Category Archives: Librarians

Telling stories – Adam Gidwitz

Last week, author Adam Gidwitz visited my school and spent the day doing presentations and hanging out with kids, and it was incredible. I haven’t read everything he’s written, but last year’s The Inquisitor’s Tale was one of my favorite recent reads. It’s a book that is difficult to sort into a definitive genre, but it has historic fiction, fantasy and adventure elements that combine beautifully into a wonderful story told in multiple voices a la The Canterbury Tales. Except that, unlike my high school experience suffering through Chaucer, this book was a joy from start to finish.

Adam did three separate presentations for my students and each was slightly tweaked to meet the population, in this case, our school’s grades of sixth, seventh and eighth. I was totally impressed with his comfort level with our students and his genuine interest in them. For instance, as students were filing in to the auditorium he made a point of introducing himself to those already seated with an easy “Hi, I’m Adam. What’s your name?” His past career as “the worst teacher in NYC,”* was proven impossible to believe. He gets kids.

We had lunch as a group of about 25 and it was relaxed and fun. I know the kids who were present won’t ever forget the experience. It was so cool. The last presentation was with our sixth graders and it was magic to see him wrangle that group of pre-pubescent kids, on the last Friday afternoon of the school year, with just four words: Once upon a time…

Read his books and see him speak, if you have the chance. There’s a possibility that he might pop up in the area next year and I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything.

*laughingly self-defined as such


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Education, Events, favorites, Librarians, Libraries, Local, Recommendations, Schools, Uncategorized

50 essential 4-letter words

When I run, I think. Last night I was thinking about the turmoil in our world – the terrorist attacks in our country and abroad, the  conflict between our elected representatives and the folks they’re supposed to represent, the wave of anger that sometimes feels like it’s going to drown our country…it was pretty dark. The four letter word that seems to be most prevalent in all of those conditions seems to be hate, a word that I try not to use.

As the miles started ticking off, I began considering all of the other four letter words that I’m more inclined to use and realized how many of them have positive, even joyous, connotations.  As I started listing them in my head I knew I needed to jot them down for the days that feel dark and populated by those who would rather hate than love. Here are my top 50, in alphabetical order. You know, because I’m a librarian and all.

  • Able
  • Bake
  • Bath
  • Beer
  • Bike
  • Book
  • City
  • Cook
  • Done
  • Fall
  • Feel
  • Fire
  • F*ck
  • Help
  • Hike
  • Home
  • Hope
  • Kiss
  • Know
  • Lake
  • Less
  • Love
  • Mine
  • Moon
  • More
  • Need
  • Next
  • Once
  • Open
  • Ours
  • Pack
  • Park
  • Race
  • Rain
  • Read
  • Ride
  • Sand
  • Snow
  • Snug
  • Soap
  • Star
  • Trip
  • Vote
  • Walk
  • Want
  • Warm
  • Wind
  • Wine
  • Woke
  • Yoga

What are your essential four-letter words?


Filed under A-Z, Exercise, Librarians, musings, Observations, Random, running

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day – John David Anderson

Reading is the least expensive vacation I’ve ever had.  Sometimes I go to the future and other times to the past, but the destination isn’t the important part to me usually. It’s just getting away from now.  At a time when I sometimes feel physically assaulted by the daily news, a low budget escape is exactly what I’m looking for in a book, even when the book’s conclusion is not the one for which a reader would be hoping. Hey, after November 8, 2016, I’m kind of used to that anyway.

I won’t reveal too much of the plot of this YA title, but it’s essentially the story of 3 boys and the teacher who taught them far more than they ever expected.  It’s at times outrageously funny and heartbreakingly sad, but most of all it’s a book that reads as real. If you’re lucky, you once had a Ms. Bixby in your life. My favorite quotes are below.

Ms. Bixby sighs the Teacher Sigh. The one they must give you as you walk out the door with your teaching degree.  Equal parts exasperation, disappointment, and longing for summer vacation.

When I suggested she brush up on her astronomy, she seemed offended, saying that she probably knew things that I didn’t.  I told her that was highly unlikely. Then she asked me who the lead singer of Led Zeppelin was. I told her zeppelins could not be made of lead due to the obvious weight issues.  She said “Case closed.”

Change is the only constant.

Topher is a constant, like pi or radical two.

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.

You can’t always pinpoint the moment everything changes.  Most of the time it’s gradual, like grass growing or fog settling or your armpits starting to smell by midafternoon.

There’s a difference between the truth and the whole truth.  That’s why they give that big spiel in court, when they make you place your hand on the Bible and promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Because they know if they don’t, people will try and sneak around it. They will leave out the details, skip over the incriminating stuff. Keep the worst parts to themselves.

You have to slay the dragon to be the hero. Not easy to do, but at least you know what you’re dealing with. Dragons are easy to spot…but there are no such things as dragons. It’s never that clearcut. Sometimes the thing you’re fighting against is hiding from you. It’s tucked away. Buried deep where you can’t see it. In fact, for a long time, you might not even know it’s there.

You know how, in movies, everything comes around full circle and you’re back where you started? Turns out life isn’t like the movies. Life doesn’t come all the way back around again. It’s not a straight line either. It angles and curves, shoots off a little, twists and turns, but it never gets right back to the place it started. Not that you would want it to. Then you wouldn’t feel like you had gotten anywhere.

Live every day as if it were your last. The truth is – the whole truth is – that it’s not your last day that matters most. It’s the ones in between, the ones you get the chance to look back on…They may not stand out the most at first, but they stay with you the longest.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Librarians, Recommendations, Uncategorized

I Am Princess X

The fiction collection in the library where I work is organized by genre, a situation which sometimes vexes me. I mean, it can be really challenging to decide where a book should be shelved from merely reading the subject tags or the inside of the jacket. Sometimes, a title seems as if it could be assigned to more than a single genre and I’m forced to just make a choice, hoping the book lands on a shelf where it will be discovered and appreciated.

The new young adult book, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priestly, provided me with a dilemma when it came to slapping a genre sticker on its spine. Was it a graphic novel? Realistic fiction? Mystery? Truthfully, it’s all of the above – a contemporary story complete with suspense and graphic novel components.

The plot tells the story of best friends Libby and May. Together they created Princess X, a cartoon heroine who befriends ghosts and fights monster while wearing red Chuck Taylor’s and a golden crown. Their adventures together seem limitless until tragedy strikes and Libby and her mother are both killed in a horrible accident…

But, perhaps it wasn’t really an accident and maybe Libby isn’t really dead. May and a new acquaintance, Trick, use technology, smarts and bravery to get to the bottom of the mysterious reappearance of Princess X and learn what really happened to Libby.

Set in Seattle, this novel crosses genres and genders to provide a compelling story which will appeal to a wide range of readers. In a plot rife with modern technologies, this may be my very favorite line:

“Sometimes the easiest answer was the analog one.”

Two thumbs up for a fast, fun read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Librarians, Recommendations, Schools, Uncategorized

Echo – Pam Munoz Ryan

One of the benefits of my job is the opportunity to purchase new materials for students and faculty. Even after nearly two decades, the thrill of unpacking and handling a box of new books remains a highlight of my professional day. A recent shipment included Pam Munoz Ryan’s latest novel, Echo.

My first impression was “This is a really long book. How am I going to get kids to read this nearly 600 pages long historical fiction novel?” After reading Echo myself in less than 4 days, I know my bigger problem is going to be maintaining the waiting list of students who want to read this absolutely enchanting book.

Echo is a little hard to explain without giving too much away. Essentially, there are three narratives which ultimately combine into a heartwarming and satisfying ending. The thread which waves the story together is music and its power to inspire, comfort and convey emotion via a special harmonica which almost magically lands in the hands of each of the three essential characters.

The first is Friedrich, a 12-year-old in the Black Forest of Germany during the Nazi buildup in the years leading to World War II. His love of music, nurtured by his father and uncle, provides him with an escape from the harsh realities he contends with as an often bullied young boy living during an increasingly scary time.

The story then shifts to Mike, an 11-year-old orphan in Pennsylvania committed to remaining with his younger brother despite challenged beyond what any child should have to endure. His innate ability to play the piano, previously fostered by his now deceased grandmother, provides him with the means to communicate emotions and wishes he often does not have any other way to express.

And finally, we meet Ivy, an American girl of Mexican descent living in California with her family as they struggle to improve their circumstances during the early days of America’s involvement in World War II. The harsh realities of gender roles, racism and the consequences of war are daily insults in Ivy’s world, abated only by her ability to make and appreciate music.

Each of these three young people come to be in possession of a very special instrument, a harmonica which provides them with opportunity and hope during their time of need. The selflessness with which Friedrich, Mike and Ivy eventually, in turn, part with the instrument is one of the most striking and beautiful parts of this very special book. I can’t wait to reread this book over the summer with my boys. Wonderful!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Boys, Librarians, Recommendations

Bridgeford Hardware

I will always remember the hardware store in my hometown, Greenwood Lake, N.Y. Despite the time of day, it always seemed like dusk inside and I can remember being fascinated by the uncountable bins filled with washers, nails, screws and other unnamed shiny metal things. On the hottest of summer days, the store emanated a mildly damp coolness that made walking the aisles a quiet treat and I don’t remember ever complaining about it being my turn to run a hardware errand. 
That store is long gone, but in the DelSo we have Bridgeford Hardware, a throwback to those simpler times. Unlike the “big box” stores it is unnecessary to waste time searching for someone for assistance. Employees are readily available to help with practical suggestions and expert advice. Last week I finally decided to suck it up and replace the the screening in my sliding door to the deck. Now generally I’m not the worst person in the world in terms of home maintenance issues, but my hesitation was prompted by my experience the last time I replaced the screen a couple of years ago. On that particular day, the door was placed back on its slider and within an hour Cassidy Lilly (our family’s sweet black lab) felt the need to open the door with her sharp claw creating a new puncture. A hole which naturally has been expanding ever since until it ultimately became an ad hoc doggie door. 
With the arrival of spring, and my desire to improve my homeowner maintenance capabilities, I called Bridgeford and asked what we could do to prevent another screen repair job from going awry. Was there plexiglass which could be screwed to the lower part of the door? Perhaps chicken wire (aesthetics are secondary to function in some instances) could be stapled over the screen to provide an extra layer of fortification from Cassidy’s need to independently let herself out to the deck? It was explained that neither of these were an option as the plexiglass would crack when affixed by screws and chicken wire was not available. As an alternative, the patient man suggested using a flat sheet of metal, the type typically used when making covers for old school radiators. He did caution that they were expensive, probably close to $25, which would bring the cost of the repair up to about $50. I ended the call and considered my options. And then – I remembered that I already had one of those sheets of metal! I even knew where it was – bonus. I carried the door and the metal to my car and mere hours later, I was pleased to rehang the door that would let a breeze into my family room, yet keep the majority of pesky bugs out. 
Despite the additional labor and hardware involved with affixing the metal sheet, I wasn’t charged anymore than the regular price for a screen repair of that size, $25. As for Cassidy, she hasn’t even attempted to let herself out, so the solution has been a complete success. And my childhood love for hardware stores, like my sliding door’s screen, remains intact.

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, DelSo, favorites, house, ideas, Librarians, Recommendations, relationships, Summer, Tomatoes, Washington


Last week I got a postcard in the mail touting a program my insurance company, I mean Health Plan, offers. There’s some sort of rewards program that I can opt into earning points towards gift cards and other discounts if I register and then log my healthy choices. I went on line and registered already imagining how I would spend my “money” buying more running clothes. After I selected my user name and password, I prepared to begin logging all those runs and sculpting classes. Except…my brand new login and password didn’t work. Hmmm. So I requested a new one. Which also didn’t work. At this point, the process was proving to be more detrimental than beneficial to my health so I abandoned the task, for now.

Two days later I received a letter from CDPHP thanking me for enrolling in the program. Or, to be accurate, I received THREE identical letters all dated 2/9/12 saying exactly the same thing. Really??? I couldn’t help but recall that each time my union made concessions to the contract we had agreed to, I watched my health insurance premiums continue to increase. I understand that companies are people and all, but why aren’t these businesses being asked to toe the fiscal line? Is the company that is sending out an identical letter 3 times to me doing more effective, important work than the professionals teaching our children? I don’t mind doing my part and I’m a practical person. I get it. My problem is that I’m sick of having to justify my existence professionally annually. As if being a librarian didn’t already come with its own lack of educational street cred.

The governor has demanded a change to teacher evaluations and I’m now supposed to be rated on the same rubric as a classroom teacher. Which means that 40% of my annual performance should be based upon standardized tests. Thinking back on your time as a student (or what you have observed) do you recall taking any exams or filling in bubble sheets in the LMC? How about during your time in the guidance office or while in P.E.? Exactly.

From what I understand, folks are upset about the benefits teachers now possess, things like our “part time” status, excessive retirements and practically free insurance premiums. For the record, I didn’t ask to discontinue contributing a mandatory percentage of my salary to my retirement. That decision was made by someone else, probably a financial expert. And, incidentally, I opened a 403B immediately after becoming “vested,” to continue saving for my retirement, because I’m not, nor have I ever, asked for something for nothing.

I’ve invested – in my education, my profession and my future. Guess I’ll just continue making healthy choices for myself and not count on my health insurance plan or my government to reward me for my efforts.

1 Comment

Filed under Librarians, medical, musings, politics, Rant, Schools