Showing off our Bots & Books Robots at the Temple Public Library

Showing off our Bots & Books Robots at the Temple Public Library

On Friday, September 25th I spent the day at the Temple Public Library in Temple, TX for the Connecting Texas Libraries Statewide Membership Meeting. Our afternoon workshop was a Technology Petting Zoo where we showcased some of the latest gadgets being used in libraries. I was asked to bring in some of our Bots & Books equipment and there was a lot of interest! Many libraries are asking to be included in year 3 of the grant and we only just started the 2nd! We are working on a way to create a Bots & Books workshop as a professional development workshop.

Such a wonderful problem to have!

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I showcased the WeDo Construction Set and created a book display to go along with the build.

Banned Books Week: All Controversy All The Time

Banned Books Week: All Controversy All The Time

First it was the poster debacle. Now come all of the complaints about the point of celebrating Banned Books Week. I just finished reading an article on Slate called Banned Books Week Is A Crock and I had some thoughts I wanted to share.

I do cringe a little bit as this week approaches. There are some things about librarianship that do that to me. The whole librarian superhero thing, wearing a cape and fighting for your freedom to read, etc. It looks good and it feels good. But now it seems like a bunch of patting-ourselves-on-the-back show. Absolutely, we play a role in all that and we are actually one of the last few institutions strictly about service to the public and not profit in any way. Coming from a background in fundraising, business, and politics, this never ceases to be refreshing to me.

Librarians tend to fall into two, possibly three I guess, camps about Banned Book Week. The first is the cape-wearing superhero camp. The second is the “doesn’t anyone know the definition of censorship?!” camp (see The Annoyed Librarian). The possible third one might be the I-don’t-really-care camp. I suppose I am mostly in the second camp, although this Slate article had me saying, “Ya, but wait a minute…”

The article by Ruth Graham is asking if we really need to publicize Banned Books Week anymore because the good guys won. She closes with the statement,

This Banned Books Week, instead of hand-wringing about a nonexistent wave of censorship, let’s celebrate the obvious: The books won.

I agree that it may not really be “necessary” anymore, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling attention to the reasons why it exists. Is anyone really claiming that BBW is doing anything other than reminding us that we don’t really have to worry about this anymore? I don’t know that anyone is really “hand-wringing”…

To be fair, Graham does point to the historical need:

Once upon a time, book bans were a serious issue in the United States. The Comstock Law, passed by Congress in 1873, made it illegal to circulate “obscene literature.” Even classics like The Canterbury Tales fell under that description in the eyes of Victorian moralists, and in the middle of the last century, publishers and booksellers of forbidden novels including Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill were actually prosecuted in court. But in the years since, social and legal tolerance for censorship plummeted. A 1982 Supreme Court decision, Island Trees School District v. Pico, ruled that local school boards can’t remove books from their libraries simply because they’re offended by them.

 Once upon a time, if your local library and bookstores didn’t carry a book, it would have been very difficult to procure it elsewhere. But of course we’re now living in an era of unprecedented access to reading material.

I completely understand that the terms “censorship” and “banned” are used inappropriately when talking about what is actually happening. There are, unfortunately, plenty of challenges today. For instance, over the summer at a high school in Charleston, South Carolina a parent challenged Courtney Summers’ book Some Girls Are which appeared only on a suggested summer reading list from the local school. Suggested, people! Instead of suggesting her child pick a different book on the list, the mother wanted it removed all together, calling it “smut”. A librarian blogger worked with the public library in Charleston and put out a call for donations of the book that they could distribute to the teens. They purchased or got donations of over 800 copies of the book!

Here is a picture of their efforts:

So thankfully a true book banning is extremely rare in the United States today. But these are disagreements with how BBW is publicized, not the need for it. To me this is almost like asking if we don’t need to talk about suffrage because so many oppressed people now have the right to vote.

Bottom line is this: Every year during BBW I try to pick up a title that has been controversial either that year or historically, read it, and become acquainted with the challenges it faced. Perhaps others will do the same. Anything that could provide reason for someone picking up a book is worthwhile, in my mind. And if along the way the reader spends some time thinking about the reasons behind the reason for the challenge (religion, “protecting” kids from something, oppression, racism, etc.), then so much the better?

Book Review: Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson

Book Review: Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No NormalMs. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“My name is Kamala Kahn. And I’m here to take out the trash.”

Kamala is a pretty kick ass character. Like so many teenage girls, she is struggling with anonymity from her overbearing, traditional family and what face to show the world. Only in this instance, she isn’t sure if she should shape-shift into Captain Marvel or wear a mask when she is wielding her new-found powers.

I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge of the history of Ms. Marvel which tends to be my problem with superhero comics. I don’t read them because I feel like I need to go back and start at the beginning or get there back story and then get overwhelmed by how much content there is! Most of my graphic novel experience has been memoir. But first Muslim headline character seems too important not to pick it up.

So now I have started a journey with Kamala Khan and have no excuse not to keep up with her now. This was very enjoyable and I can’t wait to see how she grows as a character.

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Book Review: George by Alex Gino

Book Review: George by Alex Gino

GeorgeGeorge by Alex Gino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To everyone, George is a boy. But George likes to think of herself as Melissa. As if middle school wasn’t difficult enough, Melissa is a very brave girl who is dealing with the complications of revealing herself to the rest of the world. We see how she deals with her friends, her mother, her brother, teachers, and schoolyard enemies. For the most part, she is surrounded by well-meaning people who are simply struggling with how to acknowledge her.

I have read that this is the first middle grade book with a trans protagonist so I feel that this is an important book. Though at times it can feel a bit didactic, I believe that is the point. This book is an opportunity for us to try to get a taste of how someone struggling must feel.

It is a window into the life of a transgender person. It allows us to see the assumptions ingrained in us by society that can marginalize someone like George. It is a mirror allowing us to see our reaction to someone we care for revealing themselves. I asked myself many questions. How would you react as a parent? Which of these characters am I? Most importantly, which of these characters do I want to be? I loved how open, accepting, and encouraging Kelly was to George. Should a child of my find themselves struggling with identity in this way, I would wish them a friend like Kelly.

This is a wonderful story about true friendship, exploration, finding yourself, accepting yourself, and being brave enough to do what feels right to you. George’s struggles can speak to many other middle grade issues and also give us a valuable insight into ourselves and how we treat others.

This would be a wonderful book for a book club to prompt discussion and critical thinking!

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#PictureBook Review: The White Book by Silvia Borando

#PictureBook Review: The White Book by Silvia Borando

The White Book: A Minibombo BookThe White Book: A Minibombo Book by Silvia Borando
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very cute book about a little boy who paints a wall different colors revealing a series of images of animals. Birds, fish, dinosaurs, an elephant, giraffes, an anteater, and finally, a puppy appear as white lines in the paint and then come alive running off or interacting with the little boy in some way. It is a great little wordless picture book that will have little ones quickly turning pages to find out what will appear next.

This would make a good storytime book for interacting with the children asking them to say what the animals are or name the colors being used. It could be followed up by a rubbing craft or wax resist craft so they could reveal their own secret images.

UPDATE: I recently worked on very simple craft where I used a white crayon to draw a variety of Halloween images on different sheets of white paper. With watercolors, we revealed the secret messages and images just like in The White Book!

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The prep was very easy and it was a big hit. You could even have a volunteer make the images for you.

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#PictureBook Review: Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood

#PictureBook Review: Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood

The Full Moon at the Napping HouseThe Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an unusual review because I haven’t ever actually seen this book. And no I didn’t get a digital ARC. Tonight I got to hear it read aloud by Don and Audrey Wood on their tour stop at Book People here in Austin. They actually read it simultaneously with Napping House. Don would read a page of Napping House and then Audrey would read a page of Full Moon to show their similar structure.

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It was a pajama party. It started with a puppet show of King Bidgood followed by Little Mouse. Then out came Don and Audrey to read the books together. This is my son in his penguin pjs listening intently!

Then Audrey talked a little bit about her inspiration for creating another Napping House book after so many years and Don did a little live illustrating showing the kids expression and body language.

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The entire presentation took 15 minutes. It wonderfully showcased both books and gave the littlest bit of insight for the interested adults and kids who were able to hold on for that long. You can tell they really know their audience.

Don and Audrey lived in California when they wrote Napping House and the fog always clouded over the moon. When they moved to Hawaii, Audrey said she got a new appreciation for the moon. During one full moon, she noticed that their goats and chickens were all very restless, dancing around and making a raucous. It inspired her to write Full Moon at the Napping House. Everyone is very restless and finally settles down to sleep unlike Napping House where everyone is asleep until the wakeful flea… well, you know.

I cannot wait to examine the book more closely. While I don’t think it will ever replace Napping House, but it was cute and clever. And such a fun event!

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#PictureBook Review: The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt

#PictureBook Review: The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt

The Day the Crayons Came HomeThe Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group

picturebook

A follow up to The Day the Crayons Quit, Came Home is told similarly in the form of letters to a little boy named Duncan from his lost and forgotten crayons. One was left by the pool on Duncan’s last family vacation. Orange and yellow, once mortal enemies over who was supposed to be the color of the sun, have been melted together after being left outside… in the sun. One was eaten and thrown up on the carpet. Pea Green wants to change his name to Esteban the Magnicificent and see the world but changes his mind once he opens the front door and finds it is raining. Eventually Duncan rounds them all up and creates a special box for them.

A mixture of photography, crayon drawing, and paintings, Jeffers’ art makes both of these books in my opinion. In Came Home, there is a spread with glow-in-the-dark illustrations from the disgruntled glow-in-the-dark crayon that was used last Halloween and left in the basement.

Another cute book to be sure, although this and Day the Crayons Quit fell flat with my children.

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