storytime review: chu’s day, stop snoring bernard & mattoo let’s play

This week I hosted two preschool visits to the library on consecutive days. They were the same adults but different kids (mostly – a couple were there both days). I liked that arrangement because I got to directly fix things that went less well the first time through.

So here are the books I used. Neil Gaiman’s new picturebook Chu’s Day was our opener (after our welcome to storytime rhyme). It worked well with both groups, who really got into the “Ah ahhh ahhhh… No.” conceit. The only problem is that the “bad things that happen” probably require a bit closer examination to really admire the art. And the ending seems to leave kids wanting more.

I tried using Never Take A Shark to the Dentist the first time, because the cover was really attractive to the kids. The book ended up being a little high-concept for 3-4 year olds, but it was super easy to skip pages when that became apparent.

Stop Snoring Bernard worked really well in both groups. I got the kids to help with the snoring noises and in each group someone had one of those Cosby moments when they told everyone about one of their family members who snored. They also got to name some zoo animals, which helped keep everyone involved.

We did Shapes That Roll in the first session, but it was our last book and I think it would have played a bit better with more time to really get into all the shapes and explore them a bit. As it was we just kind of went with the rhyming.

In today’s session I replaced a couple of the less well-received books with a couple about trying very hard to be quiet. Mattoo, Let’s Play is about a loud little girl with a pet cat who forms a bond once she learns that some animals are best attracted by being quiet. We also did Read to Tiger which is about a tiger being very distracting when you’re trying to read. Everyone had fun making the loud distracting noises.

We did a dinosaur song both sessions it all worked out pretty well. Even the kid who was mad he wasn’t there to see a puppet show was unsullen at the end (that could have been because he was finally able to leave).

I’m going to try doing a few more of these types of storytime post-mortems because of something I took away from Miss Julie’s blog post where she mentioned:

In a profession that’s supposedly dominated by women, I find it sad that the librarians who get the most attention are mostly men (and, admittedly, some women), men who very rarely write about honest, simple, day to day issues in librarianship.

She goes on to discuss how technologists get all the “rockstar” status in our profession and no one cares about the bloggers who write practical things about doing the feminized work of dealing with kids. Since I’m guilty of writing the odd impractical technology rabblerousing bit, I want to make sure I’m also blogging some of these more practical day-to-day things too. It’s part of that whole advocacy for the importance of libraries and librarians thing to show that the non-technological stuff is important too. So here we go.

Children's books by, on Flickr Shared under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license

shuffling stuff

Children's books by, on Flickr Shared under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license

Children’s books by, on Flickr Shared under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license

The second in a short series of posts where I talk about what exactly I do in my new job as a Children’s and Youth Librarian.

My least favourite part of my job is figuring out where to put books. Our library system has a floating collection across dozens of branches, which means that when a member returns a book to a branch in the system it stays where it was returned and doesn’t have to get trucked back to some other branch where it nominally belongs. What it means in practice is that we get these huge gluts of books on our shelves based on who the last requester was. It also makes getting all of the volumes in a series together on the shelf tricky.

So a big part of my job is dealing with stock rotation. I’m responsible for the Children’s/YA collections in our library and our 5 other small branches in the zone. I get a box of unwanted books from one small branch and go through it to see if we already have copies at our branch; if we do I check which branches in my zone don’t have a copy, then I label it and get it ready to get on the truck so it can be delivered to a small branch where they curse the arrival of new books because their shelves are packed. So they go through their shelves and send unwanted books back to me and it keeps on going. If we have copies in all our branches I have to go and beg and cry on the email lists to get some other library outside our zone to please take some books, and no one wants the stuff I have 18 copies of because they’ve just gotten down to 6. I send books to them and they send books to me in this endless dance of keeping the shelves interesting/relevant without overloading any one branch.

Stock rotation haunts my fucking dreams. I hate it so much.

Weeding, though, weeding I like. That consists of going through the collection and seeing what’s old, beat-up or just not being used and removing it so the stuff people are interested in doesn’t get cluttered out by the rest. One of my favourite things to do is check dinosaur books to make sure there’s at least mention of feathers, and the space books to ensure Pluto isn’t still being called a planet. Weeding is the main way I have a say in our collection development, because the way our system works there’s no librarian selecting material for the system. In order to get new books in our system we rely on our members making suggestions (awesome!) and on the vendor to tell us what we want (umm… less awesome). I get to keep the good books even if they’re old and try winnowing out the less-good ones.

In any case, this stuff I have to deal with collection-wise is in a lot of ways just part of being part of a biggish library system. If I worked in a one-branch system and was in charge of the children’s and youth stuff there, I’d probably be griping about how I have to go through catalogues and pick everything myself even if I didn’t feel qualified. Because the collection is shared among all these branches and there are shelf-space issues everywhere and boxes of books keep on showing up, this feels like the part of my job where I have the least control over anything. And that kind of sucks.

I was at one of our local high schools this week. I loved the fact that I could do a couple of mini-booktalks on China Miéville books and the librarian, who hadn’t heard of him before that, could be really impressed and order them for the library. Just like that. In a larger system that doesn’t happen. Or at least I don’t feel like I can do that.

But my next post in this series will be happier again because it’ll be about something I do have power over. I shall leave you in suspense about what that may be.

book review: lulu and the brontosaurus

Judith Viorst’s book Lulu and the Brontosaurus (illustrated by Lane Smith) is a short chapterbook that feels like a long picturebook, but with more narratorial digressions. I liked it.

Lulu is an obnoxious whiny kid who wants a brontosaurus for her birthday and when she doesn’t get one she goes off into the forest, being a jerk to all the dangerous animals she meets. When she finds the brontosaurus and tries to make it her pet, the brontosaurus makes her a pet. Then she escapes and is much nicer to all the terrible animals, but it doesn’t solve all her problems.

What I especially liked were the metafictional elements Viorst adds in, including an explanation that yes, these days it’s called an apatosaurus but this is her story and she’ll tell it the way she wants. There are also three different endings to the story. The narrator has an impact in the way the story is done and it feels very much like a told story, not a text (much like A Tale Dark and Grimm).

book review: old man logan

I appear to have gone on a superhero kick since coming to Oz. I can’t tell you why. But Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar was pretty awesome.

See it’s a ravaged future where all the superheroes have been beaten and supervillains rule what’s left of North America. Logan is a farmer in California, Hulk country where he’s late with the rent on his farm (where he lives with his wife and kids) and is getting beaten up by a bunch of Hulk-hillbilly descendants because he’s taken a vow to never unsheathe his claws again. To get the money to save the farm he goes on a roadtrip with Hawkeye, smuggling drugs in spiderman’s old dune buggy thing.

There’s a lot of stuff that’s just silly, but there’s some awesome (ridiculous) stuff too. “Oh yeah, the midwest is crawling with dinosaurs these days.” I’m sure it’s not a big surprise that Logan does eventually go Snikt! and there is a whole lot of redemptive violence, but the amount of it in the end, geez. They weren’t pulling punches. Logan is a stone-cold murdering machine at the end.

sad frog

Last night’s storytime was not one of my best. It was the Royalty & Romance theme (unofficially since that name was verboten) but I messed up the order of my stories so I didn’t have time for the best one, the one I had puppets for. As the theory of storytime goes, you do your longer stories first so that by the time you’ve lost their attention you are switching books all the time and can maybe hold them with novelty. My first story was kind of long (though I shortened it a bit) and my mistake was not going to the puppets and book story right afterwards. Instead I sacrificed the art of the ensemble for getting a thing about how little a normal royal person does in. But then that one went longer than I expected, and I’d almost lost the boys in the audience, so I needed to do something silly (and with a boy protagonist since the first two had been about girls). Once that was done there was time for only one more story and it needed to be short. So my favourite got left in the cold. Le sigh.

But the kids didn’t seem to mind. Even the boy who is the hardest to keep focused was pretty good, though most of the stories weren’t really his thing. But last week we did dinosaurs, so I figure it’s a wash.

Afterwards my coworkers and I were talking about Storytimes and how much stuff they do/did for them. It was kind of funny to hear my supervisor say she wanted to do more puppet shows at the branch, when she was the one who told me in September not to do puppet shows “or the kids would expect them.” I don’t really mind because I don’t have a huge group I’m doing storytime for (usually 6-8 kids) and I’m a good/energetic/silly enough storyteller to keep them occupied for half an hour without gimmicks. For now.

little humans cannot refrain from using outside voices

I have new neighbours. One of them yells all the time. I assume he’s under 5 years old, since he doesn’t seem to go to school ever. Last night at the library there were a couple of young parents with their kids. The older one (4ish maybe?) was running around the library with his pants around his ankles. Then he’d trip and fall over and say “I ran into myself.” Ha ha ha cute until it’s been going on for 45 minutes and he’s yelling when his mom tries to put his pants back on and then screaming for 20 minutes when they’re trying to leave. All the staff are trying to ignore them because, dude, no one wants to be the library asshole who tells a mom/dad to take their kids outside or learn to parent. It’s amazing how tiring it is just to have a kid yelling for 45 minutes. I don’t even have anything to do with the kid and it made me tired.

The storytime kids on the other hand were just great. We did some dinosaur tales and even the really long one I started them off with went pretty okay. I skipped a couple of pages which made it make a touch less sense, but it worked out. There’s a new kid who is the most expressive listener ever. She makes all the appropriate faces at the scary or happy or exciting bits, and she was just filled with anticipation when we played the “Where’s the dinosaur hiding?” game. Next week is a bunch of stories about princes and princesses. We’ll see how that goes over with my primarily male audience.

it’s still winter eh?

First Storytime of the season! (I kept on calling them semesters at work today.) Almost all the kids I thought would be there were. Nobody freaked out that their parents weren’t in there with them. My felt story version of The Mitten ended in a big “Kablooey!” I hadn’t practiced, but worked really well. One of the kids asked if we were reading about a dragon today (I keep the potential books up on a table behind me while I’m reading to get feedback of what might be their favourites and such) because he saw Derek the Knitting Dinosaur. We didn’t get to it but next week is Demanding Dinosaurs, so I know what the first one is going to be.