Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reading what the students read: The Lightning Thief

For the first installment of "Reading what the students read," I chose the first book in Rick Riordan's series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief.

Book checkouts: 9
Series checkouts: 38
Typical reader: Upper elementary student, either gender

Synopsis: "Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school...again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.
"Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves."

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

Wow!  This is one of those novels where I can actually say, "I see why it's popular!"  The writing is strong, the plot unique and catchy, the action nonstop, and the characters well-rounded.  It's a story that captures the reader and doesn't let them go until the tale is completely resolved.  There really wasn't a dull moment.

One of the highlights of the book for me was trying to figure out who each god or monster was before the narrative actually revealed its identity.  It's great fun to catch the hints.  Riordan also has been quite clever in bringing the Greek pantheon to the 21st century, trading in battle chariots for motorcycles and magical helmets for baseball caps.  This series has gotten a lot of kids interested in Greek and Roman mythology - always a good thing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Year in review, 2010-2011

The school year ended a few weeks ago, and to sum up the first year of the library's existence and my first year as a school librarian in a word: Success!

We had over 5,000 books on the shelves. Students and staff checked out nearly 5,000 books. What an awesome ratio.

Nineteen checkouts!
The most checked-out volume was "Cosmos," an oversized book about the solar system. The Kindergartners loved that book!

We survived a book thief, which was quite the saga that had plenty of red herrings and one heck of a migraine. I became aware of the problem when most of the manga shelf went missing. As the administration, teachers and I unraveled the mystery, it was revealed that the day before the books disappeared, some concerned parents were discussing the availability of those very books. In the end, though, it turned out to be unrelated - a high school student with kleptomaniacal tendencies had borrowed them. His mother returned them, as well as several other books I hadn't noticed go missing.
Bleach: Loved by kids and kleptos alike
For a while, I worked with this student, allowing him to properly check out books. It appeared to be working. I would love to say that all's well that ends well, but by the end of the year he was out of school and in another institution.

I managed to round up most books at the end of the school year. As much as I would enjoy having the students check out armloads of books over the summer, that's not possible. The vast majority of checkouts came back by the last day of school; roughly 50-60 remain in the students' hands. Considering that's approximately 1% of the collection, it's great. Most libraries have a greater never-returned percentage.

Some changes for next year:
  • Checkouts per week per grade. K-2 will remain at 1 book per week. 3-6 will drop to 2 books, at the recommendations of teachers and parents alike. The middle school literature teacher recommended that I allow the 7-8 grades to check out 2 books, or 3 if at least one is a "quick read." (I've got some avid graphic novel/manga fans at that level.)
  • I swear I'm going to run overdue reports more often.
  • Keep the kids out of the return bin! Some of the books that are missing at the end of the year may have been sneaked out of there, and therefore still listed as being checked out to the last rightful patron. If they want something a friend is returning, they'll have to go through me.

I've been invited back for next year, which made me dance with joy and relief. The CEO of the school also told me that I'm welcome to look for grants that would increase my time at the school (and book budget). It's awesome to know that she appreciates my hard work and dedication.

Over the summer, I'm reading books that the kids have been enjoying. I'll be posting my reviews here. First up: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1 (The Lightning Thief). Stay tuned!