Twas the Night Before Christmas

Hi Guys,

Merry Christmas Eve! Instead of a bookish post today, I thought I’d treat you with one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

For as far back as I can remember, Christmas Eve always included a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas. Snuggling in bed after a day of festive activities, my mom would read my brother and I this book and we would know that Christmas morning was on it’s way.

Over the years this tradition has changed just a bit. We still get our reading every year but now it often includes a quiz to see how much of the story my mom can remember. This is no small feat guys, that sucker is long!

Anyway, Twas the Night Before Christmas is something that always puts me in the holiday spirit. What traditions do you have?

Enjoy the season!

Be safe. Be happy. Be Jolly.

Happy Holidays!

-M-

Still Life with Tornado

Hi Guys,

I picked up this book because it was sitting on our Teen’s, New Book shelf and was deliciously pristine. No one had even cracked the spine to take a peek inside. After reading the jacket, I couldn’t resist. And boy was I in for a ride I had not bargained for.

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King follows sixteen year old Sarah as her life turns upside down. Sarah believes she is suffering from an existential crisis. She finds she can no longer make art, her one true calling, she refuses to go to school and she keeps seeing different versions of herself.

But Sarah isn’t crazy. Other people see 10 year old Sarah, 28 year old Sarah and 40 year old Sarah, so she knows she isn’t losing it. It is just that “nothing is original” and “nothing really matters.” So Sarah roams the streets of Pittsburgh, talking to her older and younger selves and basically losing herself.

Things have happened in Sarah’s life. Bad things that she’s blocked from her mind. But Sarah can’t keep them inside any longer and things come to a head when someone steals her art project and destroys it. Will Sarah lose herself completely or will she come to terms with a broken home and a school life in turmoil?

When I picked up this book, I thought it was about a girl who visited her past and future selves via her drawing… or at least that is what the synopsis lead me to believe. Instead we get a book that deals with themes like spousal abuse, inappropriate student/teacher relationships, drugs, homelessness, peer pressure and identity crisis.

I literally could not put this book down for the first two hundred pages because I just had to know what was going on. Sarah kept alluding to something, to things that happened but she wouldn’t spit it out–in a good way. The way King wrote this book, it was like you were always left with a cliffhanger.

Ultimately, this book is about family and not a healthy family. Sarah’s is a family with major problems and a lack of communication is what I think ultimately leads to Sarah’s crisis. This book is about coming to terms with abuse within a family unit and the journey to do something about it.

This is a serious book with serious subjects but I think it is well done for a teen audience. My only negative-ish comment is that I’m still not even sure if there were multiple Sarah’s or if the Sarah’s were all “inside” 16 year old Sarah… I’m going with the latter.

A serious read for a serious reader and teen themes approached in new ways.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Family Storytime: Transportation

Hi Guys,

This past Saturday it was my turn to run Family Storytime. This is a storytime for families with kids of all ages. It’s a fun one but can be tough because you have to prepare to entertain a vast variety of kids. Here’s what we did this week:

I always start with:

  • Song – Top of the Morning
    • This is a good song to warm up with because we stretch all the parts we will be using in storytime. Eyes, arms, legs, mouth, nose.
  • Rhyme – Say Hello
    • love this rhyme. Everyone claps along and at the end we say hello how ever I tell them to. Loud, soft, quick, slow.
  • Movement Exercise – Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Song – Skidamarink

From there we went on to our theme of transportation.

  • ASL Rhyme – I taught the group the ASL signs for Red, Yellow & Green. For the rest of the storytime anytime we used these colors the kids did the signs.

Stop, says the RED light. Go, says the green.

Now just wait, says the YELLOW light in-between.

That’s what they say and that’s what they mean.

We all must obey them, even the queen.

  • Feltboard – Cars & Colors 20160917_154101
    • Basically, I just told the kids that “There are lots of cars driving down the street. What color do you see? Beep, Beep, Beep.” For the colors we knew signs for we did them while shouting out the colors.
  • Story – I’m Dirty by Kate & Jim McMullan61adayapugl-_sy424_bo1204203200_
    • You have to be really expressive with this one in order to make it fun. Shorten if you have to but throw a little swagger in when you read it.
  • Game – Stoplight freeze dance
    • I created red, yellow and green circles on popsicle sticks.
    • When I held up the green, they’d drive their cars. Yellow and they would drive in slow motion. Red and they would have to freeze in place.
    • I showed them in different orders and at different paces to make it more fun. A freeze dance for cars!
  • Song – The Wheels on the Bus
    • Just a classic movement song.
  • Movement exercise – Have You Ever Seen A Sailboat
    • Put baby on your lap and sway back and forth with the music. Or just sway with the older kids.

Have you ever seen a sailboat, a sailboard, a sailboat

Have you ever seen a sailboat waving its sails.

Wave this way, and that way. 

This way and that way. 

Have you every seen a sailboat, waving it’s sails!

  • Story with puppet – Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus! 20161007_155100
    • I created a pigeon puppet and instead reading the story, I told the kids that no matter how much the 51bi6f3mrll-_sx496_bo1204203200_pigeon begged, they couldn’t let him drive the bus. So I was the pigeon and the kids kept telling me no every time I asked. It was really fun.
  • Song with Shakers – Chugga-Chugga-Choo-Choo
    • Always a risk, but I passed out shakers and we shook our fanny’s off to the song.
  • Movement Rhyme – Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Zoom, zoom, zoom

We’re going to the moon.

Zoom, zoom, zoom

We’re going to the moon.

If you want to take a trip

Climb aboard my rocket ship.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 BLASTOFF!

Finally, I always end with the same three things:

  • Movement Exercise – If You’re Happy and You Know It
    • I tell the kids that I want to know how happy they are. We do this three times, faster and FASTER each time.
  • Rhyme – Say Goodbye
    • This is the same rhyme we started with, so the new guys are familiar with it by the end of storytime.
  • Song – Goodbye, So Long, Farewell my Friends by Music Together
    • I always put this one on as I go to open the door. Its a nice, slow, peaceful song to wind down on.

How’d it go:

This was a great storytime! It was a great group of kids and I had some really stellar, involved grown-ups. We got through everything I wanted to get through and didn’t get stuck once. Overall, this was a really successful storytime and one I will definitely save to break out again in the future.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Rook

Hi Guys,

There’s something about chess that appeals to my inner strategist. Grant it, I’m no savant; there are kids at my library who would put me to shame. But I can play and this might be why The Rook caught my eye. That and the fact that it involves the supernatural–I’m a sucker for sci-fi/fantasy.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is full of secret societies, amnesia, intrigue, betrayal and quite a bit of ass kicking. The book begins with Myfanwy Thomas standing outside in the rain, surrounded by corpses and no memory of who she is. But Myfanwy isn’t completely on her own. In the pocket of her coat she finds a letter from herself with instructions on being Myfanwy Thomas and how to find the people who stole her memory.

Myfanwy can remember how to function; she knows who the English Prime Minister is and many day to day facts but she has no clue who she is and all her memories are gone. So it comes as quite a surprise when Myfanwy finds out she is a Rook–one of eight leaders of a massive secret organization that keeps England safe from the paranormal.

Forced to adopt a persona she doesn’t remember, Myfanwy’s only guide are letters from her lost self. Can Myfanwy uncover her would-be murderer, run a secret organization and deal with her own supernatural powers all while keeping her amnesia a secret?

This book had a lot of elements that appealed to me. There was a lot of action that kept the story going. Each of the characters were unique and had their own personalities. There was a good bit of world building and detailing. And even though elements were archetypal, it had a unique premise that I haven’t read before.

Myfanwy is the star of this show. She is what I imagine a woman with no memory would be like, if they were thrust into the supernatural and told someone was trying to kill them. She’s sarcastic, funny, terrified, smart and just a wee bit unbalanced. She’s got that “oh… what they hell” attitude that I wish my logical mind would adopt. At one point she looks at her fellow leader and says, “You look like sex in boots!” Wow.

I did not, however fully enjoy the letters from pre-amnesia Myfanwy. These were often long interludes which somewhat stalled the story for me. Don’t get me wrong, the story needs these letters, the background they afford, but they could have been condensed. It’s one of those moments where you understand why they writer did it that way and you have no idea what could make it better, but it was just the interruption to the pace that got to me.

One thing this book succeeded at was the merging of fantasy and lore. There were so many pieces of different fantasy stories here that one would expect to be overwhelmed, but it works. There are vampires, psychic ducks, a hundred different mutant like powers, poltergeists… you get it. The Rook’s plot allowed all of these elements to work together wonderfully.

Overall, this was a fun read. I’m curious about the sequel and am hoping there are no more letters in it. The book is shelved in YA in our library but Myfanwy is in her late 20’s and other then having a currently popular YA genre, I’d consider it an adult read that would be appropriate for teens.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Scorpion Rules

Hi Guys,

I stumbled across this one on Goodreads the other day and decided to give it a go. The paperback was checked out so I gave the audio book a whirl. Let’s just say this book was a pleasant surprise.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow is a YA dystopia with an unusual twist. In this world each ruling faction hands over one child to serve as a hostage to peace. If any country or ruling power declares war, then their hostage–their children–are forfeit. In this way world peace is kept…for the most part. Wars are still declared and children murdered for the “good” of all.

Greta is a child of peace. She is a princess in waiting and in less than two years she will be 18 and no longer under the collar of death. Greta has lived most of her life in the Precepture, one school of many for the worlds royal hostages. She knows death could come at any moment and yet she is the epitome of a child of peace. She is strong, smart, diplomatic, obedient, royal in every way. Greta accepts her fate and the fate of her friends and cohorts… that is, until a new child of peace comes to the Precepture and changes everything.

Will Greta bow to a seemingly all powerful ruler or will she play the game and change the rules?

This seems like a simple, girl meets boy, boy wakes girl up to world around her, girl changes world, they all live happily ever after… right? Yea, that’s what I thought too. Uh no. Don’t let the synopsis fool you, this book is so much more. For starters, the ruling power, the person who enforces the rules, is an AI. An artificial intelligence name Talis, who, years ago, took over the UN and enforced his rule on the world to “make it a better place.”

The technology in this book is a weirdly ok meld of high and low tech… AI’s, optical implants, data ports, intelligence possessions, zeppelins, horseback–you get the drift. And yet, this isn’t your usual AI, world domination. This is so far from the Terminator or any other robot takeover you can imagine. The AI’s don’t feel like robots, they are so very human. This book feels more like a fantasy then a sci-fi dystopia. So even if you don’t like robots, give it a try–you will be surprised.

I’m just going to say it… I loved Talis. Our “evil” all powerful ruler, was just fantastic. He is obviously psychotic, inappropriately witty, too charismatic for his own good and just plain likable. I liked him. A lot. He isn’t necessarily even a bad guy. He wants peace and has gone to extreme lengths to obtain it. All plans are flawed right?

The idea of keeping children as hostages for peace was really intriguing for me. Even without the AI’s this would have been an interesting premise and not super far fetched. History is full of holding hostages to sue for peace. So it was neat reading a book where every ruler had to handover a child.

This book gets 3.5 stars and as I am writing this is even creeping toward 4. However, there were a few chapters leading up to the conclusion that were just too slow for me. But for those of you that like all your ends tied up nice and neat, it probably won’t bother you.

If your looking for a fluffy romance, this isn’t really the book for you. If your looking for a sophisticated book with new ideas and stellar thought provoking characters, then enjoy.

That’s all for now!

-M-