awesome School Library Journal article series!

If you know me well, you know I love series books.  Love them.  The series of my heart will always be the Baby-Sitters Club; the joke about them I tell is that I can’t do algebra, but I can tell you every member’s full name.  (Kristin Amanda Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Lynn Kishi, Anastasia Elizabeth McGill, Dawn Read Schaefer, Mallory Pike, Jessica Davis Ramsey, Shannon Kilbourne, Logan Bruno, Abigail Stevenson!)  But I was also obsessed with Animorphs and fond of a variety of of other series, ranging from the Sleepover Friends to Nancy Drew (Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes or GTFO).  As an adult, my fondness for series books (especially series books marketed to girls) has continued; I still reread BSC books, and I wrote a proposal for a girls’ series books bibliography for one of my library-school classes.

The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel: Kristy's Great Idea

Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels still sold at the bookshop. The originals? Not so much.

Well, School Library Journal has a great series of articles about series books–and more importantly, what should be done with them as they age.  So far, Endagered Series has covered the Boxcar Children, the Hardy Boys, the American Girl franchise, and–oh, the pain–the Baby-Sitters Club.  Travis Jonker lays out what the books are about, the pros and cons to keeping them around, and his own solutions.  With shelf space at a premium, “what shall we do with these books that were popular a decade (or longer!) ago?” is an important question to ask.  Tough, perhaps, since these books span the 20th century and thus could be part of any working librarian’s childhood, but absolutely necessary.

One thing I find interesting about the series is that while the author talks about the Baby-Sitters Club, the spinoff series don’t come up.  Obviously, they don’t need to delineate BSC versus Super Specials, Mysteries, Super Mysteries, etc.  But the Baby-Sitters Little Sister books (and the Kids in Ms. Coleman’s Class series, which was a short-lived spinoff of the Karen books) seem like they might be their own beast, and the same with the California Diaries.  They’re for slightly different ages than the original BSC books–Little Sister skews younger, and California Diaries, older.

…But I am coming at this from the POV of someone who still has dozens of BSC books to her name.  This level of specificity is pretty nitpicky to me–and the Little Sister and California Diaries books (the latter especially) seem like prime weeding opportunities, since they are vestigial series.

Another fascinating aspect to this series is the variety of comments in reply to each article.  Some librarians have the same problems with the series featured; others see them fly off the shelves.  Tastes vary so much from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, and school to school!  It’s incredible.

At the bookstore, I saw similar issues.  We tried to keep a few older series on the shelves, but most people who came in just weren’t interested in the Baby-Sitters Club, Animorphs, and whatever else we’d ordered in a fit of nostalgia.  (It doesn’t help that the new Animorphs covers are off-puttingly ugly, in my humble opinion.  But there’s also the argument that Animorphs is a series that is quintessentially 90s–that the worldview is such that it must be set in the 90s–and that must seem like ancient history to a kid who wasn’t alive for Hurricane Katrina.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that the series wavered significantly in quality.)

I Survived series: Hurricane Katrina, 2005

No joke: I once booktalked I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 to a seven-year-old kid and realized halfway through that I was talking to someone who had no firsthand knowledge of it. Look, my math isn’t great.

Some series books did sell well, though!  And those tended to be much newer, which isn’t surprising.  I Survived by Lauren Tarshis was incredibly popular.  So were the various diary books–you know, every hardcover Diary of a Wimpy Kid competitor.  You can easily tell them at a bookstore, because they’re inevitably the exact same shape and size, and with few exceptions (The Popularity Papers, which actually have been released in trade paperback, comes to mind), they’re only printed in hardcover.

As far as “classics” went, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books sold pretty well.  The Magic Treehouse books were incredibly popular (and while they might not seem that old, since they’re an ongoing series, the first one was published over twenty years ago!).  Goosebumps had a significant revival over the two years when I worked there, and I expect that’s likely to increase with the release of the new movie.  The Boxcar Children actually were pretty popular, but they were often books booksellers and parents were recommending to kids, rather than books kids picked up on their own.

And, because ours was a store in Minnesota, there was always demand for the Betsy-Tacy books.  Those were generally requested by parents and grandparents who had grown up with the series, but we definitely had children who liked them, too.  We kept the full Betsy-Tacy series on hand, though only the first few books were classified as being for “young readers” in our system.  The others were shelved in the general fiction section, which was confusing for customers.  (Similarly confusing: Only Redwall was shelved in our children’s department.  On more than one occasion, I had to lead a confused child and parent over to our Scifi/Fantasy section for every other Redwall book.  It was annoying, too, because the mass-market paperbacks stocked in Scifi/Fantasy looked way less child-friendly, especially when surrounded by completely kid-inappropriate books.)

Anyway, you should definitely check out those articles.  And you should expect more content from me!  I’m going to the ALA Midwinter conference at the end of this month, which is Kind of a Big Deal in the library world (and for everyone else, it’s where the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, among many others, are announced!).  And in February, the greatest semester ever starts: I’m taking Young Adult Materials and Storytelling.  Expect to see some deets about those.  (I just devoured The Outsiders and Forever… for YA lit, and now I’m forcing myself through The Chocolate War.  Wish me luck!)

So how are you doing, internet?  And what book series do you think Endangered Series should cover?  (Animorphs better make an appearance, is all I’m saying.)

a depressing compliment

Today, a young man with a developmental delay was interested in what our e-readers were and what they could do.  I explained to him how they could be used to play games or read or use apps, just like a tablet.  We talked a little bit about Netflix, I asked him if he had any more questions, and when he said no, I told him to have a nice day.

After, a woman came up to me and told me she was impressed at the respect I had showed him.  I said thank you really awkwardly, because I didn’t expect her compliment, and then I helped her find a book, and the day went on.

It’s a nice feeling to have your attention to others noticed and remarked upon, but the fact that she felt my behavior was notable makes me so, so sad.  We should all make it a practice to be kind and considerate of others, no matter who they are.  People with cognitive disabilities are just as human as anyone else and deserve to be treated as such.

This is also related to why I’ve come to feel so strongly about children’s books that feature disabled protagonists wwondermaggotmoonho also happen to be geniuses.  Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is, in my opinion, one of the absolute worst for this, but there are plenty that do it.  It feels to me like the characters’ brains are there to “make up for” their disabilities in these books.  Disabled characters of average or below-average intelligence are shunted off to the side or ignored entirely.

In American popular culture, especially popular culture aimed at children, it seems like it’s always “it’s okay if you aren’t smart at school, because you’re probably really smart at something else!” It’s never “it’s okay if you aren’t smart at school, because you can be a good person!”  I’m all for teaching children that there are many different ways to be intelligent or talented, but there are children out there who don’t feel like they’re especially smart with anything; when we tie their worth so strongly to their supposed smarts, we do those children a serious disservice.

If you want to read books where disabled protagonists are allowed to be disabled without having to justify their existence by supersmarts, please try Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner.  These are books where disabled characters’ compassion and strength of character genuinely matters more than their grades in school, and I absolutely recommend them.

Stories like these are important.  I hope that children and teenagers who grow up reading them will treat people of all abilities with the respect they deserve, regardless of their intellect.

story time + activity: libraries!

On Thursday morning at work, my manager asked me what I was doing for story time.  My answer?  “…Crud, it’s Thursday morning, isn’t it?”  I threw something together in about twenty minutes (whoops), and it was a lot of fun!  Feel free to try it with children you read with, too.

Book 1: The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara9781596439856

The Midnight Library is a library staffed by a child called Little Library Girl and her three owl helpers!  Together, they serve a variety of animal patrons depicted in bold, thick-lined illustrations.  The art manages to be both simple and detailed all at once, and the story is cute.  It’s Kazuno Kohara’s fourth book, and it’s probably my favourite of hers so far!

Book 2: Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree by Naoko Stoop

The third Red Knit Cap Girl adventure finds our heroine building a library for all her forest friends.  After Squirrel tells Red Knit Cap Girl about a hollow tree, she declares that the hollow is a “nook” and that she’s going to keep her storybook there so anyone can enjoy it.  Other animals bring their books to share, too, and soon, the nook is not simply a hollow tree but a place where everyone can come together as a community of friends.  Naoko Stoop is an amazing illustrator (I love her art for this board book retelling of Noah’s Ark so much!), and Red Knit Cap Girl is an active, creative heroine.

a338a856dc6f2d4bccf8980ac4dda027Activity: Design a book for Red Knit Cap Girl’s library

Imagine you’re in the forest, too, and Red Knit Cap Girl comes up to you.  She asks if you’d like to donate a book to her new library.  Would you say yes?  (One little girl at story time said “Maybe,” which made all the parents crack up.)  What kind of book would you donate?  Do you think the other animals would like it?

Give each audience member a picture of a book cover to colour (we used this one from twistynoodle.com) and crayons.  Younger children will have fun scribbling, and older children can respond to the story you’ve just read.  If it’s a small enough group, talk about the books they came up with for Red Knit Cap Girl.  (My favourite on Thursday was a copy of Little Red Riding Hood–I’m betting Red Knit Cap Girl will appreciate that one a lot!)

brb 1 week

Don’t expect to hear too much from me for the remainder of the week!  I work every day this week except Thursday, and on Thursday, I will presumably be asleep all day, lol. 

Between now and Sunday, I’ll be racking up 45 hours of work.  Luckily for the bookshop, the work week stops on Saturday, and they don’t have to pay overtime for 39 hours.  Lol.  Anyway, I’ll have a decent paycheck for this week, which is pretty good!

And better yet, I don’t work Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday next week.  It’s not a true vacation, since I have class on Monday and Wednesday, but Tuesday is all mine!  It’s also my birthday, and I am planning on celebrating by going to a movie and having sushi for dins.

All right, friends, I have to go to Target and buy a Batman shirt for work.  (I am not even joking, that’s literally what is about to happen here.)  I’ll see you on the other side of this week!

friday, i’m in love: the smile is the beginning of love

Lots of nice things lately!  Nicest of all, that I’m gonna go to sleep soon, lol–but first, stuff to share.

  • John Oliver’s piece on dietary supplements and Dr. Oz – It’s a pretty long watch, but it’s so worth it.  Quackery of all forms is an interest of mine, and I’m so happy to see other people spreading the word that dietary supplements and vitamins are actually pretty unsafe in a lot of ways!  I didn’t realize Oliver had his own show, but it looks pretty fun for anyone who enjoys The Daily Show.
  • “Shoot Him Down” by Alice Francis – How did I only recently discover the wonders of electro swing?  Turns out it’s an awesome genre, and this song is almost unbearably catchy.  Perfect for a hot summer day.
  • Good hair days – Having ridiculously long hair means that when I get bored, I can do great things with it.  Today, I twisted it up into two braided buns–I was trying to do this, but the bottom bun looked silly on me, so I just wrapped that braid around the middle bun.  I didn’t take any pictures, but I’ll try to remember to do so next time I do something interesting with my hair!
  • My car – Okay, I definitely spent $800 on it today, but it was so worth it.  The engine’s tuned up, the oil’s changed, one of the front lights is replaced, the radio works again, the broken window is replaced, and they figured out that the catalytic converters need to be replaced.  Said catalytic converters are still under warranty (YESSSSSSS), so I’m gonna take it over to the local dealership sometime next week.  The autoshop guy said it should pretty much run like new after that, and I’m really happy about that!  I’ll finally be able to drive places again–the last time Roommate and I tried to take the car somewhere, it refused to do more than about 45 mph on the freeway, which was terrifying.  I’m excited for it to behave again.
  • Air conditioning – Okay, it’s not mine.  But Roommate got a free A/C from a guy who lives in our building, so we set it up in Roommate’s bedroom.  And while the guy we got it from is right that it’s kind of noisy, it’s made Roommate’s room so much more livable.  The heat and humidity was basically making it impossible for Roommate to sleep, and the A/C has basically completely fixed the problem.  SWEET.
  • Great customers at work – Tonight, I helped a woman find useful books for a family member in hospice; said family member is apparently only middle-aged and terrified of dying, and I hope the books I showed her will be a comfort to everyone in her family.  I also had a woman come in with her teenage daughter, looking for V.C. Andrews books.  She and I had the gabbiest of gabfests over them, and not only did I send them home with the Flowers in the Attic/Petals on the Wind omnibus, I ordered My Sweet Audrina for them as well.  The daughter apparently likes reading books where messed-up things happen, and her mother was like, HAVE I GOT AN AUTHOR FOR YOU.  I also showed them The Merciless, that pink exorcism book I was excited about, because even though I disliked the ending, it certainly qualifies as “messed-up things.”  We had a great time, and the mother was like, “wow, I asked exactly the right person this question.”  Stuff like this is why I love my job, even if I wish I made a little more money. 
  • Book malapropisms – I don’t get a lot of them, but I love when I do.  They’re just so cute!  The ones I’ve fielded lately have been requests for the book The Stars are Out of Whack and the author Mary Angela.
  • The latest Lou Reads episode – Lou Reads the Internet for You is one of my favourite podcasts (my other favourites are the F Plus and 99% Invisible), and the story he reads, of a woman’s life married to an obsessive tabletop roleplayer, made me laugh and laugh.  Fair warning, a lot of his other podcasts are gross, depressing, or gross and depressing, but I think this one’s a lot of fun.  (I also think the other ones are fun, too, but I know not everyone likes terrible things as much as me, lol.  And there are definitely Lou Reads episodes I just plain cannot listen to, because some of them really are that gross or creepy.)
  • When cats wiggle their butts before they pounce something – I have literally no idea what Sophie’s trying to pounce on my bed, but my God, is she ever serious about it.  Which is hilarious when you consider that she gets all butt-wiggly in preparation for the strike.

I do have plenty more content planned for the blog, but lately, I’ve been tired and also pretty busy with reading for school.  I have a week off from school next week, though!  So I’ll definitely have time and energy to post some of the things I’ve been thinking about.  (Unfortunately, I do not have a week off from work to go with, but hey, at least I’ll make a little bit of cash, I guess.)

Okay, good night, everyone!  Love you!

Book store – 04.21.13

I suppose it’s too much to ask that people not use our children’s area at work to interview potential nannies, isn’t it.  Because that’s definitely what one couple did for over two hours today, and we were all really cranky about it.  That table and chairs back there?  Not so you can interview twenty-something women about the care and keeping of your children (whom you brought with you and who have been waiting around the store for two hours as well). 

Hold interviews in your living room, for God’s sake; considering that you’re interviewing for a position as not-strictly-necessary as a nanny, I assume you have one.  The paranoia that someone will turn out to be a creeper is not reason enough to monopolize our limited seating space–again, for hours at a time!–in search of someone to hire for your service position.  It’s rude and self-centered, IMO, no better than the people who drop their children off at that same little table and then go get a coffee for an hour.  (In fact, it’s more annoying to me, because no doubt they’re patting themselves on the back for coming up with a clever, low-cost way to run their interviews without ~exposing their children~ to ~potential predators~ in the home.)

What’s so weird to me about some of our customers’ behavior is the fact that the bookshop I work at is literally two blocks away from the library.  This is the kind of thing modern libraries are built for!  There are little community rooms you can use for just that sort of thing, and there’s another community space just inside the lobby of the building.  I know because I’ve been there, guys.  And it would be about ten million times more appropriate for you to conduct your ~nanny~ search from there.  Even from a coffee shop, I could understand, because at least you’re likely to buy some coffee, but ideally, go to the library.  That’s why we have them.

I wonder how well patronized the library in this neighborhood is, simply because I keep getting requests that seem so much better suited to a librarian.  Aside from the rude parents today (and yeah, we were all complaining about them under our breath, especially after the manager spoke to them and they kept on like we were inconveniencing them), there are so many people who just sit in the store and read our books with no intention of actually purchasing them.  And I mean really reading them–sticking multiple bookmarks in them and everything, clearly not giving any kind of a damn about whether they’d be salable in their current condition.  We have several books that look like they belong over at Half-Price Books thanks to people who have no problems with treating them like their own.  And once, I had a little old man ask me to help him interpret a short medical form that contained personal information in it.  (I did assist him, through grace of Google, though I felt weird knowing what procedure(s) he’d had at the dentist that day.)

All of these situations are such that using the library would make a lot more sense.  They don’t care if you read the books!  They want you to use their spaces to meet other members of the community!  They’re here to help you understand things and answer your questions!  And while I’m happy to do the same when the request is reasonable (seriously, that copy of Maimonides doesn’t belong to you, stop folding the cover), the difference is this: It’s not in my job description.  I sell books.  Even if I like books, even if I’m studying to be a librarian, the bottom line of my job is “make my company money.”  If I can recommend good books to others or help them find something they need, that’s awesome, but it’s not actually my job to find out what your dentist did to you this morning.  And it’s definitely not my job to let you hog valuable space (seriously, chairs are at a premium in our bookstore) when you have no intention of buying anything.

This is why we have libraries.  And we literally are two blocks away from one.  It’s pretty much visible from the store parking lot, guys, it’s really not rocket surgery.  But it is annoying when people expect a private company to behave like a public, taxpayer-funded space, especially because actual public, taxpayer-funded spaces like libraries are consistently in danger of losing funding.  You clearly need the library, so please go there and patronize it.

(Forgive me if I sound crabby, internets!  I’m just tired, lol.  It was a long day today, if a pleasant enough one.  I think I’m gonna see about watching The Good Wife and then going to bed.)