Monday, December 08, 2008

Season's Readings

Looking for gift ideas? Well, look no further than Voorheesville Public Library’s famous “Season’s Readings.” Each year our librarians come up with recommendations in and out of their specialties. I try not to make my list too long, but I believe that my recommendations need to be tailored to each reader: child, teen or parent. Take a look at the list online or stop by the library for a copy. While at the library you can purchase (at the price) a copy of what you want. If we are out-of-stock you can purchase these recommendations at your local bookstore, or from If you are wondering why we mention Amazon so often, it is because a portion of the sale comes back to us and our Friends of the Library group. How can you order through Amazon and help the Friends? Good question. Just click on the Amazon icon from the Season’s Readings page at our website. Then start shopping. If you are a regular Amazon shopper you can still be at “your” account, but Voorheesville Public Library will be credited. So, let’s go shopping at

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Underneath

I just finished The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. Beautiful, lyrical prose tells the story of an old hound dog, Ranger, chained to the house of his evil, evil master. Along comes a pregnant cat that gives birth to two kittens. It is a survival story interwoven with a Caddo legend (Caddo are the ancient people of the bayou and East Texas). The legend is similar to the selkie/seal/turtle/ etc. that is seen throughout the world: an animal takes the form of a human, but can not return to the animal form unless it is forever. Gar Face, the evil master reminded me of the hard-drinking pirates from Treasure Island, while the poetic language was reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows.

I highly recommend this book, but it is one for upper level elementary into middle school. I think it would work well as a read aloud so that difficult passages from the Caddo legend to the evil Gar Face can be discussed.

Kathi Appelt has written many picture books, poetry and nonfiction. I’m going to check out her other books. I know I’ve read some of her picture books, but they didn’t really stick with me. I loved her book, Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. It is about the librarians who delivered books to patrons during the depression in Appalachia. Yes, I loved it because it is about librarians!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Music Weekend

Christmas countdown continues with music! This weekend will be a busy one throughout the Capital District. First and foremost is the FREE celebration at the plaza through New York State’s Office of General Services. There will be the lighting of the state tree, holiday sing, arts and crafts for kids, and fireworks. To view the complete schedule take a look at the OGS press release here:

The Albany Symphony has three performances this weekend. Take a look at the schedule here: I’ll be at the concert on Saturday night to see my friend Kerry Anne O’Neill with the Campbell Dancers. It should be a great holiday event.

Another big concert this weekend is the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I’ll also be at that with a big group of my family, all TSO fans. (This will be my first concert with TSO. I’m a little nervous. Everyone tells me they are very loud!)

Don’t forget the Victorian Stroll in Troy, a performance of Sleeping Beauty (kabuki style) at the New York State Theatre Institute ( and First Friday activities ( that are free! So, music, shopping, art, and friendship are all here for one busy splendid weekend. Gee, I wish there was a little snow!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas Countdown

It is exactly 25 days until Christmas. I’m feeling overwhelmed by what I did not finish this year, as most years. I don’t get too upset by the shopping, wrapping, baking or planning. I tend to dwell on the pile of books I still haven’t read! One way that I deal with this yearly dilemma is to take out my special stack of Christmas books and place them around the house.

I’ve been collecting Christmas books for many years. I have pop-ups, many different illustrators for The Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol by Dickens, and some absolute classics that I delight in every year. I still remember the first time I read Chris Van Allsburg’s Polar Express. There I stood with my son next to me, tearing up in the store, as I read the book. We went home with it that very day.

Start your own memories of the holiday with a special book collection. Come to the library and look over old and new books. You could read a new book every night. Along with the reading tradition, start a paper chain in red, green, gold, silver or white paper. The chain can represent the days until Christmas or the number of books you read.

This month we have a family storytime on December 10th to celebrate many different holiday customs. Come prepared to enjoy latkes with applesauce, Lucia buns, and a few other delicious items. The stories will feed your imagination; the food will enhance the experience!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

School bells are ringing!

A new beginning, a new school year, a fresh start; these are my thoughts every September. I have some favorite school stories that I think everyone should read or reread every year. Start off with Officer Buckle and Gloria. Here is a story about safety (very important) and a story about friendship. It won the Caldecott Medal in 1996. John Lithgow narrates the film by Weston Woods which is so much fun to watch.

Check out another Peggy Rathmann title: Ruby the Copycat. Every child wants to succeed in school and Ruby is no exception. Unfortunately she takes it too far and almost loses her way. Ruby is so imaginative you will empathize with her creative solutions to being ‘just like Angela.’

Kevin Henkes is another author to check out. His titles range from Owen to Wemberly Worried to Chrysanthemum and his favorite mouse, Lily. Lily stars in a number of books. These titles all deal with children wanting the security of home, feeling unsure, coping with school and making friends. These books will help children understand the universality of their feelings and let parents open up a dialogue with children.

Come by the library for other school stories, all out on display. Reading every day is a great way to start off a new school year. ~Joyce Laiosa

Friday, June 13, 2008

Catch the Reading Bug

The summer reading program is about to start. There is so much going on, here at the library, that it is hard to make up one single document that tells everybody (all ages) about everything. This year we are advertising to the elementary school kids with a flyer, but the main program calendar is the “program calendar.” It can be printed off the SRP web page and posted on the refrigerator: every home’s bulletin board!

First and foremost is that registration is online for everyone. Just go to our web page at It can be done from home or the library beginning Monday, June 16th and no email address is necessary. The fun part of the registration is to keep track of the books and print off their list to bring to school in September. It’s a good way for everyone to keep track of their reading. So, as we say this year, “Catch the Reading Bug!”
Don’t forget to check out the major display table with easy picture books, readers, fiction and especially nonfiction books about bugs. From Charlotte’s Web to Diary of a Spider we hope you will bee sure to read.!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Middle School Writing Club

School is almost finished; kids are studying for finals; and I’m getting ready for my marathon visits to the elementary school to promote the summer program. One of the happiest moments is this Thursday. The Middle School Writing Club (mostly 8th graders) has been meeting regularly, twice a month, to work on poetry, fiction and nonfiction pieces, and even a picture book submission to Scholastic Publishers. This was an entry for a contest on the theme of environmental awareness. A group of eight girls wrote the text and drew the pictures for their book, The Boy Who Saved the World from His Own Backyard.
This Thursday is the unveiling of the final work product. All the students contributed to a "zine." Mrs. Susan Podgorski and I were the editors. It has been so much fun to work with these kids, see their enthusiasm, and to encourage their writing. ~Joyce Laiosa

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Newbery Honor Books

The second tier of books or honor books, are usually wonderful books that just didn’t make it into the top spot. Reading this year’s honor books I can see wonderful stories. I am pleased by these choices, proud of the committee work, and happy to recommend all three titles without reservation.

In Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis, Elijah is the first free-born child in Buxton, a Canadian community of escaped slaves, in 1860. With grand storytelling, humor, and poignant insight into the realities of slavery and the meaning of freedom, Curtis takes readers on a journey that transforms an 11-year-old boy into a courageous hero.

In The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, seventh-grader, Holling is convinced his teacher hates him. Through their Wednesday afternoon Shakespeare sessions she helps him cope with events both wildly funny and deadly serious. “To thine own self be true” is just one of the life lessons he learns. This, too, is historical fiction that takes place in 1968 on Long Island.

Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson, tells the story of how a new boy's arrival in a sixth-grade classroom helps Frannie recognize the barriers that separate people, and the importance of hope as a bridge. Transcendent imagery and lyrical prose deftly capture a girl learning to navigate the world through words.

Each one of these authors has won Newbery Honors before, as well as the Newbery Medal for Curtis. They write characters that stay with the reader long after the book is finished. Check out Jacqueline Woodson’s web site to learn more about this author and her other books. It’s a great site!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Newbery and Caldecott Announcements

It was the like Golden Globes - only better!! ALA held their press conference to announce the winners of all Youth Media awards. That includes picture books through middle grade readers to young adults, plus film and audio books. There was a webcast of the event, which I had trouble getting, but I did get some of the slides and felt a part of the proceedings.

I'll be giving you my feedback on the awards for the next couple of days. I'll start with the two top awards. The Newbery and Caldecott medal winners were both bold and excellent choices. GoodMasters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village is a fabulous book, so different in style from most winners. I read it a couple of months ago and have been mentioning it to everyone as a potential winner. What makes it so unique is "the voice." You can picture a real medieval town. Imagine Voorheesville residents telling us about their jobs and their life. Through the monologues you observe a town, the adults, the peasants, the children, and the upper class. The design of the book is beautiful,too. The illustrations help define the times, and there are definitions and explanations of words and phrases. It does not need to be performed. Reading it was a delight!
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a book to carefully read the text and the pictures. You can't have one without the other. The book begins with many illustrations as Selznick brings you into the book, into the story, into Paris, into the world of a young boy. The black and white illustrations have a softness about them that gives the characters a vulnerability. And there is wonder in the broken down machines we discover. It is a very different type of Caldecott medal winner. I think young people from third grade and up will enjoy this book, and look at it over and over again. Joyce Laiosa

Thursday, January 03, 2008

So Many Books, A New Year to Read

I haven't made any new resolutions for this new year. I tried very hard in 2007 to create routines/habits that should stay with me forever. I have been swimming fairly diligently at the Y. I'm up to a half-mile swim, now. I am reading more than ever. This isn't hard to keep because I love to read, but sometimes I sit in front of the TV and forget to actually turn it off, even when there isn't a single thing I am interested in watching!

I finally finished Sharon Draper's new historical fiction, Fire From the Rock. It is about the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. I think Draper captured the time period very well. I liked Sylvia Patterson, the protagonist in the book. She is a good student, a typical eighth grader, and a girl who has the opportunity to be one of the first African-Americans to integrate Central. Will she do it? Or will pressures from her family and friends make her choose to stay in her own high school? Check out the book, and look for other books by Sharon Draper. Her web site is where you can check out her other books, and the area (under homework help) where she answers lots of questions about herself, writing and her books. Draper is considered a YA writer. I consider her appropriate for middle school students and up.
Joyce Laiosa