Professional Learning and Development Series

Professional Learning and Development Series for School Library Staff

I love learning. I love professional development (confession: I might also be slightly addicted to professional development). I love learning new things. Challenge me, throw me something new to puzzle over or research and I am happy. I love attending conferences, watching webinars, collaborating in Twitter chats, listening to podcasts, searching Pinterest, reading articles and more. If it is new, inspiring, or helpful, I want to know all about it.

I believe, whether you are a head of library, teacher librarian, library technician, library aide or other, you should be learning and up-skilling constantly. There is always something we can learn, something new we can try. I find that learning is what keeps me excited about working in a school library. But sometimes it can be hard to find professional development or learning opportunities specifically for school librarians. It’s also hard to find the time. We in school libraries are so busy, when do we actually have the time to sit and read or watch? I’m going to share my top favourite resources for finding professional development for school library staff and share some tips on how I fit them all into my schedule.

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Book Review: Please Don’t Hug Me

Please Don’t Hug Me – Kay Kerr – Text Publishing – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

My thoughts

This is the book that everyone is talking about right now. Honestly, I was on board with the pink cover and cinnamon doughnuts, but bonus points for #ownvoices, local Aussie author, diverse character voice representation and a realistic story about growing up, fitting in and learning that it is okay to be different.

Please Don’t Hug Me is written entirely in the form of letters from our main character Erin, to her brother Rudy. We readers don’t know where or why Rudy isn’t at home anymore, but Erin is working through a few things and has been tasked by her therapist to write letters. Through these letters, which include enough dialogue and reflection on events to feel like you are in the middle of each situation, we readers learn about Erin’s friendships, her work, getting through the last year of school, looking forward to things like schoolies, but also feeling out of the loop as she is unable to read social cues or properly fit in with her best-friend’s group of school fiends. A new job, a new friend and working through her feelings about her brother and family, might just be the things she needs to make it through the year.

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Book Review: Set The Stars Alight

Set the Stars Alight – Amanda Dykes – Bethany House Publishers  -Published 30 June 2020

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Synopsis

Lucy Clairmont’s family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it’s Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she’s discovered in her family home.

Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.

As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers–and the healing–they so desperately seek.

My thoughts

I am amazed at how Amanda Dykes has crafted the stories in Set The Stars Alight, how she has woven together two stories or overcoming great grief and challenges, incorporated a thrilling mystery that seems hard to believe isn’t real and all this done with a lyrical prose that sweeps the reader away.

Lucy grew up knowing the love of her parents and the stories they told her and her childhood friend, Dash. Now she has lost both parents and Dash has moved away to study the stars, but her career path – marine archaeologist – was formed through the mysteries and stories her parents shared with her. When her application for a grant to uncover the story of a ship that disappeared over 200 years ago is threatened, Dash remarkably returns to Lucy’s life and offers to join with her in her search. 200 years earlier, three lives were interwoven – a shepherd’s daughter, the young man she loved and the young boy of the estate. Their journey is forged through grief, wars, betrayal, great sacrifice and song and now 200 years later, Lucy and Dash are determined to unravel the clues of their story.

I confess I didn’t read this book at the best of times. I started it during the last week of the school term and tried to read it even though my brain was running on fumes and all I wanted to do was sleep. I don’t feel as I gave this book the attention it deserved and I would recommend to other readers that you save this for when you have a few spare afternoons, time and brain power to devote to the very clever story and wonderfully detailed writing style. Nevertheless, I was swept away by this remarkable book. It really is a little magical, a story of great sacrifice, puzzles, adventure, seafaring and romance.

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Book Review: The Girl in the White Van

The Girl In the White Van – April Henry – Henry Holt and Company – Published 28 July 2020

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Synopsis

When Savannah disappears soon after arguing with her mom’s boyfriend, everyone assumes she’s run away. The truth is much worse. She’s been kidnapped by a man in a white van who locks her in an old trailer home, far from prying eyes. And worse yet, Savannah’s not alone: Ten months earlier, Jenny met the same fate and nearly died trying to escape. Now as the two girls wonder if he will hold them captive forever or kill them, they must join forces to break out—even if it means they die trying.

My thoughts

Girl in the White Van is exactly the kind of book I am always on the lookout for to add to our mystery/thriller YA collection. It is an engaging, quick read, with strong characters. Girl in the White Van is a thrilling book. Scary but hopefully, dark and gritty but full of empowerment and a sense of justice.

Savannah is just waiting until she turns 18 and she can escape her mother’s toxic pattern of moving in with random guys. While she doesn’t love living with her mother’s latest boyfriend, she is enjoying living in Portland. She loves her Kung fu class and is just getting to know one of her classmates, Daniel. But on the way home from class, Savannah is grabbed by a man in a white van. Drugged, hurt and confused, Savannah wakes in an old trailer home. But she isn’t alone. Jenny was taken nine months ago.

While the majority of the chapters are written from Savannah’s perspective, there are also chapters from Jenny, Daniel, Jenny and Savannah’s parents’ perspective and a variety of other side characters, including the suspects. The reader is given an insight into the person responsible, but the mystery of who they are remains and builds the tension.

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Book Review: The Infographic Guide to Grammar

The Infographic Guide to Grammar: A Visual Reference for Everything You Need to Know – Jara Kern, Carissa Lytle – Adams Media – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

This illustrated guide to English grammar gives you everything you need for a better understanding of how to write and punctuate correctly. From proper comma usage to the correct form of there, their, or they’re—understanding grammar has never been easier.

Is it who or whom? Affect or effect? And what is a prepositional phrase? With The Infographic Guide to Grammar, you’ll learn the answers to all of these questions, and so much more. Filled with colorful, easy-to-understand entries, this book includes topics like:

–Basic sentence structure
–The parts of speech
–Common mistakes and how to avoid them

My thoughts

Is it wrong of me to say I really want to cut this book up and hang all the pages up around my library like beautiful posters? Well, right or wrong that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I really think this book should come in a pull-apart, poster version so everyone can see, use and be helped by the colourful infographics that cover everything from punctuation to commonly confused words.

Five chapters break the content down into sections: parts of speech, sentence structure, punctuation, writing style and common mistakes. Each sub-section, nouns for example, are given a two page spread infographic that provides a basic explanation, uses, fun facts, more details, and handy to know tips. All this, presented as beautiful, highly colourful infographics.

The graphic design work in this book is fabulous. The information given is simple. Clear examples are provided. The layout of each infographic is pleasing to the eye and did I mention colour? So much colour, different texts, and fun graphics. There isn’t a lot of text on each page and the font is big and bold.

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Book Review: It Came From the Sky

It Came From the Sky – Chelsea Sedoti – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 August 2020

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Synopsis

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

My thoughts

Well that was a whole heap of fun. Great plot – tick. Interesting premise – tick. Unique (diverse representation) character voice – tick. Writing style that mixes character narration with document files and interviews with other characters – tick. Laugh out loud funny and with a touch of lgbt romance – tick tick. Seriously It Came From The Sky has it all and is an enjoyable, make-you-smile kind of story.

When a science experiment causes a larger than expected explosion and creates a massive crater on their family farm, Gideon and his brother Ishmael decide to create the most epic prank/sociology research experiment by trying to convince their town that the crater was caused by aliens. Neither of them expect how big the hoax gets, drawing attention nationally and having far reaching consequences.

I loved so much about this book. It’s easy to read – the narrative is all written from Gideon’s perspective broken up by files, text conversations, interview transcripts and other asides. The book is meant to represent Gideon’s research case notes, but it makes for some funny insights.

While the plot is fun and there is never a dull moment as the hoax gets wilder and more complex, my favourite thing about It Came From the Sky is the characters.

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Book Review: This Vicious Cure

This Vicious Cure – Emily Suvada – This Mortal Coil #3 – Simon Pulse – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

Cat’s hacking skills weren’t enough to keep her from losing everything—her identity, her past, and now her freedom. She’s trapped and alone, but she’s survived this long, and she’s not giving up without a fight.

Though the outbreak has been contained, a new threat has emerged—one that’s taken the world to the brink of a devastating war. With genetic technology that promises not just a cure for the plague, but a way to prevent death itself, both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity’s future.

Facing her smartest, most devastating enemy yet, Cat must race against the clock to protect her friends and save the lives of millions on the planet’s surface. No matter the outcome, humanity will never be the same.

And this time, Cat can’t afford to let anything, or anyone, stand in her way.

My thoughts

This Vicious Cure is the eagerly awaited third and final book in the This Mortal Coil series. I was a little delaying in picking up this third book after it’s publication (or one of the other librarians gave it to a student before I could read it!) so it was during the height of the first wave of COVID-19 that I was reading this conclusion to a series about a serious virus that kills and dramatically alters society. It’s surprising how many books there are bout deadly plagues and virus, but I think the This Moral Coil series is one of my absolute favs and is always one I love recommending to students.

This Vicious Cure follows on from the conclusion of the second book. The characters (and readers) have been through so much since the first book. Honestly, a happy ending seems a little unlikely. The action starts up again almost instantly. Please be aware this review may contain spoilers for the first and second book. You should read the series in series order. This Mortal Coil is perfect for fans of science fiction, dystopian novels, action, a touch of romance, strong female lead characters, coding, technology and the absolute terror of humans and society.

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Book Review: Keep My Heart in San Francisco

Keep My Heart in San Francisco – Amelia Diane Coombs – Simon Pulse – Published 14 July 2020

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Synopsis

Caroline “Chuck” Wilson has big plans for spring break—hit up estate sales to score vintage fashion finds and tour the fashion school she dreams of attending. But her dad wrecks those plans when he asks her to spend vacation working the counter at Bigmouth’s Bowl, her family’s failing bowling alley. Making things astronomically worse, Chuck finds out her dad is way behind on back rent—meaning they might be losing Bigmouth’s, the only thing keeping Chuck’s family in San Francisco.

And the one person other than Chuck who wants to do anything about it? Beckett Porter, her annoyingly attractive ex-best friend.

So when Beckett propositions Chuck with a plan to make serious cash infiltrating the Bay Area action bowling scene, she accepts. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she’s acting irrational—too much like her mother for comfort. Plus, despite her best efforts to keep things strictly business, Beckett’s charm is winning her back over…in ways that go beyond friendship.

If Chuck fails, Bigmouth’s Bowl and their San Francisco legacy are gone forever. But if she succeeds, she might just get everything she ever wanted.

My thoughts

Keep My Heart in San Francisco is a cute YA romance with a darker side of serious topics, including losing a parent to suicide, and important portrayal of mental health and depression.

Chuck (aka Caroline, but don’t call her that) Wilson loves living in San Francisco, so she is shocked to overhear that her father is in danger of losing the family bowling alley. What’s worse is that her ex-best friend Beckett Porter also overhears the eviction threat. Beckett suggests that they team up and start hustling and gambling at bowling to raise cash fast. Chuck isn’t sure, but she’d do anything to stay, even if it means working with Beckett.

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Book Review: An Appalachian Summer

An Appalachian Summer – Ann H. Gabhart – Revell – Published 30 June 2020

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Synopsis

In 1933, most people are focused on the Great Depression but all Piper Danson can think about is how to get out of being a debutante and marrying Braxton Crandall. In an act of defiance, Piper volunteers as a frontier nursing courier in the Appalachian Mountains where adventure awaits.

My thoughts

An Appalachian Summer is an atmospheric novel about the frontier nurses of the Appalachian Mountains, women couriers, and life and love in the in 1930s. With romance aplenty, adventure and lighthearted moments, An Appalachian Summer is a light and easy book to enjoy.

Piper is grateful her family has weathered the crash of the economy so well, even if it means she must go ahead with her Debut Ball. Being pressured by her father to accept an engagement to Braxton Crandall and heartbroken over the silence she is receiving from her best friend and keeper of her heart Jamie Russel, Piper seizes upon the opportunity to join the frontier nursing courier service in the Appalachian Mountains. From the journey there, to the surprises in store for her, it is all a great adventure. She just wants to forget men and romance for a summer, which is fine until a mystery man from her aunt’s past re-emerges, Jamie follows her all the way to the mountains and she must decide where her heart and future will lay.

Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, this is a novel that mixes the past with more modern ideas of women’s liberation and a changing society. I sometimes forgot the time setting and had to do a double take at some of the more casual language and use of jeans and such.

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Book Review: How Sweet It Is

How Sweet It Is – Robin Lee Hatcher – Legacy of Faith #3 – Thomas Nelson – Published 14 July 2020

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Synopsis

Holly Stanford is doing the best she can with the restaurant she inherited from her late uncle. But after her fiancé abandons her and the business, Holly regrets having given up her dream of becoming a pastry chef. Now a few bad financial decisions might cost her everything, including her hope for the future.

Jed Henning has done well with his new company despite his prodigal brother’s behavior. When Jed‘s father , the controlling member of the board of directors, temporarily suspends operations until his sons work out their differences, Jed resentfully chases his brother, Chris, to Boise. There Jed rents a basement apartment from Holly and hopes to convince Chris to get his act together before their company collapses.

Unaware that Holly is the one person who can help him get through to Chris, Jed starts the tough work of reconciliation armed with little more than a few family photographs, a stack of old letters, and a Bible that belonged to his great-grandfather, Andrew Henning. And as romance blossoms between Holly and Jed, the story of Jed’s great-grandfather highlights the power of God across the generations and the legacy of a family’s courageous faith.

My thoughts

How Sweet It Is is the very sweet third book in the Legacy of Faith series. Like its predecessors, it combines the present day story of two people meeting and falling in love with the continuation of the story of the Henning family, set in the late 1960s. It is faith filled and an endearing tale of family, belonging and love.

Holly just wants to bake. Instead she has been left with a restaurant to run and crippling debt, thanks to a fiancé who left her just before their wedding. Jed is a successful businessman but is father has given him an ultimatum: make it right with his brother or sell the business. Jed travels to Idaho to try to reconnect with his brother and his family’s past and finds himself renting the same basement apartment his great grandfather, Andrew Henning, once lived in. For Holly, it’s a blessing to be able to finally rent the apartment and gain some much needed income. But she is drawn to Jed and isn’t sure she should trust herself to be in a relationship again.

There is no doubt that this is Christian Fiction. The faith, prayer, scripture, church, community and belief is evident in every chapter. Some Christian fiction doesn’t reference faith aside from a few prayers or themes, but not so in this book. Both the present day characters and the characters from the past rely heavily on God and reflect and want to grow in their faith.

Andrew Henning’s story, set in 1969, is a wonderful reflection of the modern day love story. I love how Hatcher has woven the threads of the two generations together, as she has done in the previous two novels in this series. Readers of the first two books will no doubt enjoy the continuation of Andrew Henning’s story, but new comers to the series should be able to follow along without too much confusion.

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