explains which of her day-to-day activities are best performed by Daddy, Poppa or both. 


We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr

This book depicts an array of children and families—including one with a single parent and one with two dads—and emphasizes the rewards of adoption for adults and children alike.

Tell me Again about the Night I was Born by Jamie lee Curtis
The story about the night adoptive parents get the call that their new child has been born.

Sisters by Judith Caseley
Kika has just been adopted. There's so much that's new to her: a different language, new friends to make, and something she's never had before -- a family. Melissa has a new sister -- and she's excited. There's so much to share with Kika: trips to the playground, afternoons at the library, and birthday parties.

The Little Green Goose.  by A. Sansone
Mr. Goose finds an abandoned egg, hatches it, and raises a peculiar green-skinned long-tailed chick, who worries about his identity but comes to recognize that he has a loving parent.

Foster Family

Zachary's New Home: A Story For Foster & Adopted Children by Blomquist

A story about Zachary the kitten, who is taken from his mother's house when his mother is unable to take care of him. The book follows Zachary as he first goes into foster care and then is adopted by a family of geese.

Our Gracie Aunt  by Jacqueline Woodson. 
Johnson and his sister, Beebee, have to take care of themselves after their mother leaves. Then they’re moved to the Aunt Gracie’s house and things start getting better.

Murphy's Three Homes: A Story For Children in Foster Care by Gilman

Murphy's Three Homes follows this adorable pup through his placement in three new homes, as well as through his anxiety, self-doubt, and hope for a new, loving family. Finally, Murphy is placed in a caring foster home where he feels comfortable and valued. 

Incarcerated parent

Visiting day by Jacqueline WoodsonA young girl and her grandmother visit the girl's father in prison.

Mama Loves Me from Away
 by Pat Brisson. 
Shows the loving bond between Sugar and her single-parent mom through memories. But now Sugar now lives with Grammy, and they travel every Sunday on three long bus rides to visit Mama.

Multiracial families
The Two Mrs. Gibsons  byToyomi Igus. A young girl tells of her very different but loving relationships with her Japanese-American mother and her African-American grandmother.

My Rainbow Family  by K. R. Vance
 The story of Drake, a child with a black mother and a white father. Drake's brother and sisters are of varying races. His brother is Cherokee, and one of his older sisters is Hispanic and the other two African. Growing up in their special family, the children are exposed to a uniquely multicultural environment. Drake even learns to speak Spanish from his eldest sister. The children also grow up with a positive attitude about differences in the people around them. When children at school ask Drake how it is possible for him to have a black mother, his response is, "Families come in all colors". 

Single Parents/ Divorced Parents

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams A single mom and grandmother raising a girl.

Good-Bye Daddy! by Brigitte Weninger
After spending the day with his daddy, a young bear is sad and angry that his father has to leave. The bear comes to learn that even when a father lives in another home, the love and caring never go away.

Love is a Family by Roma Downey
This is the story of a young girl being raised by her mother. She longs for a large noisy family like that of her friend. At the school family fun night, she sees all the different family combinations, and realizes it is love that makes a family.

 A Day With Dad by B. Holmburg
 Tim waits with excitement for a train to bring his father, who lives in another town, then spends an entire day with him, doing all of their favorite things, until it is time for Dad to catch the train home.

Two Homes by Claire MasurelA young boy named Alex enjoys the homes of both of his parents who live apart but love Alex very much, in a comforting story about the reality of divorce.

Step Families

The Not So Wicked Step-Mother by Leslie Allgood Venable
Olivia & Maria are two young sisters who are coping with the recent divorce of their parents. Later, when their dad begins dating again, the sisters decide to make sure he's dating someone who is right for them too. When Dad does meet that someone, Olivia and Maria are happy. Then Dad announces his plan to remarry. Now the girls must cope with the experience of having a stepmother. 

My Bonus Mom! by Tami Butcher
My Bonus Mom! shows children of divorced families that a positive attitude can lead to a happy outcome and springs open their hearts and minds to accept their own bonus moms. It captures the mixed emotions that surge through young children as they deal with divorce and adjust to remarriage. The children work through their feelings of dismay, fear and anger, and grow to love dad's new wife, whom they come to think of as their bonus mom.


Sometimes It's Grandmas and Grandpas, Not Mommies and Daddies by 

Shares a child's experience living with and being cared for by grandparents through the eyes of a  little girl.

Military Parents

While You Are Away by Eileen Spinelli
Three different children with parents in three different branches of the military (the Navy, Air Force and Army) talk about the things they miss doing with their parents and wonder if their parents are missing them.

Sometimes We Were Brave by Pat Brisson
Jerome's mom is a sailor. When her ship is in home port, she and Jerome bake cookies, read books together, and take their dog, Duffy, for walks. When his mom's ship goes to sea, she gives Jerome a hug and says, "Be brave, Jerome. I'll be back as soon as I can." Jerome doesn't feel brave at all. But he does what he needs to do every day—goes to school, helps his dad with chores, and takes care of Duffy.

Letters to a Military Mom by Tucker McElroy
Lizzie's mom is a soldier with an overseas posting.  The story is told as a series of letters from Lizzie to her mom, from the time she leaves until she returns home.

A Paper Hug by Stephanie Skolmoski
A Paper Hug follows a child as his father is called to deploy overseas. It covers emotions and issues that are likely to be experienced by both children and the parent left behind.

Monday, April 22, 2013

2013 Canadian Library Association Book Award winners announced

The Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award is awarded to an outstanding illustrator of a children's book published in Canada.    
Previous winners include Barbara Reid, Melanie Watt and Marcia-Louise Gay.
You are Stardust
Illustrated by Soyeon Kim
Written by Elin Kelsey
(also a Blue Spruce Nominee)

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
by Susin Nielsen

 Honour Books selected:
A Tinfoil Sky
by Cyndi Sand-Eveland

The Grave Robber's Apprentice
by Allan Stratton

My Book of Life by Angel
by Martine Leavitt

 Honour Books selected:
What Happened to Ivy
by Kathy Stinson

40 Things I Want to Tell You
by Alice Kuipers

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Students at my schools are always looking to Google images for pictures and such for their projects.  Trying to instill the importance of copyright rules is an uphill battle.  Copy and paste is just so very easy!  Here are a list of sites that one of my co-workers, Mrs. V, compiled to aid us in the war against plagiarism.

 Remember Copyright rules. Just because you CAN copy and paste doesn't  mean you are ALLOWED to. The following sites are free for educational use.     
 Free Clip Art  Fun Sites
 Free Photos  Free Music

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Make IT @ Your Library

Think libraries are still just for research or housing books?   More and more, school libraries are hosting and encouraging creative learning.  That's learning through doing.  Learning via participation.  In case you haven't yet noticed, libraries are no longer silent places to read the creative genius of others.  Patrons  can now be active participants in learning and growing their own knowledge.  

My schools regularly employ programs to make Public Service Announcements, video book reviews, music, audio and film presentations rather than old school written reports on a variety of curriculum topics.  Art projects have a long history within the elementary panels, fostering connections between the young patrons and books and encouraging excitement about literacy.  But what more can be done within the library walls?  And what about older patrons?  More and more libraries are expanding the patron experience to draw in the public.  The library is not just for 'serious' readers anymore.

An interesting web slide show about making libraries places for creation -- exploring the possibilities of loaning out video equipment, making "green screen" rooms, circulating guitars and more. A great way to change the library concept!  (Thanks Say What?!? blog for the link)

Check it out here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Library MEMEs

 A "meme" is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. A meme (rhymes with "team") behaves like a flu or a cold virus, traveling from person to person quickly, but transmitting an idea instead of a lifeform. According to Cecil Adams of, the concept of memes "is either really deep, or really, really obvious".

Here are some library memes that have been filling my inbox and twitter alerts for a while: