Friday, May 30, 2014

iPod Friday

(Picture adapted from jamona_cl on flicker)

At the end of the week I give myself a treat and listen to my iPod at work while processing books or working on the database.   These are my picks for today.                          What do you listen to at work?

Time for some Stonage - The Rolling Stones!

Beast of Burden


Wild Horses

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Makerspaces in your Elementary Library

So, just what is a makerspace?
It is a physical space for participants gather, socialize, use resources and share ideas while working on projects. The space can be a dedicated location or temporary use of a space. 

How does it work?
There are a variety of setups that can work depending on your goals. Projects can be one-time events or on-going over long periods of time. They may be organized in classes or be unscheduled and self-directed. Individuals and groups may participate depending on the project and organization of the host. Usually tools and supplies are available to use - a cost may be charged to cover consumable materials. Specific skills are sometimes taught while other times experimentation and imagination are the key skills required.

 In Makerspaces, the students define the learning.  They chose the projects, make the plans and do the work, discover fixes and navigate problem solving. 

Why a makerspace? How does that belong in a school??? Well, makerspaces are simply projects that introduce them to the principles of design thinking. They make use of math, hand eye coordination, creativity, critical thinking, physics, problem-solving, engineering..and so much more. They allow participants to learn while taking control of their own learning. Projects can be complex -using computers and tools or as simple as using duct tape and Lego.  The possibilities are limited only by imagination and in the more advanced projects, budget. Make no mistake though, there are a plethora of options for tight budgets.

We've had them for years in one form or another: arts and crafts activities, woodshop and art classes, science experiments.  In many schools these formal classes have been downsized or eliminated but the value is still there as is the student interest.  
While the media has featured makerspaces that are well funded with 3D printers and fully stocked and dedicated rooms, any library can offer a makerspace.  Small ready made kits can be purchased.  Donations of materials from the community and sponsorship from local businesses can also help to build makerspaces.

Failure IS an option!
 Makerspaces are unique in that they focus on the process of learning and doing over the final project.  The learning is experiential and the focus and joy is in the doing.  Not knowing how to use a tool, a plan that doesn't work out, parts that fall off...these are opportunities for learning.  That is what makerspaces are all about.  The point is for the participants to explore and experiment in their projects.  Don't do it for them, if something isn't working out, it is up TO THEM to find a way to make it work or decide on another method. Again, this is about the action of making and not about the product you end up with.

What type of projects could schools on a budget have in their makerspaces?
The ALA offers ideas for a variety of ages and budgets through their searchable website:, It is a fantastic site! If you are interested in hosting your own makerspace, you have to check it out.  Here are some sample projects for the under $5 per person range.

Connect projects with your library program and include Dewey Decimal games, robotic story reenactments, make bookmarks or shelfmarkers ... whatever you and your students can imagine.

Other resources: a platform for connecting makers to other makers, products and services. A great way to explore the possibilities of makerspaces.

Maker Faire: is "an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned" There are Maker Faires all around the world. View this listing of Faires or to find out how to start our own in your area. A place for makers to explore, document and share their creations. Visit this site to inspire and be inspired.

Pinterest also has some amazing ideas for setting up supplies as well as many budget friendly makerspace projects. 

Whether you are investing in a high tech room or setting up a cart for your own makerspace, it is a fun way to mix knowledge and learning with creativity and innovation. Did I mention that it's fun? 
That means students will want to participate!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


What wEIRD wORDS do you know?  Share in the comments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Michael Wade's And Then It Happened Series

And Then It Happened: Book 11Michael Wade writes high-interest books for readers in grades 3 - 6. He focus' on motivating students to becoming better readers and writers and also encourages reading for the fun of it. Wade’s books are comprised of short stories and will appeal to almost everyone, but perhaps more to boys and reluctant readers. They offer tons of adventure and tons of laughs! You can check out many samples of the books here.

This one is a particular favorite at some of my schools, so much so that it was even challenged for inspiring misbehaviour. (The book was pulled by a principal for review but without any followup I had no trouble keeping it in the library. Keeping it on the shelf, however, was next to impossible.)


The series website,, also contains a page with student activities, including many word scrambles, hidden messages, word searches, Fill-in-the-Blanks for each book.

Michael Wade is a favorite presenter, lively and engaging! He has a great ability to connect with students and there is a buzz for days after the presentations. He has been to 7 of my 8 schools, many of them several times over the years.  The And Then it Happened series is incredibly popular in all my schools.  Kids often try to get the same book as their friends so they can read and chat about the stories.  Trading books is also a popular pastime.  This is easily a solid go-to selection for my junior students.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Meme

Friday, May 23, 2014

iPod Friday

(Picture adapted from jamona_cl on flicker)

At the end of the week I give myself a treat and listen to my iPod at work while processing books or working on the database.   These are my picks for today.                          What do you listen to at work?

Heading to the country with Steve Earle

Guitar Town

Copperhead Road

Back to the Wall

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept.

Each chapter is prefaced with the label Him or Her: allowing the reader to explore this couple's relationship and in a manner, become the bridge between their independent lives.  At first I was apathetic towards Jodi, finding her emotionally flat and socially void.  My sympathy leaned more towards Todd despite his behaviour.  The author seamlessly wove these characters into the story allowing it to unfold gently, without the extreme emotions and violence that one might expect in a tale of murder.  Unlike any other murder mystery I have read, the gentle progression of the characters enveloped my interest and transported me into their lives like the proverbial fly on the wall.  Having read the synopsis, I knew what was to come but the absence of overt conflict helped to create a strange lull towards Jodi's camp.  Around page 200 I found myself dreading her capture and wishing that she would get away with the crime.  Within the story, my moral code of right and wrong eroded in a way that what Jodi was about to do didn't seem that shocking, that out of the norm.

Other reviews I have read used the words unsettling and darkly funny.  I don't recall feeling unsettled or finding it humerous, darkly or otherwise.  What I found was a tale that was compelling and fully engrossing. It took two attempts for me to begin this book.  The first I chose not to open the book because I was expecting a dark, angst-filled emotional tragedy.  I am glad I made that second attempt because this book was nothing as I has expected.   Most characters have a feel of ebb and flow, highs and lows as they move thought the events in a novel.  In the Silent Wife, I felt rather the opposite - that it was the story that ebbed and flowed with Jodi and Todd remaining still and precise in their choices. None of their actions were surprising, trying yes, but not terribly shocking.    Despite the breakdown of their relationship and what I thought would be frustration with both the main characters behaviours, I found Harrison provided a surprisingly refreshing take on the cast of the dutiful wife, the cheater, and the dissolution of a 20-year marriage.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Words that are often misused


People think it means: Any kind of amusing coincidence.

Actually means:  An outcome that is the opposite of what you'd expect


This word is commonly used as a substitute for “many,” or “a lot” as in, “we offer a plethora of color choices.” However, plethora actually means in excess, or an overabundance, giving it a slightly negative connotation. “We offer such a plethora of choices that you will never be able to decide on one.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Gender Blender by Blake Nelson

Gender Blender

I picked up this book thinking it might be a fun introduction for middle schools discussing gender roles and challenging the societal expectations of gender.  What I found instead was a light variation on Freaky Friday. 

Emma:Wants Jeff Matthews to notice her.
Hates sexist boys.
Wonders when she’ll get her period.
Must avoid looking like a wuss.
Must deal with his blended family.
Must get a chance with Kelly A.
Then something freaky happens: Emma and Tom switch bodies. And until they can find a remedy:
Can’t believe she has a . . . thingie.
Hates mean girls.
Finds out secondhand that her period has arrived.
Must learn to put on a bra.
Must deal with an overachieving family.
Must not be alone with Jeff Matthews.

 The description on the back of the book should have been a clue as to how this novel was handled.  
Sixth graders, Emma and Tom, used to be friends but drifted apart as they got older. Emma now tries to balance her high grades, piano lessons, gymnastics team and volunteer work while being a part of the popular mean-girl, boy crazy/boy hating clique.  Tom loves baseball, barely tolerates school and hangs out with boys whose main aspirations are to insult girls and brag about their social prowess. After being assigned a gender comparison project and fighting all the time, Emma and Tom somehow switch bodies.  While searching for a way to switch back they must experience life as the other gender.
The author starts to identify the daily pressures that both genders face from parents, peers, society and themselves.  The concept of gender expectations was lightly touched on but quickly fell way to the behaviours of the "mean girl" and "tough jock" stereotypes.  I think setup for a more meaningful story was there but somehow even the characters got caught up in repetitive and inane conversations.There is a lack of focus in the story allowing it to skim over deeper issues the main characters Tom and Emma have in their lives.  Emma faces high expectations academically and in extra curriculars from her family, over-scheduling and loving but controlled home life.  Tom has to deal with an absent father, a distracted mother and a lack of any expectation for success from home or school. Both appear to have friends that are neither supportive or seemingly present outside of the school hallways.  With the exception of a few moments between each of the mothers and their body-switched children, this book lacked characters that explored beyond the immediate situation of how Tom would survive Emma's piano lesson or if Emma would be able to pull off baseball tryouts.  There was a missed opportunity for all characters to grow during the story, learn from the experience and come away with more than the 'discovery' that peers judge each other on superficial terms. Tom and Emma are both experiencing the changes of puberty and switching physical bodies could have provided a chance for the author to explore a better understanding of themselves and each other and how gender can be a factor in so many aspects of life. Throwing in the odd statement for challenging gender roles, such as boys don't cry or girls are not good at team sports, doesn't serve much purpose unless the characters experience such downfalls and allow the reader share a connection or offer some room to form an opinion. This felt more like an outline for a good story that was never fleshed out and simply left as jumble of stock characters that barely made it to the page.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Meme

Friday, May 16, 2014

iPod Friday

(Picture adapted from jamona_cl on flicker)

At the end of the week I give myself a treat and listen to my iPod at work while processing books or working on the database.   These are my picks for today.                          What do you listen to at work?

Bon Jovi's music has aged well.  I like his covers to.  That voice!


Who Says You Can't go Home - with Jennifer Nettles

and from back in the day....

Born to Be My Baby

Thursday, May 15, 2014

That Old friend of a Book...

“It’s good to have an old friend of a book we can always go back to for entertainment and cheer, and to remind ourselves who we really are—because the books we love say more about us than anything else.”
Some Christmas Camouflage by  Elisabeth Grace Foley 

Congratulations to all the 2014 Forest of Reading winners!!

Blue Spruce Award: 
by Dave Whamond 

Silver Birch Express Award: 
Secret of the Village Fool 
by Rebecca Upjohn and RennĂ© Benoit 

Silver Birch Fiction Award:
Record Breaker 
by Robin Stevenson

Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award: 
One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way 
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch 

Red Maple Award: 
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen 
by Susin Nielsen

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Words that are often misused

However close their spellings may be, "bemused" is not a synonym for "amused." Bemused means bewildered or perplexed. Example: The actor's bemused expression suggested that he didn't know his scenes had been cut from the movie.

Farther vs. further
"Farther" refers to physical distance. Example: I live farther from the grocery store than you do. "Further" refers to advancement. Example: Nancy read further into the comment and got angry.

Most of you probably know this already, but it bears repeating: "irregardless" is a made-up word! It might be a mash-up of "regardless" and "irrespective," which do share the same meaning. The same is true of "conversate"—again, word fiction.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Meme

Friday, May 9, 2014

iPod Friday

(Picture adapted from jamona_cl on flicker)

At the end of the week I give myself a treat and listen to my iPod at work while processing books or working on the database.   These are my picks for today.                          What do you listen to at work?

Love this mini-mix

All Right Now - Free

Simple Man - Lynyrd Skynrd

Turn the Page - Bob Seger

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Flee, Fly, Flown by Janet Hepburn

When Lillian and Audrey hatch a plot to escape from
Riley liked this one too
Tranquil Meadows Nursing Home, “borrow” a car, and spend their hastily planned vacation time driving to destinations west, they aren’t fully aware of the challenges they will face. All they know is that the warm days of August call to them, and the need to escape the daily routines and humiliations of nursing home life has become overwhelming.

Flushed with the success of their escape plan, they set out on their journey having forgotten that their memory problems might make driving and following directions difficult. Their trip is almost over before it begins, until they meet up with the unsuspecting Rayne, a young man also heading west in hope of reconciling with his family.

As Lillian and Audrey try to take back the control that time and dementia has taken from them, Rayne realizes the truth of their situation. But it’s too late – he has fallen under the spell of these two funny, brave women and is willing to be a part of their adventure, wherever it leads them.

Loved it! Wonderfully written.
I haven't read a book quite like this before.  Tackling the subject of Alzheimer's disease in fiction has been, from my reading experience, treated either as a full on tragedy or as comic relief.  This Janet Hepburn manages to offer the humour and the tragedy of the condition but dos so without minimizing the characters or their humanity and liveliness.  Hepburn, without preaching, reminds us that people are people, whatever life has brought them and that life does not end with a diagnoses or a move to the Home.

 I very much liked that the author choose to make Lillian his narrator. Her experiences and point of view made Flee, Fly, Flown an intimate tale from within. Telling it from Rayne's point of view or from a third person narrative would have changed the essence of the story into something too removed from the reader and lost the amount of heart, humour and realness that it currently offers.

I was left with a few questions...

I strongly suspect the girls flew home to Ottawa and then Lillian and Audrey returned to the Home. I would hope that once Carol calmed down she took a moment to listen to Lillian and supported her in staying in the same home as Audrey. To separate these two friends seems beyond cruel.

I would also have like to hear that Carol finished the trip with them before flying back to Ottawa, but given the past actions and attitude displayed by Carol, it would be a far stretch to expect such a quick change of heart.

I also worried a bit about the dog, Shadow. The last mention of her was going down the river and then lying on the floor not moving with Rayne looking quite sad. I truly hope that his sadness was over the realization that caring for these ladies was becoming beyond his control and not at the loss of his beloved four-legged friend.  In my ending, the dog was tired and ended up out west with Rayne.