Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tough to find, but wonderful

While I've recently had weeding on my mind, there are so many slightly older titles that are just wonderful and worth keeping... they come into print, and just as quickly it seems, disappear from your local bookstore. Here's a book that is not out of print, not yet, but nonetheless has been very tough for me track down.

In an upside-down twist on traditional bedtime stories, Wake-Up Kisses tells of the waking activities of many nocturnal creatures. If one could judge a book by it’s cover, this book has a brighter cover than most bedtime storybooks, with a subtle heart shape made of leaves and ringed by the nighttime animals discussed within. The colored pastel and charcoal drawings are done on restful dark hued backgrounds, causing the white chalk highlights to jump off of the page. The crescent moon plays a familiar motif as it makes it’s appearance throughout the story, gently lighting the opossum, owls, bats and other nighttime animals busy “day.” With perhaps a sentence or two of text on each page, this story is clearly meant to be read slowly and savored as a nighttime before bed treat for parents and children. The rhyming text is also geared to appeal to younger listeners. Without a real narrative plot, the book takes us through some of the ordinary routines of animals, portraying a comforting, loving parent-child relation in every case. With it’s constant exhortations of “Everyone up,” “Rise and shine,” “Let’s get busy doing things” and “Open your eyes” among others, this book just may hoodwink some small children straight to dreamland.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My latest project

My latest project has been to work on weeding my branch's juvenile non-fiction collection. It hasn't been weeded in a very long time. Every so often our library system releases a "dusty list" of books which haven't circulated in over a year, and we are encouraged to make any weeding decisions based on that. I think that weeding needs to be at least a weekly project however, because otherwise it simply piles up and becomes completely unmanageable.



Gosh, that looks like an awful lot less books doesn't it? Well, it's not quite as bad as it seems. We also did a stack shift to an adjacent free range of shelves which freed up a lot of space. Being able to display books face out at the end of each shelf has helped some titles shine which otherwise might have been overlooked.

And then too, I don't think the children in our community are best served by titles like these:

Written in 1985, this book was probably pretty ground-breaking for it's time.

Zooming in, here's a spread on automobiles of the future. This is a prototype of what they think car dashboards might look like by the year 2000:

The author predicts that we might develop gas/electric "hybrid" vehicles by the year 2020, but isn't optimistic about the prospect, as most battery powered vehicles "can only achieve max speeds of 12 miles per hour."

I suppose you could make a case for keeping a book like this in the public library, "Oh, but boys love cars!" However, I'm thinking that to most six, seven and eight year-olds in my branch, the year 2000 doesn't represent the future, but instead, is something that happened before they were even born!

This weeding project was a grueling job, and as a booklover, it's always heartbreaking to bid goodbye to books, no matter how old, or how little use they've gotten. My feelings were ameliorated by donating some of the nicer looking titles to an Indian reservation in Arizona, where they'll get a second shot at life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another school/public library connection

There's nothing I love so well as helping children with summer reading lists. In an ideal scenario, school and public librarians work together to create a scintillating collection of titles and avoid common pitfalls such as listing books that are out-of-print, hard to get or simply not ideal for the suggested age range. School librarian Luke Robertson has created one of the most appealing lists that I've seen in a long time. (PDF's for each grade-range are on the right hand side of the page) He also points kids to their local library while the school library is closed for the summer. It's a real pleasure helping children find things to read when I'm working with lists like these!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The third (and final?) installment in the Larklight series provides more of the fantastic steampunk Victorian sensibility made familiar to us in Larklight and Starcross. Honestly, this book could stand on it's own... but reading the first two in the series would be highly recommended. Some hilarious footnotes accompany the text, and as usual, David Wyatt's illustrations add much to the feel of the book. We are treated to a few of Myrtle's flowery diary pages, but Art is the main narrator.

It's Christmastime in the Year of Our Lord 1851 and the Mumby family has settled in for the holiday at their home, Larklight, a mansion located on one of the most distant asteroids of the British Empire. They are interrupted by the minor problem of space-faring pudding worm, which disguises itself as a raisin and eats Christmas puddings from the inside out. The major problem is that Georgium Sidus (aka Uranus) has sent a distress call, and the whole family goes out to investigate.

The omnipotence of Art's mother, in actuality a Shaper, or disembodied alien being who created and continues to influence the solar system for the past several millennia, is neatly sidestepped. Encountering an alternate Shaper in another solar system, we see a glimpse of how the world would be if ruled by a despot, rather than a gentle being committed to letting her creations have free will.

The brave and intrepid Charity Cruet provides a great balance to the ever fussy and proper Myrtle. She and Art seem well-suited to each other. Space-pirate Jack Havock and Myrtle's romance shows signs of not being over yet, as they find themselves thrown together again.

The mysteries of Ssilissa's origins are finally revealed. The quiet girl-lizard pilot on Jack Havock's ship turns out to be a member of the Snilth race, from far beyond our galaxy. The Snilth recognize in Ssilissa's knobby tail the former royal family of their people, and abandon their warlike ways to settle on Pluto with her as their queen.

I thought the attempt to rescue Jack's family from the Venusian tree virus could have taken up a whole book on it's own, but everything is rather quickly taken care of in the final chapter. Fans of the series will either be happy to see every loose end so neatly wrapped up, or (like me) wish that there were more. The book is coming out in paperback in November, so if you've missed it when it first came out, definitely consider adding this to your list of "must reads." And, it looks as if Larklight is in development as a movie to be released sometime in 2010, so I expect interest in this trilogy to continue.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pirates vs. Ninjas

This summer, our Summer Reading Club Theme is “Treasured Islands.” The idea is that each branch is like a little island within the city – an island of culture and learning. And of course, many librarians are including pirate-themed activities as part of their summer line-up. This however, wasn’t enough for me. I decided to bring in that age-old conflict: Pirates vs. Ninjas. So, keeping with our islands theme, it’s the Caribbean Islands, vs. the Islands of Japan.

For the past couple of years I’ve done a program called Read-a-Ton. I have all our summer reading participants bring in what books they’ve been reading that week, and we weigh them on a kitchen scale. We keep track of how many pounds of books everyone in the community has been reading all summer. Last summer, I think we read 183 pounds of books! So far, everyone has been endearingly honest with their weigh-ins. I fully expected to have to fend off ridiculous claims of books read when I started doing Read-a-Ton, but that really hasn’t been the case.

This year, while brainstorming what to do for summer reading club, I decided to mix things up a bit. Children will still get all the fun of weighing their summer reading, however, now they get to vote for what kind of end-of-summer party we’ll have. Each pound of books counts as a vote that can be applied to either pirates OR ninjas. Who will emerge victorious? Will we be hosting a shindig suitable for buccaneers, or a soirĂ©e fit for martial-arts masters? Only time, (and our young readers) will tell!

(Image created by Wellington Grey under a Creative Commons license)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Random Interwebness

I find there's nothing that passes the time so well, as noodling about on the Internet.

Here are my latest discoveries.

Looking for something to read? This nifty website will come up with some suggestions for you. I love the olde-timey interface. The first several times I used it, the salutation was, "Oh Great Magician! I've just finished reading..." so I assumed that was the default, but it looks like there are various greetings you can cycle through. Really, it just pulls up a list generated from and, but still, points for style. Points for style!

Los Angeles Public Library already has a Series and Sequels database, of course. It's ultra-handy when patrons want to know which book comes next. But, I think the Kent District Library in Michigan may have one-upped us. They have a very similar feature on their website, which is easier to find, has a sleeker UI, and also includes (very important!) children's and teen fiction, which sadly, our database does not. Finally, our database was last updated in... 2004, I think, and Kent's looks more up-to-date.

And finally, someone on one of my listservs recently pointed me to this video:

I still claim to be deliriously unmusical, but I think that was pretty impressive!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm so flattered!

Gosh! The librarian at one of our local schools has written up a newsletter article for the school paper about my recent visit.
Among other nice things she has to say about me, she says:

"We are thrilled to have the children's librarian... Madigan McGillicuddy is her name. She shared with us great stories, and programs that are going on at her library. Many students knew her from visiting the community library. But, what they did not seem to know about Madigan is that she really gets into character when she's reading a story to her audience. Everyone gets swept away to a place in the author's imagination and we find it both entertaining and fun. Her first visit was so exciting that we've asked her to visit again before the month is out."

You can read the whole article, here, although, fair warning, I find the whole PDF takes a very long time to load!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Makes it all worth while...

I recently got some thank you letters from students from some of the library tours I did for school classes this past year. Now that the school year is out, it's fun to look back.

This picture kills me. I like to finish up a tour with a story if we have time. Sometimes, to keep things exciting, I have the kids vote for which one we want to read. Here's a depiction of me at vote time. I like how I've been depicted with looong bendy arms, reaching to the books.

In this next piece of collage art, the 6-year-old student has depicted herself as a cool teen talking on the phone, while I am represented by a chocolate brown puppy.

Here's a quote from another one of the letters:

Thank you Man Madigan
for letting us in the library even ta tat that it is closed. x from Joshua
back plese
ta and letting us see
the books.

No, kids. Thank YOU! This is the kind of stuff that really makes my job so awesome.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Farms and Football

I was immediately drawn in by the eye-catching cover on this audiobook featuring an adorable cow wearing a tiara. Unfortunately, the cover has been changed for the paperback edition. The new cover features a boy and girl, reclining in a green field.

D.J. Schwenk is a girl jock in a sports-obsessed family in rural Red Bend, Wisconsin. Her older brothers have gone off to college on football scholarships, and when her father needs hip surgery, it falls on her shoulders to keep the dairy farm going over the summer. The cows have been named after famous football players and coaches, and, of course, 4-H plays an important part in their lives. D.J. takes up an offer from a family friend to help train a player for the neighboring football team (as if she doesn't have enough to do already.) But, football is her passion, and over the course of the summer, she comes to realize she doesn't want to be a coach, what she really wants to do is play the game herself. I thought her gradual coming around to the decision of wanting to play football was very well done. It's a journey and she takes you along with her.

D.J. is funny and likable, and almost too nice. I can't believe how much she does on the farm, how much she forgives and how quick she is to see other people's sides, especially Brian Nelson who was the instrument of her brother's football field humiliation a year ago. But, it is a small town where you must move past and live with these things if you want to be able to cope at all. D.J. and her family aren't big talkers: "When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said." Her younger brother Curtis almost never speaks at all. It turns out that he secretly wants to be a dentist, and in a family of jocks, he feels like a misfit. Anything that strikes her as sensitive, kind or intelligent she thinks of in terms of her heroine, Oprah Winfrey.

D.J. isn't perfect... when her best friend Amber comes out to her, she drops her like a hot potato, uncertain of how to handle this surprising news. Thankfully, things do resolve in a satisfactory way by the end of the story. D.J. handles being called names, "dyke" and so on for being a female athlete with aplomb.

The only thing that I found unbelievable was the turn-around with D.J.'s dad suddenly being a "good cook" by the end of the summer. When D.J. describes one casserole dish as being akin to "hot vomit" I was utterly grossed out. And her father's improvised chicken and prunes dish sounded positively nauseating. At the end of the book, when D.J. admits that her dad's meals are "actually pretty good." I just couldn't believe it. No way, no how.

I enjoyed the accent, although I had to wonder: would it be considered accurate enough to please a Wisconsin native? The last audiobook I listened to had plenty of positive reviews for the New England accent -- though it didn't sound entirely genuine to me. Natalie Moore's narration sounded believable. It was strong enough to give a sense of place, yet not indecipherable in the least.

Dairy Queen took me to a completely different world. I can't imagine being a jock. Can't imagine being surrounded by people who like and actually care about football. Can't imagine living on a farm. But, I found the characters and situations to be compelling and relatable, nonetheless. The story is soon to be a trilogy. There is a sequel: The Off Season, and the third book, Front and Center will be released this fall. There are also rumors that the book may be in development for a movie or tv series.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Busy, Busy

I've been busy, busy, busy this past month. Finishing up school visits, prepping for this year's summer reading club, and writing plenty of reviews for School Library Journal. (Scroll down to see them all.)


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