World Book Night 2014 recap and essay

On April 23rd I participated in World Book Night. With thousands of other book lovers, I was part of a group that gave out over 500,000 books in one day. This was not limited to librarians, and I encourage you to get involved next year if talking to strangers is your thing! Below is my ssay for the WBN book-giver essay contest.(I could win 2 round trip airline tickets!!)

I gave out the very funny book Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I urge you to pick up this (audio)book ASAP. The narrator has the perfect voice for this story.

My World Book Night Experience

Against all laws of physics and medicine, every drop of blood in my veins rushed through my pounding heart, up my neck, and into my head. There isn’t enough room in here! cried my brain, thumping. Oh I’m burning red! screamed my face, flushed. Like the protagonist Bernadette Fox in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, I was having a panic attack.

No. No, April. Calm down. You are giving someone a free book. You cannot get arrested for this. 

For some unknown reason, “Can I get arrested for this?” has always been the barometer with which I judge many of my potential actions. Despite never being arrested, I always stop short of yelling at other drivers, I rarely confront poorly-behaved strangers, and I always triple-check my reusable grocery bags…just in case a police officer is nearby and is feeling particularly cuff-happy.

When I got over my completely irrational fear of being arrested for giving out a free book – which, I found out the next week, nearly happened to a teen in Meridian, Idaho – I tentatively fingered the first book in the box and coaxed it out. I sat down on a bench in the women’s locker room of my gym and said to a woman tying the laces on her cycling shoes, “Can I bother you for a sec? I have a book here about a woman whose severe agoraphobia leads her to run away from her own family to Antarctica. It’s the funniest book I read in 2013 and would love to give you a copy. For free. It’s World Book Night, after all.”

My experience on World Book Night 2014 was equal parts rewarding and terrifying (as my aforementioned momentary panic attack revealed). Despite being the librarian who greets every single patron who walks (or runs) into the Teen Center, who smiles at everyone I pass en route to refill my peacock-feather adorned water bottle halfway across the building, I can freeze when confronted with an unknown scenario. I am the fainting goat of the social world; freezing, falling over, unable to move. Just for a moment.

At least, that’s what I do inside. On the outside, I am composed and speak calmly (okay, a bit excitedly, if I’m being honest). This is what I did in the gym, at Kohl’s, at McDonald’s, and at the gas station. I started out the day with trepidation, slowly grew more comfortable, and eventually turned darn near excited to give out my book. By the time I scraped the twentieth book out of the box, I was begging for more copies to magically appear. No, no, I’m not done telling strangers about this book! I’m not done meeting new people and giving them an opportunity to become a reader again!

I am amazed at how quickly my panic turned to thrill on World Book Night. How chatting with twenty people about their reading habits, about WBN, and about a book I truly enjoyed reading became the highlight of my week. How stepping out of my social comfort zone turned into a lesson in confidence. How similar I was to Bernadette, the agoraphobic heroine of the very book I was tasked with giving out. Yet how similar I became to her socially adept daughter Bee.

Perhaps the book was more than the funniest book I read in 2013. Perhaps it was also the most personal.
 

review: (advanced copy of) Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

geoff

*This book will be released Tuesday, May 6 2014. 

I received Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach from the publisher Sourcebooks Fire. I don’t recall asking for it, but I am not one to turn down a free book. Especially one that pits band geeks against, well…anyone else. You see, I was a band geek. Will be one for life, I suppose. So I instantly fell in love with Gabe – nicknamed Chunk due to his spherical body – and his smart mouth. That isn’t to say I liked everything about him, however that’s the sign of a good character. One with traits you dislike, but whose soul you love.

Gabe and the marching band face a band camp-less summer due to funds from the soda machine being given to the new dance team, where in the past the funds were for the band. Gabe and his friends slowly start a rebellion…one that results in him in an interrogation cell. The book is told in first-person from inside that interrogation cell.

The team of unlikely heroes may seem incongruous to what Hollywood thinks of high school, but it’s 100% factual for what high school really is like. Football players do support the rebellion efforts of their band geek friends. Goth girls do fall for overzealous, overweight, rebellion-inciting boys. Friends who were once awesome do turn into the enemy. This is reality, and Herbach nailed it.

Recommended for:
High schoolers who like a little rebellion with their reading. Band geeks will pump their fists in the air, jocks will nod in approval, and goth girls will smile. Just a little.

Read-alikes:
Scar Boys had a similar misfit-turned-hero element. A.S King’s Reality Boy is not nearly as light as Fat Boy but a solid read-alike.

LCPS Battle of the Books – High School edition

I did the most fun thing earlier this month. I was a judge for the Loudoun County Public School’s Battle of the Bands. This county-wideprogram has groups from each high school challenging one another to facts found in ten books. I had to read the books prior to the Battle so I would be able to defend an answer in the event of a challenge from one of the teams. Here is my name plate (note the corected spelling):

battle

Reading ten books was nothing compared to the work some of these groups put in. The captains from the winning team at Briar Woods High School had been reading the books and writing their own questions (to challenge themselves and their teammates) since May 2013. That’s right. They had spent 11 months preparing.

Being a judge was really fun because it made me read the 10 titles closer than I’d read a book in a while. However, the questions asked were so specific even I needed to consult the answer key. How the teams knew so much about each title was beyond me. For those of you interested in the titles, they were:

Each of these were first-time reads to me, save The Fault in Our Stars. I, once again, loved it and cried at multiple points, and cannot wait to see the movie. June. Come faster.

Full Body Burden scared the living hell out of me. Click above to read my review.

Back to the Battle…

I attended a semi-final battle at John Champe High School, whose post-Battle reception was TFIOS themed. They had a cool photo-booth area, quotes from the movie printed and hung around the room, and other Amsterdam- and travel-themed decorations. The final battle was at Briar Woods High School who chose the theme Rocketboys. The rocket ship decorations were cute, and they even had marzipan rockets atop their cupcakes. Super adorable! A big “THANK YOU” to the host librarian who bought us judges a gift and supplied us with coffee and snacks. How nice of her!!

I hope to judge again next year, or otherwise be a part of the event. It was a lot of fun, and the passion the teens had was really amazing to see. Their knowledge of the books was so much more than memorization. One teen – a teen from my days at the Rust Library, in fact – challenged us on an answer and totally owned it and we told him such. I was quite proud of him, as I was of all who participated.

Now…if only they had something like this for adults. Because otherwise, spouting out book facts makes me look like a pretentious lit nerd.

review: Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler

uganda
Uganda Be Kidding Me is by one of the funniest women in the biz, Chelsea Handler. A memoir of her travels – including an African safari, the 2012 London Olympics, and Colorado – make me want to stuff myself into her purse and go with her everywhere. Everywhere. I’d go to Wal-Mart with her if she’d let me just to experience an outing in her presence.

Handler hates being alone so she takes people with her everywhere she goes. She actually ruined the anniversary plans one of her friends’ husbands had made because she insisted that she go to Africa with her. She made her sister leave the country when her family was relocating so she’d have at least one sister with her on the safari. She wants. She gets. I typically hate that kind of attitude in a person, but I make an exception for Handler – who gives as much as she takes. (She bought an aunt a house one Sunday afternoon when she was bored and hungover and because the aunt had been really good to her when she was a struggling actress/waitress years earlier.)

This is Handler’s fourth book, and it does not fail to make readers laugh out loud that snorty kind of laugh that makes others jump. Her deadpan voice comes through in her writing, so I completely believe her when she says she doesn’t use a ghostwriter.

Recommended for:
Anyone who doesn’t mind vulgar language and vivid descriptions of defecation and sex will LOVE this book!

Read-alikes:
Any other book by Handler (except Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me which is actually written by her friends and family. It’s okay…but not fantastic because it’s not written by her, per say.)

I imagine the Mindy Kaling book Everyone is Hanging Out Without Me is similar, or so I believe because of things I’ve been told. In deadpan humor, I mean…not in the foul-mouthed kind of way.

review: Noggin’ by John Corey Whaley

noggin

Noggin’ by John Corey Whaley is a dystopic- no, no that’s not right. It’s realistic fiction that- wait, no. That’s not right, either.

Okay, so I don’t quite know how to categorize a novel about a teen boy who is dying of cancer so he is cryogenically  frozen then given a new, non-cancerous body, via a head transplant. If that isn’t dystopic-science fiction-fantasy-romance then I don’t know what is. I mean, Whaley must really dislike genre stickers that librarians put on novels – or he was going for some kind of record number of stickers on the spine. Either way, the book is un-categorizable. (Yes, I know that isn’t a word. Just like head transplants aren’t real medical procedures. But I did it anyway, all in the name of fiction! HA!)

So I’ve told you the premise of the novel…but what fills the other 300 pages? Oh, right…teen romance. See, Travis feels like he just took a nap. Meanwhile, five years have passed and everyone has moved on. Everyone. Including his girlfriend Cate. In fact, she’s engaged. This, coupled with his parents odd behavior and the stares from his classmates (who were in elementary school when he was put under five years earlier) make for some very weird, mixed-up emotions in Travis that he can’t get a handle on.

I read an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book laying by the pool at the Vdara resort in Las Vegas. Except for re-applying sunscreen so my pale, freckled skin would stay as perfect as Scarlet O’Hara’s, I didn’t put the book down. (I took sips of my pina colada one-handed. Huzzah!) Although I found Travis to be super whiny and incredibly selfish, I get why Whaley made him such – he is a teen boy (read: pubescent) who just went through a traumatic experience. He is allowed to be a little whiny and selfish. But it’s when his selfishness begins to hurt others that his friends call him out.

This is a fantastic YA novel written by a fantastic author. I don’t think Noggin’ went as deep as his 2012 Printz Award winning Where Things Come Back but that’s just fine. It’s still great. Still worth reading and recommending.

Recommended for: 
Teen boys AND girls. Girls will like the “feels” and boys will appreciate the boy behavior.

Read-alikes:
There are just too many head-transplant books to choose from, so I’ll recommend books that have other, similar themes. Such as The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schneider and Winger by Andrew Smith.

So I Won an Award, and am Going to an Academy

I don’t blog to gain millions of followers or to make money (although that’d be nice…). I write because  I have something to say, and think that this is the best medium for that. So imagine my surprise when I won a YALSA writing award for something I wrote for the YALSA blog in February, 2013.

The article, titled Serving Homeless Teens: other ways to help was true third in a series, with the first two authored by Kelly Czarnecki (Technology Education Librarian at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library), and Marie Harris (Teen Services Specialist, ImaginOn-Charlotte Mecklenburg Library). The YALSA blog editor sent out an email asking which YALSA bloggers had experience in serving homeless youth in libraries. The three of us responded, and coordinated topics so we weren’t writing about the same service or situation. Each of the blog posts are distinctly unique to serving homeless youth, which I think proves the complexity of serving that demographic. Each homeless teen has a different story, different dreams, and different needs – but they all need and deserve service from librarians who have ways to help.

Check out the blog posts – linked above – to read about our experiences and our ideas.

A big thank you to YALSA for recognizing my (and our) work. It validates the hard work we put into not only writing, but serving.

 

A second shocking piece of news came across my desk this month – but this one I had been hoping for. I was accepted into the 2014 class of the Virginia Library Leadership Academy – sponsored by the Virginia Library Association. The Academy begins in May with a 2-day workshop in Staunton, Virginia where I (and the other 23 attendees) will receive project management training. I will then meet with my Academy mentor, who will work closely with me for the next year. Over that year’s time, I will plan and implement a program that utilizes the skills I learned at the workshop.

I am honored to be a part of the 2014 VALLA class, and cannot wait to discuss my experiences on this here blog.

circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers is the story of Mae Holland – a twenty-something working at The Circle, a GoogleAppleMicrosoft-like conglomerate that is the technology center of the country, nay, the world. Mae is awe-struck over the vastness of The Circle’s campus, and of its presence in nearly every aspect of a person’s life. After Mae’s arrival at The Circle, her colleagues push out such inventions as SeeChange (a tiny, inexpensive camera that anyone can install anywhere, including around their necks to promote transparency) and TruYouth (a tracking device injected into the bone of every infant so they can never be lost, but the device also tracks their academic standings, health records, and more). They sound harmless – helpful even – but Mae’s ex-boyfriend Mercer believes otherwise and fears The Circle’s all-encompassing control.

Mae doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid at first. She goes an entire weekend without sending one Zing (Tweet?), posting one Smile (“Like”?), or uploading pictures of her meals, her kayak trip, or of another daily activity. She is reprimanded by higher-ups who feel that her lack of posting shows she doesn’t care about sharing her experience with others. Her best friend, Annie, a heavy-hitter at The Circle, encourages her to do more with The Circle’s social scene, and Mae quickly becomes entranced by the place.

Then she goes transparent, being the first non-Congressperson to wear SeeChange for all of her waking hours. Her life is filmed, but a couple people are afraid of what will come next for The Circle, and the world, if such technology is commonplace.

The Circle is by the great Dave Eggers – Zeitoun is one of the most intriguing and affecting nonfiction books I’ve read. But unfortunately I felt this most recent one was a bit contrived. Maybe I read too much dystopia as it is, because this felt like just another on the pile. A technology company takes over the world by creating seemingly-harmless products, but those who want to maintain their privacy freak out and think it’s the end of the world. And even the “bad guys” aren’t that bad. They truly think they are doing good – keeping children safe from kidnappers, aiding in the health care system, forcing the government to be transparent and accountable for their actions – so you can’t hate them (although you do find them a bit odd and obsessed).

Recommended for:
Anyone who isn’t burned out from other dystopia or controlling-technology books. Definitely teens who like to read adult novels. Except for a couple PG sex inferences, this one is appropriate for older teens.

Read-alikes:
Machine Man
by Max Barry and Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.