Stories With Ms. Jenna

Storytimes, Programs, Booklists, and More!

2015 Reading Goals

In 2014, I made a lot of reading goals for myself. I challenged myself to read 600 books through the goodreads challenge (which I recently attained (over half of which are picture books)) and aimed to read many books with starred reviews or a lot of buzz as well as new books in series I’ve already started. The far majority of what I read was published in 2014 and most were children’s or teen titles.

Reading goals can be great. Having goals pushes me to read more and read wider than my usual interests. However, between reading goals and putting pressure on myself to read ALL THE BOOKS so I can be a great librarian, I often end up reading just to get through a book so I can say I read it and move on to the next. I rush rush rush through books I feel like I should be reading.

So while I think I’ll return to lofty reading goals someday, my goal for 2015 is simply this: Read whatever the hell I want. For the general population, this is pretty common. But for a librarian and book-obsessed, starred-reviews-and-awards-obsessed person, it’s hard.

Of course, there are some exceptions (such as my monthly book club book). And then there’s one REALLY BIG exception: I’m serving on the 2016 Geisel Award committee. This means throughout 2015 I will be reading many many many books written for beginning readers so I can help decide which are the most distinguished. Sure, this books are short. But I have to read them multiple times and view them from a critical lens. This is going to take up a lot of my reading time.

It is because I’m on this committee that I’m doing away with any of my regular reading goals for the year. I will be spending a lot of time on this “required” reading, so I want the rest of my reading to be completely my choice without consideration of what is popular or what is notable. My choice reading might be one book every few days or maybe just one book a month. Maybe I’ll only want to read romance or graphic novels. Maybe I’ll go stretches without reading any non-Geisel books and focus my time on binge watching TV instead.

In 2015, I’m setting aside my own expectations of what I should be reading. I’m putting away pressure to read the latest and greatest. I’m just going to read whatever I feel like reading and when I feel like reading. And I think I’m going to start with a re-read of the entire Princess Diaries series.


Scroll Story: Wake Up, It’s Spring!

I love making flannel stories, but I wanted to change it up a bit and try something new. Hence, the scroll story was born. This story is based off the picture book Wake Up, It’s Spring! by Lisa Campbell Ernst. The gist is that spring has just arrived so then sun wakes up the earth, who wakes up a worm, who wakes up a seed, who wakes up a ladybug… and so on and so forth. Then everyone dances because they are happy it is spring.

To tell this story, I have drawings of each thing that is woken up. I taped them on a long strip of butcher paper and rolled it all up around some rolled up and stapled cardstock. As I go through the story, I un-roll one picture at a time until the whole thing is showing- I needed a helper to hold one end as it was way too long for me to hold it all up myself. Also, I wrote some words on the back so I didn’t have to memorize the whole story. This project took a lot of time to make, but I think it’s pretty cool so hopefully I’ll find numerous occasions to use it!

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#NerdLution: A Comic A Day

Some folks from Nerdy Book Club were tweeting about their personal goals and making commitments and thus #nerdlution was born! Starting today (12/2), for the next 50 days, the goal is to commit yourself to doing something each day such as writing, exercising, reading… whatever it is that you keep thinking you want to/ should do, but keep putting off!

My NerdLution is: A comic a day! It can be a single issue, a graphic novel, or manga. It can be for children, teens, or adults. I’ll check in each day on twitter with what I read, and will post a weekly update to the blog.

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed newspaper comics, but it wasn’t until high school that I read my first graphic novel (300 by Frank Miller, read before seeing the movie). It wasn’t until college that I realized graphic novels were something I really enjoyed (realization after reading American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang). And it wasn’t until my last semester of grad school (earlier this year!) that I started buying and reading issues of comics (all began with a comics and graphic novel class where we read the first 2 trade volumes of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man II, and I needed to continue with the story Miles Morales as Spider-Man so I started buying the issues as they came out).

I have found so many series that I love, and there are also such amazing stand-alone graphic novels. However, even with how quick they are to read, I’ve found myself starting series and then not keeping up with them, despite good intentions. In addition, I’m in charge of the Juvenile Graphic Novel collection at my library and always mean to read some of the awesome new titles that I purchase, but I’m constantly sidetracked by other novels. Therefore, my NerdLution begins today: A comic a day. I plan on catching up with some favorite series and discovering new titles. Wish me luck! And let me know if you have any recommendations of must-reads!

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Too Much Noise

I tell the folktale “Too Much Noise” using these finger puppets:


I bought these at IKEA. The story is usually told using barnyard animals and a farmer, but I adjusted it so it would work with the puppets I have. So in my version, this man is the zookeeper. And he takes these animals from his zoo. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense still with that bunch of animals and this man who is supposed to be a groom? pilgrim? I’m not sure. But I have told this story to around 6 different groups of kids ranging from ages 2-6 and no one has ever questioned me. In the story, the zookeeper wants to go to sleep but he can hear the leaves outside and his bed and the door and he says there is too much noise. So day after day he goes to the wise old woman and asks for advice. Each day she tells him to bring a different animal into his room. The children always join in with making the different animals noises. Eventually, the wise old woman tells him to bring all the animals back in the zoo and then he’s able to fall asleep.


Classics Vs. Fantasy

Let me start with some background information: A few days ago, I learned about The Austen Project. Six bestselling authors are writing contemporary re-imaginings of Austen’s six completed novels. I’m really excited about this because I love Jane Austen and I’m a sucker for re-tellings. Especially when Pride and Prejudice is being re-worked by the wonderful Curtis Sittenfeld. Anywho, the first novel is coming out this month. It is a re-telling of Sense and Sensibility from Joanna Trollope.

Fast forward to today: I see on facebook that The Austen Project page has posted a link to an article titled “Children need classics not fantasy says Joanna Trollope.” Uh-oh. I know this will probably infuriate me, but I click on it anyway. I read the tagline, “Children are getting little moral guidance from fantasy novels like Twilight and should instead return to the classics, according to novelist Joanna Trollope.” She states that, “Although fantasy is a lovely escape, I am not sure it’s much help,” and that fantasy novels don’t relate to the real world.

The facebook post that lead me to this article said to “let us know your thoughts” so I commented: I’m really excited about The Austen Project, and I’m looking forward to reading Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility. However, it really bothers me when authors bash an entire genre of books… especially fantasy. She obviously doesn’t understand that although fantasy is not the real world, the themes and problems are very reflective of what is real. Fantasy isn’t just “an escape”. It’s a way for us to view our world through a different lens. As a child, I learned more about morals, empathy, and courage from books like The Neverending Story, Ella Enchanted, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe than I did from anything realistic. Children should read what they enjoy, and schools should teach a wide range of styles/ genres of books.

Awesome author Marcus Sedgwick also weighed in on Trollope’s views from his blog post, “Jane Austen, fantasy fiction and the morals of our children” where he stands up for fantasy and states, “Personally, I believe the main thing is that they’re reading, and enjoying what they’re reading, for that opens the doorway not only to the vast world of literature; it can also lead to the desire to embrace diversity, something Joanna Trollope seems unwilling to do.”

So readers, what are your thoughts? Are classics better for children than fantasy, or does Trollope have no validation for what she is saying?


On Being a Newbie Librarian

This month is flying by. I realized I haven’t posted in nearly two weeks, and although I’ve been busier than ever at work, I don’t have anything to show for it (yet). Our Summer Reading Program recently came to an end, and now I am an in full fall-planning mode. I’m preparing for my fall evening family storytimes and a 2nd/3rd grade book club. I’m in the progress of creating a juvenile graphic novel section, and I’m always working on ordering and withdrawing for my various juvenile collections (Audiobooks, Playaways, Music CD’s, DVD’s and Blu-Rays).

I’ve been a librarian for over two months, but it seems like I just started yesterday! I am still working on finding my place and discovering what unique ideas I can contribute. Everyday, I am learning something new. Here are a few important tips I’ve learned so far:

Making mistakes is how you learn. I’ve always been terrified of making mistakes. I’m a perfectionist, and I feel really uncomfortable when I don’t know how to do something/ discover I did something wrong… even if it’s the tiniest, most inconsequential thing. Luckily, I work with wonderful people who are understanding and helpful. I just need to keep reminding myself that a little mistake is not the end of the world. It’s how I learn to be better.

Share your passions and ideas. As a new librarian, sometimes I struggle to find that balance between learning the ropes about how everything is done here and following in those footsteps as opposed to branching out with my own ideas. I want to bring something new to the table to prove that I am valuable, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or come in too strong trying to change too much at once. I found the best way for me to do this was just by talking to my boss and co-workers about what I am most passionate about. Then, we can work together and discuss ideas and possible projects. This is how I ended up being put in charge of creating the juvenile graphic novel section. I shared with my co-workers my love for comics, and found out they’ve been wanting a GN section for a while but everyone’s always been busy with other projects. I jumped in and said that is something I would love to do, and now that project is well underway!

Get to know your co-workers. No, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone you work with, but working together is a much more enjoyable experience when you can talk about shared interests and know who to defer to about different topics. I was a little intimidated when I started working because the rest of my department is a pretty close-knit group  of awesome ladies. I wanted to be valued for my work ethic as well as liked for my personality. I felt young and inexperienced and extremely shy. However, I really didn’t have to worry. My co-workers are all incredibly kind. I am so grateful that my first job as a librarian is alongside these wonderful women.

Have a non-work related hobby. Okay, I’ll admit, most of my free time outside of work is spent reading children’s and teen books which I’d say is very work-related. I put so much pressure on myself to know everything about children’s lit and programs and early literacy and development… However, I’m learning that sometimes I need to take a moment and step away from that whole world. I’m enjoying improving my cooking skills and am hoping to take French classes again soon. Just gotta tell myself it’s okay if I don’t read every notable children’s book that is out there.

Being a newbie librarian, I still have so much to learn. I’ve really enjoyed the experience so far though and look forward to honing my skills and becoming more involved and connected.