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Tales of an Elementary School Librarian

Signing off for a season

I want to start this post by thanking everyone who has followed my blog for the past few years. Being a solo school librarian can be a lonely job sometimes. The biggest thing I miss about being a public librarian is seeing other grownups every day who are passionate about kids books and having great discussions with them. This blog has given me a place to keep that conversation going, and has helped fill that void.

Unfortunately, things have really piled up lately. We have a newborn at home (along with our other three kids)  and the Notable Children’s Books Committee reading and nomination writing has gotten really intense, and with the busy season at work arriving (Book fair! Author visit planning!) I haven’t really been finding the time to post.

I know the blog has been sagging these past few months. I’m not supposed to talk about 2016 books publicly, and since that’s all I’m reading and thinking about these days, it’s been hard for me to find topics to blog about. With all that in mind, I’ve decided to suspend my blog for few months. I will start back in late January after ALA  Midwinter when my Notable Children’s Book Committee service is finished. You can still find me on Twitter (@mrbenjimartin) and Facebook, and I am really looking forward to January when I can talk about new books with you all again.

 

Happy Reading!

-Benji

Find the Pigeon

A few weeks ago, I introduced an idea I had, about  hiding the Pigeon in the library for my students to find. The idea is, whoever finds the pigeon gets to check out an extra book. I had some reservations, in the beginning. I foresaw widespread chaos, but for the most part, it has been a lot of fun.

I like to hide him in the same places throughout the day, and see which classes can find him the quickest. There hasn’t really been a solid answer to that question. Sometimes the older students are faster, but often, the younger students will find him in a place right away where it took the 5th graders several minutes and a lot of begging. “PLEEEEAAASE Give us a hint, Mr. Martin!”(I never give in.)

I will say, that for some reason, girls are much better at finding the Pigeon than boys. About 75% of the time, it will be a girl that finds him. Maybe they pay better attention to detail, and notice when something is different? I dunno.

Here are some of the places that the Pigeon likes to hide.

pigeongraphic

The graphic novel section is pretty busy, so he likes to hide him there pretty often.

pigeonlin

pigeonpicturebook

Yesterday, he made himself a little shelter on one of the picture book tables. Funny thing is, it took the 5th graders like 20 minutes to find him here. A first grader walked right up to him as soon as class started.

pigeonstates

The shadowy recesses of a nonfiction shelf is often a very good hiding place.

pigeonheights

“Heights? I ain’t afraid of no heights!”

So far, the only minor annoyance has been that during our quiet reading time after book checkout, it’s very tempting for a student to squeeze him to hear him talk. (Fun fact. It’s Mo Willems’ voice recorded in the Pigeon) So we’ll all be sitting there absorbed in our books when all of a sudden Pigeon shouts. “LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!” But really, that’s a small thing, and easily taken care of. All in all, I would say Find the Pigeon has been a big success.

Paternity Leave

Hi guys! Sorry for the long absence. Just when I thought I was building some blog momentum, we had another baby, and that kind of slowed things down. I’m off for a few days, helping Ashley out around the house, and here’s what my days look like when I’m not changing diapers or my spit up covered clothes.

paternity.jpgI hope everyone is having a good week!

The Top Books of August

The first month of school has come and gone (already?) and like I do every month I am pulling the circulation numbers and taking a look at which books did the best in my library. I’m always really interested in the August report because the trends can change a lot over the summer.

A Quick Prediction:

Before I do pull the numbers, I want to make a guess on which book has been circulating the best. The safe bet would be an Elephant and Piggie book or a Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel. They are always high on the list, but I’m going to gamble and say it’s Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. Several kids (and teachers) were asking me about that book when they saw me in the hallways on the first day of school, and I haven’t been able to keep it on the shelves. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it will be near the top of the list.

Let’s see if I’m right….the first place book is….(drumroll)

  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

dogdays

Weird. Even if I knew it was A Wimpy Kid book that won, I probably wouldn’t have guessed this one. I can’t even begin to explain it. I guess  it was just a case of the library having several copies available, and lots of kids wanting a Greg Heffley book.

2. Pigs Make Me Sneeze

 sneeze

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

harry potter

Well, I was right about Harry being up there in the list, but wrong about which book.

4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School

oldschool

5. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

cursed

Here it is. A bit further down the list than expected.

6. Into the Wild

intothewild

The Warriors books have always been pretty popular here, but this year they’ve been going fast like free NASCAR stickers at Walmart.

7. I Really Like Slop

slop

8. Number One Sam

numberonesam

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t because of the Greg Pizzoli visit we had last spring, but more because this is just an awesome book.

9. The Thank You Book

thank you book

If I had enough copies of this book, and I could give one to every student who asked for it, it would be way at the top of the list. Someone is looking for it every single day, and sadly, I rarely have a copy on hand. It has definitely been the most requested book of the year so far.

10. Smile

smile

Raina has a strong following here. I wish you could see the waiting list for her next book.

That’s it. There were a few surprises for me, but all in all, the Saint James kids still like a lot of what they liked last year.

weeding

Introducing my next probably terrible idea: Find the Pigeon!

There are tons of great things about the Elephant and Piggie books. Odds are if you know me, you know how passionate about I am about them. I don’t have any tattoos, but if I ever get one, it will probably be Piggie and Gerald (or maybe a Pigeon hiding in an armpit or something?) One of my students’ favorite things, though, is finding the Pigeon in the E & P closing endpapers.

icecreampigeon

He’s not just in the Elephant and Piggie books, either. He likes to hide in nearly all of Mo Willems’ books (I say nearly, because I’m not so sure about City Dog, Country Frog. It seems it would inappropriate for the Pigeon to be hiding in such a somber book)

Well, anyways an idea struck me the other day, and I ordered this guy.

thepigeon

The Elephant and Piggie plushes are very popular here, and I thought it might be fun if I got a Pigeon plush and hid him in different places in the library and let the kid who finds him check out an extra book that day.

Yes, I foresee the problems. There might be fighting over the Pigeon. There will be lots of arguing as to who found him first. I will definitely get tired of hiding him after a week or so, but for now, I think it could be fun. Who knows? I might regret it. Heck, I probably will, but I’m going to do it anyways. It will be fun for a little while, and I can always stop hiding him if I decide it’s becoming a headache. So there you have it. Starting Monday, it’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Hidden in the Library!!!!

pig comic

Scaredy Squirrel: A Retro Review

ScaSqu_CM_HC_PROD

Me: The last book, we’ll be reading today is Scaredy Squirrel. (holds book up for class to see the cover)

3rd Grader #1: Mr. Martin, Didn’t you read that book to us last year?

3rd Grader # 2: And the year before that?

3rd Grader # 3: I think he read it to us in kindergarten, too.

3rd Grader # 4: Shhhh. Let him start. I love this one.

Yeah. I admit it. Sometimes I overdo certain titles. There are a few books that I like to read to several age groups, every year. I can’t help it. I just love them so much, and I want as many kids as possible to be exposed to them as often as possible.

Scaredy Squirrel is one of those books. It was first published nearly a decade ago, and I adore it. It’s everything a good picture book should be. It’s hilarious and cute and it tackles some real issues kids can relate to.

Scaredy deals with a problem that most kids, (heck most adults if they’re being honest) struggle with: the fear of the unknown. Scaredy maybe overdoes it a bit. He literally doesn’t do anything besides eat nuts and look at the view from his tree, (I’ve been asked a few times over the years about his bathroom habits, but the book doesn’t delve into those depths) but I think kids can really relate to that.

When life happens, (in the form of a killer bee) and Scaredy accidentally leaps from his tree to catch his emergency kit, he discovers that he’s actually a flying squirrel, and that he was made for so much more than nut eating and view watching. He was designed for adventure.

My favorite thing about the book, though is the end. Yes, he’s made some changes to his life, but he’s hesitant to jump all-in at once. He still keeps to his routine mostly, but he leaves the tree for a few hours every day, which is a huge step for him. He’s still the anxious Scaredy we love, afraid of everything imaginable, but he’s trying to be brave and take chances, a little bit a time. There’s a message for kids there. You can still be anxious about the unknown, but you should try to not let it get in your way. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but doing what you need to do despite your fear.

It’s such a good picture book. And yeah, kids notice when I read it to them several years in a row, but I’ve never had one student complain.They seem to love it as much as I do. If you haven’t been introduced to Scaredy before, you should check him out.

 

 

 

Benji Martin: Fairy Tale Villain Consultant. My first client-The Wolf (From Red Riding Hood)

Being a villain is hard work. There’s always some hero out there trying to thwart your evil plans, especially in fairy tales. Bad things are always happening to the antagonists.

That made me think that there’s probably a career to be made in consulting the bad guys. You know, taking a look at where they went wrong, and advising them on their plans for the future. After all, if we aren’t learning from our mistakes, we’re bound to repeat them.

So I set up a consulting firm, and I put up a few flyers in some notoriously nefarious areas. (I mainly nailed them to tree trunks in dark forests in Germany and Russia) It wasn’t long before my phone was ringing and I got my first client.

The Wolf (From Red Riding Hood. Not to be confused with the Big Bad Wolf)

big-bad-wolf

I took a quick look at his story, and I immediately saw that his mistakes were many (and alarming!) Here’s the preliminary report I typed up for him.

Mistake #1: Passing up the initial opportunity Mr. Wolf happened upon a little, defenseless girl (who was not in the least bit afraid of him) in the forrest carrying a basket with cake and wine in it. If he had simply followed his basic instincts, he could have immediately had a meal of girl, cake and wine. If that wasn’t enough, (wolves will be wolves, sadly) what was to stop him from then going over to grandmas and gobbling her up too?

Mistake #2: Overthinking things-Mr. Wolf’s plan to dress up like grandma to lure Red into a false since of security (something he didn’t need to do. She was already walking with him and chatting freely) is nothing short of laughable. It was pure chance that he met a girl dumb enough to fall for it and that it actually worked. It took much too long, though, and allowed the woodsman time to survey the situation, and act.

My Recommendation for the future: Mr. Wolf would be better off, leaving the cleverness for the foxes. He is a wolf. A powerful, well-designed killing machine. He needs to just follow his instincts. Deep down, he is not really all that evil, he’s just hungry. He should take advantage of a meal when it’s there. Also, he might want to look into forming a pack with other wolves. Wolves are notorious for being much stronger in large numbers.

If there are any fairy tale villains out there looking for consultation, please email me at benjimartinfairytaleconsultant@aol.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

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