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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can't Bear to Part With Them

We are weeding again in the library. A necessary process, it does not come without hesitancy and regret. The cooperative efforts of two librarians and several library assistants helps to ease the uncertainty. A list from our book vendor guides the process. Still, we find ourselves tenderly holding certain books, unable to weed them despite their poor conditions, decades-old copyright dates, and lack of circulation. Several of Margaret Wise Brown's books have plain covers and are just not appealing to readers, no matter how we advertise the interior. Though Robert Newton Peck's Soup gets checked out, all the follow-up books do not. With nonfiction, it is a bit easier. The information is dated and inaccurate, so we can put books on a cart for recycling with little hesitation. Many times though, we sigh and place our favorites back on the shelves in hopes that other, younger readers will someday love them, too.

The Gooseberry River, bursting its banks after intense rainfall over the past week, was parted by an island.

Monday, May 28, 2012

By Whim

By Appointment or By Whim, the Kenspeckle Letterpress is open for business ( I should have checked on that before locating it in Duluth last Friday.We could only gaze in the glass between the door and artwork at the 19th Century presses and typefaces. Fortunately for our family, founders Rick Allen and Marian Lasky were in the Sivertson Gallery when we stopped there, and we were invited to experience the 5 cent tour with Rick. Though he thought he would bore our three sons, they had oodles of questions and were completely engaged in his stories, explanations, and processes. Each found various fascinating things and were astounded by Rick's depth and breadth of knowledge. We loved learning about upper case and lower case, Mark Twain, the three presses used for Rick's work, and the way some typefaces need brass and copper spacers filled in for fonts with uneven spaces. They were amazed at the numerous blocks used to create just a single illustration for Joyce Sidman's Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. We experienced far more than a 5 cent tour.

Do check out the video recently created for the Perfect Duluth Day series: It will give you a better idea of what happens in this incredible space.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quilting Words

I accompanied my mom and aunt to one of their favorite quilt shops on the North Shore yesterday morning. They chattered about patterns and fabrics and the recipients of their latest projects. In the shop, they continued that banter, much to the amusement of the shop owners (also sisters) who kept suggesting fabrics and finding patterns and buttons. With our years of experience, a new pattern should not be necessary...yet that is what I bought (two, in fact), and we all want to to craft a new quilt design called Radiant. Now comes the thoughtful part: choosing the perfect fabrics.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Order Arrival

When I get a shipment notification message from our book vendor, I go to the office to see if it has arrived yet...and either bring it back or wait impatiently for it to arrive. We received two boxes on Wednesday, and the title I really wanted to read was on the top of the first box I opened. It was Marion Dane Bauer's new novel Little Dog, Lost. Three characters are each lost in a way, and each hopes for something. There is the title character, a dog named Buddy; her owner had to give her up due to a move. There is Mark, a boy living in the town to which Buddy comes; he has always wanted a dog. There is Mr. LaRue, the caretaker/owner of a large mansion in that town of Erthly; he lives a solitary, silent life.

Each character's story is told in verse. With a comfortable familiarity, Marion conversationally provides appropriate asides in which she directly addresses the reader:

"Do you know what 'scruff' means?
I'll tell you,
just in case you don't.
'Scruff' is another word for 'nape.'
You don't know 'nape' either?
How silly of me.
It means the back of the neck.
Yes, I know.
I could have said so.
But 'scruff' is such a satisfying word,
don't you think?"

Clearly a dog-lover and dog-owner, Marion describes dog characteristics and mannerisms with an accuracy that helps the reader see just what she has created for the characters.

Buddy, the little dog, finds herself alone in a strange town, and she howls: "Bark! Bark! Bark! A-wooooo-ooo-ooo! Bark! Bark! Awooo!" When Mark lies awake, thinking about the dog park he hopes to plan for his town of Erthly, he hears that howl, only it sounds to him like, "Mark, Mark! I need yoooo-ooo-oou!"

Whether a person wants a dog or a boy or a comfortable home or people's acceptance, all have longings, and that is clearly expressed.

"So much longing.
So many lives
with longing.

It's what stories - 
all our stories - 
are made of.

And what is longing
made of
except hope?"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Make Way for Courtyard Ducklings

The word spread quickly this week at school. The ducklings have hatched! One mallard has nested in the courtyard annually, and our school community hopes each year for her return. All of the 940+ students and 100+ staff members have found a reason to walk by the library courtyard, hoping to catch a glimpse of our own Mrs. Mallard and her ten adorable ducklings. She guides her line from one end of the courtyard to the other, weaving among the trees and occasionally taking everyone for a dip in the pond. The small waterfall proved to be a bit powerful and slippery for the ducklings; they found an upward route free from water. When she is agreeable (she flew to the roof when one attempt was made), gym mats will line the hallway to the exterior doors, and the ducklings and their mama will make their way to the unprotected world.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Package of Ducklings

A package arrived in yesterday's mail from the Extended Shelf Life Fan Club. Most folks are not aware of the club's existence, but those in office must know me well. Inside the mailer was an angelically wrapped square  green box. Inside the box was a bracelet of art snippets (and two pins) from my favorite picture book, Make Way for Ducklings. From one clasp to the other, the images include

  • a mother and son reading on a bench in the Public Garden
  • a bottle floating in the river when Mr. Mallard is leaving for his "trip to see what the rest of the river was like, further on"
  • an egg from Mrs. Mallard's nest
  • the 6th duckling (Ouack?) getting ready to step off the curb while Michael holds up traffic
  • Mrs. Mallard's jaunty bill and head as she looks at the traffic Michael has kept at bay)
  • Michael himself, whistle in his mouth
The pins show Mrs. Mallard and her brood quacking as Michael comes running and tweeting his whistle and the duckling looking up ate his father just after hatching.

What a treasure! Thanks to that club for such a wonderfully fitting gift. I wore them to school today in celebration and in honor of an annual event in the library courtyard. More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two from One Girl Cookies

I love these ladies so much that I had to share them. Leona and Lucia emerged from my kitchen this week to rave reviews. Leona is a Raspberry Coconut Oat Bar, and it was impossible for me (and my test subjects/school colleagues) to have just a bite. Lucia, an Espresso Caramel Square with White & Dark Chocolate Swirl, took a bit more effort, but, mmmm, the result is delicious. Serving them on two of my favorite heirloom plates brings to mind the cooks and bakers who have shaped my kitchen experiences...Hazel, Helen Lucille, Mabel, Crystal, Ruthie, and my sweet mom, Sue. Someday I need to visit One Girl Cookies in person!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Map Weights

Third graders are finishing their unit on map-reading this week. There are so many things I take for granted as a map-user, things that need explanation for their understanding. So, I began the instruction with a review of terminology and a demonstration about ways to locate places. Common misunderstandings included

* What is meant by the "North Shore" of our state (aka "the Arrowhead")

* How the interstate highways cross the U.S.

* What is meant by "borders", as in "Which state borders our state at Moorhead?"

Two independent students choose to work in an isolated each week. They are quite proud of the way they display the map and wanted to be in this photograph! I just love watching their map skills develop.

On the Shelf

A kindergarten teacher brought Pennies in a Jar by Dori Chacanos to the library office yesterday morning. Occasionally, she pulls books to preview at home, and she read this aloud to her elementary school daughters last night - without finishing the last page due to her tears. Illustrated by Ted Lewin (which made me love it for the artwork alone), it is the story of a young boy whose father has gone to fight in World War II. Day by day, event by event, the readers learn about the occupations and circumstances in that era. Most of all, the boy's constant reminiscing and remembering about his father's actions, words, wisdom, and stories find their way tenderly into the story.

"And then I remembered what he had said. If something is important enough, you just have to do it."

He saves his pennies to purchase a special gift for his dad's birthday - and eventually uses it to pose for a photograph by a pony named Freedom, a picture the photographer calls a humdinger. On that last page, the boy's letter to his dad is precious. The author's note provides interesting facts to support the text. We added this book to our list of titles to read aloud in the 2012-13 school year.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More, Less, Enough

The library is closed for book check-out until September, and I miss the daily visits from our regulars. The shelves are becoming more and more full as the books are returned in preparation for inventory. We will have less space but enough time to rearrange and account for the collection's contents.

In the meantime, many new books have arrived at the public library for my review. Today's favorite is More by I.C. Springman, illustrated by Brian Lies. With the exception of books, I am a person who believes less is more. The magpie, who is offered a marble by a mouse, gladly adds "something" to its nest. "A few" other objects catch the magpie's eye - a coin, a Lego block - making the contents "several". More and more attractive things are flown to the nest, and words indicating amounts follow appropriately until the magpie and mice must decide what is enough.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Thinking in Pictures

Having read all of Sy Montgomery's information books about things like tarantulas, snow leopards, and strange parrots, I was intrigued by her latest work. Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World was released in April, and I have been eager to get a copy via inter-library loan. Now I do not want to return it!

Born in 1947, she was soon recognized as being different than other toddlers. Her father even believed she should be taken to a mental institution! But her mother believed her daughter could flourish under the right conditions. She did. Despite the personality quirks and inability to read facial expressions, Temple Grandin became an advocate for humane treatment of livestock, completed her PhD., and remains a consultant for design of animal facilities. She has learned to understand words and people more clearly through the years, but her mind still thinks in pictures. Doors of all sorts are both a challenge and a comfort for her. Her story is well-told in this biography for young people.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Alien Code

lel'w peek ruo eyes npeo
dna esu ruo tiws.
uoy leiv eht phis.
l'li teg ruo giws.

In Marilyn Singer's new book entitled The Boy Who Cried Alien, two tentacled, googly-eyed aliens named Carlig and Dreab contemplate what to do when their rocket lands on Earth at Malarkey Lake and needs gas. A less-than-honest boy (named Larry the Liar) witnesses their descent and emergence from the rocket ship. But his parents will hear none of his story. The aliens head to town in disguises to search for fuel, and the populace is half-scared/half-oblivious. Not Larry. He approaches them, and, unable to understand their alien language, does not balk when they place the Rranslatot on his head. Just like that, everything is understandable! While reading, I had no Translator to figure out their words, but I sure enjoyed deciphering their code. 

If your Rranslatot is not helping you understand their code yet, try switching the first and last letters of each alien word. The same applies to their names. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The False Prince

Readers like to classify books into genres (probably because their teachers make them read from each genre) and often ask what genre I think a certain book is. Not usually a mystery reader, I would have to say the book I finished last night was and engaging mystery...and an adventure and a bit of a fairy tale.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen begins as Sage, an orphanage resident, steals a roast and is rescued by a regent of the king who pays for the stolen item and the boy. Several other boys are also removed from orphanages, and all learn of Conner's plot to falsify the presence of an heir to the throne in their kingdom.A competition of sorts begins as the boys learn the history of Carthya, become better swordsmen and horsemen, and acquire literacy and social skills. Hovering over their instruction is the news that the king, queen, and crown prince have been murdered, unbeknowst to the kingdom's people. While Sage knows he can be the prince, obstacles and doubt block his selection. In the end, the announcement in the castle changes the plans entirely.

Suspenseful and surprising, this mystery/adventure/tale is sure to engage readers...and keep them reading as it is the first in a trilogy.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Working Memory

Sometimes I marvel (or get frustrated) at how my memory works. I go to get something and cannot recall what I went to get. I cannot recall a name I know I knew. And then suddenly, my memory works for odd the name of my childhood neighbor's nephew who used to come to town for a few days during the county fair to show his steer. Why that name? I think I know the reasoning, but I still wonder why I remember his name. You see I am reading one of the 2012-13 Maud Hart Lovelace Award nominees called The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts, and the main character, Libby, is raising steer for the fair. She becomes quite attached to them and when it comes time for the fair...well, I will leave that part out for now. In any case, I remember that boy's tears when his steer would walk the ramp to the truck at the fair's end. His emotions and my memories have linked me closely with Libby as I read this book.

Friday, May 11, 2012


The name of the cookbook captured my curiosity...One Girl Cookies. Written by Dawn Casale and David Crofton (whose romance is explained in the introduction), it is more than a book of cookie recipes. I tried to get it via interlibrary loan, but it must have been in high demand at the other libraries. Impatient, I bought it instead. Reading cookbooks everyday keeps me imagining the end products and making mental notes about what I need to buy. With this one, I keep thinking of people I love. Many of the recipes bear the name of someone the authors/bakers love(d). I tried Janes first, in honor of a beloved friend. "Jane it is, plain it's not." A Jane is really a cream cheese shortbread with walnuts. Chocolate Chip Cookies are named Mary. Lemon Shortbread with Rosemary is named Lena (after Dawn's mom). I still want to meet Lucia (Espresso Caramel Squares), Lana (Bittersweet Chocolate Sandwiches), and Mariella (Double Chocolate & Pistachio Biscotti) before I try some of the cake recipes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thoughtful Read Aloud

We're reading Pictures From Our Vacation by Lynne Ray Perkins this week. The children are quieted by this story of a family vacation that does not turn out quite as the participants expected. The journey seems a bit too far. The motel pool has no water. The family farm is old and dusty (with potato-chip-shaped badminton racquets). It rained for days! They cannot even watch television during the rain.

"The television got three channels: the striped channel, the channel that showed what you could watch if you had a better TV, and the French channel.

'Where's the English channel?' my brother asked.

'Between England and France,' said our grandfather.

Our mother explained how this was a joke."
(for some classes, we also have to explain why this is funny)
When the rain finally stops, the family plans to go swimming. But the route to the lake provided some challenges.

"The secret path was even more secret than our dad remembered." (love the overhead view of the family through the leaves as they trudge in pursuit of the lake)
Memories and images form of playtime, conversations, and togetherness, as well as of things observed, like the electric towers that appear to walk down the road, passing power along in their hands. "It's probably hard to take a picture that shows that, even with a really good camera. And it's hard to take a picture of a story someone tells, or what it feels like when you're rolling down a hill or falling asleep in a house full of cousins and uncles and aunts. There are lots of things like that."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Z is for Moose

A new alphabet book finally arrived at the library: Kelly Bingham's Z is for Moose, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky. Having seen the cover and glimpsed a few inside pieces via Paul's website, I was anxious to discover just how Z could represent a moose. It begins as Moose lifts the curtain, revealing a line of creatures and objects, obviously ready to star in a pageant of letters. From there, it seems to be an ordinary alphabet book. Zebra is the director and checks off each item on his clipboard. A is for Apple. B is for Ball. C is for Cat. But D is not for duck (who clearly is upset about being upstaged by Moose). At this point, the text is interrupted with hand-lettered speech bubbles. Moose continues to invade the stage space, appearing in the ice cream, on a jar of jam, and even as a joey in the kangaroo's pouch. Things get quite interesting around letter O. Moose and Zebra need to make things right, and they do, right at the end. Young readers will love this as much as I did!

Note: I haven't seen a moose since 2003 in Grand Teton, but I see deer every morning when I'm walking/running.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Who Are You?

For the upcoming high school all-night party, parents were asked to make a body of their child. Though I balked at all the work involved, it has caused me to ponder who this young man is. He is a collection of the experiences and encounters that shaped his decisions and his dreams, many of those shaped by books. We read about Richard Scarry's Busytown firefighters (hence the firefighter costume), Misty and the Godolphin Arabian made famous by Marguerite Henry, birthday stories, castle stories, Make Way for Ducklings (and visited the Public Garden), and of Enos Mills when we went to Rocky Mountain National Park. We read everywhere...driving through South Dakota and Wyoming, in the quietude of Zion Canyon, in the clinic waiting room, and in the treehouse. He goes to the next chapter of his story with excellent role models and visions of possibility.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Not a Popular Choice

My teaching partner and I have been working with a third grade class this week to discover things about inventors and inventions using an inquiry learning model. We began with a book pass (each person skims each book for about a minute), talked abou interesting things, and shared our own inquiries with them. I talked about Frank Zamboni, and she talked about Eratosthenes. The children really had not been intrigued with Kathryn Lasky's THE LIBRARIAN WHO MEASURED THE EARTH, but as she explained all the factors that attracted her to the book and shared her wonderings, it became one of the most popular choices on the cart!  The experience proved once again how talking about a book generates interest in it! The votes have been cast for their choices, and they will begin investigating on Monday.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Not Just Ducks

Since I was a child, I have loved ducks. Near my childhood home is a place we called "Duck Island." Mallards congregated there in all seasons, and we visited frequently to feed them. Now I see ducks in our yards, on the lake, flying overhead, and walking on the edge of the park. I always greet them. "Good morning, Mrs. Mallard." or "Hello, Mr. Mallard."

Reading a new book by Nicola Davies, entitled Just Ducks, I learned so much more about these common creature found in Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia. The book is narrated by a young girl who awakens to the quacking outside her curtains. Each of her daily activities is likened to something the ducks are doing, and appropriate facts are displayed to explain actions or terminology. The mixed media illustrations are subtle in tone and often whimsical in content (like when the ducklings climb a wall by using terra cotta pots as steps). The most interesting fact, I believe is that drakes quack quietly while females quack loudly to attract other ducks.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Map Reading

Third graders have been exploring our state via old maps from the Department of Transportation. The first lesson is about how to unfold and and fold a map! They understand conceptually what mountain and valley folds, but when it comes time to actually do the unfolding and folding, things do not seem to go smoothly. One usually quiet girl finished and proudly flipped her perfectly folded map into my hands and said, "Piece of cake!" Another told me in a whisper after others had departed, "I'm really glad you showed us how to do it!"