Review: Yellowcake

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan. Random House Children’s Books. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: A short story collection from Margo Lanagan. Which means two things: each story is incredibly unique; each is amazingly good.

The Good: Here’s the problem: each Margo Lanagan short story is so unique that it’s impossible to easily sum up just why her short story collection is terrific. What label to even give it? Fantasy? Horror? Magical Realism? Retellings?

Each story in Yellowcake is perfect. With each story, I was pulled into a fully created world. No, more like fell — fell into a place and time and didn’t, at first, know quite where I was. Lanagan treats her readers with respect: she knows you can keep up with her. That no one’s hand needs to be held. Here, she says, in the story; let’s not waste time or words with exposition or any info dumps or any pretend casual, “as you remember, John, (explanation of what John knows but the reader never could.).” Why walk when you can run?

The stories in Yellowcake are a short window into other people’s lives, into other worlds: with each, you know that life was happening before the story began and will continue after it ends. People’s actions aren’t punished or rewarded; they just are.

These stories are rich: rich because of the language Lanagan uses. Rich because of the world-building. Rich because of the plotting. Rich because of the characters. So rich that this isn’t a “read it all at once” collection; it’s a set of stories to be read and savored over time. And because there are ten stories, see why it’s almost impossible to say anything more? Because to say more would mean to do ten reviews, one for each story. And to do that — well, part of why I enjoy diving into a Lanagan story is figuring it out for myself. Realizing, this story is being retold; realizing that something terrible was happening; discovering some quiet beauty. Why take that away from someone else?

So, instead, here are some lines I particularly liked:

“Was she smiling? He wouldn’t put it past her, to have a smile at his expense. Smug cow.”

“Her whole face had come unset form its folds and habits, from here it might age any number of different ways.”

“And her he was in the middle of it, for the moment — “

“Well, in the town where there two beautiful daughters lived there was a fascinator, named Gallintine.”

Down I go. Down and down, down and round, round and round I go, and all is black around me and the invisible stone stairs take my feet down. I sing with more passion the lower I go, and more experimenting, where no one can hear me. And then there begins to be light, and I sing quieter; then I’m right down to humming, so as not to draw attention when I get there.”

I love Margo Lanagan’s novels; but oh, these short stories! So, yes, a Favorite Book Read in 2013.

Other reviews: TeenReads; Librarian of Snark; Something To Read For The Train; Strange Horizons.




Flashback May 2006

Flashing back to what I was reviewing in May 2006:

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. From my review: “For those of you who have never heard of Cooper’s series, I envy you: there is nothing like falling in love for the first time. And once you read The Dark is Rising, you will fall. Hard.”

Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler. From my review: “VVV is about Mara Valentine; yes, she’s a vegan and a virgin. Mara is headed for Yale, aiming to be Valedictorian, and is all around super student and wonderful daughter. Then along comes Vivienne Vail Valentine, aka V — Mara’s niece, only a year younger than Mara. V is Mara’s opposite; a “nicotine-addicted nympho” who doesn’t care about school or grades. V has been raised by Mara’s older sister, a flighty college drop out who moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, job to job, town to town. Now V has moved in with Mara. The plot is simple: these two opposites find they have things in common, and each changes. V gets a bit more disciplined; Mara loosens up a bit.

City Underground by by Suzanne Martel. From my review: “Luke is the boy living in an underground city; and wow, as a kid reading it, I loved this future city. Pills for food; go into a shower and it would be programmed at the temperature you wanted; it was all so organized and well run and functional. Luke explores and goes outside the city, where me meets Marie. . . . Luke’s people have no hair (genetically, its been decided there is no need for hair). Luke and his scientist ancestors had fled nuclear war; Marie and her village are descendants of the people left behind, who survived. Who, of course, have hair. So much time has passed that both groups of people initially believe that the others are only a myth.”

Light Years by Tammar Stein. From my review: Light Years is about recovery from grief, and starting over. Maya is Israeli and has just started her freshman year at the University of Virginia. In flashbacks, we find out that Maya, like all Israelis, finished two years of compulsory military service, so Maya is older than her peers. She is also older because of her experiences in her home country: her boyfriend, Dov, was killed by a suicide bomber.

The Girl Who Owned A City by O. T. Nelson. From my review: “Sometimes you can’t go home again; or, you can never read the same book twice. I loved The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson when I read it in about sixth grade. Given the number of times this appears as a stumper on the child_lit and yalsa-bk mailing lists, I am not alone. This book really stuck with me… If you haven’t read it, plot is simple: virus kills everyone over the age of 12 and the kids are left to fend for themselves. Basically a kiddie The Stand (interestingly, if Amazon’s publication dates are to be trusted Nelson’s book came out before King’s.) . . .  So I reread this book, of 10 year old Lisa and baby brother Todd, hoping to revisit the love…. and came away with a sort of sick to the stomach I-used-to-date-him-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking reaction. I’m sure that kids still love it. But as an adult, I couldn’t help but question a lot that I accepted as a child.”

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli. From my review: “Xing Xing’s father has died and she lives with her stepmother and stepsister; the family survives by selling its belongings. The stepmother hopes that someone will marry the stepsister, thus saving the family, before the last bowl is sold. In this time and place, foot binding was viewed as necessary to ensure a good life for women — and good marriage prospects. The stepsister’s feet have been bound in hopes that she will attract a husband; Xing Xing’s feet are not bound, so she is the only person in the house capable of the chores needed for survival: cooking, cleaning, running errands. This is a unique take on the Cinderella story, and not just because of the setting. Xing Xing’s feet may not be bound, but her life is: bound by obligations to ancestors, family members, society. She must find a way to create a life and future for herself. Bound is about choice and acceptance. It is also a very well written, entertaining story.”

soul surfer by Bethany Hamilton. From my review: “At age 13, Bethany was already surfing competitively and had a sponsor; she and her family took her surfing so seriously that Bethany was homeschooled. She was surfing with friends in Kauai, Hawaii, when her left arm was bitten off by a tiger shark. The cover of the book has a picture of the board she was on when it happened; its a wonder that she only lost her arm. There is also a picture of the shark that attacked her: it is huge. The story is simple: its about Bethany’s life before the attack, the attack, and her return to surfing. And let me add not just to surfing for fun: Bethany still competes, and she still wins.”

Being Awesome Together

What to write for Show Me The Awesome? Especially after having read so many terrific posts this past month, from all types of librarians and library staff working at all types of libraries! About interesting projects and the wonderful things people do, every day, as part of the regular, everyday business of being awesome.

As I looked over these posts, or thought back to particular projects I’ve worked on, I saw how often these projects are about more than one person. It’s not about “me”; it’s about partnerships and collaborations, group activities, building on what others have done, being inspired by our colleagues.

Look at Show Me The Awesome: it’s me. And Kelly Jensen. And Sophie Brookover. Working on this together meant we could each play to our strengths (Sophie’s organization spreadsheets are a thing of beauty). It gave us an opportunity to brainstorm our ideas of what 30 Awesome could be. Even just as a practical matter, it gives back-up: I’ll be at BEA this coming week, with limited Internet access, but Sophie will be around for promoting 30 Awesome.

Partnerships can be practical: being able to do more because of the strengths of each party. It also allows people to get outside their own isolated workplace. School librarians may often be the sole librarian for their school, or even their entire school system. Teen or children’s librarians may be the sole one doing that type of service in their library. Yet, that’s not a barrier to working together and creating together.

The great thing about social media is that it allows us to make connections and create partnerships, like Show Me The Awesome, without having to work together or live near each other. Sophie, Kelly, and I did all the planning and organizing online. Thanks to places like Twitter and Facebook we can meet; we can talk in chat and text; and create in shared documents. It’s not necessary to be in one place.

Meeting in real life does have tremendous value. It can be easier to brainstorm and create; it can be quicker to accomplish tasks. And, when you’ve met someone in person, it can be easier to understand their tone. What’s a joke, what’s serious. Sophie and I are both in New Jersey, so can connect in real life; Kelly and I meet up at the same conferences.

In looking at all the 30 Awesome posts, I like how we are not alone. And together, we are inspiring each other, and being inspired. Yes, we are awesome; and we’re letting each other know we are awesome; and we’re letting others in the library world know.




The image for Show Me The Awesome is courtesy of John LeMasney via

Show Me The Awesome Week 5

For those readers who are new to the blog or to Show Me The Awesome:

Show Me The Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion is being co-hosted by Sophie Brookover, Kelly Jensen & myself for people in library land to share the things they’ve done. It can be about promoting something specific, or about how to promote, or why to promote.

The image for Show Me The Awesome is courtesy of John LeMasney via; and if you’re using the image with your post, please remember to give John credit.

We are using the hashtag #30awesome on Twitter and Tumblr.

This is now the final week of Show Me The Awesome!

Want a taste of what was said in Show Me The Awesome in prior weeks?

A round up of Week One’s Show Me The Awesome.

A round up of Week Two’s Show Me The Awesome.

A round up of Week Three’s Show Me The Awesome.

A round up of Week Four’s Show Me The Awesome.

Because I’m at BEA for the week, there may be some delays in adding this week’s contributors. Don’t worry, I’ll be tweeting the posts and will add them to here by next Sunday at the latest!

Next week, I’ll have a concluding post about Show Me The Awesome!

Strategic Planning at Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits (added 5/27): “I knew that one of my goals was to implement a new strategic plan. The last plan was woefully out of date–about ten years–and the library had gone through many changes since it was written, including automation. Needless to say, serving on a committee and being the person who is actually responsible for forming that committee are two different things. I believe that the public library should be an anchor in the community; to make sure that happens, we need key community members to help create a strategic plan. This means not only people involved with the library directly, like board members or wonderful patrons who use the library every day, but also people who may not step through our doors, but are in and out of doors throughout the city.”

Making a Digital Impact With Timeline JS at The Undercover Shelf (added 5/27): “My somewhat official title is Cataloging and Metadata Librarian. Yes, this means I work with the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress Subject Headings on a daily basis, but that’s only part of my job. Most librarians wear at least a few different hats (I prefer a cloche or a beanie), and so the other part of my job is working with uploading digital archival images (photographs, maps, books, architectural drawings, postcards, etc.) and metadata to my library’s website through CONTENTdm (which is a digital collection management system/software). Recently, I wanted to come up with a may to make this content more interactive and meaningful. Thankfully, I attended a conference where another librarian presented about Timeline JS, and a lightbulb went off for me: we had so many images already online that were perfect for this format! So I gave Timeline JS a try and found it to be really easy and fun to use.

Show Me The Awesome at The Unpretentious Librarian (added 5/27): “As many know, AWESOME libraries are all about collaboration and relationships. I was able to spend the past year developing and cultivating both. Through faculty book clubs, hosting meetings, frequent programming, mini technology projects, and more the library program thrived as a busy hub for the entire school in my debut year at a new position.”

Creating a Teen Blog for the Library at Reading Everywhere (added 5/27): “I recruited interested teens by reaching out to local schools and teen organizations, working with the City’s public information specialist to issue a press release that got picked up by local media, and marketing within the library. I hosted a brainstorming meeting to introduce the blogging project to the teens and solicit their input about its content, look, and feel. Over the next few months, I worked with the teens virtually to collect content for the blog, worked with a graphic designer (the amazing Elle Cardenas!) to develop a sharp, professional aesthetic that exudes youthful energy, and consulted with other departments in my organization to make sure the teen blog would support the mission and vision of my library and the City. One of the reasons my library didn’t have a regular teen volunteer program in the past was a lack of staff time and resources. Managing this blog does take up a good deal of my time, but I can do a lot of the work while multitasking– editing and scheduling blog posts while I’m on the Reference Desk, for example. So far, this project is working out really well for the library and the teens.

Shamelessly Self-Promote Yourself at PC Sweeney’s Blog (added 6/1): “[Y]ou are all doing awesome things and you need to promote it far more than you do already. Because the deal is, that by promoting yourselves and your work as a librarian to the world (and to the profession) you are actually helping librarianship as a whole. This is largely due to the fact that according the PEW Internet Research Center and OCLC the number one most effective technique for building library support is creating a relationship with your community as a librarian. Even if you disagree with that, you still help the profession with you self-promotion because we will all learn about the awesome things you’re doing and get better at our jobs. So, while I completely support this #30awesome project, I really hope that it is the the spark of a fire of the shameless promotion of librarians, libraries, and everything that we do. Now, go out and tell people that you’re awesome and why.

Being Awesome Together here at Tea Cozy (added 6/1): “In looking at all the 30 Awesome posts, I like how we are not alone. And together, we are inspiring each other, and being inspired. Yes, we are awesome; and we’re letting each other know we are awesome; and we’re letting others in the library world know.

Leaning in to Librarianship at Shhh! No Running In the Library (added 6/1): “I would suggest, from personal and observed experience, that many of these librarians would take greater time and interest in promoting their own work if they were encouraged by those they work for first. We (those of us active on Twitter or Tumblr or ThinkTank or whatever) can yell across the Internet as much as we like for but the only ones who will shout back have already taken up on the hashtag next to us. Now we’re just yelling in one another’s ears which no one appreciates. AT LAST TO MY POINT. While we must, MUST advocate for ourselves and our libraries, leaning in is not solely the responsibility of those who have been leaning away. We all must lean in. Lean in to your team, to your coworkers. Especially lean in to those you supervise.”

Diversity In Collection Development at Future Librarian Superhero (added 6/1): “I don’t care how homogeneous, remote, or just plain ‘white’ your community is–you should be thinking about diversity in your collections, AND in the books you present during storytime. One of the biggest parts of our mission as librarians is to provide access. Access to technology, to ideas, to education and, more broadly, access to the amazing world we live in. We provide windows into other lives, other ways of living. And we also have a responsibility to show kids how much the same life is–how much we all have in common. It’s our responsibility to reflect the diverse world back to our library users. Diversity in collection development is so much more than just books about Civil Rights, or “What it’s like to live in X country.” Those books are very very important. But if the only picture books we have that feature people of color are history books, historical fiction, or books about other countries we are doing a huge disservice to the people we serve.”

The No Library Whining Zone Experiment at The Librarian Kate (added 6/1): “Us librarians also complain about our libraries. That’s also a fact of life – and it’s hard not to complain when the news is not always in our favor. Budget cuts, lack of jobs for talented new grads, e-books, conference costs, awards and the deserving (or sometimes undeserving) – even our day-to-day struggles.  People complaint to vent, or to motivate themselves to get things done. Right after I returned from the ACRL conference and holiday with my family in Florida, I noticed that complaining reached critical mass.  It had moved from constructive discussion to whining – which is good for stress relief but not good in the long term when one kvetches about the same problems over and over with no productive solution in sight. That kind of environment makes it hard for those of us who want to have constructive dialogue difficult. With all this in mind (along with a refreshed and revived belief in my profession), I proposed the No Library Whining Zone, a social experiment to see if we could just shut out the negativity about libraries and librarianship for a mere 24 hours in social media.”

Show Me The Awesome at The Unpretentious Librarian (added 6/1): “ Here’s a glimpse of a menagerie of awesomeness in a middle school library. . . . With the collaboration of my IT coach, we hosted TechnoFridays during every faculty meeting. My principal allowed us 5-10 minutes during meetings to highlight new and innovative technology ideas. The response was overwhelming with teachers from all curricular areas trying new and exciting projects. One of my favorite AWESOME programs that came out of TechnoFriday was the Battle of the Math projects.

Awesome Never Retires at Library Currants (added 6/1): “Awesome is often in the eye of the beholder. The ordinary of librarianship involves sharing, promoting, training, educating, assisting, helping, encouraging, collaborating, communicating, connecting, organising, publishing and contributing amongst many other things. To many people in our communities these are indeed awesome skills. I have moved from full time work into retirement. What a wonderful preparation for retirement teacher-librarianship gave me. Many of my new friends think some of my skills are “awesome.” I am delighted these skills provide me with the tools for an active retirement. So to all those awesome librarians out there approaching retirement, never retire your “awesome”  the community needs you.

Math at the Library at Sonder Books (added 6/1): “Before I got my MLS, my first Master’s degree was in Math. I taught college-level math for 10 years. And though I love math, the teaching job never felt like a calling, the way librarianship does. Part of what I love about the library? We don’t have to test anyone! No, at the library, we’re all about learning, and we assist learning for people who want to learn. What’s more, I’ve always believed there’s no need whatsoever to “make” Math fun. Math *IS* fun! And we get to show that to kids! So, what are some awesome ways recently I’ve gotten to show people how much fun Math is at the library?”

Stepping Outside the SRP Box at Book Blather (added 6/1): “For my library, June 1st has always been the start date for SRP, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it didn’t work for my teens. Well, let me rephrase that. It didn’t work well for teens I saw during my school visits. I was spending my entire month of May getting the teens hyped at the schools and expecting them to keep that excitement for 2 – 4 weeks. When in reality, the hype for most only lasted, if lucky, until that evening. So, I did something kind of scary, and made my start date May 1st. You have no idea how many crazy looks I’ve gotten when I’ve said that. And it’s almost always followed by a WHY or ARE YOU SERIOUS? Yes to both, but I thought…what do I really have to lose? My program is online so it wouldn’t be adding any additional work to my co-workers since teens only have to go to staff members to claim prizes. It meant that I had to have the level prizes (candy/book/lock-in) ready to go on May 1st, but that was a piece of cake. (Programming still doesn’t start until June since I’m in the schools so much.) On the other hand, it would mean I could tell teens they could sign up when they went home; in some cases I would even be able to sign them up on the spot. For me, those small pros outweighed any cons I could thing of.  Plus, if I failed, I failed. It would mean I would just go back to June 1st next year. Nothing would have been wasted except a bit of my time.

Motivational Poster Time at Storytime Katie (added 6/1): “My last tips for increasing your storytime attendance all wound up sounding like motivational posters…so enjoy clicking the links to see what I’m talking about!

The Library In Awesome & Unexpected Places at Laura in the Library (added 6/1): “I discovered that as much as I enjoy facilitating programs that take place in the library, surrounded by our books and other media, I really really like popping up in funky or unorthodox places to bring library activities to the community at times outside of the regular library routine. I have two “pop-up” programs taking place this summer in my capacity as Assistant Director for a small public library in Wisconsin. One is a library table at our town’s Saturday farmers market. We provide supplies for a hands-on project that kids (and grown-ups!) can do, along with a bookmark with “related titles” of books and other media from our collection. Another activity (one that we’re trying for the first time in our community) is a partnership with our local swimming pool! Every week I’ll be at the pool under an umbrella (armed with a big floppy sunhat) for “Break with a Book” – a short (20 min.) story time that coincides with the afternoon adult swim time.

30 Awesome Things I’ve Done for #30Awesome at PC Sweeney (added 6/1): “So, I can’t let my last blog entry to go without my own example of self-promotion. There are links to most of the stuff for more information, otherwise there is a summary of what I’ve done below the title. So, here are 30 Things I’ve Done that I’m proud of for #30awesome.”

Who’s Awesome? I Am at Emily’s Notebook (added 6/1): “See, librarian bloggers from all over are overcoming their self-conscious tendencies to avoid shameless self-promotion, and have been posting about how awesome they are, and I LOVE IT. I mean, why shouldn’t we toot our own horns now and then??? Check out some of the posts celebrating the awesome people out there in LibraryLand and the awesome things they’re working on. As for me, I’ve never been shy about promoting myself and my organization. We do cool stuff. I do cool stuff. And you’ve probably heard it all before. So, in honor of this great #30awesome love fest,  let me boil my awesomeness down into the first 30 things I could think of that make me awesome. I’m sure the list could go on and on. . . .I have a vision for myself, my profession, and the world in general I lie about my age… adding 15 years to my age! I’m a librarian, and librarians are awesome.”

Why I Became the Meme Librarian at amandab! (added 6/1): “As our culture becomes more and more digital, as “internet culture” collides and assimilates with “mainstream culture,” there are so many things that will define our generation that won’t always exist. Sometimes, I feel like Yearbook Girl from Can’t Hardly Wait, trying to hold on to as many minute memories as I can before they’re gone. And yes, there’s a possibility that no one will ever care again about some Tumblr meme that lasted about two weeks before everyone forgot about it but it’s a piece of the puzzle. These memes are facets of what makes our generation who we are. How internet communities create, interact and react to things and each other says a lot about who we’ve become as humans. It leads to questions about the types of people that are attracted to certain social media outlets: who are they, what are they seeking, and why do they find it in this spot? The spread of a meme can still be mind-boggling to me at times. What makes something catch on and what does it say about its participants?”

Double or Nothing: Increasing Your Library’s Number of Twitter Followers at MissCybrarian (added 6/1): “The “awesome” in this post refers to the increased amount of followers on our library’s Twitter account.   I work in an academic library in a small, semi-rural area where bandwidth coverage can sometimes be less than reliable. So, Twitter didn’t really “hit” here until 1-2 years ago. But, between July 17, 2012 and February 13, 2013 we put in some extra effort and went from 209 to over 418  Twitter followers.  More importantly, the second “half” of our followers has a much larger proportion of students, staff, faculty, and university organizations than the second first half did, so we are reaching more of our target audience. Here’s how it happened.

The awesome in libraries and service-learning…and yes, the students see me in my jammies at Service Learning Llibrarian (added 6/1): “I was really frustrated with my information literacy course and needed to make some changes.  I had several faculty friends who taught service-learning courses, and it suddenly occurred to me…could I integrate service-learning in my own course?  Service-learning requires that service be integrated into the curriculum of the course to support the learning objectives (it isn’t a stand-alone day of volunteerism, for example).  Why can’t my students do research for a nonprofit as I teach them the process?  The research would be the service.  Wouldn’t this give their work more meaning?  My theory was that they would be much more motivated to turn in a research portfolio to a real, living organization that will actually put it to use, rather than just turning it in to me (who will grade it and then…what?  It gets recycled?).”

Learning Stuff is TOO Cool at Amy’s Library of ROCK (added 6/1): “The one thing I’m MOST proud about? Making reading look exciting. At some point somebody decided that reading isn’t cool. Well, sure, to some people it isn’t. But not to ALL people. And it’s not going to keep me from trying to CONVINCE the doubters that there’s something for them in books. A lot of my coworkers, though? Not so much. My original director discouraged us from using words like “learning” and even “reading” in our program fliers: “We don’t want to give the impression that the library is a BORING place,” she said. And Summer Reading Club. OH DEAR. We use the abbreviation “SRC” whenever possible, because OUR Summer Reading Club is about FUN! Really, we have an amazing summer program, unique experiences at a minimal price. But we may have the only “Summer Reading Club” in the world that doesn’t actually incorporate independent reading. No reading goals or time charts or book clubs or reviews. . . .  I’M a novel reader. But I know not everyone is. And it’s shocking how many people still insist that “reading” means “reading novels,” and if you don’t do that then it doesn’t count. My old director wanted to change perceptions about the library, that it was more than JUST books. I wanted to change perceptions about the books themselves. Books aren’t there just for the bookworms and the school-report-writers. There’s a book for everyone!

Show Me The Awesome Manga + Anime Group at (added 6/1): “When I landed my job as Children’s and Youth Librarian, part of my brief was to place a particular emphasis on engaging teens. Historically our library service hadn’t kicked too many goals in this area, but we’re not alone in that. It’s not always the case, but teens can be a tough demographic to get into libraries and using library services. However, I’m stoked to report I have finally had a break-through! Introducing… My libraries’ Manga + Anime Group, or MAG as we affectionately call it, is a common interest group for 12-17 year olds.

Show Me The Awesome at American Indians in Children’s Literature (added 6/1): “The storms, in their own way, mark what I try to do with American Indians in Children’s Literature, and with my lectures and publications. Storms uproot trees. They change the landscape. In significant ways, the landscape of children’s literature changes organically, as society changes. There are exceptions, of course, and that’s what is at the heart of my work. I’ve been working in children’s literature since the early 1990s. I started publishing American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) in 2006. It has steadily garnered a reputation as the place that teachers and librarians can go for help in learning how to discern the good from the bad in the ways that American Indians are portrayed in children’s books. People who sit on award committees and major authors, too, write to me. So do editors at the children’s literature review journals, and, editors at major publishing houses. . . . Years ago, illustrator James Ransome was asked (at a conference at the Cooperative Center for Children’s Books at the University of Wisconsin) why he hadn’t illustrated any books about American Indians. He replied that he ‘hadn’t held their babies.” I’ve written about his remark several times because it beautifully captures so much. Lot of people write about (or illustrate) American Indians without having held our babies. They end up giving us the superficial or the artificial. They mean well, but, we don’t need superficial or artificial, either. We need the awesomes. Yeah–I know–‘awesomes’ isn’t a legitimate word, but I’m using it anyway. We have some awesomes. I’ve written about them on AICL, but we need more awesomes. Lots more, so that we can change the landscape.”

Being On – “Text” 24/7 at Kate Nesi (added 6/2): “I received a text at 3:21am from an English teacher begging me to teach her students how to use Prezi and how to use video editing software today. What did I respond with? Absolutely. I will teach them, and if the library is booked, I’ll go to your classroom. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten a desperate text for day-of help. Many of the teachers have my cell number so they can text me for help, answer questions, or quick support for lessons. I would love to implement a chat system like we did at another library, because it was far easier to provide services immediately than through email which staff may not always have open. Of course one could always use the phone, but it appears text is a little less intrusive while still getting the quick response you need. Texting is also available during after-hours when teachers are going a little crazy planning their next move and need extra help.”

Review: The Plantagenets

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones. Viking. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. Vacation reads (aka, when I talk about books for grownups and post them before holidays.)

It’s About: The designated heir of England dies in a shipwreck; England is plunged into civil war as descendants of William the Conqueror fight for the right to the throne; and the winning family is the Plantagenets.

Starting with Henry II, son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Empress Matilda, wife of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and father of Richard the Lionheart and King John, and ending over two hundred years later with his many times great grandson Richard II, The Plantagenets tells of the men, the women, the battles, the politics, the murders, the laws and even the finances that created and shaped both England and its relationship with its kings.

The Good: Didn’t you see the title? THE PLANTAGENETS! Henry and Eleanor and Richard, and, well, another Henry and some Edwards tossed in, also. And of course JOHN. We can’t forget him.

For those who aren’t captivated at The Plantagenets, I give you this: It starts with a mega disaster of epic proportions. The heir to the English throne is on his way home, along with friends and relations, and of course when you’re seventeen and the world is yours what do you do? You party like a rock star. The fatal flaw in that plan is when the crew of your ship parties with you, crashing the ship before it leaves the harbor, and the heir, his family and friends, and the ships crew, all drown.

No, really. The heir’s death results in a “who gets to rule” game; and any game for a throne is a game played out in blood, and death, and battles, and treachery, and loyalty. And that’s just the start of it.

The Plantagenets covers a lot of kings: Henry II, Richard I, John, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, and Richard II, and their wives, children, cousins; those loyal to them, those who turned against them. It ends on a cliffhanger of a sort: the defeat of Richard II by Henry IV, resulting in the end of the Plantagenet reign and the start of the House of Lancaster.

All these people in one volume is pretty amazing; it’s almost impressive that it’s “only” 500-odd pages. And let me add: it’s an intense 500 pages. Each of these men and women would warrant a book of their own (and yes, there is a “Further Reading” section for those who want to know more). Heck, specific events within the reign of any particular king would warrant an individual book. Jones does the impossible: providing a lot of information about people with the same or similar names in a way that is both clear and concise and at the same time explains the complexity of a situation. And he does that for an incredible time span. An ally is not just an ally: it’s the grandson of someone significant.

The amount of information in The Plantagenets means a careful reading is needed. I found The Plantagenets best read in chunks: I’d read about one ruler, then put it down for a couple of days. A family tree is included, showing the important people mentioned, as well as maps to help explain the battles being fought, especially those on the Continent as the Plantagenets repeatedly clash with the kings of France. Despite the length, sometimes I did want “more” and got a quick fix going over to Wikipedia to find out more about a particular person. I don’t think this is a bad thing: there’s a limited number of pages, and Jones made me care so much about the people he mentioned that I wondered about them and wanted “more.” Wanting “more” is a good thing in a history book, because it means the book has achieved its goal of getting the reader excited about the topic and hungry for information. (Also, I cannot be the only reader who wonders, have any of these families survived to modern times? Or did battles for property and titles result in the death of these powerful families?)

An example of something that gets mentioned that I want to know more about: money. Kings needed money to wage war. Tax too much, and subjects get unhappy, especially if they feel uninvested in the war. So, what do you do when you need money? Borrow. Don’t ask me why, but the idea of the kings of England borrowing money from Italian banking families stunned me. I had no idea. And that defaulting ruined those banks, which led to the rise of the Medici family. Seriously, I did not know this!

I knew this was a violent time, and I knew that it was a time when kings still fought in battles. That is why they were kings, after all. What The Plantagenets does is make those battles and that violence real. When people were fighting for power, it was actual fighting. It wasn’t through political manipulations or game playing at court. Or, rather, it wasn’t just that. A ruler couldn’t just talk, he had to actually go out and make stuff happen.

I’m only half-kidding about the book ending on a cliffhanger. This covers just the Plantagenets; Jones plans a book about the War of the Roses and the Tudors. I cannot wait for his next book, even though the more I read about the Tudors the less I like them. Henry VIII just seems like a bit of a poser next to all the Plantagenets, even the weaker kings.

In the meanwhile, I’ll be content with this one and with calling it a Favorite Book Read in 2013.

My only disappointment with reading the electronic ARC of this book is that it doesn’t have the eight pages of pictures that are in the hardcover. I know, I know — I’m not that silly person asking for a photograph of Alexander the Great. But, there are castles or ruins of castles; stained glass and tapestries; objects that have survived the centuries. I want to see these, so will be pursuing finished copy! (Note: I made an error about the lack of illustrations, and corrected this sentence to reflect that pictures appear in the final version. Sorry about that!)

Other reviews and interviews: Author interview at Library Journal; Open Letters Monthly.

Long time readers of this blog may remember that one of my favorite books from childhood is as A Proud Taste for Scarlett and Miniver by E. L. Konigsburg; it started a lifelong love of English history, helped along by films like The Lion In Winter. In my teenage years I read a lot of Jean Plaidy, loving the historic details that brought the time periods alive as well as the attention paid to the women in history. Another book I read in my late teens was Susan Howatch’s The Wheel of Fortune. I didn’t realize it when I began reading, but it takes the story of Edward III and sets it in the early part of the twentieth century, leading up to the 1960s.

So, here’s my question to you: what are some of your favorite books set during the Plantagenet period, from 1154 to 1399?

Review: Project: Boy Next Door

Project: Boy Next Door by L.K. Madigan. 2013. ARC provided for review. Available in ebook from ebook sellers.

The Plot: Mel Pepper, sixteen, has worked up the courage to tell his dad, Dannie, two things:

Mel has a part-time job at the local coffee place.

Mel will be starting his junior year at the local public high school.

Doesn’t sound too scary, right? Except that Dannie Pepper is DANNIE PEPPER. The mega-millionare, the head of Peppers & Peaches, Inc., the genius behind the Peach Haven chain of restaurants , and Peach Ware clothes for women, and the Peaches Calendar, and Dannie lives at The Peach Palace, and in addition to being Portland’s number one playboy Dannie is also the most over-protective dad in the world.

No, really. Mel been home-schooled with private tutors his entire life; Dannie has been careful to keep Mel’s photo out of magazines. Even thought Dannie and Mel’s mother, Lorna (Perfect Peach of 1993) split up years ago, her house is on Dannie’s Peach Palace grounds, a walled & gated compound — all to protect Mel’s privacy so he can be a regular kid.

A regular kid who has never been to school.

Mel’s about to change that. He has a new job, he has a new school, he has a new name — Mike Ferguson — so that no one will realize he’s “that” Mel Pepper.

Project: Boy Next Door has begun. How will it end?

The Good: I loved Mel (aka Mike). I’m actually amazed at how much I liked him, considering what a privileged teen he is. In many ways, Mel has a fantasy life. His parents are separated, but have such a joint concern for Mel’s well being that they are very mature about it. They live in different houses, but close enough to each others that Mel isn’t inconvenienced. At his dad’s house (and more on that below), there is a staff that is friendly and loving to Mel and, well, take care of his every wish: food? The head chef is right on top of that with his favorites. Clothes? There’s a stylist who supplies all the right stuff. And then there are the cars. The bowling alley. The pool. The — you get the picture. If Mel wants it, it’s there.

Yet, Mel isn’t a brat, to put it bluntly. Probably because his mother’s home, his primary residence, is smaller and without that staff. Probably because both parents take him to task the moment he shows any signs of being a brat. And probably because of his father’s successful campaign to keep Mel’s life private, so that he has never been treated like a celebrity. And, probably, because Dannie’s money and connections haven’t bought Mel the one thing he really wants, and Mel is willing to do anything to get that: a typical, normal, teen experience. Going to high school, making friends, hanging out, having a job. Mel isn’t totally isolated. He has two friends: Ike (whose parents, like Mel’s, are rich); and Dinah, whose parents travel the world for their jobs so her friendship is mainly via the emails she and Mel send each other. But, really, two friends?

Dannie isn’t going to stop wanting to protect his son. For example, that job? It disappears. Mel is a bit suspicious, but ends up accepting his father’s offer to work at one of the Peach Haven restaurants. Mel insists on using “Mike Ferguson” as his name and wants (and gets) no special treatment. Because the activities of one restaurant are so far removed from his father’s position of running the Pepper & Peaches conglomerate, it also means that Mel is on his own at the restaurant, getting that taste of independence he craves.

School is something no one can “make easier” for Mel; and Mel has deliberately chosen a public school so that he can disappear into his Mike persona, rather than go to his friend Ike’s small, private school. Mel starting school as Mike: hysterical. Part of Mel’s personality is to step back and over-analyze things. Which sometimes is smart, like when he realizes that his car is so much nicer than any other car in the student parking lot and that he has to get something different to drive or he’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes it’s funny, like when he finds himself dating a girl and having no idea how to nicely break up with her. And sometimes it doesn’t kick in soon enough, such as when he greats his teacher with a firm handshake, just the way he’s been taught to do by his parents. Except how often does the new kid shake hands with his teacher on the first day of school?

A bit about Dannie and Lorna. Dannie and his lifestyle is a little bit Hugh Hefner, a little bit Joe Francis, but not quite so sexed up. Yes, there are “Perfect Peaches” (the models for the company’s calendar or clothing line) who hang around the Peach Palace; yes, there is his father’s string of girlfriends even though Dannie and Lorna aren’t technically divorced; yes, there was a reality TV show. Lorna herself was a “Perfect Peach;” as Mel explains, she was one of the twelve or so African American Perfect Peaches. And that is another thing: as you can tell from the cover, this book features a teenage boy of color. One who happens to be rich and privileged. I love the cover; and I love the way Madigan incorporates diversity into Project: Boy Next Door.

One of Mel’s first friends is Blake, and here is something I have to confess: I didn’t realize until farther into the book that it was Blake from Flash Burnout. I KNOW. So all of your Flash Burnout fans will want to read this to see what Blake and his friends are up to. At the same time, I can testify to the fact that you don’t have to read Flash Burnout to read and love Project: Boy Next Door.

Does Mel get away with being Mike? Someone may have figured it out; some pranks are being pulled on Mel (his car battery gets stolen on the first day of school) and Mel suspects its someone who knows his real identity. Mel trying to protect his real name, while at the same time wanting to connect and make friends based on who he really is not what he is, is something he struggles with throughout the book. Can you make friends and be a friend if you can’t be honest with them? Those friends include both his friends at school, but also a girl he meets at work, T.

While on it’s surface Project: Boy Next Door is about a rich, lonely teen trying to be the “boy next door,” it’s more than that. If that was all it was, if that was all Mel was, I would have been bored and cranky with Mel. Instead, I was drawn in, rooted for him, cheered him on, liked him. At first I thought, oh, it’s just because Mel isn’t spoiled, but then I realized, no — it’s because Project: Boy Next Door is about a teenager asserting his independence and growing up. It’s a universal story, wanting to make one’s own choices, and at the same time realizing that sometimes (like when your car battery is stolen) it’s OK to call home for help and not to have to do it all on your own. Or realizing when you have somehow gotten  yourself a girlfriend without meaning to, you’re on your own in figuring out how to fix it. And, as Mel realizes when he makes friends with someone who has much, much less than what Mel has (in terms of both physical objects and a loving family), it’s also about knowing the right way and the wrong way to offer help.

As I mentioned in the post about L.K. Madigan earlier this week, Project: Boy Next Door was written before Madigan died. This meant that the editor couldn’t work with Madigan in preparing this for publication. Madigan’s voice, her humor, her touch with characters, her sympathy, shine through this book. With this knowledge of the path to publication, can I see a couple of areas where, I think, an editor and Madigan would have worked together to make something good even better? Yes; I think a couple of supporting characters would have been more filled out. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Project: Boy Next Door is a terrific book. Any fan of her other books, especially Flash Burnout, will want to read this; and those who discover Madigan through this book will realize, like the rest of us, the terrible loss of her early death.


Flashback May 2008

What I was reviewing in May 2008:

Supernatural Rubber Chicken: Fowl Language by D.L. Garfinkle, illustrated by Ethan Long. From my review: The best thing about some books is the title says it all: Supernatural. Rubber. Chicken. I mean, c’mon, it doesn’t get better than that, does it? OK, twins Nate and Lisa, 10, are given the Supernatural Rubber Chicken by their older brother, surfer dude Dave. They don’t believe him when he says that the chicken has magical powers; I mean, he is a surfer dude who lives in Arizona. But then they discover that the chicken really does have powers. Not only that? He talks. Or should I say, complains. And — his name is Ed.”

The Murder Of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. Personal copy. From my review: “Bindy Mackenzie is the most successful girl in Grade 11. She works hard, and she has the grades and the class standing to prove it. It’s not just in school that she excels; she also works three jobs. And she cares about her fellow students—why, last year Bindy held lunchtime advisory sessions! So what if her parents have moved to the city, leaving her to live with an aunt and uncle? . . . Bindy doesn’t need anyone. She does quite well by herself. So when she is forced, FORCED, into the new “Friendship and Development Project” (she notes the acronym FAD), with a group of people she has nothing in common with (they are coarse of language and not the brightest), she is upset. It is a waste of time, time spent better studying. . . . . Bindy is a makeover book, with its protagonist evolving from an isolated, arrogant, lonely teen to someone with friends and who knows how to be a friend. Along the way, a mystery or two is solved. Makeovers are tricky—we don’t really want everyone to be alike, and we don’t want to say that there’s only one right way to do things. Bindy is cautioned by her brother Anthony to not lose herself or disappear. What works is that Bindy doesn’t; Bindy is actually a pretty cool teen. What’s not cool, though, is her ingrained habit of judging everyone, and finding them wanting. And letting them know that. Why Moriarty is a genius is she takes this unlikable character and makes her lovable. You root for her, you cringe as she makes some serious missteps, you cheer her accomplishments.

L.K. Madigan

In 2009, L.K. Madigan’s first book, Flash Burnout, was published.

In late 2009, YALSA announced that Flash Burnout was a finalist for the 2010 William C. Morris Award. I interviewed her for the YALSA blog in early January 2010. Later that month, Flash Burnout was awarded the Morris Award.

Madigan’s second book, The Mermaid’s Mirror, was published in 2010. When Madigan was promoting The Mermaid’s Mirror, I met her at a signing and have an signed ARC.

In January 2011, L.K. Madigan announced that she had cancer. In February 2011, she died.

This May, a new Madigan book was published: Project: Boy Next Door. It’s available in ebook from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. As explained in the forward by Madigan’s husband, Neil Wolfson: “Why posthumously publish Lisa’s manuscripts? I want to honor all of Lisa’s hard work. . . . While it is true that each scene, sentence, and word will not have undergone the scrutiny of her revision, the stories as they are point down the road Lisa wished to travel.”

He further says, “if these stories lack the polish of [her earlier books,] it demonstrates the value of an editor and revision and critique partners.”

Rhonda Helms, author, editor, and friend of Madigan, assisted in the process of getting the book ready to publish and promoting the book. It is thanks to  Helms that I obtained a review copy of Project: Boy Next Door. In the Editor’s Note, Helms says, “I knew it would take a deft hand for me to do justice to Lisa’s story and stay true to her voice. Therefore, I kept my edits in this book as light as possible, for clarification, consistency, correcting errors and the like. It was a hard line to draw in a few places, since I wasn’t able to work with Lisa directly.”

I mention this now, here, for a couple reasons.

First, my review of Project: Boy Next Door will be posting later this week and I didn’t want to put all this backstory in that post. Confession: I haven’t read The Mermaid’s Mirror. It’s like the last chocolate chip cookie: once it’s eaten, there aren’t any left. And I didn’t want to read the last Madigan book. Silly, I know. Then I saw that Madigan had another book coming out, and it just made me so happy and sad at the same time. Happy to be getting a chance to fall into a book of hers once again; sad, because she isn’t here.

Second, because I wanted to link to some of the other bloggers and websites out there that are also taking about Madigan’s book. It’s hard to promote a book, and it’s terrific to see the community of readers and authors come together to do what Madigan cannot do herself. If I’ve missed a link to your post, please share it in the comments.

Link roundup:

I’m pointing out my interview with Madigan from January 2010, because it refers to Project: Boy Next Door: “In new writing, I’m working on another funny boy book. This one takes place the following school year at Blake’s high school, but is narrated by a different main character. This time the reader sees Blake from the point of view of someone else. I’m having a lot of fun writing it … I hope my editor likes it, too.

Diversity in YA: “We were part of the Feast of Awesome Debut 2009 group—and had been through so many highs and lows together as new authors. Lisa was always there to offer encouragement, commiseration, or a laugh. Losing her to cancer was devastating. Not only had we lost a companion, advocate and friend, we had lost Lisa’s stories—her unique voice, humor, and way of seeing the world. Imagine my surprise and happiness when a fellow deb, Rhonda Helms, said she had been approached by Lisa’s husband, Neil, to edit and publish Project: Boy Next Door. I began reading immediately, and laughed, and it was wonderful to be in Lisa’s story, to hear her voice once more. Below, fellow authors express their thoughts on Lisa, and how she and her books affected them.

RT Book Reviews: “Project: Boy Next Door, published posthumously, is a true gem in YA literature. Smart, heartfelt and with wonderful characterization, Madigan’s title, unmistakably, has all the makings of a great story. . . .  Additionally, readers will be touched by the backstory as the book appears to have been a true labor of love. Don’t miss out on this one!

Guest Post: Leigh Woznick Shows The Awesome

Today, I’m pleased to say that I have a guest post for Show Me The Awesome.

Give a warm welcome to Leigh Woznick!

Leigh Woznick:

I am a middle school librarian/media specialist, excited to participate in the “Show Me the Awesome” initiative by Kelly Jensen, Sophie Brookover, and Liz Burns. Thanks to designer John LeMasney for the graphic. Follow the posts on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and Instagram with the hashtag #30awesome.

The posts so far have been impressive and inspiring.  Librarians are very good at sharing. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about professional development: the formal kind we can put on our resumes and the informal kind that looks to our families like reading or hanging out on Facebook or Twitter, instead of doing the dishes. I’m no expert, but I’ll happily share what I did this year to better myself.

Last week a student asked me to define the word “repertoire”, and I thought: how á propos for my post today. We each have a repertoire of knowledge and skills: books, authors, lessons, tools, resources.  The nature of the librarian is that while (to paraphrase Macklemore) we are…awesome, we still strive to learn and explore the next new thing, to continuously add to our repertoire.


Two major technology changes significantly affected my work this year. Our district adopted Google Apps for Education and we migrated to a new library automation system (Destiny). These two projects resulted in countless hours of meetings, trainings, teleconferences and tasks. I have been designated a district leader for both projects, teaching both programs to my (approx. 1500) students and serving as troubleshooter and mentor to staff across the district. If you’ve been through a transition to a new library system, you know what an enormous undertaking it is. I am coordinating the technical aspects of the transition and will help train the other librarians. But at least I had some formal training on Destiny. Google is a do-it-yourself kind of operation. I’d used Docs & Forms for years, but Google Sites was new to me. I set up my own site, adding user-friendly and appealing digital/video and embedded content that never worked well on our old system. It’s pretty intuitive and the help functions are good, so don’t be too impressed. Finally having the capability for ‘virtual’ instruction, such as with video demos, has been a boon — I had 93 classes last week alone and can’t physically be with every one. While frustrated with some of the limitations, I’m excited to see what new ways we can use it next year.

My district offers some pretty good free PD (some even count as CEUs).  I took a workshop on LGBT issues, worked on a Writing Across the Curriculum Committee, and attended curriculum meetings.  In the interests of sharing my repertoire, I also taught PD to staff: Google Apps, Easybib, and Engaging Readers. When offering PD to teachers, I recommend seeking approval for it to count as official PD, relate it to curriculum and supply reproducibles.  Also, snacks don’t hurt.


Professional organizations offer myriad PD, both formal and informal. I am a member of: NJASL, AASL, YALSA, ALA, LibraryLinkNJ, Mystery Writers of America, and NJEA. Reading their magazines, attending conferences and webinars and getting involved in listserv conversations result in great things. This year, I participated in or attended: NJASL and IRA’s Enthusiastic Reader contest, World Book Night,  The Horn Book Awards & Symposium, Edgar Awards, NY Comic Con, BookExpoAmerica, LibraryLinkNJ’s Handhelds in Libraries Unconference, Booklist webinars, Google Power Search training and SLJ’s SummerTeen virtual conference. OK, I’m a little nuts, I know. But all of these are chances to meet my peeps, hear what they are doing, track new trends, recruit authors for school visits and get free stuff! You never know when one of these connections will bear fruit.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. I read “Ermahgerd: Memes in the Classroom?” by Patricia Bruder in the February issue of NJEA Review, herself inspired by Stephanie Richter’s Prezi. Galvanized, I created a web page with examples and links, and convinced a teacher looking for a creative writing project to try it out. It was a huge success, and her enthusiasm will entice other teachers to try it.  You can read more about my lesson in the August issue of School Librarian’s Workshop and do it yourself! We all build on each other’s knowledge.

At the NJASL Annual Fall Conference I learned from author/artist Robert Sabuda how to make simple pop-ups. I shared those techniques in an annual program I give for students who don’t go on the camping trip.  At past conferences, I heard about contests and programs such as Predict a Snow Day and Blind Date with a Book, and adapted the ideas into fun annual events for my students. I have presented at the conference myself a few times. This year, I offered a workshop on Stress-busters. Don’t be afraid to present something you’ve used or done in your library — someone else can learn from your experience — think of it as share and share alike.

Sometimes PD can help your personal advancement. I am my district’s representative for LibraryLinkNJ. I was appointed as a ‘virtual member’ to the Joint YALSA/AASL/ALSC Committee on School/Public Library Collaboration. I published two chapters for professional library publications for MacFarland (in press), one on middle school clubs & activities and the other on librarian stress, and just got another proposal accepted, on women using the Internet for philanthropy or social change. These projects all came through professional connections like LMNET.  They don’t make me any money, but do make me feel like I’m contributing and making a difference in my field.


Like lots of other librarians, I participate in listserv, Facebook, Twitter & blog discussions, and read YA & middle grade books to keep myself, if not on the cutting edge, at least up-to-date. Though my family teases me about being surgically attached to my iPhone and iPad, they are my direct conduit to what I need to know. The generosity of my fellow librarians is amazing. Librarians may be all over copyright and plagiarism when we’re teaching our students to write & cite, but we’re much more open source when it comes to ideas for how to reach & teach.  Many of us are overworked and understaffed and/or underfunded, so we are more than willing to help each other out.

Links and posts have recently led me to new tools, like Smore, an author visit from Paul Janeczko, a Therapy Dog lesson/program inspired by a program at my daughter’s college library, and videotaped focus group reflection on the research process modeled after this one by my idol, Buffy Hamilton. (Lesson learned: don’t do it all in one take!). Facebook connections helped make my BookFest a reality a couple of years ago — 35 presenters on one day!


Exhausted?  Me too! Full disclosure: my kids are (mostly) out of the house, and I have a library secretary who is a godsend.  I put in extra hours at work most days and spend a lot of my personal time networking.  AND I LOVE MY JOB!!!

Most of the PD I do is absolutely free, and those I do pay for are so much fun I can’t complain. They help me do my job better, make me look good and make me really, really happy. But it can get overwhelming. Our field expands and changes almost daily, and I sometimes feel like I can never reach the level of library luminaries like Buffy, or Joyce Valenza. I came to librarianship as a second career, and will never learn half of what they’ve forgotten.

One of the teachers I was working with last week helped me put it in perspective.  She was reflecting how much the library has changed in the 7 years I’ve been there, impressed with my knowledge of resources and technology (we did an Edmodo project together last year). She’s a friend, so I told her my feelings of inadequacy. “You don’t know what’s out there!” I whined. She said no matter how far behind I thought I was from the ideal, I am still light years ahead of what she and most of her colleagues knew. So whatever I had to offer was gold.

Remember that! It’s impossible to do it all, but if you soak as much as you can in, something will stick, and you’ll be able to use it. And to paraphrase John Green, Don’t Forget You Are Awesome.

Show Me The Awesome Week 4

For those readers who are new to the blog or to Show Me The Awesome:

Show Me The Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion is being co-hosted by Sophie Brookover, Kelly Jensen & myself for people in library land to share the things they’ve done. It can be about promoting something specific, or about how to promote, or why to promote.

The image for Show Me The Awesome is courtesy of John LeMasney via; and if you’re using the image with your post, please remember to give John credit.

We are using the hashtag #30awesome on Twitter and Tumblr.

Want a taste of what was said in Show Me The Awesome in prior weeks?

A round up of Week One’s Show Me The Awesome.

A round up of Week Two’s Show Me The Awesome.

A round up of Week Three’s Show Me The Awesome.

I’ll have a Show Me The Awesome post like this one up every Sunday for the month of May. Every night, I’ll be editing this post to add that week’s contributors, with name of post, blog/Tumblr, and a short excerpt of the Awesome.

Leigh Woznick, Guest Post at Tea Cozy (added 5/20): “Like lots of other librarians, I participate in listserv, Facebook, Twitter & blog discussions, and read YA & middle grade books to keep myself, if not on the cutting edge, at least up-to-date. Though my family teases me about being surgically attached to my iPhone and iPad, they are my direct conduit to what I need to know. The generosity of my fellow librarians is amazing. Librarians may be all over copyright and plagiarism when we’re teaching our students to write & cite, but we’re much more open source when it comes to ideas for how to reach & teach.  Many of us are overworked and understaffed and/or underfunded, so we are more than willing to help each other out.

Unexpected Outcomes at Professor Nana aka Teri Lesesne (added 5/20): “Being in a library science department and teaching online courses in literature for children, tweens, and teens means I do not often have the chance to interact with students. So, when the opportunity presents itself, I leap at the chance. My colleague Rosemary Chance arranged for the two of us to do a continuing education program for undergraduate teacher education students. “Let the Heart of a Book Touch the Heart of a Child” became our theme since we spoke to the groups on Valentine’s Day. Basically, we booktalk some of the Notables (ALSC) winners for the year. After the booktalk, students are invited to take a free book with them to begin or build their future libraries.”

Beer & Books Talk for Central Oregon Beer Week at By The Barrel by the Bend Beer Librarian (added 5/20): “Now there are thousands of beer blogs out there and several great ones already here in Bend, so why another? What can I offer? As a librarian who has worked in several different capacities—tech support for library school and distance education, thesaurus construction and maintenance, serials and monographic cataloging, original and copy cataloging, and now reference work—I have a good idea of the world of recorded knowledge and the structures that support it. That is what I want to share with my community via book reviews, book talks, interviews with authors of beer books (I hope), reference and research assistance, and any other information or service that I can provide but have yet to think of. I consider my patrons to be all of Central Oregon’s beer geeks, aficionados, and lovers and those simply interested in some aspect of beer, the beer business, and the culture and material goods around beer.”

Difficult Patrons In Your Library at Angelina 41 (added 5/21): “You never know if interactions with patrons are going to be positive or negative, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is that you can only control yourself. People may scream at you, berate you, or become upset about what you’re telling them, but your reaction to it is within your control. When I feel an interaction turning sour, I set an intention to remain calm and to maintain the dignity of both the patron and myself. It doesn’t always work out as well as I’d like, but the main thing is that I keep trying to provide a positive experience for people who enter our doors.

Using My Platform Positively at Stacked (added 5/21): “When I spoke up about ARCs, suddenly I found this little blog about books and reading being responded to in other blogs, both those within librarianship and those outside of it. It was the post that riddled me with a lot of guilt, then frustration, sadness, then anger. I was mad and upset about how my words were read and twisted. It hurt how people responded to me in a personal manner — as if my career and personal life choices and decisions were things that factored in to what I had said in one single post. After sitting on what I’d put out there for a couple of weeks, and thinking about how my piece had spawned reaction, I realized something big. I had a platform. People were listening. Rather than rest on posting, though, I figured out that using this platform as a means to speak out was just the first step. I needed to use what I had in order to implement change. If something like ARCs could spur such heated discussion and rile up the sort of response it did, maybe I was on to something. So I put those thoughts and that post into action, suggesting a panel for the American Library Association’s conference on the topic. It was accepted, and now we’re in the process of organizing over 500 responses to our survey on how librarians, booksellers, and others use Advanced Reader’s Copies so we can talk about why they’re valuable and how they’re used in the book world.

StoryWalk ™ at Valley Storytime (added 5/21): “Basically,  StoryWalk ™ is this:  a picture book is posted along a walking path. As you walk, you read the story. It can be that simple– just the pages of a book along a path. Or you can ramp it up and create signboards with replicated pages, and add some activities to go along with the walk. That’s how we did it. And it is awesome. Nothing like seeing a bunch of kids (and adults)  jumping, running, skipping, and reading at the same time. But even more awesome, and what I wanted to share here, is the cooperation that happened in order for our   StoryWalk ™  to happen.

Finding My Voice at So Tomorrow (added 5/22): “I wanted to write about one of the things I do really well: preschool visits. I have to say that I absolutely love this age group and find their enthusiasm infectious.I can remember being so nervous to do any kind of visits when I first started out. The fear of a group of strangers was terrifying to me (even if those strangers only came up to my knees). It took a while before I realized that the trick to a successful group visit was to share my absolute favorite material, and nothing less and then my natural enthusiasm for those stories would shine through. Realizing that was my “lightbulb moment” and I have looked forward to having preK classes come in to my library ever since.

Children’s Librarians Can Do Anything at A Fuse #8 Production (added 5/22): “You must be willing to make a fool of yourself. Remember those days in library school where you had to conduct a mock toddler storytime for your peers, and you thought it was the most embarrassing thing you ever had to do?  Baby, you had no IDEA what you were in for!  Whether it’s an 18-month year old taking a bite out of your neck or a general flailing of the limbs in an effort to engage a baby, you are going to look silly. And if you can do it wearing blue fur, all the better. . . . Long story short, the best training ground for not just picture book authorship but ANY job is children’s librarianship.  I bet you could apply additional skills to additional problems.  It’s just that flexible.”

On The Radio Part 2 at Librarianship As A Subversive Activity (added 5/22): “Three times a year, Ameet and I go to lunch (sometimes at a bar) and brainstorm our show theme schedule for the next semester. We pull from library literature, pop culture representations, our current research, conversations with our Atlanta-area colleagues, other radio programs, and daily operations in our library. We try to never say “That’s crazy” to each other which has helped a few eccentric and exciting themes make it into the lineup. For instance, in the past six months, we done shows called “Alcohol Archives,” “Library Apocalypse,” “The Myth of the Archive,” and “Dogs in the Library.” After we’ve got twenty or so themes, we start grouping them into series, e.g. Cultural Production, Community, The Library & the Individual, The Future Is Now, or Shark-Infested Waters. A series has four or five episodes and the overall series theme informs and constrains each individual show to keep us on track. Shark-Infested Waters was a series about libraries and politics or the law, and contained the shows “The Lobbyist Librarian,” “Copyright & Catastrophe,” “The GSU Case,” and “Privatizing Libraries.”

Personalize It at Storytime Katie (added 5/23): “This is going to be a short and quick entry, because this is super simple to implement — personalize your storytimes. The more familiar you become to your storytime families and vice versa, the more important storytime becomes to them and the more parents will value your advice and tips. . . . Provide read-a-likes! I have a ridiculously scary memory, so I remember from week-to-week that Bella really loved “Hilda Must Be Dancing,” so I pulled out “Brontorina” for storytime a few weeks later. Guess what? Bella loved that one, too.

Iron Fist (aka Parent Management) at Bryce Don’t Play (added 5/23): “Like kids, parents will meet as high expectations as are set for them and will adapt their behavior to meet those expectations.  Unlike kids, parents are capable of thinking hypothetically and higher level reasoning. This is good, because they can more easily figure out acceptable activities based on rules; it can also be bad, if an adult is prone to rationalizing that rules don’t apply to them. Now before you get all defensive-rational, parents, I’m saying that all adults do this. It could be in the form of lots of things, from drinking and driving to using your neighbor’s WIFI signal to being so generous it’s a detriment to others (there’s a special place in Hell for people who let more than one car in front of them at a time at a previously red light that just turned green. Not that this just happened in front of me 2 hours ago so I’m completely still bitter about it, or anything.) Anyway, this all may be a catalyst for the bad behavior we see from parents on a regular basis in the Children’s Room.

Advocate or Vacate at Sam’s Lit Cafe 2.0 (added 5/25): “School librarians, or teacher librarians, or whatever the name du jour happens to be are not by nature “horn tooters.” We do our jobs quietly and just are. We do our best to make sure that our school looks good, our students are happy, and our teachers have what they need at zero-hundred hours on the clock of doom. If we receive thanks or our efforts are publicly lauded, we hang our heads and whisper a quiet “Oh, it was nothing.” Well, guess what? Our “Oh, it was nothings” are giving legislators and administrators around the country reasons each and every day to eliminate our positions. Because we have shied away from talking about our programs, our value to the schools we serve, and the many duties we juggle on a daily basis, we are viewed as expendable. . . . We matter. We know we do. We see it on a small scale every day. There is even hard data to prove it. Let’s just let our awesomeness shine and light our successes and the successes of our colleagues, let’s give our students and teachers something to be excited about. Now, go ahead,  you can do it. Show us YOUR awesome!

Dynamic Connections at Library Grits (added 5/25): “The main job I do is not about books, or research or inquiry. The job I do is about people, it is about helping people. It is about making a connection with people so they trust me enough to enable me to help them. My job is to make sure I am interrupted all day by people who need my skills, my expertise, my problem solving, my suggestions, my conversation, my smile and sometimes my hugs.”

Librarians as Catalyst in a STEM/History Collaborative Project at The Sassy Librarian (added 5/25): “Brace yourself, I’m going to compare librarians to eggs. On the surface, I realize that doesn’t make sense, but if you understand the chemistry of cooking, you’ll figure out where I’m going with this. I am a cook, who not only enjoys the physical act of making great food, but who also insists on understanding why and how dishes work. In baking, eggs play the key role of binder, allowing other ingredients to not only meld together, but also to physically hold them in place while the outside forces of friction (think your mixer paddle) or heat work a reaction. I think school librarians are like eggs.

Show Me The Awesome at The Hub: Campaign For Quality School Libraries In Australia (added 5/25): “Even if you don’t want to go public, take the time to reflect on what it is you do and how it matches up to your dreams and expectations when you first decided to enter the profession.  If there’s a disconnect, work out how to work back to what you wanted. Make a plan , share it, and share your successes. You know you’re awesome – time to let others know too.  Show them it’s more than circulating books.”