Monday, April 27, 2009

State of the Hedgehog

I keep starting posts and not finishing them. I really must clean out that draft folder. Wittiness, wisdom, and hedgehoggy humor await their turn in the spotlight.

Just a quick update on things here.

I'm swimming in yarn again at work. People very generously to donate to the kids group and I hit a garage sale with Our Lady of the Business Office on Friday. It's mostly acrylic but it is bright colors and that's important to my kids. Renewed swimming is good--because we were starting to run low. The kids have gone through a TON of yarn this spring and we still have a month.

But then I'm also swimming in yarn at home, which might not be as good. If anyone thinks I'm jesting, check out the Flickr set. Though a fair number of those have been knitted up or donated or sent away (about 55, look for the gone/used tag), the majority are still taking over the den. This whole life thing, it gets in the way of my knitting time.

I'm taking a Digital Content Management Course, or will be as soon as we figure out why I'm not getting the lessons. I've emailed, hoping for a prompt answer.

Databases are steady but not in the frantic sense of last month. We've figured out some calculations that should make life much easier and less complicated for New York--yay!! Taking three-four hours out of my Managing Editor's monthly tabulations = win.

I read four books over the weekend, one of them an audiobook and yes, about 8 of the 9.5 hours was listened to between Saturday and Sunday. I'm knitting a shrug for a Raccoon offspring and needed something to focus on during all that K1P1 ribbing. John Flanagan and John Keating (Ranger's Apprentice series available from Recorded Books) are a wickedly awesome combination and now I'm sad that I have to wait until book five comes in and goes through the other two people before me on the hold list. Yes, I could grab the hardcover copy over in teen but I've found with this series I really prefer to listen. At least it's coming in and book six will be here in August, just as I fall down after summer reading.

I confirmed again today with my orthodontist that I really don't want oral surgery. He seems to think not having it was his idea. It wasn't. Band date for lower half of the mouth: June 12, which is the day before summer reading kicks off. I'll be having Advil for breakfast and lunch that Saturday.

Summer Reading is coming and I feel pretty good about it. I'm seeing how many creative ways we can use up a ton of tissue paper (gift wrap kind, not bathroom). It is going to be awesome, promise.

I've almost found my desk---which gets me back to weeding by the end of today!! Hoping to get through the chapterbook collection before summer reading starts. Cross your fingers for me.

Brain Break: Bear Hunt

Who remembers the summer rhyme "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"? I can recall a whole herd of cousins sitting on the front porch of my grandmother's farmhouse giggling our way through it.

Michael Rosen wrote a very popular picture book about it and provides an incredibly amusing rendition here:

(found via Betsy Bird)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: Crictor by tomi Ungerer

Do you remember reading Crictor as a child?

It was a Reading Rainbow book, back when LeVar Burton was both part of my occasional afternoon television line up and Lt. Commander Geordi when I was allowed to stay up and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation.*

It was also a favorite book of mine as a child, which probably ended up in many hours of me wandering around and subjecting the Incredibly-Patient-Mother to me saying "Crictor, Crictor, the boa constrictor"

Crictor is a pet sent to Madame by her son, who is off in the depths of Africa. The book presents a snake far more like a dog than any snake I've met, happy to go along to the shop, to school, or out for a glass of milk, which he drinks through a straw.

What probably amuses me the most about this book is when Crictor rescues Madame from a burgular. Suddenly Crictor has fangs (despite being non-venemous, which we already learned, and despite the fact that I don't see any on this real photo of a constrictor) and behaves like the natural predator that he is. How would you convince the pet constrictor to let go of burgular prey? Well, that's not really clear, but he does get a park named after him for such bravery.

And he gets to wear a knitted tube sweater in the winter. Which I have to enjoy.

* Looking back, I realize they had a number of good actors on that show: LeVar Burton, Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review: Blueberry Girl

I've recently started reading Neil Gaiman's blog. He's a wonderfully accessible author, very forthcoming and giving of his time if you want to follow along. And on a "just took myself to see Coraline and read The Graveyard Book" high, I was especially excited with he announced that he had a picture book coming out.

Blueberry Girl
by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Charles Vess

Blueberry Girl was a joint project between author and illustrator, something I'm finding is rare in the publishing world. Gaiman offers up beautiful text of a gentle poem, a prayer for a new baby girl. He blends hope and praticality, with a touch of humor and obvious love the the child for whom the poem was originally written. Vess adds charming pictures that blend fantasy, whimsy, and energy. His little girls are energetic, enthusiastic children, embracing the world and ready to engage the animals and fairy creatures alongside.

It's a book I want to share with all the little girls I know. I highly recommend you find a copy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hedgehogs in the News

RAPatton pointed this one out on Friendfeed

Rare Hedgehogs Go into the Wild

And no...I'm not going hiking anytime soon. Last week's long walk created a huge enough blister that I have to deal with first. Besides, I don't count as a blonde anymore.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Have a Difficult Question....

There's a difficult question sitting on my desk in the form of three books.

The books are from an engaging children's fantasy series. It's not a series I've read but comes recommended by other children's librarians I know.

The author is currently on trial for possession of inappropriate imagery of that age group for which he writes. (Link may not be safe for work) Forgive the obscure language as I try to figure out how not to be picked up in searches for the actual phrase.

At least one coworker strongly disagrees with my concern, believing the books should stand on their own merit and citing other author bad habits. Yes, Poe was a drunk and Orson Scott Card has been raked across the coals for his opinions, and we still read and suggest their works. I may not agree with their behavior or opinions, but it's not illegal. And it's true that I could come up with a long list of authors who have done illegal things--certainly some of them have gotten book deals BECAUSE of their illegal acts. But this is the accusation of an act against the young patrons I work with every day. And that triggers all kind of squeamish for me.

I've not yet worked somewhere that we were frequently challenged on books so I've not had the opportunity where I needed to borrow from Jamie LaRue's reasoned points.

What is pinging about my brain:
* Merit of the book v. Opinion on the Human Being who wrote it
* A man is innocent until proven guilty
* It is violence against children
* The news story is particularly strongly worded
* Censorship based on my reaction to the author
* Children like to contact the authors whose books they enjoy--guess what comes up when you type this author's name into a search engine.

Censorship is one of the strongest negative words in information. It's one Judith Krug spent her professional life fighting against, to the notice even of the New York Times.

Where I'm at now:

1) I need to go home this weekend and read the books. I don't imagine I'll find anything insidious in them, they've been read by many librarians before me but, as with any possible book challenge, it's good to know exactly what is in the pages.
2) I need to sit down with my immediate supervisor, Madame Storyteller, and possibly Madame Director and discuss all these questions. I'm a firm believer in gleaning wisdom from people I respect.
3) I need to review how the books have been circulating, as this is one of the collections I manage.

What I expect:

The books will probably go back on the shelf. So no one is blindsided by the issue should it arise, I'll make sure my youth services coworkers, Mesdames Storyteller and Director are aware of the trial and of what happens at the end of it.

And I personally will continue to be revolted at the idea of what this author is accused of having said and done.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kids Knitting Group: You Never Know What You're Gonna Get

About six weeks ago I issued a challenge to the room full of young knitters. I held two stuffed animals before them, a floppy looking "dog" and a bear in a ski scarf and cap.

"Knit something for them. " I said. "It's due to me on the second week of April. Prizes will be awarded."

Other than pointing out a couple of new knitting books we'd ordered that had some patterns for stuffed animals, I really gave no further directions. I offered help, yarn, pattern assistance, and said that yes, it had to be knitted or crocheted. But I wanted to see what they would come up with without my guidance every step of the way.

On Tuesday, I saw the results. And they were stunning. Pictures are available here and I really suggest you take a look at them. Keep in mind most of these kids are under 12 and the majority haven't been knitting more than a couple of years. I was blown away seeing a knitted boat, a dress with elaborate separate collar, dresses with trim and purses, a pullover hoodie, it was truly incredible.

This of course meant I got to go to the yarn store and fuss over what kind of prizes to get. It was supposed to be an encouragement competition so yes, everyone is getting something but for those who really made an effort and reached out beyond their comfort zone--I'm definitely recognizing that. And yes, they are all yarn focused prizes, what better way to continue to inspire them to knit? One is getting sock needles and sock yarn, another materials to make a really great purse (including handles). The prizes will hopefully inspire to help them grow at knitters.

And me? Pleased as punch and proud of their work.

Monday, April 06, 2009

My Mad Skillz at Booktalking

About the only consistent group of elementary aged students I see is my knitting group, so it happens more often that I notice a book I think that one of them will enjoy. Certainly there are other regular patrons for whom I think of things, but as a group...

A couple weeks back I walked in with a pile. I usually try to talk about whatever it is I'm reading each week, knowing that that title tends to then be put on hold by a couple of people, but this time I was armed and dangerous. I talked for about 20 minutes...

Titles presented included

Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman

Alexa is an inquisitive only child left to her own devices during a long hot summer. She lives in a town surrounded by walls and where you can only travel to other nearby towns on walled roads. It's a very controlled place, a safe place, but Alexa wonders what might be outside those walls. I recommend the audiobook read by Aaste Vigesaa, she does an amazing squirrel voice.

Ranger's Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

I continually hand this book out, it's a wonderful book for guys.

My full review is here.

What makes this an easy talk to parents and kids is that Will finds his own way, and that own way is not the one he grew up thinking it might be. He dreamed of being a warrior, but physically was not fit for it. Instead he was able to find a place where physically and mentally he excelled. There's probably a good sneaky lesson about not just turning to violence in here but there's enough action to keep everyone happy.

Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman

Again, one I've previously reviewed with favor. This historical novel tosses in art history along side daggers and intrigue and it points out some realities without being gruesome. It's a good middle grades novel, not so cutting edge that late tweens can't handle it but not too babyish for older kids. Strong male and female voice, though the female voice leads.

I pulled this one for the boy in the group--even though it's a split protagonist. This is in the Teen section and, while I'm not sure if he's quite ready for the "problem novels," he's certainly mature enough for a little older material. He just finished all the Chronicles of Pryddian. (He also got Ranger's Apprentice)

Enola Holmes by Nancy Springer

I *heart* Nancy Springer and this series in a big way. The fact that I am the number one person on the holds list for the fifth book (cover shown here) and that my teen librarian is number two, yeah....we're into it. It's just such a pleasure to meet a strong female protagonist who, along with being gutsy, ISN'T out to get the guy. We're a full four books in and there is no love interest in site. Bravo! Not to say boys can't be introduced but it isn't Springer's focus. This series go home with the girls and comes back with rave reviews and "when is the next one?" About a month, ladies, about a month.

Third book review here.

Choose Your Own Adventure

And finally, I took a handful of these in. I grew up fully loving the one that was about Henry VIII and his various wives. Was it the best way to get my history lessons in? No...but I think it might be the first time I realized that not only did he behead two wives, he also probably killed two nephews. There are new copies available with up to date covers. Something to pass on to your adventurer.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Knitting in Public Day: The Results Show

I feel like an episode of a reality television show, only there wasn't any voting.

There were, however, knitters. Back up with me to the last week of March, won't you?

Tuesday evening I picked up Franklin from our local Amtrak station, which is very nice and old fashioned. It's also home to a really good BBQ place, in case you care to visit. We went downtown though for Mexican food (Tres Compadres was recommended) and had a lovely chat. It was unusual to be able to pull out my knitting at a meal and not have the other person look at me strangely. Granted, I'd brought only my "walking knitting"--garter stitch/log cabin afghan squares that yes, I do knit while walking.

Wednesday dawned early and it was off with a bang. By 10 a.m. I was through a trip to the grocery for fruit and veggie trays, had a coworker agree to pick up the coffee that was coming from a local shop, and was charging about the library. The first knitters (and a breakfast/lunch donut, courtesy of same sympathetic coworker) arrived just before noon.

Knitters trickled in. About half of my kids group arrived as well as a machine knitter who has brought her machine the last couple of years for demonstration. One of the ladies brought fiber and a drop spindle and by one p.m. had a pretty good circle going learning how to spin yarn. I'm a little afraid the kids are going to ask to learn that next fall. A lady from the local women's magazine dropped by to interview me about having a kid's group here at the library and encouraging kids to do handcraft. It was a good moment to talk about how knitting helps with self-esteem and self identity. Here's a chance to let a child choose how and what to make and design and to show that they can create. It's a very tangible reward to finish a hat or scarf or washcloth, which makes the craft highly appealing.

Raffle prizes also started at 1 p.m. I was very fortunate to be drawing from strong local businesses willing to donate. Overall we had more than 26 gift certificates, books, packages of yarn, etc to give away. I don't remember who got all of the gift certificates to the yarn stores--one of the mom's from my Mom Knit Mornings got one and one of the kids got another. To keep things surprising--each winner got an envelope. If they got a yellow post-it note, they got a package (book, yarn, patterns, etc). Otherwise it was whatever gift certificate they'd drawn.

The afternoon sped quickly by and I even had a little time to sit with my kids and correct a purling problem. The kids group had gotten a mention and a BIG picture in the paper the day before, so the Knitter Boy Age 10 was getting a lot of questions about his projects.

At 4 p.m. I made the call for yarn. Had you brought yarn for the swap? Many knitters had and it poured onto two tables. Tina helped me sort and pass out tickets. Then came one more question--how were we giving people access? I pulled off another strip of tickets, took note of first and last numbers, marked the backs and let each knitter who had donated grab one. They then picked in order of their tickets. This of course after they had to wait until 5 p.m., drooling over the selection.

And the yarn went!! I pulled last, having brought 30 skeins of my own that needed to leave the stash. What I pulled was for my kids group. I also received two big boxes of partial skeins in donation to the kids group and promise of more, so I'll have a refill of my work stash, which is definitely a good and needed thing! At the end of the swap I had two big garbage bags of yarn that will be donated to a RSVP, a local seniors volunteer program. I also, I looked up to see, had a speaker.

Franklin arrived around 5:30 to mingle and meet and greet. We space checked the auditorium and then slowly encouraged the knitters to go downstairs. (I might have done some herding.)

At 6:30 we presented knitted afghans, a community project spearheaded by one of my coworkers, to Place of Grace and the Salvation Army. And then I handed over the floor to Franklin.

He was wonderful. Amusing, engaging, open and honest about being a knitter, particularly a male knitter, and all the challenges that brings us. He reminded us how lucky we are that I take for granted having 4 (technically 5) stores in under a 30 minute drive. Franklin showed off his knitting (a lace shawl he claims is easy), the "angry baby" hood, and a Victorian night cap which has what was then "retro lace" edging.

Afterwards he signed books (a local bookstore sent over an employee with 2 dozen) and we adjourned for dinner with a small group of the knitting faithful. Even Madame Director was able to join us (she'd had to make an appearance elsewhere in the evening).
(Franklin and I)

Overall it was an incredibly successful day, welcoming a large community group and drawing in a lot of interest from passing patrons. And I'd have Franklin back to speak in a heartbeat. The following morning saw us to one of the independent coffee shops and then off to the train. And me back to work to tidy up before heading out to New York.

One note for next year though--in 2010 I want a dedicated all-day minion. Wonder if I can locate a uni or high school student needing volunteer hours.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Onslaught Approaching

It's been rather muted over here again, my apologies. Last week's Knitting in Public Day, a brief but highly needed trip home to New York, and a really heavy freelance load has pre-empted blogging. I've got several posts pending and hopefully this week I'll get them out for your enjoyment.

I'm here, just buried.