Taking a Look in the Mirror

This lovely little photo showed up on one of my timelines yesterday. Supposedly, this was given to a class of 11 year olds, and of course, I was outraged, and shared it on my social media platforms.

It was all going well. The right number of people were liking the post and sharing their own outrage in the comments, but then something happened that made me rethink everything.

A teacher that I know often sympathizes with ideas like the ones in the photo left a comment expressing their own outrage.

“Can they really not see that this is the type of teacher they are?” I thought.

It made me wonder. What if we all are this type of teacher sometimes? What if there are days that I am that kind of teacher? I know there are times that I express my disappointment when a kid brings back a book that I loved that just wasn’t for them.

After some self-reflection, I determined that I am not usually that type of teacher. I can be, if I really want a kid to like a book that I loved and they just didn’t, but usually, I’m happy when my students read anything.

As a parent, though, I am this teacher ALL the time. I guess it’s because I feel like my kids represent me, and they have always attended the school where I serve. I feel like my kids should have the reputation of being good readers because they are Mr. Martin’s kids.

Because of that, I push them in ways that I would never push my other students. Sometimes I make despicable, disparaging comments like ” You’re reading ANOTHER graphic novel?” “Do you really need to check out another book? You have 4 at home you haven’t finished.”

I’m embarrassed to even be sharing these things, but I have been doing better, and I’m determined to keep it up.

I’m not only letting, but actively encouraging my son to do his story digesting through audiobooks. He has trouble focusing on big blocks of text, and just because his brain works differently than mine, doesn’t mean he isn’t hungry for a good story. I wasn’t always on board with that. We both got very frustrated, often.

I’m letting my daughter put a book down when a new book has her excited. Yeah, she’s not going to get AR points for the book she didn’t finish, but who cares? She loves reading, and reading should not be an “achievement”. We don’t consider it an achievement when we look at a beautiful painting or listen to a fun song, do we? Those things are pleasurable, and reading should be the same way. Treating it that way is the only way we are going to create lifelong readers.

Hear me out here….what if that reprehensible photo is a fake? What if some clever person created it, just to get us all to self-reflect, to remind us to not be that kind of teacher?

Probably not. I think it’s most likely real, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all look at ourselves in the mirror and try to do better. I know that I am. Hopefully this is a wakeup call for me, and I can be the librarian for my kids that I try to be for my other students.

The 2022 Notable Children’s Recordings List

For the last two years, I’ve been serving on ALSC’s Notable Children’s Recordings committee. Our task was to listen to most of the children’s recordings published throughout the year, discuss them and put together a list of the best. We were each assigned over 925 hours of listening this past year, and we had some good discussion last week over zoom. We finally have our list and we’re pretty proud of it.

Seeing it on the ALSC website for the first time has me feeling a lot of different things. That means that for the first time since 2016, I am not currently serving on an ALSC committee.

I am standing for election this March to be on the Newbery Award selection committee, and if it happens for me (I’m cautiously hopeful, and very excited about the possibility) I wanted a year to free-read and to get myself mentally and emotionally prepared. I also, did not want to be wrapping up other committee work if I was going to be heading right into Newbery work.

When all of this Notable Recordings work started for me, I wasn’t much of an audiobook listener. I listened occasionally for convenience, but I’ve always preferred my stories in print. I like to stop and think about things as I read, and I have always felt like an audiobook moves on without me. Sometimes I would get lost in my thoughts and would realize that I had missed a whole chapter, and would have to go back and relisten.

I learned how to be a better listener over the last two years, though. I trained myself, and it was fun to be able to “read” while doing laundry and mowing the lawn. I could listen while driving to work or practicing my disc golf putting in the backyard. I did a lot of listening while processing or shelving books at work. Pretty much any moment I had alone, was spent with my Airpods in my ears and a kids’ recording playing.

The world is a different place than when I first signed on. COVID had not yet reached the US, and we were going to be having all of our discussions in person, in different cities. Of course, those plans changed. Luckily, technology allowed us to still have our discussions. I’ve gotten to know this committee and make new friends over the last two years, and I’m grateful for that.

Here is our list. I will also paste it below.

Notable Children’s Recordings – 2022

All Because You Matter. By Tami Charles. Read by the author. 2020. 9m. Weston Woods Studios, CD and book, $29.95 (9781338750294). Gr. PreS-2
Narrated by the author, the poetic text is enhanced by background music and sound effects that add depth to both the words and Collier’s beautiful illustrations.

Allergic. By Megan Wagner Lloyd. Read by a full cast. 2021. 1.75hr. Scholastic Audio, DD, $13.99 (9781338751031). Gr. 2+ 
This graphic novel about Maggie, who desperately wants a dog, but is allergic, is brought to life by a stellar full cast performance complete with scene-setting sound effects.

At the Mountain’s Base. By Traci Sorell. Read by Kimberly Guerrero. 2020. 6m. Listening Library, DD, $22.00 (9780593342077). Gr. K-3
A Cherokee family separated by war waits for a cherished loved one to return in this lyrical story celebrating family and bravery. 

Be You! By Peter H. Reynolds. Read by the author. 2021. 6m. Weston Woods Studios, CD and book, $29.95 (9781338803822). Gr. PreS-1
Peter. H. Reynolds encourages kids to be themselves in this inspirational story that features his signature whimsical illustration style, engaging narration, and lively music and sound effects.

Because of Winn-Dixie. By Kate DiCamillo. Read by Jenna Lamia. 2021. 3hr. Listening Library, DD, $34.00 (9780593456378). Gr. 3-7  
With authentic feeling and distinct characters, Jenna Lamia brings a classic story to life in this exceptional updated edition. 

The Cat Man of Aleppo. By Karim Shamsi-Basha and Irene Latham. Read by Ramsey Faragallah. 2020. 15m. Listening Library, DD, $22.00 (9780593342022). Gr. K-4
Set against a lush soundscape, complete with many meows, Faragallah’s quiet narration tells the story of Alaa, who stayed in Syria at the start of the war to work as an ambulance driver.

City of the Plague God. By Sarwat Chadda. Read by Vikas Adam. 2021. 10.5h. Listening Library, DD. $63.00 (9780593291160). Gr. 3+
Chadda’s tale of demons and disease comes to life with distinct characters and emotions. Listeners will find themselves caught up in the story of Sik and his battle to rid the world of evil.

Class Act. By Jerry Craft. Read by a full cast. 2021. 2hr. HarperAudio, DD, $13.99 (9780063032057). Gr. 3-8
In this graphic novel sequel to “New Kid,” a full cast gives Jordan and his friends distinct voicing set against a vivid soundscape as they face microaggressions from middle school teachers and peers.

Grandma’s Purse. By Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Read by the author. 2021. 5m. Listening Library, DD, $22.00 (9780593399903). Gr. PreS-1
With warm and engaging narration, Brantley-Newton tells the story of a grandmother sharing the exciting items found in her purse with her granddaughter.

I and I Bob Marley. By Tony Medina. Read by Jamie Lincoln Smith. 2021. Live Oak, CD and book, $19.95 (9781430144632). Gr. 3-8
Smith’s authentic narration transports the listener to Marley’s Jamaica through the use of Marley’s own music, poetry, and creative sound effects. 

Ivy. By Katherine Coville. Read by Carmen Viviano Crafts. 2021. 2h. Full Cast Audio, DD, $12.99 (9781936223947). Gr. K-5
A full cast of narrators successfully conjures dragons, griffins, trolls and more in this exceptional recording the whole family can enjoy. 

Kaleidoscope. By Brian Selznick. Read by Gwendoline Christie with music by Robert Een. 2021. 3hr. Scholastic Audio, DD, $18.99 (9781338794151). Gr. 5+
Gwendoline Christie’s perfectly paced narration and ethereal voice, paired with Robert Een’s unique, discordant music, tie together Selznick’s haunting short stories about a pair of friends bound to each other across time and space.

Max and the Midknights: Battle of the Bodkins. By Lincoln Peirce. Read by a full cast. 2020. 2.75h. Listening Library, DD, $25.00 (9780593339435). Gr. 2-6
Medieval music sets the scene, along with humorous sound effects, and exemplary voicing from a full cast led by Kristen DiMercurio.

A Mind of Your Own. By The Bright Siders. 2021. 45m. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, DD, $9.99. Gr. Pres-2
Through a mixture of singable lyrics and full cast skits, A Mind Of Your Own highlights important topics for social emotional learning in this fun, family friendly recording. 

Ohana Means Family. By Ilima Loomis. Read by Lois Leinani Whitney. 2021. 12m. Live Oak, CD and book, $31.95 (9781430144595). Gr. PreS-4
Soothing music and rhythmic description capture the lush natural beauty of Hawaii through the process of farming taro and creating the traditional dish of poi for a family luau.

Okay to be Different. By SaulPaul. 2021.15m. 8 Pound Gorilla Records, DD, $9.49. Gr. PreS-3
Grammy-nominated SaulPaul delivers a dynamic album featuring a plethora of music genres, centered on themes of self-confidence, hope, and individuality. 

The Oldest Student. By Rita Lorraine Hubbard. Read by Nikki M. James. 2021. 14m. Weston Woods Studios, CD and book, $29.95 (9781338751857). Gr. K-5
The story of tenacious Mary Walker, who learned to read at 116, is presented through an engaging, emotional, and honest narration highlighted by vivid illustrations. 

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt. By Varian Johnson. Read by Dion Graham. 2021. 6h. Scholastic Audio, DD, $27.99 (9781338780949). Gr. 4-7
Dion Graham’s nuanced performance allows each character to shine in this poignant tale of community, family history, and spades.

Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot. By Dav Pilkey. Read by Oliver Wyman. 2021. 15m. Scholastic Audio, DD, $10.99 (9781338750072). Gr. K-3
With non-stop sound effects and Wyman’s squeaktastic performance, Ricky Ricotta’s adventure is an uproarious good time.

Rise of the Slippery Sea Monster. By Gareth P. Jones. Read by David Thorpe. 2021. 2 hr. Listening Library, DD, $28 (9780593344286). Gr. 1-4
In this installment of Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates, David Thorpe delivers a side-splitting performance featuring spunky voices for an entire cast of characters. 

The Strawberry Band. By Story Pirates. 2021. 30m. Face Cake Records, DD, $9.49. Gr. PreS-3.
Inspired by stories written by children, this vibrant and zany mix of songs pays hilarious homage to concept albums.

The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal. By Nick Seluk. Read by a full cast. 2021. 14m. Weston Woods Studios, CD and book, $29.95 (9781338810240). Gr. 1-4
An enthusiastic full cast humorously introduces the wonders of our solar system to children, focusing on the significance of the sun and all of its amazing characteristics.

Twins. By Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright. Read by a full cast. 2021. 1.5h. Scholastic Audio, DD, $24.99 (9781338785210). Gr. 2-6
In this full cast performance, Varian Johnson’s popular graphic novel is reinvented as an energetic and engaging audiobook. 

The Way Back. By Gavriel Savit. Read by Allan Corduner. 2020. 11hr. Listening Library, DD, $69.00 (9780593286135). Gr. 7+
Allan Corduner’s narration dazzles in this tale, inspired by Jewish folklore, giving each character a highly distinctive voice, and switching between English, Hebrew, and Yiddish with ease.

We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know. By Traci Sorrell. Read by a full cast. 2021. 45m. Live Oak Media, CD and Book, $31.95 (9781430144670). Gr. 2+ 
Presented by a full cast of children and featuring a robust soundscape, this recording realizes the full potential of Sorrell’s powerful, illustrated nonfiction title. 

We Are Water Protectors. By Carole Lindstrom. Read by the author. 2021. 7m. Weston Woods Studios, CD and book, $29.95 (9781338784107). Gr. PreS+
This Caldecott Medal winning book is enhanced by Lindstrom’s authentic, steady voice, immersive music, and sound effects.

2022 Notable Children’s Recordings Committee

Jill Frasher, Chair, Kenton County Public Library, Erlanger, KY
Becki Bishop, Campbell Court Elementary School, Bassett, VA
Katie Clausen, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Brandi Hamlin, St. Charles City-County Library, O’Fallon, MO
Benji Martin, Tuscaloosa Academy, Tuscaloosa, AL
Casey Maynard, Iowa City Public Library, Iowa City, IA
Casey O’Leary, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, IN
Jessica Hilbun Schwartz, Louisville Public Library, Louisville, CO
Lindsay Goldstein, Administrative Assistant, Chicago Public Library, Chicago, IL

Exciting News!

About six or seven years ago, I was in the middle of a fun project called “Newbery Pie.” I was reading through all of the winners of the Newbery Medal from 1922 to present, and was blogging about each book.

I was thinking about the Newbery medal a lot those days, and at some point, I decided that I would very much like to be on the Newbery committee, that group of individuals responsible for selecting the winner in a given year.

I joined ALSC with this goal in mind, and even if I never get to serve on the Newbery committee, that will always be one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve made so many lifelong friends through ALSC, and I’ve learned so much from those friends and from so many others who couldn’t pick me out of a small crowd. I got to serve on the Notable Children’s Book Committee two years in a row, which was so intense, so fun and honestly, the learning experience of a life time, I served on the ALSC Quick Lists committee for a few years, which was much more laid back compared to Notables, but was very fun and fulfilling as well. Currently, I’m serving my second year on the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. It’s a lot different than Notable books, but it is great and a lot of fun as well. I’ve listened to so many amazing audio books these last two years, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is next for me when January gets here, and my time on Notable Recordings is finished.

Well, as of today, I can officially tell you that I am going to be on the spring ALSC ballot for the 2024 Newbery Committee. Being on the committee is something that I’ve wanted for some time, and I am excited to be one step closer. I’ll be honest, I’m also incredibly nervous now that the ballot is released. I have not been involved in an election of any kind since 9th grade when I ran for student council rep and ended up in 2nd place. There are a lot of good candidates on the ballot, but I can promise you that if I am elected, I am going to be OBSESSED with finding that most distinguished children’s book of 2023. If you are an ALSC member, please consider giving me your vote. If you aren’t please cross your fingers for me!

Thank You!

Settling in at a New School

Hi, friends. It’s been a while.

To be honest, blogging has not been the forefront thing on my mind lately, while I’ve been trying to transition from being a preschool/elementary librarian to an elementary/middle school librarian/ middle school teacher in a new town. It’s going well, but it has definitely required some learning on my part.

There are a lot of new and different things, but for there are a lot of similarities here, too. Kids love great books at this school just like they did at the last school, and getting those books into their hands is still my biggest objective. I’m just also trying to teach some middle schoolers how to research and debate at the same time.

Another cool thing is this school has clubs. I run the disc golf club. That means that twice a week with middle school and once a month with lower school, I get to go outside and play disc golf with several of my students. That has been so much fun, even when a few of the 8th graders beat me.

All in all, we are thrilled to be back in our home town, and the new school has been a great fit for me and my family (Preschool, K, 3rd grade and middle school now.)

I will try to check in a little more frequently now that we’re getting settled in.

The Author Visits!

I’ve been counting down to the end of the school year with some of my favorite memories from my time at Saint James School. This is it. The final one. The last week of school has come, somehow, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to this place. Here’s my final “favorite memory” of STJ.

One of my favorite days from every school year is author visit day, and I couldn’t just pick one. They are all always special and unique in their own way. I thought I would just recap them all.

2012-2013 school year- Matthew Kirby.

I contacted Matthew Kirby before I was officially working at STJ. He was fresh off of winning the Edgar award for his book Icefall, which I had really enjoyed, and was a relatively new author at the time, and he was happy to fly down to Alabama to talk to my 3rd-5th graders about the writing process and his books. I was a good day.

2013-2014 – Shelly Moore Thomas

Because Matthew Kirby was only able to speak to my 3rd-5th grade students in 2012, I really wanted an author in 2013 who could appeal to both my preschool, lower elementary and upper elementary students. Shelly Moore Thomas’ novel The Seven Tales of Trinket had just come out, and I loved it. She was already well known for her beginning reader series that started with Good Night, Good Knight. She was a perfect fit for our school that year, and she was amzing. She is a master story teller, and really knows how to put on a show for kids. She brought puppets and everything!

2014-2015 Mac Barnett

What can I say about Mac Barnett? If you know me well, you probably know about my relationship with Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. I won’t speak about it more here, but it is my favorite picture book in the world.

Mac is one of the best out there when it comes to presenting to kids. Every person, in the room, whether they are an adult or a kid loves Mac. He has this energy about him and he is genuinely hilarious. You can’t believe a word he says, but he’s amazing. He was so good we had him back this year, virtually.

2015-2016 School Year- Greg Pizzoli

Greg was a Mac Barnett recommendation. I was already a huge fan of The Watermelon Seed and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, so I didn’t need much convincing. Mac promised me that Greg would be an awesome author visit, and he was right. It was our first experience having a really good author/illustrator in the house, and it was a very good day.

2016-2017 Bob Shea

Bob Shea is a really cool guy, and my students loved meeting him. I don’t have a lot of photos or written memories from this visit because the committee I was serving on the time kept me from sharing things or talking publicly about kids’ books, so I was unusually silent on the internet about this visit. It was a fun one, though.

2017-2018 Laurie Keller

Laurie is another author that I cannot recommend enough to schools. She is so fun and personable, and not only is she a great illustrator, but she gets the kids drawing too, which I hadn’t seen before in an author visit. Every kid, even those who forgot to purchase a book to get signed, had a drawing to take home to remember Laurie Keller by. Also, I got to dress up like a big donut.

2018-2019 Matthew Cordell

This year we had out first hiccup in terms of getting an author here. We had a visit scheduled and planned, and then a month before the visit, the author had to back out because they had accidentally double booked themselves.

This left me without an author and very little time to plan. Caldecott medalist Matthew Cordell who I had met at a conference and gotten to know through social media, graciously agreed to come. He is so kind, and loves speaking with his kid readers, and as a lot of you know, he’s one of the best illustrators out there right now. I’ll never forget any of these visits, but I will always be grateful when I remember how Matthew came all the way down to Alabama with his busy schedule, on such short notice, fresh after winning the Caldecott medal for Wolf in the Snow. It was such a good visit.

2019-2020 a Virtual hodgepodge

I had an author planned for the Spring of 2020, but COVID happened and the world shut down. I was doing my story times virtually on YouTube for the last part of the school year, and I wanted to find an author who would make a video for my students to substitute for the author visit we didn’t get to have.

I put some feelers out, and immediately, four authors responded, and said they would do it. I couldn’t pick one, so I just did them all!

Matthew Cordell spoke to my kids, encouraged them while they were learning from home and read Baby Clown to them.

Travis Jonker read his book The Very Last Castle, and gave them some good words.

I read one of Josh Funk’s books to them, and he talked to them about being an author.

Laurie Keller gave us a super special treat and read her not-yet-released Hello, Arnie! and then played the banjo! I got to play along with her! (You can watch it here) and THAT will forever be one of my favorite memories from the pandemic. I got to play a ukulele/banjo duet with the author of Arnie the Doughnut. It still blows my mind.

Covid was terrible, but the generosity of these authors gave my students something to look forward to for a few weeks, and spread some light in a dark time.

2020-2021 school year- Mac Barnett (virtual version)

We were back in school, in-person this school year, but we weren’t ready to have big gatherings, and my principal and I decided that a virtual author visit would be the best way to go.

We wanted someone who had enough energy to really come through the screen and engage with our kids, and we knew Mac Barnett was the person for the job. We had warm memories of his first visit to our school, and all of the kids who would remember his first visit had moved on to middle school. He delivered the goods. His virtual visit was almost was good as his in-person visit.

Skype visits-

Over the years we’ve had a few authors visit with us virtually in addition to our yearly in-person visit. Josh Funk, Jenn Holm, Lauren Tarshis and Travis Jonker all Skyped with us for free just because I met them at a conference or over social media and told them that my kids would love to meet them.

I want to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to all of these authors who gave their time and energy to engage with my students. I’ve been entertained by you, I’ve learned from you and I’ve become friends with several of you.

Thank you to my students for always representing our school well, and for always being so excited to meet these authors. Your enthusiasm is what made these visits so fun.

Finally, thanks to Saint James School. Without your funding and support, of course, these visits would not have been possible.

Getting lost with Frances Hardinge

There are only three weeks of school left! It is coming super fast, and I am counting down with some of my favorite stories from my time here at Saint James School. I will be leaving at the end of the school year to head back to my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I want to reminisce about the great times I have had here.

This story doesn’t actually take place on the STJ campus, but in the middle of downtown Orlando. I was there for ALA Annual 2016. I was serving on my very first ALSC committee as a member of the notable children’s book committee, and it was my very first ALA conference.

I was having such a great time. I had already been to several of the local independent schools to check out their libraries. I had been so fortunate to receive an invitation to the Newbery/ Caldecott/Wilder presentation dinner (the Wilder award name was later changed), and I had been discussing the books I had been reading all year twice a day all week with my fellow committee members. ALA had been way more awesome than I ever hoped it would be.

I had one more fun event planned, a pizza party with a publisher, and I had an hour and half to get to the restaurant and back for another discussion with my committee. I typed in the directions to the restaurant, and saw that it was about a fifteen minute walk away, so I was pretty sure I could make it work.

Right after I stepped out of the conference center, a lady in a black hat approached a convention worker and asked for directions to Lafayette’s. That was the same restaurant I was looking for. I recognized her as Frances Hardinge, one of the authors that would be at the pizza party. It was kind of funny because I was supposed to be presenting The Lie Tree, one of her books, for discussion that afternoon, and just that morning I had been looking up how to pronounce her last name. (It sounds like Harding. Just ignore the “e.”)

I approached her and said, “Excuse me. I think you’re going to the Abrams pizza lunch? I am going there too. We can find it together.”

So we did. Eventually. I don’t know if you’ve ever used the GPS on your phone for walking directions, but for me, at least, it’s a lot harder and much more confusing than using it for driving directions. We got turned around several times, and eventually I turned off my GPS and we just resorted to asking nearby people.

While walking, we talked about Brexit, which had been voted on by the people of Great Britain the night before and the impact it would have on the UK. We did find Lafayette’s and we were only about 5 minutes late. Overheated and sweaty, we walked into the restaurant, and found the room reserved for Abrams.

It was a great lunch. I couldn’t stay long, but I got to have some nice conversation with a few of my favorite authors. My friend Travis Jonker was there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was there as a recently signed author and not as a reviewer/librarian.

Getting lost in downtown Orlando with Frances Hardinge is just one of those things I don’t think I’m ever going to forget. Let this be a warning to all of you if I approach you and offer to help you find a place, especially in a city I don’t spend a lot of time in. You’re probably better off going alone, or at least leading the way.

A Slimy Frenzy in a Jar

I am counting down to the end of the school year by sharing some of my favorite memories from my time here at STJ. I’m not sure this one qualifies as a memory as it happened this morning, but let’s not argue over the details.

A few years ago, I discovered this nonfiction book and right away, I had a new favorite read-aloud for 1st and 2nd grade.

It’s a fascinating book about the wolfsnail, a carnivorous snail that eats other snails and slugs. It uses its extra set of feelers that look much like a mustache to follow his victim’s slime trails and his radula, a long, toothy tongue. to reach into a snail’s shell to get the meat out.

I’ve always kind of wanted a wolfsnail to show my students. I found one a few summers ago in my backyard, but the school year was still weeks away and I didn’t think I could keep it alive long enough, so I let it be.

Last week, my dreams came true. All of the enrichment teachers were together eating lunch, and our Spanish teacher mentioned that she found a big snail that she wanted to donate to the science lab. She said she was trying to feed it, but it wouldn’t eat any of the plants she had put in its jar. Then she mentioned that it had a funny little mustache.

I imagine that my eyes got really big, and I exclaimed “YOU HAVE A WOLFSNAIL!”

I explained to her that the reason her snail wouldn’t eat was because it doesn’t eat plants. It eats meat. Other snails and slugs.

She ended up giving me the wolfsnail, so I could read the book to some of my classes, and show the snail to the kids.

I took him back to the library and let him crawl around a bit. It was great.

I knew I had to feed him, though. Wolfsnails can go a while without eating, but I had no way of knowing when he had last had a meal. I had my kids search the backward for snails and slugs, but the most we could find was an empty dried up shell.

Our art teacher came though for me. She and her kids brought me a cup full of little snails and one giant slug. He was almost as big as my wolfsnail. We thought Wolfy probably couldn’t eat him, but that maybe they could keep each other company. We shook them all into the jar together and hoped for the best.

Right away, the giant slug went for Wolfy. They got all tangled up and stuck together and they both started wiggling back and forth vigorously.

I did some quick googling and learned that some slugs are also carnivores and will eat other slugs and snails. I didn’t know for sure that this slug was, but something was going on, and it seemed that Wolfy was trying to get away.

I was worried that before too long, I would just have an empty shell to share with my students. I went into action, picking up Wolfy by his shell and using the eraser end of a pencil to separate the two hungry invertebrates. I put the slug back into his cup, and Wolfy back into his jar with the other little snails.

Hopefully, he will get some nourishment and will last the week, so I can set him free this weekend.

So far, it’s been great, My first graders this morning were super excited about meeting him. They’ll never know that I almost accidentally fed him to his cousin.

A Lumpy Coin Mass

I am counting down to the last week of school and the end of my time here at STJ with some anecdotes of my favorite memories in this place.

This is the third one, and I’m starting to realize that a lot of my favorite memories center around the book fair, which is strange because book fair week has not exactly been my favorite week of any particular school year.

After a few of these book fairs you kind of know what to expect. Kids are going to spend every last coin they can find in their couch cushions at home to get an eraser or a pencil or something like that. They just want to spend money. I don’t think it even matters what they are getting.

Sometimes, though, a kid will surprise you with their chosen method of payment.

On this particular afternoon, I was feeling a bit frazzled. I had a long line at the register and a kid had just tried to pay with an eraser from the book fair that was made to look like a dollar bill. I informed him that was the third time someone had pulled that joke that week and that next time, maybe he should wait until the line wasn’t so long.

The next girl walked up with a book to purchase. She told me that she had money, but that there a problem with it. I asked her what kind of problem. I was thinking maybe she had Canadian quarters or something like that or that maybe she was trying to pull the eraser dollar bill joke like the last kid. She handed me a lumpy metal mass, and smiled sheepishly. “My brother hot glued all of my quarters together this morning.”

I threw back my head and let out a big laugh. I knew her little brother well, and that was exactly the type of thing he would do.

I rang up her book and got a pen. I made a fist around it and smacked it down on the blobby coin mass. A few coins came loose. I did it again and then again until we had enough quarters to pay for the book.

I handed her the book, her receipt and what was left of the coin sculpture.

“Give your brother my regards.” I told her. “I’m very impressed with his work.”

“Yeah, you don’t have to live with him.”

That was a good point. I nodded my agreement, and started ringing up the next customer.

There’s a “Hole” in the Bottom of the Sea

My plan was to share these anecdotes from my time at Saint James one a week for the next six weeks counting down to the end of the school year, and the end of my time here at Saint James.

I’m too impatient for that. I want to share them now, and if last school year taught me anything, it’s that we can never plan on tomorrow. We don’t know what’s going to happen.

I’m just going to share these stories as I get to them. There could be six or there could be more depending on what I remember.

The first story took place during my first year here, back in 2012. Today, we’re going to fast-forward to this school year, to just a few months ago.

Let me tell you. I’ve seen some things as a children’s librarian. I’ve had a kid throw up in the middle of a story time. I’ve seen gushing nosebleeds while we were singing a song. Teeth have fallen out while I was sharing a story. I’ve had a kid come to the story time rug without pants. I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I could deal with the issue in the moment and carry on like a professional. The show must go on and all that, right? I’m really good at carrying on.

Until the time I couldn’t.

The star of today’s story is the youngest of my four, Theodora. She is a funny little four year old with lots of personality. She’s always trying to keep up with her big brother and sisters, and she is super smart.

This was her first year at Saint James, and she loves library time. Every Friday morning, when she first wakes up, she greets me with, “It’s library day!” She’s always giving me suggestions on what book to read and what songs she thinks her class will like.

On this particular Friday, we were singing “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea.”

I always do this song with my felt board. I start out with a big black hole, and as the song progresses, I add the log and the frog and all of that.

(If you really must hear it for yourself I did a little ukulele tutorial a while back.)

So I put the big black hole on the board, and asked the class. Does anyone know what this is?

Theo, who very much knew what it was, but wanted to be funny yelled out, “IT”S A BUTTHOLE!”

I don’t know if her mask muffled what she said, but I heard her clearly because I’m her dad, or what, but her class did not react at all to what she said. It was almost like they didn’t hear her.

Friends, let me tell you. I did hear her, and I lost it.

I tried to carry on. I tried to sing the entire song, but every time I got to the word “hole.” I would start giggling uncontrollably and couldn’t finish the line.

I thought that after I got through the song, I would be ok.

I wasn’t.

I remember clearly the book I was reading to the class. It was this one. No holes, butts or anything like that to trigger the giggling, so I thought it would be fine.

I wasn’t even a few words in before I started losing it again. The class assistant knew what I was laughing at and she was working hard to keep a straight face. Seeing her struggle only made it worse for me.

It was a cycle. I would start laughing, compose myself, and then see her face or Theo’s face (who was still grinning at me) and I would start laughing all over again.

The rest of the class was just staring at me like I had lost my mind.

I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I got through that book.

I have retired that song for the time being, though. I don’t think I will ever be able to sing it with a straight face again.

The Definitive List of Things you Can Do While Listening to an Audiobook

I’m in the middle of my second year on the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. We’ve been listening to a LOT of audiobooks. I’ve discovered a lot of different things that I can do while listening to a good story.

1.Walk The Dog

I try to do this every weekday morning. It’s a nice way to start the day.

2. Do the laundry.

Laundry piles up in my house. Audiobooks can help with the tedium of folding and ironing.

3. Drive

Anyone with a long commute will tell you that audiobooks are great way to pass the driving time. I recommend using the aux cable instead of headphones, though. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, people!

4. Clean the House

This is what I always think my weekend will look like.

Here’s what I actually look like.

5. Play a video game

I have found this works for me, but only with games that don’t require me to follow the story or do any kind of problem solving. Tetris is one of my go to games for playing while listening. Mario Kart works too.

6. Mow the Yard

You gotta turn the headphones all the way up, and try to find a pair that doesn’t make your ears get too hot.

7. Shelve some Books

This one seems very specific to me and my job, but I do shelve a lot of books while listening to audiobooks.

8. Exercise

I don’t do nearly enough of this (I guess walking the dog kind of counts), but if I did, I would definitely be listening to a book.

9. Prepare a Meal

I’m not the best cook in the world, but I have definitely gotten some listening time in while boiling noodles for mac and cheese.

10. Attend a Zoom meeting

Who’s gonna know?

That’s all I have. What do you like to do while listening? Leave me a comment and I will add it to the list!