Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Kelly Mueller

What kind of librarian are you? – I’m a Youth Services Librarian.


How long have you been a librarian? – I’ve been a youth services librarian since September 2014. Before that I was an academic librarian, working in a community college. I started that job in September 2013.


What led you to wanting to be a librarian? – I wanted to be a librarian because I liked to read, I liked to find out information, and I liked recommending books to other people. After starting library school, I learned that there is a lot more to it than just that, but I am still enjoying what I do!


How do you pick books for your library? – At my library I, specifically, am in charge of ordering the audiobooks, books in Spanish, and board books, all for youth. Board books are special books for infants and toddlers that are hardier so they can put them in their mouths and turn the pages and they won’t rip or fall apart as easily. So, I read journals such as School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly to find out about audiobooks and read reviews of them. I also check websites related to what I order that give awards for certain types of books. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks myself, and I am aware of a number of quality narrators out there. I have a handle on what checks out the most at our library. I order diversely so our patrons (people) have a wide range of options. I get suggestions from people at the library. I guess there are a lot of ways that I decide what books or audiobooks are best for my library!

Do you have a favorite author? My favorite author is Chris Crutcher. He writes books for teens. My second favorite author is Will Hobbs. He writes adventure stories for middle grades. And my favorite author when I was a child was Cynthia Rylant, probably because of the Henry & Mudge series and how much I loved dogs.


How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? I ask what grade they’re in, what the last book they read that they liked, and then I have a few options. I have a list of “readalikes” – books in all kinds of categories like animal, funny fantasy, friendship, space-related, etc. – that I can use to recommend from. I can try to think of books that fit off the top of my head that I’ve read or that I know about. I also have a database called Novelist – a tool I can search by the last book they liked and see what comes up as being similar to that.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the Author: Tamra Wight

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Author website/social media:
Website: http://www.tamrawight.com
Facebook: Tamra Wight – Children’s Author
Twitter: @TamraWight
Instagram: tamrawight

1. When you were my age, did you like to read?
Oh my goodness, yes! I read constantly. In the back seat of the car, high in the branches of our maple tree, by the brook in the woods behind our house and under the covers at night (I thought I was fooling my mom into thinking I was sleeping, turns out she knew better). We didn’t have a ton of money growing up, but my parents always allowed me to buy books from the Scholastic Book flyer. I just loved pouring over it to see what was new! I’d circle ten choices, Mom would tell me to narrow it down to two, and we’d settle on three or four.

When I needed something new to read, I’d walk a little more than a mile to Charlton Library in the middle of my hometown. There on the shelves, I found Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, just to name a few.
2. What was your favorite story? I had many favorites that I read more than two and three times. The characters I look back on most fondly though is a series called The Bobbsey Twins. I’m not sure if it’s because of the family themed stories, my fascination with twins (two sets in the family), or the story behind my getting them. Even though I was young, I can distinctly remember the day I received a big box from my Grandmother Piehl, given to her by her sister who was a teacher, I believe. Inside was the entire series! They were gently used, but I didn’t notice or care. To have so many books given to me all at once! I was in heaven! I read them over and over and over again. Sometimes, I would just stare at them in awe as they sat in perfect order on our bookshelf.

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3. How do you get your ideas? Like why a camp in Maine? My husband, daughter, son and I owned Poland Spring Campground here in Maine for 27 years. We just sold it this past Fall, as a matter of fact. Our home was steps from the camp office, with 132 campsites scattered over the property, and the lakefront of Lower Range Pond beyond that. We lived in the house, even when the rest of the campground closed for the winter.

So for the Cooper and Packrat series, I’m sure you can see how I drew inspiration from our experiences and our family dynamic of not only living, but working together, too. Family Day was a real thing for us, although how we decided in real life to take one full day off each week was a very different, not-quite-as-interesting story. Remember Chapter One in Mystery on Pine Lake? Where Cooper lifts that trash can lid to find a lobster’s beady eyes staring at him and maggots crawling in and out of the body and among the trash? How a bag exploded at his feet? All based on our trash pick up routine, in the early years of owning a campground.

I also spent many hours exploring the lake in my kayak and hiking or snowshoeing the trails along its edges. It was mostly there, where I’d research first hand and take photos of the animals I’d feature in each story. Nesting loons and eagles, beavers, muskrats, heron, otters, foxes and more . . . but not the bears! I went to the Maine Wildlife Park to do research on those.

Some authors use a notebook and pen to record their thoughts and notes, I use my 500mm camera lens. You can read all about my wildlife watching and see my photos on my website. I also like to post them on Instagram, Facebook and Pintrest so others can see the beauty of our Maine Wildlife.

All of Cooper’s adventures have bits from my family’s experiences woven in loosely. The box canyon setting in Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest is based on a geo-caching spot my family hiked to called The Jail. Mystery of the Missing Fox kit scenes come from my monitoring a fox den for three years in person and through a trail camera. And finding a very cool bottle dump while hiking a trail in Auburn, Maine, led to the beginning of Mystery of the Bear Cub. I never quite know when or where inspiration will strike!

4. Is it hard to write/illustrate a book? I wouldn’t say hard . . . more like needing stick-to-it-ness, perseverance. It takes several rewrites to get a manuscript just right. Authors have trusted readers who critique our work and give honest, tough-love feedback on how to make each draft better than the last. And authors need to have the strength to take suggestions when we know in our heart they’re right for the story, even if it means one more rewrite or starting over again from word one.

5. Do you have a favorite among the books you have written? That’s like asking who my favorite child is! I like them all equally for very different reasons. The Three Grumpies was my first published book, a picture book inspired by my son Ben and one very grumpy three-year-old day. My daughter Alex, who was eleven at the time and an avid reader and writer herself, helped brainstorm the main character’s problems with me.

The Cooper and Packrat series is near and dear to my heart too, because it was inspired by our love of living and working in a campground. My son, now twenty years old, put it best a few weeks ago when he thanked me for writing the books. “Whenever I’m missing my time growing up in a campground, I can always pick up one of Cooper’s stories and remember.”

6. What author do you really like right now? There are so very many! I’m going to admit that I haven’t had a lot of reading time these last couple years. Running a 132 site campground, being a middle school ed tech, and writing the series, took up most of my day. There was one consistent opportunity to explore new books though, and that was by reading aloud at school. The last few years I shared books by Cynthia Lord, Kate Messner, and Victoria Jamieson (these are the three that come quickly to mind, although there were many others). Right now, I’m reading Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde to my students, we’re all loving it!

Since we sold the campground, I find myself reading daily again. I just finished The Call, by Wendy Ulmer and illustrated by Sandra Salsbury. I adored it! Magic and dragons are two of my favorite things to read about! I’m just about to begin Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung, because a student recommended it. I also love light sci-fi and fantasy too, so I hope to catch up on Rick Riordan’s latest books. Lightening Thief was one of my all time favorites.

7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?Read as much as you can. And when you find yourself loving a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter, go   back and read it again. Then one more time. What made it capture your attention? Why did it stand out? Was it the sentence structure? The hook? A cliff hanger? Perhaps it was the voice of the character. Try using that same strategy in your own writing with your own words.

Write often, and vary your writing until you find the style that fits you best. Try writing all the genres. Experiment with poetry. Nonfiction. Diary format.

And last but not least, take a break if you must, but never stop writing. After I sold The Three Grumpies, it took me ten years to sell another book. If I had given up, Cooper and Packrat would not be sitting on your shelf today.

Posted in Book Review

The Magic Misfits

By Neil Patrick Harris

This book is about a boy named Carter meeting friends. He has done magic since he was little. He runs away from a mean, bad uncle and ends up in a small town. The circus is in town, but not a good circus. Carter meets a strange man and eventually a group of kids who also like magic. Together they save the day and Carter gets a new family.

This book was AWESOME! I didn’t want to stop reading it. They teach you magic tricks and have hidden codes in the book. I liked the characters. This looks like the start of the series and I can’t wait for future books.

I recommend this book to people interested in magic. Want to know how a magician knows what crayon is yours? Read the book and find out.

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Vanessa Rendall

Name of library: St Mark’s, Drummoyne but I have a blog about the books we read there educateempower.blog – soon to be educateempower.com.au

 What kind of librarian are you?I am the librarian for the primary school. I work there part time so I don’t see every class but I have small groups for literacy lessons where we focus on different books and themes, lunchtime library club and a team of book reviewers.

How long have you been a librarian?  This is my third year

What lead you to wanting to be a librarian? I have always loved books! I loved being a primary school teacher but once I had my own children I didn’t want to work full time while they were little. This job came up and it is perfect – I still get to teach but I get to teach children all about the wonderful books in our library.

How do you pick books for your library? I have book boxes sent to me and a book shop come to visit me throughout the year. I know many of the students and the types of books they like so I try to keep that in mind when I am choosing books.

Do you have a favorite author?  I’m not sure I do – there are so man wonderful authors out there with different writing styles and different topics to delve into.

But – I know I can never go past Roald Dahl – he is an amazing author and most children love his books.

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? I ask them what they have read recently and if they enjoyed it. I then show them a few books like that one and also a couple that are completely different. I always encourage children to borrow a book they now they will love and try a new book they are unsure of.

Posted in Book Review, Friday Free Reads

Free Read Friday

This is my review book sorting. I get books from the store, as gifts and from publishers. My primary publisher partners are First Second and Scholastics but I may be adding more this year.

The top shelf is books that I have finished reading and need to review. Middle shelf are in the midst of reading or next up. Bottom is just waiting for reading time. Once a book is reviewed, it goes on a book shelf at home or school (I donate a lot of books to the school library).

Posted in Book Review

Ellie Engineer

By Jackson Pearce

Ellie, Engineer is the story of a girl named Ellie who is an engineer. There are also some neighborhood boys and girls and her best friend, Kit. In the story, it is Kit’s birthday and Ellie has something for her. Kit convinces Ellie to show it to her and everything falls apart. So now Ellie needs something new to give Kit. The story is about her making the new item, which is a dog house for Kit’s new dog. I will let you figure out the rest of the story when you read it.

I liked that this was a story about friendship. I am very curious about friendship and how they are all different. This is a STEM book. It is nice to have a girl as the Engineer. I have met girl engineers at Mom’s work but I don’t see them as often in books.

One thing is I read this on my tablet. Sure it is convenient for traveling but there is just something about a paper book.

I would recommend Ellie, Engineer to kids who are curious about building. A class project could be to build something while reading the book.

review Book was provided by Media Masters Publicity

Posted in Book Review

A girl named Rosai

By Denise Lewis Patrick

Are you curious to learn more about Rosa Parks? Did you know she did more than just give up her bus seat? This book will tell you so much more about her life. It tells about her childhood, her time working for NAACP, the bus experience and the end of her life in Detroit.

I liked this book because it shows an amazing girl who changed our world. I had heard about Rosa Parks but learned so much more in this book. It was written in a way I could understand and now I know details like the fact she was sitting in the black section of the bus when told to give up her seat.

I recommend this book as addition to a class library or for a kid curious about people who changed the world. An adult would enjoy this book if they just wanted a quick update on Rosa Parks.

This is the second “A girl named…” from American Girl. I look forward to more from them.

Review Book was provided by Scholastics