Posted in @ the library


with fellow Odyssey Committee member Beth Rosania at the Live Oak Media booth adding the Odyssey sticker to the CD.

What a year 2020 has been. In thinking about what I’m grateful for, I think all the way back to January. It was filled with such promise. I was preparing for ALA Midwinter, and for days of meetings and deliberations with the Odyssey Committee. And that conference in Philadelphia remains a highlight of my year. The committee spent 2019and early 2020 listening to hundreds of audiobooks, and many of them more than once. It was intense. I’ve always listened on my morning commute, and now my lunchtime walks were always with earbuds, as were most household tasks: laundry, organizing closets, gardening, dishes, cooking.

At in person meetings we got to know each other — a group of people with varied interests, at different stages of our careers, from all corners of the country. We got to know what things people noticed — and what each other’s pet peeves were (mouthsounds, sibillance anyone?) We benefitted from those who knew another language, who could point out an inaccurate accent or inconsistency. We also soon knew what each others favorites were. There was laughter, discovery, frustration (we are human!), wonder, respect, and looking back, for me — gratitude. Gratitude for the time each member of the committee devoted to listening and to discussion, to active participation in the process.

The big screen at the ALA Youth Media Award announcements on Monday morning!

And, since it is November, I’ve been thinking of one of “our” honor books, We Are Grateful, Otsaliheliga. It is thanks to this being an audio book, and to a fellow committee member who encouraged me, that I can now say Otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) . It is an altogether wonderful production, with Cherokee words and cultural elements, recorded in a Cherokee studio, with such an eye to accuracy and authenticity throughout. It is an exemplary picture book, and the audio adds another dimension for those who want to learn more about Native culture. The book celebrates the seasons and celebrations of the year with a Cherokee family. Read an incredible review here, in which Eti Berland explores many of the elements that work together to create this audiobook, to create this “immersive soundscape.” You can also enjoy this video interview with author Traci Sorrell.

Posted in @ the library

Poetry, Programming, & Translation


Discover an early pioneer in the field of computer science – Ada Byron Lovelace. A great introduction for early elementary age students that gives them the model of an intelligent, inquisitive, creative young woman with an amazing imagination and dreams of flying (in the 19th century!) Her ability to make connections among disparate fields was a key to her success. When viewing the mechanical loom, Ada learned of punch cards being used to direct machines . . . not unlike programming a computer. She became friends with Charles Babbage, who was working on what he described as  “the analytical engine” — now known as the first computer.

I was delighted to discover that Lovelace was a fine translator. She translated an article from the Italian into English which explained how Charles Babbage’s analytical engine worked. Additionally, her “notes from the translator” are much longer than the article itself. Lovelace described how this remarkable machine could be used — and it was her vision to see what it was capable of that was really remarkable: “writing text, composing music, reproducing images, even playing games like checkers or chess.”

Jessie Hartland’s gouache illustrations are colorful and appealing. They include many specific details, including scientific notation, images of mechanical looms and Babbage’s Difference Engine,  and locations and famous people (identifiable by the objects in the thought balloons above their heads). What a challenging book to illustrate!

For more about the book and a teacher’s guide, visit:


this School Library Journal article offers many resources for exploring Ada, women in science, coding, and Lord Byron (and more!) in the classroom.





Posted in @ the library, Book reviews, historical fiction, international books


What do you know about Lithuania? I certainly didn’t know much before reading Ruta Sepetys’ books. I knew it was one of the Baltic states, taken over by the Soviet Union in the early yeshadesofgray_bookars of World War II and kept as one of the buffer states during the Cold War. Lithuania became independent in early 1991 — with only short lived interference  from the crumbling Soviet Union.

Before reading Sepetys Between Shades of Gray, I knew little about Lithuania. I didn’t give much thought to what Soviet occupation meant. How much brutality lies underneath those few sentences on the subject in a textbook. That anyone seen as part of the intelligentsia, that is, anyone with an education, — teachers, doctors, lawyers, and yes, librarians — all were rounded up and deported. Homes, belongings, possessions lost, families divided. Sepetys draws upon her own family history in her writing, as she is of Lithuanian descent.  Fifteen year old Lina narrates the harrowing tale of her families removal, the long journey on the train, work in a labor camp, and final journey to Siberia.

Salt to the Sea reveals another story often hidden from history — the story osaltf the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the worst maritime disaster in history. As World War II draws to a close, refugees are fleeing the Baltic States through Poland and Prussia from the advancing Russian army, who pillage everything — that is, everything that the Germans have not destroyed as they are retreating. Refugees, children, soldiers alike seek an escape, a way out. Told from four different narrators whose stories intersect, this is another powerful and eye-opening story from

The links above will take you to Sepetys own site, and I highly recommend listening to her talk about her research and tell the story in her own voice. It also includes more history of the Wilhelm Gustloff, more about displaced persons of the Baltics during the war, and about refugees.

I’ve been thinking about these books quite a lot recently. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, joined NATO in 2004. With all the talk of NATO in the recent election cycle, what are the people of the Baltics concerned about these days? It is more important than ever to learn and remember history. In the Author’s Note section of Salt to the Sea, Sepetys writes: “If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memoirs, and personal testimonies, available. These are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please, give them a voice.”

Posted in @ the library, Book reviews, reader's advisory

Spring Trends, 2016

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to two classes of education students at Otterbein University about most anticipated new books and trends in publishing for grades 4-6 and teens. It was a challenging and fun way to review the field — from one librarian’s perspective. I’m sharing the presentations here because I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s trending these days. And they are already beginning to date — as is inherent with such topics. Please note — this is not at all comprehensive . . . I just had to stop collecting new ideas at some point!

What’s New in Literature for Young Adults – Spring 2016

What’s New in Literature for Young Readers – Spring 2016


Posted in @ the library, art, library programs, picture books

Into the Woods we go! Picture This 2015

schenkerThis year’s Picture This program (an annual summer program on the art of children’s books) focuses on fairy tales. We began with Nick Sharratt’s The Foggy Foggy Forest, which allows children to guess what fairy tale characters are in the shadows. Then we took a closer look at  German illustrator Sybille Schenker‘s magnificent cut paper illustrations.schenker2


To help the children think of a fairy tale, but distill it down to one illustration, we looked at mimimalist fairy tale posters — without the title and they tried to guess the story. I think they enjoyed the guessing aspect and also the different fairy tells helped them to pick one of their own, instead of having 20 images of Red Riding Hood.

We did suggest beginning with cutouts of trees or a forest, as these are relatively easy to make (fold a piece of black cardstock in half, cut rectangular shapes out — irregular is better — can make fatter or thinner, etc.). The results were really striking.

Can you guess what this one is?

dwarves1(Hint: count the number of hats)


Does anyone feel the wind changing?


Here is “The Little Old Lady who was not afraid of anything” (by an artist with an October birthday — she tried to think of a story that went with that time of year.)

collage1Another was inspired by Frozen:


while another stuck with a classic favorite:

IMG_7085and this one reflects the minimalist mindset:


and I like how this artist added branches to her trees: