Thursday, December 14, 2017

Creating Collections: Think Beyond the Book!

Libraries without books are can use this with an endless amount of similes but basically, that is what a library is filled with.  But sometimes, we need to look beyond the basics and start thinking about how we can meet our students and patrons on their levels, whether it's where they live, what is popular for students, or how it can impact reading.  Here are a few things to think about if you're wanting to beef up that collection like....(again, can you finish this simile? ) :)

1. DVDs and/or Blue Rays.  Yes, public libraries do this a LOT....and it's a great service they do for the public.  School libraries should also take a queue from the public libraries and add this as a collection in the library.  I did this a couple of years ago and interest in it, both on campus and with students, has been really positive.  I stocked it with "books to movies" DVDs because if they won't read the book, maybe...just maybe...they would after seeing it. These were both recent and classic books to movies (is Holes considered classic yet?) and it seems like the amount of books to movies for children and teens is never-ending.  All of them are rated PG-13 at the high school level (and miraculously, that included Nicholas Sparks!) so I didn't cross any invisible lines.  And you can get creative too.  Yes, all of the Avengers movies and DC movies are included because hey, graphic novels count!  And of course I had to slip in a few movies that teens should watch, like Gremlins and ET, among a few others.  But think about the displays and pairings you could make with them!  Kids and teachers will thank you for this small but important part of the collection pie.

2. "If you don't read it with your eyes, it isn't considered reading."  Yeah....right....BUT I challenge those who say that to try audiobooks!  I'll admit it, I was a purist too.  But then I found myself in a situation of being on long drives in my car and wanting to keep up with the latest YA reads.  All it took was for one excellent high school librarian to "show" me an audiobook and I was hooked!  Now, it's all I can do to not hop in the car and hit play!  Why is this collection so important?  Because you will have readers in a similar predicament as me.  Long bus rides to games, UIL competitions where they're waiting for the results (and the long drive home), holidays flying or driving to destinations and many many other situations where all it takes is a touch of a play button and the book opens up.  I am absolutely enthralled with the talent of these readers and the different voices they use to make the book come alive.  If you've never tried it, please do!  (And if you need any recommendations, I can give you a few :)  I'm HOOKED....

3. Makerspace items.  Some libraries have them, some don't, but either way think about the possibility of checking out those items to students.  During the holidays, I've worked with students on doing what I call "creative archiving" or taking old books and making something with them.  Once they learn the skill, why stop at school?  Take those glue guns and cute little scissors and add them to the things students can check out to take home and use.  It could be something as small as a loom, knitting needles and other small maker items to more substantial items like a portable green screen, cameras or virtual googles.  If you truly want your makerspace to thrive, allowing students to take them home may just take that interest over the edge. 

'Tis the season to share, and for librarians, it all starts with our collections.  Happy holidays, ya'll!!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Diversity in YA Lit: Three Great Titles

YA authors have really stepped up to the challenge of providing authentic novels with diversity in them for the teen reader.  This particular genre (if we can call it that) is a burgeoning one, and very desperately needed on library shelves.  Our populations are becoming more and more diverse, and having diverse titles in the library helps open up not only pages, but conversations about cultural differences and even dispelling stereotypes of people from different cultures.  With that said, I'd like to introduce three great YA novels that feature diversity in very different perspectives:

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein.  Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2017. 
Jason and Tom have been friends since they were kids.  It doesn't matter that Jason is Jewish and Tom is African-American.  They see beyond this to the foundation of their friendship and interests.  And their love of football is one of them. 
Both Jason and Tom are gifted athletes.  Jason is an amazingly quick wide receiver and Tom's arm is perfection for a quarterback.  Living in New York City, their school doesn't have a football team, but they are given a chance in a play for a prestigious private school that is known for their outstanding athletes who make it to the pros.
But when they arrive at school, something isn't right.  The coaches, who praised them during camp, are now different, treating both Tom and Jason brusquely.  One of the boys is at the tipping point of calling it quits, when the truth begins to slowly rear its ugly face...segregation.  Now they have a very different passion, one that could potentially expose the shining facade of football greatness.  Recommended 7-12 grades.

Bang! by Barry Lyga.  Little Brown, 2017. 
Sebastian killed his little sister.  When he was just four, he picked up a gun and now his sister isn't with them anymore.  His father left, and his mother is hollow, only leaving the house to go to work or her therapist.  Sebastian remembers the details, but wishes he didn't.  And he can't let it go...
Sebastian is fourteen and summer is nearly upon him.  His best friend, Ethan, will be gone all summer and to create a sense of normality, his mom tells him he must find a summer job, no excuses.  Sebastian doesn't even know where to start, until he meets Aneesa.
She's so much more different than any other person he has met.  Up front and honest, she makes him feel like there's more to life than the little voice who tells him otherwise.  What starts as an accident on a bike becomes a new friendship, with new ideas.  Pulling their ideas and expertise together, they decide to start a Youtube channel to create pizzas and some day, sell them.  Aneesa works in her Muslim heritage and Sebastian brings it on with his pizza skills. Slowly, but surely, the channel starts to take off.  First a 100 followers, then a 1,000...and the count keeps growing.
But when things in Sebastian's life begins to crumble again, the little voice starts talking, telling him it's time....go get the gun...  Recommended for grades 8-12.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.  Atheneum, 2017.
No crying.  No snitching.  Revenge.  These are the Rules Will has been taught by his big brother Shawn.  Tough neighborhood, tough life, tough luck... and when things got tough, Shawn made sure he and his little brother stayed tough.  The Rules come into play the day Shawn sees his brother's body lying in the street.  His mourning may be silent, but he also knows what he has to do.  Going to his brother's side of the bedroom, Will takes the gun, tucks it behind him, and walks out the door onto the elevator.
Seven floors to the lobby.  Seven floors to revenge.
But on the ride down, Will meets the people coming on.  And what's so strange is that everyone who comes into the elevator cabin are people Will hasn't seen in a long time.  On floor six, Buck enters the cabin.  He's the one who gave Shawn the gun.  On floor five, a childhood friend.  On floor four, his father.....the only problem with this entire situation is that Will knows these people have died.  And each one brings a new perspective into what happened and what may happen.  Is it Will's imagination or are they truly there?  Will has to decide whether to play by the Rules or change them...and his life.  Recommended for grades 7-12.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Another Round of Great K-12 Library Ideas!

The fun never stops with my current position!  I have seen some more amazing things I'd like to share via the blog.  These are also posted on my Twitter feed (@yabooksandmore) of great ideas I've seen in libraries I've visited.   

If there is one thing we need bring into students' lives, it would be that they live in a world with people and events that make a difference for the better.  This YA librarian promoted this through her awesome display (which can be used for a bulletin board too!) 

This savvy elementary librarian went environmental on the library by re-using things teachers didn't need anymore into some amazing genre signs!  Beautiful!!!  Now, go hit up your teachers for old, unused globes!  (And if you have extra, DM me and I'll take them)  :)

Sometimes you don't need signs to capture attention.  Try wallpapering the backs of the shelves for certain genres like this middle school librarian did with her graphic novels. Plus, it cost little to nothing to do it :)  POW!  Ka-BAM!

This elementary librarian decided to do something to showcase books AND gets students involved in the library.  Taking those large envelopes (that have a tie or metal closure on the backs), she got her students to decorate them for the holidays.  They couldn't open it until they checked them out.  Use it for any holiday and promote student library collaboration :)

This junior high librarian created and used series lists of books and their order to create shelf markers under the series to help students track and find them easier.  She and her library assistant did these on their own but you don't have to if you have a Follett Titlewave account.  It contains a series tracker/finder, including have them in numerical order as well as when the newest one will be released.  You've got to try it out :)  

Enjoy these and be inspired, share, and incorporate them! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

E-books: From Shelf to Student!

Do you ever have one of those days when all of a sudden a light comes on, angels start singing, and a lightbulb literally is hovering over your head?  Yep, had one of those lately! πŸ‘ΌπŸΌπŸ’‘

I was doing some PD with district librarians, and we were talking about collaboration between library and classroom.  We know collaboration creates an environment that engages students and makes them the center of instruction.  It can also be the perfect place to encourage e-book reading for academic and pleasure pursuits.  Here are a few ways to begin to attract readers to the digital side of reading

1. Use excerpts and throw it up on a screen.  E-books don't have to be independently read from a single device.  Try using features on the device to highlight part of the e-book for students to read and discuss in small groups?  It also allows students who don't have their device not to be able to read along with the classroom.  Reading time can be taken to a whole other level, especially when reading picture books.  Show them the cover of the book while you introduce it, which can help encourage curiosity about e-books and (hopefully!) checkouts!


2. Buy an e-book version of popular books.  We all know those students who wait and wait.....and then wait some more for a popular book to come in.  The problem is, that sometimes those popular books always come in late, or even never at all.  If a title is that popular, why not buy an extra copy in digital format?  Not only will it NEVER get lost, but it could also be the gateway for those who want it so badly they'll take the digital copy to become e-book readers!  Bonus?  You get more shelf space to add other titles than duplicates!


3. Create a brochure/poster with QR codes for them to open quickly.  If you're a school library, you may have a circulation system that delivers e-book content to students.  If so, why not make it easier for them to check out books by using QR codes for them to go directly to the system and the book.  I think part of the frustration of reading e-books is actually getting to them.  If you have the QR code ready, wah lahhhhh!!  Easy as pie!  One easy idea: Follett's Destiny Discover has Collections, where you can create a list of e-books and create a PDF you can print or share online that's super easy to create.


4. Do a book talk all with e-books.  Nothing says I love to read more than booktalking all of the amazing books you want to share.  Oftentimes, e-books are overlooked when booktalking so add a few to the mix and see what happens.  What would be even more interesting would be to have the actual e-book open and read the first two paragraphs of the book while they track with you.  That's a powerful hook!


5. Talk to students about the ease and benefits of e-books and the added tools to use with a reader.  E-readers can go farther than just turning pages.  Highlighting, annotations, key word searches and more are built into some e-readers, so never neglect the fact that e-books are great resources especially when doing research. It's all in one handy place ready for them when they need to start using their documentation.


And whatever you do, never ever stop promoting reading and remember there are ALL types of readers.  What may feel uncomfortable to us may not to another reader, so keep your mind open.  Time to crack a book cover...or click a virtual cover!!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trell by Dick Lehr

2017, Candlewick Press

Trell only has one family picture with both of her parents in it.  It was taken on her 13th birthday.  Before that, it was always just one of them because the other had to take the picture.  It can get tough when your daddy, Romero Taylor, is in prison.  

Trell was just a few months old when her father was sentenced for murder of an innocent girl who was shot down during a gang shooting.  It's something the district attorney pursued heavily and it's now being brought up again because the DA is now running for mayor.  No one can forget poor Ruby and the senseless loss of life...

Except Trell is as certain as her father that he didn't commit the crime.

Trell knows about gangs, shootings and drug dealers.  She lives in an area of Boston riddled with them and more but she is trying to get away from it.  With the encouragement of her mother, she now attends the Weld, a private school in another area known for their academics.  People like Thumper Parrish, the local drug lord, scare her and she wants nothing to do with that type of life.  

But it's one visit and visitor that will change Trell's life.  Her father's case catches the attention of a new lawyer, one who is willing to fight for an appeal for Romero.  But it'll be an uphill battle to find evidence.  It'll also be a battle to stay one step ahead of those trying to hide the truth with threats, bullets, and brutality.

Dick Lehr writes a gripping YA novel set in today's urban landscape not only about the struggles of the main character, but also the fight for justice where system are flawed.  This is also a novel based on real life events of a murder that actually happened in Boston when Lehr was part of the Spotlight team of the Boston Globe. Urban realism is deftly written about in this novel and is one that should be on the shelves for those who live it and those who live vicariously through it.  Highly recommended.  JH/HS

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Great October Reads and Activities

Halloween is nearly upon us and it's a good time to cuddle up with a scary book on a long least for some of us.  If you know a teen who loves great horror, try these books with them.  I mixed fiction series with stand-alones; non-fiction titles that reflect horror; and even graphic novels and story collections. 

The PDF can be downloaded and made into posters, as a handout or used on a website.  There are links for the books with book trailers. The pdf can be found here

And if you're one to do activities with teens, create a murder mystery party and open the library a little later than usual.  School Library Journal also has a great online article that feature Halloween programs for K-12

However your celebrate October, have fun and let readers know all holidays and seasons are a great time to start reading! 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

Feiwel and Friends, 2018  Pub date 03/2018
compliments of the publisher via Netgalley

     extremely or completely dark"

The year: 2087
Ship: USS John Muir

This ship is part of a group of ships jettisoned into outerspace  during the Exodus.

Tuck wakes up from stasis in a fog of questions.  The first thing he notices is the year: 2433.  Nearly four hundreds year of stasis has wrecked havoc on his physical self, which he desperately needs right now.  Because he has come face-to-face with a horrible bony, twitchy, and deadly alien that looks weirdly human.  The crew of the John Muir have either survived or evolved and a deadly war of survival is happening on a decrepit ship manned by no one but the AI, Dejah, and the ability to speak to each other silently through brain-embedded chips.  And silence is the key to survival against the griefers, mourners, and other monsters lurking everywhere.  Then he meets....

The year: 2435
Ship: Conquistador

This ship is an exploratory vessel aimed at finding viable soil and planets to re-establish humanity.  Earth is now dead, thanks to the terrorist plot Pitch Dark, and this ship, run by the Cruz family with the Smithson family as passengers, is one of their last hopes.

Laura (pronounced low-ra) has no fear except for one: Sebastian Smithson, heir to the powerful family who curates prized artifacts.  Her fear isn't based on him per se, but on the subjugator they have implanted in her, giving them total control over what she does.  But not tonight...she is hacking the system in order to free herself from this technology and tell her family and Mami, captain of the ship, about the mutiny the Smithsons are planning.  They've just found an age-old ship carrying extremely valuable cargo, which holds the key to humanity.  But then she sees the insignia of Pitch Dark appear before collision course between the two ships begins....

Survivors from two very different ships and times, Tuck and Laura meet and form a union to not only save themselves from the horrors within their ships, but also to ensure extinction of their race doesn't happen.  But they must fight not only physical monsters, but also the espionage of the Pitch Dark group, and the power struggle happening between families.  It's enough  to divide, but can they conquer? about edge of the seat reading!!  Alameda creates a interstellar world of two different ages of humanity that still mirror each other in their will to survive and control.  The monsters on the Muir are uniquely embodied human/monsters with destructive power created through the errors of humanity itself.  What makes this novel a standout isn't only the amazing narrative and storyline Alameda creates, but also the diversity she embues in the characters, where the main characters come from a proud line of Latino lineage.  This is a novel that will quickly become part of a lot of "TBR" lists and more.  HIGHLY recommended JH/HS.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Great K-12 library ideas!

I've shared quite a bit on my Twitter feed (@yabooksandmore) of great ideas I've seen in libraries I've visited since school started and I am BLOWN AWAY by the inventiveness of librarians from all grade levels.  As I know some of you may not be on Twitter, this blog post will help you see what I have and perhaps even inspire you to share ideas or even incorporate them into your own library spaces.

A savvy librarian uses bins for Pre-K to check out to save time shelving.  She made them eye-catching, and those are as endless as your imagination.  Even creating an eye-catching table space for them will excite young readers visually :)

Speaking of bins, this librarian used them to separate series so students knew how to grab the next one quickly without having to scour the shelves.  Quick and easy....perfect for readers wanting the next one!

Do your paperbacks get pushed to the back of the shelves only to be lost without as much checkout?  Here again, bins to the rescue!!  This librarian took all paperbacks for that section and put them in bins so they were more visible.  Genius!

Another great way to use displays creatively doesn't always happen in the shelves.  It can happen on top of them as well.  Look at what this librarian did with weeded reference. She used them not only to boost up the signage but also to act as a visual cue.  Get inventive and decorate the spines (bling it on!) or any way you'd like 

All this takes is a little work and a lot of red paper!  I don't think I have to say much about this display.  What's ingenious is that all of the books displayed are books to movies!

What a great way to show school spirit AND cover up some old furniture!  This middle school librarian took old t-shirts and used them to cover stools to update them and make the library more inviting.  Look at your furniture and see what you can cover with a t-shirt and a few DIY tricks :)

If you have a tight library and don't have space for a Lego wall, think outside the box by this librarian and use the backs of shelves to make them.  The shelf space under this can be used for storage and ties the space all together.  I also like that this librarian called her makerspace "I-space" for innovation, imagination, ingenuity etc....

Lastly, sewing machines in the library makerspace!!  LOVE!!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster

Harlequin Teen, 2017

North Shore Illinois is picture perfect. Expansive lakefront properties and even neighborhoods have immaculate yards, successful professionals and little to no crime .  North Shore High School is a reflection of that perfection.  Most of the seniors (merit scholars are common) who graduate usually go on to Ivy League colleges.  Families raise their children to be perfect candidates for a successful future.

But perfection comes at a cost.

Mallory knows this all too well.  She's reminded every time she steps into her house and her mother constantaly barrages her about her weight, her grades, her boyfriend, and her applications for early admissions into university.

Liam, NSHS's golden boy and Mallory's boyfriend has seen the cost of perfection.  It's one he's also hiding from others perfectly until his secret overcomes him

Kent and Stephen consider themselves the geek squad.  Both are looking at early admission to MIT.  They both have mothers who hover over everything they do, from what they wear, to what extra-curriculars they're involved in to their grades.

Owen defies the stereotype.  He's the one that enjoys hanging outside, not worrying about tomorrow and passionate about videography.  But he sees the facade and is hit the worst by the ideology of perfection.

Braden's run with perfection may cost him more than he thought.  

Simone is the new girl in town, with successful artists as parents.  She has lived life how she's wanted to.  She wears beads on her wrists, and doesn't look like the other students.  But that's okay because she's going on a gap year after graduation.  Little does she know she's already succumbing to the perfection

What is the cost?  It's something parents can't see or feel, but their children do all too well.  The stress they put on kids may be intended as good, but comes out in ugly ways.  Everyone is still reeling over the deaths of two of NSHS’s students.


That’s also something that makes North Shore different.  The amount of teen suicides far surpasses the national average in just their city’s boundaries.  Work harder, study more, get involved, be a merit scholar, early admissions, look perfect in everything you own or are….it is taking a toll on the community and the students.  Not all of them will be strong enough to overcome and the ones that do decide to do something about it.

They become Gatekeepers.  They are there to guard against the constant stress to obtain perfection and the cost it incurs. 

This novel is inspired from the 2012 incidents of multiple teen suicides in Forest Park, Illinois.   Lancaster offers a glimpse into the lives of those from wealthy families that many teens think have it all, are it all, and wish they could have it too.  Lancaster pulls readers into the intricate and secret details of each of these kids families and how every one of them could succumb to seeing suicide as the only answer.  The topic of suicide is difficult at best in a fictional setting.  Some may embrace this novel while others find it trite and unworthy of the topic.  And although this subject is tough, I found that Lancaster does an excellent job of building intensity from every character so the reader is taking turns down different outcomes and avenues in a myriad of ways.  Recommended for YA.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

2017, Crown Books for Young Readers

The Tower of Babel was created to reach the sky and it could only do something like this because mankind spoke the same language....

In the world of tomorrow, a new world, Genesis 11, has been found that is compatible to earth.  But what used to take years to get there, it only takes months now, thanks to the Babel Corporation.  And Babel has also found a highly lucrative mineral with endless possibilities.  Nyxia, a black substance, is an object that can be manipulated by your mind to create whatever you'd like, from a translator to a bullet-proof wall.

Emmett Atwater can't believe he was chosen.  Not only will he get to go to a new planet, Emmett also has added benefits, including his family and himself being taken care of for life. Coming from a struggling family and a mother who is slowly dying, Emmett does it out of love.  And he boards the ship.

When he boards the ship created and equipped with highly trained Babel Corporation staff, he finds out he's not the only one who has been selected.  There are nine others including Longwei, a highly competitive person; Jazzy, a girl from Georgia; and Azima, a strong girl from Africa and one of the last of her nomadic tribe.  They will be trained to work and survive on Genesis 11 as they mine nyxia during the duration of the space travel.  All ten are put through rigourous tests, including mind and body.  And they are also vying for position...only a few will make it to the finals.  The rest who don't will have most benefits taken away and sent back to earth.

For Emmett, this isn't an option.  He knows he has to make it or his mother will die.  But each member of the group of ten have their own personal reasons to make it as well.  But not all of them will, and some won't even survive the trip....

Another thing they don't know are the secrets the Babel Corporation is hiding from them.  There is a problem with nyxia, one with deadly outcomes.  On top of that are the inhabitants of the planet aren't friendly to outsiders.  But Babel has plans....

And like the story, the tower will topple and create chaos...

This novel is PACKED with action, suspense, and mystery to compel readers to find out what will happen next.  The reader is fortunate to become an outside observer of all the difficult training happening, as well as the mindsets and secret partnerships that are happening behind each other's backs.  The characters have very different personalities, leaving the reader wondering if what they're seeing is the truth or a cover.  Reading this is like taking a roller coaster ride where you never know if the seat belt is secure or not.  AMAZING science fiction read for all secondary JH/HS.  Highly recommended!  A plus?  It's a series!!!  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Five Ways to Step Up your Advocacy Game

I added the hyperlink where you can buy this...
I do NOT profit from it at all...just thought I'd share it :)

As librarians, we know the importance and impact the library and librarian make to our campuses and districts.  Librarians have always made headway into innovation and we need to make sure this also includes how we share what the library does through advocacy efforts aimed at decision-makers for our campuses and districts.  Here are five small ways we can show librarians and libraries do have an impact.  Best of all, it won't cost you anything but a little time and effort:

1. Change the library environment:  This won't cost any money whatsoever.  Librarians new to their positions or in a new library usually do this, but you shouldn't over look the library you may have been serving.  It's a simple context with a lot of sweat equity.  Sometimes we have so much to do we often overlook how the library design can be REIMAGINED simply by moving things around and creating new spaces.  What better way to capture your campus's attention than to rearrange furniture into different learning commons?  If you have the money, add elements like large screen collaboration stations, a Lego wall etc...Freshen it up, add some dimension, watch what happens next

2. Harness the power of social media:  I love my library PLNs...they show, teach and amaze me everyday.  But I have also noticed that the PLNs I am a part of can be insular.  We need to get outside of our online comfort zones to make a larger impact.  Use your social media to make sure your voice, ideas, impact can be showcased to those decision-makers.  Use hashtags that administrators on Twitter use and become part of the conversation that way.  Create a campus-based social media account such as Instagram so not only students and teachers can see what you're snapping photos of, but admin can too.  Be engaged in district-wide Twitter chats and let the library's voice be heard virtually.

3. Send out monthly newsletter to your campus touting the amazing things the library does and can do to your campus.  Focus your information on highlighting to important parts of the library and use your stats to help.  Include images from your social media accounts (and hyperlink them).  Showcase students interacting in the library with each other, their classes or alone.  Already do this?  How about taking it up a notch and sending this monthly to your district superintendent, curriculum coordinators, technology director or curriculum and instruction director? Don't keep it contained....let this information loose every single time you share it with your campus.  It may not be read, that's true.  What's even more true is that is just might....

4. Harness new and interesting ways to share the successes you and the library have had with (mostly) free webtools.  Turn that paper state of the library report into an infographic.  Then step up that infographic into a video using tools like Biteable.  Use Flipgrid to capture students, teachers and administrators giving video testimonies on how the library has helped them and share this with other librarians and decision-makers.  Nothing speaks louder than a student's voice, and this webtool can definitely help.  Kick it up by doing this monthly from different angles (a teacher's Flipgrid, your book club, a classroom etc).  How about creating a monthly Quizzizz for fun to engage your email recipients with what the library does?  Sharing can be as fun as you'd like, so try out new approaches.

5. Nothing is more loud and clear than your approach.  Be available, be approachable, leave your door open, show people you want to create a relationship with them.  Too often, our administrators see us as checking in and out books...MOVE to another area, DO something different, and SPEAK with your words and actions to prove that isn't the case.  It's easy to get caught in the trap of our office or circulation desk.  The hardest thing you could do is unglue yourself from the areas your feel most comfortable in (even if it's for an hour a day) to be seen differently.  They say it takes 30 days to create a new habit....test out this theory and see if it makes a difference.  It won't cost a thing....

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Sourcebooks Fire, August 2017

Sal's life is one of stealth and swiftness.  After a war that ruined the lands and completely annihilated Nacea and its people...his people, he had to resort to thievery in order to survive.  But one fateful encounter with a lady will change his path from one of stealing goods to one of stealing lives for revenge....

The queen now rules over the lands and has put an end to dark runes and magic.  But her reign is in  time of shifting and danger, where she must be protected at all costs.  To ensure the safety of the queen four Hands, or assassins are assigned to her:  Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal.  But when one of the hands die, an audition opens to replace this position.  Twenty-three people come forward to audition, from noblemen to thieves, including Sal and his thirst for vengeance of those nobles who killed his people.

But realization begins to dawn when the rules of the audition are explained.  Only one will survive and that person will become Opal.  Everyone who auditions will have the opportunity to kill or be killed.  It's a fight to the death and one Sal intends to win.

As the deadly audition begins, trickery and conniving create a cat and mouse game that slowly decimates the twenty-three to three...but who will win and become the new Hand?  And are the liaisons people they can trust or not?

Miller weaves a tale that will enthrall fantasy readers.  Although the book does contain violent episodes, it also contains elements of castles, magic, truth and romance.  Miller adeptly creates a world where even those you think are safe aren't, and those that are evil don't succumb to good. In the events that surround Sal and those he must fight against, lies a small but very unique part of the main character's life.  She introduces the reader to a gender fluid character, but like those assassins and auditioners in this book, she introduces him subtly and without fanfare, making this topic understated instead of in your face. For the more mature fantasy reader, the novel has hints of GoT readers will find and the story will have them begging for the next installment.  Highly recommended.  HS

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Copyright and the Classroom

This was a presentation I created for professional development for teachers.  It's something they really need to understand before school starts, so feel free to use it to teach the importance of copyright, fair use and Creative Commons.  This was created after reading Renee Hobbs's book, Copyright Clarity, a MUST READ for all educators, administrators and librarians!! Click below to get to the PDF of this presentation

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Young Adult Literature Resources and Booklist

Had an amazing day with librarians throughout the Dallas area!!  Here is the presentation I did for the Summit :)

Enjoy and start reading some great books TODAY!! :)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Smashing Research: Engaging Students and the Research Project

I and my friend, Sue Fitzgerald, had the honor of being chosen to present at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago this year.  When she and I talked about our topic, we thought it would be relevant to not only talk about the importance of research, but also how to make it more engaging and student-owned.  Here is the presentation (which I can't believe I forgot to add!!)
It contains ideas for:
Project-based learning
Smashing apps to create a digital research project
TON of websites
Unique ways to combine sites for projects
Examples of excellent student proejcts

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Five Important Things For the New School Year

Happy new school year!!  The gears are starting to turn and school openings are around the corner.  School campuses are caught up in a whirlwind of professional development, campus training, and many other things that will pull them from what they want to be doing - working in the library.  If you only get one day to do this, here are some things to keep in mind and keep your mind from whirling.

1 Everyone has that to-do list for the beginning of the school year.  There are some pretty important things on that list, but take a second look.  What are some of those things you can wait on?  Sometimes lists can be an overload and focusing on completing all of them isn't productive.  Instead of the frenzy of getting things done, look over and think what should come first


2. You can't do it all yourself (although we try!).  Being a librarian is being part of a collaborative environment.  Asking others for help and asking others to help are two very different but important activities we should do on a daily basis.  Be it your admin team, campus departments or even people outside your library walls (other librarians, consultants, virtual PLN) make a call or write an email. It will make a difference.


3. Learn a new tool this year.  Try something you've never tried before and work it into your presentations and curriculum with students.  There are a ton of great new tools out there from collaborative videos (Flipgrid) to curation (Follett Destiny Collections) to new Google tools (try Blocks) and so many more.  Look at ways you can use them, but more importantly, how your campus can use them.


4. The best libraries are one that are open and ready for anyone.  Look at your spaces and start defining them.  Creating a successful learning commons takes time, but with a little ingenuity, you can create one area that is different from what was there last year.  A table, some interesting bins of low tech makerspace, a 3-D printer, whiteboard paint, signage can all help create a feeling that there's something new and different.


5. Read.  That's pretty simple, right? the world of librarianism, it's easier said than done.
 Prfoessional needs of your own and others will play right into reading time.  Educators and librarians know reading makes an impact (It's the "R" in STREAM) so make sure you have time to read and share that love and excitement.  There's nothing like the feeling of changing even one student from a non-reader to a reader.


Friday, July 28, 2017

#NTXLibCamp Resources

Three years ago, a group of librarians in North Texas decided to create the first ever libcamp in our area.  From the beginning it has grown every year and this was no exception.  There were librarians from the area, but also librarians from Austin, Houston and El Paso who attended.  PLUS teachers were encouraged to come and we have several in the crowd as well.

But the most important takeaway from LibCamp was the mass of information wealth librarians across all grade levels, expertise, years of service and awesomeness contributed toward to make this such a great professional development experience!  

And if you have something that amazing, it needs to be shared.  A google doc of the event was archived for anyone who came to have access to, but I thought it was valuable enough to share it with everyone.  Please use/read/glean from it what you can to use at your school or share with your own personal PLN.  That's the beauty of's an amazing thing!  

Here's the link to the Google Doc from NTXLibcamp 17

Also, if you'd like to see them in Twitter format, search the #ntxlibcamp hashtag to catch a quick glimpse of the highlights :)

SUPER great before school starts!! :)  Have a Happy New (School) Year 2017-18!!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Flatiron Books, 2017

Scarlett Dragna has been wanting to go to Caraval since she was ten.  Every year, she wrote a letter begging them to come to her tiny island so she and her sister can be enveloped in the mystery and magic that Caraval holds.  But there is no response....
And life goes on.  Scarlett and Tella have grown into young ladies under the cruel and watchful eyes of their governor father, who is heavy with his hand and empty with his heart.  Escape is something both girls want, but there is no way out.  Their father will hunt them down and the repercussions will be swift and hard.
But one day changes that...

Scarlett finally receives an invitation from Legend, the man who created Caraval.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but it couldn't come at a worse time.  Scarlett is set to make a Duke (even though they haven't met) and will leave the island and be able to shelter her sister from the horrors of their daily life.  Go or stay?

On the day she receives her invitation, circumstances force to her to go to Caraval before time runs out.  Tella and Julian, both accomplices in abducting the staid Scarlett, go to the island where the sisters are separated.  All three make it to Caraval in time, and it's as magical as Scarlett thinks...but also more dangerous than she does. When she enters into Caraval, little does she know what she is getting into.  Thoughtful, staid, practical Scarlett quickly finds herself in conflict with not only her surroundings, but also the relationships she has with both her sister and the enigmatic Julian.
People aren't what they seem....don't always believe what you see...Caraval is as beautiful as it is dark.

Garber writes magic into this book not only through the plot but also with the beauty of her writing and words she chooses.  This book paints a vivid picture not only of the characters' real lives, but also the fantasy world people wish to get lost in.  Scarlett is a sharp contrast to the other characters, which adds to the depth of the relationships found in this novel and it reads quickly.  The story behind Caraval is enchanting and Garber instantly grabs the readers attention with her unique use of letters at the beginning of this novel.  Readers will be as captivated with Caraval as the characters.  This is the type of fantasy book I've been waiting for!!  Recommended for upper junior high and high school

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Growing Strong Librarians

I was asked to present a short presentation for new library directors on what librarians want from there perspective. I thought about the library directors/leaders I admire and why it was I did admire them so much. These are the attributes I came up with that I could find in all of those library leaders I look up to.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

State of the Library Report....Trying Something Different

I've done the traditional.  I've created infographics.  This year, I wanted to try my hand at a video report.  Well, it was a toss-up between that and a Buzzfeed-style report, but I'm intrigued with the animated typographic videos that are coming out.  This is ONLY a prelim (I was playing around with it today) but thought I'd post it as Biteable is an amazing site to create this kind of video!

Library Report 2017 on Biteable.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Going Beyond the Normal: Creating Unique Book Trailers

This is a presentation I did for TxLA this year about book trailers.  We seem to always use the same tools to create book trailers, so I decided to try my hand at using tools you may not have thought about or knew could be mashed!

My Adventures in Breakout EDU

When I first heard about these kits, I was very very curious.  It wasn't until I went to a conference and really learned about them that I got excited about doing this!  My excitement escalated when I got my precious two boxes of breakout edu.  Time to get started!  Well.... there were some glitches along the way, so hopefully this post may help.

First of all you get a white paper in the box that has a website and password.  I took this and went directly into the site where I found how the locks worked, how to set up a game, examples of  games- the whole shebang.  I was feeling really euphoric!

Then I started playing with the locks.  Yep....those can be a little tricky.  Some of them (READ THE DIRECTIONS!) were easy peasy, but others?  I had to play with them for quite awhile to get them to work.  It takes finesse, understanding the directions, and gnashing of teeth to have them all up and working.  So what I thought would be super easy actually took me quite awhile to set all the locks for four boxes.  WARNING:  you can't do this 30 minutes before you use them.  Give yourself at least a day so you can walk away if need be or get someone to help.

Then came the creativity.  I feel I'm a pretty creative person.  This portion, the making of the game, can't be taught to you.  It has to come from within....sometimes deep within.  I was using the these boxes as a demo and again, it took a lot of thought and practice to get a semblance of something cool.  First, you have to start out with a story ie you have to write a story.  Okay, got it. That was the easiest part of writing a breakout edu game. have to come up with clues for each lock.  You need to give yourself time to do this, so take time to think of these clues, as they can't be straight up answers.  This took me more time than I thought as I made FOUR DIFFERENT GAMES because of course...I didn't read the directions.  Usually you create one game and put the clues for different boxes on different colored sheets (which I read after I had completed all four games!) DUH....but something great came out of this.  After the second game, I was able to whip them out with no problem.

Next, make sure you demo this game before you actually play it.  Did I mention you need to demo this game before you actually play it?   Yes, I did with my library aides and boy, did I find where I needed more help and clues that needed to be less obtuse.  I told the students I would re-do them and they could come back tomorrow and play, which they did and they worked!!  Angels sang, the lights shone was a miracle!

Needless to say, Breakout EDU will take you for a loop the first time.  And yes, maybe the second or third.  I was frustrated through some of the process, but you know what?  When I heard the kids telling me they were thinking about replaying the game all day before they came to the library, that was all I needed to make it worth my time.  They couldn't wait to try the next one!

Bottom line?  Buy a kit.  If you can't afford it, piecemeal one through Amazon.  And start looking at lessons and see how they are using them.  I'm attaching mine here with some words of advice you can take or leave.  Now, today is the day librarians get hands on experience with it....wish me luck!!

Here is a link to the clues and story.  Remember, there are four different lessons, so one clue from each section will complete the kit

To start the game, I made a simple coded message using the wingding or webding font on MS Word.
There are LOTS of different ways to create a coded message, but this was by far the easiest.

You also have to have a directional map.  You can make one in MS Excel, and here is one I made.  I would suggest downloading it and editing it to fit your needs.

Have fun, and if you have any great tips, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Teaching and Researching like a ...SHINOBI!

(And there are 65 more synonyms for "ninja" so I'm not done with these yet!)

I had a request from a biology teacher to collaborate with her on a biomes project.  She provided her lesson plans and assessments for the project and asked how could I incorporate databases and Adobe Spark into it.  I have two days, so one will be for information, the other for creation.  Here's the research project done with Adobe Spark Page.  I also have a link with two sets of database questions from Facts on File linked, if you'd like to use this lesson.

The beautiful thing about this is that is can definitely become a template for other research projects.  If realized I can switch up the activities but keep the same framework, thus making a library of these projects that can be edited with new information or products that become available. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Fiewel and Friends, 2017

 Gwendolyn Bloom isn't enjoying school today.  Being pointed out by "that girl" and her friends while everyone else laughs at you isn't what she planned or wanted.  But this is just another stop along the string of schools she has attended, which may or may not last long.  It's on days like this she wishes her mother was there, but she can't be.  When Gwendolyn was ten years old, her mother passed away. The memories she has of that day, filled with terror and confusion, won't stop.

Her father, who is a foreign diplomat, has taken Gwendolyn around the world.  New York is the current place they call home.  Without a mother, her father is the only parent she has and she treasures that.  But one evening, after coming home, her father isn't there....nor the next night...and Gwendolyn keeps waiting. Eventually she is taken in by the older Jewish couple in loco parentis until her father shows up. And things take a turn....

One day, while Gwendolyn is alone in her apartment, a knock is heard.  Behind it are men in black searching for her father, but also through his papers and computers, asking her what he's told her about his job.  They're from the US government and for the first time, Gwendolyn is realizes what her father does.  The men looking for him are wondering is he still a spy for them or has he defected? The last known place in Europe he was detected was recorded before he went off the grid.

With only a scrap of information Gwendolyn stops at nothing to find her father.  With some help, she begins training in krav maga with a Mossad agent before getting entangled in the dark and dirty world of racketeers, arms smuggling and human trafficking.  One clue leads to another. Gwendolyn knows she's running out of time...unless it's already too late.

This book goes from zero to 100+ quickly.  The reader's emotions for the main character jumps for empathy to encouragement to excitement as they see her morph and change into someone who will pull out all the stops.  The dark world of criminals makes a large nod in this novel including introducing minor characters, all victims of human trafficking.  It's not sugar coated, but it isn't gratuitously graphic is nature either.  Teens reading this book may begin to connect with what's happening in the real world and see a larger picture.  Although others may see the rising action as a tad unbelievable, I enjoyed every page.  It reads like a Jason Bourne novel, only with a kick a** female character.  Recommended for upper JH/HS

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Coloring in the Lines: Searching for Copyright Friendly on the Web

Here's a presentation I'll be doing at a pre-conference for copyright at TxLA 2017.
The slides all have a link on them so you can click on a slide to see more.  I'm working with some stellar people, including Kevin Smith, Gretchen McCord, Stephanie Towery and Deidre McDonald.  If you can't make it, I can share my portion of it :)  Happy conferencing!!
Here's the link to open it in Google Slides

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Conference Season Is HERE!

April is the month when librarians, educators, administrators, and many many more amazing people convene for the annual Texas Library Association annual conference April 19-22.  The size of the conference is amazing, with thousands of professionals, authors, speakers, publishers, techies (and some that are all of these!) and more learn, network and present for five days of library nirvana......I can't wait!!  This year, it is in San Antonio, Texas, so here are some tips before starting off conference that'll make it even more amazing.

This year's theme is "Own Your Profession" and these next few tips will help you own it like an expert conference attendee!

1. Make your schedule now.  Don't wait until you get there and are handed a conference scheduler.  Do it now so you can really see what you'd like without having to flip pages in your hotel room.  The conference schedule is online (and yes, it includes pictures of speakers) and shows everything that is being presented.  Best of all?  Use the control+F function to search key words, speakers, events, and more to really target your learning experience.  Here's the link to the schedule

2. There always seems to be a race to the exhibit halls when they open, so be prepared ahead of time.  You usually receive a paper copy that includes coupons, but this year, you can actually download the guide with coupons to fill out early!  All you have to do is go to this link and request the PDF and you're on your way to preparedness on the exhibit floor.  (there's a tiny link below the major on that.  The big one is ALA.  Keep looking below that link :)

3. The San Antonio Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center has been updated, and you may want to see the meeting rooms and ballrooms layout to help you map out for an ultimateTxLA Conference experience. Here's the link to the convention center with tons of information, including getting there and parking. It's always good to know before you go!

What's a little professional development without some fun?  Try these out!

1. The Riverwalk is considered one of the top tourist destinations in the nation!  Don't know much about it?  Not to worry!  If you find a street near the Alamo with stairs leading downwards, more than likely it's to the Riverwalk.  Lots of amazing restaurants, full of culturas, you need to go, if only to walk around.  PLUS....the conference precedes Fiesta, so there are sure to be cool vendors selling fiesta items!!  Here's a link to the Riverwalk and everything that goes along with it

2. Back in the day, my husband and I, along with friends, would cross the border for a weekend out.  We'd go shopping, eat some amazing food, and get to experience hanging out in another country (which always sounded pretty cool!)  Alas, those days aren't quite as carefree, but since you're in San Antonio, you CAN experience Mexico in the city.  El Mercado (Market Square) reminds me of those days.  Lots of stalls where authentic Mexican wares are sold line up next to each other along with some tasty eateries.  They also have a cool indoor shopping area featuring Mexican wares, jewelry, art and eveything in between you should visit too.  It's a little ways from the Riverwalk, but worth the walk (or Uber or car drive or bus etc).  Here's the link to El Mercado

3. I didn't know about this until I stumbled onto an article about it and this year I'm going! There's a beautiful church called the San Fernando Cathedral and every week there is a light show about the history of San Antonio that happens on the building. It's about beauty, history, culture...and not to be missed!  Thank goodness none of the dates are cancelled during the TXLA conference.  This is a MUST SEE!  Here's the link to the San Antonio Plaza (not too far away from the Riverwalk at all!)

I'll see you there!!!

El Mercado:
San Fernando Cathedral: By Nan Palmero from San Antonio, TX, USA [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 24, 2017

Diversity in YA literature Poster

Excellent books that feature diversity from various genres that feature different diversity in today's society.  Here is the link to download the pdf

Friday, March 10, 2017

Interactive Research Activity!

I went through this EXTREMELY interesting workshop on interactive presentations and why they are important to learners.  We were tasked with doing this with a class, and this is actually the second one I'm doing (first one worked out SUPER well!)

If you've never heard of chunk and chew, it's a simple concept.  When you chunk information together, it shouldn't be handed over to the students without the opportunity to allow them to chew on it.  If they don't, the learning diminishes.  Kind of like eating your favorite meal.  Now, multiply that by 10 and see how enjoyable it would be to eat the entire thing.

Below is the Adobe Spark webpage I made for this project.  After reading the article, kids in groups will move to different posters that has each letter of the alphabet in a table.  They have a certain amount of time to write something in it that begins with that letter.  Then they rotate until the rotations are done.  When they come back to their chart, they can read what else people put down and share out the most interesting fact about the article.

The second activity involves the questions on the webpage.  It's like 4 Corners.  Students stand underneath the word that fits them best (holidays, food, movies, colors, clothing etc).  With each word is a question in an envelope they need to answer with their devices (we are 1:1).  Then they rotate to the next question until the rotations are done.

Their exit ticket is the emoji PDF before they leave, giving me feedback on if I hit the target or not.

 I'm sharing the webpage so if anyone would like to use it, they absolutely can :) Research Like a Ninja!

Friday, February 24, 2017

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

2015, Chronicle Books

12 year-old Timonthy is writing in his journal.  He doesn't want to do it, but his probation officer and psychologist told him he had to in order to ensure the judge his actions wouldn't be repeated.

What he did wasn't felonious, according to him.  All he did was swipe someone's credit card and make a $1000.00 purchase on it.  But it wasn't for him, it was for his sick baby brother Levi. And well, for his mom too, who is working two jobs on her own to make ends meet.

They still don't have enough food.  Timothy is still in need of clothes that fit him.

Timothy remembers one of the last best moment of his life.  It was the day Levi was born.  His dad was so excited and proud to become a father again.  But life changed.  Levi was born with only a small hole in his trachea.  Because of this he has to have constant care and attention.

His dad couldn't handle it, so he left....

Now, Timothy and his mother are doing all they can to make sure Levi stays alive and breathing, including doing all of the nasty stuff, including suctioning mucus, cleaning up constant throw-up, and listening to the sound of the breathing machine.

Now, he's under house arrest, but couldn't love his baby brother more.  His love is very protective too, including when a nurse comes in and Timothy knows she's not doing her job.  He also protects himself from letting people, including Mrs. B and Officer James, know too much.  They don't need help, or do they? His best friend Jose, and his family, help out. And then there's the mysterious benefactor leaving amazing stuff on their front door. And slowly but surely, Timothy is cracking, and his journal reveals to those who are helping in just how much he truly needs, both physically and emotionally.

But his baby brother is still getting very ill, making ICU visits a regular thing.  How long before his mother implodes?  What can a 12 year old kid do?

This quick novel in verse will take your through a one year journey of brotherly love and sacrifice.  It will also take you on the journey of one young man's self-awareness and the grit and determination he has to make sure family stays together.  You hear his joy, but you will also hear his pain, anger, and desperation.  Be ready....this may make you cry, a definite sign of an excellent book. Highly recommended addition to any junior high or high school collection.