OLA Super Conference 2015 review


(Sorry this is really late, I did start it right after the conference, but unfortunately paid work has to come before unpaid blogging and I haven’t had time until now.)

I ended my review of last year’s OLA Super Conference by saying I hoped I would be attending this year as an employed librarian, and I did! May this trend continue! And my trend of having a great time at the Super Conference!

This was the first year I didn’t volunteer, since I was going for my library. But kudos to all of the volunteers and the committee staff who put on such a great event!


I started Wednesday morning at Raquel Solon’s session on Challenging, Refusing, & Venting, Oh My! How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace. While it was really intended for working with adult patrons and co-workers, I think some of her advice can be modified for the children I work with. Her 5 Steps for Setting Effective Limits in particular are something that I think I was doing without articulating it the same way. This one was definitely a good choice, and potentially very useful for me. Plus I ran into a friend from library school that I haven’t seen since last year’s conference, so that was nice. We grabbed lunch with another friend from school and one of the first friend’s coworkers, and we caught up on everything from the last year.

After lunch was the talk by the cartoonist Seth in the theatre, which oddly enough I’ve never been in before despite attending around 4 events a year at the MTCC. It was a quiet, calm talk, and interesting.

In the afternoon I went to Rachel Seigal’s presentation on Spine-Tingling, Bone Chilling, Hair Raising Horror for Kids. I have several kids in my library who like scary stories, but I don’t have a lot to offer them other than Goosebumps, and not a lot of those. She had some good title suggestions that I can look for. Though I have had a little success suggesting The Picture of Dorian Grey from our Great Illustrated Classics series–hey, not all classics are boring.

For the last session of the day, I went to Where Marvel Meets Mididle Earth: Fanfiction in the Library, presented by Nancy-Anne Davies and Erin Tutte, mostly because fanfiction! It was a great presentation, but they spent a lot of time talking about fandom and fan culture and what fan fiction is, and I think they could have shortened it a bit more. Fandom is pretty mainstream now, and a lot of people at the panel were fans who sounded like they were already pretty familiar with what fanfiction is, so they probably could have spent more time talking about running their writing clubs. But I always love hearing about fandom and how popular it’s becoming, and meeting new fans. And writing fanfic is a terrific way to practice learning how to write, by just playing in an existing universe’s sandbox and filling in the gaps or correcting The Powers That Be’s mistakes (Richie Ryan from Highlander: the Series ducked. He never died. La, la, la, I can’t hear you, he’s alive and still racing motorcycles and dating girls who get him in trouble and cadging meals off Duncan MacLeod whenever he’s in town. So there.).

Next I joined some friends and we attended a performance of “The Librarians” episode of Welcome to Nightvale, a podcast written like an old-style radio program. I’ve heard of it before, but I’d never listened to an episode. And HOLY HILARIOUS BATMAN that was funny! As Indira Gandhi said, you can’t shake a mangled hand that has been chewed up by a librarian. Although I maintain that librarians do not have exoskeletons, we’re shapeshifters. (Go listen to Welcome to Nightvale to get the joke. Bring alcohol with you. All of the alcohol.)


The end of the night was at the networking event, with food and games. The giant crosswords were fun!


I started Thursday with Using Picture Books in Content Areas, presented by Harriet Zaidman. Sorry for coming in a few minutes late–my train was delayed. I’ve read some terrific picture books working in an elementary school library, but unfortunately not all of them are suited to the storytime I do for kindergarten-grade 3. As much as I love Melanie Watt’s work (and I really love it), she can be hard to read aloud with all of the tangents and asides that she goes into. Though my kindies did love the Chester books. There are some fantastic picture books for older kids that can really drive home a lesson better than pure text like a novel can.

After that I attended Good Question! Let’s Find Out!: Inquiry Partnerships, presented by Kristina Burbidge and Debbie Vert. I thought it was interesting, though somewhat less applicable to me as a librarian and not a teacher-librarian–ideally, I would love to treat each question from a student as an inquiry/teaching moment, but when I have six 8-year-olds asking me for things at the same time and 10 minutes left in the period to help them and get the class of 25 checked out and lined up, sometimes I have to resort to “It’s over there on the third shelf from the top” as opposed to “let’s look on the computer together and find out where the books on dolphins belong”. What I wouldn’t give for a smartboard so I could do a demonstration for everyone in the class at once on how to search through the catalogue and where the databases are…

I went to the Children’s Storytime Workshop: Tips and Tricks, presented by Emily Farrell and Toni Murray, and I loved it. They were so enthusiastic, and they had some great advice that matched up with my own experiences doing storytime. Always go for the funny! And do the voices whenever possible, even if you aren’t very good at them. And this is where I first encountered B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures, which I ended up buying at the OLA Store later and read to all of my classes. It was a huge hit, and I should have bought 3 copies because I had a huge waiting list of kids who wanted to borrow it. From January to the end of the year, it didn’t stay in the library because there was always someone who wanted it.

Thursday afternoon I spent wandering the Expo floor collecting new books (see list below). I do love seeing what’s coming out soon, and meeting friends wandering around too. I went to the Western FIMS reception in the evening–not to many people from my cohort went, but it was still nice to meet fellow Western alumni.


Friday morning was the Forest of Reading breakfast, and it was lovely to meet some of the voices from our conference calls! And always snag a table close to the tea, especially at 8 in the morning. Immediately following the breakfast was the Forest showcase, where all of the 2014 winners spoke about their books and their experiences with being a part of the Forest of Reading.

Forest Breakfast

I spent more time on the Expo floor, and then in the afternoon I went to Inquiring Minds and Blue Spruce, presented by Ruth Gretsinger. She had some great tips about how to use picture books and inquiry questions to teach younger kids about how to do research and to think about the books they are reading, for example by using “I wonder” statements instead of direct questions.

And of course, I got books. Lovely, lovely books that came home with me, some to stay and some just resting on their way to my library. If only they didn’t weigh so much when I’m trying to carry two heavy bags plus my purse home on the train while bundled up for winter. I came home with:


  • The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs that I REALLY REALLY WANTED and I’m so happy I got a copy, and signed! I’m happy to report that it was as good as I was hoping it would be. It’s a great intro to the world of fandom and specifically how to guide yourself as a lady geek around the world of cons, cosplay, fanfic, and the wilds of the internet. It’s an ARC to be published by Quirk Books, so it’s missing a few page references, but the art is really cute.
  • Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi. This is an uncorrected proof I picked up that will be published by Tundra Books, about a boy whose father is accused of being a Communist in 1950s New York, and he has to figure out if there really is a Communist in his family and what that means for them.
  • Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, published by Pajama Press, about a pair of star-crossed Anatolian teenagers in 1914, who are separated by war and horrified by what happens to their Christian Armenian friends. I got this one signed, and as always it was lovely to see Marsha.
  • An ARC of The Journal by Lois Donovan, that will be published by Ronsdale Press, about an Asian teenager in Vancouver whose mother receives a mysterious letter and uproots the family to Edmonton. Then she reads a family journal of old newspaper clippings that sends her back in time to 1929, here she encounters racial prejudice and meets the Famous Five who fought to have women recognized as legal persons.
  • Best Friends Through Eternity by Sylvia McNicoll. This is a signed proof that will be published by Tundra Books about an adopted Chinese girl who has an accident and a near-death experience. The blurb on the back is mysterious in an It’s a Wonderful Life sort of way.
  • An ARC of Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall, that will be published by Puffin, about a girl who gets evacuated to Mars during a war with aliens, and has adventures. It looks like the start of a new series.
  • An ARC of Random Acts Valerie Sherrard that will be published by Puffin, about a group of friends who decide to start committing random acts of kindness, except they all go wrong.
  • The Fight for Pow3r by Eric Walters, the sequel to The Rule of 3, and published by Razorbill. I was happy to get this one, and signed, because I’ve already had a kid request that I buy it. I read the first book in the trilogy, and it was scary how plausible it was, and I may have to, uh, preread this one before I give it to the kids. For…reasons. Mainly so I get a chance to read it. (Later note: good thing I did, because this one was pretty popular and I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to read it once it was out in the library. Waiting on book 3 now!)
  • Dirk Daring, Secret Agent by Helaine Becker, published by Orca Books, signed, about a boy whose evil stepbrother steals his secret spy journal and uses it to blackmail Dirk into doing his biding and spying on the kids at school. This type of illustrated diary is pretty popular with my kids right now, and I can always use a new readalike for Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Popularity Papers, since the kids have read them all already.
  • An ARC of Andreo’s Rage by Pam Withers, that will be published by Tundra Books, about a pair of friends racing in Bolivia and searching for their parents.
  • Stealing Time by Anne Dublin, a Jonah Wiley Adventure published by Dundurn. I got this one signed too. It’s a time travel story about two brothers who have to learn to work together to get back home.
  • The Magician of Auschwitz written by Kathy Kacer and illustrated by Gillian Newland, and published by Second Story Press. This is a picture book and a fictionalized true story about a boy in Auschwitz and a magician who performed magic tricks to keep the guards amused and save his own life. I got this one signed by Kathy Kacer, who is well-known for her stories about the Holocaust. This is a dark, sad story, about the things that people had to do to survive in a terrible place, but also with a happy-ish ending because some people did survive and built themselves lives and families.
  • Real Justice: Jailed for Life for Being Black: The Story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter by Bill Swan and published by Lorimer. This one I got for going to the Lorimer booth and bringing a copy of their email about the giveaway–it’s worth it to opt in for emails from publishers! At least if you want to know about upcoming titles. I’ve read the one from this series about David Milgaard by Cynthia J. Faryon, and it was a good, fast, easy-read version of his story, so I wouldn’t mind reading another in the series.
  • Our Heroes: How Kids Are Making a Difference written and illustrated by Janet Wilson. This book is signed, and published by Second Story Press. I got her book Our Rights: How Kids Are Changing the World last year for myself, and I managed to snag the last copy of the one she was signing this year. Saying please nicely does work! This is a nonfiction picture book about child activists from around the world, and their chosen causes and what they are doing to make the world a better place.
  • Rachel’s Hope by Shelly Sanders, signed and published by Second Story Press. This is the last book in a trilogy, about a Jewish girl and her family who flee Russia and end up in San Francisco right before the earthquake of 1906.
  • The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak, published by Dial Books for Young Readers. This book I purchased through the OLA Store. It was recommended in a couple of the panels I attended, and it’s very funny. I can’t wait to read it during storytime at the library. I know the kids will get a big kick out of it. (Later note: they loved it! I should have bought 2 copies!)
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier, published by Scholastic, which I purchased because the kids keep asking for it. She’s one of the most-requested authors in my library. (Later note: this was so popular it unfortunately got wrecked quickly after I bought it when pages kept falling out, and I had o order a copy from Permabound. Here’s hoping that one lasts a little longer!)
  • Q Tasks, Second Edition, by Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan, published by Pembroke Publishers, about encouraging students to ask questions and be curious. I bought this one is for the teachers more than the kids, and it was highly recommended by a teacher-librarian friend.
  • The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich, an advance proof that will be published by Tor Books. This is described on the back as “a fantastical nineteenth century alternate historical steampunk romp”, and that caught my fancy. I picked this one up for myself, for my laughable “free time”.
  • The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency No. 1: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford and illustrated by Kelly Murphy. This is an ARC that will be published by Alfred A. Knopf. This is a middle-grade historical mystery about Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley meeting as girls and forming a detective agency. I like the look of this one, and mysteries aren’t too popular with my kids, so I may keep this one too.
  • Valiant by Sarah McGuire, an uncorrected proof to be published by Egmont. This is a retelling of the Brave Little Tailor with a girl in the main role. I love feminist retellings of fairy tales, and the back blurb compares it to Gail Carson Levine, whose work I love, so I’m excited to read this one.
  • On a Scale from Idiot to Complete Jerk: A Highly Scientific Study of Annoying Behavior, Science Project by J.J. Murphy with Alison Hughes, published by Orca Books. I picked this up for the title, and I thought it was so funny I bought two copies, one for me and one for the library. In fact, I even convinced a friend to buy the last copy! This book is set up as an actual report using the scientific method, complete with a history, definitions, case studies, hypothesis, experiment, observations, conclusions, and even charts.
  • Fun-brarian: Games, Activities & Ideas to Liven Up Your Library! by Kathleen Fox and published by Upstart Books. I bought this for my personal collection, since I’m trying to build my own professional reference library. This is filled with great games and activities to get kids familiar with the rules of the library and things like DDC and how to find books, book care, library terminology, and more. I wish I’d had it before I started at my current library. Oh well, maybe for the next job–they’re really more things that you would do at the start of the school year than in the middle. Still I think it will be really useful for me in the future.

Oh, and I won one of the passport prizes! Thank you to Library Services Centre for providing my awesome prize! I got a Blu-Ray of Octopussy, a hardcover of The Superior Spider-Man vol. 2, a nice French copy of  Le Monde de Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes (unfortunately I don’t speak French), and my favourite of the lot, Doctor Who: The Secret Lives of Monsters by Justin Richards. The volunteers in the room were all laughing at my big silly grin when I saw that one in the bag. And thank you Beckie for telling me that I’d won a prize and to go get it!


All in all, I had a great time again at the Super Conference, and I’m very grateful that my principal allowed me to attend all three days. I learned a lot, and came home with books and notes and flyers and all sorts of fascinating new best practices whirling around in my head. I hope I can go again next year!

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.


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!


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.




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.)






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