Monday, February 24, 2020

Ready for a Yeti? - Family Storytime

Yeti storytime, abominable snowman storytime

Last year I decided to give a slight twist to my "Snowman" storytime by having one story about the abominable snowman, or yeti, in addition to stories about traditional snowman. I realized that several cute picture books about yeti have come out in the last few years, and with Disney's release of the movie Abominable last year, I thought a "Yeti" storytime would be fun.

I started with greeting everyone and passing out program sheets with all the songs, and then we waved "hello" to each other and sang "Hello, My Friends, Hello", then warmed up with "Hello, Everybody". After that I introduced our topic and talked about what Yeti are, where they are from, and how they are also called "abominable snowmen". We sang this little song I found on You Tube, with some modification:

Who's the most famous monster
that history knows?
Who's tall, white, and furry
with big, stompy toes?

What's the scariest thing
that you ever did see?
It's the abominable beastie 
we call the Yeti!

Then we led into our first story with a quick verse of our "Story Song":

If you're ready for a story, find a seat.
If you're ready for a story, find a seat.
Check your hands, and then your feet,
If you're ready find a seat.
If you're ready for a story, find a seat.

Yeti storytime, abominable snowman storytime
Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen is a sweet story about friendship. Poor Yeti is sad and lonely because all the other animals are afraid of him, so he has no friends. Then one day a lost bird comes crashing into his life, literally. But unlike everyone else, Bird is not afraid of the Yeti, and they become great friends. Until winter comes and Bird must find her way to a warmer location. Yeti is sad, until he finds he has several new friends.

A very charming story about an unlikely friendship that teaches not to judge by appearances with rich illustrations that are neither stark nor too busy.

Yeti storytime, abominable storytimeThe kids were eager for the next story, so I went right to it: The Thing About Yetis by Vin Vogel. This story features a cute young Yeti and shows all the things he loves about winter: hot chocolate with marshmallows, sliding down hills, ice skating, building snow castles (then pretending to be Godzilla and knocking them down)...All of which he does accompanied by his favorite stuffie. But, the thing about Yetis is, even they can get tired of the cold and enjoy warm-weather fun as well. Kids will find this relate-able, sometimes funny (like when the Yeti's fur goes "poof" after getting wet), and the digital artwork charming.

Following this I asked them if Yeti's were real. Some said yes, some said no, some weren't sure. I explained that no one knew for sure. Some people believed they were real, and some said they had seen one, but no one had been able to prove it yet and that's why people kept hunting for them to try and get a clear photo or video. I told them now we were to pretend to go exploring and hunting for Yeti.

I simply adapted the traditional call-and-response chant, "Going On A Bear Hunt", by substituting Yeti and appropriate snow-covered, frozen topography.

Going On A Yeti Hunt

We're going on a Yeti hunt.
Gonna find a big one. 
With great big feet,
And long white fur.

Look, it's a great, big snowfield!
Can't go around it,
Can't go under it,
Have to ski across it!
(pretend to ski)
Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh!

[Repeat beginning verse]

Look, it's a wide, frozen river!
Can't swim across it,
Can't go around it,
Have to skate across it!
(pretend to skate)
Glide, glide, glide!

[Repeat beginning verse]

Look, it's a great big mountain!
Can't go around it,
Can't go through it,
Have to climb up it!
(pretend to climb)
Climb, climb, climb!

[Repeat beginning verse]

Look, it's a deep, dark cave!
Just like where the Yeti lives.
Let's go in it!
(pretend to walk carefully)
Step, step, step.

Whoops, what is that?
I feel two great big feet!
And long, shaggy, fur!

[Say the rest quickly, without pausing for response while acting out the motions]

It's the Yeti! Run!  Run, run, run
Climb down the mountain!   Climb, climb, climb
Skate back across the river!  Glide, glide, glide
Ski across the snowfield!  Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh
Go back in the house, and shut the door!  Slam, lock

Ah, safe at last!

This was so much fun! I did have a third story picked out, Dear Yeti by James Kwan, but I decided since the other two were slightly longer than I realized, and people were starting to drift off, to skip it and go right to the final activity.


I told the kids that now we were going to go on a "real" Yeti hunt! We have a bunch of these little stuffed Yeti with velcro hands that a previous children's librarian had purchased (from Oriental Trading, but sadly no longer available), so before the library opened I hid them around the children's department. I told the kids that there were eight Yeti hiding, and they set off to find them.

Right before storytime started, I stuck one of the Yeti on my back, and I was sure they would spot it during storytime, but they never did. I was certain it would be the first one they found, but even though I kept walking around, they were so focused on looking in the shelves they never looked up, so it ended up being the last one they found. They all had a good time, and I think everyone that hung around and participated was able to find one.

How It Went 

Overall, it went very well. I started out with a big crowd, but as I've just come to accept is typical for the weekend storytime, many drifted off during the course of the storytime, but there were still a decent number that stayed until the very end, and they enjoyed the stories, and both the "Yeti Hunt" chant, and the Yeti hunt activity.

Most of the time people seem to big a big hurry to leave and are uninterested in the after-storytime activity, particularly crafts. Ironically, the time I didn't plan a craft and cut storytime a little short, someone actually asked if we were having any other activities. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cuddle Babies - Lapsit Storytime

I had the opportunity to do a baby lapsit storytime for the first time yesterday, and I loved it! My boss had to be in training all day, and though another coworker could have covered it, she graciously let me have the opportunity since I've never done one before, while another coworker agreed to cover my night shift so I could work the morning and not have to do a split.

This storytime is called "Cuddle Babies" in our system, and is a lapsit program for babies birth to 18 months. It is mostly songs and rhymes that are a combination of gentle tickles, bounces, and body-awareness, with one story and playtime at the end. My boss uses the same songs and rhymes each week for a month, then changes them, so all the songs/rhymes I used had already been chosen by her, but I selected the book and music for playtime.

I gave everyone a sheet with the words to all the songs/rhymes, then welcomed everyone and introduced myself, then we said hello to each other by singing the "Hello" song. Next, I passed out scarves to everyone and we did a tickle, which works on body awareness and proprioception:

Baby's Game

Touch your ears, and pat your nose.
Now tickle baby's little toes!
Hide your eyes,
Where are you?
Baby's playing peek-a-boo!

I mentioned how they might notice the younger babies are genuinely surprised to see you reappear after hiding your face because they haven't yet developed the concept that things exist even when you don't see them, and that they might notice when babies are little, they can take toys away and the baby won't care, but as they get older and develop object permanence, they will fuss when you take something away.

Next was a chant accompanied by gently bouncing baby in rhythm, rocking side to side, and a couple of cuddles:

I Love You

One, I love you; two, I love you, three, I love you so!
Four, I love you; five I love you, rock you to and fro.
Six, I love you; seven, I love you, eight, you love me, too.
Nine, I love you; ten, I love you, bouncing buckaroo!

The following chant could be a gentle bounce, or clapping hands together or on knees, with movements lifting baby up and down, and side to side, with a big hug at the end.

Gregory Griggs

Gregory Griggs, Gregory Griggs, 
Had 27 different wigs!
He wore them up, (lift baby up)
He wore them down, (bring baby down)
To please the people of the town.

He wore them east, (lean baby to the right)
He wore them west. (lean baby to the left)
Can you guess the one he liked the best?
THIS ONE! (put scarf on baby's head & hug)

The next one was a nice soft lullaby with some gentle movements.

The Moon
(to the tune of "Hush Little Baby")

I see the moon, and the moon sees me,
Down through the leaves of the old oak tree.
Please let the light that shines on me,
Shine on the ones I love.

Over the mountain, over the sea.
Back where my heart is longing to be.
Please let the light that shines on me,
Shine on the ones I love.

And finally another body awareness song that ends with them quiet and ready for a story:

I Can...
(to the tune of "The Wheels On The Bus")

I can make my hands go clap, clap, clap;
Clap, clap, clap;
Clap, clap, clap.
I can make my hands go clap, clap, clap;
They're a part of me!

I can make my feet go stomp...
I can make my mouth go "Sh"....

We segued to the story with a quick lead-in song:

If You're Ready for a Story...

If you're ready for a story, find a seat.
If you're ready for a story, find a seat.
Check your hands,and then your feet.
If you're ready find a seat.
If you're ready for a story, find a seat!

I looked through several books from some of my go-to authors for babies and toddlers, like Karen Katz, Mary Murphy, Nancy Tafuri, Bill Martin, Jr., and finally settled on Hello Baby! by Mem Fox  and Steve Jenkins. 

This book proved to be perfect with its simple papercraft illustrations that showed each animal on a plain white background and it's very short, simple text. We named each animal and after reading the text, I prompted the audience to either make the animal's sound, or imitate its movement. Making animal sounds is a great way for babies to play with the different sounds of language and figure out how they go together.

After that, it was time for the bubble song and popping bubbles!

Ten Little Bubbles

One little, two little, three little bubbles;
Four little, five little, six little bubbles.
Seven little, eight little, nine little bubbles,
Ten little bubbles go POP!

Pop, pop, pop, go all the bubbles.
Pop, pop, pop, go all the bubbles.
Pop, pop, pop, go all the bubbles.
Ten little bubbles go POP!

I turned on a Raffi CD and blew bubbles in all directions for a minute or two, then put out various balls and sensory toys for the kids to play with.

How It Went

It went really well, and I loved it! While I'm sure I wasn't quite as good as Miss Katie, I think everyone enjoyed it. I was a little distracted by being slightly worried about how my voice would hold out as I was getting over a cold, so I did forget to go over expectations at the beginning, and I had meant to tell everyone to give themselves a pat on the back for managing to get up and get everybody ready, out of the house, and somewhere on time.

It was SO much different from the weekend family storytime! Besides that it was all babies, people started filling in and sitting down on their own when it was about time to start, and were all sitting there ready to go. I didn't have to twist any arms or beg anyone to come, and they all stayed until the end, no mass exodus halfway through. Such a difference when you have a regular crowd that knows the routine and comes to the library specifically for storytime. I would do this one every week if I could!

I'm a little more comfortable dropping in the little literacy and developmental tips with parent of kids this young, and it was great to get a chance to do an actual baby lapsit program. [I've done one that was advertised as a "Baby Jam" for the same age range (0-18 months), but it ended up being more of a toddler storytime, with most of the kids being closer to 24 months and very mobile, and the parents really didn't interact with their child during the songs and rhymes as intended, and just let them mill about.]

Two little girls were so cute towards the end, they just decided that it was over and time to start picking up toys without any prompting. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Child Development Knowledge Survey

Children's librarians: 

  • Are you a children's librarian working in a public library in the United States?
  • Have you been a children's librarian for fewer than five (5) years?
  • Did you complete an MLS degree (or equivalent) within the last five (5) years?

If you answered "yes" to all three of these questions, then please follow the link below to take a short, anonymous survey regarding child development knowledge, and please feel free to share the link with anyone you know that fits the criteria above! Thank you!
Standard Recruiting statement:
"I am an LIS student working on a research project as part of my Capstone course at
Valdosta State University. If you are a children’s librarian with an MLIS or equivalent
completed in the last 5 years AND working in a U.S. public library for less than 5 years,
please follow the link below to take a brief voluntary, anonymous survey regarding child development knowledge. Thank you for your participation!"

*Survey is now closed; results have been analyzed and have been published in the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Vol. 63, Issue 1, in January, 2022.

Related posts:  "Research Publication"     "And The Survey Says..."

Monday, February 17, 2020

Library Lovers Month - Passive Program

Library Lovers Month, I Love My Library Month

February is Library Lovers Month, which I celebrated with this surprisingly popular passive program (or shameless ploy to solicit compliments, you decide 😉).

I had a great idea for a passive program, inspired by a couple of things. One day some time ago, one of our young regulars handed me several pieces of scrap paper covered with lines of cursive-like scribbles which his mother translated for me as saying "I love the library" and "I love the librarian", which I of course saved with all my other treasures kids have given me:

Then, some time later, someone had put out a box of stuff at work they wanted to get rid of, and one of the items in it was a small cardboard mailbox covered with hearts like kids use for Valentine's day, and that got me to thinking about how great it would be to set up a station for kids to write love letters to the library telling us what they love about it in February. 

I remembered we had a toy mailbox tucked away, so I got it out and added a few stickers to jazz it up and look more Valentine-y. Then I made some stationary and set it all out on a table with some pencils, a few crayons, and a sign inviting them to write or draw to tell us what they love about the library.

Library love letters, love notes to the library

The response was overwhelming! Our young patrons REALLY love the library, and REALLY wanted to tell us why! I set it up on Saturday afternoon, and by the end of Sunday afternoon there were already just shy of 50 responses. In fact, they wanted to tell us why they loved the library so much, that when the stationary temporarily ran out, they got creative in finding their own paper, using receipts, coloring pages, and scrap paper.

I was amazed at the response, and how excited some of the kids were to do it. I think the mailbox really helped sell it, as we've never had such a large response to any similar activities before. I had originally just planned on putting them up in the department, but there were so many our floor manager suggested I put them up on the humongous 20" corkboard they just had installed in the main library. So I started with this:

Then after a week it looked like this:

Lots of library love!

And I still had quite a few left over that I didn't have room for. I had originally intended to leave it up for at least a couple of weeks, but ended up stopping after 8 days and 200+ responses, because I figured at that point we were getting a lot of multiple responses from the same kids and wasting paper.

I loved emptying the mailbox and reading the notes each day to see what they had to say. Some notes were written by the children themselves, some were written by the parents, some chose to draw a picture, and some just scribbled. 

Of course many of them mentioned all the books, some even mentioning specific types, titles, or series, and the fact they could chose their own; but some of the other things they loved were the trains, dramatic play area, and other toys; computers, coloring sheets, dry erase tables, scavenger hunts, storytime, playing with friends, making new friends, reading with mom/dad, programs, games, stickers, being able to place holds, being able to check out more than 2 books (one was very indignant that even as a 5th grader, their school library only lets them check out 2 books), and movies. 

But what I loved seeing the most was how many mentioned the friendly, nice, and helpful people that work at the library and help them find things. The two full-time children's librarians even got mentioned by name, but I claim credit for the one that mentioned "experiments" since I do most of the STEM programs.

Here are some particular quotes that stood out:
" [I love to] do the find at the library" (referring to the scavenger hunts)
"If we didn't have books we wouldn't know anything."
"The librarians are all really nice, and it just rocks in general."
"I remember playing [here] at like 5 [years old]!" (said by 10 year old, as though that was such a long time ago)
"I have [been] goen [sic] to the library my entier [sic] life!" 
Of course when you do something like this you always run the risk of someone being a jerk and saying something nasty, and we did get a couple of those, but considering it was only 3 out of 200+, I think that was pretty good.

Of course I can't close without saying some of the things I love about my library. I have to say I truly enjoy being at work most of the time. We have a wonderfully diverse community with a strong reading culture that is very supportive and appreciative and I love building relationships with our patrons, I have great coworkers and we all get along well and complement each other, I am able to do a little bit of everything and put all my varied interests and experiences to use, and I'm proud of the large and diverse collection we have and all the programs and services we offer.

I ðŸ’—My Library!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentine's Day Science - STEAM Program

Valentine's Day Science, Valentine's Day STEM activities for kids, mini Cupid's bow, conversation heart chemistry, valentine building challenge

What is "Valentine's Day Science"? Well, it's what you put on the calendar when you still have no idea what you want to do for your February program by the deadline, and then you figure it out later! 😂 In this case, it was several activities that were tweaked to tie them in with Valentine's Day, but could easily be adapted to do anytime.

Ages: 5-10
Time: 1 hour
Number: 20 (I ended up with just 15)
Budget:  $40, but can be done for less 

  • 1 bag conversation heart candies
  • 20 bags "Ju-Ju" gummy heart candies (10 would have been enough)
  • cold water
  • hot water
  • vinegar
  • 2 2-L bottles of clear soda
  • 80 test tubes or 4-5 oz plastic Dixie cups or plastic shot glasses
  • 20 8 oz clear plastic cups
  • 10 boxes of flat toothpicks
  • 20 small craft sticks with notches cut at each end
  • 20 rubber bands
  • 40 cotton swabs
  • Something to use as a target 

Activity #1 - Mini Cupid's Bow & Arrows

Prep - I used a box cutter to very carefully cut notches at each end of the craft sticks in advance, and put them in hot water to soak an hour before the program to make them more flexible, them removed and quickly blotted dry before passing out.

1. I gave each participant a craft stick that had already been notched and soaked in hot water to soften, a rubber band, two cotton swabs, and a pair of scissors, then instructed them to make a single cut in the rubber band, and to cut or break off one end of each cotton swab.

2. Next, they were instructed to VERY carefully bend the craft stick slightly. They need to do this slowly and gently, and of course there were some who ignored that instruction and bent them too hard and broke them, so be sure to have extras on hand.

3. After that, they tied the rubber band onto one end of the craft stick, then pulled it tightly and tied to the other end and cut off the excess. Many had trouble tying it off at the second end and getting it tight enough. It needs to be really tight! Then rotate the knots around until the rubber band is at one side of the craft stick, rather than the middle.

4. Let dry.

mini bow and arrow, mini cupid's bow

5. Line your arrow up, pull the arrow back with the bowstring, and try to shoot it through the heart target! (This proved to be more challenging that the catapults we made back in the fall, but one boy did manage to get an arrow through the heart.)

Activity #2 - Conversation Heart Chemistry

1. Each participant was given a set of solutions in small cups: cold water, hot water, vinegar, and clear soda; plus a cup with 10-12 conversation hearts. They were instructed to add one heart to each cup to see which would dissolve the fastest.

conversation heart chemistry

2. As they were doing this, they were encouraged to make predictions, and explain why.

3. While we waited for the hearts to start dissolving, each child was given a larger cup of clear soda and told to add the remaining conversation hearts to it and watch them dance! We observed how they will first drop to the bottom, then float up to the top, then drop down again, and back up. I asked them to explain what they were observing, and most knew it had to do with the carbonation in the soda and the bubbles, but couldn't identify the gas in the bubbles as CO2 .

conversation heart chemistry

4. We made a final observation of our dissolution comparison, and all agreed that the hot water dissolved the most/fastest, then quickly cleaned up to allow plenty of room for our last activity.

Activity #3 - Building Challenge

1. Each participant was given 1 bag of Ju-Ju hearts and 1 box of flat toothpicks [I realized later that was way too many toothpicks, and more candy than most ended up using, so a lot was wasted. I would suggest 1 bag for every two kids, with a couple extra for those who need more, and 1 box of toothpicks for every 3-4 kids is more than enough.] 

These particular candies worked really well as they do not have sugar crystals on the surface to make a big mess and do not get sticky when handling like jelly hearts do. I like using the flat toothpicks because they tend to "grip" better and not allow as much movement as the round toothpicks, plus they are cheaper.

candy heart and toothpick building challenge, Valentine's Building challenge

2. They were shown a few pictures of examples, and reminded that they needed to be sure that they had a stable, strong base before they tried to build up, and encouraged to use their imaginations and build whatever they wanted, and they could work together if they chose.

How It Went
So, what do you do when you get sick and lose your voice on the day of a program? Besides panic? First you type up step-by-step instructions with pictures to pass out, and you gratefully accept when a coworker kindly offers to be your voice!

I'd had a cold that caused me to lose my voice and cough excessively at night so that I'd not had any sleep for several days, so doing this program proved to be quite a challenge, and I was so thankful my coworkers were quick to offer to arrange desk coverage so one of them could be my voice to give instructions. I could talk quietly one-on-one, but not to a whole crowd.

Overall, it went pretty well. The mini-bow and arrow proved to be more difficult for them, and much more challenging to hit a target than the mini catapults we made in November. I was a little disappointed that no one really tried to make a really large, tall structure with the building challenge, most were content to make one or more small structures, and one little boy did something I hadn't thought about, and made letters to spell out his name, which would be a great literacy activity to do.

Candy Heart & toothpick literacy activity, valentine's day literacy activity

Just as I did when we used candy pumpkins for our catapults, I instructed them not to eat any of the candy we were using in our activities, but told them I had candy set aside for eating that they could have at the end if it was okay with their grownup. 

What I Would Do Differently
The main thing I would do differently is buy less candy and toothpicks. Most of the kids only used about half of their candy hearts and a tiny fraction of the toothpicks. One half of a bag each would have been enough for almost everybody. 

And since the mini bow and arrow seemed too challenging and frustrating for many of them, I'd probably skip that, and spend more time on the building challenge, adding some directed building, like can you build a cube, can you build a pyramid, can you make a heart, can you make your name, then letting them free-build. I think I'm still trying to cram too much into each program, and I need to cut back a little and spend more time on each activity.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Youth Media Awards 2020

2020 Youth Media Awards, 2020 YMAs

Time for my annual reflection on the Youth Media Awards! Every year I am surprised by the winners, and find that no matter how much I try to read and pay attention to what people are talking about, I am unfamiliar with many of them. I tried to make predictions one year, but found it was an exercise in futility; it is just too subjective and the committees and I are rarely on the same wavelength. So I am happy if I have at least read some of the winners and honor books, or at least had them on my radar.

I really didn't expect to fare very well this time around, since I took two literature classes in 2019 and spent most of my time reading assigned books and had less time to read new books, but I was pleasantly surprised! I had already read New Kid by Jerry Craft, which won both the Newbery and the Coretta Scott King author awards. That's the second year in a row I had actually already read the Newbery winner. I had also read Morris Winner Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe, American Indian Youth Literature Award middle-grade winner Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis, and Asian/Pacific American Award YA winner, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, and remembered seeing several of the picture books that won honors: Fry Bread, Sulwe, My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Bilal Cooks Daal, The Book Hog, and When Aidan Became a Brother. Though I hadn't had a chance to read it yet, Jason Reynolds' Look Both Ways was on my mental "to-read" list.

I had a pretty good feeling that New Kid would would be somewhere in the mix, and I thought Indian No More would likely be honored by the American Indian Youth Literature award, but I was very pleasantly surprised when Field Guide to the North American Teenager was announced as a Morris finalist. I read it when we first got it at the library, and loved Norris' snark and sarcasm, and told my supervisor she had to read it, as she is fluent in sarcasm as well. I was certainly not surprised to see Jason Reynolds win more honors, but I was a bit surprised that out of all the middle-grade LGTBQ+ books I read, none were honored. I really thought Zenobia July might be one of the Stonewall honor books.

But there were still plenty of winners and honor books that I had not read or even heard of, so I was placing holds as fast as the awards were announced, and now my "to read" pile is huge! I've made a small dent in it, but have a ways to go. I try to read all the winners, and as many of the honor books as I can. To be honest, I don't put a lot of stock in the awards, but I know others do and many will appear on summer reading lists, so I want to be familiar with them. 

Personally, I think the awards are too subjective to be meaningful because lots of great books don't even get considered and committees often tend to choose books that adults think kids should read, rather than books that actually appeal to kids. I've seen many an award winner or honor book languish on the shelves, virtually untouched once all the teachers and librarians have finished looking at them following the awards. I care more about books that kids will want to read.

I have found that I generally like the Coretta Scott King, Pura Bel Pre, and Stonewall winners and honor books more than the Caldecott or Newbery. Also, I have found that winning multiple honors is more of a true indication that a book is one of the best books published that year, and those get my attention first. Then I look at the Caldecott winner and honor books, the Newbery winner, and the Printz winner. From there, I read as many of the other medal winners as I can, then go back and read the Newbery, Printz, CSK, and Morris honors, then as many of the remaining honor books as I can. It usually takes me about 3-6 months to get thru it all!  

So here are the ones that stand out because of winning multiple honors, and what I think of them:

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander & Kadir Nelson

Caldecott medal winner
Coretta Scott King Illustrator medal winner
Newbery honor book

With such an amazingly talented creative team as this, how could this book not win multiple honors recognizing both the illustration and the written words? This is such a moving book, showing the triumphs, struggles, and achievements of African Americans throughout history with Kadir Nelson's amazing photo-realistic illustrations and Kwame Alexander's poetry. The blank page depicting those that did not survive is very impactful, and I love all the endnotes that identify the people depicted and tell a little more about the events surrounding them. I can definitely see why it was selected for all the honors it received without question.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Newbery medal winner
Coretta Scott King Author medal winner

I read this book right after it came out and loved it! It's about an African-American boy trying to fit in at a new school full of mostly privileged kids, make friends, and dealing with racism and classism. A really good book, and significant because it is the first graphic novel to win the Newbery award, and one of few books by POC to win.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent medal winner
Newbery honor
Morris Debut YA Author honor

Very impressive honors for a debut author! This book was so good, but also so heartbreaking as we watch Genesis deal with having to move constantly, always on the verge of homelessness because of her father's alcoholism and gambling, plus her own self-loathing because of her dark skin and nappy hair (her words), which drives her to risk self-mutilation in her desperate attempts to lighten her skin and straighten her hair to look more like her mother, who has lighter skin and "good" hair so that her father and everyone else will think she's pretty. This is a book that should be discussed, to be sure young readers don't internalize Genesis' insecurities and self-hatred, but instead see the bigger lesson in embracing your own unique beauty as well as that of others.

Ordinary Hazards  by Nikki Grimes

Printz honor book
Sibert honor book

This memoir told in free verse is a fairly quick, but difficult read. Grimes reflects on her difficult childhood, as much of it as she can remember, growing up with a mother who was an alcoholic, schizophrenic, and emotionally distant. She describes being separated from her sister and living in foster care, suffering sexual abuse at the hands of her mother's second husband, and losing her beloved father. She explains how she has gaping holes in her memory, which is typical of those suffering trauma. This one is even more moving and heartbreaking than Genesis because it really happened.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Morris honor book
Asian/Pacific American honor book

Frank Li has a problem. His best friend is black, his girlfriend is white, and his Korean parents are racist, but don't think that they are. They have already disowned his older sister for marrying a black man, so what is Frank to do? Pretend to date the nice Korean girl his parents have picked out for him, who is also hiding her non-Korean boyfriend from her parents. This book was an enjoyable read, and delves into multiple levels of racism and classism. I did find it very predictable, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying the story.

The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi

Printz honor book
Batchelder honor book

I found this to be a fairly typical YA epic fantasy, with a human protagonist that bonds with a magical flying beast, caught amid political intrigue and threats of war. Though I didn't find the story to be particularly original or creative, it was a well-written and enjoyable story, and a thought-provoking commentary on man's relationship with animals and nature, and the consequences of interference.

One thing that really stood out to me was the diversity in this year's awards. Looking back over my list of books that won multiple honors, I realized they were all written and illustrated by authors of color writing their own voices, which I am so happy to see! 

So how did you fare this year? Had you read many of the books honored? Did any of your favorites win? What surprised or disappointed you the most?

Need more info about the YMA's? 

Well, I'd better get to work whittling down this to-read pile! I've got a long way to go...