Today I Read…Every Day is Malala Day

Everday is Malala DayToday I read Every Day is Malala Day by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International. It won the 2015 Golden Oak award from the OLA Forest of Reading.

Malala Yousafzi’s story is well-known, as the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to go to school. She is now the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and she has become a symbol of the fight for the rights of girls and women and all children to get an education. Every Day is Malala Day is an open letter to Malala from girls around the world, expressing their admiration and their thanks for her continuing advocacy of education and peace. With beautiful photographs of girls from around the world illustrating their message, this book is a wonderful introduction for Western students of the challenges some children face just for trying to go to school.

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Disclaimer first: I was on the selection committee for the 2015 Golden Oak award, and I did recommend it for the list of finalists, which was then read and voted upon by the as a public. The Golden Oak award is for adults who are beginning to learn how to read English, so while I do refer to Every Day is Malala Day as a children’s book in this review, it is suitable for and enjoyed by adults as well.

This is a terrific story and a great introduction for children to some of the barriers that women face in other countries. As a read-aloud, it is more suited to older children. I would probably recommend at least ages 8+, based on the references to Malala being shot and violence against women. However, it’s important to point out that this is something that is actually happening to children, and sometimes there’s a very fine line between protecting children and being honest with them. When I was coaching a children’s literature trivia team, I had to try explain the Holocaust and Nazi propaganda to grade 3s. Not easy, but they asked.

The story itself is based on a short video produced by the young people who took over the UN on the first Malala Day, July 12, 2013. The book also includes a brief description of what happened to Malala and part of Malala’s speech to the UN from that day, advocating for education for all children as a way to help lift them out of poverty and ignorance and warfare. While she isn’t really in the daily news right now, Malala is an important figure for our time and I am certain that we will hear from her again. This book is an excellent introduction to her remarkable work.

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“So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are out most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” -Malala Yousafzai, July 12, 2013

 

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Festival of Trees 2014 review

Wednesday May 14th and Thursday May 15th were the days of the 2014 Toronto Festival of Trees, the two day awards ceremony for the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program, in which children vote for their favourite Canadian books. I attended the 2013 Festival of Trees as a volunteer, and I had such an amazing time and I was so impressed by the program that when the call for volunteer committee members went out last fall, I answered (possibly too loudly, since I ended up on three different committees!). For the 2013-2014 year I was on the Silver Birch Express Steering Committee, which means that I contacted some of the nominated authors and illustrators to inform of them of their nomination (which was great because they were all so pleased and excited to be nominated), and then acted as a liaison, asking about which of the festivals they would like to attend, if they would like to attend the OLA Super Conference last January and the Forest of Reading breakfast, and communicated the details about attending the Toronto Festival.

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The festival events were fairly similar to last year–there were several games where you could win books or candy, Jenga blocks, a juggler on stilts, Isabella Hoops with her hula hoops, the graffiti trees where you could write notes about your favourite book or author, the story wall where you could write the next sentence in the story, the tattoo station, the book trade tent, author and illustrators doing signings and workshops, the White Hots tent where you could buy any of the nominated books, and of course the award ceremonies themselves. Lots to do!

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Wednesday was the day for the Blue Spruce, Red Maple, and White Pine awards, so I was a general volunteer. I spent the day mainly bouncing around the games and the graffiti trees, wherever I was needed. The game where you throw a frisbee around a piece of candy on a table? Not that easy. Though there was a frisbee team at the end of the day who really, really tried to do it.

After the Festival was a reception for the authors, illustrators, committee members, volunteers, and various publishers and representatives of local book festivals. I talked to some very interesting and friendly people, and I was able to get Susin Neilsen to sign my copy of The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen.

Thursday was the day for the Silver Birch Express award, as well as Silver Birch Fiction, Silver Birch Non Fiction, Le Prix Tamarac, Le Prix Tamarac Express, and Le Prix Peuplier awards. In the morning I assisted Philippa Dowding and Jennifer Lanthier with their workshop. Philippa spoke about her book The Gargoyle at the Gates, and Jennifer spoke about hers, The Stamp Collector. Philippa talked about the origins of gargoyles, and what inspired her to write about them, and then performed her song the Gargoyle Shuffle. Jennifer read The Stamp Collector, and then together they did a Q&A. There was a big turnout and the kids seemed really interested.

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After that we had to get ready for the Silver Birch Express award, since it was the last one of the Festival. Each of the nominated authors had a pair of students acting as their sign carriers and presenters on stage, and the kids wrote their own speeches to introduce each author, which they had to say in front of a couple thousand of their fellow students. All of the kids who volunteered to do this did an amazing job, and it was obvious how much effort they each put into introducing their favourite authors.

Toronto-20140515-00744The audience was screaming like it was rock stars on stage, they were so excited, but only one book could win, and it was The Secret of the Village Fool, written by Rebecca Upjohn and illustrated by Renne Benoit. I was actually Rebecca and Renne’s liaison for the Silver Birch Express, and I was thrilled when they won–they’re both lovely and talented people, although all of the nominated authors are. (For the record, that’s Renne on the left and Rebecca on the right in both pictures.)

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It was a terrific if exhausting two days (8,000 kids attended the Toronto Festival over the two days), and it’s so wonderful to see how excited the kids were to meet their favourite authors and ask them questions and tell them what they thought about their books. I wish my school had participated back when I was in elementary school, but it would have just been getting started, since this year was the 20th anniversary of the program. I’m so pleased to have been a part of it this year, and I’m looking forward to next year since I’m on two of the selection committees for 2014-15 (though I’m not saying which ones!). Let’s see who wins next year’s award!

For the record, the 2014 Forest of Reading winners are:

Blue Spruce: Oddrey by Dave Whamond

Silver Birch Express: The Secret of the Village Fool by Rebecca Upjohn and illustrated by Renne Benoit

Silver Birch Fiction: Record Breaker by Robin Stevenson

Silver Birch Non FictionOne Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way by Marcha Forchuk Skrypuch

Red Maple Fiction: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Neilsen

White Pine Fiction: Live to Tell by Lisa Harrington

White Pine Non Fiction: The Secret of the Blue Trunk by Lise Dion and translated by Liedewij Hawke

Le Prix Tamarac: Une Fille a l’ecole des gars by Maryse Peyskens

Le Prix Tamarac Express: Attention, j’arrive! (BiBop) by Raymond Parent

Le Prix Peuplier: Une mouche, un chat et une patate by Celine Malepart

 

Today I Read…The Stamp Collector

The Stamp Collector CoverToday I read The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier and illustrated by Francois Thisdale. The book is currently nominated for the OLA Forest of Reading Silver Birch Express award.

Once there were two boys, a city boy and a country boy, and they grew up to be very different. The country boy was a writer, but his stories made the village leaders angry and they put him in prison to make him stop writing. The city boy was a guard in the prison, and he wasn’t allowed to give the country boy the letters that people sent him. But they were united by the beautiful stamps on the letters, which reminded the writer that he still had friends. Even when people aren’t allowed to be friends, there are always things to bring them together.

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I met Jennifer Lanthier at the Forest of Reading breakfast at the OLA Super Conference last January. I picked up her book because it was a part of a library display where I’m volunteering, and it’s a lovely and evocative story. The writer and the guard have very specific roles, and the guard is afraid of getting in trouble like the writer, but he takes pity on someone who is alone and didn’t do anything bad to deserve being put in prison. The guard collects stamps because they are beautiful. He takes the stamps from the letters to the writer because they are lovely, but he sees that the writer needs to know that he is not alone and forgotten. The bright stamps from all of the different lands remind him that there are people outside who care about him and about his stories. He is not forgotten. The guard gives him not just the stamps, but the gift of remembrance. The writer finds his hope, and the guard finds his courage.

Francois Thisdale’s illustrations are lovely and dreamlike, and suit the quasi-fairy tale ambience perfectly. The deep colours used, greens and blues and browns and grays, emphasize that this is a sad story, but the white and the gold and the bright stamps remind you that there are good spots even in the sadness. It’s dark, but it’s beautiful.

Lanthier’s end note says that the story is not based on any two particular people, but that many writers have been jailed in different countries for angering the authorities. She also talks about PEN International, an organization that advocates for imprisoned writers, and that a portion of the proceeds of the book goes to PEN Canada.

Stamps are such an everyday thing. You can never find one when you need to mail a letter, and you grumble about them when Canada Post has yet again raised the price. But stamps aren’t just pieces of paper. Stamps guide messages across the entire world. Stamps connect people from far away and from the other side of the bars.

Today I Read…The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. LarsenToday I read The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen, which won the Canadian Council for the Arts Governor General’s Award, the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award, and is currently nominated for a Forest of Reading Red Maple Award.

Thursday, April 10

Cecil says I have to write in this thing. It’s supposed to help me ‘process’ what happened with Jesse. I think he’s nuts, but Dad says I have to do what he says. Not that Dad’s talking to anyone, he spends all of his time working and ordering pizza. Except when we’re watching Saturday Night Smash-Up, then it’s almost like before, except that Mom and Jesse aren’t here. Jesse never will be here again–not after IT.

I don’t want anyone at school to find out about IT. That’s why we had to move, and why I can’t talk to my best friend Jodie anymore, and why Mom is in Ontario while Dad and I are back here in British Columbia.

My new school’s not too bad. I made a new friend, Farley. He’s kind of a total nerd–he made me join this trivia team called Reach for the Top. I guess it’s fun, even though it’s for nerds, and there’s this girl, Alberta. She’s not a nerd, she’s actually kinda cool, but she’s really mean. But she and Farley would never talk to me again if they knew about IT. Heck, I wouldn’t talk to me again if I weren’t me and I knew about IT. I mean…what could I say?

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This is a deeply moving novel about the aftermath of a tragedy, and what happens to the people left behind. (Spoilers!) Henry’s big brother Jesse was bullied for years, verbally and physically, in person and online, and he grew so depressed and angry that he eventually took his father’s gun to school and shot his biggest tormentor and then himself. The book starts about a year later, when Henry has just started at a new school and is desperate to keep what happened a secret. His father is depressed and his mother is on the other side of a country, having committed herself to an institution to deal with what her son did. Henry is angry at himself and at Jesse, since he witnessed the act of bullying that broke Jesse but didn’t tell because his brother begged him not to.

School shootings have been a hot-button topic for over a decade now, and bullying just seems to be getting worse and worse. Or maybe it’s just getting more media attention as a serious issue, instead of being dismissed as ‘life lessons’ and ‘kids being kids’. Laws keep being proposed to sop bullying and to punish the bullies, there are all kinds of anti-bullying days and awareness campaigns and zero tolerance policies and empathy training courses and school assemblies on getting along, but at least from the media perspective it’s not working. Kids keep killing themselves, and each other.

Henry is very articulate in his fervent effort to not talk about IT, as he dubs it, and what is most articulated is his confusion over what he feels, especially when he uses Robot Voice to try not to feel anything. He hates what Jesse did, he loves his big brother, he misses him, he’s ashamed that his brother killed someone, he’s angry at the neighbours and strangers and former friends who condemned their family for what Jesse did but he still feels guilty for being a member of Jesse’s family, he regrets that he didn’t tell someone how bad things were for Jesse even though Jesse begged him not to tell…Henry wants everything to be just like it was before but he knows that it never will be. It can’t. What he doesn’t know is how to get over it, to live his life and draw his family back together into a new formation. One with three people together and a dear  memory instead of three people separated and a big gaping hole where the fourth used to be. The thing about life it that it keeps on happening, even when you think it shouldn’t, when it hasn’t the right to be like before when it’s not.

The journal format works well for this novel–Henry tends to be a little obsessed with image, both due to being thirteen and because of his family’s image in their hometown after Jesse died. The journal format allows him to be more honest about his journey than he would be if he was talking to another person. This is a great book for anyone who wants a look at the invisible victims of bullying–the family and friends who have to deal with the fallout. Bullying doesn’t just affect the one being bullied–it affects everyone.

I really enjoyed this book–well, I say enjoyed. Maybe ‘was moved by’ is a better term. It was my prize from the Battle of the Books at the OLA Super Conference, and I’m glad I picked it. I’ll have to see if Susin Nielsen is attending the Festival of Trees in May, and if I can get her to sign it. Though for anyone else attending, I’ll see you there–I had a wonderful time last year and this year I’m on the committee. I’m really looking forwards to it, and to finding out who the winners are!

OLA Super Conference 2014 review

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Since I had such a great time at the OLA Super Conference 2013 last year, I really wanted to attend the 2014 conference this year. It’s a great opportunity to see old classmates and people I’ve worked with, learn about new trends in librarianship, see what the publishers are releasing, and of course network since I’m still job hunting. (Is there anything more soul-destroying than job hunting? Because it terrifies me that there might be.) The theme this year was A Universe of Possibilities, based around science fiction and science and technology, with the final speaker at Saturday’s closing luncheon being Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station who captured Canada’s attention last year with his tweets and pictures from space and his generous interaction with students around the world. I actually proposed the theme An Out of This World Library Experience at last year’s conference to the 2013 OLA president, so I suppose they liked it?

Tuesday

Tuesday was my assigned volunteer shift, which I spent stuffing the bags given to the attendees. Fairly peaceful, other than the cold from hell that I’ve been suffering from for the past two weeks. 😦 (Don’t worry, I promise I sanitized my hands before touching the bags.) The pile of bags and programs and flyers from sponsors seemed never ending, but it needed to be done.

Wednesday

I skipped the pre-conference workshops since they were an additional fee, though they did look interesting. My conference began Wednesday night with the networking lecture, It’s a Small World After All: An Introduction to Library Culture, where Amanda French (Mississauga Public Library), Tanis Fink (Seneca College), Lita Barrie (Hamilton Public Library), Mindy Thura (University of Toronto), Jennifer Robinson (Huron University College), and John Dupuis (York University) gave short talks on subjects like working in a library environment, what to do and not to do in library school, getting involved with professional associations, workplace conflict, and vendor relations. I enjoyed this one, though I think some of it may have been more relevant if I had heard it while I was still attending library school. Networking is a bit of a weakness for me, so I felt it was important to go to the networking lecture and the opening party later this night.

The opening plenary speaker was Nina Simon from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, with a lecture titled How to Talk to Strangers. She was lively, fascinating, and inspirational. Some of the exhibits that her museum has done in the last couple of years are so simple, but engage the imagination and community interest so well. The idea of transforming a museum from an elitist curator of dusty displays that few people care about and fewer touch or interact with into a community center that invites people to create and share is absolutely where public libraries need to go, and have been trying to move in that direction for the last several years. I really liked the Pocket Museum idea, and the Advice Booth, and the Memory Jars, and the Glow Festival, and their work on Evergreen Cemetery. Though seeing all her pictures, I had a vision of someone going to Staples and buying a flatbed of Post-Its, since so many of the projects involve them. Still, it’s simple, cheap, and lets people participate, so I’m still calling it brilliant.

After Nina Simon’s talk was the welcome party. I spoke to a few people, but I’m not really a party with strangers kind of girl, and the terrible cough really didn’t help (I hate being sick). Still, it was a good start to the conference.

Thursday

Thursday I had to be at the MTCC ridiculously early for the Forest of Reading breakfast (of course, too early to me is defined as before noon, but this was really very early considering I had an hour’s commute). I learned about the Forest of Reading at last year’s conference and then I participated in the Festival of Trees last May, and it’s really a great program, so when the call went out for volunteers last fall I signed up (possibly for too much). I’m on the Silver Birch Express steering committee for the 2013/14 awards, and on two different selection committees for the 2014/15 awards (not telling which ones of those, since we’re sworn to secrecy). The breakfast was for the winning authors and illustrators of the 2012/13 program, the nominated authors and illustrators from the 2013/14 program, and the selection and steering committee members for the 2013/14 and 2014/15 programs. The food was a pretty standard buffet (hooray for bacon! and tea, caffeine is good), but it was nice to put some faces to the names I’ve been emailing about the Forest.

OLASC2014, me & Rebecca UpjohnI’m in the middle, and Rebecca Upjohn, author of the SIlver Birch Express nominated book The Secret of the Village Fool, is on the right. (I didn’t get the name of the lady on the left, but it was her camera and she was nice enough to forward the picture along to Rebecca.) EDIT: Per Marsha Skrypuch, the lovely lady on the left is Jennifer Lanthier, author of The Stamp Collector, also nominated for the Silver Birch Express.

After the breakfast I attended the Forest of Reading Winners Showcase, where last year’s winners gave short talks about their books, what inspired them to write, and the process of being nominated and winning. For the record, the 2012/13 winners were:

Blue Spruce Kate and Pippin by Martin Springett

Silver Birch Fiction Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Silver Birch Express Margaret and the Moth Tree by Brit & Kari Trogen

Silver Birch NonFiction No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs by Rob Laidlaw

Red Maple Fiction The Vindico by Wesley King

Red Maple NonFiction Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death by Bill Swan

White Pine Fiction Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

They were all fantastic speakers, but I think I really want to track down a copy of The Vindico now, because it sounded right up my alley…

After that I attended The Experience of Reading, presented by some of my former professors from Western: Paulette Rothbauer, Lucia Cedeira Serantes, Lynne McKechnie, and Pam McKenzie. They shared some of their recent research and plans for future research. They all research reader’s advisory and different ways that people experience reading for pleasure and finding things to read. Paulette talked about the Reading Worlds of Older Adults, how seniors tend to be treated like a common age group just like teenagers, and not a terribly respected or well-researched age group. Lucia talked about Comics Reading and Readers, the stereotypes of who reads comics, why librarians recommend comics, and how people actually read comics. Lynne’s talk was on Spiderman is Not for Babies: The Boys and Reading Problem from the Perspectives of the Boys Themselves, about how there is a perception that boys don’t read because either they don’t like to or they aren’t encouraged to, but that they do read, just not things that are usually counted as ‘reading’ for pleasure. Boys as a group may not read fiction, but they read nonfiction, game manuals that contain narrative, and like information and popular culture books. Pam’s talk was about Re-reading Everyday Documents, about how grocery lists and calendars and to-do lists are a form of reading that isn’t often researched or considered since it is so common. She was right- when I think about what I’ve read I think about books and magazines and newspapers and fanfiction, I don’t think about the planner that I carry in my purse everyday or the to-do list sitting on the desk beside my computer, or the (very long) to-review list sitting beside that. But I wrote them all, and I review them constantly, to remind myself what I’ve done in the past and what I still need to accomplish in the future.

I spent my lunch hour on the floor of the trade show (on both days, actually). I ended up with a bag full of literature from various publishers, wholesalers, technology companies, Dewey Divas and Dudes lists, library furniture makers, and other companies that I need to go through in more depth one day. I also ended up with a pile of books to add to my to-read mountain:

  • The Secret of the Village Fool by Rebecca Upjohn and illustrated by Renne Benoit, who are nominated for the Silver Birch Express this year and for whom I am the liaison. Rebecca was doing a signing, so I got my new copy of it signed. This one was published by the Second Story Press and I got it at their booth. It’s a children’s book about a man who protected some Jewish families in Poland during the Nazi invasion.
  • Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World written and illustrated by Janet Wilson, also published by Second Story Press,  and also signed. It’s about child activists around the world and the problems facing children.
  • Two Women by Christene A. Browne, also Second Story Press and signed (they had a lot of signings while I was free). This is a fiction novel about a mother who tells her daughters stories about the new neighbours who share a soul.
  • Until Today by Pam Fluttert, Second Story Press and signed. This is a YA novel about a girl suffering sexual abuse from a family friend, and then the diary where she’s written everything down goes missing.
  • September 17 by Amanda West Lewis, Red Deer Press and signed. This is a novel based on true events, about a ship of British child refugees being attacked by a German U-boat during World War 2.
  • Real Mermaids Don’t Sell Seashells by Helene Boudreau, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and signed. This is the fourth books in the series, about a water-phobic mermaid, her friends and boyfriend, and a mysterious death aboard a cruise ship.
  • Viminy Crowe’s Comic Book, written  by Marthe Jocelyn and Richard Scrimger and with comics by Claudia Davila, published by Tundra Books and signed by the two authors. This one is an advanced reader copy, due to be released in May 2014. It’s about two kids who enter a bathroom and end up in a comic book world. The comics are a steampunk adventure, and it looks really good.
  • Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide, Second Edition by Laura J. Murray and Samuel E. Trosow. This is published by Between the Lines and signed by Professor Trosow, who is a member of the Law Faculty at Western, but lectures the MLIS students regularly on copyright issues since he is an acknowledged expert. I did attend one of his lectures while I was at Western, and it was fascinating, so I was glad I could get a copy of this book.
  • Indigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica, published by Tom Doherty Associates and signed. This is a fantasy novel about a woman discovering the magic that lurks beneath the house she just inherited, and the dangers it represents to herself and her best friend.
  • Dinosaur School: Big and Small by Joyce Jeffries, published by Gareth Stevens Publishing. This is a picture book where dinosaurs teach you about opposites. It was a door prize from CrossCan, who were a sponsor of the conference and had flyers in the conference bags.
  • Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know by Shari Graydon and illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux, published by Annick Press. This was a prize from a trivia game where you had to answer elementary-school level questions, from categories like science, animals, gardening, cooking, etc. I can’t remember what company runs this game, though I remember they did the same thing last year- was it the Saunders Book Company? Anyway, this is a children’s book about the history, techniques, and legality of advertising.
  • The ACB with Honora Lee, written by Kate de Goldi and with drawings by Gregory O’Brien, and published by Tundra Books. This is also an advanced reader’s copy, to be released April 2014. This is a children’s book about a girl named Perry who is making an alphabet of everyone and everything in Santa Lucia.
  • The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, by Susin Nielsen and published by Tundra Books. This book is nominated for this year’s Red Maple award, and I won it at the Battle of the Books (see Saturday for details). It’s about a boy’s struggle to rebuild his life after his brother shoots the boy bullying him and himself.
  • Burning from the Inside by Christine Walde, published by Dancing Cat Books, and signed. Christine was actually one of my classmates at Western, and she came from B.C. for the Super Conference. It was nice to see her again, and she brought copies of her latest books, so I asked her for one to review. It’s about a young graffiti artist forced to infiltrate a graffiti crew and report on them to the police.

I do not have a book problem, I have a lack of reading time problem…

In the afternoon I attended a talk on Graphic Novels: Today & Tomorrow by Douglas Davey (Halton Hills Public Library) and Cecilia Vespa (Burlington Public Library). This one was a lot of fun–they talked about digital comics and how the internet has changed traditional comics, platforms for libraries to offer digital comics, and recommended a lot of titles, both print and webcomics. I’m going to have to check some of these out.

Then in the evening I attended the Western University Alumni Reception at the Lone Star Texas Grill. The space was extremely crowded and it was hard for the wait staff to bring out the food and drinks, but I got fed eventually so it was all good (I mentioned I didn’t have lunch, right?). I found some classmates and we eventually managed to snag a free booth so we could sit and catch up.

Friday

Friday was another fairly early morning, since I had volunteered to be a convenor and my session was at 9:05 am. Convenors introduce speakers to the audience, count how many people attend, keep track of time so the speakers don’t have to, and before the conference communicate any special a/v requests the speakers have. The session I picked to convene was The Tween Scene: A Year of Programming for Ages 10-14, conducted by Tiffany Balducci and Brianne Wilkins-Bester from Oshawa Public LIbrary. I wanted to attend this one anyways, since I’ve been a member of the programming committee for Polaris/ Reversed Polarity/ Polar Chill for the last three years and for Reversed Polarity I ran all of the children’s programming, so it was a particular interest of mine. Tiffany and Brianne talked about the tween demographic and what Oshawa Public Library has been doing for the last few years, and they described twelve themed programs that they’ve run, with activities, crafts, games, and book connections. They had some amazing ideas that looked like a lot of fun, and based on their numbers the programs have been very popular at their library. They mentioned in their bios that they’ve written a book together called The VOYA Tween Scene: A Year of Programs for 10-14 Year Olds that’s due out later this year, and I think I’m going to keep an eye out for that one.

After that I had to run to my mock interview. The OLA sets up a career centre for mock interviews, resume critiquing, speed networking, job postings, and to meet employers–the services always in high demand, and you have to sign up months in advance. I was sent a fake job posting in advance of the conference, to which I had to create a cover letter and resume, and then you go through the interview and the interviewers give you feedback. I’ll admit, it wasn’t my best effort- I felt absolutely dreadful due to this bloody cold, and the fake job posting wasn’t something that I would be qualified for in real life, so some of the questions were very difficult for me to answer. Still, I think any experience is valuable, and I did get some good tips on how to improve my answers.

Then I went back to the trade show. It’s so big, that you really need to go through it a couple of times to see everything. One thing that I had wanted to get to was Evan Munday drawing goth portraits at the Canadian Manda Group booth. I’ve mentioned that I met him at the Festival of Trees last year when he was nominated for the Silver Birch award for The Dead Kid Detective Agency, which I purchased at the Word on the Street Festival and recently reviewed. However, I missed Evan at the Word on the Street Festival and I wanted to get him to sign my copy, so I hurried after my mock interview and fortunately he was still drawing. So I got my autograph. And a goth portrait, because they were really pretty cool.

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In the afternoon I went to Booktalking 3.0: Engaging & Inspiring Readers Online, which was a talk about book blogging given by Valerie Medzalabanleth and Melissa Tomecz from Cote Saint-Luc Public Library. I got some amazing ideas from them for this blog, and they use WordPress too so it was nice to hear their opinions and experiences of using it and how readers behave online. Expect some new things in the future…

After that I went to Embedded in the Community MPL Style, where Jennifer Dias-Stevenson, Ange Friesen, Agnieszka Gorgon, and Cheryl Marcus from Markham Public Library talked about the role of the community librarian and how they’ve been reaching out to different groups and forming partnerships to offer new services to the Markham community. They just created the roles in 2012, so they talked about the process of deciding what community librarians would do and how they divided responsibilities, and what they’ve learned. It was interesting, but I think everyone’s energy was flagging at this point.

Afterwards, I attended the volunteer networking party, where the volunteers gathered together to talk and play some getting-to-know-you games. Then it was time for the Party at the End of the Universe, which was a blast! The food was great (and very welcome, since I had skipped lunch again for the trade show). There was a Wii set up in the corner, a DeLorean that you could get your picture taken with, and an oxygen bar that was pretty cool.

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Guess I’m a Space Librarian. Or a possibly a Martian, not that that’s a surprise.

Saturday

I went straight to the career centre this morning, since I’d been on the wait list for job coaching even though I emailed them the first day it was possible (I mentioned that it’s a very popular service). Someone hadn’t shown up for their appointment, so I snagged it and got Elizabeth Strange, a Strategic Life Coach from Soulful Living, to look over my cover letter and resume, since I had an extra copy from the mock interview the day before handy. Again, she had some interesting ideas for me to change things. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had people go over my cover letter and resume in the last few years, and everyone has different opinions. Some I’ve found work for me, and some don’t really, but often it gives me good ideas for how I can change things for the next one, so it’s always valuable. There were also a few booths set up from different employers, so I talked to them all. My classmate Pam Saliba was there with Markham Public Library, so it was nice having a chat with her and listening to what they’re up to at Markham. I also spoke with Amanda French (from the Wednesday night lecture) and Diana Krawczyk from Mississauga Public Library, since I did a quick volunteer project for MPL last summer reorganizing their list of periodicals and it turned out that Amanda was the one using the spreadsheet I’d made.

After that I attended Battle fo the Books: It Begins with Co-Operation & Ends with Competition, presented by Vicki Miller from the Peel District School Board. I was curious because Oakville Public Library used to run a program called Battle of the Books, where one day teams from all of the local elementary schools would go to the Central branch and compete in a children’s book trivia tournament. I was on the team every year, and I loved it. Vicki’s version is based on the Silver Birch books, and only between students at her school, but it looked like a lot of fun. She talked about how she organizes and runs the Battle, and then asked for volunteers to play a round of Book Jeopardy. I had to play! Some of the questions were pretty tricky (though I managed to get some laughs with my answers, when she asked what a person who sleeps with books is called and I said a book lover), and she had a set of Red Maple books to give to the participants. Though I’d like to know who had the most points (I doubt it was me). She had a set of buzzers from Scholastic that might be really useful for the next Geek-Off…

And finally it was time for the closing gala luncheon, featuring Colonel Chris Hadfield as the guest speaker. He was amazing, his enthusiasm for space and education and sharing knowledge…You could tell how strongly he felt about sharing the wonders of the universe with people, and how hard he worked to get to the places he’s been. He brought some of his photographs, to show us just how beautiful the world is, and talked about what his life has been like since returning to Earth after commanding the International Space Station.  He even told us the real story about getting kicked out of a showing of the movie Gravity (he wasn’t, but he saw the premiere and the director asked him what he thought–gulp!). He did a signing after his talk. I had purchased a ticket to the luncheon and a copy of his book for a Christmas/birthday present for my father, but I really regret not buying a copy of his book for myself to get him to sign. Oh well–I’ll have to borrow Dad’s copy to read. I did shake his hand, though. I may be a Star Trek fan, but he’s been there…IMG-20140201-00605(Sorry about the crappy quality–the camera on my Blackberry kinda sucks).

And then, it was over.

So, final thoughts (yes, finally, I’m almost done). I really enjoyed attending the Super Conference again this year. I learned a lot, some of which I still need to process. I met some really interesting people, and saw some old friends and professors. I got a new pile of books to read and review. I got some great tips to improve my blog. I got some advice on cover letters, resumes and interviewing, and some job ads to apply to. I got a little high on cough drops (three bags in five days, argh). Similarly to last year, the conference was very well-run and well-organized, and I didn’t spot any problems (not easy for a large event–trust me on that, I conrun). My only complaints would be the same as last year’s–that I can’t be in multiple places at once, because there were too many things going on that I wanted to do. I didn’t manage to see any of the poster presentations, and there were twenty other sessions that I would have liked to have attended–I really had to pick and choose the ones that I was most interested in, and I’m pretty happy with what I chose to attend. I ended last year’s review by saying that I wanted to come back this year, and hopefully as an employed librarian. I managed the first, but not the second. Maybe the third time will be the charm? See you next year OLA Super Conference!

OLA Festival of Trees 2013 review

*UPDATE*: Pictures of the Festival are finally up here and here.

So last week I volunteered at the Ontario Library Association’s Festival of Trees in Toronto, and I had a blast!

The Festival of Trees is a two-day event to celebrate the Forest of Reading program, which aims:

  • To encourage the children, young people and adults of Ontario to enjoy reading
  • To develop recognition for Canadian authors and Canadian books
  • To contribute to the financial stability of the Canadian publishing industry
  • To provide teacher-librarians, librarians, library staff and parent volunteers with a meaningful tool for improving literacy in schools and libraries
  • To respond to community interest and needs

(from About the Forest)

The program is divided into different categories:

For School-Aged Readers

  • Blue Spruce™Awards (primary – Grade 2 picture books)
  • Silver Birch® Awards (Grades 3-6 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Silver Birch Express™ Awards (Grades 3-4 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Red Maple™ Awards (Grades 7-8 fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • White Pine™ Awards (high school fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • Le Prix Peuplier (picture books, less text, simpler subject matters, beautiful picture books perfect for read alouds)
  • Le Prix Tamarac (chapter books from 100 to 250 pages, smaller text with little or no illustrations, more complicated verb tenses and vocabulary)
  • Le Prix Tamarac Express (shorter chapter books maximum 100 pages or more mature picture books, larger text with pictures, simpler vocabulary and verb tenses)

For each program, readers are encouraged to read all or a selection of the books, and then vote on their favourite. For the school-aged programs the readers must read a minimum of 5 books to be eligible to vote.

For Adults

  •  Golden Oak™ Awards (adults learning to read, ESL, fiction)
  • Evergreen™ Award (adults of any age, fiction, non-fiction)

(ibid)

So, my days.

Wednesday

We had to be there waytoobloodyearly (defined as before noon, but more specifically about 8 am) for the volunteer orientation. Toronto rush-hour traffic and construction season, oy. I’ve never been to the Harbourfront Centre before, but it was a nice venue. It was raining when I arrived, but someone bribed the weather gods and it stopped right when we were supposed to open, so both of the days the weather was just beautiful–sunny, not too hot, and not too windy even though we were right on the water.

There was a lot of different activities going on–author and illustrator signings, all kids of workshops, games, the various awards ceremonies, a hula hoop tent, a book trading zone, a book store, booths from OWL magazine and the Toronto Zoo, the Story Wall where students could create a story together, each person writing the next line, the Graffiti Trees where students could write comments on Post-Its for the authors, a craft tent, face painting, a clown making balloon animals, a paddle boat ride…

Wednesday morning I was assigned to the tattoo station (yes, they were temporary tattoos), and I was really glad that there wasn’t much wind–I didn’t want to go running after the papers!  Then in the afternoon I was on the ring toss game. The kids had to throw a frisbee onto a pylon–it was actually pretty hard, especially with the wind off the lake! If they managed to get one on, they won a free book, so the game was pretty popular.

OLA Festival of Trees May 15, 2013

Yes, I wore that tattoo on my face all day long, including when I walked around Toronto and when I went to the theatre later.

(Then I saw the new Star Trek movie Into Darkness with some friends, which despite starting late and the IMAX not working, was terrific, but not the point of this post. Still, new Trek, geeker joy! And with added lovely Benedict Cumberbatch goodness!)

Thursday

Thursday was busy, since we were short-handed, and had even more people. There were 6,000 tickets sold for the 2 days–2,000 people attended Wednesday, and 4,000 people attended Thursday. Fortunately the kids were all really well-behaved, enthusiastic about everything and ready to have fun (and not be in school for a day)!

We started with another volunteer meeting, since several people were new to the event–I don’t think that many people were able to volunteer both days. Then I was on bus duty, making sure that the school buses dropped the kids off in the right place and directing everyone to the right door to get in. There was a ton of construction right in front of the Harbourfront Centre, as well as the Centre’s maintenance people with vehicles and big recycling bins and so on right at the entrance, but even though the kids were excited they were pretty good about listening when we told them to hold up and wait for the road to be clear.

Then I went back to the ring toss, which was even busier than the day before. I was asked at the last minute to go to the hula hoop station because they needed someone to help supervise the area–make sure the kids stayed on the grass and didn’t wander into the walking paths with the hoops, make sure they didn’t stand on the hoops and break them, no throwing the hoops, watch out for other people, that kind of thing. Luckily I didn’t actually have to teach them to use the hula hoops–I’m terrible at it! Instead there was a girl, Isabella Hoops, who taught them all kinds of neat tricks.

For the afternoon I was asked to be the workshop volunteer for Evan Munday, the author of the nominated book The Dead Kid Detective Agency. (You can find his blog post about the Festival and the workshop here.) I introduced him to the audience, counted the attendees, made sure he had everything he needed to present, and watched the workshop to make sure it went smoothly (and to see what happened).

He set up a mystery using characters from his book, and the kids had to ask questions and figure out who the culprit was from among the suspects. It was all I could do to keep my hand down and let the kids ask the questions. (Ok, I did raise it once, when he was asking them what are the parts of a mystery story–with the age range attending, no one knew what a red herring was). It was a great workshop, everyone had a lot of fun guessing whodunnit, and Evan Munday was a lively and interesting presenter. It was the last event of the day, so he agreed to stick around for a few minutes afterwards and sign books. Then we had to clean everything up quickly and let the Centre people have their building back, and we were free.

It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad I went and volunteered. I wish it had been around when I was in public school! Honestly, the sole problem that I had was that there was so much going on and I was so busy working that I wasn’t able to see much. I did walk around on my breaks and look at things, but I missed all of the awards presentations. I would like to say congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, and thank you to everyone who attended–the kids loved meeting them and getting their books signed and the chance to ask questions and participate in the workshops. And a big thank you to all of the organizers and volunteers–I’ve worked a lot of events, and this one went incredibly smoothly. I didn’t notice any serious problems, even though we were short-staffed on Thursday. Everyone jumped right in and did whatever needed doing.

I’m definitely going to keep an eye out to help with next year’s festival.

PS. I will add links to pictures from the festival as soon as they pop up on the Forest of Reading website.

PPS. LOOK WHAT I FOUND ON THE GRAFFITI WALL! AND THERE WAS A BLONDE IN A UNION JACK RUNNING AROUND THE NEXT DAY!