Tag Archives: Alison Hewett

School Libraries, eBooks and publishers : relationship status “It’s complicated”

I’ve been inspired I feel compelled to share some ideas about recent developments affecting the availability of ebooks for school libraries – it’s come about purely out of frustration. I feel that school librarians do not have a voice or any medium or forum in which to communicate feedback, ideas and frustrations to publishers in any way that might lead to meaningful dialogue and change.

  • Digital content isn’t an passing fad or an ‘add-on’ for my school – we need material in both print and digital to meet student reading format preferences.
  • We are passionate about making reading & listening easier for struggling or dormant readers and our ESOL students. The technological aspect of ebooks can be an attractive enticement for kids who think they don’t like to read and students significantly behind their peers can read discretely at a lower level.
  • We want to be able to offer more titles than we can physically house in a library space with limited shelf and floor space – we see our library as a virtual one and we want to reach the kids and readers who never enter the physical space.
  • Unlike many other schools we are spending a significant part of our library budget on digital content.

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In my opinion, there’s still a huge disconnect between publishers and librarians due to a lack of understanding (about how awesome we are) and meaningful communication with librarians on the front line of ebook lending in schools. I know Library Leaders from various professional and industry bodies meet with publishers, but there is little ongoing connection between working school librarians and publishers. I’d be willing to provide feedback and answer questions about our purchasing and usage habits after a publisher introduces a new way of lending or pricing. The anecdotal information would bring any statistics provided by distributors to life.

I’m worried that publishers assume and believe that all libraries are similar and that school libraries will use digital content in the same way as public libraries and therefore we need to be offered the same terms, conditions and pricing. This doesn’t really take into consideration the unique role of school libraries, the type of community we serve, our school/library size, and more importantly our unique role in promoting literacy and a love of reading with children and young adults.

Can publishers not see that there is a huge difference between a metropolitan public library or a whole US state or county school district and the much smaller individual school libraries in New Zealand, Australia and Asia or anywhere?

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The key determinant with … library e-pricing is the opportunity for the full and permanent ownership of our titles purchased for their collections, which can evolve into a potentially unlimited number of library patrons borrowing that ebook in perpetuity. Print books, which suffer wear and tear from repeated lending, need to be replaced through repurchase. Ebooks do not. Source: PRH Press Release quoted in the Library Journal Dec 3 2015.

Comments like this have convinced me that publishers truly believe that there will be so much demand for each and every title they publish that their titles will be checked out continually.

How we wish it were so…

for if all the ebooks we offer in our digital collections really were checked out continually, then we might feel less aggrieved and frustrated about the vagaries of pricing and the inconsistent lending models.

As a digital collection grows the older titles are checked out less and less (just like books in our physical collections) – so the argument of ‘into perpetuity’ is less compelling, perhaps more so because the titles are hidden in the cloud and in many ways invisible to patrons. As for replacing print libraries with digital only collections – it’s not an option for us. We still have readers who prefer print, a similar amount who will only read ebooks, and another group who are happily ‘hybrid’ and will read either. Because our job is to encourage kids to read and to love reading we can’t offer books in digital only formats because that would discriminate against the kids who prefer print.

Despite this reality (ebooks, just like print books aren’t always checked out and libraries are often buying the same title in multiple formats), some publishers compensate themselves for the illusion of constant checkouts and never ending demand by charging ebook prices several times that of the print book.  To protect themselves further, they often add in restrictive lending models based on the time leased (not owned), prompting libraries to repurchase an ebook after 12, 24 or 60 months have passed. Combining higher than print pricing and restrictive lease periods means that it’s difficult to confidently offer ebooks within a school library, either from a budget or a collection development perspective. 

Publishers need to balance the term and the pricing combination very carefully – because an unattractive lending term can be made more compelling with cheaper pricing and a premium (but not excessive) price, fits more with the one copy one user model. It is very easy to feel increasingly biased against the publishers with the least supportive terms for digital content, and also to view those publishers with supportive terms very favourably – and this can subtly influence decisions around future digital and print purchases.

There’s an element of publishers shooting themselves in the foot here – if the terms are too restrictive we won’t buy the titles at all, or if the titles aren’t checked out very much within the 26 or 36 checkout limit or the 12/24 month time period, then we are unlikely to repurchase them.

I can imagine the eCard now:

Hey Librarian, you paid a hefty price for our ebook, but no-one took it out, you qualify for another 52 checkouts or another 24 month term, …said no publisher ever”

The advantage of the short term lease period should be that we are able to add extra copies to satisfy short term demand (but at a reasonable price please).  Read what this article says about public libraries trying to satisfy holds for 50 shades of grey here and imagine the same scenario for the latest Diary of a wimpy kid or Rick Riordan in a school situation – it just wouldn’t happen.

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Publishers should realise that if a public library purchases a single copy of an ebook it may very well be checked out continually (especially in large public libraries or consortiums with populations in the hundreds of thousands or even millions)…however, in a school library with a much smaller population and a decent sized collection of both recent titles, backlist titles and classics; and where the librarians main mission is to convince kids to even TRY a book and to start reading (so that they become readers and dare I suggest it…book buyers), it’s more likely that anything other than the most popular titles will be only be checked out a handful of times in a year at most, regardless of format.

Because of the business they are in, publishers should be more aware than most of us about how demand for existing titles wains with every passing year – especially when so much new content is continually published and released. This is why I believe it is unfair to ask school (or public) libraries to pay big money for backlist titles (in some cases publishers are having ‘their cake and eating it too’ by hitting us with premium prices for frontlist titles and recent releases and charging inflated or higher than print prices for their backlist titles as well). Publishers need to consider that unless we can purchase digital copies of “oldies but goodies” (and those ‘no longer popular but worthy’ books that librarians recommend to kids), then their authors and their backlist may eventually get weeded from the physical shelves and will not be discovered by readers. In my library, shelf space for fiction is at a premium and we almost need to weed a book for each new title we buy. We can’t always afford to replace the weeded print copy with a digital version – especially if it is only available with limited time ownership.

I believe we are providing both authors and publishers a valuable service by keeping their titles in front of readers regardless of format.

In an ideal world publishers could offer more than one type of purchase option for each title e.g. copies at a slight premium to the print price for one copy one user perpetual access and a cheaper price for short term lease (anything from 2 months to 2 years) to satisfy new release demand and provide the opportunity for schools to purchase multiple copies as classroom novel sets.

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I admit that being able to instantly add new and extra content to satisfy demand, and not have to cover/process it, circulate it, generate overdue notices or replace books chewed by dogs or damaged in backpacks by food and drink is an advantage and it’s one that I don’t mind paying a small premium for. However, I do not want to feel penalised for this as in most cases we are also buying the physical copy and sometimes an audiobook too. Especially when taking into account that promoting digital content can feel more time consuming than promoting physical books (which you can at least hold in your hand while you are teaching and it’s on a shelf facing out to the world) – it takes time to manage the metadata, curate digital content, physically represent the intangible on shelves and in displays and to promote what isn’t seen.

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Example of promotional material produced using Word, Photoshop and Canva.com – this was placed inside a DVD cover as a place holder on the shelf using the cover image provided in OverDrive metadata. Once our collect grew we didn’t have the shelf room for these.

Publishers need to also be mindful that those of us with ebook platforms that have a substantial annual hosting fee, as we are already paying a considerable premium to even be able to offer digital content. 

It would be wonderful if publishers would consider the substantial investment school libraries and librarians have made both in time and money in order to present their authors works to our almost captive audiences. Add in our skills in reader advisory and promotion and really it’s us who are providing publishers and authors with a service!

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Despite my pessimistic introduction there have been some fantastic developments in the past twelve months and on the whole the possibilities for ebook lending are looking positive.

For schools who have resisted adding digital content there has never been a better time to start. The content that has become available in the last year is a game changer and if this content had been available when we first started our collection I suspect the makeup of content and titles of our digital collection would be quite different.

It sometimes feels very much like one step forward, two steps back with buying ebooks. The step forward being the increased and immediate availability of much wanted content; the two steps back being the feeling of being beaten and robbed over some of the pricing and the restrictive lease terms.

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GIF shows covers from of a selection of new content that we have added to our OverDrive collection. Many of these titles have been on our digital ‘wishlist’ for a long time.

Here are the significant developments from the last 12 months which have significant implications for digital collection development and affect how we can deliver content, support literacy in our school and maximise space in a Modern Library Learning Environment (where student and collaborative spaces take precedence over physical shelves and book storage).

Throughout the year: titles purchased on the 26 metered checkout model from HarperCollins expire. They’ve been checked out 26 times (and only rarely by mistake) and many titles have ‘earned’ the right to be repurchased based on genuine demand. Some books reached 26 checkouts in less than 12 months others have taken up to three years to get there. Where we had purchased extra copies to satisfy short term demand and the subsequent holds, we’ve let them quietly expire leaving us with one or two copies in the collection (e.g. Divergent). Other titles have only been checked out a few times but they’ll remain in our collection until that 26 checkout limit is reached. Interesting that the introduction of this model had librarians ‘up in arms’ but most are now used to and comfortable with this model.

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January 2015: Although they have been available in OverDrive for some time, we buy our first “Fixed layout” Read-a-long or narrated ebooks (an ebook and audiobook combined) to use with ESOL students, our youngest readers and a few older students who are struggling.

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May 2015: PanMacmillan, Macmillan Australia/UK titles become available for purchase (lease) by both public and school libraries in NZ and Australia, via OverDrive (previously available through Wheeler’s eplatform). An initial order of 50 titles is required and the term is 52 checkouts or 24 months – whichever comes sooner. Prices are reasonable and content is available on the same day as the print publication is released without a lag or wait period. Students are delighted to have Andy Griffiths in multiple digital and print copies.

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September 2015: Faber & Faber titles are now available in OverDrive marketplace. The ebooks are available on a 52 checkout/24 month lease (whichever comes sooner) at very reasonable prices.

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October 2015: Simon & Schuster etitles are extended to school libraries in NZ and Australia via OverDrive (previously only available to public libraries and not yet available to school libraries in Wheeler’s e platform). The titles are available for a 12 month lending period. Prices are similar to the NZ print price. The 12 month lease has implications for when titles are purchased and so far we’ve only purchased some of the most popular titles we have in print. I’ll be purchasing more at the start of the school year so that students get a full year of exposure and use.It’s likely that only the most popular titles will be ordered with this lease term.

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December 2015: New lending terms for ebooks in Libraries are announced in the US for both Penguin and Random House etitles which will be available on a one copy/one user model with a reduced maximum price cap of $65 US (versus $85 US) from 1 January 2016. Previously Penguin titles had been available on a 12 month lending model and Random House titles on a OC/OU model but with pricing of latest releases at up to 300% above the retail print price. Some of these US Random House titles are available to NZ/Australian libraries if the worldwide digital rights are held by the US imprint. We have only purchased a few of these titles in the past and I’m waiting to see what changes are made to prices.

December 2015: The news we have been waiting for…It is announced that both School and Public libraries in NZ and Australia can now purchase Penguin UK/RHCP UK/Penguin Australia/ RHNZ/RHA titles. The full catalogue of titles will be available for 36 checkouts or 24 months whichever comes sooner (this is a bit bewildering given the previous announcement in the USA regarding the one copy one user model but it highlights the huge divide between the ebook situation for libraries in the USA vs the rest of the world).There is a 90 day lag or wait period between the publication of the print book and the availability of the ebook. Pricing varies and latest releases (after the 90 day lag) seem highly priced in my opinion, and the NZ Australian backlist titles are more expensive than I think they should be – this pricing will influence future purchases and repurchases after expiry.  I note that some announcements stress that this is a two year ‘trial’.

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December 2015/ January 2016: The first titles purchased (leased) from Allen & Unwin under the 52 checkout or 24 month lending model in our collection expire. Some titles have NEVER been checked out, and some only a handful of times. Allen & Unwin titles are priced higher than those from Faber& Faber or Macmillan which use the same lending model. Which is a shame because students and librarians LOVE their books! Interesting to see the level of purchasing with each publisher because of this (A&U had been on a one copy one user model but after they switched to 52 checkouts our purchasing dwindled). I decide to only repurchase those that have been checked out more than 6 times in 24 months. The titles no longer held are still visible in our collection and should there be future demand (demonstrated by holds placed) I’ll consider repurchasing them.
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January 2016: I ask myself “Will 2016 be the year we are able to offer ebooks from Scholastic and Hachette to our students?” These are the last two major publishers missing from our digital offering.

But more importantly could…2016 be the year when publishers consider partnering with school librarians or at least softening their purchasing terms?

More details on each of the ‘issues’ and developments highlighted above will be the focus of future posts. I’ll talk about specific titles and series from each publisher to demonstrate the issues and implications, pluses and minuses of their pricing and lending models and give plenty of kudos to the publishers who are great to work with.

Background info:

While these are my own views it’s important to note that the school where I currently work utilises the OverDrive lending platform for both eBooks and eAudioBooks. We use other providers and platforms too, but this is our major platform for recreational digital reading.

  • Currently we have 3280 titles (plus duplicate copies) of both eBooks and eAudioBooks in our OverDrive collection.
  • We started buying digital content in OverDrive in May 2013
  • Our school is a BYOD environment with a mixture of iPads, smartphones, tablets and laptops in use.
  • Our school size is 1600 students and covers years Kindergarten to Year 13 – although most digital content is checked out by students in years 4-10.
  • On average our school community checks out 770 digital titles through OverDrive each month (lowest 357/highest 1133).

 

Genrefication and avoiding ‘bias’ in collection development – is it possible to represent all interests?

This is me musing after the discussion today on the SLANZA listserv and following on from last weeks thought provoking thread there, about the reading (or non-reading) habits of teenagers.

Our Library collections have been lovingly built up by many librarians over many years, but declining issues in the fiction collection in the upper part of the school library and changes to the visiting and borrowing habits of classes demands a different strategy. Any changes we make in our libraries have to be with future readers in mind, not just those we have now. Similarly, philosophical changes aren’t a one size fits all fix. Genrefication is not the answer for every Library.

Collection development feels like an art as well as a science but so is how we organise our collection, especially if it is large and well established – I sometimes wonder if it would be easier when starting a new library collection from scratch?
So how does one achieve real balance in a collection? Is the answer to get more student input into book choices…but how do we do this when many senior students don’t even set foot in the library unless it is for a curriculum specific lesson or to study? How formulaic and specific can ones budget allocation/collection planning documents be, so that we force ourselves to be committed to a more diverse and ‘even’ book buying strategy across all genres (whether separated out or merged)?

It’s easy to underestimate how much prior understanding we librarian ‘experts’ have about books when we are browsing or looking at our shelves. We are familiar with both our own collections and the authors and series within them and it is like having secret knowledge e.g. we recognise that a specific author writes a specific kind of book (usually), but if the spine is unappealing or hasn’t been designed well and doesn’t indicate what’s inside, it’s not going to stand out to a student in an A-Z sequence as matching his or her favourite genre or style of book.

I’m trying to see our collection through a student’s eyes. Most of our readers come in and do not want to consult the library catalogue before choosing – ‘discovery’ and quality metadata are really valuable but of little use if not consulted properly. Displays only go part of the way too, as not all readers are coming up often or regularly enough to see them all – it’s serendipitous if they stumble across THE book in a display of genres or theme…this is despite promotions, emails, and toilet door marketing etc!

I’ve selected and purchased for our collections in the past by trying to provide more of the material that is in demand and I believe this is what the Librarians before me have done too. Girls have been the biggest and most avid group of readers in this part of the library hence the natural inclination and possible bias in purchasing more books for them. Girls do doubly well as many of them are also reading the books that boys would think are theirs alone e.g. Cherub, or Andy McNabb, whereas most boys at our school won’t read books they perceive are too feminine.

‘Bias’ – makes it sound as if I am saying our librarians have knowingly tried to reflect their own reading interests and preferences – this isn’t what I mean…but I’ve been thinking about how we can be unknowingly biased by tending to buy more books that match the needs of the biggest group of users especially when budgets are constrained (oiling the squeakiest wheel).

Does this have a self perpetuating biased effect on our collections? e.g. if in a co-ed library we buy more for the avid reading girls and subtly less for the boys (who in many ways are often ‘potential’ rather than ‘actual’ readers), and then build up a collection that over time appears to reflect the reading interests of that larger group…. you do end up with boys expressing the view that there isn’t as much for them to read that they can find easily (but just as problematic for girls who don’t want Cathy Hopkins, or Meg Cabot but prefer Annabel Pitcher and John Green or for kids with other specialised reading interests too).

Pulling out our ‘chicklit’ into it’s own genre did two things immediately – firstly, made all those books really easy to find for the girls who love a heady dose of BFFs, crushes and intoxicating romance (and 99% of our boys wouldn’t touch these books in a million years)… It also instantly made it look like there was far more on offer for our boys and the rest of our girl readers when so many ‘hidden gems’ came to light simply from having the distracting books around them taken away. Bear in mind that when I pulled out realistic and contemporary fiction from the main sequence – there were so many ‘oriented toward girl only readers’ aka chick-lit – that they skewed the appearance of the whole realistic/contemporary genre – it was literally a wall of spines in varying shades of pink – making it very difficult for boys to feel confident browsing in that area (the same thing had happened when we genrefied our Junior collection so I shouldn’t have been surprised by this). Separating these out made the realistic books seem more even and gender neutral.

When a collection is genrefied it is possible to target specific genres with a selection strategy or goal if you feel it is under represented (a goal for next year for instance for us, might be finding more series that fit with Cherub and other high octane authors). Similarly if you get the genre ‘wrong’ for a single title or series and wish you had put it somewhere else it is really easy to reallocate it to another one, giving that book a new chance of discovery.

The worst that can happen if genrefication should prove a failure is that if we go back to A-Z or a hybrid of the two philosophies, or look at something completely different based on feedback from students and teachers. I don’t think it will – I am filling more empty acrylic face out stands in the genrefied sections than in the general A-Z sequence and the genrefied sections look attractive, vibrant and appealing (backed up by anec-data from students and teachers – I’m trying to not look at and overanalyse the issue stats too soon).

I’ll add some pictures in the morning 🙂

My favourite, curiosity inspiring non-fiction for kids – Best books of 2014

I want to highlight some of the books I purchased for our collection last year that have really enriched the resources we have for our curious kids.  I haven’t included straight informational texts in this list. Some of these may have been published before 2014.

Click on the book cover image to see the full bibliographic details in Goodreads.

Why We Live Where We Live looks back in history at the transition from nomadic hunting to farming and the rise of cities following the Industrial Revolution. It also looks ahead to anticipate future concerns: how will climate change and rising water affect people who live near the ocean? Can humans survive in space? This comprehensive, cross-curricular resource will equip readers with a solid background on human habitation and context about their place on the planet”. Publisher: Owl Kids

“It’s a big world out there, but what’s going on around the world can feel closer to us and more accessible than ever. Twenty-four hour news, the Internet and our increasing global perspective are more and more a part of our daily lives. Information about wars and conflicts on the other side of the world can be in our homes and on our tablet s and smartphones instantly. Whether or not your country is directly involved in a conflict or war, nearly every disagreement, every standoff, every war affects our lives in some way. With so many conflicts happening around the world, it makes you wonder – Why Do We Fight?” Publisher: Franklin Watts

“Why Do We Fight? is a book that allows kids to understand that while conflict may be inevitable, war isn’t. The reader is shown how small disagreements can escalate to become bigger and more serious ones, by exposing the common elements of conflict: such as prejudice, history, diplomacy, geography and economics. The reader is encouraged to compare world conflicts with the ones in their own lives, to better understand why we fight and what we can do to avoid it.” Goodreads

From the start, I wanted this book to explore global conflicts—the root causes of why they happen, why they become violent—without telling kids what to think about them.I wanted the book to show kids how to think about them, so they could form their own informed opinions, and I wanted this knowledge to be applicable to any conflict, anytime, anywhere.I wanted to make kids aware that, although conflicts are often presented in oversimplified terms of good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, or as being sparked by a single event or disagreement, they’re more complicated than that. I also wanted them to be unsatisfied with anything that presents conflicts in such simple terms so that they would want to dig deeper“. Author (Teacher Notes)

NB: My copy was published by Owl Kids but there was another edition published by Franklin Watts in Sept 2014. Franklin Watts – paperback edition due out June 2015.

This is the third title from Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm in their wonderful series about sunlight – I also recommend Living sunlight : how plants bring the earth to life and Ocean sunlight : how tiny plants feed the seas. See also this great resource @ the Classroom Bookshelf

“This exciting children’s book details the real-life stories of scientists throughout history who made discoveries that changed the way we think about the world. Read about Galileo and Marie Curie, who both – in very different circumstances – risked peril during their research, or about Alexander Fleming, who discovered the power of penicillin by accident. 

Packed with fascinating details of experiments and equipment, blunders and lucky escapes, Eureka! will appeal to children around the age of nine and over with an interest in history, science and adventure”. Publisher: Thames and Hudson

“Some things are so huge or so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them. But what if we took these big, hard-to-imagine objects and events and compared them to things we can see, feel and touch? Instantly, we’d see our world in a whole new way.” So begins this endlessly intriguing guide to better understanding all those really big ideas and numbers children come across on a regular basis. Author David J. Smith has found clever devices to scale down everything from time lines (the history of Earth compressed into one year), to quantities (all the wealth in the world divided into one hundred coins), to size differences (the planets shown as different types of balls). Accompanying each description is a kid-friendly drawing by illustrator Steve Adams that visually reinforces the concept”. Publisher: Kids Can Press

There are many titles coming out in this series and they are all excellent.

“This illustrated collection of traditional tales from cultures around the world stars heroes and giants, gods and goddesses, monsters and magic, and more.

The bite-sized retellings are accompanied by quick-fire story ashes, mini myths facts, and fun ‘quests’ to complete.

A perfectly enchanting introduction to mythology for lively minds.”

Publisher: Ivy Press

I read about this gorgeous book in this article in the Guardian.

There are 150 rhymes in this collection, from countries all over the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, South Africa and the Caribbean. This comprehensive collection contains all the best-loved nursery rhymes, but also some new discoveries, and vibrant rhymes from Native American, First Nation, Inuit and Maori cultures. Each double-page spread is illustrated by a different artist, who has donated his or her work to the Collection or Archive at Seven Stories, Britain’s National Centre for Children’s Books. With 76 featured artists, this is a star-studded roll call of international award-winners and world-class bestselling illustrators, as well as young emerging talent from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Ghana and South Africa.”  Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Charles Darwin first visited the Galápagos Islands almost 200 years ago, only to discover a land filled with plants and animals that could not be found anywhere else on earth. How did they come to inhabit the island? How long will they remain?

Thoroughly researched and filled with intricate and beautiful paintings, this extraordinary book by Award-winning author and artist Jason Chin is an epic saga of the life of an island—born of fire, rising to greatness, its decline, and finally the emergence of life on new islands“. Author website


 

“What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline which sums up important findings discussed throughout, while the glossary and index provide a quick point of reference for readers. Children and adults alike will learn a ton of spacey facts in this far-out book that’s sure to excite even the youngest of astrophiles.” Publisher website

“Volcanoes are a scary, catastrophic phenomenon that creates mass destruction as far as its deadly lava can reach, right? Not quite . . .

Elizabeth Rusch explores volcanoes in their entirety, explaining how they’re not all as bad as they’re made out to be. Using examples of real volcanoes from around the world, Rusch explains how some volcanoes create new land, mountains, and islands where none existed before, and how the ash helps farmers fertilize their fields. Simple, straight-forward prose provides readers with the basics, while a secondary layer of text delves deeper into the science of volcanoes. Susan Swan’s bright and explosive mixed-media illustrations perfectly complement the subject matter—they depict volcanoes in all their destructive and creative glory.

Complete with a glossary and list of further resources, Volcano Rising is a unique look at a fierce, yet valuable, scientific process”. Source: Publisher.

Before Jacques Cousteau became an internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas, he was a curious little boy. In this lovely biography poetic text and gorgeous paintings combine to create a portrait of Jacques Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.” Source: Author website.

Now this is what I call ‘High-interest non-fiction’! After reading this book I went and reweeded my dinosaur section very vigorously!

No human being has ever seen a triceratops or velociraptor or even the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. They left behind only their impressive bones. So how can scientists know what color dinosaurs were? Or if their flesh was scaly or feathered? Could that fierce T. rex have been born with spots?

In a first for young readers, Thimmesh introduces the incredible talents of the paleoartist, whose work reanimates gone-but-never-forgotten dinosaurs in giant full-color paintings that are as strikingly beautiful as they aim to be scientifically accurate, down to the smallest detail. Follow a paleoartist through the scientific process of ascertaining the appearance of various dinosaurs from millions of years ago to learn how science, art, and imagination combine to bring us face-to-face with the past.” author website

What Makes You You? is a mind-blowing introduction to the building blocks of life, DNA, what it is, how it works, and what we can do with it. Breaking down complex scientific concepts and processes into digestible bite-sized chunks; Gill Arbuthnott seamlessly explains everything from the basics of evolution to the incredible achievements of modern day genetic research in an accessible, insightful and brilliantly interesting way.

Packed with amazing 3D style illustrations and explanatory diagrams that jump off the page as well as amazing tales of scientific discoveries and what’s in store for the future, Gill truly brings science to life.  Publisher

This exciting non-fiction picture book introduces young readers to the wondrous (and invisible) world of microbes.

There are living things so tiny millions could fit on a dot. Although they are invisible, they are everywhere and they multiply very quickly. They are vital for life on earth, and do all sorts of things – from giving us a cold and making yoghurt to wearing down mountains and helping to make the air we breathe. With charming illustrations by Emily Sutton, this friendly, clever book succeeds in conveying the complex science of micro-organisms simply and clearly, and opens up an exciting new avenue for young non-fiction. Publisher

With humour and flair, Michael Hearst introduces the reader to a wealth of extraordinary life-forms. Which animal can be found at the top of Mount Everest, 10,000 feet under the sea, and in your backyard? Which animal poops cubes? Which animal can disguise itself as a giant crab? These fascinating facts and hundreds more await curious minds, amateur zoologists, and anyone who has ever laughed at a funny-looking animal“. Publisher

I think Ed Sheeran could sing the phone book and still sound amazing – in the same way, ANY BOOK Steve Jenkins writes and or illustrates is an essential purchase for a school library!

“With friendly facts, funny pictures, and animals galore,What’s New? The Zoo! is history to roar for!

For nearly five thousand years, human beings have kept, studied, and learned from animals. Now, award-winning author Kathleen Krull and acclaimed illustrator Marcellus Hall take readers on a vibrant global tour of zoos and zoo history, from the menageries of kings and queens in the ancient world, to the first public zoos in the Victorian age, to the modern facilities that work to save the lives of creatures great and small.

With smart science, appealing history, fascinating animals, and a whole lot of fun, only one thing could be better — a trip to the zoo itself! “Publisher

What did I say before about Steve Jenkins?

“In his latest eye-popping work of picture book nonfiction, the Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins explains how for most animals, eyes are the most important source of information about the world in a biological sense. The simplest eyes—clusters of light-sensitive cells—appeared more than one billion years ago, and provided a big survival advantage to the first creatures that had them. Since then, animals have evolved an amazing variety of eyes, along with often surprising ways to use them.” Publisher

and again…Animals upside down was a huge hit as a readloud for my Year One students inquiring into animals “It’s their world too”.

“What do spiders, bats, ducks, and sloths have in common?

Along with many other creatures, they turn upside down. A few of them, in fact, spend most of their lives this way. But animals don’t go bottoms-up just for fun.

In this unique pop-up book, pull tabs, lift-the-flaps, sliding doors, and other interactive elements reveal how, for many animals, an occasional flip or dip is a matter of survival”. Author website

If you want beautiful, thought provoking, creativity inspiring art books for your school library check out Prestel – they have some wonderful books!

“Painting is to dream,” said Hundertwasser. “When the dream is over, I don”t remember anything I dreamed about. The painting, however, remains. It is the harvest of my dream.” This statement is at the heart of this engaging introduction to the work of the eccentric artist, humanitarian, environmentalist, and architect who dedicated his life to the beautification of the world we live in. Dozens of activities in this book will captivate children of all ages and take them on a journey through a magical world of creativity and self-fulfillment. The projects here help young readers discover nature”s gifts, encourage exploration of what lies outside one”s doorstep, and emphasize the importance of ecological harmony as vital to living a happier life. Children and their parents will return again and again to this colorful and entertaining tribute to an artist whose legacy offers hope and inspiration for all of us.” Publisher

 

Literally a bird’s eye view….

“A perfect introduction for children 7+ to the most beautiful buildings in the world and the basic principles of architecture using a fun, lively and engaging way of learning”. Publisher

 

A highly readable book about architecture, lavishly illustrated with sixteen intricate cross sections.

From straw huts to skyscrapers, palaces to arts centres, The Story of Buildings takes us on a journey across continents and over centuries. Patrick Dillon selects sixteen of the most iconic buildings from around the world including the Parthenon, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City, the Bauhaus, Crystal Palace, the Sydney Opera House and the Pompidou Centre, and tells the remarkable human story behind each of them. Stephen Biesty’s detailed, intricate cross-sections allow us to see inside these incredible structures and appreciate the inspiration of their creators. Technical information and architectural terms are explained in labels and flaps and there is an extensive index and timeline at the end of the book“. Publisher

Filled with colorful architectural drawings and engaging texts, this history of architecture for children is a great way to introduce young readers to the subject.

Children will be utterly absorbed by this journey through the history of architecture, from the earliest mud huts to today’s soaring towers. Chronologically arranged, this large-format book gives each iconic building its own double-page spread featuring an exquisite watercolor illustration and clearly written descriptions, facts, and features. These vibrantly detailed pages are filled with people, animals, and other objects that help bring the buildings to life. A detailed appendix includes a timeline, a world map that points out where each building can be found, and an extensive glossary. Children will enjoy poring over this book — and will come away with a fundamental understanding of not only the most common architectural terms, but also of how the built world has evolved marvelously over time“. Publisher

Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all. The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students — a bunch of energetic young men–are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy or someone’s going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius. Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts“. Author website

A celebration of the world, from its immense mountains to its tiny insects – and everything in between. Features fifty-two highly illustrated maps, full of detail and curiosities“. Publisher

Over the course of history men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess-especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. How They Croaked relays all the gory details of how nineteen world figures gave up the ghost. For example:

  • It is believed that Henry VIII’s remains exploded within his coffin while lying in state.
  • Doctors “treated” George Washington by draining almost 80 ounces of blood before he finally kicked the bucket.
  • Right before Beethoven wrote his last notes, doctors drilled a hole in his stomach without any pain medication.

Readers will be interested well past the final curtain, and feel lucky to live in a world with painkillers, X-rays, soap, and 911“. Author website

 Another fabulous title from Thames and Hudson – the chapter on Scott and Amundsen is especially useful to our inquiry units. These books have a highly visual, scrapbook style layout. Highly recommended!

Describes the intrepid journeys and discoveries of famous trailblazers from Christopher Columbus to Ranulph Fiennes. Packed with tales of heroism and useful survival tips, as well as photographs and illustrations of their brave expeditions.

Think of the street you live on. Now think of how it may have looked in 10,000 BCE, or in Roman times, or in Victorian England at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Steve Noon’s A Street Through Time takes you on a time travelling journey that you won’t forget.

Beautiful double-page illustrations bring fourteen key periods in history to life. You will see magnificent buildings go up and come down, new churches built on the site of ancient temples, wooden bridges destroyed and then remade in stone, and statues demolished then unearthed many years later. You’ll find out how people lived long ago – the tools they used, what they wore, what they ate and what they did all day. In an added twist, you can search for the time traveller in each period and locate the objects that have managed to survive through the ages.

Revised and updated for a new generation, Steve Noon’s A Street Through Time is perfect for parents and children to look at together. The more you look, the more you’ll see.” Publisher

I hope you find something here that you would like to add to your collection! 

Genrefication in the School Library 101

I have had a few queries about how we went about the process of genrefication, so here goes!

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Genre-fi-what?

Genrefication – is when fiction is arranged by genre rather than by author name in one overwhelming A-Z sequence.

See the post by Jennifer LaGarde:

Five MORE Conversations [About School Libraries] That I Don’t Want To Have Anymore

The section on genrefication was my touchstone – every time I had a twinge of self-doubt during this process I referred back to Jennifer’s comments.

“Simply put, we need to remove the secret code that stands between our students and the resources they need and start organizing our spaces based on what’s good for kids (not librarians).”

The objective of genrefication is to make finding a book much easier for students. In a student-centered Library you want students to spend their time enjoying books not searching for books (which usually means wandering the shelves and feeling frustrated, and taking a book…any book…. because their teacher tells them they have too). Not being able to find books they like is one of the biggest barriers to kids becoming readers.

In a genrefied collection students will discover other authors and books similar to their favourites and it is possible to lead them to other genres by helping them appreciate the crossover factor between them e.g.  “Oh you liked the part in the time travel book where it was set in the Middle ages?…”  perhaps a cue to explore historical fiction. Students ask for books by genre more often than by author “Where are the funny books?” being the request I hear most often.

It is far more fruitful working one on one with a student exploring a genre and its possibilities, within the physical space and distance of a few shelves, rather than trying to remember author and series names on the fly. No more rushing around the shelves with the child in tow – one can calmly talk about the options and make choices right there.

The Genres we are using are based on student preferences – the genres in bold were made first and then sub-genres added later:

  • Funny
  • Realistic fiction
  • Realistic – Sports fiction
  • Realistic – Girlszone (BFFs, Crushes etc )
  • Mystery
  • Historical
  • Historical – War stories
  • Spooky
  • Animal stories [currently this contains animal fantasy e.g. Warriors…this may change to a subsection in Fantasy]
  • Animal stories – Horse & pony stories
  • Science-fiction
  • Action and adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Fantasy – Dragons
  • Fantasy – Based on fairytales

So how did we physically genrefy and change the collection?

My approach was a little unorthodox. I didn’t even bother printing off lists from our LMS to start this project. I had done a few tentative searches but discovered many books had multiple subject headings for multiple genres. I also wanted to approach our shelves as our students do. It was an eye opener for me. Many books are very difficult to  identify by genre in an A-Z sequence and students don’t have the benefit of the inside knowledge we do e.g. when you see a row of spines of books by a particular author it usually equals a particular genre!

Our Fiction collection is small (2500 titles) as we had already split off early readers and first chapter books earlier in the year, so I didn’t think it would be too big a project. I had been living and breathing genrefication for some time before hand. Every time I handled a book I would consider which genre it belonged to and thought long and hard about where titles would be placed based on the preferences and reading habits of the students who liked to read them.

Firstly, I created new collections in our LMS for the main Genres – so as well as the existing collection of Junior Fiction we now had a specific collection for each genre. Please note that initially Realistic, Animals and Fantasy weren’t split further into sub-genres as they are now. The Junior Fiction collection will disappear from the LMS once every book has been changed. The genres also reflect the curated genre collections we have used in our OverDrive collection.

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I walked around our shelves and pulled out all of the funny books and series I recognised and knew. These were kept in alpha sequence on a trolley (cart).

I scanned all the barcodes into the LMS, searched for the matching copies and came up with a set. I then performed a ‘global change’ and changed the collection from Junior Fiction to Junior Fiction Funny. Immediately after this (to avoid duplication and rescanning), I ran a report and generated new spine labels for the set making sure this was in alphabetical order according to the cutter number and printed it off. As the books were still in alpha order by cutter, it was easy peasy to add the spine labels (which were in alphabetical order too).

I then added the appropriate colour code for the genre. The orange dot has been used in our library to identify Junior School Books. We are still using this as if and when the Middle/Senior Library genrefy it would be desirable to use the same colour strips (e.g. they could use the same blue for science-fiction as the Junior Library and add an appropriate label sticker for a sub-genre of dystopia – keeping the genre collections continuous between the collections and presenting a cohesive experience for students graduating from Junior to MS/SS Library). In a Middle/High School Library I would consider using themes as well as genres.

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I pretty much followed this process for each genre. If I discovered something that belonged to a genre I had already done – these titles were put in small piles and processed in batches. (The books currently on loan will be processed each day as they are returned).

After I had pulled out the books where I was confident about the genre they belonged to, then it was then a matter of going through the books that were left on the shelf and checking them individually – I used the Auckland Libraries catalogue, GoodReads, Publisher websites, consulted with colleagues and asked students for their opinions to help with this.

Tackling one genre at a time made the process feel far more manageable than pulling every book off the shelf and kept the overwhelming piles to a minimum. It also felt more strategic than tackling a single shelf at a time. By batch processing the spine-labelling and stickering for each genre it  was an efficient process and easier to coordinate help for this task. (This approach would work for a Library wanting to gradually genrefy – choose the most sought after genre first and work through).

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I left Fantasy until last as it was not only our biggest genre, but also had the most titles that could possibly fit into other genres (in particular, spooky, and science fiction). I split off books about Dragons and those fantasy titles based on Fairy tales, as we get asked for these often. The main Fantasy genre still looks large (it is 1/3 of our fiction) so I am considering splitting off the titles based on myths and legends. Many books were weeded during this process – but some books have been given a second chance at life. If they remain unchecked at the end of 12 months after exposure within a genre and promotion they will be weeded.

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One of the immediate benefits is that I can now see  exactly what we hold in each genre and what state it is in. As a result, we will be purchasing more for the sports fiction and the spooky collections and reducing the number of fantasy titles purchased this year. It will be interesting to see the number of loans vs the number of titles in any genre. Seeing a genre as a whole makes weeding a breeze!

If a student or teacher is uncertain about where to find a specific title it will be necessary to search the catalogue. All fiction is now clearly identified in the online catalogue with the genre included in the classification:

for example….

J F FANTASY RIO

J F SCI-FI FAL

Each genre is colour coded and each new spine label includes the genre name. If a genre is split into sub-genres then a picture sticker is added. Misfiled books are now very obvious to our student shelvers. (Redoing the spine labels for every book in the new style and tidying up misplaced orange spot labels etc has given the whole collection a fresh look). As we went through this process I also doubled checked to see if we were missing parts of a series and reordered them and I weeded vigorously at the same time.

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We are still using the first three letters of an author’s name to keep an author’s books or series together within a genre.

Some authors are now shelved in more than one location (e.g. you will find Michael Morpurgo stories in Animals, Historical and War stories and Jacqueline Wilson in both Realistic-girlzone and Historical). This is a positive thing as it is a great way to introduce students to another genre.

What still needs to be done before students arrive back from vacation?

Signage (the black wire stands on top of the shelves are waiting for new BIG signs) and we need to make QR code links to connect the physical genre collections to the digital titles we own in OverDrive.

Watch this space!

Other links:

My previous post on the sports fiction genre

See Michelle Simm‘s posts on genrefication in her library

Mrs ReaderPants

Tiffany Whitehead

Library Grits (Diane Mackenzie) – roundup of school library rockstar resources on genrefication

Jennifer LaGarde’s article was also published in a special edition of SLANZA’s Collected Magazine. I recommend a thorough read of this for examples of other innovative changes happening in NZ school libraries. See also the brief article about genrefication at Cambridge Highschool.

School Library Journal

Labels: Book Protection Products (Auckland NZ)

Favourite books of 2014 – Graphic novels

My favourite graphic novels read in 2014

Jane, the fox and me by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

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Hauntingly beautiful, this book is incredibly moving. It covers bullying and cruelty and is recommended for ages 10+. After buying it for my junior end of our library, I eventually moved it into the Middle/Senior graphic novels where I thought it would be more appreciated.

“An emotionally truthful and visually stunning graphic novel about solace and redemption.”

Helene is not free to hide from the taunts of her former friends in the corridors at school. She can’t be invisible in the playground or in the stairways leading to art class. Insults are even scribbled on the walls of the toilet cubicles. Helene smells, Helene’s fat, Helene has no friends … now. When Helene’s heart hammers in her chest as Genevieve snickers at the back of the bus, inventing nasty things to say about her, Helene dives into the pages of her book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. And, in the solace she finds there, Helene’s own world becomes a little brighter. But how will the story end? Is there any hope for the wise, strange, plain Jane Eyre? How could Mr Rochester ever love her? On nature camp, arranged by the school as a treat, Helene finds herself in the tent of other outcasts. Again, her inner and outer worlds become entangled as she reads on – this time putting herself into Jane Eyre’s shoes. It would be impossible for Mr Rochester to marry a sausage in a swimsuit, even if he loved her. Wouldn’t it? But, while deeply lost in self-doubt, Helene’s world is unexpectedly shaken up by a fresh new friendship. Geraldine snorts with laughter at her jokes! They love being together! Helene begins to worry less about what the cruel girls think – and more about how happy she can be (and make others)… Perhaps Jane Eyre’s story will end well after all, too.Source: Publisher website

“Jane, The Fox and Me is an absolute treasure that blends the realities of children’s capacity to be cruel, the possibilities of transcending our own psychological traps, and literature’s power to nourish, comfort, and transform.” Brain Pickings

El Deafo by Cece Bell Really heartwarming and delightful to see just as many boys as girls request this after a book talk!

“Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.” Publisher.

PRAISE FOR EL DEAFO

“A standout autobiography. Someone readers will enjoy getting to know.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review “Worthy of a superhero.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“This empowering autobiographical story belongs right next to Raina Telgemeier’s Smile(2011) and Liz Prince’s Tomboy.” —Booklist

[Source: Publisher Abrams]

Treaties, trenches, mud and blood (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales book 4) by Nathan Hale If you haven’t discovered the Hazardous Tales series then I urge you to seek it out. The boys (and some girls) in our school from years 5-8 love all of them. I think these days kiwi kids may know a lot about American popular culture, but less about American history so these do bring events like the American Revolution and civil war to life. Each book in the series focuses on a specific historical incident or period. One of the things that I love about these books is that they are published as sturdy hardbacks – they stand up to the punishment that this collection gets from enthusiastic readers. The cover art is eyecatching too!

“World War I set the tone for the 20th century and introduced a new type of warfare: global, mechanical, and brutal. Nathan Hale has gathered some of the most fascinating true-life tales from the war and given them his inimitable Hazardous Tales twist. Easy to understand, informative, and lively, this series is the best way to be introduced to some of the most well-known battles (and little-known secrets) of the infamous war.” Publisher.

“Students bored to death by textbook descriptions of WWI battle maneuvers should be engaged by this entertaining, educational glimpse at world history.” —Booklist

“A mixture of textbook and slapstick, this essential read makes history come alive in a way that is relevant to modern-day life and kids.” —School Library Journal

[Source: Publisher – Abrams]

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.” Goodreads.

Raina Telgemeier’s earlier graphic novels (Smile and Drama) are very rarely on our Graphic Novel shelf – they’re just too popular, but after telling kids about Sisters there was renewed and increased interest in reading those earlier titles too.

Nursery rhyme comics edited by Chris Duffy “Here’s how this book works. ..We asked fifty cartoonists we really like to each transform a classic nursery rhyme into a comic. It turns out when you have a rhyme like ‘Jack & Jill’ (Jack and Jill went up the hill / to fetch a pail of water / Jack fell down and broke his crown / and Jill came tumbling after), there’s a reasonable narrative panel structure there. So turning nursery rhymes into comics makes sense logically — and it also makes the separate actions of the narrative easily understandable for young readers”. Publisher

Fairy tale comics edited by Chris Duffy “From favorites like “Puss in Boots” and “Goldilocks” to obscure gems like “The Boy Who Drew Cats,” Fairy Tale Comics has something to offer every reader. Seventeen fairy tales are wonderfully adapted and illustrated in comics format by seventeen different cartoonists, including Raina Telgemeier, Brett Helquist, Cherise Harper, and more.” Goodreads See publisher info here too with great examples of the pages and story behind the publication.

Comic Squads : Recess! Edited by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm. and Jarett J. Krosoczka With contributions by Dav Pilkey; Dan Santat; Raina Telgemeier; Dave Roman; Ursula Vernon; Eric Wight; Gene Yang. “Wowza! Calling all kidz! Do you like comics? Do you like laughing till milk comes out of your nose?! Look no further—do we have the book for you! All your favorite comic creators are right here in this handy-dandy hilarious book! This all-star tribute to classic Sunday comics includes eight sidesplitting, action-packed stories about every kid’s favorite subject—RECESS! With popular characters from Babymouse and Lunch Lady and brand-new soon-to-be favorite characters from superstars including Dav Pilkey! Raina Telgemeier! Gene Yang! and many more! Comics Squad also features Pizza Monsters! Secret ninja clubs! Aliens! Talking desserts! Dinozilla! Death-defying escapes! Bad guys! Good guys! Medium guys! Superheroes! Bullies! Mean girls! Epic battles! True love! Outlandish schemes! Evil plans! Fun! Jokes! Terrible puns! And other surprises that will tickle your funny bone! WARNING: THIS BOOK MAY CAUSE EXCESSIVE LAUGHTER AND POSSIBLE SILLINESS. No assembly required. (Pizzatron 2000 not included.)” Publisher website

Perfect for all the kids who can’t get enough of  Squish, Babymouse, Lunch Lady and Captain Underpants!

Battle bunny! by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett Ok this next one isn’t strictly a graphic novel but after much procrastination and consultation with students this is where we decided to shelve it (and I see from checking just now that Auckland Libraries have done the same thing).

This is one of those books where after a book talk EVERY kid wants to read it! The two copies we own have never been shelved…and we still have holds stretching into 2015. We need more copies 🙂

“Alex has been given a saccharine, sappy, silly-sweet picture book about Birthday Bunny that his grandma found at a garage sale. Alex isn’t interested – until he decides to make the book something he’d actually like to read. So he takes out his pencil, sharpens his creativity, and totally transforms the story! Birthday Bunny becomes Battle Bunny, and the rabbit’s innocent journey through the forest morphs into a super-secret mission to unleash an evil plan – a plan that only Alex can stop. Featuring layered, original artwork that emphasizes Alex’s additions, this dynamic exploration of creative storytelling is sure to engage and inspire.” Goodreads.

Great to use as a provocative writing prompt! See the battle bunny website for activities and ideas (including downloadable Birthday Bunny original for kids to hack).

graphics In addition to the popular favourites borrowed for recreational reading, we have successfully used non-fiction graphic novels to explain scientific concepts for differentiated learners within several units of inquiry. I can see that this is an area we need to strengthen to meet to help meet the needs of all learners across the curriculum.

I recently moved the display area for our graphics collection so that they are close to our issue/checkout desk. Students waiting to have their books issued just need to glance to the left and can see five face-out shelves of covers. This has been as effective as placing confectionary in the checkout aisle of a supermarket – this is very valuable real estate! There is so much work to do here – I need to replace tired and worn out copies, fill series, add new titles, label the shelves and series boxes and generally revamp.

Graphic novels are extremely popular in our Library and I wish I had a lottery-win-sized budget to apply to this area of my collection. Students love them and because of this it is well worth putting budget, time and love into this area.

Happy reading!

My favourite books of 2014 – Children’s fiction Part 2

To make it easier – I have bundled this post into my part 1 list – giving you the whole list in one place…hit this link to go there 🙂

My favourite books from 2014…continued.

Children’s fiction MG Middle Grade

365 days of Wonder:  Mr. Browne’s book of precepts by R.J. Palacio

If you loved Wonder then you need to continue the goodness with this little gem of a book.  I was  delighted that so many caring boys in our school community wanted to read this as much as our girls. Adding this to our collection led to new conversations and fueled a resurgence in demand for the original book and others about empathy and bullying.

“In the bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. Simply put, precepts are principles to live by, and Mr. Browne has compiled 365 of them—one for each day of the year—drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. Interspersed with the precepts are letters and emails from characters who appeared in Wonder. Readers hear from Summer, Jack, Charlotte, Julian, and Amos.” [Goodreads]

The girl who walked on air by Emma Carroll

I loved Emma Carroll’s earlier book Frost Hollow Hall which I had given 5 stars in 2013 (it is a wonderful historical ghost story and kids love it too!) I was just as delighted with this – the plot felt fresh and new. Give this to fans of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather trilogy.

“Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .” [Goodreads]

Greenglass house by Kate Milford

 

A fantasy mystery story that also touches on issues of family, identity and belonging.

 “A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer series.” [Goodreads]

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Action and adventure and trains and a very tight suspenseful plot. I’m going to have to work a little harder at promoting this one – I had only bought the eBook and kids haven’t discovered it as much as I would have liked. This deserves to be in both formats in our Library.

“The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?” [Goodreads]

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This is up there with Out of my mind and Wonder as another great book to show kids the true meaning of empathy.  You will feel the full gamut of emotions reading this book, but it is worth every crumpled tissue!

The eighth day by Dianne K. Salerni

I thought this was fantastic – in the tradition of Percy Jackson and Sarwat Chadda’s Ash Mistry series while at the same time feeling like a fresh and new story. I was hooked.

“In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.

When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he’s really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who’s been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.” [Goodreads]

I hope you have found something new there from a rather eclectic range of books spread over two posts.

See my previous post (Part 1) here

 

 

 

My favourite books of 2014 – Children’s fiction

It seems everyone has their own version of this list so I am going to join in too!

These are the books that were my 5 star reads in GoodReads or the most sought after in my school library. I was a little surprised at just how many titles were in my list, then I considered that most of the books I read or buy for my school library are gleaned from recommendations from wonderful  bloggers, authoritative reviewers, prestigious end of year lists and award winners from the previous year. How can they be anything but awesome?

 

Children’s fiction MG Middle Grade

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander 

Not just a book for kids that like basketball. This is moving and real and deals with feelings about family, fitting in, identity and grief.  This book was an absolute surprise to kids who thought they didn’t like to read and couldn’t read a novel in verse (almost rap)…they were fighting over this one! I thoroughly recommend the audio version of this – it is read by the author.

Ophelia and the marvelous boy by Karen Foxlee

A spellbinding retelling of the Snow Queen story in a contemporary, Northern European setting. A wonderful winter read.

“In which young Ophelia rescues a magical boy, battles the Snow Queen, and saves the world

Eleven-year-old Ophelia might not be brave, but she certainly is curious. Her family are still reeling from her mother’s death, and in a bid to cheer everyone up, her father has taken a job at a fantastically enormous and gothic museum in a city where it never stops snowing. Ophelia can’t wait to explore – and she quickly discovers an impossibility. In a forgotten room, down a very dark corridor, she finds a boy, who says he’s been imprisoned for three-hundred-and-three-years by an evil Snow Queen who has a clock that is ticking down towards the end of the world.

A sensible girl like Ophelia doesn’t quite believe him, of course, but there’s no denying he needs her help. There are many other, darker, impossibilities in this museum too. Ghosts, wolves, Misery Birds, magical swords – and even fabled Snow Queens – will all do their very best to stop Ophelia and hurt her family. She will have to garner all her courage, strength and cleverness if she is to rescue this most Marvellous Boy – and maybe even save the world in the process.” [Publisher website with link to downloadable first chapter]

Rules by Cynthia Lord

A great book for looking at how disability affects family members, refreshing to read about disability from a different perspective. A brilliant book to give kids who couldn’t get enough of Wonder and love reading about people in situations different than their own.

Out of my mind by Sharon Draper

You want kids to develop empathy? Then give them this book. Powerful and moving and another wonderful story to recommend to kids that loved Wonder.

Rain reign by Ann M. Martin

Story of an autistic girl with a fascination for homonyms unravels mystery about her missing and much-loved dog. This seems like a simple story but it will have kids thinking and questioning long after they have closed the book. Stunning!

Countdown : a novel by Deborah Wiles

Mid last Century historical fiction with a difference. The Cuban Missile Crisis is explained for kids and the story provides a lot of insight into living with the fear and hysteria of the period. My only regret is that I bought a copy in paperback with poor quality paper and it doesn’t do justice to the scrapbook like media presentation of songs, newspaper clippings, advertisements etc from the period that feature between chapters.

A boy called Hope by Lara Williamson

Family drama interspersed with humour when a boy thinks his estranged father will come back into his life. Get the tissues out.

The illuminated adventures of Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

A talking squirrel and written by Kate DiCamillo – what else do you need to know? It is awwww-some!

The child’s elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Part animal story part war story about a boy and his relationship with an elephant amidst the devastation of civil war when he and a girl from his village are kidnaped into a band of child soldiers. Great to pair with a Unit of Inquiry into Children in crisis. Covers what is a difficult subject for this aged reader in a sensitive and appropriate way.

Hook’s revenge by Heidi Schulz

A swashbuckling fantasy adventure with a feisty heroine. Hook’s daughter swears revenge on the crocodile that killed her father and discovers herself in the process. Not your mother’s Peter Pan story!

The Twistrose key by Tone Almhjell

A young girl enters an enchanted but threatened world “inhabited by animals that shared a special connection with children in the real world, either as beloved pets or tamed wild animals”. Suspense, adventure and magic.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter

Realistic/historical fiction set in Memphis 1959. “The paper route poses challenges, but it’s a run-in with the neighborhood junk-man, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble – and puts the boy’s life, as well as that of his family’s devoted housekeeper, in danger.” I borrowed the Public Library copy of this and only have the audiobook at school. Need both!

The true blue scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

A narrative tale in two voices – firstly from the boy trying to save the family business and the local environment from developers, and the second from two rascally raccoons who live in the area. Great overlapping of threads that come together very cleverly. This story depicts the south with an authenticity (at least in my mind) that had me believing I was in the bayou.

The Iron Trial (Book 1 in the Magisterium series) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Magic, good versus evil and a whole lot of twists and turns. Ignore the discussion and controversy over whether this is too much like Harry Potter, and just enjoy the brilliant story. I can’t wait to read what happens in book 2.

Escape from Wolfhaven Castle (The Impossible Quest Book 1) by Kate Forsyth

I’ll be honest, I was not expecting to like this quite so much it took me by surprise. It’s is the kind of book so many kids need – not too long, with punchy writing and a tight plot that will hook (well… I read it and finished it in the small hours). This would be a good ladder for kids into other fantasy/historical adventure stories e.g. the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielson.

365 days of Wonder:  Mr. Browne’s book of precepts by R.J. Palacio

If you loved Wonder then you need to continue the goodness with this little gem of a book.  I was  delighted that so many caring boys in our school community wanted to read this as much as our girls. Adding this to our collection led to new conversations and fueled a resurgence in demand for the original book and others about empathy and bullying.

“In the bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. Simply put, precepts are principles to live by, and Mr. Browne has compiled 365 of them—one for each day of the year—drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. Interspersed with the precepts are letters and emails from characters who appeared in Wonder. Readers hear from Summer, Jack, Charlotte, Julian, and Amos.” [Goodreads]

The girl who walked on air by Emma Carroll

I loved Emma Carroll’s earlier book Frost Hollow Hall which I had given 5 stars in 2013 (it is a wonderful historical ghost story and kids love it too!) I was just as delighted with this – the plot felt fresh and new. Give this to fans of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather trilogy.

“Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .” [Goodreads]

Greenglass house by Kate Milford

A fantasy mystery story that also touches on issues of family, identity and belonging.

 “A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer series.” [Goodreads]

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Action and adventure and trains and a very tight suspenseful plot. I’m going to have to work a little harder at promoting this one – I had only bought the eBook and kids haven’t discovered it as much as I would have liked. This deserves to be in both formats in our Library.

“The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?” [Goodreads]

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This is up there with Out of my mind and Wonder as another great book to show kids the true meaning of empathy.  You will feel the full gamut of emotions reading this book, but it is worth every crumpled tissue!

The eighth day by Dianne K. Salerni

I thought this was fantastic – in the tradition of Percy Jackson and Sarwat Chadda’s Ash Mistry series while at the same time feeling like a fresh story. I was hooked.

“In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.

When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he’s really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who’s been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.” [Goodreads]

Lastly, the book that knocked Diary of a wimpy kid and Tom Gates off their respective pedestals in our library as the most asked for, checked-out and highest number of held duplicate copies…. This was voted the funniest series and as a result, was the most requested series in our library for 2014….

Weirdo Series by Anh Do

Some of my ‘hardest nut to crack’ reluctant readers discovered that this is their ‘magic book’ (the kind of book that transform them into a reader and has then coming back asking for more!) 3 in series so far. An easier read than DOAWK.

I hope you have found something new there from a rather eclectic range of books spread over two posts.

Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to read every book  that probably deserves to be here. Sometimes I’m so eager to put a book into a student’s hands that I catalogue it and process it as fast as possible and then it is off on its circulation journey! 

See the other titles that received a five-star rating over at Goodreads.

Happy reading!