Consumables #38

There are library systems that do competitions for kids around books. Some places call it Battle of the Books, some places call it Global Reading Challenge, some places call it Book Knowledge Cage Match. Ok so I made that last one up, but the idea is that elementary age kids all read a set of books, and then there is a sort of quiz bowl style competition about them. In some places, this takes place as a library program. In other places, it’s a school thing. In my town, it’s a library system and school district thing, and it is HUGE. The vast majority of kids in public schools participate, and it is all kinds of awesome. The enthusiasm that gets stirred up in these little kids about books warms the cockles of my heart like I don’t know what. I wish you could see it. Kids make signs to support their school team, they do cheers, they jump up and down with excitement. It’s like a football game, but about reading. Librarian heaven, I tell you what.
 
Seattle’s version of this is happening as we speak, and next week I get to go observe a few matches at some schools. This is a build-up to the semi-final and final rounds which match up the top teams from throughout the city, which I will also get to see this year. This is the first year in a while that I get to go see this stuff and I am totally and completely PSYCHED.
 
In preparation for this, I’ve spent my reading time (most of which is on the bus, so while my ass is sliding all around that bus seat, I am at least getting some reading done) reading all of the books for Little Kid Book Quiz Bowl 2011. Because, hey, what if a teammate has some sort of reading injury (strained eyeball? crinked neckbone?) and they can’t play? I am sure they would love to call in a librarian in her 30s to save the day, so I have to be prepared, right? RIGHT?
 
This week, I have read 5 out of the 10 kids novels. I am going to a match on Monday. Will I get through the last 5 in time? Hello, weekend!
 
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Set in 1943 Copenhagen, Ellen Rosen and her family are being chased by the Nazis. Her best friend Annemarie and her family do everything that they can to save them. I am a sucker for people outsmarting Nazis, defeating Nazis, thwarting Nazis, or just kicking Nazi ass in any way possible, so I don’t have to tell you how I felt about this one. A great way to learn the very basics of the way 7,000 Denmark Jews were saved.
 
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, by Lenore Look, illustrations by LeUyen Pham
Funny book. There aren’t enough stories about people who embrace their cowardliness, is what I think. We can all relate to being scared shitless, but yet, people don’t really explore this topic very much, unless it’s in an “I was scared for a minute but then I overcame it” sort of way. I think this is why Scooby Doo is so popular. He and Shaggy are a couple of fraidy cats and they embrace it to high heaven. They shake, they run away, they jump into each others’ arms. Express yourself, Scoob! Ghosts are scary! Alvin Ho is also someone who ain’t afraid to be afraid. I kind of dug it. And I liked the drawings too.
 
How to Steal a Dog, by Barbara O’Conner
Writing for kids about being homeless without it coming off as trite is tough, and this one struck just the right chord. The main character, Georgina, lives with her mom and brother in their car, as her mom works two jobs to try to save enough money for an apartment. Georgina plans to dognap a rich person’s pooch in the hopes of eventually collecting reward money, and the plan goes awry from the very beginning.
 
Morning Girl, by Michael Dorris
The story of Morning Girl and Star Boy, who live with their family in the Bahamas in 1492 (before you know who shows up). It recreates what life was like at that point in time, and ends with first contact, so no bloody stuff. Sweet and calm.
 
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
I had read this one before, a long time ago, and liked it a lot, and I still do. First of all, the family in the book live in Flint, my hometown, so holla! Give me a Flint connection and that will get me 50% on board right there. The family heads down to grandma’s house in Birmingham and are there the summer that the 16th Avenue Baptist Church was bombed.
On to the rest of the books I go!
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