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I’m inheriting two programs as the new children’s librarian – a weekly toddler storytime, and a monthly bookgroup for ages ten and up.  I had a sort of trial run for storytime this week, filling in for someone on vacation.  It was actually one of the preschool storytimes, but still – it warmed up my muscles.  I did a fish theme and read Fish is Fish, Clara and Asha, and Fish Eyes, along with a flannelboard version of The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile.  It all went over swimmingly (haha) and I was delightfully surprised to see how entranced the kids were by Clara and Asha, which I’d worried was better suited to a cozier setting and fewer children.  But they lapped it up – and according to one of the other librarians, they even squealed at a few points.  I read Fish is Fish first, since it was longest and I was worried about attention spans.  Fish Eyes was great towards the end, because I didn’t have to worry about losing the threads of a story as they interrupted and crowded around to point out their favorite fish.  Have I mentioned that I love reading aloud? I’ll have my regular storytime starting in October, when our next cycle starts up.

The book group is a more challenging crowd.  They don’t squeal.  I’m taking over starting in September, so I sat in on this month’s discussion.  There were five kids, and I’m terrible at guessing ages but they looked like a range from ten to fourteen or so.  It had been free choice month, so they each talked about some of the best things they read over the summer – everything from Harriet the Spy to Specials.  I loved hearing their reactions to things.  For September, the librarian currently running the show booktalked three titles and then opened the floor for nominations, and then they voted for their top three choices. 

Eragon won out by one point over Shakespeare’s Secret, so it looks like I’ll finally have to tackle that dreaded title.  The boy who nominated it was super excited, since he’s been trying to get the group to read it for ages but is always outvoted.  Me?  I tried to listen to the audio version a few years ago and didn’t even make it through a whole cassette.  The way I figure it is that I’ll either give up partway and run next month’s discussion blind, or it will be so terribly bad that I’ll get a good laugh and make it through.  The one-star reviews on Goodreads are making me think it could go either way.  How much am I willing to suffer for the bookgroup?  Stay tuned – I’ve got until the 15th.

Well Witched Well Witched by Frances Hardinge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Surprisingly creepy, with fantastic imagery. I loved the juxtaposition of ancient well spirits, possessed shopping carts, nightmares about such innocent things as fogged-over glass, and the trials of adolescence. The relationships – between the three children, in their families, and with various other adults – were just as compelling as the fantasy plotline, where the task of granting wishing-well wishes is forced upon modern kids. The way Ryan and Chelle interact with the more controlling Josh rang so true as to middle school behavior, and Hardinge makes the resolution work. But don’t forget the creepy – I won’t be forgetting the eyes on Ryan’s hands anytime soon. So while I love this cover, I wish it had something that said less “fun fantasy!” and more “creepy but still funny fantasy.” Recommended for less easily-frightened readers, 4th-middle school.

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Hardinge has a new one coming out September 1st – The Lost Conspiracy, which I look forward to snagging when my order comes in at work.  Fuse #8 has a nice long review, which of course makes me want it NOW.  As is often the case with her reviews.  Oh, and here’s her review of Well Witched from last year, which makes me wish I’d noted down some of my favorite lines, and she mentions a line that made me laugh aloud when I first read it:

“Ryan had always thought that carts had far too much body language for objects with no heads or limbs.”

Yeah, it still makes me laugh.

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