Friday, May 30, 2014

Things I wish people knew about Summer Reading

Ok, first off, I knew blogging with a baby would be hard. But my goodness, it's tough! Especially when he stops napping well and the moment he goes to bed I want to go to bed too because I've exhausted myself at work. But luckily I've got my handy iPad to blog from whole I'm holding Baby GreenBean, so please excuse any typos!

We're almost a week into Summer Reading Program at my library. This is my eighth Summer Reading Program and it never fails that after a few days, I start to feel like a broken record saying the same things over and over again. I can give the Summer Reading spiel in my sleep-and have actually dreamt about it!

Yet no matter how many times I go through another Summer Reading Program, there are always things that surprise me that people don't know. Here's my wish list of what I wish people knew about Summer Reading.

-Listening to a book counts as reading. Yep, it might seem like a given to people who are avid readers or who work with kids, but every year I get the inevitable "but my child can't read yet" statement from parents. They're surprised that listening to a book, being read to, or even audiobooks count as reading. I've even said that maybe we should call it the Summer Reading and Listening Program,

-All ages can participate-including babies and toddlers. Along with the my kid can't read yet camp are the parents who will only pick up a reading game board for their older kids and ignore baby. They don't think the younger ones can participate-but of course they can! I always encourage them to include everyone and mention that even when reading to the older kids, if baby is in the room, that counts-baby is listening! (See above!) The last two years my library has started a program just for babies which I love and it helps encourage those with younger kids to participate. 

-Forget reading levels and read what you want! Every year I have parents or kids who are stuck on reading books at a certain level. And it's so frustrating! Not every book is catalogued in every leveling system, our library isn't organized by level, and so many times the kid is reading at a high level but a young age which makes it hard to find something of interest. Forget the reading levels-please!!! The best way to enhance and grow your child's reading skills and love of reading is to let them read what they want. Let them read for pleasure-that doesn't happen enough, or at all, during the school year, so let them have fun. I promise they will continue to grow as a reader and they will learn to love reading because they got to choose their own books.

-I'm glad you love the prizes, but that's not what it's all about. I'm glad people love our program and we are super lucky that every child gets a book, a fine waiver card, and a big coupon card with lots of great area deals (many for free). But just because you finished the game board doesn't mean you have to stop reading. And the prizes are great, but please be honest and don't cheat. It's not about getting prizes but getting to choose what you want to read and have fun reading. That's the main focus and what it's all about. 

-Just because a book is popular doesn't mean it's the best book for your child. Oh Summer Reading. What is it about this time of year that makes parents and grandparents only want the "popular books"? Seriously, if I had a new book every time someone asked where the popular books were, I'd have a very nice library! But here's the thing about Summer-the library gets so much more busy than during the school year. More books get checked out-including the popular ones. It doesn't matter if during the school year we have an entire shelf full of Magic Tree House, during the Summer they are all gone. And there's nothing more frustrating that an interaction with a patron who only wants what's "popular" and refuses to take anything else or try something new. My staff and I work hard all year long to create booklists and readalike lists and our job is to help you find something to read-and I do believe we're pretty awesome at it too! So trust us to help you instead of only relying on  best sellers and popular books-there's so much more in the library and we can help you find it. And if you really want that popular book, we'd be happy to put you on hold for it. 

Ok librarians, anything else you want to add? Or what about those who aren't librarians, what should librarians know about Summer Reading? 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl Tour

I love the moments when I can recall a book off the top of my head and impress my library patrons with my book knowledge. It's always fun and makes me feel a bit like a superhero. It's easy to remember the popular always asked for series and where they are located, who the author is, or the order of a series. But it's even more fun when you are given just a few details about something and you can come up with the book a patron is looking for.

I had a young boy come into my library one evening with his very stumped grandmother. He had been talking about a book where a girl and her friend hit a red box and that's all he could remember. His grandmother said he had been looking for it for awhile and couldn't recall the title. I immediately said "Zita the Spacegirl!" Luckily we had the first Zita book on the shelf that evening and my young patron went hope very happy to rediscover the book he was looking for. 

There are so many things I love about Zita the Spacegirl. I love her spunk and charm. I love that even though she finds herself lost in space on a crazy adventure and is trying to get home, she is always looking out for others and trying to help them. She finds good in people and wants to help those around her. She's funny and even though she might be seen as a savior of planets, she's still a normal girl who just wants a day off to have some fun. She doesn't always enjoy the celebrity of being Zita the Spacegirl, but she accepts it as well. She's a wonderfully strong character and I like that she's a girl who goes on awesome space missions to save those around her. She's resourceful, has a fun cast of characters around her, and she gets to pilot some awesome spaceships!

In my review of the first Zita the Spacegirl book, I said "One thing I love about graphic novels is the way the artist can connect the reader to the characters and portray emotion in a powerful way. Ben Hatke excels in that and there were characters I grew to love in this short graphic novel." 

And as I re-read the first two Zita books and read the third title in preparation for this tour, I was reminded of how much I love Ben Hatke's artwork and storytelling. I love his art style. I've been thinking about how best to explain it, but I'm stuck. All I know is that Ben Hatke's art makes me connect with his story and characters. When Zita is homesick, I'm homesick. When Zita is trying to save others, I want her to succeed. When I come across a large spread of Zita traveling through space, I have to stop and take in every detail of the artwork because I want to soak it all in. I love how the story combines humor and heart. Strong-Strong makes me smile with his big heart. I love Mouse's loyalty to Zita and Piper's sometimes sly ways and his wit. I love how Zita's story somewhat reminds me of a Wizard of Oz set in space tale. And I love how throughout the three books, the story weaves together and details you read about it book one come back in the third book for a nice full circle. 

There is so much to love about Zita the Spacegirl. Yet I think what I love the most about this series of graphic novels is recommending it to other readers. It's a great adventure story, a fantastic space story, and a wonderful graphic novel. It's a series I know I can give my readers at the library and they will excitedly devour it. I can give it to my avid readers and my kids who think they don't like reading. There really is something for everyone in Zita. And that's why I love her. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Oblivion Blog Tour-Author Guest Post: Sasha Dawn PLUS GIVEAWAY

Please welcome author Sasha Dawn to GreenBeanTeenQueen! Her debut novel, Oblivion, is out this month.  I always ask authors about libraries and reading and the impact it's had on their lives. I love her post-I tell the tweens and and teens at my library that you're never too old to be read aloud to and Ms. Dawn's post proves that! 


My teen years were among the most tumultuous of my life, and that’s saying quite something, considering some of the challenges I’ve faced since.

While I was in high school, in the interest of my safety, I lived with another family. I didn’t often have the power of choice, given I was essentially sponging off the family who’d welcomed me as child #7 in their home. For this reason, I found escape in books and tended to read whatever I could get my hands on—anything from romance novels to sci-fi to classics. While my pseudo-sisters were attending rock concerts and going on vacations, I was reading. Books were inexpensive leisure, and they took me on adventures I couldn’t otherwise afford.

My high school English teacher, Janelle Maren, introduced me to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and I absolutely fell in love with it from the very first paragraph. I read the novel over and over again, and every summer, when I ventured back home for occasional visits with my biological siblings, my brother and I took turns reading it aloud to each other.

At least two decades have passed since Ken and I made a practice of lounging under a tree with Harper Lee. We both have families and careers and responsibilities, but those days are never far from our minds.  They were the natural extension of the days I’d read to him during our childhood, depictions of simpler eras…and while he has yet to admit it, I suspect he named one of his daughters for the girl with the Big Red Dog. I read Emily Elizabeth with a southern lilt, and I’m certain that’s the reason my niece can fake an amazing drawl.

Those moments with my brother and Harper Lee cemented a friendship, having given us the opportunity to enjoy inside jokes, such as “Pass the damn ham” at the Christmas table, and “Are you waked up good?” during early morning phone calls. We never fought like normal siblings, having bonded in our rare time together. He is Jem to my Scout.

Reading (with Ken or alone) kept me safe and connected when I felt drastically alone. People overlook the importance of reading aloud to one another past early elementary school. But if novels award readers with incomparable solitary experiences, imagine what a good story can do to strengthen relationships. I salute books the way I acknowledge people who have made a difference in my life.  In the words of Scout Finch, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing” (Lee).

About Oblivion: One year ago, Callie was found in an abandoned apartment, scrawling words on the wall: "I KILLED HIM. His blood is on my hands. His heart is in my soul. I KILLED HIM." But she remembers nothing of that night or of the previous thirty-six hours. All she knows is that her father, the reverend at the Church of the Holy Promise, is missing, as is Hannah, a young girl from the parish. Their disappearances have to be connected and Callie knows that her father was not a righteous man.

Since that fateful night, she's been plagued by graphomania -- an unending and debilitating compulsion to write. The words that flow from Callie's mind and through her pen don't seem to make sense -- until now. 

As the anniversary of Hannah's vanishing approaches, more words and memories bubble to the surface and a new guy in school might be the key to Callie putting together the puzzle. But digging up the secrets she's buried for so long might be her biggest mistake.

Want to win a copy of Oblivion

Leave a comment below with your favorite book to read aloud!

And follow the tour for more from Sasha Dawn and more chances to win!

(Contest open to ages 13+, ends June 1, one entry per person)

Oblivion Blog Tour with Sasha Dawn

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Actin up with Books
Q&A and giveaway

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Live to Read
review and giveaway

Friday, May 23, 2014
Karin’s Book Nook
giveaway only

guest post and giveaway

Saturday, May 24, 2014
Books with Bite
review and giveaway

Sunday, May 25, 2014
Curling Up with a Good Book
Q&A and giveaway

Books by Pamela Thompson
review and giveaway

Monday, May 26, 2014
Book Dreaming
guest post and giveaway

Icey Books
guest post and giveaway

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Jean Book Nerd
Q&A and giveaway

Children’s Book Review Blog
guest post  and giveaway

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Bookaholics Anonymous
guest post and giveaway

Thursday, May 29, 2014
Jump into Books
guest post and giveaway

Friday, May 30, 2014
Bittersweet Enchantment
guest post and giveaway

Saturday, May 31, 2014
A Dream within a Dream
Q&A and giveaway

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

So You Want To Read Middle Grade: Natalie Aguirre

Why I Love Upper Middle Grade Stories

Natalie Aguirre is an aspiring middle grade and YA fantasy writer. She’s an attorney by day, a wife, and a mother of one child. She blogs at Literary Rambles and interviews mostly debut and/or middle grade authors, spotlighting their books with ARC or book giveaways on Mondays and some Wednesdays. You can also follow her on Twitter @NatalieIAguirre or on Facebook.

I’m a huge fan of upper middle grade stories because they’re usually very plot driven, have great main 
characters and voices, move the story along quickly, and often have sweet romances that don’t overtake the plot. And middle grade is such a fantastic time for kids to get excited about reading before the demands of homework, sports, and other activities often sadly make it harder for high school kids to find time to read for pleasure. Good upper grade books help kids make the leap from shorter novels to longer, more in depth ones.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorites and tell you a bit about why I think they work so well.

Like many adults and kids, one of my favorites is the Harry Potter series. It has such amazing characters, a fantastic world, magic, mysteries, danger, and the typical relationship issues between middle grade kids. This is an amazing series that inspires kids in grade school and middle school to tackle those larger middle grade books.

The Percy Jackson series is another favorite of mine that has the same great features as the Harry Potter series. Plus the Greek and Roman mythological add a unique dimension to the story. This is another one that encourages kids to take the plunge on longer books. My daughter and her friends loved this in grade school and she read it multiple times over her middle grade years.

Because both of these series are so popular, the series are much longer than the typical three book trilogy. So the characters grow into YA characters with the readers so kids (and adults) can continue the series. Yet, like most middle grade series, the romance is sweet and complicated, but doesn’t overshadow the plot.

I don’t read much contemporary but there are two contemporary novels with a touch of magical realism that are favorites of mine. First, I love Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist. Jenny does an amazing job nailing middle grade life. Callie faces all the issues of middle grade like fitting in, changing friendships, and boy crushes. Then she gets these huge, geeky glasses giving her the power to read peoples’ thoughts. This is a fantastic story that transported me back to middle school. I could so relate to Callie’s issues of not fitting in and wore glasses like her. Wish mine had been magical. And I think lots of kids who aren’t in the popular crowd can relate to it too.

The next one is A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd that was just released the end of February. Twelve-year-old Felicity moves to Midnight Gulge, a fantastic small Southern town that’s lost its magic, with her roaming mom. She sees words everywhere and with her friend Jonas tries to find her own and the town’s magic in a desperate attempt to get her mother to finally stay in one place. Felicity, Jonah, and all the other characters in the story are so well developed with fantastic voices that you can’t help loving them. And Midnight Gulge is a rich, vivid setting for the story. This is one of my favorite debut stories this year.

Finally, I’m totally in love with The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. I nominated this for the Cybils last year and was thrilled it won. It so reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen's Thief series with all the political intrigue, deceit, and the main character Sage, a totally self-assured guy who’s resourceful and never afraid to speak his mind. Sage’s voice is fantastic and the story is filled with plenty of action, danger, and plot twists. And there is a bit of romance that begins in this book that continues throughout the series. But again, it’s sweet and low key. The two other books in the series, The Runaway King and The Shadow Throne (just newly released) take the story in great directions and end in a way I found really satisfying. I can’t wait to read Jennifer’s next series.

So these are some of my favorite middle grade books. What are your favorites and why?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

So You Want To Read Middle Grade: More 2014 Titles to Look Forward To

2014 is turning out to be a great year for middle grade! Here are even more 2014 middle grade releases to look forward to this year. And if you missed part one, be sure to check out Middle Grade to Look Forward to in 2014.

-A young restaurant reviewer? Love it!

-It's hard to believe that it's been long enough for September 11th to be the main plot of a novel, but this one sounds intense!

-Haven't you always longed for a middle grade book about band geeks?

-A great cover and I've read some great reviews which have gotten me excited to read this one!

-The tagline "Saving the school one con at a time" sold me.

-Family secrets and a mystery? Yes please!

-Maps, mysteries, and a gorgeous cover-I'm in love!

What other middle grade novels are you looking forward to this year?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The No Stress Summer Reading Picture Book Challenge

(My goal this summer-to be as relaxed as Baby GreenBean when reading picture books!) 

In the public library world, Summer Reading is the busiest time. My library has been gearing up for this year's Summer Reading Program since October. The questions have started coming in from families about when the program starts (May 24th!) and my staff and I have started our visits to our schools to promote the Summer Reading Program and tell kids what's coming at the library. Summer Reading is a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work! We have programs every week and we see more patrons on a daily basis than we do during the school year (and there's no quieter nap time lull!). This year we are expanding our storytimes to have eight storytimes a week, plus outreach storytimes, plus a weekly tween program, plus a weekly young school age program, plus our weekly Summer Reading performers, plus our weekend programming! PHEW! It made me tired just writing all our programs on the calendar!

So this Summer I'm proposing a challenge to myself and I'm inviting others to join with me. Instead of stressing about reading and blogging, I'm going to try and have a no stress summer. I have a big stack of picture books I want to review on the blog and another big stack that I want to read, plus all new picture books we'll get at the library this summer. So I'm going to read and blog about picture books as much as I can this summer in June and July. I'll still read middle grade and YA and blog about them when I can, but I'm telling myself it's okay to take a break from those books if I need to and read picture books all summer!

Let's relax this summer, tell ourselves it's okay to read light, and have some fun!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

We Need Diverse Books

First off, thanks to Sarah at YA Librarian Tales for pointing me to the We Need Diverse Books Tumblr.

The timing of this couldn't have come at a better time as this is a topic I've been thinking about a lot. For the past several years, I've presented on YA Lit at our state library conference and I will be doing so again this year. I start preparing for this presentation early on in the year, as it requires a lot of reading and keeping up with YA so I can book talk the titles I want to share.

A few weeks ago, my friend Angie at Fat Girl Reading was talking about a presentation she was giving and how she tried hard to include diverse titles in her presentations. It got my thinking about how I really wanted to make sure I included diverse books in my YA presentation too and I wanted to get a head start in reading them.

But when I started searching for them, diverse releases in YA for 2014 turned out to be few and far between. There are some being published, but it can be hard to find them among the many copy cat YA titles that keep appearing. And where's the diversity in genre fiction like fantasy, science fiction, romance and humor?

Diversity includes so much. It includes race, sexuality, disability. And these books are so very needed. They need a spot in my library and there are readers for them. Books are a way to explore and learn. When we include more diversity in our library collections, we tell our readers they matter. We tell them that we want to feature books that include characters just like them. And we also tell them that we want them to explore those around them. We want them to learn about other races, sexual orientations, disabilities and that it's a great thing to read outside their own culture box and maybe even their comfort zone.

Diversity in YA is something I've been thinking about a lot and I'm making it a goal to really try and enhance my own reading and include more diversity in what I choose to read. I hope you'll join with me and read widely and make sure to include diversity in your library. If we support diversity in YA, we can show writers, readers and publishers that diversity matters and it's needed-and we want more of it!
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