Book Review: Real Friends

Title: Real Friends

Author: Shannon Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham

Publisher: First Second

Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-785-4

Price: US $12.99 / CAN $17.99

Format: Graphic novel, paperback

Age recommendation: 9-109

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Real Friends is a memoir in graphic novel form. It is 1979 in Salt Lake City and Shannon is a shy child and afraid of starting kindergarten. Until she meets Ardrienne and has a best friend for the first time. Unfortunately for Shannon Adrienne only gets more popular and by 3rd grade is a prominent member of The Group. This is the story of how Shannon navigates the complexities of friendship, cliques, being the odd one out, and sisterhood. The author does not shy away from the truth of her story, even when it casts her in a negative light. As you follow Shannon through her elementary school years you will laugh with her, cry with her, and grow with her.  The illustrations bring to life Shannon’s worlds– the real world, the world of her imaginary games, and her internal emotional landscape. The graphic novel format is inviting and engaging to readers of all ability levels. I highly recommend this book to libraries of all kinds. Students on both sides of the in crowd can benefit from Shannon’s honest story.


Journal Evaluation

I was tasked with examining two print journals that provide reviews of new literature and comparing them to their accompanying websites. The journals I evaluated were Kirkus and School Library Journal. To get my hands on recent print editions I had to go to the Central branch of the Fort Worth Public Library. The librarians there were so helpful in locating what I needed. You can read my evaluations here: journal evaluation

Interview with a Librarian: Popularity vs. Literary Merit

Librarian interviewed: Jana Cocanougher

How much consideration is given to choosing books that are popular with students?

“I give a great deal of consideration to popular books. I almost always purchase books that students request. The subject matter being too mature for elementary is one of the only reasons I would not purchase requested books. Negative reviews would cause me to pause before deciding as well. I get more requests from teachers than from kids. Students tend to request the same things, I get lots of requests for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which I have two copies of each already but they are always checked out and they get lost.”

Do you emphasize literary merit or popularity?

“I always get the Bluebonnet books so that the 4th and 5th graders can read them and vote. I try to keep award winners and replace them when they go missing. I also like to keep the classics because they are usually classics for a reason. Overall I try to balance between “merit” and popularity.”

My take

One of the most important roles of the school library is helping students develop a love of reading. Having a wide variety of popular books encourages students to read because there is something that they like. I agree with my librarian that classics are usually classics for a reason and they certainly deserve a place on the shelf. As with most things in life balance is key. Thinking about this question put me in mind of the first three of the five laws of library science developed by S. R. Ranganathan

  1. Books are for use. There is no point in wasting valuable budget and shelf space on a book that will never be cracked open.
  2. Every reader their book. There is a book out there for every student and the library should have a wide enough and popular enough selection that each student is able to find a book they enjoy.
  3. Every book their reader. For every book that is put on the shelf you need to ask yourself who is going to read this? Do I have a reader in this school who can benefit from this book? Not every book has a reader in an elementary school.


Ranganathan, S. R. (1931). The five laws of library science. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Is encoding notes worth a catalogers time?

All information is useful to someone somewhere. The more information the cataloger can provide the better chance of the resource being discovered by the person who is in need of it. It may be time consuming, but the patron is the top priority. If a cataloger has a great deal to catalog, the priority might be to get materials on the shelves and in the hands of patrons quickly, and thorough notes take a deal of time. In this case the notes field may be sacrificed on the alter of expediency. The information found in the notes is discoverable by keyword searches.

Who cares about the physical description? Why should we even bother recording it?

I once placed a children’s book on hold at my local library. When I went to pick it up I searched the “holds” shelf for ten minutes and could not find the book. Eventually I went and asked for help, explaining that I had already searched the holds shelf thoroughly. To my chagrin the librarian went to the shelf and found the item immediately. I had been under the impression that the book was a picture book and I was looking for a larger book. The book was actually a very early chapter book, much smaller, shelved between two larger books. If I had paid attention to the book details when I requested it I would have been saved time and embarrassment. In most cases patrons will probably not look at the physical description, and if they find the call number and are looking on the correct shelf it usually doesn’t make much of a difference. If a patron is browsing the catalog looking for books on a topic, the physical description can come in handy in determining what type of book they are looking at. As an example I searched for books on UFOs in the Fort Worth public library catalog. The first item had a promising title and seemed like it would be a good source for research, but looking at the physical description I saw that it was an over-sized book with color illustrations, which makes me think it is perhaps more of a coffee table book. Interesting and enjoyable to look through, but not the best choice for serious research. While the physical description may not be commonly used by patrons, it is still valuable information that should be recorded.

Does it confuse patrons to have multiple “titles” attached to a single item?

I believe the level of confusion over multiple titles varies from user to user, but ultimately is not much of a challenge. A patron who is unsure of the exact title but is able to remember enough to search might see a list of variant titles and think they all refer to separate works instead of being tied to the same item. In that case the patron, not remembering the exact title, might be at a loss for which one of the options is what they are looking for. Most patrons however will likely be accustomed to searches revealing multiple results that lead to the same item. In my experience a person who is confused by multiple variant entries will try clicking on one, either because it is most like what they remember or merely at random, and discover that it is what they were looking for after all and the crisis is solved.

Do school librarians really need to know much about cataloging?

School librarians are not catalogers. They usually get books with catalog information already filled out. Why on earth should a school librarian worry about cataloging?

Cataloging is a way to sort information and be able to locate it when needed. A school librarian needs to be able to help teachers and students find resources and information. A catalog is like a map, and being able to read the map, being familiar with the map key, knowing the addresses of important landmarks, will help you find what you’re looking for more quickly, easily, and accurately. In order to efficiently and effectively help library patrons a librarian needs at the very least to be fluent in the catalog of their own library. The more catalog knowledge a librarian has, the more able they will be to help patrons locate information and resources beyond the library collection.

Are School Libraries at a Tipping Point?

Our first discussion assignment in my collection development course was to read the article “Are School Libraries at a Tipping Point?” by Margaret Sullivan and respond to the prompt: Are we (school librarians) tipping backward or forward? What are our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses? How would you advocate for school libraries more effectively?

Here are my thoughts on the issue.

I see so many articles about librarians embracing their role as information literacy leaders. Librarians who are utilizing makerspaces, augmented reality, gaming, inventive programs of all kinds. I see librarians on Twitter networking, sharing ideas, supporting each other. These things make me believe that librarians are tipping forward. Committed to the mission of the school library.

Every school, every library, every librarian is different though. I also see librarians who are content to sit behind the desk, check out books, read a story to the little kids, and call it a day. Those librarians are doing a disservice to their schools and to the image of the library as a whole. Fortunately those librarians are the kind who do not write articles or connect on social media or present at conferences, so their complacent attitudes are not being spread beyond their library walls.

I believe that school librarians as a whole are tipping forward. New librarians are being trained to embrace the future and strive to push libraries further.

These librarians are directly related to our strengths and weaknesses. Our strength lies in the librarians that are committed to being ready for the future, who connect with other librarians, work together, mentor new librarians, and share resources. They are a more visible public face, vocal in advocating for libraries. Conversely, our greatest weaknesses are the librarians who are content to check out books and little more. To their school community they are the public face of libraries, leaving the impression that the school library is stuck in the past and is not relevant to the 21st century learner.

Being an advocate for school libraries, combatting the negative image created by the complacent librarians, begins with becoming the best librarian you can be. Keep an open mind, explore and embrace technology, engage with students and teachers on a regular basis, foster positive relationships with administration so that they can see the true value of the library, collaborate with fellow librarians. Remain educated and up-to-date on what is going on in the library world at large. Embody the old cliché of “be the change you wish to see in the world.”


Sullivan, M. (2010). Are school libraries at a tipping Point?. Teacher Librarian, 37(5), 84

Here we go again

The spring term has started. I am taking two courses, Learning Resource Organization (basically cataloging) and Collection Development and Analysis in School Libraries. Both courses have a lot of reading for me to do, which stresses me because I am not a fast reader. My sister can plow through a page at breakneck speed, but I just can’t force myself to go too quickly. When I try to speed up I get paranoid that I have misread a word or, worse, missed it entirely. That paranoia nags until I have to go back and check that I didn’t make any mistakes, ultimately slowing me down even more. My reading speed is something I have always been a little bit self conscious about. One of the downsides of having too many smart siblings (don’t get me started on my older brother, that man can read faster and retain more than anyone I’ve ever met).

But I digress.

My first discussion assignment was to “Share your thoughts on the level of cataloging knowledge that school librarians need to be effective in their jobs.”

My response: Cataloging is a way to sort information and be able to locate it when needed. A school librarian needs to be able to help teachers and students find resources and information. A catalog is like a map, and being able to read the map, being familiar with the map key, knowing the addresses of important landmarks, will help you find what you’re looking for more quickly, easily, and accurately. In order to efficiently and effectively help library patrons a librarian needs at the very least to be fluent in the catalog of their own library. The more catalog knowledge a librarian has, the more able they will be to help patrons locate information and resources beyond the library collection.

Here’s to a successful semester! I hope anyone out there reading this (is there anyone out there?) has a great semester, or if you aren’t a student simply have a great spring! Spring is my favourite season. The warming air, the rain, the flowers, the bright green of new leaves and how they look against a blue sky. I must remember to take time to enjoy these things, even though (or perhaps because) I will be very busy with school, work, and life.

growing up reading

I was thinking today about how I need to update my online catalog of the books that I own, when I remembered a prezi I created back in one of my pedagogy courses when I was student teaching. It is about my experiences with reading and writing throughout my life. I thought of it because in it I mentioned my online catalog. Looking back over it has reaffirmed my decision to pursue librarianship.

They will breathe with gills that make the sound of fluttering pages.

Comic from Wondermark: An Illustrated Jocularity, by David Malki

My November scholastic book order arrived yesterday and I loved on eof the books a student ordered. It’s called All My Friends are Planets: The Story of Pluto, by Alisha Vimawala illustrated by Troy Nelson.

The story explains what it means to be a planet and how dwarf planets are different. Pluto learns that even though it is different, there are other dwarf planets out there. It not only teaches science concepts, but also self acceptance. It’s very brief, but so well done and the pictures are excellent. I am definitely adding it to my classroom wishlist!

Website Project

I have done it. I have created a website all by myself. I used wix, and it was actually really easy. It felt a bit like designing PowerPoint slides, the way you could insert things and drag them around. My site had to include resources made with three different web 2.0 tools, and there was a long list of tools we were not allowed to use and criteria for the tools we found. I ended up using Buncee, Nearpod, and Flipsnack. Buncee was definitely my favorite of the tools I used. It was easy, fun, and looks really cool. Visit my website to see how I used each tool.

hello stress

Kindergarten life this year is a rough ride. We have so many kids (and got another today) and so many of them require so much extra attention. I need to have at least two more of me. I am writing a song. It’s like the twelve days of Christmas, but for the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving break. Here’s what I have so far

On the twelfth day before Thanksgiving break my students gave to me a handful of broken crayons (but only purple, one kid just doesn’t like purple).

On the eleventh day before Thanksgiving break my students gave to me two angry parents and a handful of broken crayons (but only purple, one kid just doesn’t like purple).

On the tenth day before Thanksgiving break my students gave to me three bleeding wounds, two angry parents, and a handful of broken crayons (but only purple, one kid just doesn’t like purple).

On the ninth day before Thanksgiving break my students gave to me four restroom emergencies, three bleeding wounds, two angry parents, and a handful of broken crayons (but only purple, one kid just doesn’t like purple).

I wonder what the next verse will bring.

Speaking of Thanksgiving break, for some reason I thought my final project for my class was due after the break, so I was planning on working on it over the break when I had all that time. It’s a good thing I checked the assignment due dates today because it is actually due before the break. Now I have to figure out when I can work on it. That’s what I get for not paying enough attention.

I’ve been spending more time in my mentor’s library lately. My mentor is the librarian at my school, which is convenient. Unfortunately she has lunch/recess duty during my planning period, so I am only able to be in there with her during my lunch time. I don’t mind that though because kindergarten lunch is 10:30am, so I usually eat during my planning anyway (because who wants to eat lunch at 10:30 in the morning?).
This week is book fair, so she’s been showing me what she has to do to have that running. I helped during a third grade class library visit checking out library materials while she ran the cash register. I will be helping with book fair during literacy night on Thursday as well.

Thursday is also our book parade. My partner teacher and I are going as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. We are going to dress as the trees and each student has been assigned a letter to make and decorate with things that start with that letter. Hopefully I get some good pictures.

Now I should probably go and work on prepping for tomorrow’s science lesson (we’re going to paint with ice to learn about changes from heat), and getting my assignments done.

Battle of the Books

This week we were tasked with creating an advertisement for a library program using Animoto. The catch? I couldn’t be for a common program like book club, literacy night, book fair, etc. I figured if I’m going to be making an ad, I might as well make something that is useful to my librarian. This year our school is going to participate in the Battle of the Books, so I created an ad to show the students to get them interested. I wanted to use photos from last year’s competition that were posted on the district website, but I needed permission. I was able to contact the Battle of the Books organizer, find out who the photographer was, and get permission to use the photos and the BotB logo she created. I’m pretty pleased with my final product.


Copyright Group Project

Yesterday we finally submitted the group project we’ve been working on for most of the semester so far. Our group created a presentation to teach about copyright law, a handout, an assignment, a rubric, and a presentation about how the rest of the pieces correlate to the ASSURE model of lesson planning. There were a lot of moving pieces to this assignment and it took some figuring out to organize how we were going to complete everything.

The ASSURE Model

The ASSURE lesson model is an acronym that is a guide for teachers to follow when planning a lesson that integrates technology. The steps are:

  • Analyze the Learners
    • this includes looking at their demographics, prior knowledge, and learning needs
  • State Standards and Objectives
    • once you have analyzed the learners you can select standards that you think they need to work on and craft an objective
      • a good objective includes the ABCDs
        • specify the Audience (who is learning here)
        • state the desired Behavior (what will they be able to do)
        • identify the Conditions of how you will assess
        • set the Degree of mastery students will be expected to achieve
  • Select Strategies and Resources
    • now that you know what you are going to teach and what you want the students to be able to do you need to decide on a strategy for how you will teach and what technology or other resources will help you achieve your learning goals
  • Utilize Resources
    • follow the five P’s to make sure resources are being used efficiently and effectively
      • Preview the resources
      • Prepare the resources
      • Prepare the environment
      • Prepare the learners
      • Provide the learning experience
  • Require Learner Participation
    • provide activities that engage students and monitor that they are participating
  • Evaluate and Revise
    • assess students and reflect on how successful the lesson was and what you can do to improve it in the future

The Product

Here is what my group created, the presentations, handout, and rubric all together in one document!

I feel like I’ve always been so blessed with group work as an education major and then as a school library student. I have never had the common nightmare group where no one does their share. I don’t know if it’s because people in education are more likely to be team players and understand the importance of participating in the learning experience. If any of my group members are reading this, thank you for being awesome!


Smaldino, S. E., Lowther, D. L., Russell, J. D., & Mims, C. (2015). Instructional technology and media for learning (11th ed.)(pp.38-39). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Custom Search Engine

Our assignment this week in my 5720 class was to create a custom google search engine using 3-10 websites. We had to pick a topic relating to the core curriculum of our school (math, science, reading, social studies, or English). I, of course, went with science because it is my favorite subject to teach. My search engine focuses on our solar system and you can check it out here.

Custom search engines are such a great tool for teachers. It allows teachers to select quality, relevant resources for students to use in their research, while also allowing them to practice using search engines to find information. It makes the results less overwhelming for students and ensures that they are not finding false information and developing misconceptions. A custom search engine would also be perfect for a webquest.

Evaluating Web Resources


I actually managed to work ahead! I wanted to go ahead and do this assignment and get it out of the way. I had to make a ThingLink with resources to teach something related to research in the library.

The standard I chose


My ThingLink focuses on evaluating web resources.

We also had to create a padlet to accompany the ThingLink. The purpose of the padlet is to be a way for distance learners to engage in discussion on the topic.

Made with Padlet

The assignment never mentioned included a list of references, but what kind of librarian would I be if I didn’t?