Because survival is insufficient

Listen up: Station Eleven is about a traveling symphony that performs symphonies (duh) and Shakespeare all across post-plague ravaged Michigan

Quite a nice cover as well!

Quite a nice cover as well!

because survival is insufficient. Oh yeah, that’s a Star Trek quote (Voyager, but STILL) and a comic features quite heavily. Despite the fact that I was reading about a plague that kills 99% of those exposed while I have a cold and Ebola is breaking out all over, I could not put this down. It really does have so many elements that I knew I would like: music, literature, comics, Star Trek, post apocalyptic life, and amazing writing.

The novel seamlessly weaves in the stories of a famous actor who dies the first night of the outbreak, the paparazzi-turned-paramedic who once interviewed him and tries to save his life, the child actor who was on stage with him when he died, his first wife, and his best friend. Mandel sees the connections between them but it’s not in a grand, structured Cloud Atlas David Mitchell sort of way, but more of the real life bonds we make that are sometimes passing and sometimes deep.

There is perhaps more I’d like the write about it (the friendship between August and Kirsten?!), but it’s still settling in my mind. It’s really lovely and engaging. I heartily recommend.

Oh and I forgot to recommend Andrew Smith’s 100 Sideways Miles as well. Just briefly: a kid whose father wrote a well-known sci-fi novel with a character eerily similar to him feels trapped in the book. He thinks of time as distance (it takes the earth one second to revolve 20 miles so 5 seconds is 100 sideways miles) and goes on a road trip with his friend. Classic Andrew Smith with great insight into the mind of a teenage boy; always a winner.

I’m now looking at my hold shelf to see what’s coming up for me next. Here’s what I have active or what I am very much looking forward to:

Rooms by Lauren Oliver – I liked Oliver’s writing and this sounds like a nice, creepy read.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – Jesuits/missionaries in space! Need I say more?

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Steifvater – Book 3 of the amazing YA fantasy series, the Raven Boys.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and more – A Muslim teen becomes Ms. Marvel. Huzzah for diversity in comics!

I could list more but then it’s just me listing the other 22 items on my hold list. That gets a bit dull.

Anything I’m missing and I should have on hold? What are you looking forward to reading this fall?



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Awww yiss, it’s Banned Books Week!

It’s Banned Books Week! Wooooooooo!

Neil Gaiman, Weird Al, and George R. R. Martin representing banned comics readers. So amazing!

Neil Gaiman, Weird Al, and George R. R. Martin representing banned comics readers. So amazing!

I love Banned Books Week. I love getting all ragey about people trying to ban or challenge books. I love making sweet displays and honestly, I love and need the reminder to be careful about selection and collection development. Just because there is a book that I don’t really want to read doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t buy it for the library. This mostly comes up in regards to Christian fiction. I am a Christian, but man do I hate Christian fiction. I have to force myself to buy YA fiction from Zondervan and the like because there might be some people who want to read it. Banned Books Week is always a good reminder of this.

A focus of this year’s Banned Books Week is comics, so make sure you go read some awesome comics, banned or not. Might I suggest Saga, Sex Criminals (main character is a librarian! Woo!), or the Rat Queens? They are all sufficiently saucy so you feel like someone could object to them.

In other not-really-banned-book news, someone protested that Leigh Bardugo had “unnecessary lesbians” in the third book of her amazing YA trilogy of Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. If you like fantasy, fake imperialist Russia, and magic then these books are for you. They are really great. They remind me a bit of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone books, which I love. Bardugo’s response is delightful so check it out.

Here’s another plug for comics: for some reason it’s been the month of me saying, “Awww yissss!” It’s all Kate Beaton’s fault. (Slightly NSFW because of the swear….) Then a coworker said it to me in a email and I thought, “Another Kate Beaton fan!? YISS!” If you don’t read her comics, you’re a dummy. She’s hilarious and from Canada so she’s so nice! 

Finally, Banned Books Week is also a great week because it leads into my birthday on Sunday. This year it’s my Golden Birthday, meaning I’m turning 28 on the 28th. I expect year 28 to be amazing!


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After School Special

This is Friday afternoon in the Teen Room. (Photo: James Cridland at Flickr.)

This is Friday afternoon in the Teen Room. (Photo: James Cridland at Flickr.)

Last Friday I had one of those dreaded moments in a job: the moment where you think, “Why am I doing this again?”

Friday afternoons in the Teen Room at the library are Crazytown. During the week, some of the kids who would potentially come to the library have sport or activities but on Fridays there usually is nothing. Plus it’s the weekend, so it seems like all of the teens are in the library. Some Fridays we have around 50-60 teens in there. Seriously. It’s insane.

It really wasn’t even that busy of a Friday and I was only there from 4 to 5 but I nearly lost my patience. Kids were just rude to me when I was trying to help them, or basically point blank refused to throw away their trash littering the tables, or thought that they were sneaky enough to sneak in fries – we only allow “packaged snacks” – and eat them when I wasn’t watching.

I am always watching.

Not really, but I did catch Fry Guy. To cut to the chase, I was just at my wit’s end. Why are teens so wretched and annoying, I thought. WHY?!

When I got home and later that weekend I got to thinking. Not all teens are wretched and annoying and even the teens who were there are not always wretched and annoying. If another librarian said that to me, I would freak out at them. I feel like I spend a lot of my time defending teens’ behaviors, explaining that they are just pushing boundaries, that they aren’t thinking, that they aren’t deliberately harassing other patrons, etc. That’s when I realized I don’t really hate my job and that I need to remember all teens aren’t awful. I love my job and I love working with teens, but like with any job and any large group, sometimes it’s going to drive you a little batty.

I have had some very frustrating interactions with adult patrons, but I don’t go home at night at think, All adults are awful. Ok, I might sometimes, but I do recognize that it’s easy to remember the bad interactions and experiences and easy to forget the good ones.

My coworker Clare says she tries to remember that each day starts with a clean slate. Each day is a chance to reset in the Teen Room. Was a teen frustrating yesterday? Fine, but that was yesterday. I need to remember that each day is new and with it comes a new chance to serve these teens.

Some of the teens that were annoying the crap out of me on Friday? They were having an adorable discussion about whether or not they should be concerned that Microsoft was buying Minecraft. So cute and a good reminder that we all have bad days and everyone deserves a second chance.

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The post-summer reading “lull”

Now that Summer Reading is over and the lull after summer reading is over, it’s into Planning Time now. Yup, Capital Letter-type Planning. Since we don’t start our regularly schedule programs until October, September has been a bit of a catch up month. I feel like I barely did any collection development during July and August, and I definitely wasn’t thinking about fall programming or spring. I was just trying to get through the next five programs we had that week! So busy!

So now Clare and I have been talking about and working on all sorts of things: outreach to some community groups like the youth center in town and the Andover chapter of A Better Chance which seems like a really cool program; collection development is back in a more regular rotation; trying to think ahead to Teen Read Week; working on some small Banned Books programming for the end of the month; kicking around the idea of a regional Comic-con with some other libraries; the Teen Poetry Contest in the spring; our VolunTeen Advisory Board; and more.

I’m the most excited about the prospect of a library Comic-Con. As you may know I’m pretty nerdy. And, as evidenced by the popularity of our Random Fandom Summer Reading program, so are a lot of our teens. I mean nerdy in a really good way! They have books, shows, movies, games, and more that they really like and get really excited about. I think that’s awesome. It would be so fun to host a longer program, like on a Saturday, which times for gaming, cosplay, trivia, crafts, and demonstrations all related to different fandoms and interests. It’d be like Random Fandom Lite!

I already have a costume for Comic-Con! A variant Starbuck from BSG who actually looks exactly like me! Brilliant! (Also pictured, Little Red Riding Hood and Where's Ralph Waldo Emerson?)

I already have a costume for Comic-Con! A variant Starbuck from BSG who actually looks exactly like me! Brilliant! (Also pictured, Little Red Riding Hood and Where’s Ralph Waldo Emerson?)

Even more exciting than the prospect of a Merrimack Valley Comic-Con is another program a few of us are working on: library-hosted pub trivia! It’s the dream! We are investigating options of hosting it in the library (with no alcohol, sadly) or at a restaurant nearby in town. Hopefully we could bring in that hard to get demographic of real world Young Adults (the ones in the 20s and 30s) and show them the library is cool! Or maybe not “cool.” Is “cool” cool anymore? I don’t know. Just get them into the library.

Other than planning, I’ve been having a good time checking out the #fyaphotoaday Instagram project put on by Forever Young Adult. Lots of fun and lots of pretty bookshelves!

What are your Septembers like? Busy with back to school or do you get a little break to enjoy the cooling weather?


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The Magician’s Land

My last post was two weeks ago? Yikes! Clearly the week after summer reading ending I needed to sleep!

This was me last week, you know, if I was a bunny.

This was me last week, you know, if I was a bunny.

I can say that we had a great summer at MHL. Between the two of us, Clare and I put on around 34 programs in the month of July and around 15 in August. I can’t remember the exact number for attendance but it was in the 200s for July and around 130 for August!* That’s why I was so tired and busy! We did a lot.

I’m really proud of the way the summer turned out but we are hoping to make some changes for next year, like streamlining our VolunTeen program. This year it was just crazy: three different sessions doing three different activities, two of them involving little kids from the Children’s Room. At one point, Coke and Nerds candy was exploding all over 20 little kids and 10 VolunTeens in a pretty small activity room. It was a bit chaotic.19103097

But the Magician’s Land: If we’ve talked about books before, we’ve probably talked about this series. The Magician’s Land is the third and final book and I loved how it ended. It was very satisfying for me. It wrapped up just enough for me to not be wanting too more. Sometimes a series ends and you’d kill for more from that world. I felt that I would always appreciate more from Quentin and Fillory, but I was happy with what I got.

Here are some brief highlights of what I liked with some spoilery bits, so be tread carefully:

-Asmodeus’ brief cameo was so badass, and yet I wish I could had heard more of her story!

-Niffin-Alice following Quentin around his unsettling mirror house was so creepy – not quite to the levels of giving me nightmares about the Beast and Reynard the Fox – but creepy enough that as I was reading it alone in my apartment I thought, “Maybe I should save this for morning.” There’s something about mirrors that is so unsettling – I blame whoever in elementary school told me about Bloody Mary.

-I love how Quentin helped Alice to remember her humanity with bacon, champagne, and sex. This makes sense to me.

-I appreciated how Grossman gave us more insight into Eliot and Janet. Janet especially was a character who I had a hard time liking and figuring out in the first two books so it was nice to see her more fleshed out and human. And Eliot is always delightful, but I thought it was great how Grossman showed his earnest, serious side.

-The Drowned Garden of feeling and emotions Julia shows Quentin at the end was probably my favorite part. I love what she says to Quentin after showing him a little plant:

“This is a feeling that you had, Quentin [. . . ] This is how you felt when you were eight years old, and you opened one of the Fillory books for the first time, and you felt awe and joy and hope and longing all at once. You felt them very strongly, Quentin. You dreamed of Fillory then, with a power and an innocence that not many people ever experience. That’s where all this began for you. You wanted the world to be better than it was.

“Years later you went to Fillory, and the Fillory you found was a much more difficult, complicated place than you expected. The Fillory you dreamed of as a little boy wasn’t real, but in some ways it was better and purer than the real one. That hopeful little boy you once were was a tremendous dreamer.” (Page 388)

This is what these books are about: they are a love song, a paean to stories and how they shape you. How they make you believe in the impossible – that Fillory or Narnia or Middle Earth might actually be real**, or that your father is a secret amazing magician, or that there is something more – and sometimes the impossible is possible and sometimes it’s not. Fillory was real and so was magic, but it didn’t automatically make Quentin happy. He so desperately wanted his father to have some deep secret – like James Potter or heck, even Darth Vader – that would make Quentin the “chosen one” but he was just a regular man. I think this broke Quentin more than his father’s death.

But I think the hopes, and the breaking and changing of hopes in the sometimes harsh and sometimes wonderful light of reality, is part of what makes us human. We believe and our beliefs are shattered and challenged, but we still dream for that taste of magic, or love, or power, or recognition, or whatever it is we want. Sometimes it happens; the rest of the time life’s experiences are shaping, molding, and refining us into the people we become.

I cried when I read about that little plant of an emotion that I understood: the magic and longing and wanting of reading a book. That’s one of the reasons why I love this series so much. Grossman just gets what it’s like to lose yourself in a story and allow it to consume you for a while. Even when you feel like you’ve “outgrown” it, that feeling is still there.

So if you haven’t read this series, I recommend it! It may give you nightmares but it will stay with you for a while. And maybe we can all find Fillory together someday.

On a final note, I just want to say that this month was my last month Skyping with one of the coolest librarians I’ve ever met: Valerie my YALSA mentor. She’s amazing, hilarious, and so encouraging. I’ve learned so much from her and I’m so sad that we won’t be talking as often as we have been for the last year. I highly recommend the YALSA Virtual Mentor program to all YA/Teen librarians. It’s so great! I hope that someday I will reach Valerie’s level of awesomeness and get to mentor a new Teen librarian! Thank you a million times, Valerie! May you have endless buckets of glitter! See you in Austin in November!

*I looked up the stats: July had 34 programs with 277 in attendance; August had 16 programs with 130 in attendance. So in six weeks, Clare and I did 50 programs and had 407 in attendance. And all but four of those programs were ones we designed and put on ourselves! Holy moly!

**There’s a small, not so secret part of me that still thinks these places might be real. And I’m disappointed and relieved everyday when I convince myself that they are imaginary.

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