Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Little Gems

Weeding the shelves is sometimes like a treasure hunt.  Within the dusty covers of long neglected books, little gems can be found.

I pulled this book titled Come Away From the Water, Shirley, by John Burningham (1977) because it hadn't been checked out in a decade.
The title and the accompanying picture looked rather ominous to me and I wondered what this book could be about.  The picture makes me think some dark tragedy is about to occur but it turns out not to be the case.  A young girl with an active imagination plays at the beach while her parents lounge on the shore, lazily barking orders at her.

I came across one illustration that hit a little too close to home though.

Father sleeps under his newspaper while mother knits and drinks (presumably) coffee from a thermos.  The only thing that separates this picture from Mr. Richards and I is father's pipe parked on the ground next to him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ways to tell a story

I'm interested in storytelling in all it's forms.  Verbal, visual, scripted, improvised, static, kinetic, truth, fiction. Everyone has a story to tell and there are so many ways to tell it.

I've been playing around with a new app on my phone called Vine.  It's for making quick and dirty 6 second looping videos.  You can't edit them once they are recorded, you just shoot them and then post them on Vine or Twitter or Facebook. 6 seconds is not a lot of time for a video.  Much of it is pretty mundane but there are master Vine makers already who can tell a complete story in 6 seconds, or a serialized one in 6 second episodes.  They make it look easy until you try it yourself.  And yet you are so inspired by these incredible 6 second videos that you have to keep trying.

By far the best Vines are made by Adam Goldberg.  Do yourself a favor and download this app, follow Adam Goldberg, and watch his vines starting from the beginning.  Using lens filters, camera angles and sound affects, he has created a surrealist documentary of his apparent descent into obsession and madness.  6 second filmmaking at it's finest.

Steve Agee is another Vine master of a different kind.  He is the master of visual one-liners and the 6 second interview show which he calls Hollywood & Vine.  There's been a bit of crossover between Adam Goldberg and Steve Agee as the latter competes with the former for the title of best Vine maker.

The third person you should follow is James Urbaniak.  He is not quite as prolific as the first two, but his stories are fully formed and expertly shot and very funny.

A friend of mine, who is a terrific storyteller and artist, came to visit last weekend with his family and we got to talking about art and creating things and he told me about a project he's been working on, a diorama, and how he's been freeing himself some certain constraints while building it by staying focused on the message he wanted to convey rather than worrying so much about the materials he was using.  Because the story is more important than the medium.  The medium is just a tool for telling the story.  If the story is compelling, it doesn't matter how you tell the story, just that you tell it.

I think we are lucky to live in a time when so many tools are available to allow people to get their stories out in the world.

Neil Gaiman's A Calendar of Tales is a fascinating example of using social networking tools to inspire storytelling.  Last week, over the course of a 12 hour period, Neil Gaiman would post a question to his Twitter followers pertaining to a month of the year, for example, "What's the strangest thing that ever happened to you in February?" He then selected one reply for each month and wrote a short story inspired by that reply.  Now that the stories are out, Neil Gaiman has asked folks to send in illustrations inspired by the stories that were inspired by tweets, Tossing it back out to the Internet, like storytelling volleyball.  And the stories are beautiful, you should go read them.

So those are my thoughts on storytelling for today.  Tell your story.  In whatever way suits you.  There's no excuse to not do it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Library Fun Facts

Sometimes, while searching for particular reports in the circulation system, I come across interesting information for which I was not looking. For instance, today, while trying to find out which books circulate the most, I came across a web access report that includes the top ten search terms, which I thought were interesting - and funny.  Here they are (the capitalized ones are preset search icons on the library homepage) :

star wars
monster fight club
big nate
California Missions
Graphic Novels
Most Popular
magic tree house
diary of a wimpy kid
What's New

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Elephants and Piggies and Pigeons, oh my!

Mr. Richards and I went up to San Francisco for the third weekend in a row last weekend to see more comedy shows.  It was the last weekend of SF Sketchfest.  Sunday morning we went to see Don't Let the Comedians Do Story Time.  This was a fantastic hour with Mo Willems and some of his comedian friends reading his books.  Here is a picture of them all from the @SFSketchfest twitter feed:
In the picture: Mo Willems, Maya Rudolph, Ken Marino, Rachel Dratch, Janeane Garofalo, Jo LoTruglio, Andy Richter, David Wain, Lorraine Newman, Patten Oswalt, and Michael Ian Black.

As I said, it was a terrific and very funny show.  The comedians read Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, and We Are In a Book.  Mo Willems taught us all how to draw the pigeon by putting shapes together in the right order. We got a sneak preview of Mr. Willems' new book that will be coming out in the spring That Is Not a Good Idea.  You can see the cover here.  I've already pre-ordered this for the library, I know you all will love it!  Mr. Willems closed the show by reading Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus with Patton Oswalt reading the part of the Bus Driver.

Mr. Willems was kind enough to spend some time after the show signing books for his fans so I bought some books for the library and he signed them for me.  (They're all checked out already!)  Here's a picture (I'm telling him how is books are always checked out and he thanked me for being a librarian):
Happily, this all coincides with our CYRM reading of We Are In a Book this week.  I read it to a second grade class today and told them about meeting Mo Willems and how he taught us how to draw the Pigeon and they wanted to draw the Pigeon too, so we put some shapes together in the right order and drew pigeons.  Then I asked them to write titles for their own Pigeon books and they came up with some great ones such as:

Don't Let the Pigeon Swim in the Magma
Don't Let the Pigeon Babysit Because He Might Be a Vampire
Don't Let the Pigeon Eat at MacDonald's

Their teacher is going to have them write complete stories to go with their titles and then we'll mail them off to Mr. Willems because I know for a fact he doesn't get enough of these, plus ours will be the best he's ever seen.

You can see more about Mo Willems' books at his fun website or follow his blog or follow @the_pigeon on Twitter

Monday, February 4, 2013


I've been reading the California Young Readers Medal Nominees in the library and the one I read last week was Bats in the Library by Brian Lies.  It's a wonderful book and the paintings are beautiful.  In the middle of the story, the young bats settle down for story time, which is illustrated by 2 two-page spreads which contain illustrated references to classic children's literature.  I could name most of the references, there are about 14 or 15. But a couple of them I couldn't figure out, nor could anyone else.  So I decided to do some research.  I found the answers on a blog post from when the book first came out.  The pictures are scanned in there if you'd like to see what I'm talking about.  The ones I didn't get were Drummer Hoff (I don't think I've ever read that book), Treasure Island (I didn't recognize the character) Wind in the Willows (I thought the car was flying and mixed it up with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and the one with the flying bed.

At first I thought maybe it was Bedknobs and Broomsticks but quickly realized that wasn't correct.  Then I thought maybe it was Little Nemo in Slumberland, which is close but not quite.  The answer is that it is in reference to a comic strip from 1904 called Dream of the Rarebit Fiend by Winsor McCay.  (Winsor McCay is also responsible for Little Nemo in Slumberland so you can see how close I was!)

Where the connection comes in is back in 2011, I backed a project on Kickstarter involving the restoration of a short animated film by Winsor McCay called The Flying House.  The restoration was done by Bill Plympton and the film was colorized and voice and sound effects were added.  Here it is in it's original form.

The story in the film is based on the Dream of the Rarebit Fiend comic strip.  Anyway, all of this kind of lit up my brain last week and I got a little excited.  If you can find the restored version to view, I recommend it, it's delightful!

I was really inspired by these connections so I decided to find all the books that were referenced that I actually have in the library and put them on display with the pictures showing to help the kids make the connections.  It's been fun and they've become interested in these other books. 

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies will go back to regular circulation after we've finished voting for CYRM.