Marysville Library Blog

Friday, August 9, 2013

Apps and the Value of Free Playtime

Your toddler is whining while you wait for something, so you give him your smart phone to play with. At home, your preschooler plays for hours on the iPad. Is this good or bad for your children? Are you giving them a head start in getting them ready for school or is all that screen time bad for their brain growth?

Research has shown for years that television viewing will not teach your baby to read or even get them ready to read. Shows that were supposedly educational (remember Baby Einstein?) have all been proven to not work. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no television viewing at all or a baby’s first 2 years.

But what about interactive games such as apps? The respected Sesame Street Workshop is developing apps. The School Library Journal and many other educational groups put together lists of “Best Apps for Preschoolers”.   Even the Marysville library offers tablets for checkout preloaded with preschool-appropriate games. Yet the Campaign for a Commercial Free-Childhood (CCFC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission stating that there is no rigorous research to support Fisher-Price’s claim that their “Laugh & Learn,” apps support language development and conceptual learning in babies.

What we do know is that playing with your young child is the most effective way to develop their language. Providing your child with lots of different toys and textures to explore, and having a loving adult play with them, talk with them, and narrate what they are doing, is the proven way to develop your baby’s brain.

What are some easy toys?
  • Boxes. Big boxes are great to climb in and peek out of. Empty food boxes are great for stacking and knocking over. Blocks and stray pieces of wood are good, too.
  • Shakers. An empty sealable box - like an oatmeal bin or two lids taped together with electrical tape - with stuff in it makes interesting sounds.
  • Sticks. Bang on the boxes, bang on the ground, bang on pots, roll them around.
  • Playdough. Anything squishy is fascinating. Commercially available, it is also very easy to make.
  • Chalk. Make marks on the sidewalk, make marks on paper.
  • Sand and dirt. Different textures invite toddlers to explore what they can do and build. In fact, many things from outside - such as leaves and grass - are multi-sensory sources of great vocabulary and exploration.
  • Shredded paper. Toddlers will treat this like sand, but is cleaner and easier to pick up.
  • Bubble wrap, foam, textured bath mats, quilts, scarves and pot holders, black-and-white patterned bath towels or shiny paper. This is great for crawlers as they explore different textures and sights.

Will an app immediately turn your baby’s brain to mush? Of course it won’t. But neither will playing with your smart phone immediately make your baby smarter or give her a leg up in the world. An app is but a tool in a parent’s arsenal  in dealing with life with their child, and the best way to give a child a leg up in life is get down and play.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Hot Summer Reads - 2013

The world of the end by Ofir Touché Gafla. As an epilogist, Ben Mendelssohn appreciates an unexpected ending. But when that denouement is the untimely demise of his beloved wife, Ben is incapable of coping. He is willing to do anything, even enter the unknown beyond, if it means a chance to be with her again. One bullet to the brain later, Ben is in the Other World, where he discovers a vast  realm of sprawling cities. But Ben cannot find Marian. He searches for her, little knowing that his search is entangled in events that continue to unfold in the world of the living.


Lexicon by Max Barry. At a school somewhere in Virginia, students are taught to coerce others. The very best become secretive "poets". Emily is living on the streets when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love. Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named is brutally ambushed by two strangers. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out he is the key to a secret deadly war between poets. In order to survive, he must journey to the town of Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why the town was destroyed. As the two narratives converge, the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which will leave all language meaningless.


No one could have guessed the weather by Anne-Marie Casey. After the financial crash, Lucy and her family are forced out of their posh London lives and move to Manhattan, where they make do on a reduced salary. Soon she connects with Julia Kirkland, a TV writer; Christy, the trophy wife of an older, wealthy man; and Robyn, whose low self-esteem manifests as aggression. In dealing with their individual challenges, these women become more connected than they’d imagined. Each chapter feels like a well-composed short story. Clever and witty: the best kind of summer book.


Ladies' night by Mary Kay Andrews. Grace Stanton's life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating. Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even her blog. She starts attending court-mandated weekly 'divorce recovery' therapy sessions with three other women and one man. When their 'divorce coach' starts to act suspiciously, they decide to have their own Wednesday 'Ladies' Night' sessions.

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. When Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at the airport, she literally doesn’t recognize him. The once slim New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened? Imposing himself on Pandora’s world, Edison breaks her husband Fletcher’s handcrafted furniture, makes overkill breakfasts, and entices her stepson to drop out of high school. Finally, Fletcher delivers his wife an ultimatum: It’s him or me. Putting her marriage on the line, Pandora chooses her brother. Just how much will we sacrifice to rescue single members of our families, and is it ever possible to save loved ones from themselves?


The last summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly. Riddle James Camperdown is the 12-year-old daughter of the idealistic Camp and his manicured wife, Greer. Riddle's father is running for office in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, and between Camp's desire to toughen her up and Greer's demand for glamour, Riddle has her hands full juggling her eccentric parents. When she accidentally witnesses a crime close to home, her confusion and fear keep her silent. As an old love triangle, bitter war wounds, and the struggle for status spiral out of control, Riddle can only watch, hoping for the courage to reveal the truth.


A Hundred Summers
by Beatriz Williams. Returning to an idyllic Rhode Island oceanfront community for the summer of 1938, New York socialite Lily Dane is devastated by the appearance of her newly married ex-fiancé and her former best friend


The broken places by Ace Atkins. A year after becoming sheriff, Quinn Colson is faced with the release of an infamous murderer from prison. Jamey Dixon comes back to Jericho preaching redemption, and some believe him; but for the victim's family, the only thought is revenge. The gang Jamey left behind in prison thinks he’s gone back to grab the money so they break out to come after him, and a tornado descends, leaving the rule of law hanging by a thread.


One last thing before I go by Jonathan Tropper. Silver's ex-wife Denise is about to marry a terrific guy, and his Princeton-bound daughter Casey announces that she's pregnant. When he learns that his heart requires emergency, lifesaving surgery, Silver makes the radical decision to refuse the operation, choosing instead to use what little time he has left to repair his relationship with Casey, become a better man, and live in the moment; even if that moment isn't destined to last very long.


Bad monkey by Carl Hiaasen. Andrew Yancy, late of the Miami Police, has a human arm in his freezer. Yancy thinks the boating-accident/shark-luncheon explanation is full of holes, and if he can prove murder, his commander might relieve him of Health Inspector duties, aka Roach Patrol. But first Yancy will negotiate an ever-surprising course of events with a crew of equally ever-surprising characters, including: the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; an avariciously idiotic real estate developer; a voodoo witch whose lovers are blinded-unto-death by her particularly peculiar charms; Yancy's new love, a kinky medical examiner; and the eponymous Bad Monkey.


The son by Philipp Meyer. Spring of 1849, 13-year-old Eli McCullough is captured by the Comanches and quickly adapts to the life. When he returns, Elis ruthlessness and steely pragmatism transform subsequent generations of McCulloughs. Love, honor, even children are sacrificed in the name of ambition as the family becomes one of the richest powers in Texas. Yet, like all empires, the McCulloughs must eventually face the consequences of their choices.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

10 Books to Read While You’re Waiting for ‘The Great Gatsby’ to Come Out

About a month from now, Baz Luhrmann’s much-anticipated film adaptation of The Great Gatsby will hit theaters, and try as we might to maintain a healthy amount of “they’re going to ruin it” skepticism; we have to admit that we’re pretty excited. So excited that we’ve already re-read the book, and now we’re casting about for similarly jazzy, indulgent, socially critical reads to hold us over until we can watch it unfold as a spectacle in theaters.

Appointment in Samarra, John O’Hara

Fran Lebowitz famously called O’Hara “the real F. Scott Fitzgerald,” and whether or not that scandalizes you, you should try his first novel of small town politics and the dark side of polite society — all wealth and jealousy and downward spirals spurred on by alcohol. Sound familiar?

Rules of Civility, Amor Towles

Towles’s recent bestselling novel follows enterprising, wise-cracking secretary Katey Kontent from a Greenwich Village jazz bar to the top of New York Society — and all the trappings, both glittery and grungy, that come along with it.


An object of beauty, Steve Martin

Lacey Yeager is young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the NYC art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby's and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Both this and The Great Gatsby feature the deception of a social climber amid wealthy New Yorkers.

The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hey, when you’re on a Fitzgerald kick, you’re on a Fitzgerald kick, and sometimes nothing else will do. Like his other novels, The Beautiful and Damned is steeped in hard liquor, marital discord, and vaguely existential greed. Read it with cocktail in hand and intone along, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.”

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

Woolf, it should be noted, does parties much differently than Fitzgerald. But if it’s party tricks you like, things don’t get much more exciting than an affair with a defenestration.

Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde

Though Lady Windermere’s Fan is set a few decades before Gatsby, you can always count on Wilde for some biting social satire. And then there’s the most notorious line of the play, which sums up the themes of both Wilde’s and Fitzgerald’s work pretty well: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

If you’re looking for jazz age gossip, go no further than the memoir-of-sorts by Fitzgerald’s very best frenemy, Ernest Hemingway, whose biting sketches of absolutely everybody will entertain and inform.

Jazz, Toni Morrison

If it’s the general mania of the ’20s you love and not West Egg in particular, try Morrison’s musical historical novel of Harlem during the decade, equal parts glamor and chaos, shine and sweat. The prose even reflects the musical styles of the time, with shifting narrators and a sort of call and response throughout. It’ll rattle your bones.

The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

Well, we couldn’t leave off our favorite novel of the perils of social climbing, and perhaps our favorite New York novel of all time, could we? If only Lily Bart could have met Jay Gatsby. Now that would be a good book.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Free fun websites – Who’s playing who?

Every day your child has lots of fun playing games on free websites. But did you know that there is a hidden cost? Studies have shown that up to 87% of these sites include some form of advertising. Our kids are being bombarded with advertising!
Some of it is obvious to us as adults, such as banner ads or billboard ads. But some of it is sneaky, because it is in the form of “advergames”. Like the name suggests, an advergame is a hybrid of two different types of media: kids recognize and like the game parts, but most can’t also recognize the advertising part. They may not be hawking the latest sugar cereal or toys directly, but they act like movie trailers sending kids to the sponsoring television shows and channels. Do we really want our kids to be mindless slaves to all this advertising? How much whining will we as parents have to listen to when we go to the store? How can you teach your child to recognize and resist the marketing? Should we keep them off of the Internet and TV altogether?

Rather than cocooning them completely until they're 18, I suggest you talk with your children to teach them the life skills they'll need to handle all of the advertising they're exposed to. Here are some basic suggestions that you can talk about with your children, a little every day:

1)      Ask your child some simple questions, such as, “Why might this site provide free games when others require payment?”

2)      Point out the various places that websites put advertising, such as banner ads at the top and smaller ads on the sides.

3)      If your child is a struggling reader, help them identify ad breaks in a text. If the word “advertisement” is perpendicular, they may not be able to read it easily.

4)      Point out how games commonly include distinctive logos that are designed to be easily remembered. Ask how the advertisers make the logos to be appealing to kids their age.

5)      Play a game: “Guess what they’re selling”.

6)      When someone offers something for free, such as free wallpaper, ask who is getting what for free. They may be getting something for free, but is the company getting to use your computer for free as advertising space?

Being able to question what they read online -advertising and news - is a skill that your children can take with them throughout their lives. Children under the age of 8 may not have the brain structure to recognize the difference between ads and news or games, but as they grow older we as parents, librarians and teachers can all teach these skills. Hopefully they will learn some of this at school from their school library media specialist, and hearing it at home is a useful reinforcement to both them and you as a parent. This way your kids can play online games, but now they'll have the tools to handle those sneaky "advergames", and you have the tools to handle the whining demands in the store, too.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best Books of 2012

I know, I know, everybody comes out with these "best of" lists at the end of the year. But hopefully given the variety you can find your next best book. The books I have on this list are either books that I read and thoroughly enjoyed this year, or have been recommended in multiple places, such as "Library Journal". It has teen books, kid books, adult fiction and nonfiction. You should be able to find books on this list that fit your taste and mood, so go forth and read!

 Code name Verity  by Elizabeth Wein  In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can. Also highly recommended by Nancy Pearl on NPR.

The fault in our stars by John Green Sixteen-year-old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient, has accepted her terminal diagnosis until a chance meeting with a cute boy in recovery at cancer support group forces her to reexamine her perspective on love, loss, and life.

The false prince by Jennifer Nielsen In the country of Carthya, a devious nobleman engages four orphans in a brutal competition to the death to be selected to impersonate the king's long-missing son in an effort to avoid a civil war.

Wonder by RJ Palacio Auggie Pullman was born with a facial deformity so severe that it prevented him from going to a mainstream school - until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and is nervous about being the new kid at school. The thing is, Auggie's just an ordinary kid, but with an extraordinary face. Can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Don’t ever get old by Daniel Friedman Death-camp survivor Buck is 87, abrasive, and has trouble remembering. But his cop's watchfulness is intact, and he keeps his .375 Magnum close by. When he learns that the sadistic guard who brutalized him is likely still alive and the possessor of much stolen Nazi gold, Buck and his chatterbox grandson go on a quest. But why are the bodies piling up?

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain Why is brash all-roundedness emphasized in college when singular focus serves so well in many jobs and relationships? Relating personal experience and backing it up with case studies, Cain explains how the quietly confident can take over the world – or at least become more content.

Beautiful ruins by Jess Walter In 1962 on a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper looks out over the incandescent waters and spies a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. And today, half a world away, an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot - searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, this is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, clinging to their improbable dreams.

Curious behavior: Yawning, laughing, hiccupping, and beyond by Robert Provine Psychologist and neuroscientist Provine looks at 13 curiosities of how humans function, from laughing and yawning to being ticklish and prone to emotional tears. Random oddities? No, each is an evolutionary inheritance. With wit, a light touch, and scientific expertise accessibly delivered, Provine gives us the fascinating backstory on each.

Let’s pretend this never happened by Jenny Lawson A memoir about growing up poor in rural Texas and learning to live with mental illness doesn’t sound like a laugh-out-loud read, but Lawson, known online as The Bloggess, has a way with gallows humor and a knack for providing non-treacly support to anyone struggling with loneliness, anxiety, chronic pain, or depression. Plus, after her stories about life with a taxidermist father, readers will never look at a dead squirrel in the same way.

The snow child by Eowyn Ivey In this evocative retelling of a Russian folktale set in 1920 Alaska, a childless couple distract themselves their first winter by building a snow girl. The snow girl and the scarf are gone the next morning, but Jack spies a real child in the woods. Is she indeed a "snow fairy," magicked out of the cold? Or is she a wild child who knows better than anyone how to survive in the rugged north?

Billy Lynn’s long halftime walk by Ben Fountain A member of Bravo squad, whose fiercely fought battle in Iraq was caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew, Billy Lynn is on a victory tour of sorts with the survivors. In a compacted but unrushed time frame, Fountain effectively captures both the transformative experiences of one young man and the horrific impact of war. As he ponders life choices, Billy makes a surprising decision.

NW by Zadie Smith Relating the story of four people in North West London, Smith articulates important issues of race and class, but what matters most is her distinctive narrative voice. In numbered, run-on chapters that occasionally turn to aphorism, memo and even poetry, Smith shows us how to write for the 21st century, when the online environment has changed our way of thinking, that makes other books sound ordinary.

The song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Patroclus is an awkward, exiled young prince; golden Achilles is the much-admired son of a sea goddess. In telling the story of their intense friendship and love, debut novelist Miller brings Homer’s ancient Greece to glorious life and offers a masterly vision of the valor, drama, and tragedy of the Trojan War. This won the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hot Reads for Cold Nights

Using the Marysville Facebook page fans for one of my sources, here are some great reads to keep you warm at night, either in a sexy sense, or in the sense of pulling you so into the scene that you're surprised you're not sweating in the heat:

Several people suggested “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. This was far and away the most suggested book, and it’s a series, too! “In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she finds herself in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life ...and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.”

“Like water for chocolate” by Laura Esquivel is another great suggestion seconded by others: “A passionately in love young couple is blocked from marrying by the demands of the young woman's cold and selfish mother. To be near his love, the young man marries her sister, and she expresses her passion for him through her cooking – with unintended passionate results.” With passionate love, revolution, and great cooking, this will keep you warm at night!

Another patron suggested Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Dark Hunter” series. Start with “Fantasy Lover” and go from there. What is the Dark-Hunter credo? “We are Darkness. We are Shadow. We, alone, stand between mankind and those who would see mankind destroyed. And we are eternal.”  They are tough and tormented, just waiting for the right woman to open their jaded hearts.

Laurell K Hamilton is another author that will get you to breathe harder and fan your face. My favorite is her Meredith Gentry series, starting with “A kiss of shadows”.  The elven Princess Meredith Gentry has fled her cruel aunt, Queen Andais, for Los Angeles. Using her magic to pass for human, she begins a life as a private eye specializing in supernatural crime, but Doyle, the Queen's assassin, has been sent to bring her back. Deadly faery politics, a resourceful heroine, and great sex scenes, you will lap this up.

Sandra Brown writes great romantic thrillers set in the heat of the South. You’ll stay warm in both senses! “Fat Tuesday” is one example where sparks fly and sweat drips as Burke Basile, a cop with nothing left to lose focuses on his nemesis, a flamboyant attorney who helps killers evade justice. His shocking revenge centers on kidnapping Remy, the lawyer's trophy wife. But Burke hasn't planned on the electric attraction he'll feel for this desperate woman, who rose from the slums of New Orleans to marry a man she can never love. Nor can he predict the fierce duel that will explode as the clock ticks toward midnight on Fat Tuesday, when all masks will be stripped away--and Burke must confront his own terrifying secret. Start here, but read them all!

JD Robb is the pseudonym Nora Roberts uses to write the popular “In death” series. Intrigue, passion and suspense fill the series, but this Christmas season go for “Midnight in death” to really get you in the mood as Lieutenant Eve Dallas makes the Christmas list of a killer out for revenge.

Colin Cotterill’s Dr Siri Paiboun series is set in the communist Laos of the 1970’s. Not hot in a sexy sense, the heat and humidity of Laos is so vivid you will be surprised at the cold outside your window. In “The coroner’s lunch”, elderly Dr Siri has been appointed national coroner since he is the only forensic doctor left in the entire country. He is expected to come up with the answers the party wants. But at his age, he reasons, what can they do to him? And he knows he cannot fail the dead who come into his care without risk of incurring their boundless displeasure. Eternity could be a long time to have the spirits mad at you.

If sitting in the bright warm sun in Italy is the dream that keeps you going in these dark days of the year, you will enjoy Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan sun”. Buying a villa in the spectacular Italian countryside is a wonderful fantasy -- even if it needs immediate loving care. This is an enchanting true account of her love affair with Tuscany: of scouring the neighborhood for the perfect panettone and the perfect plumber; of mornings spent cultivating her garden, and afternoons spent enjoying its fruits in leisurely lunches on the sun drenched terrace; of jaunts through the hill towns in search of renowned wines; and the renewal not only of a house, but also of the spirit.

Pre-Civil War New Orleans was a hotbed (in both senses) of cosmopolitan, multi-racial intrigue. Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series follows a free black man - educated as a surgeon and as a musician - as he navigates both the mysteries he finds in steamy New Orleans and pushes the limits to his freedom as a colored man and ex-slave. Start with “A free man of color” and be transported to the center of the cosmopolitan South in an age when both its glories and the forces which would tear it apart are equally in evidence.

Thinking about heat, what is it like for a woman wearing a black hijab in hot Saudi Arabia? Fast-paced and utterly transporting, “Finding Nouf” by Zoe Ferraris is a riveting mystery and an unprecedented window into the lives of those in Saudi Arabia. When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi - a pious desert guide - to lead the search party. He quickly realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a female lab worker at the coroner's office who is bold enough to bare her face and to work in public. Their partnership challenges Nayir and forces him to reconcile his desire for female companionship within the parameters imposed by his beliefs. Read other books by this author too!

What are your favorite "hot" reads?


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Don't Level Your Child's Reading!

“My child is reading level ___. What do you recommend?” This is a question I get as a Children’s Librarian that I dislike, but even worse is: “My teacher won’t let me read that because it’s below my reading level.” A teacher is telling a child not to read a book!

Why do I dislike these questions? It concentrates on the mechanics of reading, but not the interest in reading. It is merely an automated way for schools to measure reading, not a good way to find books suitable for a particular child. Book leveling is not about the book, or the story, or child appropriateness, or a child’s interest. Just to give you an example, some of the smuttiest books out there are written at a fourth grade level. Would I put such a book in a child’s hand who reads at that level? No way! Or if a teen is struggling with reading, his/her reading level may be at the second grade level, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be interested in stories about second graders.

The Lexile company puts out levels, for example, and are labeled for a 75% comprehension rate.  That means that kids who supposedly read at a particular level don’t understand a quarter of what they’re reading! If I were reading a book that hard I’d get frustrated and bored. Kids are the same way. Do we really want to teach kids that reading is hard and boring? If you think something is hard and boring, do you want to do it in your free time? I didn’t think so.

My working philosophy (backed up by research) is that kids should read books they find interesting. If they find books and reading interesting, they’ll do more of it. The more they read, the better they’ll get. The better they get at reading, the better they’ll do on tests at school. Just like in sports, the more they do it, the better they’ll get. The more fun they have doing it, the more they’ll want to practice, whether it be throwing a baseball or reading a book.

My job is to find a book that is just right for your child. Yes, being able to read the words on the page is part of the equation. But the most important part is putting a book in your child’s hands that they’ll be excited to read. Come visit us at the library Information Desk, and let’s find a “Just Right” book for your child.

So what do I love to hear instead? “I just finished this book. What should I read next?”