Tag Archives: New York City

The Reading Pros Recap: When You Reach Me

The Reading Pros gathered this afternoon to discussed Rebecca Stead’s book When You Reach Me.  After discussing whether or not we would go back in time to change something or not (most of us would, for various reasons) we played the “speed round” of $20,000 pyramid.


Then, we learned how to make origami frogs like Miranda does in the book.

DSC03611We rounded up the afternoon with the final round, or “Winner’s Circle” of the game show.  A big thank you to our volunteer, Mary, for bringing in pizza and chocolate milk for the snack and for staying for the discussion!

When You Reach Me is one of my favorite middle grade books because it’s not afraid to ask big questions, ranging from:  “is time travel possible?” to “how do we see who people truly are?”  As one of the Reading Pros pointed out during our discussion, you think the book is all about the main character, but it turns out to be about a lot more than that.

Have you read When You Reach Me?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!



Filed under afterschool, book club

The Reading Pros: Wonderstruck

Image from: scholastic.com

When I’m planning a book club meeting, sometimes the book is so multifaceted and amazing that it’s difficult to figure out what we should do.  Wonderstruck is one of those books.  We only have an hour and a half to discuss the book and do some sort of activity.  So, for this meeting, should we create our own mini museums, like Ben does in the book?  Should we learn about New York City, where part of the book takes place?  Or, should we learn to sign our names using American Sign Language?  Perfect.

Two of the characters in Wonderstruck are deaf and sign language is featured prominently in the book.  What a great opportunity to learn a new language and gain a better understanding of deaf culture.  We were lucky enough to have a guest speaker for this meeting, Nancy Litchfield Thane.  Nancy has worked with hearing impaired students for thirty-two years.

She started out the meeting by showing us a picture of some teens having fun at an amusement park.  She asked if we could tell who was deaf in the picture.  Everyone had a different answer:  “she might be deaf because she’s covering her ears”, or “he might be deaf because he’s not throwing his hands up in the air like everyone else.”  It turns out, everyone in the picture was deaf.  It was a great way to demonstrate that it’s not always so easy to judge someone’s situation based on appearance.

Then, we took a spelling test from the perspective of someone who is hearing impaired.  The syllables seemed to blend together and all of us had a hard time determining exactly what was being said.  This was an effective way to really get a feeling for what it would be like to not be able to hear.

We learned to sign the alphabet and practiced signing our names.

Learning to sign the alphabet.

Referring to the alphabet hand out.

We also learned some animal signs, which was a lot of fun.  If you’re interested in learning some animal signs, check out this video:


We learned that most idioms in English (like, “let’s hit the road” or “dressed to the nines”) are “translated” into their meaning for sign language.  By this, I mean that you wouldn’t sign the idiom word for word, but instead you would get across the meaning (for example “let’s hit the road” would be signed as “let’s go”).

Nancy taught us another interesting thing about idioms.  ASL has it’s own sayings that wouldn’t make sense if you translated them directly into English.  For instance, “you missed the boat” or “you’re too late” is signed as “train-go sorry.”

Wonderstruck is one of my favorite books and this meeting has been one of the best so far.  Thank you, Nancy, for teaching us so much this afternoon!


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Tween Book Review: Liar & Spy

Once in a great while, I read a book that is so amazing, all I want to do is read another one exactly like it.  Well, maybe not exactly like it, but at least very closely related to it.  Usually, this isn’t a big problem.  If the book is the first in a series, I just read the sequel.  If the author is prolific, I move on to his/her other works.

Cover of "The Invention of Hugo Cabret"

But what about books that are unique in their greatness and the author hasn’t published any more like them?  Case in point:  when I first read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I had never read a book like it.  (At that point, Wonderstruck had not been published yet.)  I was recommending this amazing reading experience (it is so awesome, I hesitate to call it a book) to everyone I saw:  man, woman and child.  Kids would usually take the recommendation, and then request a similar book.  Unfortunately, now we were in the same boat:  waiting until Brian Selznick came out with his next creation that would knock our socks off.

Cover of "When You Reach Me"

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead was another one of those books for me.  She offers us complex characters who are dealing with the reality of life.  Even when you’re 12, life is rarely a perfect experience.  Rebecca Stead isn’t afraid to explore growing pains and this enriches her writing.  She also can tell a great story.  A story that makes you wonder what is really going on, and what might happen.  As I read, I had my own suspicions about the ending, and I loved Miranda and all of the other characters so much, I desperately hoped that everything would turn out alright.

Image from: goodreads.com

So, I’ve been waiting for her sophmore novel, Liar & Spy, ever since I finished the last page of When You Reach Me.  The book is set in NYC in present day.  Georges has just moved from the house he loves into an apartment.  His dad is in the middle of a career change and he mom is swamped with work.  Georges is an outsider at school and the target for bullies.  He slogs through each week, high-fiving his gym teacher on Friday afternoon to celebrate two days of freedom stretched out before them.

All of this changes when Georges meets an unusual family in his apartment building.  Safer, a boy Georges’ age, is a spy in training and knows the comings and goings of everyone in the building.  Candy, Safer’s younger sister, has an obsession with her namesake and a penchant for changing her outfit many times each day.  As Georges’ relationship with Safer and his family develops, he learns not to make assumptions about others and that it is possible to create your own rules.

I would love to gush about the details, but it’s one of those books that is best to read yourself, discovering all the twists and turns as you go.  Liar & Spy comes out on August 7th.  I would highly recommend it to kids and adults who are looking for a book so good it will keep you away from Netflix Instant Play (true story).

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 lupines


Filed under have you heard about this great book?, Tween Book Review

YA Graphic Novel Review: To Dance

To Dance:  a ballerina’s graphic novel by Siena Cherson Siegel with artwork by Mark Siegel

To Dance tells the story of a young girl named Siena, who sees any wide, open space as an invitation to dance.  Her family is very supportive of her and enrolls her in dance classes.  As she gets older, she takes classes in Boston and later in NYC.

I’m guessing that Siena grew up during the late 70s and early 80s because she references her Walkman as the newest music player on the market.  She also writes about dancing with ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov and also getting the opportunity to see him (and many other ballet stars) perform.

Any young, aspiring ballerina will find inspiration in this story.  Siegel writes about how dance became a refuge for her when her parents were going through divorce and she beautifully describes the process of training tirelessly for one shining moment of glory on stage.

The writing style is casual in a way that makes the reader feel like he/she is listening to Siegel tell stories from her amazing life over a cup of tea.  The elegant, simple illustrations complement the text nicely.

Recommendation:  4 out of 5 lupines

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Interview with Nina Emlen

This week’s interviewee is Nina Emlen, one of the newest members to the library’s staff.

Why did you decide to become a librarian?

I graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Music History. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and found I wasn’t really qualified for most jobs, including working at Starbucks. I ended up as a nanny, and during this time I kept thinking, “I wish I was a librarian!” Finally one day it dawned on me: I am young and this is the time in my life when I need to make things happen for myself. Then I applied to grad school, got in, and the rest is history.

You went to Pratt University to get your Masters in Library Science. What was the best aspect of experience?

I would say that the most beneficial classes I took at Pratt were the classes where I read and read and read. In the children’s and young adult literature classes I took we read about 3 books a week and it really helped me feel immersed in the world of the kids with whom I was interacting. Another great experience was taking an art librarianship class which met every week in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s library. The most enriching aspect of my grad school experience was meeting so many enthusiastic librarians, both students and teachers, and spending day after day exploring how libraries can change people’s lives.

You also worked in the New York Public Library system in New York. That must have been crazy busy at times…what was it like?

While I was at Pratt I worked full time at New York Public Library. It was crazy busy!  Our neighborhood branch (1 of almost 100 in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island) on the Upper West Side served about 30,000 people a month. This meant the phone rang off the hook, there were constant lines 10 people long at circulation, and yes, we had to call the police from time to time. It also meant that there were endless opportunities to help people. The library was a true haven for some, and a myriad of information and resources for all.

What is one big difference between working at NYPL and working at EPL?

Something that will always impress me about smaller libraries is that you can find new and popular items checked in and on the shelf. EPL is a great balance between a busy, urban library and a small-town, quiet library.

What is your favorite book, favorite author, and favorite genre?

Three of my favorite books of all time are “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “His Dark Materials Trilogy” by Philip Pullman and “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “The Tiger’s Wife” both use lush, beautiful writing and magical realism to tell meaningful stories about families. “His Dark Materials” uses fantasy to ask big questions about religion and the fight of good against evil.

Thanks, Nina!  Welcome to the Ellsworth Public Library 🙂

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