Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: Tooth by Tooth - Comparing Fangs, Tusks and Chompers, by Sara Levine, illustrated by T.S....Spookytooth?

My teeth are not my favorite body part. Thanks to inheriting poor enamel to begin with, probably not helped by two years of who-knows-what (not flouride!) in the water in Ukraine, I have helped pad the college fund of many a dentist's child. Just last week I had to get a molar pulled, and just as it was healing up, I bit into a pretzel stick and broke a huge chunk out of my front tooth. On a Sunday. With a field trip of Kinders scheduled first thing Monday morning. Sigh.

All to say, when I took this first book off my pile of goodies from Lerner, my first thought was, "Well, that looks familiar!"

Tooth by Tooth

Okay, my smile isn't quite that snaggledy, but since my kids have asked repeatedly to see the pulled molar (of course I saved it, why are you even asking?), I knew this would be a hit.

"What animal would you be if a few of your teeth grew so long that they stuck out of your mouth even when it was closed?"'d be a Shane.

"What would you be if your top canine teeth grew almost all the way down to your feet?"

Okay, Shane's aren't THAT long.

"This picture book will keep you guessing as you read about how your human teeth are like - and unlike - those of other animals."

This book is a great introduction to the different types of teeth mammals may have, and why. (Other types of animals are touched on at the end, but it mainly addresses mammals). Each two-page spread poses a question like those in the description, and answers it clearly and concisely. Accompanying illustrations are both clear and entertaining: a seal shows off his sharp canines while sporting a jaunty flowered headband, under a drawing of a dog skull. The horse on the next page, who is posed next to a drawing of a cow skull, has accessorized with a scarf and matching toboggan cap.

The text is set up perfectly for paired reading - while Sheridan could have read the entire thing, she enjoyed reading the larger print sentences with great gusto, while I read the smaller (only issue with the text - readers with dyslexia may find the curlier font difficult).

The terms herbivore, carnivore and omnivore are clearly explained, and I was VERY happy to see them call snakes venomous, rather than poisonous. I did not realize that anteaters do not have teeth, although that makes perfect sense - so, I learned something, too! There is a short bit at the end about how other mammals lose their 'baby' teeth too, especially of interest since many readers in this age group are losing teeth of their own. Christopher has lost three in the past week or so! (Baby teeth, fortunately - he is not following in his mother's footsteps so far!)

Solid book, great illustrations, definitely recommended for purchase.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Harry Potter Turns Ten!

Christopher turned TEN this week, and after much debate, decided on a Harry Potter birthday party. This made me happy because the alternative was Star Wars, which we have already done to death, plus we have the whole harry potter thing going on at the library this summer, so I didn't have to switch gears in my brain - something that is getting harder and harder to do!

Of course, Harry's story doesn't really take off until he is eleven, when he finds out he is a wizard. Until then, his only gifts were the annual single tissue from the Dursleys. On Christopher's actual birthday, Tuesday, Sheridan presented him with a handmade card containing...a tissue. I thought that was hiLARious, but he didn't, and he tried to throw it at her. Of course, tissues don't go very far when you throw them, and he may or may not have become even more irritated with how much I laughed at that, too.

Anyways. We decided a little bit of artistic license was acceptable in this case. A few weeks ago, we sent invitations to school using these awesome printables from Just Sweet and Simple, my new Favorite Blog to Steal Things From.

I just printed out the blank invitations, hand-wrote our information, and photocopied from there. I loved her idea of attaching them to cut-out owls and helium balloons, but I didn't think the teachers would appreciate that!

 For Christopher's birthday cake, I replicated the one Hagrid made for him, although I did not misspell "Birthday", nor did I carry it in my pocket and sit on it.

It was nice to not have to even try to be neat!

I also made sorting hat cupcakes. Just chocolate cupcakes, scoop a bit out of the middle, fill with colored M&Ms, then replace 'lid' and frost.

The color of the M&Ms told what house you were in. I tried piping the frosting on in spirals to make them resemble hats, but that quickly turned into a mess, so I just went with spreading it on. Nobody seemed to mind!

Notice the black fabric draped in the background? That is covering the cereal, coffee pot, toaster, some flashlights, a can of crack sealant, and a bunch of other things I didn't have a place for. I have decided I am going to start collecting fabric in all sorts of holiday colors, and decorate this way from now on:

The picture is a little dark, but the black fabric is covering dishes, school supplies, toys, globes, cookbooks, you name it. Add a couple owls, broomsticks, and severed heads, and you are good to go!

I spent a little more time in the kitchen:

More black fabric to cover the canned goods, and 'spiderweb' draped to cover the screws, where I took down some of my decidedly non-wizarding decor.

I already keep much of my kitchen ingredients in bottles and jars, so I just added appropriate labels, also from Just Sweet and Simple (seriously, you need to check out this woman's site!) 

I had to make up a few tags myself, and since it was last-minute, they don't look nearly as nice:

We also had steak fries, which I decided to label Mandrake Roots, but they were in the oven until the last minute, and didn't make any pictures!

Our Polyjuice Potion was just green punch, and the Butter Beer was cream soda with a smidge of butter flavoring, then a dollop of butter-flavored whipped cream on top:

The kids were so funny, they really sucked down the butter beer, and several sported mustaches for a bit! Very sweet, though - one glass was plenty for me!

Oh, and there was also pudding, in case Luna showed up:

Peppermint flavored, with mini marshmallows sprinkled on top. Because.

I was going to do the hot-glue-and-chopsticks thing to make wands, but I ran out of time, and bought glow sticks instead. The goodie bags included golden snitches (a certain gold-foil-wrapped chocolate), owl stickers, spiders and snakes, and a few candies I thought the Weasleys might sell, like Pop Rocks. I really had a hard time finding wizarding items. You would think with a play/book coming out in July, the marketing would be all over it by now!

I didn't get any pictures of the actual party - too busy chatting with other grown-ups! I think the kids had fun, though, and I can re-use everything at the library this summer - bonus!

So, now my little wizard is in double digits. But, I will always picture him like this:

Happy Birthday, Biggest Guy!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Summer Reading Registration

I've always known there were different ways to conduct your Summer Reading Program. Heck, the way I run our is very different from the way I ran it ten years ago. If you ever want to start a...spirited discussion amongst children's librarians, toss out a question like, "Is it better to count by minutes, or by books read?" or, "Prizes or no prizes?"

Recent threads online, however, have shown me how drastically different summer reading can look from library to library. So, I thought I would give a run-down of how we do things, with the understanding that this is how thing work here, and they may not work the same at your here, and that's completely okay! This could get extremely long, so I'll start with what leads up to registration, which begins for us May 27, the last day of school (used to be the middle of May - one change I've made in recent years).

What April looks like...

By now I have done all my fund raising and scheduling and planning (except for my first year, when I came on the job at this time, and NOTHING had been done yet.) I am spending so much time at the copier, someone asked me today if I was running laps. The 5,000 flyers to go out to the schools were thankfully sent out to a commercial printer, but I still have volunteer applications and packets, raffle tickets (we went through over 10,000 last year), 1500 registration forms, equal number of packets/schedules, and approximately 1 million "READO" boards. All of these need to be updated/revised, and will inevitably have a glaring error I only notice after the copies are done. Then they all need to be stapled/cut apart/etc., and I don't have my teen volunteers in place yet.

I am also winding down story times, and scheduling/beginning my class visits, field trips, etc. I will be spending one full day dressed as Bellatrix Lestrange at a local cosplay event, and another at a military appreciation event (no costume), both to promote the SRP and the major Harry Potter event we decided to add to the mix, because hey, why not?

My story times and crafts are planned, so I am purchasing materials, and cutting out pieces parts, and hoarding the books I want to read, now and through 


This month's schedule is rapidly filling up with said field trips, and I have 4 volunteer training sessions scheduled. I deliver the flyers (and volunteer forms where appropriate) to the schools, and make note of how many students each has (in the fall I take a stack of books to the schools with the highest percentage participating).

Registration begins on the last day of school. That 'school day' is traditionally only an hour long, and everyone is already in a celebratory mood, so we capitalize on that! To register, parents fill out a little half-sheet form for each child:

I added the e-mail option last year, and it worked REALLY well for getting out notifications!

I usually have a craft for kids to work on while Mom or Dad tries to remember how old everybody is, and t-shirts hanging on the wall so sizes can be an educated guess. Once the forms are done, they get an information/instruction packet, and a "READO" board for each child. There are three different READO boards, but they look like this:

NAME _______________________________________

I read a book about dinosaurs.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book about science.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I attended a library program.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book I picked because I liked the cover.
Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read every day this week.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a story that happened in another country.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read to a friend.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book with a female main character.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I listened to someone tell me a story.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I made a recipe from a cookbook.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read out loud to an adult.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a mystery story.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I wrote a letter to a friend.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read somewhere other than my house.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a historical fiction book.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I attended a library program.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book about love.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book that was on display.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book about families.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read in my pajamas.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book about nature.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a book that is also a movie or TV show.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a poetry book..

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a graphic novel.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________
I read a fantasy book.

Date             Parent Init.
____           _________

(spacing way off because it's landscape on the paper, but you get the idea)

The game board is new this year. We used to give prizes or raffle tickets for every hour/4 books/200 pages read, with a free book, t-shirt, and coupon to a local establishment at the 5th prize. Last year we switched to days read. This year we are doing away with the small prizes entirely, but keeping the big raffle items (as motivation to continue all summer). Instead:

First READO (5 in a row) - coupon plus a raffle ticket
Second READO - free book plus a raffle ticket
Third READO - t-shirt plus a raffle ticket
Every subsequent READO - raffle ticket

So far, the parents I have shown this to have really liked it. Lets hope the kids feel the same! I am going to challenge my own kids to get blackouts on each of the boards, just for fun.

Of course, planning ahead, this means we also need suggested book lists of, say, historical fiction for younger readers...another task for the "to do" list.

The packet itself contains:
- instructions for earning prizes
- schedule of weekly story times (2 preschool, one kinder/first, one second grade and up. We also have two for large groups that aren't advertised)
- schedule of weekly tween activities
- schedule of weekly teen activities
- schedule of weekly family activities
- list of sponsors
- information about free lunches (served here Monday-Friday), free movies at the local theater and at the zoo, and anything else that is offered to kids for free during the summer.

Kids can start earning prizes as soon as they are registered, so the books really start flying off the shelves at opening registration. That is a day I see many of my regulars, as well as families who can't make it in much during the school year except for rushed visits. I really love the whole atmosphere of the day - school ending, fun beginning, everyone relaxed and chatting and happy! Best part of the whole summer!

After the first day, my teen volunteers handle most of the registration and awarding prizes. I keep a spreadsheet with all the information on the cards (password protected), and every morning before we open, I update with new registrations, prizes received, etc. This way I can get statistics at a moment's notice, and if someone's form is misfiled, I can easily bring them up and see which prize they are on. A little work to set up, and you have to keep up with it, but so worth it! (Yes, I know there are online programs you can buy, but I haven't seen any that look worth the money to me. And if people are registering online, you miss the visiting, the craft, etc. No thanks!)

Just 25 days away! Time to get back to that "to do" list!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Harry Potter and a Whole Lot More!

Ohmigosh my feet hurt. Like, really, really hurt. WHY do women wear heels? Really, why??? Ow, ow, 


Needless to say, I never wear heels. But, I couldn't really be Bellatrix Lestrange in sensible flats, could I?

Let me start over. If you are at all in tune with the Harry Potter world, you know that a much-anticipated eighth book is set to come out July 31 - the script of the play set to open July 30, featuring Harry and Ginny's son. To those like my husband who say, "Ginny who?": this is a huge deal, trust me. So huge, library staff took approximately 2.3 seconds to decide we need to do something major on July 30 to celebrate it.

To help us plan it, we asked around about local cosplayers, and were immediately given one name: Jana. We met with her to brainstorm, and her first suggestion was that we have a booth at the 2nd Annual Alamogordo Aeon Adventure, which she was organizing, to advertise and raise money. I should note, at no point did she suggest I wear heels, so I can't blame that part on her. Our FOL spotted us the money for some raffle items, and we started planning our costumes. Getting paid to dress up? Heck, yeah!

Yesterday was the day, and I arrived bright and early with my van loaded down. We had free bookmarks kids could make, and some of last year's SRP shirts (hoping to unload a few on superhero fans!)

And, of course, the raffle items. We have ten in all, from a golden snitch necklace I really want, to a Triwizard Cup, to a copy of the first book with a hand-tooled leather cover - created by the multi-talented Jana (who also made many of the costumes you will see in a bit).

We also revived an old "Plinko" board, with Mad-Eyed Moody's eyeball as the ball.

Hermione (in her summer wardrobe) was my partner for the day, and even though I was dressed as Bellatrix, we got along all right for the day. Filthy mudblood.

She tried conducting our young assistant in his first kazoo recital,

but I don't think they are ready for public performances just yet.

There was, however, plenty of live entertainment right next to us most of the day, from belly dancing,

to medieval fighting and dancing,

even a demonstration of how medieval Irish wolfhounds would rip a man's throat out.

Well, okay, Maggie here is only a puppy, so she doesn't quite have the ripping-out-your-throat thing down. But, she sure did try to snuffle off all my makeup! Vicious beast.

Then there was this guy, who fortunately started flinging fire around AFTER my kids left.

That was pretty much the last picture I took, because this was when a gust of wind suddenly took our canopy - cinder blocks and all - and sent it into the next space, sending everything on the tables flying. While this guy with the fire didn't get much more than a breeze. Gotta love New Mexico.

I did, however, get some pictures of some of the many great costumes, so I'll leave you with those. The day was a lot of fun, and our raffle is off to a great start! We will sell tickets until our event July 30, so if you are local, there is still time to get some at the library!

This young lady really is Wonder Woman! I met her last month when I was judging the city science fair. Still in high school herself, she was our section's head judge, and showed some amazing leadership skills and maturity beyond her age. At the Aeon event she was helping with the Student Council's booth, and when our canopy went flying she jumped up to help gather everything back up, then duct-taped our poles to the cinder blocks. If I remember correctly, she plans to go into nursing - I would not be surprised to walk into the hospital in a few years and find her the head of the entire nursing staff!

Power and cuteness all in one! This lady runs one of the downtown businesses, a thrift shop that benefits Kitty City, local feline rescue. This particular kitty just turned 8 weeks old, and was enjoying his first trip outdoors (I would love to know what was going on in his mind!)

Especially when he saw...

What the...

Holy. Cow. Er, mantis. This guy was AMAZING. He just strode up and down the street like it was nothing. Do you have any idea how many small children I would have taken out in the first five minutes (assuming I stayed up that long?)

And, Jana made that costume, too!

Oh, and here's Jana:

I should have made her smile, but you can see how lovely she is! During set-up, she was in "normal human" clothes, and she said people did a double take when they heard her voice - they are too used to seeing her in various costumes! 

That was an amusing part of the day for me - waving to people I know, mostly library patrons, who would frown a little and wave back with a look of, "Why is this person...OH MISS AMI!"

Name this Game of Thrones character:

The anonymity of costumes means hugging random people who would otherwise find that rather weird.

And check out his sidearm!

I found Waldo! Carmen Sandiego was with him, but I didn't get her picture. I did tell him that we have all his books at the library, and we love his work.

Check out those stilts - they are curved, and they bounce! I saw him dancing with people quite a bit, he was obviously having a ball. I probably shouldn't complain about my heels any more.

Another Wonder Woman, and another costume by Jana!

I choose you!

"And on your way back from the battle, don't forget to pick up some eggs."

Lots of younger cutie patooties:

And some not-so-younger.

Above is one of my former students!

These guys were dressed as security guards. Pretty convincing, too.

The gentleman above had very gallant manners to go with his costume.

This group was fun:

View of the shield:

Okay, I REALLY can't complain about my heels, check out these shoes:

And, of course, there were some fellow Hogwarts students! I completely missed photographing the Luna at the next booth, but these ladies were brilliant:

And, did you know Ana and Elsa went to Hogwarts?

Of course, Ana was in Gryffindor, and Elsa...Slytherin!

Yes, that's me on the left. I think I looked more like a zombie than Bellatrix, even with the dark mark:

which won't come off. Hmm.

After several washings and conditionings and a lot of combing, my hair is voting we switch to someone like Madam Trelawny for July.

Besides, she wears sensible shoes.

***First two pictures totally stolen from Hermione, who has her own blog you need to check out: Lisa's Lighthearted Library Blog