Lighthouse Life

“While the idea behind the lighthouse was a practical one there’s just something elusive about them which fascinates many people. Perhaps it’s their link with the past; perhaps, that they served a heroic purpose.”  — The Door County Pulse

When I toured the Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota’s north shore a couple of years ago, I found myself pulled by the window into the past—into a very specific sort of life. I tried to imagine myself living in such a remote place with only very few people to call your community, and I’m not sure I could place myself there. As a suburban-raised urban dweller, the lighthouse life might well be another plane of existence. It’s smaller than I can envision while also promising some sort of perspective that we can only seem to get from a very particular, very tall, vantage point.

Since then, I’ve fallen for lighthouse stories again and again. It feels almost cliché, frankly. My romanticized view of the past surely wasn’t what it was actually like. Nonetheless, I cheered when Hello Lighthouse won the Caldecott. There was something about the quiet, nostalgic story that spoke to me. I read Hazel Gaynor’s novelized version of Grace Darling’s life in The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter and found myself comparing fact and fiction as I read. (Yes, I actually read a book written for grown ups. It happens occasionally.) From there, I discovered “The Lighthouse Family” series by Cynthia Rylant. These early chapter books begin in The Storm with a cat named Pandora living a lonely life in a lighthouse until she rescues a dog named Seabold. The two of them along with some orphaned mice they rescue become a family. If it all sounds overly sweet to you consider that the story explores the sort of loneliness that adults, whose lives often leave them disconnected and devoted to their work, feel in a way that will keep young readers’ attention. This is a series that parents will delight in reading aloud to young listeners. Or at least I hope they will.

Perhaps between the picture books and other books that tell the stories of lighthouse life, real and imagined, the magical draw to them will sustain the imaginations of another generation of readers.

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My Inclusive Storytime Challenge

Libraries are for everyone. I really believe that, and I want my storytimes to be for everyone too. But in looking back at my storytime titles over the past year, I realized that my storytime families didn’t see everyone represented in the books I had chosen. That concerned me, and after a boost of inspiration from colleagues who presented on inclusive storytimes at our last department meeting, I decided to make it a priority in the form of a challenge: include at least one book by or about a person of color every week.

Maybe that seems impossible to you. Or maybe it seems like you’d end up compromising and choosing not-as-good books just to say you were inclusive. There are probably other maybes popping up in your head, but I’m here to debunk them. Sometimes it took a little more digging for find the just right books to share for a certain theme, but I always got there. I never felt like I was compromising, and I discovered some great books that I’m sure I’ll be adding to my regular storytime rotation.

For this next session, I am stepping up my challenge to attempt to feature more #OwnVoices titles and to talk about race when it is appropriate to do so. Even just pointing out the race of the characters or author models affirming differences and identity, which is very important to me as a disabled person with a very obvious physical difference.

So here’s what I did:

J is for Jump

Jump! By Scott M. Fischer

Hop Jump by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwell (I love this one! It is definitely a storytime favorite.)

 

L is for Library

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Read it, Don’t Eat it by Ian Schoenherr

You Can Read by Helaine Becker

 

M is for Moon

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

 

N is for Numbers

Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNae Brown-Wood (This is a favorite!)

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett (Interactive books always go over well with my storytime kids.)

 

P is for Pirate

Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day (FYI, Pirate Jack has a hook for a hand just like me.)

Pirate Nap by Danna Smith

Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (Honestly, this was a little long for my group, but it’s a cute story.)

 

S is for Socks and Shoes

Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin (Always a good choice!)

Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming

 

T is for Trucks and Trains

Freight Train by Donald Crews

Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia

Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz (My group loved this one.)

 

W is for Wild Animals

Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora

Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen

Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup (Another great interactive book.)

 

Follow me on Instagram to see what I’m doing for the spring session, and definitely check out the Talking to Kids about Race in Storytime post on Jbrary for more about inclusive storytime.

On Sequels

atthesignoftrueand.jpgI rarely read sequels. Who has time for that? (Says the person who has also posted about rereading books multiple times just ‘cause.) The truth is that no matter what I say about lack of time, if I really want to read something, I’ll make the time . . .eventually.  If I am being honest, I would say that I rarely bother with sequels because they are usually disappointing.

Usually is not always, of course. I recently reread a book and its sequel that I’d read years ago and wanted to revisit. It turned out that At the Sign of the Star was just okay, in my opinion. I almost skipped reading A True and Faithful Narrative even though I had Inter-Library Loaned both of these books since my library system no longer owned them. But I’m so glad I gave it a chance. A True and Faithful Narrative told Meg’s story as she grew into herself, into the writer she had always imagined herself to be despite the obstacles before her as a female in the 1680s. It was one of those very rare situations where the sequel was actually better than the first book.

All in my own opinion, of course. But there you have it. Not all sequels are terrible. Some of them are even really good.

Other YA sequels you might want to make time for:

thunderhead.jpgThunderhead (sequel to Scythe) by Neal Shusterman – Both Scythe and Thunderhead were rather outside of my usual choices, but I could not put either of them down.  Seriously, if you like dystopian novels that explore ethics and ideas while telling a story that is brutal and compelling, you need to read both of these books. Actually the School Library Journal called Thunderhead, “A rare sequel that is even better than the first book.” I’m not sure I’d go that far myself, but I will say that I will absolutely be reading the third installment as soon as it comes out, which is a super rarity for me.

empress.jpgThe Empress (sequel to The Diabolic) by S.J. Kincaid – Perhaps a bit like Scythe and Thunderhead, this science fiction story explores big ideas (what is personhood, science vs. religion, etc.) in a world that is harsh and full of deception. But here the focus is on the political intrigue at the emperor’s court where Nemesis, a genetically engineered bodyguard, is sent to impersonate a Senator’s daughter to protect her. There are unexpected twists and turns in both books, and by the end of The Empress, I am not even sure what to expect for the third book.

I’m considering reading The Rose and the Dagger (sequel to The Wrath & the Dawn, which is excellent), and I’ve been saying I’ll get around to A Torch Against the Night (sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, which was an unexpected favorite of mine) for ages.

Sequels I plan to read for kids: Patina and Sunny (sequels to Ghost) by Jason Reynolds. If you have yet to read Ghost, start there. You’ll thank me, I promise.

What other sequels should I be sure to make time for?

Let’s look at the Weather

Look at the Weather by Britta TeckentrupI 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.

Hidden Gems at the Library

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!

Hello, My Pronouns Are…

Lanyard with pronoun pinI’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.

Discovering the North Shore

It was good to get away for a few days. To leave the city far behind us for a quieter world. We hiked rugged paths to see waterfalls, stuck our feet into the painfully cold water of Lake Superior, and relaxed on the shore by the light of the fire in the evening. For many Minnesota families, north shore vacations are long-standing traditions that have perhaps become a bit “whatever” as the sights have been seen over and over again. But for us, it was a first. It was an adventure. Everything was new to us, and I can’t help but dream of a time—years down the road—when we’ve been so many times that we’ve discovered all the hidden gems that are waiting for us to find. Something about that feels like a Minnesota badge of honor that we’ve yet to achieve.

On this trip we collected several firsts: The first time we toured the Split Rock Lighthouse; the first time we saw the view from Palisade Head; the first time we rode the gondola up the Lutsen Mountain. And the first time we trekked out to Wild Country Maple Syrup.

It was our first full day in the area, and we had so many possibilities for our To Do list that we almost skipped it. We’d already stopped at Caribou Cream, a small store where syrup and other giftable items are sold on the honor system as there are no employees there working the shop. We were charmed by the shop and its contents, so we bought some syrup and headed on our way wondering if another syrup place was worth our time.

“Why not?” we decided and drove down the country roads that twisted and turned into the woods. The paved roads became dirt and every time we wondered if we were lost, a sign that pointed the way to Wild Country Maple Syrup kept us going. Soon, we could see the syrup lines running through the forest, and eventually the road ended at the headquarters of the operation. We headed straight for the small store to find that it was much like the one we’d seen at our previous stop. But we were quickly greeted by one of the owners who offered to show us around. He took us into the sugar shack and walked us through the process of making the syrup. We got to see where they bottle the syrup and sample the different types. Everyone we met was so friendly; we ended up chatting for quite some time.

We left with more syrup, of course. Because how could we resist after getting the grand tour and the nicest welcome we could have asked for? Note to self: check out the recipe section of their web site because we have a lot of syrup now.

Back at work a few days later, I was pulling books for my library’s Family History Month display, and I happened across a picture book about a family with a tradition of making maple syrup in the spring: Taffy Time by Jennifer Lloyd. The story centers on the youngest member of the family who wants to help, but keeps getting in the way and making mistakes. The little girl’s father explains the process of making the syrup as part of the story, and it was fun to see a smaller version of what we saw at Wild Country depicted on the pages of the book.

If you happen to be in the Lutsen, MN area, consider stopping in at Wild Country. For those who can’t get to the North Shore anytime soon, there are always picture books. Taffy Time is one of many picture books about making maple syrup. Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin is another title with local interest—though the story of a child collecting so much that they can’t carry it all extends far beyond the Minnesota borders.  Rhoda’s solution to her problem is one that will please both young rock collectors and their parents–much like our vacation to the North Shore. ;)