Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Librarypalooza! Los Angeles Public Library: Frances Howard Goldwyn-- Hollywood Regional Branch

Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library is a monument to the movies and a great place to check out books.

Built with funds from Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., the film producer dedicated the library to the memory of his mother, Frances Howard Goldwyn. What a cool son!

"Here's lookin' at you reading, kid!"
Cleopatra keeps a watchful eye over the children's department.

The area outside the windows of the children's department originally featured a reflecting pool, but it has since been drained by the City of Los Angeles. Oh well...
Children's Librarian Kim Woo provides awesome programming for the neghborhood's kids. Of special note is "Storytime al Fresco," held off-site on Sundays at the Hollywood Farmers' Market. Unfortunately, this program will disappear if city budget cuts kill Sunday hours.

To kick up the movie theme of the Hollywood Regional Branch Library another notch, consider taking a stroll one block away along Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. You can search out biographies of some of the stars at the library.
We visited on the first day of spring, March 20th, so I had to take a picture of Igor Stravinsky's star. What better rite of spring than honoring the composer of The Rite of Spring (probably best-known as the dinosaur extinction episode in Fantasia)?

Can't get enough of the movie theme? Travel to the library on the Metro Red Line, and exit at Hollywood/Vine. The station is full of "reel" fun film images. When you surface on Hollywood Boulevard, it's a short walk along the Walk of Fame to the library.

L.A.'s palm trees a la Egyptian Revival/Art Deco.

Vibrant art surrounds you in this Metro station!

And that's a wrap!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Inspired and Inspiring Writing Journals

In the vendor room of a recent children's literature conference, I happened upon Lynn Klopfer's repurposed book business, Brown Bag Books. Taking discarded books and "gutting them like fish," Lynn transforms them into wonderfully humorous, ironic, and whimsical writing journals. (They remind me of the literal "book bags" I've seen at the L.A. Central Library Store, made by Suzanne Keolker of Mugwump.)
I picked up the journal on the far left for my ship-loving hubby, and I grabbed the other two for myself. The Biography of a Buzzard reminded me of my dear ol' dad, and Breaking the Sound Barrier: A Phonics Handbook called to me like a bowler hat to Magritte.
Let's take a closer look. This journal begs me to rewrite the book. Here's one little thing I've written in it so far: "Ahhh," sighed the mannequin, "To be a man again."
I have high hopes that this journal will rocket me to the next quantum level in my quest to BREAK THE SOUND BARRIER!!! Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Greeting the Grunion on Green Day!

You can't pinch this St. Patrick's Day picture! There's enough green in it to start an environmental movement.

These alligators were hungry for a bedtime story, so their wrangler reads them a yummy tale-- A Fish Out of Water, written by Helen Palmer (first wife and editor of Dr. Seuss) and illustrated by P.D. Eastman. You, too, can visit this special alligator sanctuary at the Harbor City- Harbor Gateway Branch of the L.A.P.L.

This just happened to be the first book the alligator wrangler selected from a basket full of books in the children's room. Not only did it especially captivate his audience, it also helped set the stage for the quintessential spring SoCal Irish tradition of greeting the grunion at Cabrillo Beach.

For those not in "the know," grunion spawn during the spring and summer months by wiggling onto the beaches of southern California during late nights hours, calibrated precisely according to lunar phases and tidal patterns.

They become "fish out of water" for up to twenty minutes to complete their fascinating reproduction cycle.

Check out this cool tattoo I let my son get at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium's "Meet the Grunion" event. Well, it's actually a stamp, but the racy image of spawning fish sure makes it tattoo-worthy.

Here are a couple of excited grunion midwives. Just shake the jar full of grunion eggs vigorously and voila! If you enlarge the photo, you can see teeny-tiny baby grunions swimming above a bed of as-yet unhatched eggs. Grunion eggs must be agitated in order to hatch.

After viewing a Beverly Hillbillies episode titled "Grunion Invasion" at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium's John M. Olguin Auditorium earlier in the evening, I couldn't help but chuckle when these little silver fellers slid up the beach.

This little grunion said that she wished she had feet so that she could wear boots as crazy as mine. I guess I'll take that as a compliment.
By the way, taking along a copy of Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies could be a fun pre-Grunion Run read. After all, it's very likely you might actually see some bats at the beach, considering that grunion love spawning around midnight.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Save the Los Angeles Public Library System!

St. Patrick's Day seemed to arrive a day early as a few dozen L.A.P.L. supporters donned their favorite green outfits and turned out at the L.A.City Council meeting in Downtown this morning. Wearing green (or blue) to show solidarity with the L.A. Librarians' Guild, many spoke during the public comments section of the need to preserve vital library services for all patrons.

For those of us with an interest in the quality of youth services across the city, we should be especially concerned about the effects of lay-offs on the central and southern regions. The youth services librarians in these areas are among the newest hires in the L.A.P.L. system. If they are let go, their positions will either go unfilled, or adult services librarians would likely replace them. Neither option does these kids justice.

Across the city, kids need to access books, computers, and enriching programs. More hours equal more opportunities. More opportunities equal more of a future.

Please consider joining us at City Hall again next Wednesday, March 24th, at 10:00am to give voice to the importance of protecting our library system. Councilmember Tom LaBonge encouraged us to bring as many people as we can. If you can't make it, Mr. LaBonge also stated that "snail mail" is more effective than email in making an impact. Wear green, or blue, and be prepared for a stimulating time.

The Echo Park "Lady of the Lake" says "No more library cuts!" as L.A. library advocate and children's book author/illustrator Leo Politi watches over her in a detail from a mural in the Edendale Branch Library. After a great day at City Hall, my family and I enjoyed a LACMA-led art class at this supercool branch.

Finally, I ended my "library-loving" day at the Echo Park Branch, where Adult Services Librarian Erica Silverman organized a mesmerizing "Music and Munchies" evening with the UCLA Gluck String Quartet. Bravo!
Please visit the Save the Library website to ensure the preservation of quality programming in our libraries.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Leonardo May Be a Terrible Monster, But He Makes for Great Book/Body Art

Here's our latest installment of "From Head-to-Tome," featuring Mo Willems's Leonardo, the Terrible Monster. Got some fun photos of kidlit book/body blends? Send them to the Corpus Libris Blog, run by Emily Pullen of Skylight Books.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Yoga Storytime" at the El Sereno Branch Library

Shoes off! It's time for "Yoga Storytime!!"
Vivienne Khan, Children's Librarian at the L.A.P.L.'s El Sereno Branch Library, has begun an exciting "Yoga Storytime" program on Tuesday afternoons (twice a month) for 2-5 year olds.
Using a "Storybook Yoga" CD to structure the hour-long session with soothing music and verbal instructions, Vivienne also selects an appropriate picture book to inspire animal-based poses.

Vivienne reads from Denise Fleming's Barnyard Banter. I love over-sized picture books, so that everyone can see!
As the story is read, children listen to the sounds made by different barnyard animals. When the story ends, children do poses of some of the characters in the story, including the mouse, cat, cow, frog, donkey, chicken, and pigeon.

Vivienne and another library employee demonstrate a familiar asana to yoga practitioners, the child's pose. In the context of "Storytime Yoga" and Barnyard Banter, however, it becomes known as the "mouse pose." Adapting yoga for use with children and books can be as simple as renaming a pose.
Here is the "donkey pose," before the right leg is extended backwards into a "kick."

Working on the "donkey pose."

Demonstrating part of the "pigeon pose." This one could work for any number of Mo Willems's books;)
More of the "pigeon pose."
Interested in experiencing some "Storytime Yoga" for yourself and your little ones? Check the El Sereno link above for times and more information. Don't forget stretchy clothes. A towel or mat is also suggested, along with a bottle of water.
****Warning, political message for Angelenos follows: If you think programs like this are cool and worth supporting, please consider making your voice heard and contacting your L.A. City Councilmembers. It's programs like these that are threatened by the current budget-cutting proposals. Contact Save The Library for more information on what you can do to help.

Monday, March 8, 2010

REDCAT International Children's Film Festival

Great and small at Disney Hall.
I fed my brain today at the REDCAT International Children's Film Festival held at the Roy and Edna Disney Calarts Theater at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
Sometimes, it's great to put a book or pen down and soak up words and images through other media. In its fifth year, the 2010 Festival featured five days of cool kiddie films. There were even cushions for those inclined to recline on the floor at the front of the theater.
Today's screenings included Latvian puppet animation and "inventive international animation." My brain left full and happy. It's all fuel for the imagination.
And now, may I present to you, a cast of very cool characters:
Hip cat, hep cat, here comes REDCAT!


Our favorite fire engine with legs...

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Art Stories & Pictures" at the Barnsdall Park Junior Art Center

Barnsdall Park Junior Art Center's "Art Stories & Pictures" class, taught by art instructor Victoria Howard, has just finished an exciting six weeks together. In this class, designed for 3-5 year olds and their parents, picture books spring to life.

In the above photo, a very familiar Power Ranger constructs his own "Happy Tree," inspired by the gorgeous beech in When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang.

Victoria encouraged students to decorate their trees with objects that would bring them happiness, especially useful for those difficult, dark days that can pop-up out of nowhere.

Crockett Johnson's classic, Harold and the Purple Crayon, formed the framework for an amazing art activity, "Crayon Room Drawings."

Classroom surfaces were covered with blank white paper, until students transformed them with the help of purple crayons and their own imaginations.

Victoria Howard looks on as a student makes busy with her own purple crayon.
As imaginative as Harold's imagination.

Notice the train tracks on the floor. Harold would be proud.

On the last day of class, Victoria Howard prepares a watercolor painting activity in connection with a reading of Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider.

Victoria's enthusiasm, passion, and upbeat attitude are infectious.

Victoria and a student discuss The Very Busy Spider.

A student checks Eric Carle's pig illustration for reference.
Voila! A very busy art student creates "a very busy spider."
Over the six-week period, we read and made art projects based on seven books, including Animal House! I will share those incredible "animal house" characters in a future post.
In the meantime, have some fun coming up with ideas for creating picture book-inspired art projects of your own!
More on our amazing art instructor: Victoria Howard also oversees the "Living Arts at Barnsdall Park" program, which offers free, high-quality art instruction to children and adults with disabilities. To learn more about this and other art instruction opportunities, contact her at: vqharts at att dot net.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! L.A.P.L. librarians Karla Valdez and Erica Silverman organized a fabulous Read Across America event at the Echo Park Branch Library today in honor of the "Good Doctor's" birthday.

Refer to the above photo for the names of volunteer author readers in attendance. An amazing crowd of kids turned out for the two-hour "Dr. Seuss Day" read-a-thon.
Author Ann Whitford Paul reads the book Little Monkey Says Goodnight, inspired by one of her sons.

Ann engages the audience. "Little monkey says goodnight!"

L.A.P.L. librarians Karla Valdez and Erica Silverman make sure everyone can see the pictures with extra copies of Little Monkey Says Goodnight.

L.A.P.L. librarian and author Erica Silverman reads her picture book, Big Pumpkin.

It takes a lot of strength to move the biggest pumpkin the witch has ever grown. Who will help her move it, so that she can make her yummy pumpkin pie?
I had a blast reading Jan Thomas's Can You Make a Scary Face?, even though I suffered a major shoe malfunction doing the chicken dance. More on that later, or maybe not (If anyone knows an excellent cobbler, send word my way:).