Friday, February 27, 2009

Lucky us! Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron is Coming Soon

March 10 is the street date for Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron (Atheneum, 2009). To tide you over in the meantime, here is an interview with Susan conducted by Shannon Maughan of Publishers Weekly, and here is an early review I did of Lucky Breaks, based on a very early ARC.

I do have the updated ARC but it doesn't include the black-and-white illustrations by Matt Phelan. I can't wait to see them!

Lucky fans will have questions at the end of Lucky Breaks - What about Lucky's dad? And will Brigitte find love? And will Lucky continue to be friends with Paloma? Worry not, the last book in the trilogy will be published in 2010.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lots of Book Lovin' Going On

Check out Lynn E. Hazen's Imaginary Blog for the February Carnival of Books - Valentine Edition. Your heart will glow!
Here are kids and grown-ups sharing a few books and a lot of love at the Robertson Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review of Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson

I wrote this review for School Library Journal, where it appeared here and in the January 2009 issue.

WILSON, N. D. Dandelion Fire. Bk. 2. 480p. (100 Cupboards Series). CIP. Random. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-83883-5; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-93883-2. LC 2008003037.
Gr 5–8—In this dense and worthy sequel to 100 Cupboards (Random, 2007), Henry York, having discovered that he, like his uncle Frank, actually comes from a world beyond the magic cupboards in his attic room, decides to enter it again. This is a last-ditch attempt to learn more about his origins and about the strange dandelion magic that has recently seared its way into his body. Henry, his cousin Henrietta, and the rest of his Kansas family end up scattered in different parts of the world from which both Henry and his uncle came, struggling against an evil witch and her powerful minion. The plot is complicated, and readers not familiar with the first book will be hopelessly confused. The shifting locations and the many characters and factions are bewildering, but most of the characters have such deliciously flawed and fascinating personalities that fans of that book will go with the flow, waiting to see what the next bend of plot might bring. A quiet and quirky humor warms up the proceedings as well, leavening even the most intense scenes. The ending is satisfying enough to serve as a series closer, but luckily for fans of this challenging but rewarding trilogy, there is still one more installment to come.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

(I felt it was necessary in this review to stress that this series isn't for everyone - but for those who love convoluted, challenging, astoundingly imaginative fantasy (like I do!), then the 100 Cupboards series is the perfect choice.

Review of The Yggysey by Daniel Pinkwater

I wrote this review for School Library Journal; it appears here and in the February 2009 print edition.

PINKWATER, Daniel. The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, Found Out Where They Went, and Went There. illus. by Calef Brown. 256p. Houghton. Feb. 2009. Tr $16. ISBN 978-0-618-59445-0. LC 2008001874.
Gr 4–6—In this independent sequel to The Neddiad (Houghton, 2007), Yggdrasil Birnbaum is determined to find out why all the ghosts in early 1950s Los Angeles seem to be vanishing. Iggy and her friends Neddie and Seamus, all of whom see and talk with the city's numerous ghosts on a regular basis, visit Olvera Street, Clifton's Cafeteria, and other famous spots to solve the mystery, but it takes a visit to an alternate world called Underland, filled with an assortment of curious characters, to discover what those ghosts have been up to. Pinkwater's trademark tongue-in-cheek humor is very much in evidence, as is his penchant for odd names and eccentric folks. His version of 1950s L.A., filled with aging movie stars and health-food fanatics, is authentically and delightfully kooky. The story takes a while to get going, but once these young heroes reach Underland, the action picks up, and readers will speed happily through to the goofy ending.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

And read the whole book for free here on Daniel Pinkwater's website!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Share a Story - Shape a Future - yowee!

If you love children's books, reading, libraries, and kids, then have we got a blog event for you! From March 9 - 13, "Share a Story - Shape a Future" will be hosted on five different blogs, with premiere bloggers contributing posts from their own blogs. The hypertext link in this paragraph will bring you to the official announcement blog, where you'll learn all about the week's events.

I'm honored to be the host of Day 4 - "A Visit to the Library!" It's shaping up to look like this:

Day 4: A Visit to the Library, hosted by Eva Mitnick at Eva's Book Addiction blog

From Cozy to Cool - Library Spaces for Everyone - Eva @ Eva's Book Addiction
Lions and Marble and Books, Oh My - Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production
How to Make the Library Work for YOU - an interview with Adrienne of What Adrienne Thinks About That conducted by Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
The World Beyond the Library's Walls - Melissa @ Librarian by Day

Pretty great, eh?!

But the event is far from fixed in stone, and I welcome more contributors. If you are a blogger with something to say about the important role libraries play in the lives of young readers and their grown-ups, please email me at and I will let you know how you can be a part of this event.

Does order create readers - or does reading create order?

Here's an SLJ Extra Helping article that discusses study showing that orderly homes could lead to better reading skills for the kids who live in them.

As the article points out, this is one of those "what came first - the chicken or the egg?" conundrums. Is it really the orderliness that leads to better reading, or is it that parents who read to their kids and encourage literacy are more likely in general to have orderly homes?

Chaos and noise set all my nerves jangling - and how can one read when all hell is breaking loose all around? - but I'm not sure that cleanliness is a prerequisite for reading households. In my family, we use the time we could spend dusting or cleaning windows on - reading!

What it boils down to is that families need to be able to carve long moments of uninterrupted peace from an otherwise crazy, cluttered day in order to read together. Even if it's just 30 minutes at bedtime, kids and grown-ups sharing books together can create their own oasis of harmony and order.

Weekly Graphic Novel Review: Yam: Bite-Size Chunks by Corey Barba

This graphic novel is made up of a series of completely wordless short episodes, most starring a cute, noseless, androgynous childlike creature named Yam, who is always dressed in what looks like a hooded and footed snowsuit. Yam, occasionally accompanied by its companion Marzipan Cat, has lots of mini-adventures. Yam makes friends with a cupcake, falls into a hole and sprouts as a flower, makes friends with a raincloud, grows a head full of flowers on a bald child, makes friends with flowers – you get the idea. These are all quite sweet, and some of them have funny or clever twists that will make kids laugh.
The first few short episodes are black and white, the next are in full-color, and then there is a lengthy black and white story. Finally, kids are shown how to draw Yam. The drawing style is reminiscent of Japanese manga, with lots of cute curves, adorable inanimate objects, and huge eyes. Several episodes were originally printed in Nickelodeon Magazine, meaning there might already be a fan base for Yam and its cohorts. This book would be wonderful for little kids and grown-ups to share together, perhaps taking turns “reading” the stories, and it’s a nice choice for beginning or reluctant readers as well.

Ages 3 - 7

P.S. Corey has a really fun blog. Illustrators and artists have a definite advantage when it comes to visually interesting blog posts...!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Man on Wire wins best documentary

All of us who were entranced by Caldecott-winning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (Roaring Brook Press, 2003) made a point of watching the 2008 documentary Man on Wire. It was every bit as fascinating as I had expected, and so I was thrilled that it won Best Documentary last night at the Academy Awards.

And wasn't Philippe Petit's sleight-of-hand and his balancing of the Oscar on his chin playful and joyful? For a truly obsessive guy, he has an amazing sense of fun.
And my mom has a sense of fun, too. She hosted our Oscar Night get-together with a huge array of elegant nibbles, Champagne - and even a Red Carpet!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Weekly Graphic Novel Review: Benny and Penny in The Big No-No - and - Luke on the Loose

I am eternally thankful to the folks at TOON Books for creating graphic novels in an independent reader format - or would that be independent readers in a graphic novel format? At any rate, what could be better for a new reader than a book that presents quite a few words to read, but sprinkles them comfortably among pictures in a fun comic book format. It's a simple idea and I'm glad that the TOON folks are presenting it with such quality and aplomb.

In Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes (RAW Junior/TOON Books, 2009), big brother Benny and little sister Penny, both mice, are quite indignant about their mysterious new neighbor, who has apparently stolen Benny's pail. There is quite a bit of sibling bickering, wild speculation, and (after the neighbor, a little mole girl, shows up) misunderstanding - but it all ends happily with a muddy water fight. Perfect for ages 3 to 7.

In Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss (RAW Junior/TOON Books, 2009), a little boy with a mania for chasing pigeons gets away from his dad at a city park and pursues his prey all over New York City, wreaking havoc as he goes. Meanwhile, his frantic parents call the police. Eventually Luke is rescued from a roof (where he has peacefully fallen asleep) by fire fighters. This is madcap and surreal, with Luke performing amazing Matrix-esque leaps to get those pigeons. Luke and his family appear to be African-American, and folks of many colors fill the New York streets. This reminds me a tiny bit of Jennifer Armstrong's Once Upon a Banana, in which the urban setting (and the utter chaos that descends upon it) is more extreme. Fun for ages 3 to 7.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Children's books - an enduring addiction

My mother is a librarian. When I was in my last year at UC Santa Cruz, finishing my double major in Philosophy and German Literature (very practical, yes?), my mom suggested (and I can just imagine how she mentally rehearsed this so as to sound just the right helpful yet nonchalant note) that I consider going to library school after I graduated. "Even if you don't want to become a librarian, that degree will tide you over until you decide what you really want to do."

So canny! She knew I'd be hooked, not by library school itself but by the job. While attending library school, I worked as a "student librarian" at the Los Angeles Public Library, a now-defunct position that allowed me to be page, clerk, and assistant librarian all in one. I attended meetings, worked at the circulation and reference desks, put away thousands of books, and presented my first storytimes.

And somehow, I knew without even thinking about it that I would become a children's librarian. It wasn't the storytimes. It wasn't even the kids (I was remarkably indifferent to kids at the time, being barely grown-up myself). It was the books. Children's books.

As a child, books were my salvation. Not from my circumstances - my family was loving, my community was eccentric and wonderful, my friends were close - but from... my own brain, I suppose. From the beginning, books were a way not only to immerse myself in other worlds, but to escape from a time from the ceaseless churning and worry and analysis of my own mind. Reading was also a way to tune out other people. Ever since I can remember, I've only been able to handle being with my fellow humans (even my most beloved family and friends) for a certain amount of time before I need to get away and soothe my frazzled nerves. Books were and are my drug of choice. I took books with me out to eat with my family, on trips to my grandparents, and even to Disneyland. I was told to "get your nose out of that book" more times than I can count - even my book-loving parents felt that a child should try chatting at the dinner table once in a while.

My childhood relationship with books was so strong, so necessary, so much a part of who I was, that it seems to have created a permanent love for children's literature. At about age 12, I leaped from children's books to adult SF and fantasy and then on to "the classics." At age 22, I began reading children's literature again. I haven't stopped. Most of the books I read are for adults (I'm an addict - I read everything), but if I'm not currently reading a children's book, there are a pile of them in the wings.

Children's books are books that are stripped bare of extraneous stuff - plot fluff, long descriptions, existential meanderings. The focus is on characters - the things they do, the way they think, and the people they encounter. When I read a children's book (and I'm talking about the good ones here), I'm sucked in immediately, the same way I was when I was a child. What is it that is so enthralling? Is it being allowed to experience childhood again, as portrayed by gifted writers who seem to have retained an intimate knowledge of their 9-year-old or 11-year-old selves? Is it that pure, stripped-down quality of the plot and writing? Is it that note of hope at the end? Is it the joy of sharing thousands of books with my own kids and the kids at the library? Or is it just that I'm permanently stuck at age 12? Or is it age 7? I think I fluctuate between the two...

Children's books are some of the best books around. They provide more intense, world-changing, mind-expanding pleasure and thought per word than any other kind of book. Is it the form? Is it the audience? Is it the writers? I have no idea. I just know that it is so.
(Yep, those photos are of me reading, circa 1972 or 1973. My husband says he gets that "don't bother me, I'm reading" look from me on a daily basis)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cybils winners announced!

I just want to formally announce that the Cybils judges ROCK. Check out the superlative list of winners here.

Review of The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath by Mark Copeland

The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath by Mark Copeland (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).

Not only is this not a full-fledged review, but it’s hardly a review at all, more a few comments on a curious little book from a few years back. I’m not even sure how I heard about it – perhaps a fellow blogger raved about it or it appeared on a “best of” list that I’m only now getting around to.

The enigmatic title intrigued me first off; it seems that a bundle is a fight, battle, or brouhaha in this world. And a strange world it is, too. Although it takes place in what seems to be England, there are no mammals or reptiles at all. All animals are insects, quite large ones at that (ladybugs are knee-high and snails are as big as small elephants), and they live among humans in roles that range from those of typical animals (ladybugs and woodlice are treated as pets, snails pull large carts, etc) to servants (flies serve as low-class employees at circuses).

The plot is so slight and beside the point that I won’t even go into it. What is intriguing are the relationships between insects and humans – I spent a lot of time dwelling on the sociological and philosophical aspects of it all. If these insects can talk and think, why are they being treated like animals? Do they get eaten by humans or other insects, and wouldn’t that be fairly horrifying? Why are some insects pets and others more autonomous? What makes humans the masters over everyone else, with flies being second-class citizens?

These burning questions aside, I was enchanted by Rufus the loyal and intrepid ladybug and by Sylvia the lisping mama snail. The two human kids, Art and Daisy, remained a bit two-dimensional for me, but the villainous flies were delightfully bad. The author (who, according to the backflap, “tours the country entertaining the public with his ‘Grand Travelling Insect Circus Museum and Peep-Show Mechanical Menagerie’” – huh?!) drew the illustrations, which depict all manner of insect characters in loving detail but in which the humans are rather stiff.

Not a sure-fire winner by any means (many folks will be put off by the mannered language), but recommended those who desire a quick and quirky read. Grades 4 and up.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Graphic Novels Are Haunting My Dreams

Come on over to the ALSC blog to read my post "Graphic novels are haunting my dreams." Or at least taking over my office. It's a good thing I love 'em so much, because they really are becoming a can of worms, professionally speaking!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Low-down on "low-brow" subjects

I don't have time at the moment to write a full-fledged post at the moment, but that's okay. Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect has written a fabulous post on kids' books about those most vital of subjects - poop and undies - that is sure to entertain and enlighten. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weekly Graphic Novel Review: Into the Volcano by Don Wood

I’ve been reading all sorts of groovy graphic novels recently, which have inspired me to begin a weekly graphic novel review or post. I’ve written about graphic novels for kids and teens several times before – but now it will be a regular feature.

Into the Volcano by Don Wood (Scholastic/Blue Sky Press, 2008) is taller and wider than the usual graphic novel, allowing plenty of room for the eye-bugging subject matter – a boatful of obsessed people, including two young brothers, who head straight into and underneath an erupting volcano! That Don Wood lives in Hawaii and has intimate knowledge of volcanoes, erupting and otherwise, is clear. His artwork is visceral and detailed, allowing me to imagine in more detail than comfortable exactly what it would be like to be faced with glopping molten lava, earthquake-ridden lava tubes, and huge killer waves – all at the same time.

Oh, and the story is fairly awesome, too. Not the main plotline about the mystery of the strange little settlement underneath the volcano and why a bunch of otherwise normal-seeming people (well, maybe not SO normal-seeming) launch themselves into what might with huge understatement be called a risky situation – frankly, I remained a bit foggy and unconvinced by all that. No, I liked the story of how one of the brothers, Sumo, transforms himself by sheer will and desperation from a whiny, awful little boy into someone with guts and pride.

This is an intense adventure story that will suck readers right in, but it’s also a story about reaching the very brink of your own endurance and then going beyond it because to do otherwise isn’t a choice you can live with.

Highly recommended for grades 2 and up (including adults!).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review of The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O'Roark Dowell

The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O’Roark Dowell (Atheneum, 2009)

In this sequel to The Secret Language of Girls, Kate and Marylin have started 7th grade. At first this seems to be Kate’s story – feeling like the odd girl out at Marylin’s cheerleader-and-ballplayer-filled party, Kate realizes that she wants to be different. Specifically, she longs to play guitar. In short order, she has borrowed a guitar from her old nemesis Flannery and has acquired a pair of clunky black thrash boots.

However, Kate only appears intermittently after this. Clearly, she is at peace with her boot-wearing, guitar-playing, song-writing self, and so even when she finds a kindred spirit in a cute guy named Matthew, not much needs to be said. The focus then shifts to Marylin, new cheerleader and therefore newly part of the in-crowd of 7th-grade girls. Her dilemma is that while in some ways she feels that she belongs with this group, in other ways she feels hemmed-in and inhibited, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and calling down the scathing disapproval of the other cheerleaders.

Luckily, Marylin may be a pretty, clothing-obsessed girl but she is also, above all, a nice and sensible person. When she finally comes to terms with the fact that being nice and sensible might mean making friends of whom her cheerleader friends disapprove, she goes ahead and does the right thing (though not without some trepidation), opening her mind to new and fascinating people and ideas.

There isn’t much new territory broken here – stories of friends changing and growing apart abound in books for tweens. What is tremendously appealing about this book and its predecessor is a simple and timeless feeling. Sure, the kids text each other (a bit), but otherwise this story could have taken place forty years ago. And that’s the point – friendships are often the most intense and important elements of a girl’s life just before and during middle school, and so that is the focus of this story. The simple, slang-free language is also timeless, and reminds me a bit of Ann M. Martin’s Main Street series (although that is for younger girls) and some of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s books.

Give this book and The Secret Language of Girls to girls who love Judy Blume’s Just As Long as We’re Together, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, and other books about friendship and learning who your true self is.

Grades 4 - 6

Review of The Mostly True Adventures of Homer Pl Figg by Rodman Philbrick

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. (Scholastic/Blue Sky Press, 2009)

12-year-old Homer and his older brother Harold have been living with (or rather slaving for) their mean and nasty Uncle Squinton Leach (and a finer name for a villain I have rarely come across) ever since their beloved mother died. Harold has always looked after Homer, so when Uncle Squint illegally sells him into the Union Army, Homer is determined to find him and bring him back.

After Homer runs away, he has three main adventures. During the first, he has a run-in with two nefarious characters who have kidnapped a free black man and plan to sell him into slavery down south. This leads him to a stern but kindly Quaker who (after the previous situation has been satisfactorily resolved) sends him to New York to find his brother, along with a wispy reverend named Mr. Willow and some funds. During the second adventure, Mr. Willow is bilked of the money by a pair of confidence tricksters, meaning that Homer must set off alone. He quickly falls in with a huckster named Professor Fleabottom who sells “Neurotonic Nerve Elixir” (otherwise known as sweetened rum) to Union soldiers. During this last adventure, Homer finds his brother – but he is also briefly plunged into the horrors of war.

The breezy tone and the historical subject matter reminded me of some of Sid Fleischman’s books, particularly his McBroom tall tales and his California-based historical adventures such as Bandit Moon. Homer P. Figg would have felt at home in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well, with his gift of gab and penchant for getting into trouble. While the overall feel of the book is humorous, the treatment of such subjects as slavery and war is serious, if brief.

Although Homer tends to tell extravagant fibs at the drop of a hat, he waxes humble and heart-felt when he talks about his older brother, and so the reader really does expect to find a larger-than-life character in Harold. What a disappointment, then, that Harold is just an ordinary fellow who is not only an unsuccessful soldier but whose primary emotion on getting sold to the army was relief to escape from his responsibilities as an older brother. He’s not a bad guy, just a human one. And since the whole reason for all Homer’s adventures was to find Harold, it was odd that the book ends shortly thereafter, with little comment on Homer’s part about how their relationship has obviously changed – Homer has shown himself to be the intrepid brother, the one with initiative and drive. However, most readers will probably just be glad that the brothers end up safe, sound, and whole (well, almost whole).

Fast-paced and full of colorful language and eccentric characters, this is a good choice for kids in grade 4 and up.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Locus Magazine's Best of 2008

Here is the YA list:

City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare (Simon & Schuster/McElderry)
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press)
Monster Blood Tattoo, Book Two: Lamplighter, D. M. Cornish (Putnam; Omnibus Books Australia)
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow (Tor)
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, Bloomsbury)
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, Alison Goodman (Viking); as The Two Pearls of Wisdom (HarperCollins Australia)
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Knopf)
How to Ditch Your Fairy, Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury USA)
Ink Exchange, Melissa Marr (HarperTeen)
Chalice, Robin McKinley (Putnam)
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt)
Nation, Terry Pratchett (Doubleday UK, HarperCollins)
Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi (Tor)
Flora's Dare, Ysabeau S. Wilce (Harcourt)

I've read most of them, and the rest are literally sitting on my must-read shelf.

Find Locus's full list here. Yummy juicy SF and fantasy...

Eagerly anticipating Monster Blood Tattoo #3

D.M. Cornish, author of the elaborate and engrossing fantasy series "Monster Blood Tattoo" (the first two books are Foundling and Lamplighter), is a terrific and rare example of a writer who not only appreciates his fans but actively collaborates with them. His attention to detail is amazing, as are his intricate illustrations. I would like to be Miss Europe for Halloween (pictured).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Children's Library Bill of Rights - an idea whose time has come

This past Saturday, I attended the 50th Anniversary of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (that's "Library School" to those of you outside the field). Being a proud member of the class of '89, I was neither the oldest nor the youngest person there.
We ate on a lovely patio at the Fowler Museum, where an unseasonably fierce sun broiled all those unable to fit under the table umbrellas. Lunch was refreshing (though the chocolate cake did melt rather), the speeches weren't too long, and we all enjoyed catching up with colleagues and ex-classmates.
The bonus portion of the day came after lunch, when we all waddled from the Fowler to Royce Hall to attend one of four panels on various library-related topics. I chose "A Children's Library Bill of Rights," moderated by Dr. Virginia Walter with panelists Joanna Fabicon of Los Angeles Public Library (not pictured - sorry Joanna, I though I got you in the frame!), Shana Johnson of Santa Monica Public Library, Roger Kelly of Pasadena Public Library, and Katherine Adams of the Los Angeles County Public Library.
We all know about the ALA Library Bill of Rights, but a Library Bill of Rights for kids is a whole new idea. There is of course that beautiful statement #5, which reads "A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views," which affirms that kids should have the same rights to library service as adults.
However, Dr. Walter and her panelists felt that there is room to improve and expand upon a child's rights to great library service. What does it mean to have rights? How are rights different from needs? The panel came up with two main questions that deserve to be mulled over:
1. How can librarians be advocates for children and their rights?
2. How can librarians create a culture of respect for children in the library and the community?
These questions lead naturally to two ideas for empowering children:
1. Children's advisory boards.
2. A Library Patron's Bill of Rights for each branch/community, which would include one for kids.
We children's librarians often feel that we know what is best for our young patrons. We know the best and/or most popular books and other materials, we present the best programs, and so on. We provide comfortable and attractive children's areas. Many library systems charge smaller fines for children's materials. We respect our patrons and model that behavior for parents and staff members. These are all important ways we advocate for children in the library.
The best and most committed among us listen to our patrons and even occasionally solicit their opinions. However, it is rare that we ask children to actively participate in any decision-making process regarding collection development, program planning, the appearance or contents of the children's area, and so on. Not only would this demonstrate active respect for our young patrons, but it would garner librarians some darn good advice.
We already have teen councils at many libraries. Why not children's councils? Yes, it might sometimes be as difficult as herding cats, but with some planning and flexibility and a big bowl of chips, this could be a great way to create an on-going dialogue between librarians and kids about how the library can best serve the children in its community. Sure, there are challenges - How many kids? Which kids? How to keep kids coming back regularly? What format to keep kids interested? But kids have valuable opinions - it's time we asked for them.
The children's council could also be a forum for creating a Children's Library Bill of Rights for the branch. A look at ALA's Bill of Rights would be instructive, as would a discussion on what exactly rights are. Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids might be a good springboard for that topic. And then kids could figure out, over the course of several meetings, what their rights are regarding their own particular library. This will surely engender much debate! If kids decide that they have a right to pay no fines, some kid or adult is sure to ask what would prevent kids from simply keeping library books.
Once a document has been drawn up, it could be presented (by the kids, of course) to library staff and patrons. Kids and the librarians could even go out into the community to present it at local schools, city council meetings, neighborhood council meetings, and so on. This would be truly advocating for kids, inside and outside the library.
Naturally, other groups could draw up their own Bills of Rights. What about a Parents' Library Bill of Rights? Or a Wireless Users' Library Bill of Rights? And if some of these Rights rub up against each other uncomfortably, that would be something important for kids to realize.
But really, it's the Children's Library Bill of Rights that interests me most. It gives a voice to a group that is rarely heard from directly, and it demonstrates to everyone that kids are a priority for the library.
And let's not forget that in these days of austerity, creating a children's council and drawing up a Bill of Rights would be meaningful activities that would cost the library not one thin dime!