THE LOST GIRL by Anne Ursu – Blog Tour (with a giveaway!)

What do you call a group of girls?

A giggle?
A gossip?
What about …

a force.

I was so excited to be asked to be part of the blog tour for the new Anne Ursu book The Lost Girl (which comes out this 
Tuesday, February 12th) I mean first of all, it’s a new Anne Ursu book AT LAST. But more than that, I read The Lost Girl in one long, delirious sitting, completely enthralled and swept away by it. I was expecting a lot from this book and it more than delivered. I am so happy to be hyping this book – a book that pushes boundaries, that takes readers on a real AND magical journey, that asks big questions about magic and friendship and girlhood. It is absolutely gonna be one of my favorite books of 2019 and I can’t wait for kids to fall in love with it. So yes! I am definitely glad to be part of this blog tour. AND Walden Pond is kindly going to give away a copy to one lucky person. (USA only)

The Lost Girl is about twin sisters Iris and Lark who are facing fifth grade being put in different classrooms for the very first time. And Iris and Lark are not sure who they are without each other. As fifth grade looms, odd things begin to happen around their town and in their lives as the girls are pushed into unexpected and untested waters that force them to reconsider who they are and who they can be.

One of the things I love the most about this book is how it takes bits and pieces of familiar situations – the twins facing their first time separated, the woes of fitting into a new classroom, the awkwardness at trying to make a new social group outside of school, the dawning awareness your parents might actually think they know better than you do – and wraps them up in the way the world can sometimes seem magical when you least expect it. Maybe it’s birds or weird thrift stores or or remembering what it means to be sisters or finding friends in places you didn’t think you’d ever fit in. Maybe those things can be magic. Maybe that’s what magic is.

Author Anne Ursu

But the thing I love the absolute most about The Lost Girl – the thing I think is so important and earth-shaking is how much it cares about girls and their power. All my life I have been surrounded and uplifted and supported by groups of women and girls. I have always had women and girls cheering me on and cheering for me. I have been close friends with two women for thirty years, I’ve vacationed with another group of women for a decade.

And yet.

And yet so often our society tells girls, especially girls in middle and high school, that they need to be enemies to each other. That, in fact, it’s natural if they don’t get along or inevitable that they’ll stab each other in the back or they WILL be envious of each other and competitive towards one another.

As we reject the detestable phrase “boys will be boys” we should also set aside the corollary: “well, you know how girls are.”

First: the gender binary is an arbitrary social construct, it is garbage and should be smashed. There are more than just two genders and no “right” way to perform gender.

And there is ABSOLUTELY nothing true about the idea that girls need be natural enemies. And guess what? The Lost Girl knows that. Rarely have I read a middle grade book that is so full of ebullient, overwhelming power at the bonds of friendship between girls. “You can have this,” Anne Ursu says with this book. “You can have a squad, a flock, a crew, a pod, a TEAM. And there’s no reason to believe you must sabotage each other or work against each other. You are more than that lie.” The Lost Girl says to readers: together, we can be a force. And that’s a message so many of our kids deserve to hear.

The Lost Girl is something rare and special. It is enchanting and empowering – my favorite of all combinations. It’s a love letter to finding the people who will stick up for you and come for you and care about you, even when you barf in front of your entire class, even when you’re so awkward you think you’re made up only of edges and too sharp for everyone around you. I want to give this book to every kid I know, especially the ones who are searching for magic and searching for themselves, even if they can’t quite put that into words. I think you’ll want to share it with your students and your patrons too because there’s so much to talk about (did I mention it also has a delightfully creepy villain, a mysterious shop of wonders, plenty of plot twists that keep you turning pages, and crows with secrets that deliver shiny gifts?) and so much to love in this book. It is, of course, recommended as a first purchase for libraries and classrooms.

And if you want to a chance to win your very own copy, leave a comment (including a way to contact you) on this post by 2/17 for a chance to win a copy of The Lost Girl or request a copy from your local library or purchase one at your local indie bookstore! And please stop by all the other blogs/posts on this tour:

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 1: Teach Mentor Texts
MONDAY FEBRUARY 4: Maria’s Melange
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 5: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 6: Bluestocking Thinking
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 8: Unleashing Readers
MONDAY FEBRUARY 11: Word Spelunker
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12: Nerdy Book Club


Professional Annoucement

At the request of the ALSC Executive Committee, I have formally resigned from the 2018 Newbery Committee. Let me explain.

At the beginning of this month, I tweeted a story about one of my kid library patrons and their reaction to a book. (this tweet thread is now deleted, in case you were looking for it, at the request of the ALSC Executive Committee, though I do wish if they were going to ask me to resign all along I could have known and kept it.) I do this all the time, as you probably noticed. But this story went viral. It got over 1,000 RTs and according to Twitter’s weird tracking thing over a million views. So, lots of people saw it and I talked in twitter replies with a handful of people about it, including the author of the book and someone from the publishing department. I literally didn’t give a second thought to this because, in my opinion, I hadn’t said anything about the content of this title, I was simply telling a story about a child’s reaction to the mere existence of this book.  I would NEVER have shared this story if I had thought this would be the end result.

Further let me state clearly: I, like so many other librarians and educators, have “relationships” with many people in our industry from authors to people who work for publishing companies – I have blurbed books, been taken out to dinner by publishers, been sent ARCs, but I have never been paid by a publisher for anything. Not this year, for sure, and not EVER. What is a “personal” relationship beyond a casual?  How will we know when we have crossed this line? How is that defined? Is it a case by case basis?  I work diligently to be a fair and objective judge of content and I think my work as a reviewer, committee member, material selector, and professional has born out this. I will not claim to be perfect or have no biases, I am only human of course I do, but I work to mitigate them and be critical with them. And, of course, I never make decisions alone, whether it be on committee or in my daily work. I am not sure how NOT to “have relationships” with people in our field, to be honest, or what that would even look like.

The ALSC Executive Committee decided that this gave the perception of bias and favoritism for both this title and this publishers. It was further noted that this “suggested a personal relationship beyond a casual one” and it was again stressed here that “it is the perception, not the reality, of this relationship that impacts the award.” I had received a previous warning (in March) because I had re-posted a Kirkus review of an eligible title. At this point, I was asked to resign from the 2018 Newbery Committee.  I didn’t want to do this. I so desperately did not want to do this. But it is what the Executive Committee wanted and so I complied.

Being selected to stand for election to the Newbery and then winning that ballot from the ALSC membership with over 50% of the vote was the greatest honor of my professional life. It is never one I took lightly. And this was – this is – the worst thing that’s ever happened in my professional life.  It was – it is completely and totally devastating to me. I cried so hard when it happened that my husband was worried I had become hysterical. I probably had. It was humiliating and so, so embarrassing. It feels like the opposite of everything I have worked for and towards in my professional life and it makes me so angry all at the same time. I feel like I have completely and totally fucked myself and yet also feel, with great conviction, the perception of the situation should not take precedent over the reality. And yet here we are. Now the perceptions of me is: I am untrustworthy, I am unreliable. I am a conflict of interest, I can’t follow simple directions. I hope that that’s not the reality of me, I work hard so that this is not the reality of me and the work I do, but there you have it. I am sharing this with you because I don’t want to minimize my emotions and I want to give them their full space. That’s important to me.

I have worked tirelessly for this committee and this organization for 7 months, paying for all conference attendance and memberships out of my own pocket, working on this during hours upon hours of my personal free time, searching out the best 2017 titles from every genre, focusing so much of my mental and emotional energy on this because I believed in this. I read and read and in June when we met for the first time, I comprehensively and critically discussed titles. I was a productive, active, valuable member of this committee. That’s reality. And now it is nothing. It is ashes. Though I know logically this is not true this makes me feel like nothing and it is a crushing blow to the work I have done and the years, years, I have built to this point. When one of my high school friends found out about Newbery he said, “What’s the honorarium for this work?” Ah no, I corrected him proudly. I’m paying them. He looked at me in complete shock. I am sharing this with you because I think it’s important context for how absolutely gutted and devastated I am. It’s important to me.

“I don’t want this to have a damper on your work” I was told during this process.  And yet how can it not?  How can it not have a damper on my work? On my professional life? On my … everything? I feel there is a damper on everything now and I have a sorrow that my words cannot describe, a sadness I cannot put into words.

For the past ten years, I have tried so hard (so hard) to make a difference in librarianship. In shifting conversations and status quo, in transforming our profession, in breaking down barriers and “this is the way it always is.”  I have learned and grown and fucked up and apologized and learned and grown and I hope that I have helped others with this same journey. I don’t want to center just me. For real, I get how that’s always a problem.  It’s not just about me, it never is. But honestly right now  … I just feel so broken.  *I* do. I, Angie Manfredi, feel this way and that’s natural and that’s OK. I’ve cried three times just writing this post, knowing that this is true. It’s not tired. I don’t feel tired. I feel broken. And the idea of further having to discuss this with colleagues, even those of you who have nothing but love for me … it’s just more than I can take right now. (Although some of you obviously know how to reach out to me personally, I just can’t promise a super coherent, timely response.)

So…I am going away for a while. Online, I mean. I’ll still be reading a million books and sharing them with kids and doing storytimes for babies and booktalking to teens and launching my local 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program (at last) and doing all that librarian-y stuff that sustains me. But I want to be gone from online for a bit. I suppose this can read as me going somewhere to lick my wounds. Hey, maybe it is. I have been wounded, I won’t deny it. Maybe those wounds need some licking.

I’m gonna concentrate on my daily librarianship, the heart of everything I have ever been, and figuring out what’s next for me. I am deactivating my Twitter for at least a month and I’m not going to post on the blog for a bit (not like it’s been super active lately anyway). I’ll still have my Facebook up because, uh, I use that as a more personal outlet so I still want to have that around so my best friend and I can post about chicken nuggets on each other’s walls. I want to be back someday, sooner than later, I do. I mean I have so many fucking 2016 books I can now tell you ALL ABOUT. I just can’t right now.

My final notes: I have nothing but respect for my colleagues on the 2018 Newbery committee and I know they will make a choice that will stun all of you with its brilliance. They are a superb group of professionals beyond reproach and I was honored, beyond words honored, to be among them. I owe special gratitude to Sujei Lugo and Kirby McCurtis, who reached out to me with open hearts and held me up during my hardest moments. Personal thanks to my beloved husband who supports me through everything, my family for their endless cheerleading, my co-workers and supervisors at the Los Alamos County Library System who always inspire me, and my best friends Elliot and Whitney, who are just the best people.

As to “all the books” sent to me by publishers for review for the award (should anyone be worried I am hoarding/selling/destroying them, lol) I hope they stop coming, I’d be so happy to never see another box of them. But any that do come have the same destination as the rest: I had always planed to donate all titles I have received/will receive to my local New Mexico tribal libraries so they won’t “go to waste” and that’s still the plan.

One of my favorite works of fiction is Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, which has sustained me during some of the darkest moments in life. This is one of those moments. Many of you have heard me quote it as I believe it is our duty in librarianship and education to be a part of “The Great Work” Kushner refers to.  In fact, I think that is our truest duty. It is the one I have always, above all, sought to work towards. The Great Work. It continues, my friends, and I plan to still and always be part of it.  Even if I don’t know where my path is headed next, I know that. At the end of the play, Prior tells the audience “The world only spins forward.”  I know this is also true.

The world only spins forward. I go on now to see what’s next.

Dinosaurs @ Your Library!

Last summer we repeated one of our popular standalone programs – DINOS!  It had been a few years since we did this program and, as many of you know, I recycle these themed programs at least every 2-3 years.  (unless it’s something very pop culture-y that has dated.  But that’s a rarity.) Since last summer was all about Jurassic World this felt like a good time to bring dinos back.  I also like this theme because it’s somewhat generic and not tied to a specific property, which I think you should ALWAYS throw some non-property related events – it makes you feel less like some kind of marketing firm. So, this time we made it an evening event.  Again, I’ve written about how I think it’s very important to have evening events – even when they stretch staff – so that working families can make it.  Dino Night was a huge success. Here’s how we did it.

15 minutes of story and intro

We made a giant pile of fiction and non-fiction dinosaur books to have out for patrons to check out – which we do for all these events … if you’re not here for the book what’s the point? But I chose to read When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach,  delightfully illustrated by David Small. This is a slightly longer picture book that requires a little more imagination, has very silly pictures, and makes grown-ups have to deal with dinosaurs for making their children suffer through errands.  What’s not to love?


We also threw in a staff sing-along of Five Little Dinosaurs– which is basically Five Little Ducks but WITH DINOSAURS.  Instead of mother duck calling “quack quack quack”, mother dinosaur calls “roar, roar, roar” – and of course the crowd must roar along with us or else the little dinos will never make it home.  They loved this! We made one verse “flap, flap, flap” for the flying dino and the chance to flap our hands!  Here’s my awesome staff in action calling those dinosaurs home.

dino yell

Melissa made foam dino feet – which I chose not to wear because I would have literally tripped over them and cracked my head open in 2.5 seconds.  But they were easy to make, so you could make them as a costume and they COULD be a cute craft – but we didn’t have enough foam and we really didn’t want to sit with each kid measuring their feet one by one.  (we like to keep it fast!)

dino feet

45 minutes of craft and games

Of course we had a scavenger hunt (dinos, dino hunt leaders, feathered dinos) as ever.  We print out ten images, tape them up around YS, and send kids to find them with a look and find sheet. Always a huge hit and a good way to split up the crowd.

DINOSAUR MASKS! Kids colored their dino masks and then attached them to popsicle sticks using glue dots (two must haves: putting the masks on popsicle sticks is such an improvement over trying to get them around kid’s heads with string and glue dots over glue sticks are the ultimate.) Fun stuff.  Note: we do lots of masks and headbands/crowns as crafts.  Do kids ever get sick of them?  I don’t think so.  They are such a fun prop and they encourage the best imaginative play.  It feels like a fun costume, even, and it’s a good take home.  I highly recommend them as an activity. Here’s one of our favorite library patrons with his mask.

dino mask

DINOSAUR EGGS! This was a fun, easy craft that also used up a bunch of our brads, whooo-hooo! Kids liked having a craft that moved, so that was neat to see.  And getting to put the brads in required a little more hand-eye concentration and parental involvement. Using this idea, we found an egg template and some cute little dinosaurs and let kids go at it. They colored their eggs, used the brad to attach them, and glued in their dinos.  Here’s a delightful kid made example with, yes, an upside down dino.

dino egg 1

dino egg 2

DINOSAUR TAIL KNOCKDOWN! The site with the egg craft also had an amazing idea for making dinosaur tails using stuffed garbage bags.  Well you know I wanted some of that! Melissa, as always, experimented until she made it work.  Our tails have pool noodles inside (ah, the handy stuff we have around in a YS department) as well as plastic bags, which gave them a little more backbone. Here’s Dillon and Melissa modeling them. (note we decorated ours)

dino tails

At this station, kids strapped on the tails and tried to knock over trees. (coffee cans and Pringles cans, some of which were weighed down to really make it hard.)  This station was a hoot, of course.  The problem was the really littles struggled under the size of the tail … which just made us insist they have their GROWN-UPS try it on for a swing.  Which … yes. The kids loved it and tripped themselves in circles to get to the trees.

tail action

DINOSAUR TOSS! This was a simple modification on one of our popular bean bag toss stations (another station we have often – this works because kids across ages/mobility levels can participate in their own ways and it’s easily modifiable.) Basically, we printed out some dino pictures and made circles according to their size and put points on them (the smaller the dino, the smaller the circle and the higher the points) and let kids toss away and try to get the beanbags in the circles.  We also had facts about the sizes/species of each dino, which was fun to add in.

dino toss

And that’s it!  Two crafts, two activities, one scavenger hunt, a storytime and song, and a big giant pile of books.  We had almost 100 people attend – including whole families because it was a night event – and all ages from 3-4 year olds all the way up to 11-12 year olds.

I am SURE we’ll do a dinosaur event again.  Since it’s not tied to a specific property and it’s a perennial topic of fascination for kids, it makes for a great program. We didn’t repeat any of the activities from the last time and we probably wouldn’t have to the next time – there’s just so much to do with dinosaurs! (trivia of some kind?  sensory bins to dig through?)

Do you have any questions?  Do you want to borrow any of our templates or have any questions about our event? Have you had dinosaur events or activities at your library?  What worked and what didn’t work?  What ages came?  Let’s talk all about it!  Leave me a comment here or chat with me on Twitter. (and thanks to everyone on Twitter who voted in my poll to make this my next blog topic! I always like knowing what kind of content you’d like to see here, so definitely let me know!)


Books for Ferguson – UPDATED

11/28/14 We have a FOURTH list of titles for Ferguson! Believe it or not, we got through the third list in less than two days.  This is amazing, world.  These titles have been approved by Scott Bonner.  They fill gaps in Ferguson’s popular reading collection for teens (lots of African-American authors) and expand their collection of titles with Native American, Asian American, and Latin@ American protagonists.  There are also adult titles on this list.  None of these titles are currently held at the Ferguson branch and would be welcome additions to their shelves. Please read through the rest of the original post to find out specific instructions on how/why these titles were selected and how to get them shipped directly to Ferguson.

You may also still donate cash! Librarian Scott Bonner wants to use  these donations to possibly  hire a new librarian, which would be truly amazing.  You can donate via the Paypal link on their homepage.  If you’re having trouble linking to the current list, you can go to Powell’s “find a Wishlist” link and use the email booksforferguson @ gmail to locate the list called “Books for Ferguson IV”  Thank you for caring about libraries!

What has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri for the past few weeks has been absolutely enraging and heartbreaking on so many levels.  I don’t want to say it is shocking or unbelievable or HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN IN AMERICA because while what has been happening in Ferguson might seem “un-American” to me, it’s the America that so many people exist in. And that’s part of the warranted rage and heartbreak. While following the news about Ferguson on Twitter (by far the best place to get news on issues like this) I saw the hashtag #kidlit4justice” start.  The idea was to round up book suggestions about It was created and promoted by three of my favorite people on Twitter: Sarah Hamburg, Kids Like Us, and Ebony Thomas.   (Dr. Thomas also writes the amazing blog The Dark Fantastic, which should be on your must read list.) Lots of people chimed in with great suggestions.  There’s a Storify of their suggestions which is unmissable.

Twitter was also how I found out about the amazing work happening at the Ferguson Library.  In the wake of school being cancelled, the Ferguson Library went about creating a school and community place for the children of Ferguson. Teachers volunteered to come in and teach, classes were held at the library and a satellite location.  You can read all about it on the twitter for Ferguson Library.

Once Scott Bonner, the director of the Ferguson Library, indicated that their library would be open to taking donations, both of cash and of books, I saw many people willing to donate. I was heartened by this, but I was also concerned that people would send them things that end up not being useful for their collection and end up taking time and effort to get rid of.  So, following the example of annual book drive GuysLitWire hosts for Ballou Library, I thought the best approach was to create a list for people to buy from.  And what better way to start than with the suggestions from #KidLit4Justice?

Using the #KidLit4Justice tag and my own reader’s advisory knowledge, I created a list of 60 titles. I checked each title against the Ferguson Municipal Public Library District catalog to make sure that none of these titles are held at the Ferguson branch. Some were held at other branches in the system, some were not in the system at all. This first wave focuses titles that are about social activism, peace, building communities, healing from trauma, and dealing with emotions. There is a mix of fiction and non-fiction but they are all geared at children and teens.  Scott Bonner, Ferguson’s library director, has looked over and approved this list, so these are titles that will be welcomed and used at their branch.

Here’s the instructions (only slightly modified from GuysLitWire, thanks to the amazing Colleen Mondor for the guidance and inspiration!) on what you can do.  If you can’t buy a book for Ferguson, please share this list far and wide!

A wishlist for Ferguson has been created at Powell’s.

I chose Powell’s because they are an independent bookstore that has a huge stock and doesn’t have any of Amazon’s sketchiness. Feel free to check out the list, read more about the books, and make your selections as you see fit. While we prefer new it is perfectly fine to purchase used copies of a book , but make sure the book is in “standard” used condition. Also, if at all possible – especially when it comes to picture books – please select hardcover or library-bound.  These titles are more expensive, but they are better for library circulation.  (I’ve placed the preferred editions into the cart, but this is just a general reminder!)

Once you have made your selection(s) head to “checkout” and you will be prompted to inform Powell’s if the books were indeed bought from the wishlist. This lets the store know to mark them as “purchased” on the list. After that you need to provide your credit card info and also fill in the shipping address. (If you have already done this in the past the info will be saved to your Powells account.)

Here is where the books are going to:

Ferguson Public Library
ATTN: Scott Bonner
35 North Florissant Road
Ferguson, MO 63135
(314) 521-4820

I can’t remember if Powell’s lets you include a little note with your order, but if it does, feel free to do so. You can also share with @FergusonLibrary on Twitter so that you continue to boost the signal AND let them know what amazing books are coming their way.  Hopefully, if we get everything bought off this list we can use this method and work with Scott to add MORE titles of all kinds to their collection.

Ready to buy?  Ready to signal boost?  Ready to get these books on shelves in Ferguson today? Let’s go!

Please ask me any questions/make any suggestions in comments here or on Twitter.)


It took only a day to get 55 books sent to Ferguson!  Amazing.  So … I created a whole new list!  The procedure for sending them is the same.  Please let me know if you have questions, comments, or SUGGESTIONS!

MORE Books for Ferguson

If you’re having trouble linking to the current list, you can go to Powell’s “find a Wishlist” link and use the email booksforferguson @ gmail to locate the list called “More Books For Ferguson”.  Please let me know if you have other questions.


“A cup of kindness.” In Memoriam, E.L. Konigsburg, 1930-2013

The beauty of Koningsburg prose was how acutely she captured the aches and pains of being an outsider, a loner, a kid that was a little different.  There’s something particularly middle-grade about that, I think,  the aches and pains of not just figuring out who you are but understanding that who you are is a little different … and that’s OK.  In her best books, there are both costs and rewards for these differences, it’s no simple change or choice.

When you hear her name I suspect, like most people, you think of the classic From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – the 1967 Newbery winner roundly considered one of the definitive works of children’s literature.  This is one of those books that was simply always in my life.  It was one of the books in our home and a book I remembered seeing my older sister read time and again.  When it was finally my turn to read it (I was probably around 9) I was so excited I could barely stand it.  And … I totally failed to connect with it.

I liked it, I guess, but even at 9 years old it seemed so … well, it seemed unbelievable to me.  Nothing happening in that book felt real to me.  Which, don’t get me wrong, I loved fantasy books (though, honestly, as a child reader, I liked realistic fiction more than fantasy) but Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler wasn’t fantasy.  Of course, I realize now as an adult it’s a work of magical realism, fantasy of a sort.  It doesn’t have to be rooted in the realism of “yes, but in actuality children couldn’t…” because it’s about possibilities and dreams.  

Of course I know that now.  And now I can see what a lovely book Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is – how all the pieces fit together, how it is an exemplary example of craft.  I know all that.  But lo these 25+ years later, I still cannot connect with it.

And so, perhaps, that would be that: not worth noting, even upon Konigsburg’s death: newsflash: a Newbery winner and classic one person doesn’t really connect with! But, for me, that’s not just that.

Because in 1996 (the year I graduated from high school, my last year as an official “child”) Konigsburg wrote The View from Saturday, which became her second Newbery winner.  Three summers later, as my life fell apart around my ears and I failed out of college, I came home to work and try to sort my life out by returning to my high school after school job.  That job was at the local public library and I ended up sorting my life out, changing the path of my life, through children’s literature. Four books made this change in me: Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three, Jerry Spinelli’s Crash, Rob Thomas’s Rats Saw God, and E.L. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday.

Every voyage begins when you do.

The View from Saturday, like Basil E. Frankweiler, is staggeringly well-constructed; all the pieces click in just the right ways, there’s suspense but also a clear line tying it all together.  It’s a narrative where seeing all the pieces slowly fit together isn’t just a marvel, it’s a pleasure.  Plot-wise, The View from Saturday is a set of interlocking stories about a group of sixth graders brought together by their teacher who is struggling to return to teaching after an accident to be an unlikely quiz bowl team.

the-view-from-saturdayBut it’s so much more than that: it’s a book about surviving the cruelty of middle school by creating friendships and uniting together in doing what’s right.  It’s a book about realizing that the truest moments of growing up happen when we have to choose between selfish pettiness and open hearts. The View from Saturday is about kindness, yes, maybe kindness most of all.  But it’s also about the miracle of every connection in our life, how every moment is a chance to reach a hand out to someone and say, “Can I help?  Can I listen?  Can I stand by you?  Can I be part of your story?”

In a sad, hard time in my life – E.L. Konigsburg, the Souls, held out a hand to me.  My voyage began when I was ready, it began, as she’d promised, when I did.

This is the eternal gift we’re left with from E.L. Konigsburg’s work – we’re all a little different, her work said, we’re all looking for something.  And, when you’re ready to speak (Silent to the Bone), to stand up (The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place), to have an adventure beyond belief (Up from Jericho Tel), to tell your history (A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver),  your voyage can begin.

I know now, Mrs. Olinski, librarianship chose me as a much as I chose it.

I know now, Mrs. Frankweiler, the secret.

Thank you, E.L. Konigsburg: thank you, thank you, thank you.

via Bookshelves of Doom, here’s a great round-up of remembrances.


So what, exactly, *is* The Monstrumologist? A very special GUEST POST by Rick Yancey

When I started thinking about why I loved The Monstrumologist series (the series is The Monstrumologist, The Curse of the Wendigo and the forthcoming Isle of Blood, which  – DON’T FORGET – releases next week and is the book we’re currently doing a PR push for!) why I thought it was so damn special in a crowded young adult literature field, I kept coming back to the kind of books they were – they way they straddled genre and were something entire unique, entirely compelling in how original they were.

With that in mind, I had one major question for Rick Yancey about the series’s providence.  That question was:

The Monstrumologist series is unique in the way it blends the horror genre and what we usually refer to as “literary fiction”.  How did you decide to bring these two genres together?  What ways do you see these genres as complimentary, particularly when it comes to the appeal of this series?

His answer was so perfect, so much more than I was expecting, so fabulous and thoughtful and comprehensive, I knew I had to share it all with you.  Enjoy and thanks so much to Rick for participating in all this and for this amazing reply.  (and make sure you stop by tomorrow when you can comment for a chance to win a copy of The Monstrumologist!!)

Call it a product of naivete or denial, but when I completed the first Monstrumologist book, I did not consider it horror or “literary.”  I looked at it (and still do to a certain extent) as an adventure yarn, sort of like a darker version of “Treasure Island.”  That was the original concept and still there is a part of me that cringes when I hear those two descriptions of the series slammed together.  The stylist in me rebels at the mash-up, “literary horror,” and I will confess I’ve never read anything of Lovecraft, read “Frankenstein” just once and that was years ago, and hadn’t even picked up a King novel since I was in my twenties.  Recently (between writing Book One and Book Two), I tried to get through “Dracula,” and couldn’t.

I think if I purposely tried to write something “literary” I would fail miserably.  What I have been attempting to do (as I have with all my books), is create – or re-create – an authentic voice.  I first tried writing the story in third-person, which is not comfortable for me, and quickly abandoned the attempt and recast the story through the voice of an older Will Henry.  I did want to capture a 19th Cent. feel, because in many ways Will was trapped in that era, unable to extricate himself from the memories of that time when his childhood vulnerability was tested to the extreme.  In a sense, I was trapped there with him – in a time when people wrote – and even thought! – in full sentences.  That cuts against the grain in most of current YA fiction (and adult), so maybe that’s why some folks call it literary (Full sentences!  Big words!)

I knew, of course, that the adventure would have to have a certain dark flavor, since monstrumology, by its very nature, is dark and dangerous – it ain’t butterfly collecting, after all.  If Warthrop hunted something equivalent to a three-toed sloth . . . well, where’s the thrill in that?  And if you have these outlandish and nightmarish things running about, it’s going to get a little intense.

And I wanted INTENSITY.  Not just intensity of the chase and the inevitable physical dangers of monster-hunting, but psychological intensity, emotional intensity.  19th Century writers never shied away from this and Will, being forged in that time period, would not have either.  There was, and still is, a danger in these stories of descending into the cartoonish (Headless bipeds with teeth in their bellies . . . come on!), and I knew beyond elevating the language a little I had to elevate the complexity of the characters and the intensity of their relationships.  Whenever I get bogged down in the esoterica of monsters or the convolutions of a plot set a hundred plus years ago, I tell myself, “Go back to the characters.  It’s about them and their relationships.”  It adds a richness to the tale, the chief function of which is to keep me from getting bored.  These characters fascinate me – not the gore, not so much the “big themes” of love, faith and what it means to be human (though I like that these themes have emerged as a by-product), i.e., the “literariness” of the books.  As I said in another interview, I fell in love with my characters.  They are quite real to me.  I suffer with them, laugh with them, cheer for them and fear deeply for them.

I worried when the first book came out about some of its more challenging aspects, particularly since it was published as YA.  But I don’t worry about that anymore.  Like real people, Will Henry and Warthrop are who they are.  The stories are what they are. Readers, whether they are sixteen or sixty, who like a good story well told, will discover the books and share a little, with me, the thrill and satisfaction that is unique to fiction: immersion in an alternate universe we are loathe to leave when the last page is turned.

Rick Yancey


Los Conchas Fire Update/Help/Where I’m At

Being evacuated sucks. It sucked when I drove away from Hattiesburg after Katrina, it sucks when I am unable to get into Los Alamos right now. It’s just the worst. I HATE being away from my library this long during our usually busiest and happiest season.  I wanna go back to freaking work already.

So, as you might have heard, especially if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, there’s currently a huge wildfire burning right outside Los Alamos, New Mexico, the town I live and work in. As I write this, the town is on mandatory evacuation, no one but essential people are allowed in, and the county has been closed since Monday. (I found out about all this via text message directly after the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet on Sunday night. Timing!) The fire is on track to become the largest fire in NM history and has burned over 90,000 acres in less than five days.

*I* am currently safe and sound and staying with my siblings in Albuquerque, which is about an hour and a half away from Los Alamos. All I have with me is what I took to/brought back from ALA, they called the evacuation while I was out of town.

For those of you that don’t know, Los Alamos is on the top of a very high hill. At the bottom of the hill and also part of our county is the smaller town of White Rock. It has not been evacuated yet, but our library branch there remains closed. I’ve been in touch with several co-workers via phone and Facebook and everyone I know is safe and sound, but we’re all unsettled about being displaced and, well, it’s expensive and maddeningly and frustrating. Our library facility is OK and all our locked case/rare books have been evacuated and secured as per our emergency plan guidelines. (does YOUR library have an emergency plan? It should. As per our library’s policy, my supervisor’s copy is in the trunk of my vehicle, so I am ready!) The only thing I am worried about is all my autographed books which I guess might seem silly if you weren’t a librarian.

There are LOTS of places to get info about the situation as it develops, so I won’t try to be a place for that, but some friends and colleagues have wanted to know what they can do to help, so here’s a post with links to places you can donate.

If anyone reading this has other suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments or email them to me (fatgirlreading at gmail) so I can add them to this post. You may definitely share this post far and wide and I will keep everyone updated as the situation develops.

Even as the fire moves away from Los Alamos, it moves towards other communities in New Mexico, like the Santa Clara Pueblo, so it’s just going to be a wait and see situation until more of it can be contained.  It also means that anything you give would be greatly appreciated and used well!

Thanks to everyone for being concerned about me and asking about me and even thinking about me.  (me and my library and my town, that is.) Special thanks to Liz, who pushed me into posting this!  It really means a lot, I promise, to know I have that network of people out there.

You can follow me on Twitter for more timely updates and I promise to keep everyone informed as things progress.

Oh, and – I had an amazing time at ALA that reminded me why I love what I do and why I can’t wait to get back to it.  Big thanks for that to everyone I saw and networked with at conference, it was the highlight of my year, as ever.   But that post can wait for next time, yeah?


Native American Heritage Month

Debbie Reese is my blogging heroine, my blogging role model.  If there’s one blog I wish my blog could be like, it’s Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature.  She was the model for what I wanted this blog to be like.  She says things people don’t always want to hear, whether it’s about Little House on the Prairie or Neil Gaiman.  She asks readers, librarians, and teachers to think critically about the messages in books and how these messages shape children and young adults and our cultural perceptions and conversations.  She does this in an uncompromising and personal manner that is also intellectual and incisive.  She sticks to her principles, challenges the status quo, and expects people to engage in informed debate.

Like I said: heroine.

Back in July, Debbie posted some recommendation lists for Elementary, Middle, and High school libraries.  I was not only happy to get these lists to help with my collection development, but knew I wanted to eventually use them in a display.

November turned out to be the perfect month.  Not only was it chance to put out another message about THE LESSONS OF THANKSGIVING (which, really, you’d think the “lessons of Thanksgiving” would be more centered around genocide and less centered around, say, turkey) to my patrons, but it was also Native American Heritage Month.  It was a perfect opportunity.

I used the main, lighted display case on our floor.  It’s hard to miss when you’re on our floor at all, you essentially pass it one way or another.  Using Debbie’s elementary list (and some other titles and authors in our collection, including a book that won an American Indian Youth Literature Award, given out by the American Indian Library Association, an ALA division) I decided to make a display featuring primarily picture books, since we all know those are ultra-pleasing for display.

I wanted to not only feature the books but make note of the fact it was Native American Heritage Month and that all the featured authors were Native writers, which is SO IMPORTANT.  There’s not a lot of other decoration in the case, partially because I wanted to avoid both generic and stereotypical “Indian” images and I was being wary of cultural appropriation.  Also, I wanted to fit as many books as possible, which took up display space. (which was THE POINT.)

Above each book, I made a small text box that mentioned what tribe each author/illustrator belonged to.  Onto pictures!  Click to make them bigger, of course.

Here’s the whole case:

And here’s the sign I created for the inside of the case:

Text: November is Native American Heritage Month!  Nationally November is set aside to celebrate and honor the contributions and accomplishments of the first Americans.  YOU can celebrate by sharing stories written and illustrated by Native people from tribes all over North America, by learning about their tribes, and by finding out more about the lives of Native children living in America today.  What will YOU learn?

And here are some close ups:

On this shelf: Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell, When Turtle Grew Feathers by Tim Tingle, and Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin

On this shelf: Navajo by Shonto Begay, Raccoon’s Last Race by Joseph and James Bruchac, and For a Girl Becoming by Joy Harjo

On this shelf: Sky Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose and  Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird by Joe Medicine Crow

On the bottom of the case are the four titles from My World: Young Native Americans Today. (a series which every library should own!)  The titles are: Meet Mindy: A Native Girl from the Southwest, Meet Lydia: A Native Girl from Southeast Alaska, Meet Naiche: A Native Boy from the Chesapeake Bay Area, and (the award winner!) Meet Christopher: An Osage Indian Boy from Oklahoma.  In between them is one of my favorite titles: Do All Indians Live in Tipis? Questions & Answers from the National Museum of the American IndianAll of these titles are published by the NMAI.

I was really quite pleased with the display.

Little did I suspect that November would also be a time that teachers were readying units on Native Americans.  Literally less than two hours after I put the display in, a teacher came to the desk and asked for three of the titles out of the case!  She wanted Raccoon’s Last Race, When Turtle Grew Feathers, and Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird.  Her checking these books out gave me a chance to put MORE books in.  I replaced those titles with Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitch Smith, (which had just been returned from another patron that day!) Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac, and How Raven Stole Sun by Maria Williams.

Just last week, another teacher came and complimented the display and then checked out Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin.  I had a chance to talk to her about that and let her know that at Tilbury House website, you can listen to/download Sockabasin read the story in Passamaquoddy.  She was especially excited to hear that and told me she was going to use it in her class of first graders.

The idea that a class full of  small children in New Mexico will not just hear a traditional Passamaquoddy story passed down to Allen Sockabasin from his mother, but actually hear the Passamaquoddy language – I mean, aren’t stories like that the reason you wanted to be a librarian?  They sure are for me.

So, thanks to Debbie for always leading by example and inspiring me to try something at my library that not only promoted and highlighted the diversity of my collection but also (hopefully) gave my patrons something new to think about, which is my favorite thing of all.

That’s something to be truly thankful for.


2010 ALA Annual Wrap-Up

I’ve been absent for a bit because I was attending the 2010 ALA Annual conference in Washington, D.C.  You can read about my top five experiences at ALA at the PLA blog.

I was super-excited and nervous about it, because this year is my first year on a selection committee and we were having our first meeting at Annual.  Of course, it turned out splendidly, sitting around talking about books for hours is basically a dream come true, right, so I was in heaven.  It’s such a challenge and so exciting and I can’t wait to continue committee work throughout the year.

Thanks to Wendy, I had a chance to participate in a Friday YALSA pre-conference about using web 2.0 tools.  I presented a segment on having a 2.0 Teen Book Club during the “speed dating” practitioner’s portion.  It was so fun and made me so proud of my teen patrons. If you happen to be stopping by because of that segment, feel free to say hello/drop me a message!

Another major highlight was the chance to attend Library Advocacy Day, which I had the chance to participate in thanks to a stipend from the Friends of YALSA.  Having the opportunity to rally at the capital and speak with representatives from my state was empowering and inspirational, I’m excited to implement some of the things I learned.

All of Annual was great, as per usual.  Last year one of the ALA twitter accounts referred to Annual as “Brigadoon for librarians” which tickled my heart so much….that’s just what it’s like.  I always get excited and inspired by Annual and leave every year feeling like part of such a community and so ready to DO things.  I still have the handouts from the first year I ever went to Annual in 2006 as a library student.  When I look at the sessions I attended then, I see the course of my career now.  It made me know I was doing the right thing with my career!  I even saved a brochure about “how you can get involved in YALSA!

Oh, and the books!  I mailed home 42 (!) pounds of books and I know I had at least 25 pounds checked/carried on the the plane.  Lots and lots of good stuff, not just the ARCs! I also bought many hardcovers for cheap prices and got them signed, so those will make some great teen prizes.  And I did get some great ARCs, many of which I can’t wait to review for the site, so look forward to that sooner than later. (I offered up a spirited defense of the exhibits on the PLA blog.  I am so sick to death of the jokes about how librarians go to conference and cram as much useless, free junk into their bags as they can.  First of all, these criticisms always come off as inherently gendered and classist, which is weird in library circles, but I definitely feel it.  “Those rubes, grabbing up free junk, they’re so provincial and stupid!”  Second of all, the exhibits are a main drawing point for me, part of what I pay my money for, so I expect a return on that investment: they power my programming and I *never* think of what I get as useless.)

Don’t get me wrong, Annual is always such a huge investment of time and money and energy; it’s draining in every imaginable way.  But it’s also, every year, been worth it for me.  If you ever have the chance to attend conference, especially Annual, I can’t recommend it enough.  You’ll be worn out and frazzled and exhausted and spun around by the end, but you’ll be glad you went!

Now back to the business of this blog . . .