Sunday, October 10, 2010

BOOK REVIEW - Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Title: Diamond Willow
Author:  Helen Frost
Reviewed by:  Jackie Flowers

As a library user, I cannot control when my holds arrive at my branch but I sometimes feel like a magical force brings them to me when I need them most.  “Diamond Willow” was a book that arrived at just the right time – it is full of hidden beauty that I needed to be reminded of. 

The story is about a girl named Diamond Willow who lives with her family in the interior of Alaska, isolated from the outside world during the winter months.  Lack of roads, mechanics’ skills and supplies during these cold, snowy seasons means that dog sledding remains an important mode of transportation. 

Diamond Willow is a twelve year old girl who feels insignificant.  It’s not easy for her to make friends at her school and she’s on the verge of losing her best friend to a boyfriend.  The story unfolds during the winter season when Willow convinces her parents to let her take the dog sled to her grandparents home, 12 miles away, alone.  But her first step towards independence are not without challenges. 

The plot of this story is a little thin but the ideas about family, heritage, nature and self-discovery are so beautifully constructed.  You finish this book feeling warmed inside. 

Diamond willow is a type of tree found in Alaska and its significance to the story and the girl, Diamond Willow, unfolds throughout the story.   And did I mention that each page is a diamond-shaped poem that reads like prose?  Read it, please!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Book Reviews are Back!!!

Hello everyone!  Welcome to the new school year.  We are kicking off our book review blog this year with a review written by Meghan Reimer.  Anyone interested in practicing how to write reviews or readers' advisory entries, please contact us at for more info.  Now, without further ado...

Ortega by  Maureen Fergus

 Ortega by Maureen Fergus is the story of a remarkable eleven-year-old gorilla. Ortega is the subject of a ground-breaking experiment that gave the ape a voice to speak with and a life in the world of humans. As the book opens, Ortega is about to attend a human school for the first time. After a rough beginning, the gorilla makes some good friends and learns to adjust to his new world. Caught between his life as a student and friend, and as a research subject for the unfeeling Dr. Whitmore, Ortega starts to question his place in the world and wants to find out exactly where he belongs. When Dr. Whitmore tells Ortega that he may be sold, Ortega and his new friends go through trials which test the limits of their friendship and allows Ortega to discover just who he is.
             The novel, aimed at ages nine to twelve, is an accurate reflection of the lessons that pre-teens are learning. The novel is full of characters who do and say the things regular eleven-year-olds do, even Ortega himself who yearns for responsibility but can't sleep without his favourite teddy bear. Ortega also struggles with his identity and place in the world, as he is caught between the world of humans and the world of animals. He learns to relate to new people and accept that life isn't always fair. Fergus focuses on the theme of equality and accepting those who are different from ourselves, a valuable lesson for all children (and adults). It seems easy in the book for the children to accept a love able, although misbehaved, gorilla into their lives, but how easy is it to really accept diversity and overlook large differences in others?
            In the end, this story is primarily about friendships and loving relationships. Ortega learns to make friends and finds out how important it is to treat such friends well. He gains friends who will risk anything for each other, even haunted factories. Ortega also discovers that family is who loves you and cares for you, rather than what DNA says. This novel could serve as a great example to adopted children struggling with not knowing their birth families.
            The novel is written with a good pace, full of exciting adventures, and very real characters. As odd as it sounds, you really find yourself identifying with Ortega the gorilla and his story of finding acceptance. I would recommend this book to any child around age ten.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

SCHEDULING REVISIONS to the Meet & Greets with Children and Youth Faculty Candidates

NOTE: Please see below for SCHEDULING REVISIONS to the Q & A Meetings with the Candidates for the New Media and Children's Literature Faculty position @ the iSchool. 

Also - We have created a Facebook Discussion Board that you can access from our Facebook page - CYA (Children and Youth Advocacy) - to share YOUR OPINIONS and QUESTIONS.

The search is on and we need YOUR INPUT! 

The iSchool is interviewing for a new faculty position for 
youth, children's literature and new media!!!  

CYA Co-chair Andrea Siemens is representing the interest of the student body on this Search Committee and invites all students to come and meet the short list candidates at informal lunch meetings throughout the month of March.  

These Meet & Greets will be Informal Catered Meetings during which students are encouraged to ask questions and learn more about the candidates. 
TIME:  12:00 PM to 1:30 PM
LOCATION: R. 212  
(the Dean's Conference Room on the ground fl. next to Student Services)

Thanks to all who attended the Meet & Greet with Rhonda McEwen last week!
Tuesday Mar. 9:             Annette Goldsmith
Thursday Mar. 18:         Anna Nielson
Monday  Mar. 22:           Leanne Bowler
Thursday Mar. 25:         Sara Grimes
Wednesday Mar. 31:      Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

Unable to attend the meetings?  Contact Andrea in person or by email to pass on any questions you may have for the candidates -->

Career Profile: Children Services Librarian, Sarah MacLean

For future jobseekers, there are two eventualities: you will land a job or you will land your dream job. After spending the morning with Sarah MacLean, Client Service Specialist – Children Services Librarian at the Pickering Public Library (PPL), it was obvious that she is one of the lucky ones who has landed their dream job. When asked what she enjoys most about her job, Sarah exclaimed, “What do I not love about my job?”

Sarah brings an English background and a passion for working with children to her job. She loves children and even explored the prospect of teaching before arriving at the Dalhousie School of Information Management. She entered her Masters knowing that she wanted to be a children’s librarian. After spending a large part of her life as a member of Girl Guides of Canada, where she grew from a Girl Guide into a Guide leader, she knew that she wanted to work with children. Being a Guide leader gave her opportunities to develop programming skills, a vital skill for a children’s librarian.

One of the Sarah’s favourite parts of her job is programming: she works with the library staff to develop new programs and runs the activities, as well. She mentions that the most popular children’s programming trends today involve hands on activities, such as crafts or science experiments. All programs have a corresponding display of books pulled from the library’s collection which relates to the programs theme. Tying the programming theme to the materials in the library is a vital practice which results in an increase in materials circulation. This makes budget time easier for the children’s department because Sarah can point to her programs and the increase in circulation and show how important it is to continue having funding to do great programming.

Working within a budget is a requirement for Sarah – she coordinates both the material acquisition budget and the programming budget. We often hear about the trials that librarians go through to secure adequate funding for their departments. As programming costs can be quite hefty (the cost of an author visit starts at $250), Sarah advocates to the higher-ups to secure her programming funding: “it takes good money for good programming”.

Other components of Sarah’s job are materials acquisition, class visits, and reference desk shifts. She also runs an after-school club that provides homework assistance; builds computer skills and increases use of library resources for children aged 8 to 11. In her role, Sarah is also responsible for training and managing staff that works in the children’s department. Despite having a diverse range of responsibilities, she admits that there is “not a single aspect of my job I dislike”.

Now for some advice for aspiring children’s librarians! The number one skill a children’s librarian must have, according to Sarah, is customer service. The public library is looking for employees who can produce positive experiences that motivate patrons to become lifelong library users. We have all probably had jobs that are customer-oriented (it’s time to be grateful for those retail jobs you worked); make sure to highlight this in your résumé. Also important, and perhaps a little obvious, is having programming experience with children. If you’ve been a leader with Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, summer camps, etc. then you are a strong candidate. And Sarah suggests that if you do not have this background, go out and find the experience through volunteering or a practicum.

If you’re interested in the professional reading practices of a children’s librarian, Sarah offers her list of frequented materials:


Early Word

Annoyed Librarian

Stephen’s Lighthouse

List Serv:


This is a great resource for Children’s Librarians. It covers everything from materials, to programs to reference question stumpers.


Library Sparks

This journal is intended for children’s librarians. It provides programming suggestions, calendar with important dates (author birthdays) and a “meet the authors” section.

Kirkus Reviews - Children's titles

This review journal is a great source for children’s librarians when they are selecting materials for their library. Kirkus is always very honest in their reviews which is invaluable when dealing with children’s titles.

School Library Journal


TD National Reading Summit

How does Sarah see the future of children’s librarianship? She believes that the role of the children’s librarian will not change drastically over the next 20 years. The proportion of non-digital to digital materials will likely change but the fundamental role of the librarian will stay the same: “A children’s librarian connects children with books and with library materials and helps them with their homework.”

CYA would like to thank Sarah McLean for generously donating her time to and imparting her knowledge on aspiring children’s librarians.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


It's time for us to finally take a tour of the Children's Book Bank (see post below). 
Please RVSP to

Date:  Tuesday, February 9th
Time:  4:00pm - 6:00 pm
Cost:  2 tokens for the streetcar


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Upcoming Field Trip: The Children's Book Bank

Yesterday afternoon, the iSchool student chapter of Librarians without Borders (“LWB”) organized a panel session featuring individuals who are doing inspiring work to bring literacy and libraries to different high-needs communities, both domestically and internationally.  The founder of The Children’s Book Bank, Kim Beatty, was on the panel and she spoke about how her organization came to be. 
Ms. Beatty's idea to form a book bank for children came from her volunteer work in running book drives.  After delivering books to children in low-income neighbourhoods, she learned that there is a huge demand by these children to own their own books. 

Something we should stop to consider for a moment is how valuable a free book is to a child who has never been able to own a book because of its cost.  It's probably difficult for most of us to understand.  
The Children’s Book Bank opens its doors to children five days a week.  It is a fresh, clean space, organized to help children make a meaningful book selection.  The book that the child selects is their book forever.  Children may take one book home with them each visit and some children visit every day.    
Watch this short news segment video of The Children’s Book Bank featured on their website ( to get a glimpse of its impact. 

Children and Youth Advocacy is organizing a tour of The Children’s Book Bank in the coming weeks.  Email if you’re interested in joining us for a trip to this wonderful place and we’ll send you the details (date: TBD). It's a trip you don't want to miss!

-Jackie Flowers, Co-Chair