Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Sound and the Fury: My Experiences with Audiobooks

I absolutely LOVE to read....and read....and so on (you get it) and with that mindset, I didn't really delve much into audiobooks because I always had my book in hand.  I also felt the same way about
e-books.  I foolishly considered myself a purist who would choose hardcopy over any other format.

Well, I have since changed that mindset!

Time is different for me now and in order to keep up with the massive amounts of titles I'd love to read, I had to rethink my plan.  One day I had a three hour drive ahead of me with nothing to do.  I'm one of those people who don't travel with the radio on, preferring instead, peace and quiet.  The meeting I had to go to was one where all of the reading lists for the Texas Library Association was convening and I lamented about the fact that I had less time than ever to read.  One librarian from Katy ISD (Robin Cashman) and the other from San Antonio (Dana Hutchins) suggested audiobooks.  I'll admit, I did the whole "OK, I will" without really going to, but she then started setting me up with an account and watching me download the books.

On the way home, I listened to my very first audiobook....WOWOWOWOWOW!!

It was one of those HUGE new Stephen King books (Sleeping Beauties) and three hours wasn't going to cut it.  So I spent the rest of that week when I was walking, driving, getting ready in the morning, etc to "read with my ears."

And I was hooked.

What makes them such a draw is that the delivery by those reading the books is above amazing.  They put emotion, character, voice into it and constantly changed they own syncopation and tenor to match other characters in the book.  It really was like listening to their conversations or allowing them to open up to me.  The only comparison I could possibly make is that instead of being visually stunning, they were auditorally (yes, my own made up word) resounding.

Since then in the last month I have "read" six other audiobooks and HIGHLY recommend you "read" them too!
Mary Addison is in a group home, complete with ankle bracelet.  She's been that way for a few years now.  Why?  Because at nine years old, Mary killed a baby.  Now a teenager, Mary wants out, but public opinion has already condemned her as a baby killer.  Can she ever outrun that reputation?
Mary Addision is a baby killer....allegedly.

This urban fiction novel packs a punch up until the very end for anyone listening to this.  Although this is about Mary, the listener will also get caught up in the lives of the other girls in the home, what brought them there and the hope or hopelessness they face.  9-12th grade.
 Sebastian's summer isn't going the way he thought it would.  His best friend isn't around and his mother is pressuring him to get a job.  He realizes he does need something to distract him, especially when he can't forget what happened when he picked up a gun, which makes him spiral ever downward into depression and dark thoughts.  But then Aneesa moves in and his life begins to turn around.  Too late or just in time?

Readers will get caught up in the past and present and find themselves on a roller coaster ride of Sebastian's life in this realistic fiction novel.  9-12th grade.
 Nix has spent her life on the high seas, searching for treasure, adventure and old maps.  With each map her father finds, the ship sails through time and space to travel back to that time.  Nix has been to ancient Rome and Chine to modern day New York City and Hawaii in the 19th century.  But it's one map her father is obsessed that could completely change or erase Nix.  And when it's found, she has to make a difficult decision and suffer loss.

Adventure fantasy at its finest, readers will be transformed along with the narrator's voice of Nix and her other shipmates.  7th-12th grades
 Breakfast Club meets Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in this new mystery novel.  Five teens are in after school detention.  The brain, Bronwyn; the beauty, Addy; the jock, Cooper; the criminal, Nate; and Simon the outcast.  But at the end of detention, Simon is dead and the other four are now murder suspects.  Who did it and why will drive the reader but the motive for it will push the reader over the edge.

This relies on four different narrators who bring to life not only the characters, but the story behind each one, including personal lives and secrets.  9-12th grade.
 These tales will delight and enthrall readers who enjoy listening to fantastical creatures and peculiar people.  Made up as a sort of fairy tale-like anthology, readers will meet all types of people including a man who turns into an island; the first person who can transform into a bird; people who can grow their limbs back over and over and lonely giants, each tale is a mixture or whimsy and wonder with a little horror mixed in.

If you know the origins of fairy tales, this book will delight you with the morals each tale has in its own dark and delightful way.  7th-12th grade.
Reminiscent of fairy tales, this novel is about two very different girls.  Mina is beautiful and fragile-looking, but is far from it.  Living with a glass heart, she is able to manipulate glass and mirrors to make her way to the throne.  Lynet is the replica of her mother, the dead queen and is constantly surrounded by the king's protectiveness for his only daughter.  Ever the daredevil, little does she know the power she wields on her own that far surpasses what she can do.

A little Snow White, a little Rapunzel, this fantasy novel will delight readers of the genre, especially when they heard two different voices in alternating chapters recall events through completely different lenses.  7th-12th grade. 

Here are reasons why audiobooks should be in the library collection:

1. There are just some students who don't like to "read" so give them an option
2. Some people like to listen and read at the same time (great for struggling readers)
3. Long road trips by bus for extra-curricular (just sayin')
4. These are great examples of prose and poetry for UIL events
5. Use snippets of the books during a booktalk.  Let the characters talk to the kids instead
6. They may be more expensive but the library owns them for perpetuity!
7. Comes in many different options from playaways to digital to CD so technology doesn't have to be a barrier

SO...if you were like me, then yes, you should definitely try it at least once.  But beware, you'll get hooked!

Happy reading (with both your eyes and ears!)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Top 10 Best Reads of 2017

2017 was a good read year for me and there are certainly those books that really stood out from the rest.  Here's my top 10 list for young adults, both fiction and non-fiction (although I could put more, I'll hard to do!)
Most of these are 2017 publications, but I included books from the past 18 months.  So in no particular order:

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Creating Collections: Think Beyond the Book!

Libraries without books are can use this with an endless amount of similes but basically, that is what a library is filled with.  But sometimes, we need to look beyond the basics and start thinking about how we can meet our students and patrons on their levels, whether it's where they live, what is popular for students, or how it can impact reading.  Here are a few things to think about if you're wanting to beef up that collection like....(again, can you finish this simile? ) :)

1. DVDs and/or Blue Rays.  Yes, public libraries do this a LOT....and it's a great service they do for the public.  School libraries should also take a queue from the public libraries and add this as a collection in the library.  I did this a couple of years ago and interest in it, both on campus and with students, has been really positive.  I stocked it with "books to movies" DVDs because if they won't read the book, maybe...just maybe...they would after seeing it. These were both recent and classic books to movies (is Holes considered classic yet?) and it seems like the amount of books to movies for children and teens is never-ending.  All of them are rated PG-13 at the high school level (and miraculously, that included Nicholas Sparks!) so I didn't cross any invisible lines.  And you can get creative too.  Yes, all of the Avengers movies and DC movies are included because hey, graphic novels count!  And of course I had to slip in a few movies that teens should watch, like Gremlins and ET, among a few others.  But think about the displays and pairings you could make with them!  Kids and teachers will thank you for this small but important part of the collection pie.

2. "If you don't read it with your eyes, it isn't considered reading."  Yeah....right....BUT I challenge those who say that to try audiobooks!  I'll admit it, I was a purist too.  But then I found myself in a situation of being on long drives in my car and wanting to keep up with the latest YA reads.  All it took was for one excellent high school librarian to "show" me an audiobook and I was hooked!  Now, it's all I can do to not hop in the car and hit play!  Why is this collection so important?  Because you will have readers in a similar predicament as me.  Long bus rides to games, UIL competitions where they're waiting for the results (and the long drive home), holidays flying or driving to destinations and many many other situations where all it takes is a touch of a play button and the book opens up.  I am absolutely enthralled with the talent of these readers and the different voices they use to make the book come alive.  If you've never tried it, please do!  (And if you need any recommendations, I can give you a few :)  I'm HOOKED....

3. Makerspace items.  Some libraries have them, some don't, but either way think about the possibility of checking out those items to students.  During the holidays, I've worked with students on doing what I call "creative archiving" or taking old books and making something with them.  Once they learn the skill, why stop at school?  Take those glue guns and cute little scissors and add them to the things students can check out to take home and use.  It could be something as small as a loom, knitting needles and other small maker items to more substantial items like a portable green screen, cameras or virtual googles.  If you truly want your makerspace to thrive, allowing students to take them home may just take that interest over the edge. 

'Tis the season to share, and for librarians, it all starts with our collections.  Happy holidays, ya'll!!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Diversity in YA Lit: Three Great Titles

YA authors have really stepped up to the challenge of providing authentic novels with diversity in them for the teen reader.  This particular genre (if we can call it that) is a burgeoning one, and very desperately needed on library shelves.  Our populations are becoming more and more diverse, and having diverse titles in the library helps open up not only pages, but conversations about cultural differences and even dispelling stereotypes of people from different cultures.  With that said, I'd like to introduce three great YA novels that feature diversity in very different perspectives:

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein.  Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2017. 
Jason and Tom have been friends since they were kids.  It doesn't matter that Jason is Jewish and Tom is African-American.  They see beyond this to the foundation of their friendship and interests.  And their love of football is one of them. 
Both Jason and Tom are gifted athletes.  Jason is an amazingly quick wide receiver and Tom's arm is perfection for a quarterback.  Living in New York City, their school doesn't have a football team, but they are given a chance in a play for a prestigious private school that is known for their outstanding athletes who make it to the pros.
But when they arrive at school, something isn't right.  The coaches, who praised them during camp, are now different, treating both Tom and Jason brusquely.  One of the boys is at the tipping point of calling it quits, when the truth begins to slowly rear its ugly face...segregation.  Now they have a very different passion, one that could potentially expose the shining facade of football greatness.  Recommended 7-12 grades.

Bang! by Barry Lyga.  Little Brown, 2017. 
Sebastian killed his little sister.  When he was just four, he picked up a gun and now his sister isn't with them anymore.  His father left, and his mother is hollow, only leaving the house to go to work or her therapist.  Sebastian remembers the details, but wishes he didn't.  And he can't let it go...
Sebastian is fourteen and summer is nearly upon him.  His best friend, Ethan, will be gone all summer and to create a sense of normality, his mom tells him he must find a summer job, no excuses.  Sebastian doesn't even know where to start, until he meets Aneesa.
She's so much more different than any other person he has met.  Up front and honest, she makes him feel like there's more to life than the little voice who tells him otherwise.  What starts as an accident on a bike becomes a new friendship, with new ideas.  Pulling their ideas and expertise together, they decide to start a Youtube channel to create pizzas and some day, sell them.  Aneesa works in her Muslim heritage and Sebastian brings it on with his pizza skills. Slowly, but surely, the channel starts to take off.  First a 100 followers, then a 1,000...and the count keeps growing.
But when things in Sebastian's life begins to crumble again, the little voice starts talking, telling him it's time....go get the gun...  Recommended for grades 8-12.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.  Atheneum, 2017.
No crying.  No snitching.  Revenge.  These are the Rules Will has been taught by his big brother Shawn.  Tough neighborhood, tough life, tough luck... and when things got tough, Shawn made sure he and his little brother stayed tough.  The Rules come into play the day Shawn sees his brother's body lying in the street.  His mourning may be silent, but he also knows what he has to do.  Going to his brother's side of the bedroom, Will takes the gun, tucks it behind him, and walks out the door onto the elevator.
Seven floors to the lobby.  Seven floors to revenge.
But on the ride down, Will meets the people coming on.  And what's so strange is that everyone who comes into the elevator cabin are people Will hasn't seen in a long time.  On floor six, Buck enters the cabin.  He's the one who gave Shawn the gun.  On floor five, a childhood friend.  On floor four, his father.....the only problem with this entire situation is that Will knows these people have died.  And each one brings a new perspective into what happened and what may happen.  Is it Will's imagination or are they truly there?  Will has to decide whether to play by the Rules or change them...and his life.  Recommended for grades 7-12.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Another Round of Great K-12 Library Ideas!

The fun never stops with my current position!  I have seen some more amazing things I'd like to share via the blog.  These are also posted on my Twitter feed (@yabooksandmore) of great ideas I've seen in libraries I've visited.   

If there is one thing we need bring into students' lives, it would be that they live in a world with people and events that make a difference for the better.  This YA librarian promoted this through her awesome display (which can be used for a bulletin board too!) 

This savvy elementary librarian went environmental on the library by re-using things teachers didn't need anymore into some amazing genre signs!  Beautiful!!!  Now, go hit up your teachers for old, unused globes!  (And if you have extra, DM me and I'll take them)  :)

Sometimes you don't need signs to capture attention.  Try wallpapering the backs of the shelves for certain genres like this middle school librarian did with her graphic novels. Plus, it cost little to nothing to do it :)  POW!  Ka-BAM!

This elementary librarian decided to do something to showcase books AND gets students involved in the library.  Taking those large envelopes (that have a tie or metal closure on the backs), she got her students to decorate them for the holidays.  They couldn't open it until they checked them out.  Use it for any holiday and promote student library collaboration :)

This junior high librarian created and used series lists of books and their order to create shelf markers under the series to help students track and find them easier.  She and her library assistant did these on their own but you don't have to if you have a Follett Titlewave account.  It contains a series tracker/finder, including have them in numerical order as well as when the newest one will be released.  You've got to try it out :)  

Enjoy these and be inspired, share, and incorporate them! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

E-books: From Shelf to Student!

Do you ever have one of those days when all of a sudden a light comes on, angels start singing, and a lightbulb literally is hovering over your head?  Yep, had one of those lately! πŸ‘ΌπŸΌπŸ’‘

I was doing some PD with district librarians, and we were talking about collaboration between library and classroom.  We know collaboration creates an environment that engages students and makes them the center of instruction.  It can also be the perfect place to encourage e-book reading for academic and pleasure pursuits.  Here are a few ways to begin to attract readers to the digital side of reading

1. Use excerpts and throw it up on a screen.  E-books don't have to be independently read from a single device.  Try using features on the device to highlight part of the e-book for students to read and discuss in small groups?  It also allows students who don't have their device not to be able to read along with the classroom.  Reading time can be taken to a whole other level, especially when reading picture books.  Show them the cover of the book while you introduce it, which can help encourage curiosity about e-books and (hopefully!) checkouts!


2. Buy an e-book version of popular books.  We all know those students who wait and wait.....and then wait some more for a popular book to come in.  The problem is, that sometimes those popular books always come in late, or even never at all.  If a title is that popular, why not buy an extra copy in digital format?  Not only will it NEVER get lost, but it could also be the gateway for those who want it so badly they'll take the digital copy to become e-book readers!  Bonus?  You get more shelf space to add other titles than duplicates!


3. Create a brochure/poster with QR codes for them to open quickly.  If you're a school library, you may have a circulation system that delivers e-book content to students.  If so, why not make it easier for them to check out books by using QR codes for them to go directly to the system and the book.  I think part of the frustration of reading e-books is actually getting to them.  If you have the QR code ready, wah lahhhhh!!  Easy as pie!  One easy idea: Follett's Destiny Discover has Collections, where you can create a list of e-books and create a PDF you can print or share online that's super easy to create.


4. Do a book talk all with e-books.  Nothing says I love to read more than booktalking all of the amazing books you want to share.  Oftentimes, e-books are overlooked when booktalking so add a few to the mix and see what happens.  What would be even more interesting would be to have the actual e-book open and read the first two paragraphs of the book while they track with you.  That's a powerful hook!


5. Talk to students about the ease and benefits of e-books and the added tools to use with a reader.  E-readers can go farther than just turning pages.  Highlighting, annotations, key word searches and more are built into some e-readers, so never neglect the fact that e-books are great resources especially when doing research. It's all in one handy place ready for them when they need to start using their documentation.


And whatever you do, never ever stop promoting reading and remember there are ALL types of readers.  What may feel uncomfortable to us may not to another reader, so keep your mind open.  Time to crack a book cover...or click a virtual cover!!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trell by Dick Lehr

2017, Candlewick Press

Trell only has one family picture with both of her parents in it.  It was taken on her 13th birthday.  Before that, it was always just one of them because the other had to take the picture.  It can get tough when your daddy, Romero Taylor, is in prison.  

Trell was just a few months old when her father was sentenced for murder of an innocent girl who was shot down during a gang shooting.  It's something the district attorney pursued heavily and it's now being brought up again because the DA is now running for mayor.  No one can forget poor Ruby and the senseless loss of life...

Except Trell is as certain as her father that he didn't commit the crime.

Trell knows about gangs, shootings and drug dealers.  She lives in an area of Boston riddled with them and more but she is trying to get away from it.  With the encouragement of her mother, she now attends the Weld, a private school in another area known for their academics.  People like Thumper Parrish, the local drug lord, scare her and she wants nothing to do with that type of life.  

But it's one visit and visitor that will change Trell's life.  Her father's case catches the attention of a new lawyer, one who is willing to fight for an appeal for Romero.  But it'll be an uphill battle to find evidence.  It'll also be a battle to stay one step ahead of those trying to hide the truth with threats, bullets, and brutality.

Dick Lehr writes a gripping YA novel set in today's urban landscape not only about the struggles of the main character, but also the fight for justice where system are flawed.  This is also a novel based on real life events of a murder that actually happened in Boston when Lehr was part of the Spotlight team of the Boston Globe. Urban realism is deftly written about in this novel and is one that should be on the shelves for those who live it and those who live vicariously through it.  Highly recommended.  JH/HS

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Great October Reads and Activities

Halloween is nearly upon us and it's a good time to cuddle up with a scary book on a long least for some of us.  If you know a teen who loves great horror, try these books with them.  I mixed fiction series with stand-alones; non-fiction titles that reflect horror; and even graphic novels and story collections. 

The PDF can be downloaded and made into posters, as a handout or used on a website.  There are links for the books with book trailers. The pdf can be found here

And if you're one to do activities with teens, create a murder mystery party and open the library a little later than usual.  School Library Journal also has a great online article that feature Halloween programs for K-12

However your celebrate October, have fun and let readers know all holidays and seasons are a great time to start reading! 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Feiwel and Friends, 2018  Pub date 03/2018
compliments of the publisher via Netgalley

     extremely or completely dark"

The year: 2087
Ship: USS John Muir

This ship is part of a group of ships jettisoned into outerspace  during the Exodus.

Tuck wakes up from stasis in a fog of questions.  The first thing he notices is the year: 2433.  Nearly four hundreds year of stasis has wrecked havoc on his physical self, which he desperately needs right now.  Because he has come face-to-face with a horrible bony, twitchy, and deadly alien that looks weirdly human.  The crew of the John Muir have either survived or evolved and a deadly war of survival is happening on a decrepit ship manned by no one but the AI, Dejah, and the ability to speak to each other silently through brain-embedded chips.  And silence is the key to survival against the griefers, mourners, and other monsters lurking everywhere.  Then he meets....

The year: 2435
Ship: Conquistador

This ship is an exploratory vessel aimed at finding viable soil and planets to re-establish humanity.  Earth is now dead, thanks to the terrorist plot Pitch Dark, and this ship, run by the Cruz family with the Smithson family as passengers, is one of their last hopes.

Laura (pronounced low-ra) has no fear except for one: Sebastian Smithson, heir to the powerful family who curates prized artifacts.  Her fear isn't based on him per se, but on the subjugator they have implanted in her, giving them total control over what she does.  But not tonight...she is hacking the system in order to free herself from this technology and tell her family and Mami, captain of the ship, about the mutiny the Smithsons are planning.  They've just found an age-old ship carrying extremely valuable cargo, which holds the key to humanity.  But then she sees the insignia of Pitch Dark appear before collision course between the two ships begins....

Survivors from two very different ships and times, Tuck and Laura meet and form a union to not only save themselves from the horrors within their ships, but also to ensure extinction of their race doesn't happen.  But they must fight not only physical monsters, but also the espionage of the Pitch Dark group, and the power struggle happening between families.  It's enough  to divide, but can they conquer? about edge of the seat reading!!  Alameda creates a interstellar world of two different ages of humanity that still mirror each other in their will to survive and control.  The monsters on the Muir are uniquely embodied human/monsters with destructive power created through the errors of humanity itself.  What makes this novel a standout isn't only the amazing narrative and storyline Alameda creates, but also the diversity she embues in the characters, where the main characters come from a proud line of Latino lineage.  This is a novel that will quickly become part of a lot of "TBR" lists and more.  HIGHLY recommended JH/HS.