My #Whylib? Inspiration

20140402-232644.jpgI stumbled across a discussion on Twitter on how librarians found their way into libraries through a multitude of different routes. You can find more stories at the “Why We Became Librarians” padlet or by searching Twitter for #whylib. This is my story.

Reflecting over my decision to become a librarian, I’ve decided the heart of my decision comes down to two words: My librarians.

My mental movies of librarians, those memories forged by my earliest childhood libraries experiences, are undeniably positive (aside from a traumatic teddy-bear forgetting at the library during a winter storm-apocalypse when I was three).  My librarians inspired wonder, kept me awash in books and their libraries were like homes.

The journey began at the Middleton Public Library. Back then, the public library was one small part of the first floor of city hall. Storytime and other programs took place in the basement, complete with carpet squares on linoleum. My public librarian then was Sharon Grover (@sharongrover2), now at the Hedberg Public Library. I loved her summer reading programs.  Summers were a stream of bag lunches, presenters, musicians, reading auctions and heaps of books to read. I was in elementary school when work began on a new library building across the street. Kids helped raise money for the project through a Walk-a-thon at the high school track. I still have a button that proclaims “I helped ‘foot’ the bill” from that event. It was fun to rediscover that lost item while in library school.

From kindergarten through sixth grade, I was blessed to have Evelyn Weible as my elementary school librarian at Northside elementary. This library was the physical heart of the school. Built in 1976, Northside was laid out on an open concept. The library could be entered from every angle. This was pretty fantastic when you were a book-addicted student; it was probably less fantastic when teaching in the library as sound carries.

Mrs. Weible made the library come to life. She had book character animals around the library, and a great reading voice. With her I traveled to Where the Wild Things Are. We had geography bees in the LGI next to the library, readathons where we traveled the stars in the hall and a visit from Kevin Henkes where I can still remember him drawing Lilly and her plastic purse.  More than anything, Mrs. Weible had a vast knowledge of books. She always had recommendations for me. She first put Lloyd Alexander in my hands in that library. It is where I first read Lord of the Rings.  Each visit, we could pick up to six books to take home (and there were times when six was not enough!). I have a list of suggested titles from her still tucked away.

Not only was my library a book haven, it was also a place with some pretty cool technology for the 1980s with our first school computer lab mixed into the library as well. The first time I ever saw a screensaver was in that library (flying toasters). Mrs. Weible introduced me to Storybook Weaver, which could make some pretty fun illustrated stories.

Mrs. Weible passed away last summer. I wish I had been able to tell her that I too had become a librarian and that in many ways she still sets the standard for me on what an excellent librarian should be. My supervisor at my first library job did give Mrs. Weible a high school paper of mine about how much Mrs. Weible’s library meant to me once upon a time.

From those early experiences to my first job as a library page, creating a school library independent study in college to my decision to start library school after several years as a classroom assistant, school libraries got in my blood. I hope to work in libraries for years to come.

What are your favorite childhood experiences in libraries?


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It’s Monday! What are You Reading from Picture Books to YA?

What's On Your Reading Radar?

What’s On Your Reading Radar?

Last Week’s Reading Adventures

Young Adult Literature:

Watching Divergent last week in the theater inspired me to read some titles from my massive to read list.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – Book 2 of the Lunar Chronicles – The dystopian take on fairy tales continues. In addition to Cinder’s ongoing saga, this book follows Scarlet as she tries to locate and rescue her grandmother, a pilot with ties to Cinder’s past. This book has loose elements from Little Red Riding Hood.

Cress by Marissa Meyer – Book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles – Cress, the Lunar Queen’s imprisoned programmer, is the featured heroine of this book. Loved the ending two chapters of this book and am now impatiently awaiting Winter (Feb 2015). This book has loose elements from Rapunzel.

Maze Runner by James Dashner – An unsolvable maze. Boys with tattered memories of their past. Monstrous creatures. A society with strict routines thrown to the wind with the arrival of Thomas and then Teresa to the Glade.

Picture Books:

Max for President by Jarrett J. Krosoczka – The class election is coming up. Who will win?

Annie Was Warned by Jarrett J. Krosoczka – A fun twist on a Halloween story.

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Monday! What are You Reading From Picture Books to YA #IMWAYR


Last Week’s Reading Adventures

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson – A young adult adventure where a fourteen-year-old girl discovers an injured snowmobiler and must try to keep them both alive in the Alaskan wilderness when the injured teen’s directions back prove incorrect. This tile can also work for middle grade audiences though there are a few more mature jokes/references.

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon C. Muth – This delightful read looks at the seasons and their changes through a haiku narrative. Not surprisingly, I loved the cat in the snow.

Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds – This upcoming picture book (April 2014) is going to be perfect for a friend and her toddler. Destructosaurus lays waste to his surroundings and it turns out something dear to him and to many children is the root cause of his tantrum.

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts – This nonfiction picture book provides insight into some of the women of the American Revolutionary War period. I enjoyed learning new facts and stories in this collective biography, but I would have loved to see some sources as well.

The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery by Dennis Fradin – The community of Oberlin, Ohio takes action when an escaped slave that was part of their community is captured. It was a fascinating episode I had not heard of before.

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Anderson’s Children’s Literature Breakfast Recap

This weekend I attended a wonderful book event sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop. The Children’s Literature Breakfast is an annual event that I was privileged to attend for the third time.

Maggie Stiefvater, Aaron Reynold, Jon Muth, Laurie Keller, Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver were the featured speakers at the event. Aaron Reynolds recreated the publishing process for picture books with some help from the audience. Jon Muth created a crane as we watched. Maggie Stiefvater emphasized the power of story for both readers and gamers (while coining the term “pathological reader”) while Henry Winkler shared some of Hank Zipzer’s experiences that overlap with his own.

Don’t miss these newer titles by these authors:

Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater (Book 2 of Spirit Animals)
Here Comes Destructosaurus by Aaron Reynolds
Hi, Koo! by Jon Muth
Arnie the Donought: Bowling Alley Bandit by Laurie Keller
Here’s Hank by Henry Winkle rand Lin Oliver

Different Illinois authors travel between the breakfast tables to share about their writing. The first one to stop at my table was Fern Schumar Chapman. Fern’s books are inspired by her mother’s experiences as part of the One Thousand Children project that brought children out of Hitler’s Germany. I am excited to read this book as several sixth grade classes are just starting World War II novel studies.

I am also excited to try out Stacy Kade’s The Paper Doll Project series. Part of the first book in this dystopia series is set in Wisconsin.

By the end of the event, I had a bag bursting with books for school. Check out the Vine below to see what titles I’m taking with me to work. I’m excited to share these with the teachers and staff at my school.

Beyond the authors and books, another reason I love this event is that I get to see some of my favorite reading champions from Twitter. This year I traveled down to the event with fellow Wisconsin librarian @librarygrl2. We enjoyed briefly connecting with @akgal68 @daydreamreader @100scopenotes and @mrschureads while there as well.

No journey to the Children’s Literature Breakfast is truly complete without a visit to Anderson’s Book Shop itself. Now if only I could spend the next week reading all these wonderful books.

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Remembering Read Alouds

What is my earliest or fondest memory of being read aloud to?

I have many fond read aloud memories including afternoons being cuddled up in the blankets of my parents’ bed listening to my mom read Winnie-the-Pooh aloud as I “rested my eyes”. I cannot remember not being read aloud to, but what I would like to share today a favorite place where I was read to.

What was that favorite read aloud place? My local public library. Back then, my public library was inside city hall. For larger children’s programs we had to down to the basement with its linoleum floors and carpet squares. After one winter storytime, my favorite teddy bear was once left behind at the library and my dad had to brave the icy roads to retrieve it so I would actually sleep.

I once shared my favorite read aloud titles for listening and reading on on Nerdy Book Club.

Being read aloud to is an experience every child should have again and again. Yet that isn’t always the case. Yesterday at the wonderful Anderson’s Children’s Literature Breakfast, Aaron Reynolds, one of the authors speaking at the event, mentioned the first time he could remember ever being read aloud to was by his fifth grade teacher.

World Read Aloud Day is coming on March 5, 2014. World Read Aloud Day is a wonderful time to connect with other classrooms and libraries to read aloud. One World Read Aloud Skype activity I loved from last year was reading Amy Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld’s Exclamation Mark as a reader’s theater.

This was my contribution to the World Read Aloud Day “Raising Our Voices” Blogging Challenge. You can find more out about the challenge on The Busy Librarian.

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Revisiting Books is like Returning to Camp


Yesterday, a friend and I also visited our old camp. Many summer days and weekends all year round were spent there as campers and as staff. Changes were there – many new horses in the herd, new stalls, new staff and obviously new kids there for a session of Christmas camp. All those are to be expected as over five years have passed since I last worked there. Yet visiting camp is also timeless. There’s the hill up to the barn, getting warm by the fire, girls riding horses and a sense of family.

When I go back to camp, it brings a smile to my face. I share memories, good and bad. I want to wrap myself in camp and never leave again. What do those feelings have to do with reading? I get many of those same feelings when I pick up a favorite book or talk them over with friends.

In 2013 I managed to read just over 160 books from picture books to novels, poetry to nonfiction. In looking back at those titles, I was left wondering which ones I would treat like a visit to camp, the ones I want to pick up again in ten years in glee.

These are some that I hope I will still savor and celebrate then (in no particular order)

1. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Willow’s unique perspective and her journey through tragedy are ones to remember when life gets tangled.

2. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. A light fantasy that reminds me to smile and has a great sense of place.

3. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. Part Willy Wonka, part puzzle and lots of heart.

4. Guitar Notes by Mary Amato. Two outwardly vastly different characters are forced to share a school practice room. A series of notes changes the balance.

5. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. Thrilled I picked this up after hearing a few students praise it. The story of Mr. Terupt and his fifth graders managed a rare thing – it made me cry as a reader. It then became my schools All School Read Aloud this year.

6. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu. Powerful. Poignant. I still don’t have exactly the right words to describe this fantasy read.

7. Poison by Bridget Zinn. A young adult fantasy where the main character is pursued for her assassination attempt upon the princess, her best friend. The author’s story makes this read all the more precious.

8. Tillie Pierce by Tanya Anderson. Reading excerpts from Tillie’s account with the explanation of the book brought new meaning to the Battle of Gettysburg before I visited there.

What books do you want to put on again years from now?

Categories: Favorite Reads

It’s Monday! What are You Reading From Picture Books to YA?

Recent Reads

My Recent Middle Grade and YA Reads

My Recent Middle Grade and YA Reads

After Iris – From the safety that being behind her camera provides, Blue chronicles the life of her ziblings, their college au pair Zoran and the troublesome boy who moves in next door.

Counting by 7s – The sudden loss of her parents thrusts Willow Chance into an uncomfortable new world where she must live with virtual strangers in unforgettable settings. Poignant.

Virals – This young adult science fiction novel is about Temperance Brennen’s grand-niece. An attempt to rescue a small wolfdog has unexpected consequences for Tory Brennen and three of her friends on Morris Island.

Better Nate than Ever – Desperate to make his musical mark, Nate sneaks off to New York to audition for the musical E.T. He is aided in setting up this scheme by his best friend, but it is his estranged aunt who must step in when he is in the big city.

Wig in the Window – A mystery that is part comedy of errors. When Young and Yang are on the case, everyone else in their community should look out!

Currently Reading

Other Worlds edited by Jon Scieszka

Other Worlds edited by Jon Scieszka

I have so far enjoyed the Rick Riordan and Shannon Hale stories from this Guys Read anthology. The beginning of Percy Jackson stories do have the tendency to make me laugh. I also like the courage of Spark in Shannon’s story.

Categories: Uncategorized

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder

What is the mark of a well loved story? Is it the number of times it has been read? Is the the creases in the spine, the tattered corners and folded covers? Is it when you crack open the book and fall its world so far that its sights and sounds seem just out of reach?

Somewhere around fifth or sixth grade, The Secret Garden was one of those beloved books for me (as was A Little Princess). I winced when Mary Lennox was at her worst, secretly cheered when she badgered Colin Craven to push himself and celebrated as difficulties wrought with drama were overcome. There was a twist and rhythm of the words that lingered.

I was thrilled then to discovered that two books I received at the AASL conference last week reference The Secret Garden. The first of those books is Laurel Snyder’s Seven Stories Up, which is coming out in January 2014 from Random House.


Annie lives with her mom in Atlanta. That’s all the family she’s ever had close, so it is surprising when her mom suddenly takes her to Baltimore where her grandmother is dying. They head not to a hospital, but to the closed Hotel Calvert and a suite on its seventh floor. There Annie finds a lonely, acerbic old woman barely kept alive by medical technology.

Spending the night in an unfamiliar room, Annie awakes to discover a girl sitting on her bed. Inexplicably, Annie has traveled back to 1937, a year when her grandmother was confined to a suite of rooms with severe asthma. With a distant, busy father and her mother out of town with two of Molly’s sister, Molly is hungry for attention, for life. It is up to the sometimes impetuous Annie to challenge Molly to step beyond the bounds set for her.

I enjoyed this visit to the past and the wonder both girls have for a city unknown to them both. Whenever Annie used a term that Molly didn’t know, I had to smile at the attempted explanations. Molly’s insular nature begins to thaw as her world opens.

So step back into the past and discover all Hotel Calvert can hold.

Please Note: I received a free copy of this ARC while attending the AASL Conference last week.

Categories: Reviews

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading From Picture Books to YA?

A Week of Reading Adventures

Middle Grade Fiction

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein – Student prize-winning essayists must solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to escape a library.

Sideckicked by John David Anderson – Are Drew’s unusual powers, those of heightened senses, able to make up for his absent Super? Find out how a group of sidekicks in training measure up against a new threat in town.

A Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy – The Princes Charming are back in this humorous sequel to A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom. Gustav, Duncan and Frederic try to save Liam from his unwanted upcoming marriage to Briar Rose.

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder* – Waking up in the top floor of a hotel opens a time of unexpected adventures for Annie Jaffin. For she has woken up in 1937 when her grandmother is is just a girl.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier* – Molly has found work and lodging for herself and her younger brother. Getting there is a challenge though as no one wants to explain where the sourwoods can be found. After a storyteller named Hester reveals the way for a price, Molly begins to discover why she was warned away…

Next Up

Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero by Lee Bacon

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

*Arc received from the publisher at AASL

Categories: It's Monday What Are You Reading

Library Intro in a Box


I wanted to change up my library introduction a bit this year. I thought back to a book talk I did back in library school where I had token items in a box to bring out at different times to help capture people’s attention and raise curiosity. I decided I wanted to apply that method to my intro.


Inside my box, I placed two hats to represent the many different roles of a teacher librarian. One item was my reading hat, which I used to talk about my role in promoting and selecting books. The other is my Google hat to represent helping teach staff and students about Google Drive.


I knew I wanted to hit the hours the library is open, how students check out, how many items they could check out. To simulate our check out keypad, I put in a calculator. I covered a trading card with genre stickers as a reminder to talk about our brand new fiction genres.

clockcheckout items genres


The public library is within two blocks of my school so I included a library card in my box. I promoted them as another source of books and a resource for different activities. We also have a display about public library events in the library.

For each class I then remove a small stack of books that I then promote to the class. For many classes, I spoke about one battle title and then books from our general collection.

booktalk books

Next week, new books will be placed inside the box to share as well as items related to The Dot as we start our Dot Day celebrations next week.

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