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By: Bari Ericson, Youth Programming Associate
“Once upon a time there was a librarian who didn’t like to read.” That was me. I found sitting with a book confining, uninspiring and overly time-consuming. And then I discovered Playaways!
A Playaway is a pre-loaded digital audiobook, kind of like a dedicated MP3 player. Weighing just two ounces and about half the size of a deck of cards, the device holds the recording for one entire book. All you need is an AAA battery and a pair of earbuds, and you are good to go. A simple set of buttons lets you play, pause, move forward or back at various speeds and adjust the volume. The device lets you stop and later re-start right where you were in the story. No juggling CDs or downloading!
So, thanks to Playaways, I became an avid audiobook reader. I listen to books while doing household chores, before going to sleep and when traveling (using an inexpensive adapter cord in my car.)
Audiobooks – in Playaway, CD or e-book form – are a great way to get your kids reading, too, while improving their listening and comprehension skills. Jim Dale, the renowned voice actor for the Harry Potter audiobook series says, “Listening to stories helps children build vocabulary, improve their reading skills and succeed more readily in school. Being read to is an important step on the road to becoming a good reader and one of the best ways to ensure a lifelong love of literature and reading. But few of us have all the time we would like to read to the children in our lives. That’s where audiobooks can help.”
Often a child’s reading ability is lower than their intellectual capacity. Audiobooks bridge that gap by providing vocabulary, pronunciation, sentence complexity and a wealth of language that they may not be able to read on their own. The child may choose to follow along with a printed copy, promoting comprehension and fluency. Audiobook recordings are often enhanced with music, sound effects or read by a full cast of actors, bringing the characters and story to life.
And besides all that, audiobooks are just fun and a great family activity. I remember listening to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone while building Legos with my son. My daughter and I laughed and laughed at Junie B. Jones’ antics while driving home from piano lessons. Now that my kids are in college, these are precious memories.
I have listened to literally hundreds of books on Playaway over the past few years, but here are a few favorites:
Crunch by Leslie Connor
Five kids work together to run their family’s booming bicycle repair business while their parents are stranded far away during an energy crisis.
Girl Who Owned a City by OT Nelson
When a plague kills everyone over age twelve, Lisa organizes a group of kids to start a new life. This early dystopian novel is set in “Glenbard,” making many references to Glen Ellyn locations!
Candymakers byWendy Mass
Logan, heir to his family’s candy factory, must compete with 3 other kids to make a spectacular candy while thwarting theft of the secret ingredient.
Prisoner 88 byLeah Pileggi
A surprisingly uplifting story, based on the life of ten-year-old Jake, imprisoned for murder in the Idaho Territory in 1885.
When 17-year-old Alton becomes the cardturner for his eccentric, blind uncle, he learns far more about life than about the game of Bridge.
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
The charming biography of a father and daughter who embark on a “streak” of nightly read aloud sessions that continues for eight years.
“Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before – you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
― Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun
Male and female twins Noah and Jude used to be very close. Noah is narrates at 13 years old, and he is the brother of Jude, who narrates at 16 years old. They were totally opposite until they joined each other’s personal secret. After then they were barely speaking. What has happened in these three years which separate them into strangers? When they were thirteen, Jude fall in love with the charming boy next door. That should be a pretty love story if the book continue like this; the truth is that both of them have the affection for the same boy.
“In the book the early years are Noah’s story to tell, the later years are Jude’s. Each narrator struggles to become whole, to become something other than merely half of one.” (From the description on goodreads.com)
I’ll Give You the Sun is the second novel by the talented Jandy Nelson after The Sky is Everywhere. It is a fantastic book about the relationship between twins and an unusual love story. The book was told from different perspectives, one for each twin. Noah and Jude started their story at different ages and told about their own personal story. Their different personalities, Noah is a shy and Jude is broken, make them even more isolated after their family breaks apart. In addition, Noah’s perspective includes the drawings he paints in his mind which reflect his inner emotions, and Jude has a superstition about her Grandma’s Bible which makes her able to talk with her grandma. This interesting setting and characterization attracts me to read and to enjoy the life of two similar but totally different people.
By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian
Things are getting STEAMy this weekend! You may know by now that we’re having our 2nd annual STEAM Fair this Saturday, February 28 from 10:00 – 3:00. What you might not know is why you should be going. Here are a few reasons:
1. Robots! We have two different robot exhibits presenting this year. PWNAGE and ChiBots. ChiBots can show you how cool it is to have robotics as a hobby, and PWNAGE is a robotics team for high schoolers. You might even want to join in the future!
2. Ghosts! Elgin Paranormal Investigators is back to scare attendees yet again. Visit their booth to get a hands on experience with ghost hunter technology, and see some of their footage from real investigations.
3. Fossils! Burpee Museum of Natural History is bringing their Rockford museum to you in Glen Ellyn. See the kind of local fossils you can find in Illinois.
4. 3D Printing! Glen Crest Middle School Art Teacher Richard Stachon is bringing the Glen Crest 3D printer, student work, and sharing the journey with their machine.
5. The environment! SCARCE is bringing back the energy bike for you to break a sweat to power a light bulb. They will also have a really cool visual representation of water quality.
6. Pictures! Make a carnivore mask and participate at NIU’s green screen photo booth! Pictures will also be shared on our GEPL’s Facebook page.
7. Art! Take part in our first ever collaborative art activity. Grades 4-8 will be assigned a window in the Youth Department that they can decorate. Represent your grade and make your mark!
Even if those 7 great reasons didn’t convince you, I strongly suggest still making an appearance this Saturday. Make sure to visit the chemistry magic show, too. It’s not to be missed!
Last week, I raved about Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, winner of this year’s Morris Award for best young adult debut. But because the Morris is my favorite of the young adult literature awards, I actually read all five nominees this year before the winner was announced. While Gabi was definitely my favorite, it was a great group of books (it usually is – thus the status of the award as my favorite!) While they didn’t all appeal to me personally, there’s no denying that all five Morris nominees were written by talented authors, and are books that will find fans. Music seemed to be a theme this year, with three out of the five books dealing heavily with music in some way. The books featured dragons, girls with wings, and Kurt Cobain. They were set in the present, across numerous decades, and in the 80s or 90s. They took place in Canada, Ireland, and the US. But one thing all these books had in common was that they were written by talented authors who I expect great things from in the future.
I already talked about Gabi, A Girl in Pieces (and if you haven’t put it on hold yet, I highly recommend you do so! This book is most definitely worth your time) but I thought today, I’d give some mini-thoughts on the other four nominees.
Description (from goodreads.com): It’s 1993, and Generation X pulses to the beat of Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement. Sixteen-year-old Maggie Lynch is uprooted from big-city Chicago to a windswept town on the Irish Sea. Surviving on care packages of Spin magazine and Twizzlers from her rocker uncle Kevin, she wonders if she’ll ever find her place in this new world. When first love and sudden death simultaneously strike, a naive but determined Maggie embarks on a forbidden pilgrimage that will take her to a seedy part of Dublin and on to a life- altering night in Rome to fulfill a dying wish. Through it all, Maggie discovers an untapped inner strength to do the most difficult but rewarding thing of all, live.
Thoughts: This was my other favorite of the bunch. I loved the small-town Irish setting, from the mud and damp to the pub to the old man in his farmhouse up the hill. The romance seemed to jump from “crush” to “in love” a little quickly for my tastes, but I liked Maggie and Eoin so much that I didn’t really mind. I think the way music entered into the story was great – I’ve never been a huge Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins fan, but I still felt sucked in to what these bands and concerts meant for Maggie, and it was easy to remember the magic of concerts I’ve been to and feel connected with Maggie’s experiences. Overall, I loved this book – and I wasn’t the only one! The Carnival at Bray also received a Printz honor (the Printz award recognized the best literary young adult fiction.)
Description (from goodreads.com): A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.
In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.
The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.
The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.
Thoughts: Scar Boys is unquestionably a book I would never have picked up if it hadn’t been nominated for the Morris award. Something about the description just didn’t engage me. So for that reason alone, I’m glad this was nominated for the award! I ended up liking Scar Boys a lot more than I expected to, even though it wasn’t my favorite of the nominees. What can I say, books about teen punk bands in the 80s just aren’t my thing, I guess, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them! And there was a lot I really did love about the book – the set-up of a college admissions essay was unique, the main character Harry was both extremely loveable and extremely obnoxious at the same time, which I liked, and I loved the book’s focus on male friendships, something I don’t see a lot of in books I read.
Description (from goodreads.com): Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim’s fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!
Thoughts: Owen is probably a book I would have read eventually on my own, though I moved it up my list once the Morris nominations were announced. Alternate history, dragons, and a bard? Sign me up! Unfortunately, maybe because my expectations were so high, I was kind of underwhelmed by this book. Although I loved the alternate history with dragons, I did feel like parts of the world-building were a little thin (if dragons are attracted by carbon emissions, why wasn’t solar or steam or some kind of alternate energy developed years ago?) And one of my favorite characters just disappeared from the story part way through. But I did like the way the book explored dragon slaying as both a service and a spectacle, and tied the lives of dragonslayers in with the lives of those telling their stories, and I loved the concept of dragons in our modern world. But ultimately, for me, there just weren’t enough dragons to satisfy!
Description (from goodreads.com): Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.
First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.
Thoughts: Here’s the thing. While there are exceptions (there are always exceptions), overall, magical realism and multi-generational stories are not my favorite things. I couldn’t tell you why, something about those types of stories tends to just not work for me. So being both, Ava Lavender was never going to be my favorite of this year’s Morris nominees. That said, there was a lot I did like about this book. As far as magical realism goes, a girl born with wings is a pretty fascinating thought. The descriptions of food were mouth-watering and awesome. And the book did a really good job of exploring some interesting themes, and most of the magical realism helped to enhance and frame the issues of family, love, faith, freedom, and obsession (among others,) and give physical form to some abstract thoughts and ideas. I think this was a great book, and the fact that I personally couldn’t really get into it doesn’t mean a whole lot – I think this would be a great book for anyone looking to explore magical realism, or some of the themes I mentioned before. Just make sure some pastries or a loaf of bakery bread are at hand, because you will want them!