Monday, January 30, 2017

Sheridan Lizard-Breath

When I was student teaching in the early nineties, I had a student named Sheridan. I thought at the time that was a wonderful name, and that I would like to use that name for my first daughter. I had no idea at the time how LONG it would be before I got to do that, but she was more than worth the wait!

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And look how teeny Christopher was!

She started talking in utero

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and hasn't stopped since.

Plenty of personality 

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Always the fashion queen

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And the drama queen

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And forever my princess.

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Happy Birthday, Sheridan Elizabeth Jones!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Teen Cafe Mystery Dinner

Nine brave souls showed up this evening to find out exactly what a Mystery Dinner is. It's a pretty simple - but occasionally hilarious - event to set up, and it goes something like this:

Each (numbered) table has an order sheet. The table members decide together which items they would like for each of the three courses (having everyone at a table the same made serving MUCH easier, and kept them from trading things).

The menu choices might be as follows:

If you are not up on your Russian (as none of the teens were, thank goodness), that list includes foods, drink...and eating utensils. So you could, for example, end up with a first course of:

mashed potatoes, soup...and a knife.

She made it work!

Or, you could have a drink, a knife, and a fork.

I told them this was from the light eating menu.

My favorite, however, was the soup, drink, and Salisbury steak table.

No utensils.

They finally figured out folding the paper plate and using it to hold the steak, which they then ate like a McDonald's hash brown. It worked!

They were all super good sports, and after the meal we had board games to play, or just talked. I need to declare a rematch at Phase Ten some time soon, but other  than that we had a blast!

Next month: Chocolate Un-Valentine Party.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Will YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

That's the question I asked a few hundred middle schoolers today. I got to visit my old home, Mountain View Middle School, for their annual Health Fair. Now, if you can remember back to your middle school days, the idea of a health fair doesn't exactly inspire excitement in your average 7th grader (although getting out of class is always nice). So, each organization that comes tries a different tactic to get the kids' attention for a few minutes. 

Giveaways, particularly candy, are always good, but many kids will just grab and go. My friend Maureen always has hula hoops, and they stay pretty busy with kids trying to best each other. Mike from the Space Hall had a mini operation center with realistic open torso, where kids could try to tie a knot with surgical instruments. The guys from HAFB always bring local critters in formaldehyde, plus their pet boa constrictor, which is TOTALLY cheating because it's not as if those are native (but yes I did go take it out and play with it before the kids came in).

Since the Library is all about feeding your brains, of COURSE we go with zombies! As kids (or adults) approach, I ask them how they think they would do in the zombie apocalypse. Answers range from a straightforward, "I would die. Quickly." to "Aw, man, I'd kill those zombies, I play Call of Duty ALL the time."

The latter group gets me mentally rubbing my hands together and laughing my evil laugh. First, I tell them, you have to make sure you will SURVIVE the first few days. You'll never get to shoot zombies if you do something dumb right off the bat. Let's see how you do on this quiz, shall we?

I had six questions from the Zombie Survival Guide, with answers on the flip side.

I picked ones that I thought would be good for discussion, and they were! It was fun listening to kids debate with their friends, and then discussing the 'whys' of each answer (do you know which of the above is correct?)*

Guessing they hit the Fire Department table first.
If they missed a bunch, I handed them a list of some of our zombie books, so they can come and brush up a bit! 

Then they could move on to firing practice.

Yes, I brought a gun to a middle school. And handed it to adolescent boys. It only shoots about two feet, though, and the bullets kept bending sideways, so I felt pretty safe. Especially after some of them looked down the barrel of the gun to see if it was loaded. "DUDE! You're not going to survive the week that way, let alone the apocalypse!" 

Overall, sixth grade boys and girls did evenly well. At seventh grade, girls became more thoughtful, while boys started showboating. By eighth grade, the girls were travelling in smaller groups, generally avoiding the boys, who...well...let's just say many of them will need some guidance during the zombie apocalypse. Some strong guidance. And for a few, possibly, a shock collar.

Of course, I also passed out candies ("Smarties or a Dum-Dum?") and flyers for upcoming events ("Did I mention we will have FOOD?"). I also got to network with a few of the other groups there, setting up some possible Summer Reading partnerships, and visit with teachers who stuck around a lot longer than I did. Thanks for having me, MVMS, it's a great way to spend a work day!

* A is the one you should NOT do. Zombies go down, so people need to go up. Stashing all your supplies in the basement would not seem like a good idea for very long.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, Photos by Wing Young Huie


I have a box of laminated photographs I have been collecting since high school (yes, we had photographs back then.) Most were cut out of magazines, particularly National geographic, and almost all are of people. They are pictures that caught my eye for one reason or another, usually having something to do with the expression on the subject's face.

Opening up this book was like going through my box of pictures. Whether the people in them are looking into the camera lens or away, smiling or serious, there is something captivating about each one. They are the faces of immigrants, come here for a variety of reasons, determined to make a better lives not just for themselves, but for their families. As the spare text says, "They dreamed of more."

The text goes on to say, "They made mistakes and people laughed. Others didn't understand how much they'd sacrificed." I feel like I am stating the obvious when I say this would be a fantastic book to open discussion about so many important and timely issues. It closes by asking, "What will we do with their great gift?"

My paternal great-grandfather came here from Italy, hoping to build a better life. He and his uncle ran a store in the town where I grew up. His son brought my grandmother home from the UK, a war bride. I have copies of letters she wrote to her future mother-in-law, nervous and excited about the changes ahead of her.

On my mother's side, we have German, French-Canadian, English, and Dutch. As far as I can tell, within three generations ago, none of my relatives were actually here in the US!

Another fun fact: my maiden name, Segna. Not too common here in the US, very very common in northern Italy. As far as we have been able to determine, every person in the United States with the last name of Segna is, in fact, related to me, as can be traced on our family tree. Can't say quite the same for my current last name, Jones!

A lovely book, a serious book, an important book to share with your little (or not so little) ones. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review: Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson

Is it Spring yet? No? Sigh.

Springtime, with everything fresh and green, new life popping up everywhere, is my absolute favorite time of the year. Despite the warm weather we have been having, Spring is still a few months away though, so I will have to settle for reading about it!


The image of the cover illustration above really does not do it justice - while the background is a flat texture, the lettering and pictures are all in a gloss finish, which really makes the hummingbird shimmer! Inside illustrations are simple and brightly colored. Follow the almost life-sized images of the life cycle of a zinnia, complete with a sneaky snail, buzzing bees, and a ladybug hidden on every page. Spare text invites readers to help the flowers grow. Tap the seeds, clap for rain, or shoo away that pesky snail! A page at the end makes sure you know just how to plant and care for zinnias (a good starter plant) at home.

A sure bet for lap time at home, and already on our roster for Spring story times. Be prepared to read it over and over again - we already have!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Good Night! Good Night! by Carin Berger

I'm back! I took an unannounced vacation from blogging, after a week's vacation from work left me with about a month's worth of catching up. Isn't that how it always seems to work out? Things are happening at the library, from our new portable STEM cart (a.k.a. Ami's new toy) to the search for a new reference librarian (final interview today). Preschool programs started up again this morning with a good sized crowd of 35, and we are dusting off our zombie gear for class visits and a mannequin challenge! (What...don't YOU dress as a zombie to visit middle schools?)

Publishers seem to be back in the swing of things as well, and my TBR pile is growing. So, without further ado:


Stories about children stalling at bedtime will never get old, because MY CHILDREN WILL NEVER STOP STALLING AT BEDTIME. Sure seems like it, anyway! Berger nailed my youngest with the one-more-hug, but I'm hesitant to read this to him and give him more ideas. Good-night dances? Good-night monkeys??! 

Each stalling technique is added to the list along the way, making this easily interactive in a story time, or before bedtime at home. Mommy tries to balance firmness with fun, and at last everyone is tucked in for the night.

I love the cut paper illustrations - images like these always make me want to get out my wallpaper scraps and scissors and start crafting scenes. That would be a perfect art extension, along with talking about ways to show singing, dancing, jumping, etc. A little art and the human form lesson, perhaps?

Definitely an early favorite for 2017! And you can check out two other books written and/or illustrated by Berger here and here.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Cybils Award Finalists

Whew, it's done! Our part, anyway - the second round judges in all the categories now have to whittle these lists down to one title each the best of the best! I know coming up with the short lists weren't easy, so I do not envy them their task. You can find links to the short list in each category at, but here are the short lists for the categories I was part of, Board Books and Fiction Picture Books. These are the must-haves for any library, so if you find you are missing some, get those order cards out!

2016 Finalists: Board Books

Cityblock (Alphablock)by Christopher Franceschelli
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Becky L.
Your little one will have fun while learning as he/she travels through a generic city in this quality board book with engaging lift flaps and cut page turns via a variety of city transportation methods. Fabulous city destinations await, including a museum, a carousel, a sports stadium and more! And that is not all – in this “big city – all you can eat city,” there are many cultural treats to discover. This fabulous book slices up the essence of a big city in manageable bites, just perfect for a little one’s mind to chew on. Chock full of art to enjoy, words to learn, details to savor and most importantly, it’s a city block little ones will want to revisit again and again.
Lynne Marie, My Word Playground
Cuauhtemoc: Shapes/Formas (English and Spanish Edition)by Patty Rodriguez
Lil’ Libros
Nominated by: PragmaticMom
What in the world is Cuauhtémoc? And what is it doing in a child’s board book?
The charm of this little board book is the surprising variety of learning the author and illustrator have included in twenty-two pages. Cuauhtémoc is a beautifully illustrated book that introduces the youngest of our future readers to shapes. But that’s not all: it also names the shapes in both English and Spanish. And this book has still more: it focuses on one of the most neglected groups in children’s literature, indigenous American culture. You can find this all in a package that is perfect for 0-2 year olds, with simple text and large bright pictures. Cuauhtémoc is a wonderful book for your baby or your library system.
Debbie Nance, Readerbuzz
Dinosaur Dance!by Sandra Boynton
Little Simon
Nominated by: Alysa Stewart
Filled with pitch perfect rhymes and onomatopoeia, Dinosaur Dance waltzes from one page to the next with daring illustrations and colorful dinosaurs. The words are fun to say and create a rhythm that encourages small children to dance with the dinosaurs. Reading this board book provides the ideal environment for learning, laughing, and of course, dancing.
Kirstine Call, Reading for Research
Follow the Yarn: A Book of Colorsby Emily Sper
Jump Press
Nominated by: ediew
Follow the Yarn is a creative new take on the basic color board book. Each page shows yarn of a different color being unraveled by a cat, and the featured color is written in big, bold, color appropriate text. On each subsequent page, the previous colors are still displayed in what creates a fun web of colors by the end of the book. The yarns crisscross each other, so toddlers will enjoy following each color’s yarn to the end. The last page, white, is stunning with the colors contrasted against a black background. This book will make the task of teaching colors a delightful experience for both parents and children.
Kate Unger, Mom’s Radius
LOOK, LOOK AGAINby Agnese Baruzzi
Publisher/ Author Submission
Look, a donut! Or is it? Unfold the (sturdily constructed) flap, and you find those are actually the curves of a lounging cat. A green apples becomes two crocodiles, and so on, in this playful counting book.
The counting part of it is almost an extra. The real fun comes in learning to look at each shape differently, and in guessing what else it might be. Adults may remember similar photo games in magazines like National Geographic for Kids, or in the back pages of Reader’s Digest. The pages are easily manipulated by little hands, and while younger readers will enjoy marveling at the transformation, older children can be led in games of, “What else could this shape be?”

2016 Finalists: Fiction Picture Books

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animalsby Lucy Ruth Cummins
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund
“Once upon a time there was a hungry lion” the book begins, and then lists all the other adorable animals surrounding him. Oh wait, that’s not quite right. Let’s try listing those animals again. And again. And… where did everybody go? Surprise! Of course the lion didn’t eat them all! It’s a party! Um….they’re going to eat the cake, right? Well….maybe not….
There are quite a few “a hungry animal is going to eat you, no, wait, it’s just a party” books, but this one stands out with its triple-twist and giggle-worthy ending. Cummins’ bright, colorful illustrations feature an adorable assortment of animals – and a stoic lion with a glare that fits his naughty personality perfectly. Cummins has a perfect sense of timing as she plays out the joke and surprises readers on every page. A Hungry Lion will keep your storytime audience and classes laughing hysterically as they request multiple readings so they can catch every detail.
Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library
Ida, Alwaysby Caron Levis
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Rumberger
Filled with lyrical language and vivid verbs, this book reads like poetry. The story of Gus and Ida touches on death and friendship in a peaceful and hopeful way. The illustrations add depth and power to the well chosen words. The unmistakable bond between Ida and Gus creates an emotional resonance that stays with you long after you’ve read it. You’re reminded that those you’ve lost are right there with with you. Always.
Kirstine Call, Reading for Research
One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Treeby Daniel Bernstrom
Nominated by: Heidi G.
“One day in the leaves
of the eucalyptus tree
hung a scare in the air
where no eye could see,
when along skipped a boy
with a whirly-twirly toy,
to the shade of the eucalyptus,
eucalyptus tree.”
Are your toes tapping? There’s a definite rhythm going that makes this book a natural read-aloud. Children can of course see the snake peeking out of the eucalyptus tree, and that snake gobbles up that boy with the whirly-twirly toy. The boy keeps calm and immediately hatches a plan, convincing the snake to swallow more and more adorably illustrated creatures, until he is finally so full, he…er…burps them all out. Early literacy skills, a feeling of empowerment, fun illustrations, science and social studies extensions, and just plain fun make this a well-rounded addition to the list.
Strictly No Elephantsby Lisa Mantchev
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Flowering Minds
When one little boy and his tiny pet elephant try to participate in Pet Club Day, they are met with a sign that says: Strictly No Elephants. Despite their sadness, they push forward together and ultimately travel from the realization that they do not fit in that club, to a joyful accomplishment and a place where they can celebrate their differences with friends. This well-written and aptly-illustrated book conveys the sadness and sweet success often found in the process of finding true friends and subtly suggests the meaning of friendship.
Lynne Marie, My Word Playground
The Night Gardenerby Terry and Eric Fan
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Betsy
The Night Gardener is a magical book. A small town is forever changed by the works of the Night Gardener, a mysterious man who creates new topiaries out of the local trees each night. One little boy, William, is impacted a bit more. One night after celebrating with the neighbors late into the night, William comes upon the Night Gardener and gets to help him create many creations in the local park. Though the trees only last until fall, the community is never the same again. And a small gift from the Night Gardener inspires William for a life time.
The text in this book is fairly minimal, with no more than a few sentences per two-page spread. The illustrations begin in muted tones with only the topiaries in color. But as the story progresses and the people in the neighborhood are impacted by the Night Gardener’s sculptures, they begin to appear in color as well. By the end of the book, the whole town is in full color, appearing as vibrant and alive as the people of the town. This book is perfect for kids ages 4-8.
Kate Unger, Mom’s Radius
There’s a Bear on My Chairby Ross Collins
Nosy Crow Books
Publisher/ Author Submission
“There’s a bear on my chair!”
On my chair!
I declare! A bear on my chair!
A mouse arrives home and discovers an enormous polar bear is sitting on his chair. How far will the mouse go to remove that bear from his chair?
There’s a Bear on My Chair is a exuberant tale filled with surprising rhyme and unexpected plot twists and wild mouse mood swings. This is a book children will ask to hear over and over again, with side benefits: you will love reading it over and over, and it will soon be a book children will find they can read solo.
Dare to ensnare this rare and extraordinaire bear-chair affair, There’s a Bear on My Chair.
Deb Nance, Readerbuzz
They All Saw a Catby Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: PragmaticMom
“The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .”
When you see a cat, what do you see? A child sees a cute calico cat and wants to pet the kitty. But a mouse sees a large black cat with yellow crazed eyes, large pointed teeth, and long sharp claws ready to pounce. It is all a matter of perspective in Brendan Wenzel’s debut. He gives children twelve animals’ vision of the cat. The beautiful images will have children thinking about size and perspective, giving them a new view of their world.
Sue Morris, Kid Lit Reviews

There were many wonderful titles nominated that did not make the short list, but which should not be missed either. Take a look through my reviews over the past few months, and check out the blogs of my fellow panelists (links above). I would like to thank those other ladies for making this such an enjoyable experience, and for making me take a second or third look at things!