A few years ago when I was just starting library school it occurred to me that this blog could do a lot of things. It had already been a writing sample for my grad school application and scholarship applications. It already worked to demonstrate my expertise. But, I realized, as I learned about outreach and class visits, it could also serve as a repository for book talks.
Which I got to put into practice recently during my first ever class visit where I talked to a group of fifth graders.
After asking them what the library does (and filling in some gaps where they missed some things librarians do!) it was time for booktalks.
To prepare for booktalks I re-read the ones I had ready from blog reviews (or wrote a new one as needed). I then wrote the booktalks on post-its to stick to the back of the book and marked any pages I wanted to highlight. I don’t memorize booktalks and I didn’t read the post-its but just writing them out was a help in getting the salient points into my head for the visit. Since I also knew I’d be presenting to a group (rather than one patron) I also knew I wanted to keep things interactive much as I did for my talk about what the library and librarians do.
First I talked about The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Before my booktalk I told students that this book was a riff on The Jungle Book but with ghosts. Almost no one ever knows what that means because I guess The Jungle Book isn’t as popular with kids now as it was when I was a kid but I still like to mention it. Then I warned students that this book was scary and it had one of the scariest first pages I had ever seen. Then I showed them the page. I My booktalk for the students was basically the summary part of my review but shortened slightly (like my booktalk started at paragraph three if you really want to see what I did).
Next I talked about Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger which I have not read. I do know the plot, read reviews and skimmed the book. I’ve also talked it up a lot previously when I was working at the bookstore. In addition to talking about how much trouble a fake mustache can cause when your best friend tries to take over the world, I also showed a couple of the illustrations. Because kids love illustrations.
After that I talked up Rapunzel’s Revenge by all of the Hales (I call them a Hale storm in my free time because it entertains me). Again my booktalk was distilled from my review. I also made sure to mention this was a retelling of Rapunzel with a wild west sensibility and also highlight some illustrations. I showed an early page and one where Rapunzel is using her braids as a lasso.
I rounded out the visit by talking about Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins at the suggestion of Ingrid AKA the Magpie Librarian. I won’t lie, dear readers, I had doubts. But then I picked a couple pages at random talking about what you should and shouldn’t do and it basically blew the kids’ minds. I didn’t do a lot of prep for this one. Just post-it marked the pages and then read from the book about what a terrible idea it is to interact with any animal ever.
I then further blew the kids’ minds by giving them free stuff. Which I don’t actually recommend doing during the visit. It’s a lot easier to show the stuff and then hand it off to the teacher to give out later when the kids are no longer in the library.
The really cool thing (and I’m not taking much credit here because it was mostly the books being fantastic) is that I ran out of books. The kids were jostling to see who could look at or check out every single title I booktalked (which is why it’s also good to pick books that have multiple copies if possible). I’m not a rockstar or a rockstar librarian or anything but it was pretty cool.
As I have other class visits I might talk more about what did and didn’t work for my own reference (and for any readers who are interested) but while we’re all here, what books have you used for 5th grade class visits that were a huge success?