Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 NYC Teen Author Festival — Happening!

Each day promises special YA treats, in locations throughout Manhattan and Jersey City.  Everyone's getting in on the fun — NYPL, Books of Wonder, McNally Jackson, WORD.

I just spent 20 minutes trying to summarize the best offerings of this week, without leaving out any great events....and it's impossible.

Then I thought about copying and pasting the entire schedule — because it's that good! You won't want to miss any of it! 

...But that would be an unwieldy blog post.

How about you visit the main schedule page, and look over the events — there's sure to be a few that interest you.

Discussions about Young Adult literature and stereotypes and social change and adult perspectives and influential music and personal essays and navigating being an author in a social-media-world.
Readers Theater with  authors!
...tons and tons of YA Authors!

and a performance by YA's best garage band, Tiger Beat (Libba Bray, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Barnabas Miller, Natalie Standiford)

Make a week of it!

alterrita. "Libba Bray and Tiger Beat cover "Dear Prudence." YouTube, 19 Mar 2009.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Resource Share — Did you know you have access to 100+ magazines?!

In a bit of a digression from school library news, this is a general celebration of our public library system and a specific resource-share from Brooklyn Public Library.

I’m currently obsessed with Brooklyn Public Library’s relatively recent digital offering of over 100 magazines via Flipster.

When I first read about this, I suspected it would be a long list of not-very-interesting, pretty-much-free-anyway magazines.
But then I looked into it… how wrong I was.

Horn Book! — School Library Journal!  The New Yorker! (cartoons included!)  Mother Jones and National Review!  The Atlantic!  Vogue!  People!  Time!  Real Simple… Rolling Stone... O Magazine… Consumer Reports… !

As well as children’s magazines like: Ask, Cricket, Cobblestone, Ladybug, Sports Illustrated Kids!

And so many more…

All of the most recent issues and a selection of past issues are available.

Once logged in with your BPL account, you can view a magazine in your browser or you can view on your device via the Flipster app for Android, iPhone or iPad.

Making this even more unbelievable, when using the Flipster app, your downloaded magazines can be read offline...on the subway, in the park, wherever!

Whether on a desktop/laptop or a smaller screen with the app, the Flipster interface is beautiful — easy to navigate, zoom, isolate an article, flip pages, and return to table of contents.

Ask Magazine April 2016 with Flipster

While exploring this tremendous resource, take a moment to appreciate the public library system we have here in New York.  
[Anyone who lives, works, attends school or owns property in New York State is entitled to library cards from New York Public, Brooklyn Public, and Queens Library!  That’s wild.]  

Back to school libraries.... 

Do you promote the public library in your school?
In addition to increasing access to titles and information, using the public libraries binds our students as citizens to the world beyond our schools — it’s an object lesson in how we benefit individually when we, as a group, invest in public resources.

How can we make our students and families more aware of the resources lying in wait for them — e-books, audiobooks, magazines, Bookflix, Tumblebooks — so perfect for home-use, subway-use, waiting-in-the-doctor’s-office-use, etc.?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Finding the Firebird: Hosting Misty Copeland

by Maria Alegre
First Program Librarian, The Dalton School

In September of 2013, I read the picture book Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers. I knew of Misty through my interest in ballet, but the world would come to know and love her the following year when her book would go on to receive the Coretta Scott King Award for best illustrated book and she would receive the Jack Ezra Keats New Authors Award Honor.

Misty’s ‘Under Armor’ sportswear ad would inspire millions as her ballet school rejection letter was read aloud, belittling her late age and too large frame (code: too black) as she danced with power and grace in defiance of her critics. As her commercial went viral, so did her popularity. She was on the cover of Time Magazine in their ‘100 Most Influential People’, she performed for President Obama, she toured with Prince, she guest-starred in a hit Broadway musical and finally she achieved her dream of becoming the first African-American prima ballerina in the ABT’s (American Ballet Theater) 76 year history.

She will also be celebrated for her visit at The Dalton School, where she read her book aloud to students K-3, although this may be low on her list of accomplishments.

Actually, I take that last part back.

Two years ago, I swallowed my hesitation of reaching beyond my realm and contacted her publisher for a visit. I told myself, “We’re not all that different.” I’m a New Yorker, she’s a New Yorker. She wrote a picture book, I’m a librarian. She mentors young children of color, I teach K-3 students at an independent school with a mission of equity and inclusion.

What is the harm in trying to dance with the Firebird? Why not reach for the stars?

At the time, I believe I may have been one of the first school librarians to contact her about a visit. To my amazement, Misty wanted to come! Perhaps because I asked Misty before she became world famous, perhaps because her I asked her before she became and award-winning author. I can speculate forever, but I think the main reason is the one that is the most obvious – a librarian reached out and asked her to share her inspiring stories with a school of young children, and she said yes!

Although I always do my homework for author visits, I went above and beyond for Misty.  I researched the rest days and off-season for ABT performers, I asked my administration for car service recommendations, I helped facilitate the largest signed book sale in the Lower School’s history. I created a multimedia presentation to introduce her visit. When I googled what she might like for breakfast upon arrival, I decided to reign it in a bit.

All of it was worth it. While there was an undeniable element of being star struck by someone whom I have admired from afar, in the end we both had the same mission that day. We both wanted to enrich the lives of children by introducing them to someone who had an inspirational story about their determination and victory in the face of rejection and prejudice.

The great space between us grew closer. Misty admired our library, she gushed over our students and she marveled over the intelligent and thoughtful questions our children asked her. She spoke to them kindly and she hugged them freely. There has been no question that Misty Copeland has received many accolades, however reading her book to my students and sharing her story isn’t a small one. After all, it took one afternoon at a Boys and Girls club to introduce ballet to a young Misty Copeland and change her life forever.

Who knows what great things my students may accomplish after one morning when they were introduced to Misty Copeland?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How Do I Love Thee, Google Docs? Let Me Count the Ways.

By Natasha Goldberg, Middle School Librarian, The Chapin School

I’ll be the first to admit it wasn't love at first sight.  Google Docs didn’t sit well with me until this year. The thought that Sergei Brin & co. were privy to / owned my work product was not a pleasant one.  It reminded me of our families’ common homeland, the Soviet Union, where envelopes arrived in one's mailbox having been pre-opened and sloppily re-sealed.

However (and perhaps this is just the post-traumatic Soviet disorder talking) I’ve now come to the conclusion that Google is our savior. Really, truly, I believe it’s the platform of creativity and progress and answers.

And so, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share three ways Google (specifically, Google Docs) has transformed Chapin’s middle school library program this year.  


It’s been infinitely quicker and more rewarding to create presentations since I’ve switched from PowerPoint to Google Slides. Here’s one entitled Citing a Web Site (enhanced here by cameo appearances by Parker Posey and Gru! Hello, generation gap.)   

I had a 5th grade student play teacher and dramatically read aloud the text, and no one fell asleep.   Amazeballs.


Sharing bibliography.  When students activate the comment feature, reviewing bibliography becomes an act of social networking.


Sharing research product.  
N.B.  If you've never used Google slides, the easiest way to start is to navigate to
and hit the red New button on the left side of your screen.  Then, select Google Slides from the dropdown.
  • Students create Google slides to mimic the old-fashioned index card note taking many of us grew up with (one source/topic per card, 3-4 bullets of notes max).  
  • The bibliographic information is kept in the Notes section of the slide so that students can do parenthetical citations in their final essays.   
  • Teachers and librarians, in turn, are able to comment directly on the slide with feedback.  Here's an example from a current project we're doing with the 7s on the Harlem Renaissance. 

How about you? Any G-doc success stories? Please share! Share your misgivings, too.  I may have downed the Kool Aid, but I’m eager to learn more about what concerns you in terms of this platform. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book jacket designer Charlotte Strick

The fabulous designer Charlotte Strick of Strick&Williams joins us to answer some of my weird questions about book jacket design! I don't know about you, but I'm pretty obsessed with book covers and am constantly curious about the process. Charlotte has created some pretty famous ones (like Jonathan Franzen's Freedom) and is a thoughtful, creative woman who also happens to be mother to twin boys at my school. Here are Charlotte's thoughts on Anne Shirley, Roald Dahl, and inspiration. Enjoy!
-Karen, Williamsburg Northside School

We’ve been seeing a lot of reissues and redesigns of children’s classics lately. Which children’s classic would you like a crack at redesigning the cover for and what would you do?

Well, “Alice in Wonderland” of course or a grand edition of “The Wizard of Oz” would be a fantasy project. I’d love to design a boxset for the “Anne of Green Gables” series. Anne with an “e” Shirley, that plucky chatterbox, meant so much to me when I was a preteen; it would be a thrill to create a special edition of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s much beloved books. The first thing I’d do is enjoy the excuse to reread these books and see how my memories of the stories resonate with my adult-self. I’m a very different reader today, and as a book jacket designer, I read for visual queues and not strictly for pleasure. 

Speaking of redesign, is there a children’s or YA book cover you’d like to see redone? Why? 

I’d love to see Roald Dahl’s paperbacks repackaged. I’m enormously fond of Quentin Blake’s illustrations, and I have long come to associate his work with these books, but I like them less as cover art—especially when combined with digital type. As a collection, Dahl’s current covers feel more commercial and safe, and far less extraordinary than I think the writing deserves. Finding an original way to successfully capture Dahl’s dark wit would be a terrific (and dreamy) design challenge.

What is your favorite cover you’ve done?

It’s impossible to pick favorites. That would be akin to choosing one’s child over another! 

What is your favorite picture book cover?

I think “The Giving Tree” has a tremendously successful cover that should never be touched. It’s “a classic” through and through. It’s spare, unexpectedly glossy, kelly green cover with strokes of red for both the young boy’s overalls and the falling fruit, is difficult to forget. Shel Silverstein was marrying illustration and handmade typography on his book jackets long before it was trendy.

I’m always on the lookout for artwork that I wish I had the talent to have created myself. I design books mainly for the adult market, when I came across Todd Stewart’s illustrations in the picture book “See You Next Year”, by Andrew Larsen (Owlkids Books), I knew Todd’s work would be a perfect match for a new novel our studio, Strick&Williams, was designing. Todd was such a pleasure to work with; he took my little pencil doodle of a guitar-as-road and expanded on it in a way that we hadn’t imagined. This is the real joy of collaborating with other artists. “Vexation Lullaby” (Catapult) won’t be in bookstores until this Spring, but you can get a sneak peak at the finished cover here:

What would you like to hear a student say about one of your covers?
A design student? “Is there anything I can learn from this?”

about Charlotte:
For 14 years Charlotte Strick was a designer and Art Director at Faber & Faber, Inc and the paperback line at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her work has been featured in the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers show, the TDC Annual Exhibition, Print magazine, the Book Binder's Guild Annual Awards Show, and many books about cover design. The proud owner of a coveted Silver Cube from The Art Director's Club, Charlotte is also designer and Art Editor of the distinguished Paris Review magazine. Her writings on art and design have been published by The Paris ReviewThe Atlantic and The Huffington Post. In 2014 she partnered with Claire Williams Martinez to form Strick&Williams, a boutique, multidisciplinary design firm focused on the arts, education, publishing, non-profits and everything in-between. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, Charlotte lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, their twin boys, and a giant bowl of goldfish.

Friday, January 15, 2016


This was the blog post in which I’d intended to write about my many fabulous adventures at ALA and how wonderful Boston was. While I did have adventures (Last Stop on Market Street – wow!) and Boston was wonderful (nicest people ever), I find myself distracted and disoriented by a devastating event in my school community. 

Our school lost a husband to one of our teachers and father to one of our students in a tragic accident this week. His death has shattered a family and a community and I find myself responding in one of the only ways I know how: with books.

I feel we, as librarians, have a calling and a responsibility to our communities. We are keepers of information and guardians of stories. Our skills can help people and have significant impact.

I put together a list of books for my families, students, and faculty that I hope can help start discussion and, perhaps, begin healing. I’m sharing that list here both so that you can use it in your schools and so that you can share additions. In addition, our HVLA colleague Michael Clark also has a wonderful list, including books for parents and caregivers, that he’s previously shared on our listserv.

I’m so grateful to be a part of HVLA and be a part of this fine group of guardians.

with respect,


Books on Loss and Grief for Children

Aliki. The two of them. New York : Mulberry Books, 1987, c1979.
Describes the relationship of a grandfather and his granddaughter from her birth to his death.
Bagley, Jessixa, author, illustrator. Boats for Papa. First edition 2015.
Buckley and his mother cope with the loss of their father/husband by sending small wooden boats, built by Buckley, off into the ocean.
Brown, Laurene Krasny. When dinosaurs die : a guide to understanding death. 1st ed. Boston : Little, Brown, c1996.
Explains in simple language the feelings people may have regarding the death of a loved one and the ways to honor the memory of someone who has died.
Castellucci, Cecil, 1969-. Grandma's gloves. 1st ed. Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2010.
When her grandmother, a devoted gardener, dies, a little girl inherits her gardening gloves and feels closer to her memory.
Clifton, Lucille. Everett Anderson's goodbye. 1st Owlet pbk. ed. New York : H. Holt, 1988, c1983.
Everett Anderson has a difficult time coming to terms with his grief after his father dies.
Edwards, Amanda. The Elephant in the Room : A Children's Book for Grief and Loss.
Fang, Suzhen, 1957- author. Grandma lives in a perfume village.
"Xiao Le's grandmother lives in a faraway village. A visit with Grandma is always a special event, but this time she is frail. With encouragement from his mom, Xiao Le plays with and helps Grandma. When Grandma dies shortly thereafter, Xiao Le comforts his mom."--
Innes, Shona, author. Life is like the wind. First North American edition published in 2014 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Explores the concept of life and death as the animals different ways grieve in different ways for their lost friends.
Karst, Patrice. The invisible string. Camarillo, CA : DeVorss Publications, c2000.
Twins Liza and Jeremy, frightened by a storm, are comforted when their mother tells them about the invisible string that connects people who love each other.

Mellonie, Bryan. Lifetimes : a beautiful way to explain death to children. Toronto ; : Bantam Books, c1983.
Briefly describes the beginning and end of life for plants, animals, insects, and people.
Parr, Todd, author, illustrator. The goodbye book. First edition: September 2015.
Illustrations and brief text relate how a person might feel when they lose someone they love.
Wilhelm, Hans, 1945-. I'll always love you. New York : Crown Publishers, c1985.
A child's sadness at the death of a beloved dog is tempered by the remembrance of saying to it every night, "I'll always love you.".
Willems, Mo. City Dog, Country Frog. 1st ed. New York : Hyperion Books for Children, c2010.
Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog's rock to play games with him, but during the winter things change for them both.