An Introduction and An Offer

An Introduction and An Offer

Welcome to Librarian Mom! I'll be posting here every week. As the title states, I am in fact both a librarian and a mom. I've progressed from the days of reading secretly under the covers after bedtime to that mature state wherein one hassles one's kid into bed as early as possible, so as to be able to spend a couple of hours making lunches and folding laundry before reading openly after bedtime.

One of my favorite librarians at my first job, Gayle Richardson, had a famous standing offer: if you could list two books your child liked, she would recommend three more titles and guarantee that at least one of them would click. I won't go that far out on a limb, but I can definitely give you at least one or two recommendations based on a list of two kids' or teen books (not from the same series) that you or your child enjoyed reading. And if I do, I'd love to hear how they worked out for you.

In honor of this first post and this offer, I asked my own 7-year-old for her favorite books, and she came up with two right away. The first title, The Courageous Princess, by Rod Espinoza, is her current favorite bedtime read-aloud. It's a graphic novel with everything a princess-loving, action-loving reader (or listener) could want: quests, journeys, excitement, villains, heroes, and a cheeky porcupine sidekick. I found it by chance on a trip to Portland, and it's been on my daughter's top-ten list ever since, though its length makes her a bit intimidated to read it on her own.

Her other favorites these days are the Rainbow Fairies books. This series chronicles the adventures of two girls who find and help seven fairies--one for each color of the rainbow--  while on vacation with their families at a magical place called Rainspell Island. My daughter is only recently starting to read with some confidence, and these easy chapter books are just her speed.

If a parent or kid came to me with these two books and asked for recommendations for more, what would I suggest?

Well, for starters, I'd try them on Gail Carson Levine's Princess Tales series, now available in one omnibus volume, but originally published as six separate titles. These funny, whimsical takes on traditional fairy tales are princess-y enough for the most die-hard young Disney fan, but the humor, wry twists, and clear-eyed heroines take them into another league. They're also short enough to feel approachable to kids who are just starting to read chapter books, and also make great read-alouds that parents will enjoy too.

I might also suggest Tracy Kane's Fairy Houses, a picture book about a girl who, like the heroines of the Rainbow Fairies books, is on vacation on an island. As Kristen learns about the island tradition of building fairy houses out of natural materials, she builds her own fairy house, decorating and adding to it until...could it be that the fairies, drawn by her care and creativity, have come to visit the house she made? The question is left open, and readers are left with a sense of the magical power of nature. My daughter first read this book (or rather, had it read to her) a couple of years ago, and she is still drawn to make fairy houses at every opportunity. She even had a fairy house birthday party at the park last year.

Finally, I'd go for a stretch and recommend the Babymouse series, by Jennifer and Matthew Holm (warning: link has musical accompaniment). She's not a princess or a fairy, but Babymouse, like Princess Mablerose, is the heroine of her own graphic novel series, though her adventures run less to escaping across magical kingdoms, and more to run-ins with the catty but inexplicably popular Felicia Furrypaws, and movie marathons with her best friend  Wilson Weasel. Babymouse is a dreamer, constantly losing sight of quotidian reality and falling into imaginary worlds in which she is always the hero: she's a queen waving to her subjects, a private investigator cracking the case, an astronaut battling a giant squid. "Adorable" is the word I've heard most often to describe these books, followed closely by "irresistable"; I'd add "zippy" and "hysterical" to the list. My daughter has yet to discover the Babymouse books, but I have a feeling they'd be just her speed.

So...what do your kids like to read?

September 23, 2007

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Back in the Olden Days

Back in the Olden Days

Here I am again with a little homespun Grandma/psych/social observation---something I am glad to share with you. As I have mentioned before  in a similar venue, I am trying to work on developing wisdom---what other choice do I have?  Beauty fades and with it dreams of grand achievement; so ersatz wisdom it is for me.Toward that end, I'll practice with the following: I think I have found an unintended benefit from our new pocket gadgets---cell phones, Blackberries and the like. Parents who worry about the drawbacks of their kids' attachment to these things might be interested in my thoughts about some unheralded benefits.

Borrowing a phrase that my young son used  (when I was in my thirties), "When you were a kid, Mom, back in the olden days", there was little, if anything, said about the risks of smoking. You just weren't supposed to start too young and rush growing up--no different from waiting awhile before using lipstick or shaving our legs. So whenever a "sophisticated" teen or young adult was in a slightly uncomfortable social situation, waiting for a date in the lobby of a resturant or alone at a party, he or she would light up.  It gave us something to do with our hands, some sort of social protection--avoiding feeling out of place and awkward. In short, it was the "cool" thing to do. (Just a little side observation, by the way: the coolness of the word, "cool" is one of a very few culturally stable icons. It's wonderful to have a "cool" word that bridges the generation gaps; at least three generations of adolescents have shared it.  But I digress.)

So lighting up, fussing with the matches or lighter, tapping down the cigarette, sucking and blowing out the match with one motion gave us some illusion of poise in tough moments that might otherwise have been even more uncomfortable.

Now, of course, we know that smoking is a very dangerous practice/habit; and we do everything to discourage young people from starting. And, Hallelujah, we happen to have an unexpected ally in that effort--the cell phone or other small computerized pocket gadget. When standing and waiting for a date or entering a crowded room of mostly strangers all "having fun", we, and more importantly, our adolescents, can slouch in a corner and start pushing buttons nimbly and with great focus, looking oblivious to the annoyance of waiting or feeling ill at ease. Instead of worrying so much about today's kids being stuck on screens of all sizes, maybe we should rejoice that they don't need to turn to smoking to ease social strain. So do what ever you have to do to limit the access of kids to the "wrong" sites, etc., but take comfort in my hypothesis that the incidence of the dangerous habit of smoking may be reduced among the young now that they can be comforted by a piece of plastic and steel which gives them a harmless something to do to look cool.

September 21, 2007

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