By Elizabeth Wroten
On 26, Mar 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I have a confession to make. I don’t take my daughter to story time. I know, I know. It’s terrible. I have reasons, as you can well imagine. We don’t have a car during the week. The time hasn’t, until recently, worked well with our naptime. The storytime librarian, the few times I’ve gone, was awfully strict about enforcing a no noise rule (with a room full of 2 & 3 year olds!). Cam had a hard time seeing the books that were being read and lost interest pretty quickly. We read and sing at home every day anyway. I’ve even made the excuse that my daughter simply prefers one-on-one which seems like a pretty lame excuse because what 2 year old doesn’t?
But all of these aren’t good reasons. I mean they’re true, but there’s something to be said for storytimes. I guess the truth is, and the point in my bring this up here, is twofold. First, I’m not sure if I should feel guilty that I don’t take my daughter to library programs. And second, I didn’t realize how absolutely incredible storytime could be. See this post from the wonderful storytime blog Jbrary for how Lindsey revamped the baby storytime. She did such an amazing job that my first thought was not “how can I mine this for ideas to use when I’m back in the library”, but “why can’t I take my daughter to this?”
So, what about other librarian moms out there? Do any of you take your children to library programs, especially when they are/were young? Should I be feeling guilty for preaching the library gospel, but then not taking full advantage of it for my daughter?
Last month I decided to read a bunch of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books. I had been wanting to read The Impossible Knife of Memory, so I thought I may as well read her backlist too.
I was surprised to find she has written picture books, MG, and YA. I don’t know if there are a lot of author that write for all three audiences, but I’m sure it can’t be easy.
Fever 1793: I loved that this didn’t romanticize the time period. Too many historical novels make it sound like ponies and rainbows to live before cars and cell phones and TV. The reality is life was very very hard and medicine was primitive at best. I am also a sucker for disease books (most especially nonfiction), but I so connected with Mattie. She was plucky but also fearful and not necessarily the most graceful person under pressure. And that is totally okay. I know I wouldn’t have been either.
Speak: I thought the perspective was interesting. Many of the signs of depression and that something had happened to Melinda are there, but filtered through her they are downplayed and maybe not as obvious to the people observing her. I was really impressed with one of the final lines where Melinda says she was 13 when she was raped and implies she was too young to consent or know that it wasn’t her fault. (The exact wording escapes me.) I think this is an incredibly important message to give our girls. Here is another blog post on Teen Librarian Toolbox from a teacher who worked with Speak in the classroom. It sparked a very, very interesting discussion.
Twisted: I have to admit this one didn’t stick with me as much. It was a good story about the crap that happens in high school, but I didn’t find it nearly as impactful as her other books. On the plus side, it was a male MC dealing with a sexual situation.
The Impossible Knife of Memory: There was something about this book that made me feel Anderson has grown and matured as an author. Her earlier books didn’t seem as complex, although they were excellent. There was so much depth here, not just in the characters but in the setting and the story and the backstory. Maybe it was just that the book was more fleshed out? I think it deals with the very important issue of how war affects our veterans and how this in turn impacts their families.
All in all, I think what makes Anderson’s books so good is that they deal with heavy, important issues without ever sounding like after school specials. They may be cautionary, but they don’t hit you over the head with their point. They also never make the issues out to be anything less than very complex and nuanced.
Just a note: I read Wintergirls several years ago. It was one of those stories that really stuck with me. It was so beautifully written and was such a powerful story. I highly recommend it as a harsh look at eating disorders and the mindset that can overtake a person with one.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 12, Mar 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
Well, it finally officially happened. I was at a party last weekend and someone said to me, “Do you really need a master’s degree to check out books?” He then proceeded to say that he thought libraries were on their way out and then ask me if I agreed.
In all honesty, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before, but I was caught completely off guard. I rather lamely told him libraries do a lot more than books, but I wasn’t really sure how to respond. It didn’t help that we were in a social situation and I didn’t want to get all evangelist librarian on him and start some hour long lecture on what it is libraries (and librarians do) and how important they are. I also hate having this conversation because it often feels like you won’t convince these people who think we’re irrelevant.
The whole incident put me in mind of two things, though. First, that I need some kind of elevator speech, a brief, well-stated speech, that tells people what libraries are about (beyond books) and why they are important. Second, I wondered when did libraries become synonymous with pleasure reading?
As much as I hate having the conversation about the value of libraries (because I think it’s obvious and also think it’s very hard to quickly convince people who are decided against us), it’s obviously going to happen. And probably at awkward and inconvenient times. Like at a housewarming party. I would sound more convincing and probably more authoritative if I had a few thoughts prepared and always at the ready. Something less lame than, “well, we also do research and storytime.”
But the really irritating thing to me about the particular argument that this person shared, is that it sees libraries as places that merely check out pleasure reading to patrons. When did that attitude happen? Do only people who don’t go to the library think that? Have they never been to a college library or a school library? Even the public library, who does check out a lot of pleasure reading, obviously has more going on. I don’t have any good thoughts or answers on this, but I do find it incredibly baffling.
In the end I told him that yes, you do need a degree. That there are different kinds of librarians (such as law and school) who have a variety of responsibilities that require more in depth knowledge. I also pointed out that libraries provide access to people who maybe can’t buy all the books they read, have Internet access, and provide a community space. I also explained that people do a lot of research in libraries, especially college libraries, and that those librarians provide materials and research help. I don’t think my answer was bad, I just wish it had sounded less apologetic when it came out and that it had been more eloquent.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 05, Mar 2014 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
From Goodreads: May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again.
I recently read May B. and enjoyed it, largely because it’s a piece of history you don’t read a lot about. The idea of living on the vast open prairie in a little sod house is rather terrifying and the book doesn’t glorify the life much. It would have been difficult and dirty and probably a bit frightening at times.
The book put me in mind to make a few comments on the format. May B. is written in verse. The first novel in verse I read, Ringside 1925, really took me by surprise. I loved it. It was quick, impactful and cleverly done. I’m not a “poetry person”, but the novel in verse format has been really appealing to me. I have since read a handful more novels in verse and loved each of them. I do wonder though, can this be a hard sell with teens and tweens, who like me don’t think of themselves as “poetry people”? In the library where I worked kids didn’t check out much pleasure reading and certainly the more obscure titles, like many of the novels in verse, were even less likely to be checked out, so I’m really not sure how to answer that.
As far as May B. was concerned I felt like the verse format wasn’t absolutely necessary. I don’t think it made it a bad book by any means. It mostly highlighted the suspense of her dire situation, which would be a great way to hook in a more reluctant reader, but I wanted more about May’s life, her learning disability and what made her tick.
Does anyone else like novels in verse? Do any of your patrons love them? How do you sell them to the kids?