Friday, December 13, 2013

The Art of War

Last week Ms. Morse, one of our Social Studies teachers, asked if the Library Media Center had room to display some of the class projects that were overtaking her room. Naturally I said yes. She brought them down today and I am a bit awestruck by the scope and creativity of the projects. Her students are finishing their unit on the Civil War and she managed to design a project that enabled students to express their knowledge of the complexities surrounding the causes of the war in a simplified way.

Without further ado, I present Setting the Table For the Civil War.

The kids had key figures sitting at their tables.

They added biographical info and the person's own words.

And a heavy dose of individuality.

I love the juxaposition of formality and manners of a table setting intertwinded with the brutality of the war to come.  

A detailed look at one of the dinner guests.

History was my favorite subject in school and I'm an avid reader of historical fiction. I've always believed that quality historical fiction can bring to life the events and facts of the past in a way most textbooks cannot. With that in mind, I'd like to recommend my top five novels set in or around the Civil War.

1) March by Geraldine Brooks. This is quite simply one of the most beautiful written books I've ever read in terms of language. It's as close to poetry as one can get in a novel and stirs your soul with every sentence. But don't just take my word for it, the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded it their top honor in 2006. The slim novel follows the deployment of Mr. March (yes, the father of the famous March sisters from Little Women) as he faces the harrowing and dangerous realities of war, fear and limitations of racial equality in a world that does not appear as ready for it as he would like to believe. 

2) Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. This is not a story for delicate constitutions. A plantation is taken over as a make-shift field hospital for the Confederates before and after a devastating and distasterous battle against the Union in Tennessee.  Based on a true story, the novel explores the gory (literally) details of medical practices and suffering on the battlefield. I could not put it down.

3) The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus. This a long, yet delightful narrative that follows the marriage and life of a very young women who marries and aged Confederate veteran. The narrative voice is addictive and you will hang on her every word. They made a TV movie out of  it years ago that did the novel justice. 

4) Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. The haunting journey of a solider who walks away from the war in order to return to his beloved. I stress the walking part because that is not a fast mode of movement and at times the novel can be slow, but it's well worth your perseverance. Like any good war story there is unspeakable brutality and glimmers of beauty, generosity and bravery that restores your faith in the goodness of men. The movie won Renee Zwelliger an Oscar.

5) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. No I'm not kidding. If you love the film, treat yourself to the book, they are quite different. What I think GWTW does best is show the reader the utter destruction of the South; its land, its people and its culture. And the love story isn't half bad either considering how flawed Scarlett and Rhett are. I toured the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta a few years ago and saw the very spot she typed the novel. Fun fact- she has an Arizona connection, her cousin was none other than Doc Holiday and it is presumed that Ashely Wilkes was based on him. 

Sadly, there aren't exactly happy endings in stories set around wars but by creating a character a reader can relate to, he can, ever so briefly, step back in time. It's important to know where we've been in order that we don't end up places we don't want to. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Librarians in the Media

Subway Sriracha chicken Melt

There's a saying that goes All publicity is good publicity. In the worlds of entertainment, big business and politics I would add the word free to that sentence. Libraries and librarians are generally not publicity seekers. This has worked for and against us. While most people support libraries and the services they provide, librarians are often seen as stodgy spinsters who are obsessed with rules and silence.

The new Subway ad for its Sriracha Chicken Melt depends on this rigid stereotype as the perfect compare/contrast for the spicy excitement of the sandwich. Because, I must assume, some ad executive easily sold the concept that a sriracha sandwich will make even the most dull people feel like they've added some spice to their life.

On one hand I'm thrilled to see a library setting (If you haven't seen it, watch the movie The Day After Tomorrow where people take refuge in the New York Public library when the polar ice caps melt- they are quite literally saved by literature!) but on the other I'm a bit miffed at the portrayal of librarians in the commercial.

And yeah, I'm miffed that they're eating in the library too- I can't lie! (You just know she's going to spill sauce on the carpet or worse, a book.)

So let's set the record straight here and now. Librarians are dynamic and exciting people. We are on the front line of technology integration and education. We don't sit at the circulation desk with our heads in the clouds. Instead we travel to other worlds and serve as guides to assist patrons on their own journeys. Through books and the internet, there's no place we haven't been to.

We're brave. We have to be as first adopters of new devices, software and interfaces.

We're patient. We have to be as we teach you to use new devices, software and interfaces.

We're flexible. A library is a busy place. Librarians have to be able to shift gears instantly.

And we're super cool. As evidence I submit this photo from Heroes and Villains Day.

Jedi Mrs. Treude and Sith Master Mrs. Pilarski

The Force of good librarianship is with you here at HHS.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books: In the Hand of the Beholder

Welcome to the American Library Association's annual Banned Book week where we celebrate what it means to read in the United States!

In preparing for this post I looked up the 2012 Top Ten Challenged Books and was surprised to discover Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series at the top of the list. With titles like Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets (Pt.1) I can't fault people for being skeptical or concerned but given that the first book came out in 1997, I expected a more current title, with more graphic content (as compelling as nasal secretions are, we all know stickier situations exist).

Confession time- this librarian banned Captain Underpants in our home. Back in the day (early 2000's) when I read to my boys every night, I brought home one of the books because I knew they were popular, especially with boys. (Boogers!) I read one chapter and stopped. It wasn't that I minded the potty humor (As the mom of two boys how could I not?) but I hated the way the adults and kids spoke to one another. Neither side had respect for the other and that's what I wanted banned from the house.

Pilkey is a hugely successful author both commercially and critically, his picture book The Paperboy was a Caldecott Honor Book. His books continue to be favorites of school-age readers which shows me that had I been willing to finish reading an entire book of his, I might have read more. You could call what I did censorship, but I'd prefer to call it parenting.

The books that continue to be challenged (like The Hunger Games, To Kill A Mockingbird and most recently Ralph Ellison's classic Invisible Man) are as popular and relevant as ever. Why? It's quite simple- people connect to the characters and story. As a writer it's my job to create characters that readers can relate to and root for. It's the level of connection that creates bestsellers or classics. Captain Underpants makes kids laugh and gets reluctant readers to enjoy, perhaps for the first time, a chapter book. Is that a bad thing?

Books are a form of art and art is subjective, but all art tells a story. Sadly many of the stories about the human condition involve pain, war, death and a host of other upsetting topics. Keep in mind that where there's darkness, light will follow.

Parents should feel comfortable being informed and involved in  media choices for their own children. Just remember, the book that offends you might very well be a life-saver for someone else.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

So Long, Farewell

August 2013 was a rough month in the book world with the passing of Elizabeth Peters on August 8 and Elmore Leonard on August 20. While they aren't necessarily household names for high school library patrons, I guarantee you they are for many adult readers and writers of all levels.

I've spent the past twenty-four years reading Elizabeth Peters' books. Her Amelia Peabody mystery series is my favorite of all. Set in the late 1880's, the books follow the hijinks of the Emerson family who are Victorian Egyptologists. The books combined my love of historical fiction, Egypt and memorable characters. I'm actually not a big mystery fan, believe it or not, I just like to show up to see what crazy shenanigans will occur.(I am never disappointed on this front.)

All writers are avid readers themselves. There are times when I read for fun and times when I read for the study of craft, but any time I read I pay attention to how drawn I feel to the characters. There's nothing better than when books feel like friends. Series books, so popular in Young Adult fiction now, are the best at evoking that level of intimacy.

Speaking of drawing in readers, everyone who has taken a creative writing class in the last twenty years has read Elmore Leonard's famous 10 Rules for Writing. Writers like to joke that there aren't any rules for writing, but Leonard knew differently. His tips are the ones I most often see quoted and referenced by writers of all genres. They are-

  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
  6.  Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

I've never read Leonard's crime fiction, but his words influence me as a writer. I suspect that many YA authors whose work sits on the shelves were likewise mentored by Leonard.

The way we're reading is changing, but the end product, the words on the page, is still the same. Only the right words will keep us engaged.

That's the power of great writing- words never die.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pigskin Princess #4- Cross Pattern: The Intersection Between Writing & Football

People are always surprised when they find out that I coach freshmen football. Not only am I a woman who has never played the game (I lettered in track in high school) I'm a librarian and a writer. At first glance none of these things appear congruent with the football coach personality type, but after one season of coaching I can tell you that football is as creative and collaborative as any artistic endeavor. 

The only way to become a writer is to write. A lot. And a lot of what you write is never going to be seen by anyone else. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but there's no way around it. The more you practice, the better you get.

This obviously applies to sports. In football we practice plays and different skill drills, such as ball security, footwork or tackling. In writing there are exercises for setting, dialogue and point of view.  After the exercises you edit, and edit more, trying to perfect a play or paragraph. Whether you're playing or writing, drills, exercises and editing can tire you out. The real test is how you keep moving forward through fatigue, through exhaustion and occasionally through fear.

While I would never want a player to be afraid on the field, I do believe fear plays a role for athletes and artists alike. Fear can serve as a warning device, but at its most effective, it presses on ego and boosts determination to push past it. While writers are rarely in physical distress (I guess if you spilled hot coffee on your lap...) football players can become injured. Fear keeps one alert and focused, both necessary ingredients for success on the page and the field. Fear also prevents complacency, which is dangerous to all of us. 

I've been afraid as writer when I've felt stuck on a plot point or faced the dreaded writers' block. On the field I've stood too close to a drill and missed being tackled by inches. Sometimes a ball whirls by my head and I realize I narrowly missed being hit in the face. That kinda scares me. At the same time, I feel both fear and excitement when I hit the send button for a piece of writing I want considered for publication. It's scary to risk being rejected, but it's exhilarating having skin in the game.

Players and coaches experience that same combination of nerves and adrenaline on Game Day. Will the plays be executed as we practiced? Can we stop the run? Can the line give the quarterback the time he needs? For all the practicing we do, the reality is that anything can happen in the heat of the moment. In every game the unexpected will emerge in all its incarnations: good, bad and the ugly.

A live football game is not a situation with guaranteed outcomes. While we can predict that if players run their routes incorrectly, the play will be be broken and an opportunity missed, players (not unlike fictional characters) will often go their own way because practice doesn't always make perfect. Writing is the same way. I can work hard on writing the best novel I can (done that). I can craft an amazing query letter for an agent to represent me (done that). I can start a blog and build a web presence (done that) but none of those things will guarantee I will ever find an agent and get my book published. (Still waiting.)

 So why bother to play the game at all?

In football we win or lose. In writing the line between success and failure is more challenging to define. Am I a failure as a writer because I haven't secured an agent? Am I a winner because I "own" my writing life and embrace it and take it seriously? As an artist I have to define success differently than an athlete would if I want my physical and mental stamina to last. 

I write and I volunteer to coach football in order to be on the field, both literally and figuratively, to see that point on the horizon where an opportunity is within my reach and I grab at it with all my might.

Maybe the YMCA philosophy is right, maybe everyone is a winner, just for being willing to play the game.

**Our first Frosh football game is Wednesday, August 28 at 6 p.m. at Husky Stadium.**

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pigskin Princess #3- Unexpected Twists and Turns

Every spring on a high school campus the arrival of college acceptance letters creates both celebration and anguish. As staff we look forward to hearing about our students' plans for their future. Unfortunately, not everyone's plans will go according to plan. It's difficult to hear a student share his or her disappointment, anger and frustration over a rejection letter, loss of financial assistance or any other twist or turn than can send them down an unknown path.

I've counseled a few such souls here in the LMC and to all of them I gave the same advice, "This very well may be the best thing that happened; the unexpected brings on all manner of possibilities."

It turns out that I now have to practice what I preach. The first twist came last spring in the form of Coach Heavner, the new Head Coach for Husky Football. Within a month of his arrival, I lost my partner-in-crime, Ms. Orest, to an opportunity at another district campus. Over the summer Dr. Courson announced his departure and a new partner-in-crime was hired for the LMC, the lovely Ms. Pilarski.

These changes aren't necessarily the problem, it's more my reaction to them  I'm finding myself feeling a bit like those students who had their heart set on one particular path to take them where they wanted to go. And you know what? It's harder to follow my advice then I thought.

No matter how you approach change; it comes, most often unexpectedly. Where do you draw the line between don't fix what isn't broken and being open and flexible?

Perhaps it's time for me to have a change of heart. Yes, a lot is changing around me, but most of the people and things I love and enjoy are still within an arm's reach. Like-

The sound of my football players doing their Husky Jacks during warm up.

The smell of the players who just did Husky Jacks.

The feeling I get buying a book for the LMC I know the students will love.

Buying books for myself I know I will love.

That first cup of morning coffee enjoyed on the patio couch with the dog next me.

Disney is making Star Wars VII!!!!! (More than an arm's length admittedly, but still!)

In a way, there's not much different about my life. Its core elements remain.

For those out there forging a new path at the start of this school year remember this- you're still going on an adventure. You'll still learn things and meet new people. You'll grow in ways you never imagined.

As for flexibility, grab some yoga pants and a mat. A downward dawg shouldn't be a problem for Husky.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tales From A Reluctant E-Reader

I have bonded with my iPad Mini and thus have begun bonding with the Kindle app and e-reading. As I've said before, I'm not an e-reading hater, I've just always preferred real books. I still do. But the time has come for me to venture a bit further out of my comfort zone for two reasons- access and portability.

In terms of access, more authors are releasing e-content. Short stories and novellas are making a comeback. Authors are enjoying writing short pieces, readers are thrilled to get new content of any length between book releases, so it's a win/win. I'm also noticing e-content for tie-ins to movie and TV shows. This year marks the 50th. Anniversary of Doctor Who and to help celebrate, the BBC has commissioned popular YA authors to pen stories about each of the eleven doctors. A new story is e-published each month until November when the entire collection will be offered in  book form. E-content makes giving readers samples or early access cost effective and simple for authors and publishers.

Before Spring Break I was forced to purchase an e-book from one of my favorite authors because Barnes and Noble ordered such a small quantity of her new release,  it was sold out when I went to buy it. My heart was set on starting the book that night, so I downloaded it. Did I enjoy the book more or less? Not really, but I can't say that I feel like I own it. If I can't grab it off a shelf  or have it autographed is it really a book?

I am the type of reader who travels with books. For a vacation longer than seven days I will take at least five books with me and likely purchase one or two if I happen upon a bookstore. With airfare baggage charges and weight limits, I realize e-books make traveling much easier.

As I add to my e-book collection I have decided to purchase some favorite books that I enjoy rereading more than once- everything by Jane Austen for example. I know I want to reread the entire Harry Potter series as well as the Game of Thrones series. These books are huge and heavy and seem perfect for e-reading except for one catch- I'd need to repurchase them. I own two of all the Harry Potter books already and all of the Game of Thrones titles. E-copies would set me back about $120 total. To be honest, I'd rather spend that money on new books.

Remember how we all had to replace records with CDs and then CDs with digital downloads? Tough choices!

The one aspect of e-reading that still concerns me is how it affects the discovery process. Avid readers love to walk through the stacks at a bookstore or library. If you've reduced your entire reading existence to what you download from a recliner in your family room, I guarantee you'll be missing out on discovering a new author despite Amazon's "readers who bought this, also bought-" feature.

Reading is still a multi-sensory  experience. I've seen students who got e-readers for Christmas spend less time looking at books in the LMC because they now just shop in the Kindle store. Yes they're finding some good books, but that seems like such a passive way to treasure hunt. Book covers and titles are designed to be enticing. A flat screen doesn't capture that in quite the same way in my opinion.

I know reading isn't dying but I can't help but feel that small parts of it are nearing THE END.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Do Not Disturb

Disney's Sleeping Beauty
This morning when I was getting ready for work I put nail cuticle cream under my eyes instead of my fancy eye cream. How did this happen?

A) BC (Before Coffee).
B) I didn’t have my contacts or glasses on.
C) I was exhausted.

If my husband had a say, he’d add D) There was too much junk on the bathroom counter, but I can assure you that had nothing to do with it.

If you guessed C, you’re right. Last night my Husky had a lacrosse game. We returned home after 10:00 p.m. and after setting the coffee maker, petting the animals, some kitchen KP and the usual bedtime routine, I found myself in bed at 10:45 with a book in hand. I read for about fifteen minutes before shutting off the lights.

That’s when I did the math- my alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m.- I’d be lucky to get a full five and a half hours of sleep. I could hear my Husky mulling around the house after my light went off. Teens’ circadian rhythms get reset at puberty for later bedtimes, usually just past 11:00 p.m. According to the Mayo Clinic, my Husky needed nine hours of sleep and I needed seven to nine for optimum health.

We’re falling short. Given that I work at here at Horizon, we are on nearly the same schedule. We both leave the house at 6:40 a.m. I arrive at 7 a.m. and open the library. The school day runs from 7:25-2:20, with me staying until 3:00.

Factor in homework, sports or school activities and perhaps a part time job and the average teen is pretty busy. The average teen parent has a full time job, dinner and household duties and either volunteering for their child’s activities or viewing them. I’m not talking about being over-scheduled either. One activity, like a sport, can take up an enormous chunk of time for the teen and the adults in his life. All those after school obligations go late into the night, often past 9 p.m. not including travel time. That’s not going to change.

Years ago the district queried parents about switching start times- having the younger students start earlier, the older kids later, as is done in other Valley schools, but the notion never took off. I keep hoping it will get revisited.

Now I know I could get up later than 4:30 a.m. to add some much needed sleep to my schedule and if I had one of those post-apocalypse pixie cuts like Carol on the Walking Dead I’d consider it. The only thing worse than feeling exhausted is feeling rushed, and my early rising affords me a full thirty minutes to sip my morning coffee and prepare for the day. Priceless! (That’s what concealer is for anyway.)

After nearly two years of working on a high school campus no one knows better how snarky, temperamental and moody teens can be. But keep in mind that there’s nothing beautiful about being exhausted and most teens are exactly that.

I’m going to soldier on and get through the day with a Starbuck’s elixir or two.

It’s a pity youth is wasted on the young because I’m not sure they have the time to fully enjoy and appreciate it anymore.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Updates? More Like Ugh-dates!

My grandma never bonded with the microwave my mother bought her. It drove us crazy, but in the end Gram still manged to heat up her food just fine using the stove or oven with no difference in outcome.

There was a time when a person could hide behind the technology he or she used forever and still function in the world.

I believe those days are numbered, if not gone already.

System updates aren't anything new, but their frequency and ability to disrupt has increased over the last year. So much so that we're seeing updates effect outcomes more and more. Older browsers can't support certain plug-ins. Older operating systems can't update to a newer browser. And some places (Google) refuse to play nice anymore with old Office software.

For those who have successfully avoided digital literacy, there's nowhere to hide anymore. For those of us who are regular, if not confident, users there's a fatigue settling in as we constantly adjust to new settings or windows to perform functions we've been doing for years.

It's a mixed blessing of sorts because while updates are meant to solve problems, they often cause new ones.

Here in the LMC, we try and stay on top of the changes as best we can.  For all their DI (digital intelligence) students struggle with changes as much as we do. Sometimes we figure out a problem together, sometimes the kids tip us off and other times we scramble for a fix in the eye of a storm (always it seems on a day an English class has a paper due).

Here are some tips for taking the Ugh out and being Up for updates-
  • Adjusting to new software changes is a bit like a brain teaser, so your exercising your mind!
  • Synonyms for up- well-versed, cognizant, informed and my favorite- savvy. See how smart you sound already?
  • Think about the movie Up- doesn't it put a smile on your face? (Except for that lovely montage in the beginning that makes people cry- don't think about that!)
  • Up is higher- as in higher learning, higher capacity and high-end user- you're practically a pro! 
Up, up, updates aren't going away folks!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Go Ahead, Judge a Book By Its Cover- Or Title!

This is about a girl changing who she is to fit in at her high school.

On Tuesday, January 29, 2013 the LMC hosted our first ever Book Spine Poetry Slam with the juniors from Mr. Kluch and Ms. Harris' classes.

Poetry frightens most people, including me. All that figurative language and evocative imagery can intimidate the most confident person. But poetry is really just a different form of story telling not unlike a novel or a painting.

The idea behind Book Spine Poetry is to let students participate in creating verse in a friendly, fast and fun way. Classes were divided into groups of 3-5 and given six books. They could exchange the books with others from the book bank, but could only work with six at a time. They were given five minutes to create a poem using the titles of six books, read top to bottom. No add-in phrases allowed. Each group read their poem aloud and explained its meaning and themes.

To say that Ms. Orest, Ms. Harris, Mr. Kluch and I were blown away is an understatement. We had no idea what to expect from the students, this being our first time using the activity. As is often the case when you work with youth, you end up learning more from those you serve than the other way around!

Not only were the students energetic in their approach to the challenge, they rose above our meager expectations and drew a few tears with their poems. (Not ashamed!)

At risk of beating a dead horse, I can't stress enough how an activity like this wouldn't be possible without books in the Library Media Center! Students touched books, moved about the LMC, engaged with other classmates in their randomly assigned groups and created stories where there were none. (Like magic!) Not one item used for this assignment involved a device, a battery or access to WiFi. Technology is wonderful, but hands-on physical materials are just as valuable for meaningful learning.

So sit back and enjoy the genius of our HHS students!

This is one of my favorites from third hour.

A soldier's battlefield message to his wife. (Yeah, got to me too.)

They went with Faulkner for the theme and look at all the titles they found to connect to that last book.

All about feeling like you don't belong, but knowing there is a place that you do.

 Down Under, but not Australia, if you know what I mean. 

Isn't this one beautiful?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Checked Out on Checking Out Books

A library without books. Looks a bit sterile doesn't it?

Last fall I watched an episode of MTV's  sitcom "The Inbetweeners." The show chronicles the lives of four high school boys who reside on the outskirts of all social circles at their public high school. This particular episode featured an energy drink company sponsoring a makeover of the school library. When the new library was unveiled, the students and distraught librarian discovered that all the books had been removed. In their place were vending machines for the energy drinks, video game monitors and a bunch of Art Deco furniture.

I certainly had a few laughs when I watched the show and felt especially proud that some of the students protested the absence of the books. Then I forgot all about it.

Well I'm not laughing today.

This week the library world is a-buzz talking about a high school that has in fact removed its print collection from the space. It's now a learning center with tables, chairs and computers. The few print books that remain on campus have been distributed to classrooms for teacher supervised lending libraries. You can read the details here.

When I Google searched to find the article again for this post, I was shocked at how long it took me to find it because this bookless library thing is happening in several places.  Rather than being seen as a cause for public concern, this new model is heralded as progressive.  The word thriving is thrown around a lot.

I'll spare you a rant here (you can read my thoughts in the comments section of the article) but I will show you what isn't happening in these libraries but is happening here in the HHS LMC.

One English class has begun their poetry unit. Every day this week we've had students coming in looking for a poet to read and study. Because we are a full service LMC I was able to do this on Monday-

First I asked the student what type of fiction she enjoyed. Using that information I suggested a contemporary poet, Lucille Clifton.  I handed the young lady a copy of Ms. Clifton's work and then referred her to You Tube, where she could view video clips of Ms. Clifton reading her work. The student sat down at a computer and fifteen minutes later she return to the circulation desk and declared, "I really want to read this book now!"

And I was able to let her take it with her that very moment.

Yesterday a boy came in with an list of classic novels. He needed to pick one to read and did not appear too happy about it. He admitted that he rarely read for pleasure. The only descriptive word I could get out him to describe the type of book he might enjoy was adventure. So I took him to the stacks (where the books are) and we wandered up and down the Classics section. At first I wasn't sure what to recommend, but being near the books immediately put ideas in my head and within a few moments I had four suggestions. He took home a copy of Frankenstein.

A school library is a gathering place, an information source and a support center. We would be half a library if we offered only digital materials or print materials. I was able to give my students exactly what they needed because we have integrated all platforms for materials here in the LMC.

So why care about what's happening in a Catholic school library in the Midwest? Because if we don't pay attention to trends in libraries, if we don't advocate for the services and materials to make students successful, the people who make decisions will make one without all the facts.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Books Come To Life

OMG we're at Hogwarts!
So I went on an adventure over Winter Break- to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. As a huge fan of the books (We named the dog Weasley for goodness' sake!) this experience took our love of all things Potter to a level that the films never could. Head buried in a book? How about your whole body surrounded by one?

 Can you read the sign?
This is the entrance to the village of Hogsmeade, where all good Hogwarts boys and girls get to visit on weekends during the school year. The village is a really a mashup of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, combining the shops known in those places, but that didn't bother me at all because I finally got to taste Butter Beer- the famous magical beverage, which is really a fancy soda. It's a cross between root beer and cream soda with a dash of butterscotch. Yummy!

The village of Hogsmeade.
As you can see it was very crowded the day we visited but that didn't stop me from shopping. I took my oldest son Conner to Dervish & Bangles and bought him a proper wand. Then we went to Filtch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, a dark shop filled with festive T-shirts and decorated with items Mr. Filtch has removed from students' possession. No trip to Hogsmeade would be complete without a stop at Honeydukes. The Chocolate Frogs were huge! I did not sample the chocolate covered flies though.

Another view of Hogwarts.
Hogwarts is really the star of this park. It's built almost to scale and is a magnificent sight in person. The ride inside the castle takes you through Hogwarts, the Quidditch field and the Forbidden Forrest. I'm reluctant to give too much away, but I will say that the most fearful creatures from the books make an appearance. So be prepared to run (or fly away on a broomstick) fast!

The Sorting Hat in all his glory. He spoke & moved!
The Sorting Hat is one of my very favorite characters from the books. He gets far too little screen time in the films plus they took out all his lyrical rhymes and songs. I found him to be quite dashing in person.

If you're a fan I highly recommend a visit if you can swing it. I know Universal Studios Hollywood is planning to add a Harry Potter section to the park in the near future, making easier for us here in Arizona. I can only hope that literary theme parks become a trend. I'd love to visit Jane Austen Land or Panem or Mount Olympus from the Percy Jackson series. As a writer I confess to a touch of envy toward J.K. Rowling. As if it's not enough to not only finish a book, but see it published successfully, but she now has had her work presented in all dimensions. Wow!

My trip was practically perfect in every way but one- I'd like to find the witch or wizard who put an Expecto Fizzious spell on my hair!*

*See the first picture.