Book Review: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Book Review: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

American Born ChineseAmerican Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: First Second Books

YA, graphic novel

Second-generation child to Chinese immigrants, Jin wants to fit in at school. He perms his hair to look more like the blond curly-haired boys in his class. While Jin’s story is playing out, another story told in the form of a horrible sitcom about white teenager Danny whose Chinese cousin Chin-Kee comes for a visit. Danny is embarrassed by the way Chin-Kee dresses, talks, eats, and acts. And a third story about The Monkey King from a Chinese folktale is being woven throughout.

In the end, the three tales come together, though I don’t want to go too much into this as it is so beautifully done in the book. Jin is discouraged from showing interest in a white girl in his class because he is Chinese. This sets off an extreme need for Jin to want to distance himself from his Chinese friends, his culture, and identity. It is revealed that Danny’s story is really how Jin sees himself after this encounter. He purposefully sabotages his relationships with his friends to push them away. It turns out that one of his friends was The Monkey King in human form come to Jin to help him be true to himself.

This was an uncomfortable read, but an important one. At times I was sickened by the extreme negative racial stereotypes portrayed by Chin-Kee which, I know, was the point. Now that Yang has been named by the Library of Congress as the Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, I felt like I finally needed to get around to reading this.

View all my reviews

Patron Privacy Series for Texas Library Staff Begins February 9 | Library Developments

Patron Privacy Series for Texas Library Staff Begins February 9 | Library Developments

I am SO GLAD to see that we are going to start talking about patron privacy here in Texas! I have reached out to the Library Freedom Project to see about bringing them here for workshops, but haven’t gotten any interest from librarians. I hope this is the beginning of a long conversation… Looking forward to this series with Gretchen McCord.

via Patron Privacy Series for Texas Library Staff Begins February 9 | Library Developments.

A very special three-part webinar series on patron privacy for Texas library staff kicks off on February 9.

Patron Privacy – What Texas Library Staff Should Know

(For Texas Library Staff Only)

Are you confident in your ability to handle requests for patron information from authorities? When is the last time you had a refresher on Texas laws related to library records? Do you have questions regarding privacy and the online environment, employees, volunteers, or serving minors? The Texas State Library & Archives Commission invites Texas library staff to attend this very special Webinar series on privacy, presented by Texas attorney Gretchen McCord.

During this three part series, Gretchen will provide guidance and training focused on privacy in the areas of constitutional law, federal law, Texas state law, and application of the law and ethics. She will discuss how to minimize the risk related to privacy issues in the library, and will address frequently asked questions. Attendees will also have ample opportunity to ask questions of this noted privacy expert, so this is a webinar series that you do not want to miss!

About the presenter: Gretchen McCord is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas, specializing in privacy and copyright.  Gretchen provides legal advising and training in the areas of copyright law, privacy law, licensing, and other legal issues associated with digital information and social media.  With a total of over twenty years of experience as a lawyer and a higher education librarian, her practice (Digital Information Law) focuses on assisting educational institutions and libraries, small and mid-sized businesses, and non-profit organizations as they transition into the digital world.

1.5 TSLAC CE hours per session

Attendees must register for each part of the series separately.

Part 1 – February 9, 2016 from 2-3:30pm CST — Register:

Part 2 – February 16, 2016 from 2-3:30pm CST — Register:

Part 3 – February 23, 2016 from 2-3:30pm CST — Register:

Questions? Please contact Naomi DiTullio, Distance Learning Consultant,  Library Development and Networking Division, or 1-800-252-9386 (toll free in Texas).

Book Review: The War that Saved My Life by Kimbery Brubaker Bradly

Book Review: The War that Saved My Life by Kimbery Brubaker Bradly

The War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Penguin

middle grade, historical fiction

Brother Jamie and sister Ada are brought up in poverty by their abusive mother in London. Ada was born with a club foot and their mother keeps her hidden away in their small flat, sometimes locking her cruelly in a small cupboard. When World War II begins, the children in her neighborhood are evacuated due to bomb scares. Ada, who wasn’t going to be allowed to go, sneaks off with her brother and they are the last children to be selected to live with a reluctant woman named Susan. She is wrestling with her own demons, but she quickly grows to be fond of and even love the children. They blossom under her care with lots of freedom, hygiene, good food, and love, none of which they have ever really had before. They end up saving each other as they deal with their own crippling pasts.

This is a great coming-of-age story as Ada goes from whimpering dependent to a strong, brave leading character. She endures quite a bit in a small amount of time and she comes through it shining. At first I thought the plot was coming along a little slowly and then I realized that Ada’s reaction to the big changes she has faced was delayed. The more she thought about her time with Susan coming to an end, the harder it became for her to cope with her past. She would revert back to her former self having panic attacks, but Susan was calm, patient, and understanding as she helped her make it through them. Similarly, Susan would turn inward when she missed her friend (partner?) Becky who passed away prior to the events of the story. Eventually, Ada helps coax her out of her funk in the same way.

I listened to the audiobook and it is clear why it won ALA’s Odyssey Award for excellence in audiobook production for children/young adults. Narrator Jayne Entwistle does a wonderful job giving voice to all of these characters. I could see the story playing in my head as I listened. If this is adapted to film, I fully expect to see Judi Dench as Susan. A close second would be Imelda Staunton.

The Secret Garden is mentioned as a book that Susan reads to the children and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Ada and Mary. Sickly and suddenly without parents, they are sent to live in foreign environments that end up saving them. And immediately after listening to The War that Saved My Life, I watched Tangled with my daughter. I was struck to the number of parallels to the story of Rapunzel.

View all my reviews

Getting Excited and Inspired for #SummerReading at CTLS Workshops

Getting Excited and Inspired for #SummerReading at CTLS Workshops

Last week I was in Mansfield and Cedar Park having our first Summer Reading Program workshops and we had a blast! Here are just a few highlights!

2016-01-21 08.35.14

Suzan Nyfeler is our fantastic tour guide through the 2016 manual! We talked books, songs, decor, and display ideas.

2016-01-21 12.54.08

2016-01-22 09.51.03

2016-01-21 12.54.46

2016-01-22 14.17.47The photo booth was a big hit!

2016-01-22 09.55.14The morning was spent brainstorming and sharing ideas…

but the afternoon was spent playing games, making crafts, and doing theme-related activities.

2016-01-22 14.10.49

2016-01-22 14.08.44

2016-01-21 13.54.07

2016-01-21 13.53.52

2016-01-21 13.53.31

We had such a wonderful time! A big thanks to the Mansfield Public Library and the Cedar Park Public Library for hosting us. I will be on the road again next week at the Jourdanton Public Library and then again in February in Edinburg, TX.

I will be highlighting some of the crafts and activities we had at the workshop on the CTLS website and in the CTLS newsletter leading up to summer. These workshops have left me so inspired, I even started my SRP2017 Pinterest board. You can never start too early…

Happy reading!


#PictureBook Review: Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

#PictureBook Review: Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

Butterfly ParkButterfly Park by Elly MacKay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher: Running Press Kids


picture book

A little girl and her family move from the country to the city and she dearly misses watching butterflies. But next to her home is a park called Butterfly Park. Only, there aren’t ever any butterflies. She tries to figure out why and seeks help from her neighbors. They all follow a butterfly that they see and eventually come to some flowers. She takes a bouquet of flowers to the park but still there are no butterflies. Her neighbors bring plants, dirt, and tools to help grow flowers so that they can fill the park with butterflies.

MacKay’s has provided gorgeous 3D photography illustrations that are delightful to pore over. There is a lovely four page pull-out spread showing all of the neighbors working together planting flowers in the park. Unfortunately, the story falls flat. I get that there is a find-your-new-roots element going on, but it doesn’t gel well. It just feels like so much care went into creating these beautiful images, but not into the story. And that four page spread, while lovely, creates a confusing flow of text. My final complaint is that the children are chasing and catching butterflies with a net. I know that a butterfly net is a thing but, as a parent, I cringe when I see this sort of thing in a picture book that I feel I need to include a little side note as I am reading such as, “We really shouldn’t catch butterflies because they are so delicate.” and “I wouldn’t want someone chasing me with a net. Would you? It isn’t nice.”

View all my reviews

Where the Wild Things Are Decorations & Craft

Where the Wild Things Are Decorations & Craft

My son turned 2 earlier this month and we had a Where the Wild Things Are party. My husband and I had fun decorating and coming up with ideas. And of course, I must think the great brain that is Pinterest for much inspiration! I thought if anyone might appreciate what we did, it would be anyone reading this blog!

All of our decorations were simple made with standard craft supplies. Construction paper for tree leaves, crepe paper for vines and tree trunks, craft paper for tree trunk, and balloons for coconuts.

151637 - NIKON CORPORATION - NIKON D7000115914 - HTC - 831C

120112 - HTC - 831C

Here we used craft paper rolled and crinkled to make tree trunks.

115655 - HTC - 831C

And our friends made crowns out of paper plates, glitter glue, gem stickers, and colors. This was a very inexpensive, passive craft that wasn’t too messy or too complicated. It was great for a crowd with a wide variety of ages. Would be great for an all-ages storytime! The only prep it requires is cutting the plates which doesn’t take much time at all.

115838 - HTC - 831C

Fold the plates in half and cut slices like a pie, not cutting to the edge of the plate. Cut along where you folded the plate, again not cutting to the edge. Decorate it while it is flat.  The points will naturally push out more when you are crowned king or queen of all the wild things! This video was a great tutorial.


Book Review: Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

Book Review: Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars, #3)Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Woodring Stover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t normally go for novelizations, but Stover’s telling of Episode III enhances the story and makes the characters more likeable and understandable. This title fills in so many holes for me. You are able to feel Anakin’s struggle. Jedi aren’t the good guys. And my goodness, Padme isn’t completely a whimpering sack of potatoes.

I also highly recommend the audiobook version. Narrator Jonathan Davis does a fantastic job. His Yoda and Obi-wan vocals are spot on. The production is great weaving John Williams’ musical themes and sound effects throughout. Not only do we hear Artoo’s blips and beeps, but Stover also gives the little astromech droid a voice by providing us with translation.

I was hesitant to check this out, but my husband kept insisting I would like it. Very glad I finally did!

View all my reviews