Monday, August 31, 2015

Collection Development

So I've been in my new position for almost 2 months, and I'm finding that there is quite a bit of collection development to be done; more than I expected.  I just wish I had more time to work on it!  I am only part-time, so by the time I spend three mornings on the Storytime Bus doing outreach storytimes at daycares and one shift at the children's desk, that only leaves me one morning a week to work on all the planning, scheduling, and collection development for the storytime bus.  It really isn't enough, but I do not want to give up my shift at the children's desk, so the collection development will just have to go a little slower than I'd like for now.

By collection development, I'm referring to a very specific collection:  the themed "kits" that we use for the storytime bus.  A kit is basically storytime-in-a-box, a plastic bin filled with a selection of books the follow the given theme, as well as songs, rhymes, felt boards, and other activities to go with them.  These kits allow for a variety of materials in order to accommodate the varied ages and attention spans of the daycares we serve, the different tastes and styles of the presenters (myself and our volunteers), and to keep it from being overly monotonous for the presenters.  There are currently about 32 kits that were put together by the person who founded the program, and recently retired, plus another 10 or so partially developed kits and a shelf of books that may or may not need to be added to various kits.

I had initially expected the only collection development to be done would be the development of new kits for new themes.  But as I started going through the existing kits, I realized they needed some work, too.  I found that some of the books in them are just too long and not engaging enough for the age of the kids we are serving and some may need to be weeded or put in the general Outreach collection.  I've also found some kits are missing some very good books that I know are perfect read-alouds for this age, and some kits just don't seem to have very many books that I would typically use.  I realize tastes and styles vary, so I will only remove the books that I am certain are too long, and mostly just add books to each that are more my style and more what I think is appropriate for this age.  Additionally, I have discovered some of the books in the kits do not actually belong to Outreach and were borrowed from the circulating collection and need to be returned to their respective home branches and re-ordered for Outreach if deemed necessary.

To go through all these kits to inventory and evaluate the contents to see what is needed will take quite a bit of time.  Then researching and selecting books to order and add to the collection takes even more time.  For now, I am going through them as I use them and trying out books I'm considering adding.  I will also have to evaluate the extension activities in each and work on adding some new activities and making additional flannel stories to go with them.  And at the same time, trying to develop at least a couple of new kits before the end of the year.  So as you can imagine, this will be a slow and time-consuming process.  I could probably easily make a full-time position out of it with all the collection development that really needs to be done, but that isn't an option right now, so I will do the best I can.

I do really like doing the collection development, though, particularly starting new kits from scratch with themes that I choose.  I like the idea of having a little bit more of "me" in the collection and feeling more invested in the whole thing.  But the most important thing to remember in collection development is to meet the needs of the community you serve, not to use the collection as your personal repository.  The mission of the storytime bus is to promote early literacy skills by taking storytimes out to the community via area daycares.  In my opinion, the most important early literacy skill that all others build upon is the appreciation of books and reading.  If a child doesn't perceive reading as being enjoyable and useful, they won't get very far with the other literacy skills. 

So my goal in my collection development first and foremost is to make storytime fun and engaging, to give children as many positive associations with books and reading as possible.  If they learn any "concepts" such as letters, numbers, shapes, etc., along the way, that's just gravy.  I don't care if books are considered classics, are by well-known authors, or are award winners.  I just care if the kids will be engaged and will enjoy listening to them, so I often use books other people overlook, and I don't try to force books that don't really work just because they are by a beloved author.  The great thing about being a former children's page is that through shelving and shelf-reading I have literally handled every book in our collection, and I often find hidden gems that are great read-alouds that no one else seems to know about that make great additions to a storytime collection.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today At The Desk....

Yay, it's Thursday, and I get to work the service desk in the children's department.  I do like my outreach job, of course, but after doing the same theme for 30+ groups over the last two weeks, I was eager to do something different.  After spending the morning working on collection development and planning storytimes, I headed down to the children's department where I was able to meet the person they finally hired to fill my old page position I vacated 6 weeks ago. 

They initially had a hard time getting enough qualified applicants for the page position and ended up having to re-post it (I guess I'm just irreplaceable :), but now it's finally filled.  That makes her the "third generation" of children's pages that are in the building, including myself, and the woman who had the job before me and now works in technical services.  So I guess that says a lot for the department and the branch if people stick around for a while and get promoted.  I know I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked there, and am glad I have not completely left.  I also got to meet the new manager of youth services who also just started, after the previous one retired.

As usual for the 1 to 5 shift, it started out slow and gradually ended very busy.  Since the new page had worked that morning, there wasn't nearly as much cleaning up to do, just a couple of puzzles and books.  I filled a few empty face-outs and a display, and straightened up the DVD's.  Then I withdrew a cartful of juvenile fiction the children's librarian had weeded and changed the status of a stack of books from new to normal (hereafter known as "un-new'd").  Then I took advantage of the slow spell to work on a couple of felt board activities for storytime and look for some books for storytime.  And of course, during all this I helped patrons with routine matters such as checking out, account questions, locating materials, validating parking, etc., and walked the floor.   Multi-tasking is important in any job, but especially while working at the desk.  I try to always have a couple of projects with me to work on during slow times at the desk, as I like to stay busy and pride myself on being efficient and making good use of down-time.

One patron sticks in my mind, a young woman who was checking out DVD's, and I mean a LOT of DVD's!  Fifty, to be precise; 35 on her card and 15 on her 2-year old daughter's card!  While it's good for circulation stats and freed up 50 much-needed security cases, it still makes me a little sad to see patrons max out their cards on movies and never check out books, not even for their kids.  She mentioned how hard it was to keep her daughter occupied and how much her daughter liked watching certain movies over and over.  I wanted to suggest that she try checking out some books for her, and explain that kids really benefit from looking at books and being read to, and also like hearing the same books over and over, but I was afraid that it would come across as being judgemental  and perhaps wasn't my place.   I'm going to ask the children's librarians what, if anything, they feel would be appropriate to say in a situation like that.  Any thoughts, dear readers?

After that, I took advantage of all the cases she had freed up to case and then sort the cartful of DVD's waiting for cases so they could be shelved, and did the send list.  While pulling all the books to be transferred for requests, I discovered three books by one author that were missing.  One of them had NEVER even circulated, and had just been added to the collection a year ago, right after the last time the other two circulated.  So I'm guessing someone came in right after that and stole them all.  I will never understand why people steal from a library when they can check things out for free.  I. Just. Don't. Get. It.  I sure hope they at least read them and either gave or sold them to someone else so they get used somehow.  By the time I got all the requests pulled, checked in and sorted, it was time to hand-off to the next person.  I am always amazed how fast the shift goes by, especially when it's busy!

Then I was off to gather up all my stuff for the next Storytime Bus theme and load it into my van to take to the bus on Monday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Review of The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  January 8, 2015.  Dial Books, 320 pages.  Ages 9-12.  2016 Newbery Honor Book.

Ada lives in WWII London, though she has never been allowed outside her family's tiny apartment because her mother is ashamed and embarrassed by her clubbed foot, which makes it impossible for her to walk.  However, her younger brother Jamie is allowed to come and go as he pleases.  Ada's mother is abusive to them both, but targets Ada in particular and she is often slapped, hit, beaten, starved, or locked in a moldy, cockroach-infested cabinet.  Ada fantasizes about someday being able to walk and making her mother proud of her.

Then Jamie tells Ada that all the children are being evacuated to the country soon to be safe from the German bombs they expect to come any day.  This gives Ada the motivation to learn to walk, though she can only go short distances and it causes her great pain.  She and Jamie sneak out in the early hours of the morning and are taken to the country with the other children where they are eventually taken in by Miss Susan Smith, who seems none too pleased about it at first, but treats them well.

Ada is relieved to be away from her mother, and though she becomes physically much stronger with a much-improved diet and exposure to fresh air and sunshine, she is very troubled emotionally and has a hard time accepting any kindness or material things from Susan as she doesn't want to get too used to it and then lose it all when their mother finds them or they get sent away.  She becomes angry, but doesn't understand why, and often is overwhelmed and has meltdowns.  The one thing that soothes her is Butter, the pony belonging to Miss Smith's late friend.  She gains Butter's trust and eventually teaches herself to ride.

But even as the war progresses, her biggest fear is still getting too attached and having to go back to the horrible conditions she grew up in.  Will she ever be really safe?  Will she ever learn to love, and more importantly, to be loved?

My Thoughts
I loved this book!  It was a very moving and touching story of not just survival, but of surviving and then learning to thrive.  The characters are well-developed and you really feel like you know Ada and what she is going through; her voice is very real.  I admired Ada's devotion to her brother and her shear ability to survive a horrible childhood.  My heart ached at her sadness and anger, and struggling to figure out what love really was and whether it was real.  I wanted to subject her mother to the kind of abuse she heaped on Ada, for no other reason than being born.  It's heart-wrenching to think that there are many kids out there silently suffering the same kind of abuse in real life.  While parts of the book are sad and upsetting, it is overall an uplifting story.  My only disappointment was not seeing Ada's mother suffer some horrible and painful demise.

Although this is historical fiction as it's set during WWII, it really isn't about WWII so much as it is about a child overcoming incredible obstacles and surviving abuse.  Therefore, I wouldn't recommend it to readers as historical fiction, but for anyone who is interested in a moving, but ultimately uplifting story of someone surviving enormous hardships and challenges on a physical and/or emotional level, regardless of time frame or setting.  Other WWII-themed books are often listed as readalikes, but I think someone who is specifically looking for WWII fiction might be disappointed if given this, and someone who loved this book might find some of the WWII fiction too military in nature.

Note:  The War That Saved My Life was named a 2016 Newbery Honor Book. 

Other Newberry Award/Honor Books
Last Stop On Market Street, Echo, and Roller Girl.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Review of Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy, March 18, 2014.  Balzer + Bray, 341 pages. Teen.

Alice is a sophomore in college who finds out her mother is having an affair, her boyfriend cheated on her with her worst enemy, and she has leukemia all within a couple of weeks.

As she gets sicker and sicker, she faces her own mortality and decides to get revenge against her ex-boyfriend, Luke, and the girl he cheated with, in a very big and public way.  She enlists the help of Harvey, the son of her former ballet teacher and her mother's best friend.  She and Harvey had always been close, but drifted apart after starting high school.  However, after her diagnosis, Alice turned to him for comfort and support and they became close again.

Then, the unexpected happens;  Alice miraculously goes into remission, much to her chagrin.  She had expected to go out with a bang, but now she will have to face the consequences for what she did to Luke and Celeste, but as well as letting Harvey get too close. 

My Thoughts
This book is marketed as a read-alike for John Greene and Rainbow Rowell fans, and I suppose it is.  However, I had a very hard time getting into it and just did not enjoy it that much.  Part of the problem for me was the constantly changing timeline and point-of-view.  It kept changing back and forth between Alice and Harvey, the past and the present.  I don't care for that writing style to begin with, but if the book is good enough I can get past it. This one wasn't. The second thing was that I just didn't feel like the characters were well-developed enough; I never felt like I really got to know them or identified with them at all.  I did not find either Alice or Harvey to be very sympathetic, Alice too selfish and manipulative and Harvey too pathetic and spineless (though in the end when he finally grown a spine he acts like a jerk himself), and I find it difficult to like a book when I don't care for or identify with the main characters at all.  I also expected a little more humor, based on the blurb on the jacket and the cover art.

Not that it was a terrible book, it did make the point that you should ALWAYS consider there may be consequences to your actions, even if you are certain you won't have to face it.  Life can surprise you.  It also makes the point that it is not fair to use someone else's feelings for you to manipulate them, or to continually push someone away, yet not want them to move on and find someone else, either.  It is an okay book, and I'm sure some readers will like it more than I did, but just not a must-read.  I would suggest young fans of John Greene and Rainbow Rowell give it a try, and I'd like to know what they think.

Other Books By This Author
Side Affects May Vary is Julie Murphy's debut novel.  Her second novel, Dumplin', will be out in September of 2015.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Today At The Desk...

After three days of back-to-back storytimes at daycares, it was nice to be back in the children's department doing something different!  Don't get me wrong, I like doing storytime, but after doing 17 storytimes in 3 days I am ready for a change of pace.

Today I started off my shift like I usually do, picking up toys and stray books, filling displays, and straightening shelves.  I also sorted the shelving carts to help the page out, and pulled all the holds that needed to be sent to other branches.

There's a bit of a lull right now, as all the kids are back in school but they haven't gotten hit with a lot of homework or reading assignments yet.  I took advantage of a quiet spell to research cowboy-related picture books to develop a kit for the storytime bus.   We have a number of these themed kits, each containing at least 10 books and a few activities and songs related to the theme.  Because we visit up to 17 different classes each week, it's nice to have a variety of books to accommodate different ages/attention spans, allow the reader (myself and a volunteer helper) to chose books the fit our style, and so it doesn't get overly monotonous reading the same 2 or 3 books over and over.  Finding enough cowboy books, however, is proving to be a challenge.  It seems like most I find are just too long for the kids I see, but I managed to find a few and requested a few more from other branches to check out.

In addition to the routine questions, helping with checkouts, and placing holds, I had the opportunity to assist customers with some issues that I had not dealt with before.  One was pretty straightforward, just a customer returning a DVD after accidentally returning an empty case prior.  So I just had to find where my co-worker had put the empty case and return the disc to it, check it in, and then just double-check both the item record and the patron's record to be sure it was take off their account and there were no notes that needed to be removed. 

The second was a bit more involved.  A customer called because she had received a notice that she was being billed for a book that was returned damaged, yet she was certain it was in "pristine" condition when she returned it [at another branch].  I pulled up her account and saw that she had been charged the full replacement cost of the book, so I expected the book to have significant damage when I pulled it from the evidence shelf.  However, it only had stains on one page, and a few spots on the edges of others.  Otherwise, it was in good condition.  I was a little surprised she had been charged full replacement, but the book was practically brand new and had only been checked out twice before.  Since the damage was not extensive and it was possible it had happened either before the customer checked it out, or in the process of being routed back to our location, I decided it was in the best interest of good customer service to waive the charges, and my supervisor concurred, which made the customer very relieved.

I thought it was interesting that the patron was not angry, but seemed more horrified that we would think she returned a badly damaged book without saying anything.  I really suspect that her child that read the book probably spilled something on it and didn't tell her mother, but the damage was not obvious and I could see how the mom wouldn't notice.  But I told her it was certainly possible that it had been done by a previous patron and whoever checked it in didn't notice.  I explained that in the future if they did happen to notice any pre-existing damage in a book they check out, to be sure and let us know so we could note it, and then she would have to worry about getting charged for it.  So everybody was happy in the end, and we decided to put the book back in circulation because the staining was so minimal.

I am also happy to report that "Batman" was back to see us today, taking some time out of his day fighting crime to stop by and play with the blocks and check out a book or two.  It was also nice to see one of our semi-regular families; they split their time between our location and one of the branches.  When I first met them there were just two very young kids and the mom who had a small baby bump.  That baby bump is now a very energetic 15-month old, and her oldest is now in kindergarten!  I really enjoy getting to know young families and watching the kids as they grow, and see what books they like and how their interests change.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Review of What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi.  August 4, 2015. Sourcebooks Fire.  368 pages.  Teen - Young Adult.

Smart, popular, and athletically gifted Ryden Brooks is about to start his senior year of high school and dreams of a soccer scholarship to UCLA.  However, Ryden is not your typical high school student.  In his bedroom, along with his books and athletic gear, sits a crib.  The crib his infant daughter Hope sleeps in now that his girlfriend has died and left him a single, teen father.

On top of the stress of trying to figure out how to balance fatherhood and school, Ryden struggles with the guilt over Meg's death.  Meg had cancer, and if he hadn't gotten her pregnant she would have been able to continue with her chemo treatments and would still be alive today. Instead, she is gone and Hope is here and Ryden never even had the chance to grieve. 

While struggling with his guilt and figuring out to be father, Ryden becomes convinced that Meg somehow left behind a message in her journals, something that will give him some peace.  Instead, the secrets they hold turn his world upside down.  Will he ever be able to move on?

My Thoughts
This is a very moving story about a young man dealing with very adult responsibilities and decisions, while being overwhelmed with grief and guilt.  Be warned it is a bit of a tear-jerker, but in addition to feeling sad and empathizing with the main character's grief and guilt, I also found myself feeling a little frustrated with his denial about how his plans would have to change, now that he had a daughter.  I also felt angry at Meg's parents for being so cold and refusing to even acknowledge their granddaughter's existence, much less help with her care, and angry at Meg for her selfishness. 

I like how this book is not your typical teen parent story, in that it is told from the father's point of view, and in this case it is the mother that is gone.  I also like that while Ryden had a good relationship with his mother, who knows first-hand the challenges of being a single, teen parent, and she helps and supports him, she doesn't raise the baby for him, but instead gently forces him to face up to his responsibilities and realize that he will have to make a new life that will be different from what he had planned.  Along the same vein, Meg's best friend Alan and his mom are willing to jump in and help out during a crisis, but then make it clear to Ryden that Hope is his responsibility and he cannot take advantage of Alan's friendship with Meg.

I would recommend What You Left Behind to readers who like deeply moving, realistic fiction that feature protagonists dealing with very serious issues and strong emotions and are not put-off by tear-jerkers, and readers who have a particular interest in stories dealing with teen pregnancy or teens dealing with loss, grief, and guilt.  The First Part Last by Angela Johnson also has a similar story of a teen father left to raise his daughter alone after his girlfriend has complications and ends up in an irreversible coma. 

Other Books by This Author
The Summer I Wasn't Me is about a teenage girl who is sent to a summer camp that is supposed to help her learn to suppress her same-sex attraction after her recently widowed mother learns she is gay.  My Life After Now shows how one moment of bad judgment, one bad decision, can have tremendous life-altering consequences.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another Day At The Desk...

School started back this week in our area, so it was a pretty quiet day, though we did have a few people trickle in and out with younger kids before school let out, then some with older kids came in afterward.  I was a little disappointed Batman didn't pay us a visit today :)

So today was a good day to get some housekeeping done.  After I cleaned up the few puzzles and blocks that were in the floor, I straightened the shelves and filled displays.  Next I withdrew a cartful of picture books the children's librarian had weeded.  I always feel bad for some of them; there are *SO* many picture books published every year and there are always some good ones that just get overlooked and end up getting weeded eventually because they just don't circulate.  I came across one in this batch called Zoom! by Diane Adams, who is apparently a not so well-known author that writes primarily Christian romance.  Zoom! is a cute picture book about a little boy and his father going to ride a roller coaster.  The story is cute, as in the beginning the little boy is scared, but by the end it's the father who decides to sit it out while the boy gets back in line for another ride.  The text is short and has lots of action and expressive, descriptive words and I could immediately see it being a fun read-aloud.  So I decided to rescue it and give it a second life in the outreach collection for the storytime bus :)

My next bit of housekeeping was the missing list, which is as the name implies, a list of all the books in our collection that have been marked missing.  My job was to make one more effort to physically locate these items on the shelf, as sometimes they have turned up in the meantime.  This happens because sometimes patrons accidentally take books without getting them checked out, they've been miss-shelved, someone just didn't look hard enough, or the item may have been a little slow at getting back to us after being returned at another branch.  But the majority have been lost or stolen, so checking the missing list can sometimes be a little depressing, especially the DVD's.  We check-in the ones that turn up, and withdraw the ones that still remain missing after several attempts to locate.  But, I like a challenge, and pride myself in finding things others couldn't.  I think I look a little harder, and I'm pretty good at guessing where something might have been miss-shelved.  I found about a dozen items in the Easy and Juvenile collections, and then was pleasantly surprised to find several items in the Teen section as well, even some graphic novels and manga! 

I still had a few patrons who had questions or needed assistance with check-out as well, and I was also able to run the "send list" - the report listing items patrons have requested from our collection that need to be sent to other branches - and located all those items and checked them all in and had them tagged, sorted and ready to go to their respective destinations, plus issued myself a program card. So even though it was quiet, it was a very productive afternoon after all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Review Of How To Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby

How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny RorbyMay 26, 2015.  Scholastic Press.  272 pages, Ages 8-12.

Life is not easy for Lily, or the rest of her family for that matter.  Her mother was tragically killed by a drunk driver 2 years earlier, leaving a then 10-year old Lily left to shoulder much of the responsibility of caring for her severely autistic brother, Adam, along with her stepfather, Don.

Now twelve, Lily is more mother than sister to Adam, and though she loves her brother, she longs to have a normal twelve-year old life, complete with friends, boyfriends, and free time for herself.  She is frustrated with Don's refusal to get Adam appropriate help, and they are both still grieving for her mother.

Then Don, an oncologist, is asked to consult on a case involving a young dolphin named Nori at the local aquarium.  Knowing how much Adam loves dolphins, Don brings Adam, Lily, and Lily's new friend, Zoe, along.  Nori and Adam bond instantly, which leads Don to believe the answer to "curing" Adam is dolphin therapy.  Believing Nori to be his last hope for Adam, Don will not proclaim Nori "cured", only in "remission", which allows the aquarium to keep her indefinitely.

At Zoe's prompting, Lily comes to believe it is very wrong and selfish to keep Nori captive, even if for such a noble purpose as helping her brother and other disabled children.  She and Zoe work to convince Don to release her before it's too late.  But will he listen, or will Nori stay in captivity for the rest of her life?  What will happen to Adam without her?

My Thoughts
This is a very moving story that portrays the challenges families with autistic children face, as well as the confusion about all the various therapies that are offered to supposedly treat them.  I found Lily and Adam's relationship to be very touching, and how she understood him and what he needed better than his own father.  Adam's relationship with the young dolphin, Nori, was also very special and sweet, and it is understandable how people can believe animal therapy could be helpful.

This book also brings up the issue of the ethical treatment of animals, whether we have the right to place our needs above theirs, and how both animals and desperate people could be exploited for profit on unproven "therapies" that may or may not be more than simply a fun activity versus a real, unique and effective therapy. 

I personally experienced many feeling while reading this book.  I found myself feeling very angry at the stepfather's pig-headed, arrogant refusal to put Adam in programs designed to help autistic kids, and his unfairly dumping so much responsibility on his 12-year old step daughter.  The relationship between Adam and Nori was very moving, and the plight of animals in captivity was thought provoking.  I enjoyed this book very much, even if it was slightly heavy-handed with the message.

Obvious read-a-likes would be Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, which is also about an autistic child, though high-functioning and told from her perspective, Wonder by R. J. Palacio about a boy with a severe physical birth defect which is told from multiple points of view, and Out Of My Mind by Sharon Draper which also portrays the frustrations of a character who has difficulties communicating.  I would recommend this to anyone looking for a realistic, moving, thought-provoking story and/or anyone with particular interests in children/families dealing with autism or other challenges, or the ethical treatment of animals.

Other Books By This Author
Dolphin Sky also features the treatment of dolphins, and a character with a disability (dyslexia).  The Outside of a Horse considers the treatment of horses, and returning soldiers with PTSD.  Lost In The River of Grass is a tale about survival in the Everglades.  Hurt Go Happy features a deaf girl and a research chimpanzee who teaches her to sign after her parents won't allow her to learn sign language.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Today At The Desk......

Thursday is my favorite day of the work week!  It's when I get to go back to the Children's Department [I am now working in Outreach most of the time] and work at the service desk.  I worked here for over 2 years as a page, and while my back doesn't miss all the shelving, I do miss being in and around the collection all the time, talking with my co-workers, and above all, interacting with the patrons and really being able to connect with them.  So Thursday's are like going home for me. 

I love that when you work in the children's department you really are working with all ages.  You have toddlers, preschoolers, older kids, and teens.  You also get to work with adults, too.  There are families that come in together, nannies, parents and grandparents who come in looking for books for their kids and grandkids, college students taking kid lit classes, and special needs adults or adults who never developed good literacy skills looking for books for themselves.  I love the variety and all the different types of reader's advisory and customer service that I get to do in the children's department!

Today was a pretty typical day.  I took advantage of the less busy times to clean up, fill displays, straighten shelves, pull items for transfer to other branches, and sort the shelving carts for the page.  When it got busier I had the usual helping patrons check things out, find materials, and place holds, issuing passes for the computers, reminding young kids to stop running and monitoring teens' noise level and language.  I had the privilege of issuing a young lady her first library card, which is an exciting milestone for most kids.  She was very cute and precocious and told me all about how much she loves to read, read, read while I was putting her information into the computer.  Then I had two of our summer reading prize drawing winners come in to claim their prizes, which they were very excited about.  I was impressed when one of the moms told me that her kids had both participated and agreed that if either of them won, they would split the prize ($25 gift card).

But the highlight of my day was when Batman and Robin stopped by!  Last week Batman was in full costume and Robin was wearing his mask, but today they were incognito as 3 year-old Clay and his father.  I was so impressed last week that his father not only let his son wear his Batman costume, but that he was willing to wear the Robin mask in public, even answering to the name Robin.  Today I chatted with them a bit as I was cleaning up the play area.  I found someone had dumped all the pegs from the pegboard into the drawer under the train table and started pulling them all out; when the boy realized what I was doing he started helping me, all on his own. 

I decided such behavior definitely needed some positive reinforcement, and I went to see if we had any Batman stickers.  I didn't find stickers, but I did find what looked something like trading cards that must have come from book, and there was a Batman one!  I told Clay, aka "Batman", that I really appreciated him being such a good helper and gave it to him, and you should have seen his face light up and the expression of awe!  I love these moments.....

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review of Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne, June 2, 2015.  Feiwel & Friends, 288 pages.  Young Adult

Laurel has been invited to join her friend Vivika on an all-expense paid luxury cruise.  And not just any luxury cruise, but a celebrity-filled "Cruise To Lose" to launch Solu, the breakthrough new artificial sweetener that enhances weight loss.  But Laurel is starting to regret accepting Viv's invitation.  Unlike her friend, Laurel is content with her curves, and she feels out of place among the B-list celebs and wealthy people that make up most of the passengers.  Then, to make matters worse, she gets seasick and throws up on the feet of the hottest guy around, former child actor Tom Forelli.

Tom Forelli is no longer the cute, chubby child actor known for his role as "Baby Tom-Tom."  Thanks to working with his personal trainer and focusing on eating healthy food, he is now a nineteen-year old heartthrob, but still waiting to be taken seriously as an actor.  In the meantime, he has been booked as the celebrity host for the Solu "Cruise To Lose".  Having been burned by a recent relationship with another celebrity, he is not interested in the shipboard "romance" his publicist has arranged, and instead finds himself drawn to a shy, curvy, non-celebrity passenger.

As Tom and Laurel get to know each other, they begin to notice that Viv and the other passengers who have been using Solu are starting to act strange, which reinforces their decisions not to try it.  Soon they realize just how addictive Solu is, and the lengths their fellow passengers will go to in order to get it, and they must get to safety and get the word out before it is released on the open market.  Can they convince Viv and Tom's publicist Tamara to join them?

My Thoughts
Sweet is a frightening thriller because it seems so plausible.  I'm sure many people would be tempted to go on such a cruise to try some type of miracle drug, and it would be truly bad if things went wrong while people were trapped together in close quarters.  This story served to further reinforce my lack of interest in ever going on a cruise.  It also provides commentary on society's pressure to be thin versus accepting yourself and focusing on being healthy, as well as the dangers of the lack of regulation and testing of supplements.

I would recommend Sweet to readers who enjoy thrillers and mild horror, and I think it would also appeal to the zombie crowd as there are similar elements of people being changed into monsters, either figuratively or literally.  It might also appeal to those who are into conspiracies, whether corporate or government.

Other Books By This Author
The Monument 14 series, about a group of 14 kids surviving apocalyptic events, and Expelled, a short e-novella that is the prequel to Sweet and details the original development of Solu.

It is also interesting to note that Emmy Laybourne is a former character actor, probably best known for her role as Mary-Katherine Gallagher's friend Helen in the film, Superstar.