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Middle-school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan prove that two heads are better than one when it comes to discussing YA and children's books

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Monday, June 24, 2013 6:00 am
Focus Group Library Fun
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan

IMG_3440Cindy: Last week Lynn and I held our first teen book club of the summer. We still call it BBYA book club and the teens read and talk about all genres of teen literature as the YALSA BBYA group did when we started this club back in 2001. We had a new rising 6th grader join us who attended a 5th grade book club Lynn held during the school year, and some of our regular middle and high school attendees, and the elementary librarian, Lori Marco, who worked with Lynn on the younger club. To our delight, one of our BBYA club alumni, now a college graduate, regularly attends and was there too. We introduced Liz to the group with our favorite story about her. As a middle schooler and high schooler she would often add to her very astute book critique the disclaimer, “If it were 50 pages longer it would be better.” (Liz, I think the publishing world must have heard you from Holland a decade ago as EVERY book is now at least 50 pages longer…although I’m not convinced that has made them better.) Liz zooms through books with amazing speed and yet returns with stacks and stacks of them and is able to talk about them in great detail and with searing honesty. I almost love it more when she loathes a book. Oh, publishers, if you could have 30 minutes with this gal! She and another equally brilliant BBYA alumni member are roadtripping to the ALA exhibits and I hope to be with them during some of their booth stops.  If you want to see what Liz has to say about books, check out her blog Assorted Leafs. I just went there to grab the URL and a few hours later she had already posted about the new Chris Crutcher book, Period 8, that I handed to her that day. Published her blog post at 3:49 a.m. Oh, to be young again and to be able to write coherently at 3 in the morning!

IMG_3446While all of our serious (and not so serious) book discussion was going on, the three older members of the focus group were zooming around the library as only 9 year olds can do. The 10,000 square foot library has many good hiding places and hide and seek ensued. But my favorite was watching them play with the hallway book return slot. I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos. It’s hard to believe, but next summer they will be old enough to join us for the book discussion. Time flies. Sixth grade girls become college graduates and little boys grow taller than their nana…I need to go back to my horror read before I get too weepy and sentimental.

Lynn:  After we got done with our first book club of the summer, the local members of the focus group and I headed off to the public library.  It was a big day as the boys were getting their very first library cards.  We’ve been making trips to the library for years but I decided it was time for them to have the responsibility of their very own card – and the fines as well! I took my camera to record the pivotal event.

Library cardsOh – and what are the very first books they checked out?  Mason borrowed Experiments with Magic by Salvatore Tocci, Hayden checked out Science Experiments that Explode and Implode:  Fun Projects for Curious Kids and Riley got Nursery Rhyme Comics.  Groan!   My kitchen is now awash in vinegar, baking soda, and food coloring.  Something is making a sinister hissing sound in that soda bottle on the table and I need to know how to get red food coloring stains off a white counter top!  ACK!  What was I thinking?????

Cindy is right though.  It seems like yesterday that the twins were sitting spellbound on my lap as we read them picture books and now they are almost as tall as I am and major fans of Michigan’s Jonathan Rand.  Time flies for sure.


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