Read More Books, or Getting to Use the Glass Display Case is Serious Business

I only get to use the fancy-schmancy glass display case at the entrance to the library every other month. When I’m not using it, the Adult Services librarian gets her chance. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little competitive about this. I always feel the need to have the better display, especially since it’s only been recently that I’ve been allowed to use it.

The inspiration for this display comes from some graffiti someone once told me about. I realize that’s kind of vague, but I only remember how rad I thought it was that there was pro-literacy graffiti. I’ve never seen it in person, because apparently it’s in Gowanus, which is a part of Brooklyn I never happen to visit. Anywho, the message is "Read More Books", a pretty good motto to live by. Because, honestly, I don’t care what the kids read. I just want them to read a lot. Bunches and bunches and piles of books.

The perfect die-cut letters come from Etsy, which used to have a function called Alchemy. Alchemy is no more (apparently it’s being revamped), but you used to be able to ask for a product you’d like to have and how much you’d be willing to pay for it. I didn’t pay much for these letters. Trying to cut out straight, uniform letters would have given me a nervous breakdown, so it was definitely worth the money.

I let the kids decorate the letters however they liked. One letter says “I Like Mrs. Ded” (no idea who that is). Another says “Read Every Day” (Amen, munchkin!). Others are covered in miscellaneous yet fun stuff that was hanging around in the craft cabinet. I love the overall effect. It’s so festive and cheerful and so uniquely “them”.

I also displayed the canvas paintings the kids made during another craft session. They were very happy to see them up in the branch and I catch them pointing out the paintings to their friends and families.

Summer Reading is a promise to read this summer. It’s serious business. Sign up now: http://summerreading.org/

Diary of a Wimpy Librarian’s Latest Display

Our library system’s budget is like a wounded animal right now. As a librarian and a vegan, this troubles me. It’s not like new books aren’t coming in from Baker and Taylor. They are. They are just few and far between. It’s amazing, but kids are still crazy into Diary of a Wimpy Kid. My branch hardly ever has any copies. Lately, books in high demand are hardly ever around when you need them. Kid, “Who’s the author of Wimpy Kid?” Me: “Kinney. But don’t bother. We don’t have any. Can I put one on hold for you?”

Recently, though, like a divine intervention from the library gods, my branch got a huge donation from a major corporation, and I got to spend a bunch of the dough on new children’s books. I bought as many copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid as I could without looking like a Greedy Gus. Well, they were delivered, but were immediately placed on hold and shipped to other branches. Darn floating collection.

OK, so it was obviously time to deal with the facts: Kids either had to wait a couple of weeks (years in kid-time) for a copy OR I had better start pushing some alternate titles. I hardly ever do read-alike displays because I always worry about not having enough titles to replenish the display when it starts looking a bit sparse. This time, I dug a little deeper into the collection looking for a butt-load of good school-centric stories that were either a) overwhelmingly sarcastic (Seriously, as if any of the kids I know need any help in this category. Once they discover the holy grail of sarcasm, it’s over.) b) in diary form c) peppered with comic-book style illustrations or d) easily digestible for reluctant readers. Sometimes, I just had a feeling about certain books and included them because I thought Wimpy-kid fans would like them. I found so many titles that I haven’t had a difficult time ensuring that the display was chockfull-o-books.

Here’s a list of books I used, because librarians love lists.

♥ ♥ ♥ I’m not like Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but this book made me kinda terrified of bunnies. Or at least alien bunnies. Wuv Bunnies from Outers Pace is good and demented. I chose it because of its easy readability, interesting visuals, and dumb-but-inspired humor.

♥ ♥ ♥ Not many of the Wimpy Kid characters are very likable. Lydia and Julie manage to be funny, witty, and totally endearing. The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang not only has a super-trendy extra-long title, but is kinda like the chick-lit version of Wimpy Kid. Great full-color illustrations matched with a sweet yet hilarious coming-of-age story. I love those girls. There’s a sequel, too. And one of these days I will totally get around to reading it.

♥ ♥ ♥ I already wrote my love letter to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. I’ve booktalked this title to a bajillion kids and no one has walked away from me without it. It’s just that fun. I promise. Here’s a secret: I think I may like it even better than Wimpy Kid. Shhhhh. Don’t tell.

♥ ♥ ♥ I call The Last Invisible Boy the thinking man’s Wimpy Kid. It’s sad sometimes, sure, but also smart. I wish more kids read this.

♥ ♥ ♥ The Big Nate books are like the Designer Imposters Body Spray/Canal Street Gucci Bag Knock-off version of Kinney’s books. Really. If you’re all out of Wimpy Kid books, these will definitely do. Not that I think that Peirce is ripping anyone off, but for kids who don’t want to stray too far from the Wimpy Kid elements, the Big Nate books are your best bet: school mishaps, comics and illustrations, and heaps of sarcasm.

♥ ♥ ♥ Is there anything Jennifer Holm can’t do? Um, no. Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf is one of my favorite books to recommend. It’s completely told through stuff, kinda like the Regarding the… books. It’s just plain fun and super quick to read. The tater tots on the cover make me hungry.

♥ ♥ ♥ Boy meets girl, but I hope he doesn’t eat girl. Get it? Because he’s a zombie! Brains for Lunch is a pun-tastic story told totally in haikus. A quick read and a good first introduction to the world of haikus. 

♥ ♥ ♥ Others included: Titles from the Dear Dumb Diary and Ellie McDoodle series, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, and Meanwhile (Laminated tabs with over 3000 plot possibilities! Get into it!). I would have liked to use The Dork Diaries but those are as hard to get hold of as the Wimpy Kid books. Yikes!

What did I forget?

Two secrets:

  1. Though I’m a Children’s Librarian, I have a real Young Adult literature obsession. I think it’s because I kind of skipped YA books as a teen. I read some Sweet Valley High and some Judy Blume as a tween (not that there’s anything wrong with that). As an actual teen, I mostly read schoolwork related-books: stuff like Catch-22, Shakespeare, and lots and lots of Dickens (because there’s nothing that Long Island teenagers relate to more than scrappy British people peppered with the occasional eccentric old biddy surrounded by rotting scones). I missed so much great literature. I like to think I’m making up for lost time now. None of this reading goes to waste, though, as I work in a small library where I interact with patrons of all ages.
  2. I wrote my library science thesis about traditional fairy tales as they are re-interpreted in Young Adult literature. My thesis partners and I tackled over 150 novels and pretty much lived in misery for a semester. It resulted in a nearly 200 page juggernaut of a paper and a lot of sleepless nights. We all have maintained an impossible amount of knowledge about the history and origin of fairy tales/folklore. I still suffer from fairy tale-themed nightmares of old crones, epic journeys, talking animals, impractical footwear, and being trapped in a tower with a woodsman (well, that last dream isn’t so bad).

What I love about this display, other than the plethora of sparkly paper, is the opportunity to share several of my favorite titles:

  • Though technically a title for adults, the Fables series by Bill Willingham is widely read by teens as well. This is a graphic novel that requires a very well-read audience, as it references not only fairy tales but all genres of literature. It’s got romance, action, ooey gory violence, and enough nudity to keep subway riders looking over my shoulder on the G train. My only complaint? I need more Rose Red. She has the best hair and is infinitely more interesting than that tiresome Snow White.
  • Red Shoes is a nasty little story by Hans Christian Andersen, who obviously has a real problem with women (see: Little Mermaid), about a girl who essentially dances herself to death. All for wanting an awesome pair of shoes! Unfair. Dorian Cirrone, author of Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You, totally gets what a load of crap that is. Bitch Magazine named this title one of the 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader, which hopefully means this book will end up in the hands of more patrons.
  • I’m a huge Buffy fan, so to say that Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce is like a really good BTVS episode is one of the best compliments I can give. I’ve read a lot of Little Red Riding Hood re-interpretations and most of them substitute werewolves for the Big Bad Wolf. Sisters Red manages to stand apart from the crowd, though, especially by featuring one of the most bad-ass YA heroines, Scarlett March. Tired of perfectly pretty female warriors? Pick up this title.

I also included some titles by Alex Flinn, Robin McKinley, and Donna Jo Napoli.

The books have been moving off this display pretty quickly, proving that some stories are just timeless.

Alright. It’s mid-February.

Most New Year’s resolutions have gone straight out the window and I wanted to remind everyone that the library is a great place to get back on track. My main goal was to pull all the great non-fiction books out of the ghetto of the stacks. There’s so much fascinating stuff there, way beyond dry, boring book-report fare.

Here’s some stuff I included. Most of the ideas come from my own failed resolutions. Hopefully, my patrons will have more willpower:

  1. I adore all the fancy cake-making books. They seem way too complicated for me, but I love to just look through them. How are people able to make cupcakes look like a work of art? Mine just look like frostastrophes. Get it? I combined frosting and catastrophe. Anyway, someone probably had a resolution about being a better chef or baker, so I hope this gives someone some ideas or encouragement.
  2. Yoga books. We’re in Brooklyn, where there’s yoga in the park, yoga on the rooftops, and free yoga classes in our very own library. I think about doing yoga every once in a while, but then I think about cupcakes instead.
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I. am. obsessed. Ever since I was a little girl I have adored anything Wonderland-related. I remember being in my Grandma’s den and pretending to shrink to the size of a thimble, just like Alice. People should just read this book, already. Seeing the Tim Burton movie doesn’t count, y’all. If Alice is not their style, perhaps this will remind them to delve into all those classics that they’ve been meaning to finally tackle.
  4. Show Me How. This book is so much fun. During RIF, the library kids and I read the book almost cover to cover (I made them skip the cocktail and romance parts). So much useful information in this book! How to unclog a toilet, how to make friends with cats, how to tie a cherry stem with your tongue. It would be a great coffee table book or an extremely useful at-home resource.

I also included some beginner second language books (I tried to learn Polish this year. I can say hello to you, but then I have to hide under the table), sewing books, and a history of hip-hop book for those who resolved to expand their musical tastes.

From the top, I suspended old library cards from yarn. Some of them are stamped for 1998. I knew these would come in handy!

The display should be up for about a month. It was nice to try a display that wasn’t just for kids. Our library is teeny-tiny, so people of different ages sort of co-exist (though, not always happily) in one room. I hope this collection of books appeals to people of all ages.

Well, I’m off to practice my downward facing dog while speaking Polish and listening to Easy E.

Valentine’s Cupcake Craft

Inspiration: http://factorydirectcraft.com/factorydirectcraft_blog/sweeten-celebration-fun-styrofoam-ball-cupcakes/

I wanted to do a more kid-friendly version of this craft, so I omitted any steps that would result in a hospital visit. I pre-sliced the styrofoam balls in half at home (having paid for these myself, I wanted to double the amount of cupcakes we could make). With a really sharp knife. My boyfriend offered to help, but I really didn’t want to explain to my friends that he had unexpectedly died in a horrible crafting accident. I was sort of afraid of cutting myself, you see, and this step took FOREVER.

Only one tricky step was left: Wedging the half-spheres into the paper cups. Often the cups came out kind of uneven, but the kids made it work with decorative-edged scissors. When in doubt, use crazy-cut scissors. It makes it look like you meant it to be all caddy-wompus.

I did this craft with school-aged kids and the results were extra sparkly. They made use of all kinds of craft-cabinet odds and ends: pom-poms, glitter paper, glitter glue, and plastic rhinestones.

I included a nice little Valentine’s themed quiz and word-search, too. I like to trick the children into learning.

What did you do at your library for Valentine’s Day?

This is the first post, y’all.

Oh, hai. I’m Ingrid Abrams and I’m a Children’s Librarian working in Brooklyn, NY. The library world is too weird to be believed and, as a self-professed weirdo, I fit right in. I enjoy overly-glittery library displays, dressing like Liza Minnelli at the reference desk (read: lots of sequins), anything Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-related, my Toddler Time class (exhausting, but always worth it), and coming up with Arts and Crafts projects that won’t bore the kids OR me. Oh. And. I like to read. Lots. Preferably in the bathtub. Preferably comic books/graphic novels.

With librarianship, and working with kids in general, sharing is caring. I love seeing what other bad-ass book jockeys are excited about because it gets me all revved up about my own work. In the age of budget woes and understaffing, it’s easy to feel down on the job. Well, buck up, little campers. My cure for the library blues is to step up my game and change up my routine. It gets my mind off the bad stuff and on to what’s important: Making the library a fun and welcoming place to be.

So, please don’t keep your good ideas to yourself. I’d love for people to submit their rad craft, display, and program ideas. I’ll be posting mine for you to steal/tweak/mock/judge.

TLDR?

Thanks for reading,

Ingrid