You may not have heard of International Dot Day before, but every year around September 15th many schools and libraries celebrate this holiday that focuses on creativity and connection. This year, I celebrated at the Twin Cities Zine Fest by inviting people to decorate their own dots and add them to our mural. It was great fun to see how people decided to make their mark. My daughter and I had cut circles from all sorts of sources, so people could choose to build from a picture or words that was already there or start fresh on a plain dot. Either choice led to some fantastic pieces of art for our mural. Thank you to all who participated. <3
Some highlights below:
I found this book shelved with the nonfiction picture books at my library. Next to books offering information about weather for preschoolers and young children. This 100+ page volume stood out as different from the sea of 32 page picture books. At a glance, I thought perhaps it might be misshelved. Looking further into the book, I thought perhaps there was no section for this book in my library. No one place it belonged.
It is not quite a picture book, but it contains illustrations on each spread. It is not full of facts about weather so much as it is an invitation to observe and experience the weather as it happens. To reflect and consider. There are more questions in this book than there are facts.
It is not a book that is only for children, by any means. I often say that picture books are for everyone. My fifth grade daughter is probably sick of me reminding her that you never grow out of picture books. This is a book that proves the point. Hand this book to anyone of any age and let them savor the art and the text. It is sure to speak to readers of a far greater variety of ages than will discover it in the nonfiction picture book bins at the library, which is why I share it with you today. Don’t miss this one. Don’t let it sit in the bin and eventually be weeded from your local library. It is far too lovely for that fate.
I didn’t manage to post anything on this blog all summer long, but I did manage to write this summer. The credit goes to my ten-year-old daughter. Story Club was her idea.
Story Club met on Friday afternoons this summer, usually in our backyard. It was just the two of us with our notebooks sitting in the sunshine. My daughter decided how it would go: guided meditation to relax, poem collaboration to get started, a reading of writing advice or a particularly good bit from a book, then ten minutes of free writing.
It was simple. The whole thing usually only took about an hour, though sometimes we got really into the poem and went long. But it was the best thing about my summer. Easily so.
I won’t lie. When my daughter put forth the idea of Story Club, I went along with it for her. It’ll be good for her, I thought. She loves to write, and I don’t want her to lose track of that while school is out.
It probably was good for her, but it was even better for me. I used to love to write. I wrote almost constantly. I was always scribbling in my journal or clicking the keys on my computer. Somewhere along the way I lost track of that. I still kept a journal, but the little books took longer to fill. I still collected story ideas, but the ideas never went anywhere. Those Friday afternoons in our backyard changed that for me. Story Club reminded me of something that I truly loved. And it gave me a chance to share it with my daughter.
Perhaps I still don’t write as much as I used to, but the creative energy I found at Story Club this summer led me to tabling at the Twin Cities Zine Fest this year, which I hadn’t done in a few years. Plus my daughter joined me at my Zine Fest table with her own zine this year. We spent the day surrounded by writers, artists, and zinesters, and we left buzzing with ideas and excitement for what we might do next. So many people who came by our table encouraged my ten-year-old to keep writing, keep making zines. They would tell me to support her in whatever she did, and I would think, Is it strange that she is helping me stay creative as much I am helping her? I don’t know the answer, but I’m glad we have each other.
As I celebrate one year of working for the library, I thought I would highlight one of the perks of the job: discovering hidden gems in the library collection. I already blogged about Through the Barricades, which I came across while browsing the library’s shelves—something I never had time to do as a patron. Others I have discovered while looking at circulation reports and pulling books that haven’t checked out in a long while. Sometimes when you are doing this kind of work, you feel like you understand why a book hasn’t checked out. Maybe it doesn’t look appealing or the description makes it sound a little strange. But there are other books with low circulation numbers that I find myself reading—and enjoying, and I just know that other people would love them too if they found them.
Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, for example, falls into this category. This short book is actually a rather silly story about how cats came to have nine lives. It involves time travel and other magical elements, but it never takes itself too seriously. If you are a kid who appreciates cat-oriented wordplay, this is the book for you.
Speaking of wordplay and laugh-out-loud humor, The Short Con by Pete Toms is another lonely book with few checkouts. It’s a shame, really, because this graphic novel will appeal to grown ups as well as kids. There are pop culture references, cat puns, and just plain weirdness. It’s small, but a lot of fun. I’m glad I found it, and I hope other people do too.
I’m glad it’s part of my job to discover these hidden gems and help them get into the hands of the right readers!
There are two types of people in the world: people who reread books and people who don’t.
I am a rereader. I probably shouldn’t reread as much as I do considering being widely read is an important part of my job, but sometimes I just want to immerse myself in a familiar story—usually a happy one. Sometimes I’m feeling down or stressed. Sometimes there’s no reason at all. It feels a bit like a guilty pleasure because the books I reread the most happen to be the fluffy ones. If I’m honest, there are times when I feel a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve read my favorite teen romances (Alex Approximately and When Dimple Met Rishi for a couple of specific examples) multiple times. With so little reading time and so many more books I want to read, why give extra time to these books? They aren’t exactly hard-hitting, important stories. At least not in the way that we usually think of “important.”
Plenty of people probably think they aren’t worth reading once, much less multiple times. There are people who only spend their reading time on the books that are Capital I Important. And that’s fine. I’m not here to judge anyone’s reading tastes no matter how much they diverge from mine. There was a time when I would have. There was absolutely a time in my life when I would have judged myself for enjoying fluff. For wanting fluff. Honestly, for needing it sometimes. These days I call it “self care,” and I own it. There’s a lot of heavy stuff going on in the world, and there’s nothing wrong with a comfort read–whatever that may be for you.
In addition to the teen romances I mentioned above, my next choice for a comfort read is historical fiction. I’ve blogged about my interest in historical fiction often enough that this probably doesn’t surprise anyone. But there is something I find incredibly comforting in getting completely out of your own time period. I have recently reread a couple of favorites: The Lost Girl of Astor Street (historical mystery/romance) and No Shame No Fear (historical/romance), and I can highly recommend both to readers whose tastes run similar to mine. ;)
In conclusion, there are probably way more than those two types of people in the world. I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I just like to read my favorite fluffy books whenever I feel like it.
I’ve been wearing a pronoun pin on my lanyard at the library for months. Either no one has noticed it, or they just haven’t said anything. I’ll be honest, I expected at least one person to ask why I felt the need to identify “she/her” as my preferred pronouns when I present as female. But no one said anything.
Until this week.
A few days ago a library patron noticed and spoke up. And, to my great relief, it was positive! She expressed appreciation for the way that the pin normalized the idea that pronouns might not be as obvious as we think they are. We talked about our kids growing up in a world where “they” can be singular and about how we can help create an environment of acceptance in our kids’ schools.
The conversation reminded me of something I read in the book Who are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity. In a note to grown-ups at the beginning it says, “Some grown-ups worry that children are too young to talk about gender diversity. But it is all around us. Kids are already talking about it, and you get to decide how you want to be a part of that conversation.”
I’m still learning about what it means to be inclusive in this way, but I’m glad to be part of the conversation both at home and at the library.
If a book that can be described as “a history lesson” sounds as enticing to you as it does to me, you might like Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan. The story immerses readers in the world of Maggie Gilligan and Daniel Healy as they become friends and find themselves pulled in different directions through war and politics. I’ve read enough history to know a bit about world events during the years that the novel is set (1913-1916), but the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin is not a particularly well known piece of history. At least it wasn’t well known by me.
I first heard of the 1916 Easter Rising while browsing Netflix when I came upon Rebellion. The five-part mini-series follows several fictional characters through the week-long insurrection. It has been criticized for not being terribly historically accurate, but since I’ve nearly exhausted Netflix’s supply of such historical dramas (which I particularly enjoy), I took a chance on it. I was immediately swept up in the drama and curious about what was real and what was invented for the story.
Not long after watching all five episodes of Rebellion, I found Through the Barricades in the teen section of my library. The time period and the premise were enough to entice me, but the chance to see another perspective on the Easter Uprising was the real reason I added it my check outs.
The story starts in 1913 and by the time it got to the Uprising, I’d almost forgotten that that’s what I had been waiting for. At that point, our characters had been through a lot. Well, Daniel had been through a lot as a soldier fighting for the British Army in the Great War. While war stories are not usually my thing—actually I usually steer clear of them—I have to admit it was Daniel’s account of the war that kept me riveted to the pages. I read it quickly and occasionally exclaimed to whoever was nearby how stressful the story was to read. This is the kind of stress that makes me avoid war stories! But it is also the mark of an immersive story.
I added Through the Barricades to my list of YA fiction that is Based on Real People/Events. I seem to read a lot of these sorts of books. I imagine they don’t appeal to everyone. Not everyone is reading fiction for facts, after all. And that’s probably a good thing. Probably most fiction readers don’t want a history lesson with their story. For me, though, that is often exactly what I want. I love letting a story give me a feeling for a time period or historical event. I’ll usually look into the facts about the time period as well, but the story creates a feeling that facts can’t quite get create. Through the Barricades is probably not going to draw in readers who aren’t interested in history, but for hardcore fans of the genre or readers interested in the time period, it’s worth a look.