I recently presented a webinar for INFOhio (recording here) and suggested some great books to read over the summer. Not my best presentation, surely (I need a LIVE audience with FACES), but some really really great reading ideas for everyone. Click on the image for a list of titles.
• The largest library in the U.S. has over 35 million books---The Library of Congress.
• In ancient Egypt, all ships visiting the city of Alexandria were required to surrender any books they had to the library so they could be copied. The original would be kept and the copy would be given back to the owner.
• There are more public libraries in the U.S. than McDonald’s.
• Odd things that can be checked out of a library: humans as a living book with stories to share in Great Britain and in Toronto; art and sculptures in some German public “art libraries” (it may involve a fee such as renting it for a certain length of time); rubber stamps in Canann Town Library in NH; toys in a library in New Zealand; a Kill a Watt energy measuring device in Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Libraries, NM; tools in Berkeley, CA; art prints in Northern Virginia; a therapy dog for 30 min. intervals at Yale Law Library.
• At the age of 9, Ron McNair refused to leave the segregated Lake City Public Library without being allowed to check out his books. After the police and his mother were called, he was allowed to borrow books from the library. That library is now named after him---he became an astronaut and was one of the ones killed in the 1986 Challenger explosion.
• The Guinness Book of World Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public libraries.
A Ray Bradbury scholar noticed a disturbing trend while visiting school libraries and wrote about it in the Chicago Tribune.
Our traditional-looking library recently received a 21st century boost. Thanks to a college and careers-focused grant, we purchased a TV, iPads, and an Apple TV. The purpose of this technology is collaboration. Students can work together, just as colleagues might strategize in modern workplaces, on projects from peer editing for creative writing class to preparation of presentations for formal proposals in TASC. The students are in the driver’s seat and are sure to come up with numerous other uses for this collaboration station in their JSHS media center.
It doesn’t have to be April to talk about poetry, just like it doesn’t have to be March to talk about women in history, right? I’ve seen some interesting poetry books lately and they are masquerading as fiction books in the Madhawk Library. To Stay Alive by Skila Brown is an amazing journey across the US from Illinois to California. Amazing as in I’m amazed ANYONE survived. The main character is Mary Ann Graves whose family joins the Donner family on the trip west. Yes, that Donner family. Cannibalism aside, the trip on its own is a terrifying experience. Remember this is poetry and poetry is intimate. When the group is crossing south of the Great Salt Lake, its members are weak from thirst. We readers can feel our lips cracking along with Mary Ann’s. It’s terrible and wonderfully written.
Another excellent novel-in-verse is Up From the Sea, in which a bi-racial American Japanese teen named Kai survives the 2011 tsunami, but is the ONLY survivor from his small family. He eventually travels to the US to meet with young adults who lost family members on September 11. It’s an interesting and tragic parallel and a fascinating read. Either of these depressing titles is a great choice for depressing Ohio winter days if you like your books to match. If you want some relief from the blahs, ask me for a beach read and I’ll hand you something sunny.
Look in the K-6 and 7-12 Madison media centers -- the graphic novel sections are the place to look to find great stuff to read. At the junior-senior high, there are new Marvel comics (including Ms. Marvel), new Batman stories, and some sleeper favorites like Oddly Normal. Some K-6 titles are the super-popular Amulet series, more Marvel heroes and bad guys, and some books that feature some favorite mythical characters like Zeus, Hercules and Pandora. Our HS principal was spotted reading graphic novels, too! Give one a try and ask your student(s) why they like them so much.
Madison has a connection to the Library of Congress! The brand new Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, was one of my professors at The University of Pittsburgh. In fact, she was my FAVORITE professor since she taught a class about creating good spaces and selecting great books for teenagers. When I first heard the news about Dr. Hayden. I was amazed. I had always imagined the person with that title as a fusty old guy, and Dr. Hayden is so seriously smart and COOL. Click here to learn about our new national head honcho librarian. Here's some general info about the Library of Congress for the social studies/government folks.
Cliche, but true. Take a look at GCF Learn Free.
My great aunt Edith made a divine blackberry cobbler. She and my uncle Harlan lived in a Kentucky holler, and those blackberries were plucked off the bushes on their land. What could follow this introduction, if this was a cooking site and I had a different kind of girlhood, is a vignette about my elderly Appalachian kinswoman teaching me her kitchen craft. But I had no interest in learning how to bake. I anticipated the cobbler, but I mostly wanted to hear the men tell stories at the table, and as stereotypical as it sounds, after dinner on the porch. Their tales were outlandish (all true, of course!) and about cantankerous farm animals, hunting dogs, and rascally boys. I sopped up every word.
My best friends Amie and Merry were (and still are) very attractive people. They would spend hours perfecting new hairstyles and outfits. What could follow this seemingly unrelated change of topic, if this was a beauty site and I had a completely different adolescence, is a story about my friends inspiring a passion for glamour. I care about my appearance, but I could never spend the time Amie and Merry did on make-up, hair spray, and fashion because I was reading. Constantly.
So, I have grown up to be a librarian, not a domestic diva. I obsessively pick books for young people rather than cosmetics or pie berries. Until this year.
This year I get to pick one glitzy berry — the Newbery.
I have yearned for this experience most of my life (once I knew there were people, not some book god, who chose). My awe for the award began early. In 4th grade, I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Since I was a bookworm, I was often asked, “What’s your favorite book?” Mixed-Up Files was my answer for years. I loved it so much, but I adored it even more when I learned it won the Newbery the year I was born. The Newbery medal added to its greatness. It felt like MY special book.
In college, we read Newberys in children’s and YA literature classes. Freedman’s Lincoln forever changed my approach to children’s nonfiction. Ellen Raskin had me puzzled to the end in The Westing Game. A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant haunted me.
Newbery appreciation and prediction continued throughout my career. I read as many lauded titles as I could to attempt to know and share the titles honored.
When the ALA Midwinter conferences occurred on the Dr. King holiday weekends (before the internet), I would lurk by the info desk at Borders on the Monday morning of the press conference. Every 15 minutes, I would ask, “Did you get the fax from ALA yet?” I was determined to get the book for our school library immediately. Post-internet, I would refresh the ALA site constantly until the titles appeared. Once Youth Media Awards began live-streaming, I watched every minute. In 2009, I had the main desk computer running the announcements in the middle school library. I turned the monitor around so both the students and I could see it. Students passed in and out of the library as the awards were announced, but a few stuck around as the excitement built toward the Caldecott and Newbery finales. When the presenter said, “The Graveyard Book,” I screamed. Really loud. Then wept. Joy. Total Gaiman fangirl joy. The kids witnessed just how much I love these books and the power of the awards to get them celebrated and widely read.
I’ve been walking this path for so long. Rather than strutting about being on the Newbery committee, I am aiming to share the wonder of the experience with every educator and young person I know. There will be all these great books to read and talk about and offer, not just the ONE the committee will eventually choose in January 2017. Children’s literature will be my LIFE in 2016 (even more so than usual — some of you who know me are laughing).
I still get to do my job, but it’ll be booktalking and collection development on steroids.
The Newbery adventure is something I can constantly share with colleagues and kids. There are lots of rules in the Newbery manual about the committee discussions and nominations being confidential, but what surprised (and THRILLED) me are the directions of encouragement to involve others in the process. I’ve already primed one Madison 5th grade class. The students understand the confidential aspects of the committee, and they know they can read and share their opinions — opinions which could have an impact on naming a Newbery Award winning book!
And so, without (much) swagger, I enter my Newbery year eager to read and share. It’s on a bigger scale than usual, but with the same end. I want to get a book into the hands and mind of a reader who might call it their favorite. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if it’s the one that ends up with the gold embossed label on its cover. It could be some title dismissed as cute, but I by-god read it and know the kid who’ll love it. We’re all winners, either way.
Elaine Fultz, SLMS/MLS
Weekly library customer since preschool, professional book and information provider for more than 20 years...