Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Talk #14: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Children's Fiction)

By Brian Selznick
Beautiful, beautiful book.
Verdict: One of the best children's books I've read since...Dahl. 
Age: 6 and up to whatever age.

I'm late to the party.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret is set to be released as a full length, big budget film just in time for the holiday season.  I read this book a couple of years ago but I'm reviewing now because, well, I had to give this book its due.  

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a wildly imaginative story that really brings the physical book to the forefront.  If the book came from a movie adaptation, it would have done the story a great injustice.  I can't imagine the movie capturing the feelings and emotions that captivated me while I read this book. Sorry, Sorcsese.  If children read this book from an ipod, they would miss the intricacies of Mr. Selznick's work of art. The book allows one to discover and touch the illustrations.  It invites the reader to feel, to wonder, and flip on to the next page with great anticipation.

The book, or tome, shall I say, might be a little intimidating for children who see its thickness.  Fear not kids or parents, this isn't Atlas Shrugged, half the pages are beautifully crafted illustrations by the author.  In turn, each of these illustrations contribute to the story. That's how I sell this book to reluctant readers.  I tell children they could be on the 50th page in 10 minutes.  By that time, I hope the great premise has them hooked!

The story is unique.  Part history lesson, part mystery and adventure.  The biggest compliment I could pay this book is that it fired up my imagination.  Whole scenes were crafted in my head.  Breaks were taken to visualize what I was reading.  Someone grabbed me by the hand and refused to let go. I didn't know exactly which way this story would head but I knew that it would be remarkable.  Kinda of like Willy Wonka letting me taste a never ending gobstopper.   Upon finishing the story, I sat up and smiled.  Definitely, a great read.

Growing up, I was a Smashing Pumpkins fan and as read the invention, I was delighted to say "I knew I had seen this scene somewhere before!" (SPOILER ALERT)

Additional: A book you would read with your kids during bed time.  One chapter at a time of course!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Kidspace: Sadness in Toronto Sports

Kidspace Blog #12
A lot of my friends are sports fans.  We like all kinds of sports but the major ones we follow are hockey, baseball, soccer and basketball. 
Being hometown fans, we like to support the local teams: the Maple Leafs (Hockey), the Blue Jays (Baseball), Toronto FC (Soccer) and the Raptors (Basketball). 
Here‘s the problem:  it’s been almost three years since ANY of these Toronto teams have made the playoffs.  While we’re not going to abandon our love for the teams, we need some sort of morale boost to cheer us up.  It could be an exciting new player, a promise to win or even cheaper tickets. Anything!(more)

This is a manifestation of my frustration with the state of the Toronto professional sports scene.  Our teams suck.  The Leafs can barely make the play-offs, the Raptors haven't done anything significant in almost ten years and the Blue Jays haven't won the championship (or made the playoffs) since 1993.

Joe Carter's World Series home run in 1994 was my favourite sports moment until Sidney Crosby scored the Olympic goal last year.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fingerplay: The Five Senses Story Time Stretch

It's yet another story time stretch.

The creation of this rhyme was influenced by a  recent training session.  This training session featured a ton of library workers heavily involved in children's programming.  Watching their performances and listening to their ideas was eye-opening.  It was inspiring to see different styles and methods of running class visits and story times.  Hopefully, I can capture some of the best ideas and incorporate it into my style.

One presentation suggested a variety of ways of using humor in order to hook children during a story time.  The presenter recommended books by Rob Reid including one titled "Something Funny Happened at The Library". We performed selection from the book that included "tongue push-ups".  I found the rhyme to be  hilarious so I borrowed the "tongue push-up" action for this rhyme.

This lead to thinking about how "tongue push ups" could be incorporated into a stretch.  My first thought was to base it around body parts on the head such ears, nose, mouth etc.  After starting with ears, I started to focus on hearing - "pull your ears to test your hearing" which in turn lead to the idea of focusing on the senses.  The senses are something kids learn in school anyways, so a stretch rhyme that children could recite and practice in order to remember the five senses might be useful.

This is the final edit:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Things a Children's Librarian Does #8: March Break Programs (Planning)

March break in Toronto is a chaotic time for children's librarians.  With children having a week off from school, parents and caregivers often need activities and outings for their kids.  The Toronto Public Library provides tons of free March Break programs for children to attend all week.  At our branch, we have planned eight programs from Monday to Friday.  One program per day on Monday and Friday and two per day from Tuesday to Thursday.  There are also two regularly planned family time story times on the Saturdays preceding and succeeding the March Break.  In total, there are ten programs in the time children are off from school.

The planning for March Break begins as early as six months prior.   There are many questions to answer and factors to consider:

How many programs do we want to run?
How many performers do we want to hire?
How many programs do we want to run ourselves?
How many programs can we run ourselves?
Should we show movies?
What age groups should we target?
What programs have we had/done before?  What was successful?
How do we decide who gets to come? (Space and audience limitations) - Will it be first come first serve? Or will it be registration etc.


How is the staffing situation during March Break? Will people be on vacation?  Fellow co-workers might be taking time off spend the week with their own children.  In addition, extra help will be needed from co-workers in the form of taking extra reference desk shifts, crowd control and noise management as you spend the time running around and preparing programs.

Performers can be expensive so decisions must be made on how many the budget can afford.  I like to get more performers during March Break because of the fact that it is an intense one week sprint unlike the summer holidays where one can spread programs over eight weeks.  It's great to have performers increase your program numbers without necessarily increasing the work load.  There isn't enough time to prepare for and perform 5 self made programs in one week (M-F).  Luckily, the central marketing department gives many branches an extra performer by booking one on their budget every year.  Woohoo!

Local Marketing
After all this planning, it's all about making sure people show up.  Simple in house flyers will work but in addition the branch sends out flyers to each of our local elementary schools in order to remind parents to come to the branch.

The Programs:

Saturday March 12 - Seed planting Story Time (Ages 7 and under)
Kids get to plant seeds after a story time!
Monday March 14 PM - Mad Science Performer (Ages 7 - 12)
Tuesday March 15 AM - Library Bingo and Scavenger Hunt (Ages 7 - 12)
Tuesday March 15 PM - Razzmatazz Performer (Ages 7 and under)
Wednesday March 16 AM - Bubble-thon Story Time (Ages 7 and under)
Wednesday March 16 PM - Snakes with David Kondo Performer (Ages 7 - 12)
Kids get to touch a live snake!
Thursday March 17 AM - March Break Olympics (Ages 7  - 12)
Five fun activities!  Like the olympics!
Thursday March 17 PM - Marky Weinstock Peformer (Ages 7 and under)
Friday March 18 PM - Movie (all ages)
Saturday March 19 - Animal Tales Story Time (Ages 7 and under)

From this we have:
1 all age program - the movie
5 programs for children 7 and under with 2 performers
4 programs for children 7 to 12 with 2 performers
3 self run programs from M - F

Wish us luck!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Booktalk #13: Martha Doesn't Share

Martha Doesn't Share (Picture Book)

By Samantha Berger
Illustrated By Bruce Whatley
Except during story time!
Verdict: Familiar story but pacing and length is perfect for story times.
Age: 4 and under.  Young kids with siblings.

A stack of new books arrived at the branch and as I browsed to see if there might be anything good for story time I found this book.  Sometimes, a book just gives off a good story time book vibe.

First, Martha Doesn't Share is a catchy title to young kids and even parents.  Introducing the title is bound to turn heads.  Second, it deals with a toddler-age situation.  There is a sibling, parents, sharing, familiar household objects and the possessiveness trait that dominates toddler years.  Third, there is an appropriate amount of words and illustrative points per page leading to a perfect story length.  Some toddlers might be able to sit through Cat in the Hat-length stories but more likely they can't and won't.  Lastly, the build up to the "decision" point or resolution of the problem is obvious and should be picked up by most young children.  Great for story times.  

I've already used this book in a story time and it went over well.  This book "ain't hipster" like I might say to my brother. It's not trying to be.  It won't wow you with originality, inventiveness or sophisticated humour but it will get the job done in story time. 


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Booktalk #12: It's a Book

It's a Book (Picture Book)

By Lane Smith
;) lol?
Verdict: Ahead of its time.  Enjoyable but more for adults at this point.
Age: Tech-savvy children and techno-parents

First things first, the book contains a colourful ("jackass") word to describe a donkey.  It's passable in a personal bedtime setting when it is up to each  parent to decide what words are "bad" and "good" but I think that word must be omitted when reading this book in a story time or group setting.  Good thing it's in the last line.

Beyond that issue, the book is enjoyable.  I liked it.  I liked its "in the know" humour.  I liked that it's generally pro-book.  I liked its conversational format which is not often seen in picture books (but seemingly in trend).  And I love the two main characters.  We can all relate: you're either the obnoxious person asking all the questions or you're the stone faced responder.  And the "mouse" joke was clever, too.  The drawings are great - emotions are well displayed.

This book should be popular among parents who gave their kindergartens an IPAD for their birthday.  Or with parents who already read ibooks to their kids between games of fruit ninja.  You know who you are.   

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kidspace: The Guinness Book of World Records

Kidspace Blog #11:

I’ve always wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. I got bored one day and decided to see how I stack up against a few world records.

Here are three of the records I tried to beat:

Record 1:

Fastest time to solve a Rubik’s Cube: 7:08 seconds by Erik Akkersdijk.
Me: N/A (Tried but never solved one)

In the time I wrote this sentence, Erik Akkersdijk could have solved 5 Rubik’s Cubes. Wow! (more)

My brother had been researching and practicing how to solve Rubik's Cubes and we came across Youtube videos of insane solving times. Being part of an attempt at a world record in 2009  was also pretty neat.  These two events inspired the creation of this blog entry.

These records are insane.  

Although I'll always remember looking at the pictures of the person with the world record fingernails and thinking about how creepy it looked!


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