Monday, December 03, 2007

Lapsits for Babies

This Thursday (December 6) is our last Lapsit for the year. That is for 2007. Next year we are going to start offering the lapsits twice a month, the first and third Thursdays of the month. Lapsits are different than storytimes because babies (ages 0-24 months) do not always have long attention spans. That doesn't mean we aren't using our 'Early Literacy Skill Building' techniques. We want children to start learning the joy of books but with the intimacy of holding the child in your lap and introducing board books. We especially want parents and caregivers to talk to their child, use rhymes, and nonsense words that rhyme, songs and chants. All of this helps a child's brain develop.

Play is another important part of the lapsit. Our rhymes, songs, chants, and bounces take up only a small part of our program. The rest of the time is for parents to play with their child with our toys, board books, puppets, and rolling balls. It is also a time for adults to enjoy meeting other parents and perhaps making new friends.

Books for babies are important. Even though they may want to 'eat' the book, they listen to the adult voice as you are reading to them. They start to learn that you turn page after page and that there is a beginning and an end to a book. Babies love to look at babies. Many board books use photos of babies. These are so much fun to have around. You should always have a good Mother Goose book in your home library. This is a good parent reference and will be used over and over again.

My favorite Mother Goose books are Sylvia Long's Mother Goose, Here Comes Mother Goose (illustrated by Rosemary Wells), and Nina Crew's The Neighborhood Mother Goose. There is a new Mother Goose illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon called Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose that I also recommend.

Come to the library for our lapsits. Sign up for December 6 or call for our dates in 2008!
Joyce Laiosa

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Found My Desk

Buried under all the work of the summer, booklists to review, and plans for the coming months was my desk. What a mess! I've been tossing paper, summer reading logs, and anything that looks old and tired (except me!) in the bin. Wonderful weather has made me pine for an outdoor job, but it is time to chase away the summer dust and begin a new creative plan. I love fall, warm sunny days, cool nights for sleeping and moon watching.

Back to work...I had a great bunch of babies and their mothers this morning for a lapsit. They were such a great group. Watching the babies made me miss my grandchildren, so I had to call and check up on them as soon as I had finished the stories/songs part of the program. I love singing to children and having them move to a beat, jump, wiggle, or clap and tap. I used a couple of new books: How Do you Make a Baby Smile? by Philomon Sturges and You and Me, Baby by Lynn Reiser. Wonderful books for babies! The best part of lapsits are the rhythm and rhymes to get kids moving. From "5 little monkeys," to "The Noble Duke of York," there was a rhyme for everyone. Of course, I had to do my favorite nursery rhyme, "Hey Diddle, Diddle." If you don't have a nursery rhyme book in the house, check out a whole bunch from the library and choose your favorite. Buy one, or better yet, let it be known to grandmas and grandpas that this would be a great gift! (And they always want to buy something, trust me.) Joyce Laiosa

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two More Days

The wait is almost over and I'm getting very excited. It looks like the library's Harry Potter Birthday Party is filled with a waiting list. It's hard to not be overwhelmed with publicity about the final installment of this series. Kids, adults, parents, teachers and librarians are filled with wonder. It's a wonder that this series caught on with the public - driven by children clamoring for the book. It's a wonder that our interests haven't waned as we waited. It's a wonder how rich J.K. Rowling is. It's a wonder if we'll all keep reading and looking for books about wizards, magic, war, love, death and life. As you are wondering - here are my thoughts. It is actually quite brilliant that this story caught the public's interest, children's interest and never left us. The movies kept nonreaders just as interested. Even if a young person outgrew the series, new readers found it. We all can find out how rich J.K. Rowling is almost anywhere you find information. (A librarian can find this very quickly!) The amazing thing isn't HOW rich, it is that she is richer than the Queen of England. That fact staggers me! And lastly, I am not worried that kids won't keep on reading. They will find books, or ask for recommendations, that will take them to the same places they've been with Harry Potter. No, they won't be at Hogwarts, but they will find it. After all, we found it. We found justice, cruelty and morality with Atticus Finch. Doesn't he remind you of Dumbledore? You can find wisdom, life, love and death with a spider named Charlotte and a friendship with a pig named Wilbur. You can find wonder with a boy named Peter and a place called Neverland. I could go on, and I might....but think of your favorite books and remember how it felt to close the book on the last page. If it was a great book, you were still thinking/crying, /laughing and thinking. Harry will live forever between the covers of his books, and in the hearts of readers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Graphic Novels and Center for Cartoon Studies

My son is at cartoon camp. OK, not really. But he is having such a wonderful time and learning so much that it could be a camp. He is actually at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. (Check out their website at ) In this picturesque town, there is a school offering one- and two-year courses of study and summer workshops. He is taking both summer courses. He has been wowed by Steve Bissette, a cartoonist for 20 years and a collaborator of Alan Moore.

I met James Strum (founder of CCS) at the recent ALA conference, along with illustrator/cartoonist Nick Bertozzi. CCS has recently published Houdini: The Handcuff King, written by Jason Lutes and illustrated by Nick Bertozzi. I highly recommend this book to anyone that like comics, graphic novels, and comic strips. It is a short story, but well done and if a person is interested in Houdini there is a lot of information in the back of the book, including a bibliography for further reading. Check out the book and budding cartoonists should check out CCS!
Joyce Laiosa

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summer Reads! Summer Fun!

Is your reading still fun this summer? Have you bogged down with books you aren't really loving? Are you just waiting for H.P. #7? If you have answered 'yes' to any of these questions then let's revive the old reading lists - the bibliography! And get yourself over to the library to be inspired by displays.

For a quick read, try Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It is brilliant storytelling that is a fast read because the storyline includes wonderful drawings. So you feel that you are reading a graphic novel and a regular book. I highly recommend this book.

"Get a Clue @ Your Library" is the theme for the summer reading program here. We had a first great week that followed an amazing (in attendance) kick-off program with ventriloquist Sylvia Markson and a fun ice cream social. The kids seem very excited about their reading and books are flying off the shelves. But I'm not worried about the kids that come to the library in the summer. I worry about the kids that don't get to the libray. I worry about kids who go to the mall and pick out books because they like the covers. I worry about the kids that get these books home and then don't like the stories. They get discouraged about reading because it seems pretty boring. Good books really are a great way to escape. But every book isn't a "good" book. Check out the library lists, check out more books than you have time to read and maybe in that group you'll find the one that makes a difference. Joyce Laiosa

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I've just returned from the American Library Association's annual conference in Washington, D.C. What a wonderful opportunity to meet librarians from across the country, listen to award-winning authors, and see the latest, newest books. The weather was most unusual for D.C. It was perfect with absolutely no humidity for the first three days I was there. It was a perfect for sightseeing and walking.

I was impressed by the many award ceremonies I attended. The Newbery-Caldecott banquet is always a highlight at the conference. David Wiesner won the Caldecott Medal for Flotsam, his third medal. The only other person to win three times is Marcia Brown. Looking at Flotsam one would never guess that the gem of an idea for this book came from Wiesner's childhood which he related to us in an eloquent speech. Susan Patron, a librarian, won the Newbery Medal for her book, The Higher Power of Lucky. Her speech was funny and revealing. I must reread the book now that I have new insight into the author.

My favorite moment in the conference was the speech given by Gene Luen Yang, who won the Michael L. Printz Medal for American Born Chinese. This is a graphic novel for teens made up of three plotlines: the determined efforts of the Chinese folk hero Monkey King to shed his humble roots and be revered as a god; the struggles faced by Jin Wang, a lonely Asian American middle school student who would do anything to fit in with his white classmates; and the plight of Danny, an All-American teen so shamed by his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee (a purposefully painful ethnic stereotype) that he is forced to change schools. Each story works well on its own, but Yang weaves these parallel tales into a powerful climax that destroys the hateful stereotype of Chin-Kee, while leaving both Jin Wang and the Monkey King satisfied and happy to be who they are. The speech was also powerful in Yang's high regard for librarians.

These are only my first impressions from ALA. Let me know what you think of these books, from the gorgeous illustrations of Flotsam to the power of bigotry in American Born Chinese.
~Joyce Laiosa

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Nonfiction Fan!

I absolutely love nonfiction books. ALA/ALSC (that's the American Library Assocaition/Association of Library Service to Children) has an award for the best nonfiction books of the year. The award is called the Robert F. Sibert Award (named after the president of Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc.) and has only been around since 2001.

This past weekend I gave a presentation about the great books that were winners this year. The medal went to a book I've written about in these pages: Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh. I loved the book when it came out, and frankly I was sure this book would win something this year. The pictures are incredible as is the story. I am a child of the sixties, so I grew up with the space program. I remember where I was when Apollo 11 lifted off (the Campus Center of UAlbany) and I remember where I was when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon(my living room floor). But my children are not interested or invested in this "history" story. I see this as an American ingenuity story, and a scientific phenomenon. There were many challenges to get Apollo 11 on the moon and this book tells the story of the challenges and the men and women that dared to experiment and dream.

I was unfamiliar with the three honor titles, but I have since read all three and am impressed with every single one. The common thread of all these titles is great writing and a spirit of accountability to every life. I think a lot of people do not read nonfiction because of the many books written specifically to help students write reports. How boring!

Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum. This book tells the story of the Freedom Rides of May 1961; about a band of courageous Americans who rode the interstate buses in order to bring about the end of segregation. Bausum begins the book by explaining the background of the two protagonists, how they met, and then why they chose to put their lives on the line for the civil rights movement. John Lewis is currently serving Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives and he plainly states that today's young people should find their passion and make a difference in our world. One does not need to get your head bashed in (as these two young men did) to make a difference. But committment and passion can bring about change. If someone had watched me read this book, I wonder if my mouth would have been opened in awe and shame. This is a very important book that I hope teachers discover and use in their classes. Reading some passages would certainly spark major discussions.

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop. This book is part of Houghton Mifflin's "Scientists in the Field" series, one of the best group of science books I have ever seen. Each book follows a scientist in their job, explaining what the scientist does, what influenced their choice of work, and the importance of what they are doing to all of us. Another important part of each book is the photographs that accompany the text. You stare in wonder at creatures, landscapes, and laboratories. I had never heard of a tree kangaroo until reading this book. We follow Lisa Dabek to Papua New Guinea (and we know where it is because there are maps in the front of the book) with a group of scientists and support staff into the cloud forest to trap and place radio transmitters on the few tree kangaroos that can be found. It is a difficult trek, three weeks of hard work under rainy, drizzly conditions, high above sea level (where it is hard to breathe). We learn that there are so many species of plants and animals that are still waiting to be discovered in places like this. This book gives hope to young people that there are fascinating jobs working with animals and careers besides vet and zoo keeper for those that want to travel and work with animals in the field. The author captures Lisa's passion for her work, and encourages children with their passions.

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel, drawn by Mark Siegel. I do not love graphic novels, but I admire them (especially since my son wants to illustrate them). This book is charming, beautiful to look at, and a perfect medium for this story. Siena Cherson was born in Puerto Rico and knows that she loves to dance. When the family moves to Boston, she begins formal lessons in the ballet. She adores the dance. The family moves back to Puerto Rico and Siena has an opportunity to try out at the most prestigious ballet school in the country. She is accepted, but must move to NYC. She and her mother leave Puerto Rico, but her father remains there for work. She describes the hard work of ballet, school, and more ballet. She misses her father very much, and her family is torn apart by the separation. The drawings are spectacular and artful. You feel the grace in the dance, in the line of the bodies, even the movement in the arms. The colors are lovely. And the story moves from panel to panel with ribbons connecting the memories. One may not think of reading graphic novels out loud, but this should be shared with children who love ballet. It does not give false hopes to dancers, and it is honest about the hard work. SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ THE NEXT LINE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE END! I was so crushed when I reached the last two pages. She wraps up the story very fast as we learn of an injury to her ankle, and her decision not to continue with ballet. She goes to college and gets a job. Eventually she goes back to the barre and we realize that music and dance will always be a part of her life, just not her career.

I highly recommend all four of these books. You will find inspiring stories of passion and activism that should be shared with our children. Joyce Laiosa

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Animals Have It!

For young animal lovers, here are some suggestions for you.....
I have a deep love and appreciation for animals, both domestic and wild. As an animal lover, I enjoy reading books that highlight the animal-human bond, have animals themselves as integral characters, and/or showcase the remarkable lives of animals who have overcome incredible obstacles to survive. January was a frigid month and it looks like February is following in that path, so curl up under a blanket next to a cozy fire with a cup of cocoa and enjoy these reads.
A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by: Ann M. Martin
This is a well-crafted, nicely paced story told through the voice of Squirrel, the stray dog. The reader gets a clear sense of what it is like to be immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, and dangers of a dog's world (reminiscent of Black Beauty). Life is hard for a stray dog who eventually finds himself a loving home. The novel centers on the themes of love, loyalty, perserverance, and overcoming obstacles. A great read for dog lovers ages 8-12.
Sheep by: Valerie Hobbs
A delightful story (for ages 8-12) about the trials and tribulations of a young border collie who narrates his adventurous tale. After a fire destroys the farm where he is born, the young border collie must venture out on his own. He quickly learns about the harshness and beauty of life as he acquires a series of good and not so good owners. The border collie's dream is to fulfill his purpose of living on a farm and herding the sheep. Like a human, the dog learns that life can either make or break you and, no matter what, you should never give up on your dreams.
Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit by: Joan Carris
A charming, humorous, and fun book (for ages 7-11) about an old vet who opens up a bed and breakfast for animals only. Dr. Bender cares deeply for the pets he considers a part of his family (a mini-pig, a mynnah bird, and a cat). When he comes home carrying a "mystery box" after a neighbor's barn fire, the pets go to great lengths to discover what is in the box. The pets become disgruntled with the amount of time and effort Dr. Bender devotes to this new creature in the box. Will the pets be able to accept a new animal member for their family? Great characterization and funny situations!
Walter: The Story of a Rat by: Barbara Wersba
This is a delightful, old-fashioned tale of an unlikely friendship between a rat and an old woman, who writes children's books. This is a pure pleasure to read alone or aloud and has a deeply satisfying ending. The lovely illustrations are a nice complement to the story. (for ages 7-12)
Whittington by: Alan Armstrong
A delightful interwoven tale of Whittington the cat and his exciting ancestral history and of Ben, a young boy who's struggling to learn how to read. This is a beautiful story filled with wonderful human and animal characters . The power of storytelling, both written and spoken, is dramatically evoked. This book offers suspense, history, terrific characters and compelling situations. (for ages 9-13)
I hope you enjoy these animal-inspired stories!
~ Gail Brown

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ring In The New Year With Poetry

The new year may be snowless, but have you seen the gorgeous full moons at night? They remind me of the wonderful poetry book Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London. And with that thought, I wanted to remind all readers to check out poetry books every time you come to the library. They are a wonderful way to examine life with new words, with clever thoughts, condensed ideas, rhyme and rhythm!

Poetry can be very special to a child. Magical moments can be expressed in a few words. Caroline Kennedy recently published A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children. In her introduction she writes, "In our family, we were encouraged to write or choose a favorite poem for each holiday or birthday as a gift for my mother and grandparents instead of buying a card or present. My brother and I would copy over and illustrate our choices, and my mother pasted them in a special scrapbook.....My children have continued the tradition for me, including the complaining!"

If you have never read aloud poems, start the year out now with a few. There is no need to read a poetry book from cover to cover. Take out a few and browse. If you or your children fall in love with a poem, copy it. They can illustrate the poem and you can put it in a scrapbook. What a lovely memory for you and for them.

Here are a few titles to enjoy besides Caroline Kennedy's book. Take out a Shel Silverstein collection. His first is Where the Sidewalk Ends. I still remember when two of my boys recited "Boa Constrictor" together and acted it out! Oh, the giggles! Shel Silverstein also illustrates his poems with line drawings. Another large collection of poetry is The Random House Book of Poetry for Children selected by Jack Prelutsky (another poet to know). John Updike wrote 12 poems called A Child's Calendar. This is one you could take out every month to think about the seasons and chores of a year. Two poems that look wonderful as picture books are The Camel's Lament by Charles Edward Carryl and illustrated by Charles Santore. Great looking camel on the cover. The other book is Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and illustrated by Susan Jeffers. The poem is so quiet, and the illustrations are perfect. I could mention book after book but I'll finish with two because I want you to know the authors. The first is a Newbery Medal winner, Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman and the other is Naomi Shihab Nye's A Maze Me: Poems for Girls. Both poets are wonderful and have a good number of books or collections out. Fleischman's book is unique in that it needs two voices for the readings. If you feel you can't do justice to them, take out the audio versions. You won't be disappointed!