Library Heroes

What librarian doesn’t have something of a weakness for books about books? I can’t imagine I am alone in finding stories that celebrate stories particularly charming. That was, of course, how I ended up reading The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey, which is the story of a bug who loves books. This is unusual for bugs, mind you, and Eddie’s family thinks he’s a bit strange for his preoccupation with reading. They don’t expect much of him at all. Too much of a dreamer.

As an aside, how many kids who always have their heads in a book are written off this way? It makes me sad to think about.

In any case, Eddie is a bug of action no matter what his family thinks. When his beloved Aunt Min, who taught him to read, is missing, he braves the wider world to find her. The bug’s eye view of the world is sure to get kids laughing, and the references to children’s books (both obvious and not obvious) throughout are fun to spot.

As if this wasn’t enough to make this book a winner, get this: After Eddie finds Aunt Min at the library, naturally, he learns that the library is in danger of being shut down. What can a little bug do to save a library populated by “squishers”? Sticky notes. Eddie leaves sticky notes in the library asking the squishers to save it, to keep it open and full of books. The kids at the library think it’s a ghost leaving the notes, but it doesn’t matter who left the notes, they will save the library as requested.

I love this. I love the idea that even the smallest person, or insect in this case, can make a big difference, and I love the idea of sticky notes being the way the difference happens. I’ve always thought that notes left in unexpected places had a particular sort of power, and it seems I’m not the only one. At the library where I work, I’ve found two sticky notes inside the front cover of picture books with messages for whomever may find them. I have no idea who is leaving these notes. I’m fairly certain it’s not a tiny bug or a ghost, but I agree with their sentiments.

I’ll be watching for more of these notes in the library. Meanwhile, I added The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library to my Animals list and the Books & Libraries list on my wiki. I quite recommend the book to young readers looking for a humorous and charming adventure.

Putting stories together

BookUnknownAmericans-400“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story.” –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, The Danger of the Single Story, I could not help but think of a book I had just read, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez.  This novel shares many stories.  They are all from Latin American immigrants, and they tell different stories of why and how they came to the United States.  Perhaps we think we know the immigrant story.  Perhaps this book is an opportunity to create a more complete view, to move beyond a stereotype.

Add in The Burgess Boys, Vaclav and Lena, and Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea for an even wider view.

What books opened your mind to a world beyond stereotypes?


Stories from Camp


Earlier this week, I sat at the Wood Tick table at Camp Read-a-Lot.  Fortunately, there were no actual wood ticks.  Just teachers, librarians, and books.  Lots of books.  I started the morning by standing up in front of everyone and talking about books.  I made sure to wiggle my toes and listen for background sounds to calm my nerves as a friend had suggested.  I hope it worked.  It was all a bit of a blur, to be honest.

The real memorable Camp moments were later when William Alexander took the stage.  Here is a writer who knows what stories can do.  He spoke of the contradictory way people perceive fantastic fiction–it’s silly or foolish, but it’s also dangerous.  Not unlike the way comic books or video games are often perceived.  As a culture, we keep fighting over fiction without taking into account that we are wired for storytelling.  We need stories–foolish and serious.  Kids, especially, need stories of all sorts as they work out the intricacies of their worlds.


At this point in the presentation, I was live tweeting as quickly as I could.  Eventually I stopped trying to tweet it all, but not before he thanked librarians and teachers for perpetuating the love of reading aloud.  He said, “Read aloud always. Learn what delicious language tastes like.”

I have to admit, I haven’t read Goblin Secrets.  Even after it won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, I didn’t give it a chance.  Frankly, it’s rare that I pick up a fantasy novel.  But I have been won over.  In this PW interview Alexander said, “The thing about all stories, really, but especially about fantasy, is that they have the potential to throw our basic assumptions about ourselves into question.”  Perhaps it’s time I gave the genre another chance.

When reviewers get it wrong

Accidents of NatureOne Handed Catch  “Give this one to those who have moved past One Handed Catch but aren’t quite ready for Accidents of Nature.”

Crazy BeautifulImmediately upon reading this sentence in the review, I put Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted on my reserve list at the library.  After all, One Handed Catch and Accidents of Nature are among my favorite kids’ and teens’ novels respectively.  Both books explore the special/normal dynamic with a particular astuteness that I related to very strongly as a person who occupies varying degrees of special and normal depending on how you decide to see me. (See Fake Arm 101 for more about me.) I recommend them very, very highly.  Pehaps the reviewer was not aware that he or she held Crazy Beautiful up with books that seemed to “get it” beyond the usual.

To be clear, Crazy Beautiful is not a bad book.  It’s a romance, in which one character has prosthetic arms as a device.  If you like teen romances, read it.  It has one of the most romantic kisses I’ve read in teen lit. It has the feel of a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling.  Read it for those things.  That’s what this book is about. It isn’t about limb deficiency or disability.

Running Dream

If, on the other hand, you are looking for something for the readers who have moved past One Handed Catch but aren’t quite ready for Accidents of Nature, you are looking for Wendelin Van Draanen’s newest: The Running Dream.

Library of the Early Mind

“The best children’s stories are wisdom dipped in art and words.”  –Peter Reynolds in Library of the Early Mind

This afternoon, I attended a screening of the documentary Library of the Early Mind at the Minneapolis Central Library.  The sparsely filled auditorium held librarians, teachers, and other people affiliated with the business of children’s literature, but I would love to see this film move beyond that audience.  The film is a fascinating look into what we all remember about children’s books from the people who created them.  It is a celebration of what children’s book can do, the power they have, and the way they bring stories alive.  I particularly liked the Peter Reynolds quote above, which I hope I’m remembering properly since I didn’t take notes during the film, but there were so many great moments.  Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, is hilarious.  Jack Gantos talks about life as a writer in a way that makes you really get why he would choose to smuggle a bunch of hashish into the country (or try to, at least) and how his time in prison turned him into a writer.  I highly recommend his memoir, A Hole in My Life.  And I have added another book to my endless “to read list” thanks to this movie: David Small‘s Stiches.

In the panel discussion after the film, we learned from the director that inspiration for the documentary came from an article in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik about Babar, which you can listen to here.  He also mentioned that right as the film was about to be released the New York Times started the discussion about picture books possible demise (read that here).  The members of the panel were of the opinion that picture books are not dead or dying.  The field is changing, but the love of story remains strong.  And picture books remain a powerful way of telling stories.

Here is the trailer:

This is a movie for anyone interested in stories. There is another screening tomorrow evening at the Galaxie Library in Apple Valley. Check it out.