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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | John Green

Skinny Dip with Susan Yutzey

Susan Yutzey

Susan Yutzey

Susan Yutzey worked as an Ohio school librarian for many years, serving in local, state, and national leadership positions. Now retired, she continues to be a tireless advocate for school libraries and librarians.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

Ms. D’Angelo was my seventh grade teacher. I was a new student at Edith A. Bogart Elementary School and Ms. D’Angelo made me feel welcome. From encouraging me as a left-hander to position the paper the way I felt most comfortable to serving as my piano accompanist at the annual talent show as I sang selections from my favorite musical “Gigi,” Ms. D’Angelo was always my role model.

Nancy DrewWhen did you first start reading books?

My first book was a gift from my grandmother—The Little Engine that Could. From that point on, I remember reading every Nancy Drew book, relishing my Saturday mornings as I devoured The Secret of the Old Clock, The Mystery of Lilac Inn, The Secret at Shadow Ranch, and all the rest. To keep track of my books I created “checkout” cards and attached them to each book. Playing librarian at the tender age of ten should have been my clue that twenty-nine years later I would embark on a career as a school librarian.

The Poisonwood Bible Barbara KingsolverAll-time favorite book?

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Your best memory of your school library?

The library in my high school was a two-story library with shelf after shelf of books and periodicals. From the second floor to the first floor was a winding staircase. During the two years I was a student at Northern Highland High School, I was secretary of the Library Council. The officers of the Library Council had their yearbook photo taken on that winding staircase. I also have fond memories of Mrs. Enos, the school librarian, and her assistant Mrs. Holmstrup who provided a supportive environment for students and encouraged independent thinking and action.

Turtles All the Way DownBook on your bedside table right now?

I seem to being going through a British mystery phase so on my bedside table you’ll find Friend Request by Laura Marshall. I just finished reading John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. I usually have two books going at the same time so my nonfiction read is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

What’s your hidden talent?

As an elementary school student I discovered that as a left-hander, I could write backwards. I would write my name or a phrase backward, hold it up to a mirror and there it was—able to be read by anyone! It was great for passing notes to friends.

Graeter's Ice CreamFavorite flavor of ice cream?

Graeter’s Ice Cream is a Cincinnati-based creamery. My favorite flavor from Graeter’s is black raspberry chocolate chip.

What’s your best contribution to taking care of the environment?

Walking wherever and whenever I can and recycling plastics and paper in our neighborhood recycling program.

Susan Yutzey, library advocate


Middle Kingdom: Albuquerque, New Mexico

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard regularly visits the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This journey takes us to Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Lisa talks with librarian Jade Valenzuela.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Jade ValenzuelaJade: Our school library is a large, multi-functional space with over 140,000 items and is a place students can come before, during and after school to study or have class, and to just hang out!

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?

Jade: New school schedule, implementing a laptop program at the school, using new technologies like LibGuides and digital tools have changed the way I work with students, the latter in a very positive way.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Jade: Comic books like FoxTrot by Bill Amend. In the past couple of years, Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell, Divergent by Veronica Roth, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and Rick Riordan books. John Green, too.

Albquerque Academy reads

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Skulduggery PleasantJade: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy–one of my personal favorites that most kids haven’t heard of, but all love it after they read it. I love going through the shelves with students, talking with them about what they have read and what they would like to read and then I offer suggestions based on what they say. It is a very personalized process, and I just love to get students reading something they are interested in.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle schoolers?

Jade: The energy and enthusiasm. It can be exhausting sometimes, but I love seeing them light up and get excited about books and reading.

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?

Jade: I do booktalks with middle grades, so I meet with classes and get to share books that I like and want to recommend. Our lower division also brings students up to the library for Independent Reading hours, where students just pick books and sit and read, and I am available to help them pick. Lots of books get checked out on these days! I also sometimes do displays to promote books.

Albuquerque Academy Simms Library

Lisa: How have books or other things changed for Middle Kingdom readers during your time as a librarian?

Jade: I have definitely noticed a shift toward digital media, not necessarily for reading, but just for everything–playing video games, watching YouTube, etc., seems to have taken over for many students as their favorite hobby. It is always interesting to me to see the trends, especially in my own community. One year, manga may be all the rage, then dystopian, then realistic. It is really interesting and hard to predict. Keeps me on my toes!

Lisa: What do you want your students to remember about your library in ten years?

Jade: I want them to remember it as a place they liked to come to, welcoming and safe, where they could find what they needed, get help, and leave happy.


Skinny Dip with Karen Blumenthal

Matzo ToffeeFavorite holiday tradition?

Food! I love to bake and holidays are the best excuse for baking! Peach cobbler for the Fourth of July, apple cake for the Jewish holidays, dozens and dozens of cookies for friends and family in December, and this killer candy that we call matzo toffee at Passover. I make a ton of it for friends and even send some to special editors. It’s the most addictive thing ever and it proves that chocolate makes everything better.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Mostly a teacher’s pet. I had poor eyesight and super-thick glasses and had to sit up front. But I also have strong opinions, so I’m sure I was a challenge as well.

Mexia TexasWhat’s the first book report you ever wrote?

This is embarrassing, but I don’t remember book reports in elementary school. I remember reports on a town in Texas (I chose Mexia, pronounced Me-hay-a) and other subjects, and even a report on Nixon’s trip to China, but no book reports. Maybe I blocked them out! We did do them in junior high and I got in trouble for choosing a 1934 novel by John O’Hara that the teacher deemed too old for me.

First BookDo you like to gift wrap presents?

That’s kind of a funny question. Yes, and no. Here’s why: For the last 12 or 13 years, my family has gift-wrapped books at local bookstores during the Christmas season to raise money for a literacy organization called First Book. Some years, we worked many shifts at several bookstores and some years, we worked just a handful of shifts. But nearly all of those years, we gift-wrapped on Christmas Eve, which is a crazy day when all the last-minute or visiting-from-out-of-town shoppers come in. By the middle of the season, I could hardly bear to wrap our family’s own gifts.

All together, our wrapping raised more than $20,000 for First Book. But we decided 2014 would be our last year. Our daughters, who were 12 and 14 when we started, are now grown and live on opposite coasts and we don’t get to spend much time with them.  It was a great experience though, and I’m now an excellent wrapper!

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

Hmmm. I enjoyed writing at that age, but was becoming self-conscious about it, and I had classmates—including another Karen—who were more skilled. Probably I would tell her that passion and persistence are about as important as anything and to keep at it.

ph_dinner_300What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

One of the really great things about being an author is that you get to meet other authors, and even have a meal with them. So I’ve gotten to meet some of my heroes, like Russell Freedman, Steve Sheinkin, and Susan Bartoletti.

Oh, this is so hard! Beverly Cleary, for sure, because she was one of my early favorites and still is.  J.K. Rowling, because that would be amazing. And maybe John Green, because he’s so cool.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Anywhere! Really! I’ll read just about anywhere, though I prefer a chair. I read a lot at my breakfast table, but also in a comfortable chair in our den, on the bike at the gym, on planes, and when I’m waiting for an appointment. 



Middle Kingdom: Seattle, Washington

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

Our first journey takes us to Jane Addams Middle School in Seattle, Washington, where Lisa talks with librarian Laurie Amster-Burton.

Lisa: What are three to five things Bookology readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Jane Addams Middle School library

New book collection getting unpacked in August 2014 (click to enlarge).

Laurie: Jane Addams Middle School is a new middle school in an old-ish (1949) building. We serve all kinds of students in grades six-eight, including programs for English language learners, highly capable, and autism inclusion. Our staff is energetic and our students are lively. The library opened this year with 10,600 brand-new books.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?

Laurie: Graphic novels or comics are 11 of the top 20 books checked out, and Raina Telgemeier is the reigning queen. Her books Sisters, Drama, and Smile are in constant circulation. Popular series include the Menagerie books by Tui T. Sutherland, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, and the Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renée Russell.

You can see that those titles skew toward the sixth grade readers. The books most popular with older students include The Living by Matt de la Pena, the Maze Runner series by James Dashner, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Lisa: What books do you personally love to place into students’ hands?

Laurie: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Good Enough by Paula Yoo. Impossible by Nancy Werlin. Zach’s Lie by Roland Smith (witness protection!). Girl, Stolen by April Henry (kidnapping!). Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez. Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker is amazing nonfiction that I love to booktalk.

Our library has the new editions of Lois Duncan, and when I get them into kids’ hands they always come back for more.

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Laurie: Be calm. Be patient. Show the kids that you care.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle-schoolers?

Laurie: They are so funny and earnest and thrive with a little kindness.






Chapter & Verse picks the winners … or not

In CLN’s Chapter & Verse, with six of our bookstores reporting, we had no clear winners for our mock Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz Awards. Steve and I have visited many of these locations, talking with the book club members. Each book club has its own character. The members bring different life experiences, different reading preferences, […]