Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


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Library Volunteering

In an effort to get recent library experience to put on my resume (and because it’s fun!!), I’ve started doing a lot of volunteering with different libraries and organizations. My goal is to do a bunch of different things and make a bunch of connections and help a bunch of kids (obviously). Towards the end of October, I started with three different volunteering opportunities all in the same week, which was … a bit overwhelming when added onto working nearly full time and trying to get through classes.

Back in June or July, I signed up for Books for Wider Horizons with the Oakland Public Library. It’s a program that matches me with a preschool center in Oakland for a half hour storytime once a week. It’s a bit of a trek for me, but this opportunity is actually 100% why I got into Library Sciences in the first place: puppets, stories, songs and fingerplays. We had to go through a pretty intensive training before getting matched with a preschool center (I just got my match and time!). We learned a ton of new songs and fingerplays and flannel boards and SO MUCH FUN. Today, (MY BIRTHDAY!!!) I’m going to use my day off work to go down to the BWH office, make some copies, and get ready for my first storytime. Which I still don’t know when it will be; I’m a little terrified to schedule the first reading, because I feel quite unprepared.

As part of this new storytime adventure, I am not only investing in puppets (I basically want all of their puppets), I am also teaching myself how to play the ukulele! Feller bought me one for my birthday (TODAY!!!) that came early. Currently, I can almost, sort of play Lil’ Liza Jane. I’m not sure that my singing can actually be heard over the ukulele, and I’m struggling with the different rhythms of voice vs ukulele. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m not actually very coordinated, and I struggle with different body parts doing different things. Anyways, hopefully, I’ll be a Preschool Rockstar Ukulele Champion in the next couple of months! Which thankfully, isn’t the same as an Adult Rockstar Ukulele Champion, which would involve a lot more effort and ukulele learnings.

I have also been volunteering with Reading Partners, tutoring a 5th grader in her reading skills. It’s been a really fun experience, and hopefully, my kid will be much better at reading by the time I’m done with her. I’ve enjoyed spending one on one time with a kid, getting to know her and figuring out how to talk to her. Because talking to kids is very different from talking to adults, isn’t it?

Similarly, I’ve volunteered at the local library a couple of hours a week doing Homework Help. Generally, the kids I’ve worked with are 3rd-5th graders who need assistance with whatever homework they have from school. The month or so I’ve been volunteering, it’s been mostly reading homework, but I’ve also helped with math. I feel like Reading Partners and Homework Help support each other and make me a better volunteer in each arena. I get a bit more formal tutoring experience with Reading Partners and more experience with a wider variety of kids with Homework Help.

Eventually, I think I’m also going to start doing assorted volunteer jobs at a couple different libraries, just helping out wherever I’m needed, maybe even eventually offering to do book talks at nearby schools (if that’s a thing they do). I have about a year before I graduate, and I want as diverse a library experience as I can get. I’ve thought about doing an internship, but I think a wide assortment of volunteer work will probably accomplish the same basic goals.


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Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson

Hopkinson, D., & Carpenter, N. (ill.) (2004). Apples to Oregon: Being the (slightly) true narrative of how a brave pioneer father brought apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes and cherries (and children) across the plains. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780439800112

Annotation: When the family gets ready to move from Iowa to Oregon in 1847, Daddy can’t stand the thought of leaving his fruit trees behind. So he brings them along.

Reaction: I really enjoyed this look at how orchards came to Oregon. I never would have thought to wonder where those original fruit trees came from, and this is a fun look at how one man got a wagon full of trees nearly 2,000 miles across the country. The narrator has a great, authentic voice and heroically protects her Daddy’s baby trees.

The art is silly and adds to the lighthearted tone of the story. I love the image of Daddy singing a lullaby to his trees in his long johns.

This book would be great in an Oregon 4th-5th grader class, as part of a local history unit. Teachers in the rest of the country could also use it when studying the Westward Expansion.

Media Used: Oil paint

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website: None


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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Image from Goodreads.com

Semple, M. (2012). Where’d You Go, Bernadette. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN: 9780316204279

Annotation: When the truth and consequences of Bernadette’s actions, like hiring a virtual assistant in India, are made clear to her, she disappears, leaving her family in shambles. In the aftermath, her daughter Bee recreates the events leading up to her disappearance through emails, notes and personal encounters.

Reaction: I literally could. not. put this book down. Semple tells Bernadette and Bee’s story using emails, notes and Bee’s own recollections, which gives the reader insight into all the characters, often through their own words. And while this is a novel I would happily give to 13 year olds and up, there’s a lot for adult readers too. I think many adults could relate to Bernadette’s dissatisfaction with her life and her anxiety about new people/places, as well as the frustration the other adults feel about her personality quirks.

I’m actually having a difficult time classifying this book as young adult or adult fiction. Much of the plot is centered around Bernadette and her issues with life, but the primary narrator, especially in the second half of the book, is her 15 year old daughter. I really think this might be a wonderful book for parents and kids to read together and talk about, as it deals a lot with the relationships between parents and children (is this a thing real people do? because it always sounds like a great idea to me).

Semple’s characters are wonderful, and I love the way she gives us insight into each of the major players through their personal communications. Bee seems a little too perfect at the outset, all straight A student who tutors other students and plays her flute all the time and dances and everyone loves her, but by the end, the reader is reminded that she is a fifteen year old girl who wants her family back together. She deals with her mother’s disappearance the only way she knows how: by trying to find the truth (and hating her father who just doesn’t get it). Bernadette, despite her social anxiety and personality quirks that are probably hecka annoying in real life, is someone I kind of want to be friends with.

I think it’s safe to say that this is going to go on my list of Top Ten Favorites and is a book I would highly recommend to just about anyone. And you know, I spend so much time reading fantasy stuff and supernatural stuff and dystopian stuff, that sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s just about family and finding yourself.

Author’s Website


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Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

Image from Goodreads.com

Petersen, D. (2008). Mouse Guard: Fall 1152. New York: Villard. ISBN: 9781932386578

Annotation: The communities of mice rely on the Mouse Guard to protect their homes and ensure their survival. In the Fall of 1152, the Guard uncovers a treasonous plot to set up one mouse as dictator over all mice citizens, and only the Guard can keep this from happening.

Reaction: This book is a really quick read and a great story. The blurb on the front cover says it “reads like a mix of Lord of the Rings and Stuart Little, which is a pretty good description of it, though none of the mice get into the kind of hijinks that Stuart does, and it’s not as fantastic as LOTR. This book could be an actual historical account of these events if the characters were people instead of mice, and I really like that Petersen didn’t add a bunch of extra stuff like magic and other fantasy elements. A Goodreads review likened Mouse Guard to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, which is an ideal comparison, as they both have similar tones and deal with small critters struggling to survive in a harsh world.

I also really like how serious it is. Petersen might have included one or two jokes in the book, though I can’t remember them, and I think that was really well done. It would have been really easy for him to make this story silly and goofy, but he gives it gravity and weight. The mice of the Guard all take their duties seriously and are committed to protecting the mouse way of life.

I loved the way Petersen sets up his mouse society and creates such a well thought out world. His art is richly detailed, and I enjoyed how fierce and brave his characters are. He is able to convey a lot of expression through really small changes of the faces. The predators the mice face are almost photo realistic, which sets them a little apart from the mice whose anthropomorphization slides them farther away from reality.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy talking animal stories, such as the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and Mrs. Frisby, but it would also be good for kids who enjoy stories about war, fighting and protecting one’s home.

Media Used: Ink and digital color

Author’s Website