Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review - 'The Fault in our Stars'

I always keep a list of books that I've been told I should buy for the library. All of a sudden, out of the blue, students came to me asking if I had any John Green novels. Not just one, but several students came and upon hearing that I didn't, implored me to buy some. As luck would have it, that evening on a (personal) trip to the bookstore, I saw a copy of 'The Fault in our Stars' by the much lauded John Green and picked it up.

I picked it up and fell in love.

Ok, that might be an overstatement. But it was, in my mind, a perfect little book. 'The Fault in our Stars' is a story of snarky kids with cancer. Hazel, who has terminal cancer which has been distracted (but not deterred) by a miracle medicine enjoys watching marathons of 'America's Next Top Model' and rolling her eyes at her cancer support group which takes place in the literal heart of Jesus. However, when Augustus Waters and his one leg enter the support group, Hazel gets a chance to enjoy parts of her life in a way she and her family had never anticipated. When she shares her favorite book with Augustus, he joins her in her pursuit of finding out what happened - the book ends in the middle of a sentence. This pursuit takes them around the world and back again, as they try finding out the ending of that story before they have to confront the ending of their own.

This book has everything that I look for in a book - strong characters, compelling story, believable plot lines. It also has dry wit, humour, realistic situations and some great people. Green makes me believe in these characters and does a great job in showing their divide between those with and those without cancer. However, they are, to quote Jonathan Larson, living with disease, not dying. It is this distinction that makes Hazel and Augustus - two children with old people names who will never be old - real to me.

And obviously, these characters are real to many, not just mid-thirties librarians. When I mention this book to students (having bought a copy for the library as I didn't want to donate the one I bought for me) they, or the friend they were with exclaim how much they loved the book. How they loved the characters. It works for them and they love that.

I am now reading 'An Abundance of Katherines' by Green. I like it, just not as much as 'The Fault in our Stars'. 'Looking for Alaska' has been checked out of the library by two or three people in a row and I've had no chance to get it myself. Thank you Mr. Green for these books. It's fantastic to get realistic fiction that's funny.

This is a bit of a love letter rather than a review. I will admit, I just really liked this book. It's nice, writing about something I really enjoyed. I have also recommended it for our Provincial High School reading list. It was that solid.

To link to this review:


Monday, April 23, 2012

Why libraries? Why librarians?

So often, I find myself defending explaining my position in a school and what I do. At times, this explanation is interrupted by kids checking out books, asking if I have a specific book, getting e-mails from teachers who I work with wondering when they can start their research units and others asking for specific links. This post has been interrupted twice in the past half an hour by different requests, such as finding working computers for students (and making computers work) and finding resource videos to help teachers with topics they are presenting. One thing my position is not is focused.


As a TL within a high school, I get asked many questions and for many resources. Many of the answers to these questions come from my connection with my computer, as I sit here and go from program to program and find the answers they seek. The 'ding' of my e-mail and the results of my Google search often bring a new challenge as I absorb the new information that has been presented to me. I find myself having to keep current with social media and it's uses in the classroom, at times to a point where I am the only one in my professional sphere that knows what I'm talking about! However, knowing that twitter is a resource, that wordle can make even the darkest novel look pretty, that prezi is powerpoints glittery cousin - that's my job.


At times, I find myself looking up from a book to answer a question, as I try to keep up with the YA fiction that I bring into the library - it's not uncommon for me to read several books in a day to keep up with the demand. This reading takes place both in and out of school, with my family very used to me walking around the house, stirring supper and drying my hair with one hand as a book is in the other. I read with pleasure, but much of my reading for pleasure has been displaced by my reading for work. It's my homework, my equivalent to bags of marking, my professional obligations.


Sometimes, simply because I am so distracted and pulled in so many directions it takes a while to answer the question 'Why library? Why librarians?', yet it is a question I still need to answer.


Libraries can be anything. They are the spot that can house the computers and the (sometimes) dusty reference tomes. They are the spot that houses meetings, guest speakers, university interviews, extra time tests, exams, study hall. They are also the spot where anything can happen - teachers can bring a class and test something fantastical with the resources there. Students can come and check out a book that they can't wait to read. Activities can span the space, making it not a room in a school but a cafe, a social justice experiment, a music hall, a laboratory. That's why libraries.


Librarians are often the quiet force in a school. They are more than a babysitter or someone to clean up the mess left behind in the library. They are the ones who can answer questions quickly, being used to doing so for countless patrons. They are able to provide alternate reading for a student from the simple question 'what are you interested in' and they can find a resource that is hidden from the view of everyone else. They work in a school community, trying to make connections between the unconnected and making sure it is all tied to the curriculum. They find safe ways to search, find online resources and activities and teach others how to use them. They match kids to the right book for them. And then sometimes they do it again. That's why librarians.


Libraries are a repository of knowledge. They have a person who can find information with the click of a button working there. They have books, computers, boards and other resources available and someone to let you know how to use it. Whether it's the lyrics to the song that's going through your head to the quadratic formula, someone can help you find it and it's a room you know you can always go to to ask questions. That's why libraries.


Librarians are a connection to the world. That connection is then taken and shared with others, showing them how to do it too.Our students are connected pretty much 24/7. They carry around technology that is, at times, much better than that which we can provide. We need to know how to harness it, use it and teach them to use it. And who better than the person who traditionally has been the resource to access the world? That's why librarians.


Now, if you will excuse me, my to-do list has grown dramatically while writing this....