Library People

The Right Book, the Right Reader: Last, She Bowed

My first story of finding the book that made someone a reader is one of my favorites.

I work closely with classes at Markham Elementary, and last year one class began visiting me at Eastmont every two weeks. They were a small class, first and second grade special ed, with a warm and attentive teacher who worked hard to help each student find a book they wanted to check out. 

One girl, a child of six I'll call Josefina, had not yet learned to read, and was not interested in doing so. 

It's not hard to identify the reluctant readers in a class visit. They're the ones who, every time you show them a book, look at you something like this:


A reluctant reader throws shade on an EXCELLENT book suggestion 

Josefina's very kind teacher was showing her books that she might like, and Josefina was giving her reluctant reader face. The teacher explained to me that Josefina was still learning to read, and needed something with very simple words to practice on. The books she wanted, though, were the DC Super Pets readers her classmates had swarmed upon like ants on a lollipop. Josefina wanted cute, cartoony pictures; she *needed* something with short, simple words, lots of open white space, and minimal sentences per page.

Well, I just did what any children's librarian worth her salt would do: I pulled out the Mo Willems books. I am especially fond of Elephant and Piggie, and the best part is, they're as good for struggling older readers as they are for little guys; superb cartooning, expressive linework, funny like a good joke. Josefina, though, went wide-eyed over Cat the Cat

Josefina LOVED Cat the Cat. 

Josefina checked out Cat the Cat. Her teacher read it with her, and then she read it on her own. Josefina came back wanting MORE Cat the Cat. Josefina checked out and read every Cat the Cat book in existence. (There are four)* And then, Josefina came in with her teacher all a-flutter and asked for the Cat the Cat book where she does ballet.

I searched; we reviewed all four books; we determined that there IS no Cat the Cat book where she does ballet. On the cover of Let's Say Hi to Friends Who Fly, Cat is striking a pose and wearing pink; Josefina had remembered that picture and invented a Cat the Cat book about ballet. Josefina deflated like a little polo-shirted balloon when I explained to her that, sadly, the book she was looking for did not exist. And then, I added my standard follow-up to that sentence: "...but since you want to read it, and it doesn't exist, you should write that book yourself."

I've said that to a bunch of kids over the years, and most of them have responded with the same look of hope and intrigue I got from Josefina. But I was in no way prepared for the phone call I got four weeks later from Josefina's teacher: they'd been writing, illustrating and binding the book for the past month, it was finished, and Josefina was bringing me a copy TODAY.


Also, the teacher told me, Josefina was so nervous about presenting me with the book that she couldn't eat her breakfast that morning, and the teacher wanted to make sure I knew how important it was to her so I could react accordingly.

When they came in, I was prepared with a thousand watt smile, a Cat the Cat poster I'd picked up from a giveaway, and a circle of chairs in case Josefina wanted me to read her book to the class. She did. In fact, because her book is so wonderful, I'd like to read it to you. I can never look at it without picturing Josefina shaking, hopping from foot to foot, clutching her first published work to her tiny chest, and then breaking out in a grin as she handed me one of four copies in the world of TINA, THE CAT BALLERINA.

I present it to you below in its entirety (though with her name redacted), with thanks to Mr. Willems and recommendations that you read every single book he's ever made (available at your local public library!). And as you read, I want you to pay attention to the author's already remarkable sense of narrative structure-- her pacing is spot on, and I challenge any seasoned children's author to craft a more perfect last line than Josefina's: "Last, she bowed."

Cat the Cat was the right book for Josefina. It made her not only a reader; it made her an author. Here's to many more right books in Josefina's future, including a long bibliography of her own.

--Miss Amy

TINA, THE CAT BALLERINA, by Josefina

   

(aww)

First, Tina the Cat Ballerina went to ballet school.

Next, she was happy she went.

Then Tina was dancing in a ballet show.

 Last, she bowed.**

*Mo Willems, if you are reading this, please write more Cat the Cat books. Actually just write more of everything.

**Josefina, if you are reading this, please write more books and bring me copies.

The Right Book for the Right Reader: Introductions

Greetings! Many of you already know me as Miss Amy, especially if you are under three feet tall and have attended a storytime at Montclair Branch, the Main Library Children's Room, or Eastmont Branch in the last six years. I'm one of your friendly children's librarians, and in this series I will discuss a topic that drives children's librarians and keeps us invested in our profession. A thing that keeps us hard at work, hour upon hour, day after day, and I'm not talking about googling "is Kadir Nelson married*"-- no, it's our guiding principle, the beacon we follow when all else is dim.

It is the concept of the right book for the right reader.

What does this mean?

Well, basically, the "right book for the right reader" means that for every person out there, there is a book that they will love so much that they will become convinced that reading is fun, and they will seek it out as an activity to engage in by choice. Children's librarians work with a lot of what we call "reluctant readers"-- kids who can read, but don't like to, and won't do it unless compelled to by a teacher, parent, or other adult. In theory, there is a book out there for every reader, no matter how reluctant, that they will love.

I'm not sure I believe in "the right book for the right reader."

I sure believe in matching everyone with the best books possible for their tastes; book + person matchmaking is one of my favorite tasks as a librarian. But I don't know if it's true that every single person would become a reader if they found just the right book. Some people don't like to read, and that's cool.

And yet for every child who comes to us with crossed arms, a stormy face, and mumbles of "have to read something before school starts," we start up the chase. It's kind of our white whale-- the right book for that reader may or may not be out there, but we'll pursue it until one or both of us dies from exhaustion or the kid's parents take them home.


A children's librarian perishes in pursuit of the perfect book for a child

I have a collection of memories that make me think this white whale exists-- times when I've seen a child (or adult) connect with a book in a way that changes everything. These are the stories I'll be sharing here, and my spyglass is trained to the sea for more**, so feel free to leave your own stories in the comments. What was the book that made you a reader? Mine was TROUBLE IN DEVIL'S BAYOU, which I remember looking at while lying on the living room floor at age three (or so they tell me) and suddenly all the words made sense. Yarrr, a fine book, that.

--Miss Amy

*Yes he is

**CONFESSION: I have never read MOBY DICK

Meet Manny Hernandez

Manny Hernandez is a Library Aide who works in several locations, including the Main Library Children's Room.  Library Aides are the backbone of your library: they touch every book checked in and out  in the whole system, and are often the first smiling face you see.  But let's hear about it from Manny.

What brought you to the Main Library Children’s Room?

I was drawn to the Main library Children’s Room because it was my local childhood library growing up in the Lake Merritt area. My career goal is to become a children’s librarian and what better place to receive experience, guidance and motivation.

 Give us an example of what a day at work looks like for you?

On regular day at work I have assigned duties which consist of organizing and shelving books. Doesn’t sound too interesting does it? You’ll be surprised. Library Aides work hands-on with all sorts of books. Some books are historical, others are humorous; a day at work gets pretty exciting not knowing what cool books you will encounter next. At work I also help create new library cards. Now this is where all the fun begins. Everyone loves library cards, especially children. I am the lucky guy who gets to observe their reaction after handing them their very first library card. I’ve seen screaming, jumping, running, laughter, smiling, all sorts of fun reactions that make me look forward to coming to work every day.

 What is your favorite thing about the Main Library Children’s Room?

My favorite thing about the Children’s Room has to be its wonderful collection of juvenile books. There is a humongous variety of awesome books, very rare for a patron to leave this branch with just one book in hand. Browsing the shelves easily turns into a stack of books in your hands. So if you’re ever in the area swing by and check the branch out and don’t forget to say HELLO!

 Where is your favorite place to visit in Oakland?

Lake Merritt is my absolute favorite place to visit. It is the heart of Oakland and a symbol of peace and a great place to spend a day out in the sun.

What’s your favorite book?

This is a very difficult question to answer but hands down my favorite book is Dog Breath. Author Dav Pilkey uses humor to tell a heroic story of a special dog named Hally Tosis who has a unique smell. So if you’re curious about Hally’s unique stinky smell and ready to hold your nose, then give this book a try. I give this book two thumps up!

 What’s your favorite food?

 I am a food fanatic, love eating.  As a matter of fact I’m probably eating right now, but there is one plate that seats at the very top of my food pyramid. A grilled Alaskan salmon, with a side of steamed rice marinated in butter. This plate is my weak spot and a very good way to make me your best friend.

 

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in a library?

In summer 2011, OPL partnered with the City of Oakland and the Alameda County Food Bank to provide meals for children during the summer. The craziest thing I’ve ever seen was a line of around 75 hungry children waiting patiently at the Cesar Chavez branch to be served free lunch. This line looped around the entire library, it was a remarkable sight and crazy moment I will never forget.

Thanks Manny!  Here's to a long career in Children's Library Services!Kids Eating Lunch

Meet Manny Hernandez

Manny Hernandez is a Library Aide who works in several locations, including the Main Library Children's Room.  Library Aides are the backbone of your library: they touch every book checked in and out  in the whole system, and are often the first smiling face you see.  But let's hear about it from Manny.

What brought you to the Main Library Children’s Room?

I was drawn to the Main library Children’s Room because it was my local childhood library growing up in the Lake Merritt area. My career goal is to become a children’s librarian and what better place to receive experience, guidance and motivation.

 Give us an example of what a day at work looks like for you?

On regular day at work I have assigned duties which consist of organizing and shelving books. Doesn’t sound too interesting does it? You’ll be surprised. Library Aides work hands-on with all sorts of books. Some books are historical, others are humorous; a day at work gets pretty exciting not knowing what cool books you will encounter next. At work I also help create new library cards. Now this is where all the fun begins. Everyone loves library cards, especially children. I am the lucky guy who gets to observe their reaction after handing them their very first library card. I’ve seen screaming, jumping, running, laughter, smiling, all sorts of fun reactions that make me look forward to coming to work every day.

 What is your favorite thing about the Main Library Children’s Room?

My favorite thing about the Children’s Room has to be its wonderful collection of juvenile books. There is a humongous variety of awesome books, very rare for a patron to leave this branch with just one book in hand. Browsing the shelves easily turns into a stack of books in your hands. So if you’re ever in the area swing by and check the branch out and don’t forget to say HELLO!

 Where is your favorite place to visit in Oakland?

Lake Merritt is my absolute favorite place to visit. It is the heart of Oakland and a symbol of peace and a great place to spend a day out in the sun.

What’s your favorite book?

This is a very difficult question to answer but hands down my favorite book is Dog Breath. Author Dav Pilkey uses humor to tell a heroic story of a special dog named Hally Tosis who has a unique smell. So if you’re curious about Hally’s unique stinky smell and ready to hold your nose, then give this book a try. I give this book two thumps up!

 What’s your favorite food?

 I am a food fanatic, love eating.  As a matter of fact I’m probably eating right now, but there is one plate that seats at the very top of my food pyramid. A grilled Alaskan salmon, with a side of steamed rice marinated in butter. This plate is my weak spot and a very good way to make me your best friend.

 

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in a library?

In summer 2011, OPL partnered with the City of Oakland and the Alameda County Food Bank to provide meals for children during the summer. The craziest thing I’ve ever seen was a line of around 75 hungry children waiting patiently at the Cesar Chavez branch to be served free lunch. This line looped around the entire library, it was a remarkable sight and crazy moment I will never forget.

Kids Eating Lunch

Thanks Manny!  Here's to a long career in Children's Library Services!

Meet Miriam Medow

Picture of MiriamToday, let's head over to Lake Merritt and meet Miriam Medow, the children's librarian at the Lakeview Branch Library

Miriam, what brought you to the Lakeview Library?

I was drawn to the Lakeview branch because of its awesome location in the vibrant and beautiful Grand Lake neighborhood. As you could guess from the branch name, we can see Lake Merritt from our front door!

Give us an example of what a day at work looks like for you.

On the very best days, my work involves singing and dancing and sharing books with kiddos. Each day also includes a lot of asking, "how can I help you?" Last week, I found myself ordering Lego pieces off eBay -- it's fair to say that no days here are identical. But it's typically a satisfying balance of face-to-face, experiential work (leading programs, staffing the reference desk) with computer work and other tasks (placing book orders, sending emails).

What is your favorite thing about the Lakeview Library?

Storytime! Every Wednesday morning, we ROCK OUT at Toddler Time and Baby Bounce. Saturday's Family Storytime is a party, too. Storytimes here are super interactive, joyful, and a little bit wild -- they're definitely the highlight of my week.

Where is your favorite place to visit in Oakland?

Ooooh, how about the Fox Theater, for an amazing show? There are so many places I love in Oakland, it's hard to choose just one! My favorite is taking my little dog out walking in Oakland neighborhoods and finding what there is to discover block by block. Especially when there are trumpet flowers blooming :)

Book cover

What's your favorite book?

It changes daily. This very moment, as I'm preparing to visit some preschool classes, I'll claim Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin as my fave.

What's your favorite food?

Popcorn!

What's the craziest thing you've ever seen in a library?

A room full of kids, jumping, shrieking and waving arms in the air as the Bubble Lady barraged them with, what else? Bubbles! Sheer mayhem!!

Thanks for sharing, Miriam!

Anytime.  See you soon. 

Picture of Bubbles

Meet Miriam Medow

Today, let's head over to Lake Merritt and meet Miriam Medow, the children's librarian at the Lakeview Branch LibraryPicture of Miriam

Miriam, what brought you to the Lakeview Library?

I was drawn to the Lakeview branch because of its awesome location in the vibrant and beautiful Grand Lake neighborhood. As you could guess from the branch name, we can see Lake Merritt from our front door!

Give us an example of what a day at work looks like for you.

On the very best days, my work involves singing and dancing and sharing books with kiddos. Each day also includes a lot of asking, "how can I help you?" Last week, I found myself ordering Lego pieces off eBay -- it's fair to say that no days here are identical. But it's typically a satisfying balance of face-to-face, experiential work (leading programs, staffing the reference desk) with computer work and other tasks (placing book orders, sending emails).

What is your favorite thing about the Lakeview Library?

Storytime! Every Wednesday morning, we ROCK OUT at Toddler Time and Baby Bounce. Saturday's Family Storytime is a party, too. Storytimes here are super interactive, joyful, and a little bit wild -- they're definitely the highlight of my week.

Where is your favorite place to visit in Oakland?

Ooooh, how about the Fox Theater, for an amazing show? There are so many places I love in Oakland, it's hard to choose just one! My favorite is taking my little dog out walking in Oakland neighborhoods and finding what there is to discover block by block. Especially when there are trumpet flowers blooming :)

Book cover

What's your favorite book?

It changes daily. This very moment, as I'm preparing to visit some preschool classes, I'll claim Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin as my fave.

What's your favorite food?

Popcorn!

What's the craziest thing you've ever seen in a library?

A room full of kids, jumping, shrieking and waving arms in the air as the Bubble Lady barraged them with, what else? Bubbles! Sheer mayhem!!

Thanks for sharing, Miriam!

Anytime.  See you soon. 

Picture of Bubbles

 

A favorite author

Book cover From the Mixed up FilesE.L. Konigsburg, the author of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and many other  books, died earlier this week. She was 83 years old.  Konigsburg won the Newbery Medal twice, for From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in 1968, and again almost thirty years later for The View from Saturday, in 1997.  There are a few other authors who have done that...but no one else but she has gotten a gold and a silver Newbery Medal in the same year.  In 1968, along with the gold Newbery medal for From the Mixed-Up Files, she also got the silver runner-up Newbery medal for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth. And they were her very first books published. 

E.L. Konigsburg was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid.  I never wrote her a fan letter though...at least, not until I was an adult.  Five years ago, I served on the Newbery Committee to select that year's winner (this one!).  It meant that for one year I had to read for hours every day, and I didn't get to choose my reading. I had to read A LOT of books I didn't like.  When we finally finished, and I came home, I took a day off to do nothing but read exactly what I wanted.   I chose From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  I read it all through the day, and through dinner, and way past my bedtime, and finished it around midnight.  And THEN, I stayed up another hour to write E.L. Konigsburg the fan letter I never wrote her as a kid.  I'm so glad I did. (And she wrote me back.)

Who is your favorite author? Have you ever written them a fan letter? Do it today! If they don't have a website with contact information, you can send an old-fashioned letter to them at the address for their publisher, and their publisher will forward it to them. 

What is your favorite E.L. Konigsburg book?  Which one are you going to try next? 

Book Cover Jennifer HecateBook cover the View from SaturdayBook Cover Book CoverBook cover

A favorite author

 Book cover From the Mixed up FilesE.L. Konigsburg, the author of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and many other  books, died earlier this week. She was 83 years old.  Konigsburg won the Newbery Medal twice, for From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in 1968, and again almost thirty years later for The View from Saturday, in 1997.  There are a few other authors who have done that...but no one else but she has gotten a gold and a silver Newbery Medal in the same year.  In 1968, along with the gold Newbery medal for From the Mixed-Up Files, she also got the silver runner-up Newbery medal for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth. And they were her very first books published. 

E.L. Konigsburg was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid.  I never wrote her a fan letter though...at least, not until I was an adult.  Five years ago, I served on the Newbery Committee to select that year's winner (this one!).  It meant that for one year I had to read for hours every day, and I didn't get to choose my reading. I had to read A LOT of books I didn't like.  When we finally finished, and I came home, I took a day off to do nothing but read exactly what I wanted.   I chose From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler I read it all through the day, and through dinner, and way past my bedtime, and finished it around midnight.  And THEN, I stayed up another hour to write E.L. Konigsburg the fan letter I never wrote her as a kid.  I'm so glad I did. (And she wrote me back.)

Who is your favorite author? Have you ever written them a fan letter? Do it today! If they don't have a website with contact information, you can send an old-fashioned letter to them at the address for their publisher, and their publisher will forward it to them. 

What is your favorite E.L. Konigsburg book?  Which one are you going to try next? 

Book Cover Jennifer Hecate   Book cover the View from Saturday   Book Cover    Book Cover   Book cover

Meet Ana-Elba Pavon!


Ana-Elba PavonToday let's head over to 88th Avenue and meet Ana-Elba Pavon, now Branch Manager of the Elmhurst library.  

Ana, What brought you to the Elmhurst library?

I was assigned to work at the Elmhurst Library when I first became an on-call Children’s Librarian here.  I went to visit the library a few days before my first assignment, and like many people visiting this library for the first time, I went right by it because it blends in so well with the houses in the neighborhood!

Give us an example of what a day at work looks like for you.

I often prepare for the day’s activities before we open.  During our open hours, I may do a storytime, visit a school, have a meeting, and, of course, help people find things in the library.  At Elmhurst we are small enough that we can give everyone personal attention.  I am happy to serve people of all ages and backgrounds in English and Spanish.

What is your favorite thing about the Elmhurst library?

The people who use our library on a regular basis are so warm and friendly!  We are small, so we do get to know people who come to the library.  People are very appreciative when we help them whether it is finding the right book for a child, helping someone find a job or home on the computer, making copies, or finding the latest DVD.

Where is your favorite place to visit in Oakland?

My favorite place to visit in Oakland has to be the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Arena.  I’ve seen all sorts of musical acts such as Madonna and Janet Jackson at the Oracle Arena and was privileged to see the Reverend Billy Graham at the Oakland Coliseum.

What’s your favorite book?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I was an English major at the University of California at Berkeley and took a course on the 20th Century Novel.  We didn’t get a chance to read or discuss it in class so the professor decided it would be the focus of one of the questions on the final.  That added pressure made me think I would hate it but I read it in 3 days and I loved it!

Ana-Elba Pavon

What’s your favorite food?

Pasta and seafood are my favorite meal.

What is the craziest thing you have ever seen in a library?

Buki the Clown!  I love her neon-colored outfits.  The last time she came to Elmhurst, she had a plastic flower decal on her nose and wore a bright baby blue tutu.  She also puts on a hilarious show.  She’s scheduled to come back to Elmhurst on Wednesday, July 10 at 1 p.m.  I’m sure she’ll be at other locations this summer as well!

Thanks for sharing Ana!

Anytime. I hope everyone stops in for a visit. 

Meet Ana-Elba Pavon!

Ana-Elba PavonToday let's head over to 88th Avenue and meet Ana-Elba Pavon, now Branch Manager of the Elmhurst library.  

Ana, What brought you to the Elmhurst library?

I was assigned to work at the Elmhurst Library when I first became an on-call Children’s Librarian here.  I went to visit the library a few days before my first assignment, and like many people visiting this library for the first time, I went right by it because it blends in so well with the houses in the neighborhood!

Give us an example of what a day at work looks like for you.

I often prepare for the day’s activities before we open.  During our open hours, I may do a storytime, visit a school, have a meeting, and, of course, help people find things in the library.  At Elmhurst we are small enough that we can give everyone personal attention.  I am happy to serve people of all ages and backgrounds in English and Spanish.

What is your favorite thing about the Elmhurst library?

The people who use our library on a regular basis are so warm and friendly!  We are small, so we do get to know people who come to the library.  People are very appreciative when we help them whether it is finding the right book for a child, helping someone find a job or home on the computer, making copies, or finding the latest DVD.

Where is your favorite place to visit in Oakland?

My favorite place to visit in Oakland has to be the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Arena.  I’ve seen all sorts of musical acts such as Madonna and Janet Jackson at the Oracle Arena and was privileged to see the Reverend Billy Graham at the Oakland Coliseum.

What’s your favorite book?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I was an English major at the University of California at Berkeley and took a course on the 20th Century Novel.  We didn’t get a chance to read or discuss it in class so the professor decided it would be the focus of one of the questions on the final.  That added pressure made me think I would hate it but I read it in 3 days and I loved it!

Ana-Elba Pavon

What’s your favorite food?

Pasta and seafood are my favorite meal.

What is the craziest thing you have ever seen in a library?

Buki the Clown!  I love her neon-colored outfits.  The last time she came to Elmhurst, she had a plastic flower decal on her nose and wore a bright baby blue tutu.  She also puts on a hilarious show.  She’s scheduled to come back to Elmhurst on Wednesday, July 10 at 1 p.m.  I’m sure she’ll be at other locations this summer as well!

Thanks for sharing Ana!

Anytime. I hope everyone stops in for a visit.