Monday, October 28, 2013

Staff Picks: Magic Realism

Of course all books are magical, but I like a little magic in a book, especially if it is presented in a realistic way. Here are a few titles Kirtland Public Library has that bring magic into the known world in irresistible ways:

The Probable Future
by Alice Hoffman
2003, 322 pages

Alice Hoffman writes for adults and young adults, and this book can be enjoyed by either. It tells of the Sparrow family, three generations of women who each have a gift. Stella, the granddaughter, can see how people will die, but her prediction leads to her father's jailing. I was engrossed in the family's ordeals as well as the setting.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
2004, 782 pages

This hefty book tells what happens when magic returns to 19th century England through two very different magicians. Clarke's book is detailed, clever, and imaginative. I loved the characters and the descriptions of their interactions with magic.

The Prestige
by Christopher Priest
1995/2006, 368 pages
Two illusionist magicians spend their lives outdoing each other in this book full of mysterious twists and turns. I was as surprised and intrigued by the book as I was by the 2006 movie by the same name. A good read for those not ready for unexplained magic.

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
2011, 387 pages

You will fall in love with the characters and the circus described in this especially magical book. Two magicians must compete with each other and fall in love in the process. The author cites Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and The Prestige as inspirations.

The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker
2013, 486 pages

Folklore comes to life in 1899 New York when a golem, a Jewish figure made of clay, and a jinni, a mythical Arab man of fire, try to survive in the hard world. This book is thoroughly researched and presented, and pulls you deep into the lives of the characters.

Have you read any books about magic?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review sources: Professional Vs Passionate?

A lot of people enjoy diving headfirst into a new book or movie. Some people like to take stock of a review or a critic first. Thankfully in the realm of movies and books, there is no shortage of people throwing in their two cents on a topic at hand. This past week I have been glancing over a number of review locations, and comparing the reviews you’d find from their sources from teens to adults. After looking through quite a number of them, I’ve found much like the books themselves, there are reviews that also cater to taste as a reader.

As librarians we are constantly presented with authoritative material that helps go into the selection of our catalogs. Right our desk you might catch us looking through a Publisher’s Weekly or Library Journal. In them, nearly a 3rd of the content is devoted to reviews of materials. Many of the reviews are clear, concise, and to the point. They usually close the review giving a short synopsis of the story, its tone of writing, and usually brief recommendation for its audience. They are pretty hand snippets to give you an idea of the story, and this usually is the formats you'll see on major review sites like Kirkus or Horn Book.

Library Journal: Quick reviews in a tight nutshell.

However, if you are avid reader, you have no doubt found your way over to the community over at Starting in 2006 as a small 'social cataloging' community to find and share books and materials, it has since exploded into a user base of over 20 million people of readers and authors alike.
I affectionately refer to sites like this as "The Bad Lands of Reviews" because after you read the book synopsis, you really are jumping into the wilds of social media interaction. You will find a number of impassioned reviewers who (not unlike myself) will launch into extensive dissertations about the entirety of the book. There are some who will trail into unrelated context about their lives and how the book compares, and some will be short simple "I LOVED/HATED this book". Until recently it was fairly unmoderated so be wary, there are no language filters here. But you won't find reviews with more honest feelings anywhere else, and I think that's the reason I love it.
You'll find community reviewers are much more excited to talk about a book.

All of these review places have their own merits, and you would do well to explore these options. It is all going to boil down to a matter of your own taste. You find some new stuff to read, and you might find a place to voice your own impassioned reviews as well. Looking to try it out? Our very own CLEVNET catalog has similar community functionality! You can go in, rate your books, give a review, insert quotes, or add videos to your favorite items. Be sure to check them out!

Monday, October 14, 2013

What in the World is a Lexile and Why Does My Kid Have One?

What are Lexile measures?

Lexile measures may seem new to you but they have been around for years. Based on over 20 years of research, Lexiles  measure a book's difficulty and a reader's ability and use those measures in order to connect students with books that will continue to develop their reading skills.

There are two parts to the Lexile Framework:

1) Lexile measure--a number given to a book and a student. The book's Lexile measure (Lexile value) represents its difficulty. The reader's Lexile measure represents his or her reading ability. Both measures are represented by the letter L. Beginning readers read at about 200L.

2) Lexile scale--The range of readability levels for a reader based on his or her own measure. The entire scale goes from 200L (beginning readers) to over 1300L (high school and beyond). A student's individual scale extends about 50L above and 100L below his or her measure.

For example, a student who has a Lexile measure of 1000L (a typical middle school reading level) should be reading books that have a measure between 900L and 1050L. Anything below 900L will not provide the student with any challenge. Anything above 1050L may be too challenging.

The table below shows where students should be reading by grade level:

Lexile Measure
Up to 300L
140L to 500L
330L to 700L
445L to 810L
565L to 910L
665L to 1000L
735L to 1065L
805L to 1100L
855L to 1165L
905L to 1195L
11 and 12
940L to 1210L

How is a book measured?

Lexile measures are based on word frequency and sentence length, both shown by research to be strong predictors of a book's difficulty. MetaMetrics, the company that certifies Lexile measures, analyzes a book by scanning the entire text and analyzing word frequency and sentence length.

Word frequency is not the number of times a word appears in a book, but rather the frequency of the word in a body of 600 million words used by the Lexile analyzer. The more frequent the word appears in this body, the easier it is for students to comprehend. Rare words and more challenging words do not appear as frequently in the body and contribute to a higher Lexile measure for a book.

Sentence length contributes to a book's difficulty because longer sentences usually contain more clauses which communicate more information and ideas and relationships between them. Longer sentences also require a reader to retain more information in short-term memory leading to better comprehension when reading.

Sentences that use unconventional punctuation or spacing and text structures such as lists, poetry, and charts can affect a Lexile measure. Some books may have high Lexile measures, but their style and structure may not provide the quality of writing needed to increase reading ability. It is important for students who are not beginning readers to regularly read large sections of text (such as chapters) without interruptions from pictures or other stylized writing.

The word frequency and sentence length measures are combined into an algebraic equation resulting in a Lexile measure for a book. Books with longer sentences and words of low frequency result in higher Lexile measures. Books with short sentences and common words have low Lexile measures.

Students should receive their Lexile measure at school. You can find out more about Lexiles and find the Lexile measures of books at

Things to Consider

Lexile measures do not consider a book's content, theme, genre, style or quality. A book may be in a student's Lexile range, but may not interest the student or be comprehended easily. Choosing a book to read is more than just matching up Lexile measures, but they are a good starting point. Students should choose books that interest them but that are also within their Lexile range.

Examples of Popular Titles and Their Lexile Measures

Monday, October 7, 2013

Star Wars Reads Day II

We had a great time again this year celebrating Star Wars and Reading. We began by making Jabba the Hutt out of lunch bags.

Star Wars craft

Star Wars craft

Star Wars craft

Next we had snacks and enjoyed Empire Strikes Back from

Empire Strikes Back readalong

Mini light sabers made the day complete:

light sabers

light sabers

The Force is with you when you read. The Library has many Star Wars books and movies for you to enjoy.

Darth Vader

Friday, October 4, 2013

From Book to Movie...

Coming in November 2013

Some of the best movies started out as books. 
Check these out now, before the movies are released!

As I Lay Dying

James Franco will direct and star in the movie adaptation of William Faulkner's classic. The matriarch of the Bundren family has died and her final request was to be buried in a town 40 miles away from the family farm. This is the story of the family's journey to her final resting place, and the challenges they face along the way.


Ender's Game

Ender Wiggin, child genius, has been chosen by the military to save the human race from alien invasion. He is placed in a Battle School located on a ship in the Earth's orbit to train. This science fiction classic is Orson Scott Card's best-known work. The film stars Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, and Harrison Ford.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street is the true story of Jordan Belfort, a multimillionaire stockbroker who had it all, then lost it all after getting caught cheating investors out of $200 million. The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, follows his rise and fall during the decade of the 1990's.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Part 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire picks up the story after Katniss and Peeta have won The Hunger Games, ensuring a lifetime of wealth and safety for them and their families. But the country is rebelling against them, protesting the methods they used to win, in another action-packed tale of survival. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth.

The Book Thief

Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, The Book Thief tells the story of a foster child named Liesel who turns to books in order to escape the horrors of her surroundings. The movie version stars Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, and Emily Watson.

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men tells the true story of a group of men and women who were assigned the task of saving the art of Europe from Nazi destruction during World War II. George Clooney directs and stars in the movie adaptation, with Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

Which do you think is better -- the book or the movie?  Tell us!