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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Indigo Quill
Blog URL: http://www.theindigoquill.com
Your name: Lis Ann Morehart

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – when did you decide to become a Youth Services Librarian? Can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?

That’s a great question! I have always loved books, education, and the power of imagination. When I was a kid, I’d ask my parents to drop me off at school 30 minutes early so I could roam the library and pick out my next read. My friends and I started our own book club, which became a sort of competition. From Elementary through High School, my librarians knew my name.

When I began college, I was torn between majoring in Music and English.  At first I chose music, but then I got to Music Theory III and decided it was time to switch gears (think of “Chemistry” class being the point where Biology majors drop out…that’s Music Theory III for Music majors!). I have so many hobbies, it took me a while to decide what I really wanted to do. In 2013, I started The Indigo Quill, and that is when I decided to become a librarian. The more I researched what a Youth Services Librarian did, I realized all of my hobbies and passions fit into this one vocation.

My job, in my opinion, is the best job in the world. I oversee ages 0 to early 20s and work with kids and teens through every phase of their lives. As someone who doesn’t sit still well, my job is always changing, and I love that. I keep up with the best practices for providing not just literacy, but also life skills and development for my patrons. I am in charge of collection development, program planning and execution, bookmobile services, volunteers, outreach, and anything else pertaining to children and teens. I am also the caregiver for our three library guinea pigs, Dobby, Dougal, and Nimbus. That’s just an added bonus. 🙂

Can you speak a little bit about your journey to becoming a book blogger? Do you find that reviewing books helps you better recommend them to students?

I have been a blogger since I was in the junior high, but I wanted to book blog for years before I finally did it. It wasn’t until I had read the end of a series I had followed for nearly a decade that I decided to start my blog. I waited almost ten years for this couple to get together, and then they ended up marrying other people! I won’t name any names, but I was so upset I had to find others who felt the same way. Thus, The Indigo Quill was born. Once I started, I was suddenly connected to several authors and publishers and the entire experience became much more than I ever anticipated. Here I was starting a blog so I had an outlet to complain expecting nothing to come of it, and aside from helping me become a better reader, writer, and editor, it assisted me in landing my last two jobs.

Reviewing has absolutely helped me better recommend books to people. It provides me navigation for picking the right ones to order for the library, and aids me in choosing books for storytime, Tween Book Club, and Teen Book Talk.

What are your favorite genres to read and review? Are there any upcoming book(s) on NetGalley that you’re excited about recommending?

I love Juvenile Fantasy, because you will find the greatest depths of imagination there. It keeps me young and aware of life’s possibilities. But I also enjoy balancing that out with Non-Fiction. I grew up with a fascination for learning things, so whether it’s a biography, cookbook, cultural, or health, I almost always emerge from the pages enlightened.

It actually released earlier this month, but I recommend the book, Women Who Dared by Linda Skeers. If you love books that empower women in history, this title is distinguished and comprehensive. Although it doesn’t provide extensive details (especially the less glamorous ones) for each gal, it introduces women from all over the world in a way that doesn’t intimidate young readers.

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

At the beginning of Summer Reading, I had a parent who told me her son, who is about 10 years old, hates reading. Every time a parent tells me that, I get a little overly excited. Challenge accepted! 9 times out of 10, the child just needs to be introduced to the right book. They just need to discover something in their “language.” Sometimes that’s My Little Pony, other times it’s Minecraft. This particular child I directed to our graphic novels. He was so excited to find Pokemon books! He had the entire series read by the end of the Summer, and has now moved on to our Juvenile Fiction. He was one of my top readers for the Summer Reading Program this Summer, and I couldn’t be more proud. Sometimes you just need to find the right key.

What is the most requested title in your library?

Anything by James Patterson. We have pages of waiting lists for his books, and they won’t see the shelves for at least 6 months after we receive them.

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

First impressions and occasional adventures by a Youth Services Librarian. The days of suffering alone at the hands of a good, or horrible, story are over!

Your all-time favorite Middle Grade book:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Hermione Granger is without a doubt my literary parallel.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Neil Gaiman. He is absolutely brilliant on and off the pages.

Thanks so much, Lis Ann, for spending time with us and answering our questions! 

Please make sure to check out The Indigo Quill blog plus more Middle Grade and Children’s Fiction on NetGalley!

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Fairview Review
Blog URL: http://fveslibrary.blogspot.com
Your name: Suzanne Costner

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did become the school library media specialist at Fairview Elementary School? Can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?

I have always wanted to be a librarian, and after several years as a classroom teacher, I realized that my favorite activities all revolved around the books I used with my students. So I completed my LMS degree and moved into the library. I had a wonderful mentor in the school where I was teaching, and she helped me with the transition to the nearby school where I am now librarian. I teach a library class for each homeroom once a week, and also have classes schedule extra time to come in for research or other projects. My favorite part of the job is connecting my students with the right books and watching them become avid readers.

How is technology incorporated into your library, for your students but also for yourself and your staff? Do you have any goals for incorporating further technology into your library?

I began the blog as a way to incorporate more technology into the library program. I wanted to offer the students an authentic audience to share book reviews, rather than just writing a book report for the teacher to check off in the gradebook. I’ve had a few students take advantage of the platform, but most are more excited about reading the books rather than writing about them. I’ve slowly been adding MakerSpace activities to the library, and the most popular so far is the green screen. Our plan is to record student book talks, then attach QR codes to the covers of books for other students to access the videos.

I serve as a “tech teacher leader” for my school. Part of the role is to model technology integration for the other teachers, and to offer support as they try to implement new things. We have used the Quiver AR app and Plickers in guidance classes, robotics and computer coding in the library, and apps like Epic! ebooks and Quizlet in classrooms. The big focus lately has been the green screen. I’ve used it to record voter public service announcements with the 5th graders; the 4th grade has recorded math instructional videos on how to solve word problems and also infomercials starring the founding fathers of the original 13 colonies; the basketball teams even came in and made an appreciation video to show the coach at their banquet. I lead training sessions on using online resources, STEM lessons, and equipment like the green screen or document cameras.

Which book(s) would you suggest for a middle grade level reluctant reader?

There are so many great stories that are not thick, intimidating books, so I usually start with those. Series like The Zack Files, Eerie Elementary, or The Imaginary Veterinary are fast-paced and include lots of humor to up their appeal. I also reach for anything that is heavily illustrated or in graphic novel/manga format such as the Dragon Breath, Babymouse, and Amulet series or anything by Doug TenNapel (Cardboard is a big favorite). And then I look for topics that appeal to the students like the I Survived books. Once I find one book they enjoy, it is much easier to say, “If you liked that, then try this.”

How long have you been reviewing books online and why did you start? Do you find reviewing the books helps you better recommend them to students?

I began the blog in June 2013, as something to offer the students in place of writing book summaries or taking AR tests. I wrote out some reviews to show them a sample of what they might do, and became hooked on it. I have always read children’s and YA books to be able to find new titles to use in my classroom or to add to the library, so sharing my thoughts about them was a natural progression. Reviewing definitely helps me think of which student(s) a certain book would be perfect for. It has become a ritual when they come up to the circulation desk, they ask me which of the books in their stack I have already read. And there are several students who come in the door and call across the room, “What should I read next?”

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

My first year in the library I had a family come in for the book fair on a Friday afternoon and the father asked me to help his son find a book. “He hasn’t found anything that he likes since he finished the Harry Potter series,” the dad said. So I showed them The Lightning Thief and told them to take it home and try it over the weekend, and if he didn’t enjoy it, I would exchange it for something else. Monday morning both parents came in and I asked if their son had started the book and did he think he would like it. The mother replied,” Start it! He read the whole thing in one sitting and we’re back for the rest of the series!” And I thought to myself, “The library is where I belong.”

Which upcoming Middle Grade book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

Oh, I’m glad you put that (s) on book, because there is no way to pick only one. For fantasy readers I would say Jen Calonita’s Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3). For graphic novel lovers, Gene Luen Yang’s Secrets and Sequences from the Secret Coders series (coding, robots, and graphic novel format all together). If readers enjoy humorous fiction with action, then The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff. And for a bit of suspense/supernatural elements I would say Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Round!

The last book that made you smile:

 

 

The Dragon Hunters by James Russell and Link Choi

 

 

Your favorite Storytime book to read:

Anything by Mo Willems. We Are in a Book (with Elephant and Piggie so excited to be the characters in a story), is a great one. My students also love Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements. I think they like listening to me try to read it without getting tongue-tied.

The most popular books in your library right now:

I Survived series, A Series of Unfortunate Events (thanks to the Netflix series), Secret Coders series, and spooky books by Mary Downing Hahn.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

I would love to have tea with Anne McCaffrey and talk dragons with her. I periodically go back and read through all the Pern books and remember when I found the first one while I was in middle school. She wrote such a wide range of science fiction/fantasy and I love all the various worlds she imagined and shared with us.

Thanks so much Suzanne, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out the The Fairview Review and more Middle Grade available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Cracking the Cover
Blog URL: http://www.crackingthecover.com
Your name: Jessica Harrison

First, let’s start with how you initially started reviewing children’s, and more specifically, middle grade books:

During my senior year of college, I was an intern at a local newspaper. Working in the features department meant covering a number of topics — music, dance, theater, food, etc. — but it was reviewing books to which I gravitated. Following graduation, I was hired by the newspaper as a copy editor. Soon I began covering music and books on the side. When the book editor retired, I became the paper’s in-house book critic, responsible for coordinating all author interviews and book reviews for the Sunday arts section. I covered books for all ages and in all genres, but I gravitated toward books for young readers.

In 2010, the newspaper underwent massive layoffs, and my position covering books was eliminated. I though that was the end of things, but life had other plans. January 2011 began with an invitation from Penguin Young Readers Group to moderate their Breathless Reads panel featuring Ally Condie, Andrea Cremer, Kirsten Miller, Beth Revis and Brenna Yovanoff. The event went well, and by the end of it, my husband had come up with the idea of me starting a blog. Cracking the Cover was officially launched March 7, 2011.

Deciding what to cover was easy. Books for young readers had become my passion. Picture books are full of whimsy, and young adult novels pack a powerful punch. Middle grade hits at a magical time — imaginations are ripe for the picking, and the need for romance is often unnecessary, freeing up authors to follow other paths.

Having a somewhat unique background and approach to reading and reviewing books, have your reading habits changed since you started blogging about books?

I’ve always been a fast reader, but reading on deadline made me more efficient. In the beginning, I probably read more as a blogger than as a newspaper critic. I would read whenever and wherever I could, which was pretty much anytime and anywhere. That changed significantly once became pregnant and gave birth to my daughter. Now I do a lot of reading on my phone — thank you, NetGalley! — because I can surreptitiously read while my now-almost-2-year-old plays. Physical books are reserved for quiet time and after she goes to bed at night. (She’d much rather I read with her than by myself — a rough problem, I know.)

Do you have a particular approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?

In many ways, my approach is still the same. I keep track of all books I receive — physical and digital — and set deadlines for those I know for sure I want to review. The others go into my TBR pile and work their way into the lineup as I flesh out my plans.

The physical reading is also the same. I jot down thoughts as I go but like to give myself some time between completion and writing a corresponding review so that I can gather my thoughts.

Evolution has come with writing, as it should, particularly when it comes to reviews. My interview and feature style has always been more conversational, which works well for blogging, but my review style as a newspaper critic was much drier. Adapting my reviews to that more casual style is an ongoing process — it’s hard to write in first person when you’ve been trained not to!

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out?

Do you. What works for me may not be what works for you. Find your own format, your own style, your own layout. Success won’t come from copying what others do. You must find your own voice and run with it. And if you ever feel as if things are too hard or aren’t going the way you want, rethink your approach.

Which upcoming Middle Grade books on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending? Are there any reviews you’re currently working on that you’re particularly excited to share on your blog?

I’m just finishing up a number of books — I usually am reading three or four at a time. I’ll be running reviews for a couple of NetGalley books in the next two weeks or so. The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary, and Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban, were released earlier this month. On their face, the two books are polar opposites, but as you delve into them, their main characters bring forward moving truths. I’m looking forward to The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton, and Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance, which have February publication dates. I’ve started both and can’t wait to see where they go. Of course, I’ve also got some picture and young adult books in my review pile that will get sprinkled in there as well.

The Night Parade  Paper Wishes   The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn   Behind the Canvas

Lightning Round!

Your ideal reading spot:

Curled up with a blanket next to a heat vent. (We’ve had a cold winter this year!)

Your blog in 2 sentences:

Cracking the Cover is dedicated to picture, middle-grade and young-adult books. It offers readers an inside look at new worlds, enticing characters, magical places, and the authors who bring them to life.

Your favorite childhood book:

Naming just one book is impossible. There are so many that made an impact, so I’ll share a few of my favorite middle grade. The first chapter book I remember was B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood; The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes is timeless; and the “All of a Kind Family” series by Sydney Taylor was a perennial favorite.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

I’d go with Katherine Paterson to Terabithia, of course!

Thanks so much Jessica, for spending some time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out Cracking the Cover and titles in Middle Grade now available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series?Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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