Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It's Wednesday! What's happening in the Sommer Library?

Books and reading and learning, that's what's happening in our library!  Here are the stats from last month:
Did you know that we see thirteen to sixteen classes a day in our library?  We love our volunteers who shelve the hundreds of books that get returned each day!

Don Tate visited with third and fifth graders on Monday!  
Mr. Tate is a local author-illustrator; many of his books grace our shelves at Sommer.  His newest book, Strong as Sandow, chronicles the life of the founder of bodybuilding.  Mr. Tate was a bodybuilder himself!  The students enjoyed seeing pictures from his past, listening to his story of becoming an illustrator and a writer, and got to witness his drawing firsthand.

Kindergarteners were squealing over some creepy-crawly visitors in the library on Monday afternoon!  Yes, the spider on Mr. Dave's stomach is real, as were the scorpions and other multi-legged creatures he shared to wrap up their PBL unit on spiders.

This week, our stories in the Book Nook are Is That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas  for kindergarten.  We are finishing up Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar by Emily MacKenzie with second grade.  Third through fifth graders are taking a quick survey about their reading lives, so that their teachers and librarian can provide assistance where it's most needed.

We are grateful for author visits, PTA support, wonderful teachers, and great books this week-before-Thanksgiving Break!  Wishing all of our learning community a restful break next week!

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I am reading Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar by Emily MacKenzie to second graders:
Chosen by our district's Armadillo Readers' Choice committee, it's a great book to check in on basic rules (no stealing!), library expectations, and the characteristics of a good reader.  Ralfy makes lists of books he's read, books he wants to read, and books he recommends for others--and that's what good readers do!

My husband and I frequent a restaurant on the edge of our neighborhood.  This past week, a gentleman came in with a book, gave an order to the waiter, and sat at the bar reading while waiting.  My curiosity got the best of me; I went over to the man, introduced myself as a librarian, and asked what he was reading.  It was a crime novel by Elmore Leonard; he said he liked reading them because the criminals were not exactly smart, which made the stories funny. We chatted about books, and then I rejoined my husband for dinner.  

A bit later, the gentleman came to our table, asked if I had a pen, went back to his spot at the bar, and then returned with a cocktail-napkin-list of recommendations:

This gentleman certainly knows his favorite genre, and was more than willing to recommend books.  I'm saving this list for my winter break reading!

One of my favorite genres is sci-fi, and I finally finished Gillian Anderson's trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga (after finding it in a tote bag hidden under a pile of clothes in my bedroom! I should clean more often...).
I also finished Caitlin Doughty's Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.   I will say that this book about death was a lot less depressing than I expected it to be, but I have to let her messages sink in a bit before I tackle her next book. 

It's Monday!  Do you know what you are reading next?  What books are you recommending to friends?

Monday, November 6, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Last month, a school district in Mississippi decided to pull To Kill a Mockingbird from its shelves, citing issues with what is now considered derogatory language.  What the district doesn't get is that it is the very discussion of those times and those words that helps to ensure we don't go down that path again.  As the saying by George Santayana goes, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

How do you react when a book makes you feel uncomfortable?

Do you abandon it immediately, and reach for something soothing, less volatile?  Or do you keep reading, pausing a bit more to check in with your thoughts and feelings?

Lest you think librarians are immune to this phenomenon:  this very thing happened to me while reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for my YA Lit class in my master's program.  It's a brilliantly written book, but the underlying messages on reality television and the predatory practices of government made my stomach clench.  I powered through it, and found my awareness of both of those topics broadened, my own opinions and values strengthened.  

I understand the avoidance tactic, too.  After finishing The Hunger Games, I could not bring myself to read the rest of the trilogy; I wasn't ready to continue the emotional wringing while juggling the demands of work, family, and grad school. I'm still glad I read the book.

I bring this understanding to my practice of librarianship.  I reiterate that not every book is for every reader, but at the same time encourage parents and teachers to use those tough topic stories to spur discussion in the safe spaces of classrooms and homes.  Because of our tenets of intellectual freedom, we are fortunate to have access to books that make us uncomfortable; it is these very books that widen and deepen our thinking, becoming more self-aware for the reading.

The grown-up book that inspired my post today is my current read:  Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty.
Doughty is a YouTube vlogging, real-life mortician who recounts her early years in the cremation business in graphic detail in her first book (she is kind enough to warn readers beforehand!).  This book and her second, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, befittingly arrived on my doorstep on Halloween. Death is a hard topic for our modern culture; Doughty revisits the rituals and ceremonies of the past in an effort to honor this inevitable event for us all.

Last month, my most beloved children's book that deals with loss arrived in our fall book order:  Old Pig by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ron Brooks.
My children were toddlers when my mother, then my husband's father, passed away.  This book on our home shelf was a gentle reminder of lives well lived, and how we could carry on after loss, better people for the lessons learned from our loved ones.

It's Monday!  What tough topic books have you encountered, and what lessons did you learn from them?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It's Wednesday! What's happening in the Sommer Library?

We had a LOT of characters in our library characters!
Photo courtesy of Ivania Lee

Photo courtesy of Laura Bryant
Our Sommer Stallions enjoyed dressing as their favorite book characters for Halloween.  Our technology support wizard, Mrs. Jackson, made a beautiful Charlotte from Charlotte's Web!  Ms. Margocs was a very, Very Hungry Caterpillar.  And just look at the characters in Mrs. Bryant's class!

We are reading several different books in The Book Nook this week.  Kindergarten is exploring unanswered questions in I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Scott Magoon:

First graders have been "feline" fine, viewing a cat through multiple perspectives in They All Saw a Cat, a Caldecott Honor Book (and on our Armadillo list!) by Brendan Wenzel:

Second graders are discussing the "big idea" that author Carmen Agra Deedy is trying to impart in The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet, another Armadillo Readers' Choice book:

Our third, fourth, and fifth graders are touring the nonfiction section of our library, learning how the story of growing up can help us remember where books are located.  Fifth grade has been combing our nonfiction shelves for literary nonfiction to read in class!

If you are a veteran related to one of our Sommer Stallions, be sure to attend our Veterans Day Assembly next Friday morning, November 10!  Details can be found on our school website.

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers and WatchD.O.G.s who have been shelving our books this week!

Monday, October 30, 2017

It's Monday! Where are you reading?

My husband and I went downtown yesterday to visit the new central location for the Austin Public Library!
We parked in the Seaholm garage, then walked over to the back entry of the building; it's impressive, even at this angle.

After standing in line to get my library card (I usually frequent the Cedar Park Library during summers, but thought I'd expand my horizons!), we explored the five floors of this newly-opened branch. I bumped into a high school friend who's worked for APL for decades, and we chatted with a librarian in the teen section about the beautiful, purposeful spaces and furniture.  I took lots of pictures for future reference, in case our school library gets a remodel someday!

 The view from the library windows and porches was beautiful as well!

We were glad to find parking in Seaholm, because the library parking was full!  Austin Public Library was the place to be this weekend!
It's Monday!  Where do you like to find great books, and where do you like to read them?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It's Wednesday! What's happening in the Sommer Library?

We just wrapped up our on-site Fall Scholastic Book Fair!  Thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, the support of our administrators and teachers, and the purchases from our learning community, we exceeded our sales goal!  The funds we raised will pay for author visits, books, and programs like the Bluebonnet Breakfast for our students.

Speaking of author visits....we had Chris Barton on our campus last week! 
Photo courtesy of Heather Solis @solisgrade3
Mr. Barton, the author of Bluebonnet nominee Whoosh and several other great books on our shelves, spoke with second and third graders in the morning.  After lunch in the library, he held mini-sessions with doubled-up third grade classes in their rooms.  They loved getting up close to an author to learn more about his life and career!

Classes returned to the library today for our regular schedule.  We put new books out on the shelves, including those purchased upon recommendation of our new Stallion Readers' Advisory Club.  They know what kids want to read!  Here are some of the new books:

Our fifth grade Book Lunch Bunch meets for the first time next Monday; check your email this week for details!

Thanks again for supporting our library program here at Sommer Elementary!

Monday, October 23, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Some call it "reading flow".  I prefer to call it "book coma".  It's that feeling you get when you are reading a really good book, one that's easy on your eyes and invites you into the story from the first page to the last, transporting you with its voice and characters and setting.  That's what happened to me this weekend, reading Catching a Story Fish by Janice N. Harrington.
This book is different than other novels-in-verse I've read. Each poem has its own title, and the author includes a "Poetry Glossary" at the end to explain several different types of poetic forms she employed--this one a haiku, the next concrete, another the blues--yet the story flows from one poem to the next.  The consistency of the speakers' voices holds the narrative together, so that the changes in rhythm and patterns aren't jarring; in fact, I think it makes the story that much more interesting.

At the heart of Catching a Story Fish is a realistic fiction tale of a young girl trying to find her way in a new school and a different culture.  It's a story many of us can relate to, especially this military BRAT.  

If you want to learn more about poetry forms, check out this website from The Poetry Foundation:  .

It's Monday!  What new book did you pick up this weekend?