You are currently browsing the archives for February 2011.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 12 entries.

Could you check out some gross, disgusting books for me, too?

  • Posted on February 28, 2011 at 3:25 PM

That’s how one of my teachers greeted me last week. Turns out Susan Norwood and I had chosen some truly gross books for Susan’s students to read as part of a temporary classroom collection. They were so popular that even her non-readers were reading. This other teacher came to get her own collection.

“Send me some books on boogers, vomit, feces, bugs, everything nasty,” she said. “Books that show the effect of drug usage, meth bugs, rotted teeth, all of that.”

While she was asking me for more titles, the principal popped in. She told him straight out that her non-readers needed these books and that she would do anything to get them to read. Do you want to see the titles we chose? Stay tuned. I’m going to have some of the students tell you about them this week.

The Quest of the Warrior Sheep

  • Posted on February 28, 2011 at 4:44 AM

The Quest of the Warrior Sheep by Christine & Christopher Russell. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, March, 2011.

Publisher’s Description: When Sal the sheep is bonked on the head by an unidentified falling object, it can only mean one thing: Lord Aries, the Sheep of all Sheepdom is in trouble, and the sheep posse must save him.  Little do the sheep know that the mysterious object is actually a cell phone dropped by a couple of baaaaad bank robbers who will do anything to get it back. And a couple of woolbags aren’t going to stand in their way! And so the quest of the Warrior Sheep begins. The bravest sheep in the universe are in for a wild ride!

When Blakely and I read The Quest of the Warrior Sheep, we had two different reactions. I laughed and giggled throughout. She kept saying it reminded her of the comic strip Wallace and Gromit and some Shaun the Sheep, and that she kept thinking she’d seen some of the humorous scenes on cartoons before. I had to remind her that she is 19. My students are much younger and this type of humor never grows old. They like being able to guess some of what might happen (think manure dumped on car) and feel so smug when the author satisfies them.

The rapid pacing of The Quest of the Warrior Sheep, snappy dialogue, and outrageously funny British humor made this a hit with my students. I think Links is one of my all-time favorite sheep since he is the only rappin’ sheep I’ve met. Here’s a taste of his work:

“We’s the Eppingham Possee
And for your information
We’s on a mission
To save the sheeply nation.”

I thoroughly enjoyed The Quest of the Warrior Sheep and read it in one sitting. The characters were wholesome with Gran and Tod determined to recover their sheep, a goofy neighbor who insists the sheep were taken by UFO’s, a pair of bumbling crooks, and an evil villain. The action kept moving the story along and this reader was willing to suspend disbelief to simply enjoy this adventure.

I read parts of The Quest of the Warrior Sheep aloud and every time was requested to read more. I cannot wait until you put this title in your hands and meet these awesome Warrior Sheep – Oxo, Links, Jaycey, Wills, and Sal.  There’s good news, too. It looks like this fab Five will be invading the U.S. with their next adventure: The Warrior Sheep Go West.

Do you like to read blogs and meet new people like Canadian Cat with her blog Cat’s Tale Beyond Books? I like Cat’s description of the difference between blogging and reviewing while I agree with her review, too.

Manga Maniac Cafe For the Geek in all of us has a review online.

MotherDaughter Book Club has a review and mentions a point that I pondered while reading:

As the quest continued, I didn’t see how the story could possibly be resolved, but the authors serve up a satisfying ending for all…well, almost. You’ll have to read it to see.

Even the Kirkus Review mentioned Wallace and Gromit. They noted “Young fans of deadpan Brit humor will enjoy this fleecy romp, though it may take some time before they fully understand all of the cultural witticisms.” I think this title will create new fans of deadpan Brit humor.

Everyone is pegging this for the 8-12 year old group. The adults who read it had just as much fun as the students.

Get your TEENS to advocate for you with the Why I Need My Library Video Contest

  • Posted on February 27, 2011 at 6:02 PM

The Why I Need My Library video contest, launched by American Library Association (ALA) President Roberta Stevens, offers teens ages 13-18 the opportunity to win up to $3,000 for their public or school library.

The contest seeks to engage young library advocates and asks them to create short, original videos on why they think libraries are needed now more than ever. Videos can be live-action, animation, machinima, or a combination of techniques. The deadline for entry is April 18.

Prizes are being given away in two age categories – ages 13 to 15 and 16 to 18:

Grand prize: One winning contestant or group of contestants in each age category will receive $3,000 for their selected library. In addition, each member of the winning group will receive a $50 gift card to an online bookseller.

Second place: Two second place finalists in each age category will receive $2,000 each for their selected library.

Third place: Three third place finalists in each age category will receive $1,000 each for their selected library.

For more information, guidelines on how to enter and tips and resources on making a video, visit or

I know what you are thinking: “I want that prize money and recognition! How do I get my teens to participate?”

Well, here are some helpful tips:

How Do You Get Your Teens to Participate in the Why  I Need My Library Video Contest?

Tip 1:  Promote, promote, promote!

Talk about it, print out the flyers for the contest, post messages on the Library’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.

Tip 2:  Make it into a unique teen program

Host a workshop on how to use a Flipvideo camera.

Have a video-editing workshop for teens.

Tip 3:  Make the contest the focus of an after hours event

Have you been thinking about hosting an after hours program for teens?  Use the Why I Need My Library video contest as the focus for the event.

Tip 4:  Get the word out that your Library is Flash Mob Friendly

Work with young film-makers to have a library flash mob.

Tip 5:  Create a brief simple 30 second promo video about the contest

A promo video spreads the word out about the contest and the chance to win prize money plus provides dynamic content for the Library’s teen web page.

How do you handle challenges and censorship in schools?

  • Posted on February 27, 2011 at 5:06 AM

Several times a year I am contacted by school librarians facing challenges to books and websites in their schools who seek advice. Usually I connect them with the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, but today I decided to contact ALA OIF Director Barbara Jones to ask specifically what we can do.

Diane: Visit my library and you’ll find a copy of the Library Bill of Rights including the quote found on your web page:

“Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.” —Article 3, Library Bill of Rights

School librarians receive training in graduate programs on Collection Development and Material Challenges. Yet most school librarians go years without receiving challenges so we could use a refresher. What would you recommend are the first steps school librarians take when they receive a challenge?

Barbara Jones:  I know that when librarians learn about IF in library school, it seems abstract. And then when it really happens, it is a very scary time. I know this from the panicky phone calls we receive from librarians when they are told by a superior to remove a book. I also know how lonely it can seem when you are the only librarian in the building! First, OIF is trying to remedy this with a series of webinars to be introduced in Autumn 2011. These will deal with real-life challenges and the librarians who went through the challenge. I recommend calling OIF the minute you receive a challenge—before you take on your boss. Our experienced librarians will walk you through the possible steps you can take to promote your professional ethical principles, your love for helping children become readers, and your need to keep your job! Call OIF.

Diane: How about if the challenge comes from the principals and administration?

Barbara Jones:  A great many challenges come from the administration. OIF is trying to prevent the problem in the first place by creating programs and webinars for trustees and others who might become involved. The first thing I recommend is that when you interview for your job, find out if the district has a written collection development policy and whether you can live with it. I know it is a hard job market out there, but you will be miserable if you end up in a school district that simply does not live up to your values of the freedom to read. I have spoken to many school librarians and visited them in the field. Many, many of them have very conservative superintendents or principals who have nonetheless not challenged the library’s collections. Get to know your boss or bosses. Make sure they understand the values of ALA and AASL. If you are in a tricky district, start slowly. The worst thing—it will backfire every time—is to come into a district with your trumpet,bells and whistles, and put everyone on the defense. It might make you feel good for a while,but this strategy will backfire in the long run. For example, if you want to do a program for Banned Books Week and you suspect you will run into opposition, OIF can advise you on how to start incrementally.

Diane: How many requests each year does the ALA OIF receive for help with school library challenges as compared to other libraries?

Barbara Jones: The office receives word of dozens of challenges from school librarians every year. We keep this information absolutely confidential when we get these calls. Also, the calls we get are only a fraction of what we know is happening out there.

Diane: There is a page on the ALA website called Reporting a Challenge. What happens with the information after a challenge is reported?

Barbara Jones: After a challenge is reported, it goes on the OIF database, but all names and identifying information is scoured so your information is kept strictly confidential—unless it hits the press. At that time, OIF will contact you. We don’t want to cause you more trouble by interfering in the wrong way. But our decades of experience can help you get a good result. We are hoping that in the next couple of years our database will become more robust and active—with new software and a new user interface.

Diane: What’s the one thing you wish every school librarian knew about Intellectual Freedom?

Barbara Jones:  I wish every school librarian knew that it is really important to defend the principle of intellectual freedom. To many of us, it seems like a huge bother. And, why not please the principal? After all, it’s only one or two books, you might say. I say to you that this is a slippery slope. Once you give in to one book, the principal will ask you to give in every time a parent or teacher complains. You will become very unhappy and feel very powerless at your job. Please know that OIF and your colleagues in other school libraries are here to support you during these hard times.

Diane:  Thanks, Barbara, for sharing this information with us. I think it’s important to remember that even when we are feeling alone in our buildings, we are not alone. Every librarian could be part of the wonderful network of school librarians in AASL andall librarians  in ALA. For anyone who needs further information,

Office for Intellectual Freedom
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 280-4223
Fax:      (312) 280-4227

Book Challenges Made Visible: Scars by Cheryl Rainfield challenged in Tn

  • Posted on February 26, 2011 at 4:31 PM

Scars has been challenged by a patron at the Boone County Public Library. A book challenge is painful for the author (who invested his or herself in the creation) and the librarian (who purchases each title knowing it will reach a specific reader). You can read author Cheryl Rainfield’s responses here:

Scars is a wonderful book that addresses many sensitive issues that people react to. I want them to feel uncomfortable when they read about this because when you feel uncomfortable, you do something about it like reach out to help others.  I reviewed Scars last June and admitted that I had personal concerns about where to place the title.You can follow my own questioning and the response when I first placed it in a child’s hands.

I do not want any library to ban or censor this book. Discussion is good. Banning is bad. Sometimes books are more appropriate for different levels of readers for usual placement. This doesn’t mean we should deny access when a different level seeks a particular title since every reader is unique.

These issues in Scars are issues that must be brought to the open. Cutting is real. Sexual abuse is real. Being forced to keep silent about abuse is real. These things happen and we as adults must provide help for healing to occur.

A patron’s request to reconsider a title is not a terrible thing. It is an opportunity to communicate with the parent why something was chosen and why it is needed. There are times when the discussion feels bad. It can be uncomfortable. It can be annoying. It can be irritating to have to drop everything and deal with. It can be professionally uplifting to guide everyone through the process. And, it can bother you constantly until it’s over.

I have not had many challenges that caused the book to be removed. When the procedure is properly followed, it works. Some systems have procedures in place that need adjusting. For example, I know of a school where they are not allowed to share or consider book reviews when the committee looks at a book. The review committee members are only to read the book for themselves. Why on earth would you tolerate keeping people ignorant of the larger picture and deny them information? Every member of the committee should be able to read the author’s response to this and the reviews. If it were taken to court, the author would have the right to face her accuser.

I appreciate Cheryl’s very open and moving response. Now, I think I’ll go check the high school collections near me to see if any of them need me to donate a copy of Scars to their collection. That’s how important I feel it is to enable readers to connect with this title.

Should ebooks have limits?

  • Posted on February 26, 2011 at 3:40 PM

LibraryJournal has an article “HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations“. Did you read it? Will this be applicable to their children’s division, too? Should you be concerned?

“In the first significant revision to lending terms for ebook circulation, HarperCollins has announced that new titles licensed from library ebook vendors will be able to circulate only 26 times before the license expires….Josh Marwell, President, Sales for HarperCollins, told LJ that the 26 circulation limit was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.”

I have often written asking what the lifespan of a print book is. Some vendors will guarantee their bindings for the “life of a book” but no one can really tell me what this is. Now HarperCollins is telling us the magic number is 26.

Hah! I don’t agree. My titles circulate far more than this. I can think of three football titles recently published that have already circulated over 70 times this school year. The boys read them, return them, and immediately check out another in the series. With HarperCollins rulings if they were reading this as an ebook, I’d already be buying my third copy or digital license.

This week my students and I have been talking about which e-readers we want at school. One of my teachers let me borrow her kindle for the day (the joy!), another student brought in her Sony e-reader and showed it to a group of us, two other students said they’d asked their moms to bring in their color Nooks, but their moms are too attached to them and didn’t want to risk losing them. Barnes and Noble is offering a free coffee to anyone who comes in to view the Nook today.I just purchased Follett’s eShelf for my school library with a minimum 30 titles to start sharing next week.

Suddenly though I am frozen by the idea that I could invest in e-books that don’t last 3 months with their rights. HarperCollins, I am concerned. Have you considered school libraries and our digital usage? Will this extend to all of your titles? Are other publishers going to do this, too? Looks like I won’t be buying a new ereader for the school library today after all until I get some answers.

In the meantime, I want to know what you, the reader, thinks. Should ebooks have limits to the number of times you can check them out? Is 26 a reasonable number?

Where's your Tipping Point to legislative action?

  • Posted on February 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Below you will find a press release from ALA President Roberta Stevens which urges you to take action. I wonder what will it take for you personally (yes, you reader, I’m talking to you) to be motivated to respond and take action for school libraries.

If school librarians will not take the initiative and respond to calls for actions, we do not have the right to whine that everyone else is not doing the work for us. Yes, we want school librarians to reach out to our teachers, our school boards, our unions, our colleagues in NEA, our parents, and the community to speak for us.

And, yes, this is an EVERY library issue because without school libraries, an essential part of the library world infrastructure will deteriorate. During a recent ALA executive board call, I reminded them that this is far more than a school library issue and no librarian should assume that the school librarians will be able to do front-line advocacy themselves.  Many librarians forget what it is like to the the SOLE librarian in your building and program. All librarians must work for the good of the whole infrastructure.

But what it comes down to is numbers of participants! School librarians, you must participate. No excuses. Just do it. Here’s Roberta Steven’s message: 

Dear ALA Members,
I am writing to you today to enlist your participation in an association-wide advocacy campaign to protect funding for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), H.R. 1, funding the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011. The House version zeroed out the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program. Action now moves to the Senate, which is drafting its own version of the CR.
This is the time to reach out to your U.S. senators by phone or email – and, importantly, to urge others in your communities to do so as well.
The request to your senators is straightforward. In the Continuing Resolution for 2011:
1.       Maintain the 2010 funding level of $213.5 million for the Library Services and Technology Act.
2.       Maintain the 2010 funding level of $19.1 million for the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program.
Beyond these basic requests, I urge you to share with your senators how you are using this federal funding and how the constituents of your state benefit educationally and economically from library services during these challenging times. Provide examples of how you assist the public with online job searching, preparing resumes, small business development, accessing online information and training, etc.
Inform your senators about the role school libraries play in ensuring students graduate with the skills they need to be successful in today’s workforce. The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program increases the literacy skills and academic achievement of students by providing them with access to up-to-date school library materials; well-equipped, technologically advanced school library media centers; and well-trained, professionally certified school librarians.
This is only the latest part of our ongoing need for grassroots advocacy on federal appropriations and other library issues. The federal government’s 2012 budget will be the next focus of Congress. Your messages to the senators requesting 2011 support for the Library Services and Technology Act and the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program will also influence their deliberations for the 2012 funding levels.
Your advocacy is vital to ensuring that our libraries remain a fundamental force in America’s economic and educational future. As an association – and as a profession – we must work together to have a strong voice.
The ALA Legislative Action Center ( can assist you with contacting your senators. If you need further help, call Jeff Kratz or Kristin Murphy with the ALA Office for Government Relations at 1-800-941-8478.
Thank you.
Roberta Stevens
ALA President



Blogs I love: Charlotte's Library

  • Posted on February 21, 2011 at 4:50 AM

I like how the Charlotte’s Library blog has evolved the past four years. Her focus now is on middle grade science fiction and fantasy titles. I find something new every week in her wrap-ups. When students begin to self-identify and call themselves sci-fi readers or fantasy readers, I know that I can take them to Charlotte’s Library to explore a wide variety of titles.

Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating to rely on other librarians and bloggers so much to do my searching and find the books/ websites/ blogs that I need. Do you ever feel this way? It used to be soooooo much harder to locate enough materials to meet all the needs of my student readers. Now with sites like GoodReads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, blogs, and more, I can browse until I’m overloaded. Life is good. Link on!

Patricia Sarles' list of gay-themed picture books

  • Posted on February 20, 2011 at 2:24 PM

I appreciate my Comcast internet connection because it connects me to wonderful librarians all over the country like Patricia Sarles. Patricia posted a notice on the ALSC and the ChildLit listervs that she had added titles to her blog. I immediately asked her if I could pass along her information. I hope you’ll visit her blog:

Gay-Themed Picture Books for Children: Picture books for children about the experience of knowing or having a gay parent, family member or friend.

Her description on the blog states: This list serves three purposes: for parents who would like to find books for their children about the experience of being a child in a gay family, or having a gay friend or family member, two: for librarians who would like to develop collections on this topic, and three: for counselors and therapists who would like to use these books in their practices.

Some of the best parts of her blog are the lists on the right of other book lists, parenting resources, and GLBT or GLBT-Friendly Parenting Organizations.

This week some of my students asked me why people censor books. They couldn’t think of a topic that would create any controversy. (Aww, such sweet innocence.) While the classroom teacher and I were brainstorming topics, I mentioned children of  same-sex parents. There was a quiet gasp and I asked my question, “Don’t children with gay parents deserve to read books about other kids like them?” There was a pause and suddenly a bunch of head nodding as these middle schoolers empathized with others – even though many had never met gay couples.

I am always looking for connections to help my students. Please continue to share your blog resources.

Kylie Jean is the queen of our 6th grade girls

  • Posted on February 20, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Have you seen the Picture Window Books series featuring Kylie Jean? We currently own Kylie Jean Drama Queen, Kylie Jean Rodeo Queen, Kylie Jean Blueberry Queen, and Kylie Jean Hoop Queen. They aren’t processed and checked out through our circulation system yet because I cannot pry them out of the hands of these sixth grade girls long enough to slap a barcode on the books.

This is a re-creation of a typical conversation. Fortunately some of the boys were playing with my flip camera and recorded part of it, but NO, I’m NOT going to show the video since it was totally a bad hair day and I have deleted the video.

Girl 1: Here, Ms Chen! Here’s that book Kylie Jean Blueberry Queen I borrowed from you to review. I’m sorry I kept it so long, but my sister wanted to read it too, and then my friend in science class saw it and she needed to read it last weekend. Could you hold it here because Eliana is grabbing her overdue book so she can read it, too, and I told her she’d better hurry because Mariam said she was going to get it first, but Mariam already read Kylie Jean Drama Queen so she should have to wait.

Ms Chen: Wait a minute! I lent you the book so you’d write a review for me and I could share it with blog readers. I still need to hold on to it so I can catalog it after tutoring today and read it myself so I can write about it.

Girl 1: Well, I know you need a review so how about you just tell your readers that girls in fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, and seventh grade will love to read this, but that the eighth graders might want some more romance stuff instead. Umm, and tell them that I really like the cover of the book because it’s pretty and Kylie Jean could be any of us girls with brown hair, and that everyone wants to read it, and that it’s funny, and that it’s quick to read, oh, and tell them that we convinced the computer teacher to let us go to the website during class and we found an event kit there and our reading teacher Ms H says if you want, she will help us have a Kylie Jean party and she has a beauty queen tiara, oh, yes, and tell your readers that my Nana let me make the recipe in the back and it even tasted good, and oh, yeah, I think every library should have every one of these books, and I really need the Kylie Jean Rodeo Queen next and I saw that Lillian had it and she said I could read it (if you say it’s okay) and she put me on her list cause she knows you want lots of people’s opinions about it so she’s got a list and people are borrowing it from her and she knows you won’t mind. Maybe I can have Tiajah come tell you about the one she’s reading – the Hoop Queen one – cause she said she liked it and she won’t let anyone else read it til she reads it a second time.

Ms Chen: Okay, I think I can almost remember what you told me but you should really try to breathe more when you are talking. Maybe I should just give you the stickers to put on the books and somebody can drop by to let me know where they are. You know I like to track how many people are reading these new books I review so I can have accurate numbers.

Girl 1: Ms Chen, you are so silly. You just need to add up all the girls in Ms H and Ms M and Mr W’s class cause we all read this one and then you can just pretend it was checked out and then you’ll know its popular for your numbers.

Girl 2: Hey, Ms Chen, she better be giving you that book back because I got here first and I need to read it. She only let me read it to chapter four on the bus. Is that author Marci Peschke going to write some more books about Kylie Jean because I have some ideas to share with her and maybe then she can share some profit with me, too? My mom said I should just write my own book but I told her all about plagiarism and that I would have to invent my own person or go to jail and my mom said I should ask you how to write to the author to ask her. Do you think Wednesday Morning would make the pictures for me?

Ms Chen: The illustrator is called Tuesday Mourning. I’m sure the author and the publisher would love to hear from you. Did you try their webpage?

Girl 2:Yes but I couldn’t find a link to write to the author and don’t you think every publisher should put that on their kids page because we are really smart and we find the page so they shouldn’t hide their email, right?!

Girl 1: Seriously, Ms Chen, why don’t they just let us talk directly to the author and the illustrator? I couldn’t even find them on facebook. Are you sure they are real people or are they like that Jake Maddox sports dude?

Girl 3: Ms Chen, I brought you some links for your review on Kylie Jean series. I just knew you needed them, so can I go look through the new box of books from Stone Arch that the custodian is bringing up on the elevator? Since I helped you so much, I should get to read first from the new books.

Ms Chen: You know, I’m going to go get another cup of coffee and just let ya’ll run the library for the next ten minutes. Just let me know what I should put on this review. Wait, there’s the bell. Don’t be late for class.

Girl 3: Don’t worry, Ms Chen. My teacher gave me a pass for the next period so I could type up this list for you and look at the new books. Oh, and Mrs. N says she needs more galleys cause people keep taking her books, so I’m going to bring her some good books from your review pile.

Custodian: Ms Chen, I brought you some new books. I’m on break right now if you want me to help you open them up and put them out on the shelf. Do you think you might have some more like those drama books and Bluford High because my daughter and I read those together?

Links for the Kylie Jean series:

  • Jacque wrote a glowing review on her blog Good Family Reads.
  • Shelf Awareness reviews Kylie Jean Drama Queen.
  • Library Bound Stone Arch Books Blog trailer (Hey, Ms Chen, did you know that Stone Arch and Picture Window Books and Capstone are all part of this big Capstone group?)
  • Stone Arch twitter account (Ms Chen, did you know they have a twitter account, but my mom had to help me sort those to find it and she said she loves twitter, but I’m not going there)
  • Mrs. Katz’s Book Blurbs review (Ms Chen, do you get those NetGalley things she talks about because I could help you read those too and you wouldn’t have to carry the book around?)
  • GoodReads
  • One Day at a Time blog
  • This Blonde Reads (Ms Chen, this person pointed out that even though the books have pictures in them, they are longer like real fiction books so I don’t think the company should be Picture Window Books)

Note from Ms Chen: I seriously need some more coffee and flavored creamer to keep up with everyone. In the meantime, I do recommend this series for elementary and middle school libraries. Kylie Jean may be a second grader but her appeal extends far above that age group. She is much more popular than Katie Woo with my middle schoolers. I was worried that anyone that wanted to be a Beauty Queen would be an empty-bubble-head, but Kylie Jean’s fun, spunky, and wholesome. My international parents are pleased with her positivity and the girls love this series. What a great combination! Who needs Junie B.? For our students, Kylie Jean rules.