A Free Range Librarian in Denver

Welcome back friends! I have finally made it to Denver, Colorado after 2 long months of packing and selling our house. It has taken every ounce of brain power to leave one life behind and start another. I haven’t had a chance to blog or much less read. My life has been boxes, packing tape, contractors, and goodbyes. It’s nice to finally be a bit settled.

One of my first stops was the Arapahoe Library’s Castlewood Branch for a new library card. This is a smaller branch that reminds me a lot of the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch Library in Springfield, Missouri. The layout is open and welcoming with lots of seating for all ages. I am in love with their maker-space and looking forward to using it now that I’m in a tiny one bedroom apartment. It was really easy to find things and all the librarians have been very friendly. Bonus: You get to choose the color of your library card!!

I’m taking a bit of a break from job hunting right now. My hubby joked that I’m a free range librarian. I’m looking at my options and taking my time with the search. It’s hard to imagine having another library job that was as awesome as my last. I’m feeling a bit lost at the moment as I sit here writing this blog at the library. A huge part of me wants to be behind the desk helping patrons find books or planning a new teen program. For now, I think that I need some sleep and a few more weeks to get to know where I live! All good things are worth the wait.

So, what does this mean for Skipping through the stacks? I plan to do more book reviews and to revisit some of my library programs that I haven’t had a chance to blog about. I’m also going to add some book promos for upcoming titles that I think my readers would love. I also might throw in a craft project or two! I am debating on changing the look of the blog again or even going pro. It’s all up in the air, so be prepared for all of the above!

 

Finally here is a short list of books that I’m loving:

Read:

 

 

The Valiant By Lesley Livingston

Epic gladiator book featuring a kick butt female lead. Romance is a tiny bit predictable, but the twists and turns in this book kept me reading. Review to come.  4 stars

 

 

 

 

 

Currently Reading: 

 

Flame in the Mist vy Renee Ahdieh

Isn’t this cover gorgeous?!! I just started this one and I’m already hooked. It’s publish date is May 16, 2017. I’m so stoked that I got an egalley of this book. Thank you times a billion!! I loved Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. Be sure to add this to your list of hot summer titles for fantasy readers.

 

 

 

 

 

TBR Pile:

 

Some Kind of Happiness- Book Review

Some Kind of HappinessSome Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finley’s only safety lies deep in the heart of Everwood, a story that she keeps secret in her notebook. Her adventures there help her deal when the sadness and blue day threaten to overtake her life. When her parent’s send her off to visit Grandparent’s she has never met, the line between what is real and what is imaginary becomes blurry. Will she have the courage to save her story, her family, and most importantly herself?

This is a beautiful story about heartbreak, family, secrets, and what it’s like to have a sadness that you cannot explain. Finley’s world of Everwood is full of adventure and daring deeds, just like her real life if she can only stop long enough to see it.

What I liked:

This story hit me on a personal level that I did not expect. I could relate to Finley because at 11 I had those same overwhelming feelings that I couldn’t put into words. I created vast worlds and stories so I could escape from my real life and the dark thoughts that were always there. I wish this book had been written back then, because I could have used a story like this in my life. Finley is a great kid and I think middle grade readers who have depression and anxiety will connect with her story. I enjoyed how the plot was revealed within her made up world. It shows the world of depression and anxiety without overwhelming the reader. As a person who has struggled with both from a very young age, I felt it was true to what I experienced growing up.

Minor Issue:

This isn’t as much of a dislike as a quibble I had with the characters. It took me a long time to connect with any other people in the book. They were all pretty one dimensional until about halfway into the story. Later on I could see why the author chose to do this. It is really supposed to be about Finley. As a reader I like to have all the characters fleshed out pretty quickly in a story. For me, it helps me immerse myself in the world. Like I said, it’s more of a personal preference.

Final thoughts:

I really liked this one. It hit me in the feels in a way that I was not expecting because of personal experience. I think this is an important book for MG readers who struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety. It has a good message and a good ending that is true to life.

View all my reviews

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day- Book Review

Ms. Bixby's Last DayMs. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so glad this book was my last read for 2016. It is full of friendship and life. It also broke my heart in the best possible way. Usually sad MG books are not my thing because rarely do they offer any kind of realistic and uplifting moments. Many have endings that seem contrived and thrown together. When I picked this one up I was worried that it would be one of those books. One of my co-workers highly praised this one as a great middle grade read and make sure I had a box of tissues ready. She wasn’t wrong. It exceeded my expectations.

Topher, Steve, and Brand have one of the “Good ones.” Ms. Bixby is a teacher who makes you want to come to school. She sees the good and is truly one of a kind. When they learn that she is very sick and will leave their school before the end of the year, they come up with the ultimate plan. It will take courage, humor, and some clever negotiating skills to pull it off. Told through through three different perspectives, we learn about how one life can change the future.

What I loved:

Each character except for one, felt like a real person. Topher, Steve, and Brand feel like actual 6th grade boys. Each one has a different story and they all highlight the joys and pitfalls of friendship in the best possible ways. The friendship between the boys was realistic and sweet. It never felt fake or forced. I think that many MG students will find a piece of themselves in this story. I really liked that the story was broken into little bits. It made me want to keep reading. There were little twists and revelations that made the book very hard to put down.

Ms. Bixby is a teacher that all educators should strive to be. She is not perfect, but she is kind and compassionate. Her illness and story really make you feel like there is more to life than awards and accolades. It’s about the lives that you change for the better. Her character made me remember all the wonderful teachers I had growing up who saw more in me than that I saw in myself.

A tiny issue-

The only thing that I didn’t care for was part of the mission that these boys set out on. I felt that their goal of getting all these items off their teacher’s best last day list was pretty realistic except for the alcohol and it’s not for the reason that you think. Their run in with the creepy tattoo guy was the part that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. I feel like it could have been left out and the story would have been just as great. They already had a confrontation with a teacher and had a few other more realistic crisis moments thrown their way. The fight with the 28 year old guy was the only thing that didn’t fit. Having him take their money.. sure makes sense. Three 6th graders chasing down a grown man and giving him the beat down? Not so much.
I would have liked it better if they had realized that they didn’t need everything on the list to make a perfect day. But, this part is so minor to the rest of the story that it didn’t affect me that much.

Overall feel-

This is a good one for middle grade students. It is realistic where it counts and has enough humor to overcome the super sad parts. The ending is sweet and well written. It left me a teary sad mess at 1 a.m. I can see this being a classroom read aloud and I think it will turn up on many state award lists in the coming years. It is one of my favorite reads for 2016.

View all my reviews

Seasonal Passive Programming for YA

We do a lot of passive programming in our teen department. Most of it is themed and seasonal. Some of it follows special library events such as Banned Books Week. The most popular at our library is anything that involves art or drawing. I have a really creative group of kids that like to leave drawings around the library. We have a bulletin board in the department and I try to display as much as I can so the teens feel at home. Here are some ideas from our fall and winter displays. All of these ideas can created using die cuts.

 

Fall: Graffiti your Gourd 

The clever title was a suggestion from a post I made in Teen Services Underground. Thanks Jeretta! I think the pumpkins turned out amazing! I didn’t want to take them down for winter!

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Winter: Do you want to design a snowman? 

This one came from one of my teens. She sings this particular snowman song all year long and very loudly. I did have to toss a few snowmen due to carrots in inappropriate places. Other than that, they kept it clean! The snowman wearing the Led Zepplin shirt is my favorite!

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Passive Winter Prompt: Caption this Pet edition

This one is always entertaining. I love the this prompt. The “Caption this” idea came from Sherry at our Brentwood branch! We do this a few times a year at different branches with silly pictures or geeky movie stills.  I use post-it’s for the captions to cut down on the stuff I have to erase for being inappropriate. I also only put out pencils!

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As you can tell it’s finals week, so a few of my teens are pretty stressed out!

 

Do you do passives in your teen area? What are your most popular prompts? I would love to hear about them. As always feel free to steal these ideas! If you use the photos, please be sure to credit the source.

Holiday YA Books

Are you in the mood for a bit of Holiday Romance? Check out these titles:

festive-holiday

 

Titles:

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares- By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily- By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

What Light- By Jay Asher

Ex-Mas- By Kate Brian

Let it snow- By John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Decked with Holly- By Marni Bates

Top Ten Clues you’re Clueless- By Liz Czukas

Books make great gifts

The holidays will soon be here and one of the best things to put on your shopping list is books! This past weekend our library had their top 2016 books you can gift to friends and family. I’m tackling the YA list and to be honest, it’s been a bit of a tough year for groundbreaking YA titles. I have seen lots of amazing sequels, prequels, and series finales. But I am still waiting on the next big trend in YA. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I have talked with quite a few colleagues and they all feel like we are in the dreaded “what’s after Hunger Games” slump. Which is sad because there are some wonderful books getting overlooked while we wait for the next big breakout title.

My goal with this post is to highlight my top 5 picks from my presentation that would be great for Middle and Young Adult Readers. It is by no means exhaustive, since there are tons of great books that I have missed getting to read this year. My TBR pile is massive! I would also love to hear some of your recommendations. If you have a book or books that everyone should read and/or gift please let me know in the comments below.

Historical Fiction for Teens

Salt to the Sea- By Ruta Sepetys

By far this is one of my top 3 favorites for 2016. It is heart wrenching and beautifully written. Told from the perspective of 4 teens who are seeking freedom on the Wilhelm Gustloff during WWII, we learn the heavy price of perceived freedom. The sinking of this ship claimed 9000 lives and is one of the worst little-known disasters of WWII. I had never heard about this ship until I read the book. It’s tragic, raw, and the pace is very fast. This is a good one for teens that love well researched historical fiction.

 

Fantasy Fiction for Teens

 Rebel Of The Sands- By Alwyn Hamilton

This books is a mix of western and fantasy with dash of romance for good measure. It has some familiar elements from Arabic mythology but does a good job of coming up with an original story line with lots of adventure. Amani is a talented sharpshooter with one fatal flaw, she is a girl. Determined to get out of her dusty town she dresses as a boy and enters a shooting contest. When chaos ensues and she is on the verge of being discovered, she takes off into the wild desert sands with a boy who is not who he seems and has the entire army of the Sultan after him. There is lots of action and adventure with a romance that doesn’t take over the whole plot. This is a good one for teens that liked “Girl of Fire and Thorns” and other stories with a strong female lead.

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Night Parade- By Kathryn Tanquary

Saki leaves the comforts of Tokyo and her friends for to visit her Grandmother in the Mountains. Her family gathers there to take part in the yearly Obon ceremony to honour their departed ancestors. Bored out of her mind, Saki decides to cause some mischief in the graves with some local “cool” kids. However, all that messing about at the shrine has stirred to life an ancient curse. A curse that will lead Saki on a night time journey through the most fantastical parade on earth, with special  guides who are not quite what they seem. She only has a few days to set things right before she is trapped in the land of the dead forever.

This book would be a good choice for fans of “Spirited Away” and other popular Studio Ghibli films. It has a bit of a slow start, but readers will soon be caught up in the adventure and the magical creatures they meet along the way. 

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Inquisitor’s Tale- By Adam Gidwitz

One night in the year 1242, a man hears a story about 3 amazing children and their magical dog. The tale starts in France with a capture, follows them to a castle where they dine with a King, expands as they save a kingdom from a dastardly farting dragon, and ends at Mont Saint-Michel where they will attempt to thwart the burning of ancient texts. Can these children really perform miracles? Did their dog really come back to life?

This book is hilarious and full of adventure. Not only are you reading a story in the text but there is another story happening in the margins of each page. Which tale is really the truth? Gidwitz is a master of gross out humor and dark twists. This was one of my favorite books of the year and a ton of fun to read. Perfect for readers who like snark, blood and guts, good adventure, and lots of laughs. 

Realistic Holiday Fiction for Teens- 

What Light- By Jay Asher

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—and every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. Sierra has always lived two lives and this year she is missing home more than she expected. When she meets a cute local boy with dark past, will she learn about forgiveness or will with rumors end their relationship before it even gets started? 

This was a wonderful book and perfect for the holidays. I so enjoyed reading this and it totally warmed my heart. It’s sweet and has a nice message about the power of forgiveness and trust. A total fluffy romance that is perfect to read during the holiday season.