Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's Award Season!

Forget the SAG awards, the Oscars, and the People's Choice Awards.  The anticipation is really rising for Monday, January 18th, when the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements will take place.  The Newbery, the Caldecott, the Coretta Scott King-- just a few of the 17 awards given by the ALA to recognize the best in media for children and young adults.  If you feel like getting up early, 7:45 am EST-- that's 4:45 here-- you can watch the live webcast.  It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  Who wants to sleep in on a three-day weekend?  I wish I could pretend to be all authoritative about who I think will be the winner this year, but I have to admit to not reading a lot of new books this last year-- mostly older Newberys and a lot of PDFs about the definitions of information.  If I had to put in a guess, it would be for Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman.  It's a non-fiction book, a genre that hasn't taken the Newbery in a while, but it's also a problematic book, which reflects some of the latest Newbery choices, like Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, last year's winner.  Like The Graveyard Book, the age boundaries for this book aren't really clear; the Newbery honors books for children up to age 14, but most libraries I have visited shelve this book in YA... of course, many libraries define YA as 12 and up.  The only thing I feel really pushes this book into the older student's category at all is the mention of sex and sexuality, important to Darwin in his studies of inherited traits... and important regarding his wife, Emma, with whom he had ten children.  Of course, given some of the difficulties with recent picks, the committee may choose something more traditional.  I have heard things about When You Reach Me over and over, and the Amazon review likens it to From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Harriet the Spy, two of my favorite books ever.  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is another I have seen prominently displayed in my recent library forays.  
My Newbery frustration?  On Friday I read Olive's Ocean, by Kevin Henkes, which was an Honor winner for 2004.  

I could not figure out why this book hadn't won the Newbery-- I couldn't even remember the winner for 2004.  I looked it up: The Tale of Despereaux (which I thought was a 2005 winner).  Can you imagine the difficulty?  Despereaux is far and away one of the best books I've read in the last decade, though I feel for sure if Olive's Ocean had been published any other year, it would have been a winner for sure.  Newbery Winner or Honor aside, Olive's Ocean is an amazing book that deserves a read.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Field Trip: Li-Berrying

When I was younger, I would go on adventures.  I would pack my bag with books, drawing paper, pens and pencils, binoculars, and other necessary bits for excursions around our ranch, an adventure-appropriate snack, and set out.  I had a very vivid memory yesterday of a bag of leftover McDonald's Sausage McMuffins sitting on our kitchen counter, which I took apart, and put the biscuits in one bag, and the sausage patties in another, and then only allowing myself to eat one bite of one or another at a time.  I called it hard tack.  This is how I felt yesterday when my supplies bag and I set out with a map of the LAPL libraries, looking to check off as many as I felt like visiting.  Of course, I came back with a bag full of books, rather than setting out with one.  I got lost a few times-- a couple of times on purpose, a few times, on accident-- but visited one library on Friday, and four libraries yesterday.  
The "Library of the Day" award goes to the Los Feliz branch for this picture (and to the reference librarian who let me take it):

What a beautiful reading garden, right?  NOT!  This is their story reading room, inside the library.  Doesn't it just look like an image from Legends of Sleepy Hollow, or Harry Potter?  The "moon" is a skylight, and the branches edge the room, which is round, and painted a pale blue, with recessed lighting.  There are baskets of stuffed animals and board books everywhere.  Los Feliz also has beautiful wood paneling throughout the library, and large cork boards covering the walls, advertising their amazing programming: weekly Scrabble meetings; SAT
 tutoring; a quilting bee; infant, toddler, and pre-k storytimes; mother-daughter non-fiction craft book club; Beads and Feathers, a children's craft group.  They also have a "Twilight" READ poster prominently displayed, signed by the members of the Twilight cast, which is pretty cool.
The Cahuenga and Wilshire branches had my favorite exterior architecture.

Wilshire was recently renovated, while maintaing the historical aspects of the architecture, including a beautiful fireplace and marble floors.  They also have a beautiful courtyard, but there doesn't seem to be any access to it other than gazing at it through their french doors.  Their layout is also impeccable, grouping popular materials such as fiction, DVDs, and CDs together, all the nonfiction in a second area, and children's books in a third, all triangulated around the reference and check-out desk.  Cahuenga, unfortunately, didn't have this going for them at all, but they have one of the most complete and well-thought out teen rooms I have seen outside of the Central Library downtown.  While I wouldn't have known that Cahuenga was the library, driving by (there is only one exterior sign, and it is obscured by bushes and missing several letters: Cahu n   Pub ic L br ry), their interior signage rocks the stacks-- large, neon, and zebra print in the teen room, green and jazzy-looking frogs in the kids room.  
The Atwater Village Branch has a very interesting way of arranging their adult fiction: there is the standard alphabetical by author's, but there is also a section labeled "Classics."  I think this works for teen sections, as they may be looking for book report books, but in the adult section, it felt a little arbitrary.  For example, I wanted a copy of Atlas Shugged.  Classic.  But Lolita was shelved with the regular books.  The House on Mango Street?  Classic.  Some books, like Willa Cather's (there must be a big demand for her books at this branch, because they had about thirty copies of different titles), were shelved in both.  So My Antonia was shelved both in "Classics," and under 'C' for Cather.  Who decides what a classic is, and isn't?  One thing I really like about their organization system, however, is the children's picture book section, which is separate from the children's chapter books.  A lot of libraries organize this section by chunking off Caldecotts, Concept books, bilingual or other language books.  They label them with stickers on the binding denoting this information, but they are all in one section.  Atwater includes them all together, which I think reflects the more organic way a kid might search for books, and also allows them to find something they didn't even know they were looking for-- a monolingual kid finding a bilingual book, for example.  How many kids that are age-appropriate for a Caldecott walk into a library saying, "My mind feels dull today.  I think I'd like a Caldecott to engage my intellect, and shake off this ennui."?  Not many, I think.  The former organization scheme only helps MLIS students like me, who have to find five Caldecotts to read for class.  
And of course, the final branch, Will and Ariel Durant, with the gigantic kid's novel section, and the sweet librarian who commented as I was paying my fine from the two years prior, "Just think of it this way: you're ensuring your future salary."  
The haul:

I was able to find Atlas Shrugged, which I've been looking for for awhile, and the sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky, Lucky Breaks, which has been checked out of every library for ages.  I did not, however, find The Magician's Elephant.  I have a sneaking feeling that every parent in the city who reads educational websites has checked it out for their child, and it won't be much easier to find after the Newbery announcements next Monday.  I think DiCamillo may get an honor for this one, though I don't think she'll win-- if she does, I think she'll be the only three time winner.  
Seven down, 65 to go!