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


There are tons of books I can’t wait to see in 2019. Every year, I love the steps publishing, especially small and independent publishers, take towards being more reflective of the reality of the current world we live in. We are not making near enough strides fast enough but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the victories and the new additions to the market. In fact, celebrating these books, talking about them, sharing them in our professional networks and basically building word of mouth buzz (and SALES) for them helps ensure there can be MORE of the kind of titles we want to see: titles from marginalized creators reflecting the truth of the world and the truth of their experiences.

That’s why this week I have been so excited to be part of the campaign to get people excited for When Aidan Became A Big Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. It’s a 2019 title from Lee & Low and this week I’ve been revealing illustration spreads from the book along with thoughts from Kyle about writing the book and his thoughts on the illustrations. It’s been a real joy to share these images and hear Kyle’s thoughts AND watch people get to find out about Aidan and it it on their radars. This is an (all too rare) picture book about a trans boy written by a trans author. It is also a joyful celebration of families, new siblings, and finding your community. It fills a lot of collection gaps and because of Kyle’s tender, immediate, realistic writing and Kaylani’s wonderful illustrations it’s also just a genuine joy. I can’t wait for everyone to have a chance to share this book and I especially can’t wait for trans boys to see themselves reflected so lovingly and truthfully in these pages.

Today I am going to share the cover !! and some thoughts from Kyle and Kaylani. If you want to see the other amazing illustrations I shared throughout the week, you can see them in this Twitter thread (unrolled here for easier reading) AND I have an extra special giveaway on Twitter thanks to Lee & Low – if you head over to my Twitter and retweet the cover and follow Kyle you have a chance to win one of three copies of When Aidan Became A Big Brother (US addresses only)

The release date for When Aidan Became A Big Brother has moved from May to June – the new release is June 4th so put it on your calendars now and add it on GoodReads!

Kyle’s thoughts:

When I first considered writing a picture book about a trans boy, I mostly thought about what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to use that old trope of being “trapped in the wrong body.” I didn’t want to talk about his body at all; trans people are more than our bodies. I also didn’t want him to deal with bullying or transphobia–not from family members, not from other kids. Our lives are more than just the experiences we have to survive. I wanted to focus on the joy of self-expression, the unconditional love families can provide, and the possibilities for change that trans people create in the world. As a librarian, a writer, and a transgender man, I hope that you make room for WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER on your bookshelf, because I’m sure that kids like him already have a place in your heart.”

Kaylani’s thoughts:

“I was really excited to illustrate WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER because it’s a fresh perspective on an underrepresented topic within kids lit. Kyle did an amazing job writing— I wanted the illustrations to seem sweet and charming like the manuscript. As a queer artist, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to illustrate such a special story!”

WOW I love everything about this cover. Look at Aidan’s awesome shirt and amazing hairstyle – look at how his parents are so fully supporting him, holding him up, and embracing him with love. You can feel the warmth and strength literally radiating off this cover – it’s a book full of family love just waiting to be on shelves all over the world!

I hope you’re as excited about this book as I am – and I hope you’ll start sharing word about it with all your colleagues. Join me over on Twitter for a chance to win a copy from Lee & Low and let’s keep this conversation going and growing so we can see more books like Aidan out there.

If you want to know a little more about Kyle and Kaylani, please check out their bios and visit/add them on social:

KYLE LUKOFF is the author of A Storytelling of Ravens, which Kirkus Reviews called “not to be missed” in a starred review. After a decade as a bookseller he now works as a school librarian New York City, and has been involved in trans communities since 2004.” You can find him online at, @Shekels_Library, and


KAYLANI JUANITA describes her mission as an artist as “supporting the stories of the underrepresented, and creating new ways for people to imagine themselves.” Her work has appeared at the Society of Illustrators and on the BBC website, as well as in her first picture book, Ta-Da!, written by Kathy Ellen Davis. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Look for her online at and @kaylanijuanita on Twitter and Instagram.

The Message of Your All White Booklist

“Well, they’re my favorites, I can’t help if I like what I like.”

Back in July, Grace Lin shared a picture from her local public library on Twitter. When I saw it, my heart sank. I felt a shock of embarrassed sadness. And then I just felt fucking mad.

First, imagine Grace Lin is your library patron! Grace Lin! She has a Newbery Honor Medal! She is a National Book Award finalist! She’s literally one of the most passionate and smartest people in children’s literature. And she’s your library patron!  And when she comes into your library and sees one of those classic library displays of BOOKS YOUR LIBRARIAN (the curator, the decider, the person you trust) LOVES she sees … White people. As far as the eye can see: White people. This has nothing to do, by the way, about an author thinking “they should be featuring MY books!” Because now imagine that this patron is not Grace Lin, a famous children’s book author and adult, but a child. Maybe a White child, maybe a child of color. They see that same group of books dominated by White stories and White authors and White experiences (the sole exception being Simm Taback’s beautiful retelling of the Yiddish folk song about clever Joseph, who lives in a vibrant Jewish community) and they are told, explicitly: these are the stories your librarian (the curator, the decider, the person you trust) loves. These are the stories they see. These are the stories they value.

This message couldn’t be any clearer, it couldn’t be any louder, and it couldn’t be any more damaging.

Michelle Martin wrote this great piece in Kirkus – Be An Accomplice. In it, Dr. Martin asks a question I think should be posed to all librarians: “If you stay current, you know about the We Need Diverse Books movement. But has it changed what you do from day to day?”  

My fellow White librarians, I am asking you to think about your messages. I am asking you to imagine a child of color standing in front of a display filled with historical fiction that completely erases people of color. I am asking you to imagine the messages a White child gets standing in front of this display: “My story is THE story, see?”

I see this happen time and time again and I bet each of you do too.  I know it still happens in schools and public libraries all over the country. I bet you have all had a heart sinking moment of looking at a curated list compiled by a professional colleague (with the best of intentions, of course) and seeing how few books by Native creators and creators of color are on it.

For me, this sinking feeling came every year when they released the New Mexico Battle of the Books list. This is a state wide competition that encourages kids to read from a list of 20 titles, memorize details, and then compete in a quiz bowl like competition. It’s assembled by a small group of (almost entirely) school librarians and, without fail, it is a exceedingly White list. I have tried a variety of things to change this including made plenty of other nominations and specifically requested more diversity. But the White list – featuring the same small handful of Native creators and creators of color – returns every year.

On their 2016-2017 list out of 40 books, only one was by an African-American author yet two were by a white woman writing about African-American characters. The elementary list had only one book by an author of color and one book by a Native writer and the middle school list had three books by people of color – including the only book on either list by a Latinx author. Considering the population of New Mexico is 48% Latinx as of 2015 this felt like an especially glaring oversight. Similarly, we have 10% Native population and 22 federally registered tribe, yet there was only one book by a Native author on either list. All together out of 40 books, the lists featured only 5 books by Native authors and authors of color.

This is simply unacceptable in the year 2017. Honestly. I can’t think of any other way to say it. You, as a librarian, are charged with being a gatekeeper. When you make lists like this one, when you make displays like the one in Lin’s library, you are not opening the gates to everyone. You are status quo’ing and, to be frank, you’re being lazy.

“But they’re my favorites! I can’t help that they’re my favorites! I should be able to read what I want!” 

Imagine a patron comes up to you and tells you that they just finished the last Harry Hole book by Jo Nesbø and they really want some more dark Scandinavian mysteries.

“Oh sorry,” you say to them. “I really only like cozy mysteries. Ones with cats or in tea shops. I just can’t get into that dark stuff. But I just finished a great series about a quilter, let me show you.”

Can you imagine that? No, probably not. Because even if that was true, you’d understand that your reading tastes weren’t supposed to dictate their request. This moment is not about if you like Scandinavian noir. It’s about more than just YOUR taste in books.

And this exact thing is what I’m asking when I ask you to consider the lists, the displays, the booktalks you present to patrons. It’s about more than just YOUR taste in books.

Moreover: “I don’t really read books ‘like that’ so I don’t have any favorites to include or booktalk or display!” is a fundamentally racist thing to say. What do you even mean “like that”? Do you think Native creators and creators of color only write or create ONE kind of book? And what kind of book, exactly, would you imagine that is?

You really only love mysteries? Great! Do you know Attica Locke? Lamar Giles? Marcie Rendon? The Clubhouse Mysteries? You really only love romances? Super! Do you know Alisha Rai? When Dimple Met RishiWhen the Moon Was Ours? Farrah Rochon? You really only love historical fiction? Amazing! Do you know Stacey Lee? Homegoing? Margarita Engle? Tim Tingle? Shall I go on and on and on?

When you say “I don’t really read books ‘like that’ I stay in my favorite genre!” you should think carefully about what assumptions you’re making about work by Native creators and creators of color. It reveals that you think of “diverse books” as something remote, separate from “regular” books. And when you, as a librarian, as a gatekeeper, make these assumptions in your booklists, your displays, your selections – you’re passing them on to your patrons. You’re distancing and other’ing your Native patrons and patrons of color and you are sending the same message to your White patron.

I am not telling you what your “favorites” should be. I am not telling you YOU BETTER READ ____ OR ELSE! I am telling you that you owe it to your patrons to think bigger than just what you have always known, what you are most comfortable with, what you have always done.  Isn’t learning more and serving everyone a major part of what drew you to public librarianship as a career?  It certainly was for me. And I don’t take that lightly. I want to do the most for ALL my patrons and open their worlds up as much as I can. So for me, that means I’m going to make sure that my patrons are exposed to the widest range of authors and books – I am going to look BIGGER than the same White stories by the same White authors over and over. (the immediate family of an 11-13 year old White girl with a quirky name die in an accident, or maybe from cancer, and so she goes to live with her eccentric family, aunts or grandpas are best, and learns that this is her new home as she meets a loving cast of oddballs. They’re all mostly White, with a few people with “light brown” skin. I’ve read this book 10000 times. I’m so over this book.)

So, you’ve been there. You’ve looked at a booklist or a display that a colleague made – maybe that you made – and realized that you were leaving some voices and stories out, that it didn’t have the full range of experience and life that you wanted for your library and your patrons. You got that all White message.  What next?

Change it.  Change what you can, where you can.

My library stopped participating in the New Mexico Battle of the Books when my complaints (and suggestions) were met with a constant refusal to consider more and deeper diversity or to even address my concerns. Instead, I decided to create my own local program and get my school librarians on board.  It’s not perfect, heck it’s still an experiment in progress, but it’s a list that more accurately reflects the kids in our state, a list that isn’t the same tiny handful of Native creators/creators of color, a list that shows some of the best and most interesting writing in kidlit. I’m going to learn lessons as this goes. I am not going to have the same program I used to have. Some kids won’t be interested. But maybe some new ones will be. I am going to be OK with this new thing and know that at least it’s a step forward.

And I mean, come on. This is a pretty great list, right? 

Here’s a list I compiled for people signing up for our new 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. I wanted to make them a list of books they might not have read 1000 times already (haha) or received ten copies of at their baby showers. I wanted to make a list for adults to share with kids that would allow them, together, to discover and explore the world through books. I chose high interest toddler topics (animals, trucks, counting, nature) and books about reading, writing, singing, playing, and talking. Some of these books could be considered my “favorites” but, really, they’re books I think a wide range of patrons can enjoy. Maybe even the books I don’t like as much, the books that aren’t my favorites can be someone else’s favorites.

Whenever I have a chance to share books with my patrons, with my fellow educators and librarians, I look with a critical eye at those lists, those displays, and those chances to be a gatekeeper, a trusted voice.  I think about who I am sharing mirrors and doors with and I think about all the chances I have to change a life, to help a patron feel seen, to open a new door, to help someone discover a new favorite. I am going to think about more than just me. Because that, too, is why I became a librarian.

My fellow White librarians: I challenge you to challenge yourselves. Take a hard look at your daily library service and think about what messages you’re sending – and which you are sending by virtue of omission.

We can change the message. Let’s do it.

Additional Reading

Performative Allyship and Storytime by Alec Chunn
Selecting While White: Breaking Out of the Vendor Box by Chelsea Couillard-Smith
Multicultural Children’s Literature: Where Are We? by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop

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.


Where’s the fat kids in picture books?

Well, you might guess the answer. They don’t really exist. Or they’re lumpy, somewhat grotesque bullies.  Or maybe you can find a few rotund hedgehogs or something but hey they’re really more adorable than anything else.

You know what fat people look like in picture books? Like this:

(this is from President Taft is Stuck in the Bath and I’ll be talking about this garbage fire shit soon.)

And yet picture books are the perfect place to start the talk with kids about loving and accepting your body.  Think of the picture books about accepting differences, about being OK with who you are.  Think how important those can be to kids, how when they are done well they are so affirming and so important.

Fat kids deserve mirrors too, is what I’m saying.  And they just don’t exist in picture books.

So yeah, I winced when I saw the title Abigail the Whale and saw a round fat girl in a bathing suit on the cover of a book.  I winced with everything I was expecting from this book.

And then I cried when it was nothing – nothing – like I was expecting.

The plot is quite simple. Abigail hates swimming in school. She hates it because when she jumps in the pool she makes “an enormous wave.” The other kids laugh.  They point.  And you know what they shout.  They shout “Abigail is a whale!”

The illustrations give us a lot here. They gives us Abigail slumping to the pool. They give us a huge wave from Abigail jumping in.  They even give us her heartbroken face as she bobs in the pool and her classmates tease her.

After swimming she sits by the pool with her swimming teacher.  And I braced for it.  I braced for the well meaning grown-up telling her that if she tried hard enough, if she worked hard enough at swimming, she could lose a little weight.  Oh, it wouldn’t be phrased like that, no dog whistles never are, it’d be something like: be stronger, feel better, be healthy, be more confident.  See, LOSING WEIGHT is always goal #1 of what they want us fat people to do, fat kids included, but they make sure to phrase it in a way where it seems like they care about us. So, I braced myself for it, for the gentle swim coach who encourages our fat little Abigail to work for her health.

And … instead …

“What’s wrong, Abigail? Don’t you like swimming? You’re a good swimmer, you know.”
“No, I’m too big and heavy.”
“That’s not true.  That’s just what you think.

Whoa! Whoa! Did an adult in a story just give a fat kid a compliment on her skills?  Did he just say that she’s good at something and then implicitly state that she is NOT too big and heavy.

I honestly gasped when I read this.  It seems so fucking small, I know.  I know it does.  But it’s not.  It’s not the kind of message fat people get.  We just don’t.

The book then gets into the main plot, which is the swimming teacher sharing his philosophy with Abigail, which will change Abigail’s life and power the narrative.

“We are what we think,” her teacher said. “If you want to swim well, you have to think light.” … “So if you want to feel light, think light.

Look…OK.  I know this is some surface level philosophy.  I know that it only scratches the very surface of what we need to understand and teach kids about bodies and how they interact with the world (and how the world interacts with them.) I totally agree. I also know there is a great amount of privilege in the suggestion you just “think” your way out of situations.

But I really think the swim coach’s advice is what makes Abigail the Whale work, because it is something that’s fundamental to fat positivity. One of the most important things you learn in fat positivity is that you can work to change people’s preconceptions but in the end you must accept your body and you are the most important voice when a thousand people are screaming at you about what a whale you are. It is your thoughts that change the world. You’re not suddenly thin.  It isn’t suddenly easier to find clothes that fit. But YOU can think about yourself differently and, in fact, that’s one of the first steps of fat positivity: what if I thought I was enough? 

And that’s really the core of what Abigail’s coach is telling her here: think of who you want to be and don’t let the world tell you otherwise or change your thoughts.

Abigail decides it can’t hurt and starts practicing it in ALL situations, not just swimming and not just when she’s worried about making a splash. In bed she thinks hedgehog curled up in a burrow and falls right asleep.  Abigail tries it all week! She thinks kangaroo and jumps high in gym. She thinks rabbit and eats all her carrots at lunch. She even, be still my heart, thinks shining sun and GUESS WHAT that boy she likes smiles at her.


And, at last, we come back to gym class and the pool.  And Abigail gets in line and thinks …. rocket. And she enters the water without a splash. And then and then she thinks of every kind of ocean fish and she swims beautifully, flawlessly. She thinks kayak, surfboard, submarine, speedboat and swims every stroke!

“Way to go, Abigail!”
All the kids in class we watching.
This time, no one shouted “Abigail is a whale!”


But of course there is still one kid who must tease. She dares Abigail to jump from the high diving board. Abigail climbs right up, though. And she thinks.  She thinks very hard.  And you know what she thinks of? In this moment after she has been victorious over her fears and shown off her skills and silenced the taunts Abigail thinks …

She thought very hard:
No, even better…

And she splashes all over that kid. With joy.

Let’s take a look at some of the illustrations from Sonja Bougaeva, because they’re really important and just wonderful.

Here, the illustrations give us the gravity of Abigail’s feelings. It sucks to be teased.  It hurts and it has a real impact.  It’s not “just fun” for Abigail.  Validating for fat kids to see!

Abigail is fat.  She is round.  She has a belly. This is a book about a fat kid and she is illustrated accordingly.  She’s fat.  This makes her body real and it is an actual mirror for actual fat bodies. Again, this seems like a detail, but it’s not.  Look at her in comparison with the other kids.

That’s a fat kid. That’s Abigail.

And you know what?  Abigail gets joy. Abigail gets to be GOOD AT SOMETHING.  Look at Abigail swimming, look at how she is HAPPY.

Oh, and note that she’s still fat. Look at her belly!


I really did cry when I read Abigail the Whale for the first time.  So many moments when it could have went horribly, horribly wrong.  So many moments when it chose happiness for Abigail, when it gave her moments to preserve and, yes, persist.

Here are some amazing things for fat kids in this text:

  • her swim coach is fat too (see him in that first picture) so we know other fat people exist and DO STUFF in this universe and can even help each other out!
  • Abigail learns to sustain and bolster HERSELF. Using her coach’s technique she finds something in herself that motivates and inspires her.  She doesn’t rely on someone liking/befriending her or someone seeing something “other than her fat”. Within HERSELF and for herself she finds strength, resolve, and courage with WHO SHE IS and HOW SHE IS. This is some serious stuff that fat activists struggle with. To have it portrayed for kids in such a positive way … just … it means so much.
  • Abigail is allowed to feel stress and the impacts of the teasing. And, by that same token, she is allowed to feel joy and pride at her successes.
  • When she is up there at the top of the high dive, ready to jump in and show her bravery, Abigail does not imagine herself a rocket. She does not imagine she is light as air. She does not imagine herself as an arrow or even a cannonball. The text gives her that word back – the word the children have tried to turn against her. ABIGAIL IS A SUPER WHALE and that is empowering.  Many fat people will tell you of their joy of taking the word fat back for themselves and that’s what Cali gives Abigail in this moment.  I am here, at the top of this high dive, and I AM A WHALE and you won’t make me feel bad or hide from it. I WILL HAVE JOY. I WILL BE THAT THING YOU SAY I SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF. I WILL MAKE A SPLASH!

And does she ever.

Abigail the Whale is unlike anything I’ve ever read in picture books and, to be honest, it’s really quite unique in children’s AND YA lit. Because it gives us Abigail and her belly and her splash and it makes no apologies.  Indeed, it celebrates. This is a powerful message for kids, especially fat ones, and for the grown-ups who take care of them and are passing on messages about bodies and body image they might not even be aware of.

This is a translation of an Italian work and we’re so lucky to have it! If anyone speaks Italian or knows Davide Cali, please send him my biggest love and thanks! Abigail the Whale was published in the US by Owlkids Books. You can find out more about it here.  Of course, I am highly recommending it as a first purchase for all libraries and for anyone who wants to start sharing fat positivity with kids. You can pick up a copy at your favorite local indie bookstore or online. You can also check out a copy from your local library. If they don’t have one, suggest they purchase it.

Most major reviewing sources found it to be pleasantly innocuous or standard fare.  Trust me as a fat person and reviewer and lover of kid’s books: it’s anything but. Kirkus thought the swim teacher should have done more to stop the bullying – but this isn’t a book about THE OTHER KIDS, you see.  It’s a book about Abigail. And it’s about damn time she gets her own book.

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!)

How We Do Library Tours (Grades 3 & 4)

We did it!  We finished another school year of library visits and tours! Lessons were learned, improvements were made, and tons of kids, teachers, and parents visited our main library and our branch library for tours and outreach. I previously wrote up the process of how we do tours for our K-2 visits and people have found that post really helpful so I decided it was FINALLY time to write up the next entry in the series.

I’ll go over some of the basics, but a lot of that is covered in my K-2 tours post, including all of my amazing inspirations (check the comments there’s great stuff there too!) so definitely go over there and take a look.

Nothing has made my life – and my staff’s lives – easier than getting our tours down to a routine! This is the #1 thing I’d like to stress about however you want to handle tours: make it routine.  Get to the point where you can pull out a standard tour schedule without blinking.  It will make you more receptive to saying SURE YOU CAN COME without panicking about it and it gives an overall much better experience.

My main disclaimer, as last time: yes, our tours take a lot of staff.  (in fact, we have them down to such a routine that now our biggest problem is figuring out the scheduling parts.) But we get a lot of yield out of that staff.  The majority of these tours are the entire grade from a local elementary school, 2-3 classes of kids. That means it’s usually 45-65 kids plus a minimum of 12-15 adult chaperones. That’s a big program so it warrants a big staff investment.

We make great contact with the schools and help encourage visits through our Celebrate A Grade Initiative. Our 3rd-4th grade tours have lots in common with our K-2 tours – but we gear up everything for our older kids, especially the skills lessons.

As with the K-2 we invite the 3rd & 4th grade classes/grades to visit for one hour.  In this hour we rotate through three stations, each lasting twenty minutes.  Most often the classes/grades come in groups of three, which make this rotation simple but if they come in groups of two, we rotate them through the first two stations and then have a big storytime as a final activity.

Here are the three stations we’ve created for the 3rd & 4th grade tours.

Tour! Since these kids are older, we give them a slightly more in-depth tour.  Some of their favorite things are: going outside to see the book drop, seeing the inside book drop and where things end up (notice a trend), hearing about and seeing the hold shelf, and hearing about our circulating art collection. (We check out framed paintings – kids love knowing about this.  So, if you have a cool/unique collection, think about adding it to your tour!) We usually spend this part of the tour talking to them about how the library works/touring the adult department. (Our children’s department is on another floor, lucky us.) I have thought about adding in a tour of the kid section, but they enjoy the larger behind the scenes picture of the WHOLE library and I think that’s important to learn about. But we shall see!

We also have an art gallery on the third floor and when there’s a kid friendly show up there we sometimes take kids on a tour of that instead.  They like hearing about how many people visit the gallery and what it means to have a gallery inside a library.  And they love getting to go through the exhibits. They have come during Youth Art Month when the gallery is all art from local students and when the local photographer’s club have their work up and those are two favorites.

Dewey Decimal Activity! This is the simple craft (color your owls) station for K-2.  But we think the 3rd-4th graders are ready for some Dewey Decimal lessons. We start by watching this Capstone video about BOB THE ALIEN.  The kids freaking love Bob the Alien because … we have no idea! This video is slow enough to read along out loud and since it doesn’t have commentary, we can add our own extra info. There’s even a book about Bob, should you be so tempted and want to use it as part of your tours. (note that’s a whole series from Capstone covering book/reading topics, so it could be of use in school libraries/tours.)

After watching the video, the staff member running this station talks a little bit about the Dewey Decimal system.  Usually we’ll talk about how learning Dewey is sort of like learning a new alien language … but with the numbers and letters we already have! Then we all hop up to do an activity.

My amazing colleague Melissa came up with a fun activity where the kids become books and put themselves in order. We usually start by just alphabetical order, which they are used to.  They make a line and call out all their names and they love it. THEN they get …. their own book spines.

spines 1

Melissa originally just printed out slips of paper for this activity but … REPEATABLE ROUTINE! Instead, these are laminated and taped onto big Popsicle sticks, so we can use them over and over again.  And the kids love them, of course.  We have 30 – more than we need for any one class but it’s always good to have some extras. They are real books from the collection, which we make sure to mention. We always slip in some high interest titles: oooh, you have Minecraft books?  COOL! Here’s an up close:


This activity makes the kids work together and pay attention to detail. They also get to see that Dewey means more than just the first three digits. We tell them that they are books and they must make sure they are in the right order so people can find them to check them out and this makes them giggle but also think seriously about why it matters where books are. It also gets them moving, gets them talking and working together, and helps them pay attention to the Dewey Decimal system in a hands on way.

We have an answer guide to check their work, which we have them call out, and that makes it easy and quick to check their work.

check sheet

Their take home for the visit is a Dewey Decimal bookmark.  We buy the oversized Dewey bookmarks from Upstart and the kids really love them.  They’re worth the money.

dewey 2 dewey 1

Storytime! We like to have a story as a part of all the tours for K-4th. (for the upper grades we do booktalks – more about that in the next post!) I mean…it’s a library tour.  Much like the K-2, we use this station as a chance to talk about what they can do/find at the library : things like where they can talk loudly and play games and where they have to be more quiet to study and work.  We talk about looking for people with nametags to help, how they can read anything they want and we have so many cool things (video games, magazines, computers to game on if your parents say it’s OK, tons of comics and manga) And even though they are older, we still sing some songs, which they get into even when they are sure they won’t, of course.

We can do longer books with more imaginative play/word play with this group, so we have three main choices we rotate through, all of which I highly recommend!


Quiet! There’s A Canary in the Library by Don Freeman. Yes, this old classic! This Don Freeman classic from the late 60s is about a girl imaging how if SHE ran the library, she’d have all the animals come in and it’d be just great…until…maybe… I like this one because we can talk about what you would do in your library and some of the rules about how we use our library.  Also, the older kids get that this is her using her imagination, which is a good bridge for talking about how stories and libraries let us imagine all kinds of wonderful things.

library book for bear

A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker. Bear doesn’t want to go to the library with mouse.  He has seven books at his house, he doesn’t need any more! But maybe he can find some treasure at the library.  The kids love grumpy old Bear, his love for pickles, and the scene where he gets to SHOUT. (lots of fun to read.)  Gives us a chance to talk about how you can find a book about every thing you might be interested in and, yes, even programs that are just perfect for you. (And this is just one book in the series about Bear and Mouse, so we can talk about series books too.)


No Pirates Allowed! Said Library Lou by Rhonda Gowler Greene.  Pirate Pete wants the treasure hiding in Seabreezy Library, but Library Lou says she’ll only help him figure out the map if he learns her code…it’s full of strange symbols and letters besides X. There might even be a clue in all those books on the shelves. I HIGHLY recommend this slightly longer book for the older kids. I just did it with about to graduate 3rd graders and they were with me every page. It’s told in rhyme and is, of course, about a pirate who learns to read (and then works his way through subject areas/genres) and comes to love reading.  Lots of chances to talk about how the library works/different kind of books and for the kids to figure out what’s going on and a sing-song pirate speak is fun to read. Also, I dig that he does not marry the librarian at the end.

The other thing about all three of these books is that if you have younger 3rd graders, older 2nd graders,  not enough time to do the Dewey Lesson (or they already cover that at school etc) you can easily make the third station crafts connecting back to the books .  We’ve done color your own pirate/bear bookmarks, respectively, to go with these and they were hits.

As I said – we do still do a song or two with these kids so besides opening with something to warm them up, I like to close with everyone standing up, shaking a little bit, and then doing Form the Orange, which even if they know it, sends them into fits of delight. Sometimes we also do this version of Put Your Hands Up High (thanks to Jbrary!) which also cracks them up and can then be done again in slo-mo (a favorite) or super fast.

And that’s about an hour!  We had a great year with the older kids touring and, again, having it all down to a routine has really made it a breeze setting one up.  Once we got the Dewey station set up with more solid props, that just added to the overall experience. Teachers, parents, and kids definitely notice that we’re prepared and I think it absolutely makes them feel more welcomed and excited about the library.

I’ll hopefully have one more post in this series, covering what we do for the upper elementary (and sometimes even middle school – the entire 7th grade of our town usually stops by once a year, oh boy!) but in the meantime, I’d love to talk tours with YOU!  How do YOU do tours and class visits?  What works for you?  What have you had to discard?  How often do you get class tours from your schools? Tell me all about it in the comments – and if I left out anything you’d like more info about in this post, let me know – or chat with me on Twitter.

Rainbow Fairy Magic @ Your Library

In a way, this event exemplifies everything I think these one day stand-alone programs can be: no matter what you might see, you don’t have to spend a TON of money and endless staff hours creating something that looks like it came out of a party planning book.  You don’t have to limit attendance just so you’ll have enough dowels or can provide elaborate party favors as if at a children’s party.  We invite everyone in and work with what you have! You can have events like this on small budgets, using upcycled material or cheaper supplies like … sequins.  It’s not about making it look like Pinterest or Martha Stewart.  It’s about opening up the library as a place for families to create and make and showing kids, with no judgment and great enthusiasm instead, that we have piles and piles of the books they love and know about ones they haven’t even heard of yet. That’s the most important part and it’s worth everything.

Which one is your favorite?  I think mine is Lara the Black Cat Fairy because FOR SOME REASON this is in the Magic Animal Fairies series even though black cats aren’t actually magical and the other fairies in that series are, like, unicorns and phoenixes! And how is there even also a series about PET fairies.  I mean …

Well, I guess that sums up why we decided to have this event.  Because we have shelves of the darn things, because kids check them out in stacks literally up to their eyes.  Because they are great safe chapter books that build confidence and passion in kids which helps them become dedicated readers. BECAUSE RAINBOW MAGIC FAIRIES, come on.

This was one of the VERY FIRST programs we ever did as a single stand-alone the summer we started making a big switch to them.  THAT turned out to be one of our greatest learning experiences – we scheduled it for two hours and we quickly learned that’s FAR too long for these events!  We scaled them down to an hour after me and my co-worker Melissa spent 2o minutes dancing in a circle doing a song Melissa made up on the spot (“The Fairy Hokey-Pokey” –  put your wings in, put your wings out!) to kill time. So, since it had been a few summers, we decided repeating Rainbow Magic Fairies as a stand-alone was OK.  Here’s what we did!

20 minutes of story

birthdayAs you probably know, all of our events start off with a story.  It’s why we’re all there, after all, and it gives us a chance to come together as a group and talk about books and all the neat stuff the library has. When it comes to bigger properties/characters, I like to focus on a SPECIFIC title because it makes it easier to tie everything together and really focus on something.  We lucked out with Rainbow Magic Fairies because at last there are beginning reader titles!  Jackpot for reading out loud, baby!

I chose The Fairies’ Birthday Surprise because … uh they make a cake in it? I knew we could have an easy/all ages craft station for a cake. And I loved that at the end, they cut into it and it was ALL colors, wheee! Simple predictive text that satisfied the kids when the inside of the cake was revealed. (if you don’t have these readers, there’s five all together, I highly recommend them and they’re worth every penny of the library binding.)

40 Minutes of Activity

At almost all of our events, we include a look and find scavenger hunt around the youth services area.  This is a good way to keep our active kids moving and it splits up the crowd.  We print out 10 images related to our theme and hang them up around the library and send kids out with a sheet to look and find for them.  I always recommend having this as an activity – it’s simple and the kids loooovveee it.  We chose the seven fairies from the book and three ingredients to make cake (see the theme’s usefulness?)

We also usually have some kind of activity station – a bean-bag toss or knock-over or a balance relay but we decided the look and find would be enough for this one. (especially since there was no mention of Jack Frost in this reader, but if you did a knock-over station, it’d be easy to do Jack Frost/icicles as targets.)

We had three craft stations and a photo booth (we love photo booths, if you have the space I always recommend throwing one up, it’s a great way let patrons share/spread word about your events FOR you.)

Station One: load up muffin tins with pony beads – make sure you have some cool ones mixed in like pastels and glow in the darks – and have the kids make themselves rainbow necklaces and bracelets as their hearts dictate.  This is always a popular station. It’s also gotten a lot easier since my colleague Melissa came up with the genius idea to set it down on the floor.  No more kids crowding around a table as pony beads roll to the ground  and then they chase after then.  Now we all sit down on a sheet (to contain them all) and relax and bead.  Super-easy change that makes a big difference, even in the vibe.

rainbow beading

(yes there are boys down there beading because of course there are, because of course they came, because all kids like beaded bracelets and did I mention there were glow in the dark beads?)

Station Two: make your own wands. BUT we never do registration for our events, so we’re never sure how many people will show up. So I wasn’t going to invest in a ton of dowel rods to make wands, which is a common thing you see.  Besides, we have tons of material (specifically calendars – I love old calendars!) waiting to be recycled so why not use those?

We let kids choose their own pieces of calendar paper and then, starting at a bottom corner and rolling tightly, we rolled it into a wand.  If you look at this tutorial, we used these basic instructions.  We used glue sticks instead of two side-tape and we stopped at the part where she starts hot glue-gunning.  Using the calendar paper was decoration enough.  We used some of our fancy scissors to cut other calendar pages into rickrack and included some strips of ribbon which we let the kids glue inside to give them something fun to swish around.  They loved it, of course. Lots of swishy.  The stiffer calendar paper made the wands more substantial, which lead to a lot of fun.  And since they weren’t stereotypical princess wands, everyone felt comfortable making them.  Most of the pics we got of them were actually in action, but here’s an OK shot of one. (note beaded necklace)

rainbow wand

Station Three: here we are, back at the theme with a decorate your own cake! I found a free coloring page that looked like a delightful, giant cake and we put out sequins, more of our homemade rickrack, colored pencils, and crayons and let the kids go to town.  If you look at the little girl in the Hello Kitty shirt you can see a pretty typical cake in process.  And if you look to the back at the little boy in the stripes is literally pouring an entire container of sequins on his cake.  He couldn’t even pick it up.  Ah, library magic!

rainbow cakes

I also put out some Rainbow Magic coloring pages at this station, since it felt like a good place to have coloring and creating.  Here’s what the cake I chose actually looked like – the layers made it perfect for decorating and it EVEN looked a little like the cake in the book! color cake


We had about 35 kids and assorted grown-ups attend and everyone loved it.  I made a big display of FOR FANS OF RAINBOW MAGIC! books and they all got checked out. We’d definitely do it again, but we might wait a summer or two to put it back in rotation.  As per usual, it could have never happened without my fantastic staff, who dressed up and were game for everything! (and yes, in case you can’t tell, I am obviously wearing wings.)

rainbow staff

Are there any questions about our event I didn’t answer?  Let me know!  Have YOU had a Rainbow Fairy Magic event at your library?  I’d love to hear all about it!  What books did you read?  What crafts did you make?  How did your patrons react?  Did you make a read-alike table (what could read as wonderfully as these masterpieces?) and if so, what other books did you share?  I want to hear all about it, so share in the comments or chat with me on Twitter!

2016 ALA Elections

I am standing for election on the 2017 Newbery ballot and I can’t believe I am actually typing that sentence but … there you have it.  It’s real. It’s really real! Even being on the ballot is just a dream come true and I am so grateful to ALSC for the great fortune of being selected for the ballot.newbery

I hope if you’re reading this and are a member of ALSC, you’ll consider voting for me.  I have been a professional librarian since 2007 and since that time, I have worked tirelessly to expand my skills when it comes to critically evaluate material for children and teens.  I have served on the following selection committees: the 2011 William Morris Award Committee and the 2013 Excellence in Young Adult Non-Fiction Award. I am currently serving the second year of a two year appointment to the GLBTRT Stonewall Committee, Youth Subcommittee. I was also a member of  theALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee from 2013-2015 and when I first got involved with ALA, I served as a member and then chair of YALSA’s Outreach to Young Adults with Special Needs committee, 2008-2010. I’ve reviewed for School Library Journal for two year. I am also deeply committed to sharing my knowledge through presenting, training, and publishing.  You can find out more about that on my professional page.

Being a member of the Newbery committee has long been my highest professional goal because I do truly understand its importance and relevance to all of children’s literature. I would be a dedicated and diligent committee member and fully invest in the responsibilities of committee work, including all the reading (I’ve been practicing!) and in-depth, critical discussion. In addition, my workplace and supervisor support my committee work as does my significant other, ensuring that I would be able to focus on my committee duties as needed. Having the chance to serve on the Newbery committee would be an honor and a commitment I would not take lightly and one which I would work to fulfill to the best of my abilities.

Whether you can vote for me or not (not an ALSC member, I know how it goes) thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement – I have the BEST crew of supporters and conspirators out there and I am so grateful for everything.

BUT ALSO BESIDES ME – there are so many amazing people standing on ALL the ALA ballots, so if you’re a member, I hope you’ll take some time to read up on the candidates and VOTE! There are so many great people running, I’ve been talking about many of them on Twitter and I am so lucky to know and have worked with them!

But I want to take a second to talk about three specific women who are some of the smartest librarians I’ve ever met and who have each made me a better librarian.  They are essential, critical voices who would be HUGE assets to their committees, so I’d like to ask you to consider them as well.

For Caldecott: Katie Salo has taught me more about picture books than almost anyone and her deep understanding of the genre makes her a perfect fit for the Caldecott.
For Newbery: Sujei Lugo is a sharp, thoughtful, rigorous evaluator of kidlit and YA and every time I talk to her about books, she opens up new avenues of my understanding.  She would be an excellent member of the Newbery committee.
For Printz: Edith Campbell never fails to make me dig deeper and think harder.  Her astute and fearless analysis of YA and kidlit is beyond compare and she would be a wonderful addition to the Printz committee.

To everyone on this year’s ballot: congrats on being selected by your nominating committee and thank you for contributing to our professional world.  If you’re NOT involved in ALA, well, for me it’s been the most amazing professional experience of growth, learning, and connection so check out ALA! I’d also love to hear more in the comments, so if you’re standing on the ballot or know someone who is standing that you think is qualified, drop a note here or chat with me on Twitter.

Thank you so much for considering me!

Re-Vamping Summer Reading, Part Three: Super-Action PlayPacks


Previously in this series
Re-Vamping Summer Reading, Part One: Adding Passive Programming & Tracking
Re-Vamping Summer Reading, Part Two: Those Darn Prizes 


No more cheap plastic crap!  No more cheap plastic crap!  Keep saying it to yourself (and your administration!) until it is imprinted on your brain.  Your summer programs don’t need it, your patrons don’t really want it, and everything will be so much easier once you get rid of it.

We still give away what you might think of as small prizes – but they are items that can be OF USE. Everyone likes that.  Pencils, bookmarks (especially the scented kind), erasers, earbuds, lanyards.  For the littles we always have some stickers and that’s about as close to “useless” as we get.

That was a great first change.  But I knew we could do more.  So the second I saw the amazing Abby‘s post about switching over to Science Activity Packs as prizes, I new that was a change we were making for summer 2015.  FINALLY a chance to give kids a prize that could encourage play and learning and activities.

I took several of Abby’s wondrous ideas and added some – especially more focused on art and creation so STEM wasn’t the only topic.  I also added some choices for younger kids. As I covered in part two of this series, we revamped our summer program to have levels and goals. We decided that kids would earn these packs after finishing their reading goal.  That was 25 hours of reading for a Super-Action PlayPack.  That seemed like a reasonable number to test this out for the first year.  To add to the fun, we made a menu of their choices for the kids to pour over. Let’s take a look at the menu and inside our Super-Action PlayPacks!

board 1
board 2

board 3

As you can see, we had six choices.

Our far and away most popular choice was CREATE A CHEMICAL REACTION. It was inspired by my boss’s copious tiny water bottle habit and the amazing experience we had during a special Toddler Science Time. All it cost us was the Alka-Selzer!

fizzy 1

fizzy 2

The kids also loved WRITE YOUR OWN COMIC.  We found some comic templates and bought a case of colored pencils. This was a big hit, especially after our summer Comix Club.


One of the packs for the younger kids was PLAY A MATCHING GAME.  I bought some superhero/ine clip art from Etsy and printed out sets of my favorite matching cards and put them together as sets for kids to play memory games or pattern matching.  Parents mentioned liking these to have “games to go” on hand.



Another choice for the younger kids were sets of superhero/ine finger puppets that we bought from the Upstart catalog as PLAY WITH FINGER PUPPETS. These weren’t as popular as I thought, I think because it was an abstract concept.  If we brought them out and played with them, kids wanted them – but otherwise, it was hard to show them in action. We’ll probably end up using these in a program and not recycle them into a PlayPack. They were super-cute though!



A choice that we thought would be for the littles but then surprised us with its popularity  was MAKE A TEXTURE BOOK.  Along with the classroom pack of colored pencils, we also bought a classroom pack of crayons so they were all fresh and new and then made a little booklet of paper.  So many of the kids wanted these and they were packs we saw getting played with RIGHT AWAY as kids started texturing around the library.



This program went up to kids in 5-6th grade, so we wanted to make sure there was stuff for them too.  (like the comic book pack.)  Our older kids are into origami and we had tons of origami paper hanging around, so we had FOLD AN ORIGAMI ANIMAL. The older kids were definitely drawn to this too.



Another all ages appeal pack was BUILD WITH MARSHMALLOWS.  This was just toothpicks, which we had tons of on-hand, and a few packs of marshmallows.  We had to make sure they were sealed up tight. The good part about these was some of the older kids really dug them.  The bad part was most of the younger kids just wanted to get some gross half-dried marshmallows, haha.  So … we probably won’t be doing this one again.



We didn’t have any MAKE A BALLOON ROCKET left!  But to create them, we just followed Abby’s instructions.  Of course the kids LOVED this one.  We bought kite string and non-bendy straws, which was a great decision … but I would have spent more for the “longer” balloons.  And make sure your balloons are new, haha, we used older ones and many were dried out!


  • This was too much fun!  Talk about people not missing cheap plastic tchotchkes! Kids felt like they were getting a REAL TOY and parents loved that it wasn’t another piece of junk to throw out after it broke on the way to the parking lot. Kids definitely wanted to earn more than one.
  • Each pack was in a self-contained Ziploc baggie, so there were no pieces falling out or anything of the like.  Then they were stacked up, by group, in a single storage bin behind the desk.  When a kid chose from the menu, it didn’t take us too long to find one to fish out. You could separate them out further though, if you had the space or were worried about the time commitment of finding one.
  • We made 25 of each pack to start off with, decided we were just going to have to see what was popular and refill from there. We only had to refill two or three one time over the two months of the summer because, well, kids liked the choices.  (most popular: Create a Chemical Reaction, Make A Balloon Rocket, and Write Your Own Comic.) Our delightful student interns assembly-lined the packing over the course of a day, but this would be a great volunteer task.
  • It wasn’t SUPER cheap – we did have to make a few big investments like the class-packs of crayons and colored pencils, but we’ll use those for lots of giveaways and even some programs. And there were other things: the kite string, the Alka-Selzer, the finger puppets.  BUT we had other stuff on hand – the bottles, the origami paper.
  • Overall, it was a great value because it was easy to replicate on a big scale once we made an initial investment.  And it was SURELY worth more than buying 700 sticky hands from Oriental Trading!!
  • We did not have this option for our middle/high school program.  The end of their reading goal was a free book.  I don’t think we’d have the budget to invest in packs that would interest them and they were happier with books anyway!

We’ll definitely be bringing the PlayPacks back (maybe with a less superhero/ine oriented name?) even if we make some changes to which activities/packs we have available. And we might even make it so the kids can earn more than one.  We’re doing MUSIC as our theme this year (since I hate that stupid sports theme) so we might add something related to music – and that’s another bonus, you can customize these by program theme.  I got some great ideas from searching for BUSY BAG ACTIVITIES on Google and Pinterest and many parents recognized the “play and go” packs as these kind of activities and they LOVED it.

What do YOU think about activity packs as an incentive or supplement for your programs?  How are ways you might use it in your program in summer or year round? Do you have a take-home component that your patrons love? What kind of activities, games, or experiments do you think your patrons might like for this kind of incentive?   Do you have any questions I didn’t answer here? Let me know about it all here in the comments or chat with me on Twitter!