Friday, September 21, 2007

Four Meme

This is my first-ever meme, but I was tagged by Lee Wilson and fair is fair.

What is a meme? Veteran bloggers don't have to ask, of course, but I'm always after an excuse to learn a new word so...according to Wikipedia, a meme is a unit of cultural information that is propagated (I LOVE that word) from one mind to another. Sounds very twilight-zonish, but in a fun way.

Here goes!

Four jobs I have had in my life (not including your current job):
1. I sold shrimp on the street corners of Virginia Beach.
2. I worked in a sailboat factory. My job was to attach the hiking straps with a pneumatic drill. (Can you say mind-numbing?)
3. Backup singer.
4. When my boys were babies, afternoon naps were taken in the car while I delivered newspapers. I got pretty good at rolling and throwing newspapers, shifting, and feeding snacks and bottles into the back seat.

These are all true. I have witnesses!

Four movies I have watched over and over.
Casablanca, of course!
Robin and Marian with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn
Sense and Sensibility - Ang Lee version
The Thin Man - oh that witty repartee!

Four places I have lived.
Corpus Christi, TX
McGuire AFB, NJ
Oak Harbor, WA
Norfolk, VA
and 10 other places.

Four shows I love to watch.
The Daily Show
The Closer
Mystery/Masterpiece Theater
Made in America

Four places I have been on vacation.
New Zealand will be the next big one.

Four favorite foods.
Greek salad
Grilled chicken

Four favorite drinks.
Sparkling water
IBC diet root beer
Gold margaritas

Four places I would rather be right now.
At my sister's kitchen table in Sarasota.
In my son's apartment in Chicago.
Ireland - because I love it.
Santa Fe - because it's on my list and I'm dying to go.

Four things I know but will never blog about.
How to dehead and devein shrimp.
How to cut my husband's curly hair.
How to iron a shirt perfectly.
Sing the prepositions in alphabetical order to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

Four bloggers to tag.
I'm going to have to give this some thought since I'm a new blogger and just learning the landscape. I'm not wimping out, I just have to think about it.

Thanks to Lee Wilson for this bit of fun.

Funding School Libraries

eSchoolNews reports on a new first-of-its-kind survey conducted by the American Association of School Librarians. Sara Kelly Johns, AASL president and library media specialist for New York's Lake Placid Middle/Senior High School is quoted as saying, "There is a growing body of research that documents the effect of a strong school library program on student achievement, and we need the data on staffing, size and age of collections, and budgets spent on resources to get a picture of a strong program that makes a difference for students."

It's amazing to me that anyone would be startled by this news. The more access kids have to quality reading materials and good information sources, the better they learn. No duh! as my kids would say. It is not just an issue of quality and quantity, it is about attitude - are children in school to learn a finite number of facts to graduate or are they in school to learn how to become lifelong learners?

Okay, you have to start somewhere and it turns out that there has been no entity operating as a storehouse of information about school libraries across the country so AASL is shouldering this responsibility and the survey is just the first of many. Hats off to AASL. Perhaps sharing some of these results will help people understand the value of school libraries.

It's interesting to hear stories from across the country about which positions are considered "optional" in a school when they have to cut budgets. Many times the school librarian or media specialist is the first head on the chopping block. Some forward thinking states such as my own state of NC mandate a media specialist in every public school so it's not considered optional in any way.

The survey finds that most school libraries are wired up with sufficient numbers of computers. Where things get interesting is the chasm of library staffing and expenditures per student between well-funded libraries and not so well funded.

During the critical learning-to-read years in elementary schools, it seems that the average elementary school library is open five fewer hours per week than a comparable middle- or high-school library. High school librarians spent twice as much time collaborating with teachers than do elementary librarians. Although there is not enough data to declare it conclusively, it seems that reading scores tend to be higher in schools with full time librarians who work collaboratively with teachers and students.

"The average school library spends about $11 per student, per year. But there is a wide gap between the average per-pupil expenditure of school libraries serving fewer than 300 students ($15) and those serving 2,000 students or more (less than $8). " eSchoolNews

And the school libraries in the top 25%? You know the ones...well staffed, well equipped, lots of new books, always crowded, happy faces? They're spending $30-$50 per student. If we are truly serious about increasing literacy in this country, we need to take our money out of our wallets and out of the federal and state coffers and invest in our country's future through support of our public and school libraries.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LLama LLama Red Pajama

Llama llama
red pajama
reads a story
with his mama.

So begins this delightful bedtime story for very young ones who are struggling with having to be "alone" when they fall asleep. Anna Dewdney captures perfectly in verse and illustration the separation anxiety that children feel when a parent turns out the light and closes the door. After baby llama has worked himself up into a real lather about whether Mama is even still there and screams at the top of his for her, Mama comes back to scold...

Baby Llama
what a tizzy!
Sometime's Mama's
very busy.

Please stop all this
llama drama
and be patient
for your mama.

What parent hasn't said that? Perhaps not in such simple wonderful rhyme, but the sentiment will resonate with many parents. Of course Mama Llama relents and assuages baby's fears and tucks him in for sleep...again! My favorite line is "Please stop all this llama drama..." A fine addition to the bedtime collection of stories for little ones.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Libraries have always been magical places to me. I am still awestruck whenever I walk into a truly impressive library. To me books mean adventure, knowledge and freedom. Growing up in a large family, books were the only time I was alone. I would lose myself in the pages and have adventures that had nothing to do with my real life. As I grew up, I realized that everything I needed to know could be found in a book. It is still my first instinct to go look for a book even though the entire world is at my fingertips via the Internet. Now I look for a book on the Internet.

I clearly remember the first day I was allowed to walk to the Bookmobile myself. I was ten years old. It was a mile down a fairly busy street. Even though I had been selecting my own library books for some time under the watchful eye of my mother, this was something new and exciting. She would not even be on the premises while I made my choices. I felt free and wonderfully grown up. I also felt like I had the keys to the kingdom and that I could learn anything I wanted to learn.

Thanks to many wonderful people, our country is blessed with a strong public library system. I spent a number of years working in public libraries. In fact, in junior high, I was a member of the Junior Librarians Club and went to the state convention. Other than girl scout camp, it was my first trip on my own without my family. Talk about thrilling.

Unfortunately, public libraries are losing funding. Some cities and counties are so strapped for cash that they have begun limiting hours and services. This is a travesty. Although I am one of those people who never met a bookstore I didn't like, the library is still a great resource for me. Libraries have changed with the times in order to stay in sync with their patrons. I recently heard a presentation on public libraries and the speaker referred to users as customers - certainly a 21st century innovation as librarians reach out into the community as never before. Fewer and fewer of us classify ourselves as readers. For everyone of the avid readers who read daily, there are hundreds of those who read one book a year.

It's trite to say that reading enriches the mind and imagination. But it does. And those who do not read on a regular basis are denying themselves a great joy. For those who bemoan the loss of the independent book stores and criticize the large chains, it's important to remember that public libraries are the single largest consumer of books in this country. Support your library and you support the book industry. You don't have to be a book buyer although most library customers are also book store customers.

One of the great benefits of living in this country is that there is no excuse for being uneducated. Even if you happen to attend a less than stellar school, you can get a library card for free. Now the world's leading libraries and data bases are available to all of us through our local libraries. Libraries are not just about books - but about making content available to us. So whether you are interested in a picture book or dinosaurs or learning how to write a resume, your first stop should be your local library.

Check out the American Library Association and your telephone book to find out more about all of the resources available to you at your local library.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Special Teacher

Most of us have a story of a teacher who made a difference in our lives-- one without whom we would not become the person we are today. In The Rising Star of Rusty Nail, Lesley M.M. Blume tells the story of 10-year-old Franny Hansen, piano prodigy, who has outgrown the available piano teacher in her small 1953 Minnesota town of Rusty Nail. Franny and her best friend Sandy Anne Hellickson are as concerned with hijinks and mayhem as Franny is with her piano practice. Franny's father, a former big band wannabe, is her strongest advocate and understands Franny's potential.

On one level the story plays out as a standard coming-of-age story of a little girl in the back-of-beyond who finally gets her big chance. Through this process, she learns up close and personally the bigotry and small mindedness that is endemic to small towns. Continually outflanked by a lesser pianist, Nancy Orilee, whose father's money buys her anything she wants including a win at a state piano competition, Franny learns hard lessons about what is required of someone who has a gift but must fight for her dream. She also learns that suspicion and prejudice are not limited to small towns but are found in small minds everywhere.

Madame Olga Malenkov, a mysterious Russian musician, moves into the home of the local lawyer and the townfolk jump to the conclusion that Madame is his new wife. This is a convenient cover story for the couple as we see later in the story. Without giving away too much of the plot, suffice it to say that adults will recognize the clues to Madame's true identity long before children reading this book will.

The book is structured to represent the three movements of a concerto: Moderato, Adagio, and Allegro. This is explained in an introduction by the author and the action of the story mirrors the intensity of the concerto's movements. It is well written and the author does a good job of moving the story forward while revealing the strengths and foibles of the town's inhabitants. The conclusion is quite satisfying as justice and understanding prevail. Alfred A. Knopf, 978-0-375-83524-7.

Other Blog Reviews
Becky's Book Reviews
Miss Erin

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kaddish for Grandpa in Jesus' Name Amen

One of the most difficult concepts for young children to understand is death - particularly death of a family member or pet. Tomie de Paola's Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs is a long-time favorite of mine. In fact, I read it to my own children many times when they were trying to grasp the concept of death. It can be disturbing for a child to participate in funeral rites for the first time. Their regular world is turned upside down while people gather together with food, tell stories, cry, and laugh. When there is a mix of faith traditions, the entire experience can be even more confusing.

In Kaddish for Grandpa in Jesus' Name Amen, five-year-old Emily's grandfather dies. Their special relationship is symbolized by Grandpa's glasses' case which he was always misplacing and Emily was good at finding. When he dies, Emily's family decides to celebrate his life and remember him in two ways - the Christian way and the Jewish way. Emily finds great comfort in the different funeral rites, and the story celebrates both faith traditions of this blended family. This unique approach to remembering a loved one becomes an integral part of how Emily remembers her grandfather and provides the touching final lines of the story:

It wasn't the Christian way and it wasn't the Jewish way. It was just my way. My Kaddish for Grandpa in Jesus' name amen.

I highly recommend this book. ISBN 978-0-689-80185-3. Athenueum Books for Young Readers.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

My Cat Copies Me

Originally published in Korea, this is a poignant story of friendship between a girl and her cat. The two share games and fun together as well as comfort each other when things are scary. While the story begins with the cat imitating the girls' actions, by the end of the story the girl has resolved to learn from her cat. She faces her fears directly as she learns to climb high, to not be afraid of the dark, and to stretch her mind and body as far as she can. Her cat comforts and sustains the girl and gives her the courage to go outside their home to make new friends together. Youngsters will find encouragement in this story to reach outside their comfort zone for experiences that might seem scary at first but are easier to face with a friend at your side. ISBN 978-1-933605-26-5. Kane/Miller Book Publishers.

Becky's Book Reviews

Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind

On the first day of school, Miss Malarkey announces that by the end of the year students will read 1,000 books so Principal Wiggins will dye his hair purple and sleep overnight on the school roof. Miss Malarkey is indefatigable in her mission to get kids excited about reading as a goal in and of itself as well as part of the challenge of full school participation in the Everybody Reads in America program. One by one she turns the most reluctant readers into avid readers by finding a good match between the student's interests and a particular book. Except for one boy who is her greatest challenge. As the months roll by, she tries title after title to tempt him. Just like dominoes, the stalwart non-readers fall one after the other into the delightful books Miss Malarkey finds for each person. It's down to the wire, two days before the deadline, and she's still one reader and one book shy of the goal. You guessed it. She finds the one book that captures our hero in its grip keeping him up all night reading. As it turns out, he doesn't read the 1,000th book, but the 1,001st book. But seeing Principal Wiggins camping out on the school roof with his purple hair pales in comparison with what Miss Malarkey must feel by finally captivating her most reluctant reader. There's a lot to like in this book. Miss Malarkey represents good teachers everywhere who are looking for ways to help kids get excited about reading and learning. Kevin O'Mally's believable illustrations carry the story forward with action and speech bubbles. Judy Finchler tells this classic story of a determined teacher who finds just the right book for her book-hating student in a realistic and charming way. And the book that finally turned our hero into a reader? Well, it was the one that has aliens, race cars, jokes, chewing gum, hot sauce, cannonballs and even a pool! ISBN 978-0-8027-8084-3. Walker & Company.

Friday, September 7, 2007

July Book Sales - AAP Reports

I've been on vacation in Florida doing lots of reading and no posting. I will remedy that over the next few days. In the meantime Shelf Awareness shares the July book sales from the AAP.

Net book sales in July rose 20%, based on data from 82 publishers provided to the Association of American Publishers.Among the strongest categories:
  • Children's/YA hardcover (read HP7) rose 504.2% to $255.1 million.
  • Audiobook sales jumped 240.8% to $32.1 million.
  • E-books rose 31.8% to $2.8 million
  • Adult hardcover gained 28.6% to $73.4 million.
  • University press hardcover rose 19.7% to $6.9 million.
  • Professional and scholarly rose 13.8% to $107.6 million.
  • University press paperbacks rose 10.8% to $9.5 million.
  • Higher education rose 5.5% to $923.2 million.
  • El-hi, basal and supplemental K-12 rose 2.1% to $921 million. Weaker categories:
  • Religious books were off 2.6% to $33.5 million.
  • Adult paperback fell 6.5% to $102.4 million.
  • Adult mass market fell 24.7% to $62.9 million.
  • Children's/YA paperback dropped 25.7% to $36.9 million.