International Dot Week: Day 1

Tomorrow, September 15th(ish) is International Dot Day. Inspired by Peter H. Reynold’s lovely The Dot, students all over the world create some dot(ish) artwork. I borrowed some lesson plan ideas from Mr. Winner @ The Busy Librarian and so far… It’s been awesome!

I only have one class on Mondays, but I have faith that if the K3s can do this well, my bigger kids can, too! They had a lot of fun coloring and swapping their quarters to make new art together.

Last year, students created dots with a template I found online. Every student, from pre-pre-school to fifth grade, designed and colored their own dot, which I cut out and pasted all over the entire library.

This year, I wanted to shake things up a bit… and not just because I couldn’t bear the thought of tearing down all of those lovely dots. (That was the original plan: I would have students make new dots to decorate the library every year.)

Dot Day 2014So my youngest kids (pre-pre-K/pre-K) will be coloring in some dots, while older students do some dot fractions to share with their classmates and create artwork together. This year, I photographed each student with their dot and sent them home.

Our library periods are short (40 minutes a week) and I have to fit story time and book choice in, plus the art project, but today it was very doable and not too rushed. I just hope my older students can remember their library rules as well as my kindergarteners!

Last year, I wanted to connect students to their school. This year, their art connects them to each other. Next year, I hope I can find a way to connect our school with others. … connect the dots!

Five Minute Mini Reviews: Sakura Medal 2016 Edition: Picture Book Round 1

It’s almost Sakura Medal season at school! Students start reading and voting in October, but before that, my book bowl team members get an exclusive sneak peek to start reading for the competition. We had our first meeting on Friday, and I think we got a good group together.

This year, it’s my goal to read all of the English-language books for elementary: twenty picture books, twenty chapter books, and twelve graphic novels.

I started with the picture books on a (rare…) slow day. Since the students vote once for every five books, I’ll read five at a time and tell you which book gets my hypothetical vote. (Librarians longlist and shortlist the nominees, but the winners are chosen by students’ votes.)

  • The Book With No Pictures, B.J. Novak  Exactly what it says on the tin: This is a book with no pictures. It starts out looking boring and serious, and then goes over the top with weird noises and funny words and ridiculous sentences.
    I heard so much about this book that I was excited to order it.
    #unpopularopinion: I did not enjoy this book at all.
    My students enjoyed it. They thought it was great. Classes begged me to “trick” their teachers, to go tell them that this was a Very Serious And Important Book About Reading. Talking about the book was fun.
    Reading the book? was not fun.
    Maybe because I don’t do ~voices. A better reader might enjoy it more, but I didn’t even like it when I read it in my head. I gave it two stars, but assumed I’d bump it up after reading it aloud. I actually dropped it down to one star. I love meta books like that, but I’ve read better.
  • Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty GreatUnicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, Bob Shea Goat’s life was just fine until annoyingly perfect unicorn showed up and ruined everything. But as Goat gets to know cupcake raining unicorn, he learns that nobody’s perfect.
    That’s how I felt about this book. It was okay. I think my students will like it, but I was neither impressed nor underwhelmed. In fact, it took me awhile to remember, What was the fifth book I read?. The art is okay. The text is okay. The moral is actually pretty interesting, but okay.
    One thing that annoyed me: Unicorn is jealous of Goat’s cloven hooves, but traditionally, unicorns are depicted with cloven hooves, and sometimes even with a goat’s beard. I thought that was a missed opportunity, because 1) it’s wrong, and 2) you could have really played up the commonalities between Unicorn and Goat to greater effect for the moral.
  • Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball, David A. Kelly When baseballs are brand new, I guess, they’re too shiny for the batters to see properly. So back in the day, they used to soak them (too soggy) or spit chewing tobacco on them (too stinky) to wear down the shine. Lena Blackburne, wannabe baseball player extraordinaire, discovered some special mud back home that’s still used to this day.
    This book surprised me, in a good way. I’m not “sporty.” The only sport I can stand to watch is baseball, and that’s because you don’t have to pay attention. But I picked this one up because I thought Lena was a woman. (I was wrong.)
    I didn’t know anything about this special mud. This was something completely out of my field (ahem) and I liked it! I learned something new, and the prose and illustrations were nice. I don’t mean to damn it with faint praise. I mean, they were nice; nothing stand-out, but not distracting, either.
  • NesraddineNesraddine, Odile Weulersse A little boy overhears people criticizing his father for riding to town while he walks, and tries to find a solution that will please everybody. First, he rides and his father walks, but people shake their heads about kids these days. Then neither of them walk, or both of them. Spoiler alert: You can’t please everybody.
    I liked this book from the cover. I loved Nesraddine’s curious little face, and I knew I wanted to read his story. (I didn’t know about the real (“real”) Nasraddin, a philosopher, and at first, I thought it was the name of a town or a street because of the cover design.)
    Nesraddine is so gentle. It’s a fable, but it’s not anvilicious. Nesraddine learns an important lesson, but his father’s teaching is kind and he allows Nesraddine to experiment and learn for himself – until he suggests carrying the donkey to town!
    The art was warm and sweet. Even the criticizing characters are given their humanity by the painted illustrations, and Nesraddine and his father are lovingly drawn.
  • Weasles, Elys Dolan When the weasels try to take over the world, nothing goes as planned. A variety of colorful characters scurry through the story, alternately helping and getting underfoot while everyone tries to fix The Machine.
    I remember this one being nominated, and I liked it. I even voted for it’s inclusion in the list, because it looked like fun. It was fun. I enjoyed reading it to myself, but it didn’t work for me as a classroom readaloud. I think it’s better for partner reading, like an I Spy game: What’s this weasel doing? What’s that weasel doing? There are several weasel characters to follow through the story, each one up to something different. (My favorite was the weasel who tries a new flavor of coffee. She does not enjoy it.)
    This could probably be a good book to read before starting a group project, examining how each weasel helps (or hinders) progress.

… and this round’s winner is: Nesraddine! (If you couldn’t guess from my review.)
I just love this book so much. I finished it and immediately read it again so I could take my time to linger on the pictures, the flow of words.

Reflections on the First Week of School

hallway displayHow was the first week of school? The first day went pretty well, and I had time on Tuesday to start on the constellation display outside of the library. But I left it unfinished, because I’ve been at home since Wednesday.

The school nurse sent me to the doctor’s office that morning with a mysterious rash. The doctor sent me home that afternoon with 28,000mg total of antivirals, because I came down with shingles.

Who knew?

So I missed most of the first week of the 2015-2016 school year. This wasn’t really how I hoped to start the school year.

Instead of reading to my students and sharing all of the exciting changes in the library this year, I spent most of the week in bed with an icepack on my head. (The rash goes from the top of my head down the back of my neck.) Shingles isn’t contagious, but there was a risk of spreading chickenpox to my students or their younger family members.

What did I learn? Well, for one thing: always go to the doctor. I was going to put it off, because I had volunteered to help out at welcome night on Wednesday evening, but the school nurse and the principal told me to go to the clinic right away. I kept trying to go back to school, but my friends and family warned me away; it’s better to heal up than rush it and make it worse.

tiny seal friendSo I’ve been here with the tiny seal friend my roommate brought me home from the gift shop. Since Wednesday, I’ve been to the doctor’s office again when the rash spread to my ear. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

The only upshot to all of this was the time to read. I blew through The Accident Season, which I lucked out and got from CLAMS on release day; I’ll write a review when I’m a little more coherent. The medicine doesn’t have any noticeable side-effects, but it’s hard to concentrate when half of your scalp hurts.

Since my copies of Princeless volumes 1-3 arrived just before the start of the school year, I had Adrienne and Bedelia and Raven to keep me company.

This is not the entry I wanted to be writing after my students’ first week back at school, but you can’t always get what you want. I’ll be back at work on Monday, a little sore and a little tired, but very excited to finally see my students.

Back to School: Day 1

Back to School 2015Hi, 久しぶり! Long time, no see.

We’re back to school today, and the weather was miserable. It’s hot and rainy, and by the time I made it to school, my shoes and socks were completely soaked through. My good slacks are  a little too long and dragged through puddles, so my pants were wet, too. I won’t even tell you what this humidity does to my hair.

But as I was crossing campus for the welcome assembly, one of my students – now a second grader – gestured for me to come share her umbrella so I wouldn’t get wet, and I remembered why I love my job.

Between the end of 2014-2015 and the beginning of 2015-2016, I’ve been alone in the library for seven weeks with no students, except a few stragglers who came in to borrow or return books for the summer. I accomplished a lot, and the library is much tidier, but honestly? I wasn’t really feeling it.

Back to School 2015Then a student called me over to crouch under her umbrella, and I was so happy. Our big yearly book order came  in at the beginning of the month, so I’ve been waiting for weeks to show my students all of the exciting new things we have in the library. I channeled that excitement into making displays and reorganizing the library to create a writing center and a graphic novel/comic book corner. (Unfortunately, those shelves haven’t arrived.)

I started off straightaway with a kindergarten class after lunch. I only have one class scheduled on Mondays, but I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. I really admire their teacher’s classroom management, and her classes are always wonderfully polite. Even on the very first day, the only mishaps we had were from new students who just didn’t know the rules.

Well, and I chose a read-aloud book I really don’t like. Whoops. This is the last year I’m reading The Shelf Elf. I’ve asked on Storytime Underground for some other school library read-aloud suggestions so I don’t have to put myself through The Shelf Elf ever again. All of our other “library” books are about visiting a public library with a parent or caregiver: Lola at the LibraryDelilah D. at the Library, Curious George Visits the LibraryAmelia Bedelia’s First Library Card, and so on. (Except for Lola, none of these books really speak to me, either.)

Except for that, I’m excited about the lesson plans I’ve laid out for this year. I mean, how can you not be totally psyched about reading Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” out loud to your fourth and fifth graders? Or Mary Walker Wears the Pants to your second and third graders? What about When the Beat Was Born?

Maybe you didn’t know this, but I became a librarian almost by accident – and yet, I had never wanted anything in my life more than I wanted this job. I lucked out. I love my work, I love my coworkers. I love books, of course. Most of all, I love my students, and I’m so happy to have them back.

Back to School 2015

“Our School Community” was a project lead by the elementary art teacher with first grade students in 2013-2014. She kindly donated the completed artwork to the library.

48 Hour Book Challenge

48 Hour Book Challenge

This is the 10th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, hosted by Mother Reader. I will be reading from 2:30pm Friday to 2:30pm Sunday, JST. (I started reading before I made my starting line post, because I’m knew to this whole thing.) I’m aiming for the minimum twelve hours, to ease myself into the challenge, but who knows? I might keep going once I get started.

Want to join? Sign up here.

Sunday Morning Paper: Truth & Beauty Bombs

The Lion and the Mouse

Much of what [children’s librarian Anne Carroll] Moore did in that room had never been done before, or half as well. She brought in storytellers and, in her first year, organized two hundred story hours (and ten times as many two years later). She compiled a list of twenty-five hundred standard titles in children’s literature. She won the right to grant borrowing privileges to children; by 1913, children’s books accounted for a third of all the volumes borrowed from New York’s branch libraries. … In each of the library’s branches, Moore abolished age restrictions. Down came the “Silence” signs, up went framed prints of the work of children’s-book illustrators. “Do not expect or demand perfect quiet,” she instructed her staff. “The education of children begins at the open shelves.” In place of locked cabinets, she provided every library with a big black ledger; if you could sign your name, you could borrow a book.

The case for starting sex education in kindergarten

Researchers found that among 12 to 25 year olds in the Netherlands, most say they had “wanted and fun” first sexual experiences. By comparison, 66 percent of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time.

Women graduate college at higher rates than men… Unless they’re gay

[Education researcher Leigh Fine] found that the pattern we see in which women are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree is reversed among sexual minorities. Gay and bisexual men are more likely to report graduating than lesbian and bisexual women. In fact, they’re more likely to report graduating than heterosexual men and women as well.

In contrast, sexual minority women were the least likely of all four groups to report graduating.

UK Disney store scraps gendered categories after 8-year-old aspiring Darth Vader complains

Disney’s UK online store no longer categorizes toys by gender at all. In the top menu bar, the site only has a general “kids” section where all children’s toys are housed. Way to change the world, Miss Cornthwaite—or should I say Sith Lord Cornthwaite?

Then Now Next Thursday (June 4, 2015)

Heart and the BottleTHEN

I finished reading The Last Unicorn. It was just as lovely as I remembered.

I also read two picture books: Owl Babies, an old childhood favorite, and The Heart and the Bottle, a new childlike favorite.


I’m currently in the middle of several things: Naomi Novik’s Uprooted on my phone, Mossflower on my home and work computers via Open Library, and Sabriel on audiobook through my local library! CLAMS kindly set me up with an online library card, even though I live abroad! (I’m still legally a resident of S. Yarmouth, Massachusetts.) I’m like a kid in a candy store now that I have my library card, but I have to remind myself to be reasonable and only borrow as much as I can read. Free access to so many (English) books is such a relief. Why didn’t I ask for a library card sooner?

MossflowerI also listened to some of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stoneduring a dentist’s appointment. I only made it into the second chapter and I don’t listen enough to justify two audiobooks out from the library at the same time, but it was soothing. I mean, it’s not like I don’t know how the series ends.


Well, first I have to finish all this. After that? It’s anyone’s guess, honestly.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’d Like to See as TV Series/Movies

Top Ten TuesdayThis week on Top Ten Tuesday: top ten books I’d like to see as TV series or movies!

  • The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien I know Christopher Tolkien was not impressed with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, but, c’mon, wouldn’t The Silmarillion make a great miniseries? It could be Sherlock-style, a few long episodes per season. It has everything: sword fights and epic grudges and world building. I just want to see The Fall of Gondolin with Glorfindel as a real hottie.
  •  The SilmarillionLamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore This would make a great movie… if they could get it made. It would no doubt ruffle a lot of feathers, but think of it as a contemporary Life of Brian, right?
  • Alana: The First Adventure, Tamora Pierce Since the success of the Lord of the Rings films, they’ve been looking for the next big fantasy franchise. They had a chance for a girl-centered fantasy series with The Golden Compass, but they blew it because they were too cowardly to actually make an adaptation of the book. So why not Alana? Or…
  • Sabriel, Garth Nix Uhm, this would be amazing?! Seriously, it has all the makings of a huge fantasy film franchise. There’s cool magic and zombies and battles. With the 20th anniversary recently, this would be great on film and the charter magic would look so cool.
  • Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor Another fantasy series that would be amazing on the big screen. Seriously, there is nothing like this book, but it would be so easy to market as “the next Harry Potter” or whatever they like to say these days. “If you liked Harry Potter, then Akata Witch will blow your mind.
  • The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, Uma Krishnaswami This would be such a fun kid movie! It would be kind of like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but… better! I don’t know, what are current “real life” kid movies popular these days? This one would be great.
  • PantomimeZita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke Another great kids’ movie in the making! Zita the Spacegirl keeps flying off the shelf in my library and I have no doubt that it would be popular with my students and their peers. It’s got fun and adventure and excitement, without feeling like an hour+ long toy advertisement.
  • Pantomime, Laura Lam Okay, obviously by now you can tell that I really like fantasy. I love fantasy, and fantasy movies in particular. I like to see cool special effects. Pantomime would be another great fantasy movie, but with some diversity, for a change. It’s such a great book, and I think it would make an equally good movie.
  • Midwinterblood, Marcus Sedgewick This is another one that would be a good miniseries. Remember that Syfy series, The Door? It would be like that, a limited run of six or twelve episodes and each one would be one time period, and it would all be a big mystery, like Lost or something.
  • Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld I can’t decide if this would be a better movie or miniseries. It would take a lot of finagling to fit in the dual narratives, but if it could be done well, this would be a great show.

Books, Movies, Music & More: May 2015

Heart and the BottleBooks Read in May 2015

I only actually finished two books in May. Oops.

  • Owl Babies, Martin Waddel (picture book, nature, bedtime story)
  • The Heart and the Bottle, Oliver Jeffers (picture book, realistic/contemporary)

I’ve actually been reading a lot this month. I guess I just haven’t actually finished reading anything. I’ve got several books currently in progress.

Movies Watched in May 2015

  • Pride & Prejudice (live action, historical drama, romance)

June should be better for movies. Avengers: Age of Ultronfinally makes it to theaters here this Friday, for one thing, and I’ll hopefully have more energy after work once classes finish and it’s just inservice days for a couple weeks while I do inventory.

How to Dismantle an Atomic BombMusic Listened in May 2015

  • Fast Cars – U2

finally found a copy of U2’s Japan-exclusive “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” with Fast Cars!

More – Anything Else? May 2015

  • Steven Universe (cartoon, urban fantasy?)
  • Fate/Stay night (anime, urban fantasy)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (live action, crime procedural)
  • Criminal Minds(live action, crime procedural)
  • CSI: Cyber(live action, crime procedural)

My usual TV shows ended for the season this month, so I’ll either have to pick up a summer show, or finally catch up on some anime. (I really need to get around to finishing Fate/Stay night.) I love TV, and I’ll probably want to spend a lot of time indoors with the A/C on, because it’s getting hot.