Other People’s Money: The Mystery of Collection Development Revealed!

So, Pithy Python Fans, you were wondering. How DOES she do it? How does she teach all those classes? AND deal with re-charging the emergency radio (which squawks five times a day because someone at school is on the wrong channel talking about light bulbs)? AND read every single book in the library (which many children believe I do)? AND buy all the new books? Today is your lucky day: see your tuition $$$$ at work!

I don’t review a lot of books here–there are people out there doing it better and sooner than I could ever do, and I use their reviews to help me make decisions. When I read reviews, I think about individual students and teachers: Who would like this? Who teaches this subject? Does Julia need another Holocaust novel? Will this comic series capture reluctant reader Randall? It is an intensely personalized endeavor.

So: Here is a sampling of recent purchases and why I bought them. Also, check out my collection development statement that I learned how to write in library school. You will be the first to look at it in a decade. Another library school memory: My professor for the collection development class, ever prone to mangling English, warned us repeatedly of the dangers of “unnecessary wastage.”  Although I am willing to grant the incorrect use of “wastage” rather than “waste,” the “unnecessary” part is what slays me. But I try not to waste, unnecessarily, the money the school trusts me to spend.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Number Infinity. Ranger’s Apprentice Number Infinity. Kidnapped by Gordon Korman Number Infinity. Assorted Magic Tree Houses Into Infinity and Beyond. I could spend my whole budget on series fill-ins. And new series. But I don’t have shelf space to devote to 180 Magic Tree Houses. So, young Spencer, the answer is, “No, I can’t help you find number 49, you’re going to have to skip to number 51. I know, that’s the way you want to read them, but you really don’t have to read them all IN ORDER.”

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas.  Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth. Extreme Weather. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Citizen Scientists. Nic Bishop Anything (Spiders/Frogs/Lizards). Giants of Science: Charles Darwin. I check the National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Trade Books list every year. I booktalk them, I read them aloud, I provide them for reading requirements…but somehow I can’t create a giant surge of science readers.

Picture books:

Anything and everything by the incomparable Mo Willems, often in duplicate, especially Elephant & Piggy. This year Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.
Anything by Jon Klassen, whose I Want My Hat Back is destined for the ages. This year This Is Not My Hat.
Anything by Kevin Henkes (Chrysanthemum, Owen, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse),this year Penny and Her Doll. Henkes magically targets the concerns of the 4-8 year old set: anxiety, shyness, teasing, friendship, injustice and kindness.
All the Caldecott silver honorees, including Peter Brown’s Creepy Carrots (I love You Will Be My Friend and The Curious Garden)  and David Small’s One Cool Friend. Good ones. But I have at least a dozen Caldecott silver honorees that never move. Hondo and Fabian, anyone? Boring to kids and me.

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett: Self-referential wacky break-the-fourth-wall books always grab me. This one is a picture book story that demonstrates how a picture book story evolves. Still waiting for Klassen’s / Barnett’s Extra Yarn, backordered.
Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham. I already have a stack of alphabet books but this one is wildly popular. And silly.

History: I saw one librarian’s blog where she said that she doesn’t buy any Civil Rights books because no one reads them. I buy as many books of African-American history as I possibly can; we live in Atlanta and our headmaster once taught MLK III. And get this: we use them even when it’s not February! This is one of the magnificent strengths of our collection. Several parents have been systematically checking them out, wistfully noting that these kinds of books weren’t in their school libraries.

  • We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson. This one was actually a magnificent donation from a family who moved away. Hello, Ellie and Camille!
  • Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner.
  • Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind An American Friendship by Russell Freedman.
  • Marching To the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights and Civil Rights Set the Stage for MLK’S Final Hours by Anne Bausum.
  • Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed The Fight For Integration by Shelley Tougas.
  • Freedom’s a-Callin’ Me by Ntozake Shange.

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. No brainer, right? Pinkney was AT OUR SCHOOL in November and I checked his web site for all his works. In September, I tracked down copies of everything on his website for the library and for the classrooms. But SOMEBODY didn’t update his website. So SOME MORTIFIED LIBRARIAN did not have this one when the rock star author/illustrator was here, a few short weeks before it won the Coretta Scott King Award.

A few novels:

The Mighty Miss Malone. I actually got to read the manuscript over a year ago, which the beloved Mr. Curtis actually gave to one of our students. There is no way I would miss a Curtis book. Humor, strong characters and magnificent historical fiction — plus, we have such a dearth of African-American novels for middle and upper elementary readers.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Throughout the fall, I checked my favorite Mock Newbery blog often. Ivan was getting a bit of buzz but wasn’t a contender for the gold. But — set in Atlanta? our very own zoo? A no brainer.  I turned the last page in profound pleasure, wondering if I could read it aloud to a group without crying…and lo, it got the gold.

 Son by Lois Lowry. Fourth in The Giver quartet. Essential. I tell the 6th graders that they must not leave elementary school without having read The Giver.

Almost Home by Joan Bauer. Sweet, funny, quiet. How do you sell a quiet book these days, when everyone wants a fast-action fantasy adventure?  A homeless girl and her mentally unstable mother search for a place to live–bearable because of the puppy in her backpack. This one’s for Charlotte.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. She won the Newbery for When You Reach Me. This one didn’t do much for me but it may for Emma, who says WYRM is her favorite book of all time.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Silver Newbery. I’ve been reading it for three weeks and I’m bored. Yet another spunky southern girl, wacky small town characters, with implausible insertion of kids into police work. Cf. Violet Reeves Got Struck By Lightning. Lost Goat Lane. Darby. Little Audrey. Belle Prater’s Boy. Listening for Leroy. Yankee Girl. Even when I like the “spunky/quiet Southern girl” books, I have a hard time selling them. Margaret will let me know if she likes it.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Exquisite. Many kids are telling me it’s their favorite book ever. Maybe it will help some of them be kinder. That remark wasn’t.

Little Dog Lost by Marion Dane Bauer. A boy, a dog, and an old man are lonely before the boy plans a rally, the dog looks for a boy… and something miraculous happens. I’m reading it aloud to a class of 7 & 8 year olds. It’s been slow, slow, slow but just today the pace went electric and the kids began bubbling with excitement.

Soldier Bear by Tak Dumon. Molodets!  A winner, newly beloved by kids ages 7 and up. An orphaned Syrian brown bear cub is adopted by Polish soldiers during World War II and serves for five years as their mischievous mascot in Iran and Italy. Based on a true story. I try to buy the Batchelder award books when I can: these are the ones that are originally published in another language, from outside the U.S. Our students need to be aware of children’s literature from around the world. 

As I tell students when I do a booktalk, I could keep sharing titles until dinnertime. Dinnertime in February 2015. Come in and get yours. We are lucky that the school values the library and reading so much.  Be sure to say thanks to Nancy I. and Paul B.! Really!

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