Saturday, April 14, 2018

whale kidnapping

Overheard in the children's area:

"Put down the whale."

Ominous silence.

"Elise.  Give me the whale."

Gibberish and wet smacking noises.

"Elise, get that whale out of your mouth!"

A sigh, and then with a more patient voice, "Elise, give me the whale."

More ominous silence followed by squealing and sounds of little feet running.

"Elise, give me the whale.  Elise!  We do not throw whales!"

I know most of you are concerned right now about the whale's well being.  No need to worry, the whale is part of our play space, which is currently ocean-themed, and therefore a rubber toy, and not a real whale.

But the carefree and bumbling world reigned by toddlers is not entirely free of barbaric activity.

After they left, armed with wipes in hand, I inspected the play area and surveyed the aftermath of the whale kidnapping.

When I finally located the injured whale, I discovered a ghastly tear, and worse, a belly bloated with spit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Do you want to hear something gross about koalas?

A second grader requested a few books about koalas last week for an upcoming "research project."  I found one on shelf and placed three more books on hold for her.  

Today she came in to pick up her holds.  I told her the holds were kept over on the adult side and walked her over to the holds shelf and showed her how to find them.

While we were there she asked me if I wanted to hear something gross about koalas.  I tried changing the subject but to no avail.

She really wanted to tell me something gross about koalas.

So I asked her to whisper it in my ear.  I leaned over and she cupped her fingers around her mouth and giggled like she had a juicy secret to share.

Just a few inches from my ear, she could no longer contain her excitement and loudly shouted, "baby koalas eat their mommy's poop!"

Because we were standing by the holds shelves, which were smack dab in the middle of the adult section, and it was a busy time of day, about a dozen heads whipped toward us all at once.

Meanwhile the little girl began hooting loudly while she waited for my reaction.  So I said, "well that's certainly a surprise, isn't it?" as I looked at the disapproving faces surrounding us.  A few people nodded gamely, one lovely soul gave a small chuckle, and everyone else shot us looks of disgust and hurried away.

And it was a surprise.  A very loud surprise.  

Friday, April 6, 2018

painted rocks

Lately, I have been finding painted rocks in a few of the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood.

This is my favorite one:

So far, it has remained in its Little Free Library for a week.  It has nothing to do with books, but it makes me smile.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

kindness matters

Here's yet another reason why I love my job - because they do lovely things like this:

I worked with this gal for a whopping three months and she was part of the team of people who hired me.  She was transferred to another branch, which will be opening a brand new building in the next year, which is a very important job.  She was the coworker I referred to as "D," and as you can tell, she is delightful and certainly missed. 

Now if I can just narrow it down to one person to send this heart to.  A month may not be enough time!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Happy Poetry Month!

This is one of two displays in the youth area at our library branch:

I borrowed the popular Poetree idea and turned one of our columns into one.  With a gentle tug each poem comes free, and there are twenty plus poems to choose from. 

After reading the poem, there is a surprise origami activity on the other side of the tree, which includes instructions and supplies to create a leaf monster bookmark.

So far I have had two kids who each chose a poem and then read them aloud with their adults.  One child did not want to make a leaf monster because he loved his poem so much and wanted to keep reading it.  This nearly caused me to faint from happiness. 

I put up one other display, but it's one of those displays that's only cool if I get enough kids to participate, so there will hopefully be a happy surprise at the end of the month.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Favorite March Reads

Though the list of amazing books I read in March is nowhere the size of February's list, it was still a wonderful month of reading.  

I read a handful of good books that were almost great except for a few nitpicky reasons.  I finally got around to reading both The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg and A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.  Both were pretty good.  I will recommend them but definitely not rave about them.

Here are the books I will not only recommend and rave about, but also wave my hands excitedly and possibly hop up and down too.

This is My Book by Mark Pett (picture book)

Who wouldn't love a mischievous panda completely taking over a book and turning it into a hilarious adventure? Well...quite possibly the person who is trying to write the book. Can this panda win him over with his charming illustrations and outlandish extras such as pull tabs and flaps? You'll have to read it to find out! Be sure to check out what the panda did to the book blurb author's bio!

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld  (picture book)

Taylor's amazing block art piece is destroyed and he is incredibly sad. One by one, an assortment of animals barge into his unhappiness without truly listening. And then the rabbit appears, moving closer and closer so Taylor can share its warmth and friendship. The rabbit listens to and acknowledges Taylor's feelings and helps Taylor rebuild not just a new block art piece, but also his composure. In beautiful illustrations and simple lines The Rabbit Listened delivers a beautiful and powerful message about active listening.

Reading Rooms edited by Susan Allen Toth (adult nonfiction)

What a book! Reading Rooms is packed full of essays, songs, poems, snippets of novels and memoirs, all relating to the library. It's broken up into sections - Small-Town Libraries, City Libraries, Love in the Library, and Mystery and Murder in the Library to name a few - and within each section is a handful of writings reflecting the theme.

There are plenty of well-known authors in this collection, including Stephen King, Eudora Welty, and Betty Smith. But there are also a handful of lesser-known authors such as Patricia McGerr, whose story surprised and delighted me. In fact, most of my favorite pieces were written by authors I hadn't heard of or authors I'm uncertain about.

The greatest, most beautiful surprise came from Stephen King's "It," which, surprise surprise, has a snippet about the library in it. Though I haven't read Stephen King for many years because he gives me nightmares, I couldn't help but read this piece because the writing was astonishingly beautiful. I had no idea Stephen King was so poetic. In this snippet of “It” he does one of my favorite writerly things and combines pretty phrases and words with slang. For example, he writes, "He liked the smell of the books - a spicy smell, faintly fabulous. He would sometimes walk through the adult stacks, looking at the thousands of volumes and imagining a world of lives inside each one, the way he sometimes walked along his street in the burning smoke-hazed twilight of a late-October afternoon, the sun only a bitter orange line on the horizon, imagining the lives going on behind all the windows - people laughing or arguing or arranging flowers or feeding kids or pets or their own faces while they watched the boobtube." holy moly that's some beautiful writing.

I also loved Pete Hamill's piece, "D'Artagnan on Ninth Street,” and in particular, these lines, "I can feel now the way my blood quickened as I...saw ahead the wild gloomy garden behind the library. As a gesture of support, I would run a finger along the menacing iron pickets of the garden's fence. I wanted that fence to stand forever, holding back the jungle... I sometimes imagined it spilling into the streets, marching steadily forward to link with Prospect Park. Or it would turn to the nearest target: the library itself. The vengeful blind force of untamed nature would climb those granite walls, seep under the windows and assault the books, those sheaves of murdered trees, sucking them back to the dark earth."

Reading Rooms was everything I hoped for and more. I mean, where else am I going to find such a strange compilation of authors and styles of writing about my favorite place in the world? It falls into that rare and awesome category of books that keep on giving long after they’re read. I not only jotted down a handful of names and books to look up, I also went on a wild and entertaining exploration of the Ellery Magazine thanks to Patricia McGerr. As a person who hasn't read a single adult mystery book, not even Agatha Christie (*gasp*) I'm now intrigued, which is the first step towards reading my first mystery. As for Stephen King, there are just too many scary things circling the island of beautiful writing, so I will continue looking at it from afar.

A Great Big Cuddle written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell (children's poetry)

This is a book of poems for the silly-hearted souls who love nonsensical words and ideas. It's also wonderful for storytime. I chose my three favorites and added a few movements to each poem to make them more interactive. It's a very imaginative, fun book to read aloud and share with others.

Tea Rex by Molly Idle (picture book)

The idea of a tea party with a t rex is outlandish and thrilling. I enjoyed the illustrations (big dinosaur sitting in a little chair for example) and appreciated the clever and sneaky effort to encourage politeness and manners in young readers.

Stitch-illo by Janine Vangool (adult nonfiction)

Is it ok to say I love this book because of how pretty it is? Before reading this, I hadn't heard of most of the textile artists and I was delighted and inspired by their different styles, stories, approaches, and techniques. Though most of their websites are easy to find I am keeping my copy of the book so I can leisurely flip through the pages anytime I'm feeling totally stumped and creatively drained.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter!

This is Chickie.  He was the star of the Easter display at our library:

I borrowed the cheesy quote from Pintrest.  Everything else, including the charming color of the egg, was all me.  Due to the white paper on the other side of the window, chickie's egg was chocolate.  When kids asked about the color of the egg, most accepted my response that it was a chocolate egg.  Only one kid called it something else, which I shall not repeat (it starts with a P, that's all I will say).  Also, before the googly eyes, the black circles I drew were terrifying.  Thank goodness for googly eyes.  And though I wasn't thrilled with my eyelash artwork, I saw a kid point them out to her dad and say, "look at those beautiful eyelashes!"  

For the past couple weeks, kids wrote their favorite books on a dot and decorated Chickie's egg:

Whenever a dot was filled out I asked the kids where they wanted their dot to go.  My thought was that if I cared where my dot would go, so would the kids, but I was really surprised by how much it mattered to them.  It mattered just as much as figuring out which book and dot color to pick, and I had some great interactions with the kiddos while they made their decisions.  

In addition to Chickie and her chocolate egg, I also hid pictures of several famous bunnies, such as Peter Rabbit and Knuffle Bunny, around the library and offered a selection of 'color your own bookmarks' for kids who found the bunnies.  This was also a hit.  We had so many delightful interactions with patrons about the bunnies.  Some kids found a few bunnies and were satisfied with that.  Even when their adult told them there were more bunnies to find, the kids would shrug and choose their bookmark.  Other kids, upon discovering they didn't find all the bunnies, went right back to searching.  One kid found all the bunnies and decided that she could do better.  She was at the library for about an hour and in that hour she pulled out a handful of books that had bunnies in them and brought them to the desk each time she found one.  I wouldn't be surprised if she grows up to be a librarian.  

Overall, it was my best display so far.  I enjoyed how interactive it was and hope the poetry displays I'm putting up next week are just as interactive.  

Friday, March 30, 2018

conversations between books

Though there are many books with kids riding an assortment of animals and mythological creatures, I thought it was very clever to find these two face outs together due to the last names of the authors.

And, as someone was hurrying from the library the other night, they abandoned their two books.  I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the titles together. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

my turn

While bicycling to work the other morning I passed a few joggers, a lady walking two giant dogs, and to my delight and astonishment, two bicyclists who were using the sidewalk just like me.  As always, I biked into the grass each time I came across anyone and shouted a good morning.  The first cyclist, a man, nodded and hurried on.  The second cyclist, a woman, joyfully echoed my good morning.  Because her panniers were packed, I assumed the lady was commuting, and I was absolutely thrilled by this. While I ate breakfast I wrote this down as my favorite bicycling moment of the day.  

Then something amazing happened on the way home.

As I was bicycling home, I thought I saw the same gentleman cyclist from the morning but couldn't be sure.  I veered into the grass just as he shouted, "my turn," while veering into the grass.  He was the same cyclist!  And he remembered me! 

I felt the pages of my life flip back back back to when I was a child thinking about my future.  Seeing the same people day in and day out while bicycling to work was something I imagined my adult self doing.  This was an exotic idea to me because I lived in a teeny tiny town that not only lacked the necessary humans to interact with, but was also quite a dangerous place to walk due to an abundance of bars (one for every family it seemed like).  I had two walking options - clinging to the ditch or clawing my way through the woods (my preferred method) - and two destinations - grocery store or gas station.

I believed in sidewalks with the same reverence as some people believe in angels or salvation.  Would I ever live in a town that had them?  Would they lead to exciting places like the library?  More importantly, were they even real?  Occasionally, while in the neighboring town, I thought I spotted one but couldn't be sure.  Just as fast as I spotted one, it would disappear, ending abruptly in a field.

To my young mind, sidewalks were pathways to neighbors and civilization and libraries, salvation from boredom.  As a child, I imagined a series of sidewalks leading my adult self to all the places I needed to go each day.  What I didn't realize is that finding a sense of community would be just as tough in a big city as it was in a teeny tiny town, maybe even tougher!  Living in such a big city with lots of people certainly makes it tough to see the same people day in and day out.  Surprisingly, not a lot of people use the sidewalk, especially early in the morning and late in the afternoon.  When I do see a familiar face, it's such a treat.  Each time it happens I am transported right back to my childhood dreams, and it feels like I'm adding another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of my happiness.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spring Break

Rachel, Robert, Audrey and I just got back from a fabulous week-long road trip.  Rachel picked two colleges to visit during her spring break - Purdue, which is in West Lafayette, IN, and Macalester, which is in St. Paul, MN.  We traveled up through Illinois to Indiana, where we visited Purdue, spent two days in Chicago, then traveled through Wisconsin to Minnesota, where we visited Macalester, and then back through Iowa and Missouri to home.  Whew.  The trip was broken up into chunks so we didn't drive more than 6 hours at a time.

After this trip, the order of Rachel's list of colleges has changed and she may be leaning towards a smaller college.  She's going to investigate a little bit more so we may have another place or two to visit (in addition to Hendrix in AR).  Though it's a large school, KU still reigns supreme, so this summer will be very interesting as she makes her final selections.

In addition to visiting schools, we spent a lot of time exploring, eating, visiting libraries and listening to podcasts.  It was a very relaxing, meandering kind of trip. 

My top five favorite eats were:

5. La Michoacana Ice Cream and Fruits in Downer's Grove, IL.  I had the gansito ice cream, which is basically ice cream with chopped up pieces of the chocolate-covered, strawberry-filled Mexican snack cake, which I hadn't heard of before this experience.
4. A Baker's Wife in Minneapolis, MN.  They had some of the best donuts I've ever had.  Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.  The strawberry (minus the icing) was my favorite.
3. Moscow on the Hill in St. Paul, MN. Rachel picked this place and while everyone happily ate cow tongue (which they raved about), I chose to tuck into their borscht, which is my new favorite borscht. It was chunkier than other borscht soups I've had and included sour cream. Delicious!
2. Hero in Chicago, IL.  This was the best coffee I drank on the trip, and one of the best cups of coffee I've had in some time. It was even better than my local KC fave - Messenger.
1. Sultan Kebab & Bakery in Norridge, IL. Our lunch was great, but it was their Harissa cake (a coconut yogurt semolina cake) that stole my heart. It reminded me of suji halwa (another semolina dessert), which is one of my favorite desserts, but it was different because it was cake-like.  I plan on making it at home as soon as I have some extra time. It was so amazing I would definitely say it's in my top ten all-time favorite desserts.

These are my favorite pictures from the trip. Enjoy!

This was a mural on the outskirts of Purdue's campus.  Rachel affectionately calls it 'the banana storm.'  I love it so much I might just blow it up and hang it somewhere in our house.

Though we didn't buy anything, we found an amazing bookstore in West Lafayette, IN called Von's Book Shop, which had both new and used books.  I was incredibly impressed by their poetry collection, which is one of the most fleshed-out collections I've seen.  There was also a part of the store we couldn't even see due to a low ceiling, which was pretty interesting.

Rachel and Robert had a thrilling time visiting the Willis Tower (while I was safe on the ground exploring the Harold Washington library).

Rachel and I spent way too much time at The Art Institute of Chicago, which was way too big to see in one day, let alone a few hours.  Rachel was very patient with me while I looked at every single Thorne room (the exhibit was everything I hoped it to be and so much more). 

Rachel's favorite thing in Chicago was the Bean, and though it was snowing, windy, and freezing, she spent a long time with it, mostly petting it and making funny faces at it. 

I checked out three libraries on the trip - the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, IL, The Dole branch of the Oak Park library system in Oak Park, IL, and the Roosevelt branch of the Hennepin system in Minneapolis, MN.  I learned a little bit from each branch and enjoyed exploring them.   The Dole branch was by far my favorite.  Though it was small, it housed a mighty multicultural collection - each of those boxes is filled with items relating to different cultures and available for checkout.  

Like me, Rachel gravitated towards the children's areas in each library and made herself at home.  She even found a friend at the Dole library.

We took a whopping five jumping pictures on this trip - Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Missouri (we were a little surprised we didn't have this one).  Wisconsin was our best jump.

I also have to sneak this one in too, which was the best non-jumping state picture (yes we spend a lot of time at rest stops).  

I was very sad we didn't get to hike during this trip. The weather just wouldn't cooperate.  We did walk around Minnehaha Falls and enjoyed the waterfall, which was even more glorious due to the weather.  

Oh, and where was our poor abandoned dog during this trip?

Don't judge us just yet!

She was taking a leisurely vacation herself at Hunter's house (Hunter is a close friend).  We received this picture during the trip and rolled our eyes a bit.  She had a great time, received far more attention than the piddly amount we give her, drank all the kitty water she wanted, and basked in the hatred of Hunter's two cats. One of Hunter's cats even tried to kill Ella by pushing her container of pills onto the floor (two weeks worth), but because they were only pain and glucosamine pills, the only side effect was that Ella was high as a kite for a day.  Much to the cat's disdain, Ella probably loved her even more after that.

It was an awesome spring break!