Pure happiness at the Con

Field trips give me grey hairs, but they’re worth it. It’s also been a minute because the pandemic had put events on a shelf. And actually, when it hit in March 2020, I was ready to take a busload of students to another Con at a local college. Before that I had taken them to an inaugural one close by as well. To say that we live in an area that appreciates the Comic Con culture is an understatement now that I’m writing this out. There are many options to enjoy the company and costumes of others who love to cosplay in addition to the vendors selling their wares and panels featuring celebrities and celebration.

Therefore this weekend’s Saratoga Comic Con in Saratoga, New York left most of the students I took from our high school in a frenzied state– feasting on the sights, sounds, and paraphernalia of the Con. We weren’t even off the bus, tilted to one side as they all rushed to shout out the windows to costumed attendees for their fabulous attire. As we waited in line, another student kept shouting that this was the best day of his life. Then don’t get me started on their excitement once we got in. I needed to count them once again and hand out their wristbands which was akin to herding cats. They were itching to get moving and no one knew that more than the two gentlemen standing at the front doors pulling security. Throughout the day they joked with me about my Mother Hen clucking and said a warm goodbye after I corralled them on the stairs for one last post-Con picture.

Circling our photo were a handful of former students who were also Anime Club members that I ran in to throughout the day warming looking on the 28 students that bussed it up from thirty minutes south. We caught up on what they were doing now and posed for pictures. My homemade outfit was a hit though with the temperature getting up to 80 degrees, I left the tights and boots at home. Nonetheless, I got shouts and posed for pictures with the best of them. But mine paled in comparison to other epic attire including some of my own students.

The Con wasn’t just about dressing up and being around like-minded individuals, but learning and being entertained. The bus was close to coming back to pick us up, but many of them finished the day with me in the ballroom at a dance showcase of J-pop, K-pop, Asian-themed dancing that featured the emcee of many of the panels of the day who also happens to be employed at our high school and helps with Anime Club. Her knowledge and personality made our high school proud and the students definitely made her more social media famous as they recorded away as she performed.

I’ll be ready for more grey hairs next year seeing how happy they were by days end.

Signing off as Ms. Marvel for the day which as I was on my way home, I realized, no one was going to pump my gas for me. Back to the real world. I guess even superheroes have to do that.


Readers advisory from April 2022

April is always a full month of reading in part because of spring break. I spent a lot of time running back and forth to the library picking up interlibrary loans plus the books that came in to our library, advanced copies via Netgalley and Edelweiss, and digital copies from Hoopla.

Here were some of my favorites:

  • Love in the Library by Tokunda-Hall and illustrated by Imamura
    • Based on the author’s grandparents, it’s the story of romance and perseverance during the Japanese internment as a children’s book.
  • Answers in the Pages by Levithan
    • A middle grade that Levithan adeptly writes about the rampant book censoring and banning spreading across America with a unique approach of a story within a story.
  • Playing Dead: A Journey through the World of Death Fraud by Greenwood
    • The audiobook allowed me to follow the journey Greenwood takes to see how easy it is to get a death certificate while sharing popular, famous, and lesser-known cases of faking death.
  • Vessel: A Memoir by Chongda
    • Detailing his relationship with his parents, including his dying father, it is a reflective memoir with heart.
  • The Art of Sushi by Alarcon
    • This graphic novel highlights the skill and dedication it takes to be a premier sushi chef.
  • Boys I Know by Gracia
    • The realest of the real YA titles I’ve read recently featuring an Asian main character.
  • Queen of the Tiles by Alkar
    • YA thrillers are all the rage and this one will be super popular. A mix of the dead girl falling over the Scrabble board during competition and the whodunnit red herrings.
  • Love from Scratch by Hill
    • Love wins.
  • Saga, issue 58 by Vaughan and Staples
    • The end of May can’t come soon enough. Vaughan and Staples will forever be my obsession with their epic scifi drama series Saga.
  • Seasons by Pang
    • A visual feast, this children’s book is a tribute to the beauty of the Earth in various biomes and the animals and plants that live there.
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Posted by on April 30, 2022 in Miscellaneous


The joy of vacation reading

… and by vacation I mean staycation,. I have no picture of a book sitting on my sunkissed thighs with a drink to my left. This past week was our spring break from school that’s typically associated with the Easter holiday however it also coincided with Passover and is the monthlong celebration of Ramadan. For me that did include a handful of religious and family obligations plus a visit from my mother-in-law, but she was going to be flying out by early in the week and I would be able to tackle some to-do items like cleaning and organizing certain parts of the house but also hang with my kids also on break, and of course, read.

I had amassed quite a few galleys via Edelweiss and Netgalley, plus I have an upcoming author panel I’m moderating, and then other print books on my shelf and from the library that I wanted to dive in to. I certainly got my reading time in with several gems in my favorite subcategories. Here were some highlights:

What in particular do I like about vacation reading? I think it’s the relaxed reading atmosphere, the deft movement between audiobooks and print or ebooks when I take a quick break to walk the dog in the middle of the day or decide it’s time to tackle that downstairs closet. The choice is all mine. And it feels extra special because it’s vacation time and it’s my choice and that’s what I choose to do. After all, Jung got it right– “you are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” I am a reader.


Fifteen years

It’s odd to have started my career in school librarianship on April 2nd since a school year stars on in September, but I was a month away from my degree, the high school needed a librarian, and I was going to leave middle school English for someone else to teach which I had done the year before to finish up my library degree. My mother said in response to my announcement that her first grandchildren were going to be twins was that I never do anything the normal way. I think she’s referring to things like leaving for college (freedom and independence) without needing to call her every day like many of my friends or telling her I was going to Kenya and Zimbabwe by myself at 20, or telling her that I was going to get married more like an elopement than a fancy wedding. So starting out as a school librarian in April would be consistent with this theme.

It’s only now fifteen years later that I recognize the added significance that it’s School Library Month. Just starting out it wasn’t on my radar but now we’re planning a whole month’s worth of fun activities like the bookworm jar (guess how many bookworms aka gummy worms are in the jar) and what book has been shredded in the other jar. We’ll do a bingo card and a book face challenge. And have teachers promote their own reading by sharing with us a selfie with the signs in their classroom given to them this year with our school’s logo and the library’s hashtag laminated so they can update what they’re reading. Librarianship is ever-evolving but a beautiful career, so I’m sharing a few things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Listen to your community. Your library should represent your building, district, and larger community which includes input, collaboration, and the occasional meeting.
  2. Be excited. My exuberance for a new collaboration or program often means I talk a mile a minute and go in a hundred different directions until I settle into what is attainable and sustainable.
  3. Fill your bucket. I keep a folder in my email and a file on my computer with messages, notes, images, and memories when things go right. Not every day is glamorous (let me tell you that I was sworn at and told I should be fired by a student before 9am yesterday morning) so have something to fill your bucket.
  4. Fill others’ buckets. Have treats and cards in the office for quick pick-me-up for someone or go the extra mile when you can to make others feel seen or heard. Not only does it fill their bucket but yours too.
  5. Be involved. I don’t run the blood drives at our school because I have to, I took it over from the retiring teacher because I’m a lifelong blood donor and believe in it wholeheartedly. I advise for our Anime Club at school not because it’ll look good on my resume but because I love the students and give them a place to connect, share, and learn. Plus, they’re often our power users of the library, so it always works out!
  6. Give back. Host observers and interns. Create events that are free and equitable. Share with others whether it be presentations, blogs, articles in magazines, or at a local event. My notebooks fill quickly with ideas inspired by others. And I admire their ability to put themselves out there.
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Posted by on April 2, 2022 in Librarian Life, Reflections


Readers advisory from March ’22

To try to keep up with reading everything you want to read is the same analogy as trying to find information on the internet which is that it’s like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant- more will keep coming at you. So the task is always to enjoy it. Yes there are times when I have to read certain things like for a committee or a book review for a magazine that has a deadline, but this year I’ve found I have a lot more flexibility and I’m enjoying myself.

The Only Good Indians I already posted about here. That was a highlight from this month that warranted its own post. And a few others for various reasons which I’ll share now, going backwards from audience since The Only Good Indians‘ target audience is adult.

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz was a perfect Gothic tale to a YA audience. As I’ve shared in the conversations I’ve had since reading it is that while I knew that the subtitle was “a love story”, I think Schwartz could have kept it solely about Hazel’s pursuit of being a physician and it been solidly fabulous. I know why Schwartz included the romance and the ending relied, in part, on it’s existence, but Hazel’s strength of character was memorable all by itself.

I have a good friend who is a high school art teacher. As soon as I closed the book, I sent her a few texts asking if she knew much about Savage. Then I told her she needed to read Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life by Marilyn Nelson pronto and that I was just as taken with Nelson’s choice to write in verse but that there was historical context in addition to the biographical content and that I loved a quote that was included by Savage: “I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.” Immensely powerful.

And last, a picture book by Phung Nguyen Quang and illustrated by Huynh Kim Lien called My First Day. I will end up owning this book soon because the captivating artwork unlocks a reader’s imagination as much as it connects to every experience we’ve had with a “first”. Yes, the boy is on his way to his first day of school through a maze of obstacles, but perseveres. The writing matches the tone of the design and creates an all-encompassing experience. A feast for the eyes.


The morning after

Seventy teenagers for an evening in the library (and adjacent hallways) leaves a librarian exhausted and fulfilled. It meant collaborations with the PTSA and parent volunteers in addition to prepping prizes for the raffle drawings and collecting permission slips. Luckily word-of-mouth helps with advertisement, especially when fun-hungry upperclassmen emerging from the pandemic remember the Falcon Library After Darks that had to be suspended for two years. They help usher in the underclassmen looking for a chill spot on a Friday night.

Activities included food (re: pizza) because they are teenagers including additional snack bags donated and put together by our PTSA (a beautiful new partnership). Then announcements and a few raffle prizes before splitting off to activities like gaming, Twister, graffiti art, movies, and more. All before wrapping up with a mini dance party and the running of the nonfiction gauntlet. Don’t know what that is? You have to be a Falcon to find out.

I go home, like my colleague, and rehash the night in my head before waking up the next morning with a bucket overflowing with good vibes: happiness, fulfillment, newfound love and appreciation for the hardworking people who made it a success from start to finish, and general heart eyes for our students.


Someone to talk to

Many years ago I had a habit of eschewing the popular book titles for the singular reason that I didn’t want to read what everyone else was reading. And at the time, I was exclusively reading for my target YA audience and not reading as widely as I do now. But I realized the downside was that when I eventually read those titles, I didn’t have as many people to talk to about them because those people were on to the next best read and vaguely remembered the book enough for any meaningful discussion.

Yet, I arrive here at 7:30pm on a Wednesday night, asking who out there has read The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones because I need someone to talk to.

The skillful writing, the paranormal happenings, the past merging with the present and future, the horror, traditions, the mood… I could go on. I know it’s been a year and a half. You’d think I’d learn my lesson. But I haven’t.

Who can I talk to about it?

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Posted by on March 23, 2022 in Adult, Audiobooks, Fiction


Six for Saturday

… and in six words each.

  1. Magical Boy by The Kao

Brightly colored with action and heart

2. Poisoning the Pecks of Grand Rapids: The Scandalous 1916 Murder Plot by Tobin T. Buhk

True crime meets awkward family drama

3. Broken Wish (The Mirror series) by Julie C. Dao

Magical series each with separate authors

4. Dionysos: The New God (Olympians series) by George O’Connor

Is it really the end, George?

5. Manu! by Kelly Fernandez

Dark and funny for middle grade

6. Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World by Danielle Friedman

Curiosity meets research about exercising women


Readers advisory: When to walk away

A girl came into the library yesterday looking for something to read. It was not for a class and she wasn’t looking for a particular author or title. I made my usual pitch that she was welcome to browse, but I could also provide some recommendations if she’d rather. She took me up on my offer and we walked to the fiction stacks because she said she was looking for fiction, that much she knew.

Then she dropped a few more categories: probably something realistic because the last book she read was realistic. I picked up Ibi Zoboi and Dr. Yusef Salaam’s Punching the Air, noting that it was verse if she had read that format and explained a bit about it. She shook her head and said that maybe something from a female’s perspective. So we rolled backwards from Z and I picked up Jeff Zentner’s Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee, gleefully telling her that he visited a few years ago. As I began to talk about that, she also threw in that she wanted a first-person perspective. I noted that the girls alternate the story but it was first person. She nodded but then asked about books that had some fantasy to which I replied that that was a different direction altogether and shifted our spot. I pointed out another book or two and realized that after a few minutes of watching her face and listening, that I needed to walk away. She did need to browse and I was getting in the way.

I decided to walk away.

I asked if she’d be good to browse alone because it sounded like she had ideal books bouncing around in her brain that I was stopping her from discovering, especially after watching her pull a book off the shelf she had been eyeing midsentence. Her response told me what I needed to know, and I told her I’d be at the desk when she was ready with books to check out or suggestions later on.

Fifteen minutes later she came to the desk with two books because she couldn’t decide. I excitedly checked her out and she chatted about how she has rediscovered reading again and wants to keep the momentum going. I was happy to get out of her way when I knew the vibe between my recommendations and her vision of shopping for books wasn’t working. Ultimately she found her books through self-discovery.

Librarians do need to walk away from patrons during readers advisory because we get in our own way or the way of readers discovering their own power within the stacks. I’ve done this before and I’ll do it again. There is time for readers advisory like there are fabulous book displays and shelf talkers to do the recommending. It all works together like magic in the library if you’re doing it right.


Missed opportunity

Using Edelweiss and Netgalley are useful tools as a school librarian: to gain perspective on new things that are coming down the pike in publishing, a get ahead of books that I should be ordering, to get to hype books and authors before their next bestseller comes out.

I was so excited to request a graphic travelogue called Uniquely Japan: Discover What Makes Japan The Coolest Place On Earth by Abby Denson because I was going to be taking almost twenty of my high school students to Japan this summer. A trip that had been postponed several times due to the pandemic. So what better way to discover the coolest things about Japan from this graphic story?

Then within the span of two weeks, I received the approval for the request and downloaded it to read then found out that our travel company would not be able to send us to Japan because of the continued restrictions.

But I wanted to read it still though it would be painful. We chose to cancel the trip altogether since many of my students were seniors who had held on through three postponements and because it is exhausting to have to continue to wait. I cancelled the day before we were to go on our winter break and decided to rip this one off like a Band-aid, reading Denson’s book first. And how my heart broke because Denson’s approach was as unique as the title implies in how she presents the information but also in what she chose to present. I had fun on each page while feeling little pinpricks of sadness that it was not going to happen for us this summer.

One day I’ll get there, hopefully with students, and I know the book that I will have by my side.