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Trifecta

Today is my sixteenth year in education. Fifteen of them have been right where I am today, as the high school librarian.

I have seen one facelift and one major update with the third around the corner– a completely new space to move in to next fall to the facility. I have had more than a dozen direct supervisors, building principals, and superintendents. With a graduating class hovering around six hundred students, I have likely interacted with close to 9,000 teenagers and hundreds of teachers. And whatever each school year brings, it always circles back to the kids. I saved this post to make on the first day of school, but it’s really a post that could have been shared on the last day of school last year. And it’s been sitting with me all summer long.

The three major subgenres of books that were most circulated last year– specifically reflecting why they were the most circulated as I often do at the end of a calendar year when making “best of” lists or the books most likely to be missing from the shelves and of course, when I’m putting new orders together for purchase.

Yes, we still checked out physical books through the curbside pickup method, the small number of students who were physically in the building, and the handfuls of drive-up to their curbside. And then there was the robust digital offerings. I booktalked until I couldn’t booktalk anymore– Google Meets, 1:1, and in-person.

What were they?

  1. Murder
  2. Romance
  3. Humor

Let’s break this down: the three most asked-for books in the library came down to murder, romance, and humor. And then I say, it was 2020. And you nod your head. Of course!

True crime is prevalent in Netflix series and podcasts, books and casual conversation. It’s a thing. And it’s a thing with our teenagers too. Being home with their families rather than playing team sports and attending school every day, I’m sure there was some level of interest in the subgenre because of these massive shifts in daily business. It’s easy to go to a darker place. And books are nothing if not a reflection of inner thoughts and feelings.

We all needed some love. We missed family gatherings and meeting up with friends. And for teenagers, a whole chunk of their socialization went out the window when schools shut down. Really, all they needed was some love. So can you see how a little romance went a long way?

And humor, there is comfort in the familiar. Yes, we have Diary of a Wimpy Kid in our high school library and no I couldn’t keep them on the shelves. They wanted the escape from the seriousness of the news and the pandemic. They wanted to laugh. And who can blame them?

I will remember this past school year because it was the year I lost my co-librarian for the majority of the school year to budget cuts and had to manage alone. It was isolating because staff were scattered and hunkered in their rooms talking to computer screens. But I still saw kids each day and I will remember that all they wanted were some books and those books had to do with murder, romance, or humor. And I replied, well then I’ve got a book for you…

Here’s to 2021-22!

 

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Outstanding book of the month for August 2021

For this school librarian, the end of August means the end of summer, but that’s okay because then I get to go back to reading, recommending, and chatting with students about books! In the meantime, here’s my favorite from this past month.

And how appropriate a gif because it’s the most delicious romance: Emiko Jean’s Tokyo Ever After. As I was shouting my love of this book from the rooftops (and in a Young Adult book group meeting), I was informed that there is already a sequel in the works: Tokyo Dreaming, so now I’m not so sad it’s over because I know Izumi will live on again between the pages of the book.

What Jean does is exactly what you’d expect from a Cinderella story and an enemies to lovers trope. Izumi is a regular American girl who discovers that she’s Japanese royalty. But that’s not enough, when she discovers her roots, she falls for the bodyguard.

What I love:

  • Izumi’s girl gang. Their and her realness inject goofy humor throughout the book
  • The romance, of course!
  • The character development. Every character has something rich to offer to the story as a whole

This is a romance for any season. This was my summer read– the kind of cutely sexy beach read that feels indulgent. But it could be a spring read– as love blooms all around (Izumi’s is not the only love story in the book!). It could be a fall read– the colors and smells of that season are as succulent as the details of the story as it comes together. And need I explain that in the depths of winter– this is a story that will warm your heart.

What are you waiting for?

 

“My librarian”

It’s no surprise that as a school librarian you can find me in my school library. But as a reader, it shouldn’t surprise you that you can also find me at my public library and the indie bookstore too.

Several weeks ago, I strode into my indie bookstore while doing errands: I needed to pick up a few books that had been set aside by a bookseller and preorder the eighth volume of Witch Hat Atelier, a delightful adventure manga featuring the upbeat and hardworking Coco.

The minute I crossed the threshold I saw a coworker who paused as I did to greet each other. And what he said next, was worthy of a blog post exploring the topic. He said to the employees behind the counter: “This is my librarian.” Now, I know I am one of the librarians at our high school, yes. But I have also spent several sessions talking to him about his own daughter’s reading and needing recommendations and books to bring home to her, which I have obliged every time. A librarian is like a personal shopper, you can have one of your own who can help guide your choices and select what is best. So when he said that, it felt more personal rather than simply what my profession was. And it felt good. It means I do my job well.

And then I thought, if I’m a librarian, can I have a librarian too? Then I thought, everyone is my librarian because I take recommendations from professional magazines and book websites, bookish Instagram hashtags, and former students.

For the readers out there, who is your librarian and what’s your story with your relationship with them?

For the librarians out there, are you your own librarian curating your reading materials or do you have someone else who is also your librarian?

What identities do you have where you would be considered someone’s something?

 

National Book Lovers Day: 5 photos

Pass up the opportunity to go back through the photo archives and share my favorite bookish pictures? Never! A story in five pictures. Share your favorite bookish photos too!

The only #bookface I’ve ever done and it was spectacular, probably because this book is one of my favorites.
My first YALSA award committee. These were the finalists (Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Khorram won) for the William C. Morris Award that year. I’ve sat on others and am currently the chairperson for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award Committee. This is in addition to the mountains of books I’ve read for Great Graphic Novels for Teens and Best Fiction for Teens, both selection committees. If you have the opportunity, lend your readership to these lists.
As a high school librarian, I get to play host for some amazing YA authors for our students who are book lovers too. Slater’s visit was a fabulous example of the power of nonfiction.
My love for books runs so deep and excitable that I often present about books: locally, state-wide, and nationally. It’s my favorite kind of presentation to do because the prep work is *reading*.
In addition to presenting, I write about books too. It’s one of the reasons you’re here on my professional blog, but I also spent time writing for our local newspaper’s Books Blog before it was retired. This was my cover photo among some of my personal library’s books.
 

Big Macanudo feelings

Liniers is an Argentine cartoonist who creates the Macanudo comic strip.

Several years ago the local newspaper began printing it in the comics section and I was instantly hooked because a frequently-used character is Henrietta who has a sidekick cat named Fellini and also a teddy bear named Mandelbaum. She is a reader and the comics featuring her usually feature her reading (in bed, in nature) and pondering the world of books and mining the depths of her imagination. Last week’s hit me, as it would with many readers, hard with its snapshot of our relationship with reading.

Simply, it’s all about the feelings.

I read plenty. I also know plenty of readers and in discussing books find that their ability to remember details (like the plot) are much stronger than mine. I usually remember the details that resonated with me and always always the feeling when I finished it; awestruck, quiet, emotional, frustrated, and the list goes on.

Coincidentally, I’ve been engaged in work with my school district through Yale’s RULER, which is a systemic approach to social emotional learning that begins with the staff and then works its way down to the students. What I’ve learned is that I don’t know much about emotions. And like one participate shared yesterday, the kids are actually better at it than the adults are. I’m learning every day to be able to be that “emotional scientist” takes work especially in being able to appropriately name the actual emotion that you might be feeling at a specific moment. It’s hard work but I’m here for it.

Somehow I think Henrietta is a pretty good judge, as her little girl self, with feeling her feelings especially when they come to books. I would like to think that she, like me, has bookshelves upon bookshelves that are there for very specific reasons because they elicited very specific feelings from them. The Virgin Suicides by Eugenides? Epic sadness with a twinge of desperation and longing. Challenger Deep by Shusterman? Deeply moved by Caden’s internal struggle.

Are you like Henrietta and me and remember the feelings from the books stronger or are you the type of reader that remembers the plot, setting, and characters primary and the feelings secondary?

 

I got a hobby

A while back I saw this Instagram post from NPR with the needlepoint “get a hobby” and the subsequent explanation that research shows that providing opportunities for meaningful hobbies improves mental health including “strengthening our sense of connection, identity, and our autonomy.” I saved it because I knew I wanted to address this in a post.

It also goes hand-in-hand with one particular professional book study I’m running at my high school for staff using Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element, which discusses finding your passions and your tribes of people within these passions whether they end up being something you get paid to do or that are simply hobbies or intelligences you have and use.

While some of my hobbies are quite evident (reading, for instance) others are generally traditional like baking. I also carve out time to visit old cemeteries for the history and information they provide about the past. And I’ll always return to what Professor Iwasaki shared in that Instagram post about how it strengthens our sense of identity.

I am a reader.

I am a baker.

I am a cemetery-enthusiast.

And in plenty of reading I’ve done lately about being less distractible or creating new/better habits or any of the other myriad of social psychology and self-help that I enjoy learning from, usually also goes back to identity. What are you? I am…

And I can show you the ways that I am a reader based on my holds list at the library, my TBR pile sitting behind me, my accoutrements for reading including book weights and page holders for my thumb, plus accessories like my “reading is sexy” button and t-shirts. It is because I carve out time every day to read. My social media handle is related to books and I have a public Instagram just for sharing about books (and dresses). I am dress-obsessed, too. But back to books, it’s that I have a ready-made book recommendation should someone need one, always. And I can always talk about them. Simply, it is part of my identity.

I’d love to know from readers, what identities do you have built from the hobbies you love?

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2021 in Articles, Blogging, Miscellaneous

 

Outstanding book of the month for July 2021

I’m cheating a little for this month and choosing one graphic novel, one adult nonfiction, and one fiction title for my outstanding book(s) because I had some fabulous reading material (including the secret kind that I can’t tell you about). So here goes for the month:

This memoir is spectacular for its honesty and storytelling. Rosser grew up in West Philadelphia in a large single-parent family and discovered his love and talent for polo when his brother stumbled upon the Work to Ride program set up nearby. Rosser shares the discrimination he and his teammates faced as a Black team but also the resilience of a love of a larger community that wanted to see kids succeed.
I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the finale to Lee’s Montague Siblings trilogy because it had all of the spectacular action and adventure, wit and tenacity as the first two. It was a delightful end as you follow the much younger Montague sibling (who didn’t know Monty and Felicity existed until the start of this book) on a fact-finding mission about his mother’s death and the spyglass that she had once carried everywhere.
You’ve got to appreciate sass and Charlotte’s got it in spades. She’s a teen detective on her way to *hopefully* win an award for her work until she’s caught up in a plot to frame her and take her down. Boom! Studios is always a favorite of mine with much of what they put out because I vibe with their artistry and bright colors, but also their spunky characters. This one didn’t fail as I continue reading the issues via Hoopla.

What were your favorites of the month?

 

At what speed do you read?

I listen to quite a few audiobooks, preferring to listen in the car, while doing housework, getting ready in the mornings, and when I walk the dog. I’ve recently borrowed 30-hour audiobooks (an Ernest Hemingway biography) and last year the 24-hour Moby Dick. Then there was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s newest called Notes on Grief that was a little more than one hour. I know I move through audiobooks quickly because I am a reader and I can always find time to read, but I also set the speed to 1.25 and sometimes (if I can get away with it depending on the narrator and topic) 1.5. It’s been too long since I’ve listened at 1x speed. At what speed do you read?

Plus I read quite a few books too. It’s kind of the reason I have this blog, to talk about books, reading, and school librarianship. So that shouldn’t be surprising. I move through picture books, middle grade, YA, and adult with fluidity based on mood but also out of necessity as I’m current on an award committee that has a strict reading requirement, but I also review for professional magazines, and obviously for readers advisory for my students. Some books are comfortably formulaic and don’t require as much effort. I find myself reading shallowly with some so that I can indulge more languidly with others. Yet, I still read more than the average person. Most notably, during the pandemic (of which I’ve written about here), I read at least one book a day for over a year. It adds up to quite a lot. And it’s not to compete with others, it’s simply how I like to do my reading and feel on top of my game. There are times that others have commented about how much I read and my usual response is something along the lines of we make time for what we love and value. Their comment is usually followed by what a slow reader they are and my response to that is so what? Which led to this post and this question: at what speed do you read?

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2021 in Blogging, Miscellaneous, Reflections

 

A win for rainy days

My Twitter poll question from two days ago was

Best reading weather?

And the official results from my six voters was that a rainy day beats pure summer sunshine or light white snowfall. And now since we’re on the twelfth day of July with ten of the twelve days resulting in measurable rainfall, I’d say that it is unavoidable at this point but completely true. There is nothing better than rainy day reading. So excuse me while I go do that.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2021 in Librarian Life, Miscellaneous

 

Outstanding book of the month for June 2021

I knew I wasn’t going to create my book of the month post yesterday to post for today because I was in the middle of the book I was going to bestow that title to. I would carve out time today after an early morning walk with my librarian friend, Stacey, a little food shopping, and some other reading, to finish this book. And I was not wrong. And I was not disappointed. Behold, my June selection!

Published this past August, I have been on the wait list at the public library for quite some time. Once it came in, I brought it home and immediately felt the apprehensiveness of cracking the spine because I could feel the magnetic pulse of a book that would move me.

Nezhukumatathil is a poet, so it’s without question that she has a command of words. And as an avid lover of nature as evidenced by these vignettes, she has a command for sharing it with others. She’s like a literary Sy Montgomery and I say that as kindness for both. Montgomery is a scrapper, woman’s woman scientist who gets her hands dirty, her armpits sweaty in the forest, and rolls up her sleeves for the work. Who then parlays that into fascinating books for kids (and adults) about her adventures and learning from tarantulas to octopus. Nezhukumatathil is an explorer and an observer who won’t shy away from the experience, but isn’t in it for the scientific study but rather the enlightenment it will provide. And that is equally beautiful.

The vignettes of birds, plants, and animals are only several pages in length but leave a life lesson within each that pulls the reader closer to nature and asks the existential questions along with it. The writing was magical. The descriptions were breathtaking. And the muted illustration was a cherry on top to this tiny but powerful book.