Sometimes it still feels weird that I am an official librarian. I guess I always thought that once I graduated, I would physically change in some way. I know that sounds weird, but I feel that I am still learning the ropes. I think it’s a good thing I chose this profession though. I like to be somewhere where lifelong learning is part of the career.

I got a pleasant surprise this morning and received my certification as a Level V Public Librarian for Oklahoma. I am looking forward to growing and developing myself more as an official librarian.

Summer 2021 Programming

This has been quite the learning experience for me as I was in charge of the Summer Reading Program for adults. Here is what I have done and will be doing.

I set up a reading challenge for patrons 18 years of age and up through Beanstack. The Summer Reading Challenge was to complete 5 out of 13 book reading challenges. Once you registered for the program, you were eligible to come to the library and select a free of your choice from the Reference desk. If you completed 5 challenges, your name will be entered for a drawing at the end of July, and two people will be randomly chosen for a Kindle tablet.

Flyer for Adult Summer Reading Program 2021.

This was also where I hosted the first Book Affair meeting. The APL Book Affair is a book club dedicated to reading romance novels. The first meeting was on June 24th.

The second meeting will be on July 31st. Our first book selection was Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe. The second book selection will be Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I.

Flyer for the APL Book Affair

A program I created at the start of Summer Reading was the Dragon Eye Model. This take-home craft was set up to celebrate the Summer Reading Program’s theme of Tails and Tales. People were given supplies to make their dragon eyes from modeling clay. I posted some photographs of how people made their own dragon eyes. The results were gorgeous and creative!

Flyer for Dragon Eye Take-Home Kit.
First Dragon Eye I received from a patron.
Second set of eyes I received from a patron. With my kit, you could make 3-4 dragon eyes.
Third set of eyes from two sibling patrons. I loved how they colored them!
Here’s the dragon eyes I made myself! It was one of the easiest crafts I’ve done, but the results are so majestic to behold!

In July, I collaborated with Ardmore’s Parks and Recreation to have an outdoors movie screening for families. We chose the film, Zootopia to go with this year’s theme.

Flyer for the event.

The last event I chose to go for the Tails and Tales theme was the Sketchbook Project. Patrons can check out our sketchbook for a week and fill in the pages with as much animal-related art as they want. Once the sketchbook is filled out, the names of the participants and the sketchbook will be added to Ardmore’s collection for the public to view.

I can’t wait to see what creativity is in store for this program.

Strange Readings: A Reference Search Into the Unknown

This is a virtual program that was first started on May 11, 2020. Its last episode premiered October 20, 2020. The program covered true crime and the paranormal. I hosted a discussion for each episode with a different co-host. My last two episodes were with professors from the Department of Criminal Justice of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Researching and creating this program was a wonderful learning experience. I am considering doing another season in 2021, but we shall see. In the meantime, I have the playlist of the episodes down below.

Playlist of Strange Readings Episodes 2020

Book Review (American Born Chinese)

Bibliography: Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. New York, New York: Square Fish, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0312384487.

Plot Summary: At first, you see three unrelated tales. You have the tale of the Monkey King, a famous figure in Chinese storytelling that can’t enter a dinner party because, despite being a deity and a king, he is still a monkey. The second story is about a first generation-Chinese-American, Jin Wang, grappling with living a white-majority area and wanting to belong. The third story is about a white boy, Danny feeling his idealized life getting thrown into shambles when a foreign cousin comes to visit. These tales have more in common than the reader finds initially and as the graphic novel moves forward, the reader finds themselves horrified by the characters’ mistakes but enthused when they succeed or learn.

Critical Analysis: This is not a comfortable book. It’s not. There is a racial caricature that is its own character within the third story, and it will make American readers in particular squirm in discomfort, given the history and prevalence of anti-Asian racism the United States. This book will especially feel uncomfortable now during COVID-19 when there are hate crimes toward Asian-Americans. The caricature is even given the name of what is a pun of a racial slur, and, so, I will only refer to the character as the cousin. The graphic novel is uncomfortable, but that is what makes it an important read for adults and youth alike. It is contemporary in that it shows that the United States still needs to learn from its mistakes. It also tells children a lot on self-image in American culture. The art by Gene Luen Yang is clean lines and simple colors, with a highlight usually used to mark people’s eyes. It has a rather Sunday comics sort of feel, which seems suitable to the graphic novel as it drives that Asian-Americans are as part of the American life and culture like everybody else. Its setting is set no particular year for the most part, beyond clothes that indicate it is somewhere in the 21st century. Therefore, the art does not truly age and it will be interesting to see how readers interpret that for years to come.

As a child, Jin is told by an elderly Chinese woman, “It’s easy to become anything you wish…so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.” The elderly lady says no more, concentrating on her work, leaving Jin befuddled. Not too soon after that, Jin is taken to a mostly-white elementary school. From there, he faces dog-eating jokes from his peers, and the teacher tries to help but ends up making it worse, countering, “I’m sure Jin doesn’t do that! In fact, Jin’s family probably stopped that sort of thing as soon as they came to the United States!” This graphic novel may be meant for younger readers to learn to unpack racism, but it is also a great teaching tool for adults, namely instructors, of how not to defend a student dealing with racism.

Jin’s story is the heart of the entire graphic novel, with the Monkey King story and the story of Danny complementing it in a way I will not reveal as it is what will conclude the graphic novel. However, I will say that readers may not initially like Jin and how he treats his friend Wei-Chen, but they may still nonetheless sympathize and enjoy when he grows and develops into himself. They might also laugh and sympathize with the ways Jin tries to assimilate, such as when he decides to perm his hair to copy a popular boy’s hairstyle (“Why is his hair a broccoli?!” Wei-Chen exclaims to his girlfriend, Suzy when they find out). Readers of all ages have been through that experience of following a trend to belong, only for the whole endeavor to backfire. I remember being obsessed with straightening my Middle Eastern wavy-curly hair back in high school and having to spend much of my early twenties undoing all that heat damage.

As the Monkey King says, “You know…I would have saved myself from five hundred years’ imprisonment beneath a mountain of rock had I only realized how good it is to be a monkey.”

My only reservation is the handling of Suzy Nakamura, one of the few other Asian characters that Jin befriends and Wei-Chen dates. She’s also the only speaking Asian American girl. In her last appearance, she talks to Jin and shares that she feels she doesn’t belong anywhere and how she felt when a classmate called her a slur. She tears up and Jin kisses her. She is upset, hits Jin, and walks off. While Wei-Chen confronts Jin and they have a fallout, she is not mentioned again. Even when Wei-Chen and Jin make up, she is never talked about again. It is a little disappointing that we do not get to hear more perspective from Suzy, especially as she can provide input on how it feels to be Asian and female and what micro- and macro-aggressions she deals in that.

That said, this is a story about accepting and embracing yourself and not choosing to let others define you. Whether the reader is Asian or not, it matters not except that maybe they will see similar struggles through these characters and see if they need to change their views of themselves.

Review Excerpt and Awards Won:

Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature (2007) (this is the first graphic novel to win this), Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (2013), and the 2006/2007 Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award.

Following excerpt is from Publishers Weekly, reviewed on June 12, 2006:

“This much-anticipated, affecting story about growing up different is more than just the story of a Chinese-American childhood; it’s a fable for every kid born into a body and a life they wished they could escape…True to its origin as a Web comic, this story’s clear, concise lines and expert coloring are deceptively simple yet expressive. Even when Yang slips in an occasional Chinese ideogram or myth, the sentiments he’s depicting need no translation. Yang accomplishes the remarkable feat of practicing what he preaches with this book: accept who you are and you’ll already have reached out to others.”

Connections: Have readers partner up. Have the first partner and second partner draw the first partner and anything they would associate with them (if they like cats, put cats, if they are fashionable, have clothes drawn around them, etc.) Then have them show each other the pictures they drew of the first partner. They will discuss how their perceptions may differ and what will be similar, showcasing that self-image and other people’s perceptions may contrast each other. Once they are done, have the first partner and second partner draw the second partner and what they would associate with them and repeat the discussion. Another connection can be of having the readers make a comic to ask what is Suzy Nakamura doing at the end of the graphic novel and how it would fit with the canon.

Book Review (The Graveyard Book)

Bibliography: Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. New York, New York: Harper Collins, 2008. ISBN-13:  978-0060530921.

Plot Summary: A man goes into a house. He is meant to kill a man, a woman, a little girl, and a baby. He kills the man. He kills the woman. He kills the little girl. He cannot find and kill the baby. No, the baby wanders away and is found by spirits of an old graveyard. The baby is adopted and renamed Nobody “Bod” Owens. The living boy thus is raised by the graveyard, guarded by a man implied to have vampiric leanings. They tell him to never leave the graveyard for his safety, but how can the living stay always where the dead are? Who is after him? Why?

Critical Analysis: Parents might feel uneasy about their child reading a book about death, but they themselves will be drawn to the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. This book shows the humor, the sorrow, and, yes, even the beauty and inevitability of death. In fact, this is one the best handlings of the subject of death for younger readers to read about. Bod Owens is not overshadowed by the supernatural that surrounds him, in fact, as he grows up, he shows to have, for lack of a better term, a noble spirit. When he sneaks into a living school, he wants the younger students to stand up to two bullies that are forcing them into giving up their money and shoplift for them:

“The other boy helped him pick the coins up, and handed them over…’Are you with them? Nick and Mo?’

The other boy shook his head. ‘Nope. I think that they are fairly repulsive.’ He hesitated. Then he said, ‘Actually, I came to give you a bit of advice.'”

Bod develops from an impulsive baby into a clever boy that wants to see wrongs be righted, whether it is for his original family or for what he witnesses as he peeks out toward the living world.

This book is also great at establishing strong female characters. At first, when you are introduced to Miss Lupescu, she iss described as follows: “[She] was not pretty. Her face was pinched and her expression was disapproving. Her hair was grey, although her face seemed too young for grey hair. Her front teeth were slightly crooked. She wore a bulky mackintosh and a man’s tie around her neck.” At first, readers would think she was a stereotypical prudish, stuffy teacher type, but as the pages unfold, you find that there is more than meets the eye to her. She and Bod eventually bond and she makes for a great addition to the cast.

“‘This is the boundary,’ said…Miss Lupescu, and Bod looked up. The three moons had gone. Now he could see the Milky Way, see it as he had never seen it before, a glimmering shroud across the arch of the sky. The sky was filled with stars.

“‘They’re beautiful,’ said Bod.

“‘When we get you home,’ said Miss Lupescu, ‘I teach you the names of the stars and the constellations.’

“‘I’d like that,’ admitted Bod.”

The novel has a villain, Jack, and the reader must delve further into the novel to find out more why he is after Bod. In the meantime, the reader reads chapter by chapter of Bod getting older and learning and maturing within his ghostly family and friends, including making mistakes here and there, such as getting his first living friend in trouble with her parents that they have to move away, playing with ill-intentioned ghouls, and getting in the crossfire with two con artists.

Dave McKean illustrates here and there with soft gray drawings that are framed by strong bold curves in black, adding the feeling that this is a book about what goes on after life. Bod learns to embrace life and so will the reader that has this book. It is humorous, adventurous, awe-inspiring, and bittersweet. It captures what life means and to cherish it when you have it.

Review Excerpt and Awards Won:

Winner of the Newbery Medal (2009), Hugo Award for Best Novel (2009), Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel (2009), Carnegie Medal (2010). It was also nominated for the Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature (2009).

Following excerpt is from Kirkus Reviews, published September 30, 2008, and posted online May 20, 2010:

“Wistful, witty, wise—and creepy.

Gaiman’s riff on Kipling’s Mowgli stories never falters…Episodic chapters tell miniature gems of stories (one has been nominated for a Locus Award) tracing Bod’s growth from a spoiled boy who runs away with the ghouls to a young man for whom the metaphor of setting out into the world becomes achingly real. Childhood fears take solid shape in the nursery-rhyme–inspired villains, while heroism is its own, often bitter, reward.

Closer in tone to American Gods than to Coraline, but permeated with Bod’s innocence, this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child.”

Connections: Have the readers come up with how they would feel they want to be remembered as, and have them draw out their own personal epitaph/plaque. What life goals would they want to be remembered for?